Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vampalicious by Timothy McGivney (REVIEW)

I feel awful for having sat on this review for as long as I have (sorry, Tim!), but I knew that if I were going to save one review to feature on Halloween, then Vampalicious would be it. Like its predecessor, this is extraordinary blend of horror and romance, but with the characters already established and the preliminaries out of the way, Timothy McGivney gives himself free reign to explore the darkest edges of his tale.

It works beautifully.

Once again, this is a blood-and-guts horror story that refuses to shy away from the gore. Adding vampires was a risk, one that could have gone horribly wrong, but McGivney not only establishes his vampires as central characters to the tale, he also allows for a little zombie cross-infection that brings a whole new element of horror to the tale. Adrian is a wonderful character, the epitome of the seductive vampire, and one who is as adept at penetrating the boys with his fangs as he is with his manhood! As for Jeanette, she is dangerously fascinating, a mentally unbalanced vampire bride with a cruel fetish for S&M. Sex with this unholy couple certainly pushes beyond the limits of erotica established in Zombielicious, but the scenes are handled extremely well, and are necessary to the plot.

Romantically, this is an even stronger book than the first, thanks primarily to the relationship between Walt and Joey. Having moved from infatuation to passionate love, they are one of the cutest couples I have ever come across in a horror novel. They really do seem to exist beyond the page, and they endear themselves so well to the reader, you can't help but be drawn into their struggle. This time around they both get to play the hero, taking turns in coming to one another's rescue. There's a second relationship here, though, one that haunts the story, reminding you the world has become a dangerous place. We really only get to know Taco's romantic side through flashbacks and memories, but it drives her to avenge her lover's death . . . while making amends for her own romantic inhibitions.

The story moves along at a breakneck pace, never allowing the characters (or the reader) to rest for long. While McGivney smartly uses the tender, romantic moments to alleviate some of the tension, he never allows the horror to completely recede. This is a book where lives are at stake, and where survival is measured more in terms of days, or even hours, than years. It's hard to talk highlights without getting into spoiler territory, but I will say Walt's sexual submission to power of Adrian left me breathless; the deadly ménage à trois between Adrian, Jeanette, and Christoph (their vampire Master) absolutely blew me away; and the final, desperate dash to Ruby Island nearly broke my heart. There's not quite as much humour this time around, but there were a few running gags - such as poor Walt running around and kicking Zombie ass in nothing but a jockstrap - that left me with a smile.

If you have yet to enjoy Zombielicious, then treat yourself to a Halloween double-feature and pick it up alongside Vampalicious - because, once you take these boys in hand, you won't want to let go.

[Reviewed by Sally]

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Zapocalypse - The Midnight Special by D. Dye (REVIEW)

For such a short tale, D. Dye manages to cover an amazing amount of ground. Tightly plotted and fast-paced, with nary a wasted paragraph in sight, Zapocalypse - The Midnight Special (Lesbians Vs. Zombies) offers up equal parts horror, erotica, and satire, all in a mix that works so well, you won't want it to end.

Let's start with the horror. The zombies here are fast and ferocious, terrifying monstrosities that just won't stay dead. Brutal and bloody, they aren't exactly mindless, but are certainly single-minded in their lust for human flesh. More importantly, they're scary bastards, representing a legitimate threat to the characters.

As for the erotica, Ginger and Gina are an absolutely delicious pair of lesbians. Strong, independent, and deeply in love with one another, these are two women who for whom gloves, raincoats, rain-pants, bulletproof vests, and Benelli shotguns are no threat to their exquisite femininity. Whether it's stealing a kiss at the diner, caressing one another on the balcony, or getting hot and heavy in the bedroom, there is a definite passion to their every interaction. Similarly, whether it's defending one another from groping redneck paws or from grasping zombie claws, there is a sincerity to their love that really endears them to the reader.

Finally, in terms of satire, this is a very funny book - morbidly so, of course. Dye lays it on thick, having fun with a redneck theme that extends well beyond death. Spiteful and worthy of disgust in life, her bloated, balding, drunken louts are pitifully amusing in death. Rather than just playing up the stereotypes, she plays against them, using the sharply feminist wits of Ginger and Gina to make the most impact.

All-in-all, this is a fun, sexy, exhilarating read that will definitely leave you hungry for more!

[Reviewed by Sally]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Submission by Bonnie Bliss (REVIEW)

Bonnie Bliss has quickly become a favourite author of mine, ever since I had the chance to review the sweetly erotic Chains and Chocolate. Even though her Twisted Oz series (Twisted Dreams & Twisted Ropes) has had me gushing like an infatuated schoolgirl, I was quite excited about getting back to another real-world tale of authentic domination, especially one with a Halloween theme.

I am delighted to say, Halloween Submission is another tale of intimate bondage and domination that is likely to leave you out-of-breath and week-in-the-knees. A romantic slice of fetish erotica, it's the story of a stressed-out fireman who like to play Dom, and a tired-out nurse who likes to play the sub. He likes to completely immobilize his submissives with a massive chain of three-inch links, eighteen feet long, and she likes to be spanked, hard and repeatedly, before being taken anally.

She's only too happy to submit, and he's only too happy to take his pleasure - precisely as she desires.

With it being Halloween and all, both Tom and Lucy are in costume, their true identities hidden from one another. That mystery lends an air of illicit danger to the story, a certain thrill of anonymity that speaks to the wild one in all of us. Of course, knowing their true identities, we (as readers) can allow our fantasies of true love fulfilled to run rampant, even as we wonder whether it will all work out as we wish. By the time the chain comes out, I was definitely already whimpering alongside Lucy, shifting awkwardly in my seat.

Which is precisely when Bonnie chose to turn the tables and introduce an emotional twist that left me gasping.

Hot and heavy, this was a read that could not have been more satisfying. I loved that way the story built to an orgasmic crescendo, and then seemed to fall apart on the other side, before reaching outside the dungeon and back into real life for the emotional closure needed to resolve everything. Give it a read and you'll never look at a fireman - not to mention women in kitty costumes - quite the same ever again!

[Reviewed by Sally]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Acclamation by Vee Hoffman (REVIEW)

Acclamation by Vee Hoffman is a touching, detailed, and at times lyrical novel that describes the slow slide for protagonist Michael Cassidy from a state of stale grief back to the land of the living through the vehicle of his developing love for Dominic Butler, one of his students at the Catholic school where he teaches.  There are plenty of things that could be said about that power dynamic, about the religious issues that are raised and about May-December romances, but the story treats those issues more as side notes to the central theme, which is a coming-of-age story for Dominic and a resurrection for Michael.

The story is told from Michael’s point of view, and since Michael is a literature teacher, it makes sense stylistically for the prose to be descriptive and, at times, exhaustively so.  This isn’t the book you want to read if you’re looking for a quick fix or something you can skim.  The sex scenes are few and tentative, but beautiful as well (the phone sex was absolutely delicious) and the character motivations are never in question, because everything they’re going through, feelings and actions and the reasoning in between, is laid out in fulsome, satisfying detail.  We learn about the tragedy that precipitated Michael becoming so closed off from life, we see the challenges for Dominic, both spiritually and in his social life, with accepting that he’s gay.  Nothing is ignored, and for that reason you should go into this novel expecting to take your time with the transitions and transformations.

I did have a few little niggles with the book; there’s a piece of conflict in the middle of the story that made me roll my eyes a little with its timing, and at times the sheer length of some of the descriptions made my eyes blur.  The ending left me frustrated, although I can see why the author decided to stop there.  It’s not an end that’s unexpected or emotionally unsatisfying, exactly, but it did make me go, “Really?  But-but-but…” For the most part, though, Vee Hoffman keeps things on an even keel, guiding her readers through the rushing waters of secrets, uncertainties and fresh desires with a deft hand.  She writes some of the best descriptions of love, in its many incarnations, that I’ve read, and delivers a fascinating take on a life that’s intriguing for all its simplicity.  Acclamation is a slow, sweet romance that asks for your full attention, and the payout if you give it is well worth your time.

[Reviewed by Cari]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Plucking Cupid's Bow by Alex Potvin and Rebecca Murphy (REVIEW)

Vampire fiction and I maintain a very uneasy relationship. The vampire has always been my favourite literary/cinematic monster. I feel like I grew up with vampires, so I tend to be rather protective of their dark reputation. While I'm willing to allow for a little creative license, such as the reluctant vampire seeking redemption, I have absolutely no patience for the sparkly crap that attempts to do away with supernatural evil in the name of romance.

Fortunately, Plucking Cupid's Bow is one of those books where I found myself not only willing to forgive the creative license, but actually enjoying it. Alex Potvin and Rebecca Murphy have taken some clever liberties here, both in terms of the genre and their characters, but the novelty is more than matched by the strength of the storytelling.

Camille Murphy (Cami) is one of the most engaging characters I have come across in a very long time. She's cute, she's funny, she's profound . . . and she's certifiably crazy. Despite having been turned almost a century ago (in an asylum, of course), Cami refuses to accept the fact that she's a vampire. Crazy as she may be, Cami is a wonderfully strong character, one you can't help but love and admire. Protected by a goth-girl minion she recruited at the 7-11), Cami must deal with a pair of comically inept demons who pass the time by assisting with her hopeless attempts at suicide, a clumsy priest who is convinced she would look best immersed in the holy water of an exorcism, and a hopeless nerd who thinks she'd look far better in a superhero cape.

You can't help but wonder if you'd be talking to Slurpee machines yourself were you in her place.

This is a read that's both fun and funny, but never at the expense of the story. There's a vampire prophecy to deal with, a nicely-developed love triangle, and more than a little anti-heroism. As unbelievable as it may seem, this crazy cast of characters must band together to stop the Shadow King, who wants to unleash Hell (capital 'H') on the nation's capital, and the Baron, who doesn't appreciate such mortal interference with the slave he sired to help him foresee the future.

It's a story that shouldn't work, and one where you would expect the novelty to wear off pretty quickly, but somehow Potvin and Murphy keep it all going. If you're ever in the mood for something completely different that twists (but never betrays) the genre conventions, get yourself a comfy couch, grab a glass of wine (or two) and settle in for a fun read.

[Reviewed by Sally]

Secret Summers by Glynda Shaw (REVIEW)

More than a transgender story, Secret Summers by Glynda Shaw is a wonderfully written and very spooky tale of the supernatural about a pre-teenage boy who visits his mysterious aunt on the foreboding Oregon coast and finds he is subtly and inexplicably morphing into a girl.

For some reason this bizarre happening seems quite natural to all and even he seems strangely undisturbed by it. Then things appear and disappear in this place for no apparent reason as the story unfolds with his aunt eventually revealing her dark secret to him.

These words somehow ring true to the lad:

“There is a trace on your things that are all you and they are distinctly female.”

“What does that mean?” He asks. 

“I don't know, but either you're a girl in some sense, perhaps unknown to you, or you are tightly bound to a spirit self that has been largely female through the ages.”

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Raising Hell: Demonic Gay Erotica by Todd Gregory

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine).

Raising Hell: Demonic Gay Erotica by Todd Gregory

Demons are of course nothing more than fallen angels. And before the fall, Lucifer Morningstar was the most beautiful of the angels, and the most beloved of God. Over the millennia, demons have gotten a bad rap in every mythology and in every culture. Tempting humans into sin and into evil—but what is sin? What is evil? And good wouldn’t be possible without evil. The editor of Wings: Subversive Angel Erotica proudly presents the flip side—hot, erotic tales of sex with demons that not only will arouse your nether regions but will also stimulate your intellect.
 [Dec 18, 2012]

A little late for Halloween, sure, but you can't deny the perverse appeal of demon seduction, no matter what time of year!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Four Quarters, an Andean Gender Map by Tali Spencer (GUEST POST)

When I decided to write a gay Aymara serpent-shifter as a main character in my story "The Seventh Sacrifice" in the Devil's Night anthology, I wanted to make the portrayal ring true. I had lived for a while in Bolivia as part of a family with indigenous ties, and I had acquired a wealth of family stories. I traveled to landmarks and historic sites, had conversations with Aymara shamans and elders, and amassed a collection of regional music and folklore. I'd also experienced firsthand the continuing conflict between the Catholicism and Western mindset imposed by Spanish conquistadors and the Inquisition and a still living and vital Andean world-view.

I remember grinding corn in a courtyard with an elderly Aymara woman. We were talking about my sons and my desire that my current pregnancy be a daughter. She said, "Why do you think of one or the other, when you have everything? The child will be what it is."

I thought she wasn't getting it. I was the one who didn't get it until much later.

To the Western mind, a child is a boy or a girl... or rather, it is male or it is "not-male". That distinction lies as the core of much homophobia. The "not" part is powerful. The Andean mindset, however, is less all or nothing; it leans toward reciprocity and complements. Constructions of gender recognize the distinctions between male and female but also regards each individual as a microcosm within which female and male qualities are combined... and negotiable.

The Incas called their empire Tawantinsuyu, which means "the four quarters". Two quarters represented the sun; two quarters belonged to the moon. This metaphor of a whole and four quarters reflects another, larger view of the universe. The famous depiction of the Andean universe, drawn by the native Juan de Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamaygua in the second decade of the seventeenth century (see image) is said to depict the altarpiece of the main Inca temple at Coricancha. In it, we see an oval at the center, two sun images on the left and two moon images on the right.

The oval represents Viracocha, the androgynous creator from whom the world's complements—dark and light, left and right, male and female—originated. The complements require each other to make a whole. The left without the right, the male without the female... a thing without its complement is only partly realized. The creator is not only the origin of complementary elements, but serves as a mediator of these elements. Balance is the key to becoming one with the creator.

In the Andean mind, men and women seek to achieve harmony with the cosmos just as Christians are taught to do. They simply see a different path. Balance is easy for children, whose male and female aspects have not yet diverged, and among the elderly, in whom male and female are seen as consolidating once more. For those in the flower of adulthood, sexual activity is considered a natural form of expression and young people are expected to have sex. Marriage and sex are completely separate things. Indeed, having sex was so ordinary to the Incas that few records remain of how most people actually went about it.

And what about people who don't do the male-female thing? Well, maybe they do. The Aymara language has distinct words for male-man, female-man, male-woman, and female-woman. These are not sexual designations. They refer to personality or roles in society as helpmates and partners. Balance is about more than finding a mate of the opposite sex. Balance means embracing our natures.

We know from chroniclers that the Incas had temple virgins dedicated to the sun and forbidden to have sex with men, but who nonetheless consorted with each other. Men reportedly served as sacred people, or dressed in female clothing and became "wives" to other men. We don't know just how these relationships came about, though. We also don't know if anal and oral intercourse (both homosexual and straight) was as rampant as some early colonial reports claimed; charges of sodomy might well have been employed to sanction the slaughter and oppression of the native population.

What we do know is that the conquistadors and their legions of priests regarded the indigenous people as steeped in sin and set about eradicating temples and social institutions. Catholic churches squat on the foundations of Inca temples and holy places. European "whiteness" is valued above darker native skin and features. Sex is used for control now, not balance. Much of the population exalts maleness and vilifies anything that suggests androgyny or balance.

I was told, as a point of great pride, by a man in Bolivia that there were no homosexuals in his country. He was very sure of this. He was also very wrong. Although Church groups have prevented legislation that would allow gay couples to marry and foster children, same sex sexual activity is legal and there's a small but active gay and transgender community. It's not quite the return of the Incas or the overthrow of centuries of oppression... but it's a good start.

Tali Spencer's story, "The Seventh Sacrifice", appears in the Devil's Night anthology by Storm Moon Press. Available now!

Two stone steps flanked by tables of packaged, prefabricated charms led to the narrow hole-in-the-wall that constituted a store. Every spare millimeter of space was packed with arcane objects. Fully furred llama fetuses with huge, black eyes and grimacing teeth hung from a pole over the doorway, while more of the same—mummified and without fur—lay piled in baskets. The dried husks of armadillos, toads, and starfish held sway among racks of cheap beads, brass bells, and trays of colored powders. Beltran hoped the powders were herbs, but at least one looked like dried blood, and he knew the others could be anything from antlers to hooves, teeth, or bones.

But what caught his eye next, and took away his already scanty breath, was the man sitting on a stool just inside the doorway. Black hair, straight and shining, framed a brown face with strong features and high cheekbones. The heavy mane cascaded behind broad shoulders and a red poncho of alpaca wool. As the man rose to his feet, Beltran saw that he was taller than most native men, with a wiry, powerful frame. The shopkeeper's eyes commanded him most of all: deep and black, they locked onto his with a hunger so fierce, the compulsion in them made him quiver.

Holy Mother of God, Beltran thought, forcing himself to breathe normally. Marisol never told me her shaman would be gorgeous!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Second Happiest Day by A. E. Hammock (REVIEW)

"The Second Happiest Day" by A. E. Hammock is a romance novel, not without some redeeming qualities. It's a pretty well written and nicely edited book with a smooth and easy flow. And the scenes depicting physical intimacy between the burgeoning Kara/Madison relationship were moderately exciting. The author also does a great job in "normalizing" the concept that a person with a female gender identity, who has physically transitioned to the gender role of a woman, including taking hormones and having cosmetic plastic surgery, can function in a lesbian relationship while still continuing to have her male equipment. How this occurs for Kara was professionally and accurately described with a titillating tenderness. Lastly, the parents of each of the partners were refreshingly understanding and supportive of this new relationship and that was a positive for this work, although perhaps a tad unrealistic.

Where the book fell short for this reviewer was in several areas. From beginning to end there were frequent and annoying references to "the older woman," "the younger woman," "the taller woman," "the redhead," "the brunette," "the history professor," etc., etc. We're only talking about two people here and I think the reader should be responsible enough to be able to recall their names, at least after a little while. So this technique, ostensibly to make sure one is still following the story, got pretty old after a short time. Another thing I found vexing were the all-too-frequent references to a veritable smorgasbord of microbrews. Listen, I enjoy a good strong IPA as much as the next person, but I found the almost gratuitous name-dropping of designer beers to also be quite bothersome. And these gals certainly were guzzlers, too! While I'm on the subject of irritations, how much food can two svelte young adult women eat? Almost every time they were together, which was quite a bit, Kara and Madison were described as chowing down on one fattening meal after another. In really life, each would have certainly put on 20 pounds in the hundred and fifty pages of this book. Not a very realistic amount of food consumption for a woman or even a woman who once was a man, in my opinion.

However, the biggest problem with this book is that it just seemed to go nowhere. The story provided little more than the development of the relationship between the two would-be lovers. There was one portion that I won't give away involving Kara's ex-wife, that could have proved to be quite interesting if it had played out differently, but I think the author missed the boat in favor of avoiding conflict and going for a more acceptable ending. All in all, this novel proved to be just an ok read - not great by any means, yet not quite bad. Four stars is generous. Maybe 3.5.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon (REVIEW)

Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite” by Lianne Simon is a warm, engaging and very poignant novel about a teenager coming to terms with the person she really is. Set against a backdrop of the Vietnam War, it accurately reflects the tone of the times. While some kids are dying for naught in a far off place, other, more privileged ones attend college on student deferments and speak little of politics and war.  Jamie, the main protagonist, is portrayed as a very believable character, a person who was born with a rather rare intersex condition known as Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis. This manifests in Jamie in a partial male chromosomal genotype, a shortness of stature, an elfin and feminine appearance and a semblance of the genitalia of both the sexes.

Jamie is a child who is loyal to a fault to her loved ones, but eventually realizes she can no longer sacrifice her life and happiness for the sake of others. She struggles mightily and unsuccessfully throughout the novel to be the son her family wants her to be. The fact that they are devoutly Christian is very much like a double edge sword for Jamie. On the one hand, they are all bound by an innocence and devotion to the faith that has gotten them through some very difficult times, including the death of a child killed in Vietnam. On the other, the parents’ literalist and fundamentalist interpretation of the Scriptures is part of what is preventing Jamie from being her true self.

My take on this book is that it fits more into a category of a “coming to terms” tale rather than it being a “coming of age” story. There is a fine distinction between the two. I say this because Jamie, who with a little help from her friends eventually summons the strength and assertiveness to fend off her well-meaning father and, like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” realizes she has always had the power to go back home and be the girl she was meant to be.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Saturday, October 20, 2012

White Wife, Black Heart by Damien Dsoul (REVIEW)

With White Wife, Black HeartDamien Dsoul once again proves that he is more than a one-trick stallion. As an author, he has managed to pull off thrillers, dramas, romances, and all-out erotic adventures with ease, always lending his own interracial touch to the story. Having already covered the 'reluctant' and 'romantic' realms of cuckolding, he now turns his literary attentions to that of 'encouraged' cuckolding.

For the first time, Dsoul presents us with a cunning husband who deliberately arranges for his wife to betray him with a sexually aggressive black colleague. Dragan knows precisely what he is doing, and understands the consequences perfectly of exposing his wife to another man's affections. It seems like a a pretty typical set-up for an erotic tale of cuckolding, but Dsoul is never content to settle for the typical. What puts this tale over the top is the overlapping series of affairs that drive the action to an incredibly erotic conclusion, but I will not spoil just how intricately they overlap.

Tightly plotted and well-told, this is an exciting story that carries all the guilty thrills of an illicit soap opera. The dialogue is sparkling, as always, dramatic and intense, but never over-the-top. The sex scenes are exquisitely detailed, full of passion and lust. While they sometimes walk the edges of humiliation, the most intensely sexual acts are designed not to degrade the women, but to drive them towards their deepest, darkest, most hidden desires.

Most importantly, especially for a tale of cuckolding, Dsoul knows how to portray a strong, virile, dangerously attractive bull. Leo is no Shango, but he is still the kind of man to make a reader feel weak in the knees . . . and wet where it matters.

[Reviewed by Bobbi]

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

The Feature & Follow Hop, courtesy of Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

Q. When you step out of your usual genre what do you read? Best books in that genre?

A. Since my reading tastes are pretty eccentric, it's hard to say what's outside my unusual genre, but I'll go with archaeological fiction - Lyn Hamilton, Will Adams, William Dietrich, Elizabeth Peters, or Alex Archer.


The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines.

Q. When you think of fur-friendly authors, which author do you think of first?

A. Okay, so I'm a bit kinky and perverse . . . I like my furry erotica, although they're books that probably wouldn't immediately come to mind for most readers. In terms of recent faves, the Wild Passions anthology from Storm Moon press was SMOKING HOT! I've had Bait and Switch by Austen Crowder waiting to be read for far too long now, and I just picked up A Post-Apocalyptic She-Wolf Gangbang by Annie DuBois on a recommendation from Candace (who loves Annie's cuckold/BDSM themed stories).


Playing Darlene by Darlene (TOUR REVIEW)

Although somewhat awkwardly told, Playing Darlene: The True Double Life of a Public School Teacher & Professional Dominatrix is a fascinating peek at the business behind the world of bondage and domination. It's a business in which Darlene found herself entirely by accident, fuelled not by fetish or fantasy, but by circumstance and curiosity. As a result, there's a sense of almost clinical detachment to her recitation of scenes and players, lending the book a sense of authenticity, free of any emotional embellishment.

While there is an emotional component to her story, it is relegated to the introduction and conclusion of the tale, leaving the reader to piece it all together and judge for themselves both the impact of that component as well as the significance. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more emotional reflection throughout the story, but the separation does make for an interesting read.

Darlene's style is simple, straightforward, and almost conversational in nature - precisely what you would expect from an ESL teacher. She keeps the more risqué details to a minimum, restricting herself to the essentials. That's not to say this is a tame read, not by any means, but when she does write about a submissive ejaculating all over the floor, you know it's an essential element of the scene, and not just an erotic embellishment added for the sake of the reader enjoyment. Had she wanted to really elaborate, this could have been a much longer (and much more arousing) tale, but it would have lost its focus in the face of the erotica.

One of the things Darlene does exceptionally well is build the profile of her clients and customers. Again, she resists the temptation to make them characters in some erotic adventure, instead keeping them honest and, most importantly, human. She lets us know what they need, what the crave, and what they enjoy, but doesn't attempt to imagine any dark-and-deep backstory about what sends them to a professional dungeon. Even the more outrageous customers are kept restrained (no pun intended) by the matter-of-fact telling of her story.

Like I said, there is a strong emotional component to the opening and closing chapters, and it really casts a different light on her story. It's a really sad commentary on life when the traumas of a child seem more fantastic than the tortures of a Dominatrix, but it says something important about our world and the way we react to it. Perhaps that is why Darlene held so much of herself, back, but only time and (we can hope) a second volume will tell.



Darlene was born in Hollywood, California, and grew up in Pasadena, a quiet suburb near Los Angeles. She received a BA in German from California State University, Los Angeles. For several years she worked in television and film. Credits include General Hospital, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the female lead in the film Monstrosity in which she played a spaced-out punk rocker. She even photo-doubled for Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun and Corey Feldman in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (when they were 14 and 12 respec- tively). For the past 20 years, she has been a public school teacher in Los Angeles County. She currently lives in the San Fernando Valley, where she can be found indulging in her favorite hobby, ballroom and country-western dancing. Her next book is scheduled to be released in early 2013. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Sex Changes by Christine Benvenuto

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine).

Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On by Christine Benvenuto

What do you do when the other woman is your husband? A wife's memoir of her husband's sex change

Christine Benvenuto had been married for more than twenty years—with three young children—when her husband turned to her one night in bed and said "I’m thinking constantly about my gender." He was unhappy in his body and wanted to become a woman.

Part memoir, part voyeur’s look into a marriage, Sex Changes is a journey through the end of a marriage and out the other side. We see a woman, desperate to save her family and shelter her children, discover a well of strength and resilience she never knew she had. We learn what to tell the neighbors when your husband starts wearing heels with his shirts and ties. We see a woman open herself to a group of friends who travel with her through her darkest times, provide light and levity throughout—and who offer the opportunity to learn how to give as well as receive the love and support of true friendship. When she lost her husband to skirts and hormones, life made Chris a better woman.

Sex Changes is the story of what one woman discovered about herself in the midst of the conflagration of her family. Fiercely funny, self-lacerating, and not entirely politically correct, Sex Changes is a journey of love and anguish told with hilarity, heartbreak and a lot of soul searching. It is about the mysteries in every marriage, the secrets we chose to keep, and the freedom that the truth can bring. [Nov 13, 2012]

I'm always fascinated by transgender memoirs and biographies, especially those told by the spouses on the other side of the transition, but one line in particular sold me on this one: "We learn what to tell the neighbors when your husband starts wearing heels with his shirts and ties."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Twisted Ropes by Bonnie Bliss (REVIEW)

Given that Twisted Dreams, the opening instalment of the Twisted Oz saga, was one of the steamiest tales I've read this year, you can bet your ruby slippers (and collar!) that I jumped into Twisted Ropes with high expectations. Fortunately, I am delighted to say Bonnie Bliss has fulfilled those expectations, and once again left me wanting more.

The story picks up right where we left off, with a fetish-clad D.G. making her way down the yellow brick road. She's hot, thirsty, and hornier than a munchkin in heat, so when a couple of hunky men and their sexy slave girl block the path, you can't blame her for diving into the cornfield to enjoy a little voyeuristic thrill. While I wasn't initially sure how the scene fit into the overall Oz mythology, it's a gloriously display of gratuitous sexuality, and one that takes on larger significance at the end of the tale, with the introduction of the Wizard himself.

But, as intrigued as I by the Wizard, I am getting ahead of myself.

Anybody who has watched or read the original Wizard of Oz knows that Dorothy is destined to encounter three friends along her journey, with the first of those friends the Scarecrow. Wow, oh my goodness, and wow again - what Bonnie does with him and his awakening is absolutely breathtaking to behold. If you've never found a cornstalk erotic, or wondered how a scarecrow could grow wood, then be prepared to be amazed and aroused. Not only does she twist the tale just right, but she successfully establishes him as a character we definitely want to learn more about.

As for our glimpse of the Wizard that concludes the story, that is where Bonnie's gift for erotic reinvention really shines. Having never read the Baum novels, I only remember the Wizard as a weak, miserly, cowardly old man hiding behind a mirror . . . a definite let-down after the Wicked Witch, and a tool to provide a happy ending. Bonnie gives him new life and new purpose, establishing him as not just a genuine character within the story, but one with extraordinary erotic potential. I cannot wait to see what she does with him in subsequent volumes, and can only dream of his final confrontation with D.G.

Another fun, sexy, imaginative tale - bring on the Tin Man and the Lion!

[Reviewed by Sally]

Twisted Ropes by Bonnie Bliss (RELEASE DAY BLITZ)

Twisted Ropes
Bonnie Bliss
Twisted Oz; Book 2
Genre: Fantasy/Erotica
Word Count: 7952

Book Description:
After D.G. finds herself swept away to a sexual fueled land of horny munchkins, and sexy dildo shoe wearing good witches—all she wants to do is find her way home. After travelling for hours on the yellow brick road, she comes to a four way crossing and soon realizes her journey is just starting. After watching a heated display of slavery with ropes, floggers, whips and double penetration; she is introduced to a seemingly sweet scarecrow named Hayden. Her first sexual foray with the good witch was only the beginning, but now Hayden is about to teach D.G. how a real Master ties up and owns his slave.

Filled with all things you loved about the original story, twisted into a sexual pleasure that fans of the first will enjoy even more. The continuing story of D.G.’s adventures in Oz is sure to arouse and delight the naughtiest of readers.

Warning: This story is for adult readers, and contains scenes of, but not limited to: forced bondage, double penetration, strong BDSM themes, impact play: floggers, whips, and spankings.

“Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road, follow, follow, follow, follow…” Where the song came from, she had no fucking clue. She knew that one moment she was humming, spinning in a circle, and trying to figure out a way to go. Then the next she was diving for cover in the corn fields across the way from her.

As she tried to keep herself unnoticed, she backed into a large wooden pole that staked in the ground. D.G. thought nothing of it. It looked like an obstacle that she would have to sort out later—if she needed. Licking her lips, she parted the tall stalks in front of her. Her eyes locked on the forms of three people. Two very large, powerful looking soldiers, and one generously curved blonde woman.

It took several moments for D.G. to realize what she saw.

Two men pulled a slave.

Sucking in a loud breath, she snapped her mouth shut. D.G. clapped a hand over her mouth.

Hunk number one clad in glossy steel armor on his upper body, it was the only thing that made him look ready for battle. A blonde, his legs fully encased in tight black leather that hid nothing. Not even the huge bulge in his pants that seemed to push against the zipper. She noticed he had rope, and a very imposing black leather whip attached to those tight leathers. His arms, biceps were the size of her head. He stood tall. The only other man she knew taller was Bo Davenport.

Home sickness and longing welled up inside her at the mere thought of his name. D.G. always secretly thought she wasn’t good enough for Bo. Just the fact that she wanted to leave, and that Bo clearly needed a good ole’ fashion wife to be his one and only made her unworthy of all that was Bo Davenport. She made a vow to herself right then and there. When she finally made it home, she would shove all of that bullshit aside, hop on him so fast and beg him to keep her forever. All this time away from Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the farm made her wish she hadn’t acted so stupid. Putting everything on hold—school, her future, and dating life. All so she could be some actress in New York on Broadway. Looking back on it now, she realized how silly and immature that sounded.

She would get her life straightened when she returned home.

If, she returned home.

About the Author:
Bonnie Bliss is not just a willing submissive, but she is a wife and a mother. By day, she is a busy, stay at home mother. At night, she is a sultry storyteller. Her tastes go towards the dark and the extreme. She loves to twist up fairy tales and sweet stories we all know and love. Her lust for Dominance and submission has taken her into the dark inner workings of Sadomasochism. 

Bonnie is a native of Southern California, and says that everything in the Katy Perry song, California Girls is totally accurate. She has done everything from waitressing, customer service phone rep., Corporate Real Estate, and spent a pretty impressive part of her life working for the Disney Corporation—including as a Disney Princess. When she’s not writing, she is ordering too many custom bows for her daughter, baking the best cupcakes in the world, going to Disneyland, laying on a beach, and sometimes playing hockey for release.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trapped by Daniel C. Merrill MD (REVIEW)

This is a short and interesting book that the author, a former urologist at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center in the 1960s and 70s, describes as “a work of historical fiction.” It details the “stories” of three MTF transsexuals who were a part of a pioneering sex reassignment program there. I placed quotation marks around the word “stories,” because it appears that in writing this book, the author who must by now be in his 70s, referred back to his detailed surgical notes surrounding the actual surgical procedures and then projected his imagination to extrapolate vignettes about these three people, so they are not true stories, as the author explains at the start.

I found the book to be basically interesting and particularly (and most surprisingly to me), I very much enjoyed the actual clinical descriptions of the sex reassignment procedures. There was a certain scientific aloofness and dispassion to these reports that made them almost titillating. I think this was the case because of the radical and life-changing nature of the surgeries described in such a nonchalant and matter-of-fact manner by this physician/author. The three tales about the individuals who became the doctor’s patients were also quite good, but I found them to be rather uneven accounts, with one story in particular being very interesting, while the other two were much less so.

The author attempts to “normalize” the transgender condition as being unresponsive to a “cure” through psychotherapy or other means, so that is a positive.  However, there seems to be an implication that a surgical intervention is the only way that transgender individuals can live a fulfilled and happy life, an idea that harkens way back to the time that Dr. Merrill was in practice at the SRS clinic in Minnesota. It seems that there are any number of interventions and adjustments that a transgender person can apply, short of surgery. Lastly, and maybe it’s just me, but there were two references to “Jews” in this book that I thought were gratuitous and unnecessary. All in all though, “Trapped” is a good, interesting and pretty quick read.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Little Brown Girl by Tom Tame (REVIEW)

Malcolm had been changed from the “outside in,” but now he needs to match that change from the “inside out.” How long would it take for him to accomplish his total transformation to the native girl Lua, and could (or would) he do so willingly to save his own life?  If one can get past a somewhat offensive title and then suspend disbelief a bit, “Little Brown Girl” by Tom Tame is an amazing and titillating story where voodoo magic leads to the gender transformation of an aging, ill, and morally bankrupt businessman for whom the sword of karma, wielded by an angry wife, has delivered the kabash to any hope of his regaining his lost maleness.

The protagonist, Malcolm Graham, is trapped and transformed against his will by the plotting of the sadistic wife, Marilyn, who enlists a Caribbean cult in an evil scheme against him.  Malcolm, a formerly proud and successful businessman, is transformed and enslaved by his long-suffering spouse after being forced out of his job as CEO of a major corporation. Losing this lofty position of power that had sustained his self-image as a dynamic, yet unscrupulous businessman, who had cheated on Marilyn with countless female employees, sets the stage for Malcolm's transformation to Lua, the servant girl. Malcolm’s humiliation begins while vacationing with Marilyn at an unnamed Caribbean Island, where a spell transmogrifies him into a beautiful and well-endowed native woman. He is then enslaved, pawed at by horrible and disgusting men, made into a servant, and cuckolded against his will.

Instead of taking the role of a sympathetic and caring wife who supports Malcolm in his travails, encouraging him to be patient while seeking a solution to his horrible dilemma, and soothing his fractured male ego, Marilyn belittles him in a way that strikes at a fragile and waning manhood. Marilyn is able to emasculate the transformed Malcolm systematically through a regime of enforced feminization, disempowerment, corporal punishment, and cuckolding. Both the cuckolding and the gender alteration are exquisitely humiliating with Malcolm fighting and resisting against his new womanhood and emerging femininity every inch of the way.

Because the dominant/submissive relationship involves his non-consent, being enforced by entrapment and magic, Malcolm’s humiliation is intense and complete. His domination by Marilyn is sadistic, and particularly so because her sadism is couched in the idea that she herself is the actual victim and only following this extreme course to insure Malcolm/Lua’s survival and eventual return to being the man that she married.  But she clearly has something else up her sleeve. Marilyn's reign over Malcolm is complete and demonstrates both extreme physical and psychological abuse. It is sadomasochistic fantasy representing highly erotic cruelty at its best.

Malcolm vulnerability is demonstrated first in that he is inexorably trapped by circumstances that force him to submit to a sadistic female authority figure. Secondly, in a scrumptious irony, he is compelled to collaborate in his own feminization process because embracing his womanhood appears less embarrassing and threatening than being seen for what he really is, an angry and miserable old man, trapped in the female form of a sexy temptress. With the threat of deportation to a third-world country and forced prostitution hanging over his head, we can empathize with Malcolm’s plight in highly erotic ways, feeling his humiliation and sense of impotence while sympathizing with his frustrated impulses to break free and reassert his lost manhood. But one cannot stop from being aroused by this story any more than Malcolm can prevent his internal maleness from constantly betraying and further degrading him. The reader is totally caught up in Malcolm’s hopelessness with the story written in such a way that it mirrors a dominant/submissive relationship between the writer and the reader that is reflected in Marilyn and Malcolm’s relationship. We wonder vicariously what such a fate would be like and that is what makes this book so arousing.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Help Wanted - Looking for Contributing Reviewers

As many of you are aware, after a difficult end to 2011 that saw me take a prolonged sabbatical from reviewing, I relaunched Bending the Bookshelf back in May of this year with the assistance of Samuel and Candace (who, it must be said, have been great!).

The response from authors and publishers has been overwhelming, to the point where we are having to turn down more books than we can accept. As such, I am delighted to extend the invitation for another few reviewers to join the team.

All I ask is that you commit to at least 2 reviews per month (although more is certainly welcome). I receive offers of books and e-books to review on a regular basis, so I can provide access to a supply of free reads, although you are by no means limited to just those reads. Best of all, you don't need to know a thing about blogging or posting - just email me your reviews and I'll take care of the rest.

While I'm always willing to consider something new and different, I see our primary focus here continuing to be on the following genres:

♥ LGBTQIA Fiction (any genre)
♥ LGBTQIA Non-Fiction
♥ Paranormal Romance
♥ Erotica

*For those of you wondering what the acronym stands for, it's "Lesbian,Gay,
Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual."

If you would like to become a contributing reviewer, please send me an email and let me know what genres you'd be interested in reviewing, how many reviews you intend to contribute in a month, and how you can help promote our collective efforts (i.e. Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.). If you have a recent review that you can share, that would certainly help as well.

Please contact me at: webmistress[at]bibrary[dot]com

Thanks so much to my regular readers for their patience and their continued . . . there are more amazing things to come!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Should Have Known by Karin Bishop (REVIEW)

I Should Have Known” is another fine novel dealing with the topic of gender change, penned by Karin Bishop, a prolific writer who specializes in such novels. Bishop also brings a wealth of knowledge in a wide range of other areas, displaying an array of expertise ranging from legal matters, business strategies, hi-tech and yes, even women’s fashion, while incorporating them seamlessly into her work.  The blending of these disparate themes is accomplished smoothly and in the context of a tightly woven story line, but mainly works because Ms. Bishop happens to possess the gift of being an astute observer of human nature and behavior. This is evidenced by her very apt characterizations of the protagonists and the interactions between these extremely believable people.

Additionally, and more to the point, Ms. Bishop appears to have made an in-depth study of the gender roles that we so mindlessly accept as normal, natural and even God-given.  Her expertise in this area is quite evident as our hero Edward begins his tantalizing transformation into the female persona of Edie. A portion of this book presents like a cram course in what it takes to live in a woman’s role, revealing with eye-opening clarity, the everyday differences between the genders that we all tend to take for granted.  It turns out that some of these little ways we all have of being, thinking and interacting are quite humorous and enchanting, while others speak to the deepest prejudices of the human experience and the darkest parts of our psyche.

However, that’s the good news.  On the other side of the coin, we also get an undercurrent and the foreboding feeling that something very nasty is afoot in this story.  We slowly begin to see that the emergent and lovely Edie, in all her innocence and naiveté, never realizes the extent that wife Monica's strange and clandestine interventions are influencing her gender transformation.  In fact, from early on, one gets the feeling that there is something quite diabolical and sinister about the relationship between Monica and her new friend Diana that we can’t quite put our finger on. But all signs point to a nefarious connection between the two that we can predict will emerge somewhere along the line as the story unfolds.

This is a rich tale, fraught with vivid descriptions of gender transition, lovely romantic interludes and enough graphic encounters of an intimate kind that will support the reader in being fully vested in this novel from the start. And for those of us who have at one time or another had the misfortune of finding and then losing the love of our life, there is also a thread of sadness, despair and longing that weaves through this tale. Edie, now emergent as the young woman who can no longer be a husband and lover to a wife, now pines for a relationship that cannot ever be, and perhaps never even was.  Somewhere, in the back of our mind though, we wonder if Monica is actually deserving of such rich adulation, or is Edie simply idealizing a flawed, deceitful and manipulative person with a florid dark side?

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Tabou: Patience, Book 1 by Suzanne Stroh (TOUR REVIEW)

Although it took me some effort to get into, and the soap opera elements tried my patience in places, Tabou: Patience, Book 1 is a well-written tale with a enough elements to keep even the most jaded reader engaged. Suzanne Stroh has crafted a tale of lesbian love, family drama, and political intrigue that is high on drama and deep in complexities.

Jumping backward and forward in time (between the 60s and 90s) and place (USA, London, France, South America, Asia), the story draws upon a wide variety of historical personages (from Marlene Dietrich to Bill Clinton) to orient the reader in its pseudo-historical backdrop. I say pseudo-historical, because Suzanne admits herself that she played fast and loose with history, taking liberties with events, and drafting a timeline that parallels ours.

Patience is the story of Jocelyn Russet, a 20-something London-born heiress, transplanted to the posh landscape of Virginia. Half the story centres around her erotic affair with another woman, Patience Herrick, a tale of star-crossed lovers playing a game of romance that is too good to be true. The other half of the story centres around family histories and secrets, which may or may not play into the threats being levied against their respective business dealings.

The characterization is strong, and the romance works, despite (or perhaps because of) the high society drama with which they surround themselves. In terms of detail, the historical tidbits are fascinating, as is the geography of the world tour. If I had one issue with the book, it is definitely the dialogue, which often comes across as more soap opera than society drama. It takes a bit of work to follow all of the elements, especially with the leaps backward and forward through time, but if you have patience (no pun intended), it all comes together in the end.


Suzanne Stroh is a screenwriter and film producer, author of published case studies on family business. She grew up in Michigan where her family brewed Stroh’s beer for five generations. She studied art history at Wellesley College and Newnham College, Cambridge then worked in the New York art world before turning to writing. A mountaineer and field medic, she lives with her family in the Virginia countryside. TABOU is her first novel.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Return to Michael by Michael Brinkle (REVIEW)

It almost goes without saying that gender transition is often a difficult and agonizing, although ultimately necessary decision for most of those who choose to go this route. To this end, there are literally a ton of memoirs and/or biographies written by and/or about individuals who have lived a life of agony in their birth gender and then, going against all adversity, decide to change their gender role. Generally, this experience is accomplished by first living in the opposite gender role for a time and then ultimately deciding to make this change permanent, whether by a surgical change or not.  Judging from the content of these many stories, the vast majority of those who make this dramatic transformation appear to be rather happy or even ecstatic at having made their life-changing decision.

There are now a couple of books available that were written by people who were diagnosed, first by themselves, and later by professionals as being transsexual, and who later determined that they had made a very serious error in transitioning. Even though these individuals had opted for and received male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, they ultimately re-transitioned to a male gender role. I almost hate to admit it, but although I am saddened by these stories for many reasons, I secretly love to read books like these by those who admit they have made a big mistake in transitioning because it points to the difficulty of this decision and the fallibility of the human condition. Although these stories are full of pathos, they make all of us feel more human and vulnerable.

However, I would have to disagree with the opinion of those who have reviewed and commented so negatively about the short memoir by Michael Brinkle, “Return to Michael.” The general thinking and consensus expressed by readers (some of whom admit to not actually having read this book) is that it’s another attempt by those of the religious right to impose their own particular style of belief on others. I disagree. If anything, “Return to Michael” is a cautionary tale about an individual who had a complete and irreversible sex change in a foreign country at the tender age of 18, without fully having explored his deep psychological issues and the many wounds of his past.

For me, “Return to Michael” in no way invalidates the decision of thousands of others who have successfully negotiated transition to the opposite gender role, nor does it seek to impose a religious doctrine on anyone. The author freely acknowledges that his decision to switch back, although clearly influenced by his strong Christian belief, was his own choice. In so doing, he takes great care not to invalidate others for their beliefs, only to warn them to be careful. As I wrote in my review of Walt Heyer’s memoir “Trading my Sorrows,” another book of the same ilk, “this is a well-written, albeit relatively brief memoir about a sad and extremely tortured life, leading to a calamitous decision that eventually rights itself to a happy ending, as the author finds a higher calling and dedicates himself to a power larger than himself.”

There are other books, notably “Transparently,” by Lisa Salazar, which, while extolling the value of Christianity, are about those who find a place for themselves as transgender individuals in the arms of a loving and beneficent God. And speaking of religious opinion about sex reassignment surgery, we know that Christianity is, of course, one of the world’s great religions, but it is by no means the only religion or even the most widely practiced religion in the world. Many conservative Christians seem to believe quite fervently in the idea that God created only men and women and it is a sin to attempt to live in the opposite gender role. Of course, homosexuality and gay marriage are completely forbidden and considered to be a horrible offense in the eyes of God. I think it is interesting and very ironic to note, that in Iran, a devoutly Muslim country, sex reassignment surgery appears to be emerging as an alternative to those who might be homosexual. The thinking in Iran appears to be that homosexuality is a mortal sin against God, but that if one switches genders, it can be considered a kind of “work-around” that God will accept.  Some might think that is a pretty messed up way of thinking, but doesn’t it nicely illustrate that organized religion is a belief system and as such, is subject to interpretation by those who practice it? Which religion is right? Or, is neither one correct? You make the decision.

As I wrote about the Walt Heyer memoir and it fully applies to “Return to Michael,” as well, “I give the author props for finding a solution to his particular problem which is all well and good for him, but, in my experience, the ‘author's way’ is not necessarily ‘the way’ for every, or even most gender dysphoric folks. It is fortunate that most of those with serious gender confusion seek competent therapists and doctors who subscribe to the WPATH Standards of Care that tend to protect gender dysphoric individuals, like the author, from going down this same tragic road. It is certainly my hope that these feelings will not emerge again full blown again in the author, but somewhere lurking, may be that shadowy girl, so be careful. In my therapy practice, I haven't encountered anyone who has made this horrible mistake, thank goodness, but after reading these aforementioned accounts, I can say that the moral of the story is to be damn sure you want what you wish for, because you may eventually get it.”

[Reviewed by Samuel]