My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag... and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag... and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha
Jolie Kerr, 2014

Premise: Learn how to clean all your things, with a dollop of motivation and a side dose of humor.

I wish I'd had this book years ago. As an aspiring Clean Person (to use the author's somewhat tongue-in-cheek terminology), I had to muddle through figuring out how, how often, and with what to clean various surfaces and appliances over my adult life. (Seriously, there was way more trial and error in those early days than there should have been.)

I do okay these days, but I still found good tips and knowledge here. I especially like the balance between basics and exceptions. She features some of the wild questions she received as an advice columnist, but the solutions to most of them build on the fundamental advice about types of stains, types of methods, and types of cleansers.

The book also features the same mix of gentle shame and funny encouragement that I loved in her online writing. She distinguishes between things you maybe should do, things that will be nice, and things you must do.

On fighting bugs in the pantry: "You have my permission to wear one of those plastic horned Viking helmets if it will make you feel better about things."

On "hairbleweeds": "the best cure I can prescribe is a combination of a handheld vacuum and constant vigilance."

I definitely think I would have gotten more out of this if I had spent less time working out my own preferred solutions to general cleaning conundrums, but it was still an enjoyable and informative read.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book


Monday, July 10, 2017

Ellen Kushner, 1987

Premise: Richard St. Vier is a sword for hire, a skilled duelist who calls out nobles on request when the situation and the price are right. But the politics of the city is larger than any one man.

I don't think I'd ever heard of this book until I saw some excitement about a new book that returns to this world. I can see why it is beloved by some and enjoyed by others. Unfortunately, it just didn't grab me.

Today, the city of this type is a fantasy archetype - the scheming nobles on the hill contrasted with the fighters and thieves in the slums. I don't know how prevalent it was when this book was first written.

The relatively unique thing about this book is that many or most of the male characters are bisexual. It's not commented on until near the very end, and it seems normal to most characters that St. Vier has taken up with Alec, a troubled scholar with a secret past. Having a gay couple at the center of the intrigue is neat, but it did feel a bit strange that after almost the entire book, a few off-hand comments suddenly implied that society frowned on homosexual behavior and no characters expected such liaisons to last. It was just an odd surprise that didn't seem to match the rest of the book. Also, there were no confirmed lesbian relationships that I noticed.

The politics of the book were extremely complex, which was nice. The nuances were well handled, and I liked all the different characters' motivations.

However, for me, it was just a bit dry. Characters came in and out of the narrative quickly, and the characters you spend the most time with were very secretive or very stoic, and the book gave you little of what they were thinking or feeling.

I think that it's skillfully written, and I enjoyed the related short stories that followed in the edition I had. I just didn't love it.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Princess Leia (Marvel Mini-Series)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Princess Leia (Marvel Mini-Series)
Mark Waid, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, 2015

Premise: After the destruction of the first Death Star, Leia is at loose ends when she hears that the Empire is targeting Alderaan citizens on other planets. Collects Princess Leia #1-5.

I have heard nothing but good things about most of the Marvel-branded Star Wars comics, and after some recent sales, I'm finally getting around to them. This one I found enjoyable, but not amazing.

I really liked the premise. Leia sets out to collect and protect as many survivors from Alderaan as she can. She feels a personal responsibility, not just because she's their leader, but because she suspects Alderaan would not have been targeted if she hadn't been working with the Rebellion.

I really liked the characters. Evaan is a brash Rebellion pilot who respects the royalty that Leia can claim but doubts her commitment. Tula is a girl they pick up early on who doesn't know her sister is working for the Empire. Jora is the leader of a paranoid splinter group who doesn't trust Leia's intentions. All these ladies also have fun, big hair, which makes Leia's various styles seem more like her heritage and culture.

The art is overall great. I've been an off-and-on fan of the Dodsons' style for years. They can stray too far into cheesecake, but there's none of that here: it's just clear, colorful, and kinetic.

Unfortunately, I didn't think 5 issues were enough to convey any sort of real character growth or development. We know what characters are feeling when they tell us, and while there are a few poignant moments, the story moves along too quickly for any real depth. Most notably, the potential emotional weight of the destruction of the planet is almost entirely sidestepped. There was some real potential for nuance and intriguing questions (such as digging more into Leia's feelings of guilt, or her responsibility to Alderaan vs. her responsibility to the Rebellion), but they're skipped for easy twists about secret transmissions or bigotry against mixed heritage.

It was fun, though, and Evaan is a fun addition to the tradition of kick-ass Star Wars women. It does give you that warm, fuzzy Star Wars feeling.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book