In Which Nobody Puts TxtingMrDarcy in a Corner… Least of all Herself

Hello again Blogloves!

I have a confession to make. I’m sure that it’s going to surprise exactly .01% of you, but here it is:

I wrote myself into a corner.

After years of reading blogs, and loving blogs, and writing blogs, I felt the need to try to FOCUS myself.

“I should pick one thing and be really good at it!” I thought. “Every REALLY good, successful blog has an IDEA! Or a FOCUS! Or a THEME!”

Obviously, since I posted about books a great deal of the time, I pegged them as the thing that I am PASSIONATE! about, and started only posting about that.

And then? I got bored. SO bored.

If I didn’t love a book, I didn’t post about it. I got tired of trying to sound knowledgeable, and trying to formulate well-written opinions based upon my vast amount of reading. Even when I loved a book so much that I wanted to buy a notebook solely for the purpose of writing “Brooke + Life After Life” over and over again with pink puffy hearts? I still didn’t want to write about it.

I started to long to get back to just writing about LIFE again. Life, while it’s happening. Whether it’s boring and repetitious,  or fantastic and fresh every single day. That’s what I did when I started almost three years ago. (Holy crap) It worked for me.

(Example: I didn’t even blog about THE ROYAL BABY. Because I didn’t think it “fit.” How stupid is that?!)

(PS- OMG da widdle PrinceGeorgiekins and his widdle cheeks!@.)

Even while I didn’t blog for so much of this year, I tried to keep connected via Twitter, and Instagram, and other forms of social media. And even though it’s been A YEAR, the smoke has started to clear, and I’m ready to get back to interacting with all of you again. I miss the perspective that you give me- that whatever I’m going through here, there is a BIG world out there full of fun and laughter and amazing friends that I have yet to meet.

So, allow me to introduce myself, Internet.

My name is Brooke. I’ve been married for two years to my childhood sweetheart-of-sorts Army Boy.

We are parents to a devious beagle named Wesley (OF COURSE it’s after the Princess Bride.)

We live in a small town in Pennsylvania, with a lot of corn and cows, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We just sold our first home and bought our second, and I suddenly found myself a bit of a country girl.  Not, like Pioneer Woman -level country girl, but it feels close.  We dream sometimes of adventure, and when we do we do it big-time. See: Ireland in 2011 and Scotland in 2013. (The UK has my heart forever and ever.)

I am a completely unashamed book hoarder, but also share my affection with cupcakes, wine, travel and anything British.

Thank you for stopping by today, and I can’t wait to get to know you all again.

 

Six Of One…

A quick update from our neck of the woods:

Our final working pc is on its last legs, making very angry noises as I type.  Please bear with me if posting is infrequent for the next weeks or so- we’re working on getting a new one, but it may be a couple of weeks before we’re back in business. *sob*

Some of you are amazing at posting on phones, and I wish I could count that among my skills. Know that I haaaaate being cut off from my online friends and am thinking of you constantly. Also I don’t think that I could quit Twitter and Instagram without a twelve-step program.

Cross your fingers that the Computer Fairy visits us very soon!

(The new job is going very well, btw. The timing of my departure couldn’t have been better, and I’m feeling like I’ve got my feet under me in my new role. I’m even adjusting to the earlier hours and longer commute. *gasp!*

In our time without a computer, we’re going to devote some of our time to continued nesting in the casa- the upcoming three day weekend is going to be fabulous for hopefully getting a couple of rooms painted. There’s something so refreshing about making a literal mark on your home and seeing it creep its way toward the vision you have for it.

Yeah, ask me about that again in a few days after we’re done painting and have aching arms and necks. I’m sure I’ll be all sunshine and butterflies then as well.

Also!! I am still delighting in my renewed association with the local library. We stopped on Saturday and I escaped with a treasure trove of FIVE books… I’m hoping that I’m not in need of another book-related intervention. Stay tuned for my review of “Seraphina”… [*gives computer deities the stink-eye*]Actually, don’t stay tuned. Read it NOW.  You will NOT be disappointed.)

(End segue that was longer than the actual post *facepalm*.)

‘America, You Sexy Bitch’: Notable Quotes

(With relatively little elaboration/commercial interruption from yours truly)

“Unfortunately, the problem is that in America, women in the media are still treated as either Madonnas or whores… the easiest and most predictable way for a lot of men to deal with a strong woman with strong opinions is to automatically call her a slut and immediately call into question her morality and life choices…. I want women in this country to have the opportunity to be three-dimensional human beings. I want women to be accepted as smart, powerful, intelligent and in tune with their sexuality without automatically being labeled “sluts” for having those qualities.” ~ pp 54-55, Meghan

“So many other countries have mandatory military service, which I don’t think we need, but I wonder whether some sort of mandatory national service wouldn’t be a good idea for our country. Whether it’s military or educational or mentoring or park service, the list of needs we have is great and we certainly don’t lack for bored young people. I also worry that our culture is slowly becoming so fragmented that our national identity might get irretrievably diluted along the way.” ~pp 117-118, Michael

“Just as Elvis was probably inevitable, so was Obama… Both Elvis and Obama represent the collision of cultures, which is how America has always marked its own progress, from 1492 on…Both men were charismatic, inspirational figures who energized America and, then, the world…. Both were scorned and both did a lot to earn that scorn; hopefully Obama never makes any movies like Blue Hawaii.” ~p194, Michael

“So, is it fair that he won’t buy health insurance, but the public should pay for his appendectomy?

No. But it’s not fair that the government should tell him what he has to buy, either.” ~p 233, Michael

(Surprisingly, this is the section of the book that got me the MOST fired up. I can’t stand the arrogance of healthy people that refuse to buy insurance because “they’re young and healthy, and understand the risk they’re taking by not doing so.”

I had health insurance when I was getting paid $9.50 an hour as a technician at CVS. I went into the hospital to have my gallbladder removed as an outpatient, and left the hospital 3 weeks later after pancreatitis with a $76,000.00 hospital bill. Should the public have had to pay for that?)

“There’s something I sometimes forget when talking to [Meghan] about Obama. Her father lost the presidency of the United States of America to that guy. That’s got to be a tough pill to swallow… But here’s one of the things I love about Meghan McCain: even though her dad lost the election to Barack Obama, even though she has every reason to buy into the whole “Marxist/Kenyan/Socialist/Saul Alinsky/terrorist-loving crap,” she does not. Meghan McCain is committed to finding the good in her president.”~ p233, Michael

“I love a man in a Ford F-Series pickup truck, so much that my girlfriends and I have a running joke about how all men should just do themselves a favor and buy Ford pickups, because they automatically become more attractive when driving them. Seriously, I will take a man in a Ford any day of the week over a man in a BMW.” ~p244, Meghan

(She gets the Car Question, ladies! It never fails!)

“I think that ended up being the funniest part about our assumed divide. That our roles completely reverse when we step away from how we want our government run and look closer at how we live our own personal lives. Labels are stupid.” ~p308, Meghan

Thank you for joining me on my book club read of America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom for Mandy’s Blogger Book Club! If any of the previous posts have intrigued you at all, or if you just want to examine your political leanings before the election in November, I highly recommend you pick up a copy and give it a read.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Skip the Blood Pudding” Edition

 “An Irish Country Doctor”~ Patrick Taylor

Plot Summary (From Amazon): Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there, but already he knows that there is nowhere he would rather live than in the emerald hills and dales of Northern Ireland. The proud owner of a spanking-new medical degree and little else in the way of worldly possessions, Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice.

At least until he meets Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.

The older physician, whose motto is to never let the patients get the upper hand, has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can’t decide if the pugnacious O’Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met, or the best teacher he could ever hope for….

Soundtrack: “Learn Me Right” ~ Birdy & Mumford and Sons (from the “Brave” soundtrack)

Best Enjoyed With: A cup of tea and some soda bread (Or a dram of Jamesons!)

I have a confession to make, friends. See, I used to have a very intimate relationship with my local library. I worked there one summer in college, and I frequented its cool dim interior to keep myself supplied with escapist novels while working the production line at our local chocolate factory. Nothing made down-time go faster than the twisted tales of Stephen King or a steamy bodice ripper.

And then? Once I started working after college and had less limitations on my funds? I dropped the library. Its hours weren’t always convenient, and the instant gratification of buying what I wanted when I wanted it was too alluring.

I am so ashamed.

My point? About two weeks ago, Army Boy and I started planning for our trip to New Hampshire, and we knew we needed something for the ride. Army Boy is not a wonderful car traveler, to say the least. Plagued with car sickness if he tries to do, well, anything, he gets rather impatient during lengthy road trips. I thought that an audiobook or two just might be the solution to our problem, and we decided it was time to renew our prehistoric library cards.

I had forgotten just how amazingly fun the library is! I could walk in… and pick up a book I wanted to read, and they’d just GIVE IT TO ME. FOR FREE. This could escalate my book-hoarding tendencies to a whole new level, you realize. Amazon is probably going to come to my house wondering why I’m not buying all the things lately.

I’d been wanting to start reading this series by Patrick Taylor, and imagine my delight when they had a copy in stock. I’ve had the worst case of wanderlust lately, and thought that reading about Ireland may help to quiet the urge to obsessively plan hypothetical overseas trips. (It didn’t, much.)

From the book description, I got the idea that these books would be similar to James Herriot and I wasn’t far off. Yes, the plots are a little predictable and the characters occasionally twee, but that’s really what I was hoping for. I wanted a sweet, comfortable story that would allow me to mentally travel abroad and experience the quirks of being a country doctor in the 1960s.

Taylor has created a story populated with notable characters who linger with you after the tale is over. Dr Fingal O’Reilly is a well-meaning bear of a man who has mastered the art of treating country practice after years in a small town. Seeing Barry Laverty taken down a peg during the course of the book is entertaining, and he also learns lessons about not holding himself to impossibly high standards. Their housekeeper Mrs. Kincaid (or “Kinky” as she’s known for most of the book) is always ready with a story or a treat, and even the animal inhabitants of the house have their own personalities.

The villagers, their ailments and their sometimes unconventional treatments are just as interesting as the rural setting. It’s jarring to be taken back to a time and place where a woman had to wait a week for the results of a pregnancy test, and St John’s Wort tea was the preferred treatment for depression (or “feeling a bit off” as the patient describes it.).

This was a simple, enjoyable read and I’ll definitely continue with the next book in the series.

Four out of Five Rocking Ducks.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Gilt-y Pleasures” Edition (See what I did there?)

Gilt~ Katherine Longshore

Plot Summary (from Amazon):

In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free–

and love comes at the highest price of all.

 When Kitty Tylney’s best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII’s heart and brings Kitty to court, she’s thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat’s shadow, Kitty’s now caught between two men–the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat’s meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Soundtrack: “Secret” by The Pierces

“Because two can keep a secret when one of them is dead…”

After finishing A Storm of Swords, reading Gilt was the literary equivalent of taking a bite of chocolate mousse- rich and light, and a wonderful treat. The story takes a closer look at the life and untimely death of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, as told through the eyes of her supposed childhood confidante Kitty Tylney.

Catherine Howard was, in essence, Henry’s midlife crisis wife. He had divorced his first wife for Anne Boleyn, only to turn around and execute her for treason. His third wife (and some argue the love of his life) Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to his heir, and his attempt at a fourth marriage with Anne of Cleves was a disaster. In his fifties and starting to face his own mortality, Henry sought to reclaim some of the sparkle of his youth, and how better to do so than to marry a woman less than half his age? (Uh, knock knock… I can think of a LOT of ways, bud.)

In this book, Cat is portrayed as always being the star of the show. From the “Queen of Misrule” at the Dowager Duchess’s house to the eventual Queen of England, all of Cat’s life was spent, well, thinking of Cat. She was the Blair Waldorf of Tudor England, and if she wanted to sit on the Met steps with you or bring you to court, you considered yourself lucky to escape the tedium of servitude in the country. She has never been portrayed terribly sympathetically, and Katherine Longshore does little to change that fact. She gives us a Cat who is self-obsessed, selfish, and not above trying anything to advance her own status. All of life is a game, and throughout the book we see Cat “practicing” her scenes, from the perfect curtsy to get her boobs noticed at court, to the most effective way to place her head on the block for her execution.

(Should I have thrown a “spoiler alert” there?? It’s history… there’s not much I can do to keep that little tidbit from you.)

We are treated to a far more delicious character in Kitty Tylney, Cat’s best friend and frequent partner-in-crime. Of less prominent social status, Kitty considers herself lucky to be one of the ladies chosen to be in Cat’s inner circle. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize exactly how thorny her life is about to become once she’s entrusted with all of the Queen’s secrets. She starts the book as a bit of a wallflower, but her evolution to a woman strong enough to stand up to the Queen and some smarmy courtiers is a pleasure to observe.

In addition to our main characters, Ms Longshore populates her novel with some other great historical figures- Archbishop Cranmer, the devious Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas Culpepper are among some of the notable ones. A great scene between Kitty and Culpepper colors the tone of their relationship throughout the novel, and gives a striking example of the darker side of court life. There is a pseudo-love triangle, though it is used more to examine the difference between genuine affection and the dance of courtly “love.” The knowledge of the inevitable ending lends a bit of knife-edged tension to the whole tale- the reader is just waiting to see what will lead to the Queen’s eventual undoing.

I think that this is a well-written version of tale of the ill-fated queen, and I hope that the fact that it’s Young Adult will grab the attention and imagination of a new population who may not yet have been exposed to historical fiction.

Four out of Five Emerald Brooches.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: The People’s Princess Edition

Diana: Her True Story~ Andrew Morton

Plot Summary (From Amazon) : Diana: Her True Story was originally published in 1992 under the guise of a quasi-authorized biography, with mostly unnamed courtiers and royalty as the accredited sources. It instantly became a sizzling, international bestseller that lanced the boil of Windsor family dysfunction, triggering a chain of events that led to Charles and Diana’s divorce. After her tragic death in 1997, Morton revealed that Diana had not only been the main source for the book, but had also edited his original drafts for accuracy. In return for this gold mine of information, Diana wanted complete anonymity for fear of retaliation from the queen–a fear that seems reasonably justified after reading the icy, inhuman portrayal of Her Majesty.

Beyond the racy and irregular royals, Diana: Her True Story gives a full account of the princess’s rocky childhood, her bouts with bulimia, the rejection she felt by Charles and the royal family, and her tenacious ability to overcome adversity.

Let’s skip the soundtrack on this one, shall we? It feels a little too light-hearted for the subject matter.

After watching the 2010 mini-series “The Queen,” I was intrigued to read the scandalous book that brought so much angst to the royal family by its very publication. At the time, this biography drew the curtain back on what Diana’s life was really like among the Windsors, and the immense sense of isolation she felt. Initially published as a collection of stories from anonymous sources, Andrew Morton later revealed that a great deal of the text came directly from the Princess herself.

I can see how the book would have been a total scandal at the time, from shattering the image of the “People’s Princess” by revealing a woman at war with her own demons, to portraying the monarchy as cold and out of touch. It’s particularly poignant now, from what we are shown of the relationship that Prince William and Kate cultivated over a number of years, to view the seeming contrast between William’s marriage and his mother’s.

The book portrays Prince Charles horribly, as an emotionally stunted creature who missed his chance with his true love Camilla Parker-Bowles, and settled for Diana to quiet the demands for an heir. He even informs Diana that should “this marriage business” not work out, he would return to his bachelor ways. He made no secret throughout their marriage of his continued closeness to Camilla, even wearing cufflinks from her on his honeymoon with Diana. His disappointment upon the birth of Prince Harry (instead of his wished-for daughter) was the emotional nail in the coffin of his marriage to Diana, and their relationship never recovered.

Diana is depicted as unspeakably lonely and trapped within the royal system, feeling that she could trust very few and that every aspect of her life was on display. She battled depression and bulimia (which was emphasized far too many times throughout the book), while struggling to find her own sense of purpose. She received very little positive reinforcement from the royal family on her own successful public image, and frequently had to deal with Charles’ jealousy about her popularity. (PS- Did I mention the bulimia?)

All in all, this was a very somber read, but it was clear how much joy William and Harry brought their mother. She in turn exposed them to experiences not typically given to the royal family, including bringing them on her many charity visits. Her influence is visible in the open way they interact with the public today.

Although I enjoyed the subject matter, I wasn’t overly fond of Morton’s writing style, which tended to lean a little too much toward name-dropping and was extremely dry. I’m currently reading “Elizabeth The Queen,” and the difference between the authors’ styles is extremely evident. I can’t seem to get enough of Sally Bedell Smith’s charming anecdotes about HRH.

Three out of Five Scandalous Phone Calls.

I’m Fairly Certain That I Was Born On The Wrong Continent.

It seems like the Summer Bug has bitten me earlier this year, as my posting has turned over more and more to book reviews and less and less to the sharing of feeeeeeeeeeelings and anecdotes and little witticisms from daily life. Don’t worry! Those are happening! I just… tend to forget about them soon after and then curse myself because remember that conversation about the stuff with the things?! That would have been so great for mah blawg!

We’ve also hit that wonderful stretch of the year comprising of far too many three-day weekends, leading my motivation during the work weeks to be close to nil. This year, we took time to work on our friends’ vineyard, which was a remarkable if back-breaking day. The next weekend was Army Boy’s birthday, then memorial day, and now my own birthday is rapidly approaching. There has been a LOT of good food and good times going on around here.

Ooo! This week is BEA (BookExpo America, for those who do NOT look at a conference revolving totally around books and publishing to be akin to Christmas), and I’ve decided to participate in Armchair BEA for the first time. Though I’m slackerlicious on the itinerary of posting, it’s been a blast to follow along and discover loads of new book bloggers along the way. To anyone who may have clicked over from there, *waves frantically and nerdtastically!*

The job search? Still ongoing. I can’t believe that we’re approaching a year since the “annual review” which led to my beginning to take steps to make a serious move. It is NOT a fun time to be looking to change jobs, especially when a number of potential employers think it’s totally fun to ignore your salary requirements and then act shocked when you decline their laughable “offers.” (Seriously, why would I really be interested in making $8,000 less a year than I am now? Where is the logic there??)

Perhaps as a direct response to my job search woes, I spent most of the month of May indulging in some fabulous dystopian reads. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but once I saw that I had a theme going I had no reason to stop. If we’re buds on Instagram, you’ve already seen my self-imposed theme for the month of June: All Royalty, All The Time.

It’s only natural that I should wish to vicariously celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in my own quirky way. (Aside from crashing on my couch in my pjs and forcing Wesley to watch every bit of coverage we could find. He might protest, but he was up with me at 5am for Will and Kate’s wedding, which I think says it all.) I’ve got some great reads lined up for this month, including the scandalous biography of Diana written by Andrew Morton, Untold Story by Monica Ali, “Sex with Kings…” by Eleanor Herman (“Sex with the Queen…” if I have time!), and if the birthday fairies are good, Elizabeth The Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith.

PLUS! I have some NONFICTION mixed in there!! My third grade teacher would be so proud.

So, while I may WISH that I had been in London to watch the Flotilla (Dude, that’s been a party since the time of Henry VIII) and drink lots of things to the health of Elizabeth (and Prince Phillip, poor thing), I shall keep a stiff upper lip and pay tribute in my own way. Perhaps while wearing a jaunty hat. I am not sure about that part yet. It may push me a bit over the edge of “ridiculous,” non?