Sunny and Cory Review Olive Oil & White Bread by Georgia Beers

Corey: Most lesfic novels are about keeping the couple apart, even though we, the readers, know they will (they must, this is lesfic!) get together in love and passion. In Georgia Beer’s novel Olive Oil and White Bread, we see something a little truer to life. Sometimes the meeting and getting-together lacks drama, and the relationship is the juicier tale.

Sunny: This was a very enjoyable departure from the standard ‘formula’ of the typical lesfic novel. As I’ve become accustomed to with Georgia Beers’ characters, I felt like these people were my friends and I was watching their relationship grow and change through the years. As with real relationships, some of those changes were good and some were not so good, but they all felt very true to life.

Corey: Some of that reality was a little rough to read, which I consider a compliment to the author’s writing skills. Usually when I read a romance novel, I fall in love with both women. I’ll be honest here and say that I built up a lot of hostility towards one character over the years and I lost some sympathy for her. When the couple hit the roughest time in their relationship, I could feel the grey areas of life playing out and I couldn’t take a black-or-white viewpoint. Well done, Georgia.

Sunny: I agree, some of it was tough to go through with them, and I’ll admit I shed a tear or two in certain parts. But, again, these characters seemed like real people, faults and all. I also found it interesting to see both sides of the relationship through the years. That made it both easier and harder to pick sides on certain issues, and, like you said, I found myself seeing many shades of gray.

Corey: Beers also uses both national events and gay cultural touchstones to mark the relationship’s passing years. I found some of this to be pure nostalgia for (ahem) experienced readers and perhaps a primer for the youngsters reading the story before playing that lesbian edition of Trivial Pursuit. Whoever the reader, I promise you’ll be invested in Angie and Jillian for the long haul.

Sunny & Corey [talking over each other]: Go read this book! Another well-crafted Beers novel!

Corey: Long haul. U-Haul. Hee. Okay, I’ll stop now.

You can download a sample or purchase Olive Oil and White Bread by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Timeless by Rachel Spangler and Balance by Georgia Beers

I’ve not been reading as much over the past few months as I usually do. Well, I’ve been listening to the last couple of books in the Song of Ice and Fire series but I’ve no plans to review them… I’m happy I was able to break my lesfic fast with these two books.

Here are the disclaimers: I know both Rachel and Georgia. I like them both and have enjoyed their books to varying degrees. I don’t, however, have any problem being completely honest about my opinions of their work. They both accept legitimate criticism of their books in the way authors should, with tact and professionalism. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?

I’ll kick it off with Timeless. I got a copy from Bold Strokes Books in preparation for the Cocktail Hour live event with Rachel this coming Saturday (which can be seen on the CH website – Even though it’s not really a review show, I wanted to see if Rachel has continued to grow and mature in her writing. I’ve read the last couple of her books and have enjoyed her progression.

Before I share my thoughts on Timeless, let me share the blurb with you:

What would you change about your past if you had the chance? What if you didn’t have a choice?

Stevie Geller doesn’t do conflict. She likes her job as a successful novelist and playwright because it allows her to peacefully ensconce herself in her New York City loft, avoid human interactions, and leave personal drama for the page and stage. When her agent asks her to return to her hometown of Darlington, Illinois, to accept an award, she agrees only because he promises the process will be quick and easy. One panic attack and concussion later, Stevie is forced to confront her past in ways that seem to defy reality. As if befriending a social outcast and confronting high school bullies weren’t enough, she also finds herself falling for a closeted teacher. Along the way, Stevie must decide if some things are worth fighting for. In her rush to escape the past, will she leave behind a better future, or are some conflicts really timeless?

Now that we’re all caught up, I want to say that I genuinely liked Stevie. I saw parts of myself in her and that’s always good when you’re reading a book, right? I was able to connect with her and get why she made some of the choices she did. I also liked Jody, the teacher. But I really loved the social outcast. For me, she was the focus of the book. I cheered for her and related to her and fell for her a little bit. Maybe even more than a little bit.

The romance was sweet and while it could have felt rushed, it didn’t to me at all. I even caught myself thinking, this is sort of fast; why doesn’t it bother me? It didn’t bother me because it was plausible and felt right. Rachel told a great story with a twist that made me stop what I was doing and nearly yell out “HOLY CRAP!” Seriously. I read the majority of this book with my ears and I was typing out an email when that moment came up and I had to stop typing to share with the recipient what had just happened and I wrote “HOLY CRAP!” Oh, I guess I should also admit that there was one scene that dealt with bullying – or the aftermath of bullying – that brought me to tears. I didn’t want to cry and I fought it but some tears fell.

I think Timeless is a quality book – although there were some typos that the editing team could have caught (typos are a major pet peeve of mine) – and I think fans of lesbian romance will really enjoy it. Love it, even. This one may be my favorite. Does She Love You? was a big winner with me but I enjoyed the story in this one very much. It’s not like anything I’ve read from this author before – different from any lesfic romance I’ve ever read, maybe. I can’t remember another book like this one, anyway. But I’ve not read as widely as many of you have so I could be wrong.

Next up is Balance. Now this one is much different from Timeless. And different from Georgia’s other work, too. Just for the record, I bought Balance and Balance Episode 2. They’re short – novella length maybe? – so I was able to pick up both books for the price of a cheap novel length ebook. Before we go any further, here’s what Amazon has as the book description:

The first in an ongoing series by award-winning lesbian fiction writer Georgia Beers, “Balance” introduces you to Norah Ellison, who has a gift…or is it a curse? She knows nothing about the women whose names appear to her in the morning, only that she must help them, and that time is of the essence. She’s spent more than a decade building a tiny team of trusted assistants, but even they can’t guarantee she can figure out what needs to be done–or ensure that she’ll get it done in time. (This story was originally printed in the collection “Outsiders,” released by Brisk Press.

That’s pretty vague and I don’t want to give away too much but you’ll find out what’s going on right away so I don’t need to blow the surprise here. I will say this, Balance isn’t a romance, it’s a suspense story. And it’s dark. Not super dark but we get to see some disturbing stuff – nothing graphic so if you’re squeamish, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Balance is told in the first person and by doing this, we really get inside Norah’s head and have to deal with the choices she makes right along with her. While this is a different type of story than we’re used to from the author, her voice comes through strongly and I’m so happy that it does. I’ve always loved Georgia’s voice, even in books that I didn’t like very much. Norah’s humor and the way she deals with her conflicting emotions felt natural and flowed so well. The author also did a great job with slowly building the tension and putting us right there with Norah, physically and emotionally.

I haven’t finished the second episode yet but if it’s as good as the first, I have a feeling I’m going to be wanting much more featuring Norah and Balance, Inc. I’ve tried to think of something to say that’s not glowing about this but I can’t come up with anything. I was a little thrown by the last sentence but what I questioned is cleared up quickly in the second book so that’s a good reason to pick them both up at the same time.

Alberta Reviews 96 Hours, Heart Block, and Second Nature

96 hours by Georgia Beers

96 hours is set in the first days and weeks of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Abby Hayes, a young woman in her late twenties, is on a return flight from London to New York to visit her mother for a few days. After having quit her job a few years before so she could experience life and travel around the world, she’s what you would call a free spirit. On the same plane, Erica Ryan is returning from a business trip that didn’t quite turn out as planned. Living for her work and ready to be home so she can continue to work on a solution for her product, she’s more than a little frustrated when all of a sudden the plane is redirected to a small town in Newfoundland. With nearly 7,000 other passengers they learn of the 9/11 attacks and try to cope with the horrible reality of the aftermath. Trapped for nearly a week in this small town, Abby and Erica have to learn to work together to make the whole situation as bearable as possible.

I started this book a bit apprehensively since I was afraid it might be more about the attacks on the Twin Towers than about the characters and I wanted to read a novel not non-fiction. I needn’t have worried. Georgia Beers uses the backdrop of 9/11 as a setting for two very different characters to look beyond their own perspective. It is never a tool to paint the world in black and white and good and evil – something I unfortunately have come across while reading stories set around the attacks. One of her main characters describes this best when she sits in a bus in New York a few weeks after 9/11 and is devastated by the hateful looks some passengers throw at everyone that looks like someone from the Middle East.

The secondary characters are equally well developed, with their own backgrounds and perspectives. Something I came to expect from Georgia Beers’ books. Her characters are always well developed and seem very real – no superheroes, no perfectness. Everyone could be someone you might actually meet in the grocery store or on the street. The whole story has a very slow pace since most of it takes place within a week. As a reader that gave me the chance to experience this claustrophobic atmosphere along with the characters, the waiting around, not knowing what to expect.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in reading about three-dimensional characters in a very difficult situation and a slowly developing romance. If you are looking for an action-driven plot in the midst of 9/11 this is not the book for you.

Heart Block by Melissa Brayden

Emory Owen, owner of a multi-million dollar news agency, isn’t all too thrilled that she has to take care of selling and cleaning out her late mother’s mansion. Never having been close to any of her family and especially not her mother, she’s not willing to invest too much of her time into her childhood home. When a friend recommends a cleaning service to take care of the house, she accepts right away.

Sarah Matamoros is a young woman, working for her mother’s cleaning house business. She tries to balance her life around the job, taking care of her eight-year-old daughter Grace and finding enough time for her large Mexican family.

When she meets the owner of her newest project, Emory Owen, she’s at first taken aback by the aloof, all-business like behaviour of a daughter that has just lost her mother. As time passes, the two so very different women get to know and love each other. But is that enough to overcome the obstacles of two very different worlds?

Having read Melissa Brayden’s “Waitng in the Wings”, which I really liked, I was curious whether she’d be a one-hit-wonder or if her second book would be equally as interesting. And it is. Her characters are well developed and especially the little girl was most definitely not a plot device – which in the books I’ve read is unfortunately quite often the case with children. I especially liked the way Emory developed new insights throughout the book. There were a few problems I didn’t really get since simple communication could have solved them pretty easily but it didn’t take away from my reading enjoyment. The book features interesting secondary characters in real worlds as well, with jobs, friendships, responsibilities and families.

All in all I’d like to recommend this book to anyone that’s interested to read a story that’s – much like the author’s other book “Waiting in the Wings” – not your formulistic lesbian romance.

Second Nature by Jae

Jorie Price is a writer of fantasy books, working on her newest project – a book about shape shifters.

Griffin Westmore is a real life shape shifter, assigned to stop Jorie from publishing her novel since it comes very close to the reality of their world and might endanger her species. When she realises that there is more to her assignment than trying to stop Jorie from finishing her book, she starts an investigation into her own ministry – a decision that puts her, as well as Jorie’s life into mortal danger. But there is only one way to save them and that involves trusting a human with her greatest secret and at the same time trusting her own estranged family to support her decision.

Second Nature is not your typical lesbian romance novel. Having read several of Jae’s previous books, I was curious if she’d be able to draw me into her fantasy world as well with her writing skills. She did. Developing not only interesting and three-dimensional protagonists and secondary characters, she also created a very complex and thought-out setting – a world where shape shifters exist in a parallel world to “regular” humans. She manages to make their worries to be found out believable and their struggles with their identity very convincing. After all, those are circumstances, a lot of minorities that have to hide in an unfriendly society have to face. So I wouldn’t consider that a fantasy aspect.

But even though this part was not fantasy for me, the rest of the book most certainly is. The characters are not humans with an additional skill – like an additional sense or special powers like Spiderman or Harry Potter, who are first and foremost humans, no, they aren’t human – at all! They are as much animal, if not more so, as they are human. So if you are not into the fantasy genre, this book is not for you. One of the protagonist’s for example is a cat shifter. Which means, even in her human form she walks like a cat and only tries to disguise it and she sees colours like a cat does and not like a human.

If you are new to this genre – like I was – and you are willing to open your mind to this world then you’ll find a novel full of suspense and action, of romance and fleshed-out cast of characters and a storyline that had me reading until late at night. And if you are already a fantasy fan then you’ll love this book.

Too Close to Touch by Georgia Beers

After having read “Starting from Scratch” by Georgia Beers, which I loved, I decided on “Too Close to Touch”. The book sounded interesting and I love the way Georgia Beers brought her characters to life in her other book. I was expecting an entertaining read and it certainly was entertaining and an interesting story. However, I was a bit disappointed with the characters. I just could not get interested in them at all.

On the one hand there is Gretchen, tough sales manager in a new job and awarded for her successes of the past, and on the other hand there is Kylie, long-time employee of Gretchen’s new company and her personal assistant. Kylie is warm, friendly and kind and – as one of the supporting characters puts it – too good for any of them. Personally, I found Kylie quite self-centred. At least that is how I felt considering the relationship to one of her friends of several years. It just did not feel right for me the way she treated her in several of the scenes.

As for Gretchen, she’s a tough as nails sales manager who doesn’t care what others think about her and doesn’t mind saying so, yet she feels not good enough for Kylie. She bases these feelings on her commitment issues which I just couldn’t see considering some of her past experiences.

I really like Georgia Beers’ writing style. The story was plotted well and the supporting characters were interesting. I will certainly read other books by her and I’m looking forward to them. This story, however, was not quite what I had been hoping for since I just didn’t like the characters all that much.

Reviewed by Alberta Yourdan

Click to purchase Too Close To Touch

Starting from Scratch by Georgia Beers #2

Georgia Beers writes wonderful, down to earth characters that could be everyone’s neighbour. And so it came as no surprise for me that I cared about Avery and Elena right from the beginning.

Avery is a graphic-designer who loves to bake, has good friends she visits regularly and is very close to her grandmother, who raised her. She has a crush on Elena who’s a manager at a local bank. Elena has a little boy, Max, with her former girlfriend and moves into a house down the street.

I really liked that Georgia Beers portrayed all characters realistically. None of them is a model or the president of a huge company or super rich. They are just like everyone else, they have strengths and weaknesses and not even the secondary characters are divided into good guys and bad guys.

I didn’t care for the ending all too much since it seemed a bit detached. Things that seemed a constant factor in Avery’s life are all of a sudden not important anymore and friends that had been there for years have disappeared completely. Apart from this, I can recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a nice read with realistic protagonists and a believable story.

Cheri also reviewed this book on February 20, 2010.

Click to purchase Starting From Scratch by Georgia Beers

96 Hours by Georgia Beers

Anyone who listens to the Cocktail Hour podcast that I co-host knows that I’ve got a little crush on Georgia Beers. It’s ok that I put that out publicly because my wonderful wife knows and is ok with it. That’s not to say that I’ve loved all of Ms. Beers’ books, because I haven’t. I’ve enjoyed all but one to varying degrees but I don’t let my fangirl crush blind my critical eye when it comes to reading her work.

Of all of Beers’ books, my favorite, like many other of her fans, is Starting From Scratch. I think I may have set myself up for heartache because I read that one first and then moved on through the rest of her stuff which, while mostly very good, didn’t quite measure up for me. I was desperate for something new by her when 96 Hours was published, so I bought it right away. And continued to pass it by every time I was ready to start a new book. How would the terrorist attack be handled? Would there be political overtones? Will she use the situation to play at my heartstrings in a blatantly manipulative way? I just wasn’t ready to read it and I didn’t want a short book to change my good feelings about the author so I put it off until yesterday.

In a nutshell, 96 Hours tells the story of what happened when 39 planes were grounded in a tiny Newfoundland community on September 11, 2001 when American air space was closed. In that short period of time, close relationships were created and lives changed forever. The generosity of the residents of Gander truly amazed the Plane People and, to be honest, amazed me, too. I love that the author based the story on actual events and the actual place. I got misty a few times due to the generosity of Corrine and Tim McDougal and the entire community of Gander. It made me want to be a better person.

I found that, while I did get choked up several times, I didn’t feel bad about it. I didn’t feel like I was having my heartstrings yanked on in a very obvious manner. I remembered my own experiences, as one would expect, and how the world has changed since that time. But, mostly, I felt a connection to Abby and Erica and a few other characters as they dealt with uncertainty, discomfort, and discovering the closeness that comes from living through such stressful, difficult times. I won’t give anything away here but I will say that I was pleased that the book didn’t always play out the way I expected. I love that.

I know that there are others out there who have put off reading this book for the same reasons I have. September 11th changed our world and many of those changes are still very obvious today – politically and personally – and many of us are just not quite ready to mix our romance novels with the harsh reality of that heartbreaking time in our history. 96 Hours, I think, handles the tragedy and the hopefulness it brought well and I enjoyed the journey that the characters went on. The book is well written and has romance and humor and difficult emotions. Oh, and two really hot women who have sex.

So, if you’re a Georgia Beers fan, stop putting it off and read 96 Hours. I’m going to be rereading Starting From Scratch soon. I need to make sure that it’s still my favorite after 96 Hours. I think it’ll be close.

Click to purchase 96 Hours by Georgia Beers

Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Georgia Beers

This was my third Georgia Beers book and my appreciation for her writing style and ability to tell a story has only grown stronger. In this offering, Alex meets Jennifer on the day she and her husband, Eric, are signing the papers to buy the house next door for their new summer home. Eric is a successful lawyer in his father’s firm and Jennifer doesn’t work. In a nutshell, they are a rich, young, and good looking couple who seem to have it all. Alex is a writer and former teacher who was given her home by an aunt and lives at the lake with her little dog year round.

Jennifer spends the vast majority of the summer without Eric, who seems to have more work than he can handle and spends his nights close to the office in another town. Alex and Jennifer spend nearly all their time together, learning about each other, getting to be friends, and discovering a physical attraction.

It was an easy read and I connected pretty quickly with the characters and, as usual, the more minor characters were just as nicely written. There’s some background information given about both of our main characters that helps us to understand some of the decisions that they’ve made and some of the hesitation in making new ones. Here’s the only thing that threw off my reading flow – Jennifer’s eyes kept changing from blue to green. I know, it’s not a big deal, but I’m one of those readers that get thrown off by inconsistencies like that. The toddler in the book also changed from being 3 years old to being 2 – again, not a big deal. I figure if that was the worst that I can come up with, it was pretty damn good.

I plan to eventually get all of Ms. Beers’ books. She’s become one of my very favorite romance writers.