And on January 3, I finally finished reading two books. They were started last year, but eh, I’m counting them as my first 2011 reads anyway. The two books were relatively good starts to my supposedly more diversified reading year. One part of a science fiction series, the other a book of non-fiction. And both were by women. However, they were both by Americans – not that I have anything against Americans! It’s just that I’m hoping 2011 to be more of a world literature year. But the year has just begun!
Back to the books. Annie Murphy Paul’s Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives was quite an insightful read. Paul, a science writer, considers her own pregnancy (her second) as she researches fetal development. The book is divided into the nine months of the story of gestation, and explores topics such as stress, depression, environmental toxins, alcohol use, BPA in plastic etc, using interviews with experts as well as various historical and current research anecdotes.
I’m in the third trimester (!) and already know some of the information that Paul provides, and I often wished she would delve a little deeper into the research, such as the bits about stress (apparently fewer boys are born after stressful periods, such as September 11). I did enjoy reading about the dilemmas she faced during her pregnancy, such as trying to decide what to buy at a supermarket upon realising that she’s pregnant (of course, she is in Whole Foods, which I only stepped into once last year – I’m more of a Trader Joes/Asian supermarket kind of shopper). When I first found out that I was pregnant, I went into a bit of a panic mode about eating – especially since a couple weeks before that, I had plenty of alcohol and raw oysters to celebrate my birthday! I worried about having to give up my favourite prosciutto and sashimi. And oh… beer and wine! (I did have some of an alcohol-free beer at a restaurant last month though, and it was quite enjoyable!).
Reading this book made me feel guilty. Paul reads about how exercise can help fetal development and promptly hops into a gym and onto a treadmill. And she even attends meditation classes! As I continued to sink into the couch, hot chocolate in one hand, book in the other, I wondered if I should get up and start moving and my heart pumping. Then I figured it was probably too late for that (I was already in my pyjamas) but this book had that kind of effect on me. I was either pointing out some excerpt to the husband, or wondering what I was doing wrong during my own pregnancy. And then I finished the book, and while I enjoyed parts of it, I realised that it was making me a little nervous, and that I already had enough on my mind – and as long as I’m eating healthy enough, putting in some exercise, getting enough sleep and fresh air etc, I’m sure things will be ok! So I put it out of my mind and went straight to finishing the last third of the other book.
The Graveyard Game is the fourth book in Kage Baker’s Company series and follows the third book very closely. I can’t quite talk about book 4 without revealing the plot of book 3, so please stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers!!
At the end of book 3, Mendoza in Hollywood, Mendoza vanishes, essentially banished by the Company, Zeus Incorporated. However, the book is very much about her, although she is absent. Joseph, her ‘maker’ and her friend Lewis are the main characters of this book, and they are trying to find Mendoza as well as solve the mystery of her engaging English friend (who led her astray in book 4 and possibly was the same man – an immortal? – who led her astray during her first outing in book 1). The book is set largely in California and spans from 1996 to 2281 (it may sound a bit of a stretch but is well-paced). Baker reveals a little bit more about the Company in this book, delving now into the darker side of the Company.
An intriguing, fun read, as always. I really do admire how Baker continues to make the story interesting, and only gradually reveals the backgrounds of the immortals and the Company. Oh and I love how the immortals get high on theobromos i.e. chocolate in Ghiradelli Square! An awesome start to a reading year.