Book Review #50: “The Great Gatsby”

The Great Gatsby - Complex

Image Credit: Complex

I may have mentioned before that I re-read The Great Gatsby at least once every year. This Book Review attempts to express my deep love and appreciation for this novel, first published in 1925.

I was first introduced to this thrilling work of fiction in Mr. Degnan’s English class in high school. At the time, I knew bits and pieces of the eras known as “The Jazz Age” and “The Roaring Twenties,” but I hadn’t willingly picked up a work written by F. Scott Fitzgerald until this particular assignment.

Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.

Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a man in his late twenties, the book catapults you head-first into the crazy world of New York City and Long Island during the summer of 1922. Nick is surrounded by a literal cast of characters, including Jay Gatsby, the owner of an extravagant, opulent mansion. Nick rents the modest bungalow next door, and is immediately awestruck by Gatsby, the incredible parties he hosts, the rumors that swirl, and the air of mystery. What follows in the coming days and months is a violent whirlwind of many parties, little work, lots of dancing, plenty of food and drink, and a time of celebration following The Great War’s end.

Nick reconnects with his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan. She is married to one of Nick’s college acquaintances, Tom. Jordan Baker, a beautiful amateur golfer, soon enters Nick’s life and his heart. Along the way, Nick learns that Tom has one main mistress, Myrtle Wilson, and rents an apartment in the city for other affairs.

An invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties thrusts Nick into another world. He learns the man is borderline obsessed with Daisy. Five years have passed since their chance encounter. However, Nick can see that Gatsby desperately wants to reconnect with her. Over time, he uses Nick surreptitiously to accomplish his goal.

Throughout the novel, affairs run rampant and can easily make the reader’s head spin. The dancing, music, and illegal alcohol will do that, too.

The characters’ personalities are heightened, and sometimes incredibly violent and unsettling. The fights and shouting feel real, and the hot summer day that serves as the novel’s climax makes me sweat every time.

Several of the characters suffer quite tragic consequences, and by the very end, many are bitter and disillusioned, to say the least. There’s a sense of an incredible downward spiral.

The novel is long enough to take readers on an incredible adventure set in a span of just a few months, but short enough to be thrilling, breathtaking, and entertaining without getting stale. Reading Gatsby for the first time inspired me to dive into Fitzgerald’s world and read more of his work. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Finishing the book leaves me in a slightly depressive mood, but in the end, it’s worth it. It gives me a sense of what those years were like for those who experienced it, in the cities, in modest houses, and in the ashes.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Commentary #61: “How To De-Objectify Women in Comics: A Guide”

De-Objectify

Image Credit: Renae De Liz

My good friend Michaela Leigh shared this with me several months ago!

Here’s the link to the original article:


This was a really interesting perspective on a common problem – Women and girls are objectified way too often.

Case in point: Consider the controversial dress codes that schools across the country have implemented or attempted to implement with tank tops, shorts, leggings, homecoming dresses, and prom dresses, among other things. That’s a whole other blog post to discuss, but I wanted to make that reference.

Here’s the breakdown of the above illustration, taken directly from the article:

  1. (Left) A common expression in comics. Eyes are lidded, mouth is pouty. It’s look to promote a sense of sexiness & lessens personality.
    (Right) Personality and uniqueness first. Think of distinct facial features outside the usual. Promote thought in eyes. What’s she thinking of?
  2. (Left) Commonly taught way to draw breasts (OR fully separated/circles/sticking out). The intent is to highlight sex appeal. It’s not realistic for a hero.
    (Right) What’s REALISTIC for your hero? Athletes need major support (i.e sports bra) which have a different look. Consider not ALL heroes have DD’s.
  3. Arms are closer to supermodel size on the left. What best fits your hero? If she’s strong, she’ll likely very built. Give her muscles!
  4. Hands on left are set in a way to promote the sense of softness, it lessens her power. Be sure hands are set in a way to promote strength
  5. (Left) It’s common to see “the arch n’ twist” in comics. A female arched and twisted to show both cheeks AND both boobs.
    (Right) Twists in the body are a powerful art tool but stick to what can realistically be done, and use arches w/o intent for “boob/butt perk.”
  6. One on left feels like she’s posing. The right feels like she’s standing heroically. Make her overall pose functional vs. sexually appealing.
  7. Heels! Modern heels are generally used to amplify stance & increase visual appeal. I like them, but if I were a hero, not too realistic.  Most important is what would your character choose? It’s very difficult to hero around in stilettos. Perhaps consider low/no heels.

I don’t consider myself a good artist, especially when it comes to faces and characters. I struggle with proportions, and I’m a crazy perfectionist! I get so frustrated. So, I’m far better with landscapes!

Anyway, reading this article was eye-opening to me. I’m not trying to give comic book artists a bad rap at all – Many of them are very talented, and those who draw the famous characters typically put their own spin on the character’s original likeness.

With that said, I found myself nodding my head with most of her points. Female superheroes should be showcased for their talents and abilities, not because they are female. But, at the same time, I can see how sex appeal has been ingrained for years. I’m sure the artists (and the publishers) want / wanted to maintain a certain audience with comic books and other media, so certain standards / techniques were established in terms of female superheroes.

However, there’s also a delicate balance. Sure, you want to keep the guys interested in the comic books, but you want to appeal to the girls, too. I think objectification has been a years-long issue, and comic books and female superheroes are just one part of the complicated jumble. There’s no simple solution, unfortunately.

The author brought up some interesting points. Here’s my thoughts.

If I were a superheroine, I would want the best sports bra or support available, because I certainly wouldn’t want my boobs to get in the way of saving someone’s life, fighting a monster, or saving the Earth from a gigantic threat.

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be portrayed as someone who is strong, courageous, determined, and brave. For me, I wouldn’t want a face full of makeup while on superheroine duty. I want to look put together, but not look like a clown. I want to look strong and active – Not necessarily super buff, but enough to be convincing. A six-pack would be nice! My hair should be up and out of my face, not in the way!

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be functional in my costume / outfit. I mean, I’m trying to save people’s lives, much less the entire Earth, among other things! I don’t think I would be comfortable in something leather, skin-tight, and anything with heels! I struggle in heels in my everyday life – Give me comfortable / functional boots!

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be recognized as a female, but lauded for my accomplishments instead of my looks! Sex appeal is great for photography, romantic movies, and a few other things, but not superheroines!


I admire several superheroines.

Jessica Jones

Jessica_Jones_by_Mike_Mayhew

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I was first introduced to Jessica Jones with the Netflix series Marvel’s Jessica Jones. She’s a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen, but she’s also a bad-ass. Plus, Krysten Ritter was an awesome casting choice.

Stargirl (Courtney Whitmore)

250px-JSA_81

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I didn’t know much about Stargirl until Tidewater Comicon in 2015. Granted, I first saw a “bombshell” figurine rendition of her, but I actually prefer her original costume. I love how her personality was based on one of the creator’s sisters, also named Courtney, who died in the TWA Flight 800 explosion in 1996. She’s young and strong!

Wonder Woman

Wonder_Woman

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I’ve always admired Wonder Woman. Now, I have a renewed interest and fascination since Gal Gadot debuted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She’s strong, courageous, and her outfit (at least in the most recent movies) is somewhat modest. She fights in boots, not heels!

I’m excited to see how she is portrayed in the upcoming Justice League movie, as well as the planned sequel to the box office smash Wonder Woman. Until then, I’ve greatly enjoyed researching how Lynda Carter portrayed her on TV, and others.


What about you? Do you have any favorite superheroines?

What are your thoughts on objectifying women, girls, and superheroines?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #79: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 41)

Week #41: Hobbies.

I absolutely love reading. Books give me so much joy! I love the fact that I’m able to read almost every night before I go to sleep. I have quite a personal library that runs from my childhood to the present, but I also love libraries!

Writing is another hobby. I’ve been writing since I was 10 years old. I do regret throwing away a lot of my old journals. However, I did keep the blue binder, covered in stickers from doctor’s offices and gifts. Those have both handwritten and typed stories from fifth grade through high school. Who knows, you may see some of them here on the blog.

Last year, I restarted my hobby of American Girl dolls and books. It took off like wildfire. I have more dolls, clothes, shoes, and accessories now more than ever. Al is helping me design and build a custom doll cabinet for my office.

Those three are my main hobbies. But, I also love traveling, photography, cooking, playing computer games, riding my bike, playing softball, trivia, and spending time in nature. I love using my camera, and I’m learning how to take better photos with mu phone. I would love to be on a softball team again. Eventually, I would love to have the Carmen Sandiego games, and the Roller Coaster Tycoon games on my computer – So many awesome memories! I also enjoy watching game shows – Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! will always be my favorites.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #32: Fall Activities Book Tag

Fabulous-Autumn-Quotes

Image Credit: Parryz.com

The lovely ladies at Thrice Read did this awesome seasonal book tag! It doesn’t quite feel like fall right now here in Virginia, but the leaves are starting to change, we’re decorating for Halloween, and planning for so many amazing things!

Here’s the link to the original post:


Apple Picking:
A book on your TBR that looks so great you can’t wait to get into it.

The Hate U Give

Image Credit: Amazon

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas.

I can’t tell you how many people have recommended this book, in blogs, in book reviews, and a few personal recommendations, too. This is the next one I’m getting from the library!

Corn Maze:
A book to get lost in.

The Last Song

The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks.

I love most of Nicholas Sparks’s books. I remember eagerly awaiting for this book to be available from the library. I got it just in time to take it on a long trip to Florida, and the hours flew by in the car with this book. The movie actually wasn’t so bad, either.

Haunted Houses:
A book that scared you.

Catalyst

Image Credit:

Catalyst, Laurie Halse Anderson.

I remember being shaken when I finished one. Anderson is an immensely talented writer, and I’ve read all of her books. It wasn’t a horror novel by any means, but it scared me in a real-life kind of way. I identified with the main character, Kate, in several ways, and I felt myself changing several things in my own life after reading this.

Pumpkin Patch:
The latest book you picked up / purchased.

Camino Island

Image Credit: Amazon

Camino Island, John Grisham.

John Grisham is one of just a few select authors where I strive to own every book that he will ever publish!

 

Scenic Drives:
A book that is lyrically beautiful.

Tuck Everlasting

Image Credit: Goodreads

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt.

I was assigned to read this book in middle school, and we later saw the movie in theaters. I haven’t read it in years, bur I remember the impression it made on me.

Pumpkin Carving:
A book you didn’t like and wouldn’t mind cutting up.

allegiant_novel_cover

Allegiant, Veronica Roth.

I don’t think I need to elaborate my disgust for this book!

Drinking Apple Cider:
A sweet book to curl up with.

The Vacationers

 

The Vacationers, Emma Straub.

Although it took me a good long while to finish it, I ended up loving this book, and Straub’s writing style. I can’t wait to read more from her.

Jumping in a Leaf Pile:
A book that reminds you of your childhood.

images (2)

Image Credit: Pinterest

The Baby-Sitters Little Sister series, Ann M. Martin.

I loved checking these out from the library, and I owned quite a few of them. I think I eventually read all of them!

Scary Movie Night:
Your favorite spooky read.

The Lovely Bones

Image Credit: Goodreads

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold.

Just thinking of this book gives me goosebumps.

Costume Party:
A book with an eclectic cast of characters.

The Help

Image Credit: Goodreads

The Help, Kathryn Stockett.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. I wanted to read it as soon as it was announced. I laughed so hard while reading it – It’s so funny, during a tough time in the American South. There are several generations represented, and the whole cast of characters makes for a great read. The movie was excellent, too.


I loved this tag!

What’s your favorite fall activity?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #60: “This American Town Was Left to Die, and Suddenly Economists Care”

South Boston

South Boston Historic Downtown – South Boston, Virginia. Image Credit: Virginia Is For Lovers

Back in August, one of my friends shared this article on Facebook. Immediately intrigued, I clicked on it, curious about what context the headline gave.

Within seconds, I couldn’t believe which town they were referencing.

South Boston, Virginia, is just a few miles away from where my in-laws have their farm. It’s a beautiful town, formerly Boyd’s Ferry, first established in 1796. There are multiple places in the town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s the link to the original article:


I’m definitely not an expert in economics, although I did take ECON 111 at Longwood and got quite an education during that semester. However, I’ve always admired small-town America, and I find myself researching different towns, counties, and rural areas, particularly in Virginia. I wrote several research papers on Appalachia between high school and college, and have always been fascinated with the tragedies and triumphs of the vast region.

South Boston is one of the towns in Halifax County. Like many small towns, there’s been what referred to as a rolling recession in the town since the 1990s. The town has about 8,000 residents, and the workforce has decreased by about 25 percent in the last two decades. This particular article discussed the effects of free trade on the U.S.

Two particular movements devastated Halifax County and its workforce: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, and then when China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO). While the unemployment rate in the U.S. was trending toward historic lows, the unemployment rate in Halifax County surged. The highest rate recorded in the county was 13.9 percent.

Many towns like South Boston experience a domino effect. Once manufacturing jobs dry up or leave, other businesses, seemingly unrelated or connected, also start to fade away. The dominoes keep falling, until something happens to make them stop. In South Boston, there are shells of car dealerships, empty downtown storefronts, and other evidence.

Fortunately, in South Boston, conditions have improved. The unemployment rate has held steady around five percent, far better than nearly 14 percent. A few manufacturers call South Boston home, not textiles or tobacco, but sports cars, robotics, power, and heavy electrical equipment.

Sprawling brick buildings that were once tobacco warehouses are now apartments. Two of them are now the home of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, where students can become certified in a number of disciplines, thanks to schools such as Longwood University, Old Dominion University, Danville Community College, and Southside Virginia Community College.

IT certificate holders have been hired at Microsoft’s data center in a neighboring county. Other certifications include nursing and welding. The massive investment is paying off.

I’m glad that South Boston is becoming a success story. However, I think of many areas of Appalachia where coal mining jobs, among others, have been automated, and there aren’t enough jobs in the area to make up the difference.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #23: Thoughts on Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, and Our President

mister-rogers-56a9a1be3df78cf772a914df

Image Credit: ThoughtCo

The last few weeks have felt like forever.

It’s been a laundry list of natural disasters, yet another horrific massacre on U.S. soil, and I’ve felt helpless.

  • August 17-September 1 — Duration of Hurricane Harvey
  • August 30-September 12 — Duration of Hurricane Irma
  • September 16-30 — Duration of Hurricane Maria
  • September 19 — Central Mexico earthquake
  • October 1 — Mass shooting at Route 91 Harvest Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada

All the while, President Trump has continued tweeting, criticizing, and not being very presidential. But, that’s just me.


Texas & Florida

My family is incredibly fortunate. My dad drove down to Seminole, Florida, to be with his dad, my 91-year-old Grandpa, prior to Hurricane Irma’s arrival. They lost power, but Dad brought a generator and plenty of supplies. Grandpa’s main power was restored within 24 hours. Cable, Internet, and the landline phone followed soon after. The Publix grocery store down the street was open the day after the storm. Dad came home safely just days after the storm passed, not two weeks like everyone was thinking / fearing.

My Uncle Richard (Mom’s brother) waited out the storm in Miami. He lost power, and endured four hours of 100-mph+ winds, but no significant damage.

A few friends and acquaintances suffered devastating floods in Texas, but most remained high and dry. John and Jackie, days away from their first child’s expected arrival, were pleased to report that their son smartly decided to “shelter in place” during the storm.

I’m still in awe at the heroes and heroines during Harvey and Irma. The first responders and the military presence were outstanding. If you haven’t seen the stories about the “Cajun Navy,” look them up online. These men and women, with their boats, are real heroes!

I know certain areas of these states still face months, possibly years, of recovery, but many have amazing survival stories to tell the future generations.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and others, have not been so fortunate. Hurricane Maria literally swallowed the entire island of Puerto Rico. It’s been absolutely decimated. At last check of various news sources, roughly five percent of the island has power now, and roughly 11 percent of the cell service has been restored.

The death toll stands at 34, for now. I fear that this number will rise.

The island was already struggling, with a crumbling infrastructure, debt-laden, declaring bankruptcy, and other issues. Add a massive hurricane to the mix? It’s a disaster zone.

It’s deplorable that the governor and many mayors have gone on national TV, live, begging for help. Everyone on the island is an American citizen, for heaven’s sake.

Ugh. I’m getting madder and madder with every word I type.

Las Vegas

Along with the rest of the world, I was horrified to learn of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Monday morning. I almost fell off the treadmill at the gym, in disbelief.

My first thought: “Oh, no. Not again.”

But, it happened. Nearly sixty innocent people lost their lives. Over 500 were injured.

However, in spite of the tragedy, there were so many heroes and heroines. My spirits have been lifted, gradually, throughout this week, as I read stories of courage, bravery, and sacrifice. Countless people literally took bullets to save others. Complete strangers protected each other. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming.

A GoFundMe page that was started by the Clark County Commission Chair earlier this week has set and re-set its goal several times. As of this writing, 77,232 people have raised an impressive $9.52 million dollars for the victims and their families. That’s awesome!

On Tuesday morning, I wrote the following on Facebook:

As a blood recipient, blood drive co-coordinator, and regular blood donor, I’m so happy to see the reports of people waiting 6-8+ hours to give blood in the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas.

In Chesapeake, New Creation UMC is hosting their next blood drive this coming Saturday, October 7th. If you’re able and willing, your blood is very much appreciated. Every two seconds, someone needs blood. One whole blood donation can save up to three lives.

Give the Gift of Life. Give Blood.

I hope I can give blood on Saturday, and I hope we will have a good turnout. The need is constant.

Our President

I have so many thoughts about our President right now. It makes me want to scream.

The only thing I’ve been impressed with, so far, was his speech about the tragedy in Las Vegas. For once, he actually showed sympathy and compassion.

I don’t know who wrote it, but it was a good one.

With that said, it’s been tough to swallow his response to the hurricane relief efforts, especially in Puerto Rico. In addition to those issues, he’s angling for nuclear war with North Korea. Antagonizing someone like Kim Jon Un is not a good idea.

I wish Secretary Tillerson would admit that he called our President a moron. I wish people would stop trying to cover for our President, and admit the truth.

But, the truth is, I think most people in and around the White House are walking on eggshells every minute of every day, hoping and praying they don’t say or do something to piss him off.

For once in my life, I’m actually looking forward to voting in November’s elections. I’m so sick and tired of the attack ads for Governor, Attorney General, and the list goes on. There are so many things I wish I could change, but I know my vote can make a difference.

I’m also beyond ready to fast-forward to the 2020 presidential election.

For now, I will continue to educate myself with a variety of news sources, try to stay positive, donate blood, and sharing my thoughts with all of you wonderful readers on my blog. Thank you for being so supportive of my posts – I appreciate each and every one of you.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #78: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 40)

Week #40: Greatest Accomplishment.

I took a risk in eighth grade. There was a new program that had just started at one of Chesapeake’s high schools, called International Baccalaureate (IB). The program coordinator, Mrs. Ingersoll, and two of the ninth-grade students came to Jolliff Middle to tell us about it, and how to apply.

I remember being so excited  that I couldn’t stop talking about it.

I completed my application, took several tests at Oscar Smith (and left my purse, school ID, and house key there by accident! I got it back, but I had to call the school on my own and explain what happened), and crossed my fingers.

I still remember the day I found out I was accepted. Mrs. Lyons, the guidance counselor, showed up during orchestra class. I nearly screamed in the hallway when she told me the good news. I wanted to call my parents, although they already knew. I felt like I was on cloud nine.

My euphoria was shattered a bit when several of my friends were very upset that I was leaving. I was excited for the challenge – New school, new friends, new ways of learning and thinking – but I was also sad. I leaving everything behind, except for my house and my parents, for something new. I was basically alone on the giant school bus – No one else from the Western Branch area was in the program when I started in 2003.

Despite begging my parents to go back to Western Branch probably every week for the first six months of my freshman year, I persisted. I struggled immensely, especially in the very beginning. At first, I had D’s and E’s on a lot of quizzes, and a even a few tests. I went to so many tutoring sessions, my head spun. My test anxiety was through the roof. I cried quite a bit. Everything was hard!

However, being part of IB was completely worth it. It isn’t for everybody, but it ended up being a really good fit for me. I enjoyed myself – It fostered my life-long love for learning (with the exception of math). Plus, I learned to think critically, and challenge myself to do better and understand the concepts presented before me. There wasn’t a lot of memorizing or teaching to the SOLs, although we still had to take them!

Learning that I would receive my IB Diploma in 2007 was one of the big shining moments in my life. I felt a sense of massive accomplishment – Two years of prep work, and two years of application of the prep work paid off, in spades. Although the IB exams were immensely stressful, I wasn’t alone. There were 40 of my peers taking them with me, and our teachers did their best to prepare us for all of them. We all celebrated at the end of exams with a massive party!

I learned so much about myself during my high school years, and I truly believe IB made me a better person. I started off college in a better place, and I did really well at Longwood due to being in IB. I didn’t have to take as many gen ed classes! I was able to get math and science completely out of the way by the end of my first year, and then I was able to focus on the classes I truly enjoyed – Creative writing, history, and communications.

Back in June, a good number of us got together for a 10-year reunion. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, reminiscing about our experiences from 2003 through 2007, while also catching up on our careers, aspirations, marriages, children, and hobbies. I’m excited to see what happens when we plan our 20-year reunion.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂