Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your BabySecrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby by Tracy Hogg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish I'd read this book sooner!  It's the whole reason I am able to sit here on my couch in a quiet house and write this review instead of being up in my daughter's room being a human pacifier for about 2 hours, trying to get her to take a nap.  Since I read the sections on Ms. Hogg's "E.A.S.Y." system, we've been able to get our daughter to go down for naps much quicker and easier and without requiring us to rock her or pace or nurse, etc.  Now we watch for the signs she's getting tired, make sure she's got a dry diaper & a full tummy, put her in her sleep sack & darken her room, read a story if she's not too far gone already, and put her down.  She usually gives a protest cry for a couple of minutes and then conks out.  Sometimes she just conks out.  It's fantastic!!  I do have to admit, though, that I don't always stick to "E.A.S.Y." (Eat Activity Sleep You-time).  Often it's more like E.A.E.S.Y. or A.E.A.S.Y., but the main thing is that we watch for those tell-tale yawns now.

I do have a couple of cautions about the book, however.  First, it's a little unclear whether Ms. Hogg expects her audience to read the book before or after the baby is born.  She talks a lot about getting to know your baby as an individual, which you can't do until s/he is externally visible, but once the baby is born, you have zero time or energy for reading until long after she suggests you start following her guidelines.  So my recommendation is to read it before the baby comes and then refer back to specific sections after your little darling starts making his or her personality known.

My next caution has to do with the accuracy of some of the science, namely regarding breastfeeding and breast milk.  I very much appreciate that Ms. Hogg doesn't want any mother to feel badly about her decision to give her baby formula versus nursing and/or pumping, but in the 14 years since this book was first published, there have indeed been scientific studies that indicate breastfeeding is better for both mother and baby.  It's not the end of the world if you have to use formula exclusively or supplementally, but it is preferable to breastfeed if you can.

And finally, my last, and definitely least, quibble is with the overuse of the word "luv."  It seems to be intended to make the book feel more folksy and less like an expert telling you what to do, but about 90% of the instances should have been cut with a lovely editor's pen.  They really started to grate on my nerves.

Bottom line, though: a good choice for expectant parents who want to be able to eat, sleep, and shower, not to mention read a book or watch Downton Abbey ever again.  You might even want to buy this one and put it on your parenting resources shelf to refer back to now and again.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Takedown Twenty

Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum, #20)Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The whole gang is back and up to their usual tricks. Stephanie gets herself into dangerous situations, causing Ranger to race to the rescue. Lula develops a new obsession with a runaway giraffe she names "Kevin." Grandma Mazur is on the prowl for hot dates. This time around, Ranger enlists Stephanie's aid in scoping out bingo parlors & funeral homes in the hopes of turning up clues as to who keeps murdering little old ladies & leaving them in dumpsters. Stephanie is having no luck bringing in her big-ticket bad guys. And she still has commitment issues, despite her resolve to have A Talk with Morelli.

As always, it was a fast-paced read, thanks to Evanovich's signature style of dialogue and narration. Some chuckle-worthy moments in this volume. No real progress on the love triangle front, but that's no surprise.

For readers' advisors: story and language doorways. The usual swearing and sexual references, but no actual sex scenes.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Sum of All Kisses

The Sum of All Kisses (Smythe-Smith Quartet, #3)The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Hugh Prentice got drunk and challenged his friend Daniel to a duel over a card game, the repercussions rocketed through not only his life but the lives of their family and friends. Hugh, for example, although recovered from the initial wound and near-death experience, now walks with a permanent limp and is in constant pain. Daniel had to flee the country for three years until Hugh managed to force his father to stop trying to kill Daniel in retribution for Daniel accidentally shooting Hugh in the leg. (To be fair, Hugh had accidentally shot Daniel first.) And Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, cousin of Daniel Smythe-Smith, was forced to delay her come-out and therefore missed her chance at a Season when not one, not two, but FOURTEEN eligible men proposed (and were presumably married) to eligible young ladies. Lady Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for either injury.

Fate, however, has a perverse sense of humor, as an extended house party encompassing two large weddings forces Hugh and Sarah into close proximity where they learn that first (and second and third) impressions can be misleading.

As always, Quinn's books make me laugh out loud. In this case, the dialogue between Sarah's sisters provides most of the humorous moments. I hope we get to see more of Harriet, Elizabeth, and Frances in later novels.

I appreciated that the characters were flawed and had a chance to grow and change over the course of the book. My one quibble with the story is that Sarah's horror at learning Hugh's method of subduing his father seems too extreme. I didn't think it was as big of a deal as she makes it out to be, and I felt at times like I must have missed something. The solution she comes up with works, but the whole end felt a little melodramatic. Still, it was a fun read.

For readers' advisors: character and setting doorways are primary, story secondary. Some sexual content and mild historical swearing.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Battle Magic

Battle Magic (Circle Reforged, #3)Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fans of Pierce's "Circle of Magic" and "Circle Opens" quartets will probably like the latest installment of the "Circle Reforged" series. This time, Briar, Evvy, and Rosethorn have been invited to meet the emperor of Yanjing and tour his famous gardens. Their stay is not always a comfortable one, as the emperor shows off not only his gardens but his vast armies, lightning-fast mood swings, and absolute control over his subjects. While there, the trio befriend Parahan, heir to a nearby kingdom, sold into slavery by his uncle. When Parahan escapes...with a little help...on the eve of their departure, the emperor goes ballistic, ordering a vast manhunt to recapture his prized possession. Soon Briar, Evvy, and Rosethorn are dodging Yanjingyi soldiers as they flee to the border with news of an impending invasion, joining the fray as battle mages for their friend, the Gyongxin God-King.

As always, Tamora Pierce's world-building is outstanding, her stories exciting, and her characters well-developed. My main reason for the relatively low 3-star rating is the inexplicable decision to have Rosethorn cheat on Lark with Parahan. The affair comes completely out of the blue and is utterly gratuitous (albeit occurring offscreen, thankfully). It in no way moves the story along or has any other redeeming purpose. Removing it would not impact the sequence of events in the slightest. I'm sorry, Ms. Pierce, but what were you thinking?! Just because someone is bisexual does not automatically mean she's also adulterous! And if you ARE going to include infidelity, there better be a literary reason for it. I am still flabbergasted by this pointless artistic choice. Flabbergasted and disappointed. I lost so much respect for those two characters...and the author...the moment I read the first scene where Briar sees them embracing.

For readers' advisors: setting, story, and character doorways. Despite the adultery, it's a clean read, since none of that is actually described. This book is shelved with juvenile fiction in my library, but that is an error, in my opinion. Evvy is, I believe, twelve, Briar is sixteen or so, and Rosethorn is an adult, as are all the other characters, apart from the God-King. I would definitely consider this to be young adult fiction.

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