Saturday, February 15, 2014

Weekend Links - February 15, 2014

Links day! I can't believe I missed last week. Except for I can totally believe it because we were getting completely moved out of the rental and dragging the last few loads of stuff (from there, we still have STUFF in Philip's church office and my parents' garage) to our new house.

The days, they aren't long enough for our to-do lists. And they're also way too filled with snow and ice. That's all without mentioning the things that have broken since we moved (extra stove, TV, microwave...home ownership is great fun, except when it's not) and the fact that we still don't have a couch for our main living room.

But, enough of all that. Here I am, at my new house, with our new internet service and I do have a few links for you, so let's get to 'em.

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Myth Busting
  • Fact Checker: Super Bowl S** Trafficking and Other Myths by Joe Carter. Exaggeration leads to trivialization of a truly horrific evil. Don't fall for the easily written, but ultimately trivializing, headlines.
  • Great Lakes Ice Cover Spreading Rapidly by Mark Toregrossa. But, I thought "global warming' (yes, I use quotation marks advisedly) meant this would "never" happen again? Tell that to Lake Erie (94% ice cover!).
  • Atlantic: We May Run Out of Winter For the Winter Olympics - fact checking by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Turns out, not so much, if the IOC would choose actual cold weather venues. I'll admit: I had no idea where Sochi was in Russia until I looked it up on a map. Kind of makes you wonder if the IOC is corrupt. *cough*
  • Hermione Should Have Married Harry, Rowling Admits. I KNEW IT. Ron Weasley should have died in some noble, sacrificial way for his friends, in order to redeem his character. (He's primarily annoying, and only around to swear and use British slang. Ugh. GO AWAY WEASLEYS. Not that I care. Much.)Just goes to show you that an author can get too attached to the way she first envisioned a story, instead of letting the characters dictate their own fates.
Interesting
That's it for this week. What caught your eye?

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Books of 2014 - January

*coughs*
*clears throat*
*taps mic*

Hello. Hello? Is this thing on?

Ah, yes, I have a blog.

Renovating and moving (and snowstorms and daily trips to Lowes) have taken nearly every waking minute since the middle of January.

No, we did not get out of the rental before February 1. We made it pretty close. And had some pretty close calls (a stove was broken, a mattress flew off a truck) but here we are now, in our new home, still working away at this renovation but also dipping our toes back in to the "Real Life" pond.

As a first step toward that here on the ol' blog, let's turn back the clock to January and do a quick review of the books I finished before life got so busy I haven't finished  a real book since.

No, I don't remember the last time that happened either.
1. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Nonfiction edited by Mason Currey. My Goodreads review:
Ever wonder how your favorite author managed to write that amazing book? This book can help you figure that out. These are the rituals, routines, and occasionally bizarre methods that creative people have employed to help them create. (The book covers artists and musicians as well as writers)

One conclusion: entirely too much creating has been fueled by alcohol and drugs. It's almost surprising when you read an entry in here about someone who didn't drink or indulge.

Recommended for: writers (including wannabe writers) and those fascinated by creative types.

Also available for Kindle:Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

2. Five Windows. Fiction by D. E. Stevenson. My Goodreads review:
Sweet, wholesome, usual fare from Stevenson. Similarities to Dickens' David Copperfield - protagonists named David, move to London to make their life, become writers...only David Kirke has a much happier background and fewer trials to endure. Stevenson pokes fun at herself by having Kirke live over a bookshop where the owner likes to read but pretty much only Dickens. Also has some fun (I suspect) with the publishing industry in the US versus the UK.

Good fun. No big surprises but the characters are finely sketched. I would have liked a little more about Scotland during WW2, and a bit more about David's "National Service" time, but that's a personal bias.

Recommended for: fans of Miss Read, anyone needing a pleasant break from grittier fiction.

3.Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains. Fiction by Catriona McPherson. My Goodreads review:
A fun read with witty dialogue, interesting supporting characters, good historical context and research and a classic whodunnit plot.

In my opinion the culprit is not really hard to figure out, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless.

Series mystery, but I haven't - to my admittedly faulty memory - read any of the others in the series. That hindered me a little but not much since I enjoy jumping right in and not reading a lot of backstory.

Recommended for: fans of Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple series. If you think the Downstairs folk on Downton Abbey have issues, just wait until you meet this cast.

Also available for Kindle:Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains

4. Red 1-2-3. Fiction by John Katzenbach. My Goodreads review:
An updated take on "Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf". The suspense in this book is well done - it kept me guessing and afraid for the three Reds.

The bad guy? Well, not so much. Calling him the Wolf quickly became ridiculous. It did feel like the author was having fun with the fact that his bad guy is a mystery writer who also murders. The writing emphasis is interesting throughout the book, as well as the significance of numbers. However, the metaphors go over the top and starting bashing the reader over the head.

The ending, after all that build-up, just sort of squishes out. I suppose that much suspense is hard to bring in for a landing.

Notes: lots of profanity, tense situations.

Recommended for: fans of suspense movies. You can practically hear a later Hitchcock soundtrack while you read this.

Also available for Kindle:Red 1-2-3

5. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. Nonfiction by Colin Woodard. My Goodreads review:
The premise is intriguing: The U.S. (and, to some extent, Canada, and Mexico) is made up of 11 rival cultures. These cultures persist despite time, immigration, wars, and progress.

If I were rating this book simply on the first sections, it would probably rate higher. The connection between the English Civil War and the U.S. Revolutionary War is, I think, fairly easy to prove and quite an intriguing situation. The problem comes as the chapters approach modern times. The author is simply unable to keep his own biases and presuppositions out of the text. (Ever feel like telling an author, "Don't take that tone with me"?)

His dealing with the Southern region becomes problematic because Woodard spends much of the book telling us about the three nations (Tidewater, Appalachia, Deep South) that make up "The South" and how they maintain an uneasy alliance. In the chapters that consider the post-war South, he takes to calling the entire region "Dixie" and paints with a wide brush a picture of racist, backward, hateful people. This is, to put it mildly, offensive.

The eleven nation concept is interesting, but they turn out to be a bit more fluid than Woodard's original thesis suggests. It is possible to make the case that Tidewater, as he describes it, ceased to exist long ago.

In the end, Woodard issues a lot of dire warnings about what will happen to the U.S. if the South doesn't learn to play nice with its Yankee betters. (That's not exactly how he puts it, but it's the gist of the thing.) I'm sure the reader is supposed to be scared by these warnings but I found myself pleased with what Woodard suggests will the be the result: "The United States might continue to exist, but its powers might be limited to national defense, foreign policy, and the negotiation of interstate trade agreements." (p. 318)

Forgive me, but my reading of history suggests that is what the Federal Government is supposed to do. I guess that could be because I'm a Midlander / Appalachian mix who thinks "the gubmint" is just too doggone big already.

Some of his bugbears are just comical. For instance: "It [the United States] cannot survive if we end the separation of church and state or institute the Baptist equivalent of Sharia law." I'm Baptist, and I can tell you I have NO IDEA what he's talking about but I might like to see what that looks like. No Baptists I'm aware of insist on women not driving cars or wearing full body veils. Some of us are Creationists though, so I can see how the author got confused. On a serious note, this suggests a lack of understanding both of Islam and Baptist theology that is inexcusable.

Woodard rhapsodizes about First Nation culture (and, forgive me, but isn't lumping all indigenous peoples into one nation simplistic in the extreme?) and their communalistic style of living but he has just written an entire book based on the thesis that these 11 nations have very little in common. Communal life works best (when it works at all) when there is a higher driving force. For example, 1st century Christians who "had all things in common". You must either have a Higher reason for sublimating individuality or you must have a powerful state that can force you to do so. Neither of those seem likely for the diverse 11 nations Woodard describes that make up North America.

My final criticism is that this book is so lightly footnoted. I read a lot of nonfiction and a book of this type needs to be well supported by footnotes and research. Otherwise, it's just a really long, and occasionally highly interesting, opinion piece.

Recommended for: history buffs, folks who want to know more about how we got to our current Red State / Blue State paradigm.

Also available for Kindle:American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

6. The Interrupted Tale. Fiction by Maryrose Wood. My review on Goodreads:
Thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. We only had one copy from the library and my daughter and I were competing to see who could finish it first.

Some mysteries are answered in this book but many more aren't. I, for one, hope the series goes on for several more books. They are literary, witty, mysterious, and just the right touch of strange. The Incorrigible Children and their governess are fantastic characters (in all senses of the word).

Recommended for: people who liked aspects of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" but considered them a bit dark, fans of vintage books for children with missing parents, mysterious identities and classic poetry. (You know you're out there!)

Also available for Kindle:The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book IV: The Interrupted Tale

7. The Widow of Larkspur Inn. Fiction by Lawanna Blackwell. What I said on Goodreads:
A re-read. Blackwell endeavors to write well rounded characters and her efforts are generally successful. My problems with this book: the male counterpart for our heroine is dropped in with a thud about half way through the story; the research, while adequate, is not thorough to the time and place (for instance, neither sleepovers nor homework would have been discussed. "Homework" would more likely be referred to as simply school work or lessons); several characters are described as attending "The Baptist Chapel" but I'm not sure why they bother since the Anglican church in their village is overtly evangelical. (I could be theologically nit-picking, I'll admit.)

Still, it's not as formulaic as some Christian fiction and it helped pass the time on a trip.

Recommended for: fans of Christian fiction, gentle stories set in Britain.

Currently FREE for Kindle!The Widow of Larkspur Inn (The Gresham Chronicles Book #1)

8. Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff. Nonfiction by Stephen Altrogge.
Practical and inspiring. Just the swift kick you might need to get yourself out of "I should write / paint / throw pottery" mindset and into the actual doing of a creative project.

Recommended for: creative types and those who think they're not creative but wish they could be.

Only available as an ebook (currently $2.99, but I got it for free a few weeks ago):Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff


9. Curiosities of Literature: A Feast for Book Lovers. Nonfiction by John Sutherland.
I liked the idea of this book more than I liked the book itself. The author's tone can be witty but it can also be catty (which is which, is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholder)

Anecdotes about famous books, authors, and the writing life. Occasionally deals with vulgar topics, so may not be suitable for all readers.

Recommended for: those who enjoy reading about writers.

Also available for Kindle:Curiosities of Literature: A Feast for Book Lovers

Totals for January: 9
Fiction: 5
Non-fiction: 4

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Weekend Links - February 1, 2014

House. Van. Work. Money. Ugh.

Have lost ability to talk in complete sentences so let's skip it and get to the links:

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Everything Else
What caught your eye this week?
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Nine Months Old

 Nine months. NINE months?!

Craziness.

The iBoy is growing and changing every day. I'm not sure his current weight because we haven't been to the doctor yet but he's definitely bigger than any of my girls were at this age. He wears 12 month clothes and I think he's about to pass my almost 2 year old niece in weight.

It's been a few months since I've given an update here so I'll bring you up to speed on Life with iBoy:

Loves:
  • nursing
  • crawling
  • pulling up on things
  • playing next to his sisters
  • being held
  • his name. Seriously: his favorite word in the world is his name
  • riding in the car
  • exploring
  • bath time. Such a water baby.
  • music
  • "talking" and "singing". So cute. He loves when we answer him. (Who knows what we may be agreeing to in baby talk. We've probably agreed to let him live in our basement until he's 30)
  • sleeping in the big bed between Dad & Mom
Not a fan of:
  • baby food. Actually, not a fan of most table food except french fries (we know this courtesy of an indulgent great-grandparent). Drop any food on the floor and he's all over that. Try to serve food sitting like a civilized person in a chair, with a spoon, eh, not so much.
  • bedtime. He'll sleep in his pack n play (which has been happening a lot with all this house renovation) or his car seat, but come nighttime he thinks our queen size bed is his bed. He'll generously share with us but there's no doubt in his mind who it really belongs to (him). 
Still no teeth, which is a-OK with me since he is also still nursing every 2-3 hours.

He has his casual side:
    But he also cleans up nice:
    I'm not exactly sure what's going on with his legs in this picture but it makes me laugh. Felt a little funny nursing him in this outfit, though. Kind of like having a Junior Executive just nursing away. Weird.

    He's the happiest, most agreeable baby I've ever seen. He sleeps through the craziness of four sisters and house renovation and trains and everything else. He's generous with his smiles and laughs and slobbery kisses and when he rests his head on my shoulder I think I may never put him down again.

    Sweetness. Life, despite all the craziness in our lives right now, is sweet.