Book Reviews: Erotic Football, Art, Sales, and Elevators

Stroke
An artist/restorer gets a visit by yet another “billionaire sexiest man alive,” who takes her to dinner with the promise of a big job. Of course she falls in lust with him, and though he can have any woman he wants—and usually does—he thinks she’s perfect for him.
I’m sure you’ve heard all that before. As for the surrounding plot, it involves the billionaire’s family, and his arrogance drags her into danger. . . but you’ve heard that before too.
The writing itself was pretty good, and I enjoyed the art talk. There could have been a little more on the restoration process, but it’s okay if the author didn’t want to take a chance on being boring. I liked the main female character, but not as much as I usually do in these kinds of stories. The male lead was as douchy as they always are in these stories.
All in all, it was fine, but not particularly memorable. I’d label it a missed opportunity; more could have been done here, or at least slightly deviating from the overdone norm.
3/5

Wired
Aging quarterback butts heads with scientist testing his reflexes and gameplay. What did you think would happen between them?
No, the other thing.
There’s a lot more science in this football romance than you’d expect, but some of it’s VR, which is fun. There’s even some hilarious moments with the technology, which is surprising but definitely welcome.
Of course they’re both damaged from their origin stories, but at least they’re trying to make the world a better place in their own way. This makes them more sympathetic and likeable, especially him, though the author almost left it too late, considering his arrogance.
By far the best scene in this football romance takes place in a greenhouse, with a character that can appreciate color more than anyone else.
3.5/5

Better to Marry than to Burn
In a town of former slaves, the leaders say every man must marry or pay a fine, or leave with all the women deemed inappropriate. Ladies from back East are coming to town, the only real alternative. One man rejects this plan, saying it’s just a different form of slavery.
This man, aptly named Caesar, has his own plan, having put out an ad for the kind of woman he wants. He didn’t explain what he means by “legacy,” so that leads to some difficulties when the woman who answers the ad shows up. She’s not what he expected: cultured, erudite, kinky, and gay. But then she didn’t expect him to be similar (except for the gay part) despite his lack of schooling. This is not a case of opposites attract, because they realize how alike they are.
That’s the one thing I took away from this book: they recognize their similarities and rejoice in them, at least after some initial stubbornness and ego from both sides. And it’s always a pleasure to read characters that use words most people don’t know (and I do, speaking of ego).
Just tell me Purity Patrol cannot be a real thing. . .
4/5

7 Brothers and a Virgin
A rich but not spoiled young woman is being forced by her father to marry an old guy, so she runs away to a ranch run by seven brothers, hoping one of them will make her no longer a virgin.
Reverse harem is the latest rage in erotica. Hard to say what makes a good one, at least as far as the sex scenes, but you basically know how the story is going to end. It’s mostly about how the brothers handle having to share her. A lot of times it’s hard to tell all the men apart, even more so when there’s seven of them, but in this case it’s pretty good, especially with the twins.
The ending takes place six months later, with the real conclusion, especially with her father, barely mentioned in passing. That’s annoying, and seems cheap.
3/5

The Hunt
Half vampire hunts full vampires for an ungrateful town. When one mission fails the town hires another vampire hunter, leaving her to rage, and of course fall in lust for the new guy, who’s as arrogant as. . . every other male lead character in this kind of romance/erotica.
Like a lot of books in this genre, the author takes every opportunity—at least once a page—to turn an innocent phrase into sexual innuendo about how much her body wants him even though she can’t stand him. A few funny ones are good, but there’s just too much of this. At times it feels like padding, and it’s a short book as it is.
Everyone in this story is an ass, except for the female lead. Even the goddess is unworthy.
Here’s the good things. In addition to some snarky humor, the ending is incredibly original, at least something I’ve never come across. While I enjoyed this story for the most part, despite it being by-the-numbers, the ending kicked it up a notch.
3.5/5

Door-to-Door Sales (The Open Door Book 1)
The title refers to an escort agency womaned by very different sisters. The stories tell about the encounters of the employees as well as prospectives.
The first story is the trope of the young virgin getting a hooker for his birthday, and even though it’s told in a rather terse present tense without much embellishment, it’s still satisfying.
Story #2 is another oft-told story, that of the audition. It’s the humor that sells this one. What I like about this author is that she can do a complete description, especially of people, without making long paragraphs out of it. It’s necessary for such short stories, but I’ve seen plenty of others fail at it.
#3 features a male escort with a huge endowment, which makes him feel like a freak. It’s an interesting change of pace.
Ending this first volume is the story of an employee who seems disillusioned, perhaps doing the job longer than she expected she’d be going out. It’s a bit sad, but neither the customer nor her bodyguard bat an eye, showing she’s a pretty good actress.
4/5

Door-to-Door Sales (The Open Door Book 2)
The continuing adventures of the employees of a Las Vegas escort agency.
The first story features a quick visual tryout, followed by a group interview, in which all four of the prospectives make a pile of sex while the owners try not to seem affected, and fail miserably. As far as the new employees go, it’s nice to see people enjoying sex, as well as wanting to make their partners enjoy it too.
That story is quickly followed by the owners, having become aroused by the show, running off to be with their own lovers. The psychology here is intriguing, considering the ladies are as different in their tastes as their looks.
The third story is a sequel to the one in the first volume about the male escort with the large. . . accoutrement. This one is rather sweet, oddly enough.
This volume ends with one of the older escorts teaching newbies, along with his crush, who despite having sex with him all the time has still friend-zoned him.
4/5

Taking Command
Rebel hijacks a top-model spaceship and thinks he’s gotten away with it, but finds a hot reporter he’d failed to notice on his initial sweep. So of course they fight both each other and the obvious instant attraction. There’s a little more plot to it, but it’s mostly about them and their failure to communicate. . . like every other story in this genre.
Is it wrong that I wanted the booty-bot to join them? Funny how she wants to use the bot more than him.
There’s some stuff I liked, but just as much that I thought could have been done better. It came out pretty standard, as though the author was playing it safe. And except for the sexbot, this could have easily taken place in a non-science-fiction setting.
3/5

Private Prick
Kinda flighty redhead gets stuck in her building’s elevator and promptly loses it, though due more to men problems than claustrophobia. Then the super drops through the trap door and first frightens her, then satisfies her. A lot of stories would end there, but not when the “crazy chick” can screw with the guy some more.
I really wish this main character wasn’t so erratic, if not completely batcrap (her own word), but at least the writing is keeping me here, being snarky sarcastic in the most brilliant way.
In the end I did like it, though I don’t think I would’ve been as forgiving as he. I wish there’d been a better reason for the hiccup in their buffing romance, though.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Warrior Women, Vampires, and Foxes

“It’s your job in life to screw me up, huh?”
She blinked phlegmatically. “Huh?”
“Never mind. Just practicing in case we ever get married.”

His Captive Mortal
There really wasn’t much to this story, and I’m not referring to the relative shortness of pages. Basically a vampire cursed by a gypsy so that he can’t have sex—or at least it hurts when he does—tries to break said curse with the help of an “I didn’t know I was a magical creature” girl. She’s independent and stubborn, but she still falls for his alpha male ways.
There’s a brief mention as to why he didn’t just come out and ask for her help rather than emotionally and physically dominating her, but I didn’t find it convincing. There’s some character development, albeit more from him than her, and the dialogue has fun moments, but there really wasn’t anything here that showed me why this story stands out from all the rest in this genre. . . is that its own genre now? Paranormal romance? Probably.
2/5

Set Up
First and foremost, this is not a new novel, rather a reissue; originally written in 1991, there’s a few anachronisms that let you know you’re not in the present anymore. The PI does have a cell phone, though; hard to remember when those things first came around.
The only thing special here is that there aren’t any more murders, though some came close. The female PI drives around Orange County in her van looking for the killer of a woman she put in jail, putting her friends and assistants in harm’s way throughout. A lot of the peripheral characters no doubt appeared in previous books, which makes it difficult at times. As expected, there’s plenty of red herrings until she gets caught and almost killed, so that she doesn’t actually solve the case as much as luck out in not also dying at the hands of the killer.
A serviceable story, but really no big deal.
3/5

Cargo
This book takes place well into a series about a former female government assassin, which makes things a little difficult at first, especially taking the author’s word at what a badass she’s supposed to be. She now works for an organization intent on stopping white slavery, and when there’s a personal connection she immediately takes off to Bangkok, where things go bad and she and the victim end up in Africa.
From there it’s getting from one scrape to another with a supposedly reformed hunter on the run from the same people she’s after. From the big African city to the animal-filled countryside, they try to stop the big bad, his minions, a rebel army, and rich asshole Americans, while she worries about her daughter being captured in what turned out to be a pointless plotline.
After reading about the elephant massacre I didn’t want to continue this. Good people are also getting killed and kidnapped throughout, making it quite depressing. At a certain point I wondered if, even if everything turns out okay in the end, was it worth all the crap the characters had to go through to get there, or for that matter reading about it all the way to the end?
3/5

Love Volume 2: The Fox
This graphic novel takes place in the Arctic, and at the beginning showed some vivid colors rarely seen in these kinds of works. The other rare part about this is that, because it only involves animals, there’s no dialogue—not even the orcas and humpbacks—so I had to keep telling myself to go slower and take it all in.
Though there’s a lot of small animal subplots throughout, this is basically the story of the sly fox from the title—that’s actually missing an eye—going about its daily business of finding something to eat. When it grabs a rabbit it runs right into a muskox, as in nose to nose, which makes it slink away, almost guiltily. The first part is much more about hunting and eating than love.
After a long-running battle between a pod of orcas and a humpback whale family, a volcano explodes. Most of the animals freak out, but the fox doesn’t notice as it hunts; it actually has a mouse in its jaws when it becomes aware of the catastrophe, so surprised that its jaw gapes and the mouse escapes.
A polar bear is trapped on an iceberg that is quickly warmed and breaking apart due to the lava. As it wonders what to do, an orca leaps out and scares him, as though letting him know that as soon as it’s in the water. . . the polar bear heads for land, with orcas just missing him numerous times; so much for being the apex predator, huh? His arrival scares the seals, which hop into the water to get away from him and right into the jaws of the angry orcas. Snack time!
After a fight with another bear the polar version chases after the fox, who hides underground, right into a den of rabbits. . . and leaves them alone, instead racing back out into the lava rather than eating them. Is this the moral of our anthropomorphized story?
Maybe, but more likely it’s about family and the love mentioned in the title as the fox keeps searching the burrows and finally finds its offspring, which it grabs by the scruff and dashes off, trying to get it to safety.
So was it fighting its instinct to kill those rabbits and made a conscious choice to let them live? Or was its sole purpose wrapped up in finding and saving its kid?
At the end there’s a glossary of the animals featured—with their Latin scientific names—which shows this work was well researched. At times the artwork was fascinating, though that’s tempered by the thought that one doesn’t often see nature portrayed to such an extreme in graphic novels. This would be good for kids old enough to know about animals eating smaller cuter animals, more so than just singing along to the Lion King.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Hot Vampires, Cold War, Porn, and Heavy Metal Romance

Anonymous
To a donkey, straw is more valuable than gold.
(Though there’s some mention that it might have been Heraclitus.)

Exposure
Subtitled: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment, and as one would expect from that, I came into this book thinking it would be a sociological study on the porn industry. It isn’t; I suppose one would read her doctorial dissertation for that, but once I adjusted that expectation, I found myself liking it more. What it turned out to be was a collection of stories about how she did her research, some of them hilarious, some gross, some both, all intriguing. If you look at the author’s photo, where she comes off as incredibly serious, you would not expect her to be in all these situations, but that belief is shattered by the stories of her childhood and college days, and of course her time on porn sets and award shows. If her goal was to prove that those  who have sex on camera for a living are people too, mission accomplished.
4/5

Vampirella Feary Tales
If ever there was a graphic novel you shouldn’t take too seriously, this is the one.
I’ve heard of this character, and might have glanced at a previous edition, but other than her glam looks and tiny costume I knew nothing about her. In this book she inherits a castle after killing a family member/bad guy. While checking out her new digs she finds a strange book called Feary Tales, which she promptly and literally falls into. Like Gumby, she becomes a part of the feary stories and must make her way through to the end to escape.
If you love puns, you must go out and get this immediately; even if you don’t, this is still chuckle- and groan-worthy enough to be fun. The running gag is that she can hear the narrator, who makes her quickly sick of the puns; in one story the guide takes it to another level by rhyming, which really ticks her off. At one point the narrator cooes, “Welcome back, gentle bleeders.” A lot of the humor is only chuckle-worthy, nothing huge, but there’s enough of it to make me enjoy it, kinda like an Airplane/Naked Gun movie.
The stories include Cinderella, featuring a Prince Charming with a gogo boot fetish, Snow White—snow way to treat your mother!—and Goldilocks and the werebears. There’s a Western with a mermaid, where she’s severely overdressed. . . Vampirella, not the mermaid. In Big Red Riding Hood, Grandma’s House is a strip club.
Despite being a full fledged vampire with witchy powers, half the time she uses her wiles, a different kind of magic. She’s full of snark, which takes the edge off her harsh demeanor. The descriptions of her are in a similar vein: voluptuous vampire vigilante, pulchritudinous protagonist, buxom beauty from beyond with vivaciously voluptuous assets (Remember, alliteration makes everything better). Considering how she’s dressed and the situations she gets into, you’d expect at least a kiss if not full-on sex, but I guess it’s not that kind of story. She’s definitely just drawn that way. . .
4/5

The Shadow: Midnight In Moscow
Some say The Shadow is the spiritual father of Batman; not having seen anything but a couple of movies about the character, just from the atmosphere and tone I can see why that’s said. That spirit continues in this graphic novel, to the point where I can hear the narrator’s voice in my head, as though this was a radio show, with dialogue appropriate to the time, for once. The artwork is just as stylized; I feel like I’m watching a film noir.
The plot really gets moving when The Shadow announces his retirement, though considering his nemesis is still alive—maybe—after not-so-killing him at the beginning, I didn’t buy it, especially since Moscow is in the title and he’s still in Noo Yawk.
Always a bit surprising when the well-dressed lady walks by the drug deal and then turns to put a bullet in the dealer’s brain. The snark is on at full power; my fave examples: “Simpson’s in the Strand has been a London landmark for over a centery. And like most culinary landmarks in the city, it’s never been any good.” And “London successfully defended itself against a nightly barrage of bombs from the Luftwaffe. . . while Paris rolled over and took the German invasion like a cheap whore.”
From Noo Yawk The Shadow and his lady friend go to London, then Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, as the title implies. Part of the plot deals with miniaturization; wish they’d done the same with this novel. It feels like a deliberate choice of style over substance. When they get to Moscow there’s a change in font, where they use Cyrillic letters in English writing. Whatever the idea is here, it doesn’t work. It feels like in trying to evoke the time and atmosphere of the original works they went overboard, so I didn’t like this as much as I would have otherwise.
I will say what happened to the bad girl at the end was delicious!
3.5/5

The Insider
Innocent—as in still a virgin—reporter gets a gig writing a behind-the-scenes story about a metal band, with seemingly everyone against her. By the end of the first day she’s no longer a virgin, so yes, this is a modern-day romance.
There isn’t much plot here, simply the bass player and the reporter apparently falling in love while he teaches her about sex. Even though she’s been pretty sheltered growing up, Toni is spunky and doesn’t mind being teased, once she realizes that’s what everyone’s doing. It’s that same naïve demeanor that ingraciates her with the cynical musicians and their assistants. Once she’s comfortable with that she gives as good as she gets, and her sense of humor is scintillating. And as expected she’s more open and fun in her journal entries, where she shows she can have no filter.
Truth be told, as much as I liked the romance—when they weren’t being idiots; every time he says something sweet, he follows it up by being an ass—and the erotica, the part I found most fascinating was the BTS look at the makings of a rock concert, as well as the stories told by the band members, showing them to be more human than their fans will ever credit them. I can only imagine the author had an experience similar to her heroine—I don’t mean sexual—to get that kind of info; according to her website she’s got plenty of previous stories about rock stars. The most amazing scene for me was the sound check; I know a few guys who do this for a living with whom I have to share this part of the story. But that scare near the end wasn’t right!
5/5

LOL
The cover of this short tome shows Einstein in front of a chalkboard with his famous equation over his head in small letters, while he points at “LOL=Laugh out loud.” Which is not an equation, but a translation. The author calls himself The Professor, which he certainly could be, but it’s not like he’s THE only one.
In the introduction it states that the average six-year-old laughs 300 times a day, while the average adult is between 15 and 100. So the basic premise here is everyone should laugh more.
The idea is wonderful; the execution, not so much. The problem: I hardly ever laughed. The only time I ever actualled LOL’d was the story about the guy who wanted his pants cut. I more often groaned, and not in a good way, at the cheesiness of the jokes.
2.5/5

;o)