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.