Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Brachman's Underworld

You know I'm always game for a book outside of my comfort zone and I really took a risk on this one. But I'm glad I did because this book is unique. I can honestly say I've never read anything like it.

Brachman's Underworld - Vlad Vlaslyn

Delilah Brachman just died and now she has six days to dodge her fate or she'll perish for all-time. She's become an "In-Betweener," someone whose judgment has yet to be decided, and she's drawn a ticket for the Tuesday Train, the most damning ticket of all. She struggles against the demon Noc, whose cunning mind masks a childlike loneliness it will do anything to quell, and against Honest Jack, the idealist tyrant who uses torture to get his way. Meanwhile, Delilah begins to care for a man that her real life never prepared her for. Will she overcome the demons in her past, or will the life she led condemn her for all-time?

So nothing is more uncertain than death. Nobody truly knows what happens to us when we die. Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? Either way, I'd like to think there isn't an underworld because as I really got to thinking about this as I read, it was terrifying. 

Delilah is kind of a bitch. She starts the book off being absolutely awful to her dying father and then throughout we find out how she has become an in-betweener. I didn't like her so much and honestly I had no idea what I wanted to happen for her. 

This book was not a fast read. I really struggled through it. I don't know if it's because it's outside of my normal comfort level or because it's a heavy story. And it's not just that the story line is heavy, but there is a LOT of information to kind of keep in track of. None of the characters were super easy to connect with, but they are all interesting enough to keep you going. And honestly- there is enough going on throughout the story that you don't get bored waiting for something interesting to come along. 

And then while I knew what choice Delilah was going to make, I was at least pretty certain, I was still surprised. I didn't know how I felt about it. I do know I was scared for her because again, it's all so unknown and what if this is really how it is when you die? Let's just say I had some screwed up dreams for a few days and so if you scare easy or have nightmares- do not read this book before bed. Can I also just say the mental picture of Noc, Nobu and Honest Jack I had in my head? Terrifying. So damn creepy. And then hearing about "the grimes" and how the people basically sound like zombies and they prey on "newcomers" and yeah. Freaking stuff, people. 

But if you really like death books, things that are little more science fiction, I think you're going to really like this. If nothing else, it kind of gets you thinking about death and what we might face. 

These Things Happen.

I'm glad I didn't write this review immediately after finishing the book because this is one that kind of needs to sink in for a day or two (or more) before you think about it out loud.

These Things Happen - Richard Kramer

THESE THINGS HAPPEN takes place right now, even as we speak … it’s the tale of a modern family, set among Manhattan’s progressive, liberal elite, the adults all prominent in their professions, rearing their children to be the same, confident that nothing much can harm them, ever. The story starts when WESLEY BOWMAN, 16, sharp and funny and defiantly individual, moves downtown from his book editor mother’s home on the Upper East Side home to live with his father and his partner for the fall term of school; Wesley, becoming a man, feels the time has come for him to more closely know (his words here) the “man from whom I did, actually, spring.” Kenny, who came out after his marriage to Wesley’s mom ended, is a much-honored gay-rights lawyer, a regular on Rachel Maddow, Charlie Rose, a frequent contributor to the Op-ed page of the New York Times. But Wesley, when he moves in, finds his father distant and inaccessible; he has much more luck connecting with his father’s partner, George, a former actor/dancer who now runs a theater district restaurant. George is present, genuinely interested, fully at ease with himself; all the things Kenny is not. He and Wesley become like father and son, really, and not because George is in any way trying to supplant Kenny. It’s just that these things happen. Then everything changes. When Wesley’s closest friend surprises him and everyone else when, after being elected class president, he comes out at the end of his acceptance speech. The two boys find themselves at the center of an act of violent, homophobic bullying (even though Wesley is straight). Within the family, tolerant facades crumble as George, suddenly, becomes suspect. Wesley’s mom values and cares for him, and has worked to have a relationship with him, as she suspects this will assure the presence of Kenny in Wesley’s life. But, now, with Wesley in the hospital being held for observation (“When did I,” she wonders, “turn into someone whose kid is held for observation?”) isn’t it her duty to wonder and worry about what might have been going on when her back was so progressively turned? Did she fail to keep her son safe? Does she, indeed, know him? Does she know George, so delightful and pleasing, an author of agreeable evenings? And, more worryingly, does this accomplished, insightful, deeply curious woman really, in the end, know herself?
These Things Happen is a sharp, laugh-out-loud funny, ultimately deeply moving story about the way we live now and the alertness and awareness we have to cultivate in order to do it. It’s about the assumptions we all unknowingly hold that we take in from the culture around us, no matter how free from “all that” we think we might be; the received convictions just beneath the surface that need only the right spark to catch fire. In this novel that fire burns its way through the stories all the characters tell themselves about themselves; no one is who they were at the start, and all must find the courage to truly, for the first time, face who they are.
I will tell you up front that I didn't think it was laugh-out-loud funny but it was humorous in some parts. Never once through the book did I laugh and think that what I just read was really funny. I will say it is a fast read and the story is actually fast. Does that make sense? It's not drawn out, the story happens within a few days and you just keep plucking along. 
If you don't like books that switch from character point of view's then you will hate this book. Every chapter it's a different character you're reading from and admittedly, even I got confused and had to keep referring to which character I'm on at several parts of the book. But overall? I liked the characters. I felt bad for Wesley who, while trying to be a good friend to Theo, asks his dad Kenny and partner George some questions about being gay. This in turn makes them wonder if Wesley is gay and basically using Theo's gayness as a cover. I will say Wesley's dad Kenny is a total ass. It makes me wonder- how do you not know that you are basically ignoring your child? I mean, really? Jerk. Then Wesley's mom is a piece of work. I loved, loved, loved how she basically comes to realize she's a racist homophobe because hello- that's what she is. I don't think she or Kenny have any idea on how to be a parent to Wesley who is really misunderstood. They refer to him as a brat and rude but if you take a step back, the poor kid gets no attention. He would basically feel unwanted and I can see why. I liked George the best, Kenny's partner. He's confused but he's trying to do the best he can to be the bridge between Wesley and Kenny. Neither of them see that and in the end, I'm left feeling the worst for George. Because I think Kenny can't give George what he needs/wants and I think it's because of Kenny's insecurities with being gay himself. 
But my biggest complaint of the whole book? How the characters speak. It drove me nuts. I know a lot of people, I've spoken with a lot of people, and not one person has ever spoken like that. Ever. I kept thinking that writing dialogue is probably difficult anyways because the voice you give the character has to hold through the whole book and it has to give you an idea of who that person is. I can't even describe it to you but I now wonder if all of the comma usage is to blame. Hmmm. Maybe I should try reading it visualizing commas aren't there. There's a thought. 
Overall? It was good. It isn't the best book I've read, it wouldn't make a Top 20 list for me, but it was a fast read and it had a theme people could relate to. Think of what you would do if you had a son, who may or may not be gay, and is the victim of a gay bashing with his friend, and now every one's role in the family is essentially questioned. And then read. 
Richard is on Twitter and on Facebook - check him out. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Librarian

Book review time! I have a TON of book reviews coming for you in the next week or so, so if you have books to buy for people on your holiday lists- take notes.

Speaking of? Olivia's school is hosting our first ever Barnes and Noble book fair as a fundraiser. I'm super excited, it's kind of my baby, and I'm even more excited that YOU can help! That's right- even though you obviously aren't going to drive to Duluth, Minnesota to buy a book so we get 10% of the sale, but you CAN buy online! If you go to, load up your shopping cart full of fun and awesome books, toys, etc. When you check out, make sure you click on the box saying that this is a book fair order, and type in ID: 10906642. Then bam- you just supported a school and bought some awesome gifts.

But let's talk book reviews.

The Librarian - Logan Belle
Bettie Page Presents: The Librarian

Inspired by the story of the iconic Bettie Page, Logan Belle’s sizzling erotic novel explores the transformation of Regina Finch from shy librarian to the object of one powerful man’s all-consuming desire.
Regina Finch, brilliant and bookish, has worked her way up to her dream job as a librarian at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library. But her discovery of the sordid sexual adventures of a rakish, young scion among the hallowed halls and sacred stacks of the library unleashes a confusing blend of repulsion and desire that threatens to consume her. It is only through her discovery of Bettie Page, and Page’s own sexual awakening that Regina can hope to discover her sexual prowess and seduce the man she loves.
I absolutely loved this book. You hear me say things are a fast read and this one was. I kind of like how nerdy Regina is and how she is so not what you expect to be the girl who gets the hot guy. I also loved the fact that she wants to be a librarian because I'd love to be one too. Had I known how much I would grow to love books I feel like I would have a different career. And I feel like had I been pushed more in high school to read, I would have taken a much different route in life. Sadly though, kids aren't encouraged to love reading right from the get go and learn how amazing libraries are. *sigh*
I loved this book. I really liked Sebastian but I feel like we don't learn about why he's such a freak so that makes me hopeful for a sequel. I will also say that I feel like the ending was rushed? I'm not against a rushed ending but the book ended with such a cliff hanger that I sat there thinking, "Really? That's it? Where are the rest of the pages?!" because I felt like Regina and Sebastian were just at the spot where it gets good. Not that they didn't have interesting scenes and the development of something important, but I felt like it could have gone so much further. Basically there were so many loose ends at the end of the book that I really feel like if there isn't some kind of follow up, that it would be a huge disappointment. 
I love how naive and awkward Regina is and I love how her friend/roommate Carly is trying to help her with both of these. And while this isn't really what I expected for a BDSM novel, I did really like the romantic scenes because I feel like I really could have related to Regina in a lot of ways and so I just really liked her. So I am basically pleading with Logan Belle to give us a follow up. I cannot stress that enough. But in the end, I do recommend this book and I look forward to reading more of Logan's work. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

That time when I was offered a mustache ride.

So this past weekend was a super fun weekend out with friends for their birthdays. I kind of get excited when my friends have birthdays because it's an excuse to go out AND I get to buy presents.

Three couples were all going to meet on Saturday at the Shout House in Minneapolis for dinner, drinks, and shenanigans. Obviously all three were had. It was supposed to be Matt and I, with Tammy and Chad (who we shared a hotel room with) and then we were all going to meet Emily and Cory. Good stuff. So on Thursday I was at work and our work study Amber pointed out that St. Louis Park (suburb of Minneapolis and subsequently where our hotel was) was pretty much ghetto. She then texted me a crime map that had a disturbing amount of dots. Fortunately for us, it ended up being in a really nice neighborhood near some pretty cool stuff and the hotel was nice.

Oh except for the fact the hallways smelled like the inside of a dumpster. But other than that, it was totally fine.

So here's a tip- if you are going to go to the Shout House I recommend that you get a reservation and then get there before 5. Because we were there around 4:15 and yeah- line already.
 I also recommend that you not even bother with food. It's typical bar food but your waitress isn't going to be very good and it'll take you almost 30 minutes to get your Coke. Not to mention the hour to get your chips and salsa. And then bring you your burger with no ketchup. And then not come back. And then, on top of it all, get everyone's bill wrong. BUT, the plus side is you'll walk out not paying for your husband's beers.
 But the best part, besides hanging out with some of my favorite people and singing along with the pianists and being some of the youngest people there, is that you will see pregnant people drinking beer!
Now some of you might be like, "Oh Sara- she clearly had a sandwich, that's why her belly is like that." And then I will say no, because when she turned a little more, clearly a 3-4 month old belly. I told Tammy I should start carrying around pamphlets on fetal alcohol syndrome or something.

Oh and then there was that awkward moment when a super huge guy with a porn mustache came over, in front of Matt, to tell me that he thinks I'm really hot and him and his friend Ben want to meet me. Of course, the rest of the people at the table crack up because hello- this not only happens all of the time, but this time Matt was RIGHT THERE. So I say that I didn't think my husband would appreciate if I did that, and he proceeds to tell me I'm really pretty, then says he's going to shake my husband's hand. So he does, and I'm standing there like, what the fuck, and he apparently tells Matt he's a really lucky guy and he should keep an eye out. Matt of course says nothing because he's deadpan on everything all of the time, and my friends crack up and keep teasing me about maybe taking a ride on the mustache. Because his friend also had a porno face thing going on and it wasn't working for either of them. But at least I can say I'm consistent when it comes to attracting the best the crowd has to offer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Laws of Love

Raise your hand if you  need a really quick book to read? Like read-it-in-one-sitting and it's really good kind of book?

Then put your hand down because you look ridiculous and just buy this book.

The Laws of Love - Lisa White

Because having it all does not necessarily mean having it all at once…
In a small, Virginia town where fly-fishing is the favorite pastime and Hampton Steel is essentially the only employer, Associate General Counsel Livi Miller believes she has reached the top rung of Hampton Steel’s corporate ladder. With her alcoholic boss retiring soon, Livi is the presumptive heir to Hampton Steel’s general counsel position. However, in the midst of proving herself promotion-worthy, Livi’s high school sweetheart, Jake Cooper, returns from Iraq and causes long-lost butterflies to alight in Livi’s emotionally charged stomach. The resulting loss of her promotion to slimy newcomer Edward Winston combines with her rekindled feelings for Jake to place Livi on track to choose between her career and her heart.
If she chooses Hampton Steel, she saves her hometown. If she chooses Jake, she saves her butterflies as well as herself.
I know I've talked about romance novels having really lame women as leads and how this drives me insane. Because most women worth knowing aren't falling over themselves in despair and broken hearts, their entire life doesn't revolve around some guy, and they aren't afraid to do for themselves. Which is exactly how Livi Miller is in this book. I absolutely loved her and I really liked her common sense approach to her alcoholic boss, the work drama, and Jake. 
Which I'm going to say it- I kind of didn't like Jake. Because he was kind of a jerk to Livi and I was afraid he wouldn't come around and just end up being a jerk forever. He's a well written character and he's what you expect he would be like if he were a real person, but I just didn't like his "me or your job" attitude. I mean, it's 2012, women can work, buddy. 
And I wish I could tell you how THAT ends up but it kind of ruins it for you. But the book reads fast and it's listed at 147 pages but I'm telling you, you'll fly through it. I will say some of my favorite parts are their reminiscing. But the downside is that with it being a short book I feel like some parts were rushed. A few passages could have had a little... more to them, but I don't feel like the story is less good because it's not as long. Everything felt finished to me, and that's more than I can say for some other books I've read with hundreds of pages. 
Overall? Good, solid read. It'd make a fun holiday gift for a friend or stocking stuffer. (What? You don't stock stockings with books? You should. Loser.)
Lisa has a website, a Facebook, and you can see what other tour stops are saying about her book here

Friday, November 9, 2012

Back To You

So a few weeks ago I was asked to review this book and to be honest, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it before I got it. Then I got the book, and I re-read the synopsis and totally thought this was one that I would really like. As it turns out, I absolutely love it.

Back To You - Priscilla Glenn
Back to You
When Lauren Monroe first laid eyes on Michael Delaney back in high school, she had every reason to stay away from him; within minutes of their first encounter, his volatile actions confirmed his notorious reputation. But Lauren saw something in him that caused her to question his bad-boy persona, and against her better judgment, she took a chance. She had no way of knowing that the unlikely friendship they formed would become so important to her. Or that it would end so painfully. Eight years later, when Lauren begins her new job at Learn and Grow Day Care, Michael is the last person she expects to see. Refusing to revisit the hurt and confusion of their past, Lauren vows to keep her distance from him. But staying away from Michael proves to be more difficult than she thought, despite her lingering grief and her instincts for self-preservation. As Lauren and Michael recall the friendship that changed them forever and the events that tore them apart, will they finally be able to heal? Or will the ghosts of Michael’s past prove to be too much to overcome?

So you know I don't say it much but I absolutely loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved the entire thing. A lot. I finished this baby in a matter of hours because I could not stop. 

Basically this story bounces back from present day, their high school years, and a few chapters of Michael's childhood. And I know some of you are like, "Dammit Sara, I hate when books do that!", and to that I say shut up because it's done really well in this book. No extra thinking is involved, it flows really nicely and naturally. The other really great thing about this book is that Priscilla doesn't put a bunch of unnecessary information and detail. You know I hate that. 

And I found myself rooting for Michael and Lauren the entire time. Sure, Michael has seriously major childhood issues that he carries into adulthood, granted. And Lauren tries really hard to help him and be supportive but she misinterprets everything he does. And because both of them are young, and clueless, their friendship and budding relationship, goes to hell. And Michael admittedly does something kind of douchebag but I totally get why he does it, and he didn't do it to be a douchebag. He thought he was doing the right thing but in a high school girl's world, it's totally horrible and awful. 

I also loved how Michael has his own daughter and is a really great dad. He's doing everything he can for his daughter and it's really kind of great. And I love that he just took to it right away where most guys in his shoes would run the opposite way from a newborn. 

Overall? It's a really great love story that isn't over the top, it doesn't have mushy scenes and I kind of wish I had a Michael. I'm just saying. I absolutely loved this story and I think you'll really like it. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Surrender the Dark

Raise your hand if:
  • You like short books.
  • You like books in a series.
  • You like books with action and danger.
  • You like books with romance and a good story.
Well put your hand down because you are probably alone and you look stupid with your hand in the air for no reason. But you're in luck anyways, because I have a book for you that fits all of these and you will love it.

Surrender the Dark (The Three Musketeers #1) - Donna Kauffman
Surrender the Dark (Loveswept)
Rae Gannon is stunned to find her ex-boss bleeding from a gunshot wound, mere paces from her front door. It has been two years since her move to the remote Blue Ridge Mountains, where she tried to erase the memories and the pain she suffered from having been part of McCullough’s team. Yet as Rae tends to Jarrett’s battered body she realizes that the air between them is still sizzling with a slow-burning need. But this time there are more than just hearts at stake. The mission that almost got Jarrett killed threatens to put Rae back in harm’s way. And if they surrender to their desires, it may cost them their lives.

I really liked Rae and I really liked Jarrett. Both of them have issues separately and together and they both view it differently. But what makes their dynamic really great is that Jarrett doesn't discredit her feelings. For those of you who don't read a ton? That's not super common. Usually you have the guy who's kind of an arrogant asshole, very take charge, and doesn't take into consideration that other people have feelings.

Basically though, this is about Rae who used to work for Jarrett, but she's fairly traumatized from that work. Jarrett is still in the business so to speak and ends up on Rae's door (well, kind of) because of it and he is in near-death shape. Having a soft heart she takes him in with the intentions of kicking his ass to the road as soon as he can walk there. But then nothing happens as it seems and they fall for each other and she agrees to help even though it's traumatic for her.

The only thing I could say is that if Donna wants to add more danger? Go for it. It kind of reminds me of a Linda Howard book (and I'm a huge Linda Howard fan). *spoiler* I expected the bad guys to come crashing into the house, violence, etc. And despite all of that, I still really liked this book. Rae and Jarrett and really great and I love their dynamic, their relationship, and how the relationship developed leading to her going on a mission.

It is a really fast read and I got it done in just a few hours and I really, really liked it. I'm already working on getting the others in this series because if they are written half as well as this one? I'll be in heaven.

Smashing Pumpkins. Not as an activity, but a concert.

I can't believe I haven't gotten some of my pictures up yet.You'll be disappointed, I had no pictures of me here. *sad face* But I do have stories!

So a few weekends ago I went to see the Smashing Pumpkins with my friend Tammy and we were going to meet my friend Kate from high school. I was super excited because the Smashing Pumpkins hold a soft spot in my heart and THE band of my high school years. And then to see Kate again (we haven't seen each since high school- twelve years ago!!!) it was kind of like re-living high school. So off we went.

The opening band was Anberlin, who I really love and they have a new album that is great. Seriously. Go get their new album Vidal- you won't regret it. SUCH a great album. But the best part about this is that I got Stephen's (the lead singer) water bottle because Tammy dived for it and gave it to me. She's a great friend.
See? That's Anberlin and they are great.

Then the Smashing Pumpkins came on and I am not afraid to say I maybe lost my shit for a second. But before I talk about that, can I tell you who I'm standing next to? Hands down the most obnoxious 7 people in the world. First up, we have dread locks girl in front of me- her hair smelled so horrible. I can't even speak of it. Then we had her friend who had a tank top and marginal looking tattoo on her back. But she was sweaty and kept backing into me, so her clammy back hit my face. Gross. Then in front of them were like Amazon people- and they kept backing their asses into us. And can I just say? If you are really fucking tall? You have no business being in the front row. You don't.

Then we have Todd. His real name isn't Todd (we don't think) but he is what you call the obnoxious drunk guy spilling his drink everywhere. This particular Todd kind of looked like a hippie version of David Lee Roth. As it turns out, he's 43 and rubbed my ass the entire time. And asked for my number multiple times. I could go nowhere and do nothing because as Kate would say, it was nuts to butts up in there.

Anyways. The Smashing Pumpkins were good. Billy Corgan is still bald except he's slightly larger and his jeans don't fit quite like they used to. But honestly, I wanted to bang him when I was 16 and I still love him now. *swoon* What can I say, I have a thing for bald boys.
The only thing I am kind of meh on? Is that their new album isn't that great and they played the entire thing. I was really bummed that we didn't hear more of the "dusties" as Billy called them.
But they did a few. The ones I can remember were Tonight, Tonight, X.Y.U. , Disarm, Bullet with Butterfly Wings, Zero and a couple more. But some of the really great songs die-hard fans really love? Not played. Sad.
Overall it was good and we had a great time. I'm bummed that I didn't get a picture of hte three of us but that's OK. Next time. ;)