Friday, March 30, 2012

My Reading List: February

Another month of reading to report. I'm a little behind, obviously, since March is almost over, but here's my February reading!

On Writing by Stephen King. I absolutely loved this book. I had heard great things about it from everyone I know who's read it, and they were right. It was good advice and good stories at the same time. It's a writing book, not a novel - it's perfect for anyone who wants to be a writer!
Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling. This classic movie that I've loved my whole life actually started out as a play! I was working on a story about a group of women and wanted to read this a inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised that the movie follows the original dialogue verbatim. It was quick - probably about 50 pages or less - and fun. Made me want to watch the movie again, and I could hear Sally Fields' and Dolly Parton's voices in my head the whole time!
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Oh, Anna Karenina. She became a household name during the almost 2 months it took me to get through this almost 900-page monstrosity. Eva would say, "Are you reading Anina Karenina again?" Inevitably, I was reading it all the time trying to be done with it. I'm proud to say I finished it and can add it to my list of major accomplishments. It was worth reading, although a little lengthy.
Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler. My monthly dose of Anne. This one did not have the ending I wanted. I read it through quickly and was sitting in my room at night on my bed when I finished it. After reading the last paragraph with utter disbelief, I threw the book on the floor and said, "Seriously, Anne??" But of course, since it was Anne Tyler, it wasn't a disappointment in the long run. After I had time to think it through, I agreed with the ending. It made sense, although it wasn't "happpy" in the traditional sense. It's the story of a handicapped man (never says exactly what his handicap is) and his strange relationship with a woman. That's a pathetic blurb, I know. But I recommend it, despite the ending. (I have yet to read an Anne Tyler that I would NOT recommend.)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Sprout. This is actually a collection of short stories, which was a first for me in my reading life, all involving in some way the character of Olive Kitteridge. The writing was beautiful, I loved the characters (especially Olive), and I put Elizabeth Sprout's newer book, Amy and Isabelle, on my to-read list because I loved her writing so much. I definitely recommend this book. 
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. Another classic purchased in college with lofty intentions and a future of collecting dust on my bookshelf. It's short, though, and I thought after Anna Karenina, I could do ANYTHING. I finished reading it in line at Disneyland and enjoyed it - anything you can read in the happiest place on earth has to be pretty good. It's set in England in the late 1800s, I think, and is about a girl named Lucy who "faints into the arms of a fellow Britisher when she witnesses a murder in a Florentine piazza. Attracted to this man, George Emerson--who is entirely unsuitable and whose father just may be a Socialist--Lucy is soon at war with the snobbery of her class and her own conflicting desires. Back in England she is courted by a more acceptable, if stifling, suitor, and soon realizes she must make a startling decision that will decide the course of her future: she is forced to choose between convention and passion. The enduring delight of this tale of romantic intrigue is rooted in Forster's colorful characters, including outrageous spinsters, pompous clergymen and outspoken patriots." Thank you, Amazon, for that summary. It is incredibly painful for me to try to sum up a book in a few sentences. Anyway, if you like reading classics, this is a good one.
Persuasion by Jane Austen. Poor Jane must sit up in heaven and look down at the masses clamoring over Pride and Prejudice and want to scream, "I wrote other books, you know!" Sometimes I want to scream that for her. I took a class in college solely on the works of Jane Austen and was able to broaden my Austen horizons considerably. Thankfully, because Persuasion is my favorite one, surpassing even the untouchable P&P. It's short and wonderful with just the happy ending you want and all the suspense (will he? won't he?) that you expect from a good love story. I HIGHLY recommend this book.
Divergent by Veronica Roth. This was our book club selection for the month and I was skeptical at first. I don't mean to be a book snob, but deep down I am. I took it to CA (on my Kindle) and ended up reading 95% of it lounging on the beach, which is the perfect way to read anything. This is similar to Hunger Games - it's that type of a book. Although the writing wasn't anything to sing about, I actually really got into the story. It's YA fiction, so the story is intense and easy to follow. The sequel is coming out May 1 (Insurgent) and I do plan on reading it.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I think I have a definite THING for authors named Ann. My first Ann Patchett book was Bel Canto, in college. Literally, I read the first paragraph and started crying, it was so beautifully written. (Could have been hormones or being 19, I know, but it REALLY was good.) Andrew bought State of Wonder on his Kindle while he was in Iraq and didn't like the ending, so I was slower to get to it because of his discouraging comments. When I finally did read it, I wondered why I had stopped reading Ann Patchett. I need her in my life. And I didn't hate the ending. The next day (!!) I saw Ann Patchett on the Colbert Report and fell even more in love with her. Since then I have started following her blog and requesting everything she recommends at the library. I just may have to make an Ann Patchett book a monthly treat too!

9 books in February, including some pretty good reading on family vacation - I was pleased with the month.

I was thrilled after my January post when a couple people asked me about Anne Tyler books. Stacey borrowed one and I had one sent to my poor sister Lindsay, who just had a baby. In Alaska. I told Andrew it's worth all the work of posting (including those dumb little pictures) if one person reads a book I recommended. Sorry my little blips about the books are so totally pathetic - I'm not trying to do a real review, more of just a list. (If you want to read REAL book reviews, visit my friend Trevor's blog. Seriously? It puts my ramblings to shame.)

If you read anything on my list, please let me know how you like it! I'd also love any recommendations. 100 books leaves a lot of room for extras on the list!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Fancy Party for a Birthday Girl

Eva turned 5 this past week! We threw her most successful birthday party yet, I think. It was a Fancy Nancy party (if you haven't read that book to your little girls, you MUST) and wow, was it fancy. We had a tea party outside (al fresco, as Nancy taught us), all make-upped and accessorized out. Even me.

Fruit with chocolate sauce, cookies, and a beautiful cake made by, as Eva explained, "my babysitter's mom."

We had great weather and it was this fancy girl's dream party. In the days since the party, she has not put down her new pink purse or stopped wearing a necklace or two. Getting fancy is part of her daily routine now, and no outfit is complete without a few accessories. I may have created a monster, but she sure is a cute monster!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My reading list: January

This year I set a goal to read 100 books. I need to average between 8 and 9 books a month to reach this, which means I am constantly reading something.

I've been able to keep up by carrying a book with me EVERYWHERE. The bathroom, the kitchen, every time I leave the house. While the kids ride bikes, I sit on the driveway in a lawn chair reading. (As pictured above.) I read during quiet time, I read while I'm eating. I haven't yet figured out how to read in the shower. When we went to Disneyland a couple weeks ago, I read while standing in line and lounging at the pool. I read in the car, but only when Andrew's driving.

It's a goal I have thoroughly enjoyed striving for, which is more than I can say for my goal to lose 10 more pounds. In case anyone is interested, here is my list for January - I'll post February's soon.

 Cloak by James Gough. This book is written by the son of a friend in stake choir. It's his first novel, and she invited me to her book club where the author would make an appearance and answer questions and whatnot. I was thrilled to meet an author and her excitement about her son's book was contagious. I bought it on my Kindle and it was a fun, quick read. It's a story about a boy named Will Tuttle who lives in a bubble and comes to discover this whole other world of half animals, half humans. It's a YA novel, and the plot was imaginative and fun. The author himself is a very cool guy, and I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a fun book that feels like you're watching a movie as you read!
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I read this book all the way through in one sitting while I was bedroom bound the day before a colonoscopy. (You may read between the lines to understand that one.) It's a memoir, and therefore the true story of the author's life. It was sad, but also illuminating. It made me think differently about homeless people. It had a strange hopefulness at the end that made it more refreshing than depressing.
 Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I bought this book in college (thanks to Trevor) and it has been sitting on my shelf unread since then. Over 7 years. I finally buckled down (my 100 books has to include 30 classics) and read it, and I was glad I did. It doesn't need much of a review from someone like me, but I'll say it was worth reading and I wish I'd read it 7 years ago. Although I did have a fresh appreciation for it after a life beyond college.
Digging to America by Anne Tyler. Oh, Anne Tyler. She is my absolute, number 1, all-time favorite author. She is my answer to that famous get-to-know-you-question, "If you could have lunch with one person, living or dead, who would it be?" I adore this woman and her writing. Every one of her books is my favorite. I can't say enough about her. Someday, I hope to be able to write a book that approaches her awesomeness. If and when I write a novel, it will be because of Anne Tyler. This particular one (I'll be reading one of hers every month - it's like candy that I'm trying to space out to savor more) is the story of two families who each adopted baby girls from China. One family is American, the other is Iranian. It's about what it means to be American and it's a fascinating perspective of a "foreigner" into American culture. Like all her books, this one is set in Baltimore. READ THIS BOOK. It's awesome.
 Private Life by Jane Smiley. Last year I went to the Vegas Valley Book Festival and dragged my children to a reading by Jane Smiley. She's a household name for us, and occasionally Eva will say, "Remember Jane Smiley?" I bought this book there but didn't get the chance to have it signed since my ticking-time-bomb-children ran out of steam before the end of the talk. This is her newest novel I believe, and the characters were vaguely based on Jane Smiley's grandparents. It was an insightful look at marriage through the eyes of the wife, Margaret. I also have A Thousand Acres on my list, which was a Pulitzer Prize winner by Jane Smiley.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This is a non-fiction book about Henrietta Lacks, whose HeLa cells have given rise to countless scientific discoveries. I read this one for my own book club. It was an interesting story, although parts of it were a little too scientific for me. It's manageable, though, for non-scientific types like me, and definitely worth reading.
Little Children by Tom Perrotta. This cover is slightly pornographic, so don't look too close. Sorry, it's the only copy Amazon had. It's not the one my library carried ,which was an innocent green with a flower or something. :) This book was recommended to me by my creative writing professor at UNLV - he said Tom Perrotta had a great way of writing about children, which was relevant to me in my pursuits. The writing was good and the story was interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it to many people just because of the subject matter. Basically, it's about adultery. I gleaned from it what I needed, so there you go. :)

I only made it to seven in January, so I had some to make up for. But I didn't set my goal until halfway through the month, so I wasn't in as big of a rush.

Also, I should make it clear that I'm not trying to do justice to these books through my poor reviews - just give a basic list of what I read with a few tidbits. I hope to inspire someone to read a little more with my efforts at putting all this info on the WWW, and that's about it.

You think you don't have time to read until you start looking at all the dead moments throughout the day. You'd be surprised how much you can read by cutting out some TV time and carrying a book with you.

P.S. This makes it sound like I neglect my children something fierce. I don't, at least not entirely. We still do preschool every day, they eat healthy meals, the house remains somewhat clean, and they seem to still be happy, well-adjusted human beings. Of course, I couldn't do this without the total and complete support of my awesome husband, who makes it possible for me to sit and read more than my fair share.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Conquering the To-Do List

Days like today make me wonder why I bother making lists of things to do each day. I have a blackboard in my kitchen where I write the things I want to remember to do. It gives me satisfaction to see things crossed off, although rarely do I get the pleasure of crossing everything off.

This morning I woke up and sat up in bed to read from the general conference Ensign - it's what I do when I need a break from the scriptures. (I'll probably be struck down for saying that, but it's true.) I heard Dean playing in his crib and suddenly remembered that I'd noticed he'd taken his pants off last night and was sleeping in just a shirt and a diaper. I instantly knew why he was so quiet and not crying to get out - he'd found something to entertain him. I ran in there to find him laying down, singing a song with poop covered hands and a leaking brown diaper. I cleaned up that mess and put him in the tub just in time to find Leighton awake with a pee-soaked bed. He forgot to put a Pull-up on last night before bed and I, obviously, forgot to make sure he remembered.

I pulled the sheets off the bed - good thing it's Monday and it's the day I wash the shets anyway - and started a load. Andrew had left steel-cut oats cooking in the crock pot, thank heavens, so I didn't have to cook breakfast. I dished up our daily mush, complete with agave, almond milk, and a dash of cinnamon. Dean, however, was not pleased with his serving. He screamed and flung it angrily all over his newly-bathed self and the kitchen table. Mush is possibly my least favorite thing to clean up, as it gets all slimy and, unlike rice and couscous, doesn't get any better with letting it dry out. I took away his bowl and began the 30-minute battle: Dean's attack on breakfast, on the kitchen table, against poor one-man-army me, defending all our bowls amidst screams and tears.

Finally everyone was fed and dressed, preschool was finished for the day, and my list was ready to go on the chalkboard. We are doing our annual spring cleaning this month, which includes a complete overhaul of every room in the house. Last week was living room and toy is the dreaded kitchen. I wrote it on the list with fear and trembling, but I was still determined to get it done. (With Andrew's help, of course.)

The first step, after breakfast dishes, was to start the oven on self-cleaner, which always gives me a horrendous headache but is a necessary evil. I left the kids to watch a movie while I ran upstairs to shower, thinking naively the house was secure for a few minutes of peace.

I came downstairs 20 minutes later to Dean jabbering on about something and "Uh oh" while pointing to the kitchen. Eva said, while still sitting serenely on the couch, "Mom, Dean broke a jar. You better go look." The jar of quinoa was shattered on the floor and the cursed little brown beads were scattered in every corner of the kitchen. I somehow managed to clean it all up, only having to physically remove Dean back to the living room three times. As I turned off the vacuum hose, Dean came up jabbering again and holding out his little chubby hand covered in blood. Apparently he had tried to clean the broken glass up himself. I washed him off and glanced at my to-do list with a sigh. 10am and no closer to checking anything off.

So I wrote "shower" at the bottom of the list and checked it off with a smile. Maybe I should also check off "clean up poop," "clean up pee," and "clean up broken glass and quinoa."