Oregon, Portland, Writing

Oh My Portlandia

Husband and I recently completed a six week birthing class at our birth center here in Portland, and more than anything it made me realize that we are just living in an extended, never ending episode of Portlandia. Bumper stickers everywhere implore us to Keep Portland Weird. I don’t think we really need to worry about Portland losing any of its weirdness. Just this past week, as we were driving down our main street, in our little slice of weird Portland, we passed a woman who was waiting for the bus with a turtle in a cat carrier and a trio of wandering musicians: one wore tight pink pants and beat on a little kids drum, the second carried a sign around their neck asking for money to support musicians, and the third beat on a cowbell.  Portland.

Then a couple of weeks ago my mom and I went to check out a reflexology massage place in the Alphabet district. We were given foot massages by a husband and wife team—a duo straight from a Portlandia sketch. The husband held different bottles of essential oils against my feet to see which one my body resonated with. That time it was frankincense, the time after that it was lemon, and last week it was a blend that had spruce in it—I believe it was called Balance. Anyway turns out the couple also writes a blog about all of the feet that come through their door.

Not to mention that every single clip I have watched of Portlandia, I am able to find something identifiable: put a bird on it, the male feminists, the raw milk hippies, the tiny home dwellers. But our birthing class has been  over the top—every week. We learned a lot and met some very neat couples, as well as getting to know one of our midwives a lot better. A. LOT. BETTER.

We knew things were going the way of Portlandia when we took our seats among the seven other couples in the room. It was a little surprising to look around and see that EVERYONE in the room was white with brown hair. I mean everyone was brunette and there was a lot of flannel and moccasins. There was even a couple who live in a school bus—a love bus I believe is what they call it. But they were pretty tame compared to the final couple who walked in.

They were a little late, a little younger than myself, and both wearing wolf tails—wolf tails attached to their derrieres. They had taken the bus to get to the center, and when they took their seats on the other side of the circle from us, they both gingerly moved their tails in order to sit down.

That was only the beginning. I am pretty sure Mr. Wolf Tail was high whenever he was in class, or he was just really spacy and VERY overly communicative. Everyone listened intently as the midwife talked us through the anatomy of birth, but none of us felt the need to verbally signal that we were tracking what she was saying–except Mr. Wolf Tail. He could not help but nod in agreement with really any point the midwife said, but he carried it a step further by continuously saying things like: interesting, I agree, yes (not as a response to a question), okay, etc.

But the Wolf Tails were not the only Portlandia experience. The second birth video they had us watch was something else. It was of a Mexican midwife during the birth of her third child. The video opened with her talking about her husband, a Japanese sculptor, who was very in tune with the birth process due to the nature of his art. He would slowly, patiently carve his sculptures, giving birth to them as it where.

At one point the video, which goes from her early labor all the way through to her water birth, cuts away from her and her husband to a pair of mating dragonflies. Husband and I have talked it over and we aren’t really sure what that scene signifies. Were the couple having sex to help labor along and this was their classy way of showing it? Or was it just a representation of their love?

I really don’t know.

But it gets more interesting. The next scene showed pregnant momma walking forwards with her husband holding her hands and walking backwards. Her narration explains that she realized that when she was walking towards her husband it felt like her belly was swollen with their love, but when she ended up walking away from him it was physically painful, so his solution was to walk with her.

Watching the video with seven other pregnant couples was an interesting and slightly uncomfortable experience. I am pretty sure we all avoided eye contact. Especially when we learned that it was the mother’s father who did all the filming. Imagine your father—or for you men imagine your father-in-law—filming the birth of your child and all the beautiful, naked glory that it entails. I mean her birth ends in the bath tub with her naked with her naked husband, and then after the baby is born, the other two naked children climbed in. Now I have nothing against nudity, especially during childbirth, but I cannot imagine sharing that much with my father.

All of these very Portlandia experiences have me convinced that I would love to be a writer for the show, but I am pretty sure that is just the lazy part of myself speaking. EVERYONE who lives in Portland could contribute to the content of that show. It wouldn’t really take much talent or effort as just living here is enough to supply anyone with enough material for ten tv shows.

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Reading

February Reads

Well it took one whole month for my new years resolution to completely derail–one whole month and four seasons of Game of Thrones. Husband and I had never seen it before and we had just finished watching Battlestar Gallactica when our friends brought us seasons one and two of Game of Thrones. They had been telling us for a while that we needed to watch it and we finally listened. One episode and we were completely hooked. One episode and we spent the next three weeks powering through the four seasons. Husband and I had both become drooling, slobbering messes, watching at least two episodes a night. Now that there is no more to see, we frankly do not know what to do with ourselves.

Our evenings seem empty without Game of Thrones. I have even gotten around to picking up those things I think are called books and pawing through them as a cave man might. Needless to say I came no where close to reaching my February reading goal, but that was alright. I knew my new years resolution was a pipe dream anyway. The point is that I am back on the horse and have moved three bookmarks further into three different books. Progress–once again.

Here is the sadly short list of books I read in February:

This is the second book I have read by Anita Shreve and to be honest I just need to take her off of reading list. Everything about this book, and The Pilot’s Wife, was just alright: the writing was alright, the plot was alright, but nothing grabbed me. I found nothing compelling and I didn’t get anything out of reading her books. It wasn’t a page turner to make up for its lack of depth. It was lackluster at best. You all know that I have strong ideas when it comes to what books I should be reading. You only get to read so many books in this life. The number is finite, so why waste your time on anything other than amazing? This was not it.

If you have seen the movie, you have read the book. For the most part. I can’t say that it swept me off my feet, but I feel like it was an important read. Charles Webb does an amazing job of instilling a crushing sense of apathy in his characters. No one seems to really care about anything, as long as no one is embarrassed. As long as the façade looks flawless, who really cares about what is underneath.

I loved Moby Dick, but I found Billy Budd harder to track, harder to get into. It was still beautifully written, but I am afraid some of its deeper significance was lost on me. I don’t thing I really gave the book the attention it needs in order to really get it. Melville’s writing is complex, which anyone who has tried to ply their way through any of his books can attest to. I honestly believe his books are complex in a good way, but in this modern age where we expect literature (dare I call it that?) to be spoon fed to us it can sometimes feel like a chore to sit down and read something that has the meat still on the bone, so to speak.

I will always have a soft spot for Maeve Binchy after The Glass Lake and Circle of Friends. While the Scarlet Feather is no Circle of Friends, I still had a hard time putting it down. This book is just about ordinary people, going about their ordinary lives, and Binchy writes with such simplicity and warmth her books are always a pleasure to read. If you want something light and enjoyable, something that doesn’t make your soul feel dirty, or like you have wasted your time I cannot recommend her enough.

I love getting lost in Mccaffrey’s world of dragons. This one was a lot of fun because there is a lot of exploring of a hot, tropical island and since it is winter here, it was nice to think about swimming in pristine, warm waters and eating perfectly sweet, ripe fruit. These books are not great feats of literature, but they are very well written, fun, and worth the time. I should say worth your time if you like Sci-fi/Fantasy. I know some people do not go in for that sort of thing. I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t, but then again I have good taste when it comes to books ;-)

Much of what I wrote about the last book can be applied here, which is really no surprise considering they are in the same series. I didn’t realize that I was reading this one so far out-of-order. This is the 14th book in the series, while the White Dragon is only third. I can say that it stands alone well enough that if you haven’t read 1-13 you won’t be lost. At least I don’t think you will. This book was not as satisfying as books 1-3, which are the only other ones I have read in the Pern series. This moves further away from Sci-Fi.Fantasy in my opinion and would be better described as a political drama. While it was interesting and entertaining, it lacked a page turning quality that I feel McCaffrey’s books generally have.

That’s all folks! Hard to believe isn’t it. I have read something like 22 books since the start of the year and only six of them were in February. I don’t have a calculator on me, but what else did I get done in January? I do not know. Hopefully March will be a little better, but I will be having a baby here in March and I hear that tends to derail the best laid plans. First Game of Thrones and now a Baby.

Life just keeps getting in the way of my literary addiction.

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Pregnancy

Pregnancy Brain

I have no shame, and that is why I am about to share a couple rather embarrassing vignettes with you. In my 9th month of pregnancy, I can state that I have become an expert in the embarrassing, often inconvenient reality that is Pregnancy Brain. I capitalize those words because it is a real thing–a really scary thing. Did you know that the brain of a pregnant woman shrinks by a third. We don’t lose brain cells, everything just becomes more compact. The effect being that we lose memory function. I cannot remember where I learned this tidbit of information, but I can tell you that it was a credible source.

But I do not remember the source either.

Pregnancy Brain is a joke, a stereotype. And while I heard the joke for years, I didn’t really got it until I was living with it. Two years ago when Husband and I were out cake tasting in preparation for our wedding we ran across a pregnant baker. She was very nice, her cupcakes were amazing, and we ended up ordering our wedding cakes from her. Fast forward a month or two to when I had decided that our original order was not big enough, I went back to the order to add another couple dozen cupcakes to our bill.

Unfortunately the woman working the counter was not our pregnant baker, as she was now on maternity leave. This woman searched long and hard for our original order, but could not find it anywhere in their book. I was a little frustrated, but the woman promised me there was enough time before the wedding, that she would find the original and add what I wanted to it. It took her a couple of days of turning her books inside out, looking for our order, but she did eventually call me to let me know she had found it. It had just been erroneously filed, a phenomenon she contributed to our pregnant baker’s pregnancy brain.

So you see, even before I was pregnant I knew that Pregnancy Brain was real–or I at least knew that people would attribute any sign of forgetfulness or negligence to Pregnancy Brain. But like everything else, knowing and experiencing are different things. Like I promised, here are all the embarrassing things my poor, shrunken brain has subjected me to.

1. The Airport Incident

Husband had been out-of-town for about a week for work. He is a consultant for a tech company, and his job is to make his clients happy. He has about 5 enterprise level clients at anyone time, and he spends roughly one day a week on each client making sure they are getting what they need from him and his company. This is the least technical, most simplistic, dumbed-down version of what he does. Anyway he had been out-of-town for about a week in Minneapolis, or Milwaukee, I can’t remember which (I couldn’t even remember at the time where he had gone, though he did tell me) and I went to the airport to collect him. Besides not remembering where he would be flying in from, there were a lot of things I forgot before heading to the airport. I forgot to change my shoes, so I was wearing my house slippers. Thankfully they were the ones with the rubber soles. That was just luck. I forgot that he had flown out to wherever he had been with some executives from one of his larger clients. I forgot that when you fly out with people, you generally all fly back together. I forgot to change before I went to the airport, but while I was driving their I decided that it didn’t really matter that I was in sweatpants, slippers, a big puffy brown coat, which makes me look like a ridiculous, and unfortunately colored marshmallow, and that I hadn’t combed my hair all day. It didn’t matter because I was just meeting my husband, and while the Portland airport is small, it is still an international airport, and what does it matter if I walk around looking like a zombie mess?

And boy did I look like a mess, but I was excited to see Husband after a week, so I parked the car and headed inside to meet him at the security checkpoint. Now the airport was REALLY busy that night, so when Husband walked through security there was no room for a great and smooch, instead I just fell in step beside him, making our way to baggage claim. I said high of course, but then because I must have felt some semblance of shame over my appearance I started joking about how I looked. I believe I said something to the effect of how fetching I looked, how I knew he wanted to jump my bones right then and there. To his shame, he did not stop me. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know I talked about having sex in public because I was so ravishingly beautiful in my sweats, and slippers, and uncombed hair. He let me get ALL of that before turning to me and saying, “Honey I would like you to meet…” and introducing me to three top execs from one of his largest clients.

It was a proud moment for me. So proud in fact that I turned beet red while I shook all of their hands and tried not to notice that they were all barely containing their laughter. I then got to stand there with all of them as we waited for luggage. I will be waiting at the curb, in the car next time. Which turns out is what Husband would prefer. He said something about the ease of collecting his own bags and just jumping in the car, but I am suspicious that it is actually the fear of the real possibility that I will embarrass him.

2. The Toilet Paper Incident

I can’t believe I am even writing this, but like I said I have no shame apparently. I was over at my mother’s house, working or something. It was just me and her, and I was on my computer doing something productive I hope. I don’t actually remember. I had been going pee like every half an hour, just like every other day before and every day since. Anyway, we were both wrapped up in our own little tasks, when I realized that my butt itched. Like maybe I had a wedgy or something.

Warning: This is about to get graphic–not gross graphic. I promise everything was clean, but anyway. If you are my grandmother, maybe don’t read the next paragraph.

ANYWAY, I reached back to investigate this wedgy and instead of adjusting my underwear like I thought I would, I pulled out a wad of toilet paper. IT WAS CLEAN, but I cannot tell you how it got there. I have NO memory of putting toilet paper in my butt crack. It was not really a small wad of toilet paper either, it was a medium wad if we want to classify it. I sat at the dining room table, thankfully no one was eating, just staring at this artifact that I had excavated and wondered. To this day I cannot tell you how it happened. I have no memory whatsoever. It is a mystery, one my mother got a good laugh out of. This has happened one more time since. If I had any shame I would delete that last sentence.

3. The GroupMe App Incident

Husband and I decided that we are not going to post anything on Facebook, or any social media platform, until after baby is born. There will be no, “I am in labor,” announcement. But there are people who would like to know and would be respectful of our wishes, so I thought we would put together a group text for when we actually head over to the birth center. So we put a list together of some 30 names, mostly out-of-town family and friends, who would get a group text when things start happening. I then went through my phone and created a contact group. This took me about an hour as I was having some technical difficulty. Turns out my contacts were saving to three different platforms, which created some problems, anyway I don’t want to relive the details–it was all too frustrating the first time.

But when I was done, I was very proud that I had figured it out, so of course I went to brag to Husband. His response was less than enthusiastic. Turns out that he hates SMS for some stupid tech reason, and since I couldn’t share my contact group with him, he didn’t want to go through the hassle of sending one text through my phone. HIs solution was to use an app called GroupME.

I told him that he was being stupid and that I had already wasted to much time on this one stupid insignificant thing. He told me he would take care of it, and I told him that wasn’t going to happen because I knew he was too stressed and busy with work to do something like this. Which means I could have just left it there. I could have had things my way, because he would never have switched the contact list over to GroupMe, and when the big day same he would just have to use my phone.

But then I thought about how stressed he was at work, and how if this would make him happy I would suck it up and do it. It turned out to be more complicated than I thought. GroupMe, for some reason, would not load all the contacts I wanted, so I had to go in manually and add the 30 some people to the list manually.

This is where pregnancy brain comes in. I thought set the settings for the group, so I could add people without it sending out notifications. But that turns out not to be the case, so every time I added someone to the group, everyone I had previously added got a text message. There first people on the list got the most notifications, while those later on got fewer, and it wasn’t long before friends were texting back into the app asking if things were actually happening and then giving me crap for blowing up their phones.

Which I cannot really blame them. But I can blame pregnancy brain for how I handled it. I LOST MY SHIT. I shut down the app and haven’t opened it since (this was a week ago). I got irrationally mad at Husband for making go through all of this. The more I thought about what I had done, the more embarrassed I was. Not that I really had anything to be embarrassed about, but in my Pregnancy addled mind this was the end of the world. I couldn’t stand to be alone with myself I was so embarrassed, so I woke Husband up from his nap and made him come and cuddle me. That’s when I really lost it. I started blubbering like a little child and COULD NOT STOP. Poor Husband didn’t really know what to do, so he just held me and started making jokes at me expense.

He is a keeper.

He asked me if anyone had left the group, which is a very innocent question. Only one person had left the group, but it was my brother (which is no surprise) but somehow that made everything worse, and I was inconsolable for the next twenty minutes.

Having now had some time to process all of this, I do realize that I was upset and embarrassed over nothing. I was emotional because I am pregnant and totally brainless when I went into set up the app, but none of that really warranted a full emotional breakdown. I even dreamt about it that night, imagining that one of my best friends hated me now because I accidentally sent her some 30 messages about people being added to a damn group.

Thankfully I am over it all. Though I will not touch that app again. Husband can finish setting things up if he hates sms so much. And I guess my brother just isn’t going to know when his niece is born. Because what sibling leaves another siblings birth announcement group. What a jerk.

It has been suggested that I am overreacting.

There you have it folks: the three most embarrassing things I have done since my brain shrunk by a third. After pregnancy your brain will go back to normal, but by that point sleep deprivation will be so intense that you won’t notice you have a third of your brain back. By the time sleep deprivation becomes less of a thing, we will probably be planning for another baby, which will mean my brain will shrink again, so really it is all downhill from here. At least that is what my neighbor told me. She said her pregnancy brain got worse with each child, and she has yet to recover.

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Life Lately

Life Lately

37 weeks pregnant and counting, which leaves me feeling a little like I am in limbo. The next big thing to happen in my life will be having this baby. That’s it. Between now and then there will be no new career, no new ANYTHING, so I am just waiting to have my baby. This leaves me feeling like everything else I am doing is superfluous. I am just biding my time, but I do not know how much time there is life to bide. So I could wash some dishes, OR I could just sit here and wait to have this baby. Guess which one I am doing…

Anyway, I haven’t just been sitting around–waiting, even if that is the only thing it feels like. Husband and I have had a couple very full months and since I have not really blogged in a while about anything other than the books I have been reading, let me take you back through what we have been up to since Christmas.

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Husband and I celebrated our first Christmas in our new house this year. We went with a couple of friends up to Christmas Mountain outside of Portland to find out tree. The tree farm had a section of natural–as in unpruned–Noble firs, which they were selling at half price. So we got this 11 foot beauty for half of the cost of a regular Noble fir. It turned out to be the most glorious Charlie Brown tree ever. I had to talk husband into it, as with everything else we do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to aesthetics. Why would a Christmas tree be any different? He wanted something rounder, bushier, but I love the look of a glowing tree when you can wrap some lights up the middle of the trunk. I think, in the end, I won him over with our tall and skinny Charlie Brown tree. He didn’t even complain too much about the tinsel. I love tinsel and he likes to remind me of how horrible it is for the environment.

We make a good couple.

Anyway, we got the tree up and then everything got a little crazy. My brother came into town, which means I got to torment him. This is what that looks like:

10392416_10101417889355358_8021633476405384779_nI would like to say he was a good sport and took it well, but he gives as good as he gets. After Corey got into town, we had our first Christmas with my immediate family, which flew by all to fast. It was weird to think that next Christmas Husband and I will have a kid of our own. Before I knew it our first Christmas was over, and on the 26th our second Christmas was beginning. Husbands family all (almost all anyway) descended on us in a flurry. His parents came down from Seattle, while his younger sister, her husband and their little daughter Tulsi came up from California. Unfortunately his older sister Molly and her family couldn’t join us–we missed them. I believe this was our Christmas morning:

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Things didn’t slow down while his family was here either. We had our Christmas complete with a dutch smorgasbord of cheese, chocolate sprinkles, dutch cakes and then onto the homemade fondue dinner, which is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite family traditions. Husband’s mom Padma makes the best cheese fondue, which I love dipping fresh mushrooms into. I don’t even LIKE fresh mushrooms.

While his family was in town we had our baby shower, thanks to my parents and his family who all collaborated to put it together. I have always hated baby showers. I hate the games and the awkward present opening, and since I have never been one to hide how I feel everyone worked together to throw a co-ed baby shower that I didn’t hate. In fact, I loved it. We all got to find out the sex of our baby when Padma cut the cake to find pink icing inside. We then got to eat cake, open presents, and socialize. The only real activity we had was painting onsies and bibs. Our baby now has a years worth of custom designed onsies and bibs. Our friends went to town decorating over thirty of the things and the results are amazing. I would post pictures, but I didn’t take any and I am certainly too lazy to do it now. But there are bibs covered in lobsters, a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh,  and a rather adorable one that both soon-to-be grandmothers decorated together. The onsies are something else. We have a Star Trek one, a Battlestar Gallactica one, a onsie that says Rescue Me!, and a couple that reference some pop culture things that I am not all to sure are appropriate. Hopefully you guys will get to see some of them as she wears them. I hear new parents are notorious for copious amounts of pictures of their children.

Then Christmas was over, we kicked his family out of the house (lovingly of course) on a Tuesday morning. That evening we were packed and on a plane to Aruba, arriving in time for an international New Year’s Eve. A couple of weeks before Christmas we had decided that we actually wanted a baby moon, and since we had some miles we started looking for places to go. On a whim I thought to talk to my Aunt Nancy who has a house on Aruba. Turns out they were there for New Year’s and invited us to join them. Before we knew it our trip was booked and I am so glad we did it. I got to spend 10 days on a beach with this handsome hunk:

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And the beach looked like this:

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Aruba is very small–something like 6 miles wide and 20 miles long. There is nothing to there, except be on the beach, which is exactly what I wanted. I am a sea otter by nature, so rolling around in the water for hours on end is bliss for me. I didn’t really do a ton of rolling around as I was 7-8 months pregnant, but I was one really happy beach mamma. Neither of us got sunburned as we were diligent with the sun screen, which only made us feel that more content that we did this vacation thing right. New Year’s Eve was a blast–literally. We stood in our PJ’s in my Aunts front yard and watched as amazing fireworks went off all around us. Then just past midnight all the neighbors started making the rounds to wish everyone a happy New Year’s. They were all dressed in their finest, while we stood their in nightgowns and boxers. I am sure they thought it amusing, but after having traveled for about 10 hours, I didn’t really care.

For having done absolutely nothing for 10 days,  I could write about Aruba forever. But I will spare you the jealousy. To sum it up I will just say that the water was perfect, I ate the best shrimp of my life, and I got to have a virgin Pina Colada everyday. Well everyday until I realized they were giving me the WORST acid reflux. So the vacation wasn’t perfect because I had to give up the Pina Coladas, but the good far out weighed the bad.

Before we knew it our 10 days were up and we were headed back home. I still miss the water, the sun, the Pina Coladas, the shrimp (OMG the shrimp), but then we were thrown into the New Year. Husband hit the ground running for work, as January is often the busiest time of the year for him, and I got to work on getting things ready for the baby.  The nursery is almost complete and my “Before Baby” to-do list is dwindling. We replaced my POS car and bought a Subaru. Husband and I are already a Pacific Northwest stereotype, we figured we would complete the image with a car purchase. I have to say having a car where all the buttons work, the breaks don’t grind, and the defrost actually works in amazing. Who knew functioning defrost would feel like such a luxury.

We also got to spend an evening at the Oregon Symphony:

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They played Carmina Burana, which was phenomenal. As we were leaving the concert hall, a woman suggested that I name our baby Carmina, as it is such a pretty name. We did consider it for about ten minutes, as Kashi’s grandmother’s name was Carmen, but I don’t actually like the name Carmen. What are the odds that someone would call our Carmina, Carmen? Probably pretty high. Also there is the fact that Carmina Burana is a set of rather raunchy poems that were originally written by a monk–a sexually deprived monk at that. Probably. Not sure that is something I want my daughter named after.

This has been a rather long, random post. Maybe the next time you hear from me, I will have popped out this baby!

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Reading

January’s Books

This post is going to be a doozy, so unless you are interested in a very long list of books that I read in January you might want to skip this post, or maybe just skim it to see if there is something you might like to read here. A couple of posts ago I talked about my New Year’s Resolution to read all the books on my to-read bookshelf. I started the year off with a lot of momentum, mainly because Husband and I went on vacation to Aruba. There is nothing to do on that tiny island other than sit on the beach and read. I would not have it any other way–it was perfect, and since half of my suitcase was filled with books I got a lot of reading done. So what follows is a post about the 16 books I read last month.

I am sorry.

I have been meaning to read this book for a long time. I have not delved much into the world of Virginia Woolf, which I have always felt guilty about. The very basic idea of this little book is that women, in order to write, need a room of their own. Which is more than just a room, but when Woolf inherited a monthly allowance to live on from a dead relative it allowed her the freedom to be her own person, to be free from men, to be without worry about where her next meal would come from, and most of all to have her own space to write and create. I found it a little hard to get into the book, as it is pretty dry and academic, but she had a lot of good things to say and it was well worth pushing myself through.

Reading this collection of poems by Hafiz was just a joy. He was such a happy man and his writing is soaked with it. Every poem seems bursting with love and happiness. This is a very hippy read of course, and living in the home land of Portlandia, I have come across copies of this book in many waiting rooms. Go figure. This is the closest I can get to religion without my skin crawling. But that is the beautiful thing about the great Sufi masters–it wasn’t about religion, it was about self-realization: love and happiness. Can’t get much better than that.

This was another Portland Book Review book, you can see my full review here. This wasn’t a major page turner, but it was a fun take on World War II. Parr takes fictionalizes parts of the war, adding in his two fictional characters to actual events. He does it very well and if you are not a major history buff it is hard to tell fact from fiction. On the whole I feel like I learned a lot about how global WWII was. How many places the war touched, how many people it changed or destroyed. I would recommend this to  anyone interested in history.

I am currently doing some ghost writing for a Cambodian man who grew up during the Khmer Rouge, so I felt that I had to read this book. I really enjoyed it–as much as you can enjoy a book about death. This is the foreigners perspective about the war, which gives the reader insight into the international politics that enabled a lot of the atrocities to happen in Cambodia. I had no idea how many countries were involved in Cambodia’s politics. It was very eye-opening to read.

This is by the same author of the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which I loved. This one was good too, not as good, but an easy fun read, that didn’t leave you feeling like you had wasted any time for sitting down and reading it. It is easy to get invested in Well’s characters–all of them have faults and all of them have virtues, which is a beautiful thing. This definitely falls into the category of women’s literature, so keep that in mind when making your reading selection.

I love Sci-Fi, and I love Sci-Fi done well. This is Sci-fi done well. I am excited to read the next three books in this series. Husband introduced me to the books as Ender’s Game was one of his childhood favorites. I can see why. I wasn’t sure how this book would stand the test of time, as it was my husband’s favorite when he was little, but the book was just as interesting and fun to an adult coming to it for the first time. If you like reading about hypothetical future stories, than this is a book for you.

I had a hard time putting this one down–maybe because I am pregnant. On the other hand this might not be have been the best thing for me to read being pregnant. I couldn’t put it down and ended up freaking myself out over a couple of the chapters. I mean the book is about several different births, some beautiful and some gruesome. I especially had a hard time with the chapter on eclampsia.  That is some very scary stuff, and for about a week after reading that chapter I walked around convinced I was going to go down in a writhing, seizing mess, before falling into a coma and dying. This book is all about women, so keep that in mind. But there are things in the book for someone of the opposite gender. There was a good amount of history about midwifery, which was very interesting. I know my dad enjoyed the book and he is as grizzly and gruff as one can get–mustache included.

I LOVED this book because it places Japanese and American cultures side by side, you get to learn a lot about our similarities and differences. Besides it is also very well written with an interesting plot. The story is told from the perspective of a couple of different characters, each one unique with well developed voices. At its heart this is a mother-daughter story, but it is also an immigration story, a war story, a love story.

I read this in a couple of hours one evening when I decided to treat myself to an easy book. I love Mercedes Lackey, and this is one of her newer ones. While I feel like she is writing the same story over and over (especially in the Elemental Masters Series), I have a hard time not enjoying her books anyway.  I have also read almost every book in this series, so I feel like I am obligated to read any new ones that she comes out with. I like that some of them are loosely based on fairy tales and i am a huge fan of magic/fantasy books. So if you want a quick, easy, read that doesn’t take any brain power this would be it.

Matthew Dickman is my all-time favorite poet. His first collection was marvelous. He is so quirky and dark. He has such an interesting way of looking at the world, and I cannot get enough of his rhythm. His poems are a lot of fun to read out loud. I had the privilege of hearing him read is own work when he came to visit my university, so I have a pretty good idea of his cadence and style, which only makes his poems that much better. Now this collection is very dark. If there ever was a port headed to suicide Dickman is it. Or at least that was the feeling I got reading these poems. A lot of them are about grief and loss, depression without the angst. I really hope he doesn’t commit suicide because I want to go on reading his work for years to come. Fingers crossed.

This was NOTHING like the movie. Besides the name of the main character, nothing else matched. I am having a hard time seeing how they even say that the movies were made from the books. I enjoyed the movies better, but I still had fun reading the book. I don’t really feel compelled to go out and read the rest of Ludlum’s work, mainly because I do not get much out of this genre other than entertainment, and I generally like to get a something more out of my reading.

This is an older book, so if you enjoy reading things from earlier centuries then this is a good pick. The Moonstone is touted as one of the first, if not the first, book written in the mystery/crime genre. Yes it is that old. I enjoyed reading it as you can tell it was written by someone with a good sense of humor. It takes a little while to get through this book, just because the style is a bit of an adjustment to our modern minds, but once you get used to the language it is pretty smooth sailing. Just expect that everything will be described in-depth, a little too in-depth maybe, but that was a hallmark of anything written around that time.

My sister-in-law gave me this book after the birth of her baby. It was interesting to read and very reassuring as a first time momma. As a society we have done a very good job of integrating fear into birth, even though it is a very natural and normal experience. While I do not plan on following this book like a religion, it did help me relax a little over the idea of giving birth. I have always felt pretty confident when it came to the idea of giving birth, but being around doctors and really anyone who has anything to say about pregnancy weakens that innate sense of confidence. This book helped me to stand firm and to hold onto my confidence. BIrth is a natural experience that our bodies were built to achieve. The biggest take away I had is that the more fear we have the more pain we will have, but since this is something that our bodies are meant to do you can relax into the birthing experience and trust your body. I will let you know how it goes in a couple of weeks.

I tore through this one–which is often the case with any literature regarding the Holocaust for me. This is a very short read, about a Danish couple who hide a Jewish man in their home during the war. It was well written and by the time I got to the middle I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what was going to happen, which is always a good feeling when a book can wrap you up like that. I would highly recommend this one, especially if you have a morbid curiosity with the Holocaust like I do.

I read the first half of this book the traditional way, and the second half I read via audiobook. I have to say that it is a lot easier for a book to get under your skin when you are reading it, rather than listening to someone read it to you. Something about the act of reading maybe? Hunching over a book makes you feel like looking over your shoulder, and no book makes you feel like you need to look over your shoulder like Dracula. I really enjoyed it.

My good friend Karen recommended this book to me. It was a lot of fun to read, being a mystery written for young adults. Every character is very weird, so when you get a bunch of odd ducks forced into a situations together, fun and interesting things are bound to happen. It reads a lot like the podcast Welcome to Nightvale, if any of you are familiar with that. The same friend who had me read this book also introduced me the that podcast, which is no surprise. The only difference between this book and that podcast is that the book makes sense at the end,  while the podcast never does.

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The Worst Books of 2014

Here is the sister post to The Best Books of 2014. I am sure that these are not the WORST books EVER to be read in 2014, but they were at the bottom of the heap of books I read last year. I hate writing bad reviews, but sometimes there is just no way around it. Sometimes the book has the wrong audience and sometimes the book is just bad–sometimes it is a bit of both. Thankfully the list is very short, otherwise it would have been a rough year of reading.

I am a huge James Bond fan–at least the movies. I have loved all the James Bond men, including Pierce Brosnan, but especially Daniel Craig. Who doesn’t love Daniel Craig? I had assumed that my love for the movies would easily translate into a love for the books. Boy was I wrong. This is the only James Bond novel I have read. It was the first and it will be the last. The book was packed with action, which was fun, but the book was so sexist it was a little hard to stomach. The movies tone it down a bit and package it with Daniel Craig. The movies–especially the newer ones have a bit more depth. The books on the other hand were written by a man, for men. The women are all blond and helpless, and even when there is a competent broad in the book James spends all of his either lusting after her, or worrying that she cannot handle herself. I don’t need to read the rest of the books to know that I am not really missing anything special. I will stick to the movies.

Having read the Pregnancy book by Sears, this one was a little harder to swallow. It has a ton of great information, but I feel like it does not go as in-depth into some of the biology of what is going on during pregnancy as it could have. This book is perfect for the western medicine woman who is willing to take everything at face value. I like to educate myself instead of just being told how things are. I like to understand the why and how of things, and this book does not offer a ton in the way of education.

I was assigned to read this book for the Portland Book Review. It wasn’t bad’ it just wasn’t great. The plot is somewhat interesting, but the characters feel a little bland, and the writing holds you at a distance. To be honest, this feels like the authors first attempt–not the finished product. Here is the link to my full review over at the Portland Book Review, if you would like more information.

I usually love me some David Sedaris. I find him funny, very entertaining, and witty, but I just could not get into this one. All of the stories are a little harsh, non of the characters are very complicated, often displaying one or two faults that will end up driving the story into a negative place where I suppose we can all learn a lesson. For those who have not read it, this is a compilation of short stories about different animals. I remember truly enjoying one of the short stories and the rest I sort of cringed through.

And that is the list! I told you it would be short, though not sweet as nothing I wrote was really complimentary of any of these books. I know it shows, but I enjoyed writing the Best Books of 2014 a lot more than this post. I would rather gush about a book then feel the need to say something critical.

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Best Books of 2014

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked last year, but in what I read there were some real gems. I tend to gravitate towards books that are written by women. Out of all the books on this list, only one was written by a man. Go figure. I didn’t intend to only like books written by women, but Husband tells me there is nothing surprising in this. I am sure he is right. Below is the list of the best books I read last year. To see a every book I read last year you can visit me at my Goodreads profile.

This is by far, one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It is poetry in prose. Nayomi transported me to Sri Lanka, making me feel like I knew the sights and smells intimately. More than any other book before, I felt physically moved by her writing. Even thinking about this book now, a couple of months after reading it, I remember sunny beaches, rocking waves, the taste of curry and fish, the smell of cooking fires and smoke from bombs. I knew nothing of the history of Sri Lanka and I had no idea how recent all the upheaval was. I tend to gravitate towards what my mother would call “disturbing” material in books, and this book does deal with darker themes: suicide bombers, child soldiers, racism, war. But I walked away from the book with a sense of hope and a very strong memory of how incredibly beautiful the book is.

Swamplandia was wholly unique. While I wouldn’t call it fun, I would call it a little whimsical–whimsically gritty. The book chronicles the lives of the Bigtree clan, a family of alligator wrestlers out of the swamps of Florida. This is a coming of age novel, complete with awkward, sticky, body odor moments. Ava, with the death of her mother, is thrust into adulthood. She becomes the families matriarch with an older sister who is lost to the world of ghosts and magic, an older brother with daddy issues and no interest in the family business, and a father struck by grief and stubbornly set in his ways–not to mention a rare, red, baby alligator she is determined to see survive infancy. Swamplandia is a fascinating portrayal of a very different world, one I had a very hard time setting down.

Husband introduced me to the blog a while ago, and I fell in love with it right away. The book is just as good. It is a very quick, easy read. Though I should admit that this book’s appeal may be generational. My mother and father both liked it well enough, and chuckled out loud a time or two, but they didn’t LOVE it, or rather they didn’t understand why you would love it.

I love Rebecca Wells. I loved the The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sister Hood. I think I loved this one even more. If I didn’t absolutely loathe humidity, I would pick up and move to southern Louisiana. I want to name my kids with southern names like Bayla, Siddallee Ann, or Calla Lily Ponder. This is a simple, easy book about love and loss and life. Some of the best books are about nothing, because nothing is what all of us are living day-to-day. I am not saying our lives are inconsequential, but rather that it is all the inconsequential things in our lives that add up to a well-lived life. This books is an excellent example of that.

This is another incredibly poetic novel, beautifully written. When this book was passed to me, I prejudged it by the cover. I guess the heft of it just felt cheesy, but I was very wrong and I am so thankful I read it. Julia’s father disappears without a trace, so she sets out from her comfortable New York life, looking for him. She finds her way to a remote corner of Burma, her father’s homeland, where she is forced into drinking tea and told the life story of her father–a life before her and her mother, a life she knew nothing of.

I love books about strong women, and Gertrude Bell was all sorts of strong. She was just as influential as Lawrence of Arabia. She didn’t give a damn about what her role as a woman should be. She climbed mountains, braved blizzards, smoked like chimney, cursed like a sailor, traveled alone, rode horses and camels, shot guns…I could go on. This was a fascinating historical biography of someone I did not know anything about and about a time and place in history I don’t know nearly enough about. The middle east is such a sticky wicket, and seeing the politics of the region laid out made me realize that the consequences of the political decisions made decades ago are still rippling out today.

There is some debate as to whether this is a novel or a collection of short stories–I see it somewhere in the middle. With a very large cast of characters, it can be a little hard to keep everything straight, but this is a very lyrical book. I loved every minute of it, just as I have loved every minute of all of her other books (well all but one–Shadow Tag). Forgive me, it has been a while since I read this book, so I am having a hard time remembering the details, but I remember clearly how beautifully tangled the book was. Erdrich weaves her characters in and out of a tapestry incredibly thick and murky. It was complicated. The relationships were complicated. Nothing was sparkly or perfect, and that was the best part of the book.

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