Books


Porn Star by Laurelin Paige My rating: 3 of 5 stars This is another book where the authors have good intentions, but don’t really execute them that well. I think it’s wonderful that Laurelin Paige and Sierra Simone wanted to write a book that includes the very real issues within the adult entertainment industry, including rapes and sexual assaults. I think that if they had done a little more to, no pun intended, flesh things out, then the book would have been excellent. I loved the comparison of Devi/Logan to mythology and astronomy, but I think that sometimes it wasn’t as developed as it could have been. Of course, neither were the characters. Each felt a little flat, which was disappointing because I could tell that they were aiming to build these really strong characters. Instead, Logan becomes the epitome of a NiceGuy stereotype and really isn’t as in touch with respecting women as he thinks he is, while Devi comes off as whiny and immature. Even the villains/antagonists in the story aren’t fully-formed. When I finished reading the story, I felt almost like I had wasted hours of time on reading this book. I hate feeling like reading a book was a waste of time, especially when it is a book that could have been excellent. The sex scenes were okay. They weren’t over-the-top or even all that racy like you might expect with a book on porn stars falling in love. They were just okay. I couldn’t understand how the characters were having mind-blowing sex when the writing wasn’t really all that mind-blowing. Some of it was gross, but a lot of it just seemed blah. I know it was meant to shock and titillate, but it was, like porn, too over-the-top. It didn’t seem like realistic behavior, and all seemed like it was a performance. A lot of it was also grossly coercive, which doesn’t promote the sex-positive message that the writers were intending to share via the story. There were some elements that were a bit racially insensitive and a little bit off on how bisexuality works. The idea that Devi is “exotic” fetishizes her for displaying traits associated with the Persian ancestry on her father’s side. I’m sure that Paige and Simone didn’t mean to say anything racially insensitive, but they did make statements that were cringe-inducing. The descriptions of bisexuality really dumbed down the research. While I appreciate the attempt to address the research that shows women are rarely heterosexual when it comes to arousal, saying all women are bisexual based on arousal is untrue; most are bisexual, followed by homosexual, and then heterosexual, but that doesn’t define their sexuality. Yes, most women can be turned on by other women, but sexual orientation isn’t just about arousal. The same studies that determined that women are rarely heterosexual also say that most men are either heterosexual or homosexual in their arousal, which effectively erases bisexual men. They also show that women can become aroused by watching animals having sex, which could be used to suggest that women are into bestiality, and that’s just interpreting the study in the most literal way possible. It dehumanizes women and bisexuals. It also engaged in bi-erasure by suggesting that if a person is more attracted to one gender than another, that they cannot be bisexual. Devi enjoyed sex with women and fooling around with women, but she preferred men, especially Logan more. In fact, she based her identity as heterosexual solely on the attraction to Logan. Enjoying sex or preferring sex with a particular person or with a particular gender does not make someone not-a-bisexual. Dating one person exclusively or marrying them does not change their sexual orientation. Bisexuality is hard enough for most who identify that way without encountering these stereotypes & common misconceptions. It was mentioned toward the end of the story that the romance developed over the course of two months, but it seemed like it was closer to three weeks. Maybe there was more going on that wasn’t included in the story, but I think I might have found the story more believable or realistic if there was more of a sense that they were doing more than just having sex and talking about astronomy. It was also a little weird that the one who was more wealthy was Logan. Porn is one of the few industries where women out-earn men; top female talent make $2000-2500 per scene, whereas the most well-known male stars make $1500 per scene. To live the lifestyle he lived, he would need to be working more often and investing a good deal of his check. The only reason Devi would be making less is (1) the refusal to work in heterosexual porn and (2) the lack of experience. Otherwise, she would be out-earning him. I think the book had an interesting premise and I might recommend it if you just want to read something a bit smutty, but I wouldn’t tell anyone to have high expectations for it. Maybe it won’t disappoint you if you don’t go in expecting too much. View all my reviews

Review: Porn Star


Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn My rating: 2 of 5 stars This book was good, but it wasn’t. That may not be obvious since I rated it so low. Firsts tackled some tough subjects, but it didn’t really do so in a great or helpful way. I honestly wonder if it may have done more harm than good. The intention of the author, much like the intention of the main character Mercedes Ayres, was probably a good one at heart, but, as the proverb goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions cannot fix what is truly wrong with this book. I understand the attempt to soften the approach people take to cheating and slut-shaming, but it doesn’t actually achieve that. Instead, it pushes those stereotypes even further and dismisses criminal behavior as seduction and bad parenting. Luke is portrayed as the former boyfriend, while the behavior described is clearly sexually abusive. He groomed Mercedes before forcing her to perform oral sex on him and before eventually raping her. Charlie’s actions are not really any better. Filming a person having sex without their consent is illegal. Trying to physically force someone to have sex with you is illegal. Attempting to blackmail someone over their sex life is, you guessed it, illegal. But the author chooses to say that Charlie was trying to “seduce” Mercedes. No, that’s not seduction. Those are acts of sexual violence. Kim is an emotionally abusive and emotionally & physically neglectful mother, and Mercedes’ absentee father who decided to punish Mercedes for her mom’s decisions isn’t much better. Kim is portrayed as a slut and a bimbo who only cares about spending the ill-gotten gains of her ex-husband. It’s the kind of storyline that you might get from websites run by “men’s rights activists” and MGTOW. Faye is the supposed-to-be-subtle-but-really-isn’t cautionary tale. Zach is the night-in-shining armor. Angela is the good girl, the girl with the patience of a saint and who is let back into Mercy’s life too easily. Mercedes is the fallen girl/girl gone bad who takes on the sins of all those involved & is nearly ruined in the process. She is constantly obsessing over what side she should show others, which is something that a lot of people feel, but it was never really addressed in the book. Yes, there’s the whole, her mom screwed up how she thinks about sex, beauty, weight, etc., but that’s not enough to explain why she is so hyper-critical and why she is convinced that she is unlovable. And if you’re going to spend a whole book tearing down the main character’s self-esteem, then you need to spend more than a couple of pages making her act like she’s all-better all of a sudden. Sometimes it came across as preachy. No, wait, it always came across as preachy. The sex lives of most of the characters in the book are regularly criticized. Angela, Mercy’s BFF, is super-religious and pushes her faith onto everyone. (There are even Bible verses that are quoted and referenced.) Her sex-negative attitude only pushes Mercy to hide her actions. Kim’s antics seem to push the idea that adultery leads women to even more vice-filled lives. Mercy’s internal dialogue about how many guys she’s had sex with pushed the idea that girls & women who have ‘too much’ sex might be seen as used up goods. The outcome at school for Mercedes pushes the idea that women and girls have to be punished for being sexual. When Mercedes describes how she feels about sex and intimacy, even when she sometimes thinks she’s attracted to Faye, it’s almost like reading a pamphlet on sex addiction. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by the way that her pseudo-attraction to Faye was handled. I know that with sex addiction, a person might engage in sex with people that they aren’t really attracted to, but the whole “is she going to kiss me” thing that existed through most of their interactions was just shrugged away toward the end. I didn’t know if Mercedes was only thinking about Faye that way because she really doesn’t understand relationship boundaries or if she might not be as heterosexual as she eventually felt the need to declare she was. Sex addiction or figuring out that you’re LGBTQ might be an interesting topic to cover in a novel, but it needs to be addressed in a better way. Come to think of it: all of the issues that are described within the book need to be addressed properly. In attempting to counter the sex-negativity that people, especially women and girls, encounter in their lives, the book actually pushed an even more sex-negative outlook. The book essentially normalized sexual violence, parental neglect, and shaming young women for being interested in sex. That’s why I don’t think I could ever truly love this book. It almost seemed like a book I could like until it became clear that it was just another in a long line of anti-sex books with ambiguous attitudes toward abuse and sexual assault. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. View all my reviews

Review: Firsts







“The most important thing to know about Margaretha Zelle is that she loved men. The most crucial thing to know about her is that she did not love truth. When it was convenient, she told the truth. When it was not, or when she found the truth tedious, she invented what might be kindly called “alternative truths”—and unkindly, “lies.” For her, what was factually true never seemed as essential as what should have been true.” – Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and The Unknown Life of Mata Hari by Pat Shipman via Tumblr Photo credit: FaceMePLS via VisualHunt / CC BY


“The problem the WRP faced in connecting pregnancy to their line of sex-discrimination was this: Even if a man could take care of the kids and the elders, and a woman could join the air force and handle the family finances, only one of them could get pregnant and give birth. RBG and her team had to convince the justices that pregnancy too was a matter of equality—or inequality—and not just something special that women indulged in, off on their own. Even more radically, RBG wanted the Supreme Court to recognize that women would never be equal if they could not control their reproductive lives, whether they wanted to be pregnant or not. That meant the right to an abortion, and it meant the right to be free of discrimination for staying pregnant.” – Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik via Tumblr Photo credit: national museum of american history via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

“The problem the WRP faced in connecting pregnancy to their ...


“Treating men and women differently under the law, RBG told the justices, implied a “judgment of inferiority.” It told women their work and their families were less valuable. “These distinctions have a common effect,” RBG said sternly. “They help keep woman in her place, a place inferior to that occupied by men in our society.” – Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik via Tumblr Photo credit: WFULawSchool via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND


“The adoring portrayal of an older woman like RBG as both fierce and knowing, points out the feminist author Rebecca Traister, is “a crucial expansion of the American imagination with regard to powerful women.” For too long, Traister says, older women have been reduced in our cultural consciousness to “nanas, bubbes” or “ballbusters, nutcrackers, and bitches.”” – Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik via Tumblr Photo credit: allaboutgeorge via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City by Laura Tillman My rating: 3 of 5 stars I don’t know how to explain my feelings toward this book. It is an extremely compelling story, but the writing quality is poor. There seemed to be no real outline or backbone to it. The purple prose only highlighted this flaw, as did the repetition of unimportant things and the lack of refreshers given for details that seemed more important. If all you knew about the case was the manner in which Julissa, John Stephon, and Mary Jane died, then it would seem impossible to feel bad for John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho, but what happened to them within the justice system is awful for other reasons. This is a case where a man with a severe mental illness (paranoid schizophrenia) and an intellectual disability (IQ in the low 70s) and a woman who had a shared psychosis with this man because of her own intellectual disability (IQ in the 50s) end up imprisoned, and, for him, end up on death row, but the writer is busy talking about superstitions & personal fears. It’s almost like she doesn’t completely perceive the gravity of the situation, the level of injustice that’s going on. As lovely as it is to learn about regional cultural beliefs, I was more concerned about the fact that this man who should be in a hospital will probably face lethal injection. The writer could only view this as horrible once she met Mr. Rubio, but it seems like anyone with a basic sense of compassion would figure out after learning about his background. Instead, she was oblivious to it, which made her seem callous. It made the whole book feel callous. Also, the stalking of Ms. Camacho’s family was a bit disturbing. I understand she felt that she needed to hear from them for her newspaper article and her book, but her behavior was quite creepy. I’m surprised that they didn’t issue a restraining order after the second or third time she showed up outside the woman’s front door. The writing honestly reminded me of what you’d find in an essay by a bored, uninformed student who waited until the last minute to do an assignment. I have a hard time believing that this is something the writer was encouraged to get published, at least in its current form. I have no doubt that she has talent, but the fixations on pointless details within the work are distracting and annoying. I wish she had explained more about Rubio’s mental health than how a superstitious grandmother convinced her to throw away a perfectly good pair of tennis shoes. This wasn’t her memoir. This wasn’t even a memoir for the building. It was an unfocused work of nonfiction that was rather disappointing. View all my reviews

Review: The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory ...