Jess reviews Different for Girls by Jacquie Lawrence


Different for Girls by Jacquie Lawrence, is a fast-paced and vibrant read that will keep you turning the pages and gasping for more.

Featuring a smorgasbord of central characters, its hard to not feel completely engulfed by Lawrence’s world including bar owner Cam and drug user Fran, stay-at-home-mother Brooke and wandering-eyed Nicole, their GBFs and baby daddies Ivan and Claude, closeted Gemma, her gay beard Kirby and her suspicious girlfriend Jude. My own confinement of these characters to stereotypes is an unjust judgement of predominantly complex and relatable individuals realised in totality throughout the book. In fact, the connectivity of the character lineup adds to the realism, with the plot casually shifting in and out of situations chapter to chapter. The broad themes in Different for Girls include motherhood, friendship, adultery, coming out and more broadly, self understanding vs public persona. The sex scenes (yes there are some!) aren’t over the top or seeking attention in any way–they fit well within the created world and represent their characters respectively.

The lesbian characters (more then 6!) are multifaceted and beautifully different (instead of tired, repeated cookie-cutter replicates). These are the exact sort of characters I crave for across the broader lesbian literature; oft littered with predictably questioning married women wanting to be freed from their straight bedroom boredom. My own imagination ran rampant with suggested plot twists, and I was repeatedly surprised by the written outcome.

I found myself constantly and vividly envisioning Different for Girls as a full-length feature film and I was delighted to find that a web-series is underway for release soon.

I’d recommend Different for Girls as one of the best modern lesbian fiction reads, if only in that Lawrence treats each character with respect and honesty. As always, it is so satisfying to have a nourishing meal after many mediocre snacks.

Jess van Netten reviews Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton

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Poppy Jenkins is a refreshing lesbian romance with authentic characters and a wonderful sense of humour. Prior to reading this, I was at our local public library with my wife, whinging about how I wanted a whimsical Euro-romance in the style of Maeve Binchy or the more modern Cecilia Ahern. To my delight, I got all of the Welsh whimsy I could ever want in my reading of Poppy Jenkins.

Clare Ashton writes delightful, detailed characters throughout Poppy Jenkins. Both the protagonist, Poppy, and her childhood crush, Roslyn, are fleshed out (quite literally!) with strengths, weaknesses and character development and feel both realistic and romanticised. In fact, the physical descriptions craft a vivid, living mental image of moving body parts, the Welsh country side and small town communities. I felt all at once a spectator and part of the community as I laughed along with the local side stories that are littered throughout the novel. Poppy’s family, including her quirky mother, quick grandma and youthful little sister, interact naturally throughout the plot, adding depth and colour instead of just being placeholders.

I won’t speak much about the plot itself; girl meets childhood crush again later in life – will they spark up again? There is underlying current of chemistry between Poppy, the out lesbian, and Roslyn, the seemingly straight friend, that moves the story along at varying speeds. At times, it reaches fever pitch, with sexual innuendoes providing very funny conversations between the leads. I laughed out loud many a time, explaining little plot points to my wife as though talking about my friends.

I loved the lighthearted yet genuine plot and i devoured this book. It has been some time since I have read such a well written lesbian romance, that treats its characters as more then stereotypes or cliches. I have already sought out Clare Ashton’s other books and look forward to delving deep into her other worlds. Thank you Clare for your wonderful novel; for treating the lesbian leads as real characters and making the love scenes genuine. You have set a new standard for me to compare all other lesbian books to!

Jess van Netten reviews Carry the Sky by Kate Gray


If you enjoy being drawn into a story, so that every breathe you breath is in time with the characters, then Carry The Sky by Kate Gray is a must-read.

I was immediately entranced with the skilful beauty of Gray’s poetic sentence structure. Her freedom from traditional prose constraints allows the independent expressions to grab you by the heart and knock the emotional wind out of you time and time again.

The boarding school based narrative is told from varying perspectives, centring on new rowing coach Taylor Alta and physics teacher Jack Song. Taylor is grieving the loss of the woman she loved, while coming to terms with her school responsibilities. Jack is grappling with his Asian American heritage and its impact on his relationship with a student. Their independent journeys are connected through school expectations and student interactions.

While I’ve simplified the plot for this review, the intricacies of the character self discovery and development provide a feast for any hungry bibliophile.

A significant character, in its own rights, is rowing, described in luscious language usually reserved for the intimacy of a lover. I felt connected to the descriptions, as though they were my own thoughts and this embedded me deep in the narrative.

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Personally, I found Taylor’s voice to be more believable, whether because of my self-association with her character or the author’s semi-biographical input. I often found myself wanting to skip over Jack’s voice to get back to Taylor’s heartache. That in mind, the difference in character tone is a credit to Gray’s talent; they are entirely separate entities orbiting within the same universe.

Carry The Sky is hands down one of the best books I’ve read recently. It captured the intensity of school bullying without victimising the victim. It took hold of my spirit and wouldn’t release me until weeks after the last page.

For those who are similarly enthralled, you will find the interview at the end of the book an insightful read. You can also follow author Kate Gray’s blog.