Miranda Macleod – Your Name In Lights

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After eighteen years, the stars may have finally aligned to give Cecily and Rorie a second chance at happiness together. The trouble with stars, though: they don’t stay aligned for long.

As Cecily settles into her life in sunny California, she imagines her biggest challenge will be learning to take care of herself as a newly divorced mother and publicly out lesbian. The last thing she expects is to land the acting role of a lifetime. But is it worth being so far away from the loving support of her girlfriend and son?

Rorie is dismayed by the prospect of a long distance relationship, but there’s no time to dwell on it. Between stepping in as a surrogate parent and facing a family crisis of her own, she’s soon in over her head. Will Cecily ever be the true partner that Rorie needs?

Despite time, distance, and some persistent paparazzi, Cecily and Rorie have found in each other a love to last a lifetime, but only if they can learn to navigate the dual pressures of fame and family.

REVIEW
Cecily and Rorie are back! Your Name In Lights is book two of three in the Love’s Encore series. A Road Through Mountains was released this past spring, and the third installment, Fifty Percent Illusion is coming out in October. Three seasons of Miranda Macleod? Don’t mind if I do! Hey, Miranda… *Waves*… Maybe a Christmas short story starring Cecily and Rorie? Make it all four seasons? An encore for Love’s Encore?

It doesn’t hurt to try, right? 🙂

Fast forward six months from A Road Through Mountains: Cecily and Rorie finally have their second shot at luuuuurve and these two have a LOT of catching up to do. What would you do if you were separated from your true love for nearly twenty years? Maybe a better question would be, what wouldn’t you do? But as fate would have it, a hot minute after Cecily has finally settled in California, she’s already off to Portland for a once-in-a-lifetime acting gig that she can’t pass up. Meanwhile, Rorie has major mama drama that’s starting to brew, and it has the potential for changing life in a very drastic way. I’ll just leave it at that, so I don’t give anything away.

In Your Name In Lights, one of the things that I admired about Cecily was her tenacity to succeed. As she sets out on her new life in California, she’s determined to make it on her own, without having to rely on her inheritance and without relying on anyone else, including her new girlfriend. She’s not looking for handouts and she has pride and drive in creating her own success. Ooo girl, go on wit yo bad self.

Miranda Macleod also brings some interesting points for her readers to consider regarding the price of fame in this novel. Us non-celebrity folk don’t really have to worry about being followed by the paparazzi and having our pictures splattered on tabloid pages for the world to see. We don’t have millions of people who are watching us and scrutinizing our every word and action. Celebrities don’t have the luxury of leading private lives and are much more exposed and vulnerable to those that want to take advantage of their fame and wealth. It’s always easier to believe that the grass is greener on the other side, but there are always pros and cons to every place in life. Just as with the choices that we make, there’s always something to gain and something to lose in its place. Readers will have the opportunity of seeing the flipside of fame through the lives of Rorie and Cecily. Honestly, reading Your Name In Lights has made me a little more sympathetic towards celebrities. Money certainly doesn’t buy love or happiness.

As far as the writing for this novel, it’s exactly what you would expect from Miranda Macleod: entertaining and a pleasure to read. It was a bit slow to warm in the beginning, but it picks up the pace considerably towards the middle, and has a nice little cliffhanger at the end. I would recommend reading A Road Through Mountains and Your Name In Lights back to back. If you’ve already read A Road Through Mountains, take a quick skim before you dive into this novel. Sometimes, it helps to prep your palette before taking your next bite.

Another homerun from Miranda Macleod. I’m eager to read the final installment, Fifty Percent Illusion this fall!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend (Seeb Remix)
2. Maroon 5 – It Was Always You
3. Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling!
4. Calvin Harris – This Is What You Came For
5. Chainsmokers – Roses
6. Yuna – Best Love
7. St Lucia – All Eyes on You
8. Alicia Keys – How It Feels To Fly
9. Usher – Dive
10. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do

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

STRAWBERRY-BASIL BOURBONADE
-1.5 oz of McKenna bourbon
-0.75 oz of agave
-3 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
-3 medium sized strawberries sliced
-5 basil leaves
-Ice

Muddle the basil leaves, agave, and strawberry into your mixing tin. Pour ice and the remaining ingredients into the mixing tin and shake whatcha mama gave ya.

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KG MacGregor – Trial by Fury

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When a coed is viciously assaulted on the campus of Harwood University, performance studies professor Celia Perone learns a brutal truth- star athletes can get away with whatever they want. Threatened with her job if she goes public, Celia pays a secret visit to celebrated women’s rights attorney Theodora Constantine.

Theo’s riding high after winning a very public sexual harassment claim against a cable news network. Next up for her firm is a class action suit that will strain her small staff. She can’t afford to get sidetracked by another case, but Celia won’t take no for an answer. 

The case is compelling and so is Celia- so much that Theo finds herself falling hard. But before they can win love, they have to win justice.

REVIEW
I’ve been in a bit of a reading frenzy lately. Mostly because the annual conference for the Golden Crown Literary Society is just around the corner. This is like Coachella + Dinah Shore for me, minus the bikinis, flower crowns, and drunken make-out sessions with random strangers. This conference is an incredible opportunity to interface with other readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers in the lesfic community and I’m beyond excited to go this year!

I have to be honest though, I’m dreading the flight to D.C and back. I hate flying and I’m seriously terrified. The last time I went on a plane was when I flew out to San Francisco with my band for Pride in 2010. Let’s just say that I was highly inebriated on the flight there, and heavily sedated on the flight back. No joke. I suppose you have to face your fears to chase your dreams? Maybe chase it down with a shot or two of tequila? Hopefully, I won’t arrive at the conference totally tossed. Kidding!

Trial by Fury is the latest release by KG MacGregor, one of the titans in the world of lesbian literature. KG MacGregor is like Homer, and I don’t mean Homer Simpson. I’m referring to the Greek poet Homer, who wrote the classics: Iliad and Odyssey. 

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MacGregor, like Homer, has some pretty epic heroes in her stories doing some pretty epic things during some pretty epic times. Every novel that I’ve read by KG MacGregor has been high on drama and adventure, and Trial by Fury is one that you definitely won’t want to miss. Anna and Celia kick some major institutionalized misogynistic ass in this novel. Anna and Celia battle against the powers that try to suppress them and Harwood University discovers that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are relentless in their fight to seek justice that the victims in this story rightly deserve. These women are heroines in every sense of the word: passionate, strong, brave.

MacGregor prefaces the novel by stating that she’s not a subject matter expert in law. If you aren’t from the legal world, I think you’d be easily convinced otherwise. The author’s storyline narrative is riveting, and the writing is compelling and convincing. I can only imagine the amount of research and time it took for the author to learn about the process of law, and to meticulously craft this novel.

Trial by Fury isn’t just fiction. It’s a mirror image of the huge problem of rape and sexual assault that we’re facing at our colleges and universities today. The statistics that are shown in the novel are as alarming as they are real: 1 in 4 women have been victims of sexual assault at college campuses across the United States. Unfortunately, most of these incidents go unreported due to the victim’s own feelings of shame and fear, and their deep-seated belief that nothing will be done and that “you’re on your own” because “you did something wrong”. The resolution of the People of the State of California vs. Brock Allen Turner reinforces this type of toxic conditioning and perpetuates a destructive cycle of abuse. It’s incredibly disappointing and infuriating to see how our justice system failed Emily Doe, and ultimately, failed all of us. The judge dropped the ball on this. Big time. We have a ways to go in changing rape culture in this country.

Writers have the gift of words. Words which are expressed to their respective audience for a myriad of purposes: to comfort, direct, entertain, educate. Unfortunately, words can also be used to manipulate, lie, cheat, and inflict pain and suffering. In Trial by Fury, MacGregor utilizes her talent and gift to shine a light in a very dark place. And I hope, as a community, we continue to create light and bring change, no matter how big or small.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Tori Amos – Crucify
2. Sarah McLachlan – Witness
3. Daughter – Youth
4. James Vincent McMorrow – Down The Burning Ropes
5. Max Frost – Let Me Down Easy
6. Joshua Hyslop – The Spark
7. Staves – Steady
8. Ben Howard – All Is Now Harmed
9. Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek
10. Agnes Obel – Falling, Catching
11. Liv Dawson – Tapestry

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with…

I think I’ll skip this one.

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.

Melissa Brayden – Waiting in the Wings

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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

Lynn Ames – All That Lies Within

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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.

Kristen Zimmer – The Gravity Between Us

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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.