Showing posts with label oversexed adolescence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oversexed adolescence. Show all posts

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Small Favors by Colleen Coover

Rating: WORTHY!

I haven't reviewed a Net Galley graphic novel in a while, but there hasn't been much come up which has interested me. In their latest flyer this was the only one that I thought might be worth my time, and in the end I wasn't quite sure of that to begin with. I was won over by the playfulness and sheer exuberance of the stories. As I intimated, this is an advance review copy for which I thank the publishers.

I wasn't at all familiar with Colleen Coover's work, but I am now! Note that this isn't all she does, because when I tell you this is a graphic graphic novel for adult-only audiences which features explicit and what many might consider even kinky sex, you might wonder where she's coming from. Well, I can't speak or her, but for her characters, it's obvious where they're coming from!

The comic is a series of stories, with mini-stories interleaved, and separate by title pages which are done in grey-scale. Nearly all of the art is black and white line drawings which for me were charming and well done. I enjoyed them so much that I had some trouble adapting to the color section which is contained towards the middle. It felt really odd after I'd become so comfortable with the original artwork, but it wasn't bad at all - the line work was the same and the coloring was nicely done.

The inventive tack taken here is that main character Annie is called onto the mat by her conscience for excessive masturbating. Apparently at the age of twenty-one, she's already used up her lifetime allotment of "sexual self-abuse" as it used to be termed. I confess I never knew there was one!

A part of her conscience named Nibbil (which is misspelled Nibble at one point in the comic) is assigned to her twenty-four-seven to keep her on the straight and narrow, but this only results in her avidly exploring the bent and wide, since Nibbil is at least as big of a nymphomaniac as Annie. Happily, the two fall in love, but this doesn't prevent them exploring their sexuality with others. One thing I really did like about this was the brief interludes. No, this is not about girls wearing briefs and being lewd, it's a series of mini stories scattered through the main collection. How to spank Girls was hilarious.

The obvious candidate would seem to be Annie's next door, and single, neighbor, a young Asian woman about whom Annie fantasizes daily, but this doesn't happen (not immediately!). Instead they encounter another lesbian who is feeling lonely, an African American woman named sage. Soon the three of them are bosom buddies - in every sense of the phrase. This sparks a whole new set of stories. The sweet thing about this is the love between Annie and Nibbil, which is never lost sight of, no matter what adventures they get into.

The stories were for the most part highly amusing, such as when they play doctors which I thought was funny, as was the jungle adventure fantasy in which Annie and Nibbil take part, but be warned that every one of the stories is focused on sex. Even a trip to a yard sale ends up with them nude and passionate. They really have no life that doesn't involve sex!

Some potential fans might find that a turn off since there really isn't much story here. Others might find it a bit repetitive. I might have classed myself in those groups if the stories had not been so playful, unabashed, amusing, enthusiastic, and yes, even innocent in a weird, juvenile, exploratory way. The characters are all so likable and passionate, particularly Annie and Nibbil, that you can't help but appreciate them.

I have to mention that safe sex was not a concept here, which I found sad. Admittedly when having sex with the embodiment of her conscience, Nibbil, this wasn't an issue, but when they began to involve Sage and others, then at least a nod and a wink towards hygiene and safe sex needs to be in there, no matter how fleeting. There's nothing wrong with adventurous sex, but adventurous sex with multiple partners carries baggage that is neither erotic nor fun and which can be at best debilitating and at worst, deadly. Adventurous sex means trusting your partner(s), and this means informed consent and responsible sex. It's by no means incompatible with being erotic, and I think it's sad that more writers don't get this.

That said, I did like these comic stories. I really appreciated the author's sensibility about how the tales should be told. I think she got the tone right, and I consider them a worthy read for anyone who is interested in erotica in the comics.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Doing It by Melvin Burgess

Rating: WARTY!

This audiobook sounded triply appealing. The blurb made it sound interesting, which from a practical PoV means nothing more than that it did its job and suckered me in. But I was suckered without being succored! The story was read by Jason Flemyng, who I like as an actor, and his reading was excellent. The material was really funny in some parts, too, but I suspect you'd have to be an Anglophile to get it all. That was the third point of interest for me: it was something which wasn't set in the USA, like the USA is the only place in the world where anything interesting happens! It's nice to get out of the "house" once in a while, you know, and stretch your legs!

So while the story seems, superficially, to be a worthy read, it really bothered me that it was all sex and nothing else - like this is the sole subject of interest among anyone and everyone. It's not, and I resent stories that one, make it so, and two, never discuss the myriad problems with having casual and/or unprotected sex. I get that people are like this in real life, morons that they are, and I don't have a problem with reading about such people, but to consistently present sex as consequence-free and even romantic (which wasn't the case here, but is the case in many other stories), or as a worthy pursuit to the exclusion of all else among young people, without offering at least a note of caution here and there, is wrong-headed in my opinion.

The biggest problem though, was right there in the blurb on Goodreads: "It introduces us to Dino, Jon, and Ben, three teenage best friends who can't stop thinking about, and talking about (and hoping to experience), sex." Note that there isn't a single female mentioned by name anywhere in this blurb. It's all about the Benjamins - and the Jonathans, and the Dinos. Girls are just objects in which to masturbate. I know authors don't write book blurbs unless they self-publish, but seriously? Which moron wrote that one and what age was he - mentally?

Just for the record, the girls are Jackie, the object of Dino's undying lust, Deborah, the "fat" girl who Jonathan doesn't have the courage to respect, and Alison Young (yeah, really!) the schoolteacher with whom Ben is having a secret and ongoing affair. We get to meet Jackie in a meaningful way, albeit too briefly. We never honestly get to know Alison, who is disturbed and never given a fair hearing, and we never get a physical description of Deborah other than "fat", which means we really learn nothing practical about her body that isn't passed through the extremely warped adolescent filter of these dicks: Ben, Dino, Jon, et al.

We're told a lot about Deborah's personality, but we never actually and honestly experience it for ourselves. This is because the author is utterly clueless about voice. He tells the story from different perspectives and changes voice in a flagrant admission by the author that first person PoV is unarguably worst person PoV if you want an honest picture, and is nearly always a poor choice. This novella is quite simply badly written, and annoying, and far too focused on the guys, as the blurb indicates. It suffers because of that. The author and the blurb writer between them make it perfectly clear who the intended audience is for this: girls are not worth talking to.

Having said that, this story is less about lust than it is about poison. It's not really about lustful high-schoolers; it's about poisoned relationships, and poisonous behavior. The sexually transmitted disease here is lack of respect for the female gender. Dino is superficially the school Lothario, but he's a bit more complex than that, supposedly. He's saving himself for Jackie, the one girl who isn't interested in him - that is until his about-to-be-separated parents go away for the weekend and he opens his home to a party and hooks up with her. Even so he has failed to develop the tools to construct a decent personality, and he ends-up quite simply being a tool himself. And he gets away with it.

Jackie has promised herself to him that night after the party, like her only worth is her ability to accommodate him sexually, but because someone threw-up in the bed they were planning on using, she abruptly changes her mind and leaves without telling Dino, and he hooks up with Siobhan. Or is it Zoe? Or Violet? This girl has more names than guys have for their penis. But really she's a vixen - and wreaks havoc upon Dino when she learns he's also involved with Jackie.

I had liked Jackie most out of all the characters until this event. Her flaky behavior turned me off her. Not that she's required to have sex with Dino just because she said she would, but that she left without telling him she was going or why, and then she has the cluelessness to make Dino the villain because he chose to hook up with someone else, having both been ditched by Jackie and also become tired of being led on by her.

When Ben decides he's had enough of Alison and she decides she loves him, that one goes south even more than it was already south. Jonathan and Deborah seem like the most sensible of the group, which frankly isn't saying much, but the way everything turns around into a "happy" ending at the end seemed way false to me. Did someone from Disney write the ending? Given what had preceded it, the only future I could see for any of these imbeciles was that they'd continue making the same mistakes probably throughout life because they had "got away with it" and paid very little in the way of a price for their behavior, so where was their incentive to learn and improve? I can't recommend this ignorant, testosterone-soaked nonsense.

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Soon to be Sex Life by Judith Tewes

Title: My Soon to be Sex Life (I was unable to locate this novel or this author at Barnes & Noble or at Amazon)
Author: Judith Tewes
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

This is the novel that killed my Kindle! Not really. The Kindle is ancient, but coincidentally, it seems to have gone on the fritz as I finished the very last screen (I assume it's the last screen - I couldn't progress beyond it because of aforesaid problem). If that was the last screen it was a rather odd ending.

This is the story of Charlotte Webb (yes named after that novel) a young teen who lives with her mom, and who is feisty and amusing, but who learns that she is to be dispatched to live with "that rat bastard who made her [mom's] childhood a living hell" when her mom has to go into rehab. Where she gets that idea about her grandfather is never explained, nor does it make any sense, because once she moves in with him, he's fine and they get on like a house on fire.

Charlotte also has a plan (for reasons unspecified) and an urgent deadline (again for reasons unspecified) to lose her virginity, and has created a list of possible "devirginizer" guys for this purpose. This girl needs someone to sit down and talk with her.

Charlie isn't a believer, bless her soul(!) but her best friend Rachel, whom she calls Roach, is a product of a supposedly Christian family, although they seem to espouse few Christian principles. Roach is a borderline kleptomaniac, for example.

This novel fails the Bechdel-Wallace test unashamedly since its entire focus is that of getting laid and the two main characters are both heterosexual, so what else would they talk about? Like it or not, the Bechdel-Wallace test is valid but limited in its scope.

I was ready to rate this novel as a worthy read based on Charlie and Roach, and their interaction, but there were some real issues with the writing which bothered me too much to let slide. At one point, for example, Grace (Charlie's single mom's best friend) is informed by Charlie's mom that Charlie has intimated that they're lesbians, to which Grace responds (referencing her beau Ian): " He's always hinting he'd be up for a little three-way action."

I'm sure he would, but no lesbian would be up for it unless Ian was a woman and the lesbians were very free and easy in their approach to fidelity. A pair of bisexual women might be interested, but that's a different thing. 'Bisexual' and 'lesbian' are not the same persuasion. What bothers me about this is not that a character made a bad joke, but that the author doesn't bother to have one of the other characters, Charlie in particular, correct this misunderstanding. This makes me think that the author either doesn't understand what lesbianism really means, or she doesn't care, which is sad, especially given that she's a woman. Characters are like everyday people: they can be as perverse, as gross, as politically incorrect, as wrong-headed, as obnoxious, as biased, as bigoted,as racist, and as whatever as people in real life can be, but, just as in real life, that doesn't mean they should be allowed to get away with it!

There were other issues with the review copy I had. Once again it appeared to be completely un-formatted for the Kindle screen. There were odd gaps in the text, and some words were paired with others without the usual space between the two. Any spell checker, even Microsoft's, would have caught this kind of error. I don't know if they have some software which is supposed to automatically morph the text into Kindle format, but whichever system it was that they employed, it failed here.

Moreover, there were other errors which can only be blamed on author inattention and editorial incompetence, such as at 51% in, near the end of chapter fifteen, where the author writes, "...John said, compiling with the conversation shift...". I think 'compiling' should have been 'complying'. No spell-checker is going to catch that. That's something which even a beta reader should catch, and for missing which, an editor has no excuse.

The problems came in all shapes and sizes. One was with the telegraphing of the true nature of a character named Morgan, who was such an obvious red-herring that even I saw it coming, which says something! Another problem is in the use of poor grammar, such as employing the term "her and Preston" (at 93% in for example) when it ought to be "she and Preston". You can see this for yourself if you put it into a sentence. Suppose, for example, that it read, "Her and Preston went to the cafe." This breaks down to "Preston went to the cafe" (which is fine) and "Her went to the cafe" which is clearly wrong. This is different from a use which might read, for example, "This affected both her and Preston" which is not the smoothest of reads, but which isn't technically incorrect.

At 57% in, the word 'grizzle' was used. This word means gray, or 'devoid of hue', but it wasn't used in that context. It was used where 'gristle' ought to have been used instead. Again, an editor ought to have caught this. At 89% in, the line "far from the maddening crowd" was used. This was presumably a reference to the Thomas Hardy novel Far From the Madding Crowd, but as you see, the title does not include the word 'maddening'. 'Madding' means moving around agitatedly. It does not mean anger-inducing. If the author had not made other mistakes of understanding, I might have let this go, but it seems like this is a mistake, also.

That said, the novel was very well-written in general terms, particularly so with regard to establishing, defining, and portraying the two main characters, both of whom I loved, but I cannot rate this novel as a worthy read based on that when there are so many other issues. Perhaps the worst of these was the bungled YA romance, which seemed idiotic at worst, and farcical at best. This was a central relationship, but instead of something warm and realistic which would have fit right into the relationship already established between Charlie and Roach, yet again we were asked to swallow a standard YA trope male with hair in his eyes and rippling muscles - like there is absolutely no other type of guy whatsoever which could possibly be worth liking. How insulting can you get? Charlie deserved better than this.

The relationship doesn't even work. There is no friendship here, no getting to know one another. Instead, it's instant lust, which cheapens and demeans the whole thing. Worse than this, however, is the fact that a resilient, strong, funny, and smart character became mushy Jell-O once this guy entered her life, and particularly if he was anywhere near her. I'm sorry but you just trashed your main character for me, and made me lose all respect for her. This was a character I really liked (despite her idiotic devirginizing plan), and then suddenly, what's to like? She became rather repulsive if not detestable. So much for a strong female character. I cannot honestly recommend this novel.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Semmant by Vadim Babenko

Title: Semmant
Author: Vadim Babenko
Publisher: Ergo Sum Publishing
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is shorter so as not to rob the writer of their story, but even so, it will probably still be more detailed than you'll typically find elsewhere!

I could not get into this novel at all. I know Babenko is a seasoned and respected writer, but I wonder if that's because he's "foreign" rather than because he has anything worthy to tell. Whatever the explanation, his seasoning was written off as far as I'm concerned. The blurb fooled me into believing it was going to be something interesting about AIs and technology and the human condition, but I saw very little AI and technology, very little human condition, and a lot of somewhat abusive adolescent sexual fantasy, which puts this novel right in the same boat as The Prelude as far as I'm concerned. The only strong feeling I got from it was that it ought to have been titled 50 Shades of A(I).

After plowing through the overwhelmingly massive info-dump of the first five chapters, I had pretty much lost all interest and found myself skimming the remaining chapters, glancing them over, reading a paragraph here and there because that was all I could bring myself to do. This tale felt much more like it should have been a short-story rather than a novel, and the endless description of obsession with women, and the notable absence of decent conversation was really wearing. There was far too much telling, and no showing to speak of.

The story is of Bogdan Bogdanovich, who creates an AI he calls Semmant. I have no idea why this name was chosen when 'Pedant' would have served just as well for a title. I must have missed that bit. Semmant is designed to beat the financial markets and does so very well. How this translates into it learning of Bogdan's 'human condition' I have no idea, because once Semmant is created, we pretty much bid it farewell, and descend into Bogdan's juvenile, somewhat cruel, and very shallow sexual fantasies and obsessions with one woman or another, all of which depended very little on technology or intelligence, artificial or otherwise. I have no interest in Bogdan or his women. I don’t care about his spoiled-rotten life or how it all comes crashing down around him or where he ends up. I really don’t. I tried to, but I had any reason to care sucked right out of me by the juvenile sex-obsession. I could neither sympathize nor empathize, nor even understand what it was Bogdan thought he was after, nor why he couldn’t find it, so I can't rate this novel as at all worthy, not even a little bit.