Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lesbian Book Review: October's Promise

Back Cover Copy: Just because parts of her life are unsatisfactory and dull, there's no reason for Libby Jackson to bolt for New Hampshire, even if she did just receive a large inheritance from a mysterious source. But she does just that. The urban comforts of New York quickly seem light years away when her journey is hampered by cars that won't start, locks that won't turn and a strange dog that has decided that Libby would be the perfect owner.

Quinn Barnett is in no mood for damsels in distress. Her reasons for partaking of New England's fall colors is deeply personal and painful. She's promised to do one thing on this trip, and falling in love isn't it. Once her mission is accomplished she's moving on - if only she can start some cars, unlock some doors and get that bothersome stray to leave her alone.

The golden shores of a beautiful New England lake and glory of October's sunsets should create the prefect stage for falling in love, unless two stubborn women decide to keep the wrong promises.

It isn't really a character-driven novel - the characters are pleasant, but not overly developed. Our heroines Libby and Quinn are somewhat two-dimensional - they're stand-in's for you or anyone you know. You won't fall in love with them, but it's easy to put imagine yourself in their shoes if you should so choose.

It isn't a plot-driven novel either. Libby Jackson, a New York Ad Woman, travels up to Turtle Cove in New Hampshire after receiving a generous inheritance from a man she's never heard of before. There, she meets Quinn, a sexy loner with a shadowy past. They meet, and, as one does in a romance novel, fall in love.

Beyond that however, not much happens. Questions are asked and questions are answered. The stakes are low and the tension nonexistent - it's difficult for the reader to feel that any road is the wrong one for these characters - they'd be just as happy with each other as without each other. They could stay or go, and in the long run, be just fine wherever they ended up.

That said, October's Promise is an escape. A quick, simple, easy-to-read escape into a languid, low-stakes world surging with the colors of the New England Autumn. Nothing in this story is going to keep you up at night turning the pages to see what happens next, but perhaps that's the point. Garver's writing is smooth and relaxing, good for a nice half-hour respite from a stressful day. In my experience, it pairs well with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a small plate of cheese and Triscuits.

Thinking about adding one of the books discussed at Literally Lesbian Book Review to your reading list? Please consider clicking through the links on this page. You'll pay the same low Amazon price, but a portion of the cost will go toward supporting this blog - buying books, paying reviewers, and supporting lesbian authors!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Literally Lesbian Book Review on Twitter!

Now that we've gone live an entire month early (!), I hope you'll join us on Twitter - you can find us at

Tweet me with book recommendations, article suggestions, comments, requests, or, yanno, just to point out a good resource for more hot Clea DuVall photos.

Lesbian Book Review: In Too Deep by Ronica Black

Back Cover Copy: When undercover work requires working under the covers, danger is an uninvited bedfellow... Erin McKenzie, a newly promoted homicide detective, lands the assignment of her career when she is chosen to investigate Elizabeth Adams, the number one suspect in a slew of serial murders. Adams, elusive and devastatingly beautiful, is not only an accomplished seductress but also a lesbian. Erin, straight and married, needs a crash course in more than just undercover detecting. With Patricia Henderson, a fellow homicide cop and Adams's former lover as a mentor, Erin embarks on the journey of her life...with love and danger hot on her heels.

In too Deep, by Ronica Black, looked out of place on my bookshelf with its bold, in-your-face, yes-I'm-escapist-but-you'll like-it cover. It earned me more than a few odd looks on the subway. Crime novels aren't my usual reading fare, so I'll admit it languished unread for well over a month before I finally "got around to it." It came with this high recommendation from a friend: "You'll hate the beginning. You'll devour the rest."

I did not hate the beginning, but it didn't win me over either. The premise - recently separated super-hot lady cop is forced to go undercover as a lesbian to catch a super-hot lesbian possible murderer, and, obviously, discovers her own lesbian orientation - felt uncomfortably contrived, and just too easy to be any good. I also cringed at the opening scene - our lesbian murder-suspect as a child witnessing the rape of her young sister plays too easily into the homophobic assumption that lesbians swear off men simply because they've been victims of male violence.

If you feel that way as you're reading In too Deep, keep going. You'll get over it.

Black's writing style is tight but lush. The phrasing never takes front-stage - this isn't the kind of book you'll quote in conversation - but as an author, Black knows her stuff. Her writing is enticing, and not just during the steamy sex scenes. Once you're hooked, there's no turning back or putting the book down - you MUST know what happens next - and what happens next is almost never what you'd expect. And as much as I tell writers I've had my fill of the coming out story in lesbian literature, this book perfectly captures the heat, passion, and runaway desire inherent in those first kisses, touches, and encounters.

As the cover implies, this book is adventure escapism, pure and simple. It's not written to be great literature, but you'll have a damn good (and hot) time with these characters, and, more than likely, you'll find yourself passing this perfect summer read onto your girlfriend or friend with this note: "You'll hate the beginning. You'll devour the rest."

Thinking about adding one of the books discussed at Literally Lesbian Book Review to your reading list? Please consider clicking through the links on this page. You'll pay the same low Amazon price, but a portion of the cost will go toward supporting this blog - buying books, paying reviewers, and supporting lesbian authors!

The new Curve is here!

The latest edition of Curve magazine arrived in my mailbox this weekend - look for reviews, links, and Go Read This! article features later this week.

This Week In Lesbian Book Reviews

Welcome to Literally Lesbian, the book review blog dedicated to connecting authors and readers of lesbian literature!

Let's start with a quick tour of lesbian book reviews out this week.

After Ellen's Heather Aimee O'Neill reviewed two new releases and a classic. To read her full review, head to Across the Page: April 09.

First the new titles:

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Now, don't hate me for this, but I didn't exactly adore Fingersmith. Still, O'Neill's review certainly has me considering adding Waters' latest title to my nightstand collection.

"As with Waters’ previous novels, The Little Stranger weaves a plot that continues to surprise. From the beginning, the story takes on new twists and the reader can’t help but turn a suspicious eye on all of the characters — including the house itself."

My Life With Stella Kane by Linda Morganstein

"My Life With Stella Kane is an entertaining look into Hollywood during the fifties and the pressure actors experienced to stay in the closet. In many ways, the rules here don’t seem all that different from today’s rules — one of the book’s subtle but effective ideas."

Aquamarine by Carol Anshaw

"Carol Anshaw’s innovative novel, Aquamarine, is a storyabout fate and circumstance."

Thinking about adding one of the books discussed at Literally Lesbian Book Review to your reading list? Please consider clicking through the links on this page. You'll pay the same low Amazon price, but a portion of the cost will go toward supporting this blog - buying books, paying reviewers, and supporting lesbian authors!

Friday, April 3, 2009

BIG ISSUE POST [BIP] Why reading lesbian lit is important

BIG ISSUE POST [BIP] NOTE: This blog is not about BIG ISSUE POSTS. It's about books and it's about writers. But now and then, there is a bigger picture to look at, and as the editor, I get to share my opinion. If it gets annoying, please let me know.

I have a Clea DuVall haircut circa But I'm a Cheerleader. This is important (stay with me here).

Occasionally I grow my hair out, but I always come back to this haircut.

I grew up in a small, conservative community. As far as I knew, I had never met another lesbian until I got to college. Will and Grace wasn't big yet. Ellen came out, but we didn't watch it in my household. The L-Word was certainly NOT available. And despite the fact that I was that weird kid who preferred to spend an inordinate amount of time alone devouring books, I never read a single book that featured a lesbian protagonist.

The lens through which we all view the world is, to some extent, based on the stories we've been told, read, or seen, the archetypes present in those stories, and the stories we then tell ourselves.

At different stages in life, my opinions, philosophies, and take on what love and relationships were supposed to look like were influenced by books like Love Story, The Fountainhead (yeah, seriously), White Noise, and an unhealthy amount of Bret Easton Ellis. (And yes, I've gotten over myself since then.)

There were no lesbians to be found. Of course, in most ways, life, love, and relationships are the same for everyone - gay or straight. But in some ways they're not. And without exposure to those stories, you're flying blind, which can be a very scary, overwhelming feeling.

So one day I rented But I'm a Cheerleader. The cover looked cute. And in that ridiculous but incredibly funny movie, I experienced for the first time the joy of seeing something like me. Within a week I was sneaking around the "Special Interests" section at my local B&N to read issues of Curve. I read Oranges are Not the Only Fruit.

And I cut my hair. Clea was a lesbian. So was I. The end.

Still, finding lesbian books wasn't easy, and because I didn't want to be THAT lesbian - the one whose entire identity is defined by her sexual orientation, who wants nothing to do with the straight world - I kept my lesbian books to myself as an occasional guilty pleasure. Eventually, I gave up on them altogether. Books are books, and stories are stories, right?

Earlier this year a friend sent me one of her LESBIAN BOOKS (I won't say which one). It was a murder mystery, and not really about being a lesbian at all - it just happened to have a lesbian main character. I read it in one sitting.

I had completely forgotten the joy of reading about someone whose relationships and attractions looked and felt like mine. There IS something to be said for that - for experiencing that extra layer of connection to the characters in a book. Which isn't to say I can't relate to male or straight characters - but to some extent, the textures of their stories, their relationships, their desires, and their needs are different from what I've experienced and what I hope to experience in the future.

The purpose of this blog is to bring those stories to you, the reader. Some books will be about the big issues the LGBT community faces - discrimination, coming out, etc. - and because there is a great deal of lesbian pulp fiction out there, I expect a number of the books will feature more than a few "mature love scenes." But for the most part, the books reviewed on this site will be stories about life that just happen to feature a woman who loves women. Because when you get right down to it - that's us.

Under Construction

The REAL LIFE Literally Lesbian blog is slated to go live June 1. In the meantime we'll be posting a few articles, reviews, and link lists as we tinker with the format. Read and enjoy our trial run, then come back in June for the real thing.

Notice anything wonky? Please leave a comment in the comments section! Thanks!