Sunday, May 24, 2009

Building Moral Intelligence: the seven essential virtues that teach kids to do the right thing

This parenting book is by Michele Borba. It's a part of the La Leche League library, so I thought I'd check it out. But sadly, it's one of those dumb Scare Tactics books! Ugh.

It was like...

"Kids need to have more (fill in the blank virtue).

>horrific story about some kids who died because some other kids didn't have (virtue).<

Teach your kids (virtue) by telling stories about (virtue) around the dinner table every night!"

It just did NOT work for me. I don't agree with their general advice about how to teach your kids empathy, or whatever, a lot of the time either, but the clincher for me was those stupid fear-mongering death stories.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Garden of Fertility; Your Fertility Signals

The gold standard book for Fertility Awareness is Toni Weschler's Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I think a class on this should be taught to girls instead of that dumb "Welcome to adolescence, here's some deodorant" speech we got in my school. FA (fertility awareness) is all about knowing your body, knowing what's normal for you, and understanding what your body does, understanding how to get pregnant and how not to get pregnant, when you're healthy and when you're not. Doesn't that sound like vital information for girls? Yet I didn't hear about this, really, until after my first child was born. Thus: if you are a girl/woman, you should look into this! It's very empowering to not have your body be such a mystery anymore.

Anyway. So I read two more FA books recently; one was good, the other, not very helpful at all. The Garden of Fertility, by Katie Singer, was an excellent addition to TCOYF, with lots more about how you can use your FA to gauge your own health, and about how things like diet can affect your fertility, and what you can do about it. I loved it. Your Fertility Signals, by Merryl Winstein, struck me as more of a "fertility for dummies" book, but the problem was, it tried to be short'n'sweet and just ended up being too vague, and slightly confusing. At least to me.

So if you're going to read just one fertility awareness book, and you're daunted by the immensity of TCOYF, definitely go for The Garden of Fertility. If you just need a quick refresher or just want the absolute bare bones, you could try the other one, but it seemed much less helpful to me.

Either way, if you haven't read a book about FA, then please do!

Adventures in Tandem Nursing

I read this book, by Hilary Flower, for professional interest reasons, mostly, and I thought it was very good. In case you aren't familiar, Tandem Nursing refers to nursing more than one child at once, generally, nursing your first baby through your second pregnancy and beyond. It's not something well-known in general in America, but that's because people who are nursing outside the norm tend to stay outside the public eye, since even someone nursing well inside the norm can be highly criticized in public.

This was a great resource book for someone who wants to help support nursing moms. If I were tandem nursing, I'd probably also just want to leave it lying around for naysayers to see and pick up, so they might just stop the criticism and realize that every family is just trying to do what's best for itself, and whatever ideas we have about nursing are just opinions and are very rarely scientifically based.

For example/Here's my disclaimer, obviously I have an opinion about these things:

1. When James was 6 weeks old, I was nursing him (discreetly, though that shouldn't really matter), in a rest stop and was given the evil eye by a woman eating with her teenage daughter. Then the manager came and very nicely (?) told me I couldn't do that here, even though I wasn't even doing it anymore. They don't know the law! And she didn't even care that I nursed, she just didn't want to scare off potential customers...and those customers "tattled" on me as they were leaving! UGH!!! Just awful.

2. One of my DOCTORS once told me that I couldn't possibly get pregnant again as long as I was still nursing. This is some of the worst advice EVER. Luckily I wasn't trying to AVOID pregnancy with this advice, because I can definitely tell you some stories about women getting pregnant while nursing, but most importantly, it is WELL-KNOWN that nursing does NOT prevent pregnancy, although it may impede it somewhat, up to some extent. Oh, ignorance. I fired that doctor for his many other incompetencies as well as that one.

Getting Lucky

This boo was featured in the "Oklahoma Writers" section of my library. It's by Marilyn Pappano, who is apparently from Sapulpa.

However, I feel that the author took her Southern roots and made them more acceptable by making the male protagonist from Georgia rather than Oklahoma. It's not that I think the characters have to be from the area you're from--not at all, there's this wonderful thing called imagination--but I was expecting an "Oklahoma read" and I got that whole Georgia-is-the-REAL-South experience instead. Kinda disappointing.

Also, this is a romance which takes place in Bethlehem, New York, and there are angels involved, and I realized about 2/3 of the way through this book that I had read a review for it somewhere before, but I don't remember where, so if you read this, let me know, so I can read your review again now that I've actually read the book.

It was not horrible. That's about the best I've got. The flow of words, the phraseology wasn't too bad; it was the stereotyping and overly predictable storyline that I disliked, really. But then again, I did keep reading! I also didn't like the fact that there was no hint of this being part of a series until I ended the book and most of the storylines were not finished. I hate that!

So. Another meh. Not terribly surprising.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Last Battle

This is the final installation of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. For me it was probably my least favorite. Almost all of the rest was good reading, good stories, good action, good imagination, but I felt, sadly, that this one turned into more of a dogmatic preachy book and less of a good story. I was sad. I was hoping he could hang on to the wonderful imagination and storytelling skills most of the other books have, but I just didn't feel like he did. I feel a little let down, actually, like he dropped the ball of the story on his way to writing out his religious beliefs.

Then again, many people love this whole series and probably love this book too. I enjoyed specific books in the series much more than others, and this was one I didn't particularly enjoy. Too bad.

If You Could See Me Now

This book is by Cecelia Ahern, also the author of the book-turned-sappy-movie P.S. I Love You. It was recommended by a friend after I read the debacle known as Sundays at Tiffany's. This book is also a romance novel about an imaginary friend, and it also, in my opinion, falls flat on its face.

This one was MUCH better than You-Know-Which. There was not a lot of dumb smarmy stereotyping going on. I didn't have to read all about the girl worrying about her weight, or the guy who loves to watch Oprah. (Can you tell that story still gags me?) The plot of this book was actually sensible--it just was NOT developed to its full potential. I felt like the story needed a LOT more fleshing out than it got. There were some characters that could have been part of the story, but instead it felt like they were just thrown in as a device to take the story in a certain direction. The connection between the protagonist and the imaginary friend felt too hurried, unreal in more than an "I'm an imaginary friend" sense. None of the threads the novel presented were eventually tied off or even really taken anywhere. It's sad, too, because it felt like it could've been pretty good. But it wasn't, really. It felt like a first draft and it should have been much more heavily revised.

The Wife

Meg Wolitzer is a brilliant author. She can string a few words together and lo and behold, the most beautiful sparkly shiny sentence appears. (For the record, I'm sure she would say the process is a little more complicated.) But anyway, I love to read her books and I don't really care what they're about. The prose is just delicious. So of course I enjoyed reading this book.

However--I have to say the plotline here was sadly unsurprising. It's about a 1950s couple, a smart young lady at college and the professor-turned-author she falls in love with, and the woman is looking back over her life, and she is fairly bitter. Not entirely bitter, but bitter in that she knows exactly what she's missed out on by being a woman, the ways she was restricted by being born when she was, etc. She paints you a picture of her life and most of the women in it are stifled, unfulfilled in some way, and she is bitter about it. Also, I had heard it had a "surprise" ending, but I don't see how THAT could be considered much of a surprise. I saw it coming from the beginning. But I guess it might help if you were warned there was a surprise? I don't know but I was unimpressed with that part of it.

Loved the prose. The plot was not my favorite. But the things she has to say about 1950s housewives ring true. Sad but true.

Now I'm off to find more Meg Wolitzer to read.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What I Did For Love

Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Sometimes she is good, sometimes, not so much. This one was meh. Not her best but not her worst. I read it a couple weeks ago and at this point I can barely remember what it's about. Two TV stars who hated each others' guts when they worked on a famous TV series together are thrown back together and of course they fall in love. Oh, yeah. That's it!

I really liked SEP's series of footballer romances, which is weird to say out loud, but some of the rest of her stuff was too tragic and then BAM happy ending and that didn't ring true to me. This one is right in the middle....not as interesting and fun as the ones I liked, but it didn't leave a sour taste in my mouth either. As I said, meh.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Think Like a Pancreas

This is a book that I somehow thought came highly recommended. It's by Gary Scheiner, and it seems to me like it's been on all the lists of Books Diabetics Should Read, but eh, it's kind of vague to me now where exactly I got that advice.

Not that this is a bad book or anything. It seems eminently useful. It's just that it's sort of cheesy and the beginning is, well, for...beginners....and, to sum it up, I only got to about p. 100.

I will probably regret this, and check it out again later. But first I do have to work through my diabetic-hangups, the biggest of which is that I feel like I've already got the sum total of information I can handle when faced with making 80 billion decisions a day and I don't really want to have to factor more stuff in. But I will get through that, because the payoff should be well worth it. I have been feeling horribly terribly awfully run over by my D lately and I am ready for a change.

So I'll suffer through the cheesy man-jokes and milk this book for all the great things I'm sure it can give me. Some other day.

If on a winter's night a traveler

Wow. Just wow.

This is apparently a famous book by Italo Calvino, written circa 1979, but why the heck hadn't I heard of it before this year? It is an amazing ode to writing and reading. The experience of reading this book is like no other, and I loved it. It's very complex, very clever, intensely engaging. The structure of the book is just brilliant.

That being said, some of the short stories inside the novel were somewhat odd, perhaps slightly disturbing, but really no big deal compared to the wow factor. This is a great book if you love to read. It is like a love song written to readers everywhere. Be prepared to sit back and get taken for a very entertaining and lyrical ride. Excellent!

The Sugar Queen

I love Sarah Addison Allen. I picked up her first book, Garden Spells, about a year ago, because I heard about her locally (she's from Asheville, NC), and my mom said she thought her books sounded interesting. Well, they did not disappoint! That one and this, The Sugar Queen, are both just magical, and I mean that in a literal as well as figurative sense. The writing just draws you in and the world the characters live in is just a little more full of magic than the one you and I might think of. The author's style is "magical realism" so the story is not focused on the magic, but is a well-written story in which you get so caught up in the characters you love and the writing is so good that the extra little bits of magic that happen to be present just enhance the story perfectly, instead of being cheesy or taking the whole thing over. I liked GS better than TSQ but really, they're both great. I can't wait to read another by this author.

Friday, May 1, 2009


This book is by Gail Carson Levine, the author of Ella Enchanted. I really enjoyed both that book and the movie adaptation (although of course the movie is very different from the book), so I picked up Fairest on my way through the YA section. Seems like I've been going there a lot lately. Something about books that are easy to read but still fun and interesting and not over quite as fast as, say, a Bruce Coville, although of course I do love him too.

Anyway. Fairest. It was good but I didn't enjoy it as much as Ella Enchanted. I definitely enjoy this author's take on feminist issues and being your own person, being true to yourself and loving the skin you're in and so on and so forth. I think these are great books for a teenager's bookshelf...and pretty good for mine too!

Dairy Queen

This is a book I picked up as I was passing through the young adult section (looking for the rest of The Luxe series, actually). It's about a high school girl who works on a farm and knows a lot about football. It was a VERY easy read, and I liked it. The voice of the narrator, the girl, is very adolescent and...somewhat simplistic compared to a lot of YA books I've read, but I actually thought that added to it...these were not the thoughts of an adult writing a book for teens, these were the thoughts of the teen!

The story did not really end up being anything like what my 5-second impression of it at the library made me think it was going to be, but I liked it anyway. Wholesome, simple, quick, YA fun.

Blushing Pink

Jill Winters romance. I never read her before and I probably won't again. It was cheesy, it was badly edited (she sees her love interest sitting in a booth, has to scoot in next to him, and then...wait a minute! Now she's about to cross the room to go sit by him. What?), and it was pretty boring and cliche. It just didn't have a lot to recommend it.

On the other hand, I didn't hate it. I just didn't have much use for it either. Eh.

Getting Rid of Bradley; Bet Me

Jennifer Crusie. Gotta love her. I don't think I ever read a book of hers I just outright disliked. I'd already read Bet Me, and it's probably my second-favorite of hers (after Welcome to Temptation); Getting Rid of Bradley was new to me, but actually one of her older ones, and it was still good Crusie fun but not anywhere close to being MY favorite of hers. They're just romances that are well-written, have GREAT dialogue and actually have interesting fun plots and I just completely love Crusie's writing style. Highly recommended, although like I said, Bet Me is way up at the top of my favorites list and Bradley was fairly low. But low for Crusie is still far better than your average "good romance." Seriously.

Song of the Wanderer; Dark Whispers

These are young adult novels by Bruce Coville, the second and third books of the Into the Land of the Unicorns series.

I read them about a month ago and still haven't reviewed them...crap! I just realized the other day that it's been almost a month since I reviewed ANY books at all...and of course I've read 10 or something, so I have a major backlog. Thus, short reviews! Sorry. What can I say, buying a house is crazy-making!

Anyway. Unicorns. The middle book (Wanderer) was actually better than the third. It just seemed more like a complete book on its own, whereas Whispers was this big huge book where not much really happened. Plus, I'm worried because that one just came out in 2008, I think, which is TEN YEARS after Wanderer was published....Thus, I hope I don't have to wait ten more years to get to finish the story!

They're good fun, though. I bet in a couple more years we'll be reading them with James. I love Bruce Coville. When I was a kid he was one of my idols. And he's still darn good! =)