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Rosamund (Dublin, Ireland)

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London Leather
London Leather
Price: £2.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dynamic and compelling writing, 6 July 2012
This review is from: London Leather (Kindle Edition)
It's very unusual to find a novel that handles subjects like sex and desire so sensitively and thoughtfully. London Leather does this by creating very real and interesting characters, whose problems and hopes are easy to relate to whether or not you have an active interest in kink. It's rare to find a story that explores kink or BDSM that is so firmly grounded in reality, and it's very refreshing to do so.

I found the story was very good at both explaining BDSM terms and set-ups in an interesting and helpful way for the novice, while being frank enough to also appeal to those who are more familiar with them. The story has two main arcs, and focuses on four very different Londoners who are active on the BDSM scene. The first arc follows a couple through their legal marriage and their own, far more personal, contract to each other on the BDSM scene, and the conflicts within their relationship. The second arc follows a graduate student, a friend of the couple, as she tries to come to terms with the role BDSM plays in her life, and also tries to resume contact with her estranged sister. I thought both arcs worked well, and the author did a great job of making the characters compelling. It was very interesting to see the emotional impact BDSM had on the characters and their different reactions to it.

While the story is full of kinky scenes, I wouldn't class this an erotic novel, because while the kink is vital to the plot of the story, this book is more about the role BDSM has in the lives of the characters and their relationships with each other. It does a great job of evoking the emotional need people can have for BDSM, and showing why kink can be so central and so important in people's lives. For that alone it deserves to be read, and it's a shame that poorly written escapism like 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is getting so much attention and this story isn't.

The writing is really enjoyable here and that really captivated me from the beginning. The dialogue is very sharp and witty, and it's great to see such frank discussions about sex and intimacy between characters of both genders. I was particularly drawn to the second arc of the story which follows graduate student Tina and included discussions of Rosseau and her own feelings on her kinks as well as her slowly developing relationship with her sister. It was also great to see the kink woven in with regular life--riding crops stacked against the Radio Times, projectors failing during rope bondage demonstrations, as well as important issues of life, such as the question of whether or not to have children, and the dynamics of working life. It was also great and very refreshing to see so many different body types and sizes to be included in the kinky scenes.

Overall I really enjoyed this book: It's a really thoughtful and interesting discussion of kink and the various kinds of intimacies people share. It was really refreshing to read such a nuanced and candid description not only of a kinky lifestyle but of different relationships, and I'd highly recommend it not just to people who are interested in BDSM but to anyone who wants to read a novel that describes desires and relationships honestly and thoughtfully.


The Vintner's Luck
The Vintner's Luck
by Elizabeth Knox
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A rare delight, 7 Feb 2011
This review is from: The Vintner's Luck (Paperback)
Only very rarely am I lucky enough to read a novel and to enjoy it so completely that I am left delighted and drained, happy to be the presence of that prose and drained by the emotions that reading it gives me. Reading The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox gave me just that experience.

I try not to read the blurbs on the back of books often, because I frequently find they reveal too much of the plot to allow dramatic tension to remain, or they convey the story so badly or so crassly that they render it unappealing. Largerly because of that, I'm not sure what I want to say about The Vintner's Luck other than that it's excellent. I discovered it through a comment made by a friend, saying that the prose was lovely and that it contained a well-written gay relationship, which was enough to encourage me to read it. Both of these things are true, and on their own they would have created a lovely reading experience, but this books contains more than one or two narrow themes.

This isn't a book about just one relationship, and while love is one of its themes, love is written in the context of the small agonies and joys of daily life and family life, which I think is one of its great strengths. To give some details: it's set in Burgundy, beginning in 1808, and discusses the making of wine, the Napoleonic wars, and life in a small village at that time. It deals with its background wonderfully: it is full of believable details and its characters are firmly rooted in the ideals of the time, but the background is created subtltly, so the reader believes in it without it becoming the main theme. One detail I liked a lot was how long it took to get anywhere at this time: which is something I had not thought of in those terms, though it seems obvious now. The historical descriptions remind me a little of The Passions by Jeanette Winterson, which is set at a similar time, but I enjoyed this novel far more.

The story deals with multiple relationships, including the intimacy of friendship and the affection of marraige, as well as romantic desire and loss, and the relationships between children and parents. It spans one man's long life, and centres around the yearly harvest of grapes, and gives the reader a powerful sense of place, and time, and people. It also centres around the friendship that grows a man and an angel, which I found extremely moving and well-realised, but I think saying too much about that would spoil large pieces of the plot.

I will say that I was very impressed with the discussion of religion conviction in the novel, of its treatment of the themes of God and Lucifer, and the level of realism with which it managed to depict the divine, without ever becoming ridiculous. I liked how evenly the author presented the religious convictions of time, ranging from devotion to indifference.

The prose is also stunning: the product of carefully chosen words and simple adjectives, creating a beautiful, intimate descriptions of moments and places. It is worth reading just for Knox's commendable command of language.


The Well Of Loneliness (VMC)
The Well Of Loneliness (VMC)
by Radclyffe Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.60

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting concept marred by poor characterisation, 18 Sep 2010
Described as the archetypal lesbian novel and banned on publication, this book is disappointing not only in its completely dowdy depiction of a lesbian relationship, but also in its utter failure to create a believeable or indeed interesting relationship between its main characters. Radclyffe is an extremely old-fashioned writer in her use of prose: 'betoken' is a popular word, and her sentence structure is peculiar at best. It is hard to get past the over-blown descriptions of nature or discussions of the poetics of horses, and when you do it's hard to know whether it was really worth the effort.

The book begins before the conception of its main character, Stephen Gordon, and goes on to describe her childhood and her life into her late thirties. Stephen is a reasonably interesting character as a child: she is interested in fencing and horse-riding and in making her muscles as finally tuned as possible. I felt a cetain amount of sympathy for her as the book makes it obvious that she is different from those around and she cannot fit in to society. Her estrangement from her peers well evoked and Hall creates a sense of the loneliness of the only child and the loneliness of being different from this around you. Stephen's relationship with her father, Philip, is a very sympathetic one, and probably the best realised of the book. Philip realises that there is something different about Stephen before she does, and does not know what to do about it.

The story, such as it is, does not really get started until Philip's death, however. There plot and the point of the book hinges on Stephen's realisation of her own lesbianism, and on her two romantic relationships, each doomed in their own way. Throughout the book Hall seems intent on both prooving that Stephen, as a lesbian, or 'invert' as she calls it, is natural, and should be respected by society in her own right as an intelligent and noble person, but at the same time, through the damaging effect the lesbian relationships appear to have, not only on Stephen, but on those she loves, appears to be showing us that lesbianism is both unhealthy and damages those around it. These cross-purposes make the book's message clunky and difficult to follow, and this is only underlined by Hall's leaden prose.

The other major problem is the book is that it fails to get accross any sense of why Stephen loves the two women she comes to love, or why she is intent on pursuing the relationships. The two character she falls for, first Angela and then Mary, are not at all fleshed out, and come accross as vapid and empty. Angela is a downright unpleasant character, and it is never really explained why Stephen comes to love her at all or recognise anything in her. Very little is said about Mary, and she is simply uninteresting. As well as that, very little tenderness is created between Stephen and either of the women, and its hard to get a sense of what their romantic relationship is really like. Stephen tells them she loves them a lot, but it's very hard to see where her passion comes from or what she finds appealling about these women, or, indeed, why they are attracted to her. I could have forgiven this book a lot if it created an honest and interesting relationship between two women, but it simply does not. I didn't expect anything particularly erotic to occur in a book published in 1928, but a romantic relationship that was interesting and emotionally believable should have been possible.

This book is interesting as an early depiction of lesbianism, and because Hall was brave enough to say 'she kissed her full on the lips'. It contains descriptions of the Parisian lesbian bar life which are mildly interesting, and Hall's ideas about Stephen's nature, though peculiar, are interesting to read. This book does not really strike any kind of chord with the modern lesbian, but it is an interesting part of lesbian history. It is also a damning portrait of the society which cannot accept Stephen for what she is, and, rather comfortingly shows us that, while gay and lesbian rights may still have a way to go, they've really come a long way.

I can't say this book in an enjoyable read, because its characters are paper thin and it is fleshed out by many more paragraphs about God and God's will than is really necessary. The prose is clunky, and the fact that Stephen is depicted as a writer is a bit embarrassing, but the ideas and the picture of society which it presents are interesting enough to at least make it readable.


Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--And Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--And Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
by Irene M. Pepperberg
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting discusion of invaluable research, 27 Jan 2010
Though this book has its flaws, it is also a very interesting, moving and intelligent read. It both gives an autobiography of Irene Pepperberg and her relationship with Alex, her parrot, and it discusses some of the research she conducted with Alex over a 30 year period.

This book's strength lies in its discussion of Pepperberg's interactions with Alex, and her own personal struggles to get the necessity and reliability of her research recognised. Descriptions of Pepperberg's own unhappy and difficult childhood and her relationship with birds are very moving, as are her discussions of her closeness with and respect for Alex. His untimely death was very evocatively described and remains a great tragedy to the research Pepperberg was carrying out, as well as a tragedy for animal lovers and a personal tragedy for Pepperberg.

The descriptions of the birds in this book are beautifully done and their characters are very interestingly and movingly described. For someone who knows little about birds, this book is an eye-opener and learning about not only the birds' intelligence but also their own unique character is very compelling. Alex, Griffin and other grey parrots and brilliantly described in this book, and Pepperberg allows the bird's own characters to appear. I did not expect to get such a beautiful picture of the character of the parrots in this book, and I was pleasantely surprised.

I suppose this book's strength is also its weakness: while I was very impressed with the moving descriptions of the birds and Irene's relationship with them, I was dissapointed that there was not very much detail about Pepperberg's research with Alex. I would have been very interested to read in more detail about the work she did with him. While there were some interesting points made, I felt they were not discussed in very much depth. However, I feel like this was not the purpose of the book. Pepperberg's other book gives a more detailed description of the Alex research: this one discusses her relationship with him, and his unique personality and the interest he aroused in so many people.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 30, 2010 12:40 AM BST


Grl2grl: Short Fictions
Grl2grl: Short Fictions
by Julie Anne Peters
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Inventive and engaging stories, 8 Jan 2010
Julie Anne Peters uses a simple writing style to create engaging pieces. Her teenagers are very believable: they are neither too simplistic nor too grown up. One of the tools she uses to create this is her dialogue, which is very believable, as well as being quick and witty, something many teenage books are lacking. Many of these short stories are told in first person, and this first person narrative works very well, making the stories both immediate and readable.

This use of narrative voice is one of the things that immediately drew me to the books, but they left a lasting impression on me because of their evocative depiction of emotions. While many LGBT books, especially those intended for teenagers, fall short of the mark because they are too preachy, or too obviously about gay and lesbian 'issues', these books offer a refreshing insight into love and longing for contemporary teenagers, whatever their circumstances. There were many very moving stories: one particularly stood out for me about a FTM transgendered youth, and his struggle for acceptance among his peers, because of its very subtle handling of its themes and its heartbreaking conclusion. Another, 'Stone Cold Butch' told the story of a girl unable to accept any affection from those around her because of her troubled relationship with her father in a very moving way. Other stories talked about love and friendship, some very poignantly, others in a witty or enjoyable way.

While many books written for the teenage audience can be read once and forgotten, this selection of stories holds a lingering charm, created by Peters' assured writing and her delicate evocation of strong emotions. I would wholeheartedly reccomed this novel.


Go Ask Malice (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Go Ask Malice (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
by Robert Joseph Levy
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £8.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the average Buffy-book standard, 15 Dec 2006
I see Buffy-books as glorified fanfiction. If you want fanfiction you can get it free and a lot better than these souless novels all over the net. However, this book is different. With painstaking attention to the details of canon and a surprising understanding of Faith's character, Levy has written a suprisingly enjoyable novel.

Written in diary-form, it begins several months before Faith is called as a slayer. We learn about the life she had which was only hinted about in the show. Levy's Faith is much more vulnerable than any version seen previously, but is instantly recognisable. Her voice and behaivour is spot-on.

I tend to find reading fight scenes very boring, but seen here, through Faith's perspective, they get much more interesting. We see her as a girl torn between a longing for security and a need to rebel, torn between love and hatred, and, most of all, between sanity and what she sees insanity.

Tha language of the book is nothing spectacular, but Levy has a reasonable handle on what a teenage girl sounds like. The diary-form does make it fairly unique from other Buffy-products, and the short and pithy enteries make for compulsive reading.

Even if you're not a fan of Faith, I'd reccomend this book. After reading it, I saw her as a much more interesting character, someone who I could feel real sympathy for. All the less important characters are well drawn too - Faith's watcher, her boyfriend, and the rather scary villain.


Becoming Bindy Mackenzie
Becoming Bindy Mackenzie
by Jaclyn Moriarty
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breezy, fun and fantastic, 20 May 2006
Mariarty continues the same fun form of narrative voice she used in her previous books through letters, transcripts, philosophical musings and even a short autobiography of the main character. Its plot is slightly dafter than that of the first two books, but it is just as insightful about the teenage mind and contains fresh, vibrant characters that are engaging and never become tiresome. Bindy, the main character, is sweet and likeable even as she blunders through life and fails to understand her peers. Moriarty's strength is these likeable characters she creates and her ability to give each one an individual voice, so rarely found in teen books. She writes with compassion, understanding, and is, above all, deeply humourous, making her books endlesly enjoyable - Becoming Bindy Mackenzie enjoys a continuation of this wonderful style with an interesting new character. It's essential reading for anyone who enjoyed Moriarty's first two books, and should attract new fans, too.


This is All
This is All
by Aidan Chambers
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life told in epic ways, 6 Nov 2005
This review is from: This is All (Hardcover)
In this book, Chambers shows us that he knows all.
It doesn't have the fast-paced narrative structure that some of his other books can boast of, but its unflinching portrayal of its main character, Cordelia, is unsurrpassable.
Cordelia talks about everything - from exam revision to the importance of trees in her life, from periods and farting to poetry. She gives us detailed accounts of herself and of others, and with them gives the reader and intensely personal portrayal of her life.
Despite its flaws - the book is too long, I feel, and looses some of its power with too many detours - it is still a powerful and uncomprimising portrayal of a girl and a life. Purely because of this, it is an astonishing book in its scope and in its honesty, all the way to its heartbreaking ending.
I cannot give it five stars because of its flaws in narrative structure - but every life is flawed, so perhaps those flaws make it even more real. I reccomend it very highly.


Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince: Children's Edition (Harry Potter 6)
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince: Children's Edition (Harry Potter 6)
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another instalement of Harry excitement, 17 July 2005
Although the story uses the usual formulaic plot, this instalment had enough surprises to keep me gripped until the last 60 pages (or so) of drama. This novel doesn't have the span and amount of detail as the previous two books had, but in some ways it's a lot more mature, too; Harry's grown up, and the plot and subplots generally reflect this.
We begin with the muggle Prime Minister meeting a warn-out Cornelius Fudge, who explains to him that Voldemort has returned, and that the deaths and destruction the muggles have noticed are because of this. JK Rowling said she'd been thinking about this chapter for almost thirteen years, so I was expecting something as well crafted as the first chapter of Philosopher's Stone. This chapter didn't tell me much, but was a slick way to recap the plot. The next is the one where things really start to get interesting. For the first time we get to see the deeply unpleasant Professor Snape's house, and for once, he seems to be up to something genuinely evil.
With the plot suitably thickened, we return to Harry, who is lying in a rubbish-strewn bedroom in the Dursley's, feeling unsurprisingly depressed, given the death of his godfather Sirius in the previous book. Dumbledore himself comes to rescue Harry. On his way to the Weasley's, we meet the new teacher, Professor Slughorn, who is rather unctuous towards Harry, and tries to escape their attention by turning into an armchair.
Back at school and we're still in the usual formula, new teachers, new classes, Snape being unpleasant and Hermione being clever, and lots and lots of Quidditch. Ron and Hermione argue, which is hardly unusual, and there's some snogging between a variety of unexpected people, and to the delight and horror of a variety of shippers everywhere, Ron and Hermione definitely fancy each other, and may possible have kissed, I tuned out a little on that.
The most interesting and important plot is, however, between Harry and Dumbledore. Dumbledore was usually merely a background character, a mere magical presence, used to tie up loose ends when the book drew to a close. Dumbledore and Harry poor over Voldemort's past together. Harry is often distracted by the idea that Snape and Draco Malfoy are up to something evil, but Dumbledore will not be distracted from the subject at hand. We get a lot of back-story about Voldemort, as the poor orphan and the cruel teenager. The new Professor Slughorn is extremely important to this as well, as he once taught Voldemort.
Harry, with the help of the half-blood prince, whose name is scrawled at the front of a Potions book, and whose tips make him an excellent potion maker, and a star in the eyes of Slughorn, the new potions master, now that Snape has taken over Defence Against the Dark Arts, has to try and take the most important memory of Slughorn's, which explains the "Horcruxes", powerful magical objects that made Voldemort almost immortal.
With these secrets in hand, Harry and Dumbledore go dashing off to destroy a Horcrux, lingering in a ghostly cave, while all hell breaks loose in the school. To say much more gives the game away entirely. The ending is eerie, traumatic, exciting and very different from the other books. By the end of it all, I think we've finally come to the point where Harry has grown up, and will be ready to face whatever the future throws at him.
This book is enjoyable, and gripping, but is even less a stand-alone than the other books, despite its plot arc. It all seems like important back-story, tying up loose ends, and adding drama and enemies to the seventh novel, which will have to be extremely explosive indeed to top the drama of this one. It's very entertaining for Potter fans, but I doubt it will draw in new readers, because it is more concerned with continuation from the other books than introducing new people to this world.


Pages for You
Pages for You
by Sylvia Brownrigg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Enjoyable, 21 Jun 2004
This review is from: Pages for You (Paperback)
Before I read this, I was sure that I'd never find an enjoyable lesbian related book anywhere. But I was proved very wrong.
Pages For You is an incredible journey into a relationship. The author uses beautiful details to describe her characters, makign us immediatly aware of shy but savvy Flannery, and confident, beauitful Anne. From the first page we get an immpression fo their relationship, and details from the begining get carried through the book, to create a feeling of wholeness.
This is one story, Brownrigg always shows us. Just one story in the lives of two intriguing, wonderful women, Flannery and Anne. While Flannery gets the main focus of the novel, it is Anne who carries the story, with her whily ways and her beautifully crafted character. Flannery and Anne are so different,a dn so perfectly layered. You can see exactly ow their relationship works, and exactly how it flows.
Brownrigg's writign style is amazing. She carries you straight into the character's heads and uses wonderful descriptions and ideas to give the book a landscape quality - I mean, it feels like you're really there.
But, aside from how well its written, what I loved most about this book is, it doesn't preach. Flannery and Anne are just gay, or bi, or whatever. Very little is mentioned about the fact that they are both girls. It msotly just tells the story of their relationship. It makes lesbianism seem absolutely natural, something which preachy teen novels never manage to do. Flannery and Anne. They're just a couple. maybe they're in love. That's the point of this book.
I love this story and can't praise it highly enough.


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