Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Big Fat Disaster by Beth Fehlbaum

Title: Big Fat Disaster
Author: Beth Fehlbaum
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 18th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Merit Press

One Star.


Colby Denton is the less than perfect daughter of an up and coming politician, something her family never lets her forget. Her sisters are perfect, but her family is ashamed of her being in the limelight because of her size. Her world starts to come apart when she finds out that her father has been lying and stealing. Forced to move into the trailer on her cousin's property, she must face new obstacles like bullying, school politics, suicide, and self-worth and acceptance in a new town.

This book y'all. This. Book. It had me in rage-tears. It made me so ridiculously angry, you have no idea. I took about six pages of hand-written, venting notes and observations on this one. That being said, I have taken some time to cool off so that I may write a respectful and professional review. I'll try my best to refrain from spoilers.

I was really excited to read this one. In theory, I should have related to it on a lot of different levels. I'm plus sized. I have a father who left us for another family and lied about money so that we had to move in with family. But this novel just didn't click with me at all. Shall we begin?

I didn't like any of the characters, and that includes Colby. She's the main character, and I ought to have felt sympathy and compassion for her, but I found her to be just as bad as the rest of them. Her family is constantly belittling her and calling her uncreative insults like "fat" at every waking turn. Even the other heavy girl in the family makes comments about it. Almost all of her teachers for some reason hate her, and the whole school makes fun of her because she's in knock off clothes. I could have maybe dealt with that. But Colby is constantly talking shit to/about her little sister, she refers to her mom's willingness to go shopping for her at garage sales when they have no money as "dumpster diving". There's a whole lot of shaming going on. They almost all feel like villains, in a kind of melodramatic way. I've been in Colby's shoes, and I've never seen such across the board horrid beings. The family members all blame her aunt for her abuse, the cousin for his defending a girl getting raped, and even Colby's mom for getting dumped. That's not even mentioning the people at school.

I also feel like she brought a lot of this onto herself. And no, I'm not talking about her eating disorder, binge eating. She puts on clothes that are way too tight and gets made fun of for it and hurts herself in the process because she won't tell her mom they don't fit. She speaks her mind at horrible times, and has to pay the price. She lies. It's awful.

On the topic of her eating disorder, I felt like it was added as an after thought when I expected it to be a more central theme. It really, in my opinion, just served to open her up to everyone's hatred. It would go unmentioned long enough that I'd forget (not about her size- that's mentioned constantly, but her disorder), and then would have to think "oh yeah, she has that."

Similarly, there are a lot of heavy topics mentioned in this book that are treated fairly blase in a soap-opera like drama instead of being given the care, tact, and respect they deserve. Eating disorders, suicide, bullying, cyberbullying, abuse, rape, slut shaming, class shaming, this book has it all. There's so much mentioned, but I don't feel like any of them were thoroughly explored or attended to. A video of Colby goes viral, and her mom actually blames her for being fat. Because if she weren't fat, she wouldn't have been filmed. What? The one character that I did like, who called characters out on their bullshit the way they deserved, dies out of nowhere and that upset me too. Not because he died, but because it seemed so needless.

This could have all maybe been leading up to some greater resolution, where differences are resolved and tensions simmer down and Everyone learns something. Nope. Colby starts to sort of come around towards the end, maybe, and then the book ends. I didn't like her anymore at the end of the novel than I did at the beginning. I felt like I read all this drama and conflict for naught.

This wasn't the book for me. If rape, abuse, suicide, or eating disorders are a trigger for you, please read this with caution. In short, it was too much drama and not enough likable characters. Be warned that this has a lot of serious themes and vulgar language. Maybe you'll like it better than I did. Thanks to Netgalley & Merit Press for my chance to read this.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Interview & Review: Clockworkers by Ramsey Isler

Hello readers. There are a few books out there in the great wide world that I feel are underrated. Clockworkers by Ramsey Isler is one of these lovelies. I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask Ramsey some questions about his writing. Please welcome him to Bitches n Prose. Ramsey, thank you for stopping by.


Was there a defining moment that made you certain that you wanted to be a writer?
There was never a single "Aha!" moment for me. Unlike many writers, I didn't write stories when I was a kid. I wrote for school work, and I took all the usual word nerd courses like AP English and excelled at them, but I didn't spend any time creating my own worlds. However, I had always enjoyed reading. I was a rabid and ambitious reader, and although I loved well-told stories it didn't really occur to me that I could actually write them. Then about seven years ago I had a break in my career as the startup I'd been working at went bankrupt, and I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. I'd just moved to Los Angeles at the time and there's a certain creative magic about this city. There's something about the glamour of Beverly Hills, the variety of Venice, and the majesty of the vast beaches and mountains that makes you want tell a story. I decided I'd use my time between work to start a novel, and I've been writing ever since.

Clockworkers is a book that contains fantastical elements like elves and magic. What is is your favorite fairy tale?
I definitely loved Rumpelstiltskin. I had an illustrated book of fairy tales as a kid and I just loved the image of the old elf spinning straw into gold. There's definitely a lot of Rumpelstiltskin influence in this novel.

Play along with me for a moment. You gain the name of one of the Kith, and so gain power over it- what is the first thing that you do?
I'd ask him to tell me his favorite story. I'm sure that would be fascinating.

You mention an impressive number of myths and legends from all over the world concerning elves and similar creatures. Did you have to do a lot of research on the topic?
I'd actually had a fascination with folklore from different cultures before I'd even thought about writing Clockworkers. As I said earlier, I was an insatiable reader (still am) and as I went through all these old tales I saw some interesting similarities in story structure even though the tales were from cultures that had no interaction with each other. One of those common themes was magical "little people", and by reading those tales I came up with an idea of writing a story that took a little bit of flavor from each culture and created a modern fairy tale.

Your main character, Sam, is a female. As a male, do you find it harder to capture the personalities and mannerisms of the opposite gender? If so, how is it different?
This was my first time writing a female lead, and at first it was a little challenging because I really wanted to do the character justice and avoid stereotypes. Somewhere along the line I realized I was just trying too hard. Women and men really aren't all that different when it comes down to it; the differences largely exist in what society expects of them. Traditional gender identity creates an idea of what women and men should be, and with Sam I tried to make her break out of those molds while still dealing with a world that expected her to fit their definition of what a young woman her age should be. Sam is very much an aggressive and tomboyish girl but she's also undeniably feminine in ways that matter to her, and she doesn't care what anyone else thinks. So far, the reviews and opinions I've gotten show that my female readers love her but the male readers aren't as enthusiastic, and a few don't find her as "likable" as they'd prefer. I think that says a lot.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what songs make up the soundtrack to Clockworkers?
Many people find this surprising, but I very rarely listen to music while I work. Instead, I prefer to write with the TV on. Most of the time you'll find me writing with some kind of educational channel on in the background. I write sci-fi and fantasy, and much of my world building relies on fascinating things that are real but stranger than fiction. My TV watching gives me lots of ideas.

I actually prefer TV over music as well! Is there a particular place that inspires you to write, such as a spot outdoors or your favorite chair?
I write anywhere I can feel comfortable. Most of my work gets done either in my living room or bedroom, but I've also written in hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants. I even wrote down some story ideas at a wedding once when my muse demanded my attention immediately. And whenever I'm working through a tough story problem, the resolution always comes to me during a hot shower. I've read about other authors who have epiphanies on the toilet. I guess the bathroom is where all the good ideas are.

What is the one thing that can always cheer you up when you've had a rough day?
I don't often have rough days, but when I do a delicious meal always sets things right.

Can you tell me about any writing projects that you're currently working on?
I'm currently working on a new series of short novels. The topic? Magic! I’m planning on putting a sci-fi spin on magic. It’s kind of a mix of Harry Potter, The Prestige, and even a little Ghostbusters vibe. Look for the first book to be out this summer.

That definitely sounds like something I'd love. I'll be sure to check it out. Now, for my last question. What is the one thing you most want to leave your readers thinking at the end of Clockworkers?
Sometimes fortune blesses us with a wonderful thing but we can't truly appreciate it because we're hoping for something else; some ideal that only exists in our heads.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Scroll down to my five-star review of Clockworkers!

Title: Clockworkers
Author: Ramsey Isler
Format: Kindle edition, 345 pages
Pub. Date: November 20th 2013
Source: Ramsey Isler
Buy Link: Amazon


Five stars.


Clockworkers is a young adult dark-urban fantasy novel that takes the fairy tales you read as a kid, contemporary settings, and a set of well written characters and weaves them together into one great book from cover to cover. Tinkerer Sam Chablon runs a watch repair shop with her dad, whose quirky behavior in his old age includes researching elves. She thinks it's nothing more than a sign of his fraying mind, until she becomes acquainted with one herself. She quickly becomes thrust into a world where myth, fantasy, and reality become blurred as one, and she must decide who to trust, how far she will push her limits, and discover for herself if good really does beat evil, as fairy tales have come to teach us.

I'd like to first sum up my review of Clockworkers in one sentence; Books like this are the reason why I read independently published books. So many brilliant books go out into the world without enough of a bang, and for me this is one of them. I simply adored it.

First, the writing itself is really well done. There's a really dark, almost ominous and Grimm-esque feel to this book from very early on that follows throughout the story. The imagery is well detailed and the characters are too. I felt like I was really in the story with the Kith, and connected to the characters. So much so, in fact, that at one point I hated the main character because I connected with her. I don't want to give spoilers, but let's just say truth can be ugly when you look it in the eye.

Then, there is a tremendous amount of information about the impish little creatures referred to as the Kith, or elves, featured in this book. There are myths mentioned from each corner of the world, making it seem that much more real. It's a myth that many cultures share, which gives just that little glimmer of hope that maybe there is such a thing as fairy tales.

Plus, there are so many deeper themes at play here. Again, I wish to avoid spoilers as I greatly encourage you to read this for yourself, but there are huge conflicts of things like morals that come to play in a way that isn't always pleasant to read about, but that definitely are relevant in the modern, real world.

If you're a fan of dark fairy tales and fantasy with just a sprinkle of death and romance, Clockworkers is a book I can't recommend enough. I read it in one setting, and it flew by in the best possible way. Be warned that there is some language and violence, though nothing in my opinion that's too extreme for teens and higher. Thanks to the author who gave me a copy to read in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author
For much of my life, I was one of those quirky folk known as a "coder". I wrote computer code, not stories. I was fairly successful at it, and I had a lot of fun doing it. But my true passion was writing books and stories that would inspire and ignite the light of creativity in others, just as my favorite storytellers had inspired me in my youth. I'm still in the early phases of my journey as an author, but it has been quite an adventure so far.

I write contemporary fantasy, epic fantasy, and sci-fi. My books The Remortal, Ghosts of ARCADIA, The Ninth Order, and Clockworkers are available on various digital book stores.

My favorite things include Japanese food, gadgets, comics, and cats.

You can find him on Goodreads, Twitter, and his blog.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Eerie America

Title: Eerie America: Travel Guide of the Macabre
Author: Eric R Vernor, Kevin Eads
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: May 1st 2014
Source: Netgalley & Schiffer Publishing


Four and a Half Stars, rounded up.


This book is a travel guide featuring over a hundred creepy and dark spots for your inner creeper. From restaurants and hotels that just might have a ghost or two to historical sites where the gravest acts happened, Eerie America is there to help you add a little bit of the macabre to your next vacation across the states.

When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. In the words of Lydia from Beetlejuice, "Live people ignore the strange and unusual. I, myself, am strange and unusual." I am always attracted to, well, attractions that are off the beaten path and are a bit darker than your run of the mill diners and theme parks. Eerie America caters to this kind of people.

I really appreciated that this book was divided up by state. This allowed me to find out what sites are closest to my location without much travel. That being said, it's helpful while planning vacations too. That way you can plot what sites in each state that you'd like to stop by on the way to your main destination.

I was really happily surprised by the diversity of locations included in this book. I was expecting haunted locations that I've seen a million times, but that definitely was not the case. There are hauntings of course, but also creepy stores, restaurants, bars, museums, and even a host that offers gothic weddings.

This book also includes contact information for each location when available. Addresses and URLs are provided so that it's easy to check out all the places that the authors recommend. This proved useful, because I clicked each website or Googled each place as I was reading this ebook on my computer.

If you ,like me, prefer to walk on the darker side of life and have an appreciation of things that go bump in the night, Eerie America is a book you should use to broaden your twilight horizons. Thanks so much to Netgalley and Schiffer Publishing for my chance to read this!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes, & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar

Title: Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes, & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar
Author: Gesine Bullock-Prado, Tina Rupp
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 23 2012
Source: Netgalley & Stewart, Tabori and Chang


Three stars.


Sugar Baby is a cookbook that centers around, you guessed it, sugar. From candy and sweeties to cakes and mousses, this book explores all the way that the modern cook utilizes sugar in their kitchen.

One huge plus of this book is the amount of instruction. Sugar is complex, but the author of this one breaks it down clearly. Recipes are divided by the stage/temperature of sugar used, and at the beginning there's a brief history and a list of equipment that one ought to possess in order to have the most successful sugary concoctions in their own kitchens.

This book is a little hard to follow at times, from the perspective of one like myself who is unaccustomed to working with sugar as a main medium. I also wish there had been more pictures. I'm a very visual person in the kitchen, and I like knowing exactly how things should look once I'm done. However, the pictures that were included were very well done, and made me want to eat (reading this while wanting dessert may have been a mistake!).

That being said, this collection is a great way to amp up your game. Individual components such as different kinds of fudges, frostings, and fillings are extremely helpful to integrate into your pastry repertoire. However, the back of this book contains recipes for cakes, tarts, and other full desserts that let you add these individual components together into one stunning dessert. A few treats that I'd be happy to make are Parisian Macarons, Candy Corn, and NOLA Praline Custard Bread Pudding.

There's no disputing that these recipes look and sound delicious, but it is not a book that I see myself regularly using. I would however keep it on hand for when I wanted to feel a bit fancy or impress with my handcrafted sweets. Thank you to Stewart, Tabori, and Chang & Netgalley for my chance to read this book.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

LGBT Month Top Ten

Hello my readers! In case you did not know, I am participating in LGBT Month hosted by Laura Plus Books and Fighting Dreamer. To participate you only have to make ONE LGBT post, or review ONE LGBT book. Now, I'm sure you guys are wondering why I haven't posted more about this, and the answer is a two-parter. One, finals. It's the end of the semester and I am drowning in work. The second reason, is that I have NO young adult books in my possession with LGBT themes. The only LGBT books in my dorm room I've either 1) read already 2) can't review yet or 3) are erotica. So, I've decided that I'll just do one big post of my favorite YA books with LGBT themes. The below list is in no particular order- I recommend them all!

Laura Plus Books

1) Mosh Pit by Kristyn Dunnion

Goodreads blurb: Juliet meets her Juliets in this raw look at punk, young love and the sometimes cloudy road to adulthood. Mosh Pit, a compelling story of rebel girls in the modern city, stars Simone - torn between her loyalty to her rebellious heart - throb Cherry and her feelings for Carol, streetwise and distant enough to be alluring. This edgy young adult novel takes Simone through the modern equivalent of Hades where she gradually gains a sense of who she is and more importantly who she can be.

This is the first LGBT book I ever read, and I think that's part of why I love it so much. It's like a goth lesbian soap opera and there's never a dull moment. You can read my five star review of it here.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Goodreads blurb: Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

This is probably my favorite on the list (don't tell the others). I think this story is one that everyone can connect to in their coming of age years, and then again for different reasons in later maturity. Every time I reread this book, I'm reading something different. As I shape, it shapes with me, and I think that's the best thing a book can do. You can read my review of it here.

3) Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Goodreads blurb: Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

This book was extremely relatable to me, and it had me crying at the end. The main character struggles with her identity as I did for so long. My girlfriend has been out of the closet for life times, and is proud of who she is. I have kept it hidden until about a year ago, and I'm still not really self-accepting of who I am. This story was raw and real to me, and though it was painful for me to read, it is one I'd recommend a thousand times over. You can read my review of it here.

4) Swans and Klons by Nora Olsen

Goodreads blurb: What does it take to survive in a world built on lies?

Sixteen-year-old Rubric loves her pampered life in the Academy dormitory. She’s dating Salmon Jo, a brilliant and unpredictable girl. In their all-female world, non-human slaves called Klons do all the work. But when Rubric and Salmon Jo break into the laboratory where human and Klon babies are grown in vats, they uncover a terrifying secret that tears their idyllic world apart.

Their friends won’t believe them, and their teachers won’t help them. The Doctors who rule Society want to silence Rubric and Salmon Jo. The two girls must flee for their lives. As they face the unthinkable, the only thing they have left to believe in is their love for each other.

This is one that stood out to me, because it's lesbians in science fiction. I love LGBT themed books, and I love dystopian works, so this book is a great merger of the two. I found it fascinating to read about a society where men don't exist, and the author did a great job of making me want to read more of their story. You can read my review of it here.

5) Eating My Feelings by Mark Rosenburg

Goodreads blurb: Mark Rosenberg has had more ups and downs with his weight than Oprah-but unlike Oprah, no one gives a sh*t. Coming of age very outrageously as an overweight, soon-to-be gay kid, he learns to relate to others by way of his beloved Melrose Place and Clueless-which serves him well when exiled to fat camp and faced with an opportunity to bribe an adulterous counselor or poison his stepmother by birthday cake-and thinks nothing of dressing as Homey the Clown (in blackface) for Halloween. This sets him up for adulthood in the image-obsessed world of gay men in New York City, where he hires personal trainers he wants to sleep with, applies an X-rated twist to Julie & Julia in an attempt to reach blogger stardom, and has an imaginary relationship with the man on the P90X workout infomercials that becomes a little bit too real. Hilarious, heartwarming (as if), and especially scandalous, Eating My Feelings leaves no stone unturned and no piece of red velvet cake uneaten.

Okay, so I'm cheating a little. This isn't YA. It's a nonfiction collection of essays from a gay man's youth, and it is absolutely hilarious. Swearing and content is a bit mature at times, but it had me laughing out loud at parts, as an LGBT member and a plus sized girl. Check it out if you get the chance. You can read my review of it here.

6) The Last Time I Wore a Dress by Daphne Scholinski

Goodreads blurb: At fifteen years old, Daphne Scholinski was committed to a mental institution and awarded the dubious diagnosis of "Gender Identity Disorder." She spent three years--and over a million dollars of insurance--"treating" the problem...with makeup lessons and instructions in how to walk like a girl. Daphne's story--which is, sadly, not that unusual--has already received attention from such shows as "20/20," "Dateline," "Today," and "Leeza." But her memoir, bound to become a classic, tells the story in a funny, ironic, unforgettable voice that "isn't all grim; Scholinski tells her story in beautifully evocative prose and mines her experiences for every last drop of ironic humor, determined to have the last laugh."

Okay, this isn't technically YA either. Shhhh. Stop yelling at me. I'm counting it anyway. This is a really interesting account of the links between gender association and mental health. My girlfriend is gender fluid so I picked this book up, and it's equal parts mind blowing and disturbing to think that this was fairly commonplace in the not-so-distant past. You can read my review of it here.

7) Over the Rainbow by Brian Rowe

Goodreads blurb: The Wizard of Oz meets Jurassic Park!

Zippy Green never meant to fall in love with a girl, but when she does, her ultra-conservative father tries to send her to anti-gay camp. At the Kansas City airport, however, she hides inside a giant suitcase and sneaks onto an airplane headed not to the camp, but to Seattle, where her online love Mira lives. Halfway through the flight, the plane barrels out of control and crashes into the ground, knocking her unconscious.

When Zippy awakens, she finds that most of the passengers have vanished. She doesn’t know what’s happened, but she’s determined to find out. She begins a quest on foot toward Seattle, and along the way, she meets a teenager with a concussion, a homeless man with a heart condition, a child without a shred of bravery, and a terrier named Judy. Together the group discovers that more than two-thirds of the world's population have mysteriously disappeared. But that's only the beginning...

All Zippy wants is to find her Mira, but before she can she has to contend with two outside forces. The first is her homophobic father, who does everything in his power to keep her from the girl she loves. And the second is extinct creatures of all shapes and sizes, including living, breathing dinosaurs, which have replaced the missing population.

This book is probably the strangest one on my list, but I have to admit I really enjoyed it. It's a mix of LGBT, sci-fi, and fantasy that all tie together in a strange way, but in such a way that it's hard to put the book down. You can read my review of it here.

8) If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Goodreads blurb: A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

This read is an emotional roller coaster that left me in tears. While LGBT isn't a main theme of this book, it is still an amazingly written story that I loved from cover to cover. You can read my review of it here.

9) Made of Stars by Kelley York

Goodreads blurb: When eighteen-year-old Hunter Jackson and his half sister, Ashlin, return to their dad’s for the first winter in years, they expect everything to be just like the warmer months they’d spent there as kids. And it is—at first. But Chance, the charismatic and adventurous boy who made their summers epic, is harboring deep secrets. Secrets that are quickly spiraling into something else entirely.

The reason they've never met Chance’s parents or seen his home is becoming clearer. And what the siblings used to think of as Chance's quirks—the outrageous stories, his clinginess, his dangerous impulsiveness—are now warning signs that something is seriously off.

Then Chance's mom turns up with a bullet to the head, and all eyes shift to Chance and his dad. Hunter and Ashlin know Chance is innocent...they just have to prove it. But how can they protect the boy they both love when they can’t trust a word Chance says?

In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated books of 2013. Chance is the kind of character that you won't want to stop reading about, and that won't leave your mind immediately after reading the novel. This whole book is written with a tone of an ominous calm and sadness, but it sucks you in from the beginning. You can read my review of it here.

10)Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Goodreads blurb: 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

This book, y'all. It destroyed me emotionally, but it is so, so beautiful. It's a look at AIDs in the 1980s and its impact on those it effects, all in a coming of age story. I stayed up until the unholy hours of the morning to finish this, and if I had only one word to describe it, it would be stunning. Read it. Now. You can read my review of it here.

What are some of your top LGBT reads?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Justice Buried

Title: Justice Buried
Author: Hilary Thompson
Release Date: January 15th 2014
Purchase: Amazon


The people need Justice, but she's not listening. One hundred years before, the Great Sickness reduced the world to three cities. Now the community of Asphodel is trapped underground, waiting for the prophesied maiden of Justice to return and save them from their Fates.

Sixteen-year-old Astrea is supposed to be this savior - too bad for them she isn't a believer. Trea fights against her false destiny: she rebels against her family and friends, then refuses her arranged marriage to the charming but deceitful Lexan. Learning her life is in danger, Trea is forced to trust Lexan - until she discovers a power she never knew she had, and one he already knew he did.

As betrayal closes every door, Trea decides she must submit to her stars and accept her fate. Then a handsome stranger offers her an unexpected escape and the chance to create her own destiny.

*Click here to go to the Goodreads page!*

My review:


I have to say, this book was a very pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the way that the author combined elements of myth and astrology to create a new world. The setting and the characters were well described, and it was easy to lose myself in the story telling. I thought it was really cool how fate came into play to tie characters together, and Thompson did a good job expanding and creating the more fantastical elements to this dystopian novel. I also really liked both of the love interests....

That's right. Both. There's a love triangle. It was exceptionally painful for me since I didn't hate either of them (normally I love one and hate the other with a passion). The character that irked me the most was in fact the lead heroine, Astrea. She came off as a lot of other girls do in literature: whiny and immature. It got better as the book went on, but it was definitely something that caught my attention while reading.

All in all, fans of romances (with love triangles) and dystopian young adults would be well advised to give Justice Buried. It has a unique setting with mythical elements that make it a book that's easy to get into. While it wasn't perfect, I would definitely pick up the next book to see how the saga continues. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:

Hilary Thompson is an independently-published author who released her debut Young Adult novel, Justice Buried, in January, 2014. Justice Buried is the first in a dystopian fantasy series incorporating mythology and astrology, with the second full-length title due later in 2014.
She also teaches high school English, which gives her some insight into her target audience, and helps her maintain a thick skin.
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Be sure to follow the rest of the tour here!


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Fine Cooking Cakes & Cupcakes: 100 Best Ever Recipes

Title: Fine Cooking Cakes & Cupcakes: 100 Best Ever Recipes
Author: Fine Cooking
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: February 4th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Taunton Press


Four stars.


Fine Cooking Cakes & Cupcakes: 100 Best Ever Recipes is a collection of cake recipes that ensure that you won't ever have to use a boxed mix for cakes again. Whether you're looking for classic recipes or something new, there's a recipe in the 100+ contained within this cookbook that is sure to suit your needs.

I'm a huge fan of baking cakes, and I admit I get a bit snobby sometimes about it. When people call a boxed cake homemade, it grinds my gears, so to speak. This book makes sure that, for the most part, that temptation isn't there to go to the grocery store for a mix. I really liked that almost all of the recipes had pictures, though they were kind of small. I also really liked the tips on decoration, storage, and picking out fruits that were sprinkled throughout the book.

What I wasn't so crazy about was that the flavors were fairly basic and repetitive. There's a lot of chocolate/coffee combinations, for example. I was also kind of surprised that some of my favorite cakes that I thought were fairly common, weren't included, like red velvet cake and peanut butter cake.

However, the pros of this book far outweigh the cons. Out of one hundred recipes, there are only a few that I wasn't interested in trying. Plus, a few of the recipes come wit a blurb of variations on how you can better tailor the dessert to your own personal tastes. The instructions are easy to follow, and the ingredient list is fairly standard (from a US reader). Some of the recipes that I'm most excited to try include Strawberries and Corn Cream Layer Cake with White Chocolate Cap'n Crunch Crumbs, Chocolate Souffle Layer Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Raspberries, and Peaches & Cream Shortcakes. This is a book I'd love to keep on hand for any occasion. Thanks to Netgalley & Taunton Press for my copy of this book.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Losing It: How We Popped Our Cherry Over the Last 80 Years

Title: Losing It: How We Popped Our Cherry Over the Last 80 Years
Author: Kate Monro
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 15th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Icon Books


Three stars and a half stars, rounded up.


Losing It: How We Popped Our Cherry Over the Last 80 Years is a nonfiction collection of stories of how people over the last eight decades have lost their virginities. Old and young, gay and straight, disabled and able alike, there is a vast array of stories that share the one moment of life that we all can refer to simply as "it."

This book is a very interesting look into the lives of other people. There's that moment when you lose your virginity that you wonder if your experience was how it is supposed to be. Questions run through your head: Was it supposed to hurt? If I didn't bleed, is it really "popping"? Does oral count? What if I didn't orgasm? Kate Munro's collection of firsthand accounts makes for a great comparison both between stories as well as to your personal "it" story. In short, you're not alone!

I found it fascinating just how similar and different, simultaneously, that these stories are. Some people lose it in the spur of romance, others are more planned. But so many of them share my own personal memories of awkwardness and emotional turmoil over what had just happened. Munro sprinkles in a fair amount of history and research, making the whole book come across as well put together and well thought out.

In fact, I was surprised how this book reads. To be honest, it was a little boring at times. I expected it to be more of an entertaining genre of read, but it ended up being more like a book you'd get assigned to read in a gender/sexuality studies course. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, I just wasn't expecting it to be written in such a way.

All in all, this book is a pretty interesting look into the moment we (almost) all go through but scarcely talk about aloud to more than a best friend or two. Losing It is a great reference for anyone who is interested in sexuality studies or in looking at how their experiences compare to others'.

Thanks to Netgalley and Icon Books for my copy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stacking the Shelves [45]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

This week was a pretty calm one. I didn't get much reading done, because this weekend I have exactly four papers due. I have one down and out of the way... That's progress right? I even resisted getting more Netgalley titles for once!

In the Mail:
Frenemy of the People by Nora Olsen Thanks Nora!
Never Say Never: Tips, Tricks, and Erotic Inspiration for Lovers by Alison Tyler Thanks Cleis Press!

I did get an Easter care package from my dad this week too.

Week at a Glance:

Mini Review: Designated Mourner
Review: My Paris Kitchen
Mini Review: Circus Escape

What'd you get?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mini Review: Designated Mourner

Title: Designated Mourner
Author: Catherine Owen
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 15th 2014
Source: Netgalley & ECW Press


Four stars.


This is going to be an incredibly hard book for me to try to review. Typically, I don't read poetry. Well, that's not entirely true. I don't read contemporary, new poetry. However, I was drawn into this collection first by the macabre cover, and then by the dark themes that it holds within it. It is definitely an emotionally charged book of poetry that will linger even when you are done reading it.

Designated Mourner is a collection of poems written to a spouse who was killed far too early by an addiction to drugs. The poems are dark and contemplative, reflective and sometimes even celebratory of their life. I don't want to say that I enjoyed reading them, because I feel that in a book of mourning, that is a bit too light of a word choice. I will say that I connected to them, having lost friends to addiction myself. My poetry of grief was never as powerful or gripping as these ones are.

If you are one who enjoys poetry or one who has recently lost a loved one, I think that Designated Mourner is a collection of poems that you should take your time mentally ingesting the words that Catherine Owen has so carefully penned. Allow yourself to take breaks when you need them and prepare to be stirred by them. Thank you to ECW Press and Netgalley for the chance to read this poetry collection.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: My Paris Kitchen

Title: My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories
Author: David Lebovitz
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 8th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Ten Speed Press


Four stars.


My Paris Kitchen is equal parts cookbook and personal experience about living and cooking in France. Admittedly, I was more interested in the recipes than the stories at first, but that quickly changed. The way that David Lebovitz writes both about French life and food makes his passion clear, and it made me want to get on a plane immediately to go visit some of these places for myself and to eat some of these tasty treats.

Thankfully, the recipes in this book make the last desire a reality. This book includes a ton of delicious sounding recipes, most of which I'm eager to try. Each recipe comes with a story and tips on how to create it to perfection. There are also a decent amount of pictures to entice you into giving these dishes a whirl. The collection of recipes is divided by course, so it's easy to find what recipe you're in need of most.

Some of the ingredients in these recipes can be kind of hard to find in a standard American store, but Lebovitz has already thought of that. He offers variations, or ingredients you can swap for others, to make a different but just as delicious meal from My Paris Kitchen. A few of the recipes that I'm most eager to try are the Cheese, Bacon, and Arugula Souffle, Parisian Gnocchi, and Steak with Mustard Butter and French Fries.

This book is a great guide to French cuisine, and is one that I'd cook from often, having a love of all things French myself. Be advised though, that some of the techniques and recipes here are a bit complex, so if you're a total kitchen newbie, this might not be the best first step. But if you're no stranger to the kitchen, this is a book I'd definitely recommend both for the story weaving, and the recipes.

Thank you to Netgalley and Ten Speed Press for my chance to read this.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mini Review: Circus Escape

Title: Circus Escape
Author: Lilliana Rose
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 2nd 2014
Source: Netgalley & Less Than Three Press

One Star.


This will be a short review, since Circus Escape is a novella. I was drawn in by the cover, and some of the key words in the description that I love. Steampunk, circus, lesbian themes? Sign me up. Unfortunately, this is a novella that leaves a lot to be desired, and I was left disappointed.

I never got a sense of... Anything, really. I didn't grow to know much about either of the main characters, let alone get a sense of the chemistry that is supposed to be between them. I didn't learn much about the setting or the era. I know that this is a short novella, so there's only so much space to describe such things, but I've seen others handled much better. I also didn't care much for the writing itself, it seemed overly simple and a bit choppy.

It's my understanding that this novella is the first in a series, but Circus Escape didn't satisfy me enough to be interested in continuing onward with the series. This might be one of the examples where it would have been better in a one piece book as opposed to a series. All in all, this one just wasn't for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and Less Than Three Press for the chance to read this. I wanted to like it, I really did.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stacking the Shelves [44]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

So this week is insane. Legitimately insane. Awhile back, I won a mystery box from Never Ending Stories Book Blog for their blogoversary. Ta'Necia jam packed a MASSIVE box full of books & swag for me, and I am speechless. Thank you so much, Tt. It's an amazing hoard! But first....

The Angel and the Warrior by Karen Kay
Losing It by Kate Monro
Tell Me Why by Sydney Snow

Freak of Nature by Julia Crane
Red at Night by Katie McGarry

In the Mail:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Thanks Danielle

And now, for the massive box I got from Tt. Thanks so much!

I also got a care package from my dad this week, that I'll include just because.

What about you? What did you add this week?

Week at a Glance:

GIVEAWAY, review, & excerpt of Best Erotic Romance 2014
GIVEAWAY & Blog Tour of Road to Somewhere
Review of Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking
Review of Pawn

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Excerpt, Review, & Giveaway: Best Erotic Romance 2014 edited by Kristina Wright

Hello, faithful readers. I hope your week is going well, and remember the weekend's here! Now, I don't know about you, but weather around here is finally showing that spring is in the air. Flowers, sunshine, and chocolate bunnies aside, my favorite thing about spring is that romance is in full bloom! Cleis Press is helping me show my appreciation for love and romance by hosting a giveaway with me for the new sexy romance anthology Best Erotic Romance 2014 edited by Kristen Wright. Every short story within this anthology expresses a scene of passion, desire, and love in a different way. From first crushes to experienced married couples, Best Erotic Romance 2014 demonstrates that love and lust never get old. In addition to a giveaway, I also have sneak peek at the book for you to enjoy!

This excerpt is from a story called "Stay With Me" by Crystal Jordan.

Sneak Peek:

Damn, it was hot. The roasting heat of the Texas day had spilled over into a sweltering night. A languid breeze barely made the curtains ruffle, and a sheen of sweat coated Jamie’s body. She stared at the ceiling, too hot and restless to sleep. Annoyed, she kicked the twisted sheet away and heaved herself out of bed. Shoving open the French doors, she stepped out onto the porch that wrapped around the house.
A few lights shone from the barns and she heard the occasional neigh of a horse, but the rest of the ranch seemed to have managed the slumber that eluded her. Twelve years of living in the middle of nowhere and, though she cherished the quiet, she’d never quite adjusted to the summer humidity. Sighing, she leaned against the railing.
“Can’t sleep?”
The low voice brought her upright. “Cord.”
His boots crunched in the gravel before he climbed the three steps onto the porch. Her heart fluttered the way it always did when he was around, and it was all she could do not to fall back a step as he came near. She tried for a light tone. “The heat’s keeping you up too, huh?”
“No.” He moved a little closer, into her personal space, and her pulse sped. She was suddenly very aware of the fact that she wore nothing underneath her cotton nightgown.
Her nipples tightened, pushing against the thin material, and she had to resist the urge to cross her arms. “No? Then what’s got you up at two in the morning?”
His dark gaze zeroed in on her chest, and she saw a flicker of pure lust in his expression. An answering throb of desire settled low in her belly. The night closed in around them, making it feel like they were the only two people in the world. Being alone with this man was dangerous temptation. He took another step toward her and she skittered back until the doorjamb pressed between her shoulder blades. He loomed over her, huge and masculine and far too sexy. “Invite me in, Jamie.”
Her hormones clamored an emphatic agreement at that suggestion, but she shook her head. “I’m your boss. That would be a bad idea.”
Nothing could keep the quaver of longing out of her voice, though. Liquid flames licked at her core at the very thought of inviting Cord Preston into her bedroom. She tried to squelch the need and failed. As usual. She’d been unable to control the way her body responded to him since she’d hired him as a horse trainer three months before. She’d been worse than a lovesick teenager, hanging out in the barns to talk to him for hours—about anything and everything. Even then, she’d resisted acting on this insane attraction. He’d hired on for the season, and then he’d be gone. Temporary sexual arrangements weren’t her style.
He leaned forward until his lips were no more than a hairsbreadth from hers. “It’s too late for either of us to stop this thing, sweetheart, and I’m tired of pretending we don’t want each other. Invite me in.” It was more demand than request, and his hot breath rushed over her skin as he spoke. “I’m dying to be inside you, Jamie.”
Cord. Inside her. Her sex clenched, and it took every ounce of her willpower not to arch into his body and finally, finally know what it was like to have his hands on her flesh.
His voice dropped to a coaxing rumble. “I need to touch you. Let me.”
“Yes,” she whispered, the word spilling out before she could stop it.

My Review

Title: Best Erotic Romance 2014
Editor: Kristina Wright
Format: Paperback, 242 pages
Pub. Date: February 18th 2014
Source: Cleis Press
Purchase: Amazon


3.5 stars, rounded up.

First, I would like to talk about the cover art for this particular anthology. I love it, and I feel that it perfectly demonstrates what the book has in store. There's a theme of sex but a tender intimacy that shows how magical it can be when two people get together. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover of course, but it's hard not to with this one.

This collection features stories from all different stages of relationships old and new, and people who are young and old. All have an emotional feel to them, and all of course have their share of steamy, passionate lust. As always with anthologies like this one, I'd like to highlight the three I liked the best, in no order in particular.

The first is the story that you got a sneak peek of earlier in my post, entitled "Stay with Me" by Crystal Jordan. Jamie has tried her hardest not to get attached to her seasonal hire on the ranch, knowing that he'll be gone in no time. But when he asks to be invited in earlier one morning, it's hard for her to resist him for much longer. The sex in this story is intimate and passionate, with characters that honestly I'd like to read more about. That's a rare trait in a short story, and it was well done in this one.

The next on my top picks list is called "A Perfect Place" written by Catherine Paulssen. It's Julie's job to zip around the world, scouting potential filming sites for movies. Her newest voyage to Hungary leads her to a beautiful castle, and a tall, handsome man that comes along with it. I'm a sucker for castles and stories set in regions such as Hungary, so the beautiful setting was enough to draw me in, and the love scenes held me there.

And my last pick is titled "Rules" by Emerald. Joyce's husband Pete comes across an old photograph of her Goth-y, rebellious self back in her youth and loves it. She decides to dip into her old wardrobe with the plans to surprise him with a very special, dark treat. Not going to lie, I identify as one who dresses "goth" so this one was extra sexy to me. Dyed hair, fishnets, and vinyl? Yes please. Sign me up for a double helping of that.

This anthology is a great mix of stories that are good for anyone who likes their erotica to be more emotional and more romantic than most. If you like steamy sex scenes and believe in love, than give this book a read. Thank you to both Cleis Press and editor/author Kristina Wright for my copy of this book.


Now, here's your chance to win a copy of Best Erotic Romance 2014!
The Rules:
-This giveaway will run from April 3rd to April 10th, 2014.
-This giveaway is open to those 18+ and is USA ONLY.
-It is open to anyone over that age who can legally enter, receive, and use their prize.
-One (1) winner will win a copy.
-This giveaway is sponsored wholly by the publisher.
-This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity.
-Winner will have 48 hours to reply, or a new winner will be chosen. Winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter.
-Invalid entries will be removed, so please don't cheat.
-Void where prohibited. Odds will vary. No purchase necessary.

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Review: Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking

Title: Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking
Author: Greg Marchand
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 8th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Artisan Books


Five stars.

Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking is a collection of recipes from French chef Greg Marchand. Raised in an orphanage and shaped by the culinary arts and food, Marchand worked all over the world in places like London and Spain before opening his own restaurant: Frenchie. Within this cookbook, he shares with you some of the most vibrant recipes with twists of flavor that represent not only his style, but reflect the steps he took along the way.

This book has the recipes divided by season, which I think is a great way to organize. It allows for maximizing the freshest, most available ingredients and to properly plan meals accordingly.

I'll talk about the recipes themselves in a moment, but I'd like to take a minute to talk about the images found in this collection. The photography is stunning. This cookbook is worth getting, even just to admire the pictures- and there are a lot of them. Of course, the recipes sound delicious and I think you should read it in its entirety, but I had to say it.

And then there's the recipes themselves. Chef Marchand offers helpful tips throughout the course of the book to help the home cook. Something that I appreciated in this assortment of recipes is that each recipe includes a wine pairing, and the back of the book contains sources on where to get each bottle. This makes it a lot easier to track down the perfect complement. The included recipes span from salads to desserts and everything in between. The recipes that I'm most eager to try are Chocolate and Passion Fruit Pots de Creme with Lychees and Candied Ginger, Wild Garlic Broth with Fresh Crabmeat, and Pork Braised in Milk with Marinated Fennel.

This is a great book for people looking to add an air of sophistication or that want to step their cooking. This is a bright collection that would be great to have handy in any kitchen. Thanks to Netgalley & Artisan Books for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blog Tour & GIVEAWAY: Road to Somewhere

Title: Road To Somewhere
Authors: Kelley Lynn, Jenny S. Morris
Release Date: March 11th 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Purchase: Amazon


New! From Bloomsbury Spark, a sunny heartwarming story of discovery and sisterhood.

A road trip. A singing competition. And super-hot cowboys.

What could be better?

For Charlie, a post-high school road trip isn't just a vacation, it's life changing. While her parents think she's helping a friend move, a chance at fame is the real reason to grab her best friends and drive to L.A. But when her super annoying, uber-responsible, younger sister, Lucy, has to tag along, it isn't quite the summer of fun she imagined.

Add in a detour to her grandparents' ranch in Texas, and between mucking the stalls, down-home cookin’, and drool worthy ranch hands, this could just turn into the best, and most complicated, summer of their lives.

*Click here to go to the Goodreads page!*

About the Authors:

Kelley Lynn was born and raised a Midwestern girl. She’s not afraid to sweat and fills her free time with softball, soccer and volleyball. (Though you probably don’t want her on your volleyball team.) She occasionally makes guest appearances as a female vocalist for area bands. Music plays a large role in her writing process as well as the characters and plot lines within her stories.
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Jenny S. Morris is a YA author who loves all things geek, may have a Kdrama addiction, and prefers the rainy NW to any place she's ever lived. Road to Somewhere is her debut novel.
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Be sure to follow the rest of the tour here!


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