Monthly Archives: March 2016

South of Sunshine

South of Sunshine

 

Sunshine, Tennessee; a small town with farms, a factory, and football on Fridays.  For Kaycee (“Kay-c-double e”) Jean McCoy, life is about fitting in with her classmates long enough to escape (relatively) unscathed to college.  She navigates the angsty, cliquish social scene with the help of her best friends,  Van and Sarabeth.  Van is the stylish student council president; his truths are an open secret in town.  Sarabeth comes from a long line of Sunshine-ians and has a “place for everything and everything in its place” attitude.  The carefully arranged life Kaycee has planned for herself begins to crumble when a magnetic new girl moves to town for their senior year of high school.

South of Sunshine explores how the characters internalize stereotypes, prejudices, and other socialized behaviors.  It’s a bumpy ride, as the reader views the world through Kaycee’s eyes.  Kaycee’s intense fear of being judged and becoming a social pariah, distances her from anyone she thinks might “out” her by association.  She dates guys, allowing herself only furtive glances at the new girl, Bren Dawson.  Kaycee is not above labeling her peers.  She judges Charlotte, a fellow high school senior, labeling her a stereotypical lesbian based on her “business in the front, party in the back” mullet hairstyle and camouflage shirts.

Sunshine is full of overt racism and discrimination, with students and adults using racial slurs to justify ugly behavior and attitudes.  Not everyone in town shares these views.  Those who disagree do so quietly or say nothing at all.  The silence makes those who do nothing complicit in the negatives.  Van’s mother paints a rainbow heart in the window of their video rental business, Hot Flix.  The high school librarian, Mrs. Bellefleur, uses a rainbow coffee mug.  All Kaycee can hear, however, are the loud declarations and actions of the people who fear change and diversity.  It’s a long, awkward, and painful journey towards full self-acceptance, but it’s not without moments of hope, excitement, and freedom.

While the novel is pedantic at times, teaching the reader about how harmful stereotypes and racism are to communities and individuals, it does not break up the storytelling overmuch.  As I read, I had to remind myself that Kaycee was telling the story; it is her experiences and perspective that I see when I look out on her world.  The characters are at different points in their various journeys through life.  Although Kaycee experiences the most growth over the course of the story, Bren is by far my favorite character.  She is confident, charming, stylish, and sporty.  Her well of patience and understanding spring from a loving and supportive home.  If I were to cobble together ingredients for the perfect (first) girlfriend, Bren would be the result.

You might enjoy this young adult novel if you are drawn to novels set in small towns and feature coming out stories (as well as characters who are already comfortable in their identities). 

South of Sunshine
Author: Dana Elmendorf
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Release date: April 1, 2016

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, and other booksellers.  Be sure to check your local library for copies, too.

ISBN-10: 0807575682
ISBN-13: 978-0807575680

***I received a pre-publication copy of this title from Albert Whitman & Company via Netgalley***

 

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Categories: fiction, lgbt, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Calls for Submissions! — Women and Words

What an awesome opportunity!  Maybe I’ll feel inspired to write a short submission for the contemporary romance collection ^^

Best Lesbian Erotica 2017 Edited by D. L. King To be published by Cleis Press Deadline: May 1, 2016 Payment: $100 and 2 copies of the anthology D.L. King is looking for your absolute best lesbian erotica. First, let me apologize for the extremely short window in getting your submission in. The publisher would like […]

via Calls for Submissions! — Women and Words

Categories: short stories | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bittersweet – Audiobook review

Bittersweet Nevada Barr

Bittersweet
Author: Nevada Barr
Narrator: Linda Stephens
Produced by Recorded Books, Inc.
Audiobook production date: 2001
Length: 16 hours, 25 minutes, 34 seconds

Bittersweet is just that, a bittersweet story about love, dreams, hard work, and heartache.  We journey, westward bound, with Imogene Grelznik and Sarah Tolstonadge (later, Ebbitt).  The two women meet after Imogene is forced from her teaching post in Philadelphia and takes up as the resident teacher in Calliope, Sarah’s small town in western Pennsylvania.  A scandal sends both women into the wilder terrain of Nevada, battered, but not broken.  Nevada Barr’s skillful writing conjures up an Old West full of possibility, with all of the highs and lows that accompany life along the way. 

Linda Stephens narration calls up images of a warm, wood burning stove and the comfort of a lay on which to rest your head as you listen to the story unfold.  Her voice lends itself well to the range of characters along the trail from East to West.  At times, you can hear how her voice remains in character, absorbing the powerful currents of emotion, after reading dialogue.  The way Linda’s words catch in her throat is engaging and very moving.  Since I had read the novel prior to listening, I braced myself for the difficult scenes involving domestic abuse and sexual assault.  Linda steps up, though, and handles those sections with strength, excellent pacing and tone.  Another highlight of this production is Linda’s wonderful characterizations.

I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys historical fiction featuring strong, resourceful women who face seemingly insurmountable odds.

 

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, historical fiction, lgbt | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lesbian Librarians – Audiobooks

Part of Pop Sugar’s 2016 reading challenge is to read a book starring a protagonist who shares your profession.  Librarians face a lot of stereotypes.  We’re often shown transforming from prudish spinsters to sexy temptresses, but rarely anything in between or multidimensional.  It can be a cringe-inducing experience to watch a movie or reading a book with a cardboard cut-out of a librarian stamping books, shushing kids, or somehow knowing everything.  Most people I’ve met who view librarians this way haven’t set foot in a library in years, or read/watched much online about how librarians currently engage their  communities.  Do you find yourself nitpicking a character whose profession you share?   

 

That being said, I’m searching for audiobooks featuring lesbian librarians.  I was browsing Audible this morning (because the avalanche of books I’m reading somehow just isn’t enough ^^) and found a handful to get me started.  The Lesbrarian Books list on Goodreads gave me a helpful boost, though sadly not all of the books listed have audiobook versions.  

If you have any recommendations to add, please let me know in the comments.  Thank you!

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, lgbt, librarians | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Hood: The Hunt – audiobook review

 

Red Hood book cover

Red Hood – The Hunt: Urban Fairytales, Book 1
Author: Erik Schubach
Narrator: Hollie Jackson
Produced by the author
Audiobook release date: 2016
Length: 5 hours, 13 minutes

Seattle is under siege!  An unusually large and focused group of werewolves are howling at the walled city of Seattle under the full moon.  Detective Daria McQueen is one of many SPD officers assigned to keep the “Clean Bloods” (people uninfected by the lupine curse) safe from werewolves every night of the full moon.  She is driven year after year by the need to find her missing sister and avenge the murders of her parents by an alpha werewolf.  Maireni Damaschin, aka Red Hood, drops into Daria’s life under a full moon.  The two women both harbor dark secrets and a thirst for justice.  As the two women track a mysterious green-eyed werewolf, their sexual chemistry sizzles and their attraction for each other grows.  Will they discover the lair of the beast or will humanity fall to the werewolf’s curse?

Hollie Jackson delivers a solid performance as both Daria McQueen and Maireni Damaschin.  The novel is told through Daria’s eyes for most of the novel.  When the adventure takes a twist 3/4 of the way through, the novel shifts back and forth between Daria’s and Maireni’s perspectives.  Hollie builds suspense and anticipation of what will happen next as the women battle impossible odds, with her intuited pacing (at times quick and at others languid) and emphasis.

The brisk, yet reflective, tone and pacing of Daria’s sections reflects the matter-of-fact, take no shit kind of woman that she is.  As Maireni, she uses a passable Romanian-accented English that enhances the air of mystery surrounding the character’s background.  It’s worth remembering that many years and miles have influenced Maireni’s diction.  Hollie also draws out Red Hood’s flirty nature, which makes for a lot of fun in the scenes between Red and the Detective.

Many of the characters seem to be slight variations of each other.  The main difference between Hollie’s characterizations is whether the people are from the Pacific Northwest, Romania, or London, and gender of the characters.  This is not necessarily a huge draw back, as there are only a few instances in which I had trouble telling who was who.  

Overall, I definitely recommend this listening experience, especially to people who enjoy modern-day retellings of fairy tales, fantastical creatures, and spicy, suspenseful adventures!

 

 

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, lgbt, retellings, romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Necromantia

necromantia

Circe can see the dead and Zelda, her K-9 search & rescue partner, can smell them.

As a child, Circe Latham learned to hide her ability to see the spirits of the dead.  As an adult, she harnesses her hidden skill into bringing peace to the deceased and their families by volunteering as a Search & Rescue team in Spokane, Washington. However, she is reluctant to share her unique sight with anyone, aside from her best friend. Most of the credit for missing persons discoveries goes to Zelda’s keen sense of smell.  For Circe, seeeing dead people was:

“… just plain a pain in the ass.  At least until she stumbled on a way to make it less disruptive in her life.  These days it was a lot more manageable and often fascinating.  And the sanity that came along with it was life altering in a way she could never explain.”

Circe and Zelda are the go-to duo when it comes to human remains detection in Spokane.  When a search with the Sheriff’s Office turns up three bodies within a city park, local detectives Diana Erni and Paul Garland are called in to assist with the investigation.  As the case continues to bring the two women together, a magnetic attraction ignites.  Diana and Circe, however, pursue a cautious courtship.  Their chemistry opens up avenues of possibility, both personally and professionally.  On the other side of the desk, Paul attempts to fend off unwanted attention from his ex-girlfriend, Brenda, without anyone finding out.  Secondary and supporting characters, in the form of friends, family, and colleagues, provide additional depth to relationships and to the plot. 

The narrative juggles the distorted ambitions of the murderer and his demonic tome; the close knit, dynamic duo of Diana and Paul as they race to bring the killer to justice; and Circe’s attempts to share more of herself with the people in her life.  Suspense builds at a deliciously measured pace as the various threads weave together.  Readers will thrill as the  story reaches resolution.  It was an ending I had not anticipated, but found very satisfying and clever.

Necromantia weaves the paranormal into daily life, transforming the quotidian and offering hope in dark places.  Sheri Lewis Wohl has created strong, authentic, and complex, female characters in her leads, Circe and Diana.  Wohl’s knowledge of and experience with search and rescue operations shines through her expert descriptions.  Paul’s struggle to reconcile his identity as a capable law enforcement agent with his soured romantic relationship with Brenda, provides him with a satisfying character arc. The Pacific Northwest is always an incredible backdrop for any story and does not disappoint here.

I highly recommend it!

Necromantia
Author: Sheri Lewis Wohl
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
ISBN-10: 1626396116
ISBN-13: 978-1-62639-612-8

Available April 1st from Bold Strokes Books and April 12th from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retail outlets.

Categories: fiction, lgbt, netgalley, paranormal, suspense | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saving Alex – audiobook review

Saving Alex

 

Saving Alex
Authors: Alex Cooper with Joanna Brooks
Narrator: Luci Christian Bell
Produced by HarperAudio
March 2016
Length: 8 hours, 48 minutes

“You can be here three months or three years…” Johnny emphasized upon Alex’s arrival at the unlicensed residential treatment center. She would hear this same speech reiterated many times over the course of the next eight months. And so began her harrowing experience…

Saving Alex is the powerful memoir of Alex Cooper, a young woman who endured conversion therapy in St. George, Utah. Alex grew up in a devout Mormon family in Southern California. Although she had anticipated a less than warm reception when she came out as a lesbian to her parents at the age of 15, she was shocked when her parents demanded she leave immediately. After a few weeks in exile at the home of the local Mormon congregation’s bishop, she is whisked away to St. George, Utah, to stay with her grandparents. Instead, her parents deposited her at an unlicensed “residential treatment program”, led by Johnny and Tiana Siale, a married couple in the local Mormon community. It is here that she spent eight arduous months struggling to retain her identity and sanity in the face of aggressive homophobia. Her journey led her to challenge (and win) the courts for the right to protection under Utah law as an openly gay teenager.

Alex also invites the reader/listener to know her as a complete person, rather than hide a trait that may paint her as less than perfect. As a child and a teenager, she recalled feeling restless and how she sometimes clashed with her parents. Just as she acknowledged the parts that make her whole, so did she look (and continues to look) for the humanity in her parents and the community that refused to see her or hear her.

Luci Christian Bell narrates this intimate, moving account with sensitivity and respect. Her youthful voice transports the listener inside the account, revealing Alex’s uncertainty, pain, and loneliness, as well as highlighting moments of hope and joy. She delivers a nuanced performance as the stand-in narrator for Alex Cooper’s memoir.

It’s hard not to feel your blood boil as you hear Luci give voice to the demeaning treatment that the couple subjected Alex to in an attempt to break her down and “cure her”.  Tiana’s behavior seemed more insidious and complex as she vacillated between comforter and victimizer: hatching new punishments, such as demanding that Alex face a wall for weeks with a backpack full of rocks on her back, and calling Alex by the sugary nickname “Alexi” and confiding her fears about her husband’s violent temper.

I cringed every time that Luci, speaking as Tiana and Johnny, called Alex by a cutesy nickname. Luci’s delivery of their manipulative affection made my skin crawl. The couple seemed to believe that they acted in Alex’s best interest. This is especially evident at the end of the book when they are angered by Alex and her legal defense. Luci’s voice seamlessly transitions from affectionate and chiding to explosive and combative.

I highly recommend this audiobook. The production quality is fantastic and Luci excels at the helm. The only times I pressed pause was to go to work and sleep.  For a woman who once felt like her voice fell upon deaf ears, Alex  now has the opportunity to be heard by countless ears.  I hope that by sharing her experiences more laws will pass outlawing “conversion therapy”.

Additional Reading

 Human Rights Commission: Policy and Position Statements on Conversion Therapy 

Read the White House’s response to the We the People petition to ban conversion therapy in all 50 States.  https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/04/08/petition-response-conversion-therapy

Categories: audiobooks, family relationships, lgbt | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Julie Thompson reviews A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King

A Grave Talent is the 1993 debut novel of Laurie R. King and the first in her Kate Martinelli series.  King won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel and a Creasey Award from the Crime Writers’…

Source: Julie Thompson reviews A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King

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