Friday, January 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

- He attended his hometown's prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school, where his father was a mathematics teacher.

- His mother was a performer and teacher of sacred music.

- He then went to Amherst College in Massachusetts. Amherst is the home of the Emily Dickinson Museum, and it possesses about half of Dickinson's manuscripts. Dickinson attended Amherst Academy, the secondary school that was the predecessor of Amherst College. Amherst College was all-male until 1960.

- He also studied art history in Sevilla, Spain. The book doesn't say whether or not he earned a degree.

- His first career choice was musician, but he was shy and awkward when performing in front of people.

- After abandoning his musical career, Brown taught English and creative writing at Phillips Exeter.

- The first book he wrote was a book of limericks.

- Brown and his wife Blythe Newlon - a painter and art historian - co-wrote a humorous dating guide called 187 Men to Avoid under the pen name "Danielle Brown."

- His first novel, Digital Fortress, was inspired in part when one of his students was visited by the Secret Service after joking about killing President Clinton in an e-mail. He set part of that novel in Sevilla.

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

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

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

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one classic I never read. Perhaps I should; according to Helfers' book, "Sir Percy ends up married to the most beautiful, most intelligent woman in the known world..." If he can appreciate the world's most intelligent woman, he sounds like a keeper. Also, it is said that with this novel, the Baroness invented the superhero genre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

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


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

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

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

Buy links:


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

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

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

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

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

Author Bio:

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

'Cuffed, Tied, and Satisfied' Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

She answers, "That would be hot."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told you I would get attached to Nick Dunne.

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

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

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

Several weeks later, when I realized my period was late, I knew I was pregnant. I surreptitiously bought a pregnancy test and sneaked off to the woods, to the very place where I would have made my obeisance to the God and Goddess on Beltane, to take the test. My family found out shortly after that. I don't know how - I didn't volunteer that information. Soon I found myself hauled in to the Empire's nearest outpost. The Empire had some kind of interest in children who had been conceived on Beltane, and they considered my offspring to be their property. I would be held as a prisoner until I gave birth to my daughter, then released back to my family. I was never to expect to see my daughter again. It was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. Ben was allowed to visit me and bring me things. On his home planet, he was also a witch. He showed me a book of the Craft from his home world that told him which roots to dig up and give me for morning sickness. Fortunately, they also grew on Earth, but he could only dig them up by the light of the full moon, and he had to chew them up for me. (This is oddly sweet - the father having to chew up the roots that will benefit his child in utero.) In actuality, the time I had to live without seeing my daughter was only a few months, because the Empire was defeated and the troops got to go home. I know I got my child back, but I don't know whether Ben stayed on Earth, if I decided to take the baby to his home planet, or if we parted ways. That is how my hormone-addled subconscious mind works.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Blogger Reviews of Gone Girl

Jenn @ Going the Distance

Shoshanah @ From L.A. to LA

Andrea @ Andrea's Adventures

Kristine @ Living Barefoot and Crazy

Lil @ Faster Than Forever

Victoria @ Mine to Live

Carly Ann @ Carly Chubby Cheeks

Sunday, January 18, 2015

'The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven' Recanted, Publishers Weekly Reports

In October 2010, I reviewed the nonfiction book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Alex and Kevin Malarkey. I reviewed it in exchange for a free hardcover copy of the book from the publisher. Now, according to an article posted at Publishers Weekly on Jan. 16th, its publisher is pulled the book "and its ancillary products" out of print.

The article by Clare Swanson reports that Alex Malarkey wrote in an open letter to religious booksellers that he didn't die or go to heaven and that he made up the story to get attention. The article quotes Alex as writing, "people have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough....Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough."

Swanson's article links to a National Public Radio story by Bill Chappell. The NPR story says Alex's letter was posted on a website called Pen and Pulpit. Chappell states that Alex's mom, Beth, has been speaking out since last year saying that Alex no longer wants his name to be used without his permission, effectively distancing the family from its bestselling work already.

Mario the Vigilant Christian (you may remember his YouTube channel from "Ellie Goulding's 'Lights' Interpreted According to MK Ultra Theory") posted on this same topic yesterday.

This isn't the first time Alex's story have been questioned. In 2011, prolific religious author D. Eric Williams wrote The Truth About the Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Goodreads summarizes Williams' book thusly: "Should we take seriously a story about a boy who routinely visits heaven? And what measuring stick should we use in answering that question? Is it enough that this tale employs Christian terminology or is there a higher standard we must look to? Find out in the booklet, The Truth About The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Elle Chase Announced as Fourth Panelist for ‘Women in Porn’ Panel at XBIZ 360

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. [Press Release] – has announced sex educator, writer and coach Elle Chase (AKA “Lady Cheeky”) as the fourth panelist for the upcoming “Women in Porn” discussion, which is to take place Wednesday, January 14 at the XBIZ 360 conference in Hollywood, California.

“Elle is the perfect addition to our already-impressive panel,” said owner Angie Rowntree, who produces all events. “Elle’s open, sex- and body-positive approach has really resonated with people, as evidenced by her over 100,000 Tumblr followers and the large and loyal readership of her sex blogs.”

In her capacity as a sex educator and coach, Chase speaks and gives workshops across the country about all things sex. Chase also operates, which she describes as a “curated, feminist, sex and body-positive, sexual/sensual images,” as well as, which received the Best Sex Blog award from the L.A. Weekly in 2013.

“I’m honored to be included in this panel attended and moderated by such accomplished and trailblazing professionals,” said Chase. “I’m looking forward to an intelligent, healthy and lively debate that informs and educates, as well as leaves space for everyone’s unique personal views.”

Chase is the final addition to the Women in Porn discussion panel, which also includes Penthouse Managing Director Kelly Holland, author/attorney Frederick Lane and award-winning director/performer Courtney Trouble. As in previous Women in Porn events, sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals will moderate the session.

During the discussion, the panel will be assisted by “celebrity tweeters” who will encourage viewers to tweet their questions and observations for the panel to address. The identity of the celebrity tweeters will be revealed sometime in early January, Rowntree said, “to leave a little suspense in the air.”

“Each of our previous Women in Porn discussions has been excellent, with an energetic conversation with and highly engaged audience,” Rowntree said. “I think having a live audience in the same room with the panel will heighten the experience for all involved even further, as being together physically should result in a more intimate feel than we’ve had in the online debates.”

For more information about the Women in Porn debate series and to watch the previous panel discussions, please visit For more information about or #SexTalkTuesday please email Angie Rowntree at, For more information on the XBIZ 360 conference, go to

Monday, January 12, 2015

This Might Replace 'Shameless' As My Favorite RPF

Remember the time I couldn't stop reading an RPF - real person fiction - called Shameless by Helens? (I mentioned it in this blog post; you can read the fic here. Do. It's sooo gooood.)

It has Christian Bale and Sean Bean. Sean Bean doesn't die in this one, but he does have a lot of sadomasochistic same-sex sex. And it is glorious.

It's been many and many a year since I actually wrote an RPF - since my college days, I reckon. These days I prefer to work with fictional characters, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy an occasional RPF read.

This past week a series of fortunate events occurred. The 2015 Peoples' Choice Awards were held on Wednesday, January 7th, One of the winners was my latest celebrity crush, Misha Collins, for playing Castiel on Supernatural.

So on my Tumblr blog Something Kitten This Way Comes on Thursday, I blogged a few PCA photos. It's a book blog with many, many diversions, and one of those diversions is that I sometimes blog red carpet photos for actors I particularly like - the Hunger Games cast and whatnot.

On Friday, I blogged nothing but Misha Collins all day, just because he is pretty. A lot of what I reblogged came from the archives of my fellow Tumblrer Alexandra on her blog Your Bittersweet Company. Including this:

And that graphic links to this, a Misha Collins/Jensen Ackles RPF. (They have a ship name, and it is Cockles.) I couldn't NOT read it. I simply couldn't. The author goes by NamiChan89, and the artist of the lovely banner is petite_madame. There are 8 chapters and an epilogue, all awesome. It's not plotless porn.

I mean, it's really sad at first. Fictional-Jensen's brother and very-pregnant sister-in-law are killed by a drunk driver, but his infant nephew survives the crash. Since their other sister is still in college and they can't stomach the thought of the little boy being raised in foster care, Jensen has to take care of the little boy, named Andrew or A.J. for short. He gets paternity leave from his engineering job, but he's a little depressed after the trauma of losing his brother. The sister lives too far away to be much of a support system for him, and AJ is fussy. Uncle and nephew get very little sleep at first.

Fictional Misha is their new neighbor across the hall. Jensen and Misha flirt a little right from the first day they meet. It's casual, though. Fictional Jared Padalecki shows up as AJ's pediatrician, which is very cute.

In Chapter 2, Misha seems to know something about caring for a baby, but Jensen doesn't dare ask him why that is. Misha lives alone, so no wife or children appear to be in the picture.

Chapter 3 has the sister - Mackenzie - babysitting AJ so Jensen and Misha can go to dinner and a movie. It's a date that Jensen somewhat ruins at the end by blurting out that it is not a date.

Chapter 4 is very sweet. Jensen has made himself sick by drinking milk that was a little spoiled. While he's recovering, Misha takes care of him and AJ. They both seem to accept that Misha will help take care of the baby, but the two adults are just friends.

In Chapter 5, with his paternity leave coming to an end, Jensen is complaining to Misha that it's hard to find a good babysitter. In the midst of explaining why he doesn't feel comfortable hiring the potential nannies who seem a little too flirty, Jensen very clearly states that he's gay. Misha doesn't flinch, but he's not forthcoming with any more clues about his own orientation, either. Not surprisingly, Misha ends up taking the 2-day-a-week nanny job, since he mostly works from home. (He's a translator.) Mackenzie, meanwhile, gives her brother the number of a definitely-gay potential date named Tom, since Jensen's flirtation with Misha doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

Chapter 6 is mostly dates that Jensen goes on with Tom. Their relationship is progressing, even if Jensen can't seem to get past his seemingly-hopeless crush on his hot neighbor/babysitter. At the end of the chapter, Misha interrupts their date calling Jensen and telling him to meet him at the children's hospital. Uh oh.

Chapter 7 returns to the melancholy. AJ is fine, but Misha narrates the sad story of how he came to be experienced with caring for babies. He was married, and he had a baby girl. While he and his wife were working on a humanitarian project in Africa, their daughter got sick, and she died. Misha and his wife couldn't stop arguing after that, and they got divorced. Not only is the story sad, but now Jensen's romantic hopes are crushed, because now he believed Misha is a straight guy. At the end of the chapter, Misha is contemplating taking a job in Russia.

In Chapter 8 - well, we can all see where this is going. Jensen breaks down and admits to Jared he's been in love with Misha for the past 8 months (because every chapter is a month). Jensen breaks up with Tom, and Tom admits he saw it coming, because clearly Jensen is smitten with his babysitter. Faced with losing Misha forever, Jensen goes across the hall and begs Misha not to take the job in Moscow, and they both admit to having feelings for each other. Then they kiss. That night, after AJ has been put to bed, they go to Jensen's bed together.

In the epilogue, a 15-year-old AJ - now just going by Andy - doesn't quite know how to tell his two obnoxiously-in-love dads that he, Andy, has a crush on a girl. He comes out to them as straight.

And it is adorable.

Sometimes you just have to say "fuck reality," suspend disbelief, and enjoy a romantic drama.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Imagine 'A Wrinkle in Time' with Rory Gilmore as Meg and Dean Forester as Calvin

One of my very favorite books when I was actually in the young adult target audience - 12 years old or so - was Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. It's a little bit fantasy and a little bit science fiction. Its protagonist is Meg Murry, a smart but socially awkward girl with whom I strongly identified.

In 2003 we got the A Wrinkle in Time TV movie. It wasn't great, but it was better than nothing.

Meg Murry is played by Katie Stuart, a Canadian actress perhaps best known for the CW drama series The 100. It only lasted one season, but I didn't mind that so much, because I'd rather have Paige Turco playing her recurring role as Zoe Morgan on Person of Interest than on some CW show. Stuart also made a single appearance on Supernatural, as a comic book store clerk.

Meg's 14-year-old schoolmate Calvin O'Keefe is played by Canadian actor Gregory Smith. He's perhaps best known as Epstein on Rookie Blue. I never watched that show, but it lasted four seasons.

For me, the best performances in the WIT movie are by Alfre Woodard as Mrs. Whatsit and Kyle Secor as The Man With Red Eyes. The red-eyed man is a detestable representative of pure evil, but Kyle Secor is still my sweet, sweet baby. Even post-Veronica Mars I can't hate him, because he'll always have played Timothy James Bayliss on Homicide: Life on the Streets. Detective Bayliss remains one of the few canon!bisexual fictional characters on mainstream U.S. TV series.

But what if?

Netflix recently added The Gilmore Girls. I've seen the first four seasons or so, but never finished the series. I'd love to revisit it...but I can only watch it when Tit Elingtin isn't around. Lorelei Gilmore's mom, Emily, reminds Tit of my mom - his mother-in-law - and he gets upset at my mom. I can't have a TV series causing me family discord. It's just not worth it.

Given my recent Destiel fixation, it's only natural that I occasionally remember Jared Padalecki as Dean Forester. Wouldn't young!Jared have made an excellent Calvin O'Keefe? He's neither red-haired nor blue-eyed like the book character, and it's Jensen Ackles who can lay claim to the most freckles, but these details are minor.

In my overactive imagination, Dean and Rory would make an excellent Calvin and Meg.

Charles Wallace: Tell me about him, Meg.

Meg: What would I know about him? He's a couple of grades above me, and he's on the basketball team.

Calvin: Only because I'm tall.

Calvin: Okay, old sport. I'll tell you this much. Sometimes I get a feeling about things. You might call it a compulsion. Do you know what compulsion means?...When I get this feeling, this compulsion, I always do what it tells me. I can't explain where it comes from or how I get it, and it doesn't happen very often. But I obey it. And this afternoon I had a feeling that I must come over to the haunted house. That's all I know, kid. I'm not holding anything back. Maybe it's because I'm supposed to meet you. You tell me.

Calvin: He's not handsome or anything. But I like him.

Meg: He is too handsome.

Calvin: Nah. He's tall and skinny like me.

Meg: Well, I think you're handsome.

Meg: You’re good in school. Everybody likes you.

Calvin: For all the most unimportant reasons. There hasn’t been anybody, anybody in the world I could talk to. Sure, I can function on the same level as everybody else, I can hold myself down, but it isn’t me.

Meg: I’m all confused again.

Calvin: Oh, so’m I. But now at least I know we’re going somewhere.

Calvin: Do you know that this is the first time I've seen you without your glasses?

Meg: I'm blind as a bat without them. I'm near-sighted, like Father.

Calvin: Well, you know what, you've got dream-boat eyes. Listen, you go right on wearing your glasses. I don't think I want anybody else to see what gorgeous eyes you have.

Calvin: Go ahead and cry. It'll do you good.

Meg: I cry much too much. I should be like Mother. I should be able to control myself.

Calvin: Your mother's a completely different person and she's a lot older than you are.

Meg: I wish I were a different person. I hate myself.

"Now instead of reaching out to Calvin for safety, Meg took his hands in hers, not saying anything in words but trying to tell him by the pressure of her fingers what she felt. If anyone had told her only the day before that she, Meg, the snaggle-toothed, the myopic, the clumsy, would be taking a boy's hand to offer him comfort and strength, particularly a popular and important boy like Calvin, the idea would have been beyond her comprehension."

When he is 14, Calvin's home life is rather sad. The O'Keefes have 11 children in all; Calvin is somewhere in the middle. (I think he has two older siblings.) His mother is an unpleasant woman who beats her children. She's like Peeta Mellark's angry, abusive mother in The Hunger Games. But...

SPOILER ALERT! When one gets to the third book in the series (and by the way, I've never finished reading any of the sequels, although I took a stab at the second one once), nine years after A Wrinkle in Time, Calvin and Meg are married and she's pregnant with their first child. The third book is called A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I think Meg becomes a physicist like her parents, and I know Calvin becomes a marine biologist. For some reason I think the total number of children they have is seven.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Comedian Margaret Cho to Moderate a Special #SexTalkTuesday on Monday January 5th

Groundbreaking comedian and actress Margaret Cho is slated to serve as special guest moderator of #SexTalkTuesday on Monday January 5 at 4:45 EST, the Twitter-based show announced today.

“Margaret is in every way an ideal person to lead a #SexTalkTuesday discussion,” said Angie Rowntree, owner of and producer of #SexTalkTuesday. “She’s incredibly witty, candid, brave, outgoing and very experienced in speaking frankly about subjects a lot of other people would rather avoid.”

According to the New York Times, "Margaret Cho has performed at Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall, and much of her comedy is so profanely unprintable that any attempt at paraphrasing would not do it justice. Starting in January, Ms. Cho will co-host a show on the TLC channel called All About Sex [premieres Saturday January 10 at 11 p.m.], a title that conveys some of her brand of humor."

“Talking about sex has been central to Margaret’s comedy and social commentary,” Rowntree said. “We’re honored to have her bring her insight and wit to #SexTalkTuesday.

A prolific performer with a long history of critically acclaimed work covering everything from books and stand-up comedy specials to her one-woman off Broadway show I’m The One That I Want (later made into a best-selling book and feature film by the same name), Cho received a Comedy Album of the Year Grammy nomination in 2012 for her album Cho Dependent.

A fun and provocative Twitter-based chat, #SexTalkTuesday is hosted and produced by, the web’s premier erotic site for women and couples. During each show, a guest moderator asks thought-provoking questions to a large and active group of participants. The result is a lively and entertaining discussion that invites participants to be open and candid with their thoughts and opinions on sex, life, love and the humor of it all, in a way that fosters a supportive and compassionate environment for the conversation.

To join the discussion, go to and use the #SexTalkTuesday hash tag during the show. Please remember SexTalkTuesday will be at a special day and time: Monday January 5 starting at 4:45 pm EST.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I Read 'Last Sacrifice" and Finished the Vampire Academy Series

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy, #6)Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

The Vampire Academy Series so far:

My Last Sacrifice rating: 4 of 5 stars

SPOILER ALERT! If you don't want to know how the series ends, EARMUFFS now. 

As the last book of the Vampire Academy series begins, Rose Hathaway is sitting in prison, waiting to be executed for the murder of her queen. Rose is innocent, but who is the murderer? Will Rose be able to find and reveal the true killer before her own doom?

Of course she will, but first she'll undergo a series of trials. These include a daring prison break engineered by Rose's closest friends and her dad Abe. (Abe subtly clued Rose in to his plans by bringing her a copy of one of my favorite books ever, The Count of Monte Cristo.)

Another trial she'll endure is being torn between her budding relationship with Adrian Ivashkov - the adorable Moroi who fights the ravages of being a Spirit user with alcoholic beverages and clove cigarettes - and the man who first stole her heart, Dimitri Belikov. While Dimitri had previously protested that his love for Rose had faded, this volume reveals that he LIED. Dimitri never stopped loving Rose, and let's be honest: she never stopped loving him either. I felt awful for Adrian as the story unfolded, but I'm happy that RoMitri got their happily ever after.

I was sad to find out who the real murderer turned out to be. That character was a character I liked for the sake of their very likable family member.

The only thing I wanted from this book that I didn't get was a Christian Ozera-Lissa Dragomir wedding. I thought they'd at least get engaged. Although she does discover her long-lost half sibling (and it's someone we know!) in this book and is no longer thought of as the last of her line, I still hoped Christian and Lissa would at least get engaged. I wanted the security of knowing they were on their way to making little Dragomir-Ozeras. I want that for them.

By the way, it doesn't disappoint me at all that Rose and Dimitri will never have kids. They'll still be perfectly happy. They're soulmates.

Because these characters may make occasional appearances in the Bloodlines series, I don't really feel like this is the final, FINAL Vampire Academy novel. I don't know if I'll read Bloodlines, so for now I'm pretty satisfied with this as an ending for Rose and Lissa.

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