Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Easy by Tammara Webber


Title: Easy
Series: Contours of the Heart #1
Author: Tammara Webber
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-Published: 05/25/2012
Republished: 10/09/2012 by Berkley
Genre(s): Contemporary New Adult

DESCRIPTION

"Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.

A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl's struggle to regain the trust she's lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy."


MY THOUGHTS (Short and Sweet)

Easy by Tammara Webber is a perfect example of a recommendation gone...right. Several recommendations, actually. This novel far exceeded any expectations I had when I began reading. After just a few pages the writing and story grabbed me, and I was captivated. There were incidental things (names, mostly) that offered me some feelings of connection on a personal level. There was so much to appreciate about Easy—as a whole and in the details. The characters all felt "reasonable" in that they weren't fictionally exaggerated. Their dialogue and interaction with each other seemed plausible. Their emotions felt in sync with their experiences. Jacqueline's condition over the break-up with Kennedy, and her friends' "assistance" in trying to help her get over him were quite believable. The introduction, subsequent appearances, and finally, our becoming acquainted with Lucas in the book was done so seamlessly. Lucas, whose tattooed and lip-ringed looks may have appeared to be at odds with his innate goodness, was a remarkable character! I could attribute to him many complimentary labels, but essentially it's all there in him—in the book.

There are several themes dealt with in Easy, which I felt were handled very well. They had a real world quality about them. Some of it was raw and frightening. Some of it was subtle and thought provoking. The characters of Jacqueline and Lucas are exceptionally intuitive, empathetic, and intelligent. He notices much more about her than her looks and she discovers much more lies beneath his. Most excellently done!

HIGHLIGHTS

“Love is not the absence of logic
but logic examined and recalculated
heated and curved to fit
inside the contours of the heart”

~*~

“Choosing to be with you, isn't a difficult decision, Jacqueline...It's easy. Incredibly easy.”
~ Lucas Maxfield

~*~

"So I don't want you to feel pressured. Or overpowered. But I do, absolutely, want to kiss you right now. Badly."
~Lucas Maxfield

~*~

“The way he kissed me felt like a brand. Like he was tattooing himself under my skin.”
~ Jacqueline Wallace


09/09/2013 - Very thankful to Tammara Webber for my autographed copy of Easy and this lovely "swag!"

TWEETS
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review: Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture by Sylvain Reynard

Title: Gabriel's Inferno
Series: Gabriel's Inferno #1
Author: Sylvain Reynard
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 04/18/2011
Publisher: Omnific
Republished: 07/31/2012
Publisher: Berkley 
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION

"From national bestselling author Sylvain Reynard comes the haunting, unforgettable tale of one man’s salvation and one woman’s sensual awakening . . .

Enigmatic and sexy, Professor Gabriel Emerson is a well-respected Dante specialist by day, but by night he devotes himself to an uninhibited life of pleasure. He uses his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm to gratify his every whim, but is secretly tortured by his dark past and consumed by the profound belief that he is beyond all hope of redemption.

When the sweet and innocent Julia Mitchell enrolls as his graduate student, his attraction and mysterious connection to her not only jeopardizes his career, but sends him on a journey in which his past and his present collide.

An intriguing and sinful exploration of seduction, forbidden love, and redemption, Gabriel’s Inferno is a captivating and wildly passionate tale of one man’s escape from his own personal hell as he tries to earn the impossible—forgiveness and love. "


Title: Gabriel's Rapture
Series: Gabriel's Inferno #2
Author: Sylvain Reynard
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/22/2012
Publisher: Omnific
Republished: 07/31/2012
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION

"National bestselling author Sylvain Reynard continues the story of Gabriel and Julia, two lovers bound together by their darkest desires.

But those very desires may destroy them . . .

Professor Gabriel Emerson has embarked on a passionate, yet clandestine affair with his former student Julia Mitchell. Sequestered on a romantic holiday in Italy, he tutors her in the sensual delights of the body and the raptures of sex.

But when they return, their happiness is threatened by conspiring students, academic politics, and a jealous ex-lover. When Gabriel is confronted by the university administration, will he succumb to Dante’s fate? Or will he fight to keep Julia, his Beatrice, forever?

In Gabriel’s Rapture, the brilliant sequel to the wildly successful debut novel, Gabriel’s Inferno, Sylvain Reynard weaves an exquisite love story that will touch the reader’s mind, body, and soul, forever."


MY THOUGHTS

Poetic, lush, grand, passionate, heartrending, touching...

I don't believe I've ever used the words, "I couldn't put it down" in a review.  I didn't want this all-encompassing feeling to go away. I didn't want the stirring of my emotions to settle. I had to continue reading until I'd finished. (I read both of the books in two days!)  I'm so tired and drained, but, oh, the existing conclusion of this beautiful, beautiful story was worth my current state of tiredness. For now I feel I can sleep—dream of Gabriel and Julianne—yearn for the continuation of their indescribable romance in the third book, which is due in 2013! [Update: Gabriel's Redemption will be published on December 3, 2013.]


Highlights
 
Julia was a good person. And sometimes goodness doesn’t tell everything it knows. Sometimes goodness waits for the appropriate time and does the best it can with what it has. 
~ author's voice (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~

"Why not think that sometimes—just sometimes—you can overcome evil with silence? And let people hear their hatefulness in their own ears, without distraction. Maybe goodness is enough to expose evil for what it really is, sometimes. Rather than trying to stop evil with more evil." 
~ Julia (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~

“When I am an old man and I can remember nothing else, I will remember this moment. The first time my eyes beheld an angel in the flesh. “I will remember your body and your eyes, your beautiful face and breasts, your curves and this.” He traced his hand around her navel before dragging it lightly to the top of her lower curls. “I will remember your scent and your touch and how it felt to love you. But most of all, I will remember how it felt to gaze at true beauty, both inside and out. For you are fair, my beloved, in soul and in body, generous of spirit and generous of heart. And I will never see anything this side of heaven more beautiful than you.” 
~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~

“Look at me. Look into my eyes.” His eyes fixed on hers as they fluttered open. “I’ll give you anything. My body, my soul, take them. Take everything.” 
~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~
 
“Many people fail to see how modesty and sweetness of temper compound erotic appeal.” 
~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Rapture)

~*~

Truth sets one free, but love casts out fear. In her twenty-three years, Julia hadn’t realized how pervasive grace was and how Gabriel, who considered himself to be a very great sinner, could be a conduit of that grace. This was part of the divine comedy—God’s sense of humor undergirding the inner workings of the universe. 
~ author's voice (Gabriel's Rapture)
 
~*~

“You are my sticky little leaf. My beautiful, sad, sticky little leaf, and I want to see you happy and whole. I’m sorry for every tear I’ve made you shed. I hope that someday you’ll be able to forgive me.” ~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Rapture)
 
~*~

"If they love one another to the exclusion of everything and everyone else, then their love is pagan. They’ve made idols of one another and their love. And they’re also very foolish, because no human being can ever make another human being completely happy. Human beings are far too imperfect for that.”
 ~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Rapture) 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Love Unscripted by Tina Reber

Title: Love Unscripted
Series: Love #1
Author: Tina Reber
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-published: 05/25/2011
Republished: 09/08/2012 by Atria
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION

"An A-List Movie Star. . .
Ryan Christensen just wanted to be an actor. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine a life where fans would chase him, paparazzi would stalk him, and Hollywood studios would want to own him. While filming in Seaport, Rhode Island, Ryan ducks into a neighborhood bar for a quick escape from legions of screaming fans . . . and finds much more than he expected.

A Small-Town Girl. . .
Nursing a recent heartbreak, Taryn Mitchell believes men are best kept at a safe distance. But when Ryan Christensen unexpectedly bursts through the front door of her pub, she can’t help but be drawn in by his humor, charm, and undeniable good looks. At six foot two, with dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and an incredible body, Ryan has every girl in Seaport swooning. But Taryn isn’t every other girl.

A Relationship That Doesn’t Follow the Script. . .
Despite her better judgment, Taryn soon finds herself falling hard for Ryan. But is their bond strong enough to survive the tabloid headlines, the relentless paparazzi, and the jealous fans who seem determined to tear them apart?"

MY THOUGHTS
 
Love Unscripted was such an unexpected delight! How fortuitous it was that I chose to find out about it from amongst the slew of recommendations on Goodreads and Amazon. Also, that I did not discount it based on the "Hollywood" connection. (For some reason I usually disregard novels having to do with the movie industry.) Although the character of Ryan Christensen is an actor it's the portrayal of his honest human emotions that was the draw for me and not his celebrity. I quite enjoyed how the story began and how the introduction to the characters was written, especially how Ryan and Taryn met. Certainly, their individual and remarkable physical appearances account for the first hint of mutual attraction, but it is soon apparent that this is but a starting point to so much more between them. Ryan is absolutely terrorized by rabid fans and hassled by paparazzi. Taryn offers him sanctuary and soon becomes his home. His peace. His comfort. Her normalcy and empathy are the calm from the storm of his tempestuous life. I really enjoyed the way their relationship developed: their conversations, the gentle elbow bumps, finger pokes, and foot nudges. Their playing poker and pool together, quoting movie lines, spending time at the lake, and sharing meals made the beginning of their sexual relationship an understandable and honest next phase. Both Ryan and Taryn's considerate behavior is indicative of their respective upbringings. I thought Tina Reber did a remarkable job conveying the characters' emotions, how they dealt with the difficulties of their opposing lifestyles; how they strove for honesty and openness with each other, and how they fought through opposition and heartbreak for a shared future.

The combination of the engaging story and characters with whom I could empathize made this a dream read! I read the entire 670 pages within one day and would have been pleased to continue.  Fortunately, those of us eagerly awaiting the next installment in Ryan and Taryn's story have only to wait until August 31 (updated release date of September 14), when Love Unrehearsed is released.

Highlights
 
"The biggest question in my mind was whether peace and insanity could survive together in harmony." ~ Taryn Mitchell

~*~

"I didn't need anyone to take care of me, but I did want someone to love me enough to try." ~ Taryn Mitchell

~*~

"It is here that I fell in love with you. And as fate would have it, it is here that I humbly kneel before you and ask you to be my wife.” ~ Ryan Christensen


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vegan Dessert: Vanilla Cake With Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


First time with this recipe from have your cake and vegan too by Kris Holechek. For convenience I baked it in a 9 x 13" glass baking dish that has a cover. I ended up letting it remain in the dish to cool which probably contributed to the bottom and sides becoming a tiny bit overdone. The cake had a lovely substantial texture rather than being fluffy. I made note that the frosting recipe needs to be doubled. A single batch was insufficient to cover just the top. It was still moist and flavorful several days later. Yum!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Recipe: Vegan Banana Bread

Vegan Banana Bread
Ingredients

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 6" very ripe bananas)
1/3 cup vanilla soymilk
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Instructions

1.) Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil a 9 x 5" loaf pan.

2.) In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium mixing bowl combine the oil and brown sugar. Stir in the mashed bananas, soy milk, vanilla and walnuts; stir only until thoroughly mixed.

3.) Spread batter evenly in the pan and bake for about 45 minutes (test at about 43) until the bread is a light golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

4.) Let the bread cool in the pan for about a half-hour. Loosen the edges with a butter knife before gently turning the bread out to finish cooling on a rack.

5.) Store bread at room temperature in a covered container.

Servings: about 10 slices
Source: adapted (made vegan) from my junior high school Home Economics recipe