Magic as reclaiming personal power

46300ac96b3f1314ddbe0760770d5d69Why magic appeals to readers in a world where the individual lacks power.

Fantasy novels in their abundant forms require magic. Anyone reading fantasy, including speculative fiction works like that within science fiction, can discern the importance of magic as a necessary means toward transformation, creating some manner of weaponry, perhaps, or at least providing the wielder of the gift with strength. In science fiction, I believe that the magic rests in the presentation of the possibility of scientific discovery at a penultimate state, or in the revelation of humanities hitherto yet unknown potential, as in the full use of mental abilities, etc. I contend that is a form of magic. For once a person discovers those gifts, her world becomes completely altered – how it is altered becomes a facet of the plot.

I believe that works of fantasy, particularly speculative fiction, have an important function. They present fictional means of world exploration, of society as it exists at present. These novels tell the tale of injustice, explore oppression — within the skin of the oppressed. They demonstrate the horrors of violence, by showing the replication, sexualizing, and promotion of violence as a weapon in its function as a means to further oppression and marginalisation, through psychological and physical means.

So, why magic? I contend that magic provides the reader a means to imagine a means to claim her power. That is, if she possessed any form of magic, she could alter the situation before her, take control of her body, her life, perhaps, and to cease being victimized.   It seems to me that just day dreaming about the ability to time travel, shape shift, wield a spell to defend herself and/of loved ones, gives the individual a certain form of control – control of her thoughts and a means of escape, if only for a moment. The escapism provided by fantasy genres provides a means to transform oppression, become the independent female ass-kicker who takes no crap, to become who she is not in life – even if for a time. Here she can learn to transgress the space dictated by social norms and become her fantasy. Magic gives her personal power. It gives her control of her destiny – even if in her thoughts. Magic gives her hope.

When my life was in chaos, I turned to fantasy novels – ranging from traditional fantasy to cyberpunk. The common thread was the strong female protagonist. I started identifying with her, imaging that I was her, the slayer with the magic to go between worlds, have weapons that only I could use justly, and create a world better for myself and for others. These books transformed me and transformed my sense of personal power. I believe in the power of fiction to shape future of social change. That said, I believe in magic.

Taking Fire – Radclyffe

Taking FireRadclyffe’s “First Responder” series is turning out to be an excellent and powerful departure from her more traditional romances. Thoroughly enjoying the exploration of powerful women in difficult roles.

Oath of Honour, Firestorm, Trauma Alert and Radclyffe’s latest, Taking Fire, form the First Responders series to date. This is by far the grittiest of Rad’s output. There is a tension and suspense we don’t get from the romances, however much we love them. The characters are full of strength and stubborn determination. Strong women in traditionally male jobs, role models, setting a standard as doctors, fire fighters and soldiers that any young woman would be proud to follow.

The charters of Max and Rachel draw us in. They are both powerful women who have chosen difficult and dangerous careers. They are stubborn, strong, loners in a crowd. They never ask for help, even when they need it. And they both fear failure more than anything. Powerful but flawed, they are extremely three dimensional. At times so alike, it is their very independent strength which balances them. Radclyffe often writes books based around the strong/weak, rich/poor dynamic where one character ‘rescues’ the other. Here, while the Max is the warrior and it is literally her job to rescue Rachel, the pair become mutually self-reliant and that allows a much more rounded interaction.

RadclyffeThe plot is tense and interesting. Without wanting to give away any spoilers, just when you think the main adventure is over you notice you are only half way through, and another set of challenges pops up to keep the suspense moving. The setting is well done, the descriptions evocative and the heat of the jungle oozes off the page, along with the fear and resolve these women exude.

I have been critical in the past of Radclyffe producing too many repeats. This is an excellent change of pace, a well written and compelling read that puts her right back at the top of her game. It captured my attention from the start and kept it. Well done.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (July 14, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00LTBD1TG
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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Year of the Monsoon – Caren J. Werlinger

Year of the MonsoonLeisa Yeats has always defined herself by the things that are important to her – a good family, a loving relationship and a meaningful job working with kids. Life is good. But within a span of a few weeks, all of that changes. She’s always known she was adopted, but newly revealed lies and secrets kept by her parents make her question everything she thought she knew about her beginnings. Her ten-year relationship with her partner, Nan, is unexpectedly on shaky ground when she discovers that Nan, too, has kept a secret from her all these years.

Suddenly, everything Leisa believed – about her life, about the people around her, about herself – everything is turned upside down, and nothing is as she thought it was. Pulling away to try and sort things out, Leisa reaches out to the wrong people and, in the process, nearly loses herself. Buffeted at every turn by storms that shake the very foundation of her world, Leisa must figure out whom and what she can hold fast to as the winds of change blow.

————–

Caren J. Werlinger writes extremely good books. Refreshing, consuming and engaging, ‘Year of the Monsoon’ is an excellent exploration of how a small revelation can impact a long term partnership. Each of Ms Werlinger’s novels is completely different and ‘Monsoon’ brings a new style and a new, slightly edgier, tension. The theme, tone and tale are those of a consummate storyteller.

Leisa and Nan are a happy long term couple whose lives are settled into patterns they have chosen. Good meaningful jobs, a happy home-life, strong family and friends. Sudden bereavement knocks their world and triggers a series of revelations which challenge their partnership and each woman’s sense of self.

The concept of the monsoon, the sudden unexpected deluge that can sweep people away, recurs throughout. But it is the after effects which keep the protagonists rolling from punch to punch. One lie can have far reaching ripples. One of the strongest lessons of the story is how a lie of omission is just as damaging as any other deception.

Caren Werlinger BiogA powerful supporting cast add to a well rounded and deep study of the interplay between an extended family, some close and familiar, some new and dangerous. The solid friendships and family ties form a network of support many of us will envy, while the new and the judgemental threaten and undermine. The characters are strong, deep and well developed. A mixture of likeable and not, good and bad, Ms Werlinger writes real people.

As with each of her previous novels there is theme. This time she explores the feelings and interactions of adoptive parents and adopted children and the biological mothers who gave up their child. An interesting exploration of ‘family’ and how our relationship with who we are, where we have come from, even who we look like, can impact our image of self.

I found this an easier read that other books by Ms Werlinger, less upsetting and challenging. But that doesn’t take away from how good it is, rather I found it more enjoyable and more likely to re-read. She really is excellent at crafting a complex emotional story and drawing out the subtle interplays of emotions within and between women. One of the best reads of the year so far… highly recommended.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Corgyn Publishing, LLC (January 1, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00HMQ7MHY
  Amazon.com
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To buy the Paperback – click here.Available on Smashwords HERE

Drive – JL Gaynor

driveDrive, by JL Gaynor Will Take Your Imagination On a Joy Ride

J.L. Gaynor takes the reader on a wonderful ride in her novel, Drive. Gaynor’s title so aptly captures the rhythm, internal nuances of the characters’ personality, and the actual events.   The pacing of the plot flows as if the reader was on a journey with the characters, along for a ride filled with emotional ups and downs and the wrenching realism that often besets lovers.  The characters instantly captivate, particularly as Gaynor possesses a wonderful ability to evoke a realism of voice within dialogue — each character speaks distinctly, clearly, veritably articulating her own essence, with her own choice of words. A marvelous, and rare ability among writers.

Gaynor’s use of dialogue, both internal and conversationally, fills the imagination with a sincerity of emotional presence; so much, in fact, I felt as though I was with them. I thoroughly enjoyed Drive.  I look forward to checking out Gaynor’s next book Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, I have the book on the table, ready for perusal.

Gaynor’s emergence on the scene of lesbian fiction is a wonderful addition to a growing group of authors who are able to create exciting works of fiction using lesbian characters richly and deeply, and with the dexterity that any fiction reader would enjoy, not just the niche of lesbian readers.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 133 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Indi (January 13, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00HV14K84
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.

Accidental Love – BL Miller

Accidental LoveWhat happens when love is based on deception? Can it survive discovering the truth? Accidental Love is a captivating story between Rose Grayson, a destitute lonely young woman and Veronica Cartwright, head of a vast family empire and extraordinarily rich. A horrific accident brings them together, but will the truth end up tearing them apart?

—————

This is a reissue of BL Miller’s 1999 trad romance but a new one for many readers. Despite it’s age it isn’t dated in a factual sense and felt as valid as any current romance.



The characters are solid. Well developed and likeable, if a little more m/f in their roles than many more modern stories. Veronica Cartwright is the rich CEO of a large corporation, repressed by family expectations and a promise to her father. Rose Grayson is the poor white trash, product of the fostering system with no prospects and little hope but a heart of gold. When Veronica accidentally plows down Rose as she runs to escape predatory men on a snowy evening, it begins a tale of care giving and growth for both women.



The romance is extremely traditional, with the slow build, the determined stand off by the older, experienced lesbian and the gradual awakening of the younger inexperienced straight woman. There is an element of old an fashioned may/november love story, or the more stereotyped butch/fem roles of the 50’s and 60’s. But that doesn’t detract from a well written romance, as long as you like the very traditional story line.



The supporting cast is small, with only sister Susan and housekeeper Maria really filled in, but both are well done and Maria in particular is a charming character who we would all like to have running our homes. Other characters include the jealous and reckless younger brother, the self centred mother and the evil crone foster mother. Again, stereotypical, but well done none the less.



The first edition was criticised for extremely bad editing and print production. This edition is clean, well written, well edited and the e-book, at least, without fault. A charming read of the old school, will definitely appeal to those who like a slow build and happy ending, definitely a good way to spend your evening as the autumn draws in.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • First published 1999
  • Publisher: Rose Quartz Publishing; (July 31, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00MPJGQAW
  Amazon.com

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Dark Wings Descending – Lesley Davis

Dark Wings Descending

One classic form of dark urban fantasy novel twists the typical police procedural story.   In the twisted form, the police detectives tend to form a special task force whose focus rests on solving crimes of a supernatural nature. The detectives in the unit generally often take on two types: the believer (who may possess some type of magical skill) and the skeptic put in the unit as a form of punishment. Generally, crime investigation revolves around a heinous serial killer, who represents the epitome of evil. What makes this rather formulaic sort of novel compelling rests in portrayal of evil/magic in a unique manner, the skill set of the investigators as dynamic, entertaining, or provocative, and that the plot takes the reader on an unexpected path, despite following a procedural formula.

Getting that teaser on the back cover or in the front synopsis about what may emerge, with all the potential fright, demons, and a glimpse into the psyche of the kick ass detective gives the reader the incentive, the thrill to not just pick up the book, but to dive in and get lost in the plot.   Dark Wings Descending, by Leslie Davis gave just that tease, the promise of an exciting journey into deviant, realms of evil. The lure of having a two female detectives, each with her own connection to the crime, and then, of course, their intersection with one another, made the book an instant grab for this reader.

However, shortly after starting Dark Wings Descending the formulaic, procedural nature of the plot took control, offering nothing new to the genre.   Adhering to the stereotypical big city (Chicago) police department who has a Deviant Data Unit that investigates criminal behavior, speaks to the norm, rather than a twist. Having the lead inspector as a burn out, returning too early to work after an injury, thus vulnerable, as Det. Rafe Douglas does, has occurred in many other books; along with the standard serial killer who poses bodies. The book simply lacked inspiration, as well as finesse.   Dark Wings Descending offered the reader a plot that was hackneyed, in a genre that is quickly becoming passé because of the overwrought usage of such things.

A good beach read, although not much more than a Dark Urban Fantasy Police Procedural. If one seeks to get lost in a simple plot, procedural, and have a little fun with searching for evil serial killer, then the book will serve that purpose. A quick indulgence of Dark Urban Fantasy reading (because it is fun, isn’t it, to explore the psyche of the killer?), then pick up Dark Wings Descending, by Lesley Davis.   However, for something a bit more provocative, then maybe this may be a pass.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2012
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (May 8, 2012)
  • ASIN: B008RSCOHE
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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Still Life – L.T. Smith

Still LifeAfter breaking off her relationship with a female lothario, Jess Taylor decides she doesn’t want to expose herself to another cheating partner. Staying at home, alone, suits her just fine.  Her idea of a good night is an early one—preferably with a good book. Well, until her best friend, Sophie Harrison, decides it’s time Jess rejoined the human race.

Trying to pull Jess from her self-imposed prison, Sophie signs them both up for a Still Life art class at the local college.  Sophie knows the beautiful art teacher, Diana Sullivan, could be the woman her best friend needs to move on with her life.

But, in reality, could art bring these two women together? Could it be strong enough to make a masterpiece in just twelve sessions? And, more importantly, can Jess overcome her fear of being used once again?

Only time will tell.

———

Jess and Diana are both women with complex, painful and damaging pasts. The difference – one realises she has been damaged and the other doesn’t. L.T. Smith makes a wonderful melodrama from the misunderstandings, miscommunication and mistakes we all make when we meet the woman of our dreams but live inside a cage made or fear.

The writing is sharp and witty. Very British humour and language so you Americans need to be prepared. L.T.’s style is down to earth, direct and realistic. When Brits are full of angst you really know it. The writing flows and the story weaves around us, playing on all the stupid mind games we all go through with often hilarious results. Of course thats easy to say as a reader, much harder when it is your heart on the line.

L.T. makes her characters come alive. As well as the main pair she has created a lovely ensemble cast with best friends, brothers, aunts and parents that we will all recognise – actually many of of will wish we had. The subplots and side bars round out the tale of real life among real people. And to bring in a balance we have the evil ex and the cold, distant and judgemental parents.

This is a great book, a roller coaster ride, silly, funny, realistic but fanciful. Quintessentially British in its humour – universal in touching the ‘does she – doesn’t she’ insecurities we all suffer.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (August 29, 2014)
  • ASIN: 00N62X08I
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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Available on Smashwords HERE

Out of this World – Maggie Morton


Out of this worldOut of this World
, by Maggie Morton falls short as a fantasy novel, but may be better suited as erotica with magical elements

Maggie Morton has a knack for employing magic in a rather unexpected manner in her novel, Out of this World.  The book began with a rather standard procedural scenario, with the main character, Iris, falling into another world, wholly different from Earth.   The unexpected begins in the new realm filled with magic,  but the magic seems to be more along the lines of sex magic — whether that’s intentional or not by Ms Morton, that’s what seems to be the case.

The first act of magic in the new realm, apart from steamy sex between Iris and the woman upon which she lands, Ananda, is to zap sex toys into the plot.   The rest of the plot follows a rather formulaic road through danger and adventure, although the focus stays mainly on the developing relationship between Iris and Ananda and their abundance of sexual exploits.

The use of magic and attributes of fantasy seems more like a setting for erotic intrigue than a work of fantasy fiction.

So, if the reader wishes to get caught up in a work of erotica, complete with an array of sex toys and fairly steamy, though relatively tame sex acts, then this book is recommended.   If the reader seeks escapist les-fic fantasy, replete with a magical edge, then Out of this World, completely misses the mark.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (August 17, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00MTYPSOS
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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Daughter of Mystery – Heather Rose Jones

Daughter of MysteryDaughter of Mystery: surprisingly traditional.

In Daughter of Mystery Heather Rose Jones captures the essence of the sweeping epic often pervasive in speculative fictional works with the largess of language and intricacy of tale.  Like other authors in this genre following in the wake of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jones encountered the difficulty of creating a world that is at once attentive to historical mythos and unique.  In a way, finding a topic that can hold up to Bradley’s standard and transcend it becomes an arduous task.

Jones sets the story in a believable, although fictional, European realm (Alpinna) and era (18th century) and is quite attentive to the sensibilities of the nobility with respect to speech, manners, and familial dynamics.  Assuredly, Jones created a well-written work, although steeped in traditional historical romance genre, rather than speculative fiction. That attentiveness to the particular type of writing, with the family dynamics, social class, etc., created a world that seemed all too traditional; the only real twist seemed to be the superimposition of female characters in place of male ones. That is to say, I found the work to be rather heterosexual in disposition, despite the fact that the major characters, and the romance, centered on Margerit and Barbara.

Regardless of the inclusion of the “Mysteries of the Saints,” a locus of divine power (female goddess in pseudo-Christian guise), the text still appeared a bit too closely wrapt in traditionalism and not quite speculative enough, which is fine for a romance novel, not for a work of speculative fiction.   Further, this Jones book could easily cross over to a more mainstream venue, as it seems quite in alignment with an epic period romance, replete with aristocratic titles, intrigue, inheritance, and the need for a the damsel to have one sworn to save her.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bella Books (February 18, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00INAL256
  Amazon.comTo buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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Departure from the Script – Jae

Departure from the ScriptAspiring actress Amanda Clark and photographer Michelle Osinski are two women burned by love and not looking to test the fire again. And even if they were, it certainly wouldn’t be with each other.

Amanda has never been attracted to a butch woman before, and Michelle personifies the term butch. Having just landed a role on a hot new TV show, she’s determined to focus on her career and doesn’t need any complications in her life.

After a turbulent breakup with her starlet ex, Michelle swore she would never get involved with an actress again. Another high-maintenance woman is the last thing she wants, and her first encounter with Amanda certainly makes her appear the type.

But after a date that is not a date and some meddling from Amanda’s grandmother, they both begin to wonder if it’s not time for a departure from their usual dating scripts.

——-

Jae always writes good books. I have never yet been disappointed, and don’t expect to be

This is an excellent, light and breezy Traditional Romance. Started as a short story, now  long novella.. another 20 pages and it would have been a novel. One thing Jae is – prolific with her words.

Jae - biogThe characters are charming, realistic, believable and as always have integrity. Their worlds a recognisable even though they may be beyond our normal daily ken. Their trials and tribulations – light in this instance, are those we will all relate too.
Gran is a gem, deserves a book of her own and definitely fits into the hollywood star with a heart of gold. And for once perceived threats and angst are unfounded as people turn out t be more accepting than expected.

A delightful read for a lazy afternoon, nothing to challenge and everything to enjoy.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 197 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (June 27, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00LDDXKSW
  Amazon.comTo buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Available on Smashwords HERE