Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ms. Hen reviews THE MINISTRY OF TIME






The Ministry of Time (El Ministerio Del Tiempo)
Netflix
2015-2017
In Spanish with subtitles


Ms. Hen does not write many TV reviews, though she does watch TV, mostly on Netflix. She doesn’t review these, because she decided not to write about absolutely everything in her life, like she did during the genesis of her blog. But she absolutely loved this Spanish show, THE MINISTRY OF TIME, about time travel in Spain.

The ministry is an office in contemporary Spain. A hallway in the basement leads to a place full of doors, which are entryways to different time periods in Spain’s history. They only lead to places in Spain, or that belonged to Spain at the time, such as South America and the Philippines. Three people are recruited at the beginning of the show, a 16th century soldier, Alfonso, the first female university student from the 19th century, Amelia Folch, and a modern day nurse, Julian, who works as an EMT. They are recruited to help fix history when it goes awry, which is what all the agents in the ministry do.

Amelia is the leader of the group, since she knows so much about history and everything else, and is highly intelligent. She is well versed in history up to her point, but learns quickly what she needs to know about other eras. Julian is the one who can help people who are hurt, and Alfonso is a fighter, who wins almost any battle. Alfonso is a brave warrior, but has antiquated views about women and religion.

Alfonso learns that he should obey Amelia’s command, even though he grumbles. Julian pines for his dead wife. Amelia has to go back to her time period living with her parents, and she has to deal with life as a 19th century woman, knowing that in the future, there are more opportunities.

One of Ms. Hen’s favorite episodes is about Cervantes, in which the villians pay the author for the only copy of DON QUIXOTE, and the agents have to try to get it back. Ms. Hen loved when they brought Cervantes to the present day to show him how famous he would be in the future. Another of Ms. Hen’s favorite episodes is the one when an evil character discovers America, and Christopher Columbus does not. Some episodes were about parts of history that Ms. Hen had no knowledge of, but she learned. She had heard the name Simon Bolivar, but did not know what he did, or how he was significant. Two episodes show this man at different times of his life.

The characters change, and new ones are introduced as the show progresses. Pacino joins the team when Julian runs away. Pacino is a police officer from the 1980s, and he escaped going to jail by finding a door to the present day. Alfonso, the 16th century soldier has to help teach Pacino about 21st century technology, but Alfonso gets confused about simple items such as toasters. This show can be humorous at times, when characters try to explain and learn about aspects of life in other time periods.

Some things about this show amazed Ms. Hen, such as the costumes and the filters. Amelia travels from era to era and always looks different; her hair and her clothes transform, and she looks like a new person each time. Ms. Hen noticed that the filter would change for different eras, such as in the 16th century, the light was very bright, and in the 1940s, the palette was darker. What amazed her the most was the 1970s, during which the filter changed so it looked like a photo taken from that time. This is a carefully made show, with a lot of thought to visuals and authenticity.

Ms. Hen watched this show because she is into science fiction, but she feels it goes along with the theme of the books she is reading right now, ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, and going down the rabbit hole. This show takes the characters into different points of time to try to save history. Ms. Hen recommends this TV show to anyone who wants to be taken to many different points in the history of Spain and to be dazzled by the way the world used to be.




Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ms. Hen reviews THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS







Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll
Macmillan
1872

Ms. Hen is studying ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND,
since she is attempting
to write something similar.
She had read that book years before, but she had never
read the sequel, THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, so she went to the Internet
and purchased it with aplomb, waiting anxiously for the parcel to arrive in the mail.
When it came, she read it when she was ready, and she dove into the fantastical
world of Alice falling into in her mirror.

These books are strange to Ms. Hen, and she is trying to figure out
what they are about; there is a myth they’re about
drugs, but she found out that’s not true, they’re just meant to entertain.
In this version of Alice’s tale she meets a Red Queen and a White Queen,
has an encounter with Humpty Dumpty, and the absurdity continues
with poetry and strange characters,
through the glass, similar to when she fell down the rabbit hole.

Ms. Hen thinks that the myriad of versions of these tales are about nothing but
children’s fanciful whimsical dreams, they are simply
tall tales told to spark the imagination,
to make us see the world in a precious way,
to help us hold onto childhood.
Ms. Hen thinks that people should not lose their sense of wonder,
even if they don’t like spending time around children,
they should hold onto the seed of what was once there,
but gets eaten away by the real world, the miserable, everyday, ordinary world
that kills us slowly and surely
by grinding us down to a pulp.

By reading about Alice, adults can try to remember what it’s like to have
a mind that’s free from clutter and drudgery.
We can become Alice and be like a bird hopping, preparing
for flight, ready to forget everything
and dance
like a rabid sea rabbit.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ms. Hen reviews THE BEGINNING PLACE






The Beginning Place
Ursula K. Le Guin
Harper & Row
1980

Ms. Hen decided to read this novel because she is currently interested in science fiction, particularly stories similar to ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND. She found this novel on a list of books that are similar to that one, and she has read another book by Ms. Le Guin in the past, and she admired her as a person, so she decided to pick this up. She was not disappointed.

After her deep dislike of NEUROMANCER last week, THE BEGINNING PLACE was a refreshing respite. This book takes place in a future time, the twenty-first century, or an imagined one that was written around the late seventies. Not a lot of technology exists in this novel, for example, Ms. Hen was surprised the characters did not own a microwave, but that was the small thing wrong with this book. Nobody can see the future, and the proliferation of things like microwaves and computers and the Internet would be difficult to imagine forty years ago.

This is a novel about a young man, Hugh, who works in a supermarket, and gets upset with his life, and runs into a forest that he does not realize at first is a different land. He thinks the place is beautiful and returns and finds a young woman there named Irena. She does not like that he’s in the place, too. People live in a village beyond the mountain, and Irena has been going there for a long time and speaks their language. The people cannot leave their village because of a magical force, and are losing food, so Irena and Hugh offer to help them. They go on an adventure and are not the same afterwards.

This novel is similar to ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, because it is about going to a different country where things and people are strange and operate in an unusual way. It is also reminiscent of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and many other stories in which someone goes on an adventure, and discovers a new, magical world. The difference is that this novel takes place in the future, where not everything in the characters’ lives is peaceful and calm. Hugh works at a supermarket and his mother is miserable. Irena’s family is dysfunctional and has a hard time with her roommates, an unmarried couple who fight all the time. They go past the river and find peace, or at least attempt to do so. Nothing in life is perfect, but we have to do our best.

Ms Hen understands that this is usually a book for young people; which makes sense to her, because it is simply written and it is not violent or graphic. She would have liked to read this when she was young, but she didn’t, but she is glad she just read it, because it makes her feel young, with positive feelings for the future. Being young is not always the best time of life, as Ms. Hen knows, but she thinks that people can be hopeful at any age. Ms. Hen loved this book.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ms. Hen reviews NEUROMANCER




Neuromancer
William Gibson
The Berkley Publishing Group
1984

Ms. Hen decided to read this novel because she thought it would relate to what she is writing now. It does, but it’s very different. The only similarity is that it’s science fiction about a similar subject. Ms. Hen honestly didn't like this book, however.

This is an action adventure novel that takes place in the future, in which a man, Case, chases his fortune across the world. It’s what Ms. Hen would call a Man Book, one of those novels full of sex, drugs and rock n roll, which is not usually Ms. Hen’s cup of tea. Ms. Hen likes science fiction, but the kind that is comprehensible.

This book is painful to read. Ms. Hen likes to live by the idea that a writer should not make a reader work to enjoy the story. This novel makes the reader work TOO HARD. There are all types of words that are made-up, and Ms. Hen didn’t like having to constantly trying to figure out what was going on. She thinks that if a person read this book constantly and did nothing else, maybe that person would get the lingo, but she has other things she has to do with her life, like work, and eat meals, and do her own writing.

Ms. Hen read reviews of this novel, and she can’t believe that people RAVED about this and said it was the best science fiction novel they had ever read. She wants to know what’s wrong with these people! Are they sick? Or do they love it because they think it’s so cool that they can’t understand what’s going on? Ms. Hen thinks it may be a case of the emperor’s new clothes – jumping on the bandwagon and saying it’s great because everyone else does too, and fooling themselves because everyone else is, too.

Ms. Hen doesn’t know how she got through this book, but she did. She was glad when it was over. She can’t believe that it’s a series and doesn’t know why anyone who finished this book would want to read more like this. All feathers down.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ms. Hen writes things



Ms. Hen does not just review things, she also writes things, as you may have read before. Here are a few of the stories she has published recently.

"The Problem with Filou"
https://www.whlreview.com/no-12.3/fiction/ShannonOConnor.pdf

"Sugar-Free Caramel Girl" Amazon
Tell-Tale Inklings #3


"Small Steps"
https://oddballmagazine.com/2018/01/31/fiction-by-shannon-oconnor-2/

In case you're wondering why Ms. Hen turned yellow, and why there are two Ms. Hens, I bought the yellow one because the original Ms. Hen is a little beaten up, and has a hole in her. I wanted to buy a new brown one, but the brown one is not for sale anymore! I bought the yellow Ms. Hen instead, and she's more noticeable the the brown one. Everyone likes the yellow Ms. Hen, and her official name is Madamoiselle Hen.

S.




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Ms. Hen reviews Beyond the Pale






Beyond the Pale
William Trevor
The Viking Press
1981

Ms. Hen picked up this book at the Little Free Library in Downtown Boston, in front of Walgreens. That one does not always have good books, but Ms. Hen managed to find this treasure one day recently. She has read other books by William Trevor, and she always loves them. He died recently at the age of eighty-eight, which Ms. Hen is in awe of. She admires writers who can live a long life and keep on writing. Mr. Trevor was one of the preeminent Irish short story writers of our time.

Ms. Hen finds it difficult to write reviews of collections of short stories, mostly because she can’t write about every story in the book; she has to choose only a few. Ms. Hen thinks that the best literature is about characters with messed up lives. All the people in the book are dysfunctional in one way or another, which Ms. Hen thinks is beautiful. There’s no point in reading about characters who are deliriously happy, or so she thinks.

In “Beyond the Pale,” four friends set out from England to Ireland for their summer holiday, who are bridge partners. Two of them are married to each other and two of them are single. Some strange events occur and it seems as if their bridge foursome will break up. This story is about the tenuous existence of ordinary people, and what keeps them together and what disintegrates relationships.

“The Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” is about a married couple, and the wife’s announcement that she is having a teddy bear’s picnic with her childhood friends. The husband is distraught and mortified; he does not want to go to a picnic for teddy bears with a group of adults. He is used to getting his way, and does not like to be told what to do. He hopes his wife will get pregnant soon, so he does not have to bear her boring life. Ms. Hen thinks this story is interesting, but dated; it’s about a married couple who don’t understand each other and don’t really know each other.

“The Paradise Lounge,” is about a couple having a love affair, which is ending. They go to a village where they don’t know anybody to stay at a hotel. In the bar, a woman observes them and she knows what is conspiring between them. She wants to tell the woman having the affair she is lucky, but she does not.

In “Beyond the Pale,” the narrator dreams that Cynthia is murdered, " 'Promise me you didn’t do it,' I whispered to Strafe, but when Strafe replied it was to say Cynthia’s body reminded him of a bag of old chicken bones.” Ms. Hen thinks this is funny, in perverse way.


Ms. Hen loved this book. She likes reading short stories because she has to discover a new world again and again within a book. A lot of people who read don’t like short stories, but writers do, because writing them is quick, and there’s less commitment than a novel. Ms. Hen raises her glass to writers who can create a small universe in a short time.



Friday, March 2, 2018

Ms. Hen reviews WHEN MADELINE WAS YOUNG







When Madeline Was Young
Jane Hamilton
Anchor Books
2006

Ms. Hen happened to buy this book because she was in a bookstore, and she had heard of the author, and she liked the title. She read the description, and was intrigued by the story of the woman who became incapacitated and was treated like a daughter by her ex-husband and his new wife.

Madeline is a beautiful woman who suffered an accident in the 1940s. She was riding a bicycle with her husband, after they had been married for a year, and she falls and hits her head and become mentally challenged. Aaron, the husband, has an acquaintance who is studying nursing, so she comes to help them, and eventually Julia and Aaron get married, after he divorces Madeline. They treat her like a daughter, and they have two more children.

This novel is told from the point of view of Mac, Aaron and Julia’s son. He is a sensitive, smart boy who grows up to become a doctor. The novel revolves around the present day conversation between Diana, Mac’s wife, and Mac about whether or not he should go to his cousin Buddy’s son’s funeral. Mac doesn’t want to go, but Diana thinks he should out of family duty. Buddy was a rough young man, and Mac hasn’t seen him in a long time.

Ms. Hen thinks it’s interesting that Mac is the one who is telling the story. He is not the most important person in the book, and the choice to shape the novel around him is different. Ms. Hen thinks Mac is a great character, and she understands why he is telling the story, but she might have wanted to know what is happening in Madeline or Julia’s mind.

This novel is primarily a story about a family, dysfunctional in its own way. Mac muses that if Madeline had had her accident in the new millennium, she might have had access to better treatment and recovery. Relatives said that they thought Madeline should have been in a home, but Julia would not hear of that. They handle her like a perpetual little girl, which may have stunted her growth, if she could have had any. In the 1940s and 50s, not much was known about the right way to treat the disabled. Many people stayed at home with their parents, and were not given the type of education and therapy that is given today.

Ms. Hen enjoyed this novel, even though it is very slow. It is not a loud novel; it is quiet and calming. There is fighting and sex, but even so, the noise level does not go up. Ms. Hen took her time reading WHEN MADELINE WAS YOUNG.  It is not a novel that a reader plows through, but rather wades through, gently.

There are some chickens in this novel, and they are mostly food. One of Ms. Hen favorites is when Mac and his family visit Buddy, “He was eating a pile of barbecue chicken wings and drinking a beer, nodding occasionally.” Ms. Hen likes this because it is a visceral scene, a man in his backyard after his son’s funeral eating chicken wings.

Ms. Hen enjoyed this novel. It is complicated and strange, and the characters are compelling. They are different from the people Ms. Hen knows, and getting to know strangers and getting in their heads and learning their particular pain is the purpose of fiction.