Monday, July 30, 2012

Nothing Else Matters

No, I'm not trying to be depressing or philosophical or anything.  That is the title of the book I just finished reading by Leslie DuBois.

I had actually read one of her other books and totally loved it.  You have your typical teenage angst stuff in the books, but they were written well.  I also realized that i didn't write about that last book which kind of makes me sad because now I don't have anything to refer back to.  Oh well...

Since I usually read so fast, I can't really remember the exact details from the other book, so I'll concentrate on this one, referring back to the other book, The Queen Bee of Bridgeton, on things that I remember.

I love the fact that this writer has really strong female characters.  Both Reyna and the main character from Queen Bee were minority young women in high school that knew what they wanted to do with their lives and were taking the steps to get there, and hope to influence others in their quest.

Reyna did it all - she was valedictorian, tutored on Saturday, president of the school? or was it class?  Okay, that I can't remember, but she was one busy lady!  In her senior year, she was able to almost single handedly assure that the other black students (and I think there were a total of 12 in her school?) pass or get on the honor roll in the college prep school that they attended. 

Her best friend, Scott, had been her dear friend since 6th grade.  They loved each other, but Scott's mom didn't approve of her.  The year in the book is 2008, so it's not like they live in a time where inter-racial relationships was unheard of.  But they lived in the south - I think it was South Carolina?  Ah, my short term memory!!!  But either way, it should have never been such a big deal.

Now, I've never really been in the south, so I don't know what it's like there.  My only experience was one time when I went to West Palm Beach, FL and was treated like I criminal at the local mall near the hotel that my mom and I were attending a conference.  I realized that it was just one stupid person acting in a stupid way, so I didn't let it bother me.  No one else treated us badly for the rest of our stay, so I never let it bother me.  So, again, I have no idea if people like Scott's mom still exist in the south - I'm sure they do because we have stupid thinking people like that in AZ, and even in CA when I grew up.  Heck, even my best friend from Jr. high and high school (and part of college) - her parent's didn't like me at first because I was a Hispanic that lived in a bad area of San Jose.  But they got to know me and hopefully got over it - unless they were just acting well enough to fool me (which I doubt).

Anyway, Reyna and Scott fall in love... but what makes this interesting is that Scott is white.  I believe that the writer had a similar story with Queen Bee - where the main character is black and her love interest is white.  The story does have some of the interesting conflicts in it, which not only intrigued me, but really made me think.

My niece, who I consider my daughter since she moved in with us at age 15, has the sweetest boyfriend ever.  I am so proud of them because they just got their first apartment together, and even though I would have loved having them home for longer, knew that they had to get their own space and be on their own.  They are so good together and I can tell that they really love each other.  On the other hand, my poor niece has been torn because her grandparents, my own mom and dad, who taught me from childhood that all people are equal and all require the same amount of respect; do not approve of Bunny and her boyfriend's relationship.

What the big shocker to me is that I can't believe that these are the same people that raised me.  Was it all an act?  It must have because thinking back in it, even 20 years ago they treated my husband like crap.  Was it because he was white?  Oh, I hate to think of this as a whole black/white/racial issue, but I really can't tell anymore.  My parents eventually accepted my husband, though never as well as I was accepted into my husband's family; and it makes me wonder if they will ever accept my daughter's boyfriend?  I love those kids with all my heart and only hope for the best for both of them.  I don't care what my parents think and I hope that my support and unconditional love will help both of them get over my parent's stupidity.  They are both good kids and they love each other, so just like the title of the book, nothing else matters.  Nothing else should matter when it comes to love.

The writer made a really good point when the main character, Reyna, had a moment of clarity.  She realized that so many people go around looking for their true love their whole lives, and so many never do.  So why should the color of someones skin make a difference if she and Scott loved each other?  They had (or at least she thought they had) that true love that the proverbial soul mates have for each other.  I really liked this point and know that I point that out to people often when I talk about why I support same sex marriage.  When you love someone, it shouldn't matter.

Reyna and Scott end up getting married despite Scott's mom and her horrible attitude.  I hope that nothing will stop the true life romance story happening in front of my very eyes between my Bunny and her boyfriend from living their happily ever after as well.  That story is still unfinished, and we'll have to wait and see...  :-)

Happy reading,


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Now here's a different type of book

Now how many people do you know that would go from readying a book like Fifty Shades to a self-help book called The Ultimate Investment?  Am I the only one?  I can't be, so I hope someone out there will let me know (out of the 3 of you who read my blog).

I just finished reading "The Ultimate Investment, Achieving Life's Highest Returns, An Allegory" by H. Bradley Stucki.  It was a really short book and wasn't written very well - which is why I don't really read books like this very often - but I stuck through it and even if I didn't care for the writing, I can appreciate the message that the writer was trying to get across.

Basically, this is a self help book to learn to achieve success.  The basic principal is that success does not necessarily mean making tons of money.  I think there are more middle class people that are successful than a few of those millionaires that you see on TV.  They may not have the same amount of money, but how many celebrities can brag about being married 20, 30 or 40 years?  There aren't that many... I bet there are more middle class working shmo's that can brag that success.  :-)  I can understand that and can totally put my mind around that idea.

So, in this book, instead of being one of those 400 page sales pitches on how to invest your money to make a gazillion in three minutes, it's a story about a desperate man, Dan, who needs to find something that could help him make more money and be able to spend more time with his family as well.

Dan goes to one of my favorite places in the world - the library - to try to start his quest to make more money.  As he starts to skim through a bunch of sales pitch investment books, he finds an old note.  This note talks about the ultimate investment and gives hints as to what parts make up this ultimate investment.  The clues are pretty basic - but there are so many people that don't really see it or know how to put it into practice.  I guess that's why these get rich quick books and programs are so popular because the people who put these together did know how to put it all together and then how to sell it.  But basically this is what they are:

  • Desire - if you really want to turn your life around, you need to have that desire and be willing to do what it takes to get there.  Nothing comes from just sitting back and watching everyone else do what you want to do.  This is what Dan figure out when he went to the library - he knew and wanted to change things.
  • Incremental Investing - this was the second clue.  It talks about how to learn to invest.  Only invest what you can afford to lose and invest wisely.  Invest for your future, but also take into consideration what you want to do now.  Want to take the kids to Disneyland?  Learn what it will take to make that possible.  It also talks about learning how to invest so you don't lose your shirt.
  • Family - the third clue.  The book talks about how nothing can be as successful without the love of a family to surround you.  This makes total sense.  Lots of people want to make more money in order to be able to give more to their families.  That's why there are so many two income families.  Families want to live in a nice house, nice neighborhood and send their kids to good schools.  They want to be able to send their kids to college without getting into so much debt that they'll be paying off their student loans after retirement.  But all of this costs money and you can't do that on one income alone anymore.
  • Love - still part of the third clue.  This part is directly related to family, but along with loving your family, a person should love what they do.
  • Time - this is what is considered the ultimate investment.  It was a little long winded to get there, but I got it pretty quick. (I'm good a riddles, what can I say?)  This clue basically said that this is something that everyone gets pretty equally - 24 hours a day -  no matter how much or how little money you make.  How you choose to use it is what may make the different between what makes a person successful or not.  This makes so much sense but so many choose to use their time doing what they want and not what they should to achieve success.
So, it all goes back around to that  desire.  Are you willing to give up a little bit of time watching TV in order to learn a little  more about investing money?  Or going back to school to get a better job?  Or just going back to school because it's fun?  What about work?  Are you doing something you enjoy?  What will it take to make it enjoyable?

I can tell you from experience that the job part is probably the most difficult when it comes to this whole book.  When I got my degree in accounting, I knew that I had to do something where I knew I could make a decent living.  My hubby was getting his degree in English Literature and didn't want to teach... so what did that leave us with?  I knew that I'd have to be the main income earner in our family - which was not all that bad because I always wanted to do that, even as a kid.

My accounting degree was working out to be pretty helpful and I was enjoying my first job out of college until the company got purchased by another.  I actually had to look for another job and the next two jobs were okay, but not like the first.  I learned from my classes in college that I really enjoyed the subject of taxation.  I am good with  numbers, but needed just a little more of a challenge than a bunch of number crunching.  I was fascinated with accounting because it wasn't black and white like engineering seemed to be.  Tax seemed to be even more challenging and even less black and white than regular accounting was.

I tried to get into the tax department in at my previous three jobs, but the openings were so rare that it seemed like I had to wait for someone to retire before I could get my chance... which didn't happen.  This year I finally got my chance... and I really like this job!  So, I'm doing something that I like - I don't love it because I'd rather be teaching instead - but I can handle doing this for a while.  The people that I work with are awesome and as long as we can continue working as a team I'm pretty sure I'll be happy where I am.

Now, how do I now take the other steps of this book and apply it to my life?  Well, other than trying to get out of our small debt that we built up during the time hubby got laid off last year, I know that I need to start putting aside a bit more money to invest for both the future and the present.  Something safe and secure for the future, but maybe something a little more aggressive for the short term.

I know that I need to spend a little more time doing research and talking to our financial advisor about that.  This will all pay off in time, but I know that I've already taken the right steps to get to where I want to be.  I'll continue teaching a few classes here and there just to keep the itch at bay, but I'll continue working where I am until I feel more comfortable with this new role, then take it up to the next step.  How long will it take?  I don't know, but I know that I'll have fun getting there.

Happy reading,


Friday, July 27, 2012

*sign* (shaking head)

Yes, yes... I did it.  I spent another 10 bucks for the last Fifty Shades book in the series....

I know that I've been mentioning that I bet I can guess how the third book was going to go.  Well, I just lost my own bet!  Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James actually exceeded my expectations and I hang my head in shame that I didn't give the writer a benefit of the doubt.

The third and final series writing-wise was a little choppy and just didn't feel that finished and refined to me like the other two books did.  But then, my opinion doesn't really matter.  I'm just another nobody that spent my hard earned money on a new genre of stories that I just found out are called "mommy porn", which after hearing that, makes me feel quite different about this book.

Like I started saying, the beginning of the book was one of those current day, then flash back, then back to current day type of writing.  I'm usually not that crazy about this type of story telling because to tell you the truth, it just confuses the hell out of me sometimes.  I didn't really get lost while reading this story, but it still got on my nerves.  I was just glad that the whole book didn't go like that.

Two of my favorite characters, Ana's subconscious and inner goddess are not as visible as they were in the second book and I kind of missed them.  I found these two additions to Ana's personality a bit annoying at first, but by the end of the first book, I was really enjoying them.  They made the sex parts kind of funny and helped me tolerate the fact that Ana's Mr. Grey was mentally unstable - and anyone who knows me even a little bit will know how I feel about that.

So Ana and her Mr. Grey continue their adventures together and do what they do best - have lots and lots of sex.  What made this book popular, what Ana calls "kinky fuckery", makes it's appearance, but I don't think it's as much part of the story as it was in the first book.  Ana continues to put pieces of her puzzled Mr. Grey back together and he is almost like a normal guy at this point. 

I was expecting a little more with Ana's former boss but that last chapter in the second book just inflated my expectations for such a tiny balloon in the third book!  :-)  The story went completely different (with the exception of the sappy ending) to what I was guessing.  I knew that Ana was going to end up getting hurt or something to that extent and that it was going to be Mr. Grey's turning point to finally fully accepting Ana's love.

The story was sweet and I guess it was nice to finally have Christian open up to his Ana.  I was totally expecting that, but the flow of the story just didn't go like I was expecting.  It wasn't bad, it was different.  Just like I mentioned after reading the first book, Ana was her Mr. Grey's salvation.  I expected him to change - and he did like every romance novel male (not real life at all) - but it took so much longer than I thought!  I really give credit to the writer to being able to pull that off without making the story sound too repetitive.  Even the sex parts didn't seem as repetitive as so many romance writers tend to do... ie, Christine Feehan and her Carpathian series.  *shuttering*  You want to talk about boring and repetitive?  Almost as repetitive as I've used the word "repetitive" in the paragraph!  :-)  Ha ha!

*clears throat noisily* Okay... back to the book.

So, now that the story of Ana and her Mr. Grey is done and over with, the writer did give us two tid bits extra at the end and one that I really enjoyed.  The first was a short story written from Christian's perspective as a four year old experiencing his first Christmas.  It was written pretty good and I think she makes a pretty good attempt at making it sound like it was coming from the a four year old's mind.  My favorite part was how he described his New Mommy's teeth being so white and small.  :-)  Yeah, kids have a funny way of looking at things.  My son is 8 so these kinds of observations were not that long ago for me.  I'm so glad that my son opened up to me and let me into his head whenever I asked him to describe what he saw to me.  I wonder who's head the writer had to get into to be able to write this short story so well?

The second tid bit was the beginning of the first book from Mr. Grey's perspective.  It was as dirty and full of cursing as I expected.  It was interesting but crude.  I'm glad that the book didn't share his perspective because I really wouldn't have liked this character at all.  I'm not crazy about Christian Grey (which is why I call him "Mr. Grey" through my writings instead of his first name) and I think it was really selfish of him to prey on young Ana.  Sure, she was old enough to make her own decisions, but come on!  Really?  How the heck could she really fall in love with a domineering, controlling ass like Christian Grey?  Sure, she had a little bit of a back bone, but not that much.  But then, I guess these characters kind of rub me the wrong way anyway because they are so unlike me!  I am what some may say as having a strong personality, but I'm not rude or mean about it!  Now, I can get mean if someone tries to push me or my family around or take advantage of us, but I would never be able to do what Grey did with a few of the characters in the book.  I believe that there are people that actually exist that can ruin a person's life without thinking twice about it.  Oh, I don't know.  These characters are just so fucked up beyond their fifty shades - yes, both of them! - that I guess they deserve each other.  I just feel really bad for their kids...

But then, thinking back on it, it makes me really happy that this was a fiction book.  Hearing that this new "mommy pron" is the whole new fad makes steam come out of my ears, but then what can I say?  Sex sells.  I'm just sad to see that good writers like E. L. James has to go to this trashy level to make her living.  She's a good writer and I believe that she can still write a good story without all of the sex, bdsm (or whatever it's called) or even vanilla sex in it.  I just found out that one of my other favorite writers, Laurell K. Hamilton, has a new book that just came out last month.  A new Anita Blake book... but I don't want to read it.  I know that it will be 'mommy porn' like the last 10 Blake books and I'm not sure I can handle another story like that right now.  I need to look for a good fantasy fiction book to put my mind, nerves, brain or whatever at ease.  I don't need to read about sex to be entertained.  When I read I want to relax and escape.  Fifty Shades was a well written book series, but it was not that relaxing for me.  I hope that it relaxes someone out there though...  :-)

Happy reading,


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Hero

My hero does not have wings, does not come from another planet or have a gazillion dollars.  He doesn't sparkle, doesn't have spidey senses or is considered a mutant.  He's a romantic but not in the googly eyed romance book cheesy way.  He's still a guy's guy, but will always be my knight in shining armor.

My hero is my hero because he thinks the way I do, likes the same kind of music, books and food.  He likes to quote movies, books and comics and shares the hidden meanings of triple play and high five days with me.  He understands my obscure references and knows when I need chocolate before I start craving it. 

My hero saved me from being fifty shades of fucked up, thought that I was beautiful at 60-some odd pounds as well as now... just a few pounds heavier (like 100).  I don't care that there are more people that would think I'm not pretty or kinda plain and ugly - it doesn't matter because my hero makes me feel like I'm much more than that.  My hero is the most handsome man in the world in my eyes and I guess that is all that matters.

My hero knows I'm kinda messy and leave all of my yarn and bead projects scattered around the house.  He knows that I can't stand cooking and get grossed out when I have to touch raw meat.  He willingly gave up eating bacon for years because he knows that I can't handle the smell when it's cooking.  What kind of guy will do that!

My hero takes care of me by doing the laundry, cleaning the kitchen and taking care of our son.  He's a 'mini van' dad without the van, helps with homework and does bedtime stories.  He picks up toys because one thing where my son and I are alike is that we love to scatter ourselves all over the house!

My hero is a writer but gave it up to take care of us when I couldn't work.  He takes of me when I get sick or is just there to comfort me when the pain gets really bad.  He goes downstairs to get me a drink of water when I wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, or kills the bugs that gross me out.

My hero has learned to sleep on a sliver of the bed because I hog the bed while he hogs the blankets and I look for him in my sleep to warm up (only because he loves to sleep with the fan on all year long).  He has learned to cook Chinese food and do the laundry when I went back to work.  He changed as many diapers as I did and would have gone through labor for me if it were possible.

My hero is a dad and has had just as many sleep deprived nights as I did when our son was an infant.  He learned to feed and bath our baby at the same time I did.  He walked the miles and miles from one of the the house to the other trying to get a colicky baby to sleep when I could no longer keep my eyes open.

My hero watches cartoons with our boy and picks him up from the bus stop.  He makes his breakfast and packs his lunch.  He would pack my lunch if he could get himself up early enough, but that's okay.  I prefer to pack my own lunch anyway, so no complaints from me.

My hero endures my strange taste in paranormal or 'ghosty' TV shows and usually makes 'football food' worth the 6 months of NFL torture.  My hero trusts me and supports me even though I can't write as well as he does, he still encourages my scattered ramblings.

My hero loves me and I love him.  Even though I know he wishes he had all of those hero powers, he will always have something way better instead - and though it's cheesy and romance novel-like, there really isn't any other way to say... but he has the awesome power of love and 20 years of marriage today to prove it.  :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back to reading the classics....

Okay, so it's not a classic like so many of you would think.  It's one of MY classics.  Way back when I was still fairly new to reading fantasy fiction - and NO! it's not Tolkien!  I'm talking about the good ole TSR novels from the world of Ravenloft.  This was way back when Gen Con was still held in Milwaukee, WI (at least i think it was), and I was still considered a newlywed being married to my hubby at that time for a mere 3 years.

I just finished reading Death of a Darklord by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Yes, it's the same Laurell K. that created one of my favorite characters - Anita Blake.  :-)  :-) 

This is what I like about Revenloft - it's dark and it's scary.  It has monsters that are truly monsters and they act like monsters.  They don't sparkle and they don't get all googly eyed in love.  This book didn't have a happy ending with rainbows, puppy dogs and lolly pops.  The best way I can describe it is that it reminded me of the reason so many enjoy Shakespearean tragedies - they don't have happy endings either, but the stories are good.  :-)

I'm sure that there are more people that will disagree with me than there are people that would agree.  I really don't care, and here is why.  I think the whole paranormal genre has gone too soft.  You have Louie from Interview with a Vampire whining and  crying over this dead wife, then over that little girl that acted more like a vampire than he ever did.  Oh yeah, and he made himself seem like such a victim to that bully Lestat.  Oh shut up Louie!

I mean, you have the true classic monster, Dracula, that is so heartbroken over his dead wife that he spends centuries looking for her - which came in the form of Mina.  But have you ever read the book or really watch the movie?  He's still a monster and even with his broken heart, you don't get any impression that he's anything else but that monster!

Laurell K. Hamilton starts her Anita Blake series with the monsters being monsters and her hunting them down to dispose of them as needed.  But her later books in this series has her falling in love and getting all magical and stuff.  I'm pretty sure that it sold way more books than the original books, but come on!  Anita Blake was so awesome without all of that oogly-googly-heart-in-the-eyes romance.  Yes, this is my personal opinion.  I can imagine what the series could have become if the general public and their $$ didn't dictate which direction these books went in.  You could have had an awesome series that is more comic book worth than what there is now.  I've seen a few trade paperbacks of the Anita Blake books, but those were the clean ones - the ones before the romance - where the characters were exactly what I expected them to be.  Those were comic book worthy and I'll be curious to see how far they get in that comic book series before they stop having enough story to be able to keep clean.  :-)

Okay, so back to Death of a Darklord...

Let's go back a bit to talk about why I like or dislike certain writers.  I love seeing characters come to life and Laurell K. Hamilton definitely does that in this book.  The two main characters, twins, just pop out of the book.  She adds little quirky things about these kids that shows what kind of personalities they have.  How they learned to knit and all of the gifts that they made their family members... it's little things like this that make me fall in love with a book.  This was a whole whopping page and a half of the total book, but it stayed with me for the rest of the story.  It made their banters more real - especially when Blaine was trying to describe how a young horse that didn't like Elaine was just young and full of vinegar.   Elaine replied by snapping that if the horse was so full of vinegar that it should be a pickle.  :-)  :-)  Okay, okay... maybe you just have to read the book for that to be as amusing as I think it is.  :-)

No, there are no happily ever afters in this book.... and it's so refreshing!!!  :-)  :-)  One of my friends asked me why I haven't downloaded the final book of the Fifty Shades series and I'll tell you why.  Because it's going to have a happily ever after ending!  That's why!  Sure, our two fucked up, neurotic, emotionally unstable... oh, pick a phrase - characters will surely have an adventure on their hands with Ana's former boss trying to hunt them down, but we all know that she and her Mr. Grey are going to be all happy and perfect with ice cream, fairies and everything that is good on their side.  :-)  :-)  Yeah, can you tell that I'm getting tired of these kind of books?  :-)  :-)

So, if you want to read a good story without it being too happy and cheery at the end, just choose any of the Ravenloft books.  :-)  They all pretty much do the same thing.  Or you can try reading Edgar Allen Poe and get the same thing.  :-)  :-)  But there is just something about sinking my teeth and  enjoying a good "trashy" fantasy novel that almost makes me feel guilty - like the kind of guilt where you eat those extra three pieces of cake.  :-)  :-)  Yes, if you can imagine what I look like, I have as close to a Cheshire cat smile on my face right now.  Yum!  :-)  :-)

Happy reading,


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Breaking TWIG

I knew there was a reason why I usually stay away from current fiction.  I have a tendency of choosing books that end up being really depressing and sad.  Sure, the writer tries to put in a happy ending, but the fact that the character has to suffer so much to get that bit of happiness makes me sad...

Okay, I just finished reading Breaking TWIG by Deborah Epperson.  It looks like this is her only published book from what I was able to pull up on Amazon.  If it is, then I am really impressed.  But I do have one question... why such a sad book?

So we start off with a young teenager (I think she was 13) in the year 1963 who is raped by her new stepbrother.  Her mother had only been remarried for a little while when this happened.  Her mother didn't believe her - and we find out all kinds of things about how horrible this woman is after that.

Becky is our main character who is not only small for her age, but defenseless against her bully of a mother.  If it were not for her step father putting himself in the middle, her mother would have killer her on more than one occasion.  It was really hard reading about the beatings that Helen, Becky's mom, gave her because I just can't read about when a kid suffers.  Heck, that's why I couldn't get through the Hunger Games that everyone is going all crazy about!  If there is too much suffering, I can't read it and that's just how it is.

So Becky's hero comes in the form of her step father, who sends his son away and piles on more stress onto himself in order to keep Helen from giving Becky more beatings.  Since he can't be home all the time, Helen still ends up beating Becky to the point where she breaks ribs, gives her a concussion and a gash on her forehead that needs multiple stitches.

Our story starts getting kind of twisted at this point... to the point where I'm not really sure I can tell you about it any more than I already did.  The best thing to do is to read the book yourself.  If you can read the Hunger Games, this will be a piece of cake.  At least Becky grows up a bit more and is no longer a defenseless little kid - though she still needed some protection - which the good step father, Frank, is there to provide.

Now the reason I say that I'm impressed if this book is the first for this writer is because she hasn't made so many of the mistakes that I've seen in other debut books.  This had a good story that flowed well.  The characters seemed very real - and she used all five senses! - to make them more real.  The only one that she could have used a bit more in the book was the sense of taste... especially when Becky and her mom try their hands at building a catering business later on in the book.  But eyes, ear, nose and touch were all there and I'm happy that she put that kind of thought into doing that.

Even if the story was sad and at parts hard for me to read, there were good breaks and logical conclusions to the story.  I don't know the actual technical term that writers use to describe this... I'm just doing what I can.  I've read books where sometimes certain parts of the story, just to force the rest of the story to work, makes absolutely no sense at all and is not very realistic.  It make me wonder why a character is doing something so unlike them... then as I keep reading, it makes sense what the writer is trying to do, but didn't achieve it very well.  I saw this in almost every book that I read from those trashy romance series... oh, what where they called?  Sniglets?  Hallmark?  Oh, whatever they were called, the few that I read were written really bad.

I'm not sure if this book would be considered a romance.  Though there is a very sweet and tender romance story in there, I would probably not recommend this book to any romance novel fan that I know of because of the dynamics between the two romantic characters.  Frank becomes more than a step father to Becky after a while.  Even when his marriage to Helen has been dead, Frank puts all the energy he can to protect Becky from her mother.  They fall in love and it's a really sweet story but anyone that has a problem with that step-father-turned-lover part of the story may have a problem with this.  When it comes to love and romance, I don't think there is much that is out there that can shock me. I've already read probably the novel that most claims to be the most shocking ever written - Fifty Shades of Grey, and it didn't shock me at all.

What I liked about the story as well, was reading how Becky developed her inner strength - even if she didn't realize that it was there until her beloved Frank was gone.  She use a therapy that I've been readying about (yes, I did end up doing some research about therapies after reading the Fifty Shades books) and have been practicing for years.  It's writing a journal... yes, as simple as that.

I found out how therapeutic writing in a journal was when I was a freshman in college and suffering from my first broken heart.  I used to write letters to that the person who broke my heart, telling him how I was suffering and how mad I was at him... and even if it didn't take the ache away, it did help me get over him.  Would I have gotten over him without the letters?  Probably, but I don't know how 'over him' I would have been when I started dating my husband to be.  I learned a lot about myself in those letters and when those letters went away, so did all of those hurt feelings.  Sure, I think about him everyone once in a great while, wonder if he ever married, had any kids or what he did for a job... but they are just curious wonderings that I don't care if I ever find answers to.

Another therapy that Frank help Becky with was in planning their futures.  They talked about what they would do and how they would get there.  It wasn't described in total detail, but this is what I liked about the writer as well... she left certain parts of the story to our imaginations.  What exactly did they talk about when planning the next expansion of the store that they owned?  Some writers just like to dwell on the parts that are not that important to the rest of the story, but sometimes gives us readers a little food for thought.  As I put the book down at night, I'd think about these kind of things - what Becky and Frank would have been planning - before I would fall asleep.

This is another therapy that I read about that I also used many years ago - but I called it my dream board.  :-)  This consisted of board with exactly what it is called: your dreams.  Everyone has their own way of making a dream board - some like using pictures and making a collage, others may make lists.  I liked to use the typical brainstorming method - start with your main goal in the middle, then the steps that it will take in order to make that goal happen.  Next to each smaller bubble, it would have thoughts and questions to how to make each step happen.  Sure, it's not as colorful as pictures carefully clipped out of a magazine, but it worked for me back then and I'm sure if I did it again, it would work again.  :-)  :-)  I believe that this is kind of what Grey's doctor had him trying as part of his therapy in the Fifty Shades books - he had him concentrating on his future instead of dwelling on the past.  The only thing was that Grey didn't make his dream board and I think he was slowing down his own therapeutic progress leaving this part out.  How can you achieve your dream if you can't see it laid out?  I'm sure that with his business success that he had to have some kind of plan in mind for get to that point, so what was keeping him from being a success mentally as well?  Okay, enough about that book and back to Breaking TWIG.

Becky's story was actually pretty good.  I took my time reading this book this time.  I just had to put that book down sometimes because it made me feel sad.  Actually, that last book I read, Chasing China, was the same way.  Hmm, I don't like that.  The last time I did that I ended up spending $20 on the stupid Fifty Shades books!  No, no... can't have that happen again.  I'm still going to hold off on getting the final installment of the Fifty Shades books and probably reread one of my favorite fantasy fictions books.  I haven't picked up a Terry Brooks book in a while so maybe I'll do that... or the next Ender's Game book in that series.  I just need to stay away from these sad books for a while!!!  :-)

Happy (hopefully happier than my last two books!) reading,


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chasing China: A Daughter's Quest for Truth

Oh wow... what a good book.  It could have used a little more detail here and there, but over all, it was such an awesome story.

I just finished reading Chasing China: A Daughter's Quest for Truth by Kay Bratt.  I had heard about different horror stories of abducted babied being adopted out to foreign families in order to get donations that were used on just about anything but the orphanages.  I remember as a kid in jr high or high school, reading a series of stories in some news magazine about China and some of the sob stories from some of the lucky ones that were able to get out of the country.  I'm sure that there are sob stories from just about anywhere in the world, including our own country, but this story is about Mia...

Mia was adopted by her American parents at the age of 4 from an orphanage in Suzhou.  Wanting to learn a little more about her roots and possibly find an reason why her parents abandoned her, Mia went back to China with hopes and dreams of her other family.  Of course, while she was there, she ended up meeting another American.  This was the part of the story that I felt was a little too far fetched, but I guess she made it work.  Not only was Jax Asian-American on an internship in China, he just happened to live in the same state as Mia and lived a mere 2 hours away.  Yeah, what were the chances of that happening (as I roll my eyes).  :-)  :-)

Okay, okay... I don't want to bash this book because it was good.  It looks like this was only her second book and I'm impressed with some of the details.  I can tell that this writer is really passionate about wanting to help the orphans and children of China from Mia's story and what she witnessed during her visit.  I'm not going to repeat any of it here because I don't think I can without breaking out in tears again. 

I was impressed with the detail that she used to describe one of the babies that Mia became attached to - a 9 month old precious little girl with a heart condition named Xinxin.  I wish the writer would have used the passion that she used in describing this little girl for her main characters, but from what i understood after reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Xinxin was based on a real person.  It then made sense to me as to why the little girl seemed more real than the other characters.  Since I'm not a writer, I really don't know how to make a fictional character more 'real', but little Xinxin was real and she really popped out of the story even though she was only a minor character.  I wish I knew how to fix it or make suggestions for future characters, but the main characters were just a little too empty.  I was able to see Xinxin in my mind more than any of the other characters - I could almost be able to feel her light weight little body in my arms and hear her breathing and feel her moving her little body while she took everything in.  I think because these descriptions were written from real memories, they just make that part of the book way more interesting.

I'd be really curious to see how the writer is doing with this in her other books.  But after thinking about it, even if her writing style stays exactly the same as in Chasing China, I hope that she is able to continue being an advocate for children in China and where ever else she sets her mind to.  :-)  :-)

Happy reading,


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hidden Steel

Nope, I didn't download the third of the Fifty Shades book yet.  I need to slow down my spending a bit so that one will just have to wait.  It's not like I don't already know what's going to happen!  :-)  :-)

So, I've been reading some of the treasures that I somehow manage to download from Amazon for free!  The best price to pay for a book ever.  :-)  This time I read Hidden Steel by Doranna Durgin.  :-)  I looked up what else this writer has available, and it looks like she is a very established writer with a whole lot of books.  Yummy!  I can't get my hand on one of her other books because I like the way she writes!  :-)  :-)

This particular book is not really a genre that I really care to read - your Clancy-type-thriller kind of story with spies, CIA, FBI, ABC and whatever other kind of government agency you can think of.  I was humbled to not give this genre much of a chance after reading the first chapter of this book - it had me hooked!!!  The beginning did not start slow at all.  It was action from the first page to almost the very last.  :-)  :-)  I haven't actually read any Clancy or similar writers, but if they're like this, I may have to sneak in a book or two just to make sure.  :-)  We have a few books that were gifted to my hubby so it's not like I need to purchase them or anything.  :-)  My wallet and bank account are safe.  :-)

I think another reason that I really enjoyed this book was because of the main character - Mickey - yes, as in the mouse (and that line is used in the book).  She's playful, likes to dance with brooms, dance on the bed and sings about rainbows when she gets nervous.  All of that and she's an uber dangerous not-just-kicks-your-ass kind of lady.  I love her!  :-)  :-)  I love super strong characters like Mickey.  That was one of the reasons I put up with all of the romance stuff from the Anita Blake series - I really like to read about women that can kick butt.  :-)  :-)

Now, this book is considered a romance, but it's such a small part of the story that I think even a guy would approve of the story - unless he has a problem with her being more skilled at fighting and weapons than the guy she meets and becomes friends with. 

There are some really awesome parts of the story that really touched my heart.  Because Mickey needed money to get supplies for her next adventure and couldn't risk having a credit card tracked and that kind of stuff, she went out to where muggers would hide in the shadows to wait for their victims.  Then she would go and mug those muggers!  And she did it with a sling shot and a tank top hiding her face.  Now that's not what made me laugh - she tied the top of the tank top in a bow at the top of her head and cut out two eye holes so she could see.  :-)  :-)  She then turned in whatever wallets, purses and/or weapons that she was able to take off the muggers to the police, and use the cash to purchase what she needed.  Whatever she had left over, she would go to a store and buy necessities like toothbrushes, toilet paper, peanut butter and such and distribute them to the homeless people that helped her out at the very beginning of the book.

Now, even with all of this praise that I've written about this book, there was one small weakness that i found.  I was not impressed with the ending, but it didn't ruin the whole book for me.  I have a story for you about a ruined book because of the ending:  in 1992 when hubby and I were on our honeymoon, I read a fairly new book called Dance of the Dead by Christie Golden.  This was my first taste to the D&D world of Ravenloft and was drawn into this book not only from the curiosity, but was fascinated by this whole new world.  I was able to read this book in 1 day... and just about threw a fit (though my new husband at the time would say differently) with the final line of that story.  It was so disappointing that I hated that book since then.  I can't even look at the cover without pitching another fit.  So, endings are a bit of a big deal for me every since.  Thank goodness that even with this weaker ending, it was still good enough for me to not hate it.  :-)  :-)  If I were editing this book though, I would have asked for a different closing line because that line just about started making my eye twitch...  :-)  :-)

Now, I know my ramblings are not making all that much sense here, but you've got to give this book a try!  It's no longer being offered for free through Amazon, but it's still fairly cheap at $4.49.  It's not a very long book at 250-ish pages, so it's perfect for a short weekend read or traveling companion when you don't have anything else to do while at the airport.

Happy Reading,


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Had to do it again...

I had to get the second book - simply because I hate to be left hanging.  Yes, I downloaded and read Fifty Shades Darker by E L James.  :-)

I have no idea how long this book was (because I got the Kindle version and don't know how to look for page numbers on this thing) but it was a pretty fast read.  I can usually read a 400 page novel in about 3 days when I'm working, and this book only took me two.  So, it was either short or really easy to read.

My main complaint about the first book was that the writer didn't show us her true writing ability until almost the very end of the book.  I really enjoyed her style and the characters finally started coming to life.  I had to find out if the second book was going to be a continuation of not only the story, but the talent that this writer showed us at the end of the first book.  So, what I want to know is - why didn't the second book make all of the headlines instead?  It's so much better than the first.  Okay, maybe it doesn't have the same kind of sex in it that the first book has, but the story and characters develop and flow so much better!

Now, I don't have a fancy English degree, nor do I claim to be a writer of any kind.  I have my degree and work experience in accounting and can honestly tell you that this is the only industry I really know.  But I do know what I like and when I read, I do read my chosen books with a critical eye.  So, what I'm trying to tell you all here, is to not take my little rambles as a true critique or even review of these books.  Like the title says, it's just my humble ramblings and thoughts.  :-)  :-)

Fifty Shades Darker shows us our two main characters in a bit of a different light.  I still think they both need more help to fix their heads, but the writer shows us the playful and more normal side of Ana and her Mr. Grey.  I found it really interesting how much detail the writer put into the different types of therapy that Grey had gone through for his problems, and even though I really don't like to read or watch movies about mental illness, this impressed me and made me curious.  I may have to download a book about psychology next just because of some of the stuff that was mentioned in the book.  :-)

Now, at this point we all know that Grey has been see a shrink for some time to help him with his issues, but I wonder if Ana will ever seek the same type of help?  Now, yes, she is a fictional character, but I'm concerned with the type of impression that she may be giving.  In the time that Ana had started dating Grey, she had lost some weight.  She doesn't mind that she's lost that weight, but Grey and a couple of the other characters notice that she's gotten skinnier.  Even if Ana is not purposely starving herself, the fact that she always forgets to eat or that it if were not for the fact that Grey is constantly asking her if she's eaten, I'd think that she may have a subconscious issue with eating or food.  Most real life situations that I've known, when a person falls head over heals in love, they usually gain a bit of weight, not lose it.  Can it be possible that Ana is so addicted to sex now that she can no longer hear when her body is in need of food?

Okay, I'm going to write about my personal experience here which makes me think that  Ana, or any real life person with the same symptoms, may have some kind of food and/or eating issues.  When I was a junior in high school I started to work part time at a local retail shop in the jewelry department.  It was fun and I liked to have some of my own spending money.  I continued to work when senior year started and I added more to my plate by taking a calculus class at the local university down the street.  By this time I was working more hours and trying to save for college as well as trying to keep my grades up.  I pretty much only went home to sleep, and when I did sleep, it was never very much.  Because I was either in school or working, I hardly had time to do my banking, so it was rare for me to have any cash on me.  I got into the habit of drinking chicken broth that I could buy out of the coffee machine at work because of my lack of cash and most of the time that was all I could ingest in the short time I got for my breaks.

I was already a pretty light weight, skinny person topping the scales at a whopping 85 pounds.  I started losing a little bit of weight and noticed that my stomach didn't pooch out anymore and actually liked it.  I didn't weigh myself very often, but I saw that my clothes started fitting a bit more loose and that my almost 22 inch waist went down to a bit less than 20.  I didn't get the wake up call until the day I graduated from high school when I weighed myself after taking a shower.  I weighed 68 pounds and to my horror, I finally started noticing how my bones started sticking out of my skin.  I could see my ribs and my elbows looked huge and unnatural on my arms.  I realised that day that I was slowly killing myself and didn't even know it!!!  After that, I tried to make myself eat at regular intervals like a normal person, but I just couldn't.  Sure, food that I liked tasted wonderfully, but I just couldn't eat normal portions or on a regular basis.  I'd get almost a high when my stomach grumbled and it felt good.  I didn't really have an issue with the food itself, but with eating.  It took a long time for me to get over that and finally started eating again.  I was really lucky that I had met my husband at such a young age and he knew me while I was going through all of this.  It was his friendship and support that helped me get through this and later on in life when the tables turned and I found myself getting fat, it was his support that kept me from going back to those old habits.

So, I'll be really curious if this issue will come up in the third instalment of the Fifty Shades books.  For some reason I don't think it will, but I just really hope that some idiot doesn't get it in her head that losing weight by not eating and conveniently 'forgetting' to eat is normal.  We have enough of that shit in our society and really don't need a book like this to add to it.  I'm sure the chances of someone being influenced to try the whole dominant/submissive world will be more likely, but that is just sex - by two consulting adults.  When you get lost in your own head to make yourself think a certain way, well... that's more dangerous in my opinion.

What I did like about this book is how Grey's views on this whole dominant/submissive world changed when Ana left him at the end of the first book.  He learn to "make love" instead of "fuck".  Is there a difference?  Yes, and the writer shows that very well.

So, our wounded soul is starting to heal, but I'm sure that Ana and her Mr. Grey will have a whole other set of worries in the third book.  The last chapter gives a hint of what may be expected, and I can probably go ahead and give you a summary of what will happen - simply because some of these plots are so predictable.  I wonder... these authors that are lucky enough to get their stuff published -  is there a set of formulas that they follow that insures popularity?  Maybe that's why I'm starting to enjoy some of the really cheap or free books that are self edited and self published by new authors that are offered through Amazon?  Many of these do not have the usual plots, and even though some are written really, really bad, I'm sure that with a bit of coaching that the stories can be made into something spectacular.

I've spend more money on these last two books than I have on all 225 kindle books that I've downloaded in the past year (yeah, I read a lot).  I'm not entirely sure if I'll download the third book.  i still need to think about it.  I like the author and her writing.  The sex, as unrealistic as it is, doesn't bother me and is written just as well, but I know what the third book is all about already.  So why spend another $9.99 if I don't have to?

I'll read a few of my indi writers in the mean time and think about it.  It's not like I have a fan base to please.  :-)  :-)  ...and for the whopping three of you that do read my blog, you'll just have to wait.  :-)  :-)

Happy reading,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Okay, I had to do it.

Yes, yes.  I did it with the Twilight series, then the Harry Potter books.  I was able to put it down with Hunger Games, but I think I'll have to continue with this one.

You're probably thinking "What the heck is this lady talking about!"  Well, should I hang my head down with shame, or stand an imaginary 10 inches taller than my 5 feet?  If anyone that knows me knows - I can read just about anything.  Sure, fantasy fiction is probably my favorite genre of all time, but I just can't resist when there is a title that is being a made a big deal.  So, I had to do it!

I read Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James.

Okay, if you're easily offended by bad words and sexual content, then stop here.  If you're like me and can read just about anything, then read on.  :-)

Now, when I first started this book, I didn't find it any different than any other romance novel out there.  Shallow characters, weak story and lots of super descriptive sex.  Reading about sex, fiction or non-fiction, it doesn't bother me.  Sex is a perfectly natural part of life and there is nothing shameful in it as long as the participants are all consulting adults.  I've read some series from some pretty good writers like Laurel K. Hamilton or Anya Bast.  Sure, their stuff is paranormal, but to me, the books were enjoyable because their writing styles were good - they just throw in the sex to make it sell better - and I'm sure it does.

Now, going back to Fifty Shades, you have two really messed up characters and neither are very likable.  Ana, the main character, was almost Twilight Bella depressing, with a totally stupid self image of herself and absolutely no self esteem.  Sure, she was young (I believe in her early 20's), but come on!  My own 22 year old niece has 100 times more back bone than Ana - and my niece had a pretty messed up childhood!  Ana, who grew up with loving parents and had a pretty comfortable, though not spectacular, life.  So where the heck did her hang ups come from?!?!?!

Mr. Grey - he's almost as unbelievable as Bella's vampire lover that sparkles.  He's super uber rich, owns his own mega empire, beautiful beyond anyone's imagination... but messed up in the head really, really bad.  As he described himself in the book: "Fifty shades of fucked up."  Yes, this guy should have never allowed himself to have any kind of relationship with anyone with all of his hang ups.  So why are so many women going ga ga over this book?

Well, I can't speak for myself, but I'm thinking that Grey was the perfect 'wounded animal' type of characters that they hope the heroine, messed up Ana, will somehow change and save from himself.  You can pick up just about any trashy romance novel and see very similar stories.

What made this book different from many of the others that I've read is the detail that goes into the whole dominant/submissive/bondage lifestyle.  It certainly gives one a good glimpse into this world, even if the story is totally fictional, I have a feeling that some of that messed up thinking is true with some of the people in that world.  What kind of fucked up person do you have to be to actually enjoy beating someone into submission like that?  Okay, I can't pass judgement on someone else's personal preference on how they want to have sex.  That is something that is almost as personal as someone's religion, but are all dominants and submissive that messed up?  Even one of Anita Blake's lovers, who used to be a submissive before she rescued him from that world, was messed up in the head.  You know what?  I really don't want to know...

Okay, enough of that because I don't think that is what this whole book is about.  There actually was a story in there after you get through all of the garbage that is probably the reason that this book became such a hit.  About three quarters through the book, Grey and Ana actually start to show signs of having a normal relationship and do fun things together that any 20-something gazillionair may want to shower on his naive and sheltered girlfriend.  The story actually becomes cute and a shade of realistic.

Our two lovers also do something that I don't see in some of these other novels that I think makes this one unique in another way - they communicate!  They actually go through different points as to what they expect, what they want and what they cannot tolerate.  Okay, Grey does this, but it takes Ana almost the whole book to finally open up (yeah, can you tell that this really annoys me?) and grow a backbone.  This went into more detail than what you'd expect to see in some of the trashy novels.  I just wish that the author didn't have to give us this wonderful treasure of a story at the end of the book!!!

The end is a bit of a cliff hanger, so I have to download the next installment and see what else Ana and her Mr. Grey are up to.  I just hope the writer rewards us that choose the next installment with her true writing talent for the whole book instead of just a taste at the end.

As you can tell, I'm not really a huge fan of romance... I've read quite a bit of it - maybe a couple hundred books, so I think I can honestly say that it's not all that great.  There are some awesome writers out there - I just wish Laurel K. Hamilton would have been able to stay in my favorite genre of fantasy fiction because she is a wonderful writer.  Her Anita Blake books are really popular and I can see why... but I wonder how much better these books would could be if she left all of the sex up to the readers imaginations instead.  :-)  :-)  :-)