anniejanicki

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Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting)

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I feel like I had French parents. Actually, I grew up in Ohio, with parents who were an eclectic melange of would-be hippie born slightly too late, and stern Midwestern Germanicism. But somehow, at least according to Druckerman's assessment of French parenting, this appears to have given my mom a very French outlook. Now all of a sudden I see why I felt out-of-sync sometimes with the preschool mom set. French mothers don't bring snacks to the park. They assume you'll eat at mealtimes. You don't have to eat all of your food, but you have to try a little of everything. They like activities, but they think a certain amount of boredom is good for a kid, and that, above all, parents need time to enjoy each other's company, and to do their own thing. These concepts seem like the stuff of my childhood, and I assumed, common sense. But Druckerman is right, they DO clash with the modern American way of parenting sometimes. And they shouldn't. I loved this book. I loved watching Druckerman come of age as a parent. It was like having a secret window into what my mom must have done. It gives me hope for the future.
Mom's the Word: The Wit, Wisdom, and Wonder of Motherhood

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Not a bad book. There were a few funny stories, which I repeated to my daughter. It's a compilation of quotes and anecdotes relating to motherhood. Many of them are amusing, or thought-provoking. However, many of them are also very old saws by now, and you are likely to have heard a good 20% of them before reading this. It might make a good addition to your Mother's Day present. I will probably look at it again from time to time, or give it to my mom. I'm not so sure I would give it as a stand-alone gift, though.
The Great Gatsby

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When I first read this story, I viewed it as a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers. Poor Gatsby. Poor Daisy. Why couldn't they be together? Why couldn't Daisy have just stayed strong and admitted that she loved him? Coming to it now, in the span of years - well, just a few years longer than the span between Daisy and Gatsby's first and second meetings - now, it seems like a cautionary tale, one about how you can mess up your life when you are young, if you aren't careful, of how sometimes there are no good choices, and sometimes, if you haven't grown up, you make all the wrong decisions grasping after some ideal of what life is supposed to be.If you haven't read this yet, and you are reading it for pleasure, go away and read it. Don't read this, as it will be full of spoilers. Ok, you've been warned.When Daisy was 18, and a spoiled rich girl without plans, she met a young, poor officer, and fell in love. But being a rich girl, marrying a poor boy wasn't 'the thing to do', so he told her to wait - after the war, he would make his fortune and come back for her. But she didn't wait. This is where every reviewer I've read online finds fault with her. And I did too, when I was younger. I still hope I would've waited, in her place. But then I think, we're being too modern here, folks. Remember, women's lib came after Daisy. All the women she knew that she identified with - well, they had no marketable skills. They don't even take care of their own children. To deviate from the model she saw before her - dutiful, idle wife dressing up in pretty clothes - well, what would she have done instead? Daisy wasn't a brave girl. When she tried to be, the night before her wedding, she had her 'friend', Jordan, the voice of her place in society, of convention, around to tell her that it would never work out. To wait for Gatsby, while it might have seemed emotionally right, conventionally, it wasn't the right thing to do. She would've lost touch with her friends, her family...and what if he hadn't come back rich? Again, she had no marketable skills. What could she have done to help him? (Arguably, plenty - but not in Daisy's mind! She wasn't reading Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan - the women around her did certain things and the men did others. To think of breaking free from that pattern would not even have occurred to her!) So Daisy gets married and she hopes for the best. The best doesn't happen. Her husband cheats constantly. Except that he does seem fond of her, in a Don and Betty Draper way (you'll have to excuse me here - I never got beyond the second season of Mad Men - so little time, so many movies on Netflix.) . Life goes on. They meet with friends. They sit out in the garden and birdwatch. He buys her jewelry, takes her to Europe, etc. Life is in some kind of stasis.THEN - who should appear but her high school boyfriend! Ok, we don't know whether she went to high school, but lets think about this. She was 18 years old back then. Gatsby really was her first love. She did love him a lot back then. If he had asked her to marry him immediately, and not to wait, of course she would have. In her mind, only circumstances ever kept them apart. And now, here he is. Now that 8 years have passed, and she has a daughter and an unhappy marriage. But still, a marriage. What WOULD the right thing to do be here? What would you do, as a grown, married, adult, if your high school boyfriend showed up with the house of your dreams and a scrapbook full of photos of you, and promised to give you everything he couldn't the first time?This is where Daisy seems so young to me. Because for a moment, this looks like the right thing to do to her. She indulges it. She wants to escape from this more adult life she's been living. Forget the part about them being rich, callous and blase. That may be true. But also, it looks to me like a quarterlife crisis. She is married, and that's kind of rocky. She has a daughter that she's not quite sure what to do with. Can't they just dress up in their high school clothes and pretend to be 18 again? Because that's what she really appears to want to do. When Gatsby asks her to confront her husband, then it is forcefully brought home to her - they AREN'T kids anymore. She must feel some obligation to her family, at least to her daughter, if not to her husband - and then her husband reminds her of all the things they have been through together. Would you leave your husband for your high school boyfriend, at that point? I wouldn't. (Not that I would, in any case - sorry high school boyfriend - you were a nice guy! But it was a LONG time ago, and I kind of love my family - yes, even the big one with the moustache - thankfully NOTHING like Daisy's husband!) The book seems to present Myrtle, not just as a counterpart love story - Tom cheats, Daisy cheats, etc. - but as - well, what WOULD Daisy's life have been like if she had married Gatsby instead of Tom? Would he have been driven to make all the money? Or would she have become a Myrtle, trapped in poverty, but desperate to live in high society - hating her husband and her circumstances. I feel like, as a modern person, it's hard to have sympathy for Myrtle. You want to say, "Dude, poverty's not so bad. There's a lot of stuff I want right now, but it's not driving me to drink and run into the street or anything." But imagine, for a minute, that the women around you don't work. They don't teach you that you grow up and get a job. They teach you that if you are pretty, you will grow up and get married. Then, your husband will make the money, and you, if you have done everything right, will live this certain kind of life. Everyone you know lives this same kind of life. They go to parties. They fence on the lawn. They have tea. That's what they do. All of your friends do it. They don't work. If you were to go out and get a job - well, silly you - women don't have JOBS - well unless you're a nanny. Or a maid. But we don't associate with those guys. I would argue that, to a girl in Daisy's class in the 1920s, that's as if a modern woman were to say, "It's ok if we're poor. I'll just go work in a sweatshop." That's about the level of social prestige among her friends she would continue to have if she were going out to work. Daisy doesn't know anyone at all who is a family member or peer who works. To her, it just isn't done. In the same way that you or I, we don't say, it's ok if I can't buy my own clothes, I'll just spin them (and if you can do that, I am in total awe of you. But I can't!). It is something that is almost inconceivable to her. While she doesn't appear to have made up her mind to be totally conventional and satisfied with her life (like Jordan), she doesn't want to end up like Myrtle either. Not knowing an alternative, all she really knows how to do is 'go along to get along'.So, except for her bad driving and total disregard for hit and run accidents, I feel more sympathetic to Daisy this time around. She seems like she's just trying to do the right thing, and she hasn't yet figured out what the right thing is, and she sure doesn't have a good example around to follow, in any of her friends or, presumably, her parents, who pushed her into this life to start with and presumably live in much the same way. And Gatsby - well, I like him -- he's idealistic and sentimental, and honest (if you overlook the mob ties), and he certainly goes for what he wants...but he's kind of a creeper too, isn't he? Unhealthily attached to his teenage years. It was interesting, reading it again. What do you think? Was Gatsby and Daisy's love affair tragic, or just an unfortunate series of mistakes? What books have you read again that seemed completely different the second time around?
What Alice Forgot

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What would your ten-years-ago self say about your life if she stepped into it this morning? Would you like the way you've been conducting your life? Has it turned out the way you had planned? Is the person you are now the person you wanted to be? These are the questions that Alice grapples with after she wakes up on the floor of a gym one morning with a head injury, unexpectedly 39 and divorcing, with three children, instead of 29 and pregnant with their first child, as she remembers being yesterday. There were some page-turning questions that kept me up into the wee hours of the morning - will Alice reconcile with her husband? Will she get her memory back? Who is this Gina that she keeps hazily remembering, and wouldn't she have been better forgotten? Liane Moriarty is a hell of a writer. Watching her reconnect with her sister, and her husband, and her life, makes you want to phone all the people you care about and share your own good memories - makes you think about the choices you've made, and the things you've kept and lost along the way. Everyone should read this book immediately.
Fast Food Fix: 75+ Amazing Recipe Makeovers of Your Fast Food Restaurant Favorites

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The Chick Fil-A chicken in this book is just awesome. Easy to make too! I recommend it!
Working Parents, Thriving Families: 10 Strategies That Make A Difference

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This book was strong in parts - I like the list of 'rituals' that the author suggests on page 93. On the other hand, I found Mr. Palmiter's style of parenting to be a little intense in places, though I'm not sure whether the fault lies with him or me. For example, in a section on how "to monitor our children well", he mentions an'unhealthy' thing that a friend's boys (aged 11 and 12) had wanted to do. What was this unhealthy action? Was it sneaking off to an R-rated movie? Was it forgoing supper in favor of cake and soda? Nope. It was jumping on a trampoline with no protective fencing around it. Egad! How will the boy survive to turn 13? I found myself thinking, "Seriously? In my day, no one had ever heard of protective fencing, and yet, somehow, we survived." That's not to say that you shouldn't have rules. Many rules are important - 10 hours of sleep per night, don't hit your brother, etc. But I suppose I am afraid if I do as Mr. Palmiter suggests and "assess visits to another child's home", for instance, discouraging interactions with kids whose parents are late to pick them up or 'seem disorganized', or who fail to call while your child is visiting them...well, who would that leave, exactly, in the good camp? If all parents evaluated by that standard, I know I wouldn't ever have visited anybody as a child. On time was not my parents' strong suit. Nevertheless, they were very good parents. I feel like this book walks a hard line that I really wouldn't want to follow. Nevertheless, it was an interesting read, and I'm sure that there are a lot of parents out there, more strict than I, who would really welcome this book. It just depends on your particular style. There were a lot of good suggestions throughout the book - for instance, about how to help your child develop social competency, and how to know if your child is ready for certain chores. It's definitely worth a read. I'm just not sure that it will become my new go-to parenting bible. (In case you're interested, that would still be Marguerite Kelly's Mother's Almanac, volumes I and II).
Portobello: A Novel

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I feel like this was an idea book. That after decades of writing novels in which people with psychological issues commit crimes, Rendell thought one day about how many people with bizarre psychological issues never go on to commit crimes, and how most crimes are probably committed by really comparatively ordinary people. And she thought about how people are so interconnected sometimes, in unexpected ways. And so she set this situation up, some people with issues who nevertheless, are leading fairly normal lives, and some people who seem saner, yet who end up in inexplicable situations - and she tied them all together, in ways that we can see as the outside observers, but which they themselves cannot. I don't know that this book is the edge-of-your-seat thriller you may be expecting from Rendell. But it's a brilliant experiment. There's a fictitious painting described in the book, Undine in a Goldfish Bowl - a painting so well described that I thought it was real until a Google Image search told me the sad truth. The painting seems to sum up the book very neatly - a mermaid, trapped in a goldfish bowl, struggling to breathe air and get out - as if she, like some of the people in the book, is more afraid of her own potential weakness than she is cognizant of her ability to breathe underwater. As if she is trapped in the bowl for our viewing pleasure. Like a cast of characters, perhaps.
My Life in Politics

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Jacques Chirac served 12 years as the President of France, from 1995 to 2007. Chirac has led a long and colorful life as one of the world's leading political figures.As such, his memoirs make for a fascinating and politically enlightening read, giving great insight into France's political scene over the past 15-20 years, behind the scenes as well as the resulting public decisions. The beginning section, in which Chirac spoke about his family, and his service in Algeria, was particularly interesting, and seemed to give the closest view of him as a person, separate from his public life.The book is perhaps more formal in tone than many political biographies that Americans are used to, but is no less worthy for it. It would be well worth a read for anyone who is seriously interested in politics or recent European history.
The Flask

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I read this book with my 10-year-old daughter, or rather, I read it, and then she read it, and then we discussed it. It was like having my own incredibly small YA focus group. So, Bella says that it is excellent, and that she wants to read all of Nicky Singer's other books now, and that it reminds her a little of Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick, because of the way that the character is a little offbeat, and thoughtful. This was a very character-driven book. It's about a girl, about 14, I think, who is dealing with the birth of new siblings who just happen to be conjoined twins, and also dealing with the death of her aunt, and trying to figure out shifting relationships with her family, her grandmother and her best friend. As she goes through this process, she finds a bottle that may or may not have a sort of spiritual power (I don't want to reveal too much - you'll just have to read the book!). It's definitely a coming of age story with a mystical touch. It reminded me of something Madeleine L'Engle would have written too, where the character has a problem that involves some sort of fantastic situation that turns out to help them relate to their real life in an adult way. That makes it sound boring, or like something only school librarians and teachers could love, but it isn't. Just ask my daughter.
The Organic Home Garden

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This was a very informative book. Even a non-gardener, like me, a total novice who tends to buy things in pots, and water them, and hope for the best, can come away from the book with a sense of how it could be done better. And thanks to the handy and thorough explanations of soil composition, insects, etc., the next gardening book I read may not sound as though it was written in Greek either. Most common vegetables and herbs are included here, along with a clear description of when to plant, what to do next, how to harvest, and even some recipes! Very thorough and highly recommended.
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