Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Vote of Confidence & Nothing But Trouble

Excuse me for a moment while I rant. Today's reviews are a few paragraphs down, feel free to skip ahead. :) The dumb dad has been a long accepted stereotype in many TV commercials. Dad's dumb, and either the kids or Mom or sometimes even a pet shows him up. I'm not a big fan of these commercials, because I feel that they tend to devalue the role of the father in society, but that's another topic for another day. In the last couple of months, I've been seeing some commercials that feature moms who are not only dumb but insensitive as well.

Evidence #1: A Little Debbie commercial for Honey Buns features a mother walking into the dining room with a plate of said dessert items. (Now for starters, what mother takes the time to remove them all from their wrappers and puts them on a plate???) The plate quickly circles the table with kids grabbing the treats leaving the last one for the father. Dad puts the empty plate back on the table, and the toddler sitting next to him stares longingly at the plate, then at the bun in his father's hand, then back at the plate. What kind of mother brings out a plate of treats without enough for the entire family? Most mothers I know would go without themselves without making their child forgo a goodie. Of course the commercial ends happily with the toddler tricking Dad out of his treat and everyone laughing at his antics. Seriously, how is this commercial a good advertisement? I just can't get past the mother serving her family and leaving out her baby.

Evidence #2: VandeKamps fish sticks ad features a little (mouthy) girl approaching her mother with a box of fish sticks that has "minced" on it. She says, "Minced, you serve me minced? Have you ever caught a minced fish?" Okay, aside from the child's complete disrespect for her mom, how on earth did she read the box and then know what the word minced meant? That's not even the part of the commercial that bugs me. The mom takes the box from the girl and then serves her a plate of the VdK sticks. The little girl picks up a stick and smiles while taking a big bite. But here's the kicker: the little girl is sitting alone at the table; the mom walked back out of the room. Again, what mom plops down food for her kid and leaves? I'll admit to putting Mia in front of the television to eat more than I should, but all alone in a room to eat. That just seems weird.

Yes, I know I'm probably reading too much into these commercials, but in both of them, the mother seems to put her own needs i.e. a Honey Bun, and not to take the time to eat with her daughter, over her family. I know there's debate about whether life imitates art or vice versa, and I wouldn't put either of these commercials in the category of art, but all too often the values from commercials do spill into our own lives. We've already dumbed down our dads, do we really need to do it to our moms as well?

A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher is the first book in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series. In 1915, Gwen Arlington is a modern woman. She lives on her own, making a living giving piano lessons, and she's running for mayor of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho. At first she looks like a shoo-in, but when a new man in town Morgan McKinley throws his hat in the ring as well, the election heats up. Morgan is building a spa on the outskirts of town, but some of the people in town don't support his plans, so at first he's running to help his business, but after he meets the beautiful Gwen, his mind is on far more that being mayor. Hatcher has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and the subplot of suspense moves the story along quickly. She does a great job of establishing several other characters who will be in future volumes in the series. It's a sweet romance perfect for a beach read or just escaping from the real world for awhile.

Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren is the first book in the PJ Sugar series. PJ is returning home to Kellogg, Minnesota after she left in disgrace and under suspicion for arson the night of her high school graduation 10 years ago. When sister Connie goes on her honeymoon, she needs PJ to take care of her son Davy. PJ wants to use the opportunity to find redemption and maybe reclaim the life she left so long ago, but when her best friend's husband is accused of murder, she can't help but start her own investigation to clear his name. This book is why I love reading! It's filled with fully-fleshed characters who make me laugh and bring tears to my eyes. The story has lots of twists and turns and puts PJ in the craziest situations (substituting a male goat for a dead female one). Most importantly, the book has a huge heart. PJ has been trying to find herself for her entire life, but only by returning home and gaining a new perspective can she see who she really is. PJ's grief and attempts to be a new person make her delightful and completely lovable. I hope that Warren never runs out of ideas for PJ, because I will be there with every turn of the page.

I'm still running my book contest for two copies of The Noticer by Andy Andrews. This life-changing book could be yours, if you just send me an email with a few lines about someone who made a major impact in your life. The top two entries will be published here on Friday, along with the writers' names.