Monday, September 30, 2013

End of September Challenge Update

Monday again! The last Monday of September. Hard to believe. It's the end of another month and now the weather is chillier and my book reading is moving more indoors rather than out in the glorious sun of summer.

73 Books Challenge: 62/73 books read (84% done)
Library Books Challenge: 47/50 books read (94% done)
A-Z Book Challenge: 18/26 books read (69% done, 6% behind schedule)
Classics Catch Up Challenge: 7/13 books read (53% done, 22% behind schedule)
Books by Women Challenge: 16/16 books read (DONE)
Eclectic Book Challenge: 8/12 books read (66% done, 9% behind schedule)
Literature and War Challenge: 6/12 books read (50% done, 25% behind schedule)
Classic Kids Book Challenge: 7/12 books read (58% done, 17% behind schedule)
Books Tobias Picked: 4/6 books read (66% done, 9% behind schedule)

This week I continued to make up ground and am in great position to be able to finish all of my challenges before the end of the year. I finished 6 more books, and 5 more reviews. My goal in September was to finish 21 reviews, and unfortunately only got 14 done. Next month my goal is 21 more.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

2013 Books in Review #16: Anna Karenina

I read Anna Karenina as my first selection in the Classics Catch-Up Challenge in ebook format.
Anna Karenina is a classic piece of literature that covers many relational themes: marriage, adultery, friendship, courtship, love and loss. It follows Anna Karenina and her husband, her lover Vronsky, her children, and other family and friends. It is written from a 3rd person perspective, but it jumps around between scenes happening at roughly the same time between different characters.
I'd never read Anna Karenina before this and I probably wouldn't have picked it up this year except that it was on the reading list for the Classics Catch Up Challenge. I found myself immensely moved by the characters and their relationships, flawed and all. It felt very real to me, not glossed over or gussied up, but rather raw and honest. People making decisions that others don't agree with, making mistakes, falling in love rather than following social norms set out for them.
Now that I have read the book I think I'd like to watch some of the various movie interpretations and see how they match up. I enjoyed the book much more than I expected to and I am glad to have added it to my reading knowledge in my head. 
This was my 5th book of the year, my first classic book of the year, and the letter A in my A-Z challenge.

2013 Books in Review #15: The Maze Runner

This book (and its sequels) came highly recommended to me by several people I know. I decided to give in and see what all the hype was about.
The Maze Runner is about a dystopian society of adolescent boys. They have all been sent, one at a time, to an "other" place and when they arrive they have no memories at all of where they were before or even who they are other than their name. Within the new society they work at various jobs according to their strengths and eat and sleep. The whole place they live in is surrounded by a maze and their purpose is to figure out the maze (which resets itself every night after dark) so they can escape.
I actually quite enjoyed the story and found it hard to put down. I thought the visual imagery was very good and I loved how the characters were formed and their interactions with each other. I am quite looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series once I make it through my list of books I have on the go for the rest of 2013.
The Maze Runner was my 26th book for the year, my 20th library book, and the letter M for my A-Z challenge.

Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Books in Review #14: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

I listened to the audiobook version of this book through the Overdrive Media Console app on my phone, mostly in the car as I was waiting for my kids to be done with their various summertime recreation programs.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter was written by an author who has written other books about girls and issues in raising them. This particular book was written as the mother of a daughter herself, and her perspective of how all things culturally stereotypically "girl" are marketed and sold to girls and by extension of course, their parents. She explores the effects that all things "pink" and "girl" have on little girls who are learning who they are by the messages that are sent to them.
Most of her connections were ones I had made myself before reading the book, however some of her interpretations were new and gave me fodder to chew on and think about. One of my favourite chapters was the chapter she did covering the American Girl phenomenon which is less about pink and pizzazz and supposed to be more about "real" girls in real situations. I have never seen an American Girl doll except in pictures, and I don't have any children asking for them so it isn't likely to be a fixture in my life any time soon. The idea that there are whole stores designed around these dolls, where you can even take your doll for food or for a spa experience is just amazing to me. The expense of them, whether they are worth it or not, is enough to put them out of the range of many real girls who may want them.
Overall I found myself nodding through much of the book and I appreciated her take as the mother of a girl who has been long interested in issues surrounding raising a successful little girl. I don't have any girls, but I am a woman with sisters and nieces and I care a great deal about how we separate what is girl and what is boy by artificial lines and then call it nature. I'd highly recommend this book to any parent, but especially parents of girls.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter was my 21st book read for the year, my 16th library book read, my 8th book written by a woman, and fufilled the letter C in my A-Z challenge.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 Books in Review #13: The Other Life

I listened to this book on the Overdrive Media Console app on my phone after taking it out through the library.
Quinn has what could be seen as a charmed life. Happily married, with an adorable little boy and another baby (a girl) on the way. She does carry the baggage of her mother committing suicide and Quinn still struggles with processing her grief and trauma over the loss of her mother and wonders if there was anything she could have done differently.
Quinn also has a secret. She possesses the ability to cross over into an alternate reality via portals found in her every day life. In this alternate reality Quinn made different choices, chose a different partner and career. She gets to see what her life would have been like if she'd made those choices instead of the ones she chose in reality. The book deals with Quinn deciding which reality is right for her and in the end she makes her choice knowing she will never have the chance to go back through for a visit to the other life.
I had a hard time getting into the story and didn't find it as compelling as many of the people who had written reviews of it did. All in all it was about average. I rated it 3 stars out of 5.
The Other Life was my 7th book of the year, and my 4th library book, and the letter O for my A-Z challenge.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013 Books in Review #12: The Everything Car Care Book

After having a really bad experience when my van needed fixed because I was not as knowledgeable about vehicles as I needed to be and therefore got taken advantage of, I decided I needed to learn more.
This book gives a great basic rundown of all of the systems in a car. It will teach you how the systems work (when they are working properly!) and how they work together. Also covered are the ways that each system can break down. For each maintenance issue they cover what parts you can do at home easily, what parts can be done at home if you have some vehicle experience, and what should always be left to a mechanic. I appreciated the break down, and also the instructions on how to do the easier things that I may want to tackle myself.
Overall I left feeling like I understood better what goes into making my van tick. I usually take it for granted and then when something breaks I realize how much I depend on it all the time. The book also covered how to find a good mechanic, which I appreciated because that was where my troubles all started to begin with.
This was my 45th book of the year, 34th library book of the year, and letter "E" in my A-Z challenge.

Monday, September 23, 2013

End of Week #38 Challenge Update

It's Monday and that means we are at the end of another week of 2013. Hard to believe how fast it is going! Time for a challenge update to keep me focused.

73 Books Challenge: 55/73 books read (75% done)
Library Books Challenge: 42/50 books read (84% done)
A-Z Book Challenge: 17/26 books read (65% done, 8% behind schedule)
Classics Catch Up Challenge: 3/13 books read (23% done, 50% behind schedule)
Books by Women Challenge: 16/16 books read (DONE)
Eclectic Book Challenge: 8/12 books read (66% done, 7% behind schedule)
Literature and War Challenge: 5/12 books read (41% done, 32% behind schedule)
Classic Kids Book Challenge: 5/12 books read (41% done, 32% behind schedule)
Books Tobias Picked: 3/6 books read (50% done, 23% behind schedule)

Overall not a bad week. I finished 8 more books and also 5 more book reviews. :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 Books in Review #11: Maternity Rolls

Maternity Rolls came through on a search I was doing on disability issues so I borrowed it from the library and read it very quickly once it was in my hands.
Maternity Rolls is written by a woman who was in a car accident at the age of 6 years old and was left with paralysis from her breast level down. She had to learn to live life in a wheelchair and with a plethora of health issues that stemmed from her paralysis and it's effects on her body systems.
She married her high school sweetheart and they decided to have a child together, and then 8 years later, they had another. She discusses in detail the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy for her, as a disabled woman, with the acknowledgement that although her voice is just the voice of one person who is disabled (and therefore not representative of all persons with physical disabilities that wish to have children), it is at least one voice, which is more than she was able to find in print when she was looking as a prospective parent, and then pregnant woman, and then mother.
Her book resonated with me on many levels. While I am an able bodied person, my spouse has a physical disability (unable to use his left arm, and walks with an altered gait because of lingering effects of a stroke on his left leg). Her discussions of parenting with a disability were what I was expecting to find, and were indeed interesting to me, but also deeply interesting for me were her discussion of how people treated (and treat) her. How people responded to the notion that she may even *want* children because of course she was an "other" as a woman with such an obvious physical difference from the typical. How medical professionals treated her as a patient. How society views her when she is out with her children. Those discussion of policy and social construct have always been interesting to me, but now to my family they are deeply personal and important.
I'd highly recommend her book to anyone facing disability and pregnancy/parenting. I'd also recommend it to anyone wishing to learn more about these subjects.
This was my 48th book of the year, and my 37th library book.

2013 Books in Review #10: There's No Home

I read There's No Home as part of the Literature and War Challenge. It was not available through the library so I purchased an ebook copy and read it on the Kindle app on my phone.
There's No Home follows the story of soldiers living in a country that is not their own, and the people of the village who normally live there. There are no active battles being fought during most of the time that the book takes place, and it is mainly a story of relationships during wartime. Relationships between the soldiers, relationships between the people of the village who were left behind when the fighting started and remained alive as it continued, and relationships between the soliders and the villagers.
It was an interesting read for me as I have heard war time stories from family members before and it was a common thread. The relationships made are real, but woven out of a thread that sometimes must be broken as new orders come in and things change. I very much enjoyed the book even though some parts were emotionally difficult. I am glad I own it so I can return to it in the future if I want.
This was my 51st book of the year, and my 4th selection in the Literature and War Challenge.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013 Books in Review #9: Choice

Choice was an impulse pick up at the library. I generally love reading anything that has to do with women's health and reproductive politics so I thought I might enjoy this.
Choice is a collection of essays written by women about choices they've made, or watched others make, about reproduction. Some of the stories covered pregnancies that came easily, others infertility and loss and assisted reproduction technology. Many of the women spoke of pregnancies chosen and carried to term, and others of making the choice to obtain an abortion. Many of the stories covered politics... the accessibility of abortion (even if it wasn't the choice that the woman made for her current pregnancy), and there was one story that was about a woman's struggle as a lesbian and trying to find help conceiving with her partner and then the logistics of coparenting in a state where same sex marriage was illegal.
I love women's stories. I find them rich and moving so this book was an enjoyable one for me even in the parts that were hard. Some of the stories resonated with my own reproductive journey, many didn't, but I'm glad I read them all and glad that they were shared.
Choice was my 49th book of the year, and my 38th library book.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Books in Review #8: Living Well With Endometriosis

I was diagnosed with endo in 2005 and many of my symptoms have gotten worse in the last year so I picked this book up to see if it would offer me any insights or just some reassurance.
The book is well laid out and it follows a clear flow throughout. It has real stories from people woven throughout the book about their experiences living with endometriosis. Much of the information about testing and treatment was stuff I already knew, but there was some new information I was glad to have and the information spans from very allopathic methods to very nontraditional methods.
I would recommend this book to someone with endo who is looking for more information or for anyone who has chronic pelvic pain or painful periods who is interested in learning more about a possible answer.
This book was book #47 for me this year, and my 36th library book read.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Books in Review #7: The Friday Night Knitting Club


I love to knit. My love for knitting is what prompted me to start this book. I listened to the audiobook version from the library.
Georgia is a single mother to a daughter, Dakota, and the owner of a yarn store. She starts a knitting club at her store on Friday nights and the women who find their way into the store for the club have their lives woven together in the fellowship they share there. 
Part way through the book Dakota's father comes back into their lives and he forges a relationship with Dakota, and then also with Georgia. They find themselves falling into what seems like a lovely life together until the news comes that Georgia has cancer. I will admit that at this point in the book I stopped enjoying it as much. I regularly read books that deal with challenging subjects, books that make me angry or make me cry. However I was expecting this book to be light and when it delved into her illness I found myself having a harder time enjoying the story and then on her death I cried a lot.
Because of my feelings when the book changed it's feeling into seriousness and sadness I doubt I will finish the other two books in the series.
The Friday Night Knitting Club was my 6th book read for the year, and my 3rd Library Book and my 3rd book written by a woman.

Changed Forever In An Instant

Two years ago today all of our lives changed in an instant.

I can still hear the sounds of that night. My calm words as my brain knew what my heart yet did not and I asked my husband to please smile for me, my frantic scream out the door for my mother to come quick, my voice strong and steady to the 9-1-1 dispatch, my tears as I relayed what I now knew to be a certainty even before we'd left the house to my best friend and her calm voice on the other end telling me everything was going to be ok somehow.

I can still see him laying, smiling, on the floor, see the look on my bewildered friends and neighbours as I opened their door like I had so many times before, only this time unannounced and asked if my kids could stay the night as I went with the ambulance. I can still feel the acute pain, the terror, the heartache.

I can still remember how detached I felt as everyone around me at the hospital told me they couldn't believe how calm and collected I was as I was asked to sign consent forms and make decisions as a next of kin like I had many times for my children, only this time my partner, their other next of kin, was lying on a stretcher and the decisions I made were for him.

I remember the arms of my friend Jo strong around me the next morning as she'd started her shift in the ICU and had been briefed on the youngest stroke patient our hospital had taken in since starting their stroke program and then realized she knew him, knew me, knew our kids, knew what was at stake not just in the abstract but on a personal level for our family.

Three months of our lives were spent with him in that hospital, three months of daily visits with my children in tow, of visits home, of learning a whole new way of living.

Visiting with Daddy, I'd often take the kids in pjs because it would be passed their bedtime when we'd get home

Our younger two kids have no memory of Daddy as a fully able bodied person. Our oldest son is still has anger because he does. From totally healthy to hemiplegic in less than 5 minutes, and then back to able to use one limb (his right arm), and then about a month after he came home he was able to walk with a cane instead of a needing a wheelchair all the time, and now he is able to walk independently, albeit with an altered gait. His left arm remains nonfunctional.

Two years ago our lives changed in an instant. Many things about our lives are different, accessibility issues, new specialists, always more testing, work issues, learning new ways to do activities of daily living for James, learning a new way of interacting with one another. Many of the things we have learned and are learning are deeper than just the day to day though. The role of disabled people in our society. The way people view persons with disabilities and the differences between those who have a strong advocate and those who don't. The things those of us who are able bodied take for granted.

It has been two years since James' stroke. I would never have chosen this for him, for any of us, and yet it was thrust upon us and two years out I can look around and see lessons learned that were valuable, relationships made with people we would not otherwise have crossed paths with, gifts in the strangest packages.

James' first night home with us after the stroke was Halloween night, 6.5 weeks after the stroke. He wanted to be able to go trick or treating with our kids. We had a great time. He was in a wheelchair and we had a just turned 1 year old, a 2.5 year old, and a 5 year old with us. We had an amazing time and I won't ever forget the memories we made that night. Next month he and I will take those same kids trick or treating in our own neighbourhood, in the new place we call home. I am so glad he survived the stroke, grateful that we have these memories to make and the hope for many more in the future.

Halloween 2011 <3

Mid September Update

September is half way over and I'm pleased with my progress so far. I've finished 9 more books and I have several I will be finishing in the next week.

73 Books Challenge: 47/73 books read (64% done, 7% behind schedule)
Library Books Challenge: 36/50 books read (72% done)
A-Z Book Challenge: 17/26 books read (65% done, 6% behind schedule)
Classics Catch Up Challenge: 2/13 books read (15% done, 56% behind schedule)
Books by Women Challenge: 16/16 books read (DONE)
Eclectic Book Challenge: 6/12 books read (50% done, 21% behind schedule)
Literature and War Challenge: 3/12 books read (25% done, 46% behind schedule)
Classic Kids Book Challenge: 5/12 books read (41% done, 30% behind schedule)
Books Tobias Picked: 2/6 books read (33% done, 38% behind schedule)

One thing I havn't been doing as well with as I'd like is my reviews. I need to kick my butt into gear on that!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2013 Books in Review #6: Save Me

Save Me was the first book I read of the bag full of books I was given for my birthday from my Uncle Neil. It immediately caught my eye and I was hooked from the first time I read the jacket cover.
Save Me follows the story of a mother who is put in an impossible situation and has to choose between saving the life of children right in front of her, or saving the life of her daughter. In the end she makes her choice and it still ends up taking an unexpected twist that makes it seem like she didn't make the choice the way that she did.
I was expecting the book to focus mostly on the choice, when it reality that part of the story was done within the first couple of chapters and the rest of the book delved into a much deep plot that kept adding murder and mystery and intrigue to it and it ended up being a much different story line then the one that I was expecting. It wasn't a bad story, just very different and less the type that I am apt to find most interesting. 
All in all I gave this book 3/5 stars. I enjoyed it but it didn't end up being the huge winner I was hoping for.
Save Me was book #24 for the year, and my ninth book written by a woman.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013 Books in Review #5: Roland Wright, Future Knight

Tobias chose this book from the library and we finished it in just a few days.
Roland is a young boy living in the middle ages with his father, who is an armorer who builds the best armor in the land, and Shelby, his older brother. Roland dreams of being a knight but as the child not born into nobility there does not appear to be any way for this dream to be realized.
Due to his father's skill a knight is sent to purchase a set of armor for the king himself and later it saves him in battle. After this the king sends a declaration to Mr. Wright that one of his sons may come to the castle to be trained as a page. If he succeeds he may become a squire, and then a knight.
Roland is delighted but also unsure of his ability to be sent since he is the younger son. His father puts his brother and himself through a set of skill tests and although Shelby beats Roland on most of them, Roland shows more of the characteristics that knights must possess because he remains true to himself throughout all of the challenges. In the end he wins the chance to go to the castle. 
This was a fun, easy read and it is the first in a series of books. We will be sure to pick up the next one and read that too.
 This book was #39 for me this year, #29 for my library challenge, and #2 of the books that Tobias picked.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2013 Books in Review #4: Transition

I actually listened to the audiobook version of this book in my car during the times when I was running errands or doing other time driving when the kids were not with me. I chose to read this because stories about people in the LGTBQ community are in general very interesting to me.
Transition is written by Chaz Bono, born Chastity Bono, only child of the famous couple Sonny and Cher. Chaz writes about his experiences as a transgender man who had always felt more comfortable being masculine but had a hard time expressing that within the family and community roles he was in as a child and young adult. At the age of 13 Chaz realized that he (not realizing yet that he was a transgender male, but still living as a female) was attracted to other females and believed himself to be a lesbian from that point on up until the point where he realized that he was actually a transgender male who was attracted to women.
The book is unbelievably repetitive, and while I really wanted to like it I found myself totally uninspired by the endless litany of  failed relationships with family members, friends, and lovers and his apparent need to reveal intimate secrets about these people who had been or are important in his life. Only the very end of the book does he actually talk about transitioning from female to male.
I'm glad for Chaz that he is comfortable in his own skin now and I wish him luck in the future. This book was not actually helpful IMO as a guide for other trans folk (which is what Chaz says his goal is), especially in his polarizing views such as gender being your biology and gender identity being your choice. I think many of the trans folk who have been seriously depressed or even committed suicide as a result of not being able to identify openly as the gender they really were would disagree that it was a "choice". I rated this book only 1 out of 5 stars.
Transition was book #40 for me this year, book #30 in my library book challenge, and fulfilled my LGBT requirement for the eclectic reader challenge.

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 Books in Review #3: Freakling

Every once in a while I pick up a book as I pass it on a whim. Freakling is one of those books. I passed it at the library and brought it home because it caught my eye.
Freakling is a young adult dystopian novel, the first novel released by Lana Krumwiede. In it the residents of the world use Psi for all of their daily living. They don't use their hands at all. Taemon has quite powerful Psi but he loses it when his brother tries to kill him and he doesn't fight back. After this he has to relearn everything because he can no longer use his mind to do such activities as buttoning a shirt or feeding himself.
In addition to having to relearn these things in a new way he also must keep his loss of Psi a secret from his community. He manages to do so for a time but then he is found out and he is sent away to a colony of outsiders who do not use Psi. Taemon had always had prejudices against the outside colony but when he arrives he finds that they are not dumb, slow individuals as he was led to believe, but rather a functioning group, albeit living differently than those who use Psi instead of manual labour.
I rated this book 3/5 stars. It was a fairly solid story although some of the characters weren't as developed as I would have liked. All in all though I enjoyed it and I look forward to reading the sequel when it is released.
Freakling was book #3 for the year, #2 in the library challenge, letter F in my A-Z challenge, book #2 in my books by women challenge, and fulfilled the dystopian requirement in the eclectic reader challenge.

End of August update on Reading Challenges

We are 2/3 of the way through the year. Time to do an inventory of where I am in my challenges.

After a strong start to the year I fell off in a huge way starting in March. We moved to a new city and the next several months were a whirlwind of business to do with transferring our life to the new area and getting settled. In July I started to read again and August was a huge catch up month.

73 Books Challenge: 38/73 books read (52% done, 15% behind schedule)
Library Books Challenge: 28/50 books read (56% done, 11% behind schedule)
A-Z Book Challenge: 16/26 books read (61% done, 6% behind schedule)
Classics Catch Up Challenge: 2/13 books read (15% done, 52% behind schedule)
Books by Women Challenge: 13/16 books read (81% done)
Eclectic Book Challenge: 4/12 books read (33% done, 34% behind schedule)
Literature and War Challenge: 2/12 books read (16% done, 51% behind schedule)
Classic Kids Book Challenge: 4/12 books read (33% done, 34% behind schedule)
Books Tobias Picked: 1/6 books read (16% done, 51% behind schedule)

Looks like September will have to be another major catch up month ;-) I also want to write a review every weekday to catch up on those.