Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Evil Cackle

Remember this post? Well, since Monday, my Facebook status has been, "Shelly has a secret". Today, I got a message from Heather's sister saying, "What's your secret????" I wrote back to her, "If I tell you, it won't be a secret anymore...."

I have too much fun being a bitch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Details

So, Shelly Overlook asked for more details, so I'll tell you the story of how I found out.

Last Wednesday, I had my annual exam at the gyno. I was worried about the scheduling because I realized (AFTER I scheduled the appointment, natch!) that it would be just after my period was scheduled to start. I figured I would play it by ear and if it started, I'd call the office and see if they wanted to do it anyway. But it didn't start. So I went on to my appt., not expecting anything. But I asked the nurse, while we were doing blood pressure and all that boring stuff, if she would mind doing a pregnancy test while I was there. I explained that my period was only two days late, so that probably it was nothing, but still. Doesn't hurt to check, right? So she did the urine test and it was....well, not definite. (Y'know how there's one line that means it worked, and then if you are, there's a second line? Well, there was a second line that was so faint that neither she nor I was certain it was there.) So they drew blood (apparently, with a dull spoon - I swear, my arm has never bruised this badly from a blood draw. There is a two inch bruise on the inside of my elbow.) They went ahead and calculated my due date as September 28th and did all the prenatal blood work. Then, I had to call on Friday afternoon to get the final results. I found out for sure at about 4:30 Friday afternoon.

We told our parents last night at a dinner for Rock's birthday. I said, "Well, in addition to Rock's birthday, we have some news to tell you all." Rock's mother turned and looked at me and said, "When's it due?" I just laughed.


There's been a fair amount of discussion on the blog network lately about expanding families. Swistle and her hubby have hashed out having more children, and Devan and her hubby are discussing having more. And I won't pretend that we didn't discuss it, but Rock and I aren't thinking or talking about having more, we're just jumping right in. Yep, I'm pregnant. Baby number three is on the way!

(Everyone with three or more children, please tell me that it is not as hard as I'm afraid it is!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Odds and Ends

Oh, um, hi you guys. So I have something I want to talk about, but I can't yet, because it isn't definite. If you are friends with me on FB, you can see that my status says, "Shelly is waiting on a phone call....NOT PATIENTLY, may I add?" So yeah, I'll update you when that call comes through.

In the meantime, some odds and ends to distract us all:
  • Today is Rock's birthday! I gave him his birthday present last Friday, when it was delivered, because I just couldn't wait. (Although, he may be getting another present if that f*&^#*&$^ call will come in.)
  • My (okay, really Supergirl's) snow prayers were answered with 8 inches of snow on Tuesday. That child was in heaven. And I got a day off work, so I was pretty happy, too. The snow was beautiful and now it's mostly gone. And it's supposed to be 60 degrees tomorrow. I love NC weather.
  • I went to lunch with two co-workers and we talked about books all the way to the restaurant and all through lunch. In the middle of the conversation, one of my co-workers turned to the other and said, "I love discussing books with Shelly." Best. compliment. ever.
  • I have half a day off work tomorrow to go to the dentist. Supergirl is going with me for a "meet the dentist, have him look at her teeth" visit. She can't wait. (I MAY have bribed her that if she's good, we'll get a surprise after the dentist visit.)

So! Happy Thursday. How's your week going?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quick Story

It's been Fart Week around me. It started on Wednesday. A girl from work and I went out to lunch. After lunch, she got in the car while I put my purse and stuff in the back seat. Once I got in the driver's seat, I realized that she had farted while I was putting my purse in the back. I thought, "Well, I won't embarrass her by saying anything. That happens to all of us from time to time. No need to call attention to it." Fast forward to the end of Wednesday. Two of my friends and I went to a local gym for a Pilates class. I parked myself in the next to last row. My friends went to the front row. About halfway through the class, the older lady to my right cut a small fart. Again, I thought, "Well, no need to call attention to it." But about five minutes later, the girl behind me cut a HUGE fart that the entire class heard. Both of my friends were laughing about it after class. Then on Thursday, I was leaving the office to go to the restroom after lunch. One of my co-workers had just returned from lunch through the office side door (the one I was exiting). As I stepped out into the hall, I realized that she had farted just before she walked in. (You would think that would be all the fart stories for the week, wouldn't you? But NO!) This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I heard this huge fart from the bedroom. Rock had farted in his sleep. I teased him about it after he got up.

It is time for a weekend, y'all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Best Books of 2008, Continued

You guys! Check out the comments section from yesterday! Marshall Karp, author of The Rabbit Factory and Bloodthirsty and the upcoming Flipping Out, visited and left a great comment. Please check out his website and his books. He is a lovely, lovely man.

The Ten Best Books I Read in 2008 - Part Two
I said that these were in no particular order, but that isn't quite right. They are in the order in which I read them. Not that that really means anything.
6. The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion - Starts at Christmastime, with Joan's 20-something daughter hovering near death from pneumonia and septic shock. After visiting their daughter a few days after Christmas, Joan and her husband John Gregory Dunne, return home and begin preparing dinner. Just before they sit down to eat, John collapses and dies from a massive heart attack. Sounds cheerful, right? It's not, of course, but it is beautiful. A powerful testament to love and to the adage that the living have to go on living.
7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson - Here's the premise: A financial reporter is successfully sued for slander. He steps down from his editorial position on the magazine he co-owns with his sort-of girlfriend. While he's waiting to begin his three month prison sentence, he receives a summons from an ancient business tycoon. The man has a proposition for him. He wants to hire him for a year (minus the three months in jail) to solve a mystery. A mystery that happened 40 years ago. The man's great-niece, his favorite, disappeared 40 years earlier from an island on which an accident had blocked the only bridge to the mainland. The man wants to know what happened to his great-niece. He offers the reporter (roughly) a million dollars to try to solve the mystery, with the understanding that he probably won't be able to. He offers a bonus of four million or so if he succeeds. This book is unbelievably good. The story is tight and cracks along at a brisk pace. The resolution proceeds plausibly, which is difficult with a storyline like this one. (ie. The evidence that the reporter gathers isn't sitting around after 40 years for no reason.) In addition to the allure of the storyline. there's the writing. The novel is Swedish and set in Sweden. I love Scandinavian novels. The prose is gorgeous and has a slow melody that makes you slow down and savor it. I read three Scandinavian novels this year - this one, Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (Norwegian), and The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg (Danish). All three deliver on writing. Here's a sample, from The Quiet Girl: "It was cold. The way it could be only in Denmark, and only in April. When, in mad enthusiasm for the spring light, people turned off the central heating, brought their fur coats to the furrier, dispensed with their long underwear and went outside. And only when it was too late, discovered that the temperature was at freezing, the relative humidity 90 percent and the wind was from the north and went straight through clothing and skin, deep into the body, where it wrapped itself around the heart and filled it with Siberian sadness." Out Stealing Horses probably has the best prose, with descriptions of the cold landscape and flashbacks to the main character's boyhood. Unfortunately, Out Stealing Horses and The Quiet Girl do not deliver on story the way The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does. The story in Out Stealing Horses is incomplete. There's a great setup, but nowhere near enough resolution or explanation. And we've talked about the story in The Quiet Girl.
8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz- Won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for 2008. And I am pleased to report that, unlike 2007's winner (The Road), Oscar Wao actually deserves it. It's the story of Oscar, an overweight and underloved Dominican comic book/ scifi geek growing up in New York. The history of the Dominican Republic, especially under the rule of Rafael Trujilllo, is woven throughout the story. There's practically a history book in the footnotes. Narration of the story alternates between Oscar's sister Lola and Oscar's best friend Yunior, with Yunior's narration composing most the book. Lola's section is a firecracker though, examining the strained and difficult relationship she has with her mother, who has raised Lola and Oscar alone and far from her family. A brief quote from Lola's section: "This is how you treat your mother? she cried. And if I could have, I would have broken the entire length of my life across her face, but instead I screamed back, And this is how you treat your daughter?" Oscar Wao has a tragic ending, of course (it IS titled The BRIEF Wondrous Life for a reason). Don't give it a pass, though, it's a great ride. I would voice one minor complaint that there are a lot of Spanish words and phrases mixed throughout the novel and it is not always possible to figure out the meaning from context. I want to get the book translated and read it again. And I'll warn you, it helps to have read The Lord of the Rings and have at least a passing familiarity with Dune. You don't have to be married to a scifi/ fantasy nerd like I am, but it helps. If you've seen the movie of Dune (which isn't bad - hey, Sting is in it, it can't be all bad), you'll be fine. Unfortunately, watching the movies of LOTR isn't enough. Comparisons are drawn between people in Trujillo's administration and characters in LOTR. For example, someone is described as Trujillo's "Witch King of Angmar" and if you haven't read LOTR, you won't know that it means that he was the chief's right hand man. And I'll throw in a recommendation for LOTR, too. I read it years ago at my husband's request and absolutely loved it.
9. The Hour I First Believed - Wally Lamb - Fans of Wally Lamb (that would be me) have waited ten years since his last novel and The Hour is worth (at least most of) the wait. It's a big, sprawling novel that follows an English teacher (Caelum Quirk) and his family. Caelum is from Connecticut and his family founded and runs a women's prison there. Caelum and his wife leave Connecticut (after some unpleasantness) to make a new start and save their marriage in Colorado. They take jobs at nearby Columbine high school (Caelum teaching English, Maureen serving as school nurse). Caelum is called back to Connecticut unexpectedly, and while he's gone, the Columbine school shooting occurs. Maureen is in the library and hides in a cabinet to escape the violence. After the horror, Maureen and Caelum move back to Connecticut, but find it difficult to pick up the pieces of their life. Caelum's family history and the stories of his ancestors are woven into the story of his present life. Like all of Wally Lamb's books, this one launches in and doesn't let go. Big in scope and in heart, it's very much a tour de force. You won't be able to put it down. In fact, I liked it so much that I went back and re-read Lamb's last novel, I Know This Much is True and it's just as wonderful as I remember it being. Similar to The Hour in breadth and scope, it examines the relationship between twin brothers - one stricken with schizophrenia, the other hamstrung by his sense of responsibility for his sick brother. A wonderful novel, even though the title always gets that Spandau Ballet song stuck in my head.
10. The Soloist - Steve Lopez - A true story - and upcoming movie - this is story of a reporter who befriends a homeless man whom he saw playing a violin on a street corner. Turns out, the homeless man had been a Julliard student until he had a nervous breakdown due to schizophrenia and lost everything. It's a trying book, because you want Steve (the reporter) to wave a magic wand and make Nathaniel (the homeless man)'s life better. But life isn't like that. And this book demonstrates quite clearly that working with the mentally ill is a "one step forward, two steps backward" prospect. There are some stunning successes and I personally dare you to stay dry-eyed throughout the entire book. Written with tremendous emotion, ranging from compassion and caring to frustration, The Soloist is a powerhouse.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best Books of 2008

Okay! On to the books that I WOULD actually recommend. We're going to take this in two parts, because I can't get it all written right now.

Ten Best Books I Read in 2008 Part One
(I realize that I didn't say this about the Ten Worst, but they were in no particular order. The Ten Best will also be in no particular order. Ranking things makes my head hurt.)

1. Bridge of Sighs - Richard Russo - If you've read Empire Falls (also by Russo), this one has a similar feel. Small town, a family of characters that you follow throughout their lives. If you haven't read Empire Falls, get on it. Seriously, you are missing out. That is one of the best books I've ever read. It would make a Top Ten list of all the books I've ever read, if I were ever to put one of those together. Russo is the master of the small town and absolutely brilliant at creating characters about whom you care and want to know every detail of their lives.

2. So Brave, Young and Handsome - Leif Enger - I'm sure that no one is surprised that this made the list, given how much I talked about it when it came out. Still, I'll say it again - it's a gorgeous book, written with a midwestern simplicity and sensibility (that's a compliment, in case you can't tell). The characters are fully fleshed, three dimensional and very real. I'll also throw in another recommendation for his first novel, Peace Like a River, which may be a little better than So Brave, Young and Handsome, but they're both excellent.

3. Driving Sideways - Jess Riley - I read this because I found Jess' blog and thought she was funny. I wrote a review to help Jess get the word out about her novel, and she sent me a signed copy. The book is about a young woman who recieves a kidney transplant and thinks that she's channeling her donor. So she hits the road to travel to the home of her donor and learn more about him. Things turn to be quite different from what she imagines, and her health takes a turn for the worse. The book is part comedy, part road trip, part drama. And all of it works beautifully. The story walks a fine line between heartwrenching and uplifting and never descends into maudlin sentimentality or Pollyanna-ish cheesiness.

4. The Rabbit Factory - Marshall Karp - This book has everything. On the surface, it is the story of two cops investigating a series of murders that are taking place on and around a very big theme park corporation (obviously modeled on the Disney empire). And the mystery story is fine, if a bit predictable. That's not what sets this book apart. The main character, a cop named Mike Lomax, is the heart and soul of the book. It is his story and the growth and changes that he experiences that set this book head and shoulders above other mysteries. Several things are going on in Mike's life - he recently lost his beloved wife, after a long and painful illness, and she left letters for him to read each month for a year after her death. His dad, who has been through the same thing (the death of his own beloved wife, Mike's mother), and is happily remarried, is urging Mike to get back into life and start dating again. Their interactions are brilliant. Through his dad's meddling, you can see how much he loves Mike and wants to help him. The characters are wonderful, real and human and powerful. And the character arc of Mike Lomax is a thing of beauty.

5. Belong to Me - Marisa de los Santos - This is a quiet little story about a young couple who move from the city to the suburbs. They struggle to find their place and make new friends. They've struggled in the past with infertility, which isn't discussed, but implied. Gradually, the wife befriends a lady and her son, also newcomers to the suburb. And she becomes pregnant. But when her new friend meets her husband, secrets are revealed. This book is a total sleeper. Everything's moving along quietly, the couple is assimilating into their new home, and then bang! A bomb is dropped on the story. The storyline is believable, which is the key to a book like this. If it hadn't been realistic, the book would have been awful. It's also extremely well-written, which never hurts.

Coming later today or tomorrow - Part Two - Books 6-10.

Edited to Add: Crap! I forgot to thank Shelly Overlook for recommending The Rabbit Factory. I picked it up based on her review.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Books of 2008

So most people do a Year in Review post. I do a Books of the Year in Review post. This year, I'm going to give you my Ten Best and Worst Books I Read in 2008. I also added a link in the sidebar to my full list of books for 2008 (81 total - oh my god, y'all! I need to get out of the house more!) with a rating system (most of which cleverly stolen from Stephanie). I will be starting one for 2009 as soon as possible, because typing all of those in at once was a bitch! For today, we'll do the Ten Worst. Tomorrow, we'll tackle the Ten Best.

Ten Worst Books I Read in 2008
Caveat: I'm exempting books I read because my husband asked me to and the Twilight series, as I've already discussed it here. And here. Although, I just finished Eclipse, and oh my god, y'all, it just gets worse and worse. *Ahem* moving on to the list.
1. The Bride Stripped Bare - Nikki Gemmell - This was recommended to me by a friend and I hated it. It's about a woman who finds out that her husband is cheating on her with her best friend, so she goes out and finds a lover. Then, she gets back to together with her husband and they have a baby. Every character is despicable (except the baby). They have no redeeming characteristics.
2. Tweak - Nic Sheff - A very disturbing portrait of addiction. I read it and then read his father's memoir, Beautiful Boy, about watching his son descend into addiction. As companion pieces, they are compelling. But the overall picture is pretty appalling.
3. Harvesting the Heart - Jodi Picoult - Boring. Predictable. Unlikeable characters.
4. Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer - A tremendously unflattering portrait of the Mormon religion. A history and excoriation of the origins and followers of this faith. (Shockingly enough, the church was outraged when it came out. The version I had was updated with Krakauer's defence of his book. Seems he doesn't realize that he wrote a scathing review of their faith.)
5. Love is a Mix Tape - Rob Sheffield - The story of his first marriage to a woman who died very young. Not to disparage his relationship, but the book is awful. It's completely flat and devoid of emotion.
6. Out - Natsuo Kirino - There is something wrong with the person who wrote this book. I mean, WRONG. I don't usually mind a little twistedness, but this book is creepy. DEEPLY disturbing. I mean, almost gave me nightmares disturbing.
7. Citizen Girl - Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus - This is supposed to be the story of a deeply principled girl who wants to find gainful employment without compromising her morals. Any of her morals. Or performing any work that's "beneath her". Let's all have a good laugh here. That's kind of how I felt at the end of the book. It works hard for its moral outrage, but in the end, it's much ado about nothing.
8. Killing Yourself to Live - Chuck Klosterman - Reporter travels all over the country to the places where rock stars died. Sounds interesting, right? Sadly, it's dead boring. (Get it, "dead" boring? Am amusing only myself.)
9. The Quiet Girl - Peter Hoeg - I agonised over putting this on my Worst list. Because it's beautifully written. Hoeg is Danish, and this book has the Scandinavian flavor that I love. (I'll discuss Scandinavian books on my Best list.) However, this book makes no sense. The story is told in fits and starts and flashbacks and I was never sure if we were in the present or the past of who the main character was talking to. The main character is a circus clown (I think) who hears...well, he hears music in everything and he can hear people's emotions and general state of being. And there are some children, who have similar abilities, who have been kidnapped. And he tries to find them. But frankly, I'm not sure if the children really had abilities or not, or if they were kidnapped or not. The prose is beautiful, but this book is a mess.
10. A Hopeless Romantic - Harriet Evans - Not a horrible book, but terribly predictable. Chick lit romantic comedies are always a little predictable, but this one was extreme.