Wednesday, July 20, 2011

That Old, Familiar Pain

C-------'s getting married a week from yesterday. I'll be there, front row, center, crying because I'll be so, so happy that she finally found someone who makes her as happy as she deserves to be - which is so, so happy. As someone who went through the ups and downs of relationships simultaneously and shared in her joys and heartaches, it is so refreshing and thrilling to see her with the one man who could ever come close to deserving her. I've seen how happy she's been in the last year; the change from how things used to be is beyond dramatic.

I know I blogged about this a while back, but my thought has been confirmed: everyone was betting that I'd be the first to tie the knot. Obviously it was still a few years down the road, but it was on a lot of people's minds that R------ and I would be heading down the aisle relatively soon. Instead, it's C-------. I promise I'm not bitter, truly. I'm just... A little bruised? Feeling foolish that I'm going to my dear friend's wedding not only unmarried but single and alone? I know I should be focusing on the fact that my dear friend has found true love at last and that I get to party with some of my besties in the party-est town in the country and we're gonna get trashed and have a blast and I am, really, I am. It's just sinking in that my life plan is still stubbornly stuck to the drawing board with nothing but dirty eraser marks on it while hers is beginning to fill with color and beautiful pictures my broken pencil doesn't even dream of drawing. That's an odd metaphor but it's exactly what it looks like at this point.

But I'm going to get on a train on Thursday afternoon and party with her for the last time on Friday night and we are all going to Vegas on Sunday and she's getting married on Monday and we are going to drink and dance and celebrate that two completely random people by total chance found each other and found their soul's true self in the other. And I couldn't be happier.

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”~ Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Reviews: "The Ranger's Apprentice"

Tuesday Review: The Ranger's Apprentice, by John Flanagan

Short, slight, 15-yr old Will, an orphan with no clues as to his true identity, dreams of entering Battleschool and becoming a knight of the realm. Those dreams are dashed, however, when he is instead apprenticed to to the mysterious Ranger Corps. The Rangers are a secretive group that protects the kingdom from danger - but only ever in the shadows. As Will progresses through his training, he is tested in ways he never could have imagined - ways which bring out his true strength and character.

I love this entire series, from Will's first adventure in The Ruins of Gorlan to his most recent in The Emperor of Nihon-Ja. Each character has depth and complexity, and the individual stories are intense without exceeding the maturity level of the intended reader. This is my go-to series for kids getting into their first fantasy series around age 10, because it's so approachable and Will is such an easy character to relate to. This is an engaging fantasy series middle-schoolers can grow with as they enjoy watching Will grow from a shy young boy into a strong, self-assured Ranger in his own right. I love this series.

For more information, visit John Flanagan at his website:

Also, coming October 4, 2011, his newest (and final?) book about the Rangers, Ranger's Apprentice: The Lost Stories, in hardcover.

Happy Reading!!! ~Willow

"All the secrets of the world are contained in books. Read at your own risk."
--Lemony Snicket

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Reviews: "The Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man"

Ophelia Harrington has no desire to wed stuffy and arrogant Lord Malcolm Ashford. Stifled intellectually, socially and sexually by her family and gender role, she seeks out the only truly independent woman in London: a beautiful courtesan known only as the Swan. With some convincing and lots of training, Ophelia transforms into the most desired courtesan of her time: the Blackbird.
Piper Chase-Pierpont is a 30 year old, plain, boring senior curator at the Boston Museum of History and Culture. When her position is threatened by funding cuts, she realizes her last chance to secure her job is by creating an outstanding exhibit on the great Civil War abolitionist, Ophelia Harrington. But when Piper discovers Ophelia's secret diaries in a hidden compartment of a truck in the museum basement, her plans for the exhibit - and the recent return of an old flame - get turned upside down. Using the diaries as a guide to seduction, Piper unlocks her own independence and sexuality while unlocking the secrets of a woman long before her time.

Review: As a borderline addict of trashy romance novels, I expected this to be an Anglicized version of The Rosetti Letter. It was very similar, though far more explicit than academic, but still enjoyable. The stereotypical dowdy-academic main character was a bit frustrating, and I found it rather difficult to believe that a woman of Ophelia's social class would run away to be a professional prostitute. However, Piper's use of Ophelia's diaries was creative and her plan of seduction was refreshing after eons of novels in which the woman is the seduced.
The ending twist in both stories is both somewhat predictable while at the same time riveting (and at a point, inspiring in the gutsy-ness displayed). I give this one - for a dual-period, dual-author romance I picked up at the airport - 3.5 out of 5 stars. Be warned: there are large chunks of this books that are extremely sexually explicit - not for the faint of heart or prudish mind, i.e. I loved it.

To read up on the author's, visit their websites!
Susan Donovan
Celeste Bradley

Happy Reading!!!


“All the secrets of the world are contained in books. Read at your own risk.” -- Lemony Snicket

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Please ignore my post from earlier today. My only explanation is that I was angry - justifiably so, but still only angry. Bitter reality has sunk back in.

Everything hurts. My legs ache and my shoulders are hot and my feet are sore and I'm generally exhausted. I cleaned the cottage my aunt uses as an office today, top to bottom, ever so thorough. I needed the hours of intense, physical labor to ease my mind and I know I'm sunburned from my failed attempt at saving the world this morning but... Everything hurts.

I wish - oh, so desperately - that I could easily write off these aches and pains as the result of a long, satisfying day of work. Except I know better. This is how it always gears up. The bad spells. It starts with the ruminating, then the aches, then the head trip, then the cold, and then... I don't want to let things get that far. I thought I was getting better, really I did. And I've been doing everything I'm supposed to, haven't I? Taking the tiny white pills every morning and night, walking, getting sun, doing things that stimulate my mind, not isolating... I'm supposed to be better!

But no. Not really. I know these telltale pains. What's the phrase? Ah, yes. They are as familiar to me as a lover's embrace. But I find no comfort in them. No. What I wouldn't give to never feel them again... And it's been months. Months. But they're back and somehow I know that I'll wake up tomorrow and I'll feel fine but tomorrow night I'll be right here again, begging any and all powers of the universe to make it stop because everything hurts. My fingers aren't even cooperating as I attempt to type these words. Sleep is only a temporary relief and I'm terrified of what I become when even that isn't enough. I don't want to feel like this anymore.


Dear Friends,

You know me as Willow, but countless people in the Los Angeles, CA AND Salem, OR area know me simply as "The Free Hugs Girl." This morning, while hugging and spreading love to Oregonians at the Salem Saturday Market, I was BANNED and escorted out of a public parking lot. This has happened before, and I'm sure it will happen again, but I need your help.

I'm putting together a petition to present to the SSM (Salem Saturday Market) Manager (who conveniently refused to give his name). Please help continue the Huggers' work of spreading love and acceptance through the simple act of a hug by spreading the word of this travesty to your friends, loved ones, and anyone/everyone you know in Salem, Oregon.

Free Hugs is about love, acceptance, and instilling a sense of self-worth in anyone and everyone who passes by. No judgements, no exceptions. Fat, thin, tall, short, old, young, dog, cat, bird, race, gender... NONE of that matters. Help keep me hugging - and save the world. One hug at a time.

More info about the petition coming soon. But understand this: Mr. Manager does NOT know who he's messed with. HUGGERS UNITE!!!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday Reviews: On "Midnight in Paris"

On Midnight in Paris
cross-posted to the "Reviews" page)

Starring Owen Wilson and featuring Kathy Bates & Rachel McAdams, this film is – in this author’s mind – the epitome of what a film should be. The acting was not superior, the writing was not sublime 100% of the time, the cinematography was not impeccable, and the story could have been better.


It was thought-provoking and terribly romantic. Dear Reader, please understand that when I use the term “romantic”, I do not necessarily mean it in the sense of rose petals, doves, champagne, chocolate and pretty words. I mean (particularly in this instance) Romantic with a capital R. I speak of a state of mind, a kind of artistic sensibility that throws caution and logic to the wind. Romantics dream of personified ideals, of dreamy realities where men are noble, ladies are idyllic and beautiful, and the good guys always win – through whatever struggle or misfortune – oh, and love, love reigns supreme.

The main character was a Hollywood screenwriter struggling to become a novelist. He and his fiancé were in Paris with her parents, and met some of her college friends – one of whom was a completely pedantic asshole. He spent a good five minutes decrying the very Romantic idealism I just proclaimed. What a prick. Anyway, while the protagonist’s fiancé runs around Paris and the French countryside with this pair (worshipping every word the asshole spat, of course), he insists on seeing Paris on his own terms. He takes walks at midnight and believes that “Paris is most beautiful when it is raining.” I agree, but only because I’ve been there, done that. I strongly recommend it. On one of these midnight strolls, he is picked up by an old-fashioned car and unwittingly carried into a glittering party populated by famous writers and artists he admires. Did I mention that all of these characters are members of the “Lost Generation” who lived in Paris during the Roaring ‘20s, which he refers to as “the Golden Age”? Yep.

For those who sneer at sci-fi/time travel pieces, stop. I, too, find them distasteful. This wasn’t so much sci-fi as it was Romantic/magical realism. The time travel just…happened. There was no machinery, no flashing lights or science at all. He simply got into a car with funny-dressed people, and walked into their world. It wasn’t science, it was magic. Anyway I was thinking through the whole thing that this movie was what I dream about. You think about what the great writers said, and the way they said it and the cadence of their voices and you realize that no one talks like that anymore.

People always comment on the way I speak – because I speak the way I write and vice versa – and tell me that people don’t really talk like that anymore. My answer is always the same: if souls could speak, they would be more fluent than the gibberish that trips over our tongues today. The great writers of the past were so… eloquent in their expression. It’s a trait that I fear our society has lost (to great detriment of our self-expression as a civilization) over the years, to speedier forms of communication. Back then, we had newspapers, speech halls, books, essays, poetry, letters and spoken language that was all so beautiful. Today we have texting, e-mail, Twitter, social networking and so much media that our own voices are drowning and dying out. Eventually, we will all communicate with nothing but a series of beeps and tones. What a sad world to live in.

So despite the potentially problematic issue of time travel (which I would encourage the viewer to simply accept as part of the fantasy world that is fiction), the endearing, loveable and legendary characters brought forth by the so-called “gimmick” of time travel – from Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, even Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas – are rich and vibrant and undeniably resonant. Their talk of ideals, of literature and art and love was so passionate… It resonated with the protagonist and with myself. As a writer, I take all words to heart for they are words and words possess a magic all their own. Hearing a character embody Ernest Hemingway and speak with such force and fervor made going to the movies the best moment of my time in Salem thus far.

To conclude: Yes, the acting is not terrific, but it is still quite convincing; No, the cinematography is not perfect, but it captures the mood of Paris both then and know and even offers a taste of magical realism, completing the film; No, the writing is not impeccable, but it does its job. So to the film snobs I say don’t waste your time.

But to the Romantics, the dreamers, the silly-hearts… Buy some popcorn and get swept away.

Directed by Woody Allen
Limited release May, 2011

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” --George Bernard Shaw