Monthly Archives: May 2017

Shadows of the Heart – audiobook review

Shadows of the Heart

While it has been a while since I’ve read a Gothic romance, pressing play on the audiobook for Patty G. Henderson’s Shadows of the Heart made me feel like I never left that world. It’s full of my favorite elements: secret passages; an isolated, ailing, and neglected young wife; stolen kisses and forbidden romance; dark visages hiding darker deeds; a strong and strapping woman astride a steed, hair and mane flying in the face of convention; stodgy dowagers; a duplicitous lady’s maid; dinner parties and masquerade balls; poisonous plants; a cavernous, dank and oppressive castle; and, of course, a heroine of former social standing who must couple her wits with opportunity, while also standing up for those in need and staying true to herself! *Phew! Take a breath.*

The novel unfolds through the eyes of Annalee Stewart, amidst early 1820’s England social conventions and the atmospheric grounds of Blackstone Castle. Our heroine must accept a position as a companion to Lady Lenore Blackstone, the Earl’s wife. At once, Annalee finds the situation strange and disconcerting. If there is a Gothic term for “Spidey sense”, it would aptly describe her feeling of unease as soon as she sets foot on the premises. Lady Lenore does not benefit from medical care and is confined to her quarters by her lady’s maid. Lord Blackstone, for his part, keeps a fair distance between himself and his estate, leaving his wife to the attentions of his mother and sister, Victoria, who becomes a trusted confidante and ally. When he does return, events spiral quickly out of control. 

Henderson is a masterful storyteller. She paints a vivid world, full of intrigue and dark corners; brooding servants and duplicitous spouses; and of course, inquisitive heroines and vulnerable dames. I also love Annalee’s romantic pragmatism. Her uncertain financial situation balanced with her love for Lenore feels appropriate to her personality and the time period. The story is also wonderfully paced, essential to maintaining a moody, romantic atmosphere.

Narration

Cathy Conneff delivers terrific characterization of the leads and secondary cast members. Her vocal range and pacing plunges listeners into the rolling emotional terrain. Aside from her strong performance as Annalee, there are several strong characterizations that stand-out. As the dour dowager of Blackstone and as Annalee’s godmother (referred to in flashbacks), Conneff’s voice uses a crotchety register and entitled intonations. The ailing Lenore is a blend of delicate eagerness and vivacious affections. And Veronica is pure velvet seduction.

I recommend pairing it with a foggy morning and a strong cup of tea! I think I’ll revisit the story in October so that I can perch atop the bluff and gaze out upon the gray horizon and white-capped waves.

Bluff Julie

Shadows of the Heart (Gothical Historical Romances #4) by Patty G. Henderson
Narrated by Cathy Conneff
Produced by Audible Studios
Length: 6 hours, 29 minutes
ASIN: B06XNJ94TK
Audiobook version released: March 16, 2017

Available as an audiobook from Amazon/Audible.  Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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

Basketball Dreams: A booklist for sports fiction fiends

It’s that time of year when all I can think about is basketball. The WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) is now just over a week into its 21st season. It spans May through September, and, if you’re like me, you follow your favorite players as they shoot hoops for their various overseas teams in Europe, Asia, and beyond, too. I squeeze in games before work, at lunch, on breaks, and at home. Did you know that a fifteen minute break equals about half a quarter of game time, if you fast-forward through commercials?

This isn’t the first year I’ve wondered this, but: What do you get the woman who has season tickets, streaming video, and all the Twitter-Tumblr-Official Team Sites-Sports Analysis she can handle? Why, a bag full of fiction, of course! The basketball books that I have crossed paths with during my time in the WNBA-Tumblrverse and elsewhere, are either memoirs by players (too few) or are super outdated nonfiction at the library (to be fair, there really aren’t any new books arriving to take their place on the shelves). Not to mention the deluge of stories by and about their male counterparts in the NBA.

Sue Bird circa 2004! Image via Amazon.com

 

Sixth Woman” shout out to The Lesbian Review Book Club Facebook group for helping me find these novels! I searched high and low, but every query came up short. Many thanks and may all of your three point shots hit nothin’ but net!

And now, our starting lineup! Please share your recommendations in the comments below 😀

337649

Romancing the Zone by Kenna White

A successful business woman and single mother, Liz Elliott is fast approaching the age of forty. Her nineteen-year-old daughter Becca is a freshman at Chilton College in Ashton, Vermont. Becca also happens to be a rising star for the Lady Stingers basketball team – just as her mother had been twenty years ago. But back in those early days a dirty little secret had collapsed Liz’s world – a secret she has kept hidden from everyone – especially her daughter. Now Liz finds herself accepting her daughter’s challenge to return to college and finally earn the degree that has so long eluded her. As if that isn’t enough, Liz has also somehow found herself back in the gym – and playing out her final year of basketball eligibility. Soon sparks fly when Liz encounters resistance from the new head coach, Sheridan Ross.

Coach Ross has no patience for babysitting an over-the-hill athlete – not while she’s worried about her own plans to move up the career coaching ladder as quickly as possible. Now in addition to battling the coach, Liz’s world begins to crumble when the secret from her past returns to Ashton… (Goodreads)

7754327

Full Court Pressure by Lynn Galli

When Graysen Viola moves across the country to coach a college basketball team, she thought the hardest part of her job would be establishing a winning record. Being wrong has never been so challenging. A misunderstanding puts her in the unique position of coaching the men’s team, which is struggling just to be competitive. The last thing this team wants or thinks it needs is a female coach. Together they must find a way to understand and trust each other in order to succeed. Complicating matters is the lovely and persistent volleyball coach, Darby Evan, a former crush from their college days. Graysen isn’t sure starting a relationship with a colleague amidst her job turmoil is the wisest idea, but feelings rarely follow practicality. If she can figure out how to handle a team that disapproves of her, then dealing with an unexpected love life should be a breeze by comparison. Or so she hopes. (via Goodreads)

34440209

At Last by Lynn Galli

Willa Lacey is confident, smart, and ambitious. A few months away from being granted venture capital to start her software company, she’s barely able to maintain her day job, attend to her family, and keep up with friends. It’s been a long process, but her hard work is about to pay off. So, why is it that all she can think about is the friendship she’s just made with a professional basketball player? She’s never been distracted before, yet something about Quinn Lysander is making her rethink her priorities in life. Can the potential for a relationship outweigh the importance of her life’s ambition?

Note: The first seven chapters of At Last were previously published in the anthology, Finally. At Last is an expanded novella and includes nine all new chapters. Learn how the Virginia Clan came to be and watch as Willa and Quinn settle into their new life together. (via Goodreads)

20805149

Rebound by Lynette Mae

Women’s basketball star Conner Maguire has the world by the tail. She’s at the top of her game, in demand, and life is good.

One day the unthinkable happens and her world is ripped apart. That split second event forces Conner to re-evaluate her entire existence.

Shawn Tyler, a beautiful warrior with a shattered heart and incomparable spirit may be the key to conquering her fears, if Conner can open her heart enough to see the world from a new perspective. (via Goodreads)

32867150

To Have Loved & Lost by Eliza Andrews

Alexis Woods knows who she is — or at least, she thought she did. She’s number 17, point guard, MVP, all-star, co-captain of the Lady Raiders NCAA Division I women’s basketball team. But there’s a darkness growing inside of her, a darkness that started the night her beloved died in her arms, and if she doesn’t turn things around soon, the darkness just might swallow her whole.

Graham Griffin knows a thing or two about darkness. That’s been her zip code ever since the car accident that took her boyfriend’s life — the car accident she caused. When she meets Alex, she sees a reflection of her own sorrow. And she can’t help but want to fix it. (via Goodreads)

23258877

Bouncing by Jaime Maddox

Bouncing has always been a way of life for Alex Dalton. The former basketball star and new coach likes to keep life simple, bouncing from woman to woman, with no responsibilities and no complications. Then a summer fling opens her eyes to other possibilities, and now Alex wonders if a relationship might be what she really needs. There is an instant attraction to her new assistant coach, Britain Dodge, but for some reason, Brit wants nothing to do with Alex. Then a spontaneous kiss under the stars forces them to admit their feelings and work on their issues. Their love grows, but so do the outside pressures that influence them, and they have to decide if they should forfeit their love or play until the final buzzer. (via Goodreads)

29507711

Personal Foul by Lucy Madison

Kat Schaefer’s career is on autopilot. She’s an elite basketball official in the WNBA after surviving an extremely rocky childhood but still finds herself adrift in her personal life almost two years after her longtime girlfriend dumped her. Kat’s well-ordered world turns upside down again when she meets a hotshot rookie named Julie Stevens who knocks her world off balance with her stellar play and captivating eyes.

Despite Kat’s best defense, she falls hard for the young player but she’s unable to open herself up to love again. Her solution is to retreat alone to the magnificent beaches of Provincetown, Massachusetts to heal old wounds and to figure out what the future holds. (via Goodreads)

Categories: lgbt, romance, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hallowed Murder – audiobook spotlight

25186746

The Mystery Writers of America recently bestowed the title of Grand Master upon Ellen Hart, author of the Jane Lawless and the Sophie Greenway mystery series. Grand Master is bestowed upon writers who have made outstanding contributions to the genre. My first introduction to Hart was when I happened upon Hart’s long running mystery series, stars Minneapolis restaurateur, Jane Lawless, on the shelf at my local public library. The amateur sleuth has languished in my TBR pile ever since. When I read about Hart’s literary distinction on Women and Words, last week, I put most of my other in-progress books aside and bought an Audible copy of the series first installment, Hallowed Murder (1989).  

The series introduction finds Jane volunteering as an alumnae advisor at her old sorority house at the University of Minnesota. On a morning walk along the river, Jane and her longtime pal, Cordelia, stumble upon the drowned body of the sorority’s social chair, Allison Lord. The police readily dismiss the young woman’s death as a suicide, because in their dim view lesbians are all suicidal and otherwise loathsome creatures. Jane, however, believes that something foul is afoot and pursues a twisting road of secrets, prejudice, homophobia, loaded motives, and more, in order to learn the truth. 

A few days prior to hearing about the award, I finally acted on my longstanding desire to learn how to play chess. Grand Master in mystery and in chess are two different things, but they do share commonalities. Both require plotting several moves ahead, taking into account as many outcomes as possible. As a new piece of potentially vital intel came into play in the story, I mentally moved another chess piece ahead. Sometimes a piece was removed from play; other times, a piece made an unexpected move. He did what? She spoke with so-and-so? Someone wasn’t where they said they’d be? Hmm… It was fun to try and figure out the murderer’s identity. I loved finding plausible motives for several characters, too. There are twenty-three additional novels in the series and many of them are available on audiobook. 

I enjoyed Aimee Jolson’s narration. In Hallowed Murder, she adopts a straightforward style suited to Jane Lawless’s pragmatic personality and understated sense of humor. Even with a maelstrom of emotion (confusion, anger, fear, love, etc.) swirling around her, even when her own life comes into the culprit’s cross-hairs, Jane never loses her cool. Jolson also infuses her narration with subtle characterization of the sorority sisters and household staff. Cordelia, on the other hand, is a woman who abides no subtlety. There are a few minor points that, while not detracting from my enjoyment of the story and narration, could enhance the audiobook. I would like a beat more spacing between sections, to better differentiate a change of scene. Jane’s vocal nuances were underrepresented. Her formative years were spent in England with her American father and British mother. Later, in high school, Jane moved to the United States, remaining a resident afterwards. I did not detect the accent blend, though it is mentioned early on in the novel.

This has nothing to do with the storytelling or narration, but I’ve never listened to an audiobook that gave me a 30 minute preview of the next book in the series, Vital Lies (1991). That was a very pleasant surprise! Bonus points to Griffindor!

Hallowed Murder by Ellen Hart
Narrator: Aimee Jolson (Goodreads and a few other places online list Carol Jordan Stewart as narrator. She seems to be the narrator of the 1995 release. The Audible copy I have is narrated by Jolson. Maybe someday I’ll be able to compare their performances.)
Original print edition released in 1989 by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House
Length: 8 hours, 25 minutes
Audiobook release date: 2014

Available as an audiobook from Amazon/AudibleiTunes, and other retailers. Check your local public library for availability in print and/or audio.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: audiobooks, lgbt, mystery, series | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue

“My sport — the special skill I’ve developed my whole life — is surviving, and that doesn’t leave much room for following Cinderella dreams.” – Ramona Blue Leroux

Ramona Leroux’s life in the small town of Eulogy, Mississippi is a well-trod, predictable path. She knows that her mother will always disappoint her; that her older sister Hattie, will always need her; that her dad will work himself into the ground; and that she is a lesbian. As she starts her senior year of high school, flush with summer romance and the rising quicksand of her life in Eulogy blocking out the horizon, it seems that life will go on in this fashion indefinitely. 

At least, it seems that way, until her childhood beach buddy, Freddie, moves to town with Agnes, the grandmother who raised him, and her husband, Bart. As a kid, Ramona lived in the water (hence the nickname). Along with the reappearance of her summer family, she starts swimming again. The novel unfolds from August through the end of the school year in June. As the story progresses, we see how deeply Ramona’s family ties and socioeconomic status, more so than her sexuality, impact how she views herself, her future plans, and relationships. No matter what opportunities and burdens land on her doorstep, Ramona views them through these lenses.

As Ramona grapples with what her burgeoning attraction to Freddie means, she also has to deal with her mother’s belief that her daughter is going through a lesbian “phase”. The thought of being open about her feelings for Freddie is more about how other people, like her mother and her friends Ruth and Saul, might react. Ramona finds herself in a position similar to the one her summer girlfriend, Grace, found herself in when confronted about her “real” sexuality. Are you gay, straight, bi? She sums it up for herself as:

“I choose guys. I always choose girls. I choose people. But most of all: I choose.” 

I hope this book resonates teenagers who are agonizing over questions such as “What does it mean that I’m attracted to people of more than one gender? Shouldn’t I be one or the other: gay or straight? And what will my friends, family, society think of me if I’m attracted to more than one gender?”. And also, yes, Ramona, I totally agree: dresses without pockets are useless! xD

As an aside from the main review, I wanted to briefly touch on some of the criticism I’ve read about Ramona Blue. It is incredibly frustrating and aggravating that some readers have called this book lesbophobic or claim that it is disrespectful story about a lesbian-identified girl who “finds the right guy” to “turn her straight”. I feel that anyone who has made such emphatic statements hasn’t read the book. As a bisexual, it wasn’t an easy journey for me to accept myself. None of this is meant to erase or downplay the discrimination and ignorance expressed towards lesbians. I’m just saying that Julie Murphy did a great job depicting a teenager’s experiences with discovering her bisexuality (***I’m using “bisexual” as a term to encompass all identities that are not monosexual). 

I won’t give too much away since Ramona Blue doesn’t hit bookstores until next Tuesday. Despite the emotional journey it takes you on, the novel is also a lot of fun. 

Beach blanket tote bag:

                           Swimline Pool Pizza Slice Float blue hair dye red schwinn bike

Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release date: May 9, 2017
ISBN: 9780062418357
ISBN 10: 0062418351

Available soon from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Be sure to check your local library for digital and print copies!

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: lgbt, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

Kitty Kat's Book Review Blog

Book Reviews and Writing

Cari Hunter

Bold Strokes Books author

The Bibliofiles - Sno-Isle Libraries

In the Biblio Files blog, Sno-Isle Libraries staff members engage in conversations about reading. Join in by adding your comments.

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

Porkbelly Press

made in Cincinnati, Ohio

Trans Book Reviews

Where trans characters and trans readers meet

Shira Glassman

Queer Jewish feminist author

Bridget Essex, Author

Lesbian Romance Novels & Love Stories

danielledreger

YA Librarian by day, YA Writer by night

Madness & Joy

Dark-eyed daughter of the sun...

A. L. Brooks

Writer of Filth—and more...