Glen Gardner, NJ, United States | Member Since 2008
When I bought Bad Mother, I was looking for humor - humor which made me see that all moms are as flawed as me. Not quite what I got. Waldman started off discussing what it means to be a good mother and a good father and it is clear how raw of a deal we moms have. People seemed to agree that Dads who showed up to things and were somewhat supportive were good fathers, but the list of requirements for good mothers seem to be attainable only by fictional characters. Of course a person's enjoyment of any book like this which is part essay/part memoir is strongly linked to how you feel about the person who spends the book sharing their opinions. I felt an attachment to the author, though my best friend hated her. She said she hated it enough not only to never read anything by Waldman again but to also boycott the works of her husband Michael. So the book evokes strong feelings.
There are basically two situations that can occur in which I feel like a bad mother. One is when I am actually interacting with the kids and get frustrated by them. The other is when I am not interacting with the kids and feeling happy about it. I suppose I was looking for a book that in a humorous way would tell me everybody felt like this and that it was really ok. This book would have lots of cute stories about annoying things that happen when you meet other moms on back to school night, etc. Now this book has some of these stories - and it is amazing how you can collect examples over the years of the infuriating things other moms have the nerve to say. However, the mom who wrote this book doesn't necessarily have the same failings that I do. So she can say she's a bad mother, but then go on to list all these lengths she has gone to for kids and then instead of feeling good I felt bad. The part that started making me feel bad rather than good was her long description of the lengths she went through to attempt to breastfeed particularly her youngest child. It is amazing how despite the fact that I don't really see why anyone feels they need to breastfeed I still managed to feel a little guilty that I never even considered trying.
But anyway, it starts off mostly with some essays on motherhood but develops into a full scale memoir which I found for the most part to be very interesting. Waldman was high powered public defender who quit her job to be a stay at home mom and hated it and that lead to some funny material. But what she actually ends up doing is becoming a writer so she can really be at home and be a working mom. And she has money. I actually got over being annoyed by all she does when she later admitted to having Bi-Polar disorder, because that cleared up for me how she managed to do so much for her kids sometimes. And hey bipolar disorder is interesting all by itself. Another very interesting part was when she found out that a child she was carrying had a genetic abnormality. She learned this from an amnio so by then she was very pregnant and it was one of those tricky things where the kid might be normal or might be severely deformed and disabled. She ends up terminating the pregnancy. I found it incredibly moving when she described the night before the abortion, just lying there feeling the baby move trying to savor the experience since she knew it would soon end. How touching - how completely horrible. Chapters like that made me feel for her. She had another scare with a later pregnancy. Later she talks about how horrible she felt when her other kid was determined to have ADHD and what a letdown this was for her. Then I wanted to slap her.
This is all interesting when you consider her writing career. When she was playing stay at home mommy she wrote these lighthearted "Mommy Track" mysteries which I would read one of it I came across it. It has a stay at home mom who used to be a public defender but now solves mysteries of course. Later after the abortion, she wrote more serious novels, including one which has a miscarriage and the aftermath of losing this hoped for child as a major plot component. Think I’ll pass on that.
Anyway, while I didn't always like Waldman, I found a lot of the book interesting. If I were an actual book critic I would have to complain how she compares her kids to food too often too - their buttery skin, for example. Sometimes I wondered if they were kids or croissants. But perhaps the most annoying thing for me was her insistence on throwing in political opinions (she went to Harvard Law with Obama I think she said). But I am someone who tries to avoid politics and didn't see why it needed to be in this particular book.
I was expecting a portrait of an American town impacted by meth, mostly communicated with portraits of individual users. And there is some of this. But there is a lot more of looking at meth through a bigger lens, with discussions of economics and politics etc. While certainly educational, that wasn't my favorite part. In all fairness the book I thought it was going to be would have been a downer since I have learned why exactly meth is such a hard drug to come clean from and our recovering user portraits support this. There are also a lot of portraits of non-users, in law enforcement, politics and other roles within small town America. I think there was more of that than I wanted. I think the author enjoys going off on tangents about individual people. There was one point in the book where this got so obvious that I took a break from listening for a long time. The author was telling the life story of a guy who was brought as a guest to a barbecue of a guy who works as a doctor in the town. The guest was from Central America I think it was and the author was going on about the political environment from which this guy came. It was so off the topic of small town meth I lost interest. I think the editor should have flagged that. Overall it was educational, interesting and well performed, but good rather than great.
It's very hard to actually rate this book. I really didn't want to read this since I hated the last book so much, but I was trying to get the characters I had grown so fond of out of their predicaments. I wanted to see things resolved and happy. I have to tell you it's a long way to get there. It took me forever to listen to this book, and I had to be convinced by a friend to restart it after bogging down mid way. One of the things I always liked about Gamache was his presence, how he was always calm and courteous but strong. In this book, we get weepy, cranky, beaten down, all sorts of Gamaches that just made the book less enjoyable than the old ones. I suppose I shouldn't complain about Jean Guy being so frustrating and tedious since that is probably an accurate portrayal of life with an addict, but still it isn't fun to read. I did find the mystery surrounding the murder Gamache is investigating to be somewhat interesting though it does peter out at the end. Unlike previous books the investigation of the murder isn't the main point and we don't really see it wrap up. I did guess some of the things that were going to happen, and I usually don't. I suppose I am glad that I forced myself through to the end to see happier times for all our beloved characters. You'll probably be happy you did too, but it really is a long way to get there.
The is not an easy book to describe. I suppose you could say that it is a coming of age story that also involves a police investigation into a series of killings. Because the victims were raped and mutilated I feared a lot of disturbing detail. We do get some information on the deaths, and a psychic flash here or there, but the book really does not dwell on the suffering and gory details as so often happens in books with serial killers (I try never to read those books). There is enough there to bother someone super sensitive I guess but I am pretty sensitive and found this book did not bother me. There are some other things that might bother some people. The book does have a certain atmosphere that might not appeal to everyone. You know when you are watching the news and they find the body of a young girl raped and murdered at a trailer park, and go on to report she lived with her exotic dancer mom and the mom's abusive alcoholic boyfriend and 5 sex offenders lived within 200 feet - and you just shake your head and think how this person was doomed from the get go? That is what the atmosphere of this book is like. Loads of family dysfunction, abuse and failure. I almost stopped reading very early in the book because the atmosphere was so unpleasant and made me uncomfortable but that feeling faded further on. It makes an amazing contrast that our narrator (Loved the narrator!) radiated such genuine goodness and innocence despite being raised in such an environment. In general I do not like books which are narrated from a teenage boy's point of view. But Biscuit was such a decent guy, that even when he had the sexual thoughts expected of a teenage boy it wasn't creepy. As some other reviews pointed out we certainly had a choice of suspects. One odd thing is in the book's usage of the paranormal element. Biscuit himself says he has "a touch of the sight but not enough to actually be useful" (or words to that effect). That is amazingly true. It seemed to me that there was not enough made of this paranormal element if the reader likes that element and too much made of it if the reader doesn't like it. There are also some chunks of the book where we seem to go off on tangents with certain characters who are peripheral to the main plot. I suppose these sequences make sense when viewing the story as a coming of age tale. I didn't love the book, but it did hold my attention and has stuck with me since I finished it. I also liked that we do get some wrap up on the various characters, though not everyone ends up exactly as I would have liked. Of course if they had that probably would have seemed strange in a book with so much dysfunction. Many characters are frustrating in how they don't necessarily create their own problems, but they do fail in stopping them from continuing. I don't think I would have liked the book nearly as much in print. Narrator certainly helps the reader feel connected to the story, and gives them someone to cheer for.
I read the first Tess Monaghan mystery a while ago and was in no rush to read the next. My main problem with Tess was just not feeling any connection to her. In book one she spends most of her time working out and rowing, which didn't interest me. In this installment she actually doesn't do any rowing, and only a little working out. She seems to have traded that hobby for the hobby of eating junk food. I read a lot of cozy mysteries, and Tess is not a cozy character. She likes to drink bourbon, smoke pot, and she is having an uncommitted relationship with a guy who is obviously in love with her. I felt sorry for the guy. The Tess character starts out being very much like a stereotypical male character and I was expecting to stop the series after this one. However, I have to say, that as the book goes on we see another side of Tess and I liked her much better. As the mystery developed I thought it was going in a very predictable way and was starting to feel disappointed and then an unexpected twist changed things. All in all, it was actually a pretty good book and I expect I will continue on to the next one.
I almost didn't read Murder of a Snake in the Grass because I had read a review that said this wasn't a cozy mystery and full of unpleasantness. I have to disagree with that. I found this one to actually be lighter than many others. There is a lot of lighthearted silliness which goes on in relation to Skye and her several love interests. There are some delinquent boys but they really don't get a whole lot of screen time, just enough to remind us that school psychologist is a bad job. I don't want to give anything away but Skye finally settles on one guy by the end of the book. We finally get the backstory on Skye's failed engagement. I found the performance of Skye's ex to be sort of tedious, but I can't speak to whether the accent was accurate. I suspect accents are just not the narrator's top skill. Basically this was good and in line with the rest of the series.
I enjoyed this third installment of the Scumble River Mysteries. I find Skye likable and entertaining, even if her taste in men is terrible. The mystery remains when Skye will fix her love life. In this book we encounter lots of self centered people, high school cheerleaders and beauty pageant contestants. I think I would have preferred more three dimensional characters. I mean does every single popular kid have to be mean, weight obsessed, completely shallow and basically indistinguishable from each other? Skye manages to be much more sympathetic to people than I would have been. I plan to continue this series and see what she's up to in the next book.
This is the third book in this series. I have become fond of Pru and her cat. Three stars is really too generous but two seemed a little too harsh. The narrator does a great job with the various characters but it is hard to enjoy some of these characters. Her whiny version of Jane - the parrot's current owner, and the parrot itself, do get tiresome. I stopped this book for a while in the middle because it wasn't holding my interest (I eventually finished). Part of that has to do with the fact that I am not as interested in parrots as in cats or even dogs. If you aren't already a fan of this series, I wouldn't start here. Not a whole lot happens in this one. Pru doesn't even show as much personality as she has in previous installments. I guess this is her softer side. On the one hand, she was less pushy in her investigations and didn't do those things that made me cringe in earlier books like showing up at funerals to ask obnoxious questions. Her cat even accuses her of having become domestic. I'm not sure that's a good thing. I'm not in a hurry to go on to book 4.
I enjoyed this book and found it to be educational. It did feel a little long and definitely repetitive. The author on several occasions told the same story. For example, he went through the story of coming up with the new flavor for Dr Pepper and then later when he talks to someone who has documents on it goes through the whole thing again. It isn't really surprising to hear about how food companies disregarded health concerns, or even flat out manipulated people. It was probably more surprising that there were people in the industry who didn't want to do that. One thought I had while listening to how each product is so carefully designed to hit the consumer's "bliss point" with the exact amounts of sugar etc. was that processed food should all taste absolutely great, but in reality I don't think it does. I had mixed feelings about the discussion of whether food companies are responsible for the obesity epidemic. The book didn't manage to convince me that people shouldn't take more responsibility for what they consume, at least now that nutritional information has been made available to them. One thing the book definitely did not do was turn me off processed food altogether. In fact, talking to me about sugary cereal for 3 hours only made me want cereal. I even stopped for cereal while listening though I did select a cereal with no sugar, only to get home and be smugly eating it when I looked up to discover just how much sugar is in the skim milk I had poured on my sugar free cereal.
I read a book in this series, then decide it wasn't that great. Time passes and the idea of the series appeals to me and I read the next one. And so it goes. One of the main problems for me is Olive herself. She tends to make bad decisions. I know she's only a kid, but it gets on my nerves after a while to see her plan out and execute these bad ideas one after another. She has such a hideously bad idea in this one that I almost stopped reading. Additionally, the fact that the villains in this series are paintings and can therefore get recreated leads to the (to me) rather boring situation of having to defeat the same people over again. I guess the set up of the plot prevents a lot of opportunities for new villains but it feels pointless trying to do the same thing book after book. I did want to say though that the author does a great job in painting the portrait of how horrible junior high can be, and the scene where Olive accidentally wears something inappropriate to school is priceless.
I am enjoying this series. This is book 2 and continues with the characters from Murder of a Small Town Honey, now caught up in the mystery of the murder of Skye's grandmother. This is a small town cozy mystery series so if you don't like some small town drama, descriptions of homemade meals and the occasional visit to a pork chop supper, pick a different series. We spend a lot of time with Skye's relatives in this installment and now we can completely see why she moved away in the first place. She endures a lot of family stress and work stress in this one. I used to think school psychologist sounded like a good job, but this installment definitely talked me out of that as Skye's job provides a lot of unpleasant drama for her. Additionally her love life does not come to satisfying conclusion in this one, but there is hope for improvement going forward. The mystery kept me interested throughout despite some occasional over the top perhaps not entirely believable twists. However, I don't think readers of books like this are as concerned about such things if they can accept that some random school psychologist in a small town will keep getting caught up in murder investigations in the first place. I have downloaded the next in the series. I'm not sure I love Skye exactly, but I do like the narration and the books keep me interested.
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