Book Review: Stop Second Guessing Yourself: The Toddler Years by Jen Singer

Doubts seem par for the mothering course.

You see the amazing mother on Facebook who is doing enrichment activities with her children every day of the week (Debbie, I’m looking at you!) and you wonder if your children are missing out because you mostly just stay home and work around the house.

You see other children who are talking in full sentences or singing songs or correctly identifying colors at age 1 and you wonder if maybe you’re the reason your child isn’t doing those same things.

Your toddler melts down when you tell her it’s time to get ready for bed and, instead of going straight to bed (like she’s trying to do), you go to the bathroom to brush her teeth (despite that having been your bedtime routine for months.) And when she melts down, you wonder if maybe you’re doing this mothering thing wrong.

A book called Stop Second Guessing Yourself: The Toddler Years sounds like just the thing. You need something to help you develop confidence in your own mothering so that you can relax and just get on with the mothering instead of constantly, well, second-guessing yourself.

If you pick up Jen Singer’s book hoping to get that, though, you’ll be disappointed. Rather than a confidence-inducing book for mothers, this is a collection of tips for a variety of toddler parenting situations. For the most part, it’s Jen’s own tips – although it does include some blurbs in sidebar form from Singer’s “” community. For the most part, the tips were in the relaxed category – hacks to get your kids to do what you want (without necessarily parenting their hearts) or to cope with the inevitable frustrations of toddlerhood.

Okay, I suppose, if that’s what you want. For my part, I prefer my “tip” books to either be

  1. from an experienced mother whose outcomes are known (Homeschooling mom of a half dozen who has well-mannered teenagers? I’d love to hear her tips of mothering)
  2. a compilation of research-proven methods (a la Nurture Shock)
  3. or

  4. a compilation of tips from hundreds of different moms (because out of hundreds of moms, one of them might have circumstances and/or personalities that mesh with yours and your child’s)

So I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. Your results may vary.

Stay tuned, though, if you’re interested in hearing my advice for how to stop second guessing yourself as a mother.

Rating:2 stars
Category: Parenting Advice
Synopsis: One mother’s advice on how to cope with the toddler years. Emphasis on coping (versus parenting).
Recommendation: Not a fan, don’t recommend.

Book Review: Eat This, Not That! by David Zincezenko and Matt Goulding

You’re flipping through a magazine at the doctor’s office and a column catches your eye. “Eat This!” it proclaims, pointing at a full-color photo of some restaurant entree. Beside it, another photo declares, “Not That!” A couple call-out boxes give fast and dirty nutrition info, the amount of calories you’ll save by switching from one entree to the other, and some other quick nutrition trivia about one or the other of the items.

Fun, right?

I imagine I’d think so if I saw such a column (although it’s unlikely I would, since it could – maybe still can? – be found in Men’s Health).

Now, put 415 pages of that together into a book about the dimensions of a children’s board book, except, well 415 pages long.


Not exactly. Or at least, I didn’t think so.

Eat This, Not That! has 24 chapters, including “The Best (& Worst) Breakfasts in America”, “The Best (& Worst) Supermarket Foods”, and “The Best (& Worst) Foods for Your Blood Pressure”. Each chapter includes a two page “Eat This, Not That” spread like the one I listed above, before providing a countdown of 15-20 of the worst foods (with plenty of pictures). Each “worst food” (example: “saltiest packaged side”) is accompanied by an “eat this instead!” – giving a similar item that’s not as unhealthy. The end of each chapter gives a “Hall of Fame”, with about five items that are good bets.

Overall, the information is pretty good – mostly focused on calories, sodium, fat calories, and trans fats. Callout boxes highlight things to look for or substitutions to make (pesto instead of mayo switches healthy fats for unhealthy and adds antioxidants) and little blurbs here and there discuss how to choose a healthy sandwich, for example, or make a healthy pizza.

But a whole book of it is simply not sustainable. I love food. I love nutrition. But I struggled to make it through this book (that said, most people probably aren’t going to read every word like I did.)

Now, a lot of that might be because I don’t eat a lot of restaurant food or prepackaged meals or snacks. If I do, I’m choosing it as an indulgence. All that “if you switch this for that once a week, you can save x pounds per year” stuff? It doesn’t really apply to me because I don’t drink sweetened drinks, don’t eat packaged snacks, don’t buy frozen meals, don’t go to restaurants frequently. Someone else who finds themselves relying on convenience foods or restaurants for a greater portion of their intake might find this book more useful.

Of course, I wouldn’t be myself unless I had some sort of beef with this book nutritionally speaking. The authors are wary of additives and anything unpronounceable – in a way that ignores what science actually exists about the additives they’re denigrating and fails to recognize that some food additives actually make our food supply more safe! Believe it or not, a long ingredient list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat something. (In fact, I have quite a few recipes that have 20, 30, 50 ingredients once you count the ingredients that went into the components of the recipe.)

So… should you read this book? Eh, check it out of the library and browse it, especially if you use a lot of convenience foods and/or eat out a lot. But I wouldn’t buy it.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Nutrition
Synopsis: The authors give lists of the best and worst foods you can buy at restaurants or prepackaged at the grocery store – and substitutions to improve your nutritional choices.
Recommendation: Neat concept for a column, okay to browse, but not great for reading straight through.

Book Review: Horrible Histories: France by Terry Deary

Daniel heard Mike Duncan (a history podcaster who we both enjoy) mention this book as a child’s introduction to the French Revolution – so he requested it via interlibrary loan to review as a potential homeschool resource. Of course, that meant that I would review it as a potential homeschool resource – both since I would likely be the one using it and because I’m the one with more time for reading.

Horrible Histories: France delights in retelling all the, well, horrible things in France’s history through the nineteenth century. As such, it details not a few novel means of torturing and executing enemies, ridiculous and disgusting ways to cure diseases, and as many “potty” kings as possible. Yes, “potty” aka “mad” aka “crazy”. This is a British book, and includes not a few British colloquialisms.

Horrible Histories intersperses time-based chapters “Murky Middle Ages” and “Savage Seventeenth Century” with categorical chapters like “Kurious kings” and “Awful for Animals”. The majority of the chapters, up until the “Savage Seventeenth Century” are made up of anecdotes and trivia, such that I had a hard time placing the anecdotes within any historical context or meta-narrative. This, I think is the primary weakness of this book as a homeschool resource.

On the other hand, as Daniel pointed out when I discussed the book with him, many youngsters enter the world of history as lovers of trivia – and later go on to develop a thirst for the greater narrative (as he himself did.) This is very true. I can see a preteen boy loving the grotesque trivia, as well as the many little quizzes (not over the material, as if to test knowledge, but in order to impart information through a guessing game) and cartoons found throughout.

I don’t think I would deliberately put this book into a preteens hands, in part because its format isn’t my own favorite way of receiving information and in part because of the rather snotty attitude it has towards parents and teachers. That said, if I had a child who got interested in history and picked this up at the library, I doubt I would dissuade him from reading it. (Of course, if he started copping that sort of attitude toward me? We’d be having a little talk about the divine right of mothers.)

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Middle Grade History
Synopsis: A catalog of every gross or awful anecdote you can think of from France’s history through the eighteenth century.
Recommendation: I wouldn’t seek it out, but I also wouldn’t keep my child from reading it if he found it on his own.

Book Review: Nesting: It’s a Chick Thing by Ame Mahler Beanland & Emily Miles Terry

Do you love to decorate, entertain, cook, and garden – all with a half dozen of your best friends in tow? Do you adore coming up with excuses for getting your girlfriends together to paint (nails or walls) and drink (wine or girlie drinks)? Do you like reading about the domestic arts?

Then you might like Nesting: It’s a Chick Thing by Ame Marhler Beanland & Emily Miles Terry.

Apparently, the authors have another book called It’s a Chick Thing: Celebrating the Wild Side of Women’s Friendship, and this is a riff on that.

I didn’t know this when I picked up this book. Didn’t know that a large focus of this book would be girlfriends.

I didn’t particularly enjoy that part.

I’ve had friends over the years, but close friends have been few and far between. I love entertaining “the girls” when I’ve got “the girls” to entertain. I like homemaking – it’s my full-time job just now – but I don’t really do it with anyone else.

Now is a rather solitary season for me, a fact that is melancholy when I think of it – and which is probably why I prefer not to think of it. This book didn’t allow me that luxury.

So, if you’re me, this is probably not the best option for you.

If, on the other hand, you’re eager to hear little anecdotes about a variety of women’s homemaking lives and how they do life along with their friends, or if you’re looking for new party ideas for girlfriend get-togethers, this might be an enjoyable book for you.

It’s an eclectic book in four parts covering four aspects of homemaking: decorating, entertaining, cooking, and gardening. It contains stories from the authors as well as excerpts from dozens of different women on each of the topics. It also contains craft ideas, recipes, suggestions for parties, and little blurbs on finding your gardening style or your man’s entertaining style. Vintage photos with snarky captions are sprinkled throughout.

It’s the sort of thing I generally enjoy, apart from the girlfriend aspect – but, in this case, the girlfriend aspect had it falling flat for me.

Maybe it’ll appeal to you more.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Women’s Interest: Homemaking
Synopsis: Anecdotes and ideas from homemaking women – all about homemaking with your girlfriends.
Recommendation: Eh. I didn’t particularly care for it, but others might.

Book Review: “Busy Mom’s Guide to Family Nutrition” by Paul C. Reisser, M.D.

I am not a busy mom. I am not interested in getting my family to eat healthy foods, in discovering which weight loss plan is right for me, in helping my overweight child, or in cutting through the hype–

Oh wait.

I am interested in cutting through the hype about health and nutrition. Which is why I agreed to review Tyndale’s Busy Mom’s Guide to Family Nutrition.

While I may not be the target audience of this book, as a Registered Dietitian with a keen interest in food and families, I do have some basis by which to evaluate this material.

Cover to Busy Mom's Guide to Family NutritionThe good news is that the majority of the information found within this book is accurate. “The Official Book of the Focus on the Family Physician’s Resource Council, USA” contains standard, low-hype information about food and nutrition. While there were a few unclear statements and a few answers that missed the main point, most of this book is scientifically sound.

The bad news is that, well, I just didn’t like this book.

First (and most frivolously), despite the promising glossy cover, this book was printed on that cheap acid-filled paper that disintegrates within a couple of years, making it far less than ideal as a reference work.

Second, the organization of this book made absolutely no sense. The book was written in a Q&A format in which questions were grouped under broad headings that made up chapters. So far, so good–except that the broad headings were often so vague as to give no information as to what could be found within, and the questions had no logical order to them.

An example: The first chapter was entitled “Nutritional Basics.” The first five questions answered under “Nutritional Basics”? “What is a nutrient?” “What are carbohydrates?” “Why do I sometimes seem to crave sugar?” “What is hypoglycemia–and do I have it?” and “What are the different sugars I might find at home?”

Yeah. Not quite sure what the editors were thinking on that one.

As a result, I don’t see how this book could really be useful as a reference, since the only way to know how to find the information you’re looking for is to read the book straight through. And while *I* might be willing to read it straight through, I think it’s silly to expect a “busy mom” to read a book of this sort straight through. The information is far from novel enough to compel great interest and the writing style and mode of delivery is nothing spectacular either.

Finally, while I am fully convinced that how we relate to food has spiritual implications, there’s nothing uniquely “Christian” about this book’s information–apart from a comment or two about blessing food before you eat it or the Hindu roots of yoga. I don’t see any reason why Focus on the Family needs to have a book about nutrition in the first place–and I especially don’t know why they need to have a book about nutrition if they’re only going to glance over anything spiritual related to nutrition.

This book clearly does not satisfy my desire for a well-written nutrition reference that takes into account the physiological, psychological, psychosocial, and spiritual aspects of food. I guess I’ll just have to write my own!

Rating:2 Stars
Category:Nutrition Reference
Synopsis:A factually correct but disorganized Q&A on a variety of nutrition topics.
Recommendation: Skip this one and stayed tuned for my book :-P

I received this book from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

Book Review: “The Science of Sexy” by Bradley Bayou

I’ve always considered science a pretty sexy thing.

Then again, I’m a bit of a nerd.

Lab coat and glasses and all that.

But that’s not what Bradley Bayou’s talking about in his The Science of Sexy. No, Bayou is interested in teaching YOU (and ME?) how to dress “sexy”.

**Interjection: Just thought of President Obama’s claim last year that insulation is sexy–and am envisioning someone dressed in insulation. Yeah, not quite.**

Bayou suggests that “sexy” is really all about symmetry and giving the illusion of an hourglass figure. His “science” is simply a collection of tips to help you dress YOUR body (or MINE?) to make it appear “hourglass-like”.

For an (admittedly soft) scientist like myself, I find Bayou’s “science” a bit mushy. The “science” in this book consists of measuring your shoulders, bust, waist, and hips and using those measurements to match you into one of four basic body shapes. Then, using a chart reminiscent of the size charts for pantyhose, you determine which “color” you are (12 different height/weight combinations). Having done this, you can now go to your “fitting room”, one of 12 chapters, which will give you hints and tips for dressing your unique figure.

The basic premise of the book isn’t bad. I agree with the whole symmetry and balance thing. I understand the hourglass illusion thing.

But is it really worth a whole book?

I’m not sure.

Since I’m only one woman, it just so happens that exactly four pages of this book directly applied to me–pages 246-249 for the “tall, medium hourglass.” These pages told me pretty much what I’ve already learned. I have a pretty decent body and my trick is to not cover up or de-emphasize my waist (and to not overemphasize my boobs, but that’s another story altogether). One new piece of information I learned from this book? I learned that apparently Bayou “thinks of [me] as a tall Play.boy bunny.” Marvelous. I’m ecstatic. (He did, thankfully, qualify that that doesn’t mean I have to or should dress like one. Whew–that’s a real load off my shoulders!)

Anyway, in order to more accurately assess the value of this book for those who may not be blessed (or cursed) with the body of a bunny, I took some measurements from willing guinea pigs (my mother, my sister, two brothers, and a slightly less willing father) and took a look at how they should dress in order to be “sexy.”

My little sister pretty much disagreed with everything Bayou said about her figure–but I couldn’t decide whether that’s because his recommendations were bad or because Grace is a teenager who’s into the “counter-cultural” thing (by which I mean into fitting in with her group of friends who refuse to let anyone but one another define them.)

Mom felt that the recommendations given for her body shape were just flat out wrong. They didn’t correspond with what she had experimentally found to be flattering in the past. So she started leafing through the book until she found some recommendations that were similar to what she finds flattering to her body type. She explained her problem to me and asked that I re-measure her. I did–and lo and behold, we’d classified her wrong!

The tricky thing about Bayou’s classification system is that the difference between a triangle shape and an hourglass shape or an inverted triangle and an hourglass is a 5% difference. Which for Menter women, at any rate is a difference of less than 2 inches. So if you get measured incorrectly, it can really throw off your readings.

Once we got Mom classified properly (as an average height, medium build, inverted triangle), the recommendations were spot on.

My brothers and Dad all ended up as “Tall Plus Inverted Triangles” (imagine that!) They were quite disappointed t not have breasts, since Bayou counseled those with their body shape that “Another blessing is that if you have breasts to play up, you can create cleavage to help create a sexy look.” Which began an interesting discussion of who had the bigger man-boobs. But I (and they) digress.

From my family’s perusal of this book, it seems a fairly sound system–as long as you do your measurements and calculations right. (For those of you who don’t remember percentages, to determine whether something is within 5% of your waist measurement, multiply your waist measurement by .95 to get the lower limit and by 1.05 to get the upper limit. If your waist is 40 inches, this’ll be 40x.95=38 and 40×1.05=42.)

Of course, even at the fairly low Amazon price of $11.90, I think this book’s a bit pricey considering that you’ll get about 60 pages of reading (20 pages at the beginning which basically say “I know what I’m talking about, I dress famous people” and 40 more that give general fashion strategies). Only four pages will directly apply to you.

So while this might be a worthwhile book to check out of the library and spend a max hour perusing, it’s probably not worth buying.

Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:Figure out your custom “shape” and read recommendations for making you look sexy (in other words, hourglass-like)
Recommendation: The recommendations aren’t bad, but I certainly wouldn’t buy a book for 4 measly pages of pointers.

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Book Review: “Boiling Mad” by Kate Zernike

You’d have to have been sticking your head in the political sand to have not heard about the American Tea Party.

Furthermore, you’d have to be pretty apolitical to have not developed an opinion regarding said Tea Party.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you really have any idea of what the Tea Party is all about.

For my own part, I am a Tea Party participant. I’m not a hard core mover and shaker, but I’m also not merely a passive spectator or silent “supporter”. I silently supported the movement, sorrowed to have missed a Lincoln event, and finally rejoiced to have heard of an event in time to participate. I gathered together a group of friends, bought poster board with which said friends could make posters, and took the group with me to a Fourth of July protest.

My participation had to do with protesting an out-of-control government seeking to federalize, regulate, and tax every element of life. I protested because I wanted (want) a limited government, a government that pays attention to the people it supposedly represents, a government that sticks to its job without sticking its nose in everything else. That’s what the tea party meant to me.

But ask the Tea Party protestor next to me what the Tea Party is all about and you might get a completely different answer. Ask the silent supporter whose only connection to the movement is watching and agreeing with Glenn Beck on FoxNews and you might get still another answer.

The Tea Party movement is diverse ethnically, regionally, and ideologically. It’s not easy to define.

Kate Zernkike does her best to delve into this hard-to-pin-down movement in Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America. To a Tea Partier such as myself, Zernike’s inability to empathize with the Tea Party movement is apparent. It’s obvious that she has no love for this movement and cannot comprehend the feelings behind it. Nevertheless, she tries admirably to maintain objectivity.

Boiling Mad describes some of the major organizations involved in the Tea Party movement, shares vignettes about dozens of different Tea Party activists, and details a few of the elections in which Tea Party activism played an essential role. It does a good job of describing the popular-level diversity of the Tea Party movement—and the grassroots organization that made the Tea Party movement effective.

I can’t say that Boiling Mad was my favorite book. Zernike’s forced objectivity quickly became tiresome—and her insistence on speaking of the Tea Party in the past tense was beyond frustrating. Nevertheless, Boiling Mad did a decent job of covering the Tea Party phenomenon without making ideological statements regarding it.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Current Events
Synopsis:Zernike attempts to describe who the Tea Party is and what makes it tick.
Recommendation: It might be the best book of it’s kind, but only because objective reports of the Tea Party movement are hard to come by. Apart from the author’s frustrating inability to empathize with Tea Partiers and the persistent use of the past tense in referring to the Tea Party movement, this isn’t a bad intro to the Tea Party phenomenon.

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Book Review: Nina Garcia’s Look Book

Confession: I am not a fashion plate.


Why ever not?

Despite my not-so-fashionable tendencies (inwardly, I’m really a denim jumper and birkenstocks-with-socks wearing Mom, with a patchwork vest thrown over top for good measure), I adore reading books on fashion, “style”, what-have-you.

Books like Nina Garcia’s Look Book.

Garcia’s Look Book tells the reader “what to wear for every occasion”–from when you’re asking for a raise to going on errands around town to Easter dinner to jury duty. Garcia covers it all.

Pick this book up, stick a sticky note in the most often used sections, and hope that you have a REALLY large clothes budget.

Maybe some women have this many clothes, but I certainly don’t. I briefly contemplated making a list of each of the items “called for” in each of Garcia’s “recipes”, but it took me only two or three pages to let go of that notion. It’d take forever.

So it’s not exactly the most practical book.

But it can’t be denied–it is a fun book. It’s fun to revel in the options one has with clothes, to imagine having to decide what to wear to a black-tie dinner, to read little anecdotes about others’ fashion faux pas and brilliant successes. And Garcia does have a good feel, after all, for the “vibe” you want to put off in different scenarios.

No discussion of this book would be complete without a mention of Ruben Toledo’s illustrations: lipstick tubes, fun shoes, and complete do’s. These illustrations are just great.

Yes, this is just the sort of book for a not-so-fashion-forward gal such as myself, who nonetheless likes to sink into a world of glamor through the pages of a book. Glossy illustrations, out-of-my-world scenarios, and just the tiniest touch of celebrity.

It’s the kind of book I love to check out of the library but would never dream of buying for myself.

Take it or leave it according to your preference.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Fashion Advice
Synopsis:Garcia tells you “what to wear for every occasion.”
Recommendation: Not so useful for what it’s billed as (unless you have an enormous wardrobe), but fun if you like perusing glossy illustrations of glamor.

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Book Review: “C.S. Lewis: The Chronicler of Narnia” by Mary Dodson Wade

I consider juvenile nonfiction as my own personal version of Cliffs Notes (for those of you too young to remember the once ubiquitous yellow and black covered pamphlets, think a printed Spark Notes.) Whenever I want to get a general outline of a topic, a basic overview of an idea, or some interesting facts about something, I turn to the juvenile nonfiction section at my local library.

I was excited to see C.S. Lewis: The Chronicler of Narnia in the children’s nonfiction section when I was working on the Chronicles of Narnia reading challenge (all the way back in July!)

I generally enjoy biographies written for younger people because they tend to focus on the highlights rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae (as some adult biographies can.)

I discovered that Mary Dodson Wade’s biography did a good job at giving a classic overview of Lewis’s life. The author begins at the beginning with young Clive Staples renaming himself “Jacksie” and concludes with some of Lewis’ legacy. In a concise 83 pages, it offers an efficient, comprehensive biography.

My only peeve with the book is its title. With a subtitle like The Chronicler of Narnia, I would have expected the narrative to focus on events and ideas that specifically relate to the Chronicles of Narnia. It did no such thing.

Sure, the book opens with a quote from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader–but from there it gives no mention of Narnia until the second to last chapter (Chapter 13). While many other authors would discuss similarities and differences between Lewis’s childhood imaginary world Boxen and Narnia, Wade remains silent. While many other authors would muse on how Lewis’s love for myth or experience in the Great War or training in philosophy or comaraderie with the Inklings affected his writing of Narnia, this author does not. She does not mention Narnia until after she has told almost all of Lewis’ story and discussed all his other writings. Then and only then, she states “Lewis wrote seven fantasies for children” and begins to speak of the Chronicles.

This is where I find it hard to review this title. How can I assess such a book? It was well suited for the purpose for which I read it–that is, to give me a Cliff Notes on Lewis’s life so I wouldn’t have to work so hard while reading a more in-depth adult biography (I’m currently working on The Narnian by Alan Jacobs.) But as a biography in and of itself? It gets the job done. It tells the facts. But it has little artistry of form to recommend. Wade’s writing doesn’t pull me into Lewis’s world, it doesn’t fascinate me by establishing a meta-narrative in which to read his life, it doesn’t make any interpretations about who Lewis was. It’s just…the facts, nothing more.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Children’s biography
Synopsis: Wade summarizes the major events in C.S. Lewis’ life, including his many writings.
Recommendation: The facts are there, the treatment pretty comprehensive–but this title lacks soul. If you want an encyclopedia entry-type coverage of Lewis, go ahead and read this. Otherwise, look elsewhere to learn who Lewis really was.

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Book Review: “Home” by Julie Andrews

I’m not a huge audiobook fan–but I’m even less of a long-drive-on-my-own fan. So when I was planning on visiting my sister during Spring Break, I figured I’d pick up an audiobook to occupy me on the drive up and down. After browsing the library’s collection for what seemed like forever, finding little that interested me, I finally settled on Julie Andrew’s Home read by the author herself.

It turned out I didn’t listen to it on the way up to my sister’s–I was too worked up about other things and needed that couple of hours to pray. I did start the discs on my way back home. And since it’s now springtime when I riding places (on my bicycle) rather than driving, I’ve been listening to Home in my car for weeks now. When you’re listening in fifteen minute chunks or less, it takes an awful long time to get through a book–especially when those listening times are pretty infrequent.

The first few chapters of this title weren’t that interesting to me. Andrews starts her story with a short biography of her parents and then reports her life chronologically. She goes into quite a bit of detail that is frankly boring. Only the melodious qualities of Andrews’ voice kept me listening.

Once Andrews got her first Broadway gig, singing the part of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, the content suddenly picked up and I started sitting in my garage to finish a chapter after a jaunt around the town. Julie speaks of the people she met, the plays and shows she did, the places she lived, and the experience of traveling back and forth from England to America.

The story at this point probably appealed to me the most because of my long-time infatuation with My Fair Lady. I loved hearing about the antics Rex Harrison pulled on set and the difficulties Andrews had learning a Cockney accent. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes stories, the differences between the Broadway and the London shows, and the struggles of maintaining a voice during a 7-show-a-week Broadway run. Likewise, I enjoyed Andrews’ reminisces about working with Richard Burton in Camelot.

I wonder if I would be more inclined to recommend this book if I had read it rather than listening to it. Since silent reading is much faster than reading outloud, I probably could have easily skimmed through Andrews’ early life and gotten right to the exciting bits of her stage career instead of being bogged down with hours of girlhood anecdotes that seem to have little meaning in the overall framework of the story.

As it is, I can only give this lukewarm ratings. Andrews’ (physical) voice is always beautiful and her stage career is fascinating–but I couldn’t care about the lukewarm facts and anecdotes Andrews shared from her childhood. It was as if Andrews’ (authorly) voice abruptly shifted halfway through the title, from being a dispassionate historian of her childhood to being a refined but slightly gossipy actress reminiscing about old times. If the book had been cut in half, telling only the story of Andrews’ Broadway days, I would have been much more delighted.

Rating: 2 Stars
Category: Memoir
Synopsis: Julie Andrews reminisces about her life from birth through her Broadway career immediately prior to starring in the Walt Disney film Mary Poppins
Recommendation: If this book had been split in half and only the second half published, it would have been a much stronger book and worthy of my recommendation. As it is, it’s a take-it-or-leave-it title.