Sunny Reviews Blurred Lines by K.D. Williamson

Blurred Lines by K.D. Williamson brings up an interesting discussion and almost makes me wonder if the double meaning of the title was intentional. The book originated as Rizzoli & Isles fan fiction and, with some editing, ended up being published as an original novel. I did not read the fan fiction version of this story, but I will admit to being a long-time fan of the TV show. I’ve even dabbled in a little R&I fan fiction writing myself. This book was recommended to me by a couple of people who really liked it and thought I would too.

I think I would have enjoyed this book a little more if I had NOT been a fan of Rizzoli & Isles. The characters were so obviously based on the TV characters that it was impossible for me to envision them any other way. Even though the physical descriptions and names were changed, they had the exact same character traits and behaviors as those on TV. In my mind, I was watching the TV show as I read – which could be a real compliment in the fan fiction world. I got really frustrated early on with the names because they weren’t the names I was used to the characters being called – especially the secondary characters. Once I got familiar with the new names, the story flowed a little smoother for me.

That said, I actually liked the story and the relationship between Kelli and Nora. Again, had I not been so familiar with Rizzoli & Isles, I think I may have really liked the characters – eventually. I thought that Kelli was a real ass in the beginning and Nora wasn’t very likable at all, but they both sort of grew on me by the end, especially when they began interacting more with each other. Kelli’s profanity was a little over done, and the subplot of Antony, the drug-addicted brother, seemed to be an unnecessary distraction to the rest of the book, but Kelli and Nora had good chemistry and it was fun to see them learn how to find their way as a couple. There were a couple of things that were alluded to that I don’t think would really make sense to a reader if they weren’t familiar with Rizzoli & Isles – Jane/Kelli’s history with Korsak/Williams and Williams’ personal relationship with Kelli’s mother (which I think happened only in the books and fan fiction, but not in the TV show.) The setting was changed from Boston to Seattle, but there was one line late in the book that threw me: Kelli and Nora are in the car and made a turn “toward Beacon Hill.” I’ve since learned that there’s a Beacon Hill area of Seattle too. Another blurred line! The setting didn’t really play a huge part in the book, so I didn’t really have a problem with that change like I did with the character names.

The part that I did have a problem with and just couldn’t get past was this: these were not original characters. As a reader and occasional writer of fan fiction, I don’t believe that a story that was written and posted for the masses to read as fan fiction should be removed from that realm and published as an original work that will then be sold for personal gain. I felt the same way about the 50 Shades books. Part of the reason fan fiction is tolerated by a lot of writers and creators who feel their work has been stolen or at least infringed upon, is that fan fic writers will not profit from their work! That’s the whole reason to put the little disclaimer at the beginning – something like: These characters are not mine and no profit will be made from their use in this work.

I’ve read a lot of published books that were based on the Xena characters. While they have the physical traits of Xena and Gabrielle, I’ve never really felt like I was watching a Xena episode while reading a book. If I read a book that I think would make a good movie, I often visualize an actress who I think fits the character. So, I do realize that there can be some gray areas (maybe not 50 shades, but still gray) in writing and creating characters. I also know that some very accomplished writers of lesbian fiction got their start in writing and adapting Xena fan fiction into published novels. But, in my opinion, that still doesn’t make it right to use someone else’s characters without their permission and/or the legal authorization to do so.

I think it’s great that fan fiction writers are being recognized as talented, publishable writers. I just wish that the publishers and editors and others who recognize this would encourage them to write purely original stories. I have no idea if the 50 Shades books were changed dramatically or held fast to the original characters. I’ve not read any of the books nor seen the any of the movies (original or adapted.) The Blurred Lines characters were given new names and new physical descriptions, but there is no question in my mind that these characters are still Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles. Ms. Williamson tells a good story and is not a bad writer at all. I hope in the future she will use those talents to create new, original characters that stand on their own and do not blur the lines between fan fiction and a truly original novel.

You can purchase or download a sample of Blurred Lines by clicking here.

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.

Sunny Reviews Nudge by Sandra Moran

I finished reading Nudge by Sandra Moran over a week ago, but I’ve been holding off writing this review because I really want it to be worthy of the book. I probably should have turned this one over to another reviewer with a more eloquent vocabulary and better grasp of such thought provoking subjects. It’s a book with lots of what I like to call thinky-thoughts. It’s also a book I highly recommend. I may not be the most articulate reviewer, but I know good writing when I read it.

I also try really hard when writing a review to avoid spoilers. There are parts of this book that will be very hard to discuss without giving away some of the mystery, but I’ll do my best not to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it. I’m giving you fair warning: there may be minor spoilers ahead. On that note, if you decide not to read any further than this paragraph, let me just say that this is an incredibly thought provoking book and I really enjoyed it. Go read it. Soon. Then come back here and discuss it with me!

On to the book… Sarah Sheppard is a New York advertising executive who is approached by a mysterious visitor asking her, at the request of God (also known as Infinity by those in the inner circle), to write, edit, and market to the masses an addendum to the world’s religious texts. The Addendum, as it becomes officially known, is to be an addition to the Bible, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, etc., to bring the world up-to-date on happenings and events after those original texts were written. Sarah, of course, thinks this is one big joke and refuses the offer. Things begin to happen, just as her mysterious visitor predicts they would, that baffle Sarah and make her second guess her decision. Then really strange things begin to happen that convince Sarah that she’s dealing with something beyond her level of comprehension. Oh, did I mention that Sarah is an atheist? Yeah, there is that little fact that really makes things interesting for her. She ends up begrudgingly signing a comprehensive contract to take on this daunting task, and is then whisked off to a remote estate in upstate New York. There she joins other scholars and theologians hand-picked in various fields of expertise to help her in her mission.

The book begins with a prologue that is really the final scene, so you sort of know where things are going to end up right off the bat. Sort of. When we actually get to that scene, we learn a lot more, but I found it to be a really interesting way to start off the book. I was amazed at the amount of research that went into this story as well as the amount of historical knowledge that was imparted in what I found to be a very interesting and palatable way. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this was done in a way that made it very readable and contributed a lot to the story. There are a lot of amusing little tidbits that make the book relatable and bring about a few chuckles. For instance, Sarah has daily meetings with Infinity via speakerphone much like Charlie ‘appeared’ to his Angels. Oh, and butter rum lifesavers… you’ll see.

I happened to see another short review of this book that criticized it because it wasn’t a ‘lesfic romance’ as the reader had expected. I could take issue with down-grading a rating just because a book wasn’t what you expected, rather than judging it on what it actually is, but that’s another discussion for another day. However, it prompts me to give you another warning: if you’re expecting hearts, flowers, and romance, you won’t really find that here. What you will find, behind its really cool cover art, is a very well-crafted tale that may make you question your own beliefs and wonder if people really are who they say they are.

So, what are you waiting for? Here’s a nudge: go read this book!

You can download a sample or purchase Nudge by clicking here.

Sunny Reviews Midnight on a Mountaintop by Amy Dawson Robertson

Another winner from ADR! This novella is the sequel to Midnight In Orlando, and picks up with Nic and Susan’s story four months after they met in Orlando.

Nic is still slightly neurotic and Susan is still mostly level-headed, but they each seem to be rubbing off on the other just a little bit. When this book begins, they haven’t seen each other since the conference in Orlando, but have kept in touch daily through the wonders of modern technology. They have both decided that they’re ready to take another step in their relationship by seeing each other again in the form of a vacation together, and maybe more – if they can just muster the courage to actually do it.

The delightful Jeanne, who was the first person to befriend Susan in Orlando, has also kept in touch with her new friend and soon makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Jeanne and her partner Jo own two neighboring cabins in West Virginia. Jeanne offers the second one to Susan and Nic to join them for a weekend getaway. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues.

I didn’t find this book to be as laugh-out-loud funny as the first one, but the characters are still lovably quirky, and there’s an underlying sweetness to their relationship that they didn’t have yet in the first book. However, we are talking about Nic and Susan here, so nothing about their weekend happens easily. It seems like anything that could go wrong, does, but without giving away too much, I think it’s safe to say all is well in the end.

Jeanne and Jo are great secondary characters, but we get to meet newcomers Harry and Cassandra who all but steal the show. So, pick up this book, make sure you have bail money, put on your Thundershirt, strap on your snowshoes, and expect the unexpected when it’s midnight on the mountaintop.

You can download a sample or purchase Midnight On A Mountaintop by clicking here.

Sunny Reviews Small Town Trouble by Jean Erhardt

Much like the rest of the US recently, Mother Nature gave me some unexpected time off in the form of a winter storm. I suddenly found myself at home with some unplanned reading time on my hands. I had recently taken a chance on buying a book from Amazon by an author with whom I was completely unfamiliar. Call me crazy, but books for $2.99 that sound even remotely interesting are hard for me to resist, and this one sounded like a book I might actually like.

So, to kick off my snow day, I grabbed a cup of coffee, a warm fleece blanket, curled up on the couch, and aimed my e-reader toward Small Town Trouble by Jean Erhardt. I was hooked right off the bat and very glad I had taken a chance on the unknown.

The book is a light-hearted mystery set in the small town of Fogerty, Ohio. The main character, Kim Claypoole, leaves her restaurant in Gatlinburg, TN for a visit to her hometown to check in on her mother, Evelyn. The hilarious Evelyn, also known as “the Other Scarlett O’Hara”, lives in a scaled down version of the Tara Plantation house with her ancient Pekingese, Bunky, and has never met a Manhattan she couldn’t drink. She has just been offered an unusually large sum of money for a local, run-down, country music radio station that she also owns. Evelyn desperately needs the money, but is torn about selling her dearly departed second husband’s radio station. Kim knows the property is not worth the offered price and enlists the help of an old high school friend, who is now an attorney, to make sure everything is legal and valid. The more she finds out, the more suspicious she becomes of the intentions of the mystery man who has made such an outrageous offer.

Taking a breather from her role as the other woman in an affair with a married, and very closeted, Martha Stewart wannabe, Kim finds herself suddenly back in the company of Amy, her best friend from junior high school and French-kissing-practice partner. She discovers that Amy’s family has also been offered a much-too-large sum of money for a dilapidated farm house by the same mystery man that made the offer to Evelyn. As murders start cropping up outside the local strip club, Kim thinks it’s no coincidence that they began happening at the same time as the mysterious real estate offers. Kim and Amy launch into their very own “Nancy Drew and best friend George” investigation and soon find themselves in all sorts of trouble.

The book is a fast read and the characters are lovably quirky. Ms. Erhardt’s writing actually reminds me a good bit of Carl tells me that the second book, Deep Trouble, will be coming out in Spring 2014. I definitely look forward to reading more!

Click here to download a sample or purchase Small Town Trouble.

Sunny Reviews Parties in Congress by Colette Moody

You know you’re probably going to enjoy a book when the acknowledgement page makes you laugh. That’s exactly what happened with Parties in Congress. Although, just saying I enjoyed it is an understatement. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me laugh out loud as much as this one did.

The book centers around main characters Bijal Rao and Colleen O’Bannon. Bijal has just gotten her first political staff position working on the campaign of a moderate Republican candidate with whom she shares political views. Her candidate’s formidable Democratic opponent is incumbent Congresswoman O’Bannon, who is a charismatic, independent thinker, and just happens to be openly gay. The two women are instantly attracted to each other at their very first meeting and it just escalates from there. Their flirtatious banter is both sexy and hilarious all at the same time. I know that sounds strange, but trust me, it’s possible. Given their respective positions, they make a pact to avoid any type of personal relationship until after the election is over. You can imagine how that goes.

Scandals erupt, catastrophes happen, undercover assignments are given and then completely bungled, and clandestine meetings (both planned and unplanned) take place throughout the campaign in which they manage to do everything except avoid each other. Each encounter leads to more of the wonderful banter and hilarious dialogue between not just Colleen and Bijal, but among all of the characters.

The secondary characters have some of the funniest dialogue in the book, especially Fran, Bijal’s very outspoken and opinionated roommate. Bijal’s conversations with Fran are priceless, as is any scene set in the local lesbian hangout called Klit and Kaboodle, or the K and K, as they like to call it. There are many pop culture references that you will love and many lines that you will probably find yourself hoping to remember. I even thought about keeping a list of sayings and funny lines that I want to remember, but I already have the book – I’d just be copying down the whole damn thing.

Hidden among all the hilarity is a really interesting political commentary. I so wish there was a real candidate with Colleen’s political views, because I would be leading the pack to vote for her. And I hate politics. It made me wonder if Ms. Moody would ever have any interest in running for Congress. I loved how she (through her characters) pointed out all the things that I firmly believe are wrong with politics and especially politicians these days. These points were nicely incorporated into the story without sounding preachy or terribly disparaging to one particular political party.

The only issue I had with the book, and I’ll admit this is very trivial and slightly spoilery (that’s your warning), but I found it hard to believe that a lesbian who is as interested in politics as Bijal was, wouldn’t already know what the openly gay Congresswoman from her own district looked like. I understand that the fact that she didn’t was crucial to a key scene, and it certainly didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book, but it was still just a little bit hard to believe. Like I said, trivial, but hey, it’s a review, I’m supposed to point out good and bad.

That said, I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a fast and funny read. This was my first time reading a book by Collette Moody, but it won’t be the last. So, pick up a copy of Parties in Congress and prepare to laugh. And don’t forget to stop by the K and K for your order of faggity-ass French fries.

**Just wanted to post a correction – it has been pointed out that Bijal lived in DC and Colleen represented a district in VA, so she was not actually in Bijal’s voting district, making it a little less likely that Bijal would have recognized her.**

Click here to download a sample or purchase Parties in Congress

Sunny Reviews I Remember by Julie Cannon

This book had a lot of potential, but I really had a hard time with it. I liked the characters and the chemistry they shared, but the way the book was written made it really hard to follow. It’s not written in chronological order, but rather in a series of flashbacks woven in with current happenings. I should note that I read the e-book on a Nook e-reader, so I don’t know if the paperback or other e-reader formats are the same, but there were absolutely no transitions between present day and the flashback scenes. I found this terribly frustrating. There were a few times that I was a paragraph or more into a flashback without realizing it and got completely confused. I know what you’re thinking – she should pay more attention to what she’s reading. Well, I’m reading books like this for fun – I shouldn’t have to work so hard to understand them!

It’s hard to discuss this book without spoilers, so consider yourself warned. The story centers around two women who meet on a lesbian cruise. EJ and Dee meet at dinner on the first night of a 3-week cruise, and after one ‘date’, decide to have a no-strings, what-happens-on-the-ship-stays-on-the-ship affair. They end up spending most of the cruise in bed together and have a blissful, wonderful vacation. They both use sort-of-fake names, no personal information is shared and they go their separate ways at the end of the cruise.

Now, flash forward to present day. Company President Emery Barrett is back from her vacation, about to interview a new candidate for Vice President of Corporate Strategy of Martin Engineering, her troubled company. Enter Dana Worthington, highly qualified corporate strategist. This brings me to the other frustrating thing about the book – the big reveal. Because of the writing style, this happens in the very first chapter – page 11 to be exact. The frustrating part is what could have been a startling surprise is basically revealed in the book’s blurb, so it turns out to be no surprise at all that Dana and Dee are the same person.

The book actually begins with Emery the Executive on her first day back at work preparing for the big interview. The entire cruise story is told in the flashbacks. I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the story had just been told as it all unfolded. Yes, I do remember that the title of the book is I Remember, but for me, that just didn’t work out so well.

There were parts of the book that I really did enjoy. As I said earlier, I liked the characters. They were interesting and they definitely had good chemistry together which was very apparent in the many, steamy love scenes. If you’re a fan of office romances, this would be a good book for you as Emery and Dana struggle with their memories of the cruise and ever-growing attraction to each other in their corporate world.

There was a bit of intrigue thrown in toward the end that I would have really liked to have seen expanded on because it was an interesting twist, but it all gets tied up so quickly, it ended up not really adding much to the story. Also, the ending was rather abrupt, but it certainly left the door wide open for a sequel.

Overall, I was disappointed with this book, but I’ve talked to others who very much enjoyed it, so I’ll chalk it up to different strokes for different folks. So, my bottom line is: give it a try – you may like it very well or I Remember may become one you’d just as soon forget.

Click here to download a sample or buy I Remember