Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just for Laughs

Surprisingly, I found this in my local supermarket. It's a card by a major card company. Since when did they start getting this racy outside of Spencers?


Whatever works, right? :D

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review- Cattle Valley: Fool's Gold by Jenna Byrnes

Cattle Valley: Fool’s Gold
by Jenna Byrnes
June 23, 2009
Contemporary/ Lesbian
Novella- 35K
Ebook

Buy it Total-E-Bound- $4.98

Adeline Murphy believes the Apple Valley Inn is the only thing waiting for her in Cattle Valley, and it's up to Melissa Danes to change her way of thinking.

Adeline Murphy heads to Cattle Valley, Wyoming looking for a fresh start. She's invested every dime she has and purchased the local bed and breakfast. Arriving in town with a cranky girlfriend in tow, Addie's devastated to discover the inn has been vandalised. With the property uninhabitable, she has no source of income and a mounting stack of bills.

Melissa Danes' quiet Cattle Valley existence is shaken by the arrival of the beautiful Addie and her surly tagalong, Chloe. She's captivated by Addie, but stays away thinking Addie and Chloe are in a committed relationship. When she discovers differently, all bets are off.

Mel discovers Addie has several barriers to cross, including repairing the damaged inn and her even more wounded self-esteem. When Mel looks at Addie she sees more than Fool's Gold, but she needs to find a way for Addie to see it too.

Fool’s Gold is one of those sweet, fully developed romantic stories that satisfied me on every level. There’s just enough plot and tension to keep it engrossing and the characters are written with enough depth to get a good feel for who they are. While there’s plenty of steamy sex in this story, it’s not overpowering, but adds a spicy kick to this romance.

Addie's a good person who comes from a nasty home life. Her mother kicked her out for being gay and when her father sided with her, he got kicked out too. Addie inherited the only money left from her father whom she nursed while he was dying of lung cancer, and has bought a B&B in Cattle Valley, WY to start a new life. She's jaded and has self confidence issues, but is ready to be open.

She’s also somehow recently hooked up with Chloe, a self-centered bad girl who’s into nothing but playing and having sex. One thing missing from this story that I was curious about was why Addie and Chloe are together. They didn’t seem to be in tune with each other and I thought it was strange that someone like Addie would be with a girl like Chloe. Chloe’s bad ass personality does make for a nice contrast to the clean character of Mel, though.

Mel is a kind, conscientious woman who hasn’t found someone to love and spends her days working at the local book store. (Same book store from Truth or Dare.) When she meets Addie for the first time to hand over the keys to the B&B, sparks fly in her being and she finds herself fantasizing about Addie and wanting to help her, even with Chloe telling her to piss off and die at every turn.

You can see what’s coming fairly quickly; however, Jenna Byrnes kept a nice balance of tension stemming from Addie’s problems with both Chloe and her financial situation, and the budding love between Mel and Addie to keep a good flow to this story. It’s not a smooth ride, which gives a good reason to root for Addie and Mel’s love.

I’d also like to mention that this is one of the few f/f stories in which safe sex or the fact that women can possibly pass on disease to each other is dealt with. I take issue quite often in m/f, or m/m contemporaries in which condoms or at least the thought of disease control is not mentioned and it’s good to bring up in f/f as well. I thought Jenna Byrnes dealt with it in a non obtrusive way that added much to Addie’s character as a person of worth. And I just like it; it adds to my overall positive feeling about a book.

I wasn’t going to comment on the whole Cattle Valley thing because I basically ignored it. However, I felt that since it is a big part of the book, it needs some mentioning. If you’re familiar with author Carol Lynne’s Cattle Valley series in which this story takes place and enjoy it, then you’ll enjoy that part of this book. Personally I can’t suspend disbelief of a whole town of queers in WY. However, I do enjoy Jenna Byrnes' f/f stories, even if set in Cattle Valley, so I focused on the story itself. And some of the gay characters from that series are rather fun.

Fool’s Gold is just the kind of story to read if you’re looking for something light and fun, with a gratifying HEA romance and some juicy sex.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- Graphically written f/f sex, anal penetration rimming, dildo.

Grade B+

Friday, June 26, 2009

New GLBT promotion site



A new site, GLBT Bookshelf, has been created for authors, readers, and reviewers of GLBT themed books.

The story of how it started here.

It's virtually open to anyone to join and is free. It's still a site in progress and as the originator of the site has stated, it's open to anyone for suggestions as it's being run more like a co-op or "Kibbutz" as he puts it.

I've signed up to maybe post reviews of books on there.

So far, in going through the site, there's no easy way to find lesbian or Bi f/f books in the "Bookstore" section, so I probably wouldn't go there at the moment to find books. However, it's nice to know it's not set in stone. This can change and there's a great search option, which does yield all the info on the search term within the site.

I think this is a great idea and is yet another support for authors and readers of GLBT books to have a place to promote, mingle and get info knowing that they will not be marginalized like what happened with *coughAmazonfailcough.*

If you're an author it's very author friendly. You can promote your book, have author pages, and links to buy your book.

And if you're a reader, it's a good place to get more info on a book or author.

Review- Woman Justice by Rosalyn Wraight

Woman Justice
by Rosalyn Wraight
2004- Original pub 1999
Mystery/ Lesbian
Novel -200 pgs.
Ebook version

Buy it Amazon, Fictionwise, DLSIJ Press

What happens to all those characters a novelist creates? Could it be that they exist in an alternate plane? Could they be capable of returning to the writer, demanding a better, more fulfilling existence? This seems to be reality for Emily Decker, lauded mystery writer, when she is confronted by Milicent Baylor.

In her effort to get Milicent's existence past the burgeoning state, Emily writes a series of erotic stories, set in varying locales—from Alaska to Timbuktu. Each word, each sentence that Emily writes, makes Milicent stronger, more viable, more real. Emily places herself in these torrid tales and follows her character's regeneration. As Milicent grows in strength and character, Emily realizes she is falling in love with her own creation.

But all is not well in the real world...

The book opens with a police investigation into a pile of bones found in the woods. Detective Laura McCallister intends to solve the riddle. Whose bones are they? What do they have to do with Emily? What do they have to do with Milicent? How do Emily's father and housekeeper fit into this twisted scenario? Is anything as it appears to be?

I must say, I just don’t know whether the way this book was written was genius or totally lame. Although I was left feeling good overall about it, Woman Justice did put me through the ringer and I was left with lots of conflicting thoughts about his book.

Detective Laura McCallister is called when some bones are found in a park.

Famous mystery writer Emily Decker is having a bout of writer’s block and can’t seem to focus or get inspiration for her next book, which has been contracted with a sizable advance. Caroline, her agent, has been calling and asking what is going on, Olivia, her loyal housekeeper, is getting on her nerves because of her fussing about, and family issues that she’s ignored for years are coming to the forefront.

Emily is having a hard time dealing with life in general when out of nowhere a woman appears at her back door. Virtually a recluse, Emily is intrigued by this woman, especially when this woman claims she is Milicent, a character Emily created when she was much younger and first starting to write. Even though she questions whether Milicent is real or a figment of her imagination, Emily goes along with it not caring what’s real because for the first time in a long time, she’s turned on by something. Not only that, she cuts everyone out of her life to be with Milicent by pulling out the phone and not letting anyone enter her house, including Olivia.

In the meantime, she starts writing again, but not her book. She writes short stories about Milicent in exotic settings that express her inner erotic desires and love for Milicent because all along, Milicent talks to her and complains that Emily hasn’t written her story, her character, properly and she wishes Emily would write her the life that Emily promised. One day Milicent takes off and this pushes Emily to the brink.

OK, several things about this book got to me. I think author Rosalyn Wraight was gutsy to go a very unique route in this mystery and I have to give her some kudos for trying it. The thing is, it almost bombed for me. Many times. I got so fed up with this book on numerous occasions that if it weren’t for the fact that Ms. Wraight got me pissed and curious enough to see where this story was going, I would have ditched this book after the first 20 pgs. or so.

What really rectified this story for me was the ending. It blew my mind with several unexpected twists. It was well worth it to keep plugging along because that was the best part. And as an after thought, I did think several of the issues I did have with the book, were interesting in and of themselves if taken out of context.

My thoughts and impressions: first, there was a huge problem for me in the pacing of this story. It was all off for me, and frankly, I got agitated on more than one occasion because of it.

This book is a mystery with the introduction of detective McCallister. It starts out great with her starting the investigation. Shortly thereafter, the story switches to Emily and her situation, but without context or connection to the investigation. Unfortunately, Emily’s story goes on and on and on and I kept wondering what she has to do with all of this and why aren’t we getting any investigation? It felt as if I had started reading completely separate book. There are brief glimpses of the investigation after a long while, but it quickly goes back to Emily again. There was too much of a disconnect for me to feel a good flow between the story lines.

Then there are the stories that Emily is writing. There’s a string of very short stories that go on and on without any kind of fade back to Emily herself, or fade back to the investigation in between. By the third story in a row, I was getting frustrated. I got that Emily is trying to appease Milicent and work out her own feelings around her, but let’s get on with the main story again please.

Note: The short stories themselves, are very well written. Actually, they’re much better written than this whole book; very poetically erotic and creative. I think I would have appreciated them and what they were meant to do for this story much more if there weren’t so many in a row, but more interspersed throughout the story.

Another issue I had was the overuse of funky metaphors and similes and descriptors, which totally distracted me at times. It’s something I commented about in my review of Secrets and Sins, the second book in this series. This book was worse than the second book on this level, so hopefully it gets better as the series continues.

Some examples:

“There’s not much of it left,” she pelted, inching her sleeve up, exposing her watch to emphasize.

Emily swirled the one o’clock coffee in her mouth like a sewer drain in mid shower.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she noticed that the store had emptied itself for the week and would shut its blinds in sleep until Monday came around again.

The wrongness of the situation obsessed the room.

Problem number three; if I really go into it, it will give away too much of the mystery, but it was an issue that almost caused me to drop the book a few times. I’m not a huge fan of author characters treating their characters as real. I’ve read this plot device in a few books and it’s just too much for me to suspend disbelief in that. I just think it’s too hokey. Yes, we finally get to know why Emily is treating her character as real, and the end does make up for it. However, we’re talking about practically the whole book in which Emily is treating her character as real, since the end is just a few chapters.

I don’t want to leave the impression that I was very dissatisfied with this book though, I wasn’t. Overall, I will say that I loved this book. After the fact it is interesting to see what Ms. Wraight did and how it helped to get to the ending. And aside from the clunky wording here and there, her writing style is rather poetic and reflective. She also managed a shocking twist at the end, which totally made this book for me. That, and I like Laura McCallister as a character.

If you like mysteries, all I can say is hang in there with this one. While not a traditionally written one, Woman Justice still satisfies on so many levels. There’s not much of a romantic angle in this story as there was in Secrets and Sins, but there is some romance to this story, which can be felt more as an after effect.

Sex rating: Damp Panties- Lesbian--Ms. Wraight wrote the sexual scenarios more poetically, than graphically. Although some of the sexual situations were very erotic. I was a bit disappointed on this level only because at Fictionwise, where I bought the book, it’s listed under erotica. It’s so NOT erotica. The language is more sensual and alludes to rather than outright describes the sexual situations.

Grade: I have to give a mixed grade. C- for all the technical issues that I had with the book. B+ for the general overall feeling that I had with the book, including the surprise ending and unique take on this genre.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Epub's- ebook Price Comparisons

In my last review, the comments morphed into a different topic than the book itself and it brought up some issues that have been bothering me about the price of ebooks and how they affect my feelings about a book.

Lately, in my search for F/F books I've been getting more and more pissed off with the cost per word count in ebooks. This is especially noticeable in the lesbian/ F/F-bi genre because of its unpopularity and therefore lack of choice and availability.


At first I was not too aware of WC (word count) to price ratio because, as most readers, I'm used to thinking in terms of average mass market paperback of 250- 500 pgs. being all the same price. So I never thought in terms of WC.


With ebooks and epubs though, as Kirsten pointed out to me, there are all kinds of book lengths available and many 3K-10K short stories are being sold for almost the same price as a 100K paperback or even a 30K-40K ebook at some epubs. It's ridiculous!


Because the F/F genre doesn't have a huge amount of selections compared to M/M and M/F, we readers are often stuck with very short stories that are: not well written, edited badly and way over priced for that. Basically, we're screwed.

I'm getting fed up with it and am less willing to pay out that kind of money for crap, or something I can read in an hour. There are many free sites with often much better writing and story quality.


As far as lesbian and other f/f books go, even paper costs way more because it's a specialized niche market. So even if I want to go strictly paper, I have to fork out over $12-$16 for trade size 150-200+ page book.

Those pubs that specialize in lesbian/alternative fiction also do ebooks at times and charge the same $12-$16 for the ebook version. What...are they thinking?


So I've decided to rate different epubs based on cost per WC/page.
One thing I'd like to point out is that many epubs don't give a word count. I think it's very tricky of them. However, if you wish to know, often those books are sold on sites like Fictionwise, which do list a word count for every book. And just for the record, I'm only doing epubs that offer the most f/f- Lesbian books.

I feel that Samhain Publishing is one of the fairest in its WC/ cost pricing so I set its pricing as my standard on which to judge others by.


Below is a general chart that I made up. I think if you click on it you can see it better. What it shows is that while a 20K story is 1/5 of a 100K, the cost is 1/3 to 2/3 of 100K story. I know that some would argue that the cost for a publisher is the same for a short story as a full length novel and therefore the cost has to be higher per word since the return is not the same. But as many point out, short stories and novellas sell a lot more, so the return is made up in volume. So I don't see why the cost needs to be so high for some epubs when others are keeping it at a fair and reasonable price.



Edited- MY BAD-- It was pointed out to me that Total-E-Bound prices were cheaper on their site than Fictionwise. I did get the prices for TEB from FW mainly because FW usually shows the epub price and then their price, which is cheaper.

Also, TEB has no price code per word count like Samhain does. Nor does it list WC on their book pages. So I literally would have had to open many books to get a WC to price range and I admit I was lazy on that part.

I did check with books I've bought from TEB and what they do is list the price, but when I get the CC statement, it shows that the list price is lower with a currency exchange amount, which totals the price given.

I didn't think about that this is a British company and that the exchange rate would affect the prices. Still though, they do appear to be very reasonable if you buy direct from them.


Samhain's WC/Cost key:


Short Stories: $2.50- (12-18K words)

Novellas: $3.50- (18-35K words)

Category: $4.40- (35-60K words)

Novel: $ $5.50- (60-100K words)

Plus Novel: $6.50- (over 100K words)


$
= fair price, close to Samhain's prices---I choose these sites and books over others first.
$$ = A little expensive, but still acceptable-- I'll still buy these books
$$$= Too expensive--- but for a good book I'd spend the money.
$$$$= Over the top ridiculous price for an ebook- Forget about it. I'm not spending that kind of money for any ebook, even if it's highly coveted.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$$
-
Amber Quill Press- They don't have too many f/f books offered, but I find them to be fairly expensive for WC. Shows word count on books.

Amber Brief:
(2,500 - 4,999 words)- $1
Amber Kiss: (5,000 - 10,000 words)- $2.50
Extended Amber Kiss: (11,000 - 17,000 words) $3-$4

Novella: (18,000 - 29,000 words) - $5

Extended Novella: (30,000 - 40,000 words) -$6

Novel: (41,000 - 70,000 words)- $7

Extended Novel: (71,000+ words)
$8

I think Amber Quill charges too much money for what they offer and I probably won't buy from them in the future unless they are selling an author I really want to read.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$ -Phaze- I like Phaze in general because they do offer a lot of f/f and they label it clearly, but their prices can be a high and the writing quality can be a bit iffy. Gives word count on most books.

Short story:
(5, 000-12,000 words)-- $2-$2.50
Short / novella: (5,000-18,000 words
)- $2- $3
Novella:
(12, 000- 30,000 words)-$3- $4
Category:
(30,000-60,000 words)- $5- $6
Novel:
(60,000-90,000 words
)-$6-
Mega-novel: (90,000 + words
)- $6-

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$($)-Total-E-Bound- Doesn't hardly have any f/f, but there are a few f/f authors who I like that are pubbed through here, so I do buy from them. Doesn't show word count on their books, which I don't like.

Edited- These prices below are taken from Fictionwise, which has been pointed out to me to be higher than if you buy direct from TEB even with the exchange rate taken into account. I still don't want to slog through many of their books to get an exact price range, but on average they are $1-$2 cheaper if you buy direct from TEB.

Short Story
- (10,000 to 15,000 words) - $3.06-$3.47
Novella
- (15,001 - 30,000 words)-$5.11-$6.13
Novel
- (30,001 - 60,000 words)-$6.09-$9.28
Super Novel
- (60,001 - 100,000 words)- $7.16-$11.69
Super Plus Novel
- (100,001+ words)-$11.69



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$$-Loose-Id-- Only has a few f/f titles so I don't normally go there for f/f. Also, I just don't like their site. They don't give much info at all. They have no key code for WC to catagory, so when they list "Novel" on a book page, I have no clue what they are talking about. Going to fictionwise, this is what I came up with:

(20,000 -30,000 +/- words) -
$4.99

(40,000 + words) - $5.99

(50,000 -60,000+ words)- $6.99

(70,000+ words)- $7.99


They don't sell short stories, so it looks like the lowest WC is around 20K.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$- Torquere Books- I've never bought from them so I don't have a clue about quality but I did some research. I had to go to Submissions section to get this info. It's not on their book pages. No WC or length info offered. Just price.

Sips:
(3,000-8,000 words)-$1.29

Novelette:
(10,000-15,000 words)- $2.49

Novella:
(20,000+ words)- $3.95

Novel:
(45,000+ words)- $5.95

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$- Excessica- I've never bought from this pub either, so I can't speak to quality. They do have a book length chart, which is nice, although WC is not posted on the actual book page. Their web site is very slow to load, too slow. I would have given up if I wanted to buy something. As with a lot of epubs, the shorter the story, the more expensive in WC/cost ratio.

Short Shorts:
(under 3K words)- $.99

Shorts:
(3-7K words) -$1.99

Short stories:
(7-15K words)- $2.99

Novella
- (15-35K words)-$3.99

Novel- (35-70K words)- $4.99
Super novels
- (70-150K words)- $5.99

Super XL Novels
- (150-250K words)- None show up in this category.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$($)- Loveyoudivine Alterotica press- I only bought one book from them, which was OK. They have no WC chart, but do list word count on the book page. And they are all over the place in WC/ price. There doesn't seem to be a standard. Just some examples:

2,461 words- $2.75

3,702 words- $2

5,676 words- $2.75

9,067 words-$3
12,811 words-$3.50

10K- $4.49

14,267 words-$4



I think this press charges way too much for WC and I might, but probably won't, buy from them again unless I'm desperate for a f/f book. They do have their books through Fictionwise, which sells them much cheaper.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$- I'll throw in Ellora's Cave even though as of this moment they don't have any f/f. It's going to change though, I hope. But they are one of the top epubs, so their stats are good to know.

Quickie
: (up to 15K words)- $2.24
Novella:
(15-30K words)-$4
Short Novel:
(30-45K)-$4.68
Novel:
(45-70K)- $5.35
Plus Novel:
(70-100K)-$6.29
Super Plus:
(100K+)- $7.19

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've given a few examples of some more popular epubs, but there are some predominantly print pubs that do sell ebooks. Here are a couple that sell lesbian fiction.

$$$$- Bold Strokes Books- They are traditionally a niche print pub for Lesbian fiction- most of their print books cost between $12-16 in trade size for about 200+/- pages. Unfortunately, their ebooks are just as expensive, which is why I'd never buy and ebook from them.

They are all around $12.95 and they don't offer a huge download format range like epubs do. Nor do they give a word count. It's too bad because there are some good authors under Bold Strokes Books.

$$$$- L-Book Lesbian Fiction- They are also very expensive. They do give the WC on their book pages. What is nice about this pub is that they do offer many formats, even audio. I haven't bought from them, so I don't know about writing quality either.

60K -$10.95

175K- $13.95






Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review- The Cliche by Lillith Payne

The Cliché
by Lillith Payne
2009
Contemporary/ Lesbian/ f/f-bi/ Erotica
Short Story- 9K
Ebook

Buy it Loveyoudivine Alterotica Press ($3), Fictionwise ($2.25, ARe ($2.70)

Fiona was guilted into representing the family at a destination wedding. Trying to make the best of the situation, she decided she was ready to have a weekend affair with a nice man she’d find at the reception. Having found her choice, she’s blatantly disappointed by his leaving her for a well endowed woman.

Trying not to show disappointment, another guest approached her, a woman who’s self-confidence overwhelms Fiona. After spending time with Sunny, she finds she’s attracted to the woman on a new level. Never before had she contemplated the touch of another female. Sunny intrigues and shows her choices aren’t always written in stone. Experimenting can be much more fun when your partner understands how your body works. She intended to have an affair, but she never imagined it would be with a stunning woman.

The Cliché is a short little erotic quickie that was fun and satisfying to read.

In this case, the blurb is pretty accurate so I’m cutting straight to the chase.

I picked up this book for several reasons: first, I’ve never read any books from this publisher, which has more than a few f/f books and I wanted to see if their books are any good--- second, I liked the blurb on this one; it’s a story about a woman who’s never been with a woman before, and well, those are my favorite kind--- third, and I’ll be honest, this epub charges way too much money for their ebooks and they’re all over the place with the word count to price ratio, so I chose this one because it had a higher word count for the price.

For the most part I really liked this story. It’s a nice fantasy; an inexperienced woman getting a chance to try new things in an open, non judgmental environment with an experienced woman who’s very easy, but erotically seductive.

Sunny, who’s a lesbian, finds herself attracted to Fiona and gets Fiona’s attention by sympathizing with her about being brushed off by a guy who was flirting with her. While Sunny is talking to Fiona she drops little sexual innuendos that Fiona picks up on but dismisses until Sunny walks her back to her hotel room. There Sunny comes on to Fiona and Fiona finds herself getting turned on.

What was really yummy about this is that although Sunny is a bit sexually aggressive at first, she’s very patient and open with Fiona for the duration of the weekend. She just lets Fiona explore and play with her body as Fiona feels comfortable to do.

And Fiona, somewhat shocked that a woman is turning her on, ignores her own embarrassment and angst about her sudden forthrightness in asking Sunny if she can try things with her. This story is basically one sexual encounter after another and how these two interact is very steamy. But at the same time it's very relaxing actually because both are willing to just allow and experiment.

The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the constant use of the word “lips” for labia. I kept getting it confused with real lips. I mean, maybe it’s not sexy, but I’d rather read “labia” than lips. And Lillith Payne kept vacillating between using lips, a lighter euphemism, and very graphic language. This kind of thing drives me a bit crazy because it holds back the heat level, while trying to be erotic. Either go full on erotic or stay sensual, otherwise it’s frustrating.

That said, the sexual scenarios are very titillating and for the most part, nicely written. It’s a short story so there’s not much character development but these two characters are good together. And although it’s not a romance, it’s left off in a decent way with maybe some possibility of some future meetings between the two.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- Very hot f/f, dildo, dildo anal.

Grade: C+



Thursday, June 18, 2009

On forced seduction, rape fantasies, bondage and f/f(/m) romance...

I'm going to share a secret with you all (okay, knowing me and my penchant for oversharing, it might not be a secret at this point): I enjoy reading a little non-con now and then.

Especially f/f non-con. Also, f/f/m bondage--in fact, while m/f BDSM doesn't really float my boat at all, throw a second woman into the mix and it's like popcorn with a gallon of artificial, imitation, butter-flavored topping for me. So sinful, so delicious...

Although I've noticed of late that these particular scenarios have been making less frequent appearances in my repertoire of fantasies, and I've been wondering exactly why that is. And why they were such reliable sensual fodder for me in my youth.

Unlike my blogging buddy Leah, I came to my affinity for girl-on-girl action early on--before I knew sex was more than kissing, even. I can still remember myself at age ten or so making my Barbies kiss each other, often while Ken watched from the sidelines, calling instructions and encouragement. I also remember "mean" Barbie making "nice" Barbie do things she didn't want to do (mostly cook and clean and stuff, because hey, I was ten), and the thrill I got from imagining myself as "nice" Barbie, subservient and sweet and infinitely biddable, going about my tasks, eager to please "mean" Barbie and earn more kisses. In these games, Ken was often involved peripherally, a guiding hand to the system of reward and punishment, alternately praising both Barbies when they pleased him, and ratting out "nice" Barbie when she misstepped, and making suggestions for suitable retribution.

Yup. I can hear Hank Hill's voice in my head as I type this: "Only ten years old, and already the girl ain't right," LOL.

I've read a bit on the dwindling prevalence of rape fantasies among women (most memorably Nancy Friday's Women on Top, which combines research and scientific speculation with some blammo one-handed reading--no dry academic analysis to be found there, heh). She posits that the rape fantasy--once a staple of Rosemary Rogers and the rest of the old guard of romance novelists--was popular among women raised before the sexual revolution because they were raised to be "good girls" and "good girls" don't have sex--especially not for pleasure. It seems strange for me to think of a time when the only acceptable sexual equation was 1 penis + 1 vagina = 1 baby, or where noted sex experts insisted that cunnilingus (or anything extraneous to the above equation that might gratify a woman sexually) interfered with fertility and was therefore to be eschewed by married couples.

Keeping in mind that we're not talking about actual rape, but rape fantasies, the premise is that removing the power of consent freed women from those daunting social strictures. To remain a "good girl", one had to keep one's legs together. Withholding consent was one way for women to give themselves permission to have sex--and enjoy it--without the shame of being labeled a fast woman. It only stood to reason that a romance heroine raped by her hero would then fall in love with him--the man who'd given her that pleasure and allowed her to transcend the dictates of those ingrained pressures in the only way possible. And because he invariably married her, in the eyes of society at the time, she'd done no wrong.

What does this have to do with my diminshing love for f/f non-con? Everything, really.

I remember hiding my Barbie play from my mother. It was a secret, shameful joy for me, tainted with the inherent understanding, even then, that were I caught, those Barbies might end up in the trash and I might end up in a counsellor's office. I suppose I ought to have given my mom more credit than that, but homosexuality in general was still largely in the closet at that time. I'd never seen two women holding hands or kissing, had never even heard the words "lesbian" or "bisexual". I had no social yardstick by which to measure my feelings. I only knew they were not the norm. And the fact that both Barbies still liked Ken only confused things further.

Looking back on it now, I realize that having "mean" Barbie dominate "nice" Barbie was my ten-year-old way of giving myself permission to fantasize about f/f sensuality while still being "a good straight girl". "Nice" Barbie never had a choice--she did what she was told, and took her rewards and punishments without complaint, free to enjoy them as much as she wanted because the burden of accountability had been removed from her. Ken's presence in the scenario increased the sense of security and freedom from judgment, because when he was dictating the action, even "mean" Barbie was liberated from the power and responsibilty of autonomy, so the shame of those feelings was one more step removed from them.

And having recently had "the talk" with both my parents and my kids, and finding them accepting, though not enthusiastic, about my attraction to women, I've discovered I don't really need the fantasy anymore. And when I do have it, I'm no longer "nice" Barbie. I'm not "mean" Barbie, either. I'm strong, dominant Barbie, the tender alpha in the scenario, not forcing but seducing. "Nice" Barbie might be confused and unwilling at first, but she comes around because she knows it's okay to feel and act on an unexpected attraction to another woman. The fantasy has become tempered by me giving myself permission to like what I like.

What does all this have to do with f/f(/m) romance? Plenty.

There are plenty of women out there who have no compelling feelings of attraction toward other women, but who still enjoy reading and watching f/f erotic material. For many of them, it's kind of a secret shame, complicated by the fact that they're straight and don't want others to speculate about their sexual orientation. For them, there may be a certain comfort to be found in books like Mackenzie McKade's Lisa's Gift, where the two straight women are friends, love each other and share incredible intimacy, both emotional and sexual, within the insular comfort of an m/f/f BDSM relationship. The hero's dominant guiding hand liberates them from choice, from shame, from confusion. They can have sex with each other and enjoy it, and it's okay. Straight women can read it and enjoy it, and it's okay.

In another way, it skates very close to the Girls Gone Wild phenomenon, where it's socially acceptable for women to be sensual with each other so long as it's at the behest of a man, while those who exclude men are still considered anathema. The whole, "Those lesbians are going straight to hell. Soon as I finish watching these chicks on the TV washing cars and rubbing their wet, slippery bodies all over each other, I'm going to go cast my vote against same-sex marriage," kind of attitude.

I'm kind of wondering whether women as a whole will ever reach a time when the majority of us, straight or queer, will give ourselves permission to like what we like, without that external stamp of approval. Because freedom without autonomy may be comforting, but it isn't exactly freedom, either...

Review- Swap by Jenesi Ash

Swap
by Jenesi Ash
Sept. 2008
Erotica
Novel- trade 279 pgs.

Buy it Amazon

Meet the friends:

Free spirited Jamie is not one to be tied down—unless it’s in the bedroom.

Caleb is Jamie’s sexually adventurous lover who has no desire to domesticate her.

Mia is Jamie’s naive friend whose sexual fulfillment has depended solely on her first and only lover.

Aidan thinks he knows what Mia wants. That’s because he’s the only man she’s ever gone to, to get it.

This weekend, four best friends at the crossroads of their relationships have decided to do something different. But as sexual partners shift, Jamie, Caleb, Mia, and Aidan will discover more about themselves and each other than they ever imagined.

Jamie and Mia have been friends for a long time and have shared a house together. Jamie, who’s the wild one sexually, has become attracted to Mia and rather than ruin her friendship by telling Mia, she decides it’s time to leave. She’s also been hanging out with Caleb, who’s been her best sexual partner yet, willing to do anything with her. But since she’s not the type to stick with one person, she’s planning on leaving him behind as well.

Mia has been in a long relationship with Aidan and has reached a point where she wishes to live out some fantasies that she can’t have because she likes being a submissive to Aidan and won’t do anything sexually without his permission or unless he specifically says to.

Jamie, who is a controller in sex, feels that Mia needs to get out from under the thumb of Aidan and go for what she wants sexually, so she offers a free for all swapping weekend her last few days there, which Mia agrees to only if she has permission from Aidan. Aidan and Caleb talk about it and all agree to it having their own fantasies that they want to explore.

In the process, all four learn something about themselves and what they really desire as each person steps outside of their comfort zone at times to help fulfill the others’ fantasies.

Whew! Get the fan and the ice cubes out because if you’re going to read this you’ll need them. If you’re not into erotica, then this book is not for you. It’s literally 279 pgs. of non-stop sex. Steamy, juicy, hot, raunchy sex of every kind and person combo and to be honest, it's so much fun and well written.

If you need some romance with your sex this is also not quite the book for you either. But I will say that even with all the sex, Jenesi Ash did manage to develop the characters and let us know about their psychological make up and motivations, which is partly what kept me interested. And although not a true romance, I’ll say that all parties end up in a satisfying HFN.

Sexually, just about everything represented here including some minor BDSM. I loved that for this weekend everyone is willing to let go of all of their inhibitions and judgments, all trusting each other to let go and explore. There was also the feeling that no-one would be pushed or forced to do something outside their comfort zone and I liked that, even though personal issues do come up. Those things do get discussed though, and were not just blown over for the sex, which I thought was good. What was particularly fun was power struggle that came up for both Aidan and Jamie who are both dominant alphas.

The only thing that kept this book from being an A for me is that some of the characters’ reasons for participating in particular situations and the power plays going on got a bit muddled at times. While all stayed in character for the most part, there were times when they seemed confused about what they wanted or felt.

At any rate, I read, have read, a lot of erotica and for the amount of sex in this book, the fact that not once does it ever get boring is a pretty amazing feat for an author and I commend Jenesi Ash on this point. She managed to constantly infuse character motivation and feeling into each sex scene so it wasn’t like reading a non-stop unemotional sexual scene. And she was very creative with the sexual situations. There are sexual scenarios in here that I've never read before.

Sex rating: Orgasmic— Virtual smorgasbord: f/f, f/f/m, strap-on use anal male, f/m/f, voyeurism, very light BDSM.

For those who want to know about the f/f portion, I did feel a bit frustrated because the sexual tension between Jamie and Mia kept growing through the book, but I was never quite satisfied.

In the beginning the girls do have a light sexual encounter in which Mia is shocked to find herself turned on and it was a hot scene, but not complete. During the book we are constantly being titillated with small moments here and there of them touching and what they feel about that as both start really wanting each other.

When they finally do get a chance to be together, at the end, it’s a bit anti climatic; like they weren’t allowed to really just be together without some interference from the guys even though at that point both were really hot for it.

However, the f/f that is in here is very yummy. These two women really love each other even if not in-love with each other and you can feel that they are really OK with being together. Still though, for the reader who likes to read both men and women together this is a really good read.

Grade: B+

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Hit F/F, F/F/M Wonders



Waring: music plays on this slide show

The other day I finished a book that really I enjoyed and like many before it, I went looking for the author’s backlist to see if she/he had written some more f/f. Outside of authors who specifically write to the lesbian audience or write erotica, in all cases the one book I read was the author’s one and only f/f, f/f/m book. *sigh*

I can’t tell you how disappointing this is to me every time. So many authors actually hit the mark and write really nice f/f stories but then stop after that one book. And what’s most interesting is that many times it was an author’s earlier or first book.

This tells me that authors are interested in writing it for themselves or in general, but due to unpopularity, lack of sales, fear of being associated with the genre or whatever the reason, they stop after that one book.

I understand that authors need to make money in order to continue writing and I don’t begrudge them that. But when I read a good f/f, f/f/m story, I want more, and from that author. Selfish of me? Yes. I’m starving for good f/f and authors who write good ones are far and few between.

There are some authors out there like Jenna Byrnes who manage to keep writing f/f in between their m/f and m/m’s even with a crappy f/f market, so it can be done. And then there’s Kirsten Saell of course who is willing to keep writing it out right, which I can’t get enough of and appreciate.

Maybe one day this situation will be different. I hope so. And I hope authors who have written it will take a chance and write it again at some point.

Authors:

1. If you’ve written a f/f and stopped at one, do you ever think about doing another?

2. If you’ve thought about or wish to write a f/f and haven’t, what are the reasons why wouldn’t consider it?

3. If f/f was a more popular or viable genre, would you consider writing f/f?

Readers:

1. When you read a good f/f, f/f/m do you check out the author’s backlist for more f/f, f/f/m and if you don’t find it are you disappointed?

Or are you OK with the f/f that was in a book but don’t bother about looking for more?

2. Ashamed to say because I don’t, but if you read a good f/f and find the author’s back list full of m/f or m/m do you also buy some of those?

2. Have you ever asked an author if they will be writing more f/f, f/f/m?

3. Have you ever asked a publisher to offer more f/f, f/f/m?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review- The Perfect Score 2: Widow’s Weeds by Beth Williamson

The Perfect Score 2: Widow’s Weeds
by Beth Williamson
2006
Contemporary/ F/F bisexual/ Erotic
Novella (22, 374K) $3.99
Ebook

Buy it Loose-Id, Fictionwise

Veronica Avery needs to get laid. It’s been ten years since her husband died in a car accident. She's lonely and tired of trying to meet men since they all end up with a big "L" on their foreheads anyway. When she joins The Perfect Score bowling tournament, her modest hopes are pinned on meeting a man she might feel comfortable going to bed with.

She's not expecting to meet Patrice Goldman, a woman that inspires feelings of passion and longing in her cobwebby heart. Afraid and confused, Veronica tries to deny her growing feelings for the auburn haired woman, but fate has other things in mind for the woman in black. It’s time to shed her widow’s weeds and live again.

The Perfect Score 2: Widow’s Weeds is very sweet story about two women who find their hearts again through their unexpected attraction to each other after both have suffered emotional pain.

Just for the record, the first paragraph of the book blurb is totally wrong.

Veronica has been widowed for five years. She’s still grieving, missing her husband and will only wear black because that’s how she feels. Her husband was her first and only love and he was perfect. Even though she’s dated, no one has sparked her interest. Her best friends sign her up for a bowling tournament just to get her out of the house and she meets her new partner a few days before.

Patrice is a beautiful woman from out of town and Veronica’s new partner. Both Veronica and Patrice feel an immediate attraction to each other, something shocking to Veronica who has never been attracted to a woman. Patrice is a lesbian and has had a bad break up with her ex but feels herself opening up to Veronica even knowing Veronica is not a lesbian.

They go out to get to know each other a little better and to discuss the tournament and things get a little more intimate than they planned. To Veronica’s surprise, she feels something for Patrice that she only felt with her husband and while it’s shocking to her, she goes along with it because it feels good. Unfortunately, Veronica is reminded by a phone call from her controlling mom that what she is doing is wrong and she blows Patrice off. She can’t let go of what she feels though and has to come to terms with that.

This story is exactly what I like to read. One in which a straight woman feels an attraction to another woman and just goes for it because it feels good, setting aside personal prejudices and fears about that. Both of these women have something to lose and gain by getting together.

Veronica comes from a very strict past in which her mom controlled every aspect of her life. Even though in her 40’s, it’s still hard for her to pull away from such an ingrained way of being. After meeting Patrice, for the first time since her husband died, she feels her heart opening and sexual desire again. When she’s found out and her mom gives her crap for kissing a woman, a lot of conflict comes up for her and she debases herself in the process.

When she goes to her husband’s grave, as she’s done faithfully for years, she starts telling him about what’s happened and in the process she realizes that she really wants Patrice and is willing to fight for her happiness and what she feels even if the whole world will be against her.

Patrice also has a lot to loose. She’s had a bad break up and loosing her heart to a “straight” woman is not the easiest or wisest thing. But she backs off, hurt after Veronica blows her off but stays a friend and open to Veronica for the course of tournament. In the end, these two realize that what they have is very special and to deny that would be wrong.

The Perfect Score 2: Widow’s Weeds is a definite recommend for those who like good f/f sex with the “gay for you” trope and a HFN ending.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- Whew! Very steamy f/f sex, 69, elaborate masturbation scene, steamy shower scenes, and one minor m/f sex scene.

Grade: B

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review- Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon

Odd Girl Out
Beebo Brinker Vol. 1
by Ann Bannon
Original Pub 1957
Ebook version April 2008
Retro/ Lesbian/ M/F
Novel-
Ebook

Buy it Amazon (Hard copy), Fictionwise & Renaissance E Books (ebook format) $4.99 for two books

The Classic of Lesbian Life and Love in the 1950s! Meet Bebo, Laura and the other women who lived in the shadows of the Village at the dawn of the gay revolution. Peek inside the bedrooms and bars where their nightly transactions take place, and learn how they felt and how they made love.

Firstly, I have to say that the ebook I bought has two books in it, but I wanted to separate the reviews. For this review I’m doing the first book Odd Girl Out, which is the start of Laura’s journey and which continues in I Am a Woman, Who Loves a Woman. I will review that at a later date.

Laura is a freshman in college and meets a striking girl, Beth, in the student union. Beth seems to have it all: she’s beautiful, has poise and charisma and people just naturally gravitate to her and follow her lead. Beth takes an interest in Laura and invites her to join her sorority Alpha Beta, which Laura does. Because of Beth’s influence, Laura gets placed in the same room as Beth and Emmy, Beth’s best friend since childhood.

Laura is a shy, quiet girl, coming from a broken home, which she’s ashamed of. She gloms onto Beth, who even though popular, is fed up with dating and sticks to herself except where Laura is concerned. Laura responds to Beth’s interest and they get very close. One night, they end up in bed together comforting each other and find themselves doing more than talking. Thus starting a secret relationship between them that neither really question too much although they realize that they are doing something wrong.

There’s a glitch in this cozy little set up though. Beth meets Charlie, an acquaintance of Laura and feels a magnetic attraction to him, which she can’t ignore. She ends up trying to hide her relationship with Charlie so she won’t hurt Laura. This all plays out until things come to a head and Beth must decide who she wants.

I’ve been very attracted to retro book covers and this got me interested to see if there were any retro lesbian books. I came across Ann Bannon who is considered to be the queen and forerunner in the lesbian story genre. I was very curious about what sort of conflicts, ideas, and concepts about being a lesbian were prevalent during the ’50’s and this book was great for that. It’s also very well written and timeless in expressing human emotion and same sex love.

What was a surprise reading this book is that this is actually a triangle story with Beth really being bisexual. Or let’s say that she kind of falls into a sexual relationship in a “gay for you” type of way because before Laura, she’s never really had anything with a woman. She ends up with Laura because, so far, no man has been able to do anything for her, especially sexually and being with Laura opens her up for the first time.

She is described as craving love as she never had it as a child. Until Laura, she slept around trying to get that love, but always felt empty and unsatisfied with the men she’s been with and decided that she was doomed to be alone. So when Laura comes along and adores her so much, she responds to it. Even though she does love Laura though, she treats her like a child, trying to protect her from hurt, feeling responsible for her, which tires her at times.

When Beth meets Charlie and they have beautiful, loving sex, for the first time she gets what she’s been craving from men and she understands then that what she feels for Laura is not quite the same. She wants to fall into Charlie's arms and be taken care of and understood, which he does. Beth’s constant struggle around what she feels is very realistically portrayed interesting to follow.

Laura is clueless before she meets Beth that she’s really a lesbian and even denies that she’s queer until Beth puts it right out there that what they are doing is definitely queer. I love how she grows up during this story. In the beginning and through most of the book, she’s so jealous of anyone who has Beth’s attention, especially Charlie, and she pouts and whines to Beth trying to keep them apart. She’s always begging Beth to be with her and it gets pathetic at times. In the end though she comes to terms with what’s real and she takes a stand for her own truth even if it’s not what she thought she wanted.

A surprisingly interesting character in all of this is Charlie. He’s originally a player, but he really falls hard for Beth and knows that she loves him. When she breaks it off with him so she won’t hurt Laura, he really fights hard for her and is willing understand where she’s coming from, even if it hurts him. Seriously, this guy is the perfect hero type character and I really liked him. I could see how Beth would fall in love with him.

Actually the love between Charlie and Beth was portrayed as very passionate with an intense sexual heat and deep love between them and I felt more about those two than Beth and Laura. The relationship between Beth and Laura was too co-dependant and came across as vacillating between being sweet and needy coming from Laura’s POV. Basically Beth more or less loves Laura but isn’t in-love with Laura and sticks with her because she feels bad for her in a way. So this isn’t a true lesbian story, although it’s a story about awakening in that area.

The only issue I had was one thing that I have complaint about in many lesbian stories and that’s the constant emo going on between the characters. Beth and Laura are always discussing, angsting and ruminating about what they feel and it got to be too much. It does enter Peyton Place-ville at times.

Aside from the triangle going on, a fun aspect of reading this book was the trends and ideas prevalent during the 50’s. How “good and proper” women were expected to behave and that they were supposed to be virgins until marriage, although everyone was having sex. As long at it was in secret and no one got caught it was all OK. Also how one wrong move could get you ostracized by the whole university, your sorority and town you came from. It did bring up childhood feelings and impressions I had and remember from the 60’s. It’s just interesting to see how much has changed for women and lesbians.

I’ll definitely be getting some more of Ann Bannon’s books. The writing is smooth and her character and relationship development is very in depth and real. I loved this book.

Sex rating: Dry panties- just minor alluding to sex. Kissing. Awww…

Grade: B++

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Interesting Links to Posts about Sexual desire and Identity


The other day, Remittance Girl posted an interesting post about Gender, Sexuality and Desire about how you identify yourself sexually and how much of how we identify ourselves and attractions is based on what we were brought up to think is beautiful or attractive.

Today, Kissa Starling posted and interesting post about sexual Identity and labeling as well.

Both go into the idea of not wanting to label themselves or others. This is interesting to me because it's a topic that seems to be pretty popular these days, especially with pop culture sort of accepting and promoting sexual fluidity.

The biggest and most far reaching recent discussion about it was on Oprah this past year. Below is the link to what happened on that show. It's very fascinating for someone like me, who has been a 1 on the Kinsey scale but finds myself suddenly in my 50's sexually or romantically open to women, to see these discussions happening.

I find myself not wanting to fit into any box or label about what I feel. Technically I'm not totally straight since I am now attracted to some women. Nor am I bi since I've never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a women, and I'm definitely not a lesbian since I'm very attracted to men and specifically, love and desire my husband.

But this is something I personally think about as I enjoy reading the type of books that I review for this blog and wish to do and feel as I please in it.

Oprah's Living Without Labels show.

Another Oprah link- Women Leaving Men for Other Women

And then there was an article about Older women turning Gay in More magazine, which is very interesting. It's about women in middle age suddenly finding themselves attracted to women.

This guy has an interesting post about it in The New Gay- Sexual Disorientation: A Bit Bug'd He comes from the premise that we do identify but that certain people or circumstances can cause us to become sexually disoriented for a time being. Interesting.

All of these stories, plus my own experience tell me that we're probably more sexually fluid than we think or identify with. And that many of us don't want to be labeled, or shoved into a box that says this is what I am.

One question that does come up and is posited by Remittance Girl as well, is whether or not social and cultural factors are influencing us in our sexual preferences and experiences? For instance, why would someone like me suddenly become open to women in a sexual way? Is it because the current social a atmosphere is open enough, or even making it popular or even cool? Or has this always been the case that women and men have been fluid, but due to social stigma no one has talked about it? I wonder.