Review – “Talk Sweetly to Me”

Book Review – “Talk Sweetly To Me (The Brothers Sinister, Book 5),” by Courtney Milan

51kuDbppVlL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Rose Sweetly is brilliant at math and astronomy, tasked with computing comet trajectories and looking forward to seeing the transit of Venus.  Life is complicated for an intelligent and unconnected woman, but more so for Rose, because she is a black woman living in England in 1882.

Stephen Shaughnessy, amusing rake, columnist for the Women’s Free Press, and a feminist (yay!).  He’s also had to overcome his own struggles (though nothing compared to Rose’s) to ascend to his current position.

Catching Rose’s eye on the street and chatting with her about math aren’t enough for Stephen any more.  He wants to get to know the very shy Rose better.  So, he devises a seemingly brilliant scheme – he hires her (through her boss, that cad!) to teach him mathematics and astronomy under the guise of conducting research for a novel.

But while her boss is fooled, Rose is not.  And being who she is – brilliant and beautiful – she has a lovely way of telling Stephen that she’s on to him.  She slaps his hand by having him calculate the chances they’d be alone, that she’d be stupid, that he’d be charming, that her father wouldn’t find out, and that she’d bit hit in the head with something heavy (to forget herself).

“Tell me Mr. Shaughnessy, what is the probability of all of those things occurring in conjunction?”

“Ah…” He had to use the paper to keep track.  “That would be…a chance of one in…a hundred billion?”

“Ooh.”  She winced.  “That’s a very small number.  I’m exceeding sorry for you, Mr. Shaughnessy.”

“It is.”  He looked at the figure.  “What, precisely, was I calculating/”

She looked up at him.  For one moment, he thought she was going to be shy again – that she would move away and shake her head rather than answer.  But even though her voice was low, she still said the words.

“That,” she told him, “is that chance that you’ll be able to seduce me.”  –“Talk Sweetly to Me,” Courtney Milan

And you thought you’d never use advanced math in the real world. 🙂

Anyway, I love this whole series – for the strong and smart heroines and the deviously smart and sexy heroes.  And of course, for the feminism.  Check it out, to find out if Stephen can beat the odds and win a place in Rose’s heart – spoiler alert: yes, of course. :p

I’ll leave you with one last, sweet quote for road from “Talk Sweetly to Me” –

“He swept his thumb along the side of her hand. ‘Sweetheart, if you don’t trust me yet, there’s no assurance I can give you that will put your mind at ease.  All I can do is keep on not hurting you, and keep on, until you know in your bones that I never will.”

Awww.  Sweet.  Five out of five stars for “Talk Sweetly to Me.”

Advertisements

Slaughterhouse five – Review

Banned Book Review – “Slaughterhouse five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death”

SlaughterHousefivequotes1

Earlier this year, I decided to participate in the Banned Books Challenge to broaden my horizons and read so many of the books that I’ve always meant to read.

I started the year with “The Things They Carried,” a collection of short stories which take place during the Vietnam War.  I decided to stay with that theme of war novels and I moved on to “Slaughterhouse Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut.

“Slaughterhouse five” follows the story of Billy Pilgrim, a chaplain’s assistant, during World War II.  Billy is captured shortly after the Battle of the Bulge and travels to Dresden while a prisoner of war.  He, like Vonnegut himself, is in Dresden during the city’s firebombing in WWII.

According to Wikipedia, “Slaughterhouse five” was banned (attempted to) due to it’s “irreverent tone and purportedly obscene content.”   As with “The Things They Carried,” and I’d imagine any book that deals with war, it is going to discuss things that leave some people uncomfortable.  Terrible things happen during wars, and people should be honest about it (and with themselves).  War is hell.

Bu4066372865251_s6u7rgBp_lt the book covers more than just the war – it talks about Billy’s life before and after war, as well as his interactions with the Tralfamadorians.  The Tralfamadorians experience time different than the traditional linear form that we do, they instead leap through time, experiencing events years apart and often at random.  A oddity, which they impart to Billy, causing him to become unstuck in time – leaping back and forth from his regular life, to the war, his time as a prisoner of war, to his time in captivity with the Tralfamadorians, and other events.

The confusion and off-kilter feeling with time skipping and Vonnegut’s style (not traditional chapters) worked well for a retelling of a war story.  I’ve never been to war, but I’d imagine that most survivors of war have moments of time when they suddenly think about a memory from their time in the war… especially when trying to reacclimate to their old lives and heal from the traumatic experience of going to war.

There is also a refrain that is repeated many times during the book and anyone who has read the book can easily tell you what it is – “so it goes.”  It is often repeated after discussing a character’s death or unfortunate event.  This is part of where the pro-banning the book people got their “irreverent tone” nonsense from.  And to their objections to the book, I’ve no doubt Vonnegut had three words for them: “so it goes.”

It was an interesting and deep story, peppered throughout with some bits that were humorous.  My favorite funny scene was when a writer was at a party of eye doctors and talks with a young woman –

“Did that really happen?” said Maggie White.  She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.  Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away. She hadn’t had even one yet.  She used birth control.

“Of course it happened,” Trout told her.  “If I wrote something that hadn’t really happened, and I tried to sell it, I could go to jail. That’s fraud.”

Five out of five stars for “Slaughterhouse Five,” I’d put it on the list of books that you should read at some point in your life…as it’s probably one of the best novels of our time.

And make sure you check out the banned books challenge for 2015, because books should never be banned.

Untitled

Outrunning the bitterness

IMG_2144

Life always has its challenges.  Big and small storms that can, if you let them, turn your outlook from sweet to bitter.

Divorce (my most recent storm) is definitely one of life’s challenges that can be thrown your way.  But how do you stop the terrible things in life from pushing you into bitterness?

Well, I’d imagine there are a lot of different ways.  Here are some of the ones that have helped me (and maybe they can help you too):

1) Breathe (in all forms, including screaming, if you need it) and let it go.  There is a good reason why there are so many quotes about letting go and letting go of the things you can’t control (sing it with me – let it go, let it gooooo).  In most cases, you have a better chance of controlling the weather than you do for controlling another person’s actions.  The only thing you can control is how you react.  Which brings me to my next point.. 

2) Plan – do not let a bad event (or person) screw up your life.  Adjust your old plans or make new ones, but don’t give up on your life or yourself.

When I left my ex, I was in the middle of fertility treatment to start a family, which I have wanted for years.  The treatment didn’t take.  So, in addition to dealing with the fallout from the end of a ten-year relationship, my hope of becoming a mom (I am in my early 30s) was thrown into doubt.

I knew that I did not want to start dating again while being totally obsessed with finding someone to make a baby with.  That would not be enjoyable or healthy for me or, I’d imagine, any man who was thrown into my path.

So, I made a new plan.

If I’m single at 36, I’m going to get IVF on my own and become a single parent.  If I’m happily coupled by then, and the guy I’m with is ready as well, we can start a family the old-fashioned way, otherwise, I have my plan.  In the meantime, I can date without getting so stressed out about my biological clock.  And I already have a few guy friends who have volunteered for donor-ship, so check and check. 🙂

3)   Spend time with friends and seek out new friends and experiences – Your friends are already lovely, so spend time with them and reconnect.  Just being with the people you care about, who also care about you, is a soothing balm for your soul…let it help you heal.

Also, get out there and shake things up.  Major shocks to your system often require major action.  Find a meetup group, volunteer, go to a conference, take a class, travel… just do something.  Make sure it’s something healthy though, engaging in self-destructive behavior won’t help you deal with a bad situation…it might feel good at first, but in the end, it will just make everything worse.

4)  Stay positive – All of the things on this list helped me stay positive throughout my hard times and when that didn’t work, I made an effort to practice gratitude.  Even in my darkest days, I was able to list the people and things I was thankful for in my life – and it made a huge difference in helping me heal.

IMG_2488

I can tell you – looking back from the other side of my own pain – if you’re struggling, hang in there.  Better days are coming. 🙂

daytripper – graphic novel review

Review of Graphic Novel – “Daytripper,” by: Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá

“Daytripper” was my first experience with a graphic novel that isn’t superhero or thriller based.  I found it trolling along in my local library’s small graphic novel section and was surprised that there are more literary (what I often refer to as “high brow” to my “low brow” style of writing) graphic novels, and had to check it out.

“Daytripper” is about Brás de Oliva Domingos, the child of a famous author and budding writer, though he doesn’t write novels just yet.  Right now, he writes obituaries…..and strangely enough, he dies in each chapter.  The first time it happened, I was confused, after a few chapters, it was something I came to expect but didn’t really get until I came to this page, and got my big take away from the book:

end

Once you accept that you’ll die, you can let go and make the best in life.  You can cherish the time you have with the ones you love and also use your time wisely to chase your dreams.  Pretty wise words and beautiful art to bring home the point.

daytripper-comic

And you know, I like to add light-heartedness to most of my posts, so here’s my ending thought.  I liked this page too…life is like a good book, no matter how much you like the story, one day it has to end….

This is mostly true, unless you’re reading a never-ending series or like me, making a seemingly never-ending slog through editing. :p

Check out “Daytripper,” a surprisingly deep and literary graphic novel with beautiful art and a wise message.

Two words

Life with Bella, the cat-dog

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a post on Bella, my intrepid four-legged companion, nicknamed the cat-dog for the snark that often accompanies her doggie playfulness…

I’m convinced that if my dog could say one word (probably over and over again), it would be – “please.”

If she could say two words, I’m fairly certain they would be – “bitch, please.”

I have compiled photographic evidence to prove my point…

Here we have the – “please.”

IMG_2472

And of course, the “bitch, please.”

IMG_2474

Again…the “please” (usually with food):

IMG_2484

And of course, the “bitch, please.”

IMG_2473

And do we have another example of the “please?”  No, no, we do not.  So instead, another example of the “bitch, please,” which is the much more common face the cat-dog likes to wear.

IMG_2475

Are we ready for the weekend?  Bitch, please…

iZombie Pilot – Review

While listening to Pandora at work yesterday (and trying hard not to give in to the temptation of wiggling around to beat of the music), I heard quite a few commercials for the CW’s new series – iZombie…from the brains that brought you Veronica Mars (ha! the pun-ery!).

(Queue the fan girl squeal)  I love Veronica Mars…and Logan, but mostly I love the kick-assness of everyone’s favorite badass pixie.  So, how could I pass up the opportunity to see (hopefully) a zombie-fied version of one of my favorite heroines?

So, I tuned in at 9 pm EST to check out the pilot and my overwhelming response is….

hmmmmm…uncertainty…

Problem areas (and yes, I have my bitch pants on today):

  • Too much focus on the zombie thing – Okay, okay, this is what makes the show fresh.  However, what is the struggle here?  Is it being a zombie?  Being a zombie while trying to solve crimes? Or solving crimes, and btw – I’m a zombie and prepare yourself for amusement/awkwardness to follow?  I’m not sure.  I’m hoping that the next episode will not focus on reminding us every five minutes that the heroine is a zombie.  Speaking for the TV audience, I’ll say this – she’s a zombie, we read you loud and clear.
  • Unlikely duo/future romantic interest crap – Our zombie heroine is working as medical examiner (giggle), though it’s clear that she’s going to be tagging along with an untested, young detective.  <SNORE>  Seriously?  How many of these “unlikely pairs” must we suffer through?  Is it mean to say – it’s be done before?  Because it has…at length and continues to be done on TV.  And why must we eventually have sexual tension between the two?  And oh no, the fact that she’s a zombie will surely impact their budding romance!  Ugh.  While I do like the actor who is playing the detective (and will still watch despite future romantic interest crap), I’d really rather see a crime fighting duo that consists of two women, which brings me to the next point…
  • Dialogue with other female characters – best friend/roommate is concerned about our zombie heroine and tells her, during a one-sided conversation, that our zombie is “her heart.”  Ugh.  I don’t know anyone who talks like this, I certainly don’t, not even to my best friend for the last…shite, 15 years.  Never have I told her that she’s “my heart,” though I did recently suggest we pose as lovers (long story), which is kind of the same thing… :p
  • “Uplifting” end to first episode – We hear our zombie heroine’s internal thoughts throughout the episode, which is fine.  But the end of the episode got a little …overly happy for me, as our heroine becomes optimistic of a cure for her zombie condition (which let’s be honest, we know is not going to happen any time soon).  Call me jaded, but I feel like a zombie shouldn’t be super optimistic…I’d prefer her to be a little dark and brooding.

Exciting areas:

  • Concept of heroine as a zombie is fresh and fun.  A snarky, badass, zombie heroine is even better.
  • Comic book feel of the series – each scene began with a comic book frame that came to life.  Some people might have found this campy, but I actually liked it (though this could be because I’ve been reading a good amount of graphic novels lately).
  • Angry zombie – When our zombie heroine gets all riled up (and possibly when she sees fresh blood?), she turns into a super zombie (complete with crazy eyes and awesome strength)…which I’m guessing/hoping can lead to interesting scenarios down the road.
  • ….Brains – When she eats pieces of brain, she has the ability to access the dead person’s memories, habits, and language abilities.  This is a fun concept, though if not done right may end up getting campy quickly.

Pilot episodes are a damn tricky thing – there’s a lot of information (on characters, the world, relationships, etc.) that you have to introduce to a brand new audience, but in a way that doesn’t bore us or make us feel like banging our heads against the wall.  This pilot episode, while awkward in some places, did a fairly good job of introducing us to the main players in the series, as well as the heroine’s unique struggles as a zombie.  Was I blown away? Not really, but how many pilot episodes are actually able to do that?  The pilot episode was able to pique my interest a bit and make me curious about the next show.  And for a brand-new series, I think we can count that as a win.

Did you watch iZombie last night?  What do you think of pilot episodes, in general?

Quotes for hard times

I love words – obviously, I’m a reader and a writer.  But I’ve always loved them and recognized the power in them.

But you have already discovered that for yourself.  You already know that there’s nothing like listening (and singing along, in my case) to a song when you’re happy/sad/nostalgic.

I love singing (more accurately screeching) along to songs and reading poems or wise words when I’m down.  During my separation and divorce process (just a scant few weeks before everything is final now), I would use google image search to find quotes against pretty backgrounds that I would save on my phone.  I can’t tell you how many of these image quotes I’ve saved or read over the past year (sadly, separation/divorce can be a lengthly process), but I can tell you that they’ve helped – because words have a great power – to give you hope, strength, and even to heal.

I recently started making my own image quotes, using the fabulous app –  Word Swag.  If you don’t have it, or something like it, you should check it out.  Here are some of the quotes and thoughts that have gotten me through the roughest days of my divorce…and if you need to be built up a bit, I hope that they can help you too.

Because everyone needs hope and to focus on the future when bad things happen –

IMG_2432

Because the end of one thing, does not mean the end of everything –

IMG_2436

Because you have to be able to take care of yourself, count on yourself, and above all, save yourself – not wait around for someone else to do it.

IMG_2438IMG_2431

Try not to be bitter and always be thankful for the things you have –

IMG_2433

And lastly, Bella’s wisdom, for appreciating the little things (and to remembering to take things slowly).  🙂

IMG_2435

Review – 20th Century Ghosts

51a575Ka2sLBook Review: “20th century ghosts,” by Joe Hill

For Valentine’s day, I got the missing piece to a collection that I hadn’t even realized I had started – all of Joe Hill’s published works.  The missing piece to this…shall we call happy but accidental collection, was “20th Century Ghosts.

Like his father, Stephen King, Joe Hill is often categorized as a horror writer.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what he writes is downright creepy.  “Heart Shaped Box” not only kept me up wondering what would happen to its main characters, it also gave me terrifying nightmares of deadly hypnotizing ghosts.

I don’t know how I would classify “20th Century Ghosts.”  This book of short stories does have horror type stories – the first one in particular is the most typical of the genre.  But it also has stories about families, friends, murder, bugs, and some that are just strange.

Out of the collection of stories, I think my favorites are “20th Century Ghost” and “Pop Art,” which are less scary and more sweet.

“20th Century Ghost” is about an old man who runs a movie theater that is haunted by a ghost of a teenage girl…who happens to be a movie buff and a somewhat chatty one at that.

“Pop Art” is a story about a young boy and his best friend…who happens to be inflatable.  And before you ask, no – not that kind of doll.  But, as you can imagine, it would be hazardous to live as an inflatable person…so many things could be the end of you, including a vicious dog named Happy.  It was a touching piece, and it is from this story that I’ll choose my quote for the book –

“It is my belief that, as a rule, creatures of Happy’s ilk – I am thinking here of canines and men both – more often run free than live caged, and it is in fact a world of mud and feces they desire, a world with no Art in it, or anyone like him, a place where there is no talk of books or God or the worlds beyond this world, a place where the only communication is the hysterical barking of starving and hate-filled dogs.” – Joe Hill, “20th Century Ghosts

I loved this book and I loved the dedication page of the novel (as I am and will always be a hopeless romantic, even if lately I’ve been doing a good job of pretending not to be), which reads:  “To Leanora: We are my favorite story.”   Oh Joe Hill, you fabulous, romantic bastard…who also happens to write excellent novels, short stories, and graphic novels.  <Sigh>  Can’t say I’d mind a dedication like that to me.

Five out of five stars.