Tag Archives: Book review

The Trouble With Boys by Peg Tyre

The trouble with boys : a surprising report card on our sons, their problems at school, and what parents and educators must do

The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre

Peg Tyre provides a sobering look at how the modern school system is failing boys. Boys nationwide, across all lines of wealth and poverty are straggling behind girls. Boys are less motivated, less inclined to participate in school activities. This goes from homework to extracurriculars (not including sports). Since so much effort has been put into supporting and promoting female success at school, the success of the boys has fallen by the wayside.

One of Tyre’s main points is that this is a highly controversial topic. How do you discuss supporting boy curricula without is coming across as anti-girl? Boys and girls learn differently. Tyre discusses that in-depth in her book using a number of examples and studies. She visits schools and speaks with teachers and administrators across the nation. As it stands, boys are suffering. Boys are constantly trying to be reformed to be less aggressive, more docile and that is not cohesive with the developmental milestones. Boys are squirmy, they are wiggly. They cannot sit still for hours on end. Schools are cutting back on recess and lunch hours, and in the end, boys are being misdiagnosed with ADHD all because they don’t have the space or time to exert their extra energy. It’s very troubling to me, a mother of a young son. I already worry about his education in California (one of the worst ranked in the nation), but to add this on top of my other concerns is just disheartening. Tyre does end each chapter with advice for parents, teachers and administrators. The book is about 6 years old, so I do wish she would update this edition. I’d love to know what the state of the national school system is now, particularly with the introduction of the Common Core standards.

This is a great book for parents of boys, especially the highly active ones. I feel like I am more on-alert about his proclivities and personality. I feel more prepared for whatever future discussions I’ll have with teachers about his classroom participation.

 

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Nurtureshock : new thinking about children

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Alternative title to this book could be:

  • All Your Instincts About Parenting are Wrong
  • This is How We Unknowingly Harm Our Kids

Nurture Shock has been a New York Times Bestselling title and made a number of waves when it was first publishes. Bronson and Merryman discuss a myriad of topics and parental instincts that are actually damaging to our children. Some of the notable elements are:

- Call our children smart. This forces smart kids to cut back on effort for fear of failure. Praise their efforts and see their grades and comprehension rise.

- The entire concept of the US school system is designed to be convenient for adults, not the kids. School starts early so that teachers & parents can avoid traffic. All that testing done to get your kid into preschool has no merit and is not a fair assessment as kids mental capabilities are not linear.

- Educational shows produce more aggression in shows that regular TV. Why? Because of the large number of insults, jests and nuanced bullying that is unresolved. Most American TV shows are centered on witty rebarbs and smart comebacks. While that may well work for adults, children don’t really understand the difference. They see someone be insulting without any reprimand. Just look at DW in the TV show Arthur.

Other topics discussed are: lying, self-esteem, teen rebellion, sibling relationships, how kids view race, aggression and language acquisition. To say that I really enjoyed this audio book is an understatement. What Bronson and Merryman do is dig through an enormous amount of studies to give us the main bullet points. Much of what is good for our kids is counter to our natural beliefs and counter to the society that has been established for these kids. The language acquisition segment was perhaps my favorite and I have been trying many of the suggestions made by Bronson’s and Merryman’s observations with great success with my son. I just really wish that his focus hadn’t been on mono-lingual girls. I’ve already heard that boys have a slower language acquisition rate, and after this book, I’m still wondering if that’s true. What about kids who are raising in a bilingual home? Where does their rate of language acquisition fall? Other than the fact that by the age of 1, children have filtered out all other language to focus on the ones they hear daily, I don’t know much about this topic. Maybe there are no studies done on it, but learning about rich girls learning to talk eloquently at 15 months does not relate at all to my situation.

This is a great book for parents and falls into the topic of parenting books that I generally like to read. Fact-based discussions of scholarly social studies.

If you liked Nurture Shock, then I readily recommend these titles as well:

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is ugly & the only place of refugee is the online world of Oasis, a virtual utopia (like the Sims games). When the creator dies and leaves behind a maze of puzzles and riddles based on 1980s trivia, Wade’s new mission is to crack the code and win before the evil corporate clones do.

Although the concept of this book is incredibly entertaining, I found the characters to be annoying and the love story to feel awkward and forced. I think what bothered me the most about this book is how easily things fell into place for Wade. He was always at the right place at the right time. He knew all the right moves, had all the answers, all the motivation, all the luck. As ironic as it is to say about a sci-fi book, the convenience of all the obstacles made the story unrealistic. It took away from the drama. It never really felt like there much of a challenge up against Wade throughout the book. It’s not the best written book, but the story is entertaining and most adults will appreciate the 80s references. There are so many 80s references in this book. That seems to be a new trend, especially with YA books. I’d recommend this for folks who like Ender’s Game and other titles of that nature. The audio book is narrated by Will Wheaton, which is worth the purchase price purely for that reason alone.

*Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was originally posted at thenovelworld.com on 7/14/2014*

Weekend Cooking: Suffering Succotash by Stephanie Luvianovic

Suffering succotash : a picky eater's quest to understand why we hate the foods we hateSuffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate by Stephanie Lucianovic
Age: Adult
Format: Book
Source: Library
Publisher: Perigee Trade, 2012
ISBN: 9780399537509
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Former picky eater, and now foodie/chef Stephanie Lucianovic takes a humorous and in-depth look at why and how picky eaters are picky eaters. Part memoir, part science and part humor is how she makes her point that picky eaters aren’t just fussy, but have valid medical, psychological and physical reasons for their tastes and reactions to specific foods.

She examines taste buds, she goes to a genetics lab to examine her DNA, she speaks to food behavioral therapists, parents, friends, chefs, and children in the Bay Area and around the nation. Her work is lively, chatty and informative. I bet the audio cd would be a hoot to listen to if she narrates it. I’m also a little bit partial to this book because most of her research is done around the Bay Area. She lives in Menlo Park, and I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever brought her young son to the baby storytime I did there. Not that it has anything to do with the book, but that its a small world after all if she did. =p

This is a book that picky eaters and foodies can associate with. Although it is chock-full of research, and anecdotes, there isn’t much in the way of advice other than “try new food” and “don’t push foods onto kids, they’ll just hate them all the more.” She makes a good point that kids today are exposed to a wider variety of foods via farmer’s market not to mention the super yummy creations of Ella’s Kitchen for tiny tots.

We are all picky eaters in our way. As much as I love cinnamon buns, and crave them on a regular basis, I avoid eating them because I can’t stand the sticky sauce that is poured over it, same goes for most drenched finger foods (ie ribs). Too messy = not for me. My husband can’t stand anything pickled (cucumbers, pickles, etc). We love food, love to cook and consider ourselves foodie-wannabes, but we still have our hang-ups. Everyone does! As long as it doesn’t get in the way of your health, then its really no big deal is mine and the author’s stance.

So, what food have you avoided recently?

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, someday, maybe : a novelSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2013
ISBN: 9780345532749
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Franny Banks is an aspiring actress in New York. By day, she’s a waitress, and at night, she’s taking acting classes and preparing for auditions. This novel is what most can assume to be a semi-autobiographical account of Lauren Graham’s experiences as a struggling actress before becoming a household name with her role on Gilmore Girls.

Overall, I liked Someday, Someday, Maybe. Although I can’t really call it a great piece of literature. Everything about this book is cliche and predictable. But I connected to Franny (the only likeable character in this book) and I was cheering for her. Her character is flawed, insecure and very impressionable. At times it was annoying and I wished for some character development, with any of the characters really. Everyone is so two-dimensional and fit exactly into the stereotypes that we non-actors cast onto people in the media industry.

But I swear, I liked the book! Its a good quick summer read. Its a beach read. Light and fluffy with a decent sense of humor for some good chuckles. I particularly liked the doodles and small bits of comedy in Franny’s planner, used to signify the start of each chapter. Its definitely something fans of Gilmore Girls will appreciate. Its no coincidence that Franny shares a very, very similar sense of humor as Lorelei Gilmore. Amy Sherman-Palladino would be proud to see the character re-emerge as a struggling actress in New York.

A Town Like Paris by Bryce Corbett

A town like Paris : falling in love in the City of lightA Town Like Paris: Falling in Love in the City of Light by Bryce Corbett
Age: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir/Paris
Source: Overdrive
Format: Ebook
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Stuck in a rut in London, Australian native Bryce Corbett applies on a whim to a position he is highly unqualified for in Paris. For reasons he can’t figure out, he is given the position and is soon on his way to the City of Light, the city where he has dreamt of living for years. Once in Paris, his adventures are nothing short of hilarious. The type that makes you shake your head in wonder.

I wonder if Bryce Corbett and Stephen Clarke ever met for a cafe while in Paris? Fans of Clarke will enjoy Corbett’s wry wit, his male perspective on the most romantic city in Europe, as well as his lack of aspirations towards work, and his overdrive commitment to drinking, partying and falling in love with the Lido showgirl, Shay.

Sometimes, I think a male perspective on Paris is just the right book. Girls tend to sugarcoat, or go into purple prose when it comes to Paris’ charms, but guys are more direct and like to focus on the negatives of the city. I do have to say, that I am insanely jealous of his situation. Being paid to live in a city, albeit he didn’t care for his work at all, but the means to an end, provided him with up to 6 years of Parisian life.

His stories are funny, and well chronicled. From the escapades of dating, to the foibles of dealing with the French bureaucracy, to starting a mildly popular band that plays in the bars of the city, Corbett’s prose seems genuine. Although at times I wondered if he fluffed up the story just to heighten the hilarity. His descriptions of the people, the places and events that took place in Paris had me laughing out loud or shaking my head in wonder. The chapters are short, but there are quite a few of them. A few felt repetitive, and some just dragged on, but for the most part, this is a highly entertaining read.

The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Age: Adult
Source: Publisher
Publisher: William Morrow, 2013
ISBN: 9780062255655
181 pages
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When a middle-aged-man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, he takes an unexpected stroll down memory lane, remembering parts of his childhood from when he was 7-years-old and met Lettie Hempstock. Soon, history comes flooding back to him as he recollects sitting by the duck pond, or what she called her ocean.

Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.

Neil Gaiman doesn’t write sequels, but the Ocean At the End of the Lane is like a distant cousin of The Graveyard Book and Coraline. Its a short novel, and I’m not quite sure if its meant for adults, kids or teens. It is written from the perspective of a 7-year-old, with innocent thoughts and fears, but much of the content is adult; frightening and surreal. This book, like the Graveyard Book, starts with a death. Like Coraline, the other mother, Ursula Monkton, is much more creepy and cruel.

This incredibly short book is more like a dream than a novel. Everything happens so quickly, so smoothly, but all the events and people seem incongruous somehow. As much as I loved and devoured this book, it is so easy to get lost in Neil Gaiman’s prose, hearing his voice narrate the book… I digress, fangirl that I am. As much as I enjoyed this book, I felt that one of the biggest faults was Lettie Hempstock’s nonchalance confidence with ridding the world of Ursula Monkton. It halted the suspense of the novel at times. Although Gaiman’s descriptions and eerie setting more than made up for that. Its not my favorite of his books, I think it could have been and should have been expanded, but it is a good read for a solitary, quiet evening.

All My Friends by Marie N’Diaye

All my friendsAll My Friends by Marie N’Diaye translated by Jordan Stump

Age: Adult

Format: Book

Source: Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Publisher: Two Lines Press

ISBN: 9781931883238

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In this brief yet poignant collection of short stories, author Marie N’Diaye takes us into the minds of the unstable and their fractured lives and relationships. From an aged professor haunted by a past student, to a former actress falling apart, or a mother abandoning her son. N’Diaye deftly examines the minds and thoughts of people who we’d rather brush under the carpet. This book will leave you unsettled, but it in incredibly well written (well translated) and gives the reader much to think about after each story.

In the first story, an aged professor falls in love with a former student, now his housekeeper. This is followed by a tale of a back and forth between a doctor and a patient over her dead husband. The third story, is remarkably sad, as it is about a young boy who wants to leave his impoverished life by becoming a sex slave, like his next door neighbor. Then Brulard’s Tale about a minor actress and her stream of consciousness thought patterns becoming more and more claustrophobic and paranoid. The last story is about a mentally challenged women who goes on a bus ride with her son, but knows that she will be returning without him.

The author has created five stories in which people lose their grip on reality, the most compelling of which was fourth story, Brulard’s Day. This story reminded me of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. The inner workings of the mind of someone’s sanity slowly unraveling as bystanders watch, unaware or indifferent. At only 140 pages, this book is a quick read, but not a light read. It’s not exactly a beach read, with the gentle tide of waves in the background. It is more of a moody cafe book, with a few cups of coffee with some ambient music in the background.

French Twist – Catherine Crawford

French twist : an American mom's experiment in Parisian parentingFrench Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment In Parisian Parenting
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir, French parenting, Non-Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviews (via Random House)
Publisher: Random House, 2013
ISBN: 9780345533265, 240 pages

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Catherine Crawford had an epiphany one night when her French friends came over for dinner along with their two, very well-behaved children. Catherine then realized that French children are overall more obedient, patient and mature than American children with hovering parents. She set out to find out the secrets of French parenting and apply them to her own family’s life in New York.

As an new mom and a person obsessed with all things French, I figured this book would be right up my alley. Unlike Bringing Up Bebe byPamela Druckerman and French Kids Eat Everything by Karen le Billon, French Twist is a take on French parenting in the US, with US rules and customs. Unfortunately, this book didn’t really provide me with any insights on how to incorporate French parenting techniques.

For all the potential this book had, it really, really fell short. I think the biggest obstacle for me was Crawford’s pose. It felt like the book was written by a very energetic 5-year-old who wants to tell you everything they learned in school that day in less than 5 minutes. I think the book could have benefited from more editing. Her style was filled with a number of asides, very few details and massive amounts of generalizations. After having completed the book, all I took away from it is that she “got French” and her life is more serene when dealing with her children.

Some may like Crawford’s chatty style and will connect with her very New York personality, but for me, the gap was too wide. Of the three books, French Kids Eat Everything provides the most balanced analysis between US and French parenting, but Bringing Up Bebe, particularly Bebe Day by Day, provide the most succinct and repeatable advice on French parenting.

French Kids Eat Everything – Karen Le Billon

French kids eat everything : how our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banished snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising healthy, happy eatersFrench Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir, Food, French Parenting, Non-Fiction
Source: My Copy
Publisher: William Morrow, 2012
ISBN: 9780062103291. 305 pages

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After having moved from Canada to France with her husband and two young daughters, Karen encounters a sort of food revelation/revolution that forces her to change the family’s eating habits, adapting 10 rules she devised based on her observations of the French.

In this intimate memoir, Karen takes us through the ups and downs of slowly changing her family’s eating habits, and the particular toll it took on her daughters. Apparently, Canadians eat just as poorly as US Americans, and were faced with a myriad of difficulties adapting to French life, where food is an honored national passion.

What I most enjoyed about this memoir is Le Billon’s frankness with her own shortcomings, although she is a victim of her North American consumerist culture. The stark differences between France and the US are quite obvious when it comes to food. They have multiple bakeries with freshly baked bread on every street. Here, in San Jose, I struggle to find one bakery that actually sells bread and not just pastries. In France, the schools have food appreciation as part of their daily curriculum. Children as young as five are served five course meals, seated with real plates and cutlery at school each day. Some schools even go so far as to send dinner suggestions home so that parents don’t accidentally replicate a lunch meal for the month.

Part of Le Billon’s struggle with getting her kids to eat healthy and eat a variety of foods was overcoming her own aversion to cooking more intricate meals. It’s easy to just through some noodles in the pot after a long day of work, but is it the best decision? No, not really. Loaded with an array of cookbooks from her French husband’s side of the family, Le Billon was able to craft some recipes that were simple, yet met her criteria for introducing new foods to her daughters. One idea I particularly liked was cooking the taboo food in a number of different ways, (as a soup, steams, in another dish), etc.

Her 10 rules don’t seem very groundbreaking to me, but its their simplicity that does the trick. Don’t make two different meals, don’t be a short-order cook. If the child doesn’t like something, they don’t have to eat it, but they don’t get a replacement item. Dinner should be a social family affair, not something scarfed down in front of the TV, while one parent hastily washes the dishes. There is the no snacking rule, but that one I have a tough time following. Although my general rule of thumb is to snack, but snack on fruits and veggies.

Le Billon also includes a bevy of recipes at the very end of the book, which I am thankful for. Thankful that it’s all at the end of the book. I hate foodie books with recipes at the end of each chapter. It makes it that much more difficult to go back and look for a recipe I want to make. I made the cauliflower casserole in Le Billon’s book, but I tossed in carrots to add some color, and next time I’ll add some spinach too. The recipe was delicious, really, really easy to make and one of my husband’s favorite dishes that I’ve whipped up.

My only complaint about this book is that even though Le Billon is talking about Canada, she constantly refers to them as “Americans” which I think short-changes US Americans. Not that people in this country can really argue against the nation’s dismal eating habits, but still. It felt like the blame was being passed onto us.

For new parents who want to start their kids off on the right foodie path, this is a good introduction on what to do to ensure that your child appreciate quality food, not just quantity. For parents of picky-eaters, it’ll be an uphill battle, but one that you can win following Le Billon’s advice.