Monday, September 29, 2008

No Choice But Seduction

Wow, I hate to say it, but I think I have finally outgrown trashy romance novels! After reading them for close to twenty years, I have reached my limit with them. Le sigh, so sad. But they just don’t thrill me like the way they used to and I don’t find myself getting lost in the story either. Instead I find myself more irritated with the characters, and its no wonder that women have such misconception about love and romance.

I could barely make it through No Choice But Seduction by Johanna Lindsey. I found myself rolling my eyes during numerous parts and skimming through the majority of the book. I was hoping that the charm of the Malory family could save the story, but it didn’t.

Too be honest, I can’t even summarize what the story was about. The plot was really choppy and I felt like Lindsey couldn’t decide if she wanted the focus to be on the main couple or on past characters within the Malory family specifically James and Tony. While I know the Malory’s are fan favorites (and used to be mine), she cannot keep relying on previous characters to carry the story. If she wants to continue with the Malory’s, than she should write another novel like The Present, which included all past characters and introduced a nice side love story to go along with it.

I just don’t find my trashy romance novels as whimsical anymore. I really believe I have outgrown them. I was getting that feeling when I picked up The Marriage Spell. I was hoping No Choice But Seduction would turn into a pleasant surprise, but instead it was old and tiresome.

Trashy romance novels have a time and a place and when I was in my younger years, they seemed so thrilling, exciting and romantic. And now that I’ve lived a little and have had life experiences, I just can’t relate to them anymore. I almost feel like they are sending a wrong message to women. Granted, I probably shouldn’t have been reading them at such a young age, and if my Mother didn’t have such a huge collection of them, I probably wouldn’t have read as many as I did. I have turned a corner with this genre and am not sure if I can go back.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Third Angel

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman follows the lives of four women and their connection to the Lion Park Hotel in London. It’s a story about losing yourself completely whether it be through passionate love or your own self-hate.

It’s a story about the Third Angel. As Frieda explains, “You can’t even tell if he’s an angel or not. You think you’re doing him a kindness, you think you’re the one taking care of him, while all the while, he’s the one who’s saving your life.” I like this concept of a Third Angel; someone who is out there and unwittingly through some act or gesture of compassion they have the ability to alter you life and save you from yourself.

Another theme is the ability to lose yourself completely without even realizing it. The most obvious is the ghost that haunts the Lion Park Hotel. This ghost is different; it’s not a ghost of a dead person, but more of an imprint of Teddy Healy (who is still alive) soul and the exact moment that he lost it. In that instant his very essence was ripped out of him and left to relive that scene every night. Teddy was never able to find himself again.

The Third Angel starts in the present and works its way to the past and you see how each woman is connected to one another. The Lion Park Hotel seems to be the central focus and events that happened 47 years ago leave a mark in each story surrounding these women’s lives.

Each woman has their own story to tell that involves love, lost, betrayal and a Third Angel. It’s interesting to see whom that Third Angel is and how their role helps shape these women’s existence. Some become the Third Angel and some are helped by the Third Angel.

I have to admit, I didn’t really like this book until I finally got to the end. Everything made sense at the end, and I even went back to the beginning to see where all the connections were. I do think Hoffman has a nice style of writing, but I wasn’t really sucked into the story until closer to the end.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is such a compelling and thought-provoking novel. The story surrounds a dystopian society ruled by a totalitarian government where women are stripped of their rights and live in a caste society.

The narrator of this tale is a Handmaid known as Offred who belongs to a Commander and his Wife, Serena Joy. The purpose of the Handmaid’s is to breed children for the Commander. In the society of the Gilead, people have become infertile and women who are of age and have had at least one child are forced to become Handmaid’s. Sex is solely for procreation and only performed once a month in hopes of conception.

Women are no longer allowed to hold property, money, read, write or be educated. Guards watch over the city at all times and Handmaid’s must walk in pairs to be protected. They are given no civil liberties and if they disobey they could be shipped off to the Colonies to die or hanged on the Wall as a warning to others. The Eyes see all and know all.

Offred recalls tales of her former life where she was married to Luke and had a daughter. They tried to cross the border into Canada, but failed and she was taken to the Center to be re-educated by the Aunts as her new role as Handmaid. She has no idea what has become of Luke and learns her daughter has been adopted by another Commander and his Wife. Offred resigns herself to this life in hopes that one day she will escape and be reunited with her husband and daughter.

I could go more into a plot summary of this book, but I think you get the idea. The Handmaid’s Tale starts off slow, but really begins to pick up after the first coupling ceremony. Soon Offred is secretly meeting the Commander in his office after hours and begins an affair with the driver Nick, who ultimately helps her escape (or so I hope).

This book was hugely moving and scary at the same time. The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1986 and it’s interesting to note that Gilead became after the President and Congress were gunned down and the blame was put on Islamic fanatics. The Constitution was suspended and a new military took over. It was all supposed to be temporary, but instead opened the door to this new regime; it was the catalyst they were waiting for.

It makes me wonder, if the 9/11 attacks had been more widespread, would our government have responded in return? Would we be under a military government and stripped of our rights of free speech and thoughts? Could a society like this ever form in this modern era of technology and lack of values and beliefs?

I think Atwood’s writing is stunning. There were so many passages that I earmarked that I thought were poetic, thoughtful, serene, sad and hopeful. Here is one of my favorite passages,
Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls,
instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can
see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the
horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen
fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city.
Maybe night falls because its heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes …
Night has fallen, then. I feel it pressing down on me like a stone

I love books like this that really make you think and question your life or society. I think it’s interesting to read how cultures evolve, form new shapes/roles and the long-term affects of these outcomes. How was Offred to predict that events leading up to Gilead would force her to become a Handmaid, thereby losing her very identity, her place in the world, her very self? Could these acts have been prevented? How did humanity recover from this time frame (we learn that in the far future, the world is no longer like this)?

I wonder what history books will write about my generation and how we contributed to the world. I wonder how we will change the world.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Quarterly Survey: Food Edition

I am entering End of Quarter time, so things will of course be hectic, and also means I'll continue to be MIA. Luckily Kiah has posted this fun food survey. Enjoy.

Here’s what you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating or Italicize since it never shows up when I try to cross things out on here.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak Tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black Pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam Chowder in a sourdoug bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float (I hate root beer and putting vanilla ice cream in it does not sound appealing at all!)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (A good jello shot should not taste too vodkay and should go down smooth)

39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala (One of my favorite Indian dishes!)
48. Eel (Eaten it in sushi)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut Hot!
50. Sea urchin (Went out for sushi once, where BFE had a small portion of sea urchin on her plate. It looked like runny poop. Gross!)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (I hate olives, so would never drink something that consisted of olive juice. Eww.)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores (I heart me some S’mores. Nothing better than sitting in front of a fire and eating some delicious gooey s’mores)
62. Sweetbreads (I have actually eaten them in pate)
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (OMG, I hate this shit! Its this really awful smelly fruit in Thailand. It seriously smells like ass the riper it gets. My Dad loves it and always asks for some when we’re in Thailand)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (eww, why would someone want to eat this?)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail (OMG, love escargot)
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (This was my favorite snack growing up)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (I used to work in a coffee store and would steal pounds of this all the time)
100. Snake