September 18th, 2010

_Teacher Man_, Frank McCourt (kindle)

Subtitled: A Memoir

I didn't read _Angela's Ashes_ or _Tis_, nor have I seen (any of) the movie(s). The descriptions have always left me flat.

However, I really enjoyed this month's selection from book group at the library in the small town I used to live in.

McCourt's writing is episodic, humorous, self-deprecating, picaresque. He covers a wide span of time, but not at an even pace. Threaded through the more-or-less standalone tales of teaching, drinking, womanizing, parenting, etc. is the story of a really unhappy, sad, lonely guy who doesn't really fit in anywhere and doesn't really connect to anyone, or at least not over any stretch of time. Sometimes, the person he connects to, like Eddie his boss at the docks, dies. Sometimes, as would appear to be the case with his wife, the connection takes a little too much damage over time.

McCourt tried a variety of things in an effort to improve himself: he visited a psychoanalyst and went to group briefly, he got a master's and attempted a doctorate. He switched schools. He got married, had a kid, got divorced. It was at Stuyvesant High School, however, where he finally found a place where he could be himself and, while he was still terrified of the possible consequences, the actual consequences were generally positive or at least benign.

The last third of the book in particular has some interesting teaching strategies and ideas. It's a quick and largely enjoyable read that isn't likely to do anyone any harm and might do some good. Some day, you should probably read it.

Everyone sick. Again.

This time, it is a very mild head cold/respiratory thing, not a stomach bug, so I guess that's something.

In unrelated news, I took T. to the Apple Store at Pheasant Lane and bought him the bottom end iPad and a very, very padded case for it. He also rode the little train and the little bus coin-op ride, and we got Munchkins. Needless to say, he had a great time. The iPad was intended to be a Christmas thing, however I was sick and tired of the kids fighting over who got to play with _my_ iPad. The new iPad is officially T.'s, mostly for watching videos (mostly Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). The old iPad is still mine, however A. has a couple apps on it that she loves, so whenever she starts climbing up on the hutch to get the little computer, I get it out and start it up for her. It's motivating her to improve her ability to point, so I guess that's something.

The second dollhouse (for B.'s house) arrived today. I did not unpack it, since it's going over there anyway. I am mildly curious what it looks like in person, but it's another Plan Toys thing so I have a good idea.

Yesterday I went to the consignment shop in West Acton and bought A. some doll furniture for the baby dolls: a bed, a wardrobe, a chair and a high chair. Very cute. Very not the kind of toy I ever thought I would be buying. To make up for it, I ordered an appalling amount of "sensory" toys. We'll see how that turns out. I also picked up an umbrella stroller for B. to have for A.'s use when they go to the mall.

We're loving the new Bob. We had a Sport Utility Stroller, which we passed along to B. since A. is finally outgrowing the Britax stroller we'd had from birth (the one that fit the car seat and the other seat for it could face either direction). I bought a pink-and-brown Revolution, so it has the swivel wheel that you can lock. Very nice, but the directions for the weather shield do not match the weather shield, which is a little confusing. We also bought a second Needak, for B.'s house. We haven't quite decided whether we're giving her the new one or the old one. On the one hand, the new one folds in half, which is very cool in terms of sticking it in the van and taking it with us on overnight trips. On the other hand, we're not sure how T. will react if we swap the rebounder. I'm in no hurry to find out, either.

_Blameless_, Gail Carriger (kindle)

It was a lot of fun. No cliffhanger to speak of (altho the kid isn't born yet), which makes me completely happy.

This third entry in the Parasol Protectorate follows Lady Maccon/Alexia Tarabotti as she leaves London to travel to Italy. She is pregnant, which is supposed to be impossible given she has only had intimate relations with a werewolf of sufficient age to no longer have active sperm and women preternaturals are supposedly unable to carry to term. However, she is a preternatural, which means her touch renders supes mortal, so all kinds of unlikely things happen around her.

Her husband has been completely unreasonable, and the attempts to kill her continue. She takes the charming cross-dressing inventor Madame Lefoux and her father's valet-of-few words with her. Their thinking is that the Templars in Italy probably know as much or more about Alexia's kind than anyone else and thus might be able to prove that Lord Maccon (a werewolf) really could be the father of Alexia's unborn infant-inconvenience. Unfortunately, it took a lot of doing to get Alexia's father _out_ of Italy, so this is not a risk-free research outing, even ignoring the ongoing efforts by the vampires to kill her and the child. Apparently the last time there was a preternatural/supernatural offspring, it had a vampire parent and the result was really, really, really scary.

The Biffy subplot promises to be _really_ interesting.

Readers who were really upset by Lord Maccon's behavior in book two may or may not be happy with the way the relationship is resolved in this entry. He spends a chunk of the book drunk off his ass on formaldehyde and his delay definitely endangers a variety of people. The Maccons get back together, and I thought the overall arc was plausible: Conall and Alexia are volatile, powerful and passionate people, so I was prepared to accept that they could both have a massive falling out and find a way to recover from it. Not everyone is going to be happy that Alexia took him back, and even those who might be may question whether the rough ride the author has put the reader through was really worth it.

I will confess to doing a certain amount of hoping that should Conall really become insufferable, Alexia will turn to Lefoux for comfort. Yum.

Many things are explained in this steampunky supernatural tale, including why the Italians so love their garlic. Vastly entertaining; I am quite looking forward to the next entry.