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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion!
Natalie Reiss
Progress: 20/120 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: A Novel
Becky Chambers
Progress: 148/441 pages
The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks
Progress: 667/3165 minutes
A Matter of Oaths
Helen S. Wright
Progress: 101/277 pages
Report on the Selected Problems of the Technical Departments of the University of Illinois Library
Raynard C. Swank
Progress: 20/42 pages
Medical School for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases
Professor Roy Benaroch, The Great Courses, The Great Courses
Progress: 34/725 minutes
Some Kind of Stranger - Katrina Strauss The few BDSM books and stories I've tried in the past tended to go in directions I really didn't like, and they didn't manage to overcome my difficulty understanding the appeal of BDSM. When some of them tried to explain the appeal and how things worked in a more realistic way, the results tended to feel a bit clinical and not terribly sexy. Plus, there was still the issue of things going in directions I couldn't stand.Katrina Strauss has managed to make it onto my short list of authors who I feel I can trust to write about things that are potential red flags for me, in such a way that I know I'm not going to find myself wishing for brain bleach. Some Kind of Stranger is heavy on sex scenes, and, while BDSM is still not really my thing, I thought the sex scenes still came across as sexy.What really made this book work for me is that it isn't just about the sex. The storyline involving Derek's former captor/rapist added a bit of suspense at the end, but the suspense was less of a draw than the way this storyline developed Derek's character. In the other BDSM books and stories I've read, I never felt quite sure that the dominants wouldn't end up going too far. I was also bothered by the feeling that, if they did end up going too far, they might not feel a lot of remorse and would probably even end up liking it. I didn't feel like they had actual relationships with their submissives. Derek's experience of being drugged and forced to be a submissive gave him an intense desire never to go too far. As dark as his desires might be, he honestly didn't want to be like the man who had hurt him.With this being an e-book, it's a little tough to tell, but I'm fairly certain that at least half the book, probably more, is sex scenes. These scenes underscored the amount of trust that Blue could and did learn to have in Derek, and they made it clear that there were lines that Derek would not cross - Blue enjoyed what Derek did to him, and I never got the impression that Derek was trying to demean him or break him. That, in and of itself, made this book better than a lot of the other books and stories I've read the featured BDSM.What made this book an actual romance (an erotic romance, but still a romance), was that Derek and Blue didn't just have sex, they had an actual relationship - a surprisingly sweet and cute relationship. Blue gradually tells Derek about his past - about the boys who beat him and verbally and emotionally abused him because he was different and, eventually, because it got out that he was gay, about his first incredibly confusing crush on one of the boys who used to torment him, and about his father's disapproval of his sexual orientation. I absolutely loved the scenes where Derek and Blue clashed over their personal styles: Derek has a love for nice clothes and fruity shampoos and conditioners that Blue, whose style is more punk, doesn't really understand. Actually, although BDSM fans might not agree with me, I wouldn't have minded it if the book had had fewer sex scenes and more scenes of Derek and Blue just being together. They made a great couple and had me grinning more than once.I also liked Derek and Blue as individuals. If I were to try to categorize Derek according to TV tropes terminology, he could be considered a Bastard Boyfriend, although, from Blue's perspective, he's not really a bastard. His goal is to make sure that Blue enjoys what he's doing as much as he does. He's protective of Blue and pampers him - it'll be interesting to see where Strauss takes this in future books, now that Blue no longer has to stay hidden for his and Derek's safety. Derek might turn out to be a tad too restrictive, but, happily, Blue is only submissive up to a certain point. What I really liked about Blue was that he had a spine. He recognized that, although he was the submissive in this relationship, he also had a certain amount of power over Derek, and he enjoyed exercising that power on occasion.Places I'm glad Strauss didn't go: Strauss never wrote in detail about what Derek did with his former lovers. Since, from the sounds of things, they didn't like their time with Derek to the degree that Blue did, I don't think sex scenes featuring them would have been enjoyable. Strauss never wrote in detail about Derek's experiences with his rapist, and the scene where Blue gets captured is brief and most definitely not written in a way that is intended to titillate.Overall, I enjoyed this much more than I was expecting to. There are three other books in the series, and I plan on at least reading the next one. Strauss may write about a darker side of sex than I'm usually okay with, but she balances that out by making sure that it's clear the characters have an actual emotional connection. I'm a bit iffy about some of the things that, according to the descriptions, will be coming up in the later books, but I'm willing to trust that Strauss will continue to handle things in ways that won't put me too far outside my comfort zone.(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)