What would it be like to wake up without a name every day except for whatever the shop keeper you just stole from shouts at you? What would it be like to be part of a less than popular minority in Europe? To be an orphan? To not even know what your heritage was? I sometimes bemoan the loss of my grandmothers home, but I still know where I come from. I have pictures, memories and people that claim me. But what if you had none of that and the only people to take you in where other street urchins who were as generally disliked and as much a misfit as yourself? Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli takes thatt premise to Warsaw on the cusp of Great War. I might have read Milkweed  if I hadn’t been so busy reading the Diaries of Anne Frank or the Hiding Place. My own child will definitely be reading Milkweed when the time comes.  I think this book more than many others has the power to leave an impression.

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The book takes place, first on the streets of Warsaw then in the ghetto. The young boy grows, survives, and takes on new names. When asked recently, a group of teenagers in my acquaintance named the fear of being forgotten as one of their great fears. I felt that way as a preteen and well into my late teen years. Spinelli does a wonderful job addressing that fear even as he doesn’t sugar coat how easily it is to be forgotten. As an adult reading this book was heartbreaking but sweet in its simple happy moments. Everyone addresses their anger and frustration with the situation, with the ghetto, with God himself differently.  Uncle Shepsel becomes a Methodist. Uri becomes a double agent. And the boy we learn to call Misha adapts to his surroundings and uses his wily nature to make the best of it. Isn’t that what we all strive to do when faced with life? GOotake a few hours and read this book. It will make you think and heaven knows we could all use more thought in our lives.

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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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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.

Book Review: Sustain by Tijan

sustain cover

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?

Unraveling You and Raveling You by Jessica Sorrensen: A Review

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I love Jessica Sorrensen. I was sold on her when I read the Callie and Kayden series, then the Violet and Luke series, then Ella and Micha’s story, and Ethan and Lila. She can tell the most brilliant of stories. I was really excited for this new series of books about Ella and Micha’s daughter Lyric and Lila and Ethan’s son Ayden. I tried to keep a lid on the excited because I thought that the new books couldn’t possibly be as good as their parents story…turns out I was wrong.  Unravelling You is my pick for Free book of the month. Just in time for Valentines day. It is impossible to talk about one without the other so I am doing a joint review. Lyric has something that none of the other characters that I have seen from Sorrensen have; stability. Lyric grew up with two loving, stable parents and a loving Aunt and Uncle and just a generally happy family. While she is still young (17 in the first book), she has an unfailing sense of optimism that seemingly nothing can touch. She has a wellspring of happiness built by parents who gave her what they never had. This probably touches me especially because I am getting ready to have a baby and I want that for him. I want him to have that sort of strength.

Ayden is a little different. Lila and Ethan have adopted several rag tag children with various and diverse unhappy backgrounds. They welcome them into a stable home and deal with all the problems that come with them. Ayden can’t believe his luck in finding a good family, considering his other foster families haven’t been great and frankly normal people only want to adopt babies or young children less touched by the evil in this world. And evil is truly what Ayden is overcoming. I won’t go too much into it because it might ruin the story for some of you, but Ayden had a very unfortunate series of experiences in his formative  years. He is a strong, sweet young man, but he can’t remember a lot of what has happened to him in the past and what he does remember cause him to be very uncomfortable with normal human contact.

Lyric and Ayden are the sort of friends that I imagine Ella and Micha were as teenagers and Ayden definitely needs someone like Lyric with her unfailing optimism and bright happy spirit. I have read a lot of Sorrensen’s work and I have to say this is the best so far. She crafts this story perfectly and you can truly feel like you know the characters. I can’t wait for the last two books in this series. My only complaint is that Raveling You is way too short. It came out today, I read it this morning and I am writing the review all in the same few hours. I feel like it could have been combined with another book. The writing is so well done and I love the story so much that I am willing to overlook it.

You can get Unravelling You here for free right now and Raveling You here.

As a side note, this was book 8 in my read 200 books this year goal.

Falling Away: Book Review

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With Falling Away I thought Penelope Douglas was wrapping up her Fall Away series. This is a series I’ve followed since the beginning. Jared and Tate get the first two books. Each book being told from their own individual perspective and having different sets of details. Rival, the third book in the series, which I reviewed here, was Fallon and Madoc story which I loved above the first two books and I loved them a great deal. Now with Falling Away we get Jax and KC’s story. This was a story that you could see building in previous books but I really had no idea how she was going to pull it off. Jax and KC seem to be polar opposites. Jax is a couple of years younger than KC. KC is kind of a pampered and disloyal princess, or at least that is what you see at first. Douglas takes characters that seem to be one thing on the surface and introduces us to the wide array of depth and complexity that they both share.

We start out with KC landing herself back in home for the summer to do community service after a rather un-KC like stunt with her idiot exboyfriend Liam landed her in jail. This is the first glimpse we get, in all the books, that KC is more than meets the eye. She loses her temper, throws a rather violent butter knife related fit and somehow lands herself in community service tutoring at the high school she left a few years ago right back in her own home town. Jax is going to a more local college, living in the house he used to share with his stepmom and brother and rather mysteriously earning income from Fallon’s mysteriously connected and more than a little shady father.

A lot of things come to a head in this book. A lot of questions you might have had previously in the other books about the other characters, the side characters and especially KC and Jax find a resolution in Falling Away. I would definitely recommend picking it up if you haven’t already as well as the three previous books in her series. This book could be read as a stand alone but you are going to enjoy it a great deal more if you have the back story on the other characters. I really enjoyed Falling Away…mostly. What I did not enjoy was the constant tug of war. While this was a theme in the first two Fallen Crest novels, the third one, Rival, pretty much escapes that pattern, but we see it return in Falling Away and frankly I can do without it. In spite of that, this is a great book. The sex scenes are just incredible. Her sex scenes have definitely improved over time. I don’t read a book for the smut scenes, but hers are definitely out of the ordinary. They are not what you would expect. When you get to the end there is a bonus Jared and Tate scene that will not at all be what you expect. I was pretty shocked. All the Fall Away novels are available on Amazon. Falling Away is linked here. 

What have you been reading lately?