Monday, December 09, 2013

The Rathbones (Book Review)

Author: Janice Clark
Year: 2013
Genre: Novel/Historical
Reading Level: Adult

Plot Summary: The Rathbones, a once prosperous whaling family, have dwindled down to fifteen-year-old Mercy.  It's been years since a sperm whale was spotted near their home on the New England coast, and it's been just as long since Mercy's father left to chase it.  After a mysterious and violent encounter with a nighttime visitor, Mercy leaves the ancestral Rathbone home with her uncle, determined to find her father and the truth of the Rathbone family at last.

Red Flags: Language, sexual content, some violence, incest, an abundance of nautical terminology

My Rating: C
This book reminded me of three others: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, The Historian and The Thirteenth Tale.  All of those are better books than this one.  I will not deny that this book has its virtues--I liked the illustrations and it was decently written.  I liked the allusions to Greek mythology, and the time period interests me.  Janice Clark certainly knows her way around a boat.  

But.  I just didn't really like it very much at all.  It was strange, but not in a good or fun way.  Just a strange story about strange people doing strange things, with a lot of incest thrown in along the way.  Who was I even supposed to like?  Mercy, the ho-hum narrator?  Wacky Uncle Mordecai?  That's not to say there are no interesting characters (the Starks were a bright spot of entertaining battiness), but I just didn't like most of them and didn't want to read about half of them.  You know how on some reality tv shows you just want to shake people and say "BE NORMAL!"?  That was my reaction to most of this book.  Be normal, Rathbones!  And for crying out loud, don't get involved with your siblings/uncles/cousins/nieces!  

A big problem I had with this book was the constant backtracking about the central mysteries.  Her father is missing, her father is dead, her mother loves her father, her mother doesn't care about her father, her mother loves AND doesn't care her father.  The mystery about her brother was even worse, and both eventually resolved into utterly benign endings.  By that point I had kind of stopped caring, after all the ups and downs to get there.  Other plot elements seemed kind of undeveloped as well, making the whole thing rather muddy.  The whole idea of family curses and the long-lasting ramifications of decisions would have been more interesting if they were more developed.  In the end, I'm not sure what the point of it all was. 

Also, I think this book would have benefited greatly from three things: a labelled diagram of a ship, a glossary of whaling terminology and a map of the coastline.  I did appreciate the family chart and how it was gradually filled.

Overall, my honest book summary would go something more like this: "Girl discovers just how weird her family tree* is, and then her life continues.  Also, incest."

Memorable quotes:
"I had looked into the distance so long that I hadn't seen what was near at hand.  If we don't cherish those who stay near, what do we have?  Only longing.  Longing which we grow to love because it's all we have."

*I use the term "tree" loosely.  

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Wacky Six

Every month, when I write these posts about Boo Boo, I agonize over if it sounds braggy to go on and on about how awesome and skilled this baby is.  Now I have decided that is silly because he does things and I record them, whether they happen early, late or right on time.  And of course he just does things as he does them, not because he was given a detailed list of milestones and when to achieve them--he always loses it, no matter how many times I print it out!

And now, after that rambling disclaimer, let us get to the update!  Babycakes is six months old now, and he is more fun all the time.  He continues to do some things--always chewing, always grabbing, always chirping and squealing--and he's working on some new skills too.  He's pushing up on all fours and sometimes scooting backwards.  He's gotten better at rolling around outside his crib, rotates all around and goes from sitting to lying down.  Sometimes in the morning I find him in his crib all turned around at the other end, playing with his little stuffed fish.   

He had his first taste of solids on his six month mark, and did not much care for eating the sweet potatoes but did enjoy mashing them.  We also tried out a sippy cup, and he got the hang of how to work it pretty quick--though he did not seem very impressed with the taste of water.

In this past month he gave up his last "night" feeding that used to happen between 5:30 and 6:00, and now really sleeps through the night from about 7:30 to 7:00.  Of course I still have to give him the binky/pull him out of the corner/roll him over in the night, but that's fine.  He also went to two longer naps because his three short naps were making me nuts, and he adjusted to that like a champ.  Truly, he is an amenable baby. 

Recently he's started giving me what I like to call hugs and kisses.  In other words, he grabs onto me really tight, and then he will open his mouth super wide and put it on my face.  Perhaps he just wants to eat me, but I like calling them kisses.  Also he is MUCH better about stranger danger these days, just in time for Christmas!

We visited the doctor this month, where he got a clean bill of health, a final round of shots and a new set of stats.  Weight: 18.18 lbs (61%), height: 28 in. (92%), head: 17.3 in. (56%).  He went down a bit, percentile-wise, in height and weight, but he is growing well and I'm not concerned about it at all.

Push ups!

This is how I find him after naps.  So excited to be awake!
Sometimes he gets in touch with his crafty side.  Collages, anyone?

Mmm, sweet potatoes.
One day he didn't want to take a nap and I was getting frustrated so I just put him in his bed and he immediately closed his eyes and went to sleep.  Then I felt bad.  And then I took this picture because he was so cute.
He MIGHT be outgrowing his jeans...

Overall, he continues to be a happy, energetic, good natured, wiggly, charming, squealy, roaring, funny baby.  Sometimes I miss that little stationary lump of a baby, but when he's this cute and this fun, it's hard to complain about anything.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Cheaper by the Dozen (Book Review)

Author: Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Year: 1948
Genre: Memoirs
Reading Level: Adult

Plot Summary: The Gilbreth family is not a typical family and not just in terms of size.  Their family life is boisterous and humorous, but also disciplined and loving.  This book recounts their adventures with tonsil removal, learning Morse code, family drives and yes, cootie garages.  

Red Flags: Some very mild swears.

My Rating: A-
I don't read a lot of memoirs.  In fact, I think the last one I read was the first one I read, called She Got Up Off the Couch, and there is some kind of poetry in the fact that I read both for book clubs. Apparently that's what it takes to get me to read memoirs?

ANYway, this was a very pleasant and interesting read.  Pleasant because it was quite funny and nicely written with a good flow.  Interesting because it takes place in the early 1900s and society was just SO different then!  I mean, of course it was, but even so I was frequently amazed.  I had to look up terms that have been lost over the decades.  It definitely would not be called politically correct by today's standards, and that is always refreshing, ha.  

Overall, I don't really have anything negative to say about this book.  It's not the kind of thing I'd like to read all the time, but it was a good change of pace.  I wish there had been a bit more of an overarching kind of story progression but whatever.  Small taters, precious. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Put the Sun in the Glasses

Once upon a time, I broke my sunglasses.  I replaced them with an identical pair, and, surprisingly, they broke!  So I went through the ensuing months without, and they were very squinty months indeed.  Then we got married that August and went to southern California the next day.  Southern California is pretty bright.  Really bright.  I couldn't squint the bright out!  

See?  So I did what anyone would do, and bought some sunglasses from the aquarium, which saved me on the rest of our honeymoon in the bright, bright land of California:

Those sunglasses have traveled the world with me since, until one sad day, a few weeks ago, when they decided to travel no more:

I guess it's time to go back to the aquarium.