Jae – Perfect Rhythm

Pop star Leontyne Blake might sing about love, but she stopped believing in it a long time ago. What women want is her image, not the real her. When her father has a stroke, she flees the spotlight and returns to her tiny Missouri town. 

In her childhood home, she meets small-town nurse Holly Drummond, who isn’t impressed by Leo’s fame at all. That isn’t the only thing that makes Holly different from other women. She’s also asexual. For her, dating is a minefield of expectations that she has decided to avoid. 

Can the tentative friendship between a burned-out pop star and a woman not interested in sex develop into something more despite their diverse expectations? 

A lesbian romance about seeking the perfect rhythm between two very different people- and finding happiness where they least expect it. 

REVIEW
Pardon me, as I wake myself up from literary slumber, dust off the cobwebs, and write this review. It’s going to take me a bit to get back into the swing of things, but what better way to do it than reviewing the latest novel by author Jae?

Here we go!

So usually, I spend a very minimal amount of time skimming through the summary on the book jacket before diving in. When I read on the description of Perfect Rhythm that one of the main characters was asexual, I didn’t think that the author was being literal. I don’t recall ever reading a story with an asexual character, main or supporting cast. But let me tell you… This novel sure does feature one. We’ll get a bit into that a little later in this review.

A characteristic of Jae’s writing that I really enjoy is that her narrative is like candy for the sensory. How Jae describes pictures, music, passion, and energy with her words is a downright devilish treat for the senses. The imagery that Jae uses is vivid, and it’s just the right amount to lead you on the path of your own imagination to experience the story in front of you. The description of Leo’s hometown and its contrast to the urban jungle of New York where she currently resides is charming and quaint. It almost feels like it’s straight out of a children’s storybook. Particularly, this one for me:

little house spring
*Anyone else (old school like me) remember The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton?*

Leontyne Blake (aka Leo, aka Jenna Blake, aka Pop Star Panty-Dropper) follows her dreams to New York and finds fame and fortune. She leaves Missouri far behind her, until she’s brought back home after her father has a second stroke. Leo has become hardened, burnt-out, and jaded through her life experiences in the big city, and fights to keep a distance with people for fear of being hurt and taken advantage of. Sort of like Holly Drummond, who’s been burned by the women she’s dated in her past, so she keeps everyone at friends-only-reach. Leo and Holly live in two completely different worlds. On the surface, their wants and needs don’t seem very compatible. One of the biggest obstacles in their relationship: how do they bridge the gap between sexual and asexual?

Leo and Holly’s relationship is only one part of the story. Running parallel is Leo’s estranged relationship with her father. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Leo’s inherited the gift of musicianship from her father, who was a renowned violinist and piano-teacher. Her father has a disdain for pop music and doesn’t accept the path that Leo has chosen with her life. How do they heal from the wounds of the past? How do they come to an understanding? How does Leo and her father bridge the gap between classically-trained musician and pop-star?

Jae does a fantastic job at bridging the gaps, in a way that doesn’t compromise who the characters are as people or the things that make them happy as individuals. The care and the respect in which the author wrote the story, its characters, and of the topic of asexuality, which is often misunderstood and misrepresented, is beautifully done. I think the quote that best describes Perfect Rhythm is this one: “As far as she was concerned, love was love, no matter what type of love it was.” The expressions of love and the diversity of people who love are limitless, just as there are endless ways of playing music. There is no love or expression that is any more or less meaningful than another. And just as there is great concertos and etudes, there are great pop songs and rock melodies.

Send a love note. Hug someone.

Sing “Love Is All You Need” off-key. Strum a guitar.

Pick up a book…. especially, this one. Perfect Rhythm is not one to be missed!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Aretha Franklin – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
2. Vitamin String Quartet – New Soul
3. Jess Glynne – Hold My Hand
4. Etta James – Something’s Got A Hold On Me
5. Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This
6. Lily Allen – Somewhere Only We Know
7. Rebecca Ferguson – Nothing’s Real But Love
8. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
9. Adele – Make You Feel My Love
10. Amy Winehouse – (There Is) No Greater Love
11. Ella Fitzgerald – Cheek To Cheek
12. Vitamin String Quartet – Can’t Stop The Feeling!

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with….

HANGAR 24 ORANGE WHEAT

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Leigh Matthews – Don’t Bang the Barista!

DBTB.jpg

Drawing on the classics of lesbian pulp fiction, Don’t Bang the Barista! is set in the hipster-dyke triangle of East Vancouver, where friends Kate and Cass discuss the politics of hooking up with a hot barista crush. Is Cass warning Kate off over concern for her favourite coffee shop hangout, or does she have ulterior motives for keeping Hanna and Kate apart? What if Hanna actually has her sights set on someone else… someone already in a seemingly monogamous and hetero relationships?

Navigating life in the queer East Van community certainly isn’t simple for Kate and her trusty canine, Jupiter, especially when Kate’s ex gets back into town looking more fabulous than ever.

Can Kate finally figure out who she wants to be with before it’s too late?

REVIEW
I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack! (with a BANG!) Don’t Bang the Barista! that is….

You know what’s really unfair about being a lesbian? It’s a free-for-all when it comes to dating. Literally, EVERYONE is fair game: your girlfriend, your girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend, your ex-girlfriend’s girlfriend, your ex-girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s girlfriend, etc. etc. etc. Ever play Super Mario Smash Bros? That game is the perfect analogy for lesbian dating life.

When and where mass lesbians congregate (e.g bar, club, Pride, Dinah Shore, IKEA, a Tegan and Sara concert, your local Home Depot) it’s a battlefield and we’re all players with unlimited lives (and libido) as long as we’re in the game. In Don’t Bang the Barista!, Kate is Mario and everyone else… Well, is everyone else that hooks up and breaks up with everyone else.

Don’t Bang the Barista! is one of the smartest, funniest lesbian novels that I’ve had the opportunity to read and review. The execution of the narrative in this book reminds me a lot of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces in its hilarity of the protagonist’s inner monologue. The main character is entirely relatable and there were moments in this novel where I had to step back and wonder “Am I reading this, or is this the voice in my own head?” I loved reading the journey and process that Kate goes through breaking up, making up, and moving on. There’s a reference to the game Scrabble and Kate’s… er… requirement? Prerequisite? Anyway, it made me laugh because it’s so true. Unfortunately, after a nasty break-up, I do the same damn thing. Self-preservation at its finest!

Don’t Bang the Barista! is smart, funny, cool, and edgy. Read it at your favorite coffeehouse, but don’t get carried away and end up banging the barista!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Scissor Sisters – I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’
2. 1975 – Girls
3. Echosmith – Cool Kids
4. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
5. Blur – Girls and Boys
6. Le Tigre – TKO
7. Tegan and Sara – Walking With a Ghost
8. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – I Hate Myself For Loving You
9. xx – Heart Skipped a Beat
10. A Fine Frenzy – Now Is The Start
11. Girl in a Coma – Come On, Let’s Go

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

CHERRY-LIME GIN TONIC
-2 oz of Hendrick’s Gin
-3 oz of Tonic Water
-1 tablespoon of Torani Cherry Syrup
-1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
-1 lime wheel

Combine all the ingredients and pour into a highball glass filled with ice. Stir. Garnish with the lime wheel floating on top. Is this a hipster drink? You bet it is! Put on your best plaid shirt and let’s party!

Kim Pritekel & Alex Ross – Wild: The Wild Will Tame You

WildTame

When six-year-old Abel Cohen wanders off from her parents’ cabin in the woods of Maine, she is rescued by Zac Lipton, a girl barely older than herself, who knows her way through the trees because they are where she has spent her entire life. That meeting sparks a summer-long friendship filled with laughter, stories, adventures and, of course, spinning. 

Fourteen years later they meet again, and after a rocky introduction, strengthen that bond of friendship formed so many years ago. Abel loves introducing Zac to the world she’s barely glimpsed from her overlook in the woods, and Zac, in turn, shares her love of the outdoors. Together they explore not just their surroundings, but their fears, hopes and feelings.

When Abel nears the end of college and her regular trips to the cabin, will she be able to convince Zac to leave her beloved woods and join her in the bustling city of Boston? Or will Zac decide to remain in her comfort zone, hidden behind the branches and tree trunks, safe from the chaos of civilization?

REVIEW
Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawr!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

If you ever wished to read to a Tarzan-type of story featuring women who love women, swing your way over to Wild: The Wild Will Tame You. This book has been on my “to read” list for awhile, and I just got around to finishing it last night.

Prior to reading les-fic, I spent most of my time in the world of classics and magic realism. It took me a few books to wrap my head around the concept of the “new adult” genre as a sub-category within les-fic. The les-fic that I knew prior to 2013 was just… well… fiction. Judging by book sales and reviews, “new adult” seems to be gaining some dominance in the market.  Perhaps, this can be attributed to some of the more recent pivotal changes in our laws and society’s perception of sexuality. Maybe? Well, I’m just glad to see that our stories are diversifying. Variety is the spice of life… and literature.

Wild: The Wild Will Tame You seems to fit very nicely into this “new adult” category. It’s a sweet story about a girl and her not-so-imaginary friend from the forest, and their adventures in luuuuurve.

The story is told from a third person perspective. Wild: The Wild Will Tame You has an interesting narration, since the world is seen and experienced so differently between the two main characters. From the perspective of Zac, the readers see the innocence and the child-like qualities in her thought patterns. She reminded me of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, minus the fork and the scary octopus woman. There’s a wonder and bewilderment in all new things that Abel shows her, and the tentative steps that Zac takes outside of her beloved forest and into city life is steadied by the woman she’s loved all her life. From Abel’s perspective, the world is very much like the world that most of us live in: school, job, cars, vacations, etc. When Zac brings Abel deep into her forest, you can truly sense that it’s a special place that is far from civilization, but unfortunately, not a place where they can continue to grow the love that they have for each other.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I loved it’s message. This book shows its readers that home is not always the place you come from. Home is where the heart is.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Animal Collective – Leaf House
2. Wild Ones – Dim the Lights
3. Active Child – 1999
4. Sia – I’m in Here
5. Scavenger Hunt – Lost
6. Little Daylight – Love Stories
7. On and On – Drifting
8. Betty Who – Missing You
9. Alfred Hall – Someplace Beautiful
10. Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You
11. Feist – Mushaboom
12. Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
13. A Boy and His Kite – Cover Your Tracks
14. Passion Pit – Live To Tell The Tale

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with a….

BLACKBERRY SMASH
-4 blackberries
-8 mint leaves
-1 oz of lemon juice
-1/2 oz of honey
-2 oz of rye whiskey

Muddle all the ingredients together and serve. Blackberries can be substituted with other berries, just make sure it ain’t random berries you find out in the wilderness while camping.

Andrea Bramhall – Nightingale

Nightingale

When Charlie Porter meets Hazaar Alim her first year of university, she’s instantly smitten. Hazaar has it all: beauty, talent, and brains. What she doesn’t realize is that Hazaar’s future has already been decided, and Charlie has no place in it.

Hazaar desperately wants to break her traditions and stay with Charlie, but when forced to choose, she chooses her family over love. When she realizes the choice she made is the worst one possible, it’s too late.

Years later, while working in Pakistan as a diplomat and negotiator, Charlie receives a phone call from a woman who says her British sister-in-law is to be killed for the family’s honor and asks if someone can save her. 

Charlie and Hazaar are on a collision course with destiny. If they make it out alive, can they believe in their love once again?

REVIEW
Before you dive into this book, I suggest you take a deep breath. And make sure you have a box of Kleenex near you. You’ll be reaching for it every few pages.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Nightingale is a novel that defies labels. Other than “lesbian fiction”, it’s hard to place it in one solid genre.  It’s even difficult to define the characters as being one over the other, or one and not the other. Before I got down to reading the book, I was afraid that the story would be along the same vein as the movie, Not Without My Daughter. Thankfully, I was mistaken. The approach that Andrea Bramhall took with Nightingale is very different from the approach that David Rintels took for the screenplay, Not Without My Daughter.

In Not Without My Daughter, it’s very clear who the enemy is. The enemy is a domineering Muslim man who tricks his wife into following him into a country that is hostile towards Americans. It’s a place with a vastly different set of ethics and cultural values, where the mother/protagonist has absolutely no power and no rights as a woman. The message that the movie is asserting about Muslim men and Iranian society is disturbing, and though it is based on a true story, the screen-play aggressively pursues a storyline that is very black and white and doesn’t give any screen-time or credit to Muslim characters that didn’t fit the enemy archetype. I guess there’s only so much you can fit into two hours?

It made me appreciate Nightingale that much more. The author of this novel offered a balance perspective without making derogatory assertions of those who follow the Islamic faith. She was still able to bring awareness to the readers that these types of political and power struggles do exist around the world today, and that as women, we are still greatly impacted and vulnerable. As lesbian women, we are constantly stigmatized and marginalized. Our voices are often unheard and our stories are buried. Nightingale gives a voice to a very real and plausible situation that each of us could be faced with and what could potentially happen in the aftermath if we decide to choose duty before love.

Ultimately, this is a book about hope and enduring love. This is not just a love story between two women, but between two souls searching and reaching for each other even during their darkest hour. It is about women who are victims of circumstances that are beyond their control. Hazaar and Charlie surpass almost-impossible challenges they are faced with and in the end, find their way back to each other. Personally, Nightingale is one of my top ten. This book will leave you with a lasting impression and it’s a powerful love story that’s worth every second spent reading it.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Norah Jones – Nightingale
2. Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
3. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You into the Dark
4. Adele – One and Only
5. Eva Cassidy – Autumn Leaves
6. The Dunwells – Communicate
7. Alicia Keys – Like You’ll Never See Me Again
8. Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter
9. John Mayer – War of My Life
10. Norah Jones – Come Away With Me

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Drinking booze with this book will make you an emo drunk, and no one likes emo drunks.

Melissa Brayden – Waiting in the Wings

Waiting

If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.

Jenna McGovern has spent her whole life training for the stage. She’s taken dance classes, voice lessons, and even earned her performance degree from one of the most prestigious musical theater programs in the nation. At graduation, she’s stunned when a chance audition lands her a prime supporting role in the hottest Broadway routing production in the country. In more exciting news, Jenna discovers acclaimed television star Adrienne Kenyon is headlining the production. 

Jenna settles easily in to life on tour and has a promising career laid out in front of her, if only she plays her cards right. She’s waited for this opportunity her entire life and will let nothing stand in her way. The one thing she didn’t prepare for, however, was Adrienne. Her new costar is talented, beautiful, generous, and utmost professional. As the two women grow closer onstage and off, they must learn how to fit each other into a demanding lifestyle full of unexpected twists and difficult decisions. But is Jenna ready to sacrifice what she’s worked so hard for in exchange for a shot at something much deeper?

REVIEW
Out of the les-fic novels that I’ve read, these story-lines seem to be pretty common:

  • Teacher + Student
  • Lonely and married “heterosexual” female falls in love with her cool new lesbian friend
  • Hollywood A-List Actress x 2

Who hasn’t fallen in love with a teacher? Or a straight woman? (or two, or three… hundred) And raise your hand if you didn’t trip all over yourself when you found out that Portia de Rossi is gay.

Yeah, I see no hands raised.

This story though, is less Hollywood than it is New York Broadway. It’s written in the author’s biography that she’s a theater director in her home state, so she’s not just a storyteller that researched a topic and wrote about it on the fly. She’s a subject matter expert and it shows, not just in the details written of the theater acting world in Waiting in the Wings, but also in the execution of her writing style. An example of this would be the ending of Brayden’s novel, How Sweet It Is. The author has the ability to draw from her own personal experiences and expertise to create fresh, original stories for her readers to enjoy.

Has anyone watched the movie Tangled? There’s a scene in the movie that reminded me of one of the important messages gleaned from Waiting in the Wings:

Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

Like Rapunzel in Tangled, Jenna pursues one dream to find another. Jenna ventures out into her new world with innocence and naivete. Eventually, she finds the way to her heart and her home. It’s normal if you want to give this book a big hug when you’re done. It’s really that cute and heartwarming.

Waiting in the Wings is a wonderful introduction to Melissa Brayden’s work, and I guarantee that when you put down this one down, you’ll be reaching for more!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Great Good Fine Ok – Not Going Home
2. The Hunts – Make This Leap
3. Babe – Make It Real
4. Meghan Trainor feat. John Legend – Like I’m Gonna Lose You
5. Matthew Koma – Clarity (Live at the Cherrytree House)
6. William Fitzsimmons – So This Is Goodbye
7. For the Foxes – Running Back to You
8. Jewel – You Were Meant For Me
9. Grace Weber – Everything to Me
10. Alicia Keys – That’s When I Knew

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with a….

FRANCIS COPPOLA DIAMOND COLLECTION CLARET 2009

Zoe Reed – Interference

Interference

The last thing Jordan Marshall wants is a relationship, especially with someone like Taylor Becks, the star player from a rival hockey team. Taylor doesn’t talk- to anyone. When Jordan’s curiosity about the athlete overpowers her predisposition to being guarded, the two strike up an unlikely romance. In the midst of desolation left by being disowned and forbidden from seeing her little brother, Jordan finds that sometimes the biggest risks reap the greatest rewards. 

REVIEW
If you’re a Gen-Xer or Millennial who spent your teenage years in Culver City, CA, you know the hot spot on Friday night was the Culver City Ice Arena. I remember skating at the rink with friends while listening to US3’s “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” blaring on the speakers and chasing after one boy, or two boys, or three. I was such a teenage hussy. I met too many boyfriends (that I’m embarrassed to admit) on that block of ice. I miss those days. Except playing the “boy-crazy” part. Now, I’m just a girl-crazy fool that slips and slides on the dance floor at a gay bar. I am proof positive that grace does not come with age.

The person who recommended this book warned me that I wasn’t going to like Jordan very much during the first few chapters. She was right. If I met Jordan in real life, I’d run for the hills. She comes with enough red flags to open her own damn airport. I think that many of us, casually (if you know what I mean) have encountered this type. They flit in and out of your life, and you hardly get more than a 2-second glance before they disappear for good. It’s never enough time to get to know who they really are, and they prefer it that way.

But we don’t always realize is that everyone is carrying their own baggage. If we’re fortunate enough and we take a chance, we find someone who will help shoulder our burden. Most of the time, we’re just floundering aimlessly, carrying our load like a high school student who stuffs six classes worth of books in a Jansport backpack because they’re too lazy to use a locker.

Unfortunately, some of us believe that we don’t deserve to be happy and when we’re finally at a place where we are, we ruin it rather than believe it’s true. We “wait for the other shoe to drop”, so to speak. This is the place where Jordan resides. She comes with some pretty heavy baggage, and life has dealt her a pretty shitty hand of cards. It’s the same with Taylor but different circumstances. Without giving too much away, they both deal with significant loss in their lives, and how they recover from that loss and move forward together is what makes this a beautiful story to read. Jordan and Taylor take a chance, but more importantly, they believe in each other and in the capacity to heal and change for the better.

Needless to say, I grew rather fond of Jordan. She has a bigger heart than I thought she did at the beginning of the novel. I would say that this genre hovers in the space between YA and adult fiction. Fans of both genres will be entertained!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Bruno Mars – Treasure
2. Smallpools – Dreaming
3. Allen Stone – Say So
4. US3 – Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)
5. Capital Cities – Safe and Sound
6. Haim – The Wire
7. Gotye – In Your Light
8. Tei Shi – Go Slow
9. Beyonce – Love on Top
10. Made in Heights – Ghosts
11. Ghosttown DJs – My Boo
12. Kaptan – Anywhere We Go

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a hot chocolate.

Kristen Zimmer – The Gravity Between Us

Gravity

At just 19, Kendell Bettencourt is Hollywood’s hottest young starlet, with the world at her feet-but behind the glamour and designer dresses is a girl who longs for normal.

Payton Taylor is Kendall’s best friend since childhood, and the one person who reminds her of who she really is – her refuge from the craziness of celebrity life.

With her career taking off, Kendall moves Payton to LA to help keep her sane. But Payton is hiding a secret that could make everything ten times worse. Because to her, Kendall is more than a best friend – she is the only girl that she has ever loved.

Just as they need each other more than ever, they’ll have to answer the question of where friendship stops and love begins? And find out whether the feelings they have can survive the mounting pressure of fame…

The Gravity Between Us is a daring, romantic, emotional story about friendship, love, and finding the courage to be yourself in a crazy world.

REVIEW
I bought my first lesbian novel at Border’s Bookstore in 1998. Their gay & lesbian section was tucked away in a dark corner shelf, and only had about 20 different books. The book that I purchased was the only lesbian novel they had available for sale. When I came home, I ripped out one of my large calendar pages, crafted a book cover, and took it with me to school to read in secret during recess and lunch.

Fast forward 17 years, and it feels like a completely different world. During the time that I came out, I couldn’t imagine living openly as a lesbian.  I didn’t even consider the possibility of someday being categorized as “normal” because of my “alternative” lifestyle. Now, I have the chance to get married like everyone else and enjoy equal rights and protection under the law. AND I get to read my lesbian books on a small electronic device that has the ability to access and store thousands of novels. We’re living in a momentous time, folks!

The Gravity Between Us was my re-introduction to the genre. It’s written from the perspective of both Kendall Bettencourt and Payton Taylor, which provides a nice contrast to their individual experiences in exploring and defining their sexual identities. As with many coming-of-age novels in the lesbian fiction genre, there’s plenty of teenage angst, tears, and binge drinking. Come to think of it, this still happens in adulthood. The only difference is that we’re (hopefully) making better alcoholic beverage choices and instead of drowning our sorrows with Smirnoff Ice and Boone’s Farm, we’re taking shots of whiskey, or drinking a vintage bottle of Bordeaux if we grew up to be a REAL CLASSY lesbian lady.

For all the lesbians, do you remember your first girl kiss? The nervousness that you felt during the moments before, followed by fireworks and the irrefutable sense of “Oh! So THIS is what it’s supposed to feel like!”, then at the end, just wanting to kiss her again and again. This book captured those emotions, the newness of feeling, and the stumbling into uncharted territories very nicely. Kendall and Payton’s transition from friend-status to girlfriend-status didn’t feel awkward or forced; it was a natural progression that within the context of their long-established friendship, made sense. Not that love ever really “makes sense” but it makes this love story more plausible for its readers.

YA novels in the les fic genre tend to be pretty emotionally turbulent and this book was no exception.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Green Day – Brain Stew
2. Kelly Clarkson – Since You’ve Been Gone
3. Billie Holiday – God Bless The Child
4. BT – Simply Being Loved
5. Deadmau5 feat. Kaskade – I Remember (Vocal Remix)
6. Miles Davis – It Never Entered My Mind
7. 5 Seconds of Summer – Amnesia
8. Moby – Almost Home (Sound Remedy Remix)
9. Sara Bareilles – Gravity
10. Hans Zimmer – Iris’ Melody
11. Siberia – Lights

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a coke.