Stumbling Over Sex Talk With Kids

It happened earlier in the summer at the dinner table.  My husband was at work; it was just me and the three boys eating together.  There was conversation as usual, and we veered into the realm of making babies.

I was nonplussed; we’d talked about this before.  My boys love hearing stories of their birth, my older boys were present for the homebirth of my youngest son and, feeling like a fairly cool mom when it comes to sexuality, I chatted away with them.  Until my oldest asked:

“But how does the sperm get to the egg?”

And I answered this, sort of.  And then heard this:

“No, but how does the daddy’s sperm get into the mommy’s body to reach the egg?”  Looking directly at me.

I am embarrassed to confess it, but I continued to be evasive and I did not answer his question.  For the first time, I was unsure how to.  Sure, my two younger boys were there, and I wasn’t sure everyone needed to be in on this conversation at the same level.  And sure, there was my friend who, being a fairly groovy mom herself, told her young children precisely how the sperm gets to the egg, only to have her 6 year old daughter burst into tears of fear at the thought of a penis entering her vagina.

But the basic truth is, I wasn’t able to comfortably answer my son’s questions because doing so wasn’t as natural as I had assumed it would be, and I hadn’t prepared myself otherwise.  He had never asked such pointed questions before, and I suspect he had overheard kids at school talking about this, and he wanted to either confirm or learn more about it with me.  This made my evasion all the worse, because the very last thing I want to do is leave my kids’ sexual education to the schoolyard.

Intuition having failed me, I sat on this paltry exchange for a bit.  Then I pulled myself together and did what I always do when I’m unsure of something: research.  I read some recommended book lists and book reviews, and then reserved several texts from the library.

And I tried again.

For those of you who, like me, may not be quite as cool as you think you are when it comes to talking about sex with your kids, here are some tips gleaned from my recent trip down this road:

1.  Review the text yourself first.   See if it’s appropriate for your child’s age and both of your temperaments.  Some books depict quite traditional views about sex that may not reflect either your outlook or your life.  Some may have too much or too little information for your needs.  Hunt around for the right tone.

2.  Check out the illustrations.  Cartoon representations fill the pages of many of these books.  Playful is good, I guess, but I found some of these pics quite garish and didn’t want to share them.

3.  Read everything.  I almost always love reading to my kids, but I do not like reading comics.  My middle son knew I was just reading the text of one of the sex ed books and not the bubbles above the cartoon figures – these comments were mostly exclamations and short quips that I felt added nothing to the book and were tedious to repeat.  Upon being specifically asked though, I complied and read these silly captions.  The result was one boy’s infectious laughter that soon had his brothers in stitches, even the newly-turned three year old who probably doesn’t know why he’s laughing and doesn’t care.  Neither do I, come to think of it.  A room of laughing boys is a precious thing.

4.  Get comfortable.  This is harder for some of us than others, but the more at ease we are with what we’re reading (and learning -I got a bit of a refresher from these books too – it’s been awhile since I’ve thought about vas deferens), the more at ease our kids will be.

As it turned out, I was quite comfortable talking about sex with my boys once I had some good tools, a.k.a. books.  Having some guidance on how to do this, along with the shared context of our reading together, has greased the wheels of conversation nicely for us.  I’m hopeful (but not cocky) that in the future, I won’t be caught unprepared when called upon to be a source of information and guidance about sex.  But if I am, I know what to do.  I do so love a good book.

ps.  At the moment, we’re reading It’s So Amazing:  A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families by Robie Harris.  If you know of a good title, please share it.

 

Let’s Talk About Sex

It may seem strange that it wasn’t until I was 25 and pregnant with my first child before I had meaningful conversations about sex with my girlfriends.

I wasn’t a naïve bride or ignorant in the ways of the birds and the bees, but my swollen belly was much like a cryptic knock upon a hidden away door.  One glance at my tummy and there was no disputing that I had, in fact had sex.  The jig was up and there was no ignoring it.  In fact, that was it.  No one was ignoring it.

My GP: I am surprised it didn’t take you very long.  Did you have sex everyday or every other day?

My OB: So, when do you think you conceived?

My students: Ew, that means Mrs. Jones had S-E-X.

My pregnancy gave me permission to talk about sex with confidence beyond girlish whispers or bravado. And I did.  I talked about sex with friends who were trying to get pregnant.  I talked with my pregnant friends about the sex that they were having (or not having).  At my regularly scheduled doctor appointments the doctor would inevitably grumble something about sex and I would mumble something back both of us preoccupied with my ever expanding fundus.  The belly gave me confidence that I had never been aware that I lacked.

If the pregnancy allowed me knowledge of this club- this freedom to talk about sex so openly- the baby that subsequently followed was my guaranteed admittance.

I crossed a threshold and was granted access to the inner sanctum where real, meaningful discussions about sex occur between girlfriends.  The women in my ever-growing circle share their stories, their fears, their frustrations, their longing, their desires.  They pass along well-intended advice and offer up suggestions.  Sometimes there are tears.  Sometimes there is sadness. Sometimes there is laughter.  Lots of laughter.

This isn’t the Cosmo talk.  It’s not even Sex and City chatter.  This is real-women, real-life talk.

Sense Memories

dustOne of the things I loved about Moira Young’s Dustlands trilogy was the way she describes smell.  The narrator protagonist Saba is caught in a love triangle, as the heroines of young adult fantasy and dystopias often are, and each of her love interests has his own characteristic smell.  (Actually, she has three men vying for her attention, but the third does not get a sense description, so we know that we can dismiss him as a contender fairly quickly.)  The books are set in a post-apocalyptic world of drought, dust and danger, and on those rare occasions when there is time and water available for bathing, it is described as something wonderfully soothing and quietly aromatic.  And her men?  One smells of sage and the other of juniper.

I had my first kiss in middle school, and the boyfriend in question smelled of Polo, the signature scent of boys in the eighties.  And when he gave me his jean jacket to wear, I could carry that smell around with me everywhere.  It was the smell of butterflies in my stomach, of relief to be paired up, of pride to show it off.  It was the sensory equivalent of the fog I was in in those heady days of fumbling around for a sense of place and selfhood.  I loved the smell then, and I took every opportunity to bury my nose in the soft, frayed collar of the jacket.  I smell it today with mixed emotions, not all of them pleasant.  What hindsight throws into stronger relief is the tumult of emotions that goes along with first kisses and first loves and first heartaches.  The 1000th and 10,000th kisses are so very much better, though they never fail to give me butterflies.

What is your scent memory of your first kiss?

 

The First Time

To wrap up our month of posts on turning up the heat, 4mothers will be writing this week about The First Time.

And because it’s been so eagerly anticipated on the small screen, here’s a relevant exchange from Outlander‘s romantic leads, Claire and Jamie.  Claire asks,

“Does is bother you that I’m not a virgin?” He hesitated a moment before answering.

“Well, no,” he said slowly, “so long as it doesna bother you that I am.” He grinned at my drop-jawed expression, and backed toward the door.

“Reckon one of us should know what they’re doing,” he said. …

As yet too hungry and too clumsy for tenderness, still he made love with a sort of unflagging joy that made me think that male virginity might be a highly underrated commodity.

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Guest Post by Aly Ruiz Tsourounis: Summer Sipping: Peach Vodka Fizz

peach fizz 3Our guest for this week is Aly from The Newlywed Life. Her lifestyle blog is a collection of healthy recipes, creative DIYs, affordable fashion and pretty fabulous parties; plus she’s Beth-Anne’s sister-in-law so she has it on good authority that she mixes up a tasty cocktail!

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My husband and I spend a lot of time entertaining and a big part of the fun in having dinner

parties is creating new recipes to enjoy with our guests. While my husband tackles most of the

food, I am usually in-charge of cocktails and appetizers, my favourite items at any dinner party!

My motto on summer cocktails is that they should be easy to prepare, easily doubled or tripled for

a group and refreshing. Say hello to the peach vodka fizz, my current go-to summer beverage.

 

Peach Vodka Fizz (serves one)

peach fizzIngredients:

• 1 – 2 shots of vodka (depends on the type of day you’re having!)

• 1⁄2 a peach, peeled and cubed

• Juice of 1⁄2 a lime

• Touch of agave syrup

• Club soda

• Ice

 

peach fizz 2Directions:

• Place cubed peach, lime juice and agave in a mason jar and muddle with a wooden

spoon

• Add vodka, place lid on mason jar and shake vigorously

• Remove lid, add ice and top mixture with soda

• Replace lid and give one final shake

• Remove lid and enjoy!

 

Hot Summer Drinks: Teas from the Garden

039Most summertime drinks rightly revolve around icy, chilled concoctions to quench our thirsts on hot summer nights. I venture, however, to make a case for tea, even in the summer.

Maybe not on the very hottest nights (and fellow Torontonians will know there haven’t been that many of those this summer) but pretty much all of the rest of the time, I love a good tea. And never more so than when the goods come from the garden. It’s a cinch to grow some lovely herbs in pots or in the yard that make perfect summertime teas.

First up is Fresh Mint Herbal Tea. Almost too easy to grow, mint is best grown in pots or defined areas, because it will spread and take over your garden.  With a few simple steps, you can have some for the cold winter nights when a hot tea is perfectly intuitive: just wash the sprigs, bunch, hang upside down until they’re completely dry, crush the leaves, and store in an airtight jar. But use the fresh leaves for a tea now, and you’re in for a special treat. Bonus: mint is reputed to relieve upset stomach and enhance mental focus, and its menthol can relieve cold symptoms like coughing and congestion.

And next is my all-time favourite, Chamomile Tea. I’ve grown chamomile for a few years in the garden, and it’s so lovely. It’s flowers, from which you steep the tea, are small dainty things, white delicate petals encircling a yellow bulb in the centre.  Chamomile will propogate itself (although less dramatically than mint), and encountering new patches of chamomile throughout the garden feels like bumping into old friends. You pick the flower off just at it’s base to make tea. If you have extra, spread the clean flowers on a sheet until completely dry, and then store in an airtight jar for the colder months. For now though, enjoy the fresh flowers in a teapot on the porch, and you’ve got a perfect summer beverage for a leisurely summer night. Bonus: chamomile has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and sedative qualities.

Fresh Mint or Fresh Chamomile Herbal Tea

You’ll need:

1/3 cup fresh mint or fresh chamomile flowers
2 cups boiling water
honey (optional – I never add it, but you might want to)

Place mint leaves or chamomile flowers in a ceramic pot and add boiling water, steep for 5 to 10 minutes.  Savour, smell, and sip.  Summer.

Summertime Margarita

This summer we’ve been all about margaritas! They are so yummy and can easily be made without alcohol. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not comfortable in the kitchen and I have a tendency to “wing” it (insert disastrous result), and I do the same when it comes to mixology too. I like to go by taste, so every measure that I am about to give you is an approximation. Let your sense be your guide!

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Start off with some limes, both regular run-of-the-mill juicy limes and those flavour-bursting key limes. Juice 2 limes per glass. This is where the math comes in. If you’re going to make a pitcher of 8 drinks, you’ll need sixteen limes. It’s a lot of squeezing but it will be worth it.

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Pour the lime juice into the pitcher and add some club soda (1:1 ratio). Now add a healthy dose of tequila. I prefer white (or clear) and I figure about 1.5 – 2 shots per glass. Again with the math.  Squeeze in some agave nectar. This is where it gets personal. Sweetness is subjective, so be sure to taste and add accordingly.

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Pour in a touch of orange juice. That’s a very technical measurement. Don’t screw that part up.

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I’ve sampled several versions of this recipe over the summer and each time I tweak it slightly. I know nothing for sure, other than this drink tastes best served in a tall glass over lots of ice and a thinly sliced key lime.

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Elderflower Everything

stgermainliquuerI am obsessed with Elderflower.  Obsessed.  I discovered it a few years ago in a pop I found at Winners.  Do you know, I sometimes go to Winners just to shop in the crazy impulse buy aisles they have you weaving through miles of just to get to the cash register.  Seriously.  Just for that.  I find the best stuff in those aisles!  It’s where I found this elderflower pop.  It’s where my elderflower adventure began!

From a rare find at Winners to England, where elderflower pop is readily available at Tesco, and a habit was formed.  I drank a lot of it in England and brought home a bottle of elderflower cordial in my suitcase.

From elderflower softdrinks, I moved on to a discovery of elderflower liqueur.  St. Germain is available at the LCBO, and mixed with a splash of soda, it’s a little taste of heaven.

Also available at the LCBO is Rekorderlig elderflower and pear cider.  Serve very well chilled.  See above re: heaven.

Finally, a friend, aware of my passion, brought me a bottle of elderflower cordial from Ikea.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own!  Recipe here from the Tree Council.

So, I’ve got several ways to find it, and now I’m working on ways to mix it.

Elderflower Bellini

A really indulgent cocktail that’s perfect for summer, is a simple mix of Prosecco and St. Germain.  Pour half an ounce of St. Germain into a champagne flute, fill with chilled Prosecco and feel the bliss.

REKORDERLIG-ELDERFLOWERElderflower Elvis

I made this cocktail for my Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon.  It was incredible.  At the time, I left out the beer from the original Bon Appetit recipe because I’m not a big fan of beer cocktails.  I’m thinking, though, that the Rekorderlig cider would be a delicious substitute for the beer and would amplify the elderflower flavour.

I also adapted the recipe by substituting vodka for gin and soaking segmented grapefruit in the vodka for a few hours.  I then used this flavour-infused vodka to make the cocktails and used the grapefruit for garnish.  Delish!

Virgin Elvis

Just add Elderflower cordial to pink grapefruit juice and add a splash of soda water.  Yum!

Please tell me about any other elderflower drinks you may know about!!

 

Theme Week: Summer Drinks Series

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What better way to cool off during a steamy summer night with a delicious cocktail? Earlier this summer I was invited to Minute Maid Cocktails & Creation hosted by Lena Almeida of the blog Listen to Lena.

We were treated to creations using Minute Maid Light Lemonade and Minute Maid Light Orange Juice created by food and entertaining expert and cooking instructor Nadine Hughes.

The event proved to be inspiring! This week we are sharing our favourite summer drinks that are perfect for an afternoon BBQ with friends or a date-night on the porch after the kids are tucked-in.

Our guest for this week is Aly from The Newlywed Life. Her lifestyle blog is a collection of healthy recipes, creative DIYs, affordable fashion and pretty fabulous parties; plus she’s my sister-in-law so I have it on good authority that she mixes up a tasty cocktail!

In the meantime, here are Nadine’s specialty cocktails for you to enjoy!

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Blueberry Lemon Pops

*makes approximately 8-10 pops. Preparation time: 20 min + 4-5 hours for freezing. Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

For the blueberry lemon sauce:

½ cup (125 mL) water

1 cup (250 mL) Minute Maid Light Lemonade

1 cup (200 g) sugar

2 cups fresh blueberries

2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoon water, in a small cup

For the frozen yogurt:

½ cup (125 mL) water

¼ cup (50 g) sugar

2 cup plain Greek yogurt

To make:

The blueberry lemon sauce:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add wate, Minute Maid Light Lemonade and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the blueberries, increase heat to high and bring ot a boil. Reduce heat back to medium, add cornstarch/water mixture and stir until mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

The lemon yogurt:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, fold in the plain yogurt until combined.

To assemble your pops:

In a frozen ice pop mould, fill the moulds ¼ the way up with the lemon yogurt mixture. Fill the next ¼ with blueberry lemon sauce and then repeat layers one more time. Freeze the pops for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Adult Option:

When making the lemon yogurt, replace ¼ cup (65 mL) water with ¼ cup (65 mL) Italian lemon liqueur and follow the same directions. Remember to drink responsibly.

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Toasted Coconut Orange Macarooni

*Makes 1 drink

Ingredients:

3 oz Minute Maid Light Orange Juice

2 oz Zico Pure Premuim Coconut Water

1 oz Light Coconut Milk

Ice

Garnish (enough for 3-4 drinks)

1 cup of toasted shredded unsweetened coconut flakes

¼ cup (65 mL) Minute Maid Light Orange Juice

Orange wheels

Pineapple triangles

To make:

The toasted coconut:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup of coconut flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until the flakes are mostly golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool.

To rim the glass:

Put ¼ (65 mL) Minute Maid Light Orange Juice in a shallow bowl or saucer. Put the cooled coconut flakes into another shallow bowl or saucer. Turn a chilled martini glass upside down and dip the rim of the glass first into the orange juice and then into the coconut flakes.

The cocktail:

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the Minute Maid Light Orange Juice, Zico Pure Premium Coconut Water and coconut milk. Shake and strain into an orange-coconut rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a wheel of orange, triangle or pineapple and enjoy!

Adult Option:

Add 1.5 oz of coconut flavoured rum into the cocktail shaker and continue with the directions. Remember to please drink responsibly.

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Lemon Ginger Punch

*Makes 9 ½ cups (2.25 L)

Ingredients:

½ English cucumber, cut into thin rounds

Small handful of fresh mint leaves

1 lemon cut into thin rounds

7 cups (1.75 mL) Minute Maid Light Lemonade

2 ½ cups (625 mL) Ginger-Ale

Crushed ice

Garnish:

Thin rounds of English cucumber

Fresh mint leaves

Thin rounds of fresh lemon slices

To make:

In a large pitcher or punch bowl, add the cucumber, mint and lemons, reserving some for garnish. Add the Minute Maid Light Lemonade and using a wooden spoon, stir until combined. (Note: you can make this in advance and refrigerate for a few hours allowing the fruits and vegetables to infuse the liquid.) Just before serving, add the Ginger-Ale and stir. To serve, fill a tall glass with crushed ice and pour mixture over top. Garnish individual glasses with a sprig of mint, cucumber round and lemon round.

Adult Option:

Add 2 cups (500 mL) of Gin based liqueur when you add the Minute Maid Light Lemonade. Stir and continue with recipe. Remember to drink responsibly.

Looking for some more delicious ways to enjoy Minute Maid Light? How about baked sweet potato fries with orange curry dip or fruit salad ice pops? Click through for the recipes!

Don’t forget to share with us your favourite summer mocktail or cocktail in the comment section.

What We’re Reading

From Beth-Anne

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The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer’s novel follows four women who find themselves on the verge of transition. Having grown-up in the age of feminism with the prevailing message, “I am Woman Hear Me Roar!” they followed the expectations laid out for them: college, career and having it all, but for various reasons they choose to step out of the full-time workforce. Now their children are no longer demanding every second of their time, and a feeling of restlessness has set in. The women are plagued by indecision and feelings of uncertainty. Who am I? Are my skills obsolete? Who would ever want to hire me? I want to be home with my kids but why I do I feel so guilty? Why am I so jealous of my husband’s success?  What do I want to do?

These are just a few of the questions the women ask themselves while parenting through adversity, struggling with infertility, nurturing a marriage and balancing playground politics. The women lean on each other to find their own way and for this I commend the author. Wolitzer gives us a peek into the lives of these women and we see that no one has the answer; there is no “right way”. Perhaps it’s the timing, but I found myself lost in the story and relating to the inner struggles these women experienced. My only criticism is the title. To me, nap implies simply doing nothing or absently going through the motions and that wasn’t the sense that I picked up on from these characters. If anything, the women were actively involved in their family and work lives, but found themselves at a naturally occurring crossroads where they were forced to put themselves first before choosing their next path.

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Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia is struggling. She’s a young, unhappily married mother of two young children living a life of poverty in a run-down house on her in-law’s Appalachian farm. Her husband, content with the humdrum existence they’ve carved out for themselves finds odd jobs to supplement his waning farming salary. Her mother-in-law is quick to dole out disapproving comments and her father-in-law plods along with nary a thought of his own. One day Dellarobia witnesses a miracle of nature: the monarch butterflies that have descended on the family’s property are a metaphor for the epic shift that is about to happen in both her life and the environment.

Barbara Kingsolver is never one to shy away from controversy, and Flight Behaviour is no different. Kingsolver calls out the human race for our blatant disregard for the environment and failure to act on preserving our fragile ecosystems. The novel, while fiction, did cause me to look further into the migration patterns of butterflies and the disappearing bee population and the devastating effects both will have on our environment.

While this is not a quick read, I found myself savoring each page. Kingsolver is a gifted writer and crafts such realistic scenes that the imagery she creates is vivid and long lasting.

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The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Cathy Marie Buchanan brings the city, the works of Degas and the gruelling world of the Paris ballet to life in her historical novel, The Painted Girls. The van Goethem girls find themselves upended after their father’s death. With only a few coins in their pocket, the girls struggle to make a life for themselves. Antoinette finds work as an extra in a theatre production to supplement her wage as a laundress and soon finds herself entangled in a dangerous love affair. Younger sisters Marie and Charlotte both show promise as petite rats (young ballet dancers) and spend their hours toiling away at the studio, punishing their bodies. Marie is determined to rise above and escape her life of poverty. She begins modelling for Edgar Degas and is forever admired as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

Buchanan’s writing is so real, you can practically feel the grit of the Paris streets. If nothing else, you’ll come away from reading this novel with a greater appreciation for the art of ballet and the athleticism of the dancers.

From Nathalie

excThe Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Oh! This is such a perfect book-lover’s beach read: a thriller about a near-future in which a virus attacks not just our smart phones but our very ability to speak.

In this near future, we drown in words but they all lack meaning, and much of that absence of content can be blamed on our increasing dependence on our devices.  Instead of phones, the ubiquitous device is a Meme, and it serves not only as a means of communication, but also as an extension of self and a substitute consciousness.  When the narrator enters a restaurant at the beginning of the novel, her Meme brings up the menu, but it then overrides her drink order, replacing a tea with a hot toddy, because it knows that she needs a stiff drink.  I marveled at this fictional creation!

Memes can also, crucially, give their owners the words or definitions they need if they have difficulty remembering a word or its meaning.  Five cents a word.  Touch of a button.  This exchange is where the novel plays out: in the space between our use of language and its digital and corporate control.

At first, the struggle seems to be over the ownership of words and their definitions, but when a virus that corrupts spoken as well as digital communication begins to spread, the stakes get suddenly and critically higher.

untitledLost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn

This was so good it hurt.  I loved St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels.  They were so beautifully crafted, but, because they dealt with child abuse and substance abuse, they were also really rather bleak.  Lost for Words is a departure, a very pointed satire about the book prize industry, the kind of book prize St. Aubyn narrowly missed winning with one of the Melrose novels.  The novel follows members of the jury for the Elysian Prize (none of whom actually read the books in the running) and some of the possible winners of the prize (the psychological disorders run the gamut).  I kept thinking as I read the book how much fun he must have had writing it.  He imitates academic discourse, precious prose and trendy grammarless dialogue with uncanny precision.  Accomplished parody is not an easy thing to pull off, but he gets the tone so perfectly.  And the way St. Aubyn satirizes politicians, academics and the press is sizzlingly good.  For most of the book, there’s really no one to like or to root for, and that can make it feel somewhat rudderless, but the plot has such a powerful engine that it’s not a big missing piece.  I devoured it and wanted more.

 

outOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

There is so much hype about this book because Gabaldon has just published the fifth book in the series and it’s about to come out as a Showcase mini-series.  The protagonist Claire Randall travels through time from the 1940s to the 1740s, where she finds herself embroiled in rising tensions between the Scottish clans and the ruling English.  Because she’s a nurse, she’s possessed of miraculous knowledge and saves many a life while risking her own.  I don’t know, you guys.  It was really rapey, to use a phrase whose coining I will attribute to Jenny.  Can a woman not walk five paces in 18th-century Scotland without facing attempted rape?  Also, the bad guy is not only a sociopath, but gay.  I hate that kind of demonization of homosexuality.  I did stay up until 4 am reading it, though, so it’s a definitely a page-turner.  And its billing as a feminist answer to Game of Thrones may not be too far off the mark.  There was a lot of good sex, too.  So I’m giving this a thumbs up as a guilty pleasure, but with some reservations about its characterization of men.