Saturday, February 28, 2015

50 Shades of.... Hmmm

First things first, I have to preface everything I’m about to say with this statement: I have not, yet, read the ’50 Shades’ trilogy.  Nothing.  Not a word, not an excerpt.  Nothing but the blurbs on the back of the books.  To a certain degree I’ve even avoided reading too many reviews about the books (and the movie), though I will admit that I have read a few – some good, some bad, and even some that made me cringe.  I have my reasons for this but primarily, it’s that I didn’t really hear much of anything about the books until sometime after they were published and by then rumors had begun flying that a movie was going to be made. 
See, I’ve got this issue about books that are made into movies – especially if they’re books that I particularly like.  To me, the movies can be outstandingly well done but they just can’t rate as good as the book(s).  When I read a book the settings and scenes are built in my imagination, the characters are painted in all their glory in my fantasies, and the pages of the story flip through my mind like the frames on a reel.  I don’t need a movie to see the story, all I have to do is read it.  Yet at the same time, I do love a good movie.

So let’s get to the point...
Dakota Johnson.  Jamie Dornan.  And Fifty Shades of Grey. 

It’s been one of the most talked about movies of the year so far – for reasons both good and bad.  It’s been the topic of countless talk show segments, blogs, human and women's’ rights debates, and God knows what else.  Even I have written about it here on Ups, Downs, Ins and Outs.  It opened in theatres just before Valentine’s Day and has been leading in box office sales since, despite, or maybe because of the controversial nature of the movies content.
Still living under that rock? Here we go: The movie is about recent university graduate and incredibly innocent and naïve Anastasia Steele (played by Johnson), who meets Christian Grey (obviously played by Dornan) when she’s helping a friend out by doing an interview about him for their school newspaper.  Grey is a young, successful (to the billions) businessman, who Anastasia jokingly refers to as a “control freak” after listening to him describe himself.  Unknowingly, she’s exactly and entirely right.  Grey’s controlling tendencies in the business world follow him into his personal life, where he’s a Dominant, of the BDSM variety.  Anastasia’s innocence draws Christian like a moth to a flame and she quickly finds herself the focus of his rather intense interest.  This movie, based on the first book (of the same name) in the ’50 Shades’ trilogy, basically follows them in the beginning stages of their arrangement and relationship - as Anastasia learns about the BDSM lifestyle, especially the dominant/submissive parts of it, and Christian is forced to realize that Anastasia isn’t the only one with something to learn. 

That’s my, ha, $0.50 synopsis, and here are my feelings about it after seeing the movie.
The movie’s good.  It was decent.  For me, it was neither really great, nor completely horrible.  There are really great bits and there are some parts that appeared very awkwardly done – and surprisingly they weren’t the sexual scenes.  (I’ve read interviews done with both lead characters and both described filming the sex scenes as uncomfortable and difficult. No real surprise there.)  To be perfectly honest, the thing that sorta killed parts of the movie for me, was the lack of solid on-screen chemistry between Dornan and Johnson. The baffling part is that their connection wasn’t lacking in every scene, but ironically was missing in the scenes that should have been the simplest for them to perform. (Granted, this could be explained by the actors’ apparent dislike of each other, something I’ve also seen reported in recent weeks.) The cinematography and music were extremely well done, and the casting of the actors in their particular roles was, I believe, also well done – it’s just that somehow these things just didn’t all mesh together to make the movie that I think many of us were expecting. 

And what about those sex scenes, you’re probably wondering? After all, it was the erotic nature of the sex, the BDSM lifestyle, and the supposed “pornographic” extremes of the film that were causing the loud outcry and vast extent of debate and criticism for the movie.  In the 2 hour movie there was roughly 20 minutes of sex – and this includes everything from the most vanilla, to the most harshly erotic of the scenes.  And of the scenes depicting BDSM behaviors, these really weren’t all that extreme.  Not if you really know anything about BDSM, anyways.  Also, as the first (at least to my knowledge) movie in mainstream cinema to really broach the BDSM topic, I just don’t think they did a very good job of really depicting the way a BDSM relationship works or would work.  They tried, sure, but, to me anyways, I feel they missed more than a few key tenants of the relationship, and since a good part of the movie is supposed to be explaining a BDSM relationship/arrangement to Anastasia, I see no reason and no excuse why they should have.  My only conclusion as far as this is concerned is that the writers were either lazy or ignorant.  Or both.  There’s really no other plausible excuse.
So when all is said and done, I did like Fifty Shades of Grey – the movie, and yes, I would probably recommend it to interested and/or like-minded friends.  I may even buy it when it comes out on DVD.  But it’s not a movie I’ll pay to go see in theatres again. 

Do with this what you will.  It’s just my opinion.
... And now I’m off to read the book.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hot Erotic Romance? Look No Further!!

Erotic Romance StoryBundle, Feb 4-26, 2015 with Selena Kitt, Sommer Marsden, Kiki Howell, Alison Tyler, and Skye Warren

Curator’s Message by Kiki Howell
I’m a fan of each and every author who graciously agreed to be included in this Erotic Romance StoryBundle, and so I will admit to being a bit star-struck to have my stories published beside theirs. As you will read, I met each one through a series of intertwining, very fortunate events. I’ve had the privilege to work with New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, Selena Kitt, since the beginning of my writing career. After first being published by her company, Excessica, I then began working for her in various aspects of the publishing industry. I consider myself very lucky to have learned so much from a writer as prolific as Selena, one of the best guilty pleasure authors out there with over a million books sold! 

Through working for Selena, I had the blessing of meeting, Sommer Marsden. Over time, and little “water-cooler” chats via emails if you will, we've found ourselves alike in a multitude of ways. I now have the honor of calling her a good friend even though we've never met in person. Referred to as “unapologetic” by another author in this bundle, I couldn’t agree more with that description of her writing. Her stories are both profound and witty, sexy and fun with a myriad of characters from a to z, adventurous women to zombies, and back again.

Thanks to one of Sommer’s social media posts, I signed up to review one of Alison Tyler’s books, and I've been hooked by her writing ever since. A prolific writer of several stories and talented editor of many kinky anthologies, her works offer passion and heart along with vital doses of all things sexy. Just following her blog, appropriately titled, Trollop with a Laptop, is exquisite fun, a true indulgence. 

It was also through Selena that I was recently introduced to New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, Skye Warren. And, though I’m just getting started into her dark romantic fiction, I can’t wait to indulge in more of her stories. Her work described with such words as “perversely tender” and “haunting and beautiful” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve found her stories to be both complex and raw, emotional and enticing.  I’m pleased with the wide array of genres represented by these authors and their stories in this bundle. While all erotic romance, you will be further tempted with subgenres like: contemporary and historical, paranormal/pagan and fairy tales, bondage and femdom, to name a few. Enjoy!

To purchase this bundle go to 
and click on Red Box at the top of the page 
that reads Erotic Romance. 



Temptation by Selena Kitt 

The innocent 1950s - a perfect backdrop for this "new adult" historical romance saga. What happens when you fall in love with your best friend's father?

Angry Sex by Sommer Marsden  

When life turns stressful a girl needs release. Someone to help her work out her issues. Someone hot. Angry therapy...but naked.

Torn Asunder by Kiki Howell  

Fraught with scenes of explicit intimacy, romantic spells and mystical shapeshifting, Torn Asunder is a unique blending of the age of manners with sexual magic.

The ESP Affair by Alison Tyler 

A dream lover fulfills Connie's erotic desires in The ESP Affair. Confronted with proof of her infidelity, she embarks on a psychic journey.

On the Way Home by Skye Warren  

Explore the dark side with this suspenseful new adult romance... It’s a simple trade—the passenger in seat 34B for my sister. But the sexy soldier is more than I can handle in all the best ways.


Modern Wicked Fairy Tales by Selena Kitt (The Complete Collection)

Do you love fairy tales? Then don't miss these happily ever afters! Get ALL EIGHT modern retellings of fairy tale classics--Alice, Beauty, Briar Rose, Goldilocks, Gretel, Rapunzel, Red, and Wendy

Bittersweet by Sommer Marsden (Novella)

Deacon James is more sinful than the candy he sells. Testing Rayka's every limit. Mentally, creatively, emotionally and yes--sexually.

Rituals by Kiki Howell (Novella)

When a Wiccan ritual opens her eyes to an old friend, Maddie’s first week with Ryan is a blur of knots and ropes until Maddie’s controlling ex-husband returns hell-bent on taking her back.

Alison on Top by Alison Tyler (Anthology)  

Super hot, incredibly sexy and wonderfully delicious," Alison on Top fulfills your craving for smart femdom fiction with a romantic twist.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Make sure you stop over at Goodreads this week for the Valentines event they're running... Romance Week: from February 9-13th this year it leads up to the most (commercially) romantic day of the year! But with participating authors and publishers hosting specials, Q&A sessios, special blogs and more, it's definitely worth a peek. 

And for the record: Harlequin and it's authors are the the only ones participating, I just really like this ad that I've borrowed from them. 

Happy reading and I hope you feel the love!!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Oops I Did It Again

I'm not sure how it happened. Scratch that, how isn't the issue. Usually I try to restrain myself from touching any of my "big series" for re-reading until a time when I know I'll have a lot of free time to just spend reading. Sometimes that'll mean I won't even pick up other books (ie. non series related books) by the same author, for fear that I just won't have the will power to keep my hands off the books that lead to large time sucks.  Granted with an increasing number of large series in my library this is becoming more difficult but-

Normally I'm much more aware conscious cautious (crap! what's the word I'm looking for?).... I just can't quite figure out how I went into the bookstore for a new Janet Chapman book, and walked out with the compendium of Dark-Hunter short stories Dark Bites. Okay I admit, I already had most of the short stories in one place or another, or you know- in like 10 places, but now I've got them all in one easy, snazzy book. And that's good. In fact, that's awesome. 

There's just one problem... I read the entire collections of short stories and now, *sigh* well now you can guess what's happened. 

I've realized how much I want to go back and fall in love with Kyrian and Amanda again. I want to break Talon's curse with Sunshine again. I want to learn Apollite history and culture with Wulf - as long as Cassandra is teaching it. I want to see Zarek and make sure he finds his star, while also making sure that Astrid keeps her blind eyes open.  

I want to witness the wolves, and tigers, and bears finding their mates - and try to maintain some semblance of humanity. I want to fall in love with the man in my dreams and then wake up and fall in love with him again. I want to discover the place I'd always been searching for, and the man that gives me the strength to let the search go. I want to find love in the last place I'd ever have thought to look for it. I want to have vengeance in my grasp, and discover it's not the answer I'd been looking for, nor will it give me the solace I seek. I want to learn the wonders of the worlds and know that I have my soulmate beside me always...

Yes that's right. I have not the will power to stand against the goddess-like powers of Sherrilyn Kenyon and her Dark-Hunters. Or her Dream-Hunters. Or her Were-Hunters. Her Demi-Gods.  All of them. Any of them. I just can't do it. I'm not strong enough. 

So here I go. Off to find Grace, and to watch as she summons her destiny.

Let the great re-read begin!!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

You Have Yours, I Have Mine

I’ve been trying to stay out of the conversations, the debates, the full-on attacks regarding this whole ‘50 Shades of Grey’ boycott, anti-BDSM, say-no-to-porn thing that’s been raging for the last while.  I can’t even go on to Facebook anymore without seeing post after post, after post of bashing and propaganda.  In the last couple of days alone I’ve read nearly a dozen different articles, blogs and individual rants on this subject.  And you know what?  I get it.  I do.  But while I get it, I’ve also been biting my tongue and purposely NOT commenting or stating my opinion.  Because the fact of the matter is, I don’t think many of you are you’re going to like it.  But here goes...

For nearly as long as there have been humans on earth there has been some form of sex-industry.  That’s bottom line, straight up truth, because let’s face it people – sex or, at the least, some form of sexual release is an actual, biological, physical need.  Your body needs sex for a great number of reasons and if you want to be clinical about it, none of those reasons have anything to do with emotion.  Emotion is something that we’ve intertwined with sex over the ages.  There’s no denying that a strong emotional connection with your partner makes for a better, more fulfilling sexual experience.  However, not everyone has a sexual partner in their lives whom they have a deep emotional connection to.  For some people, and at some points in their lives, there are only no-string emotionless hook-ups, masturbation (which may or may not be helped along with some visual aids), or the (gasp) pay-to-play sexual experience.

Visual aids you say? Yes that’s right, I’m talking porn.  Whether you know or like it or not there is a whole wide, amazingly vast range of porn – from artistic scantily clad shots, to explicitly graphic representations of extreme sex acts, and everything in between.  There are pictures and/or video of nearly any sexual act you could possibly imagine.  And do you know why?  It’s because someone did imagine it, or (OMG!) someone actually did it, or even because somewhere in this big world these sexual acts are cultural norms or culturally accepted. Porn, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But just as there is a difference between having the occasional glass of wine or a beer, and being a binging alcoholic, there is a difference between an occasional viewing of a sexually explicit photo or video, and being a glued-to-your-computer porn-aholic (porn-addict?).  By that point, the porn by itself isn’t the problem, the addiction is.

Now you can’t have missed the arguments flying around about how porn is a great evil because it teaches youth that sex isn’t special.  That it teaches men to debase women, that sexual satisfaction is best found through extreme sex acts, that men can do whatever they want to get off (i.e. humiliating or abusing their partner) and that its fine.  And more, that it’s teaching women to accept and expect this treatment from their partners because it also teaches those women that they are only here (here as in alive? In the bed?) to act as tools and vessels for their partners’ sexual gratification...


Well using that line of thinking we should be asking ourselves what television is teaching our youth, our young men and women, and even our older generations? What are video games teaching them? Movies? But those arguments have been had and in fact they’re still being debated and talked about.  

And here is what those arguments are generally broken down to:
It’s. Not. Real. 
Video games, TV shows, movies, they’re not real.  They are fictional stories.  They are exaggerations of reality.  They are bits and pieces of make believe mixed with real situations, flavored with a touch of the extreme and presented to the masses for entertainment.  Entertainment, not a lesson, not a “this is how you should walk out the door and act” depiction. Entertainment.

Now I hate to break it to you (well ok, actually, no I don’t) but so is porn.  It’s entertainment.  It’s not meant to teach you how to have sex.  It’s not meant to teach you how to treat your partner.  It’s not meant to show you your boundaries or your preferences.  It’s not meant to teach you anything because it’s just entertainment.  And just like you can choose whether or not to play a video game, or watch a show on TV, or go to a movie, you can choose whether or not to view porn.

Which brings me to the ’50 Shades of Grey’ debate.  For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the last several years, ’50 Shades’ is a new movie coming out this Valentines, that’s based on a book that (wouldn’t you know?) was written for entertainment purposes.  Basically it’s a story about an obscenely rich man who is a Dominant of the BDSM-lifestyle, and the sexually naive woman who falls in love with him and struggles to accept his sexual lifestyle.  They get their HEA (happy-ever-after) ending but it’s not a smooth road to the finish, and in the end, neither one of them is exactly the same as when they first met.  On the surface that sounds like a pretty normal relationship for two people who are different and have different interests.  But guess what?  It’s not a true story.  Surprise!  It is exactly as I described earlier: bits and pieces of make believe mixed with real situations, flavored with a touch of the extreme and presented to the masses for entertainment.

Is it meant to teach men that if they are rich (and the richer the better, right?) they can treat women however they want to and get away with it? No.  Is it meant to teach that BDSM is the best sexual lifestyle to live? No.  Is it meant to teach sexually naïve women that BDSM sex is better or even that it’s the type of sexual experience they should try first? NO! It’s a book and it’s a movie, it’s entertainment and it’s not meant to teach you anything!!  Will there be an increase in BDSM experimentation? Absolutely! And I say: to each their own.  There is nothing wrong with sexual experimentation and, in fact, I encourage it.  Try new things, push your limits, push your partners’ limits, but discuss with your partner(s) beforehand what you’re absolutely not willing to try, and remember that consensual sex is fundamental to a satisfying experience.  And to put not too fine a point on it, non-consensual sex is illegal.  Go ahead, push and expand your boundaries, but don’t break the law.  That’s just stupid.

What’s the point?  Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone is allowed to have an opinion.  Obviously I believe that, as I just stated mine.  But here’s the thing: Just because I have an opinion about something, even if it is an extremely strong opinion and I’m absolutely convinced that I am right, that doesn’t mean that I expect you to agree with me.  It doesn’t mean that I’m going to force, nag, pester, constantly pressure, or even attempt to make you agree with me.  And chances are if I’ve thought enough about something to form an informed opinion, no amount of you nagging, pestering, constantly bombarding me with information, or any other attempt is going to change my mind.  You’re entitled to yours and I’m entitled to mine. 

So if I want to read a sexually explicit book, watch porn, go to the strip club, watch a movie about BDSM, or even experiment sexually with my partner... Yeah chances are I’m going to do it, regardless of how you feel about it.  If you have a problem with that, sorry, but hey, I didn’t ask you to do it with me, did I?