It Ends With Us- Review

It Ends with UsIt Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***possible spoiler ahead***
Excellent story, great writing, lots of heart. I’m not sure when I will read another one of Colleen’s books because it took so much of me emotionally to read this one. I loved that it’s written from a side of abuse no one seems to see. The victim is always thought of as weak when in fact it’s really not that simple. And the abuser is not always a monster. I hated that I fell in love with Ryle, and just like Lily I couldn’t get myself to hate him. Not completely. This ambivalent side of domestic abuse was masterfully dealt with by Colleen Hoover by placing the reader in a similar emotional position when it came to Ryle’s and Lily’s relationship. And thank you Ms. Hoover for giving me a happy ending. I would have been destroyed if that wasn’t the case.

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A Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics- A Review

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Feminine Pursuits, #1)The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three and a half star. First, I absolutely love the title. In fact that’s what first drew me in, but the actual story is so worth a read. I enjoyed the progression of Catherine’s and Lucy’s love for each other and also Catherine’s self-discovery journey out of a bad marriage to a relationship that freed her from all the shackles imposed on her by a controlling husband and a patriarchal society. The descriptions were beautiful and detailed even though they sort of interrupted the flow of the story for me at times. That surprise at the end made my day (you’ll have to read it to find out), some kind of karma. I was outraged right along with the two female main characters by the way Lucy and her work were treated by a society of men who were too afraid to admit women were their equals just as I loved the strong feminist tone of the whole story. For my reading taste it was a bit slow at times, thus the half star instead of a full four stars, but that’s just a personal preference, not a reflection on Ms. Waite’s work. Well done.

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A Court of Wings and Ruin- Review

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How come there aren’t more than five stars to rate a book???? I don’t have words to express how much I loved this book. Anyone who makes me cry and cuss out the author in my car while parked before going to work is an extraordinary writer. And Sarah Maas did just that. I was so brokenhearted that morning after reading one of the last and most emotional chapters, that I was in a bad mood all day. Love, love, love. Enough said.

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From The Darkness

 

Three years ago I signed a contract with a new publisher for my second book, Desert Jewel, and what would become The Jewel Chronicles series. Rebel Jewel was just released yesterday marking my eleventh publication in four years. So why am I bringing this up now?

That year I was in a bad place. I had suffered from bouts of mild depression throughout my life but nothing prepared me for what that year would bring down on me. It wasn’t one isolated thing and it didn’t have anything to do with a death in the family or an illness. It was just a combination of many things throughout the space of a few years all rolled into what turned out to be the perfect storm that almost took me under.

I won’t go into details about everything that went wrong in my life during those years but they were both family and work related. By then I had been navigating many downs in my personal and professional life, but what happened that year was the proverbial drop that overflowed my very full cup.

adult black and white darkness face

Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on Pexels.com

Going to work that year was unbearable. I felt smaller than a bug in an extremely toxic environment. The one thing that anchored me to sanity was my writing. I had been offered a contract for my first book and that small triumph made my life bearable and gave me hope that something better lay ahead. Then I received a rejection letter from my publisher for Desert Jewel, a story I had put all of myself into, one I wanted to share with the world because it spoke of my beliefs, it spoke of the strength that lies inside me, it spoke of many things I normally couldn’t voice. I was crushed. Suddenly my only tether to hope had been severed and I was left adrift.

All the hurts, all the doubts, all the fingers pointed at me in the past came crashing down and before I could do anything about it, I was drowning in darkness. I withdrew from all my friends, all activities, barely talked and was always on the verge of tears. I was never suicidal, but I did think about death a lot. I’d be driving home from work and a thought would pop into my head, “What if a car ran the red light, crashed into mine and killed me?” In my depressive state I thought that it would be a blessing, not only for me but my loved ones. My husband would finally be able to move back to his hometown and marry a wife who made him happier, my sons would not have my pervasive enabling to deal with and could finally be independent and happy, my coworkers would be able to work with someone more efficient than me, and I would have some peace at last. Years of listening to people telling me these things had finally convinced me they were right. I was useless and brought nothing to the world. Even the one thing I thought I was good at, my writing, was now a broken dream.

The scariest part was that no one noticed or realized how depressed I was, even though I barely talked, barely left the house, stopped meeting with friends. Instead, those close to me thought I was just being difficult, that because I was unhappy at work, I was mad at the world and just lashing out. They would often get mad at me, tell me to snap out of it which in turn made me even more depressed. I felt guilty for being such a party pooper, for feeling the way I felt and helpless against it.

black and white black and white depressed depression

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Amid all the murkiness of depression I sent a submission to a new publisher one of my pub sisters had recommended. I was not holding my breath. After all, if my own publisher didn’t want my book why would others?

My husband and I went on a mini-vacation to the mountains that spring and I was miserable. This early riser couldn’t get herself out of bed in the morning and woke up already crying. That morning I dragged myself out of bed and went to hide in the big bathroom, pretending I was getting dressed. I sat on the edge of the hot tub scrolling through my messages and saw an email from the publisher I had sent my manuscript to. I must have sat there for ten minutes before daring to open it. I was sure it was a rejection but as long as I didn’t actually read the words there was always a thread of hope. And I needed hope desperately.

Eventually I did click on it and read the message. I will never forget what I felt reading the words of the woman who is now my publisher. It was not a rejection, far from it. Not only was she offering me a contract, but her words filled me with a joy I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was not just a “yes, we want your book” letter, it was a “loved your manuscript, it’d be an honor to publish it”.

She doesn’t know this—no one does—but that message brought me from the edge of that terrible place I was in. That day I got dressed, I went out, I laughed and talked to my husband. I also decided to get a therapist and go back to yoga. Shortly after that, I got an interview and was able to move to a different school where people treat me with respect to this day.

I was not “cured”. More recently I saw the darkness rising again but I was ready this time. I called my doctor and asked for help before it got too far. Writing is still saving me one day at a time. It’s where I go when I need a break from reality, where I go when I need to control life the way I can’t do in the real world. It’s where I go to rest.

left hand

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com

I was lucky to have someone say just the right thing at the right time to give me enough hope that I could find my way to the surface, but what if that hadn’t happened? Where would I be?

Be aware of your loved ones’ behavior at all times. Don’t assume they are just being difficult and if you notice a difference, talk to them without judgement, without finger-pointing and listen, listen to them. You may be the one thing that keeps them afloat.

**This article offers several depression hotlines that you can use at any time. Don’t wait, talk to someone today.**

 

Rebel Jewel- New Release

Author: Natalina Reis
Title: Rebel Jewel
Series: The Jewel Chronicles, book 3
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Release Date: August 31, 2019
Cover Designer: Soxsational Cover Art
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Available now!
Milenda never wanted the responsibilities that came from being a royal heiress. After three years in exile, she’s called back home to ignite a revolution. A revolution that will spill innocent blood and endanger her husband and baby daughter.
After a lifetime in captivity, Jaali only wants a quiet life with his wife and daughter. But the gods have other plans, ones that promise a wave of destruction. To rescue their people from the Elders and free the enslaved, Milenda and Jaali must put aside their fears, summon all their courage and wits, and march head-on into a bloody revolution.
Even if their love for each other carries them, unscathed and victorious, to the end, the revolution may yet destroy the lives of the ones they hold dearest.
Rebel Jewel is the third and final book in The Jewel Chronicles. A unique interracial romance set against a breathtaking fantasy world with complex characters and twists at every turn. Let Rebel Jewel take you to another world.
 

Amazon US:  https://amzn.to/2zbsZZJ 

*  *  *
The Jewel Chronicles Series
book 1
ON SALE FOR 99c!
book 2

Author of We Will Always Have the Closet, Desert Jewel, and Loved You Always, Natalina wrote her first romance in collaboration with her best friend at the age of 13. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes.

After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she has taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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Excerpt

The smell of blood suffocated him. There was no running from it. It surrounded him, tightening its nauseating grip on Jaali’s senses, clinging to his nostrils, not letting him go.
Where is Milenda? Jaali scanned the area around him, his glance bouncing off objects and undefined shapes, straining through the red fog closing in on him. Even the mist was tinted with blood, snaking over the wet ground, the exhale of a hidden monster. Milenda was nowhere to be seen. His heart pumped harder, the drumming echoing in his ears, deafening and frantic.
He tried to move, but invisible hands held him steadfast, feet rooted to the dirt-covered ground, unseen shackles around his ankles, breaking through skin and digging into his flesh.
No, not again.
With all the strength he had left, Jaali pulled and pushed against whatever held him in place, the sting of wounded flesh shooting up his legs, a feeling all too familiar to him. He was enslaved again. He thrashed harder, blood now running down to his bare feet, warm and frightening.
A shadow emerged from the fog. Milenda! But, no, it couldn’t be. Its frame was too tall and broad. Jaali opened his mouth to yell for help, but the word never left his lips. Panic rose inside of him, insidious and overwhelming. Why had they returned to Afrika? He had warned his wife it was too dangerous. Too many people wanted them dead.
The shadowy figure took shape as it approached him—brown legs the size of tree trunks and long arms to match.
No, no, no.
The sight of an impressive bald head choked him. It couldn’t be. The duivel was dead. And yet, there he was, striding toward him like an out-of-control transport. Jaali yelled out, his voice freed from whatever was muting it, and pulled harder on the invisible chains holding his ankles. To no avail. The shackles held steady as if glued to the ground.
The slaver proceeded toward him, a cruel smirk curling the corners of his lips. “I’ve got you now, my beautiful boy. You can’t run this time.” Mnyama threw his massive weight into his stride, coming closer and closer to Jaali. “It’s been too long. Ready to give me some of that milky goodness?”
“You’re dead,” Jaali screamed, his voice absorbed by the thick fog. “It’s not possible.”
The large man took a few more steps, a growl-like chuckle leaving his lips. “Well, I’m not. And I missed you, little white boy. My friends missed you too.”
From the thickest part of the fog, where the blood seemed to have coagulated into disgusting blobs, a few more shadows appeared, coalescing into several human bodies, both male and female—all unwelcome echoes of his past. The slaver had brought his cronies.
“No, you’re dead.” Jaali’s voice came out as a sob, a heart-wrenching plea to whatever gods were listening. “I killed you.”
The group of human shadows united in their progress toward him. “It’s about time we have ourselves a good orgy.” Mnyama glanced at his friends. “Any preference about who does the boy first?”
He couldn’t be sure the ear-splitting scream he heard came from himself. Jaali closed his eyes tight and, like a mantra, repeated the words, “It’s not possible. You’re dead, duivel. This is only a nightmare.”
“Well, you should have stayed in Isvärld,” a familiar female voice said. “You wouldn’t be going through this again.”
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A Court Of Mist And Fury-Review

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maas ripped my heart apart before she put it back together only to tear it to pieces again. This book is a wild, heart-wrenching ride that often left me breathless. There are no words to describe it. It is pure intense heartbreaking and soul satisfying magic. Don’t miss it.

Note: Not for young adults. I wouldn’t let a teenager younger than 18 read this.

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Romancing Romance

After spending the last four days among other romance writers, attending the Romance Writers of America annual conference in New York City, I came to the troubling conclusion I really don’t know much about romance.

That’s a pretty alarming thing for an author who calls herself a romance writer. It’s not like I don’t know the actual genre with all its tropes and intricacies, but I am pretty oblivious when it comes to fellow authors, now and in the past.

I began reading romance as a teenager, but even before that, I was reading books that normally had a romantic component to them. In my early twenties and shortly after I moved to the US, I even subscribed to Harlequin. I remember a handful of great romances, another handful of stories I didn’t care for, but I remember no author’s names at all. This is no reflection on the authors themselves, mind you. I’m really bad with names. I often tell people that because I am a teacher and must memorize dozens of kids names each year, my mind promptly forgets other names to make room for more.

Writer

 

I have quite a few favorite names in YA lit, names that have become so familiar to me I am sure to one-click them on Amazon, no questions asked. There are a few other authors in other genres I consider favorites, some who no longer write (I’m old) and others who I just slowly came to love over the years. Very few of those are romance writers.

Every time someone asks me to name other authors who write similar books to mine, I can’t name them at all. I was really confused by that, until the day I realized that romance is such a wide and rich genre, an umbrella under which so many different other genres hide, that it is hard to find those few authors whom you may compare yourself to.

So imagine my excitement at finding fellow romance authors who write and think along the same lines as I do. I can’t tell you the relief I felt at finding successful authors who don’t stick to one subgenre, authors who are complete pantsers like me, authors for whom writing books is therapy and the one thing that keeps them sane. I’m looking forward to reaching out to these writers in hopes of not feeling so alone in what and how I write.

Have you ever felt alone in what you do or how you think and then one day you discover someone(s) who share your views or your kind of work? How did that make you feel?

Austen—A Romance Trope Creator?

Austen—A Romance Trope Creator?

Jane Austen

The other day I was looking for one of my favorite TV adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma (the one where Mr. Knightley is played by Johnny Lee Miller) on Netflix (don’t bother; it’s not available there) and it got me thinking about how Austen basically created some of the most popular romance tropes to this day. Nothing new, I know, but I had never thought about it that way before.

Of course, not everyone is a fan or has read Austen’s books but I love them. She was ahead of her time, writing strong, willful women who fought for (and won) what they wanted and loved. It’s no wonder her popularity has survived for so long.

But less thought of when discussing Austen and her books is the fact that she was the “inventor” of at least three of the most popular tropes in romance literature today. The romance style is largely reviled by the “serious” readers today as crap or smut, but Austen is here to remind us that romance can be, and often is, a weapon against society’s prejudices and preconceived ideas about women (among other things). Not to mention the fact that romance can be well written and worth of as much praise and attention as any other genre of literature.

romance book

Pride and Prejudice, arguably the most famous of her works, is an enemies to lovers romance. Elizabeth Bennet begins as hating and being disliked by the handsome but brooding and often obnoxious Darcy. We all know how that ended.

In Persuasion (possibly my personal favorite) Anne Elliot unwisely shuns Captain Wentworth despite her love for him, but eventually gets her second chance with him. A second chance romance.

Emma is clearly a friends to lovers romance. Emma has a best friend in Mr. Knightley and despite her attempts at matching every single woman in town with the perfect bachelor, totally misses the fact that the one she loves has always been right in front of her.

Mansfield Park is both an example of forbidden romance and love triangle with poor young woman Fanny who is loved by one man but in love with her cousin who is promised in marriage to another woman. In fact, this is also a friends to lovers romance since Fanny was best friends with her cousin with whom she grew up.

Nowadays these tropes are still being written with varying degrees of success. I am personally partial to the friends-to-lovers and second chances tropes and have written a couple books along those lines. Which kind of proves that a good love story never goes out of style if Jane Austen’s vast popularity even today is anything to go by.

Do you read romance? Do you have a favorite trope? I’d love to hear from you.

Love potion

Dark and Bright- Review

Dark and BrightDark and Bright by P.M. Hernandez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book surprised the crap out of me–in a good way. Don’t want to reveal any spoilers but the plot was flowing away and I kind of knew (or thought I knew) what the truth was behind all the meds Carrie was taking but then about half way through the book, bam! Hernandez hit me over the head with something I certainly didn’t see coming. It reminded me of the old TV show, Dollhouse, and I’m going to leave it at that so I don’t give anything away. I was shocked and disgusted (with one of the characters, not the book) and my only critique is in connection with that. I thought Carrie didn’t react as strongly as I thought she would when she found out what had been done to her. I was expecting more fireworks than what I got. But other than that, this was a great read with great likable characters (Luis was the sweetest thing ever. Loved him.) who you really care about and feel for. Can’t wait to see what the second book brings.

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The Belles-Review

The Belles (The Belles #1)The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book on a whim. I had heard good things about it but I’ll be honest I mostly fell in love with the cover. I didn’t read it right away but once I started I basically devoured it. I love speculative fiction or anything that asks the question “what if?’ I also have a soft spot for fiction that deals with women’s issues and social injustice in general. The Belles didn’t disappoint.
The world depicted in this book is not as different from ours as it first appears. Within its pages we watch the powerplays of those in charge and the ones who want to be. We see the darker, decaying underbelly of society hiding behind beautiful colors and fine fabrics, secrets lurking beneath flower-scented clothes and a deceptive sense of joy and contentment.
Yes, some things were predictable, some didn’t quite made as much sense as I’d hoped they would, but I really enjoyed reading it and I’m looking forward to reading book 2 and I hope it was as gripping as the first.

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