Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Books for Sophie

I'm starting a list of good books for our daughter from China:

* Beyond the Great Mountains: A Visual Poem About China by Ed Young (Chronicle, 2005)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"Cherry Cheesecake Murder" by Joanne Fluke (Kensington, 2006)

I've already confessed my addiction to light murder mysteries, so I might as well go all the way and admit that some of my favorites are what the book biz calls "cozys," I guess because they're not too scary. And I have a particular penchant for the many series that pair the mystery story with recipes (or even craft and knitting patterns.)

After I finished the whole series (so far) by Diane Mott Davidson, I found a similar series by Joanne Fluke, featuring Minnesota baker Hannah Swensen. This summer I read her newest one, Cherry Cheesecake Murder. Although I'm starting to tire of the love triangle after several books of that same storyline, I still like the stories and the series.

And, as a huge cheesecake lover, I enjoyed reading the recipes, including one for cheesecake made with mayonnaise. But to be honest, I've never tried any of them, since they're all for baked goods and I probably gain a few pounds just reading them. If you want to try them, visit her site,, which has a few recipes as well as info about the author and her writing.

"Blood Ties" by Ralph McInerny (St. Martin's, 2005)

If you're not too young to remember the "Father Dowling" television series, perhaps you will be surprised to learn that the author of the books that prompted the show is still writing them. I've never met Ralph McInerny, who taught philosophy at my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. But I started reading his mystery novels after a brief summer internship at an extremely conservative Catholic magazine where he was publisher.

The Father Dowling mysteries are set in Chicago (McInerny has another series set at Notre Dame) and feature recurring characters. I find his novels to have too many characters: he loves to give lots of background on even minor ones, which I find confusing. But I was annoyed by Blood Ties for more substantial reasons.

The plot revolves around an adoption: a 23-year-old woman decides to search for her birthmother. Meanwhile, her birthfather, who abandoned the birthmother at the birth, now wants to claim his long-lost daughter. He ends up dead and assorted family members, lawyers, detectives, other peripheral characters, and, of course, Father Dowling all get involved in trying to solve the murder--and to figure out who the birthmother is.

The mystery is mildly engaging though convoluted, but the language and storyline around the adoption is positively antiquated and offensive. As someone with experience in many sides of adoption, I find it unbelievable that a book written in this day and age still uses the inaccurate and offensive terms "real" mother and "give up" for adoption. Birthmothers or biological mothers are no more "real" than adoptive mothers (in fact, one could argue that adoptive mothers are children's "real" mothers), and birthmothers (and sometimes birthfathers) make adoption plans for their children, they don't "give them up" like some inanimate object.

And the antiquated underlying plot--that both the birthmother and the adoptive family would do anything to prevent either the secret of the adoption from becoming public or the birthmother and child from meeting--is dangerous and frankly becoming uncomon in an era when nearly all adoptions (domestic ones, at least) are open.

Since he sneaks in his editorializing about the birthmother's virtue for not choosing to abort when she becomes pregnant in college, I suspect McInerny (known for directing the conservative Jacques Maritain Center at ND) sees this plot as "prolife." It's nothing of the sort. He has done a major disservice to all those involved in adoption who have tried to correct the image of this choice as sordid. Birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees should all protest this and other books like it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

My to-read list

* Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (Norton)

* Alligators, Old Mink & New Money: One Woman's Adventures in Vintage Clothing by Allison Houtte and Melissa Houtte (Morrow, 2005)

* A Love Like No Other: Stories from Adoptive Parents edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill Smolowe (Riverhead, 2005)

* Size 12 Is Not Fat: A Heather Wells Mystery by Meg Cabot (Avon, 2005)

* Beyond Good Intentions: A Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children by Cheri Register (Yeong & Yeong, 2005)

* Have Your Cake and Kill Him Too: A Blackbird Sisters Mystery by Nancy Martin (NAL, 2005)

* Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan (Putnam, 2005)

* Rusty Nail: a Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels Mystery by J.A. Konrath (Hyperiorn, 2006)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Spiritual decorator reviews "Trading Spaces"

If you haven't visited my decorating blog lately, I've posted my opinion on the the Trading Spaces $100 to $1,000 Makeover book. In a nutshell: it's a better show than a book. I should stick to TV for decorating info, and reading for pleasure and escape.