Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review- Truth Behind the Mask by Lesley Davis


Truth Behind the Mask
By Lesley Davis
Sept. 15, 2008
Fantasy/Sci-fi/Lesbian/Romance
87.3K words
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Buy it Amazon, B&N, ARe

High above the city, a young guardian searches for the enemy...and finds love.

In a city rife with evil, masked protectors secretly watch over the inhabitants, keeping the citizens safe while hiding their own identity. One young Sentinel, however, violates her oath and loses her heart to the woman she is charged to protect. By day, Pagan Osborne is a shy security specialist working in the family business. By night, as a Sentinel, she fulfils a greater family legacy and battles the criminals who threaten Chastilian's peace. Erith Baylor, a fiery young woman with her own secrets to hide, is drawn to Pagan's quiet charm and silent strength. But with so many secrets between them, their attraction could break the ties of family and finally reveal the truth behind the mask.

I was so attracted to this book that I bought it twice unknowingly.  I found the blurb intriguing. I thought maybe it’s a dark or intense urban fantasy type story. My overall feeling about this book though is that it was missing something in the way of the intensity I was hoping for. I found myself wishing the characters were darker, edgier and not so… nice.

Truth Behind the Mask started out great. I loved the setup. Pagan is sent to a car dealership to set up a high-tech security system. The owner is totally freaked by events going on and the fact that some of his high-end cars have been stolen. By day she works for her sister and her partner’s security company. But by night, she, her much older sister and sister’s partner watch over the city as Sentinels.

In this car dealership she meets Erith. Erith is different. She’s not shy, she dresses a bit Gothish and has flaming red hair. Something about Erith attracts Pagan. Erith is also attracted. Pagan is tall, very tall, and there’s something about her that intrigues Erith. She quickly finds out that Pagan is deaf and not reacting to that in a negative way turns Pagan on a bit more.

These two women dance around each other, flirting, but never doing anything overt while Pagan sets up the system. It’s clear though that Erith has some problems. Pagan sees bruises on her and flips out. Watching over her one night on her perch atop a building, she sees Erith getting beaten by her father and this enrages her.

Unfortunately Pagan has to keep her secret. And her sister and partner are warning her that it’s not OK to get involved with someone whom she is protecting. But she can’t help herself and breaks the rules bringing Erith to their secret home and world.

Erith also has a big secret. It’s a secret that’s found out fairly quickly. This is one of the things that I wish was played out a bit more for some tension, any kind of tension between the women. Once Erith finds out about Pagan and what she does and Pagan and her sister know Erith’s secret, about the ½ way point, the story lost a lot of steam for me.

I liked the characters themselves. Pagan is a rather innocent person considering the trauma she suffered as a child and her job as a crime fighter. You’d think she’d be toughened up and jaded, but she’s not. She was brought up by her older sister Melina and her partner Rogue in a loving and almost insolated way. She comes across as rather pure in how she thinks and acts.

Erith is a tech genius of sorts who has been recruited by her father to work on tech things he needs and is more familiar with the criminal element of Chastilian even if innocent. Her father is a major abuser and usually takes his anger out on her mother. He constantly threatens that he will hurt her mother if she doesn’t obey or, he beats her himself so she feels trapped.  And yet, she still feels like she has to deal with her father, have some kind of relationship or closure after escaping. She’s strong but vulnerable in that area. She's also somewhat unpredictable.

I think my favorite character is Rogue because she’s the toughest and has the most grit. Where Pagan will try not to do harm in fighting crime, Rogue will do what she has too. Melina, Pagan’s sister, didn’t really stand out for me in a striking way except that Rogue and Melina and how they relate is a huge part of this story. Family and loyalty to family are huge themes from both good and bad guy sides.

The plot of the Sentinels fighting the uber nepharious, sinister, evil Phoenix who’s out to destroy the city of Chastilian is fairly interesting but not too unique. There’s really not much world building, meaning, the Sentinels, including the Sighted, what they do and who they are is explained in briefest of terms and straightforwardly.  And there are major plot holes. There’s no reference to time although clearly it’s not current time or it’s in an alternate contemporary higher tech universe. And there’s no reference to any society outside of the city of Chastilian. So it does have a comic book feel to it with its super hero vs. villain in an insular city situation.

The main issue I had with this book was that there was way too much mushy talking about feelings and love. I know to most that would sound great, but it’s like one big love fest after everyone’s secret is out. It suffers just a little too much sweetness for me. From the midpoint on, when the action sort of stops and the emoting begins I lost interest. I managed to keep reading and it does pick up again.

The romance between Pagan and Erith suffered for me because of that as well. I liked how they slowly come together. Neither knowing if the other one is gay but throwing out little hints they are. Both girls are rather innocent in the romance dept. and that part was great. And it does develop slowly on the physical level. They share a room but don’t sleep together even though they profess their love for each other over and over. I mean once that happened, there was no reason to hope they’d get together anymore and it lost its steam.

I kept thinking (hoping) there’d be a glitch with Erith after telling Pagan the truth. But it’s all flowers and roses. The main foil for these two is the possibility of Pagan succumbing to the dangerous nature of her job, which wasn't enough for me.

I think if you like really, really sweet love stories with a bit of action in them and characters who are strong and independent, and set in an unique, alternate world, then this book will work for you. For the most part I enjoyed it even with the issues and I’d read another of this author’s books.

Heat Level- 3/4- there’s really only one sex scene that’s written in sensual way.

Grade- Between- it was OK and I liked it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review- This Kiss (DVD)



This Kiss (DVD)

2007
Contemporary/ Lesbian character

When childhood best friends Juliet and Lucy reunite in sun-soaked Australia after a decade, they initially find it rather natural to slip into laughter and intimate bonding despite the fact that they barely recognize each another and an unresolved incident from their long-ago past looms over their heads. Of course, the operative word in the previous sentence is "initially."

I knew nothing about what this movie was about. Again, I perused through my library selection and am sort of just watching all the lesbian/bi themed movies available.

I’d love to say that this is a really good movie, but it didn’t quite make it for me. It’s a good film if you’re in the mood for the type of story in which childhood friends reconnect after years apart and go through the process of healing old wounds. On this level, it’s a decent movie.

It suffers too many issues though from stilted over acting to choppy pacing and weird filming. It’s kind of like watching an amateurish camcorder film. However if the story and acting were a bit smoother, I think it would have been a decent look at a coming out story.

What I did like about it was that both characters feel ashamed about something and show a vulnerability that’s very realistic.

Juliet is a high-powered company executive who travels the world. She’s under an extreme amount of stress and is popping pills to cope. Told to take a short holiday, she decides to go back to her home town, look up her old best friend and go to their 10th year high school reunion.

When Lucy looks out the window sees her old friend getting out of the car, she freaks and refuses to answer the door at first. She’s gained a lot of weight and feels embarrassed. She’s also still living in the house she grew up in supposedly happily married with two children. She eventually invites Juliet in who is shocked to see her friend looking so different.

As the day wears on, the chit chat goes from superficial topics, to reminiscing teenage events to what their lives are like now to really getting into some deep and old wounds from events that happened before Juliet took off.

Major confessions also happen and while Lucy is jealous that Juliet is skinny and gorgeous and living a full life, she also sees that Juliet isn’t living the great life she thinks.

The big reveal, which was no reveal really, was that Juliet shares with Lucy that she’s a lesbian. It’s something Lucy knew when they were teenagers and she’s shocked that Juliet’s making a bit deal of it.

“The kiss” is part of what happens towards that end of their day together and it’s very awkward for various reasons.

This isn’t a lesbian love story. It’s a story about two friends, one who’s a lesbian who is trying to come to terms with it years later and goes back to the one girl to whom she had her first same sex attraction to “confess” and move on.

I give it a skip if you thought you might like to watch it. If the acting were a bit better, or if I actually believed that Juliet was a lesbian and in angst about it—the actress came off as someone out of touch with actually being a lesbian—it would be a good flick to watch.

Heat Level: 0

Grade: Was just OK

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review- The Last Best Tip (Grift-Girs) by Cassandra Duffy


The Last Best Tip (Grift-Girls)
By Cassandra Duffy
July 4, 2011
Lesbian/ Paranormal/Erotic
16.6K words
Publisher: Sapphic Pixie Tales


“This is a novella, actually it’s a novella with two short stories attached to it, but even then it shouldn’t be mistaken for a novel. Like most summer trysts, when the heat is too oppressive for a long love-making session, it’s short, intense, hopefully satisfying, and over before you’re likely to succumb to heat stroke.” ~Cassandra Duffy

The lone anchor in Lucy’s life is a job she hates at a swingers club in the heart of middle America; without it, she would be just another twenty-something college dropout, who never quite reached her potential, and is as unlucky in love as most everything else. It’s a shame she hates her job. Sasha, her vampire crush, working in the bar across the way, is in a similar boat, but she has a way out…

Lucy breaks the law, breaks rules she didn’t even know she had, and risks what little she has left to be with Sasha. In this sexy, lighthearted comedy of errors luck and flexibility aren’t always what they seem.

I loved Cassandra Duffy's The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head so I was jonsen to try another of her books. This book actually contains three stories, all with a vampire theme. To be honest, I'm not that excited about reading vampire stories any more, however I do put that aside if there's a particular author's work I have admired.

While the vampire aspect of these stories was really nothing more than a character who happened to be a vampire, meaning for me, there's no mythology build-up to give that aspect a unique feel to it, what Cassandra Duffy did do is create two unique characters in the first story and focus on the dream like, nebulous quality of the typical vampire portrayal in the last two. These, I did get excited about.

The Last Best Tip-- is about a vampire and a human who are partners in crime. The blurb is an accurate description of this story so I'll go from there. I have a soft spot for strong, clever women who have chutzpah and like to break the rules. Before Lucy and Sasha meet, Lucy didn't really ever think about scamming people, but Sasha sparks that part of her that likes that excitement. Both are working in jobs they hate and Sasha, the vampire and more worldly person, convinces Lucy to work a con with her so they can open their own bar. Lucy readily jumps on this.

This story is fun and very erotic with strong exhibitionist/voyeuristic elements to it. I thought it kind of funny that these two rather wild and kinky ladies would want to open a normal lesbian sports bar in the Midwest after having worked in fetish bars, but how their con turns out works out for the best for them. As a couple, there's a lot of sexual heat, but the romantic angle is a bit glossed over. That was fine because these two ladies are juicy and that's what's interesting in this story.

An Eternal Night of Overtime--- Brooke is a young, former surfer girl from Australia who lands a job as an assistant with a famous and difficult designer Vendela. Vendela has a reputation of being weird and off-beat. She has a home up in Barrow, AK and she wants Brooke to come up there with her to work on her designs during the coldest and darkest time, Nov-Jan.

After Brooke arrives, she finds Vendela's massive stone and metal house to be cold and unwelcoming and a bit shocking since Vendela creates colorful, splashy clothes. After Vendela arrives though, things get weird and Brooke can't tell if what's going on is a dream or real.

I have to be honest, at first I was reading this and thinking WTF? It's a story set in Alaska above the Arctic Circle. Already, that's odd because we're talking about a fashion icon who you'd think would want to work in NY or CA. But it piqued my interest. Second, Brooke wakes from sleep after being called by Vendela and walks downstairs not realizing what she's wearing. I was thinking, how can you not notice something like that? But as I read the story it all became clear and quite the turn-on.

This was my favorite story of the three. It's got a biting starkness to it that's really unique in an erotic story. And I love, love stories, particularly sexual scenarios, in which what's going on is dreamy or hazy.

Haunted House on Top--- Cami, who's a vampire and her human, long distance girlfriend, Brianna, are meeting up for Halloween night. Cami's gay best friend Lewis has told her about a haunted house that would be fun to go to and they need a special password to get in. When the girls get there the house is in a constant flux with rooms and people appearing and disappearing.

The girls' story together is basically that they are already a couple but this house gives them a chance at a different erotic sexual scenario. Or that's what I read in this. What appealed to me about this story is again the vagueness and the shifting perceptions that the women experience. It brings in a mystery to what's basically short erotic story.

What I didn't really get off on in this story is the throwing in of an odd assortment of demons in the form of weird animals. This made the story a bit hokey for me. I appreciate these kinds of elements if there's complex world building around it, but throwing in paranormal elements without that doesn't add to a story for me. But that's a personal pet peeve so YMMV.

Still though it's a cute story.

All in all I enjoyed this book. If you're into vampire paranormals and like unique and odd settings for sexual scenarios, this book will totally do it for you.

Heat Level- 4, somewhat graphically written sex, strap-on, exhibitionism.

Grade- Really liked

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review- Unknown Futures by Jessica E. Subject


Unknown Futures (One Night Stand #77)
By Jessica E. Subject
Jan 3, 2012
Lesbian/ Sci-Fi
9K words
Publisher: Decadent Publishing


Attacked as a young adult, Jewel is left scarred and alone. She applies to the 1 Night Stand service, believing no one can see past her appearance to love her. But she doesn’t expect to be sent to a space station where her date could be any number of unusual alien species.

Flavia left everything behind to be one of five humans working for the Space Service space station. Extremely homesick, she is excited to learn she will be a guide to a woman from Earth visiting the station for a couple days. She is immediately drawn to the petite woman, seeing past her scars to her true inner beauty, stirring unforeseen desires.

Unfortunately, Jewel is there for a date which Flavia hasn’t been told about. Can she contain her lust and simply show her a good time? Or will she let her desire lead them into an unknown future?

I’m so glad that there are a slew of writers putting out f/f sci-fi/F. I don’t mind contemporaries, but I need to mix it up and there just aren’t that many sub-genres in lesbian romance that aren’t contemps.

Unknown Futures is a fairly short story but it did manage to offer a lot and be engaging. I got a good feel for both the main characters and it was fun to read.

The main appeal of this book is both women, their personalities and how their relationship develops. There’s not really a lot of angst or tension and despite some issues that would block their getting together, they get passed it fairly quickly.

Jewel has been scarred both physically and emotionally. The only person who she felt loved her and accepted her in her current disfigured condition was her mother who passed away. What I like about her is that while it’s clear she’s an outcast, being treated differently because of her scars, she doesn’t wallow in self-pity and she does have pride. She feels self-conscious but she get pissed at the thought that she’s been sent to the space station for a date because it's occupied with weird looking aliens who won’t object to her looks. So I liked that, she has some spunk and fight for herself.

Flavia is a strong, self-confident woman. While being only one of few humans on the space station, she’s very picky about any love interest. When she first sees Jewel she’s immediately attracted and excited. What I liked in her is that she doesn’t feel attracted out of feeling sorry for Jewel. Nor does she latch onto Jewel because she’s lonely for humans and her home. She really  finds Jewel beautiful and goes for it even though Jewel is shy at first.

The romance is nicely done, however, I think if this story were longer it could have been more developed and nuanced. It did feel a bit rushed. Also while there a few sex scenes I felt they were written in a rushed way as well. I don’t need long drawn out sex scenes but if the writer does put them in, it’s nice to feel that the characters are really into it and want to spend time exploring each other. Or maybe it was that heat between the characters was missing for me on that level.

What did come through though is that their heart/being attraction for each is strong and amazing and they click right away. It’s just a feel good story on that level. And of course there’s a satisfying happy ending.

On the sci-fi part of the story, well, it’s not long enough to really develop the world-building in a lot of detail, but what’s written is creative and gave a unique and interesting backdrop for the women to get together. There was one huge world-building plot hole, which you don’t get until the end, but after the fact I enjoyed this as a sweet love story and not so much for the sci-fi aspects.

Unknown Futures is a definite recommend. It’s an appealing and loving romantic love story.

Heat level: 3-4- sexual scenarios are sensual in language but not too graphically written.

Grade: Really liked

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lesbian Appreciation Week/ New Review sites


So KatieBabs Lesbian Appreciation Week is going full blast. There's lots of great posts, many new, cool books and authors being promoted. And lots of chat about the f/f genre in general. Radclyffe did a great post on the publishing side and wrote stats. I love that. 

Hop on over and join in if haven't made a visit yet and support the f/f genre! I've bought a few books from those blog posts and am excited to read them. 

On other things, there's been two more review sites for f/f that I've seen in the last week. I'll be putting them on the side bar with the rest but for now I'll post the links.

Good Lesbian BooksWhat I love about this site is that the reviews are posted by genre and get even more specific with a list of books by theme. 

Girls Only Reviews-  Is a new site that reviews only f/f and lesbian. How cool is that? The more the merrier.



Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reviews of Marie-Elise Bassett Songs of Sappho Books

Over the holidays there were lots of book sales going on. One of them was at All Romance Ebooks wherein for a lot of their stock you’d get 50% back in ebook bucks. I like to buy cheaper books and then use my bucks to buy more expensive books when they build up.

I hadn’t been there for quite a while and did some looking. I wanted to get a few new-to me authors. I came across the books of Marie-Elise Bassett and one of them looked good to me. It’s an f/f set in Regency period and I’m kind of aching for anything but contemporary at the moment. It was only $.99 and even though it’s around 7K words, I thought if it sucked I wouldn’t be too pissed. 

Each book is only $.99 so they’re so easy to buy. :D
Currently they’re offering ebook bucks rebate on these books at ARe so even cheaper!


All books by Marie-Elise Bassett

Lily In Bloom (Songs of Sappho 1)
Oct 17, 2011
F/F
7K words, Musa Publishing

Lovely widow Lily Winslow isn't happy with her life. She longs for travel and adventure, but lacks the courage to leave her brother's home. Her brother wants her to marry a local squire, but Lily never liked being married. She especially disliked sharing her husband's bed and believes herself frigid. When Lily discovers a mutual attraction to her brother's governess, Emmaline, she undertakes a sensual journey which will bring all her dreams within reach.

 MA's  Review of Lily In Bloom


My Lady’s Service (Songs of Sappho 2)
Nov 1, 2011
F/F
8.5K words, Musa Publishing

When Lady Kate's parents make a match for her, she is horrified to discover that her new bridegroom is very rich and very old. The only person who can calm her fears is her maid, Hannah. Hannah sets out to teach her young mistress how to pleasure herself, but receives more in return than she ever expected.

A Sweet Revenge (Songs of Sappho 3)
Nov. 11, 2011
F/F
11 K words, Musa Publishing

Helen, Lady Hammersly is ready for a change. Helen knows she wants more from life than simply doing good works and trying to redeem the family honor after her husband’s public infidelity with his mistress. What she really wants is Jane, her husband’s cousin. She wants Jane in her bed and in her life forever. But does she have the courage to claim the life she wants?


The Food of Love (Songs of Sappho 4)
Dec. 11, 2011
F/F
13K words, Musa Publishing

Minerva Beverly knows better than to want what she can't have. After rejecting her father's plans for an arranged marriage, she takes a position as the literature instructor at a girls academy When overcrowding forces her to take a roommate, the gorgeous music teacher Isabella Korolli, the temptation to touch grows too strong. Minerva is willing to risk it all to discover if music really is the food of love.

This one was my favorite. There’s a really nice build up in the tension between these two before they hit the sheets. And Minerva has the characteristic of aching for something she’s never had, knowing she’s a lesbian but not knowing if Isabella is really sending the signals that’s she’s into women herself. There’s just a kind of sweet and vulnerable dance between them.


Bound by Fortune (Songs of Sappho 5)
Dec. 30, 2011
F/F
10.7 K words, Musa Publishing

Someone has stolen a famous diamond necklace and all clues point to an infamous jewel thief known as the Magpie. Widow Hermione Dunnaby thinks it’s the most exciting thing that ever happened to her—until she finds Perdita Blakemoor climbing through her window in the dead of night. Although Hermione isn’t completely convinced by Perdita’s protestations of innocence, she agrees to help uncover the thief.

Will Perdita and Hermione find the missing diamonds? Or will they find something else they've both been missing--and never dared to search for?


Review: 

I read that first book, loved the writing style and story even if there were some things that bothered me so I got the other 4 books in the series. Apparently she’s writing short stories for this series one to come out every few weeks.

I immediately read all of them in the row and I absolutely love them and am kind of addicted to them now. I decided to do a group review because they are fairly formulaic with variations on the story of two women coming together sexually and romantically. Basically they’re all about a first time lesbian experience for one of the women, often one who is widowed or betrothed or is a spinster due to being a lesbian.

In all of them the women easily go for it even if it’s a shock to one party and I got off on that. The sex is very erotic. In each story there’s a bit of a build up to the relationship between the women, a nice dance around each other and then the sex. It’s often an erotic seduction by the more experienced woman. There’s something very soft in the way the sex is written as well.

Each story flowed nicely and felt fairly complete with a happy ending, often with circumstances that allow the women to stay together. And even though formulaic, they are still each very unique with compelling characters. For some I think the stories might be too short. For sure, I’d love a much longer book by this author. I’d scoop it up in a heartbeat. But because she’s got several stories out I felt in some way very satisfied.

I rather enjoyed the whole historical flavor to them as well. I’m really not knowledgeable about mores of the Regency period or language that would be used, or conditions under which women would have had their own possessions or be forced to marry, but it rang authentic enough to me for me to really enjoy them as historicals.

The only negative for me was some word usage. I’m not fond of nubbin or muff but the author did try to mix it up and didn’t use those words exclusively.

I actually can’t wait for the next one to come out. I like that they are quick, hot, entertaining reads.


Heat level- 4 on all the books. Erotically written but not extremely explicit.

Grade: Loved 


Review- Best Friends Forever by Kai Lu


Best Friends Forever
by Kai Lu

Nov. 15, 2011
Lesbian/ Contemporary- Not YA because of the erotic sexual content, but YA-ish.
10.7 K Words
Publisher: Extasy Books


Best friends since the third grade, eighteen-year-old Clarissa Faye and Elyse Jordan share everything— even after school detention at their Manhattan Catholic school. Each has always wanted to share even more with the other, but fear that their desires are sinful keeps the girls in silence, until both realize that love is stronger than the rules that dominate their lives.

I really enjoyed this author's book Je Me Rends so I was glad to discover that Kai Lu has a new f/f book out.

Like the other, it focuses on two young high school girls and rather beautifully captures the innocence and eroticism of a first love, first girl/girl experience.

What I really enjoy about Kai Lu's writing is that there's a definite unique feel to it. The description of the girls and the subtle nuances of what's going on with them is so vividly expressed and I had the strong feeling of reading a full bodied, highly feminized manga. But it never went into that dreaded school girl for letchy men story territory. It's really rather sweet and loving.

It's also highly erotic with very explicit sexual scenarios.

Oh and disregard the cover. It's an unfortunate cover because it gives the impression that what's written inside is strictly for the male gaze.

Again, I can't wait to read another of Kai Lu's books.

Heat level: 4

Grade: Really liked