Friday, November 1, 2013

YA Book Review: Darkness of Morning by Samantha Boyette

Darkness of Morning by Samantha Boyette is a young adult fantasy novel. The second in the Guardian of Morning series, it follows the relationship and otherworldly adventures of two girls who grew up human but actually aren't.

The lost princess of a magical kingdom and her soulbound guardian are meant to be together. Unfortunately the princess has powerful enemies and a very self destructive personality. Much as her guardian loves her, there is only so much she can do to protect her from evil and herself.

I reviewed the first book here, and it follows on very well from it. It's a much stronger book, in story and characters, although it has a lot less world building because most of that has been established. Which means you're probably best off starting from the beginning. Actionwise, not a huge amount happens. The plot is quite clearly a three parter, and this is the "Empire Strikes Back" episode. Again, you should probably read all the books in a row.

Book Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is a classic. It's a historical lesbian crime novel of trickery and intrigue and madness and gentry and the London underworld, and it's so much not what I expected The impression I had of Fingersmith was of a London girl who gets talked into a scheme by a slick conman associate to go somehow trick some poor naive rich girl into losing her fortune. And that it ended badly and was probably a beautifully written but depressing slide into closer affection and inevitable betrayal, and possible the tragic death of one of the girls. I never really felt up to a whole book of that. But fortunately, that was absolutely not what it was.

Oh, the first part's true enough, it's the entire premise of the book, but after that? No. That's when everything changes. The elaborate scheme based on entrapping the naive rich girl, with the accidental seduction between the two, was only the beginning. It was, in fact, the context, the first act, the introduction to the real story.

I picked it up because a very nice reader contacted me to point out that I hadn't reviewed any of Sarah Water's most famous historical novels, and I promptly rushed out and borrowed a copy. And then spent about three weeks reading it in bits and pieces (I've had a busy month! I'd normally have finished it in a day). Fortunately, it held up both to the piecemeal sampling, and the final 'devouring of the last third in one go'. It's a pretty dense novel, with lots of vocabulary and settings and things to keep track of (like who knew what), but the cast is a reasonable size and the characters are distinctive.

It's also one of those stories that has some major plot twists, and it really changes the story if you know what comes next, so please understand that this is one of those rare reviews that doesn't analyse the entire book in detail because TWO THIRDS OF IT IS SPOILER. Twice. Yes, twice. This book is like Inception written by Charles Dickens. None of our characters really know what's going on, they all betray each other at some point, and our narrators are textbook unreliable.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Review: After The Night by Rachel Dax

After The Night by Rachel Dax is a historical romance. In the 1950s or 60s in England , a quiet, good girl called Leah Webster takes a job in the formidable Deepdown women's prison, where she encounters the stern, remote warden, Jean McFarlane.

Amongst the drama of prison, which comes with built in drama, it turns out that she isn't quite so perfect and that Jean is actually pretty sweethearted lady, with tragedy behind her, and the two get swept up in romance. Unfortunately, this is at a time when homosexuality was still officially illegal, providing an unpleasant counterpoint to their desire.

This was actually a pretty good story. I reread it nearly a year later, because I never got around to reviewing it, and it held up very well to a second reading. Probably a good pick for reading while waiting for the next Orange is the New Black episode.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Non-Human Lesbians in Fantasy Fiction (Mermaids, Elves and Immortals)

Considering the rich scope offered by fantasy, there are surprisingly few inhuman lesbians. This is a list of fantasy (paranormal, high and science fiction-ish) books featuring main, or major, lesbian elves, angels, ghosts and goddesses, as well as other miscellaneous beings.

Some of the names/species are best guess approximations, as some characters are never labelled in their books, or are given a different, unique name.

Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves and other Shapeshifters are not included, because they have their own subgenres of (mostly) paranormal romance, and there are too many to bother re-listing here, so check out the individual lists of each.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Aftermath by Ann McMan

Aftermath by Ann McMan is the follow up story to Jericho. You may remember Jericho as the romance novel I raved about back in January 2012. Jericho is a fantastic book, though it won't appeal to everyone, and Aftermath is more of the same: wine, background histories all over the place for everything from bleachers to cars to people, lots of words, easy companionship and a great deal of banter.  Jericho was the great literary classic for the ages, this is the lighter, shorter, tale of gossip, rural legends and wine, in which we get to stay in touch with the people and township of the original story.

While Jericho was a romance, this is more of a ramble through local gossip, family, and the events in the area. It's a safe, entertaining read, where you get to just relax with old friends. I don't actually know what genre I'd call it; I guess I'm just going to describe it as "general fiction". It follows up with the main people we met in Jericho, showing us their lives a couple of years later, and giving us a chance to enjoy the status quo that they spent all of Jericho getting to. Basically, it's not nearly as good as Jericho, but if you enjoyed that book, then you'll find Aftermath a very worthwhile followup.

The main stories are the gradual rebuilding after the hurricane, the progression of Syd's divorce and the inevitable return of Henry's father. Henry is the little boy that Syd and Maddie, our lesbian main character couple from Jericho, sort of adopted, while his father was in Afghanistan.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kill Me by Alex Owens

Kill Me by Alex Owens is a vampire story with a twist. It's the first book in the Blood Chord series, and the twist is that it's done well. I don't mean differently; this is a paranormal vampire erotica that follows the same old formula, but the writer gives it power.

This is a vampire novel that hits all the cliches that makes vampire stories so popular and then rewrites them, owns them or turns them completely on their heads. If you've ever thrown a book across the room (mentally, I could never hurt a book) because the heroine is vapid and perfect, and keeps running back to her abusive vampire owner/lover/soulmate, and been super disturbed by the power imbalance, or been exasperated by her teenage brattiness as she pretended to be independent, or hated the way that everyone hunted her out just because of her specialness, then this is a book for you. This is a writer who looked at their characters and decided to see if she could break them. And actually considered how they would react.

More of a novella, than a novel, I read it easily within a couple of hours, but for the story, it was the perfect length. Any more story would have thrown off the pacing, dragging it out needlessly, or would have been the beginning of the next story (and there is a sequel). I was expecting it to be a bit longer, was wondering about the pacing a little and then realised I was halfway through the book and had to readjust my expectations. It would have worked perfectly well as an origins short story, and that's basically what it is; Claire the Vampire's origins.But it packs in so much that this is a ridiculously long review for a short story. Admittedly, a lot of this review is pointing at irritating vampire romance tropes and laughing at them, because this story makes them look even sillier.