If you read my blog, you'll know that I had a baby in November and that she is not my first child – she's my third. So I feel like I pretty much have this mom thing down – or as down as I'm going to get, haha. So when my husband's co-worker gave me as a baby present Sippy Cups are Not For Chardonnay and Other Things I had to Learn as a New Mom by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, I was bad enough to dismiss it without reading it. "Just another self-help new mom book," I thought, despite the title being a bit funny. So I added it to the unread stack of books on my bookshelf and thought I'd get to it sometime – or, honestly, perhaps never.
Well, the book finally caught up to me, since my husband invited his co-worker over to our house for a Walking Dead season finale party. At the time, it was three weeks away. "Have you even touched that book she gave you?" he asked me. The answer being no, he told me, "Well, you better get cracking."
Really, I had no excuse anymore. My baby was sleeping through the night (mostly), and I was almost back to my normal writing/reading schedule. So I reluctantly picked up the book and started reading.
I was nodding my head at page one: "Oh, yeah, that's totally true! That is soooo me." And laughing by page two. And eagerly flipping through the book after that to find out what silly thing was on the next page and the next.
Let me tell you, this isn't a self-help book for new moms. Not even close. This is one woman's account of what it felt like to be a new mom – or a stranger in a strange land. While some of it is filler, to be honest, most of it is very straightforward about the new cult of motherhood. And, yes, it is a cult! If you don't join in, you feel like a leper.
This book spoke to me, since I am not one of the moms who chooses their child's preschool when still pregnant, and I don't believe that my kids are the boss of me and that I should let them get away with murder. There are parts I disagree with - I make my kids' own baby food not because, as the book asserts, I'm an insane mom who watches everything their child eats like a hawk and insists others do the same. Nah, it's because it's cheaper to make my own food than buy insanely small and overpriced containers of jarred baby food. All of my kids were big eaters as babies, so I would be feeding them 3+ jars of baby food in one sitting, which could really add up.
But I digress. Exaggeration = comedy, of course, and Ms. Wilder-Taylor is hilarious. Her writing style and humor are unvarnished. She has the ability to get right to the heart of the absurd myths and beliefs about parenthood and expose them to the light of reason. She tackles serious subjects, such as postpartum depression, with an honesty and humor that are refreshing.
So I want to say to my husband's co-worker - I apologize for dismissing the book. I will never doubt your taste in literature again. :)
If you're a new mom - or even an old hand at it, like me - this is a great book to relieve a little parenting stress. So why not take the book up on its title? Pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay (albeit NOT in a sippy cup - you'll need a bigger glass than that, haha) and get reading.
I'm a big fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, so when I discovered Kyra Davis's Sophie Katz mystery novels, I was pretty pleased with the find. The main character, Sophie Katz, is a wise-cracking writer (a cliché, but it works out okay) who solves real-life murder mysteries, mainly because the people around her become the targets of serial killers. One thing I particularly love about this series is that it's set in San Francisco, which is a city close to where I grew up. I enjoy how Davis effortlessly works the Bay Area scenery into the background of the novel - it almost made me feel I was back home again.
Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate is the third in the series. I might have tackled the series as a whole in this review, since I believe it's fun and worth reading, but there was a particular passage in this book that strongly resonated with me and that I would like to discuss.
First, a little background about the book: when a college mentor of Sophie's asks her for a favor, she is drawn into a series of murders that revolve around a neck-and-neck local political campaign. I don't think I'll mention more about the plot here, as there are a lot of twists and turns that are fun to read, and I don't want to include any spoilers. However, I should explain that the main character is mixed race, although her identity doesn't often factor into the books. But every once in a while, Sophie's background is mentioned, and there is one part where the author includes a message about the perception of race/difference that I agree with 100%.
Being familiar with San Francisco and the Bay Area, I want to say that not only is it a very diverse place, but it is a place which embraces diversity. Although as a mixed race person myself, I did experience some racism growing up, the events were few and far between. And when I encountered racism, I had a strong enough belief in myself as a person that I didn't let it define me.
So, having given the background of both the main character and myself, here is the quote in Davis's book that I would like to discuss. *Steps up on soapbox and clears throat.*
But as I gazed down at my light brown skin I thought about all the people I had met in my life who had never
suffered discrimination. A lot of them were under the bizarre impression that they were missing out. It was as
if they thought they'd be cooler if they had a glass ceiling hanging over their heads. Those were the people who
told minorities they barely knew that they understood their so-called struggle (336).
This paragraph really, really hits home a point with me because of what I've seen of modern events and the current obsession with victimhood.
Racism exists. Most people don't question that it exists. It was worse in the past, based on America's history of native genocide, slavery, World War II and the Japanese internment, etc. There are many, many examples in recent and distant American history about the life and death struggle to bring basic human rights to people who aren't white and male. Again, I think very few people would disagree. However, what I don't like is the recent likening of being considered a victim as something noble or worth emulating. This bothers me. Yes, there is discrimination today. Yes, people should be unafraid to talk about discrimination and their personal experiences. No one should have to hide their experiences. But proudly wearing the title of "victim?" Or putting themselves in situations where they can claim victimhood? I feel that that is carrying it too far.
Do our negative experiences shape us? I can't disagree with that. Hopefully, they shape us for the better - in learning what situations to avoid and how to value ourselves despite what others may say and do. I can't control what other people may say or do - but I can choose to be the person I am and want to be, regardless.
I don't think anyone should celebrate being a victim. Being a victim just means something horrible happened to you, and you are forever defined by that event. Being a survivor - that means you've overcome whatever horrible thing happened and remained true to yourself. That means that no matter what happened to you, you've persevered and only let it change you for the better. And I think that is worth a whole heck of a lot more, at least to me.
Although this rant has very little to do with the book itself, it's just one person's opinion. I'm sure others feel differently about it, as we are all shaped by our individual experiences in life.
*Steps down from soapbox.*
So... to get back to the writing, I'll repeat that it's a fun series of books worth reading, and that race really doesn't factor into the main character's decisions or actions. It shouldn't - it's just a part of the main character that sometimes comes up in the course of her living her life. But don't take my word for it - read the books and judge for yourself.
The Barnaby and Hooker Series by Janet Evanovich / The Fox and O'Hare Series by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
I'm a fan of Janet Evanovich. She does to thrillers/crime solvers what Terry Pratchett does to fantasy. She writes laugh-out-loud comedy, but still can get you to root for the characters. However, her work is a bit formulaic - take a kick-ass girl, a bad boy guy who she's attracted to, and plunk them right in the middle of an unsolved crime that they need to solve without going to the authorities for some reason. That would sum up the plot of every single one of her books. So you know what you're getting into when you pick up a book by her.
I started out by reading Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, but saw she had two other series on the shelf and picked them up also. In The Fox and O'Hare Series, there are three books: The Heist, The Chase and The Job. FBI Special Agent Kate O'Hare is teamed up with international thief Nicolas Fox to solve crimes. Things go wrong and hijinks ensue.
If you're a fan of Evanovich and/or thriller comedy, I'd recommend this series. It is written like stock romances - nothing seriously bad ever happens to the main characters or their families, and you know the good guys are going to win, usually in a ridiculous and silly way. It's not quite as over-the-top humor as her Stephanie Plum series, but I'm guessing that's probably the influence of her co-author, Lee Goldberg. I think it's probably my least favorite of her series, since one thing that I like best about Evanovich is her over-the-top humor. This series is "Evanovich lite."
Then there's the Barnaby and Hooker series composed of two books: Metro Girl and Motor Mouth. In the first book, Alexandra "Barney" Barnaby receives a strange call from her brother, Bill, in the middle of the night. She flies down to Florida where he lives to find out what's happened to him. She runs into Sam Hooker, a NASCAR driver whose boat has been stolen by her brother. Together, they find out that her brother is in deep, deep trouble. In the second book, this time it's Barney and Hooker who are in trouble, and they have to go to all sorts of lengths in order to get out of it again.
As I've said, I'm a fan of Evanovich. But if you're looking for subtlety or depth to your thrillers, these aren't the books for you. The good guys always win, the bad guys are punished (usually permanently). But these series are a nice, light read and perfect to take to the beach.
I've been reading some heavier literary books recently, so I felt like delving into some lighter ones to get a bit of balance. So I picked up Don't Want to Miss a Thing by Jill Mansell. I've read some of her other books over the years - Thinking of You, A Walk in the Park, Nadia Knows Best, and To the Moon and Back, so I knew what I was in for - and I wasn't disappointed. Mansell writes romances set in the U.K. that are funny and often a bit whimsical, and her characters are not often picture-perfect romantic leads, but ones that feel like real people living ordinary lives (with a few twists thrown in for fun).
In Don't Want to Miss a Thing, the main character is Dexter Yates - charming, handsome, and living the high life in London. But when his sister dies, leaving behind his eight-month-old niece Delphi, Dexter learns what it means to stand up for his family in the most essential way possible. He decides to leave the rat race behind and move to a small village in the Cotswolds to raise her, where a number of women are only too willing to help him out. There's Amanda, the charming village doctor, Molly, a cartoonist who's his next door neighbor, and Frankie, a newly single mother who discovered her husband has been leading a double life.
While there's an essential format to romances that is formulaic - you can't get past the boy meets girl (or girl meets girl or boy meets boy), Mansell's book takes the reader on a few twists and turns and has lively characters. Her writing style is very engaging, and she deals with sometimes very serious issues in a compelling way. For fans of romantic comedies, I'd definitely recommend this book.
I read a lot - depending on my writing schedule, I can usually read about a book a day. Some of the books are fantastic and I would love to recommend to everyone - some, not so much. Either way, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I'm reading at the moment.