Thought I couldn’t possibly find more fault in the big land of literature? Well, you would be wrong. My reading was down over the last year because University got in the way of reading for pleasure, but when I did read for pleasure I noted down which books were good, which books were bad, and which books deserved a special mention on this here blog.
So without further ado, here we are, round two of The Sex Corner:
It’s not easy being asexual in a sexual world, and it’s even harder trying to avoid something that is always considered a selling point. (Although it isn’t really, but that’s a post for another day). Luckily there will always be more books for me to get my head into. Well, for as long as my kindle works and libraries exist, anyway.
And that is where of which I procured the new editions to the The Sex Corner from. (Holy awkward sentence, batman!).
The first is an early piece by Tess Gerritsen. You might recognise her name, she is the prolific author of the Rizzoli and Isles series, but before them, there was a Under The Knife. It start’s with a female doctor, called Kate Chesne, being accused of malpractice which leads to the uncovering a murder plot. And that sounded brilliant, I was all for that! Murder? Hospital related? So my cup of tea it was practically a family sized teapot full of Tetley Decaf.
Until the lawyer came into it.
At first he was looking into the case, and then suddenly it turned into a whirl wind romance that left me wondering the legalities of the situation. Would a prominent lawyer take such a risk by dating his client? He wasn’t only risking the case, he was risking both his and Doctor Chesne’s reputation and their respective licences to practice, if she was to be found guilty. She could have been branded as the murdering doctor who slept with her lawyer so he’d guarantee she’d be found innocent. He could have been branded as the lawyer who had sex with a murdering doctor, not caring about the evil deeds she’d done, bringing his firm into disrepute. What does that say for either of them, in character and ability to act reasonable?
It says nothing other than this is book is full of ridiculous people who can’t do their jobs. I can’t possibly understand these characters, and I certainly can’t empathise with them. I don’t know if other people can or do. All I know was that I was in it for the crime and the court case, and I left at the door by badly written, convoluted romance and unfathomable scenes of a sexual nature.
So, in the sex corner it went!
And it was followed very quickly by Shadow of the wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Initially this is a story about a lonely lad, Daniel, who, grieving after the death of his mother, is shown a library of forgotten books. The Cemetary of forgotten books.
Remembering what someone once said to him about your first book always staying with you, Daniel carefully chooses a book called The Shadow of The Wind. And he becomes enthralled by it. After he reads it, he wants to know everything he can about the author. He wants to be an author! This book has picked up this lonely lad and gave him a purpose beyond his own existence. It was beautiful and it was brilliant! I was all for that.
And then it derailed.
Daniel, the lonely boy, develops a crush on an older girl called Clara, whose father is a rare book connoisseur. And it turns out this book is as rare as you can get. Not wanting to be turned away so soon after he refuses to sell his book, which was an amazing, once in a lift time gift from the very secret library of forgotten books, he offers to return regularly to admire Clara from an up close and personal distance. Oh sorry, no, I mean, so he can read to her because it just so happens that she’s blind.
And that still isn’t where my problem was with this story. Developing crushes is fine. I remember the older lad I used to have a crush on! But one part I had a problem with is that Daniel seemed to think that Clara owed him something just because he liked her. And she wanted to see him less and less, probably because she was 6 years older than him and he was just an opportunistic child. And he gave her the book to keep. Yes, the very rare book he at one point would not let out of his sight. He just gave it away.
There is such a mystery surrounding The Shadow of the Wind. All the other copies of this book was burnt by the author himself. Why? That’s part of the mystery. One night, fearing for Clara’s safety and the safety of the book, he sneaks in to her flat to take reposession of the book, hears, uh, noises, goes to check the, uh, noises out, finds Clara is, erm… quite happy where she is, erm, shall we say? And then he promptly gets beaten up by Clara’s boyfriend. He flees with the book, and then makes acquaintances with an eccentric homeless man called Fermin Romero de Torres.
My biggest problem with his reaction after finding out Clara’s got a boyfriend and that they seem quite happy together, is that he seems to think that she was using him. From my point of view, he was foisting his attentions on to her and imagined a whole Will They/Won’t They scenario in his mind, like a delusional fantasist, whilst she probably didn’t even think about him at all, especially considering his age. Like, in her mind, he was probably like that young next door neighbour you used to play out with when you’re both in the bracket of “under 16”, and then you’re over 16 and you go off and do your A Levels, but the next door neighbour’s just gone into year 10. Except this book is set in just after the Spanish Civil War, so, you know. No A Levels, or year 10. But ignoring the speciifcs, generally speaking, that’s life, it happens, and everybody moves on and makes friends with people their own age.
Everyone bar Daniel.
But the scenes of a sexual nature don’t go away just because Clara is no longer in his life, nooooOOoooOoooo. First you have Fermin Romero de Torres, who is never too far away from talking sexually, and then you have the very graphic sex scenes.
I was less than a third into the book but I was out. I’d powered through the Clara thing in the hopes the mystery of the book and Daniel’s plan to be an author would remain in the foreground. It didn’t. Once again, I paid the price for powering through.
Just when I thought I was learning!!
So, last but not least is a series of books I think I got into under false pretences. My friend recommended this book to me (the same one who recommended the Languidoc series. I need to stop listening to this friend’s suggestions). She said it was like Dan Brown’s books, but better written, with better plots. And I thought, well you can’t get worse than Dan Brown, surely? So why not give it a go? Hah. Why not, indeed!
The series was the Ben Hope series, by Scott Mariani. I started in the order Mariani recommends on his website, with the prequels first. The first one, Passenger 13, was flawless, filled with violent action, mystery and a little bit of back story. I couldn’t fault it. The second one, Bring Him Back, similar on the violent action but the mystery involved a child with “special” telepathic powers. I could see the Dan Brown comparison. And yes, it was still very well written. Then I read his real first published Ben Hope book (if we talk chronologically by published date), The Alchemist Secret, and I didn’t think it was as good as the prequels. Mariani seemed to be suffering from a case of “Plot strong, writing weak” itis. I figured, that’s understandable. My writing wasn’t as good in my first chapters than it was in my 10th chapters of a multi-chaptered story I’m writing, I can forgive tired tropes and poor narrative in the early days of his career. I can’t forgive the James Bond-esque poor treatment of female characters, though, making them look bad so men look good. I had a watchful eye out but ultimately, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Then there was The Mozart Conspiracy, which again had a decent story but the narrative style really started rubbing me the wrong way. Some chunks of purple prose here and there, and the romantic elements on the up, and then as usual with male writers, using female character’s suffering to drive a male character’s story onwards. This is irritating and insulting to the point where I thought I’d draw the line there and then. None of the bad elements were what I was reading this series for!
But then I got an email from my local Library. The next book in the series was available. So I thought, I’d give it one more chance with The Doomsday Prophecy and if it’s the same, I’d give up. It was the same, and a little bit worse. In this story, he starts off so torn up about his dead wife that he plans to finish up his theology degree from years before, and reconsiders going into the priest hood. We get one woman chatting him up and he turns her down, though it seems more begrudgingly because of appearances of propriety and the prospect of a job rather than earnestly out of mourning. And then he spends the rest of the book having a sort of “will they, won’t they” type romance with the next woman he meets. I’m not saying he should have been donning mourning suits for the next three years, but the timeline in the book means it’s only about 4 months since the apparent love of his life is dead before all of this happens.
Some of the dialogue meant to be enriched with romantic tension is so convoluted I felt like I was reading bad fanfiction.
I ummed and arr’d over reading the next lot. I thought, “this isn’t as bad a decline as the Oz books, and I’ve not faced anything overly sexually graphic, just the romance really pulls the stories down” and planned to go on. Then I was hit by a snag. The library didn’t have the next two books on audiobook and had no plans to stock them. I couldn’t afford to buy them, especially if I didn’t like them, so I just waited it out and put Ben Hope to the back of my mind. Probably for the best, considering.
Then I found out something unrelated to this which has made the decision once and for all about whether I should continue reading or not. There was a promotional campaign for the latest Ben Hope novel in The Sun. And then I found out that HarperCollins is related to The Sun. I did not know that before then.
So now I will have to pick my books carefully because there is no way I’m supporting anything in relation to The Sun.
But, all in all, that doesn’t change the fact that these books will be going in The Sex Corner. And then after that, I might throw all Ben Hope novels in Mount Doom.
I may be slow to update, but as long as there’s good books ruined by unnecessary romance plot lines and sex scenes, there will be The Sex Corner, so watch this space!
I love the films. Well, the original film and it’s sequel, “Return to Oz”. The James Franco film was such a painful experience I like to pretend I haven’t seen it and that it doesn’t actually exist. I also watched an amazing miniseries called Tin Man and that is a gem of a find!
So, with that in mind, I got the whole entire book collection (For free, on Kindle. Thankfully) and set out to read my way through it. I knew people said bad things about it, I knew that he wrote in response to people’s requests, I knew that people lost interest the further along the series they got. I disregarded that and, much like Dorothy, started on the yellow brick road, prepared for the journey that was ahead of me.
I thought I was prepared, anyway. Turns out that I wasn’t prepared at all.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
This first book was alright, actually. All things considered. I think the Judy Garland film represented the first book quite well and some sloppy writing aside, stands up as a good children’s book.
The Marvelous Land of Oz
The second book, part inspiration for the second film, also mostly good. It is a nice little story, written for children.
Ozma of Oz
This book was most of the inspiration for the second film, Return to Oz. But sadly it’s where the problems were becoming too big to go without mention. There’s plot holes and cop out solutions. The story is very dragged out, and I think I would have been unimpressed with the story even as a child.
With the film, I was terrified of The Wheelers. They even unsettle me to this day. Tiktok could only make them behave for a short while and they come back later on in the film, scary as ever.
In the book, however, Tiktok disposes of them swiftly and they’re never seen again.
“Only, you must promise not to try to frighten children any more, if they come near to you.”
“I won’t–indeed I won’t!” promised the Wheeler.
I want to know why that didn’t happen in the film, because I lost a lot of sleepless nights thanks to them. That was the best part of an otherwise below average children’s book. I would not have been impressed if I’d have read it as a child.
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
This book was where I realised by what people meant when they say the books lost quality as they go on. I thought they meant further along, I didn’t realise they meant “book 4”. I mean, to put in perspective, I wasn’t that keen on the third book and this was worse.
In this book, we have plotholes, continuity errors and a whole lot of retcons. Dorothy’s personality has been lost somewhere along the way, and her strength as a female adventurer went with it. The blatant sexism just came out of nowhere, as she deferred decisions to her male companion and fainted when things got tough. Her male companion did not faint, because, and I quote, “being a boy, he did not faint”.
I was very unsure about continuing to the next book, but I had the books, they were free, so perservere I did.
The Road to Oz
This was just dire. There’s no other words for it, it was Dire.
This should be named “Don’t Do What Dorothy Does” and used as a teaching device for children’s stranger awareness.
There is a character called The Shaggy Man, and he practically abducts a bunch of children! First Dorothy, who he asks for directions and somehow gets her to show him the way to a specific road, despite actually not wanting that road, he just wants to avoid it. Then there’s Button Bright, who they find crying in the middle of the road, digging, for some bizarre reason.
And then there’s Pollychrome, the daughter of a rainbow man.
It started off pretty much like an episode of Criminal Minds. And said like a true abusive character, the fact they followed him was their own fault, apparently. Or rather, it wasn’t his intention to lead Dorothy away from home and get her lost, nor to find these lost children along the way. But they did, so it’s their fault. I’m not sure how I’d take that as a child, but as an adult, it reads very sinisterly.
And then we have “the Love Magnet”.
This is an actual excerpt of the book:
“The Love Magnet! Why, what’s that?”
“I’ll show you, if you won’t tell any one,” he answered, in a low, mysterious voice.
The warning bells, oh how they rung!
It’s a real magnet, and it makes people fall in love with whoever has possession of it. Right? Because that sounds completely above board.
And then there’s Johnny Dooit, who the Shaggy Man wants “real bad”, who’ll do anything The Shaggy Man asks. We’ve gone beyond Criminal Minds here, and we’re in an episode of Tales from The Crypt.
In essence, the story is about the odd bunch of travellers AKA, The Shaggy Man and his Oblivious Gang of Abductees, going along trying to find the Land of Oz and Ozma’s palace; And they all come across all sorts of people along their way, in true Baum fashion. And the crux of the story is that leaders of all these different groups all want invitations to Ozma’s party.
Well, where I come from, it’s rude to put people in the position of asking for invitations from a mutual friend, but what do you expect from a land where changing people’s heads into animal’s heads is acceptable behaviour? Once that’s considered fine behaviour, a bit social faux pas is hardly going to be on the inettiquette radar!
And then we have the senseless animal abuse, and a good allegory on the topic of disability. The Musicker man can’t help but make music, it was the way he was born. Think of something like a musical-orientated tourettes. He makes music and it is out of his control. Everybody shuns him and feels sorry for him. Nobody wants to be around him because of the music he can’t help making. He’s considered annoying. There’s no disguising the lack of acceptance, and they are cruel about it. It’s ableism at it’s most basic form. It is childhood classroom bullying and I couldn’t stand reading it.
I skipped a lot because the formula had well and truly worn thin by that point, and the ending was no different.
That was me done for Baum’s Oz series.
Read the series at your own risk.
Ah, that day has been and almost gone again, and if we’re lucky, it won’t be back for another full 365 days. Or 366, considering next year is a leap year.
Which is a great! It mean’s Christmas won’t be back so quickly as it was this year.
See? I told you I’d be back to my Ebenezer Scrooge-ly self. I did use and abuse the thing that made me look forward to Christmas this year, and maybe next years and the year after that, to my hearts content. But I’ve exhausted the distraction and now I’m tired.
There was a trend this year, I noticed, of lesser gift giving. Whether it’s the value of the gifts, the amount of gifts or the meaning of the gifts, I’m sure it varies from person to person, but there was definitely a knew trend in the air.
Gifts were either useful, born of a sentimental notion, or one singular “expensive” item. Is this because of the economy? Are we all getting too old for novelty gifts that take up valuable floor space? Are we becoming less frivolous simultaneously, maybe? Are we seeing a bigger picture?
A mixture of all of the above? I imagine that’s the case for most people.
I’ve been saying, with more and more frequency, that I don’t want or need anything, I just wish I could have a good time with the people insisting on buying me gifts. I’m grateful for the gifts. The lovely, thoughtful, funny, useful gifts. And the chocolate. But maybe the money should go towards more important things? Or stored away to be used on a day spent together.
Who needs a musical lava lamp when silence can be filled with the conversation of a loved one? (Too cheesy? Meh)
So. Now we’re crossing over between evening in to night. I’ve done all but one Christmas Tradition, which is my Annual Awkward Christmas Phone Call with my good friend. He’s been quite the busy fellow this year, and he had many people make plans with him for today, so I’m waiting for him to give me the signal so that I can call.
I hope I get the signal soon. Like I said, who needs a physical present when you can have a good conversation with a loved one?
If you were to read my entries from around this time last year, you would be met with some words and sentences directed at Christmas and December fit for old Ebenezer Scrooge himself.
Now, I’m not saying I’ve changed my ways. I still hate Christmas, and the commercialisation of Christmas, and December and how the whole of December is a painful countdown to Christmas and then new year. And it’s always cold, and dark, and miserable. I think all of it is miserable and pointless and the less I had to do with it the better.
However. However… During the summer, I got quite attached to something that had a small reference to Christmas in it. And I am delightfully happy to finally get the chance to use and abuse this very small reference to my heart’s content. So it’s really all about that than it is about Christmas.
It’s exactly the same as hating Chemistry, but finding absolute joy in the song Catalyst by New Found Glory, and using and abusing the chance to sing it obnoxiously everytime work is done with a catalyst. Or the word Catalyst is mentioned.
I’m not happy to celebrate Christmas, this is just a very small way I can make the lead up to it tolerable. Something better to focus on, at least.
It’s amazing what benefits there are to having a geeky, fangirl mindframe.
I would thank the person responsible for this little reference right here, right now, on this very blog, but I don’t want to give any more away that would connect my blog with my LiveJournal.
So anybody intrigued will have to stay intrigued… (I say that as if I have regular readers)
Normal scheduling consisting of grumbling, moaning, complaining and many other things that describe my ill-feelings towards Christmas in general and December will resume as of now.
Today marked the start of Asexuality Awareness Week.
This is my first proper blog post ever about the subject, in fact it’s the first time I’m publicly acknowledging asexuality personally, so I’m a bit nervous about this. Please bare with me.
So, Asexuality. Also called Non-sexuality and on one memorable occasion, “Anti-sexuality”. I think maybe all three of these can be accurate, but not interchangably so and definitely not exclusively so. That’s one thing about Asexuality, it’s all a bit varied. And it’s not to be confused with the scientific term that means a biological ability to procreate by itself. Thank you, Anonymous Friend in 2009 who asked me “What? Like Godzilla?”
No. Not like Godzilla. Nor like the more common comparison, an Amoeba.
In simple terms, it basically means “I have no desire or natural inclination to have sex with you or anyone else.” It should be that simple, but then people get involved.
In not-so-simple terms, the default line is still there but people vary and what it can mean is “I have no natural inclination to see you in a sexual way, but I will have sex with you for your sake anyway because making you happy would make me happy.” and/or “I have a mild natural inclination to see you in a sexual way and desire you as such, but not all that often. The feeling comes and goes, really.”
Lots of people take offence to this and I honestly don’t understand why. Would a woman be offended if a man said “Sorry, you are very good looking and lovely, but actually I’m gay”? No. She’d probably be embarrassed.
If someone has acknowledged being asexual for a while, they have probably heard it all. “You haven’t met the right person yet”, “Well clearly they mustn’t have done it right”, “Maybe you’re gay?”, “You’re just immature and you need to grow up”, “Could it be depression or a hormonal imbalance?” and even worse, “Well, you have all of these other issues, maybe this is another one of them.”
Actually, no, even worse is the people who insist that if an Asexual has never had sex, then how do they know they don’t like it.
Let me tell you something. I’m 100% sure that I don’t want to jump off a cliff and free-fall to the ground, and I don’t need to do exactly that to know so. Just because Adrenaline Junkies think that it would be a good idea doesn’t mean we should all have an interest in jumping off cliffs and free-falling to the ground. Not everyone has the interest, not everyone is built for it, and the same goes for sex.
I don’t understand why people don’t understand this. I’m actually pretty lucky that I don’t get much said to me in this regard. That’s because when I’m not too busy being on bed-rest and going back and forth to the hospital, when I do have some sort of social life, I play the shy and quite easily embarrassed card.
iI am actually quite easily embarrassed, but I’m more along the lines of Social Anxiety than shyness. There’s a difference. This is also related to my On-line Dating post. All in all, it’s nobody elses business. If I have something I’d like to share, I will share it.
But back to Asexuality.
There are, of course, some asexual people who do have sex. They’re usually considered Grey-As or Demisexuals. Usually there needs to be a bigger investment involved for these people to have sex**. This doesn’t negate the whole existence of Asexuality. Nor does it impose on heterosexuality or homosexuality. This is just comparable to cutting your hair! Some women are more comfortable with longer hair, some women are more comfortable with shorter hair, some women go with a degree in between and some women make a conscious effort to grow out their hair as long as possible before making another conscious effort to getting it all cut off.
I’m not in anyway trying to trivialise the issues of Asexuality, by the way, i’m just trying to convey how sometimes a sexuality is just about feeling right about yourself and how sometimes, feelings can change.
There are people who are Asexual and Aromantic. This is where they have no interest in having sex, or romantic relationships at all. Might it change? Well, I believe anyone’s sexuality can change. I believe there might be That One Exception for everyone***. It’s not just for TV Tropes or Fanfiction, it’s for real people too!
Then there are Biromantics and Homoromantics. This isn’t just an Asexual-only thing, but many people who are sexual and are homoromantic or biromantic, just lump their sexuality into the simple “Bisexual” or “Gay” categories, with a subheading of “Mostly interested in…”
And then there are people who are of some sexuality but are aromantic. These are all degrees of asexuality. Like I said, should be simple, but then people get involved.
According to surveys, only 1% of the population are Asexual. This is a very small amount of us. There’s barely anyone in popular culture to represent us, and when there are, there are usually other aspects of their personalities that seem to “excuse” their Asexuality.
It’s just not very fair. We do have varied personalities like “normal” people, most of us crave relationships to some degree, and a lot of us end up feeling very alone when everyone else leaves us to go off and be loved and sexed up couples with their “other halves”.
And whenever “we” complain, we seem to be given two typical responses.
1) Suck it up and deal with it, because this is how normal people are and you can’t expect everyone else to join you on your Asexual Raft
2) Go and try a relationship. If the “lack of sex thing” becomes a problem, then it’s your problem and you need to see someone about it. Because Everyone has sex and the Asexual is just too frigid.
It all reeks of how homosexuality was treated years ago. This old fashioned attitude that therapy is required, that it’s not normal, that it even goes against religion and what’s expected of us. I’d like to think that in twenty years time, people will be just as disgusted with this behaviour as they.
Really, we’re people too. We just don’t want to have sex.
Cuddles are usually welcomed though.
And that’s my contribution to Asexual Awareness Week.
(How did I do?)
** – I’ve had some comments and whilst I’ve made some changes to this post to impove the wording of some things I meant to say but didn’t say quite well enough, I think one of the commenters made something clearer than I ever could. So to avoid actually stealing this person’s explanation and using it to sound enlightened, I’ll link here to the comment. It explains and expands on what I meant by “Usually there needs to be a bigger investment involved for these people to have sex“
*** – In response to another comment, I’d just like to take a minute to explain that i’ve worded myself terribly here and said pretty much the opposite of what I meant. And I understand why it’s come across that way. What I meant, really, is that Some People Might have an exception, along the lines of Fluid Sexuality, and if, say an Aromantic Asexual, did find someone that was their exception, then that doesn’t negate their life long sexuality. It in no way means that other people were right and that the person just needed to wait for “The Right One To Come Along” or that they’ve been in denial all this time about the sexuality they were saying they were. It also doesn’t mean that, if they do apply a new definition to themselves, that they are automatically compatible with this so called Exception.
What I meant, is that a person might find themselves feeling a different way about someone, just one single someone, and that what they feel might be within a different part of the sexuality scale. They might still be Aromantic, they might still be Asexual with a different Romantic inclination. It doesn’t mean it’ll stick, it doesn’t mean what they feel is exactly the same as what other people feel when they feel similar things.
I’m sorry that I can’t articulate what I mean very well when it comes to this issue, but that really is the thing about Asexuality. It’s very varied and complex and complicated and even the simplest things can cause people to get tongue tied and seemingly talk in contradictions.