Thursday, November 29, 2007

Welcome to the world Baby Maya!!!

Our little girl finally made an appearance this week!!! She was born on Monday, Nov. 26 at 6.44pm. After 24 hours of active labor without pain medication, we were transferred from the birth center to the hospital for an emergency c-section. Everyone made it through wonderfully and are now enjoying being at home resting and getting to know each other.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

She'll soon be here!

***Sticky Post***

Scroll down for the most recent entries.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Eragon - Christopher Paolini

Title: Eragon
Author: Christopher Paolini
Country: America
Year: 2003
Rating: C
Pages: 509

First sentence: Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.

Challenge book? I read this for the Unread Authors Challenge.

Short summary: Farm boy finds strange stone under strange circumstances. Stone is actually a dragon's egg, it hatches, and a dragon is born. Boy and dragon set out on an adventure to help save their world from evil.

What did I think: This one was just okay. Not bad, not great. This may sound weird, but I felt as if Eragon read like a King's Quest video game; all the plot points felt too pre-determined, as if he was going on a series of tasks to get to the next level and eventually "win". The plot was incredibly predictable, which is disappointing in any genre, but especially fantasy. The characters felt somewhat flat, especially Eragon. The writing, well, it was obvious that it was written by a teenager who may lack some life experiences, and the book screamed for better editing. I can see how Eragon could be popular with kids, but as an adult, I will not be picking up the second book in the trilogy, as I had originally planned.

Friday Fill-In

1. Plans and schedules can take over your life if you aren't careful .

2. I'm happy when things happen unexpectedly, as long as they are good!

3. The last thing I drank was a steaming cup of herbal tea-Eastern Shore Tea Co.'s Jack Frost Tea (rooibos, vanilla, peppermint & spearmint) .

4. One of the most valuable things in my life is my spouse and (still) unborn child.

5. I like fresh mozzarella, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes on my pizza.

6. Dear November, can you move a little faster towards the 18th, please?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to going on a long walk and having dinner with a good friend, or going into labor, tomorrow my plans include watching a movie or having a baby, and Sunday, I want to spend time with my husband or welcome a baby into our home!

If you can't tell by some of my answers, I am getting a little impatient for our first child to make an appearance! I don't mind being pregnant, but I'm definitely ready for the next step!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Booking Through Thursday

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?

I have always loved to read, but the amount that I read tends to wax and wane depending on what is going on with my life. I read a lot when I was a kid, usually as much as a book or two a day in the summer months. In high school, working, sports, and other extracurricular activities took up a lot of my time, and I had little time for pleasure reading. This continued through college and postgrad, I only had a chance to read non-academic books in the summer months, but I treasured those times. For the past few years, I have been catching up on a lot of that lost time. The only major gap of non-reading took place in the months surrounding my wedding and our move from Australia back to America.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Year of Reading Dangerously

From: All 0f 2008
Host: Estella's Revenge

Estella's Revenge is jumping into the world of reading challenges, and Heather and Andi have an exciting one planned for 2008. The goal of the challenge is to read authors that intimidate you. To help out, they have 12 official selections, and each month will form a discussion around that book. I plan on choosing some of Estella's selection, and mix it in with some of my own if I have already read a book, or in the case of Margaret Atwood, would not consider intimidating, since she is my favorite author. I am especially looking forward to the book discussions! My choices are highlighted in red.

January: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (finished 3 January 2008)
February: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (finished 12 February 2008)
March: (Atwood for Atwood's sake)Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood
I am substituting Shakespeare
April: (Poetry) Transformations, by Anne Sexton
May: (Southern) Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote a book by Flannery O'Connor or William Faulkner
June: (Russian) Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov a book by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy
July: (adolescent) The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier - or- Island of the Blue Dolphins
(Graphic Novel, Pulitzer winner) Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman
(Independent) The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy
(Contemporary/Jewish) The Human Stain, by Philip Roth
November: A Month of Classic Short Stories, Various - watch for a list
December: (Dusty) The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell

Monday, November 5, 2007

Book to Movie Challenge Wrap-Up

I finished this challenge much faster than I thought it would. Probably because it was so much fun! Thanks to Callista at SMS Book Reviews for hosting! And I look forward to participating in the Jewish Literature challenge!

My finished challenge books are:

and one extra
Unfortunately, the only movie I got around to watching was The Hours. The rest are on my Netflix queue, and I am patiently waiting for the DVD release of The Namesake on November 27. So I can't really say how most of the movies compare to the books.

The best book: I liked all of these books, but I think the Namesake just squeaks out on top.
What book could I have done without: I liked them all.
Any new authors? They are all new to me!
What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? I seem to read a lot of books that have been made into movies--more than I realize. If there's a next time, I might delve into a non-fiction book that has been turned into a documentary or movie.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer - Tracy Hogg

Title: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to calm, connect, and communicate with your child
Author: Tracy Hogg
Country: America
Year: 2001
Rating: C-
Pages: 287

First sentence: Let me tell you straightaway, luv: I didn't dub myself "the baby whisperer."

Short summary: This is a book about Tracy Hogg's baby training program that is designed to teach parents how to respect their babies, understand their needs, and help them to set up a routine of eat, sleep, and activity that works for them--the E.A.S.Y. method.

Challenge book? No.

What did I think? Just once, I would like to find a parenting book that admits, hey, this might not work for you. All families and all babies are unique, and while my ideas might work for many people, they don't work for everyone. Don't be discouraged if what I tell you doesn't work for you.

I haven't found that book yet.

Tracy Hogg claims to have the answers for everyone, since she has never failed. And undoubtedly, her middle-of-the-road approach may work for a lot of people (she continually cites the success with her Hollywood clientele and New York executives). And there are nuggets of solid advice in parts of her book: explanations of a baby's body language and cries, to help you understand what your little one is asking for; and the importance of parents to acknowledge their babies as humans, to respect them and speak to them like the tiny little people that they are.

But, the nuggets of advice seem to be scattered throughout a book that has quite a few misconceptions and inaccuracies, such as the fact that she is "never an advocate for on-demand feeding, a term that I believe speaks for itself--you end up with a demanding baby" and that breastfeeding is a current fad and may someday be replaced by genetically altered cows that produce human milk. Her supposedly unbiased approach to the breastfeeding vs formula debate seemed sadly one-sided to me.

Which brings me back to her insistence from the very beginning that this is a book that will work for everyone, and solve all of your problems. But, I don't think it would work for me, as her ideas are not compatible with some very important aspects of our parenting philosophy. I don't quite classify our beliefs as completely fitting the attachment parenting model, but there are quite a few similarities, none of which are supported by Hogg. We plan on breastfeeding exclusively, and don't plan on weaning during the first year; babywearing during the first few months (Hogg discourages this by comparing carrying baby in a sling to carrying around a sack of potatoes all day), and using a co-sleeper attached to the bed (all her advice is geared towards parents whose babies sleep in their own room from the very beginning).

These are our choices. Other families make different choices, and that is perfectly fine. Her bad breastfeeding advice aside (I would never recommend this book to someone who does not know very much about BF as a source of information), other people might find her advice very helpful. And who knows, a few months down the road, I may come back to her again if sleep is not coming so easily in our home. But I am not going to start my child on a schedule when she is four days old. And I am also learning that books that claim to know it all, are books best to stay away from.

Plus, her over-use of "quotations" absolutely "drives" me "nuts".

Jewish Literature Challenge

Host: Callista from SMS Book Reviews
Challenge Blog: Jewish Literature Challenge
Time frame: December 4, 2007 (first night of Chanukah--Kislev 25 on the Hebrew Calendar) through April 26, 2008 (last day of Passover--Nisan 21)

Yes, another challenge. I know, I'm crazy. But this one happens to coincide perfectly with what's going on with my life, so I had to join.

My list will probably be a little bit different from other people's. Although it is called a Literature challenge, Callista says that you can also include non-fiction, memoirs, children's books, and books about Jewish customs and traditions.

As some of you may know, I am not Jewish. But my husband is, and we decided a long time ago that we would raise our children Jewish, without me actually converting (I prefer to embrace my own spirituality that is not easily classified into one particular religion). Recently, I joined an 8-month long discussion group called the Mother's Circle. The Mother's Circle was devised to help women of different religious backgrounds who are raising Jewish children. It's also a great place to meet other moms. Some of the books on my challenge list I will be reading for this group, or are children's books I plan on reading to our daughter--whenever she chooses to be born! So this challenge fits in very well with my family's journey of exploration into what aspects of Judaism we will be incorporating into our home. It's a very exciting time, as we start our own family traditions, such as holding a Friday night Shabbat dinner as much as possible, and doing mitzvah (good deeds, ie volunteering) during the holiday season.

The list of possibilities (with links to my review):
1. Living a Jewish Life: Jewish traditions, customs, and values for today's family - Anita Diamant (non-fiction) (finished 22 January 2008)
2. How to be Jewish parent: A practical handbook for family life - Anita Diamant (non-fiction)
3. Moishe's Miracle: A Hanukkah Story - Laura Krauss Melmud (children's)
4. Hanukkah at Valley Forge - Stephen Krensky (children's)
5. The Keeping Quilt - Patricia Polacco (children's)
6. The Way to the Cats - Yehoshua Kenaz (fiction)
7. The Testament - Elie Wiesel (fiction)
8. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (fiction) (finished 25 February 2008)
9. The Castle on Hester Street - Linda Heller (children's) (finished 7 February 2008)

What's In A Name Challenge

From: All 0f 2008
Host: Words by Annie

The challenge is to read one book for each category below. As with most of my upcoming challenges, I am leaving myself a lot of options...and room to change.

1. A book with a color in its title:
- The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison (finished 12 February 2008)
- Red Poppies - Alai
- Blue Latitudes -Tony Horwitz
- The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

2. A book with an animal in its title:

- Tears of the Giraffe - Alexander McCall Smith (finished 17 June 2008)
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
- Some Tame Gazelle - Barbara Pym
- The Way to the Cats - Yehoshua Kenaz
- The Horse Whisperer - Nicholas Evans - DNF

3. A book with a character's first name in its title:
- Rebecca - Daphne de Maurier
- Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan (finished 28 January 2008)
- Esperanza Rising - Pam Munoz Ryan

4. A book with a place in its title:
-Istanbul - Orhan Pamuk
- The News from Paraguay - Lily Tuck (finished 5 August 2008)
- The Bookseller of Kabul - Asne Seierstad

5. A book with a weather event in the title:
- The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Luiz Zafon
- The Character of Rain - Amelie Nothomb
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See - (finished 27 April 2008)
- A High Wind in Jamaica - Richard Hughes

6. A book with a plant in its title:
- The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich (finished 8 April 2008)
- The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

Saturday, November 3, 2007

To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

Title: To the Lighthouse
Author: Virginia Woolf
Country: British
Year: 1927
Rating: A-
Pages: 310

First sentence:
"Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs. Ramsey.

Short summary:
This novel takes place in three parts taking place at the summer home of an English family, the Ramseys, in the Hebrides. The first part takes place over one afternoon and evening; the second spans ten years in which the home is left unoccupied; and the third part is a morning after the ten years in which some of the original characters return to the Ramsey's summer home.

Is this for a challenge? I decided to substitute this novel for Orlando by Virginia Woolf in the TBR challenge. Both have been on my bookshelf for a very long time. I also read it for the Seconds challenge.

What I thought: Virginia Woolf is not an easy read. But she is a delight. To the Lighthouse is written in a similar stream-of-consciousness style as Mrs Dalloway (reviewed here). However, Mrs Dalloway is mostly all about Clarissa: her relation to others, and others' (servants, family, friends) in relation to her. To the Lighthouse is more a story of the interrelationships amongst a group of people, and delves into the psychology of imagination and emotion from a variety of perspectives (albeit, some of the characters are not very interesting). It is not a novel to be read for its plot. The main focus of the story is on the inner workings of the people we meet. The third section of the novel seems to drift about, and I am left wondering if this is an unintentional weakness, or a hidden purpose that shows how things can fall apart.

It may help to have a broader knowledge of Virginia Woolf's work and career, to begin to capture and understand the larger artistic aims of this novel. As I discovered with Mrs Dalloway, Woolf's novels are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. It is another book that I hope to come back to again someday.

No, she said, she did not want a pear. Indeed she had been keeping guard over the dish of fruit (without realizing it) jealously, hoping that nobody would touch it. Her eyes had been going in and out among the curves and shadows of the fruit, among the rich purples of the lowland grapes, then over the horny ridge of the shell, putting a yellow against a purple, a curved shape against a round shape, without knowing why she did it, or why, every time she did it, she felt more and more serene; until, oh, what a pity that they should do it--a hand reached out, took a pear, and spoilt the whole thing. (p.163)