T-Minus Two – KG MacGregor

T-Minus TwoTwenty-seven-year-old Mila Todorov has wanted to go into space since the age of thirteen, when she followed the heroics of NASA astronaut Major Jancey Beaumont. Now, with a PhD in Engineering and as creator of a revolutionary new propulsion system, she has a chance to make that dream come true as she competes for a place in the first manned flight to Mars.

Major Beaumont cannot resist the urge to make the journey to the red planet. She knows she is the most qualified contender, but to succeed she not only needs to prove her experience is worth more than the younger, more up-to-date candidates, she needs to find the perfect partner.

KG MacGregor’s latest novel is a sweet romance set against the backdrop of a speculative but well-thought-out and well-researched “Mission to Mars.” A retired billionaire space addict, who will sound familiar to many, has put together a privately funded plan to create the first planetary station.

Robotic supply and habitat vessels will pave the way for annual “two-man” flights to start a colony. Forty thousand have applied; four teams of two will make the final cut; and in between, the candidates must pass a wide range of emotional, physical, and mental challenges, including selecting their partner from the other applicants.

The romance is a slow burn, an attraction that is meant to happen. The outcome may be obvious, but the gentle tension is enjoyable and Mila’s overwhelming hero-worship is entertaining. The twist in the tale adds a frisson of drama but the outcome is a done deal.

KG MacGregor Mila and Jancey are great characters—strong, intelligent, determined, and the perfect role models for any girls aspiring to STEM careers. They have weaknesses and learning to do, but are as damn near perfect as we could imagine an astronaut to be. A wide range of candidates and tutors fill in the background, but only a couple of them stand out. Our heroines dominate the page.

Authors always say that you can’t write a story about happy people—there is nothing to write. But in this case I do wish Ms. MacGregor would make an exception and give us the sequel. I can’t believe there isn’t another story about the next phase of their journey together.

Well-written, delightful reading and a charming romance based on wonderful, modern women competing at the highest level… what more could we want to entertain us?

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bella Books (June 14, 2015)
  • ASIN: B00ZPVXWOK
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

No Good Reason – Cari Hunter

No Good ReasonYou know you are on to a good thing when the main characters are strong women who have worked their way out of tough childhoods into serious careers but have maintained their humanity and humour. When they complement each other emotionally as well as with skills and abilities. When their friends-with-benefits “relationship” creates a whole world of opportunity for sexual tension and “will-they-wont they” anticipation. Meet Sanne and Meg—central characters in Cari Hunter’s new crime thriller.

On top of these delightful mains there is a smorgasbord of secondary supporting players. The tough boss, the supportive partner, the “salt of the earth” Mum are all well drawn, three-dimensional, and filled in enough to be real, but with a whole range of options to keep us interested in future stories. Even Ms. Hunter’s victims are well-rounded and whole. Strong, resourceful, and capable, they may be the victims but they are no shrinking violets and do their damnedest to save themselves.

Cari Hunter is a master of crime suspense stories; this is her fourth and the beginning of a promised series.  No Good Reason brings tension and drama to strong medical and police procedural knowledge. It challenges the detective in all of us, throws us red herrings, makes us follow the good and bad leads, and despite all the frustrations keeps us hoping for the best. It doesn’t shy away from the horror of the victims suffering or the effect on the police and medical teams who find them, but it never sinks into gratuitous violence or overly descriptive gore.

The plot keeps us on the edge of our metaphorical seat, turning the pages long into the night. The setting of the English Peaks District adds ambiance and a drama of its own without excluding anybody. And through it all a glimmer of humour and a large dose of humanity keep us engaged and enthralled.

Cari HunterI love Ms. Hunter’s writing. Clean, neat, purposeful, it drives us forward with faultless delivery. She crams in a whole host of action, drama, and character development without it ever feeling rushed or heavy-handed. Each book has improved on the last and this is no exception—an absolute winner for lovers of crime thrillers and slightly oddball romance that makes a refreshing change.

Excellent book, wonderful opening gambit in a new series, and I cannot wait for the next instalment.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Bold Strokes Books (June 9, 2015)
  • ASIN: B00XZ5FM4G
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Blind Trust – Jody Klaire

EmpathI hadn’t read Jody Klaire’s first book in the Above & Beyond series so was delighted to have The Empath and Blind Trust to read in sequence and get right into the characters of Aeron Lorelei and Renee Black.

The Empath sets the scene of Aeron’s life – different, persecuted and emotionally abused by a whole town – incarcerated for a murder she only thinks she committed, and Renee, the CIG protector sent to look after her. It’s a great murder mystery – action adventure with a huge dose of supernatural and ‘different’ skills such as visiting ghosts, helpful spirits, auras, visions and healing powers. Aeron and Renee must combat the locals, the killer and the storms that threaten to sweep them away.

Blind TrustBlind Trust finds Aeron and Renee caught in an avalanche and facing another set of challenges, some from mother-nature, others from the bullies and nay-sayers of the small town they are stranded in. This time it is Renee who is the target, Aeron the protector.

The characters we get to know are great: strong women, well rounded personalities, deep and complex. Friends, family and co-workers provide variety, all three dimensional and a strong part of the story. These books are as much about how people behave under duress as they are about the psychopaths the agents must tackle.

Jody KlaireWhile the themes of alternate psychic powers and special agents run through, the plots are different, the settings varied and the townsfolk – and their behavior – like chalk and cheese.

Great stories, well written, thoroughly enjoyable. Looking forward to No 3.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info for THE EMPATH (Book 1):

  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink Publishing (August 24, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00N0EGZSY
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
Product info for BLIND FAITH (Book 2):

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink Publishing (2 Jun. 2015)
  • ASIN: B00YT7RERW
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Riding Passion – D Jackson Leigh

Riding PassionsI usually struggle to read short stories, I find it difficult to learn enough about the characters to care what happens to them. But the moment I started reading Riding Passion my opinion of how a short story can truly touch the reader changed.

I’ve read the majority of D Jackson Leigh’s work – with the exception of Dragon Horse War: The Calling – so it was a lovely surprise to read short stories that shone new light on characters I was already familiar with. Having now read a short story introducing me to Jael and Alyssa , Dragon Horse War: The Calling is firmly on my list of books to read

The ten short stories featured are rich in character and hot in content. Some deal with the momentous occasion of the first kiss or touch that alters the fabric of our being and switches on a light we didn’t realize was dimmed. Others are so raunchy that you may need a cold shower to deal with the side affects.

Riding passion is a brilliant compilation of stories that touch the heart, soul and in some cases other places too.

D Jackson Leigh BiogMy only complaint – or rather request – is that I would really like to read more of Haze and Luna’s story and if I had a bucket list for novels I could ask an author to write, Skin Walkers would be at the top of the list.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (May 18, 2015)
  • ASIN: B00WH0FNMG
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

2015 Lambda Literary Prize Winners

LAMMY WINNERS 2015:

LESBIAN FICTION: “Yabo”, Alexis De Veaux, RedBone Press

LESBIAN POETRY: “Mysterious Acts by My People “, Valerie Wetlaufer, Sibling Rivalry Press

LESBIAN MYSTERY: “The Old Deep and Dark “, Ellen Hart, Minotaur Books

LESBIAN MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY: “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building ” with Barbara Smith, Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, SUNY Press

LESBIAN ROMANCE: “The Farmer’s Daughter “, Robbi McCoy, Bella Books

LESBIAN EROTICA: “Lesbian Sex Bible “, Diana Cage, Quiver Books

LGBT DEBUT FICTION: “The Walk-In Closet “, Abdi Nazemian, Curtis Brown Unlimited

LGBT NONFICTION: “Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS “, Martin Duberman, The New Press

LGBT ANTHOLOGY: “Understanding and Teaching US Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History “, Leila J. Rupp & Susan K. Freeman, University of Wisconsin Press

LGBT CHILDREN’S/YOUNG ADULT: “Five, Six, Seven, Nate! “, Tim Federle, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

LGBT DRAMA: “Bootycandy “, Robert O’Hara, Samuel French

LGBT GRAPHIC NOVELS: “Second Avenue Caper “, Joyce Brabner; Art by Mark Zingarelli, Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Lay Down The Law – Carsen Taite

Lay Down The Law - Carsen TaitePosted as the first of a new series of Lone Star Law crime/romances Lay Down the Law uses Ms Taite’s excellent courtroom experience and sets up a new legal hotshot.

Peyton Davis returns to her childhood home to find the family at loggerheads, her father in decline and the ranch looking unkempt. While trying to deal with all the changes that have happened while she has been a main Justice in DC, AUSA Davis is also dropped unceremoniously into her new job as taskforce leader chasing Mexican drug cartel.

Her instant attraction to the stunning Lily Gantry at the Cattle Baron’s Ball seems to be a beacon of light in an otherwise fairly heavy homecoming. But the Gantry family have issues of their own. Southern belle Lily is being bullied to sign an odd codicil to her trust fund, and increasingly wants to go in search of her birth parents. As the story unfolds their attraction becomes more of a problem than an escape and the plot lines come together into one big problem for Peyton Davis to unravel.

As always Ms Taite writes strong legal thrillers with a good mix of romance, action, crime drama, and insider knowledge. Her writing is well structured and edited, easy to read and enjoyable escapism. I will admit to some disbelief in the amount of time the new AUSA spent away from her taskforce at critical moments, it did seem a little unrealistic and allowed rather obvious mechanisms in the plot

Peyton is a great new Justice with strong morals and obvious intelligence. The Davis family is intriguing with a whole history to explore as the series unfolds, unusually matriarchal – Peyton’s relationship with her brothers gives an extra layer of tension and her mother is a woman to be reckoned with. Peyton is often between her desire for justice and her love of the land – opening up an ongoing personal battle for her to manage.

Lily is a delightful character, determined to break out of the constraints of a ‘princess’ lifestyle, she wants to earn a living, contribute to the community and explore her own past, all the while balancing her social obligations, her inbuilt good manners and her love for the adoptive parents.

Casen Taite BiogI love Carsen Taite’s books – Courtship and Switchblade were two of my favorite reads last year. When I heard a new one was in the pipeline I was really excited to get hold of it. But this one fell short. The first 85% was good and I was enjoying the build, the crime plot is complex and interesting, the family life adds a great backdrop and added drama, and the romance was struggling enjoyably. But the last 15% or so was a complete let down.

Without giving spoilers the ending was rushed in the extreme, the crime was suddenly cracked, Lily’s family mystery abruptly solved, while the Davis family drama was left hanging despite its obvious tie in to the main plot. It maybe that the various lose ends will be picked up in the next book, but this just felt unfinished, as if a word count limit had forced the author to miss out a couple of chapters. While this might not have been the deepest of crime romances it was an enjoyable read and offered the tantalizing thought of a series to come. The ending left me extremely unsatisfied.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (April 20, 2015)
  • ASIN: B00UTPQOL0
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

The Song in My Heart – Tracey Richardson

The Song in My HeartDess Hamton had it all – fame, fortune and the stardom she always wanted. But even before her voice was silenced, the shallow lifestyle and loneliness of fame had made her triumphs seem hollow. After loosing her music she has retreated into her own very private and shielded world.

Erika Alverez is so new she is raw, but with the most amazing talent and stunning looks, she only needs luck to make it to the top. Against her better judgment Dess agrees to help her get started, even though she knows the dreams are not worth the cost.

As these two amazing musicians start to build a working relationship their synergy is almost overwhelming. But Dess never wants to face the limelight again, while Erika dreams of little else. There is no way to reconcile their differences, despite their growing desires.

Tracey Richardson has produced another great ‘trad’ romance. The characters are well drawn and realistic. The settings varied and interesting and the experience of life on the road gives a great backdrop to the developing emotions.

While on one level it is a very straightforward love story we get to see the deeper side of an artist dreadfully hurt by the loss of her voice and the callous abandonment by her lover/manager. Her withdrawal is complete and the fear of ridicule an obstacle it will take every ounce of her courage to overcome.

Tracey richardson bioOn the flip side we have an up and coming star who has worked her whole life to achieve the fame the older women has already achieved – and given up. Her journey is one of growing up and seeing the dream for what it is.

Between them we have an almost electric spark, and extremely fiery passion. This is definitely not ‘fade to grey’ – the sex scenes are steamy without being gratuitous. All Ms Richardson’s books have an erotic element, but this one is definitely the hottest so far.

Well written and well put together this is a good read, a great story and a sizzling romance.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bella Books (April 28, 2015)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594934445
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Slow Burn – Marlene Leach

Slow BurnIt’s 2048 and the USA is not a pleasant place to be unless you are rich. The economy collapsed in 2028, broken by the greed of the corporates. The government imploded and has been replaced by an Orwellian dictatorship controlled by the very corporates whose insatiability caused the collapse.

Inside the decaying cities, the masses are controlled. Schools have been replaced by individual learning programs, personal choice by “‘government testing” and each person’s future is shaped by their physical, intellectual and, above all, emotional responses. Anyone who doesn’t fit is kept in line with drugs, and rebellion is brutally suppressed.

Leah is a political activist, outspoken and subversive. She wrote political treatises attacking the government and calling for revolution. They took her away, tortured her to force a retraction and, when she refused, cut out her tongue.

Lydia is a woman with anger and alcohol problems. She has never recovered from the political masters taking Leah from her a year before. She sees no future without her partner and plans to end it all.

Kay is a child of her time; neglected by a comatose mother, bored by an inadequate and unchallenging education, damaged by her understanding of the corruption around her, she rails against the world.

When Kay arrives at Lydia’s door claiming that Leah is still alive and held in a Californian prison, she triggers an adventure that will take them across the ravaged country and into the wilderness to escape the eye of the political masters.

Slow Burn is a challenging read. Set in a dystopian future, combining adventure with political thriller, exploring emotional issues with deeply disturbed and abused women, it deals with some unusual, and at times uncomfortable issues.

It is well written and, of course, well edited—by the esteemed Katherine V. Forrest—but I found it an uneasy combination of themes.  The world Ms.Leach  has created is extremely well drawn, vivid, and evocative. As a political commentary,Slow Burn clearly has a statement to make about the dangers of corporate greed and a government that choses to appease and subsidize those corporates. But as an exploration of the psychological and sexual relationship between abused women, it felt wanting.

If you like dark urban fantasy, then Slow Burn may well be a perfect read, but don’t expect an easy journey, despite the twist in the tale and the dreams of a happy ending.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Spinsters Ink (March 23, 2015)
  • ASIN: B00WXL90FU
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

The Paths of Marriage – Mala Kumar

The Paths of MarriageStarting with a story of a girl from the lowest caste in rural India who is refused even the most basic education, Ms. Kumar leads us on a journey that follows successive generations of women as they fight for their own education and try to make a place for themselves. In a culture that places huge restrictions on the roles of women, each generation faces a slightly shifting battle as their circumstances and the world around them change.

What makes this saga addictive is the impact each woman’s own battle has on the way she treats her daughters. Each woman wants to do her best, but has been molded by her own experience, forcing her daughter to take paths they had themselves fought against.

Ms. Kumar has managed to narrate each story in a different voice, a different style, to suit each generation and time period. Her descriptions, particularly of rural India, are exquisite. The sights, sounds, and smells of Chennai flow off the page like a pool of color to surround us.

Each character is detailed and endearingly whole. The secondary characters, mainly husbands/fathers, play an important role and are themselves well rounded—but always as a background to the main protagonists.

This is a saga about personal growth—each woman struggles with her own dreams and the real-world challenges thrown at them. Ultimately it is the combined wisdom of the generations that resolves the novel and releases them from the bounds of their own conventions.

The underlying theme in all these lives is prejudice. We are led from the most basic of existences through emigration, moving from caste prejudice to racial discrimination and isolation. While the menfolk battle away in the background to improve their own positions and that of their family—from fieldworker to doctor to neurosurgeon—the women battle for their personal place in the world against both cultural and social restrictions.

A thoughtful and interesting journey, punctuated with personal dramas and enough pace to keep it moving along, this is an excellent novel. It should speak to all women, whatever our cultural background, and—as with all great writing—should make us think. In this case the lesson is one of recognizing our mothers as individuals who had their own battles and made their own sacrifices.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink (September 24, 2014)
  • ASIN: 1939562589
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Stars: The Anthology – Ed. Janis Ian

Stars: The Anthology - Ed. Janis Ian The lesser-known Janis Ian – Science Fiction Fan and Writer and Editor of Stars: The Anthology

Sometimes a work goes beyond capturing one’s attention; it captures you. On occasion a book should be read more than once, savoured, with parts of it read aloud just to hear the words dance. I picked up Stars: The Anthology, edited by Janis Ian I was captivated by the beauty of language, her lyrics brought to life. Positively brilliant.

Short stories provide a fantastic introduction to any genre or as way to “shop around,” for new authors – rather like a taste test for fiction. An excellent short story can be a breathless ride into a world-building event that instantly mesmerizes the reader, with fully engaging characters, and a focus so tight, that the reader doesn’t notice the brevity of the tale.   It isn’t a stretch to write that the author of a short story has the same job as a songwriter: within a few moments, tell a compelling tale, in both a memorable and unique manner, that resonates timelessly.

So, not at all surprising, Janis Ian, one of my favorite songwriters, edited an anthology of science fiction short stories entitled; Stars: The Anthology. In her introduction she informs the reader: “I am no editor at all. I’m a songwriter…”

Janis Ian perfectly captures the reason that I am drawn to science. She writes; “Science fiction is a home for the homeless; for those of us who have spent our lives on the outside, staring through a plate glass window.” In other words, such stories allow our imagination to look at the world from a the gaze of the other – as apart from the world as is, while at the same time, searching for a means to create/explain/fix the world in order to find our place within rather than outside. Ian’s most poignant song, “At Seventeen,” embodies the outsider feeling and parallels her description of science fiction completely. What makes this particularly special to me is that Ian writes as a lesbian who experienced life as an outsider and turned to science fiction as a means to escape, something that I absolutely identify

Stars: The Anthology is one of the better anthologies that I have ever had the pleasure to read (and re-read.) What makes this something more than a standard Science Fiction anthology?   At first glance, current science fiction phenomena, a few who happen to be Nebula and Hugo Award winners, fill the table of contents — from Mercedes Lackey and Tanith Lee to Orson Scott Card and Harry Turtledove. That alone would draw me to the book. However, this anthology had a theme for inclusion: each story was inspired by one of Janis Ian’s songs.

“Inspired” by does not imply taking the lyrics and creating a story based on said lyrics. That result would be rather cheesy, in my opinion. No, the inspiration comes from what the author takes from the lyrics, emotional content, something that resonated – perhaps one particular line that seemed to lead the writer somewhere else. For example, Mercedes Lackey gleaned her story, “On the Other Side” from the lyric “Oh, but all that I remember is the children were in danger on the other side.” In typical Lackey style, she weaves a tale set in a world with following the horrors of war, with the children left in insidious orphanages of Valdemar.

Kay Kenyon takes a line from Ian’s “Society’s Child” and creates a fabulous tale, entitled “An indeterminate State” about artificial life and human downfall. Suffice it to say, the rest of the book follow suit with a plethora of amazing stories, yielding one of the better science fiction anthologies out there. In this case, “better” as well as unique. Stars: The Anthology provides an extra bonus: a link for the playlist of the all the songs incorporated. Obviously, I highly recommend this book.

Even if you are not a fan of Janis Ian, this book provides the reader with some very unique short stories written by some of the better science fiction writers of the current era.   For those readers that wonder why I’m writing this review for benefit of lesbian readers of science fiction, I believe that Janis Ian does an excellent job of capturing many of our experiences in her songs. While many of the writers included are not lesbians, their work is exemplary and befitting the lyrics of a timeless songwriter, who is openly lesbian and articulate on the experiences of being “other.”

For more information on this book, I recommend reading the article from NPR

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Lucky Bat Books with
    Rude Girl Press (January 21, 2014)
  • ASIN: B008GYTQ52
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
  Available on:
Smashwords

;