Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Book Reviews

Here are the books I've read in February, with brief reviews. I've skipped a few that I reviewed earlier in the month for the Tournament of Reading.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Once again, a very satisfying, fun read, though sad, of course.
7. Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne: This one was still fun but not quite as fun, for whatever reason. Plus it seemed way too name-droppy--all the tv shows and stores in NYC (Duane Reade, for crying out loud!). Maybe the other one was like that too and I didn't realize since I've never lived in London. And also, could there be just a little less talk about shopping?
8. The Cross by Sigrid Undset
9. Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti: It was funny and insightful at times but not that exciting/memorable. It does make me wonder what's up with my Scandinavian bent recently. I didn't even know it was Swedish until I got it home from the library.
10. The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis
11. Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn by Alice Mattison: Pretty interesting--about mothers and daughters and friendship. I mostly liked that it switched back and forth between two different years but sometimes the clues that we were in a different time felt a little forced. A little too much of dropping in the newspaper headlines, etc. But it was an interesting piecing together of family history.
12. Washington Square by Henry James: eptively simple and brief, this novel about an heiress and a fortune-hunter surpassed my expectations. James conveyed with feeling how difficult it was emotionally for Catherine to disobey her father and how much her father had underestimated her as a person.
13. An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell: Fun, a quick read. Seems to fit into whatever mold there is for British chicklit--mentions TV shows, check. mentions movie stars, check. mentions shopping, check. funny and filled with Britishisms, check. Not that I won't read more by the same author when I'm next in the mood.
14. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl: Great fun and it made me hungry! It was a nice peek into the restaurant world again, though I'm sure so much has changed. The Windows on the World chapter felt a little creepy. I'm sure she had to make a decision about whether or not to address 9/11 and since her memoir took place prior to 2001, it makes sense that she didn't say anything about it but it was one of the ghosts, like in the last chapter.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Toddler Lexicon

Can you match E's animal sounds to the correct animal? Answers will be at the bottom of the lexicon entries.
1. baa 2. riis riis 3. mehh 4. ruff ruff 5. rarrrr 6. cheep cheep
7. nee 8. ssss 9. boo

animals: snake, frog, sheep, goat, cow, chick, lion, dog, horse

Commonly used words, with her pronunciation if different in parantheses.

ball (baa)
bowl (bow)
box (bah)
call (caw)-refers to phone
car (caw)
clean (key)
cold (cole)
comb (coe)
da daa
dog (not sure but she says something close)
dressed (dess--as in let's get dressed)
eat (ee + baby sign--fingers to her mouth)
ear (EEuh)
go (emphatic g sound)
juice (deuce with lots of excitement & sometimes a dance)
kitty (key)
maa maa
Max (mask with deliberateness in the sounds) *from Max & Ruby but it was also supposed to be her name if she was a boy
mouth (meh)
neck (neh)
night night (nigh nigh)
nose (d'oh or doo)
shoe (doo)
teeth (tee)
that (dah with pointing)
tickle tickle tickle (ticka ticka ticka)
train (tai)
tree (tee)
yum (eyuh)

ashes ashes (more or less- means she wants Ring a Round a Rosy)
ee ha
ei ei (Old McDonald request)
gock ee

Animal answers: 1. sheep 2. frog 3. goat 4. dog 5. lion 6. chick 7. horse 8. snake 9. cow

I'm sure there are more words that I'm missing or that she's just now working on. So fun!

Walking Outside

E. did a little more walking in the last big snow. This time she was more interested at looking at things in the snow, including her mitten!
She's actually standing in a snowdrift in the street.
This was E's first trip to the playground after she started walking, in January. She spent most of the time walking in big circles.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

And yet one more reading challenge

I was just clicking through some things online and I found one more that I have to join. It's called the Chunkster Challenge--450 pages or more counts as a chunkster. And, since I'm already reading one (Plutarch) and have at least 2 more on my to be read shelves, I figured I'd join up. And I'll restrain myself a little bit and only sign up at the middle level: Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big? which signs me up for four chunksters this year. Unfortunately it started this month so Kristin Lavransdatter won't count. Oh well.

Now I'm a Peasant

I've finally read three medieval books (in any category--history, historical fiction, medieval writing) for the Tournament of Reading Book Challenge.

Here's my review of C. S. Lewis' The Discarded Image:

This is based on a lecture series that Lewis gave several times while a don at Oxford. It's a great introduction both to Medieval Literature and to the medieval worldview or "model" as he names it. There were so many interesting parts to this book--it's hard to summarize. He presents a different interpretation of the Great Chain of Being and the Ptolemaic view of the universe. The sun and the spheres revolved around the earth not because the earth was so important but because the earth was so humble and small--at the bottom and on the outside of this great dance. Throughout he looks at language and how writers of the time were tremendously influenced by all that they read, even when they misread things. He goes through the seven scholarly disciplines, the various types of souls, and the complexions of people. Complexions in this case meant more like characteristics or humours. One idea that I found particularly interesting was that because medieval artists lacked perspective, this was an issue in writing as well. For example, a giant might not be consistently the same size in relationship to a man, a barn, or a field. I'm excited to read more medieval literature now and then maybe I'll come back and reread this again--I'm sure there's so much that I've missed on the first go round.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Young Artist at Work

Strange Interests

Recently E. has developed two very strange interests, combined with a new word, "doo." No, it has nothing to do with dogs or any other animals. She loves to touch my elbow or my feet and say "doo" very happily. Sometimes she'll even rub her nose back and forth against my elbow. And the feet fascination gets even weirder--she'll grab onto them in the shower and squeal or if she sees them on the floor, she'll get down to their level and squish her face on them. My sister would not understand, but it looks like I've finally found someone who appreciates my (large) feet.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Almost a Peasant

Review of Kristen Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Overall this was an enjoyable, though long read. I guess a trilogy in one volume sort of guarantees that. Anyway, I preferred the first and third books (The Wreath and The Cross) to the second one (The Wife), probably because the second book seemed to zoom out a bit--years passed between chapters, etc. Also, there was more political detail in the second book that I didn't have a good handle on and I didn't feel like researching beyond the end notes.

Undset did a good job of setting the historical scene and keeping her characters within it while at the same time not making them inaccessible. For example, there was a great scene in the cloister dining hall in which Kristin was trying to daintily serve herself with three fingers and cut meat with her knife but ended up cutting her finger and shooting her portion onto the floor. I also loved the details about the clothes, dwelling places, and mystical creatures. The author managed to make this all seem real, not like a reenactment of any kind.

The central relationship between Kristin and her husband was also quite compelling. It seemed true to married life that because she'd had to forgive him for big things, she had trouble forgiving him for the smaller, daily sins.

I would highly recommend this book. It gave me an unprecedented view into family life in medieval Norway.

Monday, February 01, 2010

January Book Reviews/First Medieval Book Finished

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: ** spoiler alert ** I think this was a 2nd or third reading for me. I've been gradually collecting the series in paperback and while I like a lot about this story, I still get annoyed with how whiny Harry is in this book. Especially since he doesn't seem so whiny/upset in the next one even though Sirius has died. But there are some really hilarious moments--especially Harry & Ron's conversation about Divination class--"Even if the tea leaves say 'Die, Ron, die' I'll still chuck them in the bin."
2. The Little Lady Agency: This was fun, page-turning, and just what I needed on a cold winter's day. It did feel a bit dated (when did men wear red jeans??) but it was nice to have a somewhat wholesome chicklit main character for once.
3. The Wreath by Sigrid Undset: I'll review this when I finish the trilogy
4. The Wife by Sigrid Undset: see above
5. The Book of Margery Kempe: At times Margery reminded me of pentecostals that I've known--very convinced that she has a true revelation from God and that everyone else should hear it. This was especially evident when she mentioned a few times that priests and other clergy responded "meekly" to her sobbing and screaming during church.

I also ended up feeling rather sorry for her husband and children (14, though maybe not all alive). She convinced him to agree to a "chaste" marriage and they lived apart until he was in his sixties and suffered a serious head injury at which point she returned to care for him. I'm sure that's not what he signed up for when he said his wedding vows!

I found some of her reflections helpful but overall I wondered if Christ would not have been better served in her daily, real life and loving of others than in her constant pilgrimages and "roaring" during worship services.