Friday, September 25, 2015

Oh, Internet... {79}

First of all- thanks so much for all who entered the gift card giveaway last week- the winner has been notified!  I'd say it was a pretty successful first attempt at a giveaway, so I'll do another one soon!

Lots of awesome things happened on the internet this week- here are some of my favorites:

Miss Emma at a Pinch of Pixie Dust offered a review of the Legoland Hotel in Florida.  Obviously nothing can beat a Disney resort, but this still looks like a pretty fun place to stay!

A Beautiful Mess shared an awesome DIY for dressing up plain closet doors!

This article on clearly explains what Attachment Parenting is not.

Jamie at Petite Panoply looked adorable in this yellow shift dress.  (That silhouette has never been flattering on me but looks great on her!)

Catholic All Year talked about Enforcing the Rules When Family Isn't Supportive (which I'm sure is advice that we will never have to use in our household...)

Mary from Better than Eden posted on Elizabeth Ministry about Learning to Love in All the Wrong (to us) Ways.  I think something that a lot of people miss in discussions of the Love Languages philosophy is that marriage purposefully makes us live outside our respective comfort zones, and that challenges in learning to love each other is not a detriment to marriage- it's the whole point of marriage!

Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas is a nerd after my own heart- this week she wrote about How Hogwarts Prepared Me for the Liturgical Year.

And in honor of this week's historic visit by Pope Francis- 6 Times You Were Flat-Out Lied to About Pope Francis.  Silly media.

What awesome things happened on your internet this week?

Much love,
The Geeks

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bookish Adventures: The Paper Magician

*personal photo*
I really wanted to like this book.  (That's an ominous way to start a review, isn't it?)

The Paper Magician follows a young woman as she enters into an apprenticeship with one of the last magicians who uses paper as the medium for his magic, though she had always dreamed of bonding to metal.  Just as she starts to master the basics of paper magic, her master is attacked by a woman who has become an Excisioner- a magician who uses human blood as the medium for her magic. Our headstrong heroine embarks on a journey to rescue the stolen heart of her teacher- by finding herself inside of it.

Like I said, I wanted to like this book.  The author put a creative new spin on magic, with magicians becoming experts in one material or another.  This means that paper magicians are able to do incredibly complicated origami that comes to life, and they are also able to bring into existence words that are written on paper.  Much of it appears to be frivolous parlor tricks- both to our disgruntled heroine and to the reader- but the practical aspects eventually show themselves.  (A giant paper airplane you can ride?  I could find uses for that…)  Our heroine is relatable- a headstrong 18-year-old with her nose to the grindstone to make a living for herself and feel less like a burden on her underprivileged parents.

But for me, that's where her likeable traits end. 

I don't always have to like a main character in order to enjoy a book- Game of Thrones is chock full of characters who are obvious villains that I would never consider friends in real life, but that doesn't stop me from sitting on the edge of my seat as I read about their adventures.  But it's kind of a requirement for a main character to not be utterly annoying, especially if we never have a chance to escape her at any course of the narration.  (Like a certain Katniss Everdeen- I almost didn't finish Mockingjay because holy crap what a whiny, annoying baby.). I can't quite put a finger on what makes this girl so annoying, but I think it comes down to the way she is written.

Charlie is a clever nickname for the author, perhaps used in an effort to combat the cliché that an author will sell more books if the reader believes she is a man- but you didn't fool me, honey.  You're definitely a girl.  Know how I know?

Because Ceony is a classic example of what fanfiction authors refer to as a Mary Sue- a fictional representation of the author herself so that the author might live vicariously through this creation and do whatever it is that the author has never been able to do, which, in most cases (as in this book), is win the heart of the hot guy.  (Another famous Mary Sue you may be familiar with is a certain Bella Swan- a girl whose personality has been peppered with flaws so that the author can say See, she's so realistic! even as she gets everything she wants throughout the course of the story and can seemingly do no wrong on her thinly-veiled romantic exploits that we're supposed to pretend are totally empowering adventures.)

Because yes, ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, when our intrepid magician-in-training finds herself inside her teacher's literal heart, she falls in luuuuuurve with him.  She discovers that she wants to rescue his heart so that she might have it for herself; yes, this awkward-yet-incredibly-intelligent teenage girl who would never consider herself to be attractive though she has perfect hair and soft skin and a tiny waist that we are constantly reminded of as we read about the skirts and blouses she clothes herself in every day- she hopes that this much older man who has been married once before and who is her teacher and also, obviously, incredibly attractive…she hopes he'll fall in luuuurve with her, too, and take her as his second wife.

And it's not like you don't see the romance coming from a mile away. 

The thing about Harlequin romance stories is that they all follow a pattern.  When we meet the two characters who are destined for a tumble in the sheets before the third chapter, we are greeted with a more detailed physical description than those of the other characters (unless, of course, those characters are temporary romantic diversions for our main character).  Our soon-to-be lovers are always thrown into ridiculous, completely unrealistic scenarios that no sane woman would want to find herself in because in real life he's a rapist, not the man of your dreams (I'm looking at you, Christian Grey) that lead to increasingly annoying sexual tension before the inevitable overly-dramatic bedroom shenanigans.  And finally, there's always some hint of danger about the hunk of man-meat that our heroine lusts after- for one reason or another, this relationship seems forbidden, and that's what ends up making it so delicious, to borrow every romance author's favorite adjective.

For the record- no, this book is definitely not erotica.  There is no sex, explicit or otherwise, though there were several moments when I though that's what the author was leading up towards, as she follows the formula for a classic trashy romance to the letter.  (Also for the record- that's not why I picked this book up.  Nothing about the description makes this story sound like it's meant to be a romance, which is why it's so damn disappointing when it turns out that way.). There's one point in the story where the magician inexplicably leaves for a period of time and his teenage apprentice decides it's a good idea to go poking around his bedroom and cleans his dirty laundry.  And more than one time she watches him working in the middle of the night.  And we discover that, not only is he her master as she completes her study of magic, he is also her benefactor; he funded a scholarship specifically for her after she lost hers when she makes a scene after an important man gropes her in public- a scene which we later find out he actually observed, meaning he's defending her honor in a roundabout way.  And at a time when we're supposed to be caught up in the action and suspense and worried about where the evil villainess is, Ceony has the time to reflect forlornly on the fact that the ex-wife of the man of her dreams has a much larger bosom than she does.

Classic romance novel fodder, there.

It just all speaks to the immaturity of the author, I think.  But more so than the ridiculous romance-novel-y-ness, the author clearly did not do her research about the time and place where her novel is set.

For whatever reason, this story takes place in Victorian England- probably because the author, like everybody else, is obsessed with Downton Abbey.  Again I'll reference my fanfiction-writing-days to define the word Britspeak for you- in the Harry Potter fanfiction community, all of the best authors were hyper-aware of the fact that the story was set in England and all (or most) of the characters were British, and no one wanted the story to sound like it was written by an American teenager, so you would seek out someone to Brit-pick your piece and make sure you didn't make any mistakes in your Britspeak.  In short, there are certain words and idiomatic expressions and slang phrases that are inherently British, and those that are inherently American, and if you wanted to write a convincing story about British teenagers, you wouldn't have them talking about cellphones or pants or cigarettes- they would use the words mobiles and trousers and fags (if those were indeed the words you were looking for- pants mean underpants to Brits, so be aware of the mental image you want to paint when your attractive characters meet in the early morning in your definitely-not-a-romance-novel romance novel).  And then on top of the fact that our author exposes herself as American, she also exposes herself as of the twenty first century through her missteps in word choice. I'm not suggesting that I wish to mistake this author for Jane Austen herself, but the story would be progressing along with a very modern feel and then suddenly there would be a random, off-hand reminder that oh yes, this is supposed to be the turn of the century, though our characters are conversing as if it were 2015 and the setting does absolutely nothing for the plot.

I think what the author was attempting to do was create a steampunk-feeling story, only with magic instead of technology.  She sort of accomplishes this by treating magic as if it's no big deal- the fact that our main character is a magician does not warrant additional explanation because there seems to be no concept of "Muggles" in this world, or of the International Statute of Secrecy (my Potter obsession is showing, isn't it?).  At first, it sort of bothered me that there was no explanation of whether or not people existed in this world who didn’t possess magical ability, and if magicians needed to do anything to hide their magic from them, but eventually I decided to let it go- after all, one of the things I appreciate most about George R. R. Martin's writing is that he doesn't take the time to explain anything to his reader, really, he just respects your intelligence and expects you to keep up. So I'm pretty sure the steampunkishness is the only driving force in the setting of this story- that and the fact that we're supposed to feel that apprenticeships are a normal thing that everybody does.

Between the whole bonding-to-a-material thing and the fact that magic is not an extraordinary gift in this world, you'd think I'd be praising this author for her originality and innovation.  Alas, I can't bring myself to call her original in her rules governing magic because it seems that, in addition to watching Downton Abbey while writing this novel, she was also bingeing on Once Upon a Time.  Yes, our buxom villainess goes around sticking her hands into people's chests and ripping out their hearts, and said people do not cease living.  In a departure from the Evil Queen's magic, however, victims of this empty-chest syndrome are not able to continue walking about as if nothing happened and do suffer in the medical sense.  So. There's that.

All in all, I probably would have enjoyed this book when I was a teenager and was able to enjoy things like Twilight purely as the fluff that they are, but nowadays if I'm going to invest my time in a book, I'd like it to be, I don't know, well-written.  Even just slightly.

Read anything particularly disappointing lately?

Much love,
The Geeks

PS Go enter my  giveaway for a $50 Macy's gift card if you haven't already! 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Trying Something New- a Giveaway!

I've never done a giveaway before on this here little blog.

Normally people run giveaways when they've hit some sort of milestone- a blogiversary, a certain number of followers- but I'm involved in a sort of blogging challenge right now and this week's challenge was to do a post we've never done before we go!

Randomly, out of the blue, I'd like to give away a $50 gift card to Macy's, because I love Macy's, and you love Macy's, and we all love Macy's.  I figure when my husband brings me just-because flowers, those are the best kinds of flowers, so the same rule must apply to just-because shopping sprees, yeah?

Try your luck with the Rafflecopter below!  The contest is open until next Friday, and I'll contact the winner this time next week!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 18, 2015

Oh, Internet... {78}

Super short Oh, Internet this week but lots of substance!

Infarrantly Creative shared a delicious-looking slow cooker recipe for Thai peanut chicken- have I mentioned how excited I am that it's slow cooker season?!

Love this blue skirt on Jamie over at Petite Panoply- and those shoes!

Oh Joy! has been blogging for 10 years!  Whaaaat?  Go congratulate her!

There's a Hocus Pocus -themed show at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this year.  Yet another reason why I want to visit Disney in October one year...

Catholic All Year shared her secrets to teaching kids to read.  We're not quite worried about learning to read yet, but we've already started step one!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Oh, Internet... {77}

I know it's kind of late, but if you're sitting around this Friday evening looking for something to read, look no further:

When Marriage Feels Like Work: what a tragic thing when people encounter difficulty and would rather walk away than face it together, like they said they would at the altar.

Should I Let My Kid Dress Like a Weirdo?  And this is why Simcha Fisher is so awesome, in case you didn't know already.  Crazy hair colors and odd clothing choices do not a bad kid make.

It's OK to Skip Your 20's and Start Your Life: It's like Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas just gets me, you know?

What Does a Doula REALLY Do? I'm thinking maybe next time, we get a doula...especially if she's like Mary...

11 Affordable Online Fabric Sources: It's that time again- Hallowe'en Costume Making Time!!

Jamie at Petite Panoply did an adorable Little Shop of Horrors cosplay!  (And she looks fantastic as a blonde!!!)

What awesome things happened on your internet this week?

Much love,
The Geeks

Friday, September 4, 2015

Oh, Internet... {76}

It's been a couple of weeks since I've done an Oh, Internet... so today I'm bringing you two weeks' worth of awesomeness from across the internet!

For awesomely simple home decor projects, check out:

This incredible starburst ceiling light fixture DIY on A Beautiful Mess.  So simple, so clever!

And ABM also shared a kitchen DIY that completely transforms the walls with just a simple coat of paint!

For random awesomeness, check out:

The xkcd survey.  I'd love if you'd come back here and tell me how you answered some of the questions!

For an awesome family outfit post, check out:

Kaelah Bee and her adorable, fashionable little family.

For awesome parenting advice:

The lovely Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas shared her secrets for road trippin' with tiny kids- which is timely for us, as we just decided to skip the airport and drive straight to Gulf Shores, AL this Thanksgiving!

Kendra at Catholic All Year shared the secret to receiving communion while holding a child (a nursing infant, a struggling toddler, or the hand of a little goober)- receive on your tongue.  I figured that out rather quickly, I'm proud to say, and now it's a pretty natural way for me to receive communion, whether I'm struggling with a toddler or not.

And finally, check out this article on Ethika Politika about how the Duggars get this whole chastity thing completely wrong.  Scandals aside, I've never found it prudent for Catholics to turn to any reality tv star family as models of moral behavior, even if they seem wholesome and harmless on the surface.

What awesome things have you found on the internet lately?

Much love,
The Geeks

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Last Labor Day

*personal photo*
This time last year, this little girl went shopping for her first pair of tennis shoes, felt the excitement of her first college football opening weekend, and had a whole lot less hair on that little bitty head.

Now, shoe shopping is her favorite kind of shopping, she knows the cheers for all her favorite football teams, and she has enough hair for little bitty pigtails (if she lets me do them).

What were you doing on Labor Day last year?  What has changed since then?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Fresh Coat of Paint

It's September.  College football starts this weekend, the smell of pumpkin is in the air (of various restaurants), my morning commute involves waiting half an hour for the school buses to make it through the neighborhood, and a certain scarlett train engine full of excited students left King's Cross Station yesterday on its way to an Unplottable castle.

In the spirit of the fresh-start feeling of back-to-school time, I decided now was a good time to roll out my new blog design!

Also in the spirit of back-to-school- I don't know about you, but I'm always on the lookout for good deals on cute clothes for my little one.  Well what's more perfect for back-to-school shopping than a website that offers insanely good discounts on brand-name children's clothing and donates money to schools?

Enter: Schoola, purveyor of gently-used adorable children's clothing (and some clothes for Mom and Dad, too!).

Follow this link to save $15 on your purchase!  (As this is a referral link, I, too, will receive a $15 credit if you make a purchase after following the link, but at no additional cost to you- it's truly a win-win situation!)

And while we're talking about saving money- have you ever used Ebates?  I honestly thought it was too good to be true- follow a link from Ebates and receive cash back on your purchase- but then I followed my friend's referral link...and y'all, it's awesome.  Follow this link to explore the awesomeness (which, again, is another referral, but again, it doesn't cost you anything more) and trust me- you will never, ever shop online the same way again.

Do you get in back-to-school mode this time of year, even if no one in your household is actually going back to school?  What are your favorite sources of good deals on baby clothes?  And what do you think of the new look?

Much love,
The Geeks