Lynn Ames – All That Lies Within

LiesWithin

How far would you go to hide who you really are inside?  And what do you do when you find the one person from whom hiding your true self isn’t an option?

Glamorous movie star Dara Thomas has it all – an Oscar nomination, dozens of magazines proclaiming her the sexiest woman alive, and people of both sexes clamoring for her attention.  She also has a carefully guarded secret life.  As Constance Darrow, Dara writes Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction, an outlet that allows her to be so much more than just a pretty face. 

Rebecca Minton is a professor of American Literature in love with the work of the mysterious, reclusive author Constance Darrow, with whom she strikes up a correspondence.  A chance phrase in a letter leads her to a startling conclusion about the author.

What happens next will change the course of both of their lives forever. 

REVIEW
Back in the late 90s, when you met someone from the internet You’ve Got Mail-style (IE, you have no idea what the hell they look like and you’re standing awkwardly in front of a Starbucks with a rose in your hand) they never ended up looking like the person you envisioned in your head.  In real life, we’re not always as fortunate as the main characters in this novel, who both took a gamble and hit the jackpot.  Their story begins with exchanges of hand-written letters and gradually blossoms into an incredible romance.  I really love the author’s imagination and how she brings the two lovers together in this book.

All That Lies Within isn’t a cookie-cutter lesbian romance novel.  Reading the book jacket, you won’t expect a metaphysical element to the story, but there is one and it’s good!  I’m sure it’s not easy for authors to incorporate metaphysics into their work without it sounding silly to some of the readers, but Lynn Ames does an awesome job.

As perfect of a package that is Dara, Rebecca is the one that shines the brightest in this novel.  She was the vehicle that drove Dara’s dreams to life  Homegirl is the ISH.  Aerosmith should recreate their “Hole in My Soul” music video and have the cloning machine build Rebecca Minton.  The characterization was stronger than the story, and I’m a real sucker for wonderfully fleshed-out characters.

Your inner medium is channeling that you should read this book.  Reaaaad thissss booook.

SOUNDTRACK
1.  Natalie Imbruglia – Identify
2.  Radiohead – (Nice Dream)
3.  TLC – Unpretty
4.  Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
5.  Sara Bareilles – The Light
6.  Sarah McLachlan – I Love You
7.  Elliott Smith – Between the Bars
8.  The Civil Wars – C’est La Mort
9.  Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are
10.  Sara Bareilles – I Choose You

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a delicious cup of Lavazza coffee.  Rebecca and Dara aren’t boozers like the rest of us.

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Kristen Zimmer – The Gravity Between Us

Gravity

At just 19, Kendell Bettencourt is Hollywood’s hottest young starlet, with the world at her feet-but behind the glamour and designer dresses is a girl who longs for normal.

Payton Taylor is Kendall’s best friend since childhood, and the one person who reminds her of who she really is – her refuge from the craziness of celebrity life.

With her career taking off, Kendall moves Payton to LA to help keep her sane. But Payton is hiding a secret that could make everything ten times worse. Because to her, Kendall is more than a best friend – she is the only girl that she has ever loved.

Just as they need each other more than ever, they’ll have to answer the question of where friendship stops and love begins? And find out whether the feelings they have can survive the mounting pressure of fame…

The Gravity Between Us is a daring, romantic, emotional story about friendship, love, and finding the courage to be yourself in a crazy world.

REVIEW
I bought my first lesbian novel at Border’s Bookstore in 1998. Their gay & lesbian section was tucked away in a dark corner shelf, and only had about 20 different books. The book that I purchased was the only lesbian novel they had available for sale. When I came home, I ripped out one of my large calendar pages, crafted a book cover, and took it with me to school to read in secret during recess and lunch.

Fast forward 17 years, and it feels like a completely different world. During the time that I came out, I couldn’t imagine living openly as a lesbian.  I didn’t even consider the possibility of someday being categorized as “normal” because of my “alternative” lifestyle. Now, I have the chance to get married like everyone else and enjoy equal rights and protection under the law. AND I get to read my lesbian books on a small electronic device that has the ability to access and store thousands of novels. We’re living in a momentous time, folks!

The Gravity Between Us was my re-introduction to the genre. It’s written from the perspective of both Kendall Bettencourt and Payton Taylor, which provides a nice contrast to their individual experiences in exploring and defining their sexual identities. As with many coming-of-age novels in the lesbian fiction genre, there’s plenty of teenage angst, tears, and binge drinking. Come to think of it, this still happens in adulthood. The only difference is that we’re (hopefully) making better alcoholic beverage choices and instead of drowning our sorrows with Smirnoff Ice and Boone’s Farm, we’re taking shots of whiskey, or drinking a vintage bottle of Bordeaux if we grew up to be a REAL CLASSY lesbian lady.

For all the lesbians, do you remember your first girl kiss? The nervousness that you felt during the moments before, followed by fireworks and the irrefutable sense of “Oh! So THIS is what it’s supposed to feel like!”, then at the end, just wanting to kiss her again and again. This book captured those emotions, the newness of feeling, and the stumbling into uncharted territories very nicely. Kendall and Payton’s transition from friend-status to girlfriend-status didn’t feel awkward or forced; it was a natural progression that within the context of their long-established friendship, made sense. Not that love ever really “makes sense” but it makes this love story more plausible for its readers.

YA novels in the les fic genre tend to be pretty emotionally turbulent and this book was no exception.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Green Day – Brain Stew
2. Kelly Clarkson – Since You’ve Been Gone
3. Billie Holiday – God Bless The Child
4. BT – Simply Being Loved
5. Deadmau5 feat. Kaskade – I Remember (Vocal Remix)
6. Miles Davis – It Never Entered My Mind
7. 5 Seconds of Summer – Amnesia
8. Moby – Almost Home (Sound Remedy Remix)
9. Sara Bareilles – Gravity
10. Hans Zimmer – Iris’ Melody
11. Siberia – Lights

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a coke.

Kelly Quindlen – Her Name in the Sky

HerName

Seventeen-year-old Hannah wants to spend her senior year of high school going to football games and Mardi Gras parties. She wants to drive along the oak-lined streets of Louisiana’s Garden District and lie on the hot sand of Florida’s beaches. She wants to spend every night making memories with her tight-knit group of friends. The last thing she wants is to fall in love with a girl–especially when that girl is her best friend, Baker. Hannah knows she should like Wally, the kind, earnest boy who asks her to prom. She should cheer on her friend Clay when he asks Baker to be his girlfriend. She should follow the rules of her conservative community–the rules that have been ingrained in her since she was a child. But Hannah longs to be with Baker, who cooks macaroni and cheese with Hannah late at night, who believes in the magic of books as much as Hannah does, and who challenges Hannah to be the best version of herself. And Baker might want to be with Hannah, too–if both girls can embrace that world-shaking, wondrous possibility. In this poignant coming-of-age novel, Hannah must find a compromise between the truth of her heart and the expectations of her community. She must break through her shame and learn to trust in the goodness of her friends. And above all, she and Baker must open their hearts to the saving power of love. Raw, moving, and teeming with unforgettable characters, Her Name in the Sky is a modern love story about the teenage quest for identity and the redeeming power of the human heart.

REVIEW
I was initially very hesitant to read this novel. My past experience with religion was an unpleasant one, and I steered clear of most literature that made any reference to Catholicism/Christianity. But… this book did come highly recommended, so I decided to give it a shot.

Holy Moly…

I am humbled by this book.  It’s difficult for me to write a review that does this literary work any justice because it’s extraordinary.  As with any review, I can only draw from my own personal reading experience and hope that my words won’t diminish its value.

Her Name in the Sky is the perfect illustration of truth in fiction.  It delves deeply into important coming-of-age issues such as love, religion, family, friendship, depression, bullying, and discrimination.  I’m sure that for some of us, it’ll bring back painful memories of high school that we don’t care to relive again. It did for me.  But it’s important for us (not-so-young) adults to remember and reflect on that time period in our lives, so that we understand and acknowledge that there are teens going through this today, and teens that will go through this tomorrow. Sometimes, we grow so distant from our past that it becomes more and more difficult for us to relate to the future. Our human experiences are what bind us together… and our world can use a little more compassion.

Her Name in the Sky captures the innocence of first love, and all the complications that follow when girl loves girl in a “girl is supposed to love boy” world.  Hannah and Baker are admirable in their bravery, and in the way that they each weather the storm both separately and together.

You’ll get to experience a myriad of emotions when you read this novel.  This book literally broke my literary heart and pieced it back together at the end.  You’ll feel like you’ve gone through a very long crying session, but trust me, it’s well worth it.

My hope is that anyone that has taken the time to read through this review… If you know someone who’s isolated or feels alone that can benefit from this book, please pay it forward and pass it along.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Eli Young Band – Even If It Breaks Your Heart
2. Madonna – Like a Prayer
3. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing
4. R.E.M – Losing My Religion
5. Haerts – Wings
6. Evvy – Collide
7. Lovelife – Dying to Start Again
8. Fray – Look After You
9. Coldplay – The Scientist
10. Matthew Koma – Spectrum (Acoustic)
11. Taylor Swift feat. Civil Wars – Safe & Sound
12. Fray – How to Save a Life
13. Coldplay – Warning Sign
14. Sunday Drive – Sacred Delight

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a coke.

Melissa Brayden – Ready or Not

Ready or Not

Sometimes wrong is extra right.

Mallory Spencer is in charge. As the face of Soho Savvy, the advertising firm she owns with her three best friends, it’s important that she’s poised, polished, and put together. However, as she watches her friends couple up and settle down, she wonders about her own happily ever after. One thing’s for sure, it’s not going to happen with that blue-eyed bartender from Showplace. It’s irritatingly clear they couldn’t be more wrong for each other… or have more chemistry.

Hope Sanders wants nothing more than to keep her head down and craft a better life for herself running everyone’s favorite nightspot. That means ignoring the groupies that flock to the bar to stare at her all night. However, an uptight brunette has snagged Hope’s attention and she knows a challenge when she sees it.

REVIEW
Can you imagine how excited I was when I found out this book was being shipped to my house two weeks earlier than originally scheduled? Two words: Christmas Morning… THAT EXCITED! The nearly six months that I waited between Just Three Words and Ready or Not was excruciating. It was almost as painful as waiting for the season 7 premiere of Bones. Emily Deschanel….*Fanning Myself*. God, I love that show.

For some reason, paperback was the only available format on pre-order from Amazon. I usually like to read novels on my Kindle, since reading the analog version (hehe) forces me to switch to a million different positions to stay comfortable. The only drawback on a Kindle is that if you fall asleep while reading, it really hurts when it smacks you in the face. What can I say, I like to live on the edge.

Two hours and five million positions later, I was both very satisfied and immensely sad. I was satisfied because the book met my expectations, BUT I was sad because the series came to an end. Does anyone think that I can convince Melissa Brayden to pull a Star Wars and maybe… just maybe… come out with three more books for the Soho Loft series? A girl can dream.

I have to admit, Mallory was my least favorite Soho Savvy girl. If I had to give an analogy of Mallory, she’s like the voice of reason in my head when I’m thinking about changing my dessert order from brownie to brownie a la mode during the time that I’m on a diet. In other words, I HATED Mallory Spencer. Mallory was too rational, too stuffy, too conservative, and too much of a realist to be likable. One of the main reasons why Ready or Not was so gratifying was because of the progression of Mallory’s character growth. I gradually warmed up to Mallory, and this story was pretty clear on its message that looks can be deceiving. As Mallory started to see Hope in more than one dimension, the readers start to see more than one dimension in Mallory.

I wish that the story was fifty pages longer, which would’ve helped the pace of the novel in the final chapters. Towards the end, it did feel a bit rushed. But overall, I was happy with how the author packaged and delivered the series. The gift of the ending was dressed with a nice little bow. You can read the book by itself, but I would recommend starting at the beginning of the Soho Loft series, Kiss The Girl.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Calvin Harris feat. Ne-Yo – Lets Go
2. Passion Pit – Take a Walk
3. Cathedrals – Harlem
4. Miguel – Coffee
5. Sade – Smooth Operator
6. Timeflies – Stuck With Me
7. Death Cab for Cutie – A Lack of Color
8. Goldford – Upside Down
9. Laura Welsh feat. John Legend – Hardest Part
10. Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights
11. Bill Withers – Lean on Me

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a…

MOJITO
-10 fresh mint leaves
-1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
-2 tablespoons of sugar syrup
-1/2 cup of club soda
-1 1/2 fluid oz of white rum (or 3, if you dare)
-1 cup of ice cubes

Place the mint leaves and 1 lime wedge in a glass. Use the muddler to crush the sh*t out of the mint and lime. Add 2 more lime wedges and the simple syrup. Muddle the sh*t out of it again. Add the ice, then the rum, then the carbonated water. You’ll never have to worry about bad breath.

Melissa Brayden – Just Three Words

JustThreeWords

Sometimes the one you want is the one you least suspect…

Accountant Samantha Ennis craves order and structure. As the bookkeeper at the boutique advertising agency she owns with her three best friends, it’s her job to apply logic to the chaos. When one of those best friends, laid back Hunter Blair, moves in to share her loft apartment, Sam’s carefully organized world is throw wildly askew.

Hunter Blair’s been the coolest one in the room since elementary school. Until recently, her biggest worry in the world was which of the girls in her cell phone to call on a Saturday night. But it’s not long before Samantha sparks a fire in Hunter that has her questioning her old habits and longing for new ones.

Isn’t it a bad idea to fall for one of you best friends? Samantha and Hunter are about to find out.

REVIEW
This is my favorite kind of story; a romantic love that gradually blooms from a friendship. In my opinion, this is the best kind of love… but a complicated one, especially within the lesbian community. I live in Los Angeles and I’ve had my fair share, and also seen a fair share (too much, really), of friends turned lovers into ex-lovers, then turned lovers with ex-lovers of friends, then turned enemies into friends of lovers, and all the “fun” and “exciting” variations and dynamics that come with it. Ever heard of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? The lesbian version is “Zero Degrees of Ellen DeGeneres”, which can make things very VERY frigid, even in sunny California.

But moving on with the review….

If Hunter were cast for the L-Word, she would definitely be Shane: the effortlessly cool, sexy player type. And if I had to choose to live vicariously through any of the characters in the Soho Loft series, Hunter would be my choice. This fictional character gets more action than my realistic one (realistic, meaning ME). What happens when free-spirited Hunter starts rooming with her best friend Samantha, the queen of schedules and structure who firmly believes that everything has a designated place? Dynamic chemistry. These two polar opposites bring each other out of her own little comfort zone. Hunter learns where to put the big knives, and Samantha learns to tree-pose. You’ll get the reference once you finish the book.

It’s an unconventional romance in conventional circumstances. From the Soho Loft series, this was my absolute favorite, but it really has nothing to do with the writing quality. It’s mostly just personal preference. It’s a very sweet story, and it was easy for me to get lost in the romance between these two characters. Read it and share it with your closest gal pals!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Walk the Moon – Shiver Shiver
2. Usher – DJ Got Us Fallin In Love
3. Beatles – Blackbird
4. Lauren O’Connell – House of the Rising Sun
5. Magnet – Lay Lady Lay
6. The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still
7. Frank Sinatra – The Way You Look Tonight
8. Ne-Yo – Let Me Get This Right
9. Louis Armstrong – La Vie En Rose
10. Tegan and Sara – Love They Say

CHEERS!
This book is best read with an….

ITALIAN GRAPE JUICE SOUR
-1 oz vodka (the good kind)
-1 barspoon of Amaretto
-2 oz of white grape juice
-1 barspoon of lemon juice
-lemon wheel and green grapes for garnish

Place all of the ingredients, minus lemon wheel and green grapes, into a shaker with ice. Shake it like a Polaroid picture. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish. Pucker up!

Melissa Brayden – Kiss The Girl

KissTheGirl

Sleeping with the enemy has never been so complicated.

Twenty-eight-year-old Brooklyn Campbell is having a bad day. A speeding ticket, and a broken heel are all working against her laid-back vibe. To top it all off, her birth mother, whom she’s never met, has requested contact. The only bright spot is an impromptu date with a beautiful and mysterious brunette.

Jessica Lennox is what you would call a high-powered executive. She’s the head of a multi-million dollar advertising firm in New York City, and it didn’t happen by accident. But when the blond head turner from the wine bistro turns out to be her number one competitor, her life gets infinitely more complex.

Is New York big enough for both Brooklyn and Jessica? Maybe it’s just time they experienced it together..

REVIEW
Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson, Radclyffe, Robin Alexander, Georgia Beers, Jae, Fannie Flagg, Gerri Hill… If there was a Hall of Fame for lesbian writers, a plaque with their pictures would be tacked against a wall, forever immortalized. Melissa Brayden is a few books shy of plaque-status. She’s a FAST rising star and almost all of her books have been a home run. Kiss The Girl is no exception, and would be a wonderful introduction to her writing style and stories.

What I love about this book (and this series) is how relate-able the main characters are. I bet that all of us, gay or straight, can list at least ten people that have something in common with Brooklyn or Jessica. They’re strong, smart, competent women. There really needs to be more novels written with this type of characterization. I just wish that the author gave a little more insight and background into Jessica; what makes Jessica, Jessica.

The novel had a nice, consistent pace. There weren’t really any parts that were slower than others. It was engaging, and humorous, and it was finished in one sitting.

If I had to compare the novel and the Soho Loft Series (Kiss the Girl, Just Three Words, Ready or Not) to a TV series, it would definitely be Sex And The City. It has a very light and comfortable feel, and it’s perfect for a poolside read.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Jem – It’s Amazing
2. Everything But The Girl – Five Fathoms
3. Verite – Colors
4. Cole Plante – Before I’m Yours
5. Ivy – Edge of the Ocean
6. Samantha James – Rise
7. Sia – Day Too Soon
8. Sophia Black – Anchor
9. Azure Ray – Across The Ocean
10. Billie Holiday – I’ll Be Seeing You
11. Tori Amos – A Sorta Fairytale

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a….

CUCUMBER MARTINI
-2 oz of vodka (use the good kind!!)
-1/4 oz of lime juice (1/4 lime)
-3 slices of fresh cucumber
-2 mint leaves
-1/2 oz of simple syrup

In a shaker, add the 1 cucumber slice and 1 mint lead and crush with a spoon. Add ice, vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup and shake shake shake. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with the remaining cucumber slices and mint leaf. Oh you fancy huh