When I first got into the BDSM community back around 1991, there were only a tiny handful of books that every person I met had on their shelf. The LeaWhen I first got into the BDSM community back around 1991, there were only a tiny handful of books that every person I met had on their shelf. The Leatherman's Handbook (a nonfiction book) was one of them, and Macho Sluts was one of the others. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty completed the triumvurate, one gay, one lesbian, one heterosexual(-ish). Of the three, Macho Sluts was the most readable, the most eye-opening, the most openly political about lust and kink. Decades later it is still an eye-opening book, even in the age of the Internet where I can find (for example) millions of words of Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy BDSM fiction and endless BDSM community blogs. ...more
What an outstanding work this is! Not only is the art the most lush, gorgeous thing I've ever seen--and I've been reading comics since the 1970s--butWhat an outstanding work this is! Not only is the art the most lush, gorgeous thing I've ever seen--and I've been reading comics since the 1970s--but the story is a brilliant and satisfying "post-superhero" work of great intensity and intelligence. I've enjoyed Marjorie Liu's work on some previous comics (including a Black Widow graphic novel/miniseries for Marvel) but when she is set free to do her own worldbuilding and her own character creation, the results are positively stunning. I don't want to say too much in this review mostly because the delight of discovering the story and characters and world is so great I don't want to diminish it. I will say it's got all the visceral punch of the best Alan Moore or Warren Ellis but with a decidedly distaff touch. "Strong female characters"? Try "nearly ALL female characters." I didn't even realize it was an almost completely female cast until a hunky male shows up partway through because there's so much depth and diversity. Read it. ...more
I really enjoyed this imaginative trip into a sensual universe of questions and answers, where sexual abandon leads to self-knowledge. I'm always on tI really enjoyed this imaginative trip into a sensual universe of questions and answers, where sexual abandon leads to self-knowledge. I'm always on the search for erotica that is imaginative and fresh and it was a delight to find that here! (Plus it's a romance. I would've been fine with it being just a woman's discovery of the truths inside herself but I get why people want Romance with a capital R also!) I want to know more about the secret paranormal world we only really get glimpses of here, and I hope there will be more books in the series to fill that out. ...more
A cracking good read, a tasty pleasure of a book. I got a very similar pleasure-of-reading feeling from Grace Burrowes historical romance NICHOLAS. LiA cracking good read, a tasty pleasure of a book. I got a very similar pleasure-of-reading feeling from Grace Burrowes historical romance NICHOLAS. Like Nicholas, The Duchess War is a historical romance, so it has the British aristocracy, duchesses in silk dresses, and issues of masculine points of honor, but interestingly The Duchess War isn't a regency. It's set somewhat later, 1863, when industrialization is becoming a thing, so we get some intriguing plot points regarding workers rights and some issues for our Duke of Clermont hero to care about that are a bit different from the usual ones in historical. But generally speaking it had much a similar feel as a regency.
Where it differs from Nicholas is that Burrowes simply makes all the characters we spend time with on the page likable, the villain is odious but he barely gets any screen time, just one establishing scene and one comeuppance scene. Courtney Milan handles the likability question with more depth, introducing characters whom at first we may not like or we may think villainous, only to continually peel away the layers until we have empathy for *almost* everyone. Refreshing and wonderful.
There's not quite as much sex in The Duchess War as there is in most of the books I recommend, but honestly, I didn't miss it. What's there is deliciously written with some fresh and wonderful twists and it serves the story beautifully, and that's what matters. I initially grabbed this when it was free in ebook but I'll basically buy everything by this writer from now on. That good. ...more
An excellent and fascinating look at an era and a man
Duff McKagan has led an amazing life -- this book doesn't hold back, showing you everything fromAn excellent and fascinating look at an era and a man
Duff McKagan has led an amazing life -- this book doesn't hold back, showing you everything from the cockroaches on the floor in his LA squat to the bad decisions that led to the depths of addiction & death of Guns n' Roses, to the brutal self honesty and determination it took to triumph over all that. I never realized how much McKagan had accomplished and this is a smoothly written pleasure to read. ...more
I read this back in the 1990s. I mostly knew the author as Iain M. Banks, the name he wrote science fiction under, but I was working on Daron's GuitarI read this back in the 1990s. I mostly knew the author as Iain M. Banks, the name he wrote science fiction under, but I was working on Daron's Guitar Chronicles at the time (I had just finished my masters in writing at Emerson College) and someone in my writers group pointed me at this book as a similarly moody exploration inside the head of a musician with various personal issues. I loved it and could see why she felt there were similarities, though ultimately the stories are quite different. ...more
I just sent the following email to Francesca Lia Block:
"Finished the book. I'm shattered. It's brilliant. More coherent thoughts after I recover. I hoI just sent the following email to Francesca Lia Block:
"Finished the book. I'm shattered. It's brilliant. More coherent thoughts after I recover. I hope. <3"
(I didn't intend to finish the entire book in under 12 hours, but I did.)
EDIT: Okay, here is the full review. This ended up being less of a review and more of an essay on why I feel this book is a brilliant piece of modern literature that may go under-appreciated by critics.
I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy of Francesca Lia Block's new book Beyond the Pale Motel. Reading it turned me inside out. If you don't want spoilers, the one thing I'll tell you is that it's by far the darkest of her books. It's also heartrendingly, undeniably, a terrific work of fiction and one that lands smack in the middle of a moment in our culture when a lot of us find ourselves suddenly questioning the casual misogyny inbred in literature. This book stabs right at that Gordian knot with a bloody switchblade.
All the hallmarks and landmarks of a Francesca Lia Block book are here: the heat-shimmer of Los Angeles, the tapestry of pop music and fashion and Cali-spirituality, the female-centric narrative of chosen family. The book has a surety about it that defies (or perhaps defines new...) genre, something I love about all Francesca's work.
Weetzie Bat--Block's first smash hit novel--was a book that twenty-something goths could read with our little sisters (and later daughters) in the nineties, embodying all our young hopes and dreams, telling us that our inner magic would heal us and make it so our broken hearts didn't end us but only made us tragically beautiful. Beyond the Pale Motel is at the opposite end of the spectrum, but it's the same spectrum. Where Weetzie Bat is a gorgeous sunset while you're putting on your make-up and party clothes heading out for a magical night, Beyond the Pale Motel is the dark hours of the morning when you shouldn't get caught alone on the streets. Heartbreak and ruin lurk in the corners. The predators are out and it's not safe.
This book is not safe. And it's not meant to be. This book is the opposite of escapism. I confess I've been reading (and writing) so much romance lately that I've almost forgotten the true anxiety of reading a book where characters I've come to love are in jeopardy, where there's no guarantee of love or a happy-ever-after. I grew up fully indoctrinated with the standard US literary canon and the prejudices (esp. sexism) that comes bundled in that package. It was only fairly recently--say within the last 4-5 years--that I finally took a hard look at how female characters are represented in literature (both the canon and current popular fiction). In book after book one finds all too often that the female character is there to function in the plot as an object for a man to either desire or protect. Whether presented as a girlfriend, sister, or other close relative, she's so often raped or killed as a way to spur the male protagonist that it amazes me that lit-crit circles don't flat out decry it as an untouchable cliche. But that's how deeply ingrained this misogyny is: even the critics don't see it. It was only after realizing this that I began to think that the existence of the romance genre might be specifically because it's the one place female readers can retreat to where they know the one character they identify with won't be raped or killed as a lazy plot device. To me the idea of literary "safe space" is a very legitimizing one and one that makes me feel good about writing romance as a refuge, as an escape.
But not all art is an escape. And one concept the male-dominated canon certainly carries is that the more challenging the art is, the "higher" the art is. Make no mistake, Beyond the Pale Motel will challenge readers. It challenges them with the brutal way it attacks and deconstructs these misogynist tropes and cliches--serial killers who target pretty women, the perceived flakiness of single mothers and drug addicts--and yet still encompasses and includes them. Francesca Lia Block's books often have a thread of Raymond-Chandler-esque noir woven through them. In Beyond the Pale Motel, that thread of noir is stripped of its romanticism, exposed as sexist, and trampled into the gutter with the rest of the detritus of shattered illusions.
HERE BE SPOILERS: Our main character Catt is a hair stylist, many years sober, in her late thirties now with her biological clock "ticking so loudly it would keep me awake all night." Her life revolves around her best friend Bree and Bree's son, Catt's godson, Skylar. Catt's past has various heartbreaks in it, and so do the pasts of most of the people she knows. When her own boyfriend Dash's issues drive him to leave her at the start of the book, it begins a downward spiral Catt didn't anticipate. At the same time, there's a serial killer on the loose. At first I wasn't sure if the serial killer was going to enter the actual plot or merely be a motif that paralleled all the casual misogyny and helplessness Catt experiences in life, from her intense need for men as lovers and protectors, to their utter failure to live up to either expectation when they turn out to be self-centered, shallow jerks--or when, like Dash, he turns out to be "like all of the other men I’d slept with, really, a man in pain." The serial killer does enter the story, though. This is a murder mystery in the Chandler vein and yet, as I said, it's the 21st Century rendition; the vaseline soft-focus lens is gone and now the murders are rendered in High Def digital TV.
And here's the last bit about misogyny: I feel strongly that if Block were a male writer, this book would certainly be trumpeted as a modern-noir masterpiece. If this were written by Brett Easton Ellis, I think the literary establishment would be all over it as a brilliant exploration of the inner psyche of a woman in pain and the way she navigates the dangerous maze of modern life where every man she meets--the trainer at the gym, the baseball coach, an ex--could be a potential rapist or killer. But when a woman writes such a book, will the New York Times recognize that brilliance? Or will they merely squirm uncomfortably about a woman writer pointing out that, actually, every woman in modern life has to look at every man we meet as a potential rapist or killer? The newsmedia is rife not only with real life serial rapists but also misogynistic victim-blaming coverage: the television lamenting the ruin of the Steubenville rapists "bright futures" as athletes instead of the ruin of a young woman, period, full stop?
This is why this book is brilliant. Beyond the Pale Motel DARES you to blame the victim. If you do, you will hate yourself. As you should.
To pull off this anti-escapist trick, the book leaves behind genre: it abandons the optimism of romance and rejects the storybook justice of mystery. Instead it demands you surrender to a harrowing ride as seductive and frightening as the guy who gives you too much to drink. Thankfully, it's a book, it's fiction, and you can close the covers any time Catt's reality seems too close to your own. That makes its lessons no less important; it makes them moreso. ...more
This is a delicious bite, but be warned, it's only a tiny appetizer compared to the grand sensual meal that is the Original Sinners series. An amuse bThis is a delicious bite, but be warned, it's only a tiny appetizer compared to the grand sensual meal that is the Original Sinners series. An amuse bouche, if you will. In other words, I enjoyed what was there but it left me craving more, and fortunately there is a whole series of books to binge-read!...more