Thursday, December 27, 2018

Proposed Copyright Rule

A rule is being proposed for small works such as blog posts and social media posts.  As follows:

The U.S. Copyright Office is proposing to create a new group registration option for certain types of literary works. To qualify for this option, each work must contain at least 100 but no more than 17,500 words. The works must be created by the same individual, and that individual must be named as the copyright claimant for each work. The works must all be published online within a three-calendar-month period. If these requirements have been met, the applicant may submit up to 50 works with one application and one filing fee. The applicant must complete the online application designated for a “literary work” and upload a digital copy of each work. The Office will examine each work to determine if it contains a sufficient amount of creative authorship, and if the Office registers the claim, the registration will cover each work as a separate work of authorship. The Office invites comment on this proposal.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Review: JILTED by Lilah Suzanne (Interlude Press)

Objectively speaking, JILTED should be the kind of story I would enjoy.  A romance that starts with a bolting bride and is full of quirky queer characters.  If I described what happens in the book it would sound like a mash up of “Being Alexander: a Novel”, “The Bone People”, and the movie “Addicted to Love”, all of which I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, I found the actual prose strangely dispassionate.  The narrative is  omniscient for pages at a time, and when we see into Carter’s head he is always thinking and feeling basically the same things.  The humor, wit, and angst never seem to be quite sharp enough to pierce the overall impression of “meh”.

My rating reflects that there is nothing objectively less-than-competent about the book, but I simply cannot say that I really enjoyed reading it.

Review copy courtesy of NetGalley, 4/10

Fiery Seas Publishing Closed

Reliable sources report that Fiery Seas (2014-2018) ceased trading as of yesterday.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Market: Interlude Press

Interlude Press (2014--) (Imprint: Duet Books)

Genre: "LGBTQ general and romantic fiction."

[12/3/2018]  Seeking  --(Adult Fiction) Novels of 60,000-to-90,000 words in the following genres: contemporary, historical, romantic comedy, mystery/suspense, and romantic fiction. --contemporary, fantasy, and science fiction Young Adult novels of 60,000-to-80,000 words. Interlude Press --Short stories for anthology: Low-to-no angst, feel-good short stories for an upcoming YA anthology. Show us your best charming, quirky stories of teen friendship and/or romance of 7,500-to-15,000 words.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Louisiana DoC Banned Book Game

Here's a game for not quite all the family.  How many books have you read that are not permitted by the Louisiana Department of Corrections (books and booklets section starts on page 9)?

My score is 8

A Game of Thrones (George R R Martin), Bitten (Susie Bright), Death Note (Tsugumi Ohba), Dragon Masters Guide (Dungeons and Dragons), Ghost World (Daniel Clowes), Preacher (Ennis & Dillon), Story of O (Pauline Reage), Tarot for Beginners (P Scott Hollander)

Who can beat my score?  It's a long list so it shouldn't be difficult.  All those smutty stories and most of my strikes are comic books!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Imprint: Carina Adores

Carina Adores is a new imprint dedicated to "trope-driven LGBTQ+ contemporary romance line". Imma going to have to ponder a bit on what that means, but I think it's good.  Examples of the tropes are provided.

At first I wondered if this was just breaking out the queer material from Carina-proper, but the addition of the used/flipped/subverted trope element does give a distinct character to this proposed imprint that could be very popular.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hera Books

Hera Books opened this month and is "looking for crime and thriller, romance, saga and general fiction." Co-founded by Keshini Naidoo and Lindsey Mooney.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Characters are allowed to be old now, apparently. (And apparently I am old now).

The latest turn on the news-go-round is a reported increase in stories about... old people.  Stories of this sort have recently appeared about manga and other types of fiction. So it is not especially uprising that Entangled is announcing a new imprint for "older characters".  I could be more thrilled about "older" meaning over 30.  Thirty is "August" only if your life expectancy is 45, which is conventionally counted as just the first year of middle age.  The official guidelines increase this to 40 which means at least we can expect to live to retirement age, if not beyond.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

For those playing along at home....

Publisher imprints of Tabetha Jones

Sweetest Sinz (2018--)
Sweete Sinz* (2015--2016)
Demons and Deities (2015)
Dark Storm (2014-2015)
Phoenix Fire (2012-2014)
Mystic Press (2012)

In terms of self-publishing I wish her all the luck in the world. However many of these previous imprints have been or possibly still are* open to outside submissions, and it has not gone well -- avoid avoid avoid.

See also
This blog: Mystic Becomes Phoenix (2012)
LeppLady: Sweetest Sinz (2018)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Market: Black Opal Books

Black Opal Books (2010--)
Genres: Romance +  "we handle all genres of romance, as well as women’s fiction, chick lit, historicals, mysteries, thrillers, YA, and limited non-fiction."

Accepts submissions between June first and December thirty-first each year
IMHO their covers aren't great, a bit amateurish.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Stacey Abrams and the Status of Romance Writing

Given that romance novels are still often treated as low brow and somewhat embarrassing by much of the general media, coverage of Stacey Abrams' run for the post of Governor or Georgia has been a pleasant surprise.   (Stacey Abrams being the woman behind the pen name Selena Montgomery.)

Picking the top 20 Google News results for 'Stacey Abrams romance' reveals that 75% of the mentions of her writing career are positive.  They range from referring to her writing as award winning and popular to saying how her novels reflect her skills and values.  For example by praising her strategies in getting the books published despite barriers to writers of color and her use of the profits to address her debts.  The other 25% of mentions are not negative, just neutral or mixed.

A search on general Google shows similar results albeit with a greater use of steamy snippets.  To date I have only seen one highly partisan post that openly mocked the candidate for the content of her novels -- which in the current climate is much less than I would have expected.

While Brian Kemp has declared victory in the Governor's race, Abrams has yet to concede and an official call has not been made.  With a margin of less that 1/4 of a percent a run off may yet be called.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Start at it Again

After going through a quiet period Start has acquired some new imprints: Pyr (sci fi) and Seventh Street (crime) from Prometheus. Prometheus is refocusing back on non-fiction. It's getting crowded up in there.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Review: The Women's War by Jenna Glass (Random House)

On one level the Woman’s War is a well realized high fantasy novel in which the power of magic is fundamentally changed so that it favors women.  As someone who has written some high fantasy, this story really confronted me with how I fall back on traditional misogynist world building .  I have always tried to show that women have forms of power within patriarchal systems, but I have never confronted the system itself in the way that this book does.

Not that the prose is in anyway strident or didactic.  It takes an event that undermines the power of a number of kings in bordering lands, and it tracks through the consequences for a number of key people.  Illegitimate princess Alysoon is the most focal character but an ensemble of other male and female also have their perspectives revealed.

Most striking is how the plot reveals the sacrifice of compassion and care-taking that people often make when trying to serve the greater good—whether that is a king desperate for a male heir, or girl facing a forced marriage to protect her brother’s safety.  It is from this point of view that the poignant ending is an intense combination of victory and defeat.

The Woman’s War is a story of court intrigue, wars and love between well realized characters in a well-built fantasy world.  It includes a speculative element more common in sci fi than fantasy—but maybe this is more a result of lazy thinking by writers including myself who tend to lean heavily on familiar fantasy tropes. Because this novel does not sacrifice anything in terms of entertainment value in the course of being—for the thoughtful reader—a great deal more.

Review copy courtesy of NetGalley -- 10/10 #NotACommonRatingForMe

Saturday, November 10, 2018

But not *too* Rebel

There is no doubt in my mind that Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is a great book--I mean, it could have used another round of editing, but the message is solid.

But I have to ask, why did publisher Timbuktu Labs, and indeed the authors,  allow the Russian publisher to erase the story about Coy Mathis? Coy Mathis is a child who was part of a landmark decision to allow transgender people access to a gender-appropriate bathroom.

The webpage boasting about the book being translated into 26 languages seems to have vanished from the internet.  Was the irony of trumpeting availability at the cost of integrity just too much for them?  Where is the publisher's explanation for how this happened and what they plan to do about it?

Carter Press -- Not Recommended

Carter Press presents itself as some kind of  hybrid publisher and marketing service. The site was registered last July and Carter Press lists a residential home as their address. They have no notable achievements to their name, no named personnel, and nothing to recommend them.  They seem to be actively soliciting authors for fee-charging services. Avoid.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Eros Imprint, Tule Publishing

Eros (2013) (Imprint of Tule Publishing)


[9 Nov 2018] Tule Publishing was founded in 2013 by Jane Porter. It spawned a number of imprint, including an erotica and erotic romance imprint called Eros some time around 2015.  All of the Tule books are immaculately packaged in a way that belies Tule's small press status--albeit a lower volume and very selective small press.

The Eros covers seem to cross the line from archetypal to cliche.  There is the 50 Shades clone, the lingerie catalog shots, and the usual sprinkling of rose petals and stilettos. At point of sale the publisher is listed as Tule, which in combination with the generic name robs Eros of any strong sense of identity. Nevertheless the books from this imprint seem to be successful and well-received.

Tule is currently not seeking submissions for Eros, but open to submissions for American Hearts, Holiday, Montana Born, and Texas Born

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Market: Pen and Kink Publishing

Pen and Kink Publishing
Not open to novel submissions

Genres: Erotic stories
A small publisher mainly for the work of Cori Vidae  but also of anthologies. Open calls for short stories. Some interesting and unusual themes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Start Continues

Start Publishing is the current mother-ship for several romance or erotic imprints including Torrid (late an imprint of Whiskey Creek Press acquired 2014), Cariad and Xcite (still imprints of Accent licensed in 2015), and Cleis (acquired 2014).  Start Publishing itself is one branch of the Start which also includes Start Motion Pictures, Graphic India, and Paragon which renovates movie theaters.

In 2013 Jarred G. Weisfeld became head of the publishing arm, while also being CEO of a literary agency "Objective Entertainment" and president of both "Objective Films" and an ebook conversion company "Paperless Publishing". He generally seems to have a good reputation in his industry, but that is arguably not publishing per se. That said, after some turbulence just after the acquisitions their various imprints seemed to have settled down and got on with business--with no obvious problems.

While some of us are not used to the glossy bluster of these kinds of companies, they also come with good production values and project management--as reflected by the aesthetically distinct but structurally uniform websites each of these many imprint now use.  The fact that all of these imprint are in business and show signs of doing well is significant in itself, given the attrition that has been occurring over the last 4-5 years.

While aesthetically the Start Media brand does nothing for me it is undeniable that many of the imprints that they acquired (e.g. Night Shade, acquired 2013) were struggling at the time and seem to have benefited considerably from the change in management at least as viewed from the outside. Although it does seem that a few erotic romance specific projects, like Cleis's "Tempted Romance" imprint, have gone by the wayside in the process.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Review: Better Not Pout -- Annabeth Albert (Carina Press)

BETTER NOT POUT is exactly what a holiday (m/m) romance story should be. An odd couple pairing is given the potential for a happily-ever-after that is clearly broadcast from chapter two. Santa-suited antics combine with inner angst and no shortage of sex scenes. Unlike many in this genre the characters are drawn with sufficient subtlety and depth that the largely internal obstacles to this happiness feel entirely plausible. And if these character also hit a few well-worn tropes of big gruff army guy and quirky blond twink, well—the holidays are a time for traditions too. My only complaint would be that the final get together scene could have been a little less rush given how much psychological and emotional work they both put in to get there. (8/10).

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Review: The Lord of Stariel -- A J Lancaster (Camberion Press)

When I was a kid I often enjoyed reading books from beginning to end, but as an adult that experience has become somewhat rare. But THE LORD OF STARIEL was exactly that kind of experience. The story opens by sliding the read seamless into an alternative universe that feels a bit like the late 1920s or early 30s, but with tradesmanlike magic running in parallel to pre-industrial-revolution technology and low key druidic religion. Nevertheless the recognizable historic issues peak through: aristocratic estates beginning to struggle, and sexist and class barriers just beginning to be challenged.

Hetta is the black sheep of a noble family whose magical process of determining the heir to the estate makes her an unexpected wild card in a dangerous game between her family and a fairy realm that few of them even knew existed. The plot jogs along with enough tropes to be cozy and enough twists to be interesting—and a dash of romance as well. Sort of “Far From the Madding Crowd” meets “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”, with a healthy dash of high fantasy and fresh angle provided by A J Lancaster’s direct and exposition free prose.

Reading this story was a frictionless journey through a fully realized word with a heroine who you really want to see conquer the challenges before her (and choose the right guy to help her out along the way). I will not hesitate to read the sequels when they become available.

Review copy courtesy of Netgalley 5/5

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Riptide Gloss

Riptide have been living in interesting times for quite a while.
  • In 2014 Riptide issued an apology for insensitive marketing of books set in a world featuring slavery.
  • In 2016 books of Riptide author Amy Lane were critiqued for racist content. Riptide again issued a well-crafted apology.
  • In March both Riptide and Berkeley were burned by author Santino Hassell who seems to have misrepresented himself and solicited money from readers.
  • Later in the same month  author Xen X Cole severed ties with Riptide on the behavior of editor Sarah Lyons whose resignation was subsequently accepted.* (This post opened the door to many other authors sharing problematic experiences with Lyons.)
  • Riptide pledge to reform and resolve these issues
It seems they have steered a quieter and calmer course for the balance of the year.  But as their own messaging indicates, it might take a bit longer for all to be forgiven

* RIPTIDE OFFICIAL STATEMENT AS RELEASED ON THEIR WEBSITE POSTED HERE AS IT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE THERE: "We have accepted Sarah Lyons’s resignation as Editorial Director at Riptide Publishing, effectively immediately. In her business relationship with Xen Sanders, her behavior was unacceptable, and we do not condone it in any way.
Romance is an intimate business, but there is no denying that Sarah’s behavior crossed the line, and that her behavior is not just her responsibility--it is also ours because she represented our business. We apologize to anyone her behavior has hurt. Though it is challenging to oversee the day to day operations of staff without a shared office space (our entire staff works from home offices), we are implementing closer oversight of the editorial process. Some of these oversights include a prohibition against contacting authors outside an official company email or phone, and an updated editorial handbook with a vastly expanded section on both cultural sensitivity and professional boundaries. As well, our inboxes, ears, and hearts are open to anyone who wishes to share their stories or concerns with whomever at the company they might be most comfortable speaking.
We also removed Kate DeGroot from our freelance editorial roster shortly after she was brought on because of conflicts with authors and shortcomings in her work.
Over the course of 2015 and 2016, incidents occurred that compelled us to take a hard look at the culture of racism in romance. We have made mistakes. We own our missteps, and we apologize, once again, to anyone we hurt because of them. Since 2016, when Xen experienced the issues he shared today, we have taken many steps to grow, change, and do better, both as individuals and as a company, and we have been committed fully to both their execution and the spirit behind them. We instituted our sensitivity reader program. We created a priority submission process for writers of color. This year, we hired four new editors of color across different racial and cultural backgrounds. We do not condone Sarah’s statement to Xen about people of color on cover art, and are including people of color on the covers of books featuring non-white characters. We know these steps are just the beginning, and our work is not done. We must do more than apologize for harm done; we must continue to change, and our commitment to do so is unwavering.
Once more, we express our sincerest apologies. We are listening."

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

MARKET eSensual

eSensual (imprint of Alternatepress)

Genres: " all subgenres of Erotic Romance, Romantic Erotica and Erotica"

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Avid Publishing

Genres: Romance -- "Books of Male/Male (MM), Male/Female (MF), Female/Female (FF), and Ménages. Poetry is on a book-by-book review. All categories of fiction."

I am fairly confused by Avid Publishling's website.  Based on their books and details of their submission guidelines I think they are mostly romance publishers, leaning erotic romance. But their submission guidelines make me do the confused-dog-head-tilt.

For example: (3) Main character pairing - eg. MM, MF, FF, Ménage, Poetry

Cough, yeah, may main character pairing is sonnet.  There's a lot of rhymed coupling.

Medallion Press Bankrupt

Medallion (2003-2018) press has filed for bankruptcy.  Honestly I think their glossy enthusiasm-and-money approach for publishing (rather than boring fundamentals) was more successful--and for longer--than I expected. 

Most companies that make un-ironic use of the term "synergize" don't break the five year mark. It might have helped that the founder is an heiress to the Wrigley fortune, I suppose.  It is unclear to what extend the company ever ran in the black.

My bias to be skeptical of them might be because of the way the founder said "MP does not publish erotica" -- clarifying that they publish literally any other genre you can think of. I could actually hear the disdain in the italics. 

Nevertheless I have to admit Medallion Press/Media Group had a pretty good run of it. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: Dark Rainbow, Andrew Robertson (Ed).

DARK RAINBOW: QUEER EROTIC HORROR is what a short story anthology should be.  Each story nails the theme of combining erotic and horror themes.  Each story is distinct from the other.  The stories have plots, themes, and originality.  

 Some like “Goldilocks and her Undead Bear” are bizarre and stomach churning; others like “The Grave of Lilith” are more conceptual. Most are somewhere on the fantastic spectrum from magical realism, to paranormal, to high fantasy.  

 The emphasis is on G and L, but there is also B, T, and a few other letters from the queer spectrum incorporated as aspects of the stories and their characters. The only thing that strikes me as at all overly predictable is the cover mashup of two arguable genre cliched—the skull and rainbow-- but I have no complaints about what is within.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 5/5

Sunday, October 21, 2018

MARKET Everlasting

Everlasting (2018--) (Imprint of Fiery Seas)

Genre: Romance including erotic romance

Seeking: "Proven tropes: marriage of convenience, forbidden love, opposites attract, secret baby, etc. Heroes: CEOs, cowboys, military, firemen, etc. Beta and Alpha males are accepted. Small town heroes, sexy ranch men, etc. Plot: The romance should be the main plot. Secondary characters are okay, but shouldn't take away from the main character's story. Hero and Heroine Viewpoint should be 50/50. Each story should have a HEA."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: BOLT by Angel Payne (Waterhouse Press)

As I started reading BOLT I expected to really enjoy it.  A nice girl falls for the filthy rich but socially awkward alter ego of a super hero. The tone is kooky and enthusiastic with lots of sex (the power dynamics of the sex are a tad erratic and weird IMHO).   

However the relationship becomes a little repetitive with the couple finding reasons to break up, freak out, and then get back together again. Neither the humor potential of being set in a hotel, not the action story of, well, being a superhero are greatly exploited. 

In fact, the plot ultimately doesn’t go anywhere much other than to the altar. I suspect that story worked better in its original form of many shorter parts than it does as a novel.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 3/5 #AlmostPWP

The Christian Author, the Plagiarism Scandal, and the Immoral Silence

Zondervan has arrived at a settlement after conceding that non-fiction author Christine Caine had plagiarized extensively from the work of Carey Scott (HarperCollins Christian Publishing/HCCP). And as the story got passed around the interwebs with very little in the way of a response, professor Warren Throckmorton had cause to write "I don't think plagiarism matters much to most Christians." He suggests that many Christian celebrities use ghostwriters and have a loose idea of what it means to authors something.  And as with the Caine/Zondervan case, reparations may be paid but apologies won't be made.  The entire issue is swiftly swept under the rug.

I am reminded of the number of scammy publishers than tried to dress themselves up as "good Christians". For example the awful vanity outfit "Christian Faith Publishing", and Tyndale Books and HCCP have both been sued by contributors claiming dishonest practices. And let's not even get started about Tate Publishing.... All areas of publishing have problems but there does seem to be a preponderance of silence on the part of Christian publishing professionals where purveyors of prose from genres such as memoir or romance come forth and either apologize or counter-attack, according to their temperament. Perhaps because, not being clothed in the righteous robes of Christian purpose, they are willing to take personal responsibility for what they have done.

Or perhaps because the media and their consumers are more willing to demand it?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Zumaya Nonpayment

eXtacy is one of the 7 imprints of Zumaya which is now openly not paying service providers like cover artists (e.g.).   On this basis it is being marked on the publisher page as 'not recommended'.

So I am told eXtacy is not and has never been an imprint of Zumaya (see comment).  I have no problem seeing I have made an error here in that they are not currently such an imprint and so the two business may now be completely unlinked. So I will remove the tag.

However my post is based on eXtacy being previously identified as such an imprint of Zumaya by a 2003 Press Release (as well as by Piers Anthony). EPIC does say this was their "original" stats, and so presumably has ended.  So I am having some trouble based on this with the idea that such a relationship never existed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

MARKET Major Key Publishing

Major Key Publishing is seeking new adult and contemporary romance.


How would you feel if, shortly before your debut novel was to be released,
the woman who runs the company publishing it revealed the cover of one of her own books and it looked like this?

Monday, October 15, 2018

BEST WOMEN’S EROTICA -- Rachel Kramer Bussel (ed)

BEST WOMEN’S EROTICA provides a lot of stories but unfortunately they are all very similar: a contemporary woman does something a vanilla person would consider a tad daring and feels good about it.  There is no real plot to speak of.  And some people think that is par for the course with erotica or short stories, but girl I read about a dozen erotica anthologies a year and most of them manage to have both stories and sex, in fact lots of rather more adventurous  sex with sometimes unexpected consequences. Whatever criteria these stories were selected according to I would respectfully request the raise the standard and broaden the scope.  It is pretty rare that competently written erotica bores me, but this was a snooze-fest. Or perhaps there is a strong readership for these anthologies that does not read a lot of erotica and is very happy with these brief scenarios as a glimpse into the world they don’t want to venture any further into.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 2/5

MARKET: 10th Street Press

10th Street Press publishes erotica and related non-fiction. I have to say their website Utt-Bugly.  They seem to have been around for a while and customer reviews suggest their books are a mixed bag.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Money, Bias, Exploitation and Book Review

On one hand if a book reviewer is paid by the author, they will probably be at least somewhat biased towards giving a positive review rather than a purely accurate one.  This is why paid reviews cannot appear in the customer review section of Amazon books listings.  Although you can certainly pay hundreds for a review and post it as editorial. And payments are fine so long as Amazon is paying for them via the Early Reviewer Program where the idea is that approaching people after purchase somehow eliminates this bias.  (But I have to say, after taking part in many reviewer programs, most people people assume they have to give fake glowing reviews if they are being given a freebie and/or compensated, whether this is actually true or not.)

On the other hand when a book review soliciting service is being paid for, how does it make sense that the only person not seeing any of the money is the person doing the work?  Programs that organize the exchange of ARCs for reviews often charge a significant amount and make a little money--I assume--in the process.  And in my socialist little heart it seems odd to build a profitable business on a volunteer activity.

And if the solution is to offer books to people for whom access to the book is more than enough compensation, doesn't this introduce the bias of salting the book listing with gushing praise from super-fans who don't really represent the typical consumer experience?  Because if so, any kind of organized coordination between publishers and reviewers is ultimately going to result in "invalid" reviews.

And is it magically money that is the root of all evil?  On Netgalley the key to getting your pick of books is having reviews featured and being put on auto-approve lists.  Something that is unlikely to happen if your tone is overly critical or your star ratings under 4/5.  And while Amazon rules do also suggest you cannot "require" a review in return for a book many of the book review services--such as Hidden Gems--track whether you post to Amazon and are probably going to cut you off if you don't.

And in many cases, can anyone even really tell if the reviewer is being paid or not? For example while the Paranormal Romance Guild is a non-profit, they charge for membership and one of the benefits is reviews--cross posted to Amazon.  The site is not specific about whether any of the membership money goes into the reviewer's pocket either directly or by dint of wearing multiple hats at the organization.

I am sure most of us have decided where to draw the line on what's fair in love and reviews, but while the rules may change the biases remain the same.  And while one of these biases is to give glowing reviews even to crap books if compensation is offered, the other is to make money off the free labor of volunteers.  And given that those volunteers have to be incentivised somehow--don't we end up just concealing the problem rather than addressing it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: In the Vanisher's Palace by Aliette de Bodard

IN THE VANISHER’S PALACE resonates with the story of Beauty and the Beast without being anything as literal as a retelling of it.  A post-apocalyptic Vietnamese setting seamlessly blends myth and science is a way vaguely reminiscent of Anne McAffrey but with a completely different cultural context and aesthetic.  The basic story is about Yên, a poor scholar abducted by a beguiling but dangerous dragon to be a teacher for her strange children.  The story, romance, and revealing of what is happening in the wider world around them occurs at a perfect pace and arrives at a satisfying conclusion.

I found the writing style just a little disjointed in the first few pages but eventually got into the flow of it.  If I have any complaint it might be that nested into the richness of the world, culture, and relationships sometimes the actual personality of the two female protagonists did not seem quite as multi-dimensional in terms of what the basis was for their attraction to each other and some of their more extreme actions and reactions. But perhaps I am just not appreciating some of the story’s subtleties. The tone of the book is somewhere between science fantasy, romance, and literary but the beautifully illustrated cover gives a good introduction to what is within.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 4/5

Monday, October 08, 2018

Review: Women who Love Monsters -- Lori Perkins (Editor)

While I ultimately really enjoyed WOMEN WHO LOVE MONSTERS, but the connection between the stories and the title and stated theme is a bit slippery.  The best of the stories really do explore the connection between women and the monstrous -- be that horrors from the dark, abusive men, magical races, or those who seem to be our enemy.  The best of these stories also explore different motivations for loving the monster like need, conquest, a desire for power, a wounded soul,  an ancient urge, or even the desire to become a monster herself.

That said, the frame shifts jarringly between stories.  The most constant theme is the erotic desire to make love to a monster and very few of the stories touch upon happily-ever-after situations.  Some of the excerpts and stories seem to offer very little in relation to the theme at all, unless you stretch its boundaries very wide.  If I were to rate the tries separately they would range from a grudging 1/5 to an enthusiastic 5/5 with the best being reminiscent of my favorite anthology of all time ALIEN SEX (Ellen Datlow, editor).

I have a particular interest in the borders between erotica and horror, and explorations of monstrous love interests that are not basically superheroes with no down side or neutered versions of their ancient selves.  Several of the stories in this anthology directly and successfully engage with this theme, and given the rarity of this kind of bold originality I can somewhat forgive the rest that were irrelevant, openly self-promotional, or merely benignly entertaining.

Review copy courtesy of Netgalley, 4/5 #DarkerThanThatFTW