Erin's bookshelf: read

Private Pleasures
Vampyres of Hollywood
Religio Duplex: How the Enlightenment Reinvented Egyptian Religion
Four: A Divergent Collection
Mighty Dads
Cuffed, Tied, and Satisfied: A Kinky Guide to the Best Sex Ever
Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming
Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self
The Casual Vacancy
Midnight Crossroad
Play Him Again
Just My Typo: From
This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl
Reasons My Kid Is Crying
Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack

Erin O'Riordan's favorite books »

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: 'Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy'

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and CannibalsDear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals by Dinty W. Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this out from Blogging for Books (free book in exchange for review), although I was not familiar with the writer Dinty W. Moore. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the essayist is actually named Dinty W. Moore, not after the Canadian hockey player (or the corned beef sandwich) but after a character in the comic strip 'Bringing Up Father.' That makes him sound ancient, but he is in fact a Baby Boomer, a few years younger than my parents.

Moore won me over early in this essay collection, with this sentence, "I believe the best way to avoid coming off as a male chauvinist pig might be to not be a male chauvinist pig?" The question mark is unnecessary; the advice is sound.

The questions that spark each essay (or, in some cases, doodle) come from other nonfiction writers, including Cheryl Strayed, Diane Ackerman, and Roxane Gay. My personal favorites include Moore's anecdotes about other writers; he has one on George Plimpton and another with Nelson Algren.

It's on my TBR list.

Moore is funny. Quite funny. He has a quirky sense of humor, which happens to be the kind of sense of humor that most appeals to me. This is one of those books I laughed out loud to, causing my husband to ask, "What are you laughing at?" Just the thing I'm usually laughing at, dear: writers' meta jokes about punctuation and non sequiturs.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Banned Books Week: Is ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Morally Destructive?

On August 17, 2012, I wrote the following two paragraphs:

From Here to Eternity is on page 131. I'm pretty sure I read this section before, but I didn't mean as much to me before I finished FHTE…I also learned that the book FHTE beat out when it won the National Book Award was The Catcher in the Rye.

Catcher in the Rye is a favorite subject of the conspiracy theory bloggers, by the way. See this post at MK Culture, for example, or this post at Pseudo-Occult Media implicating the cartoon ‘Family Guy’ (a cartoon I personally dislike, for the record). The Wikipedia entry on the book mentions that it's been linked to John Hinckley Jr.'s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, Mark David Chapman's shooting of John Lennon, and Robert John Bardo's shooting of Rebecca Shaeffer.”

The Wikipedia article doesn’t go into any great detail, and for these past three years I haven’t really strongly understood the connection between the book I read as a teen and real-life incidents of violence. Then I stumbled across this video:

…and then, subsequently:

In these videos, Joseph Atwill discusses a blog post he’s written about Holden’s relationship with his younger sister and other post called "The Freemason in the Rye." In the articles and subsequently in the video, he attempts to explain how he interprets some of the more cryptic passages in J.D. Salinger’s text.

Who is Joseph Atwill? If you search for Joseph Atwill within Wikipedia, you’ll find two relevant results. One is the entry for “Christ myth theory,” and the other is the entry for Emilia Lanier. Atwill’s 2013 book Caesar’s Messiah is cited as a source for the former. In the latter, he is credited along with John Hudson as having discovered that Emilie Lanier, the first English woman to publish a book of poetry, was possibly the identity of the “Dark Lady” to whom William Shakespeare’s poems were addressed. The citation there is Atwill’s 2014 self-published book Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah.

According to Goodreads, Atwill also wrote The Roman Origins of Christianity in 2003. His Goodreads author page links to Atwill’s blog,

In the videos, Atwill summarizes his interpretation of The Catcher in the Rye, basically, as follows:

In the novel, Holden Caulfield (Salinger’s protagonist) mentions being in a secret fraternity.
Atwill connects that fraternity to the Freemasons because Holden mentions studying the Egyptians (for a test) for 28 days, elements of Freemasonic initiation rituals.
Holden lying down on Eli’s bed is mentioned three times, which Atwill takes to be a Freemasonic signal.
The most obvious reason why CITR is connected with various assassinations is that Holden calls his deer-hunting hat a people-shooting hat. Atwill connects the hat with the traditional hoodwink of Freemasonic initiation.
The titular allusion of CITR is a mishearing of the Robert Burns poem “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.” Atwill says a different word ("fuck") is used in the original Robert Burns poem in place of “meet” a body coming through the rye. Thus, it has an explicit sexual connotation. Wikipedia agrees that there is an explicit version:

Atwill contends passages where the 10-year-old sister, Phoebe, is described as being in states of undress are intended to imply an inappropriate relationship between brother and sister. I suppose it makes sense, then, that Holden was studying the Egyptians, since among ancient Egyptian royalty, brother-sister marriages were common.
He says the last paragraph of the book is the warning that anyone who tells the secret will be killed. He says Mark Twain put the same warning into the end of Tom Sawyer.

Boys are supposed to identify with Holden and girls are supposed to identify with Phoebe. Thus, boys are being conditioned to be violent abusers and girls are being conditioned to be victims.
Atwill’s call to action in this interview is the request for people who have children in the school systems to bring up these issues with the school boards, ultimately to get books that serve as “weaponized anthropology” out of the schools.

Atwill did not invent the term “weaponized anthropology” to describe cultural artifacts intended to have psychological effects upon those who consume them. He refers to a book by David H. Price called Weaponizing Anthropology published in 2011. Price is an anthropology professor whose scholarly works examine the history of the intersection between military intelligence and ethnography/anthropology. Atwill contends that J.D. Salinger worked on military intelligence during World War II.

(There is another university professor/author named David H. Price who is a historian, but they are not the same person.)

If you want to read further into the connection between military intelligence and Mark David Chapman, you can do so with our old friend Visup. (You may remember him from the Buddy Holly human sacrifice conspiracy post.) Atwill’s Freemason article also provides the following link:

But basically, Atwill is saying that CITR is a military experiment explicitly written by Salinger to be morally destructive to U.S. culture.

On a slightly different subject, in one of the videos Atwill calls Lewis Carroll a “Freemasonic monster” and refers to an analysis of “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Along with Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, the article discusses the Beatles song “I Am the Walrus.” Atwill contends the poem is about the Biblical book of Revelation (Lewis Carroll was a clergyman, after all) and that Lennon’s song lyrics are about genocide.

So, are the critics right when they want to ban CITR? Should we ban Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass from schools also?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

'The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to Sleeping with Three' by Vicki Vantoch

I love nonfiction books about sexuality in general, and I wanted to read this one specifically because I thought it might be good research for future short stories and novel scenes. I’ve written threesomes before, but I could always learn to write them hotter.

I started reading this book ages ago, but I kept putting it away when guests came over and then getting distracted by other books. That's not to say that it's uninteresting or boring - far from it. Granted, I did skip a few passages that didn't apply to me, but overall, I enjoyed this very much. It's really more 4.5 stars than 4.

Vicki Vantoch is the kind of smart girl who makes me want to do stupid things. She’s brilliant and witty. I laughed out loud several times throughout the book, just like I do with Lemony Snicket things. She has one of the best jobs I could imagine: anthropologist and historian who specializes in the history of sex. In physical appearance, she reminds me of the singer Sara Bareilles. Funny, smart, cute, openly bisexual – Vicki Vantoch is my kind of writer.

She’s also the mom of two adorable kidlings, son West and daughter Maison. Their dad is Vantoch’s life partner since they were 16 years old, the actor Dimitri Krushnik. But, as she writes on page 328, “Yale law professor Kenji Yoshino argues we are all pressured to ‘cover’ or to downplay stigmatized traits to blend into the mainstream. We do this in various ways—by hiding hearing aids or changing ethnic-sounding names to commercially viable ones.” In that exact manner, Dimitri is better known as Misha Collins. Which, I suppose, is not quite as Russian-sounding, even though Misha is still the traditional Russian nickname for Dimitri. (Didn’t Dimitri Belikov’s sisters call him Misha in the Vampire Academy novels?)

Vantoch is candid about her own three-way relationship with her husband and her female best friend, but Collins is more guarded. She writes in the Acknowledgments, “And finally, M, my sweet coadventurer in love and life. Even though this book wasn’t his cup of tea, he was supportive from the beginning and was always there when I needed him with encouragement, egg sandwiches, and a brutally-honest critical eye. His patience, humor, openness to change, and super-human ability to love me without crushing me, continues to amaze me. I feel enormously lucky to be sharing this journey with him.”

My favorite chapter is Chapter 5, which gets into some of the issues that not-bisexuals might face when in multiple partner relationships. It encourages people who consider themselves straight to be open to a range of experiences that might be pleasurable even if a bit outside their usual comfort zone, without obsessing about labels. Human beings seem to have an innate tendency to want everything neatly categorized, but our sexuality is much too fluid and varied for that. Vantoch gets that, and she’s able to write about it in a way that’s not only humorous but also quite sexy.

Whether they read it for research, for practical tips, or simply out of curiosity, readers who are brave enough to pick this one up will be rewarded. 

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

PNR #Review: 'Wild For Milly' by Jane Jamison

Wild for Milly (Werewolves of Forever, TX #9)Wild for Milly by Jane Jamison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't read any of the other books in Jane Jamison's Werewolves of Forever, Texas series, but I thought I'd give this one a try. I found it for a deeply discounted price at an outlet store and I couldn't resist snapping it up. I wasn't at all disappointed. It wasn't necessary to read the first 8 books in this series to understand who Milly was as a character.

Milly is the waitress at the diner in the tiny, supernatural town of Forever, which reminded me of Charlaine Harris's Midnight, Texas. Milly can't read minds like Sookie Stackhouse, but she can shapeshift at will into a werewolf. She doesn't even have to wait for the full moon.

One thing is missing from Milly's life, though: unlike most of the werewolves in Forever, she is unmated. Like Jacob Black in Twilight, she expects to "imprint" on someone - maybe two or more someones. It appears that polyandry is not unknown among these particular wolves. In this regard, they're not unlike the wolfish Chanku in Kate Douglas's Wolf Tales series.

I'm a big fan of paranormal romances, so I enjoyed that this mythological territory was somewhat familiar from some of my other favorite series.

Like clockwork, Milly's perfect matches seem to come along in the forms of California transplants Dan and Matthew Hudson. But Dan and Matthew bring a bit of baggage - their 15-year-old niece Riley, whose parents were killed in a car accident. Her uncles are her surrogate parents.

Riley does NOT warm up to Milly quickly. Cue the dramatic suspense: Riley's unwise flirtation with some immature teenage vampires leads the vamps to kidnap and attempt to sacrifice her for a ritual. Bravely, Milly offers herself in exchange for Riley. She's rescued by the brothers before the vampires kill her, and Milly-Riley relationship is permanently turned around.

So Milly gets her perfect mates and her happy ending. Who could ask for anything more?

On the cover art, it's not possible to tell which sexy brother is Matthew and which is Dan, but one has short hair and one has longish hair that tucks behind his ear. Dare I say they look a bit like a certain pair of demon-hunting brothers from a certain CW TV series?

I purchased this paperback with my own funds and was not obligated to review it in any way. This review represents my own honest opinion.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

'Bright-Sided' by Barbara Ehrenreich

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined AmericaBright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The thesis of Bright-Sided is the U.S. residents tend, as a people, to subscribe to an optimistic outlook on life that isn’t so much based in fact as it is in wishful thinking. Sometimes this wishful thinking is presented to us with the best of intentions. At other times, it’s presented to us as a cynical ploy to make a fast buck with a minimal output of effort, since one of the tenets of positive thinking is often, “If it’s not working for you, you must not be trying hard enough.”

Sometimes, corporations use this mindset to try to increase productivity as much as possible while laying out as few benefits as they can get away with. Haven’t gotten a raise in five years? You’re probably just not working hard enough! Envision success and use positivity to attract a raise to you! At worst, this can be used as an excuse to pay people poverty wages for working long, hard hours at unpalatable jobs.

The problem, as Ehrenreich explains, is that very little scientific evidence shows that positive people fare significantly better than their less-positive peers. At the same time, individuals can experience real-world consequences, including loss of their jobs, simply for being perceived as not having a positive attitude.

As Ehrenreich shows, however, the economic sphere is not the only one in which people can find themselves blamed and shamed for not being cheerful enough. Oddly, one of them is the cancer support group sphere, as Ehrenreich found out during her bout with breast cancer. Women suffering from the disease will sometimes repeat the mantra that positivity strengthens their immune system and thus helps them fight the disease. The problem is that physicians don’t think there is much of a link between the immune system and breast cancer. Think about what the immune system does – it fights foreign “invaders” in the body, namely bacteria and viruses. Cancer cells are the body’s own cells, not recognized by the immune system as “foreign.” Women who get sicker and blame themselves for being too negative are expending their precious energy over something irrelevant.

The chapter on the religious aspect of positive thinking is also very interesting. In this chapter, I learned about the New Thought movement of the 1800s and its founder, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. If a 21st-century person believes human thought can affect atoms and molecules in the real world, that person can likely trace their thoughts back to Quimby. Followers of the so-called Prosperity Gospel as exemplified by Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, adherents of Oprah Winfrey, and readers of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret may not seem to have much in common on the surface, but all can trace their philosophical roots back to New Thought. Quimby’s most direct influence may have been on Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

The origin of Quimby’s “heal thyself” philosophy? He had tuberculosis. He was born in 1808, and when he was a young man, doctors could do next to nothing for the bacterial infection. His doctors gave him a remedy that did little to abate his breathing problems, but did make his teeth start to fall out. Fed up with the institutional medicine of his day (with good reason), he decided to study hypnotism. He eventually came to believe that all diseases were caused by the way one thinks about one’s body.

The scientific evidence that beliefs affect the human body is scant to nonexistent, but Quimby and Baker Eddy weren’t really interested in scientific evidence. I read a little bit more about Mary Baker Eddy in Wikipedia, and it seems she had something of a kerfuffle with Mark Twain in the first decade of the 1900s. Twain wrote an article criticizing Christian Science, which Harper’s magazine refused to publish. Twain then accused the publication of bowing down to pressure from high-profile Christian Scientists and of not being objective. He later published – elsewhere, one presumes – a lengthy critical essay on the subject of Mary Baker Eddy herself.

Touched on in this chapter, and quite possibly worth addressing in greater detail elsewhere, are John Marks Templeton Sr. and Jr. The senior John M. Templeton created the Templeton Foundation, which supports a large variety of both religious and scientific research endeavors. It has been accused of supporting unscientific theories such as “intelligent design” creationism and other dubious sciences. Ehrenreich herself has publicly accused the Templeton Foundation of a conservative political bias, which the Foundation has answered by saying that it stays within the guidelines set forth by its founder, which are designed to be unbiased and apolitical.

Dr. John Marks Templeton Jr., popularly known as Jack Templeton, was well known for donating vast sums of his personal wealth to Republican political causes. He and his wife are estimated to have personally donated a million dollars to opposing same-sex marriage. Having died of a brain tumor in May of this year, he didn’t quite live long enough to see marriage equality become the law of the land on June 26th.

Economics, politics, religion, medicine…areas of life in which people need to be at their most clear-eyed. Optimism and a positive outlook can make life more bearable, especially when one is ill or under stress, but it’s also important to be armed with objective fact. This is the point Barbara Ehrenreich makes in Bright-Sided, and it’s a good one.

I purchased this title as a CD audiobook with my own funds from a library used media sale. I wasn't obligated in any way to review it. This review represents my own honest opinion.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals Tours Pittsburgh's Adult Empire

[Press Release] ( Pittsburgh, PA / September 14, 2015) — Employees at online adult retail and entertainment site Adult Empire were treated to a special visit from popular sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals - 'Dr. Chauntelle' - at the company's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania .

The doctor's jam-packed tour, which she recounted in a recent Uproxx article, included a peek into the busy adult entertainment office's day-to-day operations of sales, shipping and the development of AE's movie production division, AE Films.

Tibbals also sat down for an interview with Adult Empire's own media personalities Chelsea and Becky to promote her new book Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment, which details her experiences in the adult industry and examines the country's conflicted relationship with pornography.

See everything at!

"It was a pleasure to welcome Dr. Chauntelle to Adult Empire, where she got a first-hand view of what we do in the main office, warehouse and data center," said Adult Empire’s Director of Marketing, Megan Wozniak. "It was great to spend the day with her, show her our latest products and interview her for our website."

Chauntell Tibbals, PhD, is a prominent sociologist with a Bachelor of Science in Physiological Sciences and Sociology and Master's in Sociology with a focus on gender and sexuality with emphasis on the socio-cultural significance of adult content and its production, including issues related to law, free speech, and workplace organizational structures.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

There's a She-Hulk In My Closet; I Let Her Out So She Can Breathe

The She-Hulk DiariesThe She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few years ago I read the entire Happy Hour at Casa Dracula series. I adored that series and determined based on it that author Marta Acosta writes fascinating, relatable characters with wit and a compulsive readability. It's true that in my comic book-reading teenage years, I was more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan. I'm not ashamed to say the Avengers film won me over. I was thrilled to learn Acosta was working on a She-Hulk novel, even though I was never a hard-core Shulky fan.

It took me a while to get around to this one, but I'm glad I finally did. Acosta's writing doesn't lose any of its sparkle in taking on the story of Jennifer Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk.

Thanks to her jade-colored alter ego, Walters loses her home in the Avengers West mansion and her job specializing in superhuman law. She starts anew in New York City, where she searches for a love and for a social life beyond hanging out at Joocey Jooce with her best friend since undergrad school, non-superhuman hair stylist Dahlia.

So don't worry if you don't know the entire history of the Marvel universe. This novel is perfectly enjoyable as chick lit. If you've seen any of the Iron Man movies, you already understand Tony Stark well enough to understand Jennifer's love-snark relationship with her iron-clad ex.

I purchased this book with my own funds from a library used book sale and was not obligated in any way to review it. I've also recently come across a copy of Marvel's other experiment in full-length fiction, Rogue Touch, featuring the mutant portrayed by Anna Paquin in the movies. It was written by Christine Woodward, not Marta Acosta, but I'm more than willing to give it a chance.

Not right away, though. My TBR list is lengthy and varied.

View all my reviews on Goodreads