Squid Soup August 2014–Stand By Me

MOCK! and The Armchair Squid are proud to introduce Mock Squid Soup: A Film Society. Each month, on the second Friday, we shall host a bloghop devoted to a particular movie. We invite others to watch the same film and post their own reviews.

So, today I’m departing from books (slightly) to chat about movies. For one, I found a blog hop hosted by The Armchair Squid and MOCK! celebrating a movie from my childhood: STAND BY ME. Secondly, I want to rant/rave over some adaptations recently out, or in development.

To begin, my review of STAND BY ME…

This movie premiered two weeks before I began 7th grade, back in the summer of 1986. I had just completed my growth spurt topping me at 5’3″–still my height today and woefully small even at 12. I had been, and remained, one of the shortest kids in my junior high. But I digress…

SBM was a turning point movie for me. Mostly because I was unfortunately rechristened “Vern”–in deference to the fat, stupid, hideously awkward character played by an appallingly young and not-nearly-showcasing-his-future-deliciousness Jerry O’Connell in this movie. It was a sad occurence, for me–a young, thin, short, smart…uh, GIRL who didn’t have the strength of fist to defend herself from the random “Hey there, Verno!” hallway catcalls.

At first, I didn’t know what was going on–until I ventured to the local Dollar Theater and had my mind blown. I remember the awe of seeing Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and that weird-looking other kid (O’Connell) along with BOTH a swoony John Cusack and a to-die-for Bad Boy Kiefer Sutherland and thinking YES!!! See, the puberty hormones were already turning my brain sideways–I did mention my growth spurt ending, right?–and there’s a scene in this movie…

Ahh, yes, that’s the one! Where Gordie (Wheaton) must reach into his wet underwear to dislodge a blood-engorged leach from his junk and I thought…whoa. (Don’t judge–this was the 80’s! and I was 12…)

Okay, so the story goes this way: It’s 1959 and four intrepid friends—Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern–want to recover the body of a missing boy, Ray Brower. They know he’s dead because Vern has overheard his brother confess to seeing the body near some railroad tracks several miles from home. Vern’s brother won’t tell the cops because he found the body when he was joyriding in a stolen car, but Gordie & Co think retrieving the body will make them heroes.

These boys are all about to begin high school, all have trouble at home, and all need the company and comradery of each other to keep their demons at bay. Being heroes would go a long way toward making their sad worlds brighter. The boys go on a weekend “camp out” to track down the body and claim their glory. Along the way, each boy comes to terms with the realities of the destructive forces in their lives. It is a sweet coming-of-age tale with the back drop of nostalgia of lost innocence and harkening back to a time many consider to be America’s “Golden Age”.

Being a Gen X’er I don’t have the same opinion of the movie’s period, but I could sure dig the movie itself. It was likely a combination of hormones (mine) and heart (the movie’s). Richard Dreyfuss narrates, telling the tale as an adult Gordie, recounting this trip as the defining moment of his youth. It is based upon a Steven King book, The Body.

STAND BY ME is one of those touchstone movies of my youth that I will never forget. The interplay of the boys’ vulnerability and their burgeoning bravado was catnip to the young girl I was, then. They talked about girls. They talked about life. They CRIED.  And, they swore. A lot. All of this scandalized me to my Christian roots. There is humor–a total and complete barf-a-rama. That pretty much sums it up.

Please stop in at the other blogs reviewing this film. I’m sure their reviews will be better–and undoubtedly less boy-crazy–than mine.

1. The Armchair Squid 2. mainewords
3. Cherdo on the Flipside 4. MOCK!
5. The ToiBox of Words 6. V’s Reads

To continue my movie ranting, I’ve got two other topics rattling around in my brain. First, OUTLANDER.

The STARZ miniseries adaptation airs tomorrow. I have read (and loved) the Outlander series. I am a Jamie Fraser/Claire Randall Fraser devotee. I have actually watched the first episode–as it was available on Starz.com all week. And I liked it.

Now, however, I’m nervous about fan backlash. Diana Gabaldon is a consultant to the show and has been giving it her seal of approval, but–as is wont to happen–purists will likely complain. See, the first episode captures the spirit of OUTLANDER, but it’s naturally condensed. Events happen a bit faster than I recall them unfolding in the book. Other scenes didn’t happen at all, yet remain true to the storyline nonetheless.

Will this be a problem?

It wasn’t for me. I’m not the gal to get hung up on casting choices–mainly because I couldn’t name any of ten popular actors under age 30, and I’m okay with that. My world doesn’t revolve around Hollywood.

But some folks are obsessed with WHO should play WHOM in a movie, and I fear this negativity may cause watchers to spurn a promising show that I’ve LONGED FOR since I first read Outlander seven years ago.

Which brings me to my SECOND point: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.

Lookit, I read the books. They are fun and entertaining. They are arousing and intriguing. They are NOT good literature. And yet the legions of fans in complete meltdowns over the film’s cast is mind-boggling.

It weirds me out thinking that people discard a movie featuring a book they love because they “can’t see” a certain actor in the role. I will admit, I’m put-off by the “dream cast” posts I see for books these days. I guess it is because I almost don’t care about the appearance of a character in a story–I desire only so much detail to give me an IDEA of their appearance so I can imagine them in their space–but beyond that it is the character I fall for, not the image of the character.

If an actor is incompetent or not sufficient to the challenge, well, we’ll all see that on the screen. It’s my thought that a movie is separate from a book, as a work of fiction. I like to believe that a book inspires a movie, but doesn’t replace it as a work. Each must be judged on its own merit.

The HUNGER GAMES movies are good. Like the Harry Potter movies, they are mainly true to the books, yet have a whole different appeal. I’m not trying to sway anybody’s opinion either way about adaptations of books to film. I will likely always prefer the book, but I can also appreciate the movie in its own right.

That said, I’m pretty sure I know where I’ll be come Valentine’s 2015.

Anywho, I’ve rambled enough. I’d love to hear any comments you have on STAND BY ME, OUTLANDER, FSOG or movie adaptations of books. Drop me a line, and keep reading my friends! 🙂

Songs of Summer Blog Hop

Hi there! Time for a little fun with the sun.

Like many, I’m an audiophile. When I’m in the car alone I tend to max the volume…so I joined the Songs of Summer bloghop, hosted by the Armchair Squid, Cygnus and Suze.

Ah, summer.

Sunny mornings full of possibility, lazy poolside afternoons and rockin’ nights lit by tiki torches. What songs bring back the sunscreen and beach-sand to you? What songs defined your one perfect summer, be it decades ago or recently? Feel free to comment below.

My ALL TIME FAVE summer song is an oldie–Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. Can’t you just feel the long grass behind the stadium? The sweaty summer lovin’? I can…

Speaking of Summer Lovin’ I’m a goof for showtunes. My sons know this song, SUMMER NIGHTS from Grease by heart. (Future ladies of theirs will praise me…) No doubt I hauled my cookies to the beach for a boy back in the day.

I was born and raised in Chicago, and have a genetic weakness for the band, Chicago–with or without Pete Cetera–because my dad and I would sing these songs in the car together. The have been a longtime fave from way deep in my childhood. SATURDAY IN THE PARK is a tune of theirs that is perfect for summer.

This song burned up the charts the summer of my 8th grade graduation. I remember dancing to it at my party. KOKOMO by The Beach Boys.

More recently, my music tastes have ranged from rock to rap to country to alternative. I am limited to 5 songs on this post–which was SOOOO hard. My initial list–composed in 20 minutes–had 12 songs. I had to winnow–and I’m not good at winnowing!

After much deliberation, I picked The Zepher Song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to round out my list, because I love them, and because this one has such an ethereal quality to the melody. Tony Keidis is at his lyrical best in this one, and I always feel energized when I hear it.

So, if you read my blog regularly, or not, this eclectic mix of summery music might cement my status as Most Likely To Freak Out the Normals…

Please hop on over to my fellow bloggers. You may find songs that rock your summer.
Or, bring you to nirvana (the state not the band Or, perhaps both…).
Or, you could find an earworm. (I do apologize! I’m gonna be singing SUMMER NIGHTS all weekend, too!)

Thanks for popping in, and keep rocking my friends!

1. The Armchair Squid 2. Subliminal Coffee
3. My Creatively Random Life 4. Alex J. Cavanaugh
5. L.G. Smith Bards and Prophets 6. I Think; Therefore, I Yam
7. Servitor Ludi 8. Stephanie Faris, Author
9. WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME 10. Cherdo on the Flipside
11. Nicki Elson’s Not-so-deep-thoughts 12. Trisha @ WORD STUFF
13. Hungry Enough To Eat Six 14. V’s Reads
15. Life Before the Hereafter 16. The ToiBox of Words
17. StratPlayer’s Creative Output 18. DiscConnected
19. Aristotle’s Mistake 20. Deniz Bevan at The Girdle of Melian
21. Words Incorporated 22. Madeline Jane

The Rise of M/M Romance

Welcome to one of my rambles…this time I’m going to babble (at some length) about the trend toward M/M (male/male) sexual pairing in women’s erotica.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, Book #1)As strange as it sounds, the history of M/M romance isn’t terrifyingly sordid. As one might imagine, it’s been a niche market. The first I encountered of M/M was in Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy. In the first novel, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, the M/M interactions were all of power—unsurprisingly. It is, after all, a BDSM fantasy. But, in Beauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release there were several M/M relationships that transcended the Dom/sub. Tristan and the Queen’s historian, Nicolas, maintained a public power relationship with a clandestine partnership—wherein each man alternated in the dominant role. Beefy Laurent also experienced tender love with his sub, his master, and the fellow ‘ponies’ when he was a stabled slave.

Over the years we have seen an upsurge in ménage scenes—usually favoring the M/F/M dynamic. This caters to female readers; those who are aroused by the idea of being the filling in a mansandwich, in any case. But, of late, this dynamic is shifting again to allow for M/M/F—or the full-out bisexuality of the males in a ménage.

I had to wonder:  Why?

Is it not enough to have a woman be pleasured by two gorgeous (because it’s romance they are always gorgeous) men?

And then I remembered what I will call The Brokeback Factor.

Brokeback mountain.jpgBoys Don't Cry movie.jpgSee, 2005’s Brokeback Mountain really opened eyes. It wasn’t the first acclaimed homosexual movie. In fact, Hilary Swank had won a Best Actress Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry in 2000. But, as beautiful as Hilary Swank and Chloe Sevigny may be, they are no Heath Ledger/Jake Gyllenhall. The romance between these men—and the obstacles they faced in their “normal” relationships—that made for excellent cinema. It touched viewers in a way that was sexual, not seedy. And received three Academy Awards in the process.

Suddenly, sex between men didn’t seem so…IDK, icky? That’s probably how many (straight, female) readers would have considered male/male before The Brokeback Factor.

What it boils down to in romance is this:  straight female readers crave beautiful, dominant male leads with a sensitive side. The rise of M/M romance is a natural extension of this fascination. If one strong sexy man is excellent, then two is divine. The close POV often employed in these novels (alternating first-person present tense) allows for an intimate peek into the psyche of both male lovers—as they struggle to find an acceptable partner, and seek the pleasure of him. It’s the ultimate in erotic fantasy, IMHO.

Who read the 50 Shades trilogy and didn’t delight in the last scenes written in Christian Grey’s POV?

No one.

Now, imagine that single-minded sexual focus from two men. From readers of ménage and M/M erotica, the response is overwhelmingly positive. Based on the, albeit informal, 2013 Smut Book Awards hosted by The Smut Book Club, two of the top five “Favorite Sex Scenes You had to Read One Handed” were M/M.  And, two of the top four (also taking the top spot here) of “Leading Couple You’d Want a Threesome With” were gay/bisexual men.

Notable entries in the M/M romance sub-genre:

Lover at Last (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #11)Mainstream erotic writers have released their own M/M work—JM Ward released LOVER AT LAST in March of 2013. This story features the coupling of Qhuinn and Blaylock, both vampires, both enormous, masculine, Alpha-type leads. It has been a building story in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series for several books now. Blaylock has loved Qhuinn forever. Qhuinn rejected that love because, though he’s bisexual, he just couldn’t ‘come out’. Now that Blay is with Qhuinn’s cousin, Saxton, however, Qhuinn is more than jealous—and this installment of the BDB is panty-incinerating fantastic.

Double Time (Sinners on Tour, #5)Olivia Cunning—my Queen of E-Rock-tica—finally has given her readers Trey’s story. Trey is the bisexual rhythm guitarist in her Sinners On Tour series, who happens to be in love with Brian “Master” Sinclair—lead guitarist and his best friend. With Brian happily married and a new father, Trey is distraught—thinking he’ll never find a soul-satisfying love. DOUBLE TIME allowed us access to his hypersexual mind—and his successful quest to assuage both aspects of his sexuality. While this is a ménage novel, Trey is constantly struggling with his homosexual desires. We get a front-row seat to his battle, and ultimately, plenty of juicy M/M only scenes.

Ethan (Alluring Indulgence, #4)Nicole Edwards, an indie author who mainly centers on the ménage dynamic, has really fleshed out some fantastic M/M in her M/M/F—Temptation, Devotion, and Travis, in particular. But ETHAN, which came out in early January 2014 is smoking hot and totally sensual. Knowing that it is M/M, it still ranked high on the list of: Most Anticipated Reads of 2014 at Smutbookclub.com.

Try (Temptation, #1)Ella Frank, another indie, has had great success with Blind Obsession and her Exquisite Series—straight erotica I highly recommend—but branched into M/M this past November with TRY. Logan Mitchell—bisexual player has his sights set on a forever kind of target:  Tate, a straight man. In this dynamic we have not only the pursuit, but the conflict—how does a previously straight man develop an attraction (and a love) for another man. Being inside Tate’s head as he mulls through the quandary is a complete turn on. TRY’s a definite fave, and the beginning of a SERIES of M/M. TAKE will be out later in 2014 and continues the Logan/Tate saga—I cannot wait.

Collide by Riley HartRiley Hart’s COLLIDE marks another new M/M series. This Boys Only standalone recounts the reunion between two childhood friends, Noah, an openly gay man, and Cooper, a straight player. Cooper welcomes Noah into his home, and soon the attraction begins to simmer. Much like TRY, Collide features an alternating POV, and we can feel not only Cooper’s conflict over his new homosexual desires, but also his fear of revealing this relationship to his adoptive parents—because they despised Noah all those years ago. Their history causes some very poignant exchanges—particularly when Cooper is hospitalized and Noah is banned from his bedside—something that occurs every day in real America. Though the books suffers some editing issues, I loved the story and look forward to the next book featuring a different M/M couple set up by Noah and Cooper. Bound to be great.

For the non-believer–WHY is M/M hot?

I’m not here to convert anyone, truly. I’m just relating my own opinions, and those I’ve gotten through friends and fellow erotica readers. For me, sometimes straight romance lacks a bit of…heart. The cookie-cutter approach of single, overlooked female plus brawny, bazillionaire, broken male can feel a bit stale. Many times an author will throw in some sloppy sex to spice it up, but those begin to read flat after a while. It is the fresh and new and forbidden that draws interest. Still, it’s a true art to convince a straight woman to purchase gay romance, and takes more than a come-hither. The backstory for these characters is complex and well-considered. Often these aren’t virgin-orphans. Their families are involved—and supportive or absolutely appalled. It makes for a more rounded story.

What I find most interesting in M/M romance isn’t the hot sex—though that is a bonus—but that intimate choice to be vulnerable to another man—even with the complications it poses to all one’s other relationships.  Romance readers desire characters who will risk it all to find true love—what is more risky than potentially upsetting one’s whole family by being gay?

Additionally, I find most readers like their sex with a hefty dose of passion. For better or worse, passion is often accorded as force—while not violent, per se. Who doesn’t think having one’s panties torn off in the heat of the (consensual) moment is arousing? Or, how about being turned over one’s desk/kitchen table for a still-clothed, skirt-up quickie? Yeah, me too.

When it comes to M/M sex, the coupling can be brutal in its passion. These aren’t tentative lovers; they are fully-beefed, determined leads. Ward’s Blaylock and Qhuinn—again they are vampires—bite each other repeatedly in the act of sex. Frank’s Logan and Tate swap from oral to oro-anal to anal in a scene. It’s sweaty and sticky and the muscles bulge and strain—times two. The sheer maleness of M/M sex allows a distance for the female reader to enjoy fierce masculine passion—without fearing for the heroine—alongside swoony-gentle love-making that is overwhelmingly tender. The chasm between the rawness of their sex and the depth of their emotional vulnerability is Grand Canyon in scope. In my own thoughts, this amplifies the heat between the characters ten-fold.

Again, to each their own, but I’m a fan of M/M romance and interested to see where this trend goes.

If you’ve got any thoughts—please comment. I’d love to hear your take on this ramble, or any of the books I’ve mentioned. Oh, and if you have recommendations—lay them on me!

And, as always, keep reading my friends.

Giveaway Round-up #2 and I got me a FEATURE!!

Well, fellow readers, it’s been a busy week!

Read a ton, reviewed some–saving a few for next week, and later, blog tours.

These posts still have active Rafflecopter giveaways, if you are so inclined. Just click the linkys and hit the “a rafflecopter giveaway” link at the bottom of each post.

HOLLYWOOD HOMECOMING–eBooks

AMERICAN GIRL ON SATURN–signed paperback and swag

TASTE THE HEAT–Swag and $15 Amazon gift card

INTO THE FIRE–Swag and $15 Amazon gift card

WHAT ENDURES–$25 Amazon Gift card and signed books

STRIPPED–Ginormous Prize pack including a loaded Kindle Fire ($270 value)

WAITING FOR DUSK–free eBook

UNREAP MY HEART–Swag and free eBook–ALSO!! Make a comment as directed for an opportunity to win a free eBook.

I, myself, have won > 15 prizes on similar giveaways this year alone, so, erm, on second thought…

THESE ARE NOT THE GIVEAWAYS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.

MOVE ALONG.

*More for me that way* *ooh, the precious*

And! I’m so fortunate to have my *first* feature as a blogger!

**happy shake** **bakes cookies for no reason**

Cherie Colyer and I sat down to chat about my blog and what reading/reviewing was like in real-life. You may be entertained. I’m a bit of a moving target.

Thanks Cherie, for making me look cool.

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: August 2013

I’ve joined up with The Armchair Squid‘s once-monthly book review to link with other bloggers and offer suggestions of the best books read in the course of the month. We’re linking blogs on the final Friday of each month and each bringing you  the ‘Best of our Best’ just in case it strikes your fancy.

For my selection this month I’m discussing two novellas I found to be surprisingly good, the first two episodes in the Deadly Liaisons serial by Leigh Wilder.

Maybe it’s me, but when I hear of vampire erotica that’s ‘gayer than Twilight’ I get the giggles something fierce. I just had to bite… 😉

First up:  DRAIN ME DRY

See, I’ve read erotica. And I’ve read vampire. And I read a ton of romance. I’ve even read homoerotic tales…and I never expected this to work.

But it so did.

I really loved how Wilder created compassionate, and passionate, characters here. The setting is alt-history, small-town Pennsylvania where vampires exist openly and are allowed to feed, but not kill or turn a victim into a vampire. (Spoiler: um, yeah, sometimes either or both happens…)

Jamie is a nineteen y/o human with homoerotic desires, but has never tested himself. He’s also very insecure, undersized, and regularly abused by his alcoholic father. His Taco King job sucks and he’d like to die, but he’s too timid to kill himself. Working with a vampire, Jamie concocts a plan to have a vampire drain his blood. Reluctantly, his co-worker gives Jamie the name of a place where such a plan can become a reality.

Damian is THE vampire. The eldest of all vampires in town, he’s slumming in a blood den when Jamie approaches him, struck by Damian’s beauty.

Jamie wants this beautiful ‘angel’ to suck the life from him, but Damian realizes that Jamie’s something rather special. The result is a very well-written, tender interlude. Though it is a short read (this is the first of a serial) the end is satisfying for the reader as well as the characters.

Soon as I finished DRAIN ME DRY I downloaded Episode 2, ADDICTED TO THE BITE.

In this second episode, Damian and his Jamie-boy are back.
After one night in Damian’s bed, Jamie wants more. Especially now that his abusive father has been sorted. He is not happy to learn that he can’t be Damian’s steady lover…mostly because Damian must feed more regularly than Jamie’s body can withstand.
Damian, as head vampire, is prevailed upon to find a serial drainer–a vamp who has killed two young men in as many nights by sucking every drop of blood from their bodies. Law enforcement is on his case about the murders, meanwhile the Daybreakers, humans who hate vampires, plot to destroy Damian’s club.

Jamie, out to prove that he can survive frequent bleedings, meets a strange vampire in Damian’s club and get caught in the Daybreakers strike…

This episode moves quickly. While building upon the first story, its plot stands alone as well. Definitely more here than biting and screwing, and I’m intrigued to read on.

Next month I’ll get the linky-links for my fellow Coffeehousers–so hopefully you’ll check those out Sept 27th!

For the love of ALA 2013!

IMG_0778Oh, my aching back!

Seriously.

I think I need an adjustment…mainly because I carted home 23.5# worth of reading from my one-day mission at the American Libraries Association annual meeting that just wrapped up in Chicago yesterday.

And, if you think that sounds greedy, you might be right.

Still, I make no apologies.IMG_0779

Check out this haul! 28 books in total and most of them ARCs–Advance Reader Copies. For a new blogger like me, those babies are manna from Heaven.

And, yes, I did pay for some books. Particularly some discounted hardcovers for my kids. Because I’m that mom. The one who gives books as gifts.

For my Exhibits Only $35 fee I was able to meet some of the most vibrant people in publishing. It was exhilarating. And, transcendent.

People say that books are dead. I’m here to report I saw them firsthand–alive and well.

And if you think I’m kidding, let me say: who among you would wait 94 minutes to meet a Caldecott medal IMG_0772winner? Many people–the line was over a 100 people long. But Jon Klassen is as delightful and compassionate as his stories. He wade a point to address each and every person in the line graciously, asking questions and being absolutely lovely.

And, I had the same treatment when meeting Oliver Jeffers, IMG_0769

Tom Angleberger IMG_0770

and Jarrett J. Krosoczka

IMG_0771

But truly, the coup de etat of my fruitful day was snagging an ARC from a lady I truly admire as an author:  Simone Elkeles.

I’ve got my hands on WILD CARDS–so expect a review soon!

IMG_0773