Elevate Difference

Reviews by M.L. Madison

M.L. Madison

M.L. Madison has been writing since she learned to pick up a pen. Raised by a feminist father, she is the oldest of four very cool siblings and is a nonprofit slave by day. She and her partner are raising a family of cats near Portland, Oregon.

Revolutionary Women: A Book of Stencils

I'm all for learning more—and for disseminating information to a wide audience—about women who have played significant roles in history. All too often, women who have contributed to movements for change have been given all too little (or no) attention or credit. I agree that we need to have a more complete picture of the female revolutionaries who risked and sometimes gave their lives for a cause.

Marion Manley: Miami's First Woman Architect

Marion Manley was not merely Miami’s first female architect, she also played a crucial role in the area’s planning. Responsible for much of the design of the University of Miami—dubbed “the first modern university”—Manley was also a pioneer in what we now call “green building” and ecological preservation.

Tales of Tokyo

Full disclosure: Alan Rose and I are friends, and over the years I have enjoyed every bit of his writing. His first novel, the plot-driven ghost story The Legacy of Emily Hargraves, may differ in tone and content from Tales of Tokyo, but the underlying themes aren’t so different.


Think of the word mojo in the classic sense (energy and zest for life) before Jim Morrison distorted it, and it's really the best adjective to describe this album. Having listened to Tom Petty—with and sans the Heartbreakers—since high school, I have to agree with fellow fans that the guy just doesn't make bad music. Like many an artist going through major life changes—divorce, having a child grow into an adult, a new marriage—music tends to be worn on his sleeve.

Secrets of Eden

Like Midwives and The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian's newest suspense novel, Secrets of Eden, was (no exaggeration) nearly impossible for me to put down.

Apricot Freesia Soap

Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2000, I have been shopping at The Soap Factory. Supporting a local, woman-owned business is a pleasure, and using the store's products always feels indulgent. Prior to finding this company, I had given up on scented personal care products, due to allergic reactions.

Downtown Church

It's nothing new for an artist to try different genres of music, but not many can pull off multiple styles in an original way — let alone a way that actually sounds good. Count Patty Griffin among those rare musicians. I've been a fan of Griffin's since I picked up her 1998 release Flaming Red, a compelling mix of punk, pop, and what was then referred to as 'alternative' music.

subCITY: Out of Sight. Out of Mind.

In less than forty-five minutes, subCITY will shatter any notions you may have about access to mental health care in the United States, in Oregon in particular, the state where I live. Working for a mental health advocacy group, I'm reminded daily that the system is broken. But I didn't realize just how broken until I watched this film. The director/producer team of Kevin and Dawn D'Haeze has created a powerful indictment of our current mental health care system.

Soap Sampler & Solid Body Lotion

I discovered Soap Lady Oregon products at—of all places—a chocolate festival in Portland, Oregon. While the products obviously aren't edible, they smelled better—and had healthier ingredients—than many of the food products that my partner and I sampled at the event. I believe you can vote with your pocketbook, and it was nice to know that the company uses all-natural, vegan and cruelty-free ingredients.

Vegetarian Dishes from Across the Middle East

The late Arto der Haroutunian first published this book in 1983 when how-to's for vegetarian cooking—let alone for Middle Eastern vegetarian cooking—were relatively rare in the U.S. Ahead of his time, der Haroutunian's tome of some 250 recipes laid dormant and out of print for 20 years.

Women and Judaism: New Insights and Scholarship

Why is it that so many scholars—people well-versed in captivating ideas and history—are dry writers? Being a feminist with Jewish roots, I was really excited to review Women and Judaism. Divided into four sub-categories: classical tradition, history, contemporary life, and literature—the volume did present some very interesting thoughts on women's role within the Jewish religion.

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington

Conant, a former journalist, is a thorough researcher. In this book, she digs into the secret wartime propaganda work that Roald Dahl and his British colleagues were assigned to do to drum up American support for World War II.

The Queen of the Ring: Sex, Muscles, Diamonds, and the Making of an American Legend

One of my most irritating memories of the early and mid-1980s is my younger brother's insistence on having TV wrestling in the background on Saturday mornings. Even at age nine, the “sport” seemed staged, hokey, and fake. But imagine a time when wrestling was based on skill as much as show, when young American women saw it as an escape from poverty as much as a pass into celebrity.

Rhubarb N Blueberry Spice Soap

I am a soap snob, but not without good reason. I don't want to imbibe chemicals into my skin, and just about everything with scent tends to make my skin dry out or cause an allergic reaction.

My Soul To Take: A Novel of Iceland

Set in Iceland, My Soul To Take centers around attorney and single mom Thóra, whose chaotic personal life gets even more complicated after a client is suspected of murder. A badly beaten body is found on the beach near her client's new age resort, shattering the peaceful idyll it is known for—or is it? The deeper practical Thóra digs into local lore, the less she is sure that the place is not cursed.

Brass Angel Bracelet

Full disclosure: I borrowed three bracelets from Belle Style to review, and subsequently requested two of them as gifts. This one, while definitely an interesting and well-made piece, was not one of them. Of the three bracelets, this was the most masculine and different from many of the other pieces on the company's website.

Julie and Julia

Is it ever too late to follow your bliss? In Julie and Julia, director Nora Ephron seems to be shouting directly into the ears of the audience, “Not on your life!” The film, which is truly Ephron’s masterpiece, is based on two books: writer Julie Powell’s tome of the same name and Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France.

Ballchain Ruby Bracelet

This lightweight, 7.5" bracelet features an Italian sterling silver ball chain and three charms. The trio starts with a sterling silver heart that's anything but girly—it has a raised, medieval-looking cross in the center. In the middle, a rough-cut ruby-colored Swarovski crystal looks like a bit of pirate's booty. Rounding out these funky charms is as small, round silver charm features a picture from Rafael's "Angels" painting. The effect is a cross of punk and dainty (e.g., I am feminine, hear me roar).


It's little wonder Belle Style's funky yet dainty jewelry has made cameos in films and television shows—like The Watchmen and Brothers and Sisters—and have been featured in magazines like Teen People, L.A. Confidential, and Tiger Beat.

Crazy Enough (6/12/2009)

Her mother tried to poison her with turquoise "chicken noodle" soup, she tried to become a "dick whisperer" at age twelve, and she was addicted to heroin by age twenty-one. Is Storm Large "Crazy Enough?" Decide for yourself before this show ends August 16, or spend the rest of the summer regretting that you missed her.

Heart and Soul

As much as I'm addicted to hard news and biography, Maeve Binchy's novels are my guilty pleasure. If you're into this genre (think chick lit with substance) you won't be disappointed with Heart and Soul, the Irish novelist's latest book.

Personal Moments in the Lives of Victorian Women: Selections From Their Autobiographies (Book 2)

In her biography of May Duignan—better known as the notorious "Chicago May"—the late Irish writer Nuala O'Faolain notes that cemeteries are full of women whose life stories died with them, and that women's autobiographies are a critical part of lost history.

Girls, Feminism, and Grassroots Literacies: Activism in the GirlZone

Set in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Girls, Feminism, and Grassroots Literacies follows the short life GirlZone, a nonprofit in Central Illinois. Founded by two women living in Urbana-Champaign, GirlZone offered nontraditional workshops and other hands-on learning opportunities for girls in the area and its outskirts.

It's Not Me, It's You

I had never heard any of Lily Allen's songs until "The Fear," the first single off of It's Not Me, It's You, was released in January. I was hooked instantly; I could hardly wait until the U.S. release date for this album. Lily Allen doesn't disappoint.

Love All

Fans of Elizabeth Jane Howard won't be disappointed with Love All, her first novel since 1999's Falling.

Nine Inch Nails (12/7/2008)

I've never been a diehard Nine Inch Nails fan, but have listened to them on and off since high school. I've never seen frontman Trent Reznor or his music as misogynistic; in fact, "Closer" is one of my all-time favorite songs. And to be fair, the only semi-nude images on visual display in this show were equal opportunity, male and female. Whatever else you want to say about them, NIN gave fans in Portland, Oregon their money's worth.

Unaccustomed Earth

In this stunning collection of stories, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri takes the reader from the East Coast of the United States to India and Thailand and back, allowing us inside the homes and hotel rooms of warring lovers, conflicted families, and jealous roommates.

Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War

A book about women's involvement in war that shows, in part, their commitment to nonviolence? It may seem contradictory, but it's just one of the fascinating aspects of this well-researched book, Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War. Jensen presents case studies ranging from female physicians and aid workers to women in combat, delving into their relationships with the state and the dynamics of violence.

Complexion Bar

I stumbled upon The Soap Factory in Longview, WA while exploring the downtown area nearly seven years ago. I fell in love with the shop and its products instantly, and have continued to order them online after leaving the job in Longview. The Soap Factory's Complexion Bar is a tried and true favorite of mine. While it's not cheap ($6.99), the four-ounce bar lasts a long, long time. (I just bought a new one, having purchased the previous bar in 2006.) With real avocado fruit, carrot juice, shea butter and a host of essential oils, it smells good enough to eat.

Secrado Corazon Necklace

Having reviewed a shoulder bag and wallet from Chic Cosas, I wanted to check out more of their goodies. I normally don't wear bright or large jewelry, but I absolutely adored the color and crafts(wo)manship of this necklace. At a very reasonable price of $28, the porcelain pendant of the Secrado Corazon "focuses on the heart, metaphorically, and the emotional, moral life, and love for humanity," according to Chic Cosas owner Deborah Maciel. It's a frequent and significant symbol in Mexican art, which I also happen to love.