Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday flops- unfinished edition

I've recently started a new writing job that helps keep me busy. Because of that, I've had to become more selective in the books I keep reading. I'm finally beginning to allow myself to stop reading if I'm not enjoying it. Here are recent books I decided to put down.
Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros - Honestly, I thought I would love this. I'm really getting into Twitter myself so I was excited to read it. It just didn't click.

Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee- I was also really excited for this one. It reminded me of Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot, which I loved reading back when it came out in 2004. I just didn't feel a connection with the girl. I didn't even get past the whole online dating thing where her and the guy (I don't even remember their names) first "meet."

Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay- I know, I know, I mentioned the Dexter series on the blog just about a month or so ago and said I was enjoying them. I've changed my mind. I stopped in the middle of the third book. It was already getting redundant, and I was especially getting sick of hearing "darkly dreaming Dexter,"  and "devoted Dexter." I was listening to it while I worked at the library, so it's telling that I stopped listening. It's bad enough I stopped halfway through a shift and just listened to music instead since I didn't have another book ready. I'm hoping the TV series is better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NurtureShock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

8 out of 10: This book is one of my favorite "parenting" books. I read it when it came out in 2009 because I had read the article the first chapter is based on and because I have really enjoyed Po Bronson's works. Reading his book What Should I Do With My Life? made me change my mind about a nursing career, and Why Do I Love These People? made me realize all families are messed up to an extent and not just my own. Anyways, I read it when Brayden was an infant, and decided to reread it now that he is a toddler. I chose it as April's book for the book club I am in. It's interesting because when I read it the first time, I definitely focused on the chapter about language development and how to increase it in infants and toddlers. This time, the chapter on the importance of sleep was what hit me the most. The other two women in the book club have children a little bit older than Brayden, so they really liked the chapter on a preschool method that has been very successful in teaching self-control.

I reviewed it on my personal blog back in 2009:

This book is about modern parenting and how we might have some things very wrong.

Praise- Parents want to praise their children, of course. And they are likely to praise them for being smart. That, it turns out, can have some negative effects. Kids who are told they are smart so fear losing that label that they are hesitant to tackle subjects they don't feel as comfortable in. On the other hand, kids are who praised for their effort in a test or subject will work that much harder to grasp new subjects.

Sleep- Many current experts blame television for the recent spikes in obesity levels and ADD/ADHD diagnosis. Science is showing that a loss in sleep might be a more determinant factor. Kids now get about an hour less sleep than they used to. The science has shown that kids need that sleep. Obesity levels would go down, grades would go up, etc.

Racism- Most parents are of the opinion that you shouldn't draw attention to racial differences. However, studies show that racial differences are obvious to children as young as 6 months of age. Children categorize everything, it's just what they do. So if you don't talk about race, they are going to categorize anyways. Most parents avoid the topic of race until third grade, but the science is now showing that there is a good window of opportunity around first grade to have your children understand and accept these differences more readily.

The rest of the book is great too. There's a chapter on the absurdity of defining kids as gifted in kindergarten (thereby closing that door to late bloomers, of whom there are many). There's a chapter on siblings and how younger siblings are not necessarily better socialized as we used to think because they learn poor social skills from their elder siblings just as much as good social skills.

The writing makes scientific and technical information easy to grasp. And even if you don't agree with all of it as it regards to parenting, at least it got me thinking about the whys of parenting more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top Ten Fictional Crushes

This week's Top Ten meme from The Broke and the Bookish is a rewind meme- a chance to do one you missed the first time around. Since I haven't been doing this long, I had a lot of choices. I chose to name my top fictional crushes.

Logan Bruno from The Baby-Sitters Club- He was my very first fictional crush. Since I was so shy, just like Mary Anne, I loved her character in the books AND her boyfriend.

Nick Zsigmond from My Girl 2- I know, I know... this is a movie, not a book. He's still fictional, and this is my list. I watch this movie SO many times.

Dave the Laugh from the Georgia Nicolson series- What can I say? I go for the funny guys.

Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird- He's an amazing parent. Plus Gregory Peck plays him in the movie, and he's really handsome.

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice- Love, love, love. It doesn't hurt that Colin Firth played him in the BBC version. Just think about the lake scene and thank me later.

Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars- Logan is the ultimate bad boy redeemed. His first kiss with Veronica is tied for my favorite on-screen kiss.

Tom Lefroy from Becoming Jane- Tom and Jane's kiss in the woods is my other favorite on-screen kiss. I love the actor James McAvoy. Love. I love him to the extent that while I am not a fan of X-Men, I will be seeing the next X-Men movie just because he is in it.

Captain Jack Elliot from These Is My Words- He's so devoted that he helps Sarah through her labor when it was not the norm for the father to even be present, much less the main support.

Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series- I love his character in the books- he's funny, loyal, and a romantic at heart.

Will Schuester from Glee- I've loved him from the beginning. Honestly, he looks like the high school teacher I had a crush on when I was in high school. The singing and dancing doesn't hurt either.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford

7 out of 10: This book was an quick and entertaining read. If you love to cook or blog, you'll like this book. This book tells the story of a recent divorcee who decides she needs to learn how to cook and starts a blog all about her adventures in the kitchen. She always ordered takeout with her ex, but can't afford it anymore and decides to reclaim her life through her kitchen. If this book sounds familiar, it should. It's definitely got a Julie and Julia feel to it.

Melissa Ford, the author is a popular blogger herself. I didn't look up her blog until I finished the book. I probably should have sooner, because I felt like I was reading her story. No sirree, she just writes good fiction.

Thanks to netGalley and Bell Bridge Books for the advance copy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

9 out of 10: This might be my favorite dystopian of 2011, and y'all know I read a ton of them. It is a dystopian in the sense that the outlook for the world is bleak. If things don't change, the world will really end. Here's the summary from Goodreads:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

I was hooked from the very beginning. The modern science mentioned in the summary is basically vaccines and cures to various diseases, including cancer. I never paid much attention to medicine and vaccines before I had my son, but I've since become aware of much of the controversy surrounding them. That made the premise of the book very interesting to me. It explores the somewhat extreme idea that "cures" are not always a good thing.

And then there's the polygamy. Well, I know a lot about polygamy because of my religious background. Ones of the reasons the early LDS people practiced polygamy was to build up their population, which is exactly what is happening in the world of Wither.

I loved the characters. Rhine is a strong lead. Her relationship with her husband, sister wives and her attendant are all complex. I still can't get over how well written the characters are for her husband and sister wives. They are all a part of this crazy world, so in reality the reader shouldn't like them, but we do. They are victims just as much as Rhine is. Linden's father is very creepy, which makes me wonder what's hiding under the surface to show up in the next books.

Honestly, Wither and Matched are the only dystopias lately I have read where I am left wanting more, happy more is coming. You won't read me complaining about trilogies in this review, thank goodness. On a superficial note, I think Wither and Matched are also my favorite covers I've seen recently, but in different ways. Wither is simply beautiful, and I love the graphics of Matched.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies

Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner- I realize it would have a Western feel to it, and I don't normally like Westerns. However, I would love to see Jack and Sarah's love story on the screen.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart- Fun and feminist. That is all.

Looking for Alaska by John Green- Really, I'd love to see any of his books made into movies.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin- This or Extraordinary- my two favorite Werlin books.

Room by Emma Donoghue- It would be a hard movie to watch, but so worth it. Love this book.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood- One of my favorite dystopian novels on the screen? That would be awesome.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano- Another great dystopian novel, actually similar to The Handmaid's Tale.

And for my last three... book to movie adaptions already in the works that I simply cannot wait to see:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2) by J.K. Rowling- I am so excited to see this, but I will also be sad when it's over.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett- Loved the book, and I love Emma Stone (she'll be playing Skeeter).

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- I know some people have complained about the casting, but I think the actors appear to be more talented than another extremely popular movie (coughcough::twilight::coughcough).

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Rhythm of Family by Amanda Blake Soule

When I saw this book on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. I read and love the author's blog SouleMama. Just like her other two books, it was an enjoyable read. The author lives a very idyllic life in Maine. I wish I could go stay with them for a month. I could get reacquainted with sewing and learn to knit.

Many of the projects and activities explored in the book aren't feasible for me right now, given my knowledge and where I live. That's okay. I will take what I can from the book, and try to make small changes to slow down the rhythm of my family.

On a child's work: "And suddenly this time- thankfully, this time- I look back to her playing and it becomes clear. I see the fact that I nearly forgot in the details of my day, perhaps the most important thing to remember of all on these busy days of family life: Her work is to play. It is the most important work my little ones can be doing."

One project I'm going to try is to write a manifesto for each season. She displayed their winter manifesto and it contained things like make stuff, follow the sun wherever you find it, and "get out of Dodge." I have made a summer checklist before, but I think this would be more meaningful and less stressful.

Her husband says "The spirit of my own children reminds me to keep alive that spark of inquisitive learning and constant probing into the unknown." To go along with this idea, they have an "I Wonder Why" board in their kitchen where the family can tack a question onto a little cork board. I think that's a wonderful idea... especially when the "why" questions seem never-ending.

I also got excited about hikes, picnics, baking everyday oat bread (note: copy the recipe before the galley expires), and trying to be more mindful even if that means some things don't get done. And lest I get down on myself:

"The reality is that none of us are super heroes, and that incorporating creativity, slow and mindful living, and seasonal celebration into our daily lives takes practice."

Thanks to netGalley and Shambhala for the advance copy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

There is no way I could rate this. I'm having a hard time even thinking of what to write in my review. I'll start with a summary. A virus has rendered almost everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, leaving a world where adults who want to be parents have to pay teens to conceive, carry and deliver their child. Yes, conceive. I'll get back to that later on. Melody and Harmony are sixteen-year-old identical twins who were adopted out into very different families and lives. Melody was raised in a town called Otherside by parents who had an idea of what was coming and because of that, have been grooming Melody to be a RePro. That means she has a rep to find her a conception partner and adoptive parents. Harmony, on the other hand, was adopted into a religious Amish-like family in a community called Goodside set apart from the rest. When Harmony finds out about Melody, she sets off to try to convert her and bring her home with her.

I had a hard time getting into it at first, and I'm seeing other reviewers did as well. If you think usage of slang in our world is a bit much, just wait until you read Bumped. RePro, Fertilicious, Pro/Am Pregg Alliance, etc. Once I got used to it, some of it made me chuckle.

This book is being classified by many as a dystopian novel, but I just don't know about that. No wars, no natural disasters, and no violations of civil rights. In my opinion, it's a light dystopia. It does have the disease threatening to eradicate humankind like many other dystopias do, but the book is so light-hearted it's hard to remember that. It's mild because the society has found a way around it, and hardly anyone except the religious folks minds it.

This is a dystopia dealing with reproductive rights, and because of that I liked it. It had ironic political snubs like "it's shocking to think that the government would try to stick its nose in our ladyparts." My absolute favorite was "We shouldn't be using hardworking American taxpayer dollars to pay Americans to pregg because pregging is patriotic and America is the greatest nation under God, so God bless America and Americans," a quote by the Fox and Freedom Party. You've got to love the snub on Fox. Well, you don't have to. But I do. I think I'm drawn to dystopias about reproductive rights because that's it's something I'm passionate about, and I'm also in the having kids of my own phase. It's become so important to me that women have the same choices I've been able to have about when to have a child, how to have that child, etc.

At that same time, I don't know if a teenager would get the same things from it that I did. They're more in the dating and falling in love phase, so I think dystopias like Delirium and Matched are good for them. Teenage pregnancy is obviously glamorized in Bumped. It would have to be in a world where only teens can get pregnant. Because of how teen pregnancy is treated, I would hesitate to recommend this to teens, especially younger ones. Plus, Harmony has a little bit of a Margery Kempe moment, and while awkward for everyone, I know it would be worse for a teen.

I will say the book was just as thought-provoking as other dystopias, even without all the tragedy.

P.S. This book is definitely the first of a trilogy or series. By the way, what is up with that?! Being a trilogy is not a requirement for dystopia!! And yes, I know I mentioned this in my review of Delirium, and I probably will again (I'm reading another first book in another dystopia trilogy).

Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins for the advance copy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie

8 out of 10: As a parent researching the future educational choices I will have to make for my child(ren), I really enjoyed this book. It feels like it was written for me. Brayden isn't even two yet, but I think about his education on a regular basis.

This book doesn't give definite answers and I think that is why I loved it. The book is the story of "a mother and daughter's uncommon year." This woman has three daughters, and she decides to homeschool her oldest daughter for her fifth grade year. I think that idea of flexibility is good. Her other two daughters were doing fine in school and were happy, but Julia wasn't happy. I like the concept of being open to what is best for your child. In all my talk of homeschooling, Adam is most receptive when I mention a one year period of RVing and homeschool. Likely won't happen, but it is one of our dreams.

I dogeared so many pages of quotes from this book.

-On the drudgery of homework: " Today's public schools seem to have responded to the endless cry for "achievement!" by adding more worksheets to the homework pile. Math worksheets, grammar worksheets, bland spelling exercises. I wouldn't mind the work if it seemed more interesting- if Julia were asked to try a fun science experiment, or to walk outside and compose a poem about the sounds in her yard. What rankles is the monotony of colorless paper, the columns of equations and fill-in-the-blank history."

-On homework and achievement: "In the elementary grades, studies show that the link between homework and academic achievement is minimal at best- its impact grows in middle and high school."

The author quotes her daughter at the beginning of one of the chapters, giving a good example of things being taught in the wrong way or wrong order: "School is all about copying the teacher. I mean, I've been saying the pledge of allegiance for six years, and I only learned what "pledge" meant one year ago."

Brodie tells the story of when she introduced Arabian Nights to her daughters. I didn't know this, but the story's roots are in classical music. She played the music for them, telling them the story, and that led to checking out an illustrated version of the story and to geography lessons about Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. She says: "This is homeschooling at its best- a constant segue from music history, to literature, to geography, to contemporary politics. It can take place anywhere, at almost any time, even with a carload of children driving home from the regular school."

She doesn't claim it went perfectly, though. She explains she still lost her temper sometimes when Julia couldn't focus. And she fell into some of the traps of public schools- like memorization of facts children don't use on a regular basis. She helped Julia memorize state capitols with a game before realizing that Julia had no idea where the most important city of a state is (i.e. Chicago over Springfield).

What hit me the most was this: "In her book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, Judith Warner describes how today's mothers have become a generation of control freaks, frantically prepping children to get their piece of a shrinking American pie, rather than taking political action to ensure that there is enough pie to go around."

Why did this hit me? Because it is me. I am so caught up in making sure Brayden is on track developmentally- comparing him to other children- and I have been since his birth. Even now I feel guilt if I hear that a child his age can do something he can't do. I feel like it's my fault and that I am failing him as his mother. After reading this book, I have more faith in myself to make the right choices for Brayden. I am his first teacher, right now. Whether he goes to public school or not is yet to be seen, but even if he does, Adam and I are his most important teachers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond

5 out of 10: The Pioneer Woman has gathered a huge following, mostly due to her recipes. I've enjoyed a few of them myself. She's published a cookbook, and now the story of meeting and falling in love with her husband.

Warning: only pick up this book if you are in the mood for some cheese. Any other week, I would have put this book down. However, it ended up being a week I needed some fluff literature. I started writing for my new job, subbed at my other job twice, and dealt with kitchen renovations. I therefore somewhat embarrassingly admit that I enjoyed the book for what it was.

Think of your standard romantic comedy. It was just like one- everything is almost perfect. There are just a few pretend obstacles thrown in the way and they will of course work them out by the end.

And her writing, well, it was sure interesting. I've now heard enough description of her Marlboro Man and his sexiness to last me a lifetime. If you think I'm lying about all the lusty talk, here's a quote from her blog post about the book: "The book contains such themes as lust, upheaval, disappointment, reevaluation, death, passion, divorce, agriculture, manure, despondency, and childbirth…not necessarily in that order."

Plus, she mentioned something to the tune of "my ovaries burst with joy" a few too many times.

If you love romance, you will love this book. It did help me escape from a stressful week, so I shouldn't put it down too much. It was my chick flick for the week.