Belle of the Book Blogs

Ugh! FINE. I LIED, OKAY?!?!

I claimed the reason I never started a book blog was that I’m just too opinionated. That’s not strictly true. It’s really because I was too lazy. About a year ago, I set one up. I chose a name, formatted it, even made a custom header. I just never did anything with it. You see, my favorite book bloggers, they’re just so… wordy. They go on and on about their favorite titles and how the characters made them feel and what they liked and didn’t like and who they’d choose to play the roles and what they hope to get out of the next installment and for the most part…. I’m just skimming. Also, that was an intentional run-on sentence to create a feeling of endlessness. Anyhoo…

As much as I value the opinions of my favorite book bloggers and appreciate a good review before I spend time trying to get into a story… if I wanted to read that much on the subject, I’d just read the book. Why can’t someone create a book blog where they just tell me whether or not the book is worth my time and give a brief description of why? I mean, if you didn’t like the story because the man was too bossy, step aside and give me a copy, because I love a good fictional alpha male. On the other hand, if you wanted to cut the heroine, because she was so obnoxious, thanks for saving me the time and pennies. Regardless, those sentiments can be shared in very few words and we can fangirl in the comments. Which brings me to my final point: If I wanted to make a book blog, why would I spend hours reviewing a title, when I admittedly skim everyone else’s reviews?!?!

So, I invited y’all to follow me on Goodreads, which I do maintain, but any reviews I might write quickly get lost in the sea of clever, GIF filled, three-page-long critiques. So, alas, I am going to be the change I wish to see in the world… cuz that’s where Gandhi was going with that. He wanted me to review smut and such… in 250 words or less, at Belle of the Book Blogs. It’s the Twitter of book blogging.

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Paranormal Vs. Contemporary Romance: Why It’s Only Hot When a Werewolf is Pissed

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of “contemporary romance”. What can I say? I don’t have cable and wouldn’t know what to watch if I did. You’ve had the chance to read my fifty rants on Fifty Shades, of course, but I’ve also read Bared to You, the Up in the Air series, and like 40% of the first book of the This Man series. Erotica really isn’t my thing and I don’t say that because of all of the dirty sinful sexy sex-sex. I say it because all of that often gets in the way of real character and plot development and then I can’t bring myself to give a shit. I read the above titles out of curiosity and actually liked Bared to You and the Up in the Air series enough to be excited for the next installments. This Man was the depiction of a horrible girl being assaulted pursued by a horrible guy, while living with a horrible friend… yet still, nothing happens. Seriously, I was able to go from dozing off to feeling as if I were witnessing anal rape in just paragraphs. I’m pretty sure the author just wrote a prequel to Sleeping With the Enemy. Amazon refunded my money.

The primary reason I read these books, however, was because I ran out of paranormal romance series suggestions. The sex scenes in these genres differ only in frequency and not in detail, just to clarify. The similiarity that has truly interested me, however, is the male romantic leads; more specifically, why I find them attractive in one genre, but not another. Gideon Cross, James Cavendish, and Christian MotherFucking Grey really just don’t do it for me and I think I’ve figured out why.

They’re not werewolves. They’re just really controlling and bossy men.

alcide
Oh, there’s no real point to this picture… just that I’d let Alcide Herveaux stick in my ear if that’s what he were into.

I love the Alpha Male thing, and I cannot state this clearly enough, in my fucking fiction and any man who actually tells me what to do will lose a gee dee nut. But it’s only fun for me to read in a paranormal world and until recently, I was unsure why that was. I’ll take one of my favorite paranormal Alpha Males, whom you don’t have to be familiar with to get my point, and compare him to a Contemporary Romance Alpha Male (CRAM).

Hawke Snow, as seen in Kiss of Snow, by Nalini Singh. (Gail loves these titles, as she’s not a fan and thinks they’re hilarious.)
and….. Christian MotherFucking Grey, as seen in Fifty Shades of Grey and many a mugshot.

  • messed up childhood
  • position of power and authority
  • known to manhandle when he doesn’t get his way
  • violent temper
  • outsources people to keep an eye on his gal, without her knowledge
  • seen as cold and distant to many

In case you weren’t paying attention, they’re the same… the exact fucking same. However, Christian gets the middle name MotherFucking for it and Hawke does not. Why is that?

In a paranormal setting, such as the one referenced above, the Alpha Male grows up in a war-torn universe and/or is fighting for his species’ survival. Of course his childhood was bleak, as his parents were viciously murdered/abandoned him, leaving him in charge of the well-being of  everyone else (power and authority). He’s literally an animal, so he acts like one (manhandling and violent temper) and he’s charged with protecting aforementioned gal, because this is a dangerous universe and he’s kind of the boss. Additionally, a recurring theme in this genre is the idea of some sort of psychological or biological draw/imprinting/destiny between the romantic couple. She’s actually his, so the whole possessive thing is completely allowable. I know this sounds oddly specific, but it’s actually a really common layout for these books.

Christian MotherFucking Grey and company, though… well… they’re all just really mad. They had messed up childhoods, sure, but that doesn’t explain why they’re broken as people. I had a fucked up childhood too and I don’t want to pop the people I love in the mouth and masturbate with their blood.*

*Every now and then my mind goes to disturbing places, but seriously, read This Man and yours will join.

I’ve got to note, that I just don’t get the BDSM thing. I don’t think it’s a product of a fissure right down the center of your psyche or anything (cough: E.L. :cough). I just don’t really get it. I’ve been hit… a lot. It just hurts and makes me cry. Why is this sexy? It’s not for me. But the issue I have with CRAMs isn’t the bedroom adventures. No one likes Fade-to-Black Seventh Heaven sex all the time. Lovemaking gets old, y’all. Some people are into costumes and roleplay (and they don’t giggle), some are into hair pullling and spanking, some like group sex, swings, or being strung up like super sexy deer. Everybody’s got their preferences and that’s cool. Whatev.

sexy deer

Holy shit, ya’ll have no idea how desperately I wanted to use this picture again.

My issue with the CRAM is his tendency to act like a bag of dicks outside of the bedroom. My shapeshifters are usually super sweet and touchy-feely characters. Christian MotherFucking Grey and Co., withhold love when they’re angry… and they have piss poor reason to be. This is a terrible theme for romance. Whereas a shapeshifter passionately growls (hellz yeah, it’s a thing) and tells his lady she’s in grave danger for her disobedience, because Evil Entity will torture and kill her; Christian MotherFucking Grey emotionally withdraws from Ana, because… wait for it… she doesn’t like her steak.

growl of passion
Google Image Search: “growl of passion”… and it is haaaaawt.

My paranormal Alpha Males have legit reasons to boss their gals around, because pretty much everyone’s about to die. But the thing is… that’s kind of the only way it’s ever acceptable to be treated that way, even in my fantasies. I get that people fantasize things they’d never actually do, like lesbian sex and facials*. I really just can’t get on board with even the fantasy of being treated coldly and cruelly over trivial things until that person wants to feel needed and throws me a desparately yearned for scrap of affection. I’ve had that relationship for the majority of me life. I call her “mom”.

*Facials meaning when a guy finishes all over you, not when you go to the spa and they… wait… what do they do during a facial? Why do I know the former and not the latter?!?!

I’m all for the shapeshifting/vampiric/demonic Alpha Male plotline, because Disney gave me bestial Stockholm Sydrome and it’s hot that he wants to save his lady in this world fraught with danger. However, I just can’t get on board with CRAMs, because they exist in my universe where women carry pepper spray, manage their own finances, and have the option to go to the battered wives shelter.

Not so sure these thoughts are worth your penny…

Scene: a dressing room. Insert intermittent laughter.
Me: “What size are these bras?”
Gail: “36 D’s and DD’s.”
Me: “You have enormous areolas.”
Gail: “That might make me self-conscious if I hadn’t had hundreds of men compliment them.”
Me: “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that.”
Gail: “‘Ooooh, look. It’s a full moon.'”
Me: “Did any of them actually say that?”
Gail: “No. But who do you think would?”
Me: “Cam. Definitely Cam.”
Gail: uncontrollable agreeing laughter
Me: “Do you ever lick your own nipples during sex?”
Gail: “No. I can’t reach them.”
Me: “Seriously? How?”

Only now do I realize that there were probably other people in the dressing room to hear that exchange. We tend to overshare.

I once sat quietly at the vet with tears endlessly rolling down my face. I lost three pets in a day years ago and blame myself (though the ex-husband with the matches might be a better target) and that day my Judybug was hurting and I couldn’t fix it. Gail rubbed her hand over my back as I tearfully joked about how we definitely looked like lovers. We decided we could pull off sisters, both being white and brunette, so we said it like 11 times when no one had asked. It was super convincing. We should be spies. Codenames: Flamingo and Whore.

sexy flamingo whore costume

When I was 5 years old, my grandpa died of lung cancer. I thought it would be a nice idea if we just propped his body up and pretended he was still alive. I think I suggested it, because someone told me it was illegal. I decided I’d hide him in the hamper, because that’s where I hid during hide-and-go-seek. Gail hears super-human skills for denial at a young age in this story. I hear the tale of a selfless child who would break the law and give up her favorite hiding place to keep her grandpa near.

I have three different customers who look astoundingly like Levar Burton, Vincent Van Gogh, and a chihuahua. I want to tell them so, terribly. I don’t. None of those are compliments. I kind of want to hum the Reading Rainbow theme song just to see if he joins in enthusiastically. I get told I look like Velma from Scooby Doo all the time. I’d be thrilled to hear someone randomly exclaim “JINKIES!”

A coworker once yanked my Kindle from in front of me (THE HORROR!!!!!) to look at the print, exclaiming “Wow, I wish I could read print that small!” I don’t. I had an explicit sex scene on the screen at that very moment. We’re talking key terms like “errection” and “tight sheath.” I once tried to show the same coworker a picture on my phone, only to have forgotten about the picture of Black lesbian sex I’d sent one of the guys as a joke. Let’s hope she couldn’t see a thumbnail picture that small either.

A woman recently declared that her son did not have a library card, though it was in her name and had the correct birthdate. I tried to suggest a situation in which someone may have used her name.

Me: “I really don’t know. It may have been an aunt or maybe dad’s girlfriend or something.”
Customer: defensively “Okay. I am dad’s girlfriend.”

She was clarifying that she was indeed with the father of her children. I understand that I work in a lower income, highly diverse area, but this was not a sterotype. I suggested two random situations we’ve had repeatedly. I did not say “I don’t know. Why don’t you axe yo’ baby daddy?”, though the look on her face said differently. I can try with all my might to be P.C., but people have really got to try and meet in the middle by not taking everything so damned personally.

When I was married, I would ask my ex-husband to clean, since he wouldn’t work. He wouldn’t do it no matter the methods I used (leaving him alone, nagging him, screaming at him, encouraging him) so I’d do it myself. Then, he’d grab the trashbags from my hands yelling that I never gave him the chance and was just manipulating him. I just wanted a clean fucking house. For the longest time, after the divorce, my house was spotless. Today it’s clean enough, but clothes are scattered everywhere. I think it’s a sign that I’m healing. Then again, I went to sleep cradling my gun in its sock like a stuffed animal a week ago. Maybe not. LOL my pain!

Coworker C was trying to be friendly last night as I read a paranormal romance book. I’ve shared this interest with a couple of the female employees, but that’s all. I’d just finished another and he asked:

Cowork C: “What’s the name of that one?”
Me: “I don’t even know.” I did fucking, too. It was Pleasures of a Dark Prince and I was not saying that.
Coworker C: gestures for me to turn it over. I do and there’s a receipt taped to the front so no one can see the cover art.
Me: “I just… uh… it’s part of of… um… it’s just some series… the uh… dark immortals… or immortals dark… or uh something… um Immortals After Dark. Yeah that’s it. It’s paranormal romance. Not something you’d be interested in.”

It was the verbal equivalent of tripping over a chair and I rocked it.

Get your porn off my smut!

As I’ve previously declared, paranormal romance is my guilty pleasure. I don’t really watch T.V., so I read book after book after book of what I affectionately and privately call Werewolf Porn or Warlock Smut.

In the last week, I have read 6 books, or 1,800 pages (give or take a few) of my very favorite genre. The thing is, my  title of Werewolf Porn is meant to be ironic, because these books often aren’t even that adult. Don’t get me wrong. They’re dubbed paranormal romance for a reason. I wouldn’t read them to my 9th graders. But LibraryThing, which is far superior to Good Reads, doesn’t even tag many of the series as erotica. On average, I’d declare them a medium on the number of sex scenes. The plots are always incredibly invovled, with an in-depth backstory in addition to the main storyline, which does involve a shapeshifter falling in love with an empath. What can I say? I loved Halloweentown when I was eight and never grew out of that.

Example:

There are three species that control the world: The Changelings, the Psy, and humans. Changelings are shapeshifters. The Psy are beings connected by a neural Internet (not quite a hivemind) and have mental powers, such as telekinesis. They can’t break free of the Net or they die. The Psy shut off all emotions around 100 years ago becaue violence was ripping apart their species. They’re cold and powerful and want to keep it that way by destroying any Psy who are showing a tendency toward power because they can feel. The DarkRiver and SnowDancer Changelings, however, are encouraging the rebellion and a war is a brewin’.

See? That’s no less complex than the latest Janet Evonovich book. It’s more complex than any Nicholas Sparks novel I’ve read. It’s sure as hell more complex than 50 Shades of Grey. Those are still fine options, though, because reading is entertainment. I’m not saying my Warlock Smut is great reading, just that it is reading and it’s pretty much equal to any contemporary literature. So the problem?

slave to sensation

The problem is that that’s the cover of the first in the Psy-Changeling series. The problem is that I’ve been careful not to have that picture show as I’m typing this, because I’m on my computer at work. The problem is that it’s a huge pain in the butt to read about the battle of the Lore, or all supernatural species, while I’m substitute teaching, because I have to make sure that none of my kids get a glimpse of:

no rest for the wicked

There were several sex scenes in that book and they weren’t exactly fade-to-black moments either. But they’re no worse than many contemporary fiction novels. There’s plenty of plot, because I can’t read just plain old erotica without getting bored. I read Bared to You, by Sylvia Day, because I’d read that it was like if 50 Shades of Grey had been written with any level of skill. It was an enjoyable read, for erotica, but I haven’t read any since then, because there’s just not enough going on outside the relationship. I love paranormal storylines and always have, so paranormal romance is great. Sometimes, it is just erotica with claws, and in that case, I stop reading, because it’s dull.

Personally, I often find the covers more offensive than what’s beneath them, because actual pornography is a bigger moral issue for me than literature. As I’ve said before, it’s pretend when you’re reading it. No one is being pushed around (a big theme in most romance) or degraded, because they aren’t real. That naked lady on the screen, though? She had a 3rd birthday party. There was likely a princess cake. That freaks me out.

So, in short:

Get your porn off my smut, because it’s not even kind of subtle to read something with a peice of paper taped to the front. E.L. James can put a classy cover on “I had no idea giving pleasure could be such a turn-on, watching him writhe subtly with carnal longing. My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.”

50 cover

Surely we can get something classier on my Warlock Smut.

“What are you reading?”

“What are you reading?”

As a future librarian, this is the one question I, ironically, detest above all others. The fact that this is generally asked while I’m reading, yanking me from my imaginary world for an impromptu quiz, is a valid enough cause for the internal growl that meets this inquiry. However, it is not my primary motivation.

I’m a graduate student working two jobs. I read plenty for school and refuse to pay for cable television. As far as my understanding goes, all television is now comprised of sexy M&M dances and Liquid Plumber ads that make you horny. It just doesn’t hold my attention. So, when it’s time to settle down and relax, I read… the literary equivalent of Jersey Shore. As a general rule, I try to keep at least one classic novel on my Kindle. If I sense someone is going to rudely pry, I’ll open my copy of Little Women and claim to be engrossed in the tales of Amy, Beth, Jo, and the one that wasn’t interesting enough to remember. Sure, I could just claim I’m reading The Great Gatsby, but I take issue with lying. I’m terrible at it, probably because of this discomfort. Carefully negotiated truths and omissions, however, are not lies.

My mouth isn’t the only place I’m salivating…

No. Today, after reading chapter upon chapter on Children’s Literature and Collection Development, I want to read something that will slowly rot my brain, countering all that intellectual growth. For the same reason many women read Nicholas Sparks, I read… wait for it…

paranormal romance.

Yes, indeed. When I’m lost in my Kindle, I am likely reading about sexy winged men or hot vampires. Screw Fifty Shades of Grey. I want to read about controlling men who turn into dogs. I’m not making this crap up. I loved Beauty and the Beast when I was little. Sexy werewolf novels are apparently just the grown up application. Remember when you were five and you loved magic and witches, secretly wished you were Tabitha from Bewitched and spent obscene amounts of time staring at items in hopes they’d fly across the room Matilda-style? Yeah, that’s apparently still a thing amongst adult women and it’s manifested in paranormal romance. Only, you’re fighting the telekinesis and losing control until some hot telekinetic man comes and helps you get it under wraps. I’m not quoting any actual plot here, but I’m not exaggerating either. I’m floored that this is even a genre and I read it, myself.

While I’m just now realizing that there is this huge following and demographic for such storylines, I’m also realizing that many of us wisely lie about it. It’s one thing to read a PG romance where everyone has cancer, supremely mild daddy issues, and there are terrifying amounts of geese. It’s not deep either, but the cover art on that is a picture of a rowboat. The cover art on The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a half naked man sucking a woman’s neck. How does one explain that to their coworkers? While I have had a customer assure me that she’s only interested in the plot and doesn’t intend to use it for masturbation, I didn’t believe her. I washed my hands after talking to her. Furthermore, as a graduate student and library worker, people expect me to have a better literary range than Eternal Hunter and The Mating. Web 2.0 for Library Professionals, however, isn’t it. I need to spend my downtime, the time most people spend absorbing some popular T.V. show I can’t actually name because I refuse to try new things in the television world after the aforementioned Liquid Plumber advertisement, reading more mainstream fiction that is just as much pretend as werewolf porn. I should do this solely so I can make myself sound as though I have any right to this Master’s degree I’m earning.

No, really… lots of plot.

In addition, I tell no one about my Good Reads presence, fully aware that my reading list is made up of memoirs, young adult fiction, and warlock smut. It’s never impressive, because I feel I get my real growth from my classroom reading and my brain hurts once I’ve done so. My point here is that reading material doesn’t reflect intelligence. I’m no less smart because my pretend stories involve sexy magic. It’s just entertainment. But I’m not going on that rant with a coworker. This is one of those situations where I have the uncontrollable urge to respond to the question with something entirely out of character and inappropriate. The sort of thing I could easily deny saying, because WHO SAYS THAT?!?

“What are you reading?”

“Why’s your mom so horny all of the time? Mind your own fucking business!”

They won’t ask again.