historical fiction

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

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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)

Join the discussion on 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

Boundaries – audiobook review

Boundaries Jane Retzig audiobook cover

Earlier this month, Audible released a production of Jane Retzig’s 1994 novel Boundaries. It features compelling storytelling and strong narration that will stay with you long after you finish listening.

The story unfolds in Northern England in the late 1970s and spans several years in the lives of two women, Elizabeth and Jan. Told in alternating, first person narratives, the listener is privy to how the women develop over time. At times, the listener is perhaps more aware of what is going on inside the protagonists than they themselves are. Elizabeth, a social worker in her mid-30s, takes on a younger boarder named Jan, at the behest of a colleague.  Jan is on the cusp of her 18th birthday when her parents learn of a cache of love letters between their daughter and a family friend and kick her out. She makes do with a part-time job, school (she’s a stellar student), and pints of lager at local pubs. 

Jan falls hard and fast for Elizabeth, but the older woman resists the mutual attraction. She immerses herself in university life, but continues to carry a torch for Elizabeth. Desire is always present, just beneath the surface, at times breaking to the forefront dramatically, before plunging back into the depths. They struggle with this gray territory and it has intense consequences for both women. “Ask me to stay and I will,” Jan pleads with Elizabeth towards the end, as her girlfriend waits outside to whisk her away.  It’s a heart wrenching scene, one that is far from the first shared between the two women. They won’t see each other again for many years. Can they overcome the boundaries that divide them or will they remain emotionally adrift?   

Jane Retzig crafts complex characters that I believe will resonate with listeners. Layers of uncertainty, fear, and longing are woven into social interactions and private introspection. The story gives me “took the long way home” feels; very much so for Elizabeth on her personal journey, but also for Elizabeth and Jan as a couple. Their complicated friendship points to many possible outcomes.  It provides a strong case for it never being too late to take a chance or change direction in life.   

Narrator
Jan Kramer delivers nuanced, engaging performances as Elizabeth and Jan.  I found myself entranced by her performance.  She breathes life into the women, drawing them up off the page as she gives voice to their joys and pains. When she slips back and forth between Elizabeth’s and Jan’s first person chapters, there is no confusion as to who is speaking, through whose eyes we are viewing the world. Jan Kramer’s choice of inflection, tone, and pitch suit the characters perfectly. The rest of the characters who people this world are also clearly defined.  Jan’s father leaps off the page; his anger loud and visceral as lashes out at his daughter. Elizabeth’s sister’s unhappiness haunts the pages, haunting the choices that Elizabeth makes (or doesn’t make); her voice nags and nit picks and whines. As the she takes us through the events, the changes that occur are keenly heard and profoundly felt. 

If you’re looking for an audiobook that strongly evokes a time, place, and people, consider Boundaries as a staycation travel guide. 

Boundaries
Author: Jane Retzig
Narrator: Jan Kramer – (also at)

Produced by Audible
Length: 5 hours, 59 minutes

Audiobook production date: 2016
ASIN: B01DTF2PBY

Available as an audiobook from Audible.

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

The Teahouse Fire – Audiobook review

the teahouse fire

 

 In 1865, nine-year-old Aurelia Caillard sails across the ocean, leaving behind her dying mother and the familiar terrain of New York City for the unknown world of Japan, in the charge of her uncle Charles, a Catholic priest on assignment to Japan.  Not long after arriving, a series of events send Aurelia fleeing into the dark night of Kyoto and into service of a renowned tea master family.  Now an elderly woman, Aurelia revisits her youth, leading the reader/listener through a time in which Japan experienced tumultuous change.  A gifted student of languages, Aurelia quickly absorbs what she hears, though she is considered simple because she is not fluent in Japanese when she joins the tea master’s household.  Tensions between cultural expectations and the changing times mount as the story reaches its climax.  Despite Aurelia’s many years in Japan, she is never truly considered much more than a foreigner, even to Yukako, the woman she serves and adores.  Another jarring event will force Aurelia to make a difficult decision about her place in the world.

The Teahouse Fire is full of linguistic flavors and communication challenges, making it a perfect audio-tale.  It’s in great hands  with narrator Barbara Caruso.  She guides listeners on a wonderful journey, back in time to the changing landscape of late 19th/early 20th century Japan and New York.  She provides Aurelia’s mother with French-accented English that avoids sounding exaggerated.  When Barbara speaks as Aurelia, I’m reminded of Audrey Hepburn’s accent and diction.  Language-wise, a really fascinating part of Aurelia’s journey involves veering away from the language she was born with to the point she finds it a stranger in her middle age.  As Aurelia disembarks from the crowded cityscape of New York, Barbara skillfully alternates between clear characterizations of the men and women who people the periphery and inner sanctum of the tea world.  The range of tone, inflection, pitch, and pace are reflected in the voices of the people as they navigate complex social interactions.  The overall effect is engaging, making it difficult to press the pause button.

Aural enrichment of the novel: Traditional Japanese music plays during pivotal scenes. The instruments don’t barge into a moment, disrupting scenes and moods; rather, they mark key moments and guide listeners through transitions.  It’s a wonderful supplement to the listening experience.

I highly recommend this listening experience, especially for listeners who enjoy transport to other shores and other times; revel in historical fiction; possess a keen interest in exploring culture and language; and savor tales that unfold over decades.

The Teahouse Fire
Author: Ellis Avery Narrator: Barbara Caruso
Produced by HighBridge Company, a division of Recorded Books
Length: 17 hours, 36 minutes

Audiobook production date: 2007

Available as an audiobook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other vendors.  Be sure to check your local library for copies, too.  I listened to it as a library eAudiobook via OverDrive.

ISBN-13: 9781598870787

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, historical fiction, lgbt | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 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

Revolutionary

“Though of late I struggle under heavy burdens, I daily rejoice at where I find myself.  When I left you, it seemed as though fate had me in the straits; there was nowhere I could turn.  Yet now I am through those narrows.  Jennie — I never imagined how freedom would feel.” (from a letter to Jennie Newcomb, Deborah’s/Robert’s close friend in Middleborough, p. 130)

revolutionary

I stumbled across Alex Myers’ novel Revolutionary at Elliot Bay Book Company a few months after I had read about it in Michael Bronski’s A Queer History of the United States.  Revolutionary is based on the life of Deborah Samson Gannett.  Deborah served in the Continental Army as Robert Shurtliff during the American Revolutionary War.  It’s one of those novels that I wish had existed when I studied US History in school and in college.  It tells the story of a woman who bucked conventional gender roles to live as genuinely as possible.

Deborah Samson was a rare untethered woman in a world of indentured servitude and family obligations.  As a child, her mother sent her off from home to work in a wealthier household.  The story opens on an adult Samson, weaving fabric in the tavern where she also lived.  In order to escape punishment for an earlier attempt to enlist in the Continental Army, Samson flees, but not before leaving word with and gathering supplies from her close friend Jennie Newcomb.  The road ahead is full of obstacles: physical discomforts, hostile soldiers, and the fear of discovery.  However, Samson/Shurtliff also experiences the warmth of comrades who share similar hopes and fears; the exhilaration of disarming enemy combatants; and the thrill of adventure.

Aside from the fascinating tale itself, I found myself drawn to the way in which Alex Myers uses pronouns.  The duality of pronouns reminds the reader of the two worlds in which Samson/Shurtliff inhabits.  Physically born into the female gendered realm, Samson rebels against social expectations of the 18th century concerning who she should be and what she should do.  Myers use of pronouns enhances the moments in which the readers see Robert Shurtliff stride confidently across a field and later charging at an enemy soldier with a bayonet.  We see how Robert swells with pride when one of his commanding officers declares “That soldier is a man”, following an ambush by enemy troops.  Weaving at the tavern in Middleborough, we see Deborah as she.  Deborah is Robert and Robert is Deborah.  As Deborah, she is expected to get married and tend to a family.  As Robert, he gains the admiration of his fellow soldiers and commanding officers, discovering the freedoms and limitations that come with being perceived as a male.

Although Deborah later settled into a more typical domestic arrangement after the war, it did not prevent her from seeking her military pension and telling her story onstage.  She did not forget her story and neither should we.

If you’d like to learn more, dig into resources listed below.You can buy this book online, offline, or borrow it from your local library.

Further Reading on the historical Deborah Samson Gannett/Robert Shurtliff

Title Information

Revolutionary

Author: Alex Myers

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6332-7

Year: 2014

Author Website: alexmyerswriting.com

Publisher’s Author Page: authors.simonandschuster.com/Alex-Myers

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

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