If You Ask Me – A Review

I’ve been reading a ridiculous amount of biographies lately. I think it is mostly in response to trying to write my own narrative. I’m not terribly creative so it helps me to see how other have done it. I picked up Betty White’s book If You Ask Me (and of course you won’t) at the library the a few weeks ago and put it in a hefty stack of books I planned to either read or at least peruse to see if they had any value and there it sat for almost two weeks. On a whim I picked it up Sunday after church and finished it before I had to be back for the 5pm service. It looks much more content filled than it is. It also wasn’t what I was expecting.

I hadn’t researched Betty White before I picked the book up, if I had I would have realized this wasn’t her first book or a true autobiography. It is in fact more of a series of short essays on any number of given topics. She talks about the shows she has had success on, her relationships, her looks, her hair, her memory, her love of stuffed animals and crossword puzzles. Perhaps the most interesting part of this book is that there are accompanying pictures for most of the sections. I think this is fascinating. I love a good book with pictures. Accompanying each story there is a picture ranging from many different decades and varied subject matter. I learned in this book that Betty has a room full of stuffed animals. I mean more power to you Ms. White but I never would have guessed that about her.

Betty White is a wonderful author, an interesting person and honest in her reflections. If you want a quick and funny Sunday afternoon read this one is for you. Its sort of refreshing to hear her take on all of these different subjects since she has had far more experience and more time on this earth to observe humanity than most of us. Besides all that practical stuff Betty White is my hero and I want to be her if I ever grow up, or Lily Tomlin.

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While I have not yet read Our Souls at Night, the book, it is most certainly now on my list. I was prepared to be disappointed by the movie. As much as Netflix gets things right it gets them abysmally wrong with original works. However, this beautiful bit of a movie about growing older and still finding that sliver of happiness was everything I could have wanted (mostly). I think many of us, when faced with the prospect of growing older, or with older people, somehow believe that they outgrow loneliness or the need for companionship which is ridiculous but maybe it is more of a hope. In any event the heroin of our story, Addie, starts off very boldly by asking her neighbor Louis to fill a need she has for companionship by sleeping over and talking to her. She has been a widow a while and lives alone in a house much too big for a single person and she misses even the most basic companionship. Instead of doing what many do, which is suffer in silence or let loneliness overtake her she reaches out to someone she has known to be kind and who seems to be in at least a somewhat similar situation. What a brave thing to do at any age. And absolutely honest.

While Louis is definitely more hesitant than she is they form a sweet bond which grows slowly over time. It did make me think. I’ve, for all intents and purposes been single for about three years and especially in the last two years its been hard to go to bed alone every night. It would be something truly special to have someone who simply wanted to have a pleasant and insightful conversation with me before bed each night and to close my eyes and know someone else would be with me when I opened them again. This is not to say I am totally alone. I have a two year old of course and my sister is wonderful but there is something to be said for a different kind of companionship. Robert Redford and  Jane Fonda did a wonderful job with the material. I’ve actually never seen them together in a movie before but my mission is to have a movie night with their movies tonight. They are wonderful together. There were several wonderfully insightful moments in the movie but this quote from the book about growing up,  life, marriage and companionship sum  it up well.

“Who does ever get what they want? It doesn’t seem to happen to many of us if any at all. It’s always two people bumping against each other blindly, acting out old ideas and dreams and mistaken understandings.” – Kent Haruf

 

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I’ve been on a feminine author and life story book binge the last couple of months. Writing that made me remember I need to pick out books for the beach. Anyway I just finished another excellent but very different book by Jillian Lauren called Some Girls. The premise of the book is to tell you the story of a girl entering a harem. Why would any nineteen year old think that was a good idea? What leads one to that decision? Honestly I was pretty fascinated with the thought process from the beginning and I had to know more. This book has been sitting in the bottom of one of my many bags for weeks now until I picked it up last week because I didn’t want to deal with some issues in my own personal life. I wish I had picked it up sooner.

Lauren explores the sex trade in NYC, as well as how she got into “the harem”. Spolier alert** Its not really a harem. I had wondered about that terminology. She actually is attending nightly parties and while there is sex and an exchange of goods for services rendered it is sort of fascinating how this sort of industry works, especially for me as someone who has never given it much thought. I love bread way too much to ever attempt to make money from my body. Luckily I had different opportunities than she did.

Where I think Lauren did a fantastic job is in humanizing the industry and highlighting her own path to that life style. She doesn’t try to make herself look better, or put a cute spin on what is a really intense, often scary, and more often sad life. She speaks in a voice you can’t help but sympathize with at the same time as you are shocked by the contents of her life. Through all that she talks about seeking help in dealing with her problems, and the good and bad of that life. It was fascinating and I highly recommend it.

Gregor the Overlander – Go Forth and Read

Gregor the Overlander is the dashing young (11-12yrs old) hero in a series of books written by Suzanne Collins who also brought us the Hunger Games. I must say for as long as the prospect of giant bugs put me off of reading these books she really did an excellent job. Gregor is a preteen young man living in the city that never sleeps, New York City, New York. He lives with his mother, sisters and grandmother is typical New York fashion for the working class. His father seems to have disappeared into nothingness a couple of years ago and Gregor is helping his mom keep everything together while they eek by on her salary. Gregor is a little mature for his age which makes sense as he is the oldest and he helps to keep his siblings fed.

All that changed the minute he fell through a dryer vent with his sister Boots. Gregor discovered a whole new world far below New York City. This world is completely different from the one he is used to and incredibly dangerous. Over the course of five books Collins introduced a number of different creatures and Gregor has to make a lot of tough decisions. I’m a huge fan of Rick Riordan and this series is at least as good as the Percy Jackson books. When they make the movies I’ll surely be just as disappointed. What I love about this series is that Collins doesn’t treat Gregor with kid gloves. He is the warrior, In tough situations he has to make tough decisions, all the while dealing with the fact that to his parents he is still a child and will eventually have to go back to life in the Overland. They are quick reads, and well worth acquainting yourself with.

In the last book Gregor comes to realize that while he has been named the warrior by a strange series of prophecies he does not have to let that influence the rest of his life or even his decisions in the moment. What a novel concept, just because someone old says something does not make it so, does not make it prophecy, does not make it inevitable. May we all come to realize we are the harbingers of our own happy or sad endings.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of youth fiction this summer, perhaps it is because I have been immersed in children’s programming or perhaps it is because there is something lovely about a plot that doesn’t involve silly sexual tension or needless death/rape/death scenes (I’m looking at you George RR Martin). I enjoy adult content and complicated plot lines as much as the next person but there is something clean and fresh in seeing the world from the perspective of a child too young to know yet what the real monsters are.

I’ve linked the books below.

Gregor the Overlander

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

Gregor the and the Curse of the Warmbloods

Gregor and the Marks of Secret

Gregor and the Code of the Claw

Book Review – Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Womens Prison

Over the last few months of teeny baby craziness I haven’t done a ton of reading, but I have managed to squeeze in a few books. One of those books was Orange is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison.

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I’ve watched the Netflix original series based on the book and I enjoyed it so I decided to read the book and it was actually a really good read. The story center around a woman named Piper Kerman. Kerman was a self surrender to the prison system after being convicted of a crime she committed many years earlier. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing and a rather self serving justice system a one time mistake she made in her twenties ended up being a prison sentence she served in her thirties. Kerman tells of the relationships she developed with the other inmates and the ways that her stint in prison changed her outlook on the prison system.

I’ve read many biographies and I often blog about my own life so I am familiar with a myriad of stories and storytelling ways but this was a unique and well thought out perspective on what is often a rather mysterious place. Kerman met many interesting women while in prison and she tells part of their story as well as her own. She also hits on an important topic, especially in today’s world; the privatization of the prison system. Is it right to place our offenders in prisons run by private corporations for profit? Even before reading Kerman’s story I would have said, probably not, but definitely after reading her perspective I think we are doing a terrible disservice to our citizens by placing them in these privately run facilities. The sad conditions and silly bureaucracies of the private prison system driven by a monetary bottom line are obviously not going to be particularly interested in rehabilitation of prisoners since they, by therevery nature, only make money if people are sent to their facilities.

This is a great book. Go, forth and read.

Product Review: Organic Belly Balm

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While I haven’t really bought into a whole lot of Maternity related products…in fact I typically avoid them like the plague, I have really enjoyed this Organic Belly Balm. I was given it as a gift for Christmas and if not for that I probably would never have bought anything no matter how much my growing belly itched. It is organic, as the label states, and honestly it is a bit pricey at $16.00~ a jar, but it has been highly effective. I have no stretch marks and right now I am almost 10 inches bigger around the waist then pre pregnancy. It has also gotten rid of all belly itch which was a really rather inconvenient problem I had before the balm. The other benefit is that the smell is really nice. It is a nice, neutral smell which I appreciate considering my new highly energized nose.

It comes from the Honest Company and you can buy it here or at the Maternity store, which is where my jar comes from. The jar is only about a quarter of the way depleted and I have used it every day since Christmas so I imagine it will last until almost before I have this baby. If you are looking for a belly cream or balm I highly recommend this.

Did you have any pregnancy products that really made a difference?

*I was in no way compensated for this review*

Death Comes to Pemberly

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My newest Netflix discovery has been Death Comes to Pemberly. While I am not an obsessive Pride and Prejudice fan I do enjoy movies and sometimes books associated with the worlds created by Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) and Elizabeth Gaskell (Wives and Daughters, North and South). My favorite of these is probably North and South. Something about spring time just makes me want to watch a ton of haughty British miniseries and read all the associated books. This is perfect coinciding with my discover of Death Comes to Pemberly in the Netflix catalog.

This continuation of the P&P story takes place a few years after the original book ends with Darcy and Elizabeth and a bouncing, rather energetic young Darcy Jr. The movie (it is also a book) takes place around the time that the family is prepping for a grand ball. Georgiana makes an appearance as does Colonel Fitzwilliam, Jane, and several other beloved and some not so beloved characters. Leading up to the ball Captain Denny, and the still rather deplorable, but now a decorated war hero Wickham and as always a rather silly Lydia are on their way to the ball to *surprise* their relatives by showing up there unexpectedly in hopes of not being turned away. During the carriage ride Captain Denny has a fit of conscience and jumps out of the carriage with Wickham on his heels. During the ensuing panic Captain Denny is murdered and of course Wickham is the primary, possibly only suspect.

From here we are lead on a merry chase through many clues and multiple suspects until then final conclusion. It is a mighty mystery filled with touches of romance here and there. The movie definitely captures the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth and shows how their relationship could have grown in the ensuing years after the conclusion of P&P. We also get a rather satisfactory ending to Georgiana’s story. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to get their British romance fix. And if you don’t have Netflix it is quite reasonably priced on Amazon.

Book Review: Sustain by Tijan

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I’ve read a lot of books by Tijan. I really love all the ones I have read so far. Some more than others. This book was good, a little different, but good. Sustain seemed to come out of nowhere until I realized that the book was actually about the band we meet in the Broken and Screwed series. I really, really enjoyed the Broken and Screwed books. Jesse and Alex have a great, if rather complex story. In Sustain we meet Luke and Bri (again). And there story is just as complex.

What I liked about it: The characters are strong. The side characters are really interesting and it looks like they will get their own books. Even though Bri starts out dating a rather shady individual she quickly dumps him when things come to light and doesn’t look back. Bri is a kick ass awesome drummer and strong female character.

Luke takes a little more time to get to know. He is definitely not my favorite of Tijan’s male characters, but he has several redeeming qualities. The other characters make up for a lot that our main man might be lacking. The dynamic of the band is great! Those guys are so dysfunctional but they somehow work great together. There are a ton of funny moments that are well worth the read.

What I didn’t like: Now, normally I am not a big advocate of dragging things out. I like one book wonders. I also think that if a story needs more than one book then that is fine too. I would have like to have scene more explanation, more back ground, and frankly more blanks filled in.

All in all Tijan is a solid writer who gave us yet another good book. Check it out for yourself. It is available on Amazon!

What have you been reading?

Sustain by Tijan

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Meet Bri & Luke in Sustain!

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1vOTsqZ
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1Bu63Ro
Kobo: http://bit.ly/17IBgnI
iBooks: http://apple.co/18BFe2I

Blurb

I had a simple life.
I worked two jobs, made ends meet, and hung out with my mom and twin brother. The other part of my life was about avoiding him, but when SWAT raided my boyfriend’s home, that was the last straw. The boyfriend got tossed and to help me keep busy, my brother talked me into joining their old band again, but I had to be honest. It wasn’t a hard sell. Playing drums was in my blood. I used to be addicted and that craving hadn’t been satisfied in three long years. The only problem was their lead singer.
It was him. The drums might not have been the only thing I was addicted to. I think I was still addicted to him too.

Meet Bri

Luke hit a jarring note on his guitar below, drawing me from the past and back to reality. Seriously. I’d been ready to take on two thugs beside a dumpster for my stupid-ass cousin, but this had ice filling my veins.
I rolled my eyes upward. What was wrong with me?
The melody was addictive. I felt it reach deep inside me and take root. My breathing wavered as he kept playing. He moved down a chord, and the sound of it seeped into me, smoothing out the haunted memories. Then he began singing. His voice was soft and low, but I could hear it as if I were in the room. He was weaving a spell. It was like he threw a spear that had a rope attached to it at me from a hundred yards away, and it embedded deep into my stomach. Then he began pulling on it. I couldn’t fight because it would yank out my insides, but damn, I didn’t want to go with it. This whole thing with Luke was both painful and exhilarating at the same time. I had two urges going through me at once. One was to crap my pants, and the other was to start doing cartwheels.
I was just messed up, which is why I started down the stairs. I still had no clue what to say, but I had to do something.
He was hunched over the guitar in his lap with a beer at his feet. His eyes were closed, and his head hung over the guitar as he hit another chord, his thumb beating out the base. Since he was only wearing jeans, I saw some of the scars on his back. A storm of regret, shame, and longing all swirled inside me. I wanted to go to him, run my hands over those scars, and make them disappear. I couldn’t, though. We weren’t close anymore.
So many ghosts within you
So many haunts to pull you away
You look, I reach out and there’s nothing to do
They take you from me again, far away
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t take your hand
He kept singing, and my heart felt like it was splitting into two, but then he faltered. His eyes opened, and he looked up. He didn’t stop playing, but he stopped singing.
I felt like he was strumming me. I couldn’t look away from his gaze. His thumb stopped hitting the bass, and his fingers slowed on the guitar. “What are you doing here?”
Right. I was pretty sure I was seeing lust in his eyes. With that thought, a fever took over my blood, heating me up. “I,” my tongue wet my lips, “um, I’m here to talk about you and me.”
His gaze clouded over, and his eyelids lowered. He bent his head back over his guitar, but he didn’t start strumming again. “There is no ‘you and me.’ You’re in the band. That’s it.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Luke,” I started.
“No.” He stood up abruptly, setting his guitar to the side. He advanced toward me, his eyes were smoldering.
When my back hit the wall, I realized I had nowhere else to go and could only watch as he closed in on me. A part of me wanted him to keep getting closer; the other part of me was still thinking about crapping my pants.
He leaned a hand against the wall beside my head, keeping a few inches between us. His eyes were hard as he said, “There is no you and me. That died long ago, remember?”

sustain
Meet Luke:

I’d been tense from watching Bri on stage, and it hadn’t lessened as we ran through the woods. If there was another remark about her, I was ready to swing. I didn’t care how big they were.
Gunn had been watching me. He moved close and said under his breath, “If it happens, I’ll do it.”
“Why?”
“Because we need your pretty face for the fans.”
I looked up to see if he was serious. He was, but he relinquished, “Kidding. If you have a busted face, I think Priss would piss her pants from excitement.”
Braden had overheard him and laughed. “No, shit. That’d be leaked to the gossip shows in two seconds flat. I swear, she has all the numbers for the gossip channels on speed dial.”
The football players had gone ahead, but stopped and waited for us. The third one asked, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing.” I shoved past him. While seeing the road through the trees, I saw the headlights for Braden’s car at the same time. When we cleared the trees and headed up the ditch, all of us panned out and walked in one line for the car.
When we got there, Bri opened her door and leaned against the car. Her hair was whipping behind her face and one hand was resting on her hip. She tugged her shirt and then adjusted it back, but it didn’t stick. It fell down, showing her black bra. Bri was clueless, scowling at us. She was the picture of fierce and alluring at the same time.
We were greeted with, “What were you guys doing there?”
She took in the whole line of guys before letting her eyes find mine, making me feel seared. It was the same effect every time. My insides felt yanked out, but I still wanted to touch her.
I looked away instead.
“We came to see you.” Braden motioned to the guys.
“Are you insane? How was tonight supposed to go down any other way? You guys are celebrities. You can’t be coming to house parties anymore.” There was a clipped bark to her voice, but it faded on the last word, and I glanced over. She sneaked a look at me.
“Yeah, we didn’t think ahead.” Braden threw a hand to the football guys. “Got some extra room?”
She shook her head. “There is no way this little car can fit all of you hulks.”
The guys laughed and one mentioned, “We can wait here. A bunch of our buddies are coming. They can pick us up.”
I should’ve thanked them for saving us from the chaos, and I heard Gunn and Braden doing exactly that, but I looked back at her. Her hand was still on her hip, but her shoulders were slumped forward. She was kicking at some gravel on the road.
The football guys headed farther down the road as Gunn and Braden got into the car. We were alone now, but there was still an audience.
She wouldn’t look at me anymore. I wanted to turn those dark eyes to me. I wanted to say something, but I had no idea what. I ended with, “You’re still really good.”
Her head lifted, and I saw it. There was so much there. Fear, caution, excitement, warmth, and another expression I couldn’t place. No, I did. She was still haunted.
“Thank.”
She was mine.
No. She wasn’t.
She had gone to him that night.
Ah, fucking hell.
“We should probably talk.”
Her eyes opened at my tone, which was rough, and panic flared across her face for a moment. “Oh. Okay.”

 

About Tijan:

I didn’t begin writing until after undergraduate college. There’d been storylines and characters in my head all my life, but it came to a boiling point one day and I HAD to get them out of me. So the computer was booted up and I FINALLY felt it click. Writing is what I needed to do. After that, I had to teach myself how to write. I can’t blame my teachers for not teaching me all those years in school. It was my fault. I was one of the students that was wishing I was anywhere but at school! So after that day, it took me lots of work until I was able to put together something that resembled a novel. I’m hoping I got it right since someone must be reading this profile! And I hope you keep enjoying my future stories.

GIVEAWAY
$50 AMAZON Gift Card

 

Bound by Flames: A Review

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I think I have read everything Jeaniene Frost has published thus far and this may actually be my favorite of her books. Bound By Flames is the third in her series of books about Vlad and Leila. Vlad (yes, as in the impaler) and Leila are finally both vampires, finally married, and you would think that they would be able to find some sort of happily ever after…except as per usual someone is trying to kill them. Well, more precisely someone is trying to kill Leila mostly to torment Vlad. Luckily Leila is made of sterner stuff and not without her own powers.

I loved the character development in this book. Vlad grows into less of a control freak. Leila proves that when push comes to shove she can take care of herself. I think this was the aspect that was missing from her other characters and the reason I do not like them as much. Leila has always been powerful but from very early on she decided to use that power rather than run away from it and that is something that just gets stronger in her as time progresses and more people piss her off. Vlad, instead of ignoring this, begins to trust her a little more to take care of herself which is what their relationship needed. We also get to revisit beloved characters from past books and see what they are up to.

I would definitely re-read this book. In fact I have read it twice since it came out at the end of January. Its a good price for the ebook and well worth the read. If you haven’t read the other two books in this series I suggest you check them out now. I’m giving this book a 5 out of 5 for awesomeness!

What have you been reading?