Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-dressing and Transformation

Book Review: Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-dressing and Transformation
Edited by Michael M. Jones
© 2012
Circlet Press


*Spoiler Alert*

A description of Adult material follows. Her Tangh-i-ness greatly appreciates pithy plot summaries. However, for those who must have a virgin reading experience, read no further and eyeball elsewhere.

*Spoiler Alert*

Introduction • Michael M. Jones

Many are familiar with The Thousand and One Nights and the premise of keeping an king engaged with a story or losing one’s life. Here an editor explains what went into keeping an anthology alive. Perish the thought that there wouldn’t be any anthos with Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing or fluidly Changing from one sex into another celebrated.

The Secret Name of the Prince • Alma Alexander

Start with someone in trouble. Check. Life and death kind of trouble. Check. Start with a frightened brother and sister swapping genders and roles as the protector and the protected. Check. Throw in the power of Naming to determine a character’s purpose and destiny and a reader will be ready to appreciate the retelling of entire backstory of The Thousand and One Nights squeezed into an adolescent’s coming-of-age. Check. Read it? Reading the review does not count. Then mark off as many check marks as you like.

The Daemons of Tairdean Town • C.S. MacCath-Moran

Her Tangh-i-ness has a soft spot for ugly, crippled girls. First person makes it easy to slip inside the head of a clairsentient one for a bit especially one who hasn’t lost touch with her inner male. An ugly, crippled girl who guides the living and the dying equally from their known life to and from the great, interconnected Is-ness. Wait. And of the Daemons? Remember the less popular, less intimidating, non-computer technology definition of the word daemon, insert the word anima/animus instead and a reader makes Jung proud. Plus there is juicy daemon sex.

Kambal Kulan • Paolo Chikiamco

Be a literary Armchair Traveler. Two is not always enough company. Another first person tale about the little known Fillipino art of curse blocking, falling in-love with unexpected objects of affection, and dealing with the aftermath of painful break-ups. Dare to repeat the word mangkukulam ten times. Her Tangh-i-ness adores these lines of dialogue, said by one man to another, “I hope you realize the irony of saying that while wearing a pink dress” then, “Most people are bi anyway….” Kambal Kulan’s theme seems to ask: Is love a curse or a good thing? Best of all, the story’s not over until there’s a threesome.

Driftwood • Tiffany Trent

Don’t leave the deeps, Maebelle. Let others fill their own hollow places. Let them rediscover their own Wo/man within. Weep for the Water-kin. Seal. Selchie. Selkie. Sad. Take the original ending of Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for a close parallel. Behold the awesome terribleness of human fear coupled with distrust and intolerance. Dive into the gazes of those humans who live by the seashore separated by sand and surf from those who could help them return to any self they chose if the humans would only choose love. Remember Maebelle.

Pride • Melissa Mead

Her Tangh-i-ness knows some folks who would gladly down jana berry supplements should they ever become available outside the confines of this story. Fighting sticks help to equalize combatants of either gender. Animal-identified tribespeople choose to serve their village as lions, rhinos, baboons, snakes and elephants. Kayin hunts and wars together with them on the savannah. Never did Her Tangh-i-ness imagine she’d come across a story where menstrual cramps would be a celebrated thing. She predicts Pride will become required reading during mooncycles.

Keeping the World on Course • Tanith Lee

People doubt whenever dog meets cat that meeting will ever work itself without a lot of attendant growling and hissing. Now consider when bird meets cat. The World is absurd. Therefore, Her Tangh-i-ness must laugh. Tanith Lee fans notwithstanding, readers perk up at the mention of that author’s name in a Table of Contents. There’s bound to be brilliant, oddly amusing plot magic afoot. Who else could track the arc of Extreme Revulsion as it spins about into its opposite sentiment. Nope, this story doesn’t have a husband and wife with a gold watch or a head full of long tresses. Keeping the World on Course, however, shares a feel-good ending with another famous literary testament of situational irony.

A Bitter Taste • Aliette de Bodard

Like your fictional flavors hot and subtle as a curry? Her Tangh-i-ness adores Southeast Indian epics like the Mahabharata. Way to go, Alliette de Bodard, with this desperate act of a princess demigoddess pretending to be a common mortal in order to halt a heavenly war. Watch out for those Rakshashas. And still the Man-Woman rises. What price must Naryati pay in order to bring time and the worlds back into balance? What happens to avatars caught in unending conflict? Only a thorough reading will tell.

Going Dark • Lyn C.A. Gardner

Potent. This struck Her Tangh-i-ness as the ultimate Outsider-themed story of this anthology. It occurs in the hairline space between mixing the proper chemicals to develop a desired photographed image and creating a lethal chemical reaction. That Imogene got troubles. First person account of what it feels like to be not only to be genderless or male or female all at the same time but also an unintentional energy thief. Remember, through it all, Imogene is innocent. Imogene simply desires the freedom to be loved for being Imogene.

The Cloak of Isis • Sunny Moraine

Enjoyed the work of Sunny Moraine in a previously reviewed Circlet anthology: The Kitsune’s Laughter included within Like A Cunning Plan so the question becomes: can this reader be enchanted again? A lover of Quirky Romances nods enthusiastically. The Cloak of Isis shares with Melissa Mead’s Pride the wonder of shifting from male into female and an upbeat ending. Could this be a re-imagining of a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses combined with the backstory of a certain falcon-headed god who hailed from ancient Egypt? Ask Ianthe and Iphis.

How to Dance While Drowning • Shanna Germain

First person start tosses the reader into the dark waters of Showbiz. Behold those men who would be mermaids. Details such as the pliancy of a silicon breast firmly anchor the sensation of being mise en scène. Follow Dalilah: the makeup-artist witch and Jojo, and Gianna: the little Mermaids onto the stage. Marvel at the line “…may the best man drown so I can take his place.” Xenografted face transplants oust face-lifts in this desperate milieu. Fear the Colors. The spirit of Hans Christian Andersen sheds a tear.

Treasure and Maidens • Sarah Rees Brennan

Her Tangh-i-ness espies a dragon. Therefore, this tale must take place somewhere in Queens, NY. Why not share a bowl of Cheerios with a mythical, magical being? Apparently, jumping out of windows is the only way for dragons to get around in NY these days. They do it all the time. And I want to see the dragon cookbook that lists all the dishes prepared from maiden hearts. It can’t be that complicated. Unless your name is Emma. BTW, if there is daemon sex in this anthology then sex with shape-changing dragons becomes more than likely.

Lady Marmalade’s Special Place in Hell • David Sklar

C’mon. Just about anyone who has read a title like that wants to know what the heck is going on. Bet it isn’t just Patti LaBelle fans. Last story in an antho has the dual effect of being the last experience a reader takes with them and it answers and amplifies the tone set up by the first story. Marmalade AKA Roger marches into the Inferno as if s/he were born to be the top at the top. Kinky readers smirk knowingly. Wait…wait! But then, Marmalade finds her/his parents, a play/group space in Hell and forgiveness. Work that damnation, Girl, all the way to wherever and with whomever you choose to be.


Note: This copy of Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-dressing and Transformation was an electronic edition acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: Like a Cunning Plan: Erotic Trickster Tales

Book Review: Like a Cunning Plan: Erotic Trickster Tales
Edited by Michael M. Jones
© 2012
Circlet Press

*Spoiler Alert*
A description of Adult material follows. Her Tangh-i-ness greatly appreciates pithy plot summaries. However, for those who must have a virgin reading experience, read no further and eyeball elsewhere.

*Spoiler Alert*
Introduction • Michael M. Jones
Deftly introduces the all female writers, the stories, and the editor’s personal experience with a certain Native American Trickster who shall remain unnamed. Read the rest of the review and the actual Introduction of the anthology to find out which one.

Winter Spirit • Nica Berry
Loved it. Talk about tortured journeys. The first story in Like a Cunning Plan: Erotic Trickster Tales proves worthy of its place. It prickles the emotions of the reader like a bamboo splinter beneath skin. Those who believe in the power of love might secretly wish there was someone who loved them enough to risk pursuing them even at the cost of their own soul. A teahouse, a kagema (male prostitute) and a kitsune (fox spirit) blend into a steamy, fictional beverage.

Good Bad Habits • N. Violett
Instead of being all about the bark, this tale is all about the bite. Mess with Coyote and get messed with and lose near every stitch of clothing you own. First person female protagonist and a dense, sensory-laden exchange between the protagonist and her tall, dark, and be-ringed quarry Lopez. Howl, people until you can’t howl no more. This is a blow-by-blow encounter of why some people show up in public buck-naked.

The Fox Hunt • Nadine Wilmot
One of her Tangh-i-ness’s other faves. Beware. Erectile tissue of both genders could become aroused. During a holy festival, animal masks worn by mutual predators serve as a thematic counterpoint to a tryst. A dove seduces a fox. A nobleman becomes relieved of much coin after he dares to take the virginity of another noblewoman. Loved the repetition of, “Are you well my Lady?”

Fools Rush In • Elizabeth Schechter
First person story again. A famous Master Thief promises to steal from a god in his own temple. Reminds me of a tale Robert E. Howard would have approved of. What the Master Thief didn’t count on was that the god wanted to steal him. Gave a big awwwww-that’s-so-quirky-Romantic sigh at the confessional-type ending.

Come the Revolution • Gayle C. Straun
Back to Classical Greece to witness the bondage and ravishment of the Lightning-Thrower and Thunderer by a fearless, female redhead. Consider this story payback for Io, Europa, Danäe, and Ganymede amongst others. This forms a fitting thematic bookend to the preceding story Fools Rush In.

Tricksters Are Made, Not Born • Kaysee Renee Robichaud
The Norse god Loki approaches his latest mortal quarry with a destiny-ridden suitcase. The unluckiest guy meets the son of Loki and after several sex acts later, learns that he’s also the spawn of a Norse god too. BTW, this is the second story in the antho where handcuffs figure at the post-coital climax.

The Kitsune’s Laughter • Sunny Moraine
Her Tangh-i-ness agreed with the editor’s choice to include two stories dealing with the same trickster figure. Finally, readers get to enjoy some sizzling woman upon transwoman action. A childless Japanese wife calls upon a fertility spirit, the Great Kami Inari to help her and a fox spirit comes to her aid with the necessary baby-making equipment. Hopefully, readers will be left with a vague desire to find someone of their own to share a tatami mat with in a favorite position….


Note: This copy of Like a Cunning Plan: Erotic Trickster Tales was an electronic edition acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: Levade Sequel to Capriole

Book Review: Levade
Evey Brett
© 2012
Loose ID LLC


Levade is a book for those unafraid to feel. In terms of raw emotion and execution, it surpassed the first book Capriole.

*Spoiler Alert* It’s all about the Lipizzans. Well, no, but there’s major horse flesh capering about in the fields of the reader’s mind. Her Tangh-i-ness got her wish to spend more time with the four-legged cast members. And the significance of the title Levade proves to be no accident.

Think about the mystery of Rosebud in the movie Citizen Kane. No, there aren’t any sleds or newspaper tycoons in Levade, just two wounded men in love and their mutual decision to make Now matter more than their pasts. By the way, oodles of sex ooze from the pages for the uninhibited. These homosexual and heterosexual couplings take place not only between the major characters: Lukas von Rainer and Felipe Camarena but outside that primary relationship. Do remember this is a Loose Id title. Titillation and arousal will be par for the course. Many climaxes to follow.

Writing a sequel is hard work. There’s the original journey of returning characters established, new characters to introduce, and there’s effort required to take the reader to a satisfying space that they haven’t been before and yet make the ending grow out of all that has come before. Frankly, at times, Her Tangh-i-ness wanted to throttle either Lukas or Felipe for making a muddle of things but she trusted the author.

It’s an excellent sign when a reader is having conflicts with imaginary people. It means a reader cares about what’s happening. A reader who cares enough to get to The End, feels triumphant and likely to remember that fictional journey for a long time. And if the reader especially appreciates the journey, others get to hear about it.


Note:This copy of Levade was an electronic edition acquired from an author upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: Capriole

Book Review: Capriole
Evey Brett
© 2012
Loose ID LLC

What happens when an Austrian, bisexual demon-keeper meets a bisexual Spaniard recovering from a demon attack? Make no mistake. This is an erotic, dark fantasy for grownups who adore Male/Male Romance and pretty horses. Be aware, several nonconsensual encounters populate the pages. For those who like their tops blond and their dark-haired bottoms equally sensitive, Capriole hits the sweet spot. The author sets the two lovers upon plot cliff and starts tossing complications at them. Her Tangh-i-ness had no questions regarding would the lovers get together. Her preoccupation pretty much revolved about exactly when it would happen and how would they stay together given all the obstacles?

The novel opens with a death and a telegram and establishes the young Spaniard as one of the main protagonists. Felipe Camarena has been using a false name Ramon Esquivel. The first few scenes set up his challenge: how to stay sane after having multiple horrific experiences and doubting the very existence of the incubus pursuing him? Imagine being ravished by a shape-shifting, sexually ravenous being whose touch felt like being scalded?

About twelve pages into Capriole, the first sex scene occurs between a female cambion (a half-demon) and her warden the above-mentioned, bi demon-keeper Lukas von Rainer. Her Tangh-i-ness appreciated observing a female aggressor with a male object of her desire. Lukas is trapped in a twisted relationship fueled by his need to help the cambion who continues to leech off him sexually, psychically, and emotionally. By the time, Felipe enters the picture, Lukas decides Felipe’s plight gives him the impetus to pursue what Lukas has wanted all along: a balanced relationship with an equal who gives as well as takes. Can you blame him?

Her Tangh-i-ness has some quibbles with Capriole. The POV wobbles a bit. It’s not always clear whose head the reader is supposed to stay in. The horses don’t appear until halfway through the book. Yeah, Her Tangh-i-ness admits it. She’s been into Lipizzans since her reading Marguerite Henry days. However, there’s a whole other sequel to Capriole called Levade that will hopefully indulge her horse fetish.

What Her-Tangh-i-ness also valued about Capriole was a convincing exploration of the confusion between psychic awareness with the symptoms of mental illness. Most people won’t admit to having conversations with horses nevermind hearing from demons. The psychic storms Felipe and Lukas weather close the gap between “real-world” trauma and the physical, mental, and social manifestations of that trauma. It is their very “woundedness” that makes Felipe and Lukas compelling characters worthy of resolution. Only a read-through of Capriole will prove if their outcomes satisfied.

Note: This copy of Capriole was an electronic edition acquired from an author upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: The Cliff Road Chronicles: Tales of the Brotherhood of Darkness

The Cliff Road Chronicles: Tales of the Brotherhood of Darkness
Anne Fraser
© 2011
By Light Unseen Media



‘Lo Peoples,

Her Tangh-i-ness has returned with more substantial, decidedly non-Twillight vampire fare.

Between the time the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie came out in 1992, and when the Buffy the Vampire TV series launched in 1997 to address the movie’s oversights in characterization, Anne Fraser came up with her own take on friendship amongst the supernatural. 17 short stories later, she celebrated the lives and loves of a gay vampire couple and their vampiric, magical, immortal, and lycanthropic friends located somewhere in Fletcherville, Maine. I bring up mention of Buffy purely because Anne Fraser also masters the delicate balancing act of handling an ensemble cast that could easily be overshadowed by its principals.

I’ve been told I started backwards. I first read All Places That Are Not Heaven by Anne Fraser the same authoress as in The Cliff Road Chronicles. That was the previous review. For my own twisted reasons, I remain enamored of All Places That Are Not Heaven and its antihero. So I allowed life to intrude when reading The Cliff Road Chronicles. I simply felt loath to establish a new bond with Fraser’s intended vampire hero: Gideon Redoak.

However, I eventually found that I regretted my procrastination. As one reads deeper into the short story collection there is meat here. (Yes, Her Tangh-i-ness is aware of the clunk of that particular metaphor when discussing vampires.) But I mean that the stories in The Cliff Road Chronicles ponder not only what true love is but how does one act when love requires action? How does a vampire in love reconcile the specter of human death while remaining involved with that human? Does a brutally abused Dark magician remain one forever? Can vampires grow and change with the times? What do the broken-hearted or aimless undead do with themselves? And most importantly, when did Fairy Godmothers start blowing clove smoke and sporting PVC skirts?

Ahhh. Another writer who enjoys the inclusion of wicked humor along with the darker moments, inclusion of LGBTQ/People of Color characters and a grounded romantic approach. My must-reads in The Cliff Road Chronicles include: Return to Red Oak Hall, A Gay Old Time, Reprise, To Burn in Hell, Lost Boy, Fairy Godmother, Mistress Estrella and Follow that Falcon! Mind you, these stories are primarily non-erotic but feature occasional, brief, tasteful adult passages involving references to gay and straight love-making. Her Tangh-i-ness is a supporter of the Erotic in literature.

Note: This copy of All Places That Are Not Heaven was an electronic edition acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: All Places That Are Not Heaven

All Places That Are Not Heaven
Anne Fraser
By Light Unseen Media
© 2011


‘Lo Peoples,


Her Tangh-i-ness always enjoys reading Speculative Fiction that includes LGBTQ characters. Being a member of The Outer Alliance makes it easier to find noteworthy reading to share with others who delight in the same.

Long Before Sookie Stackhouse dallied with vampires and werefolk in Bon Temps, Louisiana; and just after Anita Blake started flirting with similar company in Saint Louis, Missouri; a Bi-sexual male vampire professor and former actor prowled Toronto and New York. At the same time in Europe, a hetero female vampire lived as a Prince. The stories in the anthology All Places That Are Not Heaven feature two of the dazzling undead: Adrian Talbot and Genevieve de Monet.

The Rosedale Vampires, Vampire Blues, Vampire Conventions, Acting’s in the Blood and Speak Easy are the stories about Adrian Talbot. These third-person stories progress chronologically by when they were written.

Watch and Ward and A Babe in Arms present Genevieve de Monet also in the third person. Fans of strong female protagonists may appreciate her as a literary digestif compared to the plat principal Adrian Talbot provides.

Honestly, it took a bit before this reviewer became entranced with Anne Fraser’s world. But once settled in, I no longer regretted the journey. I, too, snickered at the inclusion of some real-life personages such as the library technician from “Fort Book” and the law offices named for other vampire writers: Huff, Baker, Charnas, and O’Brien. Anne Fraser frequently inserts humorous dialogue exchanges between characters such as Sweat Sock à la Fowler with a request for a side of Grilled Jockstrap.

Adrian Talbot’s straight, unrequited love interest, Jake Fowler, inhabits the first four stories. Nothing titillating (in this reviewer’s opinion) happens between them although they develop a strong if unexpected friendship. Acting’s in the Blood the last of the Adrian Talbot-Jake Fowler tales is my second favorite story. The late Anne Fraser herself thought highly of her novella Speak Easy and Her Tangh-i-ness agrees. This story near outshone the whole collection. Jake Fowler doesn’t make an appearance. Speak Easy is tinged with explicit homoeroticism, tragic romance, but it also addresses the need to be loved unconditionally. and demonstrates what happens when one’s sexual preference and expression are judged more harshly than just being part of the Prohibition-Era underworld. Read it and try not to weep.

A Babe in Arms has to be my third favorite of the collection. Anne Fraser explores the difficulty of a relationship with a “traditional” male with a wandering eye and a resolute female who adores her scamp of a lover despite his frequent betrayals. These two just happen to be vampires rather than mortals. By the story’s end, Genevieve can finally abandon her Ice Queen image and entertain a polyamorous arrangement. Go Genevieve!

Note: This copy of All Places That Are Not Heaven was an electronic edition acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Book Review: Hellebore and Rue

Hellebore and Rue
Drollerie Press
©2011


'Lo Peoples,

Her Tangh-iness has been remiss in the blog department. She is delighted to return to defend the honor of works unfortunately besieged by the small-minded. As an Outer Alliance member and as an ally to the LGBTQ community, I applaud and am committed to inclusion especially in the worlds of the Fantastic.

Whenever I read a work of fiction, I am longing to be transported. I want to love what's going on and to love whomever it's happening to. Editors know this and the best of them patiently sift through hours of preternatural wordage in order to yield a suitable harvest. I bow to the wisdom of Joselle Vanderhooft and Catherine Lundoff here.

Twelve tales of women loving women and their magic brought me the required ensorcellment. Milleus ranged from a slightly altered here-and-now to a fantastical futureverse. Certain stories reverberated with the burr of a fast-moving dragon's scales, obscured their happy endings as in gazing into a cloudy crystal ball, and plunged the reader into another character's existence in the literary equivalent of bi-location. Several stories in particular act as threshold guardians with their shared archetype of a troubled stranger bringing challenge to an established magic-worker and two intimate companions relying upon one another to battle malefic forces.

Standout stories included: And Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness by Lisa Nohealani Morton where a good deed yields an unexpected and unforgettable sacrifice; Trouble Arrived by C. B. Calsing brings us down to the swamp where a card dealer faces off with the cheated man who once taught her all the tricks she knew; Personal Demons by Jean Marie Ward caught me totally off guard with a tale of what happens when a serious practitioner gives proof of the reality beyond the flesh; Connie Wilkins shared The Windskimmer where two seasoned conjurers of Sky and Green magic combine their arts to avert tragedy.

Special mention must be made of Rachel Green's multiple viewpoint tale, A State of Panic, where arcane detective work eventually leads a female police sergeant to a deadly ancient diety.

For those who appreciate a touch of wicked absurdity, do partake of D is for Delicious by Steve Berman; I want to follow Kelly Harmon's heroines of Sky Lit Bargains in a longer work if not a sequel; Gloam and Quinn Smythwood educated me as to the ills that attend corpse lights and life-stealing things that walk the earth; Witches Have Cats by Juliet Kemp answers the question: is a familiar that is not a feline just as familiar? RRain Prior takes a rogue elemental and a wandering songstress and pits them against one another in Bridges and Lullabies by RRain Prior; Thin Spun by Sunny Moraine gives an interplanetary exile a new appreciation for her adoptive homeworld and an end to her longing for a lover; and in Counter Balance by Ruth Sorrell a grandmother, a granddaughter, and the granddaughter's lover make a stand against a goddess.


Note: This copy of Hellebore and Rue was an electronic edition acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.