The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

penelopiad_coverIt’s no secret that here at Sick Sad Book Club that we love modern adaptations of classic works! Some of my favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a telling of Austen’s classic peppered in with attacks from the undead and The Wide Sargasso Sea, a preface to Bronte’s Jane Eyre that follows the origins of Mr. Rochester’s first wife. What are some of your favorites?
I have also come across another gem in the genre in recent years. Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad is an expansion on Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. This novella follows Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, in the afterlife. She tells her side of the story of what happened while Odysseus was gallivanting all around the world. She particularly focuses on her hatred of the “bold Hussy” Helen and the tale of the maids killed by Odysseus upon his return. Penelope is a hilariously dark and moving storyteller, very different than that cleaver waif portrayed in Homer’s classic.
I first listened to this book as an audio book. I highly recommend this! The performance of the different parts, especially the sections by the maids, is highly theatrical and very well done! It doesn’t hurt that Atwood is a brilliant writer who scripts out complex, weaving narratives.helen
I think that Helen Morgendorffer would feel kindred with Penelope. She shares the same hatred and disdain for Helen of Troy as Helen does of her sister Rita. I could just hear her say, “Yes, I think Helen was unreasonable! To think, having a nation fight for her! Reminds me of someone else I know…”

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I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems By Cats by Francsco Mariculiano

I could pee on thisIt’s no secret that I LOVE cats!! I have two adorable, spoiled, loving grey kitties named Paul and Hanners. I tend to dote on them almost as much as I dote on my own child (haha, okay, a slight exaggeration).

I also enjoy humor books. In fact, I have an entire book shelf dedicated to humor and comedy books, many of them silly coffee table books. One of my favorites is I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems By Cats by Francsco Mariculiano. This hilarious little book is full of cat wisdom and general feline angst. One of my favorite poems has to be this one.

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That dog is wearing a sweater

It is accompanied by a photo of a little dog looking miserable in a turtleneck sweater. I think that Daria’s sympathetic and sometimes over emotional English teacher, Mr. O’Neill would find great comfort and wisdom in these short little poems.

He would probably diagram each one to find out what pattern it follows and write a meaningful analysis describing the emoMr. O'Neilltions he felt while reading each one and include a reflection of how he would feel as a cat under the same circumstance.

Sometimes, a kind soul like Mr. O’Neill is needed to put perspective on your otherwise dark disposition. He also gives fodder for your endless mocking.

Book Review: Badass by Ben Thompson

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When Tim and I first moved in with each other, we didn’t have that many boxes to fill our crappy, overheated, one-bedroom apartment. We had a few boxes of dishes and home goods, my old bed from my parent’s house, a love seat from college, and a few other odds and ends (mainly clothing and other necessities).  But most of our boxes contained books! That is honestly the best part of combining possessions 🙂 I just kept thinking, as I unloaded box after box into our two rickety dorm style bookshelves, of all the new reading options that have come into my possession.

Being a history major in college, most of Tim’s books are history texts. One of my favorite from his collection is Badass: A relentless onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live by Ben Thompson. It is a contemporary history collection of…well… the title is pretty self explanatory 🙂 It is written in a conversational style and is mixed with comic book style drawings about truly badass characters for example: Charles Martel, Anne Bonny, and Nikola Tesla. It also mixes in history of weapons and war tactics (my favorite little snip bit is the explanation on the origins of Krav Maga).untitled

I think the Mr. DeMartino would have liked this book at the beginning of his teaching career. Just fresh out of teaching university, thinking that youth are the hope of tomorrow! This book is, he probably thought, is a gateway book to get students interested in history and learning. However, later in life, after his soul had been sucked out by his torturous job, he probably looked at the skills and weapons wishing he could use them on his students.

Book Review: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

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I recently read a book where I kept thinking, this is just like high school. Wait!!! Haven’t I heard that somewhere before…?

Danmed by Chuck Palahniuk is the first in a trilogy about a young girl who is doomed to spend her eternity in hell. Madison Spencer is a thirteen-year-old who is murdered by her step-brother and is then sentenced to live out her eternity in HELL. Madison is accompanied in the equivalent of the “doomed breakfast club.” It is written in the style of the Judy Blume novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The author described this book as “if The Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume.”

I kept thinking, the entire time that I was reading this book, Jane would love this book!! I was reminded of the conversation Jane Lane and Daria have in the holiday episode about comparing the rest of their lives to high school.Jane_Lane_(Daria)

Armed with nothing but sarcasm and insight, Maddy and her fellow crew of the damned tour their permanent surroundings and try to make the best of it. In this novel, Paulahniuk creates a Hell that is very different than Dante’s vision in The Divine Comedy complete with the excruciating torture of endlessly watching the English Patient.

On the whole, I thought the book was okay. I found Maddy a tad annoying and self destructive. I also thought the “Are you there Satan, It’s me, Madison,” motif got a little stale. If I would have been 15 instead of 27 when I read it, I think it would have resonated with me a little more.

The book does end in a surprising cliff hanger that is intriguing enough to make me read the next two books (the last one is set to come out in 2014). Clever author… 🙂