19 August 2011

4. The Happiest Baby on the Block

If I was asked to write a blurb for the back cover of this little books I'd say: "This shit really works!"

We got this as a hand-me-down and left it on the book shelf with all of the other hand-me-down books on the "we'll get to it later" pile. Then Mrs Crumbolst came over and said it was a good book, so we checked it out sooner rather than later. 

There's a lot of clutter - annoying examples of what not to do, what we have done as North American/yuppy parents for generations, and what other cultures/non-yuppy parents do for their crying newborns - before they finally land on the practical advice of how to calm your freaking out newborn. When our newborn starts to freak, we apply the advice in the book and within a few seconds we have a non freaking out newborn. Rarely does it take a whole minute.

I strongly, strongly recommend this book if you are about to have a baby.

3. What to Expect When You're Expecting

We were expecting so I read it. It helped me manage my expectations. A lot of it is stuff you already know if you are a big brother or have a niece or nephew, but it's good to review when you're the parents responsible for the decisions.

2. Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian

We begin again at Ashgrove Cottage, with Jack Aubrey zealously spending the prize money and earnings from The Mauritius Command. This time new orders come in for Jack and Stephen at almost the same time. They are to take the Leopard, an old 50-gun, fourth rate ship, to Australia and restore order after William Bligh (of the Bounty) suffers another mutiny. Since they are going that way, they are tasked to bring a set of prisoners, including a spy, for delivery in Australia's penal colony.

Doldrums; gaol fever (typhus that infects a lot of the crew, including our beloved Pullings); a stop to drop off the sick in Brazil; a long and stressful chase with the Dutch 74 Waakzaamheid in bad weather and stormy seas in the Roaring 40s that finally, finally comes to blows; icebergs; and a very near sinking from icebergs where Jack allows some of the crew off in lifeboats; Desolation Island where the Leopard attempt some repairs; and a visit from an American whaler. There is also a lot of neat natural science research for Stephen on Desolation Island.

This was a good combination of Jack and Stephen's character development. The entire book is one, long passage, where nothing in particular happens. Stephen does have a lot of opportunities for development with the health of the prisoners, trying to figure out what the deal is with the American spy Mrs Wogan, and all of the research he is able to conduct on seals, albatrosses, and penguins once they reach the Southern Ocean and Desolation Island - which my Harbors and High Seas companion book suggests is probably Kerguelen Island. Jack is developed in the usual way - long letters to Sophie and ruminations on the effectiveness of the crew he inherits and collects - but we also get to see him in two emergencies, the slow, long run from the Waakzaamheid, and the near sinking from the iceberg. The first is a chess match played in foul weather and the second is a frenetic puzzling while the ships slowly sinks into frigid seas.

I enjoyed this one as much as I did the first book. And the next book, Fortunes of War, is a direct sequel to this one.

Here's a nice sentence: "The sun rose on a sea in labour, the crests riding ahead of the swell and breaking: creaming water from horizon to horizon except in the bottom of the troughs, much deeper now; while from every height the wind tore foam, drops and solid water, driving it forward in a grey veil that darkened and filled the air" (245-46).

1. The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian

Captain Jack Aubrey is sent to Mauritius to beat on some Frenchies who have established a base in the Indian Ocean. This French naval base is a real problem for the East India merchant ships, and so Jack is sent to take the islands and establish a British naval base on them. Another great book by Patrick O'Brian, the fourth in the series. We get a lot of gunpowder porn, some Marine work on the beach at La Reunion and Mauritius, and some Naval bureaucracy.