Gerri Hill – Weeping Walls

Weeping.jpg

An abandoned old house in a small town northeast of Houston is the site of a second murder, eerily similar to a supposed cold case of fourteen years earlier. FBI Agents CJ Johnston and Paige Riley are dispatched to find the link between the two homicides.

The team, including Ice and Billy, find the case to be anything but cold. For CJ and Paige, juggling the investigation while trying to keep their love affair a secret proves to be as hard as uncovering long-buried clues. 

REVIEW
WARNING! If you haven’t read Keepers of the Cave yet, immediately abort! DO NOT READ PAST THIS PARAGRAPH! I would highly recommend finishing Keepers of the Cave before picking up Weeping Walls. You’d really be cheating yourself if you didn’t. There’s a beautiful depth to the story that would be better understood and appreciated if you start at the beginning. For those that have already finished Keepers of the Cave, this review is more like an extension of my previous review. Onward, we go!

Weeping Walls picks up right where Keepers of the Cave left off. CJ and Paige are working together on a new assignment involving a homicide, a cold case, and a haunted house in the town of Pecan Grove. Gerri Hill seems to have a real knack for weaving stories that scare the heck out of readers.

Stories can sometimes degrade down the line, from book #1, to book #2, to book #3, etc. The Southern Vampire Mysteries is a case in point. It’s like a car that runs out of gas and just eventually sputters to a rolling stop. Thankfully, this is not the case with the Johnston & Riley series. The writing is consistent and the storyline is just as engaging as Keepers of the Cave. Weeping Walls has a well-executed plot, and the character development for the main cast (CJ and Paige) as well as the supporting cast (Billy and Ice) is exceptional. You’ll develop a real fondness for this FBI dream team as you follow them on this crazy adventure.

CJ and Paige’s love story is what really shines in this series. They are both very likable and relatable characters, and the progression of their relationship is enjoyable to read. In Weeping Walls, CJ and Paige begin to see that what they started in Hoganville is becoming more than just a temporary affair. CJ and Paige both stumble into a place that they’ve never been before, as they allow themselves to let go of their fears to just love. The sex scenes are tastefully done, and the emotional aspect of their intimacy is powerfully written. What happens here is really a wonderful thing. Sigh. L’amour. I really hope that Gerri Hill will write at least another book or two for Johnston & Riley because this was friggin amazing.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Jose Gonzalez – Step Out
2. Shakey Graves feat. Esme Patterson – Dearly Departed
3. Radical Face – Secrets (Cellar Door)
4. Modest Mouse – Lampshades on Fire
5. Shins – Phantom Limb
6. King Charles – Gamble for a Rose
7. Matt Harke and Maggie Peake – Gold
8. Arctic Monkeys – Baby I’m Yours
9. Shins – September
10. Death Cab for Cutie – Soul Meets Body
11. Johnnyswim – Don’t Let It Get You Down
12. Ray LaMontagne – You Are The Best Thing
13. American Authors – Best Day of My Life

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

SAMUEL ADAMS BOSTON LAGER

Advertisements

KG MacGregor – Trial by Fury

Fury.jpg

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. 

9ed1c38d40306d74b5456bef2f6942eb.jpg

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.

Gerri Hill – Keepers of the Cave

Keepers.jpg

While the investigations go on in Dallas and Baton Rouge after the disappearance of a senator’s daughter, FBI agents CJ Johnston and Paige Riley are assigned to the sleepy backwoods of East Texas for a dead-end assignment to infiltrate an all-girls school.

Random disappearances dating back fifty years and more raise red flags that point to a tiny, isolated community of Hoganville. But CJ and Paige fear there will be little distraction from the memories of the one-night stand they shared six months ago.

Nevertheless, they integrate themselves into the lives of the teachers and staff, but soon the odd behavior of the townspeople has them convinced something sinister lurks there. Something, perhaps, that even the residents of Hoganville don’t know about.

REVIEW
Who was your TV girl crush during the 90s? If your answer is Agent Dana Scully, then Gerri Hill’s Keepers of the Cave is right up your paranormal alley!

danacar.jpg

Gillian Anderson… Hubba Hubba! ❤

Honestly, paranormal stuff scares the bejesus out of me. I am the absolute worst date to take to a spooky movie. I’ll spend the entire film curled up in fetal position with my ears plugged and my eyes closed. Spooky books are slightly less terrifying, since I have more control of the outside variables (i.e lighting, reading setting, background music). But that doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to sleep with the lights off that night. Despite scaredy-cat tendencies, I couldn’t put down Keepers of the Cave. This book is the ish!

Gerri Hill is a versatile writer who has perfected the pitch and tone for various subgenres within lesbian fiction: traditional romance, paranormal, thriller, crime, mystery. This novel is no exception to her all-encompassing delivery, and you’ll feel the hair raising above your neck as you fall deeper and deeper into the storyline. Keepers of the Cave is categorically a paranormal romance. There are elements in this novel that are extraordinarily unreal (the town of Hoganville, its people, the resident monster, etc.) and this creates an intriguing contrast to its central love story, which is much more conceivable in its cadence.

CJ and Paige’s love connection isn’t built upon the premise of fate and destiny. There’s an initial spark and attraction, but that doesn’t go much further until they’re forced to confront the nature of their connection directly while on assignment together. The back and forth between CJ and Paige as they navigate their way through their own feelings is refreshingly honest and direct. These two kick-ass women grow to love and respect each other, despite their differences and the potential complications that come when you’re working together and sleeping together. No rose-colored glasses here. They’re both well aware of what they like and dislike about each other, and these ladies are all in.

Readers, beware! This book will keep your eyes wide open and the midnight oil burning well into the night!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Mumford & Sons – The Cave
2. Hozier – Someone New
3. Coldplay – Sparks
4. Ray LaMontagne – Can I Stay
5. Death Cab for Cutie – Stay Young, Go Dancing
6. Mumford & Sons – Believe
7. Civil Wars – Same Old Same Old
8. Fleet Foxes – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
9. Of Monsters and Men – Dirty Paws
10. Civil Wars – Dust to Dust
11. Ray LaMontagne – Be Here Now
12. Kaleo – Way Down We Go
13. Iron & Wine – Woman King

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

PATRON SILVER TEQUILA

Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Everybody!

CL Hart – From A Distance

FromDistance.jpg

Who do you trust when you have no one left but yourself? Kenzie is a military trained assassin, hunting her target in Mexico. Cori is a student at the University of Guadalajara. One fateful afternoon their lives will come together under a flurry of gun fire. Questioning the ties around them, they will soon learn that they can not live without each other. On the run from an unknown enemy, they must learn to trust each other, and to believe they’ll make it out alive. 

REVIEW
Guess who made the mistake of starting this novel at 9:30pm on a school night? Yep. I went into work with dark circles and bags under my eyes. Dead. Sexy. I’m lucky I didn’t trip all over the place in my heels while slow-crawling into my office this morning.

For the life of me, I couldn’t put this damn book down. Believe me, I tried. I really really really tried.

Not really. I started bargaining with myself after the first half hour:

Inner Monologue at 10:00pm 
“Kindle says i’m 25% done with the novel. I can read another hour, no biggie. That’ll give me at least seven hours of sleep tonight.”

Inner Monologue at 11:30pm
“I’m more than halfway. Hey, it’s not even midnight. It’s not even tomorrow yet! I’ve survived on less sleep. It’ll be fine! Man, I love this book.”

Inner Monologue at 12:00am
“Ok, I’m at 83%. I’m almost done. I can’t stop now. Hell no! Mama didn’t raise a quitter!”

Inner Monologue at 12:30am
“I’m done! Wow, amazing. Totally worth it! I’m sure I’ll be bright and chipper tomorrow morning. Come on, that’s a whole 330 minutes of sleep!”

Inner Monologue when I woke up at 6:00am
“F…M…L” *Cries*

Hashtag, TheStruggleIsReal

If you’re a fan of books in the crime/mystery/thriller genre, you’ll LOVE this book. The excitement (and anxiety) I felt reading this novel is comparable to when I read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. The pacing is FAST. CL Hart hardly gives her main characters Kenzie and Cori a breather. Geez… have a little mercy, CL Hart! This reading experience was like running a full marathon without training, stretching, warming up, or even eating. The readers are thrown in the middle of the action right away. You’ll be so engrossed in the story, that you may even forget about blinking.

The story is intriguing and the plot whips you around some pretty interesting turns and corners. The characters in this story are well-developed and complex. I had an affinity for both of the main characters, especially Kenzie. Kenzie’s character pulled the heck out of my heart-strings, and I truly cared about how she would turn out in the end. Thankfully, the author didn’t disappoint.

Readers can feel the heat of attraction and tension between Cori and Kenzie from the first page. Through trust and love, their relationship becomes a beautiful partnership as they save each other through all the obstacles they face together throughout the story.

Standing ovation for From A Distance!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Nine Inch Nails – We’re in this Together
2. Poe – Haunted
3. A Perfect Circle – 3 Libras
4. Lacuna Coil – Fragile
5. Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
6. Stone Temple Pilots – Plush (Acoustic)
7. Deftones feat. Maynard Keenan – Passenger
8. Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
9. Hozier – Like Real People Do
10. Alice in Chains – Rooster
11. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
12. Chris Cornell – Sunshower
13. City and Colour – As Much As I Ever Could
14. Nine Inch Nails – The Day the Whole World Went Away (Still)
15. Smashing Pumpkins – Stand Inside Your Love

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with….

DON JULIO TEQUILA

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.