Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Story About A Tree

Early in November Scott's brother sent a text message to the family asking if anyone was interested in cutting down their own Christmas tree this year.

All of my Christmas tree memories from early childhood involve cutting down a tree from a Christmas tree farm. We would bundle in jackets and scarves and hunt down the perfect tree which my Dad would then saw down with his own hands. We would haul the tree back to the barn where hot apple cider was served and someone would saw off the end of the tree trunk. I don't remember why they did this but I do know that we would always take this spare bit of wood home with us because it smelled so dang good.

Last year Scott and I bought our tree at Costco. Man, I loved that tree. It was tall and full and gorgeous and smelled like heaven. But of all the things I miss about living in Ohio, Christmas tree farms are very near the top of the list. More than that, I want those memories for my boys. So when Scott and I heard that we could cut down our own tree for the low low price of $15 we immediately jumped on board.

On Tuesday afternoon the four of us piled into a car and drove into the mountains with Uncle Matthew, Uncle Jim, Aunt Monica, and four of Owen and Graham's cousins.

We arrived at the designated "Christmas Tree" portion of the forest around 3:30 in the afternoon. Initially, we were unimpressed with the offerings. Everything was too tall or too tiny or too sparse or too terrible looking. The kids rode in the back of Uncle Jim's truck and took turns riding on the back of the "Search Quad" while I stayed inside the truck with Graham and Monica. After about 30 minutes of driving and searching and pointing out clumps of trees only to be told that, upon closer inspection, they were "No Good" I joked that we were going to leave empty handed.

I was assured this would NOT happen. 30 more minutes passed. And then 30 more.  At this point, there was much talk of cutting down a 3 foot tree, putting it in the playroom, and stopping by the Home Depot tree lot on the way home. But we kept trying. Unfortunately Monica and I lacked serious perspective and kept pointing out trees that were about 20 feet tall. Or, we would spot one that looked great only to realize that it was two or more trees clumped together.

By 5:30 Graham was cranky, the sun was setting, the temperature was dropping fast, and we still had no tree. The boys all got out of the truck for one last ditch effort and disappeared into the woods. Several minutes later they came sprinting back towards us waving their arms and shouting "Get the saw! Get the saw!"

We had found a cluster of respectable trees. (Not to mention the fact that our expectations were now properly low and we were desperate.)

As the sun dipped behind the horizon Owen started to freeze in his thin, Arizona-kid hoodie. "Too cold! Too cold Mama!" While Jim and Monica sawed down their tree I ran frantically around the forest and tried to find something, anything, that was acceptable. Finally Scott pointed out a tree that looked like it could reasonably pass for a Christmas tree and, with my approval, he started sawing. (We had to use the handsaw because the chain saw would not start because that is the kind of day we were having.)

This is my husband, sawing down a Christmas tree, in the dark, in the 34 degree weather, with a baby strapped to his chest. My Hero!

After the tree was down we didn't even pause to give it a once over before hustling back to the truck. Everyone piled in the bed and we started driving, only to realize that we had taken a wrong turn as a heavy layer of fog descended all around us, which was the perfect ending to a ridiculous day.

 A few hours later we pulled into the driveway of our brand new home and carried our hilariously sad Charlie Brown tree. It's gappy and sparse and one half of it is made up entirely of dead branches. As Scott and Matt screwed it into the tree stand none of us could stop laughing because it looks dang ridiculous.

I promise you this picture doesn't do it justice.  This is the tree's good side ;) It looks SO much sillier in person.

The next morning Owen woke up and came down the stairs. As soon as he saw the top of the tree he gasped in wonder. "Pretty! Pretty tree, Mama!"


That's it. That's all I wanted. A fun memory and a tree that makes my kid happy.

I may just learn to love this silly Charlie Brown tree yet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Graham Oliver: A Birth Story (Part 2 of 2)

Highly Motivated

Scott handed me an empty trash bag just in time for me to vomit up the candy corn I had eaten four hours earlier. I sat in bed, clutching that garbage bag, shaking uncontrollably from head to toe, and contemplated my options. I knew they would send me away. Hospitals don't admit you at a 2.5. They just don't.

When they sent me away, I wondered if I should relieve my mom of her baby sitting duties and continue to labor at home. Or I could walk around the hospital parking lot in an attempt to get my body to dilate. At the time, both of those options seemed impossible. I needed to stay at the hospital. It was the only choice.

Less than 30 minutes after the nurse had left us alone, she popped her head back into our room.

"Here's what's going on. I did some begging, and we're going to admit you. You're in a lot of pain and you're overdue and I don't want to send you home. I am working on getting everything ready to admit you right now. But if your body doesn't dilate on it's own we're going to have to give you Pitocin."

I don't remember exactly what I said but I am pretty sure it included a lot of Thank Yous. I was surprised. I was relieved. I was so incredibly grateful.

Before too long I was hobbling towards me hospital room. They offered me a wheelchair but for some reason I didn't want to take it. Maybe I didn't want them to think I was a wimp who lost all ability to reason and function while I was still in the early stages of labor. Maybe I was just stubborn. Either way, I had to stop and grip the wall several times on that short walk from triage.

They set me up in bed and began to hook me up to another dozen machines. Heart monitors for myself and the baby. An oxygen monitor on my finger. An IV in my hand. It didn't bother me as much as it did when I was pregnant with Owen. I was simply happy to be there.

As they did this, only one thing was going through my mind: the epidural. Would they give me an epidural at 2.5 centimeters? I honestly didn't know. Scott suggested we march around the hospital room to try and speed things up.

If looks could kill.

I didn't want to march. I didn't want any more pain. I couldn't think straight. All I could think about was the epidural. Thankfully I had an amazing nurse, Tiffany, who knew needed exactly what I needed. She told me they wanted to get an entire bag of fluid in me before administering the epidural but that she would do it as quickly as possible. I was already in so much body-wracking pain I did not think I could feel any more... but I was wrong. That fluid licked the veins in my hand and up my arm like white hot fire.

By the time the anesthesiologist came into my room it was 4 am. Almost 2 hours exactly after we left for the hospital, just as I predicted. I sat up in bed while he prepared to give me the epidural. Tiffany stood in front of me and held my arms as my body continued to shake.

"Do I need to hold still in order to get the epidural?" I asked.

"Yes. If you don't, it could be very dangerous."

I must have given her a look full of self-doubt because she looked me square in the eye and said "You can do this. You are highly motivated."

I could have laughed. She was right. I was nothing if not highly motivated.

I held still.

A Little... Weird

The thing they don't tell you about epidurals is that sometimes they don't work exactly like they are supposed to.

Actually, they do tell you this and then they make you sign a piece of paper saying you understand. Your friends and your sisters and your mom also tell you this, but you never expect it to happen to you.

My epidural only took on my left side. I waited patiently for the right side to go numb but the minutes kept ticking by with no luck. I mentioned it to Tiffany and she told me it would happen eventually. If not, the anesthesiologist would try again. No big deal.

As it turns out, I only needed half an epidural. My body relaxed. The shaking stopped. I could breathe and think and talk and smile again. I returned to myself as Tiffany began cleaning up and preparing to leave Scott and I alone in our room for the first time.

We began chatting about different things and out of nowhere I asked her a question.

"Will I get to hold my baby immediately after he is born? Assuming everything is fine and he's ok?"

"Definitely. Didn't that happen with your first baby?"

"Yes, it did. I just wanted to make sure." I told her. I still don't know exactly why I asked that. I knew my doctor would hand him to me right away. I guess I just wanted to make sure that everyone in the room knew that I would get him first. It was what I wanted more than anything.

She left us alone around 5 am. We turned off the lights and Scott and I both closed our eyes. He slept. I didn't. The pain in my right side kept me awake for the 30 minutes we were alone. Tiffany returned at 5:30 with some news.

"When you were in triage your baby's heartbeat was looking a little... weird. But he looks great now!"

"What do you mean, weird?" I asked.

"It kept dropping, but it's normal now. It could have just been the way you were sitting or the way the belt was placed on your stomach, but there is nothing to worry about."

As crazy as it sounds, I was only very slightly worried about this news. For one thing, Owen's heart was misbehaving almost the entire time I was in labor and he was nothing but healthy. Plus, I had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason they admitted me at a 2.5 was because of that "weird" heartbeat. And finally, I knew that the heartbeat monitor was slipping and sliding all over my stomach as I twisted and turned in the triage bed. I had faith that my boy was healthy.

Tiffany checked me and I prepared for her to tell me that nothing was happening and it was time to start the Pitocin.

"You're a 7!" She announce happily.

"A 7?!" One again, I was stunned. I had not expected to progress so quickly. I had only been admitted a couple of hours earlier.

I was also not expecting what happened next.

Not Ready

Seconds after Tiffany checked me, my water broke. It was filled with meconium.

And that's when our quiet, peaceful hotel room erupted. Tiffany called for back up. Our room suddenly filled with helping hands that turned my half-numb body from side to side and cleaned me up. On the positive side of things, this back and forth movement was enough to finally numb my right side.

Sometime during this flurry of activity Scott woke up and came to my side.

"There will a few other people in the room when your baby is born." Tiffany explained. "A nurse will need to take him first and make sure he didn't inhale any of the meconium. I feel so bad that I told you that you could hold him immediately."

I understand, I told her. And I did. I wanted to hold him but I needed him to be healthy. I wasn't worried about his heart but I was worried now. Scott grabbed my hand and said a prayer while Tiffany typed away at the monitor next to my bed. I wondered if it was weird for her to hear our private prayer of health of our little boy. And then I remembered that she is a labor and delivery nurse and has probably been privy to the prayers of many anxious parents.

At one point I heard Tiffany tell someone to call the doctor and I remember thinking it was too early. This all was happening way, way too fast.

By 6 am my doctor was in the room and I was a 10.

"Your baby probably just pooped because he's ready to be born." Tiffany explained soothingly.

But I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready as my sleepy doctor put on his gown and they wheeled a tray of instruments in front of me. I wasn't ready when they showed Scott how to hold my leg. I wasn't ready when told me to push.

By the time I started pushing with Owen, my epidural was out of medicine. I could feel the contractions again and I knew when to push. This time, the medicine had just barely kicked in. I had no idea what was happening.

Tiffany would tell me when a contraction was coming and then count for me while she pushed. In between each contraction I would look at Scott with wide eyes and shake my head in disbelief. I was a little bit in shock and didn't know what to say so I let those head shakes say it all for me.

Too fast.

Not ready.

How is this happening?

Too fast.

After a few minutes of pushing I began to feel the pressure of a building contraction and I would tell Tiffany when they were coming. I began to take control. I could do this.

Less than 15 minutes after we started, at 6:28 am, my baby boy was born.

Scott cut the cord and Graham was immediately placed in the hands of a nurse. She took him and placed him under the warmer while she got to work.

He peed on her.

Everyone laughed.

Scott ran over to her side.

He counted fingers and toes.

Graham was measured and weighed.

The nurse began sucking meconium out of his stomach.

My doctor stitched me up.

Through it all, I did not take my eyes off that tiny little body. I craned my neck to see him better. I was desperate to hold him. My arms itched in anticipation. Everything else faded away.

I was ready.

I was nothing but ready.

He was healthy and I needed to hold him.


After what felt like 20 minutes but was probably less than 5, Graham was wrapped in a blanket and placed in my arms.


He was everything.


Every day for 26 months I felt so incredibly lucky to have been given Owen. I could not believe that I was blessed to raise such an amazing little boy. I did not quite have the faith that it would happen again. I knew I would love this new baby every bit as much as I loved Owen because I loved him from the moment Scott and I decided we were ready for another. But part of me kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. No one gets so lucky, twice, right?

From start to finish my labor was 8 and 1/2 hours, give or take. It all happened so much faster than I had expected but it still felt like I had waited an entire lifetime to get him here. And now that he's here, I know that Scott and I didn't just get lucky twice. We have been blessed beyond measure.

I am so happy he is here and I am so happy he is mine. Forever.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Graham Oliver: A Birth Story (Part 1 of 2)


I was blessed with an uncharacteristic amount of patience in the days leading up to Graham's birth. For one thing, I felt good. My hands were not plauged with carpal tunnel syndrom. I wasn't throwing up every night due to heart burn. Plus, my (maternity) pants still fit. Honestly, what more can a girl ask for at 40 weeks pregnant?

I was due on Friday, October 3rd. The Monday before my due date Owen spiked a sky-high fever and broke out in a mysterious rash. The next day, when my doctor asked me if I wanted him to help "jumpstart" my labor, the rash was still there. I told him I would wait. Newborn babies and sick toddlers don't mix.

The Wednesday before my due date we had two house showings. At this point, out home had been on the market for almost a full month and we still had no offers, no contracts, no prospects. I really wanted something in the works before the baby came.

I felt patient. Scott felt patient. In fact, for reasons that had everything to do with work and paid vacation days and patenity leave and nothing to do with his feelings about the baby, Scott wanted this boy to come a week late, just like his brother. As much as I was ready to be done with pregnancy, I secretly agreed with him.

Basically, there were a lot of compelling reasons to keep this baby cooking; a patient mama, a rashy brother, an unsold home, and the potential loss of 7 precious vacation days.

Plus, there was that other reason. The one I didn't like to think much about.

As I climbed into bed at 9 pm on Saturday, October 4th, I turned to Scott and said rather abruptly, "I am really really scared of going into labor."

An hour later, the contractions started.

A Long Night

Scott and I were watching TV when they started. Or rather, Scott was watching TV and I was drifting to sleep while he tickled/scratched/rubbed my back in that way I made him do every night during my last trimester. I was so tired and it felt so good that I would have fallen asleep right then if not for the sudden presence of a few contractions that demanded to be noticed. They weren't exactly painful, not yet, and they weren't enough to mention to Scott, but they were enough to make me wonder.

The show ended and I climbed out of bed. I grabbed a bowl of candy corn and, now that I was wide awake, we settled in for another TV show on Hulu. One thing you should know about me is that  I have an almost super-human ability to eat mass amounts of candy corn. That night, however, I was only a few handfuls in when I knew something was off. I felt awful, and candy corn never makes me feel awful.

I told Scott what was going on and together we kept our eyes on the clock. By the time our TV show ended, some of the contractions were already 5 minutes apart. I was blown away. With Owen, I had to labor for hours before things got that serious. Confused, we took to the internet to remind ourselves how to time contractions and when to go to the hospital. All signs pointed to the fact that we would be going tonight but I still didn't believe it.

Around midnight we decided to try and get some sleep. That decision lasted about 5 minutes. The contractions were getting closer together and more painful and I was once again reminded that the worst thing you can do during a painful contraction is lie down. It makes an already painful experience nearly unbearable.

Shortly after midnight I got out of bed and finished gathering up the last things I needed for my hospital bag. I sat and wrote Owen's schedule for my mom so she would know what to expect. I sat on the toilet because I read on some girl's blog that laboring while sitting on the toilet feels really good. Turns out having a contraction on the toilet feels exactly like having a contraction doing anything else.

Painful, in other words. Extremely, incredibly, painful.

I left the bathroom, picked up my yoga ball, and made my way to the living room where I turned on Netflix. Scott joined me. As I sat down on the ball and started bouncing up and down I turned to Scott. "You may want to get some sleep now. It's going to be a long night."

42 minutes and 1 episode of The Vampire Diaries later, we knew I was wrong. It wasn't going to be a long night of laboring at home like I thought. Scott stayed up with me (of course) and timed my contractions throughout the episode. When one would started I would jump off the ball and throw my body over the top of it. Sometimes I would stay frozen on my hands on knees. I won't say these things helped with the pain, exactly, but it's what my body wanted to do so I did it. By the end of the episode, I was doing this dance every 3 minutes or so.

Scott told me to call my mom and have her come over. It was time.

I called around 1:30.

"Are you in labor?!" My mom excitedly asked.


"When are you going to the hospital?"

"I don't know... probably within the next hour."

"Ok. I'll stay here awake and you can call me when you want me to come. Unless you just want me to come now."

I was confused. My mom only lived 5 minutes away and I did not want to go to the hospital too early. I looked at Scott in desperation. "Should I call her back when we're ready?"

He looked at me like I was crazy. "She needs to come now." I breathed a sigh of relief and put the phone back to my ear.

"Come now."

Are You Ready?

We said goodbye to my mom and got into the car a little after 2 am. It was 2:12, to be exact. I remember because I looked at the clock and told Scott that I still had to check in, go through triage, and be admitted to my room. "I probably won't get an epidural for 2 more hours." That felt like an unimaginable stretch of time.

Fortunately, the hospital was fairly empty and everyone was all business. I was whisked through the check in desk and down the hall to a triage room. The second I stepped inside, my eyes filled with tears. As happy as I was to be here, I still could not believe I was here. It felt unreal. More unreal than it did with Owen because this time I knew what was about to happen. I knew how hard it would be and how much it would hurt and how amazing I would feel as soon as my baby was put in my arms. I knew it, and I could not wrap my mind around the fact that it was happening to me. Again.

Scott put his arms around me and pulled me into a hug. "Are you ready?" He asked.

I shook my head no.

I wasn't ready.

I put the gown on, got in bed, and a nurse walked in.

"All right, let's see how quickly we need to get you going. I could tell from the moment you walked in that you meant business." She attached to me to a dozen different machines and watched my contractions for a few moments.

"How far were you dilated last time you were checked?"

"On Tuesday." I told her. "I was a 2.5"

She quickly checked me and then delivered the news. "You're still there."

I was stunned. Devastated.

Almost a full week and many painful contractions later and I had not made any progress. My eyes began to fill with tears again. My eyes met Scott's and I shook my head. "We came too early." I whispered, almost to myself. I could not believe this had happened again.

"Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to monitor you for an hour and see if anything changes. Your contractions are pretty strong so we'll see if your body responds. I can technically keep you here for up to 2 hours before I have to send you home." She closed the door behind her and left Scott and I in silence.

Another contraction came and my body twisted painfully in response. All I knew for certain was that I could not lie still in this bed for 2 more hours.

Full of pity and self-loathing, I turned on the TV to the first thing I recognized (an old episode of How I Met Your Mother) and settled in for an agonizing night.

That's when my body started shaking and the nausea hit.

I was in active labor.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Graham Oliver McDowell
October 5, 2014
7 lbs. 14 oz. // 20 inches
I have so much I want to say... but for this morning I'll leave it at this. Graham is a dream baby. Owen loves him like crazy. Scott and I are over the moon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Every where I go people ask me variations of the same question.

Does Owen know the baby is coming?

How do you think he'll react?

Do you think he'll be jealous?

Every where I go, I give people variations of completely different answers. If I am feeling honest but optimistic, I will tell them that Owen frequently rocks his stuffed doggie and sings "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to help him "feel better" and practice for baby brother. Or I will tell them how Owen hugs my belly in the morning and says "Good Morning Baby!" or how he is always telling me how he is going to "touch baby's toes."

If I am feeling honest but realistic, I will tell them that there is nothing he loves more than undivided attention from Mommy and Daddy at the same time. Every time we leave the house he makes sure that both Scott and I are heading to the garage. If one of us is lagging behind to turn off lights or stuff last minute snacks in my purse he will stop walking and say "come Mommy" or "come Daddy" and only resume walking when he is certain we're all headed in the same place. When he goes to nursery at church on Sunday, he has to hold both of our hands as we walk. If one of us is on the computer instead of playing with him, he's been known to slam the computer shut and force us to pay attention.

So basically, yeah, he'll probably be a little jealous.

If I am feeling honest but discouraged, I will tell them how Owen bit a kid at church a few weeks ago and made him bleed. I'll probably roll my eyes and laugh it off so I don't start crying at the thought.

And if I am feeling nothing but truthful... I will tell them that I don't know.

I don't know how he'll react. I honestly have no idea. I don't know if he'll be excited to hold the baby when they first meet (hopefully) or if he'll pinch his toes and then poke his eye out (probably). I don't know if he'll want his baby brother to play and try to throw a ball at him the first day we get home.

Scratch that.

I know my Owen, and I do know he will definitely throw a ball "to" his brother within the first 24 hours. It's basically the only thing I'm certain of.

I also know what I hope for.

I hope they will become best little buddies, partners in crime, mischief makers, and lifelong best friends who warm my heart and make me worry for their safety and my sanity all at the same time.

That's what brothers are for, right?

Well, that and throwing balls at each other.

So, Owen is almost a big brother. I am so excited for him. And for me. And for Scott. It's an exciting time to be a McDowell.

That being said, I am feeling slightly misty eyed because the days of just Owen and Me are very literally numbered. I know only good things will come from here but these last 2 years have been the best I could have ever hoped for.

Thanks for being my best little friend, baby Oh-Nah! I couldn't love you any more.

P.S. Owen took one look at this picture and after saying
"Mommy!" and "Oh-Nah!" he said "Picture Daddy?"
Like I said, there is nothing he loves more than
all of us together, one happy family. 

Monday, September 22, 2014


- Sometimes, when I get too tired to function, Owen and I go into his room and shut the door. I lay down on his bed and close my eyes while he destroys everything around us. I feel ok about it because it's the one room in the house free of poison and sharp objects.

- Life has been... stressful lately. I don't know if it's the pregnancy, or the fact that Owen has entered the terrible twos full force, or the fact that Scott is working 12 hours days, or the fact that we are currently trying to sell our house, or all of the above, but the days are long and difficult and every day just keeps getting harder.

- Last week I promised Owen that if he was good at WalMart I would take him to the splash pad. He was, so I did. We got there, swimsuits in hand, only to discover that the splash pad was closed for a season. (Owen was understandably disappointed but it was nothing a trip to the puppy store couldn't fix.) I took this as a sign that Fall has officially started. We came home, lit a Hot Apple Cider candle, cranked up the A/C, baked a batch of Pumpkin Spice Cookies, and pretended like it wasn't still 100+ degrees outside.

- I have conflicting feelings about when I want this baby to come. On one hand, I would love nothing more than to end this pregnancy as soon as possible. One the other hand, there are still things on my to do list that need completed. On the third hand, I've always wanted an October baby and I would love to be able to hold out until next month. On a fourth hand (this is getting weird), for work/vacation/paternity leave reasons Scott not-so-secretly hopes that I am a week late. Fortunately, I know it doesn't matter what we want because babies come when they want to come. And since Owen was 6 days late, I am trying to prepare myself to go past my due date this time, as well.

- I packed my hospital bag a few days ago, right at 38 weeks, just like last time. There is something about that two week mark that sets off alarms in my brain. Oddly enough, packing my bag was even more surreal this time than the last. It is so hard for me to imagine having another baby. Scott and I already had a baby... and that baby is Owen. It's weird to think about how we can have another boy that does not look and act exactly like Owen.

And now, a blurry picture I snapped before church on Sunday, in all my 38 week glory.

That's all folks. Thanks for checking in.

Monday, September 8, 2014


On the first of this year I sat down and made a list of New Year's Resolutions. It had 7 goals on it, including (1) Get Pregnant (2)Walk 5x a day (3)Give my novel to people to read and (4) Read 20 books. How am I doing, you ask? I'll gladly tell you.

To my complete surprise, I got pregnant within days of writing that goal on paper. I haven't religiously exercised 5 times a week every single week this year but I have done well., so I'm calling that one a success. I haven't let a soul read one word of my novel, so that one is very much a failure. (In fact, the more time that passes the more I hate my novel and want to change every word. That's normal, right?)

All is not lost on the literary front, however. Yesterday I finished reading my 32nd book. So while I may not be making a lot of progress on the novel writing front, I'm a least doing a lot of research ;)

And since today is the rainiest day in the history of Phoenix (true story!) and Owen and I are more or less trapped inside our house for the morning, I figured now is as good a time as any to make some book recommendations. If you like YA fiction, this list is for you. If not, you may as well move along.

On Writing, Stephen King. Not a YA book, obviously. This was a Christmas present from my sister and I read it right as I was coming down from my post-novel writing high. It was part memoir, part writing instruction, and entirely fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming a writer.

Allegiant, Veronica Roth. I probably don't need to say much about this. If you want to read it, you've probably already read it. Once you've invested your time in the first two books in the Divergent Trilogy, you have to read the last one. But my goodness. I thought it was dreadful for so many reasons, including the plot. It was so bad. My main problem with the book, however, was Roth's decision to write it from two different perspectives because both narrators had the exact same voice.

The Beginning of Everything, Robyn Schneider. A classic coming-of age story that begins after Ezra, a token High School Golden Boy crushes his leg in a car accident and loses everything, including his girlfriend. Before long, however, he falls for an unpredictable new girl who turns his life upside down. It reminded me of a John Green book, but not as good.

Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi. Another YA dystopian trilogy with some romance mixed in. I remember loving these books as I read them. I loved them enough to recommend them to several family members and friends. It's been several months since I read them, however, and interestingly enough, I can hardly remember what they were about. So if you are a fan of The Hunger Games and are looking for an enjoyable and quick read, give these a try but don't expect them to leave a lasting impression.

All Souls trilogy, Deborah Harkness. This was described to me as an "Adult Twilight," which is totally fair. It's hard to escape the comparison when a controlling vampire falls in love with a human, although this human is technically a witch and can totally hold her own. If you like supernatural books, however, don't let the comparison scare you off. These books are rich with historical detail, backstory, character development, and an exciting plot. (Or the first two are, at any rate. I found the third book overly long and hard to get through. That being said, it didn't disappoint me the same way Allegiant did.)

One day early this summer I went to the library and checked out a handful of books by Sarah Dessen. She's a big name in the YA world and I hadn't read anything of hers before this year. She's published almost a dozen novels and they are constantly gracing YA "Best Of" lists. She's also unique by today's standards because all of her books stand alone. In this era of series and trilogies, that's an impressive feat. Anyway, I read Along for the RideThat Summer, The Truth About Forever, Lock and Key, The Moon and More, and This Lullaby.

Once I'd read a few of her novels, they all started to blend together. The majority of them take place in small costal towns during the summer. They always have a teenage, female narrator who is juggling family problems, a summer job, and a maybe-relationship with a new boy. They are light and fluffy but they do deal with teenage issues and I can understand why they resonate so well with the YA crowd. If you are interested in reading one or two, The Truth About Forever was my favorite, followed either by Lock and Key or This Lullaby. Feel free to skip The Moon and More. That was a chore to get through.

The Selection Series, Kiera Cass. These books were described to me as Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, which is spot on. It's a dystopian trilogy about a teenage girl who gets selected to compete for the privilege of marrying a prince. It's completely silly but a lot of fun. The books only take a day or so to read and are worth the time spent. These books won't change your life, but they will make you smile.

Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones. I discovered this book from NPR's List of 100 Best Ever YA Novels. It's about a witch named Sophie and takes place in a fantasy world where enchanted hats, fire demons, and traveling castles are the norm. It had a lot of potential but I don't think it lived up to that potential. Skip it. If you are looking for a fantasy book about witches and wizards, you can find better.

Blackmoore and Edenbrooke, Julianne Donaldson. These Regency era books were written by an LDS woman and are billed as "Proper Romances," which is another way of saying "G Rated" which is another way of saying "YA." They were an absolute delight from start to finish. I read Blackmoore first, loved it, and quickly read Edenbrooke, which I loved even more. If you are a Jane Austen fan (I am!) don't skip these. They combine classic romance and wit with a faster-paced story than Austen's novels.

Longing for Home and Hope Springs, Sarah M. Eden. I picked these up because they are also billed as "Proper Romances" and were written by an LDS woman. They tell the story of Katie, a woman who is haunted by a past she left in Ireland after the Great Famine. She feels responsible for the death of her sister and the downfall of her family when she travels to America to make a living. After years of moving from city to city, she ends up in a racially divided town in Wyoming. She soon finds herself at the center of a town feud and a confusing love triangle.

If that sounds a little boring to you, skip these books. They are a little boring. If it sounds interesting, however, there are worse ways you could spend a couple of days.

The Birth Order Book, Dr. Kevin Leman. (One of these things is not like the other.) In the interest of complete honesty, I did not read this cover to cover. I did read enough, however, to gather the basic idea that people develop personality traits, choose careers, and mesh with other people because of their birth order in their family. The book contains interesting information (presented in a semi-boring way) that allowed me to play psychologist with my family for a weekend. If you are into stuff like this, check it out.

An Abundance of Katherines, John Green. Last year I read two books by John Green, both of which I liked better than this one. That's not to say I didn't like this, however, or that it's not worth reading. John Green is an expert at creating compelling characters, even if you don't always like them. This short novel is about a former child-prodigy named Colin who is reeling after his latest breakup. What makes his circumstances extraordinary, however, is the fact that this is the nineteenth time he has been dumped by a girl named Katherine. He tries to run from his pain by taking a road trip with his best friend Hassan (my favorite character in the book) and ends up in a tiny town in Tennessee where he learns about life and love and relationships and everything else I have come to expect from a coming-of-age novel. If you like John Green, you'll like this one too.

If you're counting, this doesn't equal 32 books. But I think this post is already overly long and, honestly, some of the books aren't even worth mentioning. So there you have it. And, as always, I welcome your suggestions. Read anything good lately?