Friday, August 12, 2022

WtAFW: Bear by Marian Engel


BEAR falls into a genre of fiction called "scatlit," which is my name for authors who clearly would rather be writing erotica but decided to write literary fiction for the $$$, and instead of being lambasted for being gross or smutty, they are instead praised for being "brave" and "daring," and win awards and even get their books blurbed by Margaret Atwood.

I have a weekly challenge called "What the Actual F*** Wednesday" where I let my readers pick something that's really weird for me to read and review. The rules of the challenge clearly state "please pick something under $5" but my friends and followers are evil people and they kept telling me to read "the bear book," AKA "Canada's Secret Shame." So I ended up spending $10 on this dumb book, and it wasn't even the version from the 70s that looks like a bodice-ripper.

I don't even know how to describe this book. It's like the pretentious meanderings of a hipster with some smut thrown in. Like, did I really need to know about how the author-- oops, I mean the main character-- ranks certain classic works of fiction, or that she considers morels superior to truffles? I mean, we've all got to soapbox and this book was published before blogs, so I get it. But on the other hand, you just wrote a book about bear smut, so was there any cognitive dissonance at all when penning this treatise criticizing other peoples' taste?

Speaking of bear smut, it takes forEVER to get to the "mane event" (pun intended). Like halfway through. And it's gross. First of all, we're told how ugly the bear is for most of the beginning of the book, and there's lengthy descriptions of pooping, peeing and farting. The heroine pees in the freshly fallen snow, the bear and the heroine take dumps together in the morning, the bear farts when he walks away. We're told that he has piggish eyes and looks kind of pathetic. He also lives in a shed on a chain. And the previous owner of the cabin has all these weird notes that he's been leaving in his books that suggest that he might have secretly been a furry.

The sex scenes are gross, and the heroine also has an affair with a married man who's also a sexist jerk. The bear doesn't like it when he smells the man on her, and when she and the bear actually try to do it, the bear gets over-excited and claws up her back so badly that she gets a fever and has to lie down in her blood-soaked shirt. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be some sort of allegory for a woman's sexual awakening, but if that's what it was, it was stupid. This book was stupid. No shade to the people who enjoyed it... but WHY did you enjoy it??

If a bear dumps in the woods, I don't want to know about it, Marian Engel, you big weirdo.

1 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Hawk O'Toole's Hostage by Sandra Brown


People in the romance community keep trying to shame people from using terms like "guilty pleasure," but there is literally no other way to describe the entertainment I get from books like old skool Sandra Brown, where I know that they're problematic and it's embarrassing to talk about them, but I still shell out coin for them, anyway.

The thing is, nobody writes sleazy-hot alpha dudes like Sandra Brown. Her leading men are a little like Linda Howard's, but way more gamma, which I prefer, because I stan an intelligent man with dubious morals (*whispers* IN FICTION). Nowadays, Brown mostly writes romantic suspense that's heavy on the suspense and light on the romance, but back in the day, she wrote these pretty hardcore villain romances. 

HAWK O' TOOLE'S HOSTAGE is about a woman named Miranda who is on a train tour with her son when it gets hijacked by "bandits." At first they think it's part of the entertainment, but it turns out the bandits are real, and when they start to make off with her six-year-old son, she basically throws herself after them and makes herself such a nuisance that they take her too, as one does.

It turns out that the "bandits" are a bunch of angry Native Americans who plan on using the son, Scott, as a hostage to appeal to his father's mercy. His father is a bigwig politician and they think he can be pressured into reopening a silver mine that they depend on as part of their tribe's income, but was closed as a tax write-off by the greedy people who swindled the land from their grandparents. Hawk is a Native man of Irish ancestry who resents his "Anglo" heritage almost as much as he resents the heroine for traipsing in like a tall drink of water that he wouldn't mind chugging like a man dying of thirst in the desert.

This actually really reminds me of this other Native romance she wrote under her Erin St. Clair penname, called HONOR BOUND, from the captivity theme to the half-Native hero, to the annoying kid. This is a much better book, though. I found HONOR BOUND uncomfortable and offensive. This one was a little squirmy and definitely hit a lot of negative stereotypes about Native people, but here, I felt like the author was kind of trying to be respectful, whereas with HB, it was like she was veering well out of her lane as an author while screaming "YOLO!" with her hands off the wheel.

Hawk was hot and the sexual tension was off the charts. I can definitely see why this hasn't been rereleased for Kindle, though. It probably wouldn't get published today without some major revisions.

3 out of 5 stars

WtAFW: Pounded In The Butt By The Sentient Manifestation Of My Own Ignorant Climate Change Denial by Chuck Tingle


Chuck Tingle writes the kinds of books where you take one look at the title and think, "No way is this real." This book was included free with his other erotica about the sentient manifestation of the blue wave, and if you thought that was weird, just wait until you read this book: the story of a Donald Trump-- sorry, I mean, Domald Tromp-- supporter who ends up being pounded in the butt by the physical manifestation of his own climate change denial, which also happens to look like a tree.

Chuck Tingle must have access to some pretty amazing weed where he lives.

Not really sure what to say about this book. I think the title says it all. If you're at all familiar with the WTFerotica genre, you'll know what to expect: everyone is horny, there's some pretty over the top scenes, and nothing makes sense. The dialogues about climate change and selflessness seem especially out of place here, but just by looking at the title, you'll know that this book is going into things with an agenda. And unlike some books with agendas, Tingle's at least seems to be a positive one.

I'm not sure how I feel about a dude being fucked in the ass by a tree, though. The sphincter splinters I'm imagining are about the furthers thing from sexy that I can fathom.

1 to 1.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

WtAFW: Pounded in the Butt by the Blue Wave by Chuck Tingle


It's my first Chuck Tingle! I can't believe it's taken this long to get here but here we are, Pounded in the Butt by My Own Slow Reluctance to Accept True Genius. Because I'm now convinced that Mr. Tingle is, indeed, a genius. Reading this Vox article gives you a better idea of his motivations as a person, and honestly, how can you not like a person who refers to his fans as "buckaroos" and trolls the alt-right for charity?

Yellon is a pollster dressed in spiffy pollster clothes, but he has a not so spiffy pollster problem: despite all of the media articles out there touting the rise of the blue wave, the poll data is looking pretty, uh, flat. And not flat in a poundable way, but flat in a distinctly unsexy way. Yellon goes out in the world to figure out what's wrong, only to come face to face with the physical manifestation of a sentient concept, the blue wave itself, cruising around in its fancy voter mobile.

After a lunch date where they hit it off, Yellon realizes two things: one, he's only been polling people likely to vote and hasn't taken into account people, especially young people, who have historically not shown up to the polls (and now are! in droves!), and two, the blue wave is a consent king who desperately wants to take him to the poles-- the bed poles, that is-- so he can be pounded in the butt.

I'm not really sure what to make of this book. It's pretty bad, but it's a step up from other bad erotica that I have read in terms of writing style (even if there are some hilarious typos that I'm not even sure were an accident). The social commentary is pretty on point, even if it's buried in porn music and splooge, and like I said before, I can't be mad at a secret genius who revels in his own chaotic good. 

That said, there's no way I can give this a positive rating because it was so horrible, and lacked the certain je ne sais quois that I expect from stories of this type. But I love that this book apparently is a double feature, containing a free copy of POUNDED IN THE BUTT BY THE SENTIENT MANIFESTATION OF MY OWN IGNORANT CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL.

This sounds promising.

1 to 1.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, August 7, 2022

That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy


I just read YES, I'M HOT IN THIS by this author, only to realize that THAT CAN BE ARRANGED was on sale (I think as the Deal of the Day, so sorry if you're reading this and it's not on sale anymore). I really like this author's voice. She's the perfect blend of funny and relatable and it doesn't come across as too contrived as some memoirists do when trying too hard to be funny or likable. Huda Fahmy just is likable.

Her other book tackled some of the questions she gets as a Muslim American woman living in the United States, while also discussing some of the things that were universal to the American experience (first crushes gone awry, awkward teen years), while also divulging things that were unique to her and her cultural background. It also debunks a lot of the harmful stereotypes that people-- especially people in the U.S.-- have against Muslim and Middle Eastern people.

THAT CAN BE ARRANGED is a little less serious than the other book. It's basically a true love story about how she met her husband, Gehad. She also talks about dating within the parameters of Islam, which I found really interesting. She actually compares it to being in the ton of Regency England, and says that she liked it because it made her think of Jane Austen. I also thought she brought up the good point that having your parents vet your relationships helps prevent some of the mistakes that we make in our youth, which isn't something I really think about. But mostly, I was just here for the cute, fluffy romance. I realized I was more invested than I thought when the book ended and I was like, WAIT, WHAT? WHAT COMES NEXT?

I could listen to them argue about Pokemon for another hundred pages. No, I'm not lonely, dammit. Cut to me sitting alone, crying into a tub of ice cream while drafting out my own plans for a cat hotel.

Definitely recommend this book if you like cute graphic novels.

4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Kind of Coping: An Illustrated Look at Life with Anxiety by Maureen "Marzi" Wilson


A couple years ago, I read this author's other book, INTROVERT DOODLES. It kind of rubbed me the wrong way because the author did what a lot of introvert writers do: they conflate introversion with social anxiety and social phobia. While the two do and can coexist, they are not necessarily mutually inclusive. People can be introverted without being anxious, and this conflation can lead to people thinking that introversion is a mental health disorder, something that needs to be treated.

I imagine I must not be the only person who made those criticisms because in this book the author walks that back and talks about how for her, the two exist in tandem, and how it's hard to parse out which of her behaviors are introverted and which are anxiety, and how much anxiety exacerbates her existing traits, making them pathological. The end result is that this book comes across as much more introspective and honest than INTROVERT DOODLES, and I really respected her for that. Part of the fun of reading an author is seeing them grow as they learn more about themselves, as well as their craft.

Her humor is still a little too twee for my liking but I enjoyed KIND OF COPING a lot more than her other book. I've suffered from anxiety my whole life, and I used to be social phobic (I still am a little, but not nearly as much as I was when I was younger). I've suffered panic attacks and unwanted compulsive thoughts, so a lot of the things that this author talks about resonated really strongly with me. I think if you enjoy Sarah's Scribbles, you'll probably like this book too.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

Yes, I'm Hot in This: The Hilarious Truth about Life in a Hijab by Huda Fahmy


Huda Fahmy is one of those comic book memoirists with the childish cartoony illustrations that are so popular, but hers has an unusual spin. In her books, she writes about being a Muslim Egyptian-American living in the United states, whether it's the good (pretty scarves, lovable husband, people who "get it") or the bad (microaggressions, racists, sneaky pork).

I liked this book a lot. She has a fun sense of humor and she talks about her religion and culture in a way that could be either informative or relatable, depending on where you're coming from. Books like these really underscore the need for diverse rep, which she even talks a little about in the book. It isn't enough to have a laundry list of generalizations you know about a group of people. You need to sit down and listen to them, consume their media, and, you know, treat them as ordinary people with agency and worth. 

YES, I'M HOT IN THIS is a cute, wholesome read that would be as fun for teens as it would be for adults. It talks about feminism, religion, identity, and all of these other important topics in a light-hearted and accessible way. Definitely recommend.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars