Olympics Wrap-Up

2-14-booksHello folks — how is everyone post-Olympics?
I pretty much watched all the prime-time coverage — cursing NBC for dragging out all the most-anticipated team USA performances until 11:15 PM. Listen NBC, don’t you understand that 11PM-Midnight is my sacred nightly reading time??  How dare you infringe!  However now that everything is available for download the next day, if coverage goes too late for the Rio Games in 2016 I will just watch my favorite events the next day on-demand.  Technology is useful sometimes.

Favorite Moment: Hmmm, there are so many, but I really enjoyed Euna Kim’s performance of her short figure skating program.  No one expected her be so awesome after recent pproblems, but she was — she was athletic and lovely all at once.  Beautiful performance.  And lovely dress and everything.  Some of the figure skaters wore these teeny, tiny little outfits that just looked like bathing suits with a flutter on the bum, but Euna Kim (and Gracie Gold) really kept things classy.

I also have to mention it was so cool that the Russian figure skating pairs couple won gold because that guy –Maxim Trankov – lived in and under the ice rink he was training at for three years! That poor bastard!  And last night I watched some of the Nancy Kerrigan/Tony Harding special and Harding is going on and on about how hard she had it training in a mall ice rink, etc.  Um, was she living AT the ice rink? She should go have a little chat with Maxim about making the best of your crappy situation and still kicking ass.

Least Favorite Moment:  The evil reporter that kept pressing Bode Miller in his post-run interview UNTIL HE WEPT.  Christ, woman! Have a heart!  And what’s up with with the reporters in general constantly asking the athlete’s about any and all relatives of theirs that have died recently?  What does that have to do with their sport??  “Were you thinking of your dead father/mother/brother/sister/child while doing that losing/winning run of your sport??” How about some congratulations for being among the best in the world and competing at the Olympics and go ahead leave the loss of loved ones off the table? I mean, way to be tacky. Ew.

BOOKS: On-wards with Frankenstein
2-14-frankensteinSo I am still only 64% through Frankenstein.  It’s not a super-fast read, clearly.  I have already mentioned how Viktor Frankenstein does not actually explain how he reanimates life, which was sort of annoying.  But later on, his “monster” — his super-articulate monster, finds him and explains to him how horrible his life has been since he was created a year ago.  A year ago in which he learned perfect French from eavesdropping on a French family off and on during the day.  I think he also taught himself to read as well.  So he woke up a blank slate, and within a year could speak the fluent French of an intellectual, even though he had only had ONE conversation with with a blind man once for 5 minutes before he was found and beaten on and chased away.

Um, I took a semester of French in college and can speak 3 other languages and I can barely say  “What time is it?” in French.  If the Frankenstein monster spoke the French of a 5 year old, OK, totally possible. But 5, 6, 7 chapters full of highly articulate first person narrative?  Not even close to believable.  Oh well.

Monster-narratives aside, there are also some beautiful, but exceedingly looooong descriptions of the Swiss Alps.  I mean, I’m down for a page or two of description, but there are literally chapters where nothing happens but Viktor Frankenstin hiking through the Alps. It’s amazing, and awesome, and I get it.  But too much.  I’m going to finish this book though. It won’t take me as long as when I suffered through Vanity Fair though.  I’ll give you the wrap-up when I finish!

And with that — time for a coffee,

Maddy

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January Wrap-Up

…So Dear Readers, when I say “follow up shortly” — sometimes that means in 3 weeks.  Just FYI.  o.O

I hope you’ve all been well and have been avoiding this horrible flu that is going around the country.  Speaking of the flu, and of following up shortly, I give you…

The Teenage Girls in Starbucks

Excuses, excuses...

Excuses, excuses…

So while waiting for my daughter to get out of an after-school class, I was whiling away an hour reading in Starbucks with my Caramel Flan Latte keeping me company while I attempted to enlighten myself with some Confucious.  At first I was just minding my own business and reading, but the incessant chatter and strangely nasal, lispy, almost valley-girl-like tones of my female, teenage neighbors finally broke down my concentration.  I started eavesdropping — I mean, if I’m going to be disturbed by them, they should at least afford me some sort of amusement, right?

Oddly I never actually looked at them — they were sitting too close for casual scrutiny — like 2 feet away from me, plus I was still pretending to read.  So I am judging them by their words alone, which really, is as it should be no?  In any case,  they discussed many silly things but the first thing that disturbed me was their discussion of the New Years Eve party some of them went to.  The most nasal and lispy of the bunch (I will call her Lispy for short), was upset that some girl at the party seemed to be judging her for underage drinking at the party.  She was really, really upset by this — which I thought was hilarious.  If you are such a rebel that you’re going to drink illegally, why should you care what your classmates think?  Were you drinking to excess?  Were you maybe embarrassing yourself?  Are you really upset that this other person does not approve of your underage drinking, or did they just make you feel guilty?  The Mom in me says “You go judgey classmate!”  I don’t want my daughter underage drinking either.  In fact, my own judgey inner highschool prude is also on the bandwagon with the judgey classmate, because my friends and I did not drink in highschool either.  I knew plenty of girls that did drink.  I also knew plenty of girls that got sickly drunk, and taken advantage of, and some who earned festive titles like “BJ Queen” and “Partytime.”  In fact, my judgey prude’s high-horse grew to Clydesdale proportions by graduation just from all the cautionary tales I observed in highschool.  But I digress.

So Lispy is still ranting about being upset about being judged and her friends are like “Oh totally, what else are you supposed to do on NYE — come on!”  When Lispy’s cell phone rings and she answers, “Oh God, hold on it’s my Mother.” And it went a little something like this:

Yes.  What?
Mom
Whyyyyy?
Mom
No I don’t want to. Why can’t we do that on Friday?  (it was Tuesday, BTW)
Mom
I really don’t have time for this right now.
Mom
No, I don’t see why it’s a big deal.
Mom
Well then I just don’t care.
Mom
Well you’re overreacting.
Mom
OK, whatever I’ve gotta go, byeee. CLICK

That was a simplification of the conversation obviously, but you get the gist.  So her friends asked what her Mom was saying and Lispy, in her huffiest voice relays that her Mom is insistent she gets a flu shot ASAP, and how she’s a total pain in the ass, etc.  The best part of this entire episode was that one of her friends (in a slightly less annoying voice) tells her in all seriousness, “Ohhh, aaaactually, there are like a bunch of people dying from the flu and stuff right now.  So your Mom actually has a point — you should totally get a flu shot.”  Lispy was stymied and they all left shortly thereafter.  I guess the revelation that your Mom’s not a blithering idiot kind of takes the wind out of your sails.

I sat there after they left quietly praying, “Oh please, please, please don’t let my daughter treat me like Lispy in 10 years!”  Ah, God.

Let’s not reflect on a potentially cruel future  —  let’s talk about happy thing — like books!
So I am currently reading Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.  Again, how did I escape private school and college without reading a classic like Frankenstein?  I don’t know.  So far so good — this is another vocab builder that makes me glad I have that handy dictionary feature on the Kindle!  I love learning new words — it’s actually retaining them that’s the hard part these days!  For example, I knew a chimera was a mythical Greek monster, but I did not know it also meant “a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve” — which I found out when I looked it up because I was wondering why the character kept talking about chimeras all the time.

Last night I just came upon the part where the main character finally discovers the secret to reanimating living tissue — which is amusing because the character (who is recounting the story) is like “Oh no, I won’t tell you how I did it because I don’t want your life to be ruined like mine.”  Sneaky way to avoid that description, Ms. Mary Shelley! Hah!
Anyway, I will let you know my review once I’ve finished.

And now, time for a coffee,

Maddy

 

 

Hipster Holiday Idea

"Girlfriend in a coma, I know..." you friggin' LOVE this sweater!

“Girlfriend in a coma, I know…” you friggin’ LOVE this sweater!

Who loves The Smiths?

If your answer is “Not I!”, I will silently scream “How is this possible??” at you from my mind, but outwardly give no sign, because I don’t like to shout at people, because I AM NOT THOMAS PAINE.

Anyway!  I digress.  My husband is a huge Morrissey fan so I was sleuthing around the web looking for cool new Morrissey items and I found this sweater.  It is an epic example of Holiday vulgarity and I LOVE IT.  It seems to be currently sold out (website is a little confusing — look at URL), but when they re-stock I am definitely picking one up for Christmas next year (quick honey, unsee this now!).

Nail Update
I will post a shot of my glitter holiday mani on Friday once I’ve done it.  I tried a Sally Hansen blue crackle over periwinkle polish this week and it would have been lovely except that the crackle pulled apart the 2 coats of polish beneath it down to the bare nail in a lot of places.  Here is an image of that nail fail to the right (coming soon).

Book Update
I will finish Common Sense tonight — again, really worth a read historically.  Now it’s time to start up some fun Holiday reads!  What will it be?
Mistletoe Magic?
A Vampire for Christmas?
Angels at the Table?
I guess you will find out next week…

And have a lovely weekend, everyone!

And now, Time for a Coffee,

Maddy

A Day for Giving Thanks…

A Day to Give Thanks...

A Day to Give Thanks…

Whether you live in the United States or not, Thanksgiving Day is a good day to take a moment to give thanks for all the good people and things in your life, and for me that’s good health, great family and friends, a safe and happy home, and of course…. books!

In addition to some current fun I’m having in an alternate-reality, steam-punky, Victorianesque, Vampiric London (God Save the Queen), I am reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine, written in 1776.

How, how was I not forced to read this book in High School History or Civics, not to mention University American History???  Apparently the work was a huge driving force behind the creation of the Declaration of Independence.  It’s not even some super-long tome — it’s a long pamphlet!  If you are a U.S. citizen, and have not read this, go ahead and do so — it’s very enlightening, and will definitely give you more Revolutionary history street cred.

NOT TO MENTION, THOMAS PAINE LOVES SOME ALL CAPS!  It’s pretty amusing actually — I’ve read my fair share of books from the 1700 and 1800’s and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use all caps.  He may have influenced e-mail and chat room shouters everywhere. Yay?

So give thanks, DONT SHOUT (unless you are fighting tyranny), and have a lovely Thanksgiving Thursday!

(Not) Time for a Coffee (it’s 11PM after all),

Maddy

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

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