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review 2014-01-20 17:53
Graphic BDSM Erotica Sprinkled With Hella Bad Euphemisms
Collared - Nola Lively

This is a story of a very graphic and intense BDSM Master/Slave relationship, and parts of it were very interesting and parts of it disturbed me deeply. 


The Positive: I found the plotting/construction of this book to be very unusual and intriguing. The main characters are Master Jonathan and slave Dara. This is Dara's first BDSM relationship, and she agreed to submit to Jonathan's training for one year. That year is about to end, and their relationship is at a crossroads: will Dara agree to stay and make their arrangement permanent, or not? It's an open question, because, as much as she gets into the sex, Dara has a traumatic past (don't they all?), and she hasn't been entirely honest with Jonathan while they've been together. The story is told in the present -- as Jonathan and Dara each prepare for their one year anniversary, at which the question of permancy will be settled -- but interspersed with their preparations are flashbacks to earlier points in their relationship and also flashbacks of their lives before they met each other, including Dara's trauma and how Jonathan discovered BDSM. All of this skipping around might have been choppy or distracting, but I thought it was well done. 


The Neutral: The sex is very, very graphic, and some of it is titillating, and some of it made me wince. Everyone's tastes are different, but there's enough variety here that if you like BDSM erotica at all, you'll probably find something you're into. 


The Negative: Several of the sex scenes use laugh-out-loud atrocious euphemisms: 'meat stick' and 'sticky muffin' being just two of many. 


The Worst: Dara is of Asian descent, which is fine if she'd just happened to be Asian, but there were a few points where the fact that she is Asian (and Jonathan is white) was fetishized in a way that made me very, very uncomfortable. 

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review 2013-11-23 15:17
Excellent Premise, Poor Execution
Stir Me Up - Sabrina Elkins

A lot of things about this book didn't work for me. I was tempted to DNF it for almost the entire first half. I had problems with the plotting, or lack thereof, as it felt like Elkins didn't follow a roadmap but just let her characters meander aimlessly through the story. I had problems with the first person POV narrative of Cami, the 17-year-old protagonist of the story: I just didn't like her 'voice'. I was bored by endless recitations of details that didn't advance the plot -- cleaning mushrooms, making coffee, dressing for parties -- especially when other things I did care about (the hero's PTSD, for example) were glossed over.


I had a lot of more petty annoyances, too: Issues with willing suspension of disbelief, most notably having to do with Cami's best friend Taryn being given a speaking role in a Hollywood film alongside an Oscar-winning actor, when Taryn is a highschool kid from rural Vermont with zero acting experience. I was unreasonably annoyed whenever Cami gave us the English translation anytime anyone said anything in French, no matter how basic the French or how obvious the translation from context. (I don't speak French at all, and I felt these translations were both unnecessary and kind of patronizing.) 


As for the romance, I didn't like how Cami and Julian spent the first third of the book snarling and cursing at each other, and then -- as soon as Taryn tells Cami that she thinks Julian likes her -- all of a sudden everything starts coming up roses. It smacked of Insta-love, which was only compounded by the fact that very soon afterwards, Julian was promising undying commitment. (Yes, some people find the love of their lives at seventeen. Most people don't, and the smart ones leave open the possibility that, much as they love the one they're with, it probably won't last.) I also found the sex scenes distractingly vague. I don't need a whole lot of explicit detail--I'm even okay with being left outside the bedroom door--but I don't like to have to squint at odd euphemisms and wonder "what the heck are they doing, exactly?"


Why did I keep reading, then? I tried to set aside my irritation with Cami and the whole new adult/coming-of-age plot as being my own issues, and not the book's fault. I'm a long way from 17 myself, and I recognize that Cami's interests and motivations are authentic for where she is in life, even though I'm well beyond caring about parties and exams and whether or not to go to college myself. I also felt a certain commitment to the book because its setting is deeply familiar to me: Cami lives in Southern Vermont, like me, and she works in Northampton, MA, where I went to college. Books set around here are few and far between, and it's a rare pleasure to read a story that feels like home. 


Most of all, though, I read because I was interested in Julian, the hero. He's a 20-year-old veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan, and he's dealing with not only the physical recovery from his very significant injuries but also suffers from PTSD and the grief of having been the only one in his unit to survive the explosion that took his leg. (I thought Elkins did an impressive job writing about his amputation and physical recovery, but his PTSD and grief were only superficially addressed.) 


This book was e-pubbed, and I think the bones of the story are good, but the execution is not. I suspect if Elkins had had a more rigorous editor to help her sort out the wheat from the chaff, to polish the parts of the story that shine and cut the extraneous details that only detract and distract from the heart of the narrative, I would have liked this book much, much more than I did. 

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quote 2013-11-14 03:18
'Twas like having a fiery sword invade her depths. So hard and velvety.
Never Love a Highlander - Maya Banks

(Describing the moment of the heroine's deflowering.)  Er mah gerd, that is so not sexy. And what about a "fiery sword" is velvety, anyway?!

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review 2011-03-31 00:00
Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms
Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms - Ralph Keyes Always fascinating, frequently amusing, occasionally hilarious.
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review 2010-12-02 00:00
Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms - Ralph Keyes If you are a word freak like me, you are going to love this book. Euphemania explains where we get common turns of phrase like "pushing up daisies" and other obscure references. The book is very entertaining and gives insight to historical references. I really enjoyed reading this one and it would make the perfect gift for that closet wordy in your life.
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