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Book Review: Bits of Bliss – Volume 1 by Andrea Trask (Series, #1)

Book Review: Bits of Bliss - Volume 1 by Andrea Trask (Series, #1)Summary:
A collection of nine erotica short stories, mostly featuring elements of fantasy.  Covering everything from fairy tale retellings to vampires to a bit of scifi.

Review:
This erotica short story collection was quite hit or miss for me.  The stories that excelled were creative and unique, but the stories that did not featured some problematic elements that prevented me from enjoying the erotica.

When I read a short story collection, I always individually rate the stories.  My rating of the collection as a whole is just the average of those ratings.  The highest rating any story in this collection received from me was four stars.  There were three stories I gave four stars, and two of them were the first two stories in the collection, so it definitely started out strong for me.  One is a F/F story featuring a woman who is also a flower (or a flower who is also a woman).  It is poetic and heart-quickening.  The second story features a sentient house that has missed its owner and demands attention.  This made me laugh, and I enjoyed the oddity.  It read like a lighter-hearted, erotica version of dark fantasies where there is an evil house–this one is just horny.  The third four star read was enjoyable for a different reason.  It’s a scifi erotica where two lovers are in a spaceship that is running out of air.  They decide to make love, even though they will die quicker.  It was so heart-breaking and beautiful that I wished it was a whole book.

Four of the stories received three stars.  In each case I felt the story either didn’t take an idea far enough or the story wasn’t long enough to tell the story.  Take it farther, and these all could be just as good as the first three I discussed.

Unfortunately, there were two stories that were big clunkers for me, with each receiving only one star, and they both had almost the same problem.  “Hunting Hound” has a woman mating with a werewolf.  She meets him when she is out riding, and they start making out against a tree, with her a willing participant.  Then this happens.

“Stop” she said, and his face darted in toward her own with a low growl. “Too late to stop.” (loc 1650)

He proceeds to penetrate her.  There is nothing sexy about a woman asking a man to stop and him claiming it’s too late and proceeding to rape her.  It is never too late to stop, and it’s never too late for a partner to change their mind.  It really bothers me that this type of scene is still being presented as sexy.  I know everyone gets off to their own thing, but this is such a clear scene of consent being removed and then ignored that I just cannot say to each their own in this case.  I also want to mention that the book blurb claims that this story features “consensual sexual violence” but it definitely did not read that way to me.

“Summer Nights,” which also received one star, has a similar problem.  This story features a woman who keeps seeing the same mysterious man at parties.  She goes out to the woods behind the house at one of these parties, and he follows her.  She finds out he’s a vampire.  She stands in the woods talking to him, holding a wineglass, when this happens:

“he struck like a train, his swinging backhand sending the wineglass flying toward the treeline, and I faintly registered the tinkling shatter of it, perhaps hitting a rock, or a fallen log.” (loc 5654)

She finds the fact that he just hit a glass out of her hand to be massively sexy and proceeds to bang him.  This is, again, something I feel like I shouldn’t need to say, but there is nothing sexy about a partner violently hitting something out of your hand.  Nothing. Sexy. This is not a sign that oh man she should totally bang this vampire. It is a sign she should run because she is alone in the woods with a violent motherfucker.  This could have so easily been foreplay if, instead of hitting a glass out of her hand, he said something like, “I want you now,” and he gently took the glass from her hand and tossed it away.  Or if she said, “I want you so much,” and tossed the glass over her shoulder.  It would be so easy to have the same erotica about a powerful vampire alone in the woods with a woman without it turning into problematic territory.

I truly wish these last two stories were not in the collection.  The rest of the collection is creative, features some fun queer content (the F/F story and a gender-swapping story), and in the case of the best three stories, has some unique ideas.  Where the collection flounders is, interestingly enough, with the two most mainstream stories that take the agency out of the hands of the women in them and instead retreats to the tired idea of violent men being sexy.

Overall, if a reader is looking for some quick fantasy erotica, most of the stories in this book will satisfy this need, although I would recommend skipping over “Hunting Hound” and “Summer Nights.”  The reader who enjoys the other stories for their uniqueness will most likely be disappointed by the “sexy violence” in these two.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: Siren by John Everson

January 3, 2013 2 comments

Woman crawling out of the ocean onto a rock.Summary:
Evan walks the seacoast of his small town every night reliving the horror of watching his son drown.  But one night he hears a beautiful song and discovers a perfectly naked, perfectly beautiful woman attached to it.  As he begins an affair, willfully oblivious to anything about the woman beyond her beauty, he fails to realize he is falling for the siren of Delilah.

Review:
I picked this up during one of the monthly kindle book sales on a whim, and am I glad I did!  This book was simultaneously terrifying and electrifying.  The flip-flop between fear and titillation was a truly delightful reading experience, and it came with a well thought-out plotline and delicious settings to boot.

Evan is not a likeable guy. In fact, Ligeia, the Siren, is more likable than he is, and she routinely rips people’s throats out with just her teeth.  But disliking Evan works for the story.  It lets the reader invest in Ligeia and see her side of things.  There are ways in which she is a monster, yes, but there are also ways in which she is quite human.  Having a deeply flawed male “victim” to her charms allows the reader to see the monster in us all.

Both the horror and the sex scenes are adeptly written.  The sex scenes are titillating without being too much, and, similarly, the horrific scenes are grotesque without going too far.  The presence of both in the story makes for an ever-changing, exciting read.  Similarly, the plot is complex without being overly so and managed to keep me guessing.  It also strikes the balance quite well.

I also really enjoyed the light commentary on hunting and eating another species.  It provides a depth to the story beyond simply lust leading one astray.

Kind of puts a whole new spin on fishing, doesn’t it?  Here you men are always out there reeling in the fish, and here’s a half-fish woman who’s reeling in the men.  (page 146)

Of course, there is also commentary on cheating and the other woman. There has to be, since Ligeia is Evan’s mistress.  I must admit that that basic plot can sometimes upset me, so I do think it distracted me a bit from enjoying the book as much as I would have otherwise.  On a similar note, the ending is not quite what I would have hoped for, although it did make sense in the context of the story.

Overall, this is an interesting mix of horror and erotica that is fast-paced and enjoyable.  Those sensitive to cheating as a plot device or explicit deaths may want to exercise caution.  Recommended to those who would enjoy their horror and erotica together.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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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: In the Flesh by Portia Da Costa (Series, #5)

Image of woman in corset.Summary:
Beatrice Weatherly is a virginal member of the Ladies Sewing Circle that so loves scandalous talk but now her reputation in Victorian English society has been soiled by scandalous nude photos that an ex-fiance sold on the black market.  Since she’s already considered a scarlet woman, Bea decides to enter into a courtesan-style relationship with the fierce businessman and mysteriously secretive Edward Ellsworth Richie.  Meanwhile their servants and Bea’s brothers get up to their own scandalous scenarios.

Review:
Yet again I requested an ARC that was surprisingly part of a series.  Thankfully, the style of this series makes it completely possible to read them out of order with no confusion.  Each book or novella is about one member of the circle, so I was not lost at all.

Let me be crystal clear here.  I would not, by any stretch of the imagination, call this a romance.  This is erotica.  In fact, one of my GoodReads updates states that I’ve never seen this much sex in a book before, and I do read erotica from time to time.  Generally one would find this a positive in an erotica, but personally the reason I like them is that they don’t fade out of scenes that happen in real life BUT THERE IS STILL PLOT MOVING AT A GOOD RATE.  The plot here is minimal and is frequently dropped, hurried, or pushed aside in favor of yet another sex scene.  And as for the sex scenes, they could have been more redundant, what with Bea being a virgin and all, but they still kinda are super redundant.  She’s a virgin, she’s worried, will it hurt? But oh she can see his hard-on through his pants and she wants him to fuck her but no he won’t because he’s bringing her virginal self into it slowly and missionary position and oh my goodness orgasms and he won’t sleep in bed with her.  Over and over again.  Oh except she rides him once.  I don’t know about you, but there’s only so much virgin I can take in my erotica, and this crosses the line.

Meanwhile, the main plot is incredibly bare bones and rushed.  Everything happens in the span of a month from meeting to engagement.  Plus there’s the super annoying mad first wife in the attic trope of Vicorian lit.  Maybe. Mayyyybe the author meant this to be a sort of parody of Jane Eyre?  I don’t know.  But it doesn’t work really.  It’s kind of insulting, actually, especially for a book that supposedly is pro women’s rights but then we have a first wife who went mad after being basically raped by her husband but it’s not his fault because he couldn’t stop himself.

o_O

Yeah, so, there is that.  What saves this book from two stars is actually the subplot involving Bea’s brother and the male and female servant.  They end up establishing a three-way relationship that is healthy for all of them and then move to the countryside to carry it on in peace.  Now this is a fascinating little situation and leaves the door wide-open for all sorts of fun sex scenes, but we only get one with all three of them.

Le sigh.

My advice to the author would be next time to focus on the unique storyline instead of the one that’s sort of a rip-off from old Victorian lit.

And also not to make the main dude a rapist.

Overall if you’re open to lots of types of sex scenes in your erotica and have a certain affinity for Victorian clothes and virgin sex, then you’ll enjoy this read and certainly get the bang for your buck. (haha)  All others should steer clear.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

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Previous Books in Series
A Gentlewoman’s Predicament
A Gentlewoman’s Ravishment
A Gentlewoman’s Pleasure
A Gentlewoman’s Dalliance

Book Review: Lucky Stiff by Tonia Brown

August 29, 2011 2 comments

Voodoo doll and candle.Summary:
Peter’s just a young 18 on his first spring break to New Orleans with his friends when he accidentally takes ecstasy instead of sleeping pills and dies.  His friends, terrified, drag his corpse off to a local voodoo priestess who raises him with her special kind of magic–tantric magic.  Somehow this method of raising Peter combined with the time of year makes Peter into a very special kind of zombie.  One who can feed off of female orgasms instead of human flesh if he so chooses.

Review:
In case it’s not abundantly clear from the summary, this is an erotica novel.  A zombie erotica novel.  Frankly if you’re not grossed out by vampire undead sex, then this book shouldn’t bother you at all.  It’s not like Peter decays (don’t worry, Brown takes care of that part logically).  So it’s less sex with a decaying corpse and more sex with an undead dude.

Brown’s concept is hilarious and well-executed.  Peter is a zombie with a permanent hard-on who can’t come but needs female orgasms to feed off of to keep him from going all cold-blooded killer.  Um possibly the best female-friendly set-up for a paranormal erotica ever?  Since he died a virgin, he starts off with the Madam learning how to pleasure a lady for five years, then he gets booted out to go find his own way and become a pick-up artist.  He’s completely focused on and fascinated with the female orgasm.  You might even call it a fetish. 😉

It doesn’t matter if I can’t come as long as I can be a part of it when you do. (page 15)

On top of the fun and varied sex scenes though there’s lots of well-conceived plot.  Peter has issues he has to deal with.  He basically has to grow the fuck up enough to be able to handle a monogamous relationship and recognize real love for what it is.  For instance, at first he thinks he’s in love with the Madam, but she tells him:

Sex is just sex. Sometimes it’s really good, true, but it’s nothing in da grand scheme a’ things. We may have fucked, but we never made love.  (page 87)

In other words, he only thinks he loves her because he lost his virginity to her.  He needs to go out and learn what real love is.  That combined with navigating morality and your faith (he becomes a voodoo convert loyal to La Croix) are at the center of the plot.

Brown also drops in various witticisms that exhibit wisdom but are simultaneously hilariously dripping in paranormality:

The trick to being undead, much like being monogamous, is keeping everything fresh. (page 33)

Bits like that kept me laughing out loud whenever I wasn’t caught up in the erotica.

Alas, sometimes the dialogue is a bit stiff (haha, sorry, couldn’t resist).  Ahem, in all seriousness, sometimes the dialogue felt a bit forced and unnatural.  Similarly, I was bothered that, although Peter clearly is bisexual (he makes multiple comments about wanting to try things out with men in addition to women), for some reason male orgasms are too violent or pointed or whatever for him to be able to feed off of them.  Um, I’m sorry, but this isn’t logical.  At the very least it would make that if Peter gave head to a guy it would feed him, yes?  It felt like Brown wanted to be edgy by making Peter almost bi, but refused to really go all the way.  A great example of this is that Peter tries sex with a dude once, but only in the context of a threesome, and it’s the only sex scene not written as erotica.  It’s simply briefly mentioned in past tense.  I really wish Brown had gone all the way and made Peter bi.  It’d be interesting to see that here.  Alternatively, to just make Peter totally straight would’ve been fine too.  This fine walking of the line rubs me the wrong way though.

Overall this is a fun erotica with a unique storyline that manages to make zombies sexy with a heavy dash of voodoo.  I recommend it to those who love zombies and erotica fairly equally.  I’m betting, knowing the people that I know, that this is not as small a portion of the population as some may think.

4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Amazon

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Book Review: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop (series, #1)

August 17, 2011 7 comments

Girl holding glowing thing.Summary:
In this fantasy matriarchal land, people are ranked by their power based on what color jewels they are mystically assigned to wear when they come of age.  The darker the jewel, the better.  The women all have some sort of witchcraft power, but none have had the power of The Witch in hundreds of years.  Corrupt women have messed with the structure of society turning it from harmony to darkly using the men and women to their own advantage.  Men in particular are used by controlling them via a ring of obedience (placed around their penis).  Into this messed-up society the much waited for Witch is born, but most do not recognize her.  Lucky for her, the demon dead Saetan and his two living sons, Daemon and Lucivar, do.

Review:
This is what I would call high fantasy.  The only thing missing really is knights in shining armor.  A friend gave me this trilogy for my birthday as it is one of her favorite series, and she thought I would like it.  I can see why she thought I would like it.  It’s dark, graphically violent and sexual, and the choice to depict a messed-up matriarchy instead of patriarchy is unique.  Unfortunately I just couldn’t get into it.

First there’s the whole jewels and traveling on webs and wind and speaking on a soundwave that only people with that jewel can hear thing.  None of these things are ever particularly explained.  They just are.  Ok, so that probably works for fantasy fans, but I’m a logical, scifi reading lady.  I want explanations for things.  Also, how society fell apart is kind of massively unclear to me.  I’m not sure how things went from good to bad or what the properly functioning society is supposed to look like.  It’s all very confusing, and frankly, I can’t remember the order of the ranks of the jewels.  I just remember that gray is second-strongest and black is strongest.  But then later in the book some people say they’ve worked their way up to stronger jewels than their birthright.  Um, what?  When did that happen?  How can that happen?  If you can do that then why does your birthright jewel matter at all?  None of this makes any sense. Agh.

Then there’s the ring of obedience.  So they put this on violent males who are now sex slaves, apparently.  They serve witches.  The ring makes it so they can’t get a hard-on without pain.  But they don’t take the ring off for sex, which means these women are using sex slaves but never actually having intercourse. Who would want that?!  How does that make sense?  Also, Daemon can apparently pleasure women and tie them up just with his mind.  He can do this but he can’t get a ring off his dick?  This feels like badly-organized erotica.  Which would be fine if it was erotica, but it’s fantasy, so wtf Bishop.

So then we have Jaenelle, The Witch.  She’s eleven or twelve, I can’t remember exactly which.  Her family thinks she’s crazy because she’s super-powerful and travels around meeting mystical creatures and told them about it, which was a bad move.  She got sent to an asylum then brought home, and she’s been all Miss Mysterious Dark Eyes That Are Actually Gorgeous and Sapphire ever since.  This is the main mystery of the book.  That and the manly threesome trying to protect her from the big bad queen witches who want her dead.  So Daemon is working in her house and basically falls in love with her.  He’s never felt sexual desire for a witch before, but now he does.  He feels horrible that he feels it for one so young and vows to wait until she’s grown up enough to be with him, but he still feels it.

Then we *spoiler alert* find out the asylum is just a cover-up for pedophiles, and of course Jaenelle gets raped, and a good witch saves her, and Daemon and Saetan work together to try to save her, and in her mind she tells Daemon that he just wants her body just like everyone else, and he basically makes out with her in her mind to show her he wants to be her lover not hurt her.  This makes her come back to her body and heal it. Then she escapes to Saetan and Daemon escapes off to a brothel.

Can we just HOLD THE PHONE for a minute.  I am not at all against a pedophilia storyline or plot device.  These things happen in real life, so it’s ok for them to be in a story.  I do have a problem with the “good guy” having sexual feelings for an eleven or twelve year old when he’s literally centuries old.  He himself admits this is bad, but instead of going away from her, he makes out with her in her mind (when she’s in half-horse form no less).  I just….what.  What the what.  What am I supposed to think about this?  How am I supposed to feel about a book written by a woman in which the matriarchy basically abuses everyone and yet the men still wind up with most of the power (the manly threesome) over this young girl who is supposed to become the awesome ruler one day, and one of the guys has pedophilic feelings for her. WTF.*end spoilers*

I suppose it’s possible that Daemon is an anti-hero, and we’ll find that out later in the series.  That Jaenelle will triumph and prevail over everyone and fix everything.  We can only hope.  I do suspect that part of my issue with the book is just point-blank never feeling comfortable in the fantasy world Bishop lays out.  I just don’t do high fantasy.  When will I learn this?

That said, it does seem well-written, and I think if a fantasy fan can handle very dark and graphic violence, sex, and themes, they will probably enjoy this trilogy.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Book Review: Cthulhurotica an anthology published by Dagan Books

February 14, 2011 5 comments

Woman with tentacle head sniffing an apple.Summary:
This collection of short stories, art, and poetry pay homage to H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos by adding an erotic twist.  Lovecraft was notoriously up-tight about sex, yet his mythos inspires erotica.  Stories, poetry, and art draw inspiration from everything from Nyarlathotep, to the Old Ones, to Cthulu himself.  These works of art promise spine tingles of both horror and pleasure.

Review:
I knew the instant I saw the gorgeous cover and read the title of this book that I had to read it.  I am completely taken with the Cthulu mythos and always felt the only thing it was missing was some raunchy sex.  This collection definitely tastefully delivers on both.  You won’t find pages and pages of sex, rather the sexual encounters occur as a key plot point to the various stories, rather like well-written sex scenes in romance novels.  Only with tentacles.  And gore.

Naturally as with any short story collection there are tales deliciously pulled off and others less so.  Thankfully, most of the short stories fall into the previous category.  Three in particular–“The Fishwives of Sean Brolly”, “The Assistant from Innsmouth”, and “The Summoned”–really rocked my world as they are not only deliciously entertaining, but also offer thoughtful commentary on gender roles and relationships.  In fact this is what moves the collection from just a bit of fun to thought-provoking territory, and that is always the sign of a good story.

Further, I am quite pleased to point out that the collection is very GLBTQ friendly.  Multiple stories feature non-heteronormative relationships, and the GLBTQ characters are as well-rounded as the straight ones.  I offer my applause to Dagan Books for its choices of stories to include.

As far as the artwork, it is all beautiful and impressive.  Enough so that I’m seriously considering acquiring a paper copy to keep kicking around my apartment.  The pictures suck the viewer in in the tradition of the classic piece of tentacle erotic art “The Fisherman’s Wife.”

Overall, this is a highly entertaining read.  Although some of the stories fall short of others in the collection, most of them offer up chills and delights in addition to social commentary.  I highly recommend it to those fond of the Lovecraft universe as well as those with an interest in gender/sexuality.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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