Reading: Dragonhaven, Baby, Evolution…, Princess and the Hound, Organized

Finished reading:

Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy – Very short chapters, easy to read, about different aspects of pregnancy in a funny, frank, and sometimes embarrassingly frank format. Not recommended for my nieces and nephews.

Dragonhaven by Patricia McKinley – I’d been waiting for our local Borders to stock this book for weeks and weeks; after realizing they were never going to, I special-ordered it so that I could use the remainder of my gift card, a 30% off coupon, and $5 of rewards money to get the book for less than $4! Apart from being excited about being frugal, I was excited to read McKinley’s newest book because I love all of her other books. This was no exception. It’s her first book to with a male first-person narrator — for that matter, a teenage-boy narrator named Jake — who lives on a government nature preserve where there are real dragons hidden in the forests that no one has seen in years. However, Jake happens upon a dying dragon and saves a baby dragon. Unfortunately, this happens to be Highly Illegal.

The book started out slowly for me but became a riveting read.

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande – I saw this book mentioned on Shannon Hale’s blog. Mena is just starting high school but is already ostracized by her church friends for doing “the right thing” (you find out later in the book what she did). A miserable start, but she’s assigned a biology lab partner who is a cute — although somewhat geeky — boy. Mena has been raised as a very conservative Christian, but begins to question her faith/culture as the other Christians continue to behave hypocritically and as her Very Cool Biology teacher starts a segment on evolution.

As a somewhat conservative Christian myself, I found it interesting that most of the conservative Christians in the book were very negative characters, while the non-conservative or non-Christian characters were cool people that I’d like to get to know. The conservative Christians were also linked with the intelligent design movement, which Robin seems to come down pretty strongly on via the cool biology teacher’s comments.

I thought Mena was a very “real” girl with mixed motives who sometimes makes poor decisions — hey, kind of like me! However, I don’t join the other rave reviews that call this a “thinking book.” It’s a bit too one-sided and the ending was fluffy (of course the boy and girl get together). Nonetheless I think the science vs. faith bits would be useful for discussion for youth and adults.

I’m Not Neat But I’m Organized by Angela Yee – You may find my review suspect because my sister wrote and published this book, but my expectations were surpassed — and I learned some new tips! And even though her book is targeted at the Christian market, I found her approach unique enough that I would recommend this to anyone. (The “Christian bits” show up mainly near the beginning, mainly regarding your life purpose.)

So what makes her book different? This is the first organizing book I’ve read that actually takes into account the fact that people have different personalities and styles. What works for one person wouldn’t necessarily work for another, and Angela takes this into account, naming the different “styles” or tendencies with animal names (and cute icons) that show up throughout the book with specific tips for different styles and suggestions on what tools would work or wouldn’t work for each style. For example, maybe you’re a visual person and need things in front of you (a “bowerbird”); or maybe you hate clutter and want things put away (a “turtle”). A literature organizer (those shelves/cubbies with lots and lots of paper-sized slots) would be perfect for a bowerbird, as they can see all the different compartments and remember what’s going on. However, that would drive a turtle crazy because they could see all the stacks of papers!

Angela also notes that you don’t have to “neat” in order to be “organized.” She defines time organization/management (“adjusting events to help you focus on what is more valuable”) and space organization (“being able to find what you need — when you need it”) and then covers both aspects to help you develop a workflow organization that works for you. The workflow bits are very GTD-ish minus the perceived rigidity (scheduling weekly review times, having a tickler file, etc.). I found tons of excellent tips on storage, workflow, and more, even though I’m one of the people that she describes (p.73) who “doesn’t need to read this book but reads it anyway just for fun.” Organizer junkies like me will find the sections on project management and organizing tools inspiring.

Other organizing books I’ve read tend to have a “do it my way” style where you feel pressure to adapt to their complete system; I appreciated the “take what works for you” style that Angela uses in her book. She even has prompts throughout the book to help you figure out what it is you really want to work on and then points you to the chapter or section that addresses it. Most of the chapters have a quickstart box that summarize the main points (with page numbers) so you can jump to the part that you’re interested in. This makes the book very readable — especially if you’re reading this because you really do feel disorganized and feel that you don’t have time to read the whole book!

Apart from three minor typos I found, the only other suggestion I’m going to offer to my sister is that she put up some of the worksheets and forms for customers to download online — just for people like me who don’t like writing in books.🙂

I’m going to skim the book again to write down other tips I want to implement or try, but I already had a short list of a few things I want to address after going through a “how is your workspace working for you” exercise. Things I want to change:

  • I used to have a messy-looking basket of small bits of scratch paper that I used for writing down notes. We got rid of it when we moved, but I’m finding that I need something to replace it. Action: Find a small notepaper solution for jotting stuff down.
  • The office is too dark; there is one standing lamp in the corner which barely affects my desk. Action: Find a [energy-efficient] desk lamp.
  • I use plastic folders for my projects, but since moving to my project list organizer I’ve found that I barely touch them. Action: Think about whether or not I really need plastic project folders, or how I can use them better.
  • I have an “inbox” surface but no “outgoing” area. Action: Designate a place for my “outgoing” stuff that I can remember to check.

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Harrison – A beautiful, quiet book that reminded me a lot of Robin McKinley’s style. Prince George has “animal magic,” the ability to speak to animals, which has long been illegal in his land (people with animal magic, when ousted, are burned). He is betrothed to Princess Beatrice, inseparable from a wild hound, who has a deep secret of her own. I highly recommend this book, although my nephew may find it on the boring side because there isn’t much “action.”

I’ve only read one other of Mette’s books, Mira, Mirror, an interesting spin on the Snow White story, and while I found it enjoyable I probably wouldn’t re-read it anytime soon. I’m adding The Princess and the Hound on my books-to-own list, however.

Raising Baby Green by Alan Greene – Dr. Alan Greene is a pediatrician and offers up a very useful guide for being environmentally conscious and “more green” through pregnancy, delivery, and setting up a home for a baby. From the beginning, he stresses that any small change you make is good; he encourages you to pick and choose sections of the book to read that you feel ready to attempt. (As I tend to read from cover-to-cover, however, it does get a bit overwhelming!) Lots of links to online resources, product recommendations, and informative sidebars make this a good resource — or at least introduction — for overall greener living whether or not you’re pregnant, in my opinion!

We can’t afford to go completely “green,” so Steve and I will have to talk about which things we think are most important. (Just as an example — maybe we spend the money on a high quality organic baby mattress, but don’t sweat about baby clothing.) In any case, I’m glad our library happened to have this book on the New Books shelf and that I came across it!

With a bookmark:

(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box:

Didn’t get to go to the library this weekend. Already experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

5 thoughts on “Reading: Dragonhaven, Baby, Evolution…, Princess and the Hound, Organized

  1. I’m very intrigued by your sister’s book. I have a reputation for being organised at work and people are always surprised when they see my personal shelf in the office or my home because I’m not tidy. I completely agree that they can be different.

    Fortunately my organisation is helping me become tidy, but it is an ongoing project😀

  2. Kate – According to my sister, if you can find what you need when you need it, and if you are able to manage events so that you focus on what’s valuable, then you’re organized, whether your area is tidy or not!🙂 I have found personally that when things get a bit _too_ cluttered, it’s hard for me to find things (because they aren’t usually in their “place”), so in that sense I suppose being more tidy would help me to be more organized!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s