Finding the Courage to Read On…

Hi there! As followers of my posts know, I adore series reads. I love bonding with a character, or set of characters, and following their struggles through adversity.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. In fact, most avid readers I know stick with similar authors and auto-buy, auto-read whatever is next in a series.

But, sometimes, I’m conflicted. I’m afraid to pick up a latest book, unsure that I’ll love the sequel. Do this ever happen to you?

I’ve read the entire Outlander novel series–years ago, before they made it a TV series. Before I started blogging, in fact. And there were two books in the eight volume series that really upset me. That made me want to stop reading. DRAGONFLY IN AMBER and ECHO IN THE BONE. For the former, there was just so much tension and heartbreak, watching Jamie and Claire’s love strengthen and develop and get stomped on time and again. The only reason I came back was the end. The end held so much possibility! ECHO was different. ECHO ended so precipitously that I wanted to throw the book across the room when I got to the final pages.

That’s a danger for series authors–that readers will be so incensed that they will turn away. Another is ennui.

It takes time to write a sophisticated series, one with sufficient plot and character development that it can carry a story over several volumes. Gabaldon has many times stated it takes her “2-3 years to research and write” one of her tomes. For authors, there are so many unexpected challenges to writing such a work. When you only plan a single book, you write shorter arcs and you resolve them in a reasonable time frame. Unresolved plots leave readers unsettled, and frustrated. That was my experience with ECHO. I wanted a clear happy ending, and all the characters (except Ian) seemed to be in disarray. For me, this was unacceptable.

I did love the eighth novel in the series, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, and felt the end was sufficient to satisfy me–an avid and grateful fangirl. There’s a collection of novellas coming out in two weeks, SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL, and a ninth novel is planned–GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE. I’m trepidatious, especially about the novel. What an ominous title!!

My fears don’t end at Gabaldon’s Outlander. I have had several sequels languishing on my iPad, waiting for me to turn the first page. SHELTER THE SEA by Heidi Cullinan, sequel to CARRY THE OCEAN, my fave book of 2015, has been burning me for two months now, every time I open my Kindle app. And, THICK & THIN by Charlie Cochet! It’s been calling to me since February… And…some sexy rock romances from Olivia Cunning, too! Not to mention the TWO menage romances by JA Huss that I can’t seem to open for fear I’ll love/hate them. My goodness.

I made a pact with myself to clear some of my backlogged books, which means I’m going to reader-up and crack these books! Hopefully, I’ll have some new faves to gush over soon.

Stay tuned..and feel free to tell me what series have you exhilarated/terrified to read on!

New Year’s Resolutions! Reading off the Banned Book List!

Hi there! I’m not sharing a review today, just more navel-gazing from me.

See, I grew up in a time when books for kids/young adults were going through a tremendous transition. They were being written FOR young adults, with young adult issues in mind. And, sometimes, these issues freaked the heck out of their parents and Good Concerned Citizens joined marches and book bannings and even book burnings to rid the world of such “filth.”


Banned books meme 2Censorship doesn’t hold with me, and I don’t hold with it.

I got into touch with this experience recently when I delved into QUILLON’S COVERT, a contemporary gay incestuous romance. It’s fully consensual, tender and considerate, and unsuitable for sale on most book sellers. That, in itself, is a form of censorship.

Banned Book MemeSo, I’ve long considered banned books and taboo books for a bit. I’ve never made a practice, per se, of engaging in reading “banned books” because I pick up stuff that appeals to me, even if it’s way out there. A lot of these books are erotic in nature, but there are plenty of non-erotic books that are part of the Banned Book list. Thing is, most of my reads are for newly released books–so they haven’t had time to become “challenged” by readers and the Establishment. As part of my 2016 resolutions, I’m going to pick up some of these from time to time and share my thoughts on the blog–reviews and criticisms. I hope you’ll join me in this little quest and it will spark some discussion.

Other choices will include books that I think might FIND their way to this list in the future.

Here’s a preview, taken from the American Libraries Association’s list:
The 2014 Top 10 Frequently Challenged Books
1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying.”

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”.

banned books meme 43. And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleged child pornography”

6. Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9. A Stolen Life Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: sexually explicit

I hope you’ll join me in considering reading books that fall into that controversial space, and share those titles with me!

Banned books meme 3

What happened to 2015?!

book meme 6So…wow! The year’s end already? I’m a bit stunned, but also grateful. Some years whoosh by like a snowplow burying me under, but this year I’ve had the opportunity to read some really fun books, travel and interact with fantastic authors and review-types, like myself, and enjoy many moments along the way.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I also write, and I’m at the point of sending out a manuscript to agents coming next week. Fingers crossed that I’ll have the chance to promote some of my own fiction one day soon!

Book meme 3For the blog, I’ve gotten some great stats. Nearly 13,000 pages views this year. Not bad for a relatively unknown chick who drones on and on about books. If you’ve signed up to get my posts emailed, you’re in good company–140 of you special folks right now. Thanks for joining me on this madcap escapade! Lots of people are finding my reviews, and reading them/sharing them. I appreciate that so much, because it’s not easy reading and writing content to support the blog. It takes hours and hours each day, in fact. My hubs will attest he’d much rather I gave (most of) it up, so I could just sit and veg out watching TV with him…crossing his fingers that that might ever happen. TV is not really my thing.

book meme 5

Goodreads tells me I read 375 books this year, but it’s been more. I didn’t log all my reads, though there are few that didn’t get reviews there. I have had a great time working with Joyfully Jay Reviews, picking up some excellent reads through their platform and generally interacting with those lovely folks. Authors have reached out to me and I’ve reached back, supporting their fiction in the best way I can. That’s a wonderfully rewarding experience, emotionally, and helps my pocketbook from getting TOO frayed. Yes, there are books that I do buy, and I cherish all my books–whether they were purchased or gifted for my review.

As this is a year’s end recap, it’s apt to highlight some books/series that got into my brain in the past 12 months.

Best read of the year:
No question it was CARRY THE OCEAN by Heidi Cullinan. This book touched my soul and left it altered for the better. Having suffered depression in my life, and having close friends/family with kids on the Autism Spectrum, this plain-spoken M/M romance between a brilliant autistic man and his depressive neighbor was spectacular.

Best YA read:
NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom. Touching tale of an orphaned blind girl who learns to “see” everyone she knows in the best light–even herself.

Best YA series:
I’ve really enjoyed reading the Backstage Pass series of contemporary YA romances between the members of the boy band Seconds To Juliet and the smart, worthwhile girls the boys all fall for. There are five books in the series, and I think I reviewed 4 of them…
Abby and the Cute One, Mia and the Bad Boy, Anya and the Shy Guy, Daisy and the Front Man.

Book Meme-1Best Adrenaline Rush:
KICK AT THE DARKNESS by Keira Andrews, a zombie apocalypse M/M romance kept me glued to my iPad long into the night, and the next day.

Best SciFi series:
I’ve really enjoyed the AI world carved out by Susan Kaye Quinn’s Legacy Human series. It’s a bit dystopian, a bit tech and a bit romance. And I love all those bits! Looking forward to reading more of this in 2016. THE LEGACY HUMAN, THE DUALITY BRIDGE, STORIES OF SINGULARITY.

Best contemporary New Adult series:
Karen Stivali’s Moments in Time series is really a must read for me. This is a contemporary M/M romance which is emotional and sexy, at the same time. I’ve loved all four Moments books so far, and eagerly anticipate the next release. MOMENT OF IMPACT, MOMENT OF TRUTH, MOMENT OF CLARITY, and MOMENT OF SILENCE.
book meme 7
Best Paranormal Romance:
THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL by KJ Charles rocked my world and set it right again. Historical M/M paranormal romance that kept me turning the page long after I went to bed.

Most Resilient Heroines: (Teen)
Ivy in THE REVOLUTION OF IVY by Amy Engel–She takes on her entire desolate town and finds the true love of her life. YA dystopian.

Lulu in MY BEST EVERYTHING by Sarah Tomp. West Virginian high school senior Lulu’s college fund has dried up, but she can’t bear to stay in her small town any longer. So, she enlists the help of Mason to make a fortune selling illegal moonshine. YA contemporary.

Morgan La Fey in SWORD by Realm Lovejoy. Morgan kidnaps a prince, drags him through the swamps of Camelot and helps him find Excalibur–all to thwart a murder plot. And her execution? Wow. YA fantasy.
Book Meme 4
Best Action/Adventure:
I AM THE TRAITOR is the final installment in the Unknown Assassin series by Allen Zadoff. You really need to strap in and read I AM THE WEAPON and I AM THE MISSION, first. You’ll thank me. YA contemporary.

Best Enemies to Lovers:
TO LOVE A TRAITOR by JL Merrow really flipped all my historical British M/M romance switches…
Christmas Romance
IF ONLY IN MY DREAMS by Keira Andrews took two battered hearts and shoved them into a car on a cross-country trek to make it home in time for Christmas. Swoon.

Best erotica:
The CAUGHT ON CAMERA series by Lily Harlem is spectacular M/M romance. Just loved all the sexy sexy bits, and the romance that developed between two new-to-porn stars on a filming trip was tender and lovely.

Best Menage:
THREE TWO ONE by JA Huss. Hot and chilling, by turns. This is a dark romance and not everyone makes it out alive.
SHARING A POND by Alex Whitehall. Frog Shifters. Pretty much knocked me out. Not the sexytimes, as those were satisfactory, but the emotional issues were excellent, and I’ve got a thing for frogs, I think.
Historical M/F/M:
THE MISTRESS AND HER MEN by Julia Talbot. A sassy widow and a daring nobleman–plus some BDSM? Yes, mistress!
Historical M/M/M:
RITE OF SUMMER by Tess Bowery was so loving and tender, and troubled.

Best Near Historical:
IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT by Judy Blume, historical fiction featuring her true-life experience of living in a town where three airplanes crashed within 59 days of each other. Harrowing!

Best Recovery Story:
CLEAN by Mia Kerick. This one gave me chills. M/M YA romance between two guys who’ve been down and out and almost didn’t make it.

book-meme-8Best Subculture:
Who knew the Amish would captivate me? I adored Keira Andrew’s M/M Amish Romances A FORBIDDEN RUMSPRINGA, A CLEAN BREAK, and A WAY HOME. They really touched my heart.

Honestly, I could go on for blogs, and blogs. But I won’t; books to read, books to write after all! That said, I’m looking forward to sharing reviews for great books in the coming year and I hope you’ll enjoy reading along with me.

Feel free to send me your recommendations. Goodness knows, I’ll probably pick it up. (Fiction, and preferably romance-ish, though. I don’t review non-fiction, memoir or cookbooks.)

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!
Book Meme 2


New Imprint for LGBT—PRIDE PUBLISHING Launches Today

pride logoHi there! Today marks the launch of Pride Publishing, a new house from the Totally Entwined Group, best known for its flagship erotic romance publishing house, Totally Bound Publishing.

This expansion and launch of Pride Publishing has been designed and implemented to give our GLBTQI authors and readers the platform and community they deserve to express themselves.

Pride Publishing will deliver publishing excellence with a passionate and personal approach, offering the best stimulation for the imagination.

The launch of Pride marks the division of all GLBTQI titles from Totally Bound’s backlist, allowing Totally Bound Publishing to focus more on and develop MF and MFM stories. Pride Publishing will kick off with a considerable backlist from authors you know and love including, Amber Kell, Carol Lynne, Bailey Bradford and NR Walker.

Celebrate with Pride!
To celebrate the launch of Pride there is 25% off a selection of eBooks for this week only and lots of other promotions over at the website. Visit the website to learn more!

Moving forward Pride Publishing will also accept submissions that are not only romance focused. We are actively seeking submissions, so as long as your stories involve characters who identify as GLBTQI, we’d like to see them. Please send your submissions to

Authors seeking more information should contact Holly Gunner ( or Heidi Blakey ( at Totally Entwined   Pride Publishing Blogger Launch_728x90 v1_final copy

About Totally Entwined Group

The Totally Entwined Group is a leading eBook publisher in the UK and US and was founded in 2007 by Claire and Marek Siemaszkiewicz. It comprises of four publishing houses – Totally Bound Publishing (Erotic Romance), Finch Books (Young Adult), Pride Publishing (GLBTQI Fiction) and Evidence Press (Crime / Thriller). It employs 12 members of staff and publishes over 350 authors across UK and Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. Its flagship erotic romance publishing house Totally Bound Publishing, was winner of the “Best New Publisher Award” at the All Romance eBooks’ Best of 2007 Awards and was shortlisted for online retailer of the year at The Bookseller Industry Awards 2014. The Totally Entwined Group was recently acquired by Bonnier Publishing.

About Bonnier Publishing Fiction

Bonnier Publishing Fiction is a division of Bonnier Publishing which encompasses the children’s imprints Hot Key Books and Piccadilly Press and adult fiction imprints Zaffre and Twenty7. Bonnier Publishing Fiction combines brand new voices with established storytellers to bring a broad spectrum of high quality and innovative fiction to all ages.

Shout Outs to My Fellow Bloggers!

Hi all! Today I’m taking a rest from reviews to do a bit of appreciation. See, blogging isn’t a solitary experience. If I write something no one reads, well…I guess that is pretty solitary. Still! I’ve found some cool folks in the land of the online writing community. And, one of them listed me for a Very Inspiring Blogger award.

The Armchair Squid is a peach to call me out, and I’m glad to have joined his monthly blog hop celebrating Books of the Month, aka Cephalopod Coffeehouse. Thanks Mr. Squid, for being my source for Star Trek lore and interesting sports biographies. It’s been fun to commiserate. I dare say I’ve had some of the smuttiest recommendations in the Coffeehouse, and you haven’t asked me to vacate the premises. You’re a good egg. Thanks so much, for your cheer and  your comments!

The Rules for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.

2. Display the award logo.

3. Nominate 15 other bloggers (more or less) and provide a link where they may be found.

4. Go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated.

5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.

Three Things That Inspired Me Recently:

1. Well, I’m always inspired by my kids. I have mentioned the litter of boys who devour any and everything edible in the house. Well, they are wrestlers, so they burn a ton o’calories daily. My eldest is a senior in high school, and the starting 160 pounder on the Nationally #1 ranked Oak Park River Forest HS Huskies. He is ranked #1 in Illinois and was recently accepted to the Univ of North Carolina. I’m a grateful, proud mama. Good Job, Matt.

2. Nature. Nature is a force that I will always respect. I’m a scientist by trade, and the severe weather events we continue to witness is a frightening, humbling, frustrating experience. Especially when 19″ of snow descends on Super Bowl Sunday. I did a whole lotta shoveling.

3. Literacy. My 5 y/o started reading. This is BIG for me, because he is so bursting with pride at his learning. Nothing affirms a child’s self-worth like progress with reading, in my opinion. Every night he reads me a picture book, and experiencing his joy is truly inspirational.

My Nominations:

Children’s YA authors/Bloggers:

Kym Brunner

Cherie Colyer

Susan Kaye Quinn

Katie O’Sullivan

Terry Flamm

Marian Cheatam

Stephanie Faris

Katie Sparks

Adult authors/bloggers

Lily Harlem

Lucy Felthouse

KD Grace

Book Bloggers

Paul Gay Barry

Alina Popescu

Carly Rose

Deanna Lang

Janie Junebug

Thanks for popping in. More reviews tomorrow!

It’s My Birthday–and I’m (Over)Sharing the Love

Hi there! Gosh! I never thought I’d see this day. But here it is I’m 40.

Doesn’t seem momentous?

I’ve suffered depression more years than I can count. Seems odd, for a gal like me perhaps. I’m educated–in science and medicine no less–and I have a great family, and a solid job in a good career, I’ve never done drugs (ever) and I’m a seldom drinker–but that’s the thing about depression. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer.

I never thought I’d BE 40, because I didn’t figure I’d live that long. It’s hard to see down the tunnel of depression. Everything feels so hard to manage, such a trial. Even breathing. There were days and weeks when the depression was overcoming me and it FELT like there was a 250 pound weight on my chest. Each breath hurt, crushing tears from my eyes at any moment.


I’d like to say those days are over. But, they aren’t. They just don’t come as frequently anymore. Mostly, because I won’t let them. I have survived the darkest days in my life, and I take courage from that. I decide that my days will be more positive than negative, and I find faith in that. I look for the beauty that surrounds me, and I find joy in that. It helps. A lot, actually. Reading is escapism in it’s purest form, so reading has been a big part of my daily depression management. Maybe it’s that way for you, too. If so, I hope some of the books I’ve suggested were winners.

Okay–so most depressing birthday post ever, huh? Well, I got a silver lining. Or, a gift card lining anywho.


In honor of my birthday I am sharing some of the love I’ve received in my 40 years. I’m giving away a $40 USD gift card to ONE winner–you choose the e-retailer. This is international. I can’t convert currency if the winner is outside the US, however so there’s that. 40 USD–whatever that amounts to in the country where you live.

And, to a second winner, a box o’ books off my shelf. Whatever I can stuff into one of those flat-rate USPS mailers–so this one’s US/Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, thanks for being here. Thanks for indulging me. I hope I entertain and bring new books to your mind and heart.
Best wishes to all of you, and thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Book Reviews: When is TOO Much?

Hi all! Today I felt a rant was in order.

I’m not particular to ranting on my blog–this is my creative space, not my personal FB account, but I’ve been reviewing books a bit now and I’m wondering about some recent feedback.

See, I think I’m a bit in the middle about book reviews. Some folks get long and gushy, or long and brutal. Some people write a sentence or two. Some add gifs, and memes and get silly, which I do, on occasion. I think it depends how entertaining I wish to be–and also how much time I have.

For me, book reviews are a passion. I write myself, and while I don’t speak much about that each of my reviews is an exercise in improving my writing–and broadening my reading sphere, which helps my writing. Beyond that, I’m a full-time mom with a full house and a full-time job. My eldest son is nearing college while my youngest is still in diapers. My days are roughly 18 hours long, with a commute that lasts only 90 minutes on a low traffic day. Most days I spend about two hours in the car back and forth to work…but I digress.

When I read a book, I like to describe the story in as much detail as possible without “giving it all away.” If it’s going on my blog, I want people to see what struck me, what caused me to share it. If you’ve been in my blog life awhile you know I do blog tours, which are essentially promotions. But, when I don’t like the book, I request a blurb post and cancel the review. This has only happened twice in the past year. Frankly, I won’t recommend a book I didn’t like.

On the flip side, I review a ton more books on Goodreads than I do in this blog. Not everything is going in my blog’s Sacred Space, if you will. Already this year I have read and posted reviews on nearly 100 books in my Goodreads profile. (Click here to find and FRIEND me if you wish.) I’ve got reviews on over 350 books there and will keep on chugging. Some books I loved, others I hated. I even returned two books to Amazon this year because the “Alpha” males were just too misogynistic, too paternalistic, for me.

So, anywho, what began this rant was a message I received on Goodreads from a fellow reviewer who remarked that while she admired how much I enjoyed the book, she feared that my comprehensive review would cause readers to NOT purchase the book.

Lookit, if that’s happened to anyone here, I want to apologize! I also want to know! I’ve had dozens of authors write me, thanking me for sharing my opinions and reviews. And, I’ve had readers write to thank me for recommending a book here that they have read, and loved. I had ONE author ask me to post a spoiler warning. One, in over 350 reviews. Does this mean I never “spoil” a book? Unlikely. But I don’t usually TELL ALL THE STORY. I may allude to the ending, or to a connection, but I rarely get that far.

But, more importantly, does having a “small reveal” of plot ruin a book for the reader? For that matter, does a BIG REVEAL even matter?

***Potential spoilers below:***

Would you have not read CHARLOTTE'S WEB if you knew Charlotte 
(I've read the book half a dozen times now. Still love it. 
And, yes, I still cry.)
Or, would you have avoided HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY 
HALLOWS if you knew Voldemort killed Harry? 
(Because, erm, he did. But, HEA anyhow!)
This summer THE FAULT IN OUR STARS was released in theaters. 
Did that kill book sales? Um, no. And, yet EVERYONE knows 
what happens to Hazel and Augustus. 
(Well, if you don't it's ON FREAKING WIKIPEDIA, in all its 
spoiled glory for goodness sake.)
(Side note: I'm confident that Wiki gets a whole lot more
traffic than, say, my blog. Or, my Goodreads profile...
But, for real, even I wouldn't give the end away!)

I’m conflicted. I want to entertain, to inform, to get the word out for new authors and old faves, but I don’t want to ruin reading for anyone.

As a reviewer, I am THRILLED when people get interested in the books that spoke to me. I hope I have done so–with or without “spoiling.”

I’d love some comments on your experiences with book reviews.

Do you like reviews?
Do you read them?
How does a good/bad/spoiled review affect your choice to read a book?

Thanks all! More reviews coming soon. In the meantime, keep reading my friends! 🙂