Goodreads

Erin's bookshelf: read

Private Pleasures
Vampyres of Hollywood
HellFire
Religio Duplex: How the Enlightenment Reinvented Egyptian Religion
Four: A Divergent Collection
Fated
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
Middlemarch
Middlemarch
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
Crave
Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack


Erin O'Riordan's favorite books »

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

'The Silkworm' by J.K. Rowling, Writing as Robert Galbraith


Brava, Ms. Rowling! Much of what I said for The Cuckoo'sCalling can also be applied here: "Robert Galbraith" once again shows herself witty, hilarious, brilliant, and in command of both English literature and European mythology.

I had to look up at least two cultural references in this one: Rose West and Rowntree. The victim in this murder mystery is Owen Quine, and his wife Leonora is one of the suspects. The press compares her in physical appearance to Rose West – apparently, a real-life serial killer currently serving a life sentence in the U.K.

If I heard the audiobook correctly, Rowntree is the name of Robin Ellacott’s parents’ chocolate Labrador retriever. The name fits a chocolate-colored dog because it’s the name of the U.K. chocolate maker, the one that makes Aero bars. (Rainbow Rowell has teased an appearance by Aero bars in Carry On, which she promises is filled with nommy food references.)

Robin Venetia Ellacott is even more of a superheroine in this one than she was in the last. Guy Ritchie could direct the movie version.

Book Boyfriend #444: Cormoran Strike. If Edward Fairfax Rochester fell through half a dozen Raymond Chandler novels and From Here to Eternity on his way to the 21st century, the result would be Cormoran Strike.

And I am shipper trash because I desperately want Robin to leave Matthew for Cormoran. That kiss on the hand in the very last sentence of the novel - that's all the encouragement I need. The line has been crossed. Let the good ship CormoRobin set forth.

Robert Glenister is an amazing voice actor. I didn’t love his voice for Cormoran’s brother Al; Al was supposed to have a slight French accent, but to me he sounded too American. But otherwise, Glenister makes it too easy to forget I’m listening to a single person reading instead of to the characters themselves.

Do I really have to wait until October 20 for the third book, Career of Evil, though?


I checked this audiobook out of my local library and was not, in any way, obligated to review it.


P.S. I don’t think I’ll ever buy anything made from silk again unless it’s ahimsa or cruelty-free silk. I can’t stand the thought of the little silkworms being boiled alive inside their cocoons. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Which Songs Remind You of the ‘90s?

Glory of the '90s – A Decade-Long Odyssey in 10 Songs


At the start of 1990, I was 12 years old and waiting to begin the second semester of the 7th grade. When I think of “Close to You” by Maxi Priest, I think of my 13-year-old self that summer before I started the 8th grade. My daytime hours were occupied mainly by peddling my bicycle around the neighborhood, listening to my Walkman. (I bought it with my own money at the Osco drug store where my dad occasionally worked as a security guard when he wasn’t on duty with the police dept.) What I can’t remember was whether I’d taped this song off the radio – I still used cassette tape back in those days, since I wouldn’t acquire a CD player until 1993 – or if I heard it repeatedly on the radio, which I could also listen to on my Walkman.


1991 brought us “Sensitivity” by Ralph Tresvant. This song reminds me of a night spent with my middle school classmates – including best friends Therese and Jamie – at the YMCA, an overnight class trip chaperoned by our teachers. I had a tremendous amount of fun, and very little sleep, at these overnighters, which I did twice – perhaps once in 1990 and again in 1991, in 7th and 8th grades.

My friend Dennis – the one on whose recommendation we rooted for the Detroit Pistons (the“Bad Boys” at the time) in the NBA playoffs that year – remarked during the sleepover that Ralph Tresvant’s breakout single meant that all the members of New Edition were now bona fide solo artists. This was true – Bobby Brown was still known more for his music than for a propensity to use illegal substances, Bell Biv Devoe had already released “Poison,” and the previous year had Johnny Gill offering to rub the world the right way. I knew this even though my personal radio tastes were much more American Top 40 than the R&B station.


1992 gave us “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the first hit for Nirvana. I did not get the grunge aesthetic straight out of the gate. After all, people were wearing t-shirts under flannels that DID NOT MATCH WITH THEIR T-SHIRTS. If I’d tried such a thing in grade school, my mother wouldn’t have let me out of the house. A pink t-shirt could only be worn with a PINK flannel.

(I did own a pink flannel at one point – if memory serves, it was purchased at The Gap. This was after grunge went commercial, obviously.)

We saw the unenthusiastic-cheerleaders-bored-pep-rally video many a time on MTV, which we still watched religiously at that age. My brother bought the Nirvana album, Nevermind, at Tracks. (Back then, Tracks was a record store. I found myself bemused by the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which seemed to mock those who thought “self-assured” was a dirty hyphenated word but otherwise didn’t make any literal sense. The snarky, rebellious esprit de corps that bonded ‘90s alterna-teens dawned on me slowly, beginning my childhood neighbor/friend/high school classmate Kristen introduced me to “Siva” by the Smashing Pumpkins.


Then in 1993 – when I was 15, then 16, and my junior year of high school started - Siamese Dream came out.  Every hit single was a revelation – but the song that really characterizes 1993 for me is “A Whole New World” by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. It came from the soundtrack of the Disney film Aladdin, which I saw in the theater twice. The first time I went with my best friend Therese and her mom, to a special double feature that also included Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. The second time was after I’d spent the night at the farm house belonging to the parents of my school best friend Sharon. Her mom baked us homemade bread and made us toast for breakfast, then took us to a matinee. I was in love with the movie and owned the soundtrack on tape, listening to it many more times than, I’m sure, my parents would have preferred.

When I was a freshman, the girl I most desperately wanted to be friends with was named Kirstin. She was a sophomore. We had AP Biology together. (That I had AP Biology with older, wiser, more disgusting sophomores is the source of several…interesting memories for me.) One highlight of my freshman year was a Bio trip to the cranberry bog and then the sand dunes. I didn’t think Kirstin came on the trip, but then we stopped at Burger King for lunch and she was there. My mood was lifted greatly, and when I climbed to the top of the sand dune (never minding the sophomore having his cigarette break up there. Was his name Cody?), I had a Transcendental-like moment of appreciation for the majesty of nature.

But I digress. Kirstin and her boyfriend who went to a different school experienced an unintended pregnancy. Kirstin went to live with her aunt and uncle in Maryland for the duration of her pregnancy before giving her son up for adoption. I wondered if I’d ever see her again – but I did, in 1994, working at a Target store in a mall that no longer exists. That was the year of “Linger” by The Cranberries, which Kirstin sung to herself as she rang up my mom’s purchases. I hadn’t liked the song much until I heard it from her.


Perhaps my initial dislike of the Irish band The Cranberries was subliminally influenced by the fact that some plant in the cranberry bog gave me a rash all over my hands and forearms.


In 1995, I graduated from high school and went to St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame, Indiana. My first work-study job was working in the dining hall. Whenever I hear “Waterfalls” by TLC, I’m instantly reminded of my sweaty, smelly job sorting the clean silverware into baskets in the bowels of the dining hall. (All that steam was from the high-temperature, sanitary commercial dishwasher. And the room always smelled like old food.) My colleagues, most of whom were not students themselves, listened to the R&B station I’d been rather indifferent to as a middle schooler.


In 1996, when I started my sophomore year in college, I moved my dorm room from one half of H-shaped Regina Hall to the other. I had the second room from the end of the hall. The first room belonged to a junior named Blake, a girl who, at any hour of the day or night, was probably listening to “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis. I never have taken much of a liking to that song, and Blake is 82% the reason why.


1997, the year I turned 20, gave us “Something About the Way You Look Tonight/Candle in the Wind 1997” by Elton John. I thought “Something…” was a very romantic song, and I remember singing along with it on the radio on my way home from Meijer. But “Candle in the Wind” was the ubiquitous tribute to Princess Diana of Wales after her death. I was coming home – to my parents’ house – from a visit with Irish Granny when I heard the news on the radio that the Princess had been in a car accident. I didn’t imagine she’d been seriously injured, or at least I hoped she wasn’t. When I got home I found my mom on her bed, watching the news on her small TV. She was an admirer of the Princess and was quite upset, especially upon learning that she’d died. I tried to be optimistic. “Sometimes they’re wrong and they report that someone’s died when they’re injured but alive,” I said. Sadly, I was wrong.

I hope the daughter-in-law the Princess never got to meet, Katherine Duchess of Cambridge, is genuinely happy. I’d hate for her to suffer even a small portion of the misery Princess Diana was put through. I wish the Duke and Duchess and their two precious children long, happy lives together.


“Too Close” by Next transports me instantly back to the summer of 1998. In that year, the Indiana Pacers faced off against the Chicago Bulls in the men’s NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. This was Reggie Miller’s last year before retirement. Miller and the Pacers were cut off from their shot at the whole enchilada by a young Bulls forward named Toni Kukoc, but I still had fun watching Michael Jordan’s Bulls go up against Karl Malone’s Utah Jazz in the finals. Having turned 21, I was now allowed in sports bars. My friends Jamie and Therese got dragged along with me to watch Bulls games, when we weren’t playing putt-putt or arcade games. Every time we were in the car that summer, “Too Close” would inevitably be playing in the background.


In 1999 I completed my final semester of college and earned my bachelor’s degree. While still in school, I lived in the dorm next to the athletic center, and I enjoyed using the indoor jogging track. During one of my indoor race-walks, I heard “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears for the first time. I had mixed feelings about the song at first. Of course I knew that “hit me” was a contemporary slang term for call me/go out with me, but I still had some trouble adjusting to the sound of it. The video helped me warm up to the song, however, and I started to like Spears’ up-tempo songs. I never did care much for “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart” or anything else that was slow/sad. That’s just me.

Which songs remind you of the ‘90s?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Discovering 'The Wind in the Willows' as an Adult

The Wind In The Willows (Treasury of Illustrated Classics)The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Nicole Vittiglio

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame was my dad's favorite book when he was a kid in the 1950s. I didn't read it until I was an adult, and it was a bit hard for me to place it in its proper context without looking up a little background on it. It was originally published in 1908, and I suppose the anthropomorphized animal tale can be thought of as a descendant of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (first published 1865) and an ancestor of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926). In fact, 'Winnie-the-Pooh' author A.A. Milne adapted parts of The Wind in the Willows into a stage play called Toad of Toad Hall in 1929.


'Willows' is really a set of two interconnected stories. One is a set of vignettes about the friendship between Mole and Rat. Wikipedia says Rat is actually a water vole, which I suppose is a European animal somewhat similar to an animal I see outside my house all the time, the muskrat. The setting of 'Willows' is the area surrounding the Thames River in England.

Kenneth Grahame was a banker by trade, and he worked for the Bank of England for most of his career. He had a secondary career as a writer, though, and he wrote these stories particularly for the amusement of his own son Alistair - similar to the way Peter S. Beagle wrote The Last Unicorn.

The other vein of stories running through 'Willows' is about Toad, an impulsive and vainglorious animal with a habit of taking up hobbies and then abandoning them. He does have an ongoing obsession with motorcars, though, which gets him into trouble with the law. (Keep in mind that in 1908, motorcars were very new and still had to share the roads with horses and carriages.) He ends up imprisoned, but escapes with the help of the jailer's daughter. He spends much of the book disguised as, and mistaken for, a human washerwoman. He considers this a great insult to his pride.


The age and setting of the story make it a bit exotic to me. Grahame contributes to this impression by creating an idealized, pastoral setting, a version of Merry England. You can read more about Merry England or Merrie Olde England in the "pseudohistory" category on Wikipedia. The writer(s) define it as "an English autostereotype, a utopian conception of English society and culture based on an idyllic pastoral way of life that was allegedly prevalent at some time between the Middle Ages and the onset of the Industrial Revolution. More broadly, it connotes a putative essential Englishness with nostalgic overtones, incorporating such cultural symbols as the thatched cottage, the country inn, the cup of tea and the Sunday roast. Children's storybooks and fairy tales written in the Victorian period often used this as a setting as it is seen as a mythical utopia. They often contain nature-loving mythological creatures such as elves and fairies, as well as Robin Hood. It may be treated both as a product of the sentimental nostalgic imagination and as an ideological or political construct, often underwriting various sorts of conservative world-views."


I don't think 'Willows' is political, but it is nostalgic and idealized. Although Grahame was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, his father moved him and his three siblings to the Oxford area (Berkshire, which is just south of Oxforshire) when Grahame was five years old. He grew up boating on the Thames with his uncle in settings that inspired 'Willows' (and probably would have seemed familiar to Lyra Belacqua in The Golden Compass).

While fairies and elves fail to show up in the 'Willows' stories, the god Pan makes an appearance, although he is described rather than specifically named. When Otter's little son Portly goes missing, Rat and Mole find him sleeping peacefully between the cloven hooves of Pan, who is playing the pan-flute. After Mole and Rat depart with Portly, Pan wipes the memories of the animals clean of every having met him, presumably because the old gods are somewhat terrifying to mortals.


There are just a few fantasy elements in the story; they pop up and then they quickly dissipate, as when the Wayfarer - a wandering sea rat - seems to put some kind of spell over Rat that makes him want to leave home and take to the sea. He shakes off the spell with the help of Mole.

It took me a little while to get into this book, because at first it seems to be a collection of loosely-related talking animal stories with very little plot. Once the Toad stories take prominence, there's a bit more of a plot, and it does have a recognizable climax and denouement, even if the ending does seem a bit rushed. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's become a new favorite of mine, but I do appreciate some of its charms. I think Rat was my favorite character. Who wouldn't want to do little else in life besides hanging out with friends and messing about in boats?

The Disney film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad dates from 1949. As best as I can remember, I have only watched the Ichabod part of the cartoon, which is the animation of Washington Irving's 1820 longish short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." 88 years older and American, the story of the Headless Horseman is an odd juxtaposition with a thoroughly English, early 20th century book. I'm not sure what Walt Disney was thinking with that one. You can still ride Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland in California, but its equivalent at the Magic Kingdom in Florida closed in 1998.


Grahame also wrote a short story called "The Reluctant Dragon," which was also made into a Disney cartoon.


View all my reviews on Goodreads. I purchased this book with my own funds (at Goodwill, and then donated it to a local tutoring program after I read it). I was not obligated to review it in any way.

If your local (U.S.) library subscribes to Hoopla, you can read the e-book free there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Stockroom Celebrates Taylor Swift and the “Bad Blood” Video’s 9 MTV Video Music Award Nominations

[Press Release] - LOS ANGELES, Calif.  July 22, 2015 – Specialty erotic boutique The Stockroom, well-known for its high-quality sex toys, bondage gear and restraints, is celebrating Taylor Swift’s fetish-themed video for her smash single “Bad Blood,” which has received 9 MTV Video Music Award nominations, which includes Video of The Year. The company has its hands all over the video, with the leading ladies outfitted in its most coveted pieces by the company’s racy Syren Fetish Fashion division.


The one-of-a-kind designs have garnered so much attention for the Los Angeles-based adult/fetish boutique that entertainment outlets such as TMZ and fashion magazines have inked breathless accolades on the sexy skin-baring stars.

A selection of Stockroom’s most popular specialty items were requested by the “Bad Blood” production team, including Syren’s ‘Newmar Basque’ rubber & latex corset featured on Swift, ‘Garbo’ vintage-style latex blouse on video co-star Selena Gomez, and the company’s own PVC handmade waist cincher on British singer Ellie Goulding, giving a powerful feel to the video’s dark glamour.

Since its release, Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" video has been viewed over 365 million times. That's only counting the official version, not the various mash-ups, annotated versions, parodies, and unofficial uploads that fill up YouTube.

“We were thrilled to be included in Taylor Swift’s blockbuster video for her fourth single, and the ladies looked spectacular in our beautifully-appointed hand-crafted pieces,” said Shawn Gentry, Director of Operations for The Stockroom.  “Swift's  team came to Stockroom and selected about $13,000 worth of our finest clothes during production, and we have say that we're delighted to see what they did with them. A lot of creativity and hard work goes into Syren's clothing, and even though we're a business, not all of that labor can be counted in dollars and cents. "Bad Blood" with all its vigorous eroticism and bold heroics, depicts some of the things that we love most about the clothing we make, and we're honored that Taylor Swift and her creative team were able to capture that in their video.”


The first scene features Swift in the persona of "Catastrophe" beating up bad guys while wearing Newmar Basque, a lingerie-inspired bodysuit. Catastrophe's ally-turned-nemesis, Arsyn (played by Selena Gomez), is wearing Syren's Garbo Blouse, a great combination of Old Hollywood style with modern fetish materials. Finally, there's a beautiful shot of Destructa X (Ellie Goulding) brandishing a huge rocket launcher while wearing Stockroom’s PVC Waist Cincher. While neither Stockroom nor Syren carry the rocket launcher, the company admits that it makes for a great accessory.

Since Swift’s exclusive world premiere of “Bad Blood” at the Billboard Music Awards, enthusiasm for The Stockroom’s bold fetish wear has exploded.

“We know that our products’ mass appeal grows when artists like Taylor, Selena and Ellie are seen wearing them,” said Gentry. “Fetish clothing is traditionally thought of as an interest with niche appeal, but that appeal is expanding every day as traditional styles are transformed into latex and rubber creations that more people want to integrate into their everyday wear.”

For more information, go to www.stockroom.com.

About The Stockroom, Inc.:

JT's Stockroom is the original internet source for quality sex toys. Celebrating over 25 years in business, Joel Tucker founded The Stockroom, Inc. in 1988 and took it online in 1989, making the company one of the world’s first e-commerce enterprises. Stockroom caters to both the kink curious novice and the extreme BDSM player.  The fetish manufacturer and retailer operates from a 30,000 square foot space on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard that combines leather and latex workshops, executive offices, and a retail boutique that was named one of the “Best Sex Shops in the World” by Playboy.com.

The Stockroom's chic, sensual BDSM gear has appeared on American Horror Story, True Blood, Playboy TV's Foursome, the Tonight Show, and TMZ. Stockroom.com remains a leading source for quality sex toys and bondage restraints, and features over 4000 products, many of which are handmade in the company’s Los Angeles facility. Stockroom takes pride in demonstrating respect for clients as healthy, intelligent, sexually adventurous adults.

 It only seems kinky the first time.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Thoughts on 'Go Set a Watchman'

On Thursday, August 13th, Mr. Elingtin and I visited the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library at 340 N. Senate Avenue, in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. The book I took with me to read in the car was Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. It is the second novel she published, although she wrote it before her iconic To Kill a Mockingbird.


The docent at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library told me he was still deciding whether or not to read this book. I understand this impulse. From the moment those of us of a literary bent read the first chapter as published in the Wall Street Journal, it was apparent our long-serving image of Atticus Finch as a force for colorblind morality would be altered by his character development in this book.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird once, either in the sixth or seventh grade, as assigned to me in junior high. I liked the book then and it's stayed with me ever since.  I think many people who didn’t conform to strict gender stereotypes have identified with the tomboyish Jean Louise “Scout” Finch over the years. I’m among them. (I’m not the most “girlish” of girls, although I do love glitter and pink things.)

I decided before GSAW came out that I would have to have it immediately. To that end, during my lunch hour on Tuesday, July 14, I went to Forever Books and paid full retail price for a brand-new hardcover copy. I had, after all, waited more than 20 years for a second Harper Lee novel. (It wasn't the longest possible wait, since the novel was originally published in 1960, the year my parents each turned 8.) As soon as I finished Paper Towns, I started GSAW.

Titular Allusion: The Jewish Bible, Isaiah 21:6. In the King James version, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” In the novel, the watchman is literally a “citizens’ council” of highly dubious intent and, figuratively, Scout’s conscience.


The bit of character development that Scout Finch – aged 26 – undergoes in the novel is discovering that the father she idolizes has feet of clay. He belongs to the citizens’ council whose purpose is to counter the actions of the NAACP, and he sits by, tacitly affirming its virulently racist rhetoric.

Scout’s reaction to learning about her father’s hidden racism is to become violently physically ill, take to bed for 12 straight hours, then to lash out at the members of her family who approve of what she considers morally abhorrent behavior. Scout’s natural instinct, nurtured in her by Atticus during the first 25 years of her life, is to judge people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.

While many will be disappointed with Atticus in his old age, one could make the case that Scout remains essentially the same person she was at age 10 (her age in TKAM, set in the mid-1930s). She’s still stubborn, independent, not overly burdened by societal views of traditional femininity, brilliant, creative, and empathetic. Atticus has changed, but Jean Louise is still the Scout we know and love.

Another of the pleasures of this novel is in its several flashbacks to the 1930s, when Scout was still a girl and her older brother Jem was still alive. (We learn he’s died suddenly from the same heart defect that killed the Finch children’s mother.) These are highly amusing, including an incident in which Scout fundamentally misunderstands where babies come from and plans to kill herself, under the mistaken impression that she’s pregnant.

In another great scene, Scout, Jem, and their summer neighbor Dill (whom Lee based on Truman Capote – another author of American classics, although sadly he is no longer with us, unlike Ms. Lee) play a game of pretend. They pretend to have a religious revival, much to the dismay of Dill’s aunt/temporary guardian. She catches Dill dressed as the Holy Ghost (wearing a bed sheet with eye holes cut out) and attempting to baptize the Finch children in a goldfish pond. Atticus, as it happens, had the pastor over to dinner that night, but rather than being dismayed by his children’s antics, Atticus merely conceals himself on the back porch to laugh out of the pastor’s earshot.

So, although it has us rethinking everything we thought we knew about the moral character of Atticus Finch, I say go ahead and read Go Set a Watchman. It’s still a pleasure to spend further time with Scout Finch. Some will also be able to make the case that Calpurnia’s character is developed in further depth than the way we saw her in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sidebar: Truman Capote died in 1984 (I was 7) in the midst of a battle with liver cancer, compounded by years of alcohol and drug abuse. I remember reading “A Christmas Memory” in elementary school and being disappointed to learn that Capote was no longer living. Visiting my classroom during this discussion the school principal, Mr. John Farthing, told us (non-judgmentally) that Capote was gay. He recounted to us a bit about the famous Black and White Ball and Capote’s flamboyant personality. I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s shortly after that. I still have my first copy.

By the way, one may also visit the preserved mid-Victorian home of the poet James Whitcomb Riley while visiting Indianapolis. I haven’t, and I fear it would bore Mr. Elingtin to death if I did.

We did, however, go to the Indiana State Fair. Neither of us had ever been to it before. It had everything you’d expect an agricultural fair to have, including an enormous number of booths serving foods of questionable nutritional value. Okay, I admit it: I had a sandwich made with a pressed pork patty, dill pickles, and barbeque sauce. (It wasn’t great. I’d have been better off with a nice Greek salad or even some fried okra from the Jamaican food booth. I’d also considered some French-style beignets and/or a peach cider slush.)

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is small, but worth visiting. I got to type on Vonnegut’s personal typewriter, as visitors are encouraged to do. The current exhibit focuses on the Mother Night film, and a typewriter belonging to Nick Nolte is on loan, but visitors are not allowed to type on it.

For further reading:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/29/books/bookstores-plan-rollout-for-next-harper-lee-novel.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/13/books/the-invisible-hand-behind-harper-lees-to-kill-a-mockingbird.html

http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/books-and-literature/book-blog/article_a0f1ec1b-ae96-5fd5-9069-ca252937a2d5.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/67442-first-chapter-of-harper-lee-s-go-set-a-watchman-published.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/67482-early-reviews-hype-watchman-interest.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/67484-authors-reflect-on-to-kill-a-mockingbird.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/67508-historic-day-one-sales-for-watchman.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/67521-rethinking-to-kill-a-mockingbird.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/67578-watchman-cements-1-spot.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/67645-watchman-sells-220k-in-week-two-stays-put-at-1.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/67620-watchman-print-king-of-the-digital-era.html

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/07/15/how-should-schools-deal-with-the-new-atticus-finch

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/13/harper-lee-third-novel-lawyer-tonja-carter

Monday, August 10, 2015

'Paper Towns,' the Novel, Reviewed

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second line of the prologue contains a throwaway cancer joke that momentarily stopped my breath, but Quentin "Q" Jacobsen is no Augustus Waters, and Margo Roth Spiegelman is no Hazel Grace Lancaster. (Same number of syllables in her case, but there the similarity ends.) I mean that in a good way! The actor who plays Q in the movie version, Nat Wolff, is the same actor who played Isaac in The Fault in Our Stars. But never mind that - aside from their author, the two books have little in common.

While TFIOS is decidedly a love story, PT deals with the issue of how we represent other people in our minds. We all see other people through the lens of our personal experience with them. Q learns that each of Margo's friends has his or her own version of Margo and that there were many sides to her he hasn't considered.

The tool that allows Q to discover these facets of Margo is Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I love the idea that this novel may get younger readers excited about Walt Whitman's poetry. Some of it is quite remarkable. I've always admired Whitman's ability to make the reader feel connected to him as a human being, despite the fact that he died in 1892.


Also there is something about Moby Dick. Like Q, I did not read Herman Melville's dense symbolist tome. I understand Green is referencing Captain Ahab's white whale when Q's life is nearly ended by a pure-white cow, but I lack the ability to compare all the moments in this novel that may resonate with Melville's masterpiece. Once again, I'd like to express my gratitude to my 11th grade American Lit teacher, the late Mr. Tom Gerencher, for having us read ONLY Billy Budd and not Melville's longer, more famous work.

Classic American literature fuels this literary journey, with references to Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, Sylvia Plath, and Kurt Vonnegut (Green's fellow Hoosier, and mine) sprinkled in. As an American Lit nerd, I enjoy this very much. The greatest thing is that Green's American Lit references seem organic, not forced and/or pedantic. Q is a bit of a lit nerd, too. In that way, he does share similarity to the well-read Augustus. Possibly a bit of the creator sneaks into the creations.

I should really watch a few more Vlog Brothers videos. I really don't know that much about John Green as a person. I've only picked up a few of his thoughts and mannerisms from bits on Tumblr and Pinterest.


(Okay, that's John Green's younger brother Hank, but to be fair Hank IS the other Vlog Brother.)

Note, too, that Margo's last names each reference notable American authors - Philip Roth and Art Spiegelman. Both are noted for chronicling the lives of American Jews. Both Q and Margo are Jewish characters, but their ethnicity and/or religion (it's not clear that either the Roth Spiegelmans or the Jacobsens practice religious Judaism) don't make up a very important part of the novel. Therefore, I don't read too much into the characters being Israeli-Americans.

I really liked this book. Not quite 5 stars for me, but a solid 4.5. It didn't make me cry, unlike a certain other book I could name that made me cry, then drop it on the floor, then call it a stupid book for making me cry and drop it. An excerpt from that certain book appears in the end of my paperback. I reread the excerpt. Then I got emotional about Augustus Waters' fictional existence. John Green, quit playing games with my heart.

I purchased Paper Towns with my own funds from Forever Books in St. Joseph, Michigan. I was not obligated in any way to review it. This review represents my own honest opinion.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Thursday, August 6, 2015

'Like a Mask Removed,' Now in Paperback - Win It on #Goodreads!


Goodreads Synopsis: You don't have to be an evil genius to figure that superheroes are hot, and not just because of the perfect bodies clad in spandex (or leather, or stylized body armor). Film adaptations of favorite superheroes continue to rise in popularity and comic book conventions are among the best-attended gatherings in the world. But as comic book creators and artists have been trumpeting for decades, comic books are not for kids. Although the battles of good versus evil and of archetypal iconic figures in struggle tug at our primal, childhood selves, these same primal urges lead us to exploring the erotic side of heroes--and villains. How could the stylized physiques and skin-tight costumes (think of the bodacious bosom of Wonder Woman or the Batman's codpiece) common in the milieu not lead to erotic thoughts and explorations? This Like A Mask Removed Omnibus contains both volumes of the ebook series (Volume One: Superheroes, Volume Two: Supervillains) in one sex-charged package!

Be sure to read "Invisible Touch" by yours truly, Erin O'Riordan. It appears in the Supervillains half.

Giveaway ends August 31, 2015. Open to U.S. and Canada residents. Click here to enter. Don't forget to add it to your to-read list!