Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipe Blogswap

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I'm breaking with tradition and expanding my blog to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday. In the spirit of foodies everywhere, a few friends and I are swapping our favorite recipes and sharing some love this week.

Now don't get the wrong idea, I am still the same old grumpy-ass bear you all love to hate, but I must be weak from the fever and all I've had to deal with since I came down with the flu on Saturday. I will be back to normal soon, I promise, and all the damned John men can quit laughing at me and go back to shaking in their boots in fear. Hear that, Travis?

But while I was laying in bed, thinking about Thanksgivings past, one memory kept coming back each time. I h ad three sets of grandparents. I know, I am a very special guy. No, Mom was married and widowed at an early age, and had three daughters before she was in her early twenties, before she met and married my dad. So my three sisters' grandparents, the Floyds, automatically included me and my younger brother as part of their family.

A trip to Grandma and Grandpa Floyd's house was always fun. They lived in Pine Mountain, Georgia, which is about a hundred miles from where I grew up in Norcross. Now, to a kid, you would think it was a million miles, but ahhh, when we got there...

Grandma Floyd has a big open kitchen and we weren't allowed to hang around in there. Mainly, I think, because the sheer number of kids would have made cooking impossible. But the smells coming out of there. Heaven! She made the best strawberry cake, all from scratch. Ham. Sweet potato casserole. But the best thing ever? Her Tea Cakes. Little bundles of love that always mean home and family to me.

I miss her, and wish her and my Grandpa and all their kids, three children they adopted as babies since they couldn't have any of their own, much love this Thanksgiving. I am counting my blessings, and they are among them. And as always, I miss my own mom this year. She would have liked all of you...

Maybelle Floyd's Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butermilk
1/3 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
Flavor with grated orange rind, orange extract or any flavor desired

Cream butter, sugar and salt together. Mix baking soda, orange extract and beaten egg with buttermilk. Add to butter mixture, alternating with flour. If dough seems too soft, add in a little more flour. Roll to desired thinness, cut, place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 425 until golden.

Guaranteed to chase off that Winter Chill.

And to stay warm this week, and away from those Godawful Black Friday sales that are starting on Wednesday this year, order a copy of Winter Heat, make a cup of hot chocolate, and stay in. Trust Dr. Bear, it's just what you need!

Oh - and don't forget to visit all my friends and see what yummies they came up with this year too...

Angel Martinez -

Silvia Violet -

Havan Fellows -

Laura Harner -

Lee Brazil -

Happy Thanksgiving. Love to everyone.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"End of the Innocence"

Review - "End of the Innocence" by John Goode

A Masterpiece

Very Highly Recommended

***Potential spoilers***

I'm going to break my own rules here. It's my review, and it that bothers you, I am sorry. Pass this by and go read another one.

John let me read this book a few weeks ago, and I've sat on it, trying to think of a review worthy enough. My words fail me here, so please bear with me as I struggle to find something worthy of this guy's great big heart and talent. I'm not enough here, but here it goes.

"End of the Innocence" is more than a work of YA or M/M romance or fiction. It's a statement of pure love. It's an offering of life-blood. It's a cry in the dark, a soul-shattering scream, a nightmare. And it is stunningly beautiful.

There have been three prior books in the Foster High series dealing with Brad and Kyle, two high school students in a small Texas town. The series deals with their coming out, the repercussions to them personally and to the relationships that they have with their friends, families, enemies and community.

In "End of the Innocence", we finally deal with Kelly, Brad's jock friend. As we have learned, Brad and Kelly have fooled around in the past, and Kelly is struggling to reconcile his friendship and feelings towards Brad. We also, in a parallel way, explore the boys' relationship with Jennifer, Brad's ex-girlfriend. There are also other gay men in the town we meet, and they play an important role, but the focus is on these four.

I can't go deeper into the storyline without giving too much away, but the book explores the past and current implications of coming out in Foster. How some current characters on the canvas have dealt with it (or not), and the larger issue of bullying and harassment and, in some cases, outright murder involving those not like their neighbors. It looks at the unlikely friendship formed between Kyle and Kelly and between Brad and Jennifer.

Read this at your own risk, and forgive me if I give too much away, but there is another outing. It is horrible, unexpected yet completely fated to happen. And the fallout is...devastating.

I read this book through in one sitting, the words spinning a web around me with a  subtle sense of foreboding and dread. No, no, I kept thinking, this can't be going there. And then I hit the last twenty percent of the book and alternated between tears and blank, honest horror. I've seen this, lived this, picked up the pieces after this book happened. I never wanted to relive it, and yet, here it was, laid out for me to bleed over again.

And damn it, I wouldn't have it any other way.

John - I cannot give him enough credit here. The writing is restrained and so very real. His sure hand is on every word, every sentence, and he deftly took me on a journey of pain and discovery, pulled the scab off every wound in that small town and led me around like one of Dickens' Ghosts.

Because what we are dealing with here, when it's all stripped away, is a very basic choice we all have to make when we come out or are outed. Deal, or don't. Stay, or run. Live, or die.

And sometimes people

This is an important work for teens, for parents, for teachers, for anyone who has or deals with kids. Hell, it's important for everyone. There are lessons to be learned here - about life, choosing to live, how we treat out fellow companions on the road of life, and how we sometimes bury our heads in the sand. It's also about the cold, hard fact that even when we try out best, we can only save ourselves. It's about guilt, gang mentality, the abuse of power.

But let's not forget something in the midst of all this. It's about love. Because Brad and Kyle? They were outed, treated horribly, betrayed by those in power. And they still chose love.

Not everyone does. But they did.

So did John, thank god. I just wish I could do his beautiful story the justice it deserves. I hope he forgives me for not being enough, because I love him like a little brother and he seems to think my words mean something.

I want to be like him when I grow up. Thanks for sticking around.


"Burnished by Fire"

Review - "Burnished By Fire" by Andrew Grey

Very satisfying conclusion to a hot series

Highly Recommended

In the third, and what appears to be final, book in the Fire series, we once again spend some time with Lee Stanton and Dirk Krause, firefighters and partners. Lee is the gentle giant of the two, a self-assured mountain of a man with patience for his lover as big as his heart. Dirk has been slowly coming to terms with being out and proud, and his love for his younger partner colors all he does. 

Even when he’s being a huge jerk.

In the aftermath of a fire which the two men help fight, three people lose their lives. Even though there was nothing else that could have been done, Dirk feels responsible. The ghosts of what might have happened, what he could have done, might have been able to do…they haunt him. So much so that Lee realizes something needs to change.

The two men talk and decide a vacation is on order, and book a week-long cruise, just the two of them. Ah, romance on the high seas, the crisp ocean air, all-you-can-eat buffets all day and night. They must have died and gone to heaven.

Until they see Dirk’s homophobic father is on the cruise also.

Will Dirk allow him to control his behavior and life one more time? Is Dirk going to waste this opportunity to spend time openly loving his man? Or will Lee, and fate, intervene and change their relationship forever?

Andrew Grey has brought back two of my favorite characters and let us have a glimpse of something truly unique – a realistic exploration of a strained parental relationship that moves forward with integrity. All three books carry the thread of a “two steps forward and three steps back” sort of theme between Dirk and his dad. Having seen this in real life, it’s very true to life. Concessions are made, and understandings arrived at, but then the ugliness rears its head again and again.

What Mr. Grey does here is showcase Dirk, in all his pig-headed, stubbornly prideful idiocy, and makes us love him. Because at heart, he just wants his dad to love and accept him. And when he arrives at the adult realization that he is a grown man, responsible only for his own feelings and views, he is finally able to bust out of his own frozen emotions and meet his father man to man.

I really like that Lee supported him, loved him, made love to him, counseled him, but ultimately left Dirk to come to his own conclusions about his father. And Dirk does, with a little help from an emergency and a new person who helps his dad see things from a different vantage point.

This is a warm, comfortable read, and it’s perfect for a cold fall or winter night. Lee is strong, Dirk has mellowed, and we get a resolution that feels…right. What more can I ask for? Maybe a cup of hot chocolate?

Very highly recommended.


Friday, November 9, 2012

It's A Bear on Book's birthday and we hit a milestone!

You guys all know how I started reviewing. It's out there, and you can look. I wanted other people to see the best of this incredible genre, and I initially used Amazon as the platform, then I discovered Goodreads (for better or for worse).

A little over a year ago, I started talking to Sue Brown and she said, "You know what? You should put all the reviews you've been doing in one spot. Start your own blog." After hemming and hawing, I did. And on November 1, 2011, I posted my first entry as "A Bear on Books".

It has much more than I ever expected. I didn't think it would be more than a ripple in water, because so many people do such wonderful work in reviewing and having professional sites. And here I came along, this Southern guy who thought he might have a little fun.

A year later, I have over 175 reviews to my name, 160 followers to the blog, and...20,000 page views as of last night!!!


Thank you.

And I'm sorry I can't get to all the great books I read every week that deserve reviews. There aren't enough hours in the day. Between my work at Living Room, my attempts at writing, and personal issues with family, health and loss, I just can't do it at the pace I was this time a year ago.

I'm considering some ways to make this work better, including inviting some guest reviewers in to assist. I will keep you posted.

But...I want to celebrate the blog's birthday and the milestone 20,000 views! So a couple of friends and I have arranged a weekend giveaway.

I have copies of six great books to give away this weekend, November 9 - 11, 2012. All you have to do is leave a response here on this blog post, and it will enter you to win. Just leave a quick note to tell me something you might have enjoyed here at the blog, and what books you would like - make sure you leave me an email address. I will draw the winners Sunday night and post them.

Sound good? I hope so!

Here are the prizes:

Risking It All - Lee Brazil

 Truth Deeper Thank Logic - Lee Brazil

Geoff's Teddy - Havan Fellows

Hold Tight - Laura Harner

Ty Hard - Laura Harner

  Second Chances - T.A. Webb

Thank you all!!!


Friday, November 2, 2012

"Beggars and Choosers"

Review - "Beggars and Choosers" by Mia Kerick

Quirky, harsh and ultimately stunning

Very Highly Recommended

Brett Taylor-Bad News Brett Taylor-is back in town, and hoping to find some peace. He's tired of the logging job the kept him in the woods for the past year, away from showers and indoor plumbing, but it was far away from his mother and high school and, he hoped, his memories. Just having found a job as a busboy, the last thing he thought he'd find was a kid dumpster diving.

Cory Butana was only looking for some wood to use as a display for his science project in the dumpster, but what he found was a blond god. A quiet, simple guy who makes it his job to take care of Cory.

As the friendship deepens, both young men fight the attraction underlying their relationship. Cory is out and proud. Brett can't be anything but straight. Or can he?

Through the years, as Brett makes it his job to be Cory's silent guardian, he begins to notice the hole where his heart used to be pulsing with a new life. And where he swore to never trust anyone or let them in, Cory...well, he is Cory.

The friendship between the two will be tested in many ways as Cory finally becomes a man, and begins to force the issue. When push comes to shove, will the bonds of trust and love be enough to keep these two broken men together? Or will Brett let Cory go to save him from being with his loser self?

Ms. Kering has written a hauntingly beautiful story of broken men, new beginnings, trust and hurt. These two men come together in such an unexpected and gentle way, and I don't know who I loved more, Cory or Brett. Their wounded hearts ached for love and connection, and Ms. Kering showed us a skillful hand as she guided this story across years rather than days. Her young men were painfully real, and I was deeply moved by the slow and oh-so-tenuous love that grew.

This is a heartbreaker of a book, but so worth it. There are no easy answers here, and what we end up relying on is the solid base of the friendship that was built between Brett and Cory to sustain us when the worst happens.

I loved every word, and hated to see this lovely character play end. Life is messy, horrible and wonderful things happen, and I was so drawn into these young men's lives.

I cannot wait for what's next.

Fantastic job!