If I Am Missing or Dead


A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder and Liberation

by Janine Latus

This emotionally harrowing book tells the tragic tale of Amy and Janine Latus, two sisters that shared a childhood and adulthood surrounded by abusive men. Latus’s story begins with her early childhood, a grossly inappropriate father and her innocent introduction to games of the opposite sex. This naive beginning quickly spirals into something much darker and insidious and she spends the remainder of the book detailing her emotionally and physically abusive relationships, including her own marriage.

What Latus doesn’t realize during this time is her sister Amy is fighting her own battles in another state. Amy’s struggle will ultimately end with her death at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. Latus strives for a deeper understanding, for both herself and her slain sister, of why they gravitate towards men who mean them harm.

Latus dictates this haunting tale with grace and courage. I cried for her loss, for her mother, and for all the women out there that continue to live in this type of situation. Large stack of books.



September 14, 2007. biography, memoir. 1 comment.

The Mistress’s Daughter: A Memoir


by A.M. Homes

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a voracious reader.  I especially enjoy an in-depth look into another person’s life, which is why I enjoy memoirs as well as a multitude of blogs.   I think writing a memoir would be a gigantic undertaking.  Where to begin?  What to tell?  What to leave out?  Here the novelist A.M. Homes recounts the story of meeting her birth parents 31 years after they gave her up for adoption and her quest to research both her adoptive and biological genealogy.

Homes’s birth mother, Ellen,  seems to suffer from some personal issues, telling her daughter, “You should adopt me and take good care of me.”  She stalks Homes, shows up at readings unannounced and becomes offended when Homes pulls away.  Her birth father isn’t much better, asking to meet her in hotels, asking her to submit to a DNA test, promising to introduce her to his family and then later refusing to speak with her.  Homes begins the long and arduous task of researching family lineage, learning she is eligible to join the DAR but then not being able to as her birth father will not provide the results of the paternity test to prove she is his child.

Mid-way through the book I felt it became a little muddled down by all of the historical names and events discovered during the genealogy dig.  Though fascinating, these veered from true heart of the story being told.  Homes wraps up the book with a chapter about her adoptive grandmother and her own journey to motherhood.

An interesting and touching read.  Medium stack of books.


August 20, 2007. memoir. Leave a comment.


 How a Real Man Became a Real Dad


by Philip Lerman

Lerman defines “dadditude” as being in the moment, which is something all parents should try to do, or at least pretend like they’re trying to do.  His very funny and readable take on parenthood is full of anecdotes and covers the first four years of his son, Max’s life.  From infertility treatments to pre-school, Lerman covers a wide range of topics from the viewpoint of an older father learning about the important stuff in life.

Large stack of books.


August 13, 2007. parenting. Leave a comment.

Blindsided by a Diaper


Edited by Dana Bedford Hilmer

A book chock-full of honest essays about parenting. Where was this book two years ago when I was knee-deep in diapers? This collection of personal accounts from the trenches of parenthood covers a wide range of topics and parents, from Moon Unit Zappa to Ariel Gore and a lot of other sleep-deprived souls in between.

The book is an entertaining and enlightening look at the world many of us face daily. I laughed out loud, I sympathized, I read some accounts in disbelief. This would make a great gift for a parent-to-be, new parent or a parent you know who is struggling with all that parenting entails. Large stack of books.


August 2, 2007. motherhood, non-fiction, parenting. Leave a comment.

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids

reinventing modern motherhood


by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile

Love this book.  Love it, love it, love it.  Unlike the last book I reviewed, this one isn’t condescending, offensive or illogical.   It contains brutally honest quotes from mothers of many walks of life about the thankless tasks of parenting that no one warns you about beforehand.    This book explores the perils of modern marriage and motherhood, and poses the question why do mothers feel such overwhelming and debilitating guilt?  A big part of the authors’ theory is that we live with unrealistic expectations, that we think we can do it all and have it all, when in reality, we can’t.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a mother, who knows a mother or who lives with a mother (significant others, I’m looking at  you).  It is an honest look at our daily lives without negativity.
This one is a quick read.  I read it in two days.  It is also well designed and laid out, a plus for this graphics-conscious reader.  Extra-large stack of books.


June 29, 2007. how-to, motherhood. 3 comments.

Living the Posh Mom Life

The Fun, Fabulous, and Fashionable Guide to Motherhood


by Amy Nebens and Jara Negrin

I didn’t like this book when I started it.  It’s smug, high-schoolish tone rubbed me the wrong way.  Determined not to add another book to the “Didn’t Finish It” list, I plowed on. I’m all for feeling and looking great, but there are times when I don’t have the time or energy to devote to looking my “poshest” and I resent the implication that I should always look good, no matter the circumstances.  However, it does contain some good tips on dealing with sticky situations, as well as products and websites to check out.

In the end, all moms need reminders to take the time and make the effort to do nice things for ourselves as well as our families.  So, I relented and gave it a medium stack of books.


June 27, 2007. how-to, non-fiction. 1 comment.

The Audrey Hepburn Treasures

by Ellen Erwin and Jessica Z. Diamond

My hubby got this book for me at the library and I have to say I was entertained, enlightened and charmed. It is a biography of one of the most iconic actresses of our time. The book chronicles her upbringing during the war, her arrival to the United States and her impressive career, as well as family anecdotes and personal items. It includes 34 removable documents and over 200 photographs.

If you are an Audrey fan or just want to learn more about her life, I highly recommend this book. Extra-large stack of books.

June 11, 2007. biography. Leave a comment.

How to: Potty Training

Before I *decided to potty-train my daughter I went to my faithful library and checked out some how-to books and I read them and I took notes. I dutifully took detailed notes in my cute little yellow notebook with a yellow flower on the front cover because I thought I would look over those valuable notes numerous times over the weeks and months to come. I thought if my husband wouldn’t read the books, he at least might read my notes. I was wrong. So to save you that precious time (those are hours I won’t ever get back) I present to you the Cliff’s Notes version.

brazelton.jpg Toilet Training: The Brazelton Way by T. Berry Brazelton

The infamous pediatrician offers a “watching and waiting” approach. Brazelton uses a child-centered model, which at times seemed a tad too child-centered for me. However, if potty training is turning into a battle between you and your child I would recommend this gentle approach. I do not possess quite enough, ahem, patience for a whole lot of watching and waiting and I think the path you should take depends on the personality of your child. The book states you should wait until your child shows signs of readiness before training. Let it be their own achievement as the child needs to feel in control of her own body. Certain events can lead to regression, such as moving, a new baby, a new school, going on a trip or illness. Reassure your child over and over: you can do it. Brazelton says a child will stay dry at night by 6 years (three more years of buying pull-ups?!!?!?!). Do not shame them for having accidents. Recognize that you are hungry for the child’s success and this hunger can lead to pressure on the child. Pick out a travel potty to take on trips. (We keep the “little potty” in the trunk of our car for emergencies and have used it twice so far, including once along the side of the interstate.) Boost their self-confidence with praise and reassurance. Put them in clothes that are easy to take on and off quickly. “Be grateful that she can and will save any regression for you, as the safest and most important person to understand, to accept, and, later, to help.” This is SO true and to get through this I tried to focus on the fact that I Am The Most Important Person.

diaper-free.jpgDiaper-Free Before 3 by Jill Lekovic

This is kind of the polar opposite of Brazelton’s theories and in fact Lekovic spends part of the first chapter (as seen here) refuting his guidelines. I thought this book was the best of the ones I read. Lekovic gives a ton of good advice, such as let the child go on the little potty when you go on the big potty. Listen to her to allow her to learn to listen to her body. Patience, repetition and encouragement are your friends. Lekovid recommends knowing your child’s routine and schedule (i.e. when they go potty) and starting a ritual, such as reading a story on the potty before and after nap or going potty and washing hands before eating. She says the more they get signals from their bodies and recognize patterns that go with routines, the more potty training will succeed. I have the following sentence starred and highlighted in my yellow notebook: Do not ask if child wants to go. Say, “It is time to go potty.” This tactic worked well for us. Lekovic also offers these suggestions. Avoid saying: “I don’t want to change your diapers anymore.” “You are not a baby anymore.” “Why didn’t you go in the potty?” Instead focus on: what a great accomplishment it will be when she can do it by herself, what a big girl she is and you are so proud of her. I have to admit to saying “Why didn’t you go in the potty?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?” several times. This is also a great tidbit: remind her of all family members and friends who wear underwear and use the potty. We have had many, many discussions about various friends and family members who use the potty “just like you.” Lekovic says to get rid of the diapers and put them in underwear. Don’t threaten, argue or force them to sit on the potty. She says resistance is like a tantrum. The more attention you pay to it, the more child learns it is a good way to get attention. Give the child your positive attention and praise. Don’t focus on the problems.

potty-one-day.jpg Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day by Teri Orane

Here’s what my carefully taken notes say about this one: Yeah, right. Orane suggests using a potty-training doll and having a potty party. I found this book ridiculous.

What ended up working for us was a combination of charts with stickers, prizes for going number two on the potty, and lots of praise and patience. Good luck!

*I really had very little say in the matter. The little monsters lovelies are in charge of their own bodily functions and there’s not much you can do about it.

June 5, 2007. how-to, non-fiction. Leave a comment.

Potty Training

There are tons of books on potty training widely available today. I thought I would share my list of potty books and videos that I have acquired over the past few months. I can’t recommend very many of them, as I made a list of books to look for at the library and then never looked for them. At one point during this long and arduous process I would have spent any amount of money at Amazon if I thought it would have helped! Without further ado:

princess-potty.jpg Princess & the Potty (Stories to Go!) by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

going-potty.jpgGoing to the Potty by Fred Rogers — how can you go wrong with Mr. Rogers?!

once-upon-potty.jpgOnce Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel — a classic and you can choose from boy or girl specific

what-to-expect.jpgWhat to Expect When You Use the Potty by Heidi Murkoff — from the coauthor of the “What to Expect” pregnancy line of books. I read those books religiously for a couple of years, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong with this one.

everyone-poops.jpg Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi — this book didn’t get a very good review on Amazon, but I thought it looked cute and I’m a sucker for anything Japanese.

where-poop.jpg Where’s the Poop? by Julie Markes — it’s lift-the-flap! And who can resist a book with such a similar title to that famous 80’s tagline?

pig-flish.jpg Does a Pig Flush? by Fred Ehrlich — question-and-answer format

potty-for-me.jpgA Potty for Me by Karen Katz — We own this book and have read it many times. It still holds her attention well.

toddler-potty.jpgThe Toddler’s Potty Book by Alida Allison — We have this one also. Its kind of boring.

potty-bear.jpgPotty Time with Bear (DVD) — My kiddo likes Bear. If your kid does too, maybe they’ll listen to a giant stuffed bear if they won’t listen to you.

elmo2.jpgElmo’s Potty Time (DVD) — I recommend this for any stage of the potty process, especially if your little one is a Sesame Street fan. She still watches it occasionally, but I am not pushing it like a crack dealer like I was before. This is well worth $9.99.

potty-power.jpgPotty Power (DVD) — I DO NOT recommend this one. We got it at the library. Arwyn watched about 5 minutes of it and then lost interest.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned for potty training how-to books.

May 30, 2007. childrens. Leave a comment.

Class Porn

A Novel

[no image available] 

by Molly Hite

Set in the 1960’s, this novel attempts to tie together feminist pornography, war, sexism and academia.  Eleanor teaches basic English at a Midwestern university and her husband has just left her.  She begins writing porn from the feminist perspective and searches for her shattered self-esteem.

I HATE to leave a book unfinished.  At less than 300 pages, this book failed to grab my attention.  I tried, I really did.  But when I have a stack of books checked out from the library and limited time to read them, I get easily frustrated.  I only got about 30 pages into this book before I chucked it.  I felt like I was entering the story somewhere in the middle.  I found it tedious and unfulfilling.  This style of writing did not agree with me.  Extra-small stack of books.


May 17, 2007. fiction. Leave a comment.

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