December Book Binge Weeks 2 and 3 – What I Did Instead of Going to the Mall

With the ridiculously fast approaching holidays, I’m finding myself increasingly less interested in venturing out of the house – especially when even getting a litre (quart for you Yanks) of milk involves an obscene amount of time spent circling in parking lots, eyes peeled for an open or soon to be vacated spot. I did do my time in retail hell – a few hours at the mall that was planned out like a Navy Seal mission (get in, achieve the objective and get out with as little bloodshed as possible). The last couple of weeks, I’ve had to the chance to spend some time on the couch with a big mug of cocoa and I’ve been digging out more books for my e-reader and *gasp* a few honest-to-god paperbacks that grabbed my attention.

Beyond Innocence by Carsen Taite

The newest from Taite, Beyond Innocence is a legal procedural. I’ve read most of Taite’s stuff and I have to say that she shines in this milieu and I do hope she sticks to this type of novel – not that Do Not Disturb was horrible, it didn’t hold my attention as much as her legal novels. When Serena Washington’s estranged brother writes to her from death row, she is compelled to do whatever she can to help save his life and contacts the Justice Clinic as a last ditch effort to help. There she meets Cory, a Dallas ADA who has been suspended for prosecutorial misconduct and is serving out her community service working for the “other side”. As you would expect, sparks and legal writs fly. What I liked about this book were the shades of grey (no, not the smutty Shades of Grey) – both in the relationship as well as the cases. As Cory keeps saying, whether about her own scandal or the cases she’s involved with, it’s complicated and sometimes the wrong thing is done for the right reasons – or what seems to be right at the time. The romance builds slowly – well, slowly for a lesfic – with lots of smoldering looks and with just enough angst to keep the two women from jumping right into bed. If you like legal dramas – pick this one up. If you don’t – read it anyways. I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Talk of the Town by Saxon Bennett

Nobody does quirky like Saxon Bennett. Somehow she has terribly implausible characters doing ridiculous things and I still find myself drawn into their lives and cheering them on. We’re introduced to Mallory Simpson in her therapist office, where she spends the session in an upside down lotus position, wearing pajamas and a tie. Like I said, quirky. The book follows Mallory, her best friend and unrequited love Gigi, and the various other friends as the navigate falling in and out of love. Bennett writes great characters who are funny and engaging and you can’t help but like them. She balances humourous dialogue and situations with and some interesting insights about relationships quite well. This is one of Bennett’s earlier books that I picked up through a sale at Bella and I’m glad that I did. When reading this one, I could see some similarities with the more polished Family Affair (freaking hilarious – get it) – but that didn’t detract from the book. If you’re looking for a funny, fast paced story that is engaging and sweet – pick this one up. Recommended.

Month of Sundays by Yolanda Wallace

Based on the promo blurb, I’d been looking forward to this book for the past few months. The premise just screams romance. Throw in a chef as one of the main characters and I was completely smitten with the storyline. Rachel Bauer, a reserved accountant who is recovering from a nasty break up, is set up on a blind date with Griffin Sutton, a gorgeous celebrity chef who is more than a bit of a player. After Rachel rejects her initial overtures, Griffin convinces her to allow her to try and woo her with a series of culinary trips around the world over a month of Sundays. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed with the book overall. I still like the premise, but the execution just didn’t work for me. I had a hard time getting my head around what attracted the characters to one another in the first place and I just didn’t “feel” the romance even though it develops over a long (in lesbian terms) period. Also, the author has a habit of using pop culture references then explaining them in detail – which is a pet peeve of mine. Not necessarily a bad book – but not one that I enjoyed.

The Dragon Tree Legacy by Ali Vali

Although Major Wiley Grimallion is retired, she still keeps her black ops/sniper skills sharp taking on select “jobs” that require a more direct brand of justice. Settling into New Orleans, she receives a message from a long lost love, Aubrey Tarver, and is drawn into a violent confrontation with some rather nasty drug dealers. While Wiley and Aubrey deal with their unexpected reunion and the repercussions of Wiley leaving many years ago, there are a number of dark plots weaving themselves into a tight net around them. Nunzio, from the Devil series, is back, trying to ingratiate himself back into the drug trade in New Orleans, specifically with a mysterious and violent drug lord who has some rather dastardly dealings with Aubrey’s current lover. A rogue CIA agent is trying to strong arm Wiley into exterminating another drug lord/CIA asset in Mexico, leveraging the local FBI (who were never very bright in the Devil books). About halfway through I thought that this is going to be a series, but she managed to wrap everything up by the end.

There’s a good bit of action and double-crosses in this one – with a darker tone as it deals with the drug underworld and throws in some black ops just to raise the danger stakes. At times I thought there was a bit too much going on with all the subplots and some timeline inconsistencies which distracted from the cohesiveness of the overall story. There’s also a whole lot of angst– Wiley and Aubrey never stopped loving one another but, the amount of shit that happened and is happening is going to be hard to overcome. Wiley is a bit less of a rascal than Cain Casey, and at times just a bit too noble for her own good, and Aubrey makes me want to give her a shake and ask “Really? You thought that was a good idea? Really?”

In summary, Dragon Tree Legacy is a good dark intrigue book, full of action and suspense. If you like the Devil series, this will probably be one that you enjoy, but I don’t think it quite hit the same mark as the first few in the Casey series.

And Playing the Role of Herself by K E Lane

This was originally a fanfic story and I loved it so much I bought the published version a couple of years ago at the GCLS. As an actress on an ensemble police drama, Caidence Harris is nursing a bit of a crush on Robyn Ward, the famous and successful lead on a “sister show”. Piqued by online fanfic about the shows, the producers decide to write in a lesbian kiss between Caid and Robyn’s characters and the smoldering unspoken attraction ratchets up. There’s a wonderful chemistry between Caid and Robyn and as their relationship develops you can’t help but develop a bit of girl crush on both of them. My one qualm is that Caid seems to get herself into an inordinate amount of trouble – especially whenever things heat up with Robyn. But what romance doesn’t have a few bumps in the road. Well-paced, well-written, humour, action, romance and a bit of angst – this book has it all. Definitely recommended.

Lesfic Roundup – Humour

There are entirely too many lesfic books that have been published, are being published, and are soon to be published to always write a full blown review for each one. I thought I’d try something a little different and provide a bunch of quick recommendations and reviews grouped by sub-genre. There are some older books as well as more recent ones – so hopefully there will be something new for everyone as well as reminders of old favourites that should be re-read.

Most LesFic books have some degree of humour in them – just as they all seem to have some degree of romance. This roundup is going to focus on books where I felt that the authors have written some particularly funny stories – whether the characters, the plots, or the prose. There are so many kinds of humour – from satire that is clever and cutting, slapstick that is ridiculous and overblown, farce which is fast paced and borders on the absurd, to dry or wry intelligent dialogue. Some authors have mastered it while others try, but the humour seems forced, heavy-handed, and over the top. My general rule is that if the author has to explain why something is funny by explaining the context or the popular references it’s relying on, it isn’t satire – and it isn’t funny.

Humour is subjective, so what I find amusing isn’t likely to be what others will find funny. My particular taste in humour seems to be based on smart, witty characters but with a good dose of slapstick and over the top farce, without being mean-spirited. Not too much to ask for, is it?

Greetings from Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer by Mari SanGiovanni

Now this is a madcap romp that runs into the realm of farce without falling into absurdity. SanGiovanni keeps the humour and plot flowing at a great pace and it did make me laugh aloud. The narrator, Marie Santora, inherits her grandmother’s fortune and it changes her life – whether for the better is to be determined. She and her siblings decide to placate their dysfunctional family to Jamaica for a family vacation to soften them up before they tell them how the money will be divided. In the meantime, Marie finally breaks up with her cheating girlfriend and sets off to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming a screenwriter and convince her favourite actress to read the script. Marie is stalkerish (in an amusing way) in her pursuit of the actress, causing her to retreat to join her family on vacation. Of course the actress arrives at the same resort and the litany of misunderstandings, slapstick and farce goes all out. I ended up with a big grin on my face when I finished it.

They Say She Tastes Like Honey by Michelle Sawyer

This book runs on adrenaline. I mean that in a good way. It’s fast moving, funny, irreverent and unrepentant. Macy is a 40-something lesbian living in New York City where she drinks too much, sleeps around, refuses to take care of health as she bounces from crisis to crisis and makes no apologies for any of it. Despite all that, she’s endearing and funny and you just hope that she manages to pull her shit together. There is a bit of romance, where she meets a young woman who gives her the impetus to change, but the story is really more about Macy. One of the best parts of the book is the way that Sawyer has interspersed the story of her childhood as a nice counterpoint (and breathing space) as Marcy wreaks havoc in her present life.

Family Affair by Saxon Bennett

I recently read Back Talk by the same author and, although it was pretty damn funny, I think she hits her stride with Family Affair. Bennett has a deft hand with humour – her main character, Chase, is charmingly neurotic and is surrounded by a large cast of friends and family who would probably all do well to have a few sessions of therapy. This is a smart and funny story that follows Chase as she deals with impending (and unexpected) parenthood. I’m not too sure if I laughed out loud when reading this one (mostly because I read it on the bus to and from work), but it kept a smile on my face the whole time and more than once I found myself identifying with Chase.

Tats by Layce Gardner

A fun and raunchy ride. Not to be read if you’re too politically correct or have a limited sense of humour. Lee, who is entirely too easily swayed by a nice set of tits, seems to drift in and out of situations without much thought to consequence. She meets up with Viv, an ex call girl who’s on the run, and the two of tear through Tulsa, causing havoc and mayhem. I can’t summarize it because entirely too much happens and you wouldn’t believe half the stuff they get into but I dare you not to crack at least one smile (if not fall into a fit of giggles). There’s a few serious parts but overall, the book is pretty much slapstick and farce which works extremely well as Gardner managed to keep both the characters likable and endearing despite some of the antics they get up to. Great dialogue and a rapid pace makes this one a hard one to put down.

Icehole by Kiera Dellacroix

This one isn’t available in print anymore which is a damned shame. This blends science fiction, action/adventure, romance and comedy quite well. It’s also a great parody of The Thing and lesfic in general. Over the top and funny as all hell – this is a fast paced read. Isolated in a super secret military/science installation in the Antarctic, the crew discovers something rather chilling buried in the eons old ice; but, where this book shines is the irreverent (and smart-assed) characters of Quinn and Corky. This book appeals to the ten year old boy in me – Quinn is crude, rather obnoxious and single minded when it comes to pursuing Corky, but she still makes me laugh my butt off.

The Seduction of Moxie Parties in Congress Both by Colette Moody

I couldn’t pick one of these over the other. Both are smart and funny books with completely different premise and feels and both deliver some great laughs. The Seduction of Moxie is definitely a fast-paced and laugh-out-loud read. Moody nails the 30’s style screwball comedies (which I love) in both dialogue as well as farcical situations – adding a fair bit of debauchery and crudity for good measure. If you are looking for a break from the standard lesfic angst-ridden romances, I would recommend this one. Parties in Congress is another winner – this one is set in modern DC during a political campaign. Moody has a great way with dialogue and she sets up some absolutely ridiculous situations and characters that edge into the realm of farce – but I can see every situation actually happening. Her characters are smart, savvy and have a wicked sense of humour.

Jericho Dust Both by Ann McMan

Both were originally online fiction but have since been published. McMan’s books are recommended reads – Jericho being a long but well-paced romance and Dust being much more action packed with some political intrigue. Although the situations and plots are quite different, McMan has a very intelligent, humourous voice and her dialogue between the characters is smart, sassy and hilarious. I wouldn’t put these into the madcap or farce categories – the humour is character and dialogue driven.