Poetry Tuesday: The Bridal Morn

Anonymous English 15th century.

The maidens came
When I was in my mother’s bower;
I had all that I would.
The bailey beareth the bell away;
The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.
The silver is white, red is the gold;
The robes they lay in fold.
The bailey beareth the bell away;
The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.
And through the glass windows shines the sun.
How should I love, and I so young?
The bailey beareth the bell away;
The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.

;o)

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Music Review: Shannon Curtis’ Creationism

Another new album from the prolific LuvTunGrl, as I call her (and have to explain to her every time). Jamie Hill, who is Shannon’s husband and musical partner in crime, will tell you how much I prefer acoustic—just the singer and the piano in this case—which is why I think he adds these beats and whirly and other sound effects: to piss me off. Thankfully Shannon’s voice carries the songs so that I can ignore most of that stuff.

Who Do You Think You Are?
A perfect example of what I said above. Lyrically I don’t find this as good as most of hers, but since it’s got great music and is basically a showcase for her vocals, who can complain? Especially when the chorus rises so deliciously. . .
4/5

She Writes It
A slow start to this surprisingly poppy song, but like the first one it’s all in the chorus. The lyrics are a beautiful twist on the girl power theme. My fave on the album. Could be a power anthem for female writers.
5/5

Elevate
For the most part the beat is the only music behind Shannon’s voice, which is both good and bad. This one is too sparse to really get into, despite her breathy tone.
3/5

Little Life
Another sparse tune; without much of a melody it’s hard to remember.
3/5

The Stillness
Is that a Theremin? (Not according to the artist herself, but how cool would that have been?) I thought it was a sweet little love song at first, but I have to confess I’m not at all sure what’s it’s about by the end.
4/5

Roaring Flame
This is the most driving song, and oddly it’s the most obvious love song. About overcoming obstacles and all that, which you wouldn’t expect from the title.
4.5/5

Let’s Pretend
Very melodic tune that makes me think of little girl best friends.
4.5/5

Come Away
This one is as gentle as a lullaby, though it reads more like a love proposal. Sweet is indeed what Shannon does best.
4/5

Last Night Ever
This is Shannon’s second tune on the end of the world theme; the other, Lay Me Down, is one of my faves, and this one is up there too. Don’t leave this plane of existence with regrets. (Woulda given this one a perfect 5 if it didn’t have that weird beat that was almost like another attempted melody.)
4.5/5

Particle Collision
Ignoring the title, this is reminiscent of Shannon’s earlier work, with the musicbox-type intro, spiced with a cello.
3.5/5

So overall, and going extra fractional, I’m giving this album 4.25/5. The only downside is there’s nothing here that can compete, or rather compare to, “I Know, I Know,” though “She Writes It” comes close.

;o)

Book Reviews: More Graphic Novels Edition

Marthe Trolycurtin
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Malice in Ovenland, Vol. 1
Schoolgirl in NYC has to stay home and do chores over vacation while all her friends go do fun stuff. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she has to put up with her mom’s organic food—even has to trek to water the garden—and then her mom goes away; is it legal to leave a kid that young alone? But she perseveres and does as told, getting everything done until the last item: clean the oven. A creature steals her earring and it’s all Alice in Wonderland, greasy style, from there.
There are some great lines in here, like “Now I know how a French fry feels.” There’s a poem called “The Day the Grease Stopped Flowing.” I knew organic food was bad for you! The Ovenland crest has crossed spatulas under a plate of bacon. . . I want one.
“Ahem!” Never seen a ghost beg for attention.
The protagonist talks out loud rather than thinking it—that’s a bit annoying, but thankfully corrected midway. The “Lily Ma’am” thing pops out every once in a while and it always makes me chuckle. She somehow manages to turn a giant roach into a puppy. There’s even a reference to Pizza Rat.
Don’t really buy the ending; maybe she likes the food now, but the chores?
6 pages of bonus art, including a cover that would have been better than the one they used. Never thought I would say this sentence, but there’s a cover of Lily “riding the roach,” and no, that’s not a euphemism.
All in all, fun enough for kids, though maybe too gross for the younger ones.
3.5/5

Black Jack Ketchum
After a historical lesson about the central figure, who was indeed a real-life person, things turn weird—yeah, the thing with the snow—and science-fictionly, part Brisco County and part Sledge Hammer.
I love how the guy at the poker table is completely blasé with shots being fired all around him. Even more I love his sidekick, even if she doesn’t talk; taciturn plays well here. There’s one panel that squicked me out much more than I could have ever imagined, when he was cleaning the gun.
When the stoic poker table guy finally gives his name, it explains a lot of things; particularly enjoyed the inclusion of that famous story. So we add Twilight Zone to the reference mix, and possibly Twin Peaks.
Each chapter, or issue, starts off with more of the historical stuff until we find out his fate in real life, so there’s a lot of shifting. Even then there’s still the fantasy to play out. Things go sideways—first literally, then storywise; the metaphysics of it all hurt my head. There’s a musical interlude, for no reason other to show bad lyrics. Then there’s the ultimate in dual realities, leading to a deus ex machina from the last shoutout, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
If you search for photo of the real Black Jack, you’ll find this version is drawn true to life. There’s a gorgeous also-true-to-life panel of Monument Valley which alone is worth the expenditure.
At the end there’s 10 pages of bonus materials in the form of sketches, with the finished product sometimes intertwined.
This can be intriguing, as long as you don’t take it as seriously as it takes itself. But who was the girl? Why was she there?
3.5/5

Alice in Wonderland: Special Collector’s Manga
Only a month ago I read a complete Wonderland/Looking Glass graphic novel done as faithfully as can possibly be expected. This one didn’t figure to be at all the same, not with Tim Burton’s name on it. If you’ve seen the Burton movie, you know this already, but for others, no matter what the title, this is not the same story; it’s more of a direct sequel than Looking Glass.
I’m reading this in digital form, but there’s a warning right at the beginning that tells the reader you’re doing it wrong. Since it’s manga, it’s done in Japanese writing style; in other words, it starts at what most of us call the end. The funny thing is it jokes not to start here: “You don’t want to spoil the fun and start with the end, do you?” It’s Alice in Wonderland, what spoilers are left?
But I went to the back and found a lot of prologue, with an older teenage Alice being married off to a boring lord. It takes almost 20 pages for the real story to start, which it does with a bang; for once the fall, or rather the landing, hurts. Again, if you’ve seen the movie all this isn’t a surprise, but if you haven’t, it’s a completely new story, which will either fascinate or enrage you.
She’s awfully calm next to the giant cat, but then she keeps telling herself it’s just a dream; good luck with that.
The book ends before the story’s over, but by then I was okay with it. Didn’t really like the story, but that’s the fault of those who wrote the movie. . . not because it’s so different, it’s just not as interesting as the original. The artwork is black and white, sketchlike, and at times difficult to make out; similar with some of the lettering, especially in the Jabberwocky flashback.
2/5

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
*This is from the reboot universe, as you can tell from the faces*
This starts with Spock breaking up with Uhura; I still don’t get them being together, but whatever. She tries to get through it by unscrambling a faint signal from out-there-somewheres, but then it moves to three years later, where there’s a new Vulcan female, who looks quite fetching in the short skirt and knee-high black boots that appears to be the uniform at the Academy. And she has green eyes.
The tacked-on plot that moves the action along is the Centennial Games, celebrating 100 years of the Academy. It’s mostly a scavenger hunt against teams from other worlds, like New Vulcan. (You remember in the movie old Vulcan was destroyed, right?) One of T’laan’s teammates is an Andorian, who is much more of a jerk than the Tellurite. Rounding out the team is an alien Captain Obvious—“I am scared for the simulated away team”—and a bubbly Latina redhead who had to be my favorite character. “Bye bye, ship.” Grace definitely grew on me. T’laan is also quite likeable—eventually—especially for a Vulcan.
At first I thought the Centennial Games went on for years! It is definitely NOT made clear that the storylines take place at different times. “Time quicksand” is a fascinating concept, at least to a non-physicist. Possibly the best line is, “Vel smells pie!” And it really is too bad the Vulcan didn’t join the guys on their “road trip to the southern metropolis of Los Angeles.”
As for the art, you’ll have to quickly get used to the bright colors. Uhura is drawn perfectly, but though I recognize Kirk he’s got kind of a token white guy look.
This is easily the best Star Trek graphic novel I’ve seen.
4.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Murders and Syria

“Here I am trying to be mad at you, and you come out with the truth. Is that any way for a boyfriend to act?”
“Mmmm, I think so. . .”
“Oh, right.”

Secret Crimes
Third in a great series of British detective novels, this one takes Sophie Allen to new places, forcing her to concentrate on her job more than ever due to the events of the previous book, which left her wracked with guilt over how she’d treated her absent father, if only in her head. (I was expecting something like this, but not to this extent.)
Oddly enough, that part of the story was spot-on, and it was the plot that was a bit of a letdown this time. As always there are great moments of detective work, this time with more behind-the-scenes stuff, as it were. For example, it was kinda weird seeing the witnesses’ point of view of the detectives, but definitely interesting. But for once this author didn’t give his readers a fair shake; the bad guy seemed to come out of nowhere, and while that might happen in real life investigations, it’s not good to not leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to figure it out on their own.
So definitely not satisfied with how this story turned out, not up to the standards of the previous two. Still love the characters, not as much the story/plot.
3.5/5

Aleppo
History of the city which was one of my favorite in the Middle East, now pretty much destroyed in three years of civil war.
The first quarter of this book is a history of the city, strangely zeroing on specific eras rather than providing an overall view. But after that it’s all first-person historical accounts. One is an entire chapter on food, while another is a long piece on farming.
The bad part is that the author included entire chapters, where a lot of the writing had nothing to do with Aleppo; a little editing would have been welcome, but then I guess it would have been an even shorter book. Some of the historical accounts hardly mention the city, could have happened anywhere. At least the first section offered context. These records might be understood by a historian, but there’s so much there that’s not because it was written about an age I have not studied.
It occurs to me that this author did a lot more work reading rather than writing or editing. He chose what the reader would see, but like being a DJ doesn’t make one a musician, this doesn’t make one a writer.
The last section, another big chunk, is notes, bibliography, and index.
2/5

Blood Defense
With the resurgence of OJ Simpson stuff in the media, most people have heard of Marcia Clark, who has now become an author and a very good one. This is my first of her books, but now I feel like going back to read the previous ones because this one hit the right spot with me.
A young, semi-famous actress is killed in her home along with her roommate. The protagonist is a first-person young lawyer who left the public defender’s office to go private. From some of the cases she works on and others referenced, you can see this might not have been a good idea, but she hopes defending the cop accused in this case will change that.
This was a long but surprisingly easy read. Definitely enjoying the main character; I do love a snarky lady, at least in fiction. At three chapters in I made a note that the writing was top notch, though nothing I hadn’t seen before. And then came the huge twist!
It’s funny that she has criminals of all walks owing her favors, seemingly very loyal to her; even racists in jail look out for her. There are a lot of little legal tidbits strewn throughout, most of them interesting and unusual for someone not in that area of the legal profession, or at all.
If I had some negatives, one would be that there might have been too many characters; I had to go back to check who Chas was. The other, much bigger problem–to the point where it cost half a point on its final grade–was the ending. As I always say, a mystery writer has to leave breadcrumbs of clues for the reader to at least attempt to figure out who the killer is; in this case the bad guy came out of nowhere.
The only mystery left is what she did with DeShawn’s heroin. . .
4/5

Guaranteed to Bleed
This is a mystery set in 1974, second in the series. I haven’t read the first one, and it looks like that matters, because the protagonist’s husband was killed and there’s plenty of references to it that had me in the dark. Like many amateur investigators, she’s a magnet for dead bodies, finding one underneath the stands at a high school game, then later having another shot in her backyard. Because of all that, she’s familiar with the police investigator, as well as a lawyer her overbearing mother is determined to set her up with.
Unlike most, she doesn’t set out to find the killer. In a nutshell, her motivation is: “A boy was dead and it was up to me to carry out his dying wish. I couldn’t afford to feel guilty about how I went about fulfilling that wish.”
The only things that really scream 1974 are the phones and the attitude towards gay relationships and cross-dressers, although come to think of it those last two might not be all that different today. “Who was I to judge? My late husband had engaged in much stranger things than dressing like a woman.”
There’s was one point I didn’t like, when the housekeeper gets an emergency call and leaves her all alone; a little too obvious that something’s gonna happen, and of course it does. Other than that it’s a serviceable mystery if you have a high tolerance for dramatic teens, overbearing mothers, nosy neighbors, and country club politics.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Bad Jobs, Erotic Wonderland, and Online Dating

Anonymous
There are only 10 kinds of people: those who can read binary and those who can’t.

You Had One Job!
A few days ago a friend posted a photo on Facebook of a row of bottles of vinegar with the labels upside down, of course captioning it with this title. Timing being everything, here’s a whole book on it.
It’s wonderful to see something that’s exactly as described: a collection of photos showing work failures that never should have happened. You could scour the internet for days and possibly see all these, but it would take a lot of work and time, so it’s much better having it in this convenient package, especially since they come with captions, mostly unnecessary but sometimes elevating the photo. And when the author says exactly what I would have, there’s a partly creepy, partly triumphant sensation running through me. Case in point: “Pay your parking fee before existing.” I went existential too.
The forward contains this gem: “We’re not judging; we’re just laughing at how hard you failed at doing your job. Okay, maybe we’re judging you a little, but you still got paid, right?”
Star Warts? Really?
Best one: A Halloween costume of Spock with Kirk’s face on the package. (The fact the author was able to knowingly joke about both Star Wars and Star Trek means she’s part of my tribe.)
4.5/5

Girls on Campus
Lesbian erotica in a college setting, of varying degrees of well-written-ness. Some were usual—sorority pledge, library—others pretty inventive—swimming pool, garden in the rain.
Really nothing more I can say.
3.5/5

The Circlet Treasury of Erotic Wonderland
An erotic version of Alice In Wonderland? That would have been great, but unfortunately that’s not what happens here. Instead there’s short stories, some of which take place in that universe, but too many don’t. And while there are some that are pretty good, the majority fell flat. Worse than anything, too many of them weren’t erotic at all.
I suppose that in a story about Wonderland, things will get weird, but unlike Lewis Carroll, some of these were too far out to understand. It says a lot when the hottest scene features Alice with a wasp.
Can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.
3/5

ONLINE DATING: The Good, The Bad, and the Hopeless
Well, at least it’s short. . .
There was very little good here, but definitely plenty of bad and hopeless. Out of the first twenty chapters, there was at most three dates that might qualify as good, so technically the title didn’t lie. But those bad ones weren’t bad enough to be funny, mostly cringeworthy. Even worse was the writing; the casual style feels forced, the attempts at humor fall flat. Writing “just kidding!” right after the attempted joke belongs in a text or tweet, not a book. And I try not to harp on grammar, knowing a lot of what I’m reading is not the final copy, but there’s simply too many misused commas, typos, unclosed quotations, etc. Schakowsky’s 1812 Overture—seriously?
More than anything, I found this author thoroughly unlikable. He stereotypes women—the Ph.D., the Indian princess—then tries to sound so lofty for overcoming his perceptions. Maybe next time don’t make judgements beforehand.
Here’s a perfect example: “This meeting / date did not proceed as expected. Usually the dominant party (almost always the male… at least on my dates) sets the stage for the beginning, the middle, and the end of this initial encounter. The female by nature is considered the gentle gender and politely cooperates with the self-appointed take-charge male. Exceptions to this routine are rare, but when they do occur . . . they can be devastating to the supposedly dominant gender. Totally unexpected, the male finds himself in a subordinate position and cannot function in his usual dominant manner.”
Maybe it’s just because he’s of an older generation, but he’s not that much older than me.
I’m surprised I made it to the end; usually when a book is this bad I give up on it. That’s why I rarely give bad reviews.
1.5/5

;o)

Music Review: Meiko’s Moving Day

Haven’t done a music review in a long time, but with Kari Kimmel, Shannon Curtis, Anna Nalick, and Lindsey Stirling all close to releasing or already releasing a new album, I couldn’t resist starting a new series. First up is Meiko.

I’ve known Meiko since her days of waitressing at Hotel Café (Though she never remembers my name). I particularly enjoyed her early work, back when every song was a revelation. Her label days had plenty of great songs, but also quite a few that I listened to once and never again. Hope that changes here.

I Do
Like so many of her songs, it’s simple and personal; amazing how she can come up with so many permutations to that formula. It’s softer than most of her tunes; I can see it as a wedding song, especially for the line “I can’t wait to take your name.” Love the addition of some non-obtrusive but supportive strings. 4/5

Hold On
Another slow song, though this one has plenty of percussion; sounds like steel guitar doing most of the melody. Didn’t feel at all special until the chorus. 3/5

Perfect Fit
Instant 50s vibe. More cutesy than anything else. 3/5

Big City
Behind some sparse guitar picking she lets her voice take command more than in the previous three. Even with background vox and a beat joining in, her vocals grab your attention. This is the most lyrically complex song, with her struggling to trust the guy when he goes out at night. 4/5

I Can’t Tell
Some 70s funk leads off this tune, which has a little bit of a dreamy quality in the chorus. A more playful tune that her usual.. 3/5

We All Fall Down
This is more vintage Meiko, with the fast vocals. The barely-there strings elevate this especially simple song. The lyrics are trying to be uplifting, but feels like there’s something missing to it. 3/5

Pretty Easy
Another sparse slow song, allowing her vocals to shine. The lyrics don’t quite fit with the music; take the line “I want you to stay, so I can be the one who walks away.” Harkens back to her early days, when she was singing about exes. Too long of an outro. 2/5

For the Road
More upbeat than most on this album, though still nothing like her bigger hits, this is a song about missing her loved one while being away doing concerts (a staple for touring bands since Journey’s “Faithfully”). This is more what people who only listen to the hits have come to expect from her. 4/5

Little Baby
This is the softest I’ve ever heard her sing, but it confused me.
It sounds almost like a lullaby, but once the Jamison line comes in you know the title’s not literal. It isn’t till she sings “I want to get back to the way we started” that it clears up somewhat. The beginning of the outro features a weird-sounding instrument that almost took me out of this song, but it finishes with a nice soft flourish. 3/5

Wow, that was short and quick!
The first two songs are more downbeat than her usual, and I don’t mean compared to “Leave the Lights On” or “Piano Song.” Even her early classics like “Walk Away” and “Said and Done” were faster than these. There’s a definite theme here, at least for the first half, as you’d expect from the title. After years in the City of Beautiful Angels, she married and moved to Nashville, so it figures a lot of these songs are about not just love, but spending their lives together. (Not all, though.) What hasn’t changed, thankfully, is her signature voice and vocal inflection, which I imagine is the reason most people enjoy her music.
While this in general is what we’ve come to expect from Meiko, there’s one thing that disappoints me: no song stood out. All are good, but I can’t pinpoint any that I believed was great; the closest was probably “Big City” or “For The Road.”
3.5/5

;o)