Saturday, November 22, 2014

Minithon: Nooooooo don't let it be over!

UNLIKE THIS READATHON *cries in a corner*

I actually did weirdly better in this readathon than I have in most others. I'm over halfway done with Boy, Snow, Bird, halfway through Medieval Women, and I read a chapter of 2 Kings, meaning I have two left and then BAM! 1 Chronicles ahoy.

I also ate Chipotle, grilled cheese, mini muffins, hummus, carrots, and copious amounts of Mr Pibb. Oh, and one of the mini pies my girlfriend baked because she is awesome.

it was her first time making pie

So much eaten! A relatively okay amount read! Boy, Snow, Bird is starting to get weird and I was somehow not expecting that. WHAT'S YOUR GAME, OYEYEMI

Medieval Women is fantastic. It's this book of essays published in 1975 and based on lectures by Eileen Power, who had died by then. Our culture's ideas about women are at least partially based on ideas formulated during the medieval period! We cannot understand our present without looking to our past! History is important! Etc!

I love the minithon. I wish we could do it more often, but frankly, we're all too lazy. Which is in the spirit of the minithon, so. Win-win. I guess.

OUR LEADER TIKA IS SO LOVELY FOR HOSTING THIS EVERY TIME. One of the best elements of the minithon, aside from constant snacks, is the blog-visiting and discussion. I love you all and WELCOME, NEW PEOPLE. May our minithon spread to all who need it.


So I woke up 20 minutes late for the minithon (which starts at 10 CST, so NO EXCUSE), but I promptly ate a bag of mini muffins and read the first essay in Eileen Power's STELLAR collection, Medieval Women. I have now read excellent things like:
Just as in the nineteenth century the Romantic movement followed on the 'age of reason' and the Revolution it inspired, so in the Middle Ages the turbulence of the Dark Ages was succeeded by the age of chivalry and of the Virgin.

GOOD STUFF.  I also have an assortment of snack things, because that's why we do this.

LOOK AT HOW HEALTHY THAT SHIT IS (aside from the mini muffins)

Quorn is made out of like, soy and dirt. So healthy. Mm.

I'm probably going to read more of Medieval Women, because I think I took it from the home of one of my grandparents and have been meaning to read it for yeeeears, and also I've just been reading a lot of medieval stuff lately. Anyone been noticing that? I certainly have. And yes, I'm counting Game of Thrones

I also have Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. And obvs A Feast for Crows, the fourth in the GoT series and a MILLION BOOKS on my Kindle and my Oyster account. So I'm all set over here. MINI ON.

(edit: It's early [not really]. I'm tired. I FORGOT TO JUSTIFY BOOKS. Ok, Medieval Women is 99 pages long, so that does itself. BSB has a title of three things which are all small unless you're talking about like an ostrich and I really don't think Oyeyemi is. Gilead is one chapter, which is a MINI NUMBER OF CHAPTERS, and GoT features Tyrion, who is a little person. Done.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Queen of Attolia: "Nothing mortals make lasts; nothing the gods make endures forever."

Wtf is in that vial? Is that in the book?

Our journey through the Megan Whalen Turner series continues! With The Queen of Attolia. I was assured by certain parties that this would be much better than The Thief, despite me liking The Thief muchly. I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS.

Different thoughts from that

So The Thief was pretty much a big road trip book, and this is more a sitting around, plotting & scheming book. THE SCHEMES ARE COOL, but I do like me some road tripping, so that was a lost element IMO. Along with the road trips came the made up mythology stories (more made up than normal since they came from Megan Whalen Turner's mind and not the zeitgeist of an entire nation), and in this book there is only ONE made up mythology story. It's a really good one. But still. One.

In Queen of Attolia, we're still in the place that is basically Ancient Greece, with the kingdoms of Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis. This book obviously has a pretty big focus on Attolia, but the series overall focuses on the dynamics between these countries (kingdoms? places? city-states? I don't know). Eugenides (the Thief) is still doing his thieving and pissing off kings and queens, BUT ALSO, the Medes (aka Persians) are trying to sneakily get in and take over everything because that's what they do. Damn Persians.


I will say that I had a hard time putting it down last night when I was a third from the end, and I am someone who can put down a book when I have eight pages left ("I'll just get to that later on..."). I very much enjoy reading about the queen of Attolia, and I hope the next books in the series fill her out even more, because Imma need that. 

I'm not saying this is my favorite, but it feels like MWT's building to something big in this series, and I am super-into putting in a lot of effort along the way to make the final part way more satisfying (I did not mean for that to sound sexual but it did and now I'm not taking it back). Like with soap operas. You watch them for YEARS and then something finally happens that you want to happen and you're like "YES I HAVE BEEN HERE THE WHOLE TIME WITH THESE PEOPLE." Same thing happens in a Dickens novel. So what I'm saying is I'm totally here with you, Megan Whalen Turner, and I will keep reading your books. So just keep writing them and don't die before they are done.

constant face while looking at the author
of an unfinished series I am enjoying

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Minithons: The Readathon for the Unmotivated


Tika at Reading the Bricks is hosting another minithon this Saturday. Minithons are for the lazy. Minithons are for the uncommitted. Minithons are for us.

But honestly, reading for 24 hours would make me want to stab books with a letter opener (it'd be better if they were all epistolary novels. ahahaha). But eight hours? GOT IT. I can work that into my day. Plus by 'read for eight hours' what's really meant in the minithon is 'read a little bit and eat a lot of snacks and post pictures of your books and your snacks. But mostly your snacks.'

My current plans for the minithon consist of sitting in Wisconsin with a cat constantly headbutting me while I eat things and attempt to read currently the following books (we'll see how many make it up there):

Catherine de' Medici, Leonie Frieda.  I'm at the point where Catherine's husband Henri II (king of France) is about to die in a joust. Then his mistress is getting shipped out and oh, how happy things will be. Until the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre. That won't be so happy.

this was way worse than that, Catherine

Boy Snow Bird, Helen Oyeyemi.  Megs said this was really good and SHE WAS RIGHT (so far). I'll see if I can keep from finishing this before Saturday.

The Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner.  This is the sequel to The Thief and I put it down for a while because I was barreling through the last two-thirds of the third Game of Thrones book, but now it has been PICKED UP again and if I finish this before Saturday, I will work on The King of Attolia

A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin.  Book 4! I hear it's not that good. But I am prepared. Also I lost so many people in that last one, I'm pretty okay right now with not having a ton of excitement in Westeros. WESTEROS, WHY MUST YOU ALL FIGHT.

So, probably bits from those books shall be read. Probably. Unless I just get really into eating mini muffins. Only time will tell. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

CW's Reign: Blood sacrifices! Castle abductions! Sexy Nostradamus!

Reign. What a great show.

Do you like ridiculous levels of drama? Do you have a penchant for young people standing on cliffs looking windswept? Do you casually enjoy references to a dark wood next to a castle that no one should enter because PAGANS? Well then journey on over to the CW, my friends, and examine their 16th century offerings. (and by 'to the CW' I mean Netflix, 'cause no one has regular TV anymore)

When Reign premiered, they had some kind of viral marketing campaign all over Chicago, and I said "NO. I will not watch a show about Sexy Mary, Queen of Scots and support more revisionist bullshit about her. NEIN." Because I have highly disliked Mary, Queen of Scots ever since I started loving Elizabeth I (around age 15) because how could you NOT? My feelings are best summed up by this graphic I made back in the day to illustrate their differences:

But Reign focuses on Mary's early life, i.e. when she lived in France and was betrothed to the Dauphin (Francis). In reality, Francis was supposed to be sickly and he died soon after becoming king. On the show, Mary and Francis are in LOVE and are going to SAVE EUROPE (subtext: from Protestantism but they don't want you to think about that on the show), but Nostradamus, who is also on the show, has told Francis's mother Catherine de' Medici that there is a prophecy that Mary's marriage to Francis will cause his death. Oh noooooo.

So Catherine de' Medici is conspiring against Mary, and in the grand history of people who conspire, she is pretty high on the list of Ones Who Are Good At It, so that sucks for Mary. Meanwhile, Francis's bastard brother Sebastian is all "I'm hot tempered but also hot for Mary" and so loooove triangle. But not a super-annoying one.

Scandalously dressed Mary, Catherine being a badass, and beautiful Francis
and his tiny, bony little shoulders

Basically the show aims to hit the major historical events, and then just put whatever shit they want in between. Which is fine. You've signed up for SexyHistory, and you get that. ALONG WITH Man in the Iron Mask Girl (who actually just wears a bag over her head) and Creepy Pagans in the Woods, who always make for a good episode.

You also have the Queen of France, Catherine de' Medici, who I'm currently reading a book about to see if she was at all like Megan Follows from Anne of Green Gables plays her. I hope she was at least 15% like this:

More like Queen SASSERINE, amirite?

Anyway, Adelaide Kane as Mary has achieved the almost impossible, which is making me like Mary. There's a lot of annoying Mary propaganda from the 19th century because what with her Catholicism, eventual beheading at the hands of Elizabeth (because she was an IDIOT), and reputed attractiveness, Romantics were all over that shit. Schiller wrote a play about her that's basically "Mary, how are you so smart and pretty and great all the time?" 

To be EXTRA-annoying, people occasionally say things like, "Yeah, Elizabeth killed Mary, but then Mary's son James became king, so WHO WON IN THE END?" 

Elizabeth. Elizabeth won in the end. Who remembers the Stuarts? Mary's descendants 1) horrifically conservative 2) got beheaded 3) responsible for the Restoration period, which is DISGUSTING 4) got pregnant 17 times and had no children to inherit so the GERMANS had to come over and become kings of England and were in charge until Queen Victoria's death in 1901. Nice going, Stuarts.

So no, I don't like Mary. But I like Adelaide Kane's portrayal of her A LOT. And I like the fact that the show isn't dumb. I was expecting dumb. But there are twists! And exciting things! And anachronistic dresses, but you don't care, because it's SexyHistory and that's how it's supposed to be!

Reign. What a great show.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lady Parts by Andrea Martin: I know she probably gets sick of hearing about Aunt Voula but I really loved her as Aunt Voula

When I saw that Andrea Martin -- SCTV alum and, more importantly, Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding -- had written a book, I immediately badgered HarperCollins about getting a copy to review and they very GRACIOUSLY responded yes. So I read her book Lady Parts, and y'know what, I'm glad I did.

SCTV was an early sketch comedy show in Canada. The cast included awesome people you've laughed at like Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Rick Moranis, and John Candy. Andrea Martin was part of this cast, and while I, y'know, haven't really watched SCTV, I am GRATEFUL to it for all the people it bestowed unto my television.

...they were on a lot of drugs in the '70s

Andrea Martin's a character actress, and a hilarious one. Aunt Voula is CLEARLY the best part of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and has the only lines anyone quotes from it anymore ("What do you mean he don't eat meat?...oh, that's okay. I make lamb!"), including the amazing monologue about her twin. When they announced a million years ago that they were going to make a My Big Fat Greek Wedding TV show and that Andrea Martin was going to be in it, I said "Okay I will watch this." It lasted seven episodes.

When describing the kind of work she gets, she says:
I don't play the romantic lead who gets to make out with Ryan Gosling. I'm the housekeeper who walks in on them, does a spit take, trips over Mr. Gosling's underwear, and crawls on all fours out the door.
Somebody's gotta do it.

As character actresses do, Andrea Martin's had an extremely varied career. She's won two Tonys, been on a ridiculous number of TV shows, done improv, cabaret, and played Quark's mother on DS9. Her book is a collection of pretty unconnected essays talking about aspects of her life that are mostly not about performing. Stints in the hospital, biannual trips to a spa in California, raising her two sons, having everyone assume she's Canadian when she is in fact from Maine. Her Armenianism. 

What I enjoyed about it was there was a lot of glancing information about what it's like to be a minor celebrity. You get stories like this:
In 1986, when my sons were three and five, we moved from Toronto to Los Angeles. I enrolled them in a small private school that Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman sent their kids to. This only added to my anxiety. I would study Ms. Streep as she waved goodbye to her kids when she dropped them off in the morning, and feel that my goodbyes paled in comparison. Her goodbyes were were the goodbyes of a real mother, so heartfelt, so honest, so underplayed. My goodbyes were empty, desperate, over the top. "Mommy loves you...MOMMY LOVES YOU."
She discusses why she flies to Atlanta to get her hair cut, and when she was done, I thought it made sense. She brings up the excellent point that "[s]omebody has to talk about skin tags." And she makes you want to watch SCTV clips on YouTube (which I did. A lot).

When she was in the hospital about to undergo a dangerous procedure, she wrote an email to her group of mostly gay male friends (plus Debra Monk), which she prints in full. This is my favorite part:

My dear BFF, my angel, Deb Monk, has been by my side from the moment I entered the hospital. Last night when I got the results of the MRI, I was distraught and scared and crying. Deb, in the most compassionate manner, held my hand and whispered, "I'm cancelling everything tomorrow to be with you." Snapping out of my distress, I said competitively, "What the hell do you have planned for tomorrow?" She then showed me her calendar, and sure enough, she is going to cancel her walk.

It's a good mix of funny and sincere, although definitely bordering much more on the sincere side, which usually makes me uncomfortable BUT I AM TRYING. This particular memoir feels more like something you can take life lessons from than most others I've read. Her dealings with anxiety and staying in the moment were particularly helpful, and it was interesting but strange seeing into the mind of someone who's dealt with bulimia and sees food as an enemy, mainly because food is My Favorite and it makes me sad someone would be mad at it.

So yes. Aunt Voula wrote a book! Andrea Martin is great, and you should watch her 30 Rock episode (it's in the last season and it's called 'My Whole Life Is Thunder'). Also there's going to be a My Big Fat Greek Wedding sequel? So. Hopefully more Aunt Voula.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Game of Thrones, Ancient Christian Women, and Old Ministers

I have been READING, and I was reading a variety of things, but then Storm of Swords, the third in the George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones series, grabbed me and now I can read nothing else. And I know -- I KNOW it's called A Song of Ice and Fire, but I'm not doing that. Everyone calls it GoT because of the TV show, and the culture has adapted accordingly.

I'm gonna be pretty unspoilery, but everyone knows the Red Wedding is a thing that exists, and I will argue it is WAY WORSE when you know it's coming. Any mention of a wedding and I cringed, and then finally they were all going there, none the wiser and I was having panic attacks. MY BABIES how could this happen to you. Ugh. Those people better get theirs. THEY BETTER GET THEIRS.


Someone told me they thought Danaerys was boring in this book, but I am TOTES INTO HER. I didn't think I would be, but she's awesome. And I am currently supporting her as eventual winner. Her or Margaery Tyrell, because who doesn't love Margaery. She's one of the only people who seems to know what the hell she's doing. Her and her saucy grandma.

So I'm also reading a book I am SUPER-liking, but it got derailed by GoT because how could it not, and that's The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women, which someone in my church committee asked me about, listened to me talk about women in the 400s for like two minutes, then said "Oh, I thought it was a novel." WELL I AM SORRY. But it's really good and well-written and I am excited about it. But not so excited that I'm gonna stop reading about what's going on with Bran and Hodor and Tywin Lannister and ALL MY FRIENDS I have some emotional attachments going on here.

I also started Gilead, which has weirdly been recommended by at least two guys, and guys almost never rec books to me. Probably because the main guy I talk to is Doug, and Doug mainly reads movie novelizations (lies, but you should read that post if you haven't). Gilead is obviously amazing and wonderful and you read that Marilynne Robinson teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and of COURSE she does, because she is so very obviously A Writer in the same way Rembrandt is A Painter.

So I'm very excited by all the books I'm reading right now, but Storm of Swords most of all, because damn you and your many fantastic characters, GRRM. Damn you.