Adios! For Little While

Rustico Beach, PE, 1916 (?)

I'm getting ready to go on a little vacation, so I'm not sure when I'll be back on the blog. I've loaded up my Kobo; hopefully, I will have lots of bookish things to talk about. I have something for every mood: How Stella Got Her Groove Back (appropriate beach reading), Unleashing Mr Darcy (about a dog show), Beggars in Spain (a sci-fi novella), and a bunch of mysteries and thrillers. 

Since I've been mostly making lists this past week, I haven't done much reading. I have listened to the entire Welcome to Night Vale podcast though. It's a weird podcast about an imaginary town with strange happenings. It's hard to describe, you just have to listen to it. It's strangely addictive. 

Cliffside Beach Umbrellas, 1950s.

It's been a brutal winter here. It will be nice to leave it all behind, if only for a few days. I'll have a drink or two for you all while I'm gone! 

Happy Valentine's Day! - I'm going to be romantically spontaneous on this pre-determined holiday of romantic expression

Happy Pre-Determined Holiday of Romantic Expression!!!

Just for you here's 

*What you can learn about love from 9 famous writers.

I think that covers just about everyone! Enjoy!

Lady Swearing

****There are some swears in this post, since it’s a post about swearing. I put it under the fold.****


Have you heard of the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You? I just discovered it myself this week. Cristen and Caroline look at interesting pop culture topics with an emphasis on gender, particularly the female gender. The one I listened to this week was The Curse of Swearing Women, which discussed the differences between men and women swearing and how culture perceives women who swear.

The whole discussion made me think about how and why I swear. I don’t swear a whole lot. I’m not a prude. I love a filthy joke and swearing doesn’t bother me except under some circumstances. I grew up in a mining town where cursing was common, though my parents didn’t curse around their kids. One of the reasons I don’t swear often in public is because of some of the bizarre reactions I’ve gotten from people who’ve heard me swear. I must come across as some kind of innocent, because when I do swear I’ve shocked people, not pious people either, professional swearers! It’s like they can’t believe that I, of all people, have said that. Since I’m a quiet person who doesn’t like calling attention to myself, it has the effect of making me swear less, even though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t think it’s due to the fact that I’m a woman since I know lots of women who swear but something about my personality. Maybe I should take up spitting to counteract it.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: Review

Legends, the undead, and revenge come together in The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.

The Winter People begins as the 1908 published journal of Sara Harrison Shea, Visitors from the Other Side. In the journal, Sara reveals that it is possible to bring the dead back to life. Sara lived with her husband and little girl on a farm in the shadow of the Devil's Hand, a large rock that juts straight out of the land. There are many legends about the Devil's Hand and children are discouraged from playing there. Sara tells of her life and the events that led to her terrible murder and suicide of her husband.

In the present, the Devil's Hand continues to be a sinister legend. Since Sara's death, people witness strange lights and figures in the woods near the rock. Animals and occasionally people would disappear. Sometimes their bodies would turn up and sometimes not. It's a place of fascination for people who believe in aliens and unexplainable phenomena.

Ruthie, her sister, and mother live on the old Shea farm now. Ruthie's mother is a paranoid "off the grid" kind of person, who gets by from selling knitted goods at the local farmers' market. Ruthie, having just graduated, has plans to leave the farm and start her life somewhere, anywhere, else, but when she comes home one night to discover her mother missing, her plans change. When Ruthie finds Sara's journal and other mysterious items hidden in the house, she realizes that her mother has been keeping dangerous secrets.

Dial Z for Zombie, The Simpsons
Hasn't anyone learned by now that NO GOOD CAN COME FROM BRINGING BACK THE DEAD?! Seriously, it's the first rule of horror: don't raise the dead. In The Winter People, these undead are called Sleepers and they can only called back for a short time, but just like you should never feed Mogwai after midnight, there are rules to waking a Sleeper that can't be broken. Sara learned the secret of bringing the dead to life from her "Auntie" whose death she hints at mysteriously. What happened to Auntie? Who was brought back to life? What happened on the farm that ended in the brutal death of Sara?

Meanwhile, Ruthie pieces together parts of her mother's past to find out where she may have gone. Did she leave by choice or was she forced? And if she was kidnapped, who took her?

I listened to The Winter People on audio in just over a day. I could not turn it off. I found Sara's diary and the inner thoughts of Sara, her husband Martin, and their daughter Gertie to be much more interesting than what Ruthie was doing. Of course, what Ruthie discovers helps fill in the gaps of what happened 100 years ago. Just like in Don't Breathe a Word, there are plot twists and red herrings that lead to nowhere. Some of what happens in the present time takes some suspension of disbelief but overall, The Winter People is a creepy tale for a stormy winter night. You'll never look at closets the same way again.

About the Audio: The narrators are Cassandra Campbell and Kathe Mazur and until this moment I thought there was only one narrator. Either I don't play close enough attention to the narrators or they sound a lot alike.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are Cold

It is so February outside right now. Cold, cold, cold. I'm getting shack happy. I should move to California, where I might want to venture out of doors.

This week I logged into my Tumblr account for the first time in over a year. I still don't know what to do with it. Mostly I'm reblogging Orphan Black gifs. Such a productive use of my time.

I watched the Sochi Opening Ceremonies because I like a good winter hat. Canada's toques were awesome as always, Spain's berets were very chic, and Norway's silver caps will keep the aliens from reading the athletes' thoughts. During the artistic portion of the ceremonies, War and Peace was interpreted as a ballet. It was very pretty and offered a great opportunity for everyone who has read the book to feel smug about it. Also, jellyfish swans.

I decided this week to reread Rebecca. I feel like it's time. It was 9 years since I last read it. It's a book that holds up well and I get something new from it with each reading.

Dead White Guys (Amanda) brought this whisky commercial to my attention. It's relevant to your interests and will get you right in the heart-area.

A Story Lately Told by Anjelica Huston: Review

Let me just preface this review by saying that I admire Anjelica Huston. I just love her face. It's a great face and she's a great actress. I'm not sure if she's a writer. I don't believe she used a ghostwriter for A Story Lately Told and it shows.

The first chapters are of her life as a little girl in Ireland on her father's estate of St Clerans. These chapters are just a random collection of memories: things they had, places they went, people they knew. It doesn't flow as a story and it's very dry. There's a lot of stuff but not a lot of heart behind it. It's like she would suddenly remember something and jot it down. It drove me bonkers.

Her father was John Huston, the director, who married a much younger woman, Enrica Soma, or Ricki, as she was called. She was his fourth wife and almost immediately he was absent from her and their children's lives. In fact, it seems as if his every visit to St Clerans was an event, like the Queen visiting. Anjelica comes across as worshiping him. What I got from this memoir was that he was a man who took whatever he wanted and was very careless with other people's hearts.

After ten chapters or so of who went where and what they did there, her memoirs take a disturbing turn. When Anjelica is just a teenager, she loses her virginity to a 28 year old man. She's very matter of fact about this and really why wouldn't she be? The way she grew up, this kind of thing was No Big Deal. Her father wasn't around to warn about guys like this and he hit on one of her teen friends as well. Her mom offered her no guidance or protection from these kind of men. This is just what was expected. Still, she was just a naive kid and after her mother died in a car accident, she fell for the worst kind of guy: Bob Richardson. He was 42 years old and she just 18. He mentally abused her for years.

I felt absolutely disgusted that these predatory men would take advantage of a young girl and no one did a thing about it. It was just how it was. If they would try it with the daughter of John Huston, who wouldn't they try it with? No wonder we have the problems in the entertainment industry in regards to women when this was the expected and acceptable behaviour of powerful men for decades. (Google Bob's son Terry. That apple doesn't fall far from the tree.) I ranted on and on about this after I read that part to my husband.

One of the problems with this memoir is that she writes everything in such a factual way. I never got any sense of how she felt about these events. There is too much telling and not much showing. Her life was exciting. Everyone she met was a Somebody. She traveled, modeled, and acted. Still, I felt like these were just things that happened to her. There's not a lot of who she really is.

She would also just plop down people's names like the reader is just supposed to know who they were. It is very disorienting. A disappointment of mine is that there is a lack of photographs, just a black and white photo at the start of every chapter. Considering how often she and her family were photographed, I would have expected more. It would have helped to put names to faces.

This volume ends just after she finally dumps Bob's sorry ass and settles down some in LA. The next part of the memoir is yet to come. I'm not sure if I'm going to read it. I think I'll just admire Anjelica from afar.

Possession by A.S. Byatt: Thoughts

When Trish started a casual readalong of Possession, I thought, "Why not?" I had it on my shelves for ages, I liked the other books by Byatt I read, and people who loved it LOVED it. What could go wrong?

Here's the story. Roland, a basement dweller of the British Museum who does grunt work for his boss Blackadder, discovers a couple of letters by a famous (fake) Victorian poet named Randolph H Ash to an unknown lady. Roland suspects that this lady friend might be important, as Ash was a married poet and wasn't known to have any lovers. After digging around, he has a hunch that the lady maybe a feminist poet, Christabel LaMotte (also fake).

Roland doesn't have a lot going for him. He works in a dank hole of a room that smells of cat piss. He goes home to his apartment that also smells of cat piss to get the cold shoulder from his girlfriend Val. Val and Roland live in a misery-loves-company situation that neither one has the balls to leave. It's depressing as hell.

Roland uncharacteristically decides not to report his findings to his boss and instead goes out on his own to find out more about this mystery lady poet. Christabel has fans, mostly feminist fans, and scholars researching her up the wazoo. For decades, it was assumed that Christabel was wifing her roommate Blanche Glover. Roland is about to turn that theory upside down. He seeks out the closest and bestest scholar of the lot, Maud Bailey.

Maud is unimpressed by Roland. She's not impressed by much, actually. She has the hardship of being extremely attractive, rich, and intelligent. What a burden. One time, this other scholar and former lover Fergus told her she had nice hair. It was so upsetting, she now wears it under a scarf. She doesn't like men, although she doesn't like women either, or being touched, or thought about, or anything. 

Roland shows Maud the letters and she thinks there might be something to it. Together they read Blanche Glover's journal which mentions Christabel had a gentleman stalker. Could it be Randolph Ash? They both take a trip to a Christabel's relation of some sort's estate, where she once lived. Sir George, who happens to be a cousin of Maud's, and hates everyone (naturally) especially scholars, lets them rifle through his house after Roland saves his wife from possible death. (Yeah, I don't know how we got here either.) There they find more letters, STEEEEEAAAAAAMY love letters (nope, not steamy, just poetity-poetity stuff about myths and nature and zzzzzzzzz....). They are beside themselves!!!! It's so exciting! Not so fast though, Sir George isn't keen on them having the letters and only lets them make copies.
Sir George

If this was a Dan Brown novel, this would be the part where Roland and Maud would be locked in dungeons by albino priests but instead they read a lot of letters, and biographies, and journals, and long ass poems. They read between the lines of everything ever written by or about the poets, glomming onto anything that hints at the idea that these two were hooking up on the down low. 

Meanwhile, all the other Ash/LaMotte scholars (so, like, 5 people), get a whiff of what Roland and Maud are up to and they want in. Sir George himself learns about how much the letters might be worth and he wants a cut. It's such a madcap caper! (No, it isn't.) 

Possession is not an easy book. The characters are so angsty and the academic stuff is way over my head. I admit to skimming through the letters and poems, etc. I just couldn't concentrate. I appreciate what Byatt did here. She created a whole complicated backstory for these poets, including pages and pages of poetry, fake biographies, fake footnotes for God's sake! This was a huge undertaking. However, I'm not that into poetry, especially long Victorian poetry, and even less thrilled by biographies for fake poets. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not my jam. 

What I kept telling myself.

Once I got past the academic stuff, which left about 150 pages, I was good. A Big Secret is revealed. Some of the secondary characters shake the dust off themselves and get involved which forces Roland and Maud to move this plot along a little. If not for their involvement, these two would have just kept strolling through Yorkshire and France glancing awkwardly at one another while not thinking about all the sex they're not having. 

In the end, I was happy to have read Possession. I feel like I sort of accomplished something, if I ignore all my skipping of the poems.* The ending is bittersweet and I almost got choked up (almost). 

So, if you love long poems and academic blah-blah-blah, you'll LOVE Possession. If you don't, well, you'll just feel smarter for reading it. It won the Booker Prize, you know. 

*I know someone is going to say, "But the poems are important!" to which I say, "Sorry, not to me."

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are About Changes

Hey there! How are you all doing? I know lots of people are chained to their TVs tonight to watch the Super Bowl (not me).

Maybe some of you noticed that my Friday feature the Bookish Buzz hasn't been posted these last couple of Fridays. I just haven't been feeling it lately, which started me thinking about dropping it. Sometimes I like posting all those links but lately it feels more like work. A few times over the many years I've been doing them, I thought about quitting but always came back to it. I'm not sure about this time. I think I might be done with it. There are so many other places for readers to find links.

I'm considering just posting a few links with my Sunday posts, if I find anything interesting or want to comment on something. Let's try that now.

This new series on Australia Culture Blog caught my attention with a mention of Portishead. I just rediscovered the 1994 album Dummy by the band recently. Nikki Lusk paired The Watchtower with the album. Have you ever thought of pairing albums and books? For me, if I listen to a new song or album while reading a particular book, I'll forever associate one with the other. For example, I listened to a lot of Susanne Sundfør while reading Ash last week. Susanne has an ethereal voice perfect for fairy tales, especially fitting is White Foxes.

Speaking of music, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is scoring the Gone Girl film. They also did the score for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It's seems as if they have a thing for books-to-film!

As for reading, I finally finished Possession and will have my thoughts about it up tomorrow. I hope you check it out. I had fun writing it. I also listened to the audio of The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. It's spooktastic! I'll have a review up for that in the next week.

Enjoy what's left of your weekend!