Quickie Review: Laughing All the Way to Crazytown

We moved 10 days ago. All our boxes are unpacked, we’ve got power and interwebz, the commute to work is smooth sailing.

We also have no washer and dryer, no curtains, and my bank account is lookin’ real sad. Such is life.

Between moving and having a couple meltdowns about moving, I’ve actually managed to get some reading done.

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, Zarqa NawazA series of short stories by author and television writer Zarqa Nawaz about growing up Muslim in Canada. It’s like Love, InshAllah, but with way more laughs. It’s a peek into a culture about which most Americans know little. Nawaz is an excellent writer, both thoughtful and hysterical. Her television series Little Mosque on the Prairie aired for six seasons in Canada — I need to get my hands on it.

Hex

Hex, Thomas Olde HeuveltThis translated edition of Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Dutch novel made me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I was wound up as tight as a drum a few chapters in, and Heuvelt spent the rest of the book winding me tighter. The final few chapters are gruesome and absolutely horrifying. The book’s theme — what is the true definition of a monster? — is intriguing and repulsive. Much like The Seeker, Hex terrified me and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. So good.

Coming up next on my TBR is…well, I don’t know. I need to make a run to the library to renew my card; maybe I’ll see what’s on display when I go in. If you’ve got any recommendations for me, drop ‘em in the comments!

Review: Unmentionable

Unmentionable, Therese OneillIf you’ve always thought that a clean, simple frock is better than low-rise jeans, that you would enjoy living in the time of Charlotte Bronte, or that the centuries before ours were simpler and better…this book is not for you.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners will disabuse you of the laughable notion that the 19th century would be a fun place to spend any time.

Not only is there arsenic in pretty much anything you put on your face, there’s also no refrigeration, no talking to a man who’s not your husband or father, and definitely no talking about s-e-x. There’s also an astonishing array of crotchless clothing, and fat-shaming is totally a thing.

Therese Oneill’s book is an awesome examination of the horror show that was the 19th century. Let’s check out the revolting details, shall we?

Hello, slattern

I figured any book that starts with these words is probably going to be amazing. And I was right! Unmentionable is a sassy, snarky look at an era many people tend to romanticize.

Oneill starts you off with getting dressed (hide those ankles, ladies), and shares makeup tips (you know what’ll take care of those freckles? Acid!). Then it’s on to discussing periods (no matter how you manage them, it’s not the right way) and how to land a husband (by never speaking to him, apparently).

Next up we’ve got the typical “Your womb is a wandering monstrosity that makes you crazy” garbage, followed by quotes from old white dudes who thought birth control, masturbation, and visiting museums was going to lead to humanity’s downfall.

And it’s all written in the best tone ever. For example, in a section called, “Give Him NOTHING”:

You are a prize to be won. He must work to capture your affections and approval. Only the stupid and slutty trout leap out of the water to gain the fisherman’s attention. The virtuous trout simply allows the sun to gleam briefly on her shining scales and then dives back to the shadowy depths. Only a skilled man with the finest of fake bugs can ream a metal hook through her mouth. You are that trout, and the metal hook you are about to be impaled on is holy matrimony.

Unmentionable had me chortling and reading sections aloud to my husband. He didn’t think it was as funny. Maybe I let a bum fisherman catch me? Oh well. I shall comfort myself by reading this book again and thanking my lucky stars I wasn’t born in the Victorian era!

Quickie Reviews: Personal Stories

My 2017 reading started off slow, but I’ve kicked things into high gear in the last few weeks. So of course I have a review backlog. Let’s hit the high (and low) points, shall we?

Work Rules!

Work Rules! Laszlo BockThe subtitle on this is a mouthful: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. It’s got some good ideas on transforming company culture, but most of it seems pretty “pie in the sky” and a little bit “We’re Google and we’re awesome.” I’ve had some good conversations about it with co-workers, though.

The Princess Diarist

The Princess Diarist, Carrie FisherCarrie Fisher’s last book before her death in December 2016. She was a fascinating, complicated woman, and I want to learn more about her. Unfortunately I don’t think this was the right book for that. The Princess Diarist is a bit disjointed, and focuses mostly on her fling with Harrison Ford during Star Wars filming. It just not as interesting as I hoped it would be. But she’s got a great writing voice, and fortunately wrote several other books that promise to tell more about her life.

The Portable Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy ParkerThis one’s been sitting on my shelf for years, and is part of my 2017 Off the Shelf Reading Challenge. I’ve gone all the way through it, but probably read only about half. I love Parker’s poetry and letters, but have trouble with her short stories (anybody’s short stories, really — I don’t often like them). She was always better at short form writing than long form. And those quips! “It is true that he is so hard-boiled you could roll him on the White House lawn.”

Review: Friday’s Child

Friday's Child, Georgette HeyerViscount “Sherry” Sheringham is beyond furious. His considerable inheritance remains in the clutches of his greedy uncle until Sherry marries — and Miss Isabella Milborne has just refused his proposal. Sherry is determined to get his money, and vows to marry the first woman he meets on his return to London. This happens much sooner than he expects.

On the road just outside his mother’s home, Sherry sees Hero Wantage sitting on a low wall, looking miserable. The family that took her in as a child has not treated her well, and now plan to send her off to be a governess.

So the two strike a bargain: Hero will marry Sherry so he can get his inheritance, and Sherry will save Hero from having to become a governess. They agree not to meddle in each other’s lives or dalliances, and off to London they go.

Do I need to tell you what happens next?

Another Heyer classic

I love Georgette Heyer. Her characters are ridiculous and her stories are wonderful. Friday’s Child is no exception.

Sherry is a gambler and something of a rake; he sees marriage as a way out of his money troubles, not as a life-altering “time to settle down” experience.

Unfortunately, Hero’s naivete makes her a prime target for anyone looking for an easy mark. She’s constantly getting to scrapes, and Sherry always swoops in to avert scandal. The couple’s friends can see the two are falling in love — but they’re just not willing to admit it.

But when Hero finds herself in her worst scrape yet, she decides she must flee London and leave Sherry to court the woman Hero believes he loves.

Her escape, Sherry’s search, their awkward reunion, and all the misunderstandings in between combine to make Friday’s Child another example of Georgette Heyer at her finest. A whole lot of silliness, and just enough romance to make this gal happy indeed.

(I read this book as part of the Monthly Motif Challenge. July’s challenge was to read a book that is guaranteed to make me laugh out loud.)

C.J. Cregg Is My Spirit Animal

I love all kinds of book and television characters: heroes, villains, the straight man, the genius, the fool. But what I love more than anything — what makes my little heart go pitter-patter — is a well-rounded, kickass heroine. They’re not always easy to spot, so when I find one I love her immediately, and hard.

The West Wing finished its prime time run in 2006, and I came across it sometime in 2014 when looking for something to binge watch on Netflix. I had no idea that I was about to meet the love of my life.

Claudia Jean (C.J.) Cregg is everything I aspire to be: strong, confident, independent, funny, and smart. As the White House’s Press Secretary, she’s cool under pressure, knows everything, and is able to explain it in an easy-to-understand way. She’s a good friend, a dedicated feminist, and — my favorite — not afraid to stand up for her beliefs.

Her thoughts on the importance of clothing also match mine.

And then there’s this gem, which based on my experience seems to be a great metaphor for almost everything at the state and federal levels.

In tough or stressful situations, I channel C.J. She’s a badass, and anyone who says otherwise is going to have to answer to me.