Monday, November 28, 2011

Love and Other Demons by kt klimax and miss slinky

Book: Love and Other Demons 
Authors: kt klimax and miss slinky
Publisher: Dirty Dog Media + Publishing

For several years, I studied various forms of creative writing with American poet, Bruce Guernsey. The first thing he spot welded into the brain of this twitchy little corn-fed hayseed was that every reader would have a different interpretation of my words and imagery - especially if I was writing poetry.

Truer words were never spoken . . .

The simple fact is that the majority of people are intimidated by poetry, and the biggest hurdle to the mass appeal of this genre is that most readers are convinced they need to understand the poet’s super secret crypto key before they can really understand what each poem is about.

But, here’s the thing, poetry is for lovers not cryptographers, and sometimes a red wheelbarrow is just a red wheelbarrow.

I’m probably oversimplifying it, but there is a beauty to the hustle and flow of sound and structure. Poetry can be soft and sweet, it can be cruel and consuming, it can be hot and silky; and it can be funky and fabulous. Poetry can be everything and it can be nothing.

Sometimes a red wheelbarrow is just a red wheelbarrow, but sometimes it’s a metaphor for, well, something more . . .

The Village – NYC

Amazing sex, chocolate, caffeine & vodka – quite possibly not the most conventional diet out there, but fuck I feel good.   *klimax 

Artwork by
Penelope Barbalios
With that heartfelt sigh, Love and Other Demons, the slick, shape-shifting fusion of poetry and prose by kt klimax and miss slinky opens the door to your intrigue and struts in on six-inch peep toe stilettos like she owns the place.

Make no mistake, it’s hers and she knows it.

Love and Other Demons combines poetry with journal entries, thoughts scribbled across boarding passes and scraps of paper, and previously unspoken fears and frustrations. We’re welcomed into bedrooms, airport terminals, hospitals, and hearts. The authors share heartbreak, anger, sadness, loss, and moments of incredible joy and beauty. They struggle to understand who they are and how they fit in. They wonder why they let people do the things to them they did, and why they still care. They write about their wasted pasts, their unscripted presents, and the unavoidable futures.

The poetry is fresh, passionate, and raw, and the contrasting styles between kt klimax and miss slinky create a rhythm that shucks and jives, and then stutters and stops. One page can be passionate and edgily erotic while the next can be cold, stark, and angry.


Artwork by
Penelope Barbalios
I'm useless in your company
I can't function
You're the most fascinating distraction
So pleasing to the eye
You consume me
Your admirers outnumber me
They seem perfect
I'm just useless
It's time I moved on           *klimax

The authors bravely open up their lives to the readers, and are refreshingly honest about their successes and failures in everything. The prose offered up by kt klimax gives the reader a deeper insight into the sound and structure of her poetry, and oftentimes provides a literary reef before we move into miss slinky's next lyrical interlude.

sleep into the rain
Artwork by
Penelope Barbalios

The rain drips from a hazy clouded sky
Falling, shivering droplets upon my window
The patter of fingers
Of warmed particles
Pitter patter upon me
I float in the beautiful moment
My half asleep consciousness
A sigh, curled safely within you your arms
My blanket, sleeping into the rain of your embrace     *slinky

Nope, this isn't your typical poetry primer . . .

kt klimax and miss slinky are strong, smart, beautiful, talented writers that share so much more than words, imagery, and rhythm. While their writing can be erotic, sensuous, dark, cold, or even playful, it is always honest and offered from deep within.

Someone asked me a few days ago if I thought there was a chance in Hell that typical Lesfic readers would pick up a book of poetry.

I shrugged, "Maybe."

The truth is, more readers won't pick up a book of poetry than will. Still, there are some amazing poets out there, and kt klimax and miss slinky are two of them. If you like poetry or you're an adventurous reader, Love and Other Demons is worthy of your attention.

I'll admit that I like poetry now and then, and I really liked this debut from these brave, hip new authors.

I'm giving Love and Other Demons a 4.8 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale - it's got a special style and moxie that I adore.  Besides, kt klimax and miss slinky are working on a follow up, and I'm intrigued to see where they're going to take us.

Love and Othe Demons is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Lulu, and Diesel e-Books

Monday, November 21, 2011

Redemption by DeJay

Book:  Redemption
Author:  DeJay
Publisher:  Regal Crest Enterprises

In 1992 Simon & Schuster published She’s Come Undone, the brilliant and quirky coming of age debut novel by Wally Lamb.  In it, we grow up and grow older with Delores, who spends her Wonder Years dealing with the debilitating and demoralizing effects of divorce, rape, and mental illness.  However, when all hope is seemingly lost, and it looks like Life has gotten the last laugh, she finds that she really can have joy, love, and peace. 

It was the first and only time I ever hurled a book across the room after finishing it.  Well, until I finished Redemption, by debut author, DeJay.

Redemption is the story of architect and unintentional philanthropist, Mackenzie Taylor.  Mac owns a successful business, has loving and supportive friends, and runs a philanthropic organization that brings joy, light, and healing to needy children and families every day.  If you didn’t know her, you’d think Mac had it all. 

The truth is, Mac lost it all.

Five years ago, Isabella, Mac’s wife and soul mate, and Bella, their three-year old daughter were kidnapped, brutally tortured, and murdered by Isabella’s sick and demented ex-husband.   

Mac and Isabella tried to get a restraining order on the bastard, but Judge Williams, who just happens to be Mac's Foster Dad, denied it.  Mac ordered a state-of-the-art security system for their home, but it hadn’t been installed yet.   Mac had to leave that morning for a business meeting, and Isabella and Bella were locked safe and sound in the house, but they weren’t safe from Juan who had bloody retribution on his mind.

Mac unwittingly abandoned her family when they needed her the most, and there is no way she can move on with her life.  She takes small solace in the work done by the Isabella and Bella Sanchez Woman’s Crisis Center and Team Bella, but the hole in her heart remains.

Quite by accident, she meets Emily and helps her to get her new bookstore up and running.  Emily is the guardian of her two young grandchildren, whose mother was killed in a car accident less than a year ago.  Mac is surprised and distressed when she starts to figure out that she has feelings for Emily – surprised because she hasn’t felt anything since she lost her own family, and distressed because she still considers herself married and fully committed to Isabella. 

Still, Mac can’t turn away from the easy camaraderie and physical pull that Emily brings into her life.  What doesn’t hurt is that Mac immediately falls in love with Emily’s grandkids, Kaitlin and Kylie.  What does hurt is that Emily is straight and not interested.

Mac needs time and space to get some perspective, so she tries to pour all of her energy into her business pursuits, her time with Team Bella, and her work with the Crisis Center.  But nothing is ever easy.  Mac figures out that Emily’s deceased daughter’s ex girlfriend is a drunk, and physically and emotionally abusing the children, and putting them in harms way regularly. 

Mac knows how to help.  She wants to help.  She needs to help. 

It’s just hard to do the right thing after she crossed the barrier of propriety with Emily.  Still, Emily sees things in Mac that she admires and needs in her life.  But, before they can go any further with each other, they need to figure out for themselves how much they are able to give and take.

Okay, by now you’re probably about to chew a leg off wondering why I threw Redemption across the room when I finished it.  Right?

When I read the synopsis, I knew this was going to be a heavy story.  When I finished the Prologue, I was in tears and felt a bitter rage and crushing ache deep in my chest.  As I read the story I understood the characters' feelings of loss and emptiness, and how they mask the desperation to make things right.  When I finished the book, I was overcome with an unspeakable relief to know that these women could truly claim joy, love and peace in their lives once again.

And you threw the book, why?

Because I suffered and smiled with these characters for 233 pages, and just when we find out why the author titled this book Redemption, it ends and we didn’t get to share in the hard earned spoils of their personal wars.

So, um, you didn’t like it?

Get real - Redemption freakin' blew me away.  

That’s why I had such a visceral and unexpected reaction to the ending . . . I’m really and truly not prone to throwing things, especially my beloved books.

In all seriousness, Redemption by DeJay is a stellar debut novel.  Before I started reading, I was leery that the topic of domestic abuse was going to be overwhelming and depressing.  And, while it is the centerpiece of the story, the author manages to write a complex and compelling story around it, and populate it with strong and enduring characters. 

And, while the domestic abuse aspects of the story are truly depressing, they are handled with respect and honesty.  I appreciate the balanced nature of the domestic abuse presented - lesbians and straight women are equally represented as victims and abusers, and we are reminded that children are as likely to be abused as adults.   We witness a range of crimes perpetuated against victims, and an array of victim and caregiver responses.  I thought it was a brilliant and gutsy touch by the author when one of the nurses made a borderline sarcastic bet that the latest victim, who was leaving arm-in-arm with her bastard husband, would return soon. 

Inappropriate?  Yes, but all too common, which is why it took guts to put it in writing.

Overall, the writing is crisp and clean, the story moves along at a brisk and interesting pace, the plot is fresh and honest, and the characters are fully developed and integrated.  DeJay took on a pretty weighty subject for her debut, and the results could have gone horribly awry.  The thing is, they didn’t.  She managed to craft an entertaining, well-written story, and focus a bright light on a terrible blight within our society.

Unfortunately, some readers will shy away from Redemption because the subject of domestic abuse is either off-putting or hits too close to home – and I understand that.

For everyone else, I truly encourage you to pick it up and give this story a go – it’s a very good read, it reminds us of things we need to acknowledge is happening daily in our society, and because the author is donating a portion of the royalties to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

I fully expect Dejay’s Redemption to have the lasting effect on me that Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone has – and if I’m still thinking about that story 19 years later, you know its impact was epic.

Redemption is a solid read with a greater purpose deep within it’s pages.  There are a few editing glitches in the print version, but not enough to detract from the bigger picture.  I’m giving Dejay’s Redemption a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale

Authors note:  

No books, including DeJay’s Redemption or Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone were harmed in the preparation of this review.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Middle of Somewhere by Clifford Henderson

Book:  The Middle of Somewhere (Unabridged)
Author:  Clifford Henderson
Publisher:  Bold Strokes Books
Producer:  Dog Ear Audio

World history is literally filled with men and women taking to the Road to discover new worlds, new riches, and new versions of themselves.  Grab any history book and flip back through the yellowed pages of time, and you’ll read stories about how:

  • Ramses II roared along the highway from Memphis in a two horsepower chariot;
  • Alexander the Great packed up the Root Beer and Twizzlers and headed off to India;
  • Napoleon tossed the French Revolution into a backpack and went hostelling throughout most of continental Europe; and
  • Alice Ramsey stuffed her two sisters, a girl friend, and twelve bags of Doritos into a Maxwell 30 for a 59-day road trip from New York to San Francisco way back in 1909. 

While the urge “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before” has been around forever, few things are more uniquely American than the Road Trip

Writers like Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson have described for us their vast and varied experiences on the American road; and cinematic masterpieces such as Easy Rider, Vanishing Point, Five Easy Pieces, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Thelma and Louise take us along for the ride any time we need to get away.

So, whether she knows it or not, Clifford Henderson penned another chapter to this great American folk story when she turned out her first novel, The Middle of Somewhere, in 2009. 

Meet the hip, young, and oh, so urban lesbian, Eadie T. Pratt. Her life in San Francisco has fallen apart, so she cuts all the ties and burns all the bridges when she packs up Pebbles, her ’66 T-Bird and departs on a self-described Springboard to a New Life Tour.  Along the way, she picks up The Egg, a Burro trailer in Arizona, and sets her sights on the pantheon of Lesbian culture, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

Pebbles the '66 T-Bird
Of course, everyone knows that the ’66 T-Bird is a dream car . . . for mechanics.  Well, everyone except Eadie. 

When Pebbles breaks down in front of a small town Baptist church in the panhandle of Texas, Eadie is stuck.  No car, no money, and no hope.  But, as luck would have it, two of Rauston’s finest show up and lend a helping hand.  Heifer and Piggin are two traditionally built Texas women who welcome the enigmatic Eadie into their homes and their lives.  Heifer and Piggin introduce Eadie to the local philosopher and mechanic, and help her find a way to pay for the costly repairs to Pebbles.  In the process, Eadie meets Buddy Bud, a mentally challenged young man who immediately befriends her; Crash the exceptional lock-picking, pot buying teen, and the cute and quirky IT Goddess, Cadence. 

While Eadie is still interested in getting the heck out of Rauston, she’s surprised to find that the small town and its eccentric characters have begun to grow on her.  It surprises her even more when she realizes that the good financial fortune suddenly befalling Rauston Baptist Church and it’s hard-working parishioners is most likely a scam that could destroy her new friends and their beloved church.  With the help of potential love interest, Cadence; Piggin and Heifer’s younger sister, Sweet Ginger; and Crash, Eadie puts everything on the line for her new friends and unexpected family.

So far this year, 46 reviews have been posted on The Rainbow Reader.  A handful of the stories have been amazing, some have been pretty darn good, a few had bright spots, and one or two came close to completely missing the boat. There have been romances, mysteries, and thrillers, two anthologies, a couple of short stories and one autobiography.  Along the way, Baxter Clare Trautman and Catherine M. Wilson classed up the joint by standing in as Guest Bloggers.  Throughout all of this, one thing has remained the same – I read all the books.

What makes The Middle of Somewhere stand out is that I didn’t read it for this review – I listened to it.  So, this review is about more than Clifford Henderson’s story, it also covers her narration, and the production of the audio book by Dog Ear Audio.

Starting with the story itself, Clifford Henderson has given her readers something a little different than the norm.  Eadie is physically and emotionally edgy, and weighted down by negativity and bitterness.  Piggin and Heifer are good, church-going women, but hiding devastating and demoralizing secrets.   Rauston is small town America with big city blight. 

The Middle of Somewhere has romance, mystery, and comedy, but isn’t really about any of those things.  The message is about letting go of the toxic past, accepting that you deserve to be happy, and taking responsibility to move forward.  

You can’t change the past, but you sure as heck can alter your future.

The story doesn’t need gratuitous sex, knee-slapping humor, or gut clenching evil, it succeeds because eccentric or not, the characters are real people with real problems, and lives we all recognize in some way, shape, or form.  The characters are larger than life, but somehow believable; the story touches on both the raw and the beautiful; the humor is often ironic; and the soulful southern twang is warm and lyrical.

Anyone who has attempted it will tell you that narrating an audio book is an art in exhausting, humbling, and tedious form.

It’s related to acting and oral interpretation, but is neither. It’s a niche in the performing arts that blends some elements of both. A good narrator translates the written word to the spoken word in a way that is as consistent as possible with the intent of the author.

And, since Ms. Henderson both authored and narrated The Middle of Somewhere, we can check that last one off the list.

Author, Clifford Henderson, who has a voice, panache, and attitude made for performance, narrates this audio book.  Her presentation is strong and clear, her characters come to life, and each individual has a distinct voice.   The story is written in first person, so fellow outsider, Eadie T. Pratt, transports the reader into the tiny town of Rauston. 

Had I read the story as well as listened to the audio book, I could voice an opinion as to whether or not the audio version enhanced or detracted from the written version.  Still, I have a hard time believing Ms. Henderson’s interpretation of her own words didn’t add a vibrancy and clarity to the overall story.

So, even with the missing data, I’m calling this one a home run.

Lastly, I want to discuss a bit about the production value of the 8 disc CD set by the lovely staff of Dog Ear Audio.  I can’t say I own any books on CD – the ones I’ve listened to have come from the Library.  And, in all honesty, mainstream publishers like Penguin Group, Doubleday, and Random House have produced them. 

With that in mind, I have no hesitation saying that the product quality of The Middle of Somewhere by Dog Ear Audio is top-notch.  The sound is rich and clear, the CDs are consistent in quality, and the packaging is well designed and attractive.  Ordering from their website ( was straightforward and easy, and order confirmation was immediate.  An email was sent when the package was mailed, and the receipt came with a hand written thank you and [be still my heart] chocolate.

And if that isn’t enough, recipe cards for three of Piggin’s and Heifer’s mouthwatering dishes were included.

Clifford Henderson is a talented writer with a clear and distinct voice, and writes stories that are fresh and honest.  She gives her readers memorable characters, smart dialogue, edgy interpretations, and an opportunity to laugh. 

Dog Ear Audio has produced a flawless product, and clearly stamped their place on the audio publishing map.  Besides Clifford Henderson, books by Kim Baldwin, Catherine Friend, KI Thompson, Radclyffe, and Robin Alexander are available for purchase.  Additionally, Ms. Friend, Georgia Beers, and Rose Beecham have audio books in production for future release with Dog Ear Audio.

I’m giving the unabridged audio version of The Middle of Somewhere a 5.2 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.  The price runs about $30 US, but you get a solid story, impeccable narration, and quality production and distribution.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Misfortune's Friend by Sarah Aldridge

Book:  Misfortune’s Friend
Author:  Sarah Aldridge
Publisher:  A&M Books


Many contemporary lesbian fiction authors and readers will likely read the announcement above, and ask “who is she and why is this important to me?” 

The answer is simple and complicated all at once – Sarah Aldridge was a pioneer, a visionary, and an icon.  She was strong, principled, and passionate.  And, perhaps most importantly of all, she gave each and every one of us the birthright of Happily Ever After.

For those not familiar with Ms. Aldridge, I want to provide some background on this fierce and amazing woman, and why the availability of Misfortune’s Friend in e-book format is so significant.

Sarah Aldridge was the pen name of Anyda Marchant, attorney, publisher and novelist.
Sarah Aldridge
Photo courtesy of A&M Books
Born in Rio de Janeiro, she moved with her family to Washington, D.C. as a child. In 1933 she earned a law degree from the National University of Washington (now George Washington University), she was admitted to practice in Virginia and DC, and before the U.S. Court of Claims and the U. S. Supreme Court.
While a law student, Ms. Marchant worked as an assistant to American suffragist and women’s rights pioneer Alice Paul, who was performing early research for an Equal Rights Amendment.   During World War II, she was appointed Assistant in the Law Library of Congress, she became one of the first women attorneys at the law firm now known as Covington & Burling, and eventually she moved to the World Bank where she spent 18 years. Later in life, she organized the very first National Organization of Women (NOW) presence in Delaware.
In 1972 Anyda Marchant was forced to retire from practicing law due to health concerns. It was then that the 61-year-old and her life partner, Muriel Crawford, undertook an artistic journey that forever changed how and what lesbians read.  The two women founded the Naiad Press and published Sarah Aldridge’s first novel, The Latecomer.

Many of us over the age of thirty-five recognize Naiad Press as the Gold Standard for the feminist and lesbian literature of our early lives.  Ms. Marchant served as President of Naiad from its inception until the mid-1990’s, when she and Ms. Crawford withdrew from the company, and began their own publishing entity, A&M Books. Naiad published the first eleven Sarah Aldridge novels and A&M Books published the last three.  Her final novel, Oh Mistress Mine was released when the author was 92. 

An Epic Love Story
Photo courtesy of A&M Books
In January 2006, Anyda Marchant passed away, two weeks shy of her 95th birthday. Her life partner of 57 years, Muriel Crawford, followed her in death only four months later.

A&M Books continues under the capable leadership of Managing Editor Fay Jacobs, who proudly continues to publish and carry on the Naiad/A&M Books legacy started by Mses. Marchant and Crawford.  Earlier this year she released All True Lovers, the first Sarah Aldridge novel to be converted into e-book format.

Misfortune's Friend is the 7th Sarah Aldridge novel, and the one the author considered her very personal favorite - this is why it is not just an honor but a special privilege for me to share in its e-book release.

The beautiful and somewhat edgy story of Misfortune's Friend is set in Baltimore, Washington, and London just before World War II.  14-year old Althea is born into wealth, but disabled by childhood polio and emotionally abandoned by an extended family.   Arriving on the doorstep of her Aunt Marjorie, her life begins to change in ways she never imagined.  Going abroad for college, Althea meets Fern, a strong, restless woman who is aimlessly navigating the political and racial turmoil of pre-World War II Europe.   The two young women find a deep and lasting intimacy that propels Althea to finally understand that Aunt Marjorie is a lesbian with an unrequited love for the compassionate do-gooder, Mrs. Henshaw. It is through the love of Althea and Fern that Mrs. Henshaw realizes her oversights with the affections of Aunt Marjorie, and seeks to reconcile the decades-long mistakes and pain.

Misfortune’s Friend is a classic Sarah Aldridge historical romance, written in her beautiful and proper lyrical style.  Her characters are often flawed but indispensible, drawing the reader into a world that celebrates the love of women for each other.  They live and breathe, they are intelligent and opinionated, and they don’t apologize to the world around them for owning their love. 

Ms. Aldridge influenced many of today's most esteemed lesbian authors, not only with her stories, but with her words, her actions, and her indelible strength.  Every time we pick up a piece of contemporary lesbian fiction, the DNA of Sarah Aldridge can be found deep within its pages.  Her writing style is not typical of many books published today, but this only adds to her legacy. 

As a lasting tribute to her vast and varied contributions to lesbian literature and publishing, Sarah Aldridge was awarded the Golden Crown Literary Society Trailblazer Award posthumously in June 2007.

There is no way I can place a Rainbow Scale rating on Misfortune’s Friend.  Some authors transcend any type of rating or rank order - this author is one of those very special few. 

Anyda Marchant never conceived that her Sarah Aldridge novels would one day, so soon after her passing, be made available to a new generation of lesfic authors and fans in electronic format.  As a self-professed connoisseur of the very best of lesbian literature, I encourage readers to open their minds and their libraries to the books of this beautiful and immortal author, and embrace and explore an important piece of our collective lesbian literature history.

A&M Book provided a courtesy copy of Misfortune's Friend for my review -  e-book versions of Sarah Aldridge novels are currently available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.