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REVIEW:  Sweet and Sour  by Astrid Amara

REVIEW: Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara

Right now this novella is on sale at Loose-Id. Sorry, looks like the sale is over.


Miles thought he and Itai would make a great team, despite the infidelities haunting their past. After all, Itai is smoking hot, they’re both driven entrepreneurs, and they love each other. What else did a person need? Well, a lot more, apparently, because not only are they no longer passionate, they don’t even share the same passions. Like people, affections change, but Miles wonders if a relationship this broken is truly worth repairing.

Itai’s business launch with his ex-boyfriend isn’t helping. And Miles himself has a new business to grow over a busy few weeks where Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide to form either the best holiday season ever, or a kosher caterer’s worst nightmare. But help comes in the unexpected, ruggedly handsome form of Detective Dominic Delbene, a pickle aficionado with his own ghosts, who stakes out the deli to capture a dangerous drug dealer.

As Hanukkah’s eight days and Miles and Itai’s relationship comes to an end, Miles discovers that Nic is not only good with pickling; he’s good at everything.

Dear Ms. Amara,

At this time of the year we’re inundated with holiday stories but for the most part, those stories are about Christmas. When I see a submission for Hanukkah, I perk up and take notice. Since this is a 40,552 word count novella, I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a shot. I’m glad I did.

Miles runs a kosher vegetarian deli, Itai is a computer wonk while Nic is a cop. Little details of their jobs and careers – much more so in the case of Miles – are a major part of the story. I love this since I believe if you’re going to give a character an interesting job, make it count and be part of the whole. There’s enough description about the scrumptious sounding food Miles serves up to have made me hungry almost the whole time I was reading this! But it’s not just the finished products here – we see Miles prepping, planning, buying, experimenting, catering … in other words doing what a working deli owner would do.

Since the story is mainly told from Miles’s POV and he know – and cares – little about computers, it makes sense that the details there would be sketchy but I appreciate the fact that Itai isn’t just a cardboard cutout computer guy. His job also plays into the story as does Nic’s background. As the reason for him to be at the deli, we need to know what’s brought Nic into Miles’s orbit and as a draw between him and Miles, his childhood working in a deli is also important. Nic’s appreciation of Miles’s food is another nice touch. Miles cooking is his passion so for someone to notice, appreciate it and care about food means a lot to him. The fact that Nic knows his way around a commercial kitchen is the cherry on Miles’s cake – and damn sexy at the same time.

I also like that these men are real. Sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re sad, a few times one will be pouty or feeling slightly pissy and mad at the world. But they act appropriately for the situation and act realistically.

Since it’s a novella and tells the breakup of one relationship at the same time as the beginning of another, there’s a lot to pack into the word count. I find the telling believable since there have been rumblings in the old relationship and Miles and Nic have so much in common at the start of theirs. I liked the little details that highlighted how Miles and Itai have been and are drifting apart. There’s no sudden, volcanic break but rather a slow breakdown. Meanwhile, Nic knows how to flirt and be sexy around a guy he’s interested in and it’s like watching a parched plant soak up water to see Miles respond. Nic notices how Miles likes his coffee!

For readers who want it, there’s sex. Hot and raunchy sex, slow and by rote sex – another show of how the old relationship is fizzling – and then there’s the “wanton, senseless, graphic intercourse” that Miles and Nic both want but that Miles is too honorable to engage in before officially breaking up with Itai. Miles is a stand up guy and I don’t mean that in only a sexual manner. That tells me a lot about this character and makes me pull for the two of them. They’re both keepers.

The ending might be a little dramatic but is balanced by how Miles helps breakup the crime take down going on. And then we get the full-on, dirty sex that Miles has been craving. His Hanukkah gift to Nic is fantastic as is his way of announcing it. The final resolution of the deli tells me that these two are made for each other – after all, how many people would find the smell of vinegar to be a turn on? B+


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Thursday News: I’m running away to join the circus (and the indie bookstores who are suing Amazon should come with me)

Thursday News: I’m running away to join the circus (and the...

There is a claim of monopoly that can be made against Amazon and the Kindle format, particularly with the rise of the exclusive books.  My best guess is that a claim of tying might be most successful.  A tying claim is the purchase of one good that requires the purchase of a second good. There are two famous modern tying cases.

The first is Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Servs., Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 461–62 (1992)  In Eastman Kodak Co., Kodak was accused of driving out non OEM repair companies and parts suppliers ensuring that everyone who had a Kodak photocopier had to use a Kodak repair person and official Kodak parts.  The Supreme Court found that one brand of a product can constitute a separate market (aka the Kindle).

In the early 2000s, the US (and virtually every state) brought an antitrust suit against Microsoft. One of the winning arguments was that Microsoft was illegally bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system, making it hard to remove and reducing the Windows operating system interaction with other web browsers like Netscape.

However, these are not the claims being brought by the independent bookstores and primarily I believe it is because the lawyers and their clients don’t have any understanding of ebooks, digital rights management, and the Amazon’s Kindle.  The petition is embedded in the link before and nearly every factual paragraph alleged contains a major inaccuracy.  As twitter user txvoodoo says, the Wikipedia entry has more accurate information than is contained in the petition.

  1. The petition refers to DRM as DRMs.
  2. It alleges that iTunes moved away from DRM because of lawsuits.
  3. It alleges that “DRMs can also be open-source, meaning that open-source DRM protected ebooks can be read on any open-source device regardless of whom the device and/or the ebook is purchased from.” O_o.  Poor grammar aside, this is not what open source means.  Open source is a specific technology term that refers to the free distribution of code.  What this paragraph means is that DRM that is not platform specific and can be read on any device, no matter where purchased.  Perhaps the lawyers and clients mean social DRM which is sort of what iTunes uses (and I’ve advocated for) which embeds purchasing information in a file so that if it is pirated it can be traced back to the individual purchaser.
  4. “But, the Kindle app works solely with e-books sold by AMAZON.”  No, Kindle Apps (as well as the devices) can read PDFs, TXT, Word, and non encrypted Mobipocket versions.
  5. “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that the Kindle fire holds a dominate position of well over 60% of the small media tablet market”  What defines the small media tablet market? This is like saying Kindle Fire holds the dominate position of the tablets that are only between 7 and 7.5″
  6. “None of the Big Six have entered into any agreements with any independent brick & mortar bookstores…to sell ebooks” The petition does not mention the ePub format which is produced by the publishers and widely available.  Nor does it mention that Kobo entered into an agreement with the American Booksellers Association to offer ebook selling services for independent bookstores.  Nor does it mention that there are independent ebook retailers like BooksonBoard or AllRomance that have developed their own agreements with the Big Six.  In other words, how many brick and mortar bookstores have asked to enter into an agreement to sell ebooks?

Not to mention both Avon and Tor sell ebooks without DRM.

There’s a suit to be made against Amazon, but this is not it.  When you file a suit, the goal is to strike fear in the heart of the recipient and not laughter.  Guess which emotion Amazon’s lawyers are going to experience upon reading this suit.

We are a notice pleading country which means that the facts alleged in a petition need only be sufficient to put the defendants on notice of the gist of a claim.  But the rank ignorance in the petition signals to me that the counsel wouldn’t be able to mount a cogent argument.

cique du soleil

In this news article we have a young man who left the Japanese equivalent of NASA to learn to jump rope well enough to join Cirque de Soleil’s La Nouba. Someone who has written about circuses is Susan Elizabeth Phillips in Kiss an Angel. Business Week

But the upshot (har har) of this article is that unless you are consuming semen in great quantities, ingestion will neither help nor hurt a woman. The spit or swallow dilemma will not be solved by this article. Greatist

In a study published online Feb. 20 in PLOS One, Cornell biomedical engineers and Weill Cornell Medical College physicians described how 3-D printing and injectable gels made of living cells can fashion ears that are practically identical to a human ear. Over a three-month period, these flexible ears grew cartilage to replace the collagen that was used to mold them.”

The bioengineered ear can help structural deformities but it cannot yet improve actual hearing. There are more efforts to create bioengineered human replacement parts for cartilage because cartilage does not need blood to survive. Science Daily