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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Setterfield, Diane: The Thirteenth Tale | Main | Wilson, D.L.: Unholy Grail »

Hauser, Melanie Lynne: Super Mom Saves the World

  

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New American Library © 2007, 300 pages [amazon]
4 stars

Super Mom, the newest member of the Justice League of America, has a lot on her plate in this second installment in Melanie Lynne Hauser's series featuring Birdie Lee, mild-mannered grocery clerk turned über-Frau. (Click for my review of Hauser's Confessions of Super Mom.) Having gained her extraordinary powers in book one after a Horrible Swiffer Accident--Birdie can clean with the power of ten thousand Swiffers--she finds her powers suddenly upgraded this time around, a mixed blessing, it turns out, as Super Smell can have its drawbacks. With great power comes great responsibility, of course, and Birdie finds a new nemesis or two stirring up trouble in Astro Park, the evil plot of the moment connected with the construction of an over-sized, domed stadium for the town's Little Leaguers. More interesting than Birdie's super-difficulties, however, are the more mundane issues she faces as an ex-wife and mother: her children are growing up--and dating and driving and shutting her out and fraternizing with undesirables--and her ex-husband Dan seems to be on the rebound after a second failed marriage. Meanwhile, Birdie's relationship with nerdy scientist Carl brings its own complications into her life.

[INSET TEXT: In what alternate universe is blowing one's nose on the habiliments of one's paramour appropriate behavior?] The Super Mom books are an interesting mix. In part Hauser offers comic book fantasy, with over-the-top bad guys, in jokes for the superheroically literate (e.g., journalists Jimmy Nelson and Lois Blane), and action scenes in which Super Mom uses her cleaning powers to thwart evildoers. But on top of this cartoony infrastructure Hauser builds a more serious, quite realistic story. And this is where her writing shines, where it is downright poignant at times, when she explores the complicated relationships within families, and in particular the changing dynamics between mothers and their growing children. Humor mixed with heartache. In this outing Hauser does an excellent job, too, of exploring Birdie and her son's developing relationships with Carl's son Greg.

I do have two complaints about the book, one substantial and one...born of disgust. Taking the latter first: there are two occasions in the story in which Birdie--a sworn enemy, remember, of sticky spills and dust and germs, a woman who passes out Wet Naps while crime fighting--in which she...well, I'll let the passages speak for themselves:

"'Birdie.' His arms tightened around me. 'Do you have any idea how much I love you?' 

I nodded. Then blew my nose on the sleeve of his shirt" (p. 24).

"I blew my nose on the sleeve of his shirt, because I knew he wouldn't mind. And he didn't. He just laughed and wiped it off on the sleeve of my shirt" (p. 63).

He didn't mind?! In what alternate universe is blowing one's nose on the habiliments of one's paramour appropriate behavior? I'm still shuddering over this.

Secondly, I worry that Hauser has jumped the shark in introducing advertising icons such as Mr. Clean into her story as real-life entities. To me part of the strength of the Super Mom story lay in introducing a little bit of fantasy into the otherwise banal world of a more-or-less average house(ex)wife. I am able to accept (a little unwillingly, actually) the existence of the Justice League of America in Super Mom's universe, but for me, at least, positing the real-life existence of the Scrubbing Bubbles and the magical cleaning world they inhabit goes too far. I would implore Hauser to rein in this particular fantasy in her next installment.

And I would advise readers to seek out the author's blog Refrigerator Door, where she writes regularly and with great humor about her own family life and her experiences as a writer.

[Disclaimer: Since reading Melanie Lynne Hauser's first book I have come to know the author a bit, virtually, through our respective blogs, and I in fact have her to thank for my copy of this book. I hope that our acquaintance has not influenced my review.]

Review summary: Super Mom Saves the World is the second installment in Melanie Lynne Hauser's series featuring Birdie Lee, mild-mannered grocery clerk turned über-Frau. This time Birdie finds new nemeses stirring up trouble in Astro Park, but more interesting than her super-difficulties are the more mundane issues she faces as an ex-wife and mother: her children are growing up, and her ex-husband Dan is on the rebound after a second failed marriage. The Super Mom books are an interesting mix, partly comic book fantasy, and partly a serious exploration of the changing dynamics between mothers and their growing children. I do worry, however, that Hauser has jumped the shark in this book by introducing too much fantasy into the story: part of the series' appeal lay in Hauser's introducing a taste of fantasy into the otherwise banal world of an average housewife.

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.