Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another book to reread (or read for the first time!)

Sometimes, I intentionally go to the shelf and pull off the book that I want to reread. Sometimes, I go and browse until a book that suits my mood pops out. And sometimes, a book that I didn't necessarily intend to reread gets into my thoughts and bugs me until I pick it up again (in this case, after having put it on hold at the library--I may have to buy my own copy after all!):

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1) The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Intriguing quest-story about a thief who's loud proclamation of his skills gets him in serious trouble. As his ticket out, he agrees to steal something for the King's Magus...

(March 2010) Need to reread...
(March 24, 2010) Rereading and remembering why I enjoyed it so much.
(March 28, 2010) Read it again (finished it Wednesday night, the 24th, before going to bed, which I definitely should NOT have done), loved it again.

More about why this book is great: there is a serious twist near the end of the story, but if you know to look for it (on a second reading), you can find clues of it. Also, all of the plot's loose ends tie up, and they MAKE sense in the world of the story.

There is an incursion of the supernatural, but again, it fits into the world of the book.

Gen is an awesome protagonist. He's even more awesome because he has no compunction about complaining when he's hungry, tired, hurt, or required to mount a horse. I also like the minor characters of Sophos and Pol--even the magus grows on me.

The setting is almost a character in itself.

Definitely one to read and reread. Now I've caught myself up to speed enough to read the second in the series (The Queen of Attolia).

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

POC challenge book #2: Zorro by Isabel Allende

Zorro Zorro by Isabel Allende

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was my first Isabel Allende novel (read in translation, as I sadly do not read Spanish), and I enjoyed it very much. It took me two tries to really get into it, but once Zorro (actually named Diego de la Vega) is born, the story picked up for me. The narrator (who we find out is one of the book's supporting characters) follows Diego and his "milk brother" (nursed together) Bernardo through childhood in Alta California, to Barcelona, Spain during the reign of Napoleon, and eventually back to California. The book is meant to examine Zorro before his legendary exploits truly take-off and show some of his formative experiences.

I liked that there was pretty constant action throughout the story, and that Diego could not carry out his adventures without the help of Bernardo and others. I also liked that the women in the story had more spine in them than "damsels in distress" (even Diego's principle love interest) and that Diego stayed connected to his Indian family (through his mother) while taking on the role of his Spanish father's heir.

I was sometimes surprised by events that were first mentioned briefly (for example, the pirate attack on the de la Vega hacienda) as if they were unimportant, then expounded on until we see that they were actually formative. I don't know if this story-telling style is relevant to it being told originally in Spanish, but it made for interesting reading.

I give it 4 stars instead of 5 only because I didn't feel it was a "life changing" book--I enjoyed it, and I felt that the historical details were well done, but I didn't feel when it was over that I needed to go convince everyone I know to read it immediately.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Maternity leave, redux

I am happy to share that I have been given the ok to taken extended leave without pay after our new baby arrives! The due date is May 30th (and here's hoping baby is more patient than her older brother, who came 4 weeks early), and I will be out until December 1. I have sick and vacation leave saved up that will last for about the first 6 weeks, then I'll be on leave without pay--but I will be allowed to come back afterward. I should probably say that, until my last form is turned it, nothing is 100% certain. Still, I have an acknowledgment in writing, and my director announced how long I will be out to the rest of the staff, so my general feeling is: HOORAY!

A few more notes/observations about maternity leave:
  • I still need to figure out if I (and our kids) can stay on the state health insurance plan, even if we have to pay the full cost out of pocket. Health insurance adds an extra layer of complication to taking off time or staying home altogether, because you both aren't making money and have to pay for health insurance--ah, for a socialist health system!
  • A LOT of it has to do with your relationship with your supervisor(s). I have a good relationship with mine and I think they like my work, so I feel like they were more willing to make my case to the HR department.
  • In the public sector, at least, even supportive supervisors have to work within the framework of policy. I looked up information on extended leave without pay before I asked.
  • Family and Medical Leave has (in my opinion) some issues beyond lasting only 12 weeks. You have to get a doctor to sign off on your time--even though the "caring for a newborn child" provision of family and medical leave has nothing to do with a medical issue! I don't want to take time off to "recover" from giving birth (yes, that is necessary, but for a normal birth, 2-4 weeks would be plenty for that). I want to take time off to spend time with a new human being in my life!
  • There's something to "ask and you shall receive." Maybe not always. But when I dutifully followed "What to Expect's" guidelines and met with an HR rep to "find out my options" last fall, the option of taking 6 months off was definitely not presented. My husband and I figured it couldn't hurt to ask--the worst they could say was no.
  • It probably doesn't hurt that I work a shift that (most) people aren't dying to work. In some ways, this complicated things--the library had to present how they were going to cover those hours--but, on the other hand, my continued interest in working this shift probably contributed to my value as an employee.
There were some really interesting and helpful comments on my last post about maternity leave, so if you have more to share, please do!