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Sassy Peach Goes to Kindergarten: Happy 5th Birthday!

Wow! We made it! Half a decade! That's crazy talk. I said to a friend the other day how much I couldn't believe how far I've com...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What to Expect When You're Expecting

What to Expect When You're Expecting is now in it's 5th edition. You know it. Even if you have never experienced a pregnancy, you are familiar with this cover. 

I wasn't quite sure whether or not to buy the book at first; I wasn't sure how useful it would be. Not because I knew much about pregnancy -- I knew what the average woman in America knows, which is next to nothing other than a fetus grows in my uterus -- but more because some books are super useful and others just aren't. I ordered the book anyway because I figured, why the hell not?

Even bough I had abandoned this book by the end of my pregnancy for other material (you've seen some here and more is to come), this was a great resource
For those freaked out first couple of months when I was wondering what the hell we were doing. Pregnancy was not my friend, and I won't even pretend like I enjoyed it. I totally dig the outcome -- my son is fun and silly and a ton of work -- but the process of getting him here was emotionally and mentally overwhelming, and it was physically difficult in the last trimester. This book helped in the early stages to help me recognize what was normal and what wasn't. I love my information, and this gave me an arsenal to look toward. 

Hubby and I also used the WTE app and weekly videos, which were a really great way to connect once a week to hit those weekly milestones. There were a couple of times times I had to correct the TV regarding cognitive development, but for the most part it was interesting and helpful. I wouldn't, however, recommend reading the section on giving birth too soon. It absolutely freaked me out the first time I read it. I needed time to digest all of it, and I untimately found some better (and more supportive of natural birth) resources for that part of the process. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning

I can't recall what drew me to the new memoir, Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer, but something did, so I picked it up from the library recently. 

As Claire enters her midlife, she opens her old journals -- which she kept from an early age up until her marriage -- and begins reflecting on the choices she made in life and in love. From young oversexualization to her current state of marriage, from an awareness of her sexuality through being hit on by a notorious literary womanizer, Claire revisits the experiences and the memories that shaped her. 

This was such an interesting memoir, and one that I'm still thinking on. I am a different generation than Dederer, so I was sometimes shocked by her stories of being a young girl and her sexual exploits. However, her tale of the root of the problem -- sexual manipulation with a creepy friend of her mother's -- broke my heart and put two and two together for me. My heart broke for the young, scared girl who was at the mercy of her mother's whims. We could say that parents just didn't understand back then, but did they? 

The most striking chapter in this book is Dederer's letter to Roman Polanski. Society has done a very good job of covering up his sexual assault of a young girl, so much so that I found out the details of that assault in this book. Not that I couldn't look it up in the interwebs, but that when we hear about the punishment of Polanski in the media, it's about how it was a long time ago and even the victim has forgiven him. Dederer writes a missive that shows the long-ranging ramifications of the choices Polanski made in regards to a young girl who didn't deserve to be manipulated at a minimum. What we understand now is that a pre-teen isn't old enough to give consent. Dederer's words that express how deeply she was affected by this man's actions, and the parallel to her own experience, was striking and moving, like a punch in the gut. 

At some point we all have a midlife reckoning, I believe, and Dederer's is raw and honest, sometimes to the point of uncomfortability. (If that's not a word, I just made it one.) but what a beautiful and timely reckoning it is. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Be Brave Little One

I've always enjoyed children's books, but now that I have my own little one, I'm a sucker for them. Especially ones that feature a good moral of the story or encouragement. I cry. Seriously. So here we have Marianne Richmond's Be Brave Little One.

Out of all of the things I want to teach my son, bravery is up near the top. This book explores bravery in so many forms. It's not just taking chances and stepping out on a limb, it's also the willingness to try to something new, and if you stick with it, great! But if it's not for you, also be brave and walk away. Be brave in messing up and fixing things, and be brave in making friends, even with those you might not find otherwise. Bravery in perseverance and bravery in emotions are also part of the equation. In short, be brave, little one.

This was such a lovely, sweet, and moving book in its simplicity. The words don't have to be big and the sentences don't have to be long in order to pack a big punch and make this mama shed a few tears. After all, I think it's fairly universal that we all want the best for our children regardless of what that looks like. Bravery may or may not be important for everyone to instill in their children, but bravery sure is needed to get through life. This book reminded me of Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance," which makes me cry every time I hear it. (Honestly, I have to turn off the radio when it comes on.) It's a sweet and short book to read to your small child, and give as a gift to your big child, but it sure does hit home.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Guest Blogger Charlotte: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Hi!

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is a novel written from the point of view of a dog. If you’re thinking, “That sounds pretty cheesy,” that’s what I was thinking too. It’s also a novel about a can’t-seem-to-make-it racecar driver. If you’re thinking, “Wow I don’t care at all about racecar driving,” that what I was thinking too. But I still loved it, and I think you will too.

The book is an easy read even though the story is heart-wrenching and has some very sad moments. Overall, looking at the life of Denny the racecar driver through Enzo the dog’s eyes gives a unique perspective. Enzo is complex, and his depth doesn’t seem contrived (somehow) and is an interesting contrast to his still dog-like instincts and needs. The Art of Racing in the Rain made me think about dogs differently. Even though it was fiction, it gave me a new perspective on the value of their ability to connect emotionally.

The insights of a dog, and the creation of his sophisticated perspective, was my favorite part of the novel. If you love dogs, or have a dog, I expect this will be your favorite part too. He’s just such an interesting character, and so aware of his dog-ness and all the special abilities and inabilities that come along with it. He’s smart and observant and above being a dog in many ways, but then his instincts come through and take over in ways that can be tragic, brave, sad, or hilarious.

The underlying story, through Enzo’s eyes, was engrossing and sad. It’s heavy on the plot and not mired in details, which I enjoyed. Denny’s family life takes some heartbreaking twists and turns and is, in the end, a story of survival and perseverance. Adding the perspective of a young child and the dog’s observations of the child’s behavior added even more to the value of the book. I know a book is good when I find myself saddened or outraged on behalf of a character as if they were someone I knew, and that happened in this book with Denny.

One thing I didn’t really love was the inclusion of racing metaphors and examples all throughout the book. Enzo’s observations on racing and on races he’s watched (he loves watching TV) are peppered throughout the book and often used as metaphors. Sometimes they felt a little forced to me, but I think that’s mostly because it’s not a topic that interested me.


Overall I would recommend this book as a fast but engrossing read that helps broaden your perspective on the importance of emotional connection and support and the value of being there for the important people in life, even all you can do is listen. Or wag your tail.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Al Franken: Giant of the Senate

At Book Expo this year, I only attended one panel, and that was with Mark Manson and Al Franken in conversation. It was outstanding. Al Franken was advertising his new memoir, but it was one of the most enjoyable panels I have ever been to. Franken is clearly a Senator who is here to serve the people of Minnesota, that comes through loud and clear. His memoir, Giant of the Senate, only makes that more clear. 

If you are of a certain age, you will know Al Franken as a satirist and beloved writer of Saturday Night Live. You may also remember how confused you felt when he announced his entry into politics, particularly if you are not a Minnesotan. If you are younger, you may only know him as the Democratic Senator from Minnesota. Either way, you would be right. 

Al Franken started his career very early as a comedian and has written several satirical books on politics, almost exclusively excoriating the right. One thing he hates more than anything is lying, so you can imagine how much he loves our current POTUS. In this memoir (which contains a fair share of satirical jokes), he covers his early years (albeit briefly), including those on SNL, and then he's into his entry into politics. His friend and senator, the beloved Paul Wellstone, was killed in a plane accident and his successor was, shall we say, a Republican. Having never considered politics before, Franken starts to realize that he could do the job, and he starts slowly mounting his campaign and building his political knowledge early. This memoir covers his campaign, his contentious election, and his time up to present in the US Senate. 

I was worried that at almost 400 pages that I might not get through the book, as I have an infant and it seemed like a daunting task. Have no fear -- this book was so on point, entertaining and funny, that I read it in no time. I found myself giggling out loud more than enough times, and my husband often looked at me quizzically until I read him what I was amused by. The problem with that is that the jokes are smart and require background knowledge, so I often had to back up and read him at least the previous paragraph. Franken is not funny in a one-liner way; he is incredibly intelligent and writes his jokes for those who are willing to hold on with their left and and catch the joke with their right. That's what was so great about this book. It was informative and incredibly amusing. It's hard to find that in a memoir with a tinge of satire. 

Franken also doesn't mince words in his work. He is no fan of certain coworkers (one rhymes with Ned Kruz), and he is strait up with his readers. When I saw him speak at Book Expo, I was quite impressed at his dedication to representing his constituents. Franken is a man of his word, and in our current political climate, where I find some representatives are less concerned with listening to those they represent and more concerned with revenge on the previous administration, he is the one to watch. One thing that has flabbergasted me of late is how unwilling representatives are to recognize that they are voted in by their constituents and their responsibility is to serve them; you don't have a guaranteed job just because you are a politician. Franken not only understands that, he lives by the creed. I wish he were my representative, too. 

I often donate books that I finish, but this one will be staying on my shelf. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Rapunzel

Bethan Woollvin's Rapunzel was high on my "get" list for Book Expo this year because it was such an empowering children's book. I knew that I needed to get it not just for myself, but for you all, dear readers.

We are all familiar with the traditional Rapunzel tale, but what would happen if we took away her reliance on a man (the infamous handsome prince) and just had a girl who was tired of being bossed around by the evil witch? We would have this Rapunzel, a new type of heroine who leaves the castle all the time to do her own thing and one day, when confronted by the witch who found a leaf in her hair, convinces her the wind blew it in to the castle, then leaves the tower. She cuts her hair off behind her and leaves for good, scaring witches henceforth. Now that's a strong female lead.

I was particularly drawn do this story because I want my child to see portrayals of girls that don't necessarily do things for males or because of males; I want him to see girls that are strong in their own right. Don't you think this Rapunzel is a more fun girl to hang out with? I sure do, and not just as a friend, either. I want my child to think of all people as those who make choices for themselves and don't stand by while people don't ask for their consent. Believe it or not, that's an issue in this book. The witch never asks Rapunzel if she can snip off some of her hair to sell it; she just does it without permission. It's a hell of a signal, then, when Rapunzel just whacks off all of her golden, luscious hair and walks away from it for good.

I'm excited to have this book on my son's bookshelf, and I'm looking forward to reading it and talking to him about it. It's really amazing to see old stories that don't exactly work for our family retold in ways that do. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean

Amy Dresner's memoir, My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean stuck out for me as it sounded funny and honest, and we all know I love those two things. 

Amy is an addict. Although she prefers opioids, anything will do. Alcohol makes her violent, cocaine works too, and sex fills the void when she is sober from substances. She can't be alone, and she doesn't know how to cope. A 40-something woman who grew up wealthy and spoiled, she's never learned coping mechanisms for the curveballs life throws. Her seventh stint in rehab after a domestic violence incident (by her) finally forces her to deal with who she is and her choices in life. No one said it would be easy, though. 

Addiction is no joke, and it's a disease that takes the ones you love. Amy was no different. It was incredible to read her searing honesty and raw wit as she lays her soul bare in this memoir. It's tough to tel us the whole, honest truth, especially using such dark humor (my favorite), and she's doing it in writing for the public. Although I do understand that she. You are writing, it is sometimes the most cathartic thing and others reading or not it doesn't well matter. It was amazing to read her recounting of her wrongs in her own way, and to know that dealing with addiction and shame is a common experience. 

Shame is a powerful emotion that drives many of our choices as human, and Amy had every reason to be ashamed of many of her choices, even while sober.  Maybe especially when sober. Some parts elicited so much sympathy from me, and some mad respect for her ability to put it out there an own it. This included a few sexual exploits, and her embarrassment in what she was willing to do to fill the empty void inside her. I cheered for her when she finished her community service, laughed with her at the irony of having to call the graffiti removal squad, and hid my head for her when she agreed to continue sleeping with losers. We are all human, and we all have our fair share of shit. I'm thankful that Amy could lay here out there for us so others could feel not so alone. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Max and Bird

Max and Bird is the latest in Ed Vere's Max series, and I almost died when I approached the Sourcebooks booth at Book Expo and asked if they had a new Max book out this year. I love Max with my whole heart and soul, and he is by far my favorite children's series. (You can read about the other books here and here.) Mr. Vere has not let me, or you, down here.

One day, Max and Bird meet. Max is used to chasing birds, and Bird is used to being chased by cats. However, they decide to be friends -- at least until Bird can learn to fly. Together the pair embark on an adventure to teach Bird how to fly, including a visit to the library and plenty of practice. Once they are successful, Bird offers for Max to eat him, as that was the deal. Max decides he likes Bird too much to eat him, and they agree to stay friends.

I am blown away by this book, as much as I have been by Vere's previous Max books. I would rank this one my second favorite after Max the Brave. I love the simplicity of the message -- friends help friends, and don't ask for anything in return. There is another message, which is keeping your word. When Bird offers to sacrifice himself because he told Max he would, it was a sweet, if martyr-ish offer. Max's willingness to turn his new friend down on a very tasty offer was kind, but it also showed a desire for friendship over carnal desires. It is sweet, but it is also a very good message of kindness and caring for others. As per usual, the illustrations are to die for, Max is a dreamboat, and Vere has a way of reaching the deep recesses of adults' sense of humor to make this book a huge winner in terms of children's books. Or any books, for that matter. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stay With Me: A Novel

One of the big books to drop this fall, I anxiously awaited approval for an advanced copy of Ayobami Adebayo's Stay With Me. I wanted to pick up a hard copy at Book Expo, but by drop time (4pm ish) I was in so much pain and could barely walk, so I taxi'd home. I'm so grateful to have been approved for an electronic copy. 

Yejide and Akin have been married for years, and theirs is a love at first sight story. Their union, however, has not produced offspring, which in their Nigerian culture is the worst thing that could befall a marriage. Akin is forced by his family to take a second wife. When Yejide is finally with child, the hope is that it will cure all ills, but unfortunately it is the beginning of a series of events that may rip the couple apart and will have a resounding affect on the family for the rest of their lives.

This novel was by far the best I have picked up in recent months. It was beautifully written in terms of the story; the narrators shift between the couple and there was never a moment when I didn't know who was speaking. Each of their voices broke my heart in their own ways; the unbearable pain of desperately wanting a child and then losing one was difficult to read at all, but especially as my little boy sleeps in my arms while I read through the couple's pain. You learn early on that there is a secret between the couple, and as it unravels through the course of the novel, I was flabbergasted at how simple it was yet how it deeply complicated several lives, some to the point of no return. 

I was struck by how simply stunning this novel was. It was impossible to keep the characters at a distance as they will burrow themselves in your soul. As their relationship became fractured, I couldn't side with one over the other. My heart hurt for both players, and I secretly hoped for a happily ever after. I held my breath for them and I rooted for them. I only wanted their dreams to come true. You may not be able to get what you want, but you can live within the confines of this incredible piece of work and experience the joy and the sorrow Adebayo gifts you for a few hours. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Burning Girl: A Novel

I was crazy excited to get a copy of Claire Messud's newest novel, The Burning Girl, at Book Expo. I always love reading her work. 

We have all been there -- one of your oldest and dearest friends pulls away and you don't know why. Sometimes it happens to us in adulthood, but for many of us it happened in childhood. This is what Julia experiences when Cassie, her best friend, begins to find new friends and ask out new experiences early in high school. Julia doesn't understand, and she has to watch her friend slowly make decisions that will alter her life, some of which are her choice and others she is forced into. It's hard to predict what will happen to Cassie as she slips away from her old life, but one thing we can know for certain is that Julia and Cassie's friendship will never be the same -- that is, if Cassie lives to tell the tale. 

I found this novel to be fascinating, and I was particularly taken by the younger characters Messud has written about in this novel. It's hard to find well written adult novels that focus on younger characters, and Messud really hit the nail on the head with this one. Julia came across as someone I could relate to -- a young woman in the making who feels babyish and uncool compared to her former best friend, who has chosen a new crowd and a new life that not only doesn't include her, but also makes her seem infinitely cooler than Julia. I think we've all been there and we can relate to that. However, in the context of the story, I would rather be Julia. It was a starts reminder that not everything that glitters is gold. 

I was absolutely creeped out by the presence of the new man in Cassie's life. I have to be deliberately vague in this description as it is an important point in the story that you have to read for yourself. Messud has this knack for creating super creepy characters who are deceptively necessary to the story arc. It's quite incredible, and it's what, IMHO, makes her a master at her craft. The fact that I finished this book a week ago and am still unsettled by this character when thinking back on the book is an unmistakable sign of a well-crafted, full-bodied character in the story. It makes both the man and the story take on a life. So yes, I think this book is worth your eyes and your brain power this fall.