Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shut Up & Dance! by Jamie Rose

Shut Up and Dance!: The Joy of Letting Go of the Lead—On the Dance Floor and OffThe Joy of Letting Go of the Lead - On the Dance Floor and Off.... Yep, that's the "subtitle" of this book. And something the modern day woman needs a bit of guidance with...

This book tells us, basically, that the modern day woman has become so adamant about being independent and strong and not dependent on men that we have become anti man and that we no longer LISTEN to them at all. And sometimes, well, we need to let men be men.

The book does not tell us women to be simpering ninnies that follow our men everywhere, however. First of all, the man has to EARN the right to lead. You don't let your man lead you right off a cliff.. The book doesn't tell us to suddenly become complete followers either, but does make an interesting point: If you start leading (controlling) every aspect of your relationship in the beginning, you will most likely always be the one in control and I don't care who you are, that gets old and there comes a point in the relationship where you go, "why am I doing all the work? Why doesn't he do anything here?" The answer this book pointed out to me: "You never let him!"

That was an eye opening moment for me, right there. Basically, women today can maintain their independence and all,  just every now and then, let your man have a say, LISTEN to what he says (that was a huge part of the book).

Really, if you don't trust your man enough to "follow" his lead, you probably shouldn't be with him. (That's my own words.)

Key points the book makes: LISTEN to your man. Make him EARN the right to lead. You must LOVE yourself before you even know what you want in a man and a man will love you. Relinquish CONTROL every now and then. It's gotta be a two way street.

Favorite quote: "When I am actively listening, when I make it my business to simply follow my partner's lead, I am empowering him. I am giving my leader the gift of respect and attention. I'm doing him the favor of not behaving like I'm his teacher, or worse, his mother. If a guy wants me to spin myself around doing fancy moves so he looks good on the dance floor when his lead hasn't earned it, he is in effect asking me to dance alone. And then, why do I need him?"

Four stars because some of the exercises didn't interest me much (I am so not dancing with a shopping cart!) and there were some stories towards the end I didn't see the point of, but I found this book to be a real eye opener and I see what I am doing wrong in my own relationship.

I received an ARC of this from the publisher.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot by Jodi Compton

Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get ShotThis is a sequel to Hailey's War. Hailey was once a West Point cadet with high aspirations, but the discovery of a brain tumor got her kicked out of the military and a sequence of really mucked up life events has led to Hailey being a gang banger with a missing finger and no capacity for fear... that last bit is due to the brain tumor. The scrapes Hailey gets into, such as locking herself in the trunk of the car of the guy who cut her finger off could be considered brave... but Hailey wonders if she can't feel fear, how can she be brave? Deep thoughts there.

Why I love this chick: 1. She rides a motorcycle. 2. She's fights and shoots better than a dude. 3. She's friendly with the Latin community. 4. She's about duty and honor despite the fact she runs with a tough playas and hijacks pharmacy trucks.  She's just a very angry woman. I mean, how many of us ladies have been filled and rage and hit the point where we are sick of it all.... Hailey's sick of it all and it's no wonder why as this latest installment has an impostor running around killing cops and pinning the blame on Hailey..
Hailey must clear her name, confront a man who did her great harm, and rethink the path she is on. And another chick plays a huge role in this book, bad ass gang banger and head of the female thug life: Serena.

And.. is there a potential new love interest???

Five stars. No lack of excitement and a very strong heroine. There was nothing to not like about this one.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven

Velva Jean Learns to Fly: A NovelFirst of all, I didn't read the first one, Velva Jean Learns to Drive. There was nothing in a premise about a girl learning to drive a truck and sing in the Grand Ole Opry that appealed to me. However, I must read any women in aviation book I can get my hands on, especially concerning the WASP, the Women Air Service Pilots. So I got my hands on this one thanks to LibraryThing and despite the fact I didn't know much about Johnny Clay, Harley, or the history of Velva Jean, I loved it. 

The book begins with a Velva Jean driving her yellow truck away from her husband and family. She don't like being tied down. She's not cut out to be a preacher's wife... she has dreams that extend beyond her little town. She's gonna make it big in Nashville and sing. She thinks, however, that a business card given to her long ago is gonna lead to fame and fortune, but the entire city of Nashville is filled with wanna be country singers... Velva Jean doesn't make it big, but she makes some terrific friends while trying to.

And then thanks to her brother is going to be a paratrooper and head off to war, she learns to fly and her dreams of being a singer are replaced for the moment with dreams of being a pilot. And she joins the WASP despite the fact she never made it past 8th grade and is only 19 years old. She excells, she flys to Mexico for a quickie divorce, she finds love again only to lose it, she makes friends and watches them die... and she sings the entire time even if there is no one there to hear her. 

Velva Jean is a remarkable character. She has thoughts that make me stop and think myself.. and ponder things I've never pondered before. Like the blues....

"Right now I had the kind (of blues) he (Daddy Hoyt) called the Gentle and Wholesome Blues-not the type, like the Mean Devil Blues, that made you kick the door or break someone's window. The Gentle ones were quieter, but they were just about the worst kind because they sat around you and on you and in you, just like a headache or a bad winter cold, and wouldn't leave you alone."

Or being told you can't do something...

"If there was one thing I hated in this world, it was folks who told you that you couldn't do something. That was worse than being told you shouldn't do it. I knew she meant well, but a person had to believe in herself even when no one else did."

The baggage we carry...

"The more things that happened to me, the more I thought it was like carrying a suitcase-you kept adding things to it.........You just started adding these things to your suitcase until the case got heavier. You still had to carry it around wherever you went, and even if you set it down for a while you still had to pick it up again because it belonged to you and so did everything inside it."

I felt myself growing up with Velva Jean. I only have quibble, but not a big enough quibble to take away a single star. Velva Jean ends up on the cover of Life magazine. Though I know this is historical fiction, I felt this was kinda wrong cause every WASP fan knows that Shirley Slade was on the cover of that magazine and I kinda felt that putting VJ in her spot wasn't right. It's not Velva Jean's accomplishment, but Shirley Slade's. 

Favorite quotes:

"Some fellas have a hard time with the fact that women can do the same thing they can, and better even."

"Women pilots are a weapon waiting to be used."

"When it comes down to it these women are perfectly capable of flying combat missions. After all, when aroused, women make the nastiest fighters."

Hell yea!!!!! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Grip: A Memoir of Fierce Attractions by Nina Hamberg

Grip: A Memoir of Fierce AttractionsThis is a memoir.. of a woman who chooses one wrong man after another. By wrong man, I don't mean men that leave the toilet seat up, have chronic bad breath, little peckers, or incredibly annoying habits, but men with violent tendencies. 

Ever heard the saying about how women choose husbands like their dads? The memoir starts with telling readers a bit about Nina's parents and their failed marriage. It goes on to chronicle an attack she received from a potential rapist at the age of 18... and how no one in her family wanted to talk about it, to defend her... This is a huge turning point and I'm not a psychologist, but I think it determined a lot of choices that Nina goes on to make.

There's the feminist movement and arguments about art. There's a film class full of sexist pigs, an angry cop, a decent but boring boyfriend, and then there's bad relationship number one, Stephen. Stephen ends up in jail and not a moment too soon. Though he doesn't attack Nina, he attacks another woman. Why is Nina drawn to these men? After Stephen, comes Lee. Lee and her meet in martial arts, something the author excels at. She'll never be beaten again.

There are warning signs with Lee. In the beginning stages of their relationship, he decides to leave her for an old girlfriend after spending just one more weekend with Nina and he says during lovemaking, "I wish Irene could see how we make love. So she'd know how to do it." OMG!!!!! Dump his ass!

For reasons I'm sure a shrink would have heyday with, she doesn't dump his ass. She marries him later. And I gotta insert this cause it shocked the hell out of me and it also explains a lot about the author's choices.. at her own wedding, her mother says, "I'm sick of it.. All I've heard, all day long, is how pretty your gown is. Why is everyone talking about you? Why doesn't anyone say something about my dress?" Holy crap! It's your daughter's wedding, lady! It's not about you!

You can see there were many parts of this book that evoked some feeling in me, either of outrage, pity, hope... Nina grows throughout the book, told more like a novel than a memoir.. she learns to defend herself both physically and emotionally and in the end, she finds happiness and learns to leave abusive relationships behind. It's not an easy road to get there, but it shows that with time, all women can get there.

I loved this memoir. Well narrated, entertaining, and insightful. My only problem, the only moments I found myself frowning were with the dogs. The first dog, she leaves outside to the point it runs away. The second dog is lost in a fire. A third dog is ran over by her car while she's driving and she doesn't stop. Being a huge dog lover, I was upset by this, but it is a memoir and I appreciate that the author is truthful and doesn't paint herself to be better than she is. She's a woman who has made mistakes. I found it pretty admirable that she is so honest throughout the book.

Laugh out loud moment: A friend of Nina's mother is too dumb for words. Love this remark from her: "I love to shop for bridal gowns. Wore one at each of my weddings."

Five stars and this is an ARC that I received from the author. It's my true and honest thoughts about the book. I recommend it for women everywhere. Ladies, you CAN get past abuse. You CAN find happiness.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beloved Pilgrim by Nan Hawthorne

Beloved PilgrimThis has been amazing read by a talented and courageous author. You're probably thinking, "courageous? How? She just wrote a book...?" I say courageous because of the subject matter that Ms. Hawthorne chose to incorporate. This is a historical novel about the Christian Pilgrimage and the knight the story follows is a woman and a lesbian who is doing this pilgrimage in honor of her dead, homosexual twin.

First of all, do not be put off by that. The sex scenes are either non existent or more implied than detailed. I found it very tastefully done. The only thing that grossed me out (and considerably!) is when the characters make love after stating they haven't bathed in months. EW!

Elisabeth, escaping an unhappy household and honoring her dead brother, takes his squire and what first begins as a simple escape plan, dressing as a knight to avoid detection, because a quest as she joins the Crusades, her squire in tow. She must hide the fact she is a woman and deal with her emerging sexual feelings, as well as engage in battle. There's also extreme heat, pillaging, angry turks, political corruption...

I must say, the Christians weren't very Christian.. as they loot, rape, and rob every town they come to, be it Christian or Muslim. I wasn't very impressed with their behavior. However, the heroine does what she can to maintain order and has the most honorable actions throughout the novel. She becomes a very noble knight. And brave!!! While everyone else was retreating, she and her horse continued fighting till the end and I especially loved how her horse fights other horses.. very cool.

Something that amused me: The Lombards were like historical white trash.

What I didn't like: 1. She meets a Muslim slave and it's love at first sight... one and a half short conversations and they seem to be confessing their undying love for each other. Huh? 2. The last 40% gets way too into battle, looting, raping, pillaging, and tactics. I must confess a lack of interest in these matters and thus, I grew a bit bored.

Favorite quote and food for thought: "God did not create sin... Men created sin. They also created the Church to tell people about it, and to punish those who did it."

Four stars and I won this ebook in a blog giveaway.

Settling Blog Tour Post And Giveaway

I reviewed Shelley Workinger's Solid and Settling, both part of the same series, Settling being the sequel. As part of the blog tour for Settling, I asked Ms. Workinger a question which she is kindly answering here on Book Babe. 

First, if you haven't read the reviews yet, here are the links:

The question: You can't write such a convincing novel about military children with a military setting full of military people without being familiar with military life yourself. Where does your military expertise come from?

Settling (Solid #2)Ms. Workinger's answer:  It’s natural to assume that since the “Solid” series is based on a military experiment, I must’ve grown up an Army brat; well, that’s partially true. My father was a career military man, retiring as a Lt. Colonel after twenty years of service, but we never moved. Not once. Because of that, I think I romanticized the more traditional traveling Army life – wishing that I could move and reinvent myself every couple of years, probably in the same way nomadic Army kids wished they could just stay in one place!

So my father was obviously a resource at some level as I wrote, but with him having never even seen most of the bases I wanted to write about, it was easier for me to research those on-line. (And between my searches of military installments, genetic manipulation, handguns, and bandwidth hijacking, I’ve got to be on some sort of government red list now!)

My dad came in most handy with some of the minute and mundane details, like the name of the uniform cap Dr. Heigl puts in his drawer before descending into his secret “lab.” I laughed at how my dad hesitated with his immediate answer (“piss cap”), and even more so with his second offering (“c*nt cap”), but he eventually remembered the official name (“garrison cap”) so that I could finish my “Solid” prologue.

Shelley WorkingerMore importantly, the byproduct of this mini-collaboration was finally connecting with him. We didn’t have a bad relationship, just not all that much in common when I was growing up. He showed me how to shoot a handgun, which I liked, and had me throw bumpers and ducks to train dogs for field trips, which I hated. “Solid” was really the first thing of mine that I invited him to be part of, and now he’s become one of my biggest supporters, talking about the series to anyone who’ll listen. Who knew all it would take for us to bond was a wardrobe question and a some dirty words? J

Ms. Workinger, you're dad sounds like a cool guy. 

Now, for those that are interested in reading Settling, Ms. Workinger is providing a copy of the book for giveaway. Leave a comment on this post and July 20th, Jazzy the Japanese Chin will choose a winner from her dog bowl. Be sure to leave an email address so that I may contact you. 

The author is also doing something special. Check out her blog and be sure to click on "giveaways" the month of July. Solid Special

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Return of Private Fischer: A Love Story by Robert Fischer

The Return of Private FischerThis has something for the ladies (passionate love that survives the trials of time) and something for the fellows (brutal POW scenes, political corruption, and war).

It's 1950 and Jack decides to join the Marine Reserves. He only has to attend one meeting a month, he likes the uniform, and everybody else is doing it too. Just as things are getting really serious and heated with his girlfriend, Babe, his one meeting a month in exchange for 30 some bucks every third month backfires. He gets called up and sent to Korea, to war. 

Mind boggling: He gets no basic training unless you count learning to shoot a rifle while on the ship to Japan. He and his comrades are literally thrown into a war zone with no experience whatsoever. It comes as no big surprise that he is captured and made a POW. What comes as a surprise is how he handles it.. He doesn't whine, bellyache, cry, or go crazy. He makes the most of it.. at the risk of being branded a defector. He passes himself off as a medic and saves lives, meets fascinating people, becomes a business man despite his prisoner status.

Meanwhile, Babe is trying to live her life the best she can.. but 50 years pass... Peace negotiations were made and the American POWs were left to rot in Russia. There's a huge cover up, of course.

The POW stuff is brutal... I have an ARC so these quotes will need to be compared to the finished copy. 

"When the time arrived (for amputations), vodka was given to the men, tourniquets were applied and a sympathetic guard struck the patient's skull with his baton, killing only one. The cuts were made using both a rough wood saw and a hacksaw. Jack stitched everything he could see that bled, and then appplied an overheated iron stovetop to sear the wounds. One man lived, but was later shot for not keeping up his work quota."

"Cognac was tied onto the toilet seat; one arm was pushed through a newly sawn hole in the door, tied to a tree and held in that position throughout the night. Guards regularly pissed on his arm to assure it would freeze solid..... the rifle came down on the frozen arm, snapping it off like an icicle."

Imagine witnessing 50 years of that.

But Jack comes through and Babe and her connections help as well as an intriguing cast of characters that we meet throughout the book, too many to mention individually. Each character has an important role. But as people try to get Jack back home, Jack discovers his own government doesn't want him there. Seems, the POW thing is supposed to stay a secret and three countries want him dead.

"It is the belief of other POWs and of my own prison commanders that the American escapees are returned to Russia. First it we thought it was for money, but later we realized it was because out government did not want our story out."

Like I said, there's something for both the sexes, a bit too much testosterone for me at times. I also have a few quibbles: 1. too much telling and explaining and not enough showing and experiencing. This was unavoidable at times as so many characters had to be introduced and their background and all, but there was just too much of it at once and I found myself drifting off. 2. Too many characters with their own stories and backgrounds to keep track off at times. I got a bit confused and found myself flipping back periodically. 

But love that survives 50 years.... Nice! Three stars and I received this from the publisher. It's an ARC and therefore, the quotes may not be exact.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rebel Puritan by JoAnn Butler

Rebel Puritan: A Scandalous LifeWow. Throughout reading this novel, the first in a series, one thought constantly prevailed: "Is this chick ever gonna get a break?" It's one of those novels in which the reader's jaw just drops at how much the heroine must endure and as it's based an ancestor of the author with documents in the back of the book supporting the story, I was amazed that it's true. Women had it rough back then!!!

The story begins with Herodias as a little girl.. She's always trying to get out work. She just wants to be a child in a time when there was no such thing. It was all work, work, and more work. Her mother is a bit over bearing. Life is bearable, however, until the plague comes to visit, taking her father and brother and leaving with her a bitter mother who wishes to no longer feed the extra mouth. So it's off to London where she has a cruel and evil aunt who works her to death.

From the frying pan into the.. frying pan, Herodias goes when she quickly agrees to marry a man she has only known a matter of days and travel to the colonies (America) with him. It's the only way out of marrying a pimply faced suitor her aunt is forcing upon her. It's either that or sell her body on the streets... She's only 13 years old... and she braves the ocean crossing and enters the "new world." 

Here we come across much religious strife. Enter Anne Hutchinson. She began a "bible study" of sorts and it was frowned upon back then as men didn't like women telling them how to think or interpret this or that.. (they still don't!) And the Puritan higher ups couldn't stand  her. Thus, a witch hunt of sorts begins. Finger pointing, biased trials, and banishment as the Puritan church is divided in two with half the town following whichever staunch Puritan dude is the preacher and the other half following Anne Hutchinson. 
I never knew of Anne Hutchinson till now and I enjoyed this aspect of the novel tremendously. When a book can both educate and entertain me, that's a major plus. 

While Anne has her religious battles, Herodious has finally entered the fire. Her husband is knocking her around and she has three children by the age of 21. How long before his fists move from her to the kids? And when she goes to get a divorce, she is told, "There is no law against a man chastising his wife. There are many verses in the Scripture touching this.. A married woman must learn in quiet and perfect submission. I suffer not a woman to practice teaching or domineering over a husband."

Needless to say, Herodias can get no help... her husband's chastisement extends to false accusations, broken ribs, busted lips.. and still, Herodias is stuck.. and if she finally does break free, she may part with more than an abusive husband... 

At the beginning of the novel, I liked Herodias' spunk though I thought her a bit lazy and she complained too much of having to work. By the middle of the novel, I was frowning at her getting knocked around. I hate chicks that let themselves get beat and especially chicks that take the blame for it themselves... She became weak there for a while and I began yelling at her, "No!!! Don't take that walk.. don't talk to that man.. you know what will happen!! No.. Aw.. there he goes again.. Told you so.. " By the end, however, Herodias had that fire I saw in her in the beginning. She doesn't wish to tie herself to a man.. she defends herself.. makes a pest of herself to the man in charge.. She got back in my good graces. 

The ending left me wanting more. All in all, this was a very well written book with a heroine I want to read more of. I gotta mention on little quibble, however: too many Johns! I got confused about who was John this and who was John that. I respect the author stayed true to historical facts, but some play with the names may make it easier to remember people.

Four stars and I received this from the author.