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 »

Monday, May 18, 2015

'Loving Loki' by Cheryl Pillsbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brass Tacks:

Why Should I Read This Book?

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

Purchase link:

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

Add It On Goodreads:

Why Shouldn't I Read This Book?

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

Are There Any Thorki Moments in This Book?

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

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Library Book Haul May 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

On my commute, I'm currently listening to:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 2, 2015

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

'Planet Simpson' Audiobook Review

Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a GenerationPlanet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation by Chris Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got a tremendous amount of pleasure from listening to this audiobook - but then, I've been a fan of the Simpson clan since the days of the Tracey Ullman shorts. Turner's writing is humorous and insightful. He does show a bit of bias, however, and I hope you won't think it too, as the French say, Lisa-esque of me to point out that Turner:

- Uses the word "mankind" when, clearly, he means "humankind"
- Uses the word "coed" when, clearly, he means "student" - an anachronism which, by the way, makes a person sound as if he or she is as old as Mr. Burns
- Assumes the reader finds Lisa shrill/strident/obnoxious while at the same time admitting she is the closest thing to the voice of the (almost exclusively male) writers
- Throws out the suggestion that Marge Simpson is "anti-feminist" because she's a homemaker, when in reality feminism is all about empowering women to have choices and to be homemakers if they choose to do so.

I could do without the casual sexism and anti-feminist assumptions. (And I am so sick of saying so. My queendom for an unabashedly feminist male author in the mainstream media!)

That said, Turner's analysis of the major characters and themes of the long-running cartoon series seem accurate. His overall thesis is useful in understanding one of the wittiest things on television, programming which has consistently entertained me for over 20 years now.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

'The Last American Vampire' by Seth Grahame-Smith

The Last American Vampire
(Mom, since you haven't read the book yet, do not read my review. It may contain spoilers and unduly influence your opinion.)

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Heads up: I'm going to use "they" as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun.) I enjoyed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but this sequel much less so. I don't understand the plot. What is A. Grander VIII's motivation for doing all the awful things they do? I can't enthusiastically endorse a book in which the villain's actions are so nonsensical.

Seth Grahame-Smith's consistent insensitivity to the female half of the species continues to baffle and irk me. It's not only his refusal to join us in the 21st century and, in the voices of his narrators, use the inclusive word "humankind" rather than the outdated, gender-biased "mankind." On the "Facts" page that proceeds the title page in this first edition, in the voice of his narrator - not, mind you, a character from an earlier century - Grahame-Smith uses "mankind" twice in three paragraphs.

It's also a return on Grahame-Smith's part to the "I used to love her, but I had to kill her" theme I so detested in his screenplay of the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp/Helena Bonham Carter travesty Dark Shadows. "But she was a witch!" and "But she was an evil vampire!" may be acceptable excuses for violence against fictional women, but such scenes are not the least bit entertaining in a world where real violence against real women is a disturbing constant.

I really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but Seth Grahame-Smith disappoints me as often as he impresses me. I did like the footnote in which Emily Dickinson's reclusiveness is explained by her being a lesbian or bisexual/pansexual vampire. Alas, the women in Grahame-Smith's fiction since Elizabeth Bennet have all been footnotes, plot devices to be used at the service of the male characters' plotlines and then violently disposed of when no longer necessary. If Grahame-Smith's next book is titled Emily Dickinson: Pansexual Vampire, I'll probably read it. Otherwise, I think I'll be done with his casually sexist, anachronistic ass. I read for fun, not to be made to feel as if my entire gender is disposable.

Judging from his photo on the inside back cover, Seth Grahame-Smith is a fairly good-looking guy. He will not, however, be one of my Hanukkah Hotties, because he is a not-very-nice Jewish boy.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Fantastic Voyage: 'A Wind in the Door' by Madeleine L'Engle (Time Quintet #2)

FYI, this post is going to mention Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, including a key plot point in the third book. If you don't wish to have His Dark Materials spoiled, please come back and read this post after you finish The Amber Spyglass. I'm also going to be sharing a spoiler from the third book in the Time Quintet.

A Wind in the Door is the second book in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet. It continues the story of Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, begun in A Wrinkle in Time. AWIT was first published in 1962, and AWITD first appeared in 1973. I listened to this book on CD, performed by Jennifer Ehle (of Pride and Prejudice fame).

Titular Allusion: The unusual title comes from Le Morte D'Arthur. Sir Thomas Malory's 1485 compilation of tales of Arthurian legend is written in English even older and stranger than Shakespeare and the King James Bible. (The KJV is currently 404 years old, but Le Morte D'Arthur is more than 100 years older.)

In this volume, Charles Wallace - age 6 - is terribly ill. It's bad enough he's so much smarter than the other first graders and they beat him up because of his unusual-for-his-age interest in mitochondria and farandolae. (L'Engle invented farandolae, organisms so tiny they live inside mitochondria, and named them after a type of European folk dance.) Even worse, his mother - who is a microbiologist - suspects something is wrong with Charles Wallace's mitochondria. He's pale, exhausted, and beginning to have trouble breathing.

But is he hallucinating? Meg suspects her youngest brother may be when he claims to have seen dragons in the twins' vegetable garden. He's not exactly wrong, it turns out. What he mistakes for "a drive of dragons" is actually Proginoskes, a cherubim. Yes, "cherubim" is a plural noun (masculine plural, to be exact, since Hebrew is a gendered language), but Proginoskes is "practically plural." He only materializes for the sake of the humans, but in his material form he appears as a swirl of wings, eyes, smoke, and flame.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the word "cherubim" is borrowed from the Assyrian word for "to be near." It implies the cherubim are the order of angels who are near the throne of God - God's "bodyguards," one might say. L'Engle's description of a cherubim is based, in part, on the tenth chapter of the Biblical book of Ezekiel. She leaves out the strange wheels-within-wheels the prophet saw, and the prophet's description of the angels as having four beastly faces.

According to Wikipedia, Proginoskes is Greek for "foreknowledge."

Proginoskes, Meg, and Meg's sort-of boyfriend/friend who is a boy Calvin O'Keefe are cosmically selected to be members of a class that must pass three tests and intervene to save Charles Wallace -and, possibly, the universe. To do so, they must go inside one of Charles Wallace's mitochondria and meet one of the farandola. The farandola, called Sporos, is much chagrined to be partnered with Calvin. Sporos considers Earthlings beneath him.

His pride is one of the reasons why Sporos is vulnerable to attack by the Echthroi (Greek for "enemy"). These awful creatures seek to destroy, or un-Name, all of creation. Proginoskes calls them fallen angels.

Fallen angels is just another name for demons. In this novel, they even possess Mr. Jenkins, who used to be the principal of Meg's high school and is now the principal of Charles Wallace's grade school. Calvin being called upon to fight demons is all the more reason for young!Jared Padalecki to portray him, in my imagination.

You can't tell me this isn't Calvin O'Keefe. Doesn't he look like a demon fighter?
I can't help it: I'm in love with the slow, innocent way Meg Murry and Calvin O'Keefe are falling in love. It reminds me of how [SPOILER ALERT] Lyra and Will fall in love in The Amber Spyglass. BUT I'm certain Calvin and Meg have a much, much happier ending. I mean, I already know that in the third book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, they're married and she's expecting their first child. I should add that the third book is set 10 years after A Wind in the Door.

I enjoyed this book much, much more than I thought I would. Now I'm excited to read the next book. I wish my library had it on CD, but it only has it on tape. I do happen to own the paperback, though.

Know who else is a cherubim? Castiel (whose name means "shield of God"). When he's not using the body of Jimmy Novak as a vessel, I imagine, Castiel also looks like a drive of dragons, a great throbbing cloud of fire and flapping wings and winking eyes. As Meg Murry learns, cherubim are inherently lovable. It's no wonder Dean Winchester is so strongly bonded to Cas.

Jimmy Novak may be a dead guy - I mean, I don't really know because I don't watch Supernatural - but he makes a very pretty vessel. Apparently one time Dean kicked Castiel out of the house.