Starting Over – Jen Silver

starting overEllie Winters has a peaceful life making pots on her remote farm near Huddersfield in Yorkshire. The only disturbance in her life is her former partner Robin – player, cheater and wanderer. Their business partnership has just about survived, but even the friendship is on tenterhooks, not because of Robin’s philandering but because Ellie dared to have a short fling, and Robin can’t cope.

When first Robin’s current squeeze, then a casual one-night stand, and finally Ellie’s ex-fling all descend on the farm at once the outcome is both complicated and farcical. Add in an archeological dig, soul-less paparazzi and relationships galore and the story soon becomes a page-turner it is hard to put down.

Jen Silver’s first novel is a delightful read. The characters are solid, rounded and complex, recognizable and easily liked. The settings are well drawn and subtly evocative of the Yorkshire towns and countryside. The plot is cleverly intricate without ever being over difficult, and the tension builds as the characters and emotions weave around each other.

Ms Silver has drawn a well-balanced and adroit mix of romance, intrigue and archeology, overlaid with the personal development of the characters and a side order of humor. The story builds from a circus gathering to a widely flung set of sub plots as the women flow in and out of the farm and on with their lives. But always the tale comes back to Ellie and Robin, the impact their various ex’s have on them personally, their relationship and on the farm.

Jen Silver BioThe writing is compact, well edited, and crafted. I have to admit I didn’t expect the farce and was charmed by the humor. What started as a solid piece of writing soon descended into laugh out loud moments worthy of a classic British comedy. A great debut novel that leaves me eagerly awaiting her next publication – based on this introduction Jen Silver’s works will definitely be in my must-read pile.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Affinity Ebooks (September 30, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00O2NV686
  Amazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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Under Devil’s Snare – S.Y. Thompson

RCE-UnderDevilsSnare Without doubt, a good writer captivates readers. An excellent writer can deftly move between comfort zones — taking readers to new, unexpected places, holding their attention, moving them into the world within the novel, veritably creating a space that they become, not just involved in, but a part of. S.Y. Thompson is just that sort of writer.

I picked up Under Devil’s Snare and as a fan of Fractured Futures, Destination Alara. Admittedly, I somewhat expected a similar speculative fiction novel from her others which involved space/time travel. Honestly, I hoped for that, since I’m crazy for science fiction oriented speculative fiction. However, Under Devil’s Snare is assuredly a more of mystery novel, and an outstanding one at that. S.Y. Thompson reminded me, blissfully, that good mystery focal novels create that urge, no, a need, to sit still and read until the very end in one fell swoop – afraid that if you put the book down, something might happen without you! I read Under Devil’s Snare, cover to cover pausing only to actually to go to the market. It really is that good – and it still is speculative fiction – just rather atypical.

So, why did the novel ensnare me? First of all, the story as a whole – a police oriented plot, with a series of murders that is neither a routine procedural or mundane. The relationship between Patricia (a U.S. Park Police Detective) and Samantha (the local sheriff), is sexy, complex, and multi-layered. Lesbian fiction that creates loving relationships that are neither overly simplistic nor merely sexually focal, to this reader, is rather a rarity. The interplay between each of the major characters have a depth and dimensionality that is intricate, layered, and genuine.

Thompson’s character development, particularly her usage of dialogue with which readers can identify and hear as authentic, I find inevitably outstanding – every one of her books has that distinction. For this read, that is a necessity, I need to experience voices of the characters as if they are present beside me. Once again, Thompson successfully achieves this.   Furthermore, Thompson’s attention to detail within setting in this book is rich, sensual, and visceral. The reader can clearly envision the community of Panthera, the scenery, the people as unique beings. As a very visual person, being able to “see” where I am inside the novel’s world is an imperative. Thompson always does this well for me – again.

SY ThompsonUnder Devil’s Snare happens to be Book Two of the Under Series, yet in this instance, beginning with book two, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage. Thompson develops the story such that I felt completely able to immerse myself easily and never feel as though I had missed anything, or was left out. However, beginning with book two compelled me to grab book one (I’m rather compulsive about such things). Now, I am even more of a fan of the series.   I look forward to continuing the journey.   Without hesitation, I highly recommend Under Devil’s Snare, by S.Y. Thompson.   Pick it up, get lost for a day or so.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Regal Crest (September 30, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00O2KZNP6
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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To Love Free – Chris Paynter

To Love FreeChris Paynter writes exceptionally good books and To Love Free is another fine example.

It’s a heart-rending and heart-warming tale of how cancer can affect our lives. A sweet and endearing tale of heart ache, loss and recovery. One woman loses her battle and leaves her wife bereft, her family in taters. Another is fighting with everything she has – a fight that has put the shallowness of her relationship into the spotlight. When the widow and the fighter meet the attraction is strong – but can the widow face her fears of another loss.

The cast is a group of powerful women, strong, sustaining family and friends. Well drawn, deep and real – women we would all like to have in our corner. They support the struggling widow and foster the burgeoning relationship with wisdom and kindness. While there are obviously main characters the cast is so solid they all leave an impression.

The struggles the primary characters are going through, one with loss – of her wife and her art, the other with cancer (in the obvious sense) but also with her own identity as a model, are powerful and moving. Both need to come to terms with the affect of cancer in their lives. Both need to live life now, to the full, not wallow in the past or fear for the future.

Chris PaynterInto all of this emotion comes Free, a dolphin with a mission. A ‘free’ spirit who symbolizes and galvanizes the women’s need to heal and move beyond their fears. A symbol of joy, hope and a force of nature, Free brings lightness to the story simply by being.

This is a warm and tender love story wrapped around the painful reality of cancer. Based on the subject I expected it to be heavier and harder work. Instead it is a joyful read. Written from the heart and personal experience it is moving and uplifting.  A classic Traditional Lesfic Romance extremely well done.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Companion Publications (September 23, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00NVN8W3A

  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.

Taken by Storm – Kim Baldwin

Taken by StormHudson Mead is a badass AP reporter who has seen more than most, and survived it. In her recreation time she goes extreme skiing with her buddy and cameraman. This year it’s the Alps, and they are taking the scenic route. Librarian Steffi Graham seems like a bit of a wallflower. First time abroad, new to extreme climbing, lacking self-confidence and way beyond her comfort zones. But when a train wreck forces them to work together to try and save the survivors it is their complimentary skills and resources that keeps them going.

This is a good solid cross between a trad romance and an action adventure. The plot keeps moving along, from the slow build to the wreck and the multiple and various attempts to survive and get rescued. While the scenario is extreme the action is well thought through and planned, and the individuals and their actions are realistic and true to their natures. I never really doubted their survival, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.

The characters are well drawn and three dimensional, even the baddies have validity and the wide ranging cast before and after the wreck make an interesting read. The main players are well developed and hold together with realism and veracity. Hudson and Steffi are great. Strong, independent, recognizable women who are in some ways complete opposites but in others have an resonance in their strength.

Kim Baldwin bioThe romance is slow and sweet, nothing more than growing feelings and a promise, but it adds to the tale and gives force to their determination. The development of the characters under duress, both individually in their own right and as a couple, gives a huge emotional backdrop to the main action plot.

Well written, well researched – well done. My first Kim Baldwin and wont be my last.. thoroughly enjoyed this – now going to have to go and read Force of Nature.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (September 15, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00NCAKNU2
  Amazon.comTo buy the Kindle edition – click here.
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Ascension – JL Gaynor

AscensionJL Gaynor’s first novel, Drive, was a wonderful debut novel – an outstanding, emotionally compelling story. However, Ascension far surpasses her debut work and places her squarely in competition with other writers of dark urban fantasy series. She does so by clear reverence for mythos, regard for storylines that make sense as continuing series (the sisterhood of the guardianship), and by virtue of a highly compelling manner of world-creation.

Gaynor creates a space in which the reader feels at once comfortable and ill at ease. That is to say, she creates a blend of tension that deftly drives the story from a present world to the world of magic and mystery. The notion of secrets to keep avoids the trappings of potential banality, or the mundane, by creating uniqueness, along with a pace that drives the story. Furthermore, Gaynor creates intrepid characters, fostering their development along both unexpected and unique ways.

As a fan of Dark Urban Fantasies, and especially those written as series, I look forward to JL Gaynor’s next novel. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the next book is even better than this one, as her writing seems to improve with every novel.

Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel : an excellent, highly recommended book.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Amazon (August 10, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00MLQXO5E
  Amazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.

Nicola Griffith’s Suggestions of Classic Lesbian Sci-Fi Must Reads

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I admit, I am an absolute fan of Nicola Griffith.   While doing a bit of research of my own, I came upon an old blog post of Nicola’s where she shared her thoughts on Classic Lesbian Sci-Fi books.  I thought that this was well worth a share.   Taking from her blog Nicola writes:

Classics
I think the heyday of lesbian sf is still to come. I think it will be astonishingly good, partly because it won’t need to be about being queer. That battle is ending. It’s essentially won. (Lots of tidying up to do, of course.) It was a battle named and begun by the mothers of our genre. Here are a handful of the classics, from the 1970s to the 1990s. The first two are short story collections, the rest novels; I’ve talked about several of them, and others, on my enormous List of Things I Like.

  • Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, James Tiptree Jr (aka Racoona Sheldon, real name Alice Sheldon). Stories. Some of these pieces will rip your heart out; some will make you think; some will help you see the world anew. Tiptree does love and science, dire warnings and the real world in equal measure, and she has no peer.
  • Extra(Ordinary) People, Joanna Russ. Short science fiction, including “The Mystery of the Young Gentleman,” which is, for me, the most fun hey-gender-is-a-game story ever. And I suspect “Souls” might have had a tiny bit of influence on Hild.
  • The Chronicles of Tornor, Elizabeth A. Lynn. This is a loosely connected sequence of novels starting with Watchtower. Fantasy, but no magic, unless you call love and aikido magic; I think this book influenced the way I write about bodies in the real world; it certainly paved the way for to learn aikido a few years later.
  • Gossamer Axe, Gael Baudino. Fantasy. An ageless Celtic harper forms a heavy metal band to free her lover from the faerie. Great music and magic writing. No holds barred lesbian romance (but definitely with a fantasy lineage). Fabulous. When I picked up this book I read the very first writer’s bio that said something like, Baudino lives with her lover xxxx in xxxx. (I can’t find my copy or I’d quote.) And I knew, right then, that I wasn’t the only writing dyke in the genre world who felt no need to hide.
  • The Holdfast Chronicles, Suzy McKee Charnas. Sequence of dystopian novels. The first and most important (in my opinion) are Walk to the End of the World, and Motherlines. Charnas is ostensibly a straight writer, but she gets dykes and gay boys right. I couldn’t have written Ammonite if this book, and work by Tiptree and Le Guin and Russ, hadn’t come first. The first is an unsettling dystopia, but not claustrophobic—like, say, Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale—and a ripping good read.
  • Thendara House, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Science fantasy. Set on Darkover, a recolonised world of spaceports and native polities, Free Amazons and psi powers, swords and energy weapons. Fabulous stuff. Occasionally clunkily written. It is a sequel to The Shattered Chain, but I read TH first and like it better.

27aec85513c023c3b5d6c631336a0a4a_400x400I could have chosen any of another couple of dozen, but these struck me as representing the heart of the (US) genre. (There are many wonderful UK novels—Fairbairns’ Benefits, Jones’s Divine Endurance—and Australian, and Canadian, and others.) I’m hoping readers will have some suggestions in the comments belownot just for good lesbian sf but good lists of same.

I have long lists on various genres, but when I found Nicola Griffith’s I had to share this with you.

Blowback – Bev Prescott

Blowback - Bev PrescottBlowback is an interesting, challenging read. In it we have a family of hard working lobstermen who struggle with all the normal challenges of tough jobs, low incomes, overcrowded living space and family  expectations which we will all recognise.

 The characters are strong, well drawn, gritty, realistic.

There is a large cast of family and friends centred around Meghan, her girlfriend Lauren and brother Scott. Sub-plots revolve around many, but central is the relationship between Meghan and Lauren, fighting to breathe under the weight of responsibilities and the crush of bodies in the house. Meghan and Scott’s relationship is also complex, older sister, mentor, carer, replacement mother for a man whose father undermines him at every step.



Interwoven is the backdrop of Maine, fishery, cafe, small town living that many will recognise. The sights and sounds, smells and textures of a tough life lived by careworn people. Cafe owner Midge and the older lobstermen represent lives spent in hard labour and lived out in a cafe and at the bar which form a focal core of the community.

But all of these elements are secondary in importance to the central figure of the novel. A Glock 9mm called WM. WM opens the story and closes it. WM is the driver, the actor and the focal point of the tale. For without the gun this would not be a story. It is impossible to explain the tragedy without spoiling, but suffice it to say that WM has a large part to play.



The polarisation of American opinions on gun ownership is obvious and complete. What Bev Prescott has tried to do is show how good people with the best of intentions can end up in the most tragic of circumstances despite being good, sensible, caring gun owners. She has presented characters who are for and against and is asking the reader to consider the consequences. A brave position which will, no doubt, garner some anger.



But what the book should do is make you think, question, discuss. And I suspect that is the highest compliment Ms Prescott would ask for.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink (September 3, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00NBA6E2O
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

The Alleyway and Other Short Stories – Rejini Samuel (aka RJ Samuel)

the-alleyway RJ Samuel’s collection of short stories, The Alleyway and Other Short Stories, written under her given name, Rejini Samuel is by far one of the better collections that I have read in recent years. In fact, three of the stories were short listed for an international writing competition (Over the Edge New Writer of the Year) – and rightly so. Her writing is amazing. Actually, to say “amazing” seems trite, but I lack the adequate words at the moment to fully articulate just how moved I am. RJ lifted me out of my room, allowing me to become a part of the conversations and imagery alive in each story. With each bit of dialogue, I could “hear” the speakers, the subtle dialect/accent, their unique manner of speaking. The descriptions, so vibrant, jump off the page — I could “see” what RJ wrote. Certainly, I could give a snippet of each story, but as they are rather short, I’d be guilty of spoiling. Yet, three stories immediately stand out.   “The Alleyway” blew me away. The dialogue, allusion, emotional landscape, actually transfixed me, I truly “heard” every word as they were spoken by the characters; I could see the facial expressions; smell the aromas wafting through the alley. I admit, that as a writer, this is what I aspire to do, and RJ inspires me.   “Amy_Grrl” made me laugh out loud, with the most apt portrayal of fear of cyber dating and her internal dialogue about the standard lesbian relationship route (u-haul after a few dates) as the biggest thing that she must now attempt to avoid – again. Finally, “A Prison of Words,” struck a chord in me as a writer, speaker, and one who often feels trapped by what and how to say what I mean. RJ captured every emotion perfectly. RJ Samuel BiogRJ is a brilliant writer. She speaks to me as a woman living in a diverse world, as a lesbian, as an artist, and as a person who seeks to connect with others and often feels at a loss as to how to do so adequately.   I highly recommend these stories. The brought me more than a little pleasure, the warmed my heart.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 45 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Amazon (September 18, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00NPIB85A
  Amazon.comTo buy the Kindle edition – click here.

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.
To buy the Paperback – click here.