Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: 'Day Shift' Charlaine Harris (Midnight, Texas #2)

This review will not be spoiler-free for characters, although I will not discuss the resolution of the novel's central mystery. Read at your own risk!

Goddesses help me, I am addicted to this series.

I liked this one a little better than Midnight Crossroad, the first book of the trilogy. Two characters from the Sookie Stackhouse series make appearances. This is our first summer without a new season of True Blood to look forward to, and I'll admit I kind of miss Sookie, Bill, and the rest. For me, this made Day Shift even more fun than the first one.

So, which two characters show up? For a clue, you can turn to my review of After Dead, the summing-up volume that caps off the Sookie Stackhouse series. I wrote of that rather unsatisfying, slim hardcover, "On the bright side, the entries for Barry the Bellboy and Quinn seem to imply that these characters will get some kind of spin-off or sequel."

Oh yes, there be weretigers. Not only Quinn, but his son as well - and the Rev, the quirky Midnight resident whose religious services extend to the burial of deceased pets.

No only do we discover the supernatural nature of the Rev, but of husbands Joe and Chuy as well. They're angels, although the implication seems to be that they're of the fallen ilk who sired children with beautiful human women, as captured in the Biblical book of Genesis.

Given that Joe and Chuy apparently had female partners at one point in history, is it really fair to call them a gay couple? Not that guys who identify as gay don't ever have male-female relationships in their past, but I would hate to think of this as another example of bi erasure. Perhaps they're pansexual or queer; perhaps human sexuality labels don't really apply to cherubim.

In my review of Midnight Crossroad, I wrote, "Maybe in future books she [Harris] can expand on Madonna's character and give us some other sides of her personality." Harris does, giving Madonna an opportunity to show her strength and save the day. I really enjoyed this scene, and it shows Harris continues to grow as a writer - maybe even as a person.

As I said in my previous review, "Charlaine Harris isn't unproblematic...Still, I miss Sookie Stackhouse, and I'm willing to accept Fiji Cavanaugh, Olivia Charity, Bobo Winthrop et al. as a substitute."

Maybe the most disappointing thing about this one was that Lemeul, Midnight's sole resident vampire, hardly appears in this volume at all. He's still on the quest he began in the first book, to find someone even older than himself who can read the mysterious language in the long-lost books of magic he recently rediscovered. It doesn't appear that he's found such a person (or creature) yet, so that plotline is likely to pay off (let's hope rewardingly) in the next book.

I continue to stand by that statement. I anxiously look forward to the trilogy's concluding volume.

This is a book I checked out from my local public library. I was not obligated to review it in any way.

Monday, May 18, 2015

'Loving Loki' by Cheryl Pillsbury

I have much to say about this little book - some of it good, some of it not so good - but first, full disclosure: Cheryl Pillsbury is or was the publisher at AG Press, a small press for which I once did some editing. I edited poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for several authors, including Cheryl, only some of which I was paid for.

I don't think she ever had any bad intentions, but I do think she wasn't quite financially or organizationally prepared to deal with the publishing business. I didn't make money on the experience, but I did learn to be more skeptical of small press publishers I met online. It was a good learning experience overall.

As an editor of Cheryl's books, I noticed some consistent writing errors and overall poor sentence structure. To be perfectly fair, Cheryl is, for a large part, a fan fiction author writing for her own pleasure. She has written works using characters from several franchises, some of which have run her into occasional trouble with the copyright holders. This book can be thought of as a work of fan fiction, not of a copyrighted franchise but of Norse mythology.

I don't think it's completely forthcoming when the introduction states that the Marvel Comic Universe film franchise was not an influencing factor, though. For example, reference is made to Jane Foster, who is clearly a Marvel Comics character and not a person from Norse mythology. But that's okay. Authors are allowed to be inspired, although not allowed to infringe. They are two different things. Even bestselling author Linda Lael Miller admits she finds inspiration in TV, movies, and country music. The trick is to make the characters original enough that they are clearly your own creations.

Cheryl is a practicing Neopagan, and she claims in her introduction to the book that her work of fiction is based on the deities whom she worships. I don't have a problem with that. I wrote Shiva into Midsummer Night in a scene that is both reverential and erotic; I don't belong to any one religion, but I do love Hinduism's Shiva and Kali. They are some of my deities.

And Cheryl and I are certainly not the only ones who incorporate erotic writing into a form of religious worship or ceremony. See, for example, this piece of Easter meditation by Joan Borysenko. That said, you would not be completely out of your mind if you were to envision Tom Hiddleston in his role as Loki Laufeyson as the Norse deity described in the text.

The Brass Tacks:

Why Should I Read This Book?

Read this book is you've longed for erotic fan fiction featuring the Norse trickster god Loki in a relationship with an original character (OC).

Purchase link:

Note that I am not an affiliate of and you going to the above URL will not benefit me in any way. I purchased a copy of this book with my own funds and was not compensated in any way for reviewing it.

Add It On Goodreads:

Why Shouldn't I Read This Book?

You shouldn't read this book if you'll be bothered by unpolished writing that needs an editor. You can offer to edit for Cheryl if you're a kind-hearted and very patient beta reader who does it for love of the genre without any expectation of financial reward - if, for example, you're a high school student who just wants to get some editing experience under his or her belt before majoring in English in college.

Are There Any Thorki Moments in This Book?

Only one comes to mind: a scene of Thor and Loki sleeping side-by-side. For the most part, it's a love story between Loki and the OC, a Midgardian woman named Sira. There's even a Neopagan-style handfasting ceremony between them.

For some people, the gift of being able to turn out polished, professional writing comes easily. Others need a second set of eyes to help them reach the polished stage. There's nothing wrong with being a diamond-in-the-rough fanfic writer. Many of us will read these unpolished gems if the story is good and the characters are strongly written. If you hope to advance as a professional writer, though, you absolutely need a polisher.

This is an affiliate link:

The Wheel of The Year. . by Maureen Murrish. $5.99 from
The Wheel of the Year is a beginner's guide to celebrating the eight traditional pagan festivals of the the year.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Library Book Haul May 2015

On Thursday the 14th, I took my Irish Granny's list of books she wanted to my local library's used media sale. These are the selections I found for her.

I've read and liked a few John Grisham novels; I think my favorite has been A Painted House. I think I'll skip Sycamore Row, though.

This last one I probably will read, because I loved Sue Monk Kidd's The Mermaid Chair so much. Mom, Grandma, and I all loved that one. I haven't read The Secret Life of Bees yet, but one of the library volunteers at the book sale told me Kidd has a gift for writing realistically in the voice of a young girl.

Grandma and I needed some kind of a distraction on Thursday, because that was the day my cousin Joe's biopsy results came back from the laboratory. The news wasn't good. He'd fallen out of a tree stand while hunting (his friends live in Michigan - deer hunting is a quintessentially Michigan activity) and hurt his back. In the process of treating him, his doctors found a spinal tumor. Well, the analysis of the tumor revealed just about the worst news possible: not only is the tumor malignant, but this type of malignancy usually begins as a type of colon cancer.

Colon cancer killed our grandfather in 1994. The difference is, our grandpa was 69 years old. My cousin Joe is 25. At the moment, I have the feeling it will be some kind of miracle if he lives to be 27. He's not married and has never had any children. Please keep him in your thoughts if you can spare a moment to do so.

I've hardly had any time for reading lately, but I'm attempting to read:

On my commute, I'm currently listening to:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

'Unforgettable' by Scott Simon: Portrait of a Classy Lady

I wanted to read this nonfiction book, subtitled A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime, because Scott Simon wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, Pretty Birds. Set in Sarajevo in the mid-1990s, it follows 17-year-old Bosniak Muslim high school student Irena Zaric as she goes from basketball all-star to sniper. Although the tale is fictional, Simon met women like Irena when he worked as a war correspondent in the former Yugoslavia.

Pretty Birds was a book that, to borrow a phrase from John Green, filled me with a weird evangelical zeal. I don't know whether or not I ever actually convinced anyone to read it, but oh lord, how I did try.

Pretty Birds made me cry. So did Simon's memoir of Patricia, his glamorous, ultra-thoughtful mother in her last days. Patricia had had a bout with lung cancer, which had cost her half of one lung. She was in remission, but then her husband (Simon's second stepfather) noticed she was losing weight without trying. 

She was hospitalized in her hometown of Chicago and put on a respirator. It turns out the therapy that had eliminated her cancer had also weakened her lung-and-a-half to the point that she could no longer breathe on her own. Her ability to breathe was rapidly running out, and there was nothing left for medical science to do. 

Simon, who lives in California, came to Chicago to stay with his mom. He slept in a camper's sleeping bag on her hospital room floor - although he didn't sleep much, because it's hard to sleep in an intensive care unit. Simon's wife and two daughters followed him to Chicago, and his wife was able to spend time with her mother-in-law, but children weren't allowed in the ICU. The girls had to say goodbye to their Grandmere (Simon's wife is from France) secondhand.

Unforgettable started out as a series of Twitter tweets Simon posted while Patricia was in the hospital - typos and all. He used those spur-of-the-moment written thoughts as a jumping off point to tell his mother's life story and also to capture a sense of what it was like to be with her as she knew her clock was running out.

She was a classy lady up to the very end. A single mom for most of Simon's life, she was from an Irish Catholic background. (Her parents were named Francis and Frances.) She married a Jewish comedian and gave up a nascent acting career when she became pregnant with Scott Simon's only sibling, a little girl who did not survive infancy. They divorced as a result of his alcoholism, and he died when Simon was 16. 

Simon is a good son. Death is hard for everyone, but he made an honest effort to really be present with his mother at the end of her life. I'm glad I read this, because I feel it was a privilege to get to know Patricia, even in a small way. She was an amazing person, and I'm certain Simon's daughters will grow up to be better women for having known her influence.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for this review, which represents my own honest opinion, through the Amazon Vine program.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

'Science, Scripture, and Same-Sex Love' by Michael B. Regele

Science, Scripture, and Same-Sex LoveScience, Scripture, and Same-Sex Love by Michael B Regele

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author, Michael B. Regele, is a pastor and the father of a woman who happens to be a lesbian. I couldn't quite follow each and every one of his arguments - I am far from being a Christian Biblical scholar, although I am a veteran of Catholic schools - but I get the main ideas.

This book isn't perfect, but Regele at least understands some of its limitations. For one, he uses "homosexuality" as an umbrella term to include gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other queer people (pansexuals and polysexuals, for example - terms which Regele himself does not use). This focus on a term most commonly associated with gay men does an obvious disservice to the rest of the colors of the rainbow. (It's symptomatic of a society-wide concern with men's experience at the expense of the experiences of women and agender/third-gendered individuals.) But acknowledging the shortcoming is at least a start.

His main conclusion, summed up well in the book's second-to-last chapter, is that there is a Biblical basis for believing and acting as if loving, life-affirming, non-exploitative, long-term relationships between two people of the same sex can be moral. The arguments used in this book are scientific, Biblical, historical (acknowledging that the practice of same-sex sexuality was vastly culturally different in the Apostolic era than in our own), and ethical. Regele writes, " can conclude that the Bible is silent on the forms of committed same-sex relationships that are at the center of the modern discussion."

Did you hear that, Memories Pizza of Walkerton, Indiana? There is no Biblical basis for the belief that it would be morally wrong to cater a same-sex wedding. I'm a bisexual woman married to heterosexual man, and I like pizza - am I allowed to have a pizza or not?

While this book won't necessarily appeal to a general audience that doesn't specifically have a Christian worldview, many Christians will find it engaging food for thought.

I received this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for this review, which represents my own honest opinion.