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Werewolf Wednesday (I Recommend)… Review of Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff (Lesbian werewolves for the win!)

(Edited to Add: Totally forgot to drop this link: “Supermoon” Coming this Saturday.)

Another Lesbian Werewolves for the Win! Werewolf Wednesday, and I cannot get enough of them.

The ebook version of Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff is now available, print editions to come, and to celebrate this release, I have a review! (Keep an eye out in June for another celebration, where Catherine will visit the blog, and we’ll give away some prizes!) First, though, links to Silver Moon: Amazon | All Romance E-Books | Lethe Press.

Blurb: Becca Thornton, divorced, middle-aged, and barely out of the closet discovers that life can still hold some strange surprises, when she discovers that her body is changing; menopause turns her into a werewolf. Apparently she is not the only one, as a number of women in her town of Wolf’s Point seem to have had the same experience. As the newest member of the pack, Becca learns her nights are not spent only protecting the town and running through the woods howling at the moon. There are werewolf hunters in town and they’ve got Becca in their sights.

(NB: Above links are not affiliate links. Author provided an e-arc of the book for review. Also, I don’t believe there are spoilers, other than what you can get from various descriptions of the book.)

I was sold on the premise of Silver Moon from the start: women werewolves protecting their town? Characters of “a certain age” being awesome? Women kicking ass? Lesbians being heroes? Yes please, all of that and more. And I’m pleased to say that overall, I loved the story and hope to spend more time with these characters in the future. There aren’t enough supernatural stories about lesbians, or women who are werewolves, or older characters, and especially not about older lesbian werewolves who are completely awesome. I was giddy at discovering Silver Moon, and I’m still giddy after having such a good time while reading. The details of the werewolves are delightful (keeping a throat covered when laughing, because baring it says [potentially unintended] things, the smell of happiness, the sounds they can hear), and I love that this is a story about women and so many things they are and can be.

I do have my issues. There are uses of “crazy” and “insane” that I found pretty ableist, and a reference to a mental hospital that made me cringe. (Yes, I know this is language that is used in everyday life. Believe me, I know. I deal with it all the time.) Though there are quite a bit of racial diversity in the characters, particularly the werewolves, the story is so tightly focused on Becca and the things she’s discovering about herself that often the other characters get short shrift and the racial diversity falls to the background. (I’m hoping there will be additional books and the other characters will have more page time. I am particularly intrigued by Deputy Lizzie Blackhawk, who is smart and snarky and badass, and also, I think I’m in love.) The last twenty pages or so seemed rushed, especially compared to the slower build of the first half of the book. (Though now that I look at the actual page numbers, werewolf things start happening early in the book, and I can’t quite put my finger on why it felt like a slower build. I like slower builds, particularly in books about monsters.)

All of that being said, I really loved the book. I loved Becca and her changes, physical, emotional, sexual. I loved the werewolf pack, all the women and the work they do to keep their town safe. I loved the worldbuilding, the rules for werewolves, and the juxtaposition of interesting things: supernatural and scientific, monster and human, hunter and hunted, predator and prey. About halfway through, the story grabbed me and I devoured the rest, deadlines be damned, in a glorious rush of action and intrigue and lies and truth. It is truly a supernatural adventure, decorated with bits of humor and romance and angst.

One of the things I like most about werewolves and werewolf stories is the metaphor of lycanthropy as mental illness, particularly my experience with bipolar disorder: the (sometimes) uncontrollable physical changes lining up with the (sometimes) uncontrollable mental changes, cycle for cycle. There are moments where the language, the description, so exactly captures what I think of when I think of werewolves, of that metaphor for mental illness, that it made me want to stand up and cheer, except that meant I’d have to stop reading, and so I didn’t. (“… she could feel that same wildness building in her … clawing its way to the surface inside her, racing beneath her skin and preparing to break through.”)

Silver Moon does not address this metaphor. What it does address is similar, though, and really made the story appealing to me: (sometimes) uncontrollable physical changes for (sometimes) uncontrollable physical changes. Lundoff’s werewolves aren’t a metaphor for mental illness, but for the way our bodies become different with age. (Literally and literally, for her werewolves; menopause brings the changes we recognize, but also changes Becca could never anticipate.)

Silver Moon isn’t just a story about lesbians, or women getting older, or werewolves being secret superheroes, or women being victimized. It isn’t a story where the women are monsters because, wink wink nudge nudge, all women are monstrous, am I right? (Can you tell I am exhausted by all of the stories where women are victims or villains and nothing in between?) At its heart, it is a story that either we can relate to now, or we will relate to later. It is the story of change, in good ways and bad. Sometimes – eventually, inevitably — our bodies change, our minds change, our lives change, without warning, and without our desire for it to occur. We get older. We deal with mental illness, or physical. We lose those we loved, we leave them, we say good-bye. We fight to keep our homes; we fight to create a place for ourselves in a new world after we’ve been rocked by things that happen to us, around us, we fight to keep those we love safe.

As readers, many of us search for ourselves in the stories we read, often to no avail if we aren’t straight, white, able bodied and minded, cisgendered, and/or male. In Lundoff’s werewolves, I found pieces of myself, my questions about what I am and what I have and what I will become; the push and pull of pack ties (family ties) with solitary natures and the need to seek adventures alone; and those shining moments of human and monster, separate and one, all wrapped up in a rollicking adventure that was simply fun. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, because it fits this story so well.

Lesbian werewolves for the win!

I Recommend…The Shattering by Karen Healey

I recommend The Shattering by Karen Healey. This is her second YA book, and it is even better than the first, Guardian of the Dead, which was pretty wonderful, and which I also recommend.

If you want to find out who murdered your brother, come with me.

Summerton is perfect. A town in the isolated and stunning West Coast region of New Zealand, it is blessed with gorgeous weather and hordes of tourists.
But Keri is immune to her hometown’s charms. Her older brother has just killed himself, without warning or explanation, and left Keri shattered with grief and too many unanswered questions. So when her childhood friend Janna and tourist Sione offer answers, Keri is keen to listen.

Janna and Sione’s own older brothers died in suspicious circumstances. Sunny Summerton has dark secrets. And as they investigate, the answers to their questions become more bizarre. Shattering the secrecy of Summerton may open the trio to dangers they never knew were possible.

Can they save Summerton’s next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

With a first line like that in the blurb, there is no way my attention wouldn’t be hooked, but it is a fantastic story about family and friendships and magic and horror and love and murder and death. It is somewhat creepy and all the way exciting and a lot of fun. The characters are amazing, and I love the way we get chapters from each of their points of view. They are very different people and they bring very different things to the story.

I am a fan of this book, and I think you will be too.

I Recommend…”Leila” by Elizabeth Reeve

(I also recommend my brand new laptop, which is shiny and giant and amazing.)

“Leila” by Elizabeth Reeve from Torquere Press

Blurb: When college student Megan hits the library, she’s looking for sources for a paper on Carmilla, an early vampire story. But in gorgeous librarian Leila, she finds much, much more. It’s no surprise that Leila haunts Megan’s dreams, but as her fantasies heat up, she begins to wonder — is Leila really who she seems to be?

“Leila” is a sexy and fun lesbian vampire story that addresses and reinterprets Carmilla in delightful ways. I am a sucker for metatextual stories where the sex is smoking and the characters interesting, and “Leila” has that in spades. Megan is smart and fun and practical, and Leila charming and mysterious. If you love vampires, lesbians, and stories which are aware of their place in vampire canon, I think you will enjoy “Leila.”

(Full disclosure, Elizabeth and I are in the same writing group, and I did work with her on this story. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it.)

I Recommend…Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend (spoilers)

I will start this mini-review with a bit of funny that happened. The other day I sat down to continue reading Wolf Signs, the awesome Elizabeth Reeve popped up on IM, and we had this exchange (mostly paraphrased):

Eliza: I read some short stories I liked. They were about werewolves. You like werewolves. Let me tell you about them! (She also thoughtfully provided links, because she is awesome. Because I am also awesome, I will pass those links on to you: “First Howl” and “Second Howl” by Vivian Arend.)
Eliza: *talks a little about the short stories and the things she likes about them*
Eliza: And a female lead who is deaf!
Me: *double take* I think I am reading these books! I was just going to tell you about this free book I got for the Kindle. (Because I am still awesome, I will include a link, though I can’t guarantee how long the freebie will last: Wolf Signs.)
Me: Shared brain for the win!

So these stories are so enjoyable we simultaneously found them and started reading them, then recommended them to each other before we even finished.

And now I will recommend them to you, with some spoilers. Well, I’ll recommend Wolf Signs, though I still haven’t had the chance to read the two short stories linked above.

Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend from Samhain Publishing

From the publisher’s blurb: Robyn Maxwell doesn’t care that her brother has to cancel out on their backcountry ski trip. She can do it alone. The fact she’s deaf doesn’t make her survival skills any weaker. The chance to get away from it all and relax in the Yukon wilderness is just what she’s been craving.

Meeting wilderness guide Keil at the cabin starts cravings of another kind. Keil’s one hot hunk of ripped, tasty male. Now she has to deal with raging hormones as well as strange questions about wolves and mates and challenges to the death.

Keil was trying for a nice reflective retreat before challenging for the Alpha position of his Alaskan pack. He wasn’t planning on meeting the woman destined to be his mate, or finding out she’s not aware she has the genes of a wolf.

Between dealing with his accident-prone younger brother, a deaf mate with an attitude and an impending duel to the death, his week—and his bed—is suddenly full.

Far from the relaxing getaway any of them had in mind…

Mini-review: Mostly, this was a lot of fun. I really like Robyn. She’s an intriguing, stubborn, strong woman. I particularly like that she’s deaf, but still does all the things she loves. I really enjoyed the opening scene with Robyn and her brother, Tad. It’s obvious they love each other very much, and though Tad is very overprotective, he listens to what Robyn says. Unfortunately, Tad is also keeping a major secret from Robyn, which I hated. If the siblings are that close, I think he would have told her the truth. As it is, his secret starts to look like a big coincidence used to make the plot work.

I loved that Arend doesn’t gloss over some of the difficulties Robyn faces because she’s deaf, especially when meeting strangers in the wilderness, but there’s a twist later which allows Robyn and Keil to talk to mentally talk to each other which seemed like a cheat to get around the limitations Robyn’s disability poses for them.

Robyn deals really well with learning that not only do werewolves exist, but she’s a werewolf, which she doesn’t know because her parents were killed when she was very young. I’m torn on this issue; partly I am glad to see a character not waffling with disbelief, because frequently that takes up a huge chunk of stories, but partly I think she accepted it way too fast.

What there is of werewolf politics is really intriguing, but the story lets that fall flat. Throughout the story, I thought all the discussions about werewolf politics and pack law were building to an exciting, culminating official challenge for leadership of the pack, but after a too brief fight while Robyn and Keil are still on their way back to civilization, the book just kind of ends. The fight itself is quite a let down, too, and is won far too easily by Keil and Robyn despite the fact that Robyn has no experience facing werewolves and can’t yet shift herself. Though Keil says he can’t handle three wolves attacking him at once, he deals with that and more. The story really feels incomplete, like this is only one half of the actual tale. I’ll check out the sequel and see if it fleshes out the abrupt, too brief ending on this one.

Though the sex scenes are hot and fun, there were moments when they were also incredibly cheesy, which knocked me out of the story. One example is this description: Kisses like a ten-car pile up. It has the scared virgin trope, and I’m definitely tired of that, as well as the pain during the first penetration, which yes, does happen for some women, but not for a lot of them, and in romances seems to happen to every single one. As active as Robyn is, I’m not sure I believe she’d feel pain. Keil also frequently comes across as a bit of an ass, especially when it comes to sex; not only dominant but demanding, and frequently pushing for anal sex, which actually seemed out of place with the rest of the story.

Finally, I really am not a fan of the mating for life concept which shows up in so many werewolf stories, but many people love that and expect it and if you do like it, it fits well in this story.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. It was a quick, fun read with some interesting werewolf politics and the potential for a really fun series. There were a number of characters I’d like to read about in sequels and I’m looking forward to reading more.

I Recommend…Werewolf Movies, High Moon comic, and Ginger Snaps review

Yes, another post about werewolf movies. What can I say, this is the October of werewolves for me.

OMG Horror has a list of the fifteen werewolf movies everyone should watch before they die.

It contains some of my favorite (The Howling, Ginger Snaps, An American Werewolf in London, etc.), but also had some I haven’t seen.

I was particularly intrigued by Mad at the Moon, which came in at #14. I haven’t seen it, but I’m a fan of westerns + werewolves and it looks like it could be a fun addition to any werewolf movie night. (Speaking of westerns + werewolves, though I haven’t read it all yet [I have problems with the online reader sometimes], I really like what I’ve seen of the comic High Moon.)

I’m also interested in seeing The Beast Must Die, included at #12, because it not only encourages viewers to solve the mystery of the werewolf along with the characters but it apparently has a “werewolf break” toward the end so viewers can discuss their conclusions. I love interactive (or semi-interactive) storytelling.

Ginger Snaps comes in at #9. It would be higher on my list, but I’m glad to see it included. I mention this mostly to segue into recommending a review at the horror movie blog Holding Darkness: Meeting the Beast: Ginger Snaps and Feminist Werewolves. I don’t agree with all of it, but I read this review in early draft form as well as this edited version, and I find it really interesting.

I Recommend…Werewolf Movies

Autumn is a truly wonderful time of year for monster fans. So many places become the perfect settings for werewolf stories, but October has horror movie marathons and Halloween episodes of tv shows and haunted houses and corn mazes and a gorgeous, glorious full moon. (Did you see it? It was fantastic.) I’m glad I live somewhere that celebrates Halloween.

Werewolves.com has a series of posts about werewolf movies of various decades.

A Decade’s Worth of Werewolf Movies: 1980s (I hate that they use the unnecessary apostrophe in 1980s.)

I’ve seen most, but not all, of the movies from the 1980s. My favorites are The Howling and Silver Bullet, though I have a fond spot for Ladyhawke and I’m actually a pretty big fan of the sequels to The Howling.

I think my love for Silver Bullet exists because Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf is one of my favorite werewolf stories. I love the way it focuses on the different moons and the different holidays in each month, I love that the main character is in a wheelchair, I love the way the terror creeps through the town, I love the way I get chills when reading it, the way it makes me shiver even when much more violent, bloody, descriptive, etc., werewolf stories leave me untouched.

One they missed, Scooby Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf!

A Decade’s Worth of Werewolf Movies: 1990s

Apparently I missed most of the werewolf movies in the 1990s, which makes me sad, but also gives me new things to watch, so that’s exciting. I think there’s actually a Howling sequel I haven’t seen, even, and now I really want to go rent it.

I’ll talk about my least favorite here, and that’s Wolf. I didn’t watch it in the 90s, and I think people telling me over and over to watch it as soon as they learned I liked werewolves built it up too much. I found it frequently lost my attention.

The 90s really had a dearth of werewolf movies, didn’t they?

A Decade’s Worth of Werewolf Movies: 2000s

Oddly, this lists Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning but only references the other two movies, while it lists the Underworld movies as a set of three. Huh. Ginger Snaps and Cursed are two of my favorites from this list (Ginger Snaps because it’s actually a pretty good movie, Cursed because it has an excellent soundtrack and it very much looked like The Lost Boys for werewolves), but mostly I am shocked and horrified that I missed this:

Never Cry Werewolf: This film was shown on the Sci-Fi channel on May 11, 2008. It is a remake of the 1980s vampire film Fright Night, replacing the vampires with werewolves. About 16-year-old Loren being the only one suspicious of her new (and sexy) neighbor, Jared. She believes Jared is a werewolf and responsible for the town’s recent deaths.

I know why I missed it (I was traveling in May), but I am not sure why I hadn’t even heard of it. A remake of Fright Night with werewolves? Seriously? I must get my hands on this! (I’m a big fan of cheesy Sci-Fi channel movies.)

The more I look at this list, I realize most of my favorite werewolf movies are from the 2000s. Dog Soldiers! Blood Moon, which more heartbreaking than scary! Brotherhood of the Wolf!

And some they’ve missed (not that these are all my favorites, but they are werewolf movies):

Skinwalkers, werewolves with guns! Werewolf: The Devil’s Hound, which is horrible! The Feeding, which I want to see! Blood of the Werewolf, which looks awful.

Actually, WerewolfMovies.net has lists of movies all the way back to the 1940s. I’m finding it useful.

I Recommend…”Skin Deep” by Shanna Germain

(Circlet Press seems to be down currently. I’ll add links when it’s back up.)

I recommend “Skin Deep” by Shanna Germain in Circlet Press’s Like a Thorn: BDSM Fairy Tales.

This is an insta!recommendation. I haven’t read the rest of the collection. However, I enjoyed “Skin Deep” so much I had to recommend it right away. It’s the reason I bought the collection. I read the excerpt and had to finish it.

“Skin Deep” is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with a twisty, dark Beauty who keeps her Beast on a short chain. The pain here is a pleasure – rose thorns piercing flesh, blood-stained feathers, broken words – and Germain carves a delicious tale.

The story captures some of the things I like best about the Beauty and the Beast story, female-dominant BDSM stories, and werewolves as sexual creatures (though neither Beauty nor the Beast are werewolves here): a big man, dangerous and strong, brought down to his knees by a woman giving him pleasure and pain, bloody and bound and beautiful.

I highly recommend this story. Buying the collection just for this story is worth it, though I’m looking forward to the other stories as well.

Category: Recommendations  Tags:  4 Comments
I Recommend…The Outer Alliance’s Pride Day

Today is The Outer Alliance’s Pride Day. The Outer Alliance is a group of Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers coming together as allies for the advocacy of LGBT issues in literature. Its goal is to educate, support, and celebrate LGBT contributions to SFF.

The mission statement: As a member(1) of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.

Another part of Pride Day is to post an excerpt from one of your projects. I already posted an excerpt from “Like a Thousand Miles of Fire” (part of Bite Me from Torquere Press, available here), so instead have an excerpt from a work in progress.

I’m not going to get this story polished in time to submit it to the Girl Crush anthology, but I do intend to find a home for it someday. Maybe as a novella instead of a short story. It’s about two women in their thirties who have been best friends their whole lives, and who have experienced a shared loss, and who are now falling for each other. It’s set in Hawaii and has surfing and public sex and light bondage, though this section doesn’t really have any of those things.

Excerpt from “Sand, Surf, Sun”(2):

The air was hot and so wet it was practically a solid mass in my lungs. Sweat trickled between my breasts and pooled inside my sports bra. Ostensibly I was just about to head out the door for a run along the beach, but the heat beat me down and left my sleepy and slumped on the couch.

I shifted my weight. It could be a prelude to actually getting up. My legs were damp and stuck to the couch when I moved. Gross. Instead of standing, I tilted back my head and closed my eyes. My thoughts were syrup, thick and dark and slow, and I drifted in that strange space between sleep and wake.

Something cold and wet pressed against my stomach and I shot up off the couch.

Lani grinned down at me. Deep shadows curved under her eyes and tight lines framed the corners of her mouth, marks of the past year and our loss. When she smiled, she was as beautiful as ever, the vivid, vivacious girl I’d known my whole life turned into a strong, phenomenal woman.

“What was that for?” I tried to sound put out, but there was no heat to my words. It was too warm to fight. Besides, she was a delightful distraction. She stood so close to me I could practically feel the skin of her legs against mine. My stomach tightened and I wanted to squirm.

“You looked thirsty, Jessie.” She handed over the bottle of water and widened her stance a little. Now one of her legs pressed against mine. I twisted the cap off the bottle and gulped half of it down. Rivulets of cold liquid slipped down my chin and dripped onto my chest.

When I stopped to breathe and glanced up at her, I found Lani watching me. My nipples went tight and hard. It was from the shock of the cold water, of course it was, and not from the weight of her watching me.

“It’s so hot.” I couldn’t keep the whine out of my voice. I’d lived on this side of the island my whole life but I never adjusted to the heat of summer. Winter was better for me, when the waves kicked up good surfing and I found the warmth delightful.

“Let’s go for a ride then.” She wore most of her thick, dark hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, but pieces near her temple had come loose. She pushed them out of the way with her fingers, tucking them behind her ears.

“Is the top off the Jeep?” It was too hot to be stuck in a closed box, but if it was open, it might be fun. Slightly cooler at least.

“It can be.” She shrugged and glanced at the digital clock on the wall, giving me a good look at the line of her back and her smooth brown skin. Date, time, and temperature filled the face in thick black digital numbers. Triple digit temperature for the fifth day in a row. No wonder I felt like I was melting.

“Okay. Let me get changed and we can go.” I tried to sit up, but my bones were heavy. She laughed when I flopped against the back of the couch and held out both hands. I stared at them a second, at the short fingers and jagged nails, and then I placed my hands in hers. Her skin was rough, callused, and her grip firm. She curled her fingers around mine and she peeled me up off the couch.

We were almost the same height, and our faces were angled toward each other. She was so close I wouldn’t have to lean forward at all to kiss her cheek, to press my lips to the corner of her mouth, to taste the salt of her skin.

I sidestepped and put space between us. Lani smiled at me again and in it there was a lazy insolence which made my toes curl. My breath caught in my throat and my chest tightened. She was reading my mind, I thought, and I couldn’t decide if it was the worst thing in the world or the best.

“I’ll get the Jeep ready.” She stared at me a moment longer and then turned and walked away. I caught myself staring at her ass. Her jean shorts were baggy, but I thought she looked good in them.

I gave myself a good mental shake. I wasn’t gay. Even if I was bisexual – and I wasn’t sure, I’d never even touched a girl with sexual intent – Lani certainly wasn’t the girl for me.

She’d been my best friend as long as I could remember. We were born hours apart in the same hospital and photo albums from my childhood had us together in our cribs and our playpens, seated next to each other in our highchairs, taking our first steps and speaking our first words. There was even a terribly embarrassing photo of the two of us on matching toddler toilets while we were potty training.

It had been the two of us together for thirty-six years. We had pictures to prove it. And in the background of many of them, a little blurry, not the focus of most of the shots, lurked my big brother.

He had been the love of Lani’s life and when he died thirteen months, two weeks, and three days ago, he’d taken her heart with him. I missed him constantly, a low, uncomfortable pressure which made me feel sick and empty, but I couldn’t imagine how much worse it had to be for her.

Which was why I absolutely, positively did not want to fuck my best friend.

(1) I am not yet officially a member, because I am behind on life right now. Joining is on my giant To Do List of Doom, though.

(2) Working title.

I Recommend…”Knives” by Seanan McGuire

“Knives” by Seanan McGuire is a retelling of the Little Mermaid story, but this is not the singing dancing under the sea extravaganza Disney sells. It takes the story so many of us know – mermaid, prince, swapping a tail for two legs at some exorbitant price – and gives it a good twist. As the summary says, there’s always another side to the story and this side is heartbreaking and painful and wonderful, all at the same time.

The language is beautiful. There are so many parts I’d like to quote, but experiencing those lines while reading the whole provides such wonderful moments I wouldn’t want to deny you that. My favorite bit, however, is this: “Maybe I’m damned already. If you have no soul, where do you go when you die? Back to sea foam and waves, I suppose. Sounds peaceful, if you’re asking me.”

Back to sea foam and waves indeed.

This is a love story, but it has no happy ending. The mermaid chases love – the prince – without noticing love is already by her side, her best friend under the waves, another mermaid woman. It’s a haunting, heart breaking tale of love and loss and the sacrifices we make.

I Recommend…”Spaced” by Andrea Howe

Once again, Circlet Press’s Fiction Friday brought me a story I really enjoyed, this time “Spaced” by Andrea Howe. I love doomed, delicious moments in life and this has that in spades.

My favorite bit: “It was foolish, twisting together in the middle of the room; we’d shut off the grav hours ago. Skin on skin was a false heat; she was warm under my hands, but that didn’t make up for the heat seeping away into the dark space. Didn’t stop us from unsuiting, from seeking out the contours or bared flesh, now invisible, now orange.”