Alicia Keys

“That touch
When you barely held my hand

I was overcome with feelings I don’t understand
Not in a million years
I didn’t think that we’d be here”
-That’s When I Knew

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Melissa Brayden – Waiting in the Wings

Waiting

If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.

Jenna McGovern has spent her whole life training for the stage. She’s taken dance classes, voice lessons, and even earned her performance degree from one of the most prestigious musical theater programs in the nation. At graduation, she’s stunned when a chance audition lands her a prime supporting role in the hottest Broadway routing production in the country. In more exciting news, Jenna discovers acclaimed television star Adrienne Kenyon is headlining the production. 

Jenna settles easily in to life on tour and has a promising career laid out in front of her, if only she plays her cards right. She’s waited for this opportunity her entire life and will let nothing stand in her way. The one thing she didn’t prepare for, however, was Adrienne. Her new costar is talented, beautiful, generous, and utmost professional. As the two women grow closer onstage and off, they must learn how to fit each other into a demanding lifestyle full of unexpected twists and difficult decisions. But is Jenna ready to sacrifice what she’s worked so hard for in exchange for a shot at something much deeper?

REVIEW
Out of the les-fic novels that I’ve read, these story-lines seem to be pretty common:

  • Teacher + Student
  • Lonely and married “heterosexual” female falls in love with her cool new lesbian friend
  • Hollywood A-List Actress x 2

Who hasn’t fallen in love with a teacher? Or a straight woman? (or two, or three… hundred) And raise your hand if you didn’t trip all over yourself when you found out that Portia de Rossi is gay.

Yeah, I see no hands raised.

This story though, is less Hollywood than it is New York Broadway. It’s written in the author’s biography that she’s a theater director in her home state, so she’s not just a storyteller that researched a topic and wrote about it on the fly. She’s a subject matter expert and it shows, not just in the details written of the theater acting world in Waiting in the Wings, but also in the execution of her writing style. An example of this would be the ending of Brayden’s novel, How Sweet It Is. The author has the ability to draw from her own personal experiences and expertise to create fresh, original stories for her readers to enjoy.

Has anyone watched the movie Tangled? There’s a scene in the movie that reminded me of one of the important messages gleaned from Waiting in the Wings:

Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

Like Rapunzel in Tangled, Jenna pursues one dream to find another. Jenna ventures out into her new world with innocence and naivete. Eventually, she finds the way to her heart and her home. It’s normal if you want to give this book a big hug when you’re done. It’s really that cute and heartwarming.

Waiting in the Wings is a wonderful introduction to Melissa Brayden’s work, and I guarantee that when you put down this one down, you’ll be reaching for more!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Great Good Fine Ok – Not Going Home
2. The Hunts – Make This Leap
3. Babe – Make It Real
4. Meghan Trainor feat. John Legend – Like I’m Gonna Lose You
5. Matthew Koma – Clarity (Live at the Cherrytree House)
6. William Fitzsimmons – So This Is Goodbye
7. For the Foxes – Running Back to You
8. Jewel – You Were Meant For Me
9. Grace Weber – Everything to Me
10. Alicia Keys – That’s When I Knew

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with a….

FRANCIS COPPOLA DIAMOND COLLECTION CLARET 2009

Lyn Gardner – Mistletoe

MistleToe2

Four-year-old Diana Clarke sends her wish to Santa Claus, but lost in the lining of a sack, it isn’t discovered for thirty years. Now, Santa has a problem. No child’s wish has ever gone unanswered, but the child isn’t a child anymore.

Believing there is nothing in Santa’s Village to satisfy the little girl’s wish now that she’s an adult, he calls on a Higher Power and is given a suggestion. Although most of Santa’s workshops contain only toys for boys and girls, there is one that holds a possible solution to his problem. Learning that Diana will be attending three upcoming Christmas parties, Santa calls on his lead elf to deliver three sprigs of mistletoe, hoping that under one, Diana Clarke will find what she asked for thirty years ago.

REVIEW
Brrrrrrrrrrrr. Baby, it’s cold outside! Speaking of which, Tina Fey and Kenan Thompson recently performed a Christmas sketch on SNL with this song. Have you seen it? Well, if you haven’t… Kenan plays… wait for it… Bill Cosby. The joy that I felt listening to that tune was sapped completely after watching that episode. I’m still cringing. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love Christmas. I’m obsessed. When I hear the rhythmic sound of bells, or choruses of “Ding! Dong! Ding! Dong!”, I think I go into some kind of holiday hysteria, which is probably the reason why I didn’t pay attention to what the heck the song was saying. I’m just surprised that it took 75 years for someone in the world to notice the lyrics and point out the creep factor.

Anyway, on to the review…

I’ve read both Ice and Give Me A Reason by Lyn Gardner, so I had an idea of what to expect before I picked up Mistletoe. This was a much anticipated Christmas read for me and it sure didn’t disappoint. What I didn’t expect though is the whimsical, light-hearted humor that I found within its pages. Gardner has an intense style of writing, and she portrays her characters’ personalities to be very bold and passionate. The characters in this story were quite a bit softer (marshmallows, in comparison to Toni from Give Me A Reason and Alex from Ice) but they fit the tone of a Christmas story. Christmas stories shouldn’t be too heavy. The holidays are stressful enough with all the shopping, and the weird relatives visiting, and the god awful traffic. Right?!

What I’ve grown to appreciate with the author’s pairings in her novels, is that one of the two is always gender-ambiguous. You never really know exactly where they fit on the feminine/masculine scale. We all have our own preferences when it comes to the type of books we read and the types of characters we identify with and gravitate toward, just as we have our own preferences on who we choose as our lovers. By being gender-ambiguous, the books appeal to a larger audience of readers. The novels feel more inclusive and welcoming to readers across the gender and sexuality spectrum, so it is more about the story than it is about our own pre-conceived notions and expectations based on societal norms.

This story isn’t just about finding your soulmate or two women falling in love. It’s about the magic of Christmas, and how love touches our lives and brings us together as a beautiful tapestry. The author covers all the holiday bases: love, happiness, cheer, family, miracles, and the joy of giving.

Now, if only Santa can find my letter in the lining of the sack too….

SOUNDTRACK
1. Marie Digby – Bring Me Love
2. Michael Buble – All I Want For Christmas is You
3. Puppini Sisters – Step into Christmas
4. Ella Fitzgerald – Sleigh Ride
5. Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
6. She & Him – The Christmas Waltz
7. Louis Armstrong – Cool Yule
8. Burl Ives – A Holly Jolly Christmas
9. Dean Martin – Let it Snow
10. Bing Crosby – I’ll Be Home For Christmas
11. Stevie Wonder – What Christmas Means To Me
12. Puppini Sisters – Here Comes Santa Claus

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with a….

JUSTIN SYRAH 2013

Zoe Reed – Interference

Interference

The last thing Jordan Marshall wants is a relationship, especially with someone like Taylor Becks, the star player from a rival hockey team. Taylor doesn’t talk- to anyone. When Jordan’s curiosity about the athlete overpowers her predisposition to being guarded, the two strike up an unlikely romance. In the midst of desolation left by being disowned and forbidden from seeing her little brother, Jordan finds that sometimes the biggest risks reap the greatest rewards. 

REVIEW
If you’re a Gen-Xer or Millennial who spent your teenage years in Culver City, CA, you know the hot spot on Friday night was the Culver City Ice Arena. I remember skating at the rink with friends while listening to US3’s “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” blaring on the speakers and chasing after one boy, or two boys, or three. I was such a teenage hussy. I met too many boyfriends (that I’m embarrassed to admit) on that block of ice. I miss those days. Except playing the “boy-crazy” part. Now, I’m just a girl-crazy fool that slips and slides on the dance floor at a gay bar. I am proof positive that grace does not come with age.

The person who recommended this book warned me that I wasn’t going to like Jordan very much during the first few chapters. She was right. If I met Jordan in real life, I’d run for the hills. She comes with enough red flags to open her own damn airport. I think that many of us, casually (if you know what I mean) have encountered this type. They flit in and out of your life, and you hardly get more than a 2-second glance before they disappear for good. It’s never enough time to get to know who they really are, and they prefer it that way.

But we don’t always realize is that everyone is carrying their own baggage. If we’re fortunate enough and we take a chance, we find someone who will help shoulder our burden. Most of the time, we’re just floundering aimlessly, carrying our load like a high school student who stuffs six classes worth of books in a Jansport backpack because they’re too lazy to use a locker.

Unfortunately, some of us believe that we don’t deserve to be happy and when we’re finally at a place where we are, we ruin it rather than believe it’s true. We “wait for the other shoe to drop”, so to speak. This is the place where Jordan resides. She comes with some pretty heavy baggage, and life has dealt her a pretty shitty hand of cards. It’s the same with Taylor but different circumstances. Without giving too much away, they both deal with significant loss in their lives, and how they recover from that loss and move forward together is what makes this a beautiful story to read. Jordan and Taylor take a chance, but more importantly, they believe in each other and in the capacity to heal and change for the better.

Needless to say, I grew rather fond of Jordan. She has a bigger heart than I thought she did at the beginning of the novel. I would say that this genre hovers in the space between YA and adult fiction. Fans of both genres will be entertained!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Bruno Mars – Treasure
2. Smallpools – Dreaming
3. Allen Stone – Say So
4. US3 – Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)
5. Capital Cities – Safe and Sound
6. Haim – The Wire
7. Gotye – In Your Light
8. Tei Shi – Go Slow
9. Beyonce – Love on Top
10. Made in Heights – Ghosts
11. Ghosttown DJs – My Boo
12. Kaptan – Anywhere We Go

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a hot chocolate.

MJ Duncan – Spectrum

Spectrum

Sparks fly the moment Bryn Nakamura lays eyes on Anna Fitzpatrick, and not in a good way. Driven, reserved, and recovering from another encounter with a life she would rather leave behind, all Bryn wants is to forget about Anna and focus on her beloved vineyard- but Fate has other plans. No matter where Bryn goes, Anna seems to be there, and despite how annoyed she is by this development, she can’t help but be charmed by Anna’s warm smile and easygoing charisma. But as carefully constructed walls come down, new obstacle take their place, leaving Bryn to question who she is and what she truly wants out of life.

REVIEW
I always tell my friends that it’s my dream to buy a vineyard in Tuscany and spend my twilight years enjoying the beautiful earth and drinking wine. FYI, if you suddenly have the image of Diane Lane in your head, then virtual high five to you! I’ve had the biggest crush on her since I was 5 years old. Hey, Diane… We can drink wine together under the Tuscan sun! Si or no?

One of my favorite quotes is from that movie:
“They say they built the train tracks over the Alps, between Vienna and Venice, before there was a train that could make the trip. They built it anyway. They knew one day the train would come. Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere, I would be different. What are four walls anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game… it’s such a surprise.”

In a way, the story in Spectrum seems to mirror the message in that quote. Anna lays down those tracks for their locomotion of luuuuurve. It’s nice that this story features characters that aren’t 20-something year old spring chickens, and though it isn’t really “late in the game”, love blooms for Bryn in her middle-age. Bryn could be categorized as the stereotypical cat-lady, except she doesn’t have cats. She’s a bit of a spinster, a bit of a loner, and a whole lot of a curmudgeon before Anna comes into the picture.

This is what Bryn would’ve turned out to be if she never met Anna:
Grumpy

Thank the universe of lesbian fiction for Anna Fitzpatrick. She’s smart, funny, charming, and persistent. She’s determined to get under Bryn’s skin (and under Bryn) regardless of Bryn’s sarcastic remarks and “sunny” disposition.

Anna’s easy-going nature is a nice counterpoint to Bryn’s tough-as-nails exterior. Readers have the pleasure of seeing the richness in Bryn’s character, as Anna slowly but surely draws her out of her shell. Their chemistry and combination is sizzling: Anna and Bryn are like two distinct flavors that combine to make a unique and delicious taste profile. (Sweet & Sour, anyone?) The story is excellent from start to finish. Highly recommended!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Chilly Gonzales – Solitaire
2. Ani DiFranco – She Says
3. Edvard Grieg – Lyrische Stucke Op. 38, Melodie
4. Good Old War – Tell Me What You Want From Me
5. John Fields – In Flight
6. John Garrels – Born Again
7. Jon Jang – Two Flowers on a Stem (Solo Piano Version)
8. James Bay – Hold Back the River
9. Gonzales – Manifesto
10. KT Tunstall – Universe and U
11. Chilly Gonzales – Venetian Blinds
12. John Fields – Nocturne No. 2 in C Minor
13. Elliott Smith – Say Yes
14. Roy Todd – Hope Springs
15. Iron & Wine – My Lady’s House

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

PEJU PROVINCE 2011