Monkalong Two: The Saga of Raymond /Alphonso

This week’s Monkalong reading brings us no new Monk snuggling. It’s all about Raymond (aka Alphonso), who if you remember is Pregnant Nun Agnes’s boyfriend. He tells Lorenzo the longest story ever.

ron typewriter
Raymond telling this story

Everybody Loves Raymond

Chapter 3 is basically a set up to show what a nice guy Raymond is with the exception of making assumptions about women based on their looks. Some time ago, Raymond was heading to Germany via France and got himself tangled up with bandits. I’m not going to get into the details, because it goes on forever, but he escaped and saves a baroness who is Agnes’s aunt. Her husband is so grateful he invites Raymond to his castle.

Where of course he meets Agnes. And we find out why she’s a nun.

I love Agnes. She draws crazy pictures of scary nuns and her governess. She and Raymond fall in love, but she’s meant for the nunnery because when her mom was pregnant she became sick. She promised God to make her child a nun/priest if he’d let her live. First of all, I’ve made a lot of promises to God when I’ve been sick, like giving up cursing and impure thoughts. People promise stuff they don’t mean. Also, I’ve never promised someone else to God. How unfair is that? Want to give God a nun? You volunteer, lady.

Anyway to the nunnery for Agnes. Still, she thinks if they get the Baroness on their side, they have a chance. So Raymond puts on the charm for the Baroness. He laughs at her jokes, reads books to her. You see where this is going. She wants his booty.

Here’s some charming commentary on the Baroness from Raymond:
She was about forty: In her youth She had been a Beauty; But her charms had been upon that large scale which can but ill sustain the shock of years: However She still possessed some remains of them.
The shock of years! But whew! she’s still bangable.

The Baroness throws a hissy fit when he tells her there’s someone else and threatens to RUIN HIM! It’s so over the top. I’m sure there is some other young dude out there who’d love a rich married patroness. So many other fish in the sea, Baroness.

Get it together, Baroness

New plan: Agnes will dress up as the Bleeding Nun and sneak out of the castle. Who is the Bleeding Nun? I’m glad you asked. She’s a GHOST who appears once every five years and walks the castle with impunity.

The night arrives, Agnes appears in her ghost veils. Raymond whisks her away, but there’s a carriage accident and while Raymond is injured, Agnes has disappeared. Where is Agnes?!

Oh he sees her enter his room at night! But, that’s not Agnes. It’s… the Bleeding Nun. He picked up the wrong nun!  Every night this nun shows up and stares at him for an hour.

Who Ya Goin’ Call?

I thought we were going to have some fun ghost hunting adventures here but Raymond takes care of his ghost rather fast. His servant meets a Rasputin-ish character who knows all about his ghost problems. He knows all about the Bleeding Nun, whose real name is Beatrice and coincidently is a relation to Raymond. A ghost in Germany is related to a guy from Spain? Sure, okay.  


Beatrice was a wicked lady in life, although she was a nun. She threw wild parties “of unbridled debauchery” at her lover’s castle. She was persuaded to kill her lover by his brother only to die at that man’s hands. To be rid of Beatrice, Raymond must dig up her bones and have them laid to rest in the family vault. Which he does and no more Beatrice. Boo. If you are going to have a Ghost Nun, keep her in the book for more than 5 minutes.

So was Beatrice hanging around waiting for a relative to show up? Or was she lusting for young Raymond? I was confused about this part.

After almost being killed by the Baroness’s hired baddies, Raymond finds Agnes at the present nunnery and gets her pregnant.

True facts

So Long, Agnes

Lorenzo forgives Raymond for banging his sister and agrees to help him. And by the way, the Baroness is dead now. Lorenzo drops this bomb like it's no big deal.

Okay. Press pause. I’m giving Lewis the side eye for his treatment of women, specifically any woman older than 16. They’re all bonkers, and crazy horny. Was this a society’s opinion at the time? Or was this 19 year old Lewis’s opinion? Was he having trouble with the older ladies? I don’t like you, Lewis.

In this final chapter, Lorenzo presses his suit to Antonia, but her mom has more sense than her aunt and puts the kibosh to that idea. Lorenzo also obtains permission from the Pope to free Agnes. The Prioress does not like this at all and tells Lorenzo that’s she’s dead. Dun-dun-dah!

So is Agnes really dead? Probably not. Will we ever get to see the Bleeding Nun again? I hope so. When will Antonia’s mother, Elvira, turn into a crazy horny-pants? Oh and by the way, Raymond is also a relative of Antonia. This guy’s family really gets around.

This week's reading was pure nonsense, but there were bandits and ghosts. I would like Lewis to take it down a notch when it comes to crazy women, even though it does keep things interesting. I request less poetry next time though. And more ghosts.

Comically Canadian: Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton

step aside pops
In a follow up to Hark! A Vagrant, Kate Beaton offers another collection of her best comics in Step Aside Pops.

Her comics defy explanation, so here’s a brief list of what you’ll find:
  • Do you even lift, Cinderella?
  • All the crazy parts of Wuthering Heights
  • Strong Female Characters (sexism is over!)
  • The real secret of The Secret Garden
  • Famous historical dudes being silly
  • Ida B Wells
  • More Brontes
  • Home for Nasty Boys
  • An interpretation of Nancy Drew book covers
  • An interpretation of other book covers
  • What is really going on in that Public Domain art
  • Straw Feminists
  • Poets being poets
  • Canada stuff

So, you know, the usual. A little bit of historical, a bit of pop culture, a bit of literature. It’s comics for smart people. (I didn’t get everything, truth be told.)

My favorite is Nasty a comic involving a ‘Nasty Boy’ from Janet Jackson’s music video. Nasty Boys have feelings too.

The title comes from a strip she created about an old timey biker lady. Her inspiration was a Victorian satirical cartoon of a woman on a bike running over a man.

step aside pops 1

It’s a perfect title considering how Kate Beaton has taken over the comics world. If you see her coming, you better step aside.

The Heart Goes Last But My Heart Wasn’t In It

heart goes last
The Heart Goes Last is a weird book, and just when you think it can’t get any weirder, it does. This book has everything: voluntary prisons, involuntary brain surgery, organ theft, sexbots.

Even Stefon thinks this might be too much
Stan and Charmaine were just an ordinary couple who lost everything in an economic crash. Now they live in their car. Every night they’re terrified that they’ll be murdered while they sleep. While working in a bar, Charmaine sees a solution to their problems: a commercial for Consilience. Consilience is a town/prison. Volunteers sign up for life, one month they live happily in a beautiful house, on alternate months they live in Positron, a prison. They quickly sign on. A lifetime of security is better than a life of fear.

Things do seem to be going well, at first. Then Charmaine starts having an affair with the man who lives in their house on alternating months, things start to unravel. Consilience itself is a prison with rules and those who break the rules have to pay the price. Does Consilience keep evil out or evil in?

I’ve been reading articles about The Heart Goes Last because I can’t get a handle on what it is, if that makes sense. It’s supposed to be funny, I guess, though I thought it was more silly than funny. One of the characters spends half the novel in an Elvis costume.

There are some interesting ideas wrapped up in all this weirdness. At one point, Stan, whose job in prison is to take care of chickens, hears about a new breed of headless chicken, which is supposed to decrease anxiety and increase production. Later I realized that the citizens of Consilience are just chickens to the managers of the town, and if they were headless in some way or another, all the better. People are just using the bodies of other people for their own ends.

Security in exchange for freedom is a big part of the novel. Atwood doesn’t mess around. She literally puts people in a prison, and when they’re living in the town, they’re still imprisoned. But without the security of Consilience, life is a nightmare. Where is that balance? Can freedom and security co-exist?

Pretty much everyone in this novel is awful. Stan and Charmaine are not great people. It’s not that I need likeable characters, but I’d like to know how to feel about them as a couple. Am I supposed to hope they come back together? I didn’t. When they are together, I thought Stan was a dick to his wife. He underestimates her. She’s a survivor. I also found it frustrating that they are so passive. They’re pawns waiting to be moved. At one point I couldn’t see how they would get out of their situation, but they do because someone else decides their fate.

The Heart Goes Last is pretty wacky. You can read it for the thought provoking themes, or you can read it for the sex robots. It’s up to you!

For me, I thought her last book Stone Mattress was funnier and more interesting. One thing about Margaret Atwood though is she always goes for the weird!

(I won The Heart Goes Last from Goodreads.)

Monkalong: The Beginning


It begins! The Monkalong (The Monk Readalong). Here we start with Chapter 1 and 2.

Chapter One: Hey, I just met you and this is crazy. But here is everything about my sister’s baby!

We start things off it a Madrid church, because I guess that’s technically where you’d find monks, but I was really hoping for an abbey in a swamp. Anyway, two ladies walk into a church, an older woman and a veiled lady. The older one elbows her way to the front, because it’s standing room only, as everyone is there to hear the rock star preacher-monk.

My interpretation 
Two dude-bros decide that they have to see what’s under the veil, because that’s what entitled young dudes do. The veiled girl just wants to sit in peace (the world has not changed much, just replace ‘church’ with ‘bus’ or whatever). The older lady is no help at all and shames her into taking off her veil. The dudes gawk at her awhile, because manners they have not.

While they are staring at her, the older woman, Leonella, introduces the girl as her niece Antonia, and proceeds to give them the girl’s life story. Her parents were a nobleman and a shoemaker’s daughter, who secretly married. When found out, they abandoned their two year old son and escaped to the Indies. After thirteen years, her father died and her mother returned to Spain with baby Antonia.

Then the dudes tell them all about the rock star monk. He was abandoned as a baby at an abbey and raised by monks. And now he’s thirty years old, which coincidently would be the age of Antonia’s brother if he hadn’t died right after being abandoned. I’m sure these two things are completely unrelated. They couldn’t be the same person, surely not!

The monk gives his sermon and people are moved. Antonia is really moved!
Antonia, while She gazed upon him eagerly, felt a pleasure fluttering in her bosom which till then had been unknown to her, and for which She in vain endeavoured to account.
Oh my, Antonia! This is going to be a problem.

rock star
Then there is some funny business where the older lady thinks she’s being proposed to and the dude, Don Christobel, is told to ‘just go with it’ because the other dude, Lorenzo, is ‘in love’ with Antonia.

(The order of the following events is different in the audiobook version from the Kindle version.)

After the ladies leave, they run into a fortune teller. She tells Leonella that at fifty-one, she’s too old for love. That does not go over well. For Antonia, she gives her a grim prophecy:
You would be some good Man's blessing:
But Alas! This line discovers,
That destruction o'er you hovers;
Lustful Man and crafty Devil
Will combine to work your evil;
There’s some stuff about Lorenzo’s gloomy dream/vision wedding to Antonia. yada yada After which he spies his sister Agnes, a nun, leave a letter for some guy under a statue. The guy turns out to be someone Lorenzo knows: Raymond de las Cisternas. Before it’s pistols at dawn, Raymond says he has an explanation.

Chapter Two: Brought to you by the word “bosom”

The monk, Ambrosio, sits in his room and congratulates himself on never being tempted even though the ladies throw themselves at him all the time. In walks in Rosario, a mysterious guy who keeps his face hidden. It’s clear that Rosario is an Ambrosio Superfan.

Later Ambrosio, sees Agnes drop a letter which he reads and Scandal! Agnes is preggers! She begs for mercy because she’s going to marry Raymond who is an old boyfriend, but he tells the prioress to punish her anyway. Agnes curses him with the Curse of Temptation.

Not five minutes later, Rosario reveals that she’s been a girl all along. (I honestly thought he was gay.) Her real name is Matilda and she’s a stalker. She’s been planning on getting close to him for years, but it’s not a sex thing. She just needs to be near him and stuff. He says no way! She threatens to kill herself, produces a knife, and releases her bosom. Ambrosio has never seen a bosom before, so of course it haunts his dreams that night.

In the morning he tells her that she has to go. Her bosoms are too much of a temptation, etc. He reaches to pick her a flower to remember him by, and is bitten by a deadly snake. Everyone prepares for his death but Matilda nurses him back to health. In his feverish state, he realizes that she looks just like the portrait of the Madonna he loves. Why? Because she secretly had it made for him and got him to buy it in some convoluted plan. Expert stalker achievement unlocked.

This Madonna and her bosoms approve of this nutty plan

Matilda starts to feel ill. She reveals that to save him she sucked the poison out of his wound and she is to die! But before that, she’d like some of that sweet, sweet monk lovin’. Ambrosio feels really bad*bosom* about her dying*bosom* for him, and *bosoms*, so he falls upon her bosom.

My interpretation of these events

A monk saying “I can’t be tempted” is like a detective in a movie saying, “I’m a week away from retirement.” It’s tempting fate. As soon as he said it, I knew he was doomed.  

What’s going to happen to poor Agnes? I don’t know why they just didn’t sneak her out the back door. It would solve everyone’s problem. Now they have a pregnant nun to hide.

I did not see that Rosario thing coming. I thought he was hiding from the law, but also lusting after Ambrosio. I literally said, “Oooooh!” when she pulled back her cloak. Girl has issues.

I’d bet American dollars that Antonia and Ambrosio are brother and sister.

Lots of foreshadowing: the dream/vision, the fortune teller. I see bad things for Antonia.

I’m curious to see what will happen now that Mr Monk has done the deed. Probably blame it all on Matilda. Never sleep with your stalker, dude. It can’t end well.

Why Not Me? Find Out From Mindy Kaling

why not me

I was so happy to get a copy of the audiobook version of Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?  I listened to her first book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and enjoyed it. Audio is the way to go.

In Why Not Me? Mindy wishes the reader to get to know her better. Through a series of essays, Mindy talks about her experiences in Hollywood and with the press, her relationships, dreams, and fears. Since her first book, Mindy has gone on to leave The Office and star in her own series. Part of this memoir explains why she left a successful show to take a chance on her own.

She talks about how her life has changed since becoming “a little bit famous” from the things she can no longer get away with to the things that have made her life better. She speaks candidly about her humbling feelings about being a role model to young women, especially young women of colour. The title essay “Why Not Me?” is a letter to a young Indian girl who asks her where her confidence comes from. Her answer is an interesting one: you have to earn it.

Her Hollywood experiences and her glamorous brushes with very famous people are entertaining, but the best essays are the ones where she is sincere about her friendships. She tells a touching story about her friend BJ Novak* that put a lump in my throat. She discusses why she hates weddings: it means the friendship will never be what it once was. She tells a story of Greta, a Hollywood fairy godfriend who swooped into her life briefly only to flutter away four months later. That break up left her feeling worse than any break up with a guy.

There are a couple of sections that are different from her essays. One is an imagined email exchange between a “sliding doors” version of herself as a Latin teacher and a gruff older colleague. (Spoiler alert: They fall in love.) The second is something I had to see for myself if it was real: her commencement speech to the 2014 graduating class of Harvard law students. It’s in the book nearly verbatim.

Probably the only essay I didn’t enjoy was the one about the Secret Serviceman she dated. I felt like her writing staff did about it. I lost interest. It didn’t go anywhere. 

Overall Why Not Me? is a better memoir than Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Mindy has done a lot in the years since then. She’s gone from Kelly Kapoor, a side character in someone else’s sitcom to Mindy Lahiri, heroine front and center. In a way, the arc reflects her own life. She’s gained in confidence, gone from nervous twenty-something writer to successful star of her own show. I hope great things continue to happen for her. I do feel like I know her a little better now.

About the Audio: Mindy Kaling narrates her own book, of course. She’s funny and personable. I had to listen to it twice, though. She’s talks so fast!

*She convinced me to give BJ Novak’s writing a try. I put his book on hold at the library.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Media Madness Monday: Carmilla the Web Series

  media madness monday
I'm a media junkie, not just books, but TV, movies, music, podcasts, and internet nonsense. Some Mondays I discuss something that's caught my interest this past week.

On the Web

In my research for my Carmilla vs. Dracula infographic, I stumbled upon the 2014 web series Carmilla, a modern retelling of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella of the same name. Carmilla is a Canadian made series produced by Smokebomb Entertainment and is part of the Vervegirl channel on Youtube. Each episode is short (2 to 7 minutes long). There are 36 in the first season (plus extra content).

In the first episode, Laura’s dorm mate Betty goes missing after attending a party, and is quickly replaced by the abrasive Carmilla. Laura learns that other girls at Silas University have gone missing at parties, some of them appearing days later with no memory of the incident. Betty continues to stay gone. Laura spends her time investigating the disappearances while Carmilla lolls around in bed all day.

The episodes are filmed in front of Laura’s “web cam” so all the action either takes place in her room or off stage to be described later. A variety of girls and a couple of bros visit with new information. Romances, breakups, friend-drama all happen in Laura’s room.

Carmilla is more funny than scary. It’s a cute series. From the comments, I don’t think I am the demographic: young women in their teens and twenties (fans call themselves Creampuffs). I was entertained all the same. I also really like the theme song.

This Laura is much more curious and proactive than her original. Carmilla is less “I love you, I love you, I love you” and more goth girl does not give two bothers. Or does she???? I won’t tell. Even though weird things are going down, there is still time for romance, like the rather awkward flirtations with another girl in Laura’s building, and worries over midterm exams.

After finishing season one in a couple of days, I’m curious to see what season two will bring. 

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are a Little Chilly


Brr! It’s a bit fresh out there! Finally feels like fall, which is nice since October starts this week.

Anyone going to watch the Blood Moon eclipse tonight? I’m going to try my night photography skills on the moon. I hope I get some non-blurry shots.

I’m almost done The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood which is one of the weirdest books I read this year. I don’t know what to make of it.

I have a review scheduled for Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, the audiobook. Yay!

Monkalong is this Thursday! I’ve read my chapters. Have you?

Thought I’d share some interesting links I read this week:

So, Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s 1989 and music critics somehow managed to simultaneously praise Adams and insult Swift. Anna Leszkiewicz gathers the worst offenders in her article The Mansplaining of Taylor Swift. Swift’s songs, which she actually wrote, are only any good if some dude sings them. I’m not a Swift Superfan, but I think she’s doing well for herself and these criticisms are both sexist and patronizing. Oh and I listened to Adams’s version and I was bored.

This is too real: How to Stock an Independent Bookstore. You’ll find the books at the back of my local chain bookstore.

In medieval Poland there was a connection between cholera and “vampires,” via Strange Company (lots of interesting links there).

I thought this video from Skit Box was really funny. Sometimes I put on some yoga pants and fluffy socks and call it a day.