Author Archives: omnivorebibliosaur

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.

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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
Join the conversation on Goodreads!

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

 

 

Categories: audiobooks, booklist, fiction, lgbt, nonfiction | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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

Lambda Literary 2018 Award Winners

Lambda Literary

Image via Lambda Literary

 

Lambda Literary announced award winners earlier this week at its 30th annual celebration of queer literature. As usual, I have a lot of reading to do after browsing Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Gay, and LGBTQ anthologies in fiction and nonfiction categories. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado and Like Water Rebecca Podos, winners of Lesbian Fiction and LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult, respectively, are available as fantastic audiobook productions*. This list is drawn from Lambda Literary’s official list of winners. For an even greater swell to your TBR, check out the full list of category finalists.

*Note: I reviewed these audiobooks for AudioFile Magazine.

 

Lesbian Fiction
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado, Graywolf Press

Gay Fiction
After the Blue Hour, John Rechy, Grove Press

Bisexual Fiction
The Gift, Barbara Browning, Coffee House Press

Bisexual Nonfiction
Hunger, Roxane Gay, HarperCollins

Transgender Fiction
Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative FictionBogi Takács (ed), Lethe Press

LGBTQ Nonfiction
How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Haymarket Books

Transgender Nonfiction
Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, C. Riley Snorton, University of Minnesota Press

Lesbian Poetry
Rock | Salt | Stone, Rosamond S. King, Nightboat Books

Gay Poetry
While Standing in Line for Death, CA Conrad, Wave Books

Transgender Poetry
recombinant, Ching-In Chen, Kelsey Street Press

Lesbian Mystery
Huntress, A.E. Radley, Heartsome Publishing

Gay Mystery
Night Drop, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books

Lesbian Memoir/Biography
The Fact of a BodyAlexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Flatiron Books

Gay Memoir/Biography
Lives of Great Men: Living and Loving as an African Gay Man, Chike Frankie Edozien, Team Angelica Publishing

Lesbian Romance
Tailor-Made, Yolanda Wallace, Bold Strokes Books

Gay Romance
Love and Other Hot Beverages, Laurie Loft, Riptide Publishing

LGBTQ Erotica
His Seed, Steve Berman, Unzipped Books

LGBTQ Anthology
¡Cuéntamelo! Oral Histories by LGBT Latino Immigrants, Juliana Delgado Lopera, Aunt Lute Books

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult
Like Water, Rebecca Podos, Balzer + Bray

LGBTQ Drama
The Gulf, Audrey Cefaly, Samuel French

LGBTQ Graphic Novels
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Emil Ferris, Fantagraphics Books

LGBTQ SF/F/Horror
Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Tor Books

LGBTQ Studies
Punishing Disease: HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness, Trevor Hoppe, University of California Press

 

Categories: anthology, awards, contemporary, fiction, lgbt, Memoirs & Autobiographies, mystery, nonfiction, romance, short stories, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Breakthrough by Kris Bryant

Breakthrough

 

“According to one of the tiny maps, there were only five major highways in Alaska. I couldn’t get lost.” – – – famous last words from Kennedy Wells

Celebrity journalist Kennedy Wells’ ends up in Anchorage, Alaska after her magazine editor sends her out to write a cover article on a new reality show. The idea smells like rotten fish, but Kennedy won’t give up a shot at regaining her former beat rubbing elbows with performers and the famous-for being-famous. 

Much of the novel’s humor plays off Kennedy’s unfamiliarity with Anchorage’s great outdoors. She’s more at home on the bustling city streets of LA, dining on catered cuisine and dashing off to her next interview in designer heels. A near-disaster on her first day exploring the area’s scenic byways requires calling in the rescue squad— in this case, a strapping butch park ranger named Brynn Coleman.

Alaska’s Wildlife Rescue and Sanctuary, located outside Anchorage, provides refuge for more than just injured animals. As its director, Brynn finds peace within its lands and her mission to help rehabilitate creatures that cannot take care of themselves. Wally the racoon is a surprisingly endearing character, though readers-as-Kennedy are informed that wild animals, no matter how friendly, are still wild animals. 

The two women cross paths as Kennedy finds herself in the thick of misadventure time and again. As the journalist discovers the appeal of her new environs, she also comes face to face with firmly entrenched body image issues, commitment aversion, and an unexpected career crossroads. One of the main issues at play is how much Kennedy and Brynn, who harbors a closely guarded past, are willing to confront within themselves before they can discover a deeper fulfillment. A small cadre of queer friends (including a local librarian) and colleagues ground the women throughout the story and give Alaska a small town feel, despite the nearly 740,000 population of Anchorage.

Overall, Breakthrough is delivers satisfying romance, amusing adventures, and a surprising, thrilling change of pace in the latter half of the story. The novel’s primary drawback is rooted in telling rather than showing the reader what is happening. There are times when a character’s thoughts are repeated aloud after she thinks them. Recommended for fans of “fish out of water” stories, femme/butch pairings, Great Outdoors immersion, and the television series Northern Exposure

Breakthrough by Kris Bryant
Bold Strokes Books
May 1, 2018

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

Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

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Few books make me feel as giddy as I felt when I learned that Robin Talley penned a young adult novel set in the world of lesbian pulp fiction. Washington D.C. High School senior Abby Zimet struggles with a shaky home life, a complicated relationship with her ex-girl friend, and a nebulous future. When she stumbles across a lesbian pulp novel by Marian Love during research for a creative writing project, her thoughts become increasingly consumed by it and with finding the elusive woman behind the story. 

Tracking down an author, especially a writer of 1950s lesbian fiction, is a near impossible task. Abby learns this lesson quickly: not everything is available online, but human connections remain a powerful channel. If you were a queer female author, you cloaked your identity behind a pseudonym. You didn’t want to be found. Pulp shares the impact of lesbian pulp novels within the context of their time. Queer people were hunted out of government jobs, blacklisted from future employment, and exiled from families they were born into. Authors like Ann Bannon, who later revealed her identity as a pulp writer, wrote their first novels from dens of crumbling heteronormative domesticity.  Patricia Highsmith published The Price of Salt under the name “Claire Morgan”, so as not to derail her nascent mainstream writing career.

Told in parallel narratives, Pulp traces Janet Jones’ pivotal year in 1955 as a teenager in D.C., and Abby’s present-day travails and literary sleuthing. As the story builds, readers see more than just a chasm of differences between the modern teen’s openness with her family and friends as a lesbian, and Janet’s furtive attempts at secrecy. Readers discover threads that not only connect the characters through time, but also reflects the continuity of history and social activism in our own lives. 

Robin Talley delivers an immersive and emotionally engaging novel that rewards repeat readers. Sprinkled throughout are Easter eggs for lesbian history enthusiasts and those eager to learn more about this period in our history. I believe that fiction can be a powerful draw in pulling readers of all ages into a deeper examination of historical events. Talley again creates a compelling story that intrigues and informs. I’ll leave most of the trivia for you to discover when the book is released in November. Hint: Start with Abby Zimet’s name. If you’re new to lesbian pulp, you can find plenty of examples of their covers online. Salacious, technicolor covers make for great magnets and other novelty items.

Pulp by Robin Talley
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: November 13, 2018

Further Reading

A major portion of Abby’s journey involves an education in lesbian herstory.  I am especially drawn to mid-20th century queer history and fiction. This bibliography reflects some of the material that I’ve read so far. It is by no means comprehensive or complete. If you have any recommendations for me, please share them in the comments below. I’ve said this before, but someday, I will visit the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City.

Nonfiction

Articles & Websites

Fiction

A mix of pulp fiction and novels set in the 1950s (and in New York City, for the most part).


Coloring book bonus!

The Butch Lesbians of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s Coloring Book from Stacked Deck Press is currently out-of-stock, but worth keeping an eye on. 

Categories: booklist, contemporary, historical fiction, lgbt, young adult | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Blend by Georgia Beers

 

Blend

In vino veritas, or, in this case, “in wine bar truth”. Since the death of her husband a few years ago, Ellen Bradshaw has basically lived at Vineyard, the business they started together in their early retirement. When she suddenly announces plans for a solo vacation, Ellen leaves both her daughter Piper and the wine bar’s general manager, Lindsay Kent, in charge. It’s an antagonizing arrangement that starts off sour grapes, but matures into a compulsively readable blend.

Enter “Corporate Barbie” or “Princess Elsa”, two of the nicknames whispered behind Piper’s back. Managing people and productivity as a VP at a tech company are tasks at which she excels. Dealing with painful memories and discomfiting emotions? Not so much. On the other half of the equation is the laid-back, but equally hardworking Lindsay strives to transform the wine bar that turned her life around.  Rocket, her lovable yellow lab and a small group of friends complete her good-enough-for-now life. Romance? Well, that’s just something that Lindsay’s stuffed away in a drawer full of mismatched socks.

As the women spend increasing amounts of time together at the bar and other locales around Black Cherry Lake, they find it impossible to remain at loggerheads. The supporting cast of family, friends, and co-workers deserve major kudos. This contemporary romance shows that sometimes it takes a village to bring two people together. Piper’s frosty demeanor gives way under the warmth of her friend Matthew (a wonderful bear of a kindergarten teacher), Edgar (her mustachioed cat named for Edgar Allen Poe), and older sister Gina. We all need people who love us, warts and all, and aren’t afraid to call us on our shit.

Author Georgia Beers delivers another satisfying contemporary romance, full of humor, delicious aggravation, and a home for the heart at the end of the emotional journey.

Blend by Georgia Beers
Bold Strokes Books, April 2018
Join the conversation on Goodreads!

*Netgalley review copy

 

 

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

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