November 29th, 2016

andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Malachite by Kirby Crow (414-09-16-2016)

1) Little slow to start but really built into a great story.

2) I loved how the author was able to establish character, setting, and history in a few deft strokes. The world of this story drew me in right away. A rousing and thoroughly enjoyable read.

3) This book was high fantasy at its best. An intriguing setting based on ancient Venice, lost princes and lost love, intrigue and power play both political and personal... The three main character's paths were wonderfully convoluted and intertwined, nothing was quite as it seemed in the beginning, and the plot twists kept me on the edge with tension all through the story. Loved it and will definitely reread. My only issue was the tedious beginning; actually not all too surprising with that much worldbuilding to take care of, but still a bit tough to get through.

4) Another story deserving of full marks - absolutely stunning representation of an alternate Venice where men are sent as exiles from a woman dominated world and left to sink or swim as it were. Living in a culture of murder and robbery some men rise to the top and find love and honor while others lead lives of chaos and mindless sex. A dark but never depressing story of power struggles and a desperate need for happiness in a world gone mad.

Malachite (Paladin Cycle #1) by Kirby Crow
Gay Fantasy
Series: Paladin Cycle
Paperback: 408 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 23, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1535261692
ISBN-13: 978-1535261692
Amazon: Malachite (Paladin Cycle #1)
Amazon Kindle: Malachite (Paladin Cycle #1)

Marion Casterline is the highwarden of Malachite, an ancient, beautiful city floating in a shallow sea. In the aftermath of a brutal gang war, there is finally peace in the city, which gains new life every year through the sacred ritual of Aequora. Through Aequora, exiles, outlaws, and orphans can become citizens of Malachite. This ritual is vital to the city's survival, because Malachite is populated only by males. Jean Rivard grew up in the Zanzare slums at Marion's side. As boys, they were branded into the violent Teschio gangs that ruled the criminal underworld of Malachite. Known in the slums as the Prince, Jean became a spy, an assassin, and Marion's lover. As men, they worked together to destroy the Teschio and crown Kon Sessane as magestros of the city, only to drift apart after the battles were won: Jean to the Black Keep, Marion to the grand halls of the Consolari. When Marion announces his engagement to Kon's son, Jean is hurt and resentful. Marion is leaving him and their past behind in every possible way. Marion also believes that he's starting a new life, but when a charismatic rebel leader kindles a revolt in the slums, he realizes that the only man who can prevent war from devouring the city he loves is his very own prince.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: The Songbird Thief by Skye Allen (351-08-30-2016)

1) Believable and relatable characters in a landscape that skillfully blends San Francisco with a wonderful fantasy world makes for a very entertaining story.

2) I am not really a fan of this type of story but I found this one to be. An enjoyable read. I really loved Lee and the book offered many twists and turns. I hadn't read the other book in this series but I didn't need to. This one could have been a stand alone.

3) A very interesting, new and different fantasy. I have liked it a lot! The characters are well developed and the plot offer enough intrigue to keep anyone attention, but my favorite part was the setting, this mash up of a very 21° century city and a fairytale world.

4) The author gives us a delightful, imaginative, heartfelt tale wrapped in excellent storytelling. An excellent read.

The Songbird Thief (Oaktown Fey #2) by Skye Allen
Lesbian Young Adult
Series: Oaktown Fey
Paperback: 206 pages
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press (August 25, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 163477003X
ISBN-13: 978-1634770033
Amazon: The Songbird Thief (Oaktown Fey #2)
Amazon Kinlde: The Songbird Thief (Oaktown Fey #2)

An Oaktown Fey Book

Where's the harm in a little petty theft now and then? Fifteen-year-old Lee is about to find out. Lee has a gift--the ability to use her songs to enchant prospective victims, making them easy to rob--but it isn't without a price. The source of this mysterious ability is revealed when Lee comes to San Francisco, fleeing her stepfather's abuse: she is half fey. This knowledge puts a strain on Lee's relationship with her friend and secret crush, Sonja, since Sonja thinks entanglements with the fey only lead to trouble. As her adventure takes her deeper into the intrigues of the Faerie Realm, Lee discovers her power has the potential for more than fun and profit. Some would use it for evil, and only Lee can decide if there's good to be found in her songs.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: In Pain by Caethes Faron (403-09-05-2016)

1) An interesting take on a dystopian society. Will and Mal are two halves of a whole who fight for each other more than for themselves. My only complaint is that I have to wait for book 3.

2) An imaginative take on a caste system, this story contains surprising events along with heartache.

In Pain (In Distress #2) by Caethes Faron
Gay Sci-fi / Futuristic
Publisher: Branwen Press (October 26, 2015)
Amazon Kindle: In Pain (In Distress #2)

In a future ruled by an exploitative caste system, Malcolm, a member of the highest caste, and his lover Will, a member of the lowest caste, work with their family to change the world in which they live. Will's found the solution to their problems: a way to infiltrate the Department of Genetic Integrity and hopefully find the truth they've been searching for. But just when victory is in their grasp, tragedy snatches it away.

Devastated, Malcolm seeks revenge for the horrors inflicted upon his family, but each of his victims draws him further form the goal he's spent his whole life working toward. Will is left to shoulder the burden of leading the movement for change, but he can only do so much. To pull their family through the darkness and toward a brighter future, Malcolm and Will must rely on the unlikeliest of allies--an ally who may prove even more dangerous than the enemies they face.

In Pain is the second book in the In Distress series and is intended to be read after In Distress.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Backcast by Ann McMan (021-02-25-2016)

1) Ann's books are always pretty good. As usual, the storyline was great and the scenes flowed effortlessly. I found myself engrossed in the characters and enjoyed myself immensely.

2) I enjoyed this book by Ann McMan. I had to read it 2 times through as I found a lot going on and ALOT of characters.

3) Backcast is a masterpiece of plot weaving and thematic diversity. There are colorful, relatable and three-dimensional characters, and the author has a rare and refreshingly approachable writing style that makes this book so readable. I dare anyone not to shed a tear or two at “essays” 7, 10 and 12.

4) This imaginative author gives us a multi-dimensional story with interesting characters and a relatable story line all wrapped in a unique writing style. Highly recommended.

Backcast by Ann McMan
Lesbian Contemporary General Fiction
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bywater Books (December 8, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1612940633
ISBN-13: 978-1612940632
Amazon: Backcast
Amazon Kindle: Backcast

"I love Ann McMan."—Dorothy Allison, National Book Award finalist for Bastard Out of Carolina

When sculptor and author Barb Davis is given an NEA grant to pair original feminist sculptures with searing first-person essays on transitions in women's lives, she organizes a two week writing retreat with twelve of the best, brightest, and most notorious lesbian authors in the business. But in between regularly scheduled happy hours and writing sessions, the women enter a tournament bass fishing competition, receive life coaching from a wise-cracking fish named Phoebe, and uncover a subterranean world of secrets and desires that is as varied and elusive as the fish that swim in the waters of Lake Champlain.

Set on the beautiful shores of Vermont's Lake Champlain, Backcast is richly populated with an expansive cast of endearing and outrageous characters who battle writer's block, quirky locals, personal demons, unexpected attractions, and even each other during their two-week residency. For Barb and each of her twelve writers, the stakes in this fast-moving story are high, but its emotional and romantic payoffs are slow and sweet.

Filled with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and breathtaking pathos, Backcast serves up a sometimes irreverent, sometimes sobering look at the hidden lives of women, and how they laugh, love, lose, and blunder through their own search for meaning.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Thrall by Barbara Ann Wright (109-05-14-2016)

1) Intriguing, fast-paced and philosophically engaging, IMO, but unnecessarily complicated. Vaguely Scandinavian, and adequate for a plot-and-character-centred narrative, but the descriptions of Skelling -- the more realistic setting from which the adventurers set forth for an enchanted island -- could have been more detailed. More information about the climate, the flora and the fauna would have been useful, especially since plant magic is a key element. Awesome. Very good, but no passages really stand out, since the style is in service to the plot.

2) While this story started off slowly, it quickly gained momentum and built into something far more complex than I envisioned. To call it another Viking story is doing it a disservice; unsurprisingly from Barbara Ann Wright, there's a fully realized fantasy civilization to discover. The love stories spin out in a way that's simultaneously central to and secondary to the plot. If not for the intense bonds formed between the women, the plot would take an entirely different course, and yet the demands of the story press and harry the women into situations they'd never have dreamed of. I want a sequel!

3) Beautifully written, this fantasy tale of true love in the Viking era will steal your heart.

Beyond Gold and Glory by Barbara Ann Wright
Lesbian Fantasy Romance
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (September 15, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1626394377
ISBN-13: 978-1626394377
Amazon: Beyond Gold and Glory
Amazon Kindle: Beyond Gold and Glory

Like heroes from an ancient tale, Aesa and Maeve plan to raid foreign shores, claiming gold and glory for their homeland. Young and in love, neither considers what will happen if one is chosen to be a warrior and the other is left behind.

On a mist-shrouded island, Aesa meets Ell, a woman enslaved by an insidious curse. Maeve walks the path of dark magic and finds Laret, a woman well acquainted with pain. Together, they must break the magic surrounding Ell, an act that will force them to choose between their dreams, their homes, and the women they love.

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andrew potter

2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Fool's Gold by Sarah Madison (238-07-31-2016)

This was a really lovely story about second chances. Our two protagonists, who meet after eight years following the accident that fundamentally disrupted their lives and caused their breakup, have both achieved success in their own ways and have not allowed the accident to limit their drive or ambition to succeed. They have clearly matured over the years - and they have just as clearly never forgotten the other. I found these characters to be sensitively drawn and believable. Their wary interactions at the outset, when they are thrown together again, create a wonderful tension in the story. Although the reader may be fairly certain from the outset that they will have their happy ending, reaching it is a measured process - the pacing of the story is excellent. Also, I don't personally know much about equestrianism outside of popular stories ("International Velvet" comes to mind), but I found it a fascinating setting. Jake's father came across as overly Byzantine at the outset, but he is depicted more three dimensionally as the story progresses - I found I liked where his relationship with his son ends up.

Fool's Gold by Sarah Madison
Gay Contemporary Romance
Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; first edition (July 21, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1535427760
ISBN-13: 978-1535427760
Amazon: Fool's Gold
Amazon Kindle: Fool's Gold

Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again. Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

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2016 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Makepeace (Taking Shield #3) by Anna Butler (293-08-17-2016)

1) I enjoyed this story and want to go and read book 1: Gyrfalcon & book 2: Heart Scarab to read more of this world.

2) This series really caught me in the first book. Things are going well for Shield Captain Bennet. In the second book, things go awry,  and the third book, Makepeace, any hope of the main character getting out of a situation unscathed is not in the cards for Shield Captain Bennet. The political intrigue, missions gone wrong, and the recovery physically and mentally of Bennet in Makepeace is excruciating at times. I am hopeful there is a resolution in the next book.

3) Strong and interesting plot. Slow buildup with a mix of character-driven elements and plot-driven elements. Also thoroughly enjoyed the science fiction setting and the amount of vagueness so we readers can use our imagination to fill in blanks. Really great setting. Enough details when needed and imagination for the rest. A good balance; not perfect, but very good. They don't linger on minutae and know when to concentrate on the little things v. showing the big things. Each character feels like they stand on their own two feet and have their own voice, which is something I've found lacking in a number of entries. Clear, intelligible, easy to consume writing style. Really loved the slow burn on the plot and how casual some of the conversation feels. While there are a lot of moments spent in character's heads, they're balanced out by the action and by the transition. Recommended for award consideration.

Makepeace (Taking Shield #3) by Anna Butler
Gay Sci-fi / Futuristic
Series: Taking Shield (Book 3)
Paperback: 330 pages
Publisher: Wilde City Press, LLC (July 29, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 192550624X
ISBN-13: 978-1925506242
Amazon: Makepeace (Taking Shield #3)
Amazon Kindle: Makepeace (Taking Shield #3)

Returning to duty following his long recovery from the injuries he sustained during the events recounted in Heart Scarab, Shield Captain Bennet accepts a tour of duty in Fleet as flight captain on a dreadnought. The one saving grace is that it isn't his father's ship--bad enough that he can't yet return to the Shield Regiment, at least he doesn't have the added stress of commanding former lover, Fleet Lieutenant Flynn and knowing the fraternization regulations will keep them apart. Working on the material he collected himself on T18 three years before, Bennet decodes enough Maess data to send him behind the lines to Makepeace, once a human colony but under Maess control for more than a century. The mission goes belly up, costing Albion one of her precious, irreplaceable dreadnoughts and bringing political upheaval, acrimony and the threat of public unrest in its wake. But for Bennet, the real nightmare is discovering what the Maess have in store for humanity. It's not good. It's not good at all.

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