Sunday, July 27, 2008

* Three Books *

Hallowmere #2: By Venom's Sweet Sting by Tiffany Trent - Just like the first book in the hyped Hallowmere series, by the end it was very good, but in the meantime, this historical fiction/fantasy story seemed very long and quite a slow read. At just short of 300 pages, it should have been a fairly quick read for me. Again, I liked the ending, but maybe it was just a relief to reach the end after a rather, um, ongoing plodding plot. The point is that this series will have 10 books! I guess to be a saga or maybe epic it probably needs to just drag on. Usually I like wordiness, but I have found with the first two books that maybe something needs to be edited or condensed. I haven't figured out yet, what needs to happen.

You, Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty by Drs. Roizen and Oz. - This is a fun read, like their other books. I like the gray side-notes the most: "Yoga could very well be the ultimate de-stress technique. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate, decreases stress hormones, and increases relaxation hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. You can get the benefits of yoga in a single pose or in a full-fledged class" (78). I think the authors put a lot of things about health into "lay language" that makes a lot of sense and makes the information in this book much more accessible to a lot of people.

Waking: A memoir of trauma and transcendence by Matthew Sanford - This memoir is written by a guy who got into yoga (yes, more yoga) years after he was paralyzed from the chest down in a horrendous car accident as a young teenager. Now he teaches it, too. However, the part of the book that was the best, the reason I picked up this book at the library, was the story of his twin sons. One of them (William), they discovered in utero, had hydrocephalus, so they were planning on how to deal with a child who would have problems, but as the pregnancy went on, this little baby passed on. However, his mother continued the pregnancy for his healthy twin. The scene near the end of the whole book was the one that struck me the most: "Later, William and Paul and Jennifer and I are physically in the same room for the only hours we ever will be. I am struck by the calm, the beauty and ease with which we are a family. Paul in Jennifer's arms, William in mine, we are happy as we drift off into the silence of sleep" (240).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Teenage Waistland

Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat Kid Weighs in on Living Large, Losing Weight, and How Parents Can (and can't) Help by Abby Ellin (2005)

I read part of this book (skimmed it, really) two years ago in 2006. I heard of it again recently, and vaguely remembered skimming it, so I put it on hold. I am almost done reading it, and find it quite riveting. The point is, basically that by the time kids are teens, parents have no control over their kids' weights, and that individual temperments, genes, etc, will partially dictate a person's weight. Also, that teens need to be able to make their own decisions. When kids are young, even before they start school, parents can try to present healthy examples to the kids, and offer healthy foods. Many of the examples of parents in this book show that the parents themselves have a variety of food issues. How are they going to really help their children when they are hung up on themselves as well when it comes to food, eating, weight?

The book is a combination of the author's experiences growing up, in her family and at a variety of "fat camps" she spent several summers at. As a young adult, she had disordered eating as well. For a while, every third day she could binge if she wanted to, but the two days between, she had a nearly anorexic-type approach to eating. She lost boyfriends because she refused to eat with them. When she was growing up, her parents and grandma were always on her about her weight (and they were "dieting", too), and she loved food so much, and more when she couldn't have it.

The book has notes, resources, and references. It is a well-written book and definitely worth reading. It will make you think.

The Secret Circle Volume 3: The Power by L.J. Smith

The Secret Circle, Volume 3: The Power by L.J. Smith (1992)

First of all: the cover is upcoming! I need to scan the cover of my personal copy, so you can see how beat up and well-read it is.

Yes, I read this book as a senior in high school, after I'd read Smith's Vampire Diaries series of four books. I actually discovered the fourth Vampire Diaries book (Dark Renion) in the adult-level horror paperback section of the public library. The library did not own the rest of the series. I ended up buying all of them to read, and then ended up buying The Secret Circle trilogy, as well. Anyway, I loved all of these books. My favorite of all of the books I've read by L. J. Smith is The Power. These are "teen" books, but even as a senior in high school, I loved all the magical powers in these books. I've always wanted powers. I still love the third book of The Secret Circle, because of the main character, Cassie. Cassie, at the beginning is rather shy and meek, which are traits I have always thought I've had (though not quite so much anymore. . . I feel I am less meek, anyway), and by the end, she discovers not only the magical witch powers she has had all along, but the just the strength and abilities for leadership she's had all along without recognizing them. I always want to BE her. That is the power books can have.

The Secret Circle Trilogy is supposed to be released as an omnibus this fall. I think that means just a big book with all three books included. I think I would almost like another book with the characters. Actually, what I've always wished for, since the characters in the book were about my age (in high school when I was in high school), and I am now in my 30s, I would like a book more on the adult level and seeing what happened with Cassie, Adam, Diana, Faye and all the rest in the time since 1992 or so. Did they go to college? What happened with all their magic? Did any of them actually marry each other (since too much intermarriage really doesn't work out well genetically in the long run, although maybe it's different for witches, etc)? Any children/little witches running around?

That's what's fun about these books, too. . . the changes in what's popular, technology, etc. Walkmans are mentioned a lot in these books. . . now it would be iods, of course. Beepers are involved, but no cell phones. Cell phones were still very - large - and expensive in the early 90s. (It was until maybe two or three years after this that my mom got a cell phone for her car. It was phone with a whole cord and console. I wish I had a picture!) No internet! No IMing! I am glad these things are not there . . . really, one of the themes of the book(s) is the friendship and camraderie of the group, coming together to solve problems.

As a teen, though, I really loved Cassie and Adam getting together in the end. The romantic side of me, dreaming of just such an occurance for myself, thought this was just wonderful. I did kind of feel sorry for Diana, just a little, but also felt like eventually she would find her own guy with a silver cord. That everything would turn out fine.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Book of Kehls

The Book of Kehls by Christine Kehl O'Hagan (Copyright 2005)

I am not sure why I picked up this book at the library. I think it was because I liked the title, and of course, I like to read memoirs. I feel like I am a "glutton for punishment", too, becuase I discover the book opens with the author's 24-year-old son dying. The whole time, even before I checked the book out at the self-check counter at the library branch, I kept asking myself, "Why am I planning on reading this book?" I knew it would make me cry.

It was really what the author had to say about grief and guilt that I needed to read. The author is a carried of Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), and miraculously her (and her husband's) older son does not inherit the gene. They are hopeful and have a second child, and so much think they will have a little girl (who may be a carrier, but will not die from DMD), that they even paint the baby room pink. Instead, they have a second baby boy and they find that he has inherited DMD. He is diagnosed after his uncle, who lived into his early 20s also, has died from DMD. It turns out author's brother had DMD, the author's uncles and the author's nephews. It's been a genetic "fluke" that's been passed down in their family for generations.

After Jamie dies, Christine, the author, is extremely depressed, and finally all the guilt for Jamie's life comes out. She won't permit her husband to take any of the "blame", "guilt" or any other descriptions that could be put on it. It was very powerful when her husband tells her that it is his fault, that the guilt doesn't belong just to her. He took part in the creation of their son, too.

Near the end of the book when she is talking about what she has learned from all of her experience with muscular dystrophy, she says this:

"I'm not sure that you come back from grief stronger, wiser, tougher, or purer in spirit. Part of you, especially when you lose a child, comes back crazy. These days, Patrick and I are like a couple of helium balloons, keeping each other out of tress. When we get up at night for drink of water, we say 'I love you' to each other, and when we go anywhere, we hold hands. . . We tell too many people we love them too, and we cry much too easily. If you see us coming, and you want to run the other way, we completely understand. But it's nothing we can help. . . To me, it all seems a miracle. . . In restaurants, I'm delighted to watch everyone swallow, and I'm delighted to follow the natural rise and fall of a sleeping chest. . . Some days, the pain of losing Jamie feels like a boulder on my chest, and on other days a pebble that sinks to the bottom of my show. . . The hurt is always with me. Beautiful days are tinged with a brilliant, hard sadness, as if each day Jamie won't see is behind an unbreakable glass. My loss, my regret, color the seasons in a different way" (207-8).

It wasn't the deaths recounted in this book that made me cry, it was this long paragraph. Do you come back crazy? And she so right - the natural rise and fall of someone sleeping is so incredibly beautiful. Just last nigh, I was listening my wonderful, lovely husband breathing while he was sleeping. And missing our little Samnini so much.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French

It was exciting to get this book. The instant I saw the cover, I wanted to read it. With intriguing cover art, I am like a young kid who can't wait and has to have it. That said, I am adult who loves kids' books (really, almost all books, but that's besides the point). I am also an adult who likes fairy tales and any take-offs of fairy tales - you know, mix them up a little and maybe thrown in something new.

I liked Gracie and cheered her on, but I really wanted to know more about Foyce, as a Werewoman. Foyce is a combination - she was obviously an "evil stepsister" but she was also the Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. (Although I don't know if I like Gracie compared to Red Riding Hood. . . if you read the Sisters Grimm series, Riding Hood is not that likeable as a character. . .)

The bats and Gubble were the best characters. The bats had the most interesting tasks in this book. They were really keeping every under control and organized. Gubble was likeable and had more personality that many of the other characters. He made me laugh out loud. He is so proud of himself when he figures out that he can rhyme! ("Gubble's Troubles")

Overall, this was a quick and easy read for me. Enjoyable, as well. I would definitely recommend this book to any kids and adults who like fairy tales.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Title: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (Copyright 2007)

The tree behind the Waverly ancestral home, a large Victorian house in North Carolina, throws apples at the people who come near, trying to get them to eat the apples. The apples cause dreams, visions, really, of the biggest event of their lives, but not necessarily the best event of their lives. Claire, the Waverly daughter who now lives in the house, regularly gathers the apples and buries them. Around the tree grows magical herbs, which Claire ingeniously uses put in food for uses such as bringing happiness to other people or compelling them apologize if apologies are needed. The Waverly's special wine is used for helping people see in the dark.

This book, though, is not just about the magic, but about the relationships in a town where families for generations have either been the best of friends or feuding with one another, and not knowing the real reason anymore. Claire has felt so abandoned her entire life that she prefers not to make too many attachments. She only wants people and things in her life that will remain constant. Her sister and her niece are starting to become constants, but Claire worries that they will leave, too. Her sister Sydney and niece Bay have returned from some place and situation that Sydney reveals later.

This is a sweet book. The story is well-told and very effective. The conclusion of the story is bit predictable, but that is exactly why this book is so good. I enjoyed it very much.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell

Title -- Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China by Beth Nonte Russell (2004, 2007)

"I want nothing of this world, nothing by to love you. What was false in me has died . . . What you have given me is beyond value, beyond price; what can I give you in return? It is my greatest wish that you be whole, and happy and free. I have never wanted something so much, yet felt at such a loss to achieve it. You represent all that is good in the world, in triumph over all that is bad" (197).

This book was an excellent read. Not only is it not a long book, but it is very well-written. The author opens this memoir while she is on the plane with a friend, accompanying the friend on her way to adopt a baby girl from China. The upshot is that the friend finds that even after a year of paperwork, etc, she is not ready to raise this new child, and begs the author to take the baby, who is eventually named Lily. The quote above is directed toward Lily and it a good example of the writing throughout the book.

Interspersed with the narrative of this emotional trip to China are the author's dreams and past-life memories. At first, this was rather irritating, as I, as the reader, wanted to narrative, wanted to find out what happened. However, the past-life memories became increasingly important in driving home the point of karma and how the author, her husband, and Lily belong together as a family.

This book is a recommended read.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Caspian Rain by Gina Nahai

This book was a let-down. The title sounds great, and held such promise. The book flap made me want to read the book. The way in which the story was written and developed was well done and very dramatic. However, the ending came too quickly and suddenly. It was rather shocking. The reader is really left wanting more. Many of the periphery characters really were on the periphery. . . they could have been more fleshed out. On the other hand, the story is written reflects Yaas's (the daughter who is telling the story) limited experiences.

This was the first book I read by this author. I am really not sure if I will read any of her others. As my husband has pointed out, there are a lot of books by angry Persian women, and I had hope that this one would be different. Perhaps I will try another book by this author, and see if it seems as angry. I suppose I was hoping for a happier ending. I read the whole book hoping for something good to come out of all the unhappiness. I have read other books, fiction and nonfiction, set in Iran that I have liked and appreciated more than this book. I love the cover and the title, and really, I am disappointed.

Here is the link to the author's official website:
Actually, maybe if I can get her first book, Cry of the Peacock, I will give that one a try.