Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
Pages: 241
Finished: March 9, 2020

First Sentence: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Summary: Young Catherine Morland gets a chance to travel to Bath with her neighbors the Allens. There she meets all sorts of people including the greedy, false Thorpes as well as the good, gentile Tilneys. Due to a misunderstanding, General Tilney invites Catherine to visit them in Northanger Abbey where Catherine mistakes everything for one of her beloved Gothic Novels.

Thoughts: I really enjoy this novel. I know it's considered one of Austen's weakest, likely due to it being her first full written novel, but that doesn't make me like it any less. The tone of the story is incredibly light and sarcastic which is really fun.

Of course, her characters are all a little heavy handed, yet somehow they still feel quite real. I feel like every woman knows a man like John Thorpe who refuses to listen to what a lady says as he practices his designs on her, inflates her worth, and generally makes her life miserable. Still too, many women know the Isabella Thorpes who say one thing as they mean another.

I also appreciate that Catherine is one of the few heroines who really acts her age. She's 17/18 in the novel and absolutely reads as an impetuous 18 year old. She's very naive and completely taken in by those who show her early friendliness. She finds things in novels that she conflates in real life - things I KNOW I did as a child and teen. And her immediate crush on Mr. Tilney is super believable.

Mr. Tilney himself is an interesting hero. I'll admit, I feel the reason I like him so much is due to J. J. Field's portrayal of him in the 2007 film adaptation. Still, he's kid and attentive. I like the aspect of him being more flattered of her attentions which then turn into a real regard.

Definitely a fan and this still ranks high in my esteem.

Northanger Abbey Counts for the following challenges: Beat the Backlist, Virtual Mount To Be Read, Austen Challenge, and Back to the Classics (Classic with a Place in the Title.)

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Cribsheet by Emily Oster

Title: Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool
Author: Emily Oster
Pages: 291
Finished: February 29, 2020

First Sentence: Regardless of whether you had the childbirth you always imagined or, in the words of a colleague, "got a little panicked at the end," you will find yourself in a recovery room a few hours later.

Summary: Economist Emily Oster takes a look at data for common questions about raising infants and toddlers. She explains what makes a good study, and shows how the data supports some basic conclusions, even when those conclusions go against common practices.

Thoughts: My spouse and I are fairly relaxed parents. That being said, with baby 2 only nine weeks out, my brain is starting to work in overdrive and I just needed some reassurance on decisions we are making.

I really liked this book. With our first child, I fell hard into the attachment parenting, no cry ever sleep methods etc. Here's the thing, I like most of how we raised our first kid, but I won't deny there was a level of stress. I think we calmed down somewhat over the first year, but now I find myself thinking, "Am I going to harm my second child if I put her down for five minutes to spend some time by herself at 4 months old?"

Oster looked at as many studies, surveys, and other information gathering resources for various things like benefits of breastfeeding, sleep training, day-care vs stay-at-home mom, etc. And the data overwhelmingly shows for just about everything you likely won't harm your child provided you're making the best choice for your family.

Take breastfeeding - one of the biggest mommy war fights. There's a huge campaign for breast is best. Woman are shamed for formula feeding. Yet the data shows there's really only a short term benefit for kids and not nearly as huge as the breastfeeding community claims. I breastfed my first and I plan on breasfeeding my second because, for me, it was ultimately more convenient. But it was really nice to see that if I do need to formula feed my child, I'm not going to cause harm.

The only exception to this whatever you choose likely won't harm your child was the chapter on vaccines. The evidence is overwhelming that vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and you should vaccinate your child.

My favorite part of the entire book, however, was the passage on illnesses. Perhaps it's because we just went through the cold from hell that took out the entire family. But I will quote the entire passage here because it's just too god to not share. I read it out loud to my partner, and we laughed so hard, our cold ridden bodies had long coughing fits.

As the parent of a young child, you will spend the period from October to April drowning in a lake of snot. To many of us, it may seem that our child has a cold, or possibly some other illness, literally all the time. If you have two children or, god forbid, more than two, the winter months are a haze of repeated illnesses: you, kid 1, kid 2, your partner, back to kid 2, now kid 1 again. Usually there's a dose of stomach flu somewhere in the middle (you all get that, obviously). 
This can naturally leave you wondering, Is this normal? Is everyone else spending their life savings on tissues with lotion, too?
Basically, yes.
Kids younger than school age get an average of six to eight colds a year, most of them between September and April. This works out to about one a month. These colds last on average fourteen days. A month is thirty days. So in the winter, on average, your kid will have a cold 50 percent of the time. On top of this, most kids end their cold with a cough that can last additional weeks. It adds up.
Part of me wants to say this book is a must read, if for no other reason than it will hopefully help end the mommy wars. Seriously moms! Can we stop being so freaking judgmental of each other? It's also really helpful in relieving some anxiety. For example, we were an absolute no cry sleep family for my first, and it was exhausting. From what I'm reading here, sleep training does not actually harm your child, and it does help prevent things like depression, or other sleep deprived mood issues which make things better for everyone. The author is funny. the book is a quick read.

That being said, a lot of it is common sense. By the time you have your second kid, you've likely figured a lot of this out for yourself. It's worth noting, she has another book called Expecting Better for during pregnancy. I've not read it, nor do I plan to ever be pregnant again, but it sounds like it could be worth checking out.

Counts for the Library Love challenge.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Guernsey Literary and potato Peel Pie Society

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Pages: 274
Finished: February 22, 2020

First Sentence: Dear Sidney, Susan Scott is a wonder.

Summary: While on tour for her Izzy Bickerstaff essays, Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a man named Dawsey Adams. Dawsy, a resident of the Channel Island of Guernsey, mentions how reading saved him and many of his friends during the Nazi Occupation during World War II. This spawns a rampant curiosity in Juliet who finds herself not only corresponding with the residents of Guernsey, but also traveling there to write a book.

Thoughts: Full confession, this book has been on my radar since it came out, but my first actual experience with the story was through the adaptation on Netflix. I remember the title and the cover catching my eye when I was a shelver, but for some reason, the story never caught my attention enough to convince me to check it out. So I have seen the movie now three or four times and felt it time to read the book. Thus, many of my reactions to the novel are in relation to how I compare it to the movie.

I was surprised to find it's an epistolary novel. The epistolary nature of the novel made it a fairly quick read. The only reason it took me so long to get through it is due to the general plague that has entered our household. 2020 starting out with a bang.

In general, I really appreciated this book. It was simple enough that I didn't feel I was analyzing. Having seen the movie already, it was a familiar story, though with the many understandable differences that come with a book vs. movie adaptation. Even though there was discussion about the WWII atrocities, most of the book was about the recovery which made it less horrific to read. And there was the general reverence for reading that was just lovely.

Though the movie version changed some of the characters around a bit and obviously took quite a few of them out, I found myself unbothered by the differences. A book is a book, and a movie is a movie. Movies tend to need more conflict than books do.

Really I just liked Guernsey. I loved that Juliet never felt the need to leave it in the book. I also liked how quickly she kicked Mark to the curb in the book too, though to be fair, his character was fairly different in the book vs. the movie.

I think the authors really touched on the humanity of war. That just because two countries are at war with each other doesn't mean that all humans on "the other side" are necessarily evil. That there's a lot of grey area. And that people are much more resilient than we like to give ourselves credit for.

In general, I really appreciated that Juliet got to know many of the Club members through letters before she met them. I felt that was fairly impetuous of her in the movie and am glad it didn't come across that way in the book. I appreciated all the stories about Elizabeth. What a remarkable character who we never meet in person! I absolutely will be adding Charles Lamb to my list of authors to read. This was a fun, diverting story through the last two weeks.

Counts for Beat the Backlist, Library Love, and Virtual Mount to be Read challenges.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Trader by Charles de Lint

Title: Trader
Author: Charles DeLint
Pages: 352
Finished: February 8, 2020

First Sentence: If dreams can be portents of what is to come, then I had my fair share of forewarning before my life was stolen away.

Summary: Max Trader, a luthier drifting through life, wakes one morning to find himself in the body of Johnny Devlin, a toxic, selfish man whose life is ruined. Suddenly, Max, in Jonny's body, finds himself having to deal with homelessness, people who hate him, and a whole host of other problems while trying to get his body back.

Thoughts: This one is really interesting. First, the story is told in many different points of view. Max's, then all the other people who surround his life. However, Max is the only one whose narration is in first person. Everyone else is in third person. It changes the way one sees the characters. Also, we never get Devlin's point of view.

Familiar characters come in and out. Jilly plays a side role. I feel like we've either met Bones or his partner Cassie before. Sophie's mentioned, though we don't see her. Geordie is of course busking. I even recognize Fitzhenry Park. I'd say this has been my favorite part of this project so far. I enjoy revisiting Newford. I enjoy seeing how it ages from the 80s to the mid 90s. I love the people who keep popping up.

As for this book, it was a very compelling story. I like how de Lint doesn't shy away from things not coming out perfect. The fantasy feels significantly more real. More possible. but even so, I still enjoy reading it. It's not as frustrating to read as realistic fiction is. The characters felt believable even if they frustrated me at times due to how realistic they are. All in all, happy to read this in my de Lint line up.

This book counts for the following challenges: Beat the Backlist, Virtual Mount To Be Read, Personal Newford Challenge, and Library Love. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Prime Time Parenting by Heather Miller

Title: Prime Time Parenting
Author: Heather Miller
Pages: 216
Finished: February 1, 2020

Summary: Heather Miller, the Director of LePage-Miller, Inc, and education firm based out of New York City, has come up with a two hour schedule that she says will fix all your school-night issues. The book walks through the schedule in great detail. The first half hour, the kids get started on homework while you cook dinner. The second half hour is dinner. Third half hour, kids finish homework while you supervise. For the last half hour, it's bathtime and bedtime with a decent routine. Then, once the kids are in bed at a reasonable hour, it's time for parent only time.

Thoughts: The book is a quick read. Nothing scholarly.

That being said, it's really a lot of common sense with a dash of prioritization. I didn't find any of her ideas earth-shattering or new. I was bothered by the fact that there were no notes or citations within the body of text. In fact, there is a list of citations in the back of the book, but there's no notion of it. And not all of her sources seem particularly credible. I was not all that impressed with her list of resources either.

In the end, like with most parenting books I read, there are some ideas I'll take, and others I'll throw by the wayside. With my firstborn going to school next year, I am aware we'll need to change up our current routine. Add a baby in the mix, and it's nice to have an outline that I can play with rather than having to create something from complete scratch.

That being said, I didn't feel like this book was as groundbreaking as it made itself out to be. But that may be more due to my parenting style than anything else.

This impulse read counts as a Library Love title as I acquired it from the parenting display at work. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?
Still plugging away at Anna Karenina. It's not quite 20 minutes a day anymore thanks to a really rough week that threw everything out of whack. I'm enjoying this book far more than I could have ever imagined.

I'm also working on a de Lint novel called Trader about body switching. It's a bit slower of a read than I typically find de Lint to be. Enjoyable, just slow.

I started a parenting book a couple nights ago as well called Prime Time Parenting. It's a little preachy, but I think we could incorporate some of those ideas to make things run more smoothly in our house.

What did you recently finish reading?
I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray last week. It did not sit well at all. Review is here.

Also finished a graphic novel for work called The Queen of the Sea. Not my favorite. Review is here.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I have a second parenting book from the library sitting on my bedside table that I'm looking forward to. Northanger Abbey is also staring at me. The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society is sitting in the hold room at work. I have a week to pick it up, so I'm going to try and get through two other library books before I do so to prevent my pile from getting to unwieldy. Also! Our library just started automatically renewing things! It's as awesome as it sounds. I love it.

Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

Title: Queen of the Sea
Author: Dylan Meconis
Pages: 394
Finished: January 27, 2020

First Sentence: A queen.... does not abandon her people.

Summary: Margaret has spent all her life in the Convent of Elysia on the Island. They're visited twice a year by a ship to get supplies, but otherwise, life is just a quiet day of routine in a convent. But then the ship brings new arrivals - a boy named William, and then years later, a woman named Eleanor. And with these new arrivals comes politics, intrigue, and the threat of prison.

Thoughts: I am working to read more children's literature to be more effective at my job. As a department, we're working to read more diversely and out of our comfort zones. This book is definitely not a book I would typically pick.

First and foremost, it's a graphic novel (or a illustrated hybrid depending on who you talk to). Graphic novels are not my forte. I forget to look at the pictures and then miss half the story. I'm sure if I practiced at it, I'd be better, but I'd rather save my reading brain for classics.

Secondly, the book is historical fiction. I like history. I don't particularly enjoy historical fiction. Particularly kids historical fiction for whatever reason.

But I read it. The story is inspired by the early years after King Henry VIII's son Edward's death and the turmoil of succession that followed. We follow Margaret, a ward of the nuns of Saint Elysia who live on the Island. Margaret is fairly ignorant of what life is like in Albion, but when she gains and then loses a friend, she finds out the Island is really a prison for those the King declares his enemy.

It was... boring. I'm sure there's a middle school who would be all over this, but it was just rough. Firstly, it feels like the book goes through two complete story arcs one after another. First with William, then with Eleanor. I was ready for the book to be over when William left. The intrigue wasn't strong enough for me to really want to keep going.

We don't get to know the nuns that well, but they seem innocuous enough. Margaret is a kid moving into preteen who feels believable to me. But the two main women who we meet are fairly unlikeable. And the nun/guard is evil to the levels of Kai Wynn. I don't mind unlikeable women in novels. Scarlet O'Hara is an example of an unlikeable woman who I actually didn't mind reading about. But this one was hard to really enjoy any of them.

I wonder how much of it was due to the graphic novel nature of the book.

Anyway. Read for work. Would recommend to middle schoolers interested in Tudor England. Could potentially be a read-alike for Redwall depending on what it is someone likes about Redwall. No talking mice, but plenty about convent life.

This book also counts as a LibraryLove Book as I did, in fact, check it out from work.