Thursday, December 29, 2016

America’s Greatest Literary Magazines (Guest Post)

The USA is the leading country in different spheres of life. American mass media are well known throughout the world. For example, American literary magazines attract attention of people from different countries, because they write about contemporary books, trends in literature, and provide readers with interesting facts about famous writers, poets and literary works. Many American literary magazines have perfect reputation and a wide audience. Here is the list of five best magazines:

1. The New Yorker. It is one of the most popular American literary magazines. It was first published in 1925. Generally, this magazine is focused on the culture of New York. However, The New Yorker is well known in other cities outside of this state. It embraces different spheres of culture, including politics and social sphere. This weekly magazine is famous for its literary reviews, illustrations, and topical cartoons.

2. Tin House. It is relatively new literary magazine. Tin House debuted in 1998. This popular magazine is published in Portland and Brooklyn. It contains different sections related to fictions, essays, interviews with popular literary persons, etc. Overall, this magazine is famous for its interesting and extraordinary fictions that helped Tin House win several literary awards.

3. Ploughshares. It was established in 1971. This popular periodical was initially published in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Nowadays, it is published in Boston. Ploughshares is associated with literary reviews and essays written by famous contemporary writers, including Nobel and Pulitzer prizes winners.

4. The Atlantic. This magazine was one of the first literary magazines in the USA. It was established in 1857 in Boston, Massachusetts. Today, The Atlantic is based in Washington, DC. Previously it was associated only with literary issues. Nowadays journalists of this magazine write about cultural, political, health and social issues. For this reason, The Atlantic has a wide audience even outside of the USA.

By Southern Pacific Transportation Company - Harper's Magazine. Posted by mysticknyght to, Public Domain,
5. Harper’s Magazine. This monthly periodical is specialized in art, cultural, political, and literary issues. It was founded in 1850 in New York. It is the second magazine that is published in the USA today. Harper’s Magazine has published a wide range of literary works by famous writers.

About the author: Melisa Marzett is very talented blogger. Her publications are interesting for a wide audience. She has extraordinary writing skills. She works for: Here you can find more articles by Melisa Marzett. Her words have a real power.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 4

Episode 4 finishes us up where we left off in Chapter 5, with Edward and Brigid. Then we follow Brigid home, where she has a confrontation with her mother, Jessamine. In Chapter 7, we meet Brigid's older sister Diana and her potential love interest, Tim Kawaguchi, the police officer-turned-yoga-instructor. (Stick around to find out what's up with that.) 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 3

Note: This episode's going to get a little sexy, so don't listen if you'll be offended by adult content. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 2

In this episode, we finish Chapter 2 of CUT by Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin, then read all of Chapter 3. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan - CUT Episode 1

Hi, I'm Erin O'Riordan, and today I'm going to read you the first episode of CUT by me and Tit Elingtin. Cut is a crime story in the style of Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino or Crash by Paul Haggis. I'm going to read 2 to 3 episodes a week, so make sure you're a subscriber and don't miss an episode.

Please Note: The audio quality of our first Story Time video wasn't great. We uploaded a version with higher-quality audio HERE.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

I lied.

When I finished Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay, I wrote, "And now I have read all of J.K. Rowling's books, except Very Good Lives." But I forgot about the three ebook collections of short stories that were available on Pottermore.

To remedy this situation, I bought all three from Pottermore. On my new laptop, I've been reading through them with my new IceCream Reader. So far, I've finished Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide.

I found out afterward that it's actually the third of the three. So now I'm reading Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies. It was a chapter on one of my favorites, Remus Lupin.

This is a short ebook of short stories, so it didn't take me very long to read. It was very enjoyable. All of the content came originally from Pottermore. It includes some further information about the Hogwarts Express, Hogwarts, and the magical objects used in the Harry Potter books, plus new insights from J.K. Rowling into why she made the writing choices she did.

After reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, I still have more questions about the use of Time Turners, so this book won't answer all of your magical questions. However, it was still an entertaining and informative read.

I never cease to be impressed by Ms. Rowling's knowledge of world folklore.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Girl Power! 'Rad Women Worldwide' by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

"Enheduanna, who lived 4,300 years ago, is the world's oldest known author. Yes, before the ancient Greek poet Sappho, before Confucius, even before The Epic of Gilgamesh, there was Enheduanna: a priestess, princess, poet, and teacher who lived, wrote, and ruled as part of the world's most ancient society. Her story is also the story of the beginning of the written word -- and of civilization as we know it!"

So begins Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History, written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl. How awesome is it for me, a writer, that the first known author in history was also a woman?! She's also a Middle Eastern woman, from ancient Mesopotamia, the ancestor-culture of the Jews and Arabs. We already have so much in common!

The women in this illustrated guide come from all over the world, and from a wide variety of time periods, but they're all extraordinary human beings. From the second young woman in the book, Malala Yousafzai, to the last few pages with Emma Goldman and "The Stateless" (refugee women), these women are all inspiring.

This book would make an excellent gift for a young person in middle school or high school, whether they have an interest in reading about history or need to brush up on their history. The short biographies with large, engaging, and colorful illustrations make this book easy to read through.

Kate Schatz's bio on Penguin Random House is empty, except for this picture of Kate Schatz by Kate Schatz.
But you don't have to be a middle-grader to appreciate this book. It would make a wonderful addition to anyone's nonfiction shelf. It would be a nice gift for a teacher, for them to add to their classroom library.


Published by Ten Speed Press
Sep 27, 2016 | 112 Pages | 7 x 9 | Middle Grade (10 and up) | ISBN 9780399578861

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and How I Found Them

My hardcover copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling arrived on Friday, November 18th. I didn't start reading it right away, because I wanted to see the film in the theater first. (Beware of spoilers if you keep reading below.) 

It has been many years since I last read J.K. Rowling's 2001 book titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of the two volumes she wrote for a charity project as Harry Potter's schoolbooks. I really had very little idea of what to expect when I saw the movie on Thanksgiving, other than a prequel to the Harry Potter series set in the 1920s.

The FBAWTFT film is set in 1926, to be exact.

We knew the main character was going to be Newt Scamander. When Harry Potter read Fantastic Beasts at Hogwarts, he knew Newt Scamander as the author of his textbook. We, the readers, had very little information about Newt - other than that he would be played by Eddie Redmayne. I remember Redmayne best as Marius Pontmercy in Les Miserables 

He is absolutely adorable as Newt Scamander. 

Newt is a wizard visiting New York in the '20s. He has a suitcase with a virtual zoo inside, full of magical creatures. He's on his way to Arizona on a creature-related errand when he's distracted by an escapee: a niffler, a sort of platypus-mole that can't stop itself from hoarding shiny objects. 

The real trouble begins when Newt crosses paths with a Muggle - or, as they're known to American wizards - a No-Maj. He's Jacob Kowalski, a WWI vet who works in a canning factory but aspires to opening his own bakery with his grandmother's recipes. Jacob is played by Dan Fogler. I wasn't familiar with him before this film, but he's adorable too.

Jacob's briefcase of sample pastries gets mixed up with Newt's case of beasts, causing the intervention of an American auror (magical law enforcement officer), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). When Jacob is bitten by a murtlap and takes ill, Tina decides to take him and Newt home for the night. She shares a room with her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol). 

Here, I swoon. American witches! JEWISH American witches! 

American witches and wizards have, rather than a Ministry of Magic, the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America). MACUSA doesn't allow witches and wizards to marry No-Majs, ostensibly so the witches' code of secrecy isn't broken, so they can't be persecuted. But Queenie and Jacob start flirting almost immediately. 

Newt and Tina have even more of a slow build. Newt is more socially awkward than Jacob. He does, however, keep a picture of Leta Lestrange in his creature case. We don't know how Leta is related to Bellatrix Lestrange - but presumably, she is. The actress portraying Leta in Newt's photo is ZoĆ« Kravitz.

This will probably be explored further in the four sequels planned for this film. They're said to be taking us from 1926 all the way up to the end of World War II. Interestingly, Albus Dumbledore defeated Gellert Grindelwald in 1945, according to his chocolate frog card. Young!Albus doesn't appear in the FBAWTFT movie, but he is mentioned. He was Newt's teacher at Hogwarts and single-handedly kept Newt from being expelled over an undisclosed magical creature incident. 

Will Young!Albus appear in the prequel sequels? Fingers crossed for yes.

All of this, plus the amazing creatures, are very good. But wait, there's more! 

No-Majs aren't supposed to know that witches and wizards exist, but some of them suspect. The rough equivalent of Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia is Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). She heads the New Salemers, a religious group seeking to root out witchcraft in the U.S.A. 

Mary Lou has two adopted daughters (one a child, one an adult) and an adopted son, Credence (an adult). Credence is played by Ezra Miller, whom I may remember from such series as Californication. [SPOILERS] Credence's biological mother was a witch, and Credence is both desperately trying to hide his natural magic from Mary Lou, who violently abuses him, and desperate to join the magical world. This is a recipe for disaster. 

Credence serves as an informant for Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a high-ranking auror and Tina's boss. Graves is looking for a magical child with legendary powers. Only the "child" isn't a child, but turns out to be Credence himself!

(We can suppose that Credence is in his early 20s. Ezra Miller is 24.) 

And...MAJOR SPOILER HERE...Graves isn't actually Graves, but Grindelwald in disguise.

But oh! The interactions between Credence and Graves are so flirty. It seems Credence is repressing his sexuality as well as his magic. (Not such a stretch for Ezra Miller, who is pansexual.) And, I think, Grindelwald is using Credence's attraction to Graves for Grindelwald's own evil purposes. 

But can I help it if real!Graves and Credence would make an incredibly sexy couple? I mean...

Not my fan art.
I can't get "Gradence" out of my brain. They have pushed my Sherlock obsession almost completely out of my head. 

And that was already starting to replace Destiel. By the way, as of today I can no longer say I've never watched a single episode of Supernatural. While babysitting my twin nephews this morning, I watched a 3-episode DVD with my 12-year-old niece. I learned God (a.k.a. Chuck) has a sister named Amara, a.k.a. The Darkness. Basically, the Supernatural universe is a duality, as in Zoroastrianism. Dean offered to sacrifice himself so God and the universe wouldn't die, and Castiel offered to go with him. That angel really does love that human. (Maybe in a platonic way. But maybe not.) 

I digress. Still, the movie will not leave my brain alone. I was glad to have the screenplay at home waiting for me. It helped me catch some of the bits I missed in the theater. Especially that part where I had to take my niece to use the restroom. The screenplay was beautifully written, and it made me appreciate how well-acted the movie was. 

And now I have read all of J.K. Rowling's books, except Very Good Lives

Monday, November 21, 2016

'The Power of Broke' by Daymond John and Daniel Paisner #BusinessBooks

From the Publisher


Daymond John has been practicing the power of broke ever since he started selling his home-sewn t-shirts on the streets of Queens. With no funding and a $40 budget, Daymond had to come up with out-of-the box ways to promote his products. Luckily, desperation breeds innovation, and so he hatched an idea for a creative campaign that eventually launched the FUBU brand into a $6 billion dollar global phenomenon.  But it might not have happened if he hadn’t started out broke – with nothing but a heart full of hope and a ferocious drive to succeed by any means possible.

Here, the FUBU founder and star of ABC’s Shark Tank shows that, far from being a liability, broke can actually be your greatest competitive advantage as an entrepreneur. Why?  Because starting a business from broke forces you to think more creatively.  It forces you to use your resources more efficiently. It forces you to connect with your customers more authentically, and market your ideas more imaginatively. It forces you to be true to yourself, stay laser focused on your goals, and come up with those innovative solutions required to make a meaningful mark.

Drawing his own experiences as an entrepreneur and branding consultant, peeks behind-the scenes from the set of Shark Tank, and stories of dozens of other entrepreneurs who have hustled their way to wealth, John shows how we can all leverage the power of broke to phenomenal success. You’ll meet:

·         Steve Aoki, the electronic dance music (EDM) deejay who managed to parlay a series of $100 gigs into becoming a global superstar who has redefined the music industry
·         Gigi Butler, a cleaning lady from Nashville who built cupcake empire on the back of a family  recipe, her maxed out credit cards, and a heaping dose of faith
·         11-year old Shark Tank guest Mo Bridges who stitched together a winning clothing line with just his grandma’s sewing machine, a stash of loose fabric, and his unique sartorial flair

When your back is up against the wall, your bank account is empty, and creativity and passion are the only resources you can afford, success is your only option.  Here you’ll learn how to tap into that Power of Broke to scrape, hustle, and dream your way to the top.

My Review:

This book was about as good as I expected it to be. Like many business books, it's light reading without any earth-shattering new revelations in it. Daymond John is an interesting guy - he understands both the creative side and the business side of the fashion industry - and he has an interesting life story. Some of the people he profiles in this book alongside himself are interesting - some of them did not interest me much at all.

If you're looking for a small dose of business inspiration and you have a few hours to kill, then you may want to read this book. Otherwise, you can probably just watch reruns of Shark Tank.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, October 31, 2016

'Mycroft Holmes:' Holmesian Fiction From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Mycroft HolmesMycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fun fact about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: While he was playing basketball at UCLA, he was also double-majoring in English and history. He read his first Sherlock Holmes story as a boy, and he was an avid reader of the detective stories as a young adult.

Sherlock appears in this novel, but he's a relatively minor character. The book is set in 1870, when Sherlock is approximately 16 or 17 years old. Our main character is Sherlock's 23-year-old brother Mycroft. Canonically, we know little about Mycroft other than that he is older and smarter than Sherlock, and that he holds a fairly important position in the British government. If you're familiar with the Guy Ritchie films, you may picture him as Stephen Fry. If the BBC Sherlock series is your frame of reference, your Mycroft is the decidedly ginger Mark Gatiss. If Elementary, then Rhys Ifans, the blond Welsh actor perhaps best known to American audiences as Luna Lovegood's dad in the Harry Potter movies. Abdul-Jabbar's Mycroft is blond, blue-eyed, pale, and quintessentially English.

Every Holmes must have his Watson, and Mycroft's "Watson" is Cyrus Douglas, who was born in Trinidad and is of African descent, although he has been living in England for many years. Douglas is in his forties, and he serves as both best friend and mentor to the young Mycroft. Mycroft is still serving in his first governmental post, secretary to the Secretary of State for War.

The events of this novel put Mycroft on his path from humble assistant to one of Queen Victoria's faves.

It's a bittersweet mystery and action/adventure story because it has a lot to do with slavery and has a much higher body count than the average Sherlock Holmes tale. When we meet Cyrus Douglas as the owner of a London tobacconist's, he is unmarried, but he did have a wife and child at one point, and what happened to them gives him a Backstory of Infinite Sadness. Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse continue to heap miseries upon him...that's probably all I can say without spoiling too much. Suffice it to say, history is sad, and historical fiction leads to heartbreak.

At the beginning of the tale, we meet Mycroft's adorable Trinidadian (but Caucasian) fiancee, Georgiana Sutton. The daughter of a sugar planter, Ms. Sutton is a schoolteacher and a university student studying in London. When I first heard or read that Mycroft was going to have a Trinidadian fiancee in the novel, I assumed she'd be a Black woman. I was a little disappointed that she was a blond, blue-eyed white girl. But Georgiana also isn't as innocent as she seems, so perhaps it's best left the way it is.

Sherlock has no interest in women in this novel. It's not clear why. Is he a budding misogynist, asexual, or perhaps interested in boys? We don't know. By the end of the novel, Mycroft has learned a harsh lesson about love. Will he ever love again? Or is he on his way to becoming the cynical stale cinnamon roll of the BBC series, who quoth, "All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock"?

The action keeps this story moving quickly, so for me, it was a pretty fast-paced read. And now I have to wait for March 14, 2017, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's graphic novel, Mycroft Holmes: The Apocalypse Handbook, comes out.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Haul-o-Ween

My husband and I were in Chicago on October 27th-29th. Before we left, I wanted to pay another visit to Selected Works, the used bookstore in The Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue. You may remember Selected Works from this 2012 blog post:

That Time I Tried Out for Jeopardy!

In 2012, I lugged the ponderous tome The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy on the train, and was stuck carrying it for the rest of the trip. This time, I brought two books which, even taken together, were still smaller: Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse, and The Last Days of Magic, the Doctor Strange graphic novel. And we shipped our dirty laundry et al, home in a U.P.S. box so we didn't have to schlep it everywhere.

Today I learned the bookstore cat's name. It is Hodge. This is Hodge examining one of the books I intended to purchase.

I said in 2012 that I thought he was a Russian blue, but now I don't think he is. I think he's just gray, like my dad's cat Bucky.

In 2012, I found a neat old paperback about the film adaptations of Ernest Hemingway's short stories. I tried to find more Hemingway nonfiction, but I didn't see anything that interested me. Instead, I found these four things.

I'm already familiar with "The Wasp in a Wig" thanks to Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice books (I own two different editions). I still like to own as many Lewis Carroll volumes as possible.

(Also, I may have ordered myself a pair of Alice in Wonderland socks while I was buying my mother's birthday present from Out of Print Clothing today.)

As we learned from the Willie Lynch Speech incident, there are a good deal of quotes out there in circulation that were never actually uttered. Often, the authors contend, these false quotes have polemic purposes. Some of these false quotes drive the conspiracy culture of today. This book was published in 1989, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) many of these fake quotes are still being quoted today by people who have no idea they were wrongly attributed, taken far out of context, or made up of pure bullshittery. It's rather fascinating.

I apologize for the low-res picture. It's from Goodreads.
I may have caught Pericles: Prince of Tyre, The Tempest, and Richard III this year, but there is still Shakespeare out there for me to conquer. I'll never reach Jillian Keenan's level, but this should be a good basic reference book.

It may seem that I indulged myself quite a bit in the bookshop. I did. We did a lot of indulging when we weren't visiting the organ transplant team at Northwestern University hospital, though. We saw Blue Man Group and went to the AMC Dine-In Theatre, where we got to eat a full meal, including cocktails, while watching the film version of Dan Brown's Inferno. We didn't get to see the ending of Inferno, unfortunately, because of a very rude lady, but that will have to be a story for another day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Jillian Keenan's Memoir 'Sex With Shakespeare'

Sex With Shakespeare: Here's Much to Do With Pain, But More With Love

I knew from the moment I laid eyes on the title of this book that I had to know more. When I spotted it on the autobiographies shelf at my local Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to buy a copy.

The author, Jillian Keenan, is a spanking fetishist. I am not. Despite the fact that I myself am not a part of the spanking sub-subculture of the BDSM subculture, I found that I felt a tremendous amount of sympathy with the author as she told her story.

This is, after all, a love story. All love stories are relatable, to some extent, to anyone who's ever been in love.

Each chapter is themed around a particular Shakespearean work. The first chapter centers on my favorite of the Bard's comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Here Keenan addresses a topic also brought up by E.T. Malinowski in her romance novel A Midsummer Dream: Are Demetrius and Helena ever really in love?

Keenan thinks they are, as I do. But she adds an interesting new spin. She contends that when Helena says:

"I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you:
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
What worser place can I beg in your love,--
And yet a place of high respect with me,--
Than to be used as you use your dog?"

...she is being literal. She wants Demetrius to treat her like his dog. In Helena, Keenan sees a kindred soul, a woman whose sexuality is incomplete, virtually nonexistent, without her submissive, masochistic side being expressed. Keenan sees Helena as a woman embracing her emerging kink, while Demetrius is still coming to terms with his Dominant/sadist tendencies. Genuinely afraid he will hurt Helena, Demetrius turns his attentions to the woman he perceives as the safe, vanilla choice: Hermia.

Kinky headcanon accepted. Since I can't seem to stop crushing on Christian Bale as Demetrius, I want the interpretation that puts Demetrius in the most sympathetic light.
The second chapter deals with a character I find much less likeable: Caliban from The Tempest. Keenan has a special relationship with Caliban, but I can't get over the fact that he admits he tried to rape Miranda. Keenan doesn't excuse that, but she does remind us that Shakespeare was a humanist and even he, in the authorial voice, allows mercy for Caliban in the end.

There are a few plays mentioned in this memoir that I haven't seen or read yet: Twelfth Night, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, and As You Like It. By and large, though, all the characters with whom Keenan has a series of imagination conversations that help her find her way are all familiar, beloved characters to me.

Now, Keenan has a master's degree in literature that focused on Shakespeare and is recognized as an expert. Productions call her in when they have questions about interpretation of the text. I'm an amateur fan who fell in love with my fifth grade teacher cast me as Peter Quince. I don't know nearly as much about Shakespeare as Keenan does, but as a fellow fangirl, I can certainly appreciate her enthusiasm for the subject.

She writes with remarkable honesty and openness about matters both deeply personal and professional, and I felt privileged to accompany her on this inward journey. I may not share the specifics of her sexual orientation (and she does call spanking fetishism her orientation - in the more conventional sense of the term, she is bisexual, like me - and like Shakespeare, probably), but through this book, I have new insight into the experience.

One quibble: Keenan mentions that in Shakespeare's time, the liver and not the heart was considered to be the seat of love. However, it seems to me that I have seen references within Shakespeare's plays to the heart as the seat of love. Did she mean that the liver was considered to be the seat of lust?

Either way, I really, really enjoyed reading this memoir.

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

#BookReview: 'The Invention of Wings' by Sue Monk Kidd

SPOILER ALERT: I'm going to spoil the ending!

I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" this book, since it made me sad and angry more than anything. For one thing, the Black men in this novel are treated brutally, and that would be bad enough if it were only historical, but obviously it's something that's a huge problem in the U.S. right now, in 2016.

That the Black women are also treated brutally is made even more unpalatable by the fact that our three main protagonists, Hetty, Charlotte, and Sky, are all such brilliant, likable women. Charlotte and Hetty are not only deeply intelligent, but also brilliant textile artists, as befits women of the Fon (also called Dahomey) people, who are known for their textile arts.

I applaud the real-life Sarah Grimke for speaking out against slavery and for the cracks she made in the glass ceiling. I really do. But the fictional version of Sarah comes across as a mediocre-to-bad abolitionist, since she can't even save her alleged "friend" from her sadist of a sister, Mary, until Hetty is 45 years old. It seems as if this novel is praising an ineffectual, if well-meaning, white woman while a brilliant Black woman languishes in captivity.

It's not exactly fair to judge women in the early Victorian period by 21st century standards, I know. But I can't really buy the story of Hetty and Sarah's supposedly deep and heartfelt friendship if Sarah is barely going to raise her finger to help her friend get free.

This book is really well-written and spellbinding, but with all the backlash against feminism and against the human rights of African-Americans that we deal with on a daily basis now, it's hard not to be angry that the wounds of the past have been festering for the last 200+ years. It's to Sue Monk Kidd's credit that she makes it so difficult to divorce fiction from reality, but my feelings are the way they are.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Erin Watches Movies

In March, I read The Big Short, and over the past weekend, I finally watched the movie version on Netflix. 

It’s a very good film. Although it's no secret I’m a big Christian Bale fan, and I really enjoyed his performance as Dr. Michael Burry, I thought Steve Carell’s performance was the best. (I did appreciate how Bale was framed so that the left side of his face was de-emphasized to help create the illusion that he had a glass eye, like the real Michael Burry. Good cinnamon tography.)

I didn’t realize it while I was watching it, but later when Tit Elingtin watched the movie at my suggestion, I noticed Tracy Letts in the cast list. As you may recall, I heard his name in “HardcoverBound 2,” first thought he was a female and probably quite feminist playwright, and then thought to associate him with the films Bug and August: Osage County

Tracy Letts has a small role in The Big Short. It makes sense. He’s a theatre kid, writing plays and acting in movies. Also, his mother was the writer Billie Letts, who wrote Where the Heart Is. It was turned into a movie starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd. (I saw it in the movie theater with my friend Jamie in 2000.) Judd, who was in Bug, has thus appeared in films by two different Lettses. 

I didn't read this.
But I digress. In trying to find out a little more about Letts’ acting career, I found upon a photo of Letts with Rebecca Hall and Michael C. Hall (no relation to one another). The Halls and Letts are involved in a film called Christine, scheduled to be released in October (next month).

I recently saw Michael C. Hall in Kill Your Darlings, the drama in which Daniel Radcliffe played Allen Ginsberg. I loved that movie. David Cross was adorable as Ginsberg’s poet father, Dane DeHaan* is dreamy even though Lucien Carr was a shit boyfriend to Allen (repressed much?), and Radcliffe is now my second-favorite movie Ginsberg after James Franco. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Norman Reedus/Keifer Sutherland/Courtney Love film Beat, with my sweet sweet baby Kyle Secor as David Kammerer, Carr’s creepy stalker. The Kammerer character in KYD is much better written and sympathetic, and Hall does an excellent job playing him.

Rebecca Hall, of course, played the long-suffering wife of Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) in The Prestige. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I’m not the only fan. The Simpsons had its season premiere this past weekend. Mr. Burns re-instated a vaudeville-like stage show like he remembered from his childhood, including a magic act performed by twins Sherri and Terri that referenced The Prestige.

I DID read Christopher Priest's novel - after I saw the movie
I’ve also been watching Rebecca Hall as Edwardian narcissist Sylvia Tietjens, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, in Parade’s End. She will play the title character in Christine.

Christine is Christine Chubbuck, a real person whom I read about in He Who Shall Remain Shameless

Sylvia Tietjens isn’t a very sympathetic character. One tends to feel more sympathy for husband Christopher, who is desperately in love with spunky suffragist Ms. Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens, a young Australian who played Myrtle Wilson’s sister in The Great Gatsby), but too old-fashioned to divorce Sylvia. I'm on episode 2 of the 4-part miniseries, and so far the most scandalous thing Christopher and Valentine have done is get lost in the fog and stay out together all night…sitting next to each other. Just sitting, physical contact at an absolute minimum. It’s like the opposite of Jane Eyre. Where Edward Fairfax Rochester was not concerned enough about pursuing the woman he loved while in a bad marriage, Christopher Tietjens was probably too concerned. Lots of unresolved longing and surreptitious eye contact ensue.

Christine Chubbuck, conversely, is a very sympathetic character. Life dealt her a hand so much worse than she deserved. Her severe depression cost her her life. Live on television. We can't see the actual footage, thank Something, but we will see a dramatized version. 

*I saw him in the trailer for Tulip Fever while waiting for Love and Friendship (a Jane Austen adaptation) to start in the movie theater. I want to see that. Christine might be too sad, even though I'm sure Rebecca Hall's acting will be great. Let's see Tulip Fever instead. As of this writing, its release is planned for February 2017. 

No, I did not read this book.

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Hollywood Classics Title Index to All Movies Reviewed in Books 1 - 24 by John Howard Reid. $0.99 from
Another essential book for a film buff's library, this one is packed with information and reviews. Some of the entries are quite extensive. JHR provides all the information you need, including complete cast and production staff. I find JHR's information invaluable. I like to read not only who acted in a movie, but who made it, both top-billed and lesser mortals. -- Ross Adams in DRESS CIRCLE mag.

Monday, September 12, 2016

'The Lunatic, The Lover, and The Poet' by Myrlin A. Hermes

Let’s talk about The Lunatic, The Lover, and The Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes, because this book blew my mind. Be warned there may be SPOILERS in this post.

I learned about it from this post.

I couldn’t get it out of my head. Books that have well-rounded bisexual characters are few and far between anyway, and this novel’s locating its 2011 Lambda Literary Award-winning bisexual character within an exceedingly thorough re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet made this a must-have inside my greedy little brain.

Hermes gives us a love triangle between Hamlet, Horatio, and her original character Adriane, Baroness of Maricourt. It’s not a love vee, in which Hamlet and Horatio are each separately in love with Adriane. Horatio is in love with Hamlet, Hamlet is in love with Horatio, Horatio is also in love with Adriane, and Adriane is using them both in an intricate chess game for her own literary and personal ends.

Adriane. Oh, Adriane. She’s a difficult woman, and she tries extremely hard to turn Hamlet and Horatio against each other (at the same time she’s trying to make their love immortal in poetry), but you can’t end up hating her. Like Lady Macbeth before her, she has to do what a woman has to do for her ambition’s sake. Unlike Lady Macbeth, she won’t have to live to regret it, and she won’t be punished by the author for it.

Recognizable lines from Macbeth are woven into the dialogue and narration of this novel, as are lines from a number of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets and other plays. Sometimes they’re consciously created by the characters as they’re creating art within the context of the novel, and sometimes they come up in more organic ways from the plot. Sometimes Shakespeare feeds Myrlin A. Hermes a straight line and she turns it into a dirty joke, in the same way that Shakespeare plays with his characters.

That’s some of the beauty and brilliance of Hermes’ writing. Although it’s written in prose, the whole thing feels like poetry in blank verse. This is astounding work.

Ophelia still gets the short end of the stick, alas.* She doesn’t drown, and she does live long enough to marry Hamlet and become Denmark’s queen. She even produces an heir, although the little boy dies from an accidental wound. It’s implied he may have hemophilia, which of course is something that historically affected the real royal houses of Europe, after too many centuries of intermarriage between cousins.

Incest is a creeping theme throughout the novel. Hamlet is rumored to have an incestuous relationship with his own mother, although Hermes never gives the reader any reason to believe this is true. Gertrude is certainly unsure which brother is Hamlet’s biological father – Hamlet the Elder or Claudius – although this doesn’t make any genetic difference, since they’re identical twins. The cheeky undertaker at the end of the novel tells Horatio, in unnecessarily vague terms, that the king is marrying his sister – what he means is that King Claudius is marrying his sister-in-law.

Yet it may actually be the case when Hamlet marries Ophelia that he is marrying his own half-sister. A small portion of this novel is told by Polonius talking to Laertes. Polonius – whose name literally means that he is a Polish guy – tells his son that he, Polonius, was a minor prince in his native land, although he was the youngest son who was never going to inherit any kind of throne. When Hamlet the Elder conquered Poland, not only did his men kill all of Polonius’s older brothers on the battlefield, but Hamlet the Elder also took Polonius’s wife, Aphelia. Polonius and Aphelia were married but, because she was still a young teenager, their marriage wasn’t consummated. Aphelia became Hamlet’s concubine, and it’s possible Laertes and his sister Ophelia are both Hamlet the Elder’s biological children.

Hamlet the Younger marrying his bio sister? Sounds like an acting job for Benedict Cumberbatch, who has both played Hamlet on stage and, as a character in the film version of August: Osage County, has unknowingly had a sexual affair with probable his half sister. (And not even in a bad way. Ivy and Little Charles and two of the only humane characters in that grim Tracy Letts play. ‘Tis pity they are whores*.)

Someday I’ll discover why Letts keeps setting his plays in the Plains States, which he is from and seems to hate.

Hamlet isn’t my favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies – I understand and enjoy Macbeth better. (I recently saw the 2015 film adaptation with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. I thought she was gorgeous and brilliant as Lady Macbeth, but I didn’t want Duncan to die, not only because he doesn’t deserve it but also because he was David Thewlis, the actor who played Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter movies. I still have issues with Remus and Tonks’ sad deaths.) That said, I found myself heavily invested in the romantic relationship between Hamlet and Horatio. I’m glad they got to be together long after Ophelia’s unprocessed grief over her child’s death sent her to a nunnery for long-term mental health care.
At first Horatio is conflicted about his own bisexuality. He’s wildly attracted to Hamlet when Hamlet dresses as a female character in the play Horatio has written, but rejects Hamlet’s amorous advances out of deference to his upbringing in the church, even though Horatio is not a religious man. Later, when he believes Hamlet has drugged them both with belladonna and intends to kill them both, sex becomes a lifeline for them. Horatio eventually has to admit he loves Adriane physically, but the lifelong commitment of his heart he reserves exclusively for the Danish prince. Lady Adriane is Horatio’s first love, but Hamlet is his true love. Hamlet, surprisingly (for he is infamously fickle with Ophelia, including in this version), reciprocates the depth of Horatio’s feeling.

Get that: They are two bisexual men who commit themselves to each other, and neither one of them has to be killed off violently and tragically. See, TV? Writers can do that. It’s possible to let same-sex lovers grow old together and die of natural causes.

This is a beautiful, poetic, and sexy book, with complicated characters we think we know exposed from entirely new angles.

The titular allusion, by the way, is to a line spoken by Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

*That’s supposed to be remedied in a film starring the English actress Daisy Ridley, who stars in the most recently released Star Wars film.

*I'm not really judging them. That’s me showing off that I know the plot of the 17th-century John Ford play ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore includes a brother-sister pair who commit intentional incest. In August: Osage County, only Ivy knows her cousin is probably also her brother.

John Ford is probably not related to Ford Madox Ford, the English poet, novelist, and critic who wrote Parade’s End, a novel series turned into a Downton Abbey-esque drama for British television. The protagonist, Christopher (“Chrissie”) Tietjans, marries a monumentally inconsiderate woman who is pregnant with a child that may or may not be his, then falls in love with a saucy Women’s Suffragist. It’s an Edwardian disaster and possibly semi-autobiographical. I’ve been watching it in small doses.

Because Benedict Cumberbatch.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

'A Midsummer Dream' For Late Summer (M/M Romance)

A Midsummer DreamA Midsummer Dream by E.T. Malinowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a short book and a quick read, so I finished it in an afternoon. I love everything to do with my favorite Shakespeare comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream. I love romance novels in all the genres, with all the possible gender combinations, and I especially like contemporaries. It was a no-brainer that I had to read this one.

I was not disappointed. The writing wasn't perfect, but I really didn't care, because I was heavily invested in the characters. I always like the heroes who are a little bit damaged, and Arik Blackbourne is a classic example of this. He has a tragic past. He's estranged from his sister and niece. He harbors a longstanding crush on a fellow actor who barely knows he exists.

Donovan Montgomery is that actor, and he's a little clueless. He needs to work on his communication skills. But as he performs the role of Demetrius, opposite Arik's gender-swapped Helena ("Helenus"), Donovan is increasingly smitten. And this seems increasingly familiar...

Like Shakespeare's play, this gripping romance proceeds, with much confusion, toward a happily-ever-after ending. The involvement of fairy royalty and their retinue is not even required.

The novella does raise an interesting Shakespearean question, though: At the end of the original play, are Demetrius and Helena really in love? Or is she in love with a guy who's still stuck under a fairy love spell, but deep down he's not even interested in her anymore?

I tend to think that at the end of the wedding scene, when Oberon bestows his blessing upon the marital beds of the three couples, he's also undoing all of his mischievous magic, and at this point, Helena and Demetrius are truly in love. Christian Bale and Calista Flockhart look pretty lovey-dovey at the end of the 1999 movie (which I saw in the theater when it came out, because that's the kind of literature geek I am). But I suppose the Shakespeareans are welcome to debate that point.

I checked this e-book out from the library via I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Death in Venice" #ebook Review

Death in VeniceDeath in Venice by Thomas Mann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first heard of Thomas Mann in a literary calendar, via a quote from his son-in-law, W.H. Auden: "Who's the most boring German writer? My father-in-law."

In a 2012 episode of The Simpsons (as I wrote about here), Bart's fourth grade class is about to read "Death in Venice" with their substitute teacher, Waylon Smithers. This was what caused me to wonder what the short story was about. I read about "Death in Venice" years ago, but I never actually got around to reading it until now.

It's really inappropriate for average fourth graders; the dense prose is difficult even for adults. According to the end notes, it's quite a challenge to translate from the German.

I enjoyed this highly symbolic and sensually detailed sketch of the last days of a highly honored German literary figure, largely based on Mann himself. Gustav is a Capital-A Artist, and his last (and, perhaps, greatest) artistic act is a dance of chaste but erotically charged poetic interaction with the 14-year-old son of an aristocratic Polish family. (In my earlier post, I referred to Tadzio as "an Italian boy." I misspoke.)

Tadzio is physically perfect, like a statue of antiquity, and Gustav philosophizes grandly about whether his swiftly-kindling love for the boy makes him more or less of an Artist, whether it makes him moral or immoral. As the title gives away, the relationship - never consummated with anything more intimate than eye contact - ultimately takes Gustav's life.

This is hardly a surprise, since foreshadowings of death have stalked Gustav at every turn of the Venetian canals. Even the coffin-black gondolas warn him that Venice is a tomb. The hush-hush cholera epidemic that stalks the city may or may not directly contribute to Gustav being found slumped in the beach chair where he had settled to watch Tadzio play on a sand bar. Truly, Gustav died for love. The prospect of Tadzio leaving his life and returning to Poland made Gustav's continued existence in the world unbearable.

I didn't get quite all of the allusions to the philosophical circle of Socrates or of the Greek mythological stories, although the broad strokes are not too hard to infer from context. Fortunately, the Dover Thrift Edition explains these references in the end notes.

I checked this ebook out of the library at I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August Mini Book Reviews

The Last Sherlock Holmes StoryThe Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is so suspenseful, it caused me some degree of anxiety. It was worth it. This story is quite the opposite of boring; it is a thrilling tale, well told. John Watson is somewhat unreliable as a narrator, but not nearly as unreliable as...he...could be. (That's about all I can say without spoiling the whole thing.) It's fascinating and horrifying and I'm glad it's non-canonical.

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

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


William E. Dodd never set out to be an ambassador, yet he ended up representing the U.S. in Hitler's Germany from 1933 to 1937. He tried to warn America of the horrors to come, but very few listened to him.

I have one remaining question: What happened to Dodd's unfinished history of the Southern U.S., titled 'The Old South?' I hope someone preserved it somewhere, even though it was nowhere near to being finished.

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

Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's LeadersDead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders by Brady Carlson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is really fun if you like U.S. history and presidential trivia. Who knew that Teddy Roosevelt's oldest daughter Alice had a pet garter snake named Emily Spinach? Or that Franklin Pierce, when he didn't get re-elected, responded with "The only thing left to do is get drunk?" I do, now.

My only caveat is that if you have a very weak stomach as concerns the remains of the dead, there are a few passages that may make you wince. On the whole, though, this fascinating slice of Americana is more about the presidents' lives than their deaths.

I have been to Mount Rushmore Rapid City, South Dakota, but not since 1989. I never saw the presidential statues. Now I'll have to go back one of these days. Put it on my bucket list.

I checked this digital audio book out through and was not obligated in any way to review it.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Sunday, August 7, 2016

#CursedChild No-Spoiler Mini Review

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So it's not exactly an 8th Harry Potter book - but so what? We still get a deep dive into Harry and Ginny's married life and the next generation, focusing on the middle Weasley-Potter child, Scorpius Malfoy (son of Draco and his wife Astoria Greengrass), and, to a lesser extent, Rose Granger-Weasley.

Remember when J.K. Rowling said she wished she hadn't paired Ron and Hermione? Well, she seems to have jettisoned that thought, because clearly, Romione is meant to be in every alternative universe.

And maybe Rainbow Rowell ruined me on this, but I can't help but think Scorpius's crush on Rose is only temporary, and that eventually, Scorpius and Albus end up together. I kept waiting for them to kiss. But hey, I won't rush them. Let them figure it out in their own time.

Major Voldemort bombshell? Oh, yes! Major, major, major. I won't spoil it.

This play gave me a lot of good feelings, and some bad ones. (There's mention of Molly Weasley, but not Arthur. Jo, did you kill Arthur?) It's well worth the read, since we can't all get to London's West End. Just read it.

Look, there it is on my night stand. Photo by me.
I pre-ordered this book from I purchased it with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Tribute in Books to My Late Grandmother

As you may recall from my previous post, it hasn't been the happiest, most carefree of summers for me and my family. I wrote that post on June 22. On June 25, my husband had to take me to the emergency room. I had a 103-degree (Fahrenheit) fever. It was a kidney infection.

My 26-year-old cousin died of pancreatic cancer. Less than 3 weeks later, I was in the hospital with an inflamed right kidney and sepsis. With antibiotics and a few days of rest,  I got better. Things were starting to look up.

Then, on Sunday, July 3 - in the middle of the 4-day weekend, which should have been a welcome stress reliever - my grandma, Gloria Elaine Stevenson ("Irish Granny"), started having seizures. She ended up in the same hospice care center where my cousin Joe died, in the room right across the hall from where he breathed his last. She was in a medically-induced coma, but I spent time with her on the afternoons of the 6th,7th, and 8th.

She passed away at 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, July 9th, without ever having regained consciousness. She was my last surviving grandparent. Born March 19, 1934, she was 82 years old.

If you read the blog, you might recall I'd been in the habit of taking Irish Granny's TBR list to the local library's used book sale and picking up books for her. I now inherit her books, most of which I purchased from the library.

Here are a few of them, sitting in the window seat of my home library. On the bottom are her medical reference book (we used to use those before WebMD) and a Danielle Steel. I personally have never been interested in Danielle Steel. For me, the best prospect is Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. It's a crime thriller marketed to fans of Gone Girl.

Inside one of her Laura Lippman paperbacks, I found these bestseller list clippings from the local newspaper. This is how she used to decide what to read next. The fiction bestseller on the first list is End of Watch by Stephen King. On the middle list, Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts is #1, and the blacked-out books are Foreign Agent by Brad Thor and Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand. Those were the two she wanted to read. She liked a combination of thrillers and literary fiction. On the third list, the #1 book is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Its film adaptation is currently in theaters, starring Sam Claflin as the doomed romantic hero.

Harlen Coben, James Patterson, and Laura Lippman were some of her favorite authors She had only discovered Lippman recently, within the past year.

More bestseller lists fell out of another Laura Lippman. On the first one, Harlen Coben's Fool Me Once is #1. (Danielle Steel is at #5 with Property of a Noblewoman.) The second also lists Fool Me Once as the #1, but Steel has moved up to #3. The third one also has Me Before You at #1.

Another bit of ephemera, one that she was probably using as a bookmark, was this Christmas tag from 2015.

I don't know if she ever read The Bourbon Kings, but if she did, she would have discovered one of the favorite authors of me and my mom. It's one of the few J.R. Ward novels I haven't gotten to yet. (The last one I finished was The Beast, which I did not enjoy as much as Blood Kiss.)

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware wasn't on her list. I picked it out for myself, but I thought she might enjoy it, too. I heard the author (who is English) discussing her book on NPR one morning while commuting. It's a mystery novel. I don't know if Irish Granny read it or not.

This last bit of ephemera came out of the James Patterson. I don't think it came from my grandma, but from a person who checked the book out before this particular copy was withdrawn and sold by the library. This person has $5.25 worth of library fines. I don't think my grandma ever owed the library any money in her life.

That may not be the end of the books coming my way from the late Irish Granny's house. There's still a lot of processing to do, physically and emotionally. Two deaths in the family in a space of 31 days have caused us all grief and stress. We are still accepting donations of hugs and warm beverages.

The good news is that my brother and his wife will have newborn twins in October. We can't replace Joe and Gloria, but we sure will be ready to welcome Henry and Andrew. Mentally, I'm already ready for summer to end and autumn to begin. I feel like the change of season will bring in a change of emotions. Things are tough all around this summer. I think I finally understand the words of the Green Day song: "Wake me up when September ends."