Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Beautiful, Meaningful Nonfiction Book for All Middle-Grade Readers

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black HistoryLittle Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vashti Harrison is a filmmaker as well as a visual artist, which explains why she did such an excellent job of intuiting which events in each woman's life to highlight to make each story compelling.

Every one of the 40 mini-biographies in the beautiful, inspiration book could be made into a film. Some of them have been, Hidden Figures being one recent example.



Harrison's drawings emphasis the contributions to society of these women, but also their personal strength, dignity, and beauty. This book for middle grade readers would make a wonderful addition to any school library, classroom, or children's bookshelf.


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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Uh-Oh, I Have a Crush on Another Boy

SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 2. 

Slight spoilers for Marvel's The Punisher, if you haven't seen the whole season yet. 

I haven't been very consistent with watching the Marvel superheroes series on Netflix, but my husband, Mr. Tit Elingtin, has been devouring them. I watched a bit of Luke Cage, which I really liked, and a bit more of Jessica Jones, which was also quite good, but with my inconsistent access to streaming Netflix this summer, I hardly watched any of Daredevil

I knew Deborah Ann Woll played a character on Daredevil. You may remember her from the Charlaine Harris-based HBO series True Blood. She played Bill Compton's vampire "child," Jessica Hamby, and much of Jessica's storyline was a love triangle involving her, Jason Stackhouse, and Jason's best friend Hoyt Fortenberry. The series ended with a happily-ever-after for Jessica. 


Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Tit binge-watched the latest Marvel series, The Punisher. Woll's character from Daredevil, Karen Page, had a starring role. I got hooked.

The Punisher is a Marvel title that I actually used to read as a teenager. My brother had a subscription. It was right around 1990, and the series was The Punisher: War Journal by Jim Lee and Carl Potts. 


The Punisher, a.k.a. Frank Castle, isn't a superhero. He has no superpowers. He's a violent vigilante who brutally dispatches criminals. His Backstory of Infinite Sadness is that his wife and two children were brutally murdered, and now he doesn't GAF what happens to him personally. He's on a suicidal revenge mission (or what TVTropes.org designates as "Roaring Rampage of Revenge") -- he just happens to be exceptionally skilled at killing criminals. 

This characterization may remind one of my fictional TV boyfriend John Reese

On the Marvel series, Frank is played by Jon Bernthal, my newest boy crush. He played Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead, but I didn't like Shane Walsh. No one likes Shane Walsh**. Shane Walsh was an abusive asshole.

Jon Bernthal as Al Capone in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
Because as everyone in Hollywood knows, Jews and Italians are interchangeable.

I didn't make it that far into the TV series, but I understand that--SPOILER ALERT--his conflict with Rick ended in a physical fight in which Rick had to kill Shane or be killed himself. Then Shane came back as a zombie. Then Carl, the one of Lori's children whose bio dad is definitely Rick and not Shane, had to re-kill Zombie Shane. 

http://thatwritererinoriordan.tumblr.com/post/167866152170

He was a zombie. She was a vampire. They're perfect for each other. 

In this Netflix iteration, Frank Castle -- well, he's kind of an asshole too, what with the brutal vigilante killings and all. He has another side, though, one that's extremely loyal to his family and friends -- and yes, even romantic. Many of his memories of his slain wife Maria are very sweet, and he was clearly a loving, hands-on dad to elder child Lisa and younger child Frank Jr., even though he had to be away from them with the Marine Corps. He was a military dad, but a soft dad nonetheless. 

His friendship with Karen Page is developing into a slow-burn romance, but obviously with quite serious complications, him being a wanted multiple murderer and her a reporter. Karen has become his berserk button - don't dare threaten her. They've saved each others' lives now, and there was a significant forehead touch in an elevator. 

Forehead touches are not sex but often foreshadow sex in the future. They also convey an emotional connection. Frank is really a one-woman-at-a-time type of guy, and his commitment to Maria was deep and genuine and lasted longer than her life. In one scene in which he's badly injured and near death, he remembers dancing with Maria at their wedding. 

Their ship name is Kastle, and I ship it so hard. I really want Frank Castle for Karen Page, not for myself. 

However.

Frank's characterization hits upon several of the tropes that I find particularly delicious: the wounded warrior trope, the outwardly tough guy who's soft as a kitten belly around the right woman, and the woman who's strong enough to stand on her own two feet but inwardly melts when the tough-soft guy's around. Frank Castle is covered in blood, scars, bruises, and stitches most of the time, which is true to the comic books, and WHY DO I LIKE THAT?!? But I do.

And Jon Bernthal is one of my (many) favorite boy types: Yeshiva Boy Who Grew Up Hot. He has clearly been working out for this physically demanding role and as a result has back muscles that look awesome in his many shirtless scenes. He has big, soulful, dark-chocolate brown eyes, and why wouldn't Karen be into a Frank who looks like this? 

Karen and Frank can't possibly have a happily-ever-after ending. I won't pretend I think they're going to end up getting married and having children. One of them probably ends up bleeding out in the other's arms. Vigilantes don't get to grow old gracefully. Ask Mr. Reese. 

I'm asking for heartbreak once again, but I can't help my stupid feelings. I'm shipping Kastle. It'll go right up there with my other OTPs, like CaReese, Destiel, SnowBaz, Johnlock, and all the other shipper nonsense I get myself into, most of which are doomed to end in a puddle of blood and tears. 

P.S. I do highly recommend the Night at the Museum movie trilogy if you haven't seen it already. The third film, one of the last performances of Robin Williams, is especially bittersweet and poignant but ultimately worthwhile. And Rami Malek as the young mummified Egyptian pharaoh Akhmenrah is also quite handsome. 

**Some people probably like Shane Walsh. If you do, I'm not judging. He's fictional. Go for it. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

'How to Think' by Alan Jacobs #NonFictionReview



This was a relatively quick read and introduced many interesting subjects that have to do with biases and how we perceive others who have beliefs different from our own. One of the main ideas that I took away from reading this book was the concept of "escalation of commitment."

Escalation of commitment is a psychological concept. When human beings - and all of us are prone to this - commit ourselves to something financially, philosophically, socially, or otherwise, then when we become faced with evidence that said thing is wrong/incorrect/a bad investment/bad for our health, etc., we do an irrational thing. We defend that thing even harder. 

The classic example of escalation of commitment is the gambler who keeps losing, but has already sunk so much money into the game, the gambler refuses to stop playing. A more contemporary example, hinted at but not explicitly stated in this book, is the behavior of those American voters who voted for Donald Trump for president. Now they see what a truly incompetent, unkind, and potentially dangerous person he is -- but they root for him even harder. They just can't psychologically bring themselves to cut their losses at this point. That's escalation of commitment. 

Perhaps an even more egregious (or just as egregious) contemporary example is the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama. Although many credible witnesses have brought forth testimony that Moore attempted to sexually assault, seduce, or at best sexually harass them when they were under the age of 18, Moore is nonetheless primed to be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama. The voters who support him have escalated commitment to the point that they're willing to overlook these credible accusations. Worse, some of them are blaming the victims of these alleged incidents for their own roles in their "seduction." 

I have been thinking about Alabama a lot because Tit Elingtin and I watched a live performance of the stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird a few weeks ago. I wish all Americans could be periodically reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish we all understood that Tom Robinson is the good guy. 

Alabama, Judge Roy Moore is the Tom Ewell of your story. He doesn't deserve your vote. If he did those things he's credibly accused of, he deserves public shame and humiliation, and possibly criminal indictment. Alabamans, now is the time for you to be more like Atticus Finch and less like the people on Tom Robinson's jury. 

It's kind of a shame that the people who could most benefit from this kind of reflection on the thought process are not the ones most likely to read this book. However, ever single literate adult speaker of the English language could stand to benefit from this refresher course on thought bias and how to treat our fellow human beings with a little less contempt and a little more humanity. 

I received this book from BloggingForBooks.com for this review. My next Blogging for Books pick will be:


The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey and Jack McGowan

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

'Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook' #GraphicNovel by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook (Mycroft Holmes #1-5)Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mycroft Holmes, in this original story in graphic novel form, is a smug little sh*t. I love him.

He's not quite the same character as in the mystery novel Mycroft Holmes - he has a different back story with a different fiancee - but he's still his annoyingly superior, know-it-all self, and he's still quite competitive with little brother Sherlock. Cyrus Douglas does not appear in this story; this Mycroft has a female, American "Watson," kind of like Lucy Liu's character on Elementary (but not really).

This is an all-new adventure involving a cache of sci-fi weapons and an evil plan to auction them off to the highest bidder. Queen Victoria wants to be the highest bidder so the British Empire knows these steampunk weapons of mass destruction are in safe hands, and Mycroft has passed enough of her tests to become her agent.

In this he's assisted by Lark Adler, an American bounty hunter. Is she related to Irene? An older cousin, perhaps? We don't know. There is also mention of a respectable maths professor named James Moriarty.

I don't know if any more comics have been written in this series, but these five issues make for one intriguing graphic novel. The art is eye-popping and the story is fast-paced. This is a fine entry into the world of Holmesiana.



View all my reviews on Goodreads

Friday, October 20, 2017

Closed Captioned BDSM Content Available from Wasteland.com

(Note: Press Release)


Seminal site to expand inclusivity by meeting hearing impaired member needs


October 16, 2017 (Cyberspace) -- Wasteland.com is pleased to announce closed captioning for the hearing impaired on their BDSM content. The seminal site recently made two captioned titles available -- “The Interrogation of Delirious Hunter” and “Vyxen Steel - BDSM Test Pilot” -- and is working steadily to increase the number of captioned titles available in its library.  



Wasteland founder and CEO Colin Rowntree explained, “So much of what makes a BDSM scene erotic and intense is the dialogue between performers. We want all our Wasteland.com members to be able to enjoy the full experience of our content, so making captioning available only makes sense.”

“The Interrogation of Delirious Hunter” and “Vyxen Steel -- BDSM Test Pilot” are two of Wasteland’s most popular and dialogue-intensive recent releases, which prompted Rowntree to make these among the first captioned titles available.

In “The Interrogation of Delirious Hunter,” Master Joseph has caught Delirious Hunter snooping around his estate, obviously up to no good. He takes her to his interrogation room and proceeds to question her with a series of psychological games, intense impact, and sensation play culminating in orgasm denial. “Vyxen Steel - Test Pilot” takes place inside a secret subterranean experimentation facility located just outside London. Thanks to a beautiful volunteer from France (Vyxen Steel), Q and his men will be testing some new and interesting equipment guaranteed to make their subject show if she is qualified to be an agent.

“The manual workflow to add captioning to plot-heavy titles like ‘The Interrogation’ and “BDSM Test Pilot’ is pretty intense,” Rowntree added. “We feel very strongly about making our films accessible though, so it’s worth the effort!”  

Wasteland is also in the process of adding audio versions of all their fiction and how-to articles, specifically for the vision impaired.

Cutting-edge since the 1990s, Wasteland is committed first and foremost to member experiences via safe, sane, ethical, and authentic BDSM content. Closed captioning content to better meet members’ needs is a natural extension of this wider commitment.

About Wasteland.com

Founded and launched in 1994, Wasteland.com is the Internet's oldest and most esteemed BDSM, Fetish and alternative sexuality site. Priding itself on the quality of its authentic bdsm movies, Wasteland has produced over 1400 original bdsm films featuring lifestyle kinky folks performing a vast array of bondage, fetish, and sex acts that appeal to bondage aficionados around the world.

Image: Delirious Hunter and Joseph D. Copyright 2017 Wasteland.com

Thursday, October 19, 2017

J.K. Rowling's 'Very Good Lives'

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of ImaginationVery Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This should be required reading for everyone. J.K. Rowling doesn't just donate a portion of her wealth to Amnesty International -- she used to work for Amnesty International, taking testimonies of African victims of torture. She's seen the absolute worst humanity can do, so when she writes about evil, she knows of which she speaks.

This deeply wise woman addressed her remarks to Harvard's graduating class of 2008, but her words apply to every human life on this planet.

The illustrations are also delightful. I read this as a library e-book on my phone, but some day I'll purchase the hardcover book so I can enjoy the illustrations properly.



View all my reviews on Goodreads

Monday, October 9, 2017

What Would These Harry Potter Characters Do in Real Life?

What might our favorite Harry Potter characters do for a living if they lived in the Muggle world? Based on their magical careers and personalities, these occupations might suit these Harry Potter main characters in the real world.

Please note that some of the character information used in this post is derived from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. If you haven’t read that book or seen the play yet, be aware that you may be reading spoilers.

Harry Potter


We know that in the magical world, Harry James Potter became an Auror, a magical law enforcement officer. He rose through the ranks and by the time he was forty he became head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

In real life, Harry would be a police officer or a detective. He would most likely be a detective, responsible for gathering evidence and assembling the facts of criminal cases in preparation to go to trial with them.

Harry might be a criminal investigator for a territorial police force, or he might work for one of the United Kingdom’s national investigation agencies such as the National Crime Agency, the Ministry of Defence Police, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, or the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. His experience with Voldemort’s terrorism would make him a good candidate for the National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

Author: Bagui

Ron Weasley


Ronald Bilius Weasley worked with Harry as an auror for a time, but his law enforcement career didn’t last long. He left the Ministry of Magic to work with his older brother George at George’s retail store, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop located at Number 93 Diagon Alley.

As the manager of a store selling props for magic tricks, novelties, candy, and fireworks, Ron would be classified in the real world as a "first-line supervisor of retail sales workers" (in the language of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). If he lived in the U.S., he might run a seasonal pop-up store that sold Halloween costumes and decorations. Given his wife’s more high-paying career, it’s also likely Ron would take some time off from retail sales to be a stay-at-home dad to his daughter Rose and son Hugo.

Hermione Granger

Hermione Jean Granger, despite being the daughter of two dentists, grew up to work her way through the Ministry of Magic and rise to the rank of Minister for Magic.

In the real world, Hermione Granger would work her way up from local politics to be elected to the House of Commons. After years of dedicated service to the people, her party, and the Crown, Hermione would be appointed Prime Minister. We’d refer to her as The Right Honourable Hermione Granger (or, internationally, Her Excellency).

Ginny Weasley


Ginevra Molly “Ginny” Weasley is a former professional athlete, sports reporter, and sports editor for the wizarding newspaper The Daily Prophet. Her sport is Quidditch; she played chaser for the Holyhead Harpies.

In the real world, Ginny’s sport might be football (soccer to U.S. sports fans). While real Quidditch teams do exist (minus the magic, of course), women in England have been playing football for over 100 years.

Ginny would likely be a midfielder in the Football Association Women’s Premier League. With her football experience and, perhaps, a degree in communications, her career path of player to reporter to editor makes as much sense in the real world as it does in the magical one.

Neville Longbottom


Neville Longbottom, like Harry and Ron, started out as an Auror. Then he switched career paths and went on to teach Herbology at Hogwarts.

Since Herbology is not a subject taught at postsecondary institutions in the U.K., real-world Neville might be a professor of biology specializing in plant science. His students might be working toward degrees such as Plant and Soil Science or Molecular Biology (or Cellular Biology) with a concentration in Plant Science.

Luna Lovegood


Notoriously eccentric, Luna Lovegood became a magizoologist, specializing in the study and care of magical creatures. This career choice was, no doubt, influenced by her marriage to Rolf Scamander, the grandson of Newton “Newt” Scamander, the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In the real world, Luna Lovegood might be an eccentric blogger, perhaps specializing in the field of cryptozoology. As a Ravenclaw, she would naturally be drawn to seek out knowledge and the field of writing. Writing about cryptids such as the Loch Ness Monster would allow her to express her creativity and exercise her curiosity. Her careful attention to SEO (seach engine optimization) would help her find a wider audience and display her Ravenclaw erudition.

Since Neville would work in a hard science field related to biology, he and Luna would have a lot of interesting discussions. He would probably try to explain to her why cryptozoology is classified as a pseudoscience. She would probably remind him of the Dingiso and other cryptids that turned out to be real and encourage him to keep an open mind.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Giorgio de Chirico Artist Biography

(Note: This is a piece I wrote for a freelance client that didn't end up getting used.) 

Born July 10, 1888 in Volos, Greece - Died November 20, 1978 in Rome, Italy


Giorgio de Chirico is an Italian painter whose metaphysical painting style was greatly influential to the Surrealism movement. His pre-World War I work differs greatly in style and philosophy from his post-World War I work. Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, and other Surrealist painters cited de Chirico as influential on their work.

Public domain image by Carl Van Vechten, 1936

Artistic Activity


Giorgio de Chirico was born in Greece to two Italian parents. He first studied art in Florence, then moved to Germany. In Munich, he studied under the German artist Max Klinger and read the works of German philosophers.

Prior to the First World War, de Chirico is credited with creating the Scuola metafisica movement along with Carlo Carrà. These “metaphysical” paintings are characterized by images of cluttered, darkened interiors and mannequin-like human figures as well as a “haunted” or introspective mood.

In 1919, de Chirico published an article promoting a return to craftsmanship, or traditional painting methods. After its publication, his works exhibited a neoclassical style, influenced by Raphael and other past masters.

During the 1920s, Surrealist painter André Breton discovered de Chirico’s work. While critical of de Chirico’s traditionalist work, the Surrealist movement found de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings highly influential. De Chirico was highly critical of modern art.

After 1939, de Chirico painted in a neo-Baroque style. He remained a prolific painter until his death at age 90.

Giorgio de Chirico’s Most Important Works


• “The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon” (1910) is the first painting in de Chirico’s metaphysical painting series.
• “The Child’s Brain” (1914) is the painting that won de Chirico the attention of André Breton.
• “The Disquieting Muses” (1916) is exemplary of a recurring theme in de Chirico’s work (the Muses of Classical mythology) and inspired a Sylvia Plath poem of the same name.
• “Self Portrait” (1924) exemplifies de Chirico’s work of the 1920s, with its return to traditionalist techniques and Renaissance inspiration.

Related Artists


Georgios Roilos
Georgios Jakobides
Max Klinger
Carlo Carrà
André Breton
Salvador Dalí

Terms Associated with Artist


Neo-Baroque
Neoclassical
Scuola metafisica
Surrealism

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My Favorite Songs From the 'Ready Player One' Book Soundtrack

You can find the playlist on Spotify. 


I've finished listening to the audio book of Ready Player One, but I haven't gotten Ernest Cline's follow-up novel, Armada, out of the library yet. So, to tide me over, I've been listening to the Spotify playlist of all the songs mentioned in the book.

These are my personal favorites. As you may recall from this post, I was born in 1977 (as were Orlando Bloom, Ludacris, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and other ridiculously hot hotties). I grew up in the 1980s and will always have a special place in my heart for '80s music.

Among my favorites has always been Duran Duran. My all-time favorite DD song that I never seem to get tired of is "Hungry Like the Wolf." I even used it in the book trailer for "Oliver's Good Night Kiss."

Two Duran Duran songs show up in RP1. Both have incredibly weird videos. Here is one of them, "Wild Boys."


I own many Duran Duran albums on CD. One song that I like without knowing much of anything about the group that produced it is "Blue Monday" by New Order. I know they were British; that's about it.



"Blue Monday" is one I don't actually remember from the '80s, but discovered during the '90s. Pat Benatar, on the other hand, I have always been well aware of. The book Dead Is a Battlefield kept reminding me of her. Her song mentioned in RP1 is "Invincible."


Lastly from the Spotify list, I enjoy the Cline mention "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour. I know it reminds a lot of people of a scene in the John Hughes movie Say Anything, but honestly, I've never been very interested in John Hughes. It's just a beautiful song.


The playlist has other artists I like, but not my preferred songs from them. I like Cyndi Lauper, but not necessarily for "Time After Time." I'll listen to some Blondie songs if they're on the radio, but I don't know "Atomic." When I was a kid I thought Billy Idol was pretty cool, but I wouldn't necessarily enjoy listening to "Rebel Yell" now. The fictional James Halliday's playlist is a bit testosterone-heavy for my rather feminine tastes. 

If I were to make a playlist inspired by RP1, I would add "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco. The song isn't mentioned by name in the book, but Falco is. Parzival's asteroid home base in the Oasis is named after him.


Parzival/Wade, having studied The Simpsons, would be aware of the "Dr. Zaius"/Planet of the Apes parody of the song.


"Amadeus" is mostly in German -- Falco was Austrian -- but I don't care and never have cared. I have loved this song since it was a brand-new hit in 1986 when I was nine. And that was probably before my music teacher made us watch the Milos Forman movie that inspired it, Amadeus, in school.

I guess I've always been a sucker for 18th-century period costume, even before I discovered Jane Austen. (Which was 1996 when I saw Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma.)

What are your favorite tracks from the book soundtrack?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

'Ready Player One' as Read by Wil Wheaton - SPOILERS

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My cousin's husband told me several years ago that I should listen to the audio book version of this, read by Wil Wheaton.


I finally got to it since the movie is coming out and, well, because I was walking down the audio book aisle at my local public library and my gaze happened to fall upon it. I'm glad I took the time to listen to Wil Wheaton's performance, which has the perfect amount of deadpan snark, like a Charles Dickens novel.

Having grown up in the '80s, I'm familiar with many of the pop culture references, although not all of them. I never played Dungeons and Dragons, for example - much of my knowledge of D+D comes secondhand through Futurama. But like any American person who didn't live in a cave in the '80s, I watched Devo videos on MTV, played Pac-Man (at the arcade and on my dad's Atari console, which I can still recall him bringing home from Target), and ate my fair share of Cap'n Crunch cereal.

(I'm not sure I ever ate the Pac-Man cereal, but I know I ate many of those Pac-Man ghost ice pops with the gumball eyes that the ice cream truck used to peddle AND many a can of Pac-Man chicken-flavored pasta. That has to count for something.)

The point being, I connected with many of the pop culture references, but I did not feel that they got in the way of the storytelling. Wade/Parizal was a character I cared about. I wanted him to succeed and achieve his goal. I wanted his feelings for Art3mis to be returned.

XXX SPOILER AHEAD XXX

I wanted Daito to be alive, but alas, we can't have everything we want.

Despite a few tears shed, I genuinely enjoyed listening to the audio book performance of this novel.



View all my reviews on Goodreads

Thursday, August 31, 2017

'I Almost Forgot About You' by Terry McMillan

I Almost Forgot About YouI Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the Publisher's Website: The #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting To Exhale is back with the inspiring story of a woman who shakes things up in her life to find greater meaning

In I Almost Forgot About You, Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life–great friends, family, and successful career–aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, including quitting her job as an optometrist and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love. Georgia’s bravery reminds us that it’s never too late to become the person you want to be, and that taking chances, with your life and your heart, are always worthwhile.

Big-hearted, genuine, and universal, I Almost Forgot About You shows what can happen when you face your fears, take a chance, and open yourself up to life, love, and the possibility of a new direction. It’s everything you’ve always loved about Terry McMillan.

— Library Journal – Best Books of the Year, African American Fiction


My Review: This is the first book I've ever read by Terry McMillan and now that I know how spectacularly talented she is, I'm a little sad about that. She's a writer with the magical gift of making me believe that she's writing about people, not characters. This isn't a straightforward romance novel but it is written in a really clever way that makes it more realistic but just as much fun. Of all the characters, I felt that Wanda was the most like me, but it was impossible not to love the protagonist, Georgia. And when Georgia fell in love, I fell in love with her beau, too.

McMillan's main characters are African-American women, but if you're not African-American and/or not female, please don't let that stop you from reading this wonderful writer. Honestly, she could be writing about fictional Japanese businessmen and she'd make them seem real and fascinating.

I received a copy of this book from BloggingForBooks.com in exchange for this review.


View all my reviews on Goodreads

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

'A Discovery of Witches' Is Coming to TV (and Other Reasons I'm Happy Today)

One of my favorite books in the history of time, A Discovery of Witches, is becoming a TV series, as reported by Entertainment Weekly


Matthew Goode, who appeared in The Imitation Game* with Benedict Cumberbatch, will play my fictional boyfriend, vampire-scientist Matthew Clairmont. 

Badass witch heroine and mother of dragon (technically, firedrake) Diana Bishop is to be played by Teresa Palmer, the Australian actress I thought was very good in Warm Bodies

Quite nice. Another favorite getting a TV adaptation is Robert Galbraith's (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling's) The Cuckoo's Calling


It looks like Cormoran Strike - another of my fictional boyfriends, although I truly want him and Robin to get together - got a bit of an adaptational attractiveness upgrade, but no matter. Holliday Grainger looks like she'll be an absolutely perfect Robin Ellacot. 

Elarica Johnson, who made a brief but notable appearance in the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is playing Lula Landry. I still like to imagine that Lula is dating Fred Weasley in the afterlife. 

Grainger is also set to play the lover of Anna Paquin's character in Tell It to the Bees, a novel written by Fiona Shaw. Shaw did a stint on True Blood with Paquin, playing the lead witch of a coven, but is perhaps more famous for playing Harry Potter's witchcraft-phobic Aunt Petunia. 

"Telling the bees" is an ancient folkloric custom. 

Also adapted for TV was Charlaine Harris's Midnight, Texas series. I'm missing it because I don't have cable, but my parents are watching it. Maybe some day they'll put it on Netflix. 


*Which I never finished watching because sad LGBT+ history makes me sad. 

Recently Watched: Much Ado About Nothing at Notre Dame on Sunday, then my second viewing of Twelfth Night, with my niece this time, also at Notre Dame but on Monday. 

Currently Listening To: Wil Wheaton reading the audio book of Ready Player One.
 
Currently Reading

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood #BookReview

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an amazing book, hard to read but hard to put down. The narrator, Offred (her real name may be June, as semi-confirmed by the author), could be almost any woman in American society, and with the flaming crap show of a presidency we have going on right now and the unholy alliance between the ultra-corporatist Republicans and the gullible, ultra-religious conservative Republicans, the United States turning into Gilead seems more realistic than at any other time in my life.

Edgar Allan Poe's Raven was correct: Nevermore will there be a balm in Gilead. The Christian theocracy is murderous and reduces women to their bodies in a horrifying but realistic way. In the introduction, Atwood explains that everything that happens in the book has been done by a human society in the past - they've just never been synthesized like this.

Although Offred is the most relatable and likeable of protagonists, trapped in a situation in which she is only minimally complicit, and that by necessity, the best part of the book may be the "historical notes" at the end. In the coda, a team of academics who seem to be mainly Canadian First Nations folks in Nunavit are looking back on Gileadean society and analyzing how this division of Caucasian/Western civilization went so badly. (Hint: religious fundamentalism, racism, abuse of power, environmental abuse. Sound like anyone we know?)

I am a white people (as is the author), but I still like the idea that in the future, South Asians and First Nations people will have put white people in our place and will be studying us like we're extinct in the way that white Americans condescendingly refer to indigenous Americans in the present. Turnabout is fair play, as they say.

What happens to Offred is left deliberately ambiguous, but I'm an optimist and I would like to think that she made it to England and successfully gave birth to a healthy child, thanks to Nick helping her get to the Underground Femaleroad. I'd like to think that Nick and Luke are alive, too.

But I think Moira may actually be my favorite character. I haven't watched the TV show yet but I hope Moira is the character Ms. Samira Wiley (formerly of Orange is the New Black) is portraying. (But for some reason I keep picturing her looking like Ilana Glazer.) I respect Moira's defiance and refusal to accept her non-personhood.

Keep reading. Keep resisting. Keep playing Scrabble and knowing the meaning of obscure and difficult words. Knowledge is power. If you understood the messages of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, read this book and remember it.

I borrowed this book from a family member and was not obligated in any way to review it.



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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Nonfiction: 'Waiting for the Punch' by Marc Maron

Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF PodcastWaiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast by Marc Maron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d never heard Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, but I read parts of this book because I was interested in a lot of the people he interviewed on his show about universal topics like relationships, mental health, and sexuality.

I skipped some of the interview subjects whose names I didn’t know or whom I didn’t think were quite as interesting, but the ones I read had a lot of good, insightful things to say. Some of the interviewees whose wisdom I gleaned from this book included:

Ali Wong
Anna Kendrick
Barack Obama
Carl Reiner
Carrie Brownstein
Chelsea Peretti
Dan Savage
Dave Foley
Elizabeth Banks
Judy Greer
Kevin Hart
Leslie Jones
Margaret Cho
Mel Brooks
Melissa Etheridge
Michael Keaton (talking about Tim Burton, Batman, and Beetlejuice)
Natasha Lyonne
Penn Jillette
Robin Williams
RuPaul Charles
Sarah Silverman
Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Patrick Stewart
Wanda Sykes

Some of these folks are real gems of human beings. They have a lot of worthwhile things to say. Some of these things are very funny, some are poignant, some are both. All of these people are smart people capable of articulating a coherent thought, which is shockingly refreshing in this era of idiocracy.

P.S. Congratulations, Chelsea Peretti, on the healthy birth of your son Beaumont Peele.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

'Hag-Seed' by Margaret Atwood

Hag-SeedHag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the first Margaret Atwood book I've ever read; I know she's enjoying a bit of a resurgence in popularity because her novel The Handmaid's Tale was made into a miniseries. I need to get around to reading that soon, too.

But in the meantime, it happens that I read Shakespeare's The Tempest last summer in anticipation of seeing the play performed at the University of Notre Dame. I was thus familiar enough with the play to make reading this a worthwhile experience. (I'm a big Shakespeare nerd anyway, and I love retellings.)

The novel itself is briskly paced and humorous with a lovable protagonist. Felix has suffered the tragic early death of his own little Miranda, but he imagines her so clearly she appears as a spirit-like character, a combination Miranda/Ariel in his own personal tempest.

Much of the novel is set in a prison. In her acknowledgments, Atwood mentions Orange Is the New Black as part of the long tradition of prison literature. I've been watching the series based on Piper Kerman's book (I just finished Season 5), and I appreciate how the Kerman, the book, and subsequently the series have brought attention to the abuse of prison inmates and the good work it's done in helping to humanize non-violent convicted persons. With that background, it's easy to get inside the heads of the prison characters in the novel. Some of the products of their imaginations are very rough around the edges, but Atwood is careful to root the grittiness in their experiences.

Atwood includes a summary of The Tempest in the book, so even if you haven't seen the play staged you can brush up before diving into the novel. But all the allusions - including the chapter headings - will make more sense if you've at least seen a movie version. (The acknowledgments also mention Julie Taymor's movie, which I highly recommend seeing. I still consider Russell Brand the ultimate Trinculo.)

I received this book from BloggingForBooks.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.



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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

5 Corporate Scandals

Oops! I accidentally got carried away while working on a freelance writing project and wrote way over my projected word count about corporate scandals. So please, enjoy this short list of awful things done in the name of capitalism.

If you are horrified and fascinated by these events, perhaps you would like to browse this blog's history tag.

1. Ford Pinto (1978). Ford made its Pinto models between 1971 and 1980. In 1971, Ford recalled 20,000 of its Pintos because of reports of vapors from the fuel tank leaking into the back of the car through the carburetor. In two legal cases, Ford was accused of producing a car it knew was unsafe, particularly in low-speed rear-end collisions. Three deaths and four incidents of serious injury were reported 1971-1974.

https://www.amazon.com/Was-Ford-Pinto-Death-Trap-ebook/dp/B017OFMRQI/
In 1978, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration ruled that the design of Ford’s fuel tank was defective. In 1980 the state of Indiana charged the Ford corporation with murder after three teenage girls were killed in one accident involving a Pinto, but the company was found not guilty.

2. Union Carbide (1984). The chemical manufacturer’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India was so poorly maintained it caused the largest industrial disaster in history. The accidental release of methyl isocyanate caused the immediate suffocation deaths of more than 2,000 people, injuries in more than 50,000 people, and an additional gas-related death toll of perhaps another 8,000 people. Although the Indian government charged Union Carbide executives with homicide, the company claimed it was not under Indian jurisdiction and these officials did not appear in court to face these charges.

https://www.amazon.com/Five-Past-Midnight-Bhopal-Industrial/dp/0446530883/
3. Lincoln Savings and Loan (1989). The Lincoln S&L had been a respected financial institution since it was opened in Los Angeles in 1925. Its management ran the institution conservatively and made a modest profit.

When Charles Keating purchased Lincoln S&L in February 1984, Keating increased the company’s profits five-fold by taking on riskier and riskier investments. As a result, the parent company was forced to declare bankruptcy and 21,000 investors, many of them elderly, lost their savings.

4. Firestone Natural Rubber Company (1990). Firestone Tire and Rubber Company opened this natural rubber plantation in Liberia in 1926. Leased from the Liberian government, the plantation was the largest of its kind in the world. Human rights groups have documented numerous worker complaints about conditions in the plantation, ranging from accusations of child labor violations to modern-day slavery.

Civil war broke out in Liberia in 1990, and a resistance group took over the Firestone plantation. Although all the details of the what happened on the plantation at that time are unclear, what is known is that warlord Charles Taylor made Firestone Natural Rubber Company his base of operations and that Taylor was convicted in international criminal court for war crimes.

5. Halliburton (2010). Founded in 1919, the Halliburton Company is among the world’s largest oil field service companies. It has been involved in numerous scandals over the years, from accusations of illegal trading with the enemy when a subsidiary opened an office in Tehran to charges of obstructing an investigation by deleting data related to the Deep Water Horizon oil rig explosion of 2010. Halliburton was found to be jointly responsible, along with BP and another oil company, of negligent practices that caused the deaths of 11 employees and the discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

'Geekerella' by Ashley Poston Book Review

GeekerellaGeekerella by Ashley Poston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Geekerella' is a sweet, fun, charming retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. Its heroine, Elle, bonded with her late father through the sci-fi television series 'Starfield.' Its prince is Darien Freeman, an actor on a soapish evening drama series recently cast as 'Starfield's Prince Carmindor in a movie reboot.

Elle is not initially happy with this casting decision. A nice twist is that part of the book is written from her point of view and part is written from Darien's. I don't think I've ever read a "Cinderella" version that gives us the prince's POV before.

Darien and Elle correspond via text without knowing who the other person is in real life. They fall in love through each other's words and their shared love of 'Starfield.' In a way, they become Carmindor and the fictional TV series' heroine, Princess Amara. There's a wicked stepmother and a lost shoe, but this retelling is contemporary and fresh enough to make it all seem new.

An important detail about this book is that it has a Cosplay Ball, and at that ball, a Dean Winchester and a Castiel are a dancing couple. (Okay, maybe that's only an important detail if you're a Destiel shipper.)

I'm more of a fanfiction writer than a cosplayer, so I didn't quite identify with Elle as much as I did with Cath Avery in Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. Still, this is in 'Fangirl's wheelhouse, and fans of Rowell's geeky romance should enjoy this romantic geeky retelling.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and was not obligated in any way to review it.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

'Democracy In Black' #Nonfiction #Politics

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American SoulDemocracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is excellent at describing what the problem is, but a bit lacking in practical solutions on how to solve the problem. Professor Glaude isn't responsible for single-handedly solving the race problems in the U.S.A., of course, but I did think that at the beginning of the book he said that he would focus on what could be done other than more preaching to the choir.

The #1 problem, as summed up in this book, is that white Americans fundamentally need to change the way we view African-Americans before anything will truly change. Professor Glaude then goes on to describe how contemporary African-American politics, including the presidency of Former President Obama, exacerbate rather than deal with the problem. Namely, the Black Left is too worried about placating and catering to white ideas of what an African-American politician should be to be considered "acceptable."

The result is that the Democratic Party counts on the support of the African-American voting block without actually creating policies that do anything to make Black life in America any better. It's a huge frustration, quite disheartening, and a problem that grass-roots activism is going to have to work really, REALLY hard to make a dent in.

I received a paperback copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair, honest review.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

'When God Made You' #childrensbook by Matthew Paul Turner and David Catrow

When God Made YouWhen God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written and beautifully illustrated picture book with words by Matthew Paul Turner and images by David Catrow. The star of the book is an unnamed little girl who appears to be about four years old. She's a girl of African descent with an adorable little face and beautiful natural hair in braids.

I knew I was going to love the illustrations when I opened the cover and saw the abstract, rainbow-hued "squiggle" artwork on the inside. On the first story page, a cat of perhaps Siamese persuasion is making a very cat-like face on one side of our heroine, and a fluffy little dog is looking very curiously at her story book on her other side. Her baby sister plays contentedly on the floor. It's a charming illustration in watercolors and a few lines of black ink.

The story introduces children to the concept of being created as a unique creation in God's image. It would be a nice lesson for a young children's Sunday school class, for a religious or home-school kindergarten or preschool class, or for a bedtime story. The illustrations get increasingly whimsical.

Overall, this book is an absolute joy.

I received a copy of this book from BloggingForBooks.com in exchange for writing this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

4 Great Travel Books for 2017



4. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Colin Dickey’s haunted travelogue Ghostland roams New York, New England, the Midwest, the South, the Southeast, the Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific Coast in search for ghost-ridden homes, businesses, cemeteries, asylums, and prisons. Whether or not you believe in life after death, Dickey explains, the folklore connected to certain geographical locations often tells us more about the anxieties of the living than it does about the concerns of the dead. I'm fascinated by Dickey’s analysis and by his conclusion that the public’s interest in ghost stories is keeping alive the important work of historical preservation.

3. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton

Starting with the premise that with identical chains of store franchises in every village and hamlet across the land, America is no longer a place that holds any mystery, the authors of Atlas Obscura began by wondering what they could do to reclaim some of the world’s lost wonder, starting in their Manhattan backyards. They were amazed to find more weird, obscure, bizarre and - well, amazing places had been right under their noses. Around the world, the authors found wherever you go, something weird is going on just out of the public eye.

2. Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin

Virginia Woolf called it “Street Haunting,” and the French poet Charles Baudelaire termed it flânerie: the art of inhabiting the crowd of a city street. In Flâneuse, Lauren Elkin writes specifically of what it means to inhabit the street crowd, a traditionally male-dominated public space, while inhabiting a female body. With keen and often cutting powers of observation that would have made Woolf proud, Elkin shares with us the kind of woman-on-the-street experiences men might miss.

1. The Joys of Travel: And Stories That Illuminate Them by Thomas Swick

Thomas Swick is a seasoned travel writer who’s seen more than 60 countries, and in The Joys of Travels he names the seven joys of travel by name. Like a modern-day Canterbury Tales, each joy has a corresponding tale full of humor and insight.

Monday, March 13, 2017

8 Great Quotes From Literature

[Guest Post] It is not uncommon for some phrase to be memorized out of the whole book of our favorites. It was so catchy, so memorable or simply was in the fullness of time. Users of a popular social network gathered together just some out of those, which are the most popular ones. Here are the eight quotes on the top of the list:

“That's the wonderful thing about man; he never gets so discouraged or disgusted that he gives up doing it all over again, because he knows very well it is important and WORTH the doing.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


“No”, he said quickly. “Never. Stay friends? Try to grow a small rose garden on the ashes of broken feelings? No, this will never work for you and me. It happens only after small affairs and it looks fake. Love should not be spoiled by friendship. The end is the end.”
― Erich Maria Remarque, Arch of Triumph


“I don`t care what you think about me. I don`t think about you at all.”
― Henri Gidel, Coco Chanel


“I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves...”
― Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Grey


“I won`t think of it now. I will think of it tomorrow.”
― Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind


“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


“I don`t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender In The Night


“That is the most difficult thing of all. It is far more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself correctly, then you are truly a man of wisdom.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


About the Author: Melisa Marzett is a young lady who nevertheless has gone through many books, met lots of people, and can come up with an opinion on anything, really. Working for bigpaperwriter.com at this time, she is eager to write more and more. She has passion for writing and it would be delightful to her to get to know more. She is never tired of what she does and will gladly accept a challenge to write a guest post whatever the topic would be.