Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review- Turn Me Out by T. Ariez

Turn Me Out
By T. Ariez
June 17, 2013
Contemporary/Lesbian/Erotica/Stud4Stud/ AA
16 pgs
Kindle edition

Angel and Ace are best friends who happen to both be studs. When Angel realizes that she has developed feelings for Ace, she devises a plan that will go against everything she's ever known and believed. She is tired of the traditions and rules that make her feelings taboo and decides to risk everything. Will it all be worth the risk?

This is a short, quicky story, but I loved it. The author has a fresh, straightforward voice but one which is also infused with a lot of heart.

I have little to vague knowledge of the sub groups that are part of the lesbian community. I have read some butch/femme and stone butch stuff, so it’s not unfamiliar. But this is the first time I’ve read about stud and boi relationships. So part of my turn-on in reading this was being introduced into this world. T. Ariez did a great job of giving an explanation for anyone not familiar with this that was integrated well with the flow of the story and didn’t feel like a wiki side bar. I did google some things though to get a better idea of some of the slang.

As a character, Angel is that person I’d love to know IRL. She’s going through a transformation of her identity and risks a lot to go with feelings that defy everything she feels she is and has represented until this point. She’s become attracted to another stud, Ace, whom she’s buds with, a taboo in her world. Not only that, she finds these new feelings also include wanting to be touched and be more feminine, which are diametrically opposite to her stone stud identity.

While Angel goes about getting with Ace in a way that some might feel wrong, she’s so open and vulnerable and humble as she goes for it in the only way she can think of to get Ace to see her as a potential partner. Even Ace, who reacts in the way Angel almost knew she would, feels Angel’s openness and it affects her way of thinking even though her initial reaction was pretty negative.

That this is a story of being fluid vs. fixed is a huge plus for me. I love characters that act outside “their” box. I especially enjoy characters that are willing to look at the status-quo and change if that’s what’s happening to them.

I also want to point out that this is perfect in the way it’s written, meaning the set-up, pacing, and how it ends. It leaves the door open for some more exploration of Angel and Ace’s relationship, which is kind of juicy. But it’s very satisfying in and of itself.

I definitely recommend Turn Me Out even if you’re not into the specifics of sexual/relationship constructs of various sub groups within the lesbian world. It’s an honest and sexy story that everyone can relate to. I can’t wait to read more of these two characters. Or anything by this author.

Heat level: 4-5. Graphic sexual language and scenarios.

Grade: Loved it

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review- Dysphoria, The Admirer by Karelia Stetz-Waters


Title Has been changed to:

The Admirer
By Karelia Stetz-Waters
January 24, 2013
Pgs 252
Publisher: Artema Press Incorporated
Kindle version

Helen Ivers is running from a horrific past to what she hopes will be the safety of a small New England town. As the president of Pittock College, another tragedy explodes into her life soon after her arrival. Besieged by memories of her mentally ill sister, which refuse to let her rest, she must face an abomination even as her mind begins to unravel. A young woman died on the train tracks in a shockingly brutal manner.

Reeling from the murder and the threat to her students, Helen is approached by professor Adair Wilson, who draws her into her life and her confidence amid a web of swirling deception.

Ivers and Wilson are as desperate to know the identities of the victim and killer as the killer and the police are to hide them. Whether Adair is Helen’s savior and can be trusted as a lover becomes increasingly unclear as Helen becomes a target.

In a crisis with no clear allies, Helen must not only learn the truth but fight to stay alive. The killer is watching and she has been chosen. Every hour of doubt, fear, and hopeless investigation brings the bone saw closer.

Dysphoria/ The Admirer is an extremely taut, well-written psychological thriller. Karelia Stetz-Waters, did an amazing job of getting not only into the main characters’ heads, but the killer’s and his victims as well. The setting is also perfect: a small New England college town, located next to an abandoned asylum. It offers the perfect backdrop for  chilling serial killings and main characters who have their own dark psychological issues.

Helen is a fascinating character even if she borders slightly on being a cliché as a mark/ victim common to psychological thrillers. She’s suffered and is still suffering over the death of her sister, a mentally ill woman who died in a horrific way. As with many people who deal with a loved one on a regular basis who has a mental illness, she feels a lot of pain that she wasn’t able to help or save her sister as well as feeling guilt that on some level she wanted to have her own life and not have to deal with it.

Like many other people who suffer a major tragedy they feel guilt for, she acts out in ways that are self-destructive to her being as well as her reputation. On the surface, she’s cool and collected and professional as the head of a college. However, she also has a deep vulnerability and teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown. This helps her feel a close kinship with the victims and helps her push the police and others who seem not willing to really look into what’s going on.

While this is not really a romance, there is a slight romantic angle to this story. Adair is a young professor who is stirring up the students, creating more energy around the alleged murder to the chagrin of the school establishment. Even though she’s fighting for justice for the victim, she’s rather like a loose cannon in her manner. She’s rebellious and brash and very passionate. She also goes for what she wants and she wants Helen. In her own way, she acts in ways that push Helen’s mental state into more chaos because she’s got her own issues that challenge Helen.

Also to comment on the romantic angle, I rather liked how it didn’t develop in the usual way. In fact, Helen and Adair’s first sexual encounter is quite bizarre and definitely fits with the dark theme of the story. But I also liked how Helen, who seems locked up emotionally, also accepts the fact that she’s being seduced by a woman and goes with it.

The killer: to be honest, I guessed who it was fairly early on, but did love that I couldn’t really know for sure until the end. The author really gets into his head, his past, where he’s coming from in lots of detail. I say “his” because that’s the pronoun the author used when describing him and his past. However, the way this story is written, it could be anyone, including a woman who has pretended to be a man. Of course he has his own psychological issues even if a straight up sociopath.

I thought the pacing of this story was perfect. The author drops clues along the way as the investigation goes on. Helen and Adair start working in tandem, even if being at odds, to prove that there is a killer. The story goes back and forth between different character points of view (not head hopping), which made this a well-rounded story. And while not suspenseful in an intense way, it is a quick page turner.

I see that the author has titled this as the first in a series. I will totally snatch up the next book as soon as it comes out.

Heat level: 2-3- one or two semi graphic sexual scenarios

Grade: 5 Stars

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review- SBF Seeking- by LaToya Hankins

SBF Seeking
By LaToya Hankins
Contemporary/ Lesbian/ Chick lit/Coming out/AA
January 22, 2012
Pgs 234
Pub:  JMS Books, LLC

Kindle edition

Four months before her wedding, Yvette Thurman realizes this might be her last chance to have a sexual fling with a white man. But she never thought placing a personal ad would lead her to discover she was a lesbian.

Yvette's small town life in eastern North Carolina never prepared her for the personal journey she undertakes as she struggles to find her heart's path.

Through personal ads and late night visits to an adult bookstore, Yvette learns more about her own personal desires than she ever did when she was engaged to be married. If she embraces her true self, can she find acceptance and love from her family and friends? Or will she be forced to hide who she really is from those she cares about the most?

So this is not really a book I normally read; I usually stick to romances or erotica. I often find chick lit too close to IRL-- been there done that--want to read something different that doesn’t represent my experiences. This is a book written by an African American woman about African American lesbians. I’m neither of those, so I took a risk and bought this one. The blurb both intrigued me and pushed my buttons—starts out with cheating, a usual “oh hell no” for me. But I was curious to see where the author would go with this since it so brazenly sets up what seems like an unrealistic or over-the-top story line.

Yvette is the main protagonist and this story is told by her. It’s basically a telling of her experience as she semi-consciously (in awareness) creates a catalyst for her own growth. Her life is going perfectly, or so it seems. She has a good job that she enjoys and is engaged to Martin, a man who’s madly in love with her. They’ve been together for a long time and are about to be married. For some reason, and I probably have an opinion that differs from other readers, she jeopardizes her relationship by having a fling with a random white guy because it could be her last chance.

The cheating with a white guy thing is interesting to me because there is no set up for the reader that she’s ever been curious or aching or craved to know what it’s like to be with a “white” guy specifically. It’s kind of odd, I think, to wake up one day and decide you want to have an affair with someone of another race you have no connection with just to experience it specifically. I felt she chose that, maybe unconsciously, because it was a way to be forced to look at some dissatisfaction with her relationship with Martin, but in a non-threatening way. It clearly wasn’t a serious attempt at a possible new relationship even though her decision was one she was willing to follow through on if it worked out.

Lots of people do dumb ass things to jeopardize the “perfect” status quo when they are not conscious of their dissatisfaction. Or if they are conscious of it, they don’t have the courage to do something about it. I think she already knew, deep down, it wasn’t going to affect her at her core as maybe having an affair with a black man might have. However, doing so did make her question what she actually feels towards Martin and it’s the cause for a huge change in her life.

As is common with stories more focused on growth, a series of events catapult Yvette into learning different things about herself, especially one that will cause conflict for those who love her. Through a coworker asking, Yvette ends up helping out a lesbian couple move into her apartment building and becomes friends with them. She ends up going out with them to a gay bar and becomes attracted to a girl who keeps looking at her. There’s a lot in between, but after a while, she feels she’s a lesbian and enters that world 150 %. Meaning, she comes out to everyone without too much angst, and studies everything about being a lesbian: how they dress, what they read, music they listen to, etc.

In some ways I read it as Yvette telling the story from outside herself and I didn’t really get a good feel for what all of this means to her, inside her being. She came across to me as too easy going about cheating on Martin and breaking up, and easy about realizing she’s a lesbian and telling everyone. And she didn’t seem too bothered or freaked about the downfall of her first lesbian love. It felt like her story was kept on the surface as maybe it would if retelling and having emotional distance from it.

I’ll be honest, maybe my impression of her is more about me being an older woman. It’s a story that I think in many ways would be much more interesting to a younger woman who can identify with her growth and the coming out process.

Who was an interesting character for me is Linda. I loved Linda. She’s a warm, juicy, real, down to earth woman who helps Yvette navigate being a new lesbian and coming out process as well as guiding her in a more realistic and practical way about the realities of being a lesbian. I loved her advice to Yvette to just be and let it all happen naturally. And while she’s going through her own issues, being part of an interracial couple and that falling apart, she’s real even in that, expressing her hurt and anger. Her vulnerability comes through even though not her story. I also got a better feel for her emotional state than I did for Yvette’s, making her easier for me to relate to. I would love to read a story with her as the main character.

Throughout the story, the importance of having family and good friends to support you through life is a strong theme.

The main negative thing I’d say about this book is the editing. There are numerous typos. Enough that I noticed them throughout the book. It didn’t bother me too much but it some readers might find it an issue.

At any rate, this was a good read.  I think this is the author’s first published book? Not sure. But I’d read more books from this author. I felt it’s a true and interesting depiction of someone coming out as a lesbian with all the nuances and issues come up.

Heat level: 2

Grade: 3-1/2 stars