fiction

California Skies

California Skies

Even on vacation, I pack several books into my carry-on. While I never know what I’ll be in the mood for, I know I’ll feel restless enough to switch back and forth between every single story. Last week as I sat piggy in the middle on my flight from New Orleans back home, the windows obscured by bodies and blinds, I rummaged around for something short and entertaining. Postcards from the Edge written and narrated by Carrie Fisher, took me from NOLA to Denver. For the next part of my trip, I returned to a new favorite novelette, California Skies by Kayla Bashe.

California Skies is an exciting adventure featuring revenge, love, a badass bounty hunter, a woman on a mission, and a wild west posse. The curtains open on a battered, but not broken Maggie leaving the hospital. Bandits murdered her brother and leave her and her sister for dead, as they ravage the family’s land in search of its reputed treasure. To hell with everyone’s warnings, Maggie doesn’t give a damn about bounty hunter California Talbot’s reputation. All she knows is that Talbot was a wonderful childhood friend of both her and her brother. Vengeance has nothing to do with Maggie being a “nice girl”.

Author Kayla Bashe conjures up rough and tumble, adventure fun. Bashe creates a rich, full story in less than 12,000 words. With her precise pacing, she never lingers overlong on any one part of the tale. The titular character, California Talbot, defies those who would say that they are a “no good” bounty hunter. Despite appearances, Talbot is a complex character. They would give up their best pale blue calico garment if it meant helping orphans and widows. Maggie, for her part, is stronger than her imaginative nature might convey. She doesn’t so much need Talbot to act as a savior so much as she needs a partner. The two pair up to round-up and dispose of the vicious Chelson gang. Along the way, Maggie and Talbot discover they have a deeper connection.

I highly recommend California Talbot for anyone longing for a satisfiying, bite-sized ride in the old west featuring strong characters.

California Skies by Kayla Bashe
Published by Less Than Three Press
Publication date: January 2016
ISBN: 9781620046944  

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The Roundabout – audiobook review

Image result for the roundabout audiobook

Leah Rollins rolls (yeah, I went there ^^) into town with the vague idea that she wants to start a business.What kind of business? Well, she hasn’t gotten that far, but at least she’s shed a tech career that no longer fits. Casting off from California, a small town in the Ozarks gives her a fresh start far from her known universe. As long as she can find bottles of her favorite California wines at the grocery store, she’s content. Megan Phenix and her older sister Nancy run a popular restaurant, The Phenix Grill. Eureka Springs being a pond with a limited selection of fish to choose from, Megan often finds herself the recipient of unwelcome advances from other women. After two relationships in which her girlfriends cheated on her, she’s more than happy to never date again. Yet, no matter how many times she tells women she is not interested, at all, they persist. “Oh, you’re just playing hard to get” they tell her.

When the two women first meet, Megan is running red from Mary Beth’s attempts to blackmail her into a date. The last thing she wants to deal with is the parking spots in front of the business next door. Leah treats Megan’s rage over the parking with a sort of bemused tolerance. The older woman seems like a solid oak tree weathering Megan’s tempest. However, both women share a desire to avoid dating. They soon devise a plan to faux date, hoping to lead women off their scent. The more they struggle to convince Mary Beth and the rest that they really are a couple, the more they learn about each other. Romance isn’t far behind.

Mary Beth drove me crazy (“crazy” being a very mild term for how I feel), especially whenever Nancy would brush off her sister’s irritation and concerns with an “Oh, she’s just playing around, don’t take it so seriously”. Some variation of this refrain was oft repeated by Nancy when Megan was struggling with her stalker/harasser. Everyone in town cackles and gapes over the photos of Megan that Mary Beth posts on Facebook. Photos that were taken of a woman undressed without her consent. Only an outsider, Leah, attempts to intervene. At least Megan never let Nancy talk her into accepting this outrageous behavior. Through to the very last second, Megan held everyone accountable. If this had not been the case, I would have been very disappointed. A small dating pool does not equal an “anything goes” environment, as far as toxic actions and comments go.

Thankfully, Gerri Hill creates a compelling, frustrating interplay that makes Megan and Leah’s dating charade convincing. I also enjoy how the characters examine their thoughts on age and their reasons for dating certain types of people. I love how Megan stood up for herself, even when everyone around her seemed to tell her that she deserved to be treated in a way counter to positive mental health. Leah’s character demonstrates how (when some folks might consider 51 “too old”) it’s never too late to shed what doesn’t work anymore for a newer, truer path. 

Nicol Zanzarella delivers an engrossing listening experience as she embodies the story through strong characterization. The emotional weight bore by the main characters reveals itself through her versatile narration. Leah’s voice reflects the strength and patience inherent in a person who truly knows who they are, no matter the situation or location. Zanzarella’s portrayal of Megan, on the other hand, conveys agitation and annoyance through quickened pace and a raised, insistent pitch. Mary Beth’s manipulative and infuriating behavior is enhanced two-fold. If I thought I couldn’t loathe her more, Zanzarella’s narration proves otherwise. The rest of the cast is similarly formed, attention paid to their individual quirks flavoring the identity of the small community. 

The Roundabout takes listeners on a satisfying, roundabout route to love and affirmation. It is an emotionally engaging story paired with fantastic narration. Gerri Hill is an author that I can pick up and know a satisfying literary experience awaits. Make sure to add this one to your TBR (TBL – listen) list today!

The Roundabout by Gerri Hill
Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella
Produced by Audible Studios
Length: 6 hours, 36 minutes
ASIN: B01MU81ZCG
Released: February 2017

Available as an audiobook from Amazon and Audible

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

LGBT Audiobooks 2016 Listen List

I’m just a tad late in posting all of the glorious audiobooks that I listened to in 2016 (though they did make it into my year-end-stravaganza posting). Compared with 2015, there was an aural explosion! I think this in part because I had more options as far as buying and borrowing audiobooks (Overdrive, OneClick Digital, Audible). I’ve also spent more time perusing audiobook reviews on sites such as AudioFile Magazine and participating in a fantastic Facebook group, Lesbian Audiobooks

Now when I find an interesting book, I ask myself “is there an audiobook version?” Publishers seem to produce more and more audiobook versions these days, as opposed to limiting the production to “big” names and blockbuster series. What a time to be a listener!

My taste in listening varies from one day to the next. Below you’ll find my moods and interests reflected in the covers below. I enjoy literary fiction, modern-day retellings of Shakespeare plays, memoirs, YA, fantasy adventure, contemporary romance, far-flung settings, and historical fiction.

However, if I don’t enjoy the narrator, no matter how good the storytelling, I stop listening. And that’s just me; other listeners might find the narrator is a great fit for their ears. Some new-to-me narrators that I really enjoyed in 2016 include Laural Merlington and Kate Rudd (The Language of Hoofbeats); Amielynn Abellera (As I Descended); Sarah Grace Wright (Fallen Elements); and Bahni Turpin (Here Comes the Sun). These narrators deliver immersive experiences with wonderful pacing, tone, and excellent characterization.

As for 2017? Well, I’ve already listened to a contemporary romance and a fantasy-adventure! My Audible wishlist is long and getting longer. What LGBT+ fiction and/or non-fiction audiobooks did you listen to last year?  

The book covers are linked to either a review I posted or to a related external site (like Overdrive, AudioFile, publishers, etc.).

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully LoadedSaving Montgomery SoleAs I DescendedHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-BennYou Know Me Well by David LevithanThe Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson CooperHit by a Farm by Catherine FriendThe Warrior's Path (When Women Were Warriors, #1)Being Jazz Audiobook2497445115726317327959Image result for if i was your girl audiobook207637391582434313587076937547633163705232513262325817288219421892292974125893681

Categories: audiobooks, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, mystery, nonfiction, paranormal, romance, suspense, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Knight to Remember – audiobook review

 

Dragons and damsels, turrets and turkey legs, colorful banners and noble knights. Holly’s life is not the fantasy adventure story she curls up with most nights at home. She’s a Boston librarian who loves her job, enjoys hanging out with her brother on his coven’s meditation nights, and on occasion ventures out to medieval fairs with her best friend, Carly. Life is pretty peachy, with the exception of her extremely toxic girlfriend of four years, Nicole. A single-minded businesswoman who schedules sex and treats Holly like a turd stuck to her shoe, there isn’t much in the way of redeemable qualities in Nicole. In fact, she’s a stain that just won’t come out, though Holly clings to the ghost of what their relationship once was. Part of her wants to gut it out with Nicole because she’s already lost enough in her life.

It takes a dark and stormy night for Holly’s life to spin on its axis. Out in the night, under cloak of darkness, two figures emerge from the thunder claps and lightning. A knight and an enormous beast battle in her backyard. In an instance, the raucous is over and Holly is left with the imposing form of the now wounded knight, Virago. As their adventure to find and slay the beast unfolds, the two women grow closer. No matter the outcome, however, they must answer the question: can people from two different worlds (literally, there’s a magic portal and everything!) establish a lasting relationship? There is a moment in the book in which Virago pitches woo that puts Heath Ledger’s Patrick Verona from 10 Things I Hate About You to shame! Is that a sword strapped to your back or are you happy to see me? 

A Knight to Remember is a fun, well-paced fantasy/adventure romance. There were times when I wondered at how Virago could put up with playing the waiting game when a monster lurked in the shadows, such as allowing herself to spend a day at the library when Holly has to work. It was still fun to see the characters interact in various places in Boston. Author Bridget Essex leaves plenty of room to expand on character relationships and all of those what nexts in Date Knight, the second installment of her “Knight Legends” series (which was just released on audio in January 2017!). Cheers!

Narrator Rose Clearwater delivers an engrossing and entertaining performance as she guides listeners through a world both ordinary and extraordinary. Her turn as the confident fish out-of-water Virago exploring an alien world (Earth) enhances the story. Listeners view the world through the knight’s eyes: everyday items to Earth-based people, like shopping malls, coffee, and seat belts become curiosities (though she quickly acclimates to her new environment). Clearwater uses a more matter-of-fact tone when Virago tells Holly that a knight does not leave their sword behind, not even to buy new clothes. Holly’s voice is full of the pauses that mark indecision and doubt. Her tone becomes more lively when she’s nervous, excited, or upset. Clearwater does a wonderful job of charting Holly’s personal journey as she takes charge of her life. And, as if listeners needed another reason to despise Nicole, Clearwater enhances those sentiments with the brisk, dismissive, and irritated tones and pacing with which she infuses Nicole’s dialogue. Even now, as I write this, I feel a surge of loathing for this woman who seems to think so little of Holly (in those few moments she does think of her). Ugh!

I look forward to hearing her narrate the continuing adventures of Holly and Virago in Date Knight!

A Knight to Remember by Bridget Essex
Narrated by Rose Clearwater (Note: In at least one place on the author’s website, Kelly Nugent is listed as the narrator and I’ve found an alternate book cover with Kelly’s name listed.)
Published by Rose and Star Press
Presented by Audible.com
Length: 7 hours, 17 minutes
ASIN: B01J2FBO6M
Released: July 2016

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, and iTunes

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

Secret Heart

Image result for secret heart danielle dreger

Secret Heart, Danielle Dreger’s debut novel, strums the angsty heartstrings of its leading ladies: Avery and Madison. On first glance, the two girls could not be more different. Avery is openly queer, a badass rocker, an only child, and far from a star student. Madison is a poster child for perfection: stellar grades, student council President, soccer star, and all-around super nice person. Not that Avery isn’t nice 😉 Casual acquaintances for most of their high school lives, their lives intertwine on the inaugural meeting of their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (Lion Pride).

Senior year can be a crazy time and it’s easy to lose sight of which way points up. The instant chemistry and intense desire surprises both girls. Avery and Madison both face heavy expectations (from bandmates, parents, friends, Lion Pride). They struggle to find a personal balance for their lives after high school and if their burgeoning romance (plus the secrecy that Madison wants) is worth the stress. As I read, I marveled at the elasticity of their hearts. Was the trust worthily bestowed? How much of themselves, of their core being, would they be willing to sacrifice in order to appease others? 

Had I never met the most unreal-ly nice person before reading this book, I would have scoffed at a character so kind-hearted, successful, and popular. Madison’s life, however, is far from perfect and she plays her cards close to her chest. My inner cynic was pacified by the complexity embodied by both leads. They challenge stereotypes (Avery’s affinity for Taylor Swift and marathoning Zac Efron films with her best friend, Scott, for example) and some other surprises. By the end of the story, I was more satisfied with the characters’ personal growth than with their romance.

Secret Heart is a fun, angsty roller coaster of love and self-discovery.

“Avery’s Playlist” (condensed)

Dreger curated the perfect playlist for this book. The song selections in themselves reflect the storyline and emotional roller coaster of teenage romance. It makes me want to record a mix tape from vignettes of my own life. For a full set list, turn to pp. 247-248 of Secret Heart.

Secret Heart

Author: Danielle Dreger

Publisher: DDB Press

Released: October 2016
ISBN (print) 978-0-9977659-1-5                                      

ISBN (ebook) 978-0-9977659-0-8

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Don’t forget to check your local library for availability! A part of the proceeds from every book sold goes to support the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

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Categories: fiction, friendship, lgbt, librarians, romance, young adult | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe Passage – audiobook review

Safe Passage [Audiobook]

 

Jules Delacroix, a former Olympic rower, now math teacher & rowing coach at an all-girls high school, inherits her great-aunt’s New Orleans home in the Garden District. She also inherits a safe full of her great-aunt’s secrets. Encoded letters, with what Jules at first mistakes for French, give her an excuse to enlist the translation services of the sexy French teacher, Gen. Once they figure out that the letters are layered in ciphers (drawing out Jules love of and skill at numeric codes) and then in French (not that Gen needs an excuse to stay on with the project; it’s très intriguing and damn, that Jules is one tantalizing package!). The safe also contains other clues, such as a sketch of a beautiful black woman, a journal, and an antique pistol. Together, the two women develop fantastic chemistry as they delve deeper into the secrets.

Jules receives emotional grounding from her friends Beth and Becs. The rapport between the friends flows naturally throughout the story, infusing the day-to-day, mystery, and romance with love and humor. One of my favorite moments comes when Jules refers to her friend Beth as a “Wal-Mart sports bra of support”. Jules’ friend Becs, a New Orleans police officer, calls her “the world’s most useless butch” in college, though Jules is an amazing cook.

E.V. Grove delivers an engaging, enjoyable performance. While I’m not an expert in the differences between regional Southern dialects, Grove’s voice places me among trellises, creeping vines, and humidity. Aside from being a bit quick at the beginning of the story, Grove provides great characterization and tone. Each woman springs to life, radiating charm, uncertainty, teasing, straight-forward, and eagerness.

There are also many instances in which there is not enough space in narration to denote change between sections. However, I think that is likely the result of editing. Overall, the production quality is good, pulling you into the listening experience, rather than popping you out. By the end of the two hours and twenty minutes, Owen’s storytelling and Grove’s narration left me wanting more.

Safe Passage
Kate Owen
Narrated by E.V. Grove
Published by Less Than Three Press and Produced through Audible
Length: 2 hours, 19 minutes
ASIN: B00SLW82PY
Released: January 2015

Available as an audiobook from Less Than Three Press, AmazonAudible, and iTunes. It is also available as Spanish and French language ebooks! I think that’s a sign to brush up on my French 😀

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The Year of Needy Girls

Image result for the year of needy girls

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith is an uncomfortable and compelling look at residents of a small New England town. When ten year-old Leo Rivera is abducted by his neighbor, Mickey Gilberto, from his front yard in the East-side of town and later discovered dead, the people of Brandywine, Massachusetts become frenzied with fear, sorrow, and anger. Soon after his discovery, Dierdre, a French teacher at Brandywine Academy, located on the West-end of town, a private all-girls school, is accused of molesting one of her students. 

The townsfolk, already divided as the East-end and West-end, struggles to process the heinous crime and reconcile it with their differences. A snowball effect sweeps up everyone in its path as tensions rise during the investigations. Most residents of the West-end are affluent caucasians. Their children attend prestigious private schools, such as Brandywine Academy and rarely visit the East-end of town, even if they have a chaperone present. The residents of the East-end are more diverse. Many folks come from primarily working class backgrounds, speak a language other than English in the home, and have family members who immigrated to the United States within a generation or two.

The charges brought against the teacher add pressure to Dierdre’s and Sara Jane’s (SJ) five-year relationship. As the accusations fly, the tenuous threads binding the two women together stretch taut. The fall-out forces both women to confront long-held grievances and desires in their relationship. They also become subject to an attack reminiscent of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign; a challenge they both handle in different ways.

The novel is divided between the perspectives of Dierdre; SJ, a librarian at Brandywine’s East-end branch with a connection to Mickey Gilberto; interludes that focus on the female students of Brandywine Academy; and letters to the editor of the town newspaper. There are marginalized community voices that also surface intermittently. Despite the victim’s home in a Brazilian East-end neighborhood, however, readers are confined to the lens’ of the “needy girls”. “Needy girls”, how Dierdre frequently refers to her students, is applicable to the adults, as well.

The novel deals in perceptions, muddled motives, and doubt.  There are plenty of uncomfortable moments when readers dance up to the edge with Dierdre as she makes observations about students’ lives beyond the classroom and as she examines her own role in the drama. Despite discomfort expressed by characters at the teacher’s devotion to her students’ lives, both in and out of the classroom, Smith does not make it easy for readers to define Dierdre. Smith also brings into play comparisons between the teacher and Mickey Gilberto. On the other side, SJ is isolated in their relationship. Her struggle to find satisfaction and need in her work, to find a place where she isn’t second or third, drives her narrative. However, her part in this tale is not as cut and dry, either.

The Year of Needy Girls revels in ambiguity. At every turn I felt compelled to question my own assumptions, as I judged the protagonists and secondary cast. I’m still mulling over motives and ethical questions raised in the story. Readers who enjoy moral dilemmas and the drama of small town New England life, filled with wonderful detail and told at a snowballing pace, will relish Smith’s debut novel. 

***Also, does anyone else think that the woman on the cover looks like Krysten Ritter à la Jessica Jones?***

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith
Published by Akashic Books
Released: January 2017

ISBN-10: 1617754870
ISBN-13: 978-1617754876

Available from Akashic Books, AmazonBarnes & Noble, and other retailers. Be sure to check your local public library for availability.

Join the discussion on Goodreads! Bonus discussion guide available on Akashic Books’ website.

Categories: fiction, lgbt, literary fiction | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Yeeeeeeehaw! Historical Westerns

Now that I’m finally watching HBO’s Westworld, it’s all I can think about. What does it mean to be sentient? It brings up a ton of great questions, none of which are the focus of this post. It did pique my interest, though, in creating a list of historical westerns. Which of these novels belong in the pantheon of western “classics”? Click on any of the links (including the book covers) to learn more about each book.

The queer women in these books are passionate, tenacious, and stalwart. They face mile high odds to love and live the way they want and need to. These badass women are most definitely doing it for themselves and for each other.

Some of books featured below are ones that I’ve read, some are in my closet and await a spare moment, and some I’ve only just discovered while building this list. How many historical fiction novels starring queer women can we round up? If you’d like to help me add to this list in-progress, please share your books in the comments below. Thank you!

montana-feathers

Montana Feathers by Penny Hayes
Publisher: Naiad Press (you’ll be redirected to Bella Books)
Publication date: 1990

High adventure in the old west…romantic and satisfying. An authentic portrait of women finding and loving each other in America’s frontier days. (Goodreads)

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backwards-to-oregon

Backwards to Oregon (The Oregon series) by Jae
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Publication date: 2013

“Luke” Hamilton has always been sure that she’d never marry. She accepted that she would spend her life alone when she chose to live her life disguised as a man.
After working in a brothel for three years, Nora Macauley has lost all illusions about love. She no longer hopes for a man who will sweep her off her feet and take her away to begin a new, respectable life.
But now they find themselves married and on the way to Oregon in a covered wagon, with two thousand miles ahead of them. (Goodreads)

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the-long-trail

The Long Trail by Penny Hayes
Publisher: Naiad Press (you’ll be redirected to Bella Books)
Publication date: 1986

A lesbian western: Authentic, rip-roaring, fast-moving, and a very sexy adventure. (Goodreads)

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warrior-healer-thief

The Warrior, the Healer, and the Thief
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Publication date: 2016

All three [characters] prefer to walk alone, but if they’re going to survive legendary beasts and powerful magic of the unforgiving west, they’ll have to learn that sometimes there’s strength in numbers. (Goodreads)

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bittersweet

Bittersweet by Nevada Barr
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (1999 reprint, as shown on cover featured)
Publication date: 1984

A heart-wrenching, yet tender tale of two women whose boundless devotion to each other is continually challenged in nineteenth century America. (Goodreads)

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distant-thunder

Distant Thunder by Peggy J. Herring
Publisher: Bella Books
Publication date: 2003

When she was very young, Leona Trask’s mother died, leaving her with the task of raising her four younger brothers. Leo yearned to be free, to ride the vast empty spaces of the open West and escape the endless drudgery of running a farm. It was a hard life, and every night she tumbled into bed exhausted to dream of freedom.

Then Cordy rode into her life. A free spirit, a loner, who would take off without warning, Leo resented her for her freedom, yet at the same time Cordy awakened feelings in her–feelings she couldn’t explain or comprehend. As the endless poverty of farm life drew Leo’s father into the outlaw world of train robbing, Leo shouldered more of the responsibility of keeping her little family together–and she burned with resentment that Cordy was part of the gang–treated as equal to the men.

A kiss awakens Leo’s inner passion, and sends her on a journey to find Cordy; a journey that is also one of self-discovery. (Goodreads)

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tumbleweed

Tumbleweed Fever by LJ Maas
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises – Yellow Rose Books
Publication date: 2000

In the Oklahoma Territory of the old west, Devlin Brown is trying to redeem herself for a past as an outlaw. Working as a rider on a cattle ranch, she meets Sarah Tolliver, a widow with two children and a successful ranch, but no way to protect it from the ruthless men who would rather see her fail. Sparks fly when the former outlaw teams up with the beautiful, yet headstrong, young Tolliver. (Goodreads)

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sweetwater

Sweetwater series by Mickey Minner
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises – Yellow Rose Books
Publication date: 2006

The “respectable” world of an Eastern woman in the late 1800’s, marrying and caring for a family, holds no appeal for Jennifer Kensington. She seeks a life of adventure and challenge. When her request to work in the family business is refused by her father, she leaves for the West, where she is certain she will find a new life in a society where a woman’s options are not so restricted. Jesse Branson has built a good life for herself in Sweetwater, Montana. Skill in a poker game made her the owner of The Silver Slipper, a one time bordello, now a successful restaurant and rooming house. The profits from that business made it possible for her to achieve her biggest dream, to own her own ranch. Jesse is a respected member of the community, but someone is plotting to destroy all of her dreams as well as take her life. Jennifer and Jesse’s attraction for each other grows as intrigue swirls around them. Will their chance for happiness survive as the danger to Jesse unfolds? As they struggle to save Jesse’s life, they also try to save their future. (Goodreads)

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tahoma

Tahoma by Mary Broughton Boone
Publisher: Cape Winds Press
Publication date: 2000

In 1883 in the Washington Territory, Agnes Farwell still mourns the recent death of her father. William Tyrell, her new stepfather, seems intent on destroying the family farm, but when he hires Hope Lawson as governess to Agnes’ four younger siblings, Agnes is surprised at the feelings she has for the young woman. But even as Agnes finds strength to break free of William’s power, he shows he has one more deadly trick up his sleeve. (Goodreads)

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Last Train Home, The - eBook

The Last Train Home by Blayne Cooper
Publisher: Cavalier Press (later prints published through other presses)
Publication date: 2004

Blayne Cooper, the award-winning author of Cobb Island, Echoes from the Mist, and The Story of Me, and co-author of Madam President and First Lady, has once again presented readers with a well-spun tale. The Last Train Home, an endearing and often heart-wrenching story set in the late nineteenth century, will keep you on the edge of your seat. One cold winter’s night in Manhattan’s Lower East side, tragedy strikes the Chisholm family. Thrown together by fate and disaster, Virginia “Ginny” Chisholm meets Lindsay Killian, a street-smart drifter who spends her days picking pockets and riding the rails. Together, the young women embark on a desperate journey that spans from the slums of New York City to the Western Frontier, as Ginny tries to reunite her family, regardless of the cost. In this dramatic saga a solid friendship is forged, one strong enough to endure the trials of an impoverished existence in 1890s America and a quest from which neither woman will back down. It’s those same bonds that form the basis of a tender, and very unexpected, romance. (Goodreads)

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Josie and Rebecca: The Western Chronicles

Josie and Rebecca: The Western Chronicles by B L Miller, Vada Foster
Publisher: Intaglio Publications (reprinted this title in 2005)
Publication date: 2000

At the center of this story are two women; one a deadly gunslinger bitter from the injustices of her past, the other a gentle dreamer trying to escape the horrors of the present. Their destinies come together one fateful afternoon when the feared outlaw makes the choice to rescue a young woman in trouble. For her part, Josie Hunter considers the brief encounter at an end once the girl is safe, but Rebecca Cameron has other ideas… (Goodreads)

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The Grass Widow

The Grass Widow by Nanci Little
Publisher: Madwoman Press
Publication date: 1996

A moving novel of support, friendship and love, set in the tiny frontier community of Washburn Station, Kansas in the year 1876. (Goodreads)

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Reading Resolutions for 2017

 Oh, reading challenges. I love them, and yet, I fare better with the types of reading challenges that quantify, rather than qualify, my choices. For example, Goodreads only asks how many books I plan on finishing between January and December. That’s pretty straightforward, simple, and, in some ways, not that much of a challenge. I can set the bar at 5 books, if I wanted (I would wither away if I was only able to read five books in a year).

My excuses/reasons for failing to cross the finish line of the 2016 PopSugar challenge are many. I’m like that dog in the Pixar movie “Up”; I get distracted by every book that crosses my path. There are certainly not enough hours in the day for work, commuting, and my myriad of interests. I am also unable to read less than ten trillion books at a time. There is currently one book in my glove compartment of my car; an audiobook in my car’s disc drive and on my smartphone; Analog magazine on my phone for endless lines at the grocery store; eBooks on my Nook; and on and on.

I don’t give myself a hard time for not living up to my own reading standards. It’s supposed to be so many other things above and beyond a mere assignment. I will, however, craft mini challenges for myself that highlight voices and genres I haven’t spent much (if any) time with. And then there is the news… So long 2016!

How about you?

Categories: anthology, audiobooks, erotica, essay, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, history, Holiday, horror, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, nonfiction, novella, paranormal, poetry, primary sources, retellings, romance, romantic friendships, short stories, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

You Know Me Well – audiobook review

 

You Know Me Well

 

You Know Me Well, an entertaining collaboration from authors Nina LaCour and David Levithan, follows a pair of teenagers as they navigate turning points in their lives at the end of the school year. The story is told in alternating, intertwined narratives through the eyes of high school students Kate and Mark. Although they have sat next to each other in math class all year, the two first really see each other at a bar during San Francisco’s Pride kick-off festivities. Despite being virtual strangers with a recognizable face, the emotional maelstrom of love and the unknown lead Kate and Mark to become instant friends.  It’s a jubilant story of new beginnings, dashed dreams, and evolving relationships. I highly recommend the audiobook version of this story as a great road trip or seaside companion.

If I didn’t already love David Levithan’s storytelling, I would have picked up this title for the sole reason that Emma Galvin narrates Kate’s sections. Previously, I enjoyed her turn as Tris from Divergent, the dystopian YA trilogy by Veronica Roth. She has the type of voice well-suited for playing strong and conflicted young women. If she reads the dictionary next, I’ll be first in line to listen. As Kate, a high school senior standing on the brink of the planned and the unknown, Emma explores the rocky terrain of desire, anxiety, friendship, and more, through skillful narration. The supporting cast of friends, family, and acquaintances are also wonderfully realized by both narrators.

Matthew Brown characterizes Mark, a high school junior in love with his best friend/secret non-boyfriend, so genuinely that I can’t imagine him as any one but Mark (and the other people he voices). Unlike Kate, Mark clings to what he wants, even when Ryan tells him that he just doesn’t feel the same way. Their relationship is complicated and it takes Kate and her outsider’s point-of-view, to help him through it all. Matthew provides nuanced characterization that aptly reflects the struggle Mark is experiencing. When the world feels like it’s falling down around Mark, the listener can’t help but feel it, too. Every awkward moment and new experience feels real.

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

You Know Me Well
Authors: Nina LaCour, David Levithan
Narrators: Emma Galvin, Matthew Brown
Produced by Macmillan Audio
Length: 6 hours, 36 minutes
Release date: June 7, 2016
ISBN: 1427279500

Available as an audiobook from Audible, Audiobook, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

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Categories: audiobooks, fiction, friendship, lgbt, romance, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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