Friday, July 29, 2016

Small Joys

This summer has been the worst.

I mean, summer generally isn't my favorite season, especially not here in Houston. My friend Sarah jokes that she gets reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, and gets depressed in the summers here because you just can't go outside for months on end, and it's miserable and terrible and no good. Air conditioning depresses me (even if it is also absolutely necessary for survival).

But beyond that, this summer has been particularly terrible, with this interminable case of morning sickness (this has been my sickest pregnancy yet) and the utter and complete lack of structure we've had since school ended. There have been entire weeks on end that we haven't left the house once, not even to get the mail. I may be the introvert mother of two home-body boys, but everyone has their limits. I may be too sick to leave the couch, but we can all still go crazy.

Anyway, in an effort to focus less on the doom and gloom (things really are getting better, if we could just all get over this latest bout of cold-turned-croup viral infection that has hit me and the boys, and honestly, why? Isn't morning sickness enough? Do I really need to experience the hacking cough before dry-heaving over the toilet?), I've decided to post on the few small things that have brought me joy this summer. Think of this as a "Things I've Been Into Lately," or "Things that Have Been Saving My Life" kind of post, summer pregnancy edition.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Connecting With, Loving, and Accepting My Children (or Book Review: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids)

A few months ago, my blogging friend Amy posted a funny list of twenty parenting books she has read in the past few years, and the takeaways she remembers from each book (spoiler: very little, and sometimes nothing at all). This is generally pretty true for me too. When I'm in the middle of a parenting book, I'm like, "This is great stuff! I'm going to implement all of this and become the best parent ever!" And then fast forward a few months, and pretty much nothing has changed, and I barely even remember the title of that book, let alone any of its advice.

So take it with a grain of salt when I say that Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham is the best parenting book I've ever read. It is entirely possible that six months from now, I will have completely forgotten everything about this book and absolutely nothing will have changed in my day-to-day life. Right now, I just happen to be dwelling in the happy afterglow of reading this book and drinking the cool-aid, it may not actually be all that wonderful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Not Finishing Books

In general, when I start a book, I finish it.

In eighth grade, I read War and Peace. This was perhaps a bit ambitious (not to mention pretentious) of me, but I ended up legitimately enjoying the story so much (Tolstoy is a master) and had no problem plowing through the thousand plus pages over the course of several months. That is, until the story ended. Because here's the thing about War and Peace. Tolstoy wraps up the characters' story-lines, all neat and happy, several chapters before the book actually ends. So what's the point of those final few chapters? I don't even know. Philosophizing about war, philosophizing about peace, random thoughts, whatever. All I knew is that story was over, and my interest level in finishing these chapters was hovering close to zero. But I was not going to come 1,000 pages just to give up on the last few chapters! Oh, no! Not me! So I dutifully plowed through those last few chapters, even though it was a bit painful, and I finished War and Peace.

I'm a finisher. I like finishing things. Especially books.

But lately?

Lately I've been allowing myself the privilege of not finishing books that aren't holding my interest. My time is precious, I don't want to waste it on books I'm not enjoying. I always try to give books a fair go, but sometimes it becomes obvious to me that I will get very little out of finishing some books. So I've been letting myself stop and move on. By and large, I feel like this has been a liberating, positive development in my reading life.

Except for one little thing.

Not finishing books is wreaking havoc on the goal-setting-Goodreads-tracking-book-counting part of my reading life, and I don't know what to do about it.

What do I do with the handful of books on my To-Read Shelf that I started but never finished? I can't move them to my Read Shelf, because technically I didn't "read" them, at least not all the way. But do I just delete them from my shelves all together? Keep them on my To-Read Shelf indefinitely? Write a review explaining why I never finished it?

Also, there's a part of me that really wants to count, if not the book itself, at least the pages and time I put into reading those books in some way in my end of year totals. So maybe I only finished 50 books (or whatever), I started at least half a dozen more. Do those pages count for nothing?

Should I ditch Goodreads tracking all together and start tracking my reading in a spreadsheet or reading journal so I can track all these pages of unfinished books in my yearly totals?

Should I just let it go and stop obsessing over this? Probably.

But I'm curious, what do you guys do with books you don't finish? Move on and not think about them again? Track them in some way? Or do you obsessively finish all the books you start?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Me and My Body (Part 2 - Body Love)

Pregnant, Body Love, Body Image, Love Your Body

Let's start with a story.

This is a few years ago. I'm at my doctor's office and, as per routine, the nurse asks me to step up on the scale to get my weight before proceeding to check my blood pressure . The nurse looks at the number on the scale, looks down at my charts, and exclaims:

"You've gained 10 pounds in one month! I would kill myself if I ever gained that much weight in a month!"

Now, setting aside just how inappropriate it is for any nurse to comment at all on any patient's weight (let alone such a shaming and negative comment), let me give this story some context. I happened to be 18 weeks pregnant at the time of this (routine pre-natal) doctor's visit. I'm also 5'4" tall (pertinent, just to let you know I'm a decently average height). And do you want to know the number on the scale?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Book Blab: "Traveling With Books" (Episode 7 Show Notes)

You guys! Special surprise unannounced Episode 7 of The Book Blab! When I realized I was going to be in Utah with some downtime last week, I emailed Amy and said, hey, can we do an episode together? In person? We didn't know if it was going to work out until the day of, but it was so much fun to actually be in the same room talking books together. We filmed this last Friday, and tried out a new video service (Facebook instead of Blab) because it worked better with having us both in the same space. So it did not stream live here, but you can all enjoy the recorded episode and show notes below.

0:35 - Why Suzanne came to Utah
1:10 - Today's topic: Reading during travel
2:12 - How Suzanne and Amy plan their travel reading
4:09 - How travel converted both Amy and Suzanne to e-readers
5:30 - Suzanne's audiobook catastrophe!
6:45 - Tips for e-books deals
8:50 - Amy and Suzanne's favorite genres for travel
11:40 - Place-sensitive reading (reading books that are related to the place you're traveling to)
13:48 - Travel reading . . . with kids!
17:45 - Suzanne's fun tradition when she's traveling
19:05 - One more tip for traveling light even if you don't have an e-reader
20:30 - Quick poll: In general (not travel specific), do you prefer an e-reader or the hard copy?
22:10 - Two books that remind Amy and Suzanne of trips they went on (and that you'll enjoy whether you go on the same trip or not!)
  • 22:50 - Suzanne's recommendation
  • 24:45 - Amy's recommendation
27:00 - Conclusion 

Links and books mentioned in the show:

Modern Mrs. Darcy's Kindle Deals (5-7 new titles every day, usually ranging between $0.99 and $4.99)
Goodreads Deals (If you have a Goodreads account, you should already be getting handpicked deals in your inbox.)
BookBub (lots of free and really inexpensive e-books)
On Such Stuff: A random, free e-book that Suzanne took a chance on and really liked
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The Monuments Men by  Robert M. Edsel
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
On Sunlit Pages: Review of The BFG by Roald Dahl
On Of Books and Blooms: Review of Watership Down by Richard Adams
On Such Stuff: Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
On Sunlit Pages: Review of Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Friday, July 1, 2016

Books I Read in June

Well, June was a bit slower on the reading front than May. I blame it on my mother. She was here for two weeks helping out, and for some reason it was more interesting to chat with her all day long than read. Also, I started a pretty hefty read half-way through the month that I'm still working on, so I don't get to count all those reading hours yet. Here's what I did get through:

Firestorm by Katie Robison

Finished this one up just in time to mini-review it for the giveaway! You can read more about it (and the whole series) here.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Finally! I've only been on the holds list for this one forever. Confession, I did see the movie first, but the book was totally worth reading. The science! Holy cow the science! Major, major props to Andy Weir for not just figuring out and understanding all this stuff, but presenting it in an admirably entertaining way in a fiction book. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to skimming a lot of the more technical descriptions, but I totally saw how it was necessary to the story and only added. Seriously learned so much. Also, really loved the character of Mark Watney. He's brilliant and funny, which is a pretty winning combination, but caution, he does have a mouth on him. I still definitely recommend.

Pippa of Lauramore by Shari L. Tapscott

Okay, so remember how I got a new Kindle last year? And then started subscribing to all those email services that send you daily updates on all the Kindle deals? Well, I totally try to restrain myself, but when a book is free, and it's an e-book, sometimes I have a hard time not clicking buy. So now I've got a bunch of these freebies sitting on my Kindle, and as I was scrolling through them the other day I realized most of them look terrible (probably why they were free), but this one looked promising, so I decided to give it a try. And guess what? It was totally a winner! Completely, surprisingly delightful. I would compare this book to a slightly lesser Shannon Hale-type princess novel. It's got a fun and spunky princess, a fairly developed fantasy world, and a host of suitors lining up for the princess's hand. Then ending ties up nice and tidily and happy (so if that kind of thing bothers you, well, don't read it), there's not much substance, but it was quite the enjoyable little fluff read. (Also, super clean.) Totally recommend.

And that's all I finished. We've got some travel coming up this next week, with both plane flights and road trips involved, and I'm hoping that will translate into some good reading time (but you never know with kids). That being said, I'll be taking the next week off of blogging (except for a maybe, possible, surprise special post later next week, but only if things work out... I'll let you know).

Happy summer reading folks!