Thursday, December 24, 2015

Writer Tit Elingtin #Dialysis Treatment - Help The Writer Reach His Goal

Walk a mile in Tit Elingtin's shoes as he does his dialysis treatment and shares a special message. 

Please take 2 minutes to see what it's like to be stuck in a dialysis chair. Then LIKE and SHARE. Thanks!

...and don't forget to subscribe to Tit's YouTube channel!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Erin's Dream Diary #10

I haven't done a Dream Diary since January, so let's do a quick one now.

I dreamed I was a young, lithe Hunger Games tribute. I went in search of Santa Claus. By an astonishing coincidence, he lived in the house directly across the back fence from my parents' house, where the parents of my childhood best friend Amy used to live. I wanted to tell him my Christmas wish, which was to rid myself of the residual trauma of the arena. 

My particular trauma took on a psychotic-break-with-reality quality. I believed I was being haunted by an evil spirit named Henry. Henry was my tormentor and my lover. I wasn't bothered by the sexual part of our relationship.

Santa's house, it turned out, was filled with runaway tributes. We even had a leader - Max from Divergent. I guess I got my YA trilogies mixed up. 

And the Christmas wish part was probably due to reading The Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Dominiczyk. It has several Christmas scenes. You may remember the author as the actress who played Mercedes opposite Jim Caviezel's Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Listening to on my hour-long commute: Grey by E.L. James. I'm on disc 6 of 16.
Reading on my lunch hours: Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany

Jane Austen, vampire

Previous Dream Diary Installments:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

'Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined' #Review

Life and Death: Twilight ReimaginedLife and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When this new, gender-swapped version of Twilight came out on the same day as Carry On and the illustrated Harry Potter #1, I was very excited. I knew I had to read it. Despite all the criticism I've read and heard about the Twilight Saga, I still get the thrill of early first love when I read Edward and Bella's story or watch one of the movies. Is it perfect? No. Do I like it anyway? Yes.

As I began reading the story of Beaufort (Beau) Swan, human, and Edythe Cullen, vampire, I found myself enjoying it. Sure, I was a little distracted by trying to figure out how the new characters corresponded to the old ones. And yes, I was a bit critical inside my mind of some of the new names. I really don't care for the name Archie at all - I keep picturing the comic book character and not a gender-swapped Alice. I think I would like Earnest better as a name if it were spelled "Ernest," as in Mr. Hemingway. Eleanor seems a little frumpy for such a beautiful woman.

Most of the names, I like. I like Joss, Jessamine, and Royal. I like Royal's man-bun. I wish I had a visual reference for regal, blond Royal with his hair in a masculine up 'do.

Even though the ending of this book is quite conclusive - no room for three sequels - and different from the original - and frankly sad - I'm mostly satisfied with the familiar joy I gleaned from this story. Again. Hey, I've read Wuthering Heights at least four different times, and I still love that. Twilight sticks with me like that. (And a lot of people hate Heathcliff and Catherine, too. But I'm not one of them. They're deeply flawed as people, yes, but still great characters.) I'm happy to get the chance to revisit it in a fresh new incarnation.

I borrowed this book from my local library and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

'A Little in Love' by Susan Fletcher #Review

A Little in LoveA Little in Love by Susan Fletcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, I admit it - I didn't read Les Misérables. My French is lousy, and - well, I haven't even attempted to read it in English. That book is like a brick, and I already have a beloved brick-like classic translated from the French (The Count of Monte Cristo). I saw the Hugh Jackman movie, though. I may not have caught all the finer plot points, but I think I got the gist. Overall I enjoyed the opera more than I thought I would.

I knew nothing about the background of Eponine. I knew she was a tragic heroine whose love for our hero, Marius, was destined to go unrequited. I felt bad for Eponine.

So, when the opportunity to read an adaptation that starred the unfortunate teenager as the heroine of her own story, I took that opportunity. I really enjoyed this book, even with my sketchy knowledge of Victor Hugo's original.

Susan Fletcher has done a really nice job of imagining Eponine's world. Through Eponine's voice, she gives us a lot of sensory details about what it must have been like to be a poor woman in 1830s France.

Eponine clearly knows the difference between right and wrong, and most often she chooses to do what is right. Sometimes, though, she goes along with her family's unfortunate habits of lying, cheating, and stealing. She treats her would-be friend, Cosette, quite horribly when they are small children. When they are teens on the verge of adulthood, Eponine is indirectly responsible for Cosette's beloved foster father, Jean Valjean, being gravely wounded.

Determined to reclaim her own soul, Eponine uses her intelligence and kindness to protect Cosette. This is especially painful since Cosette and Eponine are both in love with the same man. But in order for Cosette and Marius to get their happy ending - frankly, one of the only redeeming plotlines in this tale of misery and woe - Eponine has to make a sad, sad sacrifice. This isn't really a spoiler, since we know from the first page of the novel that Eponine is dying because she saved Marius's life.

The ending isn't as sad as it could have been, though. As far as Eponine knows, her little brother Gavroche is still alive. In the opera, Gavroche dies too.

Eponine in this novel is a fully developed, well-rounded character who isn't entirely good and isn't entirely bad. She's a person, with a past and interesting point of view. She's definitely well worth reading about, and Fletcher has written a narrative that flows smoothly and seems authentic. I read this in four short sittings. It's quite fast-paced.

FYI, there are some non-explicit threats of sexual assault in this novel. Readers who are sensitive to this type of content should be aware before reading it.

I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review through the Amazon Vine program.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Three Review Quickies

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adored this book. I love that Celia and her beloved Marco got a happy(ish) ending, and so did Bailey and Penelope (Poppet). I'm still sad and little horrified by the story of Tsukiko and Hinata. The straight white people got to be together, but the queer women of color were horrifically separated. The one LGBTQ+ male character of color in the book, Chandresh Christoff LeFevre, only gets an unrequited love.

Chandresh loves Marco. Isobel loves Marco. Celia loves Marco. Everybody loves Marco.

Now I need to know what happened to Isobel after she left the circus. And what happened to her engagement before she met Marco. Basically I need an entire book about Isobel.

I purchased this audiobook on CD from a library used media sale with my own funds. I was not obligated to review it in any way.

Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My GrandmothersDon't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had mixed feelings. I really loved the first chapters, full of really good sensory details surrounding the author's memories of her grandmothers. The latter chapters also had some beautiful writing, but they were advice-heavy. The somewhat judgmental tone marred an otherwise moving true-life portrait of two 20th century Italian-American women.

I borrowed this book from my mom. I was not obligated in any way to review it. Full disclosure: Adriana Trigiani and I are both graduates of St. Mary's College, although in different years.

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another book I don't know if I can do justice with my words. Miranda is a thoroughly likeable heroine - she gets steadily more likeable throughout. Her adventure may not be on as grand a scale as Megs' in A Wrinkle in Time, but it is still an enjoyable journey.

I bought this book from Better World Books with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Available Now: 'Love, Lust and Zombies' Edited by Mitzi Szereto

I'm very excited over this sexy zombie (!) anthology featuring my short story “The Wild Ones.”

This is an affiliate link:

Till Zombies Do Us Part by Celeste Ayers. $0.99 from
Noah and Amy are two teens in love. There is however one problem; the world as they know it was turned into nothing but a pile of chaos and zombies. As they battle for survival they’ll embark on a journey into the unknown while facing new trials that will put both their love for each other and their humanity to the ultimate test. Just how far will they be willing to go?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

'Carry On' by Rainbow Rowell

This book discussion is not spoiler-free. If you haven’t read Fangirl and Carry On yet, I strongly recommend you read no further.

I bought my copy of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell on the day it was released: Tues. October 6th. I couldn’t wait to dig in and start reading the boy-boy love story. (I say “boy,” but understand I’m talking about 18-year-old adults.) I finished it a week later, on Monday the 12th. In a way, I still can’t believe I’ve finished it. Reading Carry On was an incredibly enjoyable experience. I’m not sure I can entirely explain why, but I’ll try.

Part of it was the extent to which I enjoyed Rowell’s 2013 book, Fangirl. Recall that I didn’t just LIKE Cath Avery, but also felt like I WAS Cath Avery. Because Cath loved Simon Snow and his vampire classmate Baz, I loved Simon Snow and his beloved/enemy Baz.

Another part of the puzzle is that Simon and Baz are based, in part, on Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.  I’ve never personally been a Drarry shipper – I’m satisfied with J.K. Rowling’s choice of Ginny Weasley as Harry Potter’s lifemate. Even if Rowling herself sometimes wishes she’d made Harry and Hermione more than friends. Let’s face it: I’m a grown adult who wears Harry Potter socks and a golden snitch necklace and whenever I hear plumbing make a funny noise my first thought is still “Chamber of Secrets!” I consider myself a member of the Harry Potter fandom. I understand the fandom impulse.

And yes, it is exciting to read a mainstream novel in which the featured romantic subplot involves a same-sex couple. It IS important to me as an out bisexual woman to have non-heterosexual (I’d say queer, but I don’t want to use that word if it will offend some readers. I personally do not have a problem with “queer”), positive representation in the media. Especially in the traditional media.

Can you imagine if J.K. Rowling went back and wrote a book about Albus Dumbledore’s unrequited love for Gellert Grindelwald? It would be heartbreaking and poignant and I would love that so much, even while it was torturing my poor little heart.

But until we get Carry On, Albus, we have to settle for SnowBaz.

In my review of Fangirl, I wrote, “Let's talk about Simon Snow. I honestly would love it if someone wrote Carry On, Simon as Cath, because the little bits of fan fiction that we get in the novel are tasty. Cath left her magnum opus unfinished (and, may I just say, I think the ending of this novel is perfection and I wouldn't want it any other way), but I still want to know if she decided to kill Baz or to let Simon and Baz live happily ever after. We're somewhat left hanging in a Hazel Grace Lancaster-type fashion. This book is meta to begin with - fiction about a fiction writer writing fan fiction about fiction - would it just be too incredibly meta for someone to write Carry On, Simon?”

Rowell hasn’t written Carry On, Simon, but she’s written something even better. Carry On isn’t written as Cath Avery writing Simon Snow fan fiction, nor is it written as if it were the original novel Cath based her fan fiction on (written by the fictional Gemma T. Leslie). Instead it’s a Simon Snow novel written in Rowell’s own authorial voice. But I no longer feel disappointed or Peter Van Houtened by Fangirl. I’ve gotten my SnowBaz story – and (spoiler alert!) Baz doesn’t even die.

Of course, I would not be sad if Rowell somehow extended this to a 7- or 8-book series…I’m just sayin’.

Ultimately, Simon Snow owes his existence to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. Because Rowling’s world-building is so thorough, and we’re already assumed to be familiar with it, Simon Snow’s Watford School already seems like familiar territory – yet it is its own unique world. Further, Rowling and Rowell are brilliant writers, each in unique ways. As I’ve discussed in my reviews of the Robert Galbraith novels, Rowling is intimately familiar with all 400+ years of English-language literature, plus the Latin language, plus Classical mythology and a veritable buffet of multicultural world mythologies.  She’s wonderfully erudite and such a natural storyteller, she can write a children’s book filled with scholarly Classical references without either boring the reader or showing off.

I’m not implying that Rowell isn’t as brilliant or as educated as Rowling, but Rowell’s storytelling style is more inwardly oriented, more personal and intimate and less world-traveling. She writes with her tongue in her cheek, tossing in pop cultural references that might be not-so-subtly winking puns, meaningful allusions, or a combination of the two. In an early chapter, for example, Simon is nearly taken out by a taxi driver who turns out to be a goblin. In the mirror’s reflection he appears to have green skin and blood-red lips, but otherwise he’s “handsome as a pop star.” Any goblin who manages to kill Simon will become the goblin king. Wait a minute: goblin king, handsome as a pop star? Is she talking about David Bowie in the film Labyrinth, in which the pop star plays the Goblin King?

I have no doubt Rowell is making references to a wide variety of fantasy novels, films, and tropes throughout her novel. I half-suspect the surname Snow is a reference to Game of Thrones – Simon, like Jon Snow, was abandoned by his parents. Of course, it’s revealed in Carry On that Snow is his middle name. Maybe Simon officially has his mother Lucy’s last name. It’s unclear whether Davy (the Mage) and Lucy ever married – not that that would necessarily require her to change her name. I don’t recall the Mage’s last name ever being given.

Baz – short for Tyrannus Basilton – has his mother’s last name. His mother, Natasha Pitch-Grimm, was headmistress of Watford before The Mage. Baz’s father isn’t a bully like Lucius Malfoy; he’s more of a neglectful parent than an abusive one. He’s not happy that Baz is gay. Baz doesn’t identify much with his father, so he doesn’t use the Grimm last name. He’s chummy with his Grimm cousins, though.

Naming traditions are more conventional in the household of Simon’s best friend, Penelope Bunce. Penelope is a British girl with a British-ethnicity dad and an Indian-ethnicity mom. She has some of the traits of Ron Weasley (including ginger hair, in their first year at Watford) and some of the traits of Hermione Granger, yet she managers to be her own unique character. Her siblings, including brother Premal and sister Priya, have Indian personal names, but they all have the Bunce family name. Penelope is technically a name from Greek mythology, but it’s not that uncommon in the English-speaking world.

Rowell, of course, is from the United States. She’s writing English characters who speak U.K. English, and occasionally (to my North American ears) this rings a little false. For example, I’ve never heard a person from the U.K. or Ireland refer to a “bag of crisps.”* The familiar expression is “a packet of crisps” where we Americans would say “a bag of chips.” But U.K. readers will have to weigh in on that matter.

(I can say that E.L. James, writing in the voices of U.S. characters, uses an occasional phrase that rings very British. It works both ways – as if we can understand, but not quite reproduce, one another’s dialects.)

The witches and wizards of Simon’s world are a bit more modern than those in Harry’s, who seem a bit stuck in the 19th century in some of their customs. Simon doesn’t speak Latin. Heck, he barely speaks English. (His dad really did a number on him when he dumped Simon in that orphanage.) Rowell’s witches cast spells in English, using concentration and intent to turn common phrases into spells. Any phrase can become a spell, theoretically, but some have caught on and are common. Song titles and lyrics often work well, and nursery rhymes are said to be the most powerful spells of all.

Baz’s family – the Pitch side – is unusually gifted with fire magic. This is a shame, since Baz (made a vampire, not born a vampire) is more flammable than the average human, something his dad and aunt (a somewhat Bellatrix LeStrange-like character, but not quite as evil) consistently remind him of. Baz is aristocratic, worldly, handsome, charming, and completely in love with Simon since their fifth year of school.

Yet it’s Simon who initiates their first kiss, in a moment of despair when Baz seems on the verge of suicide by self-immolation. Simon hasn’t quite worked out his sexuality yet. He knows he’s attracted to Baz – Baz’s huge vampire fangs impress him. It’s unclear whether he’s sexually attracted to Agatha Wellbelove or simply socially attracted to her. It’s a question the author chose to leave open. It’s entirely possible Simon is bisexual or pansexual, though.

The first kiss is magickal. Please don’t judge me, but I may have done a slight dance shortly after reading it. I really do love SnowBaz as a couple.

Of course, the dramatic climax is a traumatic climax. Not Allegiant traumatic, but still…Simon loses a person and a thing, both very dear to him. The person, Ebb the goatherd, is sort of a combination of Rubeus Hagrid and Sybil Trelawney, in a very wonderful way. Her nickname is short for Ebeneza. She’s a very powerful magician but must sacrifice herself (which she does willingly) to save Agatha.

Agatha Wellbelove doesn’t closely resemble any of the characters in the Harry Potter series. Her family name is vaguely reminiscent of Luna Lovegood’s, but she’s not quirky like Luna. In fact, she’s quite the opposite: she’d rather be with her Normal friends (the equivalent of Muggles – apparently, magicians can hear the difference between Normal and normal) than at a magickal school. She has a slight crush on Baz – one that’s destined to be unrequited, obviously. But it is not a typical young adult novel love triangle, not at all. In fact, Agatha breaks off her relationship with Simon because she realizes they’re both only going through the motions.

Penelope – Penny – has an American boyfriend named Micah. I have a deep desire to watch a sitcom starring Mindy Kaling as an older Penny living in the U.S.A. with Micah and their kids. Seems unlikely to happen, though.

Penny’s roommate, Trixie the pixie (the ridiculous name is lampshaded by the characters), is also LGBTQ+. Her girlfriend is another female Watford student, and the fact that dorm rules do nothing to keep them from snogging and flinging pixie dust 24/7 annoys Penny to no end. Technically she isn’t allowed in Baz and Simon’s shared suite, but through some unknown method she circumvents this policy – a feat never attempted by policy-respecting Hermione Granger.

SnowBaz ends more happily-for-now than happily-ever-after. They both have such grave insecurities. But I’ll take it. It’s better than being stuck, not knowing whether Baz even survives the end of Cath’s fan fiction rendition of Gemma T. Leslie’s world. (It’s not even entirely clear that Baz CAN be killed.) I like knowing Rainbow Rowell’s take.

I purchased Carry On with my own funds and was obligated to review it in any way. But I really, really, really liked it.

See what I did there?
*Retracted. J.K. Rowling uses "bag of crisps" in one of the Cormoran Strike/Robin Ellacot novels.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: 'Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy'

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals by Dinty W. Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this out from Blogging for Books (free book in exchange for review), although I was not familiar with the writer Dinty W. Moore. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the essayist is actually named Dinty W. Moore, not after the Canadian hockey player (or the corned beef sandwich) but after a character in the comic strip 'Bringing Up Father.' That makes him sound ancient, but he is in fact a Baby Boomer, a few years younger than my parents.

Moore won me over early in this essay collection, with this sentence, "I believe the best way to avoid coming off as a male chauvinist pig might be to not be a male chauvinist pig?" The question mark is unnecessary; the advice is sound.

The questions that spark each essay (or, in some cases, doodle) come from other nonfiction writers, including Cheryl Strayed, Diane Ackerman, and Roxane Gay. My personal favorites include Moore's anecdotes about other writers; he has one on George Plimpton and another with Nelson Algren.

It's on my TBR list.

Moore is funny. Quite funny. He has a quirky sense of humor, which happens to be the kind of sense of humor that most appeals to me. This is one of those books I laughed out loud to, causing my husband to ask, "What are you laughing at?" Just the thing I'm usually laughing at, dear: writers' meta jokes about punctuation and non sequiturs.

This is an affiliate link:

The Literary Tour of London by Tom Laimer-Read. $1.99 from
Ladies and gentlemen, roll up one and all for the strolling tour of a lifetime! Follow in the footsteps of some of Great Britain's greatest writers! London is a city of literature and lust, poverty and riches, woe and wonder. Come experience the places that inspired and were influenced by some of the greatest writers of all time, and find out more about their fascinating lives.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Banned Books Week: Is ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Morally Destructive?

On August 17, 2012, I wrote the following two paragraphs:

From Here to Eternity is on page 131. I'm pretty sure I read this section before, but I didn't mean as much to me before I finished FHTE…I also learned that the book FHTE beat out when it won the National Book Award was The Catcher in the Rye.

Catcher in the Rye is a favorite subject of the conspiracy theory bloggers, by the way. See this post at MK Culture, for example, or this post at Pseudo-Occult Media implicating the cartoon ‘Family Guy’ (a cartoon I personally dislike, for the record). The Wikipedia entry on the book mentions that it's been linked to John Hinckley Jr.'s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, Mark David Chapman's shooting of John Lennon, and Robert John Bardo's shooting of Rebecca Shaeffer.”

The Wikipedia article doesn’t go into any great detail, and for these past three years I haven’t really strongly understood the connection between the book I read as a teen and real-life incidents of violence. Then I stumbled across this video:

…and then, subsequently:

In these videos, Joseph Atwill discusses a blog post he’s written about Holden’s relationship with his younger sister and other post called "The Freemason in the Rye." In the articles and subsequently in the video, he attempts to explain how he interprets some of the more cryptic passages in J.D. Salinger’s text.

Who is Joseph Atwill? If you search for Joseph Atwill within Wikipedia, you’ll find two relevant results. One is the entry for “Christ myth theory,” and the other is the entry for Emilia Lanier. Atwill’s 2013 book Caesar’s Messiah is cited as a source for the former. In the latter, he is credited along with John Hudson as having discovered that Emilie Lanier, the first English woman to publish a book of poetry, was possibly the identity of the “Dark Lady” to whom William Shakespeare’s poems were addressed. The citation there is Atwill’s 2014 self-published book Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah.

According to Goodreads, Atwill also wrote The Roman Origins of Christianity in 2003. His Goodreads author page links to Atwill’s blog,

In the videos, Atwill summarizes his interpretation of The Catcher in the Rye, basically, as follows:

In the novel, Holden Caulfield (Salinger’s protagonist) mentions being in a secret fraternity.
Atwill connects that fraternity to the Freemasons because Holden mentions studying the Egyptians (for a test) for 28 days, elements of Freemasonic initiation rituals.
Holden lying down on Eli’s bed is mentioned three times, which Atwill takes to be a Freemasonic signal.
The most obvious reason why CITR is connected with various assassinations is that Holden calls his deer-hunting hat a people-shooting hat. Atwill connects the hat with the traditional hoodwink of Freemasonic initiation.
The titular allusion of CITR is a mishearing of the Robert Burns poem “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.” Atwill says a different word ("fuck") is used in the original Robert Burns poem in place of “meet” a body coming through the rye. Thus, it has an explicit sexual connotation. Wikipedia agrees that there is an explicit version:

Atwill contends passages where the 10-year-old sister, Phoebe, is described as being in states of undress are intended to imply an inappropriate relationship between brother and sister. I suppose it makes sense, then, that Holden was studying the Egyptians, since among ancient Egyptian royalty, brother-sister marriages were common.
He says the last paragraph of the book is the warning that anyone who tells the secret will be killed. He says Mark Twain put the same warning into the end of Tom Sawyer.

Boys are supposed to identify with Holden and girls are supposed to identify with Phoebe. Thus, boys are being conditioned to be violent abusers and girls are being conditioned to be victims.
Atwill’s call to action in this interview is the request for people who have children in the school systems to bring up these issues with the school boards, ultimately to get books that serve as “weaponized anthropology” out of the schools.

Atwill did not invent the term “weaponized anthropology” to describe cultural artifacts intended to have psychological effects upon those who consume them. He refers to a book by David H. Price called Weaponizing Anthropology published in 2011. Price is an anthropology professor whose scholarly works examine the history of the intersection between military intelligence and ethnography/anthropology. Atwill contends that J.D. Salinger worked on military intelligence during World War II.

(There is another university professor/author named David H. Price who is a historian, but they are not the same person.)

If you want to read further into the connection between military intelligence and Mark David Chapman, you can do so with our old friend Visup. (You may remember him from the Buddy Holly human sacrifice conspiracy post.) Atwill’s Freemason article also provides the following link:

But basically, Atwill is saying that CITR is a military experiment explicitly written by Salinger to be morally destructive to U.S. culture.

On a slightly different subject, in one of the videos Atwill calls Lewis Carroll a “Freemasonic monster” and refers to an analysis of “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Along with Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, the article discusses the Beatles song “I Am the Walrus.” Atwill contends the poem is about the Biblical book of Revelation (Lewis Carroll was a clergyman, after all) and that Lennon’s song lyrics are about genocide.

So, are the critics right when they want to ban CITR? Should we ban Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass from schools also?

This is an affiliate link:

Freedom by Lynne Gordon-Mündel. $6.99 from
WHAT IF EVERYTHING YOU BELIEVE IS WRONG? What if we have been raised within illusion, within a complex mythology so pervasive, so familiar, so deceptively safe, that it is invisible to most people? The purpose of this book will be to expose some of our myths, thus challenging the ideology that keeps us imprisoned.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

'The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to Sleeping with Three' by Vicki Vantoch

I love nonfiction books about sexuality in general, and I wanted to read this one specifically because I thought it might be good research for future short stories and novel scenes. I’ve written threesomes before, but I could always learn to write them hotter.

I started reading this book ages ago, but I kept putting it away when guests came over and then getting distracted by other books. That's not to say that it's uninteresting or boring - far from it. Granted, I did skip a few passages that didn't apply to me, but overall, I enjoyed this very much. It's really more 4.5 stars than 4.

Vicki Vantoch is the kind of smart girl who makes me want to do stupid things. She’s brilliant and witty. I laughed out loud several times throughout the book, just like I do with Lemony Snicket things. She has one of the best jobs I could imagine: anthropologist and historian who specializes in the history of sex. In physical appearance, she reminds me of the singer Sara Bareilles. Funny, smart, cute, openly bisexual – Vicki Vantoch is my kind of writer.

She’s also the mom of two adorable kidlings, son West and daughter Maison. Their dad is Vantoch’s life partner since they were 16 years old, the actor Dimitri Krushnik. But, as she writes on page 328, “Yale law professor Kenji Yoshino argues we are all pressured to ‘cover’ or to downplay stigmatized traits to blend into the mainstream. We do this in various ways—by hiding hearing aids or changing ethnic-sounding names to commercially viable ones.” In that exact manner, Dimitri is better known as Misha Collins. Which, I suppose, is not quite as Russian-sounding, even though Misha is still the traditional Russian nickname for Dimitri. (Didn’t Dimitri Belikov’s sisters call him Misha in the Vampire Academy novels?)

Vantoch is candid about her own three-way relationship with her husband and her female best friend, but Collins is more guarded. She writes in the Acknowledgments, “And finally, M, my sweet coadventurer in love and life. Even though this book wasn’t his cup of tea, he was supportive from the beginning and was always there when I needed him with encouragement, egg sandwiches, and a brutally-honest critical eye. His patience, humor, openness to change, and super-human ability to love me without crushing me, continues to amaze me. I feel enormously lucky to be sharing this journey with him.”

My favorite chapter is Chapter 5, which gets into some of the issues that not-bisexuals might face when in multiple partner relationships. It encourages people who consider themselves straight to be open to a range of experiences that might be pleasurable even if a bit outside their usual comfort zone, without obsessing about labels. Human beings seem to have an innate tendency to want everything neatly categorized, but our sexuality is much too fluid and varied for that. Vantoch gets that, and she’s able to write about it in a way that’s not only humorous but also quite sexy.

Whether they read it for research, for practical tips, or simply out of curiosity, readers who are brave enough to pick this one up will be rewarded. 

I purchased this book with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

PNR #Review: 'Wild For Milly' by Jane Jamison

Wild for Milly (Werewolves of Forever, TX #9)Wild for Milly by Jane Jamison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't read any of the other books in Jane Jamison's Werewolves of Forever, Texas series, but I thought I'd give this one a try. I found it for a deeply discounted price at an outlet store and I couldn't resist snapping it up. I wasn't at all disappointed. It wasn't necessary to read the first 8 books in this series to understand who Milly was as a character.

Milly is the waitress at the diner in the tiny, supernatural town of Forever, which reminded me of Charlaine Harris's Midnight, Texas. Milly can't read minds like Sookie Stackhouse, but she can shapeshift at will into a werewolf. She doesn't even have to wait for the full moon.

One thing is missing from Milly's life, though: unlike most of the werewolves in Forever, she is unmated. Like Jacob Black in Twilight, she expects to "imprint" on someone - maybe two or more someones. It appears that polyandry is not unknown among these particular wolves. In this regard, they're not unlike the wolfish Chanku in Kate Douglas's Wolf Tales series.

I'm a big fan of paranormal romances, so I enjoyed that this mythological territory was somewhat familiar from some of my other favorite series.

Like clockwork, Milly's perfect matches seem to come along in the forms of California transplants Dan and Matthew Hudson. But Dan and Matthew bring a bit of baggage - their 15-year-old niece Riley, whose parents were killed in a car accident. Her uncles are her surrogate parents.

Riley does NOT warm up to Milly quickly. Cue the dramatic suspense: Riley's unwise flirtation with some immature teenage vampires leads the vamps to kidnap and attempt to sacrifice her for a ritual. Bravely, Milly offers herself in exchange for Riley. She's rescued by the brothers before the vampires kill her, and Milly-Riley relationship is permanently turned around.

So Milly gets her perfect mates and her happy ending. Who could ask for anything more?

On the cover art, it's not possible to tell which sexy brother is Matthew and which is Dan, but one has short hair and one has longish hair that tucks behind his ear. Dare I say they look a bit like a certain pair of demon-hunting brothers from a certain CW TV series?

I purchased this paperback with my own funds and was not obligated to review it in any way. This review represents my own honest opinion.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

'Bright-Sided' by Barbara Ehrenreich

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined AmericaBright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The thesis of Bright-Sided is the U.S. residents tend, as a people, to subscribe to an optimistic outlook on life that isn’t so much based in fact as it is in wishful thinking. Sometimes this wishful thinking is presented to us with the best of intentions. At other times, it’s presented to us as a cynical ploy to make a fast buck with a minimal output of effort, since one of the tenets of positive thinking is often, “If it’s not working for you, you must not be trying hard enough.”

Sometimes, corporations use this mindset to try to increase productivity as much as possible while laying out as few benefits as they can get away with. Haven’t gotten a raise in five years? You’re probably just not working hard enough! Envision success and use positivity to attract a raise to you! At worst, this can be used as an excuse to pay people poverty wages for working long, hard hours at unpalatable jobs.

The problem, as Ehrenreich explains, is that very little scientific evidence shows that positive people fare significantly better than their less-positive peers. At the same time, individuals can experience real-world consequences, including loss of their jobs, simply for being perceived as not having a positive attitude.

As Ehrenreich shows, however, the economic sphere is not the only one in which people can find themselves blamed and shamed for not being cheerful enough. Oddly, one of them is the cancer support group sphere, as Ehrenreich found out during her bout with breast cancer. Women suffering from the disease will sometimes repeat the mantra that positivity strengthens their immune system and thus helps them fight the disease. The problem is that physicians don’t think there is much of a link between the immune system and breast cancer. Think about what the immune system does – it fights foreign “invaders” in the body, namely bacteria and viruses. Cancer cells are the body’s own cells, not recognized by the immune system as “foreign.” Women who get sicker and blame themselves for being too negative are expending their precious energy over something irrelevant.

The chapter on the religious aspect of positive thinking is also very interesting. In this chapter, I learned about the New Thought movement of the 1800s and its founder, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. If a 21st-century person believes human thought can affect atoms and molecules in the real world, that person can likely trace their thoughts back to Quimby. Followers of the so-called Prosperity Gospel as exemplified by Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, adherents of Oprah Winfrey, and readers of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret may not seem to have much in common on the surface, but all can trace their philosophical roots back to New Thought. Quimby’s most direct influence may have been on Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

The origin of Quimby’s “heal thyself” philosophy? He had tuberculosis. He was born in 1808, and when he was a young man, doctors could do next to nothing for the bacterial infection. His doctors gave him a remedy that did little to abate his breathing problems, but did make his teeth start to fall out. Fed up with the institutional medicine of his day (with good reason), he decided to study hypnotism. He eventually came to believe that all diseases were caused by the way one thinks about one’s body.

The scientific evidence that beliefs affect the human body is scant to nonexistent, but Quimby and Baker Eddy weren’t really interested in scientific evidence. I read a little bit more about Mary Baker Eddy in Wikipedia, and it seems she had something of a kerfuffle with Mark Twain in the first decade of the 1900s. Twain wrote an article criticizing Christian Science, which Harper’s magazine refused to publish. Twain then accused the publication of bowing down to pressure from high-profile Christian Scientists and of not being objective. He later published – elsewhere, one presumes – a lengthy critical essay on the subject of Mary Baker Eddy herself.

Touched on in this chapter, and quite possibly worth addressing in greater detail elsewhere, are John Marks Templeton Sr. and Jr. The senior John M. Templeton created the Templeton Foundation, which supports a large variety of both religious and scientific research endeavors. It has been accused of supporting unscientific theories such as “intelligent design” creationism and other dubious sciences. Ehrenreich herself has publicly accused the Templeton Foundation of a conservative political bias, which the Foundation has answered by saying that it stays within the guidelines set forth by its founder, which are designed to be unbiased and apolitical.

Dr. John Marks Templeton Jr., popularly known as Jack Templeton, was well known for donating vast sums of his personal wealth to Republican political causes. He and his wife are estimated to have personally donated a million dollars to opposing same-sex marriage. Having died of a brain tumor in May of this year, he didn’t quite live long enough to see marriage equality become the law of the land on June 26th.

Economics, politics, religion, medicine…areas of life in which people need to be at their most clear-eyed. Optimism and a positive outlook can make life more bearable, especially when one is ill or under stress, but it’s also important to be armed with objective fact. This is the point Barbara Ehrenreich makes in Bright-Sided, and it’s a good one.

I purchased this title as a CD audiobook with my own funds from a library used media sale. I wasn't obligated in any way to review it. This review represents my own honest opinion.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals Tours Pittsburgh's Adult Empire

[Press Release] ( Pittsburgh, PA / September 14, 2015) — Employees at online adult retail and entertainment site Adult Empire were treated to a special visit from popular sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals - 'Dr. Chauntelle' - at the company's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania .

The doctor's jam-packed tour, which she recounted in a recent Uproxx article, included a peek into the busy adult entertainment office's day-to-day operations of sales, shipping and the development of AE's movie production division, AE Films.

Tibbals also sat down for an interview with Adult Empire's own media personalities Chelsea and Becky to promote her new book Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment, which details her experiences in the adult industry and examines the country's conflicted relationship with pornography.

See everything at!

"It was a pleasure to welcome Dr. Chauntelle to Adult Empire, where she got a first-hand view of what we do in the main office, warehouse and data center," said Adult Empire’s Director of Marketing, Megan Wozniak. "It was great to spend the day with her, show her our latest products and interview her for our website."

Chauntell Tibbals, PhD, is a prominent sociologist with a Bachelor of Science in Physiological Sciences and Sociology and Master's in Sociology with a focus on gender and sexuality with emphasis on the socio-cultural significance of adult content and its production, including issues related to law, free speech, and workplace organizational structures.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

There's a She-Hulk In My Closet; I Let Her Out So She Can Breathe

The She-Hulk DiariesThe She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few years ago I read the entire Happy Hour at Casa Dracula series. I adored that series and determined based on it that author Marta Acosta writes fascinating, relatable characters with wit and a compulsive readability. It's true that in my comic book-reading teenage years, I was more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan. I'm not ashamed to say the Avengers film won me over. I was thrilled to learn Acosta was working on a She-Hulk novel, even though I was never a hard-core Shulky fan.

It took me a while to get around to this one, but I'm glad I finally did. Acosta's writing doesn't lose any of its sparkle in taking on the story of Jennifer Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk.

Thanks to her jade-colored alter ego, Walters loses her home in the Avengers West mansion and her job specializing in superhuman law. She starts anew in New York City, where she searches for a love and for a social life beyond hanging out at Joocey Jooce with her best friend since undergrad school, non-superhuman hair stylist Dahlia.

So don't worry if you don't know the entire history of the Marvel universe. This novel is perfectly enjoyable as chick lit. If you've seen any of the Iron Man movies, you already understand Tony Stark well enough to understand Jennifer's love-snark relationship with her iron-clad ex.

I purchased this book with my own funds from a library used book sale and was not obligated in any way to review it. I've also recently come across a copy of Marvel's other experiment in full-length fiction, Rogue Touch, featuring the mutant portrayed by Anna Paquin in the movies. It was written by Christine Woodward, not Marta Acosta, but I'm more than willing to give it a chance.

Not right away, though. My TBR list is lengthy and varied.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Review of 'Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe'

Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe: The Novel by Johnnie Griffin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I met Johnnie Griffin at the St. Joseph County Public Library in my birthplace of South Bend, Indiana, in or around the year 2007. I believe she was a professor at Indiana University South Bend at the time. She gave me advice on self-publishing at that time as part of an author event being sponsored by the library that day.

My copy of her book is a withdrawn copy from the St. Joe Library. I bought it with my own funds at a library used book sale and was not obligated in any way to review it. She neither asked me to review it nor compensated me for this review in any way.

This is beautifully written and important book, and I wish it was more widely known and read than it currently is. It deals in a fictionalized way with the impact of being born to an unmarried teenage mother on a woman's life. The heroine, Janie Snow, deals from childhood on with the effects of her father Amos's decision to seduce teenage virgin Ira Snow with no intent of continuing a relationship with her, much less concern over fathering Janie. Janie becomes the first of Ira's five children with five different fathers as Ira tries fruitlessly to recapture the first blush of love she'd so briefly known with Amos.

This book is the most sympathetic, least judgmental thing you're ever likely to read on the subject of social issues such as the generational cycle of poverty and the resentment between parents and their children. Griffin isn't out to blame anyone with her novel, but rather to get into their heads and try to understand how people sometimes seem to casually make decisions that cause difficult problems for their supposed loved ones.

Social workers and others who work closely with indigent individuals and families should read this book. For those who have similar birth circumstances, this novel may hit very close to home, and so it may be a difficult read, but at the same time it may help some readers come to terms with hard-to-face facts in their own lives.

I hope there are still more copies to check out in this library and in others, because it's a book well worth reading, and more people should pick it up.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

New From @ErinORiordan and @TitElingtin: Crime Novel 'CUT'

Cut is now available in paperback at CreateSpace and

If you want a signed copy signed by me and my husband Tit, please purchase your copy from our Etsy Shop, Writer's Brain Has Wings.

If you have an Etsy account, please add our book to your favorites. I don't guarantee that I'll return each "favorite" I get from other Etsy sellers, but if you make things I genuinely like, I usually do return favorites.

Book Summary and Details:

Love pulp fiction? Just try putting down CUT. CUT is full of saints and sinners you'll love to hate. Brigid is a high school basketball player and secret heroin addict. Fred, a Catholic lesbian, loves Brigid, but doesn't know about her affair with Edward, a married Evangelical preacher. Sex, ethics, religions, and mythologies clash as you dig deeper into their connection to the death of a young couple.

Authored by Erin O'Riordan, Tit Elingtin 
Cover design by Tit Elingtin
Cover photography by Beth Coney Smith 

Publication Date: Aug 08 2015
ISBN/EAN13: 1516813669 / 9781516813667
Page Count: 216
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Language: English
Color: Black and White
Related Categories: Fiction / Crime

Have a book review blog of your own? Message us about free review copies!

I appreciate each and every share on social media, whether it's pinning our latest cover to your Pinterest boards or liking us on Facebook. Thanks for supporting our writing!

Previous editions of this book have been published as Whip and The Smell of Gas. Not only is the cover art new, but this is the definitive edition containing the most polished, final edit.

Coming Soon: Erin and Tit's coloring book!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Which Songs Remind You of the ‘90s?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which songs remind you of the ‘90s?