Category: fiction

Quickies: Unrequited & Choose Your Shot

Unrequited: Women and Romantic ObsessionBook cover: Unrequited by Lisa A. Phillips by Lisa A. Phillips

Publisher/Year: Harper, 2015
Format: ARC
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

What it is: Part memoir, part investigation, Phillips explores the role of obsessive love in women’s lives. She begins with her own story: many years ago she fell hard for someone, was rejected, and kept pursuing him. She ended up sneaking into his apartment complex early in the morning and was shocked that he remained locked behind his door with a baseball bat, ready to call 911. Phillips examines how she, an educated and confident person, could have done that. She also looks at case studies and interviews other women who have done similar things and closely examines the gender-based double standards: former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, for instance, became a comedic punchline in 2007; male stalkers, on the other hand, are universally feared and considered dangerous. Women who go through life pining over an unrequited love are pathetic and desperate, whereas men suffering from unrequited love are at the heart of many pieces of classic literature. Towards the end of the book, Phillips also looks at the positive sides of unrequited love.

Why I read it: It sounded like really interesting subject matter, and I was curious how the subject of stalkers would be handled.

What I thought: There are a lot of complexities to this subject, and Phillips does a great job of exploring the different angles. Some parts dragged a bit, but overall, I appreciated the historical context and the way she teased out the double standards. I also like that she split her own story up, interspersing each stage of her romantic obsession into relevant chapters. It’s really interesting how common unrequited love among women is; most women will experience it at some point in their lives (although not everyone will act on it).


Choose Your Shot: An Interactive Erotic AdventureBook cover: Choose Your Shot by Christine d'Abo by Christine d’Abo

Publisher/Year: Carina Press, 2013
Format: eBook
Pages: 208
Source: Purchase

What it is: This is the fifth and final book in d’Abo’s Long Shots series. I haven’t read the other four books, but they all revolve around a BDSM club called Mavericks, which apparently burned down at some point before Book 5. In this particular book, Mavericks has now reopened for business, and Tegan, one of the regulars, is back for its opening night. Each chapter ends with different options and lets you choose what kind of sexytimes Tegan will have.

Why I read it: To examine the book’s structure and see if “choose your adventure” books worked better in eBook form. (Like, for real. I’ve been toying an idea for a writing project of my own for about a year now.)

What I thought: This is the second “choose your adventure” type book I’ve read. The other one was a romance with hook-ups; this is straight up erotica. In theory it’s a neat idea, but I’ve yet to see it executed in a non-cheesy way. The options just feel too paint-by-numbers. And I know this is erotica and not a romance novel, so it’s more about sex than plot, but when you have so many options, the already weak plot gets stretched way too thin.

Lifted by the Great Nothing

Book cover: Lifted by the Great Nothing by Karim DimechkieAll his life, Max has struggled to piece together what little he knows of his mother. Shortly after he was born, his mother and all of his extended family were killed amidst political turmoil in Beirut, Lebanon. His father, Rasheed, managed to find a way to flee the country with his infant son and rebuild a life in the United States. Rasheed — now Reed — was determined to become a fully assimilated American and give his son everything he needed to be happy and successful. Since Max was too young to remember his mother, he clings to any bit of information Reed proffers; as Max grows more curious about his heritage, Reed remained steadfastly evasive.

Max and his father are best friends — try as they might, neither of them quite fit in — and Max often cares for his father when his debilitating bouts of depression hit. But as Max grows older, their friendship becomes strained, and once Max reaches his teenage years, their relationship is almost nonexistent. Then, when Max turns seventeen, everything changes: he discovers that his father has been lying to him about their past for his entire life. The repercussions of this revelation are shattering for both father and son.

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God Help the Child

Book cover: God Help the Child by Toni MorrisonLet me just preface this by saying that I am a legit Morrison stan. (For real: I met her in New York years ago with two other Morrison stans I’d just met. We were geeking out and she laughed at us and said, “Y’all are crazy.” Best moment ever.) I was so, so, so excited when I heard that she was releasing God Help the Child, her latest novel. I pre-ordered the book months ahead of time. I love her. She kind of reminds me of my grandma.

So I feel terrible for saying this, but y’all: this book is a hot mess.

God Help the Child is about childhood trauma and how it can shape a person’s life. It’s told from different perspectives, but at the center of it all is a woman named Bride. She’s been paying for the sin of being born with blue-black skin her entire life: both of her parents have lighter skin, and Bride’s father left shortly after Bride was born, convinced his wife had cheated on him. Her mother resented her and always treated her harshly, trying to toughen Bride up for a world that was sure to be unkind to her. (In the book’s opening, her mother even admits, “I even thought of giving her away to an orphanage someplace.”) Bride grew up desperately wanting her mother’s love, and although she’s now a successful, beautiful woman who has found a way to use her skin color to her advantage, she’s haunted by something she did as a child in her need for her mother’s affection.

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Quickies: Lucky Alan & Sex Criminals Vol. 1

Lucky Alan and Other StoriesBook cover: Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem by Jonathan Lethem

Publisher/Year: Doubleday, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 157
Source: Publisher

What it is: A slim collection of quirky short stories.

Why I read it: I like short stories, and I also had the pleasure of hearing Lethem at a Literary Death Match a couple of years ago when he was promoting Dissident Gardens.

What I thought: This was actually my first time reading Lethem’s work. I usually love stories with surreal elements. I can see the appeal, and I love his writing style, but most of the stories in this collection just didn’t do it for me. My favorites were probably the title story, and “The King of Sentences,” about an author’s superfans who take things too far. Other stories, like “Pending Vegan,” had elements that I loved, but some stories were a chore to read and most were simply forgettable.


Sex Criminals: Vol 1Sex Criminals Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction (Author) & Chip Zdarsky (Artist)

Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 128
Source: Library

What it is: Suzie has a strange gift: she stops time whenever she has sex. When she hooks up with Jon after a party, they’re both in for a shock: both of them are still moving around post-climax. It turns out Jon has the same supernatural abilities as Suzie, but neither had ever met anyone like themselves before. And what’s a young time-stopping couple to do with this amazing gift of theirs? Rob banks, of course!

Why I read it: It sounded awesome.

What I thought: It was awesome, duh. I realize it’s not a book for everyone, but I loved the humor and the gorgeous artwork (check out some images after the jump) and the fact that there are Sex Police who smack people with dildos. Yeah. It’s that kind of story. Some of it’s a little hokey, but that just adds to the book’s charm. I kind of felt like a pervert requesting it at the library, but it was worth it.

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Where Women Are Kings

Book cover: Where Women Are Kings by Christie WatsonElijah is a Nigerian boy who has experienced much trauma in his seven years. He longs for his mother, a Nigerian immigrant living in England whom he understands — at a very basic level — is ill, but has been bounced different foster homes; his sometimes extreme episodes have made him difficult to place.

With Nikki, a white woman, and Obi, a Nigerian, things might be different. The two have tried for years to carry a pregnancy to term and are now ready to adopt a child as their own. They instantly fall in love with Elijah, a quiet child with dozens of scars all over his body. To their delight, Elijah warms to them as well, forming a particular bond with in his new Nigerian grandfather.

No one knows the true extent of Elijah’s trauma. His past emerges in bits in pieces, sometimes through his own perspective and sometimes through letters from his mother, whom readers know was legally placed in psychiatric care and is now at a mental health facility. Her letters are not coming to Elijah because of their graphic nature, and Elijah has repressed a lot of the memories; he can’t cope whenever the subject is broached. All readers do know is that he believes a wicked wizard lives inside him, threatening to hurt everyone he loves. He tries to keep his mouth closed so that wizard will not escape and do harm.

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