The Monk: The Non-Spoilery Thoughts

the monk
I have to write up some thoughts on The Monk for RIP X. I wrote so many words about it already. I did five wrap up posts for the Monkalong.

The Beginning
The Saga of Raymond/Alphonso
Ambrosio is the Worst
Stupider and Stupider
The Final Monkening

Those posts spoil everything, so if you want to know all the crazy stuff that happens but don’t want to read the book, I got you.

The Monk by Matthew G Lewis is about a monk who does a lot of very bad, bad things. He’s not very good at doing the bad, bad things. There is also a Pregnant Nun and her lover trying to get together. Plus: a ghost nun, the devil, bandits, a magic mirror, a lustful baroness, lots of crazy women and grief stricken men. I read that Matthew G Lewis played with gender by making the men weak and the women strong. Interesting, but it was still a frustrating book at times.

Also heads up: there’s some rape in this story. It’s all couched in purple prose, but it’s there.

And so many poems and songs. So many.

This is one of the books that launched the gothic novel trend. Written in 1796 by 19 year old Lewis in ten weeks, it’s not great writing. All the stuff that makes a great gothic novel is there though. It’s bonkers!

If you do decide to read The Monk, I suggest reading it with a friend or two. You will want to talk about it with someone.

brain crying
This will be you, if you have no one to talk to about it. 
I listened to The Monk via Librivox. The volunteer narrator is James K White and he is sooooo gooooood. It seems like he had a great time reading it. I highly recommend going that route.


ripnineperilfirst
*graphic by Abigail Larson

Monkalong 5: The Final Monkening

I am considerably calmer than last week, all things considered. This book though. Let's do this thing one more time. The conclusion of...The Monk.

Ambrosio, Just…No

Okay, I thought for sure Lorenzo would bust through the crypt door and save Antonia’s “virtue” at the last second. Nope.
He gradually made himself Master of her person, and desisted not from his prey, till he had accomplished his crime and the dishonour of Antonia.
And once Ambrosio gets what he wants, he has no use for her. In fact, he blames her for what he did. “What seduced me into crimes, whose bare remembrance makes me shudder? Fatal Witch! was it not thy beauty?” Ambrosio, you piece of shit.

lagertha insult
Me to Ambrosio
Then he tells her she has to stay in the crypt until she dies, because he can’t have her walking around telling people what a bag of dirt he is and he doesn’t have the balls to put her out of her misery.

Matilda runs in yelling how they are all DOOMED! because the peasants are revolting. Practical as ever, she tries to stab Antonia, and get her out of the way. In the kerfuffle, Antonia escapes. Lorenzo’s crew hears her screaming, but Ambrosio catches her and stabs her to shut her up. She dies in Lorenzo’s arms. But first, this wee bit of loveliness:
She told him that had She still been undefiled She might have lamented the loss of life; But that deprived of honour and branded with shame, Death was to her a blessing: She could not have been his Wife, and that hope being denied her, She resigned herself to the Grave without one sigh of regret.
Oh boy.
oprah-shakng-her-head
No words

Happy Endings for the Dude Bros

Don’t mourn too hard for Lorenzo though. Agnes, we finally know for sure it’s Agnes, is nursed back to health by the Hot Nun, Virginia. Agnes tells her tale of woe. The Prioress wanted to punish Agnes the old fashioned way by nearly killing her, but keeping her barely alive and suffering so she can think about what she’s done.

mostly dead
The Prioress
Once Agnes was done talking, I was totally okay with the Prioress getting stomped to death.

Lorenzo replaces Antonia in his heart with Hot Nun. One sexy virgin is as good as another, I guess. Raymond recovers and claims Agnes for a wife. And they all lived happily ever after.

The Devil Goes Down to Madrid

Not so for Ambrosio who is caught immediately by the authorities. Both he and Matilda are tortured by the Inquisition. After a few days, Ambrosio is in his cell when Matilda appears before him. She's free! She made a deal with the devil- and he can too! All he has to do is read this passage in this book backwards and Voila! Freedom!

simpsons devil
At first he resists, but this is Ambrosio so it doesn’t last long. He calls up the devil who is all “WHO HAS CALLED ME?!” Ambrosio requests to be let out of jail. The devil is down with this, all he wants is Ambrosio’s soul.

Ambrosio gets all offended as only Ambrosio can and berates the devil. The devil is all- Dude, you called me! “Call me no more till resolved to accept my offers!”

He stews in jail a bit more, until he hears soldiers coming for him. This time he calls the devil and for sure he agrees to sell his soul for freedom.

The devil takes him to the edge of a cliff and laughs at him. Ambrosio was about to be pardoned! (Wuh?) But wait there’s more- Elvira was his mother and Antonia his sister. (Info we already knew.) Plus, since he didn’t ask for anything besides freedom, the devil is going to push him off this cliff and collect what he’s owed right away. The End!

This book was bonkers!

drake crazy hands
Drake's interpretation of The Monk through dance
I wonder why Lewis let Antonia get raped. I’m more surprised about that than her dying. There were so many near misses. It seems like a weird way to end things with her and Lorenzo. (Although the gypsy called it way back in the first chapter.) Lewis just swaps her out for Virginia. What was the thinking there? It’s like he pulled an Alcott (when she has Laurie marry Amy instead of Jo) and decided “nah, I’m going to keep these two apart. But first let’s make her suffer!”

Oh, and whatever happened to Don Christoval? I hope he found a nice girl to have normal times with.

Fun Fact: The word bosom appears 136 times (compare the word monk: 155). About once every 3 pages. Think of it this way: we read this in 5 parts, assume you read each part in one go, if you took a shot every time the word appeared that would be 27 shots per reading. You could be hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. So don't do that!

This was great! I enjoyed the Monkalong. Thanks to Alice for hosting and all the other readers who discussed this every week. I hope you've got your Demon Monk costumes ready for Halloween!

Things Get Creepy In The Doll Collection

doll collection
Do dolls creep you out? Usually dolls don’t bother me, but ventriloquist dummies NOPE! Those things are right up there with clowns for me. Editor Ellen Datlow gave seventeen authors the challenge of writing a scary short story involving dolls, but NO EVIL DOLLS ALLOWED. The people may be evil or the dolls used for evil purposes, but no Chuckies ran rampant through the collection.

What the authors in The Doll Collection came up with is pretty interesting. There are serial killers, magical beings, witches, and supernatural creatures. The dolls are antiques, toys, charms, poppets, puppets, and some barely qualify as dolls.

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While I enjoyed most of the stories, I skipped a couple that just weren’t doing it for me. “After and Back Before” (a dystopian story) confused the hell out of me. I felt like I was upside down.
I did have a few favorites.

Heroes and Villains by Stephen Gallagher- This one involves a ventriloquist dummy. Yes, they are gross, but I liked the “moral” of this story. I get the feeling the author was asked to write for free one too many times.

In Case of Zebras by Pat Cadigan- I liked the voice of the narrator. After a car accident, a teenager gets community service at a hospital. When a patient arrives with a tiny doll, things get weird.

Doctor Faustus by Mary Robinette Kowal- This one is pure horror involving a creepy theatre after hours, and an incantation. Maybe don’t go for authenticity when dealing with the devil.

Miss Sibyl-Cassandra by Lucy Sussex- Set up to look like a auction house description, the provenance of a fortune telling doll is given through old letters. The doll was blessed with a special gift by a Roma visitor, the gift of making fortunes come true in unusual ways. There’s a little something for literature fans at the end.

Word Doll by Jeffrey Ford- Presented as factual, a writer visits a special doll museum. I liked the local folklore flavour with the twist at the end.

I read these stories a couple at a time over the last few weeks. Very appropriate for October. Datlow chose wisely and brought the best out of these authors. She also used photos (some she took herself) of some creepy looking dolls to illustrate the stories. I hope they aren’t all her dolls, or how does she close her eyes at night?

This is not the first collection from Datlow that I’ve read. I reviewed Supernatural Noir back in 2011.

They Found Him Dead: As Much Fun As You Can Have At a Murder

they found him

Silas Kane, the head of a well-to-do family, is found dead at the bottom of a cliff the day after his birthday party. The police declare it an accident; he lost his way and fell during his late night fog walk. Some family members suspect murder. There are plenty of potential murderers. His heir, Clement, is certainly happy to be the new master of Cliff House, and Silas’s business partners hope the new heir is much more manageable.

When Clement is gunned down in the middle of the day, police wonder if someone is knocking off the heirs or if someone had it in for Clement. His wife was having a not so secret affair. Was it her or her lover? Or maybe someone else entirely. The local police ask the help of Superintendent Hannasyde. Only he can untangled this mess.

They Found Him Dead is so good! Georgette Heyer doesn’t focus all her skill on the mystery; she creates interesting, intelligent characters. The police didn’t even get involved in the investigation until about halfway through the novel. Most of the story revolves around the happenings at Cliff House: who knows what, who hates whom.

The dialogue is everything. Heyer lets you know who these people are through the things they say. And it is so funny (and infuriating) at times.

I can’t do the book justice so here are some of my favorite quotes:
Rosemary Kane (Clement’s wife): “Like that thing Mummy took up last year. Right Thought, or something, where you simply fix your mind on what you want, and utterly believe it’ll come to you, and it does, as long as you don’t do anything about it.”

Trevor Dermott (Rosemary’s lover): He was always rather pleased when a woman made an irrational remark, because he could then correct her folly, not unkindly, but with an indulgent laugh at the limitations of the female brain.

Lady Harte, Norma (Mother of two people staying at Cliff House, explorer, and politician): “Well I’ve done most things- experience is the most important thing in life- but I’ve never yet been suspected of murder. Now, don’t misunderstand me! I don’t mind a bit; in fact, it’ll provide me with a grand piece of copy for the book I’m writing.”
There are frivolous fluffy-headed characters and sensible level-headed ones. The women do more than just sit around looking pretty. They have as many opinions as the men.

I loved They Found Him Dead. It was so much fun, which is weird to say about a book where people get murdered. The investigation itself is interesting and although I had a feeling about the murderer, I couldn’t figure out how it was accomplished. It was well done and I hope to read more of Heyer’s mysteries.

Monkalong 4: Stupider and Stupider

stupid fry
Me to everyone
I’m convinced that if the characters in The Monk were real people they’d all be wandering in circles, staring at their hands.

The Saga of Antonia

Ambrosio finally sets out to assault Antonia, who’s sleeping. Elvira finds him standing over Antonia with his pants down (literally). She doesn’t alert the authorities or ring a bell or something, she stands there saying, “A-ha! I knew it!” and proceeds to waste all her energy telling him how she’s going to ruin him. The maid’s room is right next door! She could throw a shoe or something. Somehow she can yell at Ambrosio but not loud enough for the Flora the maid to hear. Sweet Jebus, this was so frustrating!

When she does finally start yelling, Ambrosio chokes her to death. The next morning Antonia finds her dead mother, and her screams wake up Flora- oh my god, why didn’t you hear Elvira the night before- who gets the doctor. Probably the worst doctor in the world, because how can you mistake strangulation for natural causes. It’s a good thing they didn’t have CSI: Madrid back in those days, because Lewis would not get away with that now.

doctor nick
All old timey doctors
Antonia is now alone (well, she has Flora and the landlady). She’s distraught but “Nobody dies of mere grief.” She can’t go to Raymond because he is LITERALLY DYING OF GRIEF! (which is it, Lewis?!) Lorenzo is MIA. Flora has the sense to tell her what Ambrosio wants. That must have been an interesting conversation. I wonder if it involved puppets and diagrams. She finally hears from her aunt who just married an apothecary.

While she waits for Leonella, her mother’s ghost visits her and tells her that she’ll see her in three days. Antonia freaks out and gets the brain fever. The landlady, a superstitious lady, runs to Ambrosio and begs for help, because she doesn’t want to be haunted. The story she tells involves Elvira eating chicken on a Friday because aren’t those Catholics foolish- hahaha, yes, Lewis we get it, stop beating that dead horse.

Ambrosio has gotten over his first feelings of guilt once it appears that he won’t get arrested for murder and remembers that he never got to raping. Matilda is still helping this jack ass (WHY?) and gives him a knock out drug to slip into Antonia. She must have gone to the same school as Snow White’s stepmom. Antonia will appear to be dead, but won’t be and then Ambrosio can hide her somewhere until she wakes up. Great plan, guys!

snow white high 5
What could possibly go wrong?
While Ambrosio waits for Antonia to drink the potion, he thinks that maybe Matilda is poisoning her for real. Wow, a reasonable thought! This makes sense, but this is The Monk so that’s not going to happen. Antonia starts convulsing but is lucid enough to divvy up her worldly goods. And that’s that.

Lorenzo and the Mystery of the Crying Crypt

Lorenzo is told by a nun via his servant to get an arrest warrant for the Prioress. Agnes was most definitely murdered. Lorenzo heads to the Sisters of St Clare with the authorities during a feast day so that Lewis can insult the Catholics some more.

Lorenzo’s nun yells “J’ACCUSE!” at the Prioress and tells everyone that she forced Agnes to drink poison. I am confused by why the Prioress hates Agnes so much. She’s become a Bond villain. She even has her own minions. Lorenzo is about to send her to the Spanish Inquisition. Because...
spanish inquisition
(Sorry, I had to.)
The crowd freaks out and tears the Prioress apart! Then they decide to avenge the death of an innocent nun by murdering a bunch of innocent nuns. Sure. And also burning the place to the ground. Lorenzo escapes into the Sepulchre.

There he finds some nuns hiding from the mob. They are also afraid because they hear wailing. It’s okay though because it’s probably the ghost who lost his hand by touching the saint’s statue, the Prioress told them all about it. Catholics, amirite? Lorenzo is suspicious and moves the statue to reveal a secret tunnel.

At the end of the tunnel is the source of the crying, a emaciated woman holding a dead baby. He doesn’t rush over the her saying, “I’ll save you!” but hides behind a column and let’s her lament about her starvation for 10 minutes. At no point does he think this could be Agnes. His pregnant sister who the nuns hid away! How many pregnant nuns does he think they keep hidden? When he does carry her out of tunnel, he doesn’t recognize her. I understand Lewis is trying to increase the suspense, but this isn’t the way. It just makes Lorenzo look stupid! Lewis you are a terrible writer!!!!!!!!

This whole section is….

wharrgarbl
To sum up: everyone in The Monk is an idiot.

Matilda is wasting her brilliant diabolical mind on Ambrosio. He can’t do anything right. Why would the devil want this duffus?

There is an abundance of songs and stories in these two chapters. I skipped them.

Was everyone else as frustrated with this section as I was?

See what everyone else thought over at Alice's blog (thanks, Alice!).

Take a Terrifying Walk Through The Woods With Emily Carroll

through the woods
Simultaneously beautiful and horrifying.

The woods are dark and mysterious. There are secrets hidden there. Emily Carroll would have you believe that, anyway. In these five deliciously macabre short stories, the characters face the secret forces hidden in the forest.

* Our Neighbor’s House. Three Sisters await their father’s return, while being visited by a mysterious smiling man in a hat.
*A Lady’s Hands Are Cold. A bluebeard fairy tale-like story of a new wife haunted by a mournful song.
*His Face All Red. A man murders his brother in the woods only to have a doppelganger return in his place.
*My Friend Janna. Two girls prank their neighbours by pretending to be mediums. The game becomes real when one of the friends is stalked by a spirit.
*The Nesting Place. An orphaned girl visits her brother and his new wife, but she suspects there is something off about the lady.

Carroll chooses to tell her stories with short sentences, eerie illustrations, and ambiguous endings. There isn’t a lot of exposition. The reader has to decide what has happened in each story. Those are my favorite type of scary story.

There is something old fashioned and gothic about each of them. None are set in the modern era. From the clothes and hair styles, the reader gets an idea of when the stories have happened, from centuries to decades ago. It gave me a cold and creepy feeling.

Through the Woods is a perfect book for a dark fall evening. I loved all of it.  If you’d like to get a feel for Carroll’s work, she has a website with a number of web comics.


ripnineperilfirst
*graphic by Abigail Larson

Pin It and Do It: One More For Fall!

Autumn-2015-Pin-it-and-Do-it-Challenge
 
Welcome to another Pin It and Do It post! Trish from Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity is the creator and host. It’s pretty simple: do something you’ve pinned on Pinterest.
 
pumpkin bread
 Pumpkin Bread with Streusel by Bakingdom. The streusel sort of melted into the bread, but it was good. These are mini-loaves, so they’re more like large muffins.
 
Corn field
Ribbon Witch. There are several variations of this on Pinterest, but I chose these instructions from Reasons to Come Home to help me make mine.  I bought the hat and legs at the dollar store, and got the ribbon on sale last year. This was a pretty cheap and easy craft.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cutout Cookies with Neat Edges. This recipe from Baking a Moment is just what it says it is; these cookies came out the oven exactly the way they went in. They taste a little like a sugar cookie and a little like a shortbread. I had a variety of fall cookie cutters, including a set of woodland creatures from Ikea.

I am still working on a cross stitch from Pinterest. I thought I would be done by now, but I’m not even halfway finished! (Not sure what the deal is with this pin because it’s not in English).
fall cross stitch

That’s about it for this month. I did make some dinner recipes on Pinterest too, but I think this is enough for today.

Please check out the other participants offerings at Trish’s blog.






That’s It! Readathon Wrap Up

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Hey all! I survived the 24 Hour Readathon! Well, I went to bed a little after 1 am. Oh well. I need my sleep. Congrats to all the other participants! You are all amazing!


gallavant
The Readathon crowd is top notch

I have the Closing Survey to fill out, though I’ve not sure how helpful I can be. I’ve been participating for a long time. Not much new for me to say.

Which hour was most daunting for you? None, really. I was restless somewhere in the middle though, so I ended up cleaning while I listened to an audiobook.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Through the Woods by Emily Carroll will keep a person awake. Maybe forever? 
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Twitter is always where it’s at. The Random Facts were fun.
How many books did you read? Two-ish. I will never be a fast reader, friends.
What were the names of the books you read? Through the Woods, and They Found Him Dead (almost) and some short stories from The Doll Collection. 
Which book did you enjoy most? Through the Woods but They Found Him Dead is really good too.
Which did you enjoy least? I started to lose interest in The Doll Collection.
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? You know I will try but I’ll have to see what is going on then.

Just want to take a moment to say thanks to Andi and Heather, all their co-hosts, and the Cheerleaders and challenge hosts. You guys did a great job! Have some caramel apples.

 
caramel apples

Readathon: October 2015 (Updated)

readathon new button

 

If you don't know what the 24 Hour Readathon  (Dewey's Readathon) is all about go check out the link. And maybe join in?

For everyone else- this is my official Readathon post for the day. I will be updating it with reading updates and challenges.

Let’s get started. First the Pre-Party questions.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Nova Scotia, Canada where the fall colours are amazing!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Emily Carroll’s Into the Woods
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Probably the Honeycrisp apples with caramel sauce.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m Chris from Chrisbookarama. I’ve been book blogging for almost 9 years now and I have no idea how many Readathons I’ve participating over the years. 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Not much. I’m pretty casual about the  Readathon. I do have much breakfast and lunch prepared already. I’m hoping that will be a time saver.


Update: Hour 6

I’ve read 7 short stories from The Doll Collection. Then I had to do some stuff so I started listening to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This is a fatal error. I started cleaning out a cupboard.

Snacks: Breakfast of French toast. Lemon loaf and Earl Grey tea.

 


Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? Right now I’m reading They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer.
2. How many books have you read so far? None so far, just parts of books.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Soooo many interruptions. Not much I can do about them since they are kid related.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? At how fast it is going by!


Update Hour 16

Yay! Finally finished a book: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. It’s so creepy.

I have a few chapters of They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer. It’s great. So many good quotes in it.

It’s after midnight here. I’m not sure how much I have left in me, but I’m still going.

The Readathon Pile! October 2015 #readathon

The 24 Hour Readathon is tomorrow! Woot! And here is my hastily created pile.

readathon

  • House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
  • The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
  • The Doll Collection (short stories) edited by Ellen Datlow
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

I also have a few ebooks that might do.

readathon oct 15

  • She Walks in Shadows (short stories) edited by Silvia Moreno Garcia & Paula R Stiles
  • They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
  • Roaring Midnight by Colleen Gleason

And of course I might just find something else altogether to read.

I have a lot of short stories, since I find that lends to a sense of accomplishment. Nothing here is too long, even if it's a novel.

Snacks (important)
  • Coffee (lots of it)
  • Salsa and chips
  • Honeycrisp apples and caramel sauce
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Another sweet I will make later

That’s what I have planned for tomorrow. How about you?

Monkalong 3: Ambrosio Is the Worst

the-monk-readalong

Annnnnnnd we’re back to Mr Monk. Here we see just how awful Ambrosio is and I have no sympathy for this guy at all.

Ambrosio, the Slut Shamer

Ambrosio feels guilty for knocking boots with Matilda and immediately blames her. “Dangerous woman!” said he; “Into what an abyss of misery have you plunged me!” To her credit she reminds him that it takes two to tango. “Have I not shared in YOUR guilt? Have YOU not shared in MY pleasure?” Damn straight! Then Ambrosio “rioted in delights” with her some more.

At some point he remembers that she’s about to die, though it hasn’t slowed down her bedroom prowess any, and tells her she ought to do that secret thing she needs to do. Not because he cares about her well-being but because he wouldn’t have a mistress any more. He’s a real stand up guy.

Even though she’s dying of poison, she sets out to do the secret thing in the burying grounds of St Clare at midnight. She tells him that he can’t watch, but he hears music and sees lights. It’s all very The Craft sounding. She reappears and tells him that everything is fine now.

nancy punk rock
Nancy would approve of this
Ambrosio gets bored with Matilda quickly. Having sex released some inner pervert in him. “He gazed upon every other female with more desire.” Unfortunately, one of those females is poor Antonia who comes to ask him for a confessor for her sick mother. Ambrosio hatches a plan to visit her, in secret because he vowed never to leave the abbey, under the guise of comforting the sick Elvira.

Ambrosio, the Creeper

Elvira is no dummy. She sees through him and knows that just because he’s supposed to be a holy man, he’s still a man. She’s right on the money about that when she catches him manhandling her daughter after he gets her alone. Antonia is so innocent that she doesn’t know what’s up with this guy until he lunges at her. She’s grown up reading a bible with all the naughty bits blacked out. C’mon, Elvira, a little knowledge is power.

Ambrosio despairs that he’ll never get his sweaty hands on Antonia again. He blames Elvira for walking in on him while he was assaulting her daughter. The nerve! Meanwhile, Matilda knows she’s been replaced by another. She still wants to be his friend and tells him she can help. Matilda used witchcraft to save herself from death and in doing so conjured up a daemon. The daemon tells her everything- about Ambrosio grabbing Antonia, Elvira catching him, even Antonia’s feelings for Lorenzo. She suggests using her new friend to procure Antonia for him.

orphan black digest
Matilda is the Editor in Chief 
At first he protests; then Matilda brings out a magic mirror (that's a thing) that will show him whatever he wishes to see. He wants to see Antonia, who at just that moment is getting in the bathtub. Of course she is! Now, here is my favorite part. As she’s getting in the tub, “a tame linnet flew towards her, nestled its head between her breasts, and nibbled them in wanton play. The smiling Antonia strove in vain to shake off the bird, and at length raised her hands to drive it from its delightful harbour.” Yes, that’s the thing they never tell you about womanhood, how many birds will fly at your boobs. It’s a real problem. I don’t know why there aren't more awareness campaigns about it. 

What were you smoking, Lewis?

Ambrosio gives in, rationalizing that as long as someone else is doing the witchcraft his soul is safe. Way to throw someone else under the bus! They head back to the burying ground where Matilda does her rendition of Black Magic Woman with lots of hair pulling and “frantic gestures.”

elaine dance
Frantic gestures

Her daemon appears and gives her some special herbs. She hands these to Ambrosio and tells him specific instructions to “deprive [Antonia] of the power of resisting your attempts” so that he can do what he wants with her.

That’s pretty disturbing. I hope that doesn’t happen, because that is the limit of what I think is acceptable in my reading.

It’s interesting that Matilda and Ambrosio go straight to Crazytown after having sex. Have sex without marriage and all bets are off. It leads right to breaking vows and performing witchcraft. Like, within seconds.

Some thoughts:

Ambrosio is all “why can’t Matilda be more innocent like Antonia?” There is so much wrong with this question. She wouldn’t have done the nasty with him if she was. He’s planning on corrupting Antonia, at which point she won’t be “innocent” anymore. Someone push this guy in a well.

My favorite quote from this week from Matilda to Ambrosio:
It is not virtue which makes you reject my offer: You WOULD accept it, but you dare not. 'Tis not the crime which holds your hand, but the punishment; 'Tis not respect for God which restrains you, but the terror of his vengeance!
She’s right. He’s a coward.

Elvira tells Antonia, “his voice is so familiar, yes?” Yeah, he probably sounds like your husband since he’s your son.

Poor Agnes is being tortured in the nunnery, I just know it.

I’d love to see a Matilda-Elvira showdown. Elvira needs to kick her evil ass.

I don’t know what was acceptable in 1796, but The Monk is quite raunchy! This section was risque, with the all the nudity, sex, and “voluptuous” this and that. Scandalous!

Ring by Koji Suzuki

ring

Maybe you remember the 2002 horror movie The Ring starring Naomi Watts, or the parody of the film in Scary Movie. Roger Ebert was certainly unimpressed with The Ring which is an American remake of a Japanese film.

the ring

The Ring is loosely based on the novel Ring (or Ringu in Japan) by Koji Suzuki. In both the films and the book, some teenagers die of fear seven days after watching a strange videotape they found. The American movie diverges from the novel after this point.

The uncle of one of the teenagers (he’s not that broken up about her death, don’t worry) discovers that three of her friends also died at around the same time. All were said to have died of heart failure. Kazuyuki Asakawa is a journalist with an interest in the paranormal. His investigation leads him to a cabin on a resort where the four teenagers stayed seven days before their deaths.

He finds a videotape full of strange images, which he watches. At the end of the tape, a message appears telling him that he has seven days to do one thing or he will die. That “charm” has been taped over (presumably by the teens) and he has no idea what he must do.

Now Asakawa must use all his journalistic resources to find out how to stop the threat on the videotape from coming true. 

Ring was written in 1991 and really shows its age. Most of Asakawa’s investigating could be done now with the help of Google. It’s amazing how much time the internet saves people. How did we get along without it? And no cell phones!

annie ring girl

Holy Sexism! All the men are the wooooooorst, even our “hero.” I did not like how he treated his wife. How he spoke to her was terrible, but he also tells everyone he knows (men) about the tape. The person he should have told, and right away, was his wife. Every other woman is either annoying to him or a sex object. The treatment of rape (it comes up a lot) is so, so inappropriate.

The antagonist is not a creepy well-dwelling child, but an adult. There is some discussion of why she did what she did. All I could think was that if she had to put up with those guys, I don’t blame her. 

The idea behind Ring is interesting and I like spooky people with freaky powers, but the attitudes toward women were appalling. The writing was somewhat clunky and filled with unnecessary details. (I don’t care how much the coffee from the restaurant cost. Why are you telling the reader this?) I’m still glad I read Ring. I do like looking at the source material for cultural phenomena. 

I feel kind of bad that this is what I’m posting for A More Diverse Universe, so I’m giving an alternate recommendation. If you’d like a spooky read from a Japanese LADY writer, I can’t say enough good things about Revenge by Yoko Ogawa.

Translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley

diverse 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Time for turkey here in Canada! Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends!

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.

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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.  

whatever

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

the-monk-readalong

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.

applause
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
*Swoon*
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.

madonna
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.