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 »

Sunday, February 1, 2015

'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Vampire' by Kerrelyn Sparks

Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire is the 16th book in the Love at Stake series by Kerrelyn Sparks. I'm not a regular reader of the series. In fact, I've read only one other Love at Stake novel: #5, All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire:

All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire (Love at Stake, #5)All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good story, though it's part of a series and evidently I've skipped a few. Said vampire is a good-hearted, kilt-wearing, 600-year-old Scot who only drinks synthetic bottled blood (well, with one exception near the end). Santa, I will gladly take a vampire for Christmas, especially if he looks like James McAvoy.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

So then I skipped ahead eleven volumes when I got the opportunity to order this free of charge through the Amazon Vine program, in exchange for a review. I liked the cute title, and I'm almost always willing to give a paranormal romance a chance, even though I couldn't remember all the specifics of the background characters.

As one might conclude from the title, this one is about a weretiger. She also happens to be a member of royal weretiger society. A Chinese native, she's about to become engaged to the weretiger prince of South Korea. But first, Jia is determined to exact revenge on the vampire who killed her parents and brother. He goes by the name of Master Han.

Jia isn't Han's only would-be assassin, though. He's also hunted by Russell, a secretive vampire who lives alone in a bat cave. Russell has to rescue Jia - an inexperienced assassin - and take her back to his cave. Slowly they begin to find themselves attracted to one another, although relationships between weretigers and vampires have never been heard of before. Chafed by her constrained life in weretiger society, Jia finds freedom with Russell.

Master Han is a dangerous enemy, but making him even more dangerous is his association with the demon Darafer. Darafer drags Jia off to hell, and then Russell needs the help of the angels to get her back.

In short, it's everything I want in a paranormal romance. The protagonists are likable people, they're both a little wounded by their tragic histories, and they fall in love in a natural, gradual way, not a love-at-first-sight fantasy way.

Friday, January 30, 2015

'The Unauthorized Dan Brown Companion' on 'Deception Point'

Having just finished audio-reading Deception Point by Dan Brown, I decided to pick up The Unauthorized Dan Brown Companion, edited by John Helfers, off my bookshelf. You may recall from my review of Breaking the Da Vinci Code that I enjoy reading nonfiction books about Dan Brown's fiction. I love books about books in general.

Skimming through the first chapter, "Dan Brown: The Man and His Fiction," I realized I didn't know anything about Dan Brown as a person. I discovered that:

- He was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, which is also the birthplace of the American novelist John Irving (The Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp).

- He attended his hometown's prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school, where his father was a mathematics teacher.
- His mother was a performer and teacher of sacred music.
- He then went to Amherst College in Massachusetts. (Amherst is the home of the Emily Dickinson Museum, and it possesses about half of Dickinson's manuscripts. Dickinson attended Amherst Academy, the second school that was the predecessor of Amherst College. Amherst College was all-male until 1960.)
- He also studied art history in Sevilla, Spain. The book doesn't say whether or not he earned a degree.
- His first career choice was musician, but he was shy and awkward when performing in front of people.
- After abandoning his musical career, Brown taught English and creative writing at Phillips Exeter.
- The first book he wrote was a book of limericks.
- Brown and his wife Blythe Newlon - a painter and art historian - co-wrote a humorous dating guide called 187 Men to Avoid under the pen name "Danielle Brown."
- His first novel, Digital Fortress, was inspired in part when one of his students was visited by the Secret Service after joking about killing President Clinton in an e-mail. He set part of that novel in Sevilla.

The next interesting chapter is the fifth, "From Indiana Jones to Robert Langdon: Great Academic Heroes in Fact and in Fiction." The list is as follows:

Indiana Jones
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park)
Dr. Benton Quest (Jonny Quest)
Fox Mulder
Sherlock Holmes
Buckaroo Banzai

On Indiana Jones, I have most definitely had a crush. I mean, Harrison Ford, right? I think I watched Temple of Doom about a thousand times when I was kid. Indy was smooth, suave. He knew what to do in every situation. Best of all, he was an archaeologist! That's what I wanted to be when I was a kid. I was constantly checking Egyptology, archaeology, and anthropology books out of the library. My childhood fascination with Indiana Jones was, no doubt, a key moment in the development of my sapiosexuality.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one classic I never read. Perhaps I should; according to Helfers' book, "Sir Percy ends up married to the most beautiful, most intelligent woman in the known world..." If he can appreciate the world's most intelligent woman, he sounds like a keeper.

I'm pretty sure I read Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park only after seeing the movie, and I'm also pretty sure I had a crush on Dr. Malcolm as played by Jeff Goldblum.

I vaguely remember watching Jonny Quest as a small child - I watched many Hanna-Barbera cartoons - but I cannot specifically remember Benton Quest. "Buckaroo Banzai" is a name that only sounds vaguely familiar - maybe from an '80s movie I was too young to watch.

Now, Fox Mulder - I had quite the crush on him for a while. It's a bit weird to me, though, that the list is exclusively male. If anyone should be on this list, it's Dana Scully. She was the scientist. If I remember correctly, she was a physician. Mulder was more of conspiracy theorist than an academic. In fact, I'm pretty sure Indiana Jones is the only college professor on this list.

Of course I love Sherlock Holmes - in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, on Elementary, and in the Guy Ritchie films. (I watched the initial episode of the BBC Sherlock, "A Study in Pink," but it failed to arouse my interest.) Holmes isn't, strictly speaking, an academic, but he was inspired by a real-life one, a professor of medicine.

Indeed, the fictional men of this list are attractive to me. It seems that some female fictional characters who are known for both their intelligence and their adventurous side could have been added. What about Lara Croft, tomb raider? Like Indiana Jones, she's an archaeologist. (Okay, so she's from a video game and a movie, not from a book.)

Michael Tolland can certainly be added to the list of sexy action-scientists.

The largest portion of this book is the concordance, consisting of alphabetical entries of people, places, and things found in Dan Brown's novels up to The Da Vinci Code. The most interesting entries are from the first two Robert Langdon novels, because they have all that great art and architecture in them. I didn't really learn much more about the science of Deception Point, but some of the more interesting entries include:

The Lincoln Bedroom: "Though President Lincoln never used it himself, his son Willie died in the bed of typhoid fever at age 11, in 1962. Ever since, numerous sightings of Lincoln's ghost in the room have been reported by White House guests." In the novel, Michael Tolland tries to amuse Rachel Sexton with a terrible impression of Lincoln's ghost. This is shortly before he tries to seduce her with his knowledge of jellyfish mating rituals.

Olivine: "A material silicate that crystallizes from magma rich in nesium and iron but low in silica. Also called chrysolite, olivine's characteristic yellow-green to olive-green color gives the mineral its name. Transparent olivine can be cut into gemstones known as peridot. It is one of the most common minerals on Earth by volume and has been discovered in meteorites, on Mars, and on the moon."

Red Room: "The Red Room in the White House originally served as the president's antechamber for the Cabinet Room or the President's Library...It remained yellow until 1845, when First Lady Sarah Polk furnished the room in crimson and ruby and it became known as the Red Room," So really, it has nothing to do with Fifty Shades of Gray.

Seahorse mating: "Seahorses are the only known species on the planet in which the male gets pregnant. Seahorses mate for life, and they will even mate across different seahorse species. The female packs the male's breeding bag with nutrients, then snuggles up close to deposit orange-colored eggs inside for the male to fertilize. When mating they link their tails together and do a kind of dance.

"Gestation is only three weeks, resulting in the live birth of between fifteen and one thousand five hundred baby seahorses!...Amazingly, seahorses can get pregnant again almost immediately."

Skyquakes: "Skyquakes are earth-shaking booming sounds, often described as sounding like cannon fire. Louder than thunder or the sonic booms created by aircraft, they often occur on bright, sunny days and are unaffected by weather.

"Skyquakes have been witnessed all over the world and throughout history, including by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1808. Though scientists postulate that some skyquakes are caused by the testing of secret aircraft or meteors disintegrating in the atmosphere, there is still no definitive answer as to what they are."

Sphyrna mokarran: "Sphyrna mokarran is the scientific name for hammerhead sharks...There are nine different species of hammerhead sharks, ranging from three feet in length to twenty. Found in warm water near the coastlines, they are the only species of sharks to travel in schools."

I like sharks. Top predators are good for their environments, and the ocean needs its sharks. They are beautiful fish. They may occasionally eat a person, but not out of maliciousness. They're simply a hungry animal trying to survive.

I like science and history. That's some of what I enjoy when I read Dan Brown's books.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Out Now – Desert Heat by Lucy Felthouse (@cw1985) #erotica #romance #gay #mm #military


Their love is forbidden by rules, religion and risk. Yet still they can’t resist.

Captain Hugh Wilkes is on his last tour of duty in Afghanistan. The British Army is withdrawing, and Wilkes expects his posting to be event-free. That is, until he meets his Afghan interpreter, Rustam Balkhi, who awakens desires in Wilkes that he’d almost forgotten about, and that won’t be ignored.

Please note: this book was previously published as part of the Unconditional Surrender bundle.

Buy links:


Captain Hugh Wilkes sucked in a deep breath, steeling himself for the heat he was about to be subjected to, though he already knew all the deep breaths in the world wouldn’t help. Darkness had fallen on Camp Bastion, in the notorious Helmand Province of Afghanistan, but there would still be residual warmth left to seep away throughout the small hours. Then the sun would rise, and it would start all over again. It was a damn desert, after all. But, all being well, it would be his last ever tour of the godforsaken place. The British Army was already preparing to pull out. The manpower had been reduced drastically over the previous months. It was time to leave the Afghans to get on with it. They weren’t being abandoned—far from it—they would still receive aid, training and money for years to come. But the British Army was no longer needed, apparently. It was still a volatile place, which would no doubt be monitored very closely, in case strategies needed to be reconsidered.

None of that was down to Wilkes, though. He was here with his platoon for six months, doing whatever they were ordered to do by their Company Commander, Major Hunter. It was unlikely they’d be doing any fighting—they weren’t here for offensive operations. More probably they’d be accompanying their vehicles, weapons and ammunition across the country as it was transported to the air base to be sent back home, or patrolling towns and villages as a show of presence, to reassure and protect the inhabitants.

There was only one way to find out. Grabbing his kit, he headed toward the ramp of the huge C17 aircraft with his colleagues, and followed them out onto the airstrip. Immediately, he was hit by the overwhelming smell of aviation fuel. As he moved away from the airplane this was replaced by the dry atmosphere.

Wilkes imagined he could feel the grains of sand coating his throat and tongue. He’d soon get used to it—he always did. Plus, on the bright side, he’d end up with a nice tan at the end of his deployment.

Mentally, he crossed his fingers for a nice, event-free tour of duty. Letting his guard down wasn’t going to happen, naturally, he just hoped it wasn’t necessary. Hoped the insurgents would play nicely. The country was completely different to how it had been when Allied forces had gone in after 9/11. Some fantastic progress had been made, but it still wasn’t completely safe. But then, where was? People died in picturesque villages in the English countryside—though generally not courtesy of IEDs, AK-47s or suicide bombers.

Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women's Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica ForAll, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more at Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Fantasy-Cast Dan Brown's 'Deception Point'

The latest book I listened to on CD was Deception Point by Dan Brown. From the pre-Robert Langdon era, it was Brown's second published novel (after Digital Fortress).

Frankly, Deception Point isn't as interesting as the Langdon novels. It lacks the world art, architecture, and history references that help make the Harvard "symbologist's" adventures so entertaining. Deception Point is still entertaining as a fast-paced thriller, though.

The other day I shared some of my "casting" choices for my mental "movie" of Deception Point. For the main protagonist, Rachel Sexton, I like Kristen Stewart. Rachel is young, intelligent, capable, ballsy when she needs to be, and a bit vulnerable at times. She's the prototypical Dan Brown heroine, a Sophie Neveu in the making (minus the divine bloodline).
Rachel Sexton's love interest is the oceanographer Michael Tolland. I can't imagine anyone else but George Clooney as Tolland. Michael Tolland is supposed to be a good-looking, photogenic guy with brown eyes. Maybe he's not right-now George Clooney - age 53 - but The Perfect Storm-era George Clooney certainly would work.
Are they too mismatched in age to be a couple? Stewart is only 24, a whole 12 years younger than the newly-minted Mrs. Clooney, the brilliant, gorgeous humanitarian lawyer Amal Ramzi formerly-Alamuddin-now-emphatically-Clooney. (Guys, I love her.) This is supposed to be Mike's second-chance romance. He lost his wife to cancer right before he threw himself wholeheartedly into a career of bringing science education about the world's oceans to the public through documentary filmmaking, like a Jacques Cousteau for the 2000s.

Eh, maybe it's a bit of a male fantasy - the much-younger woman - but I'm going to let it slide. It's pretty much par for the course in a Dan Brown novel.

For Dr. Corky Marlinson, the astronomer and expert on meteor composition, I favor Jeffrey Wright. He's brilliant as Beetee in the Hunger Games series; is it bad to typecast him as "smart guy?"
Thank you, Dan Brown, for not killing Corky. I was pretty worried for a moment, especially when Corky's leg was bleeding and he didn't put a tourniquet on it.
He's a fairly minor character, but Dr. Weilee Ming could be played by Ken Leung. To be honest, though, Dr. Ming is much less of a troublemaker than the typical Ken Leung character.

While we're on the subject of actors from Lost and Person of Interest, I could see William Pickering as Michael Emerson.
It's a given from the text that Gabrielle Ashe looks like Halle Berry.
But who should play her boss - and Rachel's estranged father - Senator Thomas Sedgwick Sexton? I can only think of Richard Gere.
I borrowed this audiobook from my local library and was not obligated in any way to review it. Now that I've finished it, I've begun listening to The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, read by the author himself. It'll be the first Neil Gaiman book I've read.

If you're a Simpsons fan like me, you remember Neil Gaiman from "The Book Job." It's my second-favorite episode, after the classic "Lisa's Rival."

Monday, January 26, 2015

'Cuffed, Tied, and Satisfied' Revisited

I want to circle back around to a couple of things: yesterday's long, rambling dream post; that stupid Canadian serial killer movie I made myself watch last week; and Jaiya's Cuffed, Tied, and Satisfied. I was going to touch upon this in the Gone Girl post and somehow I forgot.

While I went to great lengths to explain the inspirations behind some of the disparate elements of my hormone-addled dream, I left at least one out. In the dream "I" had a sexual relationship with a person I had met only earlier that same day.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it. Consenting adults can make their own sexual choices without my input, and I was never a "not until the wedding night"/purity ring/don't-get-down-on-the-first-night type of a person anyway. I really like what Ayelet Waldman tells her kids: you should love everyone you ever have sex with, to some degree, although not necessarily all to the same degree.*

I'm saying that particular story line may have been influenced by the scene in said Canadian serial killer movie, Karla. The movie showed Paul and Karla enthusiastically stripping off each others' clothes on her hotel bed maybe not even an hour after they'd met, while two of their friends are still in the room. It's very early in the movie and maybe the only part of the whole sordid thing you can actually point to and say "That part's kinda hot" without being a complete sociopath.

Laura Prepon, who played Karla. Creative Commons image by Giliveira
The Jaiya book I read in August 2014 comes in where I think back to another scene that happens shortly after the hotel room scene. The incarcerated Karla is up for parole, but first she must undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator suggests to Karla that she was the one who introduced role-playing into her relationship with Paul. Karla's flashback shows her giving Paul a set of handcuffs and insisting he put them on her. Paul goes along with it. As he puts the cuffs on Karla, he says into her ear, "What if I was a rapist?"

She answers, "That would be hot."

The evaluator wants to know whether that was a red flag for Karla. After all, we the viewers already know Paul had committed a series of rapes and been questioned by the police before he met Karla. But apparently Karla didn't know that yet. She dismissed the evaluator's concern by saying it was "just fuck talk."

For a normal couple who aren't narcissistic, sadistic psychopaths who kill people for pleasure, would such a role play be a red flag for real violence? I don't think it would - at least, not in every case. It makes me uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean it makes you uncomfortable.

Misha and Laura look super creepy as Paul and Karla. Those blond highlights are not helping his case any. Via Fanpop:
I'd written in my review of Cuffed, Tied, and Satisfied, "On page 125, Jaiya shares that she gave her partner a list of words and asked him to choose the ones that turned him on. One of the words he chooses is "rape." She never addresses this or mentions it again. I understand the adults are perfectly entitled to role-play and act out whatever fantasies they care to have with their consenting adult partners, and I don't have a problem with that. I don't consider myself overly "vanilla" and I'm not usually uncomfortable around discussions of sexuality (erotica writer here), but I am uncomfortable with this book skirting around issues of nonconsent without strongly addressing them." 

So I agree with Karla to a point - if you feel comfortable within the confines of a relationship, then you can role play whatever turns you on, even if it turns you on precisely because it's transgressive. A woman-man couple might, for example, role play mother-son incest, and that doesn't necessarily mean the guy wants to have sex with his actual mother.

But I think the psychiatrist was trying to get across to Karla that if she had been a psychologically healthy person, she wouldn't have felt comfortable being in an intimate relationship with Paul at all. There are some people - and let's hope they're only a small percentage of the population - who aren't able to handle role playing because they accept it as validation of their antisocial urges. 

That, I think, is the issue I wanted Jaiya to address. I wanted her to come out and say that some people will never be safe to role play with, and some people will never be safe to engage in restraint play with. Some people don't have the capacity to understand that it's okay to use people as sex toys for as long as those people consent to be used as sex toys as long as they're also being treated as living beings with feelings at the same time. I don't just need the authors of sex guides to KNOW how important consent and empathy are. I need them to WRITE how important consent and empathy are. 

Vicki Vantoch, Misha's actual, not-creepy, intellectual-hottie wife, with her dark hair and glasses, kinda looks like Alex Vause.
Laura-as-Alex is the girl all the bad girls want.
*Ayelet Waldman tends to be painted in the media as some kind of difficult woman and/or as some kind of appendage to Michael Chabon. Do not come to me with your Ayelet Waldman hate. If you do, I will assume both misogyny and antiSemitism and fight you so hard to defend lil' Yiddish mama. 

As I will for my Arab and Muslim sisters, too. Because there was an attack on a kosher food store in France, the media will try to separate European Jews from European Muslims like they're supposed to hate each other. Don't fall for that crap, either. Don't pretend like the Frenchy-Frenches wouldn't turn all their Jews and Muslims over to the Nazis faster than you can say allons-y, along with the Romany people

Asiatics of the world, we all gotta stick up for each other. Don't fall for divide-and-conquer. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stream-of-Consciousness Sunday: Currently Reading and Erin's Dream Diary

Now that I've finished Gone Girl, my current reads are:

I'm about 70 pages into Great by Sara Benincasa. It's a contemporary YA retelling of The Great Gatsby with some of the characters' genders reversed; Nick and Jay are now Naomi and Jacinta. The writing style isn't super-literary, and in spots it borders on the ridiculous, but I'm still interested in how the tale proceeds. I started reading this at my cousin's birthday party for her kids the other night, when my husband and the other men were engaged in watching an incredibly stupid MTV show in the bar. (The party took place at a bowling alley my cousin had rented for the occasion.)

This is a book I got free from Amazon Vine. Another Vine pick I'm about a third of the way through:

So it's a silly PNR about a weretiger princess who finds herself attracted to a warrior vampire. So what? It's fun, and I love big cat shapeshifter stories. In my mind I'm picturing Russell, the vampire, as Christian Bale. Russell is supposed to be an American - well, Christian Bale is now a naturalized American. I think they kicked him out of the U.K. because he was born without a British Charm Unit.

In the car on my hour-long commute to the Corporate Marketing Day Job, I'm 11 of 15 discs through Dan Brown's Deception Point. I borrowed it from the library. I've begun mentally casting the movie:

Michael Tolland - George Clooney
Corky Marlinson - Jeffrey Wright (my beloved Beetee from the Hunger Games film series)
Wailee Ming - Ken Leung

I don't have strong feelings about who should play Rachel Sexton. Any Generic White Girl will do. I can't stop thinking of Gabrielle as Halle Berry because it's written right into the text that she resembles the actress.

The book I sometimes read on my lunch hour at work is Cover Him With Darkness by Janine Ashbless. I got the paperback from Cleis Press in exchange for an honest review.

It encompasses one of my current obsessions - angel sex, although of the hetero variety in this case - and one of my deep-seated, ongoing obsessions - That Yugoslavia! Thing. It takes place in Montenegro, partially. Also, the writing is fantastically good.

You may remember Yugoslavia! from previous installments of Erin's Dream Diary:

A Wonderful Vampire Dream
The Adam Levine Dream
The Beltane Fertility Dream
The Boy
The Inspirational Zombie Dream
Wall Street
Window Into the Mind of an Erotica Author

Because my uterus refuses to play nice, like my other bodily organs do, I awoke to pain and blood. Despite, or perhaps because of, the hormonal flux going on beneath my skin, I vividly remember what I'd been dreaming before my internal Nagini decided to shed her skin:

My dad's dad was still alive. He and my Irish Granny owned a restaurant, where my parents and I both worked. I was 19 years old. My project of the morning was making a pot of soup, the base of which included the concentrated juice of pomegranates.
This lovely photo, which I found on Tumblr during an idle moment yesterday, may have been responsible for my dreaming of pomegranates.

Here I must mention that in my dream, the Earth was under the control of the Empire - the Darth Vader empire from the Star Wars series. We all know that the events of Star Wars happened a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But maybe I was dreaming about Star Wars because I am a nerd drove through fog the other day, and when I drive through fog, I like to pretend I'm in Cloud City. Yeah, I grew up in the '80s.

The time of year is late April/early May - the time of Beltane - in my dream. I kept thinking I wanted to ride my bike into the woods to make my prayers and sacrifices to the God and Goddess. But I had to wait to go to the temple of the woods, because a storm trooper came into the restaurant.

Eve Rinaldi via Wikimedia Commons
FYI, the reference to Beltane might have come about because I've reblogged a few Howl's Moving Castle posts on Tumblr in the past few days. I love Howl and Sophie as a couple, and as you may recall, they met on Beltane/May Day. It's their anniversary. Yesterday was my maternal grandparents' wedding anniversary, although both are deceased, and they had gotten married on the same day as my grandfather's parents.

My mother's father's parents on their wedding day, circa 1915. That day was a January 24th. 
But I digress. The storm trooper came in, and I felt very threatened and intimidated by his presence. I considered the fact that he might kill me and my family. But he took off his helmet, and he was a regular guy. He looked just like Ben Affleck.

I told you I would get attached to Nick Dunne.

So the storm trooper, whose name I must have known in the dream but cannot now remember - we'll just call him Ben - flirted with me. I let him come upstairs to my bedroom, to the family living quarters above the restaurant. Somehow I managed to sneak him past my parents and grandparents, even though all four of them were there.

We kissed. I took my clothes off. He took off his uniform. We had sex. For me, it was the first time.

Currently obsessed with the song "First Time" by Ghost Beach, an indie rock band named after a Goosebumps book

Several weeks later, when I realized my period was late, I knew I was pregnant. I surreptitiously bought a pregnancy test and sneaked off to the woods, to the very place where I would have made my obeisance to the God and Goddess on Beltane, to take the test. My family found out shortly after that. I don't know how - I didn't volunteer that information.

Soon I found myself hauled in to the Empire's nearest outpost. The Empire had some kind of interest in children who had been conceived on Beltane, and they considered my offspring to be their property. I would be held as a prisoner until I gave birth to my daughter, then released back to my family. I was never to expect to see my daughter again.

It was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. Ben was allowed to visit me and bring me things. On his home planet, he was also a witch. He showed me a book of the Craft from his home world that told him which roots to dig up and give me for morning sickness. Fortunately, they also grew on Earth, but he could only dig them up by the light of the full moon, and he had to chew them up for me. (This is oddly sweet - the father having to chew up the roots that will benefit his child in utero.)

In actuality, the time I had to live without seeing my daughter was only a few months, because the Empire was defeated and the troops got to go home. I know I got my child back, but I don't know whether Ben stayed on Earth, if I decided to take the baby to his home planet, or if we parted ways.

That is how my hormone-addled subconscious mind works.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I'm Not Sure How I Feel About 'Gone Girl' (Spoilers)

Please be aware that the following book post is not spoiler-free and that it mentions sensitive topics that some readers may find disturbing.

I resisted reading Gillian Flynn's bestselling thriller Gone Girl for a while now. My grandma read the e-book on her Nook and said it was "just okay." She's much more a thriller fan than I usually am, so I deferred to her opinion. Then Meagan at work brought her copy to the office and insisted I had to read it, so I read it dutifully.

It was much more interesting than I expected it to be. It did not go in the direction I expected it go - not at all. And no, I did not know any spoilers beforehand, even though I feel like I'm the last person on Earth to read this book.

I thought it was going to be a story about a man who killed his wife. After the first few chapters, I kind of liked the husband, Nick Dunne. He's a writer, a smart boy, the kind of fictional boy I usually end up attached to. Since I feared he'd turn out to be a killer, though, I asked people on Goodreads, "Is it okay if I like Nick?"

I got two answers: "Kind of" and "He's not as bad as he could be."

Nick does one REALLY bad thing, and that is cheat on his wife, Amy, with a 23-year-old student at the college where he's a part-time professor. That's a jackass thing to do, for sure. I don't judge people for being non-monogamous, but I do judge lying to and hiding things from your partner to be unacceptable behavior. Honest polyamory is good behavior, but cheating without a partner's knowledge and consent is bad behavior.

That said, Nick is not the villain of this novel. Although we don't really begin to suspect it until Nick discovers what's hiding in the woodshed, Amy is the real monster in the story. She lacks empathy utterly, is self-centered to a narcissistic degree, and brilliantly plots the destruction of anyone who stands in the way of what she wants.

Hence my mixed feelings about this novel. Amy is a psycho bitch. Isn't that what practically every guy says about his ex-girlfriend or ex-wife, though? Isn't that the refrain of misogynists everywhere: "Women - they're all crazy bitches?"

I'm not saying that Gillian Flynn is a misogynist. I don't think that at all. I think she wrote a fascinating "what if" story line centered on an interesting, complex, and problematic fictional character. I do think the novel might, inadvertently, reinforce societal stereotypes about female behavior.

One of the awful things Amy does in this novel is falsely accuse an ex-boyfriend of raping her. Being falsely accused of something as horrific as a sexual assault is a frightening prospect, and it's natural that we sympathize with any innocent person - in general, an innocent man, much more rarely an innocent woman - to whom this happens.

Realistically, though, false rape accusations are far, far less common than actual incidents of sexual violence. Society has an unfortunate tendency to blame the victim and defend the accused to a ridiculous degree. It has a lot to do with internalized misogyny and other outdated ideas that have long outlived their usefulness. As a result, too few rapists are prosecuted and victims too seldom get the support they need and deserve post-trauma. This is a societal trend that needs to die a quick death.

Therefore, let us not in any way support the myth that women are inherently self-interested and deceptive. Let us not support the myth that women in general tend to lie about sexual assault for our own gain. Instead, let us give all our support to spreading the idea that a culture of enthusiastic and freely given consent is a win-win for all human beings who engage in sexual and romantic behaviors.

I wanted to finish reading the story to see how it ended, but I didn't so much enjoy it as feel a deep and dreadful concern for the characters. Which is the mark of good writing, by the way - Gillian Flynn made me feel things, and I applaud her for it. I haven't been this wrapped up in a book since The Fault In Our Stars made me cry, then drop it, then call it a stupid book because it made me cry and drop it.

The ending is a hideous nightmare of spousal abuse, a husband being victimized, trapped, and held against his will by his wife. A weaponized pregnancy. Forced domestic bliss.

What's perhaps a little coincidental is that just yesterday I watched a movie called Karla on Netflix. It's an awful movie I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, ever. It's based on a true story, an exploitative "woman in jeopardy" movie about a Canadian couple who kidnapped, raped, and murdered several women. The title character, Karla, is played by Laura Prepon, whom I much prefer to see as Alex Vause on Orange Is the New Black.

The titles at the end of the movie mentioned that the real-life Karla is now out of prison, but still has limitations on her freedoms, as apparently is legal in Canada. The legal system felt she lacked remorse and that her actions couldn't entirely be blamed on her husband's influence and his well-documented, horrific spousal abuse. These titles were somewhat in opposition to the rest of the movie, which portrayed Karla as a scared and reluctant partner in the things her husband did.

The husband, Paul, was played by Misha Collins, my reason for choosing this disturbing film. I really hated seeing his as a serial rapist/sexual sadist who frequently backhanded his wife. I much prefer to think of sweet-faced Misha as a fictional character living in domestic bliss with a fictional Jensen Ackles. He looks too kind to be evil, but I guess that was some of the point of casting him in this Canadian catastrophe. Look, photogenic white people can be evil, too!

Karla was sort of a mixed message, but overall it seemed to tell the story of a man who was so evil and abusive, he twisted a young, impressionable woman by exploiting her sexually adventurous side. Gone Girl is almost the opposite. Nick, mostly-innocent husband victimized by his abusive father, falls into the trap of psychopathic, manipulative Amy, and he's forced to play her least until she decides to kill him.

Male psychopath, female is no more palatable than the other. I didn't exactly "like" Gone Girl, but it certainly wasn't as boring as my grandmother made it sound. I'll have to watch the movie, which stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne. I don't have a particular fondness for Ben Affleck (Jennifer Lopez has said she was in love with him, but he broke up with her abruptly and broke her heart), so maybe I won't get very attached to movie-Nick. Maybe.

More Blogger Reviews of Gone Girl

Jenn @ Going the Distance

Shoshanah @ From L.A. to LA

Andrea @ Andrea's Adventures

Kristine @ Living Barefoot and Crazy

Lil @ Faster Than Forever

Victoria @ Mine to Live

Carly Ann @ Carly Chubby Cheeks