Tag Archives: Romance

Passing Strange, by Emily Klages

19 Apr
passing strange ellen klages

Four of Five Stars

This book was not my favorite, but there were several things I really enjoyed and I think others might like it even more than I did.

THE PLUSES: Let’s be honest – THAT COVER. I rarely actually purchase books, but I saw this cover and had to get it. Even before I got to reading it I had pulled the book out several times just to look at its cover. Who wouldn’t want this framed in their own home? When I finally started the book – Surprise! – it turns out the picture is actually a chalk drawing that plays an important role in the book.
The characters. There is a group of women who are friends who help each other out in any way needed. Each of them were very interesting and I could have read a book about any specific character’s life.
The End. I was only going to give 3 stars (which, to be fair, is “I like it”) until the end. And the end had just enough excitement and drama and love to pull my little heartstrings and add another star.

THE MINUSES: All the characters. These women were so interesting, but the book rarely focuses on any one character long enough to get to know them, and there was confusion on my part as to who the story was about. I wouldn’t mind more books about these characters with maybe a more concentrated focus on one character. I mean, Helen??? That woman led a fascinating life and we only saw a bit of it!
The Magic. This is a fairly realistic story about lesbian life in San Francisco 80 years or so ago. That should have been enough of a story. But then suddenly magic is thrown in, in sort of a major way, and then it’s just dropped. Like “Oh here’s a serious story, here we go, oh and by the way this woman can do major magic but ANYWAY….”
The End. And then of course magic comes along and saves the day…

Now some readers may love that there is magic involved, and if it had figured more into the story as a whole perhaps I would have bought into it as well. But it seemed just sort of tossed in the middle of the story as an unimportant detail, only to be dragged out at the end to save the day. That is what bothered me.

But all in all, should you read it? I say Yes. They are fascinating characters and I hope I can eventually read more about them, and if anything, you need this cover in your life.

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Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

22 Feb
me before you jojo moyes

Five of Five Stars

I finished this book and immediately texted a friend: “I just read the most emotional book!!! 😦 😦 😦 ”
“What was it about?” she asked.
“Girl is hired as caregiver to a quadriplegic, she falls in love (of course), but he wants to commit suicide.”
I read my text again.
“Omigod, this book sounds terrible!” I texted, “But it’s NOT!!”

I was talking to my daughter about it later and she asked if this was “just a chick-lit” book. And honestly, it kind of is, but what I kept thinking about during the time I read it was that the chick lit genre is getting REALLY GOOD. With authors like Jojo Moyes and Liane Moriarty, we’re getting “chick lit” with strong women and real problems. Real women and real lives.

Louisa Clark is a very very flawed protagonist, settling into the wasted life of a loser. But she’s not just a ditzy dope, she’s fallen into those habits because of a traumatic event that changed the course of her life. And she doesn’t just fall in love because she’s holding on to the notion that a woman is not complete with a man – she truly falls in love with this man and it is a very very believable love.

The book wasn’t perfect. Sometimes the storytelling was a bit dry as we hear all the details of Will’s care and often it felt as if it was just a way to explain the difficulties of caregivers (and their charges). But I still loved following along with their adventures, and wondering exactly how it was going to end. The ending was not a surprise, but you can’t really be sure what will happen until it does (or doesn’t).

The topics of assisted suicide and the right to die are dealt with well here, and both sides are argued intensely. I believe in the right to die myself, but still felt myself on Louisa’s side, wondering why she couldn’t convince Will to change his mind, wondering why she wasn’t enough, and trying to imagine myself in Will’s position.

It’s a lovely book and the ending was handled so well that I have no choice but to give it five full stars.

Totally Worth It, by Maggie Cummings

14 Nov
FIVE of Five stars!

FIVE of Five stars!

I LOVED this book, and it’s definitely five solid stars for what it is: Lesbian Chick-Lit.
I wouldn’t call this one a Lesbian Romance, because the book focuses on all sorts of relationships equally: friendships, loves, exes, coworkers, clients and family. The book does not revolve around any one romance, it’s much more about a circle of friends who get to live in this (mythical) lesbian community which I’m not sure would be a good or bad place to live.

Let’s start with Bay West, the housing community where you have to be a lesbian to get in. Of course there are hook-ups there, and relationships, and then ex-relationships, and long standing family feuds because of past relationships… do you really want to live where several of your exes and future exes are also likely to live? As idyllic as it initially sounded, I’m not sure it’s a great idea.

But whatever, it’s still a great set-up for a story, and now that I’m finished I see it may be the start of a series based around Bay West. Please let it be so!! This is Maggie Cummings’ first book and I want there to be more! As much as I loved the book, I kept putting it down trying to make it last, because these women had become my friends and I didn’t want it to be over.

It’s not literature, but neither is it fluff. None of the relationships shown are easy, and none are needlessly complicated. They are just real. Friend problems, work problems, family problems, it’s all fairly realistic and familiar and you will see yourself in several of the characters at different times. There is even a legal mystery thrown in that isn’t a big part of the story but is told really well and elevated the book to a higher level. I hope Cummings decides to include more of these storylines, I was completely hooked on this one though it didn’t go far.

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced copy, and I will remain on the lookout for future books by this author.

Edited to add: I hate the cover. The cover does not portray what the book is. I know it’s probably too late, but I hope they change that cover.

Keep Hold, by Michelle Grubb

19 Sep
FOUR of FIVE stars

FOUR of FIVE stars

This is a tough one to review, because I thought it was a great story but with some big character problems. I liked all the women as individual characters, good and bad, but there is absolutely no evidence as to why the pair the story revolves around have any interest in each other. One of them has such low self esteem that I couldn’t remotely relate to her. The other is a sociopathic C-Word. She behaved so terribly that I couldn’t believe it when I realized this was going to be the love interest. I didn’t see any reason at all to like her, so why would I root for this couple to make it?

The story arc though was great. I did love all the complicated relationships between the women: ex-lovers who are friends, solid couples, pregnant lesbians, a straight woman and a shadow of an ex for most of the story. I also loved that the women were all different: some strong, some weak, some good people, some bad, some psychotic. Much of the dialog was smart and snappy, and the sex scenes were Grade A. I enjoyed that the story did not just cover the romance, but there was also some excitement, some danger, many misunderstandings, and a lot of friendship-love between the women. I just never saw why the one woman was drawn to the other, especially when she was such a lunatic bitch for most of the book.

But it was good enough that I would read it again, and that means a lot from me. Maybe if I just black out all the dialog from the one terrible character, then the story would make sense and I’d give it five stars no problem. And I would love to read something else by this author, she definitely has a talent for storytelling (and sex scenes, hah!).

I was given a copy of this enjoyable lesbian romance by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and my honest rating is FOUR stars.

Cast Me Gently, by Caren J. Werlinger

7 Sep
FIVE of FIVE stars

FIVE of FIVE stars

I received an advance copy of this from NetGalley for review.

I loved it.
I just adored everyone in it, I laughed, I cried, I relived events from my own past. I hungered for pasta and wine, and donuts and cappuccino.

This is billed as a “classic lesbian romance” and I don’t really do romance novels. But this was more than that to me. It was a really great story that was about a romance. Set in 1980 Pittsburgh, it covered many other topics, such as the death of parents, the life of the homeless, the fact that the phrase “sexual harassment” did not exist in 1980 (Ahhh, I remember those days well), and gaining acceptance from your family when you have brought home an “other” as your partner. In 1980, there were all sorts of people who were considered “other”. Yes, I remember those days well too.

Teresa is a member of a very tight-knit Italian family, whose mother has already shut out Teresa’s brother for getting divorced and then marrying a non-Italian. For Teresa to bring home a woman under those circumstances, in 1980 even, well, that’s just not going to work.

Werlinger does a great job of recreating that first romance, that spark that is felt for the first time, that realization of the emotions, and then all the rationalizations that go through your head trying to conjure a reality where you can just bring your female lover over for Thanksgiving.”Everything will probably be FINE… I think… errrr…

Of course Girl meets Girl, Girl loses Girl, and then… does Girl get Girl back? This story is told realistically enough, with enough real life problems thrown in (not fake drama, real issues) that you really can’t be sure of the ending.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was a happy surprise of a book. It also brought back many memories of growing up in the 80s, when if you wanted to talk to someone you had to sneak down the stairs late at night, get the family phone and stretttttch that cord all the way into the closet so no one would hear you talk. The days when trying to find someone who wasn’t sitting right there next to a landline at home was pretty much impossible. And it perfectly captured the realities of living in a large, loud, Italian family. Everything about that family rang true to me, and it reminded me of how my own Italian grandmother had at least one disowned child at any given time.

For a “Classic Lesbian Romance” novel, this gets five solid stars.

Lesley Crewe, author/screenwriter: RELATIVE HAPPINESS

4 Sep

In March 2015, Lesley Crewe’s book Relative Happiness was brought to the big screen at the Cinequest Film Festival. I interviewed Lesley for the Popcorn & Vodka site.

Lesley CreweRelative Happiness

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of Relative Happiness, from concept to financing.

Alan Collins called me out of the blue and asked if I owned the movie rights to my first novel, Relative Happiness, which I did, but I was sure it was our neighbour down the road playing a practical joke. No joke. So started over six years of learning how to write a screenplay, going through endless drafts, and working with Alan, Deanne Foley, Jill Knox-Gosse and Lynne Wilson. I have to admit there were times I never thought it would happen, but these movie people never wavered. They are all incredibly patient!

2Q: Relative Happiness has done quite well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

I’ve been nervous all the way along. I made up these characters in my head, and never imagined the story would be a book, let alone a movie. But to see the great reaction of all these movie festival audiences, it reassures me we’ve done something right.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making Relative Happiness?

The entire process was a fantastic learning curve for me, an opportunity that many novelists never get to experience. My best memories were meeting the characters come to life, and having my husband and daughter in the film with me, all of us pretending we were at an engagement party….mouthing words for a couple of hours was fairly daunting!

Relative Film4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

It’s funny and loveable and a feel good film. The characters are people you will care about. The Maritime look and feel is authentic, the music enchanting. You’ll be smiling coming out of the theatre. What can be better than that?

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for Relative Happiness. Give us your acceptance speech.

This is insane! Thank you to the producers, cast and crew for pouring their hearts into this film. Thank you to Lesley’s Crewe…..family and friends who always believed in my writing and surround me with love every day. This one is for John, Paul, Sarah and Joshua.