Monday, December 17, 2007

The one where I need oxygen

Final installment of the 4-part birth story series (you can read the first three here, here) and here:

My fourth child was due on October 27, 2006, but somehow I just knew I would be having this baby earlier than expected. My mom was in standby mode in SC, waiting for the call to drive up to help out while I was in the hospital and for a few days after I came home. I called her on October 18th and told her that I thought it would be a good idea for her to come on up. She left on the 19th. That night she called to say that she was staying at a hotel for the night rather than driving through and would arrive the next morning. I had contractions on and off all night, but nothing regular.

The next morning, the contractions began getting more regular. My oldest daughter headed off to school, and at 7:30, I called my mom to find out how much longer she would be. She arrived at our house around 9:00 or so, which was a good thing, since about 15 minutes after she walked in the door, my water broke. Well, not so much broke as leaked a little, just like happened with my first child. So by 9:30, my husband and I were headed to the hospital.

[We interrupt this post for info regarding a previous post: I forgot to mention in the post about the birth of my second child about the two child doctors who came in to watch the birth, one male and one female. One of them even stitched up a little tear afterward. Apparently, I chose to give birth in a TEACHING hospital, which means that I consent to doctor wannabes practicing at being a doctor on ME. Really, I didn't care, since at that point random street people could have wandered through asking for a look-see and I would have said, "Sure, why not?" And now, back to our regularly scheduled post...]

When we arrived at the hospital, the nurses put me in a triage room to check if, indeed, the trickle I had felt was amniotic fluid. But before making that determination, a nurse checked my cervix. Then two child doctors arrived. (Apparently, they travel in pairs, specifically male-female pairs. This could be for breeding purposes; further study is needed to know for sure.) The female half of the duo checked my cervix. Then, the male half asked if he could as well. "Sure," I said, "join the crowd." Then they used this little strip of paper to see if the fluid that kept leaking out was amniotic, or if I was just peeing on them. It was amniotic. Really, now, you didn't think I would go around peeing on people, do you?

So I was moved into a labor room and given pitocin to get things moving. My regular doctor was not on shift, but would be in about a half hour, and then he would go off shift again at 4:30 in the afternoon. I was hoping he would be the one to deliver my baby. Eventually, the time came for the epidural. I requested Dr. M for my anesthesiologist if possible. You will remember him from the last birth story. Unfortunately, he was not there.

[Another aside: At a regular prenatal office visit, I had asked my doctor if I could request a particular anesthesiologist. He wasn't sure, but who did I have in mind? When I told him Dr. M., he looked at me askance and said in a surprised tone, "Dr. M? Really?"

"Why, is there something wrong with him?"

"Nooooo, he's just..."


Laughing, "Yes."

"I don't care how miserable the guy is, he's good and I want him."

"He is good."]

I got another Dr. M. It was something Hispanic, I don't remember what, but his first name was Luis. Anyway, I told Luis about my small spinal spaces issue and my problems with getting epidurals in the past. He assured me (as did the nurses that were there) that he was just as good, if not better, than Dr. M. He was certainly friendlier. And he was telling the truth. He got the epidural in in one try. Of all my births, this was the most pleasant epidural insertion experience.

HOWEVER, it was not the most pleasant of epidural side effects. I had never before had an adverse reaction to an epidural. This time however, I started feeling lightheaded and nauseous like I was going to pass out and my blood pressure crashed. The nurses turned off the epidural and gave me oxygen until I felt better. So then I was okay for a while. I started to feel the contractions again and asked them to turn the epidural back on, which they did. Then I crashed again. So more oxygen and then the epidural was put on a VERY LOW setting.

A nurse decided that since I hadn't peed since triage, that she would straight cath me (you'll remember this from the last time, when that action resulted in freight-train baby). I informed them of the freight-train baby episode, and said that they might want to be prepared, just in case. And then one of the nurses said that she was there for that birth. I hadn't recognized her; she had lost a lot of weight! This time the catheter didn't result in immediate baby, but things did get rolling along. About ten minutes later, I said that I was feeling that familiar pressure. The nurse checked my cervix and said that I was fully dilated except for a tiny bit that didn't seem to want to get out of the way. She called in the doctor (who you'll recall would be off-shift at 4:30) at about 4:20. He checked my cervix, said, "Yeah, there's that little bit there, but she's crowning, I'll just push it out of the way." He did, and I pushed. Twice, I think. (By the fourth baby, I had the whole pushing thing down, and no it's nothing like pooping if you're doing it right, even though they say that it is.)

My fourth daughter arrived on October 20, 2006, just as the doctor's shift ended at 4:30pm (but he was nice enough to stick around for the after birth clean up stuff). She weighed 7lbs, 1oz, the smallest of all my babies. She didn't cry at first, which freaked me out, since I didn't remember any delay before the crying with the other ones. But then she did, as you can see in the picture. Very loudly.

Here I am with her just after she was born, still with the IV in and everything:

All our girls:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Easy chicken corn chowder

You may have noticed that this week lacked an update to the world's most reluctant stage mother series. Yeah, well that's because I didn't finish it. I'm like that sometimes. It'll show up eventually. In the meantime:

For those of you who like measurements for your recipes (like I generally do), this recipe may not be for you (though somehow I manage). If you like just throwing random amounts of things together with crossed fingers, like Flibberty's fiance (how do you make those stupid accent things?), then this is for you. It is a good wintertime chowder, and it is easy easy (I meant to type it twice) to make. You will need:

  • regular old white potatoes (I usually use 4-5 medium-sized ones - I see you measurement people are already cringing)

  • one medium onion

  • water - I'll tell you how much in a minute

  • a small can of evaporated milk (I don't know how many ounces - I've only ever seen two sizes, a small one and a bigger one. Use the SMALL one.)

  • one can of creamed corn (the 15oz size, or is it 16? Who cares - just use it)

  • one can of kernel corn (again the 15 oz size, or I suppose you could use frozen - hey, go nuts)

  • one can of chicken breast meat (I KNOW, I didn't realize these little cans of meat had any use either! Other than, you know, BOMB SHELTER supplies. Oh, and for you vegetarians, this is optional, you could have plain old corn chowder. OR, for you folks who like a lot of meat and want to use up what the vegetarians are letting go to waste, add more. I'm kidding vegetarians; don't attack me.)

  • butter, the real thing, no margarine people!

  • salt and pepper (preferably fresh ground cracked peppercorn pepper from your pepper mill. You do have one, right? If not put it on your shopping list right now.)

Okay, so now what you do is first peel and dice the potatoes into chunks approximately the size of, I don't know... DICE? Throw them in a pot and just cover them with water. Yes, that's how much water to use, just cover the potatoes. Chop the onion and throw it in. Boil until the potatoes are done. The onion will be done then too; it works out nicely that way.

Add the can of evaporated milk and the can of creamed corn. Then add the can of kernel corn, but DRAIN IT FIRST! Add the chicken, also only after draining it first. Then add a big chunk of butter. No, I don't know how much, how much buttery goodness would you like it to have? Add that much. I usually use about 1/3 of a stick. You can always add more to your own bowl later. Salt and pepper to taste. Heat it through and serve.

I don't have a picture, because I made it and we ate it before I realized that this would be a quick and easy post that maybe people would like. But it looks yummy. Just take my word for it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The one where I throw a bed pan

Part 3 of the 4-part birth story series (you can read the first two here and here):

My third child was due on December 18, 2002, but that day came and went with just some nightly contractions that subsided around 2:00am. Like in my second pregnancy, I had a couple nights of this, but finally, on December 19th, they did not subside. In anticipation of the birth, my mother had arrived on either the 18th or the 19th, at this point I don't recall exactly, but she was there to keep the other two when we went to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital around 4:00am, the morning of December 20th.

I wasn't quite dilated enough to move into a labor room, so the nurses had me walk the hallways for a while. It didn't take long, and we were ready to go. I had asked my OB/GYN several months previously if I could ask to NOT have a particular anesthesiologist (the one I had the last time). He had informed me that I didn't have to worry, as that one had retired. Instead I got one with an unconventional method of having the patient lie on her side in the fetal position rather than sitting up hunched over a pillow, as most of them do. He complained that I had extremely small spinal spaces, and he had a difficult time getting the epidural in. At one point, he got it in the wrong spot and caused my heart to race and me to get all lightheaded. He finally did get it in right (or at least he thought he did) and left.

A little while later, I noticed that while the contractions weren't horribly painful, I could still feel them and they WERE somewhat painful. So I asked a nurse about it, and she paged anesthesiology to have someone come and take a look. Dr. M, the chief anesthesiologist, or whatever you call the one in charge of the others, was on call at this point, so he came up. He was a very grumpy guy, obviously not thrilled about having to come correct someone's screw-up. He said to whoever (whomever?) was listening, "See how there's blood in the line, this shouldn't be there. It was put in wrong." I told him that the other anesthesiologist had said I had small spinal spaces, to which he replied, "Well, he was sure right about that." Despite his grouchiness, he was amazingly skilled, and it only took him one shot to get the epidural in properly.

When I had first arrived at the hospital, my OB/GYN that had delivered my second daughter had been on shift, but at this point another doctor had come on. I had seen her a couple of times in the office, and she had been the one to perform my D&C after a miscarriage that I had had the previous February. She was really nice and would have been my next choice anyway, so I was happy. She checked in when I was 6-7 cm dilated and told the nurses to give her a call when I had dilated more. My husband went to rest in the armchair that was about 15 feet from the labor and delivery bed, and immediately fell asleep.

Around 8:20 or so, one of the nurses decided that I needed to have my bladder emptied. She told me that she was going to straight cath (catheterize - if you don't know what it is, you don't want to, but at least you can't feel it when you have an epidural) me, and to let her know if I felt any pressure, because sometimes a full bladder is in the way, and once it's emptied things kick into gear.

She was OH SO RIGHT. Before she got back from emptying the bedpan that she had filled with my urine (aren't you all so glad to be reading this?), I yelled at her, "Pressure! A LOT of pressure!" She came running out of the bathroom, checked my cervix, yelled to another nurse, "She's crowning! Get Dr. J in here, STAT!" All this yelling, and my husband was snoring away, 15 feet from the commotion. So I was yelling at him to wake up, the nurse was yelling at him to wake up and telling me not to push, and he continued to be dead to the world. Finally I picked up a bedpan (empty, and PLASTIC, not metal), and flung it at him. He did wake up when it bounced off his head. Meanwhile, I forgot about his lazy ass, as another nurse and I had this conversation (at very high volume):

Nurse: Don't push!

Me: I HAVE TO PUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nurse: Don't push!

Me (holding the rails and kind of flailing my head and shoulders around with the effort of NOT pushing): I HAVE TO PUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nurse: Don't push!

Me (still flailing): I HAVE TO PUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nurse: Don't push!

Me (pushing anyway): I HAVE TO PUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!

The doctor literally came skidding through the door on her little blue hospital booties as the baby's head emerged after only two pushes. One more push and my third daughter was born around 8:30am on December 20th. She had an Apgar score of 10 at the moment of birth and barely any cone head at all, due to her freight-train-like trip through the birth canal. She weighed exactly 8lbs. Now she's a tiny little thing, weighing in at only about 33lbs, even though she'll be five in ten days. But she still lives life like a freight train. See how red her nose is in the picture? It was a birthmark down the length of her nose (which faded after a few weeks). We called it her skid mark because of her speedy entrance into the world.

And because it's a much cuter picture than me with my pudgy pregnancy face:

Monday, December 3, 2007

The one with the little old man

Part 2 of the 4-part birth story series (you can read the first here):

My second child was due on January 6, 2001. Starting on January 4th, I experienced nightly contractions that would start around 11:00pm and continue until between 2:00 and 4:00am, when they would stop. So the night of January 6th, I was VERY ready to get this birth done. Our next-door neighbor's daughter invited my daughter over to spend the night, and my husband and I went out walking. Since it was icicle-hanging-from-your-nose freezing and my husband needed a few things from Staples, we did our walking there. I pushed the cart and would have to stop every little while and try not to moan when a contraction would hit. We went home in hopes they wouldn't stop and we could call the doctor. This time they didn't stop, and we went to the hospital around 4:00am.

After the doctor checked me and determined that I was dilated enough to put into a labor room, we got all settled into one. By that time, I had dilated more and the doctor made the comment that I dreaded to hear, "You might be moving along too fast to have time to get the epidural." To which I responded, "Get the anesthesiologist in here right now, I WANT that epidural." But you know, NICER than that. More like, "Please can we just try? Pleeeeaaaaassseee?" You must understand that I signed that "I want an epidural" paper the moment I discovered I was pregnant. Positive pregnancy test? Fax that epidural paper to me and I'll sign it and fax it back. I know I don't need it for a while, and that my first office visit isn't even for 6 weeks, but you can never be too prepared.

So anyway, about 10-20 minutes later, this little old stooped shuffling man, who must've been just shy of 90, walked in pushing the anesthesiologist's cart and supplies. I assumed that he was just dropping off the cart and the anesthesiologist would arrive in a minute or two but NOOOOOOOO. This little old man with one foot in the grave WAS the anesthesiologist.

I swear the old guy must've been half-blind and suffering from Parkinson's, because it took him no less than a dozen agonizing tries to get the epidural in properly. But he finally managed, which was the important thing.

Soon enough, it was time to deliver. But every contraction and push resulted in a drop in the baby's heart rate. The nurse was looking quite concerned, which of course made me concerned. The doctor began to explain to me that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck, and that every time I pushed, it was restricting the blood flow to the baby's brain. So it was very important that we get the head out as quickly as possible, so that he could unwrap the umbilical cord from the baby's neck. So on the next push, I needed to try to push long enough and hard enough to get the head out. One, Two, Three... PUSH! I gave it everything I had, and got the baby's head out. The doctor got the cord off of the neck, and then one more push and there she was. My second daughter, born January 7, 2001, around 8:30am. She weighed 7 lbs, 5 oz.

The below picture is my oldest daughter holding her baby sister. I didn't have any decent ones of me in the hospital with her.

Weekend dinners and a question

As some of you are aware, I was making Easy Cabbage Roll Casserole from Beck's Recipes on Saturday. I want to first thank Beck for giving my family a much more interesting week food-wise. I had gotten in a rut of the same meals week after week, so it was nice to branch out a little. As usual, due to my being lazy lazy, I looked for any way to shortcut the work. So instead of shredding cabbage, I used this:

It contained a few shredded carrots as well, which I thought ended up adding a little extra flavor.

Here is what the casserole looked like while cooking:

I served it up as suggested with mashed potatoes. I didn't post a picture, because I didn't want to scare anyone away from making it. It did not look at all appetizing. HOWEVER, I LOVED IT!!! I thought it was great. A perfect winter meal. My husband thought it was "okay for something that has cabbage in it." My oldest daughter was not a fan, but she did eat it. The other two, as you know, don't eat, and as usual, since it wasn't a smooth puree, the baby gagged. I froze the leftovers for future lunches for myself.

On Sunday, I completely forgot that we would need to eat dinner, and therefore when dinnertime arrived, there were lots of frozen things in the freezer, but nothing thawed and ready to cook. But I had planned to make yet another of Beck's Recipes last week that I had not gotten around to, and it had not one frozen ingredient. So, Beck to the rescue! We had Sweet Potato Soup and sandwiches. The soup was wonderful! I don't have pictures, but imagine tomato soup, but orange, and that's what it looks like.

Originally, I was going to post an episode of the modeling story each Friday for however many it took, but apparently MadMad can't wait that long, as she reminded me on Saturday that she is still waiting for the rest of the story. It's really not all THAT exciting, and I almost feel guilty for making anyone think that it is. But not enough to stop leading you on. Anyway, my question is: Should I stick with my original plan and do the modeling story posts on Fridays, or should I throw one up at whatever point in the week I have one ready?

Last Monday was my first birth story, and in keeping with that, today and the next two Mondays will bring my other three birth stories. You can't wait, can you?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Oops, forgot to tell you about dinner

Thursday, at the end of [a post called "You know what bugs me" that I haven't transferred yet], I promised to tell you about the Rosemary Chicken with White Beans that I made for dinner Wednesday night. But then I forgot. So I'll do it today.

I got the recipe from Beck's Recipes. It's a slow-cooker meal, which I like in the winter. There's something about a bunch of different food groups all simmering together in one big mish-mash for hours that screams warm and cozy food. Plus, they are generally easy, which appeals to my laziness.

This particular meal was quite easy. It only took about 15 minutes of prep-work, including browning the chicken and chopping the celery. I cheated on chopping carrots by using those bagged, pre-washed and peeled baby carrots. Hey, I'll take any shortcut I can get. Here's what it looked like when it was just about done:

I should note that the house was filled with a mouth-watering aroma all afternoon. The first words out of my daughter's piano teacher's mouth when he showed up for her lesson were, "Wow, something smells really good in here." And he's a vegetarian! Apparently one that appreciates the smell of cooking chicken breasts. Anyway, I served it up with bowtie pasta and here is what it looked like all dished up:

See the veggies? Beans, corn, celery. What a good mom! But only one of my kids ate it, the others are either picky eaters or babies who have chewing and gagging issues. Anyway, the one kid who ate it and the two parents LOVED it! So Beck's Recipes are two for two. I'm making another of her slow cooker meals for tonight, the Easy Cabbage Roll Casserole. A little heavier on the prep-work, which makes the lazy in me unhappy, but it's cooking now, so we'll see if the end result is worth it. I'll be sure to let you know. Because I know the suspense is killing you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reading challenge - Part 3 AND Last night's dinner

It's two-fer Tuesday!

The "Something About Me" reading challenge is wrapping up now, and I obviously committed to reading MANY more books than I am going to be able to finish. My original list of the books I wanted to read is here, though I did add I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak to it later. Unfortunately, it is becoming fairly obvious that unless I figure out a way to halt the world around me while I do nothing but read the books that I have yet to complete for the challenge, I am not going to be able to read everything that I had hoped to read. I have read Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter, and will be posting a review soon. I hope to get one or two more read and briefly reviewed this week, but don't hold your breath.

I do intend to read all the books that I selected. I have all but two of them sitting on my dresser. No one has these two listed on Bookmooch and my local library does not have them. They are The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, suggested by Christina, and Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald, suggested by Suey. They will remain on my Bookmooch wishlist, until I break down and just order them, as I really do want to read them at some point.

The ones I did manage to read up to today:
From Bonnie's list: Booked to Die by John Dunning

From Twiga's list: The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers

From Chasida's list: Good Grief by Lolly Winston

From Dewey's list: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

From Jill(mrstreme)'s list: Christ the Lord by Anne Rice

From Booklogged's list: From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz

From Vasilly's list: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

From alisonwonderland's list: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

From Becky's list: Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card

From Stephanie's list: Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter

From Sarah Miller's list: The Giver by Lois Lowry

My favorite of these is The Time Traveler's Wife, no question.

Have y'all been checking out Beck's Recipes? I've printed every one of them and I'm trying a few this week. Last night I made Enchilada Stuffed Shells. Check 'em out:

They looked less like dog vomit in real life, and no doubt Beck's look much better, but they tasted delicious. I served them up with a wedge of cornbread (store-bought, not homemade, you can only ask so much of me) and a dollop of sour cream. Yes, I know there is a distinct lack o' veggie here, and normally there would have been salad with this type of meal, but I kind of desperately needed to go to the grocery store, since the only veggie in my house was about 5 baby carrots left in the bag to wither. After the kids were in bed, I went to the grocery store, and I will be sure to include a veggie in my next food pic.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The one where the shoulder got stuck

Tessie requested birth stories. I said I'd deliver (Ha ha! Get it? Deliver? I crack me up.), so here is birth story number one.

My first child was due May 25, 1994. My water broke around 1:00am on May 22, 1994. Well, not so much broke as leaked a little. What I heard them call later a "high leak." But, the fortress had been breached, so into the hospital with me. First, though, a shower, because back then I didn't feel like I could function without a morning shower (yes, children had much to teach me). We arrived at the hospital around 2:00am. I had yet to feel a contraction, but according to a nice young man who strapped a monitor on me, I was having them every two and a half minutes.

I continued to not feel any contractions, so around 6:00am they gave me pitocin and went ahead and gave me an epidural so I wouldn't have to feel any contractions. Wasn't that nice of them? Well, my doctor couldn't get the needle in the spinal space because things were kind of swollen back there, so after two *very painful* tries, she called in the anesthesiologist who whipped it right in there, no problem.

Then a totally uneventful 11 hours or so. Lots of news on TV about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's death three days prior and funeral arrangements. Lots of various people coming in and out to check vitals and probe areas that prior to this day had been fairly private. My favorite was the nurse who came in and said, "Hi, I'm [whatever her name was] and I'm here to swab your vagina." By that point, of course, they could have been bringing in busloads of tourists with cameras requesting to photograph my nether regions and I would have spread 'em and said, "Knock yourself out."

Anyway, around 5:00pm or so, I started to feel fairly intense pressure. I sort of vaguely recalled someone saying something to me about feeling pressure and what I should do (which as it turns out, was TELL SOMEONE), but I couldn't remember what exactly she had said. So the next time someone came in to check me, I said, "Someone said something about feeling pressure, and I'm not sure what they said, but I'm feeling pressure." She checked my cervix and declared me ready to deliver. So the doctor came in and we started the whole push, stop, okay push thing. The head delivered, and then... the shoulders wouldn't. I wasn't really fully aware of the situation until later, but one of the delivery nurses (who happened to be a neighbor of mine - raise your hands anyone whose neighbors have seen your hoo-ha) grabbed a stool to stand on so she could push on my belly to help push the baby out. It didn't come to that, because the doctor was telling me to push REALLY hard, and since I figured the doctor knew what she was doing, I did, and the shoulder came free.

My first daughter was born around 6:00pm. I could tell you the exact time if I wasn't too lazy to go find something that lists that particular bit of data, but I am, and it really isn't necessary to the story. The story which is now over, except for the part where I tell you she was a BIG baby, 8lbs, 10oz, and you all cringe and squeeze your legs together.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

From the Corner of His Eye

I read From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It's the story of a boy who can stay dry in the rain by walking where the rain isn't, a man who can toss quarters into other worlds, a girl who can see all the ways things are, a narcissistic killer who suffers terrible physical ailments when he kills, and the ways in which their lives intersect.

I found this novel to be quite interesting and I enjoyed reading it, though I did miss the dry wit found in many of the characters in Koontz's other works, most notably (for me, who hasn't read ALL of Koontz's work) the Odd Thomas trilogy. While the wit and non sequiturs are absent, the novel makes up for it with many diverse characters. In addition to the main characters mentioned above, there are twin brothers obsessed with disasters, one with natural disasters and one with man-made; the twins' sister, also the dry-in-the-rain boy's mother, the amazingly generous pie-lady; a pharmacist who takes to constant walking once his beloved polio-stricken wife dies; the Baptist minister, whose sermon about "This Momentous Day" serves as a common thread throughout the various stories, and his wife and daughters; the doctor who delivers the girl who sees all the ways things are, who had lost his wife and twin sons; Maria, a seamstress from Mexico; a piano-playing landlord-from-hell; a private investigator with perfect teeth; and a lawyer with morals.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were a few places where I felt like things may have dragged a bit, where I felt like, "come on already, bring these stories together," but I'm glad that I read it. Koontz has a perspective on good and evil that resonates. The novel makes one think about the ways in which each decision, regardless of its seeming import, a person makes can affect his/her life and the lives of many, or even all, others.

Friday, November 23, 2007

East of Eden

So finally, after a long long time of no book reviews, I am getting around to writing one for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. I still have a bunch to do, so I've got to get crackin.' I finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck over a month ago, but being the huge procrastinator I am, I am just now getting around to the review. I decided to read this book for the challenge because I don't normally read classics just for the heck of it, but I always feel that I should read them. So basically, I need a reason. When Vasilly listed East of Eden, a book which I had always thought I'd get around to reading some day, I decided that here was my reason.

East of Eden is about two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, their lives and how they intersect and affect one another. There is sibling rivalry akin to Cain and Abel, and love, or its absence, plays a pivotal role. Good and evil, and the measure of each in a person, is a continuous thread through the work. For me, this novel was not a fast read. It was not an edge-of-your-seat, have to know what happens next immediately type of read. It was interesting and satisfying, and at times surprising in its modernity. I'm not sure what I expected from a book written in the 50s and set in the late 1800s to early 1900s, but modern urban slang wasn't it. "Frigging" was used in place of "fucking" in one instance, and the word "crib" was used as a place to live, albeit one run-down and decrepit, whereas today it can mean any type of home. I also didn't expect a sociopath or a gang rape.

What I liked:
I liked the character Lee, the way he faked who he was to be what people expected, but then was able to be himself later, and his humble and wise ways.

I found it interesting that Steinbeck himself is a character in the novel. As a descendant of the Hamilton clan, the book is told as if he is telling the story, which made me wonder if, in fact, this is an autobiographical work. I quick perusal of the Internet, and consensus seems to be semi-autobiographical.

I liked A LOT of the observations Steinbeck makes throughout the novel. He inserts them seamlessly into the text, yet they easily stand apart from it. There are so many passages that I would like to quote here, but then this review would be entirely too long. So just one particular favorite:

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

Okay, one more:
Humans are caught - in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too - in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well - or ill?

There wasn't anything in particular that I recall that I didn't like. It was well-written and interesting. It was obvious why it is considered a classic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife

I was staring at my pile of books for the "Something About Me" Reading Challenge and wondering what I should read next. I decided to go with The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, since I had been enjoying the new TV series "Journeyman" and had really liked "Quantum Leap" as well. It was a great choice! The book was absolutely WONDERFUL!!

The novel is about Henry and Clare. Henry, from time to time, and completely outside of his control, "jumps" to another time period in his life or Clare's. Clare meets him when she is six and he is thirty-six, but he doesn't meet her until she is twenty, which is when he is twenty-eight. So when they meet in Henry's "real" time, she knows him very well, yet he doesn't know her at all. I can't talk about this novel in my usual way of what I liked and what I didn't like, because this isn't so much a story with a beginning, middle and end (except from Clare's point of view), as it is a story in which everything takes place simultaneously. So to talk about any particular happening in the story is to possibly give something away, even though for much of the book, the reader knows what is coming, because it already happened from someone's point of view. The only question is from whose point of view and at which point in time the reader will discover the how and why of whatever it was (s)he knows happens. A bit confusing, no? Besides, there was only one thing I didn't like, and it was something that Clare did that, to me, seemed completely out of character for her. I'll have to leave you to figure out what that is when you read this book. Because you should read this book. It immediately became one of my favorites.

I have always had a fascination with quantum physics/mechanics. That is not to say I understand them much, but I find them absolutely intriguing. I think that is why I can't stop thinking about the novel. I keep trying to compare things that happen to Henry in the novel with what little bit I sort of, kind of, but not really understand about quantum physics. Schrödinger's cat kept coming to mind. In what state was Henry at various times in the book? Was he ten, or was he thirty-two? Was he injured or was he perfectly fine? Was he in this state or in that state at any point in time? Well, he was all of the above, all at the same time. Which, of course, makes sense and nonsense simultaneously.

One thing I wonder, and I don't think it gives anything away, is why we never see MORE than two Henrys at a given time. It seems that occasionally, there might be a time when multiple Henrys ended up at the same place at the same time, since he traveled to places and times that held some import in his life.

Although I am not doing my what I liked and didn't like thing, I have to say that I absolutely LOVED the character Kimy. Her complete ho-hum acceptance of a naked Henry suddenly appearing under her dining room table or on her kitchen floor, and the fact that she kept changes of clothes in various sizes for him, and was just exactly the type of neighbor you wish you'd known as a child, or you wish your children had in their lives, and that it's all wrapped up in this tiny elderly Asian woman, was totally endearing and funny. She is a fabulous character.

So to summarize, really only one thing needs to be said: If you haven't read this novel, you should immediately rectify that situation.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Good Grief

I read Good Grief by Lolly Winston for the "Something About Me" Reading Challenge. Before I start this review, I have to take a little break to sing
Lolly Lolly Lolly, get your adverbs here!
Lolly Lolly Lolly, got some adverbs here!
Come on down to Lolly's, get the adverbs here!**
Okay, that's enough. She probably never got THAT growing up.

As I was saying, I read Good Grief by Lolly Winston, which is about a 36 year old woman, Sophie Stanton, who loses her husband to cancer, and her grieving process over the following year or so. It covers her relationship with her mother-in-law, her relationship with her best friend, depression, grief groups, jobs, dating again, psychiatrists and the wonderful medications they prescribe. Written from Sophie's point of view, the novel seems to me to be a realistic portrayal of the feelings someone in Sophie's situation would have and the actions one would take.

What I liked:
I liked Sophie's sense of humor. She couldn't help the things she was doing, but at the same time could see how her behavior might appear to someone else as the behavior of someone at the very least mentally unstable. That was just funny. And I found it SO easy to relate to being able to see a situation from an objective point of view, but still behaving in the situation as someone with a very subjective viewpoint.

My favorite realization Sophie comes to:
Maybe she [Marion, Sophie's mother-in-law] needs me to be her basket case. Just as sometimes you need a person to be strong for you, maybe sometimes you need a person to be weak for you. Maybe I am to Marion what Cops is to me. Kooky screwups who help you tell yourself: Hell, I could be worse.

I liked the relationship between Sophie and her 'Little Sister,' Crystal. Actually, now that I think about it, it was a lot like what Sophie says in the above quote about needing someone to be weak for you. It was when Sophie had to be strong for others, Crystal, her best friend and later her mother-in-law, that she really began to heal.

I'm not going to do a 'what I didn't like' section, because there's nothing that I remember that struck me in an overly negative manner. Overall, it was a fairly quick and enjoyable read with realistic characters.

** As a footnote, I miss "Schoolhouse Rock," and really think it should be brought back to Saturday mornings. Along with Mr. Yuckmouth and the little western dude that made the healthy snacks, the wagonwheels and the pineapple and cottage cheese "sundaes" that I think he called "saturdaes."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Booked to Die

I read Booked to Die by John Dunning for the "Something About Me" Reading Challenge. It is about a policeman, Cliff Janeway, who loves books. He spends a lot of time in the old and rare bookstores and knows some of the store owners and bookscouts. When a bookscout gets murdered, he thinks it fits the M.O. of his arch-enemy, whom Janeway knows has committed many atrocities, but the evidence is never quite enough to nail him. Janeway goes after his rival with a vengeance, and something happens between them that causes Janeway to give up his badge and become a bookman himself. He gets himself a store and an employee, and immerses himself in the booking business. But the unsolved murder of the bookscout is never far from his mind. Ultimately, events transpire that cause him to decide to solve the crime himself. I really enjoyed the novel. Mystery is one of the genres I read regularly, so it was right up my alley.

What I liked:
I found the whole old and rare book business fascinating. It made me want to go right out to the thrift shops and see if I could find a rare item myself. I didn't, but I wanted to. It made me wonder about the autographed first edition book I just bought in a junk store when we were on vacation. I hadn't even noticed that when I bought it, but I looked at it and the few others I had purchased there while reading this novel. But I never heard of the author, and apparently no one on the Internet had either, and he's still alive and teaching college somewhere in California. So nothing there. From now on, though, I will always look for a little nugget on the bookshelves in a thrift store or at a garage sale.

I liked Janeway's mixed-up political outlook. I think the self-contadicting nature of it is common to many of us. Here's what he says about it:
Today I'm a mess of contradictory political views. I believe in human rights: I liked Jimmy Carter for that reason alone, though I later came to believe that he had sold out his own cause in the game of pure politics. I think the Miranda ruling has generally been good, though the public will never know what a pain it can be to work with. I believe in due process, but enough is enough: I'm a fan of just and swift execution where vicious killers are concerned. It's just ridiculous to keep a guy like Ted Bundy on death row for ten years. I don't believe it when psychologists tell me the death penalty doesn't deter - take a look at kidnapping statistics in the 1930s, when it was made a capital crime after the murder of the Lindburgh baby, before you start to argue with me. I think justice started collapsing under its own weight when they let shrinks into the courtroom. The plain fact is, for some murderers, I just don't care whether they were incapable of reason, were whipped as children for wetting the bed, or had a mother who bayed at the moon. Gacy, Bundy, Manson, Speck - you'll never make me believe the world is a better place with that quartet alive and kicking. I hate abortion, but I'd never pass a law telling a woman she couldn't have one. I believe in the ERA, find it hard to understand why two hundred years after the Bill of Rights we're still arguing about rights for half our people. I like black people, some of them a lot. I supported busing when it was necessary and would again, but there's something about affirmative action that leaves me cold. You can't take away one man's rights and give them to another, even in a good cause.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't really anything in particular I didn't like.

Overall, it was a good read. It might have been fun to have had Pinky, Janeway's employee, or Ruby, another store owner, or both as the crime-solving sidekicks. It would have allowed the reader to get to know those characters better, exposed us to more of Pinky's sense of humor, which I liked, and allowed for an interesting twist that I can't get into because it may give something away. I liked the book, and if anyone is considering reading it, I'd say go ahead, you'll probably enjoy it.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It is a young adult novel that takes a look at the conflicting emotions teenagers face when presented with someone different than themselves. The character Stargirl is, well, weird. But in a sweet and endearing way. The other kids don't know what to make of her. Our narrator, Leo, becomes torn between his growing feelings for her and his desire to conform and be accepted by the rest of his peers. The novel was a well-written super fast read. It was enjoyable and I found it easy to relate to the characters.

What I liked:
I think it was a fairly realistic view of kids of high school age (well, except for the complete lack of smoking, drinking and drugging, but those issues weren't the point of the novel, so we'll forgive the omission). I think we all knew someone like Stargirl, an outcast for no other reason than that she was a unique personality and didn't bother to try to conform. Looking back, I think the reason other kids would steer clear of kids like Stargirl was that they envied them their fearlessness, the ability to just be who they were without worrying about the opinions of others.

I liked her random acts of kindness. In particular I LOVED what she does with spare change. So much so, that I intend to do it myself. Which leads me to my favorite excerpt from the book:
Throughout the day, Stargirl had been dropping money. She was the Johnny Appleseed of loose change: a penny here, a nickel there. Tossed to the sidewalk, laid on a shelf or bench. Even quarters.

"I hate change," she said. "It's so... jangly."

"Do you realize how much you must throw away in a year?" I said.

"Did you ever see a little kid's face when he spots a penny on a sidewalk?" she said.

I liked the old man who had become a kind of mentor to a group of the kids. He was a font of wisdom, yet he didn't just dole it out, he made the kids come to the realizations on their own.

What I didn't like:
Well, to be honest, I can't really think of anything. Oh, wait, there is something. Spinelli spelled Hillari with an "i." That replacing the "y" with an "i" thing for the sole purpose of... well, nothing really, annoys the hell out of me. A byproduct of growing up with a bunch of girls named Candy, Mandy, Tracy, Wendy, Becky, etc., who on the same whim everyone was having back then, became Candi, Mandi, Traci, Wendi, Becki, etc., I guess. They're parents didn't do it to them, they did it to themselves, and then they did it to their kids. Oh, the 80s. :) So I didn't like that, but that's just a petty thing.

Overall, great book! My daughter said she hadn't gotten to it yet, so I'm going to push her on it. And I will be getting her the sequel, which I will also read.

I borrowed the image from 3M's review, because the image from Amazon looked like it was glowing like neon.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The ITHA meeting will now come to order

Hi, welcome to Iced Tea Haters Anonymous (ITHA). My name is Fiona Picklebottom and I'm an iced tea hater. Yes I hate iced tea. Unless it's prefaced by the words "Long Island." But that's another meeting.

My hatred of iced tea would have gone by unnoticed, probably for my entire life, had I not grown up in the south. In Charleston, SC, however, it is perfectly acceptable and even expected that one is offered nothing except iced tea to drink, whether in someone's home for an informal visit or at any type of gathering. Which means I must have said, "No, thanks, could I just have water?" about 974,649 times. Enough to have a T-shirt printed with those words to wear to those gatherings. Wish I'd thought of that then.

Iced tea (sweet, by the way, so it's also known as 'sweet tea' in the south) is such an expected part of the southern meal, that people just assume everyone likes it, and it gets served to you sometimes even when you ask for water. They just think you meant water in addition to your tea. I've even been to restaurants where a glass of iced tea was already at your place setting along with the usual glass of water. Or a pitcher of tea was on the table.

And the looks of absolute shock one gets when the words "No thank you," come out of your mouth in response to an offer of iced tea. It's like the person who offered suddenly does not know what to do. He or she is in a complete state of befuddlement. Sometimes their mouths will even open and close like a fish, like they feel the need to say something but for the life of them can't think of what.

The dislike of iced tea in the south is a sacrilege. Kind of like a southerner disliking grits. I go to that meeting, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

I read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It's not my usual reading fare, but it sounded interesting, so I thought 'what the hell heck.' And it was interesting. This is a novel written by Anne Rice (yes, she of the vampire fame) from the point of view of Jesus as a 7-8 year-old boy. It is a believable story about the events that may have taken place within Jesus's family, thoughts he made have had as a young boy and his awareness or lack thereof that he is somehow different than the other children. Now, I admit that I'm no Bible scholar. I have not read it cover-to-cover (I've tried a couple of times, but I somehow never get past Exodus), and I only know the well-known stories. So I may say that I wondered about something that Rice touched on in this novel, and you may be thinking, "Well, duh, it says all that in the Bible," and you would be right that I am ignorant of it being right there where I could have eased my wondering mind all along.

What I liked:
I liked that Rice gave voice to things I had wondered about regarding the virgin birth. For example, in the novel, it WAS a scandal, people DIDN'T believe Mary. When she returns to Nazareth with Jesus, he is almost denied admittance to the school to learn from the rabbis, because he is thought to be a child conceived in sin. All of this is only alluded to, no one ever comes out and says that people assumed Mary had had sex with someone and become pregnant, but everyone thinks it.

I liked Mary's brother, Jesus's Uncle Cleopas. He's a lot like me in that he was continually amused by people not just saying what they mean. Everyone danced around what they knew, and refused to just come out with it, but Cleopas thought that was ridiculous. The only reason he stayed silent was because he promised Joseph.

I liked that Jesus was portrayed as a real kid, one that liked to run and play, though he was obviously wise beyond his years. It was through play that he realized he had "powers" that others did not - the power to kill, the power to give life. He desires things, as children do, but his desires actually happen. When he wishes for snow, it unexpectedly snows. The wise beyond his years part was what kept him in check. If my almost seven-year-old discovered that whatever she wished for happened, my house would be full of Webkins, and we would eat every meal at Chuck E. Cheese's. But Jesus realizes what is happening and decides to only pray for things that are God's will.

I liked the sibling rivalry. That James, Joseph's older son, could envy and at times even hate Jesus, knowing he was the son of God, was a true testament to the intensity of sibling rivalry.

I liked Jesus's reaction when he finally put together the story of his birth and realized what had happened because of it. Not that it was a happy part of the book. I liked it because Jesus had a very human reaction. We'd probably call it a nervous breakdown. This was the only part of the book that elicited an emotional response from me.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't really anything in particular I didn't like. It was a bit of a slow read, and seemed to drag in places.

One thing I didn't like, because it just wasn't mentioned at all, was that while Mary was 13, Joseph was 60 or thereabouts (right?). And they were betrothed. Pedophilia anyone? Now I know things were different back then, but today Joseph would be in jail, so I thought maybe it deserved a mention and some sort of rationalization.

Overall, it was an interesting novel that I'm glad to have read. It was nice to read some speculation, particularly well-researched speculation, on Jesus at ages that aren't mentioned in the Bible. I think in the Bible we see his birth, he pops up around the age of 12, and then we see him as a man. But what of the child? I'm glad Anne Rice addressed this. BUT... I would have liked to see a more mischievous child-Jesus. I would've liked to see Jesus play some practical jokes with his powers. Something that would have made me able to relate him to my nephews at that age. Maybe next Rice will speculate on a teenage Jesus, call it 'God's Rebellion' or something.

As a side note, the 'Author's Note' at the end of the novel was really worth reading. Rice gives her religious history, details the research involved in writing this novel, and wonders about the various ways to portray Jesus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Temporary, for Jess

Not a great picture. They are dangly, but not overly so. Small round amethyst at top, then small diamond, then teardrop amethyst. Very simple.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Special ed teachers left behind act

No time to write a post today, because I have about a dozen places to be all at the same time. (I need one of those replicators that Calvin invented in "Calvin and Hobbes.") But I did take a few moments to comment on a post regarding the "No Child Left Behind Act" over at All Opinions Are Not Equal. It's an interesting discussion, go check it out.

Anyway, for my post here, I'm copying an excerpt from my comments over there. It's regarding how the "No Child Left Behind Act" affects special ed teachers.
As a special ed teacher I know put it, "When they can cure learning disabilities, then these kids will be proficient." She teaches some kids that can't even speak, yet they are expected to sit down and take these tests and test at grade level or higher, or the school won't get federal funds and the teacher is threatened with termination. And this is one of those teachers who is not only great at what she does, she also goes out of her way to make sure these kids have what they need. She has a disproportionate number of kids at or below the poverty level, abused, neglected and being observed by social services. When the kids have no food in the fridge, she gets them groceries; when they have no winter coat, she brings in the outgrown coats of her own kids. And she's constantly under the gun to make her students, many of whom will never be able to function without assistance, pass these test on a proficient level. This is the result of the "No Child Left Behind Act."

What do you think about this act and its effect on public education?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Giver

Review #3 for the "Something About Me" reading challenge is on The Giver by Lois Lowry. I would like to say something like, "The Giver is a [insert genre here] novel about blah, blah, blah...," but frankly I don't know what genre it falls into. Is it science fiction? Didn't really seem like it to me, no outer space stuff or anything like that, no weird species or wars among weird species. What qualifies something as science fiction anyway? And what genres exist from which to choose? So a-googling I went, because this is a lack of knowledge that could possibly mark me forever as a moron in the minds of all the literary-types with the book blogs that I've been enjoying. So, in case any of you is hiding under the ignorance rock along with me, here is a list of literary genres. Based on this list, I've narrowed The Giver down to these possibilities: children's literature, social science fiction and philosophical novel. I'm going to go with my own, made up, genre: children's philosophical novel. If I'm way off here, please enlighten me. So, with that out of the way, let's continue.

General comments:
The Giver is a children's philosophical novel (I think) about a boy, Jonas, who is given the assignment of "Receiver of Memory" by the community in which he lives. It is set in the future, exactly how far we don't know, but far enough that society has "evolved" to total control of the individual. There are strict behavior parameters to which everyone must adhere, and yes, Big Brother is watching, or listening, actually. There are no strong emotions and no choices. Even the weather is controlled. Life is colorless, in many ways. But there is one person who is allowed to know and experience the truth, and that is the "Receiver of Memory." This novel is about what happens when the old "Receiver," now called "The Giver," passes on his knowledge to Jonas, the new "Receiver."

If the movie "Pleasantville" and Orwell's novel "1984" were to produce an offspring, this would be it. Granted, it's been over 10 years since I read 1984, and it's been since whenever "Pleasantville" came out that I've seen it, but I just kept thinking of those two as I was reading this book.

I'm not going to do the "What I liked, what I didn't like" thing that I did on my other two reviews, mainly because there wasn't anything that jumped out at me for either of those categories. Overall, I did enjoy the book. It was a quick and pleasant read. I could see it used in a middle school English class; it would be one that the kids would probably really like, and it contains plenty of things to analyze.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ender's Game

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, is a science fiction novel. So I would have probably never read it, except for it being suggested by Becky for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. She had stated that this book started her "love affair with science fiction." So I thought I'd give it a shot. After I had chosen it to read, it turned up on Karlene's list as well.

General comments:
This book is about a very young, incredibly intelligent boy, Ender, who is taken from his parents and trained to fight in the earth's military organization, the Intergalactic Fleet, known as the IF. He is thought to be the last hope in the war against the buggers, and those in authority use every means possible to turn him into the ruthless commander they think they need him to be.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. It hooked me right at the beginning, and I enjoyed the relationships among the kids at the Battle School. Once Ender left the Battle School, however, it started to drag a bit for me.

What I liked:
I liked how Ender managed to hold on to his humanity throughout his ordeal. He could see the various aspects of his personality and what he liked and didn't like about himself. He didn't like unfairness, and when faced with it, always managed to come out on top.

I liked this quote from a character who is considered a legend in the novel:
Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival first, then happiness as we can manage it.
-Mazar Rackham

I think that the quote rings true not just for this novel, but for real life as well. After all, we all want to be happy, but that won't matter if we're dead.

What I didn't like:
Despite the author's intent to make Ender wise beyond his years intellectually, but still a little boy emotionally, even emotionally Ender seemed too old. Even as a 6-year-old, he was able to control his emotions. And then as a adolescent he was extremely adept at it. Well, I have a adolescent, and an unusually bright one, and controlling emotions is not a strong suit in children of that age. I also have a wise-beyond-her-years 6-year-old, who does try to control her emotions, but she pretty much sucks at it.

I think there was no need for Ender to be so young. He could have started at 11 or 12, while other kids started around 14 or so. The story would have been just as good, and the main character more believable.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I am not, however, chomping at the bit to find out what happens to Ender (or the little bundle he found at the end of the book), like I am with Harry Potter. If I stumble across the rest of the Ender books, I'll probably read them, but I don't feel compelled to actively seek them out. So I guess I'm not starting a love affair with science fiction, but I will be more open to science fiction suggestions from others than I have been in the past.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Atonement Child

I know I'm not supposed to begin reading for the "Something About Me" reading challenge until August 1, and generally I'm a stickler for the rules, but hey, sometimes you just have to live a little. Anyway, I got home from vacation to find The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers on my dining room table. I had Bookmooched it for this challenge, and it had arrived while I was gone. So since I thought I had left the book I was reading at my mom's house in SC (turned out it was just in my camera case), I picked it up and started reading.

General comments:
1 - The novel is obviously written by a very religious, staunchly pro-life author. I figured this out before I discovered the evangelizing note from the author in the back (which I didn't see until after I had finished the book), but don't be impressed, it was pretty much knock-you-upside-the-head obvious. Now maybe I've had my head under a rock, and it's common knowledge about this author, but I had never heard of her. Today I googled her, and it seems she is exactly what she seems to be. So good for her. I like people who are who they are.

2 - The novel has an agenda, and that is the pro-life agenda. Now, I generally have a problem with agendas, even when I agree with them, because it means I'm only getting one side of the story. But this book didn't try to hide it's agenda in any way, so it wasn't like the author was trying to pull a fast one.

3 - I found the pregnant rape victim considers abortion angle interesting, especially since it seems to be an example that is often used in abortion discussions. The plot revolves around Dynah Carey, a young woman who is raped while attending a Christian college, and how she and everyone involved in her life deal with the subsequent pregnancy. The main dilemma being, obviously, to abort or not to abort.

What I liked:
1 - The character Joe. He is what he is, he's not judgmental, and he stands by those he cares about. You can't help but like the guy. Plus, he said my favorite quote in the book:
Tell me how on God's green earth we can dare offer salvation to a dying world when we're so busy shooting our own wounded.
Which leads me to the next thing I liked.

2 - I liked that the author openly presented the hypocrisy of "being Christian" and "passing judgment." I find so often that those who quote the Bible the most are those who least exercise the tolerance on which Jesus built his ministry. They are often the first to condemn and to judge, which is disheartening, since I know somewhere in the Bible it says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." It would be nice to hear them quote that once in a while. So it was refreshing and encouraging to see an author so openly pushing Christian values admit that a major fault with extremely religious folk is their jumping to judgment of others.

What I didn't like:
1 - In order to get her viewpoint across, the author often resorted to contrived dialogue. It just didn't seem realistic in many instances. The most obvious example being a meeting with several elderly women where they discuss abortion and abortion laws. It read like an anti-abortion public service announcement.

2 - The book in general didn't seem realistic. There was no counseling for the rape itself, Dynah just seemed to pretty much get over it. There was a very brief mention of the possibility of disease, that was never followed up on. Once she decided to have the baby, there were no longer conflicting feelings, no "how am I going to love this child completely when she is half my attacker?" feelings. It is all simply brushed aside in the rightness of the decision not to abort and the glow of love for the child. While I don't have experience in this subject, it just doesn't seem realistic that only nine months later a rape victim wouldn't still be a bit of an emotional mess, particularly a pregnancy-hormone loaded victim who had no counseling.

Overall, the book was very readable, and I got through it in 3 days. It was interesting, but very one-sided, and left me wondering what pro-choicers would say about some of the information given. I would have found it intellectually stimulating had some pro-choice viewpoints on the issues been completely presented and then argued against. By not presenting those conflicting viewpoints, the book is left open to attack from pro-choice activists. I think the novel could have been made a bit more realistic had Dynah, while not aborting because of her strong beliefs, gone through with the adoption option. While the novel was rife with conflicting emotions, I think a lot was left out or glossed over, particularly when it came to Dynah's feelings about her child.

This book was on Twiga's list, and based on what she said about why she picked it, I believe she must have attended a small ultra-conservative religious college, where she encountered a large number of self-righteous, judgmental people. I can only hope she had a few Joes to pal around with.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Reading challenge - Part 2

A while back, I joined a reading challenge. It is now close to the time to begin fulfilling the second part of the challenge, the first part being listing 5 books that say something about me. The second part of the challenge is to read books from the lists of others who are participating in the challenge. After scouring the lists for books that I hadn't read that looked interesting, I have decided on the following, in no particular order except that in which my notes ended up after I dropped them:
From Bonnie's list: Booked to Die by John Dunning

From Twiga's list: The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers

From Chasida's and Margo's lists: Chocolat by Joanne Harris, because I love chocolate and it's usually part of what I sacrifice during Lent.

Also from Chasida's list: Good Grief by Lolly Winston

From Dewey's list: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

From Wendy's list: Place Last Seen by Charlotte McGuinn Freeman

Also from Wendy's list: The Borrowers by Mary Norton, because we have it and it can double as my 6- and 4-year-olds' bedtime story.

From Christina's list: The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, because I, too, am interested in genetics and genealogy (though I'm too lazy to actually DO any genealogy).

From Jill(mrstreme)'s list: Christ the Lord by Anne Rice

From Suey's list: Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald, because I was raised Mormon (though I am no longer one).

From Booklogged's list: From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz, because coincidentally, I had just asked to mooch this book on Bookmooch when Booklogged posted her list.

Also from Booklogged's list: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, because my oldest daughter has it and also said it was good.

From Vasilly's list: East of Eden by John Steinbeck, because I had to throw a classic in there somewhere, and this is one I have been meaning to read for years.

From alisonwonderland's list: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, because my daughter has it so I have easy access to it.

From Becky's list: Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card, because I am not a huge sci-fi fan, but Becky said she hadn't been either until this book.

From Kristin's list: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Sutterfield

From Nattie's list: Fool's Puzzle by Earlene Fowler

From Stephanie's list: Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter

From Sarah Miller's list: The Giver by Lois Lowry, because it's another one my daughter has, so it's readily available.

From Faith's list: Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1) by Scott Westerfeld and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

From Juli's list: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, because it's yet another that is in my daughter's room that I haven't read.

So I will be reading for quite a while. I selected them all because they sound interesting, and some for more specific reasons as mentioned above. Since the time limit for posting each participant's five books isn't over yet, I'll have to reserve the right to add to the list.

In addition, the books on other participant's lists that I have already read (and thus may join in the discussions of) are:
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (but it's been so long, I may have to re-read in order to discuss)
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (also may need to re-read)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (another probably need to re-read)
Beach Music by Pat Conroy (which was also on my list)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) by J.K. Rowling
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (another need to re-read, but I do have very vague recollections)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) by JK Rowling
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. (LOVED this, and read it multiple times growing up. Frank Gilbreth, Jr., ended up in my hometown of Charleston, SC, as a humor columnist for the Charleston Post and Courier. He used the pseudonym "Ashley Cooper," which as anyone from Charleston knows, are the names of the two rivers on either side of the Charleston peninsula that come together to form the Atlantic Ocean. ;) Once a year, he would 'fess up and admit who he really was.)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White