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review 2016-05-12 03:38
You Are Your Own Worst Enemy!...
Fellside - M.R. Carey

Have you ever heard that saying? Well that saying fits Jess Moulton, the main character and prisoner in Fellside, to a tee. It was extremely hard to like her because she continuously did one thing after another to sabotage her own self and life. To say she frustrated me is the understatement of the century! Never in my life have I wanted to help someone and smack someone at the same time as much as I did with her. So be prepared, she will tug at a variety of your heartstrings in more ways then one.


The story itself I thought was really good. There was a little drag time in the middle but it picked right back up and went full force until the end. All of Carey's characters are so well-developed that you just get immersed in the world he creates. I know I mentioned it in my progress post but I learned more about the women's prison community and social structure then I ever expected or cared to know. I'm just glad it was from the outside looking in because if I had no desire to learn first hand before, I really don't now. That is one place I will stick with traveling to strictly from my armchair and just so I don't tempt fate too much I won't be going from there much either. I can't say first hand but it seems like Carey really nailed the social community within the prison.


There is also a paranormal and dream-walking aspect to the story and I thought both were implemented very nicely. The author didn't go too far off the rails with it, which I liked and she did a really good job of putting pen to paper with the alternate dream world and how it works so that it made sense and sounded feasible. 


M.R. Carey is on a roll with two very different but well-delivered successes in a row. I wonder where he'll take us next??


*I received this ARC from NetGalley and Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! 



Professional Reader Challenge Participant 80%



Clean Sweep ARC Challenhe
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text 2016-05-10 20:41
Reading progress update: I've read 99%.
Fellside - M.R. Carey

Wow the main character in this was something else! Talk about someone sabotaging herself. She was the world's worst! I actually finished this last week but haven't had time to write review. Hopefully late tonight- off to a baseball game shortly.


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text 2016-05-01 01:21
Reading progress update: I've read 52%.
Fellside - M.R. Carey

I've learned more about the inter-workings of the women's prison population then I ever thought I'd know. Glad I'm on the outside looking in. 

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review 2016-02-14 20:06
Give Me A Reason by Lyn Gardner
Give Me A Reason - Lyn Gardner


Give Me A Reason by Lyn Gardner

Pages: 662

Date: October 25 2013

Publisher: Self

Series: N/A



**Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Awards in LGBT Fiction**

**Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards for Fiction: Gay & Lesbian**

**Winner of the Silver Medal in the 2014 Global Ebook Awards in Gay / Lesbian / LGBT Fiction**

**Winner of the Silver Medal in the 2014 eLit Book Awards – Illuminating Digital Publishing Excellence in Gay / Lesbian Fiction**



Rating: 5.50 out of 5.50

Read: February 12 to 14 2016


By the time I got to this book, there were a large-ish number of reviews, and all but 24 people 'liked' the book (or 4% of the readers; I'm going with how GoodReads takes everyone that rates a book 3,4,5 and calls them 'like' for % purposes). And so, I'll just tackle a few things here and there.


1) I loved how fully formed the characters were. I'm sure there were things here or there that could be pointed at, probably some of the side characters, but there's even more fully formed side characters going on in this book than is normal in a romance.


2) And we come to the main thing I wanted to mention - the . . .genre of romance novels, I guess I could label the 'thing'. Romance novels, with exceptions, seem to be relatively repetitive in at least one way - they might not all get there the same way, they might have a million and one variations, but they tend to follow a certain path. Two people (occasionally more, but I do not tend to read love triangle books, and rarely poly books) circle each other for most of the book, and even if they 'come together' as a couple fairly early on in the book, that doesn't remove the book from the repetitive cycle. It just means that the couple will probably either have outside forces pound on the relationship (a danger/damsel in distress type situation), or internal forces pound on the relationship (fear, miscommunication, cheating, etc.). And then, as long as the book is actually in the capital R Romance category, then the book ends with a HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (hmm, I have the second one wrong, but whatever the letters are, they mean 'Happy for now'). Some include a chapter or two in an epilogue section that follows the couple as a couple. As a fully formed entity. Some don't have that epilogue.


Romance novels tend to get around this relatively repetitive trap of having the majority of the book being about the formation of a couple-hood instead of being about a couple as a combined entity through two to three means - (A) create a series wherein the couple in book 1 can show up as a fully formed entity in book 2 but are not the main characters (see such series like Soho Loft, that Shifter Universe by Jae, the two series by Lynn Galli (Virginia Clan and Aspen Friends) etc.), (B) have a book that's really really long, like, say, this book here. (C) is something like a trick - have romance elements but put the book in a different genre - which the fanfiction by Fletcher DeLancey involving Star Trek Voyager mostly is - Science Fiction with very strong elements of Romance. Or be like two of Galli's books - follow the same couple, but add an element, the second book changes the normal emotional 'things' that wrap themselves around a couple and slam against them, and wrap themselves, instead, around family - so it's a two book series involving a Romance, and something else (Slice of Life?).


I thought, while reading, that the book could have had a great closing roughly around the 56% mark. And when I feared, as I occasionally fear, how this specific author was going to 'mess with' the couple, I kind of wanted it to end there. I'm really really glad that the book did not, in fact, end there, though. But if it had, then it would have been two things - longer than the average romance novel (being, as it is, that 56% of the book would be 371 pages, and most Romance books from 'official channels' in the lesbian genre tend to be closer to 240 to 300 something); and, the second thing, roughly in line with that repetitive thing I mentioned above that Romance books fall into. However they get there, the books are about the formation of a couple, not about a couple living their life after formation of their relationship. Well, this 'formation' didn't end at 56%, but there was enough there for it to close, then have some epilogue tacked on the end. Then spin the second book out as a sequel. I'm, roughly, 100% happy that that isn't the direction this author went.


As I think I mentioned somewhere along the way - this is a fully formed book. A mixture of a Slice of Life book, with a Romance, with a Family novel all rolled into one (with the addition of a 'Holiday' novel slipped inside as well). It even had the element of danger/damsel in distress/etc. mixed in. And no I'm not only talking about flashbacks for that/this point.


Hmms. I just realized that I finished this book in the early morning hours of the 14th. It's one of those books I figured I'd read a little then close it for sleep, glanced at the clock and saw it was 1 am, glanced again when I realized I'd finished the book and noticed it was 3:30 am. *shrug* Back to the 14th - it's a rather good book to read/finish up on/begin the day with on Valentine's Day.


ETA: Oh, right, forgot two elements that I reminded myself of when I glanced at my status updates. This book includes a love scene, and yes I call it love instead of sex, that is arguably the best I've read. And I forgot when I was mentioning things that this book contains - it also contains humor. Bits and pieces here and there.


From my status updates:

- Now that, friends and whatevers, is how you write a love scene. A+ and words like that.


- 'Smiling at her accomplishment, Toni looked over at Laura. “I recommend we don’t open this until Scotland or the bloody thing will projectile vomit all over the motorway.”' - re: filling trunk with luggage. Was funny. I laughed.


February 14 2016

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review 2016-02-02 19:22
Letters to a Lifer - A Review

LETTERS TO A LIFER “The Boy Never to be Released” by Cindy Sanford

“There is an invisible thread that connects those destined to meet.”
Cindy Sanford owned a gift shop/art co-op.  One fateful day the co-op’s woodcarver, John, approached Cindy with a unique piece of wildlife art painted on a leaf.  Cindy, and the other artists, were astounded not only by the beautiful art but by the artist’s story as well – the artist, Ken, was serving a life sentence with no hope of parole for his involvement in a double homicide.  Ken did not pull the trigger.  Ken was 15 years old.
Cindy had the same thoughts any other person would have by imagining “a bitter, aging convict, with missing teeth, tattoos, and cold soulless eyes”.  She asked herself “How could an evil soul paint something so beautiful?”  Nevertheless, she agreed to sell his art in her store.  When the leaf art began selling better than John’s he stormed out.  Now Cindy had a new problem … how to get the money owed Ken to him in prison.  When she found the contact information Cindy was shocked to realize that Ken was housed in State Correctional Institution Bradford “where they housed the worst of the worst”.  How could anyone there paint these beautiful, intricate works of art?
That was the first of the contradictions Cindy was to face, in what turns out to be long term relationship with this convicted murderer.  “Letters to a Lifer” is Cindy’s journey to understanding, befriending and then unofficially adopting this young man with the painfully troubled past and absolutely no hope for the future.  Starting with reluctant written correspondence, then even more reluctant telephone calls and finally personal visits the reader follows the relationship that she (and her family and friends) develop with Ken.  Her writing interspersed with journal entries in Ken’s words let the reader understand her compassion and eventual maternal love for this young man.  It is not however an easy journey.  Cindy shares with her readers the personal conflict about her feelings for Ken weighed against the pain and loss of the families of the murder victims.  In many ways this book is a journey of questioning and reaffirming her personal faith.
“But he was a lifer convicted of homicide!  I couldn’t escape that.  Every time I felt a shred of warmth toward him, my brain waged war with my heart.  Some innocent person died as a result of his actions.  Was it right for me to care about someone like him?”
Yes, there are a lot of Christian values in this book, but it in no way comes across as preaching nor does it in any way attempt to convert the reader – it is simply a part of Cindy’s morals and how she lives her life.
Ken is a remarkable young man who paints incredible pictures but also exhibits real remorse, shows humanity to fellow prisoners and never asks anyone for special treatment – this is his journey as well as Cindy’s.  Even Cindy admits that Ken may be one of the few exceptions to the rule yet “Letters to a Lifer” did make me ponder – would I want to be defined for the rest of my life by some of the ridiculously stupid things I did when I was 15?  Granted, I never committed murder but I am no longer the person I was so many years ago and neither is Ken.  Therein lies the crux of this book; is justice truly being served by sentencing children, across the board, to life imprisonment with no chance of parole?
The work of organizations such as the “National Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth” is making strides and many states do not mandate automatic terms in the sentencing of juveniles for capital offences (unfortunately Philadelphia does).  As I was reading this book President Obama rescinded mandatory sentencing of juveniles on a national level, but individual states still control their own courts.  The question also remains as to whether the changes, as they occur, will be retroactive? 
This was an excellent book that made me think, sometimes brought me close to tears yet also made me laugh.  I highly recommend this book to anyone as an enjoyable and eye opening read about one woman’s personal journey.  It is so worth reading to get to know Ken.  It is also insightful in understanding some of what goes on inside of the prison system.
I feel this book would appeal to anyone interested in criminal justice, rehabilitation and juvenile offenders.  It is not only the wrongfully convicted/incarcerated that need a voice but also the children growing up behind bars.  It would also be of interest to those who are inspired to find about more about the man who paints such intricate depictions of wildlife onto leaves.
I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the author, Cindy Sanford, for sending me a digital copy of her book to read and review.
Some further notes:
You can read more about Ken’s story on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange website.
More examples of Ken’s artwork can be found on his Etsy site. 
All proceeds and royalties from the sale of this book are being donated to MIMIC, a charity sponsoring at risk children, a foundation started by ex-offenders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her Goodreads author profile)
Cindy Sanford is a "self proclaimed" tough-on-crime advocate whose chance encounter with a juvenile lifer prompted a re-examination of long-held values and beliefs. She is a registered nurse, mother of 3 sons, and the wife of a retired wildlife conservation officer. 
Hear her story in her own words in this short YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hyxW85pmX8) video
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