Monthly Archives: November 2015

Backcast – Ann McMan

Backcast - Ann McManIt is so much harder to review a great book than it is to review a good book. With a good book you can slam dunk that it’s a good story with good characters, say you liked it and you are done. When you read remarkable books, you have to think about it so much more – how to express why a book it significant without sounding sycophantic or fantastic.

So Ann McMan’s Backcast is a great book. It is not just an excellent read, but an important book in a line of notable publications we are seeing from our really good lesbian authors. Lesbian writers who are moving the lesfic genre on; who make us think, challenge us, entertain us. Authors who want to write – can write – amazing books, who happen to be lesbians and don’t sell out their personal story line to make their books mainstream – despite having the obvious ability to be lauded mainstream writers.

Before people start shouting, I am not criticising everybody else, or downing other authors. I love all sorts of lesfic from romance and erotica to fantasy and crime, and we need it all. But I also want us to have literary lesfic, modern lesfic that will stand up with Woolf and May-Brown, Miller and Forrest. Lesfic that shows off our great writers, that promotes good writing, that showcases the breadth and depth of our genre which has moved way beyond the ‘penny dreadfuls’ of the early days.

Backcast is one of those books. On the surface it is a fairly straightforward tale of 13 women who come together for two weeks at a writers workshop, from which the organising artist will create an exhibition. This simple plotline gives Ann McMan the platform to create 13 strong, individual, extremely powerful and eccentric characters. Out of such a seemingly modest beginning we have drama, romance, history – except it really is herstory this time – and a deeply personal glance into what makes these women who they are.

Ann McManAs always, McMan’s books are elegantly and cohesively put together. Her words flow and the balance between the elements is so perfect you forget you are reading. Her characterisation and dialogue are immaculate presentations of real people, they must be real for her descriptions to be so tangible and the characters to be so authentic. And to add flavour we have 13 shorts in the voices of our 13 women, again realistic, authentic, the expressions of genuine women’s lives.

It made me laugh, a lot – McMan’s books have a deep-seated humour running through their veins. It made me cry – I defy any of our friends and family of choice to read ‘Heal Thyself’ after recent events and not weep. But most of all it made me feel like I was there, sitting on the lawn chairs, drinking the cocktails, hating the aspic, enjoying these women.

There is a flavour of the women’s scene from yesteryear for me personally. Maybe it has survived in the conferences and festivals in the US, but I haven’t been in that atmosphere of exciting, creative, challenging women since the 90’s. I think it no accident that most of these women are not spring chickens, and many have literally been around the block.

You see it has me enthralled. I have to read it again. I don’t have a choice. One reading simply isn’t enough to garner even a part of the richness and depth of these women and their interactions – let alone know all I need to know about competitive bass fishing.

I rarely give books 5 stars anymore because if I give out too many 5’s what’s left? Needless to say this is a 6. Read it.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

    • Paperback: 288
    • First published 2015
    • Publisher: Bywater Books (November 16, 2015)
    • ASIN: B0175P4C38
      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 Caphenon – Fletcher DeLancey

The Caphenon - Fletcher DelancyI really enjoyed Fletcher DeLancey’s first novella, Mac vs. PC so was intrigued to see her second and find it was a SciFI with strong women leaders and lesbian romance.. a combination us lesbian SciFi fans crave. I haven’t explored the fan fiction scene at all, so was unaware of her standing within that genre and her Past Imperfect series.

The Caphenon: Volume 1 (Chronicles of Alsea) is a very strong, very well written and quite charming read.

The plot is excellent, and I assume, planned for the whole trilogy in meticulous detail. The world creation is spot on with a level of detail we expect from the great SciFi and Fantasy writers, but rarely see in a first fantasy novel. Ms DeLancey clearly cut her teeth on the fan fiction she is well known for and leaps, fully fledged into the full length novel format. She marries great world reality with excellent science and emotional depth with a thrilling fight for survival.

The characters are really interesting and well rounded. 2 incredible strong women, a world leader, a starship captain, both striving for their best interests, making tough decisions and difficult choices, yet both full of compassion. The supporting cast is wide and varied, and we see clearly the different loyalties of a ship, duty bound to the captain, compared to a world government, constantly bickering and vying for power, with often quite satirical results.

Fletcher DeLancey bioThe action is fast paced in places, detailed in others. There is a tremendous build-up of tension as we wait for the centre piece of this fight for survival, and it is equally well matched with the romantic tension and moral soul searching inherent in the coming together of such powerful women, so different and yet so similar, both set on their own path to do their duty at any cost.

Flethcer DeLancey’s writing style is a pleasure. It flows into the mind and fills the imagination. Those who read my reviews on a regular basis know I delight in well written and rounded prose, and Ms DeLancey’s is up there with the best.

If you like Science Fiction you will love this book. If you like lesbian Science Fiction you will be in heaven.

But even if you are not a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan you really should give this book a try – it and the follow up stories are about amazing strong, intelligent and passionate lesbians – they just happen to be on an alternative world.

Ms DeLancey is an excellent storyteller and I cant wait for the next instalment.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 398 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Ylva Verlag (5 Mar. 2015)
  • ASIN: B00U2T541O
      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 Chameleon’s Tale – Andrea Bramhall

The Chameleon's Tale - Andrea BramhallAndrea Bramhall is an unusual Lesfic writer, relatively new on the scene – five books in three years – with a great writing style, and unusual writing method, novels which almost defy categorization and a definite penchant for keeping her readers on their toes.

Swordfish was a fairly trad Lesfic action/romance and its sequel Ladyfish is another mad romp action/adventure.  Clean Slate was an unusual book that’s hard to categorise, a romance, drama and exploration of the affects of amnesia on an established couple.

The Chameleon’s Tale sits with Nightingale as a complex romance wrapped in and based around extremely difficult and painful political realities. In Nightingale we watched our main character, a British Asian lesbian with the world at her feet, choose an arranged marriage to save the family honour and then be abducted and imprisoned in a compound in Pakistan.

In the latest offering, The Chameleon’s Tale, we are firmly planted in South Africa, starting during apartheid when being liberal was a dangerous personal statement, and jumping forward to the present day, when the anger and pain of that era is still deeply engrained in all those affected. It combines romance, as do all Bramhall’s books, with a personal intrigue and a political thriller – in this case a page-turner dealing with corporate greed and social abuse.

The main Andrea Bramhall biogcharacters are interesting and varied, damaged goods like most of us, they aren’t easy, they aren’t always likeable, but they do feel real.

The plot is complex, combining personal tales of abandonment and hurt with the political conspiracy. It is fast moving and pacey – almost too much to fit into 264 pages. The mechanisms used to create the drama definitely require the suspension of disbelief, but once past them it is an intriguing exploration of how two women, faced with extremely different forms of hardship, have grown up and challenged the world. Beyond all the twists and turns I was left with deeply mixed feelings about the women they had become.

For me it was an uncomfortable read if I am honest. Partly, I suspect, because my feelings about apartheid haven’t really moved on from standing outside South Africa House singing “24 years in captivity…” and for me Imogen was hard to divorce from her background.

But as always Andrea’s booked are well written, her words flow off the page with elegance and precision, making it a pleasure to read. She challenges us to take a look at difficult social situations through the mechanism of romance and personal experiences. While her main characters are lesbians and that adds a layer of difficulty to their lives, it isn’t at the centre of the story. They are lesbians, they fall in love, but their lives are so much more complex than just their sexuality. And for me any Lesfic author who challenges us to think, who pushes us beyond the generic romance, is somebody who is improving the standard of the genre, broadening it and deepening it as it matures. Well done Ms Bramhall, another challenging read.

Oh.. and STUNNING jacket by the way…

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

      • Paperback: 246 pages
      • First published 2015
      • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (August, 2015)
      • ASIN: B012AZRC1M
      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.