Posts tagged ‘book review’

March 5, 2011

Mia Culpa, Confessions from the Watercooler of Life

I pretty much love anything Mia Freedman puts on paper.

I’ve read Mama Mia (A Memoir of Magazines, Men and Motherhood) three times, save her column in the Sunday papers til last so the whole paper-reading experience always ends on a high note, and check out mamamia.com at least daily.

My ultimate fantasy/job would be that Mia has a spelling problem and needs someone (me) to sit by her desk all day while she whips out witty articles for me to proofread, in between going over trashy websites and magazines, eating cakes and drinking champagne (not much of a job really but I never claimed to be a career go-getter).

So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to reading her new book, Mia Culpa, Confessions from the Water Cooler of Life.

I couldn’t wait.

COULD. NOT. WAIT.

So when I popped into my favourite bookstore at lunch the other day and saw it there, I snapped it right up and had half finished it by the time I got off the bus home from work.

So what’s it like?

Well, imagine you’re single and at a wedding, or a bar, or wherever.

Across the crowded room you lock eyes with one of the most handsome men you’ve ever seen.

As luck would have it, one of your friends knows him and introduces you, and a wonderful night follows.  Not just good looking, he is witty, entertaining, sweet, kind, funny – all in all, a perfect package.

The only catch is, he is leaving for a round the world trip the next day and wont be back for six months.

So you keep in contact via email, facebook etc and finally he returns and you’ve set up a date.

You can’t wait.  You’ve primped and preened yourself to the closest state to polished perfection you’ll ever be, bought a ludicrously expensive new frock and shoes to match, and had your hair styled in a super sexy, glamourous do (that manages not to look like a ‘do’ at all).

You meet up.

He is still handsome – just not as great as you remembered.  Maybe you had the beer goggles on the first time?

He is still witty – but all the stories he tells are the same as the one he told you the first night you met.

And while here is nothing technically wrong with him at all, you’re just not feeling the love.

This is how I feel about Mia Culpa – I really, really wanted to love it but I just dont feel ‘it’.

There was nothing I hadn’t read before in the new book – much of it word for word.

But just because the book seems to be a rehash of Sunday columns and mamamia posts (with a bit of the Mama Mia book version 1.0 thrown in for good measure) doesnt make it a bad book, not at all – I’ve just read it all before.  Mia culpa!

January 15, 2011

pregnancy books – hits and misses part 2

Some new book reviews, continuing on from pregnancy books – hits and misses part 1.

Your Pregnancy Bible, various authors with Consulting Editor Dr Anne Deans DCH, MFFP, MRCGP, MRCOG

The title of this book says it all, and it isn’t exaggerating (much).  While there isn’t really anything in here that you can’t find online pretty easily, it’s so great to have it all condensed into one easy to manage book.

Your Pregnancy Bible is written by a team of experts and divided into manageable sections that cover everything from conception to healthy eating, why certain tests are prescribed, choices in childbirth, the birth experience and looking after a newborn.

There is also a great section, ‘Pregnancy for Dads’ which gives some good advice for dads if they’re feeling left out and want to be useful, their role in labour and how to cope with feeling faint in the delivery room (poor dad!).

I also like the quick reference section at the back which explains when to seek medical help when something unusual or scary happens either during pregnancy or with your newborn.

This book’s a beauty – I am yet to have a question that I can’t find an answer to within its pages (great for when I can’t be bothered logging on, or if connection’s down AGAIN and I need to know an answer now).

Borrow, buy or bury?  Buy

HappyBaby – The Organic Guide to Baby’s First 24 Months by Robert W. Sears, MD and Amy Marlow, MPH, RD

Hmmm.  This book is not for me.  It claims to offer a ‘proactive, harmonious approach to parenting that’s easier, greener, and just plain better for your precious infant or toddler’ but for me it’s one big guilt trip.

At one point the author discusses ‘green’ shopping bags (great, I’m all for them) then goes on to say if she has done the shopping and ready at the checkout and realises she has forgotten the bags, she will go back to the car and collect them.

Admirable, but really not the way I live and I just feel blameworthy reading about it.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of useful information contained within this volume but a great deal of it is hard to put into practice unless you possess a combination of extreme dedication, energy and will to ensure your baby is 100% organic.

Don’t get me wrong, I support green practices and buy local and organic whenever I can, there are just some days when everything goes wrong and the last thing I feel like doing after work is visiting three different shops for the ingredients to make pasta sauce from scratch.

Some will enjoy the highly prescriptive nature of this book, some will think it belongs in the compost bin. I fall somewhere in the middle but am too easily suggestible and susceptible to guilt trips to enjoy reading this book.

It’s probably worth noting that out of 18 reviews on amazon.com, it got 16 5-star ratings and two 4-star ratings (and nothing under that) – so it looks like I’m alone on this one.

Borrow, buy or bury? I hate to say it but for me it’s a bury.  Try it for yourself though!

January 8, 2011

pregnancy books – hits and misses part 1

Before I fell pregnant, I’d normally get through a couple of books a week, plus whatever magazines I could get my hands on.  While I haven’t stopped reading by any means the genre has shifted to contain, unsurprisingly, a lot more pregnancy focused mags and books.

Here are a couple I’ve read of late:

You Having a Baby: The Owner’s Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy by Michael F. Roizen, MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD (better known as Oprah’s doctor)

This book is quite a treat.  Easy to read (I managed it in an afternoon but it was raining and there was nothing else to do). 

It differs from many pregnancy books as it provides some basic medical information so let’s you know (as per the description) “what you can do to maximise your and your unborn child’s health, but also why”.

This is useful for someone like me who, unless knowing the reason why you should do something, will just do what they want.

For those of you familiar with Dr. Oz from Oprah’s shows there are no real surprises in the format – all the advice presented is relatively simple (aided by some illustrations that do verge on silly at times) and easy to understand, along with some handy checklists (although these are not unlike many you will find online.

Topics covered range from conception to how to picking a stroller, dealing with labour pains to deciding whether or not to vaccinate your child.

One of the more interesting sections covers eipgenetics, the idea that ‘stressors in the mothers environment cause changes in the gene expression patterns of the fetus’ ie, what you do pre, during and post pregnancy can effect how particular genes are expressed. 

An example is if you eat too little (or are otherwise undernourished), your baby will switch to famine mode in utero, setting it up for a lifetime of slow metabolism (and possible fatty boomba status). I liked this example particularly because it gives me a wonderful excuse to eat as much as I can.

Some other examples of epigenetics can be a bit scary, particularly if you’ve already done something the authors recommend you avoid BUT they come with a disclaimer that it’s never too late to change and just focus on doing the best you can from now on.

All in all it’s a good, basic summary of how the body works in pregnancy, when you should worry and when you should relax. 

I’m pretty sure I’ll come back to this one as the pregnancy progresses and after the baby is born.

Borrow, buy or bury?  Buy (or try before you buy here)

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Many view this book as the godmother of pregnancy and childbirth books. The author, Ina May Gaskin, is described as the most famous midwife in America and comes with a host of positive reviews and recommendations from famous and not so famous sources (read more about Ina May here).

 I found it interesting, but a bit too self aware and hippyfied for my liking.

One of the biggest plusses is that it does (at least for me) help reduce some of the fear associated with childbirth, explaining that while it’s not necessarily a picnic for most (although it does go into orgasmic labour a fair bit) it doesn’t have to be the scary experience the media so often makes it.

The book also opens your eyes to many medical interventions commonly viewed as normal in this day and age which while accepted by most, are often unnecessary.

Although the book has been revised, it is older, and while childbirth in it’s basic form hasn’t changed since it was written (or ever, for that matter), some of the medical procedures described sound a bit outdated.  This could however be due to the difference between medical care in Australia and the US.

One of the best parts of the book comes near the beginning, which contains a number of descriptions of the birth process from women Ina May has been involved with.

There are also some illustrations and photos (a few of which have scarred my partner for life, but I guess he will have to suck it up before he’s involved in a birth himself).

All in all a good read, highly informative and backed up by a lot of research and solid scientific evidence (and plenty of anecdotal evidence as well). 

A great choice for the earth mothers among us, and for those fearing the birth process.  Also good if you are hovering on the “should I or shouldn’t I” line of decision for a drug free birth.

Borrow, buy or bury?  Borrow

Mama Mia by Mia Freedman

OK, this is not strictly a pregnancy book, but I had to include it.

For those of you not familiar with the blog MamaMia, or her weekly contributions to Sunday Life (truly one of the highlights of my weekend), Mia is informative, personable, funny and inspirational, providing great insight into the life of a working mum.

Her book charts her rise to the top of the Australian glossy mags (another favourite topic of mine) and everything she faces along the way, from bad boyfriends, pregnancy, labour, miscarriage, friendships, work and everything else in between.

I read this book twice when it came out, and turned to it again when I found out I was pregnant as I was sure I’d view it in a different light (I did). 

The joy of this book lies in Mia’s ability to describe her personal experiences in a way that makes you feel like she understands yours, whether they be similar or vastly different.

While I’m yet to go through the ‘joy’ of birth yet I felt the sections on Mia’s labour experiences highly relatable and informative (and deliciously silly – donning Collette Dinnigan for the birth process, hello?).

Buy, borrow or bury?  Buy (for yourself, your sister, mum, daughter, friend, cousin, co-worker…)

I’ll be posting some more reviews next week but would love to hear from anyone who can recommend books to read (or avoid!)

P.S. Amity Dry of Essential Baby has a great blog on this topic, focusing more on books relating to the post-birth period