Stage Five Clinger

8942185The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If this novel teaches us anything, it’s this: Virgins are Dangerous. Very Dangerous. Sure, the prospect of bedding a virgin sounds glamorous, but let’s face it: It’s not really the stupendously fantastic experience that it might appear to be on first glance. Unless you’re a suicide bomber with a severe mental illness and the prospect of a twenty year lifespan to be followed by a severe and violent death appeals to you and you’re under the rather misguided notion that the pearly white gates hold forty virgins in white wedding dresses waiting to fulfill every one of your wildest fantasies, the thought quickly loses luster.

And as THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN aptly proves, these beautiful rosebuds can turn into what we in the medical community like to refer to as a “Stage Five Clinger.” When that happens, run, do not walk to the nearest exit, even if you’re missing a few clothes and possibly even your car keys. You can send the police back for the rest of your stash later, after the threat of imminent demise has worn off. If you’re lucky enough to have your car keys handy, and even luckier to have a buddy present, have him discreetly move toward the nearest exit right before you both run like hell.

The pages and my Kindle burst with dames and broads and TVs rammed into the ceiling and dialogue punctuated with colorful language. The pages overflowed with poignant prose and distressed damsels. But I like my hard-boiled novels filled with PIs and detectives, and these folks were relegated to secondary status. While I continuously flipped the pages and devoured this little gem rather quickly, I did feel a bit unfulfilled in the end, even with more than one dead body gracing the pages.

Shirley Angela and Grace (no last name) proved as intriguing as Jack Ruxton, and filled with more curves than a string of back country roads. The detours proved small and short lived with the story reaching its dramatic conclusion in rather explosive fashion. And while liking this story was rather easy, really liking this story might prove to be dangerous. So, in the end, I was rather glad I found this story, and also happy that I reached the end in just a few sittings.

Crusty Old Curmudgeon

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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“Dude, this is my second free Craig Johnson book.”

“What the fuck, man?”

“I know, right. I must be one Lucky Bastard.”

“Now you’re referencing a review of one author within the review of another author. Just how big of a pimp, are you?”

“I have a fedora, white bowling shoes with black tips, a cane with a gold handle, a purple vest, and a neon green trench coat.”

“Are you showing up at the Playboy mansion later with an armful of strippers?”

“No way, my wife would bury my body in the backyard next to the scorpions and the lizards with the turquoise tails. And she might even toss a black widow spider into the plastic bag along with me to keep me company.”

“That’s the thing. I thought your wife was going with you–”

“She’s not big on pimped out parties caked with artificial breasts, string bikinis, and copious amounts of alcohol.”

“You lost me at string bikinis. What were we talking about again?”

“Get your head out of the gutter. This is a Christmas novel for crying out loud.”

“It’s not actually a novel. It’s a novella.”

“Oh, are you some kind of expert now?”

“I live inside your head. I must have some vague notion of what’s going on in the publishing industry, otherwise you and I should have parted ways more than 10 years ago.” Brief pause. “But back to the task at hand…what did you actually think of SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT?”

“It was entertaining…”

“There’s a but coming on, isn’t there? And we’re not talking about the ones at the Playboy mansion.”

“I saw the road signs, and followed the detour, but it didn’t take me to the Promised Land. Wyoming has become a bit of a second home for me, with the lush scenery and painted landscapes, but I spent most of this tale in an airplane that has seen better days. And while I appreciated the additional details about Lucian, he’s one crusty old curmudgeon, even in his younger days.” I tilt my head and stare at ceiling tiles. “And I guess I didn’t realize how much I missed a good Walt Longmire mystery.”

“You sure weren’t missing those mysteries too much when you downed all those erotica novels.”

My back stiffens. “True, but Craig Johnson and mysteries go together about as well as PB&J. While Julie Luehrman more than held her own in this tale, what I really wanted was some Vic Moretti with a mouth that matches her cup size and the sage advice of Henry Standing Bear.”

“Aside from the breast reference, you really are a sentimental bastard.”

“Yeah, I guess I am.”

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Montani Semper Liberi

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My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Whenever I hear about a novel set in West Virginia by a West Virginia author, my muse does the happy dance, and I want to party like it’s 1863 (for the uninitiated that would be the year of West, by God, Virginia’s statehood) where our slogan is Montani Semper Liberi (Mountaineers are always free). Even as I reminisced in Fairmont and Clarksburg, with Hagerstown and Uniontown not to be excluded and thoughts of toboggans (the hats, not the sleds) and thuses (instead of pep rallies) danced through my dreams, I found myself staring at a cage filled with dead canaries and staring at a lethal dose of carbon monoxide.

Despite QUIET DELL being set in 1931 and my tumultuous affair with historical fiction and my only connection to this particular time period being that my grand pappy approximated the size of a lightning bug, I set out to love, admire, and cherish this tale, only to slip on a patch of ice and crack my head open wider than a canyon. So what happened? The dialogue approached a haphazard nature, with a peppering of exclamation points and stilted turns of phrase, excess language banging off the page, and diatribes seeping through the exposed pores; the sexual encounters approximated an asexual nature, with additional encounters hinted at but not fully explored (probably the safer bet but somehow still managed to feel a tad awkward, like kissing cousins); the story proved both ambitious and a bit convoluted, with a hazy fog slapped across my eyes, and falling short of its promised destination.

While the writing did show hints of promise, I found myself executing a mad rush to the end, somehow convinced that I had been conned all along, and that I will wake up in Chicago in an apartment with all the lights turned on.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Serapheliums and Sexual Auras

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My Rating: 2/5 Stars

“Girlfriend, I have no idea how to rate this novel.”

“What the hell? You’re supposed to be some kind of expert.”

“An expert in sex? Do you think any man in his right mind is skilled in the art of seduction? Many have tried–”

Holds up her hand. “I see your point. There’s really no need to embarrass yourself further, even if you do write these reviews for what must be your own entertainment.”

“But people actually read them. I get likes and comments–”

“And you can wish and hope and dream, but that doesn’t mean you’re actually going to reach your goals.” Pauses to look at her hands. “So let’s get to the skinny before I need to have my nails done.”

“Well, there was sex.”

“Porn has sex. Was it the good kind? Filled with emotional buildup and payoff and romantic nomenclatures and heat and seduction and equally strong men and women?”

“Ummm, maybe I need to consult a thesaurus.”

“For the love of rainbows and unicorns, you’re killing me.” Slaps her forehead. “You know, this isn’t your first erotica novel, right?”

“True, but this was my first erotica novel set in space.”

“Is that any different?”

“Well…probably not. But there was a Seraphelium.”

“What the hell is that?”

“She controls the male libido and endorphins with just her touch. She can also amplify and harness the energy around her. And she has a sexual aura that would bring Rambo to his knees.”

“And all the sci-fi geeks utter a collective sigh right before downloading this novel onto their iPads, Kindles, Kobos and Nooks.” Another pause while she scratches her head. “But was there an actual story?”

“I think so.”

“What do you mean, think?”

“Well, it was hard to tell because I had trouble pulling myself out of the sex scenes. And I had trouble getting past the undercover hooker with breasts the size of hot air balloons. I also felt a rather pounding need to procure a laser pointer.”

“You know at the rate you’re going you won’t even be a good reviewer let alone a professional one. Goodreads will probably freeze your account right before they decide to delete it. And as for your blog, have you actually managed to procure any followers?”


“Do you have anything else to add? Or are you going to continue along in a semi-retarded state?”

“A TOUCH OF LILLY seemed to switch POV at times in the middle of a scene. It was a tad distracting–”

“Like this review?”

“Hey, I put time and effort into this work of art.”

“So do the manufacturers of washing machines, and you don’t see any of them receiving gold stars. You need to focus, my idiot friend.”

Drifts off to focus on bountiful breasts, clinging cleavage, feminine charms, and elevated libidos, before the hard slap of reality smacks me with a manicured fingernail.

“You’re not that attractive when you drool.”

“I didn’t think I was particularly attractive anyway. But I like to believe I hold a certain charm and appeal. You know, like a washing machine.”

“You really are an idiot.”

“Why, thank you.”

Her hand moves in a circular motion. “The novel…”

“Dallas and Lilly proved to be equally strong characters, while Theagan was a somewhat loveable alien with a bit too much testosterone. The plot was filled with a bit too many coincidences, and therefore, strained my believability factor a tad too much. But there was talent at work here, even confined to such a small space (less than 200 pages). And you already know how I feel about the sex scenes.”

“You’re such a typical man. When one head is full–”

“Hey, there’s no need to get graphic. Children may actually read this.”

“An erotica review?”

“Sure, why not? I like to believe this is actually somewhat entertaining, as this novel certainly was. But at least one of the sexual encounters seemed to be based on pure male fantasy, although since I’m a typical male, as you so aptly pointed out, I’ll try not to complain too hard.”

“I think you already did.”

“Well, the sexual encounter seemed a bit too farfetched, even if the novel was set in space, and Lilly was a Seraphelium.”

“And there you have it folks.” She executes a golf clap and lifts her right eyebrow.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Writing Is A Faith-Based Craft

Writing requires hours upon hours of your time with absolutely no guarantees that readers will enjoy your story as much as you have enjoyed writing it. It requires hope and belief in an imperfect system, where the odds are stacked against you, those in authority have no idea what will be the next bestseller until after it’s already hit the shelves, and if you’re doing it properly, you’ll be completely drained at the end of the day. It’ll wake you up in the middle of the night; it’ll confirm you’ve started hearing voices, and requires constant attention to grammar and punctuation and dialogue tags and dangling modifiers and plunging participles; it starts with a blinking cursor flashing at you in a mocking manner, and ends with you sitting in a corner rocking yourself to sleep and sucking on your thumb; it bleeds you dry emotionally, and physically it probably knocks a couple years off your life; it’s like getting your teeth cleaned with a chainsaw and soldering iron…and yet there’s no high like a writing euphoria, where similes and metaphors and plotlines pop off the printed page; characters develop a second and third dimension; and you’ve managed to somehow convince yourself for just the briefest moment in time that you’re one brilliant sonofabitch.

It’s probably singlehandedly the hardest mission I’ve ever undertaken, and yet I couldn’t stop writing even if I wanted to. It’s worse than the most addictive drug on the black market, surging through my veins like some creative tidal wave, and popping onto the page longer and louder than a Times Square fireworks display. Yet, only faith and drive hold me accountable each and every day. Nobody dangles a stopwatch over my head; no supervisor thrusts a deadline in front of my face; and no predetermined word count lingers on my computer monitor.

What drives me is the will to succeed and improve, and the therapeutic and cathartic nature of the task itself. It has its own self-sustaining life-force and enough energy to power the sun. And it’s as much a part of me as my head, arms, or heart, and when I don’t write I feel incomplete and unfulfilled and moody and exhausted for unexplained reasons.

But if I can’t please myself and stare in the mirror with a smile on my face and a surge of adrenaline coursing through my veins, I’m fairly certain the reader won’t be pleased. Instead of cheering by my side, he’ll mock me, frown, and then proceed to laugh in my face, spittle flying from his lips, his finger thrust out toward my chest. And in all honesty he’d have every right to do so.

But I can’t make it about him, at least not initially, otherwise I’ll stall out in the middle of the interstate before getting pummeled by an F-150 cruising along at 70 mph. No, instead, I have to write because I believe in the craft and the characters and the story, as I breathe life into it with a restrained and shaky breath. But I must have faith, even though I can’t touch or see or sometimes even understand what has taken me from this point to the next and the one after that, trudging through the rain and the snow until I reach some creatively comforting state, and in the process make myself just a little bit happier than I was before.

Steamy Scenes And Passionate Embraces

17683820Awakening by Elene Sallinger
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Confounded and baffled on so many levels, it’s hard to state rather emphatically how I truly feel about this read. On the one hand, I rather liked Claire Ryan, Bridget (no last name), and Evan Lane to the point that I considered them good acquaintances by the end of this tale. In some ways, Claire reminded me of…well me. If I were female, that is. Shy, but definitely not quiet, her stronger, talkative self was just bursting at the seam of her jeans. She tentatively explored the BDSM world through a series of engorging reads, becoming more aroused with each tale, and her high pain tolerance helped her out immensely in this new universe. Bridget with her bubbly personality and stunning good looks reminded of a cheerleader who hasn’t exceeded her expiration date. Evan, on the other hand, confounded me a bit with his overemphasis on past guilt and unwillingness to embrace the present. While his actions and motivations become clear, it’s hard not to be a bit frustrated with his constant clinginess to previous wrongs.

Steamy scenes and passionate embraces filled the pages, but not to the point that it ever exceeded my threshold. The peek behind the bedroom curtain left me hot and heavy and bothered and squirming in my chair, while the downtime allowed me to catch my breath, reevaluate the purpose of my life, and study long division. Elene Sallinger knows how to turn up the heat and strike your pleasure points with a fine leather flogger.

But…the first half of AWAKENING reminded me of a high school crush not yet realized, and the buildup proved an exercise in self-control to continue to flip the pages. Sure, there’s character development and story, but there’s a whole lot of dancing around in Claire’s and Evan’s heads. Had more external conflict been presented here, instead of massive amounts of the internal variety, this would have been easier to sludge through. Instead, I probably needed a larger pair of boots. But possibly even worse than that was the moment the mental tango turned into a physical one for our dynamic duo. *BEGIN SPOILER* With very little preamble and no real buildup whatsoever, in the middle of Bibliophile and during normal business hours, Evan yanked away Claire’s black silk thong and gets her off, and then he fucks her mouth with his dick. Excuse me…what? That rattled me a bit, worse than being shoved against the book stacks by some leather bound hellion with a whip and a pair of handcuffs. *END SPOILER* But once I shook my head and wormed my way back into the story, all was right with the world. The suspect beginnings, though, left my world with a tainted haze that never completely went away.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

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Slipped Out Of Sequence

17906972The Last Winter Of Dani Lancing: A Novel by P.D. Viner
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I’d like for publishers to make a concerted effort to stop the lazy marketing. This novel has been compared to BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, MEMENTO, and THE SILENT WIFE, and for good measure, we’ll even toss in Tana French, Gillian Flynn, and A.S.A. Harrison. While this type of marketing may work in some instances, it probably fails more often than it succeeds. Sure, the neon lights flash, people’s expectations reach infinite proportions, and it makes for a great sound bite, but then what happens? If you don’t like the aforementioned authors or books, you skip right on over to the next enticing cover, and if you love those authors or books, you’re bound to be met with some level of disappointment.

Despite the massive consumption of drugs in THE LAST WINTER OF DANI LANCING, this novel felt as realistic as turkey, yogurt, and apple pie. Demons filled each character until the lines between good and evil were about as nebulous as a politician hitting the campaign trail with both hands. No character could escape the evil staring back at him or her, and this included the long dead body of Dani. Nefarious individuals piled up faster than runners at the finish line with Tom Bevans, Marcus Keyson, Jim and Patty Lancing, Duncan and Audrey Cobhurn, and Seb Merchant leading the charge with bullhorns firmly planted at their sides.

Told from multiple points of view, the story slipped out of sequence with relative ease, dipping into the past the way a swimmer might dip his toes into the icy water. The gimmick worked, holding the fast and loose tale in place, otherwise this story probably would have failed when held up to the microscope and examined via a petri dish. But all the jumping around left me looking for solid ground, as I constantly bounced between the various time periods until I finally decided to just strap myself in and appreciate the ride.

Most of the way through this novel, I sympathized with Tom and his love for Dani. Like him, I’d experienced unrequited love—in my case it was on more than one occasion and with more than one individual—only to have the entire experience shatter around me, leaving me with a broken heart and a pile of broken glass. Sometimes nice guys really do finish last. But I digress. In the end, though, Tom wasn’t as nice as I thought he was. Instead, he was more of a pretender than a true contender.

Without giving away too much, I think it’s safe to say there are more stories to tell, more questions that need to be answered, and more problems that need to be solved. But I still haven’t decided whether or not I’ll continue the ride.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Cute And Somewhat Lighthearted

18564178Now You See It by Jane Tesh
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

This novel certainly checks all the mystery boxes: a likeable, stubborn, and persistent main character; interesting and somewhat intriguing secondary characters, many of whom are either magicians or somehow involved in the magical universe; a dead body in a box; a steadfast main plot and side-stepping subplots; and adequate dialogue, although there were a few too many exclamation points for my taste; and a logical, albeit a tad too convenient and probably slightly overcooked, climax followed by an equally convenient eureka moment to wrap up a dangling subplot before we moved on to the final curtain. To be immediately followed by crowd cheering, adoration, and kisses tossed in the magician’s direction.

NOW YOU SEE IT was cute and somewhat lighthearted, if you can forgive the corpse, and it checks boxes left and right and sideways and upside down. There’s no doubt in my mind Jane Tesh can capture an audience before her next disappearing act, but this novel filled me up about as well as Styrofoam peanuts. Instead of running a race fast and furious from the pistol start to the photo finish, edging out her competition by a nose hair and a sneeze, and pummeling the pages until pockmarks plastered the white space, it’s almost like Ms. Tesh shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, that’s good enough.”

Just good enough works well for many a novel and many audience members, but I always go into every novel hoping to be razzled and dazzled and wowed in some form or fashion—an amazing character, an amazing plot, or a double-dip twist with a perfect backflip—and unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case here. Does that make this a bad novel? Absolutely not. Does that mean this is a good novel? I can’t really say. Instead, like the author, I’ll just shrug my shoulders, and move on to the next read, hoping at some point to be so hyped up on endorphins and amphetamines that I forget who I am for about five or six hours.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Fifty Shades Of Shit

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My Rating: 1/5 Stars


If I didn’t already know FIFTY SHADES OF GREY started out as TWILIGHT fanfiction, I’d like to think I could decipher the code based on the myriad of similarities between the two novels. The following are a few examples (and by all means not a comprehensive list): a virgin main character; uber-successful parents on the boyfriend’s side; divorced parents, where the daughter lives with her father; a clumsy, melodramatic, younger than her years main character; a complete hatred of receiving presents; a pale complexion and dark hair, where everyone finds her attractive but she does not; extremely attractive, supposedly out of her reach boyfriend; gorgeous, friendly, graceful sister; complete avoidance of high risk activities, except in the name of love; drives broken-down automobiles fixed by mechanic friends; the elusive friend who is totally into her and perfect in many ways but she’s not interested; boyfriend tells her on multiple occasions that he’s not right for her and does everything he can to discourage her affection; and despite being a virgin, she is magically good in bed and a skilled lover.

Or in other words, what we have here is teenage fantasy supposedly based in reality, yet with TWILIGHT the reader already has the suspension of disbelief, since it’s a vampire/werewolf/human love triangle. With FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, the teenage fantasy plays out in real time and on the streets of Seattle and Portland, among other locations. Aside from the overuse of Fuck (like it holds some sort of deeper meaning) and mentioning way too many firsts, had both references been pared down to more manageable levels, the writing actually did hold a certain amount of appeal. Sure her ability to orgasm on command was a bit comical, and her number of orgasms in Grey’s presence could probably satisfy an entire church choir, but this is teenage fantasy after all, and in this regard it very much resembles TWILIGHT, although at least like any normal couple there was actual sex involved. In that regard, I must give E.L. James credit, because she literally held nothing back, and I was certainly entertained, if not a bit flabbergasted by the level of f*cking that took place in this novel without the benefits of those little blue pills.

Setting aside the teenage fantasy bit for a minute, the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele was actually believable and intriguing, yet based on Christian’s propensity for subs and lack of ability to love, I did find it a bit comical that she broke up with him after three weeks or so because he wasn’t willing to profess his undying love and affection. So, yes, I’m intrigued to read the next book, and in fact, I’ve already started it, but my wife has told me it gets worse from here. So I approach the finish line with trepidation, but I vow to make it all the way through, one way or another, and I shall do it all in the name of scientific research. Yes, that’s what I shall tell the curiosity demon that harbors within me.


FIVE DAYS. A good alternative title for this series. Why? That’s the extent of the breakup of Christian and Anastasia. I’ve had goldfish when I was six last longer than that. Sure, short breakups can happen, mere hiccups in the game of life, but this one seemed forced, and the questions that hadn’t been answered before the breakup certainly weren’t answered when the two of them got back together. It was like a high school crush that suddenly turned into a high school crush again, and based on the relationship and its ramifications, the two lovers deserved something more. As readers we deserved a little bit more.

As for the sexual encounters—and FIFTY SHADES DARKER certainly had plenty of those, not that I’m complaining mind you—they reminded me of a conductor with a baton, leading up to some dramatic crescendo or climax. Every. Single. Time. The batting 1.000 climax did strain my believability just a bit, which led me to the following question: What percentage of women climax from penetration alone? This book certainly led me to ponder questions of the universe like this, and being a guy, I don’t have a definitive answer. All I know is Anastasia reminded me of a fembot with machine gun jubblies and a platinum vagina who was wetter than the Euphrates and comes on command. Not that this is a bad thing if your setting is an alternate universe with alien life forms, then you can certainly make up your own rules. Since this setting is the real world, though, the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY trilogy should be grounded in some semblance of reality, not a teenage fantasy with twenty-something year olds with raging hormones.

Even the conflict felt forced to me. There wasn’t enough conflict to sustain a 544 page novel, so it became artificially created, like the alternate universe that might have been a better setting for this novel. Anastasia’s three main sources of conflict—Leila, Elena (Mrs. Robinson), and Jack—could have been stronger villains. Instead, the three felt like shells of what they could have been and felt artificially created to sustain this novel. We’re developing some sort of theme here, aren’t we? Anyway, give E.L. James credit, because she recognized that conflict was needed, but this was bad conflict. And it could have been much better.

Probably the single most detrimental aspect of this novel, though, was the dramatic and abrupt change in Christian’s personality. For the first two-thirds of this novel, coupled with the entire previous one, we had 890 pages of Christian being Christian. He was strong, tough, distant, and probably a bit too beautiful for his own good, but I’m nitpicking here. In other words, he made this novel interesting, until he metamorphosed into some alien life form and became a submissive to Anastasia, all based on Ana threatening to leave. Which made absolutely no sense because she’d already left once before, for no really strong reason, thus proving her instability. Instead of manning up, like his character should have done, he dropped to his knees and stared at her with pleading, puppy dog eyes. I might have coughed up my Cheerios, had it not been over fourteen hours since breakfast.

I’m a little scared to read FIFTY SHADES FREED. Call it morbid curiosity, though. It’s like watching a train wreck on the news, because I can’t seem to look away.  But I will trudge onward. I will.


I feel like I’ve been cheated in every possible sense of the word. Cheated out of a wedding, cheated out of the first two weeks of the honeymoon, cheated out of a relationship that hinted at so much promise yet managed to under deliver, cheated out of plotting and conflict and other writing techniques that were under-executed or done ineffectively, and cheated out of hours upon hours of my life.

If Christian Grey were an unemployed garbage man with six pack abs and a washboard stomach, I can’t help but think this wouldn’t have been a phenomenon, and there would have been no happily ever after for the Greys. No white horse, no cowboys, and no barebacked nude riding off into the sunset, which by the way, might have been a better ending for FIFTY SHADES FREED. At least it would have made the unbelievable sex seem a tad more believable. Yet, here we are with Christian, an emotionally distant, controlling, narcissist. And Ana is supposed to be the one to save him. Seems to me that is Fifty Shades of Fucked Up. With this trilogy, the feminist movement is dead, buried, and headed straight for Hell. But at least the kinky fuckery makes it all worthwhile, right?

As for the white roses, long flowing gown, picture-perfect wedding ceremony, that was relegated to the backburner, otherwise known as flashbacks, and the reader grabbed bits and pieces. It’s very similar to starving oneself for a week and then being handed a saucer-sized plate of cheese and crackers. Yeah, I would have passed out if I wasn’t already lying down waiting for the next tiny morsel to be tossed my way.

As for the first two weeks or so of the honeymoon, it’s like it never existed except for a bit of descriptive summary. But as long as you’re okay missing vital organs or vitally important parts of your life, because after all you blacked out after your tenth shot of Jose Cuervo Gold, then it’s okay to miss both your wedding and your honeymoon, which lasted much longer than a billionaire CEO and recently promoted editor could possibly manage without the help of either aliens or cloning or overly sympathetic bosses. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m buying it either.

Conflict avoidance has reached near panic level. Sure, conflict was there, but I had to dig for it like I was shoveling for my own grave, and then I was going to be tossed in afterwards with my hands zip-tied behind my back and spitting up dirt. Jack popped in for a brief interlude, after the conductor had already waved his magic wand, and Leila (who was probably consuming massive amounts of happy pills) and Elena, aka Mrs. Robinson, were literally nowhere to be found, unless a brief reference is counted as full-fledged character development. Yeah, I must have missed that memo in Writing 101. But Christian managed to nearly drink himself to death once he found out Ana was pregnant, so that could be construed as conflict, if that’s all you really have to work with.

If you’re willing to suspend disbelief (and I mean really suspend it to teenage hormonal fantasy level), then the sex scenes work perfectly. So at least E.L. James has that going for her.

Fifty Shades of Done.

Cloning Dogs And Kissing Frogs

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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If T.C. Boyle were anything like his characters in his stories, he’d be a hitman-for-hire, killing people on the side with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Having met the man, he doesn’t look like a serial killer, nor does he act like one, but then all serial killers start out as nice guys. But I digress. And I need to reevaluate my focus, before I’m banned from my reviewing endeavors forever and locked in chains in a basement next to a guy named Moon Shine with a toothpick shoved between two of his missing teeth till the apocalypse.

Divided into four parts and with 58 stories, T.C. BOYLE STORIES II: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF T. CORAGHESSAN BOYLE, VOLUME II: 2 clocks you over the head approximately 944 times and doesn’t let up once. The man can turn a phrase, shove you into the microwave with both hands, and then smack you over the head with a shovel. But at least the journey proved intriguing, the characters interesting, and the stories varied and multi-faceted, otherwise this would have been about as easy to swallow as a kitchen utensil.

Rather than let this review reach epic proportions, I’ll give you a crash course introduction to these gloomy tales using a series of words and phrases: mudslides and shovels and plastic surgeons and lies and the apocalypse and sagging breasts; bad dudes and liars and cheaters and bad relationships and losers and miscreants and maleficence; tragedy and loss and pain and suffering and depression and despair and thieves and fraud and kidnapping and adultery and felonies and misdemeanors; fishing and boats and seashells and Darth Vader and dickheads and assholes and sleet and popping pills; studio sessions and smoking and drinking and reefer and nicotine and slitting throats and kitchen knives; historical and present day; slugs and scorpions and cloning dogs and kissing frogs and child performers and parent extortionists and rabies and beasts and priests and lairs; Romulus and Remus; dust and rust and dig and dug and vultures and crows and nobody knows; banging beginnings and abrupt endings; fornication and penetration and hurried hellos and shortened goodbyes and crazy-ass women and asshat men; excitation and inebriation and speculation and observation and intonation; criminals and punishment and confinement and government and failed experiments; wives and husbands and log cabins and ravens and neighborhood watches and Kentucky bourbon and more plastic surgeons; guns and muzzles and black ski masks and walking hitches and thoroughfares to nowhere and incest; dragonflies and desert skies and no-sex retreats and tarantulas and Pepsodent; campfires and canoes and wieners; dog fighting and Lab victims and inhumane cages and failed first dates; breast cancer and radioactivity and radionuclides and bees and honey and X-rays; male rape and impregnate; downloading porn and Jameson bottles and California beach communities and fresh coffee and croissants and clap and chlamydia and plaintive looks; hybrid tigers and zoo weddings and piñatas and tamales and dead mothers and authors and the wrongfully accused; satires and tall tales and the absurd and first person and third.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.