Month: February 2011

Reflections on faith, fullness, and becoming a mother
by Debra Rienstra

Contemplative, thoughtful writing on the inner changes that take place in a mother\’s soul, that\’s how I think of this book. Great with Child was written during and just after the author\’s pregnancy with her third child, and she chronicles with tender insightfulness all the impacts that bringing a new life into the world can have on a woman. Not just the physical changes- although those are addressed- the hormonal upheavals, pains and fatigue, wonders of first feeling the baby move- but more specifically the emotional territory and how being pregnant (and later, a new mom) alters her outlook on everything in life. Cultural norms, gender roles, shifting relationships with her parents and in-laws, body image, the nature of work, learning patience… More than any other this book is so honest about what\’s hard in becoming a mother (even though this is her third time)- painful breastfeeding sessions, severe lack of sleep (I\’m glad to know I\’m not the only one who falls to pieces on less than four hours!) the feeling of loosing your sense of self when all attention and energy must be focused on this helpless, demanding little infant- and what little is left divided among your other children and spouse. There is also great beauty here, love that unfolds, depth of character that grows through the trials of motherhood.

This is the kind of book you want to read slowly, to think over every passage. Although I have to admit I did quite a bit of skipping. Her writing is very faith-orientated, and sometimes the musings on God just did not resonate with me. Eventually I found myself glossing over every paragraph that started quoting scripture. I did appreciate more the metaphors and examples she drew from literature and art. Still, I don\’t feel like I missed much. I love how she writes about the inner workings childbearing can have on a woman\’s soul, so much that I\’m contemplating adding this book to my personal collection.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 295 pages, 2002

Our computer died. I\’ve managed to get to the library toady for a bit of computer use, but don\’t know how often I\’ll be able to do so in the coming week, so posting here will be sporadic for a while and my visiting to other blogs pretty much on hold. Never fear! I\’ll, be back to blogging as soon as we get \”the Beast\” (as my husband affectionately calls this electronic brian he built himself) running again.

In the meantime, enjoy your books!

by Alice Eve Cohen

Cohen had come to terms with the fact that she would never bear her own child, due to having a deformed uterus. She had an adopted daughter, a new happy relationship and a budding career. Then at age forty-four she starting having mysterious symptoms. Doctor after doctor told her she was just experiencing menopause, explaining away her sore breasts, frequent need to urinate, nausea and fatigue. None of them thought to question her years-old diagnosis of infertility. It wasn\’t until she had a CAT-scan to see if her bulging stomach had cancer that it was discovered she was actually six months pregnant. Thus began an immense emotional and physical trial in her life.

She didn\’t want the baby. Her first thought was to abort it, and later when she found out the myriad problems her infant could have- due to the fact that she had no prenatal care for six months, had been drinking and taking hormone supplements, etc. etc.- to possibly put it up for adoption. To make matters more complicated, she had awful insurance that wouldn\’t cover the medical costs and extreme difficulty finding a doctor willing to take her as a high-risk patient. It was overwhelming. I can\’t imagine having to fight the medical establishment for care while at the same time struggling with feelings of ambivalence towards the unborn child itself. Even after her baby was born (with unexpected health issues) she struggled to find love in her heart for it and wrestled with postpartum depression.

What I Thought I Knew must have been an incredibly painful book to write. I can\’t imagine going through what she experienced. The issues of her considering aborting or adopting out her child didn\’t bother me so much as the indifferent attitude of medical and insurance people. I couldn\’t believe that a gynecologist examined her at five months and didn\’t recognize she was pregnant! That infuriated me. And I was most disturbed by the lawsuit at the end of the story, where in order to pay for medical costs that were sinking her family, she had to go to court and present a wrongful-life case. Which basically states that if the doctors hadn\’t erred in not detecting her pregnancy for six months, she would never had had a child, that this baby shouldn\’t have been born. Can you imagine being that child, growing up and discovering that your mother went to court suing that you shouldn\’t have been allowed to live? Of course the author discusses how she struggled with that herself, but she really could see no other way to get money to pay for the astronomical medical costs. Still, it was the part of the book that I stewed over the most.

Somehow, I was expecting a bit more depth from this book. I breezed right through it; the storytelling is quick and vivid, the words flow easily. It\’s a book that can tear at your emotions and leave you closing the last page too quickly. I longed for just a bit more introspection, to slow me down and keep me immersed in the book longer. Yet I heartily admire the author for writing and sharing with all us readers what must have been a harrowing time in her life, and her complete honesty in sharing her ambivalent feelings and depression in the face of what many women would greet with unrestrained joy.

Rating: 3/5 ……. 194 pages, 2009

more opinions at:
Bermudaonion’s Weblog
Book Addiction

I used to draw a winner for my latest bookmark giveaway. This time the winner is he who left comment #3- CB James! (No, you weren\’t too late!)

Rhonda has won the cougar bookmarks from the week before.

Congrats, readers! Send your address to me and I\’ll get them out in the mail to you.

I\’m thinking I need to make my giveaways more tempting, only had three entrants this time… wait and see if I manage to come up with something better next week…

A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth
by Mark Sloan

I think this is my favorite yet of all the baby/pregnancy books I\’ve read so far this year. Pediatrician and father Mark Sloan examines the miracle of birth in all its myriad ways. There are so many subjects covered in his book, and they were all relevant and fascinating. Drawing on his personal experiences helping deliver babies, on the event of watching his own child being born, on medical studies and historical events, he delves into everything from how childbirth is managed to what the baby itself is experiencing. Some of the topics include: the role of fathers has changed throughout the centuries, how attitudes towards birth have changed through the centuries, methods of pain management, the infant\’s abilities right after being born, why we have evolved to need so much assistance giving birth (all other primates manage quite fine by themselves), and how newborn health is assessed. Of course, being written by a doctor who worked in a hospital there are quite a few alarming stories of births that go wrong, and lots of details that might tell you more than you ever wanted to know- but for the most part it\’s a very positive book. It also manages to be un-biased; even when discussing issues that can be controversial like circumcision, alternative birthing options, invasive procedures, the rise of cesarean sections, etc. he always presents the pros and cons quite fairly, leaving the reader to draw her own conclusions. I learned so much that I had never even wondered about before! Like how exactly a baby transitions from living in a dark, aquatic environment to suddenly breathing air and circulating its own blood, or what all those funny reflexes babies have are actually for. Birth Day is on the whole an intriguing, informative and wonderful book, not without plenty of humor as well.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 370 pages, 2009

more opinions at:
Enjoy Birth
Mari Reads

by Karen Kenny

As spring is approaching and things poking out of the ground outside, I\’m finding the urge to read some of the gardening books that have been sitting on my shelf for ages.

Just Herb Gardening is exactly that: a little book about growing herbs. It\’s pretty brief. That was my main problem with it: a lot of the information seemed incomplete or just not detailed enough for me. The history on herb uses in the beginning didn\’t really teach me anything at all. The growing information: how to start seeds, propagate from cuttings or dividing plants, etc. seemed solid enough, but it didn\’t always tell you which plants were most suitable for which methods (nor is this info available in the glossary). There\’s a little bit about garden layout and design, and scattered spotlights on certain plants throughout the book. Again, the level of information here is spotty. Some plants it tells you their uses- medicinal, cooking, attracting/deterring insects in the garden, etc.- but others just get named and that\’s it. I wish there had been the same level of detail on all the plants. Even the illustration quality was uneven- some of the photos are just beautiful, one was badly pixelated! There are also hand-drawn and watercolor illustrations, nice enough but very plain- not enough descriptive detail. Most aren\’t labeled, so sometimes I didn\’t know what plant I was looking at.

I did learn a few things about herbs that really intrigued me: like that nettles are high in nitrogen and can be used to activate your compost pile, or that russian comfrey can be used to feed plants that like lots of potassium. Lots of herbs were mentioned that I\’m completely unfamiliar with: hyssop, marjoram, angelica, etc. I never used any of these before. All in all, the book had just enough in it to whet my appetite to know more. So far I only use basil leaves to deter pests, and a few other herbs for cooking. I\’d like to learn and apply more uses for them. So really what this book has done for me is galvanize my desire to find a good, detailed book on herbs that will teach me more!

I think this one came from a swap site online, because I remember being surprised (in a disappointed way) with its format. My edition is spiral-bound, which dismays me because I know if I use it much the pages would start to fall out. Another annoying thing is that the page numbers are spelled out, and printed in a handwriting kind of font, both of which make them hard to read. I don\’t think I\’d need to though, as there\’s no proper index. It does have a glossary of herbs in the back, which is laid out in a kind of grid made of colored stripes (that was hard to read, too). All in all, it\’s a cute little book but a lot of the ways it was formatted and organized just bugged me. However, there are enough little nuggets of info I don\’t have elsewhere that I\’m going to hold onto this book until I get a better, more comprehensive one about herbs.

Rating: 2/5 ……..128 pages, 2005

by George Calef

One of those oversize, coffee-table books full of large, beautiful photographs that I picked up at a library sale once just because it seemed a shame to leave it there!

Caribou and the Barren-Lands is mostly about survival of these animals in Northern Canada and Alaska. How the deer manage to live in the harsh northern environment; the land covered with snow much of the year, six months of winter, nights on end with barely any light at all in the depths of it. At every season it seems they have something to struggle against- the cold and deep snow of winter, the maddening onslaught of insects in summer, the energy-sapping frenzy of the fall rut that coincides with hunting pressures by man. And yet they still roam the tundra in countless thousands. I found myself educated out of a few misconceptions, particularly at the end of the book when it discusses how caribou herds have been affected by man. One preconception I had was that caribou mostly eat lichens; that\’s not true. They eat a wide variety of plants, and could not survive on lichens alone. Another idea was that wolves only kill the sick and weak deer, keeping the herds healthy. Studies have shown that wolves are capable of and often kill healthy calves; there are also quite large herds that remain  healthy in areas where wolves have been exterminated. Yet another was that habitat encroachment in the form of roads, pipelines, etc. would adversely affect the caribou herds. More threatening to them (at least when this book was written) is overhunting made extremely easy by modern weapons and aircraft.

The book is organized in a manner I haven\’t seen before, each section (describing in order the migration, calving time, summer aggregations, the fall rut, and winter survival) begins with a narrative describing typical events. In the calving section it tells of a female caribou leaving the herd to give birth, and how she first cares for and bonds with her calf. In the autumn section it begins describing a hunt from the viewpoint of a native hunter, then moves into the behavior of a particular bull sparring with other bulls and seeking females. After each narrative are a few more pages delving into purely factual information, ecology, behavior patterns, etc. I rather liked this setup. I\’m more used to non-fiction animal books either being just all facts, or narrative with the facts wedged in. This was a bit different, and refreshing.

I thought at first the caribou were rather dull creatures: they seem to walk around a lot, search for food, sleep and that\’s it. But the more I read about them the more I was intrigued by their survival skills; like why they choose certain areas to bear their calves and travel so far to get there, or why only pregnant females keep their antlers through the entire winter. They\’re a lot more interesting than you might think!

Rating: 3/5 …….. 176 pages, 1981

are always bigger than time allows; or: I will never be able to read all the books I want to! Especially when fabulous bloggers like the ones below keep tempting me. Ah, well. It\’s fun to stack the titles all up and hope I\’ll get to them someday…

Among Others by Jo Walton- Things Mean a Lot
Annabel by Kathleen Winter- Reading Through Life
Fiela\’s Child by Dalene Matthee
Zoo Story by Thomas French- At Home with Books
A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler- Melody’s Reading Corner

Alone in her Garden by Elizabeth von Armin- A Work in Progress
Labor of Love by Cara Muhlhahn- Superfast Reader
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson- A Work in Progress
Your Baby is Speaking to You by Nugent from SMS Book Reviews

by Robert Miller

Double-duty again, on an old book I thought I\’d never find. But just a few weeks after I mentioned it here, it came up on a swap site and I got my own copy! So I sat down and read it again. Very enjoyable.

The author set up his veterinary practice during the 1950\’s in the Conejo Valley of California, near Thousand Oaks and not too far from Los Angeles. There were quite a few wild-animal parks and circuses in the locale- most of which trained animals for use in films and performances. Also lots of ranches and farms, so not only did he treat the usual small clientele of pet cats and dogs, as well as ordinary livestock, but also tigers, elephants, chimpanzees and other exotic beasts. Miller\’s stories are pretty brief but well-written and often amusing. Funny incidents that happen, and also pranks he used to play on co-workers and sometimes even clients that annoyed him! I was surprised to find this time that I recognized quite a few other people mentioned in the book- something I don\’t remember noticing before, perhaps I hadn\’t read of them yet back then. James Herriot, my favorite-ever animal author, was Miller\’s contemporary and wrote the forward. Miller mentions treating a sick lion that belong to Ralph Helfer (who wrote Zamba and Modoc). He also several times tells of interactions with George Keller, treating his big cats for poisoning and other ailments. It always makes me smile to come across people I\’ve \”met\” in a previous book in the one I\’m currently reading. I have the same response when I find characters discussing books I know from other fiction, but even more so when it\’s real-life people I come across in non-fiction. Have you ever had that happen? Does it give you a little thrill of recognition, too?

Rating: 3/5 …….. 181 pages, 1985

This week\’s giveaway features a pair of laminated bookmarks I made from my scrap file, with a sort of Asian theme. If you like them, just leave a comment for an entry to win! I\’ll use to pick a name next weekend.

By the way, last week\’s adult cougar bookmarks are still available. The winner never contacted me with mailing info. I think waiting a week for them to be claimed is fair enough. If you\’d like to have the cougars, just let me know. If more than one person wants them, I\’ll draw a name for those too.


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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