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.

Alberta Reviews Two from Ylva – Connected Hearts and LA Metro

Connected Hearts – Four Lesbian Romance Stories by Joan Arling, RJ Nolan, Jae

This compilation of four short-stories takes the reader back to well-known characters. For one, there’s Annie and Drew from “Something In The Wine” by Jae. As I mentioned in my book review to that novel, my only complaint with that was that I wanted to learn more about the main characters’ troubles in the relationship after they finally got together – and I got my wish. I really liked the way the author developed Annie and made her insecurities believable. I had to laugh quite a few times but it made me care about the characters even more. This short story was my favorite one of the four.

Another story is a continuation of RJ Nolan’s novel “L.A. Metro”. I hadn’t read the novel before reading this short story, so I didn’t know the characters yet. I found it was written really well and I liked the obstacles both women created for themselves while having a very similar idea – even though I didn’t much care for the actual idea all that much. Now, after having read “L.A. Metro” as well, I can appreciate the story even more.

The other two stories are about new characters – as far as I can tell. At least I didn’t know them from any novels. Both are about women that have a chance encounter with a stranger. And both are more than a bit surprised that their bleak view on love seems to be not as depressing as they originally thought.

From all four stories I liked Jae’s “Seduction for Beginners” the best. That might be because I had just finished reading the novel and already knew the characters. But all stories are really well written and the book is a nice and entertaining read. I’d recommend reading the novels beforehand, though, since it makes reading these short stories even better.

L.A. Metro by RJ Nolan

Dr. Kimberly Donovan is a thirty-something psychiatrist – and she’s ready to start over as far away from her ex-lover as possible. After being involved in a debate about her ethics, her lover, the ER Chief of Memorial Hospital where Kim had worked, leaves her and even denies their relationship. Kim ends up at L.A. Metropolitan Hospital, more than ready to move on, professionally as well as personally.

On her first day at work she learns that her new job entails being the ER psych consult – a job no one in her department seems to want. The chief of the ER is Dr. Jess McKenna. She is known throughout the hospital as controlled, cold, and unreachable. Not the best start for Kim on the new job it seems but when she meets Jess, she’s attracted to her right from the start. Wary because of her instant attraction and quite sure that she’s not interested in yet another affair with an ER Chief, she focuses on finding her place in her new department and getting on good working grounds with Dr. McKenna.

Jess feels equally attracted to the new doctor in the psych department, however, she’s been burned with an inter-office relationship as well and has been the focus of gossip ever since.

Both women decide to keep their professional distance and focus on work instead. Along the way they become close friends who admire each other for being really good medical professionals – and both can’t help slowly falling in love with the other.

L.A. Metro is a really entertaining read that I’d like to recommend to anyone who’s interested in reading about grown-up women with pasts and a professional life that’s important to them. I really cared about both characters and liked their way of interaction. These women know what they want and have been burned for it in the past. Despite that, they are still willing to take risks – both professionally and in their private lives.

My only complaint is, that I’d have loved to learn more about the plots of the secondary characters and the hospital in general, e.g. in the beginning, when Kim starts out on the job there’s a lot of conflict between the different departments and later on we get to know a young resident that struggles with managing her family and her career. She talks to both protagonists – Jess as her boss and Kim because she’s a willing listener. Unfortunately, we don’t get to know her better and just assume that she managed somehow. And then there’s Jess’ sister … But that complaint is not something that couldn’t be corrected in a sequel.

Other than this minor thing I really enjoyed the book and will certainly read it again.

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

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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

Something in the Wine by Jae

Please help me welcome our newest reviewer, Alberta Yourdan!


Thirty-year old Annie Prideaux is what some would call a wallflower–and that’s how she sees herself as well. Working as an accountant for a small firm, she prefers to share as little as possible with her colleagues about her private life and, more times than not, she spends her free-time with her cat, Amadeus, and a good book. Her experiences with men so far have been rather boring and when she is out on a date she tries to get it over with as quickly and as painlessly as possible –a fact that gives her brother Jake ample opportunity to tease her. As long as Annie can remember, Jake has been playing tricks on her so it comes as no surprise when he sets her up on a blind date with his lesbian college friend, Drew, without telling his sister that his friend is, in fact, a woman. But this time he has taken it a bit too far and Annie and Drew decide to get back at Jake and pretend they started dating. But their little revenge plan takes on a life of its own –while Drew struggles with her attraction to Annie, Annie is forced to face her demons for the first time in her life.

One of my main interests when I start reading a book is that I want to care about the characters and what happens to them. For me, there is nothing that kills the mood faster than shallow two-dimensional characters and a plot that doesn’t draw me in. “Something in the Wine” didn’t disappoint at all. Jae managed to draw me right in.

At first, when I started reading this book, I thought there wasn’t all that much to like about Annie, a rather self-doubting woman who doesn’t seem to have enough willpower to stand up to her dominant brother. But, getting into the book, I realised that there was a lot more to Annie and her thoughts and intentions. Then there is Drew. Jake’s college friend is introduced as a young woman who thought she knew where life was taking her when, all of a sudden, both her parents died and left her with the sole responsibility for the family’s vineyard. The author developed both women into three-dimensional characters by showing them in their daily lives and without giving away too much. As a reader I got to know them through their actions.

I thought it was very interesting how these quite different characters started as partners in crime, trying to get back at Jake, and became friends by seeing life through the other’s perspective. In the end, I cared very much for both women, as well as Jake, and even though the book has nearly four hundred pages, I was sad when it was finished. I would have loved to read more about those characters. And this is my only complaint. Despite its length, I felt it ended too soon without giving the reader the opportunity to learn how Annie and Drew would deal with their developing relationship, now that all the outward conflicts had been addressed. I would have loved to share in their success after having been along on the way to get there.

I can really recommend this book. And if there’s a chance to visit Annie and Drew in another book from this author I’ll be sure to get that as well.

Click to purchase Something In The Wine