Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Wrapped Together by Annabeth Albert

Cover of Wrapped Together, featuring two white men leaning together and smiling, their eyes mostly closed.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Hollis hasn’t had much Christmas spirit since his parents died three years ago. It feels wrong to celebrate without them, no matter how much his sister and her extended family encourage him to join in, so he plans to spend the holidays working in his stationery store, hanging out with his cat, and rewatching SHERLOCK. Hollis's friend Sawyer knows Hollis can never resist a bet, though, and Sawyer is determined to reignite Hollis's holiday cheer with a series of wagers that can't help but make this Christmas extra special for both of them.

Romances where one person's down on Christmas and the other one's all, "Let me introduce you to the magic of the holiday season!" are my favourite. They give both parties plenty of opportunity to do fun things together and explore traditions new and old. In this case, Sawyer draws on his and Hollis's intense family connection (his twin brother is married to Hollis's twin sister) to concoct a slew of holiday enticements. He also convinces Hollis to participate in some Portland events that'll feel familiar even to non-Oregonians readers, like the local small business association's window decorating contest, Portland's official tree lighting ceremony, and a train ride through the Oregon Zoo's animal-shaped holiday lights.

Some holiday romances use the season as a rough framework on which to hang a relationship. It's winterish (or summerish in southern hemisphere romances), there're a few decorations floating around, and life is otherwise fairly normal. In contrast, WRAPPED TOGETHER goes all in with romance and Christmassy feel alike; a sure way to keep my attention glued to my ereader's screen around this time of year.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: November 27th to December 3rd

I make my dog (or one of his stand-ins) pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. The photos go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

This week's Not Pictured selections include some XTREME X-MEN (which I'm reading to bring myself up to speed so I can follow this team into UNCANNY), MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR (cute, but not as mindblowing as I expected), PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT (sooooooooooooo much fun!), THE VISION (recognizably excellent, but not quite my brand of excellent), a goodly chunk of SEA OF SORROWS by Michelle West, the latest episode of TREMONTAINE, and a bunch more of KNOWN AND STRANGE THINGS by Teju Cole.

An ereader lies very close to some red and gold holiday lights in an otherwise darkened room. It has the cover of Wrapped Together on its coloured screen. The cover features a photo of two dark-haired white men leaning together, laughing but not making eye contact, above a banner with the title and author on it.

Murchie got a well-deserved break from his posing duties last weekend as I settled in with WRAPPED TOGETHER [Amazon | Scribd], Annabeth Albert's latest Portland Heat novella. I sat in the near-dark with my Kobo and my lights, basking in the first holiday offering from one of my favourite romance authors.

I devoured the book in two sittings (it would've been one, but I got sucked into the National Dog Show midway through) and promptly spent a Scribd credit on Albert's first Portland Heat bundle so I could keep on wallowing in the series. I also drafted a mini review for you, but it soon edged up on 500 words so I'll give it its own post on Tuesday. Which, hey, is also when WRAPPED TOGETHER comes out! Look at that!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: November 20th to 26th

I make my dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. This week I actually got him to sit up beside a couple of titles, but he's always happiest in bed.

The photos go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Murchie, a scruffy grey poodle, sits on a burgundy carpet. A hardcover copy of Gemina stands upright beside him. The book's cover is an oily, reflective blue that catches the pattern of the carpet, turning it into a mottled purple in places.

OMG AWESOME EPISTOLARY SCIENCE FICTION!!!!!!!!!

I tore through GEMINA [Amazon] fast as ever I could, which proved to be pretty fast because it's as absorbing as it is lengthy. THERE IS SO MUCH COOL SHIT IN HERE, Y'ALL. SO MUCH. I GEEKED THE HELL OUT OVER IT. NOW I WANT TO GUSH ABOUT IT AD NAUSEUM, BUT ALL THE STUFF I MOST WANT TO ZOMG OVER IS SUPER SPOILERISH SO I'LL RESIST THE URGE.

I will tell you it shifts the action to Heimdall Station and follows different characters than ILLUMINAE did, so don't go expecting a slew of familiar faces right off the bat.

It'll also leave you eager for the grande finale.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Planner Printable: Northern Lights Weekly Set

A one-sheet set of planner stickers adorned with images of the Northern Lights. The primary focus rests on two long, thick bars of stickers that show the lights rising above the silhouetted tops of a forest of coniferous trees.

I hate winter, but I looooooooooooove all the lights that come along in November and December. I get my holiday lights up as early as I decently can, I spend a lot of time staring at the ambient light that reflects off the clouds at night, and I hope I'll maybe, possibly, see the Northern Lights when the clouds part.

That was a longshot for a lot of years, but the Aurora Borealis finally made an appearance this past October, a little earlier than expected but still most welcome. I'd already decided to decorate my planner with light-themed stickers all through December, so I thought it'd be fun to mark the Lights' return by designing a set in their honour.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: November 13th to 19th

I make my fuzzy little dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. The photos go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, lies with his head raised and his ears perked. His gaze is fixed on something outside the frame. Behind him is a white Kobo with the cover of One Hot December on its screen. The cover features a white guy with his white shirt open to expose his hairless chest.

ONE HOT DECEMBER is the last book in Tiffany Reisz's trio of holiday romances. Flash, a welder/artist, has a huuuuuge thing for her boss, Ian, but he blew her off after a single night together six months ago. Ugh. Ian regrets the incident just as much as Flash does, though, and when Flash gives her two weeks' notice right before the construction company breaks for the holidays they find an opportunity to try again.

This one's got a bit of a different tone to the first two; which is to say, it's not as funny. There are some jokes, yeah, but ONE HOT DECEMBER is much more concerned with issues like art and family. Flash is a talented metal artist, but she's still struggling to find her style and make her first big sale. She and Ian spend a lot of time talking about process and what a major sale would mean for her in terms of validation as well as her finances.

Flash's art also helps the two of them turn their attraction into a real connection when she makes Ian a menorah in his mother's honour. Ian's Jewish mother died when he was very young, and he's spent the last thirty-five years estranged from her family at his father's request. He's got a lot to work through in regards to his feelings for this important woman he's never actually met, and for the father he loves very much.

It's lovely, as I always expect from Reisz. There's lots of sex (D/s in this case), paired with plenty of illuminating conversations and a real attempt to nurture the relationship on both sides. I didn't love it quite as much as the first two books, but I still raced through to the end and teared up.

One thing: the author's note led me to believe this would be a full on Christmas & Hanukkah romance. In truth, there's very little Hanukkah in it. Ian's only just learned his mother's faith makes him Jewish, too (Judaism being matrilineal), and the things Flash does to help him connect with that side of his heritage comes secondhand from her Jewish BFF. From a spiritual perspective, I would've preferred it if Flash herself were Jewish, but I understand Reisz, as a Catholic, might not have felt she was the right person to tell a story like that.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Planner Printables: Tremontaine Set

I got a Happy Planner in mid-September, and it's been quite the delight. My planner keeps me motivated and on task every day, and it helps endow my life with some much-needed colour during this most difficult of seasons.

I've also had a great time making useful stuff for it. Folders. Tracking cards. Paperclips. Charms and tassels.

Stickers felt like the logical next step.

A single page of paper with a number of planner stickers on it. The stickers are all in shades of beige, black, and red. The larger ones feature silhouettes of people in vaguely eighteenth century clothing. The smallest ones say Sworfight, TremonTasks, or TremonToday on them, while two other banners read Drink More Chocolate and Tremontaine, respectively. There are also additional silhouettes of a swan, a city, and a rapier, with a couple of purple turnips thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review: The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

Painted cover of The Purloined Poodle. An enormous grey Irish Wolfhound sits beside a red-haired white man who sits in an armchair with his fingers steepled. A Boston Terrier sits on the other side of the chair. Behind the group is a mantlepiece and a wall hung with paintings of Sherlock Holmes and a French Poodle.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

THE PURLOINED POODLE [Amazon | Audible | Kobo], the latest novella in the Iron Druid Chronicles, finally turns the spotlight on Oberon, the Irish Wolfhound whose love of meat is matched only by his desire for thrilling stories into which he can insert himself. When Oberon and his Druid, Atticus, learn that someone has been kidnapping Grand Champion show dogs from across the Pacific Northwest, Oberon knows it’s both his duty and his privilege to find the culprit before any more hounds are hurt. No one with any decency could possibly leave a poodle in peril.

Oh my goodness, this was so much fun. Oberon has been my favourite IDC character from day one, and I had a blast getting inside his head in such an immersive way after years of watching him in a supporting role. He’s smart and intuitive, having been taught language and told a thousand interesting stories by his Druid, but he’s also very much a dog. He has trouble telling the difference between seconds and millennia, he’s firmly food-motivated, and he’s pretty sure the entire world centres on him. Which sounds arrogant, I know, but Oberon’s so sincere, and so willing to use his Main Character status to help others, that his self-interest loops past arrogance and lands him straight in the middle of charming.