Sunday, December 19, 2010

I like to read fiction.

As of today, I have completed one more item on my 30 Before 30 list:  

#8. Read 25 books in one year... DONE!

I started in April and intended to read 25 books in a twelve-month period.  2010 was a good year for reading, though, what with all those hours I spent nursing a baby.  So I'm giving myself bonus points for reaching my goal in eight months.

I tried to choose a fairly wide variety of books.  Some were on my always-wanted-to-read list, some were parenting books I read out of desperation (ha!), some I stumbled upon because the library didn't have what I really wanted.  I found several new favorites and a few duds.

Soon I'll feature the nonfiction, but below is the list of fourteen fiction books I read this year.  I've listed them in the order that I would recommend them -- the first one was my favorite, and the last was my least favorite.  I ranked them strictly on how much I enjoyed them as a reader (not as an English teacher or literary critic).  Check out my list and tell me what you think.  Have you read any of these?  Do you agree with my assessments?  Have I convinced you to read/not read any of them?

Day for Night (Frederick Reiken)
Includes multiple plotlines (some involving the Holocaust) and multiple narrators.  Could be a disaster, but it's brilliant.  Loved it.  I'm pretty sure I cried because I loved it so much.

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
Set in pre-Civil Rights Mississippi.  Tells the story of several black housekeepers, the women who treat them heinously, and the women who don't.  Multiple narrators again.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)
Fictional story behind the Vermeer painting by the same title.  Told from the perspective of Griet (the Girl in question), who has just become a servant in the Vermeer house.  Period fiction is really not my genre, but I loved this book. 

The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
Sure, Sylvia Plath was all kinds of crazy, but she could sure write.  Assumed to be autobiographical, this book follows a young woman as she goes insane.

The Pilot's Wife (Anita Shreve)
Newly-widowed pilot's wife learns all sorts of terrible things as she looks into her husband's death.  Drama, drama, drama.  But in a good way.  Definitely skip this one if you are actually a pilot's wife, though.

Belong to Me (Marisa de los Santos)
City girl moves to the suburbs.  Chaos ensues.  I'll admit it has a predictable, chick-lit vibe, but de los Santos gives her characters really amusing, relatable voices.  FUN read.

Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
Old man flashes back to his younger years, when he was part of a shady traveling circus.  Entertaining stuff.

Clay's Quilt (Silas House)
I had an idea in my head of what the hills of eastern Kentucky are like, but there is some messed-up stuff going on there.  At least in the picture this book paints.  Good read.  Definitely not cheesy like some hill-country novels.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
Told from the perspective of a teenage boy with autism.  Sort of a murder mystery?  Really funny, but not in an offensive, making-fun-of-this-boy way.  Quick read, worth your while.

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (ed. David Sedaris)
Compilation of some of Sedaris's favorite short stories.  I'm a sucker for a good short story, but don't expect these to be funny just because David Sedaris likes them.

The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver) 
Young woman heads West to start a new life, and ends up having to care for an abandoned baby.  A little on the sappy side, but I enjoyed the book overall.  I loved Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible when I read it several years ago.  Read that one if you haven't.

Girl in Translation (Jean Kwok)
Chinese girl and her mom immigrate to New York and face all the hardships you might expect, including work at a sweatshop.  Not a bad read, but feels like an unrealistic American Dream story.

Birds of America (Lorrie Moore)
Another collection of short stories, but all by Moore.  I picked this one because I loved her story "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk."  I was disappointed in most of the other pieces in this book.

All Families are Psychotic (Douglas Coupland)
Crazy, far-fetched story of the mostly unlikable members of a dysfunctional (to say the least) family.  Entertaining, but way too crass for my taste.  If you can't peel your eyes away from the tabloids in the grocery line, this might be up your alley.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I love late-onset winter.

At Ben's fifteen-month checkup, our pediatrician told me that being outside for 30 minutes a week in Colorado Springs gets you all the Vitamin D your body needs.  I have no idea whether that is actually true, but I pay him to tell me things, so I guess I'll choose to believe this one.  And I'm happy to report that it has been warm enough lately that I can actually stand to be outside!  For more than 30 minutes a week!

We've hit two different parks so far this week. 

Okay, yesterday morning was a little cold.  But not frigid.


Then today was the perfect day to rake leaves and play in them.  I'm guessing tomorrow will be the perfect day to re-rake leaves.
All this Vitamin D makes us very happy :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Favorite Things: Ben Edition

Fair warning:  This is one of those baby-book posts that contains way more details than most of you care about.  Ben is at an especially fun age right now, and I honestly think multiple times a day, "This is what I hoped motherhood would be like."  For my own sake, I wanted to record some of the things that I'm loving about Ben at fifteen months.

*He calls our Christmas stockings "boots."

*Sometimes he talks stream-of-consciousness style.  And sometimes he says one word, then says other words that sound like it (rhyming or alliterative words, usually).  He recently learned the word "berries," but he pronounces it "boo-des."  Several times lately, he has said, "Boo-des... Stooges."  He learned who the Three Stooges are at my parents house, and they apparently made quite an impression on him.

*He will randomly say "boo!" to scare us.

*He LOVES a seventh-grade boy at our church named Graham (Graham helps his parents in the nursery on Sunday mornings).  Any mention of church, friends, or favorite anythings makes Ben say "Graham!"  A few days ago, Daniel asked Ben, "What's your favorite thing about Mommy?"  Ben's answer?  Graham.  Then last night, we were headed to a Christmas parade and were trying to get Ben excited about it.  I said, "Do you know what we're going to see at the parade?"  Ben got a sweet, hopeful look on his face and said, "Graham?!"

*He gives excellent snuggles, hugs, and kisses.  Sometimes I don't even have to ask :)

*He thinks any beverage not in a sippy cup is coffee.  Even if I have a water bottle, he calls it "taw-hee."

*He likes to pretend to eat and drink things, complete with fake smacking noises.  Then he shares with us or the cat. 

*His favorite thing in the world right now is to play on our bed.  He has two favorite games there:  1)He lays his head down, pretends to sleep, then pops up and says, "Hi!"  2)We give him two coffee cups and a stash of pens, and he transfers pens from one cup to the other, hands pens to us, fake-drinks from the cups, etc.  Yes, this is totally weird.  But some mornings he even requests this game while he eats breakfast - "Bed!  Pen!  Taw-hee!"

*He puts everything (seriously, everything) on his head and calls it a hat.

*He still loves Justin the Cat.  However, he now thinks Justin's name is Midget (his cousins' cat in Abilene).

*At naptime and bedtime, I hand him a little fleecy blanket before I lay him down.  Even if he is upset about going to bed, he snuggle the blanket up to his face and lays his head on my shoulder.  Ohhhh, it is so sweet!

*He calls his grandparents all the time on anything that resembles a phone.  One day this week, he called Nana on a calculator.

*He says "please" a lot.  If he demands something, I can say, "Ask nicely."  And he adds a "peas!"  He doesn't know he's being polite.  He just knows he's more likely to get what he wants when he says "please."  But it sure sounds cute.

*He is a full-time walker now, and it kind of blows my mind.  Walking has done wonders for his moods and my moods (it was time for him to be less mommy-dependent, I promise).  Everyone told me that once he started walking, I would wish he were crawling again.  That has totally not been the case for us.  In fact, my only complaint is that he carries things from one room to another and puts them in strange places.  I have to spend a few minutes every night relocating small objects. 

*He is still not an easy-going kid, but his feisty temperament is sooo much easier to handle now than it was even a few months ago.  So far, toddlerhood suits him quite nicely.  I am so thankful to spend my days with this precious BIG boy!