Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Art of Blindness

 The Art of Blindness

by J. L. Williams


Abandoned in a magical forest as a baby, Sendjuit learns to fend for himself like a wild animal, until he is  eventually adopted by Helio, prince of Abram, and trained to be his bodyguard and companion. Even after he is blinded in an accident, Sendjuit still manages to become a fearsome warrior, defending Helio and facing threats from the forest and the enemy kingdom of Dorcas. In many ways this is a classic hero's journey, with a big dose of romance toward the end.

While the writing is not quite up to professional grade, this is still a satisfying read. There's a lot of misuse of language, and the medieval-ish fantasy world is not 100% internally consistent. The characters all talk and behave like young teens, which is great when they are young, but not as convincing when they are adults. There's a very high school feel to many of the interactions, especially with the few female characters. And the ending is repeated twice, kind of like two drafts of the same scenes. It really reads like something written by a precocious child.

However, it is much better written than the average fantasy on fictionpress, and well worth paying for. The story is completely original, with a lot of fast-paced action and suspense. The romance is very touching.

Sendjuit is an appealing character--although he wild and kind of bratty in the beginning, he develops into a loyal and surprisingly tender young man. The depiction of his blindness is ok but not totally realistic. He relies on a supernatural sense of smell, which I guess is linked to a curse that makes him part wolf, but he develops that power before the curse, so again, not fully consistent. However, it didn't bother me too much. And it's not just the blindness, there's a lot of "wounded hero" stuff all through the book. From the moment Send loses two fingers as a young child, he keeps getting injured over and over. I found the dev factor pretty high despite all the magic. And there's no magical cure, which is probably a first for a for a blind character in a fantasy setting. The narration is from Send's point of view, also not something authors attempt often, and it's done pretty well.

Despite its flaws, I still enjoyed reading this a lot. I've never read anything quite like it. The writer has a lot of raw talent, but really needs a professional editor.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blind Impulse

Blind Impulse

by Kathryn Loch


Medieval romance.

Garin Swein returns from fighting in the Crusades to England, just in time to marry his childhood betrothed, Alyna and take over as baron of Kirkoswald. But just after returning, he is struck with a fever that leaves him blind. Everyone expects him to cancel the marriage and step down, allowing his sister Julia and her fiance to inherit the barony. Alyna, inspired by her blind uncle, is convinced she can teach Garin to cope. But the threat that he could be stripped of his title is real--will Alyna be able to help him? And will that be enough to satisfy the authorities and his grasping sister?

The writing is pretty good for a romance. Garin and Alyna are appealing characters, and the depiction of his blindness is fairly realistic. There is some good action at the end too, but through the middle it moved kind of slowly. Garin spends way too long agonizing over things that should have already been resolved, like his doubts that Alyna is only helping him for selfish reasons. Also there's a big subplot with Julia. It paid off in the end but for a long time it felt like a distraction.

The number of anachronisms really bugged me. Everything is just too dainty for a medieval setting. The characters all read and write fluently, even the women, and people exchange letters and notes as if paper were readily available. They have carpets on the floors, glass in the windows, and napkins at the table. The characters all behave in a very modern way too. It's a shame because many of the details are good, like the clothing and armor. The middle ages is a hard setting to get right because it is so distant from us. As a romance this book is pretty good, but as historical fiction, not so much.



by Brandon Shire


Contemporary gay romance/erotica.

After reading so many terrible romances with blind characters completely removed from reality, I was so happy to finally find one where the author took the time to do research and really get the details right. Hunter is a great character: tough but vulnerable, smart and sarcastic, but secretly sweet. He's independent and fully adjusted to his life. The problems he has, sometimes acting like a jerk to cover for feeling foolish or dependent, felt very true to life.

I also loved the attention to detail. The setting feels real, as do all the characters. Even the secondary characters are detailed. No one's just a cardboard cutout, and there's no neglect of the plot in favor of sex scenes, which is usually the case in erotica. And the characters act like real men, ie, they don't sit around talking about their feelings, even when they really should. This is definitely real gay man fiction, not slash written by and for women.

The writing is excellent, a very cerebral and writerly style, also unusual for erotica. Although there are quite a few typos towards the end, including one hilarious instance of confusing genteel and gentile.

I only had two complaints: 1. the ending relies on a coincidence so huge it defies belief and 2. the story clearly is not over at the end. I dislike the current trend in e-publishing to take one novel and split it in two to double profits. I would gladly pay more for a longer book, but I'd like to know up front what I am getting. Anyway I still recommend this one, just be warned, it's not a complete novel, only the first half.

Silence Is Multicolored in My World

Silence is Multicolored in My World

by Red Haircrow


This is an unusual, somewhat mysterious book, but well worth reading.

First, it's not a novel. It's a collection of first person essays, maybe originally blog posts, about an unnamed young man, collected and edited by his partner, after his death at the age of 31. Nothing is stated outright, there are only vague hints. Here's what we know about him: profoundly deaf at a young age due to illness, he escaped the horrors of a Russian orphanage and ended up turning tricks on the street as a teen. An older foreign man bought his freedom, and brought him to Berlin, where he settled. His rescuer was first his friend, then his lover, and eventually his legal husband. We never find out how he died, it's only mentioned in passing in the foreword.

The book is divided into sections, with essays on various topics. The first section talks about his deafness in a very moving, poetic way. I found it super devvy! Especially the chapter where he describes going to a concert to feel the vibrations of the music. The descriptions of his daily life in a country house are also quite beautiful. Later sections give his opinions on homophobia, sex abuse, and gay culture. He describes trips to the US, and comments on American and German culture. The essays are refreshingly outspoken and personal. It's obvious too that English is not his first language, but I found the unusual word choice poetic, creative, and thought-provoking, not at all an impediment to understanding.

In all, he comes across as a fascinating, deeply sympathetic person. Reading through what in many ways feels like his private diary is moving but also slightly unsettling, because it is so personal, and in the end we know so little about him. Ironically, many of the later essays talk about his need for privacy. But in printing his thoughts, this book invites more questions about who he was and how he died. I would have liked at least a little more solid information.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Slow, Cold Death

A Slow, Cold Death
by Susy Gage

 Dev Rating: ***

This book was sent to me by the author so I could give it an endorsement. Pretty cool!

It's quite a different kind of book and I appreciate that about it. It's a murder mystery that takes place within the world of academic research, a physics lab to be exact. I have long been fascinated by the unique atmosphere of university research labs with their crazy red tape and strange rules.

The characters are wild and large and a lot of fun to follow.

Lou is the character in a wheelchair. He was paralyzed in a car accident that starts looking less and less like an accident as other people in his department are killed.

I wish there had been more of him and more devy scenes, but okay, it's not written by a dev. There's a great bike ride that I found very devy.

I like the portrayal of Lou a lot. He's realistic and believable. He shows how much a paralyzed man can still do but the narrative also shows his struggles.

The author has promised more books with Lou and Lori, so I look forward to seeing more of him much like I read Meg Gardiner's books for Jesse.

Read an interview with the author at my blog:

Monday, October 22, 2012

To Hear You Smile

To Hear You Smile by Gina Rossi

(The title is so hard to read on the cover! Plus you hardly get any idea at all what the book is about. Bad design, if you ask me).

Dev Rating: **
(As a book, 4/5)

I like the writing style in this one a lot. The author is clearly a pro. It's sweet, endearing, romantic, and fun. It seriously makes me want to pack up and move to a quiet English village.

The only problem is that the blurb is left intentionally vague about the disability because (DevoGirl, look away!), the heroine meets the blind hero and doesn't realize that he's blind. Yes, this is one of DG's top complaints about books with blind characters.

It was difficult for me to keep reading because I found that idea so silly. Oliva meets Zac three or four times, and even has a lengthy date with him, without ever figuring out that he's blind. There are little hints all over the place (and in the title, of course), but it's half way through the novella before Oliva finds out (and I guess it's supposed to be a surprise for the reader too?)

If you are able to see past that conceit, the story is really charming and I would recommend it. The dev factor was lessened for me because I found the confusion about him being blind to be really irritating. If I wasn't so distracted by that I would have found it significantly more devy.

I'm looking forward to trying more stories from this author.

See a longer review on my website:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Breath(e) by Ruth Madison

Dev Rating: ****

A sequel to Madison's first book (W)hole, Breath(e) delves into Elizabeth's experience exploring her devo-sexuality in college.  After breaking up with her paraplegic boyfriend Stewart, Elizabeth attempts several other relationships with disabled men, most with disastrous consequences.

All I can say is that Ruth Madison "gets it."  Elizabeth's struggles are all too familiar for any devotee who has struggled to connect with a disabled partner.  Her experiences and emotions feel incredibly real, from her painful confession to her parents to being shunned by her colleagues.  You will find yourself rooting for Elizabeth to get her happy ending (both literally and figuratively). 

Much like (W)hole, this book is a must-read for any devotee.  Buy it from Amazon and I promise you'll finish it in one weekend! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sydney Harbour Hospital: Tom's Redemption

Sydney Harbour Hospital: Tom's Redemption by Fiona Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hayley Grey is a Resident at Sydney Harbour Hospital, she is one exam away from being a qualified Surgeon. She is scared of the dark but other than that a good kick ass female main character. Tom Jordon, a Surgeon, has returned to Sydney from Perth where he had been recuperating for two years following an accident; a car banged into him when he was cycling.

We learn that Tom is gorgeous, a serious person whose focus has been 100% on his carear which is now not an option for him. So he is at the stage in his life where he is looking for what he wants to do now.

Enter Hayley into his life. They develop a friendship which grows to more...

This book is a fast read. I didn't really feel involved in the story which I think was mainly due to the length of the book not giving the author or reader time to really engaged in the story. Likewise, these two fairly interesting characters didn't get room to grow. Their bumps in their relationship seemed to be solved before you got a chance to fret for them.

The medical referencing was just enough to convince me they knew what they were doing without flowing the pages with terminology.

I enjoyed the book but it was just ok.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Life Worth Living

A Life Worth Living by Lorrie Kraus

Dev Rating: ****
(Although, it didn't get super devy for me until the last third of the book)

I really enjoyed this book.

The first thing that really impressed me was how accurate all the details were. This is an author who definitely knows a lot about SCI (and when I interview her, I’m going to ask her about that!) From how the insurance works to ordering a wheelchair to the physical changes in how a paralyzed person knows when he needs to use the bathroom, it is all accurate. I really appreciate that real life issues of paraplegia were not glossed over.

I love the message that sometimes the best thing in your life comes from your plan for your life getting completely screwed up. Good is born from bad. I think that’s so true.

Ordinarily I don’t read new injury stories, as they tend to bore me. I’ve read so, so many books with disabled characters and that right-after-the-accident time tends to be all the same. I prefer a hero who has adjusted to his disability and has moved on with his life. Here, however, the little bit of a mystery about what really happened that night was enough to keep me engaged and moving forward.
I feel like the time Matt spent with the girl who was CLEARLY all wrong for him what too long. I was getting frustrated and fed up that he couldn't see that she wasn't the right person for him until page 300. Now, at page 300 the book became great, in my opinion. That's when it really became romantic and sexy and completely enjoyable. Basically it's when he begins the process of courting the girl that we all know is perfect for him.

 My only real criticism is a tiny one. There's talk about how he needs to order his own chair and he resists that for a long time. When he finally agrees to do it, we never see him actually get a new chair. So it didn't become clear to me that he was no longer using the hospital chair until there's a mention of him taking the wheels off when he gets in a car. It pulled me from the story a little to be wondering about that and I would have liked to see a scene with him getting the new chair, seeing how different it was from the hospital chair and how much easier it was to maneuver.

I would cry foul on how easy it was for Matt to get and maintain an erection, but because all the details of his injury were so very accurate it was easy for me to buy that he was lucky in his particular injury. Overall I really enjoyed this book, particularly, as I said, the last third of it. I'd highly recommend this to any dev. It's what a love story should be, I think!

 Read a longer review at my site: And an interview with the author will be up soon!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vittorio's Woman

Vittorio's Woman
by Kinberley Reeves

Dev Rating: *

Lilly is a physical therapist, but she doesn't do it for money, she just really likes helping people. She gets a call from the sister of a man she saw once at a party and developed a huge crush on, Simon Vittorio. The sister says that Simon's had an accident and he's in despair. He needs a tough physical therapist to pull him from his depression and get him inspired to walk again. Simon has also been blinded by this accident, the characters hope temporarily. Little does Lilly know, Simon remembers her and has also been longing for her as much as she has for him. But he's driven away other psychical therapists and he's going to do the same to her by making her super uncomfortable sexually. (???)

The writing is fine. No glaring errors, nothing really wrong with it, but the book definitely left me feeling "meh." 

But oh my God, the cliches. Every single one of the romance genre seems to be present here:

-She's cute when she's angry. Whenever she's upset, Simon has to stifle the urge to laugh.
-She's so special that a man-whore who has been sleeping with any girl who breathes for the last twenty years or so instantly falls so in love with her that he'll never want anyone else ever again.
-She's secretly a virgin (and secretly rich)
-Outrageous and ridiculous misunderstandings abound when a simple conversation would make everything clear
(Okay, at least there isn't a secret baby)
And Simon's big plan to drive Lilly away? To kiss her. Seriously? The plot is convoluted, strange, and hard to make any sense out of. 

I didn't find anything sexy about Simon personally. He is rich and Italian and passionate and (apparently) madly in love with the heroine (for no discernible reason). That's probably plenty of people's fantasy, but I found him foppish and irritating. The laughing at Lilly whenever she was upset and telling her how adorable she is when she's mad was so patronizing it kind of made me hate him. If he had felt real enough to hate, anyway.

It's pretty clear from the start that a cure is likely. I don't think I can call it a "miracle cure," since his prognosis from the start is that he's going to recover. This is more of a nurse-back-to-health fantasy than a dev fantasy. But then, why is he driving away physical therapists and being bitter when he's likely to recover if he just puts in a tiny bit of effort...? I have no idea.

The cover is a weird choice too. Sexy image (would be better with a wheelchair!) but you can't even read the title at all. The lack of contrast is a very unprofessional choice.

Longer review here:

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Discreet Gentleman of Discovery

A Discreet Gentleman of Discovery

by Kris Tualla


18th century romance set in Norway. Brander Hansen lost his hearing to an infection at the age of seven. Disinherited by his father, he sets himself up as a "gentleman of discovery," a kind of 18th century detective, aided by his cousin Niels. Baroness Regin Kildahl writes to him for help when her husband gambles away their estate, not knowing that Brander has been systematically buying up the debts on the Kildahl estate, hoping to buy himself a title. Brander, using his professional pseudonym Lord Olaf Olsen, agrees to help her, while also attempting to solve a string of murders around Christiania (Oslo). The plot description on Amazon goes into a lot more detail about the plot, but it's kind of spoiler-y, don't read it if you don't want to know half the story.

If, like Devo Girl, you like historical fiction and a deaf hero, this is definitely one to check out. The writing is above average for romance, and the author has clearly done a lot of research. I really liked the Norwegian setting; it was original and interesting. The plot and characterization is satisfyingly rich, and the use of language is mostly appropriate for the era, something you don't find often in historical romance. It gets a bit overly cheezy toward the end, but on the whole the balance of mystery, adventure, and romance is pretty good, which is also unusual--most romance authors usually drop the other plot elements once the hero and heroine get together.

The depiction of deafness is pretty good. The author clearly did research on that too, which is much appreciated. Brander and Niels use a sign language they developed together, but Brander can also read lips. He communicates using a mix of sign language, mouthing words silently, and writing. It was a nice believable touch that he can't speak well, and chooses not to. I really liked that he wasn't like a deaf superhero who can do everything perfectly (although his lipreading is a bit too effortless and perfect). I also liked that he's pretty well adjusted to his disability--I'm so tired of the injury/recovery story. But his deafness is still a big part of the story, it's definitely not glossed over.

The best part is that even though this is a romance in a series, the next books will all be about Brander and Regin, not about secondary characters spun off into their own books. There are several other books about the Hansen family, but they are set in different time periods, and it's not necessary to read them to enjoy this one. The second Brander/Regin novel, A Discreet Gentleman of Matrimony, is already out, and the author has another three in the works. So much to look forward to!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wheels of Steel Book 1 (of 3)

Wheels of Steel, Book 1Wheels of Steel, Book 1 by Pepper Pace
*** I really enjoyed this book.

Robin is a shy twenty one year old who is getting over the death of her father and readjusting to the new dynamic of her relationship with her mother after the loss of the buffer that kept their squabbles at bay. Having made the choice to move out and live on her own because she refused to go to college, she struggles to make ends meet. A tip from a work colleague sends her down the path of becoming a home care assistant (HCA). Her first client is an old woman who she eventually befriends. Her second client is Jason. Who on the surface is a surly student who has cerebral palsy (CP). Their friendship blooms.

The only thing that I disliked about the book was that there were a few spelling mistakes. I got the feeling that there may have been something wrong with Ms Pace's keyboard as every time she meant "than" we got "then". Also, now that I think of it, I did find the dialogue a bit hard to follow as I wasn't always sure who was speaking as there would be something said but the proceeding action was something of the person being talked to which made it not too clear and required a quick reread.

Now, what I liked about the book. Robin's characterisation was fantastic. A shy nervous girl who disliked crowds and being shouted at. I could really relate and the author conveyed this condition with great understanding. I also loved that although Robin was shy and nervous she had a strong side making her very dynamic. As the book proceeds we see her gaining more and more confidence and growing into herself.

Jason is grumpy when we first encounter him but soon it is explained were this stems from and he becomes a very sympathetic character. The relationship between him and Robin develops in a very natural way, refreshingly realistic and devoid of M&B cliché moves and dialogue. The situation of Robin being a HCA to Jason is handled very well. The author not shying away of dealing with every detail. It was interesting to see how Robin, whose duties involved doing some pretty intimate tasks for Jason, then has to see him in a romantic light.

I also loved the smooth changing of point of view between Robin and Jason. It felt good as a reader to be able to get into both of their heads.

My one big tip would be, have book 2 at the ready as you will want to reach for it as soon as book 1 ends, trust me. I am really looking forward to reading the next two books in this series.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 27, 2012

What I Didn't Say

What I Didn't Say

by Keary Taylor


Young adult romance. Jake is a seventeen year old high school senior living on Orcas Island. His life his pretty good, except for years he has never been able to tell Samantha, the girl he loves, how he feels about her. After drinking too much at a party, he tries to drive to her house to tell her, but instead crashes and sustains a neck injury that rips out his vocal chords and leaves him permanently mute.

This is an unusual disability, and a terrific story. Jake is a great character, and his disability is mostly handled realistically. Although he has some dark moments, he is not consumed with anger and bitterness. I loved that even though this is a romance, he is the narrator. I wish there were more romances narrated from the guy's point of view. Samantha is great too--she's not a perfect princess (hello, Crazy Beautiful), but a nuance, real girl. In fact, she has some serious problems of her own and most of the book revolves around Jake helping her. Even so, there are lots of great dev moments.

I also loved the setting. I have been to Orcas Island, and it is every bit as beautiful as in the book. The author does a great job creating a real sense of place, and adding details about life on the island.

So why only three and a half stars? Well, like many self-published books, there are a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes. In this case, not typos, but the kind of thing that doesn't show up in MS Word autocorrect: mistaken homophones, dangling modifiers, apostrophes used as plurals, even confusing I and me. I don't care if you're self-publishing, get it right!

But more significantly, I was more bothered by Jake's (and the author's) dismissive attitude towards American Sign Language. Jake communicates primarily by writing in notebooks, but he also learns ASL. However, he only makes a half-assed attempt to really learn it, and he's constantly saying how bad he is at it. Fair enough, it's a hard language to learn. But he also says several times that it feels impersonal and impractical. This dismissive attitude really bugged me, because ASL is wonderfully expressive, far more than scribbling notes. But from the descriptions, it's clear the author doesn't know how ASL works, and she never describes any of the signs.

Oh well, those are minor annoyances in what is otherwise a great book about a disability that only shows up rarely in fiction.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crazy Beautiful

Crazy Beautiful

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted


Young adult romance. Lucius Wolfe is about to start the first day of his sophomore year of high school. The year before, he caused an explosion that left him a DAE amputee, and destroyed his parents' house. Now they have moved to a new house in a new town, and he has to adjust both to his disability and to being the new kid. Aurora Belle is also a new kid at the same school; her mother died of cancer the previous year. Although Lucius and Aurora feel an immediate attraction, they are social opposites--he's a dark, brooding loner, while she is gorgeous, smart, and kind, and also instantly one of the popular kids. Even worse, Lucius is convinced that once Aurora learns the truth about his accident, she will run in fear.

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. There are so few amputee characters, and to make the accident unquestionably his fault was a bold move. But ultimately the book was much slighter than the heavy premise would indicate. The biggest problem was the alternating narration, with chapters from both Lucius and Aurora's point of view. This is almost always deadly, since we see every scene twice so the plot takes forever to get going (I'm looking at you, gay-elf-romance Unseen Paths). Here at least the author eventually cuts back on the repetition, but the fact is while Lucius' voice is really compelling and original, Aurora's is not. She's a bland, boring, impossibly perfect character, and the way she just drifts along with the popular kids made me want to smack her. When half her chapters are only a sentence or two, it's evident her point of view was not necessary.

Also the ending is really rushed, which was a letdown. Yes, the plot points are all resolved in a satisfying way, but it all happens so quickly. I really wished it had been longer, and we had more scenes of Lucius and Aurora together. Oh and this is supposed to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but that didn't really seem to add anything to a fairly standard high school romance.

I found the dev-factor to be only moderate, which surprised me, since the premise seems super-devvy to me. The author handled his disability in a pretty realistic way, there is no magic or miracle cure or anything. There are some really good scenes of Lucius thinking about how his life has changed. But even though he talks about his amputation and prosthetics all the time, the author doesn't really linger over the details of his everyday life. In other words, the author clearly isn't a dev. But oh well, I can't really blame her for that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lovers Lame

Lovers Lame by Robert Rudney

Dev Rating: 1.5 *

Though the main character is a man with a mobility disability, I didn't find this book to be very devvy.

I know it seems strange to say a book was too realistic, but that was kind of how I felt about this one. It was like watching a neighbor. And I just wanted something a bit more interesting, more of something to get into.

The struggle for people with disabilities to find jobs is certainly a really important issue, but the protagonist of this book didn't seem like the kind of person who was able to make me care about it. He was more passive than I tend to like my heroes, I think.

There's some issues with more telling than showing of the story, particularly in the beginning. It takes a couple of chapters before any sort of story begins.

The feel of the book is very memoir-like, though it is fiction.

To learn more about it, I do have an interview with the author at my website:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Doctor in Petticoats

Doctor in Petticoats


by Paty Jager

Late nineteenth century Western romance. For a romance with a blind hero, it's pretty good. The novel starts with Clay Halsey, recently blinded in an explosion, starting out at a school for the blind. There he falls in love with the lady doctor, Rachel Tarkiel. Rachel is an independent career woman who throws herself into her medical work because she believes no man will ever love her--she has a big scar on her face form a childhood accident. But Clay and Rachel fall for each other right away. The tension comes first from her disapproving family, then from whether she will be satisfied living with Clay in a small mining town, being a wife and mother.

Clay and Rachel are appealing characters. He is quite sweet, not angry or bitter, thank god. The bit about Rachel's scar is such a cliche for a blind hero romance, though, I cringed every time it came up. She is such a strong character, the book would have been better without it. On the other hand, I really liked how she was a career woman, and deeply conflicted about pursuing marriage or career. It was a satisfying and believable way to present a strong female character in a historical setting.

The historical details are good. The author clearly did a lot of research, and there's a real sense of place in the Oregon setting. The author depicted Clay's blindness pretty well too. The blind school was similarly well researched, although I was a little disappointed the action shifted away from the school so quickly. After two months, Clay decides he's rehabilitated enough, even though he has barely started learning Braille, never mind anything else. However, a lot of the scenes, particularly in the beginning, are narrated from his point of view, and it's done really well. There's a lot more realism here than in most romances, which I appreciated.

This book is part of a series. I didn't read the other books, but while this mostly stands alone, there are some things that are not fully explained from the other books. I did feel a little like I was missing something.

The biggest problem, though, is that the author never stops TELLING when she should be showing. In every single scene, the narrator lays out baldly what the main conflict is, over and over. It's such a drag, even more so because the dialog and descriptions are actually pretty good, and could easily have carried the novel without all the boring exposition. As it is, though, the over-explaining really weighs it down.

Love Story

Love Story **
Janine Boissard (Author)
Marilyn Achiron (Translator)

Claudio Roman is a world-famous tenor and perhaps even more well known lothario. His life is the envy of men in all walks of life, until a fateful random attack leaves him a shell of his former self.
Now, three years later and no longer performing opera, he is still a singer in very high demand—but he knows he can’t be too careful about his security. Women still fawn over him too, so it is hard to understand why, when in need of a new aide and publicist to travel and be with him night and day, he would hire a small, average-looking woman who he will later compare to a sparrow.
Laura is surprised the morning after her twenty-sixth birthday party when she is called into the boss’s office and offered the job of accompanying Claudio Roman on his singing engagement—effective immediately. Hesitant at first, she accepts the opportunity and throws herself into it with all the professionalism she can bring. Soon becoming the only one Claudio requests from the agency, her dedication to making sure that Claudio has everything he needs at all times endears her to the singer. She takes her position so seriously, in fact, that she sees the opportunity to play her sincerity against his cynicism and bring him the hope he gave up long ago. As Laura desperately searches for ways to restore his confidence and stature as a premiere opera performer, she awakens feelings in Claudio he thought were lost forever.

I am left feeling like yes this is a really nice love story but it lacks a bit of meat on its bones.

The female lead character is a well written, rounded character, deep, insecure, can be easily identified with.

It is a nice classic love story, beautifully written, I think this is because this piece is translated from French so descriptions have a different angle/point of view than originally English works.

Loved the fact that the book was divided into Her, Him and then Him and Her. - I actually preferred his angst section best but then it wouldn't have worked as well without her section.

The story was missing something. Perhaps it is supposed to be a light love story but I would have liked more of something I cannot put my finger on. Perhaps it was missing more about how he was coping with his blindness. How she adapts to working with his demands.

When reading dev books I do turn down the corners of pages that I really like and although I thought it didn't really spark too much of my dev feelings, looking back after the book had been read there was quite a few ear dogged pages.

*spoiler* He does improve but only in one eye and that is still only usable with thick glasses.

Good holiday read, a posh version of Mills and Boons.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Touch and Go

Touch and Go

by Thad Nodine


Kevin, the narrator, has been blind since an accident as a young child. Now 27, he's a recovering junkie just laid off from his part-time job as a reporter. He lives in LA with Isa and Patrick, who are 10 years older. They're also ex-junkies who all met in rehab. Kevin has had a crush on Isa since he met her, but she married Patrick instead, a macho, bragging con artist. In an attempt to start a family, Isa recently took in two foster kids: Devon, 16 and Ray, 10. But Isa is a huge flake, and Patrick is a jerk, so Kevin takes it on himself to help take care of the kids. At the start of the novel, they all set out on a road trip to Florida to visit Isa's dying father. But they each have their own agendas on the trip, which take them far off course. And then there's the date, which you may not notice at first, 2005, maybe not the best time to be driving through the Gulf.

A brief description of the plot nearly put me off this book--ex-junkies, road trip, foster kids, Hurricane Katrina, ugh, sounds so depressing. But I'm so glad I read it anyway, because it is amazing, and not depressing at all. There's no wallowing in misery just for its own sake, and there's plenty of humor. And the dev factor for me was HUGE. It's not a romance, but Kevin does get some action, don't worry!

The writing is top-notch. All the characters are original, not stereotypes, and yet seem very true to life, like people you might have met. The dialog is breezy and natural, but it's really Kevin who steals the show. His narration is great--lots of interesting turns of phrase, and insights into himself and the other characters, even when he doesn't quite realize it at the time. It's kind of a late coming of age story, as he figures out how to be a responsible adult, even with, or because of, all the dysfunction around him.

This is an amazing book. There are so few writers who even attempt to write from the perspective of a blind person. On the other hand, there are tons of books with blind characters that are totally unrealistic, or that just use them as a plot device. Not so here. Kevin is a fully alive and deeply sympathetic character, and also completely believable. The author clearly did a lot of research, because he totally nailed it. It's so refreshing to read about a blind character who is not bitter or angry all the time, but just kind of gets on with his life the best he can. And where I'm not constantly brought out of the story by stupid little mistakes.

This book was a PD book club selection for July/August 2012. Discussion is here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Deaf Eye Satisfy

Deaf Eye Satisfy

by Chip Green


This is clearly a heartfelt and sincere work, and a unique perspective into Deaf culture. But as literature, it has some major flaws.

The narrator, Skip Verde, is clearly a stand-in for author Chip Green, and many of the scenes have the authenticity of lived experience. Skip is an English teacher in a high school for the deaf. He doesn't have a degree in Deaf education, although he is fluent in ASL, so he's something of a maverick. At first, he bonds more easily with the Hard of Hearing kids who have a better grasp of English, but he soon chafes at the curriculum which emphasizes English grammar only. He wants to help the students express their inner selves through literature, so he conceives of the idea of having them act out short scenes from poetry, plays, or literature in ASL, to help them get in touch with their artistic, creative sides. The principal and school counselor get involved, and suddenly everyone has a stake in the project, even as the kids start to get really into it. Meanwhile, Skip finds himself starting to understand the "deep Deaf" kids better, ie, the native ASL speakers. But the project is polarizing both among the other teachers who each have their own ideas about Deaf education and the parents who care only about getting their kids' grammar good enough for college.

The story illuminates many aspects of Deaf culture: the differences between ASL and English, discrimination, especially in the past and how it still affects Deaf adults, the divide between Deaf and HOH, and between Deaf and hearing, hearing parents who don't communicate with their kids, the problems of a shrinking residential school as more kids are mainstreamed, as well as past abuses at residential schools. I really liked how the author rendered ASL literally, rather than translating it into idiomatic English. It really gives a sense of how ASL works and how it's different from English.

However, the writing is problematic. This book desperately needs an editor. There are a ton of typos, at least one on every page. Even worse, there are many diction errors, and a lot of places where the writing is so convoluted it's impossible to tell what is happening or who is talking--kind of horrifying if the author is himself an English teacher. And like your annoying high school English teacher, he is forever pedantically belaboring his points in mini vocabulary lessons.

 But there are bigger thematic problems too. Skip wants desperately to be accepted by his Deaf colleagues and students, and to understand them better. But the author's allegiance to Skip's POV takes the story in some unfortunate directions. There's the militant Deaf teacher who's painted as a complete villain, no nuance at all. Skip also has nothing but scorn for the hearing people who are starting to learn ASL but are not yet fluent-they are annoying and shown having wrong motivations (unlike Skip, of course). It reminded me of Americans who live abroad in non-English speaking countries and try to prove how down they are with the local culture by shunning all contact with fellow Americans, like they are the only ones cool enough to hang with the locals. The thing that disturbed me the most was after Skip decides his former respect for the HOH students was misguided because it was based only on their superior grasp of English, he starts to actively hate them. So it's ok for him as a teacher to just hate the HOH kids? He spends all his time trying to reach a few of the Deaf kids, but the ones who are less connected to Deaf culture he just stops caring about.

Since it's from the teacher's POV there isn't any devvy romance angle. But if you want to know more about Deaf culture, it's worth reading.

Blind- A Novella


by V. R. Christensen


Devo Girl was SO excited to find this one--a blind man AND a deafblind man as main characters, a Victorian setting, period language, a great cover, all so promising. But it turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Arthur has been blind since birth, and lives as an angry, bitter shut-in. Zachary Goodfellow (get it?) is also blind, kind of, and poor, but cheerful. As a result of a beating, he lost his hearing but regained some of his sight. Rebecca is a do-gooder who wants to help Arthur by hiring Zachary to be a companion to him, but Arthur's hateful attitude won't let him accept her help.

The treatment of blindness and deafness is not at all realistic. Zachary seems to get along with nothing more than a positive attitude. It's so unrealistic that he hardly seems disabled at all. The bitter, angry blind man who shuts himself off from society is such a cliche. Rebecca has a big scar on her face, and thinks only a blind man could love her for who she is on the inside, also a huge cliche. And she has magic powers that allow the men to see and hear when she touches them. So their blindness and deafness is basically dispensed with in the crucial moments of the plot. HATE HATE HATE. Why can't authors come up with something better than this when writing about blind characters?

Although the author is a pretty good prose stylist, she goes a bit overboard in taking on the Victorian moralizing as well as the ornate language. Arthur is BAD and Zachary is GOOD, and there's never any doubt as to where the story is going. In demonstrating the rewards of virtue and meekness in the face of adversity, the characters come across as completely flat. The setting is also quite thin. Is the the US or England? Why in a seemingly small village do people not know each other? And like a Dickens novel, it all ends with the discovery of secret family bonds. Ugh!

Elven Journals

Elven Journals: Unseen Paths

by Scarlet Hyacinth


Gay elven erotica--if you're looking for a fantasy slash story, it's not bad. The quality of the writing is ok for erotica, but still a bit thin in places, and I wished it were just a bit better. The fake medieval setting was very hastily sketched, and the magic barely explained. I also found it really jarring that the characters all spoke in modern American slang. I guess it's moderately better for the characters to call each other "baby" than "thee" and "thou" but it still took me out of the fantasy.

The story is set in the elven palace at the end of a war against the demons that brought the elves and the dark elves together (again, only hastily explained). Jan'ke (how do you pronounce that?) is the tough, manly dark elf hero of the wars, who is closed off from his emotions after the war. Alix is the sensitive elf singer who is socially outcast because he is blind. But he's not that girly, despite his blindness, he is also a veteran of the demon wars, and is nearly as tall and strong as Jan'ke. The romance between them is nice but I wish there was more build-up showing them connecting emotionally. Then some secrets of Alix's past are revealed that changes his character a lot, and the story kind of went off the rails.

Each chapter alternates between Jan'ke and Alix's points of view, but it means that we get every scene narrated twice, and in the first half it's a huge drag. It takes the story forever to get moving.

Alix's blindness is caused by magic, so you know where this is going, hello, magic cure. If you're looking for a realistic treatment of a blind hero, this isn't it. Also there are a LOT of torture scenes in the second half which some readers might find disturbing.  Dev factor was pretty good in the beginning but low by the second half.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Shot in the Dark

Shot in the Dark

by Spiral Razor


Supernatural Western with a blind hero. This is the first in a planned series, self-published by a dev author. For those of you who love a blind hero, this is for you. Killian McBride is a supernaturally enhanced vigilante, dispensing justice in the Old West with his two swords, and oh so sexy. He's also fleeing a tortured past, but no spoilers. Jesse is great as his mechanically inclined, sarcastic sidekick. The dynamic between the two of them drives the best scenes.

So much of Killian's past, and his abilities, are surprises as the story goes along, it feels wrong to get into too much detail. His blindness and his fighting skills have a supernatural element, but it's all handled believably, and there is no miracle cure, thank goodness. Even better, his abilities don't give him magical sight--when he's not fighting, he's just a regular blind guy. There are lots of great devvy moments.

Be warned, though, it's not a love story, and it is the beginning of a series, so the ending is not that conclusive.  But it's great fun, especially if you're a Daredevil fan.

ETA: Ruth Madison reviewed this on her blog, and she loves it too! 

Cowboy Down

Cowboy Down
by Vanessa Gray Bartal

Dev Rating: **

A somewhat silly premise typical of a rom-com style romance novel, but it really does work.

The characters are very endearing and likable. Especially the girl. The boy has some annoying woe-is-me moments, but is overall charming.

For me the dev moments were few, but the ones that were there were great. There's the time Cade falls from his chair into the mud. There's when Cade is taking care of an ill Layla. 

There are some not great things such as the brothers in the story all having ridiculously similar names. Also, I found it really hard to believe that Layla was a foster kid. She told us a lot about how untrusting she was, but what was shown was the opposite.

The cover is also terrible. A gray tone cover definitely does not catch the eye and the text is difficult to read on it. It looks really unprofessional. Instead of buying the book outright (even though it was a cheap ebook) I downloaded the sample. I was pretty sure from the cover that I wasn't going to like it.

But then, as a sample should, I fell in love with Layla's character and wanted to keep reading.

For a more detailed review, visit:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mission Canyon

Dev Rating: ****

The main character, Evan, is a plucky, sarcastic jill-of-all-trades who is engaged to a handsome lawyer in a wheelchair, Jesse. The plot of this particular book has the man who ran over Jesse back in town after trying to run from manslaughter charges (Jesse's friend was killed in the crash). Confusing motives and big corporations with shady dealings soon get involved and Evan plays detective with her many skills and interests.

One thing I really appreciate is that Jesse's disability isn't there in order to raise the stakes in the plot. I've complained about that before in some horror books and movies. Here it doesn't feel as though the disability is around purely for a plot point or to make an extra challenge. It's just part of their lives, part of the lives of the characters.

The sexual side of spinal cord injury is not delved into deeply in this book, but it isn't glossed over either. It's realistic, believable, and nicely done.

Jesse is definitely a heart throb: gorgeous, young, smart, and witty. His wheelchair is given, I think, just the right amount of attention. It is not harped on, but not ignored either. He is a very strong man, definitely an alpha type, and Evan makes a point of saying that he does not allow anyone to push him. Ever. There's a moment where a bad guy grabs hold of him by the wheelchair and pulls him and it's a powerful moment because it really drives home Jesse's inherent vulnerability despite his tremendous strength.

And how sexy is this? He defends Evan against a bad guy coming into her home and threatening her by using the end of a forearm crutch.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Me Before You

Dev Rating: ***

This is a difficult one to review. On the one hand, the descriptions of quadriplegic Will are fairly detailed and realistic. He is a very charming guy, particularly once Lou and he begin to like one another. On the other hand, it is another quad-wants-to-die plot written by someone who read a news article about a man who had an assisted suicide and wanted to understand it better.

The story is that Lou, a charming young woman with a quirky sense of style, gets hired to be the carer for a quadriplegic man even though she has no experience at all. It turns out that she was hired more because of her cheery nature in the hopes that she will help bring him out of depression.

Though the subject matter is heavy, it is a chick-lit style book. I was very surprised to see how many reviews the book has on Amazon. In the UK, where it is published and based, there are some 700 reviews. I've never seen that many! I have no idea how that happened, but there were several one star reviews from people who were not expecting a chick-lit book, so let me warn you about that ahead of time!

If you know me then you know that I find the quad-wants-to-die plot extremely tiresome. It reeks of ableism: "I, an able-bodied woman with no experience of disability shall write about a quadriplegic because I read about it in the news. What should I write? How about how miserable his life must be?"
I, also an able-bodied woman, have no authority to say that's not true. What I can say is that I've known quads, two of them being at the same injury level as Will and one higher. None of them have wanted to commit suicicde. They expressed to me how grateful they were to be alive and emphasized how they have grown from the experience. One told me that he had learned so much from it that his life was better than it had been.

If you're going to ever read any book where the plot is quad-wants-to-die, this is the one to read. It does present a fairly balanced view of the issue. I'm reluctant to recommend any book with this plot, but I did find myself moved by it. If you do read it, I urge you to remember that whatever it might seem like from an outside point of view, many people with quadriplegia are living happy and content lives.

I was reluctant to read the book knowing this was the plot, but I am actually glad that I read it.

For a more detailed review visit

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Old Mermaid's Tale

 The Old Mermaid's Tale
by Kathleen Valentine

Overall Rating: *****
Dev Rating: **

This is an absolutely gorgeous book. The writing is lush and rich and full, yet not at all boring. It's what I think romance novels should be.

The main character, Clair, is from a small town in the midwest and she yearns for the ocean and for adventure. She has a romantic soul. It's the 1960s and she goes off to college near the Great Lakes.

From the title I was not expecting such a modern story!

The atmosphere is so well drawn, I can really feel every moment of Clair's love of the fishermen and the water.

About half way through the book Clair meets the gorgeous, mysterious Baptiste, a single leg amputee.

He is undeniably sexy and Clair falls hard for him. It's a great depiction of disability because Baptiste hardly notices his missing leg and certainly never lets it stop him. He wears a prosthesis and it is not very noticeable. He is such a deep, rich character who is so beloved by those around him that no one tends to say much about his leg.

This makes it great from a disability issues standpoint, but not great from a dev standpoint! There is no lingering on his body for us to enjoy.

Don't let that stop you from reading the book, though. It is so beautiful and absolutely worth reading.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Of Such Small Differences

Of Such Small Differences
by Joanne Greenberg


This is an amazing book, but the author who wrote I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. It's a love story about a deafblind young man named John, and an able-bodied woman named Leda. John was born blind, and became deaf as a child. He can speak and use ASL but communicates primarily through fingerspelling. He lives on his own, and works in sheltered workshop, where he meets Leda, an aspiring actress who works as a van driver.

Greenberg had extensive contact with the Deaf and deafblind communities, through her husband, a social worker, and her experience lends authenticity and realism to the story. This is not a romance, but a realistic, deeply affecting, poetic novel. The entire novel is narrated entirely from John's point of view, a stunning accomplishment. He's also a poet, and the poetic descriptions of how he encounters the world are amazing. But it also means that we as readers get as bewildering and incomplete a view of the world as he does. The experience of reading an entire book narrated this way gives a tiny glimpse of how difficult it is for him, and as a result the reading experience is sometimes exhausting.

The book was originally published in 1989, and it is quite dated, actually it seemed like it was set in the 70s. Leda is a self-absorbed hippie, as are her flaky actor friends. John was educated in residential schools, and the book reveals the abuses possible in those schools, and the deep scars institutionalization leaves on his psyche. Greenberg makes many sharp observations about disability, the cultures among disabled people, and of the social workers, interpreters, and volunteers who help them.

John is a fascinating, resilient character, but so many bad things happen to him, it's a bit upsetting. His family is nightmarish. But what really bothered me the most was Leda. She's so selfish and thoughtless, I just wanted to smack her. Still, the dev factor was really high for me, and I highly recommend the book.

Sadly, it's been out of print for a long time, but there are used copies floating around. It's definitely worth searching out. Watch out though, for some reason all the reviews on Amazon spoil the entire plot.

A Hearing Heart

A Hearing Heart
by Bonnie Dee


Western romance. Set in turn of the century Nebraska. Catherine leaves her wealthy family in upstate New York for the tiny town of Broughton as a schoolteacher, looking to start her life over after the death of her fiance. Jim, who was born deaf, works in the livery and saloon. One day, Catherine witnesses some drunk men abusing Jim and rescues him. In helping him to recover, she discovers that he is not simple-minded as she has been told, but merely unable to speak or write. She decides to tutor him, and love quickly blossoms between them. But they are constrained by the gap in the social status between them and the disapproval of the town. Things in Broughton are not so peaceful either, with the wealthiest man in town buying up all the land, and Jim can't avoid crossing paths with him.

As romances go, this was a pretty good one. Jim and Catherine are both appealing characters, and the obstacles they face are realistic. After a glut of romances with asshole heroes, it was so nice to find one with a hero as sweet and kind as Jim. The writing is a bit flat at the beginning, but it picks up as the book goes along, and there are some very touching love scenes.

The depiction of his deafness is also pretty good. Catherine starts out trying to teach him to speak, but he doesn't make much progress, so she quickly switches to sign language, which they learn together out of a book. The only thing that was unrealistic was that Jim learned to read lips on his own as a child, with encouragement from his mother. Sorry, that's just not possible, but it does serve to make Jim a more independent, competent character. In any case, lip reading is depicted as not perfect, and there's still a lot he misses, which is more realistic.

Also note this is more erotica than romance. There are a lot of very explicit sex scenes, much more than in a standard romance.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blind Passion / The Sculptor's Muse

Two e-books this time, both blind guy male-male erotica with supernatural elements.

Blind Passion
by Penny Brandon


Steamy, explicit homoerotica set in Australia. Adam is an elementary school teacher, blind since birth. Luke is a bit of rough trade who is assigned to be Adam's reader as community service following a crime he committed. Sparks fly immediately, but even though Adam is assured and competent in his everyday life, he's never been with a guy before. Luke has never had a problem picking up guys, but he can tell Adam wants more than just sex and he thinks Adam will hate him once he knows the truth about his criminal past.

Adam is an appealing character, and I really liked how well adjusted and confident he is. However, he also has a supernatural ability that partially compensates for his blindness: when he has a strong emotional connection with someone, he can see whatever images the other person imagines. Normally I really hate this kind of thing, because it's just an excuse for an author who doesn't know or want to write honestly about blindness. Here, it doesn't so much stand in for normal vision as serve to heighten the bond between Adam and Luke. It was more an annoyance than outright hateful.

The balance between sex scenes and character development is pretty good, although heavier on the sex than the plot, which is slight. Still, an enjoyable read, with some good devo moments.

The Sculptor's Muse
by Emily Veinglory


Karl is a rising star in the London art scene when he suddenly goes blind due to a disease. Clarius is his muse, a disembodied spirit charged with inspiring his art. But with his new blind-guy nonvisual senses, Karl notices Clarius, who breaks the heavenly rules by taking physical form and becoming his lover. What could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, and Karl also has a murderous ex-lover stalking him.

I found the devo factor on this one relatively low. The focus throughout the story is on Clarius, not Karl. His illness is never even named or described, just one example of lazy writing. While the premise is quite original, the secondary characters are all stereotypes, and even the two main characters seemed rather flat.

Both these books are extremely sexually explicit, so be warned.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In a Soldier's Arms

In a Soldier's Arms (Harlequin American Romance)

By Marin Thomas


Is book is okay but I felt a bit cheated at the focus of the story didn't feel like it was on the romance but rather that was incidental.

It is about a nurse whose mother died and her estranged grandmother writes to her to say she has some of her effects. We then follow Maggie's journey of discover her roots which her mother had told her very little about. So there is her relationship with her gran, her Gran's neighbours, her Gran's patients, the clan and them her relationship with the hero of the piece, who is suffering from PTSS and has lost his leg in battle.

He is far more interesting than the Maggie's character but I felt that he was kept at a distance through the story. Also it ended too suddenly for me. I like the romance books that have a final chapter where the romance issues have been resolved and we get an insight as to how they will be together.

The sex scenes were okay but not to many of them because they weren't together enough. They were explicit but in a poetic way.

It was a good read but just didn't hit the spot. We needed more Abram and less Maggie.

Abram is very insecure about his injury and it does border on annoying and doesn't ring true as he is so self possessed in all areas in his life except for his body image.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What Happened in Granite Creek

What Happened in Granite Creek

by Robyn Bradley


Koty is an unhappy housewife, married young to a man she thought she loved, but who turned into an abusive alcoholic. Jamie is a wounded Iraqi war vet, a quad amputee. Koty's husband Wayne, in a fit of misplaced patriotism, forces Koty to spend her afternoons "babysitting" Jamie, something neither of them want. But then Jamie and Koty fall for each other, which inevitably sets in motion majors changes for both of them, far beyond what anyone expected.

It's important to note that this is NOT a romance. It's a long meditation on Koty's and Wayne's marriage, and on their three young daughters. The central question is, how did Koty end up in this situation? For this reason, Jamie ends up not being a central character, so the dev factor was a bit low for me, except for the first few scenes of them together. Those are hot. Some of our PD members gave the author some advice, so the descriptions of Jamie's disability are realistic.

Despite the fact that this book isn't really written from a devotee point of view, it's still terrific. The characters are all so realistic and believable, and the quality of the writing is outstanding. It's a heartbreaking story from beginning to end, but utterly compelling. Recommended.

The first section of this book was originally published as the short story, "Support Our Troops."