August 24th, 2010

Caleb- snug as a bug!

Book 36: It Sucked and Then I Cried

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita
Heather B. Armstrong
Nonfiction; memoir; chick lit
262 pages

Heather Armstrong gave up a lot of things when she and her husband, Jon, decided to have a baby: beer, small boobs, free time — and antidepressants. The eighteen months that followed were filled with anxiety, constipation, nacho cheese Doritos, and an unconditional love that threatened to make her heart explode. Still, as baby Leta grew and her husband, Jon, returned to work, Heather faced lonely days, sleepless nights, and endless screaming that sometimes made her wish she'd never become a mother. Just as she was poised to throw another gallon of milk at her husband's head, she committed herself for a short stay in a mental hospital — the best decision she ever made for her family.

To the dedicated millions who can't get enough of Heather's unforgettably unique style and hilarious stories on her hugely popular blog, there's little she won't share about her daily life as a recovering Mormon, liberal daughter of Republicans, wife of a charming geek, lover of television that exceeds at being really awful, and stay-at-home mom to five-year-old Leta and two willful dogs.
In It Sucked and Then I Cried, Heather tells, with trademark wit, the heartfelt, unrelentingly honest story of her battle with postpartum depression and all the other minor details of pregnancy and motherhood that no one cares to mention. Like how boring it can be to care for someone whose primary means of communication is through her bowels. And how long it can possibly take to reconvene the procedure that got you into this whole parenthood mess in the first place. And how you sometimes think you can't possibly go five more minutes without breathing in that utterly irresistible and totally redeemable fresh baby smell.
It Sucked and Then I Cried is a brave cautionary tale about crossing over that invisible line to the other side (the parenting side), where everything changes and it only gets worse. But most of all, it's a celebration of a love so big it can break your heart into a million pieces.

I really enjoyed reading this book, It was very informative. I will admit that at times, the postpartum depression parts made me a bit uncomfortable, seeing as I am pregnant with my first son, but I am glad that she included us in her journey. That being said, I think I enjoyed reading about her pregnancy the most. I recommend this book to all pregnant women and/or first time moms.

***Next read: I just started reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Kitty: Angry Calico

Carriger, Gail: Changeless

Changeless (2010)
Written by: Gail Carriger
Genre: Paranormal Steampunk Romance
Pages: 388 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book Two (ongoing)

The premise: ganked from Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears - leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.

She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

My Rating

Must Have: while I'll always warn potential readers that you must be in the right kind of mood for this book and its humor, this is a heckvua lot of fun and it had me thoroughly entertained. Better still, this book managed to take all of its interstitial ingredients and produce a stronger, more cohesive text than the first, which was still really enjoyable. No one element of historical fiction, paranormal fantasy, romance, mystery, and steampunk really stands out as a sore thumb, but rather all of these elements seem to strike a rather enjoyable balance. I really love Alexia as a character, and it's fun to watch her interact with both her friends, her enemies, and of course, her husband. The ending of this installment has me dying for the next, and trust me when I say that if I had Blameless in my hands when I finished Changeless, I wouldn't have taken a break between volumes.

Review style: There's not a whole lot I want to discuss, other than to note how this book passes the Bechdel Test as well as talk about some of the areas this book improves upon in comparison to the first. Spoilers, I'll be good. I don't WANT to be good, mind you, but I will be. So no spoilers. The full review is at my LJ for anyone's who's interested, and as always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


Happy Reading!


Book club selections @ calico_reaction. Hop on over! We'd love to have you!

August: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
September: So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson
October: Feed by Mira Grant


Back when I took World History in high school we learned (and I'm not exaggerating) absolutely nothing. As such, my knowledge of the past is pathetically limited and I want to remedy this.

So, can you guys tell me the periods or events in history you think I should read up on? And can you perhaps recommend me reading material on the subject? Non-fiction is what I'm going for but any informative, well-researched fiction is vastly appreciated.

Please and thank you.
[Zelda] Master Sword

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty-especially if they learn of her Sight-and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; everything.

( Spoiler-free Review )
username: gift from lijahlover

Jaws by Peter Benchley

Title: Jaws
Author: Peter Benchley
Year of Publication: 1974
Genre: Suspense
Format: Audio Book
Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
First Line: "The great fish moved silently through the night water propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail."

Summary: The classic, blockbuster thriller of man-eating terror that inspired the Steven Spielberg movie and made millions of beachgoers afraid to go into the water. Experience the thrill of helpless horror again -- or for the first time!

Review: Just as a warning to everyone reading this review, I have never seen the movie 'Jaws'. This is one of the reasons I decided to pick up the book when I found out the movie was based on a book. So I really have little or nothing to compare the film to the book.

Now onto the review! I actually rather enjoyed this novel, much to my surprise. I say surprise because the genres of suspense and horror are not ones I typically venture into. And Yes, Jaws did scare me a little. How could anyone not be with the descriptions that Peter Benchley has written for you of the shark attacks? The characters are realistic. Brody will tug at your heart strings as the good guy in all this. Personally, I wish the character of Meadows, the noisy reporter in Amity, was in the book more. He was an amazing character. The subplots are rather interesting and a needed relief from thinking about the shark attacks. But the ending of the book was not an ending. I had to re-read the end a couple times to see if I missed something and if that was really it. Jaws ends abruptly without any sort of conclusion. I definitely recommend this book, but remember it's different from the movie from what I have heard and the ending is beyond horrible.

Worst part: The ending was nonexistant.

Best part: The descriptions of the shark attacks.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: The Island and Rummies.

#68 Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress tells the story of two teenager boys who are selected to be “re-educated,” a process by which “young intellectuals” (youths with at least a high school education, or educated parents) are sent to rural areas and used for cheap labor. Their new lives are deeply impacted when they are introduced to a pretty female seamstress and a locked suitcase filled with forbidden western literature. They quickly fall in love, both with the seamstress and the translated literature that opens their minds to new worlds.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is one of those book that I've been meaning to read for ages. I was first introduced to it by one of my high school teachers, but kept putting it off. When it was announced as a selection for the new book club readwonderland , I knew it was time for me to pick it up. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a short and straightforward work of historical fiction that takes place in Communist China during the 1970s. As a western reader, I always find this time period to be very disturbing and unfamiliar. Coming from a country where one is encouraged to finish high school and move on to college, the concept of being “re-educated,” where one is punished for being educated, is rather scary, and seems more like a scene out of a dystopia than historical fiction. The simple, harsh lifestyle of the the characters contrasts so deeply with my own lifestyle, which seems so consumerist in comparison.

I connected pretty quickly with the main characters of the book: the unnamed protagonist, a budding writer, and his more theatrical friend Luo. I loved watching how the forbidden literature that they discover opens new worlds for them that they didn't know existed. As a lover of books, I know what it's like to experience something new through a novel. I can only imagine how intense the experience would be if so many of the concepts expressed in the book had been forbidden to me for my entire life. The pacing is quite smooth for the majority of the book, with one exception. About 130 pages in, just when the book is getting the most intense, there is an abrupt change in perspective that seems to take the energy out of the book. Fortunately, once the book gets back to normal, that energy is found again.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is an effective work of historical fiction. In the about the author section it is revealed that Dai Sijie himself was re-educated in China in the early 1970s. This makes me wonder, how much of this lovely little book is autobiographical, and how much is fiction?

Rating: four and a half stars
Length: 184 pages
Source: Library Sale
Challenges: This book is not part of any challenges
Similar books: For other books about 20th Century China, try Wild Swans by Jung Chang, The Girl who Played Go by Shan Sa, and The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan.
Other books I've read by this author: This is my first

xposted to bookish , temporaryworlds  and goodreads

Lucrezia Borgia: John Faunce

Lucrezia Borgia
Author: John Faunce
Length: 277 pages

I suppose you could call this a little spoiler-y, but since Lucrezia Borgia is a historical figure (her story differs in this retelling, however), it's kind of a moot point.

This novel is written from the perspective of an older Lucrezia as she reflects on her past. It starts while she is quite young, before her father becomes the pope, and continues through her three marriages, the novel culminating in Pope Alexander's death.

I enjoyed this book a lot. When I read it a few years ago, I didn't understand a lot of the references--Cesare and Alexander are both well-educated, especially in the Greek and Roman schools of thoughts, and eventually Lucrezia is, as well--but understanding them now made it much more enjoyable.

Occasionally I winced when Faunce's thoughts--instead of Lucrezia's--showed through. At odd moments it wasn't Lucrezia talking, it was Faunce, and it was jarring. As well, Lucrezia had remarkably modern thoughts, which I suppose could be true, considering that she was quite wealthy and privileged, but felt off nonetheless.

This book is written with the assumption that (skip) Cesare and Lucrezia were in an incestuous relationship, and that it was not by choice on Lucrezia's side; she was raped. Though the novel never does go into graphic detail that [the subsequent "This action shall not be described on this clean white paper"-style thoughts were one of the parts that jerked me out of the story] it does go far enough that it's disturbing. There's also a great deal of gore in the middle of the book, as Alfonso of Aragorn (skip) is first assaulted in the middle of the night, and then killed by Cesare in a scene that has copious amounts of blood shed. 10/10

Crossposted to both my own journal and bookish .

Mockingjay Book Review

Synopsis (from Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

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han shot first

Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill

When a plague ruined Earth, it was up to the United Corporation of America to reestablish the population elsewhere. Naturally, as the next closest planet, Mars would have to do. But after the terraforming was finished, the miners originally sent to create a viable atmosphere weren’t rewarded for their efforts. Trapped inside of their mines, the workers were helpless to stop the calculated invasion of chigoes released by the government—native insectoids with the ability to secret acidic liquid on their victims.

Jacob “Durango” Stringfellow, like everyone else, believed most of these miners dead or long gone, having abandoned their mines for the safety of more populated outposts. He never expected to be so down on his luck or out of money either. When a dingy trio of miners come asking for help to stop the Draeu from preying on their children, it’s all he can do to resist their pitiful case and remind himself he’s in it for the money now, not the people nor their meager offerings. Fortunately for the miners, Durango’s strapped for cash and a little more desperate and soft-hearted than he lets on.

( Read the rest of this review at Jawas Read, Too! )