Wow, there’s Nothing On TV aka C-Spot Reviews: The Chained Heat Edition by Megan

Over the last few weeks, my reading increased in direct proportion to the number of cable shows’ season finales. Now that I’ve exhausted all the PVR’d episodes of various series I’ve been hoarding, I’ve started playing around with the “On Demand” selection of movies and series that was included with my cable package. Sadly, just because it’s “On Demand” doesn’t mean that it is “In Demand”.

One of the series I stumbled upon was Femme Fatales – which I thought could be interesting as I’m a big fan of the Noir genre. This anthology series is produced by Cinemax, which I didn’t discover until later is also known as Skinamax, and the first episode follows a Lindsey Lohan-like actress who’s sent to prison. Oh yeah, baby, Women in Prison. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor during the rather, uhm, vigorous sex scene between Lacey and her cellmate, Camille, I had a good laugh, seriously considered rewinding and was reminded of a few fanfic and lesfic stories. I know, I know – Women in Prison movies and pulp novels were exploitive, geared to push censor boundaries and titillate male audiences. But there are a few WiP lesfic stories that I loved – more for the absolute angst ridden melodrama than anything else (and, some hot smoldering sex behind bars). Once I thought about them, I just had to read them again. For research purposes of course.


Hard Times by Blayne Cooper From her days as Advocate in the fanfic world, I’ve always been a big fan of Blayne Cooper’s work. She has a wicked sense of humour with fast paced and imaginative plots and characters who stood out as vibrant, smart. Hard Times was one of the first “published” novels by Cooper that I read and I think it is an excellent example of successful transitioning from fanfic to publishing. Her humour is still there but there are more serious plot lines and I found the characters even more real and endearing than in her fanfic. Kellie Holloway is a privileged, self-destructive woman who ends up in prison after a drunken confrontation with the police ends in tragedy. Once there she meets Lorna Malachi, a woman who’s been incarcerated since she was a teen and has learned early how to toughen up and survive behind bars. An unlikely friendship (not really … since this is a pretty common trope in prison stories) develops and of course there’s a sizzling romance and at least one shower scene. Both main characters are flawed – making bad choices along the way and learning to deal with the consequences – but at the same time. If you haven’t read this one yet, I’d recommend it as a well written romance set in a not so typical setting .


Angel and Ice Trilogy by Susanne M Beck (Sword’n’Quill)
(Redemption, Retribution, Restitution)
Note: I read (and re-read) the fanfic versions of these books, and can’t tell you whether the published versions (issued in early 2000’s) have any major differences, editing, etc. According to Amazon, these books are still available in paper version, though the publishers that are listed are no longer in business. Fanfic versions can be found here: http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/redemption.html, www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/retribution.html , http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/restitution.html
Angst, romance, tragedy, deception, danger, corruption, noble sacrifices, soul mates (who are united, torn apart, reunited, torn apart and reunited again), scads of uber characters including a gang called The Amazons, lots of sex, lots of violence, an over the top plot that keeps getting more and more ridiculous, hilarious dialogue that makes the reader laugh out loud and a breathless florid narrative. I really shouldn’t … but I really love this story . This is a long series – in which the author seems to be having such a fun time telling the story from Angel’s perspective that she just doesn’t want to wrap things up and continues to throw up obstacles in the path of Angel and Ice’s quest for a Happily Ever After. And I had such a fun time reading it that I didn’t want it to end. Angel, who embodies her nickname, is convicted of killing her husband (but it was self defense as he beat and was about to rape her) and sent to The Bog to serve out her sentence. The Bog is a decrepit, corrupt and dangerous women’s prison full of gangs, crooked guards and …. lesbians. How could I not love this series? Once Angel has established herself as a person who can “get things” behind prison walls and settles in for what is going to be a long sentence, Ice returns. One of the most uber of uber characters, Ice is an assassin for the mob until she’s double-crossed and returned to prison where she resumes her leadership of the Amazons, a gang of self-appointed protectors of the innocent. Dark, brooding, stoic, noble and a total bad ass when it comes to fighting – of course she’s Angel’s soul mate. The first book focuses on Angel and Ice’s time in the Bog, the second follows them on the lam and the third continues as they deal with the aftermath of the second book. This series pretty much breaks the angst-o-meter, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief and enjoy.

Orange is the New Black
Based on a book by the same name, this is a standout new series produced and available through Netflix. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of Netflix’ other series, but they knocked this one out of the park. The actors, writing and production in this series are outstanding – something I wasn’t expecting from a company that doesn’t even have a channel on TV. The story follows Piper Chapman, a rather self-absorbed and entitled woman who ends up in prison for inadvertently being her ex’s mule in an international drug cartel. Chapman is a spoiled little rich girl, used to avoiding consequences and taking accountability for her words and actions and to say that she’s a fish out of water in prison is an understatement. Although she is the primary character in the series, I think Orange is the New Black shines through the ensemble cast. Unlike most series, each of the supporting characters back stories of how they ended up in prison is brilliantly portrayed – elevating what would normally be two dimensional, stereotypical background characters into fully developed and real women whose circumstances and choices led them to incarceration. Even better, as the series progressed, characters I liked, I learned to hate and those I hated I fell in love with. I started this series with almost no expectations – and finished it on the edge of my couch, devastated that I have to wait a year to find out what happens next.

Iditarod by D. Jordan Redhawk

I finished this online story just about 20 minutes ago and wanted to get my thoughts down before they start to fade away. I want to state right away that I know the author and have had several conversations with her over the past year or so. It started when I called bullshit while discussing her book, Tiopa Ki Lakota, during a Cocktail Hour podcast. To be fair to Redhawk, the bullshit being called was based on the online version and not the published version, which I haven’t read yet but plan to do so very soon. She left a message somewhere, I can’t remember exactly where now, that let me know that the issues I was calling BS on had been fixed in the published book. It’s become a joke of sorts between us and I’ve come to like Redhawk quite a bit. We even discovered that we lived across the street from each other in Idaho. Not at the same time, about a decade apart, but still pretty cool.

I debated for a few minutes about whether I should post a review of Iditarod, but decided that I’ve called enough bullshit with the author that she’s not going to get her feelings hurt by anything I have to say here. And the story is damn good and I’d hate to have readers miss it. I had heard about it a long time ago but didn’t load it up on my reader so I never read it. Then a few months ago, I was scrolling through Callie’s Creations and saw the cover that I’ve used here. I grabbed it and stuck it on my reader. But, yeah, I forgot about it again…

The truth of the matter is that I would see it, sometimes, while scrolling through, looking for a cover or title that grabbed me but I never picked it. I liked Tiopa Ki Lakota so much and I was worried that Iditarod would be a let down. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to any of you but that was in the back of my head so I would keep scrolling until something else jumped out at me. Redhawk is going to be on Cocktail Hour with me and Andy at the end of September so I decided that I should go ahead and read it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

As the title gives away, this story centers on the annual dog sled race. I had heard of the Iditarod before but never any real details. I feel like a pro now! Lainey Hughes is a photo journalist who gets a last minute assignment to capture the end of the Iditarod. She’s none too happy about that and becomes even less happy once she gets there. The one bright spot is being picked up by Scotch Fuller. Literally. Lainey slips on some ice and falls on her ass. Scotch gives her a hand up and gets a bit of attitude in return. Later, at the awards dinner, Lainey can’t keep her eyes off of Scotch and feels a strong attraction that she can’t seem to shake, even after leaving Alaska. She turns that attraction into a deal that has her back in Alaska a few months later. And that’s where the story really begins.

I won’t go much more into it than that except to say that there are some action sequences that had me on the edge of my seat. There’s not loads of action but I was definitely engaged in the race and in the development of the relationship between Lainey and Scotch. There were a few places where it seemed to drag on a bit too long and there were some typos and misused words – very typical stuff in an online story – but nothing that made me even consider putting it down. The only thing that was irritating was the overuse of “tawny curls” to describe Scotch’s hair but that eased up toward the later part of the book. There were also a few things that I wanted to know a bit more about that weren’t addressed, like if Scotch’s family knew about the growing feelings between the women and what their reactions may have been.

Those things, for me, didn’t take away from the enjoyment I experienced while reading. The thing that I loved so much about Tiopa Ki Lakota came shining through in Iditarod: the obvious research that Redhawk put into this story. The descriptions of the race are so carefully detailed that I could see the landscape in my head. I felt like I was on the sled, looking out over the dogs and seeing what the musher saw. And the human characters weren’t the only ones that I felt a connection with. The dogs each had their own personalities and relationships to each other and the humans they lived and worked with. I cheered for the entire team, not just the musher, and when any of the dogs had to be dropped, I felt the disappointment that they must have felt. And just like when I read Tiopa, I wanted to put the book down and google so many things. I wanted to learn even more about this incredible race.

When you read Iditarod, keep in mind that this is the first draft of a novel. It has been picked up for publication but there’s no release date just yet. I’ll be sure to post a comment here when it’s available. I will definitely give it a read. In the meantime, you can read the online version here: http://www.djordanredhawk.net/iditarod/iditaone.htm.

The Clinic – Tristaine: Book I by Cate Culpepper

Some of my forum mates decided to read the Tristaine Series by Cate Culpepper. Now, I’ve heard about the Amazons of Tristaine many times before but have never really wanted to read the books. I had read Fireside but it didn’t move me, so I kept on ignoring Jesstin and Brenna and the rest. But this time, I couldn’t ignore them and move on. So I grabbed a copy of The Clinic and was immediately swept up in the story and the characters.

Our two protagonists, Jess and Brenna, meet on opposite sides of the, um, leather restraining chair and begin to develop a relationship built on mutual respect and then trust. Jesstin and two of her adanin, Sisters, have been taken prisoner by The City which is reminiscent of what America would be if the most extreme of the Neo-Cons take power. Maybe the most extreme Neo-Cons with a little bit of a steroidal kick. Anyway, Brenna is the medical adviser assigned to the project. The project in question is to figure out how to break the Amazons without having to slaughter them all and destroy their lush forest which would be awesome to have the timber rights to.

Like I said, I was involved in the story and characters right from the start. This book is short and ends pretty abruptly but as I got closer to the end, it became very apparent that nothing was really going to be resolved in the first volume of the series. I wasn’t shocked or upset since I knew from the outset that this is a series.

This is very obviously a Xena Uber, complete with the sky blue eyed warrior and spiky blonde haired, compassionate healer. If you’ve got issues with buying Xena Ubers, back away now. But, if you’re like me and want a good story and love some Ubers, go get it and dig on in. Be sure to pick up the second in the series because you’ll not want to stop with the first.

The Clinic (Tristaine Series) by Cate Culpepper

Cheri’s Funk Reading List

As some of you already know, I’ve been feeling a bit off the past couple of months. When I’m in a funk, I reject most of the reading I should be doing for reading that I want to do. That means that reviews that I should have done are still waiting to be done. And I’m not sure when I’ll get all caught up because I’m still a bit funky.

Since my funk reading list tends to be only old favorites, I thought I’d share what made the list. There are a few other books on the list because they were selected as Books of the Month for the Mostly Lesfic Goodreads group or for Cocktail Hour.

Ok, here we go! These are not in any order because I can’t remember in what order I read them. Some of them have already been reviewed here so I provided links to the older reviews.

Open to Persuasion by Allie (CanadaBadGirl) – This is one of my favorite SVU fics. I think Allie aka CanadaBadGirl or CBG is a great storyteller and I’ve read everything she’s written in the Bad Girls fandom but I think there are other SVU fics that she’s done and she may also write for other fandoms. Not sure. This story not only has a very good depiction of a relationship between Alex and Olivia but two good cases. I highly recommend it. Andy and I also featured this one on an episode of Cocktail Hour and I reviewed it previously here. I haven’t read that review recently so who knows what I said…

My Lord by Mayt – This is a super long, super angst filled, and super good Conqueror fic. Are there some issues grammatically? Sure. Does it take away from the epic tale? Not at all. This is possibly the best Conqueror story I’ve ever read. There are a total of 7 books and some are better than others but, overall, just a great series. Be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby. Mayt has plenty of other fics available and a published series that starts out with Hesed by Maytee Aspuro Y Gonzalez

Snowbound by Queenfor4 – I came across this story awhile ago during a browsing of Calli’s Creations galleries of covers. I’m one of those people who will pick up a book because the cover grabs me… I had forgotten about it until Cari Hunter’s Snowbound was selected as the Mostly Lesfic book for May and it came up during my search. So I read it a couple of days ago. I very much enjoyed it! Megan Galagher is a homophobic mystery writer who ends up snowbound with a lesbian doctor, Randi Oakes. The unfolding of the story is good and the relationship building is good, too. I’d read it again and do recommend it. A nice Xena Uber. I also just noticed that UK reviewed the story here awhile ago so you should see what she had to say, too.

Snowbound by Cari Hunter – I just reviewed this one here.

Bonded by CBG – One of my very favorite stories in the Bad Girls fandom. CBG does angst like nobody’s business. She also has a very good grasp on the essence of the characters. A joy to read.

Biography & the sequel Plus Ca Change (or Ties That Bind) by CBG – Another favorite! AND this one has been published! You can find it under the name A Walk in the Rain by Alison Barnard. I grabbed the sample from Amazon to see if it started out differently and it appears to be exactly the same with the exception of changing the names of the characters that appeared in Bad Girls. I will, eventually, buy it to support the author but will probably wait until the next time I get the urge to read it. Shouldn’t be too long. Incognito also reviewed both of these stories here and here.

Reapers, Inc.- Brigit’s Cross by B. L. Newport – This was the April book of the month for the Mostly Lesfic group. We all agreed that it was pretty damn good. It’s the story of a newly dead woman who becomes a grim reaper. Initially, it was hard for me to get the image of Dead Like Me out of my head but as I got into it, it was definitely a good read. It’s the first in a series and you’ll probably want to pick up the second one just before you finish the first so you can move on. You’ll know if you want to continue by mid-book.

Soiled Dove by Brenda Adcock – I love westerns – especially westerns with brothels and whores. I didn’t really love this one but I didn’t dislike it either. It was ok. I enjoyed it mostly. I guess it just didn’t move me but it did give me a few hours of entertainment. I don’t not recommend it. You know what I mean?

The Road to Glory by Blayne Cooper & T. Novan – I’ve read this one before and enjoyed it but I enjoyed it even more the second time. I just love Cooper’s sense of humor and Novan’s ability to write angst and there’s lots of both here.

The Story of Me by Blayne Cooper – This short story is, in my opinion, fantastic. It’s classic Blayne Cooper. Stalkers, squirrels, and mishaps make this a very funny, well done romp.

None So Blind by LJ Maas – This is one of my very favorite romances of all time. It’s got the classic formula but Maas, I think, was a fabulous storyteller and I fell in love with both Torrey and Taylor. Yes, there are some issues – lots of flashbacks and many times when the lack of communication between the main characters makes you want to shake them violently – but I just don’t care. My dear friend, incognito, reviewed it here a long time ago so you can see what she had to say, too.

Balance of Forces: Toujour Ici by Ali Vali – I read this one for my appearance on Cocktail Hour with Andy and Ali Vali. It had been awhile since I read a book of Vali’s that I honestly enjoyed. I enjoyed this one. I don’t know if it was because it started out as an online fic – I love her old fan fic more than just about any book she’s put out – or if it’s just a good story, but I do recommend this one!

There were a few more but I can’t remember what they were. I’m still on the edges of the funk so who knows where that will take me!

Glass Houses by Ciarán Llachlan Leavitt

This story is also available under the title Silent Legacy and that’s how I first read it. I remember enjoying the story quite a bit and, since I just finished Tropical Storm by Melissa Good, I thought it was the perfect time for a read of the updated version, Glass Houses.

The published book is now, from what I can tell, out of print but I was told that it, along with other stories by the author, are housed on Melissa Good’s site, http://www.merwolf.com, so off I went. I was already up to the second chapter in Silent Legacy when I got word about the link so I started from the beginning and immediately liked the way the author had rewritten the first chapter. I was a happy camper!

The reason that it’s a good idea to read Glass Houses right after reading Tropical Storm is because it’s sort of based on Ms. Good’s book. Sort of. Jae Cavanaugh is directing a film version of the novel Tropical Storm and Reed Lewis, who plays Dar, has been dubbed the Amazon Ice Queen. Reed’s got some issues – and some secrets. Jae works her way under Reed’s defenses and a friendship ensues. But it’s anything but smooth sailing for these two. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except that there are lots of direct quotes from Tropical Storm and discussion of Dar and Kerry so it helps to know their story.

The story is great, I think. I liked both main characters and think the author does a good job of helping us to connect to them and be empathetic to what each is going through. They go through a lot. I would read this one again because the characters felt genuine. Again, not your average woman, but their feelings and thoughts were well laid out for us to experience. Maybe a few too many flashbacks and a bit too much head hopping but still a very good story.

Here’s where I had some problems. Names of characters changing back and forth – the Kerry role was played by a woman named either Gwen or Sarah. The first mention of Kerry Stuart was done with Stewart. In one sentence, instead of the last name of the character, there was “[last name]” because, I’m assuming, the author couldn’t remember it at the time of writing and meant to go back and insert it. Had I paid money for the book instead of read it online for free, I  may have been a little ticked, but I didn’t so I wasn’t. Other than that, it was clear that the author doesn’t live in the US. Again, not a big deal but with the story taking place in Hollywood and the characters being American, the Irish comes through and so many of the phrases are just not those that Americans use. Certainly not a barrier to enjoying the book but something to keep in mind before you start so it can fade into the background more quickly, if you notice that sort of thing. I generally do.

So, do I recommend Glass Houses? Absolutely. If you’re a fan of Dar and Kerry, you’ll love it. http://www.merwolf.com/llachlan/novels/gh/gh1.html

Tropical Storm by Melissa Good

I read the online version of Tropical Storm a few years ago and always wanted to buy the published edition at some point to see what changes were made, if any. After buying the 2010 Author Edition, I’ve come away with mixed feelings.

Tropical Storm is about the changing relationship between Dar Roberts, cut-throat corporate raider and all around hard ass, and Kerry Stuart, techy person and all around sweetheart. Dar comes in after her company buys Kerry’s company with the intent to can all the employees and absorb their customers. Kerry cusses her out, eventually, and they try to come up with a plan to save some jobs. During that exercise, Dar comes to admire Kerry a bit and sees loads of potential in the smart, earnest woman. If you haven’t read the book or the online version, I don’t want to spoil anything for you so will leave it at that. Suffice it to say that there are plenty of adventures, engaging characters, and good humor. And several sequels, if you want to continue the ride.

It felt good to re-read this story. I tend to overlook those classic Xena ubers when looking for something to read and that’s too bad. There are lots of great, old stories out there. Hell, these are the stories that started the Xenaverse and launched the careers of many of my favorite lesbian fiction authors. The thing that didn’t feel good was having my hopes dashed that the character names that changed partway through the book and some of the other typos and missed words hadn’t been cleaned up. I know that some of the writing was tightened up because I compared the opening scene of the book to the online version that I downloaded from PDAFiction.com and it was a bit different.

Bottom line, I truly enjoy Tropical Storm in both of its incarnations. These aren’t average women, they’re women of much greater means than anyone I’ve met, but Melissa Good does a fantastic job of having these extraordinary women deal with ordinary emotions. That’s where the draw is for me. Yes, some of the action is pretty cool but, when it comes down to it, I’m in it for the emotions and Ms. Good certainly delivers.

Tropical Storm: The 2010 Author Edition (The Dar & Kerry Series)