Saturday, February 28, 2009

Review- Exposure by Lisabet Sarai

by Lisabet Sarai
Feb 2009
Contemporary/ Suspense/ Erotica
Novel- $6.00

Buy it Phaze

Stella is just minding her own business and having a bit of fun, working as an exotic dancer at the Peacock Lounge. Through no fault of her own, she witnesses a double murder and gets pulled into a shady dance of deceit with political bigwigs, mob bosses, dirty cops and scheming widows. Now she’s everyone’s target; her only chance is to sift through the lies and expose the truth.

Every once in a while a book comes along that messes with my usual trope/character trait likes and dislikes and I find that things I’ve said in a review or commented on about what I hate is not always true. I love it when an author can take those things that usually push all my buttons and make me actually enjoy them. Lisabet Sarai has done that to me with Exposure. This was such a fun, fun book, totally making me enjoy my pet peeves for a change.

Stella is a stripper. She loves what she does for real; she gets off on it. But she keeps it strictly on the dance floor and never goes with costumers or lets them touch her. She has principles and she’s in total control. Part of keeping that control is tuning into the men watching her and picking up what their personalities are like, what turns them on and manipulating them. She’s very good at what she does.

One night a man comes in who stares right back at her but she can’t read him and it pisses her off. He makes a proposition, which she goes along with out of curiosity and she end ups witnessing the murder of a very well known man, Anthony, who is running for mayor. Of course she runs. The next thing she knows, she’s being propositioned by the mayoral candidate’s wife, Francesca, who wants Stella to be her publicist because she wants to continue and run in her husband’s place. While Stella is distrustful and is wondering what the hell is going on, she goes along with it to find out who killed Anthony.

While all this is happening, she’s also being threatened on a constant basis with break-ins to her home, getting beat up on the street, being followed and she finds that she can’t trust anyone, even her cop friend whom she went to school with, is attracted to and confided in about witnessing the murder.

Stella is one of those female characters that I totally love. She’s very strong, independent and doesn’t take any crap. She’s curious and courageous but acts humanly stupid at times. And typical in erotica, she’s got the hots for everyone she comes in contact with, man or woman. She gets off on stripping, making no bones about the fact that it’s her choice and not because of the usual excuses women give like putting themselves through college to make what’s considered an unrespectable trade sound more respectable. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I get off on a female character who is very comfortable in her own skin and sexuality and who does things that go against the grain.

Where this story would have had me going “Oh, please, you can not be serious” and peeving me, is in the plot, but shockingly, it doesn’t. Most of what happens in the plot is fairly improbable for a contemporary and yet, I was so thoroughly enthralled that I just couldn’t get enough of it.

First pet peeve, a character acts against their own personality traits. Stella is hired to do a private dance for the mayoral candidate. She has repeated over and over that she doesn’t sleep with just anyone, especially a costumer, that she’s in total control, and yet right after the dance she gets it on with this guy. Next, she witnesses the murder and flees. She doesn’t try to hide herself or anything, just walks out the front entrance where anyone can see her, goes home, and decides to contact a friend in the police dept. the next day. This all goes against the fact that she’s portrayed as very intelligent, savvy, and in control. And yet, I enjoyed her so much that I could care less.

Pet Peeve #2 (contemporaries only), unrealistic reactions by characters or what wouldn’t really happen IRL. Her cop friend takes her story rather lightly and promises to keep her out of things and not share this with anyone else. WTH? That would never happen, ever. She would have been an automatic suspect for leaving the scene of the crime and taken into custody. Also, this is a high profile murder. Every cop would be on this, so her friend keeping that info to himself is ridiculous. And it would have been in the papers straight away. But Ok, Lisabet Sarai has me so hooked into this story and characters that I’m willing suspend disbelief and go for the ride.

Pet Peeve #3, ridiculous plots. Next, she’s propositioned by Francesca, the widow, who knows that Stella was with her husband and slept with him. She wants Stella to be her campaign spokesperson convincing her that the public would relate to her as a real person, a working girl who understands the pulse of the every day person. Then she shoves her hand down Stella’s blouse and they get it on. Again, WTH?

Really, a mayoral candidate would never choose a stripper as a campaign manager. Just wouldn’t happen. Second, a single girl with no kids who loves stripping because she just gets off on it would not be someone that the average working class citizen could relate to even though she did come from a “humble” background. JMHO. And of course, she’s so quippy with comebacks that she totally charms the press who just love her and think it’s cute that she’s a stripper. Again, not believable. And yet, I’m totally loving the writing and this story so much that all of these unbelievable situations that would normally piss me off hardly even register to me. Keep it coming!

It goes on and on with Stella getting mixed up with people trying to find out who killed the mayoral candidate and who is threatening her as well. I loved how Stella’s mind worked in this story as she works out the clues and tries to figure out who she can trust and who committed the murder. All of the characters in this story are suspect and while Stella trips through all these weird experiences, she’s also having sex, or being turned on by half of them no matter what gender they are or their age. It was just so entertaining.

One pet peeve that did happen in this book, but which I couldn’t gloss over due to the trippy non conventional entertainment value was that the relationship between Francesca and Stella was portrayed as the manipulative dysfunctional one compared to the very sweet relationship with the cop. Francesca is a person who really wants Stella but she’s not always an upstanding person, which irks Stella even though she’s attracted and wants her. But for me the way it panned out it was a subtle diss and perpetuation of the f/f story line being less desirable over the m/f story line.

For the most part though, this book was a light, juicy suspense with quite a variety of sexual situations and a fast flowing creatively written suspense plot. Mixed with an array of dodgy and or quirky characters, Exposure was a delicious read.

Sex rating: Orgasmic. m/f, f/f, rose usage (don’t ask), dildo use, public sex, elaborate masturbation and dream sex scenes, light anal and light BDSM.

Grade: B+

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Review- Jason's Reckoning by Merry Phillips

Jason’s Reckoning
by Merry Phillips
April 2007
Contemporary/ f/f/m/ erotica
Short story-12k words

Buy it
Phaze- $2.50

Janice and Jason Callahan were a happy couple until her father died and she became boss. Then old fears and new pressures put a strain on their marriage.
When Janice learns about Jason's mistress she devises a plan calculated to make him pay for deceiving her.
But Sherry is more than she expected. Now all bets are off!

Jason’s Reckoning is basically a very short erotica story about two women and a man. I’m not going to say it was greatly written, there were many holes in this story, in the writing, but it was still a very cute and satisfying story of my favorite kind. It's about a f/f/m threesome who stick it out and make a life together and for that I give it more kudos than I normally would.

Janice finds a credit card receipt for a hospital bill that she knows nothing about. Convincing the hospital people to give her the name of the patient involved, she finds out that it’s a woman. Becoming suspicious she checks out this woman and finds out that there is a house for rent right next to hers and she goes there to spy on her. Of course she finds out that her husband Jason is having an affair with this woman, but she doesn’t get pissed as much as she gets curious.

One day she calls this woman, Sherry, pretending to be a marketer for her a book she has just written and they meet. As soon as Sherry shows up, Janice lays out all the paperwork and pictures proving that she is Jason’s wife and they start to chat. Instead of really getting angry though, Janice is intrigued by Sherry and wants to get it on with her to teach Jason a lesson and because she’s attracted. Sherry has been with women before but Janice hasn’t, so it’s all new and exciting to her. They all get it on and decide that they will all stick together being a committed threesome.

The bad- there are many gaps in this story. The story left out a lot of details that would have made it much smoother and not take me out of the story wondering how some of the characters got away with things without being questioned. There were also quite a few spots where the story jumps ahead, telling and info dumping more than expressing what’s going on. It felt a bit like the author got lazy and didn’t feel like really putting energy into it to make it more polished. It has great potential to be a much better book.

The good- I really liked how easy the characters take what’s going on. I know that goes against the grain, but in this case the author made me believe that all are good with actions that would normally cause anger. Janice is more curious and non-reactive to the fact that her husband is having an affair. And Jason’s not all sneaky and hiding the fact after he’s found out. He just kind acts like a little kid who got caught eating cookies when he wasn’t supposed to, no big deal. And Sherry, while appropriately stunned to find out that Jason was married, easily slips into a sexual relationship with Janice and Jason.

Since this is a story about a threesome committing to each other, I think it was good that the characters, especially Janice who is the cheated on wife, are more polyamorous, open and confident in their take on relationships and are not freaked that they might be loosing a partner, but gaining one.

Moreover, the sexual situations were really hot and juicy, which is really what made this little short story readable and fun for me. It's a nice quickie.

I’m not quite sure that it’s worth paying the $2.50 for this story, but since there’s a distinct lack of f/f/m stories in which the three partner for life, it was worth it to me to read it.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- f/f, f/f/m, m/f, females shaving each other, man scaping.

Grade: C+

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review- Zinna by Kira Chase

by Kira Chase
Contemporary/ Lesbian
360 pg. - $5.99


Buy it
eXtasy books

When artist Zinna Nolan abruptly leaves Rochester, New York, and her high school sweetheart Megan O'Neil, to pursue her artistic yearnings in New Orleans, she finds more than she bargained for as she settles into the French Quarter and waits for Megan to join her.

I don’t know why I keep reading Kira Chase’s books. For some reason her voice speaks to me, but to be honest, I don’t know why. This is the third book of hers that I’ve read and like her book Destiny, this one was one long emo book about two women who are pining over each other but who are not strong or mature enough to work things out while we the reader are waiting for something interesting to happen.

Zinna and Megan found each other during high school, a time when both were silently hiding the fact that they liked girls for fear of retribution. They finally tell their parents and while Zinna’s mother accepts her and Megan, Megan’s religiously oriented family disowns her. After high school, Zinna and Megan move in together in another, more open town. To Zinna, Megan is her life, the only woman she’s ever loved and will ever love but she’s got dreams.

Zinna has been dreaming of going to New Orleans and becoming a famous artist. But Megan wants to wait until they have enough money to go there so that they will have some security. Zinna, getting fed up with waiting and feeling like Megan is not taking her seriously, just takes off to New Orleans without telling Megan or her mother where she is. She immediately meets new friends and moves in with them and her life takes off. She gets a job straight away and magically, one of her roommates is connected to an artist/gallery owner who loves her work. Although this is Zinna’s choice, she’s so lonely for Megan and wants her, but she refuses to call her and let her know what’s up.

I have to say that there is really not much to this story. I almost cannot review it because once Zinna is in New Orleans and she is finally having some success, she tries to patch things up with Megan after basically treating her with complete disrespect. Megan blows her off being really hurt of course, and she also understands that Zinna has to have her success first, so she refuses to come to Zinna. That’s it, the whole story. Zinna for some reason just can’t understand why Megan would be so resistant to coming to her until her friends and her mother tell her what a shit she’s been. Can people really be that clueless?

So for one year Megan and Zinna talk on the phone whining to each other that neither understands the other and “why can’t we be together” and on and on and on and back and forth. Seriously, if that would have been me in such a relationship I would have slit my throat. I couldn’t understand why they just couldn’t work it out and just be together already or finish it and be done. The ending does make up for some of it although by that point, I was so tired of the wa, wa, wa that I didn’t care if they got together finally.

The rest of the characters were all so very nice. Outside of the dysfunctional relationship between Zinna and Megan for most of the book, the characters: a black man, a gay queen, an older woman, and a lesbian who Zinna mixes with in New Orleans, are all kind of one dimensional having two moods. Either they are all happy, happy or are sitting around being deep and aloof with their own emo stuff, which Zinna has to coax out of them because they had to do that for her. They are all so supportive of each other, just one big happy family.

I guess if you like sugary nice mixed with major angst then this book is for you. What I would have liked was to get more of Megan’s feelings in all of this. It’s basically all about Zinna and her side of the story although not told in first person. I think this book would have been so much better with a clearer picture of both the women trying to work out being together while having different dreams in life. Although that was done in Destiny and it went nowhere as well.

Knock off at least 100 pages of the back and forth phone whining between Megan and Zinna and this book would have been a good one for me. Once again though, and I really don’t know why, I will read some more of Kira Chase’s books. I think there is potential there but these stories, the second one now for me, of a character deliberately walking away from a love and then having all these expectations of being understood and being clueless about the other’s feelings, gets on my nerves.

Sex rating: Dry panties. There’s no sex in this book except some minor fondling.

Grade: C-

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review- Coming Together: Special Memorial Edition: Colleen Thomas by Alessia Brio

Coming Together: An Erotic Cocktail
Special Memorial Edition: Colleen Thomas

Edited by Alessia Brio
July 31, 2006
Anthology/ Lesbian/ bisexual
Novel length

Buy it Amazon, Fictionwise (ebook)

A collection of lesbian erotica by the late Colleen Thomas, edited by EPPIE Award-winning author, Alessia Brio. Each short story is introduced by one of Colleen's peers. Proceeds from the sale of this edition of Coming Together will be donated to the Kaplan Family Hospice Residence in her memory.

This volume of the Coming Together series is a nice eclectic mix of lesbian erotic stories. While a few are strictly lesbian stories, there are a few first timer or coming out stories as well, which I enjoyed. The flavor of each story is so different and unique and I found them all to be nicely written and highly erotic. I think Alessia Brio did a great job in putting together this anthology, which offers so much. I've never read anything by Colleen Thomas, so this is a nice intro to her work.

A Separate Peace- I really enjoyed this story a lot. It was very different. Sarah is working for the US gov. as a spy in Israel in search of a most wanted Palestinian terrorist known as the Jackal. She is captured during a bombing by some Palestinians and wakes up tied up in a room, with a woman, Ablaa, talking to her. To Sarah’s surprise Ablaa just happens to be the Jackal. This woman is very intense with her, talking to her about how the US gov is the real terrorist and goes on to describe the horrendous life she’s had to lead, while at the same time she seduces Sarah sexually. Sarah starts to see that all is not so black and white. The Jackal lets Sarah escape and it’s years later…

What I enjoyed about this story is that it’s a story about how people can connect on a very basic human level regardless of beliefs and ideological differences. These two women are very sweet and intense together and I really got off on that. (A)

The Run- This was a very interesting sci-fi story about a woman who is a “runner,” a person who is basically a hired body guard/ assassin. Margo is a huge, formidable woman and one of the best runners out there. She’s hired by a cosmetic company to be a body guard for the head of the company, a woman with a hit out on her. Margo brings in another woman who is a computer geek to take care of the tech side of what’s needed. This woman, Lana, is very attracted to Margo, and Margo, while having some attractions for women, has never been with a woman. As they work together, they both explore each other sexually as well. What I liked here is that both are sexually inexperienced with women and it was very hot and kind of innocent how they get together.

The sci-fi part of the story was very intricate and kind of riveting on its own as well. Many interesting concepts were introduced. (A-)

Just Like That- this is a purely erotic fantasy and not really my cuppa due to the “doing it for men” part of the story, but the sex was pretty hot. A woman is in a bar and notices three woman hanging together and dancing, one having a camera. She chats with one of them and it turns out they run a website showing real life girl-on-girl action to whoever pays to watch. What they do is try to find a regular, non pro, woman who wants to have sex on camera.

First, this woman has never had sex with a woman nor does she want to, but the girls convince her to go along and the smexing with the camera rolling starts straight away in the car. That’s all. All three women do her on film and she gets off on it. (B)

Latin I and Latin II- Oh I totally loved this story. It’s a story of revenge, but done in a way that the recipients of the revenge learn something about themselves and how horrid they were acting. Mandy is a high school student who is ridiculed on a regular basis because she’s out as a lesbian. One of her teachers routinely picks on her for no reason and the “cool” girls not only mess with her but push others to ride her as well. She gets a hold of a book of spells and goes to a well known empty, haunted house and does a spell to conjure up a malevolent spirit to help her get revenge.

This was so deliciously hot. Mandy’s nasty teacher just happens to be a preacher’s wife who thinks sex is just for procreation. Mandy puts a spell on her having her do all kinds of things, completely controlling her, making her want sex with Mandy only. Then she seduces the mean girl and does the same. What I thought was interesting in these two stories is that while Mandy is getting her revenge she’s never cruel and those women, while hating that they are having sex with Mandy, also come to really want it. Great story. (A-)

Quality of Life- This was a strange story. Another sci-fi/ futuristic story about a satellite prison in space where gays and lesbians are sent because they are an abomination to the current society. This was a total downer with a lot of social statement about how gays and lesbians are treated and the prejudice they have to deal with. Basically this prison is purposely destroyed by the powers that be locking out air, with a few survivors left, but not for long. There isn’t any sex in this story, which was OK, but the ending is just kind of rough. Like I said, downer. But it was uniquely written. (C+)

Picture Perfect- Oh yeah, this was such a hot story. And it’s a May/Dec, teacher/student story, which I get off on. Dana is a student in University who keeps taking Dr. Helen Smith’s classes because she’s attracted to her. Dana is a newbie at being with women, so she gets constant advice from her butch friend who is sleeping with everyone, including a few professors. For a paper Dana has to do for Dr. Smith’s class, she goes to get some books for her topic and one book she needs hasn’t been taken out for 20 years, so its in a special room. In this book she finds a pin-up semi nudie photo of a woman from the 40’s and becomes obsessed with finding out who it is. When she finds out that Dr. Smith was the last person to take out the book, things get interesting.

This is a very engrossing story with a bit of a mystery involved and a sweet coming together of two women sexually. I liked that Helen is 45 and has as much or little experience as Dana who is in her early 20’s. So the sex is more exploratory in nature than experienced seduction, which I enjoyed. (A-)

Football Widow- this is a story about a woman who marries her high school sweetheart, but after they had split up and she had a lesbian affair with a Haitian professor at her college. She’s been married now for 10 years and is basically ignored by her husband during the whole football season. At a kickoff party that she and her husband have, a lesbian co-worker of her husband seduces her. She realizes how much she’s missed being with women and this woman turns her on totally.

This is a typical neglected housewife story, which kind of made it OK for me that she has sex with this other woman. What I didn’t like is how aggressive the lesbian is. She’s definitely the butch one and comes on very strong and pushy with the housewife. But I think in this case lesbians who like the butch/femme dynamics will like this story.

I also didn’t like that the lesbian woman in this case is thinking about making this affair long-term not by breaking up the marriage, but having the affair on the side without the husband’s knowledge. Not my thing that kind of idea really. Still though, the sex in this story is very steamy. (B)

The Last Goodbye Fuck- This is another kind of sad story. Two lesbians are having their last goodbye sex, which is very intense and lasts for hours. This is because one works on a fishing boat and goes out to sea for months at a time. What I liked about this story is that the women are so different. The butch one is big, fleshy and hairy, while the other one is tiny and thin. They both really love each other and really only have each other as both families have cut them off for being lesbians. The little details are what made this story for me. They are poor and make do with so little and it had a good feeling for me in that, like two people working against the odds. The sex is amazing in this story, but then ending really sucks. I guess that’s what you get when it’s not romance but erotica. (B+)

As a book of lesbian erotica, I think this collection is well done and offers a lot. But what I really enjoyed is that it’s also got many different kinds of sexual scenarios, something for everyone and especially something for those of us who like to read stories that are more interesting for the bi curious reader.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- f/f, ménage, strap-ons, anal,

Grade: B+