Friday the Rabbi Slept Late

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Friday the Rabbi Slept Late, by Harry Kemelman, is a classic mystery story. I picked up a copy at the used bookstore because we were reading it for book club. Of course, I didn’t finish it in time. And I had something else scheduled for that day. But hey—I’m one step closer to actually going to book club. This is progress, right?

I don’t think this would be a classic if it weren’t for the strong Jewish flavor. Don’t get me wrong—Kemelman writes a pretty good mystery. There are twists and turns, and all that. But most of the book is Jewish culture, with a mystery to solve. Did I learn something about Jewish culture? Absolutely. Was it a good mystery? Meh. It was about as good as any of Agatha Christie’s lesser-known works.

If you really like cozy mysteries, or if you want some good Jewish fiction, go for it. But if you’re looking for a good mystery, go with something else. ♦

What Christians Believe (C.S. Lewis)

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So, I didn’t realize this when I picked up the book, but all of What Christians Believe is already encompassed in C.S. Lewis’s larger book, Mere Christianity. And, to be honest, if you’re interested in the subject or the author, you should just pick up Mere Christianity.

What Christians Believe is the smaller, easier-to-read, condensed highlights reel. Is it still good? Yes. But all of my favorite parts, including a wonderful analogy of Christ “belonging” to humanity the same way a colony tree belongs to its sister trees, are left out.

(Short) story short: if you’re looking for an abstract of Mere Christianity, pick up What Christians Believe. But if you actually want the meat of the matter, read Mere Christianity. ♦

Read-a-thon Week!

Well, folks, here’s how it is.

Postpartum depression sucks.

Don’t read that wrong: I didn’t say motherhood sucks. I didn’t say babies suck. Babies are awesome. My baby is exceptionally awesome. But he’s taken a lot of my time, and every now and then, depression hits and hits hard. Which means that about 90% of the time (and getting better), I feel great, and I’ve got a marvelously renewed purpose in life. And then sometimes I just want to throw things.

Which brings me to the reason I haven’t posted practically anything since my son was born. Most of the time, I’ve got this newborn baby to play with, take care of, and just stare at, wondering how something so dang cute could ever have been living inside me. So naturally, I’m not thinking about my blog. Then, whenever I’m not taking care of Little John, it’s because I hate the world. So naturally, I don’t care about my blog.

I’m repenting, because I need this blog. It’s an outlet. I’m also repenting, because I flatter myself by thinking some people have missed it. I’m apologizing, because the coming week is all going to be book reviews. I’m nursing. I have a lot of down time, stuck in one spot, with very little conversation to pass the time. I’ve done a lot of reading.

So, since I’ve been having a read-a-thon, I’ll invite you to join me! If you don’t particularly care what I’ve been reading, or what I thought about it, you can pretty much just skip this week. Toodles. ♦

The Miserable Mill

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Lemony Snicket is at it again, with book 3 of the Series of Unfortunate Events. The Miserable Mill took me about two days to get through (a grand total of probably two or three hours, to be honest), and it made a fun read. Heavy literature? Hardly – but good for “snack food” reading.

The Miserable Mill includes hypnotism, chewing gum, coupons, and a horrible sawing machine. Also, a sword-fighting baby. It’s a fun read. ♦

The Giver

Remember how I was going to read a gajillion books this year?

Yeah, so I finally started reading again after about 2 or 3 months’ absence. I guess I just read myself out. But my mom took me and Ethan out to see The Giver in theaters, and I was impressed. So, naturally, I had to read the book again to see how the movie compared.

Surprisingly, I would recommend the movie just as strongly as the book on this one. Much of the dialogue is taken straight from the book, and the only differences between the two were, I feel, very fitting to adapt the book into a visual, feature-length format.

The Giver is a dystopian novel about a “perfect” society that has erased all differences, and all memories of the past. Jonas, the main character, is selected to become the “Receiver of Memories,” the only member of the society that remembers what life was like before the Community, and therefore, an important adviser to the Elders. But Jonas starts to realize the Community has done too much to make everything the same, and wonders if he can force a change back.

The book is fantastic. The movie is also fantastic, in different ways. I highly recommend both, in any order you like. ♥

Through the Looking-Glass

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Yes, I’m reading a lot. I’m sick. I have been for months. So this baby is gonna be grown on Golden Grahams, Pokemon Yellow, and a whole lot of English literature.

Which brings me to Lewis Carroll. I liked Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland so much, I just kept going with Through the Looking-Glass. Through the Looking-Glass is, if anything, even more ridiculous than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The plot is slightly more cohesive – following Alice as a pawn in a chess match as she moves her way toward the end of the board to be queened – and yet, the transitions actually make even less sense in this one. In Wonderland, at least Alice usually walked through a door or a forest or something before she found something crazy. In Looking-Glass world, she usually just turns around and finds she’s in a boat. Or on a train. Or at a door.

At any rate, this is an even easier read than Alice in Wonderland, and I found it quite amusing. I give it two thumbs up. ♦

The Morning Sickness Companion

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The Morning Sickness Companion, by Elizabeth Kaledin, was a recommendation (and a loan) from my cousin, after she heard I was struggling with a parasite. I mean baby. And I highly recommend it, especially for any woman going through a first pregnancy.

About a third of the book can pretty much be summed up as, “Hey. You got this. It sucks, but you got this.” Kaledin talks about her own pregnancies and those of her friends, and discusses the cultural expectations of morning sickness. First, some naive people (including myself, about 3 months ago) still think that just because it’s called “morning” sickness, it only happens in the morning. Oh, man. False. The book discusses some possible reasons for morning sickness, laments a lack of available treatments (although it cites and discusses some of the available medications), and mostly just says, “Yes, this is hard. It’s totally  normal for you to grit your teeth as you clutch the toilet and launch a few choice words at the unborn child you were so excited for only a few weeks ago.”

Basically, this book makes it seem a lot less depressing to be sick. It’s normal. It will go away. Yes, the baby will be worth it. And here are some ideas you can try. See if they help.

Two things I didn’t like about this book: The format, and the bias.

The format shrieked “journalism.” Specifically, there are huge word bubbles on every other page that say – verbatim – the same thing you just read in the last paragraph. Occasionally, a paragraph is interrupted so you can read that same paragraph in fancy font, inside a box. It’s meant to grab your attention, but if you’re actually used to reading a whole book from cover to cover, it’s distracting.

The “bias” part wasn’t bothersome to me, so much as a little weird. The author is a news correspondent working in New York. Which means her world revolves quite a bit around work, and the same goes with most of her friends (whom she interviewed for the writing of the book). I plan on being a stay-at-home mom, and I’m currently a stay-at-home mom until I can get over my morning sickness. (My clients have special needs, and require a certain level of alertness that I just don’t have right now.) So it was really weird that all of her advice simply assumed that my job would be one of my top priorities, and that I would be working after the baby was born.

Really, though, these are both pretty small, nit-picky issues. Overall, I thought the book was fantastic, motivating, and I especially liked the amount of medical research that went into such an easily-read book. I can recommend this to anyone I know, and they’ll understand it – but Kaledin still did her research and cited her sources, so the skeptic in me can relax a bit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pour myself another bowl of Golden Grahams. Here’s to surviving the first trimester! ♥