Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"You'll Lose the Baby Weight: (And Other Lies about Pregnancy and Childbirth)" by Dawn Meehan

This was an impromptu read for me.  I was in Boise last week and had some time to kill before my book club, so I wandered into the neighborhood Dollar Tree to explore the book section.  I never know what I'll find there, but often what I find is surprising.  And even if the book is a dud, I only spent $1.06, so I won't beat myself up about it.  I picked up this book by Meehan and thought, why not.  I opened it up the next morning and couldn't put it down, and I ended up finishing it before bedtime.

I haven't laughed as hard as I did when reading this book in a long time.  In fact, every time I chuckled out loud (which was often) my children asked what was so funny.  And those of you with young kids at home know that they want to know EVERYTHING you're doing.  Why was it funny, Mom?  Tell us!  Tell us!  But the humor of pregnancy and childbirth would be lost on my 3 year old, so I tried to suppress my giggle fits.  I don't think I did a good job, because I still got "What's so funny, Mom?" several times each page.

Meehan takes on the topic of pregnancy and childbirth--and she should know a thing or two, or six!  As the mother of six kids she's an expert as far as I'm concerned with all things maternal.  This book will take the reader step-by-step in what to expect each month of pregnancy and the stages of labor and delivery.  It's not intended to dispense medical advice, and she often encourages her readers to ask their doctors if they have any health questions.  I have four children of my own and frequently throughout this book I could relate to the pains and discomforts Meehan shines a humorous light upon.  Being able to identify with an author like that is so exciting to me.  There wasn't anything in the book that was news to me as far as pregnancy goes, but this book was a witty, fast-paced, and refreshing read (especially after my Newbury books).

I think every mother should read this book, whether she's expecting her first child or has fifteen grandchildren.  And if you're single and don't want children, read this to intensify your resolve to never reproduce.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Smoky the Cowhorse" by Will James

"Smoky" was the 1927 winner of the Newbery Award.  So far the Newbery books have been focused around exotic, far-off places most people in the 1920's weren't likely to be familiar with.  So it was surprising and refreshing for me to read a story about the old west (although it wasn't the OLD old west; the story was contemporary to its publication).  

The story follows from Smoky being born to a wild mustang herd on the range clear through to his last years.  I enjoyed the beginning of his life, from birth to the relationship with his mother and other horses, to being branded and eventually broken into life of a cowhorse.  And I also liked the end, where he's stolen and follows other career paths for a time.  I was VERY happy with the ending--sometimes predicting the end of the book can be boring but with happy endings I'm glad to be right.  

But the middle, ugh, the middle.   Too many summers and winters and wolves and blizzards without much happening along the way. Also, the book is dominated by descriptive sections and very little dialogue (this wasn't a talking animal book).  I live for dialogue; it helps keep the reading at a jaunty pace and propels the story.  I almost gave up, but this morning I told myself I only had one-fourth of the book left, to quit being a ninny and FINISH it.  It wasn't a bad story, but it was far from an engaging page-turner.  But I'm happy to have finished it.  I picked up the next Newbery at the library today and I get my new book club book tonight, as well.  It's a happy time to be surrounded by so much great stuff to read!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery

In a nutshell, "Hedgehog" is a French novel translated into English.  Because of this, sometimes the syntax of the language and themes seemed a bit unusual.  But once you get used to the candor of the book it's pleasant to follow.  There are two narrators:  Renee Michel who is a concierge in a large, ritzy apartment building (each floor is a unit of 4000 square feet...that TWICE the size of my HOUSE) and Paloma Josse, an impressively sharp and intelligent 12-year-old girl who lives in the building.  One thing to clarify:  in Paris, evidently, concierges are no better than low-class landlords who receive packages, take out the trash, and tend to building maintenance.  They surprisingly don't cross paths until late in the book when a third significant character is introduced.  And that's all I'll tell you of the plot.

What I personally adored about this book was the naive yet in-depth analytic paint-brush Palmoa used to depict humanity.  She understands so much but has seen so little, therefore her perceptions, while provoking, are short-sighted.  Renee, on the other hand, has spent her life hiding who she is, a reaction of fear caused by a tragic event from her youth.  Both the old woman and the young girl are viewing life through dirty spectacles. So much of Renee's narration struck deep chords in my soul.  I didn't feel like I had much in common with Renee as much as I felt she could describe parts of me that I could never put to words before.  

The only thing I didn't like was the fact that Blade Runner was one of Renee's favorite movies.  This is more funny than anything, since I only saw the movie a few months ago.  My husband and I both thought it really creepy and disorienting, and so I didn't understand at all when Renee said her life was like a Ridley Scott movie.  The reference was odd more than anything.