Reviews from a writer's point of view

Friday, October 31, 2003

Aunt Penelope's Harem by Chris Tanglen

As a departure of my more normal genre reading, I decided to try something new this week, so I ventured over to Ellora's Cave to see what I could find.

The excerpt of Aunt Penelope's Harem left me chuckling, so I decided to buy the book and see if the rating of 'Erotica' lived up to what I thought it should be. Well, I wasn't disappointed.

Melanie Clover is a sexually starved twenty-something who inherits a mansion from her Aunt Penelope--and with it, her harem.

Yes, her harem.

My first impressions of this book can be summed up in one word sentences, so I'm going to give it a try...







lol! (okay, that was cheating...)

Imagine me laughing hilariously throughout and you've got the right impression.

This is a very well-written book. A bit short, at only 134 pages, but at least it has a plot (something I've heard doesn't happen at times with erotica.) And it's entertaining, which bodes well for the next time I read out of genre.

My only caveat would be that if you're uncomfortable reading very graphic sex scenes, then this might not be the book for you. There's a note at the beginning that other reviewers have rated Aunt Penelope's Harem NC-17, and I'd have to agree.

Aunt Penelope's Harem is published by Ellora's Cave.
Reviewed by Jennifer St. Clair

Jennifer 9:18 AM

Friday, October 24, 2003

Wild Flesh by Connie Wilkins

Wild Flesh is a collection of erotically charged short stories by Connie Wilkins. There are five stories in the collection, and each is guaranteed to shock. In "Freeing the Demon," a prostitute turns to the stone gargoyle on her balcony for comfort. This tale of obsession and passion is delightfully dark, and its ending subtle and original. "Feeling Blue" gives a whole new idea to the concept of being "blue," and it has nothing to do with depression. "One-Eyed Jack" tells the tale of a badly scarred man bent on revenge. "The Bridge" focuses on a grief-ravaged man who mourns for the lover he lost to the war. The final story, "Wild Spirit" is my favorite. Shapechangers, stigma, and attraction fill the story, and its haunting, gothic tone literally gave me chills when I read it.

This is an amazing collection of stories. Connie Wilkins's writing is deft and lyrical. Her stories abound with beautiful imagery, strong, vivid characters, and excellent plots. Wild Flesh is sensuous without being tawdry, and erotic without being cliche. Wilkins's sex scenes are well written and serve only to add to the stories and characters. As a writer, I was blown away by the sheer lyricism of her work. None of the stories in this collection are similar, except in their tone, but their differences only serve to make the book stronger.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sensual or erotic writing, or for anyone looking for a collection of erotic stories to share with a partner, or someone just looking for a collection of well written dark fantasy. For those readers under the age of 18, I do recommend getting parental permission before purchasing Wild Flesh.

Wild Flesh by Connie Wilkins is available from Eggplant Literary Productions.

Reviewed by: Vicki McElfresh

Vicki 10:38 PM

Friday, October 17, 2003

From the Inside Out: A Volunteer Looks at Staying Motivated

Since I’ve been considering volunteering at a shelter lately, my interest was piqued when I saw this book at Although this book is primarily based on the author’s many years of volunteering at nursing homes and hospices, it still gave me a good idea as to what might be involved volunteering somewhere else.

This is a rather short book, but very concise. Through personal stories of residents and concise information about volunteering, Julie Eberhart Painter paints a very realistic picture of the life of the volunteer through her many relocations while following her husband’s job. She has a great depth of experience that she manages to cut down in bite-sized pieces; a sampling, if you will, of her years of devoted volunteerism. And when she must stay in a nursing home to recuperate from a surgery, we see life in a nursing home from the opposite side of the fence—the resident’s point of view.

I’ve always wondered how volunteers in nursing homes kept their stamina and sunny outlook when confronted with the depths of human despair. I’ve always thought it must be difficult to be a resident in a nursing home, unable to care for myself and helpless to the whims of others. But with volunteers like Julie, it seems there is hope for a continued dignified existence.

I would encourage anyone reading this review to think about volunteering, even if it’s not at a nursing home. Just to give a little bit of our precious time to help someone else is the best thing we can do to ‘pay it forward’, and become a better person. By volunteering, you could very well open up a hereto unknown relationship with someone who might not have a single family member left in the world, or at least, no one who cares.

From the Inside Out: A Volunteer Looks at Staying Motivated is by Julie Eberhart Painter and published by Awe-Struck Ebooks

Reviewed by Jennifer St. Clair

Jennifer 11:37 AM

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

There will be no ebookreader review this week as we will be in Huntsville, Alabama for Con*Stellation.

Vicki 5:49 PM

Friday, October 03, 2003

Keeper of Secrets by Mark Roeder

Creepy 19th century mansions, homophobia, teen angst, ghosts and a bit of whodunit abound in this YA thriller by Mark Roeder. Avery, a troubled, homophobic teenager, begins the novel by assaulting and nearly killing a boy in his high school. Rather than take responsibility for his actions, he runs away. Tired, dirty, and hungry, he's picked up on the highway by Dave who offers to buy him a meal if Avery will allow him to touch him. Avery agrees, and later on agrees to let Dave take him to a motel in exchange for $100. Once at the motel, the nice man Dave's nice man persona disappears, and he rapes Avery and leaves him with nothing. The incident only reinforces Avery's homophobia. Avery is eventually picked up by the police in Minneapolis. While on their way to collect him, his parents die in a car crash, and he is sent to live with his aunt, uncle and cousin, Sean in Graymoor Mansion.

Sean lives in relative bliss in Verona, Indiana. He has a wonderful boyfriend, a splendid old mansion to explore, and an accepting community. He doesn't really like Avery, but tries to make him welcome. Once Avery learns that his cousin is gay, he reacts with typical hatred and prejudice. His psyche grows even more unstable when mysterious diary pages begin to appear out of nowhere and events of the past repeat themselves. Will Avery succumb to hatred and rage? Or will the lesson of two murdered gay boys and their homophobic tormentor change him for the better? Will the ghosts of Graymoor finally know peace?

I really wanted to like this novel, and there are some intriguing elements to this book. The most compelling is the ghost story of Graymoor Mansion, which seems to be loosely based on the old Winchester Mansion in California. Diary pages from 1870 appearing throughout the house at strange times, ghostly happenings, and even a bit of a mystery surrounding the Graymoor brothers does give the novel some suspense and mystery. However, Graymoor Mansion is possibly the most compelling character in the book. Avery comes across as a flat and two-dimensional with his stereotypical hatred of anything remotely queer. Even his rape seems to be a device to reinforce his hatred of gays, since he appears to have no emotional scarring from such an event at all. In fact, he goes on to sell his body again, and still suffers no psychological damage. If anything, the events energize him by fueling his prejudices.

Sean and his boyfriend Nick might have been more compelling if they weren't so flat. Sean becomes obsessed with his weight and tries to starve himself and doubts that Nick really loves him. This would have been a nice counterplot to the actual mystery surrounding the diary and Graymoor's ghosts, but instead pages upon pages are devoted to Sean's angst until I found myself rolling my eyes every time Sean says, "I couldn't believe someone as beautiful as Nick would be interested in me." And I know exactly how much Sean loves Nick because he says so every other page. I know teens are often insecure, but Sean's insecurities are over the top.

There are a number of sexual situations in this book that could have heightened the plot of this novel, but they fall short. Avery's rape and the descriptions of his "rent boy" experience are actually relevant to the plot. One of the things that disturbed me about Avery's experiences is his complete lack of fear about having unprotected sex with strangers who might have AIDS or other STD's. In fact, the thought never crosses Avery's mind. He's only concerned with the queer factor.

I question the purpose of the sex scenes between Sean and Nick. Unlike Avery's scenes, theirs seem to only serve the purpose of showing just how horny teenage boys can be. The sex scenes do not reflect their feelings for one another, and I found them shallow and lacking real depth of emotion. Sean's angst and Avery's total lack of concern for others detract from the mystery and suspense of what might have been a good story. I have to question the author's focus with this book since there are so many plots that I find it hard to pinpoint the main plot, add to that numerous grammatical and typographical errors and Keeper of Secrets turns out to be a waste of time.

Although they aren't ebooks, Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez, Geography Club by Brent Hartinger, and the previously reviewed Bleeding Hearts are excellent examples of gay young adult fiction.

Available From: iUniverse Online Library
Reviewed By: Vicki McElfresh

Vicki 9:40 AM

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Beginning September 5, 2003, updated every Friday.


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