stuff I read

Talking to Siri

I really love my iPhone – taking pictures, listening to music, playing games, staying organized.  Love it.

And I have the 4S model so it includes the lovely voice assistant Siri…whom I would love more if she acted less like a petulant teenager and more like an assistant.  Because we definitely have a failure to communicate.

Like any good reader, I turned to a book to help me out.  Talking to Siri by Erica Sadun is a short, small book, only about 150 pages and not quite mass-market paperback size, and it is very helpful.  I learned how to phrase questions using Wolfram Alpha-style queries.  I learned how to set places like “home” so I could tell Siri to get me directions to home.  I got the hang of having Siri make appointments for me.

And I learned a few fun things.  For instance, Siri is an “it” not a “she” because different markets have a different voice – the US has a female voice but the UK has male, apparently.  And you can make Siri give you funny answers.

Just tell it you need to dump a body or say “Beam me up, Scotty.”  The answers are all deadpan, of course.

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music notes · The Voice

The Voice: Live Eliminations April 24, 2012

Yet another Tuesday elimination on The Voice

Ooh, Florence + The Machine!!!!  New single, “New Light, New Light” (I really have to buy Ceremonials).  I love how it’s a great mix of rock, pop, and New Age-y (hey, there’s Team CeeLo up there, too).

Who did America save (apparently Tony and Juliette hit #1 and #2 on the rock charts on iTunes)?
Team Adam:  Tony (I was pretty sure he would get through – it was a performance that people would really like)
Team CeeLo:  Jamar (this was a toss up between Jamar and Juliette for me – both gave really heartfelt performances but I was hoping Juliette would get through)

Team Adam sing-off:

  • Mathai – she chose “Cowboy Casanova” and it sounded pretty good. I’m not sure if she connected with the song well; I got emotion in that arm that was flailing around but not in her voice.  The band overshadowed her a bit much so maybe not the best arrangement.  (I’m not sure why Carson talks to the coaches for the first performer, then rushes the others)
  • Katrina – she chose “Perfect”.  A good choice for her since the words fit the situation and she could really belt, use the emotion.  Great praise from Christina – I’d like to hear original material from Katrina for sure.

Adam saved: Katrina.  Thank god – Adam rambled so long I had no idea where he was going (I just realized that it has to blow standing up there while the other three coaches say who they would save and none of them say your name – I would barf fer shiz while waiting).  Mathai is a doll, though, and I hope that the record execs are watching and give her a chance.

Team CeeLo sing-off:

  • Cheesa – she chose “Already Gone”.  Eeep, she started off with the breathy thing and it was pretty flat all over.  Ack.  Hmmm, even the chorus was a bit flat, but better as she went on.  Oh Blake, just because you hit the big note doesn’t erase the poor breath support throughout.  Even though not everyone is perfect all the time, you have to do it when it counts.
  • Juliette – she chose “Torn”.  Also, another great choice because she could use the power and the nerves to get into the song.  She just kills it, every time.  I said it yesterday, I love her.  Love. Her.  AND she hit every note.  (I’m a technical singer – remember?  You get off pitch, you find your way back, ASAP)

CeeLo saved: Juliette, yes!!!! (uh, did Adam duck out?  No Adam commentary on who CeeLo would save?  Oh, CeeLo – Cheesa is SO NOT CLASSICALLY TRAINED.  CHRIS MANN IS CLASSICALLY TRAINED.)

Side notes:

  • Dear audience: STOP YELLING while the coaches are talking; if Adam says “Shut it” then you shut it.  End of story.
music notes · The Voice

The Voice: Live Quarterfinals April 23, 2012

Knowing that the coaches on The Voice (i.e. CeeLo and Adam) will have to immediately cut a singer, let’s see if the performers throw down.

  • Jamar – singing “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi
    • A really interesting, heavy metal arrangement.  Perhaps a bit on the slow side but I was really listening to the words and Jamar’s performance as opposed to comparing the performance to Bon Jovi’s.  He did a great job, sang his heart out.  I hope going first doesn’t hurt him in the voting.
  • Katrina – singing “Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri
    • Did they get her extensions?  Or did her hair grow that much before the live rounds and it was always up before today?  I’m glad she stuck with the full voice rather than try and make it wispy, it was a much better performance.  Really solid this time, very confident.  Even the little cracks over her break worked in this song.

CeeLo and his team performed “Dancing in the Street” – the old TV/retro look wasn’t quite as fun as the disco possibilities for staging (CeeLo wore a truly awful James Brown wig).  Everyone sounded pretty good.

Commercial break had a new iPhone4S ad (or, at least, new to me) with Zooey Deschanel.  A great improvement over the kid with the stupid music questions/band names.

  • Mathai – singing “I’m Like a Bird” by Nelly Furtado
    • Hate to say it Adam, but Mathai sounds A LOT like Nelly Furtado (and she totally got upstaged by the awesome acrobat up on the fabric trapeze or whatever it’s called).  She sounded less like like Nelly Furtado by the end.  It was a good performance – I wasn’t blown away but she did a good job.
  • James – singing “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel
    • Gotta hand it to CeeLo – he knows just how to pick songs to suit his artists this season.  This song really fit James’s style and vocal type.  He has a really smooth tenor sound.  I personally would like a bit in a dynamic range out of him (I’m with Blake – he sang well but it just laid there).  Adam had a good idea – maybe some old school Sinatra would be good, from early-on in his career.  While James doesn’t do it for me, the teen girls love him so they’ll probably carry him.

Goody Mob?  Sorry, Goodie Mob.  I am not well-versed in Southern hiphop.  Should there have been more rapping?  CeeLo sounded good until the light-up grill he sported gave him a lisp.  Adam was really into it but I really didn’t get it.  Maybe I had to be in the auditorium for it to work.

  • Tony – singing…Carson didn’t say??
    • wait, what is he singing?  Oh, my god, he’s singing Britney Spears.  I love it.   I love that arrangement of “Hit Me Baby One More Time” with the rock rhythm rather than the pop.  I like him so much better this week than with the Peter Gabriel.
  • Cheesa – singing “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston
    • I got goosebumps.  This is the first performance where she knocked it out of the park for me.  She didn’t shy away from those high notes and just killed it.  Fantastic perfomance, very well-done (the staging looked a bit like “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita).  CeeLo looked like the cat who got the cream.
  • Pip – singing “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane
    • Thank you for not wearing the bow-tie (and he does have a similar voice type to Adam).  This is a much better song choice for him.  Except for the falsetto – not my favorite part.  It was good otherwise, perhaps not better than his other three team members.

Team Adam performance (and I could do without the Christina Millian filler) of “Instant Karma”.  I love how they did the accompaniment with a little assist from the Voice band (Adam didn’t sing, also kind of cool).

  • Juliette – singing “Crying” by Aerosmith
    • Her hair is getting lighter, not sure if I like the blond.  Aerosmith is a great choice for her, just the grittiness of her voice suits the tempo and the emotion of the song.  That voice just pulls at you (what record exec listened to her and thought “girl band”??  not a smart person).  I love her.  Love. Her.  (Next week, can we please have her do some classic sixties rock?  Please?  It would be so awesome.)

Ugh, instant elimination.
CeeLo sent home (so heart-felt that he took the time to write out what he wanted to say on his BlackBerry): James.  A good choice.  Of the four singers, he was the only one not to really stretch.  He’s a good singer, but not quite at the level of Juliette, Jamar, and Cheesa.
Adam sent home (poor Adam, babbling since he’s stalling):  Pip.  Also a good choice.  He was pretty much neck and neck with Mathai, in my opinion. 

Tomorrow night’s show should be interesting.

Romantic Reads

Sophia Nash: The Royal Entourage One and Two

A title caught my attention the other day, The Art of Duke Hunting.  Huh, cute.  So I read a bit of the first chapter while on my break and wound up buying it.  I then realized that it was book two in the series…oops. 

The Dukes of Norwich are a cursed line.  The first Duke incurred the wrath of a witch (maybe?) by accusing her of witchcraft when she spurned him (he brought some icky fowl instead of jewelry, I’d refuse him, too).  Since then there have been seventeen dukes in only 200 years, an unprecedented rate of inheritance, and a good number of the first sixteen met their ends in duck and/or fowl related incidents (the others either lost duels or died fighting Napoleon).  The seventeenth Duke of Norwich, Roman Montagu, is determined that he will be the absolute last duke of his accursed line.  There are no brothers (Roman’s elder brother died in a sailing accident), no secondary lines, no exceedingly distant male cousins, and Roman is determined never to father a child.

That’s just the prologue.  The plot opens on Roman’s worst nightmare – a ship in a storm – and the poor man has no idea how he got there.  Worse, one wrist is tied to the deck.  Before a wave can wash him away he is rescued by the Esme, the Countess of Derby, and they shelter together in her cabin (and not in separate corners, either).  When the damaged ship puts in at the Isle of Wight Roman learns how he came to be on board: at the bachelor party to end all bachelor parties, held by the royal entourage, the Duke of Kress put Roman on the ship as some sort of absinthe-fueled joke.  Unfortunately for Esme (who prefers to be called March) and Roman the biggest gossip in England, Mr. King, was also aboard ship so by the time they make it back to London their goose is cooked: they must marry.

So, in short, I liked the book. Roman and Esme’s romance is both sweet (how they both actually care about one another, despite actual appearances) and disturbing (Roman’s jealousy; though, in all seriousness I thought Topher was gay because all the women felt rather safe around him, but I guess he was merely waiting to retire before scoring a lady?).  Love all the duck/duke humor. Who knew Regency England was so full of duck paraphernalia?

I only have one quibble with the plot (OK, two – and these are total spoilers so skip this paragraph, alright?):
1. The twist at the end of the book where it is revealed that Roman is, in fact, not the son of the 16th duke but that of an Italian sculptor is pointless. Worse, it detracts from Roman’s ability to overcome his fear/superstition and live out his live despite his notorious family history. It makes the entire I-sailed-a-yacht-through-a-storm-to-rescue-my-wife-despite-the-curse feeling of triumph dead in the water.  Boo.
2. And speaking of the Norwich curse how did the original “witch” actually have legitimate children? I was assuming that her accusation/death came very close on her refusal of Norwish I’s offer making it less likely that she had children at all. So that would make Esme less of a granddaughter and more of a niece/cousin of some type. So the “direct descendant” business doesn’t quite make sense to me. Also, it’s an unneccessary plot point because by the time it’s revealed he’s already learned his true parentage.

With all the whispering about Alexander Barclay, the new Duke of Kress and Roman’s good friend, I had to read the first book Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea.  The prologue is a glorious detailing of all the naughtiness the royal entourage got up but left out just enough detail to leave the reader hanging (Candover left his bride at the altar, someone’s maid is missing, Candover’s sister is sent home in disgrace, one of the dukes got secretly married, Barry’s got a mysterious dead man, Candover and Abshire have a longstanding animosity, etc).  Alex is the nitwit that supplied the group with all the absinthe which caused all the debauchery.  As a result, the populace is starting to question whether the aristocracy is even necessary.  Prinny immediately goes on the defensive and orders all the dukes to straighten up and get married.  Alex is the first – exiled to his Cornwall estate to await the matchmaking mamas he finds Roxanne Vanderhaven clinging to a sea cliff for dear life. 

Her husband tried to push her to her death.   Nice guy.  Alex rescues her and….romance!

I had a little trouble with the final twist (sorry, SPOILER again): the convenient-death-of-Roxanne’s-skeezebag-husband obligatory plot twist followed by that monstrously silly courtroom scene where everybody and nobody confessed to killing him….good Lord.  Nash should have just let Paxton steal Alex’s water-shy horse, get thrown off/drowned, and been done with it instead of having him steal the horse AND someone shoot him. Actually, that sounds suspiciously similar to my issue with The Art of Duke Hunting. Hmmmm.

Beyond that, this was an enjoyable novel.  Alex and Roxanne make a good couple and it was nice to see them fight through Prinny’s orders to get their HEA.  I’m really looking forward to the other books in the series (maybe six in total?), so books for Candover, Abshire, Sussex, and Barry.  Maybe a seventh for Isabelle if she doesn’t wind up being the heroine in one of the dukes (which she seriously might since it seems she has a bad crush on one of them).

(Side note on that absinthe: as a drink it was not popular until the 1840s and the major distilleries in France opened only a few years before this novel opens in late 18th/early 19th century.  The likelihood that Alex’s fully English cousin had a cellar-full both in London and the Mount when it needed to be smuggled I find a little implausible.  I know it’s a hair-splitting detail but I read a lot of articles on absinthe and opium when writing a paper about addiction in Victorian literature.  If Nash needed a black-out level party she could have had them drink a load of nasty whiskey; it feels like the absinthe was used for the exotic-ness.)

music notes · The Voice

The Voice: Live Eliminations April 17, 2012

So after last night’s cut-one-team-member bad-surprise The Voice is back to cut another member from Team Blake and Christina.

First up – a performance by British group (?techno boy band) the Wanted with an assist by Blake’s team.  I wasn’t really familiar with them and it was an…adequate performance.  I wasn’t impressed by the song or group (and you couldn’t hear Blake’s team members).  I was actually more worried for the dancers considering at least one of them nearly tripped over the white backdrop when it was dropped right where they were danced.  Bad staging decision.

Who was saved (after Carson stalled for frickin’ ever – srsly?)?  From Team Christina it was Chris (FUCK YEAH!!!!!!!) and America voted through Jermaine on Blake’s team (surprising, I thought it would be Erin but I like him, too).

Team Christina singoff:

  • Ashley chose “You and I” – I didn’t quite like the quieter ending, needed a bit more of a bang but she sounded good.
  • Lindsay went with “Please Don’t Go” – such a good choice for her because she tapped into the coffeeshop roots she is used to; she’s grown a lot because I think the Lindsay from the blind auditions wouldn’t have looked at the audience or shown so much emotion

Oh, look, what a surprise (I’m with Carson – that was so not a surprise) it’s Justin Bieber.  He brought a clip from his new video from “Boyfriend”.  Eh, color me bored.  It was barely thirty seconds of video where he looked like an overly groomed tweener being groped by hands.  He rapped, it was OK.  (Aaaaand, he’s going to be on The Voice in three weeks.  Meeeehhh)

Christina saved: Lindsay!  (I really don’t have an opinion, they’re both good singers and either would have been a good choice)

Team Blake singoff:

  • Erin went with “Proud Mary” – it’s a great choice for her vocally because she’s got a big voice and she uses it.  Go Erin!
  • Then RaeLynn sang “If I Die Young” – ok, that much styling is really annoying; she doesn’t really talk like with such an exaggerated accent so why sing like that?  If it were my choice, I’d certainly not keep her with that accent.  Also, this song is really poignant (and sad) and she so doesn’t pull that off.

Blake saved: Erin!  (Thank you, because I don’t think I could have handled another week of RaeLynn.  She’s cute and all but the yowling was getting out of control)

Side notes:

  • caught the trailer for Dark Shadows – is it just me, or is Johnny Depp just playing yet another facet of his always-witty-and-wacky Captain Jack persona only more Nightmare Before Christmas in color palatte as opposed to Alice in Wonderland Technicolor?  It’s supposed to be wierd.  Not daft.
  • CeeLo has had Dorothy’s ruby slippers enlarged and made into a fabulous blazer.  Love it.
  • People, it is RUDE AS HELL to yell “We Love You, [fill in the blank]” while the person is trying to talk to the performer on the stage.  You look like a moron, please be an adult and a good audience member.
  • Carson needs to not stall so much early in the show then he wouldn’t get that harried/freaked out look as the show starts to run long.
music notes · The Voice

The Voice: First Quarterfinals April 16, 2012

For the quarterfinals of The Voice, not only will the audience “save” a singer from each team but each coach will have to immediately cut one team member.  Ouch!  None of the coaches are happy about that surprise.

Surprise!  Xtina performed “Stronger” with her team and the Crenshaw High School Choir.  Great sounding performance but she needs to rethink the bustier/panties outfit.  It wasn’t flattering.  Although I did enjoy her little country intro just to tease Blake.  I do like how Christina tries to give her team good pointers, getting them exposure outside the show.

Maroon5 (drool, Adam!) premiered their new single “Payphone” featuring Wiz Khalifa (and I just cheated to look up the spelling on iTunes).  Definitely a Maroon5 song.  I liked it.

Team Blake also performed with their coach on his single “Heartbreak”.  Of the two group performances I liked this one better.  It showed the singers to better advantage.

The performances!

  • Raelynn – singing “She’s Country” by Jason Aldean
    • I have to admit it, she is cute as can be.  I have trouble putting her voice together with how young she is.  If I close my eyes, she totally works for me as a country artist.  If I watch her, I just don’t believe the “sexiness” she adds to her performance.  She isn’t old enough and she doesn’t really need it.  Her diction was much better this performance which was something I didn’t like two weeks ago.  I also worry that she sings and growls so hard that she’s doing some vocal damage.  I’d like to see her do a softer piece once.
  • Jesse – singing “Halo” by Beyonce (total aside: Xtina’s red studio mic/stand cracks me up everytime)
    • It’s an interesting choice.  Initially I was worried that they had set the arrangement too high but he warmed into it as the song along.  The staging was so sweet with all the pictures of his little girl.  He really does put his heart into every performance and he deserves to move forward.  He’s one of my favorites.
  • Jordis – singing “A Little Bit Stronger” by Sara Evans
    • This is such a change from her rock performances.  Hearing her sing with vulnerability, so lovely.  I really liked this choice for her.  She had such a nice tone to her voice and I hadn’t heard that before.  She is one of my favorites, too.
  • Ashley – singing “Foolish Games” by Jewel
    • The introduction wasn’t my favorite – she was lost behind the guitar until the second phrase when she brought up the volume.  She really went for it but she sounded like she was pushing way too hard.  It got really pitchy, especially the big climax note – that one was sour.  The arrangement was really good, since I don’t think she could have carried the original arrangement.
  • Erin – singing “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele
    • Erin is absolutely one of my favorite singers on this show.  Not only is she crazy-talented she has got the strongest backbone.  She is the only singer on this show as yet to take on Adele and make the performance and song her own.  Absolutely solid.  I loved it – voted, bought the single.  I’d love to see her in the finals.  (I thought the phrasing was good – but you know you did a great job when the criticism is a point that most singers don’t even get to).
  • Lindsay – singing “Part of Me” by Katy Perry
    • I’m not a gigantic Katy Perry fan (I think she’s annoying) so Lindsay’s performance was pretty fresh for me (CeeLo hasn’t heard this song before, either?  Random).  I think she sounded better on the whole than last week but she really needs to keep her breath support up because she loses her pitch on the longer notes (as pointed out by the coaches).  Her pants, however, are an egregious party foul and ought to be burned.  Hideous.
  • Jermaine – singing “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins
    • This was a great choice for him.  He connected more with this performance and it was less “polished”.  He took the song a little more soul than rock power ballad and it worked for him.
  • Chris – singing “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay
    • Such a great choice for him.  The long phrases show off his breath control to perfection.  And that is what voice training is for.  Also, his pitch is absolutely rock solid.  I love him, I want to see him win.  We need more classical singers in this world! (Note to Adam: while I also would like to see him sing opera, or a more classical piece, it would probably go over better in the style of the East Village Opera Company.  Hmm, speaking of, they do a great “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca that he would totally kill).

Christina is up first for an elimination:  wow, she chose to let Jesse go.
(Jesus, this is harsh – worst idea the producers for this show ever had because it felt like the air got sucked out of the auditorium when Christina announced his name).  I perhaps might have gone with Ashley, but as long as it wasn’t Chris I was good.
Blake’s choice: JORDIS!??!????  WTF?????  Blake, that was so wrong.  What a cop-out.  Of the four performances of his team tonight she gave one of the best.  He totally has a favorite *cough* RaeLynn *cough* – she gave the weakest performance of the four and so, following the premise that the judging is based on the performances as given, ought to have been let go.

*Total sidenote: You can’t even purchase the single for the two singers eliminated – Jordis, I love you, I think you totally got a raw deal, and I would so buy the song from your performance tonight.

Romantic Reads

Eloisa James: The Duchess Quartet

Back to Eloisa James and an earlier series: her Duchess Quartet.

The first book, Duchess in Love, introduces us to Ambrogina (Gina), the Duchess of Girton.  She was married to Cam when she was eleven (illegal) and the groom (eighteen) promptly decamped to Greece to be a sculptor.  Gina is now all grown up and impatient to actually be a wife.  She finds a suitor – Sebastian Bonnington – and decides that she ought to have her marriage annulled so she can marry the very proper and very present marquess.  At a house party – and it’s one of those house parties where is seems no one sleeps in their own bed – Cam shows up, hunks of pink marble in tow, to throw a wrench in those plans.  Meanwhile, Gina’s friend Esme decides that it’s time she and her aimiable-but-infatuated-with-his-mistress husband to try for an heir whilst another friend, Carola, starts to reconcile with her estranged husband Tuppy (Tuppy?).

There are sooo many plotlines in this book.  Gina uncovers a secret about her past, the prudish Sebastian constantly picks on Esme for her outrageous lifestyle (even though he secretly wants in her knickers), there’s a bit about thieving from a sculpture, a reading from Shakespeare that gets everyone all hot and bothered, and another character, Helene, the Countess of Godwin, who is also estranged from her husband.  Oy.  And then everyone starts to try and reconcile and stuff really gets all crazy-pants.  The cute and funny bits that make Eloisa James novels got a bit lost in the multiple plotlines.  The transitions in the last few chapters were pretty shaky.

So you’d think that the next novel would give the A-plot to Esme or Helene, right?  Nope, we get an all new heroine, Lady Henrietta McClellan, and hero, Simon Darby in Fool for Love.  Simon is the now-widowed-and-pregnant Esme’s nephew by marriage; if the baby she’s carrying turns out to be Rawlings’s son, Simon is disinherited (since he has a fortune, it’s not a huge deal but the title would have been nice).  There’s some contrivance about how Henrietta and Simon meet and an issue with Henrietta herself – she’s been told she can’t have children (therefore, no marital relations) due to a congenital hip deformity.  When Simon withdraws his suit because he isn’t interested in a wife in name only, Henrietta writes a love letter to herself and signs Simon’s name…which of course gets out into public circulation forcing Simon and Henrietta to marry.  This actually makes the story more interesting because there is a brief, in-depth discussion of Regency birth control.  It’s pretty accurate and made me wish that Simon had thought of that in the first place.  Meanwhile Esme is besotted with her “gardener”, one Sebastian Bonnington in disguise, which leads to some interesting sexy interludes.

Esme finally gets some resolution to her plot in A Wild Pursuit.  She doesn’t get the book to herself, though, because the other romantic couple is comprised of Lady Beatrix Lennox and Stephen Fairfax-Lacey, the Earl of Spade.  Unfortunately, I really didn’t pay as much attention to the couple (they were just wallpaper).  Esme is still slumming a la DH Lawrence with her naughty gardener, though we are thankfully spared ridiculous sentiments about naming body parts.  The plotlines of the foursome becomes entangled due to everyone’s inability to be honest about their feelings and Esme’s mommy issues – her mother is dreadful.  I give James a lot of credit for doing something daring by having a very pregnant heroine – who is pregnant for the better part of two books – and is still desired and pleasured by her lover.  I do have to agree with Beatrix on the subject of Helene – if I had a husband who enticed me to elope then ran about installing an appalling number of mistresses in my household I’d stab him with a fork/take to blunt objects, too. Helene is a rather pitiable character but a bit tiresome since this has been a third book with her as a side character and she’s made little to no progress with her story.

Finally, we get to Helene’s book, Your Wicked Ways.  And Helene finally has it with her husband – she decides she wants a baby so she decides to stop being so very virtuous (since that hasn’t got her anywhere) and be very, very wicked indeed.  She wears provocative gowns, dances scandalously, and crops her hair very short in the latest outrageous style.  All this does is catch the eye of her husband, Rees.  The man is having trouble writing an opera (both he and Helene are musicians, which is what drew them together in the first place) so he strikes a deal with Helene: if she will help him with the opera, he’ll have “marital relations” with her so she can have children.

This last is the best book in the quartet, in my opinion.  It is the most polished and has the fewest side plots (there’s a B-plot romance involving Rees’s vicar brother and his most recent mistress/opera singer).  After disliking/not getting Helene’s issues in the previous books, it was nice to see her go wild.  I also liked seeing the Earl of Mayne in his pre-Essex sisters days.

Compared to the Desperate Duchesses, the Essex sisters, and the Fairy Tale novels, the Duchess Quartet is very uneven.  I didn’t like all the characters and there were too many extra plotlines.  I’d read some of the plots before (Gina and Cam had the same problems as Isidore and Simeon, Helene and Rees/Carola and Tuppy were very like Poppy and Fletcher) so they seems a bit recycled since I’d read them all so close together (but in reverse since I was reading the series newest to oldest).

(I also picked up an e-novella, A Fool Again.  Goodreads lists it as #1.5 in the series but is better off as #2.5 because the hero is Tobias Darby, brother of Simon.  It also connects the Essex sisters because Lucius Felton shows up as one of Genevieve’s suitors.)

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Paris in Love

If you’ve been following my Goodreads stream (if not the blog – sorry, it’s catching up slowly) you’ll know that I have succumbed to the call of romance novels.  I can read a 250-300 page romance novel in approximately two hours making them ideal for nights when I need to unwind after working a bookstore shift yet can’t stay up all night.  Over the course of one week I read all of Eloisa James’s Essex Sisters series (four books), the Desperate Duchesses series (six books), one of her Fairy Tales series (I’d already read the first two and the first novella), the second Fairy Tales novella, and the first book in the Duchess Quartet (did I mention that I didn’t have to work the buttressing weekends at all?).  No judging.

I have few Eloisa novels left to read for the first time (eReaders make binge shopping/reading too easy) and to tide me over until the newest Fairy Tale novel (The Ugly Duchess, due in August) I picked up Eloisa’s new memoir, Paris in Love.  In 2009 she and her Italian fellow-academic husband packed up the children, sold the house and cars, and moved to Paris for a sabbatical year.  This book is a collection of Facebook posts and tweets – little snapshots of words –  interspersed with essays musing on varying themes (French women’s style, her mother, enjoying experimenting with cooking, getting the heck out of her small town, &etc).
I was expecting Eloisa to love Paris.  They way she lovingly described the dresses of her Georigan duchesses or their homes or lavish entertainments in her novels I assumed she would describe the food and fashion she would see around her.  I expected thoughts on the many museums and attractions in Paris.   I was expecting some awkward moments of culture clash (there were).  I was not expecting this book to be so funny.
It is completely unforced humor.  It’s the way she recounts the relish with which her daughter describes returning the slap in a playground spat or how Anna is completely captivated with the Harry Potter series to the point that the Loire valley castles are the actual embodiment of Hogwarts and environs.  It’s how she describes her teenage son Luca’s hair one morning – like that of a toilet brush – or that, like any other teenager, he’s trying to drive her and her husband nuts (or that they are trying to drive him nuts).  It’s how her husband Alessandro (Goodreads has a short video of Eloisa and Alessandro on the Paris in Love page and for two seconds I thought she was married to Jonathan Pryce and I was massively jealous) goes to buy flowers in apology but comes back with none because there were too many to choose from.  He later buys some delectable cheese instead.  It’s how she has very little good luck with colorists at hair salons for most of their stay.  It’s how her Italian mother-in-law describes her “efforts” to get an extremely obese (and spoiled, let’s face it) chihauha to lose weight.  And it’s this tidbit on pages 58-59 that had me laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair:

(Setup: Anna came home in tears and told her parents the math teacher mocked her division and Alessandro has gone to talk to the teacher.  He comes back with a few promises….)  [Anna] will stop chattering in class, stop forgetting to bring her homework, and will forbear from announcing (this is a direct quote) “I didn’t learn to divide in my old school; they don’t teach that in the States.”  ‘Twas this last that invoked the math teacher’s laughter (described by Anna as mockery), but really, one can hardly blame him.

Anna, at age ten/eleven, provides a number of wonderful, humorous moments in the book with a combination of impish glee and precocious intelligence.

In between all this are Eloisa’s musings on finding her way again in this life (my phrasing, not hers).  After her mother’s death from cancer and her own diagnosis (and subsequent relatively-uncomplicated treatment and recovery – alluded to in the introduction but not described in the book, this is not a cancer memoir), she enters a kind of “gray area” – she doesn’t feel like a “survivor” but she also isn’t quite the same person either.  The year in Paris, documented by her online posts, is the permission she gives herself to enjoy her life and her family.

I loved it.  And I’m a bit jealous – I’d never have the balls to live in a foreign country (Canada I could do and the UK, because I love all things associated with afternoon tea, but I’d be stretching my limits with anything outside of my terrible traveller’s German).  I also couldn’t afford it.  Perhaps I ought to have purchased a lottery ticket in the last disgustingly large drawing.

*ETA: I have just figured out that Robert Bly is her dad.  OMG.  I Googled the poem she mentions in the book – “I Have Daughters and I Have Sons”that was published in the New Yorker during their year in Paris.