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:

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*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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Miranda Macleod – Your Name In Lights

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After eighteen years, the stars may have finally aligned to give Cecily and Rorie a second chance at happiness together. The trouble with stars, though: they don’t stay aligned for long.

As Cecily settles into her life in sunny California, she imagines her biggest challenge will be learning to take care of herself as a newly divorced mother and publicly out lesbian. The last thing she expects is to land the acting role of a lifetime. But is it worth being so far away from the loving support of her girlfriend and son?

Rorie is dismayed by the prospect of a long distance relationship, but there’s no time to dwell on it. Between stepping in as a surrogate parent and facing a family crisis of her own, she’s soon in over her head. Will Cecily ever be the true partner that Rorie needs?

Despite time, distance, and some persistent paparazzi, Cecily and Rorie have found in each other a love to last a lifetime, but only if they can learn to navigate the dual pressures of fame and family.

REVIEW
Cecily and Rorie are back! Your Name In Lights is book two of three in the Love’s Encore series. A Road Through Mountains was released this past spring, and the third installment, Fifty Percent Illusion is coming out in October. Three seasons of Miranda Macleod? Don’t mind if I do! Hey, Miranda… *Waves*… Maybe a Christmas short story starring Cecily and Rorie? Make it all four seasons? An encore for Love’s Encore?

It doesn’t hurt to try, right? 🙂

Fast forward six months from A Road Through Mountains: Cecily and Rorie finally have their second shot at luuuuurve and these two have a LOT of catching up to do. What would you do if you were separated from your true love for nearly twenty years? Maybe a better question would be, what wouldn’t you do? But as fate would have it, a hot minute after Cecily has finally settled in California, she’s already off to Portland for a once-in-a-lifetime acting gig that she can’t pass up. Meanwhile, Rorie has major mama drama that’s starting to brew, and it has the potential for changing life in a very drastic way. I’ll just leave it at that, so I don’t give anything away.

In Your Name In Lights, one of the things that I admired about Cecily was her tenacity to succeed. As she sets out on her new life in California, she’s determined to make it on her own, without having to rely on her inheritance and without relying on anyone else, including her new girlfriend. She’s not looking for handouts and she has pride and drive in creating her own success. Ooo girl, go on wit yo bad self.

Miranda Macleod also brings some interesting points for her readers to consider regarding the price of fame in this novel. Us non-celebrity folk don’t really have to worry about being followed by the paparazzi and having our pictures splattered on tabloid pages for the world to see. We don’t have millions of people who are watching us and scrutinizing our every word and action. Celebrities don’t have the luxury of leading private lives and are much more exposed and vulnerable to those that want to take advantage of their fame and wealth. It’s always easier to believe that the grass is greener on the other side, but there are always pros and cons to every place in life. Just as with the choices that we make, there’s always something to gain and something to lose in its place. Readers will have the opportunity of seeing the flipside of fame through the lives of Rorie and Cecily. Honestly, reading Your Name In Lights has made me a little more sympathetic towards celebrities. Money certainly doesn’t buy love or happiness.

As far as the writing for this novel, it’s exactly what you would expect from Miranda Macleod: entertaining and a pleasure to read. It was a bit slow to warm in the beginning, but it picks up the pace considerably towards the middle, and has a nice little cliffhanger at the end. I would recommend reading A Road Through Mountains and Your Name In Lights back to back. If you’ve already read A Road Through Mountains, take a quick skim before you dive into this novel. Sometimes, it helps to prep your palette before taking your next bite.

Another homerun from Miranda Macleod. I’m eager to read the final installment, Fifty Percent Illusion this fall!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend (Seeb Remix)
2. Maroon 5 – It Was Always You
3. Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling!
4. Calvin Harris – This Is What You Came For
5. Chainsmokers – Roses
6. Yuna – Best Love
7. St Lucia – All Eyes on You
8. Alicia Keys – How It Feels To Fly
9. Usher – Dive
10. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do

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

STRAWBERRY-BASIL BOURBONADE
-1.5 oz of McKenna bourbon
-0.75 oz of agave
-3 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
-3 medium sized strawberries sliced
-5 basil leaves
-Ice

Muddle the basil leaves, agave, and strawberry into your mixing tin. Pour ice and the remaining ingredients into the mixing tin and shake whatcha mama gave ya.

KG MacGregor – Trial by Fury

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When a coed is viciously assaulted on the campus of Harwood University, performance studies professor Celia Perone learns a brutal truth- star athletes can get away with whatever they want. Threatened with her job if she goes public, Celia pays a secret visit to celebrated women’s rights attorney Theodora Constantine.

Theo’s riding high after winning a very public sexual harassment claim against a cable news network. Next up for her firm is a class action suit that will strain her small staff. She can’t afford to get sidetracked by another case, but Celia won’t take no for an answer. 

The case is compelling and so is Celia- so much that Theo finds herself falling hard. But before they can win love, they have to win justice.

REVIEW
I’ve been in a bit of a reading frenzy lately. Mostly because the annual conference for the Golden Crown Literary Society is just around the corner. This is like Coachella + Dinah Shore for me, minus the bikinis, flower crowns, and drunken make-out sessions with random strangers. This conference is an incredible opportunity to interface with other readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers in the lesfic community and I’m beyond excited to go this year!

I have to be honest though, I’m dreading the flight to D.C and back. I hate flying and I’m seriously terrified. The last time I went on a plane was when I flew out to San Francisco with my band for Pride in 2010. Let’s just say that I was highly inebriated on the flight there, and heavily sedated on the flight back. No joke. I suppose you have to face your fears to chase your dreams? Maybe chase it down with a shot or two of tequila? Hopefully, I won’t arrive at the conference totally tossed. Kidding!

Trial by Fury is the latest release by KG MacGregor, one of the titans in the world of lesbian literature. KG MacGregor is like Homer, and I don’t mean Homer Simpson. I’m referring to the Greek poet Homer, who wrote the classics: Iliad and Odyssey. 

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MacGregor, like Homer, has some pretty epic heroes in her stories doing some pretty epic things during some pretty epic times. Every novel that I’ve read by KG MacGregor has been high on drama and adventure, and Trial by Fury is one that you definitely won’t want to miss. Anna and Celia kick some major institutionalized misogynistic ass in this novel. Anna and Celia battle against the powers that try to suppress them and Harwood University discovers that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are relentless in their fight to seek justice that the victims in this story rightly deserve. These women are heroines in every sense of the word: passionate, strong, brave.

MacGregor prefaces the novel by stating that she’s not a subject matter expert in law. If you aren’t from the legal world, I think you’d be easily convinced otherwise. The author’s storyline narrative is riveting, and the writing is compelling and convincing. I can only imagine the amount of research and time it took for the author to learn about the process of law, and to meticulously craft this novel.

Trial by Fury isn’t just fiction. It’s a mirror image of the huge problem of rape and sexual assault that we’re facing at our colleges and universities today. The statistics that are shown in the novel are as alarming as they are real: 1 in 4 women have been victims of sexual assault at college campuses across the United States. Unfortunately, most of these incidents go unreported due to the victim’s own feelings of shame and fear, and their deep-seated belief that nothing will be done and that “you’re on your own” because “you did something wrong”. The resolution of the People of the State of California vs. Brock Allen Turner reinforces this type of toxic conditioning and perpetuates a destructive cycle of abuse. It’s incredibly disappointing and infuriating to see how our justice system failed Emily Doe, and ultimately, failed all of us. The judge dropped the ball on this. Big time. We have a ways to go in changing rape culture in this country.

Writers have the gift of words. Words which are expressed to their respective audience for a myriad of purposes: to comfort, direct, entertain, educate. Unfortunately, words can also be used to manipulate, lie, cheat, and inflict pain and suffering. In Trial by Fury, MacGregor utilizes her talent and gift to shine a light in a very dark place. And I hope, as a community, we continue to create light and bring change, no matter how big or small.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Tori Amos – Crucify
2. Sarah McLachlan – Witness
3. Daughter – Youth
4. James Vincent McMorrow – Down The Burning Ropes
5. Max Frost – Let Me Down Easy
6. Joshua Hyslop – The Spark
7. Staves – Steady
8. Ben Howard – All Is Now Harmed
9. Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek
10. Agnes Obel – Falling, Catching
11. Liv Dawson – Tapestry

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with…

I think I’ll skip this one.

Harper Bliss – The Road to You

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Workaholic Katherine and free-spirited singer Ali have disliked each other since college. Fate, however, keeps bringing them together and the paths of their lives keep crossing. Are some differences in personality simply too vast to overcome? Or are some things just meant to be? 

REVIEW
Ever heard of the joke… What does a lesbian bring on the second date?

This may be an over-generalization, but the progression of love and romance between lesbians is Looney Tunes Roadrunner fast. What’s an example of a potentially lesbifastandfurious relationship?

Week 1: Two lesbians bump into each other at the local IKEA. They reach for the same wonderfully Scandinavian-patterned duvet cover, make heavy eye contact, and are instantly smitten with each other. Within a few hours, they’re exclusively dating. They’re Facebook official.
Week 2: Those three little words have been exchanged. All is right in the world. Everything is hearts. Lovely hearts. K + A = 4Ever 143-637 ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Week 3: The wheels on the  UHaul go round and round. They’re now sharing the Scandinavian-patterned duvet cover under the same roof, and they’ve adopted a cute domestic short-hair from the local animal rescue and named him Ingvar.

Thankfully, this love story doesn’t play into that hand. The Road to You is a slow-burn romance that develops, not during the course of days, weeks, months or years… but decades.

The beginning of Katherine and Ali is less than ideal, to say the least. They both find each other in compromising positions (literally), and from the very start, it’s a love-hate sort of thang. But as they say, there’s a very thin line. In every chance encounter over the course of nearly two decades, the air is always thick with tension and red-hot chemistry between Ali and Katherine. There’s a push-pull dynamic between the characters and because of the nature of this interaction, neither end up in the dreaded “friend zone” with the other.

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For the readers, the underlying attraction between the two characters always feels like it’s only one or two stitches away from bursting at the seams. When the stars finally align and every moment that they’ve experienced together and apart map them to the most important moment of their lives, you’ll be jumping out of your skin to see what happens next.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Carla Bruni – Quelqu’un m’a dit
2. KD Lang – Constant Craving
3. Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine
4. Brandi Carlile – Dreams
5. KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
6. Meiko – Reasons to Love You
7. India Arie – Ready For Love
8. Ani DiFranco – The Whole Night
9. Tracy Chapman – The Promise
10. Shawn Colvin – When You Know
11. Indigo Girls – Power of Two

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

ANGEL’S ENVY KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY

Miranda Macleod – A Road Through Mountains

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When Cecily Parker volunteers backstage at the Oakwood Theater, the only thing she wants is a few hours of relief from the doldrums of her upper-class suburban existence. The last thing she expects is to be reunited with the only person she ever truly loved, a woman she left behind almost twenty years ago. 

Rorie Mulloy has build a career as an award-winning production designer in Hollywood, but her personal life is anything but a success. When she agrees to design the sets for a community theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire in Connecticut, she has no idea that the woman who broke her heart and ruined her for love will be assigned to her crew.

As the sparks are rekindled between them, these star-crossed lovers just might have a second chance at love. But only if they can overcome the ghosts of their past, and survive the sometimes comic cast of characters determined to keep them from their happily ever after. 

REVIEW
Some people look forward to spring flowers or summer sun around this time of year. I look forward to ROYGBIV, since it’s….. (drumroll)…. PRIDE SEASON! Right now, my neighborhood (gayborhood, really) is bursting with color as businesses and residents pitch their rainbow flags and equality signs. It’s a wonderful feeling to enjoy brunch with your closest friends at a local breakfast cafe that supports LGBT. That’s something I never take for granted.

Pride Season is also when everyone “in the scene”, in the periphery, or out in hiding gather in one square mile to celebrate. We’re watching (or marching in) the parade together, line-dancing in the Country tent, guzzling down over-priced booze, and also… (dun dun dun) running into our ex-girlfriend (or ex-boyfriends). For those of us that have this experience, you know that it’s the MOST. AWKWARD. THING. EVER.

Cecily doesn’t run into Rorie at Pride but at a local theater, so it might as well be. 😉 There are few places that are as inclusive as a theater for those that are of the straight and non-straight persuasion.

In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Jacque’s monologue that begins, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” is perfect in describing the succession of stages in Cecily’s perfectly planned life. She’s the lead actress who’s expected to play her role and move seamlessly from scene to scene: growing up, attending university, joining a sorority, marrying a rich husband, a house with a white picket fence, two children and a dog, etc. When Cecily meets Rorie, Cecily loses all her lines. The irony is that Rorie assumes that Cecily was only pretending with her, when the truth is really the exact opposite. Cecily has only been most authentically herself with Rorie. It’s only when Cecily goes back to her carefully scripted life without Rorie that she’s mindlessly going through the motions again.

Fortunately, fate brings Rorie and Cecily back together again after nearly two decades apart. What happens following that… Readers, you’ll just have to pick up this book and see for yourself! This is another fantastic novel by Miranda Macleod that you won’t wanna miss!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Michael Brun – Tongue Tied July
2. Jarryd James – Do You Remember
3. Kimbra – Two Way Street
4. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – Stars
5. Lapsley – Hurt Me
6. Patrick Baker – Feel the Same
7. Sophia Black – OVR AGN
8. Rationale – Re.Up
9. JP Cooper – Colour Me In Gold
10. RAC & St. Lucia – Ready For It
11. Ruben Haze – City of Dreams
12. Wolf Gang – Lay Your Love Down
13. Chvrches – Warning Call
14. For The Foxes – Running Back To You
15. David Guetta feat. Zara Larsson – This One’s For You

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

SIDECAR
-2 oz of Cognac
-1 oz of Cointreau
-1 oz of lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake shake shake until it’s chilled. Pour into a highball glass and garnish with a twist of an orange peel.

Leigh Matthews – Don’t Bang the Barista!

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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!

Andrea Bramhall – Nightingale

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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.

Ann McMan – Backcast

BackCast

When sculptor and author Barb Davis is given an NEA grant to pair original feminist sculptures with searing first-person essays on transitions in women’s lives, she organizes a two week writing retreat with twelve of the best, brightest, and most notorious lesbian authors in the business.  But in between regularly scheduled happy hours and writing sessions, the women enter a tournament bass fishing competition, receive life coaching from a wise-cracking fish named Phoebe, and uncover a subterranean world of secrets and desires that is as varied and elusive as the fish that swim in the waters of Lake Champlain.  

Set on the beautiful shores of Vermont’s Lake Champlain, Backcast is richly populated with an expansive cast of endearing and outrageous characters characters who battle writer’s block, quirky locals, personal demons, unexpected attractions, and even each other during their two-week residency. For Barb and each of her twelve writers, the stakes in this fast-moving story are high, but its emotional and romantic payoffs are slow and sweet. 

Filled with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and breathtaking pathos, Backcast serves up a sometimes irreverent, sometimes sobering look at the hidden lives of women, and how they laugh, love, lose, and blunder through their own search for meaning.

REVIEW
I didn’t think it would be possible to beat Jericho, but it looks like Jeri Cho will be sharing her pedestal. Honestly, I was floored by the storytelling in Backcast. What an unexpected surprise this book turned out to be. Ever watch a movie at the theater, then end up turning the plot over in your mind days after seeing it? This is that type of story. And what’s even better is that it’s the kind of story in which the readers can gain a new perspective with every reread. I’ve finished one reading, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on what Ann McMan is trying to convey within its pages.

Reading the book jacket, you might feel a little overwhelmed with the number of narratives contained in Backcast (13 in total). I wondered if there were too many cooks in that kitchen, and whether or not the dinner would end up palatable. Let’s just say that Backcast is the equivalent of a 12-course meal served at a Chinese wedding. Party. In. Your. Mouth. Or rather, party in your brain. Between chapters are the personal essays that the characters have written for the project. In the beginning, I was racking my brain trying to figure out which of the characters wrote each of the essays. I felt like I was playing a game of Clue, and losing… badly. It seemed like the essays could’ve been written by anyone. Hell, it could’ve even been written by Phoebe, the giant fish in the lake.

It wasn’t until I was about halfway in that I realized that identifying the source was only secondary to what these stories meant collectively. These stories are our stories. These are our painful experiences and transitions. It can happen to you, it can happen to me, and we’ve all experienced (directly or indirectly) its aftermath. Backcast illustrates how interconnected we are as women and as human beings, and your heart will fill with compassion for all of its characters. There were two stories in particular that made me tear up at the end. When it was revealed who the authors were in the appendix, I was a mess.

If there’s only one novel you’re going to read this year, make it this one.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Jonsi – Go Do
2. X Ambassadors – Renegades
3 Handsome Ghost – Blood Stutter
4. The Books feat. Jose Gonzalez – Cello Song
5. Morcheeba – The Sea
6. Husky – Tidal Wave
7. Ryan Adams – Night Birds
8. Shins – It’s Only Life
9. Phox – Slow Motion
10. Zero 7 – Destiny
11. Alt-J – Lovely Day
12. Groove Armada – At the River
13. Jose Gonzalez – Stay Alive

CHEERS!
This book is best served with a….

PABST BLUE RIBBON  It’s perfect if you’re planning on taking Backcast for company on your next early a.m fishing trip. Pabst tastes like corn flakes and cereal is a breakfast meal. Voila.