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Is it possible?

Is it possible that I just might be able to read all the books on my list for 2009? Maybe.on_mondays

I just finished Emma this morning (yes, I know…finally) and am feeling good. I also finished Twenties Girl and picked The Day the Falls Stood Still this week too.

Can I finish 11 books in 2 1/2 months? We’ll see. Here’s what’s left:

Fiction

Arms and the Man, George Bernard Shaw

Sandition,  Jane Austen

Non-Fiction

Story, Robert McKee

Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson

Biography/Memoir

Becoming Jane, Jon Spencer

The Journals of Jim Elliot, edited by Elisabeth Elliot

Lipstick Jihad, Azadeh Moaveni

Children/Youth

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt

Christian

Sacred Chaos, Tricia Rhodes (My pastor’s wife!)

God is the Gospel, John Piper

Right now, I feel like after the mammoth I felt Emma was I can conquer (ie, read) anything! Just to be clear, Emma wasn’t bad–not at all–just so very, very long.

But looking at the list…that’s a lot of books. To finish by December 31st, I’d have to read a book a week, which might be doable if all life and holidays subsided, considering the length of some. Either way I’m still excited at the amount of reading I have done this year, which is more than I expected!

This week I’m going to crack into Tuck Everlasting and Sacred Chaos, both I think will be quick reads. We’ll see on it goes!

Book Review: Twenties Girl

TwentiesGirlI just finished reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella this morning. It wasn’t my plan to read it. I went to the library Wednesday to pick up The Day the Falls Stood Still that I had on hold (which I’m really excited about) and did some book browsing. I found it on the new books shelf and figured why not. If I didn’t like it I could just put it down….and I almost did.

Here’s the synopsis:

Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie–a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance–mysteriously appears, she has one last request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, and Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing distractions. Her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, her start-up company is floundering, and she’s just been dumped by the “perfect” man.

Sadie, however, could care less.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from each other along the way. (from Random House)

For the first good bit I was wondering why I was reading it. It’s the same formulaic chic lit plot with the over-the-top embarrassing situations, money woes, and naive characters. I almost put it down. Twice.

But I’m glad I finished. I know this will sound corny, but in some ways it was a little more than the regular chic lit. Of course, there’s romance and embarrassing moment after embarrassing moment, but in the end it’s about family. Kind of. It made you, or at least me, wonder what you’re long-lost realtives were like in their youth. They weren’t always old.  What were they like? Anyways…

It was an enjoyable, quick read. Longer than most chic lit books…pushing 500 pages. I think one thing I enjoyed was that the end was not about Lara’s life being “fixed” or a happily-ever-after ending, although those were definitely there. It was a nice departure from the normal chic lit, not too far. I’d say it’s a favorite…for chic lit, that is.

Book Review: Birth

FYI – This is a long post…so you might want to go grab a drink or something.

I first heard about Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy when my husband and I were talking our childbirth class (Bradley method) before Joey was born. I jotted the title down in the back of our workbook to remember for later. This has been one book I’ve really been looking forward to reading this year.

Did you know…Cassidy_cover_sm

  • The U.S. has the 2nd worst infant mortality rate in the developed world. (See articles here and here.)
  • The U.S. is ranked 41st in the world for maternal mortality. (See articles here and here.)
  • The U.S. C-section rate hovers around 30%, double the World Health Organization recommendation. (See articles here and here.)

Coming away from it my feelings are a little mixed. While Cassidy had a lot of great information and a very thorough history of birth, I came away feeling that the book was part factual, part memoir, and mostly personal opinion. While I’m an adocvate of natural birthing, midwives, and reform in obstetrics in America, Cassidy’s writing comes across much of the time as a personal vendetta against doctors and obstetrics in general. As the book progressed, it was hard to tell what side of the fence Cassidy was on. It seemed in an attempt to be unbiased she jumped from the natural birth/midwife camp to the hospital/doctor camp.

A lot of crazy things have been done in the history of modern obstetrics from “twilight sleep” and strapping laboring women to beds to a mandatory shave of the pubic area and father free deliveries, things that modern medicine (of the time) deemed best. Now we know many of those techniques are not only obselete, but dangerous. Many descriptions aren’t for the faint of heart, more like gag worthy. Ever hear of a craniotomy in labor? You don’t want to know.

The author gives a brief history of the birth experiences from the women in her family. Crazy stories, similar to that of my husband’s grandmother and other women who went into labor and later couldn’t even remember delivering their own child. Cassidy’s first birthing experience was less than what she expected, describing the aftermath as tragic and horrifying. It’s her personal experience and I don’t doubt the trauma, but she isn’t shy on the melodrama either.

I am lucky enough to have come from a line of women who have given birth natural. My mother and both grandmothers has 13 deliveries between the three of them all natural. I’m also glad that I meet a few women over the years who were unafraid to birth naturally and share their experiences. Without these women, I would have probably never thought there was another option.

I was eager to read this book for the facts and while there’s a bibliography over 15 pages long there are no in text references, which makes me doubt her some of evidence and wonder just how much embellished some details may have been. I was surprised that there wasn’t so much as a

So-and-So in his book “Whatever the Title Is,” said

She just breezed by any such references and that really bothered me. There is a section of endnotes for each chapter that matches the beginning of sentences with their corresponding reference like so,

Before he closed the wound: Bulletin of the History of Medicine 50 (1976): 243.

And while that’s better than nothing it left me wondering what would have been so hard about inserting a number in text with a reference to an endnote at the end of the chapter? The way it was done felt irresponsible and as if there might be something to hide.

In the end, I’m glad I read the book and wish that there was some way more people could know about the history of obstetrics and that natural birthing and midwives are not as dangerous as doctors and culture has painted them. Actually, statistics around the world show that, in general, birthing outcomes are better with midwives and with natural techniques. Much of the labor and delivery methods in many hospitals today is for the convenience of the medical staff, not the laboring mother. Come on, who thought it was a good idea to lay down and push? In that position you actually have to push the baby up and out!

As much as many women praise the epidural, who knows what it’s long term side effects are? Doctors once thought it was safe to give a pregnant woman an x-ray! Some studies are beginning to link pitocin and epidurals with the raise in Autism I think it’s crazy that women will go 9 months through pregnancy watching what they eat, being careful they don’t take medications that will harm the baby, etc and then get an epidural thinking it’s safe. Whatever you get, the baby gets…even in labor. My goal is not to offend anyone here and I’m sorry if I do, but to me the logic just doesn’t line up.

And as another quick aside, when labor is not progressing instead of having women do something that may promote labor, oftentimes they’re given pitocin, the synthetic form of oxytocin, which brings about contractions often more intense than they would have naturally progessed and the next shot is an epidural to handle the pain, then in most cases slows labor which leads to a C-section.

I think what America needs in its obstetrics is a better education system. Women are basically told an epidural or C-section is the way to go. There is little to no education on techniques to manage labor and even fewer freedoms once laboring at a hospital. My word to you: educate yourself. Read books on labor and delivery, the natural way and how hospitals approach birth. (I hate to clump all hospitals together. I know some are more natural birth friendly than others.) Ask a lot of questions. Do your own research. Don’t just trust your medical professional, ask why.Understand that more care doesn’t mean better care. Decide for yourself what is best for you and your baby.

In the end, balance what is best for the mother and infant. For me and my family, we’ve decided that birth free from drugs and with as little intervention as possible is best for us. I researched midwives and birthing centers in the area we lived and found one that I absolutely loved with a great history and recommendations. I wouldn’t have traded my experience at Best Start with my midwives for the world. For the record, I’m not against a C-section if it is necessary, however many women today are having C-sections for convenience rather than necessity which can be very dangerous.

If this topic interests you, then I’d recommend finding a copy of The Business of Being Born and watching it.

When the Soul Mends is the third and final book in the Sisters of the Quilt series by Cindy Woodsmall.WhentheSoulMends_001

Here’s the synopsis:

Rumors and lies left Hannah’s life in tatters; can the truth possibly stitch it back together?

Having fled in disgrace more than two years earlier, Hannah finally has found happiness in the Englischer world, as well as love with Martin Palmer, a man with whom she can safely entrust her heart. But almost immediately after her arrival in Owl’s Perch, the disapproval of those who ostracized her reopens old wounds.

As Hannah encounters former fiancë Paul Waddell, truths unknown to her surface about the events during her absence and she faces an agonizing decision. Will she choose the Englischer world and the man who restored her hope, or will she return to the Plain Life-and perhaps her first love?

I enjoyed When the Soul Mends the most out of this series. More than just the loose ends being tied up, you get to see more character development in Hannah and her relationships. She returns home after a desperate call from her sister, who she finds is suffering mental instability, and is forced to work with her former fiancee, the only one who is able to help Hannah’s sister.

As the story progresses, Hannah comes to know about what happened after she left particularly with Paul, whom she thought deserted her. It’s interesting as Hannah is faced with choices between her old way of life and family with the new life and family she’s made for herself. Even more so as Woodsmall pits her two loves against each other in a battle of character, which makes you wonder why Hannah choose one of them in the first place. One man is revealed to be more shallow and self-absorbed, while the other is humble and faithful.

The ending was very satisfying and, I felt, ended the way it should have albeit a bit predictable, but that’s the genre! If you like Amish fiction I’d definitely recommend the Sisters of the Quilt series as  a read.

When-the-Morning-Comes_002The Sisters of the Quilt series continues in When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall. Here’s the synopsis:

When the Morning Comes is the sequel and continuation of the best-selling novel When the Heart Cries. Her relationship with fiance Paul Waddell in tatters, Hannah Lapp has fled her secluded Old Order Amish community in hopes of finding a new home in Ohio with her shunned aunt. Hampered by limited education and hiding her true identity, Hannah struggles to navigate the confusing world of the Englischers.

Will the countless opportunities in her new life persuade Hannah that her place is amongst the Englischers or will she give in to her heart’s call to return home and face the past?

It seems to me that the second book in trilogies (or at least Amish trilogies) is little more than a holding pattern for the third book. When the Soul Mends continued right where the first book left off and added a new set of characters, while maintaining the storyline with those introduced in the first book.

When the Morning Comes was good in that it continued the Hannah’s story without missing a beat and kept up with the details that were going on in her community. Where I felt it fell short was with the new characters. Relationships were introduced, but as the reader you didn’t get to see how they developed. I would have liked to see how Hannah got to know her long-lost aunt. Another aspect that seemed inconsistent with the first book was how quickly Hannah became accustomed to and embraced the Englischer ways.

Overall it was a good book for the genre. Definitely a holding place.

Banned Books Week

This last week was Banned Book Week and while I didn’t participate in any of the related challenges, I did wonder how many (if any) and what books I’ve read that were once banned?

From the American Library Association (the list):

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster

Apparently, the titles in bold represent the books that have been challenged/banned and the non-bold titles have been the target of ban attempts.

Seriously, how can some of these books have been banned? Charlotte’s Web? Even Winnie-the-Pooh made it on the list! If you’re interested, Wikipedia has a list of books that have been banned by different governments (click here for the list).

My New Library

Isn't it pretty?

Isn't it pretty?

Leaving the library in San Diego and moving to a smaller, yet still large, city I was hoped wouldn’t decrease the availability of books. There have been a few pros and cons of the Louisville Free Public Library. There’s 18 or 19 libraries in the county, which is good for transferring books and if I don’t want to wait for a hold to be delivered most of the libraries are within a 20 minutes.

The downside of their hold system is that you can only have 3 items on hold at a time per month. So far I’ve had 4ish items on hold this month, but only 3 at a time…so I’m wondering if this is steadfast rule. At the library in San Diego there was a 25 hold limit, which was really good if you were waiting for a new book or movie.

That’s another thing…their movie collection here is slim pickings. Back in SD, the movie collection for the city libraries was like Blockbuster! If there was a movie coming out on dvd, once the release date was published I’d put it on hold. Most of the movies here are educational or documentaries.

The library I visit has a great little children’s nook. It’s a castle turret with a small stage built on the inside and painted murals from fairy tales. I’ll have to take a picture of it sometime. It’s quite adorable.

Oh, and another good thing about being back east is the architecture. California’s great, but has boring building after boring building. There’s another library about a mile from our house and the one we go to is the same distance, but I picked it because of it’s look. It’s a gorgeous building!