Tag Archives: book reviews

Look till you break

Apart from editing and a final revision, I finished the translation of Joan Barbara Simon’s Verses Nature: In the Beginning Was The Heat. Initially I revolted against the male protagonist, Tatar, as it was very conflicting to put myself in his skin, his mindset and especially his words. I wrestled with him for a long time, but as he is an undeniable reality that can be seen in many lights (and should) I put in every effort to genuinely do him justice in German and reflect who he is or might be for that matter.


To bond with the female counterpart, Carmina, was essentially ‘easier’, as her struggle is a well-known and yet potentially kept silent reality of too many women, too many female narratives that remain hidden in the bedroom drawers of pain, shame and agony. She is made of flesh and blood, of bad and good, of pain and pleasure and she is done with apologising, with justifying herself and selling herself short. She rewrites her own story and as hurtful as it is, she changes the predestined conclusion of her life.


Even though Verses Nature contains raw sexual matter (so what?), it does not deserve the common, depreciative and cheap stigmata associated with erotic fiction. It is indeed literary if one dares to take the time to dig deeper, read beyond every word and sense and dive into each page without preconceptions and judgements. Each page takes and needs its space in meaning, the process is akin to the musing of a painting, a portrait, as intimate as it gets, to swim through the features and textures of a face, a personality that is deeply flawed, human, hurt and lusting after life. Every time that I thought that I had figured them both out, I was wrong and rediscovered a new aspect that could be closer to the truth. When approaching Verses Nature, one has to do so with an open mind, it takes time and a lot of unburdening, but I managed to sincerely appreciate it, it challenged me and I do not say this because I consider Joan to be a dear friend of mine or because she chose me to be the translator, but because these narratives matter and need to be told and dissected. Even if Tatar might come across as an incredible asshole, a misogynist, a nonsensical skirt chaser or Carmina as threatening, vulgar and uncomfortable, they stand utterly exposed and therefore vulnerable and that’s the point, not to be judged, but to be understood, analysed. Together, they are representative of the social, political, religious, familial and emotional issues that still have a long way to go in today’s society. They cannot be reduced to black and white shades, they are in no way extremes or stereotypical binary oppositions. They might be you and me, then and now, they are intertwined and consist of common dysfunctional and functional features that we all possess and control more or less. Verses Nature is holding up the mirror to your face and challenges you to keep looking. Maybe if you figured out how to gaze, it will break.

(Laura Gentile)




Thank you, Laura, for the excellent translation into German and for this spot-on evaluation of my book! I’m continually tweaking the book’s categories. After adding the subtitle: Memoir Of A Lonely Hotwife, it shot to #1 on amazon yesterday. True, the rankings are updated hourly, so fame is short-lived but the pleasure is nonetheless sweet. I like the word memoir as it shifts the book to a place where fiction and non-fiction may co-reside. Just as Verses Nature can be seen as erotica and more, the social, political reality it depicts also makes its fictional characteristics move beyond fiction to become that ‘more’ which invites us to keep questioning. So readers, if you feel like a challenge, here it is, ready and waiting.

How To Stay Alive (from a survivor)

The doctor said it was too late. Soft medicine would be of no use to me now. I cried into my pillow as the visions of what I still wanted to achieve in my life flashed before me then ran off into the bushes.

Don’t move. If you do, you could bleed to death in less than three minutes.

I practised being dead, resisting every urge to cough or twitch, but first I called the children to hear their voice in case…

And as I practised being dead – getting better and better at it – a familiar face ventured almost apologetically into the room.  So grateful was I to see him one more time that I cried in earnest. It wouldn’t matter if I bled to death now.

That was nearly two years ago. Two years, over 600 pills a month and the will to prove everyone wrong. Whenever anyone says ‘no’ to me, I make it my mission to prove them wrong. The doctors had been telling me for years that  I would be on medication for life.

‘Are you sure that I won’t be able to get off these pills one day?’
‘No. Let’s be honest’.

That was their No. Not mine. On my miraculous journey back to health from a chronic kidney disease, I encountered a wonderful soul with a simple message: we can eat our way back to health and the way to do so is to practise intermittent fasting. It sounded like just another fad to me and I challenged the author to give me good reasons why I should take him seriously. He won me over. I read his book and you know what: I feel GREAT! I’m not going to twist your arm or try to talk you into anything because I’m not motivated by self-interest. There is a growing body of research on the benefits of intermittent fasting. I only know it is helping me to regenerate both my body and my mind. If you would like to know more, click on the image below to receive your copy of this short yet life-changing book.


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Staying with the topic of health, I’d like to share with you an amazing piece of fiction by  Mari Reiza. My first encounter with Mari was via her book  Physical: The Catastrophe of Desire. This is a first-class piece of feminist humour which I would have loved to read all over again, but I decided to try another title to see if Mari could enthrall me yet again. Oh yes she can! I’ve just finished reading Room 11: A Man Sits Singing Where A Woman Lies Dreaming. This is an impressive book that should have its place on the reading list for Contemporary Fiction or Women’s Fiction around the world (says I, as a  Creative Writing lecturer). Reiza’s short book nonetheless takes on epic dimensions of mind, inhabiting liminal spaces that churn around love, desire, belonging, acknowledgement, You would need to be an erudite reader to take in all the references in this story which frequently returns to Greek mythology and escapes (or so I find) into surrealist-like fantasies that call to mind Kafka. In many ways I see the work as a tragedy of love. It’s a breathtaking work that left me exhausted and thoroughly elated. Just read it!


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Like Loui Lam, Mari was amazingly open to my questions and comments about her book. I love that dialogue between authors and readers!

If we want to stay alive, physically and mentally, then we shouldn’t play dead. We should be open for new encounters that have the potential to refresh our souls. I remember reading a blogpost about a woman who one day realized that her reading was in fact limited to English and American authors, so she determined to correct this blind spot by aiming to read a book from every country in the world over the course of a year. That’s some goal! There’s so much out there for us to discover and that is why I would now like to make a request:

Tell me about your favourite fiction titles and/or any life-changing books you’ve read and why you think everyone should read them. Depending on how much time you have or want to spend, you can tell me about a single title or many. I’d love to share this list over the course of forthcoming posts so we can all stay alive.

More good news: I competed my second PhD in February, despite all odds. I’m very proud to be able to call myself Dr Dr Joan Barbara Simon (or Joan Barbara Simon, PhD, PhD). Achieving the unthinkable is also one reason why I have been away from this blog for so long. Well, now I’m back, full of love and life and love for life and I want to share as much of what I’m reading, doing and thinking with you so don’t be surprised if my posts bounce from theme to theme: it’s just how I am, not trying to concoct some marketable brand but giving you the real deal on who and how I am.


A final piece of good news: my historical novel, Long Time Walk On Water, is now ranked #1 in 3 amazon categories! It’s a pity that there are so few reviews to let readers know what to expect. If you have read and enjoyed the book and would like to take a few minutes to share your views, please click on the link below.

Review Long Time Walk On Water Vol.1

Thank you for that and hear from you soon with your personal Best Books!


when a little critique goes a long way



I got this review  of Verses Nature (In The Beginning Was The Heat) the other day and I’ve been grinning ever since:


What does this woman do when she’s happy? She kicks her heels and dances around the house but you won’t get the benefit of that. What I will also do is to give away the companion book, Verses Nature (The Making Of),  for a limited period. Yes, you heard right: for free. No, I’m not after your email address and you won’t need to give it to me. So if you want to know just how ‘200% delicious sin and literary genius’ gets written, click here. No strings attached. Promised.



Getting your foot in the door with WHISKEY, NOT WATER: Verses Nature

Simon_VERSES NATURE_IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE HEATVerses Nature Vol.1: In The Beginning Was The Heat


Now that my latest book is out and there’s a free sample to get you started, I have more time to check out the market. Just reading the opening passages of a few samples of erotic fiction. Let’s call this: homework.

Sample 1:

There’s screaming. There’s a gun. There are the obligatory expletives. She is tied to an over-sized table. Of course. I can anticipate the rape scene and all the rest, depicted by an author I assume (and I hope I’m right!) has never been raped. He did this. She did that. More screaming. More expletives. I give up after the opening paragraph, already cringing at both the female protagonist’s name and that of the author. If that were my real name, I’d consider treating myself to a pseudonym.

Sample 2:

Only two paragraphs on display and already one typo: should that be long blond hair?

Sample 3:

Six paragraphs for our delight. Ah, there’s literary merit for a change. No typos, though a number of grammatical issues (a self-published book?) and the direct speech is as stiff as hell. Nothing erotic has happened so far. It’ll come later. No pun intended.

Sample 4:

A bestseller this time and a huge chunk for us to enjoy, which I do, I must confess, for it is well written. Nothing new, plot-wize or stylistically, but at least it’s well written. Still wouldn’t buy it, though.

Sample 5:

No erotic scenes in this opening but I can smell one around the corner! The sample steers clear of kitsch and even has enough humour to draw a smile from me. The author, it seems, is not content to have the characters play cat and mouse, but she will play cat and mouse with us, the reader, too. I think I know how this will end, though I wouldn’t say no to reading a bit further.


All these samples are typical of the genre. I’m not sure I can find my place here. I’ve been saying it for a while: I don’t think what I do is erotica. The fit is too loose for my liking. Adult fiction? Or maybe erotic fiction after all. Intellectual erotica; what I’ve elsewhere described as high-brow rumpy-dumpy.


Many have confessed to me that although they love reading what I write, they don’t feel comfortable talking about it to others. Ah, so that’s why when I invite readers to share what I post on Facebook, very little happens.

fingerwhip (ripped jeans)

Turn it down a bit?

beyond her comfort zone

Still no one sharing. I can’t twist anyone’s arm, but maybe I can use this knowledge anyway:


9 out of 10




I like the one above as it makes clear that the book isn’t only for women and I like the one below for its international flair.


around the globe (III)



Doing my very best to steer clear of the word ‘erotic’, but noting that some people are left puzzled by the term ‘adult’ fiction. To say ‘romance’ would be to say too little. Would be to make it all too soft. I need to draw attention to the style as much as to the content. The novel, VERSES NATURE, is experimental:

‘cubist characterizations, full of violence and scorn’ (Purple Starsky)

‘Primal, deep, complex, secretive, honest, spacious. Grabs you.’ (Robert Hall)

Experimental romance? Experimental adult fiction? I can use these terms to describe my book, but it still makes sense to also refer to my work as erotic.  Doesn’t need to be the same type of erotic as everyone else, does it? So ok, I’ll join the club; bring in some fresh blood. Change the genre from the inside.