Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book List-January

I've entered the sedentary portion of my pregnancy, and you can't crochet all day. In fact I can't crochet very long at all. So I'm reading more. I'm also accepting recommendations. Don't feel slighted if yours never shows up here, I am only reading what I can find at the library. I remember now how frustrated I was by our small library at this point in my last pregnancy. Oh well, if I really need something to read I can always go back to the Wheel of Time books, they take up a lot of time.

Daemons are Forever. Urban fantasy with the sensibility of a James Bond novel. Slightly silly and a bit violent, but entertaining. Just like the Bond movies I suppose, though I haven't seen any of the new ones. These books are more on the level of Roger Moore, not as good as Sean Connery.







Heart's Blood. Don't you hate it when you guess the big important plot twist 1/3 of the way in? I then spent the rest of the book waiting for the real plot twist, but unfortunately that was it. It was well written other than that. This is the first of a series, but I probably won't be reading the others. If I can figure out one book by an author I can generally figure out the rest.






Magician. Silverthorn. A Darkness at Sethanon. Prince of the Blood. Standard fantasy fare. I've found myself attracted to these epic fantasies a bit more lately. I started this series once before and never got into it, but my standards always relax a bit when I am pregnant. And luckily enough, there are at least 5 more of these at the library.







Truly, Madly. In the middle of the coldest winter my town had seen in over 30 years I received a very timely package, the ARC for this book. Though not a serious, important book by any means, it was perfect for lightening the winter dark a bit.
The romance was fun. The touch of magic even funner. The mystery part a bit pedestrian but enjoyable. The ending came abruptly and was the weakest part of the story.
A cute story, just right for a light-hearted afternoon's read.



Inside the Victorian Home. I didn't actually read all of this. It was too dry for me. I skimmed through and read bits here and there. The two things stuck with me. The amount of cleaning that had to be done because all the heating was done with coal was incredible. I don't think we appreciate how cleaner our lives are because of electricity and power plants. There was also a passage talking about How-to books. They had them back then too. And just like now, they weren't so much a guide as to the best way to do things as a means to guilt every woman who read them into feeling inferior. The author was insightful enough to realize that just because the household hints book suggested doing something, it didn't mean that most women really did it that way. Take that Martha Stewart.

Rhapsody in Green. This was a sweet little book. Though I got it from the library it is more of a gift book, the kind with little quotes to lift your day. This one has quotes about gardening from an English writer named Beverly Nichols. It was a nice lift, especially on a day that it is snowing, again.






The Still. Terrible book. Bad enough I was kept awake thinking about how many aspects of the book I really disliked. I skipped ahead to the ending, because I couldn't see how the main character could improve over time like the blurb on the back said. It turns out, he didn't.







That's all for now, but I am sure I will be reading an amazing amount in the next month or two, since standing for any length of time causes a great deal of discomfort and pain. My butt is firmly in the reading chair.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cheap


No, that does not refer to me. It is the title of this lovely book. Honestly I can't recommend it unless you need a million new things to worry about every time you go shopping. If I could figure out a way to provide for my family without associating with the companies the author mentions I would. But I'm not ready for that homestead in the wilds of Montana just yet.
The main reason I'm even talking about this book is a few things I learned that I figured I would share, in the interest of spreading the frustration around.
The chapter on IKEA was eye-opening, even though I have never spent a dime there and probably won't either. Lots of stuff on their intentionally cheap design process, illegal logging and such, but this paragraph made me laugh, in a cynical, irritated way;
IKEA stores are positioned well outside city centers, in areas where huge spaces can be had at relatively low real estate and tax costs. This business model allows the company substantial economies of scale while at the same time compelling customers to drive very long distances--an average of 50 miles round trip in the United States. Customers must drive back to the store. . . to return malfunctioning furniture or retrieve missing parts (a surprisingly frequent occurrence). . . . the traffic jams surrounding IKEA stores are so gnarly that customers are discouraged from shopping on weekends when lines of idling cars can back up for miles. IKEA touts its "green side" by lighting its stores with low-wattage bulbs and charging extra for plastic bags while its clientele burns through gallon after gallon of fuel to buy disposable tables and lamps. Asked his assessment of company practices, MIT-trained urban development expert Wig Zamore said, "IKEA is the least sustainable retailer on the planet."
Just to clarify, I am do not consider myself an environmentalist, sustainable anything advocate, but I do enjoy breaking down facades, especially when they are as widespread and deliberately deceptive as IKEA's.
Now a shorter quote on Walmart, about something I had discovered for myself.
Much touted "everyday low prices" are applied selectively, often on inexpensive high-volume goods that are essentially thinly disguised loss leaders. Wal-Mart actually has higher than average prices on about one-third of the stock it carries. On those items for which prices are lower, the average savings is 37 cents, with about one-third of items carrying a savings of no more than 2 cents.
Wal-Mart is an easy target, but buyer beware, you shouldn't assume that everything you find there is the best deal.
One more quote, about the value of food. "Americans can eat pizza at about a thousand calories a dollar, or Oreo cookies at about 1,300 calories a dollar. M&Ms at about 3,000 calories per dollar are a huge bargain. Spinach is about 30 calories a dollar, not a bargain."
The statistics that poorer people are more likely to be obese is easily explained by the above information. It is amazingly hard to fight that initial impulse of price before any other consideration. I have been working on it, especially with regards to food. This book helped give that desire a shove in the right direction.

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Ellen Ruppell Shell. Penguin. 2009

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Creation




Back to teaching Sunday school. Because of some swaps it has been a long time. Rotating with three of us means complete unpredictability for the ward. It is always nice to see the pleased, "Oh, its you today!" looks as people file in. The lesson was on the creation. I would recommend going outside for a start. Even in the winter the beauty and majesty of God's creation can take your breath away if you let it.
There were two bits that impressed me in the lesson. The first was a quote I found while thinking of the importance of being grateful for what we have been given. J. Reuben Clark said, “Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them, they are here; yours is the part of cherishing them” (Church News, 14 June 1969, 2). Italics added.
The idea of not just appreciating our blessings, but cherishing them appealed to me.
Then I closed the lesson with this scripture from Moses 7:30,
And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;
When we look at pictures in space, like this one from the Hubble telescope, and see the countless stars and the infinity of the Lord's creation and then back at ourselves, it is easy to feel insignificant and useless. But we have the promise that He knows each of us by name. Amid the enormity of the universe, He is there for me and for you and each of us, one by one. That seems to be one of the biggest miracles of Creation.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Navel gazing, as if I could

This blog will be trending toward not much of anything in the next few months. The portion of pregnancy that makes everyone miserable, not just me is starting and I'm not sure how bad it will get. With morning sickness starting again, the weird carsick dizziness that goes with it and increasing contractions, I am well on my way to being completely useless.
I wish these physical symptoms just left me with time to think deep thoughts, or read or think at all, but my mind becomes very disjointed. I still have things I want to think about, or blog about, but I also have a little black notebook for these thoughts so I can save them for a time when I am mentally able to go more than five minutes at a time on the same track.
So while I have a desire to blog and communicate, I lack the ability.
I figured I may as well post a weekly update and note what books of small literary value I read during the week. If I get too whiny or boring, let me know.
Babyville: I'm not sure why I've been attracted to "Chick-lit" books this pregnancy, probably because I know that They are funny, light and generally don't require me to think further than "Why are all these women pressing on with a life that makes them unhappy?" Since this was about several women in various stages of having their first child it gave me an opportunity to laugh at a stage of life I'm well past. And I love the skirt on the front cover.





Talon of the Silver Hawk: While I enjoy fantasy, a lot of it can be denser that I am up to now. One way of determining whether I want to read it is font size. Large font usually means not very serious stuff. Urban fantasy also tends to be lighter, if you can avoid the sex and blood drenched ones. This was a nice little novel, sort of a coming of age thing. It has several more to go so I have some options next time I go to the library.

If you have any suggestions as to light reads, I'm open, though my library is sadly lacking in many things I want to read.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year-belated

Just a post to say, yes I'm still here. I even have intentions of writing more at a later time this week. But I have two birthdays and the first week of back to school to manage, so we will see.
Also, I felt a compelling need to say the only resolution I have for this year is to have a baby. At this point anything else feels like overkill.
Enjoy your first real day of the new year.