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Category Archives: Books

Four in a Bed (2012): Roll Over, Roll Over

photo credit: Oregon State University

Yanusa Devon, Four in a Bed (No publisher listed, 2012)

four

Problem number one with this book: that only looks like one, and I don’t see a bed. photo credit: my copy

This was part of a series of cheap Kindle porn that got released under the wrong names, the cover is for Ceci Patricks’ Musings of a Sex Addict, but the text is for Four in a Bed. (Since I had the other book, I used the cover it should have had above instead of the cover it got.) This incredibly short “story” starts off sounding like a particularly bad Hustler letter written by a horny twelve-year-old who has no sexual experience whatsoever. And that’s the good part. By the third paragraph, the author has gone from at least rudimentary attempts at show-don’t-tell to sounding as if this is a school assignment and he wants to get it over with as fast as possible. He also pads things out by adding ridiculous, offensive stereotypes. “My wife Jade and Henry’s wife Bianca did a little lesbian act when we were completely naked and settled on our bed. Although Jade was bi-curious, I was strictly heterosexual. We only had sex with couples where the man was strictly heterosexual as well.” Seriously, do women exist who put up with the sort of idiotic double standard found in that passage? And who wouldn’t smack their husbands over the head for not including even a single detail in the first sentence, which in well-written erotica could easily be stretched out to two or three thousand words of tantalizing description? This is absolutely awful. ½ star because it’s not overtly morally objectionable, just stupid, naive, and terribly written.

Zarathustra (2011): Also Sprach Niemand

Brad Phillips, Zarathustra (Brad Phillips, 2011)

zarathustra

Somewhere in the back of beyond… photo credit: my copy

This feels like about half a story. There’s a fine line between revealing just enough to get your point across and not doing do, and getting to just the right side of that line is often tricky. Here, however, it might have been easier than usual. Zarathustra, for example, aside from the title only crops up in the last sentence. And, assuming the reference is to Nietzsche’s book rather then the founder of Zoroastrianism, which aspect of the book is being referenced here? It could be at least three, possibly a half-dozen, but none of them really quite fit. It rather goes without saying that for readers who are not polymaths, references to Zarathstra and Shemhamphorasch may end up going straight over their heads. Therein lies the paradox: those who get the references are far more likely to call the author out on the story’s shortcomings. * ½

Slaves to Do These Things (2009): Selling One’s Soul to God Is to Betray the Other

Slaves to Do These Things (2009): Selling One’s Soul to God Is to Betray the Other

Amy King, Slaves to Do These Things (BlazeVOX Books, 2009)

slaves

Carpentry is a dirty business. photo credit: Amazon

Every once in a while, I run across a poet—the last one was Timothy Donnelly, over a decade ago—whose work feels like it’s introducing me to a new language, one that is parallel to ours, but lying just beneath the surface, a language where quotidian words are used in new, unfamiliar, and exciting ways. Slaves to Do These Things is steeped in this kind of language, but still oddly grounded; it feels kind of like an unholy union between Donnelly and, say, Matthea Harvey. And since I basically worship both those poets, you probably know what I’m going to say here.

By the way, if you’re reading this on the day I post it, head on over to Folder Magazine. King is the featured poet this month. (The timing of the posting of this review is, of course, not a coincidence at all. Both King and Folder deserve far, far more exposure than they have gotten to date.)

I come for you on the people’s chariot
interpreted in nightgown,
sidelined, and smoking,
breakfast huevos in hand,
for we are poorer figures with lust,
and poorer still, talking this city
from block into block into
that which sells
a plastic surprise
in the snake oil’s morning,
a unisex of truth bearing.”

…begins “Stimulus Package”, and you see what I mean? “The people’s chariot interpreted in nightgown.” That feels like something that would make perfect sense if you just looked at it a slightly different way. And it works. Some of the language in here just blew me away. (I singled out the line “Leaning into backdrafts just to glow”, from “The Fear of Hope Is Also Beautiful”, in a social media post the other day.)

I’m stunned, and kind of in love, and need to get my hands on everything this woman has ever written. *****

Plagued (2013): At Last, Someone Found a Reason to Visit Missouri

Better Hero Army, Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment (Storyteller Press, 2013)

Plagued

If every zombie looked like that, would anyone actually MIND the apocalypse? photo credit: Amazon

First off: if you’re going to use a pseudonym, at least make it sound like a human being’s name. Otherwise, you might find yourself releasing books under a name like Bolaji Worldstar77. Or Sunshine 44. Or Better Hero Army.

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The 30-Minute Blowjob (XXXX): After Reading This, You Still Have 28 Minutes to Practice

The 30-Minute Blowjob (XXXX): After Reading This, You Still Have 28 Minutes to Practice

photo credit: Oregon State University

Eva Arlington, The 30 Minute Blowjob: How to Give Him the Best BJ Ever in 30 Minutes or Less (no publisher listed, no date listed)

bj

I’m always impressed when a cover design uses a fresh, exciting metaphor. photo credit: my copy

In the bedroom, tramp, bitch, slut, and whore are all interchangeable and synonymous with babycakes, honey, and ‘I Love You’.”

Even if the rest of the slim, common-sense volume were packed to the brim with the Secrets of the Ancient Mayan Temple Prostitutes or something, that sentence on its own would drop my rating here three stars or more. And since it’s not, well, there’s not too far to go before hitting zero.

Sarah Swallows (2012): …But You Don’t Have To

photo credit: Oregon State University

Francine Forthright, Sarah Swallows (Mmmmmore, 2012)

swallows

This might have been less offensive had she swallowed lye. photo credit: my copy

SPOILER ALERT

Spoiler Alert!

There is one way to get an instant and automatic zero-star rating from me: include a scene that starts out as rape and ends as conventional sex. It’s even worse when that scene is the entire book. (zero)

Book of Poetry: Romantic Poems (XXXX): Least Accurate Title of the Year

James K. Moore, Book of Poetry: Romantic Poems (MooreSuccess, no date listed)

romantic

The cover is the most romantic thing about it. photo credit: pinterest

I have to admit that I’m impressed, in a grudging sort of way, by the poem “You and I” in this collection. It is possible to advance the hypothesis that every major error it is possible to make in the crafting of poetry exists in this single piece.

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Read and Masturbate vol. 3 (2012): Not a Chance

photo credit: Oregon State University

Anonymous (ed.), Read and Masturbate, vol. 3 (No publisher listed, 2012)

ram

Bleed and obfuscate. photo credit: my copy

This is another of those pieces of cheap Kindle porn that seems as if the compiler simply harvested pieces from one of the alt.sex.stories.* newsgroups and cut/pasted to form this. Thievery issues aside, conceptually, such things would be good if the compiler has a little taste. Practically, however, I’m waiting to read my first one that’s actually worth reading. The two stories presented here, both of which have Indian narrators, are just as amateurish as in any other thing like this I’ve reviewed, but there’s a much uglier, darker, and more offensive tone here than usual: both of these stories revolve around rape. (No, there’s no difference between “non-consensual sex” and rape, and if you think there is, you’re part of the problem.) As a result, I did indeed complete the first half of the title’s directive, but the second couldn’t have been farther from my mind. (zero)

Hunting Season (2011): Tease Me, Freeze Me

Selena Kitt and Blake Crouch, Hunting Season (Excessica, 2011)

huntingseason.jpg

This will not be a truly free country until we have the unfettered right to arm bears. photo credit: goodreads

Erotica author Selena Kitt and thriller author Blake Crouch might seem an odd pairing for a collaboration. But hey, look at how many non-noise acts Merzbow’s done collaborations with. (If you haven’t heard his new one with Boris, Gensho, it’s even better than Rock Dream, the collaboration that introduced Boris to millions of noise kids and Merzbow to the wider world.) Sometimes you put two things that don’t seem like they’d go together well in the same dish, and magic happens. “Hunting Season” is quite a nice goat’s head stew, especially given that both authors rein in their normal genre tendencies and write what is, essentially, a contemporary romance novel that happens to be boiled down into eight thousand words, give or take. One of the things that does, where romance novel conventions are concerned, is dispense with the “you thought…” “wait, you thought…” silliness in the space of about a paragraph, when I’ve read books where it can go up to fifty pages. That alone is a refreshing enough shot of adrenalin for romance readers to pick this one up. Crouch does slip in a thriller angle, as ridiculous as it is, and Kitt seals the deal on it with the story’s Big Twist(TM), but in general, I only got impressions of which author was writing which bit, and that is a solid complement to both.

I enjoy both Crouch and Kitt as solo authors, so I went into this one pretty much knowing I was going to enjoy it. If you’re not familiar with one or both, you may want to check out their solo works first (my recommended starting points are Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed for Kitt and Desert Places for Crouch), but if you like those, you’ll want to pick this one up. *** ½

The Lucky Little Labrador Goes to School (2012): …but not for characterization

C. J. Smiles, The Lucky Little Labrador Goes to School (Happily Books, 2012)

lucky

That diploma and a quarter… won’t even get you a bus ride anymore. photo credit: my copy

One of the cardinal rules of children’s book writing is to not talk down to your audience. Not only does it show a disrespect for them, but you’d be surprised at how well kids can see through that sort of thing. Smiles’ book has an example that is both more abstract and more subtle than usual, which kind of makes me want to grudgingly admire it while still running it down. In this case, it’s a character; Kevin’s mother is as two-dimensional as they come, nerve-wrackingly shrill until that one moment of revelation when all the sudden her personality changes completely. Ever seen that happen in real life? Nope, me neither. And we don’t do any service to kids telling them it happens, any more than we do service to adults when that sort of thing happens in bad TV shows and movies. The underlying story is a decent one, but the devil, as usual, is in the details. **