Review: As Long as Love Lasts

As Long As Love Lasts

 

Jea Hawkin’s immersive contemporary/historical novel delivers a blend of romance and discovery as storylines alternate in time. Peyton’s and Brooke’s marriage is in a downward spiral. Clear and honest communication is ancient history and grievances keep piling up. Standing amidst the dilapidated farmhouse of Brooke’s deceased great-aunt Marty Bell, all Peyton, an engineer by trade, can see is a money pit. All Brooke can see is her wife saying no, yet again. However, they discover secrets buried in the Hudson Valley, deep in the bones of the house, that force them to confront more than just their own ailing marriage.

Marty’s cache of letters and diary entries transport the women back to 1939. It was a precipice for the world, the country, and a young woman in rural upstate New York. Her life changes forever when she meets Vera, an intriguing woman in trousers who works for a traveling circus. Romance blooms, forcing them to grapple with outside social demands and personal desires that allows for only a piecemeal paradise. As much as my sappy heart wanted smooth sailing for Marty and Vera, I appreciate Jea Hawkins ability to draw out the nuances in their relationship.

While the faults in a marriage often go both ways, and in this instance Peyton and Brooke are no exception, Brooke’s childish behavior, often manifesting in literal foot stomping, makes it difficult for me to empathize with her plight. However, as they continue exploring the story left behind by Marty and repair the farmhouse, the couple begin to better understand each other, as well. I found myself just as eager as they were to discover what happened to the older women. Did they get a happily-ever-after? What happened to Vera? And how did Marty end up with a rogue elephant?! Read with a box of tissues close at hand.

As Long as Love Lasts by Jea Hawkins
Wicked Hearts Publishing, August 2018

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Categories: contemporary, family relationships, fiction, historical fiction, lgbt, romance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review: Love Letters to Jane’s World

Love Letters to Janes World

I bought a second-hand copy of Jane’s World Collection, Vol. 1 after hearing about the strip’s novelization, The Case of the Mail Order Bride, a couple years back. The collection is a delicious, thick steak of a book, with the first fifteen issues leading readers through the adventures of Jane, Chelle, Ethan, and their friends and family. For readers new to the humorous adventures of Braddock’s quirky cast, Love Letters to Jane’s World offers a condensed introduction to the strip’s early, middle, and later story lines. Alien abductions, Amazon fantasies, undercover agents, and in the midst of it all, a woman trying to navigate friendship, romance, and career. Interspersed throughout are affectionate, candid quotes from folks who found a home with the series. While I had anticipated short letters, the quotes, few and far between, still add warmth to the collection. Maybe after reading this fun sampler, you’ll add reflections of your own.

Love Letters to Jane’s World by Paige Braddock
Lion Forge, August 2018 

Categories: anthology, lgbt | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

eBook Samples: A tsundoku managing strategy

If you have a gnarly case of tsundoku, eBook samples are a lifesaver (and takes the burden off of your pocketbook). My apartment is crowed with the unread voices of books stacked in vertical piles, lined up in horizontal leans, and boxed up tetris-style in totes. Not to mention my dust gathering digitals. Lately, nearly every time I want to impulsively buy a book, I opt for sample chapters instead. How do you manage your itchy book buying fingers?

Screenshot_20180821-192500_Amazon Kindle

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Review: Precipice of Doubt

Precipice of Doubt

Mardi Alexander and Laurie Eichler author duo return with a sequel to To Be Determined. Life seems settled, relatively speaking, following the events that brought together American Pip Atkins and Charlie Dickerson as wildlife rescue and rehabilitators. Now, the new couple takes on the glorious skyscraper adventure that is government paperwork. In order for Pip to remain in Australia, she must successfully complete immigration paperwork. The couple’s stress over their uncertain status compounds with the impending bittersweet release of creatures in their care.

Animal lovers will relate with veterinarian Jodi Bowman’s dedication and passion for her job. Ever since establishing her practice in New South Wales, Jodi has done nothing but, eat/sleep/breathe for the furry family members she takes care of in the community. By her side stands former New Zealander and friend/Office manager/Vet Assistant extraordinaire Cole Jameson. When cracks appear in Jodi’s confidence following a heart-wrenching series of events, Cole attempts to intercede. Their friends-to-lovers journey is rocky, complicated by a relationship from Cole’s past and Jodi’s fraying edges.

Perched on the seaside, Alexander and Eichler envelop their cast of close-knit friends within the Australian landscape. No matter how trite it is to say this, Australia is an integral character in the lives of its human counterparts. The amount of time Jodi spends swimming or hiking shows a direct correlation to her emotional state and mental health, for example. Pip and Charlie, too, prefer to live among the kangaroos, koalas, and birds, in their care. The pair’s remote home offers solace as they navigate a future together and help their friends.

While the romances certainly pulled at me, it was the animals who made me reach for tissues. The level of empathy both authors encourage through their sensitive portrayals of lives dedicated to animals is compelling. As the novel reaches its final act, doubts and rifts are forced to a head; the remaining chapters can feel a little contrived, as each chapter resolves a remaining crises. However, if romance, veterinarians, and Australia are your jams, dig in with gusto and don’t forget to check out To Be Determined (which I will do soon!).

Recommended bonus: Fenced-in-Felix, book three in the “Girl Meets Girl” series by Cheyenne Blue, has a lot of good stuff for animal lovers, and fans of Australia-based f/f romances.

Precipice of Doubt by Mardi Alexander and Laurie Eichler
Bold Strokes Books, August 2018

Categories: contemporary, friendship, lgbt, netgalley, romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Just Like That by Karin Kallmaker

You may have heard “Tsundoku“, the practice of buying books and letting them languish unread, floating around the interwebs lately. When a former co-worker sent me an “I thought of you” article, knowing my book buying disposition, I decided it was time to rummage through my plastic totes full of unread novels. I wouldn’t have purchased these dusty stacks were it not for their charms (alluring titles, tantalizing descriptions, reads for all weather-moods-times of day-etc.), but they are often eclipsed by the next irresistible read.

Image result for just like that karin kallmaker

Since I’ve been on a Karin Kallmaker kick, I picked up my paperback copy of Just Like That, a contemporary retelling of Pride & Prejudice set in a California vineyard. I bought it when The Lesbian Review selected it for their book club last summer (Really?! It’s already been that long?…). After the first night, I’d nearly read a hundred chapters and arrived at work feeling super sleepy, but eager for more. 

Rivals become lovers as Syrah Ardani fights against corporate salvager Toni Blanchard for the survival of her family’s vineyard in California’s Napa Valley. While away in Europe, figuring out whether she could overcome her grape DNA, Syrah’s father makes a handful of poor business decisions that tie them to outside investors. Ardani Vineyards reputed wines and prestigious grapes, much like an aristocratic family with limited means, carries them only so far. Toni, based in New York City, is fresh off a relationship with Mira Wickham, an English socialite waiting on her trust fund. She expects a quick resolution to the vineyard interests of her corporate clients; her father, a friend of the senior Ardani, pleads otherwise.

Meanwhile, Syrah’s best friend Jane, a sexy and sensitive butch, wants to settle down. The novel begins with a wink at the original Austen romance: “Everybody knows that a single woman with good money is in want of a wife.” Despite the joke, Jane falls hard and fast for Missy Bingley, the new tenant of the nearby Netherfield estate. One of the worries that interferes with the burgeoning romance is the difference in their finances: Missy is a wealthy advertising executive and Jane is an artist and landscaper. Kallmaker paints a convincing portrait of concern from the women’s respective friends, along with a series of misunderstandings.

I soon found myself talking to, pleading with, and admonishing the characters as Mira and Caroline Bingley, Missy’s sister, complicate matters further with half-truths and other infuriating manipulations. Syrah and Toni share a simmering chemistry they can’t explain away, though they desperately want to. And with all of the difficult business dealings and opposite coast lives, it’s a realistic struggle. Kallmaker sells it with an evident (though grudging) respect the characters develop for each and irresistible “fine eyes”.

While you know how the relationships ultimately develop, other aspects of the story, such as the fate of Ardani Vineyards, are up in the air. The journey from pride and prejudice, ignorance and lies, to romance and personal fulfillment, is oh-so-satisfying.  As long as authors such as Kallmaker write them, there will never be too many retellings of this classic romance.

Categories: contemporary, lgbt, retellings, romance | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Change of Pace

Change of Pace_Jae

When a disturbance outside of my apartment woke me up in the wee hours earlier this week, I needed something to take my mind off of it. Sleep was nowhere in sight, so I impulse purchased Change of Pace, part of Jae’s “Portland Police Bureau Series”. The title straight off states exactly what I needed, a change of pace (from those screams and eerie ensuing silence). It’s also bite-sized, so I could look forward to a satisfying conclusion to my eveningmorn. 

Deputy District Attorney Kade Matheson is hitting her stride professionally and personally. Newly out to herself as bisexual, her relationship with Detective Del Vasquez is placed under a microscope during an impromptu visit from her homophobic, ultra-proper mother, Sophie. The bond between the couple is strong; Del providing much needed support, allowing Kade to stand up to her mother’s behavior.  Over the course of a weekend U-Haul for friends Dawn and Aiden, mother and daughter struggle with each other’s point-of-view.

Jae includes an enviable cast of friends, who, despite this being my introduction to the characters, immediately feel like through-thick-and-thin family. They challenge Sophie’s intolerance and wet blanket attitude, offering up lessons learned and admonitions. While this plays a key role in the story, we also see how Kade learns how to relate to her mother as an adult. It’s a highly relatable struggle and one that feels genuine.

Readers glimpse a future for Sophie and Kade, but no 180 degree change of heart or complete resolution. It’s up to future installments on how these relationships evolve…

Change of Pace by Jae
Portland Police Bureau series, book 3

Ylva Publishing
2015

Categories: lgbt, novella, series | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Pride and Porters

pride-and-porters

Pride and Porters by Charlotte Greene is a contemporary take on the classic romance novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Sisters Erin and Jen Bennet, proprietors of Bennet Sisters Brewing, face a saturated Colorado craft beer market. Everyone in their rocky mountain region seems to have a brewpub. In walks tall, dark, and Darcy Fitzwiliam, and Charlie Betters, heir to a successful beer company with a National reputation. 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” – Pride and Prejudice

Greene works within the framework of Austen’s novel and owns it with her particular blend of attraction, money, and intrigue as the women journey towards Happily-Ever-After. While Jen struggles to find an answer to their brewery expansion woes, she also keeps a protective eye towards Erin’s burgeoning romance with kind-hearted Charlie. Darcy’s frosty reception of the sisters and their unknown intentions towards him keep her equally at odds with Jen. While the original focused on the struggles of English women to attain financial and social security through marriage, Greene shows women for whom love and partner compatibility aren’t simply happy bonuses. Readers will appreciate the ratcheting drama, character chemistry, and thawing emotions in this modern-day retelling. 

Pride and Porters by Charlotte Greene
Bold Strokes Books, April 2018
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Categories: contemporary, lgbt, retellings, romance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review: Take My Hand by Missouri Vaun

Take My Hand

“River was beginning to believe the bump to her head might have transported her to some twilight zone lesbian version of Steel Magnolias.”

Missouri Vaun’s contemporary romance, set in rural environs of Pine Cone, Georgia, is first in a trilogy, each by a different author. Vaun sets the stage with memorable characters and three best friends, all of whom have their own romantic journeys ahead. While I love reading novels placed within big city drama, I have a soft spot for fiction set in small and/or rural locales. They feel more like home to me. Forget “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, if you’re from a town of under 20,000 people.

Artist Clay Cahill fled New York City’s drama-ridden art scene for the safety of her hometown and grandfather’s auto repair shop. At a loss for what to do next, she tows damsels in distress from ditches and keeps an eye out for trouble at the garage. Shoeless and not quite so fancy-free Manhattan-based art curator River Hemsworth ends up in Pine Cone after an estranged aunt wills her property and a gallery. The two meet after River makes a “wrong turn” into the side of a local business. Though their attraction is mutual and immediate, the two women begin a tentative acquaintanceship. Flashbacks and family revelations reveal their uncertainties and reservations about relationships, especially for Clay.    

Clay’s friends, Grace and Trip, and grandfather are well-meaning as they intercede throughout to bring the light back into their friend’s life. The close bonds of these longtime besties and annoying-but-you-get-me-and-I-love-you family allow for the romance to progress. There is no “I” in romance, as it goes. Their push-pull dynamic gradually brings them together (and helps unravel personal truths), but a twist might keep them apart. 

The small town charms of Take My Hand evoke the heady perfume of pine needles and undergrowth, birdsong, and summer cocktails with friends. I look forward to seeing the rest of the trilogy unfold.

Take My Hand: A Pine Cone Romance by Missouri Vaun
Bold Strokes Books, 2018

 

Categories: contemporary, lgbt, netgalley, romance | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Pride Month! Audiobooks for Adults

June is one of my favorite months. The fact that it combines Audiobooks + Pride = win-win-win in my book (pun/no pun intended, haha). Check out my Pride Month blog post for AudioFile Magazine: “Listen Loud, Listen Proud: LGBTQIA Fiction and Nonfiction for Adults“!

Happy Pride 2018

 

 

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2018 Audie Award Winners

 

On May 31st, the Audio Publishers Association revealed its selection of award-winning audiobook productions from the past year at its annual celebration. The 2018 Audie Award Winners span numerous categories, including Audiobook of the Year, individual and group performances, marketing, production, and various genres. 

Click HERE for a full list of finalists in each category.

 

 

AUDIOBOOK OF THE YEAR
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, and a full cast
Random House Audio

AUDIO DRAMA
Brother Francis: The Barefoot Saint of Assisi by Paul McCusker
Read by Joseph Timms, Owen Teale, and Geoffrey Palmer, et al.
Augustine Institute

AUTOBIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
Narrated by Bruce Springsteen
Simon & Schuster Audio

BEST FEMALE NARRATOR
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
HarperAudio

BEST MALE NARRATOR
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Narrated by Trevor Noah
Audible Studios

BUSINESS/PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Peak Performance by Brad Stullberg and Steve Magness
Narrated by Christopher Lane
Brilliance Publishing

EROTICA
Claim & Protect by Rhenna Morgan
Narrated by John Lane
Harlequin Audio

EXCELLENCE IN DESIGN
In Death Limited Collector’s Edition by J.D. Robb
Design by Carissa Dreese
Brilliance Publishing

EXCELLENCE IN MARKETING
Transform Your Commute Campaign
Penguin Random House Audio

EXCELLENCE IN PRODUCTION
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen Fry
Narrated by Stephen Fry
Audible Studios

FANTASY
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
Narrated by Kate Reading
Simon & Schuster Audio

FICTION
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Narrated by Cathleen McCarron
Penguin Audio

HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY
Loving Vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell
Narrated by Adenrele Ojo and MacLeod Andrews
Dreamscape Media

HUMOR
Carpet Diem: Or…How to Save the World by Accident by Justin Lee Anderson
Narrated by by Matthew Lloyd Davies, published by Tantor Audio, a division of Recorded Books

INSPIRATIONAL/FAITH-BASED FICTION
Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson
Narrated by Nancy Peterson
Two Words Publishing

INSPIRATIONAL/FAITH-BASED NON-FICTION
Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey Through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace by Kim Phuc Phan Thi
Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller
HighBridge Audio, a division of Recorded Books

LITERARY FICTION & CLASSICS
House of Names by Colm Toibin
Narrated by Juliet Stevenson, et al.
Simon & Schuster Audio

MIDDLE GRADE
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Narrated by Kivlighan de Montebello, Brittany Pressley, Michael Crouch, et al.
Listening Library

MULTI-VOICED PERFORMANCE
Restart by Gordon Korman
Narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross, Laura Knight Keating, Ramon de Ocampo, et al.
Recorded Books

MYSTERY
The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye by David Lagercrantz
Narrated by Simon Vance
Random House Audio

NARRATION BY THE AUTHOR OR AUTHORS
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Narrated by Neil Gaiman
HarperAudio

NON-FICTION
American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee
Narrated by Mark Bramhall
Random House Audio

ORIGINAL WORK
Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson
Narrated by by Richard Armitage
Audible Studios

PARANORMAL
Curse on the Land: SoulWood, Book 2 by Faith Hunter
Narrated by Khristine Hvam
Audible Studios

ROMANCE
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Narrated by by Mary Jane Wells
HarperAudio

SCIENCE FICTION
Provenance by Ann Leckie
Narrated by Adjoa Andoh
Hachette Audio

SHORT STORIES/COLLECTIONS
The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
Narrated by by Lauren Fortgang
Audible Studios

THRILLER/SUSPENSE
The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini and Graham Winton
Recorded Books

YOUNG ADULT
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Narrated by by Bahni Turpin
HarperAudio

YOUNG LISTENERS (UP TO AGE 8)
Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews
Narrated by Dion Graham
Live Oak Media

Categories: audiobooks, awards | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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