Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman #Nonfiction

Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest BatmanChristian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman by Harrison Cheung

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harrison Cheung, a Canadian who loves movies, was Christian Bale's unpaid personal assistant for many years. He does not have a very high opinion of Mr. Bale, whom he characterizes as incredibly self-centered. Disdainful of publicity to an extreme, Bale didn't even attend Heath Ledger's funeral because he didn't want to face the public, even though Bale and Ledger had become friends. (Some people get along with Christian Bale. Heath Ledger was one, and Russell Crowe is another.)

This book is full of short, interesting tidbits, but it also contains some strange errors and omissions. When mentioning Christian's interest in playing Mercutio in the Baz Luhrmann 'Romeo + Juliet' film of the '90s, Cheung and co-author Nicola Pittam mention that Bale lost the role to "an African-American." What an odd, vague way to describe Harold Perrineau, the actor who not only steals the movie with his impassioned portrayal of Romeo's volatile friend but is also well-known to American audiences through the TV shows 'Lost' and, now, 'Claws.' Do the authors really not know who Harold Perrineau is?

Another section refers to Colin Farrell as a British actor. Colin. Farrell. Is. Irish. Irish people are NOT British, and since Cheung lived with a British family (Christian, Louise, and David Bale - brother, sister, and father) for years, shouldn't he know this?

Cheung also has a low opinion of Winona Ryder, a former friend of Bale, his co-star in 'Little Women,' and the one who introduced Bale to his wife, Sandra (Sibi) Blazic. He describes the petite star as foul-mouthed and rude.

The whole narration has to be taken with a small grain of salt because Cheung obviously has a bone to pick with the Bale clan. They owe him thousands of dollars, if he genuinely never received a paycheck for working as Bale's personal and social media assistant from the earliest days of the Internet. Maybe he's exaggerating, or maybe he has cherry-picked the incidents that paint Christian Bale and his semi-con-artist father in the worst possible light. I don't know. It was still an interesting, relatively quick read.

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

'Shakespeare Saved My Life' by Laura Bates

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the BardShakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr. Laura Bates writes about her work with the prisoners of Central Indiana, close to where I currently call home. In particular, she recounts her teacher-pupil relationship with inmate Larry Newton. With little formal education, convicted murderer Newton had a keen, insightful mind and a particular gift for relating Shakespeare to the circumstances of his fellow inmates. He might have become the first inmate to earn his Ph.D. in prison -- if the state of Indiana hadn't ended all funding for education in prison.

It's really stupid to end prison education and Shakespeare programs, by the way. They've been shown time and time again to reduce the amount of violence between inmates. America is horrible to its incarcerated persons anyway, but it's especially boneheaded to make the workplace more dangerous for prison employees as well as more dangerous for inmates themselves.

Bates writes that she is not a prison reformer, but maybe she should be. American prisons are a human rights nightmare, as Orange Is the New Black has recently shown many of us. And we should all care, because not every prisoner is incarcerated for the rest of his or her life. They'll become our neighbors, and it's always better to have an educated neighbor with insight into his or her own character and actions.

I checked this audiobook out of my local library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

'Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right' by Jane Mayer

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical RightDark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is this a well-researched, thoughtful work of journalistic nonfiction? Yes. Is it infuriating? Also yes.

The Supreme Court made a huge mistake when it ruled in the Citizens United decision that money counts as free speech, and now the Republican Party has run with that decision to a disastrous degree. The loser is democracy itself. I wish every American voter would listen to/read this book.

These out-of-touch-to-the-point-of-delusion billionaires push their loony brand of libertarianism out through the "conservative" media and Americans without two nickels to rub together start spouting the wishes of billionaires to their own detriment. Wake up and smell the manipulation, America.

I checked this audiobook out of the library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

'Children of Blood and Bone' Is a True Must-Read

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that's so good, I have a hard time articulating why I loved it as much as I loved it. The story is compelling, the relationships between the siblings and the various other characters are compelling, the world-building is incredibly detailed, and the writing is full-grown. The ending blew my mind. I doubt I've read anything better in the last 12 months (and keep in mind I really, REALLY liked Philip Pullman's latest.)

"Must-read" is bandied about so much in book marketing that it loses all meaning, but in the truest sense, readers who appreciate good YA fiction must read this book. Tomi Adeyemi has the gift.

I borrowed this e-book from my library using the Libby app. I had to keep returning it and checking it out again because it's really popular and I kept stretching it out because I literally did not want this story to end.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year HistoryFantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andersen, one of the two co-founders of Spy magazine, spent several years researching this meandering but compelling history. The 500 years in question begin with Martin Luther and the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, leading to the Puritans, leading eventually to the "alternate facts" that America runs on today. This isn't an indictment of only the contemporary Republican party - we're all guilty of some of these strange, irrational beliefs - but it pulls no punches in calling BS on climate change deniers, flat earthers, and anyone who thinks the Earth is 5,779 years old and/or takes the Bible literally. I'm not sure if I enjoyed this book or if it just made me want to smack all my fellow Americans on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper like naughty puppies.

I borrowed this e-book from my local library using the Libby app and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Friday, October 5, 2018

For your October enjoyment, a little Edgar Allan Poe

The Essential Edgar Allan Poe: Stories, Poems, BiographyThe Essential Edgar Allan Poe: Stories, Poems, Biography by Edgar Allan Poe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy October! I'm sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. I've just started a new Corporate Day Job. I'll try to least post about some interesting audio books I listen to in my car on the way to and from work, like this one.

My brother loaned me this audio book. I'd read most of these stories and poems before, but they were still enjoyable. "Tamerlane" is really not a great poem, but it's always fun to hear a dramatic reading of "The Raven."

(A few more of my favorite poems are HERE.)

My favorite of the material that was new to me was the sketch about the man who was hypnotized at the point of death, "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar."

The biography was interesting, too. Here's a fun Poe tidbit: Although he was often a harsh, cruel critic of work he disliked, he genuinely liked the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He wrote positive reviews of her work in his newspapers and was influenced by her when he wrote "The Raven."

This book makes the case that the probably cause - or at least one cause - of Poe's final delirious illness and death may have been the 19th-century practice of cooping, a kind of voter fraud. It explains why he was found wearing someone else's clothes. Unscrupulous electioneers would dress the same intoxicated man up in different outfits so he could vote multiple times.

I believe the rabies theory of E.A. Poe's death came up in that book about rabies. I don't think anyone seriously thinks that Poe died of rabies anymore.

Overall, this audio book is a solid listen if you're a fan of classic American literature.

Monday, August 20, 2018

'Around the Way Girl' by Taraji P. Henson #Memoir #Autobiography

Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Taraji P. Henson anyway (big Person of Interest fan here), but I love her 1000% more after reading how smart, witty, insightful, grounded, and hard-working she is. She's just a really neat person. Yes, she's friends with Mary J. Blige, but she's also really, really real.

This book isn't a literary masterpiece; it's a quick read, organized around several themes such as family and friends rather than a strict chronology. But it's a fun book about a genuinely good person.

I purchased this book with my own funds from Half Price Books (not an affiliate link) and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

An Epic Dinosaur Sex Adventure Woodrocket Presents Jurassic Wood: Swollen Dingdong

(Woodland Hills, California - PRESS RELEASE) June 21st, 2018 – Hold onto your butts and prepare yourselves for some Tyrannosaurus Sex! WoodRocket and Pornhub are proud to present the most epic dinosorgy of all time, with the porn parody of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ~ Jurassic Wood: Swollen Dingdong.

Jurassic Wood: Swollen Dingdong premieres Thursday, June 21st for free on and Pornhub, with an extra Jurassic Prick Bonus Scene available exclusively on Pornhub Premium.

After scientists turn the Jurassic Park into a Jurassic Brothel by combining the DNA of dinosaurs and porn stars, Owen and Claire must try to get the sexy dino-ladies off of the island before the dildo volcano erupts and they all meet a sticky and gooey end.

Jurassic Wood: Swollen Dingdong is directed by Vuko & Lee Roy Myers (Dick & Morty), written by Lee Roy Myers and Brandon Graham (John Wank), produced by Seth’s Beard (Ten Inch Mutant Ninja Turtles), and stars Lauren Phillips, Robby Echo, Codi Vore, Mercy West, Kyra Rose and Tegan Trex.

If you miss this parody, you will be dino-sorry!

The SFW (safe for work) trailer of Jurassic Wood: Swollen Dingdong is on and YouTube:

Watch Jurassic Wood: Swollen Dingdong on & Pornhub.

The Jurassic Prick Bonus Scene is available exclusively at

WoodRocket mixes porn and comedy and pop culture, changing the way Adult Entertainment entertains adults. They have created popular original series like Ask A Porn Star, Topless Girls Reading Books, Porn Stars Reading Hate Mail, and porn parodies like Hamiltoe, Dick & Morty, Strokémon, and Bob’s Boners. There is nothing like a WoodRocket thing!

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

'Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History' by David Aaronovitch

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Aaronovitch is a British journalist. The central theme of his book is that conspiracy theories often come about when a large group of people has suffered an emotional loss. The conspiracy theory provides a narrative that makes the loss more palatable, more understandable.

While Aaronovitch sympathizes with the psychological aspects of conspiracy theorizing, he also emphasizes the real-life consequences when large groups believe things that are factually inaccurate. The chapters of his book provide several historical examples of this. The most dramatic may be how the demonstrable fraud of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion influenced a century of virulent anti-Semitism, including the Holocaust. When conspiracy theory is linked with scapegoating, there's a good possibility that people will die as a result.

Please note that Aaronovitch's analysis of conspiracy theories has neither a liberal nor a conservative bias. In his historical survey, what he sees is that neither side of the political spectrum is more prone than the other to believing in dark forces at work behind the scenes. What matters more is not the political bent of the theorizer but whether they feel disempowered and at a loss at the historical moment of the theorizing.

For example, the liberal/progressive side of the United States felt it was under attack and at a loss with the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963. As of the writing of this book, approximately half of Americans believed in some kind of conspiracy theory regarding the president's assassination. Aaronovitch brought up a historical fact rarely mentioned in Kennedy conspiracy circles: That Lee Harvey Oswald had tried to assassinate another politician previously, although his shot missed and no one was hurt. The note Oswald wrote to his wife Marina confessing this deed, in case he didn't return home, is still extant. Since this fact is inconvenient to "Oswald was framed" theories, it's rarely brought up in conspiracy circles.

Omitting inconvenient facts is a common characteristic of conspiracy theories, Aaronovitch argues. He mentions the glaring inconsistencies and outright untruths in the popular documentary Loose Change, which alleges U.S. government conspiracy in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Another popular conspiracy theory in which popular narratives bend and twist the facts to fit the narrative is the suicide of Clinton White House aide Vincent Foster. Conspiracists, Aaronovitch demonstrates, take off-hand, non-professional, and uninformed statements made by those loosely attached to the incident, such as statements made by first responders, as if they were gospel truth.

This is called the Historian's Fallacy: The tendency to believe that a witness, having experienced an event that later turned out to have historical significance, must experience the event in the way that a historian would describe it. In reality, by definition, the witness can only know what they experienced at the time. They can't have foreknowledge of facts that will only become widely known after the event has been studied and investigations conducted. To expect a witness's offhand statement to be 100% accurate at the moment the witness is involved in an ongoing event is to fight the nature of reality itself.

And yet we see this all the time on YouTube. A tragic event such as a mass shooting (unfortunately common in the U.S.) happens and a witness, who may be a first responder, a child, or a person with no formal training in law enforcement, ballistics, etc. makes an offhand remark about the number of shooters, the number of gunshots, etc., and the conspiracy-minded YouTube video creator takes this statement as if it must be accurate. This is then conflated into the theory that there must be a cover-up of the "real" version of events that "they" don't want you to know.

If you've spent any time on YouTube at all, you probably know how common, and often disturbing, this is. It has led to lawsuits, in fact. Grieving relatives don't like being called liars or having non-experts with no connection to the event claiming that their dead relative is, in fact, a "crisis actor" who only pretended to be murdered so that Group X could try to get Law Z passed.

The fact is, for human societies to operate properly, there has to be a certain amount of agreement on what does and what does not constitute reality. Facts must be properly vetted and opinions must be grounded in facts that can withstand rigorous scrutiny. Otherwise we each live in our own fantasy worlds and none of those fantasies are compatible with each other.

This book was published in 2008, but even though it's a decade old, a thoughtful reader could easily apply what Aaronovitch lays out in his book to the U.S. election of 2016. In fact, he addresses the loss of power experienced by white American males as they perceive their world being threatened by advances made by women and by men of color. An antidote to the harmful scapegoating effect, Aaronovitch suggests, is for these men to gain the emotional literacy they would need to deal with their feelings as feelings, rather than externalizing them in a way that can have devastating consequences for the lives of the groups they see as the enemy.

I purchased a used copy of this book from Better World Books with my own funds and was not, in any way, obliged to review it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Books For Africa To Mark 30th Year By Shipping School Books to 54th African Country

Erin’s Note: This is a press release I’m sharing. I'm not personally affiliated with Better World Books in any way. I buy books from them and appreciate that they donate books to non-profit organizations, but I'm not endorsed by them in any way.

Celebration at Atlanta Warehouse June 9 to feature South African music sensation ShenFM and remarks from the Embassy of the Central African Republic

St. Paul, MN, June 05, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Books For Africa (BFA), which has shipped over 41 million books to students in Africa over the last 30 years, will celebrate a long-time goal on June 9 of sending books to every country on the continent when it ships books to the Central African Republic.

The shipment of the books will be part of a celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. at Books For Africa’s Atlanta warehouse, 3655 Atlanta Industrial Drive, Building 250, Atlanta, GA 30331. The Central African Republic is the last of the continent’s 54 countries to receive books from Books For Africa.

Michele Marie Claude Benzot, Counselor in Charge of Finances, Administration and Material at the Central African Republic Washington, D.C., embassy, will be on hand for the celebration. Better World Books is sponsoring the 22,000 book shipment.

“We are proud to celebrate this milestone for which Books For Africa has been working all these years,” said Patrick Plonski, BFA Executive Director. “There is no better place to mark the occasion than our Atlanta warehouse, from which every one of the more than 40 million books is sorted, packed and shipped.”

Plonski also praised the many volunteers in Atlanta and Minnesota, where BFA has its headquarters, who have helped over the years. The Atlanta warehouse is one of the top volunteer destinations in Atlanta. Last year 15,121 people volunteered at the warehouse.

The celebration is free and open to the public and will feature the South African music sensation ShenFM as well as the BFA Warehouse Band, along with African food and drinks.

Books For Africa remains the largest shipper of donated text and library books to Africa. Last year alone, BFA shipped over three million books, 93 computers and e-readers containing 223,000 digital books and 10 new law and human rights libraries to 18 African countries.

The nonprofit was founded in 1988 by Tom Warth, a British native who now lives in Minnesota. On a visit to a library in Uganda, he noticed that the shelves were nearly empty. He started BFA with a simple mission: To end the book famine in Africa.

“We’ve come a long way over the years, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Warth said. “There are 450 million children in Africa and a total population of nearly 1 billion so there is still a need for more books.”

Doug Stone
Books For Africa

Patrick Plonski
Books For Africa

Friday, June 1, 2018

When Bedtime Reading Enters My Dreams

I had another one of those dreams last night, a dream I was caught in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. When this happened before, I turned the dream into the short story "The Wild Ones," which you can read in Love, Lust, and Zombies, edited by Mitzi Szereto.

I always love a good zombie story, and I still have crushes on SEVERAL cast members from The Walking Dead, but the specific reason for this zombie dream had to do with my choice of reading material before bed. It was, which I have mentioned several times previously as a favorite resource.

Like Wikipedia, it's also a good place to follow a proverbial rabbit trail. As one writer on Tumblr once said, "Does anyone else go on Wikipedia to look something up and then click on a bunch of random links and then half an hour later you’re 10 articles deep into the inner workings of Vietnamese politics?"

I do; I suppose that's part of the life of the writer. The day I found Wikipedia's pseudohistory category was a pretty clear example of that.

My search into TVTropes last night began with Rihanna. I'd heard her song "What Now" on Spotify the other day. I hadn't seen the video in a while, but I remembered that I contained images of the singer doing some moves that involve contortions and other non-dance moves that may remind viewers of either a person with a mental illness or film depictions of a person who is possessed (by evil spirits, perhaps).

This is the official video from Rihanna's VEVO page on YouTube. It's not available for embedding as of this writing.

This screencap captures Rihanna as she begins to fall backward.
I wondered if anyone had commented about this on TVTropes. Music videos are written of and discussed on the site, and I wondered if anyone had added "demonic possession" or anything similar as a trope in the "What Now" video. Well, there isn't even a page for the "What Now" video. The single and its accompanying video are barely mentioned on TVTropes at all.

This caused me to wonder a very specific thing: When I imagine the trope of what "demonic possession" looks like visually, what am I actually thinking of?

A related question I'd been interested in the past month or so had to do with the origin of the zombie myth in pop culture. Wikipedia actually does a really good job of answering that one. When I think of a zombie, I'm largely thinking of the visual language created by George Romero in his Night of the Living Dead, which I watched as a child and have seen several times since. It premiered in 1968, before I was born.

A fascinating audio book I heard recently (having borrowed it from the library via the Libby app) was Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Dr. Monica Murphy. In it, the authors mention that George Romero's film was inspired by Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend. Even though Matheson calls his infected, murderous undead "vampires," the book essentially inspired the modern myth of the zombie apocalypse.

In turn, the bloodthirsty, relentless vampires in the book and its subsequent adaptations resemble animals with rabies. The human fear of zombies is closely related to the human fears of disease transmission and the kind of loss of control associated with neurological diseases like rabies. (Note that in real life, rabies isn't transmittable from one human being to another - not easily, anyway.)

And all of that was interesting to me, but if you visit the page on demonic possession on Wikipedia, you get more of a religious and historical discussion than a pop culture one. So to dig a little deeper into the cultural history of film depictions of demonic possession, I visited the TVTropes page on The Exorcist. (You may remember this post about the ongoing cultural relevance of Pazuzu.)

But then somehow, from there, I ended up on the page for Jesus Christ Superstar, the 1970 rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I've never seen the whole thing, only bits of it as a student in various Catholic schools. (I wanted to watch the TV version that aired earlier this year, but I missed it.)

If you go to TVTropes' Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV, i.e. opinions) page, you see there are versions of this musical in which Judas and Jesus are depicted with varying amounts of sexual tension between them. Now, when you say "Judas" to me, the first thing I think of is the Lady Gaga video. That is also unavailable for embedding, but it can be found here. Here's a little screencap:

Actor Rick Gonzalez (left) portrays Jesus, with Gaga as Mary Magdalene
That Judas? He's Norman Reedus, one of my Walking Dead crushes. I've been into him ever since my first viewing of Boondock Saints. And Judas x Jesus is the reason I had a dream about zombies last night.

It wasn't even a particularly scary dream; it mostly involved avoiding the darkness I Am Legend-style.

So if you're down to do a little wiki editing, someone could add some pop culture references to Wikipedia's demonic possession page and fill in some more of Rihanna's video tropes on

By the way, if you're really trying to give yourself nightmares, a good TV trope to explore is fold spindle mutilation. Read the real-life examples if you have a taste for gruesome reading, especially the Byford Dolphin diving bell accident story. It's both tragic and gross, if you're into that sort of thing. (And what human being doesn't have at least a little streak of morbid curiosity?)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

'All the Castles Burned:' SERIOUS LITERARY FICTION, But Do We Care?

All the Castles BurnedAll the Castles Burned by Michael Nye

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I suppose this is meant to be Literary and Serious, but in all honesty, it doesn't have much of a plot. It's more of a character study of Owen Webb, and he's essentially the same person at 28 that he is at 16. Granted, he's a likable person, and as someone who was also 16 in the 1990s, I can relate to many of his thoughts and actions. But he has very little agency in his own life. Things happen to him and happen around him, but seldom happen because of him.

Perhaps because of this, we read the Climactic Scene secondhand through Owen's mother, and that makes it less than climactic. The ending feels very tacked-on.

The explicitly-stated moral of this character study is that one should always have a mother, because it's the motherless boy who turns out Bad. Even a half-assed mother is better than none, according to Nye's narration. Owen, of course, has no control over the fact that his mother is present and largely functional, despite dabbling in alcoholism. But we're told that this is what allows him to grow up to be, presumably, a pretty decent person.

I like Owen, but I'd rather read about what happens to him in the boxing ring as a grown-up man with grown-up thoughts than secondhand witness what he passively witnesses as a fairly typical adolescent. Owen's teenage problems are very much First World Problems. At no time in the novel is he in any immediate danger, which makes the stakes of his entire story feel quite low.

Michael Nye, please raise the stakes next time.

I won an uncorrected proof of this book from the publisher in a random drawing and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

'Quidditch Through the Ages' Audiobook Read by Andrew Lincoln

Slight spoilers below if you haven't already listened to this audiobook. Nothing major - no Cursed Child-type surprises. 

When I first read Quidditch Through the Ages by "Kennilworthy Whisp," one of the schoolbooks Harry Potter and his cohort are said to have read and studied at Hogwarts, I wasn't too impressed. Quidditch was never one of my favorite aspects of the Harry Potter books, although I do have quite the fondness for some of the lady quidditch players, especially Ginny Weasley and Angelina Johnson. But the history of the sport didn't interest me, so I only gave it three stars on Goodreads.

Still, it sounded like fun to listen to the new audiobook version read by Andrew Lincoln, available through Pottermore. It has sound effects and bonus material, namely new writing by J.K. Rowling. It consists of 21 tracks, of which the first 12 are the actual text of the book.

Andrew Lincoln has a lovely reading voice. I can imagine it's the voice Edgar Linton used to read bedtime stories to baby Judith Cathy Linton before he remarried Michonne and lived happily ever after sadly passed away. Somehow his natural English accent sounds nothing at all like Rick Grime's Georgia accent. Actors are amazing.

The audiobook's bonus tracks also feature the voice of Imogen Church as Ginny Weasley-Potter (reading bulletins she wrote for the Daily Prophet as a Quidditch World Cup correspondent) and Annette Badland as Rita Skeeter (gossiping at the World Cup finals).

A portion of the proceeds from sales of this audiobook go to charity, so I didn't feel bad at all about paying the $16 to Pottermore. One charity is the Lumos Foundation, which helps support families who might otherwise give their children up for adoption, since it's normally in a child's best interest to stay with their birth family whenever possible. Its goal is to reduce the number of children who live in the world's orphanages. The other charity is Comic Relief UK, which supports poverty alleviation projects.


The first track of this book is an introduction by Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore describes the process of borrowing the Hogwarts library's copy of Quidditch Through the Ages from librarian Madame Pince, who was not keen on letting the book be released into the muggle world. Lincoln reads this chapter in the voice of elderly Dumbledore. It's amusing, but I'm glad he doesn't have to use this voice for the entire book.

Chapter Three

This chapter relays the recollections of early quidditch play recorded by Gertie Kettle at Queerditch Marsh. Andrew Lincoln's Gertie Kettle voice is one of the funniest parts of this book.

Chapter Ten

Lincoln pronounces "patent" with a long A. It's the most British thing I've ever heard, aside from perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch's guest appearance on The Simpsons.

...which is, of course, a parody of Love Actually, in which Andrew Lincoln plays would-be wife-stealer Mark.


In the 12th track, Lincoln reads the biography of Kennilworthy Whisp and the book's "reviews" from in-world celebrities such as Rita Skeeter. The best of these reviews, in Lincoln's reading, is from Gilderoy Lockhart. He might have been brilliant at playing Lockhart, had he been given the chance. (No offence to Sir Kenneth Branagh.)

History of the Quidditch World Cup

In this bonus material, track 13, Lincoln does Viktor Krum's Bulgarian accent, and this is very cute. You'll be happy to know that Viktor is still playing competitive quidditch at the age of 38.

Quidditch World Cup 2014 - First Round Matches (Track 15)

The match between Chad and Lichtenstein seems like it will never even, and Imogen Church's Ginny sounds sufficiently exasperated at the seemingly-endless play. Church's real accomplishment, though, is pronouncing the many multi-ethnic names required of her here. In this bonus chapter we learn that Viktor Krum has come out of retirement to play again at the age of 38 and that he's the oldest player in the tournament.

Quidditch World Cup 2014 - Rita Skeeter's Gossip Column (Track 18)

Skeeter is a notoriously unreliable narrator, and she's clearly jealous of Ginny. Should we believe her when she reports that Harry, age 34, has some streaks of gray in his black hair?

Rita Skeeter is certainly a character one loves to hate; I'd have some words for her over her snark about Hermione's hair or her speculation about why Charlie Weasley is still unmarried. (He's probably just asexual.)

I hope she's correct in her assessment that Bill and Fleur's daughter Victoire and Harry's godson Teddy Lupin are taking every available opportunity to sneak off to a dark corner and snog.

Quidditch World Cup Final 2014 - Live Match Commentary (Track 20)

Rita Skeeter and Ginny Potter perform the live match commentary together (with a brief introduction narrated by Andrew Lincoln). It's the most highly-enhanced track as far as sound effects. Harry, James Sirius, and Lily Luna are rooting for Viktor's Bulgarian team in the finals, but Albus Severus is rooting for Brazil. They're sitting with Neville Longbottom.

Skeeter also gives us a vivid description of Luna Lovegood's wedding dress when she married Rolf Scamander (grandson of Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein): "Rainbows, spangles, and a tiara of silver unicorn horns." It sounds awesome.

Will Viktor Krum finally walk away with a Quidditch World Cup trophy on his third attempt? If he does, will Ron still be jealous of Hermione's teenage crush on Viktor? Will Ginny jinx Rita to get her to shut up? You'll have to listen to find out.

And the 21st and Final Track... only the credits and a little spiel about Pottermore, read by Andrew Lincoln.


If you're not the biggest fan of sports/quidditch, you won't find this the most interesting of J.K. Rowling's books. It certainly relies much less on traditional mythologies than, say, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The voice actors' performances are enjoyable, but not so amazing that they can hold your attention if you're simply not interested in the material. But if you're like me and you feel compelled to read all of J.K. Rowling's books, you're going to listen to this anyway. And you should, because the proceeds are going to a really good cause.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

'The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue' by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide, #1)The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am SO MAD at this book -- HOW DAre it just end THERE?!?!

Seriously, though, this is well-crafted piece of historical fiction about three young adults on their Grand Tour of Europe in the early 18th century. Their adventures are over-the-top and ludicrous, and that's part of the book's charm.

The real "alchemical heart" of the book is the friendship between our heroes, Henry "Monty" Montague and his BFF Percy. As a clever(ish) social media quote goes, "A good romance starts with friendship. A bad romance starts with Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah..." Monty and Percy are friends, but Monty is desperately in love.

The question of whether Percy considers Monty as anything more than a dear friend is resolved at the very end, which is why I need there to be...more book. Overall, it's a charming adventure story, quite briskly paced in parts, with a throbbing emotional heart.

I purchased my copy at Forever Books with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it.

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You Say Witch Like It's a Bad Thing: Thea by George Saoulidis. $2.99 from
When a teenage witch goes to a new school, she finds herself in an unfamiliar place with no friends. But will she manage to befriend some of the girls in class, when she’s anxious about revealing herself to others, when she’s still coughing up water from the last time she trusted people and when her new friends want to try her magick on a tennis match?

Monday, March 12, 2018

'La Belle Sauvage' (The Book of Dust, #1) by Philip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of the series. I wish everyone would read the His Dark Materials trilogy because I want everyone to know what Philip Pullman knows about love, as explained through the third book, The Amber Spyglass.

I read La Belle Sauvage in February and I quite enjoyed it. As often happens when I read a book that blows my mind, it takes me a while to be able to articulate why I loved it like I did.

Malcolm is a good boy, and I love his reverence for baby Lyra. The little scene of Lord Asriel being parental with Lyra was heartwarming, the fairy tale scenes felt very magical to me, and Malcolm's first inklings of coming of age and perhaps starting to fall in love made me want to keep reading about him.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful addition to the His Dark Materials universe.

I purchased this book with a gift card my parents gave me for Christmas at my local brick-and-mortar Barnes and Noble. I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Book Adaptation Tag

I borrowed this tag from Ronnie at Paradise Found.

1. What is the last book adaptation movie you saw?

2. What movie are you most excited for?

3. Which upcoming movie will you definitely NOT see?

I have zero interest in Red Sparrow. It's just not my kind of thing.

4. Which book movie would you NEVER watch again?

Maybe Where the Wild Things Are. I felt like the movie sucked all the fun out of the book and made it preachy and sad.

5. Is there a movie you saw that made you want to read the book if you hadn't/haven't yet?

More than once, yes. The Vampire Academy movie made me read the whole series.  Beautiful Creatures made me read the first two books. I wanted to finish the series but I never have.

6. Conversely, is there a movie that made you never want to read the book?

I hardly ever think to myself that I absolutely never want to read a book, because my interests change all the time. I can't think of one I never want to read, but I probably won't read, for example, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, even though I liked the movie. I already know the plot now and I usually don't enjoy reading racist characters, even if they do get their comeuppance.

Maybe Cloud Atlas because that movie left me both sad and confused.

7. Name an adaptation that has almost nothing to do with the book it is supposedly based on.

Howl's Moving Castle, but I love both the book and the very-different movie.

8. Have you ever left the theatre during a movie adaptation because it was so bad?

Nope. The only movie I ever walked out of Saving Private Ryan because my best friend got grossed out by the gory violence.

9. Do you prefer to watch the movie or read the book first?

I prefer to read the book first, but I don't always do it. There are a lot of book adaptations I like but still haven't read the book they were based on. Coraline by Neil Gaiman is one.

10. How do you feel about movie adaptations that age characters up? (ex. characters that are in middle-school, but in the movies they are 18)

I don't really have any feelings on this one. I can't think of an example.

11. Do you get angry when the actors don't look like you thought the characters looked?

Sometimes, a little. I usually end up liking the movie version anyway, but occasionally I like my fictional image better than the movie image.

12. Is there a movie you liked better than its book?

I like the 2002 adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo a little better than the book, but bear in mind that I really, really love the book too. I just like the movie ending better.

13. Name a book that you'd like to see as a movie.

If you'd like to answer these questions, here's the question set.

1. What is the last book adaptation movie you saw?
2. What movie are you most excited for?
3. Which upcoming movie will you definitely NOT see?
4. Which book movie would you NEVER watch again?
5. Is there a movie you saw that made you want to read the book if you hadn't/haven't yet?
6. Conversely, is there a movie that made you never want to read the book?
7. Name an adaptation that has almost nothing to do with the book it is supposedly based on.
8. Have you ever left the theatre during a movie adaptation because it was so bad?
9. Do you prefer to watch the movie or read the book first?
10. How do you feel about movie adaptations that age characters up? (ex. characters that are in middle-school, but in the movies they are 18)
11. Do you get angry when the actors don't look like you thought the characters looked?
12. Is there a movie you liked better than its book?
13. Name a book that you'd like to see as a movie.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

#Free E-Books for Read an E-Book Week 2018

For Read an E-Book Week 2018, March 4th through March 10th, I'm giving away five free e-books on Smashwords:

The Erotica Anthology - free with coupon
Josephine Baker in Berlin - free with coupon
Oliver’s Good Night Kiss - free with coupon
Beltane - free with coupon

You can also get the two crime novels I wrote with Tit Elingtin for a discounted price during Read an E-Book Week. 
Eminent Domain - $1 with coupon
Cut - $1.50 with coupon
Check them out and enjoy!
Happy reading!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Unfinished Short Story: Loideain Plaid Kilt

The third vat held a marigold color which, when dyed into the wool, produced the softest and most pleasing shade of golden orange. These dyes had been selected with the utmost care, because it was essential to the operation that Dimitri capture the colors with precision. 

To Dimitri's left, the enormous mechanism of his weaving machine waited. Smooth and shining, the machine had been meticulously polished to remove every trace of machine oil and dust from its exterior. To save labor, Dimitri had to invent a cleaning machine to perform the task. The cleaner rested in a large appliance garage behind the behemoth loom.

Dimitri turned to the wiry, gray-haired man beside him. "Vould you care to do the honors, Mr. Loideain*?"

The elderly man eyed the Russian with skepticism, his green eyes flashing in the bright factory light. "Only if you're sure this thing is safe, Count Vronsky." 

Dimitri politely ignored his newly-coined nickname. "I assure you my gearvorks are safely contained inside the mechanism of the loom, created with such clockvork precision, human hands need come near them only in rare cases of malfunction. Such a case is only to happen many years in the future."

Loideain made a small noise to indicate what he thought of the foreigner's high estimation of his factory. In halting steps he made his way over to the lever protruding from the wall and pulled. The thing proved more stubborn than Loideain had anticipated; it did not move. Loideain braced himself and pulled the lever again, much harder this time. 

A humming came from the direction of the vats. Loideain turned his head in time to see a series of metal spools come down from ceiling and dip into the tops of the dye vats. Around each of these wound yards of snow-white wool. The spools submerged, then spun, the threads they bore unwinding in the depths of the dye. 

From the bottoms of the vats, another series of spools rose. As the newly-dyed wool unwound from one spool, it free-floated for only a moment before the second spool caught it and rotated. When the first spool emptied and the second one filled, the thread appeared to be sucked down a tube at the center of the bottom spool.

"Where does it go?" Loideain asked the Russian.

"The beauty of my system," Dimitri said rather grandly, "is the wet wool never sees the light of day after it enters the dye vats. It's forced through the tube, where a steady flow of warm air dries it and allows the dye to set. A series of wheels direct it to a set of spools arranged in a precise order, and the loom does its vork from there."

Loideain jumped as the gigantic loom whirred to life. In addition to the whirring sound of the engine, it produced dozens of small clicks as the wheels Dimitri had described grabbed onto the warm, dry thread. The thing sounded like an enormous typewriter, or a popcorn popper. 


“My high-speed loom is weaving the thread into cloth,” Dimitri replied. 

Moments later, a loud rushing sound proceeded from the near end of the loom. “Follow me,” Dimitri said, leading Mr. Loideain down a metal spiral staircase that clanged as they walked.

They walked out onto a factory floor as large as that with the dye vats and the tremendous loom. This time, the product of the loom’s work was clearly visible. Through a large metallic slot in the wall, a conveyer fed a long sheet of green, white, gold, and blue cloth toward a series of mechanical arms, hanging from the ceiling like vaguely menacing iron spiders. 

“What do you think?” the Russian asked the elderly Irishman. Loideain was silent for a moment, and Dimitri’s heart thundered in his chest. Had all his work – investing in this small, muddy town so far from his home, inventing the mechanisms, bringing his brainchild to life – been in vain? If Loideain wasn’t impressed with the quality of the cloth, the entire enterprise was worthless.

But Loideain’s eyes filled with tears. “In all my sixty years, I’ve only rarely seen anything so beautiful, and I live in the land of Ireland,” he sputtered. “It’s exactly like the ones me mam and grandmam made for me and the boys when we were small. Being the last of my line, the last male member of Clan Loideain, I never thought I’d live to see its like again. But you, Count Vronsky – er, Mr. Ivanov – you’ve brought my clan colors back from the dead. I feel like I’m witnessing a miracle!”

Dimitri was taken aback by the effusive praise. To resurrect the Loideain family’s traditional colors, its pattern, its link to the past even when the last Loideain granddaughters were married off and the family named disappeared, had been Dimitri’s hope from the start.

With precise timing, the mechanical spiders sprang to life, grabbing the roll of woolen cloth with steel hands and snipping it into identical pieces with steel scissors. These snips of cloth were fed into a large metal box. The box hummed, filled as it was with mechanized sewing machines. The box opened, and a wooden figure resembling a dressmaker’s dummy emerged from the open side. The dummy wore a Loideain plaid kilt.

(*pronounced LIE-din)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical RomanceTwo Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance by Adam Bertocci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's not too terribly much to say about this fairly quick, enjoyable read. It's The Big Lebowski as if written by William Shakespeare, with dozens of references to the Bard's plays woven in. I love Shakespeare and I love the Coen Brothers - I consider O Brother, Where Art Thou? my all-time favorite movie - so I had no reason to dislike this clever mash-up. It wasn't quite five-star spectacular along the lines of Shakespeare-inspired The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet, but it was a plainly enjoyable effort.

I saw this book on the blog, where people post pictures of their books next to their beers. I immediately went and purchased a copy from an indie bookseller with my own funds, and I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Friday, January 19, 2018

'Bonfire' by Krysten Ritter Review

BonfireBonfire by Krysten Ritter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Krysten Ritter's first novel is solid effort, a suspenseful tale involving environmental justice and the company that may or may not be poisoning the small Indiana town of Barrens, a town that loves the company slightly less than it loves Jesus but slightly more than it loves football. Our heroine is Abigail "Abby" Williams, part of a team of Chicago lawyers sent in to investigate the possibly pollution, but also a former Barrens resident herself. Abby's life has not been easy. She lost her mom to cancer and her father was abusive. The other girls at school bullied and tortured her, so Abby has worked hard to leave Barrens in her past.

Abby's childhood best frenemy Kaycee Mitchell hasn't been seen in Barrens since shortly after they graduated from high school. Although local legend holds that she escaped the small town for a more glamorous life, Abby suspects Kaycee's disappearance may be related to a rash of illnesses associated with the town's drinking water. To investigate, she much navigate reluctant small towners who are worried about their meager livelihoods, an estranged father who now seems more frail than frightening, and both locals and colleagues whose good faith can only be trusted so far.

In her quest to investigate the town's mysteries, in her traumatic past, and in her capacity to consume alcoholic beverages, Abby Williams may remind some of Ritter's fans of her Marvel/Netflix character Jessica Jones. Abby Williams may not have Jones' superhuman strength, but she is just Jessica Jones-like enough that Marvel fangirls will enjoy the read.

(Photo/Jana Lynn French/ Peabody, in New York City, New York on Wednesday, May 18, 2016)
Ritter is a talented writer. Her debut shows psychological insight, the ability to paint a picture in the reader's mind, and characters well-rounded enough that they don't devolve into Midwestern stereotypes (and as a Midwesterner living in Indianapolis, I appreciate this). The ending doesn't seem completely fresh and original compared to other stories in this suspense genre, but I was willing to forgive this because I genuinely cared about Abby and was wrapped up in what was going to happen to her. But I imagine if she decides to write another novel, the plot will unfold a little more smoothly.

One of the three blurbs on the back is by Ruth Ware, the English suspense fiction author whose novel In a Dark, Dark Wood I enjoyed so well. This book reminded me less of that novel, though, and more of Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Knoll's protagonist was also desperately trying to escape a nightmarish high school experience.

I first became aware of Krysten Ritter as an actress on one of my all-time favorite TV series, Veronica Mars. In my head I imagine her as the black-haired but cold-hearted beauty Charlotte Campbell in Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike novels. And yes, I love her in Jessica Jones and am eagerly awaiting its second season to appear on Netflix this March. So I read this while I'm waiting.

I purchased this book with my own funds from my local brick and mortar Barnes and Noble and was not obligated in any way to review it. My copy is signed by Ritter, but not personalized. I just bought it off the shelf that way. It's pretty cool.