Monday, January 30, 2017

#Thriller Review: 'The Chemist' by Stephenie Meyer

The ChemistThe Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the best book Stephenie Meyer has written so far. I really enjoyed the Twilight series, and I liked most of The Host (although I thought it was quite a bit longer than it needed to be). I know her writing isn't perfect (no one's is), but she is still getting better.

For me, the best thing about Stephenie Meyer's writing is the way she understands those deep moments of connection between two human beings. In the Twilight books, she made me recall the experience of being in love for the first time as a teenager. In The Host, she drew a beautiful portrait of a connection that crossed worlds and species in the romance between Ian and Wanderer.

In this book, the character we generally know as Alex (not her real name) doesn't have any close attachments to anyone in her life. She learns to, through a difficult and painful process. Daniel starts out as the war criminal she's chosen - through an unlikely set of circumstances - to torture for information.

Oh yes, Alex is a difficult women. Meyer doesn't let us go easy on her or warm up to her quickly, but that's okay. This is a suspense novel taking place in the world of elite and highly-trained agents. Elite agents aren't people-people, and Alex is no exception. Getting us to invest emotionally in these characters is difficult, because they are difficult and complex characters.

Meyer pulls it off. Near the end, the unthinkable happens, and it's a heart-wrenching moment.

In the meantime, this is an absolute page-turner. Compared to the slow build of The Host, this book reads lightning-quick. Alex's life is in constant danger, and as a reader I constantly had to know what she was going to do next.

What Meyer can still improve upon is the way she writes relationships between women. This improves a bit toward the end of the novel, when she part-way humanizes a character who had previously been portrayed as Alex's rival. Still, there's the rivalry and the implication that the woman's beauty and sexuality are somehow negatives. Alex also has a few judgmental moments directed at random strangers. But the overall quality of Meyer's writing is moving in the right direction.

Even if you're not necessarily a fan of Meyer based on her previous books, if you're a devourer of suspense and willing to suspend some disbelief at the more unlikely aspects of thriller novels, you should find this enjoyable.

FYI, this may be a tough read if you love dogs. There are dogs, and those dogs are in peril.

I purchased this hardcover book at my local Barnes and Noble. I was not obligated in any way to review it.

The Host book review

The Host movie review

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 13

** Adults Only. ** In this episode, Diana wants Tim to spend the night with her, but Brigid interrupts their tryst with a crisis of her own making.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 12

Brigid and Fred share a romantic moment when Fred attempts to climb in through Brigid's bedroom window. A new challenge comes between them, though. Diana and Tim go on their third date. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 11

In Episode 11, the Halloween bonfire comes to a close. Tim and Diana's date is interrupted when he runs into his former partner, and she learns some surprising new stories about him. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

'Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies' by J.K. Rowling

I started reading this short book in December. It took me a while to get back to reading this one because I knew the Remus Lupin chapter was going to be a heartbreaker. It is. So is the back story of Professor Minerva McGonagall, who lost both of the loves of her life. She's also more badass than we realized.

J.K. Rowling named Minerva McGonagall after the Roman goddess of wisdom + William Topaz McGonagall, remembered for being a terrible Victorian poet. He wrote a terrible poem about the Tay Bridge Disaster, which I knew about from  Scientific Blunders: A Brief History of How Wrong Scientists Can Sometimes Be by Robert M. Youngson. It's a book I have read and enjoyed for many years.

H, H + DH was kind of a sad book, but I enjoyed it because it gave us some more back story of some of our favorite characters. The Sybill Trelawney chapter was a little short, and it didn't have a lot of new information. But I've now read 2 of the 3 Pottermore story collections, and I'm excited to read the third one.

Here is my review of Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide.

Here is a review from Reading Lark.

I purchased this book on Pottermore and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 10

Episode 10 brings us to the story of Tim's police-involved shooting. I wrote this episode, and even I find it upsetting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 9

Episode 9 presents a historical flashback in the tale of Brigid and Diana's ancestor, An. Born in a small Chinese farming village around 1880, An was tricked into leaving her home as a teenager, and ended her life in the notorious role of pirate. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 8

Barbara Jean confronts Edward about the rumors she's heard about him as the congregation prepares to protest the annual Halloween bonfire.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 7

Episode 7 opens with an intimate encounter between Fred and Brigid. Darius prepares to work security at the Halloween bonfire, and Barbara Jean reconsiders her future with Edward.

Monday, January 9, 2017

#Nonfiction Review: 'Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art' by Madeleine L'Engle

This book will be useful and instructive to all kinds of artists, from writers to visual artists to theater performers to musicians. Although it does discuss faith, and particularly Madeleine L'Engle's Christian faith, faith is not necessary to read and get something positive out of this book.

I'm a writer who wouldn't consider herself a Christian, although I was raised in the Roman Catholic church and have attended the Episcopal church as an adult. Madeleine L'Engle states in this book that she likes to call herself Christian and not particular denomination. However, she does mention the Book of Common Prayer, and I know from her other writings that the church she attended was also Episcopal. (For those of you outside the U.S., that's our version of the Anglican Church/Church of England. We split from the Crown during the American Revolution, but we're still part of the Anglican Communion.) Personally, I also find a lot of beauty and meaning in the Book of Common Prayer, but if you don't, that doesn't mean you won't enjoy this book.

Like many readers, I came to know of Madeleine L'Engle through reading A Wrinkle in Time as a child. I carried on with some of the sequels much more recently, and I found them to be quite wonderful too. I have enough appreciation for L'Engle as an artist to understand that she knows quite a bit about art and how art is done.

That's not to say that I entirely agree with everything she writes in this book. I find her lecture on why it's perfectly okay to use "man" to mean "human being" to be terribly old-fashioned and anti-feminist. No, Ms. L'Engle, we don't want the male gender to be the "default" setting for human being, thus reinforcing the idea that man is human and woman is "other." I don't know if she ever read Germaine Greer or Simone de Beauvoir, but she should have.

I will give her a little bit of leeway since she originally wrote this in 1980. Sadly, L'Engle passed away in 2007, so there's no possibility of asking her now.

Overall, though, this book gave me much more to love than to quarrel with. It serves as an antidote to the kind of misplaced piety that would try to separate artists from our art and to squeeze art into too-tiny, too-narrow boxes it no longer wishes to fit inside.

I received this book from in exchange for a fair and honest review, which represents my own honest opinion.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 6

In Episode 6, Brigid waits for Fred while Fred goes to church and makes confession. Maybe it isn't a good idea for Leander and Brigid to be home alone together.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Story Time with Erin O'Riordan: CUT Episode 5

Story Time is back! In the fifth episode from 'Cut' by Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin, Leander takes Fred to meet his a coven of Satanists in the middle of performing a ritual.