Thursday, March 22, 2018

'Quidditch Through the Ages' Audiobook Read by Andrew Lincoln

Slight spoilers below if you haven't already listened to this audiobook. Nothing major - no Cursed Child-type surprises. 

When I first read Quidditch Through the Ages by "Kennilworthy Whisp," one of the schoolbooks Harry Potter and his cohort are said to have read and studied at Hogwarts, I wasn't too impressed. Quidditch was never one of my favorite aspects of the Harry Potter books, although I do have quite the fondness for some of the lady quidditch players, especially Ginny Weasley and Angelina Johnson. But the history of the sport didn't interest me, so I only gave it three stars on Goodreads.

Still, it sounded like fun to listen to the new audiobook version read by Andrew Lincoln, available through Pottermore. It has sound effects and bonus material, namely new writing by J.K. Rowling. It consists of 21 tracks, of which the first 12 are the actual text of the book.

Andrew Lincoln has a lovely reading voice. I can imagine it's the voice Edgar Linton used to read bedtime stories to baby Judith Cathy Linton before he remarried Michonne and lived happily ever after sadly passed away. Somehow his natural English accent sounds nothing at all like Rick Grime's Georgia accent. Actors are amazing.

The audiobook's bonus tracks also feature the voice of Imogen Church as Ginny Weasley-Potter (reading bulletins she wrote for the Daily Prophet as a Quidditch World Cup correspondent) and Annette Badland as Rita Skeeter (gossiping at the World Cup finals).

https://whompingwillowy.tumblr.com/post/170186950554/i-woke-up-to-such-news-my-fandoms-collide

A portion of the proceeds from sales of this audiobook go to charity, so I didn't feel bad at all about paying the $16 to Pottermore. One charity is the Lumos Foundation, which helps support families who might otherwise give their children up for adoption, since it's normally in a child's best interest to stay with their birth family whenever possible. Its goal is to reduce the number of children who live in the world's orphanages. The other charity is Comic Relief UK, which supports poverty alleviation projects.

Introduction

The first track of this book is an introduction by Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore describes the process of borrowing the Hogwarts library's copy of Quidditch Through the Ages from librarian Madame Pince, who was not keen on letting the book be released into the muggle world. Lincoln reads this chapter in the voice of elderly Dumbledore. It's amusing, but I'm glad he doesn't have to use this voice for the entire book.

Chapter Three

This chapter relays the recollections of early quidditch play recorded by Gertie Kettle at Queerditch Marsh. Andrew Lincoln's Gertie Kettle voice is one of the funniest parts of this book.


Chapter Ten

Lincoln pronounces "patent" with a long A. It's the most British thing I've ever heard, aside from perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch's guest appearance on The Simpsons.


...which is, of course, a parody of Love Actually, in which Andrew Lincoln plays would-be wife-stealer Mark.

Afterward 

In the 12th track, Lincoln reads the biography of Kennilworthy Whisp and the book's "reviews" from in-world celebrities such as Rita Skeeter. The best of these reviews, in Lincoln's reading, is from Gilderoy Lockhart. He might have been brilliant at playing Lockhart, had he been given the chance. (No offence to Sir Kenneth Branagh.)

History of the Quidditch World Cup

In this bonus material, track 13, Lincoln does Viktor Krum's Bulgarian accent, and this is very cute. You'll be happy to know that Viktor is still playing competitive quidditch at the age of 38.

Quidditch World Cup 2014 - First Round Matches (Track 15)

The match between Chad and Lichtenstein seems like it will never even, and Imogen Church's Ginny sounds sufficiently exasperated at the seemingly-endless play. Church's real accomplishment, though, is pronouncing the many multi-ethnic names required of her here. In this bonus chapter we learn that Viktor Krum has come out of retirement to play again at the age of 38 and that he's the oldest player in the tournament.

Quidditch World Cup 2014 - Rita Skeeter's Gossip Column (Track 18)

Skeeter is a notoriously unreliable narrator, and she's clearly jealous of Ginny. Should we believe her when she reports that Harry, age 34, has some streaks of gray in his black hair?

Rita Skeeter is certainly a character one loves to hate; I'd have some words for her over her snark about Hermione's hair or her speculation about why Charlie Weasley is still unmarried. (He's probably just asexual.)

I hope she's correct in her assessment that Bill and Fleur's daughter Victoire and Harry's godson Teddy Lupin are taking every available opportunity to sneak off to a dark corner and snog.

Quidditch World Cup Final 2014 - Live Match Commentary (Track 20)

Rita Skeeter and Ginny Potter perform the live match commentary together (with a brief introduction narrated by Andrew Lincoln). It's the most highly-enhanced track as far as sound effects. Harry, James Sirius, and Lily Luna are rooting for Viktor's Bulgarian team in the finals, but Albus Severus is rooting for Brazil. They're sitting with Neville Longbottom.

Skeeter also gives us a vivid description of Luna Lovegood's wedding dress when she married Rolf Scamander (grandson of Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein): "Rainbows, spangles, and a tiara of silver unicorn horns." It sounds awesome.

Will Viktor Krum finally walk away with a Quidditch World Cup trophy on his third attempt? If he does, will Ron still be jealous of Hermione's teenage crush on Viktor? Will Ginny jinx Rita to get her to shut up? You'll have to listen to find out.

And the 21st and Final Track...

...is only the credits and a little spiel about Pottermore, read by Andrew Lincoln.

Summary

If you're not the biggest fan of sports/quidditch, you won't find this the most interesting of J.K. Rowling's books. It certainly relies much less on traditional mythologies than, say, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The voice actors' performances are enjoyable, but not so amazing that they can hold your attention if you're simply not interested in the material. But if you're like me and you feel compelled to read all of J.K. Rowling's books, you're going to listen to this anyway. And you should, because the proceeds are going to a really good cause.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

'The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue' by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide, #1)The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am SO MAD at this book -- HOW DAre it just end THERE?!?!

Seriously, though, this is well-crafted piece of historical fiction about three young adults on their Grand Tour of Europe in the early 18th century. Their adventures are over-the-top and ludicrous, and that's part of the book's charm.

The real "alchemical heart" of the book is the friendship between our heroes, Henry "Monty" Montague and his BFF Percy. As a clever(ish) social media quote goes, "A good romance starts with friendship. A bad romance starts with Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah..." Monty and Percy are friends, but Monty is desperately in love.


The question of whether Percy considers Monty as anything more than a dear friend is resolved at the very end, which is why I need there to be...more book. Overall, it's a charming adventure story, quite briskly paced in parts, with a throbbing emotional heart.

I purchased my copy at Forever Books with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Monday, March 12, 2018

'La Belle Sauvage' (The Book of Dust, #1) by Philip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of the series. I wish everyone would read the His Dark Materials trilogy because I want everyone to know what Philip Pullman knows about love, as explained through the third book, The Amber Spyglass.

I read La Belle Sauvage in February and I quite enjoyed it. As often happens when I read a book that blows my mind, it takes me a while to be able to articulate why I loved it like I did.

Malcolm is a good boy, and I love his reverence for baby Lyra. The little scene of Lord Asriel being parental with Lyra was heartwarming, the fairy tale scenes felt very magical to me, and Malcolm's first inklings of coming of age and perhaps starting to fall in love made me want to keep reading about him.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful addition to the His Dark Materials universe.


View all my reviews on Goodreads

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sssh.com’s Angie Rowntree to Speak at #SXSW this Weekend

Note: Press Release


 “Using Explicit Sex as a Storytelling Element” featuring Rowntree will be held on March 11

March 8, 2018 (Austin, TX) -- Sssh.com’s Angie Rowntree will be in Austin, Texas this weekend for SXSW. The esteemed director will speak on the panel “Using Explicit Sex as a Storytelling Element.”

The event will be held on Sunday March 11, 2018 at 3:30 PM. The panel’s official hashtag is #sexstoryfilm.

In addition to discussing artistic and technical choices related to using explicit sex in filmmaking, Rowntree will also discuss various social and cultural issues impacting adult content production today. These include safety standards, workplace ethics, representation, and common misperceptions of porn.

“I appreciate the opportunity to speak about the differences between mainstream and adult films - and the unique challenges that come with shooting porn,” Rowntree shared.

“Really engaging why explicit sex is important to our narrative as human beings and talking about some of the misconceptions people outside the adult industry have about shooting adult content -- and how work like mine is challenging some of those off-mark ideas -- is important. I’m excited to take part,” she added.

Later that evening, Rowntree’s work will be part of a small private screening — #SexStoryFilmFest — at the Austin Dungeon. Tickets for this seperate event can be purchased for $12 via EventBrite here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ sexstoryfilmfest-indie-adult- film-screening-tickets- 43580022019?aff=PW

SXSW Film 2018 runs from March 9 through 18. For more details about SXSW Film 2018, please go here: http://www.sxsw.com/film

About Angie Rowntree

Angie Rowntree is the founder of Sssh.com, the web’s premier “porn for women” site and winner of the XBIZ’s Adult Site of the Year -- For Women 2017 award, among many others. Rowntree got her start in the adult industry’s online sector in the early ‘90s, making her one of the Internet’s true porn pioneers. She is regarded as one of the adult industry’s top female power-players and was inducted into the prestigious AVN Hall of Fame – Internet Founders Division in 2014.

Rowntree is a frequent participant on panel discussions at adult industry trade shows and has been profiled by a variety of major media outlets, including ABC’s Nightline, CNBC, Fox, Cosmopolitan, NPR, BBC, and TIME magazine. Most recently, Rowntree became the first member of the adult industry to speak at a Sundance Institute event, appearing at the “Creative Tensions: Sex” experimental interactive discussion event in Brooklyn.

Contact Angie Rowntree at via Twitter at @AngieRowntree.

About Sssh.com

Launched in 1999, Sssh.com is the web’s premier “porn for women” site. Drawing on survey responses and other community feedback, Sssh creates cinematic-quality erotic content based on members’ fantasies and desires. Sssh’s sex-positive films and vignettes communicate true passion and mutual pleasure, always striving to be equal parts intelligent, sexy, and entertaining -- with great success. Their movies and the site itself have been honored with numerous awards and nominations over the years, including most recently Adult Site of the Year -- For Women (XBIZ 2017). Sssh was the first adult company to be a semi-finalist at a mainstream film festival (Gone, Swedish Film Festival, 2016) and was the first to produce a VR movie geared towards women using dynamic storytelling that can be viewed with or without a headset.

A narrative-rich space, Sssh.com also offers a large selection of original erotic fiction, podcasts, an extensive virtual world, and educational articles. Sssh produces the Mindbrowse events, an interactive series of online live panel discussions that explore social issues related to sexuality and erotica. The weekly Twitter-based chat program #SexTalkTuesday has featured noteworthy guest moderators including comedian Margaret Cho, sexpert Emily Morse, and performance artist Desiree Burch, among many others. And in an effort to support wider positive social change, Sssh contributes regularly to a variety of charitable causes benefiting communities around the world.

Adhering to the highest ethical standards, Sssh.com takes pride in treating its employees, performers, customers, business associates, and wider community with fairness, compassion, and respect. Sssh is a member of the Ethical Porn Partnership and was one of the first studios to receive the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) Stamp of Approval in January 2017.

Contact Sssh.com via Twitter at @SsshforWomen.

Media Contact:
Brian Gross
BSG PR
818-340-4422
brian@bsgpr.com

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Book Adaptation Tag

I borrowed this tag from Ronnie at Paradise Found.

1. What is the last book adaptation movie you saw?


2. What movie are you most excited for?


3. Which upcoming movie will you definitely NOT see?

I have zero interest in Red Sparrow. It's just not my kind of thing.

4. Which book movie would you NEVER watch again?

Maybe Where the Wild Things Are. I felt like the movie sucked all the fun out of the book and made it preachy and sad.

5. Is there a movie you saw that made you want to read the book if you hadn't/haven't yet?

More than once, yes. The Vampire Academy movie made me read the whole series.  Beautiful Creatures made me read the first two books. I wanted to finish the series but I never have.

6. Conversely, is there a movie that made you never want to read the book?

I hardly ever think to myself that I absolutely never want to read a book, because my interests change all the time. I can't think of one I never want to read, but I probably won't read, for example, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, even though I liked the movie. I already know the plot now and I usually don't enjoy reading racist characters, even if they do get their comeuppance.

Maybe Cloud Atlas because that movie left me both sad and confused.

7. Name an adaptation that has almost nothing to do with the book it is supposedly based on.

Howl's Moving Castle, but I love both the book and the very-different movie.

8. Have you ever left the theatre during a movie adaptation because it was so bad?

Nope. The only movie I ever walked out of Saving Private Ryan because my best friend got grossed out by the gory violence.

9. Do you prefer to watch the movie or read the book first?

I prefer to read the book first, but I don't always do it. There are a lot of book adaptations I like but still haven't read the book they were based on. Coraline by Neil Gaiman is one.


10. How do you feel about movie adaptations that age characters up? (ex. characters that are in middle-school, but in the movies they are 18)

I don't really have any feelings on this one. I can't think of an example.

11. Do you get angry when the actors don't look like you thought the characters looked?

Sometimes, a little. I usually end up liking the movie version anyway, but occasionally I like my fictional image better than the movie image.

12. Is there a movie you liked better than its book?

I like the 2002 adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo a little better than the book, but bear in mind that I really, really love the book too. I just like the movie ending better.

13. Name a book that you'd like to see as a movie.


If you'd like to answer these questions, here's the question set.

1. What is the last book adaptation movie you saw?
2. What movie are you most excited for?
3. Which upcoming movie will you definitely NOT see?
4. Which book movie would you NEVER watch again?
5. Is there a movie you saw that made you want to read the book if you hadn't/haven't yet?
6. Conversely, is there a movie that made you never want to read the book?
7. Name an adaptation that has almost nothing to do with the book it is supposedly based on.
8. Have you ever left the theatre during a movie adaptation because it was so bad?
9. Do you prefer to watch the movie or read the book first?
10. How do you feel about movie adaptations that age characters up? (ex. characters that are in middle-school, but in the movies they are 18)
11. Do you get angry when the actors don't look like you thought the characters looked?
12. Is there a movie you liked better than its book?
13. Name a book that you'd like to see as a movie.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

#Free E-Books for Read an E-Book Week 2018


For Read an E-Book Week 2018, March 4th through March 10th, I'm giving away five free e-books on Smashwords:

The Erotica Anthology - free with coupon
Josephine Baker in Berlin - free with coupon
Oliver’s Good Night Kiss - free with coupon
Beltane - free with coupon

You can also get the two crime novels I wrote with Tit Elingtin for a discounted price during Read an E-Book Week. 
Eminent Domain - $1 with coupon
Cut - $1.50 with coupon
Check them out and enjoy!
Happy reading!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Unfinished Short Story: Loideain Plaid Kilt

The third vat held a marigold color which, when dyed into the wool, produced the softest and most pleasing shade of golden orange. These dyes had been selected with the utmost care, because it was essential to the operation that Dimitri capture the colors with precision. 

To Dimitri's left, the enormous mechanism of his weaving machine waited. Smooth and shining, the machine had been meticulously polished to remove every trace of machine oil and dust from its exterior. To save labor, Dimitri had to invent a cleaning machine to perform the task. The cleaner rested in a large appliance garage behind the behemoth loom.

Dimitri turned to the wiry, gray-haired man beside him. "Vould you care to do the honors, Mr. Loideain*?"

The elderly man eyed the Russian with skepticism, his green eyes flashing in the bright factory light. "Only if you're sure this thing is safe, Count Vronsky." 

Dimitri politely ignored his newly-coined nickname. "I assure you my gearvorks are safely contained inside the mechanism of the loom, created with such clockvork precision, human hands need come near them only in rare cases of malfunction. Such a case is only to happen many years in the future."

Loideain made a small noise to indicate what he thought of the foreigner's high estimation of his factory. In halting steps he made his way over to the lever protruding from the wall and pulled. The thing proved more stubborn than Loideain had anticipated; it did not move. Loideain braced himself and pulled the lever again, much harder this time. 

A humming came from the direction of the vats. Loideain turned his head in time to see a series of metal spools come down from ceiling and dip into the tops of the dye vats. Around each of these wound yards of snow-white wool. The spools submerged, then spun, the threads they bore unwinding in the depths of the dye. 

From the bottoms of the vats, another series of spools rose. As the newly-dyed wool unwound from one spool, it free-floated for only a moment before the second spool caught it and rotated. When the first spool emptied and the second one filled, the thread appeared to be sucked down a tube at the center of the bottom spool.

"Where does it go?" Loideain asked the Russian.

"The beauty of my system," Dimitri said rather grandly, "is the wet wool never sees the light of day after it enters the dye vats. It's forced through the tube, where a steady flow of warm air dries it and allows the dye to set. A series of wheels direct it to a set of spools arranged in a precise order, and the loom does its vork from there."

Loideain jumped as the gigantic loom whirred to life. In addition to the whirring sound of the engine, it produced dozens of small clicks as the wheels Dimitri had described grabbed onto the warm, dry thread. The thing sounded like an enormous typewriter, or a popcorn popper. 

****

“My high-speed loom is weaving the thread into cloth,” Dimitri replied. 

Moments later, a loud rushing sound proceeded from the near end of the loom. “Follow me,” Dimitri said, leading Mr. Loideain down a metal spiral staircase that clanged as they walked.

They walked out onto a factory floor as large as that with the dye vats and the tremendous loom. This time, the product of the loom’s work was clearly visible. Through a large metallic slot in the wall, a conveyer fed a long sheet of green, white, gold, and blue cloth toward a series of mechanical arms, hanging from the ceiling like vaguely menacing iron spiders. 

“What do you think?” the Russian asked the elderly Irishman. Loideain was silent for a moment, and Dimitri’s heart thundered in his chest. Had all his work – investing in this small, muddy town so far from his home, inventing the mechanisms, bringing his brainchild to life – been in vain? If Loideain wasn’t impressed with the quality of the cloth, the entire enterprise was worthless.

But Loideain’s eyes filled with tears. “In all my sixty years, I’ve only rarely seen anything so beautiful, and I live in the land of Ireland,” he sputtered. “It’s exactly like the ones me mam and grandmam made for me and the boys when we were small. Being the last of my line, the last male member of Clan Loideain, I never thought I’d live to see its like again. But you, Count Vronsky – er, Mr. Ivanov – you’ve brought my clan colors back from the dead. I feel like I’m witnessing a miracle!”

Dimitri was taken aback by the effusive praise. To resurrect the Loideain family’s traditional colors, its pattern, its link to the past even when the last Loideain granddaughters were married off and the family named disappeared, had been Dimitri’s hope from the start.

With precise timing, the mechanical spiders sprang to life, grabbing the roll of woolen cloth with steel hands and snipping it into identical pieces with steel scissors. These snips of cloth were fed into a large metal box. The box hummed, filled as it was with mechanized sewing machines. The box opened, and a wooden figure resembling a dressmaker’s dummy emerged from the open side. The dummy wore a Loideain plaid kilt.

(*pronounced LIE-din)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical RomanceTwo Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance by Adam Bertocci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's not too terribly much to say about this fairly quick, enjoyable read. It's The Big Lebowski as if written by William Shakespeare, with dozens of references to the Bard's plays woven in. I love Shakespeare and I love the Coen Brothers - I consider O Brother, Where Art Thou? my all-time favorite movie - so I had no reason to dislike this clever mash-up. It wasn't quite five-star spectacular along the lines of Shakespeare-inspired The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet, but it was a plainly enjoyable effort.



I saw this book on the blog http://bookandbeer.tumblr.com/, where people post pictures of their books next to their beers. I immediately went and purchased a copy from an indie bookseller with my own funds, and I was not obligated in any way to review it.


View all my reviews on Goodreads

Friday, January 19, 2018

'Bonfire' by Krysten Ritter Review

BonfireBonfire by Krysten Ritter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Krysten Ritter's first novel is solid effort, a suspenseful tale involving environmental justice and the company that may or may not be poisoning the small Indiana town of Barrens, a town that loves the company slightly less than it loves Jesus but slightly more than it loves football. Our heroine is Abigail "Abby" Williams, part of a team of Chicago lawyers sent in to investigate the possibly pollution, but also a former Barrens resident herself. Abby's life has not been easy. She lost her mom to cancer and her father was abusive. The other girls at school bullied and tortured her, so Abby has worked hard to leave Barrens in her past.

Abby's childhood best frenemy Kaycee Mitchell hasn't been seen in Barrens since shortly after they graduated from high school. Although local legend holds that she escaped the small town for a more glamorous life, Abby suspects Kaycee's disappearance may be related to a rash of illnesses associated with the town's drinking water. To investigate, she much navigate reluctant small towners who are worried about their meager livelihoods, an estranged father who now seems more frail than frightening, and both locals and colleagues whose good faith can only be trusted so far.

In her quest to investigate the town's mysteries, in her traumatic past, and in her capacity to consume alcoholic beverages, Abby Williams may remind some of Ritter's fans of her Marvel/Netflix character Jessica Jones. Abby Williams may not have Jones' superhuman strength, but she is just Jessica Jones-like enough that Marvel fangirls will enjoy the read.

(Photo/Jana Lynn French/ Peabody, jjlynnf@gmail.com in New York City, New York on Wednesday, May 18, 2016)
Ritter is a talented writer. Her debut shows psychological insight, the ability to paint a picture in the reader's mind, and characters well-rounded enough that they don't devolve into Midwestern stereotypes (and as a Midwesterner living in Indianapolis, I appreciate this). The ending doesn't seem completely fresh and original compared to other stories in this suspense genre, but I was willing to forgive this because I genuinely cared about Abby and was wrapped up in what was going to happen to her. But I imagine if she decides to write another novel, the plot will unfold a little more smoothly.

One of the three blurbs on the back is by Ruth Ware, the English suspense fiction author whose novel In a Dark, Dark Wood I enjoyed so well. This book reminded me less of that novel, though, and more of Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Knoll's protagonist was also desperately trying to escape a nightmarish high school experience.

I first became aware of Krysten Ritter as an actress on one of my all-time favorite TV series, Veronica Mars. In my head I imagine her as the black-haired but cold-hearted beauty Charlotte Campbell in Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike novels. And yes, I love her in Jessica Jones and am eagerly awaiting its second season to appear on Netflix this March. So I read this while I'm waiting.

I purchased this book with my own funds from my local brick and mortar Barnes and Noble and was not obligated in any way to review it. My copy is signed by Ritter, but not personally. I just bought it off the shelf that way. It's pretty cool.



View all my reviews on Goodreads