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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sex, Love and Shakespeare!


Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

A lighthearted re-imagining of Shakespeare’s characters in a modern day tale of rekindled love, and sexual exploration. 

Beatriz is sex blogger who’s been stuck with trying to do a review of a sexual position manual at her sister’s wedding. Ben is the guy who got away and the best friend of her soon to be brother-in-law. So, of course, in classic Shakespearian situational comedy style, Ben ends up helping Bea out of (or rather into) a tight jam. 

It’s been a while since I’ve laughed so hard while reading about sex, which is refreshing and sorely lacking in the erotica genre. Misbehaving captures the bawdy, bordering on ridiculous humor of Shakespeare, while updating and adding an emotional resonance that surprised me. 

For the other Shakespeare nerds out there, please note that while this book is billed as a re-telling of Much Ado About Nothing, it is an condensed and edited re-telling. The story primarily focuses on the two primary couples Beatriz (Beatrice), Ben (Benedict), Claudia (Hero) and Henry (Claudio). None of the minor characters from the play were present (that I recognized), though the sassy bellboy, Keaton, felt like an homage to the many eccentric characters birthed from Shakespeare’s fertile imagination. 

I think it’s also important to note that the sex in Misbehaving is unlike most you find in popular erotica. The most notable difference being that it’s some of the most sex positive sex I’ve ever seen written. What I mean by sex positive is that neither Bea and Ben felt guilty or shameful about the sex. It is safe and consensual. Both take joy in their own bodies, as well as their partner’s body, and best of all they talk during sex. 

This might shatter a lot of people’s romantic fantasies about how sex works, but real people do this in real life, and it’s DAMN sexy. But I know that not everyone wants realism in their erotica, so if you’re one of them take note. I however, LOVE it. 

A big part of what captivated me about this story, and characters was how comfortable they were with sex in general and each other. Ben even reveals a little something about himself that I have NEVER seen a male lead in a mainstream romance ever do. I was so stunned and turned on I had to step away from the book.

Let’s talk about the sex. It was fantastic. Some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve read in erotica. Like I said earlier a big part of that was the realism and emotional connection between the characters. As for the terminology used (because I know certain words can trip up some readers) the primary words used in sex scenes are penis, vagina, vulva and clit/clitoris. How they were used made sense, and the sex scenes were extremely hot for me. For the record, I personally have a hard time finding the word vagina sexy (I’m more of a vulva kind of girl), but Reisz has an ability to frame a sex scene where the word didn’t detract from sexiness at all. 

Additional bonus to this all is the fact that Bea is a woman of color, and a naturalized US citizen, originally from El Salvador. She is a departure from the often offensive stereotypes of Latin women, and immigrants that we see in media. Bea is an intelligent, educated and empowered modern woman. While she’s happy to be an American citizen, she doesn’t forget where she came from. She also speaks in Spanish in parts of the story. Also something you rarely see, outside of a historical romance. Bea’s ethnicity isn’t a huge part of the story, but it does influence her character and it’s refreshing to see how a woman of color can be the lead in a story that isn’t an “issues” book. Also, there are no hints of fetishism about her skin tone or body, that is a common misstep in interracial romance novels. 

In summary, Misbehaving is a funny and sexy read. Short, but full of steamy sex, hilarity and love. I highly recommend it. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Shey Stahl Strikes Back!


Click here for the full story of Plagiarism controverys surrounding Shey Stahl.

Just when we thought we had seen the last of Shey Stahl, she returns to share her side of the story and reassure her remaining fans she will write again.

She returns to the internet armed with an eight page letter explaining the what she has done isn't plagiarism, but rather that her works were simply "similar" to other Twilight fan fics. [The letter was tweeted out by the Dear Author blog. It was posted on her website, that is now up and running again.]

Nothing is 100% original. How could anything we write be 100% original, given that we share similar experiences as human beings and use common language so that we can communicate out emotions and ideas?
Spanglemaker9, the author of the Twilight fan fic The Art Teacher, which Stahl borrowed heavily from, still disputes this claim. She tweeted in response to Stahl's letter sharing a document that compares her fanfic to Stahl's work.

Stahl has began using her facebook account again, and is actively blocking critics and authors, like Spanglemaker9, who have sent her cease and desist letters to prevent Stahl from attempting to profit from their work again. 

In her lengthy letter, Stahl also laments the backlash she's experienced since the accusations of plagiarism began to pop-up.  Stahl mourns the lose of her editor, cover artist and agent over the incident, and even claims she and her family have experienced harassment and bullying by angry readers and members of the Twilight fandom. 


Please note: In the entire time I've been following this controversy I haven't witnessed any of the images of Stahl's family that are mentioned in her letter. There was most definitely disparaging remarks about her and her character on Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads, but nothing about her family. They could have been emailed directly to her, but several exhaustive searches of the internet turned up nothing online.

She also accuses her former editor of lying. Saying that she was only ever cautioned against using character names that are reminiscent of Twilight. Which would make it obvious her books were once Twilight fan fiction.

Stahl also accuses her former editor of giving out her personal information to whomever asked for it. I personally, have a hard time believing this statement since never in any of the private message conversations I had with Max, Stahl's former editor, did I once receive any personal information about Stahl. Max keep to the details of the plagiarized passages, and her request to have her name removed from Stahl's book. All the information that I have on Stahl was obtained from her public facebook account and following the trail of her old fan fiction accounts.

At the end of the letter Stahl reassures us that she has run all her books through a plagiarizer checker, and will continue to do so with her future books. She thanks her fans and to the other authors involved she wishes "all the success they deserve."

On that ominous note, I'm left wondering how will this controversy affect the future prospects of Stahl's work and if readers can ever truly trust that her work is original. Or if they must accept that, as Stahl says, nothing is 100% original.

If Stahl is right, how can we ever hope to draw a line between inspiration and imitation?