Sleep is for the Weak - edited by Rita Arens

    Sleep is for the Weak is a collection of blog entries and essays by some of the most prolific Mommy Bloggers (and one dad.) They are funny, poignant, and true. This book showed up in my Christmas loot and I dove in happily.

    I would have read it in one sitting, but baths are increasingly more and more uncomfortable. It’s a quick read - each entry is shorter than your average People Article - and it is a complete page turner.

    Every topic is covered: sleeping, potty training, the endless advice from the outside world, illness, time management, and personal growth (which “blows”.)

    I’m having a hard time writing a review, here. Because the book is awesome, but it’s not plot driven - unless you consider pages and pages of anecdotal advice to be a plot. There are few recurring characters, and no real sense of time passing.

    Sometimes, however, that’s exactly what you need - little snippets of insight into the lives of other parents so that you know you’re not alone (or will be joining the other side, rather than wandering into the great unknown, as it were.)

    So I’m going to leave it at that. If you’ve got kids or want kids - and regardless of your gender - this book is well worth the read. If only so that you can say “whew! It’s not just me!”

    Also there are a few essays that will make you laugh so hard you cry (for me they were always about poop…) and that alone makes this book well worth the price of admission.


The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Confession: I am reviewing a book that I am not even a quarter of the way through.

Explanation: it’s a cookbook, so there are a significant amount of recipes so I’m spending a lot of time being either hungry or nauseous while I read (yay pregnancy!) It’s also a primer, so I feel like I should be practicing as I read...which means that this book will take a long time to get through.

Also, it’s from the library and I have hit my “renew” limit because someone else wants to read it. So I’m going to have to buy it.

There’s been a lot of talk about food lately. In the media (mostly related to contamination and food-bourne illness,) in politics (that pesky White House Garden,) hollywood (Julie and Julia, Food, Inc, The Botany of Desire, etc. etc. etc,) and of course - in my kitchen. Husband hates the word “foodie” but it applies. (We say “epicureans.”) We are big fans of Michael Pollan, but this is my first exposure to Alice Waters. Which is a shame because she’s a chef who’s been espousing eating the way I like to eat for roughly as long as I’ve been alive. If you flip the book over to read the blurb on the back you’re met with her fundamental guidelines:

  • Eat locally and sustainably
  • Eat seasonally
  • Shop at Farmer’s Markets
  • Plant A Garden
  • Conserve, compost, and recycle
  • Cook Simply
  • Cook together
  • Eat Together
  • Remember food is precious

Yup. Get Waters and Pollan together on a “this is how our food should be” task force and the commercial food industry will start sleeping with their lights on. As well they should.

Here’s what makes this a compelling read (in addition to being a book full of tasty recipes) is that Waters genuinely loves her subject, and that makes the reader love her subject. You not only want to follow her every instruction, but you want to sit in the kitchen with her and listen as she explains the “why” behind the “how” and demonstrates how to mash garlic just so to bring the clove to its full potential and make your dish that much better.

And then you want to sit around the table with her and relish every bite.

Or maybe I’m just hungry...


Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

I feel like I should say that it took me until I was about a third of the way through the book to figure out that the cover art is ear buds in the shape of people kissing.  I had thought it was some kind of bizarre alien-thing.
Anyway, we’re here to talk about the content, not the cover-art (although the way Hornby likes to overlap music and literature, they might be very much inter-connected in his mind.)
There are three main characters here - Duncan (the Super Fan), Annie (his long-term live-in girlfriend), and Tucker Crowe (a retired, reclusive, singer-songwriter from the 80s...guess who Duncan is a Super Fan of? Right.) The book opens with Duncan and Annie in the middle of the Super Fans’ dream tour of America: venues, the home of a muse, and a pivotal bar bathroom. It’s apparent from the second page that Annie, while a fan herself, is not quite on the same level as Duncan. And because this is a book by Nick Hornby, the astute reader knows that this will lead to some reflection on the state of their relationship.
There is also a good deal of reflection regarding the internet, fan sites, and rumors. Particularly the extent to which Wikipedia can be wrong. One of Hornby’s great feats: taking a thought that has idly wandered through the brain of an ordinary person and turning it into something that can seem - if not profound - then certainly worthy of discussion.
Zing forward and we meet Tucker - a character I found myself being intrigued by.  Like all poets he has the gift of self-reflection, but like so many washed-up has-been’s, he regards himself as a failure in every aspect of his life. Particularly in the realm of fatherhood. It’s not often that a reader is allowed to see the Failed Father from his own perspective. We are allowed to feel sympathy for him because his failure is borne of his own sense of hopelessness and his current situation allows him to try and redeem himself. Characters seeking redemption are hard to hate, no matter how repulsive they may have been in their younger years.
This is the age-old story of taking things you perceive to be true and being forced to re-examine them. I thought many times “I know exactly where this is going to end up, but I like the route we’re taking to get there.”  In fact, I often did not know where the story was going. I did not see the things which - in observing the book as a whole - make it feel like it could be a story being told between friends catching up at a pub. For all we know, that’s where his inspiration could have come from.
Also, it’s written by Nick Hornby, who brought us the greatness of High Fidelity and About a Boy - and who served as the inspiration for this very blog. (See the sidebar on the right.)


The Book Seer

One of my not-book blogs this morning featured a new (to me) site:

The Book Seer

Where you put in the title and author of a book you've enjoyed and it crawls through Amazon, BookArmy, and LibraryThing and recommends what you should read next.

Attempt one: the book I'm currently reading: Tool or Die (I know, I should spread them out more but I can't help myself...)

It gave me nothing (but recommended I ask my librarian, natch) so I entered a classic:

and got a nice list...of books I've already read.

It's bookmarked for the next time I hit a dry spot...in 2012, probably.

It's a cold, chilly weekend here in the Bay Area, perfect for a fire, peppermint cocoa, and a good book, don't you think?

Have a good weekend!


Confession: 13 Books I Should Have Written Full Reviews For...but Didn't

I have been remiss. I've been reading and not reviewing. Not because what I've been reading sucks (please see sidebar) but because I am so scatterbrained I've let myself fall behind.

So, to wrap up - the 13 books that have been on a sticky on my desk for me to review for MONTHS. Seriously. Since the spring.

I've decided mini-reviews are the way to go. Just to give you a taste. All of these are recommended. Trust me.

In alphabetical order:

 Eoin Colfer (who's first name is pronounce "Owen") has taken it upon himself to fill the Very Large Shoes of Douglas Adams and write another installment to the Hitchhiker's Saga. We return to meet all of our good friends as Earth is -yet again - being exploded. Everyone has gone on to lead their own lives and are very surprised to find themselves back together again. Antic ensue. Colfer has captured Adams' voice nicely and the book didn't disappoint me. Of course, I also think that Mos Def and Zooey Deschanel make the best Ford Prefect and Trillian to date, so that tells you my opinion of the state of things. Enjoy!

Ah...Jenny McCarthy. You either love to hate her or hate to love her...or count her among your guilty pleasures. This little memoir (essays, mostly) about her journey through pregnancy is full of pre-vaccine angst and is quite amusing. I haven't felt as cute as she looks, though, and I think I hold that against her. If you find yourself in the family way, this is a fun read (you can do it in an afternoon). If not, then I wouldn't bother. It just won't resonate unless you, too, experience what she's talking about.

The Gears (yes, they're married) are experts in their subject: paleo-indians living right around the end of the last ice age in what is now Canada. It's Young Adult, but don't let that sway you. It's full of archeological tidbits woven into a compelling plot about a civilization on the brink of destruction. There's even some nice tribal warring to spice things up. I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment.

This one should be titled: "A History of Tectonics and the Settling of the West...and a Few Chapters About The Great California Earthquake of April 1906." Dense, rife with information that you missed in High School Earth Science/Geology, this took me a loooooong time to read. But I did read it - cover to cover. And I now feel like I know a little bit more about the ground upon which I live. Even better that currently that ground houses the San Andreas Fault and I have a better understanding of earthquakes. I also have added a few places to my "must travel" list - places where the earth is so new it hasn't even hardened yet. If you're at all nerdy, this is a book you should at least take a stab at.  Good stuff.

Like all of Green's recent novels, this one is about people who are putting their lives back together the best way they know how. There are also nice sub-plots: romance, intrigue, general life-happenings... She gives back story on every  recurring character and that helps make them all the more real. It's a good beach/pool/bedrest book. More interesting than your basic fluff, but not so taxing that you miss what's going on if your poolside beverage is a little boozy.

Read. This. Series. Start with One For The Money and keep going. You've got LOTS to catch up on. With the exception of number 7 (which was great, but certainly not the best) there are guaranteed laugh out loud moments. Murder, mayhem, an ex-ho, an ex-special ops guy who is now a bounty hunter, a cop who makes everyone drool (in a good way) and generally pathetic criminals...what's not to like? Oh, and did I mention the crazy grandmother whose favorite passtime is going to funerals? It's a recipe for delightful. Trust me.

This one addresses my love of what realtors refer to as "The Handyman Special." The title refers to a family house that has been allowed to fall into disrepair...it also refers to the woman who's going to fix it. She's just been the unwitting pawn in a gigantic financial scandal and she flees home with her tail between her legs. She's got romance trouble, family trouble, financial trouble, and a giant decripit house- complete with a cantankerous old sqautter - buried deep in the South where people want to know who your "people" (relatives) are before they want to know anything else about you. I read this one by the pool in Vegas (ok, in the bath, but by the pool sounds much better) and then I was sad that I read it too quickly. Andrews delivers exactly what you're looking for: a feel good book with just the right amount of suspense, intrigue, and home-repair/antiquing tips.

Ah...the Mommy Memoir. I picked this one up based on a recommendation from my Aunt and the title. Because it's true. As with Belly Laughs, though, if you're not a mom/parent I'm not sure it would resonate with you. If you are, however, it's a fun little afternoon on the couch book. Interesting tidbit: Kogan's son plays young(est) Spock in the new Star Trek. He's very good for the five and a half minutes he's onscreen. Well, done! Also - I love that she whips around town with her kids on her Vespa. She's lived all over the world and she's not afraid of a little traffic. It's inspiring.

When I was seven or so, I was home sick from school one day and my mom brought me this book. Twenty (or so) years later, I still pull it out to read whenever I'm not feeling well. Morning sickness that lasts for months on end counts. It's a fairy tale - but this princess is not one dreamed up by Disney. She's quite plain looking and she has a distinct awkward phase, but she's full of moxie and isn't afraid to stand up to her parents when they decide that a dragon being allowed to lay waste to the countryside is the only way to marry her off. Finally, a princess I could relate to! Obviously this book is awesome because I have it memorized and still read it from time to time. You will, too. Especially if there's a seven year old girl who secretly wants to be a rebellious princess living inside you.

Why this book has been banned I will NEVER understand. It's got math, grammar, moral lessons...AND a talking dog with a clock in his side. I will be reading this one to my kids when the time comes. Assuming they don't mistake it for homework and grow bored with it on principle, that is.

Yes, they keep writing more of these. It's still Christmas, they're still in St bath's, and someone is still trying to off our Heroine. I'll admit that I was shocked at who the culprit was, but I'm not giving it away. The books are significantly better than the lame web-series they put together. Save your five-minutes-at-a-time streaming attention span and READ these instead. You'll be much, much happier. These are for the Seventeen year old girl who secretly wants to be a rebellious princess living inside you.

The last in the Ivy League/Secret Society Girl series. And still very good. Start with Secret Society Girl and work your way through.  They're based at a very poorly disguised Yale (Eli University) and follow the senior year of the first group of girls admitted to the exclusive Rose and Grave Secret Society. Antics, near-death experiences, love-affairs...the stuff good summer reading is made of.

This is not the first in the series. I read it anyway - having read not one word of Alexander's work before. I was not disappointed. A murder mystery set in the late 1800s, told from the perspective of a female amateur detective (in this book she is on her honeymoon, having recently married a professional detective.) They are, of course, wealthy and connected. They are, of course, eventually wanted dead - but that doesn't happen until after they try to solve a murder that has taken place in the Sultan's palace. Yup. There's a Sultan involved. I may have to start at the beginning with these and see where they lead me.

So there you have it. Thirteen VERY late reviews.

Happy Reading!

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