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text 2019-01-17 23:06
Reading progress update: I've read 26%. written about the government shutdown in 2013 but still relevant today
The View from Flyover Country - Sarah Kendzior

"The View From Flyover Country" is a collection of articles that have been wrapped around themes. The theme I'm reading about at the moment is the Post-Employment Economy.

 

It posits the idea that there has been a fundamental shift in the US that represents a war on the poor. Social mobility has ceased. Poverty has increased and is becoming inescapable. Companies are boosting profits by asking people to work for free (for experience or exposure or future opportunities) or for less than a living wage.

 

The rich now live in a world where they rarely meet anyone who isn't rich and where they blame the poor for lacking the get up and go to stop being poor while putting barriers to entry to professional jobs and lowering wages for service jobs to below poverty levels.

 

It is argued that this started with Compassionate Conservatism which:

 

"assumed that we could take care of ourselves so we did not need to take care of each other. It was an attractive concept, simultaneously exalting the successes of America while relieving the individual of responsibility for those whom it failed.

 

 Today the attack on the poor is no longer cloaked in ideology—it is ideology itself."

 

This is not put forward as the view of the majority of Americans. It is argued that poverty is now so widespread amongst the working poor that everyone knows people affected by it and doesn't see those people as shiftless scroungers. It goes on to say:

 

"...our opinion does not matter. We are passive subjects, held hostage to a vindictive minority divorced from public will."

 

In this context, a government shutdown (the one referred to here was in 2013 but the current one seems also to fit this description in my opinion) has to be characterised in a different way.

 

"The government shutdown only formalizes the dysfunction that has been hurting ordinary Americans for decades. It is not a political shutdown but a social breakdown. Fixing it requires a reassessment of value—and values.

 

When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor. But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatize those who let people die, not those who struggle to live."

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text 2019-01-16 21:59
Reading progress update: I've listened 524 out of 524 minutes.
Team Human - Sarah Rees Brennan,Justine Larbalestier

I don't know how I feel about this. My annoyance with Mel in the first part of the book made me think it would be a solid 2-star read (listen), but my love of Kit (who thankfully was around a lot) and Camille (who didn't get nearly enough on-page time) raised it up enough for me to think it'd be a 3-star read. Most of the ending was predictable, but the stuff between Mel and Cathy was really well done, and the last hour and a half or so made me cry multiple times. So now I'm not sure how I feel overall.

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review 2019-01-16 12:19
"Ways To Hide In Winter" by Sarah St. Vincent
Ways To Hide In Winter - Sarah Vincent
 

 

From the start, "How To Hide In Winter" is strong on atmosphere: isolated - cold - damaged and with more damage to come - a history like a shadow beneath the ice on the lake.

 

The story is told through the eyes Kathleen, a young woman working alone in the only store still open in the National Park on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania in the depths of winter. She spends most of her day alone, reading and thinking.

 

Then "The Stranger" arrives, a lone Uzbekistani man, not dressed for winter, not sure of where he is or why.

 

She's trying to pretend she doesn't limp and isn't in pain from her injuries. He's scrupulously polite and unaggressive, trying hard to be invisible. Both of them are tantalisingly unexplained.

 

What follows is a powerful, beautifully written, deeply thoughtful novel that tackles raw emotions and complicated ideas without ever becoming dry or self-consciously literary.

 

On the surface, "Ways To Hide In Winter" could be seen as one of those woman-with-dark-secrets-in-her-past thrillers. If that's what you're looking for, this book will disappoint you. It's not a thriller nor a simple narrative about discovering the dark secrets in the pasts of the two main characters. It's a deeply meditative book, filled with the cold silence of winter and the slowly thawing emotions of rage and compassion of a woman who has been abused and traumatised.

 

Winter is central to the feel of this book. The physical winter in the Appalachians in Pennsylvania is almost a character in its own right: bleak but beautiful, familiar but deadly, ubiquitous and inescapable. It is also an extended metaphor for the emotional state of the two main characters, each with their own story of abuse, betrayal, secret shame and physical and emotional trauma that have left them scarred, isolated and trying to hide from their futures as much as from their pasts.

 

Like water beneath the layer of ice on the lake, Kathleen's emotions run deep, slow and cold. Her rage is fierce but struggling to find expression. It is the fevered heat experienced by the hypothermic as they struggle to survive the cold.

 

She is consumed with a quiet, barely contained rage. She rages at how her community is treated by the government:

 “They sold us pain and said it was fine... They had such contempt for us, and they thought we didn’t see it. Just because we lived where we lived and were who we were.”

Rage at those in power, in Uzbekistan and in the US, who use torture, pain and humiliation to punish their enemies.

 

Rage at her recently deceased, violently abusive husband. Rage at all those who failed her: her parents, her priest, herself.

 

There is the possibility of hope, of support from her best friend and from men who are interested in her but she finds hope hard to trust, partly because she is not sure that she deserves it.

 

There is guilt and shame: her addiction to painkillers, her belief that everyone holds her accountable for her husband's death. There is responsibility for her sick grandmother. And there is, eventually, compassion, initially for The Stranger and finally for herself as she slowly and carefully considers what a person deserves.

 

The Stranger gives Kathleen another focus, someone as damaged and as vulnerable than she is. Someone quiet and indirect who may have done shameful things but who shows her only gentleness. Someone who makes her think about what living means. Through her contact with him, she starts to understand that by continuing to hide she is refusing to live. Staying where she is just a slower death, not survival.

 

The language is simple, beautiful and powerful. The pace is slow but in a way that builds tension, grabs attention and makes you focus on what's really happening. It demonstrates a nuanced understanding of abuse and powerlessness and their impact on identity and will.

 

The ending of the book doesn't offer any easy solutions. It seems to say that we all of us go through more than one winter. We move between light and dark. Perhaps being alive is about keeping moving. Perhaps compassion for others can help thaw our personal winters. Perhaps compassion just mitigates our guilt. Perhaps staying hidden is unsustainable because it is an extended act of abnegation.

 

"Ways To Hide in Winter" is Sarah St, Vincent's first novel. I'll definitely be reading her second.

 

I listened to the audiobook version which was performed brilliantly by Sarah Mollo-Christensen. To hear a sample of her performance, click on the SoundCloud link below.

https://soundcloud.com/audiolibrary-a/ways-to-hide-in-winter-by-sarah-st-vincent-audiobook-excerpt
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review 2019-01-15 23:35
Thriller Aspect Not Well Done
The Couple - Sarah Mitchell

Please note that I received this ARC for free from NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. 

 

Good grief, I don't know what to start with here. There was just too much going on. It didn't help that the author jumped back to the present and then 5 years before every every chapter. We are following our main character Claire's current engagement to a man named Angus and then her university romance with a guy named Dan. If you wanted to know about either guy, there's not much there. We just know that Clarie is still obsessing over Dan and where things went wrong, apparently went into a funk after the relationship ended and seems to be ambivalent (at best) about Angus. Things go to the weird where quickly where Claire meets a man who reminds her of Dan. And then it's just Claire running to and fro looking into something that made a little bit of sense at the end of the book. 

 

"The Couple" starts with Claire's engagement party to a man named Angus. Her family is pretty relieved that she has moved on from someone named Dan. FYI, it takes a while to even get to Dan and why Claire was so hung up on him. Claire works for the Home Office and deals with immigrant cases. We know she has a mother, stepfather, and brother, but she doesn't talk to them much, she is just telling you about them. Same with Angus. I didn't get a good sense of him via Claire. Same issue with Claire obsessing about the man she meets (Mark) and  her former boyfriend (Dan). She just runs around and says, well this person reminds me of Dan and I am now going to just run around and force this person to be with me, when I am not hiding it from my fiancee and trying to make things work there. This book was confusing. At least Mitchell didn't do the unreliable narrator thing (which I loathe). I think the big issue is that Claire is written inconsistently in this book. I don't know what she really wanted in the end. And then all of a sudden we get some huge reveal about things and I maybe squawked plot hole a few dozen times and let it go. 

 

The men were a mess in this book. We don't spend much time with anyone but the perfect Dan and good lord I didn't get it. You have to make him some big perfect love. Or something. Mitchell messes with his halo a bit, but then we don't get to see how things ended. We just get comments here and there and the rest is left to you to imagine. 

 

The writing feels really disconnected at times. Claire works at the Home Office and apparently deals with immigrant cases. Anytime Mitchell goes into whatever case Claire is working on the book gets odd. You have the idea that maybe Claire looks down on these people at times, or she doesn't really care (which I still say she doesn't) and all these cases just hang in the book. The flow is impacted by going from the present to five years ago. I just ceased to give a crap about Dan. Claire's obsession with him and his dealing with his ex got old fast. She was just a mess as the ex was in my opinion. That opinion isn't helped by the fact that though Mitchell over explains everything in this book, she decides to keep what happened to Dan vague. I mean you can guess what happened, but I wish that the rest of the book was more like that in order for it to really hit you.

 

The book's setting is mostly Angus and Clarie's home with Claire occasionally going out to stalk Mark somewhere else. 

 

The book ends in a whimper. 

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url 2019-01-15 16:16
Release Day Blitz: THE LEOPARD WHO CLAIMED A WOLF by Sarah Mäkelä with Giveaway


I am so excited that THE LEOPARD WHO CLAIMED A WOLF by Sarah Mäkelä is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Sarah Mäkelä, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $5 Amazon Gift Card and 2 eBooks, International, courtesy of Sarah and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
 
Mandatory post info:
About the Book:
Author: Sarah Mäkelä
Pub. Date: January 15, 2019
Publisher: Kissa Press LLC
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 179
 
When a wolf loves a leopard…
 
He’s her protector...
Caitlyn Fraser, a wereleopard who has always hated cruel werewolves, is the former prisoner turned mate of Dougal Sterling, Alpha of the Scottish pack. She’s courting jeopardy with her determination to attend the funeral of her brother’s father, since the Pack blames her for Alistair’s death. But still Dougal protects her from his wolves.
 
Her defender...
Short of allies, Dougal struggles to balance loyalty and attention between the Pack and Caitlyn. When the Pack’s stability crumbles, he’s faced with the return of his older brother, the rightful Alpha, who shirked his duty after their father’s death. However, Ewan’s challenge will be a battle to the death. Sheltering Caitlyn can only lose Dougal more friends, but he knows she’s the mate he’s longed for.
 
But survival takes two...
Menace lurks in every corner of the Highlands; Alistair and Ewan’s supporters and haters of shapeshifters abound. Caitlyn and Dougal must stick together, pushing back fiercely when they are attacked. Even if that puts them in mortal danger…
 
Excerpt:
Chapter One
 
Caitlyn
The driveway leading up to the Scottish Pack’s massive headquarters stretched almost half a mile. I rested my chin on my arms and stared out of the Alpha’s window on the second story, overlooking the circular section of the drive. The Pack’s castle came complete with its very own dungeon, but at least they weren’t keeping me in there anymore. The memory of Alistair’s craggy face haunted my dreams each time I closed my eyes. His brutal fists hammered away against my face, ribs, and stomach, until I could no longer sleep.
 
Tension radiated through my shoulders, and I balled my hands into fists. No, Alistair—Colin’s father—was dead. Dougal had protected me, and my brother, from that monster when I didn’t have the strength to fight back.
 
Not that it mattered.
 
Two days had passed since my brother’s sudden departure. Now Colin was on his own with no one to watch his back. How could he leave without saying anything to me? I flexed my fists again, welcoming the anger as it bubbled up in my chest and replaced my sadness.
 
The heavy weight of a man’s hand descended on my back. I twisted around, my knuckles connecting with a solid jaw lined with dark, coarse stubble. A familiar jaw. Shite.
 
Dougal stumbled back half a step, but then he planted his feet like a tree with strong roots, not budging any further. Sharp power flared outward from him before he squelched it, stretching the muscles in his jaw. A frown tugged at his lips, and the corners of his eyes creased, either in pain or displeasure.
 
“Dougal! I’m so sorry.” The sudden movement of punching him had shot a searing ache through my battered ribs again. The pain stole my breath away, but I tried to force it down. How could I have been so careless? If he’d been anyone else in the Pack, I would’ve caused World War III.
 
“Dinnae fash. The punch bloody well hurt, though. I didn’t realize you were so strong.” Dougal’s frown melted away as he pulled me closer and pressed a kiss to my forehead. “Seems like you’re recovering your strength.” His gaze drifted past me to the long gravel driveway of the estate. “How are you doing, love?”
 
The emotions I’d been stomping down now bubbled to the surface again. “I cannae believe Colin left me. He left before I even regained consciousness. How could he?”
With anyone else, I wouldn’t show weakness, but I rested my forehead against Dougal’s chest, needing his touch and savoring his warmth. “I barely had time to talk with him, and when I did, it wasn’t a good time to ask how he was doing after the months he’d spent in that bloody research facility—or even to ask where he would go to heal…”
 
Tears welled in my eyes, but I held them back, refusing to cry. “I gave up so much—my job, my flat, my life—while trying to track him and bring him home. What if my sacrifices were all for naught?”
 
“Nae, they weren’t for naught, love.” Dougal kissed the top of my head. “I know you’re hurting. You have plenty of reasons to be, but the man who came back wasn’t the same one who left for the United States.” He lifted my chin, forcing me to see the sincerity in his clear blue eyes. “Whatever those scientists did affected him in ways neither of us will probably ever know. Waiting at the window won’t make him return any sooner.” He wrapped his arms around me and gently pulled me against his chest again. “Let me draw you a bath. Remember, I’m here if you need to talk.”
 
He was right, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Waiting for Colin’s return wouldn’t help, but what else could I do? “I know, but that doesn’t make this any easier for me. He’s my younger brother. I feel helpless that I cannae be there for him…again.” A heavy ache settled on my heart, and I pulled away hating the awkward emotions crushing me.
“Sorry.”
 
Dougal turned away from me and stared out of the window again. His jaw clenched and unclenched, as if he were trying hard to hold in his words. A lot was going on in his life too, and yet he was making a strong effort to support me through my problems. Things had become increasingly strained between him and his Pack since my arrival and Duncan and Alistair’s subsequent deaths. He didn’t talk about what he faced, and I didn’t want to pressure him.
 
After a few moments of silence, he released a sigh and turned back toward me. “You’ve done what you could for him, lass.” The ghost of a grin spread across his lips. “Do you still want the bath?”
 
I couldn’t help but nod. When I’d awakened from unconsciousness, Dougal had been there for me. We’d made love, and he brought me to new heights of pleasure. We also became intimately acquainted with the fancy Jacuzzi bathtub that could easily fit three or four humans…or one big, scary werewolf. The perks of being mated to the Alpha of the Scottish Pack.
 
“Aye, a bath sounds delish.” I wrapped my arms around his waist, bringing him back to me and drawing in his musky lupine scent. “Thanks for the talk. I wish I could’ve spoken with him before he took off. It would’ve made me feel better about him going.”
 
“Love, I talked with him.” He trailed his fingertips over my back in light, soothing strokes. “If I weren’t confident that he presented no danger to others, I wouldn’t have let him go. He would’ve stayed here whether he favored the idea or not.” The muscles in his lower back tensed beneath my touch, and his hand paused over my spine.
 
Something didn’t feel right. I lifted my gaze to meet Dougal’s. Was he not telling me something? We hadn’t known each other for long, but my sharp, feline instincts knew when someone spoke an untruth. He wasn’t outright lying, but he was holding something back. What could it be?
 
I bit my lower lip, regretting it as my teeth sank into one of the nearly healed spots where Alistair had punched me in the face. Instead of confronting Dougal, I turned my attention toward the window. “You would tell me if he was dangerous to himself, wouldn’t you?”
 
“Aye, I would.” His tone of voice wasn’t as convincing as I’d wanted. He leaned away, putting me at arm’s length. “Enough of that, I suppose. I’ll draw the bath for you.”
Without another word, he strode to the en-suite bathroom. His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides all the way. The door snapped shut behind him, and he started the water running a few moments later.
 
Nausea churned inside me, and I held my stomach. Should I believe Dougal? Something about his words didn’t feel right. The Jacuzzi tub would take a few minutes to fill, and I needed to get out of this bloody bedroom and away from him. The strain of standing there and trying to keep myself calm was becoming too much.
 
My stomach growled, and I glanced up at the round wrought-iron clock on the wall. It was almost one o’clock in the afternoon.
 
Many of the werewolves didn’t like that their Alpha was mating with a wereleopard, so I usually skipped the mealtime rushes to keep my distance. It wasn’t easy, because several of the wolves lived here in this honest-to-God castle full time. Apparently, that was how many Packs operated. The thought boggled my mind. How did they stand to be around one another all the time? How would I survive being the sole feline in this house full of wolves?
 
Every urge for solitude within me roared to run as fast and as far away from this place as I could. Too much held me here, though. Besides, if Colin returned from his trip, I wanted to be around to greet him. Maybe throttle him, too, but it’d be a greeting nonetheless…
 
I slid my leather jacket on over the white tank top, not wanting to reveal too much bruised skin, then headed for the kitchen to grab leftovers. Dougal had tried to convince me to eat with him and everyone else. He wanted me to get to know the wolves and socialize. Getting friendly with the Pack might be a nice idea, but I couldn’t do it. Not with how his Pack watched me when they thought I wasn’t looking. Even Dougal’s second-in-command wasn’t a fan of mine. The sentiment was mutual. For as long as I could remember, I’d hated werewolves. One of my main reasons would soon rest six feet underground. Their hatred of me for Alistair’s death just added to my reluctance to get friendly with them.
 
Shaking away those thoughts, I turned the corner to enter the kitchen. If my sharp feline reflexes hadn’t kicked in, I would’ve run straight into a towering werewolf. I leapt back at the last minute to prevent Kerr from spilling his plate of food. The already agonizing ache in my side intensified from moving so fast, but I kept my arms at my sides and my face neutral.
 
“Afternoon, lass. Ye look like yer recoverin’ well.” Kerr nodded, looking curiously at me.
 
“Thanks, Kerr. I’m trying.” I flashed him an uncomfortable smile, then edged past the broad, barrel-chested man into the kitchen. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as the others, but I couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling that he disagreed with Dougal’s decision to mate with me.
 
Kerr placed a heavy hand on my shoulder. My spine stiffened, and I gripped the sleeves of my jacket to keep from swinging on him too. “Keep tryin’, then.” His deep voice rumbled through the kitchen. I glanced pointedly at his hand, but he didn’t move it.
“Sooner or later ye need to overcome yer fear, hatred, or whatever it is ye feel toward my kind. If ye cannae, ye won’t last long here, lass.” With that, he walked down the corridor toward the massive grand hall where the wolves held their meetings and ate.
 
My shoulders slumped. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so hungry, but my leopard still needed to eat. We couldn’t skip any more meals. It hindered our healing process and weakened us too much. Right now, I couldn’t afford weakness, not while I was amongst a pack of wolves.
 
If only I weren’t continually looking over my shoulder with the Pack, but such was life for now.
 
Shite. I didn’t have much time before Dougal noticed I’d left the bedroom.
 
The leftovers were neatly arranged on the clean countertop. There wasn’t much food left, but I grabbed a bag of crisps and one of the last club sandwiches. A female wolf—Mairi, I think—ran a catering company, so she always brought by food to keep the Pack well fed. She was one of the nicer wolves.
 
Instead of following Kerr toward the dining room, where I would probably find the rowdy werewolves laughing and talking, I remained in the kitchen. I sat on the counter farthest away from the entrance, hidden from anyone who might walk past.
 
As I finished my sandwich, footsteps in the hall became louder as someone approached the kitchen. The sound of soft sniffing tensed every muscle in my body, then Dougal stepped into the room. His gaze slid over me, and desire darkened his eyes.
 
“Your bath is ready. If I’d known you were hungry, I would’ve brought something earlier when I ate.”
 
I shrugged a shoulder. “It’s all right. I’m eating now.”
 
“Aye, so you are.” He looked down the hallway as if checking to make sure no one else was near. When he turned back, he wore a frown that creased the corners of his lips and eyes. “You shouldn’t be in here all alone, love. Things within the Pack are tense right now. Let’s go back to the bedroom.”
 
I tilted my chin up, not in the mood to be bossed around again. “I’m not alone. You’re here.” I opened the bag of crisps and munched on one.
 
His nostrils flared, and he crossed his arms over his broad chest. The move might’ve been scary as hell if it wasn’t him doing it. “That’s not the point. Come on.”
 
Bloody hell.
 
First, I’d been his prisoner in the cage, and now I’d become a prisoner in his bedroom. Not in a fun way, either. Why was this happening?
 
I clenched my fists, crushing a few of my crisps as tears burned in my eyes, but I refused to let them show. The flood of emotions I’d experienced over the past week was becoming too much to all push down at once. As soon as I dealt with certain fears or emotions, others popped up to take their place, like some horrible version of whack-a-mole.
 
Life just wasn’t fair. All I’d wanted to do was return to Scotland and be here for my brother. In that time, I’d been reintroduced to a childhood nightmare, imprisoned in a dungeon, and now I was the prisoner/mate of a werewolf Alpha. When would the roller coaster end?
 
Dougal crossed the space between us in a few long strides. He pulled me from the counter into his arms.
 
A feline hiss ripped from my throat, sounding every bit as feral as I felt. Once again, anger rescued me from my moodiness. “Set me down this minute!”
 
 
About Sarah:

New York Times Bestselling Author, Sarah Mäkelä, has received her Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. She has been inspired to read and write since reading a collection of her mother’s poetry as a child. Her real passion for writing began after receiving an Excellence in Writing award for a children’s story her seventh-grade English teacher encouraged her to enter for a school contest. Her love of romance novels became evident after picking up her first Harlequin, Chateau of Flowers by Margaret Rome, shortly thereafter.
 
She lives in North Carolina with her husband and cats. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, computer and console games, and traveling all over the world. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, as well as the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapters.
 
 
 
Giveaway Details:
 
1 winner will win a $5 Amazon Gift Card, International.
2 winners will win an eBook of THE LEOPARD WHO CLAIMED A WOLF, International.
 
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