Book Bytes: The Value of Persuasion

"Cassandra, honestly, as a sister, if you're going to draw me disproportionately, could you at least give me some longer lashes or something?"

“Cassandra, honestly, as a sister, if you’re going to draw me disproportionately, could you at least give me some longer lashes or something?”

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book that mentions a famous book you have never read? Did it ever persuade you to read the book?  I read the Gothic classic The Mysteries of Udolpho because it was mentioned in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  Similarly I read the sci-fi classic A Wizard of Earthsea because it was mentioned in The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler.

Now did anyone watch The Lake House? There are two awesome things in that movie. One: (I’m sorry in advance…) But somehow, Keanu Reeves rocks, and I mean — rocks, a blazer and turtleneck.  It’s almost magical (Ladies?  Am I right??). I generally loathe turtlenecks, but darn it! Don’t get me started.  Fwew. OK!

And Two: Sandra Bullock’s favorite book in the movie is Persuasion by Jane Austen – which is also my favorite Jane Austen book. In fact, I heard the whole movie is a loose interpretation of the book, which seems to be very loose indeed to me.  I suppose they are both about a happy ending coming after a long wait, but I don’t see the whole crux of the major dilemma in the movie being a life altering decision that the heroine was persuaded to make in her youth, as it is in the book. Thoughts, anyone?

Furthermore, despite a turtlenecked Keanu in the movie saying the premise of Persuasion sounded “terrible” (I think, could not find quote online), the book is actually wonderful. Besides the biting social satire and clever commentary, it contains possibly the quintessential love letter of classic literature, coming after a very long and very emotionally painful separation of lovers. It reads thusly:

 “I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”
― Jane AustenPersuasion

Persuasion,  by Jane Austen

Persuasion,
by Jane Austen

Who could resist that? Can you imagine getting a note like that from someone whom you were in unrequited love with for years? Wouldn’t you just turn to goo? Like, pleasant, happy goo (not like ectoplasm or anything).

So if you are in need of some biting social satire, awesome dialogue, and just some general “aaaaaaaaaaw!” in your life, I highly recommend Persuasion. It’s free on Kindle and at your local library. Enjoy!

And now… Time for a Coffee…

Maddy

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Green Halloween: Health and Beauty Bytes

Green is the New Black

OPI Shatter the Scales for accent over greenish gold polish.

OPI Shatter the Scales for accent over greenish gold polish.

So last week’s “Health” section of Health and Beauty Bytes went a little long so I didn’t get to include any fun manicure looks. Black would just be too predictable, right?  So here I’m showcasing 2 green-toned color schemes you can rock for Halloween without feeling like you have to remove them once the kiddies have passed out in sugar-comas.

First up is a shot of a pretty gold and green-toned chromey Gap brand nail polish (which has probably been discontinued!), with OPI Shatter the Scales layered over the accent finger.  You can get close to this same look with OPI Just Spotted the Lizard as the main polish color also — it’s just a bit darker and greener.

Superbass Shatter on accent over Butter London Wallis

Superbass Shatter on accent over Butter London Wallis

Speaking of a bit darker, here’s a shot of one of my favorite polishes ever, Butter London in Wallis, with OPI Superbass

Shatter over the accent finger.  I am especially happy with this color combo and contrast.  I’ve been wearing it for a week! I think this would also look great with the shatter over all the fingers, or maybe 3? As always, 2 coats of the main polish over a fortifying base, and under a speed dry topcoat was used for these looks.

10-28-13-girl

See actual photo below!

Little Girl Manicure

My little Miss is going to be a vampire this year, so I had planned a reverse French manicure look with Sally Hansen Sugar Coat polish in Candy Corn (bright orange) as the tip color over a dark base, with a light coat of gold glitter over the whole nail as a topper.  As I’ve said before, the textured polishes seem to last longer, so they WOULD BE especially handy for a kiddie manicure… however she insisted on plain black.  So here it is. :p

Book Update

So I’m finishing Chasing Magic tonight, and it’s (as usual with the series) really good.  It’s a gritty, painful, heart-wrenching “good” most times, but so good none-the-less. I’m going to need to clear the drug-addled literary cobwebs after this one though (Chess manages to finally overdose in this one – good thing her man keeps nasal opiate inhibitors in his car! Thoughtful, no? …eek?).  Last night the library did not cooperate as I was going to pick up Insurgent since Allegiant just came out a few days ago to wrap up the trilogy. So

Outpost, by Ann Aguirre

Outpost,
by Ann Aguirre

instead I went with Outpost by Ann Aguirre which is about zombies, and 2nd in the Razorland trilogy. Speaking of series, I also picked up the hefty Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead.  It’s the final book of the Vampire Academy series and I wasn’t super excited with the last installment, however, I’m so close to finishing the series, I can’t stop now, right? Well I could – I dropped the Black Dagger Brotherhood series – it happens. I just prefer to finish! And with that, Happy Halloween! and…

Time for a (spooky) Coffee,

Maddy

 

And here they are! Little Miss' Halloween mani. I tried to persuade her for some glitter (at least!), but no.C'est la kid!

And here they are! Little Miss’ Halloween mani. I tried to persuade her for some glitter (at least!), but no.
C’est la kid!

 

Books: Fifty Shades of Grey – Top 3 Reasons I can’t finish the Trilogy

10-14-13-50shadesAaaah, Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James. After finally finishing this book last weekend, I find it to be truly fascinating that this book is so popular and is being adapted into a movie.  Although I am in the main “married female over 30” demographic, I honestly don’t see the appeal. I assume it’s the BDSM component here that enticed everyone to read it in the first place, because otherwise the narrative is to me, mediocre at best. After reading the plot synopsis for book two Fifty Shades Darker, I am really struggling to understand why so many people have gone on to finish the series.

This book has been out for 2 years, so you can expect some spoilers in here. I am also attempting to keep this critique PG-13, which is no easy task, let me tell you!

So in a nutshell, boy meets girl. Boy presents girl with a non-disclosure agreement regarding his BDSM lifestyle.  Boy then presents girl with lavish gifts and a lengthier BDSM contract detailing activities (that will make your hair curl) that the girl is supposed to agree to engage in for 3 months. The lines get blurred a bit and although said girl never signs the contract, she is introduced to certain acts that by the end of the book finally throw her over the edge and have her run for the hills.  Boy’s proclivities drive a wedge between them and their budding “romance.”

Top 3 Reasons Why I Won’t Finish the Series

1)      50 Shades of… how not to treat your lady

Admittedly, BDSM erotica is not really my bag, per say. In general I love a nice action-packed Urban Fantasy, or Paranormal Romance. However the

Thank you sir, may I (please not) have another!

Thank you sir, may I (please not) have another!

severe sociological and emotional deficiencies of the hero bothered me even more than the outré sex play.  One of the best elements for me in a relationship-based novel is the distinct feelings of respect, love, and even reverence that the heroes usually feel for their heroines and vice versa (even though they do indeed want to have their way with them, many, many times).

In many of my favorite books the hero is often risking his or her life to save their love from something dire, like being beaten. She’s killing villains in 20 different ways to keep her man safe. Sometimes he is dying, and being resurrected, all in the name of love, and for the one he loves. However in Fifty Shades of Grey, our “hero” Christian Grey (gorgeous control freak/stalker/international businessman) although wanting to keep his Anastasia safe from others, wants most ardently, to spank her until she cries. But maybe first he’ll tie her up with cable ties, make her call him Sir, debase and humiliate her a little, and then, spank her ‘til she cries – then have his way with her. Even if Anastasia is enjoying some or most of Christian’s treatment – ew bugs. It just makes your skin crawl in a decidedly not fun, American Psycho-esque kind of way.

We learn a little about his issues and why he does what he does and feels the need to dominate, control, and punish, but honestly I just didn’t care.  I didn’t care why he was doing shocking things to this naïve virgin — I just kept hoping he’d stop doing them.

2)      The Writing Style

If you read my September 23rd post you know that I was annoyed at the number of times the heroine, Anastasia says “Oh my” half way through the book. Well sad to say, by the end of the book, she has said “oh my” approximately 56 times – which should clue you into the level of literary craftsmanship we’re dealing with here.

Aside from redundant exclamations, another writing issue I had was that more than half of the book is spent inside Anastasia’s head. The old writing rule of “show not tell” is pretty much disregarded here. At times the reader is just going through pages and pages of Anastasia’s thoughts.  Of course our heroine is boxed into a corner because she is not allowed to discuss her relationship with Christian with any of the other characters due to the non-disclosure agreement he had her sign, so she is constantly debating things inside her own mind. So if the author wanted a way to avoid writing a lot of external dialogue, mission accomplished.

3)      Random Unsavory/Annoying Details

Hmmm, I see a lot of medicated ointment and doughnut cushions in your future...

Hmmm, I see a lot of medicated ointment and doughnut cushions in your future…

For example, there is a scene, where Christian and Anastasia make love in the bathroom, while she is um, having her time of the month – the 2nd day of it, to be exact. In reality, I suspect very few ladies out there find that to be an ideal experience – there are just basic biological reasons why it is less comfortable at that time of the month to, go to town, so to speak, especially on day 2 or 3. But in the book, of course, it’s just a wonderful romp! OK, fine. However, then they take a bath together, and eventually have round 2 in the tub… Excuse me, what? Seriously? A bath?? How about just a shower for heaven’s sake? I mean – did this bother anyone else? I’d say most body fluids you just don’t want to poach in, especially not ones that don’t always dissolve completely, if you know what I mean. Enough said. Just, so not hot.

Here’s another annoying detail – what kind of college scholar, Pike’s Place loving, 20-something living in Portland or Seattle – hipster capitals of the Northwest –  has no clothes?  Every single non-school or work outfit was borrowed from her roommate.  She even took her roommate’s clothing on vacation with her. I mean, sure, it’s good not to be consumed with fashion, but come on, she doesn’t own a single decent dress?  Her mother had to buy her new clothes when she went to go visit.  It’s one thing if she doesn’t like dresses and doesn’t usually wear them (ala Kate Daniels), but Anastasia is constantly wearing dresses in this book, they just belong to the roommate, and we never really get an explanation why.  I think we’re supposed to gather from this that Anastasia is not interested in material things, but really, she just sounds sort of cheap. Note: We don’t even see her washing or having her roommate’s clothes dry-cleaned after all this use either. (I would so cut her off.)

In summary, there were some bits about wine and music that I liked, and that’s pretty much it.  I was intrigued enough by the story to read the synopses of books two and three to see how the series ends, but am not going to read the actual novels.

Ironically this morning I just heard the news that Charlie Hunnman has dropped out of the film adaptation of the movie. Second thoughts about portraying a deeply emotionally dysfunctional control-freak and sexual deviant?  You don’t say?! Or maybe just get a bunch of PR without actually having to play Christian Grey? If so — well played, Hunnman.  Well played.

In other book news, and just in time for Halloween, I am finally reading Chasing Magic, by Stacia Kane.  Each book seems to get a little grosser than the last with the black magic, but at least I can’t imagine Terrible wanting to belt-whip Chessie for amusement – even a drug dealer’s enforcer has better manners!

And now, time for a coffee,

Maddy

Why Witchcraft is Best Left to the Professionals… in Fiction

Witchcraft is definitely more fun in books!

Witchcraft is definitely more fun in books!

Tomorrow we usher in my old childhood favorite holiday and preceding 30 spookiest days of the year: October/Halloween. In honor of the impending creepiness, I thought I would take a trip down memory lane to the one, I repeat, ONE time I tried to cast a love spell on someone back in college, and the wackiness that ensued (and by wacky I mean unpleasant and ironically bad).

I’m a big fan of cautionary tales.  Some of life’s greatest lessons I have learned without having to live through them, but by watching others of my acquaintance do so and by storing the happy (or all too often unhappy) consequences away in the old memory banks for future reference. Now, unfortunately for me (but not for you), this lesson I’m writing about was learned the hard way.

So back in college, maybe around the time I saw that classic of modern cinema called The Craft, I had a huge crush on this guy in one of my English classes – we’ll call him Mr. X. Looking back I can’t even fathom why I liked this guy except that he seemed witty in class, was tall, and my college was 70% female, so cute, single boys were about as easy to get as a snitch on a quidditch field.

So I pined for him for almost an entire semester but he never spoke to me and he seemed to be oblivious to my existence. It was the final week of the semester and I felt it was time to take drastic measures. Enter the witchcraft!  OK, now no, I did not have a spellbook, or even a spell, but I’d seen every episode of Betwitched and Charmed and I really felt like I could make something happen if I put my all into it. So I bought a candle (the student bookstore was selling wiccan candles – how convenient!), but I don’t remember which color, they all claimed to have different meanings though. I wrote my intention on a piece of paper(“Please make Mr. X like me!”), lit my candle, and I suppose “meditated” on it is a good choice of words.  I did this for some time, maybe half an hour, til my wish was good and cooked, then I burnt my slip of paper and crossed my fingers.

Well readers, let me tell you, it worked, and it worked way too easily.  It could have passed as sheer coincidence if Mr. X had not merely immediately started speaking to me of his own accord the very next day in class, but by the end of the same week, he had asked me out on a date. Whoever (or whatever) was the recipient of my paper wish was certainly not messing around.

However, I was naïve and not really believing in any serious witchcraft and/or The Rule of Three, I happily accepted this mysteriously inspired date, when I should have stayed home and washed my hair. The date was not what I expected. Here are a few reasons why:

1)      After 3 months of being completely ignored by this guy, he suddenly thought I was the prettiest, most hilarious, and most charming girl in the world. Twenty minutes into the date he even told me “jokingly” that he loved me because I knew what Captain Kirk’s middle name was (which is admittedly some good trivia to know, but still).

2)      Then, over the course of the evening (movie and coffee at café I think) he tried at least three times to take me back to his apartment. You like that book?  He’s got it at his apartment. You need a phone?  He’s got a phone at his apartment (imagine that!). You have a headache?  He’s got aspirin at his apartment too! He’d say anything to try and lure me back there.  This was a first date – so not my style – so I kept refusing.

3)      So of COURSE, after the café, when he was supposed to be on the freeway taking me home, he took me to his apartment. I cannot stress how upset I was.

“Where are we going,” I asked in dismay. “I want to go home.”

“Oh I just need to pick something up at my place first,” he smiled, lead-footing it over to his apartment. [Note to the young single ladies – never let a first date pick you up!  It’s always good to have a getaway car at your disposal, especially if your date has been coerced by supernatural forces to ask you out. (!)]

So back to the car. I attempted to wait in the car for him to get whatever it was he claimed he needed, which in retrospect could have been cable ties and duct tape.  However no need to fear what he could have gotten alone, as he was not alone, because he did in fact beg, beg, beg me to come inside and see is place. Fearing that he was never going to take me home without seeing his damned place, I went in.  I went in, in fact, and stood near the door clutching my purse the entire time. He tried to make me a drink – tried to get me to sit – tried to get me to admire his roommates snake (?), but I just hovered by the door until he gave up and took me home. Upon arrival at my Mom’s house, I tried to scurry inside and wave goodbye – I even got the screen door closed when he said, “Wait – no goodnight kiss??”

Now, have I recounted anything so far in my behavior that seemed like a signal for romance?  I should think not.  So I think I opened the door and gave him a half-hug and told him goodnight(way too nice in retrospect). Either the guy had a serious lack of understanding of social cues, or we can blame the hocus pocus, because he then began to phone-stalk me for a couple weeks. When I finally mustered up the courage to call him and give him the old “it’s not you it’s me” and “let’s be friends,” he snarled “F— being friends,” at me through the phone, and hung up, never to be heard from again. Thank God.

So the moral of the story is, if the object of your affection does not know you exist, you may feel free to go up and say a cordial “Hello,” but for heaven’s sake do not light any candles and burn any paper wishes as you may be soundly slapped with some unsavory paranormal results, in triplicate.

Let’s leave the witchcraft to the fabulous literary professionals, where we can close the cover and take a break when things get dicey.

My three favorite series of wizards and witches are:

9-30-13-Dresden

Harry Dresden: a wizard with quite a chivalrous streak — unlike my date!

1)   The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

2)   The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

3)   And as I’ve mentioned before, the Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane.

And for those of you keeping track, I am now 68% through with Fifty Shades of Grey, so stay tuned for my scathing review in the coming weeks…

Now, Time for a Coffee,

Maddy

So Many Books, So little Time…

Image

For my inaugural blog post here, I’m going to address a serious problem that fellow book-nerds everywhere may find to be at times, an almost crippling task – choosing what to read next. It’s like your next literary heroin fix, or what I imagine to be so, from what I have read in books (i.e., see Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series – Chess Putnam being the only chronic drug user I would not flee from in a dark alley). In fact I’m due soon for my next dose of Chess and Terrible (her knee-cap breaking boyfriend with a heart of gold), so much so I may be starting to get a little itchy and twitchy myself.

As I type this, I have an Outlook note posted on my desktop that has about 150 books on it in my reading cue, and many of these are the 1st installment of a series, so you can just imagine how many more books that’ll be in reality.  Years ago I used to buy and keep all my books – sort of a visual catalog of everything I had packed into my brain – the notches on my literary bedpost, as it were.  However the square footage of my “cozy” home being such that it is, that’s just not practical these days.  Subsequently I am a HUGE fan of my local Public Library.

My reading list is broken up into 3 sections; firstly, books I want to read that are not yet at the library.  Every few months I check through that list again and one will show up, like a bibliophilic treasure hunt. Secondly, I have a list of books that are actually at the library. And thirdly, I have the list of all the new books I haven’t yet searched for at the library.  I also have about 12 reviews in my inbox right now of books that have 4+ star ratings that I haven’t even moved over to my lists yet (sigh).

These days, apart from reading classics and classic spin-offs (such as A Jane Austen Daydream, by Scott D. Southard – a must for Jane Austen fans!), I’m reading a lot of paranormal YA, and paranormal romance.  I only subscribe to the Vampire Book Club for fun paranormal fiction recommendations because they have yet to steer me wrong, and I clearly am not in need of any additional daily recommendations in my inbox or on my lists (yipes). You can see what I’m reading on Goodreads. I’m currently reading three books – one of which is Fifty Shades of Grey, which I swore I wouldn’t read, but, I did hear that at the end of the trilogy there’s a bit of a Cinderella twist to the whole thing which helps me to cringe less, AND, I wanted to know why all the fans are opposed to this Charlie Hunnam chap as Christian Grey. He can’t possibly be as far off as Tom Hanks playing Robert Langdon (I’m still gagging), or Tom Cruise as Lestat (however, although completely physically wrong, he did do a great job, I have to admit). I will let you know my review when I finish.  I am at 24% and hands have already been tied once (ahem).

So what will I be reading next? It will either be Balthazar by Claudia Gray (‘tis almost Halloween season, after all), or Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane. How will I decide? It’s still a crapshoot, but after Fifty Shades I have a feeling I’ll need to dip into the YA pool again to cleanse my psyche a bit, if you know what I mean. 

So where do you get recommendations from? What have you read recently that was so gripping that you had to re-read or immediately get the next installment?  Let me know in a comment below, I’d love to know!

Time for coffee… Maddy