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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Reading

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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Reading

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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Reading

My New Year’s Resolution

I am not big resolution maker. I have dieted, tried to be a nicer person, made lists of yearly goals. But I haven’t made any serious resolutions in the past couple of years, or rather I haven’t been very serious about any of the resolutions I have made. This year is different–completely different, because not only did I make a resolution I am interested in keeping, but one I am preternaturally disposed to keeping.

My resolution is to read more. To be specific my resolution is to read this bookshelf:

KIMG0034

I know all about making goals–you know they should be reasonable, quantifiable…SMART. I don’t remember every letter of that anagram, but you know goals should be SMART. This goal is definitely SMART. Minus the fact that this resolution is completely unattainable, because that bookshelf holds 290 books. I once heard an author talk about how he spend a year reading one book a day, everyday. He must have done nothing else, or he was reading children’s books. The author was either Joe Queenan or Pat Conroy; I cannot remember.

Now my resolution would break down to 9 books a month–give or take. Now I know Husband supports all of my endeavors, but he might begin to feel a little neglected if all I did was read all the time. So instead of reading 290 books in 2015, I am going to try to read as many as I can. I have even made a couple of rules:

  1. No rereads. I love rereading books. Hence the two bookshelves in our house: one for all the books I own that I have not read and one for all the books that I love and continually reread. But I have a lot of books to get through and no time to dilly-dally.
  2. I cannot add to the bookshelf. UNLESS someone gives me a book, but I cannot buy any books or go to the library. Now there is one addendum to this and that is I still get to spend the two gift certificates for books that I got for Christmas and my birthday. The gift certificates are only good at bookstores after all.

As of today (1/28/2015) I have already read 12 books on the shelf, so as of today I am already behind, but considering I was completely ignoring that bookshelf before I made the resolution and now it is 12 books lighter I am going to call that a success.

Happy New Year (a month late)!

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Life

Dear Internet

I spent an hour writing a blog post this morning. No this post is not it.

Why?

Because you deleted it.

It was a great post. All about organization and life and how wonderful, if completely nutty, I am.

I don’t have the heart to recreate it.

So my dear readers…mainly my mother…will suffer. Because she reads everything I write. My blog is even her homepage, so she always knows when I publish something.

How dare you let her down.

Sincerely,

Depressed

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Life

LIfe Lately

Since it as been a while, once again I figured I would spend a little time catching everyone up on what life has been like lately. There has been a LOT going on. First, we have lived in our new house in Portland for almost a month. It seems so silly that I can say that. When we first sat down and said we were ready to start looking to buy a house, well it was such a nebulous thing. We thought we had enough money saved. We thought we knew what we wanted. And while all of that turned out to be true, it was still a very nebulous thing at the time to think about what it would be like to live in a home that we owned. But then here we are today, living very happily in a house that we own. I feel like after everything we were told about buying a house, how stressful it is, how much work there is to do, we completely lucked out. So much of buying house happens behind the scenes: the realtors, the loan officer, the house inspection, the title company I guess I just didn’t feel too connected to the process.

I think that made the process go by faster, may have even made it seem easier. So before we knew it we were moving and then the move was over and we were just living in our house. Pretty cool stuff. Below is a picture of Husband and I in front of our digs.

we moved photoThe move has been a bit of a change. We now live 30-40 minutes from my parents, whereas before we were only 10. This is more an adjustment for me than it is for Husband. We also actually live in Portland now, versus living out in the ‘burbs like before. I am getting used to living with more traffic, but I am loving living so close to beautiful parks, great restaurants, yoga studios, libraries, cafés. This is reminiscent of my time in Tacoma. I can walk a lot more to a lot more places, and we are about twenty minutes from anywhere in Portland. It is fabulous. We have been going out to eat a lot, exploring our new options. At some point our budget will dictate that we need to cool it on the going out, but then I think we will just be a little more strategic about our explorations. So far we have found a couple of gems. There is a Chinese restaurant about half a mile from us, which is really decent. Then there is a breakfast/thrift store (yes you read that correctly) joint that is super cheap and has biscuits and gravy. There is really too much to list here. Husband and I are going to get fat living here, or at least there is a lot of potential for growth. So we have also been exploring the local fauna. We are two blocks from Pier Park, which is huge. Then across the St. Johns bridge there is Forest Park, which is even more enormous. You could hike there for days. Really. Husband has been packing me and the dogs up and tromping us through the forest. It has been beautiful. He has also been bringing his camera along and experimenting. The first photo I was happy, the second photo is really more like the 50th–I will let you guess how I was feeling.

Forest Park Better Forest Park

So enough about our new digs. The other big news is that we are about 20 weeks pregnant. In just the past couple of days I have really begun to show, and everything about my body is different. Really different. I can’t believe how much change can occur in a body in such a short amount of time. The hormones are something else. I was a little bitchy the other day and when I apologized to husband he said not to worry about it. It was just because I was pregnant.

Between you and me I am not sure I would have been any nicer in other circumstances. Not sure the baby had anything to do with it, but let’s not tell Husband that. It is really nice having a “get out of jail free card.” It is also nice having a wonderful husband. That might be the more important take away.

Anyway, I have a much weaker stomach now. I have never gotten sick over something I have seen before. Once in high school our biology class was taken to OHSU to look at a cadaver. I remember watching the med student showing us the man’s leg and hooking his finger into the thigh and holding up a long rope of material telling us it was the longest vein in the body. It was really cool. But I am pretty sure if I saw that now I would vomit. Last month I saw a fruit fly hovering over my bowl of Greek yogurt and just the thought of having maybe eaten a fruit fly along with my yogurt sent me hurling to the bathroom.

Then two weeks ago when I was sick with a head cold I tried to use my Nedi Pot. Before I used to plug the drain and watch and see how much crap I could flush out of my sinuses. The more that collected in the sink, the prouder I was. Well that sent me yacking. It was unfortunate because I hadn’t yet flushed both sides of my sinuses and I had to go to bed feeling rather lopsided.

I also feel movement in my SI joints, which is really disconcerting, but thankfully that doesn’t cause me to vomit. I really hate getting sick.

On a less disgusting note, Husband got to feel the baby kick for the first time a couple of days ago. I have been feeling the baby move for about two weeks now. It is a weird feeling, and I am not sure I altogether like it. I mean it is wonderful to feel confirmation that there is indeed a living being in there. It is neat to feel more connected to this thing that is happening, but the actual movement itself, the physical sensation of it is a little disconcerting. But it was so wonderful for me to feel that Husband felt the little being move. We haven’t been able to recreate that moment, as the baby doesn’t kick on cue, but we keep trying.

Anyway that has been our life for the past month: moving and ultrasounds. Just like it is hard to believe we are in our own house, it is hard to believe that we will have a baby in just under five months. It doesn’t really seem possible.

 

 

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Life

Back Home and Busy

I spent a good chunk of yesterday trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to write for a new blog post. I could not even string a couple words together without rolling my eyes and manically hitting that delete button. I swear that will be the first thing I have to replace on this keyboard. BUT last night on a whim I went back and reread my last couple of posts, and not to be a person propped up by ego or anything, but I actually liked what I had written.

Go Figure.

Not that my last posts were any great grammatically perfect feats of prose, but I felt like I wasn’t boring either and that was nice. More than nice—nice to the point where I was inspired to write maybe a little bit more.

So with my mojo back, I feel free to go ahead and write about anything and most likely probably nothing. Now I can go ahead and tell you dear reader that I just got back from a month long hiatus in middle-of-nowhere California. Reason numero uno that I have not been as present, or present at all, on the blog. I got to spend some wonderful time with my wonderful in-laws and my completely delectable niece. I also got Yoga Teacher Training Certification while I was away, so while I missed home, and Husband, and our dogs, and our routine it was a great—if exhausting—month away.

I got home a week ago and Husband and I hit the ground running looking for a house to buy. I think we looked at seven houses over the course of seven days, and low and behold we put our first offer on one of the houses last night. Our realtor says it is a very strong offer, but I have no idea how this all works, and honestly I have always been a bit of a pessimist, so until keys are in hand I honestly can’t let myself get too excited about the house. Even IF it would be absolutely perfect for us. Nope. No excitement.

Husband leaves this week for a big conference in San Francisco for his company. I will fly down to join him for one day as some of his family from Europe will be in town and since we won’t be getting out to that neck of the woods anytime soon, we felt it was important to get down there to see them.

I guess the point of telling you all of this is basically to say that life is crazy and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at any near point in the future. It does make me a little tired to think about it all. I long for winter, which I haven’t felt anything close to longing for a Pacific Northwest winter since EVER. I tend to get depressed a little with the rain, but we have been so busy a little winter depression sounds good. Or rather I feel like hibernating, which is probably a better way of saying it.

Anyway, we keep plugging ahead. We will find out about the house soon enough. Then either we keep looking, or we suddenly enter into the whole new world of homeownership. Wish us luck!

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