Friday, March 27, 2015
My last audio book for my commute to and from my corporate day job was Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris. This is the first book in the Harper Connelly series. Harper is the book's heroine. After being hit by a lightning strike as a child, Harper developed the ability to locate dead bodies. She feels a kind of sixth sense, a buzzing sensation, when she's near a corpse, and she gets a vision of how the deceased came to be deceased.
Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong about the identities of the murderers. My first inkling was that Harper's love interest, Deputy Hollis Boxleitner, would turn out to be the killer. But no, he's just a pleasant and slightly lonely blond-haired man in his 20s who, very tragically, lost his wife.
I was a bit disappointed when Harper didn't show any inclination to stay with Hollis, or at least see him again. But she's a young woman, only 24, and she and her brother/manager Tolliver live a nomadic lifestyle. I don't judge her for having a brief romance; I'm simply more used to romance novels, where the relationships are decidedly longer-term. I didn't enjoy this as much as the first Sookie Stackhouse book because it wasn't as romantic, but that's just a personal preference.
I'm not usually much of a mystery reader. I wouldn't have listened to The Cuckoo's Calling if it hadn't been written by J.K. Rowling. Also, audio book choices are somewhat more limited than paper and e-book choices. A lot of the bestsellers that make it into book-on-CD format aren't the ones that interest me. But I do love paranormal themes, which is what makes Charlaine Harris an author of choice to me.
This was a perfectly satisfactory story with an interesting heroine with an unusual ability. I don't know yet whether or not I'll finish this series, but I certainly enjoyed listening to this audio book.
I did have a bit of a hard time picturing Harper and Tolliver, though. He's supposed to be tall and pale, with straight black hair and a mustache. I keep thinking of the Guy Fawkes mask from V For Vendetta. Harper has short, curly black hair, but when I try to picture a Caucasian women with curly black hair I keep thinking of Mother Gothel from the Disney movie Tangled. It may be that I imagine more vividly when I'm physically reading that when I'm having the book narrated to me.
I checked this book out from my local public library and was not obligated to review it in any way. Next up, I'll be listening to A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle, read by Jennifer Ehle. I actually had no idea Ehle was American, because I remember her mainly as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, opposite Colin Firth. Her mother is English, which I suppose is why she can do a passable English accent. In any event, she makes a lovely audio book narrator of the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time.
I'll still be aggressively imagining Alexis-Bledel-as-Rory-Gilmore in the role of Meg Murry in my mind's eye.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The premise is fun - a 21st-century high schooler suddenly finds herself inside the world of Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women. The characters in the book take it for granted that Emily is the middle March sister, right between Beth and Jo. Emily takes it upon herself to save Beth from you-know-what, but she also takes it upon herself to put the moves on Laurie Laurence, since Jo isn't using him.
The whole book is clever, and the ending is especially satisfying. Tasked by her English teacher Mr. Ochocinco (tee hee) with changing one thing about her favorite book, Emily manages to alter the ending of 'Little Women' in a way that goes straight for the heart. A large twist near the end makes the premise even more fun and the ending all the more satisfactory.
I purchased this book with my own funds from Better World Books and was not obligated in any way to review it. My particular copy came from Keesler Air Force Base, located in Biloxi, Mississippi. I'm not affiliated with Better World Books in any way.
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I'm not sure why it happens, but when I focus just right, I can slow time. Things around me become lighter somehow, and I almost feel the tiny particles of energy spinning inside of them. The thing is, having the ability to transform the world around you isn't all it's cracked up to be -- especially when you are running from the Valencia without any deodorant.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Vanilla by Megan Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really could not have enjoyed this book more. Bless Megan Hart for writing Elise, a fully-formed character so realistic she practically could have walked off the page and into the nearest ice cream parlor. Yes, she's a woman who enjoys femdom (female-dominant) sex. No, she is not a caricature based on male fantasy. She's a well-rounded person with a past and a future, with a family, with a complicated Jewish mother.
I happen to like reading femdom. A lot. I have a hard time identifying with submissive female protagonists, but I can easily imagine myself slipping into the shoes of a woman who's used to giving commands and being obeyed.
Elise isn't perfect, but she is a likable protagonist. She's still grieving over the loss of her previous relationship with "George." They called each other "George" and "Lenny" in a teasing reference to Of Mice and Men. See, Ben Linus - Elise can quote Steinbeck too. And I bet she wouldn't mess up and say Ernest Hemingway fought in the Spanish Civil War.
Sadly, Supernatural does not come up again after the excerpt I quoted here. I wanted to know more about how Elise is the Sam and her boss/friend Alex is the Dean.
After her bad heartbreak with George, she's chagrined to find her heart is slipping into the hands of Niall, a "vanilla" guy who doesn't really understand femdom. He's seen too much bad porn.
But this book is NOT bad porn. It's beautifully written, demonstrating once again that good sex writing is just plain good writing, period. You may count me as a Megan Hart fan now.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review through Amazon Vine.
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Megan Hart's Vanilla Author Song List
...is what would go here if Grooveshark were still around.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
I loved this audiobook, so I'm as surprised as you are that I simply don't have very much more to say about it, other than what I covered in my March 1st post. Just a few talking points, then:
- The title, of course, comes from a poem by Christina Rossetti called "The Dirge." I haven't read much of Rossetti. I'm slightly more familiar with her notorious uncle, John William Polidori.
- I said Rowling has a casual familiarity with 400 years of British literature, but she also makes at least passing reference to American literature in this volume. A poem by Walt Whitman is mentioned. During the episode in which he learns of his ex-fiance's engagement and has too much to drink, Cormoran Strike reveals himself to have something in common with Robert E. Lee Prewitt in From Here to Eternity. Namely, both were boxers in their respective armies. Also, Strike is very, very drunk, as Prew so often gets in the War Trilogy.
Physically, Strike is described as a large, lumbering man with curly hair - less Montgomery Clift as Prew in From Here to Eternity, more John C. Reilly as John Storm in The Thin Red Line.
- Apart from Cormoran, Robin, and Lula herself, I think my favorite character is Guy Somé. First of all, it's hilarious that he gave himself a professional name that's a faux-Frenchified version of "some guy." Second of all, being gay, he had no sexual interest in Lula, yet he still loved her very, very much in a platonic way. I love their friendship. I hope he shows up again in The Silkworm.
But I really hope that in a future short story or drabble based on her Harry Potter characters, J.K. Rowling has one of them wear a Guy Somé design. I'd love to see Draco Malfoy in a studded hoodie. Astoria Greengrass can wear it when he's not home.
- Vashti is a great name for a high-end clothes shop. You may remember Queen Vashti of Persia from the Biblical book of Esther. When her drunken husband orders her to appear before him and his rowdy, drunken friends, Vashti refuses. She has sometimes been thought of as haughty and self-important in Jewish tradition, but to feminists it simply seems as if she valued her own worth over her husband's senseless "command." Vashti's reward is to be replaced by the more submissive Esther, much in the same way Lilith is replaced by the more submissive Eve.
- Nothing ever explained how Lula got that scar on her arm, so I'm just going to have to assume "from Voldemort" is the correct answer.
- Headcanon: Lula Landry and Fred Weasley are dating in heaven.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
|Public domain image|
|Creative Commons image by Georges Jansoone|
|Public domain image|
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
It started with the Ourang Medan. Well, it started on YouTube. I wasn't signed into my Google Account, so I was browsing the home page. A channel with a series of "top 5" lists came up - in fact, the channel is called Top5s.
This is the video I saw.
[If you want to read more about the strange death of Canadian student Elisa Lam in Los Angeles, you may do so at The Vigilant Citizen.]
The evening after I watched the video, I went to bed thinking about the Ourang Medan, the "ghost ship" whose crew was supposedly found dead, with expressions of abject terror on their faces, shortly before the ship exploded and sank. I wondered if the story was true.
I looked it up the next day. According to Wikipedia, there's no evidence that a ship called the Ourang Medan even existed. If it did, it should be listed in Lloyd's Shipping Register, but it isn't.
The categories at the bottom of the entry caught my eye; this is where I noticed the word "pseudohistory." What a fascinating word, I thought: not history that actually happened, but "history" that circulates in human consciousness without apparent basis in fact. I had to know what else belonged to this category.
For the record, I should mention that Wikipedia, as a peer-edited source, doesn't have the same standards for reliability and accuracy that a source with a "gatekeeper"/editor has. Although it has guidelines, it has so many users that it would be virtually impossible to ensure that all the articles adhere to its guidelines at all times. We have to take Wikipedia entries with a grain of salt, but that doesn't mean the categorization itself isn't of interest.
Pseudohistory, it turns out, contains a great many fascinating topics. Some of it has to do with "ancient astronaut theory," as exemplified by Erich von Däniken's 1968 nonfiction book Chariots of the Gods?. (The question mark is part of the title.)
Much of the pseudohistory category has to do with religion, much of it to do specifically with Christianity. Take, for example, the brief Babylon Mystery Religion article. Babylon Mystery Religion is a book, now out of print, by Ralph Woodrow published in 1966. Referring to an earlier (1853) book called The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, Woodrow's book linked the Roman Catholic Church to ancient Babylonian rituals. Woodrow later recanted his anti-Catholic views in a second book.
Apparently there are quite a few factual errors in Hislop's book, stemming from misunderstandings about the historical Babylonian culture. Although scholars have subsequently pointed out these errors, the Catholicism=Whore of Babylon theme is still alive and well among some Evangelical Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses.
One of the modern-day adherents to some version of Hislop's ideas is Michael Hoggard, an American (Missouri) pastor with a relatively large following for his radio/YouTube show. The show has more than 20,000 fans on Facebook. He also curates the website http://666alert.net/, which collects uses of images linked to the number 666 as they appear in popular culture.
Hoggard is a Southern Baptist. A related pseudohistorical concept is Baptist successionism, which argues that the Baptist denomination is most direct line between the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles and modern churches. The work most often associated with this view is The Trail of Blood (1931) by J.M. Carroll. It is not historically accurate, but it remained influential among Southern Baptists well into the late 20th century.
But for me, maybe the most interesting article in all of pseudohistory is the Witch-Cult Hypothesis. Remember when I got my ass handed to me for over-relying on Barbara J. Walker as a source? (If not, you can always read about it here.) Well, Walker is probably an adherent of this theory. It states, essentially, that through the Middle Ages and into the Modern Era, ancient Pagan religions survived in such a way that worshipers of The Horned God of Paganism were mistaken by Christians for worshipers of the Christian devil and subsequently persecuted as witches. This theory came about in the 19th century and was perpetuated into the 20th century, even including the entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica for many years.
(Encyclopedias are them things we used to read before we had Google.)
According to the Wikipedia entry, the Witch-Cult Hypothesis found a champion in British historian/Egyptologist Margaret Murray*, who wrote The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. It is not historically accurate.
Despite its unreliability as history, Murray's book is said, in the Wikipedia entry, to have been influential in the development of the Wiccan religion. Murray's subsequent book, The God of the Witches, introduced the term The Horned God for the male deity worshiped by the alleged witch cult on Western Europe. (She acknowledged that the witch cult also worshiped a goddess, but in her opinion the witches regarded their male deity as the more important of the two.) Gerald Gardner, who was also English and is now considered the founder of modern Wicca (referred to as Gardnerian Wicca), claimed to have found a surviving coven of the kind of witches Murray described, and he started his own coven based on them, in the interest of keeping the religion alive.
But mind you, Wicca, modern witchcraft, and NeoPaganism are 20th century religions. While they revive certain aspects of ancient belief and worship, the rituals and beliefs of modern witches were created in the 20th century. And there's nothing wrong with that. People take what they need from their religions, and a religion doesn't have to be old to meet the needs of its practitioners.
The Wikipedia article on The Horned God states that Gardner, consciously influenced by Murray, borrowed his conception of Wiccan practice from Freemasonry, from the Theosophy movement, from other unnamed occult sources, and from Aleister Crowley's Gnostic Mass. (In 1913, Crowley wrote a mass for the Gnostic church, borrowing from the rituals of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, but replacing Christian concepts with his own Thelema, his "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.")
By the way, Margaret Murray is also in part responsible for the association of Glastonbury, England, with King Arthur and the Holy Grail. I used this legend in Midsummer Night.
*That Madeleine L'Engle's fictional protagonist in The Time Quintet is named Margaret "Meg" Murry is coincidence, I think.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Oh, Jo, how I've missed your expansive vocabulary, your encyclopedic knowledge of Classical mythology and folklore, your insights into human nature, your particular sense of humor, your casual familiarity with 400 years of British literature, and your use of the Latin language.
Two references to Virgil's Aeneid have occurred in the part of the book I've listened to thus far - is Rowling drawing a comparison between Lula Landry (the deceased fashion model around whom the mystery occurs) and Queen Dido of Carthage? I seem to remember that Dido commits suicide by throwing herself off a cliff; Landry is thought to have committed suicide by jumping from her flat's third-floor window. Carthage is in North Africa; Landry is of multiracial English and African descent.
Sidebar: I had to read the Aeneid in college and I distinctly remember barely being able to understand a word of it. I remember calling my dad and asking him if he could take me to Barnes and Noble to get the Cliff Notes. This was the late '90s, mind you, and I don't think Shmoop and SparkNotes were things yet. If they were, I hadn't yet discovered them.
|The statue of Eros - well, technically his twin brother Anteros, but commonly referred to as Eros - at Piccadilly Circus is where Robin Ellacot and her beloved Matthew got engaged to be married. Creative Commons image by Eriko Nakagawa.|
And Now Some Harry Potter References I Have to Get Out of My System.
Will that pink "bekittened" death threat turn out to be from Dolores Umbridge?
(Actually, I already heard about the man with the not-cheating wife who sent the death threats. Umbridge was my first thought, though.)
How did Lula get that scar on her arm? Was it - Voldemort?
Cormoran's sister Lucy has three sons. In their portrait, the boys are wearing bottle-green school uniforms. Slytherins, then?
|Tanacetum vulgare, or tansy, in a Creative Commons image by fir0002|
Because the plant effects include stimulating blood flow, it has been used to treat fluid retention and to stimulate menstrual flow. It has been used for abortion. BUT it should not be used medicinally because of the serious risk of side effects that include kidney and liver failure and death.
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