Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

This is another Barbara Kingsolver (yes, my life is full of her books lately. It's a good thing.). It's also another of my "personal philosophy" books. And it's especially interesting to me because I enjoy books with combined elements like this one has--it contains personal elements of the life of one of my favorite authors, as well as the chronicle of one year of their lives in which they vow to get all their food locally and in season, as well as the history of many different areas of agriculture, and why it's important to buy local and grow your own.

The writing is lovely, the recipes sound delicious, and at the end, I feel much more connected to what's on my plate and more motivated to remember the intrinsic human skill of providing for myself. Good stuff. A great last read of the year.

A False Sense of Well-Being

I read the first few pages of this book by Jeanne Braselton back in 2005, when I was newly pregnant. Somehow I discovered that the main character had had a miscarriage, so in my slightly superstitious hyper-protectiveness I stopped reading it because I didn't want to think about that while pregnant.

So I saw it at the library recently and picked it up. But it seems that whatever memories I thought I had of the book were WRONG! I don't know what I was thinking it was about, but whatever I thought, it wasn't what it turned out to be. It's a book about a woman grappling with stagnancy in her marriage, I guess, and it's about family and such, but it was fairly disappointing to me. I don't *think* it was truly a BAD book, but it was not my thing. And I think mainly it was defeated simply by the disappointment of my high hopes for it.

I should have known it wouldn't be my thing when I noticed that the quote on the front cover was Anne Rivers Siddons claiming this just might be the best first novel ever, or something like that. Aw geez.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Small Wonder

It seems I always find myself re-reading my "personal philosophy" books at the end of the year. Perhaps this is just a good time to reaffirm my personal values, what's important to me, how I want to live my life, as we face a new year and new beginnings. Having Faith and Easy to Love are two such books, and this is a third. It's by Barbara Kingsolver, and it's a collection of essays that are beautifully written and passionately argued, all about why we should care about things like genetic engineering and heirloom plants, or why we should think carefully about war as a solution to violence. As the quote on the front says, it's "A passionate invitation to readers to be a part of the crowd that cares about the environment, peace, and family." And as I mentioned, it helps me remember how important certain things are and helps me feel galvanized for the new year, to keep these things prioritized in my life and in my growing family. This is one of my all-time favorite books as well.

A couple of quotes I like to keep in mind follow. There would be more, and maybe a more comprehensive set, if it weren't for the fact that my husband needs the computer in a minute. =)

Page 39: "What we lose in our great human exodus from the land is a rooted sense, as deep and intangible as religious faith, of why we need to hold on to the wild and beautiful places that once surrounded us. We seem to succumb so easily to the prevailing human tendency to pave such places over, build subdivisions upon them and name them The Willows, or Peregrine's Roost, or Elk Meadows, after whatever it was that got killed there....Barry Lopez writes that if we hope to succeed in the endeavor of protecting natures other than our own, 'it will require that we reimagine our lives...It will require of many of us a humanity we've not yet mustered, and a grace we were not aware we desired until we had tasted it.' And yet no endeavor could be more crucial at this moment. Protecting the land that once provided us with our genesis may turn out to be the only real story there is for us. The land still provides our genesis, however we might like to forget that our food comes from dank, muddy earth, that the oxygen in our lungs was recently inside a leaf, and that every newspaper or book we may pick made from the hearts of trees that died for the sake of our imagined lives."

Page 248-9: "Most of the time I go right on growing tomatoes and basil and broccoli simply because they are good, we like them...I do it because the world has announced to me, loudly, that it's time to make a choice between infinite material entitlement or a more modest, self-reliant security, and this is a step I can take in the right direction."

Page 262: "Every time I read an argument justifying further oil drilling in sensitive places, I notice that it begins with the caveat, 'Unless Americans are wiling to accept a drastic lifestyle change.' As if that were the one thing that could never happen. As if many new kinds of shortage weren't already on the docket, scheduled for arrival, period, before my kids get to be my age. Scientists have been trying gently to remind us that the 'fossil' in fossil fuel is not a metaphor or a simile. That oil is going to dry up eventually, and no political voodoo can indocue dinosaurs or prehistoric fern forests to lie down and press themselves into more ooze for us on the timetable we require."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Having Faith

This is another of my all-time favorites. I think this is a must-read for absolutely everyone who cares at all about our world and its future, and also for those who don't! I reviewed it last year, so please go read that for my complete explanation and opinion.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite passages. Perhaps they can show you how beautiful the writing is, how it captures some of the most special and sacred moments of pregnancy and parenthood, and how well the author touches on the interconnectedness of everything, and how we can't escape from our pollution, how instead we have to stop and solve it.

Page 66: "Before it is drinking water, amniotic fluid is the creeks and rivers that fill reservoirs. It is the underground water that fills wells. And before it is creeks and rivers and groundwater, amniotic fluid is rain. When I hold in my hands a tube of my own amniotic fluid, I am holding a tube full of raindrops. Amniotic fluid is also the juice of oranges that I had for breakfast, and the milk that I poured over my cereal, and the honey I stirred into my tea. It is inside the green cells of spinach leaves and the damp flesh of apples. It is the yolk of an egg. When I look at amniotic fluid, I am looking at rain falling on orange groves. I am looking at melon fields, potatoes in wet earth, frost on pasture grasses. The blood of cows and chickens is in this tube. Whatever is inside hummingbird eggs is also inside my womb. Whatever is in the world's water is here in my hands."

Page 128: "Obviously, a public health policy that asks expectant mothers to give up certain foods while allowing industries to continue contaminating them is absurd."

Page 130: "If our daughter asks, 'What's a trout stream?' what will I say? Will I explain that freshwater trout are now among the most contaminated fish in America, far too poisonous for her to eat? Will I tell her that our government is willing to warn her against eating trout but reluctant to stop the trout from being poisoned in the first place?"

Page 266: "But then, everything that toddlers do seems alarming and grotesque to first-time parents of infants. Compared to one's own sweet babe, who coos and waves her hands so delicately in the air, toddlers are a tribe of dangerous giants. As though your child would never ever become one of them. The feelings that the parents of toddlers have for tiny babies aren't exactly reciprocal--although I confess feeling vague pity for the proud parents of one newborn in the pediatrician's office recently. She just looked so puny and uninteresting."

Page 274: "I also believe these kinds of risk/benefit analyses are an unhelpful approach to the problem of chemical contaminants in breast milk. They offer no solutions. The usual recommendation that follows from them--'Just keep nursing because the benefits outweigh the risks'--means that we nursing mothers should take no action until our milk becomes so contaminated as to pose as many risks as formula. In other words, until breast milk, like formula, kills 4,000 U.S. infants a year. (This figure is the experts' best estimate of the annual number of infant deaths--from infectious diseases and other causes--attributable to lack of breastfeeding.) Risk/benefit analyses imply that as long as one danger (breastfeeding) is less than another (failure to breastfeed), we should accept the lesser danger--even though it still necessitates endangering our children. The narrow duality of the equatio leaves no room for the proposition that feeding our infants industrial poisons is unacceptable. Period."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange

I read these two books, by Melissa Marr, over the course of about three hours. So they're not exactly heavy. Rather, they're young adult fantasy novels about the world of Faery and the mortals who become involved in that world.

The first in the series, Wicked Lovely, was really pretty good. I was interested in the characters and the story. I liked the plotline and the ending (unsurprising though they were). It felt complete. It stopped at a good place and a happy place.

The second, Ink Exchange, not so much. It felt like the awkward middle book in the series. It didn't seem to really have an ending. It didn't resolve anything. And the relationships between the main characters was less satisfying because it felt like there was so much the author wasn't telling you. So that was sort of frustrating.

I WILL probably read the next in the series, although I hope it's the last. Not because I don't like the concept, but just because I'd fear the same awkward not-full-book-ness for another middle chapter.

The Last Summer (of you and me)

This book also took me less than two hours to read, start to finish. It's a grown-up book by Ann Brashares, the author of the famous Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It's about two sisters and their boy-best-friend, and the point in time when they are all poised to figure out how to grow up together.

I have to say I really enjoyed the flow of words. I really cared about the characters. It was a good book, although not a fluffy book like Pants. It was a little bit sad. But most of all, it was also very predictable. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that sometimes I crave writing that defies the standard plot or structure, something different, and that, this was not.

Again, I enjoyed it. It was a quick, easy, and lovely read. But please don't tell me you're surprised at any of the "revelations." Thanks.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fast Food Nation

This is a famous book by Eric Schlosser, used often in college courses. And it's easy to see why. The writing is absorbing, the stories personal and interesting, and the subject matter that special mixture of fascination and horror that many find difficult to read but also difficult to put down.

Many people, after reading this book, vow something along the lines of "I will never eat another hamburger again." I wouldn't go in that direction. Rather, I would say, "Yep, that's why I don't ever want to eat hamburgers at [name of fast food restaurant]. We need healthier food choices."

A great read.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline

I love this book, by Becky Bailey. It just might be my #1 parenting book ever.

That being said, I also hate the title. It makes it sound like A) it will teach you how to be a "discipliner," and B) parenting is tough and no fun. Neither of these are a true reflection of the book's contents, and this frustrates me endlessly! I get upset when books are not accurately titled.

Another criticism of this book is that its layout may be a little daunting--"7 powers for self-control" leading to "7 basic discipline skills" leading to "7 values for living." Seems somewhat regimented if that's all you look at--but it's easy to look beyond the structure and read the very helpful and fascinating content.

Anyway. This book is all about how you can't teach your children values and behaviors that you cannot do yourself--so before you begin to discipline your children, you must learn to discipline yourself. However, what the author means by discipline is really how to learn from your mistakes instead of beating yourself up about them. The book also addresses the fact that you cannot MAKE your children do anything. Think about that for a minute. You can't actually MAKE your children eat vegetables beyond force-feeding them in a specific instance (which could be considered child abuse at a certain point). You can't MAKE them "be nice." All you can do is help them learn how to achieve these things through trial and error, which is what being a kid is all about.

ALSO...this means that other people can't make YOU do anything. If you're mad at traffic, you're choosing to be mad at traffic. If you're having trouble sticking to your new diet, it's because you're choosing to eat a food that's not on your diet plan. Thus, you are free to decide NOT to eat that food or NOT to be irritated by bad drivers. To me this has serious potential to change not only the way we treat our children but the way we treat ourselves and the amount of independence and choice we have in our daily lives.


Best American Short Stories--2001

Read this piecemeal over the last month or so--some, of course, are fascinating and beautiful, and some are not really my style, but I still have a feeling they might be great to someone else out there.

My favorite thing about this particular edition is that the "guest editor" was Barbara Kingsolver, and I love her. So it was fun to get to read the stories and think of what her opinions of them would be--what she would say was the nugget of truth behind each story.

Oh, and for what it's worth, my favorite story was probably "Boys." But the whole thing was good, as is only to be expected!

Sophie's World

I've been really into a lot of philosophy-related books lately. This one, by Jostein Gaarder, is "a novel about the history of philosophy." It's a great read, and I think the author did a fantastic job of that whole melding-fiction-with-lecture style. It's a fascinating read. But my main complaint comes mostly from the fact that I read Ishmael just before this: this book is extremely human-centered and egotistical. That is, the whole history of philosophy is full of people talking about how and why man is at the top of everything and what we should do and blah blah blah, and the book never takes issue with that whole "man at the center" philosophy itself. Oh, yes, there's ONE SENTENCE towards the end about current philosophy directions that says one such direction is to think that maybe man isn't so goshdarn special. And point taken that we have to understand the history of philosophy to see where it might be going and all that. But geez. It's disheartening, seeing so much evidence of how little humankind can conceive of itself as equal to other life.

Still, a good read. It would be GREAT if you were going to take a philosophy course in high school or college, or if you just had finished one, and so on. And it happens to be fun!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Stuart Little

I re-read this classic kids' book, by E.B. White, in about 15 minutes the other night. It was quite fun, but I was surprised by my lack of memory about it. In other words...I totally forgot that it's about the journey, not the destination. I was surprised when it ended long before Stuart ever got to where he was headed.

Other than that, smashing good fun, and probably something James will be ready to hear next year. Yay!


This book, by Daniel Quinn, is one of those that I think everyone should be required to read. It's about a man who meets a gorilla, and the gorilla becomes the teacher, along the way showing the man all the ways that humankind have gotten it wrong, and how simple it can really be. It's just a fantastic example of that kind of writing which is educational or informative without ever losing sight of the fact that it's a work of fiction and has a story to tell.

That being said, of course there are several points that I have BIG problems with. But the main thrust of the story, that practically all humankind today is entirely too self-centered and wasteful and will ultimately end itself if it doesn't change? That's something I think we need to hear. I think this book is a wonderful thought-provoker. READ IT! And then let's talk.

Oh, and by the way? If you read this right before Christmas, it's even more disturbing. Talk about consumerism. Holy cow.

Deep Dish

Fluffy romance-ish novel by Mary Kay Andrews, with the bonus quality of being a foodie book. It's about two TV chefs and how fate throws them together, blah blah blah. Sort of a weak ending, but generally, fun and easy and light. And delicious!

The Last English King

I picked this book, by Julian Rathbone, in my usual style--that is, off the shelf at the library as I was running past it, after my 2-year-old. The name sounded familiar, but I'm still not sure why.

The book appealed to me for obvious reasons, as anyone who knows me probably knows my intense preoccupation with all things British History. And I really enjoyed that aspect of it--the author did a great job of educating the reader on some interesting historical points without making it boring or out-of-context in the story itself.

However. It is a man's book, by which I mean it is a book that does not hold my interest through the 10-page-long descriptionS of different battles. Also, it does not dwell much on the relationship aspect of life. So eh. It was an interesting read at times, and also boring at times, as when I just could not get through those battle scenes! Good if you're interested in historical fiction with a hefty dose of history. Especially if you're someone who enjoys reading lengthy battle descriptions.

And now I'm sure someone will come and tell me that that's ridiculous, the battle descriptions are only 4 or 5 pages long. YOU GET MY POINT.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Off Season

This book, by Ann Rivers Siddons, was assigned to a book club I thought I might join. The last book the club read was Julia's Chocolates, which, as you all know, I looooved.

This one, not so much. I didn't like the way the author only hit the very extreme events of the protagonist's life, and didn't allow for any development out of those events. Example: someone dies and the next thing you know, it's 10 years later. What happened after that person died? I dunno.

I also HATED the ending. I feel I shouldn't say too much but it ends very abruptly after making an abrupt and, in my opinion, dumb revelation, that you therefore have no time to think about or deal with or develop or whatever. Also, said revelation is pretty meaningless to me, since all the little daily life details that might have given it meaning for me were left out by the author.

It wasn't the most horrible book ever. But I think I'm still categorizing it as trash because it felt like a SUPREME waste of time.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Classic, clever, easy, fun, Jane Austen.

Need I say more? I think not.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Three Junes

This book, by Julia Glass, was one of those completely fortuitous reads. I'd never heard of it before, but I got it for free a few weeks ago, and I'm not one to pass up a free book, DUH!

So it turned out to be separated into three parts (shocking), narrated by three different protagonists. It started out sort of slow, but once I got into the second part I started caring about THAT main character and being more interested in his life. The last part, I was less interested in the narrator but the story was still involving, so I kept reading. Ultimately, I enjoyed the book but more for the beauty of the turn of phrase than for the plot. The wording, the phraseology, was just lovely and that was the part I really liked. One of my favorites that comes to mind is "the alpha sleeper" used to describe that person around whom all other sleepers must contort themselves in a bed. And that doesn't even show off the tip of the iceberg of this novel, because that's just a little clever phrase and not really her writing style at all.

Anyway. I'm not really sure I'd recommend this novel, and certainly not for everyone. It was hard to get into and I wasn't particularly satisfied with the ending. But read it to enjoy the author's writing, if you wish. And I might check out her next book to see what that's like as well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Last Time I Was Me

This is the second book I've read by Cathy Lamb in as many weeks. She's just really fun. She has a very casual style of writing that appeals although, as I mentioned before, can make the story seem a little unorganized or something. This was exactly what I'd expect as a second novel from the author of the fabulously fun Julia's Chocolates.

My one complaint is that the main character's issue is "anger management," which wasn't quite as relevant-feeling to me as the first. It seemed more...frivolous, in a way. And the storyline was a little bit more far-fetched. But the issues and the sad and tough parts of life addressed in the story were handled with grace and a great attitude, with plenty of life laughter. I really like this author, but I like her first book even more than this one.

A Ring of Endless Light

A young adult book by Madeleine L'Engle. For the most part, it was very enjoyable, although the information about dolphins is obviously dated (the book was written in 1980, I think, and it has a lot about how dolphins aren't violent like humans...).

I found a great quote in the book, which explains how I feel a lot of the time about religion in general and especially people who are self-righteous. I don't have the book in hand, though, so I'll have to do the best I can from my faulty memory, and admit that I can't remember who is supposed to have said it either. It goes something like this: "If you think you know all about it, it isn't God."

Anyway. The book is pretty good. Very relevant themes, at least for what I can remember of my own adolescence. Lots about death but ultimately very affirming. Classic L'Engle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Louis Sachar. One of my favorite kids' books EVER. Perfect in plot and details. Fun, funny, sweet, mysterious. Love it!

(I would say it is at around a 9- or 10-year-old reading level. Don't really know, but it's very easy reading.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Julia's Chocolates

This is my new favorite book. It's by Cathy Lamb, and it is just about perfect. It's sweet and hopeful, hilarious and real. It's about a group of women you will love, laugh and cry with, and not want to leave at the end of the book--or at least, that's how I feel about them.

It's interesting that this author took so many serious subjects--abuse, unhappy marriages, bad health, emotional difficulties, feminism and finding your true self--and turned it into such a beautiful and lovely book. I can't wait to read her next!

My only criticism might be that at the beginning I was a little distracted by the flow of the language. It was sort of...messy, although not technically wrong or anything. But as I got caught up in the story and with the characters, I liked it more and more, so keep that in mind if you have any trouble at the beginning. Now go read it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Getting Near to Baby

This is a kids' book by Audrey Coloumbis. It was decent but I forgot to review it earlier, and am only finding it as I go through all my old posts at the end of the year to figure out which ones I forgot to review as I read them. Sorry!

And when I say kids, I do mean fairly young, like maybe 8 or 10. But it is about a girl whose little sister died, just so you know.

Back When We Were Grownups

I liked this book much better than the last book I read by Anne Tyler. The main character was less flighty and didn't get on my nerves. And so I could appreciate Tyler for her great eye for family interactions and dramas, for how our individual personalities can become invisible in some ways to our families, for how life can take you by surprise and how people often don't realize so many things about themselves.

A decent read, lovely prose, nothing shocking or incredible. A good way to spend the day.

The Thief Lord

This is a kids' book by Cornelia Funke, who has more recently become well-known for her Inkheart series. It was a very easy read, fun and interesting. I'd recommend it maybe for the 7-10 crowd, or of course for an older reader who won't be quite as enthralled but will enjoy the story anyway.

I can't really remember any criticism I had for the book, just that it didn't wow me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Don't Look Down

I love Jennifer Crusie, and this is a Jennifer Crusie/Bob Mayer collaboration, so when it was offered to me free, I jumped at it. And it had plenty of elements of a great Crusie book, but they were sort of...watered down by the effects of the Bob Mayer writing.

That's not to say that Mayer isn't any good. The book was well-written, the plot exciting. It's just that Crusie books are normally some of the best "chick lit" but this had a lot of what I think is Mayer's typical "dude lit." In other words...a lot of superfluous sleeping around, boobie talk, Armed Forces references, technical schtuff, and so forth.

Thus, it was pretty good, but no match for Crusie on her own. A fun, quick, completely implausible but enjoyable read.

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter

I finished this book, by Sharyn McCrumb, almost two weeks ago, so my original thoughts and impressions have faded somewhat, but here goes the review...

I had read this once before, I think in high school, and was not impressed. But then one of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon, recommended this author, so I thought I'd give it another try. This time, I did find interesting the history of the Appalachian peoples, the Celtic roots of a lot of the mythology and belief systems of these people. And I was drawn in to the mystery, and I enjoyed the flow of writing just fine. The plot was decent enough as well, and I was a lot more interested in the environmental issues this time around.

BUT. I still felt dissatisfied with the ending. Perhaps because I'd read it before, I sort of knew where it was going, but then when it got there, it seemed anti-climactic, one of those endings that takes just a couple of casual paragraphs thrown together to tie up ALL the loose ends, where you feel there should've been much more.

So. I liked it better than last time, but was sad about the ending. And the part about the young mom and her baby was too hard for me to read this time around, for obvious reasons. Gave me nightmares. Do NOT recommend to sensitive moms of young children. That part was too too sad. But generally, a pretty decent book, especially if you're at all interested in Appalachia.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Another Neil Gaiman book for kids. Liked it, didn't love it, but would've loved it if I was 8 or so. There were a couple beautiful turns of phrase that I really enjoyed, but mostly it was just a great book for kids, and would've been scary if I was a little bit younger.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tom Jones placeholder

Sorry for the lack of posts. Not only did we very suddenly move across the country with just a couple weeks' notice, I had to return all my library books to do that! So I've mostly been reading The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, in short bursts between packing and all the other crazy stuff I had to do to get out here. Now that I'm settled, I'll have to get a library card soon and finish it. So far, it's really pretty entertaining-funny but in an old-fashioned way (shocking, I know). Here's where I stopped: Book 8, chapter 9, the very beginning (page 384 of the edition I had).

Also, I'd just like to say that because of this book my husband now frequently walks around the house humming "It's Not Unusual." Too funny. =)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kids' books from the library that we read on a daily basis

Tuesday is our last day at our library here. Our last storytime, and our last book return. After Tuesday, THESE books, THIS library, are no more. We will have to find our own way in an Oklahoma library instead. And that makes me really sad, so I thought I'd do a tribute to the library books we've had checked out for the last couple of MONTHS because we have to read them every day.

1. Science Verse, by Jon Szieszka
So funny, and I'm a sucker for rhyming. And the illustrations are great. And you could even spout some sort of intellectual nonsense about instilling a love of poetry into your children...but really it's just fun for the adults, too. =)

2. Thomas Goes Fishing and James Goes Buzz Buzz
Not my choice. But who can resist a two-year-old with big blue eyes begging for Buzz Buzz Jamesy?

3. Red Train by Will Grace
This one's great--colors, numbers, and fun animals. Not super fun to read but you can make it fun, and it's good for lots of different ages and stages.

4. Baby Beluga
Song by Raffi, pictures by Ashley Wolff. We sing this one every night before bed, and I can't tell ya how cute it is to hear your kiddo ask for Baby Booga at bedtime.

5. I Like It When-- by Mary Murphy
This is a very simple board book with penguins and James likes to read it to us.

6. I'll See You in the Morning by Mike Jolley
Great bedtime book. Rhyming: it gets me every time. And I love the illustrations on this one. Beautiful and peaceful.

7. Mama Mama by Jean Marzollo
Good for even the tiniest of babies. Sweet animal mamas and babies going through their days together. Very simple and lovely.

8. Machines at Work by Byron Barton
Again, not my choice. But James reads us this whole book (and adds a little bit of detail himself), so who am I to deny him that pleasure? And it's nowhere near as annoying as the You-Know-Who books. ;)

9. 1,2,3 by Sandra Boynton
Again with the rhyming. And the counting that James loves. And it's clever and fun to read. We love Sandra Boynton.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Change of Heart

Sigh. Jodi Picoult, how good you could be, and yet how predictable you are.

This is the latest I've read of hers. It deals with the death penalty and with religious/spiritual beliefs. It's loosely connected to Keeping Faith, which I also read this year, and really liked.

This one was just eh. I can't give it a great review because after a while it just starts to feel so formulaic. And because for me it is SOOOOOO predictable. And sometimes that's okay, but the times that I love Jodi Picoult are the times when she steps away from what I think of as the "predictable shocker," the twist or ending that's supposed to be surprising and make you re-analyze the whole story from a new viewpoint. For me, I can almost always see it coming from the minute I crack the spine of the book, so it just gets old with me.

But again. Ms. Picoult has moments of eloquence and even whole books that are just beautiful, so I won't dismiss her. I just wish she'd take a little more time between books, even though I'm sure her diehard fans appreciate that she can write a book approximately every 9 months.

It was still a pretty good read, even though I was so disappointed in the (non) surprise ending. Oh well. It's sort of like watching Law and Order: this happens, then this, then that, then surprise ending, The End, and after awhile it's a little boring, but it still draws you in, and I'll still always watch it if there's nothing better on the tube. In this case, there were literally no other books in my house for me to read that are not either a) picture books or b) packed away in boxes.

I can't wait to get involved with my new library after we move. But man, I am going to miss our library here. Raleigh, your library system rocks! =)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fragile Things: short fictions and wonders

I am in LOVE with Neil Gaiman's writing. Oh sure, sometimes it's a little strange and disturbing, but MAN, it is GOOD STUFF.

Apparently I can't write a Gaiman review without resorting to LOTS OF SHOUTING!!! He's the only writer I can think of whose books I truly want to review with multiple exclamation marks. That should let you know how serious I am about his stuff.

So. This is a group of short stories and poems of his. LOVED IT. Obviously. Although there are a couple of stories that weren't my absolute favorite, there were plenty that practically made me cry, they were so good. (Favorite example? Locks, page 177, a poem about storytelling and his young daughter. Sigh. Beautiful.) But I can't describe too many things without giving away certain plotlines. So just trust me: Neil Gaiman is amazing. The End.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender

I got this book, by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg, because Ask Moxie, one of my favorite bloggers, recommended this series of developmental sketches.

I have to say, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. First of all, it's from the 70s, so it's very dated in some ways. Secondly, a lot of the things they were writing about (for example, kids climbing out of cribs) are just not relevant to me. Thirdly, although I do think they tried to help parents accept their own issues and troubles with parenting, it still wasn't my personal vision of parenting, a lot of the time. I just don't like a book with this kind of title, generally speaking. But there were plenty of good little "nuggets" to help you feel good about where you and your two-year-old are with typical issues and such.

Eh. I guess I just trust myself and the individual lprocesses and nature too much to find books like this terribly helpful. I'm not worried about when my child will be fully potty trained or sleep all night through in his big kid bed or learn to count or read or eat three square meals a day or whatever. So yeah. Not for me, but definitely could be helpful if you need reassurance on those kinds of things.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fear of Flying

Apparently this book is really famous. It's by Erica Jong, it was first published in the 1970s...71, I think, and I had only heard that it was vaguely connected to women's lib and that it was considered a classic.

So, it was pretty weird, but I can also see why it's a classic. It has a lot of wise and brutally honest things to say about women and men and gender inequality and so on and so forth. But, be forwarned, a lot of people find the language shocking, and there's a lot of talk about $ex. Some of it was obviously dated, some just plain ol' bizarre, and I'm still not 100% sure of my final verdict.

I will say this, though. It was so real, the author's voice was so authentic, that I kept forgetting that it was supposed to be a novel. After I finished it, I read the afterword and figured out that quite a bit of it is based on the author's life story, so I figure that really helped, but I have never read ANYTHING else where the protagonist was so vivid, where it was so hard to keep the author and the main character separate in my head.

Very different, strange, heartbreaking, funny at times, great flow of writing. Don't know what else to say about it but that. Try it for yourself, or don't.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Breaking Dawn

This is the last book of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, and thank God it was good. If it wasn't I think I would've been devastated to have read all the other books. And I was actually worried, because I could tell that the guy and girl I wanted to be together never would be--not in this series. Luckily, the author showed that she understood that that's how it was supposed to be if this wasn't a supernatural series. And the direction this book took resolved the issues I had with the storyline, although of course I still wish it would've turned out the way that it couldn't.

Wow, that was confusing. When I finished reading this book last week, I had a great review written in my head, but the stress of moving in two weeks is taking its toll. Here's the bottom line: this was a great ending to this series, and I can now pronounce that I approve. =)

Sorry for the crappy reviewishness around here lately. Give me a month or so to get through this moving thing and my writing might start to make more sense! Cheers~

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dress Your Children in Corduroy and Denim; Holidays on Ice; Me Talk Pretty One Day

My friend Susan loaned me these three books by David Sedaris, and it took me about 15 minutes to read each one. I hadn't realized that he was from Raleigh, so it was fun to read about all his experiences around Raleigh back in the day. His turn of phrase can be quite delightful, but I have to say, I'm not as impressed as it seems like many of my friends are. I know this is sort of the point, but I just always felt like I hadn't read about anything in particular. So anyway. Very VERY light reading.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Breathing Lessons

Ann Tyler book. I read it, it was interesting. Of course there are human elements that she depicts beautifully, but also I couldn't get into it. I'm also reading Tom Jones right now, so maybe I'm distracted more than usual? I dunno. I think it's just some outside issues like me being tired of the ditsy woman idea. Anyway. A LOAD of personal stuff is going on right now, so I might just be incredibly distracted in general, and hopefully I can review other books I've been reading a little more thoroughly.

The End

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


This is the latest Neil Gaiman book I've read, but I think it might've been the first one he wrote. It's still very good, but I would have to say not my favorite, because I LOVE LOVE LOVED the others I read, whereas I just really enjoyed this one. It's quite beautiful writing, and it's imaginative, but I think my big complaint (which, of course, is nothing like a complaint since I really liked the book) is that it reminded me of a certain movie I saw a couple of years ago...which I shan't reveal because that would give the ending away. It also is a little more like a movie than the other books of his I've read. This makes me wonder if that's related to this author's ability to write graphic novels and such. I'm not sure exactly how to explain what I mean by that movie comment, but the other books I read (American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust) were so fantastic and fantastical that I didn't once imagine what they would look like in a movie or relate the images in my head to something easily translatable to a movie screen....but this book, Neverwhere, sort of reminded me of the graphics that have been done in recent fantasy-type movies. And I'm interested to hear if some of the plot characteristics of this movie, and some of the scenes, seemed somewhat familiar to you, and if so, did anyone think of the same movie I did? I'll give you a starts with C. ;)

Anyway. I love Gaiman books and I can't wait to get to read the new one that's coming out soon. OOH OOH OOH, just checked his site and it came out TODAY. HOORAY! =)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Happiest Toddler on the Block

The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, is fast becoming a parenting classic, with its sensible talk about helping babies get used to this world by trying to mimic the one they came from--swaddling, babywearing, shhhh noises, etc. So I thought I'd see what the good Doctor had to say about toddlers.

It was...interesting. The main idea, the scientific idea of Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny, is an intriguing one. It says, basically, that an individual animal's growth will mimic the evolutionary changes that the species has passed through.

However. Harvey Karp uses this idea to suggest that the way to deal with your child is to consider your one-year-old as a Neanderthal, by which he means slow, clumsy, and stupid, and so on. And as an anthropologist and a parent I have so many issues with this.

That being said, he has a few good ideas, and the main one is "the McDonald's Drive-Through Request" or something like that. The idea is that you should approach communicating with your toddler the way a drive-through order-taker communicates: repeat their order back to them before you tell them how much they owe you. Hence, if your child wants one thing and you need them to do something else, you need to repeat what they want so they know you understand, and then you can move on. I've found this to be true, since my own child will repeat the same thing over and over and over no matter what you say until you repeat after him, and then he's satisfied because he KNOWS you understand him. =)

So, a few decent ideas, a few really weird and potentially offensive ones? Hm. The Happiest Baby is better, but this has the potential to help parents struggling with toddlers, so I'd recommend it, just ignore the weirdness.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Weaning Happens

I would really have loved it if Diane Bengson's book had some answers that I hadn't thought of or heard of yet. It didn't, but I credit that to the fact that I have already searched out this kind of information far and wide, and I've been around nursing and weaning moms my whole life, and none of this is a mystery to me.

It's no surprise, either, that this book didn't contain a specific answer to my specific questions. But it's still a very reassuring book and is very calming about any questions and concerns moms may have. Definitely recommended not only for moms who are curious or need help with these issues, but also for any family and/or friends who don't understand why someone hasn't weaned yet, or who don't understand the process, or who are worried about any of it.

I did feel like they left out some clarifying details, and they REALLY need to include hormonal feelings about nursing in this book, but in general, it's a great book.


This is the third book in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, and I can't really do full review of it without giving away a lot of the plot. So, suffice it to say that I was happy with the author's abilities but not necessarily happy with the plot itself.

In the last book, I was worried that I would get to this one and really hate where the author went with everything, but I was happy to discover that's not the case. Even though my personal preferences mean that I wish the story had taken a different turn, the plot isn't aggravating and stupid like I feared.

And reading this book showed me a lot about myself through the characters, which sounds cheesy to say, but it's true anyway. I have values and standards about love and relationships that I am really glad I have and I am so blessed to have a partner who feels the same way.

Wow, that came out really un-like a book review, but that's the best I can do without using lots of names and giving away lots of plotlines. And I'm saving that for the finale!

On a related note...I do have to say that I feel a little bit let down by some of the plot structure. Things were revealed in this book that really made me feel like the end is going to be really predictable. I can see a lot of details coming, and I don't always like that. But we'll see.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Little Sugar Addicts

I picked up this book by Kathleen DesMaisons at the library because the title was interesting to me. I had no idea what it was really about or anything, but once I started reading it, I realized that the author has a series of books for adults as well (Potatoes Not Prozac, The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program, and Your Last Diet), one of which I think my friend Becky recommended to me. And I think this book has a lot of good things to say about how much an unhealthy diet can affect our children's behaviors and abilities and how little we sometimes notice this, or how little we think we can change it.

Unfortunately, there were also a lot of things in this book that I did NOT like. First of all, I don't want to be recommended a bunch of sugar-free substitutes that are still sweet. I am not a fan of diet sodas or really any kind of artificial sweeteners. I think you should go whole hog for NATURAL sweets like fruits if you're going to be focusing on a healthy diet and cutting out things that may be adversely affecting your children.

Also, the author mentions over and over again how everything that's wrong with your child is not your fault, how diet is the answer. Well. I definitely think that cutting the vast majority of empty sugars out of your child's diet will have a positive impact on his or her behavior. But I got tired of her assuring me that there's no way my parenting skills might play into the problem, or that there's nothing else in my life I can improve to also help my children.

For me, the worst was reading about Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Do you know about this? It's a new psychological disorder diagnosis defined as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present: 1. often loses temper 2. often argues with adults 3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules 4. often deliberately annoys people 5. often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior 6. is often touchy or easily annoyed by others 7. is often angry and resentful 8. is often spiteful or vindictive."

This is highly disturbing to me. As an anthropologist, I feel that the diagnoses found in a psychology manual are often more reflective of a society's values and issues than of an empirical medical diagnosis, and it really really bothers me that people can't see that perhaps this type of behavior is a) normal for a child (hello, teenagers?), b) caused by inflexible or unsure parenting, c) caused by unrealistic expectations, d) caused by a complete lack of respect for children's autonomy and emotions, or e) all of the above, and potentially other causes too, like lack of education about and experience of how to eat healthily and get enough exercise.

Just think about it. How many people have a boss who exhibits those exact symptoms? How many times do you think a child might act out to be reassured that you love him or her? How many times are your requests or demands of your children unreasonable? How many times do YOU exhibit any of the symptoms IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN WHO ARE ALWAYS COPYING WHAT YOU DO?

Anyway. So that part was total and complete crap and really bothered me, obviously, but I'm going to try to get past that and explain what I thought was really GREAT about this book. The author isn't trying to get you to put your child on a diet. She knows that won't work, that for the rest of your child's life he or she will have to make many, many decisions without you and will have many sugary temptations (and others as well) and will have to learn to make smart decisions alone. And this book describes a way to teach your children how sugar affects their bodies, to show them why they might not want to eat that ice cream at Grandma's or their friend's extra candy bar. And that is a priceless lesson. That is what children need to know. That is, in fact, a good metaphor for what I think parenting should be: teaching your children, showing them, letting them experiment and find out for themselves how things work and how to live life when you're not around.

So, I recommend this book, but with reservations. And I will try some of her recipes, but not the ones that include tons of pork product. =)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Certain Girls

I read Little Earthquakes a couple of years ago and loved it, so when I saw that Jennifer Weiner (apparently pronounced "whiner" rather than "wee-ner," which doesn't seem like much of an improvement to me) had written a new book, I picked it up, only to find that it's actually a continuation of the story of Cannie Shapiro from her first book, Good in Bed, which I read ages ago. What I remember from that book is that it was about a girl who is agonized by weight issues, who has a lot of trouble grappling with her own self-esteem and who gets pregnant and has to learn to move past it. I remember I wasn't overly fond of the ending of that book, since my faulty memory supplies me with these details: She realized her weight didn't matter, and consequently figured out that she had lost a lot of weight, and met a nice guy. The End.

BUT...I did like this addition in part because it pointed out that she wasn't ever effortlessly thin again. I DIDN'T like having to read all the ways in which Cannie and her daughter have twisted ideas about fat and self-image. That was painful because it was so obvious they were hung up on unimportant things and letting these issues get in the way of living their lives--but I think that's the point, because I think a lot of women have the same kinds of issues. So I suppose therefore you could label this book, and all of Ms. Weiner's books, "relevant." And ultimately, that's what I like about them, that I think they reflect things that real women are dealing with or thinking about or feeling, although of course not all women constantly worry that they're not good enough because they think they're too fat, or whatever.

It's so complicated, because I think Ms. Weiner is a great writer. I think if you're going to call something "chick lit," then it should be this, because this is meaningful and not just full of fluff, but it's meaningful in that it relates to the particular issues women are likely to have in our culture today. But it's hard for me to read because I am NOT that woman. And I wish that women would stop feeling like we have to look a certain way before [fill in the blank]. Why don't we stop looking at ourselves as objects people look at, and start looking out in the world? BECOME THE GAZERS, AND FORGET ABOUT BEING GAZED AT, WOMEN!

Okay, off my pedestal now. Back to the book. It was decent. I was reading along, thinking that it was mediocrely good, but then I came to the end and it was a shock and it made me cry a little, so I'm not sure what to think now. I'm thinking my response says more about me and my life than about the author's technical abilities, but I do feel like warning you that it's not really a happy ending.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Carpe Demon

I read this book, by Julie Kenner, at least a week ago. And I have at least three other book reviews to do. I get so behind! Anyway.

So, Carpe Demon was exactly what you'd expect if you read the teaser from the front cover: "Carpools. Crabgrass. Creatures from the depths of hell. Suburbia has its problems too..." It's what one reviewer said is like a grown-up Buffy who never told any of her adult friends what her high school years were like. It's total and complete fluff, but generally decent enough for fluff. I have to say that I didn't really enjoy the ending, because I feel like she just yanked it abruptly out of the laundry pile of storylines she'd introduced, but that's probably because I don't like so many loose threads left hanging. I'm starting to get the feeling this might be a series. But I have no idea and I'm not particularly motivated to go find out. It was just a fun and incredibly quick read.

Oh, and one other small nitpicky detail I didn't like: on page 55 the main character is reminiscing about "Me, laid up with the flu, propped up in my dorm-room bed with a box of tissue..." and then on page 98 she says, "I didn't even finish high school." This confused me for a little while, but eventually I decided that when she said "dorm-room," she was referring to some arrangement where she'd grown up at the Vatican. However, not very clear, never explained anywhere in the whole book, and when you hear "dorm-room," it seems reasonable to assume that means college, especially without any kind of qualifier, doesn't it? Oh well. Just thought I'd point that out so you can avoid the confusion and have your mind free to grapple with the fact that plotlines involving demons almost NEVER make any sense. =)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

How Children Learn

I read this book, by John Holt, long before I ever got around to reviewing it. You see, it is SUCH a WONDERFUL book that I wanted to give a great, perfect review, not just say that I thought it was great. This is a book with the power to change the way Americans think about education for the better, times a million. It contains story after story after story illustrating how smart kids really are, how little we give them credit for, how condescending we are in our ideas of "teaching" when really the children's learning is often in spite of us, and rarely because of us, at least in a traditional "schooling" setting, as well as when we're worried about teaching our babies everything on a timetable.

Here are two examples I noticed while reading this book. They really bother me:

1. Between the Lions on PBS "Makes reading fun" because of course reading is SO NOT FUN! um...wait...

2. A commercial for a new board game series...."children don't naturally share" but our games can make them learn how!

And here are a few brilliant quotes from the book itself:

"When they learn in their own way and for their own reasons, children learn so much more rapidly and effectively than we could possibly teach them, that we can afford to throw away our curricula and our timetables, and set them free, at least most of the time, to learn on their own." p. 156

"We make too much of the difficulties of learning to read. Teachers may say, 'But reading must be difficult, or so many children wouldn't have trouble with it.' I say that it is because we assume that it is so difficult that so many children have trouble with it. Our anxieties, our fears, and the ridiculous things we do to 'simplify' what is simple enough already, cause most of the trouble." p.157

"Children know all too well when people respect and trust them and when they don't..." p. 168 Talking about testing being unmeaningful: " most of the fifth-graders I taught did not know more than a small part of the mathematics that their test scores supposedly showed they knew, and regardless of their reading scores, only a handful really liked to read or would read unless made to."

Sorry for not making the review as good as the book! And oops, sorry it got in here so late!

Friday, September 12, 2008

M is for Magic

I found this children's book by Neil Gaiman in the library recently, and I was really excited because I've been enjoying his books so much lately. This was enjoyable but not nearly as good for me as the others (American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust), I think because one of my favorite things about the adult books was how well and enjoyably they engaged my intellect. This, obviously, is directed at children, and is therefore somewhat "easier," and thus, for me, less enjoyable. But it's always fun to read short stories and it was an overall decent book.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Life's Work

It is really hard for me to describe how I felt and what I thought about this parenting memoir by Rachel Cusk. Part of me hated it because she can come off as incredibly self-absorbed and also seems completely naive as to what babies are like and what parents do. Part of me appreciated the lovely flow of the author's writing style. And another part of me recognized the more simple truths of parenting beneath the winding rants.

Wow. That wasn't quite as hard as I thought.

Anyway. Here's an example. On page 131, she says "night feeding is certainly kept well under wraps." Um...I think what she means is that NO ONE NOTICES that you have to feed your children at night for quite some time. It's definitely not hidden--you can find millions of desperate, sleep-deprived new parents online, for one thing. So I don't like what she's implying about parenting being kept from us, because I really believe the problem is Lack of Exposure.

She continues that leaving a newborn alone with its parents is "like a social experiment, something a scientist would do..." and continues with a description of what happened next in her little family--which is (obviously to me) NOT the same as it might be for another couple. The description also includes this sentence: "They are given no breaks and no assistance from the outside world is permitted." And guess what? This is the single biggest problem new parents in our society today have, because that's NOT NATURAL! Again, I can strongly relate to this problem, as quite frequently I curse the fact that I don't live in a huntero-gatherer group full of built-in babysitters so I can catch some sleep. But unfortunately, the author does not see things from my perspective, but rather, feels that at times she hates the baby and so on.

She also discusses her initial lack of mothering instinct unflinchingly, which I think is brave of her, but which leads to some scenes that are painful for me personally, where I wish I could've run in and grabbed that baby up! This is not a judgment against her at all: I know many women feel this way, likely because of the Lack of Exposure issue I mentioned already, but I was lucky enough to never have that problem and so I cannot inhabit it.

For example. On page 164 the author says, "Her development was...a slow and frustrating business...Her body was tormented by some invisible force that made her get up and fall over again and again...My head ache with the tension of her efforts." Seriously? I can't follow this. It's such a dark and depressing view of parenting, and also shows a very Type A pressure to succeed on the author's part, I think. Parenting has NEVER been like that for me, although of COURSE I've had my share of difficult moments. So, again, I feel sort of like it's good she put this out here, that she was so honest about everything she went through, but it's uncomfortable for me because I don't want others to get the idea that the parenting experiences presented in this book are what they can....look forward to?

That being said, I'll share one more passage, which I loved. It's true that sleeplessness is the greatest shock of parenting, as far as I'm concerned, and especially because I often had NO HELP. On page 178-9, the author discusses the strange things that happen to a person during this prolonged period of sleeplessness: "Gradually the distinction between day and night dissolved entirely, and I became prey to daydreams and hallucinations, remembering conversations that had not occurred...The resrevoir of sleep I had accumulated through my life had run dry. I was living off air and adrenalin. Mercury ran through my veins. I wondered if this parched and dogged wraithe long since severed from its human past was in fact that dark stranger who walks the world of childhood wreathed in mystery: a parent."

I loved this precisely because I could relate to it, because I am still more sleep-deprived than I ever thought possible, because I get mad at people who voluntarily skip sleeping opportunities, because a full night's sleep is a distant memory. Literally: I haven't had an entire, uninterrupted full night's sleep in over two years.

Thus, I cautiously recommend this book to SOME women. If you felt that you could set aside all those things in the text that don't match up with your experience and/or that scare you about your future, while at the same time enjoying the common ground you find and feeling glad that you're not alone, then read it. But be prepared for it to be painful.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Water for Elephants

I can't remember exactly where I got the recommendation for this book by Sara Gruen, but someone somewhere told me someday I should read it. (ha ha, Mom.)

So I did, and I have to say it was very....interesting. I thought the author, who I can only assume is NOT an old man, did a great job writing from the perspective of an old man. That part was pretty amazing to me, but then again...I'm not an old man either, so I can't truly say it was authentic. =)

The old man is in a nursing home, and he's looking back on his life as a young man in the 1920s and the time he jumped a train and joined the circus. Some of the experiences he has are downright bizarre, and there is definitely some terrible violence and such. It was shocking to me how easily some of the violence was just accepted, and how life just moved on with barely a blip after such shocking things happened, but then again, the story was told from over 60 years' remove, so I can understand why those were not dwelt upon.

Anyway. It was entertaining and unusual. Not what I expected, but not bad.

The Homeschooling Handbook

This book, by Mary Griffith, is eminently useful. I think it delivers on its name fairly well, because it contains a wealth of information on all types of homeschooling: not just a how-to, or a guide to a certain curriculum, but a comprehensive guide, especially helpful for parents who are seeking more general information. It had a chapter on different methods and philosophies of homeschooling, different laws concerning homeschooling, kinds of support groups and how to find and/or create support for yourself, LOTS of testimonials, typical questions, etc.

So. Highly recommended if you want to learn more about the widely varied world of homeschooling. And now I'm off to dream of the impossible--namely, how we're going to homeschool AND both have satisfying career-like interests AND money AND sanity AND a good night's sleep.

The End.

Monday, September 1, 2008

To the Tower Born

Another historical fiction by Robin Maxwell finished today. It was a quick and easy read focused on the lives of Edward and Richard, the two sons of King Edward IV of England, the famous Princes in the Tower. If you haven't heard it, the rumor is that their uncle Richard (aka Richard III), had them murdered around the time he usurped the throne from them.

But there is soooooo much confusion surrounding the details of this period that it makes for wonderful fiction--because almost anything could have happened to those two boys. I have to say, I am all in favor of this book's take on things because I like a happy ending, and while the ending isn't all sunshine and daisies, it's a lot less dark than the picture many would paint (for example, Shakespeare's account).

As was the case with the last Robin Maxwell book I read, I have to say my favorite part was the afterword, in which the author outlines what historians have said about the period and gives a persuasive argument for why she interpreted the story as she did. I find this fascinating and it makes me want to know this woman!

But as for the story, it was fun and I loved getting a little glimpse into England just before my beloved Tudors came into power. Good stuff!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sleepless in America

This book, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, is a valuable tool for any parent who has ANY sort of trouble with the sleep issue, whether your child has trouble going to sleep at night, has trouble with naps, wakes up in the night, is cranky and tantrumy, or all of the above. It is very gentle and kind and ALSO full of practical advice. I highly recommend it.

I don't really have much more of a review than that for now, because I'm way behind in reviewing, but I will say that this book really helps us out every time we hit a bump in the road to a good night's sleep. We sort of already had the broad things figured out but it has so many little tips that really help us fine-tune our routine and the things we're trying out in search of sleep.

Excellent book!

The Shipping News

I watched the movie based on this book, by Annie Proulx, a couple of years ago, and frankly, it was awful. But I kept hearing how wonderful Ms. Proulx's books are, so I finally bit the bullet and cracked the spine on this one.

And I am so glad I did. It was wonderful. It is true that Ms. Proulx's writing style is more masculine than many, but that was part of why I liked it--it wasn't the same old same old form and storyline that I'm used to. Lately I've been looking for books that are outside the mold, and also books that perhaps I can share with my son (in the distant future), and this is absolutely perfect.

I won't say too much else, since I'm tired of reviews, but just know that the book is nothing like the movie--a million times better. And if you've never heard of either, check it out!

Oh, and shout out to my old anthropology profs for having me study The Old Hag, because that was totally in this book, and it was really fun to catch that reference! =)

Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity

David Allen might just be my new hero. But only time will tell.

You see, I just finished his book on organizing your life to minimize stress and maximize "effectiveness," and so far I feel quite enthusiastic about his methods. They're just so simple and straightforward and seem so easy and also eminently sensible and helpful. The word functional comes to mind.


I haven't lived with this system for long, so we'll see how I feel about it in a few weeks.

Also of note: this book is really geared towards busy professionals, with lots of references to work projects, board meetings, etc, but I feel it's good for anyone if you can use your imagination to apply the basics to a life without Palm Pilots. Just so you know.

Thanks for the recommendation, Becky!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Better OFF: Flipping the Switch on Technology

Eric and Mary Brende are brave people. They decided to live as technology-free as possible, and in their search for a low-tech life, they went and lived with a pseudo-Amish group for 18 months. This book is the story of their adventure, and it is beautiful.

It's funny, interesting, and galvanizing. It made me jealous for their life, while also pointing out some practical problems with our use of technology--and why it DOESN'T make sense to condemn all technology offhand.

I'm keeping this short so I can get through all my reviews, but I LOVED this book and I think Ben would if he ever has free time for a book again, I'll be shoving this in his hand ASAP.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers

This book is part of a popular series by Vicki Iovine--Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, to Surviving the First Year, etc. It's easy to see why they're popular. The author has a breezy and funny writing style that does indeed make it seem like you're just chatting with your girlfriends about all the ins and outs of toddlerhood.

However. Although this was not quite as negative in worldview as the pregnancy guide, it was still pretty negative. It's interesting. I would start to get hopeful because Ms. Iovine would talk about how cosleeping is okay, how you have to listen to yourself and your own intuition and all that and blah blah blah that seems less judgmental and bossy than many of the guides out there...but then she'd throw in something about how you have to get them to stay in their bed NOW or you NEVER WILL!

Sort of infuriating how those old ideas just stick in the back of our heads and taint everything we think and we don't even notice how nonsensical they are.

Still, it's a fairly fun read, if you don't mind the fact that it's mostly complaining about the more challenging aspects of toddlerhood that you might run into (and notice that I said MIGHT, that's another thing I don't like, the incredible stereotyping of things that All Toddlers Do!). And it does have the disclaimer that toddlers are great people. But it's not my thing. Too negative and still has too many of the old theories about kids that I just can't buy into.

So there you go.

Monday, August 18, 2008

One Thing at a Time

This book by Cindy Glovinsky looked like a great organizational book--it has 100 very short chapters, each with a single tip on how to get and stay organized and on top of all of your "Things."

But I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed. There were a few good ones but most of it was stuff that doesn't seem that relevant to my life. I think it's good that she mentions how to keep organizational efforts as simple as possible so you don't just add MORE stress and stuff to your overburdened life, but a lot of the tips are just very forgettable or not very helpful to me. But that all depends on where you are in life and where your messiness comes from and all those things. It could work really well for you.

Too bad it's not for me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Moon

This is the second book in the popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I wasn't particularly wowed by the first book, but it was good enough that I held out hope for the rest of the series to get better as it went on.


There was one major flaw in this book that has really turned me off of them. You see, one big criticism I had in the first book was that I didn't see why Bella (the main character) was so in love with Edward. There's supposedly this magical connection between them, but no solid reasons for love, ya know? And in this installment, the author introduced a character who HAS those good characteristics, who she likes to laugh with, who makes her feel good, who is her "best friend," but of course she's not in love with him. And the plot is structured in a way that makes it all very complicated but suggests that it's practically impossible for her to end up with the good guy.

So if she ends up with the good guy I'll be very impressed and it will have all been worth it, but if not, then I will be supremely disgusted. And of course I'm already disgusted because she's soooooo in looooooove with this guy but oh, could just never feel that way about the good guy. ARGH! Stupid teenagers.

In sum, it took me a day to read 563 pages, so it's both easy and compelling reading, but I'm not actually much of a fan, yet. The whole conflict just irritates me. However, I'm going to continue reading because I want to see what happens so I can get mad about it if it doesn't turn out how I want it to. =)

A Flaw in the Blood

This is a book by Stephanie Barron, the author of a series of mysteries in which Jane Austen is the heroine. I really enjoyed that series, and so when I saw she'd put out a new book, I was ecstatic. Then I saw that it wasn't about Jane Austen--it was about Queen Victoria. And I wasn't sure what to think, but I requested it anyway because of how great her other books were.

I was not disappointed. WOW, this was great! I still feel a little thrum of satisfaction when I think about how I felt when I finished it and set it down.

It's a mystery set right around the time that Prince Albert dies--and the mystery deeply involves the royal family. It's VERY suspenseful and VERY good. I highly recommend it.

My only criticism, and this point is here because I always consider whether or not I would recommend a book to my mother, is that I think too many people died. There was one person in particular who died that shocked me and I felt like that person did not need to die and also that the impact of that death wasn't sufficiently felt by the main character through the rest of the book.

Just so you know. But it was SO GOOD! =)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love: one woman's search for everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia

Doesn't that title just grab you and suck you in?

I started hearing accolades of this book, by Elizabeth Gilbert, when it first came out about two years ago, and of course I knew I had to read it. Thanks to GoodReads, I managed to remember to request it at the library. And I absolutely inhaled it. It was touching, it was beautiful, it was spiritual, it was galvanizing, it was one of my favorite pieces of writing from this year.

My only criticism is that it's hard not to feel jealous of her exotic life and how everything turned out so amazingly for her for this book. But even that's not real, because of course my life is turning out perfectly for me as well. This is just exactly what I needed to read right now. Combined with that book I just finished about Zen parenting (Everyday Blessings), it helped me remember to take each moment at a time in a literal sense, and to let go of all my fears and anxiety. AND it was fun to read and made me want to befriend the author. Wow, just wow. Amazing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Everyday Blessings: the inner work of mindful parenting

This book, by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, has a lot of good things to say, but it's not exactly compelling reading. I found I had to wade through it, so it takes more time to review it as well. It seems like there's just a lot of wordage to accompany just a few simple ideas that I like, such as taking and accepting each moment as it is, and applying meditation practices to parenting.

So maybe it's a good book to sort of page through, especially if you're feeling stressed out by the parenting gig or if you're just generally anxious or tense or need some meditative peace in your life. But again, not so fun or easy to read, mostly due to a somewhat ponderous way of writing. A good addition to the parenting library, but it ranks pretty low compared to some others. But then again, it might come in really handy for some parents. It's your call.

Duchess:a novel of Sarah Churchill

This book, by Susan Holloway Scott, is just a piece of historical fiction that I picked up while running after James in the library. I made it all the way through it. It wasn't terrible. I hadn't read ANY historical fiction from the time of Queen Anne before, so that was interesting. But overall this book was just not my favorite. It gets a big "eh" from me. You might like it if you have a particular interest in that time period, and the style of writing is clear and easy to follow. Just eh.

Garden Spells

Am terribly behind in my book reviewing, so there's no way I can do these next few books justice. Short and sweet reviews are forthcoming.

First, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. My mom told me about this book she'd heard of, I can't remember where, and the author was from Asheville. So I Googled it, and then I added it to my library requests list, and then last week I got it. It was another quick read, I think I read it all in an afternoon, and I just loved it. It was so good-hearted and cozy. Very Southern. A little big Practical Magic, but waaaaaaaaay better. It's about two sisters and their complicated relationship, a small southern town with several colorful characters, and a magical apple tree in a garden full of unusually influential herbs (which also reminds me of Simply Irresistible...but waaaaaay better).

It wasn't exactly an earth-shaking, mind-blowing masterpiece, but it was sweet and lovely.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fearless Fourteen

This is the latest in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I read it today during James' nap, and it was helpful, after reading The Book Thief, to have something very light and fluffy to read.

It was typical Plum fare, but I have to say, I sort of feel that this series is dead in the water...or something. Nothing happens anymore! And what happened to Valerie and her little circus?

Overall, I think I'm a little bit over it. Or at least I am until the movie comes out. =)

The Book Thief

Wow. This book (by Markus Zusak) was stunning. It was wonderful, imaginative, heartbreaking, gritty, and just hands-down an amazing book.

Did I mention I liked it a lot?

Oh yeah, and it's a book about a young girl in Nazi Germany, and it's narrated by Death.

And it seems like someone told me this was a young adult fiction book, but trust me that this book is completely appropriate for older readers.

I don't think I need to explain why it's a little bit of a hard book to read, emotionally, since you can imagine some of the reasons such a topic is not easy. But you also have to trust me that all the pain and suffering is worth it.

Read this book!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cheating Destiny

This book, by James Hirsch, is a book about diabetes. It's partly a history of the disease and its key players and discoveries, and also partly a personal memoir, since Mr. Hirsh, and his brother, and his son, are all Type I diabetics.

It was fascinating, but also disturbing. In the end, I'm glad I read it but I had a hard time not finding it extremely pessimistic. There is a lot of darkness in this book, people, just be prepared for that.

And just for one example that I find disheartening: he has a chapter about learning from survivors, from those diabetics who've had long healthy lives, and he concludes that you should take credit for the good days and blame the disease for the bad days and just keep on truckin'. Then, after only a few more pages, he tells a story about a time his son had low blood sugar and about how it was all his (the author's) fault. HELLO!

Lots of stuff about how all diabetics have high blood pressure, all diabetics have heart disease, all diabetics yada yada yada. Excuse me? Not this diabetic. (And yes, I know he means eventually. Still, it's just not true. And it seems very pessimistic and not right to me.)

So it bothered me in that way. But it was very well-written, stylistically, and gripping, and interesting, and contained a lot of information about this disease. For example, did you know that diabetic fathers are much more likely to have diabetic children than diabetic mothers are?

Me either.


Virgin is a novel about the early life of Elizabeth I, written by Robin Maxwell.

You know how some historical fiction is well-written and interesting and intellectually stimulating, and some of it is all, "Nay, my lord, come hither, know you not that 'tis I that pineth for thee?"

Yeah, this was more of the second than the first.

HOWEVER! That is not because it was not historically accurate. In fact, I think it was quite accurate. It was just the author's use of cheesy-romance-novel-descriptive language that turned me off a bit. And it really wasn't THAT bad. I have definitely read much worse.

And I found the afterword fascinating. The author lays out what respected historical authors have to say about this period and then picks their arguments apart. It really made me want to be her friend. So I may pick up a couple of her other books just to see what she offers me next. ;)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


This is my latest finished Neil Gaiman book, although it was written before the last two I read. So, while it was amazing and delightful and a smashing good read and the best adult fairy tale I've come across, I found I could tell his writing has gotten more sophisticated in American Gods and Anansi Boys. Or maybe he just decided to take on a more sophisticated storyline, or something. What I mean is that the story this time was less unpredictable. But still, calling Neil Gaiman predictable is like calling Ernest Hemingway flowery, so yeah.

And I can't wait to see the movie. And it was wonderful.

Also of note, this one took less mental power to read. I didn't have to pay as much attention or draw as much on my outside knowledge as I did for the other two I'd read, if that makes sense. This is neither criticism or praise, just a straight-up fact that it's a fairly easy read.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Remember Me?

This is Sophie Kinsella'as latest book, so yes, Mom, it is incredibly self-absorbed and you probably wouldn't like it. I really couldn't stand her "Shopaholic" series because of that aspect, and the general stupidity of the character (why, why, WHY would you bankrupt yourself for 500 pairs of shoes? Argh!), but I liked Can You Keep a Secret and The Undomestic Goddess (her non-series books) okay. Like this book, they're just very light, completely easy reads. No crazy drama, no stirring of emotions, definitely would be qualified as "chick lit" even though I hate the idea of that category.

So. It's about a girl who has an accident and can't remember the last 3 years of her life, in which she's had huge changes in her life that she doesn't understand. But. It's anything but deep. And I think it took me...two hours? to read. It was fun but nothing particularly special--just what I was looking for after the difficulty I had sticking with Songs Without Words. Definitely recommended for those who want to read and be entertained without having to use much energy or brainpower to do it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Songs Without Words

A few years ago I read The Dive From Clausen's Pier, by Ann Packer, and wasn't really sure how I felt about it. I would've given it a mixed review if I was reviewing books back then. So when I saw that Ms. Packer had a new book out, I thought I'd pick it up and try again. First of all, I almost gave up on it. It just took SO LONG for me to become even REMOTELY interested in the characters and the storyline. The only reason I kept going was because my mom was reading it at the same time I was and said it did get interesting at some point.

For me, that point was when I realized how much I could connect the pattern of friendships in my life to the one depicted in the story. So, Ms. Packer gets points for some true insights into the way a friendship can work and change over time, and especially how often the responsibility for maintaining a friendship falls to just one of the friends. Also, it was valuable to me to see some of what might be going on on the other side of those kinds of situations.

Still, it was really hard for me to care about her characters. I just never felt like they were...alive enough, maybe. But again, I did end up liking it much more than I had expected. So, mixed reviews for Ms. Packer seems to be my general feeling. This had some value for me to read, especially at this point in my life, but the story itself seemed to me to be ultimately forgettable. So there you go.

Some true insights into the way a friendship can work and change over time. But it was really hard to connect with her characters, so ultimately forgettable.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Case for Make Believe

This book, by Susan Linn, is one of those that I think every parent, every educator, every person involved in the upbringing of children in our society, should read. Or at least this type of book: the kind that explains how some things really are good or bad for our children, and what we can do about. For example, the problems with consumer culture, and toys that we think are educational that actually stunt the imagination, and the loss of playtime that is crucial for mental, physical, emotional well-being.

So. Read it. But if you can't, here are what I consider the high points, taken mostly from pages 216-221 and edited slightly for blog-readability and to reflect my own emphasis:

Remember that:

--We buy our kids way too many toys.
--Toys linked to media programs can limit creative play rather than encourage it.
--When picking toys to encourage creative play, less is more. If it moves and speaks, it deprives children of opportunities to move and speak for it.
--Toys that can be used in lots of different ways and that promote open-ended play are great. But a block building kit that only builds one thing diminishes the creative value of playing with blocks.
--Babies don't really want or need electronic toys or TV characters. All the world's a toy to a baby.They'll fall in love with whatever creature is familiar to them, and generic creatures don't show up on candy wrappers--they aren't designed to sell you other products.
--You can find ways to take a shower and cook dinner and take car trips without using TV as a crutch, and then your children won't have to use TV as a crutch to be entertained.

--Build unstructured time into your children's lives so they can learn how to generate their own creative play.
--Give them chances to play on their own.
--If you allow children regular access to screen media, set limits on time and have scheduled screen-free time.
--Be conscious about your choices and remember that while TV, computer games, and web sites can be entertaining, most don't promote creative play (even if they say they do!).
--Invest, from infancy, in toys promoting open-ended play. Great suggestions at Honor your child's interest, but ideas include: blocks, toy doctor's kits, firefighter's hats, puzzles, and puppets.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


This book is the first in a relatively new Young Adult Fiction series by Stephenie Meyer. From what I've seen and heard, it is wildly popular--the new "it" book. And although I enjoyed it, I have to's not that great.

First of all, the story is about a high schooler named Bella who gets involved with a group of young vampires. I have to admit, I'm completely tired of the whole vampire theme, so I was afraid that would put me off, but surprisingly, the author's take on it was fairly engaging. But then Bella is supposed to be falling in love with this one guy, and I don't think I ever got an inkling of why she was in love with him except that he's beautiful and has a magnetic personality. In other words, her loooove has no basis in reality. Ah, teenagers.

My other major criticism has to do with the plot structure. The book starts out with a suspenseful teaser, a piece foreshadowing the lcimax of the book. But then you spend an enormous amount of time NOT getting to the point, and the entire thread of the story involving the climax is only introduced in the last 100 pages or so (out of almost 500). So that part felt rushed and very Deus Ex Machina.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading it and you can bet your buttons I'll be reading the rest of the series. It was just so easy to read and easy to follow and easy to predict, at least so far. And it wasn't boring or tedious. And since I've been seriously ADD about my reading lately, that's saying a lot.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Cobra Event

The Hot Zone is a book by Richard Preston about an Ebola threat in the U.S. as well as some other history of the disease, etc. It's a wonderfully thrilling public health book that I happen to own, so when I saw this book, also by Richard Preston, I thought I'd check it out. But it's fiction, so I only got halfway through it before deciding that the author got too graphic and out-there for my tastes. It's a fascinating story but I couldn't handle the autopsies, the grim deaths, etc. anymore. Just too much.

That being said, Mr. Preston is a good writer and I would strongly recommend any of his nonfiction, because I think it's all fascinating and he writes in a very exciting way. But don't read this foray into fiction if you can't stand the gross-out factor. Also, a lot of people die, so be prepared for that. I know when I'm not prepared, it's even worse to discover that little fact. Cheers!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Anansi Boys

Another Neil Gaiman book that I just loved. Stupendous, sublime, smashing, and all things wonderful. If you're going to read this one, you might want to start with American Gods since the two are loosely connected. But you don't have to. It stands quite beautifully on its own.

Also, if you've never heard of Anansi, you might check him out before you read it. Also not necessary but might enhance your experience a bit.

Wow. I can't wait to get my hands on another of Mr. Gaiman's works.

Oh, and word to the wise: one of the unusual and beautiful things about this book is that, unlike most popular modern fiction, every character is understood to be black by default, and you are therefore informed only if they are something else, such as white. A refreshing change from the norm and a meaningful social statement to boot. Amazing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I read A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth, both by Jane Hamilton, several years ago, and was wonderfully impressed by her writing abilities. My mother recently read her When Madeline Was Young and enthusiastically recommended it to me. So when I was at the library and saw this book among her works, I decided to try it, figuring it would be good.

Boy, was I wrong. I don't know if this book is really good or not, but it is slow as molasses. It's about a high-school-aged boy who accidentally discovers his mother's affair, and about what is happening to the heart of his family at this point in their lives, but I just couldn't get into it. I wasn't connected to any of the characters and I didn't really care what would happen to them and I didn't really feel like anything really could happen to them or that the novel was actually going anywhere. I can appreciate the way that she crafts the boy's point of view, and I think it's especially clever how she lets him alternate between calling his mother many different names, since he's not sure how to view her and who she really is, but I just Did Not Like This Book.

So sad, really. I guess I'll have to steel myself to try When Madeline Was Young and just assume it must be better. And I can't imagine that it won't be, since I feel this one was pretty bad for me. At least at this point in my life. Boy, I really have a tough time saying a book is bad...but I also really think in this case it's half the book and half me, so I don't want to blame it for not suiting my tastes. Eh.

How to Talk so Kids Can Learn

This book is by Adele Ferber and Elaine Mazlish, famous for their book How To Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It is in the same vein, a parenting-advice-type book, just meant for both parents and teachers. I think it's great but I didn't really feel it was too different from HTTSKWL if you're the parent. That being said, I would LOVE to see teachers read and implement the book's ideas about how important it is to respect a child's feelings so he or she is emotionally ready to learn new information and such. Highly recommended, but again, sort of superfluous to their most famous book if you're the parent.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Unconditional Parenting

I can't believe I missed reviewing this book. This is one of those in my parenting top 10. It explains a way to parent that is not really practiced much here in the U.S. and it contains LOTS of research on the effects of different types of parenting skills on the children, which I think is great for those who feel the need to be, or can be, convinced by research, although of course there are plenty of problems with any kind of research and it also just appeals to my own common sense.

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to raise his or her child with a sense of respect for that child as a person, who wants to enable the child to reach his or her full potential and be unafraid of his or her abilities. It is also a must-read, in my opinion, for anyone who believes that "permissive parenting" is really the problem.

That being said, please note that there is a type of "permissive parenting" that is not helpful to children either, but mostly the problem is that parents do not respect children enough. We don't recognize their autonomy in ways that helps them grow, and we hold them to a much, much higher standard than is realistic in many cases, and definitely than we hold ourselves to.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Boleyn Inheritance

This book, by Phillipa Gregory, is a follow-up to The Other Boleyn Girl, a book I read several years ago when it first came out, and which has recently been made into a movie which is, of course, not nearly as good as the book. But I have to say, I liked this book much better than that one.

This tells the story of Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's fourth and fifth wives. Although the ending is tragic, as is to be expected if you know the historical details, it was a fantastic read. Everyone who knows me knows how much I *heart* Tudor England, and especially historical fiction involving Tudor England, so of course I follow Ms. Gregory's work. But this was the first of her books that actually made me think of the main characters in a way different from how I had thought of them before--especially Anne of Cleves, the Mare of Flanders. It was sort of feministastic, which is to say that it showed a very strong independent woman who managed to get through some very tough times. I had just never really considered before that after her marriage was over, she was still hanging around in England, and what that was like for her and for the other players in this drama. Thought-provoking and intriguing--now that's my kind of read!

Excellent stuff. Loved it!

Edited to include: As I was thinking further about this book and my review of it, I realized that I left something out. One teeny weeny little criticism I have is that I felt that the author repeated herself a few too many times. The book is comprised of three separate women's voices woven together to narrate the story, and it seems like she'd have Anne say something, then the next two people would narrate, and then when she got back to Anne, she'd have her say the exact same thing she said last time. Perhaps that's for emphasis, but it just seemed like that sort of thing happened a little too often for my taste, as I obviously hadn't forgotten about the first time I heard that line. Anyway. Just a very small insignificant little dinghy adrift in the sea of praise I have for this book. But I thought you should know. Consider yourselves warned.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Victoria Victorious

This one is a historical novel by, you guessed it, Jean Plaidy. I think I read every single one of her historical fiction novels when I was about 12. They're mostly about England, France, and Spain, from about 1300 to...well, the end of the Victorian Era. And there are maybe 70 of them. The girl obviously has talent.

Other than that, I'm not going to go into the story much. Suffice it to say that this is the only historical fiction novel actually focusing on Victoria's life that holds my attention. It's just such a long story! But good stuff.

The Queen Gene

This book, by Jennifer Coburn, is possibly one of the weirdest pieces of girlie lit that I've ever picked up. If it really is girlie lit. I'm not even sure. It certainly has several elements one can expect: a crazy dramatic self-centered mother with a purse-sized chihuahua, for one. The Junior League wearing their theme sweaters, for another. Gossip about the hot guy next door, also.

But there's also a ghost story, sort of. And some unusual story lines having to do with an 80-year-old lady and some women who take their clothes off for money. And just a bunch of random weirdness. It wasn't just completely a wreck, and I didn't hate it. But it sure was weird. Eh.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

American Gods

I LOVED this book. But it is very strange. Even more so than The Thirteenth Tale. I think you have to be in a certain mood to read this. The words that come to mind when I try to describe it are Strange and Mighty.

The book, by Neil Gaiman, centers on a recent prison parolee named Shadow, who becomes the focus of a war in America. The war is between the Old Gods of America and the New. The Old include all the creatures and spirits that people brought over to America with them when they immigrated here: their versions of Odin, Anansi, the Queen of Sheba, The Zorya, etc. The New include things like Technology, Media, Credit, etc.

It is brilliant, but also disturbing. NOT a PG read. The strangest little piece of this book as far as I'm concerned is the part about a goddess (Bilquis) whose girl parts actually eat men. Just so you know.

So now that you know that, if you want a very intelligent, thought-provoking, uniquely fun and entertaining and intriguing read, go for it! It was one of the best books I've read recently, and I'm planning to get my hands on another Neil Gaiman book in the near future.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Third Circle

Oops. I promised American Gods but forgot I read this book in the middle! Ha ha.

This is just the latest Arcane Society romance mystery by Amanda Quick, aka Jayne Ann Krentz, read in the very short time between yesterday evening and this morning. (Edit: that was last Friday.) I saw it in the "new arrivals" section at the library and figured I deserved another quick and mindless fun Victorian era read. I just can't pass up a book whose first line is Late in the reign of Queen Victoria...

It was good but not great, and completely unsurprising. I enjoyed it. The End.