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17 July
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No god but God by Reza Aslan

Chapter 4

Fight in the Way of God

Page 79

Islam, it must be remembered, was born in an era of grand empires and global conquests, a time in which the Byzantines and Sasanians—both theocratic kingdoms—were locked in a permanent state religious war for territorial expansion. Despite the common misconception in the West, the Muslim conquerers did not force conversion upon the conquered peoples; indeed they did not even encourage it. With the exception of of a few remarkable men and women, no Jew, Christian, Zooroastrian, or Muslim of this time would have considered his or her religion to be rooted in the personal confessional experiences of individuals. Quite the contrary, your religion was your ethnicity, your culture, and your social identity; it defined your politics, your economics, and your ethics. More than anything else your religion was your citizenship. In fact the term ‘holy war’ comes not from Islam but from the Christian Crusaders, who first used it to give theological legitimacy to what was, in reality a battle for land and trade routes. Holy War was not a term used by Muslim conquerers, and is in no way a proper definition of the word jihad.

Pg 81

The word jihad literally means:

  • a struggle
  • a striving
  • a great effort

The lesser jihad is actually about military conflict and the greater jihad implies the internal struggle of man too come to terms with the law of god (who was really a group of men.)

Pg 85

Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) influence in shaping Muslim ideology is matchups he’d only by St Augustine’s influence in shaping Christianity. The Quran commands believers to say to those that do not believe: To you your religion, to me mine.” (109:6)

Jews lived side-by-side with Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula after Mohammad’s death.

Page 95

Jews were disinclined to discuss their faith in public or to proselytize. Even during their most oppressive rule Muhammad considered his message to be a continuation of of the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition. To facilitate the acceptance from the Jews of Medina Muhammad had connected his community to theirs and felt that his message was a continuation of theirs by adopting Jewish rituals and practices. The Jews rejected him, to his surprise, but also strenuously argued against the authenticity of the Quran as divine revelation. Worried that the rejection of the Jews would somehow discredit his prophetic claims, Muhammad had no choice but to turn violently against them, separate his community from theirs, and refashion Islam as an alternative to Judaism.

 

 

 

21 January
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Mischling by Affinity Konar

Mischling by Affinity Konar is about Josef Mengele. Pg 106: Night—it had forgotten that it shouldn’t be this beautiful in Auschwitz. There was no stopping it’s velvet sway at the messenger’s back.
27 October 1944
By day my pain worsened. Some mornings I woke to find it fevering in my toes, and on others, it was sulking about in my guts. Every day a new location a heightened pitch. I tried not to wonder after the identity of my sickness,—what could it matter?—but my mind wanted a name for it. Eventually I settled calling my sickness my weakness, with the idea that labeling it as such might motivate me to become stronger.
Pg 125: That I would have understood suicide long ago, that I would have known its color, its cry, its scent. And it’s true that I’d been born with thoughts of it within me.
Pg 142: I could have added that there was nothing strong enough to cleanse me of certain filths had been imposed on me during the experiments, but I didn’t.
Pg 145: When I read this I had big wet sobs. It is difficult to realize that part of you might travel for a lifetime with someone you hate, entirely against your own will.
Pg 164: But the doctor’s footprints were more reticent than your average footprint.
Pg 174: A box he apparently loved above all others, because while those receptacles were marked with the usual inscription of War Materials, Urgent, this one was deemed good enough to bear his name. Dr Josef Mengele it declared in script so fine and practiced that I could imagine him rehearsing the curve of every letter. He clung to this box like a child with a teddy bear, a boy with a kite, and when he lifted the lid, it was with careful affection, as if he didn’t trust even himself with the marvels contained within. All of this here he said, genetic material. You can’t begin to imagine what we might achieve with these tiny samples. A different kind of human. A perfect person. The slides clinked musically together in the box. I ran my finger over their edges. A perfect person I repeated, like Pearl. He grabbed the box away from me, closed the lid on all the little lives before I had a chance to memorize them. He took me by my neck, gripped it with his fingers, tilted my head back, and then with a movement so deft that it seemed like a magic trick pulled on a stage, he drew a dropper from his pocket and squeezed a little liquid into my left eye. Oh, how it blinded and stung. That little bead of liquid—it embellished my tears. What is this for? I gasped, and my hand shot to cover my pained eye as if to protect it from further shock. “It is to remember me by, he said.” Ouch. This was the best scene ever, and of the only time in the book adequately shows you in a few sentences what a monster he is, no different than Jeffrey Dahlmer.
Pg 185: The soldiers entertained themselves (on the walk from Auschwitz to who knows where) with a trick of shooting one body so that it fell into another body, and that body toppled another in turn, and so and so painfully on, bone-crack, hiss-of-bullet, snap, on snap—our people fell and the SS strode upon them shooting whoever dared to stir.
Pg 195: I asked them how I was supposed to treat survival like a game if the game would not have me, but their voices are gone. They’d witnessed the fall, and then they performed their own fall back into nothingness, into what I hoped might be peace. This was how I knew that I was still alive, because I was not at peace at all. But I continued with the game, long after the voices were no more. Play a mouse, I told myself. Play a fox.
Pg 201: You don’t have to be a Nazi to enjoy capturing a Jew.
Pg 205: Because I found a different avenue of memory to traverse. Or my pain found it for me. Because when I became aware that both of my feet were clubbed and swollen, that the bones had snapped at the ankle and my feet at the end of my legs like a pair of too-large lavender boots, I had a thought that he would fix everything: he would come and heal me if only I called. Papa, I remember, was a doctor. I remember that. There were words that were close to the first language I heard in my head, but they were not my words. My words were Polish. These words were neighbors in sound and meaning—They are speaking Russian, I thought.
Pg 222: I would wander into my body and try to know it, to stake my claim within it. It was wear, this body; I was ashamed of it. It had none of the strengths I imagined it might have while still in the tomb of my box.
Pg 247: Put yourself in a cage, Miri tried to whisper, but I heard it all. And then put the cage in a dark room. Once in a while have a hand come through the top of the cage. Sometimes the hand will give you food. Mere crumbs. Other times the hand might shine a light or ring a bell or douse you with water—” Peter asked what the purpose of such an experiment might be. Miri gave one explanation: Dr Mengele wanted to know what might happen when identical twins, the ones bonded to one another, experienced separation. It was true in it’s simplicity. But I could’ve given Peter another explanation: I was put in that cage because I loved too much.

I started to read this article, and decided to share it because it is very good. Recently I was reading about the film DENIAL and the Holocaust denier, David Irving. Her daughter explains that for the first few years Holocaust survivors, even in Israel, remained silent. Nobody wanted to talk about it, she says, to burden people, to upset people. It’s only really in the last two decades or so that survivors have started opening up.

The rest of my post is not a review, so until I can get the review up, here is my post about Holocaust Denial.

09 May
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Muslim Girl By Umm Zakiyyah

I’ve read several of Umm Zakiyyah’s novels, and I respect her writing. I’ve written reviews for each of her books, that were on pay sites. She dumbs down her subject matter for a young audience. That’s an amazing capability to have, and a good one to wield as a young adult novelist. Yet I have to be honest and say that every time I read a book of hers I feel like there’s, HONEST TO G-D, subliminal messaging, like that old SNL skit. I read Umm Zakiyyah’s books and I feel filthy. Just dirty. Islam and the patriarchal system that runs it makes me ill. MuslimGirlBook

As a woman not raised in Islam, I can no longer read Zakiyyah’s books because the control over women by men oozes off the pages. This says a lot about the author. If she can make my skin crawl because I see the level of control men have over women, and women over girls, in Islam, she not only describes Inaya’s conservative Islam in her attitude, and behaviour, but she demonstrates the fury that exists between men and women in Islam.

But moving from Saudi Arabia to America with an uninterested stepfather, Inaya experiences bigotry in a DC tri-state area school. A school administrator assumed that because Inaya is religious she must be Christian. That hatred is the same hatred that pits Muslim against Jew. It’s the kind of hatred that is supposed to be eradicated in public schools.

It’s a good book, and Zakiyyah is a good writer. I can only hope that at some point she notices how patriarchal her religion is and can foment social change because her writing could reach millions, and before more of her sisters die from FGM, which is endorsed by the Qu’ran.

15 February
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Guilty Wives by James Patterson

I have never put down a Patterson book, Guilty Wives is way different. I love his stories, particularly The Women’s Mystery Murder Club series. It starts with the outrageous situation with incredibly wealthy wives on vacation fornicating with strangers and drinking far more heavily than I’ve ever managed. (And I have had an hangover or two.) GuiltyWivesBookBut then the women are in a French prison, accused of killing the French president, and subjected to all kinds of torments. It’s clearly S&M based. I suspect the problem is the male co-author who has his own fantasies about women. They aren’t mine! I’d truly encourage Mr. Patterson to get back on track with good, intriguing stories. Not Mr. Ellis’s view of womanhood.

This story is told in flashback – four women go to Monte Carlo for a “girls weekend” – a weekend that leads to a sentence in a French prison. Why? What happened? What the women do not know is that their husbands have followed them to Monte Carlo and are watching them as they enjoy the city and all it has to offer.

The story of their weekend unfolds – they gamble, enjoy the beach and dine in the finest restaurants. They dance and drink and drink and drink.

It is clear they are not innocents – but are they guilty and of what?

The first twenty three chapters do make you want to know what happened, how it happened and who made it happen….

Four lovely women go on a vacation to a luxurious spot in Monte Carlo. They feel ready to be pampered as they each come from marriages where the spark of love is missing.

After enjoying the festivities, the women meet a number of men and continue their partying on a wealthy man’s yacht.

They are unaware that their husbands had followed them and have their own plan to rid themselves of their unfaithful wives.

The women also didn’t know that one of the men they were with was an influential politician in disguise.

The action explodes when gunman attack the yacht and kill a number of the men.

I can tell that James Patterson and David Ellis worked hard to help the reader visualize both Monte Carlo and France but there is such thing as TOO MUCH description and this entire book is a clear example of that. On the plus sides for this book, it was a great suspense read but it dragged on FOREVER and didn’t really pick up until you were about 70% into it.

20 January
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Stones: Data (Stones #1) by Jacob Whaler

I get numerous emails weekly asking me to read a book, and I used to download free Kindle books daily that I found on Twitter; so I’m not sure which of those things I did to find Stones by Jacob Whaler, but I’m glad I did. In Colorado, while skiing, teenager Matt Newmark finds a stone that changes his life when he is 22, after not letting him die at age 16. The year is after 2151, and people rarely go outside any more, there are Freedom Camps that want to rise against the establishment, Matt, a Japanese American and his girlfriend Jessica, who believes in Jesus, which is frowned upon in this decade. Then there is Kent Newmark, a lawyer who investigates corporate malfeasance, a Japanese history professor, a Shinto priest, and at the top of the food chain, a Polish Auschwitz survivor, Dr. Ryzaard, whose greed for power and control rivals Hitler’s. Ryzaard will do anything to get Matt’s newly acquired stone, even kill.

Descriptions were rich and layered, but my Kindle said it would take me 14 hours to read the book. I panicked! My Kindle is now two years old, and it readjusts based on my reading speed, but still, 14 hours? It readjusted at 12% to 8 hours and that’s pretty much, give or take, how long it took me to read this 550 page book. I was intrigued! Stones: Data (Stones #1) had all the hallmarks of an amazing book: Love. Technology. Freedom. Power. Compliance. Individuality. Religion. Autonomy. Corruption. Control. Government. History. The Stones.

Stones,jpg

Besides the jax, and transports from DIA to Japan in six hours, it really didn’t seem like the future at all! Shinto gates every where. Japan in trade agreements with China and a hatred of America. The Bible out-dated. It could be a warped 2014! I liked the quotes from Art of War and the infusion of Japanese words. The level of corporate corruption was believable, but Ryzaard, well, I didn’t understand why he was so power-hungry. He wanted to make a world full of sheeple, which is exactly what Hitler wanted, and he had lived over 200 years and didn’t know that what he wanted was a bad idea. That seemed a little far-fetched. I had a hard time reconciling the fact that the SS killed his father, mother and sister; but Ryzaard was still OK with murder. He felt that murder benefitted him. He either was mentally ill or completely deluded. He was horrifically corrupt.

I also didn’t understand the shape of a woman and her saying We Are the Allehonen. Was Whaler implying that the shape of a woman means creation? I thought for all the time the book wasted on details that didn’t matter, they could have spent a little time on the Shinto priest explaining Allehonen better!

Kent is still grieving for his dead wife 12 years after the fact, which seems depressing and a bit unrealistic, he’s also a control freak about his son Matt. But Kent’s adventure cross-country from Colorado to New York City, traveling through the Freedom Camps, stealth and cloak modes for Matt’s and his jax, surveillance equipment and tricks of detection, and Kent unknowingly being followed by The Children. Unfortunately, while I lied Kent and all I got bored and started skipping all of his sections except for a cursory read to make sure I knew what was going on with his character. All of the elements built a marvelous plot that kept me steam-rolling through the book dying to know what happened next.

While it was an amazing book, my pet peeve was that the book was too voluminous! It was crazy long! This brilliant thriller was slowed down by descriptions, numerous POVs, and mundane scenes that were repetitive. Close to the end of the book the plot soared! Unfortunately it happened so close to the denouement of the book that the reader couldn’t enjoy that great writing at the end!

Sadly the ending was ridiculous. Boring. Matt & Jess going of in to the figurative sunset, looking up at the starry sky and holding hands, kissing. They are together on Matt’s world. Ryzaard is alive, the Shinto priest is dead; and Matt will worry about Ryzaard destroying the world later. I would have preferred an analysis of what him and Jessica went through at the hands of the monomaniac and his minions.

@krautgrrl says that this a great book, suitable for 14 year olds and above. Don’t be bothered that you may skip a lot of pages, if it doesn’t hurt the plot for you, don’t worry about it. The book did get long, so it’s OK to stop, put it down and take a break, or skip pages. Enjoy! And look for me on the web and more of my reviews on Amazon.

15 January
Comments Off on Berserk by Tim Lebbon

Berserk by Tim Lebbon

As a teen I loved these sorts of horror books, in the basement of used bookstores or in my mother’s bedroom, hidden from me with Harold Robbins and the frustrated woman porn books. The ones I liked for horror were Stephen King, John Saul, or Bentley Little.

I have no memory of any of them now, just bits and pieces that infiltrate my dreams. This is one of those books I would have found in a bookstore and snatched up because a) creepy cover, b) vampyres, and c) it’s British! On top of that, who the hell has heard of Tim Lebbon? Is that a nom de guerre? I had to do Lebbon and this scary ass girl on the cover a favor and buy the book. It cost one dollar plus tax for the paperback. Cheap!

I’m a horror book and movie aficionado. Now that I had cancer and can’t seem to do much, and network TV, as droll as it is, was off the air due the Christmas holidays, I read this book.

It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read, but it’s also certainly not the best. The pub. The over-heard conversation about Steven. Steven’s parents go on holiday, to someone in England. They are from Wales. A mass grave is unearthed while Steven’s body is searched for, and a girl is found alive amongst all the dead. Obviously she’s a Vampyre. She doesn’t like that term. She calls herself a Berserker.

There are some nice, creepy moments, but overall I found it just to be an okay read. It’s very British on occasion, like when the farmer thinks that Cole is Bond! That was hysterical! I did really like the scene where Cole has the pseudo-hallucinations about the dead woman. That was very emotional and disturbing, yet also sexual. The descriptions were hot. Her black panties. Her white muscular thigh.

I liked Cole, but he needed more life flushed in to him. He was loads better than most bad guys who are doing good, but he needed to be three-dimensional, instead of just two, as he was like Flat Stanley.

That being said, I read the whole thing because I kept hoping I would catch a glimpse of the London or Wales I know and love. I kept reading even though I was bored, the writing a bit bland and very predictable, because I wanted some landmarks I knew to show up in the book. They didn’t, which I suppose ultimately made me sad. I did find it odd how much they were driving though. It seemed they were going to Cornwall and started in someplace like Wick and drove about 16 hours, which means they saw an awful lot of Scotland, but Lebbon never mentions Scotland at all.

@krautgrrl (on Twitter, and the web) says: it’s a fast enough read, so if you’re into this sort of thing, it’s worth a quick read.

21 October
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The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

Besides the tedium of reading independently published books to see what the landscape is like, since I reside in the frozen hinterland of Minnesota, I also read MN-based authors to see the landscape. Webb is a MN-based author, so I picked up the book.

Hallie James/Halcyon Crane picks up and leaves Seattle/Puget Sound for Grand Manitou Island, an island much like any other island in the US situated in the waters of Lake Superior. Now, as a gal who grew up with Lake Michigan shimmering it’s grey-blue glassy water on an overcast day, viewed from her dormer window, I have never understood the fans of Lake Superior. That being said Crane is so grandiose and naive that her character became quite grating.

No one ever moves to an isolated small island town and is automatically befriended (except perhaps by a gentleman who wants to get in her knickers.) Moving to small isolated, inbred towns is what makes horror stories and movies great. It is also what creates despondency in new residents. They aren’t welcomed!

Minneapolis, that big city down from Duluth that can’t support a Neiman-Marcus, happens to be just as icy. If you are not an indigenous Minnesotan, you are not welcomed. Minnesotans go away for college and come back to their high school friends and extended family. New comers, even those of us who come here for University, are unwelcomed.

Crane believes she’s owed explanations from the residents of this insular island because she moved there after her father died, and after being notified that she was left millions and a gorgeous mansion by her renowned-photographer mother.

There are malevolent ghosts, there is a weird guy who runs the coffee shop, and a local lawyer, who is in charge of her mother’s estate. The attorney and Crane dine together, taking a carriage to dinner, since no cars are allowed on the island (oh! That sounds like Mackinac to me!) Then, suddenly they are in love!

Most of the Crane story is told by a witch, Iris, who had to be over 105 years old. I liked the book overall, I just thought there were major flaws in Crane’s personality. She just isn’t believable. My daughter went to Duluth for college last year and could not stop telling me how much she absolutely despised Duluth. The weather, the cold rude people, the complete abandonment of anything close to society, the abundance of snow and trees and nothing to do but drink because it was so bloody awful there. She’s a MN girl, my daughter, and she only made friends with people from St. Paul and some Twin Cities suburban kids, she made no friends from Duluth or other rural towns; she said they were all ass-backwards and closed down. That made me laugh, and made me pick up this book.

I honestly WANT to like Webb and her writing, but I can’t get there. We tweeted and she’s one of those women who thinks her perspective on everything, especially Minnesota, is right and there is no room for any one else’s opinion. Her tweet to me also said “casserole,” which is NOT a Minnesota word, these people call it a “hot dish.” The whole concept of hot dish has eluded me for years until I did some research.

The annoying book, “How to Talk Minnesotan,” states, “A traditional main course, hot dish is cooked and served hot in a single baking dish and commonly appears at family reunions and church suppers.” In short, a hot dish is a casserole, and the name is purely Minnesotan.

The origins of the casserole/hot dish are shady. Wikipedia says it evolved from budget farmers needing to feed their large Midwestern families. Another theory is that it originated from the Norwegian word “varmrett”, meaning “warm dish”. Both make sense, as there are both a lot of farmers and a lot of Norwegians in this region. In turn, casserole comes from the French word for “saucepan”, in reference to the baking dish.

Minnesota is mostly Scando, not much French, so as someone who is French (and a fluent speaker), I’m going with the whole Scando thing.

But, I digress. The Tale of Halcyon Crane was an easy read, but don’t be surprised if you find the book hard to swallow, like a starchy, tator-tot hot dish.

04 September
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A Game of Proof by Tim Vicary

This book is actually called, A Game of Proof (The Trials of Sarah Newby 1). I found this book on Twitter. There are some good Indie authors, and some not so good. Vicary falls in to the good category. Sarah Newby is an attorney in the British legal system, and she has worked hard to get that position. She had two children young, Simon, at only 16, and lived in awful counsel housing. When she finished her A-Levels, she realized she loved academia, and continued studying. She re-married and had a second child, but continued to go for a law degree. She wanted her children to grow up different from herself. Her Simon is my Simon. A red-haired little terror who ends up being charged with the rape and murder of his girlfriend Jasmine. After meeting with different counsel while on remand, Simon begs his mum to plead his case as his defense attorney. She reluctantly agrees.

Ironically, Sarah believes all those days studying where for the benefit of the children; but they don’t see it like that; they resent her for never being available, for always studying or working. Her husband Bob is also angry that she works so much. While her motives are pure, it’s understandable that her children are resentful.

The novel is fast-paced and Sarah’s perspective is interspersed with the omnipotent narrator who shows the Police aspect of cases, and their views of defense lawyers. When the jury leave, after Simon’s trial, for deliberation, everything hangs in the balance for Sarah as well as Simon. In tandem, a woman is killed and she says her killer stated he killed Simon’s girlfriend, but the Judge will not change the course of the trial. He wants the jury to come back. If Simon is found guilty, he would go to Prison for three or four years and then be able to able the murder conviction if someone else is caught, if he’s found not guilty, he can walk free.

The reader is on tenter hooks, looking in to Sarah’s head and hearing her believe the jury is against her and her son. The last 10% of the book cleans up everything that happened for the first 90% and it is well done.

This is a must read for people who like thrillers. But don’t be surprised that the British legal system is almost identical to America’s (albeit they wear wigs and robes!) It’s not mentioned, but of course the Brits don’t have the United States Constitution, so they can’t “Plead the Fifth,” or any of that sort of stuff that Americans can, as an FYI.

28 August
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Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James

I seem to be using the word redundant a lot in my reviews of this trilogy, I am also sick of hearing everyone yammer on in the reviews that this is a rip-off of Twilight, this is a massive rip-off of the film, The Secretary with James Spader (who was named Mr. Grey), from 2002; taken from the original story from Mary Gaitskill. This book took me the longest to read, it’s almost 500 pages long, I ran through it in under eight hours; including breaks. I stayed with it to see if a plot would develop and one did. Finally, [SPOILER] a kidnapping and if you’re a woman you knew Ana was pregnant WAY before she did. Ana’s well-read naivete is still impressive in this book, “Why shouldn’t I pee?” Well, duh.

Everything gets sorted in this book. Then you get a nicely tacked on Hollywood-ending where the Grey’s live happily ever after, and there are even more Grey’s now since Ana has a child and her best-friend Kate marries Christian’s brother and they have a kid.

If you are book addict, as I am, then read it for the plot, but skip over the boring panting, sex and chronic orgasms, unless you like that kind of thing.

28 August
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Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James

To quote one reviewer: “It’s like literary crack. You know it’s bad for you, and you feel dirty and low for enjoying it, but you can’t stop.” Spot on says @krautgrrl. There was more plot to this book than book one, and by plot I mean more real writing and less sex, but there is still a lot sex, and with this much sex; well, one becomes immune. It’s like consistent expletive usage, it gets old fast. But ever the reader to finish a book and hope Ana or Christian die, or get kidnapped, or something so all the sex will just end, we get a confrontation with Christian’s first dom, who “corrected” him.

Ana and Christian are in love, or lust, and while she doesn’t want to be hurt by his whips and canes and hiking equipment, she is still drawn to the Red Room of Pain.

IMO, we’re pretty tame on the whole erotica theme, mostly because there is all that blushing and flushing and grimacing and lip pulling, and spanking. I’m guessing I wasn’t supposed dwell on the issue that they seem to have a lot of time for sex when they both work. As in my first review, the redundancy is what makes the book unbearable. This book took me less time to read because I paged forward past a lot of the sex. Been there, done that, I’m married!

In this book we get our prior repetition from book one, plus Ana constantly calling Christian, “my fifty,” in her head every other page (or so it seems.)

Where oh where was the DE on this project? Or was said DE just so amazed by handcuffs and butt plugs that he or she over-looked the fact that the plot compromises about forty-nine pages?

Read if you’re intrigued by sex that isn’t missionary all the time, otherwise just read the plot bits. The aging dom debacle is well-done!

PS: A DE is a Developmental Editor who usually takes the first look at your book before it gets shuttled off to editing.