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review 2018-01-19 01:25
Dance With Me
Dance with Me: A Dance Off Novel - Alexis Daria

This is Natasha's story.  Natasha was Gina's best friend and rommate in the first book (Take the Lead).  After an unexpected disaster, Natasha finds herself homeless.  Her on and off lover for 3 years, Dimitri, offered her his spare bedroom.  

So, having enjoyed the first book, I wanted to read this one too.  A word of advice:  Just skip this one.  I had Issues.  Big, Major Issues.

Natasha makes it known that she doesn't want to be lovers while she is living with Dimitri.  Dimitri finds ways to constantly and consistently push her line.  What made this worse (for me), was Dimitri's position of power.  Not only is Natasha dependent on him for a roof over her head, he is also a judge on the dancing show she is on.  When Natasha is injured, he makes it so she is almost completely dependent on him.  Fuck No.

Then there is Natasha.  She is envious and jealous of Gina.  Get over it.  Please.  She didn't make the best decisions (being broke and then going out for dinner at an expensive restaurant with her friends for example).  She does mature a little by the end and I did find I didn't want to slap some sense into her as much.

So to summarize, Dimitri's behavior was something that *most* people would not put up with in real life.  So, it shouldn't get a pass in a book boyfriend.  It's not romantic, it's abusive.  But read the first book:  it's good!    

 

eARC courtesy of St Marin's Press (Swerve) and NetGalley.
Released Dec 12th 2017

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review 2018-01-15 19:36
A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo
A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa - Alexis Okeowo

This is a short nonfiction work by a Nigerian-American journalist that goes behind the headlines in four conflict areas in Africa, telling the stories of people who range from victims to local leaders. It is a very engaging book, a quick read that introduces readers to several countries and humanizes big events, although at only 236 pages for so many stories, it is very brief and therefore unable to treat its subjects with the depth I would have liked.

Eunice is a teenage girl living in rural northern Uganda when she is kidnapped by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army while visiting her sister at boarding school. Once in the bush, she is forced to marry Bosco, a young man also kidnapped as a teenager, and both are forced to participate in acts of violence. By the time both eventually escape, they have children together, and Eunice, like many young women whose futures are circumscribed by LRA kidnapping, decides to return to Bosco. Former rebels are given amnesty to encourage defection, but the couple faces ostracism from their community and seems to be passing on their trauma to their children.

Biram is a Mauritanian activist, growing up in a socially conscious family in the last country in the world to outlaw slavery (it became illegal in 1981, but not a criminal offense until 2007), and one where the police remain uninterested in bringing wealthy slaveowners to justice. He starts an organization dedicated to eradicating slavery, rescues slaves directly and draws attention to the cause by risky acts like publicly burning the books used to justify slavery under Muslim law (though he is Muslim himself). Later he expands his focus to other racial justice issues and runs for president of Mauritania.

Abba, aka Elder, is an auditor and patriarch of a large family in northern Nigeria when Boko Haram gains traction in the area. Frustrated by the lack of government response to the attacks, he joins a local vigilante group that captures militants and hands them over to security forces, proving far more effective than the actual military. He becomes a leader in the group and moves into politics as well. Meanwhile, Rebecca is a teenage boarding school student in nearby Chibok when she is kidnapped by Boko Haram along with 300 classmates. Fortunately, she is one of the 50-odd with the courage and presence of mind to quickly escape, and gradually overcomes her trauma while returning to school in a distant city.

Finally, Aisha is a teenage girl in Mogadishu, Somalia, who refuses to let al-Shabaab terrorists intimidate her out of playing basketball. They certainly try – she receives regular death threats by phone, is nearly kidnapped and has a gun pointed at her on a bus – and another female player is brutally murdered. But Aisha is determined to live her own life, and she and her teammates find joy in the game and treasure rare opportunities to participate in tournaments, despite the lack of government support.

These are all fascinating stories, though the subtitle doesn’t quite fit anyone other than perhaps Aisha: Biram and Elder are leaders, not ordinary people, while Rebecca is a survivor but not exactly fighting extremism, and Eunice and Bosco remain victims. Each story is told in two chapters, one in the first half of the book and the other in the second, and the second half provides much of the emotional consequences and complexity that seemed to be missing from the first half. Of course the circumstances of these people’s lives, and the strength required to keep going, is extraordinary to the Western reader. This book tells very compelling stories in a quick and accessible way; for me it is too quick (each of these stories deserves its own book), but it provides a great introduction while telling human stories behind events in the headlines.

My other reservation is the fact that the book cites no sources, and the author tells us nothing about her research other than what happens to come out in the text as she relates her experiences in meeting these folks. She generally applies critical thought to the stories people tell her – for instance, she includes the accusations of brutality against Elder’s group – but sometimes seems to accept simplistic stories, as in the 9-page life story of a Mauritanian slave that seems to be a chronicle of constant abuse. Though the author seems to do her research, it’s never clear how well the stories are corroborated.

Despite that, I think this is a great premise for a book and these stories are engaging, emotional, and well-told, with enough background information included for readers unfamiliar with these countries to understand their contexts. I recommend it.

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review 2018-01-03 05:30
Once more
How to Blow It with a Billionaire - Alexis Hall

This is book #2, in the Arden St Ives series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  For reader understanding, and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this series in order.

Arden's story continues with his on and off again relationship trial with Caspian.  He puts himself out there in the hopes that he can help heal the coldest of hearts.  While it seems a good patch for a time, there is always the human factor.

 

Caspian does not want to be fixed, nor does he want to come across weak.  His view of Arden trying to keep him close is skewed by those who have claimed to love him before.  This would take all day and a slew of psychoanalysis to try and explain.  For now, we must accept he is not ready to move on.

 

This story was so good and had the upswing going for it.  There was heat, passion, love, and so much more.  I was very pleased to finally see character development in many of the characters involved.  I cannot wait to read the next installment and hope the author hurries and has pity on me.  I give this title a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

 

 

***This ARC copy was given in exchange of an honest review by Netgalley and its publishers.

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review 2017-12-28 15:48
not for me
How to Blow It with a Billionaire - Alexis Hall

This is about Aiden and the man he cares about - Caspian. Caspian does open up and show he does care about Aiden. Aiden is sweet and innocent in a lot of ways. Aiden flew out to the U K as his friend Nik had been in an accident. Caspian is starting to accept he and Arden are fated to be together. Then  they went to   Ellery’s birthday party and the man who had made his move on Caspian was there. He had also played with Caspian’s mind for a long time . Caspian blames himself.

I could not get into this book so I didn’t finish this . I just didn’t connect with the characters or the plot and the story didn't catch or keep my interest.

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review 2017-12-16 00:51
Flawed, but worth a read
Life And Death Behind The Brick And Razo... Life And Death Behind The Brick And Razor-Code Red Diamond - Isaac Alexis MD

<blockquote>I wanted to use science to heal people and simultaneously teach them about how their bodies functioned and how to properly take care of their bodies. I also wanted to make a difference in the lives of people who traditionally did not have access to care to begin with. So I chose correctional medicine. It had its challenges but also opportunities to save many lives. In my opinion, it also had areas that seriously needed to be addressed.</blockquote>


Years after this decision, Dr. Alexis has turned to writing, using his experiences and point of view, to discuss some health tips and suggestions to help teens through some hot-button and pressing issues.

 

After a quick autobiographical chapter, the chapters revolve around the treatment of one particular patient, and then using that patient's particular diagnosis (or lack thereof) and struggle as a launching point for health tips and/or discussion of some of the struggles that young people (or everyone) go through related to STDs, Drug Abuse, Gang Membership, etc.

 

There is so much energy, so much care, conviction, expertise behind this book that it's a shame I can't heartily endorse it. There's a lot of heart here, and I admire that. But it's just not that well written. Maybe it'd be more correct to say that it wasn't that well-edited and re-written.

 

First of all, it needs a thorough editorial pass on basic grammar. But it needs some work on structure, too. Within the various chapters, things can seem to be randomly organized with a lack of transitions, or foundation for some of what he's talking about. That page count of 100 pages should be 150 at a minimum -- he really needs to flesh out everything just a bit. He's got the material, he just needs to work with it a bit more so his readers can better understand both his experiences and perspective. The nature of the facility he works at -- and its relation to other prisons and hospitals, is a good example -- I think I have a decent idea how all that works out, but it takes using information from all parts of the book to come up with my guess; that shouldn't be, I should've been given a one or two (or more) sentence description of that so I can appreciate his struggles to provide adequate care.

 

Now, what he doesn't need to give us more of us medical jargon -- often he'll unleash a couple of paragraphs of almost non-stop medical terminology. This is not a bad thing, but I think he could help the non-informed reader a little bit more than he does with some of those streams of terminology. What I eventually decided is, the book reads like a transcript of someone telling stories about his life to a new friend, people just sitting around a table swapping stories. The hopping around, the unclear writing, and so on come across just the way people talk. If you think of it that way, the book is a lot easier to take.

 

If you can find some way (my suggestion or something else that works for you) to overlook/make your peace with Alexis' style, you'll probably enjoy this book. You can even appreciate the book without that -- it's just harder. Alexis writes from conviction and passion -- with a healthy dose of morality. There's a lot to be gained from this book. I liked <b>Life and Death Behind the Brick and Razor</b>, but it woulnd't take much to make me like it sooo much more. He has important things to say, I just wish the book did a better job of providing the platform.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this book in exchange for this post and my participation in this tour -- I appreciate the opportunity, but my opinion remains my own.</i>

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/15/life-and-death-behind-the-brick-and-razor-code-red-diamond-by-isaac-alexis-md
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