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Book Review: The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Two women's faces behind a hole in a bloody door.Summary:
When Kate saves her bellydancing instructor from a random assault in the parking lot then brings her home to a party at her house full of 20-somethings, she doesn’t expect much to come of it. But before she knows it, she finds herself inexplicably attracted to her…not to mention tying her up for some BDSM.  That’s unexpected enough, but when Jamie and others turn pasty gray and start craving human flesh, Kate and her roommates find the world falling apart around them.  Thanks to an STD-style zombie plague.

Review:
Zombie erotica is its own special kind of erotica, and this is not the first of its kind that I have read.  Zombie erotica basically consists of….zombies and erotica. Also punny titles.  The title is definitely the best part of this book.  Everyone I said it to when they asked what I was reading totally cracked up.  The basic concept is rather ordinary, and the execution, while it has a few laughs, is mostly ho-hum.

Making the zombie plague an STD is a logical leap.  Many illnesses spread sexually, and often they spread before there are any visible symptoms.  In fact it’s a great way to spread an illness because of the amount of *ahem* proximity between carrier and the previously healthy person combined with the fact that people almost always will be having sex.  Toss in that the virus amps up attractiveness and/or promiscuity, and you’ve really got an epidemic.  The problem, of course, is that at some point the carriers have to actually turn into zombies.  Beamer handles this transition moderately well.  It is eventually understood that the carriers are basically irresistible crack-cocaine to the nearby uninfected, so that even if they know this person is about to turn into a zombie, they will still hook up with them.

It’s unfortunate that such a creative zombie plague is wrapped in a mostly ho-hum storyline that only becomes interesting when it becomes borderline offensive.  For the most part the story features two of the roommates in a household of 20-somethings approaching the zombie apocalypse getting separated early on, approaching the zombie apocalypse in their own way, then working to get reunited.  Michael tries to pull the household together when Kate abandons ship pretending that nothing is happening to keep her “date” with an older man that is actually more of a sugar daddy appointment.  Michael’s storyline is fairly straight-forward and believable, whereas Kate’s quickly goes off the rails.  I also am not sure that I’m a fan of the whole writing her as a huge slut who winds up having to pay for her crimes whereas Michael is the golden guy thing.  I don’t think Beamer intended it be read that way, but it certainly does not come across as sex positive.

The other part of the storyline that bothered me is that there is a rape. Now. I am not against rape as part of the plot in anything but erotica.  It is a crime that happens and pretending like it doesn’t happen is bizarre. But rape in erotica is an entirely different ballgame.  Erotica is all about turning on the reader, and I do not condone using a very real rape to turn a reader on.  Clearly two consenting adults can agree to act out a scene of non-consent if they wish, but within the book, this is not a consenting scene of non-consent.  There is no prior discussion, no safeword. The character is definitely raped.  To me it is no different from tossing in a pedophilia scene. It is an awful, heinous crime, and it shouldn’t be running around turning people on.  When a book’s entire point is to turn people on, it should definitely not be all up in my erotica.

All of that said, I must still admit that the book is well-written.  It is engaging with a unique plot.  I truly feel it is a book that each reader must decide upon for themselves, but I do hope that readers will come into it better informed than I was, knowing about the questionable sex positivity and the rape content.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: Bad Glass by Richard E. Gropp

October 18, 2012 2 comments

An assortment of black and white and sepia toned photographs.Summary:
Something strange is happening in Spokane, and the US military has taken control of the city, closing it and its happenings to the press.  Dean sees this as the perfect opportunity to break into photography before he graduates from college and is forced into giving up on his artistic dreams to work a regular 9 to 5 job.  So he sneaks into Spokane, where he meets an intriguing young woman and her rag-tag household of survivors, and quickly starts to see the inexplicable things that are going on inside the city.

Review:
Dark fantasy is one of my favored genres, but unfortunately not a ton comes out in it in any given year.  So when I saw this title available on NetGalley, I just had to snatch it up.  I’m glad I did, because it’s a truly enjoyable read.

The basic plot uses a trope of dark fantasy–a creative outsider comes to a town where bizarre things supposedly happen then starts to document them happening.  The twist here is that the creative type is a photographer, so the art form being used is photography.  This was an incredibly refreshing way to approach the topic.  Each chapter opens with a description of a shot that Dean will get at some point in that chapter.  It’s fascinating foreshadowing, and also Gropp shows real talent in describing photographs of both the fantastical and more ordinary varieties.  The descriptions also talk about more technical aspects of photography, and these show up within the story too (such as lighting and shutter speed).  Describing instead of showing the photographs was a choice that I at first was not certain of but I ultimately appreciated.  By not reproducing the photographs, Gropp leaves quite a bit of the mystery up to the reader and doesn’t spoil whatever images the reader has already established within her own mind.  But the descriptions are also so well-done that the impact of seeing one brief moment in this surreal world is still rendered.  It’s a unique and well-done choice, and I’d recommend this read to people based on that creative storytelling aspect alone.

It’s also great to see a story centering primarily around 20-somethings.  Often literature tends to stick to YA (teens) or jump right over those of us who are in that truly young adult phase of our lives and into 30-somethings.  Although the primary focus of the story is what precisely is happening in Spokane, conflicts frequently faced by 20-somethings come up within this framework–what to do for a career, do you give up on your dreams and settle down into a cubicle or not, when and with whom should you settle down, should you settle down at all, when should you respect your parents and their experience and when should you stand up to them, etc…   Long-time followers know that one reason I enjoy genre literature is it addresses these real life issues within the context of the fantastic, and the good ones do it integrated and in a thought-provoking manner.  This book achieves that.

The main character also is bisexual, while being primarily interested in a woman.  It was so awesome to get to see a bi male main character and have it be presented as just a part of who he is and not a big deal at all.  Although there is certainly a need and a place for the coming out tales and stories where the character’s sexuality is a central issue, it is also nice to see glbtq characters where that is just one aspect of who they are and is not dwelled upon much.  It is just a part of who Dean is.

As for the central plot–what is happening in Spokane–I admit that I hoped for slightly more answers than we ultimately get.  Readers looking for nicely tied up endings or even a hint at an answer will be left wanting.  I enjoy an ambiguous ending, but I also felt that perhaps the plot could have been a bit clearer.  In particular, without giving anything away, I felt that the scenes revolving around the hospital while powerful left me feeling a bit like perhaps even the author doesn’t really know what’s going on in Spokane.  Perhaps that is the point, but it did leave me feeling that the plot was not as up to par as the world building and characterization.

Overall, this is a wonderful addition to the dark fantasy genre.  Gropp gives us a unique main character and also utilizes writing about photography in a creative manner.  I highly recommend it to fans of dark fantasy, particularly 20-somethings and those with an interest in photography.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

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On 20-somethings and Cooking

January 20, 2011 20 comments

I saw something when I was out grocery shopping this weekend that I can’t stop thinking about.  There were three young 20-somethings in front of me in the self-check-out.  They  had a very full cart.  I’m assuming they were roommates shopping for the household.  In any case, I had a bit of a wait, so I started to look at what they’d bought.  I’m always intrigued to see what groceries other people buy.  Anyway.  Their food consisted entirely of prepackaged meals, almost all of them Hungry Man frozen dinners.   We’re talking enough frozen dinners to feed all three of them for around a month.  It took all of my self-control to not let my jaw drop open.  There was not a single piece of fruit, vegetable, or even, heck, a box of pasta in the mix!  Not even some canned applesauce!  Every single item was a frozen dinner.

This rather dramatically demonstrates a trend I’m seeing among my generation that frankly worries me.  I’m not one to rant in a pretentious way about what you should eat, but what the hell happened to the art of cooking?!  Why are people reaching their young 20s with absolutely zero knowledge about how to make dinner from scratch?  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are my age who know next to nothing about cooking.  One of my meals that never fails to impress these friends who can’t cook I call Poor Man’s Pasta.  I take some fresh veggies, chop them up, stir fry them for a bit with herbs, water down some marinara sauce, add it to the pan, and cook it until it simmers down.  I toss pasta in with this, and we have a meal stuffed with fresh veggies and herbs and far more health than a frozen meal that god only knows where the food came from, how long its been frozen, or how much sodium is in it.  It’s basically frankenfood, and it disturbs me that people my age don’t know how to make anything better.

Cooking is one of those things we need to know how to do as human beings.  We should know how to make ourselves food! This seems obvious, but it apparently is not.  Why are parents letting their kids grow up without knowing how to cook?  Isn’t this a basic human need that should not be ignored?  It reminds me of the kids in my undergrad who arrived at college with no clue as to how to do their own laundry.

So, I call out to my fellow 20-somethings.  If you don’t know how to cook, please learn.  It is cheaper.  It isn’t that time-consuming to make a freshly-made meal.  Ask a friend who knows how to cook.  Take a lesson at a local adult learning facility.  This is a basic skill you should at the very least know how to do.  Even if you only cook your dinner yourself once or twice a week, it’ll still be better for your health.  Not to mention, then you can pass the ability of cooking on to your kids, if you decide to have them.  Don’t let the future be a world where only professional chefs know how to cook a meal.