Showing posts with label mommy fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mommy fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

Title: Cutting Teeth
Author: Julia Fierro
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2014, Cutting Teeth takes place one late-summer weekend as a group of thirty-something couples gather at a shabby beach house on Long Island, their young children in tow.

They include Nicole, the neurotic hostess terrified by internet rumors that something big and bad is going to happen in New York City that week; stay-at-home dad Rip, grappling with the reality that his careerist wife will likely deny him a second child, forcing him to disrupt the life he loves; Allie, one half of a two-mom family, and an ambitious artist, facing her ambivalence toward family life; Tiffany, comfortable with her amazing body but not so comfortable in the upper-middle class world the other characters were born into; and Leigh, a blue blood secretly facing financial ruin and dependent on Tenzin, the magical Tibetan nanny everyone else covets. These tensions build, burn, and collide over the course of the weekend, culminating in a scene in which the ultimate rule of the group is broken. 

My Review:

True story: I went into this book MAJORLY hemming-and-hawing, totally dragging my feet.  And I left it thinking that it may be on my Faves of 2014 list at the end of the year.

Why all the whining beforehand?  Honestly, because I think I am hitting THE WALL with "mommy fiction".  I know, I write about it all the time and talk about how it's one of my favorite genres (hence why I jumped on this tour in the first place!).  But it's kind of like when my mom packed me a peanut-butter-and-fluff sandwich for lunch almost every day in fifth grade.  It started out as the best thing ever, but by the end of the year...well, I haven't eaten a PB & fluff in about 20 years.

However, Cutting Teeth stands out in the genre, and can't really be grouped entirely in the mommy category anyway.  It is a more honest, authentic, and dare I say...gritty interpretation of fictional parenthood than most others that I've read.  The majority of fiction books that I read about motherhood tend to be rather light-hearted, humorous, and nearly always happily-ended.  But Cutting Teeth gets at the tougher side of parenting.  Each character is, on the whole, a good parent--but inside, emotionally, they are dealing with many of the doubts and problems that even the best parents face.  Much of this is focused on identity: who each of them have become in the wake of parental responsibility.  In the end, each character is trying to figure out their true self now that they are submerged in the ever-important role of "parent"--and that is a struggle that any mom or dad can certainly relate to.

One of the best things about this book is the deep character-building that takes place.  I have seen other reviewers say that this book lacks in plot development, but I would argue that that is because it is so character-driven.  One of my recent gripes with other mommy-focused books is that so many of the characters feel one-dimensional.  You'll have the All-Natural Mom ("I only buy organic and cloth diaper!"), the Working Mom ("Watch me struggle with work/family balance!"), the Fertility Issues Mom (I am not downplaying the seriousness of this issue, but it does get tired when every book tackles it the same way), etc.  And amazingly, by the end of the book they all figure out their issues and/or learn to have respect for other perspectives, yadda yadda.

Yes, the characters in Cutting Teeth do each have very particular traits, and yes, sometimes those traits are overemphasized (case in point: Nicole and her freakish fears about the end of the world, meant to illustrate Overprotective Mommy).  However, as a whole, each character is rounded-out quite nicely.  For example: Tiffany, the child development specialist who lectures other moms on how to best parent their kids, also happens to be a white-trash sex fiend.  Which makes her feel pretty authentic to me (or maybe I'm just hanging out with the wrong people at playgroups, whichever).  Plus, there's a stay-at-home dad!  And a same-sex couple!  And sperm donors!  And nearly everyone has crazy secrets!  Anyway, lots of interesting relationships here, is what I'm getting at.

I should also point out that this book, while heavy on the kid talk, would likely still make interesting reading for those without kids.  That's especially true if you're into novels with great characterization and lots of relationship drama.  If you think you can overlook the parenting chit-chat, this one is worth a read.

That rather long-winded analysis boils down to this: Cutting Teeth tackles the realities of parenting with a level of honesty that I found to be refreshing.  Yes, sometimes it is almost too pessimistic at times, but perhaps this genre needs a swing in that direction once in a while.  Because being a parent is hard, y'all.  And it seems to be rather unpopular to directly recognize that fact (no one wants to be viewed as the unhappy parent).  But this book pulls no punches, which is a nice change of pace.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Julia Fierro on her website, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Book Review: The Stork Reality by Malena Lott

Title: The Stork Reality
Author: Malena Lott
Publisher: Buzz Books
Publication Date: February 25, 2012
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

What to expect when you're expecting? For Jake and Taylor, a career-driven couple that hadn't planned on having kids, it's a nine-month roller coaster ride. 

Creative director Taylor Montgomery gets the surprise of her life when she finds out she's pregnant the same day her best friend, Hilarie, finds out she's not. Taylor never wanted to be a mom, but it's all Hilarie has dreamed about. The Stork Reality updates this novel about the journey to motherhood and how pregnancy changes marriage, work, and even close friendships. 

Taylor gets a dose of the stork reality as she maneuvers the wild new world of moms-to-be and comes to terms with what it means to be a family. 

My Review:

My first read of 2014!  I actually finished this book around 3am on January 1, so it just barely made it into the new year.  Here's to a year's worth of new reads.  :)

The front cover of this book has a critic's quote on the front that says it's a blend of chick-lit and mom-lit.  I'd say that nails it fairly well (and with the caveat that you should be pretty familiar with pregnancy/childbirth before reading...certain specifics of it are not explained very well for the layperson who might be reading).  The main character, Taylor, is a high-powered ad exec (think Mad Men), married to a high-powered lawyer, and no real plans for kids in her future.  She's got a great job, she's in tip-top shape, her husband is a hottie, and she has a pack of girlfriends to hang out with.  Chick lit: check.

But, Taylor very unexpectedly finds out that she's pregnant.  Whoops.  Now she's got 9 months to figure out this whole baby/mothering thing.  Mom lit: check.

I've read my fair share of "mommy fiction", and while this book was fun, I can't say it was my favorite.  A lot of the book felt a bit disjointed to me.  For example, (as mentioned in the description above), Taylor's friend Hilarie is battling infertility during Taylor's pregnancy.  This is pretty emotionally draining for Hilarie, of course--if you know anyone who has faced infertility, you know that's true across the board.  So that's why I was rather surprised when Hilarie's dream finally does come true...with very little fanfare.  It happened quickly and without the sort of massive celebration I expected leading up to the event.  I felt similarly about how Taylor's husband (Jake) came around to the idea of the pregnancy.  He does such a quick about-face in his attitude towards it, it almost seemed like he wasn't the same character.

Then there's this whole backstory about Taylor trying to come to terms with her parents' deaths...I don't know.  I just wasn't feeling it.  I think the real issue is that this book tried to tackle some emotionally difficult problems, but wrote about them so shallowly that they weren't really given their due.  It's hard to write with a chick-litty flair and still be able to let your main character properly explore her deeper attachment issues, you know?  And it's not like the book made up for it in humor, because I didn't get much of that either.  As a result, the writing seemed rather bland overall.

Final verdict...if you want something light and have an interest in pregnancy/mommy related fiction, this may be a good way to pass the time.  But I do think there are other options within this genre that tackle the issues better, with more humor, and more depth.

What was your first read of 2014, friends?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Title: Look Again
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: April 14, 2009
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

The summary from Goodreads:
"When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops—the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life—and that of the son she loves."

My Review:
Can you see why I was dying to get at this book?  I remember reading the back cover of it in a Borders (OH SNAP, dating myself!) when it first came out, and frantically writing a note on my hand so that I wouldn't forget to put it on my TBR list when I got home.  I finally got around to borrowing it this week.  Believe it or not, this is a tough one to review.

Let me start with the good things.  The plot will rip your heart out and stomp on it at multiple points throughout the novel, especially if you're a parent.  It's tough not to get emotionally attached to three-year-old Will.  There were a few times that I threw the book down and ran into my son's room to stalkerish-ly watch him sleep, because I was terrified at the VERY THOUGHT that something like this could ever befall a mother and child.  For that alone, Scottoline gets big points.  She does a great job with the emotional side of the plot.

I also loved that there were several twists that I did not see coming.  A few times I thought (quite smugly, I might add) that I had it all figured out, only to be proven horribly wrong ten pages later.  And I'm pretty sure that the only time I LOVE being wrong is when I'm predicting book plots.

But alas, this book was not 100% full of awesome.

One issue for me was with the writing style.  There were several times that Scottoline used young, "hip" conversational terms that felt extremely forced.  Phrases like "mos def", "we cool?", and "hold the phone" peppered the dialogue at times, and they were painful to read (even on younger characters).  This made the chatter between characters feel way too clunky.  Plus, Scottoline seems to have a burning desire to end every chapter with a dramatic one-liner, which got old quickly.  Choppy sentences like "She felt a catfight coming on." or "As if she would forget it." dangled dramatically at the end of every chapter (of which there were 96, so yes, it happened a lot).  It felt kitschy and didn't fit the tone of what was happening in the novel.

My only other issue was the romantic relationship that Ellen develops between all her super-sleuthing.  It was odd (strangest May-September romance ever), completely misplaced given the adoption/kidnapping situation, and totally unnecessary to the plot.  It was clearly thrown in there solely to keep the attention of the 50 Shades set.  I could have done without it.

Overall?  Look Again is based on a great concept, and certainly keeps you guessing.  But the writing leaves a lot to be desired, and at times, takes away from the enormity of the topic at hand.  It's Jodi Picoult-ish, but with a less serious writing style.
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