Monday, February 09, 2015

Booknote: The Big Book of Orgasms

Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories. Berkeley, CA: Cleis Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-57344-963-2.

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre; Erotica, short-short fiction.
Format: Trade paperback
Source: Provided by editor in exchange for an honest review (this should cover the disclosure note to keep The Man happy). 

Find it in a library near you via WorldCat.
Buy from the publisher, Cleis Press.

I managed to pick this one up after a little hiatus in reading erotica (see my note as part of "My Reading List for 2014" if you are curious what happened). I am glad to be back reading in the genre, and I am glad I read this. When it comes to erotica reading, this editor has not steered me wrong so far.

The book features a foreword by Barbara Carellas, which serves as an opener to entice us with a reminder of the many possibilities that many types of orgasms can yield. As she writes, "orgasm offers endless erotic possibilities--not only in the countless ways humans have devised to have orgasms, but also in the types and kinds of orgasms we can have" (ix). And the key for so many play possibilities is imagination. The foreword then is a nice set up for the rest of the book.

The editor then provides an introduction. I found the title provocative. We often think of orgasm as the end, that rewarding ecstasy of sexual play. The editor turns this by saying, "Orgasm is Just the Beginning," and in terms of this book, the orgasms and play are indeed a start for readers. The book is a collection of short-short stories. For some readers, as the editor writes, "sometimes less is more, and if these stories leave you wanting to see them continued, that's a good thing" (xiv). However, if you are a reader who prefers more fleshed out erotic fiction, some of these may be too short.

The overall format for the stories is about 1,200 words or less. Many of these stories do pack a very hot punch, and they will definitely leave you wanting more. Perhaps some of them will give you a hot spark for further exploration. A few do fall short and barely register a blip on the radar, like that really small finger food bite that barely registers, you know, the kind you can't have just one. Thus you have plenty of choices to explore. Story quality can vary from scorching to nice but no big deal. This means short-shorts do have another advantage: if you don't like one story, or it was just not enough, you can move quickly on to another.

The strength of this anthology lies in the diversity of stories the many authors have created. I would say that there are more good stories in the the anthology overall that readers will enjoy. You get 69 stories that truly explore the diversity of orgasmic ecstasy. Choose the ones you like. Maybe you will even read them with someone special.

Now, if you will allow me, I would like to highlight some of the stories in the book to give readers an idea of what they will find:

  • In "Steamy," Tess Danesi's protagonist sneaks in a little self-love in the steam room of her fitness center. The story has a nice build up and sensuous detail where you can almost feel the steam and even smell the eucalyptus vapor scent. I should note that I may have a slight bias here for eucalyptus does carry some very pleasant memories for me. The story overall is a sensuous and relaxing read. 
  • A story with a little Spanish always catches my eye, so I started Mistress Kay's "Me Vengo!" with interest. Partners in a college Spanish class decide to get a little closer to practice their Spanish lesson. Of course, you express your ecstasy in Spanish. You would not want to disappoint the professor. You don't have to be a native speaker to appreciate this one, but native speakers may find it a bit more amusing. 
  • Valerie Alexander's "Hellfire" was one of the few stories that did not work for me, and I mention it to show that I am willing to show not all was perfect in the reading. However, what turned me off may be just what turns you on, so I will let my readers decide. Though I enjoy BDSM tales, when it comes to Dominance, if the arrogance level is too high, it turns me off. The protagonists here, to me, seemed way too full of themselves, and at moments a little obnoxious. As I said, this may be just what some readers like, so this story of two Dominants getting it on but not wanting to admit how good things actually are may fit the bill. Just a bit too rude for me. 
  • Guys also get to play with each other here. "Queer for Mike" by Shane Allison is a workplace story. Our unnamed narrator is messing around with Mike, who happens to be a closeted man. With a half hour work break, give or take, they need to make the most of it (and not get caught). Allison builds up the tension and sense of urgency to deliver a hot, quick number. 
  • Sommer Marsden's story is another story of lovers in a bit of a rush. They both taste each other. Even with time moving on, he teases as she begs him to go "There." The two enjoy one of many "pilfered moments of perversity" (294). By the way, I really liked that little phrase. This is a story of a couple in harmony with each other, which is an element I liked very much. 
  • For me, "Book Lover" by Donna George Storey was the story worth the price of admission, so to speak. This is the story I loved as librarian and book lover. The author not only creates a hot story. It is a hot story for bibliophiles that takes us deep into books, showing us sensuality and passion in the midst of books. The story has a very strong sense of place too. The editor chose wisely in including this one. 
  • Our editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel does provide a great contribution with "I'm on Fire." As Amanda, a character in the story, says, plenty of people do not like playing with hot wax, but hey, more candles for her. And her girlfriend, Ceara loves to indulge with the hot wax as well. But will restless Amanda be able to stay still as the heat comes? You will have to read and see them play along, leading to a special surprise. On a side note, the story made me recall Bruce Springsteen's song "I'm on Fire" (link to YouTube video). I guess the story ignited that fiery image for me as well. The song theme is not quite as the story (different stories), but the fiery imagery with elements of obsession just clicked for me.
 This was definitely a great book overall, so I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

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