Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi

I read The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi (Archaia Entertainment, LLC) as part of my retelling search for Sirens. This came highly recommended, and it found a home on the Books and Breakfast list. I hadn't read it beforehand, and I can tell you that it moved to the top of my list just because the cover is really beautiful, with inlaid silver and more vivid colors than the cover image suggests.

Marjane Satrapi is probably best-known for Persepolis, an autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in Iran and around Europe. The Sigh is a fairy tale, and an illustrated one, but (as it turns out) not formatted quite like a graphic novel. No matter, really.

The story centers on Rose, and starts in a way reminiscent of "Beauty and the Beast"; her father brings her home a simple gift, one that marks her as less materialistic than her sisters. Then, it diverges: Rose's beast is near death for want of a feather, and Rose enslaves herself, three times, to try to find his cure while at the same time rescuing three different men in ways that allude to fairy tales that are familiar but just beyond my reading memory.

In some ways, I found The Sigh very eyebrow-raising--Rose nearly obliterates herself to save the dudes from the evil women--and in others, very subversive, as the girl saves all of the princes. Even though the story is short and simple, I've found more to chew on than in books ten times its length.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Because She Can by Bridie Clark

Because She Can by Bridie Clark (Grand Central) is The Devil Wears Prada for publishing. And, uh, I hear that's it's not so fictional as it might seem. You can plug that into your favorite search engine, if you like.

I enjoyed it a lot.

Actually, I should say: I enjoyed the ending better than other similarly-styled "do this job for predetermined length of time" books because the heroine, Claire, sticks it out and leverages her experience--in the right field--into what she wants to do, which is more satisfying than reading about people who never wanted a particular job in the first place.

That's all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts

The Girl with the Silver Eyes (Simon & Schuster - Alladin, which I just read, but the version I owned as a kid was the Scholastic version, pictured right and I see that there was an Atheneum edition as well) was a book that I owned, and somewhere, in a dusty box in an attic far away, still do.

Katie can make things move. With her mind. It scares the people around her, and she doesn't have many friends. Her parents are divorced and she's been living with her grandmother--and some people suspect that she might have pushed her down the stairs to her death. So, when she goes to live with her mother in the city, and a strange man starts asking questions, Katie decides to track down the kids born to women her mother worked with at a laboratory. Maybe they're all...different.

I loved this book as...probably a kindergartener, but I reread it lots of times. I wished and wished for some special power to go along with being different, and it never appeared. Before there were Hogwarts letters, we still wanted them, I guess. My adult reread came with a sense of bemusement; I see why I liked this then, but now, I find the story kind of unsatisfying. Just when the special kids find each other, and just when they think they're in the worst trouble ever, they decide to go ask their parents what's going on. Not a bad strategy in real life, but not so adventurous in book form!

In my head, this book goes with No Flying in the House, Baby Island, Pippi Longstocking, and Cherry Ames--all books that might appeal at about the same time. And it makes me wish fervently that the library of my youth might reappear, just for an hour, so I could look through it and get the titles of all the books that I remember only a snippet of, and not enough to find them via a search. I can still tell you which shelves I'd want to tear apart--just not the authors I want to (re)read.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I have this tendency to buy makeup I don't need, and to do that thing where you buy several cheap items (costing more, in the long run) instead of one good one (with, perhaps, a higher price point). So, when I heard about Birchbox, I thought this might be a fun way to get makeup treats1 at a controlled cost. The basic idea is that you pay $10/monthly (or about the same amount for a subscription of some length between three months and a year) and you get a selection of beauty and "lifestyle" samples. People who care about it more than I do work out the retail on the samples, figure out the cost per ounce/unit/whatever, and report that the worth of the samples is usually well over $10.

I'd heard mixed reviews about Birchbox, so I signed up on a month-to-month basis. June was my first box, and it had a problem: the insert card that's supposed to detail my samples was for a different box! (You fill out a profile and get matched up with one of howevermany different iterations of the box they're sending out--surprise only, no picking, and your profile matters--that month.)

The general theme for the month was travel. Here's what I received:

A bright pink tili quart bag. For travel, well, you all probably know that the TSA won't let you by unless it's a clear bag, and sometimes, they stop people who have a bag that's smaller than quart size, or one with a zipper, or whatever. I wouldn't buy this size for travel--they're expensive, and no matter how hard I try to edit, I end up with a couple of gallon-sized bags for those things that just don't come in travel size (and if they don't, I don't necessarily care to pack a travel amount in smaller containers). If I were doing something fun that needed more room, I guess these bags come in gallon size, and they're cute enough for a giveaway or something like that.

Some false eyelashes. These have some more organic glue and are designed to be more reusable. I'm looking forward to playing with them; I've occasionally bought very cheap eyelashes, but I haven't had any success in getting them on.

A lip/cheek stain sample from Stainiac. I'm at a neutral point on this one. I've tried Benefit Benetint and it didn't look so great--it was patchy and uneven, even on smooth lips. This one is water-based and goes on evenly, but since I (have to) wear foundation, I think I just look like I've been eating popsicles. Without the benefit of eating a popsicle. That said, I think this is a nice product if you don't like the feel of lipstick or lipgloss, because it doesn't feel like anything once it's dry, and it's subtle enough for a natural look with a little bit of a "made up" pop.

Some "eco-friendly" face wipes. I got two and I've used them both--and I liked them very much (but perhaps not enough to pay that much for them). I use pre-moistened face wipes every night because that's the only habit I've been able to stick with for getting the makeup off, and there are some products I use that don't seem to come off any other way (or if there is another way, I can't use it).

The last item was a travel size volumizing shampoo. I regifted it immediately! My profile says that I have fine hair, so I assume that's why I got it; however, my most recent discovery, from trying to have shorter hair for about a year, is thinning scissors. I ask my stylist to have a good hack with them, and I still have more hair than I know what to do with, and volumizing shampoo isn't something I'd even think of unless I had waist-length hair again. I updated my profile. :))

 Overall, it's what I expected--some stuff I liked, some stuff that wasn't a match.

Birchbox ships to the US/territories/APO boxes; there are similar companies set up who ship elsewhere (usually, within a country or region--I imagine this is the most favorable way to have such a business, because cosmetic sales regulations vary widely from country to country) and other options in the US. There's a waiting list to get or gift a subscription. I have a referral code to give out; I don't know if it gets you in sooner, and I believe I get some points toward money off full-size products or something if you use it (so, beware, I guess).

Do any of you get a subscription from Birchbox or one of the other companies doing this? How do you like it? 

1. I am aware of the arguments and analyses for and against makeup. Whatever. I still enjoy using it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue

I was surprised, just now: I looked up the publisher for Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue  and it turned out to be HarperTeen (HarperCollins). I believed this to be an adult book--and while I think there's nothing in here objectionable for teens (though their gatekeepers still may, as always) the style simply struck me as "written for adults." (I'd have liked to have read this as a teenager, but I think I appreciated it more now.)

Kissing the Witch is Donoghue's reimagining of a collection of tales that you might recognize if you read the Lang fairy books. It begins with Cinderella, who does get to go to the ball--without any interference from stepsisters or stepmothers. It's lovely, and she's the belle, but something's not right. She dances and twirls and loses her slipper, but it's no matter. She'd prefer her godmother over the prince.

At the end of the tale, Cinderella asks of her godmother: and what's your story? The rest of the book braids together a variety of tales, each leading into the next, each revealing the life of some woman who has been playing a vital role. There are friendships, loves, children, and pain, sorrow, and wonder. The focus is on the women, and even when they're in situations that are terrible--the everyday violence of women's worlds, the frustration of breaking out of gender roles--even when they fail, the women are so centered in the stories that it still feels right, unflinching, and true. Of course, the language is lovely, with unexpected phrases throughout.

I've expressed frustration with fairy tale retellings before, but been unable, sometimes, to express what I am looking for; I'm looking for something like this, where the original tale is still there, but what is retold (plot, themes) is varied and original in shape. Bring me something fresh and brave, and that's worth the pages.
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