Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: My Gay Sparkly Vampire Romance: A Twilight Parody by Zoe E. Whitten

My Gay Sparkly Vampire Romance: A Twilight Parody
by Zoe E. Whitten
My Gay Sparkly Vampire Romance: A Twilight Parody is just what it sounds like - a parody of Twilight, only gay. And a parody. I picked this up for fun, because it's free (being fanfiction), and was pretty blown away by it actually being good(Disclaimer: I am one of those people who consider the original to be awful and found the movie actually painful to watch.)

In fact, with a few names  and a very few other bits and pieces of setting and plot changed, it is a very decent paranormal urban fantasy.  Some bits are blatant parody, and whenever new characters from the original book walked on scene for the first time, I cringed a bit. But if they stuck around, the author made them her own very quickly. And some of the most notably laughable bits from the originals are changed almost out of recognition. Frankly, throw out the all the (lack of) personality you associate with the names.

Isabella Wong and her dad move to the Bronx, when they inherit an apartment (with cheap rent!) from her grandmother. Her mother was murdered six years ago, and ever since, Bella's been a bit of a vigilante. Not that that's too hard, as her dad runs a dojo. She's also pretty sure she likes girls. Or rather, older women, though she doesn't think her poor dad is up to knowing that part yet.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Kissing the Witch by Emma Donaghue

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins is a charming, if formulaic, little book of little stories retelling age old fairy tales from a very feminist slant. Technically it's a young adult book, though I didn't realise this until checking the details later - it is appropriate for both teenagers and adults.

The stories are mostly very short, and told in the first person, by the girl - or woman - at the centre of them. At the end of each tale, the other woman in the story - whether witch, godmother, mentor, lover or rival - tells them their own story, about their past and how they came to be as they were, or possibly just about their past life (including some animal characters). And on and on, back through the generations, until it ends with a woman in a cave, a witch who has been kissed, longing for a girl with red hair who loves everything and has no story to tell.

I like the way that the original stories are deconstructed, and gently shaken and turned around. In most cases, the witch is not the monster and the prince is not the happily ever after - but he is generally not blamed for this either. It's not his fault that girl after girl has grown up believing she must marry the prince, after all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: It's Always Spring Break Somewhere In The Galaxy

It's Always Spring Break Somewhere In The Galaxy
by Raven C.S. McCracken
It's Always Spring Break Somewhere In The Galaxy by Raven C.S. McCracken
Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll. With aliens.

Another self published book, this one is not half bad. It's Always Spring Break... styles itself after The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, and does indeed have a lot in common with that classic series. It's fun, full of weird aliens, the mysterious lurking Administrative computers keeping everyone in line, a fairly live and let live galaxy full of a wide variety of aliens who take newcomers in stride - and some hapless humans taking a road trip to the stars in the middle of it all.

I think the term I'm looking for is pulp science fiction - where science just gets out of the way and lets people do Stuff That Is Cool, everything is a bit campy, and it's all about the adventure. This is not a book for people who care about realism, in any way, or are bugged by humanoid or animal based aliens (though to be fair, there are some plain weird ones as well), or self-centered college kids.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

YA Book review: About A Girl by Joanne Horniman

About a Girl
About a Girl
by Joanne Horniman

About A Girl by Joanne Horniman is a passionate, lively read for older teens about a ... well, about two girls in Australia. The narrator, Anna, a bright moody redhead, and the lovely and unpredictable bisexual Flynn who forms a chapter of love and loss in Anna's life between parental divorce, depression, jobs and university. Age wise, the characters are late teens, and are making the shift to adulthood (unlike a lot of YA books, which are aimed at leaving childhood).

I didn't quite find it to my taste, but enjoyed it more on a second read (when I wasn't spending the whole time waiting for the love affair to turn up, and knew it was inevitably doomed). It does confirm somewhat the tired old stereotype that bisexuals are inherently unfaithful - but personally, I think that was just Flynn, and if she hadn't found Anna, she could have easily found a guy instead. However, the attraction caught her by surprise as much as Anna - which is something you don't expect, as she seem's so very much in control of the situation.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: 18th & Castro by Karin Kallmaker

18th & Castro
by Karin Kallmaker
18th & Castro is an erotic anthology by Karin Kallmaker. Set in and around the apartment building 18th & Castro in San Francisco, it follows the Halloween encounters of the large number of lesbians either living there, or visiting the party in one apartment.

Most of these sixteen stories involve explicit sexual encounters, with a few exceptions - but that, and the location, are really the only thing they have in common. There's a wide variety in the pairings and encounters...

The shy girl coming out to her crush on the roof opposite, who starts and ends the anthology, as they spend the night up there watching the festivities - and seeing a bit more than expected through the windows of 18th & Castro.

The older women, long friends, both frustrated with the stereotypes of dykes and femmes, who finally fall into each other's arms at last.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lesbian Vampire Fiction

Victoria Frances The Kiss Art Print Poster
Vampires are a popular topic for lesbian characters in horror, erotica and supernatural fantasy fiction. In fact, the very first vampire book was not Dracula - it was Carmilla in 1872 by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, about lonely female vampire who becomes obsessed with young women.

Vampire have always been a popular theme for conveying sexual imagery and erotic stories - powerful, vulnerable, dangerous and compelling, they visit in the night and it's so much easier to bite a young women who thinks she's being seduced...
Mixing in lesbianism was actually a fairly logical next step - all vampires prefer young women, everyone knows that (or are indiscriminate. And young women were less likely to missed and easier to prey on).

Anyway, there are now over a dozen paranormal urban fantasy romances, and an equal number of erotic urban fantasy romances and miscellaneous erotic short story anthologies about lesbian vampires - as well as a much smaller number of historical novels, nonfiction, horror and plain old fantasy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

4th Annual Lambda Literary Awards 1991

4th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners and Finalists

The Lambda Awards by year:
1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 1992 |1993 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 
2002  2003 | 2004 |2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

1991 Categories
Overview of yearly categories
  • Lesbian
    • Anthologies, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction (Studies) Poetry, Science fiction/Fantasy
  • General LGBT
    • Children's/ Young Adult, Humour,
  • Gay Men's
    • Anthologies, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction (Studies) Poetry, Science fiction/Fantasy
  • Other Awards
    • Editor's Choice Award, Publisher's Service Award, Small Press Award

Book Review: Finders Keepers by Karin Kallmaker

Finders Keepers by
Karin Kallmaker
Finders Keepers by Karin Kallmaker is named after the very successful, geeky, dating service run by Marissa and a friend. Like Night Vision, I initially had trouble getting into this book - even putting it down a few times in boredom, but it did pick up a bit.

A romance between two very different women - the very ordinary Marissa and the very unique Linda - Finders Keepers has two main themes: image and finding your perfect match. If you like slightly gossipy, real life-ish stories that you can identify with - or if you're looking for a book full of issues to discuss - then you'll want to take a look at Finders Keepers.

Meeting by chance when they have to suddenly abandon their cruise ship, Linda and Marissa fall into each others arms and enjoy a passionate tropical island holiday. Marissa returns home to her job and her normal life, while Linda... vanishes for a whole year, before turning up on Marissa's doorstep and they tentatively throw themselves at each other again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla or The Evil Guest
by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Written in the late 19th century, Carmilla inspired much later vampire fiction, including the more famous Dracula. The author was one of the great horror writers of his time, although most people haven't heard of him these days *puts on hipster glasses*.

It was originally published as part of the Gothic horror anthology In A Glass Darkly and in a magazine called The Dark Blue in 1872. Carmilla is now in the public domain, and freely available online, as well as in several published editions.

Set in Austria, in a remote schloss (castle), where a young girl named Laura (actually 18) lives with her father, a nanny, a governess and 'the servants' (who are never described, numbered, or named). Looking forward to a rare visit by a neighbouring girl, she is devastated to learn her potential friend has died of some mysterious illness. She does not have to grieve long though, as a speeding carriage dumps a fainting girl at her feet, and an imperious lady charges her father to care for her daughter until her return. The lonely and unwordly Laura is delighted to have a new friend... despite her uncanny resemblance to a visitor she had in the night as a child.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Book Review: Branded Ann by Merry Shannon

Branded Ann
by Merry Shannon
Branded Ann is the second book from Merry Shannon and features a deadly pirate, a contradictory young flower who captures her loins and then her heart, and their great quest for a legendary treasure. It is a worthy followup to Merry Shannon's fantastic debut novel, Sword of the Guardian (reviewed here).

This isn't a book for starry eyed romance readers, apart from the frequent murder, rape (although never 'on screen', and this is the one thing Branded Ann draws the line at on her ship and in herself), foul mouths and living conditions, both main characters are more antihero than hero. Branded Ann is a murderer and a thief, with some nasty hidden desires, and even more hidden compassion, while Violet is outwardly perfect, but inwardly... not.

Violet is a delicate beauty, named for her stunning eyes, cossetted and treasured by her husband - a man who rescued her from a past you'd never guess to look at her, that equips her to cope with a harsh life among pirates surprisingly well. In compensation - or gratitude - she turned pious, quoting scripture and clinging to her bible. Those around her tend to be somewhat bemused by this - more so by her composure, and they're outright startled by her sudden turns of coarseness. She's also anything but romantic, and takes a long time to consider sex as anything but a transaction.