Category Archives: Reviews & Recommendations

Dallas Clayton Coloring Party

Yep, you read that correctly, a coloring party. If you don’t know who Dallas Clayton is why don’t you go familiarize yourself with some of his work, because he’s awesome and it will give you a better idea of what the heck this is all about.

My favorite photo of the day. That’s the coloring party inside the window, Dallas Clayton front and center. Downtown Santa Monica is reflected in the window.

(sorry about the shaky video, my hands and arms were not cooperating today)

Me & Dallas Clayton!

One More Shot & Making a Play by Victoria Denault

Do you remember when I posted about my friend Laura Stone and her wonderful book The Bones of You? This time I’m proud to introduce you to another one of my talented friends, Victoria Denault. I can’t even remember how many years I’ve known Victoria, but I know it’s more than I can count on my fingers. Victoria is fabulously talented and has started publishing romance novels. (Bad Jen for not posting about this sooner!)

If you’re like me, you’re a little hesitant when it comes to novels about romance. Too many of them tell stories where all a woman needs to find true happiness is a man to acknowledge that she has worth. Or sometimes all a man needs to overcome massive commitment issues is a woman good enough for him. Gag. (Honey, if he’s scared of commitment he’s not going to invest in the relationship no matter how “good” you are, and if you can’t find happiness inside yourself no man is going to be able to give it to you!) But I’m getting off topic… The stories Victoria tells are not that at all. Don’t let the classic cheesy romance novel covers fool you, Victoria’s characters feel like real people. Real people who, like most of us, are trying to successfully navigate this often frustrating thing called ‘life.’ Ideally with a best friend/lover/companion by our side.

IMG_6901(Click image to go to Victoria’s author page on Amazon)

You can read an excerpt from One More Shot here. The second book in the trilogy, Making a Play, was just released. Excerpt here. Look for the final installment, The Final Move, in December of this year.

Buy One More Shot on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or BAM.

Buy Making a Play on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or BAM.

Pre-order The Final Move on Amazon.

IMG_6902(Click image to go to Victoria’s website)

Victoria Denault loves long walks on the beach, cinnamon dolce lattes and writing angst-filled romance. She lives in LA but grew up in Montreal, which is why she is fluent in English, French and hockey.

Still not convinced? Here are One More Shot reviews from around the web:

Overall this was a really fabulous read and I must say I was shocked how well written it was for it being the debut novel for this author. It is a beautifully written story that is sweet and funny, it’s hot and very sexy but it’s also at times it has just the right amount of drama. Jessie and Jordan’s story was a really great and I immediately felt the connection they shared and the chemistry between them when they got together was electric. This was my first read by the author but it definitely won’t be my last and I will be adding her to my list of authors to keep an eye on for sure.
BethyMac76 on Amazon

One More Shot is the first book I have read by Victoria Denault, and as a debut novel it was a pretty stellar start to the Hometown Players series. … This is a book that jumps back to Jordan and Jessie as teenagers and for the first 50% or so the story is giving you the reasons as to why they have spent the last 6 years apart, and the beginnings of their reconnection. It was well paced; the developments and revelations from them both were spaced perfectly. … I often get to a point where the drama being added to drama just for the sake of more drama just bores me. Victoria worked the drama and angst between this couple perfectly, I felt a little frustration, a little empathy, and understood where both of them were coming from at points, I think the dual POV gave the depth to them, as you were given their reasons for what they did in the past, as well as their motivations for everything that went down with them as the story moved on.
Miss Claire L. Robinson on Amazon

I love second chance romances!!! One More Shot was a great combination of sweet, angst, steam and still managed to pull on my heartstrings. It was the first book in a new series and I have to say I cannot wait for the second book (about another couple coming out Sept. 2015)!! I loved Jordan and Jessie and really hope will get more of them in future books :). Steph and I both agree One More Shot is a 4.5 star book and want to thank Victoria Denault for introducing us to the town and people of Silver Bay!
Stephanie and Christin’s Reviews on Good Reads

I fell in love with this story very early on. … I really enjoyed this book more than I expected to and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good semi-steamy, super sexy, second chance romance.
Jaime Fiction Fangirl’s Reviews on Good Reads

I Am Big Bird

If you know who Big Bird is, you might be interested in this post. If you don’t know who Big Bird is I’d really like to ask you about what it’s like to live on a distant planet, totally isolated from the rest of the human race. (And how it is that you have an internet connection!)

Watch the trailer below:

Did you watch it? If you’re anything like me, just the image of Big Bird brings out feelings of love and happiness, innocence, nostalgia, and childhood. Like a lot of people, I grew up on Sesame Street. It’s not something I think about a lot, I don’t have kids so I don’t watch Sesame Street anymore. Probably the only time I consciously think about Sesame Street is when I’m listening to my music on ‘shuffle’ and a song from Sesame Street comes up in the rotation. Considering the amount of music in my library that’s not often.

In the summer of 2012 someone told me about a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about Caroll Spinney, the man behind Big Bird. After watching a short video and seeing what the filmmakers were trying to do, I was “in.” I made my donation to the campaign and, other than the occasional e-mail updating me on the status of the project, sort of forgot all about it.

Well, it’s been a while but I Am Big Bird is now playing in theaters and available to stream at home. I finally saw it, and totally loved it. I wasn’t expecting to be so emotional while watching it, but I was. Truly a wonderful documentary telling a wonderful story. If the trailer above didn’t do anything to catch your interest then maybe your reaction will be different than mine was, but if you can’t help but smile when you see Big Bird, give this film a chance!

“The Bones of You” by Laura Stone

Well after my comment the other day that I’m not using the “reviews and recommendations” section of this website enough, I’m certainly on a roll right now! 🙂 I’d like to tell you about a wonderful book that just came out, written by my lovely and talented friend Laura Stone.

(Keep an eye on her website by the way, for the release of her book Laura is doing a “virtual book tour” with something new everyday including chances to win her book for free!)

I’ll let you know right up front that this is a sexy love story, so naturally sex is going to be part of the book. It’s so much more than that though, it’s about love and the choices we make for it, when to sacrifice for love and when we need to put ourselves first. And when a second chance is presented, do we grab on with both hands or do we look back at ‘what might have been,’ sigh, and continue on our chosen path? This is no formulaic “romance novel,” these are people dealing with real emotions and decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. This might be a work of fiction, but it’s been a long time since I have read something that felt so real. If stories with sex in them or stories with two boys in love aren’t your thing, consider this your warning to move along, nothing to see here… If that doesn’t scare you off so easily let me take a minute to tell you why I love this book so much.

The review I left on Amazon:

Exceptional story from an exceptional author! I read this book expecting a romantic love story that I could enjoy. I got so much more! The characters are fully three dimensional and fantastic, and not just the main characters. Every part of the world this author creates was so fully realized that at some point you are totally engrossed in these people’s lives and forget that they aren’t really your friends. The highest compliment I can give this book is that, where another author would be content to wrap up the plot and leave it as a “sweet love story,” Laura Stone uses that as almost a jumping off point to get into the heart of the story and start examining who these people are and what makes them ‘tick.’ It’s been a long time since I’ve read a romance story where I couldn’t see the ending coming a mile away, but this one kept me glued to the page the whole way through. I don’t want to say too much so as to drop hints about the ending, but just know that the characterizations, the plot, the emotions, every part of the story are all top notch. If you are like me the minute you finish this book you’ll be searching the internet for an announcement about her next book release. I don’t know when that will be, but I promise I’ll be buying it the very first day it is available!

Publisher’s Weekly said:

Stone’s sensitive debut reunites two lovers who were separated by both distance and expectations. Oliver Andrews is slaving away on his M.A. in Cambridge, Mass. When he opens an email from a friend back home in Atchison, Kan., he finds a video that delivers an emotional gut-punch. It shows Seth Larsen, Ollie’s first—and only—love, singing on a nationally broadcast morning TV show in New York. The pair had broken up five years before when Ollie, encouraged by his father, decided against following Seth to New York. Seth felt betrayed: he wanted a career on the stage, and the distance from Boston to New York was too long. But Ollie was determined to pursue his own dream of becoming a social psychologist, even if that meant giving up on love. With the support of their friend Moira, Seth and Ollie decide to take another stab at building a life together. Stone plays the relationship with restraint, letting it unfold slowly and organically.

RT Book Reviews gave it 4 1/2 stars and said:

A casual style allows you to slip easily into the complicated lives of Oliver and Seth as they attempt to reconnect. Anyone that’s ever tried a long distance relationship can relate to the unique circumstances. Their beautiful love story will bring plenty of laughter, and even a few tears, as these men grab hold of their rare second chance. It was appreciated that neither man was willing to give up his dreams because that wouldn’t have felt true to the love they have shared since boarding school. Oliver has spent the last few years focused on finishing his degree program at Cambridge, letting important relationships slip away. On a particularly stressful morning, he gets an e-mail from his hometown friend with a video attachment detailing the Broadway success of his ex. He thought he was over Seth, but hearing his voice brings the memories flooding back, forcing him to re-evaluate the course of his future, and maybe give him a second chance at love.

Our Wolves Den said:

Oliver Andrews was wholly focused on the final stages of his education at Cambridge University when a well-meaning friend up-ended his world with a simple email attachment: a clip from a U.S. morning show. The moment he watches the video of his one-time love Seth Larsen, now a Broadway star, Oliver must begin making a series of choices that could lead him back to love—or break his heart. The Bones of You is full of laughter and tears, with a collection of irritated Hungarians, flirtatious Irishwomen, and actors abusing Shakespeare that color Oliver and Seth’s attempts at reconciliation.

Carly’s Book Reviews said:

Seth and Oliver have a complicated history that started with their relationship in high-school. Tolerance is low in small town Kansas and growing up gay can be down right dangerous. Both boys have challenging backgrounds and have been hurt in the past. Their young love is unable to stand the test of time, distance and immaturity. Both Seth and Oliver have perused other relationships since their separation, but the attraction of their first love remains. An unexpected second chance at love forces each man to face the mistakes that drove them apart. While hindsight may be 20/20, it is also easy to fall back into old habits. Just when things are starting to look up for the charismatic couple again, history threatens to repeat itself, proving that sometimes you have to look backwards in order to move forward again. The Bones of You is a complex and emotional story that focuses on love, loss and second chances. Told from Oliver’s perspective, his internal dialog is raw and gut-wrenchingly honesty. Seth is a little harder to identify with, as readers get to know him through Oliver’s thoughts and impressions. The cast of secondary characters is dynamic and entertaining, often bringing much needed comedic relief to the otherwise intense story. While opposite in many ways, the two main characters have an elemental chemistry that struck a deep chord and kept me engaged. Well written and steadily paced, it is thought provoking in many ways and offers a slightly different twist to the traditional story line of rekindling lost love.

I’ll stop copy/pasting reviews from around the web now, I’m sure by now you’ve already decided this isn’t your thing or you’re already intrigued. I’m so excited for Laura and I want to the whole world to know it, but beyond all of that supportive friendship stuff, the fact is that this is just a damn good book!

The Bones of You can be purchased from Amazon in paperback or on Kindle format here, from Barnes & Noble here, or you can get it directly from the publisher in paperback or e-book bundle (that means formats for all e-readers!) However you choose to read it, I think you’ll love it. I certainly did!

You can stalk follow Laura Stone on her website, tweeting on Twitter, reblogging on tumblr, whatever we call it on Google +, reading good things over on Goodreads, or posting over on Facebook.

Etsy Recommendations

Well, I certainly haven’t used the “Reviews and Recommendations” part of this website as much as I thought I would when I started it. I’m going to take this opportunity to promote a few stores on Etsy that I think should get more love. (If you have any you think I should know about please share them in the comments!)

Roweville Retro is my friend Lisa and her husband Scott who make the most beautiful pens, fountain pens, pencils, key chains, and more. Seriously, go look at their creations, they are gorgeous! I am the proud new owner of one of their pens in teal dyed wood and I love it.

Public Quirks is my Aunt who isn’t really related to me by blood but is certainly related to me by love. Her store is all Christmas cards right now, not something I have a real pressing need for, but maybe you do… I’ve received many of Katy’s cards over the years and they are the kind you never get rid of, so beautiful and unique. Katy has the best sense of humor so my favorites of hers are the funny ones, maybe we can get her to put up some of those for sale. My all time favorite card of hers was a funny, geeky, Star Trek themed card. So great!

Cards I’ve saved over the years…

(Sorry about the crappy scans, they don’t do the cards justice!)

A random Etsy surfing find was LeCubicule, handmade, simple yet stunning jewelry. I bought this ring from her, with a custom stamped word. I love so many of her pieces, I doubt this will be my only purchase.

Stitch and Swash was another random Etsy find, and wow am I glad I found it! If you know me well you know I can mostly take or leave fancy jewelry or nice cars or designer clothes or whatnot. I like what I like and if I can have it I am content with it for a very long time. The one big exception to that is purses. If I became a bazillionaire overnight I would run out first thing and buy the purses, all of the purses. Everywhere. They might be my kryptonite, but Superman is in pain when exposed to kryptonite I think, and I’m just happy as a you-know-who rolling in you-know-what when in the midst of the pretty, pretty purses of the world.

Angie hand makes all of the bags and wallets she sells. It’s always kind of hard to tell just what the quality of something is from pictures, and when it is a pricy item it’s a bigger risk. I spent almost an hour reading her reviews before making my purchase. There were an unusually high number of reviews and they were all way over the top glowing reviews. It kind of convinced me that most of them were friends or family, but then I noticed there were no bad reviews, at least none I could find. It seemed like a fairly safe risk because why would you plant fake reviews if you weren’t trying to minimize the genuine not-so-good reviews? So they were probably real. I bought this purse and Angie worked with me to make all the tweaks and customizations I wanted.

When the purse arrived I realized my high expectations had been too low, and all of those “too good to be true” reviews were actually honest. This is the nicest purse I have ever seen, much less owned. The leather is great quality, and so soft to the touch. The zipper and hardware (always the first things to break on my bags) are solidly built and well connected. It feels like a bag that is going to be in still great shape 10+ years from now. The inside comes with a sewn in key hook and cloth pocket on one side. I had Angie sew in a zipper pocket with a cell phone holder on the other side. No more digging around in the bottom of your bag because everything you need inevitably falls down there. I picked out the leather color I wanted, the lining color I wanted, and even the thread color I wanted (basic black is my style but you can really make it colorful if you want.) You also get your choice of art designs on the front but I decided not to do any of those. They are all cute, but I want something that will be in style for a very long time and basic seemed to me to be the way to do that. (But go to her shop and look at all the colors and combinations and art she can do, it’s really great!) I’ve bought really expensive purses before, way more expensive than this one one, but this is the best purse I’ve ever owned. If I ever get the cash to splurge on a purse again I have my eye on a few other of her styles! 🙂

Well, that’s all I have for right now. I do far less shopping at this point in my life than I did when I was working, but I’ve come across these items that I truly love and want to share with you. I hope you check them out. If you buy anything let me know, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do!

Poety Recommendation…

A while back I was treated to the pleasure of a visit from a friend I rarely get to see. She’s known me nearly all of my life. Although we aren’t the best at staying in touch with each other sometimes, I always smile when I see her name on my Caller ID no matter what kind of day I’m having.

This last visit she handed me two books and I was surprised to find out she’d published some of her poetry. I knew she was creative, I still have a battered and well-loved copy of a story she wrote and gave me when I was child, but it wasn’t something we talked about regularly so I had a brief moment of “oh, wow!” surprise. Then she showed me a poem she wrote about my Mom… I took a moment and read it, but tears quickly started coming and I pretty much closed the book immediately and turned the conversation to other things. Not that I didn’t want to read it or feel those emotions, but I didn’t want them to color the few hours we had to enjoy each other face to face.

I set the books aside for a few days, but then I fell into a sort of routine. Most days it takes me a while to get my brain up-and-running (no jokes please!) after I get out of bed, and so I would pick a page at random and read a poem while I sipped my tea. A few minutes of total focus every morning on one poem would help get my brain up and running, creative juices flowing, and in that ‘not quite all the way awake’ state I think I could really feel the emotions in each poem more than I would be able to if I was reading later in the day. Instead of focusing on what to cook for dinner or whatever items on my “to do” list were (or weren’t) going to get done. I stretched this out, treasuring each page and not allowing myself to consume them all in one sitting.

I love Susie as a person because she’s wonderful. I’m also a fan of her work, and those are two separate things. Susie has a special gift, she can really convey emotion in very few words. That’s something I’ve found very few people are able to do. At times I laughed out loud or felt tears in my eyes reading her words. She’s so talented. I will treasure these books.

Open Door by Susan Weinstein can be ordered here and Tertiary Colors: A Kaleidoscope of Poetry by June Gerron, Susan Weinstein, and Mimi Whittaker can be ordered here.