So, for the record, this is what my star ratings mean:
5 stars = FREAKING EPIC, gigantic story, everything works well, my mind is blown that a human being thought this up.
4 stars = love this book, it's just not as humongous in scope as a 5. But it's totally awesome and everyone should read it, it's a keeper.
3 stars = mixed feelings (this is where the "I think others might like it, it's just not for me" reviews are likely to go). Not that bad, but has some issues, or it's an okay story but nothing really stands out to me as being memorable. It was a pleasant enough read for a few days, but I'll probably just end up giving the book away rather than rereading it again.
2 stars = generally pretty terrible, but not 100% so. There was at least one thing in this book that made it not totally horrible. This book isn't really recommended to all and sundry, but you might get some value out of the one thing if you try.
1 star (rarely seen here): It's a wallbanger. Nothing is redeemable about this book, it's utter crap, and I probably only finished reading it so I could do an awesome bitchrant about it and I can't justify doing that to books I didn't finish.
Previous book here. I was blown away by The Fixer, and this book is also another one for blowing away. It starts out relatively mildly, with a bit of blackmail and a student council election--Emilia, Henry, and John Thomas are running and John Thomas presumably drugged Emilia, photographed her and spread it around school. (And I'd guess it was worse than that, but the book doesn't specify.) Tess does an excellent job of coming to the rescue on this one--not that the head of the school appreciates that.
This book may start out relatively fun--if you count drugging girls to be fun-- but things get really crazy when it turns out that the President's son has knocked up a terrorist in a secret infiltrative organization. If that wasn't bad enough, both John Thomas and the president get shot and the Hardwicke campus ends up being taken hostage. Yes, the entire campus. Tess ends up being let go--but if she can't get the terrorists what they want, kids will start dying. Oh fucking hell. Even worse, Tess turns out to have family ties to the entire situation, making it even more of an emotional lulu. And at least one ship will go down in FLAMES. Dammit! There's so much betrayal and double crossing and implied suicide/fake death ...hell, most adult action spy governmental crazy novels aren't this intense. The author's a freaking genius (actually if you check her bio, she really is).
I'm still wondering exactly what happened with Ivy, William, and the President, but you at least get some sense in this one of why William's not his biggest fan. He's still a heavy presence in Tess's life, as he's determined not to lose her. But when you've got relatives like these...you better be a genius level manipulator even at age sixteen.
Anyway, if there's ever a third book, you'll know I'll be on it. Damn, girl. Four and a half stars.
"You might think I’m a troublemaker, Headmaster, but believe me when I say that I solve more problems for you than I cause.” -Tess
"Hypothetically speaking, if one were planning to execute an act of derring-do to draw any and all disappointing murmurs away from one’s twin, would it be better if said act involved a handmade hang glider or--” Asher
“It’s really sweet that you want to do something for Emilia, in a completely inadvisable sort of way.” -Vivvie “Exactly. I am the very soul of altruism, which is why I’m trying to decide between hang gliding off the chapel roof and--” Asher
“You’ve reached Asher Rhodes. I’m off being interrogated for crimes I didn’t commit, but if you leave your name and number, I will get back to you as soon as possible."
“Asher would have a sense of humor on the way to the gallows.” -Henry
“I’ve gone to school with these people half my life. If they think I might be capable of murder, I have clearly been doing this lovable-pacifist thing all wrong.” =Asher
Asher sends thank you cards. He sends Tess a wedding one repurposed as a “Thank You for Trying to Prove I’m Not A Homicidal Maniac” card. Henry’s had a sparkly pony on it.
“We’re all liars sometimes, Kendrick.” -Henry
“If you get yourself killed, you’ll never get to see the interpretive dance I plan to create based on this experience.” -Asher
“I think we both know she’s probably composing a college essay about the whole experience as we speak.” -Asher on Emilia
“Answers don’t matter to me. People do. And if not knowing is the cost I have to pay to keep any of us safe--I don’t need to know.” -Vivvie
“Do you know what heroically surviving a terrorist’s bullet does to someone’s approval rating?” -Emilia
"But I was Ivy Kendrick’s daughter. I’d been raised by Gramps and taught strategy by the kingmaker. When I saw a problem, I solved it. I wouldn’t stay powerless for long.” -Tess
This book reminds me a lot of "Adventures in Babysitting." The setup is that Zak Duquette's about to go to Washingcon, his favorite geek con of the year, until he gets busted for plagiarism in health class and the teacher forces him to join the quiz bowl team for their competition--on the same weekend. This displeases Ana, a team member who's obsessed with being as perfect as possible after her older sister had a giant fuckup and got kicked out of the family. Her little brother Clayton is also on the team, and kinda hits it off with Zak as Zak tells him some of the crazy things that happen at the con.
“Last year, some engineers built a functioning AT-AT out of an old motorcycle. Year before that, the SCA reenacted the Battle of Hastings. Eight people wound up in the hospital.”
“Two years ago, the Lovecraftians tried to summon Hastur in the boiler room. And when they turned the lights back on, one of the guys in the circle was gone!” I don’t mention that two purses and a laptop vanished with him.
“One time this guy proposed to his girlfriend with an alien that ripped out of his chest. And she said yes!
And my friend James swears that Bill Murray cornered him in a hotel hallway, yanked the pizza he was carrying out of his hands, said, “No one will ever believe you,” and walked off.”
Naturally after hearing about that stuff, Clayton decides to sneak off that night and visit the con, and when Ana finds out, she forces Zak to take her there so she can grab her brother before their parents find out. Good luck with that. Anyway, they veer like pinballs between crazy and crazier situations, finding look-alikes of her brother (dude is such a McGuffin/White Rabbit), setting off fire alarms, discovering drug deals, attending a gay geek wedding...you know, the usual. Naturally, Ana's archery skills come in handy in an environment like this. Oh yeah, and Ana and Zak start, of course, having some romantic feelings for each other in the midst of all that chaos. If they survive the night, that is, which is really seeming dicey.
Anyway, this is a crazy fun roller coaster ride of a read, which is exactly what it's going for and what it's intended to do, with geek references ahoy and the darkest hour lightening up to a brighter day. So, four stars.
“Below that, a towering painting of a cybernetic George Washington mows down an army of zombie redcoats with what appears to be a coal-fired machine gun.”
“Cthulhu For President: This Time, Why Choose The Lesser of Two Evils?”
“Lest We Forget: Donate To the Red Shirt Memorial Fund.”
“I squint to see what is written or tattooed on her shoulders: BEAT ME UP, SCOTTY.”
“It’s like the Walmart of the damned.”
“You know, for years now, I’ve been calleda freak, a pervert, a deviant, a weirdo. It’s been even worse since I came out as gay”-
“I almost ask him why he’s dressed like President Theodore Roosevelt, but stop myself. He might tell me.”
“Yeah, well, they said we’d have moon cities by 1990. And no one predicted the internet or digital cameras. Sometimes the best guesses turn out wrong, and the most improbable theories come to pass.”
“My own brother is going to get us in worse trouble than we’ve ever been in, and the only thing standing in the way is a guy who believes in hobbits.”
“So nice when people can make a mixed marriage work.” “Is one of them Jewish?” ”No, but John’s a Star Trek fan and Mark likes Star Wars...”
“Because tonight I saw this really interesting guy fight a samurai, crawl through the ventilation system, and beat a bunch of excellent quiz bowl players without trying. And I’d hate to see him end up some sad, overweight, middle-aged fanboy who never did anything with his life.”
“I haven’t done anything wrong. Except for possessing cocaine.”
“How on earth has Duquette gone from quiz bowl alternate to hostage in less than twelve hours?”
“Oh, this is so not jolly! This isn’t jolly at all!”
“Oh, Ana Banana, I don’t think that’s a berry creamalicious idea!”
“She risked everything for me. Faced down a heavily armed drug dealer. That’s one for the old college application.”
“Oh, uh, guys, this is Roger, my mom’s husband. Roger, this is Ana, Clayton, and um, an angry mob.”
“We were at a comic book convention. Snooze city.”
“And as it turns out, the gun wasn’t even loaded.”
“I've always considered myself a guy who had some wild times in his teens. After hearing you talk about last night, I realize I was an amateur."
Chapter Seven: Oh, this is a good one! Summer hides in a giant block of Swiss cheese and the Wheymaster gets interrogated by the bad guys. Grub is apparently the lackey being sent in by Zultan to look for whatever human girl is wandering through this direction. After getting belted in the face, the Wheymaster says yes, a girl came through here, yes, she wanted a Way, and no, I didn't give her one, all I gave her was cheese. He also pulls out the empty cauldron and says he couldn't do it if he wanted to. Grub spots the weasel, which leads to--
“To make weasel cheese, obviously,” said the Wheymaster. “Milking the little things is the very devil, and you need about fifty of them to get even a small wheel, but you drizzle a little honey over a cracker and—”
Heh heh heh. Grub leaves, crankily, mentioning a fat reward for the girl. After Summer gets out of the cheese, she's shocked to see the evidence of being smacked on the Wheymaster's face. They talk about how people from other worlds used to come here all the time.
“We used to have a lot of coming and going. We don’t discriminate against otherworlders. They’re allowed to hold public office and everything. We’re very progressive. “
Hah. Anyway...let's find you a Way. Wait, I thought you couldn't do that any more? Well, when in doubt, there's always cheese....no, really,
“Harpy cheese, aged in moonlight, washed in the pool of the Oracle,” he said. “As close to a prophetic cheese as exists in the world. I stocked it a few years back, just in case.”
PROPHETIC CHEESE. OMG.
"He took her hand and set it atop the silver paper. “Now tell the cheese what it is you want to do.”
Summer took a deep breath and addressed the cheese. “I want to help the poor Frog Tree. And find my heart’s desire.” She thought for a minute, then added, “And I should probably figure out how to go back home afterwards.”
In the stories, a way home always turns up, even if the hero doesn’t want to leave, but it probably won’t hurt to mention it in advance."
And there's Summer's goals right there. Practical, no less. I like that. He has her cut a slice of cheese (but not eat it) and then the cheese somehow spits out a bunch of turquoise stones. Far more than could fit in that cheese, she notes.
“Your Way is marked in turquoise. Look for it, and it will not steer you wrong.” He considered for a moment. “Well, mostly. If your Way involves being deceived, then—look, it’s complicated.”
Anyway, both of them better run for it now. He offers her one last cheese--grace or luck? Summer thinks she should pick luck and most people would, but she goes for grace instead, after the Amazing song. It's surprisingly delicious.
"Summer paused in the door. She was still holding the cheese knife, and he didn’t seemed inclined to take it back. “But what will happen to you?” she asked.
“I’ll find a Way,” he said, and winked at her. “It’s what we do. They can hammer on the door all they like, but I’ll be well away, and the best cheeses with me. Now go!”"
Four stars. ORACULAR CHEESE? That's just cooooooooool. I also love that he helped her anyway, despite the consequences--he's tired of waiting for the axe to fall anyway.
Summer follows a fence that's barely painted in blue for awhile. As the weasel sleeps in her hair, she tries to figure out how one walks around with a giant cheese knife. Then she spots a beautiful blue dragonfly and follows it until it's gone, walking on a stone ridge. Then she comes to the edge of a cliff, which gives her pause. Then she hears the bad guys coming--and sees a lizard with a blue tail go over the edge of the cliff.
Summer spots some rings under the cliff edge and grabs on for dear life. The rings lead to a cave, so that's good. She overhears Grub and the poor tracker he's forced to go look for her talk about how they've lost the scent. Also, what does "he" want with her anyway? She's a human from somewhere outside and crone magic is involved. You know how the Queen feels about crones....Summer doesn't think it's very fair to go after her for that when she hasn't done anything.
Three and three quarter stars? Still very good, I think. Nervewracking. I like how this blue is turning out.
After everyone's gone, Summer climbs back out of the cave. There's no blue to follow now, so she just walks along. They spot a dancing, talking, spiffily dressed bird going by the name of Reginald Hoopoe. Summer asks if there's basically anywhere to go around here and there isn't. Reginald is out of money and hiding out from people in this field, apparently. However, he does have some human-edible food he can share with Summer, who can't live off the mice that her weasel is catching. She tells him about Baba Yaga and her situation and Reginald suggests taking her to his father--and also hopefully Reginald can hit him up for more money. (I think Reginald is channeling Bertie Wooster's friends.) He also has a bunch of bird-friends(?) called valet-birds. They don't talk.
“Ah. They’re all smarter together than they are apart. Great chaps for taking care of a person’s feathers and pressing his clothes and handling the luggage. Not talking smart, though—although if you pick the wrong color waistcoat, such looks! They’ve got ways of letting you know what they think, don’t you doubt it!”
After that, they depart.
Well, that was interesting. I"ll go with 3 3/4 stars again.
Hoooooo boy, this is a hard going, dark dark dark book. I read the short story this was based on (which spoils the entire book, just so you know) and debated over and over again whether I wanted to handle reading this since it was that dark, but finding it in the library decided it for me. And yup, it's dark. It certainly gives you a lot to think about, but be forewarned that there ain't no happy endings in this 'verse.
“I am a part of this, but I do not have to love it. I only have to play my role. Survive long enough to gather power. Gather enough power to make a difference. The Masquerade had taught her all the names of sin. But her parents taught her first. And she knew in her heart, in the habits of her eyes and thoughts, what she was.”
Baru grew up on what sounds like what a nice hippie island where polyamory was practiced and homosexuality was cool, until the island was taken over by the Empire of Masks. The Masquerade super super super REALLY HATES GAY PEOPLE, and polyamory, and anything even slightly weird really, and after they make one of Baru's dads disappear, she decides privately that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and she's going to join the Masquerade and take them down from the inside. And she's willing to pay ANY price in order to do it.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.
Anyway, Baru becomes a star student, becomes an accountant, and is transferred to the land of Aurdwynn, a place that's super hard to govern (to say the least).
“Aurdwynn has one great habit, Your Excellence, one constant touchstone, no matter who rules. Rebellion.” -Muire Lo.
Baru figures out how to squash a rebellion through financial ruin caused by herself (damn girl), but later ends up running a rebellion. Why'd she make that turn? You'll find out....
Anyway, Baru makes some super hard choices that well, most of us wouldn't make. Or shouldn't. Suffice it to say that this is deep stuff, but really hard going to read, and definitely sounds like it's going to be one of those "get what you wanted at the price of everything else you wanted" sort of stories in the end. It gives you something to think about with the concept of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, anyway."
I read this book several months ago--I'm still working on my giant backlog--but in the end I think I still feel too overwhelmed to give decent enough commentary. Here's some otherfolks'scommentary that's worth reading. Spoilers within those links.
Anyway....four stars. An exhausted four stars, but four stars.
This is a sweet and slightly paranormal village soap opera kind of story, kinda like reading Alice Hoffman or Sarah Addison Allen books. I think the best way I can attempt to explain the book is to give a character rundown.
Etta: runs the title shop and sews rather enchanted dresses that give the wearer an emotional boost of confidence and sexy when she sews a little star into the cothes. Fifty years ago she fell in love with a priest and still misses him to this day.
Father Sebastian: Etta's priestly love who still misses her.
Cora: Etta's scientist granddaughter who shut off her emotions after the deaths of her scientist parents many years ago. She's been way too closed off to notice the childhood pal who's been pining after her for years. After Etta works some magic on her, Cora starts focusing on the deaths of her parents and whether or not they were murdered.
Henry: a detective with an inner lie detector who helps Cora investigate.
Francesca: Henry's ex-wife who still loves him--so why did she divorce him?
Dr. Baxter: Cora's boss/mentor, who's hiding some things from her she doesn't know about.
Walt: Cora's aforementioned pining childhood friend, who hits his limit after Cora rebuffs him and decides to date someone else. He has a side gig as ""The Night Reader" on a radio show that gets him a lot of fan mail that he usually ignores, and he starts dating a fan.
Milly: The fan that Walt dates: she's a lonely widow dying for another husband and children. Too bad for her this book makes it clear that Walt's destined for another.
Dylan: Walt's radio station boss who decides to answer his fan mail for him and falls for Milly in a Cyrano-sort of way. (Which made me go, GEEZ, DUDE, THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.)
I had a fun time reading this, though there were the occasional plot elements that made me go "Oh nooooo" (namely, Dylan's pen palling and Milly's considering "oopsing" Walt if they ever have sex). One plot revelation surprised me even though I suspect it shouldn't have. And the ending line...wow, that was also a surprise. Generally speaking, the characters are sweet to read and I liked the quiet magic aspects of the book, particularly Etta's sewing, which makes me want to put stars in my clothes now.
On the other hand, I felt really sorry for Milly and winced pretty much every time she was on stage, and I wasn't emotionally involved in the idea of getting Cora and Walt together because they don't spend much time together for me to think they are MFEO as personalities. Okay, fine, they knew each other as kids, but what makes them soulmates now? I don't exactly see them together enough to sell me on them, especially since Cora spends most of the book now that her feelings are "on" again looking for her parents and what happened there, NOT with Walt, and the little I saw of them together before that wasn't winning me over. We see a lot more of Milly and Walt together. Hell, I just wished Walt would go for Milly already and get over Cora, but nope. There's a ton of "I'm going to confess my love but there you are with someone else" moments that were exasperating the more they went on. Oh, and "I want them to have a million babies!"--a remark made several times--was kinda making me gag.
(Admittedly, I'm childfree and thus not sold on proof of Our Love involving proof of babies, but really: do you want your favorite couples to have huge numbers of kids and be worn out and exhausted and not swooning in love with each other because they're too tired for that? Really? Why not just stick to two or three? But I digress....)
I think I'm going to give this three and a half stars. It's a pretty good sweet soap opera read, even if I was not quite so into the romancing and how it was handled.
This is a followup book to "The Residence; Inside the Private World of the White House." Same/similar interview subjects as the last book-- 200+ of them, former staff people, friends and family members, with a few actual first ladies chiming in (Rosalynn Carter and the Bushes), and there’s even letters between the first ladies. Modern first ladies of course translates “from Jackie Kennedy on.” It’s a very gossipy book in its own way, showing both good and bad sides of all the ladies. You find out who doesn’t like who and how everyone deal with staff--that kind of thing. This book was published before Nancy’s death, and while Hillary’s campaign was going on. (And just so you know, Nancy thought Trump was silly.)
Just to clarify who likes and who hates who...
Friendships: Jackie and Hillary; Jackie and Lady Bird to some extent, though this book claims only Hillary really got on with Jackie; Jackie and Nancy; Lady Bird and Betty; Barbara and Lady Bird.
Enemies: Nancy and everyone, especially. Barbara and Betty; Hillary and Michelle; Hillary and Barbara; Clintons and Carters.
First Lady Mini-Quote Corner:
Betty Ford: "You are constitutionally required to be perfect."
Rosalynn Carter: "I have learned that you can do anything you want to."
Michelle Obama calls the white house "a really nice prison." Man, does she ever hate it. (Think about her 'built by slaves" speech recently.)
Hillary Clinton: "There is no way in the world to figure out what it's like to live here."
Tony Fratto, former deputy press secretary: "None of them are perfectly cast for the job, or at least what our expectations of the job are."
Anonymous son of a White House butler: "The first lady can pick up the telephone and change your life."
Rosalynn Carter: "I'm not sure we would call the relationship among first ladies a sisterhood. About the only time we are ever together is when a new presidential library is established or for a funeral."
Nancy Reagan: “When I was in the White House I built a wall around myself. That’s the only way I could exist.”
General First Lady facts:
Usually First and Second Ladies barely even had any contact.
There’s usually East Wing (First Lady’s office) vs. West Wing wars.
And now for specific First Lady moment roundups!
Jackie Kennedy Moments:
"Jackie Kennedy had always felt like "the worst liability" to her husband: she was too rich, she was too beautiful, she had an almost comically breathy voice, and she was often pregnant during the height of his campaigning, so she could not join him." Also, she had a sister who LITERALLY married a prince. "I'm sorry for you that I'm such a dud," she told him. Your definition of “dud” is a LOT different than ours, honey.
She would leave Jack hand-drawn cartoons and impersonate world leaders to cheer him up.
She once brought in Grace Kelly to meet him when he was at the hospital and had her dress up as his nurse. It took him a few minutes to figure it out.
She ignored his cheating, her father did that and she was used to it. She said her life without Jack would have all been a wasteland. (Ouch.)
Jackie and Lady Bird and their husbands sound like they generally got along.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Jackie said she’d die on the lawn with her kids if the nukes came, like every other American. Damn. After Jackie literally saw her husband’s skull come off, she was so traumatized she refused to go to the White House for years until the Nixon administration. Lady Bird felt bad about that.
Jackie had a conflicted relationship with cameras--sometimes didn't want the kids to be photographed, sometimes she did. The famous shot of John-John under the desk came about because the president permitted it while she was out of town--she was pissed. She relented after her husband’s death.
Reading about her grief and consulting with a priest about why did this happen is heartbreaking to read. "If you want to know what my religious convictions are now, they are: to keep busy and to keep healthy so that you can do all you should for your children. And to get to bed very early at night so you don't have time to think."
Mamie Eisenhower was mean to Jackie--she wouldn't arrange for Jackie to have her White House tour until after she'd had a C-section. Jackie’s Secret Service agent requested that Jackie get a wheelchair and have a pusher ready for her. Mamie was all, “Oh, dear, I wanted to take her around alone” and said to have a wheelchair ready but not be made available unless Jackie asked for it. (I wonder if Jackie knew she had the option.) She then proceeded to take Jackie around on a walking tour of over an hour and 30 rooms long, exhausting Jackie. When asked about the situation, Jackie lied and said there was a wheelchair available, but she chose to walk. Later when she found out what happened, she said she was too scared of Mrs. Eisenhower to ask. I don’t care how hot, young, and cool Jackie is or how pissy you were about the election--if you’ve also given birth yourself, you should know better than to be that mean!
Lady Bird Johnson Moments:
Lady Bird "had an escape valve, some secret little room inside her mind that she could adjourn to when things got tense," said J.B West, chief usher.
Quote from her: "My husband comes first, the girls second, and I will be satisfied with what's left." Social secretary Bess Abell said: "Her priority was always him. Those two girls, they could take care of themselves." Ouch, I say.
LBJ proposed to her the day after they met! They got married less than 3 months later, they wrote more than 90 letters in that time, and he finally showed up on her doorstep with a $2.50 ring refusing to leave until she said yes.
This sounds incredibly romantic (albeit pushy) until you find out that he treated her like crap--y’know, cheating, public humiliation. Oh yeah, and she was rich and used her inheritance to get him elected (gee, I wonder why the push) and gave up her career for him. He called her “the brains and money in this family,” which certainly sounds true.
Another fun LBJ moment that should have been in the last book: he was on the phone so much he had a phone line installed under a tree at home.
Lady Bird learned to not change the decor when she replaced a mantle of Jackie’s.
Nixon Lady Moments:
"Pat Nixon was the ultimate political wife, with decades of training, and that may have been her problem." She got called "Plastic Pat." She personally wrote and signed all letters and did well when traveling to China.
Pat and her social secretary Lucy Winchester once pranked DAR members by putting a blowup doll in the bathtub. Pat also collected swatted flies for Lucy to pass on to her daughter's pet frogs and toads.
Like LBJ and Lady Bird, Richard Nixon fell in love with Pat at first sight and proposed on the day they met--but she didn’t say yes for two years. "He was so infatuated that he even occasionally drove her to Los Angeles to meet other men for dates just so that he could spend time with her in the car. Her letters to him were friendly and decidedly unromantic. She began one 1938 letter with "Hi-ho, Hi-ho! How does it go?” (I can’t even with that.) Sadly, later he treated her like crap.
Pat Nixon had a stroke after reading "The Final Days" by Woodward and Bernstein, saying she was a heavy drinker in a loveless marriage." Ouch.
Poor Julie Nixon was always the peacekeeper/daddy’s defender. She had to miss her college graduation due to protests against her father.
Betty Ford Moments:
In 1976 Ford's advisors wanted him to tell his wife to tone it down. He was all, her office is right down the hall, if you want her to tone it down, YOU tell her. They didn't. Hah.
Betty being so public about her problems made the general public love her, and her book sold more than her husband’s. Gerald was all, "When the final tally is taken, her contributions to our country will be bigger than mine."
Unlike her predecessors, Betty got up the nerve to replace Jackie’s Revolutionary War battle scene antique wallpaper because "it's really very difficult to sit there eating and watching all these people shooting each other and bleeding." Hear, hear.
There is a photo of Betty standing and posing on the Cabinet Room table in this book. I love it. Before she moved out, she said she’d always wanted to do that. The photo was restricted in the archives for 20 years before being published, and Ford about fell off his chair when he saw it.
Ford pardoned Nixon, thinking about the long-term ramifications for the nation if Watergate dragged on. He knew it would cost him support and possibly the next election. Betty was against him doing that and blamed Nixon for ruining her husband’s chances.
Carter Lady Moments:
Okay, oddly enough I don't have any Rosalynn moments listed as standing out to me, but...
Amy Carter grew up as a politician's kid who entertained herself, and scandalized reporters when she brought a book to a state dinner--because she was allowed to bring books to political speeches while growing up. She very nearly brought a book to the inauguration until someone fished it out of her pocket. GIRL AFTER MY OWN HEART.
Reagan Lady Moments:
Patti Davis didn't get on with her mother: said her parents shut the kids out, mother was physically abusive and father was emotionally distant. Reagan's kids with Jane Wyman were shut out by Nancy too. Yikes.
As previously mentioned, Nancy was a hard to please nitpicker.
After Reagan got shot, Nancy would insist that he nap a lot, and if she found him at his desk she’d say, “Horizontal. I want you horizontal.” That became a running joke around the West Wing.
Barbara Bush Moments:
Fun for the Bushes: they had to deal with a winning Dubya and a losing Jeb at the same time.
Barbara and Marilyn Quayle did not get along.
"Short of ax murder, I think she could get away with anything. She's so benign." --Sheila Tate on Barbara
"Barbara worships her husband and puts his needs above her own every time. George Herbert Walker Bush's brother Jonathan said of the Bushes' courtship: "She was wild about him. And for George, if anyone wants to be wild about him, it's fine with him."
Barbara and Hillary are enemies, but their husbands get along now. Bill only goes to visit the Bushes when Hillary is busy.
"If a grandchild showed up to visit without reading material, Barbara marched him or her down to the White House library to pick out a book.” I give props for that.
Hillary Clinton Moments:
Hillary's the only First Lady to run for office. People are surprised she wants back into the White House after all she went through.
Since Bill is not exactly Mr. Organization, she’d probably hire a social secretary to do the dinner menus and flowers (or have Chelsea fill in) and just send him on special missions.
Hillary loves Eleanor Roosevelt and during her time in office, would have imaginary conversations with her along the lines of "WWED?"
You probably already heard about this in a speech this year, but Bill and Hillary met in the Yale Law Library when he was staring at her. She got up, walked over to him and said if they were both going to keep staring at each other, they might as well know each other’s names. You go, girl.
She knew he wanted to be president early on, she graduated with him a year later instead of staying with her own class, and yet he had to propose three times before she said yes because she was afraid of losing her identity in his personality. Yeah, think about that one for awhile as you read the next bit.
Hillary got a lot of crap for keeping her last name of Rodham. Bill was fine with it and she’d tell people she just loved her daddy so much. Alas, this book seems to imply that Bill lost an election in 1980 because of her name. The next time he ran, she became “Mrs. Bill Clinton” and got a make over. We’re told she took back her “Rodham” in the White House, but “she never legally changed her name from Hillary Rodham.”
When Hillary had to visit sick kids, she said she had to not cry because that would only make it worse for them.
Laura Bush Moments:
"When Laura Bush had a request, everyone ran."
She was nitpicking, prim and proper.
"Rein it in, bubba," she'd say, I can guess to who.
Supposedly she was at her best when the cameras were not on.
Michelle Obama Moments:
Michelle is hard on staff--she seems to have a lot of turnover.She’s had four socials secretaries and gets annoyed if people promise things in her name without consulting her (that’s reasonable).
Everyone but Michelle seems to have enjoyed some aspects of being first lady. She can't wait to get out.
Michelle: "I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing I could do, and that was to have faith in God's plan for me." She's a realist, and frustrated that she can't have a career.
Michelle doesn’t like Hillary and kind of looks down her nose at her, so I bet THAT’s fun right now.
Anyway, this is a fun, gossipy read, with a mix of nice and nasty to it. Four stars.
Ooooh, this is a fun one. Like many others who have read it, I started it and pretty much plowed on through (draining the device I read it on in an hour) as fasst as possible. If you like Beatrice and Benedick-type couples, this is for you.
Lainie Graham isn't in the world's most fun work situation right now. She's in a West End play in London with her most recent ex, Will, who she's forced to be in love with every night even though he was a complete arse to her when dumping her (i.e. she read about it in the media). As for their third costar, Richard Troy, well, he's getting news all over the place for having public temper tantrums. Somehow this leads to the bright idea of play management/agents/publicity people to make Lainie and Richard date for publicity reasons--dating good girl, charity fundraising Lainie could only help his i'mage at this point. Richard's campaigning for a political office in the arts at the moment and Lainie manages to finagle a donation to her favorite charity if she agrees to it.
Naturally they start out frosty--Richard is a tall dark rich handsome snarker, but with a caustic way of speaking and he doesn't suffer fools like salyy, Will, and previously ignored Lainie for her taste in men. Lainie, on the other hand, will dish it right back to him and even kind of enjoys thar sort of insult war, which impresses Richard. The author does a great job of having them get to gradually know each other, reveal feelings and secrets, and have them be there for each other when needed, and that's lovely. Great build, great fun to read. Their dynamic is impressive--it's one where Lainie can honesty say something along the lines of "you're a great actor, but let's face it, that play you were up for was mediocre for you, so what happened?" and pull it off. She manages to be super painful blunt and complimentary at once, which is amazing. There's also an adorable scene where she digs up a recording of Richard doing "Grease" in college--and to be fair to him, she also brings along her own teenage version of "Oklahoma" for equal fun/humiliation. Also adorable: Richard being the "little spoon" in the bathtub.
I was enjoying it so much that at a certain point--you know how these books go, you gotta have some kind of third act breakup drama--and I was all, "man, I just don't want to see them go through that." But even that sort of thing is done well--Lainie has an "oops" moment that does some damage to Richard, and she does her damndest to make up for it and stick by him and be all, "Nope, this isn't the end and this is fixable." Lainie is an emotional badass. As for Richard, he is naturally cranky (you would be too if you were him), but he has hidden depths and even kindness most people don't see. It was very sweet and fun and I loved reading about these people. I highly recommend it. Four stars!
As Kate and Curran are about two weeks away from getting married, she's notified of a prophesy: she and her dad are going to go to war, and he's either going to murder Curran (pretty soon) or if he doesn't do that right now, he'll murder her future unborn son in about a year. Kate's told she has to figure out how to hit certain actions/points in time in order to fend off a terrible destructive future, in between dealing with wedding planning. Ooookay then. It's kind of both a simple and a convoluted plot at the same time, and since this is the next-to-last book in the series, it's building up to a battle that doesn't quite climax in a usual way, which is weird.
I'm having issues describing this, obviously. So plotwise I was a bit confused. On the other hand, Kate's relationships continue to be fun. She has some moments with guys on the darker side of the force that are a hoot--like Roman, the guy they get to do the wedding, being so psyched that he finally gets to do one that he goes overboard on the wedding planning. I liked the more peaceful (and by peaceful I mean, "having a timeout from arguing/battling") moments that Kate had with her dad, and I really enjoyed that Kate ah....spiritually resurrects her dead aunt Erra to get advice from her. Erra is a joy to read, especially now that she and Kate are kinda on better terms since her death. Which is amusing/shocking there. It's good to find out more about their family and their urge to rule, especially since Kate seems to be feeling that of late and it's causing her to lose some morality. I'll say more about that below the spoiler cut though.
I'm going to give it three and a half stars, because the characters are fun but the plot's a little hard to follow and stops a bit short. Oh yeah, and since impending pregnancy is a plotline, I am really hoping that we ah, skip having to read about Kate being pregnant in the next one. Let's just cut ahead a bit, eh?
"He's an immortal wizard with a megalomaniac complex. He doesn't understand words like 'no' and 'boundaries.' It bugs him that I have this land. He can't let it go, so he sits on my border and pokes it." -Kate on her dad.
"Parents. Can't live with them. Can't get away from them. When you try to move, they buy a house in your new neighborhood." "That's one thing about having both of your parents murdered. I don't have parent problems." -Roman and Curran, the latter seems to be bragging?
"The one time I try to do something good, like join two people who are long overdue in holy matrimony. The one time! And it all goes to hell, doomsday prophecies and death." -Roman
"You're like a walking mythological encyclopedia, Kate. You pull random mystical crap out of your head and figure out that a giant monster nobody has seen on the face of the planet for three thousand years is allergic to hedgehogs and then you find a cute hedgehog and stab the monster in the eye with it." -Andrea
"So far I had the god of evil and the god of terror on my side. My good-guy image was taking a serious beating. Maybe I should recruit some unicorns or kittens with rainbow powers to even us out." -Kate
"Remember, try to bond with the pegasi. Treat her as a friend, not a horse." "I would try to be friends with her but she's too busy being a smartass." "Now you know how the rest of us feel." -Teddy Jo, Kate, and Jim.
"Would it kill you to not be an asshole for thirty seconds?" "I don't know, I've never tried." -Andrea and Desandra.
The scene where Kate is forced to do ballet in a tutu on a stage (seriously, that happened) and it turns out SHE KNOWS BALLET.
"You narrowed it down to sixteen choices?" -Kate to Curran on picking wedding cake.
"Is that what you do? You keep track of the times she almost dies?" "Yes." "Wouldn't it be easier to find yourself some shapeshifter heifer and have a litter of kittens, rather than deal with all this?" -Erra and Curran.
"If Curran and I have a litter of kittens, will you babysit?" -Kate to Erra.
"You're like a crazy cat lady, but you collect killers instead of fluffy cats." -Curran to Kate
"I once took a city with five men and a lame goat." -Erra.
I seriously wish I could find out more on this author, because for someone who I’m presuming(????) is some kind of history biographer, she writes like a romance novelist. Alas, I can find nothing and this was published in 1931. As for the factuality of this...HELL IF I KNOW. It’s not like she cited courses, and some stuff seems possibly made up while other things do line up with what else I’ve read. Combine that with a lot of purple prose and...holy damn, this is something to read.
Margaret (er, Peggy in this book) had twenty protectors (hotel guests?) to take care of her or play with her. She was often disobedient, and wanted her own way, "Her high-spirited playfulness was matched by a terrible temper." She’s also described as "A born coquette."
Here’s a funny story about General Cockburn, whoever he is and I’m not sure why this is in the story: British officers stopped off at Suter's tavern. Mrs. Suter had to make them dinner but let them know she didn't approve. "General Ross is not so bad, but as for Cockburn, if I could I would put a spider in his coffee. Indeed, I am not sure but I would poison him if he sat at my table." "Madame," one officer politely requested, "will you oblige me by tasting this coffee before I drink it? I am General Cockburn." BWAHAHAH.
Anyway, back to Miss Peggy: "She had known death, destruction and desire. Sinuosity was in her tread; sensuosity her fountain-head." "She was to stun with matrimonial madness more than once." See what I mean about the purple prose? This mentions the story of her attempting to elope with Captain Ross at 2 a.m. and she accidentally knocked the flower pot of geraniums off the window sill. "In reality, though, she was ripe for mating, secretly resenting the fate which kept her kind to all, and not too kind, or too unkind, to one. Most girls married at thirteen, or thereabouts, then. She was wasting her life, she sighed, in a day when grandmothers of twenty-seven were not uncommon in nearby states." Again, this is fancy talk for GIRLZ BE HORNY AMIRITE?!? She got engaged to Timberlake the night she met him. Two weeks later they got married.
Here’s the rundown on Timberlake’s money problems: he was forced to throw his goods overboard when captured by the British and they took his books too so he couldn't settle up with the soldiers who were being sold stuff against their pay. A lot of the crew deserted. So basically, being a purser sucked donkey balls because of pirates, quitters, and otherwise having no way to get his money back. Eaton tried to help him out there. Oh yeah, and there’s this: "For the golden Adonis had an Achillean heel-alcohol. He was never viciously drunk but only stupidly so.” This author implies they were having marital problems due to Timberlake's not doing so well in business and going off to sea. She indicates that Peggy was flirting:
"Timberlake was no longer the sole object of her devoted attention"
"Timberlake saw that she no longer respected him."
"He who had been an extravagant lover was now a dissolute husband, a wastrel more from weakness than wish. It was inevitable that the weak, handsome Timberlake would lose his hold over the strong, beautiful person that was Peggy O'Neale." (note misspelling of last name.)
And speaking of whoever Peggy is supposed to be flirting with, Eaton took Peggy and her mother out for a drive, but they got thrown out of the carriage after a horse spooked. She ended up calling Dr. Craven, so this was the incident that the rumor mill turned into a “miscarriage” later. "Had she had any idea of the interpretation this accident would subsequently receive, she would have chosen a less speculative and less garrulous physician." Heck yeah.
Oh, this is how the author writes up what Timberlake is up to during this time: "Jubilant, Purser Timberlake awaited reunion with his first love, the sea. She would cradle him in her billowy arms, give him the healing savior of sunbeam and starlight on blanket of brine. He could exult as the prow of his ship ploughed the deep, and come back to his Peg enriched in worth, wealth and health, and show himself to be the man of mastery she thought him five years ago."
And then there’s this totally obscure and weird bit that I don’t understand: "He had hardly gone before his mastery became manifest to Peg." Uh...is this a hint she got pregnant? I guess? Apparently Peggy decided to ask her mother about birth control advice after he left again, "worried about the wisdom of bringing another being into the world which her husband adorned but hardly conquered." I gather her mother mentioned this to a few of her friends. "With maternal solicitude, Mrs. O'Neale advocated premature accouchment." I looked up this word and it means, the act of giving birth to a baby. "Peggy was always courageous, foolhardy sometimes. Her conviction that it was kinder to spare a child the hazards of a home dependent on a sea-faring father, was a century premature, as was her political interest. Plainly her attitude toward this affair--that it was no one's business but her own--in a time when birth-control was bellicosely frowned upon was an unpardonable error in an even younger democracy." So…you’re hinting she had an abortion, then?! However, the author drops this like a turd and then runs away, never following up with this scandalous hinting again. SO WEIRD. Also, she had a few kids with the guy, so I doubt she aborted any due to the hardness of a father being away at sea.
Then there’s the tongs incident, in which Peggy had to fend off General Richard K. Call’s sexual molestation. "With his great strength, he had almost forced her to a settee near the fire, when she grasped the fire-shovel in one hand, the tongs in the other, and literally belaboured him from the room." Jackson tried to calm her down, and said he'd take Call to task. Peggy agreed to be quiet but said she'd never talk to him again. Jackson confronted Calla and he admitted it, saying he thought she was a woman of easy virtue with men such as Eaton. Jackson pointed out he didn't have any positive evidence of her interest. "Call wouldn't let it go. "Compensating his own lack of success with her, he set word to Major William B. Lewis, Eaton's brother-in-law, that the Senator's conduct with Mrs. Timberlake was the talk of the town, and told fellow members of Congress, who perhaps didn't need the information, that Peggy was pretty lively."
Oy. Anyway, on to Timberlake’s death at sea: "Sailor William F. Shields on watch wrote in the Log-book: "died at 2 a.m., departed this life, John B. Timberlake, Esquire, Purser." The surgeon's report was "pulmonary disease;" ship gossip had a debility from overdrink. "Her reaction: “Peg never whimpered as a child. She did not whine as a woman. Like her father, she swallowed punishment with a jibe, grief with a steel smile. So they said she was hard-hearted, destitute of real womanly feeling because she was not sentimental, didn’t sputter her suffering sloppily about. Like a man, she took sorrow alone, in silence, and then emerged to the world new-armored.” “Washington society….saw only a brash widow in Peg.”
When she went to talk to the military after this, “they didn’t tell her that his accounts, as usual, were muddled, that he had left much money on board in iron casks, and that the Commander had had some difficulty with his successor which required a Court of Inquiry on board. If they had, she might have been prepared for another Court of Inquiry later.”
“Eaton was deeply distressed. He wished, on the one hand, to marry Peggy and “snatch her from that injustice of the City gossipers who attend to everybody’s reputation to the neglect of their own” and on the other to avoid marrying her because of the inevitable “talk.” Eaton went back to Tennessee to consult with Jackson, the new President-Elect who would perhaps include him in the Administration. When he made tentative mention of such a marriage, Jackson had a ready answer. “Why yes, Major, if you love the woman, and she will have you, marry her by all means.” That straightforward suggestion was not the one Eaton wanted.” He said he would normally wait for a proper time to ask, but…? I don’t get this explanation. Jackson’s only answer was that if gossip had coupled their names together “your marrying her will disprove these charges and restore Peg’s good name.” Eaton proposed in front of her parents in December 1828. “Marry Peg forthwith” or “change your residence,” urged Jackson in a letter. So they set the date for January 1. “Society made him a martyr to Peg’s matrimonial machinations.”
On Inauguration Day, Emily Donelson, Floride Calhoun and Mrs. Ingham apparently left her alone and didn’t speak to her. “That was the trouble. She was always too much the life of the company for ladies’ taste, carrying over from tavern days the faculty of keeping men amused by her animation. And horror of horrors, she could be made hilarious by their attitude, instead of showing shame. That last attribute, attrition to effectual snobbery, was the stumbling block at which her critics stubbed their toes. No decent woman is impervious to insult, nor could she inure herself to it by minimizing its origin.”
“Peggy, who could dramatize anything, even her birth, had a marvelous gift of mimicry. When she imitated the mincing way in which ladies attempted to hurt her, there was much laughter from Jackson and his cronies. And she roared with them. But soon, the merriment had a hysterical ring. The first president of the masses had to deal with a class problem; the first really democratic administration had a social war on its hands. But it was not entirely social, for shortly afterward R.P. Fendall wrote Henry Clay: “The government is supposed by many to be in the hands of Duff Green and Mrs. Eaton.” As many men believed that as women. But the ladies were useful to pull Peg’s hair. They made her out the Scarlet Woman of the Administration.” She calls Peggy a firebrand.
Rev. Ezra Stiles Ely, in ex-President Adams’ words, “a busybody Presbyterian preacher of Philadelphia.” “He cast the first stone, and a heavy one it was, with the portentious plea: “for your own sake, for your dead wife’s sake, for your Administration, for the credit of the Government and the country, you should not countenance a woman like this.”
Two weeks after the inauguration (at which he was praising Eaton), Ely wrote Jackson describing all of the charges against Mrs. Eaton: (a) From girlhood, she had born a bad reputation. (b) The ladies of Washington would not speak to her. (c) A gentleman, the morning after the British Minister’s Ball, said at his tavern breakfast table that “Mrs. Eaton brushed by him last night pretending not to know him; she had forgotten the time when she slept with him.” (d) Her servants were told to call her children Eaton, not Timberlake, for Eaton was their right name. (Yeah, right.) (e) A clergyman of Washington (presumably Campbell) told Dr. Ely that a deceased doctor had told him that Mrs. Timberlake had had a miscarriage when her husband had been absent a year. (f) Eaton’s friends persuaded him to board elsewhere. (g) Mrs. Jackson herself disliked Margaret. (I’m pretty sure Jackson would have known if this was the case.) (h) Mrs. Timberlake and Eaton had traveled together as man and wife and written it in hotel registers in NYC.
Jackson wrote a 3000 word letter “fumigating” it all, citing Masonship and how masons don’t sleep with each other’s wives, why was Timberlake sending Eaton presents, the guy who said she slept with him “ought to have been instantly kicked from the table” and he didn’t think well of Ely for gossiping, the whole miscarriage story is very anti-Christian and Jackson recommended this clergyman go read the Bible again, Eaton hadn’t changed his lodging except when he had to be near the capital for a bit, he wants evidence of these hotel ledgers. “Female virtue is like a tender and delicate flower; let but the breath of suspicion rest upon it, and it withers and perhaps perishes forever.” Jackson sent detectives to New York to check hotel registers and interview tavern keepers, got written testimony from Peggy’s dad’s residents, Timberlake’s shipmates, etc. He collected almost a hundred pages of testimony.
Back to the potential rapist: Brigadier-General Coll wrote that “while living in the same house I had such evidences of her conduct, as to convince me of her want of virtue.” (Remember, this is the dude who tried to rape her.) Jackson was aware of the time she fended him off with tongs. “My dear Call, you have a right to believe that Mrs. Timberlake was not a woman of easy virtue if ever anyone should.” (Har!) If he got investigated, Jackson noted this would place him “in a very unpleasant situation.” Remember how she always avoided you at table afterwards and complained that you grossly insulted her? “Call was not heard from again on this subject. At least, not directly. Even Dr. Ely had to admit that the charges of travelling as man and wife had been investigated and found untrue.” All charges were disproved except the alleged abortion one “for there was no means of getting at the source of that slander.”
Here’s the author’s recounting of Peggy’s confrontation of Campbell. I don’t know where she’s getting these quotes, these aren’t from the autobiography.
“In a moment I discovered that he was as deep in the mire as the other was in the mud, and that it would be necessary to have the dates; so we sent to the Navy Department for a record of the time of the sailing of the ‘Shark.’ Towson’s and Campbell’s dates did not agree, and then Towson made an attempt to alter the dates…to make their story fit. When I saw Towson doing that I exclaimed, ‘Great God, I am undone.’ The man whom I supposed was a friend was proving an enemy. Then Major Eaton said, “Sir, you must answer for this!” and attempted to get at Campbell. I seized him by the arm and prevented a collision. I fainted and fell, striking my head against the sofa. It was then that Campbell made use of the remark: ‘Would to God I never had anything to do with this’…and that he got his story from Dr. Craven.” Margaret goes to Rev. Obadiah Brown, Dr. Craven’s pastor, and he swore Craven never said anything like that. “I found out from friends and neighbors that Rev. Campbell had been moving heaven and earth for proofs against me. He had even been to my laundress and my mantua maker, Mrs. Williams.”
Author quote: “The interviews began in dignity but ended in indignity on each side.” Noooo kidding.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hyde is supposedly the guy who complained that Mrs. E didn’t recognize them after they slept together. He’s tracked down in London (!!!). Hyde said the charge of “high treason” could not have astonished him more.” Ely shut up, though he claimed this wasn’t the right Mr. Hyde.
“Nobody took any responsibility. Ely wanted no more to do with the affair, and piously hoped that Peggy “makes Major Eaton a good wife, and gives you no trouble.”
“Peggy became a national problem.” On September 10, Jackson called a Cabinet meeting about her character, making Ely/Campbell attend but leaving out Eaton. “With acrimony, he dwelt on the disparity between Campbell’s first date of 1821 and his second of 1826. Campbell could hardly be held correct both times.” (I’m surprised he didn’t try that miscarriage thing twice over if he’s this stupid.) Jackson called upon Ely and Ely admitted there was “no evidence to convict Major Eaton of improper conduct.” “Nor Mrs. Eaton either,” the President said. “On that point, withdrew the Doctor, “I would rather not give an opinion.” Jackson blurted out, “She is as chaste as a virgin!” (…He probably should have gone with “faithful” as an adjective there.) Campbell left, claiming that he stood “ready to prove, in a court of justice, more than what I have said.” “Peggy was now the cause of a national controversy, her innocence an implied Administration policy.”
The author cites Eaton as saying to Campbell (where?) that he would “omit no occasion to pronounce you everything a gentleman should not desire to be considered.” And he’ll say it to his face, too. Author commentary on Peggy from the author: “She could be a little vulgar and greatly effective.” The minister was worried, his sermons were affected, his privilege suffered, his congregation complained, Jackson quit his church, and several months later Campbell gets a job in Albany.
Then there’s the ambassador’s wife incident, in which a Madame Huygens stomped out when seated next to Peggy. . Supposedly Peggy’s response to this was to say, “What an elegant carriage she has!” The author also claims that “cotillions mysteriously dissolved whenever Mrs. Eaton’s graceful figure swung toward them.” The author says that Peggy would do this deliberately after she figured it out. Could nothing be done to crush her? (Apparently not.) Jackson was steamed when he found out that Madame Huygens planned to invite everyone to a ball except for Peggy, and he insisted to his Cabinet members that snubbing was not okay. Supposedly everyone agreed with him about this…in the meetings, anyway.
Peggy gets the nickname of “Bellona, Goddess of War.” I won’t argue with that.
Here’s the author’s commentary on Emily Donelson: “a Titian-haired beauty who bore more than a surface resemblance to Mary Stuart in not knowing how to save her skin with another woman in power, refused unconditionally to recognize Mrs. Eaton. She was caught early by the Calhoun faction. And since Emily was taking Mrs. Jackson’s place in presiding over the White House, that treatment of Peggy was ostensibly official.” Her husband Andrew Donelson had been sent to school under Major Eaton’s care and he started out neutral. A year later he’s writing his wife saying whatever happens his wife shouldn’t visit “the Madam.” Also, Emily’s brother married Branch’s daughter. Emily made “faint-hearted” attempts to be nice to Margaret. “But she could not brook Peggy’s arrogance. It equaled her own.” The author mentions the boat ride with the Cabinet families and Emily turning down Peggy’s cologne bottle and fan when she felt faint. “Peggy stiffened, and then “betrayed an extraordinary discomposure of temper.” It’s mentioned that Andrew Donelson offered to escort her down from the steamboat-“He did so, in addition, to find the cause of her distemper. He learned too much.” Peggy explained that Emily did that in public where everyone would notice. However, faking dispositions wasn’t going well.
Peggy wrote a letter to the President, which was described as, “She defied a Royal Command to dinner which half her critics would have given much to attain.” This is the letter where she pointed out that Jackson’s relatives didn’t like her. Donelson was Jackson’s secretary, so he read it first and then added his additional note sniping that “the only unkind treatment which my family can have practiced towards Mrs. Eaton is their refusal to acknowledge her right to interfere with their social relations, all else is imaginary or worse. This letter is abundant evidence of the indelicacy which distinguishes her character, and is disgraceful to her husband.” He bitched that she didn’t come to him as Head of Household for explanations and whined to the president first. Jackson of course exploded (“Like a roaring lion, king of the den, he put the cubs in their places.”), and then the book short cuts to him kicking Emily out.
“In the Cabinet appointment, the Eatons had won the first round outright; the second was a draw with ministerial dispraise, even though all charges evaporated upon investigation, and the third, of Cabinet meetings and conges, was a downright decision in their favor. Weighing this evidence, Washington put two and two together and called Peggy the Unofficial First Lady.”
Um, what? I … definitely don’t think so, even though right after this the author mentions that Jackson would seat Peggy at a place of honor and that led to people claiming they’re having an affair. From all my other reading, this is one of the few rumors I HAVEN’T read elsewhere, so hmmmmm.
According to this book, John Quincy Adams said that after Emily Donelson was spotted visiting a neighbor of Peggy’s, Peggy had them evicted.
I’m just gonna post some quotes:
“Peggy, having mixed with men all her life, used contemporary slang and mild expletive, an unheard of style of talk for a lady. She swore like the cultivated gentleman of her time.”
“Single-handedly, before votes for women entered the country’s consciousness, Peggy O’Neale showed by her participation in politics with her husband and his friends that a woman could function and must be recognized as an individual political unit, apart from her husband.”
“When Jackson made her father one of five commissioners of the new national penitentiary, they sneered, and sent anonymous letters to the newspapers deriding his appointment.”
“Hounded by those who thought themselves of a higher destiny than her own, and by those who hated to see her rise head and shoulders above them, her life was made a perfect hell for some years.”
“Peggy not only pleased a President but he who pleased her became President."
Then there’s the Randolph incident, a.k.a. The Nose Pulling Incident. An anonymous letter writer reported that a settlement of Timberlake's accounts in the Navy Dept. found him a defaulter to the government for $11,000, and that Eaton had been his bonder to the amount of $10,000, and a correspondence had been found showing that Eaton asked Timberlake for money for investment in his father-in-law's hotel and acknowledged the receipt of some (whatever that means). Eaton denied it. Someone left him a taunting anonymous note about getting revenge, signed “Iago,” of course: "Revenge is sweet, and I have you in my power, and I will roast you, and boil you, and bake you, and I hope you may live long to prolong my pleasure. Lay not the flattering unction to your soul that you can escape me. I would not that death or any other evil thing should take you from my grasp for half the world." GEEZ, REALLY? Also, where is the author getting this stuff?!
The note also said that "Iago" had written to Amos Kendall (an auditor at the Treasury Department) about this money issue, and he was contacted to literally compare notes. His told him to look into Eaton's financials, and is signed "Paul Pry." Isn't all of this charming? Of course the notes were in the same handwriting. Several poison pen letters were sent around about this. Jackson had an inquiry started and it was discovered that Timberlake had left $10,000 in gold behind and Lt. Robert Randolph was made acting purser afterwards. He took all the stock for free, paid off all sailors and still had $9000 to deposit on land. This sounded all kinds of fishy to Kendall.
Oh lord, Queena’s writing: “No! this shall not lie neglected! thundered one hundred and sixteen Congressmen. Yes, let us be sure before we print, pleaded only fifty-five, less than half. The proportion reveals the preponderant belief. A perusal of the Yeas and Nays shows the names of Mrs. Eaton’s vigilant detractors in the former category, her defenders in the latter. Preference for or prejudice against Peggy Eaton had now become political history. Every official Representative was now on record. The Report was printed; Acting-Purser Randolph all but assassinated Kendall, and the Eatons had a sour foretaste of official persecution to follow. Lt. Randolph was dismissed from the Navy by Jackson, though he retaliated in full measure by pulling the President’s nose in public.”
I think the author’s saying here that Calhoun was caught at starting the rumor? Jackson wrote a sixteen page rant letter complaining about Calhoun that she quotes. Then as he finishes it, “I have just this moment rec’d a copy of a letter from Mr. Crawford to Calhoun…It is pointed and severe, and proves Calhoun a villain.”
Mr. Eaton got very ill around this time. “Ah, how easy it would have been if Eaton were removed by the hand of death! It would seem a sign from Heaven that Peggy was to be put out of her place. But Jackson’s prayers and Peggy’s will-power pulled Eaton back from the brink of the grave.” So…seriously, she’s wishing the guy died?! Whaaaat?
After the giant quitting/firing of the cabinet, Mrs. Eaton finally makes it into the newspapers. “To mention a woman’s name in a newspaper in 1830 was to make her famous-or infamous. Overnight, Peggy became the notorious Mrs. Eaton.” When Duff Green wrote that “it is proved that the families of the Secretaries of the Treasury and the Navy, and of the Attorney General, refused to associate with her.” Eaton started writing complaining letters to those men about this. Ingham stupidly responded. Queena appears to be reprinting all of these various letters, I don’t feel like recapping all of them again.
“There was a hard day’s work of shadowing ahead for the ex-Secretary of War.” Har, irony! She makes cracks about how “scalps were the premium” as the guys stalked Ingham’s location. Jackson was amused by the whole thing, but I don’t feel like recapping it again. Apparently the big criticism of Eaton here is that he was stalking on Sunday “and didn’t allow Mr. Ingham the God-given respite of the holy day.” Jackson wrote letters to the accused posse of stalkers. Amos Kendall “admitted that he walked past Ingham’s house with his wife on his arm.” Everyone else just said they walked with Eaton.
“As the dung heap grew, five months after the dissolution, even the very American horizon blushed for shame.”
Eaton was a drinker. Major Lewis reported: ”I have thought that since he returned from Spain that he would kill himself drinking, or perhaps ‘blow his brains out.’ The author is all, “but if he drank to excess, it was kept discreetly under cover.” Then: “On a drear November day in 1856, he died, leaving Peg, besides $70,000, his most treasured possessions, tokens of their hearty good life together: three hundred books which she probably never read, and two hundred casks of wine, which she probably consumed.” LOL!
Can you believe this sentence?
“Her first epithalamium had been a cadenced song of delight. The second swelled into a fugue of disdain. The third literally bellowed forth a veritable symphony of distaste.”
OY VEY, LADY. They need a new shade of purple to describe your prose.
The author cuts to Peggy’s third marriage, recounting a time where Antonio stole and sold a plate of hers, but she decided to ignore his various thefts.
The author mentions Peggy’s autobiography and how it wasn’t published until after her death. Her recap of this makes me wonder where she got the information because this isn’t exactly verbatim quotes from the autobiography here. Or any articles. She goes on a lot about an (imaginary, I think?) interview with some reporter telling her side of the story. Like I don’t remember her autobiography saying that Ely’s daughter is connected with a robbery of diamonds of the grand Duke of Russia, and that one morning he found a baby in a basket on his doorstep with a note asking him as its father to take care of it. She …creatively recaps this conversation, I think.
Anyway, this is probably the strangest political biography I ever read in my life. Three stars—on the one hand, it’s a hoot to read, on the other hand, I seriously wonder where she got a lot of this from. I wish I knew this woman’s back story.
This takes place in the far future, where artifical intelligences are known to become sentient (or "live") and when that happens, they tend to get berserk/destructive on wherever they've originated. As in, oops, might destroy a planet level of destructive. People use AIs to help them negotiate the worlds and space and electronics, but there's also some reasonable fear of them.
One standard aspect of space travel these days are professional Fools, who are booked to keep the crew of a spaceship entertained and calmed down for months on end. Little do the people who hire them know that Fools have a second job, i.e. to keep an eye out for live AI's and figure out how to help them without destruction happening. In the case of the spaceship Pasadena, they don't even run their ship with an AI since one of the crew members had their world destroyed by at gone.
Katmer Al Shei has a deal with her brother-in-law that they share custody of the Pasadena and swap off every 8 months. However, her brother-in-law seems to have done something to get them all in trouble--which is to say, a live AI turns up on their ship. It's up to the ship's fool, Evelyn Dobbs, to try to talk it down and recruit it for her Guild--because all Fools are originally live AI with vat-grown bodies and the option to be in a body or in the network if they like. (Pretty damn cool, I think.) But when someone abducts the new AI, and the ship ends up in enough trouble that they need to refuel at the Fool's Guild, Dobbs finds out something hella suspicious and ends up fleeing for her life. As you probably deduced from the title, it's going to be up to her to save folks and attempt to head off, well, a war between opposing sides.
This was a thoughtful read. I liked that some of the main characters are Muslim and that was handled well and clearly as far as I can tell (since I'm not Muslim). I liked Al Shei and her cousin the space lawyer and her sweet husband Asil, trying to hold down the fort at home. I was probably a little less clear on the "Freer" population--they seem to be all about only living in space and thinking that live AI's are really the souls of dead humans and that's a bit odd. I think I expected that to be more of a part of the story than that concept turned out to be (since well, they're wrong). The concept behind the Fools is really amazing and while I, like Evelyn, got annoyed at the black-and-white choices left to her as to how to deal with them, it did lead to some compelling character choices and developments to have humans who are only part time humans with different origins. And I can say that the ending is at least somewhat gut-wrenching, at least for a few characters. I really felt for them on that.
On the not quite as awesome side, I do think it's a bit hard to follow the technological aspects of the story. I think the author was doing her best to make it as clear as possible, but I tend to have problems following this sort of thing in general, so maybe it's just me.
Overall I'm going to give it four starts. It's quite a ride.
I wish I was more into Kameron Hurley’s fiction--it’s very hardcore and I started God’s War and then eventually found it too much of an emotional gutwrench for me to continue with. But I did read her blog back when it was more brutal (literally) and holy crap, did I love this book. It’s a series of essays and the subject matter is frequently about life for ladies in this modern era, especially what hard going it is. I just feel like printing a lot of quotes for the rest of this entry, okay?
"Because telling someone to be quiet on the Internet to avoid abuse and harassment is like telling women that the best way to avoid being raped is not to go outside, and there are many more of us who won't be silenced, because fuck that."
"What are we risking by speaking up? Everything, certainly. But the far riskier business is not speaking up at all. The riskier future is the one where we all fear a madman incensed by something he read online plowing a car into our house more than we fear being hit by a random bus on the street. I am sane enough to note that the odds of the latter are still greater than the odds of the former."
"The truth is that much of the hate directed at us is about fear of us."
"I would tell any woman writing in online spaces today that this is one of the best times to be a geeky woman creator on the internet. Because what the small, angry groups of detractors know, and what we are all waking up to understand, is that there is a revolution going on, and we're winning it. The stakes are high--not just who gets to play, who gets to create, but who gets to speak."
"It's persisting in the game after you know what it's really all about. After the shine wears off. It's persisting after all your hopes and aspirations bang headfirst into reality. That's when it starts. The rest of your life was just a a warm-up. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something."
"Persistence, I realized, was not the end goal. It was the actual game." "I know what success looks like. "Persistence," I say. And take another drink."
"Welcome to living loudly in public spaces--online, in print, even on billboards, if you're lucky. Welcome to being a woman with opinions navigating the court of public opinion. For my part, I've been loudly asserting my opinion on the internet and in print for fifteen years, and it never gets any better when the battle trolls ooze up from the bubbling cesspit of the internet and threaten death and sexual assault. No, it never gets easier, but at a certain point, for me, it becomes easier to endure. I realized I wasn't out here on my own. I was part of something much bigger, and much more important, than myself."
"There will always be trolls-- the people telling you to kill yourself, the folks saying they'll come to your house and rape you in the same breath that they tell you you're too disgusting for anyone to want to fuck. They will demand your sources and copious evidence to back up your expertise."
"I, too, had bought that women were somehow "other" and I wasn't "other" so I must be a man, a real human too, right?" "But because my body was coded female, I was never, ever assumed to have the kind of knowledge or credibility that a man would have. To those who didn't know me, no matter how much I butched up, or tried to "prove" my geek credentials or masculine sensibilities, I was always just a woman on first blush. I got passed up for raises. I got relegated to admin jobs. I got money offers less than that of male colleagues. What I learned was that I had to work harder than the guys. I had to assume that when people looked at me, they'd automatically give me crappier offers. They'd assume I was stupider than I was. They'd pay attention to me less. They'd judge me by gender, by looks, by weight before anything else. I automatically started every interaction at a disadvantage. In some ways, realizing this made things easier.. I no longer worked on the assumption of equality. I always assumed I was starting ten steps behind. I learned I had to fight harder, shout louder, and demand more just to get five extra steps ahead, so I wasn't starting quite so far behind in the eyes of those who passed judgment on me, from bosses to colleagues to new friends. Even in my writing career, people made certain assumptions."
After Joanna Russ's death, she says, "there was some safety and security in knowing she was still alive. That her voice was there. It existed. Her work was available. She wasn't going to be shut up. With her voice there, I realized, I didn't feel as much pressure to step up She was there to do it. I didn't have to." "All I knew was that there was no more Joanna Russ, and I was going to have to find another angry, truth-telling, no-bullshit voice that I could count on to rage at the world. It's easy to pass this buck, when it occurs to you. It's easy to point to other writers and say, "Hey, you should do/be that voice" or "Hey, why don't you take up this mantle?" or "You should really.... " or "Writers X, Y, and Z already have this covered," but the fact thaht this is a hard gig, and a lot of people drop out of it, and you never know how long they'll stick around. I realized I could continue passing the buck, and just point to other writers speaking truth to power, because there were indeed a lot of them. But there was another option. Instead of just telling other people to step up...Well...I could be the one to step up. I could be one of those voices. Because, shit: I've been screaming on the internet for ten years. What's forty more?" "Because one thing Russ's death taught me is that you can't rely on other folks' voices always being there. Sometimes it needs to be your voice. Sometimes, if no one else will speak truth to power, or risk speaking out against Big Dude Author X, or say "Fuck my career," then it has to be you."
"I can't guarantee you, young women writers, that things are going to get better.I'm not going to pretend you won't get trolled, harassed, threatened, or stalked. But what I can promise you is that you aren't in this fight alone. You are not speaking out alone, and you and your work and your voice and your passion exist on a long continuum of voices just like yours, who had to fight the same battles you fight, and who are still here, and still in this. Just like you. I don't blame you if it's too much. I don't judge you for telling this genre or any other to fuck itself. But if you stay in this, next to me, and next to all the other women and men and all the fabulous plethora of otherwise-identified folks engaged in rewriting the narrative of what science fiction is, we'll support you, and champion you, and we'll fight with you. That's what I have for you. Some days, it won't be enough. Some days, it'll be all that gets you up off the floor."
The author's accounts of working at a marketing agency suddenly made me wish I'd gone into marketing instead of my current field, because she makes it sound good. "It turns out selling stuff with words is actually a skill our nutty consumerist culture really, really values."
"Working at a marketing agency is like being a therapist. People come to you because they know something's wrong, and they want to fix it."
"I have a deep and abiding love of advertising because I recognize its potential to change human behavior." Ads got people to stop drunk driving and smoking, for example.
"Marketing uses people's deepest fears and desires to motivate them to take actions."
"If I'm going to write a book that's a commercial failure, it needs to fail in a way that moves me forward."
"I create work to move and to inspire, and half of my job in doing that is to fail at it and learn from it and fail again even better next time."
"So, what world are you willing to build? How will you sleep at night? These are questions you should be asking with every keystroke."
Her goal in both types of writing "is to make people care about something."
"When folks are emotionally invested in a story, they're far more likely to gush about it to others. And if they'not in love with your characters, you'd better have an astonishingly compelling story. The story, the "what if," keeps people turning pages even when they're not in love."
Same with advertising: "if I can't get you to form an emotional connection to a place...then what i want to do is tell a story so compelling that you can't look away."
"Storytelling is how we've passed on social mores, history, and morality in our cultures for tens of thousands of years. Storytelling is a universal: every culture does it. There's a reason our religious books aren't simply a list of shall-and-shall-nots. Morals and teachings are contained in stories, which are studied, dissected and passed down; we remember stories in a way we don't remember lists of facts."
"But people are not swayed by logic. People use logic to back up their emotional decisions."
"We found a way to tell a story that connected with people on an emotional level instead of a logical one. The truth is we want to fall in love. We want to care. Even when we know the game."
"It turns out that novels are much the same way. People share books that they love. We find ourselves, as writers, trying to figure out what "sells" books. And the reality is that what sells books is writing something people love so much, and are so connected to or titillated by or excited by that they want to tell their friends, so they can discuss it endlessly, write fanfic about it...." etc.
"It's love that sells books, not bullet points."
"But at the heart of every story is our desire for an emotional connection and catharsis."
"I'm telling you a story about llamas, and how we write about them, and how writing about them, and how writing about them changes them, and us, in ways we never expected. "I'm going to tell you a story." The story is who we are. The story is how we change the world. What's your story?"
"Life is fucking dark, sometimes. The trouble is, when you're pressed facefirst into shit, all you can think about is trying to stay alive. It's all you do, when you're really desperate--you try to live. There's no time to emote, no time to figure it out, no time to sit on the bed and cry and feel sorry for yourself. When you're faced with your own problems--real, tangible, I-could-fucking-die problems--you have to deal with them. But a fictional problem? Somebody else is dealing with that. You're just along for the ride. It means you get to spend the whole ride actually feeling things, instead of buttoning it all the fuck back up so you can live."
"As a woman, you are always going to be fat. People are always going to trot that one out to try to insult you, like taking up more space in the world, as a woman, is the absolute worst thing you can do."
"I've felt an increased pressure, as a writer, to not only go out in public but to widely share my public image in ways that are often beyond my control."
"There's a reason I keep photos off all my books. I've been well aware since birth that as a woman, if your appearance does nothing to advance your cause, best not to flaunt it."
"I know that if somebody wanted to try to shame me using the "fat" callout, the same person would say that no matter what my weight. I can change all I want, trying to contort my body in all sorts of ways, but those people, our society, will stay the same. They will always, always try to burn you down with some half-baked call of "cunt" or "fat" or "insert female-gendered slur here." And just like the fact that I have a cunt is not likely to change, the fact that I take up a lot of space in the world--no matter the range on that massive sliding scale--is not going to change either,"
"So for folks who fear having a large voice, especially those of us who've grown up with bad programming, I can say this: just like with everything else, yes, you will have to be smarter, and work harder. But don't let societal bullshit keep you down. It's made to stop you from speaking. It's made to get you to shut up, and stay home, and take up less space in spaces men consider "theirs." When you view it that way, when you see it for what it is, it becomes a bit easier to step up and step out, because you realize that in some small way, you going out into the world when it wants to shut you up is, itself, an act of resistance."
Go forth into the world, retreat when it is too much, but know that when you stand up to be heard and be counted, you're doing your own part to change the narrative, and in doing so, to change the world. I promise I'll be standing there next to you."
"During times of great social upheaval, it can often seem safer to say nothing. You get noticed less. You piss off fewer people. You just make sure the trains run on time. You make your dollars and go home and stuff them in the mattress and keep your head down and hope they don't come for you. It's a silly position, really, because they always come for you."
"I spent a great deal of my life trying to be quiet and nice and not piss anyone off. I was miserable. It served no purpose. And they still came for me."
"But nodding and smiling gets old. It makes it easier for people to box you up and ship you off. I'm only really alive when I'm pissing people off anyway."
"Studies have shown that when politicians or celebrities make statements denying something, people are more likely to believe they actually did the thing they're denying....you have to make an entirely new statement..."You go from denying a story (which becomes the story) to actually creating and sharing a new story that does the job of refuting the first without repeating it and giving it more steam."
"Many people delight in skewering and misreading you because they don't see you as a real person. You have become The Man. By bringing you down a peg they feel that they can claim a victory over everything you represent. I've had haters from all sides--far left, far right, and everywhere in between. You also become a focus for folks who are unhappy, or who feel powerless. You become this symbol of all the reasons they feel powerless and unhappy."
"When you realize that life isn't going to hand you the job you want or the woman you want to fuck, you look around for someone to blame, and feminism becomes an easy target. If only women were more subservient objects who stayed at home, there would be more jobs open to young white men and more women with no other option but to have sex with them for sustenance."
"But understanding how the game is played can help you survive it." "Sometimes the mob is just nonsense. You have to know when it's best to stand by your words and when to ride out the wave. Your haters are not here for a conversation. They are here to keep you from doing your work.":
"I sent an entire class lecture on how online harassment works, and why it's become a professional hurdle that every woman creator in particular must learn to navigate. For the record: I don't like that this is the case. But it's real, and we need to learn how to manage it."
"Trolling is a game. Getting you to leave the internet, cry, talk about how hurt you are, leave your house, or (end goal!) kill yourself is the actual, for real goal of many online trolls. ... They literally get pleasure from upsetting you."
"We stare longest when we cannot fit what we see into an existing box, when we cannot figure out if it's dangerous, or merely different--which many of us, unfortunately, still feel are the same thing. And if, after staring long enough, we decide that this different thing is dangerous, we kill it."
"The fastest way to dehumanize a person, or a subset of people, is to make them invisible."
"This is the end result of a series of stories that tells us women are things, and men deserve prizes."
"I want to know what men can do to build a better world."
"There are men everywhere who feel that being rejected by women entitles them to murder those women. There are men who will single you out, as a public figure, for embodying everything they feel is wrong with women. You are the reason women laugh at them or won't have sex with them, or you are the reason their girlfriend broke up with them. One of the things Gamergate taught us is just how far men are willing to go to shame and threaten who hurt their feelings, and how many other men think that's all right."
"I hear people say, more and more these days, that they are fearful to say anything online. Fearful to have an opinion or a position that might be seen as "controversial," even if it's, you know, truthful. And that really bothers me."
Is she afraid of the internet? No, because she thinks of her grandmother's survival during WW2, including when she got grazed in the head by a stray bullet, and the time she found a severed leg and threw it into a river. "Yes, change is incredibly terrifying, and there will be pushback and threats and dudes on the internet loudly declaring that you are a big vagina as if that is the worst possible thing a human being can be. But this is not yet Nazi-occupied France, my friends. Are there ramifications for speaking up? Sure. Muting people can get tedious. But you're still more likely to be hit by a bus that shivved by a sobbing internet mob. We are made of tougher stuff than we can ever imagine."
Kameron Hurley, you are helping me feel better on a topic that personally scares the shit out of me.
So Summer has tea with her skinned acquaintances, and they say that they are princesses in exile (more or less) whose dads went insane. "The only thing left to do then is to put on an animal skin and go out and try your fortune." Welp, that's..inventive. They are shocked as hell to hear how Summer ended up there and by who. "She gave me a weasel" is the new "I carried a watermelon," hee.
Summer doesn't really know what she's supposed to do, but she does feel bad about that tree, so maybe she'll work on that. They direct her to the Waystation, and she follows some lighting up scorpions there.
I don't really know what to think of this chapter, so...three stars, I guess?
Summer hikes through the desert forever and gets tired. She eventually takes a break and chats with her weasel, who had reservations about chatting around shapeshifters. He notices they're being followed, so act casual! By a boar and a javalina, but they eventually wander off and Summer reaches the Waystation. Except it's called the Wheystation.
“I think this is a pun,” said Summer, scowling. She liked puns well enough in their place, but this struck her as the sort of pun that a grown-up would make, expecting a child to find it hysterically funny.
It is difficult to walk across an enchanted desert and then be thrust into someone else’s sense of humor."
Hah. Even worse, it's at 1800 Desert Whey and yes, it does seem to be a cheese business. When she asks the storekeeper about what's going on, he gets suspiciously sweaty and nervous.
“Boarskin said you’d help me find my way.”
The Wheymaster’s eyes flicked toward the door.
“I could get in real trouble,” he whispered. “I don’t do that anymore. I had to repaint the sign and everything.”
“But I need your help,” said Summer. “I don’t know where I’m going, or what I’m supposed to do. I don’t even know what this place is called.”
The Wheymaster nodded wretchedly and blotted his forehead again. “I can’t,” he said. “I know I should, but I can’t. They closed me down, you know? He did. Zultan. Her lieutenant. You know.”
However, when Summer says Baba Yaga sent her, that puts him into a catch-22 of "I'm dead meat no matter what." He does give her some delicious cheese samples, including manticore cheese, which seems to buck you up quite nicely. He eventually decides to help her despite his fears, and tells her she's in Orcus (duh), at the edge of the Sonorous Desert. He pulls out his magic cauldron that's supposed to tell you your way...except it's drained of magic and does nothing.
AND THEN THE BAD GUY COMES KNOCKING AT THE DOOR. “Open for Zultan Houndbreaker! Open in the name of the Queen-in-Chains!”
Okay, I wasn't so much into chapter 5, but chapter 6 is improving. Three and a half stars.
This is an Audible-only, FREE (for a month) novella, read by Zachary Quinto. For more about this and the future text edition, look here. I'm not normally into audiobooks--what with the speed reading it's a little slow for me--but this was a pretty good one to listen to on a long drive yesterday.
The setup is that ten years ago, people discovered that murder victims--and only murder victims--can now come back to life, poofing away from the scene of the crime and waking up in their homes, naked, but otherwise in the same physical condition they were several hours ago. Is that a miracle of God, especially with the locating? Anyway, this has led to a new job description of "dispatcher," a person with a literal license to kill someone if they are near death. Dispatchers do shifts in hospitals or can take side jobs for rich people doing death-defying sports or dueling (that came back), on movie sets, or working at secret fight clubs. There's definitely "gray areas" those side jobs can end up in.
Our narrator, Tony Valdez, is a dispatcher who gets roped into helping the police (a sympathetic lady named Langdon, I think? I can't check spelling on an audiobook) when a fellow dispatcher, Jimmy, goes missing. Tony was "friendly, but not friends" with Jimmy, which sounds like an interesting distinction when you find out that the two were in a bowling league together that turned into a group that was lining up "gray area" jobs. Tony's quit doing stuff like the fight club--he's cagey about hinting that he's done super gray area jobs in the past but won't specify--but has Jimmy quit like he said he would? Tony traces Jimmy's disappearance to working for a rich guy and dispatching his wife with cancer over and over again every time a new treatment didn't work--except now the wife's died. The employer wants to know: how likely is it for a dispatch to fail? Once in a thousand times, Tony says. So how come Jimmy had one fail twice? Combining that with the rich guy's ties to a former mob-bish family....well, something's definitely shifty here and it's up to Tony and his knowledge to figure this out, risking his own life in the bargain.
I generally enjoyed the story and Zachary Quinto's narration. I love the concept of dispatch and how it works, the theological debate about it, and what one would have to resort to doing if they really wanted to murder someone these days. I liked how Tony was informative yet cagey and vague, that was a good strategy to take when talking with law enforcement. I liked his partnership with Langdon, which somehow to me seemed to have a bit of romantic intention (or at least, I think it's an eyebrow-raiser to compare her asking him about his job to how it goes for him on dates), and then goes very cold when she's all, "TELL ME you didn't work fight clubs." And then it comes back from that later on.
About the only quibble I have with the story is that it's really repetitive in a few places. Like the first few chapters are very "Tell me how this world works even though we've been living in it for ten years," and "So how does it feel to murder people in your job?" when clearly he's only murdering on a technicality in order to save lives and I think that'd be a totally different thing. Of course you've got to do some exposition when you're introducing a new world situation, but it was a bit much occasionally for me. It's very rehash-y of the action and questions at points, but I suspect maybe that's something you do when you are writing for an audiobook deliberately and know that people are going to need a bit more rehashing when they miss details while listening. That's probably a good practice to employ, really.
Now as to Audible, this was my first time using the product and .... uh, let's just say I had some problems getting their download program to work. It was insisting that I close my Chrome browser over and over and over again so it could make some changes to it even though the browser WAS closed and it was doing that even after I rebooted the computer a few times...grrr, argh, WHYYYYYY. I eventually got the thing to download and install after probably an hour of wrangling and once that got done all was well, but it was not cooperating well for me overall for about 24 hours thanks to that pop-up message. Just putting that that out there.
Overall, I'm giving it three and a half stars. This was a cool world to get to visit and I liked it muchly. I'd read more here.
Previous book in this series here, but this book takes place during the same time period as Feed.
I’m not sure what to make of this book. When an author does some kind of book that takes place during the same time as a previous book, but features different characters, a la “Ender’s Shadow” (which I haven’t read) or Zoe’s Tale, it can go well or weird. If it’s done well, it reveals things in the world that you didn’t know of before and you get new revelations. Or alternately, you can just kind of feel like you’re reading a retcon. I kinda feel like this book falls somewhere in the middle?
In the book Feed, we followed a group of bloggers following the Ryman Republican presidential campaign. Feedback features another group of bloggers who applied for the Ryman job, but were denied. For those of you wondering as I did back in the day, “Huh, why were these guys in with the Republican team?”, well, it turns out Peter Ryman’s a bit on the conservative side, and this team...is definitely more on the Democrats side.
This book features the following folks:
Aislinn “Ash” North, an Irish immigrant who had to flee Ireland after her parents had her committed--they weren’t too thrilled with her being an Irwin or a lesbian. She got into a platonic green card marriage with her best friend and rescuer--
Ben Ross, a Newsie with good investigation skills who got Aislinn out of an institution when he barely knew her. Since then they’ve become the best of friends, and even though technically at this point they’re free to get divorced, somehow that hasn’t happened yet. Publicly they’re in a polyamorous threesome with--
Audrey Wen, a Fictional who writes some awesome sounding pre-Rising crime fiction. She’s changed her name to get away from a mysterious past that Ash doesn’t know too many details about. Audrey and Ash are in love, but Audrey’s starting to get a bit annoyed at waiting around on that divorce already.
And then there’s Mat Newson, Ben’s best friend and video techie/mechanical expert/makeup artist blogger. Mat is genderfluid and prefers to go by “they” pronouns most of the time.
Anyway, after this group gets rejected by the Ryman campaign, Ryman was nice enough to pass his reject list on to his friend and Democratic rival, Governor Susan Kilburn, so she can have her own blogger team. Sounds fun, right? And Kilburn’s awesome, especially doing bad karaoke. And clearly this bunch fits way more in with the Democrats.
(Though I am still wondering why the heck blogger news org groups “need” a Fictional or for that matter, a makeup blogger, for a presidential campaign. If the Fictional’s not wrting fiction about the president, what is she doing, exactly? On the other hand, the presidential candidate-themed makeup jobs sound like fun.)
Anyway, it’s all fun in politics until zombie outbreaks start happening, and thanks to Ash’s eagle-eyed spotting, she deduces they’re deliberate. (The one in Portland is particularly spectacular. I won’t spoil it here, but damn!) After hearing about what happened with the Ryman campaign in Eakly, and hearing from other news teams that other political candidates are having similar outbreaks, the nameless team members start suspecting something’s up and someone’s trying to either straight up take out candidates or make them more sympathetic. Either way, someone’s trying to manipulate this election, which is kind of the big(gish) revelation of this book. If you’re read the other Newsflesh books, you probably won’t be 100% shocked as to the ultimate culprit, I’ll put it that way.
I thought all of that was fairly interesting to read about, but I wasn’t mind-blown in the same way that I was reading the original Mason-narrated trilogy. When you have a book taking place during the same time, the audience knows where it’s already gone before, so that’s going to be a factor in what you can come up with that took place in the shadows. Plus I couldn’t help but wonder, in the retcon sort of way, why we wouldn’t have heard of attacks on other candidates in Feed. Some of this was justifiably hidden, but clearly not all of it.
As for other aspects of the book, overall I enjoyed the new characters (and seeing a few returning folks here and there). Ash is a personable, adventurous lass with an impressive eye, thoughts on selling herself as a girly female Irwin, and she’s got her issues of kind of wanting both her husband (not in a sexy way) and her girlfriend still around. Ben’s a nice dude, with super impressive rescue-from-Ireland skills, even if as a personality he doesn’t stand out as well compared to everyone else. I liked Audrey as a Fictional way better than Buffy--both her writing and her secret past, which I liked. And Mat is also quite a character--I liked the scene in which they deduced a creative use of makeup, and one blog post about makeup in particular that I won’t spoil. I also really liked Susan Kilburn and wished she could have won (though knowing how the other books go...well, no, you shouldn’t wish that). And heck, we even meet Congresswoman Kirsten Wagman, the sexy former pole dancer/Republican candidate from Nevada. In Feed she’s a running joke, but in this book she’s got hidden depths and strategy and yeah, she’s really cool. I would have been happy to see her and Kilburn doing more together. Amber the campaign employee also has some delightful snark and fun to her.
On the other hand, like I said, this book suffers from a bit of “what the heck else can you reveal that you haven’t already,” which made it feel a bit unnecessary. There’s also quite a downer sequence towards the end of the book that made me feel quite creeped out and I couldn’t wait for it to end--but if you’ve got a copy of “Do Not Taunt The Octopus” on hand to read after you finish this one, it’ll make you feel better.
This seems like kind of a one-off story, though if the author decides to bring back this gang in future short stories, I wouldn’t be surprised. If they get to advance in the future and get involved in future revelations, I’d be cool with that. Overall, I generally enjoyed reading the book, but it didn’t blow my mind like pretty much everything else in the Newsfleshverse has before. I can’t help but kinda wonder if this story needed to exist, in some respects, just because it mostly didn’t tell me a whole lot that was new about the world beyond more creative ways of causing zombie attacks and introducing me to some cool new people.
So... three and a half stars. There shall be some spoiler space discussion below the cut.
Governor Kilburn likes to watch CMT on Sunday mornings: “I like the blue jeans and big hair, and the fact that they think writing love songs about shooting zombies in the head is a good idea. There’s a sort of postapocalyptic good cheer about it that makes me feel better.” Also: “Dolly Parton was a hero of the Rising, and I dare you to tell any red-blooded American girl who’s ever felt bad about her wardrobe differently.”
“Every Irwin is a badass in our own way. The job demands it. But if you want to know who the scariest person in the group is, look for the one who’s been fighting zombies without smearing her eyeliner.” -Ash has some interesting thoughts about femmeing up for the cameras as an Irwin. I did kinda like how she was always in her own custom pocketed sundresses. Heck, for that matter, enjoying sun.
“You are a walking natural disaster.” -Audrey to Ash
“As a Fictional, it was Audrey’s job to make the real world less interesting than the fake one, which was no small task, since the real world had zombies, and those were pretty compelling, especially when they were trying to chew your face off. She used a thousand literary tricks to manipulate her readers. Some of those tricks worked in the field, too. She was the one who’d suggested that if I was going to wear sundresses all the time, I use fabric that spoke, however subliminally, to my subject matter and the mood I was trying to convey. Even a California winter could become believable if I was running around draped in silver snowflakes.” Cool!
“Amber, we’ve talked about this. You sound like a serial killer when you say things like that. If someone who’s not a part of our dedicated media team hears you sounding like a serial killer, you won’t be able to stay with the campaign.” “I never say anything where the public can hear me.” -Kilburn and Amber
“I would have gone to work for Tate if I was planning to kill a candidate. Nobody would believe it was an accident, but at least I’d die a national hero.” “Now, Amber, what’s our rule about threatening my opponents?” “Don’t do it in front of the press.” –Amber and Wagman.
“Sadly, ‘our candidate is better because she performs Journey songs during Friday night karaoke, and she’s awful; elect her so we can share this with the whole country” wasn’t a slogan the rest of the campaign could get behind.” -Ash
I love how Rick is griping that Tate wants to build a wall across the Canadian and Mexican borders… people just cannot stop making wall jokes!
“Disney’s snipers are amazing. There’s never been an outbreak on any of their properties, because the happiest gunslingers on Earth are right there, waiting for an excuse to pull the trigger.” –Ash
“I bore easily, and a bored Irwin is an Irwin who’s about to stir up a whole lot of shit storm for nothing more than the experience of standing in a shit-storm. I am a natural disaster when I don’t have something to keep me busy.” –Ash
You do not want to go to the dentist in this ‘verse—“Even basic cleaning requires mild sedation, and a hundred people spontaneously amplify in the dentist’s chair every year.” THIS IS HOW I WOULD DIE IN THIS VERSE, YOU GUYS. Amplifying and eating a dentist…okay, that last part could be a bit fun with some dentists. (Note: not intended for the last few dentists I’ve seen, y’all are nice.)
“You want it to be a little jagged, a little drippy. Make it look like you’re bleeding. Make it look like you might amplify at any moment and cut those bastards for what they’ve done. What they’ve allowed people to do under their watch. What they have willfully ignored. Draw your rebellion on in glitter blood and war paint, and you dare the world to say that you have done anything wrong. You dare it. This look is called the Democratic National convention. Suitable for day, night, or burning the bastards down.” –Mat