Sultry Sunday #12 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Celebrity edition! Sort of!


Paperback 170: Award Books A248X (PBO, 1967)

  • Title: A Korean Tiger
  • Author: Nick Carter (who is also the main character...? and who is also, btw, a Backstreet Boy)
  • Cover artist: Some McGinnis imitator

Best things about this cover:

  • Bring me the floating head of Nick Carter! Oh, nevermind. It's right there.
  • The disembodied head of Nick Carter thinks you're a swell-looking doll. {wink!}
  • If the book is trying to suggest to me that that lady is "Korean," I challenge. She looks like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, only with somewhat smaller boobs and no shirt.
  • I like how she is taking a sidelong glance at the title, as if thinking "WTF?"
  • How is it possible that no rapper has picked up the name "Killmaster?" That would be my handle for sure. That, or "Optimum Slim" (a name I derived from the cereal I eat every morning)
  • Fake Korean Post-op Elvira Impersonator needs a refill, dammit!

Best things about this back cover.

  • Text! Who doesn't like ... that?
  • Oh my god, I am in love with this book - any book that features the word "slatternly" is hottt with three t's.
  • I hope the "dark underbelly of Asia" is just some really hairy Laotian guy.
  • Paragraph indentations are for suckas!

Page 123~

The wide green stare did not waver. Behind those basilisk eyes he thought he could detect a hint of something warmer. Desire? Plain old-fashioned lust? Was this creature really so human?

Oh please dear god don't let him be talking about the "Korean" woman. "Though she was Korean, she seemed oddly human."


P.S. this book is immaculate. As crisp and new and bright as the day it first hit the shelves. Maybe there's a tiny amount of scuffing, but it's quite negligible. Paperbacks rarely hold up this well.


The Exciting Conclusion of Sex, Straight Up!

Here’s the final episode of DocTurtle’s snarking of a contemporary category romance novel: a mathematician reads Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up!

Almost there, folks.

It’s been a few weeks since I last snarked on this book, and even longer than that since I read the chapters I’m supposed to be snarking, so I’m finding myself re-reading the book trying to recapture my feel for it.

As I admitted in my last post, I finished reading the book in one sitting one morning before heading off to class. Although it would be a stretch to call the book’s ending thrilling, I found the story engaging enough to track down and tackle the denouement uninterruptedly. Kudos, Ms. O’Reilly!

Ultimately the book came together well for me, but more on that later. Here’s a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the last 60 pages or so...

Chapter 13: Happy Birthday, Catherine!

Catherine’s birthday begins on page 161 and before the next ten pages are up becomes a bone of contention between our two protagonists, who can’t seem to leave bickering aside and fall in love already. This chapter is one of the book’s weakest.

The chapter’s high points:

1. The O’Sullivan Brothers bond over a heated game of racquetball (Daniel sees Sean as a “two-bit amateur”! What a cutely Cagneyian expression!).

2. Daniel realizes that he’s slept with his new love on his dead wife’s birthday (oops).

3. Brianna Taylor Kelley, “of the Seventy-first Street Kelleys” (granted I didn’t grow up anywhere near the elbow-rubbing range of the NYC social elite, but do people anywhere really talk like this?), is first mentioned: this is the selfsame Brianna Taylor Kelley whose initials adorned the ring found in the
O’Sullivan boys’ bar’s wall back in Chapter 6, and whom we’ll meet in person in the next chapter.

4. Page 161 brings further bouts of soi-disant hoo-haw busting sex!

And then on page 162 the birthday-themed game-playing commences when Catherine’s moms inadvertently reveals the special date to Daniel, from whom Catherine had heretofore hidden the occasion, thinking he’s only in it for the sex. “I didn’t know today was your birthday. Happy birthday.”

Catherine recovers over a two-martini lunch at Lever House! A quick internet search tells me that this Park Avenue eatery’s lunch menu currently features a 22-dollar hamburger with “hand cut french fries, gootessa cheddar, or maytag-burrata.” I’m a cheese fan, sure, but...huh? They also offer pork cheeks, “braised.” Hee hee! I’m showing my rustic roots again, aren’t I? (Incidentally, the trancelike and slinky aquatic sounds of the Lever House website’s theme music are going to be in my head for the next few hours...)

Random fact: the Maytag Dairy Farms, presumably makers of the maytag-burrata cheese adorning Lever’s selection above, were founded by the grandson of appliance maker Frederick L. Maytag. Whoda thunk it?

Anyway, back to our story...

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t want you to think I’m, you know, expecting something from you because I’m trying very hard not to...A birthday’s a huge thing for me, and I’d rather you not know about it, because if you knew, then you’d think you have to make a big deal out of it, because I expect a big deal, and I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”

Ooooooooookay...so I guess it’s time to shut things down, now that Daniel’s finally started to show signs that he’s growing comfortable with the relationship?

Chapter 14: The stately town houses of Central Park

It’s going pretty well between Catherine and Daniel, and for several chapters it began to look as though the path from where they stood to everlasting bliss was uncluttered and clear.

Then came Brianna Taylor Kelley and her eye-popping classical d├ęcor (including a real Gainsborough). It appears that long ago Ms. Kelley’s husband of one year, a firefighter, died in an explosion while on duty, inexplicably embedding the ring in the wall of the bar. At this point things go south quickly for Catherine.

“You didn’t remarry, did you?” Daniel asks Ms. Kelley.

“No. Everyone wants to replace things, replace people, but this house is filled with irreplaceable things, and Samuel was irreplaceable, too.”

Well, shit.

We learn in the next few pages that Daniel’s only trying to let Catherine down gently, knowing full well that sparks will fly between the two of them when it comes out that he and Catherine can find absolutely no evidence showing Charles “Don’t Call Me Chuckie” Montefiore is not guilty of collusion. Of course, this doesn’t stop them from having YET MORE SEX.

This chapter closes at the Montefiore Auction House offices, where Catherine and Daniel get an F in “ferreting” as they fail to find even a scrap of evidence that might exonerate Grandpa, but an A in “exhibitionism” as their affair is discovered by house skulker and nogoodnik Foster Sykes. Foreshadowing? Naaaah...

One final note: Kathleen O’Reilly atones for her sinful “hoo-haw” and endears herself to me eternally in her use of the word “schlub.”

Chapter 15: Busted! [Warning: spoiler alerts!]

This short chapter’s packed full of action as the various plot lines begin to converge.

So, Daniel’s been pulled from the audit for “having an affair with someone closely connected to the client.” Worse yet, Daniel’s higher-ups are moving forward with his report, a scathing indictment of Charles “Auctionmeister” Montefiore.

In the time-honored tradition of adding insult to injury, Daniel dumps Catherine: “I thought I could have a relationship, but I can’t. I’ve loved the time we’ve had, and there’s absolutely no other woman that I would want to be with other than you, but this limbo isn’t fair to you, and I don’t think I can move past it.”

Well, hell.

The chapter’s ending passage includes another sly return to the Forgery motif: “With a flourish, Catherine slung her faux Prada bag over her shoulder and heard the seams rip even farther apart. Because at the most personal levels there were some things that just couldn’t be faked no matter what.” Not bad, Ms. O’Reilly!

Chapter 16: Tennessee Williams called, he wants his scene back [Oh, and more spoiler alerts...]

Drunk as hell and baited by his brothers (“transitional babe”?), Daniel leaves their Wednesday night poker game to do his best Stanley Kowalski impression. “Can you get me in the building?” he asks Catherine. “I need to get inside there.”

The clouds now part, revealing rainbows and fairy puppies and angels that poop chocolate and gumdrops.

First, after a cursory survey of the auction house’s phone logs, Daniel digs up the evidence he needs to exculpate Charles Montefiore and at the same time incriminate the company’s IT director.

Then, with the help of his loving mother-in-law, Daniel finally finally finally finally finally gets it through his thick skull: “Don’t wait too long, Daniel. I was married to my Bernard for forty-three years, and I wouldn’t get married again because I was too old, too set in my ways. You’re set in your ways, but you’re not too old, Daniel....Bring me the grandkids, and I’ll be happy.” No pressure, Daniel.

Finally, Daniel asks Catherine over to his apartment for the first time so that he can bare all, dumping his heart, soul, and everything else sloppily at her feet in a bucketful of emotional goo. What ensues is a well-written, entirely believable, and genuinely heartwarming dialogue in which Daniel begs Catherine to give him a chance, which she does.

Three pages later (and on the morning after 9/11, no less!) Daniel asks Catherine to marry him for the first of what will be 104 times (according to the book’s one-page Epilogue).

And it’s Happily...Ever...After.


My overall impression?

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to the SBTB regulars that I most definitely came to this book with various preconceived notions. Mea culpa. “Low-grade bodice-ripper” comments aside, I’m sure I undertook this reading assignment with expectations of purple prose and tenuous plot twists that served only to tie together various sex scenes that would ensue between the book’s protagonists.

I have to be honest that the first several chapters did little to sway me from these views; I felt the writing was overwrought and the characters a bit over-the-top. Much of the dialogue and description was simply silly (viz. “man-man,” “velvety hardness,” and “hoo-haw”), and the characters’ slowly-building relationship was limned in two scanty dimensions.

Chapter 11 was where things started to pick up for me. O’Reilly’s writing grew more zestful as the Forgery motif made itself known in the back of the Chinatown shop where Catherine and her friends had been trapped. As the characters became more real and more well-rounded, I had more sympathy for them, and more sympathy for their plight. I’m sure this newfound sympathy was evident in my slackened snark. The last sixty pages or so I read all at once, genuinely interested in the novel’s conclusion.

Ultimately, I was satisfied. As I’ve said before, Kathleen O’Reilly shows herself to be a solid and engaging writer: if she can get me to turn a few dozen of her pages without a pause, she’s got something going. While her style is not my cup of tea, it’s admittedly effective.

So, is category romance for me? I don’t think so, but I’m glad to have had a chance to learn a bit more about it. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I’m looking forward to my next reading assignment.

Please let me say that I am grateful for the overwhelmingly positive feedback I’ve received from the SBTB readers (and humbly chastened by the constructive criticism), and I’d like to give my sincerest thanks to Sarah for the opportunity to post my reviews on her blog. I hope you will all continue to follow my breakdown of Georgette Heyer’s classic, An infamous army, which is likely to cleave more closely to my own reading tastes.


My Baby's Daddy is a Jack Russell Terrier (or a Beagle, we don't know for sure!)

Dr. Phyllis L. Tucker Wicks? More like Dr. Moreau H. Frankenstein. Someone tell that woman that it's not nice to splice people in half and then set their hearts on fire. (Thanks to Patrick in Saint Looie, I must now set my eyes on fire!)

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. Here's the cookbook I'll be using:

I'm giving thanks to Anna at Nerve.com who sent me this link: http://www.nerve.com/CS/blogs/modernmaterialist/archive/2008/11/21/I-Really-Hope-No-One-Makes-Recipes-From-This-Book.aspx. You're right, Anna. I do have a taste for the torrid. Just not a taste for body fluids that really should remain out of the kitchen...or at least safely cleaned up afterward!


Crackle Paint!

Ah, yes. Crackle finish. The fallback of any kitchy craft designer. And, apparently, book designers who want to add that special "thrift store painting" quality to their books.

Hey, look. Here's the image without all the text. Thanks, James Griffin who writes the blog Paint Layers and drew the image.

Wait, where'd the weird ghostface of Nostradamus go? Damn, I feel denied!


Sultry Sunday #11 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

I believe it's your (well, all of our) lucky day. Today's book (again, chosen randomly off my shelves) offers a veritable sensory explosion - a (literal) orgy. Behold the gloriousness that is ...


Paperback 167: Universal Giant no. 6 (1st ptg, 1953)

Title: The Private Life of Julius Caesar
Author: William Marston
Cover artist: George Geygan

Best things about this cover:

OK, stop. Hammer time. This book was written by the creator of "Wonder Woman." I Am Not Kidding. And yet none of the booksellers at abebooks mention the connection between this book and "Wonder Woman." You'd think that fact would be one of the main selling points. As I looked at the book, I thought "William Marston" sounded familiar, and then I looked inside and saw the author's middle name (Moulton), which rang even more bells. Then I googled. Holy Krap. From Wikipedia:

Dr. William Moulton Marston (May 9, 1893May 2, 1947) was an American psychologist, feminist theorist, inventor, and comic book author who created the character Wonder Woman. Two women, his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne, (who lived with the couple in a polyamorous relationship), served as exemplars for the character and greatly influenced her creation.[1][2]

He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.

  • "Polyamorous" pretty much describes this cover - I count five different sexual permutations on the front cover alone - and wait til you see the back cover (and the spine!)
  • I love that a "feminist theorist" inspired this (awesome) cover. I guess she who reclines on the bed with the chalice of viscous mauve goo makes the rules. "OK, you kneel! Now you, you kneel more! Kneel wheel!"
  • I love how the whipping scene is strategically placed for her (our) viewing pleasure.

Best things about this spine!!!!:

  • I love how the kinkiest (albeit minutest) scene in the whole tableau is on the spine - no matter how it's shelved, You Will See Flesh.

Best things about this back cover:

  • I know this is an odd thing to say, given the rampant nudity, but those are some well-drawn horses.
  • "Your calves are so smooth..." "Oh, that's just the satyr urine. It works wonders. Here, let us pour some on your back..."
  • Jeez, a crucifixion, too? It's like the painting's running out of ways to exploit the female form.

Page 123~

from a chapter titled, I swear to god, "Ladies' Night"

The pretty young neophyte walked straight to the golden gate, as she had been told to do, and gave her name and that of her sponsor to the door-slave who stood behind the golden bars.

And thus began the first recorded A.A. meeting.

P.S. "door-slave"?



Geese and Lace says love to me!

What is it about long-haired guys with guitars on fantasy covers? What about ghostly ladies? Let's combine them all together, shall we?

This guy's not only dead, he's lost all his blood (desanguinated?), too. Silver metal lover, indeed! (Link NSFW!!)

This cover has so many elements, it's just ugly and confusing. Opulently clothed guy in silver, guitar, cliff, ghostly (ghastly) lady, water, asteroid, sunset, but my all-time favorite part is the geese! 'Cause I don't know about you, but Canadian Geese makes me think of lurve.

Tanith, your books rock and I enjoy them, but your covers are frightening!


Sir Fotheringuy-Shrimpington and the Real Girl

She's dead. Dead I tell you! Look at her neck! And her eyes!! Who knew necrophilia was so mainstream?!

Thanks to the eagle eye of the tigerlibrarian!


Sultry Sunday #10 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

For those of you who like your cozies a little ... spicy, I offer you this cover. Enjoy.

(syndicated from "Pop Sensation")

Paperback 164: Dell D340
(1st ptg, 1960)

Title: The Boomerang Clue
Author: Agatha Christie
Cover artist: William Teason

Best things about this cover:

  • Well, there's something you don't normally associate with Agatha Christie: BONDAGE.
  • I love love love how her arms coupled with the back of the chair form a (very ironic) valentine! The red background only heightens the effect. Don't even get me started on how she kinda looks like a Catholic school girl who is at least mildly ashamed of the predicament she has gotten herself into... Or is that a look not of shame, or fear, but of coyness? Clearly, I have my own, private version of the story of how she came to be in that chair.
  • Most of my Teason covers (lots of late 50s/60s Dells) don't have people on them. Clearly he should have done more people. The hands alone are gorgeous.

Best things about this cover:

  • More broken windows!
  • Random rope - did she escape!?
  • I love how the copy on the back cover is typeset as if it were a poem

Page 123~

"To begin with," said Bobby, plunging [ed.: !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!], "I'm not really a chauffeur although I do work in a garage in London. And my name isn't Hawkins - it's Jones - Bobby Jones. I come from Marchbolt in Wales."

The story of a golfing legend gone deep, deep undercover.



Mammary Monday: Special Thursday Edition

Eeeek! So...many....things...wrong...can't....function...must....use...ellipses....ENHANCE!

Wow, those are some round boobies. And manly hips. I'm having trouble combining them with the Pollyanna face, though. And why is it necessary for this woman's PIGTAILS to be armored, but NOT her thighs?

I'm not even gonna begin on the big-headed Medusa ghost. I'm sure y'all have some choice words about it!


More Sex!

The continuing adventures of a scornful mathematician’s journey through a category romance novel: DocTurtle reads Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up, Part Four!

Chapter 11: A Literary Device Goes Off in Chinatown, Wounding Three

As this chapter opens our hero sifts through the photos of his wife he’d locked away in a storage unit in Queens. Balance is restored to his life as he painstakingly builds two piles of pictures, one for his mother-in-law, one for himself.

Meanwhile, Catherine joins her mother and her friend Sybil for a “pre-birthday birthday” run on a Canal Street back-room vendor of knock-off handbags.

It was in this scene I was first aware of Kathleen O’Reilly’s “imitation” motif, a theme which will be even more explicitly (but still subtly) expressed in a later chapter (yes, if you must know, I’ve finished reading the book at this point, and the fact that I’ve done so without heretofore releasing a torrent of snark must mean that I felt sufficiently intrigued by the story as to see it uninterruptedly to its end...happy?...happy?!?):

“Her hands stroked the buttery imitation leather, fondled the gold-plated trim and caressed the lopsided double CC logo. When you grew up in an auction house, forgery was one of the seven mortal sins. In Catherine’s world handling a fake was like watching an R-rated movie when she was thirteen, scarfing an extra three cookies from the cabinet or being so gullible as to believe that if it looked like a Gainsborough, it might actually be a Gainsborough.”

Clever literary devices aside, this chapter still delivers some corkers, most notably the following: “Is it so wrong to have a blood-pumping, bedpost-shaking, hoo-haw busting sexual experience and not be emotionally involved?”


Hoo-haw hoo-haw hoo-haw.

I could say that a thousand times over and not get tired of it. It comes in as a close second to “v-jay-jay” (a term I first heard from my friend Laura).

From the Oh, And Department we have this report: on page 135 Andrea Montefiore and Sybil Unsurnamed discover Catherine’s crush, on page 140 Daniel realizes the downside of game-playing.

Chapter 12: Sex!

“She heard the rasp of his zipper, heard the deafening rip of her panties, and then...”

Should I feel left out that, I’ve managed to reach the age of thirty-three without having had a sexual encounter in which clothing was destroyed, whether intentionally or inadvertently? Am I to believe this happens a lot?

This chapter begins with our heroes’ first fully-consummated sexual encounter since...Chapter 4. Wow. Talk about dry spells.

Then there’s more game-playing. Sayeth Daniel: “I know you think this is about the sex, and that’s great, but when I’m with you I want things that I never thought I’d be able to want again.” By now he’s clearly coming around, but he’s got the turning radius of the QE2.

Catherine’s inner thoughts reveal the recurrence of the “imitation” motif: “she didn’t want to hope, because hope was a Gainsborough landscape that was still fake no matter how badly she wanted it to be real.”

Libidinal impulses satisfied, the two dive into the auction house’s records in an attempt to unearth evidence that Charles “Grandpa” Montefiore is indeed innocent. The going is slow, and their sluggish progress makes for good plot exposition as it becomes more and more obvious that someone is (gasp!) setting Grandpa up for a fall.

I have to hand it to Kathleen O’Reilly for being able to weave together deftly several narrative strands, including both characters’ inner voices, the growing sexual tension of the two’s more and more frequent and open encounters, and the integumentary material of the auction house plotline. The writing is solid if not soaring, though every now and then an ambitious metaphor peters out (“Her eyes were starting to blur as if she’d been staring at a Vasarely for too long”).

Random extra-textual musings. I’m certain that the readers will notice that my comments on these last two chapters have taken a less scornful tone. I believe this is in part because, not surprisingly, the book’s protagonists have become less comical and more real and therefore more sympathetic as the text has progressed. I still maintain that they’re a couple of game-playing dingbats, but they’re likable game-playing dingbats nonetheless. I think many commenters were right on the money in indicating that this genre’s greatest shortcoming is its brevity, leaving the author insufficient space to develop deep characters and intricate plot while delivering requisite amounts of hoo-haw busting.

I also have to admit to being in a decidedly less-snarky-then-usual mood overall. As I’ve said to my colleagues and students (many of whom have been going about their daily doings soporifically for the past several weeks), I feel as though the world has been holding its breath.

Finally, I’d like to say thank you to all of the readers on Smart Bitches and Judge a Book who have commented on my posts. I’m having a blast reading the book and writing about it, and I’m truly gratified by the posts’ popularity, particularly over on Sarah’s blog.

Coming soon: Chapters 13 through 16, and the must-read Epilogue. Then it’s on to An Infamous Army!


Sultry Sunday #9 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Slow week here at "Judge a Book" ... here's another cover from "Pop Sensation" to tide you over. Enjoy.


Paperback 161: Amazing Stories (December, 1956)

  • Contains: "A World of His Own" by Robert Silverberg and "Tracking Level" by Harlan Ellison
  • Cover artist: Ed Valigursky

Best things about this cover:

  • In the future, "Deal or No Deal" is a lot more interesting.
  • I'm pretty sure those ladies were not born ladies - it's nice to see that, in the future, transsexual and transgendered people will have steady work as game show hostesses
  • Man, that guy really wants to kill Howie Mandel. But then who doesn't?
  • This picture does not make it appear as if "Women Were His Pawns." Unless he's forcing them to act out some adolescent fantasy of his - I guess that's possible

Best things about this back cover:

  • I own one of these books!
  • Never before has the word "ANY" looked so exciting
  • If you don't look closely, you can almost miss the flying saucer mountain scape in the background
  • Love the unnecessary quotation marks around "top drawer" - do not love the quotation marks that open with "Handsome ... and then never close. Spine-tingling!
  • Ad copy always hyphenates "science-fiction," while the book covers themselves Never do. Eeeeerie.
  • I love how specific they are about the amount I would normally be paying ... "$8.65, you say ... oh my."

Page 123~

[click image to enlarge]
  • "Would you ... become a peeping tom?" - they really know their audience, I think
  • "The Space Club" appears to be a kind of asexual personals section for the Nerdiest People On Earth.



Sultry Sunday #8 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Greetings from "Pop Sensation." Here is your weekly dose of syndication - a little gem that I recently picked up at a public library book sale ... enjoy!


Paperback 158: Manor Books 15232 (PBO, 1977)

Title: Dionysus: The Ultimate Experiment
Author: William S. Ruben
Cover artist: Uncredited

Best things about this cover:

  • This is possibly the most boob-oriented cover I own.
"Do you like them, Steve? I electroded them especially for you?"
"Well ... oh my ... I say ... they're quite ... I'll just ... how does one ... is this ... do I ... like so? ... or ..."
  • She is so arched and ecstatic and ready to go, and he is Totally killing the vibe.
  • He seems to have made eye contact with the boobs, but his hand!? WTF!? Hey, buddy, you're not supposed to wave at them!
  • His junk, while barely visible, is not invisible enough for my, uh, taste.
  • Whatever "human emotion" this is, I don't think I care to "experience" it, thanks.

Best things about this back cover:

All this rigmarole about weightless sex is just a front. The REAL "unreportable project" is embedded in the title itself:

Ronnie James DIO will play the New York State (NYS) Fair causing a mass conflagration of rocking out that will engulf the US in madness, allowing a Black Sabbath reunion ... at the highest levels of government! No one can resist the heavy metal keyboard strains of "Rainbow in the Dark!"

Page 123~

This was the time of Eldridge and Grainly, born into a world which accepted without conscience an acknowledgment of the underground. They simply did not think of this sustained nether world.

Funny, I'd rather not think of it either.

"This was the time of Eldridge and Grainly ... Attorneys at Law!"