Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Short Story Review: The Art of Mapmaking by Thalia Fand

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The Art of Mapmaking is a short story by Thalia Fand and it is brilliant. A gorgeous story that follows the careful, intelligent seduction of a fantastic, unique woman, this is a beautiful erotic romance novella that I am on the verge of pulling out a thesaurus to describe as cleverly and poetically as it deserves.

If you're looking for a quick sex story, and aren't interested in character development, then half this story will be wasted on you. If you're looking for a well written courtship between two intelligent and attractive women, that is actually quite unique, then you should enjoy this story. A lot.

Our narrator and protagonist Sara is a smart, attractive lesbian, who has no trouble finding new lovers, but doesn't stand out as particular special (apart from being gorgeous, smart and talented), except in her inspired and determined approach to winning Casey's heart.

Casey is a highly educated, inspired, brilliant woman, who does regular stand up on a local stage. She creates the most incredible skits, plays, performances, random lectures from the most random of words, using her enormous knowledge of trivia and keen interest in just about everything. She captivates everyone, and is the most popular performer there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks

Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks is the first book in the Elemental Logic series, with engaging characters, interesting conflicts, and an exciting storyline. Fire Logic follows the initial invasion of the peaceful country of Shaftal, the meetings of Zanja and Karis, and their struggles to heal themselves and start playing an active role in ending the conflict.

I do recommend it, both as a lead in to the series and in its own right, and it is a fun and thoughtful addition to the list of gay and lesbian fantasy.

As the setting of the Elemental Logic series is well developed and to prevent the reviews of each book getting to long and repetitive, you can find an overview of the societies, characters, sexual mores and magic here: The Elemental Logic Series by Laurie J. Marks

The Elemental Logic Series by Laurie J. Marks

The Elemental Logic series by Laurie J. Marks is an interesting, fun and thoughtful fantasy series set in the wartorn country of Shaftal, following a lesbian main character.

She is an engaging and intelligent writer, with descriptive text that never gets over-word, well created characters and a fast moving storyline. While there is some very real torture, death and suffering, genocide, awful injuries, amputations, betrayal and a great many implied atrocities, much of the violence occurs 'off screen', and the war, and characters, strike a fine balance between realism and idealism.

I've just finished the first book in the series (and skimmed the rest), realised there was too much to talk about in one review for all of them, and too much in common to constantly repeat details, so this will serve as a general background to the common elements and later reviews will refer back to this post for the general background stuff (e.g. country, sexuality, magic).

Interestingly, Laurie J. Marks seems to have a common theme of conflicting societies finding peace, and non-heteronormative families, in her books.

The Books (individual reviews to follow):

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lesbian Steampunk Stories

SteamPoly Shirt - Clockwork Heart
on Zazzle
Steampunk is awesome and popular, and adding lesbians to the genre of Victorian-style, steampowered societies and fantastic watches can only heat things up until the steamy pressure blows the dial to bits. As you might have gathered from that analogy, there's a fair bit of erotica in the very small selection of lesbian steampunk fiction out there. The very small selection.

While the list is short, at least it isn't worthless, as the first three titles (two anthologies and a futuristic western) are extremely good, and highly recommended.

As always, if you know of any other lesbian steampunk titles, we'd appreciate the recommendation.

Monday, February 13, 2012

YA Book Review: Morning Rising by Samantha Boyette

Morning Rising by Samantha Boyette is a young adult fantasy about love, abuse, drugs and fairies. It's the first book in the Guardian of Morning trilogy. It is mostly urban fantasy, spanning multiple worlds. I'm not sure what 'species' they actually are - elf might be closest, or it might just not matter.

Kara and Dylan are two miserable teenagers living in some city somewhere, in the care of neglectful single mothers (Dylan's mum is a drunk, Kara's has an abusive boyfriend. Abusive to Kara, that is). They meet by apparent chance (actually, by frustrated intervention from a third party, due to a long stream of missed meetings), feel an instant bond, and become each other's only real friend.

Kara is desperately in love with, and attracted to Dylan from the start, but Dylan is too far gone to accept that, instead pushing Kara to see how much she'll take, or ignoring her in favour of any boy (or girl, I think - it's mostly boys, but it's implied that Dylan doesn't really care) who takes the time to admire her, promise her momentary affection or offers her drugs. It doesn't help that Dylan is attractive and the instant center of attention wherever she goes. Dylan does occasionally open up enough to respond to Kara's unspoken desire, but she always frames it as something she's doing for Kara, never actually admitting she feels the same way.

She does, of course, but Kara isn't sure of that for much of the story, and it means that there are two conflicts to be defeated, actually rescuing Dylan, and Dylan and Kara finally resolving their personal and romantic issues. The latter is made a lot easier by the rest of the plot explaining or removing some of the barriers between them (such as Dylan's propensity for drugs, and Kara's underlying need to protect her).

Turns out that neither of them actually belong in the human world, but were placed there for Dylan's safety (and Kara went with her to protect and care for her). Both of them were terribly weakened, both magically and emotionally, by being in the human world, making them less able to cope with temptation, or stand up for themselves. Once they are returned to the other world(s), they regain strength of character and their magical abilities start to return.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review: Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian

Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian is a story about two people who fall in love, only to learn that one of them is about to transition, their attempt to make a go of it anyway, the story of their attempt and the issues they face, and the reactions of their small town.

Chris Bohjalian is a fairly big name writer who generally writes about people thrown into socially odd positions in life and forced to make the best of it. He is not, to anyone's public knowledge, anywhere in the queer spectrum. But he has researched the hell out of this book, and produced something sensitive, respectful, educational - and still well worth reading for the characters.

Speaking of which, we have four main characters. While Dana and Allie are our lovers, the other two offer both perspective on and participation in the events. Dana, our MtF character, is a lecturer and a professor, literate, charming and quite domestic. Allie is a school teacher and a good one, long divorced, an endless and easily bored dabbler in the pool of love, but still best friends with her husband Will, who runs the local radio station. Will is a bit arrogant, never had a gender dysphoric moment in his life, still hanging out for his perfect woman, and has a second marriage on the rocks because of it. And Carly is their daughter, headed to college, mature, smart and all around nice, and headed for her own career in radio.

It's a gentle steady sort of novel, the kind that's too literate to be called 'gossip'. Everything is in the past tense, our narrators are recounting events, not living in an immediate emotional tumult of drama, which lessens some of the more painful moments a little. This is an issue book, rather than a romance, or a 'daily life in a small town' or a family drama. There is romance, and family, and small town life, but it is all in the context of Dana being transgender. That is both a good and bad thing, for all the reasons that have become increasingly evident in young adult coming out novels. Coming out stories are necessary, but it would be nice if we could skip over that part sometimes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Anthology Review: Daughters of Artemis

Daughters of Artemis is a lesbian werewolf anthology from Storm Moon Press.The theme is about alpha lesbian werewolves. The six stories range from 'why on earth did you publish this?' to completely and wonderfully awesome, and range from light romance to outright erotica, urban fantasy to mythology, to high fantasy.

Is it worth picking up? Yes, there are enough good stories to be worth it, and there's enough variety, while staying on theme, that most people will find a favourite. Is it brilliant and outstanding? No. A couple of stories are, but the anthology as a whole comes out average. This is sadly typical of anthologies, though this one is more variable than most, and the sort of thing that makes me want to go yell at the editor(s) about quality versus quantity.

The first and last stories are the closest to erotica, or F/F - in fact, they're both f/f/m menanges with established lesbian couples bringing in a male, for fun or sperm, and one partner ending up pregnant. They are very similar in feeling, even the protagonist and her mate are similar in personality, although there are some major differences as well (which will be obvious from the summaries below). Interestingly, most of the story was about pack dynamics and power plays, and relationship boundaries, and personal conflict, rather than external events and worldbuilding.

The other four stories involve falling in love, both as 'destined mates' (the two worst stories, incidentally), and simply falling in love and deciding the other is worth it despite the many problems in their way (the better two stories). The former two are both urban paranormal fantasy, while the latter two draw heavily on the 'native peoples werewolf mythology' theme.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Short Story Review: One Solstice Night by Elora Bishop

One Solstice Night is a fantasy novella by Elora Bishop (a.k.a. Sarah Diemer, who appears to be experimenting with pseudoynms).

A sweet magical fantasy romance set in the same world as Cage the Darlings and Hallow's Eve, One Solstice Night follows the very mediocre young witch Isabella as she gets run out of yet another town and in desperation, takes a post at the distant and quiet village of Benevolence. Benevolence is a village of Changers, each person a different animal, and it's a happy, peaceful and delightful place. All they need Isabella for is a yearly spell at Solstice.

But there's one flaw. A white deer haunting the woods, outcast because of a treacherous ancestor. A white deer who is a Changer called Emily, lovely and lonely and fragile. Even Isabella's snarky talking cat, Alice, likes her. So Isabella reaches out, and Emily reaches back, and the village reacts with suspicion (led by the terribly stubborn and prejudiced Miss Cat), and they both flee together. Only to end up in even more trouble, save everyone and live happily ever after in each other's arms.

Short Story Review: Burn the Brightest by Emily Moreton

Burn the Brightest by Emily Moreton is a short story about falling in love with someone in military service.

Edith, our protagonist, is a lecturer, and Jo is a temporary teacher in the area, on assignment from the Navy. They're both ordinary, decent, non-perfect people, the sort of women you might meet everyday, but with no particular character flaws or flights of personality to make them stand out.

Except that Edith has a Thing about dating military people. As in, she doesn't, ever. When she meets Jo, first at a party and then through a series of inevitable coincidences, she can't help falling for her, all the while trying to push her away. Once she explains her issues, they settle into friendship, but of course that doesn't last... And nor does their time together.

Edith doesn't seem to date much anyway, and she works near a military base, so all the women her friend tries to hook her up with don't really work. This means that it hard to tell if Jo is the problem, or if Edith is. For the first half of the book, she makes a big deal out of not talking to anyone or letting herself like Jo, and this comes off as quite antisocial. Once her reasons are explained, and she stops trying to hide them and relaxes, she becomes much easier company. Basically, the story is about Edith learning to get over the fact that it wouldn't be perfect, and that maybe Jo was worth it anyway. But she never really came to terms with that.

Unfortunately, her original reason of not wanting to date someone and spend her life waiting for them to come back - or not - is sound, and there's no way around the fact that Jo is going to get called back to active duty at some point. So it is a realistic look at what relationships for couples involved in the military and overall, a gentle, rather depressing romance about essentially 'ordinary' characters.

You can download Burn the Brightest on

You may also be interested in:

Historical Lesbian YA Fiction

The Chinese Garden by Rosemary Manning
The list of lesbian young adult historical fiction is even shorter than the list of fantasy & science fiction. And of what there is, there isn't much variety, just a couple of books set in an English boarding school or asylum, one set goodness knows where in the early 1900s and six books about 'growing up lesbian' in 60s- 80s America.

The latter only make it onto this list, rather than the contemporary list, if they are distinctly non-modern in setting, as for some coming out/of age books, there's no real difference (second opinions from people who've read specific titles are always welcome here).

There are a handful more books in the 'non-lesbian main character' section, but be warned that - well. They don't have a lesbian main character, though they do offer a little bit more choice. Though again, it's all England and North America.

If you're desperate, or not just looking for specifically young adult books, there's also a much longer list of lesbian historical fiction.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

YA Book Review: Gravity by Leanne Lieberman

Gravity by Leanne Lieberman is a young adult, coming of age story set in the US about a young Jewish girl from an Orthodix Jew family. It was actually the author's masters thesis and the amount of care and attention and love that must have gone into writing this story really shines through.

This is one of those wonderfully written books that just seems to happen naturally when you throw all the characters together. It's a coming of age story, a coming to terms with belief and figuring out of self, and the lesbian part of the story is both a major thread and a natural part of that.

Ellie is a shy and studious teenager, sheltered and mostly content in the arms of her fundamentalist jewish family. The story opens with her family rushing out the door in different directions, with Ellie helping to shepherd her slightly scatterbrained mother, while her conservative father censors her elder sister's outfit. Her parents are leaving for a semi-pilgrimage holiday to Israel, their 'promised country', while Ellie is going to stay with her outgoing and independent grandmother in a holiday cabin in the woods.

Partway through her peaceful visit, as she learns to swim and struggles to observe Shabbos in the face of her otherwise supportive grandmother's disapproval, an attractive girl paddles past in a canoe, shows off a bit, and thoroughly captures Ellie's attentions. Lindsay isn't particularly interesting in playing with boring, intellectual, religious Ellie, but loneliness, and a well hidden mutual attraction pushes her to slowly lose the aloof attitude. They meet regularly, with Ellie becoming increasingly worried about her attraction to Lindsay, until it culminates in a kiss, and then they are separated.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Darkest House (Secret Six)

From left: Villains United, Unhinged,
The Darkest House, THE CAT

(I'd have bought the whole series, but for the fact that
some copies sold out and are now going for 
lots and lots of money, so if you're interested... grab copies!)
finally recieved my copy of The Darkest House, the final book in the Secret Six series. Because I had to wait for the book, I already knew what was coming, lesbian-content-wise (the internet has no secrets), but in honour of it being the final book, and because the original series summary was posted long ago, before many people may have seen it, I figured I'd write a final review.

The Secret Six are a family of second rate misfit villains, who are just heroic enough to be appealing, underdog style, and just monstrous enough to be scary, and just stubborn enough to justify taking on all comers (that they should really back down from). That's basically their origin story and continual motivation, along with their saving grace. They never back down and they hate being told what to do. So they end up getting out of things through sheer gall and blood and stubbornness, and they've become an actual family, as well as a team.

Unlike all the other books in the series, it's a fairly straightforward plotline following an almost seamless story, rather than being broken up into completely different sections. The art is consistent and awesome. The story itself is both kick ass and depressing.

 If you're new to the series, I'd check out the full summary instead. Be warned that while it's very good, it is also violent and disturbing. These are not good characters. 'Good' as in nice, that is. They are very well written. And drawn. No gratuitous booty shoots here!

All their books and appearances in order:
For details of their actual appearances in each book, see this post.
  1. Villains United (Countdown to Infinite Crisis)
  2. Villains United/ Infinite Crisis Special #1 (collected in The Infinite Crisis Companion )
  3. Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation
  4. Birds of Prey Vol. 7: Dead of Winter
  5. Birds of Prey: Club Kids
  6. Secret Six: Unhinged
  7. Secret Six: Depths
  8. Secret Six: Danse Macabre
  9. Secret Six: Cat's in the Cradle
  10. Birds of Prey Vol 2: The Death of Oracle (Catman & Deadshot only, but bonus story with Renee Montoya!) Birds of prey #7-15
  11. Secret Six: The Reptile Brain
  12. Secret Six: The Darkest House

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Quick List of Contemporary Lesbian YA Fiction

by Leanne Lieberman
This is just a quick list of all the contemporary young adult lesbian fiction, separated out from the fantasy/scifi and historical books. Mostly that means 'set in the 1990s or later'.  

A few books (e.g. Hey, Dollface, Annie on My Mind and Gravity) are actually set in the 1970s and 1980s, but having read them, this doesn't really matter. A few we took a guess on, as they aren't meant to be historical, and probably seem more modern than historical to readers, but there are a few titles that could easily end up in a third 'late 20th century but not modern' category. While we're trying to read every lesbian book in the world, we obviously haven't quite managed yet, and still have to research reviews and . So if a book is in the wrong place, please tell us!

Unlike the full list of YA fiction, these books are currently organised by title rather than author. The following list will be broken down further, with descriptions for books, along themes such as coming out, culture and mature content. Eventually. There are lots of books to get through!

For other categories/lists, check the links at the end of the post.