Monthly Archives: October 2018

Isle of Broken Years – Jane Fletcher

Isle of Broken Years – Jane FletcherCatalina de Valasco, daughter of a powerful Spanish Count, is on her way to the America’s to marry a man she has never met; just part of the life of a seventeenth century noblewoman. Life changes dramatically when the ship she is on gets taken by pirates, and she is suddenly at the mercy of a bunch of cutthroat men who haven’t seen a woman in months.

In an effort to protect her the Captain puts her ashore with the cabin boy and a couple of sailors more interested in each other than her, while they wait for the ransom to be paid by her husband to be. Unfortunately for the Captain and his crew the island they found was in what we now call the Bermuda Triangle and here the real adventure begins.

This is an unusual story which definitely falls into 2 sections, the adventure at sea and the mystery on the island. The first is a more typical build up and sets the scene for both the role and actions of several characters in the later part of the story. The island takes us to a setting that is sci-fi/fantasy in nature but feels almost paranormal with the ongoing influence of the ancients shaping the lives of the islanders. Add in ongoing action adventure, murder mystery and romance and you begin to see why it’s hard to describe.

The group trapped on the island form an interesting mix, and their backgrounds and personalities form the core of a well-drawn ensemble piece. Each takes a role and plays a part, from stoic hero to warrior philosopher, lover to murderer. The characters are lightly drawn but stay in the mind as we root for them to succeed in their quest. The romance is definitely a secondary plotline, it adds an empathy to the main character but takes a back seat to Catalina’s ‘coming out’ as a scholar and adventurer. Her journey from reserved, stuck-up and self-important Condesa to Greek translating computer expert is well done.

An interesting story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Curious mix, intriguing concept, it captured my interest and kept me hooked. The descriptions are vivid and the island literally came to life in the in the imagination. Love it or hate it you can’t help but want to know what happens next.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (October 16, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H9DZ4XL
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

Gnarled Hollow – Charlotte Greene

Gnarled Hollow – Charlotte GreeneRecently laid off from her tenure track as an English Professor, Emily Murry can’t turn down the chance to study the journals of one of her favourite authors. Joined by another early 20thcentury literature specialist and historians of art, architecture and landscape, Emily and the team have the summer to work out the secrets of Gnarled Hollow on behalf of the new owner.

What they soon discover is a house full of mystery, cruelty and pain; unhappy childhoods, miserable lives, tortured artists and nasty secrets. The author Emily so loved, somehow a lost voice from a famous social set, turns out to be somebody completely unexpected, and the story of her life, and that of her siblings, tests the specialists employed to investigate in ways they could never have imagined.

Hands up I am not a horror reader, or film watcher, I don’t do ghosts and things that go bump in the night, but this had me hooked from the start.

Emily is a wholly sympathetic character who engages the reader from the opening scenes. Her need for the work, along with her desire to study the author, puts her in a position of vulnerability from the beginning. When Gnarled Hollow starts playing its tricks it is impossible not to get swept up in the fear of the situation, but also the drive to find out why the house is as it is.

The other main characters are well drawn, each playing a role, each reacting differently to the unfolding situation, giving us an interesting psychological study of how people react to the paranormal. The gentle romance between Emily and June is both a subplot and adds a strand of the angst, but definitely doesn’t define the book; this is a paranormal mystery/horror first, a historical whodunnit second and only then a romance.

The language and descriptions are excellent, it is easy to visualise the house, grounds and specific rooms; the creepy bathroom, the 1920’s pool house, the claustrophobic steam room and the attic prison. Greene has done an outstanding job of weaving in all sorts of layers; mysterious patterns in the gardens, missing rooms, odd disappearances, blandly boring journals, unknown artwork, and each mystery is eventually revealed as part of the horrific whole.

Combined with intensely emotional descriptions of the fear the characters experience as they are targeted by the tortured spirit and this book is genuinely a page turner… not only could I not sleep after reading it, I didn’t want to put it down. And the resolution, the tying up of ends and completion of the story arc is excellent, a very satisfying read.

I’m not converted, but I thoroughly enjoyed pushing my ghostly boundaries;  highly recommended and perfect for Halloween.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (September 11, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H7XHMPL
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

Cypher – Barbra Winkes

Cypher – Barbra WinkesSet some unknown time in the future a city state has become a virtual dictatorship due to the power wielded by the head of the IdA, a murky quasi police force that has the power to take away your identity if you cross it.

51308 was convinced to give up her baby and become a cypher as a temporary solution. But 8 years later and she is no closer to escaping the drudgery of her black and white life or the virtual slavery of her job. When she is accused of stealing an IdA officer takes her into custody, and suddenly everything is about to change, ut whether for the better or worse depends wholly on the humanity of the IdA Inspector.

This is a cleverly worked and interesting tale. The concept of a socialist style ‘jobs for all’ where those who cant support themselves for various reasons are given a basic place to live, bai food and a menial job is not unusual, but here the powers of the IdA have allowed that to be twisted. Anyone who crosses the head of the IdA can be put into the cypher program, with no hope of getting back out, and their identity sold on after 3 years.

Enter inspector Katlena Cervantes, a rising star who has played the game I order to position herself as the next Chief. Underneath the ambition there is a heart, and a desire to improve the system, clean out the corruption and end the excesses of the Cypher system. Her attraction for 51308 leads her to unusual steps, and from there a whole world of deception is uncovered.

The plot is complex and skilfully worked. The characters are well drawn with depth and complexity, and the overall concept of power gone bad is ingeniously twisted. 51308 and Katlena are sympathetic and likeable characters, both have made mistakes and both have flaws, but both are essentially good people doing the best they can. The twists and turns do take some keeping up with and the level of suspense is high, it’s a long time until we really know who is really on the side of good and evil as every player seems to have multiple agendas which only resolve at the end.

Personally I did struggle a little with the start of the 51308 and Katlena’s relationship. There was no buildup, they went from arrest to hug to relationship faster than you can order a U-Haul and I found it a little hard to swallow, but the rest of the storyline was excellent. Unusual, intriguing and an interesting read.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 291 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Independent (October 2, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07HDCH1WZ
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

 

Shadowboxer – Jessica L Webb

Shadowboxer - Jessica L WebbGrowing up with an alcoholic mother and fending for herself on the tough streets of Halifax led Jordan McAddie into boxing. After a short career she retrains as a social worker to help kids on the streets and uses her winnings to buy and run a boxing club. When the tension at the club starts to rise and a protest group begins to target her kids, Jordan knows she needs to step up to protect them. At the same time her first and only real love reappears, throwing Jordan into an emotional tailspin just when she needs to focus.

This is an excellent tension filled suspense novel with a strong romantic thread that adds to the overall sense of anticipation.  The combination of the kids unease, the emotional withdrawal of one of Jordan’s key team and the building expectation of some violent act, mixed in with a classic “will they-wont they rekindle their old love” romance gives this a wonderful atmosphere and is excellently written and paced.

The characters are sympathetically drawn, down to earth and solid. The inter-relationships between both the gang of street kids and the kids and the support workers is extremely well done and shows a real attention to how teens and young adults want the love and support of grown-ups but fight against needing it. The dialogue is spot on as they fluctuate between angry teens, overly mature young adults and needy children.

Jessica L Webb shows an excellent eye for observation and her descriptions add to the emotions of the book; the interactions, the behaviours and the setting all playing a part in an extremely well-drawn backdrop for the action and suspense of the parallel plots.

This was my first book from this author and I instantly went back to her earlier works, which I am currently devouring. Really absorbing page-turners… what a great talent. Highly recommended, and I love the jacket.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (September 11, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07GGTSTYN
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

In Fashion – Jody Klaire

In Fashion – Jody KlaireCross Trinny and Susannah with Mary Portas and you have the concept of “In Fashion”. Super model and super bitch Darcy McGregor is the TV makeover queen with a complicated past. When her daughter and producer decide to shake her up by picking a gorgeous lesbian security guard for her next patient, everybody but Darcy can see she has met her match. Down to earth Kate dislikes fashion, thinks Darcy is shallow and is uninterested in becoming the latest victim of her attention.

This is a very comical romp with some serious messages. It’s laugh out loud funny, with wonderful characters, amusing dialogue and a literal clash of wills that challenges both women’s assumptions. Underneath the fun we find a sensitive handling of mental disability, a fight against bullying and watch how the media and social media can destroy a person’s life.

Th characters make the book, genuine and very real, warts and all. Darcy’s a woman locked in her own heard headed self-loathing, but a wonderful mother with a brilliant relationship with her typically teenage daughter. Kate’s a totally adorable soul who doesn’t realise how amazing she is. The family and friends form a great ensemble piece, but it will be Mickey, Kate’s wonderful brother, who will steal your heart.

Well written, genuinely witty, empathetic and full of clever human observation this is an excellent read, I literally couldn’t put it down



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Ylva (October 3, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07HGFCKDW
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

Chosen – Brey Willows

Chosen - Brey WillowsPicked up by a military convoy Devin and Karissa leave all they know behind without knowing why they’ve been selected. They soon realise all the “Chosen” are scientists, many interconnected, but nobody will tell them where they are going or why. When the convoy is attacked by rebels looking for food supplies the scientists learn the truth, that they have been selected to leave the dying planet and start a new colony to save a tiny portion of humanity. The scientists must choose; where to go, who to be, and what their growing attraction is worth.

This is an absolutely excellent example of speculative dystopian fiction which is, unfortunately, all too obviously possible given the current climate change, pollution and declining effectiveness of penicillin. The fact that it is routed in a future we can easily imagine makes it frighteningly real both in terms of the effects of our current lifestyles and the political machinations of self-interested government.

The main characters are both excellent; sympathetic, interesting, intelligent, well rounded within the context of their situation. Both must deal with hard issues and make hard decisions about their future, their colleagues and each other. Their physical chemistry is great, the slow burn romance which follows behind is a wonderful read, and a great cliff-hanger to match the will they – won’t they of the Chosen. The wider cast is well drawn, with depth and variety from the mad scientist to the humanist rebels, they add emotional complexity to the tale.

Earth itself plays a huge role in the story with imaginative descriptive scenes; from the beauty of nature to the tension of the life-threatening weather and the way humanity has found to survive – so far. The settings feel authentic, the details are credible and pull you into the reality these people inhabit, adding hugely to the veracity of the world building. Willows’ writing will simply transport you into this future version of our world.

I loved the plot, complex and layered yet clearly and straightforwardly laid out, if that isn’t an oxymoron. It, like the characters and the setting, is full of small subplots and mysteries which add to the whole rather than distract from the core. And all this is enhanced by the science; it felt real, the processes and interpretation of evidence, the ethics and soul-searching.

Whether you like fantasy or not you should give this book a go. The romance is spot on, the world building excellent and the whole is just speculative fiction at its best. I loved Brey Willows’ “Afterlife Inc” trilogy but this is on a whole new level and I sincerely hope there might be a sequel. I’m giving it a very rare 5 stars from me and can’t recommend it highly enough.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (September 11, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07GGVBZN8
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.