Tag Archives: #LGBTQ+

Flynn, Sabrina; A Bitter Draught (Ravenwood Mysteries II) (2015)

I have followed Sabrina Flynn‘s writing since her début novel. It simply does not do her justice to say that her writing has improved immensely. That she happens to throw in important issues as well, is frosting on A Bitter Draught.

Humphrey glanced at the envelope again. Muttering under his breath about redheads and their strange temperaments, he opened the envelope, hoping he wasn’t going to get arrested. It held a neatly folded slip of paper. When he unfolded the slip, a single line of elegant words ran its width. A cold prickle pierced Humphrey’s neck and crawled down his spine, producing a shiver that no San Franciscan wind had yet managed.

And so our story begins. San Francisco around the turn of the 19th century was a hot-bed of racism, corruption and bigotry.

“For murdering a Negro woman? The police all but accused my wife of harlotry.”

Isobel Saavedra Amsel (formerly Kingston), aka Bel, aka Charlotte Bonnie, aka Mr. Morgan is back in town and finds San Francisco unforgiving of people running out of capital. Bel has never been a helpless damsel, waiting for her knight in shining armor, and she aims to solve her emptying purse. The San Francisco Call hints at a solution.

Reporter Charlotte Bonnie gets wind of an unusual death on Ocean Beach. That people die after entering the water at Ocean Beach is in and of itself not interesting. It is a dangerous place to wade. What makes Ms. Bonnie’s detecting muscles stretch is the note in the sand that went with the death of Violet. Clues are given early on and continue throughout the story. Keep your eyes open and brain at attention and you may well solve the mystery before our favorite cross-dresser does.

Mr. Morgan is not alone in his cross-dressing. We also meet our favorite gender fluid and gay side-kick, Loratio, aka Madame de Winter, aka Paris. Since before they ran away to the circus, Bel and Loratio have caused their parents heart problems. Both are wild for their time. People often think of the “Wild West” as wild. And it was. But that wildness was pretty shallow when it came to gender- and sexually-fluid people. Our twins hold many of my favorite moments in this story.

Atticus Riot is both cynical and naïve. Despite his childhood as the son of a crib-whore, he thinks that as long as he does his part in fighting the darker sides of people, justice will prevail. He might also be deemed nuts. Ravenwood has not yet left him and conversations between the two seem a bit one-sided when all people see is Riot. Yet Riot needs both his naivety and his ghost to keep living and helping people. A husband comes to him seeking to understand the death of his wife. They had only been married three months, and the man knew little of her background. San Francisco being San Francisco, Riot warns the husband he may not like the answers he gets. As it turns out, neither does Riot. But the road towards understanding brings him, once again, into contact with Bel.

And Kingston. Will Kingston find out that his dead wife is back in town? Good question.

I loved A Bitter Draught. Yeah. Loved it. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


My review of From the Ashes (1)


The author gave me a reviewer’s copy of A Bitter Draught


Just because: you-tube clip from 1903 of Ocean Beach w/Cliff House, Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Co.

 

Turner, Tej: The Janus Cycle (2015)

The Janus Cycle by Tej Turner
Cover art: Alison Buck

A common theme in all of these short stories seems to be bullying of one sort or another. Needing to dominate others is part of our human history. Countries bully other countries into subservience and oblivion. Two countries are well-known for their tendencies to bully militarily weaker countries while decrying other nations when these do the same. Tej Turner shows us the one-on-one form of bullying and the mob-on-one kind of bullying in his semi-short stories.

All of these short stories are more or less stand alone stories. They are all tied together by Frelia. Frelia has an interesting power that could cause her death if the ones who “rule” it find out about her having that power. But bullies have been part of Frelia’s past and she will not be forced into obedience just because some mysterious stranger tells her she has to. That decision is an essential one to the stories of Pikel, Kev, Tristan, Neal, Namda, Halan, Sam, Pag, Faye and Tilly. Frelia’s intervention changes lives, hopefully for the better.

Mobs with a charismatic leader are a frightening thing. Poor Tilly has the great misfortune of having one of those in her school and she has the kind of aura that many victims end up with. Sadly, this aura attracts predators like Jarvis and his gang.

Bullying (for whatever reason) drags your sense of self-worth down until it seems impossible to gain any of it back. The bullied person becomes so used to people being mean that trust is difficult to come by. At one point things became so desperate for her that Tilly was ready to kill herself. Being treated like a verbal and/or physical punching bag almost every day makes her need to be true to herself something I both admire and understand. Poor little Tilly. Tej Turner made me want to hug her.

“They carried on kicking her. In the face, the head, the stomach. They stamped on her legs, and one of them even spared a moment to spit at her. I desperately tried to intervene, but there were too many and I couldn’t reach them. They were killing her, but they carried on regardless. So long as the rest of them were doing it they seemed to feel it was okay, and none of them wanted to be the first to hesitate.”

In one way or another we all seem to become part of various kinds of mobs.

Definitely recommended.


The story behind the Janus Cycle


Janus Cycle available at Amazon US



I was given an ARC copy by the author

Jay, Stacey: Dead on the Delta (Annabelle Lee I) (2011)

Dead on the Delta - Stacey Jay
Cover art by Elena Dudina; Cover design by Lisa Litwack

Annabelle Lee is a mess. Her PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) started while she was recovering bodies after Hurricane Katrina. At that time her intake of alcohol increased. Then, while Annabelle was holding her, her sister died from an allergic reaction to fairy bites. At this time Annabelle discovered she was immune to fairy venom. Survivor’s guilt hit her hard (with a lot of help from her parents) and substance abuse became a reality. Like all addicts, Annabelle is having trouble admitting that addiction is a fact.

PTSD stinks. I have had to work my way through my share of it and have known plenty of people who fight its insidious web. While it gets better with time and the right kind of therapy (and often medication), PTSD never quite goes away. Every once in a while a memory clobbers my gut, and I find myself having to work my way through it again. Annabelle has a lot of memories and pictures stuck in her mind and new ones are added to it due to her immunity.

Being immune to fairy bites means that Annabelle functions as a CSI at body sites. Non-immune people have to put on an iron protective suit so they won’t get bitten by the fairies. That takes time and suits are limited in how well they protect a person. So immune people are used for difficult and time sensitive jobs. Bodies and the hot and humid swamps of Louisiana do not go well together. Children’s bodies are no exception. Self-medication becomes a must for survival for Annabelle. So does figuring out why on earth Grace’s body was dumped outside the protective iron fence around Donaldsonville.

Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay was a fascinating read about serious issues. Immensely serious. Dead on the Delta was also a fun mystery with plenty of mayhem occurring on its pages. Annabelle Lee was a delight. Her compatriots were as eccentric as she, and her non-compatriots were just as fascinating. If the real Donaldsonville is filled with people like the ones in Dead on the Delta, it must be an interesting place to live.


Reviews:


Dead on the Delta available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound


Cryptome (2005) Recovery crews after Hurricane Katrina (Warning: Graphic pictures)

Morgan, Clayton: The Inquest of Incest

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse

Singer, Merill (2010) Environmental Health in Donaldsonville, Louisiana; John Harvey Lowery Foundation

Miles, T.A.: Raventide (2013)

Raventide - TA Miles

Antiques appraiser and investigator Drayden Torvannes is 33 years old. His great love in life is the study of history. To live out his love Drayden checks out heirlooms and family documents for the wealthy and gives his customers an opinion on the value of what he has been asked to investigate.

Drayden considered survival in his profession to be tantamount to walking a thin line stretched high above the winding lengths of the canals; holding one’s balance and knowing when to risk a leap onto a balcony or rooftop was essential in staying clear of the turbid, and sometimes poisonous waters.

Dealing with the powerful works the same way in the real world. In the world of Drayden Torvannes we also enjoy a bit of the super-natural in the form of angels and demons along with the strange phenomena that sometimes occur when they and humans interact.

People in Raventide embrace many well-known traditions of our regular world. Good and evil, we and them, save the world, and protect the innocent are all parts of TA Miles story about Drayden Torvannes and his adventures.

Cults are confusing yet understandable belief systems for me. I grew up in a faith that many consider a cult. Yet Mormons are innocents when compared with the cults we meet in Raventide. Our Raventide cults are more in line with IS or KKK. In other words, pretty intense people who are willing to do absolutely anything for their cause.

A great many of the citizens of the town of Raventide and the Fannael family suffer from cultism. The story of Raventide is about unveiling the truth of horrors past and present and the role of various people in these deeds. Poor Drayden is going to get his fill of betrayal by the end of the story. Betrayal is, thankfully, not his only lot in life. Unexpected friendships and loyalty comes to him as well.

I loved Raventide. For me the pace worked T.A. Miles’ writing was excellent and engaging. Meeting authors like this is always a relief. Writing isn’t an exact science. There are some qualities that especially appeal to my brain and TA Miles managed to fill those demands.


Reviews:


Raventide available on Raventidebooks.com


Lester, Robert W.: What is a cult?

Stewart, Sean: Nobody’s Son (1993)

 

Nobody's Son - Sean Stewart

In looking for a beginning to the story of Shielder’s Mark, one point could be the abandonment by Mark’s father when Mark was four years old. We never discover his father’s story but Mark carries the wounds from that abandonment until almost the very end of the story. Part of his coming of age / growing up entails coming to terms with the scarring from that long-ago day and the years after.

Another beginning could be with the other father/son story of the novel, one the lies one thousand years into the past of Mark’s present. This father/son tale is much, much darker than the one of Mark and his father. With its revelation to Mark and the reader comes an understanding of the magic of the land and how Old men and ghosts play a part in it.

Nobody’s Son is a painful and riveting tale. When I look around I see so many people who have sought approval of the previous generation yet never received it. Having two sons myself I worry that they will feel that they do not measure up to whatever they might perceive our expectations of them to be. Both parents and children go through growing up processes that entail letting go of things, people and pasts. Growing up hurts. At least that is my experience and it is one that never ends.

Gail is the prize Mark has chosen as his reward and what a reward. Both soon learn that the other is a person in their own right and not just some imagined object that will fill an empty spot in their own lives. The development of their relationship shows clearly the sacrifices women of the nobility had to make compared with the sacrifices of the men. Watching Gail come to realise the necessity of her sacrifice and her willingness to make that sacrifice hurt. We demand too much of our daughters and not enough of our sons.

Even after my third or fourth reading of Nobody’s Son, I am still left with a with sense of having read something wonderful.

Happily you can borrow this at the link below as an ebook.


Reviews:


Nobody’s Son on Open Library


1993 Aurora Award, Best Canadian Science Fiction or Fantasy novel published in English

1993 Canadian Library Association Award, Best Young Adult Novel of the Year

Canavan, Trudy: The High Lord (The Black Magician III) (2010)

The High Lord - 7 covers
Top left: French cover
Top 2 left: French cover
Top 2 right: Cover art by Matt Stawicki
Top right: Turkish cover
Bottom left: Indonesian cover
Bottom center: Cover art by Les Petersen
Bottom right: Russian cover

My son and I recently finished reading The Black Magician trilogy together. What he discovered is that sometimes favourite characters die. He felt that was kind of cruel of Canavan. It is one thing when the bad guys die, but good guys (especially ones you really like)? Oh, well. It is unlikely this is the last time he experiences this. Despite that, he really enjoyed himself during our adventure. As did I.

The High Lord answers all our questions about why Akkarin uses black magic. It also shows us that the powers that be sometimes make long-term decisions that are seemingly wise at the time but turn out to be bad for future generations. Accidental deaths can cause a lot of trouble down the road.

I’m still impressed with Sonea. I think that growing up rich and powerful blinds you to the reality that most people live under. Peggy McIntosh discusses this phenomenon in her White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. Sonea growing up in the slums has made her aware of the harsher sides of life and made her more open to the possibility that status quo must change. Even Rothen and Dannyl, who are open-minded for wizards, fail to understand exactly how privileged they are.

My dad grew up under extremely difficult conditions. His mom was a paranoid schizophrenic and his dad disappeared after he had enjoyed German hospitality in prison camp. Torture got the better of him and alcohol was used to self-medicate. That left my dad as the responsible person at home from a very young age. His mom did her best, but, you know, being a paranoid schizophrenic without access to medication does not help in creating stability for your children. My mom’s childhood sucked as well. Her dad was an alcoholic and her mom worked her tail off to provide for them. When my mom has told me what it was like to drag a drunk dad up three stairs to get him inside the apartment – after he had pretty much spent his earnings on booze – well, I wonder how she made it????

But that childhood made them into pretty awesome people who have always been concerned with the greater good. They turned what could have made them bitter into something that helps others each and every day (even when they are now ancient =) ). Like Sonea, not all of their decisions have been wise. But like Sonea, what they have done is try to be true to the motto of “not doing unto others what you would not like to have them do unto you”.

Sonea grew up without her parents but was fortunate enough to get to live with her aunt and uncle. This is probably what saved her (and the rest of the city). Her hunger, poverty, the Purge, being bullied by the other novices and being suspected of everything “bad” by the adult wizards did not stop her from being true to her own values. Sonea’s situation is in no way unique in the world (except for the magic that is). Poverty, war, captivity, orphanhood and homelessness are all part of the lives of a huge amount of children and adults. That people are actually able to rise above their experiences and make the world a better place is amazing. Yet people do it all the time – just like my parents have. Which is why I find Sonea utterly believable. Her decisions regarding Akkarin seem inevitable and sensible considering the kind of person she is.

Sonea and The High Lord_by_ceara_finn24-d27a8o2
Picture photoshopped by Lauren Kelly Small

Tayend is my other favorite person of this story. He is our lad from Elyne. While homosexuality was not accepted in Elyne, homosexuals were not persecuted. Unlike Dannyl’s experience in Kyralia. Being a fan of the underdog, I would have thought that Dannyl would be the one to appeal the most to me. But Tayend has an innocence about himself that seems true. When that innocence is challenged, as it is in The Novice, Tayend rises to the occasion. He is loyal to Dannyl, in love with Dannyl and willing to avoid meeting with Dannyl if that is what it takes to protect him from the wrath of the magician’s guild. I wish I could have gotten to know him better.

Cery is back and this time he finds himself with a mysterious customer who seems willing to help him find whatever Sachakans arrive at Imardin. She turns out to be different from what he had originally thought, and that causes friction. But Savara still manages to be of assistance to Cery when he needs her help most. Who to trust or who not to trust when you are a Thief, that is the question.

Reading The Black Magician trilogy with my son was my third time through the series and I still had fun and learned new things about myself and the world.

In The High Lord Trudy Canavan gifted me with really fun words to read. During part of the book she had used the words Sachaka, Akkarin and Takan a lot. My mouth was having so much fun saying those sounds. Sometimes it is really awesome to be an autist (aspergian).


Reviews:


  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 1841499625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841499628

My review of:

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice

 

Canavan, Trudi: The Novice (The Black Magician II) (2004)

The Novice - 6 different covers
Cover art by:
Top right: Les Petersen
Bottom right: Steve Stone
Bottom centre: Matt Stawicki

Once again Trudi Canavan has shown that she has the ability to reach audiences all over the world. The Novice has been published in three English dialects and 12 other languages. The Black Magician trilogy is a serial. You are going to have to begin with The Magician’s Guild to make sense of The Novice.

As with The Magician’s Guild, I was my son’s audiobook. This time the experience as an out-loud-reader was much smoother. Whereas The Magician’s Guild has awkward phrasing for an out-loud-reader, The Novice flowed as it ought. Being the one who was read to was an enjoyable experience for my son.

Story 1

Breaking out of an abusive relationships is a challenge. In some cases the victim never does while in others some kind of catalyst comes along that makes freedom possible. Before that time, though, pain, confusion, humiliation and helplessness are feelings the victim is dragged through time and again.

Sonea being bullied by Regin and his compatriots (fellow novices) is such an abusive relationship. Regin’s venture into physical and mental violence begins during the first year and follows Sonea into The Novice. One would have thought that Sonea gaining the guardianship of the High Lord would prevent him from being cruel, but no. Regin soon discovers that Sonea is afraid to tell the High Lord what is going on and takes that as encouragement to increase the intensity of his bullying.

Bully lust is a strange thing. I’ve often wondered what makes an abuser tick. Growing up I never understood why the other kids felt it appropriate to tease and harass me. As an adult I think I can see what the attraction is. Power seems to be orgasmic to some people. Being able to get others to go along with what you are doing probably increases that feeling. Regin certainly seems to be getting off on what he is doing to Sonea.

Like a lot of people being abused, Sonea is afraid to tell those in authority about the bullying. She is afraid that matters will get worse. Sonea sees that the episodes that happen in class do not bring about punishment for Regin and I imagine that would make her hesitation even more intense. Class-differences between the victim and the abuser probably made it even more difficult for Sonea to open up about what was going on. After all, what could she – a slum-dweller – hope to achieve with reporting the abuse when the rest of the magically inclined people at the university were of the upper classes.

In- and out-groups. We and them thinking. I think this is one of the most frightening thing I find about humans. When I read some of the comments that are written on some of the sites on the net, I am confused by how others bully writers in the most cruel manner by dehumanising the blog’s author. Regin’s treatment of Sonea is a prime example of how one person makes another person a “them” and thereby setting his behavior at – “not at fault”.

All it takes is one person. One person to make it all bearable. Sometimes one person to help you see the light. One person. You will meet him in The Novice. That one person with the ability to think outside the box. The one who dares think of “them” as human too.

Story 2

Dannyl’s experience with The Thieves has made him prime candidate as Guild Ambassador. I’ll bet he never saw that one coming. Dannyl is one of those people I just could not help but like. His behavior and attitude is clearly colored by the treatment Fergun put him through while they were both novices. Surviving abuse gives us a perspective on life that we would not have otherwise. If circumstances allow, that understanding can be put to good use. Both Dannyl’s behavior and his attitudes have been challenged and continue to be challenged during his adventures in Elyne. His friendship with Tayend shows his strength and the pain of the past he still carries around on his back.

The Novice was fun. Painful at times when old memories were triggered, but fun.


Reviews:


  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; A fmt edition (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841493147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841493145
  • Amazon

My review of The Magician’s Guild