1. Day off tomorrow! I'm looking forward to staying home and relaxing.
2. The weather's been staying cooler after that spike earlier in the month. High seventies in the day, back down in the sixties at night. It's still pretty muggy, but I'll take this over being muggy and super hot any time.
3. I love looking up at the high shelf above my computer and seeing kitty paws sticking out. XD
The Red by Tiffany Reisz is an erotic journey though art history. It’s a book that pushes the envelope, and one that won’t be for all readers, but one that I found immensely enjoyable. In many ways it reads like an erotic fairytale, complete with an ending that felt a little too convenient.
Mona Lisa St. James promised her mother that she would do anything in her power to save the family art gallery, The Red. Unfortunately, the gallery is half a million dollars in debt.
In true fairytale fashion, a mysterious man named Malcolm appears and offers Mona a million dollars for twelve days of sex. They will have an assignation one day a month over the period of one year. In return he will pay her in art worth a million dollars. Malcolm is handsome, dominant, and almost supernaturally appealing. Mona agrees to his terms.
The rest of the book is set up almost in vignettes, scenes in which Mona and Malcolm play out one of his fantasies, one month at a time.
All of Malcolm’s desires are inspired by famous paintings, and the first one he and Mona reenact is Olympia by Manet.
Mona waits for Malcolm, nude and reclining in bed. The subject of the painting, Olympia, is a sex worker, defiantly staring at the viewer, unabashed by her profession. The Black woman holding the flowers does not feature into their fantasy.
Mona is clearly having sex with Malcolm for financial reasons, but she finds the idea of being his whore intriguing and titillating.
“You do like your whores, don’t you?” she asked.
“I have trouble respecting a woman who gives away what she could sell for good money. Whores are the only women who know their own worth. I mean that.”
“What about male prostitutes?”
“Their clients are generally men as well. I don’t fault anyone who takes a man to the bank before going to bed with him. I wouldn’t let a strange man put his finger in my mouth and whores take far more into their bodies every single night. It’s skilled, brave work. Bless those lasses, they’ve saved my life and damned my soul. What more could I ask for?”
Just like in her Original Sinners series, Reisz subverts the idea of sex work as degrading; instead she empowers the sex worker and applies a logic to it.
As the novel progresses Mona gets drawn deeper and deeper into Malcolm’s fantasies and develops feelings for him, and he for her.
Because this is erotica, much of the book is about Mona’s sexual journey. However, she is never a blushing innocent. She is occasionally shocked by what she enjoys, but she’s no Anastasia Steele tormented and conflicted about the kind of sex she craves. At no point do Mona or Malcolm attribute a desire for kinky sex to a moral failing or any kind of emotional damage.
After a particularly intense BDSM session, Malcolm articulates what Mona is feeling:
“You only love me tonight because of the beating. You understand that, don’t you?”
Before tonight, she would have said “no,” that made no sense, there was no logic to it. He’d done something to her mind as well as her body. By the end of her beating, she couldn’t tell the crop apart from kindness. They were one and the same to her so that every strike of the crop was tender as a kiss and every word of tenderness made her crave the crop.
“Now I understand,” she said, because now she did.
There’s a lot of kink in this book. There’s bondage, sadomasochism, penetration by objections, flogging, group sex, anal sex, and at one point Mona has sex with a minotaur (for realsies). As their scenes together become more vivid, Mona questions whether or not Malcolm is giving her hallucinogens to make these fantasies feel real.
As the book progresses, the mystery and supernatural elements associated with Malcolm become more clear. Weirdly, this was the part I didn’t like. When we finally got the explanation for who Malcolm was and why he sought out Mona, I was disappointed. The fantasy and intrigue surrounding him was so well constructed than any explanation felt disappointing. I just wanted him to be a mysterious, other-worldly fucking machine. I wanted him to stay an enigma who entered Mona’s life every month, even while I acknowledge that’s not great storytelling.
Fans of Reisz’s Original Sinners series will gobble this book up. For those looking for erotica without a ton of emotional angst, The Red is right up your alley. It’s a delightful, wicked fairytale and it’s a ton of fun.
NB: the links in this post are affiliate coded, which means if you choose to subscribe, I will receive a percentage at no extra cost to you. That said, I’d recommend MissingLettr even without an affiliate account.
MissingLettr is great for bloggers, reviewers, and pretty much anyone who posts frequent content on their blogs. It works by scanning your site for new content, then automatically creates a year-long drip campaign for Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+ using images and quotes from your content. The feed is spread out, as I said, over a year, and each item is posted automatically to your choice of social media.
They have an intro video that explains it better than I could:
For me, Missinglettr is terrific because it resurfaces and promotes content throughout the coming year, allowing me to highlight reviews and cover snark long after they’ve been posted. While blogs do come with an expectation of timeliness and newest items are always first, well, some things don’t really get old – cover snark and book recommendations especially!
If you’re a reviewer or book blogger, this would resurface content from your archive for a year. If you’re an author, you could schedule posts about your books automatically for a year as well. There are a lot of possibilities!
You might have seen some of the MissingLettr posts on our Twitter or Facebook feeds (they also link to LinkedIn and Google+, and I hear rumors that Pinterest is next). Here’s an example:
MissingLettr auto-magically created the quote box image in blue, using quotes from inside the review. I can also upload alternate images and select from a bunch of different quotes from the content. I can also edit the text that’s part of the Tweet or FB post, too. The ability to customize is pretty substantial.
I’ve really enjoyed using MissingLettr and have had a great experience with their customer service after I accidentally changed my subscription and couldn’t switch back. I recommend them most enthusiastically. And this deal is pretty sweet, hence my posting about it!
There are three plans, and with this offer, which expires July 25th, you can get six months for the price of one. Then, if you decide to continue after six months, you’ll receive 20% off the subscription cost going forward.
The Personal plan is $15 per month, and you can link two sites with four campaigns a week. The automatically scheduled content from one post is a campaign. So if I had cover snark and two reviews, and had campaigns scheduled for all of them, that would be three total. You can link four social profiles and upload custom images.
This is a pretty spiffy offer, and since it’s saved me a bunch of time and boosted inbound traffic by resurfacing content, I didn’t want you to miss it. Again, this offer expires July 25th, so if you’re thinking about it, think quickly! Again again, the links in this post are affiliate coded, but this post is not being sponsored. This is my own overly-verbose opinion, as usual.
Any questions, please ask in the comments, or email me!
Point of Hopes (Astreiant, #1) - Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett - ★★★★
Complicated mystery plot in a fascinating, intricately-crafted fantasy universe.
I really appreciated the casually mainstreamed queerness in the worldbuilding. ( read more )
The Ruin of a Rake - Cat Sebastian - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book has everything I loved about Sebastian's previous books. Complicated, flawed and messily human characters, a clear-eyed and intelligent class analysis and a refreshingly unapologetic queerness. ( read more )
Point of Knives (Astreiant #1.5) - Melissa Scott - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A satisfying mystery with an even-more-satisfying beginning of a romance between the main characters as they transition from people who sleep with each other occasionally to people who'd like to have a romantic relationship with each other. ( read more )
Peter Darling - Austin Chant ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
An amazing queer, trans reimagining of the Peter Pan story. ( read more )
The Horse Mistress: Book 1 - R.A Steffan - ★ ★ ★
Enjoyable poly fantasy with a genderqueer protagonist. ( read more )
A Boy Called Cin - Cecil Wilde - ★ ★ ★ ★
I'd describe this book as an aspirational romance. It's a delightful, cozy fairytale of an idealized relationship. And that's not a bad thing. I think there's value particularly in queer aspirational romances. ( read more )
There Will Be Phlogiston (Prosperity, #5) - Alexis Hall ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I picked this up because it was free and I'd heard good things about the author, but honestly I was mostly expecting a smutty, poly diversion.
One of the benefits of the new mood-stabilizer is that I'm reading again. After reading my way through a shit-ton of fanfic, I'm now switching between fanfic and pro novels.
I'm mostly only interested in reading queer stories at the moment, which has meant a lot of queer romances and also SF/F with queer characters and relationships.
I started with everything ever written by KJ Charles and OMG was that a good choice. Her stuff is AMAZING. Highly, highly recommended. She writes m/m historical romances, some straight historicals, some fantasy. One of the things I love historical queer romances because I love reading about queer people in history being happy, and Charles' books totally fill that desire.
A lot of queer historicals, or at least a lot of the ones I've read, are really interested in class and the intersection of class and sexuality and how that impacts relationships. Class differences are at the heart of almost all of Charles' books and it makes for a great lens through which to look at the various historical periods she writes in. The other thing that makes me happy about her books is that very few of her protagonists are uncomfortable with or tortured about their sexuality, which is again really refreshing to read about.
Then I moved on to Cat Sebastian's regency romances which I also highly recommend. Again with the queers being happy and not angsting about their sexualities and again with the class and anxiety about class differences being a significant factor in all the relationships.
I also highly recommend Joanna Chambers' Enlightenment series, in which one of the characters is quite guilty about his sexuality, which is possibly more realistic, but doesn't appeal to my id in quite the same way.
It was at about this point in my dive into books again that I got myself a Goodreads account, which is here, and started actually reviewing stuff as I read it.
Several people I read here regularly post reviews of the books they've read on their journals, and I think I'm going to start being one of them, I'm not going to commit to any specific schedule, but expect semi-regular book posts (the first going up directly after I finish writing this post).
The other thing I'm loving about Goodreads is having a place a list of books I've been recced that look interesting. I'm almost entirely reading digitally these days, mostly on Kobo. So, when I want to read something new I can go to my Goodreads to-read shelf and see what strikes my fancy. There are a lot of books with poly relationships in there right now, because I specifically solicited recs for queer, poly stories on twitter.
If you're curious my to-read shelf is here, and I'm always taking recs. Nothing too serious or dense right now, I'm still easing my way back into this reading gig.
Today's my least favorite day once again. The date I lost Miss Olive two years ago, and I'm not over it--I think about her every day, and miss her, especially now. I could really use her soft, soft fur and sweet purrs and funny little voice when she talked to me all the time. And it's the day we lost Sandy, which I'm never gonna be over, either. With Vividcon ending next year it feels even more like losing Sandy all over again.
Basically July 19 is just a terrible horrible no good very bad day.
I'm trying to get things done in anticipation of the surgery and whatnot, but it's really hard. Not only is there a lot to do, the bills are starting to come in, and I'm getting really depressed about it. I haven't had enough work so far this year, but even though I suddenly have a bunch of stuff coming in, it's not going to be paid for a while yet. Even with the ACA still hanging on, this country is majorly fucked up about health care costs, and it's pretty easy to go bankrupt even with insurance.
Last night we went to see the documentary Score, about composing music for films, at this teeeny local theatre that was the first art house in Seattle way back in the '60s. I hadn't known it was still in business--it's run by vounteers now, and the lobby is now a restaurant so the actual theatre is about one-tenth the size it used to be. The movie was great--if you have a chance to watch it, you should: there were some really good reminiscences by directors and other composers about some of the legends, and interviews with all kinds of fascinating film composers, plus a glimpse into the process of recording film scores.
My only complaints were one I shared with feochadn, which was that a guy went on and on about King Kong (the first real movie score) being cheesy and stupid, and that the music was the only thing that helped audiences get over the cheesy and stupid, which is utterly, patently false and doesn't understand the audience dynamic at the time the original King Kong was released. And my second gripe was that as they talked about modern scores and unique or avant garde approaches, they interviewed and spent quite a bit of time following the guy who did the utterly forgettable Age of Ultron score instead of spending any time with Henry Jackman, who did the Winter Soldier score, which most people I know still talk about with a certain amount of awe. Especially because I think it would have dovetailed nicely with talking about the "game-changing" soundtrack for the Social Network by Trent Reznor (I'm not one of the people who think it was game-changing, but whatever), and they did talk to Henry Jackman, but only for a microscopically short time. Plus, they didn't list Winter Soldier in his credits, and that was…weird to me. And it's not my own blind prejudice for anything related to Winter Soldier--I've read so many people talking about the amazing things he did with that score, especially regarding the Soldier himself, and it just seems like a huge missed opportunity in the modern section…and instead we got fucking Ultron. I'd defy anyone to remember anything unique or special about the music in that movie. But I still definitely recommend seeing Score if you can, and stay for the credits and James Cameron's dicussion of James Horner's score for Titanic. (It's in a couple cities right now, and rolling around other parts of the country for the next few months--you can find out where on the web site linked above.)
I wish I knew how you find a therapist. I am very lonely and depressed, and there's no one to talk to here, but I just don't know how you go about finding someone you mesh with, and who's competent, and one you can afford (the importance of either can be switched). I mean, I've met some truly shitty people in RL who I find out later are therapists and it's like O.o so the idea of going into this cold doesn't thrill me.
Thanks to our lovely Patreon supporters, we are so close to our goal to transcribe older episodes that I am starting with some of the very earliest (and shortest) podcast episodes from our archives! I hope you enjoy!
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Jillian Boyd. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.
Tara Sue Me’s New York Times bestselling Submissive series continues with a delicious new story that explores the thin line between pleasure and pain. . . .
She’s ready to try again. . . .
Sasha Blake is scarred from a BDSM session gone wrong, but she can’t deny how much a strong Master turns her on. Determined to overcome her fears and rejoin the Partners in Play community, she asks Abby and Nathaniel West to set her up with a Dom who can help her feel safe again as a sub. They know the very experienced Cole is exactly the kind of man who can push all of Sasha’s buttons—and she soon wants to go much faster than she had planned. . . .
Cole knows that Sasha is not the kind of submissive he needs. He wants someone who will serve him 24-7, not a part-time partner. Still, the further they go into their play, the more Cole begins to wish he could make Sasha his all the time. . . .
When forbidden desires turn into scorching action, Sasha and Cole come face-to-face with their demons—and realize their scorching relationship might be too dangerous to last. . . .
Here is Jillian Boyd's review:
Y’all, this book made me do something very, very bad indeed. 10 pm at night and I had promised myself one more chapter (I had a good chunk of the latter half to go before I finished – and work the next day) before I went to bed.
This was not what happened.
What happened was that by 2 am I had turned the page on the epilogue, eyes leaden with sleep but with zero regrets because this is That Kind Of Book.
The Master is part of Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series, but enough context is provided that you don’t need to read the other books if you’re not keen (I am *so* going to, though). For example, you don’t need to go and frantically look for what happened to Sasha to get her to the point where this book starts – it is explained.
And Sasha Blake, it’s safe to say, has had a lot happen to her. Several months prior to the events in this book, a BDSM play scene went horridly wrong for her, leaving her with scars both emotional and physical. She has spent some time away from the scene (and from the Partners in Play group, which is run by Abby and Nathaniel West, who are the lynchpin couple of this series), recovering, but wants to come back to the group and retrain as a submissive to overcome her fears.
She is assigned to experienced and stern Dominant Cole Johnson, who takes her on for retraining with the caveat that their relationship remain just that – a temporary training one.
This does not happen. What happens is that, slowly but surely, Sasha and Cole end up healing each other.
Cole’s previous partner, Kate, was in a long term 24/7 Master/slave relationship with him. Cole is still a bit adrift after having her walk out of a dynamic that has lasted for several years – he’s not sure what he wants, and even though the relationship between him and Sasha blossoms, he’s not convinced he’s the right Dominant for her. But is he really looking for another dynamic like the one he had with Kate?
Sasha’s journey of healing is wonderfully handled. It is clear from the start that she has an immense strength to her, evidenced by her coming back into a community after experiencing something terrifying and traumatizing. Even though she’s initially taken aback by Abby and Nathaniel assigning Cole to her retraining, the two grow to complement each other beautifully. Cole’s awe at seeing Sasha open up again, under his tutelage, is nothing short of adorably sweet.
And having that connection between the two characters makes any scene where they’re getting down and dirty spark all the more. Seriously, the play scenes are not only well-written, but also hot to the point that I would advocate not making the same mistake I did and reading them on a packed London Underground train.
Or, you know, other more local to you forms of public transport that might question why you’re blushing red like a traffic light (“Oh, you know, just reading a little anal sex, as you do…”)
Anyway. I loved this book, and I am definitely going to seek out the other books in the series. (Speaking of which, there’s some set up for the next book – The Exposure – in the series within both the latter half of the book and the epilogue. So if the brief glimpse of the dynamic between the two characters involved has you wanting more, that one’s available now.)
So I guess it’s officially summer (at least in the U.S.) and I’m not here for it at all. The boob sweat is eternal at this point and all I want is the sweet, chilly embrace of central A/C. Anyone else sharing in my heatwave woes?
In typical “the Smithsonian is awesome news,” they’ve created an interactive map for all of you Jane Austen fans:
A look at the houses and towns that shaped the life and writing of the famed author on the 200th anniversary of her death…
Beloved 19th-century author Jane Austen’s satire of Georgian Britain’s high teas and grand balls is so slyly entrancing, naïve readers might mistake that world for her own. Born in 1775 into the “pseudo-gentry,” an educated but landless lower class, Austen, whose literary oeuvre includes Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Lady Susan and Emma, only peeped high society through better-off relatives and friends. “The experience of observing, rather than joining in, is what gave her insight into the lives of the rich,” says Lucy Worsley, chief curator of the conservation nonprofit Historic Royal Palaces, and the author of Jane Austen at Home. “A novelist needs a bit of detachment.”
I’m all for infographs or anything that blends interaction with learning!
The iGo is an itty bitty tool that unfolds to one USB connection, plus a USB and a USB Micro, so you can plug your phone into your laptop, or into a portable battery. Excellent for tiny emergency kits, too.
Going to RWA or in the Orlando area? On July 29th, come say hi to Sarah at the free and open to the public RWA Literacy Signing! Since proceeds benefit organizations that focus on literacy, books will be available to publish at the signing.
While the research is only in the beginning phases and no hard data is available yet, researchers are confident that knitting can be used to teach math concepts, and they are using the studies to figure out which concepts work best. They hope their findings will be used in the near future to convince schools that knitting a scarf or crocheting a sweater provides a unique opportunity for students to learn hands-on, problem-solving skills in a way that is fun and interesting. And they are hoping that bringing knitting into math class will alert girls to the career possibilities of STEM.
Heck yeah, I’d read that research so hard!
Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!
Selected Poems, by William Carlos Williams: Holy shit, it has to be noted—and I did not do this on purpose—but it took me five years exactly to read this book. I started reading it on July 11, 2012, and finished it on July 11, 2017.
That's exactly how slow going it was.
To my disappointment, not everything William Carlos Williams wrote is as accessible as "The Red Wheelbarrow" and "This is Just to Say," two of his most famous poems. Instead, there's a mix of transparent and opaque.
And then there's Paterson, which he's also known for, a five-volume epic poem that here is presented in extracts, taking up about forty pages instead of its usual three hundred, and seems to be about a grasshopper, a park, geography, some text from a medical journal, a personal letter, and a history lesson. I don't know if it would have made more sense if I had read it in its entirety, but I'm not interested in finding out.
Williams liked to experiment with white space and sentence fragments—he's a contemporary of e e cummings and T. S. Eliot—but his white space lacks the energy and enthusiasm of cummings, or, later, of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Mostly it just looks jumbled, or unnecessarily spread out, staggered like the teeth of a zipper. The chopped up, incomplete sentences were coarse and seemed to impede meaning rather than free it. I didn't feel like I was discovering or feeling something; I felt like I was tripping over it.
For such a long volume, my notes with my favorite poems and lines don't even take up a whole index card, and I was definitely experiencing William Carlos Williams fatigue by the end. The book collects selected poems from 1914 to 1962, and I found Charles Tomlinson's introduction to be wordy and almost breathless in tone but informative about Williams and his poetry style, though more useful after I'd read the book than before.
My favorite discovery has to be the complete Pictures from Brueghel series. I'd read parts of it before, but didn't realize there was more to it. It's ten poems based on works by Brueghel the Elder, who I encounter quite often in poetry. There's something about his paintings that draws poets to him. It's probably the level of detail, all the little stories going on in these huge lush landscapes full of color and people and animals. The poems I've read have all evoked such clear images, even if I'm unfamiliar with the paintings themselves, and Williams's work is no exception. Though, as always, in order to enjoy Williams's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" to its fullest, you benefit by knowing the joke behind Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" and the tiny splash Icarus makes down in the corner of the painting where no one is even looking. Just his leg sticking out of the water. Williams captures the humor and sadness of that image, still giving it only slightly more attention than Brueghel did.
It seems I like Williams best when he's being simple and transparent. His complicated, fractured works don't appeal to me as much, and it feels like this collection is more geared toward the latter. But could be it only felt like it.
Contains: rape, classism, and racist language and attitudes.
The Fifth Season is also a relatively quick read. It opens with a cataclysmic disaster and doesn’t slow down its pace. Its characters travel widely. My only word of warning is that the book ends on a massive cliffhanger. Fortunately the sequel, The Obelisk Gate, will be released in August. After finishing this book I’m making desperate grabby hands for the next one.
If you like immersive, action-driven fantasy and if you want a fantasy world that’s not Euro-centric–or if you just love a really, really good story–I cannot recommend The Fifth Season enough.
This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
By Her Touch by Adriana Anders is 99c! This is the second book in the Blank Canvas series. The first one, Under Her Skin, ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) is also on sale and I can’t recommend it enough. Fair warning that these romances on the darker side and feature abusive backstories. I was halfway through Under Her Skin when I bought By Her Touch. If you like angsty characters trying to rebuild their lives, check out this series.
He Will Always Bear the Scars
Undercover cop Clay Navarro left the Sultans biker gang a changed man. Its ringleaders may be awaiting trial, but he wears the memory of every brutal act he was forced to commit tattooed across his skin. He doesn’t have space in his messed-up life for anything gentle–not now, maybe not ever.
Dr. Georgette Hadley is drawn to the damaged stranger’s pain, intimidated but intrigued by the warmth that lies beneath Clay’s frightening exterior. But when the Sultans return looking for revenge, she finds herself drawn into the dirty underbelly of a life forged in violence…that not even her touch may be able to heal.
Broken Open by Lauren Dane is $1.99! This is a small town romance with a musician/rancher hero. Readers say this is a sexy read (as are most of Dane’s books) and the main characters have a lot of chemistry. However, some found the slow burn a little too slow for their liking. It has a 4-star rating on Goodreads.
Beyond passion. And beyond their control…
Five years ago, Tuesday Eastwood’s life collapsed and left her devastated. After an empty, nomadic existence, she’s finally pieced her life back together in the small Oregon town of Hood River. Now Tuesday has everything sorted out. Just so long as men are kept for sex, and only sex…
Then she met him.
Musician and rancher Ezra Hurley isn’t the man of Tuesday’s dreams. He’s a verboten fantasy—a man tortured by past addictions, whose dark charisma and long, lean body promise delicious carnality. But this craving goes far beyond chemistry. It’s primal. It’s insatiable. And it won’t be satisfied until they’re both consumed, body and soul…
RECOMMENDED: Collision Course by Zoe Archer is 99c! This is a scifi romance and the subject of one of Carrie’s earlier guest reviews. She gave it a B grade:
If you are new to romance, or if you are new to science fiction, this probably won’t be the book to win you over to either genre. But, if you want to have a great time with some familiar tropes that are vividly and freshly drawn, then you will have a wonderful time reading Collision Course.
In a galaxy torn apart by war…
Mara Skiren is a scavenger, a black-market dealer. Blackmailed into helping Commander Kell Frayne infiltrate a treacherous corner of the galaxy, Mara learns that her biggest danger is from her sexy, by-the-book partner. She’s a loner with more than a few battle scars on her heart, but something about Commander Frayne stirs up her long-buried need for an intimate connection.
An ace pilot for the elite Black Wraith Squadron, Kell’s mission is to rescue a lost pilot and ship. Unable to deny his attraction to the beautiful, rebellious Mara, he decides bedding her would cool his ardor. But one taste is not nearly enough, and he finds himself sharing more of his real self with her than he has with anyone.
With deadly criminals on their heels and an increasingly dangerous assignment to complete, he’s starting to wonder…if they survived, could he let her go? And will Mara want to stay?
1. Got the car back this afternoon and it's running great. I think the disintigrating parts that had to be replaced were probably disintigrating for a while and its performance was suffering, but not to the point where we really noticed until it got really bad.
2. Molly and Jasper really don't spend much time together, so I was really happy to see them both on the window table together looking at a bug last night.
Welcome back to Stuff We Like, a regular column where we shop and share items we think you’ll love. By reader request, I’m building a Stuff We Like series on one-bag packing and tools to help you organize and travel light.
Today: toiletries! My goal here is to give enough of a sketch so that if you’re traveling this summer, either with your family or to a conference (like RWA, for example) you can downsize what you bring with you so you have one bag, perhaps even a carry-on sized bag, and travel lighter, faster, and with less stress.
In both the Calm Traveler Packing Lists for Business and Family Travel, I left the tab for toiletries blank. Now, they’re filled in, so if you click on either link above, you’ll be taken to the spreadsheets. You can copy and paste the “Toiletries” tab to your own packing list, or you can File -> Save a Copy to grab your own. Either way, let’s get started!
Toiletries operate on the same principles as the packing list templates: Identify your essentials, then streamline everything else.
I keep my toiletry bag 95% packed at all times so that when it’s time to pack for a trip, I don’t have to run all over the house gathering the things that I need. Plus, with different airports varying the attention paid to the “3-1-1” rule, it helps me out immensely to know Past Sarah has already assembled TSA-approved toiletries and smaller sized containers.
First, I’m going to share some links to different toiletry bags I’ve used, or that you’ve recommended. Then, I’m going to give you a tour of my toiletry kit. (Yup, I feel a little vulnerable about that part, but whatever!)
NB: Most of these links are affiliate coded, which means if you shop through them, the site receives a percentage of the purchase at no extra cost to you, which helps keep us in hot pink business. So if you use them, many, many thanks!
Also: if you find shopping for luggage, packing accessories, and the like to be very tempting, please be warned. (Also, Hi! We’re very alike!) Shopping is about to begin!
The Pack It Flat Toiletry Kitworks really well for me because it’s very thin – about 2″ or 5cm deep. But it holds a LOT – which you’ll see in a moment.
I’m a fan of toiletry bags that hang, so I can hook them over the door or on the towel rack – or that magnifying mirror that gives me the gibblies (I really don’t want to see my skin that close up. It’s a recipe for obsessive fixation, I think). For this one, I usually leave each pocket halfway unzipped so I can reach in for things I need.
This style is a little more bulky, and since I like to slide my toiletry case on top of or behind my clothing and packing cubes (more on those soon!), this wouldn’t work for me. That said, this style does sit upright on the counter or table, which means you can keep the items inside pretty organized. The slim one I use doesn’t stand up on its own.
For a long time, I used this toiletry bag from LL Bean:
The Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag (Medium) is $30, and is designed to hang off the back of a door or sit up on the counter. It has a bunch of pockets and different side zipper pockets, and works well as a sort of dispensary for all your personal items. I used it until I replaced it with the slimmer profile one above.
In my experience, the bigger the bag, even a toiletry bag, the more you’re tempted to stuff into it, even when you don’t need those specific items.
In previous installments of my Stuff We Like: Calm Traveler Edition, a few of you commented that insulated lunch boxes like the ones from LLBean work very well as toiletry cases since they’re water proof and lightweight. Good call! I personally love compartments, but as a family all-in-one or a pet med and supplies case, a lunchbox would work well!
Since my goal when I travel is to bring as little as possible and organize what I bring, the slimmer profile of the eBags Pack It Flat Toiletry Caseis ideal for me. Let me show you everything I can fit inside it.
Here’s my bag, mostly packed and zipped up, the way it is when it’s not traveling. But, it’s time to pack!
To make the amount it holds more clear, I took everything out. This was a pretty useful exercise, as I found I was carrying way more acetaminophen/paracetamol tablets than I needed.
Here’s everything that lives inside my toiletry case:
Ahoy, all my business, laid out on the counter. That’s pretty much everything, aside from my super-sexxy mouthguard, which I add before I leave, and any extras I may need for that specific trip. Let’s take a tour!
The far-left zipper pocket on this bag is lined with a thick clear plastic, so that’s where the wet, potentially leaky things go.
This stuff right here. These are also the items that have to come out when I go through TSA screening, so I keep it in a separate zip-top bag that I got at Gatwick airport when I went through security screening there. A Ziploc sandwich bag also works.
One key to toiletry packing that I recommend: decant or repackage everything.
Travel-size toiletries are often very expensive, but I’ve learned that you can buy them once then reuse the containers. The shampoo bottle, the black one, is filled with my regular shampoo from home. The Bumble & Bumble bottle isn’t hair product – that’s my evening face wash. The Boscia face oil is a sample I ordered on eBay, but I refilled it with my favorite face oil.
(Also, can I just say, as a person who went through two courses of Accutane in her 20s, the idea that I’m putting oil ON my face instead of desperately trying to get rid of it is HILARIOUS to me.)
The two little round tubes on the bottom are awesome. I loves those. One has my face scrub, and the other has hair product. They are from humangear, and they are the small size GoTubbs. You can see both sizes here:
I have an orange one in my toiletry case that I use for medication:
I know somewhere, a pharmacist is screaming, but I know which pills are which and can put a week’s worth inside one tub.
I’ve bought two sets of the GoTubbs in small and medium, and we use them for everything now. Allergy meds for the boys, medication for the dogs (labeled, obviously), some cooling gel in case we get sunburn. They’re ridiculously useful.
Note: There is also a GoToob with a soft silicone bottle meant to hold shampoo, conditioner, or other liquids or gels, but I had one set and really didn’t like them. The suction cup on the side did not hold, the lid cracked in my bag, and that made it leak. So it wasn’t as useful as repurposing a travel-size bottle and refilling it each time I go.
So, back to the leaky stuff. I put all the 3-1-1 TSA liquids in a separate zip top bag, and put that in the toiletry case on the far left side.
When I go through security, if I need to place liquids separate from my bag, I can grab the baggie and off I go.
The far right zipper pocket does expand if I need it to, but the most it holds is my toothbrush, paste, and floss. I keep a separate toothbrush in my bag so I don’t have to move my home toothbrush around. I get so many from the dentist, I have spares.
Now for the main compartment: this is where I keep my pills, my mouthguard, and a few larger items, plus some first aid items, too.
In the small zipper pocket in the middle, I keep bandages, Tylenol sinus, ear plugs, emery boards, tweezers, and a tiny pair of nail clippers.
In the main pockets of the middle section, I keep Tylenol in a small bottle, plus Q-tips, a deodorant (full size), and a comb.
I have very short hair, so I don’t need much in the way of travel hair product. A comb and a small tub of styling cream are plenty. But when my hair was longer, I had a small brush and a snack-sized zip top bag with hair ties, bobby pins, and the like in this section, too.
Now on to the makeup. This took a few trips for me to refine, especially because most of the time, when I travel, it’s for something business-related, and I want to look somewhat professional.
Usually I don’t wear a lot of makeup. My cats don’t care if my eyelashes are thick and full, and my skin dislikes it. Around the third day of a conference, my skin starts freaking out – what is this silliness? Stop it! So I carry very basic cosmetics that I know won’t make my skin irritated, and that are versatile for different occasions.
Again, all of these items are for travel only. I keep these items in my travel bag, and leave them there. They last longer and I don’t lose them.
Here is what I carry, starting with the largest item.
It’s housed in a metal container so it’s durable (it’s never been a problem in security, either).
The key here: INSTRUCTIONS IN THE LID. Seriously. I am not that skilled with eye makeup, and the instructions make sense and I don’t feel like a total idiot.
The tin doesn’t come with brushes, but after a few cosmetic “bonus with purchase” bags, I have an eyeshadow brush that came free with one bonus, and I bought a narrow, slant-edged brush for using the darker shades as eyeliner (which works really well for me).
I love the Too Faced eyeshadow collections, and this one is great for travel. There are two others in metal tins: the Natural Matte collection ($40) and the Natural Eye collection ($40). I have another collection, but it lives at home because the housing is paperboard. The Boudoir collection is the only eye color I have in my bag.
This is the rest of the makeup I carry:
Much like the idea that large items of clothing are worn twice on a trip, most of the items in my bag can be used in multiple ways. Here’s a list of what I carry:
The second tab, “Toiletries,” is filled in with the basic essentials I carry, but it’s a spreadsheet, so here’s literally thousands of cells for you to customize for yourself (but don’t carry thousands of thing! You’ll hurt your back).
The process is very similar to the Packing Template sequence:
Identify your essentials
Identify the things you need each morning and evening, when you shower or bathe, and when you get ready for a professional event
Streamline products when possible
Decant or distribute existing full-size products into smaller travel-friendly containers
Assemble the items and pack your kit!
Now, whenever you’re ready to travel, you won’t have to run everywhere gathering each item. It’ll be ready to go when you are.
If you’re enjoying this series, you can get this content early and exclusive extras on personal organization, both digital and actual, from the Organization Academy newsletter:
What are your toiletry essentials? Any products you swear by and never leave home without? What type of bag is your favorite?
The Bawdy Bookworms box is something we’ve reviewed before. Both Redheadedgirl and Elyse have give the romance novel & sex toy themed box a try. They both had favorable things to say and, judging from their reviews, I think it’s a box that just keeps getting better.
From their about page:
Each month, you’ll receive a specially curated package with a smokin’ hot book plus a few sexy surprises. And yes, sometimes batteries are included. All in discreet packaging, of course. That’s not all. Bawdy Bookworms is also a virtual book club that will offer our subscribers access to a private forum.
I can vouch for the discreet packing and that they have a really fun Facebook group. The fact that batteries are included with the box is an excellent touch, as there’s nothing more frustrating than having to scrounge around your apartment, playing battery Hunger Games as you decide which electronics can deal with on dead battery while you switch it out for a good one.
The box is also ships quarterly (every three months) and costs $34.95 per box.
To gauge whether a box successfully delivers (heh), I like to see if the items inside are equal to or more than the subscription price. Also, are the items inside decent quality and will I use them? Trust me, I do not need any more clutter in my small Boston apartment.
Here is a list of the items inside this box:
A copy of Breaking Clear by MJ Summers ( A | BN | K | iB )
Butterfly Kiss G-Spot Vibrator with an organza bag and set of batteries
Intimate Earth Discover G-Spot Stimulating Serum
Coochy Rash Free Shave Creme
Coochy After Shave Protection Mist
Noxema Bikini Shave & Trim Razor
The theme of this box is “lady garden love” and everything is cutely packaged. It game with delicate tissue paper and a teal ribbon. So A+ for presentation! While it may not matter to some people, I love opening a pretty arrangement of things.
There were two things I loved most. One was the item card that came with the box. It outlines the contents of the box, so you know whether or not you’re missing anything. It includes descriptions and tips.
The tip under the “sweet treats” item reads: Keep candies away from genital areas. Sugar may cause yeast infections. Yes, men can get yeast infections. Seriously.
I’m all for being adventurous during sexy times, but I appreciate the due diligence from Bawdy Bookworms.
The back of the card also has “play ideas” of how to pair the items inside during intimacy.
Take your new Butterfly Kiss into the shower or bath to relax (or stimulate). It’s better than Calgon!
The second thing I loved, and this is the most important, is the book selection. As someone who “works” in romance. (WHAT?! How lucky am I?), I know quite a bit about books coming out and most likely, already have a galley sitting in a stack. There have been other boxes I’ve tried where I receive a book I already own.
Breaking Clear by MJ Summers is a completely new to me author and I was surprised at my own surprise. Imagine that. For me, the draw to subscription boxes (and not just ones with books) is about trying new products. If you like something, you’re already probably buying it. To get a box where all the items are new to me is a slam dunk and it’s what I want from all the subscription boxes I try.
Now back to my earlier statement about boxes being worth the subscription cost. I tried to roughly estimate the total retail price (according to the items on Amazon) of the items inside, and the box is over $50, which is more than the $34.95 box price and free shipping.
Even if you’re in an area that charges for shipping, the items are still worth more. And sex toys can be freakin’ expensive, man. I know I’ll definitely be using the after shave mist. My skin gets so dry and irritated after shaving sometimes, especially in the winter months. Plus, there’s another vibrator to add to my (growing) (heh) collection and I love having variety.
So would I recommend this box to readers of romance, especially ones who like to experiment in the bedroom? Hell yes.
Big thanks to Kim from Bawdy Bookworms for sending us a box to review. Each month gets better and better. And right now, we have a special discount for SBTB readers! The last day to subscribe at the $34.95 rate is July 22, and you can get free shipping in the US, and $6 off shipping for international shoppers with coupon code smartb!
Thanks to our lovely Patreon supporters, we are so close to our goal to transcribe older episodes that I am starting with some of the very earliest (and shortest) podcast episodes from our archives! I hope you enjoy!
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by HeatherT. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.
From the Desk of Donna Edith:
My services are unconventional. My clients come to me with needs and I match them to other clients with needs of their own…
Promising young architect Killian Fitzroy: Driven, clever, eager to prove himself. Starved for sex, though he’s come to me for professional assistance, not personal. Needs: Someone unique, creative and fast. An artist with a feminine perspective to breathe life into a house he’s built.
Aspiring scenic designer Vessa Ratham: Sensuous, spontaneous, but secretive. Recently returned to Vermont armed with an art degree that qualifies her for little more than waiting tables. Needs: An opportunity to shine.
Yes, Killian and Vessa will satisfy each other nicely—in more ways than one.
Here is HeatherT's review:
Oh, hey. I agreed to review this book, but I don’t really remember much about it even though I finished it yesterday. I know that it mostly was about decorating a house, and that the heroine had a secret and that there was a LOT of not particularly interesting sex.
Let’s try this again. The book starts with Vessa, our heroine, visiting a woman named Donna (like a title) Edith. Donna Edith matches people with various needs – we know that from the frontispiece of the book, not the book itself. It appears that Donna Edith is meant to be a gimmick around which a series will be built. Vessa just moved back to Vermont, but for some reason needs to keep her presence in the state a secret. She is a scene painter and she needs a job. Donna Edith sets her up with Killian, a young architect who needs a model home decorated in a short time.
Vessa and Killian meet, immediately agree to work together and then they each spend a lot of time thinking about and having pants-feelings for the other, even though they have scarcely spoken. The story is mostly decoration porn. As the project goes along, each room is lavishly described, right down to each layer of glazing on the walls. No room is simply painted – there are stripes and chair rails and wainscoting and layers and layers of glazing. There are screens and plants and trompe d’oeil. For some reason, there is a garden chair crammed into a tiny powder room. It is all a bit much, and not to my taste, but that is really what the book is about — rugs and pillows and pictures and lampshades. Somewhere along the way, Vessa and Killian start having sex.
For a book that is billed as erotica, the sex was remarkably unimaginative. There is a lot of it, but it gets less interesting as the book goes along. There’s face-to-face vaginal sex and occasional oral sex or handjobs in every room. Sometimes she’s even on top! The sex seems to end quickly after penetration and is always from the male gaze. Seriously, it had all the excitement of seeing rabbits in spring — just a vague sense of “there they go again.”
The book was relatively well-written with good secondary characters (including a female plumber, yay!), excellent consent and a relatively interesting backstory for Vessa, involving her secret – which as secrets go was a pretty believable one that worked for present-day. I did enjoy that Vessa and Killian behaved like adults; that when there was a problem, they behaved like real people would (they used words!) and there was no sign of the magic peen or magic hoo hoo. But Killian was one-dimensional; he only existed as a foil for Vessa and his more interesting friends.
Also, the book had strange moments that continually took me out of the narrative. Among them:
Vessa, a set designer, shows up to measure a room with a tailor’s measuring tape (the kind some of us use to see how resplendent our butt has grown). Killian, the architect of the fucking house, doesn’t offer to give her the plans so that she’ll have the measurements handy.
A gardener is described as “his fingers and jeans were stained green.” Ummm, that’s not how gardening works.
This: “The subdivision lay in a sprawl below, streets meandering around a few huge maple trees, unbuilt lots marked with surveyor’s flags. . . She stepped to a window, ‘The view is fantastic.’”
The strangest moment, yes, even stranger than a gardener with literal green thumbs or an unfinished subdivision as a fantastic view, was the climactic scene. Vessa is specifically hiding her presence, even her existence, at the insistence of a Specific Person. However, when that Person discovers that Vessa is in town, that Person throws a very loud, very public fit in front of lots of people that draws everyone’s attention to Vessa and who she is. Huh, what? Wasn’t the whole idea to deny Vessa’s existence?
In the end, if you are fond of over-the-top decorating (okay, even I found the old apothecary bottles charming), this book might be for you. Read it for the decoration porn; God knows that the other kind isn’t going to be very satisfying.