The Earl of Brass, by Kara Jorgensen – a book review

earl of brass

 

In order to write this review, I had to dig out my thesaurus because the words “amazingly awesome” just did not do The Earl of Brass justice. So the words “marvelous,” “phenomenal,” “stupendous,” and “wonderful” will have to do.
What makes The Earl of Brass worthy of dragging out my old thesaurus? Simply the language, author Kara Jorgensen, uses when laying out the plot, the twists and turns, the characters, and the dialogue that fill the pages of her novel. Jorgensen is bringing back vocabulary, and if she keeps writing, I dare say the English language might yet be saved.
As I read The Earl of Brass, multiple things jumped out at me, one being the thick description that made me feel as though I was living in 18th century England. Jorgensen goes to great lengths to paint the scenes of Eilian’s home in the country side of London, and Hadley’s studio in the city; the method of travel the adventurer’s use; and the lands they visit and the people they meet. As someone who did not remember too much of junior high history class, Jorgensen’s meticulous writing style was just what the imagination ordered, especially when Eilian and Hadley venture off into new and undiscovered lands. I cannot say much more without spoiling anything. You will just have to buy a copy if I have peaked your interest.
Another aspect of Jorgensen’s novel that jumps out is the perfect blend of “the old world” mixed with twenty first century idealisms. Not only are there “new age” ideas about sexuality and equality, but Hadley’s job of prosthetic limb designer, makes leaps and bounds into the future that even we, living in a world where computers are bound to take over the world any day now, have not yet reached. And yet, once again, Jorgensen makes this blend work for her novel. It is intriguing and exciting and refreshing to read a book, where the author is not only forward thinking, but is not shy about sharing her thoughts through her characters.
And the part that really hooked me, was that if one were to squint close enough, there is a commentary about the politics of the world we live in today, that just seems to fit the characters of the book. Jorgensen raises questions about the difference between love and sex, equality between men and women, racism, prejudice towards that with which we are unfamiliar, the importance of pursuing something you love versus the importance of making money, and whether or not humans have a duty to preserve and help sustain the equilibrium of the planet we live on. And even as the points are brought up in the book, Jorgensen does not wax philosophical about them. She has the characters state the case and then they move on. And even if politics is not your typical cup of tea, all Jorgensen is really doing is raising a question that she wants you to consider. It is up to you how far you want to take that pondering. Novels should make readers think and question what they know. It is how society keeps moving forward.
The Earl of Brass wastes no time really, in jumping into the thick of the plot. The first chapter will leave you with a pounding heart. But then it slows, and builds to the crescendo of the climax. And if, at this point, you sort of find yourself wondering if you should maybe come back to this book on another day, I urge you to stick with it and remember that Jorgensen takes her time setting the scene and introducing her characters. And of course, once she really gets going, the action does not stop. I am immensely glad that I chose to read The Earl of Brass because Hadley and Eilian, along with their friends, are compelling characters. I found I was siding with Hadley and rooting for Eilian; I laughed out loud at parts and raced through others to find out if the characters were OK. Part of that might also be because Jorgensen does not write perfect characters with “perfect flaws.” She writes characters that are ugly on the inside and out, commit the seven deadly sins before they have their morning cup of tea, and who make you cringe for the things they say and the thoughts they think. Even Eilian is not perfect, and his “flaw” is something that one cannot simply hide. These characters are real and relatable, and that makes the journey all the more fun.
So if you find you are looking for something to read, or if you are looking for the perfect way to “get away” without spending more that $20, then I have the perfect solution for you: buy The Earl of Brass. You will not be disappointed. And in all seriousness, I am a reader, I come from a family of readers. I know good books and I know bad books. This is a good book. Trust me.
And I have more good news for you: Jorgensen has more planned and on the way…

Overall rating: Two thumbs up, smiley faces all around, 5 stars, 10 out of 10, 100%, A+, I’m running out of ways to say: “buy this book, it’s great!”…

The Earl of Brass is available of Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Earl-Brass-Ingenious-Mechanical-Devices-ebook/dp/B00L4CWBVE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407031765&sr=8-1&keywords=the+earl+of+brass

His and Hers

How it goes…

    She never saw him coming.
    But isn’t that the way it usually goes?
    Girl is oblivious. Boy appears before her very eyes…
    OK. Maybe this scenario sounds more like the opening for a bad romance movie. The kind where one half of the very cute couple dies at the end, and everybody cries because we’re all so used to Hollywood-happy-endings that we just can’t cope with the real stuff every once in awhile.
    But this is how it happens for her: she never sees him coming. One day she’s eating her lunch, reading a book about how some successful husband killed his wife and tried to fool the gorgeous FBI agent, while simultaneously trying to get into her pants.
    Yeah. It’s not the greatest meet-cute. But it’s the truth.
    He walks up to her, where she’s sitting, eating and reading at this little cafe. Her hair is a frizzy mess (thanks New York City humidity. Thanks a whole lot), and her glasses are slipping down her nose because it’s so hot out, she’s literally sweating bullets. Seriously, she feels gross. Her cotton shirt is damp from perspiring and her feet feel like they’re swollen inside her TOMS.
    But he walks up to her all the same and says what every book nerd hopes to hear out of a guys mouth, “Hey…whatcha reading?”
    She’s so stunned that she leaves her mouth hanging open as she stares at him. It dimly registers in her partially summer fried brain that he’s cute and asking her a question, so she should attempt to answer him.
    “….uh….it’s….”
    And thank God he’s patient and seems intent on getting her to talk to him because he puts her out of her misery.
    “Oh, that’s a good one,” he gestures to her book. “Mind if I sit down?”
    It again registers in her brain that he reads (!) and that the cafe is empty apart from her, and that he could sit anywhere else.
    She nods.
    And knows that somewhere, her mother and her grandmother are feeling like their worlds have tilted a little on their axis because she has just invited a strange man to sit down with her.
    She reasons with herself that it’s in public and that she’ll be fine because her boss is expecting her back in…oh shit, 15 minutes.
    “So, what’s your name?” he asks.
    She tilts her head to the side, smiles a little and says, rather cleverly, she thinks to herself, “No…I don’t think I’m ready to give you my name yet…Why don’t you tell me what you think of the book I’m reading? I just started and haven’t made up my mind quite yet.”
    He only smiles, and indulges her, she supposes. He doesn’t ask for her name again, and they pass the next 10 minutes bantering back and forth about books.
    She thinks he might be perfect.
    “Sorry,” she says, as she filters out some cash for her meal, “but I have to get back to work…”
    He doesn’t stand, and she’s partly relieved because she’s not ready for him to know where she works either.
    “That’s fine,” he says, “I actually have to get back too.”
    She swings her bag over her should and puts an unused napkin in the book to mark her place.
    And as she turns to walk out the door, he asks her that question that started their whole 15 minute encounter,
    “What’s your name?”
    “Maggie.”
    “It’s nice to meet you Maggie,” he says, “I’m Mark.”

It’s just a feeling
    
    When he sees her sitting just outside the cafe, even though it’s 85 degrees and climbing, with 75% humidity, he feels something…shift…inside of him. And he knows that he just has to talk to her.
    But how to get her attention?
    He tries walking past her on the sidewalk. He tries walking past her on the sidewalk, talking loudly into his cell phone at a pretend business associate.
    No go. She’s totally immersed in her novel.
    He tries entering the cafe. He tries entering the cafe, buying something, and then going back outside. He tries sitting near her; tries sitting in her sort-of line of sight; tries coughing, sneezing, anything to get her attention.
    N-O-T-H-I-N-G works.
    This has never happened to him before.
    He has to know who this girl is.
    So he does what he probably should have just started with in the first place: he gathers his nerve, slaps his most charming smile on his face and walks over to her, and says, 
    “Hey…whatcha reading?”
    And he can’t help but like the way her face goes into complete shock. This girl who has her crazy-curly looking blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail; whose glasses have slipped down her sweat shiny face, and who is gaping at him like a fish.
    She’s cute, he decides.
    “….uh….it’s….”
    He decides to be a gentleman and save her. Also, if she keeps on the way she’s going, he’s going to start laughing.
    “Oh, that’s a good one,” (thank God, he’s read that), “mind if I sit down?”
    He thinks the Gods must be smiling on him because she nods.
    She won’t tell him her name, this mysterious reader who has captivated him and distracted him from his morning. She asks him his opinion on the book, and he can see the skepticism in her eyes, and knows that she’s waiting for him to disappoint her.
    He’s honest: he did like the book, even if it was a little slow for his tastes…
    The answer seems to satisfy her, and he seems to have passed because she doesn’t run, screaming from the cafe.
    He can see her eyes darting to her cell phone that is placed on the table. And he can see that she’s twitchy. But he pretends it doesn’t bother him and keeps her talking, until…
    “Sorry,” she starts leaving money on the table, “but I have to get back to work.”
    Oh. So that’s why she was antsy. She has things to do this afternoon that don’t involve sitting around talking books with him.
    He lets her do her thing and is making a promise to himself to always come back here, just in case she should be here, when the forbidden question slips out,    
    “What’s your name?”
    She surprises him and gives him enough hope to drag his sorry ass through the rest of his afternoon, and that maybe he’ll see her again,
    “Maggie.”    
    “It’s nice to meet you Maggie,” she smiles at him, a faint blush creeping into her cheeks, “ I’m Mark.”

The Horrors of the Friendzone

Raise your hand if you have ever been friendzoned by a guy.
Oh, good. I’m not the only one.
For those lucky people who have no idea what “friendzone” means, it is this awful place where you are attracted to a person of the opposite (or maybe same) sex, but they don’t want you; they don’t see you as someone they could be in a relationship with. In other words: they just want to be your friend.
Ouch.
Most people hate the friendzone. Me? I actually actively seek the friendzone out. Don’t ask me why, I really couldn’t tell you. It’s probably something from my childhood, or from some long ago creepy passing glance some guy gave me on the street. Whatever it is, I actually love the friendzone. Until it keeps me from being in a relationship with a guy I like, of course.
The one time I actually hated the friendzone, I was a senior in high school.
I had the biggest crush on a classmate. He was cute, smart, funny. Played the guitar. Every girl loved him. He was charming (still is), polite and he was easy to be around.
I would have followed that boy to hell and back, thanked him for the ride, and asked when the next trip was. That’s how much I liked him.
We were fast friends and lab partners. It was easy to make him smile and he had no trouble making me laugh. It was simple to be around him. He seemed to expect nothing from me, except for me to just be myself.
One day, I decided to be bold. And I asked him, hypothetically, if I were to ask him out, what would his answer be?
He told me that he enjoyed our friendship and would hate to mess that up. I meant too much.
Ouch.
This hypothetical rejection stung. And it took me a few days to get over the pretend relationship I had been dreaming up. I had to actively learn to be his friend. I had to learn to respect the line that he had drawn.
But once I got the hang of actually being his friend, I settled in nicely. He would have girlfriends, but I was always the girl he came back too. I wasn’t going anywhere. They were the ones being shown the door.
And, OK, I didn’t have nearly all the perks they had, but I came damn near close.
And I have mostly the same relationship with all my other male friends. We talk. We hang. We laugh. They date. I don’t. They always come back to me.
(I should mention that I am able to sustain these friendships with men without becoming a jealous bitch, by not asking them about their love lives. I don’t ask for details and they don’t supply anything. I may ask how the relationship is going, and I may give advice if asked for it, but otherwise, I keep my nose out of their business. The last thing I need is a threatened girlfriend breathing down my neck.)
So being friendzoned is my thing. After that one time in high school, I actively seek out males who are in the market for a friend who is a girl.
And it’s been working for me. For the most part.
The one time it (apart from high school) that it nearly did me in was when I was in college. I had a crush on a guy. He was handsome, smart, incredibly funny, and musically inclined. He loved movies and books and TV shows. He was flawed. He was perfect, except for the baggage he was carrying around.
He was damaged by a previous girlfriend. The previous girlfriend took his heart, tore it to shreds and then handed it back to him. He gave all girls a sidelong glance as if sizing them up. He was cautious. He was afraid of being burned again.
So I sat in the friendzone. I didn’t even give him the chance to put me there. I drew a tentative line in the sand that said, “I’ll wait.” He seemed grateful.
Now this scenario wouldn’t be a problem for most girls. Most girls would be brave and have some move planned out that would make it clear she was interested.
Not me. Me? I am stuck in the friendzone and I have no one to blame for that but me. I have no idea how to get myself out of the friendzone. I am stuck in limbo. I am floating in space. He’s not making any effort to help me out. It seems that if I want anything from this boy, I will have to make all the moves myself.
This wouldn’t be a problem if I could just figure out how to tell him that, yes, I am way interested.
Telepathy doesn’t seem to be working.

The Privileged One

This piece was written for a showcase about race at my University. My professor asked me to consider what makes me “lucky” and how I think I am perceived by others.

Sometimes, it does not feel like it, but I am a part of the privileged class. I don’t have a ton of money in the bank, or drive a desirable car, or where gold jewelry, but I do have a certain…card that gives me a pass in this world. I read this article called, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” and it made me realize that I take a lot of things for granted. Like walking into a store, walking around, not buying anything, “just looking,” and never being harassed as I walk out of the store, never having approached the checkout counter.
There are other things that I take for granted: like the ease with which I buy make up for my skin color or picking up a magazine and finding some actress who looks similar to me in coloring. (I do however have a problem finding a hair dresser who knows what to do with my hair and until the 2000s, curly hair products did not exist. I have the pictures to prove it, if you don’t believe me.) I don’t have to worry about getting pulled over because of my skin color – I get pulled over because I am actually breaking the law. I don’t worry about getting stopped by the TSA. That doesn’t stop me from sweating like I might get stopped by the TSA, but still. And as a student looking towards graduation, I don’t have to worry about getting passed over for a job that I apply for. Maybe I get passed over because of  my gender, but never because I’m white.
I never feel alone. I never feel like I’m the only one. Even when I am the only girl in the room, I’m not the only white person in the room.
And even though I might be unaware of my privilege, I have never been unaware of my whiteness. I went to the fourth largest high school in the state of New Jersey. I graduated with over 760 kids. Old Bridge, New Jersey is one of the most diverse counties in the state. When I walked into a classroom, I was part of the minority, not the majority. This experience humbled me because I now know what it’s like to be on the other side.
Have you ever looked around a Monmouth classroom and realized that the majority of the students are white? Have you ever thought about how weird that is? How weird that must be for the one or two kids who don’t identify as white? I have, and I can’t even begin to imagine how…unsettling that must feel to them.
Sometimes, some people brush aside these feelings white people have about race and what is fair. And sometimes I think we’re right to brush aside these feelings because for the most part, I like to believe that we live in a fair and just society. But there are also instances where I don’t think we are right to brush aside another person’s feelings. Because we don’t know what they feel and we don’t know how they perceive something.
And I firmly believe that if you are having a thought like, “I am being discriminated against,” you usually aren’t thinking that just because; you are usually thinking that because something is wrong.
So I am privileged. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m a member of the lucky race. I can walk anywhere, do anything, and not fear any consequences, any retaliation.
But I’ll leave you with this thought: white people never have to talk about race or discrimination and what we should do if it happens to them. We never have to talk about it because our skin color is accepted. We can choose to be ignorant to the prejudices in the world; Others are not so lucky. If we want to see a change, and keep moving forward, something needs to change. White people need to change. We need to start addressing these problems, and facing them head on. Only then will we all be a part of the privileged class.

Modern Day Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs do exist.

They live in a junk yard

full of metal and boxes.

Standing proudly against a gray sky,

these dinosaurs,

of blue and red and white,

watch over the coast line

protecting what’s theirs.

Dinosaurs aren’t extinct.

They’re just man-made now,

and owned by CEOs

who control them.

How sad really,

when you think they used to be free.

But then,

once upon a time,

so were we.

Hobby Lobby Case: Should Contraceptives Be Covered Under Health Insurace?

Hobby Lobby Case: Should Contraceptives Be Covered Under Health Insurace?

This is a debate that ran in The Outlook on April 23. It focuses on the Supreme Court case, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. Both links to each side of the argument have been posted.

 

 

http://outlook.monmouth.edu/index.php/politics/1967-hobby-lobby-case-should-contraceptives-be-covered-under-health-insurance