Monthly Archives: May 2015

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Memoir in the Making – Adrian J. Smith

Memoir in the MakingAinsley Jacobs is a twenty-year-old student with a bright future and the confidence to go after the things she wants. Living away from her family she has her best friend Adam by her side for support, guidance and all-important drinking buddy.

Meredith Frenz is a well-respected professor who teaches the Literary Memoir class. She is professional, dedicated and committed to her job and her students. As the new semester begins, however, so does a chain of events that rock her well-organised life and make her question her sanity.

Is it possible that there comes a time when age is just a number? When social pressure no longer brings into question the reason why two souls are drawn to each other? Is love worth risking everything for? This story makes the reader contemplate these questions and more. It’s impossible not to feel Ainsley and Meredith’s pain and anxiety, their passion and love, eventually hoping that they can make it through the turbulent maze.Adrian J. Smith Bio

On the surface “Memoir in the Making” would seem to be the typical “Cougar” love story between a young student and the older professor. But this is no typical romance. The characters are beautifully crafted and the depth of emotion bleeds from the page. Ms Smith writes with passion and angst in equal measure. The reader can’t help but be swept up in the growing sexual tension and the frustration that reverberates through every chapter.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher:  Supposed Crimes LLC (May 1, 2015)
  • ASIN: B00UQM0JGC
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