Book Review: State of Grace by Elizabeth Davies (The Resurrection Trilogy)

This is my review of the first book of the Resurrection Trilogy..

When Grace, 27 years old and with only a few months left to live, returns to her home town of Brecon, she is catapulted nearly 1800 years into the past. At first she attributes her hallucinations to her brain tumour but as the visions become more detailed and closer to the present day, she becomes involved with a certain wickedly handsome and rather inhuman Roman, who has an obsession with blood.
Grace is forced to confront her fears when the past begins intruding on the present, and she falls deeper in love with her phantom man.

‘Death is only one option.’

This is an excellent introduction to the series.  You get to meet Grace and Roman and the way she “time travels”.  You are also introduced to Ms. Davies excellent writing, her exceptional descriptions of places, people, sights, smells.  She literally transports the reader, along with Grace, into the middle ages in Grace’s hometown of Brecon:

I was transfixed by the spectacle of four men, one with his back to me, three facing me, all with swords (swords?) in their hands, the metal gleaming and catching in the firelight.  I had an image of wild, long, black hair, snarling mouths gaping out of straggling beards, ragged, unfamiliar clothing and weapons in both fists.  Then the stench hit me: stale sweat, unwashed bodies, seweage and dead things mingling most unpleasantly with the peculiar money-smell of blood and the scorching rawness of the smoke.  I gagged.

Grace is a very real character.  Very honest in her narrative, very self-aware.  She knows her life is slowly ebbing away, yet instead of adopting a “poor me” pity party, she decides to try and shield her family from the truth as much as she can.  She still insists on being as “normal” as possible, even though she now lives back at her childhood home and can no longer work as a pilot.

I honestly enjoyed her personal perspective with her health as much as I enjoyed the paranormal aspect.

Throughout this book she continues to have sudden “visits” to the past.  Each time it is later in the historical time line.  Each time she returns to Roman.  Each time it is in the vicinity of her hometown.  And each time she is completely naked.

Obviously a ton of research went into the description of life in the middle ages.  And I am extremely grateful that I was born in the 1980s.

I also love how Grace has to describe things in the future that are unheard of to a man living a thousand years in the past:

‘I need a shower,’ I murmured, feeling a strange mix of drowsy as my eyelids wanted to close, and alert at Roman’s closeness.

‘What is this word ‘shower’? You mean rainfall?’

‘No, not rain, it’s uh, it’s when you stand under a sort of tap that’s above your head, and it drips water down on you so you can wash,’ I answered sleepily. 

‘Like a tap in a barrel?’ he asked.

‘Only the barrel would contain hot water and the tap would have lots of little holes in it so the water sprinkles out.’

I felt him nod his understanding.  ‘It would be difficult to heat the water,’ he mused.

‘We use a boiler or electricity,’ I said, forgetting that he would not have a clue what I meant.

‘Boiler?’

‘Sort of like a big stove or oven, and the water is pumped from it to the shower head, er, tap,’ I amended.

He hadn’t finished. ‘And elec-tristy?’

Oh goodness — how on earth was I going to explain this one? ‘In my world we have.. it’s um, er…’ Crap.  ‘ We have a power that.. no, that’s not right. I know! We can harness the lightening.  We can use lightning to make fire.’

The relationship with Grace and Roman deepens, they develop a romance and Grace finds herself longing for him, even when she is back in her world and her disease progresses.

I plowed through each of these books in a matter of days.  Since I read these books about two months ago, I am finding myself being sucked in again as I am reading through highlighted passages.  The end of book one could be a cliffhanger, but it could kind of stand alone.

Excellent start to an excellent series.

The Resurrection Trilogy by Elizabeth Davies

Ok.  I have gone from not reading about vampires at all to now reading vampire love stories with time travel mixed in.  Mr. Altman, my A.P. English teacher in high school, would be appalled.  What’s next?  Time traveling zombies from outer space (Stant Litore, want to take this one on?)

 

This post highlights the entire series as a whole.  I will break down each book in the following days.

I absolutely loved this series.  It is at once sobering, funny, romantic and historical.

The books in order are:

State of Grace

Amazing Grace

Sanctifying Grace 

I purposefully stayed away from the “time-traveling” genre because I’m worried my knowledge of history will make me call “bullshit” on some of the things I read.  And because my eyes cross when I think of the implications of time travel.  That kind of happened a little with the resolution of this book, but Ms. Davies make it a bit bullshit proof.  And I know next to nothing about the history of Great Britain, and even less about the middle ages, so it was all good.

What drew me to this book was the entire premise:

When Grace, 27 years old and with only a few months left to live, returns to her home town of Brecon, she is catapulted nearly 1800 years into the past. At first she attributes her hallucinations to her brain tumour but as the visions become more detailed and closer to the present day, she becomes involved with a certain wickedly handsome and rather inhuman Roman, who has an obsession with blood. 
Grace is forced to confront her fears when the past begins intruding on the present, and she falls deeper in love with her phantom man. 

‘Death is only one option.’ 

A love story with a supernatural twist, it looks at vampires from an unusual angle, knitting together the twelfth century with the present day.

 

 

As I have often stated, I am a hospice nurse.  I am always intrigued by books that portray the dying process.  Especially from the perspective of the dying person.  And everything I found in this series was right on from what I can tell from my coherent patients.

This entire series fascinated me because I always wonder what is going on with my patients as they are approaching death, as it is well know that they dream rather vividly.

The portrayal of what her family is experiencing is spot on as well.  The helplessness that her family feels watching her deteriorate, Grace’s desire to keep her health status from her friends.  Even the impact her illness has had on her relationship status.  All is very common, very real to the terminally ill person.

And despite the rather somber state Grace is in, she still has a rather wicked sense of humor.  I love her.  She is strong, she is independent, and even though she finds herself in ridiculous situations, she still retains her stubborn streak.

The romance she experiences during what she believes are hallucinations is quite erotic.  This isn’t erotica, but there is vivid and very steamy sex scenes.  Nothing gratuitous or crude.  Very tasteful and it is very meaningful to the story rather than being a book about sex with story in between.  The relationship develops over the entire series at an even pace and is very real and palpable rather than being contrived from beginning.

The vampires are a bit different, and that is one thing that I enjoy from reading each writer’s different take on the genre.

I also want to make mention of the covers for the three books. In this post you see all three.  And you can see how they are different.  I think that was a really cool concept to have Roman, the romantic male lead character, concealed by on the first cover, then a bit more revealed in the second, and fully turned to face front on the third.  Excellent idea.  Coincides greatly with the progress of the books. And it is also exactly how I pictures Roman.

Look for my review on book one, State of Grace, tomorrow.

 

Book Review: West by Caroline Starr

Book Cover - West V1

 

I reviewed the first book in this trilogy, Campbell, here.  Again, this story is amazing.  Not as intriguing as the first one, more than likely because the concept isn’t as new, but still great work.

After her world was turned upside down by the death of her twin and a new alliance forged through an unexpected friendship, Lucy Campbell left West determined to return to her old life. 

It took four years and a natural disaster for her to admit that was impossible.

Hatched from a lie devised to keep them both safe, the conflict with East has affected Lucy and Tal Bauman in different ways. It’s left Lucy engulfed in a bitter power struggle with her war-hungry brother. It’s forced Tal to align himself with Campbell, despite questioning their motivations in continuing to attack East, when peace seems attainable. He’s also left to sort out the mess left behind by his predecessor and best friend, Connor Wilde. 

When they are reunited by a tragedy, Lucy and Tal are forced to question how far their duties stretch, where their loyalties lie, and how far they would go for one another. 

They’re also left reevaluating their morals, values, and the futures of those around them. 

West is the second book in the Campbell trilogy. 

If you haven’t read Campbell, and you definitely have to before you read this book, the premise is that something wiped out all the adults and teenagers in the early 2000s.  The kids, aged 12 and under, had to fend for themselves and remake their world.  It is a completely fascinating concept.

What I like about the premise is that Ms. Starr uses it as a springboard to highlight coming of age issues.  How do you grow up when all of your parents, teachers, adults aren’t there to guide you?  So this series just captivates me.

This second installment was a little bit darker, but with more romance.  So I’ll take it.  The “kids” are now into their mid to late 20s and despite the fact of their upbringing, or lack thereof, they still struggle with the same issues “kids” in contemporary society struggle with.  Relationships, friends, “family”.  But there is so much more responsibility with Lucy and Tal.

They both are heads of state for large parts of the North American continent.  They not only have to deal with their own personal issues, but they have to deal with trade, war, diplomacy and economics.  Tal even had to deal with a murder trial for the first president of West and his best friend.

I loved that this book included more of a romance aspect.  It’s a different type of romance, and I do need to point out that this book isn’t YA, there is sex and violence.  It isn’t erotica, but it happens.

The type of romance that Ms. Starr features isn’t typical.  It’s refreshing.  It’s real:

She knew she loved him; the kind of love that was earned, cultivated over time, born of selflessness and respect.  It would never be throw-down, crazy passion because she didn’t operate that way.  What they had was better.

Ms. Starr also illustrates that basic human cruelty can survive in their post-apocalypse.  Even though they were kids when the world ended, they still retain the ability to torture each other, to go to war, to kill each other in cold blood.  That apparently will never be erased.

Overall a great read, excellent follow up to Campbell, and I can’t wait to read the third book.

Interview: Coty Justus author of the Birthrights Series

ahomeontherange

 

For the last week, I have been reviewing the Birthrights Series by Coty Justus.  I was completely taken in by the series and totally fascinated with the world created by the author.  It is just so different from any other paranormal romance series out there.  It offers such a great message for young women, it is “safe” for teenagers (meaning it doesn’t feature graphic sex) and it is totally addictive.  Ms. Justus  kindly agreed to an interview, much to my delight.  Here is the author’s “official” bio:

Coty Justus lives in the Wyoming she writes about in her books.  A simple person with simple tastes, her books reflect her upbringing, with an emphasis on family and a rural lifestyle.  An animal lover, Justus frequently incorporates dogs, horses, and an odd assortment of wildlife into her plots.

Stronghold

 What inspired you to write such a far reaching series about magical women in Wyoming?

Like you, I enjoy reading history.  Sixteen years ago, I was reading a history of Easter Island—I cannot for the life of me remember which one—and I fixated on a piece of trivia: One of the first visitors wrote in his captain’s log that most of the people were dark-skinned and dark-haired, but that he had seen the occasional red-haired native.  I am curious by nature.  I pondered this information.  From whence had stemmed a red-hair gene?  Geography not being my strong suit, I decided on Scotland.  I made the logical transition to second-sight.  From those wild deductive leaps, a series was born.

 Is the religion/culture of “The Ten” based on any real or historical religion?  If so, what is it?

I don’t think “The Ten” is based on any religion or culture.  I think it’s invented.  At my age, though, having long been an avaricious reader of anything, even a cereal box in a pinch, it could be an amalgamation of any number of spiritual or superstitious beliefs.  I like to read.

Did you plot out the entire series or did you write it book by book?
I plotted out the series, but it went badly awry.  One day I will pull out that old outline, perhaps a hundred pages long, and read it for fun.  I invest a lot of energy on character development, and they all become alive to me.  The greatest joy for me in writing is to develop a character, put that character in a situation, and let my fingers fly while the character acts and reacts accordingly.  The outline quickly became obsolete.

Roundup

 Many of the themes in your book are dark, especially starting with “Home on the Range”, was it difficult writing from the perspective of a young girl on the run? With “The Maverick” it continues with Acrasia’s struggle to survive was that difficult as well?
I enjoy the darkness.  Like you, one of my favorite contemporary books, maybe my favorite, is The Stand.  I remember, as a non-traditional college student, telling one of my literature instructors that this book would one day be included among the classics.  (She had asked another student who Stephen King was.)  There must be some darkness to appreciate the light.  All the women protagonists suffer as children.  The darkness shapes them into strong women warriors.  They have seen evil or deprivation and are prepared for the final battle.  I think I needed to portray that as realistically as possible without offending the reader; otherwise, they would not have been believable in the last book.

Each of the women are very well developed characters, even some of the little ones, like Maddy, Ally, Susan.  I was surprised to see that the men weren’t just a side dish as well, they are very central to the plot and as equally represented and developed.  Was it difficult to create so many deep and robust characters? 
I think that, of all the fiction elements that go into a work, I most enjoy characterization.  Dialogue, actions, reactions, thoughts, other characters’ impressions—all of these go on autopilot once I’ve established the individual’s base persona.  Jason asks “What are you two?” when he finds a strand of red hair on his pillow.  Alan is emotionally obliterated by the death of a fellow officer.  Matthew vacillates between leaving the table or coming up with a response when threatened by the prospect of small talk.  Michael tells his brother and cousin that they need to take their act on the road.  Roland asks Michael when he ever conned him and then laughs at Michael’s response.  Sam tells Alan he loses sleep, wondering what goes on in his head.  These were all defining moments for each character.  After that, as mentioned before, I needed only create a situation and see what happened.  You can probably tell by this why I have a problem sticking to an outline.

Maverick

 Native American culture features prominently throughout your books.  Are the beliefs/rituals/customs mentioned part of a particular tribe?
All of the Native American customs are specific to the High Plains tribes, in particular, Granny Whitefoot’s Eastern Shoshone.  Because the High Plains tribes met at trade fairs, fought side by side to repel early colonists, and battled one another, taking captives, the customs are similar.  The religion is specific to the Shoshone, but I will confess to being disappointed in the dearth of research materials available for the Eastern Shoshone.  I did my best with what was available and only hope I don’t walk outside one day to a flaming lance buried in my lawn.

 Have you approached the Wyoming tourism board and offered to write travel brochures for them?  The way you describe the landscapes, the beauty, the feel of the range has made me seriously consider a trip out there.  How do you go about writing such fantastic depictions?  Is it from memory?  Do you go out there with a pen and paper and just write?
You will not be disappointed by a visit to Wyoming.  It is a wild country and still untamed.  I did not need to refresh my memory.  Viewed under the right circumstances, it stays with you.  I was born in North Dakota, was raised primarily in northern Idaho and Montana, and spent half my adult life in South Dakota and half in Wyoming.  I love this North Country of mine.  I first saw Yellowstone National Park over fifty years ago.  It is definitely worth a visit, especially for children!  I want Wyoming readers to read my books, but I am a novice at promotion so don’t know how to go about it.  I recently entered a Wyoming writers’ competition, submitting the entire series as one work.  It pleases me to know that at least three Wyomingites—the judging panel—will be captive readers.

Range_Wars

Any chance of a follow up series with the younger generation?  Or just a few books on how life is for the family and their hilarity?

 
I doubt I will do anymore with the Stantons, only because I am reluctant to leave them behind.  I visualize Michael’s reaction when Bel’s chosen shows up at the door; Acrasia working as a volcanologist; and Ally in a college classroom during final exams, and I know if I don’t let go now I will never begin another book.  I’ll see how the next book goes.  This series was something I had to write.  It festered in my subconscious for sixteen long years.  Now I must wean myself off it.  (I still read Range Wars.  I love that book.)

Thank you Coty Justus for the wonderful insight on how a series like this was created.  I absolutely loved it.

Book Review: Range Wars by Coty Justus

Range_Wars

 

Ohhhh…the final battle.  So much is going on.  Here is the synopsis:

In the final book of the Birthrights series, evil seeks to manufacture an eruption of the supervolcano lying beneath Yellowstone National Park. Forcing earthquake after earthquake, with each progressively stronger than the one before, the plates sealing the magma within the chamber steadily weaken. Only The Ten can stop it. Two will be lost. Two will be found. 

Range Wars is set against a high plains backdrop, where a battle a quarter-millennium in the making begins at America’s first national monument, Devil’s Tower, and ends at America’s first national park, Yellowstone. Chosens fight alongside priestesses as The Ten marshal their forces for a Western-style Armageddon.

So many things to love about this book.

The first is that you get a glimpse into the lives of all the characters you have met in previous books.  They are all living at the stronghold, they all have kids and the kids are absolutely adorable.

Odessa, as high priestess, is told what needs to be done.  She is given a time line and specific instructions.  The family pulls together to make it a reality.  Well, most of them.

I love how the women are supported by their chosens.  Usually.  Again, Ms. Justus does a great service by illustrating that even when love is fated, it is not always perfect.  And every marriage, paranormal or not, has issues.

The plan is so audacious, but I love how each of “The Ten” use their powers and work together, even the little ones, to make it happen.

This one is a little dark as well.  The story goes back to the beginning and focuses on Odessa and Jason again and their family.  Odessa’s strength and faith shines through.

I don’t want to give anything away, but this is a very satisfying ending to an amazing series.  No loose ends, no what ifs, truly satisfying.

Overall, this is a fantastic series.  Very well written, very well thought out.  Ms. Justus sucks you into Wyoming, the religion of “The Ten”, the belief that some things aren’t always what they seem.  I love the strength, the resilience of the women and their chosens.  Their devotion to family.  A truly unique series, outside the usual realm of “paranormal romance” and very reality based.

What I mean by that statement is that time and time again, Ms. Justus presents issues that would come up in a real marriage if one partner in the marriage were to have paranormal powers.  I find this really refreshing, a completely different take on the idyllic paranormal life you see in other series.  These ladies have children who also inherit powers.  That speaks to me as a mother.  So in that way, the author made something from the fantasy realm very real and tangible to me.  Excellent work.

I recommend this to all women in general.  Awesome series in female bonding, strength, love and faith.  All of the women of “The Ten” overcome extraordinary circumstances, some literally come back from the “dark side” to create the life that they want.  Fantastic series and I was actually sad when it ended.

Book Review: The Stronghold by Coty Justus

Stronghold

 

This is the second book in the Birthrights series.  Here is the synopsis:

The release of her father from prison forces Jocasta into hiding. Memories of the night he tried to kill her have rendered her mute, unable to speak of the horror she witnessed. Fearing he will attempt to finish the job, she alters her appearance and flees to Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

Alan has long been waiting for his mysterious J.B. Alerted to her presence by a series of dreams, he knows she is out there somewhere and has never wanted anyone but her. When she finally arrives, bearing a leather tote packed with heartache, Alan must decide whether the waiting was worth a lifetime of worry. 

This one broke my heart.  It was refreshing in that it didn’t follow the usual cookie cutter:  boy meets girl.  They fall in love.  They live happily ever after.  It showed that things aren’t always perfect and that even when you are destined to be together, it isn’t always perfect.

I love J.B. she is so sweet and innocent.  But she gives too much of herself.  And she is too forgiving of Alan.

I love that this story also incorporates more of the Stanton family’s Native American heritage.

This book, like the one before it, starts to set the stage for future books.  You see the sense of family that is developing.  There are hints of the next book when it is mentioned that a younger brother, Matthew, might have found his “chosen”.

The reader learns more about the religion as well through Odessa’s training.  It is absolutely fascinating, and so out of the realm of the usual paranormal books that are on the market today.  Very unique.

Again, there is romance, but no sex scenes.  Perfectly acceptable for teenagers of all ages.

 

Another excellent book in the series.

Book Review: A Home on the Range by Coty Justus

Just found my latest paranormal romance series to binge out on….

ahomeontherange

The author originally asked me to review one of the books of her series.  I saw that there were a few books in the series, and knowing what I know about these types of books, I asked if I could read the others.  The author graciously complied and that is how I spent a good portion of last week engrossed in the world of The Ten and the Stanton family.  Here is the synopsis:

Book 1: Odessa and Jason 

After her mother’s death at the hands of a cult leader, Odessa escapes the cult, relying upon determination, instinct and a mysterious voice to keep her one step ahead of her pursuers. The blood-stained contents of the heavy leather tote she bears have already cost lives, and she is prepared to kill to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. 

Jason waits. He does not know what he waits for, only that it rapidly approaches from the east. Restless, he struggles to comprehend his inner turmoil, delving into his family’s past for answers, answers that may cost him his life.

There are five books in this series.  I highly recommend reading all of them.  Each can function as stand alone novels, there aren’t any cliff hangers, but characters overlap from one book to another, and the story continues until the final book.

I love so many things about this series, the first being that it is extremely female driven.  In the heritage that Jason and Odessa both belong to, without knowing it, it is female-centric.  The women are the ones in charge.  The women are the ones in power and it is the job of the men to protect.

Odessa’s strength and drive is overwhelming.  It sets the stage for later books and you understand why she is who she is in the greater scheme of things.

I loved reading about Wyoming.  I now want to go there.  The author does a wonderful job setting the scene, putting you right there with Odessa on her journey.

The love story is fantastic.  I love these stories where people meet and they just KNOW.  That they are meant to be together because they are greater together than apart.  I should note that this is a love story, but there aren’t any sex scenes.  They really aren’t necessary and this series is pretty safe for teenagers of all ages.

The rest of the series is as follows:

Book 2: The Stronghold (Jocasta and Alan)

Book 3: The Roundup (Penny and Matthew)

Book 4: The Maverick (Acrasia and Michael)

Book 5: Range Wars (The Final Battle)

Excellent start to an excellent series.  I will be reviewing each of the books for the rest of the month.

 

Interview with Indra Sena author of Closet Full of Coke

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I’m not sure if I have ever written a formal review of Closet Full of Coke for this site.  I have mentioned it here and here.  And here is my full Amazon review:

I read this book in one night. I was captivated by the story and strength and resilience of this young woman who, in middle school, began selling drugs to better her life. As I was a toddler when the narrative began, I personally cannot remember this time in American history. This book shed light on the Reagan years, and the advent of cocaine in America.

Portions of the book made me cry. The narrative is so heart-wrenching, you want to reach through the pages and hold this young girl, you want to step in for her absent parents. You keep turning the pages because you want to see how it all turns out.

What I really found lacking was more information on how the author is doing today. There was brief information at the end, but I would have found more information about her life in the intervening 25 years from her teenage years to publication equally as fascinating.

Another book perhaps?

After that review, the author tracked me down to thank me.  And we’ve  been exchanging email on occasion ever since.

I’ve been fascinated with her writing process.  What it takes to write about something so personal, so deep and emotional.  And to put it all out there.  You can tell by some of the idiotic reviews on Amazon (and especially Goodreads) that some of the people reviewing did not read the same book that I did.  Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but instead of critiquing the book for its literary merit, they ended up critiquing the author for her personal choices she made as a teenager 30 years ago.  I recently asked Ms. Sena if she would do an interview about this subject, and she graciously acquiesced.

1)  Where did you get the idea for your memoir?  Was it something you always wanted to do after the events took place?  Or did you have a dream or a stroke of divine inspiration?
I planned to write my memoir for nearly twenty years. I was twenty years old and reflecting back on all the events of my teen years and I realized that the story had all the components of fiction. It was kind of startling to see life so perfectly imitating art. I started telling people then that one day I would write this book. 
When I finally sat down to write it twenty years later it became clear that I needed the perspective of lots of time and distance from the events to write something like this.
2) How did you decide which years to focus on?
I knew exactly where the book would end but I wasn’t quite sure how early I should start it. My first draft had an additional five chapters in the beginning that described my life when I was 13 and 14 years old. But my editor and I ended up agreeing that the clearest beginning was the day I met Armando. So my original chapter 6 became chapter 1.
 3)  How did you remember events and timelines?  Did you have journals from those time periods of your life? Court records?  Did you interview family members?
I have an overactive memory. It can be frustrating sometimes but in general it’s very helpful. I memorize everything in chronological order in my life. I can tell you what house I lived in by what age I was. I also memorize conversations, especially significant ones. Sometimes I watch a movie I haven’t seen in many years and I find I have memorized the majority of the dialogue. I memorize things that are significant to me, and I can often remember where I was, how old I was, and what I was wearing.
I do have court records. I never looked at them but I gave them to the lawyers who vetted my book and they were able to view the actual charges from the court. There really are no family members to interview except for Joan who doesn’t really remember anything.
Although I don’t keep journals I am an avid poetry writer. I’ve written thousands of poems and I did take the notebooks from those years and reread all the poems I had written. They are confessional but they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already remember but they helped with my voice since I don’t always memorize my side of the conversation precisely.
4) Did you write chronologically, or as memories came to you?  Did you have a timeline?  Lists of events you wanted to cover?  Is there some fantastic, unabridged version of “Closet” out there? If so, can I get a copy?
I’m sorry there is no real unabridged version. I started by creating an outline and a timeline and a character sheet. Then I went through in the outline and I made a list of scenes that would take place in each chapter. I wrote chronologically but sometimes I would remember something that was going to happen a few chapters ahead and I would jump forward and place that writing into the appropriate spot.
 5) Have any of the people featured in the book read it?  If so, what were their reaction to their portrayal?
None of the surviving members of my family have read it to my knowledge. 
** I do want to note that Ms. Sena did add an “aftermath” portion to her website adding what she knew about the characters featured in her book as of today.  If you have read it and are curious, you can find it here.**
 6) Have your current friends read it who didn’t know about your past?  Was it difficult for them?  
Many of my friends had a hard time with the book. Many people were surprised that they’ve known me decades and they didn’t know the contents of the book although they knew the generalities. There were few people who felt like they couldn’t finish it because it was too disturbing. But part of that is the fact that my current friends are not the type of people that enjoy horror or scary stories like mine.
7) Was it difficult for you writing certain scenes?
I knew every scene I was going to write in advance and I really had no problem with any except the entire chapter about my sister. I saved that until last. I dreaded writing it because I really didn’t want to remember the details.
 8)  Your memoir is excellent at inserting the reader directly into a scene.  I was born in 1982, but I swear I could hear the music, feel the lace gloves.  Personally, I can barely remember what song was popular, what I wore, the atmosphere of a given day in 1998 (when I was 16), did you have to do research, or did it come from your memory?
 All the music and the outfits came from memory. I was able to grab a small photo album I have with a couple dozen pictures that reminded me of some of my more favorite outfits and I was able to write them into the book. I do seem to be wearing lace gloves in practically every photo! The music I remembered perfectly but I also have memorized thousands of songs. I could hear the music playing in my head. Still, I went to YouTube and watched the videos I spoke about from MTV, I reread the lyrics and listened to all the songs that I mentioned mostly just to bring back memories. 
9) This is a very emotional, personal, heart-wrenching story.  How difficult was it for you to put that much of your soul out there for the perusal of humanity?
 I followed the advice of my idol Erica Jong. She says she writes every book telling herself she will not publish it. I did a similar thing where I told myself I would cut out anything I couldn’t handle, or that made me uncomfortable.  She also said that whatever you don’t want anyone to know, that’s what you write about, so I did.
I cannot explain what gave me the courage to then publish it.  I have read the book myself hundreds of times since then and I cringe during some of the passages not believing I had the nerve to leave it in. But eventually I just accepted that what makes the book good is revealing all those secrets.
10) In some of the more traumatic passages, especially with the issue of sexual assault, your voice becomes more distant, more matter of fact.  That is very in line with how trauma survivors view the events they endured, as if it weren’t happening to them, but to someone else.  This lends incredible authenticity to your memoir.  Was this on purpose or was this how it just came out?
That was not on purpose and I am not aware of  as being different from the rest of the book. The book lacks exposition leaves a lot of room for readers to think and feel on their own. It gives the intimate details of the events but it doesn’t go much beyond that.
11)  Now that it has been out there for awhile, are you glad that you published?  Would you change anything about the process?
 Yes I’m very glad I published it and I don’t think I would change anything that I’ve done so far. I’m very happy I self-published and retained editorial control over my work.
One day I would like to publish a memoir of my experiences.  If you are interested in reading about some of that drama, email me and I may provide you with a link to my page that has content pertaining to my book idea.
Memoir fascinates me.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to put your soul on paper for the world to see.  Closet Full of Coke is a tremendous study is strength, in resiliency.  An excellent read and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read.

Book Review: Heal This Way Written by Little Monsters Photographed by Tracey B. Wilson

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My daughter loves Lady Gaga.  Well, any pop music in general.  She has no clue about politics, of what Lady Gaga’s lyrics mean, of what Lady Gaga wears.  She just likes the music.  The beats, the sounds.

I, on the other hand, am fascinated with Lady Gaga.  I am vaguely aware of this “social movement” surrounding her, but other than hearing “Poker Face” nonstop on the pop station in 2009, I really don’t know much about her.  I am not a “Little Monster”.

When I was approached to review this book, I saw it as a chance to review something I haven’t before.  A photography book.  About something I know nothing about.

This book was put together when thousands of Little Monsters were together for a series of Lady Gaga concerts that were abruptly cancelled due to an injury the Mother Monster suffered.  Her fans were photographed and wrote heart-wrenching get well letters to Lady Gaga that were turned into this book.

Here is the synopsis from amazon.com:

Lady Gaga’s biggest fans share their raw emotions about coming out, bullying, thoughts of suicide, and the need for acceptance, in this inspirational new book. Quotes and letters are accompanied by stunning Little Monster portraits that invite you into the soul. This beautiful, thought provoking and often humorous book is geared to LGBTQ youth, teens yearning to fit in, and fans of pop culture. Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters will inspire you to change the world. 

 
This book is rated PG-13 for raw emotional content and liberal use of f-bombs. 
 
Experience love and acceptance. Experience Heal This Way.  
 
A portion of all profits have been pledged to charities that promote equality and positive social change.  #SpreadLove
This is a beautiful book.  Absolutely stunning.  The layout is spectacular and eclectic.  I love the variety of photos used and the variety of subjects.  Little Monsters are so creative in expressing themselves and it shows.  I was highly impressed at their outfits, their hair and makeup.

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Beautiful

I loved how the photographer was able to coax this part of the models out into the open.  And photograph them.  And obtain their consent for publication. You can really tell that they were comfortable posing in a way they felt was truly representative of who they are a person.  They were having fun.  they were free to be who they are.  That is a tremendous talent.

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But apparently not everyone felt comfortable after the shoot.  This page made my heart hurt:

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I know nothing of art books, nothing of graphic artistry,  but as a complete novice, I really liked the lay out of the book.  I liked how the pictures were set up next to each other, the ratio of full page shots to quarter page shots etc.  I like which fonts were used, when the letters were typeset versus handwritten, etc.  Here is an example:

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I thought that was really cool.  The colors used were vibrant and appropriate.  Not garish or tacky.  The book didn’t scream at you.  It was apt.

What was most moving of all was the letters.  The personal missives to Lady Gaga from the Little Monsters themselves detailing what she meant to them.  Now, I’m one of those that tends to roll their eyes when someone talks about a celebrity in such personal terms.  But after actually Googling Lady Gaga and reading about the work she has done on behalf of the LGBTQ community, I truly understand how she has made such an impact.

This page in particular was touching:

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“You taught me how to be brave and that I should not really give a shit to what others think.”

That is so hard to do.  We are so conditioned to contain things, to hide things, to conform to what society perceives as “normal”.  To not rock the boat.

Even in my limited time on this planet, it is refreshing to see some of these sentiments changing.  To see that people are becoming more accepting.  To see a book like this being published.  To see that people aren’t scared to dress the way they want, to be photographed in this manner, telling their stories.  I can tell you that when I was in high school, so long ago (I graduated in 2000), people were still terrified of coming out.

This book is important.  Thank you to the brave Little Monsters who shared their stories and themselves and to Tracey B. Wilson for photographing them and putting the book together.  And for generously sharing the book with me.

Book Review: Inner Course by Rebecca Joy

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I was a bit hesitant on this book because of the nature of the stated cult that the author grew up in, but I went on another one of my tangents in my reading, this one being a “spiritual/meditation” type one, so I jumped right into this book.

There are no graphic descriptions of sexual abuse, and it really didn’t trigger me.

That being said, I did have to look up “The Family” after the first chapter they were mentioned just because I couldn’t believe that something this vile was still allowed to exist.  I’m all for religious freedom, but “religions” like these really give atheists ammunition for the banning of all religions.  As much curiosity as I had about their way of life, I am truly grateful that Ms. Joy didn’t focus her memoir on her life in the cult.  I feel serious rage on her behalf.

Here is the synopsis:

Rebecca Joy, a sensitive, emotional female was raised from birth in the sex cult called, “The Family” (aka The Children of God), leaving after 25 years. Now, hopeless and longing for love she searches for acceptance in this scary, new world––but to her “love stinks.” She never understood love, as in the cult her flesh was the only thing to offer in life, as she was a sex object to men. In her search for love outside the cult she experiences intense pain. She realizes she can no longer live life this way. The decision was made to either swallow a daily pill to subdue her roller coaster emotional ride, or open to the unknown to find who she really was and why she suffered. With desperation and a curious mind, she delves into the world of hypnosis, finding clues from hidden, ancient mysteries on how to heal her heart and mind. Her story is one of inspiration to all people who have experienced hopelessness, rejection, and failure in life only to rise again.

This book has the distinction of being the MOST HIGHLIGHTED by me, ever.  No fewer than 23 passages were highlighted.  And I’m usually not one that marks up a book, even if it is electronically.

The focus of this memoir is Ms. Joy’s all encompassing appears to be a quest for love.  Her struggles with relationships after she leaves “The Family” at age 25.  Like other survivors of sex abuse, regardless of their origin, she has difficulty with self-worth, boundaries, and expectations.  Time and time again in this work she captures these issues with a few phrases:

If I had boundaries, they were blurry.  A man that I did not know wanted to stay at my house.  One one hand, I was thrilled with the idea of love, romance, and excitement, but on the other palm, I felt uncomfortable with a stranger in my nest.

I am afraid to offend the offender.  What if he leaves me because I don’t give him what he wants?

My self-esteem was non-existent, deeply believing:  I am nothing, I am worthless, no one could truly love me, my body is all I am good for.  My needs were intense; my heart crushed.  I was vulnerable and heavily guarded.

The parts regarding the cult absolutely ripped my heart out.  With regards to religion, I have no allegiance.  I’m more “spiritual”.  I guess I’m starting on my journey much like Ms. Joy in this book.  But I never really grew up in a church.  I went to Catholic school, but my parents weren’t particularly strict about it.  I have always been free to make my own determination.  So these passages that feature her young teenage years in “The Family” hit me really hard.  I have no frame for it, and it was very emotional for me:

“I wonder what live would be if I were not born in The Family”, I questioned–but now ashamed of questioning my question. “I know–I know, I shouldn’t think this way!  The Lord is going to be angry with me.  I’m supposed to be a missionary and tell the world about Jesus”, as I try to change my thoughts, “But how much I wish I could have a like like other girls in the US, away from all this boring life–work, witness, make money, childcare, housekeeping and whatever the adults tell us to do and how to be.”

I remember the many years in The Family, men would approach me for sex.  David Berg taught his followers that women’s job were to please men.  Women were to take care of men’s needs.  It was well ingrained into the doctrine.  I followed as I was instructed, believing that if I were to do what we were told, that we would be happy, loved and fulfilled, but it didn’t work out that way.  I became confused and hurt.  I would cry when a man would use me and leave me, wishing that maybe one day I would be loved.  I longed for closeness and depth.  They would prey on my weakness.

As much as the passages of the doctrine of the cult haunted me, and Googling the actual cult itself, Ms. Joy’s personal growth and steps to finding her inner peace soothed me.  I have always had an interest in  hypnosis, and I infrequently meditate myself, but have never formally looked into it.  That may change.

The ending is perfect.  I think I would have felt cheated if it ended any other way.

Again, with most memoirs I read, and one of my favorite memoir writers can attest to this, I wanted to know more.  Mainly about her son and if she was able to keep him out of The Family, as I am assuming that he father was a member.  More of a mother type curiosity than anything else.

I still can’t believe that these types of cults are allowed to operate, but my husband pointed out, its “religious freedom”.  Which brings me to my final quote from this amazing book:

A religion is an organization in which the individual goes outside of oneself to find meaning.  Spirituality and/or mysticism encourage individuals to go within themselves to find meaning.  Religion requires structured, organized beliefs for people to follow along.  Spirituality and/or mysticism can break that belief system in order to find a greater freedom.

I love books that make me think.  This book did more than that.

Very well written, even with the back and forth between her journey into spirituality and her time in the cult.  Very deep and emotional.  Overall and excellent read.  Highly recommended.

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