Shiny! by Amy Lane and a DIVINE Strata…Perfect for Brunch.


Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word

Teardrop -Jose Gonzales

To say it is amazing that after so many books I’ve read from her, Amy Lane still delivers so soundly for me, would be an understatement. Again she wrote a story with characters that are so easy to love and cheer for, it’s bittersweet to let them go. Will Lafferty and Kenny Scalia made me laugh hysterically, cry a bit, and completely delight in reading how two people who came to each other scared and a bit dented by the world, could still have the boldness to  reach for their happy ending.

For these lovely boys I came up with a DELICIOUS recipe for a breakfast strata that is a solid winner. The strata is a savory bread pudding, which is usually served for brunch or breakfast. It uses a lot of eggs and cheese, but I adapted, it so that those who eat a bit of dairy (or none at all)  could make it. Serve this baby up with some fruit and a mimosa, and you’ll guests won’t want to go home!

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I’m gonna fight ’em off
A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back
They’re gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back
And I’m talkin’ to myself at night
Because I can’t forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette

And the message comin’ from my eyes says leave it alone…

Seven Nation Army-The White Stripes

When we meet Will Lafferty he is having a pretty shitty day. He’s lost a teaching job AGAIN. This time he’s not even sure why. Apparently the little Christian school he was teaching at is not down with Harry Potter…And what the hell?! So, as he is doing the walk (techincally, “the drive”) of shame from the school where he’s been just fired from, he backs his care right into his future…Well, if we’re being literal, he backed into a trash can full of dildos and ugly curtains…BUT! The owner of said personal pleasure instruments, and gaudy window acccents is the object of interest here…Kenny Scalia was in the middle of putting all the evidence of his cheating boyfriend’s existence out on the curb. Poor guy had just walked into his house to find his guy and his sex toys being used by a complete stranger…God, what a mess. Seriously they were both having the WORST DAY EVER.  Once they exchanged names (and Kenny put some clothes on…long story) they decide to call the whole damn day a wash, and go get drunk together.

Things get pretty interesting from therel. First of all, Will is getting some feelings inside of himself that are kind of new to him. He is looking at Kenny, and he kind of wants to get up close and personal with every part of the guy’s body. He’s so pretty, and shiny and nice. So nice…Also secretly on the inside he’s a big geek just like Will. They have so much to talk about! Kenny keeps looking at him like he’s on the same page with the body to body encounter. But what does any of it even mean? He’s not into guys…

As for Kenny, his day has seriously improved. It wen’t from having to face the fact ONCE AGAIN that all the men who come into his life are only there to use him, to meeting Will. Who from the inside and out seems to be a REALLY GOOD GUY. Not beautiful, not drop-dead gorgeous and groomed to within an inch of his life,  not what Kenny usually goes for. They guys seems so genuine though. Except for the straight thing, this one could have really been a keeper…

You don’t know how precious you are, I am the one who lives with the ocean. 
You don’t know how I am the one. You don’t know how I am the one.

The Ocean -Dar Williams

Will wakes up the day after the drinkfest with Kenny with a whole new outlook…Not only is he pretty sure he’s gay, but he is almost 100%  sure he wants Kenny for himself. He’s not sharing that bit of information with Kenny just yet, not until they are both ready, but meanwhile they can be friends. They have so much in common! Kenny is an amazing graphic designer, and Will has this entire universe he’s created for a graphic novel. They agree to work together on it. Pretty soon, they are more then just friends, they are BEST FRIENDS. Hanging out all the time, doing all kinds of stuff together. Privately Will is coming out to the people who are important to him, and he is strengthening his bond with Kenny.

They make each other happy, that is clear, but there is are bumps on their road. Will is still not ready to give up teaching as a career, even though the whole thing has been breaking his heart consistently since he started. Kenny is frustrated with him and thinks he is squandering his talent and his good heart, on a system that could never appreciate how wonderful he is…On top of that Kenny, he’s not ready to even consider anything with Will beyond friendship. For one thing, as far as he knows, Will doesn’t like him “that way” and for the other, even if he did, Kenny would not go for it. Why? Because he knows how that goes, things start out great, sex, passion, all these hopes and dreams, and then a year later you end up alone and disappointed. So, no, because not having Will in his life is no longer an option.

I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say
(I promise you)
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be
(I promise you)

But, if u wait around a while, I’ll make you fall for me
(I promise you)
I promise you
I promise you, I will

I promise you, I will -Depeche Mode

Will is biding his time though, and he’s learning about who he is and how he can move forward in his life. He wants Kenny in it that is for sure, but he needs to SHOW Kenny the kind of man he is. The guy is skittish and Will needs to make him see what they are together. He takes his time, one cannot rush one’s future. Until the day Kenny’s “horrific” taste in men forces his hand, and he has to put it all out on the line. Push comes to shove and Will not only has to play knight in shining armor, but he tells Kenny how he feels…and they walked together into the sun-…

Well not so much, because will is still stubborn about the teaching thing, and Kenny is still neurotic about the relationship thing. Things can be frightening…Will they be enough for each other? Would it really be OK for Will to stop teaching and live off his web designing, and the writing? What is he can’t make enough? Has Kenny really found a man that will stay the course, love him even after that initial shine fades away? It’s all so scary, there is SO MUCH to loose…Even if what they have to gain is EVERYTHING they wanted.

Love; it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be

There is a design, an alignment to cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be

 Sigh No More -Mumford and Sons

Like I said earlier, it is pretty exceptional that Amy so consistently can write books which connect with me so thoroughly. First and foremost this book felt incredibly personal, from what I know of her own experiences I think this one was very close to her heart. Will is a man who has to come to terms with the fact that something he loves doing with a passion, not only can’t really love HIM back, but that insisting on doing it may ultimately destroy any of the joy he ever found in it. He needs to find a new way of seeing himself, and how he can contribute to the world he lives in. He’s not so confident in how the things that live in his mind and heart could ever be enough to make a difference.  Then there’s Kenny, like so many of us, he keeps throwing himself whole at the hope of someone to love. The problem is that being open to it, doesn’t always mean you’ll know  let in someone worthy of what you have to give.

So now I come to you
With open arms
Nothing to hide
Believe what I say
So here I am
With open arms
Hoping you’ll see
What your love means to me
Open arms

Open Arms -Journey

Right there, at that crossroads, where Will and Kenny met, that’s where Amy’s characters really shine (no pun intended!). Her characters are heroic in the face of love, because they NEED to live up to what their beloved sees within them.  Will could not see clearly who he could be, how strong he really was…But Kenny he could read how much Will had to give like an open book. Kenny wasn’t sure he was the kind of man someone would find worthy enough to build a life around, but for Will, his future has only one name,  Kenny Scalia.

Another lovely story, complete with wonderful insight on fantasy as not only an imaginative and rich genre in fiction, but as a means to open the minds of youth to critical and introspective thinking. The secondary characters were great, and the humor was outstanding. Amy and I have frighteningly similar tastes in music, so the songs in the story ended up writing half of the review for me!  All the links on the verses I chose, go to the songs in a youtube playlist I made for the book. So check that out!

Absolutely recommend. Overall, a WONDERFUL story. One of her best I think.

Shiny! will be released tomorrow on Dreamspinner Press and can be pre-ordered here.

Spinach and Cheese Strata (Savory Bread Pudding)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)

3 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

8 cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (about 1 and 1/2 baguette)

1/2 cup coarsely grated Gruyère (2 optional)

1 cup of Go Veggie! Parmesan Style cheese

1 pack of Go Veggie! Mozarella flavored rice shreds

2 3/4 cups almond milk

10 large eggs

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside. Mix all “cheese” in one bowl and also set aside.

Spread one third of the bread cubes in a greased 3-quart baking pan. Top with one-third of bread cubes,one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of cheese mixture. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

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Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day. Before putting in the fridge press down firmly on the casserole so that the egg mixture absorbs well into the bread.

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The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I hope you love the book and take a chance on the recipe. Don’t be shy on the mimosas, they make everything better!

Cheers and Happy Reading!