Books: A few ebook recommendations for today

As most of you know, I read like a fiend. Since I got my Kindle, I devour even more stories. Here are a few of my favourite Kindle reads:

All are excellent. Two of the authors, Vivi Anna and Anya Winter, are also members of my local RWA chapter. And I met the awesome Lynne Silver in NYC – as much a delight in person as her stories are to be read. There’s a bit of everything here: Anya’s story is a contemporary erotic novella, Vivi’s is a contemporary paranormal, and Lynne’s is a historical erotic romance.

Quickie book recommendations #1

I’ve been reading a lot lately and here is a short list of books I’d recommend:

  • By the Book (Scarlett Parrish)
    Daniel Cross. That’s all I need to say.
  • Fatal Affair (Marie Force)
    Fantastic romantic suspense, set in Washington, D.C.
  • The Lion of Kent (Aleksandr Voinov & Kate Cotoner)
    Historical m/m, England during the Crusades. A squire and his lord.
  • The Debutante’s Dilemma (Elyse Mady)
    A debutante has to choose between suitors … or does she?

Four fantastic stories, well worth the read. You won’t regret it.

Guest Post: Miranda Baker – A French Kiss

Miranda Baker’s new book is Solo Play, released by Samhain Publishing. If you haven’t picked it up yet, get yourself over to Amazon or Samhain and check it out. It is hot! Here’s the blurb:

When librarian Alisa Mane’s boyfriend accuses her of being frigid, she sets out to prove him wrong the only way she knows how—with research.

A visit to the local sex shop uncovers the sizzling sensuality locked beneath her cool façade, and she eagerly accepts the opportunity to test sex toys for SoloPlay Enterprises. Under the code name “Sologirl”, she begins exploring her body on her own terms. After all, no one was ever rejected by a vibrator.

Mark Winters needs his new DoublePlay line of toys to hit big, and there’s only one tester for the job—Sologirl. She fires his imagination with playfully erotic reviews and never fails to pick a winner. There’s only one problem—Sologirl refuses to test the DoublePlay toys for couples. With his company’s success on the line, he decides to make his offer again, up close and in person.

One look at the icy hot Mark and Alisa realizes he’s her best chance to discover if any man can satisfy her. A red-hot month of experimentation more than answers that question, but now Alisa has another problem—DoublePlay is almost ready for production and her feelings for Mark have nothing to do with business. Is she brave enough to continue playing…with her heart?


I will be forever grateful to the first boy who broke my heart. Oh, he was older, of course, eighteen to my fresh fifteen. He was an artist. He had long hair. He definitely fell into the bad boy category, and it wasn’t me, it was him that was the problem in our relationship. Naturally. That’s what they all say, right? I totally bought it. Sigh.

Actually, in hindsight he was right. It was him because he wanted sex, and this daughter of an obstetrician was a merciless cock tease in high school. I knew exactly how babies were made. I knew the failure rate of condoms and no way, no how, was I going to have sexual intercourse until I’d been on the pill for a month solid. Some girls spent their first hours at college decorating their rooms. Not me! I went to Student Health and got myself a nice prescription. But I digress.

Back to the cock teasing. Sexual frustration led that long-haired boy to try a number of creative things with me, my favorite among them being prolonged make-out sessions with lots of dry humping. Straight-up, no lie, that boy taught me how to make love with my mouth. Eyes open, lips, tongue, hands and body so responsive to every nuance of movement that kissing was like communicating on a higher plane.

I’ve often pondered what makes a good kisser. Attention to detail? An ability to cloak the “let’s get to the good stuff” urge? Is it technique or chemistry? Does unique synergy between two people make the kissing good or is kissing well a learned skill?

I tend to come down on the side of skill but I’m not certain there is a gold standard for kissing. A friend of mine claims to love the smooshy, no-tongue kind of kissers and I don’t understand that at all. Her kind of kisser would bore me. Vive la difference? Perhaps.

I always think about that long-haired boy when I’m writing a first kiss scene in a book. I wonder if he is still an exceptional make-out artist or if nostalgia has clouded my judgment. It doesn’t matter, really. He gave me a Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, a shell-shocked heart and a lifelong love of French kissing. In some tiny teenage corner of my heart, I still want one more lip lock with that boy but it isn’t going to happen. It wasn’t me, it was him, and my characters reap the benefit of the lessons I learned in that bittersweet relationship.

What do you think about kissing? Skill or synergy? Technique or chemistry? C’mon…kiss and tell.

It makes me chuckle to think about all the romantic short stories I wrote in my rather too literary creative writing classes in college. If only one of my professors had steered me toward popular fiction! On the other hand, if I had discovered my calling back then, I wouldn’t have gone to culinary school, I wouldn’t have met my husband, we wouldn’t have had three children and I wouldn’t have turned to erotic romance to get my mojo back during all this hair-raising kid raising.

My website: http://www.mirandabaker.com
Buy Solo Play on Amazon.

“I have a painting I could sell you.”

The book I’m working on has an art theft as one of its subplots, and as part of my research, I’ve read several books and had google alerts on the subject. It happens far more often than one might expect, but yet isn’t as glamorous as movies and television (and sometimes books) like to imagine.

The first art theft I remember clearly was in 2004, when thieves broke into the Munch museum in Oslo, Norway and stole Edvard Munch’s famous paintings The Scream and Madonna. The paintings weren’t recovered until 2006 and both had sustained damage. I especially remember this theft as I had been to Oslo several times and had seen versions of the paintings at the Nasjonalgalleriet, but not at the Munch museum. (A version of The Scream displayed at the Nasjonalgalleriet had been stolen in 1994 around the time of the Olympics in Lille. Its theft and recovery are detailed in the book ‘The Rescue Artist’ by Edward Dolnick.)

Rarely are stolen artworks as famous as The Scream. If my regular google news alert bulletin is any indication, paintings, sculptures and various other forms of art are regularly stolen from galleries, education institutions and public areas.

Sculptures made of metal are often targeted, as they are a quick source of a few hundred dollars when sold for scrap. Paintings are stolen for any number of reasons: famous works can be targeted for activist/political reasons, or are often used as currency by drug dealers and gangs. It is unlikely, though romantic, to think that a lot of art is stolen to order, on the whim of someone rich. There’s too much at stake when a famous work of art goes missing.

My recommended reads:

  • The Rescue Artist (Edward Dolnick)
  • The Art of the Steal (Christopher Mason)
  • Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures (Robert K. Wittman)

The Unabashed Francophile Post, Part 4: Simone de Beauvoir

Without a properly long post on Simone de Beauvoir, I’d be neglecting one of the main reasons why I am so fond of all things French. (Okay, maybe not ALL things French – I could do without Sarkozy, for example.)

I admire her immensely for what she did with her life: becoming a writer, being financially independent at a time where women were still expected to marry and have families, and for living her life the way she wanted. She’s no saint, and certainly some of her views turned out to be poor choices (her support of Communist Russia, her poor treatment of some of her friends and lovers), but her body of work of approximately 20 published books, plus numerous articles is such that it ought to be given more prominence. Not just in philosophy (where until recently she had been neglected, considered Sartre’s pupil and not his equal), but also in fiction.

She won the Prix Goncourt, France’s highest literary prize, for her book ‘Les Mandarins’ in 1954, eleven years after the release of her first novel, ‘L’Invitée’. I read ‘L’Invitée’ (published in English as ‘She Came to Stay’) first, tackling the first two volumes of her autobiography straight afterward. I consider her non-fiction work the stronger of the two, perhaps because her novels are often apparent copies of her life.

Her book ‘America Day by Day’ is a fascinating travel diary of her time in the USA and has occasionally been compared to Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, and contains her observations on the American way of life.

What makes daily life so agreeable in America is the good humor and friendliness of Americans. Of course, this quality has its reverse side. I’m irritated by those imperious invitations to “take life easy,” repeated in words and images throughout the day. On advertisements for Quaker Oats, Coca-Cola, and Lucky Strike, what displays of white teeth – the smile seems like tetanus. The constipated girl smiles a loving smile at the lemon juice that relieves her intestines. In the subway, in the streets, on magazine pages, these smiles pursue me like obsessions. I read on the sign in a drugstore, “Not to grin is a sin.” Everyone obeys the order, the system. “Cheer up! Take it easy.” Optimism is necessary for the country’s social peace and economic prosperity. (p. 23)

She wrote a travel diary for her journeys in China as well, and she was a dedicated diarist and letter writer at certain points of her life, most notably when she and Sartre were apart. Her letters to Nelson Algren, her American lover, were published in 1999, and her diary from the Second World War was published recently as a part of the Beauvoir series being released by the University of Illinois Press. (I own the three volumes currently released by the press and eagerly await the remaining four.)

So what is it about her in particular that I find so fascinating? She lived her life on her terms. She never married, but instead had a longterm companionship with Jean-Paul Sartre. They each had lovers and affairs, but stayed a partnership until Sartre’s death in 1980. She slept with men and women, though in public accounts she doesn’t seem to have come out as bisexual. In reading letters since released, she seems to downplay her affairs with women.

She supported herself as a writer. She earned enough income from writing (though until she quit her job as a teacher, she had that income also) that she was able to be financially independent. She and Sartre pooled their funds and not only supported themselves, but often other family members and lovers, friends, and those who asked them for assistance.

She supported the feminist cause. She wasn’t originally a supporter of women getting the vote (French women didn’t get the right to vote until 1944), but she did seem to come round to it eventually. She published the two volume treatise ‘The Second Sex’ (‘Le Deuxième Sexe’) in 1949, and it is considered to be one of the first books of modern feminism. The famous line “One is not born, but becomes a woman,” is from this text. In her treatise, she identifies women as The Other; that is, deviant from the norm (men). I won’t go into it here; the book deserves an entire post to itself.

Her range of books and her journals and letters evoke that period of French life. Though most of her letters were not published until after her death, their existence in the public sphere is invaluable. Letters and journals give the minutiae of a life, rather than just the public face. She was always aware of her public face, and it can be seen in the latter two volumes of her autobiography. The works are far more centered on her relationship with Sartre, and her use of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, and come across more as a proclamation of views and activities than an actual autobiography of her life. They were the official story and sometimes read as a place marker on her and Sartre’s role in public life. She put her support behind a variety of issues in her later years, including abortion rights, signing the Manifesto of the 343, women who claimed to have had an abortion when it was illegal. She edited the political journal ‘Les Temps Modernes’ along with Sartre.

She made sure her voice was heard.

Beauvoir / Sartre Grave (Montparnasse)If I had to recommend a book for the Beauvoir novice, I’d choose ‘Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter’ (the first volume of her autobiography) as a good place to start with her non-fiction works. And I’d also recommend ‘She Came to Stay,’ as a first choice for her fiction. Her selected bibliography can be found here. The Sunday Times has an excellent review of the new edition (2009) of The Second Sex.

If you’re in Paris, check out some of her favourite haunts: the Deux Magots and Café de Flore on the Boulevard St. Germain, the Dôme Café in Montparnasse, and her shared grave with Sartre in the cemetery at Montparnasse.

The Unabashed Francophile Post, Part 3: French Authors

This post has been a long time in coming.

My love affair with all things French began unexpectedly. I enrolled in Philosophy 315 at the University of Calgary. (I took a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and I liked to fill my electives with usually English, Philosophy, or other humanities classes.) That session caught my interest because the subtitle was “Philosophy in Literature.” I’d done poorly at some of the 200-level philosophy courses as I couldn’t seem to formulate a concise argument during assignments and I really couldn’t have cared less about the debate over the existence of God, but I thought I’d do rather well in this one. Reading books? I’m in!

We read several books during the class, starting with Plato’s discourse “The Symposium”, Andre Breton’s “Nadia” (Nadja), Edmond Jabès’s “The Book of Questions: Volume One”, and finally, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nobel prize-winning novel, “Nausea” (La Nausée). While the other books were intriguing and thought-provoking (even though I found the Plato a bit dull), it really was Sartre’s novel that caught my interest.

The book is considered one of the essential works of existentialism, which Sartre is widely credited with bringing to popular public attention (along with his friend Albert Camus). His fiction often portrayed philosophical ideals in literary form, likely making them more comprehensible to those who couldn’t manage to get through his massive tome “Being and Nothingness”. (I have yet to finish that book and have given up. I also find it difficult to read some of his other philosophical essays, and have only managed to read the shortest ones.)

What fascinated me more was Sartre’s companion (and philosopher in her own right, though it’s taken years for that to be recognized) Simone de Beauvoir. She had only the barest mention in my class, but I was determined to seek out some of her books and find out what she wrote. Fortunately, one of my favourite used bookstores happened to have her entire 4-volume autobiography in paperback, and a copy of her first novel “She Came to Stay” (L’Invitée). It’s a fictional account of her relationship with Sartre and Olga Kosakiewicz. She and Sartre had a partnership, but they never married, and each had affairs. Sometimes their affairs meant bringing a third person into their relationship, which is what they did with Olga (and then her sister, Wanda).

Once I’d read She Came to Stay and worked my way through the first two volumes of her autobiography, I picked up some of her other works and started reading works by her contemporaries (Camus, Gide, Breton, etc.). That’s what started me off, and it hasn’t stopped since.

I’ll have to do a future post about Beauvoir specifically, as there’s much more I could discuss.

Book Review: The Mysterious Lady Law

The Mysterious Lady LawThe Mysterious Lady Law, by Robert Appleton (website, twitter).

In a time of grand airships and steam-powered cars, the death of a penniless young maid will hardly make the front page. But part-time airship waitress and music hall dancer Julia Bairstow is shattered by her sister’s murder. When Lady Law, the most notorious private detective in Britain, offers to investigate the case pro bono, Julia jumps at the chance-even against the advice of Constable Al Grant, who takes her protection surprisingly to heart.

Lady Law puts Scotland Yard to shame. She’s apprehended Jack the Ripper and solved countless other cold-case crimes. No one knows how she does it, but it’s brought her fortune, renown and even a title. But is she really what she claims to be-a genius at deducting? Or is Al right and she is not be trusted?

Who exactly is Lady Law? This novella starts dramatically, with the aforementioned detective taking down an attacker at Queen Victoria’s awards ceremony, and continues at a quick pace. Along the way we meet the adventurer Horace Holly, who is drawn into the investigation and becomes suspicious of Lady Law and her methods.

There’s a bit of romance, some steampunk tech for the geek in everyone, and a lot of drama. The final twists were completely unexpected, and the ending was satisfactory. I would have loved to see this be a bit longer, so that I could enjoy it even more.

As this is a novella, I hesitate to give away too much of the plot, as every twist should be discovered by the reader and not in this review. I haven’t read much steampunk fiction, aside from Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke, but I am impressed with its imagination. I couldn’t put this one down. This is definitely a book worth reading. Pick it up directly from Carina Press or from Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Yes, I’m alive.

Sick with a sore throat at present, but also writing daily. I’m at the Big Climax part of my novel, and it’s taking all of my concentration.

A couple of books to recommend to you (both romances I’ve read recently):
Unveiled, by Courtney Milan
Dexter: Honorable Cowboy, by Marin Thomas

Happy weekend!

Feeling voyeuristic?

I don’t have too many photos of my living space, but I have taken a couple of photos of my bookshelves. If I had more space, I would have more shelves, and many, many more books. This apartment has its limitations. If you’d like to take a peek, the photos are below. Or, if you’d just like to snoop at what titles I have on my shelf, check out my Delicious Library created index.

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