Thursday, December 30, 2010

My First Award - Life is (indeed) Good!

I admit, I've been a little behind in my blogging this week, and even more behind in catching up with my comments. Yes, I suppose I am a bad gurl who needs to be spanked, but that's another story entirely! LOL

Anyway, I was absolutely delighted to discover that Selena, over at The Enchanted Book, has bestowed upon me the Life is Good award.

I am absolutely tickled pink! Please head over and check out her lovely blog if you get a chance, and say hello to her other award recipients.

Okay, onto the survey questions . . .

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you are not anonymous, do you wish that you had started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?

I can't say that I have any regrets. We're all made up of different personas - those we share with family, with friends, at work, in public, with ourselves, etc. - so I say go with what works for you at the time.

2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.
No, I won't, and you can't make me. How's that for stubborn!
3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

I guess it all depends on who is standing behind me . . . sometimes we have to be different things to different people.

4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?

Ah, that's an easy one - an ice cold Coca Cola, preferrably in a glass bottle with little beads of sweat running down the sides.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?
On a perfect day? Go for a long hike, find some shade, and get lost in a good book.

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?

Two things, really. First, I'd love to stop procrastinating and get one of my 3 in-progress novels finished. Good or bad, at least I could say it's done! Second, I'd really love to get my honour's degree finished and move on to my Master's. I'm slowly working on that one, but neither time nor money seem to grow no matter how well I water the garden.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?

Definitely the shy person, hidden away in the back of the class or the corner of the schoolyard, usually with my nose in a book.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?

I know I should say my wedding, but I'm going to go with signing my first writer's contract. Sure, it was just a short story that I sold to a magazine for $75, but it was the first time somebody paid me for my writing . . . and I loved it.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?

Although I like to focus on the books, what attracts me to them, how I feel about them, and what I take away from them are all things that are absolutely the product of my true self.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

Read a book. Hands down. No debate. I loathe talking on the phone . . . always have, and always will. Fortunately, call display makes it easy to screen calls, and the people I want to keep in touch with know that Gmail and BlackBerry Messenger are the keys to getting through. :)

I would like to pass this award on to:
This turned out to be far more difficult than I anticipated. Several of my favourite reads have boldly declared themselves to be award-free zones, which makes it difficult to share the love. So, rather than annoy/offend anybody by making them feel obligated, I've decided to share the award discreetly, and invite the recipients to pop in and 'accept' their accolades with a comment. If they choose to do so, then we'll celebrate together.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

REVIEW: The Jessica Project by Thomas Farrell

On the whole, this was an enjoyable read. Taken strictly as a roguish thriller, it was an exciting, fast-paced, cinematic adventure. Like any good thriller, it demonstrates a definite flair for location and an understanding of cultures that allows the reader to become completely immersed in the various settings – both domestic and foreign.

The key action scenes are worthy of any big-budget (or big name) espionage tale. The story opens with an intimate depiction of a long-distance assassination that definitely sets the tone for what is to follow. Later in the book, there is a fantastic fight scene between three of the main characters that plays well upon past and present relationships, and which ably illustrates the peril of Jesse’s transformation. As for the climax, it’s both well-placed and well-paced, with everyone at risk atop the rushing waterfalls of the Iguazu River.

Unfortunately, the weakest aspect of the book is the characterization. While the two main characters are eventually fleshed out (for the most part), if feels as if their secrets are kept from us (and from each other) for too long. Without understanding their backgrounds, a lot of what happens between the Jesse and Kristin strains credibility, to the point of becoming dangerously clich├ęd.

With Kristin, there are three ‘secrets’ that drive her actions. The first is what caused her to become a lesbian, a date rape that is referenced so casually, it actually makes it easier to accept that a one night with Jesse can ‘cure’ her sexuality. The second is what motivates her to feminize Jesse, a revenge fantasy hidden from the reader for so long that it’s almost irrelevant by the time she finally shares it. The last is her motivation for taking such extraordinary measures – which should seriously complicate her love affair with Jesse – which isn’t revealed until the very end, at which time it serves more to confuse than clarify her storyline.

As for Jesse, his deepest motivations simply aren’t explained, so we never really get to understand what prompted a hero to become a paid assassin. By the time we get to see any of his heroic traits in action, it’s purely an act of love, separate from any internal moral conflict. As a matter of fact, he's still very much a rogue, as his ultimate seduction/deception of Kristin illustrates. As for his transformation from dangerous womanizer into a committed lover, it’s a bit too convenient for the plot, but that’s to be forgiven as an obvious staple of the genre.

What’s really interesting about Jesse’s character – and, for me, this is what made the story work – is how he reacts and responds to his feminization. Initially, he seems to take to it a bit too easy, but we know he's an assassin with a flair for deception, so that mitigates the ease. What really makes the transformation work is how he so carefully plays along, but never succumbs to his own deceit. Even if his physical transformation is a bit too easy, Jesse's emotional and psychological reaction to the situation is realistic – especially in his bizarre confrontation with the SRS psychologist – and that keeps the story grounded.

If you can get your hands on a copy . . . and that’s a big if . . . this is worth a read. Fortunately, the follow-up (Skylord) is still readily available, and reportedly reads well as both a sequel and a standalone adventure. Hopefully it provides us with a bit more insight into what defines the characters, while keeping the same level of tension alive, in which case I suspect this first volume will be that much richer for the experience.

Friday, December 24, 2010

No Hops or Tag Alongs, but a Friday Follow!

Seems to be a quiet day on the book blogger hop/tag-along/follow front . . . gee, you'd almost think it was a holiday or something! LOL

So, Kudos to Rachel over at Parajunkee's View for keeping the Friday Follow tradition alive.

This week's very seasonal question is:

What are you plans for this fabulous day?

Not much different from any other day - another early morning in the office, looking forward to a long day ahead of dealing with the frantic rush of last-minute tasks that should have been completed weeks ago - and would have, if anybody would listen to little ol' me. :)

As always, I urge you to hop around to some new blogs, tag along with some new friends, and find some great new reviews to follow. I always find something new to delight me!

REVIEW: Mistress Rules by Christine D'Abo

Good morning, all! Just a quick note to let you know that my that my latest review is up over at Siren Book Reviews.

Click here for my review of Mistress Rules by Christine D'Abo

Thanks once again to Kayden and team for making me feel welcome! Here's to even more reading, reviewing, and sharing a love of books!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

REVIEW: Red Satin & Third Rail by Giselle Renarde

Two quickie reviews today – not so much because of the holidays, but because I’m really under the gun at the office – that I really wanted to share while there was still time to take advantage of Giselle’s wonderful charitable initiative. Purchase either of these titles (or The Little Burlesque House by the Sea, which is coming up on my to-read list) before the end of December, and she’ll donate her royalties to the LGBT Youthline.

Red Satin: This is a wonderfully romantic little story of newly-discovered identities and re-discovered love. Maisie and Regan are best friends who, years ago, enjoyed a night of drunken bliss. Simple enough, except for the fact that it was Maisie’s first (and only) time with a man, and that Regan wants nothing more than to forget she ever was a man.

I think what struck me most about the story was its honesty and its realism. There are no elements of exaggerated fantasy, just the sincere coming together of two friends who are tentatively entering the next stage of their relationship. Regan is frustrated by the whole clothes-shopping experience, while Maisie is understandably self-conscious about validating her own femininity. They squabble like best friends, but there’s a tenderness in their barbs that betrays their love for one another.

There is a very erotic scene of lust in the dressing room near the end, but it smartly doesn’t conclude the story. Instead, Giselle continues on just enough to confirm the consequences of their lust, and to establish the hope of a lasting relationship.

Third Rail: In many respects, this story is the polar opposite of Red Satin. Martin and Kokoro are mature lovers, engaged in an interesting (if illicit affair). Martin is happily married, but while his wife tolerates his crossdressing, she’s not interested in being an active participant. So, when it comes time to indulge as Fiona, it’s Kokoro who fills the role of her submissive lesbian lover.

This is a story liberally sprinkled with eroticism, but deliberately immersed in the monotony of everyday life. It’s almost comic in how the two lovers bounce between lust and life, between the sensual and the mundane, as they enjoy the temporary absence of Martin’s wife.

While this one contains a bit more fantasy than Red Satin, it’s still very much grounded in the consequences of reality. This time, however, Giselle carries the story through the eroticism not to a message of hope, but to one of legimate doubt as to how long this relationship can (or should) survive. Not that it’s a depressing ending – just an honest one.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine.)

My choice this week is a bit of an odd one to feature here, but the way I see it, a little diversity is never a bad thing! I am anxiously awaiting Steven Erikson's The Crippled God, the 10th book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen:

Savaged by the K'Chain Nah'Ruk, the Bonehunters march for Kolanse, where waits an unknown fate. Tormented by questions, the army totters on the edge of mutiny, but Adjunct Tavore will not relent. One final act remains, if it is in her power, if she can hold her army together, if the shaky allegiances she has forged can survive all that is to come. A woman with no gifts of magic, deemed plain, unprepossessing, displaying nothing to instill loyalty or confidence, Tavore Paran of House Paran means to challenge the gods -- if her own troops don't kill her first.

Awaiting Tavore and her allies are the Forkrul Assail, the final arbiters of humanity. Drawing upon an alien power terrible in its magnitude, they seek to cleanse the world, to annihilate every human, every civilization, in order to begin anew. They welcome the coming conflagration of slaughter, for it shall be of their own devising, and it pleases them to know that, in the midst of the enemies gathering against them, there shall be betrayal. In the realm of Kurald Galain, home to the long lost city of Kharkanas, a mass of refugees stand upon the First Shore. Commanded by Yedan Derryg, the Watch, they await the breaching of Lightfall, and the coming of the Tiste Liosan. This is a war they cannot win, and they will die in the name of an empty city and a queen with no subjects.

Elsewhere, the three Elder Gods, Kilmandaros, Errastas and Sechul Lath, work to shatter the chains binding Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, and release her from her eternal prison. Once freed, she will be a force of utter devastation, and against her no mortal can stand. At the Gates of Starvald Demelain, the Azath House sealing the portal is dying. Soon will come the Eleint, and once more, there will be dragons in the world. And so, in a far away land and beneath indifferent skies, the final cataclysmic chapter in the extraordinary 'Malazan Book of the Fallen' begins.

There are some gay and lesbian characters (although their sexuality is no more important to the plot than their eye colour or the length of their hair), and there are some odd gender relationships (pretty much to be expected, when you're dealing with as many races as Erikson crams into the books), but it would be a stretch to classify this as 'alternative'.

What it is, in this gurl's humble opinion, is the greatest fantasy saga that nobody is talking about. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is truly epic in every sense of the word. It's grim, and dirty, and almost painfully realistic at times. The mythology is deeper, more complex, and more significant than in any other series. There are more characters than any reader should be expected to keep track of, yet each and every one is memorable. Most importantly, the storytelling is both superb and surprising. Erikson pulls no punches - literally anything can happen, and absolutely no character is safe or untouchable. There's a very real threat of death on every page that creates an unprecedented (and sometimes exhausting) level of suspense.

Although not due to be released in North America until March (which drives me crazy, since Erikson is a fellow Canadian!), the wonder and glory of the internet means I have already placed my order and am anxiously awaiting my copy to be shipped from the UK in early February.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

REVIEW: Mark 947 by Calpernia Sarah Addams

This was an extremely difficult read. There were several times where I had to put it down, wipe away the tears, and distance myself from the emotions it pulled to the surface. This is a story full of sorrow and pain, not a lot of hope, and only a few fleeting moments of happiness.

A Life Shaped by God: Calpernia grew up part of a strictly religious family. It wasn't necessarily a cult environment, but one with moral, ethical, and physical restrictions that it may be okay for an adult to choose, but which should never be forced on a child. Although loved by her family, their faith - and its condemnation of her very being - haunts her every waking moment. It is never okay to question her gender or her sexuality, and the only release she has to look forward to is that of death . . . with the certainly of Hell waiting on the other side. There's a passage early on that I think sums up this aspect of her childhood better than anything I could use to describe it:

"It was so easy for people who preached against homosexuality, I thought. They were hardwired to already like the opposite sex, and built to attract its attention. All they had to do was connect the dots, color inside the lines, and they were heaven-bound. I hadn't even been given any crayons."

A Life Shaped by Gender: Calpernia's struggles with her gender identity are front-and-centre in even her earliest memories, and the way in which it emerges is interesting. Her deeply religious mother is loving, but very plain. There are no pretty dresses to catch Scotty's attention, no beautiful lingerie to try on, and no makeup with which to experiment. What's more, with limited access to TV and equally limited exposure to the 'normal' world, there are no icons of exaggerated feminity in his life to envy or admire. Her femininity is simply a part of Scotty. . . something begging to be exposed. It isn't until well over halfway through her story that Calpernia first visibly embraces her femininity - and, coincidentally, it's the first moment of true (if sadly tained) happiness we get to share:

"I felt so beautiful, in exactly the way I wanted to be: erotic, powerful, and a little scary. My gestures were slow, expressions of internal struggle. I was damaged. I wanted to fuck someone. Kill someone."

A Life Shaped by Force of Will: While Calpernia is loved by her family, she is never supported or encouraged by them. Her childhood friends were few and short-lived (the abandonment of Jerry and Crystalline still breaks my heart), and the only other adults in her life are members of the church - judgemental and cruel. Every decision in her life is hers, and she owns them all, regardless of how they turn out. When she finally finds love, it's because she reached out, took a chance, and allowed someone to get close. Even when that love is cruelly destroyed in an act of vile hatred, it is Calpernia who pulls herself together; stands bravely before the media, the military, and the justice system; summons the courage to continue living; and ultimately chooses to share her story, warts and all.

"At about the same time a glittering crown was lowered onto my head, Calvin swung the bat at Barry's sleeping face, again and again, until the man I knew was no more."

As depressing as Calpernia's story is, this is also an amazingly courageous story that absolutely commands your attention and respect. It's never self-pitying, and never asks the reader to do anything more than witness the events (even if it does leave you wanting to hold her hand). Almost too sad to be a true story, this a powerful work by a wonderful writer who effortlessly connects with the reader by laying bare those emotions we all share, yet find so difficult to talk about. Even though I see a lot of myself in Calpernia, I'm honestly not sure I do (or ever could) possess the force of will necessary to carry me through even a portion of what she's experienced.

If you're at all interested in the human experience - all questions of faith, gender, or sexuality aside - then this is a story worth encountering.

REVIEW: The Salbine Sisters by Sarah Ettritch

Sarah Ettritch's new novel is one of those stories that sneaks up on you, snuggles in close, and seduces you into reading just a few more pages before you put it down. The words flow so easily and so sweetly on the page that you're halfway through it before you realise the house is quiet, the news is muted on TV, and everybody else has long since gone to bed.

This is lesbian romance at its finest, with characters who are so wonderfully alive that you can't help but fall in love with them from the very first page. Rarely do I come across a character who so completely, so instantaneously, and so effortlessly makes such a lasting connection with me as I found myself enjoying with Maddy. She's honest and genuine, both a loving friend and a friendly lover. Even though she's involved in a May-December romance with Lillian, their love never feels cliched or tenuous.

The Salbine Sisters themselves are a psudeo-religious Order of sorceresses. Organized in a convent-like setting, these women are 'called' to the service of Salbine, and come to learn the art of 'drawing' the elements as part of their faith. Many of the women are lesbians, but this is neither remarkable nor a point of controversy - the joining of two women as concubines is just as special, just as much a cause for celebration, and just as common-place as the joining of a man and woman in marriage. As such, Sarah is free to explore the love of Maddy and Lillian without having to deal with feelings of angst or anxiety regarding their sexual orientation.

In terms of storyline, this is a simple novel, but a powerful one - and one where, upon reflection, it's easy to discern the deeper meaning so subtly woven into the plot.

While her sexuality does not make her an outsider, the fact that Maddy is 'malflowed' - attempting to draw the elements causes her crippling pain - does. Lost, confused, and questioning her place, she begs the Abbess for permission to travel to another Order to research the journals of another (long-deceased) malflowed sister. Along the way, a lack of understanding about her condition causes others to misunderstand her, to judge her wrongly, and to imprison her simply for being who she is.

It's at this point that the simple romance becomes a far more complex drama of love and courage. Without giving away the key turning points of the story, Maddy suffers both emotionally and physically for the misunderstandings of others, but she remains true to herself through it all, finding a renewed purpose in the care of a young girl, abandoned by her mother, and cruelly imprisoned as a thief. Again, I don't want to spoil the ending, but it's a safe bet that love (and Lillian) will truly conquer all.

As much as I enjoed this novel, the ending bothered me at first. I felt like there was no resolution to Maddy's quest to understand being malflowed . . . no tidy explanation of how and why she came to be that way. It was then, of course, that the pieces came together and the deeper meaning emerged. Quite cleverly, Sarah uses Maddy to explore what it means to be an outsider, even as she fools us with a world where that quality which should make Maddy an obvious outsider - her sexual orientation - is embraced and accepted.

There's no resolution because, ultimately, it's no more important to understand why Maddy is malflowed than than it is to understand how she came be a lesbian. Instead, the story is about simply accepting that which makes us different, recognizing what is truly important, and in learning how to live happily ever after. It's an interesting way of making the reader ask those very same questions, even as we enjoy the ride of a thoroughly rewarding love story.

Absolutely 100% recommended . . . this was a lovely read.

Monday, December 20, 2010

REVIEW: Chick Band by Rakelle Valencia

Chick Band is a lesbian romance, dosed liberally with erotica, wrapped up in a rock-star soap opera - and that is so totally not a bad thing!  

The book opens up with an unusual scene of lesbian bondage that doesn’t really play to any of the reader’s expectations. With one participant who begins the scene asleep, and another who is wavering between emotional disinterest and sexual urgency, it’s an awkward scenario all around. Although the significance of that awkwardness isn’t immediately apparent, it’s the first sign that Juleen has had her fill of emotionless, kinky, one-night stands.
Enter Darci. She is the exact opposite of Darci - folk where she’s rock, shy where she’s bold, timid where she’s adventurous, safe where she’s dangerous, and pretty where she’s sultry. Fortunately for both of them, opposites attract, and what begins as a friendship and musical partnership ultimately becomes a relationship.
When you’re dealing with wannabe rock-stars, however, no relationship ever progresses easily (or logically).
Both women are dealing with emotional commitments to their music, as well as other less tangible commitments to the friends and lovers in their respective lives. Juleen isn’t above a quick heterosexual fling, if it helps her to accomplish what she needs, and Darci is only just coming to terms with the fact that she’s a lesbian, so heterosexual sex still offers a sense of security and complacency.
Over the course of the novel our two lovers come together, drift apart, renew their affections, fight, make up enough times that you just want to handcuff them together and make them talk - even if Juleen would enjoy that a bit too much. It’s frustrating, but it’s also realistic. Making matters worse, as their respective careers begin to take off, and their collaborations become more and more a source of tension, it becomes harder and harder for the girls to separate their personal and professional lives.

Fortunately, the novel is also filled with just enough supporting characters to relieve the tension, although Ms. Valencia is careful to hold them back from dominating any of the scenes. This is really a tale of two rock-stars in love, and at the end of the day, the stage is theirs.

NEWS: Read Giselle and Help Support LGBT Youth

I’d like to take a moment today to introduce you all to Giselle Renarde, a fellow Canuck, erotica author, and activist for LGBT rights.

During this holiday season, Giselle is raising money for a very worthy organization called the LGBT Youthline – a free service through which young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit and queer volunteers provide support and counselling to their peers. Based in Ontario and available to the under-26 crowd, the LGBT Youthline offers support over the phone, via online chat, and via email.

To help support the cause, Giselle is donating all royalties from her transgender-focused works, including Red Satin, Third Rail, and The Little Burlesque House by the Sea. Buy any (or all!) of these titles from any reputable retailer through the end of December and Giselle will donate her portion of the royalties to the LGBT Youthline.

To maximise your donation, please consider purchasing them directly from the publishers' websites (as linked above), since a larger percentage of the purchase price will go to the LGBT Youthline. For more details, please check out the details over at Giselle's blog, Donuts and Desires.

Kudos to Giselle for such a wonderful idea. I fully intend to purchase all three titles when I get home tonight (and hope you will too), so look for my reviews soon . . . I can't wait to start reading!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

REVIEW: Body Swap by Jerome Parisse

For a Young Adult novella, this one had some surprising depth. William is an interesting, well-rounded young man (who happens to have a strange fetish for coffee grinders, thanks to his grandmother), and Pat is a perfectly awkward best friend (with an equally strange fetish for big words, thanks to his own grandmother). As for Samantha . . . for a girl who spends most of the book off-stage in a coma, she's surprisingly well-crafted.

This is a story that I found worked on several levels, although not quite as I expected. While there are some comic moments, Jerome avoids the all-too obvious temptation to succumb to teenage slapstick comedy. Instead, we're presented with a serious story of love and friendship, one that explores feeling of alienation and of being different. There is a subplot involving William's dead sister and his mother's inability to cope with that loss that is particularly moving, and which is used very well as part of the book's conclusion.

Personally, I had hoped William would spend more time in Samantha's body, but that portion of the book is very well-handled and (most importantly) quite realistic. The obligatory scenes of struggling with a bra and heels are there, but it's handled with sensitivity instead of being used for slaptstick comedy. His interractions with Samatha's mother are almost painful to watch, and we cringe along with him at every agonizing step. His emotional and mental struggles are the focus here (one again, he's the kid who doesn't fit in), and they are really quite touching.

I have to say, however, that there is one moment of cruelty where William (as Samantha) weaves a fictional tale of violent parental abuse to some of Samantha's friends. The way that scene played out particularly irked me. Even though it does have it's consequences later on, it really severed my emotional ties to William, and I found it very difficult to reconnect with him in any sympathetic manner again until the very end.

Now, I don't want to end on a downer, so I'll add this - the interplay between William and Pat after the body swap, with Pat crushing on Samatha's body and being unable (or unwilling) to separate that physical appearance from his best friend's personality, is very amusing . . . and actually quite touching.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hops, Follows, and Tag Alongs, Oh My!

It's time for another Book Blogger Hop, courtesy of Crazy for Books!

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question is:

"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

For me, plot is everything. There needs to be a compelling story that draws me in, captures my attention, and keeps me wanting more. Strong characters are a must, but they can't carry a story alone..

It's also time for the Friday Follow, courtesy of Parajunkee's View!

This week's question is:

Carmel is studying web design... What did you study in college, or are currently studying and did it lead to your current 9 to 5 or are you doing something totally different?

Much to nobody's surprise, I was an English Language & Literature major. My 9-to-5 job is related (P.R. and communications), but not what I expected to be doing when I graduated..

Bouncing Around the Blogs is courtesy of Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews.

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Tag Along is courtesy of Bitten by Paranormal Romance!


The Newbie Blog Hop is courtesy of Lazy Girl Reads (a fellow summer-time debut book blogger).

This week's question is:

What's your favorite feature of online book blogging?

I'm going to go with just being exposed to so many new authors (and fellow readers). I've been introduced to books I never would have come across in the bookstore, and I've thoroughly enjoyed many of them.

As always, I urge you to hop around to some new blogs, tag along with some new friends, and find some great new reviews to follow. I always find something new to delight me!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NEWS: The End (Five Queer Kids Save The World) by Nora Olsen

Nora Olsen, over at, has just published her debut novel, The End: Five Queer Kids Save The World:

When World War Three breaks out, seventeen-year-old Julia is on a school trip to Amsterdam, while fourteen-year-old Marly is trapped in a prison for delinquent girls. They both discover magical amulets, and try their best to save themselves and those around them. But it looks like their best will not be enough, as nuclear war threatens the survival of the human race.

On her journey home to New York, Julia is joined by three other queer teens and the mysterious and alluring Ginger; lipstick lesbian Vikki; and five-thousand-year-old Skilly, who has an amulet that grants him eternal life. When Julia and Marly meet, they are immediately attracted to each other. But romance has to take a back seat as the five friends learn the true powers of the amulets. Can they travel through time to save the world from total destruction?

To celebrate the launch, she is giving away a copy of The End and a matching magnet to one (1) lucky winner. To fill out the entry form, go here.

Sign me up! This sounds like a fun read, and just the kind of book I need to get started on challenges for 2011. Swing on by Nora's site and check it out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Birthday Sale at Kobo Books - 50% Off

Oooh, exciting news! To celebrate their first birthday, Kobo Books is having a 50% off sale for today only.

Just pop on over to the site and use the discount code "1stbirthday" to get your cheap reads. It's a one-time use only coupon, though, so make sure you fill your basket before checking out!

Happy Birthday, Kobo!

"Waiting On" Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine.)

Dark Waters by Alex Prentiss
Dark WatersBy day, Rachel Matre runs a hip diner in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. By night, she slips naked into the waters of a lake whose spirits speak to her, caress her, and take her to a place of indescribable pleasure. But now the machinations of a greedy developer have summoned another force from the depths—a strange, beautiful man with a dark agenda. Soon there is a murder by the lake. During the hunt for the killer, Rachel is pulled into a torturous limbo where all she can feel is her raging erotic lust—and never a release. A crime, an ancient curse, and a confluence of thoroughly modern relationships have plunged Rachel into the ultimate mystery: one whose solution will emerge only out of pain, desire, and a passion for the most forbidden truth of all.
Magic University: The Tower and the Tears: A Ravenous RomanceKyle is a college sophomore worrying about the usual things students do, like what he's going to major in and getting along with his dorm mates, but he attends a most unusual college. He's a student at Veritas, the hidden magical university inside Harvard. Before he got to Harvard, Kyle hadn't even known he was magical. Now he finds he has a talent for sex magic and the erotic arts. Not only that, a girl in his sex magic class has a crush on him. Kyle looks forward to lots of "study sessions" together with Ciara and their friend Marjory, but when their professor is mysteriously attacked, Kyle finds himself embroiled in a mystery deeper than university department politics. Someone has been stealing magical artifacts and the dean suspects Ciara, sending Kyle on a quest to discover the real culprit. Kyle will learn sizzling sexual technique and unleash powerful magic on his incredible erotic journey, but is the study of sex really the route to true love? Perhaps what Kyle needs to learn about most is himself.

Taken By The Others by Jess Haines
Taken By The Others (H&W Investigations)Once, New York P.I. Shiarra Waynest's most pressing problem was keeping her agency afloat. Now she's dealing with two dangerous, seductive vampires who have been enemies for centuries. The only thing Max Carlyle and Alec Royce agree on is that they both want Shia - for very different reasons. Max is determined to destroy Shia for killing his progeny, while Royce's interest is a lot more personal. That's not sitting well with Shia's werewolf boyfriend, Chaz. As the feud between Max and Royce gets ever more deadly, a powerful vampire-hunting faction is urging Shia to join their side. Shia has always believed vamps were the bad guys, but she's discovering unexpected shades of grey that are about to redefine her friends, her loyalties - and even her desires.

The Lady of l'Aigle by Patrick M. Henry
The Lady of l'AigleA young British sailor, David Blake, is rescued unconscious from the beach at Le Touquet by members of the French Resistance. He never imagines the event will eventually lead to his being accepted as one of the most glamorous female impressionist entertainers in Occupied France. Nor could he anticipate the fear and exhilaration he would experience in combat against the German occupation forces. David’s rescuers disguise him as a young girl to facilitate his treatment in a civilian hospital. By this means, he is hidden by the Resistance from the German SD police and the collaborationist Milice. When well enough to travel, he makes a dangerous train journey to a hideaway in the St. Denis red light district of Paris. In St. Denis he transforms into “Celine,” a woman of questionable virtue, to blend with the three prostitutes who are committed to protect him. He is encouraged to fully adopt the cocoon of a lovely woman and live their life style. 

In this glamorous persona, the new and beautiful Celine is persuaded by the Resistance leaders to join them and to become an entertainer at Le Club Transvestie. Here he is subjected to the magnetic demands of gender dysphoria and the contentment, love and sexuality it engenders. This is enhanced by his romantic relationship with Gaby, a call-girl whose nubile body becomes his happiness, his love and his sensual anchor.

Each night, he experiences the exhilarating, celebrity life of a popular night club star. His newly discovered gender gift provides him an erotic sense of satisfaction and wholeness such as he has never known; while in fierce battles with the enemy he learns about the nobility of personal courage, yet suffers the ignominy of scorn and bigotry from superiors.

The Lady of l’Aigle paints a sizzling and compelling portrait of the drama, joy and moral dilemmas of a young warrior thrust into an exciting transgender role during the Occupation and Liberation of Paris during WW11.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

E-books and E-publishers – should there be standards?

Let me begin by admitting that I don’t know the answer, but I think it’s an important question to consider.

I firmly believe e-ink technology is the best thing to happen to books since the printing press. I absolutely love my Sony Reader, and every time I pick up a monster hardcover (the latest Wheel of Time book comes to mind), I gain a new appreciation for the fact that I can carry an entire library in my purse. I love how accessible books are. I love that so many out-of-print titles are making an electronic comeback, and I love how e-books have opened up a whole new world of unique, small-press and self-published voices.

Over the past year, I’ve bought e-books from no fewer than a dozen different online bookstores, and that doesn’t include the titles I’ve bought directly from the authors, or that I’ve received from other sources for review.

What I’ve noticed, and what’s really begun to annoy me lately, is that there are seemingly no standards for how an e-book is produced or marketed.

Some stores/publishers provide you with a page count, others with a file-size, and others with nothing at all. Unless you’re buying a mass-market title, you really don’t know what you’re getting. Sometimes you can use the file-size as a rough guide, but that can so easily be inflated by a high-resolution cover, interior artwork, or just the format of the book itself, that it’s often meaningless. A short story can be over 1MB in size, and a full-length novel can easily be in the range of 150kb.

I don’t know how many times I’ve bought an e-book figuring I was at least getting a decent-sized novella, only to discover it’s a very short story.

That brings me to my other complaint, especially with some small-press publishers, and that’s padding of the page count. I purchased an e-book a few weeks ago that was 20 pages in length – already a short read compared to what I expected based on the file-size. As it turns out, however, only 9 of those 20 pages were actual story (8 if you consider that the first started half-way down the page, and the last ended with just 3 sentences on the page)! The first 4 pages were a cover, title-page, list of other titles, and dual warnings about sexual content and piracy; the last 7 pages were synopses of other books from the same publisher.

I'm not saying that other material isn't important, and I completely understand the value of cross-promotion, but when your book is more filler than story, that's a pretty poor deal in my book. I paid to read the author's words, and I based the 'fair value' I was willing to pay on how much story I thought I was getting for my money. It's upsetting when you feel like you've been ripped off, and it sours you on the experience of that publisher (and potentially that author, which isn't fair).

What do you think? I am overreacting, or has anybody else experienced that same frustration? Have you just come to expect the unknown factor that comes with opening an e-book, or do you perhaps just restrict yourself to known authors and publishers?

Monday, December 13, 2010

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Still hopping between books as the mood grabs me, but the ones that have caught (and successfully held) my attention are:

Mark 947 by Calpernia Addams (this has been on my to-read list for a while now, so I'm really not sure what catapulted it to my reading list, but so far it's wonderful - and eerily identifiable)

Mark 947: A Life Shaped by God, Gender and Force of Will

The Salbine Sisters by Sarah Ettritch (just starting this one, but it's quite lovely so far)

The Salbine Sisters

Mistress Rules by Christine d'Abo (still saving this one for a cold and snowy night, which should be soon!)

Deviant Ark by Christopher Newman (a future dystopia, a closeted lesbian colonist, dual-gendered aliens, and the threat of interstellar war . . . looking to start in on this next)

Well, that's it for now . . . what are you reading?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Rainbow Awards - Winners!

Elisa has released the winners of the 2010 Rainbow Awards, and I'm very pleased to see a few of my favourite reads on the list:

Best Bisexual / Transgender Contemporary:
1) Iolanthe Woulff - She's My Dad (read my review here)
2) Clifford Henderson - Spanking New
3) Mykola Dementiuk - Dee Dee Day

Best Lesbian Contemporary:
1) Kim Pritikel - 1049 Club (read my review here)
2) V.K. Powell - Fever
3) Geonn Cannon - Tilting at Windmills

Best Bisexual, Transgender & Lesbian Fantasy:
1) Sandra McDonald - Diana Comet and Other Improbable Tales
2) Jane Fletcher - Wolfsbane Winter (read my review here)
3) Alex Mykals - Nigredo (read my review here)

Best Lesbian Paranormal / Horror:
1) Nell Stark & Trinity Tam - Everafter (on my to-read list)
2) Moondancer Drake - Natural Order
3) Gill McNight - Goldenseal (on my to-read list)

 Best Overall Bisexual / Transgender Fiction:
1) Sandra McDonald - Diana Comet and Other Improbable Tales
2) Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks - Showdown at Yellowstone River
3) Iolanthe Woulff - She's My Dad (read my review here)

Best Overall Lesbian Fiction:
1) Colette Moody - The Seduction of Moxie
2) Kim Pritikel - 1049 Club (read my review here)
3) Ronica Black - The Seeker

Check out the complete list of very deserving winners here:

Rainbow Awards: And the award goes to...

Congrats to all, and thanks to Elisa for putting this together!