The BBRBF Book Club: Red, Blue, and the Lasso of Truth

Hello and welcome to another edition of the BBRBF Book Club! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review and the reason is because I couldn’t quite bring myself to write about our last book; in fact, it was a struggle to even finish the book. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, it just hit too close to home in regards to medical conditions.

Fortunately, this month’s book focuses on one of my favorite comic book characters: Wonder Woman. Here is the plot summary of The Secret History of Wonder Woman by  Jill Lepore:

A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights—a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

If there’s one thing that I can say I’m without a doubt passionate about, it’s women’s rights, so when I saw the opportunity to read about one of the most historically powerful, albeit fictional, women I was overjoyed. Wonder Woman was inspired by several influential figures throughout the women’s suffrage movement, including Sadie Holloway and Margaret Sanger, a famous birth control activist.

Interestingly enough, the creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston, was a bit of a misogynist despite being a committed feminist (weird, I know). He simultaneously lived and fathered children with two women, while participating in “cult of female sexual power” sex parties that were organized by his aunt. Perhaps misogynist isn’t the correct word, because his wife and lovers all willing participated in these sorts of events, instead let’s just emphasize the fact that he believed in “free love” outside of the restrictions of marriage (as did his wife, Sadie Holloway).

Marston’s exposure to suffragist culture led him to depict Wonder Woman as bound by chains in many editions of the comic; this being a common theme throughout suffragist imagery and publications. His goal was to make her the heroine of a new age in which women ruled. He, in fact, believed that the day would come when women would lead, as opposed to men (I, myself, wouldn’t mind seeing this some day).

After Marston’s death, at the young age of 54, his publishers ignored his original intent of keeping her as a “Progressive Era feminist” and began depicting Wonder Woman as a traditional housewife. Having been turned over to a new writer, she would be characterized as a babysitter or even a fashion model.

Despite these later depictions of her after Marston’s death, Wonder Woman has remained the greatest female superhero of all time. She’s extremely strong and agile, beautiful, cunning and intelligent and a symbol of empowerment to women everywhere. I highly recommend reading this book, as it goes into much further detail as to the people and events that inspired her. As for me, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the new Wonder Woman film coming out this summer.

And, as always, don’t forget to check out all of the other fabulous book clubbers’ opinions and inspired outfits: Sara (In a Nutshell), Kat (The Miss Information Blog), Kristina (The Eyre Effect), Noelle (The Classy Junk), Laci (Laci Fay), and Justyna (Hazel & Honey)!

Next month we will be reviewing Caraval by  Stephanie Garber, so stick around!

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The BBRBF Book Club: An Antique Scarf, Golden Age Hoops, and Bette Davis

Hello and welcome to another edition of The BBRBF Book Club! Our book this month is The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter and just like Bette Davis herself, it’s full of sass and drama.

Here is a plot summary from Goodreads:

The morning of her niece’s wedding, Margo Just drinks a double martini and contemplates the many mistakes she’s made in her fifty-odd years of life. Spending three decades in love with a wonderful but unattainable man is pretty high up on her list of missteps, as is a long line of unsuccessful love affairs accompanied by a seemingly endless supply of delicious cocktails.

When the young bride flees—taking with her a family heirloom and leaving behind six hundred bewildered guests—her mother offers Margo fifty grand to retrieve her spoiled brat of a daughter and the invaluable property she stole. So, together with the bride’s jilted and justifiably crabby fiancé, Margo sets out in a borrowed 1955 red MG on a cross-country chase. Along the way, none of what she discovers will be quite what she expected. But it might be exactly what she’s been seeking all along.

If you’ve been following my BBRBF Book Club reviews, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not hard to please. I have a tendency to find a connection with at least one character, or at least one trait of one character, perhaps a bit too easily.

On that note, I chose this book initially based off of the title. Bette Davis has been one of my favorite actresses for as long as I can remember. My mom introduced me to her films at a young age and I grew to admire the combination of strength and vulnerability within the characters she played, particularly when I was going through the tumultuous teenage years in which strength and vulnerability are constantly at war. For that reason I felt a connection to her, and consequently a connection to Margo Just.

Margo has been handed the short end of the stick in several ways: being shipped off to an English boarding school as a girl when her father passed, never obtaining an inheritance because she was the product of another woman, falling in love with a man twice her age who’s sexuality is questionable, continuing to dedicate her life to him even after she abandoned him at the alter, and solidifying her membership in the Bette Davis club- described as a club for those hopelessly enamored by unobtainable romantic interests, as most of Bette Davis’ characters were.

Margo has obtained a failing architectural salvage company from her former fiance, one in which she refuses to sell anything due to it’s emotional connection to Finn. She’s a borderline alcoholic who picked up smoking after years of quitting. She’s stuck in the past, is a virtual mess, and all of this is brought even further into the light when she flies to California for her niece’s wedding at what was once her former home/father’s estate.

When her niece, Georgia, runs away, Margo is asked by her half-sister, Charlotte (who inherited everything from their Hollywood screen-writing father) to retrieve her spoiled daughter, and the two scripts written by their father that she stole, for a considerable sum of money. Having lost her apartment in New York and accruing considerable debt from her business, Margo has no choice but to accept.

Her adventure begins in her father’s 1955 red MG roadster, one of the few of her father’s belongings that Margo truly admires (and had no idea still existed). She longs to drive it, but does not have a license, so the abandoned groom, Tully-who is old enough to be Georgia’s father- goes along for the ride. Throughout their journey you see their relationship evolve from one of disdain to one of romance.

The events that unfold are quite unbelievable ranging from purchasing Georgia’s hocked wedding dress for $25,000, entering a predominantly lesbian dancing contest in order to break into Georgia’s hotel room, visiting a dollhouse exhibit in Chicago for research pertaining to Tully’s upcoming book, and almost getting run off the road by the drug smuggling finance of Georgia’s best friend for stealing the scripts from their apartment.

I mean, if you want adventure, this book has got adventure.

But it also provides some insight into human behavior. Specifically, human behaviors that we all exhibit in some way or another. For me, the most relevant behavior was Margo’s obsession with the past. This is something I’ve struggled with it since college. I even have a tattoo (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, no less) that states “it does not to to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

And yet, I do it all the time. I harbor over the idea that if I had just told someone about my depression in high school, and not passed it off as if it were just a phase, or if I had tried harder to overcome it, maybe I could have done better in school, gotten into a better college, not have had to rely on scholarships from the music department and actually majored in something else. Maybe if I had stopped focusing on the negative aspects of my college- which, in retrospect, there were none- I would have realized that I could handle a double major, focused on biology and set myself up for success as a prospective veterinarian.

Like Margo, I occasionally allow my regret to sneak up and take hold.

While in Chicago, Tully is faced with the prospect of his relationship with Georgia being over. This fear is confirmed by the fact that he has not heard from her since the night before the wedding. As he accepts his defeat, after almost being pummeled on the highway, he and Margo decide to head to New York.

With the screenplays in hand, Margo confers with her friends Dottie and Veronica on the value of the works. It is determined that one of the scripts, a television show finale, is worth millions while the other, co-written by the Orson Welles (another one of my favorite actors), is worth maybe a few thousand.

As Margo contemplates the monetary value versus the emotional value of her father’s screenplay, Georgia knocks on her door. It turns out that she and her mother are communicating once more, she plans on marrying an English rock star, and has come to acquire her wedding dress.

In the end, which felt kind of rushed, Margo goes to AA, her and Charlotte finally connect, Tully makes arrangements to sell the profitable screenplay and he and Margo fall in love.

Despite this extremely stereotypical ending, I loved the book, and am apparently a complete sucker for romance.

For my inspired outfit, I wanted to capture the look of Margo in her father’s 1955 MG. I wanted to stick to the theme of red, white and black, so I chose this Lindy Bop ‘Audrey’ Red Check Swing Dress with my B.A.I.T. Footwear Emmie in Black. To capture that classic 1950’s look, I accessorized with my Hollywood Golden Age Glamour Girl 1950s Style Drop Hoop Earrings by Luxulite and a vintage head scarf from my local antiques shop: Streamline Antiques.

We’ve welcomed two new members to the book club, so don’t foget to check out what all the gals thought of The Bette Davis Club: Kristina (The Eyre Effect), Sara (In a Nutshell), Kat (The Miss Information Blog), Noelle (The Classy Junk), Laci (Laci Fay), and Justyna (Hazel & Honey).

Stay tuned next month for our review of The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach.

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The BBRBF Book Club: A Floral Blouse, Foreign Woods and a Bit of “Stardust”

“Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.”

Hello and welcome to another edition of The BBRBF Book Club! Our first book of the year is Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and boy is it magical.

Here is a plot overview from Goodreads:

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

Prior to Stardust the only book I had ever read by Gaiman was Coraline, which I’m borderline obsessed with, therefore I had high expectations; however, upon reading the first chapter I was immediately turned off.

I would not consider myself a fan of fantasy. I don’t care for stories involving faeries or knights or grandiose quests to please one’s true love, and I generally stay away from books with dragons on the cover. Because of this bias, it was hard for me to relate to the story at the onset of the plot. Had I not continued reading, I would have missed out on an incredibly intricate, and expertly tied-together, story filled with magic and wonder.

Tristran is no ordinary boy, he is the bastard son of Dunstan Thorn and a cat-eared, violet-eyed faerie girl named Una. His father had a brief love affair with Una during the Faerie market, held every nine years, in which the inhabitants of Wall and Faerie are free to socialize and exchange goods. Nine months later, the infant Tristran is left at the border of Wall to be kept under his father’s care.

18 years later, Tristran is on the verge of manhood, enamored by the prettiest girl in the village: Victoria Forester. During an evening stroll, he and Victoria witness a star fall from the sky and she promises Tristran whatever his heart desires should he bring her the star.

The daring young lad departs from his family to venture into this foreign land which, unbeknownst to him, is actually where he originates from. Tristran finds himself mysteriously able to navigate through the deadly forest, recall virtually every location within Faerie, and feel the presence of the star in relation to wherever he stood.

Through his travels, he comes across a small hairy man (who’s name is never shared) and receives from him a gold chain by which to ensnare the fallen star and a used candle, which allows Tristran to travel great distances within a matter of minutes, as long as the wick stays lit. As he begins his trek towards the star he is unaware that there are others attempting to locate it, as well.

Deep in the woods live three ancient sisters, known collectively as the Lillim, who once ruled a kingdom of witches. Inside their hut, they formulate a plan to rip out the heart of the star in order to restore their power and beauty. Meanwhile, the dying Lord of Stormhold gathers his three living sons, and the ghosts of his four dead sons (slain by their living counterparts), around his bedside to determine who will succeed the throne. Having hurled the Power of Stormhold, a topaz which marks the owner as ruler of the land, into the sky he inadvertently knocked the star down to earth. In order to gain the throne, his remaining three sons are to plot each other’s death, and the last one standing must find the topaz.

Once Tristran reaches the star, he discovers that it is actually a girl by the name of Yvaine. Her fall from the sky has rendered her a broken leg which, in addition to her blatant disgust for Tristran, stating that she will do everything in her power to make his journey difficult, causes his trek to be even more tumultuous.

In short, Yvaine runs away on the back of a unicorn and becomes ensnared by the Lillim. Tristran and the first born son of the Lord of Stormhold, called Primus, travel together to find what they are looking for (unaware that they both seek the star). Upon finding her, the Lillim murders both Primus and the unicorn, but Tristran and Yvaine escape, becoming stranded within the clouds.

One the ground once more, they encounter a witch by the name of Madam Semele who incidentally has enslaved Tristran’s birth mother, Una, and keeps her in the form of a bird. Tristran offers to barter the glass flower his father gave him (which, unbeknownst to him, is the flower Una gave to his father) for a ride to the Faerie market. Stunned by the flower, recognizing it as one of Una’s, Madam Semele accepts his offer. The most curious thing about their travels with this witch, aside from Tristran being turned into a dormouse, is that Madam Semele never acknowledges Yvaine.

During this time Septimus, the seventh, and only living, son of the Lord of Stormhold  is bound to the revenge of his brother Primus’ death before he can find the topaz and claim the throne. Having found the Lillim, he sets her house ablaze but fails in his mission and instead is slain by the same hand that killed his older brother.

Tristran and Yvaine have safely reached the border of Wall, but are denied passage into the village and are forced to stay in Faerie another night. As Tristran sleeps, Yvaine is approached by Una who explains why Madam Semele couldn’t see her and the duty she must uphold regarding the topaz tied around the star’s waist.

The next morning, Tristran believes that Victoria Forester is waiting for him at the entrance to Wall, but it turns out to be his sister. She takes him to Victoria who explains that she was foolish in promising Tristran her hand in marriage and that she was in love with someone else. But she didn’t promise to marry him, she promised him anything his heart desires and he desired that she marry her true love. Besides, he had grown quite fond of Yvaine and during their travels had forgotten the color of Victoria’s eyes.

In the end, Tristran and Yvaine fall in love and Una is not only Tristran’s birth mother, but Lady Una the only daughter of the Lord of Stormhold, which makes Tristran the rightful heir to the throne. Tristran, craving adventure, travels the lands with his wife while his mother rules the kingdom in his absence. In time, Tristran comes to rule the land with Yvaine by his side.

After his passing, Yvaine takes Tristran’s place at the throne. She never seems to age. She maintains a glow about her that others do not understand. At night, when time permits, she retires to the open tower of the castle and “says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”

I saw the film adaptation some time ago and, admittedly, didn’t make the connection while reading this book. They come across as two completely different animals, each good in their own way, but I’d take the book over the film if given a choice. Gaiman has the ability to paint an entirely fictional world in a way that makes you feel as if it could possibly exist, and tie three separate plots into one harmonious story.

My inspiration for this outfit was Lady Una’s flowers. I wanted to pay homage to the single identifying piece of glass that brought Tristran and his mother together. I paired this gorgeous 1970’s blouse from Moon Revival Vintage with the Field Notable Midi Skirt from Modcloth to create this earthy look. Additionally, I chose a location with an ethereal feel to represent the abundant magic within Faerie.

Have you read Stardust by Neil Gaiman? What did you think? Check out what the other gals in The BBRBF Book Club thought of Stardust and get a glimpse of their inspired outfits: Kristina from The Eyre Effect, Sara from In a Nutshell, Noelle from The Classy Junk and Kat from The Miss Information Blog!

Tune in next month for our review of The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter!

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The BBRBF Book Club: A Puzzle Piece, The Underworld and “Swamplandia!”

Hello and welcome to another round of the BBRBF Book Club! This month we read Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. As always, be sure to check out the other gals’ inspired outfits and reviews: Sara from In a Nutshell, Kristina from The Eyre Effect, Kat from The Miss Information Blog and Noelle from The Classy Junk!

What initially peaked my interest in this book was its location: the swamplands of Florida. Having grown up in southern Florida, I’m all too familiar with the kinds of creatures that lurk through the Everglades (and eventually make their way into your backyard). For some reason I felt this would allow me to instantly connect with the story.

But to be honest, I’m not sure that I connected with anything (or anyone) aside from the craziest character of them all: Osceola Bigtree.

The Bigtree family specializes in alligator wrestling and has built an entire theme park based on this skill. After the death of their main star/wife/mother Hilola Bigtree, their lives, and livelihood, begin to deteriorate.

Each member of the family deals with this loss in their own way. Chief Bigtree looses the ability to perform remedial tasks and abandons his children in order to get funding for the park. Kiwi, the oldest child and only son, runs away to the mainland in order to obtain a job, attend school and become the “hero” of Swamplandia!. Osceola, or Ossie, the middle daughter, claims that she can speak to ghosts and decides to elope with the spirit of a boy her age. Then there’s poor little Ava, the youngest child, who is determined to save her home with a red alligator that she’s raising, stop her sister from eloping to the Underworld, and eventually gets raped by a man she trusted to help her find Ossie.

I wasn’t able to finish this book due to it being finals season. The half of the book that I did read was enjoyable yet strange. I couldn’t help but feel that if I had lost my mother, which nearly happened last year due to Leukemia, I would lose touch with reality in the same way Ossie did. Don’t be mistaken, I don’t believe in ghost. The only thing that’s ever somewhat swayed my position on that subject is Ghost Adventures (yes, I watch that show, don’t judge). But losing a parent, especially at a young age, changes everything.

Ossie begins her journey towards the Underworld through a book called The Spiritist’s Telegraph, which is essentially a guide to channeling ghosts. She applies her otherworldly knowledge in the form of Ouija boards and spells. Eventually she makes contact with a young man named Louis Thanksgiving whose story, although sad, did not warrant an entire chapter. Ossie runs off, leaving Ava alone after the Chief and Kiwi have left for the mainland, to elope with Louis to the Underworld.

Having never finished the story, I was under the impression that Ossie would need to die in order to elope with Louis, but I was mistaken. Nonetheless, I drew my outfit inspiration from Ossie’s story and decided to present my interpretation of her as “The Swamp Queen of the Underworld.” I even attempted my first suicide roll in honor of, what I thought would be, Ossie’s demise. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Beetlejuice…

For this look I paired my Cropped Cardigan in Olive Sage with my Pinup Couture Jenny Skirt in Black from Pinup Girl Clothing. In fact, even my belt is from PUG. My brooch, which fit perfectly into this outfit if I do say so myself, is a vintage puzzle piece from Tinsel Town Accessories.

All in all, I’m not sure if I will finish this book. I had every intention to until I peaked through a full synopsis of the plot and discovered that Ava gets taken advantage of physically. I honestly don’t think I can stomach reading about a 13 year old being raped. For those of you who have read the whole book, is it worth pushing through to the end?

Tune in next time for our review of Stardust by Neil Gaiman!

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The BBRBF Book Club: Vintage Bows, Peasant Tops and “Not Working”

Hello and welcome to the November edition of the BBRBF Book Club! This month we’re reviewing “Not Working” by Lisa Owens.

Through my time in the BBRBF Book Club, I’ve come to realize that plot descriptions never do books justice. I’ve been completely led astray by snippets of storylines that are designed to give you a sense of what the book is about. Basically, I was not thrilled about this choice after reading its summary. I formed the opinion that this was just another “coming of age” drama, and parts of it do fit that category, but as I continued reading I found a deep seeded connection to the main character, Claire.

Claire is in her mid to late-twenties and has just quit her job in order to do some soul-searching. She’s determined to find a career that she deems meaningful and is afraid of jumping into the next opportunity thrown her way in fear of getting stuck there. Her long-term boyfriend, Luke, on the other hand is practicing to become a neurosurgeon.

Along her journey, constant snide remarks are thrown her way over her status of being unemployed, despite the fact that it was her choice. She’s a bit of an alcoholic, oversensitive, and self-loathing. I took those characteristics as defensive behavior from someone who is anxious and truly unhappy.

I connected with Claire on so many levels. The first being that I went, and currently am going, through a similar phase in my life (minus the alcoholism). My pursuit of science came not only from my passion for the subject, but my deep dissatisfaction with my status in life at the age of 25. I couldn’t help but relate to Claire’s sentiment of “I didn’t work hard at school and go to university so I could spend my life sending emails.” Although I wasn’t even doing that. I was working retail. I felt I wasn’t doing anything of meaning. I felt that I didn’t have a path like so many others around me. So, like Claire, I made a change.

Secondly, it was as if Claire and I shared a common mindset: self-loathing, insecurities, fear of the worse whenever she received a voicemail from family members, constant conflict when any sort of criticism was thrown her way, feelings of helplessness- that the universe had nothing but bad luck in store for her. She almost always, and in a roundabout way, referred to herself as being a bad person, saying things like “Not proud of the fact that when crossing the road, I use fellow humans as a buffer from the oncoming traffic, but there it is: that’s just the sort of person I am.” Although I’ve never consciously done that, I wouldn’t doubt that my subconscious has.

I fell in love with this book. I connected to almost every struggle that Claire went through. It brought to light that I’m not alone in my struggle to find the career for me, but that maybe there isn’t always a right path. Towards the end of the book, Claire and her father have a heart-to-heart in which she learns that her father never ended up finding his preferred path. He suggests that maybe “there’s a whole world between any old thing and the thing.”

For my outfit, I chose more of a house-wife outfit to represent Claire’s lackadaisical attire while out of work (and her constant cleaning of their apartment later in the story). I tried to make my jacket look like a robe, but I’m not entirely sure how well that came across. I paired my Pink Peasant Top from Pinup Girl Clothing with my Field Notable Midi Skirt from Modcloth. The hair scarf is vintage from a local shop called Streamline Antiques.

I hope you enjoyed my review, and don’t forget to check out all of the other gals’ opinions: Sara from In a Nutshell & Kathrine from The Miss Information Blog! Noelle from The Classy Junk and Kristina from The Eyre Effect had this month off, but will return for next month’s review of “Swamplandia!” by  Karen Russell.

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The BBRBF Book Club: Greener Pastures, Beehives, and “Frankenstein”

Hello and welcome to another exciting BBRBF Book Club review! We’re getting spooky in the book club this month and decided to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the recommendation of Kathrine from The Miss Information Blog.

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Let me start by saying that I loved this book. Not only was the topic fascinating, being a biology student, but Shelley’s writing is nothing short of lyrical. Both Victor Frankenstein and his creation express their anguish with such beauty that you almost forget their sufferings.

Aside from the fluent writing, my connection to this book emanates from the monster’s malevolent reaction to his own societal rejection. That, inherently his nature was curious and benevolent, but man’s fear and lack of understanding turned him into a “daemon” as he is thus referred. Can we not all relate to this? Perhaps not the homicidal actions taken, but the pain felt from rejection when all of your intentions are pure.

Being cast aside from society, the monster implores Frankenstein to create him a mate. He goes on to plead with Victor with lines such as “It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.” The sheer eloquence in which he begs for a companion eventually convinces Frankenstein to concede to his wishes.

Upon further reflection of his monster’s various murders (that of Frankenstein’s youngest brother and, inadvertently, a servant girl charged with that murder), he shudders to think of the temperament of this new creature. What if she should reject his first creation, how would the monster react? What is she were more maniacal then he? Despite the fact that Frankenstein has begun his work, he destroys his second creation without fear of the consequences.

The monster then goes on to murder Frankenstein’s best friend and, eventually, his wife. Fueled by revenge, Victor follows the monster for months on end with the intention of bringing him to his demise. Eventually, Frankenstein is brought to the edge of death and just after his last words, the monster appears at his bedside. The monster expresses his sentiments of despair over having lost his creator, and vows to go off to fulfill Frankenstein’s final wish: the death of his creation.

Through my outfit choice, I strived to convey what would have been Frankenstein’s second creation: the bride of Frankenstein. I wanted to instill a sense of both fear and malice in her countenance: hiding in the woods from society, but plotting her revenge.

I attempted my first beehive for this look, trying to capture the quintessential Bride of Frankenstein hair, but I’ll definitely need some practice (it must be bigger!). The dress is one of my absolute favorites that I bought from Modcloth. I splurged on it last Christmas and couldn’t be happier (and it certainly came in handy for this look). It’s made by Retrolicious and have henceforth stalked their site for other jems!

Curious what the other girls had to say about Frankenstein? Check out their reviews: In a Nutshell…, The Classy Junk, and The Eyre Effect! And stay tuned for our next BBRBF Book Club review of Not Working by Lisa Owens!

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The BBRBF Book Club: Steep Cliffs, Pirate Ships, and a Blue Dress

Hello and welcome to another edition of the BBRBF Book Club! This month we decided to read “We Are Pirates” by Daniel Handler, which was one of my suggestions. I was initially intrigued by this novel due to the fact that the writer goes by another name: Lemony Snicket. Growing up, I was enamored by “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and imagined “We Are Pirates” would have a similarly sarcastic “doom and gloom” about it. Instead, it offered aspects of realistic dissatisfaction with the monotony of life mixed with a desperation for adventure (in whatever form it takes).


The book is told from the perspective of someone you never meet, who is sitting within the main character’s bathroom during a barbeque that he wasn’t invited to. It consists of two storylines: one of Phil Needle and one of his fourteen-year old daughter, Gwen. Phil Needle, who is constantly referred to by both first and last name, is a radio producer who left his “party” life in New York for a boring one in San Francisco. His current project involves a radio show about the lawless American spirit, but when faced with the prospect of pitching it he can’t grasp a title.

Gwen is caught stealing from the local drug store and as punishment is forced to volunteer at an elderly home. She is assigned to work with a man named Errol who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Errol believes that he served in the Navy and has gathered countless books on life at sea, with particular emphasis on piracy. He and Gwen begin to bond over their lust for adventure and freedom, and eventually decide to pursue their dream of becoming pirates.

Things quickly spiral out of control for both Phil and Gwen. Phil maintains an odd obsession with a previous assistant while fantasizing about his current one, Levine, after finding a sexual word document on her computer. Gwen and Errol manage to gather a fairly useless crew comprised of the daughter of Gwen’s dentist (Amber), an employee of Errol’s retirement home (Manny, who’s actual name is Myoparo), and a shanghaied boy from Gwen’s former swim team (Cody). As Phil travels with Levine to Los Angeles to pitch his radio show, Gwen and her crew steal a boat and head out to sea.

This is where I began questioning my affinity towards the book, and even after finishing it I’m unsure of my feelings. On the way to Los Angeles, Levine admits to Phil that she slept with her previous boss. This seems to only fuels Phil’s lust. Meanwhile, our pirates encounter a boat occupied by a young couple. They decide to board and take the couple for everything they’re worth, including their lives. The justification for these actions comes from one of Errol’s books: “he who wants the world must first escape from it.” This break from societal standards marks the beginning of their freedom, and in turn, their eventual demise.

Back in L.A., Phil Needle and Levine sleep together, with some assistance from the influence of alcohol. Phil then wakes up to an alarming phone call: his daughter is missing. The events that follow are nothing short of catastrophic. Levine tenders her resignation, Phil must cancel the biggest pitch of his life, and his already loveless marriage falls apart due to the threat of his wife, Marina, leaving him after they find Gwen. Additionally, a monstrous storm barrels down on Gwen and her crew, they are marooned on an island, two of them become mutinous and abandon the crew, and Errol is slowly slipping into madness.

But my favorite part is this: while Gwen, Amber and Errol set back out to sea on a lifeboat, they hear Phil Needle’s voice on their radio. This further drives Errol’s mania, shouting that the man on the radio abandoned him, drove his wife to her death, and stole all of his money. While Errol is becoming feverishly violent, you hear Gwen shouting “Grandpa!”

Out of protection, Amber fires her gun, which turns out to be empty and the forceful air accidently hits the bottom of the lifeboat. All three of them go flying into the water, but neither Errol, nor Amber can swim. Gwen must watch as her Grandfather purposefully lets go of a plank of wood and is taken by the ocean. She grabs Amber and swims to shore. As Phil Needle secretly smokes a joint on his terrace, after being threatened that his wife is leaving him, he spots Gwen across the way.

The whole ordeal was blamed on Errol, that he was a senile old man who kidnapped his granddaughter. That Gwen and the others were hopeless victims, watching as Errol killed that young couple. That their escape from reality was really her grandfather’s break from reality.

To be honest, I’ve never been so conflicted on my opinion of a book. I’m both confused and intrigued by this story. What I found most interesting is that both father and daughter are searching for their own “lawless spirit” but they never bond over this matter. Similarly, neither of them take responsibility for their own actions, nor do they recognize that their miserable existence is what they made it. Instead, they search for external stimuli, whether it be people or events, for happiness.

I leave you with my favorite quote from the book and what really tied the title to the story: “We steal the happiness of others in order to be happy ourselves, and when it is stolen from us we voyage desperately to steal it back. We are pirates.”

Not only does my outfit match the cover of the novel, but it also adheres more to Gwen’s storyline of life at sea. My location for these photos also plays a part, and it is this: life is rocky. There are several ways to navigate the storm that is life, but running away, or breaking from reality, is not one of them. And that was my biggest take away from this novel.

Be sure to check out the rest of the book club’s reviews and fabulous outfits: Sara (In a Nutshell…), Kathrine (The Miss Information Blog), Noelle (The Classy Junk), Kristina (The Eyre Effect), and Lyndsey (Dressed in Mascara)!

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