Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Family Jewels by Kate Christie & Tactical Pursuit by Lynette Mae

The Rainbow Reader Welcomes Special Guest Reviewer
Fellow Lesfic Aficionado and Humorist-In-Training

This week, Michelle tackles perception,
Family Jewels by Kate Christie, 
and Tactical Pursuit by Lynette Mae

Book:  Family Jewels
Author:  Kate Christie
Publisher:  Bella Books

Perception is a funny thing—while we use our senses to identify any number of things, it is our collective life experiences which shape how we perceive the world around us. 

Don’t worry, I am not going to go off on some existential rant about perception. I simply find it interesting that people can perceive the same event in vastly different ways. Some find Cupid to be a perfectly acceptable personification of love and romance. To me, a short, chubby kid in a diaper wielding a weapon hardly screams romance. 

Interpersonal relationships be they with friends, family members or romantic in nature, can thrive or wane depending on the perceptions held by the individuals involved. Years ago, my friend Liz ended a relationship because the person she was dating hated Jazz music and she perceived that as a significant character flaw. Another friend, Maria despises anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter. My perception is that Liz needs to lighten up a bit and Maria would do well to embrace what I consider to be an especially brilliant culinary amalgamation.

Then again, many people participate in Easter egg hunts where they search for colorfully dyed eggs which have been hidden outdoors. First of all, my hunting and gathering begins and ends at the grocery store. Secondly, I store my eggs in a relatively modern invention called a refrigerator. Hiding perfectly good food outdoors, searching for it, and then eating it once it has been found seems like a rather circuitous and potentially health threatening route to take simply because one has a taste for hard boiled eggs.

For the record, Maria and I have remained friends but Liz is still single, and continues her yearly trek to the Newport Jazz festival hoping to bring home a compatible Jazz aficionado.

In Kate Christie’s book, Family Jewels, the start of the new year has not been kind to Elizabeth Starreveld. Elizabeth, or Junior as she is called by her friends, barely finishes ringing in the new year with her girlfriend Maddie and her best friend Dez, when Dez confesses that she and Maddie are romantically involved. Junior is forced to work through the pain of losing both her girlfriend and her best friend while facing the added burdens of coming to terms with the declining health of her seriously ill mentor and dealing with strained family relationships. Junior has always perceived herself as being different from the rest of her family. While her sisters busied themselves playing dress-up and learning how to cook, Junior was roaming the woods and developing her love for all things botanical. Despite the fact that they have very little in common, there is one thing that Junior and her sisters do agree on. None of them are interested in following in their father’s footsteps and working at the family Jewelry store; a business that has been in their family for generations.

When Junior came out to her family shortly after high school, it created a chasm in her relationship with her father. As time went on, it grew deeper and despite her attendance at Sunday family dinners, Juniors relationship with her father was strained at best. He ignores her and she tries to ignore his obvious disappointment of her. When her father proposes that she accompany him on a business trip to a jeweler’s convention, Juniors first response is to decline. However after hearing that the trip would include a visit to Holland to see the tulips, Junior quickly changes her mind. While she and her father have different reasons motivating them to take this trip, they both discover that spending time together reaps greater benefits than either had anticipated.

Family Jewels includes numerous descriptive passages which allow the reader to accompany Junior as she experiences the beauty of the Netherlands. It is quite evident that Kate Christie has either done a tremendous amount of research, or she has been to the Netherlands herself. On more than one occasion, I could swear that a caught a whiff of tulips in the air.

Or maybe it was my new plug in room freshener.

The pacing in the beginning of the book is a bit slower and much of the storyline includes the kind of dyke drama one would expect a twenty-something to be experiencing. The pace picks up after Junior and her father embark on their trip, and the story mellows into an enjoyable journey through the streets of Antwerp and the Netherlands. The writing is clean and there was only one formatting error, a rare occurrence in the world of e-books.

Kate Christie takes her time developing the main characters in Family Jewels. While Junior’s character develops throughout the book, Kate does an admirable job by quickly inviting the reader into her world in such a way the reader can relate to her and her growing pains. Junior’s character immediately brings to mind people I have known, and readers may even see a bit of themselves in her character. While aspects of Junior’s character are revealed from the beginning, her father’s character develops more slowly. Ms. Christie initially provides little detail about Mr. Starreveld, encouraging the reader to cultivate their opinion based solely on Junior’s perception of him. As the story progresses, the author skillfully allows this character to become more multi-dimensional, allowing the reader to gain a deeper understanding of,  and empathy for, his character.

Family Jewels is more than a simple story about the relationship we have, or think we have with a family member. It is a story about how our perception impacts not only how we choose to interact with that individual, but how it often serves as a reflection of how we perceive ourselves. 

I give Family Jewels a solid 5.1 out of 6.0 on the Rainbow Scale


Book:  Tactical Pursuit
Author:  Lynette Mae
Publisher:  Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC

Let me just put this out there. Ordinarily, I am not a fan of sequels. First of all, my experience has been that oftentimes the sequel is not as good as the first book. And, secondly, the author has to walk a tightrope with the sequel, balancing the need to provide enough information so that those who haven’t read the first book aren’t lost, while not providing too much information and thus boring those who did.

Luckily for all of us, Lynette Mae is a talented tightrope walker.

I wonder if she has that listed on her resume?

Tactical Pursuit continues the story of Devon James and her friend Mac McKinley, characters first introduced in Lynette Mae’s debut novel, Faithful Service, Silent Hearts. Devon is working as a police corporal and SWAT officer in Florida after years of serving in the military. She is dedicated to her job, one that she does quite well. Her life has taken on a comfortable rhythm of work and spending time with her friends save for the nightmares that she still experiences ten years after leaving the military. When a chance encounter with rookie officer Jessie Kilbride leaves her flustered and more than a bit tongue tied, Devon begins to wonder if she is ready to make room in her life for something other than work.

As a mutual attraction between Devon and Jessie begins to grow, Devon must face demons that she has tried to leave in the past. It is an arduous task, especially in light of the connection that exists between the prime suspect in a string of recent crimes and a ominous adversary from Devon’s days in the military. Devon’s safety and that of the people she holds dear hangs in the balance as an elusive, maniacal killer seeks revenge. Devon will need to call upon every ounce of the skills she has honed over the years and rely on assistance from friends past and present if she is to have a future with the woman she loves.

In her book, Tactical Pursuit, Lynette Mae combines characters who are well developed, an interesting and fast paced storyline, and romantic elements to create a book easily able to stand alone on its own merits. That being said, this reviewer does recommend that those who have not already done so, read Faithful Service, Silent Hearts.

Lynette’s considerable breadth of knowledge about law enforcement is peppered in passages throughout the story, but the reader does not need to be able to distinguish a Glock from a glockenspiel in order to fully enjoy this book. The plot has moments of heart pounding action, which are offset well by the inclusion of romantic moments and scenes which illustrate the deep friendship shared by Devon and Mac.

Tactical Pursuit draws the reader in from the first page and keeps hold of the reader through the final page of the book. The pacing is steady throughout and the cast is a well rounded collection of both main and supporting characters. Tactical Pursuit is a solid offering from author Lynette Mae, who once again proves her skill as a talented storyteller. 

I am standing at attention and saluting as I give Tactical Pursuit a solid 5.3 out of 6.0 on the Rainbow Scale.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Frozen by Carla Tomaso

Book:  Frozen
Author:  Carla Tomaso
Publisher:  Carma Publishing

Back in the day, as a twitchy little dyke-in-training, there were three pieces of celluloid noir that rocked my corn-fed world. 

The first was the 1978 mini-series The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, starring the spellbinding and insanely creepy Bette Davis.  The second was the 1955 cult classic, Violent Saturday, which managed to feature both an eerie music score by Hugo Friedhofer and the scary Ernest Borgnine as an Amish farmer with an axe to grind.  And, the third and final was the disturbing 1932 adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau called Island of Lost Souls, which starred Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, and Richard Arlen.

Surely there were much scarier movies out there, like The Exorcist and Wait Until Dark, but these three clearly made the Skeeve-O-Meter in my head ping so hard it nearly broke through.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I was reacting to was an innate childhood fear of blind adherence to convention, being pushed into doing something otherwise inconceivable, and selfishly doing something because I could, not because I should. 

Let me take a minute to explain the last one because it’s oddly relevant to this review:  The H. G. Wells classic, The Island of Doctor Moreau was written less than forty years after Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. Throughout the story, the author examines the qualities that separate humans from animals, and eventually comes to the conclusion that we may not be as different as we appear.  In fact, Wells suggests that human and bestial qualities rest under the surface of all life, and only the shell of our flesh separates the species.  

Talk about grotesque variations on a theme….

While H. G. Wells might have considered it “an exercise in youthful blasphemy,” The Island of Doctor Moreau addresses a wide array of themes that are every bit as relevant today as they were in 1896.  Where some of these themes, such as the necessity of laws in society, the need for conscience in human nature, and survival of the fittest, get to the very root of humanity, other themes get to the true nature of what happens when humans do things because we can, and not because we should.  These include:

  • Identity – While identity is inherent in each human and animal, when it is intentionally damaged or forcibly removed, it will result in the evolution of societal monsters.
  • Nature versus nurture – To what extent can behaviors truly be modified as the result of positive or negative nurturing?
  • Science and ethics – Science can radically and profoundly change human life, but at what point does what humans can do radically outstrip our understanding of what we should do? 

Carla Tomaso’s Frozen, is a psychological tilt-a-whirl full of rich clichés, lusty taboos, and jacked-up science that speaks to the very essence of those themes presented in The Island of Doctor Moreau. 

Elizabeth hates her narcissistic and filthy rich mother, Helen, and wants the vicious old bat to kick the bucket. Oh, and she also wants her mom to say she loves her. Suffice it to say, Elizabeth is a lesbian with serious mommy issues. But, when Helen passes away during the NBC Nightly News With Katie Couric, Elizabeth’s life takes a hard left turn from the long awaited hope for closure. It seems that Helen and her prized copy of Mommie Dearest have been cryogenically frozen, and the only way for Elizabeth to access the willed fortune is to thaw her out, reanimate her, and raise her from a child. 

Elizabeth is torn between the joy of being free from her mother, and the yawing abyss of never having her love. But, hope springs eternal. Believing she can raise the mother she always wanted, Elizabeth brings the young Helen home. While the power dynamic between mother and daughter is altered, very little changes between the two.  Helen, most certainly doesn’t change in spite of the nurturing Elizabeth offers. In many ways she’s more narcissistic, more entitled, and more manipulative now that she has the perceived innocence of a child and the experiences and knowledge of an adult.  As Elizabeth’s life spirals further and further back into the familiar patterns of frustration and inadequacy, Helen spirals further and further into the worst possible version of herself.


By the end, one of the two women is finally able to chew a hole through her psychoses, and realize change through the barest hint of insight into the harsh realities of identity, nature, and frontier ethics. 

The other? Yeah, well, not so much. 

Frozen is a smart-mouthed, fast-paced tragicomedy full of literary left turns, bent anathemas, and twisted malfeasance that defy all manner of natural order.  The plot is fresh and irreverent, and full of gay and straight societal taboos.  Love is manipulated, fidelity is fleeting, honor is inconvenient, dead bodies are melted in vats of noxious chemicals, and cats are tortured, but not killed.

There’s also lots of shopping.

The characters of Elizabeth and Helen are well rounded, richly conceived, and delightfully flawed at all levels. They offer a familiar point/counterpoint, and the pendulum of power between the two swings wildly, often at the most unexpected times. As the protagonist, Elizabeth is dynamic in a surprisingly slow, plodding fashion, while Helen, the static, antagonistic anti-hero, rolls through the story like a vainglorious flash flood.

The secondary characters enter stage left; deliver their lines on cue; and disappear until their next scene. For the most part, they enable the flaws within each of the central characters, while also managing to offer wonderful snippets of conventional and not-so-conventional wisdom. Minerva, Elizabeth’s ex, floats around the periphery of the twisted mother/daughter relationship, symbolically representing the “push me pull you” aspects of their toxic association.

Carla Tomaso isn’t like most authors populating the Lesbiverse, and Frozen isn’t your stereotypical piece of lesbian fiction.  This novel addresses some pretty heavy themes, all the while poking convention, deviant behavior, and societal norms in the belly with a souvenir spoon.  I suspect that readers looking for happy-go-lucky romances chock full of saucy sex scenes most likely won’t find a love match with this one, but adventurous readers who love the snap of sarcasm will have a ball with this gutsy page-turner. 

Frozen was a surprisingly delicious treat, and I’m giving it a solid 4.9 out of 6.0 on the Rainbow Scale.