Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adororation by Sarah Diemer


Sarah Diemer 1) is self-published, 2) writes Young Adult, and 3) tells reimagined or new fairy tales and myths – all things that set off my inner alarms because I’m a harsh critic on all three of those and they tend to make me hesitate before hitting the “Buy Now” button.

Can I say, for the record, that I was an idiot for hesitating?

Sarah Diemer has proved me wrong. Again and again and again. And I love her for that.

And now? Well, now I am her biggest fan (but not like in Misery) – almost to the point where I am tempted to steal her away from her wife and have her spin tales for me every night. Very much like Scheherazade; but, without the threat of decapitation because I’m just not into that sort of thing – and I already said I wasn’t quite as big a fan as Kathy Bates was in Misery – almost, but not quite. Sadly, I also like her wife’s writing (they have collaborated on another book of shorts) – so I will leave them to create beautiful stories together and wait oh so patiently for them to be released.

Diemer’s writing has been a delightful discovery for me and I strongly recommend her as an author. She has a wonderfully lush style of storytelling that elevates her fantasy and fairy tales to a magical level. Her characters are memorable and the stories themselves are captivating. In addition to the YA novels and stories under Sarah Diemer, she also writes under the name Elora Bishop. I haven’t had the opportunity to read those books yet, but they are loaded onto my tablet in anticipation of a quiet evening with no distractions.

Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration is a collection of some not- so -short stories that celebrate and embrace the monster. In her introduction, Deimer muses that “Monsters were wild. Monsters were strong. Monsters were fierce and fee. If I was monstrous … perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing.” The title itself is fantastic and captures the nature of this anthology perfectly and I found myself devouring it – unable to put the book down after finishing each tale.

There’s a dark and often bleak tone in most of the stories – completely fitting for a monster anthology. But these are also love stories and the sharp edge of tragedy makes the stories all that more rich and poignant. I found that most of the stories stayed with me long after I closed the cover and she masterfully weaves themes of love, struggle, desperation and hope into rich and vibrant worlds and characters. None of the stories are simple – there’s a moral complexity that forces the reader to look at things from a different perspective. Each story surprised me in the way it unfolded or ended – which kept me hooked as I wanted to know where she was taking the story next. Not all of them have a Happily Ever After – but they are all satisfying and perfect for the tone Diemer sets.

The collection offers five dark fantasy and one science fiction story that were all published and are still available individually; but, do yourself a favour and pick up the anthology and I guarantee you’ll be captivated by all the stories.

Far
Mana is a Runner, stealing souls from After to reanimate those who have died – the most recent soul she steals is her lover, Far. Zombie love? Yeah. But it works. The bleak and barren city, the creepy After, and Far’s desperate desire to die juxtapose perfectly with Mana’s overwhelming love for Far and her determination to keep that love alive. Far is an odd tale – almost surreal in the way that it unfolds and definitely in the way it ends. This one left me with quite a bit to think about once I finished it.

The Witch Sea
I adored this one. For three generations, Meriel’s family has sacrificed everything in order to maintain a barrier that imprisons the sea god Galo and his army, preventing them from destroying humanity. Alone, Meriel maintains the net just as her mother and her grandmother before her. When Nor, a selkie- like creature breaches the Meriel’s island she also breaches Meriel’s conviction – making her question the task that she has inherited. Who’s the monster here – Galo and his followers or Meriel? The prose in this one is beautiful and lends a lush and magical quality to the story. Definitely a stand out in the collection and I’ve gone back to read it a few times.

Seek
Seek is a different kind of love story. Seek is a knight, intent on winning the hand of the most beautiful woman in the realm –because she deserves the best. It appears to be a simple sword and sorcery type fantasy where the protagonist must complete a series of tasks to win the maiden-fair; but, Diemer has a little something else up her sleeve with this one. I wasn’t a fan of Seek the character; but, I was a fan of Seek the story.

Our Lady of Wolves
Now this was a dark one. A handful of villagers have managed to survive ongoing siege by some rather nasty monsters. Completely cut off from the rest of the world (not even knowing if there is a rest of the world at this point) for years, they are desperate, terrified and resigned. With nothing else to lose, Kelly ventures to an ancient church to beseech Our Lady of the Wolves, a goddess that the villagers had abandoned years ago, to save them. Triste and her wolf appear – offering to lead those who will take the chance to leave. I’ll put this one up as a stand out story.

We Grow Accustomed to the Dark
After the first four fantasy stories, Diemer turns to a post (peri?)-apocalyptic tale. The Rapture hits while Kate and Celia are on their way home from school and, being lesbians, they didn’t make the first cut. The Rapture has always been a fascinating concept to me – why these people and not those – it is the ultimate in prejudice. Add in the fact that Diemer subscribes to my idea that angels aren’t really all that nice (read the bible … they have flaming swords and raze cities) and you’ve got a dark story.

The Forever Star
This one is tied for my favourite with The Witch Sea. It may even surpass it. I will have to read them both again. And again. And again. The Forever Star is a wonderful blend of fantasy and science fiction and is absolutely beautiful – both in its narration style and the story itself. Elaine and her sisters have woven the worlds and stars from the beginning of time and will continue to do so forever. After eons of watching the stars she’s created burn out and die, Elaine feels an emptiness she can’t understand. Lonely and restless, she leaves her sisters. Maggie is an engineer on a world that is dying – sun flares of enormous magnitude are incinerating everyone and everything that isn’t protected by a shield that is quickly failing. The rest is just fantastic.

This review is focused on her collection of short stories; but, I really can’t write anything about Diemer without mentioning and recommending The Dark Wife, a revisionist novel about the Persephone/Hades myth. Diemer provides some interesting twists on the standard myths and gods – with Hades as Zeus’ sister, her title as “Lord of the Dead” a bitter joke. Just take my word on it. Buy it. You’ll like it.

Click here to purchase Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration

Cast the Card Anthology from Storm Moon Press

A month or so ago, I had reviewed Burn the Brightest which was a standalone story from Storm Moon Press’ Cast the Cards Anthology. Reading a story outside of a themed anthology can be a bit odd as the author is normally inspired or writing towards a particular theme – in this case the Tarot. I’ve since received the entire anthology from the publisher and have had the opportunity to read all the stories in context of the over-arching theme.

Cast The Cards is an eclectic six story collection which includes general fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy and all would fall into the erotic-romance with a variety of pairings from F/F, M/F/M, and M/M. Some stories are more graphic than others, but the sex isn’t the focus of the stories – rather the characters and relationships.

It’s interesting to see how each of the authors incorporates the themes of their chosen cards – some are pretty easy to find the inspiration and symbolism whereas others are a bit more subtle. This makes a rather fascinating theme for an anthology as the reader can enjoy the stories as they are or try to look deeper into how the cards shaped the stories and characters. The Tarot is meant as divination but also of introspection – there are so many interpretations to the cards and their relationship to one another and to events in the reader’s life can alter them dramatically.

As in most anthologies, some stories were stronger than others. There was one that I had some difficulty getting through, but it was more likely because of the subject matter not really being of much interest for me. I think the stories with a more fantasy theme were stronger but, once again, that’s more likely my own reading preference showing through. If you don’t mind mixing up your pairings, there are some good stories in this one. Overall I liked it, and one was a stand-out for me with two more coming in as a very close to stand-outs.

Burn the Brightest by Emily Moreton (The Fool) – reviewed here: http://reviews.c-spot.net/archives/2181

The Direction of the Greatest Courage by Erik Moore (The Hermit) The Hermit is a card of knowledge, usually self-knowledge and the acceptance of what one knows and doesn’t. This is a pretty straightforward story (forgive the pun) of a young man entering into a poly relationship. The first few paragraphs resonated with me and made me give this story and the character a bit more attention that I normally would have. One line “Being a bisexual woman is hard enough, but to be a bisexual man is to be erased.” made me stop and think a bit. In this story, Jason knows what he is and struggles with how to balance his attraction to both men and women against the rejection he’s received from partners, and society, in his past.

The Grief of the Bond-Maid by Janine Ashbless (The Hanged Man) The Hanged Man symbolizes self-sacrifice for a higher goal and the chance for renewal. This story captures this theme in the quest that Sjofn, a Skien Witch whose evil wizard master has pulled an Odin, hanging himself from an Ash tree in order to become all-powerful, and she is desperate to find a person who can help her thwart his plans in time. The spirit of the person who she is led to is a Griffin, half lion-half eagle, and it turns out is actually two warriors – Thorkell and Bjarni. Together, they set out and travel through the nine Norse realms that the wizard has replicated in order to stop him. I liked this quite a bit – how can you not love anything that incorporates Norse Mythology? Unfortunately, as this is a short story, what happens in each realm is glossed over and I would have loved more details to have been provided.

Surrender by K Piet (The Tower) The Tower is a card of change – conflict and disruption, often a bit of chaos as the walls come crumbling down – but also of personal transformation. This is an apt card for the story which is a BDSM story in which Aaron, a Dom, finds the tables turned on him at a club and he becomes the Sub. Aaron’s experience causes him to question a lot of his assumptions about BDSM and the roles within it. This is the most graphic of the stories and if you are not a fan of BDSM it may not be for you.

Blazing Star by Marie Carlson (The Star) The Star is the card of Sanctuary and hope, bringing renewed understanding, confidence and peace of mind. This was my favourite. Some short stories are self-contained with a beginning, middle and end. Blazing Star seemed to drop you in the middle, give you glimpses of a much larger story and then leave you with a yearning to know what led up to the events in the story and, more importantly, what happens next. I wasn’t dissatisfied with the story in the least – the author did a great job of whetting my appetite, but I think this one would make a very cool novel. If the author never writes a novel based on this, then this still makes a very cool short story. I’d classify this as Urban Fantasy and I think this story incorporates the Tarot them quite well. Breaking from her family’s tradition of being Hunters, Bea is a mind-reader and spell-caster who has stepped back from the active battles and provides a sanctuary to those who do Hunt. Hope, her lover, returns to her, devastated at not being able to save the family she had been sent to protect and troubled by some unnamed trouble that seems to be brewing. Blazing Star seems to be an oasis in-between the larger story that happens outside the pages of this story, but is wonderfully self-contained with enough glimpses and hints to do a fascinating bit of world-building without even leaving Bea’s home.

Oneiros by S L Armstrong (The Moon) The Moon symbolizes dreams, imagination and the unconscious mind and can be the fear of things past come back to infect the present or future. At the same time, the Moon can illuminate secrets and hidden truths. Caleb is a young man, recently diagnosed as HIV positive, who finds a haven in his world of dreams, where is seduced by Morpheus. Unable or unwilling to deal with what is happening in his life, he is drawn deeper and deeper into Morpheus’ desire. As is always the case, seduction by a God rarely turns out well for the human and Caleb continues to withdraw from the waking world despite the efforts of Scott, a man he meets in the doctor’s office, who offers him an anchor of friendship and love. I loved the premise of this one and enjoyed the story but I must admit I felt bad for Caleb’s cat.

To Love and To Cherish: an anthology of lesbian love and marriage – Various Authors

I wasn’t quite sure how much I’d enjoy this book. I’ll be honest, I’m not much for short stories. I’m more of an epic sort of girl. But I did look forward to reading authors that I had never read before, some I’d never heard of before. And I’m happy to say that it was a good adventure for me.


First off, I have to say that this set of books – sold in print or ebook format – benefits a great cause. Here’s the short blurb from loveyoudivine.com:


All proceeds from this collection are being donated to Marriage Equality USA which continues the fight in courtrooms around the country to secure civil marriage rights for GLBT couples across the U.S. We encourage further donations at www.marriageequality.org

If supporting marriage equality isn’t enough to get you to give it a try, let me assure you that the stories contained in the three volumes are well worth the low price. These tales are different enough in style that I’m pretty sure that everyone will find several that they enjoy. I’m hesitant to name a favorite but The Anti-Proposal by Stephanie Rose was a stand out to me purely because of the hilarious mishaps. If humor isn’t your thing, there are some stories that have some seriously hot scenes. And, of course, they are all filled with love.