Victoria Simpson
Okay, first off, I am so terribly sorry I was gone so long!  Life is insanity.  Secondly, I read but did not finish The Letters of Abelard and Heloise.  It was terrible.  That's a one and a half to two stars from me.  This review is actually a paper I had to write on it.  You'll get the gist of the book from reading it.

"The story of Abelard and Heloise is a tragic love story.  A scholar had a forbidden love affair with his student.  They were discovered.  Heloise goes to a convent and takes orders, and Abelard went on teaching until Heloise’s uncle betrayed him.  Abelard was castrated, and then he too took orders.  The letters between these two shows how their love continues even after these events.  However, their love affair became even more interesting due to their complicated gender dynamic.  At first glance, the dynamic between the two looks very traditional, but as one delves further into their discussions of God and love, the relationship begins to look like one of an odd power struggle.  
On the surface, Abelard looks like he was the dominant one in the relationship.  He was her tutor.  Abelard still acted like he was “in charge of her” when writing the letters to Heloise.  This particular passage is interesting to look at because it is passive-aggressive:
“So, if you still watch over your daughters as carefully as you did previously over your sisters, it is sufficient to make me believe that any teaching or exhortation from me now would be wholly superfluous.  If, on the other hand, in your humility you think differently, and you feel that you have need of my instruction and writings in matters pertaining to God, write to me what you want so that I may answer as God permits me” (56).
So, with that passage, there is evidence of Abelard trying to still control his pupil, who he beat when they were in the first flush of love, while he used God as an excuse for his continual attempts to control her.  In fact, Abelard’s “instructions of God” to Heloise all appear to be suspiciously controlling.  He also seemed agitated with her at times, such as the fifth letter.  
“The whole of your last letter is given up to a recital of your misery over the wrongs you suffer, and these, I note, are on four counts.....I have decided to answer you on each point in turn, no so much in self-justification as for your own enlightenment and encouragement, so that you will more willingly grant my own request when you understand that they have a basis of reason, listen to me more attentively on the subject of your own pleas as you find me less to blame in my own and be less ready to refuse me when you see me less deserving of reproach” (72).
Obviously, Heloise challenged the great Abelard’s power, and this was his rebuke.  Abelard was desperately trying to remain in charge of Heloise.  
However, Heloise’s actions put an interesting spin on this story, preventing it from looking like it was a traditional dynamic.  She began her letters by referring to him as “lord”, and said that he should not address her like one would an equal or superior (63).  In the same letter, the fourth letter to be exact, Heloise tried to passive-aggressively place herself in power.  She began discussing women and how they were the downfall of men.  Yet, the more she wrote about this, the more women start to look like they are the ones in control: “Only the woman he had sex with could infatuate Solomon, wisest of all men” (67).  While this is painting women as evil or temptresses, this also gives them power.  Heloise also posits herself as temptress of Abelard saying, “so that at least by long contrition I can make some amends for your pain form the wound inflicted on you” (67).  This implies she was the reason he was punished, and therefore, she is somewhat placing herself on the same plane as Delilah and others.  This puts her in a place of power over Abelard.  As this book continues on, there are other places where she seeks to instruct him and vice versa.
This book appears to be a book about a man and a woman who were love with each other and had a great love for God.  While they both were very devout to God, at points they seem to be using God and the Bible as weapons to gain control over the other instead of encouraging the other in their Christian path.  The two argued in the letters many times.  Their love does not seem so deep after a while.  They had a love of arguing with each other, they enjoyed their sex together, but did they really love each other?  Simply ending a letter with romantic phrases does not equal love.  Perhaps they had a rough sort of love, like an old married couple, but they lacked a great deal of tenderness that one would expect to see.  Either way, the relationship between the two of them has managed to last throughout time. "

I would like to point out also that in terms of gender dynamic, I loathe power struggles.  I prefer to recognize the strengths of each gender, and that the two work together.  This book does none of that.  They are both weak individuals trying to leech power from putting the other down.  Weakness in either gender is offensive to me because weakness in the individual is offensive to me.  

Anyways, maybe when I get more time, I can give you guys a happier review.
Victoria Simpson
Miracle of miracles, my lovely reader...

I have time this day to write a review AND the writing bug has seen fit to bite me.  So, lovlies, let's look at The September Society by the incredibly talented Charles Finch (Yale and Oxford, people.  He got the education that still haunts the misty corners of my dreams).   Without further ado, I present my much delayed review of The September Society.

This novel is the sequel to the much beloved and praised A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries).  That novel must be read first.  Really, reading a mystery series out of order is a no-no.  It was nominated for an Agatha Award, so you know it's worth your time if you're into the mystery genre like I am.  

This novel, like its predecessor, is about gentleman detective Charles Lenox in Victorian England (so, naturally I'm all over this stuff).  Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

"In the small hours of the morning one fall day in 1866, a frantic widow visits detective Charles Lenox. Lady Annabelle's problem is simple: her beloved son, George, has vanished from his room at Oxford. When Lenox visits his alma mater to investigate, he discovers a series of bizarre clues, including a murdered cat and a card cryptically referring to the September Society." "Then, just as Lenox realizes that the case may be deeper than it appears, a student dies, the victim of foul play." What could the September Society have to do with it? What specter, returned from the past, is haunting gentle Oxford? Lenox, with the support of Lady Jane and his other devoted friends in London's upper crust, must race to discover the truth before it comes searching for him, and dangerously close to home.

I found the novel very entertaining.  Charles Lenox is like the functional Sherlock Holmes.  However, I can't lie and say that it was fast-paced.  It wasn't.  It was dreadfully slow in the beginning.  So. Slow.  I was getting a bit antsy because I love Charles Lennox, really I do--probably because I picture him looking like the picture below:

But really, all joking aside, I do love him.   He's very brilliant.  And I love the characters.  But they were stuck a plot that ran like a slow molasses.  And then Dallington comes along and all is fine.  JUST HOLD ON FOR DALLINGTON!!!!

But really, it is very well written and very enlightening.  I liked his first one better, to be honest, but I still really enjoyed this one.  I got a nice education on Parliament which is very helpful, I must say.

The setting takes place in Oxford and London--the descriptions of both are fantastic.  

I give it 3 and a half out of 5.  

I wish this was better written, but alas, my dear reader, certain packing duties and a bubble bath are calling to me.  It will be my very last luxury, you know, before I head out to perform my summer duty at a camp.  I leave you Victoria and shall return as:

...well, hopefully not. 

Adieu, dear reader!  That's quite a parting image I left you with, eh?
Victoria Simpson
Dear reader,

I must apologize for my absence.  My real job plus life in general has demanded much of my attention.  However, I've felt rather negligent so I thought I'd give you a taste of what was coming up (because I have been reading and seen some movies in the midst of my whirlwind).  Dear reader, I am on the verge of writing a rather biting review of Gregory Maguire's Lost, sharing with you the joys of the reemergence of my love for Mr. Mister, telling you why The Prince of Persia is entertaining enough for at least one viewing, and, this is the most exciting for me, a Shutter Island double feature--you get the book and movie review.

Reader, I do hope this makes up for my absence.  I apologize in all sincerity.  If I can swing another blog post between now and Sunday (the day I depart for medical duties at a camp for a week as Nurse Simpson), then I shall.  Please don't get you're hopes up though.  When I return, which I shall, I will definitely post more often.

Please forgive me.

Always yours,

Victoria Simpson
Dear reader,

This is going to be a really quick review.  There's not much to say about it.  Iron Man 2 was okay.  I'd give it a 3 out of 5.  ScarJo was pretty awesome.  Robert Downey Jr. is still a big crush for me--though I like him better as Sherlock Holmes.  There's not much to say.  It was an okay movie.  It's entertaining but not fantastic or groundbreaking.  I'd wait until it came out on DVD or something.   It's the movie you'll watch on TBS one day.  But it was still funny.  And, if all else fails, ladies, Robert Downey Jr. is still nice to look at.... I love his smile.

Up next: Lost: A Novel, The Prince of Persia, Letters to JulietThe September Society (Charles Lenox Mysteries), and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles).

Suggestions for things you want reviewed?  Questions?  I'd love to hear your opinions.
Victoria Simpson
I must say, I feel awful for Ridley Scott doing this movie because everyone's either A) expecting Gladitor, only in tights, or B) the one with Kevin Costner only with better accents.  It's neither, and I'm okay with that.  The plot is terrific.  Someone said it was too plot heavy and to that I say, nay nay.  A movie without a good plot is, in my humble creative writing student's opinion, trash.  A movie cannot be like a short story that has no plot and is all about whether or not the lady's coat being yellow means something.  It needs substance.  It cannot be all about slitting throats, either.  Robin Hood has never been a tale of gore, anyhow.  It's a tale of honor and freedom--tale of one man's defiance. Yes, this could entail gore, but not necessarily.  There is some decent action, by the by.  All I mean to say is, just because this movie is not Gladiator does not make it less of a movie.  It still has a great message.

So, some interesting things to notice about this movie are the many different things that remind me of various portions of English History and Lit.  You have the wild boys in the woods, like J.M. Berrie's Lost Boys or the boys in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.  There is also reference's to England's Celtic beginnings, if you pay attention to some of the carvings.  There was the wonderful portrayal of England and France's feud.  There were probably others that I missed, but you see my point.  This was story of England.  This is England's eternal story.  If you know anything about it's history, you know that unification has always been a crucial and too often lost thing for England.  I enjoyed seeing them come together for once.

Let's discuss Marion.  She's the first Marion I can actually tolerate.  Yay Cate Blanchett!  I do love her.  Best line in the movie?  "Good God, Marion."  She's along the lines of Queen Gorgo in 300.  She wasn't this haughty woman who doesn't need a man, but she wasn't a damsel in distress.  Congratulations, Hollywood, a woman that's relatable.  I can't give too much away, but suffice to say, she kicks major tail.

Another plus is that this movie is funny.  I actually liked Prince John for about ten minutes.

Robin Hood showed the importance of freedom, honor, and keeping your word.  Fight for what's right.  My favorite part?  It showed that community and family is important.  Those in the movie, in Nottingham, they took care of each other.  There was order, and they honored it.  Everyone had a place; everyone served.  The peasants honored Sir Walter, Marion, and Robin, and never once did those three take advantage of their people.

No, it's not Gladiator, but as a woman who has watched men fall by the wayside and seen the destruction of family and caring for your community, I appreciated it. I'm afraid many men will like it because there isn't enough bloodshed and fail to see the importance of honoring a woman and protecting the weak. They won't see that they need to be responsible.  But, I hope they do.  I really, really do.  Do men like that Robin Longstryde exist?  I think they do, but they are too few of them.

So, I give it four stars out of five.
Victoria Simpson
Hello, hello lovelies. I'm sorry it's been a while. However, I finished two books and am in the middle of a third (Lost: A Novel by Mr. Gregory Maguire, author of the famous Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Harper Fiction)).

However, today I wish to discuss a different novel. Let's talk about The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. She has also written Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery) and The Sugar Queen (Random House Reader's Circle) which are two books I love dearly. Allen writes stories that take place in the South. However, it's not Faulkner nor stories about rednecks nor, heaven forbid, Gone With the Wind. Instead, it's the South I was raised in and still enjoy today.

This novel is no different than the others. She writes about the South, a more magical South than you see in the news (and I do not mean that youtube video on the Creighton Leperchaun). Her South, which I believe is closer to the true South, is full of sweet smells, beautiful trees, classic architecture, old family secrets and legends, old money, those with no money, the best food, and just a pinch of magic. What makes this one even better? The addition of barbecue, that's what!

Here's an excerpt from Allen's site that sums the story up:  Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, offering them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth—but also in the hope of rekindling a love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

"A dusting of magic, the aroma of sugary cakes swirling through the breeze, and a girl who unwittingly brings change to a town of misfits makes for a sweet summer story filled with hope and forgiveness. The Girl Who Chased the Moon flirts with the supernatural while the light tinkling of a charm bracelet sounds in the night."
- Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Plus, did I mention there was barbecue involved?  

Okay, now to serious reviewer business.  I cannot recommend this to most guys.  It's comfy, cozy chick lit.  Except, it's better than most chick lit.  Better than Nicholas Ruins Endings Sparks.  I do not like that man.  He ruins endings.  Exhibit A) Message in a Bottle.  

So, we've established A) I don't like Nicholas Sparks and B) Allen writes mainly for women.  However, if you are a guy and like that stuff, far be it from me to judge.  I pretty much eat her novels up like...well, barbecue.  She has beautiful themes in her stories that all tie together.  Her stories are hilarious. It is not classic literature now, but it does tell a good story.  Plus, she does not have any writer's quirks that annoy me such as noticeably bad grammar or irritating characters that the reader ought to be sympathetic towards (that was such an awkward sentence).  I read that book in one day--during finals.  Does that tell you how much I enjoyed it?

I guess I do have to list cons to be a good reviewer....*sigh*.  I guess the ending could have been less predictable.  I suppose there should have been a more sinister plot involved somehow.  But really, picking out things I didn't like about this story is very difficult.  She's one of my favorites.  Like I said, not really going to recommend it to men in general, but I'm okay with that.  Allen's stories are geared towards women without being all Danielle Steel damsel in distress romances where we learn the June Cleaver is the only way (not that I don't mind a Danielle Steel movie on WE when I'm feeling ill.  They're entertaining if Russia is involved in any way).  The point is, Allen's women are feminine without being weak and dependent.  They're very strong and always can stand on their own two feet.  They're very admirable.  In this one, Julia is an expert business woman who is also incredibly maternal.  I like that balance.  

Anyways, I give it five stars for me, four and a half for my readers, and for you macho guys out there who won't read it, three.  

Still....I can't help but say, I love that book.

Victoria Simpson
Red to Black by Alex Dryden is a story about what has happened in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. The story centers around two characters, Finn and Anna. Finn was with MI6 and Anna with the KGB, and the two have developed a romantic relationship.

The story opens with Anna sitting in a basement reading journals, trying to find Finn. The entire book is told from her point of view, which gets a little bit odd at points. For instance, there are moments where the story is only about Finn at that point with Anna no where in sight, and she is still narrating. How does that work? Does she have ESP (or ESPN as a friend in high school used to say)? I mean, the KGB's good, but not that good...right? I mean, I should hope so--Otherwise, the U.S. has been in deep trouble for a long time and the Soviet's were being incompetent for over half a century by not listening to their intelligence service. I doubt that's true; therefore, Mr. Dryden has a bit of a logistics issue.

Another issue was grammar and spelling. That's the editor's fault. Moving on....

Anna's character could be a bit irritating just because she was so slow and could be a bit selfish. This is more than made up for with Finn--he's the must have dreamy British spy with a devil-may-care grin. Absolutely lovely. As for Anna, she's not intolerable, just slightly annoying. I can easily look it over, though. After all, I have noticed men have difficulty writing likable female characters (it's not their fault; we're the complicated sex).

This story was very entertaining, all of my criticism aside. I believe a good book or story must be entertaining above all else. Otherwise, it's a failure. This is why I loathe Hemingway, the old drunken bore. So, I give this story three and a half stars out of five. I really do recommend it. It was very fascinating with interesting points about politics tied in.

You can order the book from Amazon.

Check out my account at Goodreads
Victoria Simpson
So, dear reader, whoever you may be, I am about to embark on an adventure into the great, wide-world of blogging.  I'll be honest; this is a test run for a travel blog I'll do next year when I'm living in Italy.  However, I do love to do reviews.  Books especially are my passion!  I'll try to be kind and write decently enough.  I've never really done this sort of thing before, so it'll be an experience.

The sort of review I would like to do will be more in depth than just a quick synopsis.  I would like to get some good analysis of the subject as well.  I have read many a book and wished I had my time and money back when I finished.  Unfortunately, quick reviews and short synopsis rarely help me decide on a book to read or film to watch.  Hopefully I can spare you some of my grief.

Now we come to the REALLY awkward part.  I apologize.  If you don't want awkwardness or are not a particularly "sensitive" reader, skip this. I want to make sure it is understood that because I say a book or film is a good read or entertaining does not mean I'm endorsing the author per say or moral actions of the characters.  I happen to be a Christian and am taking the time now to let you know my morals are pretty traditional.  I don't really want to go over this too much more and keep the blog away from my personal life, but I also have to consider people who share my religion and be considerate of their needs (as well as people I know offline.  I really don't want to shock them). Therefore, I will warn readers of things that might seem questionable.

That being said, many Christian novels are poorly written so I shall be steering clear of many of them (notable exceptions being Tolkien, Lewis, and Lawhead).   They're not all bad; I've just had some really bad experiences.  If you have suggestions, let me know, and I'll review that! Not all of the books and films will be morally perfect.  I would ask that more sensitive readers look past the little things and see the greater picture of the book or film.  And remember, I'll be sure to caution you. This really isn't a review of books or films aimed at younger readers.  If any of this is offensive, contact me, and maybe I can explain this better or put you more at ease.  Most awkward part over!  So sorry you had to endure that!

Okay, the first review will be about a book called Red to Black by Alex Dryden .  It is about Russia at the end of the twenty-first century on as well as foreign policy.  It's fiction.  I haven't finished it, but so far, so good.  If you want to get started before that review comes out, by all means, go ahead!