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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…Little Women and Werewolves by Louisa May Alcott and Porter Grand (Month of the Werewolf Day Thirty)

I love mashups, but find books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies problematic because I have issues with men reworking the writing of women to be more ~accessible or ~appealing or whatever. (Plus I am not really a Jane Austen fan, so have had little interest in the mashups, though I really enjoyed Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian. This avoids my issues with men rewriting women’s stories.)

Earlier this month, a friend recommended Little Women and Werewolves by Louisa May Alcott and Porter Grand to me. I really love Little Women (and Little Men, though Jo’s Boys leaves me a little cold), and obviously I love werewolves, so I immediately bought it.

The addition of the werewolf society and the worldbuilding in it was a lot of fun. I missed many of the descriptions from the original; the descriptions here have been starkly paired down. I can see why; the conceit of the book is that this is an early draft that later had the werewolves cut out and all the descriptive bits put in, but I did miss it. Since this was the first time I’ve read a mashup that involved a book with which I was very familiar, I might have been more sensitive to that sort of change.

One issue I did have was the romantic elements. One pairing really did not feel supported by the text, though I was intrigued by what could have been had I thought it better supported. The other just pissed me off, because it felt like pandering to the fans of the original who were upset about the treatment of a specific couple (I am being intentionally vague here to avoid spoilers, but I’m suddenly not sure why, considering how old the original book is, so I will stop). Basically, there are many readers of the original who feel strongly that Laurie and Jo should have married. This mashup plays with that a lot, and in some very interesting ways, but then it snaps back to the original ending in such a way that felt rushed, unsupported, and really disappointing. (And in the original, I love Jo and Bhaer.)

But the werewolf society and the horrifying bits were absolutely delightful additions.

I Recommend…Raised By Wolves and Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Month of the Werewolf Days Six and Seven)

Here is what would have been Month of the Werewolf Days Six and Seven.

Raised By Wolves: At the age of four, Bryn watched a rogue werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by the mysterious Callum, the alpha of his werewolf pack. Now fifteen, Bryn’s been raised as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule (mostly). Little fazes her.

But the pack’s been keeping a secret, and when Bryn goes exploring against Callum’s direct orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen Were locked in a cage. Terrifying memories of the attack on her mom and dad come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them. Suddenly, all allegiances to the pack no longer matter. It’s Bryn and Chase against the werewolf world, whatever the consequences.

Trial By Fire: There can only be one alpha.

Bryn is finally settling into her position as alpha of the Cedar Ridge Pack—or at least, her own version of what it means to be alpha when you’re a human leading a band of werewolves. Then she finds a teenage boy bleeding on her front porch. Before collapsing, he tells her his name is Lucas, he’s a Were, and Bryn’s protection is his only hope.

But Lucas isn’t part of Bryn’s pack, and she has no right to claim another alpha’s Were. With threats—old and new—looming, and danger closing in from all sides, Bryn will have to accept what her guardian Callum knew all along. To be alpha, she will have to give in to her own animal instincts and become less human. And, she’s going to have to do it alone.

Bryn faces both the costs, and the rewards, of love and loyalty, in this thrilling sequel to Raised by Wolves.

I cannot wait to read more in this series. Though Raised By Wolves had too much dangerous so therefore crazy, I loved the pack politics, the world building, and Bryn herself. Bryn is amazing. Amazing. She is strong and smart and determined, and I love the way she goes from resenting the way her life is bound by the rules of the werewolves to finding ways to work within them as well as without. Family and friendship are so important in these books.

Barnes deftly handles commentary on democracy, leadership, disobedience, fighting to protect yourself, fighting to protect others, and how to know whom to trust.

Of the two, Trial By Fire is my favorite, with delightful twists and turns and magic and betrayal and friendship and family, but both books — but the series as a whole, because I hope to read many more books in the series — are delightful werewolf stories.

I Recommend…Trick ‘R Treat (2007) (Month of the Werewolf Day Four)

Well, Month of the Werewolf ended up being a fail for me, in part because I either incorrectly set up some of the posts to publish or WordPress had a big glitch, and in part because I got sick and then incredibly busy at work and with my family and didn’t have time to troubleshoot or write more posts.

But there are three days left, and I am going to slip in smaller versions of some of the posts I intended to do. We’ll see how many I can get done. I am also working on a story for an anthology that is due on Tuesday, and I have other work to do, so I must split my time between projects.

Here is what would have been Month of the Werewolf Day Four.

Trick R’ Treat (2007): Four interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the one guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband.

I love stories that weave through each other, and I love horror movies, and I love Halloween stories. Mostly, I find Trick ‘R Treat to be fun, sometimes slightly cheesy horror and occasionally a little boring, but I love one of the four stories so much that it really carries the rest of the movie for me and makes it one of my favorite Halloween movies.

Below the cut, there will be spoilers for that plot.

more…

I Recommend…Isaac Asimov’s Werewolves edited by Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams (Month of the Werewolf Day Two)

Isaac Asimov’s Werewolves edited by Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams

(Image description: Cover for Isaac Asimov’s Werewolves. Picture of a reddish-brown werewolf standing on a cliff, a big full moon behind its head. In the background are pine trees, and the sky has a yellow-green cast.)

This book collects a few of the werewolf stories published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, but I hadn’t read any of them before and really appreciated the anthology format of them. Though I enjoyed almost all of the stories (which is fairly rare for me and anthologies, so kudos for that), three really stood out for me. My favorites were “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas, “Red” by Sarah Clemens, and “Madonna of the Wolves” by S.P. Somtow.

“Boobs” hits one of my favorite werewolf tropes where the main character becomes a werewolf as she comes of age (here, getting her first period). The play of monster and woman is interesting, and the boys who have been tormenting her because of her breasts will have a nasty time of it now that she is embracing her own power.

“Red” approaches woman as werewolf from the other direction, where a young girl discovers why her great-aunt is often shut up in the basement of her antebellum mansion, and nicely captures the feel of decaying estates and the ties of family.

“Madonna of the Wolves” focuses on a young woman who is a governess in late Victorian times. Her charge is being prepared as the heir to the werewolf throne, and focuses a lot on the sexual themes of people with beasts inside. It’s really quite interesting, but it does read like a small part of a larger story. This is because it is. (Later, I would pick up Moon Dance by S.P. Somtow without realizing I had finally found the book from which the story came.) The writing is lush and the violence and sex simmering just beneath the surface delightful.

The anthology covers many different time periods and focuses on very different characters. It is an enjoyable collection of stories, and if you did not read them in Asimov’s Science Fiction or you prefer your stories collected in book form, and if you are looking for more werewolf stories to read, I recommend tracking down this collection.

I Recommend…Never Cry Werewolf (2008) (Month of the Werewolf Day One)

I know the trailer looks incredibly cheesy. No, really, I do. And the movie is a little cheesy, the special effects not awesome. However, this is one of the best werewolf movies I’ve seen, for a lot of reasons, but mostly for this: Loren, the main character, played by Nina Dobrev, kicks ass. She’s amazing, tough and smart and determined and brave. Things I love: women kicking ass, siblings teaming up to hunt monsters, girls with crossbows and guns, werewolves on motorcycles, dramatic shots of the full moon. Things this movie has: all of that and more.

So yes, at times incredibly cheesy, and I absolutely do not buy Peter Stebbings as this hot new guy whom all the women want, and there is more women-as-victims than I like, but mostly, this movie is a joy and a delight, and I highly recommend it for you Month of the Werewolf movie needs. (Or your horror movie needs. Or your Halloween needs. This movie is multipurpose, obviously.)

Plus, if you like Nina Dobrev in The Vampire Diaries (which I do, though I’ve only seen season one), she’s kick ass and badass and awesome here too.

I actually don’t own this one yet, because I hate the only cover I’ve ever seen in person, which has Loren looking like a victim and is from one of the few scenes I really hated, but maybe I will buy it and then paste this picture on top of it, because it makes Loren look like she’s a motorcycle riding werewolf hunter and oh, god, how much do I need that sort of story in my life? A LOT.

Loren is my favorite werewolf hunter ever.

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…Samhain Publishing Freebies

Did you all know that Samhain Publishing has free e-books available? Samhain Publishing Freebies I learned about this when Elizabeth Reeve recommended “Fall, Falling, Fallen” by Karalynn Lee, which she got from Samhain Publishing Freebies. I’m excited to give some new authors a try and will be posting reviews here as I finish reading the stories.