Danielle Ferriola reviews The Breaking Point by Catrina Wolfe


Unable to escape the incessant bullying Jodi faces at school and online, she feels taking her life is the only way out. Jodi’s mother finds her in the nick of time but the damage is already done. The color that once illuminated Jodi is now a seemingly permanent gray. Jodi’s parents decide moving to a new town would be best for Jodi. Their real estate agent, Amy, takes a particular interest in Jodi’s condition and is determined to help her find happiness again. Amy convinces her wife Carsen to spend time with Jodi once a week and share her experiences growing up as she was too a target of bullying at school.

There are a number of themes and unfortunate realities throughout Catrina Wolfe’s The Breaking Point that many children and teenagers who identify as non-heterosexual encounter in their daily lives. Carsen was a foster child and often feared that her foster parents would kick her out if they discovered she is a lesbian. For many foster children who have lived in numerous homes and struggled with feeling loved, being LGBTQ on top of the constant instability of the home environment can be difficult to manage. Carsen was lucky to have supportive teachers, coaches, and a principal at her high school so the bullies were appropriately reprimanded. Unfortunately, not all schools have staff that intervenes in bullying situations. In Jodi’s case, she did not feel comfortable approaching the principal as he did nothing in the past to protect her against the abusive behavior of her peers. Schools are supposed to be safe environments for children to learn and thrive. Since the rise of social media, people are now taking their insulting words and actions to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There is no place to flee from harassment. Reading The Breaking Point is an important reminder to academic institutions to include discussions about diverse sexual orientation in their lessons to children. By ignoring LGBT lifestyles, teachers (whether intentional or not) reinforce the notion that anyone other than straight is not normal. A lot of bullying could be prevented if schools took a proactive stance in educating students that there is more than one way to love.

I love that Wolfe alternated narratives between Jodi, Carsen, and Amy.  I appreciate seeing how each character perceives a situation to be and how they are affected by one another’s stories. There is a bond that developed between Carsen and Jodi that proved to be a strong factor in Jodi’s recovery. I found myself in tears at the end of book, as Jodi ultimately carried through with her plans. The Breaking Point is an emotional read that is relevant to anyone who is having or had a difficult time growing up. No one should ever be subjected to such awful bullying and feel like there is no one that cares about them. I encourage anyone who reads this and is having suicidal thoughts or knows someone who might be struggling to reach out to friends, family, teachers, or suicide prevention hotlines (List of hotlines around the world: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html).  Everyone’s life is worth it.

Danielle reviews Owning Regina: Diary of My Unexpected Passion for Another Woman by Lorelei Elstrom


Owning Regina:Diary of My Unexpected Passion for Another Woman by Lorelei Elstrom is a woman-loving-woman’s answer to E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Written in diary format, Meg Curtis gives us an up close and personal taste of exploring bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism (BDSM) for the first time. Describing her intense erotic inclination towards the world of dominance and submission, we learn that for Meg, her sexuality is very complex. When realizing she has developed a sincere interest for a woman, having always been with men, she is forced to rethink her sexual orientation. Meg initially struggles with the idea she may be something other than heterosexual, often in conflict with her perception of her future self and her newfound lust. Eventually disregarding the pressure to label herself, Meg is extremely satisfied to indulge in kinky behaviors with another person.

Meg Curtis, 26, meets Regina Baker, 38, at a local yoga class in San Francisco, California and instantly a connection sparks. The two women bond over Meg’s boot fetish and shortly thereafter, Regina senses there may be something worth trying with one another. Elstrom does a thorough job at introducing BDSM and establishing clear boundaries for the role-playing games shared between Meg and Regina. The women often check in with one another outside of the realm of the game to ensure they are on the same page. Adding more rules to maintain a distinction between emotions felt in real life and the harsh dialogue used in the game helps their relationship stay clear of confusion and reinforces consent.

Often BDSM is perceived by society as dirty, abusive, weird, and/or perverted, with a very narrow selection of stereotypical images, such as a woman wearing a latex or leather suit whipping a man’s behind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with BDSM if all of the acts between two (or more) partners are consensual, rooted in trust, and boundaries are respected. Anyone can be attracted to S&M regardless of their experiences. Further, engaging in such behavior allows agreeing adults to explore curiosities and taboo manners in a safe environment. Generally speaking, those who are attracted to BDSM would never intentionally hurt someone outside of the game mode; only in character would they think about participating in such seemingly torturous acts.

All in all, Owning Regina is a strikingly sexy book that I recommend to anyone curious about BDSM. Owning Regina can easily be devoured in one sitting —as the days in Meg’s life go on, there is an urgency for more and Elstrom does not hold back with her delivery. Having taken my first bite into a BDSM fiction featuring two female lovers has opened my mind to endless possibilities outside the lines of a vanilla romance. Aside from the swift declaration of love in a short passage of time (I often find these storylines unrealistic and stereotypical), I found Owning Regina to be a very fun read!

Danielle Ferriola reviews Hood by Emma Donoghue


Hood is not your light reading on the beach, rather a long sitting in bed with a box of tissues and a warm blanket. Emma Donoghue writes a tragically beautiful story about two women who shared a special kind of love –a love that many might not agree with. Pen O’Grady and Cara Wall have spent well over a decade together in conservative Dublin, Ireland, their love expressed only behind closed doors. Cara enjoyed pursuing men and women outside of her relationship with Pen; on one particular trip, she never made it back home due to a fatal car accident. Pen got the painful news on a Sunday evening while at home with Cara’s father in 1992. Pen is left numb as she cannot express her true reactions in the public or to family members due to their secret relationship and society’s disapproval of homosexuality.

Throughout the span of one week, we follow Pen as she tries to cope with the passing of her long-time lover. Donoghue paints an in depth picture of deep loss and profound realizations intertwined with moments of simple comedic relief. Flashbacks of their times together, both the wonderful memories and numerous breakups, help us understand the complexities of Pen and Cara’s romance. Although Pen and Cara had an agreement that they were not monogamous, Pen was always faithful to Cara, at least in the physical sense. I think Pen would have preferred their relationship to be more contained; however, her unyielding love for Cara made their arrangement more bearable.

I am glad that I embraced Hood with an open mind and undivided attention. The story is quite relatable, not only in the aspect of losing a loved one whether it’d be due to a relationship coming to an end or in unforeseeable circumstances, but also dealing with the fear of people not accepting your sexuality. Quite often that fear that keeps us in the closet to shelter us from negative reactions does just the opposite. We become lonelier and find it hard to develop close relationships if we are not fully honest with who we are. Pen is a prime example of this phenomenon as she could not call her mother on the phone following Cara’s passing and share her heartbreak with her.

One particular thought by Pen struck me as unfair in that if Cara was her husband, she would have been given two weeks off of work to grieve the loss of her partner. Regrettably, we live in a heteronormative world; it is heartbreakingly unjust that the love of two women is not appreciated in the same light by many individuals. Pen’s place of work, an Irish convent school for teenagers, upholds traditional views of the Catholic religion and perhaps she would have lost her teaching position if she had revealed her true identity. It is sad that she could not have more time to deal with her loss.

Stories revolving around the death of a loved one gone before their time remind us to treasure our lives and appreciate the moments we share with others. I wonder if Cara and Pen knew their time would be limited with one another, if they would have been open with their family about their partnership. Towards the end of Pen’s difficult week, we left on a hopeful note that things might be okay.

Hood is my second read by Emma Donoghue. I read Room a couple years ago and it remains one of my favorite books to this day. Donoghue has this incredible gift of holding the readers’ heart hostage as we immerse ourselves inside the intricate minds of her characters.

Danielle reviews After the Night by Rachel Dax


With images of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black fresh in mind, I was immediately drawn to After the Night by Rachel Dax (I admit I mainly associated the two because of lesbians and a women’s prison). Set in Berkshire, England in 1960, Dax takes us to Deepdown women’s prison where Leah Webster begins working as a nurse. It is within her first week at the institution where she meets a woman who forever changes her life.

Upon entering the facility, she is trained by Jean MacFarlane, the Chief Officer of prisoner welfare and supervisor of both the hospital and psychiatric ward. Leah has mixed feelings of her new boss ranging from intimidation, admiration, disgust to something warm, but unfamiliar. In less than a week’s time, Leah’s apparent close-mindedness of homosexuality takes an exciting yet cliché turn to realizing she might be a lesbian herself. Though Dax delivers much detail of every emotion and interaction from Leah and Jean’s perspective, the romance seems to be moving at a hasty rate. It is frustrating that the women hardly know one another but are quick to say the three words one can never take back.

I admit I initially did not care for Leah’s personality. She bothered me with her naivety and by succumbing to public opinion at times. The romance also seemed inevitable and predictable. I would have taken their relationship more seriously had there been more time, perhaps spanning over a few months at least, before taking big steps in their commitment of one another.

It was not until I was a third into the book that I really got excited about the material I was reading. Once I allowed myself to be absorbed into the story, it was hard to put the book down. Despite my few grievances, the more I read, the more interested I became in wanting to know what will happen when Leah’s family finds out she is not who they think she is. I was anxious to know how the women will adjust to the other’s reactions and what their ultimate “labeling” decision would be. I appreciated all of the prison side-happenings Dax included, as they added to development of the protagonists’ relationship.

The prison provides a fascinating setting for the characters to develop as many instances give us insight into why Leah and Jean are afraid to admit their true selves. Though women’s prisons are an easy environment for women, both those naturally drawn to the same sex and those curious, to get involved with one another, there is still much hostility towards lesbians. This is observed through staff’s behavior, inmate conversations, and bullying. Granted many places around the world are becoming more open about homosexuality in today’s world, it proved appropriate to include negative societal views to allow the story more integrity.

If you are looking for a newly lesbian romance, characters dealing with hardships and stereotypes, and a prison atmosphere, I recommend reading After the Night by Rachel Dax.

Reviewed by Danielle Ferriola, March 10, 2014