A peek in my bag

February 19, 2017 Home Sweet Home 9

I’ve always loved these “guess what’s in my purse???” kinds of posts, regardless of blog genre. Doesn’t matter if you write about books, cooking, knitting, perfume, underwater basket weaving, whatever — I’m dying to see the random junk that you carry around with you all day. And, since turnabout is fair play, I’m going to subject you to a quick list of the junk that I carry around all day.

Yeah… believe it or not, this is AFTER having cleaned it out a couple of days ago.

The essentials:

  • Billfold. Duh.
  • Bullet journal. Howgarts-themed, natch.
  • Work ID.
  • Pens.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Keys, incl. most of my library cards.
  • Book du jour. Don’t argue with me, this is an essential.
  • Not pictured, because I was using it to take this photo: mi teléfono.

Other stuff:

  • Gum. I like delicious smelly foods, but prefer not to subject other people to the aftermath.
  • Tire pressure gauge. I don’t trust the ones on the actual air pumps, and also I’m a worrywart who always thinks my tires “look a little low”….
  • Little packet of tissues, because allergies.
  • Hand lotion.
  • Perfume rollerball. Also occasionally a little sample spray bottle or something.
  • Random gift cards that I keep forgetting to use (in the striped pouch).
  • Blotting papers.
  • Mini makeup mirror.
  • Misc. makeup — blush, highlighter, lip balm, and lipstick, currently.
  • Old-school iPod Shuffle. I have an Android phone but almost all my music is in iTunes, and I’m too lazy to figure out how to make them talk to each other properly.

So, how about you? Anything fun in your bag these days?


Wheel of Time Re-Read-Along
Book 2 – The Great Hunt

February 18, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 0

Welcome to The Adventures of Rand & Friends, Part 2.

Book 2 – The Great Hunt

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. For centuries, gleemen have told of The Great Hunt of the Horn. Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.

And it is stolen.

My Thoughts:

Dude, SO MUCH happens in this book. It’s hard to kind of wrap my mind around all of it at once.

One of the worst/most surprising series of scenes in WoT World happens in this book. In an attempt to avoid spoiling anyone who hasn’t read it yet (WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, GO READ IT), I’ll just say it starts with the scene involving the four “Too Big For Their Britches” girls meeting the scary invaders who like to keep people as pets. I couldn’t stop cringing over it for days after I read it the first time.

On a lighter note, one of my favorite characters in the series — maybe my absolute favorite character? — shows up in this book: Verin, of the Brown Ajah. The way she just casually tells the Amyrlin and Moiraine that she knows what shenanigans they’re up to and she wants in on it is pretty funny. And… not to be too spoilery, but a revelation that we get about Verin several books from now is actually hinted at here, and I have to brag that I caught it the first time I read the series — although, at the time I thought it was some kind of continuity mistake, so I can’t take too much credit.

There are a few scenes that really captured my imagination. The first the scene where Rand is introduced to/interrogated by the Amyrlin and only manages not to make a complete fool of himself thanks to Lan, Moiraine’s Warder. Just… something about this battle-hardened, Aes Sedai-beholden man doing what he can to help out Idiot “The Chosen One” Farmboy, despite everything… it’s nice, you know? I also thought Nynaeve’s test to become Accepted was interesting, and Loial’s little flirtation at the stedding was cute.

Finally, I just really enjoyed the addition of all these unique characters to the cast. Verin, of course, and Siuan and Leane, Hurin, etc. I guess I like stories with lots of interweaving plots and varied character perspectives — although, if I remember correctly, this series starts to get a bit overcrowded and the addition of new characters won’t be quite as exciting after the first few books.

Questions:
  • Was there a particular scene (or more than one) that you really enjoyed, maybe even made you laugh?
  • Conversely, were there any scenes that you totally did NOT enjoy, either because something Really Bad happened or because the characters were just being buttheads/idiots?
  • Were you actually surprised by the behavior or revelations of any of the characters? (The first time you read it, if this is a re-read for you.) Or did you see all the little “twists” coming a mile away?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


Backlist Love | Let’s talk about S-E-X

February 12, 2017 Backlist Love, Books 3

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008)

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014)

Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles by Robin Baker (Basic Books, 2006)

Bonk

In Bonk, the best-selling author of Stiff turns her outrageous curiosity and insight on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Why doesn’t Viagra help women — or, for that matter, pandas? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Mary Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm — two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth — can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

The Birth of the Pill

We know it simply as “the pill,” yet its genesis was anything but simple. Jonathan Eig’s masterful narrative revolves around four principal characters: the fiery feminist Margaret Sanger, who was a champion of birth control in her campaign for the rights of women but neglected her own children in pursuit of free love; the beautiful Katharine McCormick, who owed her fortune to her wealthy husband, the son of the founder of International Harvester and a schizophrenic; the visionary scientist Gregory Pincus, who was dismissed by Harvard in the 1930s as a result of his experimentation with in vitro fertilization but who, after he was approached by Sanger and McCormick, grew obsessed with the idea of inventing a drug that could stop ovulation; and the telegenic John Rock, a Catholic doctor from Boston who battled his own church to become an enormously effective advocate in the effort to win public approval for the drug that would be marketed by Searle as Enovid.

Sperm Wars

Sperm Wars is a revolutionary thesis about sex that turned centuries-old biological assumptions on their head. Evolution has programmed men to conquer and monopolize women while women, without ever knowing they are doing it, seek the best genetic input on offer from potential sexual partners. If you’ve ever looked upon sperm as a little army of white-coated soldiers setting off to sack and pillage a barely pregnable fortress… well, you’d be right, according to Dr. Robin Baker, who has studied sperm and cervical mucus in much greater detail than anyone would’ve thought necessary and has come to some startling conclusions.

Why I liked them

Well, you know, the actual subject of intimate human relationships is and always has been kind of a hot topic — especially with Valentine’s Day coming up. But beyond that, I just really like well-researched narrative nonfiction that can take an embarrassing or taboo subject and present it in an interesting or even humorous way. Bonk is probably the best of the bunch — or at least the funniest. The Birth of the Pill gets a little more into the weeds with all the history of contraception and early 20th century sexual health/culture issues, but is still absolutely fascinating and well worth the read. Sperm Wars is also fascinating, but TBH it kind of goes off the rails at some points. The author got a little too, uh, excited about the fictional scenarios he made up to illustrate certain points, for one thing. And even though his points are based on scientific research, the conclusions presented in this book should be taken with several very large grains of salt (they tend to rely on oversimplification of human psychology/behavior and outdated social norms).

Who I’d recommend them to

I’d recommend Bonk to just about anybody, or at least anybody who has a sense of humor about sex. The Birth of the Pill is great for people who are interested in the history of medicine or the medicalization of the human life cycle, or early feminism and its impact on our current contraceptive options. I’m a little more cautious about recommending Sperm Wars, though. Only read this one if you can stand to wade through unadvertised erotica and can recognize/contend with occasional pseudoscience.

Links

Bonk

The Birth of the Pill

Sperm Wars

backlistlove_redux

D is for … Dancing

February 11, 2017 Just for Fun, Narcissism 2

I’m doing a kind of “A-to-Z Selfie” project for 2017. This involves writing blog posts of a personal nature. If you’re interested in the topic, please feel free to chime in! If not, you’ll be happy to know that more bookish content will be published soon.

Like many young girls, I took ballet lessons. And lessons in other kinds of dance sometimes — tap, swing, jazz — but it was ballet that I loved. I was never the best at it, but I wasn’t too shabby either. And I enjoyed it immensely.

I was SO proud of myself when I was finally allowed to get pointe shoes. (Of course, years later I still deal with the ghosts of foot-abuse past, but I can’t say I regret it all that much.) And I immensely enjoyed getting to do various shows — mostly because of the costumes and the dance itself, rather than the performance aspect.

I finally had to give it up towards the end of high school. I was a very busy kid, and something had to give. By the time you get to that age, you know whether ballet is even a possible career for you… and you know that most professional ballet dancers will experience a short, brutal career anyway. And at that point I felt that I had to concentrate on things that could realistically affect my future education or work opportunities. But, yes, I still miss it!

Well, how about y’all? Did you have any kind of long-term or highly demanding athletic or artistic hobby as a kid that you kind if miss as an adult? And have you ever thought about trying it again all these years later?


Found Memories | The Herd

February 10, 2017 Found Memories, Home Sweet Home 6

“Found Memories” is a series of little vignettes featuring a few of our favorite things and the memories associated with them.

Did you collect anything when you were a kid? Like toys that you didn’t play rough with (or play with at all), comics that you kept in special sleeves to preserve them, paper-dolls you couldn’t bring yourself to cut up, that kind of thing?

For me, it was model horses. Breyers horses, specifically. I mean, I had other toy horses, the kinds that had brushable hair or posable legs or cute little accessories. Those were quite fun to play with. But these that I’m talking about today were “models” rather than toys.

They were a little pricey and harder to come by in my hometown, but I was smitten. They were all so detailed and lovely! Every one came with some little story or certificate or something — in fact, I remember that one of them actually came with a VHS tape featuring the pony that it was modeled after. The ones pictured here are a fraction of the ones that I collected over the years.

I was one of those girls that was rather horse-mad for a while, though I never did riding lessons or anything, just occasional trail rides on vacation. And now I still have some souvenirs from that little phase.

So — talk to me. I can’t be the only weirdo kid that collected stuff like this!


The Color Purple
by Alice Walker

February 5, 2017 Book Reviews, Books 7

★ ★ ★ ★

The Color Purple by Alice Walker | 1982 | Open Road Media (this ed.) | E-book $14

Celie has grown up poor in rural Georgia, despised by the society around her and abused by her own family. She strives to protect her sister, Nettie, from a similar fate, and while Nettie escapes to a new life as a missionary in Africa, Celie is left behind without her best friend and confidante, married off to an older suitor, and sentenced to a life alone with a harsh and brutal husband.

In an attempt to transcend a life that often seems too much to bear, Celie begins writing letters directly to God. The letters, spanning twenty years, record a journey of self-discovery and empowerment guided by the light of a few strong women.

Whew… this novel was a bit of a rough ride.

I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t much like it at first. The dialect and disturbing abuse of the narrator made it tough to get through. In the introduction to this edition, Walker says that the story is supposed to be about a woman figuring out what “God” means to her. But for the first half of the novel, I just couldn’t see it. It seemed more like a simple story about the particular cruelties of the world towards black women in the early 20th century.

I’m glad I kept reading, though. The story seemed to coalesce into something with deeper, complicated ideas about beauty and hope and family and bravery and all of those kinds of things — and I was eager to find out what would happen next, plot-wise, and was pleasantly (or sometimes unpleasantly) surprised several times.

The Color Purple is widely considered a modern classic for good reason. It’s not an easy read, it won’t necessarily give you warm fuzzy feelings or romantic thrills, but it’s still just as rewarding as it is demanding.


Links:


Publication information: Walker, Alice. The color purple. New York: Open Road Media, 2011. EPUB file.
Source: Borrowed from public library.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


C is for … Cello

February 4, 2017 Just for Fun, Narcissism 4

I’m doing a kind of “A-to-Z Selfie” project for 2017. This involves writing blog posts of a personal nature. If you’re interested in the topic, please feel free to chime in! If not, you’ll be happy to know that more bookish content will be published soon.

Well, as the title of this post is intended to suggest, I used to play cello.

My dad’s side of the family is mostly musical and my mom’s side is mostly… well, not. I seem to have inherited a mix of genes when it comes to musicality. I can’t sing worth a damn and am quite probably tone-deaf, but I’ve got a good sense of rhythm and emotive dynamics.

I think this is why the cello was a good choice for me — tuning and note-marking are accomplished before playing rather than during, and the lower registers usually set the beat/tempo, but the cello also tends to get more interesting parts than the double bass.

Well, here’s middle school me and my buddy Brownie the cello.

I miss playing cello. I was never going to be first chair in the varsity orchestra, but it was fun and I was decently good at it when I bothered to practice.

Did you play an instrument in band or orchestra at school? Or do you still play?


Wine Reviews for January ’17

February 3, 2017 Home Sweet Home, In the Kitchen, Just for Fun, Wine 0

Well, I was bound to hit a “dud” sooner or later.

Pretty (& cheap) in pink

A photo posted by Louise (@bibliothekla) on

Let’s just get this out of the way: I picked this up because (a) it is pretty and (b) it is cheap. This is your classic “Two Buck Chuck” from Trader Joe’s. I’ve got some pretty intense love/hate feelings for Trader Joe’s, but the Charles Shaw wines I’ve tried in the past haven’t been bad. Your basic table wines, sure, but worth a bit more than the price point would suggest.

I guess I was expecting this to taste more like a rosé/rosato — light and refreshingly fruity. But this stuff is sweet as all get-out.

It’s a pretty shade of pink, sure. It smelled like some unidentifiable fruit juice or chemically fruit-flavored product — like pink Starbursts, maybe. And it tasted pretty much exactly the way it smelled. I ended up eating it with some extremely salty, savory foods to cut the sweetness (BBQ potato chips and a cheeseburger with onion + jalapeños).

Let me be clear — this is not precisely a “bad” wine. It’s just uninteresting and sugary. You get what you pay for with this particular type of Charles Shaw.


Wizard of Oz Read-Along
Book 1 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

January 30, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 6

Welcome to the Oz! Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Book 1 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Dorothy thinks she’s lost forever when a tornado whirls her and her dog, Toto, into a magical world. To get home, she must find the wonderful wizard in the Emerald City of Oz. On the way she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion. But the Wicked Witch of the West has her own plans for the new arrival — will Dorothy ever see Kansas again?

My Thoughts:

I vaguely remember reading this as a kid, but unsurprisingly the book story was supplanted by the movie story in my memory and the only thing I really recalled from the book was the whimsical illustrations and Dorothy’s silver shoes. But some scenes came back to me during this little re-read: Boq the Munchkin, the dainty people of China Country (my favorites for some reason), the goofy green glasses worn in Emerald City, and the Wicked Witch having only one eye.

There seemed to be rather a lot more gore and property destruction than I remembered, too, what with all the chopping off of heads and the smashing up of buildings and suchlike. Probably not the kind of story that could get a G rating if Disney tried a true-to-the-book animated film version these days — not that I’m complaining, it just wasn’t expected. I seem to have taken it all in stride when I read it as a child, which seems to be pretty common — grown-ups notice and are sometimes shocked by “bad” things in stories that kiddos wouldn’t blink an eye at.

A lot of the characters (all of them?) are not all that well fleshed-out. And a lot of them are just idiots. Still, it’s a charming little story, and I’m a huge sucker for creative/insane world-building, so that wasn’t too much of a problem for me. There are better children’s fantasy books out there these days, but it’s easy for me to see why this one was so well-loved in its time and gained “classic” status so quickly.

Questions:
  • Have you read this book before? How did your re-read match up with your memory? Or if you haven’t read it before, did the book live up to your expectations?
  • If you’ve seen the 1939 musical film, how do you think the book compares? Do you like one a whole lot better than the other?
  • Did you have a favorite character or culture/land?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.


East of Eden
by John Steinbeck

January 29, 2017 Book Reviews, Books 6

★ ★ ★ ★

East of Eden by John Steinbeck | Originally published 1952, this ed. 2002 | Penguin| Paperback $16

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families — the Trasks and the Hamiltons — whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

This book was a late addition to my Classics Club list. I’d tried to read Middlemarch and just could NOT get into it, so I asked for help picking a replacement and this is the title that was most commonly recommended. So — thanks, y’all, for convincing me to read this book!

I was a little intimidated by this chunkster, but needn’t have been. It’s true that it dragged a bit in spots and included some rather heavy-handed moralizing on the part of the narrator, but overall it read more like an old but clever relative telling an important family story — a kind of family story for the country as a whole, perhaps.

Plus, the prose was simply lovely. The content was not often lovely, no, mostly quite the opposite actually, but Steinbeck was unquestionably a master of prose. Take this example from Chapter 7 (no spoilers):

Time interval is a strange and contradictory matter in the mind. It would be reasonable to suppose that a routine time or an eventless time would seem interminable. It should be so, but it is not. It is the full eventless times that have no duration whatever. A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy — that’s the time that seems long in memory. And this is right when you think about it. Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all.

Have you read East of Eden, or any other Steinbeck novel? How did you like it?


Links:


Publication information: Steinbeck, John East of Eden. Penguin: New York, 2002. Print.
Source: Personal collection.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.