Thursday, December 31, 2015

Neither Present Time by Caren Werlinger

Publisher:       Corgyn Publishing

It gets to be boring to review Caren Werlinger’s books after a while. After it’s been said a few times that her writing is magnificent, engrossing, sophisticated and thought provoking, to say it again seems redundant. There is a danger that people might not believe the reviews anymore. So, here is a new word – consistently. Caren Werlinger’s books are consistently magnificent, engrossing, sophisticated and thought provoking.

Neither Present Time is the story of two women who are brought together by a book. Beryl Gray is a university librarian who finds a book with a personal inscription in it and is driven to find out more about the people involved. This leads her to Aggie Bishop and her great-aunt Cory. Beryl and Aggie share the characteristic of being caregivers. Beryl cares for practically everyone she knows and Aggie is trying to care for Aunt Cory. Since Aunt Cory doesn’t think she needs any help, even though her family is trying to institutionalize her and sell away the family home, Aggie’s one case practically equals all of Beryl’s. Neither Beryl nor Aggie has been able to sustain healthy relationships, but in learning Aunt Cory’s story, both women will learn a great deal about themselves. Looking into the past will cause them to examine the present with different eyes and will alter the lives of all three women.

Werlinger tells a good story, but what makes her book more appealing is the complexity of what she presents. There is romance in the book, but romance is in the story not THE story. There are messages and lessons to be learned while her characters do a complex dance weaving together the themes, including moving between different time periods. Werlenger’s talent is shown by the story being real, but not preachy; complex, but easily understood; and peopled by characters the reader probably knows.

Neither Present Time is like all of Werlinger’s books, a good read.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Golden Crown Literary Society award winners

The Golden Crown Literary Society has just finished its annual conference and given the awards for 2015. If you haven't seen it, here is the list:

Award Winners of 2015

Ann Bannon Popular Choice

  • Olive Oil & White Bread by Georgia Beers, Bywater Books

Tee Corinne Award for Outstanding Cover Design

  • Ann McMan, TreeHouse Studio for Everything, Bedazzled Ink Publishing

Trailblazer Award

  • Joan Nestle

Directors’ Award

  • Watty Boss

Lee Lynch Classic Award

  • Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, Published by Daughters Publishing Co.

Anthology/Collection (Creative Non-Fiction)

  • An American Queer: The Amazon Trail by Lee Lynch, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders by Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall, Published by Bold Strokes Books

Anthology/Collection (Fiction)

  • Wicked Things: Lesbian Halloween Short Stories Edited by Jae and Astrid Ohletz, Published by Ylva Publishing
  • Unwrap These Presents Edited by Astrid Ohletz and R.G. Emanuelle, Published by Ylva Publishing

Debut Author

  • Never Too Late by Julie Blair, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • Just Intuition by Makenzi Fisk, Published by Mischievous Books
  • Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years by CF Frizzell, Published by Bold Strokes Books

Dramatic General Fiction

  • The War Within by Yolanda Wallace, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • Loved and Lost by Stephanie Kusiak, Published by Sapphire Books Publishing
  • Everything by Carole Wolfe, Published by Bedazzled Ink Publishing


  • Heart's Surrender by Emma Weimann, Published by Ylva Publishing
  • Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 by Rachel Windsor, Self-Published
  • Escapades by MJ Williamz, Published by Bold Strokes Books

Historical Fiction

  • Tangled Roots by Marianne K. Martin, Published by Bywater Books
  • Waiting for the Violins by Justine Saracen, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • Bright Lights of Summer by Lynn Ames, Published by Phoenix Rising Press


  • The Acquittal by Ann Laughlin, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • Left Field: Lillian Byrd Crime Series Book 5 by Elizabeth Sims, Published by Spruce Park Press
  • The Consequence of Murder by Nene Adams, Published by Bella Books


  • The Magic Hunt by L.L. Raand, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • The Devil You Know by Marie Castle, Published by Bella Books
  • Dogs of War by Geonn Cannon, Published by Supposed Crimes


  • Undone EM Hodge, Published by Sapphire Books Publishing
  • kissing keeps us afloat by Laurie MacFayden, Frontenac House

Romantic Suspense/Intrigue/Adventure

  • The One by JM Dragon, Published by Affinity Ebooks Press NZ Ltd
  • Sharpshooter by Julie Murrah, Published by Sapphire Books Publishing
  • Switchblade by Carsen Taite, Published by Bold Strokes Books

Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • FutureDyke by Lea Daley, Published by Bella Books
  • Return of an Impetuous Pilot by Kate McLachlan, Published by Regal Crest Enterprises
  • Rabbits of the Apocalypse by Benny Lawrence, Published by Bedazzled Ink

Traditional Contemporary Romance

  • Kiss the Girl by Melissa Brayden, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • Nightingale by Andrea Bramhall, Published by Bold Strokes Books
  • The Midnight Moon by Gerri Hill, Published by Bella Books

Young Adult

  • Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall, Published by Sky Pony Press
  • Riding the Rainbow by Genta Sebastian, Self-Published
  • Just Girls by Rachel Gold, Published by Bella Books

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Olive Oil & White Bread by Georgia Beers

Publisher:       Bywater Books

A straight person would not write this book. It wouldn’t occur to him or her that there was a need to write a book about a couple that meets, falls in love, and has a completely normal life that spans a long relationship. Where is the story in that? Well, Nicholas Sparks might write it, but it would be short and poignant.

Gay people don’t usually write these books either. Their books are about “hot young things” consumed with sexy encounters that may turn into relationships, and that is usually where the story ends. Sometimes they throw in a message with the story and a romance. Or they write mysteries, supernatural stories, space adventures or whatever the genre and the main characters are made lesbian or gay, but really don’t need to be. Basically, the reader is getting a straight story with gay/lesbian characters and the readers like that because they can relate to the characters. That’s fine.

Then there are exceptions like Olive Oil & White Bread. There is nothing extraordinary about Angie Righetti and Jillian Clark. One is a salesperson and the other teaches elementary art. They fall in love, buy a house, then buy another house, acquire a dog, deal with family events (happy and sad) and confront what can happen to a relationship when it’s taken for granted instead of nurtured. That is what makes the book worth reading. The reader gets to see the couple grow together and apart and back together. They deal with situations everyone faces - the death and aging of parents, the differences in families and the struggle to balance work with home. There are the crushing effects of the losses of a beloved pet and a life-long friend. In other words, these are just normal people going about their lives. And that is what makes this book important.

If you have friends, family or anyone who “just doesn’t get” what gay people are about; if they don’t understand the importance of gay marriage; if they think gay people are a threat or different or whatever, this is the book you want to give them. This is the book that will show them that gay people don’t have wild and perverse sex lives (at least not all of them), they buy houses in the suburbs, love and screw up. In other words, they’re just normal.

Georgia Beers has many strengths as a writer. She’s written outstanding romances, poignant stories based on 9-11 and won awards for her books. Olive Oil & White Bread may be her gift for the gay community to the rest of the world though. It proves there just isn’t that much difference between us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tangled Roots by Marianne K. Martin

Publisher:                   Bywater Books

A good book has engaging characters and a plot that holds the reader’s interest. An outstanding book takes those attributes and adds a message, teaches a lesson or allows the reader to understand something that may not have been clear to that person before. An author rises to the top of a genre and gains the respect of the people who read those books by developing this ability. Marianne Martin has produced a string of award winning books because she spends her time writing carefully, researching the topic and going over the book to make sure it is in the best form possible before it is released. Martin also isn’t afraid to tackle difficult topics, which is abundantly clear in Tangled Roots, the prequel to her earlier work, Under the Witness Tree.

Tangled Roots is set in a period of US history that was almost as stressful as the civil war it followed.  Many of the characters remember that war and the period of adjustments that followed it. Those changes led to others that will sweep in the Progressive movement, a time when many people, especially women and African Americans, hoped that true justice and political equality would be achieved for everyone. Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching battled with the creation of the NAACP and the eloquence of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. The stifling concept of women as nothing but breeders and homemakers was confronted by the steely determination of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul for women to have greater opportunities. The conflict in the book comes between those who cannot accept the new ideas and those who yearn for them.

The story focuses on Addy Grayson, her granddaughter Anna and Anna’s best friend Nessie, a descendent of the slaves who once worked for the Graysons. Addy survived the Civil War, but questions whether she has the energy to deal with raising her granddaughters and confronting their bigoted father. She is rejuvenated when a younger woman introduces her to new ideas and she finds the ability to finally deal with an old secret. Anna and Nessie begin as two little girls who like to play with each other and share dreams. They don’t recognize the racial divide that both of their families keep throwing in their ways until they are older, but they share the frustration of being told that women can’t have the lives they hope to pursue. They are caught up in the stresses of their time, the expectations of both families and the growing awareness that their childhood love has turned into something much deeper and forbidden. Addy is the pillar they both lean on.

Tangled Roots is a compact novel. It’s hard to believe that Martin deals with so many complex issues in just over 200 pages. She’s able to do so because she chooses her words and her scenes carefully. This isn’t meant to be a history of the period, but a snippet, the events as seen through the eyes of her three main characters. Martin avoids the trap of wandering around addressing issues that were important to the time, but not to her story. Yet there is a richness in the scenes that comes off of the pages and leads the reader to have a beginning understanding of what this period and these women were about. This is the type of book that is not too heavy to bog down people in the many conflicts of the period, but that leads readers to other books and resources to find out what else happened during this time of drama and change, triumph and dreams deferred.

Marianne Martin has written a book that weaves a tapestry of history and romance with the lives of the characters. It will cause the reader to think, but not to feel that she’s been lectured to. Don’t let its size fool you. There is a lot to be absorbed here. An outstanding book has engaging characters, an interesting plot and leads its reader to greater knowledge. Tangled Roots certainly does all of that.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Fire and Ice by Gaelle Cathy

Publisher:       Affinity eBook Press

Writing a book about lesbians would seem to be controversial enough in some circles, but then an author comes along and throws another kink in the story.  There are no spoilers in this review, but, if you choose to read it, expect a “family secret” to shake up the story and many people won’t care for the way it is resolved.

The Beckett family has retreated to New Hampshire hoping that the more peaceful area will allow them to recuperate from a terrible experience in New York City.  This is how college student Emma meets a local artist Charlie Campbell and love blossoms.  The Becketts are thrown for a loop because Emma has never shown any inclination to be lesbian since she’s had more than one boyfriend, but Charlie is charming, sensitive, experienced and all of the things that are apparently appealing to Emma.  Gradually they fall in love and then the family secret comes into play.  The reader can decide how well that situation is handled.

The main problems with Fire and Ice stem from its inconsistencies.  There are places where the wording is odd, which is probably due to the author not being a native English speaker.  That doesn’t explain the rest.  The main characters know things about each other’s lives that they have no way of knowing or at least aren’t explained in the story.  They use odd cues that make no sense to decide if someone is a lesbian.  No, not gaydar, peculiar ideas.  The continuity editor truly failed in this story because a cat named Liloo is introduced in the present, then later in the book it’s revealed that the cat died years before.  Perhaps every cat was named Liloo.

This is not a strong book and the end of it will certainly be controversial for many people.  If the reader is just looking for something to pass the time and can borrow a copy of this, then go ahead.  If not, pass on by and read something better.