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. ;)