A Hundred Small Lesson by Ashley Hay #Mini-Review @AtriaBooks

A Hundred Small Lessons cover

After a bad fall, Elsie Gormley has no choice but to leave her beloved house to live in a nearby nursing home. The house is sold, and a new family moves in—Lucy, her husband Ben, and their son. Right from the start, Lucy feels a connection to Elsie after discovering items she left behind, and often thinks of her and wishes she knew more about her. As Lucy settles in to her new home with hopes for the future, Elsie is caught up in memories of the past. Her memories are often focused on the house and the life she lived there as a young bride, mother, and—finally—a widowed grandmother.

What struck me most about A Hundred Small Lessons was the focus on motherhood. I remember what it was like to have a toddler in the house, and how overwhelming it could be. I also know what it’s like to look back at those years and wonder how they went by so fast… missing one thing, regretting another. It was easy for me to identify with the way both women felt, which was very nice and kept me invested in them throughout the entire story.

This was a sweet read, and I enjoyed it very much.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Atria Books.

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Author: Ashley Hay

Title: A Hundred Small Lessons

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: November 28th, 2017 by Atria Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay weaves an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human.

About the Author

Author Ashley Hay
Author Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay’s new novel, A Hundred Small Lessons, was published in Australia in April 2017 and will be published in the US in late 2017.

A writer for more than 20 years, her essays and short stories have appeared in volumes including the Griffith Review, Best Australian Essays (2003), Best Australian Short Stories (2012), and Best Australian Science Writing (2012), and have been awarded various accolades in Australia and overseas. In 2016, she received the Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing.

Author photo and (partial) bio via Goodreads.

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Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy by Hallie Lieberman #Mini-Review

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy cover

The first person to receive a PhD in the history of sex toys, Hallie Lieberman has written a fascinating book that tells you everything you wanted to know on the subject, and more. For example, did you know that until as recently as 2008, it was illegal to sell sex toys in Texas? Obscenity laws there (and elsewhere) set the stage for decades-worth of headaches and careful maneuvering for anyone involved in selling them. Regardless of the specific topic—whether it’s about manufacturing, advertising, or selling—there is always a story to tell on how things were done, and how they evolved over the years.

If you enjoy learning the history of how commonplace items came to be, this is an interesting read.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Pegasus Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Hallie Lieberman

Title: Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Published: November 7th, 2017 by Pegasus Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

Once only whispered about in clandestine corners, vibrators have become just another accessory for the suburban soccer mom, showing up in all manner of pop culture, from sitcoms to talk shows to the pages of glossy women’s magazines. But how did these once-taboo toys become so socially acceptable? The journey of the devices to the cultural mainstream is a surprisingly stimulating one.

In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman—who holds the world’s first PhD in the history of sex toys—starts at the beginning, tracing the tale from lubricant in Ancient Greece to the very first condom in 1560 to advertisements touting devices as medical equipment in 19th-century magazines. She looks in particular from the period of major change from the 1950s through the present, when sex toys evolved from symbols of female emancipation to tools in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consumerist marital aids to today’s mainstays of pop culture. The story is populated with a cast of vivid and fascinating characters including Dell Williams, founder of the first feminist sex toy store, Eve’s Garden; Betty Dodson, who pioneered “Bodysex” workshops in the 1960s to help women discover vibrators and ran Good Vibrations, a sex toy store and vibrator museum; and Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic engineer who invented the silicone dildo and lobbied Dodson and Williams to sell them in their stores. And these personal dramas are all set against a backdrop of changing American attitudes toward sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues, and more.

Both educational and titillating, Buzz will make readers think quite differently about those secret items hiding in bedside drawers across the nation.

About the Author

Hallie Lieberman
Hallie Lieberman

Lieberman obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2014, with a dissertation on Sex Toy History. Her writing has been published in Bitch, Bust, Eater, The Forward, and Inside Higher Ed, among others. She is often featured on podcasts such as “In Bed With Susie Bright” and Bitch Magazine’s “Popaganda.” She has given talks at many university events and conferences. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Author photo and bio via author’s website.

Dead Thoughts: “Monsters” #TWD S8, Ep 3

Dead Thoughts graphic

Welcome to this week’s edition of Dead Thoughts, in which I write about my thoughts on the latest episode of The Walking Dead. I love the show so there won’t be any “the show isn’t as great as it used to be’ nonsense here, but I will be nitpicking when something stupid (in my opinion) happens. Let’s get started!

Season 8, Episode 3:  “Monsters”

Airdate: November 5th, 2017

After everything that happened in episode two, it was torture having to wait until this morning to stream the latest episode on Amazon Video. But hey, not having to sit through commercials is a major bonus, so there is an upside to waiting a few hours.

Buh-Bye Morales!

Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) Photo by Gene Page/AMC

It looks like Morales gets the prize as the character with the briefest return. (I’m not counting the time Rick was delusional and thought he saw Shane in Woodbury.) He was able to monologue long enough for us to find out he and his family never made it to Birmingham, the Saviors “saved” him afterwards, and considers himself to be no different from Rick—whom he called a monster. He doesn’t care that he once knew him, nor does it matter to Morales that Glenn was brutally killed in front of his pregnant wife. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We get it, dude. You’re a full-on Savior now. Rick tried to make you see how bad the Saviors were, but—unfortunately for you—Daryl wasn’t interested in chatting with a guy he barely knew several years ago.

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I don’t think anyone was surprised when Daryl killed Morales—it’s the only possible thing that could have happened. I’ve seen many people describing this reunion with Morales as nothing more than the means to cause a morality conflict for Rick. I suppose it was, but Rick had literally just gone through that when he realized he’d killed Gracie’s father—which was far more impactful than trying to get through to Morales, in my opinion. Even though I’d always wondered what happened to Morales and his family, his brief return to the show was pretty pointless. I mean, Rick has spent more time with Eugene than he ever did Morales, but that didn’t stop him from turning on Eugene once he declared himself to be with Negan. So why  waste time with Morales? Or in being upset when Daryl killed him? It doesn’t make sense, unless Rick was transferring the guilt he felt over killing Gracie’s father into trying to save Morales?

Goodbye Eric

Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Another predictable event was the death of Eric—poor guy never had a chance of recovery. He knew it, and so did Aaron, even though he tried to deny it. I’ve seen people commenting that the final scene between them fell flat, but I disagree. Eric used what were likely his final moments encouraging Aaron to get back into the fight, reminding him that he was needed there, not with him. Aaron’s grief and self-blame for Eric’s mortal wound—insisting Eric would never have been there if it weren’t for him—was a deeply poignant moment that most characters on the show don’t have the opportunity to have. For him to return and discover Eric was gone, and to see him newly-turned and shuffling off with other walkers in the distance was terribly sad, indeed.

I was surprised that Aaron took Gracie to the Hilltop. I assumed that Rick would take her back to Alexandria with him, because the stuffed rabbit in Gracie’s crib is the same one we see Judith (or was it Gracie?) holding in the flash-forward sequence in episode one. The rabbit was not with the baby when Rick brought her out, though… so much for assumptions, I guess!

Why Fight Saviors When You Can Fight Each Other?

Paul "Jesus" Rovia (Tom Payne) and Morgan Jones (Lennie James) Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Paul “Jesus” Rovia (Tom Payne) and Morgan Jones (Lennie James) Photo by Gene Page/AMC

I loved this scene! Morgan’s teetering on the precipice of sanity once more, and he does not agree with Jesus about taking the Saviors prisoner at all. He was willing to go along with it until walkers came rolling down the hill (how funny was that?!) and some of the Saviors—including that little weasel, Jared—managed to escape while the group was distracted by the walkers. Morgan pursued, and was able to shoot one of them before Jesus interfered and stopped him. Dude! Could you not wait two seconds and give Morgan time to put Jared out of everyone’s misery? Argh! I get why Jesus wants to take them prisoner, but I still say it’s the wrong call. It’s going to be Randall in the shed all over again: It’s too dangerous to let them go, but it’s just as dangerous to hold them prisoner and let them live.

Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson), Paul "Jesus" Rovia (Tom Payne) and Morgan Jones (Lennie James) Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson), Paul “Jesus” Rovia (Tom Payne) and Morgan Jones (Lennie James) Photo by Gene Page/AMC

A word of advice, Jesus? Never give a sharp, pointy stick back to a man on the brink of insanity. He might stab you in the throat with it before he remembers you’re his friend. Moving on…

Gregory Arrives at the Hilltop

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Gregory (Xander Berkeley)

Not seeing Negan and Gabriel for the second week in a row is ALMOST made up for by seeing Gregory’s return to the hilltop. He shows up driving Gabriel’s car, which Maggie calls him out on—after they make him sweat it out a bit outside the closed gate, only to open it up just enough for him to be seen.

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Gregory (Xander Berkeley)

I laughed so hard when Gregory tried to talk his way out of what happened at the main Savior compound and lied about Cal, not knowing he was right there listening to every word. (He deserved worse than a not-so-friendly gesture, though!) At first, I thought Maggie wasn’t going to let him in… and then I realized that (if he were alive) Glenn would said they needed to open the gate for him. I think that, more than anything else, is why Maggie allowed him to come inside. It’s what Glenn would have done.

I’m curious to see if she is willing to be so accommodating to the Saviors, however. Gregory certainly voiced his opinion, not caring that no one looks to him as the leader of the Hilltop anymore. But will Maggie feel the same way? Jesus thinks she’ll side with him in keeping them prisoner, but Tara—like Morgan— thinks she’ll agree they should be killed. I can easily see Maggie going along with either decision. She wants vengeance for Glenn’s death, and to stop the Saviors reign of terror… and yet, she wants to build a future worth having, too. Will it be her desire for vengeance or a merciful intention that decides their fate? Either way, it’s sure to cause drama of some kind.

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King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) Photo by Gene Page/AMC

When things are going your way, for goodness’ sake, don’t jinx it by talking about it!

As soon as Ezekiel spoke with such wonder about how they’d lost “not a one”, I knew some bad shit was about to go down. I wasn’t sharp-eyed enough to see whatever it was that Ezekiel saw, but the shooting started before I had time to wonder about it. I’d already forgotten that Rick and Daryl found out that the big guns were moved to another location the day before, but it didn’t take me long to realize Carol and Ezekiel’s group had found them. I was so shocked by it I didn’t look too closely at those who fell. The only thing I remember clearly is a group of men who covered Ezekiel to ensure his safety— likely at the cost of their own lives. What a cliffhanger!

What I’m Hoping to See Next Week

Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Photo by Gene Page/AMC

We’ve been left hanging long enough… it’s time to go back to Negan and Gabriel! They’re surrounded by walkers outside, and Gabriel is trapped inside with that (incredibly funny, occasionally charming) psychopath. Negan is still waiting to find out whether or not Gabriel had his “shittin’ pants” on. More to the point, it’s just not right to leave us hanging for TWO FREAKING WEEKS wondering what, if anything, Negan is going to do to Gabriel. Introduce him to Lucille? Stab him in the neck à la Rapey Davey? Or throw him outside with the walkers, like he did with Rick?

Not to mention… where the hell is Dwight? And Eugene? I doubt either one of them is dead, but I’d like to see what they’re doing. Well… I’m pretty sure Eugene found a hidey-hole to crawl into somewhere, but still. Where are they?

I’d also like to see what’s happening in Alexandria. What are Carl, Michonne, and the rest who stayed behind doing while the others are out fighting?

What’s going on at Oceanside? Will they join Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom in the fight? And what about those double-crossing Garbage People? Are they lying in wait somewhere, ready to strike on Negan’s behalf?

And where did Morgan go after the fight with Jesus was over? I didn’t see him with the group that returned to the Hilltop. Is he going to become a lone assassin, or is he off to find Rick?

Going even further back… what the hell happened to Heath?

So many questions. I doubt most of them, if any, will be answered in the next episode. This season looks to move very slowly forward, time-wise, so I expect a long wait is in store for most of the things I’m wondering about.

Final Question

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Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln)

Why is Rick taking pictures with that Polaroid camera?