Friday, December 2, 2016

The Outfielders by Robert P. Rowe

The Outfielders by Robert P. Rowe

Review by Lauren

source: copy from publisher; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryTony was waiting until he went away to college to come out to his parents and start his new gay life. Unfortunately, at twenty-four, it doesn’t look like college is going to happen after all. Stuck in a dead-end job in a small town and still living at home, with all the arrested development that entails, he finds escape in playing for the company baseball team and lusting after his straight outfielder crush, Alex. But Tony’s best friend, Jennifer, thinks she’s found a plan in the pages of gay romance novels. All Tony has to do is convince Alex he’s gay for you… or for Tony. It’s easy—just find some excuse to be alone in bed together and let nature take its course. What could possibly go wrong?

ReviewI was given a chance to read and review The Outfielders from Dreamspinner Press and while it's not my new favorite LGBT+ novel, it was still really enjoyable. The premise of The Outfielders is that twenty-something Tony is stuck in a dead end job in a dead end town. Oh, and he's gay and nobody knows but his best friend, Jennifer, who most people believe is his girlfriend. He's been crushing on his baseball teammate Alex for years, but Alex is straight, so it's pointless, right? 

Having read many m/m romance stories, Jennifer tells Tony about "gay for you" storylines - you know the ones! An otherwise straight guy falls for his best guy friend, making him "gay for you" instead of just gay. Jennifer tries to give Tony tips on how to make Alex fall for him, even telling him to read a book called The Outfielders. Tony refers to the two main characters in this as Book Tony and Book Alex. Don't worry, it's not as confusing as it seems - and the two storylines don't quite match up, so it's not a complete spoiler!

I really liked learning about Tony and his world. He's good at explaining his hometown and the people that populate it. He's not the brightest crayon in the box, which Jennifer is always lovingly telling him. He does mean well though and while he wishes Alex were gay, he's not willing to push the issue and lose him as a friend. The book has some other interconnecting story lines as well which makes the book more than just a romance. 

The Outfielders was slow in parts, but I did want to keep reading, and I was satisfied with the ending! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Highlights of November 2016

What's New With You

I've been reading a lot of lifestyle/personal blogs lately so I thought it might be fun to try and link up to some of their hops - get to know people a bit better! Plus, I kind of like doing these type of more personal posts and I want to add more in with all of my book/entertainment posts. Hopefully this will be interesting to most of you! Don't worry if you are here for book talk though - there will still be plenty of that, believe me!

Anyway, November 2016. I'm not actually a huge fan of November. I love October because of the beginning of fall and Halloween, but I don't like Thanksgiving. I mean, the overall idea of gratitude is nice but I tend to get depressed on or around the holiday, so I'm glad that it's currently behind me. I am excited for all the fun Christmas themed events happening in December though! I have a ton of library craft events to go to as well, so be sure and follow me on Instagram if you want to see photos! 

Highlights of November:

One of my birthday gifts from my sister was a gift card to this place called Cheers to Art. You choose the day/evening you want to attend (based on what painting they are doing) and then you visit one of two locations and paint along with the instructor. My birthday is in May but we finally went in November and we decided to do a winter scene, so we could put the canvas up for the holiday season and then take it down for the rest of the year. Yes, I painted this all by myself! I will admit that we had a stencil for the outline of the cardinal though! I think it turned out well. If you have something like this near you, I recommend going! It's a lot of fun.

I had a Cookie Exchange Party this past Saturday. My sister and I co-hosted for the second year in a row. I was a bit bummed more people couldn't make it, but it was still fun and we all left with a lot of cookies! The ones above are what I made. I saw it online and it's super easy to make. It's just a sugar cookie with white chocolate covering half and some peppermint pieces sprinkled on top! Yum!! 

When looking for cookies to make for the party, I came across this mini cherry pie recipe and I knew I had to make it! Okay, my sister made them, but aren't they adorable? She did a great job and they are really yummy! You bake them in the lid of a mason jar. In my cookie picture above, you can see the glasses in the back. These were the mason jars that the lids came with. I used them for glasses. When everyone was finished with their pie, we kept the lids and cleaned them so we had them to make more pies in the future! The recipe said to use regular size mason jar lids. Well, I didn't know what size that meant! I eventually figured 12 oz was "regular" and that's what I used. It worked out, so there you are! These would make really cute gifts too.

This is me awkwardly trying to take a photo of my outfit. Hah! Anyway, the leggings I'm showing here are from LulaRoe and OMG, they are amazing. I've been hearing about them and I got my first pair (purple colored) at a craft show recently and these were sent to me for hosting an online party. They really are like butter. These are the most comfortable leggings I've ever worn. There are two sizes for adults. I get the TC (tall and curvy) and they work well for me! 

I'm actually hosting that party I mentioned above this Friday on Facebook. If you're interested in joining, please let me know! We just need to be friends on Facebook. Add me here and let me know you want an invite! This doesn't mean you have to buy anything - no pressure! It's just a good chance to check out what LulaRoe offers - amazing leggings, dresses, tops, cardigans, skirts, and even leggings for kids! I own two leggings and a skirt and I love it all. I really want to get more, especially an Amelia dress! So yeah, let me know if you want an invite so you can check it all out! 

That's about it for my November!! I've been trying to read as much as possible, so hopefully I can start getting more book review posts scheduled out. I'm almost through all I've scheduled so far. Sigh, where does the time go? 

Any December plans coming up? If you have a November wrap-up post, let me know, and I'll come check it out!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Veil of Vines by Tillie Cole Release Day Blitz

Alicia here, celebrating the release of A Veil of Vines. I'm currently reading it right now, and am very much enjoying it.



To most people, princes, princesses, counts and dukes are found only in the pages of the most famous of fairytales. Crowns, priceless jewels and gilded thrones belong only in childhood dreams.
But for some, these frivolous fancies are truth.
For some, they are real life.
On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, people have always treated me as someone special. All because of my ancestral name and legacy. All because of a connection I share to our home country’s most important family of all.
I am Caresa Acardi, the Duchessa di Parma. A blue blood of Italy. I was born to marry well. And now the marriage date is set.
I am to marry into House Savona. The family that would have been the royals had Italy not abolished the monarchy in 1946. But to the aristocrats of my home, the abolition means nothing at all.
The Savonas still hold power where it counts most.
In our tight-knit world of money, status and masked balls, they are everything and more.
And I am soon to become one of them.
I am soon to become Prince Zeno Savona’s wife…
… or at least I was, until I met Achille.
And everything changed.

I opened the window beside me and stared at the illuminated entrance. I swallowed hard and placed my empty glass on the bar. Metal groaned, breaking through the twilight, as the massive black wrought-iron gates began to open. The limo slowly pulled onto the property’s lane, and I drank in the thick forest that shielded the estate. I inhaled the freshness of the lush green trees. The unpolluted sky was thick with stars—not a single cloud in sight.

A few minutes later, the thick woods cleared, and I gasped. Acres and acres of gold and green vineyards covered the landscape. The scents of plump grapes and damp soil permeated the warm air. I closed my eyes. It reminded me of being a child. It brought me back to the days before I was taken to New York. I could still feel the heat of the Emilia-Romagna sun on my face, the deep smell of olives, grapes and flowers drifting in the breeze as I ran around our Parma estate.

I smiled a nostalgic smile and allowed my eyes to drift open again. I rested my arms on the window and leaned my chin on them as the limo drove on. There were several small villas peppered over the landscape, their lights twinkling in the distance. They must have been the winemakers’ residences. It was not only the Bella Collina merlot that was made on this land; other reds were too—particularly the Chianti from the region’s finest Sangiovese grapes. The Bella Collina olive oil was also up there with the best. But nothing compared to the famed merlot.

The limo turned right, and my breath caught in my throat. I lifted my head and stared disbelievingly at the property ahead. Bella Collina was a veritable Palace of Versailles tucked away in the Umbrian wilderness.

“Mio Dio,” I whispered as I took in the imposing stone structure, the sweeping steps and the vast number of windows set in the building’s walls. Large pillars of red-veined marble flanked the entrance. Cypress trees framed the estate as if it were the shining star of a fine Renaissance painting. Sculptures of famed Savona monarchs of old stood proudly on the manicured lawns, and strategically placed lighting illuminated the sheer perfection of every piece of topiary.

As a child, I had been to the Palazzo Savona in Florence. It was widely regarded to be one of the finest estates in all of Italy, if not western Europe. But this . . . this . . . there were no words. It was perfectly placed, as if it had always been there. As if it had grown naturally from the Umbrian earth just as sure as the vines and woods that kept this architectural treasure hidden from view.

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

Things I'm Not Too Young to Remember

I'm 26 years old, which means I was born in 1990. It always amuses me when people find it surprising that I know about certain things, or that I even had them when I was younger. I'm always thinking "I'm not that young" but what can you do?

Here is a list of things that I'm Not Too Young to Remember:

1. Cassette Tapes - my sister is three years older than me and she had a cassette player and tapes when I was younger.

2. C.D.'s - this might seem like a weird thing to add on here, but I swear some people look at some younger people and think they have no idea what life was like with c.d.'s since they are always downloading music. First off, not everyone just uses iTunes and the like. Second, c.d.'s are still easily available and come out all the time. Honestly, I'd rather have a physical C.D. most of the time.

3. Card Catalogs - All through elementary school, my library had a card catalog. This is how we looked up the books we wanted and when you checked out a book, we used the little card in the back of the book that needed to be stamped. I find it funny when people are shocked I know what card catalogs are, and I just kindly say "I had them growing up too."

4. Certain TV Shows - I had someone not terribly long ago that talked as if I didn't know shows like I Love Lucy. I know they came out years before I was born, but there have been reruns of these shows for years. I grew up watching these shows on TV. I loved them - The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, I Love Lucy. My sister and I used to watch these all the time before going to bed at night.

5. VHS Tapes- I only had VHS tapes for awhile, until DVD's came around and got more popular. Regardless, I have a lot of movies that are still in VHS form and one of my DVD players now is a DVD/VHS player and I'll still watch movies via VHS.

Now it's your turn-  what are things that people find surprising that you remember?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Guest Post: Reading Lists for the Hogwarts Houses

Hogwarts House Reading Lists 
by Veronica Franklin
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Every student who is accepted to Hogwarts receives a book list, but everyone knows that required reading is very, very different from reading for fun. I’m sure there are books and stories that are loved by all. The Tales of Beedle the Bard is one such collection. However, personal reading choices can vary greatly. One factor that can affect how a person chooses their books is personality. In light of this, I have set out to compile a recommended reading list based on the different houses. This list will, in no way, be exhaustive, but I hope it will be a good start.

I decided to start this list off with Hufflepuff because, as a Ravenclaw, I found this house to be the hardest to pick books for!

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You’ve Been Gone is a great Hufflepuff read because the main theme of this book is loyalty and friendship and finding! I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the main character, Emily, was a Hufflepuff herself! This book is a fun read that doesn’t shy away from taking on more serious topics.
The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

The Hollow Kingdom is the first book in The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy. Set in 19th century England, this book (and series) will speak to the Hufflepuffs’ loyalty and hard-working nature. The magical elements of this story will be a treat for any young witch or wizard as well.
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Made You Up is the one book I struggled with including for the Hufflepuff selection. On one hand, none of the characters are even remotely Hufflepuff. However, I really do think that ‘finding’ is a huge theme in this book and that makes it perfect for Hufflepuffs.

Gryffindor was the second hardest house for me to pick books for. There are plenty of books that have brave characters, but many of them are overshadowed by secondary traits that would better suit them to other houses. I think the books I’ve chosen will appeal to Gryffindors in the whole rather than only parts.

The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan

With no small amount of bravery and adventure, The Ranger’s Apprentice series is perfect for Gryffindors. Add to that a cast of amazing characters, both friendly and not, and you have a story that will enrapture even the most restless reader!

Tahn by L.A. Kelly

Another book that is chalk full of bravery and adventure, Tahn (and the other two books in the Tahn Dorn trilogy) is a great choice for Gryffindors. It’s main theme is the struggle between good and evil, as well as a healthy dose of chivalry.

The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson series is another series that fits in with Gryffindor traits. It has adventure, bravery, and friendship. There is even a copious amount of recklessness and quick tempers!

Now on to the house that is second closest to my heart! I am a Ravenclaw and a Slytherclaw, so I found it easy to pick books for this house because they mirror my own reading habits closely.
The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

Dysfunction, betrayal, cunning, and survival all make the plot of The Lost Gate a compelling choice for Slytherin readers. The twists and turns this book takes will keep readers guessing until the very end! There is some good though, The Lost Gate is the first book in the Mither Mages series, so if you liked the first one, there are more to keep you entertained.

Uprooted by Naomi Novak

Uprooted is the only stand-alone novel on this list. The story starts out kind of slow and would seem to contain way more foolish bravery than a Slytherin would like. It isn’t long, maybe a few chapters, before the characters and plot really develop and the focus shifts to resourcefulness and resilience in the face of daunting circumstance.

Tin Star by Cecil Castelucci

This story is all about betrayal and survival at any cost. The main character is one of the most Slytherin characters I have ever read! It’s a pretty short read, but that makes it perfect for people who want a good story but don’t have the time to dedicate to big books (like students)!

We are finally at my own house, Ravenclaw! I had trouble narrowing down my selection. I decided to completely ignore the classics because, let’s face it; Ravenclaws would read the classics and the modern classics. They’d also read biographies, autobiographies, and DIY books, so I decided not to consider those either.

A Discovery of Witches

This book is a whopping 579 pages of glorious detail (add to that the two other books in the series and you have a lot of reading material)! There is plenty of history and science throughout the plot and the main point of this story is research and love.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

The appeal of this book is hard to explain. The story is really interesting, following a 12-year-old on his subterfuge filled journey to the Smithsonian. However, it’s the added detail on every page (maps, graphs, curious details, etc.) that will really speak to a Ravenclaw reader.

Artemis Fowl

Books with adventures are all well and good, but sometimes you need a cautionary tale or two! This story is all about a boy genius who uses his knowledge for personal gain, and gets himself in to no small amount of trouble along the way. Ravenclaws will appreciate the dedication and intelligence required to get in to and out of some of the crazy situations Artemis finds himself in.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Running Blind by Kim Fielding and Venona Keyes

Running Blind by Kim Fielding and Venona Keyes

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Dreamspinner Press; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryKyle Green is on top of the world. He and Matt have been together for ten years, and—as the voice of Ecos, the wildly popular anime character—Kyle is treated like a rock star in anime circles. But in an instant, a stroke leaves him blind. When photographer Matt gets the opportunity of a lifetime, Kyle reexamines their relationship, discovers it has been a safety net rather than a true romance, and sets Matt free to pursue his dream. Kyle’s life and career as he knew them are gone, and he must now find the courage and creativity to draft a new plan.

After being away for fifteen years, Seth Caplan comes home to Chicago to care for his mother and to partner with a small start-up tech company. He and Kyle meet after Kyle’s collision with a child’s sidewalk toy, and they hit it off. Kyle wants to get back into running, and Seth becomes his guide. As they get to know each other, they start seeing each other beyond their three-times-a-week runs. But Seth’s revelation of the dark reason why he left his career in California sends the relationship into a tailspin and leaves both men running blind.

Review: I had read a YA novel where the main character was blind, but also a really good runner, and she eventually got a running guide so she could run for her school team. When I read the summary for this book, I immediately knew I had to read it so I could read another story that featured running guides for blind runners. The basics of the story is that Kyle has a stroke and ends up blind from the result. He breaks up with his current boyfriend, Matt, so that Matt can go on and fulfill his dreams - besides the two were more brothers than lovers by that point.

It takes Kyle a bit to get used to his new life. His job is voice narration and he is famous for voicing an anime character. Without his sight, Kyle can't watch the video to sync up his voice with the animation. It's a rough blow and Kyle isn't sure what he'll do from there. Kyle eventually tries running, realizing that if he's moving, he can start to see the outline of shapes and he thinks this will be enough for him to run on his own. Unfortunately, he crashes on the sidewalk and is helped by a man named Seth.

Fast forward and Seth becomes Kyle's new running guide. The two are a good match. Seth is back in town to take care of his mom, who has Alzheimer's, so he knows how to treat Kyle with dignity and respect. As for Kyle, he does the same for Seth's mom, even if she's calling him the wrong name or getting lost in time. The two of them eventually get closer and go from friendship to relationship.

To keep from spoiling everything that happens in the book, I'll just say that this was a really good novel. I loved both guys and I think they complimented each other well, like I said above. I love reading books with disabled characters, as it's something that people should read about more. It creates empathy, and to me, it seems like the authors did a great job with their characters and their various diversities in Running Blind.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Two Mysteries I Correctly Guessed

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in the U.S.! 

Two Mysteries I Correctly Guessed

I love reading mystery novels but I don’t usually guess the culprit. Sure, I might have pinpointed a possibility, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other ideas in mind too. However, there are two more famous titles/authors whose mystery I was able to figure out. Both of these were a “who done it” mystery, which means that someone has died and the reader needs to figure out – along with the ‘detective’ – who killed them. Don’t worry…if you haven’t read the books, I won’t give away the mystery. However, be wary of the comments, for they may contain spoilers.

The first book is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. If you haven’t read this one yet, I do highly recommend it. I took a detective fiction class in one of my last years as an undergraduate student and we were assigned this novel. One day in class, the professor was talking about possible suspects and I brought up who I thought could have done it, and my teacher didn’t say too much. Obviously she didn’t want to give it away, but I still remember the class finishing the book and my teacher saying how much she wanted to say something when I mentioned this person’s name. If you’ve read this book, then you should understand why I think it’s a big deal that I figured this one out. I don’t want to talk too much though, as I don’t want things to be spoiled in any way!

Now, the second book is one that has been popular for a bit now but I just recently read and that is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. To be honest, I thought this was a fairly easy mystery to figure out. I don’t want to say everyone should guess the culprit though, because if you didn’t, that’s fine! It’s fun not to know! However, for me, I found everything a bit too obvious and it didn’t make the book much of a mystery in regards to the missing woman. There were some other moments that I surprised me though, so the author did well by adding a twist here and there.

These are the two biggest books that I can think of in terms of figuring out the “who done it” but there may have been others. Despite my reading a lot of mystery novels, I don’t often guess things correctly or at least not the full details. Sometimes I don’t think too hard about it as I like to be taken on a ride. Like I said before, sometimes it’s nice just not to know until it is revealed!

What about you? Any mystery books that you figured out before the end?