January 2014 archive

Before we had Dr. Google, we had books

Once upon a time, my doctor said I had irregular lady cycles and that birth control would solve all the problems. Eight years later, I learned I had wasted all that time and all those pills on a problem I could have been actively working to correct – effort that might have saved me from inexpensive and heartbreaking infertility treatments.

Ah, c’est la vie. I don’t regret anything, and without my infertility experiences, I wouldn’t have my amazing triplets.

However. I’m now dedicated to correcting my PCOS (and related issues) without birth control, and I’m determined to hoard my knowledge for when my own girls reach an age that they, too, might face such difficulties.

As always, books have been my friend. This year, I’m expanding my PCOS-related library in my ongoing quest to find a better, healthier, happier Jenny.

In the past, my top recommended book for those with fertility issues is Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility. If you’re struggling at all with your reproductive organs and related hormones, read this book, even if you aren’t interested in fertility. I’m hanging onto my copy to lend out to friends and as a reminder to give my girls an updated one when they’re older. If you want to know more, I wrote a full review of TCOYF, including some personal and probably TMI-for-WSR information on my personal blog.

Last year, I reached the point in my new motherhood role where I wanted to focus more on myself. I wanted to finally lose the lingering baby weight, get back my energy and just feel better. I started back on the medications prescribed during my infertility treatments, I changed my diet, and I started exercising. A good chunk of weight dropped off, and I started to feel better – not great, but better.

A year has passed, and I’m refocusing my efforts, now expanding beyond what was once old hat, and, to do that, I’m expanding my library.

I recently picked up The Low GI Guide to Living Well With PCOS and was pretty pleased with its coverage of how a diet of foods low on the Glycemic Index affects PCOS and its plethora of bad news bears.

From Goodreads: The Only Book You Will Ever Need for Managing PCOS—Completely Revised and Updated What exactly is PCOS? What are the signs and symptoms? How is the diagnosis confirmed? What causes it? And most importantly, what can you do about it? If you’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or suspect you have it, and you’re looking for a way to manage your condition, you’ve come to the right place. In this newly revised edition of Living Well with PCOS, Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller and PCOS experts Drs. Nadir Farid and Kate Marsh address the root cause of PCOS—insulin resistance—and show you how eating a low-GI diet can help alleviate even your most troublesome symptoms, including weight gain, infertility, unsightly hair growth, irregular cycles, and fatigue. This all-new second edition features:
The latest up-to-date research on PCOS and its treatment
New quick-and-easy low-GI recipes
Low-GI kick-start menus—with vegetarian and gluten-free options
Easy-to-use tables of GI values
Tips for a more active lifestyle Real-life stories from women who have used the GI to successfully combat PCOS

Jenny’s thoughts: I don’t agree that it’s the only book you need for PCOS, but it’s certainly comprehensive and does a great job of addressing an often successful approach at managing PCOS without medication. I’ve followed a low GI diet to combat PCOS symptoms for years now, and because it isn’t a popular diet – especially when talking about mainstream Western medicine addressing PCOS, having a book like this on hand is repeatedly helpful.

Another book I added to my arsenal is Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser.

From Goodreads: In Your Personal Paleo Code, Chris Kresser uses the Paleo diet as a baseline from which you can tailor the ideal three-step program-Reset, Rebuild, Revive-to fit your lifestyle, body type, genetic blueprint, and individual needs. Kresser helps further personalize your prescription for specific health conditions, from heart disease and high blood pressure to thyroid disorders and digestive problems. Along with a 7-day meal plan and delectable, nutritious recipes, Your Personal Paleo Code offers natural solutions and an avalanche of groundbreaking advice on how to restore a healthy gut and immune system; how to eliminate toxins; which fats to eat liberally; how to choose the healthiest proteins; and much more. Best of all, you only have to follow the program 80% of the time; there’s room to indulge in moderation while still experiencing dramatic results. Based on cutting-edge scientific research, Your Personal Paleo Code is designed to be flexible and user-friendly, with helpful charts, quizzes, and effective action steps to help you lose weight, reverse disease, and stay fit and healthy for life.

Jenny’s thoughts: While I’m not actually on board with the Paleo diet (it just isn’t something I want to maintain past a short-term period), a lot of its recommendations or guidelines work well with a low-GI diet. I’ve been playing with my own food ratios, trying to get my macronutrients at a personally ideal level. I saw a Twitter chat with the author, and his recommendation for keeping protein at 10 percent to 20 percent of total calories and carbs at 15 percent to 30 percent of total calories is what drew me in. I’ve found I function best with similar numbers, but a diet that high in healthy fats is usually frowned upon, including low-GI/low-carb diets like those geared toward PCOS sufferers. My main intention in reading this book was to find more and better ideas for balanced, well-rounded foods that fit my daily goals.

Combining schools of thought is the beauty of being a reader and an independent thinker. We aren’t limited to what our doctor tells us we should do, and we don’t need to stick with one diet plan. It’s really interesting to learn how much food can affect our bodies – for far more problems than just PCOS – and how different plans work to combat related symptoms.

Next, I am looking for a book on natural supplements that address PCOS and related symptoms. What books are on your list for better health and well-being, either your go-to books from the past or books you plan to read in the future?

Disclaimer: Self diagnosis and self medicating aren’t practices we advocate or recommend at We Still Read. What we do recommend is being a well informed individual, prepared to ask questions and advocate for the health of you and those for whom you’re responsible.

Review: The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh


From Goodreads:
The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

My thoughts: I was lucky to get this title off netgalley for early review. When I saw Karin Slaughter’s praise of it, I knew I had to read it. McHugh’s writing grabbed me from the start, and I found myself as thoroughly ensconced in the Ozarks as one can be from several states away.

It’s a coming of age story, in part, but Lucy also finds out some pretty deep, dark secrets that were buried in the past- even before she was born. At times I found myself literally on the edge of my seat, tensed with anticipation of what was to come. This book is gripping, satisfying, terrifying, and redeeming.

All in all, this was an excellent debut novel, and I will be following Laura Hughes for future works. She’s also on Twitter- when I tweeted about it, she favorited my tweet, followed me, and replied. I always think the authors who interact with their readers are the most likeable!

This one will be out March 11, 2014 from Random House- I highly recommend it!


“When Do You Read?”


Without a doubt, the question we- as moms of all these little, wild kids- are most asked about our reading habits is when, when, when? Sometimes it is a genuine question: “Literally at what moment do you get to read a page?” but oftentimes it feels a bit more judgmental, like maybe we aren’t doing as much as everyone else so we have PLENTY of leisure time to curl up with a book and some hot chocolate. Heh.

We’ve talked about this and joked about quick, snarky answers that we could fire back, but the truth is- we get it.

We too have days so full that the luxury of sitting down with a book seems impossible. We understand what it feels like to have nights when you are so tired you just fall into bed, eyes closed before pillow contact occurs. We are right there with you on days when you just go and go and go and go. We totally get feeling like all of your brains have been used up, maybe forever.

But what we want to actually respond to everyone that asks is this: Reading is our sanity. It is our escape. It is how we feel like humans, like grown ups, like ourselves. We read because after a long day with kids, nothing calms our brains down quicker. We read because we want to continue to develop as people. We read because we think we deserve it for ourselves.

That said, even for people who are passionate about books, when you are struggling and treading water and time is tight, it truly is hard to find time to even get in a page… so we’ve devised tricks. We’ve come up with ways to make this work- ways to be parents and spouses and employees… and readers.

Feel free to steal these. Pin them, share them on Facebook- heck, set them as your profile picture!- and tell the world when you find time to get in a few pages here and there.

bedtime   boss checkout Clean Commercial commute Hair Knit Lunch Naptime playground SuperBowl Water Wine Car vacation waitingroom sports workout-audio Workout-Read bathroom night

Any tricks or tips that you use that aren’t listed here? We’re always looking for more ways to squeeze in some reading!

Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Under the Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan

Synopsis (Goodreads): At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne leaves her philandering husband in San Francisco and sets sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and a nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood repair to a quiet artists’ colony in France where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who is instantly smitten with the earthy, independent and opinionated belle Americaine.

A woman ahead of her time, Fanny does not immediately take to the young lawyer who longs to devote his life to literature, and who would eventually write such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson’s charms. The two begin a fierce love affair, marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness, which spans decades as they travel the world for the sake of his health.

What I Thought: I love, love, love historical fiction novels about famous people, I just do. I read Nancy Horan’s first novel, Loving Frank, and while the people she wrote it about were terrible, the book itself was memorable and a great read.

I wish I could say that for this one, but I just can’t.

It had a really similar storyline: young, bright woman falls in love with a brilliant, artistic man and struggles through a world that is pretty much set up for them to fail. And that storyline? I like it, I can get behind it… but it this case it just didn’t work for me.

The first half caught my attention and I was totally in. Toward the middle, after Fanny’s kids were grown and she and Louis were just continually moving from place to place trying to keep him healthy? The author just kind of lost the plot. I wanted to be totally gripped like I was with the beginning, but if we’re being honest, I could barely make myself sit down to read. And it should have been fun, right? They were on this romantic adventure but for whatever reason, it just drug on and, for me, fell flat.

That said, the love story here is kind of beautiful, and from what I looked up after I was done with the book, pretty much exactly true. I thought that the characters and settings were beautifully constructed and it did pass the “make me want to know more about actual history” test that I think good historical fiction usually does, so it really wasn’t a total wash, but for me it just wasn’t the best.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and all opinions are fully mine!

Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

From Goodreads: After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Jennie’s Thoughts: now you might be thinking you’ve already seen this book reviewed here on We Still Read before…and you’re correct! Jacki loved this book so I made it a priority to read when it finally came in for me at the library.

Now, I didn’t love it as much as Jacki did, but I did enjoy the story. The first half was slow for me, but in a way that I could tell as I was reading that would make the ending that much better. It was a build up of characters and plot and mystery and such that in the beginning you’re just waiting for things to start clicking, and once they do you’re flying through the pages. I hit that switch around 200-250 pages left and finished that chunk in one last gulp.

I loved this novel for having all the things I love about detective stories. I loved the crazy, but still relatively normal, characters.

I think part of why this wasn’t a five star rave book for me was the lack of direct romance in the plot. I’m a sucker for the swoons and romance, so I think it held me back a bit. I am hoping the next in this series has a bit more in that department!

So, while I didn’t rate this as highly as Jacki, I’m still glad I took her recommendation!

Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

From Goodreads: There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

Jenny’s thoughts: This book is a prime example of why I don’t read much adult fiction.

It’s good. It’s really, really good. You should read it if you haven’t already.

The problem is I can’t recommend a book like this in my normal fangirl fashion. That’s fine and dandy for YA books – a flail, a dramatic wave of the hand and some swooning are all appropriate reactions to really good YA books.

But with Fiction For Adults, you need to put some oomph behind your recommendations, some well thought reactions to the art and science that is adult writing.

I’m really just a fangirl at heart, though. I can’t be excited about something I enjoy without clapping or bouncing in my seat, and if that makes me immature or whatever, so be it.

I will not golf clap or snootily say, “Brava, Carol Rifka Brunt.”

I will simply push this across our virtual table and tell you to read it and enjoy it. Let June sink into your heart and let yourself fall in love with Finn and Toby. Cheer for June and Greta to finally understand each other and hope that these two lovely sisters don’t get into too much trouble with each other. Bask in the author’s quiet way of wiggling right into the depths of your soul to bruise the surface and really feel the confusion and pain and love in this family.

Then I’ll clap and wait patiently for your reaction when you turn the final page.

Megan & Mommy share our favorite books

Yesterday was my daughter’s fourth birthday, so I thought it would be fun to share some of her favorite books. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a knitter, and it’s such a big part of my life that it’s natural for my kids to show some interest in knitting. The following books are knitting related children’s books that Megan & I particularly enjoy!

Annie & the Swiss Cheese Scarf by Alana Dakos


This is a cute story about a little girl who wants to learn to knit just like Mommy. She struggles at first (like every knitter I know!) but eventually picks it back up and finishes her (im)perfect scarf. I love reading this with Megan, and when I preordered it I was lucky enough to get a deluxe package, complete with knitting patterns for Annie’s sweater AND her Swiss cheese scarf!

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett


This is a super sweet book about a little girl who finds a box of yarn and decides to knit a sweater for everyone she meets. Somehow, she never runs out of yarn. There’s also a big, bad villain, but of course the sweet little girl perseveres. Megan loves it because good wins over evil and everyone gets a sweater!

Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster


This cute little book is about a little mouse named Noodle who gets a ball of wool when the farmer’s wife drops it, and then his porcupine buddy gives him a few quills to use as needles. Noodle knits and knits and knits until…..his scarf has filled his home and his friends have to rescue him! But soon they discover that Noodle’s scarf is big enough for ALL of them to nestle in for the winter.

If you know a knitter, or a child who may be interested in knitting, or just anyone who enjoys cute, sweet books, these are all very nice gifts. Megan & I hope you enjoy!



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