A Review of Puppy, Car and Snow by Amy Lane

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The relationship between Ryan and Scott was so solid and real that I fell in love with them immediately. Amy Lane also portrayed the stresses that the holidays put on couples in such a funny and realistic manner that I could relate to all the family situations that Scott and Ryan encountered. Ryan’s mother dearest is the reason that there are so many letters to Ask Amy and Carolyn Hax at this time of the year. Awful and so based upon dragon mothers out there (you know who you are) that I was sending thanks that I only knew people like then but they were not actually part of my family.kl And yet Ryan’s commitment to Scott is deep and sees them through. A wonderful heart warming story for any time of the year, but especially great at Christmas.

I missed the first 2 Ryan and Scott stories and will now have to track them down. I loved this story and actually don’t feel that I missed anything by not reading the first two. So I am hoping that the first 2 just fill in some blanks. I also loved their poodle monster, Blitzkrieg. So true love, snow, dog and Christmas. What’s not to love, especially in the hands of Amy Lane.

Here is the blurb from Dreamspinner Press:

Ryan’s entire life changed the night Scott surprised him in a bathroom at a party. Now Ryan’s soulless climb up the corporate ladder has stalled—but his quality life has become a whirlwind of laughter, joy and surprises, thanks to Scotty’s playful, gentle heart.

After three years together, they’re going to Ryan’s parents’ cabin to spend Christmas. Snowed in by the weather and locked under the icy glare of his mother’s disapproval, can Ryan show he has found the most profound happiness in the simplest of things?

Calvin’s Cowboy by Drew Hunt – A Review

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a free read at All Romance over the holidays so I jumped at a chance at a new author (and free book of course). The publisher was also new to me JMS Press that publishes ya fiction among other works.

The story is about Calvin’s return to the small dusty Texas town of his birth to sell his parents home now that they have retired to Florida. Parish Creek is a small town on the way down and out due to poor economic times. Stores are closed or getting ready to go out of business. It seems peopled by the bitter, close-minded and rigid.

Calvin had long escaped to success and a happy life in New York City. And now he was back to close up his parents estate. He is full of bad memories of harassment and bullying as a teen in his school years. He hires Brock (John Brockwell), a jock and a member of the group that bullied him Brock turns out to be closeted and ashamed now of his behavior in school. He is deeply in debt, bitter about his failure as the golden boy and a single dad.

So far so good. All the above seems plausible. Then the train goes off the track. Calvin makes Brock his fix-it project. Not in those words but he decides to take charge and correct what is wrong with Brock’s life. Why he would do that to someone he hated in school is never addressed in a way that makes sense.That’s not my only problem with this book. It’s that Brock lets him with little or no objections. The rest of the book deals with Calvin moving himself into the lives of Brock and his teenage son. Brock’s son demonstrates more maturity than his adult father does. Brock lets the town people take advantage of him constantly and there is not an area where low self esteem hasn’t had an effect on his life. But the book doesn’t address this any more than it delves into the abuse Calvin suffered constantly while in school (where where his parents?) Brock’s glory days were high school sports and he is pushing his son into playing whether he cares to or not. But even that conflict is not addressed here and simply disappears like all the other problems that are presented here. The conflicts of the past and present pop up only to dissipate without any real resolution.

I wish Drew Hunt had really explored some of the themes he brought up in the beginning of the book and left the second half as a sequel. IMO, Brock needed time to grow up emotionally but that never seems to happen. A nice read that could have been so much more. There are so many nice small bits here that you can see the author’s talent. I kept waiting for the other foot to drop so to speak but the story just up and hopped away one legged. So three stars here.

http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2515670-melaniem54msn-com”>View all my reviews</a>

Here is the blurb from JMS Press: Calvin Hamilton reluctantly returns to his home town of Parrish Creek, Texas, to sell his parents’ house. Finding the place in need of repair he hires John “Brock” Brockwell to renovate the house before putting it on the market. Brock bares a passing resemblance to Gary Cooper, especially as he often wears western clothing. Calvin has always had a weakness for cowboys.

Time has reversed the two men’s fortunes. In high school Brock was the big man on campus, his popularity allowing him to hide his true nature. Calvin was a nerd, bullied by most of the jocks for being perceived as gay. Now Calvin is a successful New York advertising executive, and Brock is a divorced father with a teenage son who faces financial ruin, unable to pay his late father’s hospital bills.

Can Calvin put past bitterness behind him and help the cowboy with whom he is rapidly falling in love? Will the deeply closeted Brock be able to admit he has feelings for Calvin? Or will pride, fear, distance, and the past prevent them from building a future together?

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule!

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Ahead is a night of A Christmas Carol (1938 version), A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood, White Christmas, Sound Of Music and more.  Preparations are done, the house almost cleaned and the back sore.

 

The dogs have been brushed, given treats of cheese, and are curled up in or around the bed.  The foxes are quiet and the Christmas lights are on, blinking merrily away awaiting Father Christmas.

 

Carols are playing and the Christmas tree beautiful and green. So Merry Christmas one and all.  And to all a good night.

With A Kiss by Kim Dare Review

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Blurb from Resplendence Publishing: “When Liam Bates volunteered to visit lonely patients at his local hospital, he expected them to be able to talk back when he chatted to them. But, when he’s assigned to visit a comatose man, he soon finds himself spilling out his whole life story in an effort to fill the silence. It’s not long before the peace and comfort he finds in the man’s hospital room becomes Liam’s refuge from an increasingly hostile world.

Vampire Marcus Corrigan has been trapped inside his paralysed body for over three years, unable to communicate with anyone. The chatty young man who visits Marcus quickly captivates him, and Liam’s softly spoken words soon have him determined to rescue the boy from his current life, but, unable to move a muscle, all Marcus can actually do is lay there and listen.

There’s only one thing that can wake up Marcus. There’s only one thing that can save Liam’s sanity. Everything is about to change for them both, and it will change with a kiss.”

Please note: This story centres around a relationship that incorporates elements of BDSM. It also includes references to an entirely separate relationship which contains violent and abusive behaviour, perpetrated by a secondary character.

 

My Review:  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars

This was the first book I have bought by Kim Dare and I did it on the recommendations of friends of mine. I thought this was a interesting take on the Cinderella story in the it starts with the ramifications of the kiss – a vampire wakes up.

The story also deals with physical abuse, and its effects on its victims both physical and psychological. As others have said, the abuse mostly takes place out of sight, so only the after affects are shown. She leaves most of what occurred to the reader’s imagination, which is what I prefer. The characters of Marcus, the vampire and Liam, the human abuse victim, are well done and multi-layered. I wish I had gotten more of the history of vampires in society in her universe. The tidbits like vampire babies being raised by a human couple as the norm, vampire rules for feeding etc, were tantalizing and left me with a mere idea of the social norms of her universe. If you are going to build a universe, I would like to know more about it.

I was not aware until I read her bio that she has written more than 50 books containing BDSM in them no matter the universe. But the D/s here is mild and the leather play mild as well. So I feel that this should not be a barrier to buying this book (it wasn’t for me; I do not normally purchase books with this content, just not my thing).

A very well done book and I did enjoy it. I wish I had gotten a little more feel of the future for them, but the ending was still very satisfactory.

A Review of Border Roads by Sarah Black

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This was both an amazing book and a hard read. It is also especially timely given that the war in Iraq is just now over and troops are coming home. Plus we still have so many men and women fighting in Afghanistan. This is, above all, a story of 4 members of a Marine platoon in Iraq. Half of the men are het and the other 2 are gay. It takes place briefly at the end of their tour and the rest of the book concerns their lives once they get home. These are not men that came home and seamlessly melded back into society, in fact I am not sure anyone who has served can ever do that. Perhaps some just put on better fronts than others. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the Marines as well as including the pov of a young reporter and illegal alien. In other hands that could have become confusing and off putting. But once again, Sarah Black demonstrated her knowledge and love of those in pain, those who served, and those so easily tossed away by society. She had me in tears for than once.

The men return from a hard desert overseas to the heat and unforgiving landscape of the border lands of the Southwest. You can almost feel the heat beating down on you and the dust start to coat your skin as you delve into the story. Those who people this land are equally hard and hard up. From the constant tension of the border patrol looking for drug smugglers as well as “walkers” (illegals) to the desolation and poverty of a Indian reservation, it is all captured here. The people here are memorable and heartbreaking.

One of the issues I hear when reading blogs or reviews is the subject of het sex in a book advertised as m/m. Some won’t read a book if het sex is included, sometimes they aren’t even reviewed, as the feeling is that het sex does not belong in a m/m romance. Perhaps. But while this book does include sex of both the gay and straight variety, it needs to because of the sexual makeup of the Marines featured here. To include one and not the other would do a disservice to those she is depicting. One hetero relationship is the salvation of one of the Marines and is central to his story as much as the relationship of the two gay Marines. Please don’t let this deter you from reading this book.

If you pick up this book looking for your typical m/m romance you will be disappointed. It is the story of four Devil Dogs and the friends and family around them. There is romantic love here but it is not for the fainthearted. It is hard won, stressful, deep love. Love for their country, of each other, their mates…..all that is complex, excruciating, and worthwhile. And that is how I feel about this book. Drained but finally rewarded at the end.   I gave this 5 stars.

Border Roads from Loose id published in 2007: Here is the blurb  from Loose id:

Genre: LGBT Erotic ContemporaryThe road home from Iraq leads to America’s Borderlands, harsh desert lands ruled over by smugglers and drug runners. Marines cannot help but serve, standing tall in dangerous lands to protect the people and the country they love.Clayton and Luke walk the border roads together, trying to recapture a love that was almost destroyed by pride and anger. Chris finds love and salvation with a lost girl who needs a savior, and Gary comes home to find a world he does not understand, one changed beyond his recognition.The bonds of love and brotherhood, forged on the battlefields of Iraq, will be sorely tested in the Borderlands.Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices, violence

A Review of Half Pass by Astrid Amara

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review I am a fan of Astrid Amara’s books and this is no exception. What a pleasure to read a book set in the equestrian world of dressage barns and boarders by someone who knows horses and the politics of boarding. She has all the details exactly right, from the quirks of various horses to the drama of the boarders. Then on top of that she has created wonderful characters to populate that world of Serenity Stables in the Pacific Northwest. complete with renown trainer, Estevan Souza.

Paul King has just inherited the above mentioned stable from his beloved Aunt Beth at just the time in his life where he has been dumped by his lover and also out of a job (his lover was also his boss). Now he has to contend with a stable losing money, a motley crew of boarders and barn help as well as a past accident that has left him with a fear of horses. Now add a mystery into the brew, stir, and you have a great story that you won’t want to put down until it is finished. Then you want it to go on because the people in these pages and the horses have come to mean something to you.

I hope that she revisits this world as I would love to see how the horses, people and Serenity Stables are doing in the future.

Of Holidays, Birthdays and Celebrations

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Here it is the 18th of December and Christmas is but a few days away.  This hardly seems possible as I clearly remember it being Thanksgiving only yesterday and cooking up a storm for dinner at the farm with the family.  Now it’s Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner.  That means it is also my father’s birthday.  He was born on  December 31st.  And every year he tells us how happy he is that so many people celebrate with him.

I love that thought but it does make me think of my father growing up without a real birthday celebration of his own, something he doesn’t dwell on.  It was a different time in the 30’s in a small town in Georgia.  Celebrations, if any, were smaller in scale and maybe one special present or two were given out to the birthday boy who happened to be born New Year’s Eve.

So different from the birthday celebrations my parents threw for my sister and me as we were growing up, full of streamers, cakes, party hats and wrapped boxes.

What do children born on the holidays feel about that?  Do they feel as though all are celebrating with them or do they feel left out?  No special day just for them to celebrate the fact that they were born and have made a difference in the lives around them.  One young girl wanted to change the date of  her birth.  This is her story.

Her name was Anne Ide.  She was born December 25th in 1876 in St. Lawrence.  Her father went to the island of Samoa when she was 15 and there met Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island.  The two men became good friends.  Anne’s father happened to mention to the author that his daughter had never had a real birthday because of the date she  was born. This is how Robert Louis Stevenson fixed that.  He wrote up a document formally deeding over to Anne his birthday instead. It said

“I, Robert Louis  Stevenson, …have attained an age when, O, we never mention it, and…have no further use for a birthday of any description…do hereby transfer to…(Miss) A. H. Ide, all and whole my rights and privileges in the 13th day of November, formerly my birthday, and ,now, hereby, henceforth the birthday of said A(nnie). H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise, and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiments, eating of rich meats, and receipts of gifts, compliments and copies of verse according to the manner of our ancestors.”

What a joyous idea and gift for the young lady who wrote back and thanked him.  She did wonder, however, what he would do without a birthday?  Would he cease to age while she, having 2 birthdays a year, would age twice as fast?  Her charming letter brought another reply from the author.  He said that she only had 1 birthday now and that was in November 13th.  She was now one month and 12 days younger than she had been.  And as for himself?  Perhaps he would age no more or “come to pieces….at a moment’s notice…”. At any rate he did not regret giving her his birthday to a girl who had never had one. (www.vermontstory.org).

What would my father think if someone had offered him a new birthday, I wonder.  Perhaps I will remember to ask him as the family and the rest of the world are celebrating on New Year’s Eve.  I will also raise a glass to Robert Louis Stevenson and Anne Ide…for a remarkable story of kindness and friendship.  I hope I remember them on her birthday….November 13th.

Since most of us are busy getting food reading for all the Holiday celebrations, I thought I would include one I just made this week. It was so good, I am throwing into the holiday dinner rotation.  It looks so pretty and is so delicious, even the next day. Enjoy.

Flank Steak Roulade Ingredients:

2 red bell peppers, stemmed, halved lengthwise and seeded
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and light-green parts only, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 2 1/4-to-2 1/2-pound flank steak, trimmed
1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese (about 8 slices)
For the Crust:

3/4 cup breadcrumbs
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons drained horseradish
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Prepare the stuffing for the steak: Preheat the broiler and place the peppers cut-side down on a foil-lined broiler pan. Broil until the skin is charred, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel the peppers with your fingers or a paring knife. If necessary, lightly rinse to remove any remaining skin and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Gently pound the steak with the flat side of a mallet or heavy skillet until 1/4 inch thick. Lay out on a cutting board with the long side facing you and season with salt and pepper. Place the roasted peppers evenly over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with the cheese slices, then the leek mixture. Roll the meat away from you into a tight cylinder, tucking in the filling as you roll.

Make the crust: Mix the breadcrumbs, rosemary, parsley, horseradish, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a medium bowl until moistened. Brush the steak roll with a bit of olive oil and press the breadcrumb mixture over the top and sides. Tie the roll with twine in three or four places, making sure it’s not too tight (you want the crust to stay intact).

Place the steak roll on a rack in a roasting pan and roast until the crust is golden and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 130 degrees for medium-rare, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 15 minutes. Carefully cut off the twine, then slice the roll crosswise into 1-inch pieces.

A Memorable Passing – Christopher Hitchens April 13, 1949 to Dec. 15th, 2011

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A remarkable voice was silenced yesterday after a long illness.  Whether you agreed with him  (“the greatest living essayist in the English language” – Christopher Buckley)or thought him to be  a “lying, self-serving, fat-assed, chain-smoking, drunken, opportunistic and cynical”( Alexander Cockburn), he was never boring, always thought provoking, prodding you out of your compliancy and utter certainty of things both sublime and mundane.

Here is a list of compelling quotes assembled by CBS News today:

“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”

“By trying to adjust to the findings that it once tried so viciously to ban and repress, religion has only succeeded in restating the same questions that undermined it in earlier epochs. What kind of designer or creator is so wasteful and capricious and approximate? What kind of designer or creator is so cruel and indifferent? And—most of all—what kind of designer or creator only chooses to “reveal” himself to semi-stupefied peasants in desert regions?” The Portable Atheist

“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.” God Is Not Great

“What happens to the faith healer and the shaman when any poor citizen can see the full effect of drugs or surgeries, administered without ceremonies or mystifications? Roughly the same thing as happens to the rainmaker when the climatologist turns up, or to the diviner from the heavens when schoolteachers get hold of elementary telescopes.” God Is Not Great

“Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did.” God Is Not Great

“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilization, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can’t prove it, but you can’t disprove it either.” God Is Not Great

“Every day, the New York Times carries a motto in a box on its front page. “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” it says. It’s been saying it for decades, day in and day out. I imagine most readers of the canonical sheet have long ceased to notice this bannered and flaunted symbol of its mental furniture. I myself check every day to make sure that the bright, smug, pompous, idiotic claim is still there. Then I check to make sure that it still irritates me. If I can still exclaim, under my breath, why do they insult me and what do they take me for and what the hell is it supposed to mean unless it’s as obviously complacent and conceited and censorious as it seems to be, then at least I know I still have a pulse. You may wish to choose a more rigorous mental workout but I credit this daily infusion of annoyance with extending my lifespan.” Letters to a Young Contrarian

“I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information.” Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays

He did not believe in God, or Heaven, or Hell.  So I end this fittingly with a poem from Gene Weingarten, essayist and humorist of The Washington Post

Christopher Hitchens ceases to be;

A remarkable life he led.

He isn’t in heaven; he isn’t in hell-

He is simply, emphatically, dead.

 

He would have loved that.  Hitch, you will be missed.  The world is a much duller place without you.

 

Review of The Miracle of the Bellskis by Astrid Amara

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Too much family.too little Egg Nog.

It’s been three years since Seth Bellski forced his boyfriend and ex-boss Lars Varga out of the closet. Since then, Seth has passed the bar and become an attorney, and Lars has started his own firm. Their sex life has gotten steamier, and everything seems perfect between them. Until the holidays arrive.

It’s bad enough that Seth’s mother and father want them over every single night of Hanukkah. And that Lars’s less-than-tolerant parents are sleeping in the room next door for the duration of Christmas, putting the kibosh on their kink. They also end up as the attorneys representing opposing sides in a divorce case, one which quickly proves to be much more than it seems.

That blurb from Loose id doesn’t begin to show how wonderful this book is.

“Miracle of the Bellskis (Bellskis, #2)
My rating:5 of 5 stars
I loved this. What a wonderful surprise to see this release. I loved the first book in the series, Carol of the Bellskis from Astrid Amara that was released last year. So this was a joyful present this December. This sequel finds partners Seth Bellski and Lars Varga happily together and getting ready for the holidays, Hanukkah and Christmas. For the first time, this will include Lars’ family, who is still not comfortable with the idea of their son being gay and his meeting live-in lover. Plus Seth’s loving and loud Bellski family has decided to migrate west and join them in Seattle-permanently.

The ensuing holiday stress brings much snark, cooking and loud arguments and of course love. Astrid Amara does this so well that when I finish one book I immediately want the next one to know what happens to her characters. These are real people with flaws who argue, laugh, make love and get stressed out. I love every minute I spend with them. And that includes Ruthie and Herman Bellski, the rest of their brood. I even warmed up to the Vargas along with Seth as the book drew to a close. It is also great to have a book that includes Hanukkah rituals as much as Christmas in the story, Seth is Jewish after all.

So definitely put this on your TBR stack, right near the top. Include the first book, Carol of the Bellskis too. It’s a win win for you. And then you will be like me, hoping that the next holiday season, finds another gift from Santa and Astrid, another Hanukkah spent with Seth and Lars and all their families.

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Amidst Hanukkah candles, Christmas lights, burned dinners and delayed court appointments, Lars and Seth’s relationship is going to need a miracle to survive the ultimate holiday challenge of too much family.

A Review for All He Needs by Simone Anderson

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I am feeling conflicted about this book. It was nice. I didn’t hate it or even dislike it. I thought that the story outline was good but nothing out of the box. That ok because the same story plot in different hands can become a story that lives outside its limitations and shines. Not here. There was no huge flaws that presented themselves. So why didn’t I give it a higher rating. I think that it all comes down to simple feeling. I felt flat after reading it. No highs, no lows, nothing. I didn’t really care what happened to the characters. And that is because I didn’t believe in them.

 

Chase Anderson is a war photographer. But you never really believe that. He seems too shallow and glossy to be an adrenaline junkie who thrives in being where the action is. He has a movie star scar from the Middle East, a place “he almost didn’t come back from”. Nope. I don’t buy it. Its as though his job was picked out of a bowl with job titles in it and photographer popped up. No realistic background, no interesting character flaws, none of the idiosyncrasies that goes hand in hand with a driven character. He might as well be dishing out ice cream. (For a believable photographer, go read Sarah Black’s Sockeye Love. Now there’s a photographer to believe in.)

 

Same goes for Eric Zimmerman who has been in love with Chase Anderson since they were in college and is a hotshot software somethingorother. You know, those nebulous software genius’ who have some general job in software somewhere. They are legion in today’s stories. Again, nuh uh. Don’t think so. Then there is the mean guy partner who doesn’t want a child, a dead sister you don’t get a feeling for and an adorable baby in the NICU. So the few characters here that revolve around the main characters are just as vague and indeterminate as Chase and Eric. Bland backs up bland.

 

My recommendation is to skip this. Pickup Sockeye Love by Sarah Black or A LIe I Can Live With by Eden Winters. A Lie I Can LIve With gives you a real, wonderful, schlubby tech guy-a software guy who is a gamer and believable and a lovely story.

 

OK not so conflicted after all.