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emmejo has commented on (329) products.

House of Sable Locks by Elizabeth Schechter
House of Sable Locks

emmejo, May 14, 2015

William is struggling to regain a life in London under the control of his uncle while recovering from the deaths of his parents, separation from his lovers, and sexual abuse as a teenager at the hands of his first love. Invited to his cousin's "club", he discovers a strange brothel full of lifelike machines. His attention is captured by one in particular, the Succubus, a beautiful, clever, tender instrument of pain who is exactly what William wants. But when dark elements from his past and a violent, greedy relative combine to overwhelm him, he discovers that his relationship with this clockwork woman is far deeper than they anticipated, and that they will do anything to protect each other.

I got this book through Con Or Bust's latest fundraising auction as part of a lot of LGBTQ+ romance/erotica. This book took a little while to get going, but once I was hooked on the plot, I devoured it. The beginning was the weakest part, with some wobbly character voice and awkward motivation, so I would advise future readers to push through the first couple chapters before deciding whether to put it down.

Once the stage is set, the book moves fast, with excellent suspense pacing at points. There is a lot of action crammed into this book, and characters that we start to care about to an unusual extent for erotica.

I loved that this book draws a very clear line between healthy BDSM relationships and ones that are abusive. With the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, it is a conversation that the genre needs to keep alive. We get to see a spectrum of relationships here. Those who find actual torture and abuse at the hands of a lover triggering may want to steer clear of this book, there are definitely some stomach-churning scenes.
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Vampires Suck by Giovanni Valentino

emmejo, January 23, 2015

I backed this collection on Kickstarter because I always enjoy trying small press story collections, I'd heard good things about Alternate Hilarities and I found the premise fun. Over all I enjoyed this book and the stories within.

My biggest issue was the very poor proofreading. There are sentence fragments and incorrect punctuation EVERYWHERE! This really damages the image of the publishing house and rendered one story (Joe Mogel's "The Hunt") almost unreadable due to the severity and frequency of bewildering, or just mangled, sentences. There were also a few non-vampire stories, which I think would have been best left out since they do nothing to help give the collection a cohesive feel.

Despite the publishing issues, I found plenty of enjoyable stories. My favorites were:

"Dark Illusions" by Even Dicken, which features a new vampire struggling to cope with the fact that being a real vampire is nothing like the movies.

"A Winter's Wisp" by Tim J. Finn is short (only 3 pages of text) but features a vampire's attempt to feed on a young lady defeated in an unexpected way.

"The Other Interview with a Vampire" by C.J. Andrew features a reporter who tracks down the vampiric descendent of Vlad the Impaler and finds a disappointment.

"Not All That Glitters is Gold" by Giovanni Valentino takes a group of pop culture vamps, conceals them under barely-there pseudonyms (Les, gay vamp from New Orleans and Seraphim, brooding vamp with a soul get lots of page time) and has them trying to decide whether to let sparkling Eddie Culligain into their exclusive club.

In "Paleo Diet" by J. Adrian Cook a vampire couple find a domestic human in their dumpster. Of course, no one keeps humans anymore and they are stumped as to what do with him.
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Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live by Ben Thompson
Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live

emmejo, January 3, 2015

This book is by the author of Badass of the Week, a blog which provides exactly what the title says: a short bio on someone who is badass. I enjoy the website, so I was pleased to get this book. Unfortunately, I prefer the website's offerings.

Right off the bat, we are provided with a map of Europe and a clue as to what will be offered: the same white European and/or American men we get a billion history books about. I was really disappointed by the range of figures offered here, one of the things I love about the website is that it showcases people you've never heard of in a history book; people like South American warrior-kings or a little-known event where a woman rallied defense of her city. In this entire 334 page book, we get only 5 women and no South American, Native American or African badasses (there are a couple African-American men). That's kind of a big chunk of the planet's population to ignore!

In the end, this felt like a strong example of why traditional publishing does such a bad job of diversity and shows such a skewed version of history. In contrast, I looked at the first page of the website's archive, which shows 12 articles. Of those, two are woman (1/6), 4 would be classified as non-white by modern, American, standards (1/3) and 2 are non-human. That's a very different cross-section than the book.
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Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

emmejo, October 23, 2014

By day, he's Elizabeth, average high schooler, desperate to get on to real life, but on his radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Gabe gets to be who he really is, a music-addicted guy crushing on his best friend, job-hunting and trying to get his family to accept him the way he is. Unfortunately, keeping his two lives apart proves difficult and eventually the fact that Elizabeth is Gabe comes out, spinning his life out of control.

There are very few books about trans teens, so I was really happy when I found this book. It is powerfully emotional, dragging you into Gabe's complicated life and plopping you down in his head. It's written in a conversational, stream-of-conciousness tone, and gets rather melodramatic at times, but it feels like an honest look into an 18 year old's thoughts. I'm not a big fan of the whole love-triangle element, but it's a staple of YA, and fairly well-executed. I did like the use of the Internet and texting, it's such a big part of life for many teens that it makes sense so much of the drama could take place there.
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The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
The Bone Doll's Twin

emmejo, August 7, 2014

Skala was traditionally ruled by queens, but when Erius took over the throne, that changed. When his first child was a son, it seemed certain that the days of warrior queens were over, as every possible female heir, no matter how distant a cousin, mysteriously died. When the king's sister-in-law is about to give birth, her husband calls on three powerful wizards and witches to help prevent his child's death as well. Twins are born, but only one can survive and the newborn daughter is disguised as her dead twin brother. Tobin grows up lonely in a remote castle with a paranoid father, insane mother and the violent, angry ghost of his twin. But the king's nephew can't be hidden forever, and the same magically gifted people who made Tobin's new identity now have to figure out how to introduce him to the world.

I first heard of this book as one of the very few fantasy series that approaches having a transgender main character. Certainly, we see elements that show Tobin's struggle with gendered expectations as a small child, followed by a later stubborn refusal to seem feminine, but we only really get a glimpse of fluctuating gender at the end of the book. I suspect the next book will get more into gender issues, since Tobin is only just starting puberty here and a kid is pretty much a kid, regardless of which gender they are assigned.

I also felt a little irritated at some of the author's choices of things that show Tobin is a girl at heart, even if she is physically male. A fondness for dolls, fainting at the sight of blood after a first hunting trip and no interest in flirting with girls are all presented as signs that Tobin is female, which are pretty sexist, hetronormative things to choose.

On the other hand, we have some gay side characters who I felt were handled quite well, and I liked the open acceptance bisexuality and that sexuality fluctuates with Tharin's discussion of the fact that his lover (who I won't name here so as to avoid spoilering someone) "grew out" of his relationship and ended up falling in love with a woman. It's too bad these flexible definitions weren't used for Tobin's character.
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