Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas in Hawaii | Virtual Advent Tour

From the shores of beautiful Kauai, a very Mele Kalikimaka to all of you and Happy Hanukkah! Christmas in Hawaii is spent at the beach with palm trees lit and Santa arriving by canoe. My traditions include both holidays and festive cooking from homemade latkes to gingerbread cookies.

Two days ago I was at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens at Poipu and took this photo of an ornament hanging from a tree and the blue Pacific beyond. My wedding is planned in April at this same meadow. Thanks to Marriage Equality in Hawaii, I am engaged to my long time partner Jeff.

I was clueless what to share with you until a dream this morning woke me up with my late Grandfather telling me, "share my Christmas poem!" Of course! My grandfather wrote this poem many years ago about his Christmas as a child in 1915. Almost 100 years have passed! There was no electricity then so candles in the house illuminated his childhood tree decked with homemade ornaments and strings of popcorn.

I hope you enjoy this fond look back and that it creates memories of your special childhood holidays.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Tree
by Calvin Eaton

How often I've wished as Christmas time nears,
That I could go back across the long years
And see once again that old-fashioned tree,
Just as my parents would trim it for me.

In the living room corner it stood straight and tall,
Soft lights from the candles would glow on the wall.
With ornaments and gumdrops the boughs were all dropped,
While over and around them bright tinsel was looped.

Strings of popcorn and cranberries in the tinsel entwined,
And hung from the branches candy canes you might find.
Then in the very tip top to make it just right,
A bright angel glowed in the candle's soft light.

Each day for a week when the daylight was gone,
We'd light all the candles as darkness came on.
Many years since then are now in the past,
The candles long since have flickered their last.

Now a modern tree is a sight to behold,
With boughs all a-glitter with silver or gold.
It's a thing of much beauty, I fully agree.
But I still love that old-fashioned Christmas tree.

You may also like my previous Virtual Advent Tour posts on homemade ornaments and baking tips plus Hanukkah on Kauai. Wherever you are, I send the warmth of Hawaii to you and a wish of Aloha. Happy Holidays!

Special thanks to Kailana and Marg for hosting the daily Virtual Advent Tour.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hungry for Love by Rick R. Reed | Book Review

To what lengths will you go when you're Hungry for Love? Rick R. Reed's characters try to satisfy their desires in this gay romantic novel.

Overview: Nate has a secret (actually, several) that starts with his sister Hannah. She's been corresponding online with Brandon through a gay meetup site and posing as Nate without his knowledge. Now Brandon wants to meet in person and she must convince Nate to see him. Nate doesn't know everything that has been said between the two and Hannah has developed a crush on Brandon from his photo and writing. When the guys meet, sparks fly between sexually inexperienced Brandon and casual one-night-stand Nate. This causes Hannah to be envious. Can she control her jealousy or will the secret come out that could destroy this new romance?

"Is this what love at first sight feels like? Or is this just a pair of hormones calling to one another? Whatever. Did it matter?"

Review: Reed writes men that you connect with and want to know. Nate's hunger has been satisfied by one night stands that he no longer finds interesting. Brandon has decided to wait and find a long term relationship where he can unleash his sexual passion (does he ever!). Hannah's hunger for love is not fulfilled and jealousy leads her to step between Nate and Brandon out of fear. The craving for love has different consequences for each character. Reed makes each one believable with intelligent writing filled with desire and longing. Some might say that love at first sight doesn't happen the way it did for Nate and Brandon. The truth is, it happened to me.

If you like gay romance with passion, heart and some jealousy as an appetizer, this latest novel by Reed will satisfy any hunger you feel. I'd come back for seconds.

Do you believe in love at first sight? I look forward to hearing your comments.

P.S. When I dated in my 20's it was before the Internet (the dark ages). I remember placing an ad in the Seattle Weekly with a private box. Once a week a large envelope would come in the mail from them with letters sent by potential suitors. Times have changed. I'll just add that I met my soon to be husband 12 years ago in a place that doesn't normally result in a relationship. You never know when Mr. Right may come your way.

Hungry for Love by Rick R. Reed. Dreamspinner Press, 2013. ISBN: 9781627981453.

I won a free copy of Hungry for Love from the author. Visit Rick R. Reed online.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton: Tuesday Intro

"As a metaphor for my life, the crossroads rocked. I sat in my rented Chevy, glaring at the GPS screen, then got out of the vehicle and looked around. On one side of me was an evergreen forest, into which one road descended, and on the other was a rocky prominence, the highway cutting through it like a kebab skewer through shish."

Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton 

This first "Merry Muffin Mystery" had me hooked enough to share on First Chapter, First Paragraph hosted every Tuesday by Diane at Bibliophile By The Sea.

I liked that the protagonist was at a crossroads in her life, felt lost in many ways, but kept her humor. I'm currently on page 70 and hope to finish within the week. This cozy has an authentic feel. The village could have been romanticized but is not; similar to the Lois Meade mysteries by Ann Pursur.

I made a batch of pumpkin muffins over the weekend after being inspired by this mystery. To cut fat, I replaced butter with starfruit and they turned out great. Maybe I'll share later. Starfruit grows plentiful here in Hawaii and is often at our local farmer's markets.

If you have a blog, take the banner below and follow along! How's your reading this week?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Salon - Marriage Equality in Hawaii

Big news is brewing! Marriage Equality in Hawaii will soon be a reality. The bill returns to the Senate on Tuesday for a final vote and our Governor is scheduled to sign it on Wednesday. After it's official, my partner and I will be announcing our engagement. This also happens to be the week we celebrate our 10th anniversary together!

Wedding Plans and Creative Jewish Wedding Book

Our plan is an April wedding here on Kauai and a honeymoon trip to Scandinavia in May. To help plan the ceremony, I've been reading a book (surprise) that will help us plan a mostly Jewish celebration. Look for a review soon on The Creative Jewish Wedding Book by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer.

Book Review Updates

This past week I reviewed Silent Knife by Shelley Freydont and am currently reading Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton. I guess I'm in a muffin baking mood with this current novel. Last night I baked Pumpkin muffins and used starfruit in place of butter. Really good and low fat.

Are You On Paperback Swap?

Just a reminder about the books I'm reviewing - I post my gently used copy on Paperback Swap for one credit. As a gold member, I can pick who a book goes to. Up for grabs right now is Silent Knife and Poisoned Prose. You can leave a comment on each book review if you are interested (USA addresses only).

I'm off to get a rototiller to plant a new lawn for our pet mule. Hope your week goes well. What's on your shelf this week?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Silent Knife by Shelley Freydont: Book Review

Shelley Freydont creates scenes and characters in Silent Knife that will transform even the Scoogiest. Escape to the Christmas village of your dreams in this holiday mystery of a Santa slaying and good cheer.

Overview: Christmas festivities in Celebration Bay take a turn for the worse when a Santa want-to-be is found murdered out of costume. The town's official Santa is a major suspect. Is this a case of jealousy between two Santa's or could a deeper secret lurk in this snowy Norman Rockwell village? The event planner who recently moved to town has a lot on her hands to keep the holidays from turning into a public relations nightmare.
Christmas Cozy

"It was unnerving to move to a seemingly idyllic town and discover that things weren't always as peaceful as they appeared."

Review: Shelley Freydont captures a believable heroine in Liv Montgomery, the ex-New Yorker who navigates the inner workings of this town where, "...gossip could be malicious."

While the mystery is well developed and the novel brims with village atmosphere, I somehow felt like an outsider in Celebration Bay. I wanted to get to know the characters beyond their stereotypes. For example, Dolly "plump and friendly" owns Apple of My Eye Bakery and the librarian wears a shall and "tortoiseshell glasses attached by a black cord." And what about Ted? He is the able body assistant to Liv who dons reindeer sweaters and keeps a private life that remains a mystery.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed my time reading Silent Knife. The book's premise to solve a  murder around a holiday event will lead to more fun cozies I'm sure. Maybe there's romance too ahead for Liv Montgomery and that studly editor who assists her in sleuthing. I look forward to finding out!

Hawaii sighting in Silent Knife: "It's the artist's rendering of Kapua, the mischievous god of ancient Hawaii."

Snappy dialogue: "She was like a bad penny: no one could figure out how to lose her."

Mystery Rating: 8 Candy Corns for putting me in a nostalgic holiday mood.

Win my copy of Silent Knife in exchange for 1 credit on Paperback Swap. Leave a comment that you would like my gently used copy. I'll draw a name in November. Winner must buddy me on Paperback Swap and exchange a credit for the book. If you're not on Paperback Swap, join today and start sharing books.

Silent Knife by Shelley Freydont. The Berkley Publishing Group, 2013. ISBN: 9780425252383

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Salon: Cozy Mysteries and Return of Candy Corn

Rob's Apple Pie. Want A Slice?
My book reviews are back and so is my homemade apple pie that I just took out of the oven. Pie tip: Add 3 tablespoons of Apricot jam over the apples and the flavor will be more tart. After a two year break I'm writing again and hope that you will follow me. What better time to return than at Halloween for this candy corn loving guy. Speaking of candy corn, it was not sold this year on Kauai. I gave up and ordered from the mainland. Candy corn is my favorite treat when writing book reviews.

New Book Review: Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams (Win a Copy with a Twist)

Oyster Bay characters are my new best friends. I love cozy mysteries and this was a winner. Read my latest book review and let me know what you thought of this mystery. You can "earn" my gently used copy if you are on Paperback Swap. I have Gold Status and can select who a book goes to. Right now over 90 people want Poisoned Prose. If your name is drawn, and you transfer one book credit to me, I'll be able to move you to the top of the list and send you my gently used copy. It's a new twist on my giveaways when I buy a book that turns out to be in high demand on Paperback Swap. 

Currently Reading: Silent Knife by Shelley Freydont

Christmas Cozy
What a title! And the cover looks cozy with holiday lights and decorated trees. It reminds me of a small town in Pennsylvania where I lived many years ago. This book has put me in the holiday spirit early. I have 200 pages to go and a book review coming soon this week. It's been a fun journey so far. The author has combined a festive atmosphere with an unfortunate murder. Can't wait to see how this one ends!

Why I Took a 2 Year Break from Book Reviews

I've been working hard on my full-time business in PR and Marketing. It's going great but leaves little time for fun things like book blogs and reading. I need to find more balance in life and thought it would be good to start back since I love books. Upcoming posts will also include my travels from Jasper National Park in Canada to Tasmania island off Australia. I also have a lot of bookstores to tell you about. Next year will be my first trip to Scandinavia. If you have any tips for Sweden, Norway and Finland be sure and let me know.

How was your week? I look forward to connecting with new and old ageless friends. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Poisoned Prose By Ellery Adams: Book Review

Words create karmic backlash in Poisoned Prose. A secret location to a hidden treasure, and hidden pain that finally surfaces, create the right mix for murder in this cozy mystery by the sea. 

Overview: The Bayside Book Writer's group at Oyster Bay has more than manuscripts to discuss. A renowned storyteller, Violetta Duvereaux, visits this charming beach community and leaves (most) townsfolk mesmerized by her performance. Woven into her words are clues to a hidden family treasure which seems highly implausible considering that she grew up poor in Appalachia. Violetta sees someone in the audience that night from her past and soon takes her last breath after the final curtain call. Leave it to socialite Olivia Limoges to sort everything out (including hidden secrets) with her studly boyfriend Chief Rawlings.

Who has secrets hidden? What is the hidden treasure? Read the latest installment in this ongoing mystery series by Ellery Adams for the answers.

Review: The plot reminded me of the stories from childhood with hidden treasure, secret panels and engaging mysteries to solve. It was a journey that I didn't want to see end. Good news, there are more adventures coming from the townsfolk of Oyster Bay! Olivia is a beautiful lady with class and intelligence. This was my first time meeting her and the other characters in Ellery Adams' Books By The Bay series. It won't be the last either. Ellery made it easy for me to catch up with them and not feel that I missed something by not starting with the first book. New fan alert: I may read some of the earlier books to get to know the characters better.

Favorite Character: Chief Rawlings. A cool guy who can be tough and also sensitive. What's not to like about a man who "has a penchant for dressing in Hawaiian shirts."

Highlight: Each chapter begins with a literary quote to match the content of the chapter. A nice touch and one not easy to maneuver I'm sure.

Mystery Rating: 10 Candy Corns.

I had no idea where to find the truth which kept things interesting. There was suspense at the end so well written that I felt I was right there with the characters. One part of the ending surprised me. It was a decision that Olivia made about one of the suspects. No spoiler alert so I won't say more. Let me know in your comments if you think that Olivia made the right decision.

Win my copy of Poisoned Prose in exchange for 1 credit on Paperback Swap. Leave a comment that you would like my gently used copy on PBS. I'll draw a name in November. Winner must buddy me on Paperback Swap and exchange a credit for the book. If you're not on Paperback Swap, join today and start sharing books.

Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams. The Berkley Publishing Group, 2013. ISBN: 9780425262955

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My List For The 2012 TBR Pile Challenge

I've run out of space for my books so this challenge seems like the right choice. Roof Beam Reader has inspired me to pick 12 books that have been on my shelf (or floor) for at least a year and published before 2011. Here's my list so far. Are any of these titles on your TBR list?

1. Still Life by Louise Penny
2. The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
3. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
4. The Fat Mat, A Tale of North Pole Noir by Ken Harmon
5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
7. The Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
8. The Little Book by Selden Edwards
9. Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Gilbert Sorrentino
10. The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart
11. The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel
12. Hemingway Deadlights by Michael Atkinson

Sign up closes in just a few hours. I'm running to meet a deadline. That's been my story in 2011!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov: Free Book

There have been many thought provoking and insightful reviews written this month on the TLC book tour of Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov. Many have called it a top ten read of the year. I agree.

Sally's review from Bibrary Book Lust is a favorite, "it's like a Russian nesting doll, with stories inside stories, each of them revealing something grander, but demanding a greater share of attention to appreciate what you’ve found."

How can I top that? This is a problem when you're at the end of the tour of a popular book and trying to think of a new twist that has yet to be mentioned.

I will say this...

If you'd like a chance to win my gently used book, leave a comment with your email address. I'll pick a winner on October 8 for Yom Kippur. And if you live outside of the USA, you can enter too.

The only reason I'm letting it leave my shelf is because I received a PDF copy from TLC Book Tours. (The
E-book is not available yet and I hope it will be soon).

Back to the story, Alenyikov writes with passion and heartfelt honesty. After losing two parents recently I could relate to the sons' relationship with their father and his to them. Alenyikov brilliantly shows both sides. For me the father's story was my personal favorite.

I'm still trying to figure out the last story. It's hard to read about dying with AIDS. I need more time to digest and let it sink in. The other reviewers are ahead of me on this one. Who is Vinnie?

Response from Author: Michael was kind enough to write to me today about the last short story. "It's the only story I wrote independently of the others...(and)...the first story I wrote when I started writing fiction in mid-life. An author shouldn't have to explain."

My Comment: I agree with you Michael. It's like asking a painter to explain the art he/she has created. 

Response from Michael: 

"Just to clarify: What I meant about an author not needing to clarify his/her work  is that I tried hard not to confuse the  reader, needlessly. And if readers are confused then I wonder if I did a good job guiding them along. That last story was asking more from readers: to make a leap to a narrator who was a very minor character in earlier stories.

I actually had two other stories I cut at the last minute because while they were quite good I decided it was asking too much of the readers (one story was about a gay Swiss UN Peacekeeper in East Timor and Bosnia -- and I introduced a half-brother to Ivan and Misha about whom they knew nothing.)

The larger question of what does a work mean, what should it mean, is hard for an author and I leave that up to the readers. As the author my deepest feeling is that these are characters, emotions, events, thoughts, sentences I've lived with for many years.  I'm always surprised at what readers pick up on, feel most strongly about, etc. I think when we see authors on TV talking about their work they've kind of rehearsed lines that make it seem as if the author had those themes in mind all along, when in fact, a good deal of the time when writing one is quite in the dark about the impact of one's words, one's characters."

My Comment: Thanks Michael for your thoughtful discussion. I don't think I was in the right place emotionally for the last chapter. And because of this, I missed a key element. I understood the story was from an earlier time and remembered that Kevin was Misha's former lover.

This collection of stories of two fraternal twins, both gay, who move to New York with their father from Kiev is one I'll come back to. Stay tuned.

My thanks to TLC for the complimentary copy and including me on this tour.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott: Book Review

Do you think someone in their late 50's or early 60's is elderly? Keep in mind that I'm 54 when you answer this loaded question.

Here's why I ask.

I'm reading reviews for this book that describe the lead character as "old." It caused me pause and I looked in the mirror. I'm just a few years younger than Henry who is the protagonist in The Upright Piano Player. And I have gray hair too, but damn I feel young. Others may not think so at first glance.

There are many generations in this book but the central characters are prime time. I was hooked immediately. The book could have been a melodramatic soap opera with its many tragedies, instead it became a rich character study for me and contemporary British writing at its best.

Henry's world is turned upside down when he's asked to leave the company he founded. Through flashbacks we learn about Henry while watching him chart his present course. The author moves brilliantly between time periods with ease, even if his characters do not.

We see people close to Henry die. Torn relationships over the past are worked through. Henry becomes a victim and stalked by someone much younger. He's sometimes understood but not always.

I'm reminded that 50 plus looks old when you're young, but once you've arrived at this point in your life it doesn't feel that long ago when looking back. Scary, huh?

I left a comment on Dan's Journal and received a complimentary copy of this book. 

The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott was first published in Great Britain in 2010; my version is the first American edition by Doubleday. ISBN 9780385534420, 264 pages.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saturday Snapshot: Shaka For Books

Rob Meets Hawaii Book Blog
At the start of summer I attended my first book festival. That's the good news. The bad is that I could only squeeze in about two hours. I was doing writing projects for clients in Honolulu the same weekend as the Hawaii Book and Music Festival.

My two hour visit gave me a chance to hear Roseanne Barr speak, the last 15 minutes anyway, and mystery writer Douglas Corleone.

I also had the opportunity to meet my first book bloggers. Misty and Alex were there from Hawaii Book Blog. I loved their "Shaka For Books" t-shirt and bought one on their website. It's become THE shirt when I volunteer at our library book sales.

Now that summer is almost over, although living on Kauai feels like it's endless, I'm looking forward to fall celebrations. I'm heading to the North Shore for a swim at Hanalei today and plan some downtime to relax and maybe write a book review.

How are you spending Labor Day weekend?

Saturday Snapshot is hosted weekly by Alyce from At Home With Books.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Blue Moon Cafe by Rick Reed: Book Review

"Tearing. The man doesn't even have time to scream."

I usually don't read books about people getting ripped apart and things that go bump in the night. So it's interesting to me that I ended up reading (and liking) The Blue Moon Cafe.

This story about werewolves causing havoc in Seattle's gay community offered suspense and even romance. The good looking men between its cover were caught in a love triangle with bite.

I found myself tapping my Nook screen as fast as possible to see what happened next. Sometimes it was because of the passion between Thad and his mysterious hunk named Sam. Other times it was the suspense of the attack that kept me on edge. Especially when characters I had grown to like found themselves about to be shredded.

When I was working on this review yesterday, I was going to tell you that I handled the violence okay. But last night I got up in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep, sat down with a bowl of my homemade granola, and could have sworn something was lurking outside in the darkness.

Creepy, huh? Thanks to Rick Reed I may be looking over my shoulder for awhile.

With its high intensity scenes and strong characters, prepare to rip into The Blue Moon Cafe and howl.

The Blue Moon Cafe, by Rick Reed, received the 2010 Rainbow Award for Book Of The Year. Published by Amber Allure. Visit the author's website at Rick R. Reed. I'm participating in the GLBT Challenge for 2011. The Blue Moon Cafe has graphic violence and sexual scenes between men.

Ho'ola'i na manu i ke aheahe

"The birds poise quietly in the gentle breeze."
Said of those who are at peace with the world, undisturbed and contented.