Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Oh my stars!  You know how when I started this blog I said that I wanted to find those books that were the "if you only have time to read one this one" kind of books?  (She asks her possibly imaginary, definitely invisible fan base friends.)  Well, Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is one of those books.

It is the future Gulf Coast and the ocean liners of our time lay like dinosaur skeletons along the coastline, outdated and rusted, relics of the Accelerated Age with its fossil fuels and crude steel.  Our protagonist, Nailer, and his crew are shipbreakers, scavengers climbing through the tight ducts and deadly mazes of the monoliths to pull out precious copper wire and anything else of value for their crew bosses, trying to earn quota.  It is a harsh existence, a mad struggle for survival in a shanty town of drug addicts and tribe-like crews, where it is every man or woman for themselves and even crew loyalties, though sworn by blood, are never a certainty.  It is the only life Nailer has known.  On the horizon he can see the clipper ships, shiny and new, travelling to destinations unknown, far away from the life of violence, poverty and pain to which he is accustomed.  When he and his crew mate Pima come across a wrecked clipper and find the salvage includes a surviving young "swank," a girl of a high social order with more wealth in one piece of jewelry than they would see in a lifetime, Nailer imagines there might be a way out for him, a chance at a better life.  But the risks, dangers and intrigue involved on his journey are more than even he could have imagined.

When I started this book, I knew it was good.  I read a chapter and loved the dystopian setting, the Mad Max-ish feel of the whole thing.  But I put it down, waiting for a "good time" to read.  A mystical time when I didn't have babies to feed, children to teach, dinner to get on the table.  I thought I would sneak in a chapter here and a chapter there between my responsibilities and post-9:00 p.m. narcolepsy.  Today my sweet wee Puddle is not feeling well and needing to be held while he naps, so I thought to myself, "Well, this will be a good time to read."  By chapter three, I was a goner.  Like, throwing hot dogs and Little Debbie snacks at the kids, yes-you-may-use-a-Sharpie-to-do-your-copywork-just-leave-Mummy-alone kind of gone.  I didn't just want to keep reading.  I needed to.  I had to.  It was my life's purpose.  

This book is like The Lord of the Flies, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Horatio Hornblower had a baby in a post-apocalyptic, quasi-industrial world and it works.  Like, really works.  All the way.  I was engrossed the entire time, always thinking the end of the next chapter would be a good place to stop, always on the edge of my seat and wanting more by the time it arrived.  I loved the moral ambiguity of the characters.  From the tattooed, scarred shipbreakers to the well-dressed, haughty swanks, the only thing at times distinguishing the "good" guys from the "bad" is a lack of purely evil intention.  This story is fast-paced and as rough as the shipbreakers themselves, but it is also well-crafted, imaginative and a really, really good read.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Spice of Life

Whoa, wait!  It's September already?!?  August has come and gone and I've failed to blog.  Failed to write.  Failed to read.  Just...failed.

Don't get me wrong.  I've been reading.  "Back to school" is back to school for many of us homeschoolers as well so I've been doing lots of reading.  Curriculum guides and catalogs.  Articles about homeschool.  Blogs about homeschool.  Posts about homeschool.  I've got homeschool coming out of my ears.  I've scheduled junk, then rescheduled junk, then gone back and rescheduled the originally rescheduled junk.  I've read Tigger (a board book inspired by A.A. Milne) 556 times.  I've read Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, lots of Beatrix Potter, and a few Lego comic books.  I have listened to my children read me Curious George, Dick and Jane, and whatever else captures their fancies.

Then there are all these mouths to feed.  Puddle has made the leap from boob to food at long last (he will be one at the end of the month), so I'm of course pureeing organic fruits and veggies in my Magic Bullet and visiting a local farm to procure fresh, organic goat's milk to supplement as we wean.  *giggle*  *snort*  Just kidding.  I mean, I did a couple of times.  Puree the food, that is.  That goat thing was just a pipe dream I entertained shortly before I bought a can of Similac.  But I did just feed him a jar of organic (*pats self on back*) pears, raspberries and asparagus which he ate, taking a moment between each bite to make a face and do a little shiver-shake, as if to say "there is something distinctly off with these pears."  So that's just the baby.  There are four other people, myself not included, that expect to be fed as well.  More reading.  About meal planning for large families and crock pot meals and freezer meals and freezer crock pot meals.

So between all of this reading and planning and planning to read and then actually executing the plans I've read for (and PopSugar and BuzzFeed; I ain't gonna lie), there has been precious little time for "me" stuff.  You know, those silly little things like exercise and hair cuts.  And, most importantly, reading books designed for people above the age of 13.

But I had a moment today while feeding Puddle his fruity asparagus whilst Toot screamed as if his cheese pizza was...well, pureed pears, raspberries and asparagus.  Variety might be the spice of life, but not all combinations are winners.  You don't want curry in your pumpkin pie and you probably don't really need asparagus in your pears either (yes, I realize I'm the one who actually bought the stuff).  While trying to create the perfect mix of homeschooling genius, I may be throwing in a little too much of this and too much of that.  The kids don't have to do every activity, attend every event no matter how enriching, and if they go a day without reviewing their French, we're probably going to be okay.  So for the millionth time and probably not the last, I'm taking a big deep breath, a big step back, and recommitting myself to a few basic non-negotiables.  1) I get to run, 2) I get to read, and 3) My Precious is mine,  minions!  Get your grubby little jelly-covered hands off of it!!  Just kidding, of course.  I love every single one of my four munchkins, sticky fingers and all.  But, no, seriously, hands off.  Mummy has some reading to do.