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Review: Love Letters to Jane’s World

Love Letters to Janes World

I bought a second-hand copy of Jane’s World Collection, Vol. 1 after hearing about the strip’s novelization, The Case of the Mail Order Bride, a couple years back. The collection is a delicious, thick steak of a book, with the first fifteen issues leading readers through the adventures of Jane, Chelle, Ethan, and their friends and family. For readers new to the humorous adventures of Braddock’s quirky cast, Love Letters to Jane’s World offers a condensed introduction to the strip’s early, middle, and later story lines. Alien abductions, Amazon fantasies, undercover agents, and in the midst of it all, a woman trying to navigate friendship, romance, and career. Interspersed throughout are affectionate, candid quotes from folks who found a home with the series. While I had anticipated short letters, the quotes, few and far between, still add warmth to the collection. Maybe after reading this fun sampler, you’ll add reflections of your own.

Love Letters to Jane’s World by Paige Braddock
Lion Forge, August 2018 

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eBook Samples: A tsundoku managing strategy

If you have a gnarly case of tsundoku, eBook samples are a lifesaver (and takes the burden off of your pocketbook). My apartment is crowed with the unread voices of books stacked in vertical piles, lined up in horizontal leans, and boxed up tetris-style in totes. Not to mention my dust gathering digitals. Lately, nearly every time I want to impulsively buy a book, I opt for sample chapters instead. How do you manage your itchy book buying fingers?

Screenshot_20180821-192500_Amazon Kindle

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Review: Precipice of Doubt

Precipice of Doubt

Mardi Alexander and Laurie Eichler author duo return with a sequel to To Be Determined. Life seems settled, relatively speaking, following the events that brought together American Pip Atkins and Charlie Dickerson as wildlife rescue and rehabilitators. Now, the new couple takes on the glorious skyscraper adventure that is government paperwork. In order for Pip to remain in Australia, she must successfully complete immigration paperwork. The couple’s stress over their uncertain status compounds with the impending bittersweet release of creatures in their care.

Animal lovers will relate with veterinarian Jodi Bowman’s dedication and passion for her job. Ever since establishing her practice in New South Wales, Jodi has done nothing but, eat/sleep/breathe for the furry family members she takes care of in the community. By her side stands former New Zealander and friend/Office manager/Vet Assistant extraordinaire Cole Jameson. When cracks appear in Jodi’s confidence following a heart-wrenching series of events, Cole attempts to intercede. Their friends-to-lovers journey is rocky, complicated by a relationship from Cole’s past and Jodi’s fraying edges.

Perched on the seaside, Alexander and Eichler envelop their cast of close-knit friends within the Australian landscape. No matter how trite it is to say this, Australia is an integral character in the lives of its human counterparts. The amount of time Jodi spends swimming or hiking shows a direct correlation to her emotional state and mental health, for example. Pip and Charlie, too, prefer to live among the kangaroos, koalas, and birds, in their care. The pair’s remote home offers solace as they navigate a future together and help their friends.

While the romances certainly pulled at me, it was the animals who made me reach for tissues. The level of empathy both authors encourage through their sensitive portrayals of lives dedicated to animals is compelling. As the novel reaches its final act, doubts and rifts are forced to a head; the remaining chapters can feel a little contrived, as each chapter resolves a remaining crises. However, if romance, veterinarians, and Australia are your jams, dig in with gusto and don’t forget to check out To Be Determined (which I will do soon!).

Recommended bonus: Fenced-in-Felix, book three in the “Girl Meets Girl” series by Cheyenne Blue, has a lot of good stuff for animal lovers, and fans of Australia-based f/f romances.

Precipice of Doubt by Mardi Alexander and Laurie Eichler
Bold Strokes Books, August 2018

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

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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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
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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

 

 

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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

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