29 April 2016

Book Review: Cautionary Tales by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Cautionary Tales: Voices from the EdgesCautionary Tales: Voices from the Edges by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If these stories were a movie, you would find that the old woman telling the tales is either one of the young, buxom protagonist of one of the stories, or one of the spirits that interjects throughout the narrative. And she would likely unwrap her babushka from her head and frighten you with some hideous demon feature. This isn’t a spoiler in any way, simply the image that came into my head as I was reading.

These are fairy tales that will keep you up at night, partly out of fear as you wonder if the spirits are watching your every action, partly due to the erotic voyeurism of watching others make mistakes. The reader follows the spirits as they show us the errors of many human ways. Lust and greed lead people down many paths and some people pay for their actions as a way to teach others not to follow them.

Cautionary Tales is quite different from de Maupassant’s novel, The Gentlemen’s Club, but equally rich in language that draws the reader into a frightening, lustful, and delightful experience.


View all my reviews

27 April 2016

The Problem with Parenting Magazines

When I was pregnant a friend gave me some advice: Never read parenting magazines. “You’ll get put on the mailing list,” she said. “’With our complements,’ the card will tell you. Take the time to throw out the magazines and remove yourself from their mailing list. I promise this is one of the best things you can do as a parent.”

For the most part I followed that advice. I even threw out What to Expect by the time Muffin was three months old because she wasn’t following any of the directions the handbook gave and it stressed me out. Recently, though, I saw this headline, “Am I Supposed to Be My Child’s Playmate?”, from Parenting magazine. The mother of all magazines I try to avoid.

I am no expert in parenting, other than keeping my own child relatively happy and healthy for the last five years, but like most parents, regardless of my feelings on the topic, I’m going to click on a lot of parenting articles. Personally, I think it’s fine to find a balance between playing with children and giving them time and space to play on their own.

The very first paragraph made me uneasy. The author’s mother would make dinner for the family on the one night a week she wasn’t home for dinner because she had a graduate school class. Okay, that’s fine. But her father would throw away the pot roast, hiding it deep in the garbage can, order pizza, and hide the boxes in a neighbor’s garbage so that the mother would never find out. “It was our little secret,” the author says.

That is a terrible secret. Her parents were so held down by traditional parenting roles that her mother could not say to her father, “You are responsible for dinner this one night a week.” Nor could the father say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of dinner this one night a week.” She felt the need to make a dinner that her family would throw away. (Why throw it away? Why not carve it up for sandwiches or save it for another night?) I would be pissed if I found out my spouse and child were doing this after the trouble I went through to make the meal.

I realized as I read that this article taps into the insecurity many mothers feel about being Mean Mommy versus Fun Dad. I haunt parenting groups to see what other parents are up to and I see the Mean Mommy issues brought up by women all the time. Mothers are meant to nurture and be caregivers for their families. Fathers are meant to be playmates.

I call shenanigans.

Both parents are parents. Fathers are not playmates or baby-sitters. (More men are professional chefs but more women are still expected to cook for their families? Don’t even get me started on that… Maybe a future blog post.) Both parents can play to their strengths, of course, but at some time they are going to have to step up to both roles.

That is, if both parents are present and if they are a heterosexual couple.

There’s no reason why, if both parents are present, then they can’t share the nurturing and the playmate parts. Single parents have to do both. Same-sex parents take on both roles. There’s absolutely no need for it to be gender divided, or divided at all. So many parenting articles reinforce these gender roles without taking into account that families are not as nuclear as they were a generation or two ago, nor with taking into account the different personalities and strengths that different parents have. They continue to reinforce the image of the ideal superwoman who can keep a perfect household and hold down a career or further her education while dad occasionally baby-sits.

Families aren’t like that anymore and many media outlets continue to subversively keep that out-dated model alive.

And that's why I don't read parenting magazines. Really, I don't.

25 April 2016

The Importance of Apple Pie in Running

Recently Facebook reminded me that about two years ago my friend Running While Mommy shared this article with me, The REAL Best Foods for Runners, with the note that number eight reminded her of me. Apple pie. I'd had apple pie for breakfast one morning before we ran a ten miler together. And I was just fine. I ran the miles at a decent pace and I didn't get sick.

I thought of saying here, “I wouldn’t recommend this breakfast for every long run,” but I won’t. It’s none of my business if you eat apple pie for breakfast. You (hopefully) know your body better than I do.

I love reading about sports nutrition. I devour cookbooks, articles, research. But I can’t bring myself to follow all the advice, all the meal plans, all the tips about how to increase kale in my diet. I’ve tried that. I’ve monitored, written down, and analyzed every bite. I’ve counted my servings, measuring them on a kitchen scale. I’ve kept food journals.

It’s frickin’ exhausting. It takes the fun out of eating. And it takes up time I'd rather spend sleeping.

I’m forty and I’ve been running since I was fifteen. I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m willing to try new things but I love my old habits. I know that after a run of ten miles or longer, my favorite enchilada platter and a margarita will be waiting for me at the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. I stick with my old-school lemon-lime Gatorade for exceptionally long runs in warm weather. I'll take real chocolate milk, thank you very much, rather than a shake with chocolate-flavored protein powder.

My attention turns to food now for two reasons. One, I've put on a few pounds from winter comfort food and while I am in no way dieting, I am cutting back on my portions of chocolate and potato chips. But, two, as I've announced on Twitter and Facebook already, I'll be running my first marathon this this fall and it will take a lot of food and miles to get me to the starting line.

I entered the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon and I got in. So you can expect more running posts from me here as my training gets underway. You all know I don't count calories and blog every bite. You know I don't track every mile, every mile split, publicly on this blog, and I won't start now. But I will increase the number of my posts about running as I get into training and need a platform to hold myself accountable.

I started planning to run this marathon last October when I was reading about other friends and acquaintances running it. I already knew we'd be coming back to the United States in 2016 so I made it my goal to run it as a "Welcome Home" event. Sure, I came home several months sooner than planned, but this is still my year of being back home. I'm excited for the race.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a huge ball of fresh mozzarella in the fridge with my name on it. And I need to make an apple pie for this week's long run.

11 February 2016

Book Review: Alchemy xii -- The Entire Year by Tamsin Flowers

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.


Alchemy xii - The Entire Year: All 13 Alchemy xii novellasAlchemy xii - The Entire Year: All 13 Alchemy xii novellas by Tamsin Flowers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think the reason I haven’t enjoyed BDSM writing much is because most of what I’ve read of it has been bad.

Then in walked Harry Lomax, the “Prince of Kink.” I was intrigued by the book description and I was hooked from the very first pages. If you are into kink, then he is perfect book boyfriend material.

He’s not perfect, of course. He’s flawed like everyone else. But he’s oh-so-charming, too, and it’s easy to fall under his spell.

One of the joys of this book, and the touch of realism in relationships, is his romantic foil, Olivia Roux. They are drawn to each other. Harry wants to teach Olivia everything he knows about BDSM. Olivia says she wants to learn, but is her heart really in it? No matter how many times Harry says that falling in love is out of the question, and no matter how many times Olivia proves that she just can’t be a sub, you ache for them to figure out a happily-ever-after ending.

Alchemy iix is fantasy and romance. It’s boy-meets-girl-meets-kink. It’s so easy to get swept up into Harry’s and Olivia’s world.

I didn’t hear of the series until about halfway through the year and I decided to wait and read the whole thing at once rather than start up and have to wait each month. I was sick one weekend and stayed on the couch the entire time, glued to the adventures of Harry and Olivia. This is an extremely satisfying modern, kinky, romantic fairytale.

View all my reviews

08 February 2016

Leaving Bamako Behind

I’m going to start with a sequential order of events then try to sort out my feelings. It’s been hard for me to sit down and write this post but it is something I want to get down before I forget everything.

The week before Thanksgiving there was a terrorist attack at a hotel in Bamako. The hotel is near our house there and the attack not only changed the dynamic in the neighborhood but the entire security profile in Mali.

On December 1, the State Department put an authorized departure order in place, which is a sort of voluntary evacuation for nonessential employees and family members of all State employees in Bamako. But if you leave the country for any other reason during that time, you are not allowed back in until the order lifts.

Mike and I decided we would stay in Bamako until school let out for the Christmas holiday, then, after a family vacation, Muffin and I would return to the U.S. while Mike returned to his job in Bamako.

We had a wonderful safari vacation in Kenya. Mike and I were happy that Muffin’s last memories of Africa were fun adventures with animals, not being stressed out over bad guys in Mali.

On New Year’s Eve, we separated in Nairobi airport. Muffin and I landed in Boston the next day; Mike landed in Bamako.

The authorized departure is ongoing but even when it ends, Muffin and I will not be returning to Bamako. We’ll be staying in the U.S. until Mike’s assignment ends later this year.

It’s hard. We arrived to shocking winter cold with just a couple of suitcases and had to figure out some logistics, like winter clothes for Muffin, right away. There are loads of good things, however. We have a house, and a car, and lots of support from family and friends. Muffin is back in the same class she was in before we left for Mali, which helped her transition. The dust allergies we’d been suffering from in Bamako cleared up within a couple day of leaving there, so our physical health improved greatly. We no longer have the stress of living in the security situation in Mali.

But it’s still hard. We left with so little time to really process it. We were so sick and stressed out in the last couple of weeks in Bamako that it became difficult to say proper good-byes to all our friends, especially with all the stress of Christmas parties and other seasonal social obligations. I broke down toward the end and couldn’t really leave the house. I was so sick I couldn’t hold a conversation without coughing uncontrollably, which made me anxious and self-conscious. Muffin was visibly worried about bad guys all the time and we felt horrible about our decision to move the whole family to Mali in the first place.

We arrived to a house we’d bought but never lived in. I’ve slowly been bringing it together, but there are still days where I just sit and stare instead of put shelving together and measure closet space. I always have culture shock when I return to the U.S. but it seems doubly difficult this time. Some days all I can do is the minimum to get Muffin to school and provide decent meals. I’m running as often as I can, which is something. It’s been almost impossible to write, though. The seven hundred words or so of this post are the most I’ve written in weeks.

Friends and family members would ask me about what it was really like in Bamako during and after the attack. Eventually I caught on to a sort of glazed-over, yet slightly horrified, look in their eyes. I'd forget that I'd lived with the Bamako story for so long that it wasn't shocking to me anymore, it had become the status quo. But events like that and living in conditions like that aren't normal for most people in the U.S.

Last week I felt like I started to wake up from a fog. I feel healthier, mentally and physically. Muffin and I miss Mike but we all know this was the best decision for our family and we'll be together again soon.

So that's where we are now. We're in this weird limbo. We're waiting for Mike to come home safely. We're guilty about being healthy and eating good food. Most of our belongings are in Bamako and we can't get it back until Mike's assignment is up. I'm already tired of the U.S. and want to go back to Africa. I'm trying to get by with what I've got.

04 February 2016

Mountains Never Meet -- Now in Paperback!

I'm pleased to announce that after a few weeks of setbacks, Mountains Never Meet is now available in paperback at CreateSpace. It will follow on Amazon in about a week and I am working on additional distribution channels for both the paperback and e-book editions.

I'm so excited, you guys. It's been a busy few months (an updated Bamako post will follow in a few days -- let's just say I have left Bamako about 6 months earlier than expected, due to the security situation). I'm so happy that after everyone's been asking about the paperback I can finally offer it to you.

Thank you for hanging in there!

Also, I will be removing Mountains Never Meet from the Kindle Unlimited program in one week, on February 10. So if you've been meaning to read it for free under KU, please do so now! Click here to go to the Kindle page. It will still be available on Kindle for $2.99.

25 November 2015

Shopping Small

As everyone in the United States is gearing up for cold weather, parades, football games, turkey, and shopping, I’m watching my friends who are artists, writers, and small business owners gear up for their busy time of year. Here are some of the Rhode Island artists and small business owners that I know and love. Some of them have online stores, some of them you might just have to go meet in person and see how wonderful they really are.

Rick Devin
Thompson's Flowers and Antiques
Amy Kristin Photography
Spoonlove Bracelets

We can’t all shop local, I understand that. And I am among the zillions of people who do love the convenience of a site like Amazon. So consider books from indie authors and small presses. You’re still helping an individual. I’ve compiled a few of my favorites from this year at my Amazon store. (Amazon Affiliates link.) 

You don’t have to wait for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Snooze in Your PJs All Day Sunday (that’s a thing). You can click over to Facebook or Etsy or Amazon right now if you want to. Check the hours of your local coffee shop and an independent gift shop and pop in any time to spread some holiday cheer. They will appreciate it and you’ll know exactly where your money is going.

Here’s Where I Write on Bamako

I’ve written so many personal notes to friends and family over the last few days that it’s difficult to sit down and write my public feelings about what happened last Friday in Bamako. I’m exhausted. I may or may not have copy/pasted phrases from various notes and stitched them together here for this post.

Last Friday morning I was feeling too sick to be motivated to leave the house at my usual time for a run. My phone buzzed with a message from a friend telling me to stay home if I hadn’t left yet. Thank goodness I was sick. Otherwise I most likely would have been running past the Radisson at the time of the attack. I surrendered to the couch with a cup of tea and a long day of waiting for news ahead of me. I’m not going to rehash the day here. You can Google all the news if you’re not familiar with it. Reading it now still gives me a bit of a panicky headache.

Bamako is relatively back to normal now. Most people can’t afford to take the days off for mourning or states of emergency. The economy relies on everyone going to work every day. My run streak is still on (day 26 today). I spent a few days on the treadmill, partly due to the events here but partly due to the amount of dust in the air right now making my sinuses ache if I’m outside for too long.

It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m sick and all I want to do is sleep and order take-away on Thursday and hope that Mike doesn’t get called in to work. I am thankful that everyone I know is safe and sound. And that we have enough to eat should we choose to have a feast. And we have friends we can gather with, who are our family here. And we have a roof over our heads and all the necessities, and then some, which so many people in Mali and in the United States and in other parts of the world do not have. We are still very lucky.

19 November 2015

Book Reviews: A Taste for Mystery, Libidinous Zombie, & Summer Pudding

I've put up a few new reviews this week. Please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon after you read a book. The authors appreciate it!

These are my reviews as they appear on Goodreads.

A Taste for MysteryA Taste for Mystery by K.D. Rose
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

KD Rose does something I could never do, and that’s write a mystery that leaves you wondering who did it and what’s going to happen next. They were fun stories and a perfect read for a cold, rainy afternoon.




Libidinous Zombie: An Erotic Horror CollectionLibidinous Zombie: An Erotic Horror Collection by Rose Caraway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit, I wasn’t anxious to read this book even though I enjoy the writing of several of the authors. I hate zombies. And it’s not the gore, it’s the unrelenting, suffocating pursuit. Zombies are one of my irrational fears.

I faced my fear and read the book anyway. And I’m glad I did. Only one of the stories is about zombies. Tamsin Flowers’ zombie tale did give me the panicky feeling any story about zombies gives me because she tapped into that suffocating pursuit rather than the gore. But her tale turned out to be one of my favorites in the book.

The entire collection is full of horror and sex, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m a whimp about horror and there are a few stories I started at night and had to put down until daylight – most notably Malin James’s journey into an asylum. I also particularly liked Janine Ashbless’s erotic take on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the way Rose Caraway gave me second thoughts about how much I enjoy the Santa Ana winds.

These stories will keep you warm on a cold winter night and will make you pause to think about whether you want to turn the light off or not.


Summer Pudding: Story 1 of Forbidden FruitSummer Pudding: Story 1 of Forbidden Fruit by Tamsin Flowers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story left me breathless and anxious for berries to be in season next summer. Lisa and Laurent have the perfect amount of tension and sweetness between them, which leads to a delicious, satisfying ending.

View all my reviews

13 November 2015

Mountains Never Meet Kindle Release Day!

About a year ago I half jokingly posted a status on Facebook stating I was going to write expat-travel themed romance novels. Whether they were half joking or not, my friends encouraged me to actually do so. After a lot of work, here it is.

I made it a point to read more independent authors on my road to becoming one myself. I had no idea what I was getting into. I reached out to different online communities and not only did I learn some of the ropes (because there’s really no one way to do this) I met some wonderful people who have helped and supported me immensely.

Mountains Never Meet is available for Kindle from Amazon (in several countries, including the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, and India, so check your local Amazon site). The paperback edition and other digital formats will follow in a few weeks.

Thank you, everyone, for the various ways you supported and encouraged me. I hope you enjoy it. (And if you don’t, that’s okay, too. Not every book is for every person.)

US: http://amzn.to/1MN6QxF
UK: http://amzn.to/1Mbcpsz
Australia: http://bit.ly/1QzHwkW
Canada: http://amzn.to/1Nu7FvY
India: http://amzn.to/1NP4dRj

After you read, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads. (And check out the reviews I’ve left for other indie authors.) Thank you!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails