Posts Tagged With: non-fiction

Why French Children Don’t Talk back by Catherine Crawford

why-french-children-don-t-talk-backTitle: Why French Children Don’t Talk Back
Author: Catherine Crawford
ISBN: 978-1848547124
Publisher: John Murray
First Published: OSeptember 2012 (paperback / Kindle)
No .of pages: 256

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Catherine Crawford, a mother of two young daughters, is tired of the indulgent brand of parenting so popular in her trendy Brooklyn neighbourhood. All of the negotiating and bargaining has done scant more than to create a generation of little tyrants. After being exposed to the well-behaved, respectful children of her French friends, une lumière went on – French children don’t talk back!

Why French Children Don’t Talk Back is a witty and insightful look at how the French manage to bring up obedient, well-adjusted kids. It occupies a pragmatic place on the book shelf and in life – an anti-Tiger Mother approach to parenting.

I’ve never been much of a one for parenting books, but as a mother of an increasingly cheeky four-year-old boy (I swear, he was perfect before he went to nursery school!), I found myself intrigued by the title, and being something of a Francophile, I thought in for a cent, in for a Euro, as it were!

I was pleased to discover a very common sense approach presented on the pages! It really is all just straight forward advice on setting boundaries for your children in a way they will understand, while not driving yourself crazy and drinking yourself into oblivion every night after the bedtime battle lasts several hours (fortunately, the bedtime battle is one we’ve never had to fight, as our son has always had a very strict bedtime routine).

As it turns out, our parenting approach is particularly, well, French, I suppose! We already did quite a lot of the things mentioned in the book, such as insisting on proper manners and having good behaviour when we eat out, however I decided to try a little experiment in some other areas and to my surprise, after only a few days, they are already beginning to work! Suddenly our son no longer has an outburst when we tell him that no, he cannot watch a second film in one day or have the television on in the background! In fact, just yesterday he watched The Wizard of Oz then asked to watch Mary Poppins as soon as it was finished, When I replied that he had already watched one film and one was all he was allowed, he shrugged and said, “OK, Mummy. Can we have some music on instead please?” Another rule we’ve suddenly implemented is no sweets except at the weekend. He never got a lot of confectionery to begin with, but we were in the habit of rewarding him with a small piece of chocolate roughly every other day if he’d been even remotely good, in the hopes that this would ensure further good behaviour. Today he asked for some chocolate and I said no. He asked once more and I repeated that there would only be chocolate on the weekends. I was floored when he asked for a banana instead!

I suppose what I’m getting at is that this seems to be one parenting book where the advice actually works! Some parents may find some of the steps difficult to follow (such as entirely ignoring a child throwing a tantrum – the sooner they realise they will not even be looked at, the sooner they stop screaming), but with a little perseverance it should all become second nature and, theoretically, we could all have well behaved little munchkins who don’t show us up in public and do as they are asked without us having to repeat it ad nauseum.

Crawford’s style is easy to read – I really felt like I was chatting with an old friend – and her own trial and error experiments with these techniques on her own two daughters are laid bare, complete with what worked and what she’s still working on with them, but if she is to be believed, her girls are transforming into well behaved, very French kids.

Now all I have to do is get our boy to enjoy his food, complete with vegetables and we’ll be completely Frenchified too!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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The Complete Dukan Cookbook by Dr Pierre Dukan

the-complete-dukan-cookbookTitle: The Compete Dukan Cookbook
Author: Dr Pierre Dukan
ISBN: 978-1444757897
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First Published: October 2012 (hardback / Kindle)
No .of pages: 480

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
The Complete Dukan Cookbook provides over 300 recipes for all stages of the [Dukan] diet to help you lose the weight you want like millions of others have around the world.

I must be up-front in that I do not subscribe to any particular diet, especially one that cuts out an entire major food group for even a short time, but I am always interested in finding new recipes to try, especially if they can help me shed a few extra pounds as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

The Complete Dukan Cookbook is very nicely put together – a sturdy hardback with glossy pages that will be easy to wipe down if you get a few splashes on it while trying out a recipe or two. There’s a handy introduction that reminds devotees of the basic principles of the Dukan Diet without going into it too deeply (you’d have to get hold of Dr Dukan’s other books – The Dukan Diet or The Dukan Diet Life Plan for the full works), but it does mean that you have the basic information at your fingertips without having to refer back to another book before you start cooking.

The recipes themselves are divided into colour-coded sections so that you can easily find a recipe for whatever stage you are at in your plan – each phase has starters, main courses and desserts, with pure protein, protein and vegetables, and vegetarian options clearly marked. There is also an abundance of gorgeous photos illustrating most of the recipes, and they are so sumptuous I am almost tempted to try out every recipe in this book! Finally, there’s a very handy glossary at the back so you can quickly find any recipe that caught your eye without having to remember which section it is in.

All foodies, whether following the Dukan diet or not, will find something to enjoy in this compendium of delicious dishes – you can cook everything or just drool over those pictures – either way, this will look lovely in anyone’s cookbook collection and may just add a few new recipes to your repertoire and broaden your tastebuds’ horizons a little.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby


In his monthly accounts of what he’s read – along with what he may one day read – Nick Hornby brilliantly explores everything from the classic to the graphic novel, as well as poems, plays, sports books and other kinds of non-fiction. If he occasionally implores a biographer for brevity, or abandons a literary work in favour of an Arsenal match, then all is not lost. His writing, full of all the joy and surprise and despair that books bring him, reveals why we still read, even when there’s football on TV, a pram in the hall or a good band playing at our local pub.

I enjoyed this book but I found it to be a slow read. The book contains Hornby’s columns for the magazine the Believer, where he writes about what he has read. There are a lot of columns and a lot of books read, and although I can remember some of the good ones, I can’t remember them all!

I found this funny in places, and hard to concentrate on in other places. However, overall my impression of Hornby as a writer is good and I am glad I kept reading. In fact, I already have another one of his books – this time fiction (About A Boy) lined up to read.

Hornby is clever and honest. It made me laugh that he wasn’t allowed to mention books he didn’t like by title or author, but he was happy to say that he had read a book he didn’t like. I was pleased he took my reading philosophy: if you don’t like a book, put it down – there are too many other books to read to keep struggling through one book! There were some books he mentioned that I have read and didn’t like, whereas he did, such as A Complicated Kindness, but that has not put me off reading some of his recommendations.

This is a slow but informative read. I found it easier to read if I took a break after each chapter. I liked also how he put in some extracts from books – made them seem more inviting. Overall, a good but not amazing book.

Books I Want to Read:

Roddy Doyle: Oh, Play That Thing
Roddy Doyle: A Star Called Henry
Joshua Ferris: Then We Came to the End
Charlotte Moore: George and Sam
Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis
Andrew Smith: Moondust
Anne Tyler: The Amateur Marriage

I’m sure there were more but I can’t remember them!

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One Man’s Falklands by Tam Dalyell

This book is an inside look at the the government during the Falklands War, which was fought in 1982 between Argentina and Britain. Both wanted sovereignty over these islands out in the Atlantic Sea, and instead of coming to a peaceful settlement, they fought each other, with Britain coming out victorious. This book is written by Tam Dalyell (a profile of him can be found here), who was a Labour MP who protested against the War. In his writings we see the events of the War pan out in front of us, along with what politicians were thinking and doing – and yes they were often different – and what he himself thought and would have done if he held power. He is critical of Margaret Thatcher and her way of dealing with the situation, and he is critical of how Parliament did not stand up and oppose her, they just went with what she declared, even though she often did not consult them.

I liked his writing. He gave a clear history of the Islands, the build up to war, and then the conflict itself. I liked his honesty and how he seemed prepared to lose his position for standing up and declaring what he thought. I liked how he assessed what happened, the cost, what might happen after the war and whether it was worth it.

This is a great historical source, giving an inside glance at what one politician thought, and conversations and how Parliament dealt with this crisis. He looks at other countries and what they thought too – all together fascinating. It is a short book, full of information and easy to read.


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The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories by Pagan Kennedy

In this interesting collection of unexpected true stories Pagan Kennedy introduces us to some eccentric characters. From Alex Comfort, the middle aged mastermind of The Joy of Sex to Vermin Supreme, fringe candidate extraordinaire, the mix is wonderful and thought provoking.

Ms. Kennedy hooked me in right away with her introduction. She talks about being read Alice in Wonderland by her Grandmother and wanting to get through the looking glass herself. After an unsuccessful attempt she decides that the secret must lie in the words on the page. A woman after my own heart. This discovery would be part of her future life as a writer. She has a warm and open way of writing that is very easy to read.

After twelve true tales that read like fiction, she gives us three short essays about herself and her world. It is a great way to end an interesting and entertaining book.

The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories will be published by The Santa Fe Writers Project in September, 2008.

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Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge by Laren Stover


Illustrations by IZAK

Date of Publication: 2004, Bullfinch Press

Number of Pages: 265

Synopsis (from inside cover): Bohemianism is a way of life, a state of mind, an atmosphere. It’s about living richly and irreverently, beyond convention. It’s about being uninhibited, unbuttoned, creative and free.

Bohemian Manifesto is your entry into this world. It distills the penchants and peccadilloes of every kind of Bohemian and examines their vanities, vehicles, poetry, performances and passions – everything that makes the Bohemian so deviant yet so divinely seductive. What’s on their shelves? In the tub? On the turntable? What’s running wild? Bohemian Manifesto shimmers with all the incandescent ingredients that give counter-culture lifestyle its romantic reputation.

With humor and charm, this book inspires the way out of a brand-washed mass-market consumerist culture and into decadently delicious Bohemianism. Feel it, smell it, taste it, inhale it, and embrace, if you dare, its manifesto!

Review: This is one of those books that you can read over and over again. It’s not only humorous in its descriptions of Bohemian living, but it’s a wonderful escape from the rampant materialism that drives our everyday world. The Bohemian doesn’t worry about cleaning or working or any of those things that we think about constantly. Instead, Bohemian life centers on sensual and intellectual pleasures. Instead of “playing the game”, they do what they really want to do, whatever that may be, despite the consequences. It’s an incredibly seductive image to those like me who are scared of being trapped in the corporate box, which seems to lie in wait for everyone at some point in their lives.

Laren Stover obviously has knowledge of her subject, unlike some other writers who treat Bohemianism academically. Instead of presenting us with a romanticized image of care-free Bohemians, she presents us with the human side of the Bohemians. Although she does not dwell on the downside to to Bohemianism, the picture she paints is no less real. This book does not inspire me with the urge to abandon my home, family, and friends and hit the road with some traveling band of street performers. But it does inspire me to look at my life in a new way, and to adopt ways to live more naturally, outside the confines of the narrowly-defined norms that dictate our behavior, and sometimes even out thoughts. Bohemian Manifesto indeed provides us with a way out. I recommend that everyone read and take from this book something that will rescue them from the trappings of modern society.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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