Jane Eyre is described as elfish, plain, with auburn or hazel hair and green eyes. Here she is with a favorite quote of mine.
These are inspired by ‘Blonde’ written by Joyce Carol Oates. Ana De Armas stars as Marilyn Monroe in the upcoming adapted film, so I combined their likeness.
My Oprah nope meme makes a return for another bad book. I haven’t used it in a while, so it was a good run.
Bunny by Mona Award tries too hard. I wanted to like this so bad. Story about an outcast graduate student who falls into the depths of a bitch cult? Count me in. Except this wasn’t close to good. Imagine, if you will, a pack of high pitched fake voiced Ivankas as the main antagonists along with a witches brew storyline featuring the ingredients of Heathers, Mean Girls, Pretty In Pink, Fight Club, American Psycho, She’s All That, Joker, Donnie Darko, and Bridesmaids. Except when you put all those things together it’s nothing more than an orgy of “whaaaaaatttt”, “get to the point” and, “is it over yet?”
My final thoughts on the matter can only be truly expressed with the following:
How cool is this? Artist Wilson Webb created wet plate collodian portraits of the cast of Little Women. I put them in a collage so they could be seen at the same time. Amazing!
This novel is historical fiction at its finest. How the Oxford Dictionary came to be was an arduous process that took decades, and I didn’t realize until reading this novel how intense and long the process was. The credit usually goes to men. And with all those men, you can imagine that words used by or applying to women were dismissed…hence the phrase “all words are not created equal”. But there were women who contributed, albeit behind the scenes. Which leads to this heartbreaking and beautiful novel about the importance of words in both connecting and dividing men and women, and the reminder that what we say and do today will be a guide for the next generation. Words matter.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams introduces us to the fictional Esme, whose delightful curiosity leads to her mission to collect “lost” words from regular working women, including those who work for her. Although not rich, she is better off than most which leads to a sheltered existence and endearing naïveté. She is inspired by words starting at an early age because she regularly goes to work with her single father, who is employed at a scriptorium. One day, she finds a scrap of paper that says “bondmaid”. So begins her journey into finding words spoken by women or are about women that often get lost in meaning, or ignored entirely. Even as Esme herself experiences unspeakable loss, she continues to find words because she has the wisdom to know they will outlive her. They will outlive all of us. So they must be documented. And the people who spoke these words matter, too, and deserve to be remembered.
This was a sad one. It’s one of those books that rips your heart out, and leaves you feeling different even days later. Although the star of the show is the dictionary and Esme’s dedication to it, the novel has war, disease, death, and inequality peppered throughout its pages. I learned so much from Esme, how hard decisions shaped her often as a result of society’s unrealistic expectations of women. And her maid Lizzie? What a a beautiful character. Like the dictionary, this book tells the truth without any commentary. Because life is devastating, love is lost, and, yes, people will leave us.
The only reason I gave this four stars instead of five was because there were things that were introduced but never brought up again. What happened to Esme in school? It seemed to have traumatized her but it’s left so vague. And her time in the VA hospital spoke to Esme’s kind and generous nature, but was it necessary? Otherwise, this is 100% worth your time.
Conclusion: Read these words, because they will forever stay with you.
Rating: 4/5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Esme: Florence Pugh
Da: David Thewlis
Lizzie: Felicity Jones
Gareth: Nicholas Hoult
Ditte: Jennifer Saunders
Mr. Murray: Sir Michael Gamdon
The above represents my reaction to Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews.
Think of the know-it-all in your life you just want to get away from. The overly critical person who has a comment for everything because they think they are better, but are jealous underneath the facade. And even if they don’t have anything to add, they feel the need to disagree just to disagree or play devil’s advocate? The annoying person that gives a sarcastic “okay” when they are really judging you but don’t want to say the quiet part out loud? While the title of this asks about Maud Dixon, it’s really a book about an insufferable snot named Florence Margaret Darrow. A character you are supposed to be rooting for but instead meets the criteria for what I described above.
The plot in a nutshell: Florence is a wannabe writer (who can’t write anything worthwhile) living in NYC (of course) and hates her overly critical MAGA mother. She works a dead end job at a publishing house and lives in a shoebox apartment. After being a freak and stalking her boss’s family, she gets fired. Then, seemingly, out of the blue, she gets a job offer to work as a personal assistant for an author that goes by the pseudonym Maud Dixon, a mysterious woman living in the sticks who has caused waves with her first book named Mississippi Foxtrot. Thrilled at first to be working with a prolific author, Florence soon realizes the real Maud Dixon is an eccentric, erratic, and verbally abusive Southern woman who she both fears and emulates. She also becomes only one of two people who actually knows who Maud Dixon is, which becomes dangerous for a host of reasons. What follows is a series of events (all of them far-fetched and full of unnecessary detail that could have cut this book in half had it been edited out) that reveals the cost of uncovering the truth about someone you thought was your hero, while discovering own decisions about who you want to be and how low you are willing to go to get there. This story also takes forever to get to the point. When it finally does, you find that the “twist” wasn’t all that creative, because you saw it coming. I also didn’t care enough about any character to be excited. Gone Girl, this is not.
The only reason I gave this two stars is because I managed to finish it. And I only finished it because I paid for it. The book got so much positive press that I thought there would be something special within its pages. But no, it’s about terrible women who do terrible things to each other. It’s about sinking so low to get over or gain material wealth, that you lose sight of who you are. I have no problem with horrible, villianous characters. In fact, I’m drawn to them due to their complexity. That’s why I know this was bad. If you are going to give us a false protagonist, do it right. Because if you don’t, the result will be what would happen if a poop and vomit emoji had a baby.
2/5 stars: ⭐️⭐️
If Hollywood must make a movie based on another bad book, here’s the cast I’d pick who might salvage it:
Florence Darrow: Elle Fanning
Maud Dixon: Reese Witherspoon
Perhaps I am too biased to be able to give a fair review of the novelThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. But I’ve never been one to back down, so here we go.
Beginning in what we now call the “classic Hollywood era”, the story is about Evelyn Hugo, a blonde bombshell famous for her big boobs, her controversial film roles, and yes, having seven husbands. Fast forward to present day: After several decades of relative obscurity, Evelyn decides to give an interview about her life to a nobody magazine writer, Monique, and only to Monique, under false pretenses. And so, we learn about the life of Evelyn Hugo…and how it connects to a very confused Monique who interviews her as she comes to terms with the changes in her own life.
The reason I struggled with this review is that I couldn’t help but take it personally. First, I amthat Spanish girl with no mother and an absent father that Evelyn Herrera (changed to Hugo) started off as (and btw, we still say Spanish in parts of NYC, its not “Latino Harlem”, lol). I’m also mixed, like Monique. So I got it, and saw and felt what life was like for both of them because I actually live it. You never forget the sting of being asked “what are you?”. (Spoiler alert: I’m human).
I think my problem was more with Evelyn (which just so happens to be my aunt’s name). Yes, she wanted to be famous just to be famous (Kardashianesque), and did anything she could to get there. It wasn’t for the art, or the work, or even the fans. She just wanted the attention and glory. And before I’m patronized, I get that that’s part of Hollywood culture. I’m well aware of the industry, how cutthroat and at times, disgusting, it is towards women. While I think it’s twisted into a narrative that gives the reader the sense that Evelyn is the one in control her path to success, I had a hard time believing or accepting that. After all, she dyes her hair blonde, changes her name, and gets rid of her New York accent. And while I can completely understand that (because I have done the exact same thing), it’s far from feeling you have power and more like saying “ok, I know I won’t be accepted otherwise and I need a fucking job so I can eat ”. Obviously, my path differs completely from that of a person whose only goals seemed to be fame and an Oscar win. I refused to show my body off, or give sex to someone I knew would get me ahead. I could have. But I didn’t. I still could. And I don’t. And while I don’t take issue with “doing what you have to do”, I’m not going to pretend that women like Evelyn who use people to get ahead make life easier for the rest of us who try to survive the dead end jobs, long hours, sacrifice, and constant rejection. And it’s also dangerous for the women and men who don’t use sex because their perpetrators can just say “see, we all do it”. No. We don’t.
What is abundantly clear is that we aren’t supposed to like everything about Evelyn. Despite the title, the book isn’t really about her seven husbands. Far from it. In fact, her relationships with men show how strong and determined she is. For example, you see her surviving spousal abuse and recovering from a terrible man’s determination to ruin her. I understood why Evelyn goes ahead with the marriages, but still hated the message it sent. Not because she went through with it but because it hurt others. Especially when you see the impact her unwavering ability to go from man to man has on the person who is her true love.
The author makes her point by channeling the reader’s confusion through Monique, whose personal feelings about Evelyn yo-yo from disdain to adoration to hate. She wanted us to feel that unease with Evelyn, too. Reid gives us a complex lead character, so that the reader is left not really knowing how to take her, which was, of course, the point. Because all of us are shades of gray. Evelyn doesn’t want to cover up with the fakeness of Hollywood anymore, especially when she has suffered very real loss that no movie can sugarcoat. But it’s too late. For her and for us. Because the reader won’t forget that she lived a life of lies to get material wealth at any cost. And like most rich people, they fixate on staying rich, even if they lose who they are in the process. Making it worse: her condescending attitude and self-perceived authority over Monique, and her tone of “I’m teaching you a lesson, don’t be ungrateful” made my stomach turn. Because Evelyn’s not a nice person. And Hollywood isn’t to blame for making her that way. She chose to be.
My next issue is that I just don’t like reading books about the entertainment industry. And that distaste and boredom has nothing to do with this novel or its author. But I went ahead with this read anyway because it was so highly rated. While I think it is important to show the impact having to hide who you truly are has on people who have to keep up a facade to please a studio or employer, it doesn’t interest me through the lens of a fake industry where the cruelty of the clique is not only the norm, it’s encouraged. Where the same people are famous and get nominated for the same awards over and over and we have no choice but to hear about it. Even in the book, Evelyn must do things because she isn’t part of the “in” crowd. She isn’t there because of nepotism, or because she had money and could spend years signing up for acting classes instead of actually work. The problem is..this happens to women still and in every industry. And most of us don’t act the way Evelyn chose to. Evelyn continued to be horrible after getting fame. So, it’s no excuse. And worst of all, Evelyn does not rise above any of it. If you are looking for that kind of hero, get a GPS to find your way out because it doesn’t exist here.
Do I think you should read this? Yes. I do. I know this review may have seemed harsh, but like I said… I have my reasons and I’m cognizant of all of them. I think the enduring love story within its pages is worthy of an audience. And it’s important, because denying its existence is a pain that is still prevalent today. We can’t keep fooling ourselves by thinking a hashtag, some “woke” tweets, and/or marches will actually change things. We still have much work to do.
I wont give anything away about Evelyn’s true love. After all, it was the only thing authentic about her.
Rating: 3/5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
Dream Cast: 🎥
Young Evelyn Hugo: Ana De Armas
Evelyn Hugo (age 70): Rita Moreno
Celia St. James: Kiernan Shipka
Celia St. James (40’s >): Amy Adams
Monique: Zazie Beetz
Monique’s mom: Geena Davis
Harry Cameron: Luke Evans
Don Adler: Nicholas Hoult
Life can suck. We hurt ourselves and each other. We get sick, or we lose others to sickness. We lose our parents, or our children, or both. There is poverty, hunger, homelessness. It’s all so much, this world. So, it’s no wonder that we often look for a little magic. And when we don’t find it, we are disappointed. And that disappointment makes us angry, cynical, or worse.
The Lost Apothecary, written by Sarah Penner, reminds us that we do have glimmers of enchantment at our very fingertips on this place we call home, the third rock from the sun. We just need to look for it, and when found, use it wisely. And thus, nature is magic.
This dark story ping pongs back and forth between 1791 and present day. Circa 1791, we meet Nella, a weathered and lonely apothecary who helps women poison their cheating or abusive husbands. She will help a woman, but never hurt a woman. Her poisons are only for men. And it’s all done on the down low, which has given her quite the reputation. Women leave a written message and leave it in a hidden spot on Bear Alley in London, and this mysterious apothecary, an evil tooth fairy if you will, fulfills their requests. She does this by giving the women elixirs she’s made by using different ingredients found in nature (bugs, herbs, spices, plants, etc). We learn that Nella, who I call the pharmaceutical barn witch, has had her own share of betrayal and loss, and this leads her to use her talents for evil. And she puts her concoctions either in food, or in a vial with a bear imprinted upon it. Her methods are awesome to read about, because who knew this and that, and a pinch of that, could kill you?
One day, Nella meets twelve-year-old Eliza, the youngest client she has ever had. And she’s immediately unsure of whether she can follow through with an order that involves a child. Eliza, a curious preteen who displays her innocence through fantastical beliefs, is enthralled by the lonely Nella, and a friendship emerges that changes both their lives. Eliza is an interesting character. She is more afraid of what she can’t see. But she’ll watch a man die, look around, and be like, “yo, you wanna go eat some lunch?”. Nella, ever the realist, reminds Eliza that there is no magic in this harsh world, while Eliza serves as a reminder to Nella that anything is possible.
Jump ahead to present day. We meet Caroline. A 34-year-old American woman who has just learned of her husband’s infidelity. She goes to London on what should have been their ten year anniversary trip. Instead of celebrating this milestone, her love of history is rekindled. While in London, Caroline finds a strange bottle with a bear imprinted upon it. And so begins an adventure to find the origins of the bottle, and the mysterious, nameless, apothecary she’s learned helped to murder trifling men two hundred years ago. Through Caroline’s search, she finds herself, and recognizes the importance of doing what makes her feel fulfilled as opposed to what others expect from her.
Overall, I liked the connection between 1791 and present day. The impact that men had on all three female characters can’t be overstated. Being a woman is hard, no matter the time period. Perhaps the author was making the point that men can be shit and this is what drove the characters to do what they did. I didn’t really buy it, though. Even though I despised the men, I never found myself saying ‘“good” when they were gone. Call me crazy but I’d rather they suffer? While I never have an issue with vigilante justice, I didn’t find myself pulling for the demise of these men, and thought surely we are better at revenge than this. Nella’s methods were clever, but hardly honorable. And it wasn’t lost on me that the women in 1791 used poisoned to try to get the life they wanted, while the Caroline’s husband, James, poisons himself in the present to try to get what he wanted. And in both instances, the separation of two centuries does not give anyone what they sought.
One thing that bothered me: Caroline’s cavalier behavior when she doesn’t know if she’s pregnant or not. I say this as a woman who has miscarried. While I’m probably just being sensitive, it hurt me to hear her drinking two glasses of wine, coffee, and putting off the pregnancy test when she knew it was a possibility. And bringing it up to the reader as she’s doing it. It was odd to read, especially when you see the impact such a loss had on Nella. When you feel robbed of a life that could have been, you don’t want to hear about someone else being reckless. Even if it is a work of fiction.
Rating: 3/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dream Cast 🎥 🎞 :
Nella: Judy Dench
Eliza: Julia Butters
Caroline: Anna Kendrick
James: Dave Franco