Thursday, June 30, 2016

something from the archives: accidents happen - part 4

the story continues after the jump. catch up with parts 1, 2, and 3 at the links.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

simply shutting it down instead of getting it done

i have a problem. when i have a lot of work to do i don't get anything done. i'm a master avoider. i procrastinate like it's my job. it's not my job. my job isn't super glamorous or high pressure in the grand scheme of things, but it is a good job. i like to do it well. lately i just feel like i'm doing it badly. really i feel like i've been doing it badly since i had my third kid.

intellectually i know that i actually haven't been doing a bad job. i just feel like i have. i feel like i take too long to do things. but it's more that i'm being a normal person about things and not the super efficient highly focused person i used to be. i've felt this way about work before. i think it's something that cycles through. and we've had a massive transition that has changed how i get my job done, so i'm sure that it feeding into it too.

but ugh. i don't like not being the best at something. i don't feel like i'm being the best at my job, and that really kind of sucks.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

seriously romantic: carry on by rainbow rowell

when i first heard about carry on i was super not interested. i read fangirl and i did not read any of the fan fiction bits really. i skimmed them. i kind of hate when authors insist on putting quotes or interstitial material between chapters. i want to read the story, not little hints about what the chapter might be about. i'm already reading the damn book, so obviously i don't need a spoiler.

anyway, so i was totally on the fence about it. but then i accidentally didn't cancel my audible membership and i had this extra credit and i figured i might as well try listening to it. and it was the best thing ever. i hated getting out of my car, because all i wanted was to spend more time with simon and baz. in fact the only problem with the novel is that it takes so freaking long for baz to show up. but once he does it's like magic. everything just works.

after i listened to the audiobook i decided to read a physical copy of carry on. and it was still as amazing as i thought. and now it's become one of those books i love to re-read, because it is so, so good. i love everything about it. it's got teenage angst and vampires and magic and love. and yeah, simon and baz both happen to be boys, but they are just so perfect together.

the moment they finally kiss. i can't even tell you. it's like you've already spent the previous hundred pages waiting for them to do it. and so then when it finally, finally happens it's absolutely perfect and absolutely messy and just the best moment. i've re-read that kissing scene so many times because, like, every first kiss should be like that.

the hardest part about finishing the book—each time i finish it i think this—is that there isn't more. it was written as a standalone, and that makes sense, but simon and baz are so, so perfect together and you just wish you had more time with them. so inevitably i start it all over again, because at least that way i get to spend a little more time in the world of mages and watford and simon and baz.

Monday, June 27, 2016

seriously romantic: the beneath series by meghan march

i only recently stumbled upon the beneath series
by meghan march. and then i binge-read them in two days. it was a bit obscene how into these books i was. i am. there are still places to go with this series, with at least three characters who deserve books of their own.

the series kicks off with beneath this mask. charlotte is a girl on the run from her past and simon is simply swoon-worthy. he falls for charlie no questions asked. he knows she's hiding things but he goes out of his way to prove that he'll do anything for her. all he wants is for her to trust him, but she is so hurt by her past, so scared of the secrets she is hiding that the trust doesn't come easily. often it's the guys in romance novels who are unsure about the relationship, who aren't 100% committed because of #randomtrope but here the convention is turned on its head. simon is all-in from the get-go. charlie is the one who must learn that what she shares with him is something real and true. and seeing this develop is oh so wonderful.

from there the series delves into the story of constantine and vanessa, charlie's boss and simon's childhood friend, respectively. beneath this ink is good, not as good as beneath this mask, but that's okay. it's hard to top simon as a hero. con has a hardscrabble past and he hasn't given up on the idea of avenging his demons. vanessa has always been the girl too good for him, the princess in the ivory tower. except both of them have plenty of misconceptions about each other, and as they learn to trust in each other, to trust their feelings, to trust the heat and chemistry between them, they learn what it is to love. and they overcome what their lives throw at them and find peace with each other. one of the best things about this book though is meeting lucas titan. he is kind of the villain, but even in this book you can see that he is complicated. and seeing as how i love a good bad boy, you know he's going to be my favorite. except he isn't the hero of the next book, and that was kind of a let down.

lorde and elle headline beneath these chains, the third installment in the series. lorde is con's brother. and elle is vanessa's best friend. lorde has an even more hardscrabble past than con did, and elle has her own family trauma, but really from the get-go these two characters were aware of being in a relationship and loving each other through all their difficulties. there is some mystery going on here, and we are introduced to rix, a local gang leader, who has a more prominent role in a future book. but i think my problem with beneath these chains is that the stakes never felt too high, these characters were never in danger of losing anything or even themselves. and that's fine, but it takes something away from the intensity i guess.

the fourth book in the series, beneath these scars, is about yve and lucas. other than simon and charlotte, these two were my absolute favorites. did i occasionally wish yve weren't so intent on being independent, yes. but at the same time, given her past experience with a domineering man. given the assumptions she made about why lucas was even with her. it all makes sense. but like simon, lucas is all in from the moment he catches sight of yve. he doesn't always admit it, but everything he does is for her from that moment forward. even when he is being an absolute ass, you just love him. or at least i did. lucas and yve are like oil and water from the get-go, but that kind of chemistry just proves to be explosive. and there is so much heat between these two characters. i just loved them.

the latest novel in the series is beneath these lies, and it was not my favorite. the author doesn't seem to want too much given away about who the leads are for this novel, though i suppose it's the male lead in question and not so much the female lead. the problem is, i wanted the other guy to be the lead. i liked him so much better than the guy who wins out. and part of the issue is that the secret at issue isn't really all that surprising. like i suspected it from the previous novel, but to keep the secret viable and to make it a surprise it means that while we get to know valentina well, even though we were only introduced to her briefly in beneath these scars as she and yve share a violent episode in their past, we don't really get to know the main character really. one of the reasons i liked the other guy better was because he'd made enough appearances in the previous novels to be someone i wanted to root for. so now i am dying for the next book in the series because i hope it is about him.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

seriously romantic: to have and to hold by lauren layne

to have and to hold launches lauren layne's new wedding belles series. this novel focuses on brooke, the latest employee of the wedding belles wedding planning agency that serves as the framing device for the novels. brooke has recently moved to new york from california, after being humiliated on her wedding day by having her groom arrested at the altar for fraud. in spite of her disastrous wedding day, brooke refuses to let anything get her down. she isn't cynical about love or relationships.

her partner in the story is seth. they meet when seth's sister maya hires the wedding belles to plan her wedding after a whirlwind courtship and engagement. seth is brooke's polar opposite when it comes to believing in happily ever afters.

we get alternating points of view, and one of the things that is slightly bizarre is to be in seth's head and then see seth through brooke's eyes, because it's almost like he is two different people. he is such a jerk from brooke's perspective, so it makes sense when she doesn't give him the benefit of the doubt. but so many times brooke treats seth like absolute crap and somehow he still is the one who ends up apologizing. i mean, he's not completely innocent of behaving badly, because his temper gets the best of him several times but he's never malicious and he has a lot of damage that explains his need to control everything, his need to fix things for the people he loves, and somehow those qualities are supposed to be viewed as something really terrible.

meanwhile, by the end it appears that brooke has dealt with some of her issues, but it all happens offscreen, and during a time where seth and brooke aren't together. and i think maybe it would have been nicer to see them work through their issues together. but it's almost like they don't tackle any of the hard stuff together, and that is kind of a gyp. what makes relationships interesting and what helps them endure is being able to face the hard stuff together. often this doesn't happen in romance novels, and it's kind of a bummer, because how can you believe in a happily ever after if the only way they handle problems is apart? i believe in them because i like them, and i enjoy the stories as i read them. it's only when i stop and think about them that i start to wonder.

**to have and to hold will publish on july 26, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/pocket books in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

seriously romantic: this is what goodbye looks like by olivia rivers

after i requested this is what goodbye looks like from netgalley, i had second thoughts. the pretty cover drew me in but the more i thought about the description the more worried i was that i wouldn't like it. i don't like to read novels that i won't like. i'm not the kind of person who wants to write a negative review. and this isn't one, necessarily. i didn't love this book, but i didn't hate it either.

Lea Holder watched a boy die in the same DUI accident that ruined her legs and threw her little sister into a coma. As the only eye-witness to the accident, if Lea tells the truth in court, the drunk driver will go to prison and the dead boy's family will have justice.
But Lea lies.
Telling the truth would have put her own mom in prison for causing the accident. With the trial over and her mom set free, Lea attempts to rebuild her shattered life as she waits for her little sister to wake from her coma.
When Lea transfers schools, she finds herself in the same senior class as Seth Ashbury, the brother of the boy her mom killed. As Lea gets to know the person buried underneath Seth's grief, she quickly falls for his quick wit and passionate soul. But Seth remains completely oblivious that Lea is the same girl who robbed his family of justice.
As their relationship deepens, Lea finally gets a taste of the love that's been missing from her life since the accident. But soon she's faced with a choice: she can continue her lies and accept the comfort it gives them both. Or she can tell Seth the truth about everything, and risk destroying both her family and the fragile love she's found.

i just think that there was so much dread and angst and lying going on, the fact that we know all the main character's terrible secrets from the get-go actually became a problem for me. because you know that the life she is building, the relationships she is forging are going to implode when the truth about her family is revealed. also her motivations for relocating and her grand plan make absolutely no sense. which, i mean, she's a recovering car accident victim who has suffered great trauma, so you can understand why her decision-making is suspect. but still.

seeing doomed relationships develop isn't really my cup of tea. and maybe it would be one thing if we were afforded the chance to see seth and lea come back together face to face after everything is revealed. but though the book ends on a hopeful note, you don't really get to see much of the healing. and ultimately i think that's what i struggled with as i was reading this book. there were too many things broken, and it took a long time to break some of them. so by the time we get to the novel's conclusion, everything feels so rushed and glossed over. like we missed some really important healing bits.

this book lives in the same wheelhouse as gayle forman's if i stay, rivers doesn't manage to evoke all the feels. but there are feels. her characters are vividly drawn. you don't only come to love lea and seth. you love the girls at the dorm, lea's siblings, parker—all these characters are put through the ringer, that's for sure. i'm not positive i felt it was all worth it in the end, but you may have a different opinion when you read the novel. (which is currently on sale for $2.99 for the month of june)

**this is what goodbye looks like published june 17, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/red sparrow press in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

simply happy

today was my eldest daughter's first dance recital. and since it was just about the cutest thing ever i'm subjecting the world to a short video.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

strictly literary: radio girls by sarah-jane stratford

every once in a while i do get away from the world war ii historical novel, somewhat fittingly i read radio girls in between reading the summer before the war and everyone brave is forgiven i say fittingly because this book takes place in britain between the wars. it is the earliest days of the bbc and at a time where women were beginning to work outside the home regardless of class, in professional environments. it's difficult to fathom now, but europe post-world war i was marked by a generation of young men lost. women had opportunities they wouldn't have simply because there weren't enough able-bodied men left to fill in every space.

maisie musgrave is a nursing veteran of the war, she lied about her age (she was only fourteen at the time) to do something to help the cause. since the war ended she's completed a secretarial school and finds a job at the british broadcasting corporation, yes that bbc. it's the early days of radio, and people are still skeptical about this box that talks. but maisie is excited by her work there. even though she is a simple secretary she gets to see people like hilda matheson and john reith at work building an empire in a new medium. the novel takes us through the early days of the bbc, gives us a sense of the inner working of early broadcast radio.

maisie is a fictional character and while radio girls is nominally her story, it's really the story of hilda matheson. she was a pioneer at the bbc, not only for broadcast radio but also for feminism. she was also a lesbian at a time where homosexuality was very much a taboo. (sometimes one reads these novels taking place in times past and shudders to realize both how far and how little we've advanced since then.) there isn't much known about hilda's biography other than the broad strokes, she was at the bbc, she also worked at mi-5, and she also published a book about broadcast radio. so maisie serves as the person who both learns from hilda and the person who fills in some of the gaps in hilda's biography with fiction. and it works.

i enjoyed the relationship between these two women. maisie looks up to hilda, as she should because hilda was a pretty amazing woman. when you consider all that she accomplished, all the shows she produced at that particular moment in history, it's pretty cool. this is also a time of political upheaval. europe is still re-building after the great war. the germans are restless, crushed under severe war penalites. the bolshevik revolution is still too recent to be viewed with anything but suspicion. working at the bbc means keeping abreast of all the news and happenings, and it also means sharing that information. radio changes how information is shared. for once it can be shared immediately, across great swathes of population regardless of economic class. i enjoy reading about this moment in european history. the early twentieth century was one change after another, it's a time period that provides fertile ground for good stories that still have resonance today. this is one of them.

**radio girls published on june 14, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of penguin's first to read program in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 20, 2016

seriously romantic: idol by kristen callihan

i first discovered kristen callihan off a riffle email. her first book in the game on series, the hook up, was for sale and since i have a soft spot for sports romances i decided to give it a try. then i proceeded to buy the remaining books in the series. and since then i've stalked her facebook page and website in the hopes for more books in the series. what i discovered was that before more game on books, we'd be treated to the kick off of a new series. idol is the first book in the vip series and, well, now it seems that i'm hooked on a new series and am destined to stalk the author on social media until i know when the next release will be. sometimes i wish i discovered all series after they closed so i could binge on all the books at once. i'm not one for savoring.

which is not to say that there isn't plenty to savor while reading idol. one of the things that impresses me about callihan's writing is how much research she puts in to the world she is writing about. in her game on series it is clear that she knows football. she loves it too. the same can be said of the world of music here. it's not just that killian james is a rock star. he's a musician who loves music. he and his bandmates know music. django reinhardt is not only name-dropped, but we get some of the fascinating facts that made him such a legend to people who know about music. my husband is a total music nerd so reading about things that he is constantly telling me about, it's kind of funny and cool. music so often feeds our memories. the white stripes "hotel yorba" makes a special appearance in the novel and that made me smile. my husband put that song on a mixtape he made for me when we first started dating. it was either for my birthday or for christmas, i don't remember, and we'd only started dating in june so it was either two month in or six months in, but anyway that song has the lyrics:

it might sound silly
for me to think childish thoughts like these
but i'm so tired of acting tough
and i'm gonna do what i please
lets get married
in a big cathedral by a priest
cause if i'm the man that you love the most
you could say i do at least

and i remember thinking to myself, he wants to marry me. and that's when i knew we'd be together forever. and so i get why killian is drawn to that song. having music inform and deepen the story is a wonderful thing and the author does a really good job with that.

anyway let's talk about killian james. he's a wreck when we meet him. libby and him have the world's worst meet cute. he's totaled her yard, he reeks of alcohol and vomit, and he actually pukes and passes out on her. but in spite of that introduction killian isn't the bad boy rocker cliché. he's a good guy who is so used to being everyone's rock that when things happen that he can't control, when he feels like he isn't needed, that he can't do enough to fix it, that's when everything goes off the rails. libby bell, has her own demons to wrestle with. her parents' choices, the way they lived, the way they died, deeply affect her. she's still in mourning when she meets killian, she's hidden her heart away from the world to protect it from breaking further.

when they realize the connection they share through their love of music—not just listening to it, but writing and performing—there is nothing to stop the feelings that tie them together. you just know, as a reader, that they will work things out because they have to, because there is no other option. when you feel that much, that strongly about something it just has to happen. they face their fair share of obstacles, sometimes they get in their own way too and you just want to shake them. but they also manage to put so many of their demons to bed. and enjoy a fair amount of time in bed, so if you don't like hot sex scenes in your romances you are going to be disappointed. because the sex between these two is hot and once they get going, they maximize their time together.

one of the other things callihan does so well is establishing the secondary characters. one can only hope that most of them will get their own novels in the series. next up is scottie, who is the incredibly hot and mysterious manager. and who's book i'm already dying to read. at this point i think i have to put kristen callihan on my "must buy" list. and if you like contemporary romance with emotional heft but no unnecessary drama, you will like this too. plus there's the music, and while this one song spoke to me the most, there are others that have their moments in the novel that might speak to you.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

simply the perfect summer drink

sex and the city definitely made the cosmopolitan a trendy drink. and with its blush pink hue, it's also a pretty drink. but it's also incredibly delicious. the key is the fresh lime juice. i'm convinced that fresh lime juice makes everything taste better.

i'm the kind of girl who prefers limeade over lemonade. i love its tart freshness. and basically anything and everything that has fresh lime juice is amazing. the best cosmopolitans in my opinion aren't the ones that are super pink. the cranberry juice shouldn't be the star here. i love cosmos with the barest hint on cranberry juice.

the original cosmopolitan recipe only includes a splash or two of cranberry. try it served in a chilled martini glass. on a hot day there is nothing quite like it.

original cosmopolitan recipe (adapted from the ultimate bar book):
1.5 ounces vodka (my vodka of choice is ocean vodka)
1.5 ounces triple sec
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 to 2 dashes of cranberry juice
lime twist

shake ingredients vigorously with ice. strain into chilled cocktail glass. garnish with lime twist

it's truly delightful.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

simply give me s'more

i don't know what it is about summer, but as soon as it's camp fire weather all i want are some damn s'mores. here's the weird thing, i don't actually like marshmallows. i mean, texture-wise i think they are one of the most disgusting things you could eat. however, roasted marshmallow is another story. and then smashed between a graham cracker and a bar of hershey's chocolate and well, nirvana.

most of the time, when i do get to eat s'mores i'm usually getting the marshmallows my kids have roasted and do not want to eat. so i never get to try the many variations on the tried and true standard. one day i'd like to buy some really fancy gourmet chocolate and try it on a s'more. i'm also intrigued by the peanut butter and chocolate variations i've read. there was a menu going around on pinterest or facebook last summer that i definitely need to look at again for inspiration.

really what i should do is organize my own damn camp fire. maybe one day i'll have the courage to pull together something like that.

Friday, June 17, 2016

strictly literary: everyone brave is forgiven by chris cleave

i've been on a world war ii historical fiction kick lately. it all started when i read all the light you cannot see, which was wonderful. and since then i've read the nightingale, life after life, code name verity, rose under fire, a god in ruins, and now everyone brave is forgiven. set for the most part in london between september 1939 and june 1942, and tells the story of mary north, a young 18-year-old at the start of the war who signs up for service as soon as it is declared; tom shaw, a 24-year-old educator who stays behind to run the schools; alistair heath, tom's roommate, an art restorer who also enlists as soon as war begins; and zachary, a young black student rejected as undesirable by england's countryside during the evacuation of london.

we see the start of war in the alternating view points of our main characters. and it is terrible. war is terrible and life-changing. everything is felt more intensely. love, hate, sadness, pain, laughter. this is the story of the london blitz and the siege of malta and how world war ii at times was so unbearable and unrelenting. and how people survived any way possible.

this is also a love story. because it doesn't matter how horrible the state of the world around you is, love is undeniable once it happens, when you find it, even when it is terribly inconvenient. and this is also a story of race and prejudice and standing up for your beliefs even when it is beyond difficult to stay true to them.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

something from the archives: accidents happen - part 2

so i have been doing some editing to these stories. not a ton, but i can definitely see where i lacked some maturity as a writer when i was writing them. of course, i doubt they are perfect even with all the editing i'm doing. i know that one of the biggest problems i have as a writer is that i am not good at establishing setting. and also i'm kind of a disaster when it comes to commas. if there are misplaced commas in this, know that i am aware of the problem.

and with that, part two can be found after the jump. if you need to catch up with part one a handy link has been provided for you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

simply writing my own version of the story

i've said before that i can be ridiculous about celebrity pairings. for whatever reason, for no good reason, i find myself down a rabbit hole of google searches reading the same information and seeing the same pictures on a zillion different websites. it's a compulsion i can't help.

taylor swift is always a prime candidate for this kind of behavior from me. i wouldn't call myself a swifty or anything. i enjoy her music and feel guilty about it. but the fact that she also writes and sings about her relationships is one of my favorite things about her. i mean "we are never getting back together" or "i knew you were trouble" so freaking juicy when you know all the back story gossip.

so taylor recently broke up with her boyfriend calvin harris. and just today the sun got photos of her and tom hiddleston cuddling up on a beach together. now calvin has deleted his original break up tweet about how it was just two people who loved each other realizing they worked better as friends, and unfollowed her on social media. i'm given to understand that she reciprocated the unfollowing.

the thing is, back at the beginning of may, at the met gala, taylor and tom were caught on video tearing up the dance floor. i remember watching the videos back then and thinking to myself there was a spark there. but then to see it confirmed by them actually getting together. going out for a long romantic walk on the beach. you guys. it's too perfect.

i'm convinced that dancing is the language of love. and taylor and tom speak the same dialect.

of course, this whole thing could be some sort of publicity ploy fake relationship. the thing is, i don't see why taylor or tom would need to have a fake relationship. it's not like when kaley cuoco went out with that dude who played superman for two minutes and all the tabloids reported on it and then after two papped dates they broke up. and it was so obvious that they were doing it for the press. that isn't to say that taylor and tom didn't orchestrate getting papped on the beach. obviously there is some media strategy. but i'm inclined to give the relationship the benefit of the doubt, if only because of the way they met at the met.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

seriously romantic: the earl's betrothal by karen tuft

the earl's betrothal by karen tuft is your standard regency fare. a young man is returned from the peninsular wars, his father's health is failing, his elder brother died and he is now the heir. while he was away at war his mother has acquired a hired companion, a vicar's daughter seemingly of little consequence. now that he is returned he must find his social footing and deal with the aftereffects of war.

one of the parallels between regency novels and the novels of today are the effects of war on returning soldiers. at the time there was no way to describe post-traumatic stress disorder. this is clearly what lord halford is suffering. and miss amelia clarke is the perfect balm to soothe his troubled soul.

there aren't any real surprises in the novel, but that isn't a bad thing. the reason to read novels like this is to enjoy a sweet love story while enjoying the atmosphere of a different time. it reminds me of the books my grandmother loved to read, the books she shared with me.

**the earl's betrothal published on may 1, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/covenant communications in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

simply love is love is love

My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.

We chase the melodies that seem to find us 
until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us 
that nothing here is promised, not one day.

This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers 
remembrance that hope and love last forever.

Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside
I sing Vanessa’s symphony. Eliza tells her story. Fill the world with music, love, and pride. 

--Lin-Manuel Miranda

#PrayforOrlando #loveislove #WeAreOrlando

Sunday, June 12, 2016

seriously romantic: anything but love by abigail strom

i wanted a quick, sweet romance read, and in anything but love i got exactly that. jessica bullock and ben taggart have known each other their whole lives, but in high school jessica turns her back on their friendship and ben has resented her ever since. but when she is left at the altar on her wedding day, his old feelings of concern and friendship and maybe a little more rush back. somehow he convinces her to go on her honeymoon with him. and as they reconnect the years of distance fade, and soon their connection is deeper and more real and beyond anything they ever expected to encounter.

there are some hidden depths, but this isn't the kind of novel that should dwell on them. and it doesn't. but this as sweet and light as this romance is, it's not entirely superficial and that's worth noting. it's not a terribly long novel either, i think i read the whole thing in an hour and a half. but i got a happy ending and some beautiful images of bermuda and beaches to think of. what more can you ask?

**this book is scheduled to publish on july 12, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/montlake in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

strictly literary: ink and bone by rachel caine

imagine a world where no one was allowed to own books. but unlike, say fahrenheit 451 where all books are burned, in ink and bone we exist in a world where books are held sacred. they are not burned. they are kept in one library, the great library of alexandria, their original bindings not to be touched by the hands of regular people.

of course, such lofty ideas often run amok of basic human feeling. we crave ownership, power. if someone is keeping something from us we can't help but want it more. and that's the world jess brightwell lives in, and he has it worse than many, because he lives surrounded by smugglers and thieves. money and self-interest instead of love and affection shaped him. that and the one night he saw someone eat the last remaining copy of an original work, an ink-licker who eats books to keep them away from anyone else. it's the sickest kind of hoarding. jess is intimately familiar with the ugliest human emotions, and still as cynical as he is about the world he lives in and the motivations of the people that surround him he manages to draw out the light in others.

it's quite a talent he has. and one that serves him well as he enters the great library as a postulant to a library position. he knows that his background may be his undoing and it's not entirely clear that he is meant to be a scholar or a librarian. and yet he faces every adversity the trainers throw at him, and the alliances and friendships he forges allow him to grow in his role. not that we can be quite sure what his role will end up being. but by the end of the novel we do know this, the world as he knows it will change, it has to change. and jess will be instrumental to bringing that change about, even if it is the last thing he ever does. there are rules that bind the people in this world, all of them meant to preserve knowledge and yet also in its way all meant to inhibit progress. but you can't stop progress, not really. and we'll get to see where it all leads soon enough, paper and fire, book 2 in the series is due out on july 15th.

Friday, June 10, 2016

seriously romantic: the suffragette scandal by courtney milan

the suffragette scandal is the last full novel in the brothers sinister series, i've read the previous three books and liked them, but none of them moved me as much as this one did. i think because i've been thinking a lot about women's rights these past couple of days--the stanford rape case and the white male privilege that earned a rapist 6 months in county jail and 3 months probation because a harsher sentence would impact his future adversely with no consideration given to the woman he raped while unconscious and how his acts had violated her future? or hillary clinton essentially securing the democratic presidential nomination and still having to face opposition from a white man who claims a system is rigged. when the fact of the matter is she is a woman of more political savvy as well as a politician who has earned more than 4 million votes cast than he has! No candidate is perfect, but the misogyny that clinton deals with on a daily basis because she has chosen a hard, difficult path and succeeded, it moves me.

as a woman these things move me, and this book moved me too. there is a moment when free talks with edward about why she fights even when faced with implacable obstacles. and she says that even if she is draining the river with thimbles, think of all the good she is doing with that water, crops grown, houses cleaned, big things, small things. she tells him that for all that he can only see the river, she can see the roses.

i feel like you guys need to see some of the words of that argument:

“You women will squawk amongst yourselves about injustice and fairness. Maybe if you do it loudly enough, someday a handful of you will be allowed to vote, and it will be accounted a great victory. Maybe in fifty years, women will achieve a distinct minority in the professional classes. We might have a woman doctor, a woman barrister, and then five or ten of you might form an organization together and shake hands because something has been accomplished.” Free let out a breath. “Maybe in a hundred years of women voting, you might manage a single female Prime Minister.” He gave her a rough smile. “But just the one, and even so, people will never take her seriously. If she’s stern, they’ll blame her menstrual cycle. If she smiles, it will be proof that women are not strong enough to lead. That’s what you’re setting yourself up for, Miss Marshall. A lifetime of small wins, of victories that land like lead in your stomach. Your cause may be just. But you’re delusional if you think you can accomplish anything. You’re pitting yourself against an institution that is older than our country, Miss Marshall. It’s so old that we rarely even need speak of it. Rage all you want, Miss Marshall, but you’ll have more success emptying the Thames with a thimble.” 


“You’re right,” Free said, shutting her eyes. He blinked and sat back, cocking his head. “What did you say?” 

“I said you were right,” Free repeated. “You’re right about all of that. If history is any guide, it will take years—decades, perhaps—before women get the vote. As for the rest of it, I imagine that any woman who manages to stand out will be a target for abuse. She always is.” His eyes crinkled in confusion. “What I don’t understand is why you think you need to lecture me about this at all. I run a newspaper for women. Do you imagine that nobody has ever written to me to explain precisely what you just said?” 

He frowned. “Well.” 

“Do you suppose I’ve never been told that I’m upset because I am menstruating? That I would calm down if only some man would put a child in my belly? Usually, the person writing offers to help out with that very task.” She swallowed bile in memory. “Shall I tell you what someone painted on my door one midnight? Or do you want to read the letters I receive?” Free wrapped her arms around herself. “I am here, on the floor of my press, because I told a man I wouldn’t bed him, and so he burned my house down. So, yes, Edward. I know the obstacles women face. I know them better than you ever will.” He exhaled harshly. “God, Free.” “Do you think I don’t know that the only tool I have is my thimble? I’m the one wielding it. I know. There are days I stare out at the Thames and wish I could stop bailing.” Her voice dropped. “My arms are tired, and there’s so much water that I’m afraid it’ll pull me under. But do you know why I keep going?” 

He reached out and touched her chin. “That’s the one thing I can’t figure out. You don’t seem stupid; why do you persist?” 

She lifted her face to his. “Because I’m not trying to empty the Thames.” Silence met this. “Look at the tasks you listed, the ones you think are impossible. You want men to give women the right to vote. You want men to think of women as equals, rather than as lesser animals who go around spewing illogic between our menstrual cycles.[...] But we’re not trying to empty the Thames,” she told him. “Look at what we’re doing with the water we remove. It doesn’t go to waste. We’re using it to water our gardens, sprout by sprout. We’re growing bluebells and clovers where once there was a desert. All you see is the river, but I care about the roses.”

that entire scene just moves me. i don't strongly identify with feminism, but i believe that women deserve more than we are often given and i admire those that fight the fight every day. i admire those who see the roses. the stanford victim, she sees the roses. so do the two bicyclists who saved her. so does joe biden. hillary clinton sees the roses too, she has to or she would have given up so long ago. and so do frederica and edward. they see the roses--willingly and unwillingly. and the love story that frames this story makes it only that much sweeter. these are two characters who have faced hard truths, and they still rise above it all. their happy ending is wonderfully earned, and it's also perfectly in character. i read this book at exactly the right moment, but i think it will hold up well. it's definitely a keeper.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

something from the archives: accidents happen - part 1

this story is again about michael and liz. most of my roswell fan fiction involved my imagining various ways for them to get together. i have no idea why i rooted so hard for this couple, i honestly don't think the show ever thought of trying these two characters out together.

in any case, this story takes place within the show's universe, i can't pinpoint what episode it takes place after because it's been way too long since i watched it. michael is in a motorcycle accident and as the first one of the group on the scene, liz gets pulled into taking care of him. that forced closeness brings them together in ways they didn't expect.

without further ado, you can read accidents happen after the jump.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

simply taking in history

regardless of politics, as a woman, i think this is pretty cool:

i love the jaunty dancing lady emoji. it's about damn time. us women can do anything. even be possibly be president. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

slightly silly: overboard

"it's a hell of a day at sea, sir"

i have a confession to make—and i totally own my terrible taste in movies—one of my favorite movies of all time is overboard starring real life couple kurt russell and goldie hawn. i can't explain why i love this movie so much, it feels almost anti-feminist for me to like it as much as i do. the movie is filled with tropes and stereotypes galore.

plus the plot in general makes absolutely no sense. rich woman is condescending to backwoods hick and then when she washes ashore as an amnesiac he falsely claims to be her husband as petty revenge and then mistreats her until she falls in love with him and chooses to stay with him even when her memories come back. i mean, it is a garry marshall movie, so take what you will from that.

you have to wonder who was in the pitch meeting that greenlit this movie, right? and it did totally bomb at the box office. because how do you word of mouth this? everything about this movie is preposterous except that goldie hawn and kurt russell are kind of magical together. but then this movie was on television every single week during my teenage years. and somehow it became one of those movies that i just can't help watching over and over again. and it doesn't matter what point i start watching it, though usually it's when the goldie takes revenge on some of her ill-treatment and sprays kurt and his friend with the hose while her hands are stuck to two plates.

yes, you read that sentence correctly. that actually happens in the movie.

still, there's something about movies from the 80s. i feel like they took place in their own heightened reality and that makes them perfect escapist fare. even though there are tons of problems with plot and pacing in this movie, i can't help but think of as comfort food. i know that it's not going to improve my mind or worldview, but i will feel happy at the end. and in the end the search for happiness is all that matters. right?

grade: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of ♥♥♥♥♥♥

Monday, June 6, 2016

simply enjoying the taste of summer

i don't realize how much i like vanilla ice cream until i think about it. like part of me feels like i should like chocolate more. and i definitely have a soft spot for strawberry. though on principle i will tell you here and now that i dislike neapolitan ice cream. even if you stick to the one flavor there's never enough of it in a container. i feel like it's the ultimate gyp.

anyway, so vanilla ice cream is basically the ideal ice cream, because it is the perfect base. and i appreciate that more now that i've actually made my own ice cream. so far i haven't ventured off my tried and true favorite recipe*, but i'm starting to think that maybe it's time i get creative. one of my favorite ice cream shop flavors of ice cream is oatmeal cookie ice cream. this is vanilla ice cream with oatmeal and cinnamon sugar swirls. and it is so good.

i'm also a big fan of cookies and cream. and i'm considering the possibilities of smashing a bunch of oreo cookies and mixing it in to homemade vanilla ice cream. i feel like that might be the platonic ideal of cookies and cream ice cream. growing up i also really enjoyed mint chocolate chip, which i think should also be pretty easy to make by substituting the vanilla bean/extract for peppermint extract and adding chocolate chips.

the possibilities are quite endless. and owning an ice cream maker has really opened up a whole new level of appreciation for ice cream to me. because homemade vanilla ice cream is amazeballs. really and truly.

*i should clarify that the recipe isn't mine, i've mostly followed the recipe on the blog post i linked to. i tend to use fat free rather than whole milk, and i'm the kind of cook who varies slightly from recipes here and there, but in essentials this is the one i follow. it proclaims itself the best and i have had no reason to doubt that.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

seriously romantic: defending taylor by miranda kenneally

in the author's note for defending taylor, miranda kenneally explains how hard she's worked for everything and how it took taking a risk to realize she wasn't enjoying her life to the fullest. her goal in writing this book was to show that you can't just work so hard for things in life, you have to want them, you have to enjoy them. while i think she accomplished this to an extent, i also think that perhaps the deeper message of her novel was limited by its format?

ultimately, defending taylor is a nice contemporary ya read. the main character taylor lukens comes from privilege, but she's been raised to work hard and to do the right thing. when she gets busted for drug possession and kicked out of her swank
y public school her life spirals out of control. suddenly her parents don't trust her. she's feeling alienated from her friends. she was supposed to be the captain of her school's soccer team and now she finds herself starting from scratch at a new school with an indifferent soccer program. it's also a middling academic program, and taylor's used to pushing herself hard. her family are legacy yalies. she had a future all mapped out for herself, but nothing is certain anymore, especially since she got herself in such serious trouble.

also adding to the stakes in the situation is the fact that her father is a state senator running for re-election. one of his key issues is a strong stance on drugs, so his daughter's bust and expulsion don't make things look good for the senator. and here is my issue with this book, if her father were the cut-throat politician he was made out to be, he would have been a lot more savvy about hushing up a drug bust. taylor was caught with 30 adderall pills she didn't have a prescription for and a small amount of pot and a bottle of alcohol. obviously prescription drug abuse is a big deal, but the book did everything it could to minimize the fact that even though taylor had on occasion taken adderall to help stay up studying it doesn't really talk about the deeper issues behind prescription drug abuse.

if this weren't fiction, then taylor would have been sent to rehab, and the pr strategy around the whole thing would have been utterly different. as it is everyone seems to act like taylor is singlehandedly responsible for bringing down his reelection campaign, and i just didn't buy that her parents would just let her feel all that pressure. a rich kid with drug problems isn't news, and as bad as the media can be  i also feel like more compassion would be given to a teenager who is allegedly dealing with serious addiction issues.

the other troubling thing is that taylor's parents have clearly instilled strong family values in their youngest daughter. they obviously love her. so the way they blow hot and cold between defending her and blaming her doesn't ring true. i understand dealing with many emotions at the same time, but at times her parents behave so heartlessly and at others they are obviously caring and concerned and the swing between those two emotions isn't well-developed by the author.

but if we forget all of those things, and just focus on the sweet romance between taylor and ezra, then it's all good. i loved their relationship. taylor has always had a crush on ezra, until a misunderstanding about her sixteenth birthday party derailed their burgeoning relationship. now that she is home under inauspicious circumstances and he is too. they reconnect and clear things up. and they are so sweet together. she helps him work through his issues, and he helps her realize that she needs to think more about what she wants out of life, beyond what is expected of her. in this at least they earn their happy ending.

i enjoyed this story, and read it in one sitting. if you like katie mcgarry or sarah dessen you will probably like this.

**defending taylor is scheduled to publish july 5, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/sourcebooks fire in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

seriously romantic: i knew you were trouble by soraya lane

so this is the third and final book of lane's texas kings series. i had not read the two earlier books before reading i knew you were trouble, but i did not find this problematic. the novels can obviously stand alone, and the only reason to read them in order is if you are opposed to seeing characters settled into their happily-ever-afters without witnessing firsthand all the sturm und drang that came before it. i have no such qualms so this did not bother me.

this book is about the oldest king brother, nate, and his relationship with faith, his best friend's little sister aka the woman he swore he'd never touch. she shows up on his doorstep asking for asylum after her most recent relationship takes a bad turn. so here's one thing that weirded me out about the book, these characters are kind of violent. in one scene nate calls a guy, who then basically asks if nate needs someone killed. it's a little weird, right? and then later nate actually kind of considers the offer but decides that he'll do his own dirty work--which is just punching the guy, but the whole thing is so weird.

here's the other problem, faith was so undecided about what she wanted to do about nate that she wishy-washed her way out of the relationship. she's the one who hurts him terribly by leaving and then in the end, he's the one who has to go out and woo her. he says things like "oh if i had let her get away i would regret it forever" except she's the one who left. she's the one who was so emotionally stunted from her childhood and her recent past that it felt totally false to make nate be the one to work for it in the end. there weren't really stakes here, and i think that was kind of the issue i had throughout the book, because the obstacles felt totally ridiculous and made up. there was no reason for these two people not to be able to work out a reasonable solution to their relationship without it resorting to high drama. i don't know, i think because the biggest obstacle in their relationship was faith herself, it felt wrong to have nate be the one to have to work so hard to fix things.

anyway, it's a pretty standard contemporary romance. perfectly good to read while you are spending some time by the pool.

**i knew you were trouble will publish on june 28, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 3, 2016

simply living life like it's a marathon

i've known matt farley for about 15 years, my husband has known him for much longer, since together they form the super rock group you've never heard about, moes haven. the first time i met matt i went up to his apartment in manchester, new hampshire for a 24 hour album listening party.

since i've known them, and it's not just matt, it's also tom, charlie and the other matt. the guys have released these high concept albums. i didn't know at the time but there would also be shock marathon viewing parties--which amounts to an insane amount of movies to pack in a single weekend. a year's worth of albums, and then a best of from those albums.
books recapping their insane horror movie watching habits. long walks that turn into the inspiration for a newsletter that is published monthly. movies that they write, produce, act and direct themselves.

basically matt is the kind of guy who believes that if you are going to do something, you must do it to the point beyond endurance. everything in life can be an endurance test, and matt farley is going to win at it.

today is world motern day, coincidentally it's also matt's birthday, and as a gift you should really check out the music. or the movies. or the books. maybe go for a long walk while listening to the spotify playlist--that's the kind of commitment that would bring matt joy.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

something from the archives - after vegas - part 9

and so it ends. hope you enjoyed it. i've certainly enjoyed re-visiting this one.

and there's more to come. i have to look and see what i'll post next in this series. i have quite a bit of material to get through. and i just would really like to have it all in one place.

anyway before we can move on, we must close this story out after the jump. links to all chapters in the story can be found here: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

seriously romantic: duke of sin by elizabeth hoyt

i love a good bad boy. and val, the hero of duke of sin, is more than a bad boy. he is a villian. he really is. but he is so damn likeable. he does not care what the world thinks of him. he will blackmail and murder and kidnap and do everything in his power to get his way and what he wants when he wants it. he's a freaking duke, he can get away with all of it.

except. he meets bridget crumb, his housekeeper who has finagled her way into his household in order to protect others' secrets. a woman who sees beyond the dangerous and immoral aristrocrat and sees the wounded soul beneath the layers of tarnish and evil that has surrounded him. to some extent val has been created to be as self-indulgent and uncaring as he is. and when bridget pierces that armor, he doesn't quite know what to do with himself. he behaves outrageously as always, but for the first time considers what someone else might think.

because of his past, the abuse and neglect his parents dealt him, valentine has trained himself not to love others. all he knows is that love is weakness. if you love something you will be hurt when it is taken from you. and all his parents taught him was that it would be taken, anything precious would be killed and destroyed. so val learned to destroy the things he loves before anyone else can do it. because if he is the one causing the pain it hurts less. that kind of logic is twisted and horrifying, but it's what makes val such an interesting hero. he really has no interest in being a better person.

and i wouldn't really say he is a better person by the end of the novel. this isn't really a redemption story. it's just a story about two people who are absolutely meant to be. two people who are well-matched. bridget is the only one who sees past the performance val enacts on a daily basis. and that's all it takes. he also sees past her shields, he sees her as a woman not a servant. for all that val is careless of most other humans, if he cares for someone he treats them exceptionally well.

duke of sin is the tenth installment in the maiden lane series, and characters from previous books make appearances here, particularly eve dinwoody and asa makepeace from sweetest scoundrel. i've only read the first novel in the series, but i'm definitely going back and reading the rest, and i'll probably re-read this one too. it's that good. val is the kind of bad boy i love in fiction.

**duke of sin published on may 31, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing in exchange for my honest review.