A Wintery Mix, Favorite Childhood Books, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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We are expecting a wintery mix here in Maryland, rain, sleet, ice and snow all mixing together to create an equal mixture of beauty and angst.  Trees with limbs that glisten like diamonds to go along with downed power lines and people lost in the cold.  Joy mixed in with a little quiet reflection, softened by the grey skies of winter and clouds laden with snow.

Days like this bring back memories of winters past and winter stories I loved reading to my daughter and the children later at the nature The Winter Bear book Covercenter.  Stories like  The Winter Bear by Ruth Craft and Robert Frost’s Stopping Through The Woods On A Snowy Evening were a perfect way to convey the feelings and emotions brought on by the first snow or a cold, blustery day in winter.

The Winter Bear especially is still so close to my heart.  It’s simple story and the illustrations that hark back to the style of the original Winnie the Pooh never fail to move me.  A lost stuff bear is tangled up in a shrub looking worn , a little dirty and so very alone.  Its winter and the landscape is cold and barren.  Then a small group of children, siblings, finds the bear, gets him down and takes him home where they clean him up, Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snow Eveningdress in warmly and give that little bear a home with them.  It’s a spare, elegant and concise little story and yet it is so moving that it can still bring tears to my eyes as that last page as the children and little bear are snug  and warm in a little living room with the fire blazing and snow falling outside.  It was first published in 1976 and is hard to find.  But once found and added to your bookshelf, it will become a family treasure to bring out generation after generation no matter your religion or location.  Much like the other book that I love so well, Robert Frost’s Stopping Through the Woods on a Snowy Evening.  The illustrations are in black and white, with a splash of red in places, just glorious and perfect for this poem.  Children and adults alike love looking at them, watching the sleigh travel through town and into the woods with a surprise for the animals that live there.  And then there are those words….such memorable, wonderful words.  The last stanza is the best known..”.The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.”  I have the entire short poem  at the end of the post today.  But those words and those illustrations together paint a memory portrait that draws adults and children into those woods time and again, a magic that is never lost.  Pick those books up and add them to your holiday collection.

Now I have a very special week ahead starting with a book that made my Best of 2013 within the first ten pages.  That’s when I started sobbing copious tears, a phrase perfect for the floodgate that opened upon reading Amy Lane’s latest book, Christmas Kitsch. Never have I been so moved by a character that quickly had me forgetting he wasn’t real.  Rusty, a wounded, glorious man child, whose open heart and mind is so transcendent that his story pulled me in not to release me until 3am, red eyed, snotty, and happy beyond belief that I had met him.  Amy Lane is running a contest and her author spotlight is Monday with my review of Christmas Kitsch is on Tuesday.  Thursday is a 4 book, 4 author Boys In the Band Blog Tour (and contest).  And Friday and Saturday…well if you have been reading the Pulp Friction authors and their combined series (City Knight, Triple Threat, Wicked’s Ways and Chances Are) then you are in for another treat.  The last book in all their series is a combined effort.  Odd Man Out wraps up all the stories of all the characters and is written by all 4 authors.  They have written a guest blog for Friday to talk about the last book and what’s coming in 2014 for Pulp Friction.  My review of Odd Man Out follows on Saturday.  And there is an amazing giveaway associated with this Pulp Friction Season Finale as well.  What a week ahead!!!!  Don’t miss out on a day of it!

Monday, Dec. 9:    Amy Lane’s Christmas Kitsch Blog Tour, Contest and Author Spotlight

Tuesday, Dec. 10:  Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

Wed., Dec. 11:          Tag Team: Fais Do Do by BA Tortuga

Thurs., Dec. 12:       Boys In The Band Blog Tour and Contest, Authors  L.A. Witt, Paula Coots, Rowan Speedwell, and Cecilia Tan

Friday, Dec. 13:       Pulp Friction Author Blog, Contest and Odd Man Out release

Sat., Dec. 14:             Odd Man Out by Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows, TE Webb, and Laura Harner, a Pulp Friction 2013 finale!

Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Review: Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Welcome Brother coverArts student Kyler Morris has heard all about The Nova Britannia Brotherhood at college.  Unlike the other fraternities, The Nova Britannia Brotherhood works for charities and supports the college clubs and athletics that none of the other Greek organizations do, like fencing, the Chess Club ,the Knitting Club and more.  But the real reason Kyler applies for membership is that the members of the Nova Britannia Brotherhood are some of the most well connected people in every known industry.  Once a member graduates, he is assured of a job in the profession of his choice.  But first Kyler has to get accepted and that means passing the inspection of the most idolized and important man in the fraternity, Nova Britannia Brotherhood President Hunter Kingsley.

Once accepted Kyler finds out that Hunter isn’t as intimidating as he thought.  In fact, Hunter takes Tyler as his protege and a relationship is formed.  But both young men are hiding secrets.  Kyler is gay and crushing heavily on Hunter.  Hunter too has a hidden agenda, one he has pursued for several years.  When all the secrets come out in the open, will Kyler, Hunter and the Nova Britannia Brotherhood survive?

Welcome, Brother is the fifth book in the College Fun and Gays series by Erica Pike and one I enjoyed immensely.  I have read most of the books in this series and found them generally to be an uneven lot.  But like the stories I liked best, These Walls Have Ears and Grade-A-Sex Deal, these story has memorable characters and a great plot.

The Nova Britannia Brotherhood is unlike the other Greek fraternities in that it is more inclined toward social good and charities than bongs and beer parties or at least that was its origin.  There was an interval where a certain faction dismissed it founding mission and guidelines and tarnished its reputation.  But under the leadership of Hunter Kingsley, the organization has returned to its illustrious status and moving forward with new goals and membership.  Pike gives the reader a neat twist on the typical college fraternity story while still holding on to the elements that draw a reader in.  I liked her setting and thought her descriptions really brought the college and Brotherhood alive for us.

Placed in this setting is a trio of likable and endearing characters.  Kyler Morris, Hunter Kingsley, and Liu Wong, a trio of vulnerability and intelligence. While the main characters involved in a romance are Kyler and Hunter, Liu adds a lively and ultimately pain filled note to the story.  Gay bashing figures strongly in this story as does its impact upon its victim.  Pike treats this issue with intelligence and sensitivity, just a great job. Pike has made all three young students not only realistic but worthy of our empathy and affection.  Hunter Kingsley especially could have and initially does come off as too good to be true.  But there are hidden depths and angst to Hunter that are slowly revealed as the story moves forward.  Kyler is adorably young and impressionable.  And Liu is a friend anyone would be proud to have.  We like them and therefore, care greatly about their future.

If there is to be a quibble, it deals with the ending.    It seems to be missing a chapter or two, an epilogue at the very least.  For me, it just seems it  ends without a clear resolution or additional information.  And these are characters that deserve that and so much more.  If this story came with a more polished and complete ending, it would have garnered a 5 star rating.  But that quibble aside, I loved these characters and this story.  I recommend it as a quick and delightful read.

The books in this series can be read as stand alone stories. Books in the College Fun and Gays series are as follows:

Hot Hands (College Fun and Gays, # 1)

Grade-A-Sex Deal (College Fun and Gays, #2)

The Walls Have Ears (College Fun and Gays, #3)

Little Stalker (College Fun and Gays #4)

Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5)

Cold Hands (College Fun and Gays, #6)

College Fun and Gays: Anthology One

Book Details:

ebook, Second Edition, 35 pages

Published July 12th 2013 by Ice Cave Publishing (first published April 27th 2013)
ISBN13 9789935915443
edition language English
series: College fun and Gays
Previously published by No Boundaries Press at 29 pages

Crazy Week Ahead, Ghoulish Cocktail Recipes, and This Week’s Reviews

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Sooooooo, sitting here wondering why I do things that make myself crazy.  I’m really not a masochistic sort, occasionally absent minded but truly, people,  usually I am a better planner than this.  So this week, the alarm people are coming to fix the alarm system that wants to beep, squeak, squeal, or otherwise make high pitched noises at all hours of the day, none of them actually caused by any realtime event. And all are picked up by Captain (African Grey Parrot) who finds these noises irresistible enough to mimic.  So even after they are banished , thanks to Captain’s skill at mimicry, they will always be with us. Cue the Excedrin.

Also this week?  A friend is coming to stay for the week.  I haven’t seen her in a while and I am looking forward to getting caught up on her life (outside of the computer chats) face to face.  So what else is also going on?  My wonderful book group is coming over on Sunday for lunch and togetherness, my niece and her boyfriend just flew in from CA for her birthday and my mother is making noises about a “birthday celebration” for my niece over at the Farm this weekend too.  What aligned among the stars and planets that said all this had to happen this week and weekend?  Hey! *waves hands frantically over head* Can we not do this?  Please?  This is making me crazy.  I  like to do things slowly, think the forward momentum of a sloth.  I enjoy getting ready for events and people the same way.  This is not making me happy.  Sigh.

So I plan on lots of writing today so I don’t have to do that as well.  Here is my schedule for the week if I am not carted off to Bedlam.

Monday, June 22:                    Sweet Young Thang by Anne Tenino

Tuesday, June 23:                    Parting Shot by Mary Calmes

Wednesday, June 24:              Welcome, Brother by Erica Pike

Thursday, June 25:                 Attachment Strings by Chris T. Kat

Friday, June 26:                       Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01) by Missouri Dalton

Saturday, June 27:                   Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02) by Missouri Dalton

Cocktail Recipes: In honor of Missouri Dalton’s new series which I absolutely adore, here are a couple of scary Cocktails to cool you off:

The Necromancer’s Martini:

Vampire Martini

1 part vodka
1 part strawberry liqueur
1 part lime juice
1 part cranberry juice

Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass to serve.

Vampire Cocktail

Bloody Vampire Cocktail

1 part rum
1 part cherry kool aid

Pour both of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a highball glass to serve.