Showing posts with label Sandra McDonald. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sandra McDonald. Show all posts

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tis the Season: Holiday/Christmas Favorites

I don't know about you, but I usually love to get into the whole Christmas spirit by reading a few stories that really inspire me. Last year I read some stories early, before Thanksgiving, and that didn't work for me, so this year I started reading my holiday-themed books after Thanksgiving. So far I've only read four new full romances set during the Christmas season, but I also have favorite reads from the past that I keep on my shelves (or my Kindle) that I love to re-read. (Click on titles to access links to reviews)

Mary Balogh's Christmas stories are my favorite hands down, so it has become a tradition for me to begin the season by reading one of her Regency Christmas romances. This year I read and recommend A Christmas Bride and Christmas Beau. Both are old Signet Regency Christmas romances written in Balogh's signature style. I truly enjoyed both stories. Dell's re-release edition includes both books which is handy since the originals are so hard to find. And from past years I recommend A Christmas Promise, a real favorite.

From last year there are two favorite reads that I'm planning to re-read during the Holidays this year because I loved them! Tis the Season To Be Sinful by Adrienne Basso and the Snowflakes and Stetsons Anthology with Jillian Hart, Carol Finch and Cheryl St. John. Tis the Season to be Sinful is a beautiful historical romance that I loved for its mature protagonists, the passion that I found there, and the gorgeous Christmas theme. And Snowflakes and Stetsons is a sweet western anthology with stories that hit the spot for me and that just happens to be written by three excellent authors.

When it comes to LGBT and M/M Romance, since 2010 it is becoming a tradition for me to re-read His for the Holidays with LB Gregg, Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon and ZA Maxfield. I have my favorite stories from that bunch, but for some reason I read them all last year and will probably read them all this year again. Additionally, I've already bookmarked Christmas Eve at The Powers That Be Cafe by Xavier Axelson. This is an atmospheric, intense and sexy M/M Romance novella that takes place during WWII. I loved this short piece by Axelson and hope to enjoy it again this year.

I also added a new story to my list. This is a FREE read and a holiday gift from the author to her readers. Sandra McDonald, author of the Lambda Award Winner and one of my favorite LGBT books of 2010 Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories, has released a brand new Diana Comet story for the holidays: Diana Comet and the Christmas Quilt. I plan to read and savor this little story as well as Ms. McDonald's flare for storytelling during the holidays. You can read it online here, or download the story from Smashwords.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meeting a Friend, NYC, Dinner and Books!

This post is late! I had a crazed, long working week and wasn't able to put up my posts last week, but better late than never... right?

Last Tuesday evening I finally had the opportunity of meeting in person one of my oldest on-line friends, and wasn't that just the best treat?! Indigene (Indie Reviews) and I met on-line in 2007 and since then have been trading book recommendations and conducting our own, and often lengthy, in-depth book discussions through emails.

Well, Indie finally came all the way from Ottawa, Canada to New York City and of course we had to meet each other in person, even if it was for one day or one evening. We met at the Port Authority and took a taxi to one of my favorite little places in the West Village, La Lanterna Caffe on McDougal. I love that little place because of its atmosphere, service, food, good wine, great coffee and desserts, but the best feature is that you can sit there all night and they won't bother you or throw you out! LOL!

It's a good thing too, because Indie and I sat there from around 5:45 p.m. to around 10:30 p.m. talking, discussing books, talking and just.... talking. Let me tell you, those hours were not enough! We share a mutual love of history, politics, literature and the LGBT genre, and it was wonderful to be able to discuss in person the books and authors whose works we love. And how about the fact that it felt as if we had known each other forever? We just picked up where we left off on those emails... how great was that?!

Of course we brought each other a little "hello, it's nice to meet you" present, and guess what it was? Not much of a guess when it comes to book bloggers, right?

Indie gifted me with two unique Canadian surprises: a delicious bottle of Maple Syrup -- my husband was licking his chops before I got through the door, lol! And I was ecstatic when I unwrapped one of Indie's favorite books, a novel I've been wanting to read ever since she reviewed it for Three Dollar Bill Reviews, The Summer Between by Canadian author Andrew Binks. Here it is!
On the ‘wide, slow river’ in front of his home, twelve-year-old Dougaldo Montmigny navigates the dark waters of homophobia and racism while realizing his parents’ disintegrating relationship and the complexity of his own feelings for a summertime playmate. Dougaldo’s transitional ‘summer between’ is a lesson on love, desire, and innocence lost.
In turn, I gifted her with two of my favorite books.

The first was a book I simply loved and wish everyone would read! My 2010 LGBT Speculative Fiction top pick and Lambda 2010 finalist under their SF/Fantasy/Horror Category, Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald. The second book was another 2010 release, but one I read and loved this year, The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay. I'm hoping Indie enjoys these books as much as I did.

Indigene is just a lady in the best sense of the word -- warm, extremely bright and just as lovely in person and she is on line. It was a pleasure meeting her in person and I missed her company as soon as we parted. Thanks Indie for a wonderful evening! Let's do it again -- hopefully next time we won't have a whole week of pouring rain and we'll make it to the LGBT Bluestockings Bookstore. I promise! :D

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 LGBT: Favorite Books & Authors

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We are having a snow storm/blizzard today, so we missed having a "white Christmas" by one day! I've been reading and enjoying my days off... relaxing mainly. I hope you are all doing the same after the holidays. Since there is less than a week left to the year, I decided to go ahead and begin recapping 2010 and am beginning with a sub-genre that I love.

2010 was an interesting year for me when it comes to LGBT. I didn't read as many M/M Romance books as I did last year even though I have books galore in my TBR pile! However, that's not to say I didn't read LGBT, I did! Plenty. But, I seemed to have veered in a different direction and read more speculative fiction -- fantasy, horror -- mysteries and anthologies/collections. Of course I also read romance and erotica, how could I not, and those categories are also represented here. I love the fact that LGBT has it all! So, it shouldn't be a surprise that I've included all those categories on my list of favorite authors and works this year.

Sandra McDonald - LGBT Speculative Fiction

Sandra McDonald wrote one of my favorite speculative fiction books of 2010. Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories was a new 2010 release by Lethe Press Books. This is a book that stayed with me after I turned that last page. As a matter of fact I truly couldn't put it away and re-read it almost immediately. I loved the fantasy world, the unique characters, plus the circumstances that McDonald created for this collection of stories. 

As an interesting aside, and unrelated to LGBT, this year I also enjoyed the first book in McDonald's Sci-Fi/Fantasy series, The Outback Stars (another genre I love!), so you know this is an author that I will definitely look for in the future.

Other Favorites:
Timothy Lambert and R.D. Cochrane - LGBT Romance

In the LGBT romance category there's no question that I have one favorite this year, and that's an anthology. If you visit my blog regularly, you might have noticed the February LOVE blitz that occurred around here for Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction edited by Timothy Lambert and R.D. CochraneThis book was a 2009 release by Cleis Press that I read in 2010. There are short stories by different authors with different styles of writing, but I can tell you this much, I loved it so much that I read it and re-read it for three full months, from January through March. And, I still go back to the book and read certain stories every so often.

So it's tough to choose one author as a favorite here. I loved them ALL. Instead in this category, I'm choosing the editors for putting together an amazing group of writers and stories: Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane.

Other favorites:
Josh Lanyon - M/M Romance Mysteries

And who else would I mention in this category, but the Andrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon? Talk about addiction! I became so addicted to this series that I read and re-read these books over and over again during what I termed my Adrien English Obsessive Cycle. After that, well... I've tried to read as many of Mr. Lanyon's books as possible, both TBR reads and new releases. And still, I can't say that I've been disappointed.

My other absolute favorite book in this category is also by Mr. Lanyon: Somebody Killed His Editor: Holmes and Moriarity, Book 1. There are still more than a few books in that TBR, but you know that I'll get to them in 2011.

Adrien English Mysteries - 2007/2009 Loose ID LLC
Somebody Killed His Editor: Holmes and Moriarity - 2009 Samhain Publishing, Ltd

Gavin Atlas - LGBT Erotica

In this category my top read this year was another 2010 new release by Lethe Press BooksThe Boy Can't Help It: Sensual Stories of Young Bottoms by Gavin Atlas. This was an excellent collection of Mr. Atlas' works, featuring erotic fantasies and highlighting his writing style. And, although I read a few other anthologies, and single books in this category that were good or excellent, this is the book that stayed with me throughout the year. There are still single stories in this book that I revisit from time to time. ;P

Other Favorites:
Who were your favorite LGBT authors of 2010? How about your favorite books?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald

A writer of whimsy and passion, Sandra McDonald has collected her most evocative short fiction to offer readers in Diana Comet & Other Improbable Stories. A beautiful adventuress from the ancient city of New Dalli sets off to reclaim her missing lover. What secrets does she hide beneath her silk skirts? A gay cowboy flees the Great War in search of true love and the elusive undead poet Whit Waltman, but at what cost? A talking statue sends an abused boy spinning through a great metropolis, dodging pirates and search for a home. On these quests, you will meet macho firefighters, tiny fairies, collapsible musicians, lady devils and vengeful sea witches. These are stories to stir the heart and imagination.
I've read one book by Sandra McDonald, The Outback Stars a military science fiction fantasy. I loved her writing and eye for detail, and her ability to create fantasy and human characters. In Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories, Sandra McDonald uses all those talents to their full extent. The result is a collection of unique, reality-based fantasy stories that are just plain gorgeous.

There are fourteen short stories in this collection, some are obviously related and some seemingly stand on their own, however all of them share the same fictional setting. Although the characters in this collection are varied and unique in each story, the most prominent and the one who binds this collection, is Diana Comet. The intrepid Diana is a gorgeous transgendered character who is fearless in her love and beliefs.

McDonald begins with a Prologue that sets the whimsical tone to this collection, and continues with the story of Graybeard and the Sea, a sentient wooden figurehead who longs for what he can't have, and where he first meets his young friend Cubby, a story that seems light and fantastical. As the book progresses, the subject matter in the stories gain depth with each telling and by the time Women of the Lace is read, the realization sets in that all the stories have been neatly and cleverly tied up by the writer.

McDonald's unique characters are as diverse as their stories. There are statues that come to life, terrifying sea witches, bewitched music boxes and aliens, rooting this collection firmly on fantasy. And then there are the highly effective human characters that populate these stories and give them that touch of passion and reality: Landers, the gay cowboy hiding his nature from society in Diana Comet and the Lovesick Cowboy, Lieutenant Teague and her Sergeant Liss fighting attraction in the middle of a war in The Goddess and Lieutenant Teague, Cubby and Rev. Sawberry Chicken's interactions in The Land of Massasoit, the general's fear in The Instrument, Jaleesha's family as they struggle between conforming and having the courage to fight the status quo in Kingdom Coming, and Diana dealing with grief, changes and taboos in Diana Comet & the Collapsible Orchestra.

Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories felt different and unique and I re-read it once before writing this review. I loved this book and there's no doubt in my mind that this was essentially due to Sandra McDonald's writing and execution. She reels the reader in with the light fantasy and then goes deep, while using a light touch as she addresses contemporary issues through fantasy. Some characters and stories make more of an impact than others, but undoubtedly as a whole, this collection is a winner.

Genre: LGBT Fantasy
Series: None
Released/Source: June 1, 2010 by Lethe Press Books
Grade: A

Visit Sandra McDonald here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald

The Outback Stars is the first book in a military science fiction series by Sandra McDonald and her debut novel.

In The Outback Stars, McDonald introduces Team Space, a military organization in charge of inter-planetary space travel. Team Space travels through alien-built space passageways called the "Alcheringa." The route allows space ships to travel between worlds -- think wormholes.

McDonald's world is based on native Australian mythology. Everything from planets, objects, to the alien race have Australian names and are based on tribal Australian culture. I'm not familiar with this mythology or culture and cannot attest as to its authenticity in this book or lack thereof. I can tell you that her world is definitely an interesting one.

Lieutenant Jodenny Scott is our principal character in what turned out to be a large ensemble of characters. Jodenny is still recovering from the traumatic loss of her last ship, the Yangtze -- a disaster being blamed on colonial separatist terrorists. Although physically recovered, and despite her heroic actions during the tragedy, Jodenny still suffers from both the trauma of having seen her loved ones die and survivor's guilt.

Jodenny procures a berth on the Aral Sea where she's placed in charge of Underway Stores or supplies. She finds a dysfunctional ship and a troubled department full of inadequate, unprofessional and inefficient staff. There are problems with thefts, rape accusations, beatings, fights, accidents, gangs, missing inventory and everyone seems to have a secret. Jodenny is expected to straighten it all out. On top of that, she also has to deal with shipboard politics -- intrigue abounds.

This is where I think McDonald excels. She weaves the shipboard politics and the nitty gritty detail about military life on a ship beautifully. She takes her time outlining protocol and other details that would otherwise seem unimportant and makes them part of the plot. The author herself was in the military and this is made obvious by how well these details are incorporated into the book.

However, the whole story doesn't take place on the ship. While on leave at Mary River, Jodenny and Sargeant Terry Myell stumble on a discovery that could change the way everything works in their world. The plot thickens as Jodenny and Terry are catapulted into an intriguing, dangerous and often mystifying situation. In the process, they fall in love creating a career-ending situation for themselves, as their relationship is forbidden by military rules.

I thought The Outback Stars was quite the ambitious undertaking and wasn't too sure about it for a while. McDonald introduces the reader to her worldbuilding quite slowly, but certain aspects of it kept my attention and I got into it. Her world was interesting, it bordered on fantasy and that part was a surprise. Although creative, I wasn't entirely satisfied with McDonald's worldbuilding. Too often I felt as though I were left in the dark for far too long about certain details, and that made for a frustrating read. Also by the end, there were either unanswered questions that should be answered in the next book, or confusing answers -- few conflicts seemed resolved or clear.

What I really enjoyed was McDonald's attention to detail when it came to the military side of the book and the humanity of her characters. She doesn't portray the secondary or central characters as super-heroes. Instead, they display the joys, fears, pride and jealousies you might expect of everyday people. That was a nice touch.

As you can see The Outback Stars was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the characters and am thinking of getting the next book in this series, The Stars Down Under, to see where Sandra McDonald takes them. Grade B-

The Outback Stars
The Stars Down Under
The Stars Blue Yonder

Visit Sandra McDonald here.