Erin's bookshelf: read

Private Pleasures
Vampyres of Hollywood
Religio Duplex: How the Enlightenment Reinvented Egyptian Religion
Four: A Divergent Collection
Mighty Dads
Cuffed, Tied, and Satisfied: A Kinky Guide to the Best Sex Ever
Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming
Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self
The Casual Vacancy
Midnight Crossroad
Play Him Again
Just My Typo: From
This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl
Reasons My Kid Is Crying
Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack

Erin O'Riordan's favorite books »

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

'True Blood' Season 7 Discussion, Pt. 2 #TrueToTheEnd

In last week's post, we discussed the 7th and final season of True Blood in terms of the fates of some of my favorite characters: Tara, Sam, Alcide, Jessica, and Arlene. Today we'll wrap up with Sookie, Bill, Jason, Eric, Pam, and Lafayette.

I'm going to mention Charlaine Harris's book series, so if you don't want to be spoiled on the books, do not proceed.

Lafayette Reynolds and James Kent: Tara Thornton met a terrible fate, but fortunately her cousin Lafayette did not. Several seasons back - in Season 5 - Lafayette lost the man who had the potential to be the love of his life, Jesus Velasquez.

(I'd forgotten how beautiful Kevin Alejandro was until Tit Elingtin and I watched the series Weeds. Then I remembered the Jesus-Lafayette romance. Then I made myself sad.)

It was high time for Lafayette to find love again.

Creative Commons image by Kristin Dos Santos
When we met James Kent in the vampire internment camp is Season 6, he was introduced as a love interest for Jessica Hamby. He was also played by a blond actor names Luke Grimes. When Grimes read the script for Season 7, he decided to leave the show. In a plot twist, James turns out to be bisexual. The '70s rocker vampire had a previous relationship with a male bandmate, and he's attracted to Lafayette.

This season, James is played by dark-haired actor Nathan Parsons.

Creative Commons image by Nehrams2020
I have a wee bit of a problem with the way their relationship was handled, though. James, rather than breaking up with Jessica and then pursuing Lafayette, he sneaks off with Lafayette at Sookie's party. Of course, Jessica just happens to step outside at the right time catch James and Lafayette having sex.

A) I don't like the stereotype that bisexual and pansexual people are all cheaters. We're probably no more or less faithful than the gays, the lesbians, and the straights.

I don't judge people for non-monogamy, but I do judge people for betrayal of a partner's trust.

B) I wish James and Lafayette's sex scene had been better than just an outdoor quickie leaning against a car. It seems like every other couple on the series has, at one point, gotten romantic music, candles, firelight, and a bearskin rug...or at least a nice, sturdy pool table. James and Lafayette don't deserve a romantic sex scene? Even Eric-Talbot was more romantic...up until the point that Eric staked Talbot.

However, the bad blood between Jessica and James did not seem to last long at all. I think she was just happy that he was happy with Lafayette. The finale's flash-forward showed them still together.

I must say, Lafayette and James made one strikingly beautiful couple. But, as we saw with Pam/Tara, this show had a history of giving short shrift to couples when one of them is a person of color.

On the next TV show Nelsan Ellis lands on, can he please play the main character?

Jason Stackhouse: Jason's story ends happily, and pretty much the same way it did in After Dead. I'm glad, because you have to like Jason, even if he is dumber than a bag of hammers. The biggest difference between book Jason and TV Jason, of course, is that book Jason turned into a werepanther.

In the True Blood finale, it appears that Jason has married Bridget, Hoyt's fiancee from Alaska until they broke up over the issue of children. They have three children together. Jason appears to be an excellent father. Happily ever after for them.

I don't really have any emotional attachment to Bridget. She was introduced this season, essentially as a plot device to resolve the tension between Jessica, Hoyt, and Jason. But it's still good to see Jason settled down.

Creative Commons image by Kristin Dos Santos
Ryan Kwanten, I will miss your butt. I hope to see it again in your next project.

Pam Swynford de Beaufort and Eric Northman: By rescuing Sarah Newlin from the Yakuza, only to use her for their own purposes, and then killing the Yakuza, Pam and Eric have become rich beyond their wildest dreams, cured Hepatitis V, and no longer have to answer to anyone. They get to stay together, and there's no indication they'll have to meet the true death any time soon.

This is a much sunnier ending than After Dead mapped out for Eric, married to a vampire he didn't love. I don't even remember what happened to Pam, other than that she took over for Eric as the sheriff of Area 5.

What I didn't like about Pam and Eric's ending was their cruelty to Sarah Newlin. They keep her chained in the basement of Fangtasia, and vampires pay them thousands of dollars to spend a few seconds terrorizing her. Yes, Sarah did an awful thing to vampire-kind when she helped the governor unleash Hep V on them, but that still doesn't make it okay for Pam and Eric to torture her. Pam and Eric are cruel. Eric's cruel nature is why I never really rooted for Eric and Sookie to be together.

I also wish that Alexander Skarsgard's unnamed "boyfriend" character in Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" video had been nicer to the character Gaga is playing. Instead, he pushed her off a balcony.

Still, I am also going to miss A.Skars's butt. I'm sure we'll see it again, though. He does all those strange foreign movies.

Drum roll, please.

Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton: In Dead Ever After, Sookie embarks on a relationship with Sam Merlotte. The official end of the book series doesn't tell us whether or not they'll have a long, happy life together. After Dead reveals they do, with three children, although one of their children dies as a teen.

I had always hoped Sookie and Bill getting back together would be the endgame of the book series. I did not get my wish. I had a faint hope that it would be the endgame of the TV series...but that started getting dismantled as soon as the ailing Bill started pushing Sookie away.

I really didn't think she would kill him, though. I really thought they would change their minds at the last minute.

Sookie driving a stake into Bill's heart was sad enough after all the time I've spent reading about and watching these characters. It was made even more poignant by the fact that Anna Paquin and Bill Moyer fell in love in real life, got married, and had a child together. This must have been an agonizing scene for them to film - who wants to contemplate the mortality of their spouse? The scene of Sookie covered in the goo that used to be Bill was heartbreaking.

Creative Commons image by BladeRunner0427
The flash-forward to three years from that moment, showing Sookie married to an anonymous human man and pregnant, held no emotional pull for me. Was he the love of her life? Maybe, but since we the viewers had no clue who he was, he didn't mean anything to us.

I just really wish Bill would have been happy knowing his daughter's descendants, Andy and Adilyn, were alive, well, and possibly carrying on the family line, and that Jessica was happily married and might have a vampire progeny of her own some day. (Possibly, Hoyt will one day want Jessica to turn him.) I wish that had been enough of a reason for him to stay alive - or, well, undead, at least until Sookie's death. Considering what a magnet for supernatural trouble she is, Sookie probably won't live that long, anyway.

So, the thing that disappointed me most about the finale was Bill's death, followed by Sookie's lackluster, non-supernatural HEA.

What did you think about the last season of True Blood?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Release Day Blitz: 'Hired Gun' by A.J. Bennett

Out Now!

Hired Gun 1 by A.J. Bennett
Paranormal Romance Serial

Thorne Hollow is tall, dark and sexy as hell. And he knows it.

Cast out by the Gods thousands of years ago, he roams the earth working as an assassin for The Sicarii, a secret society that protects humans from all the things that go bump in the night.

Long ago, Thorne made the mistake of falling in love with a human, and her death stripped him bare. Destined to live a life of solitude. One night stands are his way of life—until he meets a mysterious woman whose intriguing power compels him to uncover more about her and the strange magic she wields.

Add to Goodreads:


About the Author

A.J. Bennett lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and bulldog. She's addicted to coffee, popcorn, and books. Becoming an author has been a lifelong dream, and she's extremely excited about her debut novel Now or Never.

Friday, September 12, 2014

#FridayReads September 12, 2014

Since I finished Middlemarch by George Eliot in July, it would be silly of me not to read My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. Especially since I got a free hardcover copy from Blogging For Books

The Goodreads Blurb:

"A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth--Middlemarch--and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories. 

"Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot's Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people," offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

"In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot's masterpiece--the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure--and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot's biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead's life uncannily echo that of Eliot herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us."

I love books about books. Even though I didn't love Middlemarch nearly as much as Mead did, Mead's book is still quite fascinating. So far. I'm only about a quarter of the way through. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

'Vampyres of Hollywood' Review + 'True Blood' Season 7 Discussion, Pt. 1

Vampyres of Hollywood  (Vampyres of Hollywood, #1)Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would have been slightly disappointed if the lovely and talented film actress Adrienne Barbeau hadn't written a fabulously entertaining book with her co-author Michael Scott of The Alchemyst fame. Fortunately, this vampyre fantasy/murder mystery set in modern-day Hollywood IS fabulously entertaining. Horror, humor, and suspense are deftly blended into this unusual boy-meets-ghoul story reminiscent of the best of Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries series (if by Southern we meant SoCal). True Blood aficionados will appreciate this stand-alone novel.

If Lady Gaga were ever to decide to star in a movie, she would be perfect in the role of vampyre heroine Ovsanna Moore. I also like that Hollywood classics like Rudolph Valentino, Orson Welles, and Mary Pickford make appearances, and the fictional timeline also plays with history. Let's just say that Dan Brown's explanation of the original Friday the 13th in The Da Vinci Code isn't the full story in Ovsanna's telling.

I bought this book for $1 at a library used book sale. I was not obligated to review it in any way. All the opinions stated here are my own.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Now, I can't let the opportunity to mention True Blood pass without discussing the Season 7. If you want episode-by-episode recaps of the final season of True Blood, I direct your attention to the blog Fangs, Wands, and Fairy Dust. Fair warning, Steph also recaps Outlander and Masters of Sex, so beware of spoilers:

Season 7 Episode 2
Season 7 Episode 5
Season 7 Episode 6
Season 7 Episode 7
Season 7 Episode 8
Season 7 Episode 9
Season 7 Episode 10

I didn't see episodes 1, 3, or 4 on Steph's blog. She may have missed a few.

(Sidenote: I wish my parents had Showtime so we could watch Masters of Sex. Not only do I find Masters and Johnson terribly fascinating, but I also love Michael Sheen because he plays creepy Aro in the Twilight Saga films.)

Tara Thornton

So let's talk about the ultimate fates of some of my favorite characters from the series. My #1 problem with this season is the fate of Tara Thornton, the kickass vamp played by the gorgeous Rutina Wesley.

Tara dies. In the first episode of the season. Offscreen.

Look, it's bad enough that Season 6 gave barely even a flicker of screen time to the Pam-Tara romance. That was on top of all the previous sufferings of Tara's character: an abusive, alcoholic mother; having her mind held hostage by the maenad; losing Eggs; being kidnapped, raped, and tortured by the evil vampire Franklin; getting shot in the head by that psycho Debbie Pelt, and then turned into a vampire against her will; and then being locked up in nutty Sarah Newlin's vampire prison camp. Just when you thought Tara had suffered enough and deserved a happy ending, though - BAM! An undignified off-screen death.

Creative Commons image by Ronald Woan
She appeared a few more times throughout the season, as a V-induced hallucination/ghost - crucified, no less. Dear TV: is it too much to ask that we have some African-American female characters who survive, thrive, succeed, and excel?

So that writing pissed me off, as did the fact that Pam barely brought up Tara's name the entire season. Because (so the writers seem to think) why would Pam grieve for her woman of color lover when she could just as easily obsess over Eric's pasty white Viking ass?

See Also: "Stick a Fork In It" on Dorothy Surrenders

Ginger (No Last Name)

One of the most enjoyable sequences (the beginning of it, anyway) this season was a flashback to the '90s in which Eric and Pam acquired the building that would come to house Fangtasia. The vampire night club of the '00s started life as a humble video store. As Pam stood in it, bewildered by being ordered to manage such a mundane center of human activity, who should pop in but Ginger (played by Tara Buck), searching for vampire movies.

Ah, but this is not the Ginger we've come to know over the past six seasons, the clueless human pathetically and hopelessly lusting after the lanky blond vampire. This Ginger is smart!Ginger. See, she's wearing glasses! She's a student at Tulane! She needs those vampire movies for her thesis on the vampire as metaphor for social outsider!

"#1 Crush" by Garbage plays in the background. Then, suddenly, Eric walks up from the basement. Smart!Ginger takes a half-second glance in his direction, and the immense surge of lust erases half her brain cells, instantly turning her into the Ginger we all know and consider an unflattering stereotype of women. Apparently we can be brainy or express our sexuality, but not both at the same time. It's like that lame-ass "Blow Minds, Not Guys" virtual poster I sometimes see around social media.

In the finale, Eric finally offers to have sex with Ginger. She wants to straddle him while he sits on his throne. She does - for all of about two seconds, before the strength of her insta-orgasm literally knocks her to the floor.

I can't remember if Ginger was a character in the books or not. If she was, was she this lame in the novels, or it just TV Ginger that sucks? I wanted so much more for you, Ginger. I really did.

Alcide Herveaux

Season 6 ended with that terribly confusing flash-forward showing Sam as the mayor of Bon Temps and Sookie happily in a relationship with werewolf Alcide. That looked like fun, didn't it? And if I remember correctly from Dead Ever After, which I read a little over a year ago, book-Alcide had a pretty happy ending. I think he settled down with a female werewolf.

Alas, TV-Alcide and TV-Sookie were not meant to be, as he was killed off in Episode 3. Sad, sad, sad.

Creative Commons image by Sue Lukenbaugh

Sam Merlotte

One positive I'll mention out of Season 7 is that Sam Merlotte and his beloved, Nicole Wright (played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell), got the happy ending they deserved. Nicole, heavily pregnant with the couple's baby daughter, told Sam she wanted to leave the high weirdness of Bon Temps behind and raise her child in a safer environment. She asked him to move to Chicago with her so that they could be closer to her parents. Sam deliberated, but he made the right call. He resigned as mayor and chose to protect his de facto wife and unborn child. Which is as it should be.

Creative Commons image by Gage Skidmore
The next thing I see Sam Trammell in is likely to be The Fault in Our Stars. He plays the father of Hazel Grace Lancaster.

Jessica Hamby

Another one of my favorites who actually got a happy ending was Jessica Hamby, Bill's vampire progeny. However, like Nicole, she had to undergo some awful suffering first. (Nicole was among a group of humans abducted by the hepatitis V-infected vampires, ultimately rescued thanks another abductee, the witch Holly Cleary.) She was abducted by my least favorite character of this season, the awful Violet.

Violet (played by Karolina Wydra) first appeared in Season 6, in the vampire prison camp. I don't entirely remember that storyline - first she tried to eat Jason, then she forced him to become her boyfriend, or something. Either way, Violet always seemed to me like she hated other women. Then Jason upset her by having one last fling with Jessica at Sookie's party, and she retaliated by kidnapping and planning to kill Sheriff Andy Bellefleur's half-fairy daughter Adilyn, Adilyn's boyfriend/stepbrother-to-be Wade Cleary (Holly's son), and Jessica.

Jessica's former lover Hoyt Fortenberry disappeared several seasons ago, when Jessica wiped his memory clean of their relationship and he moved to Alaska. He returned to Bon Temps for his mother's funeral - Violet reached into Mrs. Fortenberry's chest and pulled her heart out. He brought a fiancee, but they were fighting over the issue of children, which she wanted but he didn't. Jason and Hoyt both showed up at Violet's creepy fortress to rescue Jessica and the kids. Violet had just finished explaining her evil plan to hideously torture Jessica when Hoyt's bullet turned Violet to the goo she so richly deserved to become.

In a very short time, Jessica fell back in love with Hoyt and won his love again. In the finale, they got married, with Bill giving her away. Deborah Ann Woll looked spectacularly gorgeous as bride!Jessica.

Creative Commons image by Gage Skidmore
That was my favorite part of the finale. Other parts impressed me much, much less.

Arlene Fowler Bellefleur

Let us state for the record that TV-Arlene is a million percent better than book-Arlene. Book-Arlene was a racist bitch. TV-Arlene was much more sympathetic, and I would like her even if the character wasn't played by Carrie Preston, who also plays Grace Hendricks on Person of Interest (and whose real-life husband is Michael Emerson).

Creative Commons image by watchwithkristin
TV-Arlene gets a happy ending, too. She almost died in the rescue attempt, but her life was saved by vampire blood from the newly-introduced Keith (No Last Name). As usual in True Blood land, because Keith's blood is in Arlene, Arlene dreams about Keith. Preston did an almost fully nude sex scene on a pool table with her co-star, the beautiful Riley Smith, for the dream sequence. In waking life, Keith and Arlene are attracted to one another, but because she's hep V positive, they take their relationship very slowly. In one lovely scene, they simply dance.

The finale implies they stayed together.

Tomorrow Next week we'll examine some of our other favorites, including Lafayette, Sookie, and Bill.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Release Day Blitz: Lasting Summer #5 by Kailin Gow

Summer Jones thought she lost Nat Donovan, the boy she had always had a crush on since she could remember, when he went off on a mission to find his father, the founder and CEO of Donovan Dynamics, the billion dollar security and intelligence corporation who is now protecting her from the stalker who has attempted to kill her twice.

He had always been her rock, had always been there for her, but now Nat has disappeared. According to Donovan Dynamics, it was for good.

Could Summer continue on? Could Nat's playboy one-night stand legend brother Drew Donovan live up to Nat's legacy as the family's perfect son, as the one who could eventually run Donovan Dynamics? With Nat gone, could he finally get Summer to commit to him with all her heart and soul?

All the secrets, all the heartaches, come out in Lasting Summer as the Donovans and Summer learn to deal with the truth about Nat, Drew, and Summer that will test each others' love to each other and to family.
Lasting Summer is part of the Loving Summer Series appropriate for age 18+.

Purchase on B+N

Purchase on Kobo

Website     Facebook      Twitter

Kailin Gow's life is sometimes more fascinating and stranger than fiction, which is being chronicled in a feature film based on a treatment optioned and in development for a release date of 2018. ( - The Colorful Worlds of Kailin Gow 2018). Her true life experiences as a world traveler where she has traveled to over 25 countries, logging hundreds of thousands of miles, absorbing the cultures and collecting stories relating to places and the romance of the land, and incidents in her personal life, has inspired her to write and publish over 170 books with over 30 series.

She is noted as an indie pioneer, as one of the first to publish in 2001. Breaking stereotypes, her books has crossed traditional and indie lines, gaining recognition in schools and libraries, as well as the indie community. Her action adventure young adult fantasy series, The Frost Series, an ALA YALSA Reader's Choice Nominated book series - had been optioned by an international film company and is currently in development as a game and a film at Five of her fantasy/action adventure series have been optioned to be made into worldwide games.

Kailin Gow has been known in The World Journal, an international newspaper, to be a phenomenon. She was profiled on the homepage of as an Author Success Story who overcame personal obstacles to become a bestselling author, appeared as one of Amazon's top authors for the Kindle Fire launch release, and is one of the earliest indie authors who have sold over a million books. She writes for Fast Company as a publishing expert, had appeared on a major network Television News as a bestselling author who writes fiction and non-fiction with a social conscious, and has made speeches and appearances across the U.S. and on top 15 national radio regarding self-esteem and issues relating to women.

Kailin Gow was an invited speaker and signing author at Book Expo America (BEA) 2014. Having experienced bullying firsthand and slander as a woman, Kailin Gow is an active advocate against bullying in the workplace and in schools. She has written Shy Girls Social Club Handbook Against Bullying and has helped launch Stories for Amanda where all proceeds go towards the Amanda Todd Foundation against bullying. She has written several books with the theme of abuse towards women and children, especially the steamy international bestselling The Protégé Series, which launched a book club initiative in battered women's shelters and won The Indie Excellence Awards at NIEA for Erotica in 2014.

She holds a Masters Degree in Communications Management from The University of Southern California, and degrees in Drama and Social Ecology.

She resides in the American West with her husband and daughter, but had lived for a decade in Texas, and briefly in England. Besides being a full-time author, she volunteers for many organizations, is active in church helping build homes for the homeless and visit orphanages. A voracious reader, when she is not writing, she loves reading an entire series in one sitting! She spends way too much time on Facebook than she is supposed to at, but loves meeting new people from all walks of life.

She has over 30 Series, written under Kailin Gow, and more under her middle grade, women's fiction, and mystery pen names:

***For 16 and up***

The Frost Series - COMPLETED. Bitter Frost Series Consists of 8 full-length novels.

The Wolf Fey Series - COMPLETED. Consists of 2 full-length novels and one novella.

Fairy Rose Chronicles - age 13 and up.

The PULSE Series - Next Book - Blood Ring (PULSE #9), releasing due to readers' demand to continue the series. Consists of 9 full-length novels and one novella.

FADE Series - COMPLETED. ALL Full-length novels.

DESIRE Series - All Full-length novels. Last Book, FRENZY - 2015.

Fire Wars Series - All Full-length novels.

Alchemists Academy - All Full-length novels.

Wordwick Games - All Full-length novels.

Wicked Woods Series - COMPLETED. Consists of 5 full-length novels.

Steampunk Scarlett - All Full-length novels.

The Phantom Diaries - All Full-length novels. Last Book, DARK VICTORY - 2015.

Stoker Sisters - All Full-length novels. Last Book, SISTER OF THE STRIGOIS - 2015.

Beyond Crystal River - 2015 NEW SERIES.

SHADES - 2015 NEW SERIES. This is a high concept psychological thriller.

***For 18 and up (New Adult/Coming of Age)***

Loving Summer - All full-length novels.

The Donovan Brothers - All full-length novels.

Saving You Saving Me (You + Me Trilogy)- COMPLETED. Consists of 3 Full-length novels.

Never Knights - COMPLETED. Consists of 3 Full-length novels.

Rock Hard Love Hard - 1st book, Rock Hard Love Hard is now Available.

Sawyer House Chronicles (Spin-off of You + Me Trilogy) - Coming in 2015

Canvas - Coming in 2015

***For 18 and up (Adult/Steamy Romance)***

The Protege - COMPLETED. 3 Full-length novels.

Master Chefs - COMPLETED. Consists of 3 Full-length novels.

The Blue Room (Spin-off of Never Knights Trilogy) - Romantic Suspense.

Barely Legal (Spin-off of The Protégé) - Romantic Suspense.

The Oyster House - Artistic Romantic Thriller set in Hong Kong and England.

- Coming in 2015.

For information on the series, new series and new book releases, contests, appearances, KG-Convergences, and more, sign up at

Friday, September 5, 2014

Currently Reading: 'Vampyres of Hollywood' by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott #FridayReads

As I mentioned on a previous Book Club Friday, I'm reading Vampyres of Hollywood, a not-too-serious novel by movie actress Adrienne Barbeau and co-author Michael Scott (the Irish novelist, not the character from the U.S. The Office.) 

Without giving away too much of the plot, I thought it would be fun to look at the real-life actors who appear as vampire characters in this book. The Old Hollywood vampyres, according to Barbeau and Scott, include:

Charles Brabin (1882-1957): English-born American film director who married Theda Bara in 1921. He was the original director of the 1925 version of Ben-Hur, but was replaced fairly early in the production.  
Newspaper ad for While New York Sleeps, directed by Charles Brabin. Public domain image within the U.S.
Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939): Jewish American actor born in Denver, nicknamed "The First King of Hollywood." His film career spanned 1915-1934 and included The Mark of Zorro (1920), the role of D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers (1921), and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew (1929). He married Mary Pickford in 1920. 

Public domain within the U.S.
James Whale (1889-1957): English film director whose credits include Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Sir Ian McKellen played him in the 1998 movie Gods and Monsters. He was one of the first gay men in Hollywood to be "out." 

Mary Pickford (1892-1979): Toronto-born Canadian-American actress and behind-the-scenes business woman considered "America's Sweetheart." She was one of the founders of the United Artists company, along with her husband Fairbanks. Starred opposite her husband in The Taming of the Shrew. America's Sweetheart was a serious party girl who developed a severe alcohol problem. 

Mary Pickford. Public domain image in the U.S.
Olive Thomas (1894-1920): American (Pittsburgh area) illustrators' model, Ziegfield Follies chorus girl, and silent film actress. Her 1920 film The Flapper helped popularize the "flapper" lifestyle, and she was as notorious for partying in life as she was in the movies. She married Mary Pickford's brother Jack in 1916. She died from drinking mercury bichloride liquid, which was used at the time as a topical treatment for syphilis, which her husband had. (Remember, antibiotics didn't come into common use until around the time of World War II.) Her death was ruled accidental and not suicide, but it was quite a scandal at the time - one of the earliest Hollywood scandals. 

Olive Thomas. Public domain image within the U.S. 
Orson Welles (1915-1985): Wisconsin-born actor, screenwriter, director, and producer famed for his 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast that many people believed was a real news report of an alien invasion, and for numerous films including Citizen Kane. He was married to Rita Hayworth for a period in the 1940s and the two had a daughter together, and he also had an affair with the gorgeous Mexican actress Dolores del Rio. He played Edward Fairfax Rochester in the 1943 version of Jane Eyre

Welles in The Lady From Shanghai trailer. Public domain within the U.S. 
Peter Lorre (1904-1964): Jewish American (naturalized 1941) actor born in what is now Slovakia, which at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. After fighting in World War I, the young actor began working with the legendary playwright Bertolt Brecht. He was then cast as a serial killer in the film M by the German director Fritz Lang. He began making English-language films by learning his lines phonetically and is known for such movies as The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Toward the end of this life he also made two low-budget horror films with Roger Corman. 

Lorre is caricatured in the Looney Tunes cartoon "Hollywood Steps Out." Public domain within the U.S. 
Pola Negri (1897-1987): Polish-born American silent film actress and ballerina. She made a number of silent films in Polish, then in German, and then she came to Hollywood and made English-language films. As the first European star in Hollywood, she's said to have paved the way for Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and their like. 

Pola Negri. The U.S. Library of Congress is not aware of any restrictions on the use of this image.

Theda Bara (1885-1955): Silent film actress, born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati. Her Hollywood name is an anagram of "Death Arab," because the studio thought it sounded exotic. They claimed she was the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French mother, born in the Sahara. (Close enough - her father was a Polish Jew, and her mother was of French-speaking Swiss descent, although Bara was, as I mentioned, born in Ohio.) She's remembered mainly for her risque costumes in the 1917 film Cleopatra. Most of her films are now lost (including a turn as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet), and only about 20 seconds of Cleopatra are currently extant. 

Bara in Cleopatra. Public domain within the U.S. 
Tod Browning (1880-1962): American film actor, writer, and director from Louisville, Kentucky, best known for the 1931 Dracula. He literally ran away and joined the circus when he was 16 years old. After that, he became a vaudeville performer. He was directing at a vaudeville theater when he met fellow Kentuckian D.W. Griffith, the notorious director, who set Browning to performing in nickelodeon reels. When Griffith moved his base of operations to Hollywood in 1913, Browning went with him. 

Lobby card for Browning's 1932 circus-themed movie Freaks. Public domain within the U.S.
    Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926): Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla was an Italian actor working in the United States, famous for his "Latin lover" image. He kind of stumbled into acting because he was poor and he took on a lot of odd jobs. The 1921 film The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse made him a star, but another film released that same year, The Sheik, cemented his image. (Surprisingly, Valentino used the publicity surrounding the role to speak out against stereotyping of Arab people, acknowledging the long tradition of arts, science, and culture in Arab history.) Adored by women, his sexuality was something of a puzzle, but he was possibly bisexual. He was supposedly dating Pola Negri when he developed appendicitis, which turned into the case of peritonitis that killed him. Another book that features Valentino as a fictional character is Loving the Undead: An Anthology of Romance (Sort Of), edited by Katherine Sanger. Valentino's ghost appears in "The Sheik and I" by Leslie Brown. 

All of these people, Scott and Barbeau write, make pretty good vampyres, except the self-absorbed Valentino. Lorre is actually quite old, having had a hand in the French Revolution. Vampyres of Hollywood also mentions a vampyre named Charlie. I assume they mean Charlie Chaplin, but I'm not sure.

If you enjoy nonfiction about Old Hollywood, then you might enjoy The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood. You'll learn quite a bit about Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo in it, and a little about Valentino, too. You can also read about Mary Pickford and Theda Bara in The American Women's Almanac by Louise Berkinow.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

'Hellfire' (The Demonslayers Book 2) #PNR by Kate Douglas

HellFire (DemonSlayers #2)HellFire by Kate Douglas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You can read my review of the first book in the series, DemonFire, here.

Kate Douglas had me hooked the first time I read Wolf Tales, to be honest, and I rarely dislike any of her work. We're friends on Facebook. She seems to be a genuinely nice person who adores her grandkids.

I liked this novel especially because it has a realistically strong heroine who happens to be a gorgeous women of color, specifically an African-American heroine. I love that Douglas, who is a Caucasian U.S. author, doesn't feel the need to restrict her heroes and heroines to one skin color.

These novels in the DemonSlayers series have a lot of fun paranormal elements and a fast pace that makes them exciting, but the main event is still the love story. Ginny and Alton make a great couple. They're both stubborn, he's a little arrogant, and they aggravate each other just enough to build the sexual tension.

If this were a movie, I would cast Lee Pace to play him - we know he looks great as a stately blond because we've seen him in The Hobbit - and True Blood's Rutina Wesley to play Ginny.

I purchased this book with my own funds solely for my enjoyment and was not obligated in any way to review it. I bought my copy from Better World Books. The used paperback appears to have begun its life as a library book, judging by the Winnipeg Public Library sticker on the front. Due to an unfortunate incident involving a cup of coffee, mine copy is, sadly, bound for the recycling bin.

Lost Lemuria

But since we've mentioned the paranormal elements, let's talk about the lost continent of Lemuria. Douglas writes in her prologue:

"Thousands of years ago, the continent of Lemuria disappeared beneath the sea, much in the same manner of the continent of Atlantis. However, unlike the Atlanteans, Lemurians are not considered lost--legend says they relocated their entire society to a sanctuary deep within the dormant volcano known as Mount Shasta in the rugged mountains of North California.

"Much has been written about these tall and graceful beings of their great intelligence and beauty, their advanced technology and supernatural abilities, but no actual proof of their existence has ever been discovered."

Douglas is writing fiction, of course, but she isn't entirely making up the story of the Lemurians. She's incorporating some folklore, as skillful fantasy writers will often do. But Lemuria is also interesting for another reason, because it started out as a scientific theory.

If we look at Wikipedia, it says:

"Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical 'lost land' variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept's 19th-century origins lie in attempts to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics. Although sunken continents do exist – like Zealandia in the Pacific as well as Mauritia and the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean – there is no known geological formation under the Indian or Pacific Oceans that corresponds to the hypothetical Lemuria.

"Though Lemuria is no longer considered a valid scientific hypothesis, it has been adopted by writers involved in the occult, as well as some Tamil writers of India. Accounts of Lemuria differ, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean as a result of a geological, often cataclysmic, change, such as pole shift."

Lemurs. Public domain image by Adrian Pingstone
The name "Lemuria" came from an 1864 paper by English zoologist Philip Lutley Sclater. In attempting to explain why fossils from lemurs and related primate species are found in Madagascar and India but not in Africa or the Middle East, Sclater proposed a lost continent under the sea. He named it Lemuria after the lemur fossils. Sunken continents and lost "land bridges" were often theorized to explain the distribution of land animals separated by bodies of water before the theory of continental drift became widely accepted.

So that's the science part. Then, Wikipedia tells us, the legend of Lemuria fell into the hands of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The first time I ever remember reading her name was in The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert. In the chapter called "Who Really Wrote the Book on Divination?" It reminds us that one of Harry's textbooks at Hogwarts is Unfogging the Future by Cassandra Vablatsky. The Cassandra part, Colbert informs readers, comes from Greek myth. He then writes, "Cassandra Vablatsky's last name is no doubt taken from Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), a founder of the Theosophical Society, whose aims include 'investigating unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in humanity' - in other words, magic."

Blavatsky, born in Russia, traveled widely as a young woman, including visits to Tibet and India, where she learned about Buddhism. She founded the Theosophical Society with two others in 1875, and from 1879 to 1888 she was the editor of a magazine called The Theosophist. She also wrote several popular books, including Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine, The Key to Philosophy, and The Voice of the Silence.

Helena Blavatsky is variously credited and blamed for being one of the forerunners of the New Age movement, and her theories about the "seven root races" are blamed for influencing the so-called Aryan racism that in turn influenced Adolph Hitler/Nazism. She's been accused of being a devil worshiper or, at the very least, a modern Gnostic, because she wrote in The Secret Doctrine that the "serpent of Genesis" or Lucifer was not the representative of evil, but rather of enlightenment. She has also been accused of being a fraudulent medium who deceived people. So, although Colbert's mention of her is neutral, she's rather detested in some schools of thought.

Helena Blavatsky
It's the "seven root races" theory that includes the ancient Lemurians. Wikipedia tells us, "Within Blavatsky's complex cosmology, which includes seven 'Root Races,' the 'Third Root Race' occupied Lemuria. She describes them as about 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, sexually hermaphroditic, egg-laying, mentally undeveloped and spiritually more pure than the following 'Root Races.' Before the coming of the Lemurians, the second 'Root Race' is said to have dwelled in Hyperborea. After the subsequent creation of mammals, Mme Blavatsky revealed to her readers, some Lemurians turned to bestiality. The gods, aghast at the behavior of these 'mindless' men, sank Lemuria into the ocean and created a 'Fourth Root Race' – endowed with intellect – on Atlantis."

Wikipedia also has an entry on Lemuria in popular culture. From it, we learn that the hypothetical continent appears in, among other places:

- H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Haunter of the Dark"
- Thomas Pynchon's 2009 novel Inherent Vice
- In Marvel Comics, Lemuria is home to Prince Namor's nemesis, Princess Llyra
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which features a ship called the Lemurian Star)
- Dark Horse Comics' Hellboy series

So there you go: from serious scientific theory (subsequently discarded) to the philosophy of Helena Blavatsky and then into popular culture. Frederick Spencer Oliver's 1894 book (alleged to be a true story dictated to Oliver through channeling) A Dweller on Two Planets introduced the idea that white-robed Lemurians dwell in Mount Shasta.

Nine Hells

In HellFire, Alton's favorite curse is "nine hells." Does the Abyss from which Dax originally came have nine different layers? If so, it recalls the nine circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno: Limbo (the virtuous Pagans who lived without knowledge of Jesus Christ), Lust (where the lustful and adulterous are blown around by severe winds), Gluttony (where the gluttonous are forced to lie down in freezing-cold slush), Greed (where the greedy spend their time jousting with enormous weights), Anger (where your punishment might be either constant fighting or endless drowning in the River Styx, depending on whether you were wrathful or sullen), Heresy (where the heretics lie in flaming graves), Violence (where the violent are boiled in a river of blood, torn apart by dogs, picked at by harpies, or wandering in a desert where fire rains from the sky, depending on their crimes), Fraud (where the fraudulent are sunk into stone ditches - that one actually doesn't sound all that bad), and Treachery (where the treacherous are frozen in a lake of ice).

Creative Commons image
Nine is also a favorite number in Norse mythology, which imagines there are nine home-worlds through which the World Tree Yggrasil grows. Sources disagree on the identities of the nine worlds, but they are often said to include Midgard (the world of human beings), Asgard (the world of the As, one class of Norse gods), Vanaheim (the world of the Vanir, another class of Norse gods), Jotunheim or Utgard (the frost giant home world), Alfheim (the elf world), and Hel (the underworld, where the dead go). But that's only six.

Separate from Alfheim is the home of the Dvergar, dwarves or "black elves." (This becomes an important plot point in the second Thor movie, subtitled The Dark World.) Their home-world is sometimes called Svartalfheim. That makes seven home-worlds for seven kinds of beings.

The other worlds are sometimes listed as Niflheimr (primordial ice that existed before creation) and Muspellheimr (primordial fire that existed before creation). In some literary works, however, Niflheim and Hel are used interchangeably. Some separate the land of the dwarves, called Nidavellir, from the land of the dark elves, although "dwarves" and "dark elves" seem to be used interchangeably. See, for example, Encyclopedia Mythica.

But Kate Douglas may not have been thinking of Norse myth, or even Dante, at all. Maybe she just thought "nine hells" sounded like an impressive number of hells.

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What I'm Reading Next

Judging by the cover, Nalini Singh's third book in the Psy-Changeling series of paranormal romances takes place in Jotunheim.