Saturday, July 28, 2012

'50 Shades of Better'

Let me start off by saying that this is not (necessarily) a bash on 50 Shades of Grey’.  In this day and age with bookstores closing and the ones that are open are more showrooms for toys and electronic tablets than literature, ANY book that can sell thirty million copies is fine with me.  What this short blog will be about are books that I think are better story than ’50 Shades of Grey’.  I think the biggest issue that I have with ’50 Shades’ is that the world has confused popular erotica with good erotica.  There is a world of difference between the two. 

Granted, ’50 Shades’ is EXTREMELY popular (again, thirty million copies) but it really is not that good.  I’ve explained this ad nauseam to my book customers as well as others and I have no desire to go down that road here.  What I will do is give you a list, in no particular order, of erotic books that have made me squirm, that have made me daydream, that have made me fantasize, and that have made me remember them years, sometimes many, many years later.  I hope you find one on this list that you like. 

Note: I’ve added links whenever possible for the authors and if I did a review for the book I added that as well.

‘Fly on The Wall’ by Trista Russell

‘Smooth Operator’ by Risque (the other ones that are very good are ‘Red Light Special’ and ‘The Sweetest Taboo’). 

‘The Black Door’ by Velvet (this is book #1 out of a four book series and they are ALL good!  The other books are ‘Betrayal’, ‘Seduction’, and ‘Naughty’).

‘Sleeping With Strangers’ by Eric Jerome Dickey – (Shut up.  I know he’s on here twice but that’s because he DESERVES to be on here twice!  This is the first book in a four (maybe five) book series that is a full of sex as it is action.)  The other books are ‘Waking With Enemies’, ‘Dying for Revenge’, and ‘Resurrecting Midnight’.

‘Flexin’ & Sexin’ Vol. 1 – Various Authors

‘The Hot Box’ by Zane (… and to be quite honest, you could choose damn near ANY of Zane’s books and be set for a long, long time.)

‘Spanked’ by Rachel Kramer Bussel

‘One Taste’ by Allison Hobbs

*Whew*… OK let’s stop there.  This doesn’t even begin to scratch the erotic surface! This doesn’t even scratch MY surface!  There are so many more books I could add to this list (I barely even touched my erotic anthologies) but if you need more titles (seriously?) then please feel free to ask.  Every one of these books I have read, and every one of these books I have enjoyed.  

There are soooooooooooo many good erotic books out there just waiting to be read.  Your mission should you choose to accept is to find them and read them.  Don’t let your only judge of a book be in the number of people reading it.  I know I know that sounds insane and completely backwards, but after years of being a bookseller/booklover I have come to find that the best seller of a book is a person who has read it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

'Slaves of the Empire' by Aaron Travis

As a bookseller (lover) that works for one of the few remaining independent bookstores in the country, I am in a constant love/hate relationship with eBooks.  I completely understand that is the direction to where my industry is headed, but damned if we aren’t convulsing on Tourette’s trying to strike a working balance between the two.  This however, is a good eBook story.  If you know me then you know that two of my favorite genres are ‘Rome’ and ‘erotica’.  And finding a book that combines the two… SCORE!

About five years ago I was doing an internet search on ‘gladiators’ and this book popped up.  I looked it up, read more, and thought it would be something that I would like to read.  I guess I didn’t see the part where it said “gay erotica”.  However, I only took that with a grain of salt because a number (actually A LOT) of the Rome books I read deal with homosexuality because… well… the Romans were absolutely and utterly lust-mongers had no problem with man on man sex.  That is clearly obvious in this book. 

If you have an issue (any issues AT ALL) with homosexuality or forced sexual domination then this is not your book.  I don’t mind reading about gay sex, but when I do it’s usually along with every other type of sex, as long as it flows with the story.  ‘Slaves of the Empire’ is a story FULL of sex, brutality, evil, bondage, fighting, blood, and death.  In other words, a book perfect for me.  Unfortunately, if all a book has is the violence and sex with no substance then you’re left with no substance feeling like you just read a (fake) letter from Penthouse and not a real story.  Aaron Travis gives us a real story and it’s a damned good one. 

Magnus is the best gladiator in Rome and has been for a while.  Urius is the upcoming star and almost the exact opposite of Magnus.  From the opening of this story you know these two were headed toward a collision path; but not one that you’re likely to imagine.  They each have healthy appetites for blood and young flesh, and eagerly indulge in both.  Gladiators have always been an interesting sort with having to train and perform for a crowd on a daily basis.  So why not take your pleasure in public too?  They do.  And often.  It’s not always nice and not always consensual.  Trust me here folks, there’s enough sex in this short story to make Aphrodite blush.

And enough brutality in here to make Ares cringe.  So now I have yet another author to add to my always growing list.  But the “good” news is that it looks like Aaron’s books are relatively short which will make for quick reading.  His bio says that he stopped writing in the 1990’s to move on to another career.  Too bad for us.  Good job Aaron and I sincerely look forward to reading more of your work.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Black List' by Brad Thor

“All of the technology contained in this novel is based upon systems currently being deployed, or in the final stages of development, by the United States government and its partners.”

… and thus begins ‘Black List’ by Brad Thor.   I have never read a book that started like the opening sentence and have it turn out bad.  This book continues that streak… in spades.  To say this story opens with a shocker would be an unforgiveable understatement, so I’ll just say that you will NOT be prepared for what awaits.  While I’m a huge fan of all of Brad’s work, I haven’t gotten that “special feeling” about one of his books since ‘The Last Patriot’.  Now to be clear for the slow ones (IE: Kindle owners complaining about price), I have loved each and every one of Brad’s books, but every author has one (or two) books in their repertoire  that shines just a little bit brighter than the rest.  Stephen King has ‘The Stand’, Eric Jerome Dickey has ‘The Other Woman’, Steve Alten has ‘Grim Reaper’, Danielle Steele has… (No.  Not a chance), and Brad has ‘Black List’.

This go round, Harvath goes up against a power greater than anything he’s faced yet.  How great?  Well… they have put Harvath on a list of people to be killed.  Usually Harvath is the executer of list such as these but this time, he’s the mouse.  Per se’.  The engineers of this list are a group called the ATS.  This group has so MUCH power, so MUCH influence that it’s rumored that God calls them before he allows it to rain on D.C.  Unfortunately, people who have access to this much power usually don’t have access to morals.  Think of every terrorist attack that you know of, including 9-11, and multiply it by ten, and you might get close to the type of damage the ATS is planning for America.  The only thing that makes it worse is that these are AMERICAN’S that have hatched this plan.

OK actually there is one more thing: (read the first sentence of this review). 

We’d like to think that something like this is only achievable in sci-fi novels.  It’s not.  We’re on the Autobahn toward an attack like this as we speak.  The overall premise to this book is the gathering and use of our digital data.  Text messages, internet searches, GPS, eMails, downloads, everything is being watched.  Everything is being recorded.  Everything is being cataloged.  I know you’re saying that “yeah I’ve heard all this before”.  No.  You haven’t.  Not like this.  This book goes way beyond just being illegally tracked by our government.  This book deals with what would/could happen if the power mongers who paid their way into office decided to make something happen. 

Big Brother is watching, we all know that.  What we don’t know, or don’t care to know, is to what extent?  And what happens if Big Brother is a sadistic, power hungry sibling with an unlimited expense account?  ‘Black List’ tells us what the history is, what the current state is, and what the future will be like if we (the knowing public) continue to be more concerned about the next ‘Words With Friends’ update than the next “internet security” bill being passed. 

This book is blazing fast, even for Thor.  And that’s good because Harvath is being chased something fierce.  When everything we do is monitored is it almost impossible to stay off the grid.  Even more impossible… tracking down the guys controlling the grid who are also teamed up with the guys that are the architectures of the grid.  This is bone fide Brad Thor book with all the globe hopping, covert operations, shady useless politicians, double taps to the head, up close kills, adrenaline on adrenaline, and pulse pounding storytelling that, if it cause my heart to race as I read, it must cause Brad a near heart attack when writing it. 

If the technology written about in this book is true, and I’m 100% sure that it is; so too must be the men and women tasked to use it.  And to protect us from it.  Thank God for them and their love of America.  The proof is in their blood, their sweat, their tears, and their lost lives.  


Friday, July 20, 2012

'The Dream Team' by Jack McCallum

I saw this book first mentioned on some website while I was on vacation.  So I did what most people usually do when they see a book on vacation… they write the name down and wait until AFTER vacation to read it.  Yeah, I’ve never been good with reading books on vacation and I’m not sure why.  This was, however, the first book I read after my visit to the land of milk and honey (Florida) and I had an absolutely enjoyable time reading it.  We always hear people say “I would love to be a fly on the wall when…”.  Well the fly is Jack McCallum (sorry Jack) and the wall is a canvas drawn with the 1992 Olympic Games as the base and the Dream Team as the primer.

I’m a basketball fan but not to the point of absurdity, as some are.  But because of the impact that Jordan, Bird, Magic, Barkley, Pippen had on (pretty much) everything, this was a book that I needed to read.  Completely enjoyable, this book can be enjoyed by an “asylum fan” or a casual fan.  It was nice to read about the little things that we mortals miss because we didn’t travel with the NBA superstars.  Jack does a great job of telling this fairy tale with wit, real anecdotes, and a history that we heard about but never really HEARD about.  We knew the team was picked, but HOW was it picked?  We knew that it was chock FULL of stars, but how would they get along?  What is the REAL story behind Jordan vs. the Reebok jacket?  Was Isiah Thomas screwed out of a position by Jordan?  (Let me help you with that one… YES!) 

The author has a good bead on interviewing and it was interesting to see some of the places he (and the interviewee) choose to talk.  It’s almost impossible to narrate the entire experience of the 1992 Dream Team into a single book, but I like how it is done here.  Almost everyone has a chapter or three (Jordan.  Forever the competitor) and we get a fun yet informative history on the beginnings of a (pro) US Basketball team. 

Also, to anyone reading this book you’ll notice one other thing: this author enjoys books.  Not only writing them, reading them as well.  Now I’m some of you just went “duh, he’s an author”, but trust me on this.  Not every author likes to read and you can clearly differentiate the ones that do.  Jack do’s.  Aside from his “nonfiction doesn’t have to be dull” way of writing, I enjoyed the literary reference sprinkled throughout this book.

But getting back to basketball... you’ll like this book.  A lot.  Jack’s BIO says that he was with ‘Sports Illustrated’ for thirty years.  It’s a shame I missed all those articles.  (Shut up I know there’s Google).  It takes a lot for this fiction ONLY lover to heap praises on a non-fiction book, but that’s because it is well deserved.  Jack is a well respected reporter and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say, a friend, to more than a few of the NBA legends.  That also comes across in this book and that only adds to the authenticity of his work.  Alongside the crude jokes, practice barbs, and gambling stories, are personal stories that must be read to be felt.  There’s a lot going on on the cover of this book.  The only thing missing are the letters “Volume 1”. 

One reader’s wish if I may; while I hope this author lives a long time I can only hope that he’s writing a tell all book to be published posthumously.  Jack spent a lot of time around the NBA’s greatest and this man has some stories to tell.  Seriously.  I want to know who the NBA Dream Teamer was that ran into the family room demanding “who’s got a rubber, I need one quick”.  Just one of the many quips like that in this book.  Just one of the many quips like that that are unwritten.

But aside from that… please live a long time Jack.  And keep writing books like this.


**One other thing: the eBook/Kindle edition DOES NOT have the pictures that the print book does.  Why?  Not sure, but I hope the publisher reconsiders.**

Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Caligula': Volume 1: by By: David Lapham (author) and German Nobile (Illustrator)

I had not heard of this series until I saw it in a publishers catalog.  I enjoy reading fiction novel books about Rome and I do enjoy a good graphic novel from time to time.  This one combines both and the experience was… Banshee-esque.  I wanted to scream but what the hell good would that do?  Enjoyable but very… monstrous.  It goes without saying that anything entitled ‘Caligula’ is bound to be bloody, brutal, and animalistic.  Ohhhhh yes.  The drawings are dark, the violence spills out on every page, and the sexual brutality is gruesome.  Even knowing the Caligula had “interesting” sexual tastes, I was still shocked at a number of things I saw and read in this book.

And the interesting part is that the violence wasn’t ALL “in your face”.  Oh it’s there mind you, but a lot of it is implied and more than a few times we see the aftermath of Caligula’s appetite.  How can the aftermath of an assault be worse than the actual assaul?  Read this graphic novel.  But as I was reading this book one of the most interesting things that stood out to me were the facial expressions of Caligula.  Knowing most authors (the good ones anyways) study, write, and rewrite their work, I would have to assume that artist do the same.  With that assumption I am awed with appreciation of the thoughts that went into the expressions of Caligula.  Hauntingly brutal is probably a pretty close description.  I heard somewhere that comics stare into a mirror to perfect their facial expressions.  German must have stared into the face of Satan.

As a book reader I get a different feeling when reading a graphic novel, and seeing its story visually is one form of beauty.  Trying to figure out the underlying meaning of a madman such as Caligula is another.  Anyone who says that reading a book is “only reading a book” just doesn’t get it.  Anyone who says ‘Caligula’ is just another graphic novel REALLY doesn’t get it.  The man was vile in every since of the word and he did his best to personify its meaning over the course of his lustfully debaucherous life.  This graphic novel is, by no means, a history of Caligula’ but rather a sick, twisted, entertaining view on a man as inhuman as few that have walked this earth. 

How anyone could question the sanity of this man is beyond me.  But if you are one of the few that do I’ll leave you with this:  Caligula’s horse.  Incitatus.  It could talk.  It had the same unquenchable sexual thirst and needs of his master.  Take from that what you will.