Monday, June 30, 2014

Short-But-Sweet Review of 'Crave' (Fallen Angels #2) by J.R. Ward

Crave (Fallen Angels, #2)Crave by J.R. Ward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read the first book in this series, I wasn't nearly as impressed with J.R. Ward's Fallen Angel novels than I am with her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The second book affected me much more than the first.

I cared much more about the characters this time around. I felt like the "J.R. Ward magic" that makes me love the BDBs so much was a part of this one. I loved the ending, so much that I went ahead and gave the whole thing five stars. I won't say I'm on the edge of my seat to get to the next book in the series, but I will probably enjoy Envy when I finally do read it.


My copy of this book is a loaner from my mom, who is just as big a BDB fan as I am, if not bigger. I was not obligated to review this book in any way. I read it simply for my love of paranormal romances.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Monday, June 23, 2014

'Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack' by Rupert Shortt

Rupert Shortt is a Christian from the U.K. who has written Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack. I received a hardcover copy of this book for free through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.


The book systematically explores the ways in which Christian identity can cause people to be killed, imprisoned arbitrarily, violently assaulted, harassed, and/or unduly deprived of property. The chapters are arranged by country.

The first country is Egypt. Violent clashes between Coptic Christians and their Muslim neighbors have included:

- After an argument between a Christian trader and a Muslim trader in 2000 in the village of El-Kosheh, 21 Christians and one Muslim were killed. The Muslim who was killed was hit with a stray bullet.
- In November 2003, a person who was a convert from Islam to Christianity died while in police custody.
- When a Coptic church in Alexandria was accused of "insulting Islam" in October 2005 after putting on a play about how to resist forcible conversion, a mob surrounded the church and four people were killed.

Egyptian flag
Many of the countries discussed in this book are Muslim-majority, but the point of the book isn't to single out Islam for blame. Shortt makes a note of Senegal, a Muslim-majority country where people of other faiths enjoy a high degree of religious freedom. It is not Shortt's belief that Islam is an inherently violent religion. He points out that in many of the countries discussed in this book, religion, politics, and nationalism become entangled in a very complicated way that makes it difficult to determine the exact extent to which religious differences in and of themselves factor into violence. Most of these countries have exceptionally poor human rights records in general.

The second country discussed in one very much in the headlines today, making this book especially relevant. Although the Christian population of Iraq had fallen to around 200,000 in 2013, Christians have lived in Iraq since the second century C.E. Since 2005, Christian clerics have repeatedly been subject to kidnappings, torture, and even beheadings by both Shia and Sunni Muslims.

In Iraq's Persian neighbor, Iran, it's increasingly difficult to be anything other than a Muslim. The only religion to be banned outright is the Baha'i faith, but people who convert to Christianity from Islam are often arrested. The story is much the same in Pakistan.

The book's fifth country is Turkey. Murders of Christians are not unheard of in Turkey. Three Christians were murdered at a publishing company in April 2007, and a Catholic bishop was murdered in June 2010. Turkey has laws against "insulting Turkishness" and Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Orthodox Christians, and Jews are often suspected of being "not Turkish enough," no matter how long their families have lived in Turkey. Some parties increasingly associate Turkish nationality with Islam and are suspicious of any citizens who aren't Muslims.

Nigerian flag
The first African country to appear in the book is Nigeria. Nigeria has been in the news much recently because of a large-scale kidnapping by Boko Haram, a group discussed in this book. The problem in Nigeria is that the northern part of the country is largely Muslim, while the southern part is largely Christian, and the country's most fertile land falls in the middle. On Christmas Day 2011, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a series of bombings outside churches that killed 35 people. Another problem in Nigeria is that unmarried women who aren't Muslims are considered "prostitutes" and are subject to forced marriages and forced conversions.

Next is Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. A particularly gruesome crime against Christians was the 2005 beheading of three teenage cousins as the girls walked to a church-run school. Buddhists and Ahmadi Muslims are also subject to persecution.

Finally we arrived at a country where persecution happens to Christians and Muslims alike at the hands of nationalists and followers of another faith: namely, Hinduism. Hindutva, a philosophy that associates Hindu identity with Indian nationalism, considers Christianity and Islam as suspicious because of their non-Indian origins. It's the same problem as in Turkey, just with a different religion.

Ditto Myanmar (which Shortt refers to as Burma). Myanmarese identity is being increasingly linked to Buddhism. Western people typically think of Buddhism as being a rather peaceful religion, but there are verses of Buddhist scripture that can be interpreted to encourage, or at least condone, violence. This shows us that any religion can be used for either peaceful or belligerent purposes.

Flag of Myanmar
Chapter 10 is about China, where imprisonment in work camps is common for Christians who are not part of the "official" state-sanctioned churches. Chapter 11 deals with Vietnam and also with what is probably the world's most dangerous place to be a Christian - North Korea. Although North Korea is thought to have as many as 500,000 underground Christians, professing faith in any religion can mean a death sentence in North Korea. In Vietnam, ethnic minorities such as the Hmong people are especially vulnerable to religious harassment and imprisonment.

Chapter 12 deals with "The Holy Land," i.e. Israel-Palestine, where Christians are sometimes subject to attacks by ultra-Orthodox Jews. Israel-Palestine is a very complex situation, and of course there is good behavior and bad behavior on the parts of Christians, Jews, and Muslims (and others) alike. Shortt has a good deal of sympathy - and rightly so - for Arab Christians whose free expression of their faith is curtailed as well as for innocent Palestinian Muslims who suffer for the sins of the minority who espouse violence. The author has less sympathy for evangelical Christians from the U.S. who insert themselves into Israeli-Palestinian geopolitics without a sophisticated understanding of the present reality.

The 13th chapter presents brief summaries of some other problematic areas of the world, including Belarus in Europe and, in the Americas, Cuba and Chile. Shortt notes, for example, that Cuba appears to be getting more restrictive since Raul Castro took over for his brother in 2008. Still, Shortt ends his book on a hopeful note.

Not only is this book an interesting supplement to what we regularly hear on the news regarding current events in Iraq, Nigeria, and elsewhere, it's also a good reminder of why freedom of religion (and freedom to choose no religion at all) is so important in modern multicultural societies. In the U.S., we often take our freedom of religion for granted. Yet we are no different from any other peoples of the world - able to fall victim to mob mentality, the ravings of charismatic sociopaths, and us-versus-them thinking like any other imperfect human beings in the world. All the more reason to cherish and protect our precious freedoms - and that includes standing up for other people, whether we share a religion with them or not, when their religious freedoms are threatened.

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Understanding the Prophetic Times We Live In by ASR Martins. $10.26 from Smashwords.com
This book is about the end-times. The aim of this book is to bring clarity and to counter confusion in the lives of many Christians regarding the end-times, especially regarding the prophetic time we live in at this moment. Clarity will equip and enable God’s children to follow His vision for, and in this time period we are living in right now.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Club Friday: Current #FridayReads 6-20-14


Basically, I have a different book going in every room in the house. Let's start with the book I've been reading off and on (when not distracted by more exciting books), Middlemarch by George Eliot. 


I'm slightly more than 50% (that's just over 400 pages) through this enormous paperweight. It's interesting, but it's not exciting. I had hoped Eliot would be another Jane Austen, since they're writing about approximately the same era in British history. However, I don't find Eliot to be nearly as witty or entertaining as her contemporary. I'll stick with it just to be able to say I've read it, but it's not a can't-put-it-down like certain other thick classics I have known (i.e. Gone With the Wind, From Here to Eternity, The Count of Monte Cristo). 

Are there any Middlemarch fangirls out there? 

On my bedside table (actually on the floor next to the table) is The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. I'm about a third of the way through it. It's funny because there's a Mr. Farebrother in Middlemarch, and the character whose (MILD SPOILER) death is a motivating factor in Rowling's plot is named Barry Fairbrother. 


There's a banker named Mr. Bulstrode in Middlemarch, and I can't help but wonder if the early-19th-century Bulstrodes were secretly a wizarding family, and if their descendant is the same Millicent Bulstrode whose cat's hair Hermione Granger mistakenly used in her polyjuice potion. 

It does seem like Rowling is a George Eliot fan. Because both books deal with small English towns and groups of people being petty and venal and scheming to benefit from a gentleman's death, some people refer to The Casual Vacancy as Mugglemarch. I'm liking it, though. No one can say Rowling isn't witty. 

In the kitchen, when I get bored while waiting for my grits to thicken, I'm reading This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl. It's the collection of writings and artwork by Esther, who passed away at the age of 15 from thyroid cancer. In a complicated way, she's part of the inspiration for Hazel Grace Lancaster in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars



Esther's only ambition in life was to be a writer, and you could tell she would've been a great one if her talent had been able to mature. In some ways it's very gratifying to read how much of her personality survives in her extant work, but at the same time, her loss is a very sad one. It makes me think of all the other kids who could've been someone great and never got the chance. 

On a much lighter note, the book I've been leaving in the car and reading whenever I get a little bored away from home is J.R. Ward's Crave, the second novel in her Fallen Angels series (about a decisive contest for human souls between archangels and demons). I just can't get into this series the way I can Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. 


Book Boyfriend #311: Isaac Rothe. 

In the living room, I'm reading a book that arrived in the mail Tuesday, via Amazon's Vine program. I was in the mood for serious nonfiction, so I chose Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack by Rupert Shortt. It documents incidents of religious-based violence in Christian communities, organized by country. The countries in which it's most dangerous to belong to a Christian church are almost all in Asia, but a few are in Africa, and only Turkey is in Europe. 


The cover shows the window of a church in Egypt and a Coptic Christian girl looking out fearfully.

So far, the author has done a good job of being fair to the people of other religious faiths who share space with Christian neighbors. This is not, for example, a book about what's wrong with Islam. The author acknowledges that most Muslims, like most Christians, are anti-violence, and that some Christians have committed acts of religious-based violence. 

Lastly (I think), in my Nook I'm about halfway through Play Him Again, a murder mystery set in 1920s Los Angeles, by Jeffrey Stone. 


What's fun about this book is how it weaves in historical figures of the period, such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Alla Nazimova. (You may remember Alla Nazimova from the nonfiction The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood.)

How many things are you reading? 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Took My Nieces to See 'Maleficent' (Spoilers)

If you're any kind of a Disney fan, I highly recommend you go see Maleficent, starring Elle Fanning and Angelina Jolie. I took my 8- and 10-year-old nieces on Wednesday, and they loved it.

Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, Anaheim, CA. Public domain image
I loved it, too. Although Maleficent is the villainous fairy who tries to kill the princess with a spell in the Disney cartoon Sleeping Beauty, she's the heroine of this live-action version (also from Disney). Sleeping Beauty/Aurora herself is...also a heroine! This movie doesn't pit them against each other, it makes them friends.

The villain is Aurora's awful father Stephon. Human Stephon and fairy Maleficent met as children. He showed goodwill at their first meeting when he threw away his iron ring - fairies can't bear the touch of iron. As they grew into teens, they fell in love, but Stephon didn't have an honest or loyal bone in his entire body. Maleficent grew nicely into her role as protector of the moors, while Stephon went off to court and secretly aspired to be king. She was innocent, open, and honest, while he was worldly, greedy, and duplicitous.

The presiding king tried to conquer the moors; Maleficent and her fairies repelled them. The king was wounded and promised that whoever killed Maleficent would be his successor. Slimy Stephon paid his "true love" a visit on the pretense of warning her, but instead drugged her and brutally cut off her wings. He brought the wings to the king as "proof" she was dead.

Stephon, subsequently made king, married and had a daughter, but slowly descended into madness. Maleficent got her bit of revenge by cursing the newborn Aurora to fall into a deep sleep on her 16th birthday when she touched a spinning wheel. (We know this part from the cartoon.) We can't really blame Maleficent for this, because STEPHON CUT OFF HER MAGNIFICENT FRICKING WINGS.

"Sleeping Beauty" by Louis Sussman. Public domain photo by Mutter Erde
Stephon sent baby Aurora off to a cottage in the woods to be raised by three fairies (one of them was played by Imelda Staunton, best known to U.S. audiences as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies). These fairies are well-meaning but rather dim-witted. Maleficent looks out for Aurora, and gradually the two women become friends. Inevitably, Aurora finds out about the curse and forsakes the moors for her father's castle. Of course, the curse comes true, although Maleficent regrets it and tried unsuccessfully to lift it. Aurora falls into her enchanted sleep.

Maleficent comes to the rescue, though. Aurora's prince friend is ineffective at lifting the curse, but because Maleficent friendship-love for Aurora is true, Maleficent kisses her friend and breaks the spell.

Then the really happy ending: fairy and wings are reunited, Stephon gets his comeuppance, and the violent old patriarchy is replaced with a peaceful matriarchy under Queen Aurora.

This movie is visually beautiful and well-written. Angelina Jolie's acting in the title role is perfection.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest published account of Sleeping Beauty is Charles Perrault's 1697 version. That article (linked above) doesn't say much about the European folklore that may have inspired it, except that the sleeping princess motif may have been inspired by "tribulations of saintly female martyrs in early Christian hagiography conventions" and the Germanic folk tale of Brynhild. Also called Brunnehilde, Brynhild was placed by Odin in a magical circle of fire, where she slept. The hero Siegfried rescued her and awakened her by removing her Valkyrie armor.

"Hagiography" is simply a fancy Greek loan word that means "holy writing." For an example of a female martyr story, see this post on the feast day of St. Lucia.

"Wotan's Farewell to Brunhilde" by Emilie Kip Baker. Public domain within the U.S. 
So, why a spindle or spinning wheel, of all things, as the center of the curse? If we read SparkNotes' Themes, Motifs, and Symbols page for Sleeping Beauty (the Disney film), we see that the spinning wheel might represent "the unstoppable revolutions of the years," signifying how time inevitably changes things. Clearly one of things time is changing is Aurora - on her 16th birthday, she's transforming from a girl into a woman. This is certainly another example of the Dangerous 16th Birthday trope.

I've read elsewhere - and unfortunately I can't remember where - that the spindle on which Aurora pricks her finger may be a stand-in for another type of "prick." In other words, the thing the king and queen wish to keep her away from is her own awakening sexuality.

If you'll recall from the Mother Night post, the Germanic mother-goddess known variously as Frigga, Frigg, and Freya has a spinning wheel, which was known as the Wheel of Fate. Fate or Fortune seems to be an underlying theme of the Sleeping Beauty legend. Wikipedia will tell you that in some versions, the princess doesn't fall under a curse at all, but falls into an enchanted sleep simply because it's her fate to do so. The three fairies who raise her represent the Fates, who in Germanic mythology are called the Norns.

Public domain image of the three Norns. 1895
The Norns are also collectively called the Weird Sisters (cf. Macbeth, and also Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the Women Who Write (because they wrote the Book of Destiny), and the Three Mysterious Beings. Their names were Fate, Being, and Necessity; or Become, Becoming, and Shall-Be; or Urth (Mother Earth), Verthandi, and Skuld. Skuld lends her name to "skullduggery," the doings of witches. As depicted above, they lived in a cave containing the root of the world-tree Yggdrasil and the source of the Fountain of Life. (If you're a fan of Marvel movies, you'll be somewhat familiar with Yggdrasil. The image of the tree first shows up in Captain America, I believe.)

It's probably not a coincidence that when a bitter, vengeful Maleficent decides to make herself queen of the moors, her throne is located in a grotto with a waterfall, and a tree grows out of it.

The Fates are also the Triple Goddess: maiden, mother, and crone. This is clearly depicted in Maleficent. The eldest of the three, played by Staunton, wears pink and represents the crone. (Imelda Staunton isn't actually very grandmotherly, in my opinion. She's younger than 60 and rather young-looking for a Caucasian woman of her age. She has good skin.) The fairy in blue who wishes happiness on Aurora is the mother figure, and the green nature-fairy with wild blonde hair is the childlike maiden.

The ancient Greeks pictured the fates as weavers, weaving the thread of life and cutting it at the time of death. What do you make with a spinning wheel? Thread. You spin thread from flax. The Greeks also envisioned the Fates as standing over the cradle of newborns, determining the child's destiny, according to Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.

Clearly, the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty has some roots in very old Indo-European mythology, some of which was common to the ancient Greeks and the Vikings. How cool that we're still adapting and telling this ancient bit of goddess-mythology. How cool that Angelina Jolie makes such a cool goddess figure.

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Hollywood Classics Title Index to All Movies Reviewed in Books 1 - 24 by John Howard Reid. $0.99 from Smashwords.com
Another essential book for a film buff's library, this one is packed with information and reviews. Some of the entries are quite extensive. JHR provides all the information you need, including complete cast and production staff. I find JHR's information invaluable. I like to read not only who acted in a movie, but who made it, both top-billed and lesser mortals. -- Ross Adams in DRESS CIRCLE mag.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Release Blitz! THE ATTACK OF THE WOODWOSE: LEGENDS OF MAGH MEALL, Book One

BLURB

THE ATTACK OF THE WOODWOSE: LEGENDS OF MAGH MEALL, Book One

Two enemies must stand together to face a common foe!

Upon returning home with his human fiancĂ© Berta, Reghan the Leprechaun learns that his brother is hiding the sister of Sloan, the Clurichaun who, along with his men, recently attacked Reghan. Reghan goes to tell Sloan that his sister is safe before the Clurichauns determine she’s been kidnapped.

At Sloan’s manor, the men are informed of an impending attack against both the Clurichauns and the Leprechauns by a vicious tribe known as the Woodwose. The only way they can win a battle against the woodwose is to stand together. Now they must convince their clans of that!



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EXCERPT

Berta was nervous. She stood on the porch and stared out at the pitch dark night. Living in the farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with her Leprechaun lover had been pure bliss for the past three months.

The Clurichauns, who’d beaten Reghan and had abandoned their pursuit only when Berta’s dog and a team of coyotes had driven them away, had left Berta and Reghan in peace once their leader had realized Berta was carrying Reghan’s child. Every day the couple had grown more in love, and every day she’d learned something new and wonderful about her lover. But now Reghan’s father had sent word that a delegation was on its way to get them and bring them home.

The screen door creaked and then clicked shut as Reghan stepped onto the porch behind Berta. He slid his strong arms around her slightly bulging middle. He brushed aside her long blonde hair and kissed her neck. “My parents aren’t ogres, you know.” His voice was a low rumble vibrating against her skin.

“Are there such things as ogres?” “There are…but there aren’t many in these parts…not anymore,” he said.
“But there were?” Berta still couldn’t quite make herself believe that Reghan’s being a Leprechaun wasn’t just some elaborate hoax. When he spoke of other “mythical” beings so offhandedly, she didn’t know what to think.

Reghan didn’t look like she’d have imagined a Leprechaun to look. He wasn’t a tiny little man with a green top hat, buckles on his shoes, and a pot of gold in his hand. In fact, he was a rather large man with dark red hair, bright blue eyes, and a neatly-trimmed beard. His handsome face and chiseled body might’ve made some women think he was a demi-god, but Berta doubted anyone’s—at least, any human woman’s—first thought upon seeing Reghan would be, “Hey, look! A Leprechaun!”

“Don’t try to change the subject,” Reghan murmured against her neck. “You have nothing to fear from my parents.”

“What if they don’t like me?” she asked, for what had to be the hundredth time.

“They’ll love you.” He turned her to face him. “Now come back to bed and make love to me again before the delegation arrives.”

“A delegation,” Berta said. “The very fact that they’re sending a delegation to get us terrifies me.”

Reghan tilted her chin up. “You worry too much.”

AUTHOR BIO/LINKS

Selena Cooper lives in the Southern United States. She’d love to hear from you! Send her an email at selena @ selenacooper.com and/or follow her tweets and posts on Facebook. She’d love for you to consider becoming a part of her street team, Les Chats Noire. To learn more about it, visit her website!

Author Website link: http://www.selenacooper.com

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Friday, June 13, 2014

The Latest Vic Challenger Novel, 'Mongol,' Is Available Now! #ActionAdventure

"Vic Challenger" is the nickname adventurer Victoria Custer calls herself. Vic's exploits in the 1920s recall early 20th century "pulp" storytelling along the lines of Edgar Rice Burroughs or Lester Dent's Doc Savage. The series combines action/adventure with a fantasy that transcends time.

Author Jerry Gill's first volume in the Vic Challenger series is Time Doesn't Matter.





Read more about heroine Vic Challenger at the Vic Planet website
Add Time Doesn't Matter on Goodreads
Find Time Doesn't Matter on Amazon.com

Now you can get Time Doesn't Matter and its sequel, Mongol, which naturally is set in Mongolia.





Add Vic: Mongol on Goodreads
The Mongol board on Pinterest

Watch the Vic: Mongol trailer:





A third book in the series, Never Give Up!, will be out in Summer 2014.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got a free Scribd membership through Smashwords, and I read this book there. I'm glad I didn't have to pay money for it, because it wasn't nearly as good as I hoped.

I liked Charlie well enough, but I didn't care for the narrative voice. The tone was flat and dry, and it didn't seem to fit with a supposedly above-average 15-year-old. The narration made Charlie seem so much younger than 15, I wondered at first if he was intellectually disabled rather than intellectually gifted. After all, what gifted teen can't think of how to use words like "corpulent" in his school essays?


Perhaps Charlie falls somewhere along the autism spectrum and is high functioning. He certainly seems to be clinically depressed, and his mood swings might indicate bipolar disorder as well. It's hard to say; he's a bit of an unreliable narrator since he's not always insightful into the behavior of others or himself. At times he's very insightful, but clearly, he has enormous blind spots.

(Can you tell I was a psychology major and used to work in a child and adolescent mental health care facility?I have met many a Charlie in my day.)


This is probably a fantastic book when you're 15, but I'm not anymore.

Now that I've read the book, I give myself permission to watch the movie, which features Emma Watson as Sam. I don't know of the actor playing Charlie himself, Logan Lerman, but the actor playing Patrick is Ezra Miller. I last saw Miller in We Need to Talk About Kevin, a film I watched despite not having read the book.

This is Ezra Miller in a 2014 photo by Nick Step, via Wikimedia Commons.



Of all U.S. actors of Eastern European Jewish descent, he is surely one of the most Middle Eastern-looking, with dark eyes, olive skin, and dark curly hair. Of course, we Jews are a very diverse ethnicity, all sharing the same Middle Eastern DNA (also shared with our Arab sibs) yet ranging from blond and blue-eyed to brown-skinned with African features. Ezra Miller could join the Israeli army and from his looks, no one would know he wasn't a sabra. Especially since he practices Judaism as a religion.

Going on this year's list of Hanukkah hotties? I think maybe so.

But I digress.

I'll have to get The Perks of Being a Wallflower at the video store, since it's unavailable on streaming Netflix, and my local library doesn't have it. Streaming Netflix actually kinda sucks when it comes to catching up on young adult page-to-screen. It doesn't have The Book Thief, Ender's Game, or The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Saturday, June 7, 2014

New Release! Sexy fighter #romance 'Yield to Me' by Sarah Castille

On sale for $0.99 from June 2-9, and then it will be priced at $2.99. 

BLURB

Below the belt, no-holds-barred attraction...

Amateur MMA fighter, Marcy Foster is determined to win the state championship. But dark secrets and a broken trust mean there's one submission she just can’t master. Fortunately Club Excelsior has hired a coach who knows all the right moves.

Sexy, confident and commanding, fight consultant Jax demands control, both in and out of the ring. But once he has Marcy against the ropes, Jax knows he’s in too deep. He has the dominance to give her what she needs, but once he unleashes her hidden passions, there's no going back.

Under Jax's skilled hands, Marcy submits to her deepest desires. But when her personal and professional worlds collide, she is forced to face a brutal truth—yielding to her darkest needs may be the one thing that costs her the fight...and her heart.



BIO

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Sarah Castille writes contemporary erotic romance and romantic suspense featuring blazingly hot alpha males and the women who tame them. A recovering lawyer and caffeine addict, she worked and traveled abroad before trading in her briefcase and stilettos for a handful of magic beans and a home in shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Readers can find her at sarahcastille.com.

EXCERPT

“Mount.” Jax beckoned her forward, his voice curiously husky, and for a moment she wondered if his touching exercise had affected him as much as her.

Marcy crawled up his body and then sat astride his abdomen in Full Mount. God, his stomach was rock hard. Just like the rest of him.

Jax’s body stiffened beneath her. “Christ, Marcy. Are you trying to kill me?”

Puzzled, she shrugged. “I thought you wanted me like this.”

“I do. No. Hell. I mean…to practice the submission, you need to be in High Mount.”

Understanding dawned and she tried and failed to repress a smile. “Am I mounted too low for you, Jax?” 

She was sorely tempted to give a little wiggle because she could feel something hard pressing into her ass and she was desperate to know if he was wearing a cup. In all her years of training she’d never affected a guy this way and she had to bite back a laugh.

His eyes blazed with liquid heat and his voice dropped to a husky bark, “Move up.”

Marcy eased herself up, her thighs parting wider as she positioned herself high on his chest, her knees under his armpits. “High Mount is easier with female fighters. Your chest is so broad…”

He cut her off with a low growl. When she glanced down to see what she’d done to irritate him this time, she was caught in the blistering heat of his gaze.

“I’m on to you, little fighter.” His eyes glinted, amused. “Don’t think for a minute you’ll distract me from doing what I came here to do.”

A smile curled her lips. All week she’d had to listen to the fighters at the gym talking about the aura of mystique surrounding Jax and his “fighter whisperer” ways. And yet his visible discomfort at her position on top of him made him seem all too human. All too male. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

He raised an eyebrow and exhaled through gritted teeth. “How about we try for Mid Guard?” The warmth of his breath caressed her inner thighs and heat flooded her veins. How unprofessional. She’d practiced this position countless times with other fighters in the club. Not once had she ever wanted to tear off their clothes and…

“Actually, probably better if we move to Full Guard.” Jax bucked suddenly, throwing Marcy forward and onto her hands and knees, a standard defense to High Guard, but one that put her breasts within an inch of his lips.

Her nipples tightened and she quickly rolled to her back to hide her body’s response.

Jax moved into position on top of her, taking his weight on his elbows, his legs tucked between hers. So hot. So heavy. So masculine.

Dominant. Controlling.

Arousal coursed through her veins and she tried to think of anything but the erotic weight on top of her.

Coach. Training. Professional. But her body, now a live wire, wasn’t on board.

“How do you want me?” Her breathy voice shaded into a whisper.


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Sunday, June 1, 2014

#YABookReview: 'Dying to Tell Me' by Sherryl Clark

Dying to Tell Me by Australian author Sherryl Clark is a paranormal mystery with a young adult protagonist. Before I read it, my grandma read it. She doesn't usually read YA or paranormal, so I'm not sure where she picked it up. A friend must have passed it along to her. Her copy is inscribed, "To Emily York, Enjoy your book! Love in Jesus! Bro. Ed + Sis. Betty Borlik 9/5/11." I don't know the Borliks or Emily York, but maybe the Yorks are some of my grandma's neighbors. Alternatively, she may have bought this at the thrift shop.


It was a fairly quick read - I read a large chunk of it while waiting at my husband's doctor's office. I'd never heard of Clark before, but judging from the back matter, she's a popular children's picture book and young adult author Down Under. 

The heroine is Sasha Miller, age 13. Her mother recently left the family, so Sasha's dad Dennis is moving Sasha and her 10-year-old brother Nicky to the small town of Manna Creek. There, Dennis will be the new chief constable. 

Sasha isn't getting along very well in Manna Creek, though. Her first day, she slips near the creek and hits her head on a stone, landing her in the hospital with a concussion. Then she discovers a dilapidated old building in the back yard of the house they're staying in, and it turns out to be the town's first jail which, incidentally, is haunted by the ghost of a man who committed suicide a hundred years before. Or did he? 

That would be bad enough, but when some of Dennis's mates bring around King, a trained police dog, to be the newest member of the Miller family, Sasha thinks she's hearing things. In fact, she thinks she can hear King's thoughts telepathically, and he can hear hers. Is Sasha going crazy, or simply coming into her special powers? 

This book reminded me, to varying degrees, of three other things I really like:

1. Sookie Stackhouse, if she were a teenager

2. Marlene Perez's Dead Is series, although Dying to Tell Me is darker and less cartoonish


Still, these elements added up to a unique story. I liked this book, and my grandma liked it, too. Clark's storytelling makes this a compelling read even if you're not normally a mystery reader, not normally a paranormal reader, and/or not normally a YA reader. 

My grandma is currently reading, and enjoying, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, a Canadian author. I haven't read the book, but I did like the movie. I'm still working my way through Middlemarch - I'm almost at the middle - and my secondary book is The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.