Reflecting on 2017’s Reading Challenges

This year I participated in the Book Riot and Pop Sugar Reading Challenges, as I did last year. I don’t take these challenges too seriously, but they are a fun way to track my reading and to push myself to read different books than I would normally gravitate to.

Here are my results from the last twelve months!

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Read Harder Challenge (Book Riot)

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Pop Sugar

Clearly, I didn’t finish every category but that’s ok. You are technically allowed to use the same book in multiple categories but I chose not to … it felt like that defeated the purpose of the lists, which was to get me reading outside my normal niches.

Looking forward to starting the next year’s challenges tomorrow ūüôā

Happy New Year Everyone!

xx

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Ipads in the shower/bath?!

Not long ago I was on twitter, bemoaning the fact that I can’t read off my ipad in the bathtub or shower, the way I could relax in the bath with a paperback, once upon a time.

Well, bless you random stranger who tweeted me back, I guess off my hashtag.

He said if you put your touch-screen device in a sealed Ziploc bag, you don’t lose your touch screen abilities, but now of course, your device is protected from the water.

Well I tried it out and it works! Awesome. The screen goes a little funny if the ziploc is tight against it, grainy. But it’s just the view through the plastic, not damage to the actual screen itself.

Now I am back to leisurely baths with my books, and not worrying about dropping my device.

Hope this post helps some of you enjoy your e-books in a new way!

xx

Since when is a million not enough

Like seriously?!

When I first started getting into romance novels, in the early 2000s, the typical male protagonist was millionaire-rich. I remember seeing ridiculous titles like ‘the millionaire rancher’ all the time. It seemed like it was a prerequisite that for the exquisite woman on the cover to fall in love with you, you had to be a millionaire on a rancher/soldier/cop/doctor’s salary.

Now, we seem to have made a bit of a jump from millionaire to BILLIONAIRE. That’s kind of huge. But I guess it sounds a little chunky to title something ‘pregnant with the tens of millionaire’s baby’ or ‘the hundred millionaire’s secret submissive’.

I still wonder though, what does it say about our society if every romance novel features a ‘genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist’, to quote Tony Stark. There is nothing wrong with marrying into money, or even with¬†wanting to marry into money. There is something wrong if that is the basis of every book I browse online.

Just listen to some of these book/series titles I picked at random off goodreads

“Marriage to a Billionaire”

“Maid for the Billionaire”

“The Billionaire wins the Game”

Dear Lord.

I was day-dreaming in the car a bit ago, wondering where all this started. It is true that a million doesn’t go nearly so far today as it did twenty years ago. Then you had the rise of billionaire businessman hero types, especially after Fifty Shades hit it big. A lot of really great authors picked up on E.L. James’ success and wrote popular series perpetuating this subgenre, in particular Sylvia Day. And of course, the incredibly annoying yet catching and honest tune, ‘I want to be a billionaire’ by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars came out.

Do you remember it?

‘I want to be a billionaire so freaking bad,

and buy all of the things I never had.

I want to be on the cover of

Forbes Magazine

smiling next to Oprah and the Queen’.

Admit it, it’s true. You’d like to be a billionaire too. And of course, Marvel hit it huge with the first three Iron Man movies, featuring the aforementioned Tony Stark. And I may not be American, but I remember hearing about that crazy Powerball lottery last year where some guy won half a billion.

I’m not saying I’d turn down the money if it was me. But I still wonder just when authors felt compelled to make every character a billionaire in order to make them attractive. And hey, why can’t some of those peeps be genius, billionaire, playgirl philanthropists.

Bad Apples in Online Communities

I don’t usually participate much in online communities, or the comments sections of social media. ¬†It doesn’t appeal to me and isn’t worth the negativity that dominates. Some authors have set up their own online communities on their websites, where they have more control over comments and members, and can more easily do giveaways or post book extras for fans.

One of these authors is Christine Feehan. ¬†I have been reading her books for 15ish years and she is the first author I know of who set up one of these online communities, and has an incredibly large one. Much like facebook, members have their own wall, as do each of the books that she has published or announced, so there is a common space for discussions. She posts the first chapter of upcoming books a couple of months before publication and also posts a book “trailer” shortly after.

I used to be really active on this community, but have barely participated for a few years now. As I ghost around, looking at the bonus material and first chapters, I’ve noticed that the rate of comments seems to be down and other fans have posted about it, positing why. My guess is that a few bad apples have ruined it for everyone.

This is why I would never even dream of hosting such a n interactive feature if I were an author, or any where else on the interwebs. This blog is enough!

On the membership section of http://www.christinefeehan.com there are lots of places to find great comments, like the first chapter before a book is released and the “deleted scenes” that got cut from a book. But the comments sections, and the author’s own page where you can write to her and hope for a response, are a minefield.

Two users, in particular, drive me nuts. One has been banned off and on and never understands why, even though the other users don’t seem to have a problem understanding the rules. She posts the most banal, off-topic, poorly written comments and questions, and has lately, been asking other users if they would read her books that¬†she has written … books that are clearly fanfiction and which are banned from the community.

The¬†other¬†fan is a European woman who must troll the website all day every day. She doesn’t work for the author, that much is clear from their public interactions on the site, but she apparently enjoys taking on the self-appointed task of monitoring every book wall and the author’s wall and posting her comments on your comments and questions. Her posts don’t always make sense, which I could forgive because she clearly states that English is not her first language, except that her comments are not adding anything to the community. She is 90% of the reason I stopped participating and following this author, and I can’t help but wonder if others feel the same.

There is a difference, people, in being helpful and annoying or harassing others online. No one wants to know your opinion on every subject or hear your approval for their opinion. You are not that important. In my most recent example, someone was talking about twins coming along later in the series because in an earlier book, a male character had commented cryptically about having kids¬†“two at a time”. I know a little bit about how twins can be heredity through certain genes¬†because of a discussion I had with a medical professional on the subject, so I posted that; it was actually relevant to the first person’s comment and furthered the discussion on what will (possibly) happen to these characters in upcoming books. But of course Ms Know it all had to chime in with an (in my opinion) unintelligible and annoying response to my comment.

Lesson learned. Re-learned? Don’t bother, it isn’t worth trying to participate in an online community. ¬†I’ll continue to lurk around to read the first chapters in anticipation of new books, but that is it. I may be a millennial, but I will never understand this apparent need my peers feel to be super active online, or the need our parent’s generation seem to feel to control and manipulate every public conversation.

Any one else have a similar experience? Or a really positive one?

xx

BDSM Books … where do I start?!

I can’t quite remember how I stumbled into my first erotic romance / bdsm story. ¬†I had been reading romance novels for years and remember I was watching videos about women’s self-defense and the UFC, and somehow, my googling landed me on a page about a romantic BDSM novel. ¬†I think the male protagonist was a pro fighter, or something???

Regardless, that random stroke of chance introduced me to the world of erotica and let me just say, it was an eye-opening experience! I think this all happened a couple of years before the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy was released, so I was a bit ahead of the fad.  Now that I have read more authors and sub-genres, I can say that I (thankfully) had a very gentle introduction to bdsm and erotica in literature, reading authors who wrote for newbies and vanilla readers.

If you were looking to try out this sub-genre, my go-to recommendation is Cherise Sinclair. In particular, start reading her Club Shadowlands series, in order. ¬†The author is diligent in writing safe bdsm practices into her writing, repeating the mantra ‘safe, sane, consensual’ in nearly every book and writes as though her readers have no knowledge of the lifestyle. Indeed, in many of her earlier books, the female protagonist discovers bdsm right along with the reader, learning about safety and protocols in a safe environment and with the best of masters. No asshole leads allowed. ¬†Ms. Sinclair also uses what I think of as the building blocks to the lifestyle in her books; each one introduces a new kink or activity, with the latter ones dealing with abuse in the lifestyle (not perpetrated by the hero/heroine), sadism and masochism, and TPE (total power exchange), hence, why I recommend you start with the books at the beginning of her series.

Once you are ready to dive into something with less focus on the beginner themes, or something darker, I recommend Ann Mayburn. ¬†She is currently my favourite author; some of her series are misses for me, but I absolutely LOVE the ones that I do like, in particular Submissives’ Wish and Iron Horse MC (motorcycle club).

Both of these authors are clearly knowledgeable about the lifestyle, with practical experience. Their characters are clear-headed, and consenting adults, any themes of abuse are along the lines of “bad guy makes a play and gets defeated at the end of the book”. ¬†So while abusive scenes may be hard for some readers to digest, I promise it is not in our hero and heroine’s relationship. Also, both of these authors have branched out from the maledom and femsub norm in the romance genre, which means you will be exposed to more varied styles, like a Domme and male sub or two male doms and a female sub in a menage relationship.

The final author I would recommend here I have already written about in a previous post, and that is Joanna Wylde. ¬†While I don’t consider her MC series to be bdsm, her outlaw biker protagonists are Alpha to the extreme, and tend to be rather domineering. ¬†She also writes about explicit sex, so I consider her to be more of an erotica writer than a romance one. ¬†I am a fan of her Reapers MC world and am eagerly awaiting the first book in her Silver Valley series. ¬†Actually, Silver Bastard comes out in 4 days, so look for a review of it next week.

That’s it m’dears, and if you are new to erotica or just wondering what all this Fifty Shades hoopla and debate is about, these are some great, educational, fictional stories to start off with, and learn a bit more about what some of your neighbours are doing behind closed doors. ¬†You can leave questions for me in the comments section if you want to, and if you need help figuring out series orders, I’m your gal.

xx

Books are our friends

… sometimes a better friend than the flesh-and-blood people at our sides, don’t you think?

Books are never too busy, or impatient and if you constantly re-read your favourites like I do, then you can anticipate which emotional need they are going to fill for you too. ¬†For instance, I have my “book boyfriend” and my “book family”. ¬†Those books/series where I wish I could jump through the page and live for all eternity.

My family is loving and supportive, but we’re not that close and I don’t think they understand me. ¬†They don’t speak my love language. ¬†I’m just different; from the foods and drinks I like, to my religion, to my sense of style and wildly passionate nature, you’d think a stork dropped me on the doorstep as a baby. ¬†My sisters certainly always maintained I was adopted (it isn’t true).

And so I return to my books. ¬†On days that no one is around and I’m bored or lonely, curling up with my favourite characters is like visiting with an old friend. ¬†And when an author delays the release of the next book in that series, I start to feel like there is a little piece missing. ¬†Until I realize, it’s those friends, that world that I miss.

And then there are those little things you come across in life, that remind you of a particular friend. ¬†In my case, sometimes it’s a friend in the fictional world that I am reminded of, more than the real one.

Lately I have had Dmitri Novikov on my mind, a character created by Ann Mayburn. I was reminded of Dmitri by Khal Drogo in season 1 of Game of Thrones.  Two completely different worlds, but at their core, they are very much the same person.  Both are absolutely ruthless and cruel warlords in complete control of their lives and empires, so it would seem, but genuinely love and cherish their wives. Each would break every rule they enforce to protect their love.

I was thinking of Dmitri again this morning. ¬†I was singing along to a cover of Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful and this phrase reminded me of my favourite Bratva Lord.

“Dear Lord, when I get to Heaven

Please let me bring my man

When he comes, tell me that you’ll let him in

Father tell me if you can”

Dmitri is not the best of men. Case in point, he is the Pachan of his family in the Russian Mafia. ¬†But he and his wife Rya love each other more than anything else and she is religious. ¬†I can imagine her praying, begging God to let her bring her man with her to Heaven when the time comes, because there is no way she would go through those gates without him. She’d give up her place in Heaven to be with him instead.

It’s a little bit funny, these connections that my brain makes. ¬†Out of nowhere, my real life and pretend life collide, in the most surreal of moments. The worst thing is that no one around me gets it. ¬†Even bibliophilic friends don’t, because we generally read all different things.

So hopefully someone out there in the big wide interwebs will understand, and if you feel alone, I hope that you know that I am on this end of my computer feeling the same way. And in the mean-time, I’m probably curled up re-reading the same books as I was two years ago.

Because books are our friends.

xx