Friday, June 25, 2010

SGW: Mommyland Summer Reading List

Kate and Lydia would like to extend our thanks to fabulous and brilliant Mrs. Darling, mom of Wendy, John and Michael, for writing this guest post for us and bringing just a little literary light into our Facebook-drenched lives. 

Welcome to the Rants From MommyLand Summer Reading List.

Yes, I know - "READING? As in, you expect me to READ a book? Are you completely insane? I am the matriarch to clan of snarling wildebeests that cannot be tamed and will not be caged until school opens again in the fall. These beasts - who are also my most beloved and precious children for whom I will fight to the death anyone who says different- are at this moment slathered with sunblock and peanut butter and are now rolling on the astroturf outside the garden center and you think I'm going to take up your list and READ?"

To this, I offer you a "Please sit down" and a "Would you like a glass of adult refreshment?" and a "Your child is playing on the playground with nice friends and hasn't approached you for all of three minutes" or "Hey- your cousins' daughter- not the one with the tramp stamp, the other one, has offered to play with all of your kids in the pool for ten golden minutes" and "Look-you're the last car in the pick up line for camp- what to do?" You have the time- it may be brief but - fortheloveofMaude - it is your time so why don't you get some easy and quick entertainment right now in the form of a... book?

As with any book list, this is a specialized list. These are basically books that can be universally appreciated by mommies. Before anyone gets their literary hey-I-have-a-life-outside-the-domicile-that-doesn't-include-mommy-lit hackles up, let me say that I agree completely - to a point. I love all sorts of books but I must say that come mid July, when I've had all my kiddles with me with little break, I start to reach for the familiar with a twist . The Road or some other such wordy tome will still be around and waiting to impress and depress when I emerge from the sunny summer cocoon in September. Right now it’s time to break out the fun reads.

So go to your library (these are not new books- you will find them) or score the 'practically new' one on Amazon for 75 cents. Stick them in the side door pocket of your car, stuff them in your purse, and make sure there's at least two in the pool bag. Those five minutes while the kids splatter ice cream at one another in front of DQ are yours- use them wisely.

The categories, in no particular order, are as follows:

1) Kids book that you pick up at the library and think that this will be fun for read aloud time because it was a movie for kids a few years back, then you glance through it at home and think holy wow my progeny will not sleep for weeks if they hear one page of this and when you take it for your own bedtime reading you won't either: Coraline by Neil Gaimen. Scary story about a resourceful girl who has to save her parents and herself from the clutches of her spider-like "Other Mother". Spooky fanciful stuff that appeals to adults. In the end, it gives a huge shout out to imperfect parents- my favorite sort of ending.

2) Buffy is One of Us: OK, that's the quick and easy way to get around the fact that Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner is basically the wish fulfilment for any lovers of all things Joss Whedon. The book, the first in the series of "The Days and Nights of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom", chronicles the adventures of a typical suburban mommy, Kate, who comes out of retirement as a demon hunter when her family is threatened. Her family has no clue to her past and her only help is her best friend and her watcher, um sorry- her aliamentore and the knowledge that she is the chosen one, the slay-sorry- the hunter. The books are fun but with enough depth to so that you won't hate yourself for spending ten minutes locked in the bathroom reading the last chapter.

(Editor's note: Wait a second, why does KATE get to be vampire slayer?? Not even fair.  I'm the Buffy freak. - Lydia)
3) The hysterical mom in book form who is fun to hang with but would be physically exhausting if you had to deal with her more than one playdate a week: Mother on Fire by Sandra Tsing Loh. Let me start by saying I love her book but only in the tiny increments that mommy reading allows. I think that if I had to hang on tight and go for more than one hour with this true life tale of Loh trying to get her oldest daughter into a good kindergarten in LA, I would have been even less capable of coherent thought than I am already. This woman RANTS- and not in the fun Kate and Lydia way- it's more of a sustained shriek of funny that tackles being over forty, underemployed and suddenly realising that your kids might not get the best and it's all your fault. I can't say that I can completely relate to the whole my-kid-needs-best-school-in-the-world, but I was usually laughing too hard to care.

4) Food Flashback: Even if you've never seen Mad Men (which you really should- if only that you can be smug in the fact that Don Draper and all of his cronies are in for a nasty comeuppance around 1973) I'm sure you know the basic story on the home front side: frustrated June Cleavers trapped in big houses and pearls mourning the independence that they will never have etc. Now, instead of Betty Draper hooking up with some random guy in a posh bar during the Cuban missile crisis (really- it's that kind of twisted piece of history that I love) imagine that she reads The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken instead. Skies would open, drinks would flow freely, samba music would play, happiness would abound and Don- who likes his ladies quietly miserable- would be bereft.

This lovely time capsule, which first came out in 1960, is in a word, fabulous to read. Not for the food- which really leans heavily on the "condensed cream of celery and cheddar cheese can brighten any vegetable" school of culinary yuckiness, but for Peg Bracken's prose. "This is a book" she announces on the first page "for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry martini instead of a wet flounder come the end of a long day". With chapters such as "Potluck Suppers or How to Bring the Water for the Lemonade" and instructions to "let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink." you can finally get an idea what our grandmothers' might have really been doing half a century ago.

5) Book you may have already read or maybe not because Jennifer Weiner is always churning out a new book about feisty gals: Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. A mystery set in the posh suburbs of NYC. Outsider mommy Kate stumbles across a murdered supermom and the amateur sleuthing begins. The mystery is just ok, but the lavish life details will keep you reading: Her best friend is an heiress who loves to babysit! Despite her frumpy outsider mommy in plus size jeans status she attracts the handsome PI! Her husband takes her for granted and then realises what a jerk he has been and begs for forgiveness while she convalesces in a charming beach house! Her three kids under five are disturbingly well behaved! Wow- who wouldn't put up with a little carnage if it came with all those trappings? You may be concerned that the intricacies of the mystery story will be hard to follow if you keep picking up and dropping the book every few days. Although I admire Jennifer Weiner's writing immensely, I can confidently give you a hearty "don't worry about the plot" review. Sometimes, that can be bliss.

(Editor's Note: Again, Kate gets to solve crime and be awesome and there is no Lydia in sight.  Hardly fair.  Just saying. - Lydia)

6) Get your fancy book reading done- with zombies! This will be an interactive Jane Austen troika. Find a decent copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (cheaply found- and I think penguin classics has it for a dollar) and get Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from the library. Wrap the two books together with your daughter's scrunchie for easy handling. When time (even three minutes) allows read the zombie version and refer back to the original- or switch if you like. When you have finished you can be proud of the fact that you have read a book that everyone claims to love (but only half have read) while getting some zombie fighting ninja action on the side. Do it this summer before Natalie Portman ruins it with her movie version. For extra credit, get a modern book that is basically a fan letter to P&P (Brigid Jones' Diary, Austenland etc) and enjoy.

(Editor's note: How THE HELL did I not know about this?  On my way to Border's right now. Just. Try. And. Stop. Me. - Lydia)

7) Read this- don't watch that: Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. Alright, full confession- I haven't seen the movie. Everyone who's told me about the film talks about the 'Julia Child movie' and how Amy Adams is 'so cute'. Excuse me? The real Julie Powell- whose year long blog is the basis for the book and movie- is many things but she is not cute. Powell was unhappy over the state of her life and decided to throw herself into cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking while chronicling her few successes and many failures. Her writing is fiercely funny and full of words and situations you can't tell your kids about- be warned. The cover of the book will probably be the one with Meryl Streep and cutie pie Amy Adams in halos of glowing good will- use that to your advantage. Nothing says "I am perfect wonder mommy hear me roar" than if your choice of reading material is a sweet story about cooking for those you love- no one needs to know the truth.

8) Eric and Bill, whenever you need them: The Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. Picture this- you have had an awe inspiringly awful day. No AC/husband out of town /pool closed/broken toe- just add on one of your favorites- but you finally have them settled down with their Lego warriors and have promised them dinner in ten minutes. On the way to the kitchen, you stop by the TV and realise that your True Blood disc is still in the player- maybe it's still at the point where you left it last night when Sookie and Bill where about to....Five minutes later you are in crumbled heap of happy on the rug watching the best show in the whole wide world when you hear "Mawmee- Ben told me that....AAAK! what at dey doing on da. TV? are dey hurting?".

This would have never happened if you had the book on hand. Yes, you lose a few of the best characters (like Tara) and parts can drag, but the books coupled with your own imagination can have an explosive effect on a story all your own. And therapy for your children will not be necessary.

9) Guaranteed to put you in a funk although you will also love it: Little Children by Tom Perotta. Opening in the playground on a typical summer day, the novel finds Sarah, a deeply unhappy young mother making a radical change by.......Oh forget it- read it in October.

10) So? Have any favorites? You must have some.

(Editor's note: Does Judy Blume count? Because I am seriously considering re-reading Are You There God, Its Me Margaret this summer. - Lydia)

Please let Kate and Lydia know- maybe then Lydia will return my copy of Julie and Julia.

So if you have a favorite summer read - let us know and we'll compile a kick-ass list of fun books that will make your summer even more awesome.

xo, Kate & Lydia

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urtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

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