Saturday, August 11, 2018

Lingus by Mariana Zapata

This book made me so angry that I took an ice cream break after finishing it so my review wouldn't consist entirely of angry swear words. How does this problematic, awful book have the following that it does? I picked it up because I find the adult entertainment industry fascinating. I've read Asa Akira's memoir, and watched several interviews with big name porn actors, including Cracked's 4 Surprising Downsides to Being a Porn Star, which really gives a human face to the industry. Given Zapata's reputation for romantic "slow burn" romances, I was hoping for a similar sort of "inside look" at a much-maligned industry. Sadly, the only "slow burn" to be found here is probably going to be caused by a stupidity-induced STD, or a headache from repeatedly banging your head against a wall.

Kat Berger, the heroine, loves porn. So when her friend manages to finagle tickets to an adult entertainment convention, what does Kat do? If you thought "accept with gratitude," you would be wrong. She proceeds to drag her heels and be a major buzzkill, proclaiming her embarrassment to anyone who will listen - when she's not shaming everyone in sight, that is. If you're not a modest, young, well-groomed person, you're apparently not allowed to enjoy porn, as Kat shames the old people at the convention (women are pathetic cougars, old men are creeps), the women in revealing clothes (sluts and desperate whores), and the women with big breasts (she calls them "monstrosities").

Here are just a few choice descriptions from Kat:

The eight bitches in front of us were all dressed up like trashy versions of country girls in microscopic cut-off jean shorts. If that wasn't bad enough, the old geezers behind us were wearing enough makeup to stock Sephora for six months (4%).

I wanted to ask him which whore in line was his friend, but I didn't. I also silently wondered why such a good-looking male specimen was at a porn convention. This guy didn't need porn to get off; he could easily just flash that perfect face at any girl. I was sure they'd flock to him like a bitch in heat looking to get mounted (5%).

Some gonorrhea-infected fans might try to kiss him or grab his bubble butt. Women with loose, flapping vaginal lips that were capable of clapping would try to hug him and whisper suggestive things in his ears (77%).

Another thing that bothers me is how Kat's friend, Nicole, treats one of the porn stars at the convention, named Calum Burro. When she gets his autograph, she grabs his ass and whispers obscenities in his ear (the same thing that Kat is afraid of happening to her own porn star boyfriend at that quote I cited at 77%, funny how it's OK when Nicole does it). If you watched that video I linked to at the top, the one by Cracked, you'll have heard that one of the problems porn stars face is people assuming that porn stars are fair game because they've shared their bodies with the public, which some people - i.e. Kat and her friends - take to mean that it's okay to follow them home or touch them inappropriately. I feel like in a real life setting, behavior like Nicole's would get you thrown out on your ass from the convention, but it gets Nicole a phone number and an invitation to follow-up on what she whispered into his ear. They end up in a relationship and then a few weeks after they start dating, married. An ending like this validates such mistreatment of people in the entertainment industry, and I found it, frankly, sickening.

Kat meets the love interest, Tristan/Robby, while he's walking around at the convention, incognito. He actually catches her tugging her wedgie out of her ass, and his first line to her is, "Digging for gold?" He thinks this is so cute that he gives her the nickname "gold-digger," and then, later, just "goldie." Kat is very upset when she finds out what Tristan's profession is, and when he goes out on business while they're together, she equates it to cheating. This porn = cheating thing is a running theme in this book, and it's very disturbing. At the convention where Nicole first meets Calum, her friends have to hold her back from attacking one of his female coworkers because she's that jealous that the two of them had a scene together (keep in mind that this is before he even speaks to her or even knows she exists). When Nicole and Calum are engaged, he goes to his last job, and Nicole and Kat consider Nicole cheating on him behind his back to make it "fair," since he's cheating on her. Kat is insanely jealous of all of Tristan's past working relationships and slut-shames all of them, picking on in particular their appearance, especially their breasts.

The way Kat sees porn is highly warped and sexist, because she obviously considers it a form of slumming: something that's she's above but occasionally deigns to indulge in, like a guilty secret. The male porn stars are all admired by Kat and her friends, but the women are called sluts and whores. Kat's friend, Zoey, is also a porn star, but because she's cute and Asian and only does girl-on-girl, she isn't considered a sexual rival, so she is the sole exception to Kat's misogyny. Despite being attracted to Tristan, she still considers him "the worst type of man" at first because he has sex with women on video. Later, he gives up porn for her (as Calum does for Nicole) and Kat seems to accept this as her due. Obviously, Tristan considers her the best lay he's ever had, and one of her friends (Zoey) tells Kat that her breasts are probably the only real ones he's ever touched. This is "magic vagina" syndrome in full, because why would Tristan need to continue with his debauched ways now that he has a "good girl" to save him through sex? I wanted to throw my computer into the wall when Kat wants to "make things different" for him by not having sex with him using a condom, since he's always had sex with his partners using condoms and she doesn't want to be like his other women. Not only is this INSANE, it's also incredibly unsafe. Tristan has probably had sex with dozens of women (if not hundreds of women), and there was no mention of an STD test, just birth control. Great.

But the crowning moment of Kat's hypocrisy was when they go on vacation together and Tristan finds a video of Kat doing porn on her computer. Apparently, when Zoey was trying to make it, she needed someone to help her do a girl-on-girl scene and after several friends turned her down, the unwilling Kat reluctantly agreed to participate. Tristan is, of course, incredibly turned on, and after telling her what a selfless and special person she is (and how "not enough" people would do such a thing for their friends), they have hot sex for the first time. I was so angry. First of all, that was not selfless, that was stupid. Real friends wouldn't force their friends into doing something exploitative. Kat is an elementary school teacher, and teachers have been fired for doing less. An elementary school teacher doing porn? Even if the video was never distributed, as Kat claims, if that ever got out, it would ruin her career. Zoey was selfish and cruel to ask that, and Kat was stupid to accept.

Speaking of careers, Tristan is doing law school in addition to porn (because of course he is). He's bizarrely certain that his career will never get out because he had the sense to use hair dye. Any law firm worth its salt is going to do a background check, and I can almost guarantee that they're going to turn up his old career, and it's going to ruin him, too. Lawyers are highly reputation-bound, and as much as I hate that this is the case, nobody is going to take an ex-porn star lawyer seriously. No one.

LINGUS also shares many of the features that made Zapata's other book, RHYTHM, CHORD & MALYKHIN so unpleasant for me. There's a heavy reliance on fecal humor, which I find juvenile and gross. I don't need to hear about it whenever someone needs to go to the bathroom, and I don't want to hear Kat rant about how she apparently pees herself every time she sneezes (girl, do some kegels, seriously). There are also the same homophobic/transphobic jokes peppered in here about sex changes and people so hot they could turn gay people straight, which are comparatively harmless in the grand scheme of things, but are still harmful, because they passively perpetuate those kinds of harmful views by joking about them as if they are fact. Don't even get me started on Kat's gay best friend, who is portrayed as a total slut who sniffs out gay men like "a male dog catching a female dog's scent in heat." I kept waiting for him to say "fabulous!" He didn't, but I'm sure the author considered having him do so. Probably while farting or peeing himself, keeping in the scatological vein of this book's sense of humor. It was that bad.

I've read four of this author's books now. DEAR AARON started off charming and devolved into what I considered an unhealthy relationship. RHYTHM, CHORD & MALYKHIN was awful, and I only rounded it up because I really appreciated the musical references and that feeling of being "on tour." KULTI was absolutely wonderful, and I honestly can't believe that the author who wrote that book, which flew by because I was enjoying it so much, is the same author who wrote these three other books, because LINGUS was the worst yet. There was nothing to redeem it. It was wretched.

I guess if you're going to read a book by this author, start with KULTI. It is the only book of hers that has lived up to the hype. I still have WAIT FOR IT and THE WALL OF WINNIPEG on my Kindle, so I'm hoping that those veer more on the KULTI side of the spectrum than the LINGUS side.


1 out of 5 stars


  1. WALL OF WINNIPEG is on par with KULTI, I think. Did not like WAIT FOR IT for various reasons.

    I avoided LINGUS because one look at the description was enough to indicate it was going to be problematic; thank you for confirming it for me.

    1. Haha no problem! Thanks for the info about her two other books. I think I'll save WINNIPEG for last in that case. I'd like to end on a high note. :D

      Are there authors like Zapata who do it better?

  2. Hey! I follow your reviews on Goodreads and hopped onto your website to see what good book recommendations you might have had lately... And came across this review. I love reading reviews of books I've read; I feel like it gives me a better sense of whether your recommendations might be things I'd enjoy too? Anyways, totally loved this review. I'm a fan of Zapata because I started off with Winnipeg and Kulti first... And everything else so far has been a meh. Lingus was awful, and Under Locke is pretty eh too. Wait for It wasn't terrible, but not in the same ranks as the other two. Oh well, you win some, you lose some right?

    Thanks for the review!

    1. Oh my gosh, I feel the same. Nothing like seeing how you compare with someone else to get an idea of where your opinions lie. I love that. And thank you so much for your lovely compliment! If you felt the same about Kulti and Lingus that makes me feel MUCH better about starting Winnipeg. :D


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