Sunday, December 03, 2017

Michael's Wings, by Tiffany Reisz (Book Review, Spoiler-Free, Appropriately NSFW)

One of the tags I use a lot in this blog is "these aren't the penises you're looking for," but I happily can't use that label for this review.

These are DECIDEDLY the penises you're looking for.

Oh, were you looking for a safe-for-work book review? Let's start here: Michael's Wings successfully proves that a series of stories centered around a male/male BSDM couple is absolutely lust-inspiring regardless of which direction you're sliding toward today on the sexuality scale.

Fans of the Original Sinners series already know the peripheral tale of young submissive Michael and his older, richer, sexy-as-sin beloved dominant, Gryphon. Sure, Michael's Wings could've just been a series of filthy sex scenes using various BDSM scenarios (well ok, honestly it IS that, and sexy as hell): easy peasy, everybody's tired and sated, job done. A complacent writer might've gone that route, using established characters to fill in a bit of the universe with more sex to sell: this is not that book.

Never one to shy from controversial expressions of love and lust, Tiffany Reisz gave us the high level events of how these two lovely men came together (ahem) as additional color threads in Nora's, Soren's, and Kingsley's story lines over the course of the eight Sinners novels. In Michael's Wings, she gives us a novella and a series of short stories that bring Michael and Gryphon fully to life, with just enough Nora, Soren, and Kingsley thrown in to give appropriately irreverent commentary on the duo's struggles.

Michael grows up over the course of the collection, and transitions over time from the emotionally broken teenager to an independent adult with ambitions and desires outside of the apartment he shares with Gryphon. Since his place in their relationship began with a suicide attempt, an abusive father, and a pretty all-encompassing rescue by his rich, beautiful lover, Michael had to figure out whether he was really in love, or just the damoiseau-in-distress. Was he capable of being a real partner in the relationship? Could he stand on his own as an adult? Could he be a husband?

Gryphon, on the other hand, has to discover whether he loves enough to do what's best for Michael, regardless of his own pain. Patience is not a virtue of his, and boy does he get to painfully learn how to let go of control and be patient. Since he's older, more established, and is already secure in who he is, Gryphon's job is to let Michael catch up in maturity, regardless of his own wants and needs. Nora, Soren, and Kingsley all make appearances in order to beat sense into him. Literally.

Michael's Wings is full of all the romantic, inventive sexual encounters a reader could hope for, including the blush-inducing, uncomfortably hot BDSM scenes. About halfway through the first tale I realized I could never sit down in their apartment in real life (because all of her characters end up being people you'd really like to know in person, don't they?) knowing how much naked cock has been on that couch. The candle wax, the toys. Wowza.

The thing is, the explicit quality of Reisz's writing isn't limited to eroticism: it's the anguished and raw emotional issues spiced with delicious sex that make her work so exhilarating (and wonderfully exhausting) to read. Gryphon and Michael have an incredibly complicated relationship. Love drives them both, and learning to love so intensely that they can heal while avoiding being completely consumed by each other is a delicate balance they struggle with for the entire book.

Michael's Wings is an excellent addition to the Original Sinners universe, giving us the long-awaited middle to Gryphon and Michael's love story. Be prepared to stay up until you've finished it, because you won't be able to put it down.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The 17 Year Old Unsolved Mystery of Russell Crowe.

The turn of the millennium had a couple big milestones for me. I graduated college in 1999, and my first real adventures happened in 2000. I moved away from home over New Year's weekend. (Yeah, I  know a lot of peeps move when they GO to college, but I LIKED my hometown and never wanted to move away. Alas, bills require jobs, and jobs for an English and History major were scarce there, so off to the city I went.) I spent that first year living at my grandparent's house - which is relevant to this post.

For a "yay you made it through college and are officially adulting" I was lucky enough to receive help to buy a car or go on a trip. 

Fuck cars. I went to Ireland. I was all of twenty-one. 

No FB, no texting, no affordable international cell phone plans. I chuckle at the helicopter parents now who have to hear from their traveling college students regularly: I left Minnesota on a Thursday night, flew from here to Chicago and from Chicago to London. This was my first trip out of the country, and I went alone. I didn't meet my tour group (Contiki Tours, who are still in business and run fabulous tours for 18-35 year-olds) until I got settled in my hotel in London on Friday night. 

I didn't have an opportunity to email or call my parental units 'til Wednesday that week. On that tour, I may or may not have had a fling with the Scottish driver (who was twenty years older than me but OH MY GOD that accent) and made a couple of Australian friends. After all, I was one of three Americans on the tour: everyone else was Aussie or NZ. 

I'm still friends with one of the guys I met from Melbourne, Australia. He visited twice in those first few years, and we had pretty regular contact for a while. To this day, we trade pics of our families and news once or twice a year. 

All of this is relevant, because I STILL suspect he's the culprit. 

2000 was also the year Gladiator came out. I saw it right after I came back from Ireland in May, and fell utterly in love with Russell Crowe. I have no regrets regarding my unrequited devotion. 

So, recall that I was living with my grandparents, and fast forward a couple of months, when a random envelope showed up in the mailbox. 

Note Return Address Area has NONE. 
 So, clearly this wasn't SENT to me. It was left in the mailbox by some weirdo. I don't recognize the handwriting.

Return address. In case I didn't tape it back together well enough, that say NSW (New South Wales) Australia.
NSW Australia is where RC is from.
This is a lot of effort to screw with my brainpan. 


Except YUM.

So, 17 years later I'm cleaning out papers and find this envelope, still never claimed by Cameron or my parents or anyone else. 

But SOMEBODY dropped Russell Crowe in my mailbox, and it wasn't a benevolent mail fairy carrying around an unpostaged Maximus. 

If anyone wants to claim this one, feel free...I still want to know. 

Cameron, I still think it was you colluding with some family member. And I'll miss you terribly when I'm on an other tour in Ireland next May. 

If anyone wants to send Maximus to my house now...hey, I still hold that particular crush right along with Gerard Butler and The Rock. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Series of Events, Mostly Fortunate

I was reminded recently via an unexpected and unusual channel that I've not blogged since Chewy's death, and since the reminder came with an "are you ok" query from an ex-boyfriend I had twenty years ago...

I am still alive.

This fall held a series of big changes and an overabundance of work...and I've been behind the curve on a lot of thinking and decisions. It's not depression, per se, but a sort of backlog of to-do items, both physical and not. I grew up on a hobby farm with horses - if you don't clean the shit out of the stalls regularly, it takes an astoundingly short amount of time for a mess to become a mountain. Seriously you guys, I've had this GIANT Ikea bookshelf installed in my guest room since August and it stood empty, glaring at me, until last week. Did you know librarianizing* your fiction after moving a couple of times leaves you with a list of missing titles you're SURE you used to own and have no idea where they ended up between here, Texas, and back here? Infuriating, and likely to be expensive. Sigh.

Honestly, everything writing-related has taken a back seat to sleep, including this blog. So, in effort to get back on the carpal-tunnel horse I'll include a few random items in this post. And tomorrow, I'll post the overdue Tiffany Reisz review I owe.

  • I have ALMOST successfully completed my legal name change, and certainly this process after a divorce is a room in hell for the most banally evil sorts. I mean really...with a marriage certificate you just need to send a single piece of paper without any explanation.  When I went to Wells Fargo, I sat down and said "let's just start here: I'm changing my legal name, here's the documentation, I'm divorced, and I'm not sorry."** I'm equally annoyed and amused at explaining that their pity response is misplaced. The WF guy was cool, and said "ok, congrats then, let's fix this!
  • I have a bunch of new books to read and review for Ancient History Encyclopedia. I also have that Tiffany Reisz book...and I need to decide pretty damn quick if I'll keep publishing under the old name or the new old name (I went back to my maiden name...technically I could've gone to ANY name, but "Awesome" seems too obvious and "Settergrendel" would only confuse people MORE than my actual last name, which is pronounced exactly as it's spelled and yet mispronounced about as often as I'm called sir. So, at least weekly. 
  • I got my updated social security card AND my updated passport within 2 weeks. My driver's license is now 8 weeks and counting: good job MN DMV, you're officially months slower than the feds. My stupid TSA Pre-Check number has an expected wait time of NINETY DAYS before they even call to tell me what to do next to change my name. 
  • Angus is a horrid and adorable homicidal fluffball who has scarred the shit out of my arms and legs. I'm considering getting him a puppy. I'm also considering putting together a book out of the Evil Overlord Facebook posts I've done (and those I have in a list waiting to be posted). 
  • I now have five months to lose enough weight to be relatively comfortable on a flight from MN to Iceland to Glasgow. Shit. Related: I upgraded the gym membership earlier this week so I can continue not going to any gym but feel guilty when I see the receipt once a month. 
  • I totally should've gone with Settergrendel. 

*Yes. I made up that word. What else accurately describes obsessively not only alphabetizing my books by author, but ensuring they're in correct SERIES order? That's right: Librarianizing

**As previously documented in this blog, while ex-husband and I are quite good friends to this day, the divorce wasn't a terrible thing, and ultimately better for us both. We had a celebratory dinner at Fogo de Chao the day we filed.