Harper Bliss – The Road to You

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Workaholic Katherine and free-spirited singer Ali have disliked each other since college. Fate, however, keeps bringing them together and the paths of their lives keep crossing. Are some differences in personality simply too vast to overcome? Or are some things just meant to be? 

REVIEW
Ever heard of the joke… What does a lesbian bring on the second date?

This may be an over-generalization, but the progression of love and romance between lesbians is Looney Tunes Roadrunner fast. What’s an example of a potentially lesbifastandfurious relationship?

Week 1: Two lesbians bump into each other at the local IKEA. They reach for the same wonderfully Scandinavian-patterned duvet cover, make heavy eye contact, and are instantly smitten with each other. Within a few hours, they’re exclusively dating. They’re Facebook official.
Week 2: Those three little words have been exchanged. All is right in the world. Everything is hearts. Lovely hearts. K + A = 4Ever 143-637 ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Week 3: The wheels on the  UHaul go round and round. They’re now sharing the Scandinavian-patterned duvet cover under the same roof, and they’ve adopted a cute domestic short-hair from the local animal rescue and named him Ingvar.

Thankfully, this love story doesn’t play into that hand. The Road to You is a slow-burn romance that develops, not during the course of days, weeks, months or years… but decades.

The beginning of Katherine and Ali is less than ideal, to say the least. They both find each other in compromising positions (literally), and from the very start, it’s a love-hate sort of thang. But as they say, there’s a very thin line. In every chance encounter over the course of nearly two decades, the air is always thick with tension and red-hot chemistry between Ali and Katherine. There’s a push-pull dynamic between the characters and because of the nature of this interaction, neither end up in the dreaded “friend zone” with the other.

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For the readers, the underlying attraction between the two characters always feels like it’s only one or two stitches away from bursting at the seams. When the stars finally align and every moment that they’ve experienced together and apart map them to the most important moment of their lives, you’ll be jumping out of your skin to see what happens next.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Carla Bruni – Quelqu’un m’a dit
2. KD Lang – Constant Craving
3. Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine
4. Brandi Carlile – Dreams
5. KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
6. Meiko – Reasons to Love You
7. India Arie – Ready For Love
8. Ani DiFranco – The Whole Night
9. Tracy Chapman – The Promise
10. Shawn Colvin – When You Know
11. Indigo Girls – Power of Two

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

ANGEL’S ENVY KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY

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Miranda Macleod – A Road Through Mountains

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When Cecily Parker volunteers backstage at the Oakwood Theater, the only thing she wants is a few hours of relief from the doldrums of her upper-class suburban existence. The last thing she expects is to be reunited with the only person she ever truly loved, a woman she left behind almost twenty years ago. 

Rorie Mulloy has build a career as an award-winning production designer in Hollywood, but her personal life is anything but a success. When she agrees to design the sets for a community theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire in Connecticut, she has no idea that the woman who broke her heart and ruined her for love will be assigned to her crew.

As the sparks are rekindled between them, these star-crossed lovers just might have a second chance at love. But only if they can overcome the ghosts of their past, and survive the sometimes comic cast of characters determined to keep them from their happily ever after. 

REVIEW
Some people look forward to spring flowers or summer sun around this time of year. I look forward to ROYGBIV, since it’s….. (drumroll)…. PRIDE SEASON! Right now, my neighborhood (gayborhood, really) is bursting with color as businesses and residents pitch their rainbow flags and equality signs. It’s a wonderful feeling to enjoy brunch with your closest friends at a local breakfast cafe that supports LGBT. That’s something I never take for granted.

Pride Season is also when everyone “in the scene”, in the periphery, or out in hiding gather in one square mile to celebrate. We’re watching (or marching in) the parade together, line-dancing in the Country tent, guzzling down over-priced booze, and also… (dun dun dun) running into our ex-girlfriend (or ex-boyfriends). For those of us that have this experience, you know that it’s the MOST. AWKWARD. THING. EVER.

Cecily doesn’t run into Rorie at Pride but at a local theater, so it might as well be. 😉 There are few places that are as inclusive as a theater for those that are of the straight and non-straight persuasion.

In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Jacque’s monologue that begins, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” is perfect in describing the succession of stages in Cecily’s perfectly planned life. She’s the lead actress who’s expected to play her role and move seamlessly from scene to scene: growing up, attending university, joining a sorority, marrying a rich husband, a house with a white picket fence, two children and a dog, etc. When Cecily meets Rorie, Cecily loses all her lines. The irony is that Rorie assumes that Cecily was only pretending with her, when the truth is really the exact opposite. Cecily has only been most authentically herself with Rorie. It’s only when Cecily goes back to her carefully scripted life without Rorie that she’s mindlessly going through the motions again.

Fortunately, fate brings Rorie and Cecily back together again after nearly two decades apart. What happens following that… Readers, you’ll just have to pick up this book and see for yourself! This is another fantastic novel by Miranda Macleod that you won’t wanna miss!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Michael Brun – Tongue Tied July
2. Jarryd James – Do You Remember
3. Kimbra – Two Way Street
4. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – Stars
5. Lapsley – Hurt Me
6. Patrick Baker – Feel the Same
7. Sophia Black – OVR AGN
8. Rationale – Re.Up
9. JP Cooper – Colour Me In Gold
10. RAC & St. Lucia – Ready For It
11. Ruben Haze – City of Dreams
12. Wolf Gang – Lay Your Love Down
13. Chvrches – Warning Call
14. For The Foxes – Running Back To You
15. David Guetta feat. Zara Larsson – This One’s For You

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

SIDECAR
-2 oz of Cognac
-1 oz of Cointreau
-1 oz of lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake shake shake until it’s chilled. Pour into a highball glass and garnish with a twist of an orange peel.

Leigh Matthews – Don’t Bang the Barista!

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Drawing on the classics of lesbian pulp fiction, Don’t Bang the Barista! is set in the hipster-dyke triangle of East Vancouver, where friends Kate and Cass discuss the politics of hooking up with a hot barista crush. Is Cass warning Kate off over concern for her favourite coffee shop hangout, or does she have ulterior motives for keeping Hanna and Kate apart? What if Hanna actually has her sights set on someone else… someone already in a seemingly monogamous and hetero relationships?

Navigating life in the queer East Van community certainly isn’t simple for Kate and her trusty canine, Jupiter, especially when Kate’s ex gets back into town looking more fabulous than ever.

Can Kate finally figure out who she wants to be with before it’s too late?

REVIEW
I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack! (with a BANG!) Don’t Bang the Barista! that is….

You know what’s really unfair about being a lesbian? It’s a free-for-all when it comes to dating. Literally, EVERYONE is fair game: your girlfriend, your girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend, your ex-girlfriend’s girlfriend, your ex-girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s girlfriend, etc. etc. etc. Ever play Super Mario Smash Bros? That game is the perfect analogy for lesbian dating life.

When and where mass lesbians congregate (e.g bar, club, Pride, Dinah Shore, IKEA, a Tegan and Sara concert, your local Home Depot) it’s a battlefield and we’re all players with unlimited lives (and libido) as long as we’re in the game. In Don’t Bang the Barista!, Kate is Mario and everyone else… Well, is everyone else that hooks up and breaks up with everyone else.

Don’t Bang the Barista! is one of the smartest, funniest lesbian novels that I’ve had the opportunity to read and review. The execution of the narrative in this book reminds me a lot of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces in its hilarity of the protagonist’s inner monologue. The main character is entirely relatable and there were moments in this novel where I had to step back and wonder “Am I reading this, or is this the voice in my own head?” I loved reading the journey and process that Kate goes through breaking up, making up, and moving on. There’s a reference to the game Scrabble and Kate’s… er… requirement? Prerequisite? Anyway, it made me laugh because it’s so true. Unfortunately, after a nasty break-up, I do the same damn thing. Self-preservation at its finest!

Don’t Bang the Barista! is smart, funny, cool, and edgy. Read it at your favorite coffeehouse, but don’t get carried away and end up banging the barista!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Scissor Sisters – I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’
2. 1975 – Girls
3. Echosmith – Cool Kids
4. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
5. Blur – Girls and Boys
6. Le Tigre – TKO
7. Tegan and Sara – Walking With a Ghost
8. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – I Hate Myself For Loving You
9. xx – Heart Skipped a Beat
10. A Fine Frenzy – Now Is The Start
11. Girl in a Coma – Come On, Let’s Go

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

CHERRY-LIME GIN TONIC
-2 oz of Hendrick’s Gin
-3 oz of Tonic Water
-1 tablespoon of Torani Cherry Syrup
-1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
-1 lime wheel

Combine all the ingredients and pour into a highball glass filled with ice. Stir. Garnish with the lime wheel floating on top. Is this a hipster drink? You bet it is! Put on your best plaid shirt and let’s party!

Suzie Carr – A New Leash on Life


When a hurricane blow through town and threaten the future of Olivia Clark’s animal shelter, she publicizes her desperate plea for help to the masses. Aid comes from a surprising source: Chloe Homestead. Olivia’s ex-girlfriend from thirteen years ago and the only girl Olivia has ever loved. Chloe, a self-made millionaire, offers to finance and manage the shelter’s repairs and operations, a gesture Olivia is in no position to refuse. Working intimately together to provide loving care to homeless animals, Olivia struggles to keep her composure in Chloe’s fun and flirty presence. As Olivia’s walls start to crumble, the past catches up to them. Chloe has a dark secret, a secret that she’s been carrying around for thirteen years. 

Will Chloe’s secret threaten the future of the shelter and the relationship she has worked so hard to restore?

This book delves deeply into the selfless world of dogs, animals, puppies, animal shelters, philanthropy, and family.

REVIEW
I can’t get enough of these novels featuring lesbians who work in animal shelters. Just! Can’t! Get! Enough! Almost immediately after reading Rescued Heart, I came across A New Leash on Life by Suzie Carr. You can tell almost immediately that this author is a die-hard animal-lover. If I was working for the HR department at ASPCA, you’d bet I’d be dialing her number. It’s heart-warming and gratifying to read and review well-written works of fiction that are not only great stories, but that also help bring awareness to its readers on current issues and causes in our world. One of the messages from this novel is clear: all animals deserve a whole lot of love and a happy home.

With novels, if there’s too much detail, readers get aggravated and/or bored and want to chuck the book before they’re done. If there’s too little detail, the story seems superficial and rushed. Suzie Carr has a well-balanced approach to her writing, so you won’t find any long-winded narration (like.. ahem, Charles Dickens) in her novels. She provides just the right amount of detail to keep readers engaged in the plot-line and the characters.

There’s plenty of angst and a closet full of skeletons just waiting to pop out and spook the shit out of the characters. I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say that Chloe was (and is) in quite the predicament and as the reader, you will eventually be able to understand why she made certain choices and sacrifices in her past. There’s a lot to be revealed and you’ll be eagerly anticipating what will happen once the blindfolds are off.

What I enjoyed about this novel is how beautifully human the main characters were portrayed as being, and how imperfectly perfect they are as they make their way back towards each other. Their situation is less than ideal (to say the least), but in the end, life has a mysterious way of fitting it all together. They are, to each other, exactly what they need from another and you’ll be rooting for them all the way.

SOUNDTRACK
1. The Strokes – Someday
2. Oasis – Wonderwall
3. The Killers – Change Your Mind
4. Morrissey – The More You Ignore Me the Closer I Get
5. Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows
6. Keane – Bedshaped
7. Mumford & Sons – I Will Wait
8. Coldplay – Warning Sign
9. Foo Fighters – Walking After You
10. Vampire Weekend – Step
11. Smashing Pumpkins – Beautiful

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

BLUE MOON BELGIAN WHITE

Robin Alexander – Always Alex

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Dana Castilaw grew up tossing coins in a well, hoping her wishes would come true, but the candy fountain puppy, and love never seemed to manifest. At eighteen, she left her hometown of Barbier Point, Louisiana, longing to be free of her father’s choke-hold on her life and with a heart full of dreams she hoped would come true. Years later, she is forced to return home with at least one granted wish- her daughter, Sydney.

Alex Soileau stood at Dana’s side for years tossing her coins into the well, making the same wish each time, a secret plea that she refused to reveal even to her best friend. Time and maturity insisted that she give up on her one fervent desire, but her heart never would.

Reunited as adults, both women realize that maybe there was magic in the well after all.

REVIEW
Ever fell in love with your not-so-straight best friend? Well, join the club.. the book club, of course. 🙂

The great debate in the movie When Harry Met Sally is whether or not men and women can truly have platonic relationships with the opposite sex. If all you know about the movie is the infamous Meg Ryan moaning scene and you have plans to watch it at some point in the future, skip the rest of this paragraph. For those who have watched the movie, you know that the answer is a resounding “NO”. And this makes me wonder… What about lesbians?!

Always Alex brings to light that sometimes, you can be just one baby step away from best friends to lovers which can also bring a massive heap of confusion for the people involved. I have a friend who believes that your best friend is like a lover that you never want to sleep with. But what if your best friend is someone that you do want to sleep with? And don’t most lesbians identify their partner as their best friend? Is this why we have such a thing as lesbian bed death?!?!?! Dana and Alex explore this terrain (minus the lesbian bed death), and Robin Alexander captures the experience of the growth and transition of their relationship beautifully. Dana and Alex are both down-to-Earth, down-and-dirty (smirk), and totally relatable. Reading this novel and getting to know these characters is almost like the experience of listening to a good country song. You can really connect to the story and you feel it in your soul.

Oh, and if you do read this novel… You’re going to get a kick out of Maw Maw. She’s Dana’s grandmother and she’s hilariously vulgar and ratchet. She might just be my hero…

P.S. Here is the Urban Dictionary definition of lesbian bed death:
lesbian bed death – (n.) when sexual relations between a lesbian couple have virtually ceased, yet the companionship remains.

In order words… Best Friends. 😛

SOUNDTRACK
1.Tim McGraw – My Best Friend
2.Keith Urban – Your Everything
3. Sugarland – Fall Into Me
4. Rascal Flatts – Bless The Broken Road
5.Alison Krauss – When You Say Nothing At All
6.The Band Perry – All Your Life
7. Tracy Byrd – Keeper Of The Stars
8. Lady Antebellum – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
9. Dixie Chicks – I’ll Take Care of You
10. Leann Rimes – How Do I Live
11. Keith Urban – Only You Can Love Me This Way
12. Martina McBride – Safe in the Arms of Love
13. Shania Twain – Forever And For Always

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

SPIKED ARNOLD PALMER
-8 oz boiling water
-1 tea bag
-4 tablespoons of white granulated sugar
-2 oz bourbon (I would suggest Knob Creek)
-1 oz lemon juice
-lemon zest
-lemon slice

Steep the tea in boiling water. Mix the sugar, bourbon, lemon juice and lemon zest with the tea. Refrigerate for a few hours. Serve with a glass of ice and garnish with a lemon slice. Life is sweet!

Kim Pritekel & Alex Ross – Wild: The Wild Will Tame You

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When six-year-old Abel Cohen wanders off from her parents’ cabin in the woods of Maine, she is rescued by Zac Lipton, a girl barely older than herself, who knows her way through the trees because they are where she has spent her entire life. That meeting sparks a summer-long friendship filled with laughter, stories, adventures and, of course, spinning. 

Fourteen years later they meet again, and after a rocky introduction, strengthen that bond of friendship formed so many years ago. Abel loves introducing Zac to the world she’s barely glimpsed from her overlook in the woods, and Zac, in turn, shares her love of the outdoors. Together they explore not just their surroundings, but their fears, hopes and feelings.

When Abel nears the end of college and her regular trips to the cabin, will she be able to convince Zac to leave her beloved woods and join her in the bustling city of Boston? Or will Zac decide to remain in her comfort zone, hidden behind the branches and tree trunks, safe from the chaos of civilization?

REVIEW
Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawr!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

If you ever wished to read to a Tarzan-type of story featuring women who love women, swing your way over to Wild: The Wild Will Tame You. This book has been on my “to read” list for awhile, and I just got around to finishing it last night.

Prior to reading les-fic, I spent most of my time in the world of classics and magic realism. It took me a few books to wrap my head around the concept of the “new adult” genre as a sub-category within les-fic. The les-fic that I knew prior to 2013 was just… well… fiction. Judging by book sales and reviews, “new adult” seems to be gaining some dominance in the market.  Perhaps, this can be attributed to some of the more recent pivotal changes in our laws and society’s perception of sexuality. Maybe? Well, I’m just glad to see that our stories are diversifying. Variety is the spice of life… and literature.

Wild: The Wild Will Tame You seems to fit very nicely into this “new adult” category. It’s a sweet story about a girl and her not-so-imaginary friend from the forest, and their adventures in luuuuurve.

The story is told from a third person perspective. Wild: The Wild Will Tame You has an interesting narration, since the world is seen and experienced so differently between the two main characters. From the perspective of Zac, the readers see the innocence and the child-like qualities in her thought patterns. She reminded me of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, minus the fork and the scary octopus woman. There’s a wonder and bewilderment in all new things that Abel shows her, and the tentative steps that Zac takes outside of her beloved forest and into city life is steadied by the woman she’s loved all her life. From Abel’s perspective, the world is very much like the world that most of us live in: school, job, cars, vacations, etc. When Zac brings Abel deep into her forest, you can truly sense that it’s a special place that is far from civilization, but unfortunately, not a place where they can continue to grow the love that they have for each other.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I loved it’s message. This book shows its readers that home is not always the place you come from. Home is where the heart is.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Animal Collective – Leaf House
2. Wild Ones – Dim the Lights
3. Active Child – 1999
4. Sia – I’m in Here
5. Scavenger Hunt – Lost
6. Little Daylight – Love Stories
7. On and On – Drifting
8. Betty Who – Missing You
9. Alfred Hall – Someplace Beautiful
10. Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You
11. Feist – Mushaboom
12. Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
13. A Boy and His Kite – Cover Your Tracks
14. Passion Pit – Live To Tell The Tale

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

BLACKBERRY SMASH
-4 blackberries
-8 mint leaves
-1 oz of lemon juice
-1/2 oz of honey
-2 oz of rye whiskey

Muddle all the ingredients together and serve. Blackberries can be substituted with other berries, just make sure it ain’t random berries you find out in the wilderness while camping.

Lyn Gardner – Give Me A Reason

Give Me A Reason

Intelligent, confident and beautiful, Antoinette Vaughn had it all until one night she went to help a friend and paid for it… with a life sentence in hell. 

Four years later, Toni’s judgment is overturned, but the damage is already done. She walks away from the prison a free woman, but she’s hardly free. Actually, she’s hardly alive. A prison without rules can do that to a person.

She was raised amidst garden parties, stables and tennis courts, but now a dingy flat in a decrepit building is what Toni calls home. It’s cold, dark and barren just like her heart, but it suits her. She doesn’t want to leave much behind when she’s gone, but the simplicity of her sheltered existence begins to unravel when a beautiful stranger comes into her life.

How does anyone survive in a world that terrifies them? How do you learn to trust again when everyone is your enemy? How do you take your next breath and not wish it were your last? And if your past returned…what would you do?

REVIEW
If you’re an avid reader of books in the lesbian fiction genre, you’ll eventually cross paths with Give Me A Reason. It has the highest number of reviews on Amazon (currently 200), and its rated an average of 5 out of 5 stars. Give Me A Reason was released around the time when everyone and their mama were losing their minds over Orange Is the New Black, which probably contributed to the book’s huge popularity. Talk about being at the right place at the right time… but really, this is a great novel in its own right.

Reading this novel, I assumed the author was English or Scottish (she’s actually an American from Florida) and I don’t know if she’s ever spent any time in the pokey or if she watches a lot of prison shows and documentaries, but her writing is incredibly detailed on both accounts. She has quite an imagination, to say the least. What I like about this story is that it doesn’t lack in originality, and it really draws the reader into its world. My only gripe is that whenever I read the phrase “give me a reason” in the novel, it reminded me of listening to the Fugees’ cover of “Killing Me Softly” on Power 106 in 1996.  The song played on the radio 7x per hour, every hour, every day.  In other words, “give me a reason” got REALLY old REALLY fast. You can only bounce that ball so many times before it goes completely flat.

The main characters of this story, Toni and Laura, are both FIERY. They’re portrayed as strong women with strong personalities. The beauty in their friendship and eventual romantic relationship is that they allow each other to simply be the individuals that they are. Toni has her episodes, and Laura has her temper tantrums, but they manage through those experiences and move forward together. They don’t view each other as improvement projects, and love joins their lives together like puzzle pieces.

I spent six months stuck on this damn book. I couldn’t stop reading it because I enjoyed it so damn much. At the time, Give Me A Reason was the third lesbian fiction novel I finished reading so I didn’t have a collection of favorites in my re-reading rotation.

This is a great novel to read during the long winter season. I would recommend reading a few chapters a night before going to bed, and savoring and stretching it out as long as you can.

SOUNDTRACK
1. James Blake – Retrograde
2. Travis – Writing To Reach You
3. Amy Winehouse – Wake Up Alone
4. Depeche Mode – Somebody
5. David Grey – Please Forgive Me
6. Keane – Somewhere Only We Know
7. Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
8. Adele – Make You Feel My Love
9. Ed Sheeran – Kiss Me
10. Sam Smith – Lay Me Down (Acoustic)
11. Nick Drake – Northern Sky
12. Ellie Goulding – How Long Will I Love You

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

EARL GREY HOT TODDY
-1 oz of bourbon
-1 tablespoon of honey
-2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
-6 oz of boiling water
-1 packet of Earl Grey tea (I would recommend Tetley)
-Orange wheel

Boil water and pour into a mug. Steep the tea. Mix the bourbon, honey, and fresh lemon juice with the tea. Float the orange wheel on top. Warm and cozy!

Gerri Hill – At Seventeen

Seventeen

Madison Lansford and Shannon Fletcher met when they were ten years old. Madison-daughter of wealthy parents and Shannon, daughter of their live-in maid and cook-became fast friends, yet both knew their place in life. There was never a doubt that they would become lovers…there was also never a doubt that Madison would marry and maintain her social standing in the community. Little by little, they grew apart, their love affair ending with Madison’s marriage and pregnancy. Now, years later, Shannon returns to her old hometown to care for her ailing mother. Can they rebuild their friendship? Or will their new-found closeness bring back memories of their long-lost love? Travel through the years with Shannon and Madison and watch their love unfold as they move from teens to young women and into adulthood. 

REVIEW
This is the third book I’ve read that’s written by the infamous Gerri Hill, and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. She has the lesbian romance-writing formula down, so I know that I’m always guaranteed a good time. (Snicker) At Seventeen is no exception to that formula. Her novels are pretty quick reads, and perfect if you’re sitting at an airport and need to kill some time before a flight. There aren’t a lot of surprises in the novel, and there’s a comfort in it’s predictability. You know that you can expect good writing and a good ending with Gerri Hill, which is the appeal of picking up her books. At least, it is for me.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly with this novel:

The Good – This is almost like the lesbian version of Nicholas Spark’s The Notebook, but the story starts in childhood, ends in (early-ish) adulthood, and no one dies together while holding hands. There’s a clear distinction between what happens in the past and what happens in the present, so there’s no confusion for its readers. It skips back and forth until about a third into the book, then it continues on in the present. The storyline of At Seventeen is really its strong point, and the buildup of the romance between Madison and Shannon is very nicely done.

The Bad – The characters were a bit one-dimensional. Characterizations bring a depth to the story and because of it’s absence in At Seventeen, it left me wanting just a little more. Some of the characters’ actions, especially Shannon’s friends, were confusing. Even when there was some clarification in the end, it wasn’t very satisfying.

The Ugly – There’s a kid in the story. I have no gripes about a kid being in any story, but his presence doesn’t add very much to it. And I get it, you could justify that his existence helps reinforce the message that things happen for a reason, but I felt like he was moved around like a Monopoly piece.  It was almost too easy to roll the dice and move him down the board when they needed him to disappear.

It wasn’t my favorite from Gerri Hill, but I enjoyed the novel and it provided a nice little escape for a few hours.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Priscilla Ahn – Dream
2. John Mayer – All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye
3. Regina Spektor – Fidelity
4. Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love For You
5. John Mayer – Friends, Lovers, or Nothing
6. Colbie Caillat – Realize
7. Mariah Carey – When I Saw You
8. Janet Jackson – Where Are You Now
9. Meiko – Lucky We Are
10. The Cure – Love Song
11. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
12. Jason Mraz feat. Colbie Caillat – Lucky

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

SOUTHERN COMFORT CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL
-1 oz of Southern Comfort
-Dash of Angostura bitters
-4 oz of chilled champagne (M&R Asti is recommended)
-Twisted lemon peel

Pour the Southern Comfort in a champagne glass.  Add a dash of bitters, then top off with the champagne.  Garnish with a twisted lemon peel.

Melissa Brayden – How Sweet It Is

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Molly O’Brien is a sweetheart.  Her friends and neighbors all think so.  While she enjoys her quiet life running the town bakeshop in Applewood, Illinois, she wonders if there could be more.  After losing the love of her life four years prior in a plane crash, Molly thinks she’s ready to navigate the dicey dating waters once again.  However, you can’t always pick who your heart latches on to.  When Jordan Tuscana, the beautiful younger sister of her lost love, returns to town, Molly finds her interest piqued in a manner she wasn’t prepared for.

All secrets are uncovered, Molly and Jordan must figure out how to navigate the difficult terrain of their multi-faceted relationship.  Especially when something much deeper seems to be bubbling between them.

REVIEW
The publisher’s summary of this book definitely gave me pause. Just to wrap my head around the storyline of girl falls in love with deceased lover’s little sister…. it seemed too heavy of a read for me.

This might sound a little ridiculous, but what nudged me over the edge was that the woman on the cover of this novel looks a lot like Jillian Michaels. I have a minor crush (okay fine, I own 7 of her DVDs) on her. And How Sweet It Is was the only Melissa Brayden novel that I hadn’t finished. It really turned out that I saved the best for last.

Just a forewarning, if you have a sweet tooth, you may want to read this book on a full stomach. Or just imagine that the Jillian Michaels look-alike is yelling at you to abstain from eating cinnamon rolls and to drop and give her 20 for even thinking about it. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to assume that the author enjoys chocolate and sweets. Actually, I think she’s really borderline obsessed with chocolate. (Midnight Chocolate, anyone?) Maybe I can bribe her into writing one more book for her Soho Loft series. Melissa Brayden, I will give you 500 chocolate Santas if you make my Christmas wish come true. Please?! Pretty please?!

Aside from the description of the decadent desserts that make my thighs feel like they’re ever expanding, the writing in this novel is a real treat for its readers. The author has a mighty set of ovaries for writing this story. She treats each of her characters with dignity. There isn’t a sense of real betrayal, and thankfully, no one in the story is demonized or dehumanized. It’s written sensitively and respectfully, without undermining the love in the past between Molly and Cassie, and the love in the future between Molly and Jordan. Brayden doesn’t gloss over the tough conversations on the complexities of the different relationships, and navigates the readers through those waters with ease.

You really experience the small-town America feel with this novel. The author is adept at changing settings without compromising the writing, or the readers feel for the story. Although, Brayden’s writing has a familiarity and comfort between the stories, that’s not to say that she’s a typecast author. Her stories are as varied as her characters, who are always interesting and unique. What I also enjoy about Brayden’s writing is how she subtly ties the characters in her novels together. Just to give you an example (and this hopefully isn’t too much of a spoiler), in How Sweet It Is, Jordan has a meeting with a potential investor Emory Owen, one of the main characters in Heart Block.  The reader gets a sense that none of the stories really end. Perhaps, this is a clever way for the author to have her readers revisit her novels? If it is, I’m a sucker every time. I’ve reread her books so often, that I’ve practically memorized the words. No joke.

After finishing this review, I’m almost tempted to add a dessert section…

SOUNDTRACK
1.  Heartless Bastards – Skin and Bone
2.  Elliott Smith – Sweet Adeline
3.  Duncan Sheik – She Runs Away
4.  Ani DiFranco – You Had Time
5.  Paper Kites – Bloom
6.  David Grey – This Year’s Love
7.  City and Colour – We Found Each Other In The Dark
8.  Iron & Wine – The Trapeze Swinger
9.  Fisher – I Will Love You
10.  Sam Palladio – When The Right One Comes Along

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

GODIVA CHOCOLATE MARTINI
-2 oz of Godiva chocolate liqueur
-2 oz of creme de cacao
-0.5 oz of vodka (I would recommend Belvedere)
-2.5 oz of half and half

Mix all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Chica Shake Shake, Mentirosaaaa. Pour into a chilled martini glass. Ladies and gentlemen, you are now entering chocolate heaven.

Ann McMan – Jericho

Jericho

Librarian Syd Murphy flees the carnage of a failed marriage by accepting an eighteen-month position in Jericho- a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia.  Her plans to hide out and heal her woulds fall by the wayside as she gets drawn into the daily lives of the quirky locals.  She becomes fast friends with Maddie Stevenson, the enigmatic physician who has returned to the backcountry community to take over her late father’s medical practice.  Together they learn that life and love can have as many twists and turns as a country road.  

REVIEW
I was so obsessed with this book for awhile, that an old friend used to joke that it was my new girlfriend, Jeri Cho. I do admit that I spent an enormous amount of time with her. But what did she give me in the end?  She gave me a broken heart. We had a booty call a few months later (Ann McMan wrote a collection of short stories Sidecar, one of them featuring Maddie and Syd). Then, we got back together shortly after that (Ann McMan wrote a sequel, Aftermath) but it just wasn’t the same. I read somewhere that the author was planning on continuing the series with another book in 2015. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m really hoping it will sometime in the near future. I need closure, Ann McMan!

This book earned a lot of awards and recognition, and for damn good reason. It’s one helluva novel. Not only is it a GREAT story, but it’s GREAT writing. Jericho is the complete package: engaging plot, compelling three-dimensional characters (layers upon layers, like yummy 7-layer bean dip), and smart dialogue. The banter between Maddie and Syd is witty, playful, and intellectually flirtatious. Their chemistry is really off the pages.

The romance develops slower than most lesbian novels and that helps it feel more organic and authentic.  You’re at the edge of your seat (or edge of your bed, depending on where you’re reading) eagerly anticipating Maddie or Syd to grow some ovaries and profess their love and affection for each other.  When they FINALLY come together, it’s like the feeling you get when you’re listening to a long progressive house song and the bass drops.  Oh, the feels!

If you enjoy reading books that include any of the following: small-town living, hot doctors, sexy librarians, Katharine Hepburn, Adirondack chairs, classical music, wine, strong coffee, Cheetos… READ JERICHO! Even if you don’t, read it any way. Especially, if you’re planning on relaxing in a cabin during the winter season, and you’re longing to curl up with a good book that will make your insides feel like Christmas.

By the way, is anyone else in California excited that El Nino is coming?! I can’t wait to see the snow up in Big Bear!  It’s going to be amazing!

SOUNDTRACK
1.  Gwyneth Herbert – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
2.  Bach – Suites for Unaccompanied Cello
3.  Leftover Cuties – When You’re Smiling
4.  Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade
5.  Lake Street Drive – You Go Down Smooth
6.  Renee Fleming – La Rondine from Puccini’s Canzone di Doretta
7.  Ella Fitzgerald – Dream a Little Dream of Me
8.  Beethoven – Piano Sonata 8 in C-Minor, Movement I
9.  Joni Mitchell – A Case of You
10.  Ella Fitzgerald – I’m Beginning to See the Light
11.  Melody Gardot – Our Love is Easy

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a….

JUSTIN MALBEC RESERVE 2013