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St. James' Day by Erin O'Riordan

St. James' Day

by Erin O'Riordan

Giveaway ends August 05, 2014.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: 'The Casual Vacancy' By J.K. Rowling


I recently finished The Casual Vacancy, the first novel J.K. Rowling wrote specifically for adults and her first post-Harry Potter release. If you have not read it, please look away now, as this post is not spoiler-free.

I didn't know whether or not I would like this book before I started reading. I'd read a few reviews, and they were mixed. Some people didn't like the characters, saying they were horrible people and therefore made bad protagonists.

It's true there are some conniving, cowardly, malicious, misguided, and unkind deeds afoot in Rowling's fictional town of Pagford and its neighbor, The Fields. With a variety of selfish motives, people commit crimes and misdemeanors against their fellows. A few times, compassion and humanity shine through.


Some of the residents of Pagford and the surrounding area are:

- Howard Mollison, the obese 64-year-old owner of the town's deli, and his wife Shirley
- Howard and Shirley's son Miles Mollison, a lawyer
- Samantha Mollison, owner of a boutique lingerie business and highly unsatisfied wife of Miles
- Gavin Hughes, an insurance agent
- Kay Bowden, a social worker and mother of 16-year-old Gaia. The Bowdens are transplants from London.
- Parminder Jawanda, the local general practitioner and the mom of three teenagers
- Vikram Jawanda, Parminder's impossibly gorgeous husband, a heart surgeon
- Sukhvinder Jawanda, the youngest of the Jawanda children, teased at school for being overweight and having more facial hair than is considered typically feminine. Suhkvinder feels inferior to her older brother and sister because she has a learning disability and doesn't do as well in school as them. Because she's bullied by her peers and criticized by her parents, she cuts herself to try to relieve the pain and stress.
- Andrew Price, also sixteen, one of two sons of crooked, verbally and physically abusive Simon Price and nurse Ruth Price. Andrew has a crush on Gaia Bowden.
- Stuart "Fats" Wall, a thin middle-class boy who's been Andrew's best friend since they were four years old. Fats' favorite pastimes include smoking marijuana, opposing his parents at every turn, and obsessing over "authenticity" in a Holden Caulfield-like fashion.
- Colin "Cubby" Wall, deputy headmaster at the school Fats, Andrew, Gaia, Sukhvinder and the other teens attend. A nervous, fussy man with a large, balding forehead, Colin has a hidden illness.
- Tessa Wall, the diabetic school guidance counselor, wife of Colin and adoptive mother of Stuart
- Barry Fairbrother, the town councilor, a substitute teacher, and coach of the high school rowing team whose unexpected death from a brain aneurysm kicks off the plot of the novel
- Mary Fairbrother, Barry's grieving widow and the mother of their son and twin daughters
- Krystal Weedon, the girl from The Fields, Barry's favorite rower, and the daughter of a heroin addict

Okay, so the cast of characters is as large and complicated as that of Middlemarch. Barry Fairbrother dies in the first few pages, and much of the main plot centers on Miles, Simon, Parminder, and Colin all competing to fill the empty seat - the casual vacancy of the title - on the town council created by Barry's death.


I really enjoyed this book. For one thing, it's nice to see that J.K. Rowling's spellbinding storytelling skills carry beyond the Harry Potter novels. The author is witty, she's a powerful observer of human behavior, and she writes with such intensity I get wrapped up in her fictional world to the exclusion of reality.

None of the characters are perfect by any stretch, but I did bond with some of them. Krystal and Sukhvinder are my favorites. Krystal's swaggering bravado disguised her inner vulnerability, including the fierceness with which she loved her loved ones, her ultimate undoing. In many ways she was a victim of circumstance - as was her mother, although Terri Weedon's soul-crushing mistakes seem much less excusable given that she's an adult, she should know better, and she keeps making the same stupid mistake over and over...as addicts will do.

Sukhvinder seems to be falling apart, both from her own point of view and in the eyes of others. She doesn't seem to have much going for her, and yet she's a hidden well of strength. Through the events of the novel, Sukhvinder finds her voice and inspires her mother to become a better person.

Kudos to Rowling for writing complex, multidimensional characters who aren't stereotypes and who interact in complex ways. I'm now exciting to read the two mysteries Rowling wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. (Sigh - knock one book off my TBR list, add two more. Story of my literary life.) Apparently this book is being made into a miniseries as a collaboration between the BBC and HBO, and I look forward to seeing it.

P.S. If I were to fantasy-cast this movie, I would want Vikram to be played by the beautiful and talented Naveen Andrews, an Englishman best known to American audiences as Sayid Jarrah on Lost. (Fans self.)

It's not a great picture because we cant see his eyes, but it is Creative Commons. Image by Kanaka's Paradise Life of Honolulu, Hawaii

I purchased this book with my own funds via Amazon.com and was not obligated to review it in any way. My copy is a used book that came from a library sale, specifically from the Pikes Peak Library District of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Finally Finished Reading 'Middlemarch'

Middlemarch
Middlemarch by George Eliot


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have ridden the mighty moon worm!*

Well, no, but I did finally finish Middlemarch. I've been reading this book since January. I thought I would breeze right through it, but it turned out to be 800 dense pages of characterization of virtually every person in the fictional Midlands English town of Middlemarch. It centers mainly on two marriages: the marriage of young, idealistic Dorothea Brooke to the older, bachelor scholar Edward Casaubon, and the marriage of spoiled "princess" Rosamond Vincy to a newcomer to Middlemarch, the physician-scientist Tertius Lydgate. Rosamond's brother, Fred Vincy, wants to marry the sweet-natured Mary Garth, but encounters many obstacles in the course of that courtship.

Edward Casaubon is described as looking like the philosopher John Locke.

Public domain image
However, when I started reading this, I did not know what the philosopher John Locke looked like, so I imagined Edward as looking like the character John Locke on Lost, as portrayed by actor Terry O'Quinn. Edward's life work is a lengthy philosophical and theological work that compares several ancient mythologies. Part of the reason Dorothea married him is that she wants to be a part of something important, and she thinks helping Edward with his scholarship will help her achieve this goal.

Creative Commons image
While the Casaubons are on their honeymoon in Italy, they run into Will Ladislaw, a young cousin of Edward's. Will is considered somewhat disreputable in Middlemarch because his mother ran off and married a man "below her station," a Polish musician. He has no inheritance, no living, and is out in the world on his own. Dorothy feels an immediate sympathy with him. Edward feels jealousy over his wife's interest in Will, and changes his will to say that Dorothy will not inherit any money if she remarries Will.

I can't exactly say why, but I keep picturing Will Ladislaw as Ben Whishaw.

Creative Commons image by KikeValencia
Will and Dorothea are attracted to one another, but they are proper Victorians and wouldn't dare do anything about it. They can't even admit their attraction to themselves. Rosamond, on the other hand, is an improper Victorian. Because she's such an attractive young lady, she's used to flirting with men and having them give her anything she wants. In her head, she imagines Will is in love with her. She has no intention of acting on her attraction to Will, but she has a romantic fantasy built up in her silly little head. Rosamond's ignorance of practical matters causes her husband great, great distress.


This isn't an exciting classic, like The Count of Monte Cristo or Gone With the Wind, but it is an interesting book. I read it because my copy of Jane Eyre said that if I liked that book I might also like this one. I LOVED Jane Eyre. I must point out, though, that there aren't a lot of obvious similarities. Both deal with class differences and the shifting position of women in society, though.

Middlemarch isn't nearly as romantic as Jane Eyre, nor is it as witty as anything Jane Austen ever wrote. I said before (in this post) that I thought George Eliot was a contemporary of Austen and the Bronte sisters, but this wasn't accurate. George Eliot was born (as Mary Anne Evans) in 1819, and Middlemarch was published in installments between 1871 and 1872. Jane Austen died in 1817, two years before Evans was born. Emily Bronte's short life spanned 1818-1848, and her sister Charlotte lived 1816-1855. Jane Eyre was published in 1847. Charlotte Bronte came the closest to being Evans' contemporary, but she died relatively young and published her most famous work long before Middlemarch debuted.


George Eliot is more cerebral and philosophical than her Regency-era predecessor Jane Austen, and the pleasure of reading her is a more subtle one than the emotional Romantic-era drama of the Brontes. However, I was not unsatisfied with the ending, and I'm glad I had the patience to finish all 800+ pages.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

I bought this paperback at Barnes and Noble and was not obligated to review it in any way.

*Nerdy-ass Futurama reference. Sorry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths - A Live Interactive Discussion

CYBERSPACE – Sssh.com, the web’s premier porn-for-women site, announced today an event called "Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths," an interactive panel discussion that pits prominent women working in the adult entertainment industry against some of porn’s harshest critics to debate the nature of the industry and women’s changing role in it. Scheduled for July 22 at 3 p.m. Eastern time, the live video broadcast event will be available to viewers free of charge on MindBrowse.com.


“When critics of porn take aim at the adult industry, one of their main arguments is that the industry is inherently misogynistic, and that the women who work and perform in the industry are basically broken people, poor souls who have been manipulated into working in porn,” said Angie Rowntree, founder of Sssh.com and organizer of "Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths." “To women like me, who work in this industry absolutely by choice and are passionate about what we do for a living, that’s an extremely insulting and demeaning claim. This event gives some of the industry’s strongest women a chance to look their critics straight in the eye and prove to them that they’re wrong in making that assertion.”

The panelists, whom Rowntree said will be identified in subsequent announcements, come from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. They include a top adult content producer, an experienced performer, the operator of a true user-generated content site, and a staunch anti-pornography activist.

“This is going to be a truly open discussion, one in which we face the criticisms directed at our industry head-on,” Rowntree said. “We may disagree with our critics, but we respect their opinions, and we see value in answering them point by point in a setting like this, rather than just dismissing them as prudes or moral crusaders.”

"Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths" promises to be both in-depth and dynamic. Panelists will be prepared to discuss a predetermined set of topics, plus the event will also be live tweeted and monitored at @ssshforwomen under the hashtag #WomenInPorn. Viewers may interact during the event and pose their own questions and points, which may then be discussed by the panelists.  To participate, ask your question and then add #womeninporn to your tweet.

“Porn has reached a point where it’s just part of the broader cultural landscape now, so this isn’t just a discussion to be had by the industry and its critics,” Rowntree said. “We’re giving porn’s fans and detractors a voice in the discussion too, via Twitter.”


Sociologist Chauntelle Tibbals to Moderate “Women in Porn” Debate
  
Sssh.com, sponsor of the upcoming “Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths” online debate, announced [July 17th] that the discussion will be moderated by Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, an embedded public sociologist whose fields of specialty include gender, sexuality, work and organizations, new media, and popular culture.

Sssh.com founder Angie Rowntree said that Dr. Tibbals has been instrumental in organizing "Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths," and is “deeply informed on all the issues we want to cover.”

“Chauntelle has been researching the adult industry for over 10 years, and is one of the few academics who has taken the time to consider the industry’s nuances and approached it with an open mind,” Rowntree said. “She’s is the perfect person to moderate this discussion, and has been an amazing resource for us during the planning of the debate.”

Dr. Tibbals said that helping to organize the event “has been extremely rewarding.”

“As a sociologist and social justice advocate, it’s been wonderful to contribute to an event that’s working to broaden public understanding by encouraging multiple perspectives,” Tibbals said. “Not everyone has to agree, but everyone’s voice is worth consideration. I am excited to help break down the ‘talking about’ and encourage the ‘talking to.’”

Dr. Tibbals’ research has been published in numerous scholarly journals including Sexualities, Gender Work & Organization, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, and Stanford Law and Policy Review. She has been quoted and cited extensively by cultural and news media outlets including CNN, Business Insider, Slate, and NPR.

"Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths" is an interactive panel discussion pitting prominent women working in the adult entertainment industry against some of the industry’s harshest critics to debate the nature of the industry and women’s changing role in it. Previously announced panelists include Penthouse Managing Director Kelly Holland, adult performer/director Ashley Fires, and MakeLoveNotPorn.com co-founder Cindy Gallop.


For more information on Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, visit www.ChauntelleTibbals.com and follow her on Twitter @drchauntelle

Penthouse Managing Director Kelly Holland Announced as Panelist for Upcoming “Women in Porn” Debate




Sssh.com announced [on July 2nd] that Penthouse Managing Director Kelly Holland will be among the panelists for the event, bringing with her impeccable professional credentials and a long history of achievement both inside and outside the adult entertainment industry.

“We’re absolutely delighted that Kelly accepted our invitation to contribute her perspective to this important discussion,” said Angie Rowntree, owner and founder of Sssh.com. “I think some of the adult industry’s harshest critics simply don’t believe that women like Kelly – meaning strong, independent, smart and accomplished women – actually exist within our industry, and Kelly is a wonderful living example of just how wrong they are.”

Holland got her start in the adult entertainment business back in the mid-90s, while working on a documentary about the industry for European television, when she was asked to direct an adult movie. That directorial debut launched a career that has garnered Kelly high praise as both a director and an executive, leading to her promotion to the position of Managing Director of Penthouse.

Holland’s list of accomplishments at Penthouse is long and impressive, and includes substantially growing Penthouse’s broadcast division globally. Today, Penthouse Entertainment boasts 10 distinct channels reaching over 100 countries and over 400 million households.

“I’m looking forward to a lively and challenging discussion,” Holland said of the upcoming debate. “While adult entertainment is in many ways more accepted by the public than ever, there’s still a host of misconceptions, stereotypes and stigmas attached to our industry that we need to address head-on. The Women in Porn event provides a great opportunity to answer our critics in our own words, without the media filter that often emphasizes only the most sensational and salacious elements of this ongoing cultural debate.”

In addition to her work with Penthouse, Holland also serves as the President of The Animal Rescue Alliance (TARA), which is currently preparing for its 5th annual “Vice is Nice” fundraiser, which will take place on July 26 at Rancho Providencia in Chatsworth, California.

MakeLoveNotPorn.tv Co-founder Cindy Gallop Announced as Panelist for “Women in Porn” Debate

Marketing guru and MakeLoveNotPorn co-founder Cindy Gallop was announced [July 8th] as a panelist for the upcoming “Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths” online debate.

“As someone who is both a distributor of sexually-explicit videos and at times, somewhat critical of the porn industry, Cindy brings a very interesting perspective to the discussion,” said Angie Rowntree, owner of the porn-for-women site Sssh.com, who is organizing and sponsoring the event. “As one of the world’s leading thinkers in advertising and marketing, Cindy also has very impressive credentials outside of the adult entertainment industry.”



A graduate of Somerville College, Oxford, whose background is brand-building, marketing and advertising, Gallop opened US office of advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York in 1998 and named Advertising Woman of the Year in 2003. In addition to her MakeLoveNotPorn (MLNP) enterprise, Gallop is the founder and CEO of www.IfWeRanTheWorld.com, described as “co-action software” that launched in beta at TED 2010, and was later taught as a case study at Harvard Business School.

Gallop founded MakeLoveNotPorn.com in 2009, and in 2013, together with co-founders Corey Innis (CTO) and Oonie Chase (UX Lead) beta-launched MakeLovePorn.tv, a platform that enables people to share their homemade sex videos online and share in the revenue generated through rental of the videos by site users. Gallop maintains that while the videos distributed by MLNP are sexually-explicit, they are not “porn,” not “amateur,” but “#realworldsex.” The MakeLovePorn.tv site proclaims that it is “of the people, by the people, and for the people who believe that the sex we have in our everyday lives is the hottest sex there is.”

“MakeLoveNotPorn’s mission is to make it easier to talk about sex, by making #realworldsex socially acceptable and socially shareable, because other social media networks and platforms won’t," Gallop says of the inspiration behind MLNP. “When we don’t talk about sex, porn becomes default sex education, in not the best way. Porn isn’t the issue; not talking about sex is. That’s why our tagline is ‘Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference.’"

Ashley Fires Announced as Panelist for Upcoming “Women in Porn” Debate

Sssh.com has announced adult performer/producer Ashley Fires as another member of the discussion panel for the July 22 event.

Fires, who serves as the official Spokesmodel for Clips4Sale.com, also produces and directs content for her own site AshleyFires.com (www.ashleyfires.com) and the award-nominated sci-fi “fembot” site, SciFiDreamGirls.com (www.scifidreamgirls.com).


“In addition to being an outstanding performer, Ashley is a independent thinker, and brilliant business women” said Angie Rowntree. “Ashley can speak firsthand about life in the industry on both sides of the camera, and from the perspective of an entrepreneur, as well. It’s a broad and diverse point of view, and it makes her an ideal participant for this event.”

Fires, who has been interviewed at length by publications and websites like the LA Times, LA Weekly, Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast, said she’s looking forward to the opportunity to address some of the criticisms directed at the adult industry – and at women like herself.

"I am very honored and much obliged to be part of this discussion with these amazing women" Fires said. "I hope this debate will help to clarify the stereo types and shatter the myths about women in the adult industry."

Fires has appeared in over 100 adult features, working with top-shelf studios like Adam & Eve, Hustler, Digital Playground, Wicked, Elegant Angel and Penthouse. She garnered the 2013 award for Sexiest Adult Star at the 2013 edition of The Sex Awards, and has been nominated for multiple awards, including the XBIZ Awards for Best Web Starlet and Best Performer every year from 2008 to 2013.


To see Ashley Fires’ work, go to www.AshleyFires.com, www.scifidreamgirls.com, and www.Clips4Sale.com.

Erin's note: Press release. I made minor edits.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Teaser Post From AJ Bennett

 Now or Never by A.J. Bennett

New Adult
Contemporary

Twenty-one-year-old Grayson Alexander finally breaks away from an abusive relationship and finds herself free for the first time in three years.

Determined to enjoy her new-found freedom, Grayson is intent on sticking with 'no strings attached' relationships—one-night stands, and steamy sex.

But she didn't plan on Derrick.

Her attraction to the sexy man in uniform quickly turns into an unhealthy relationship. They both try to resist the pull, but neither can stay away.

When tragedy strikes, Grayson realizes it's now or never—walk away or make it work.




Purchase



About A.J.
Bennett

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.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cover Reveal & Giveaway Tour - The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick


The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick

Description: 
One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.


Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

Excerpt:


“Hey, you guys!” Marley plunked her ass down on the chair across the table from me. As usual, Kathy followed closely behind and hovered by her shoulder when Marley sat down. “I’ve got big news!”


We all turned to her at once. Josh even put down his walnut-grape-granola-goat-cheese chicken-salad sandwich on focaccia to give her his full attention. “What’s up?” he asked between enthusiastic chews.


“I just heard some teachers talking in the hall. And they said that Friday is Miss Libby’s thirtieth birthday.”

Kathy pursed her green lips. “We can’t let it pass without doing something for her. She’s the coolest teacher at Appleton.”

“You know what would be so funny?” It was Josh again. “It would be such a riot if we set up a flash mob for her.”

We all laughed, just imagining it in our heads.

“No, seriously,” Josh said. “We should set up a flash mob for her. Doesn’t she have lunch duty on most Fridays?”

Is this the Josh I know?

But, then, what did I have to lose? “I’m in.” It was the least I could do for Miss Libby, who’d given me a chance to redeem myself with Scotty.

“You’d do that?” Scott appeared absolutely scandalized. “What about those guys?” He again nodded toward the Superjocks. “They’ll never let you live it down.” 

“Ask me if I care?”

Scott just sat there, his full spoon frozen just beneath his lips.

When Scott didn’t voice the question, David did. “D-do y-you c-care?” 

looked squarely at David. “Not even slightly. Plus, you should see me dance. It is something to behold.”

Josh rolled his eyes, because he’d seen it a time or two, but everyone else seated at the Social Justice League Table nodded and grinned.

“I’ll get together as many kids as I can and I’ll find some music. We can practice at the community center right after school on Thursday. I’ll reserve it.” Marley was always on top of those kinds of things.

That posed a problem for me, though: basketball practice. But I had new priorities. I would work it out. “I’ll be there. How about all of you?”

Everybody nodded again. Scott had turned an enticing shade of pink.

I looked right at him and said, “Then Thursday after school is a date.”

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About the Author:


Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five non-pedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

My themes I always write about:

Sweetness.
Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes - only love can save them.

Author Links:  

Website  Amazon  Facebook  Goodreads 

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