Category Archives: Romance

Robin’s Reviews

Shatter Me Series, Book 1

shatter-me-new-eye-co1a459Having told JSI readers last week that I was reading the Shatter Me series by author Tahereh Mafi, I felt compelled to review the books for you. I may even make reviewing a regular part of my blogging. With that in mind, my reviews will reflect the way I like to be reviewed myself, knowing what the reviewer liked and what she could have done without. In addition, I will avoid reviewing books in the JAFF genre unless I can comfortably give the author 5 stars.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when I began reading the series, but this wasn’t it. Consequently, my first thoughts of Shatter Me, Book 1, were rather negative. The writing is sometimes difficult to read, because it’s nearly all stream of consciousness from the heroine’s point of view, and she’s a mess. But she’s a really hot mess, according to every man who looks at her. She wouldn’t know since she hasn’t looked in a mirror in three years.

Our protagonists, Juliette and Adam, are not normal. I expected that, knowing that the books were Dystopian Young Adult.

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Tris, Peeta, and Gail (The Hunger Games)  are the most pedestrian of all the DYA heroes I’ve read. Their abnormalities lie in their strength of character, physical abilities, and compassion. In short, they are very believable. I read the books around four times.

Edward and Bella are both supernatural. Edward is a vampire. (I hope I didn’t spoil The Twilight Saga for you. Is there anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard that Edward is a vampire?) He can read minds. Bella is a shield. I read the series at least ten times. (The books are YA, but not Dystopian.)

twilight-saga

Divergent features Tris, who is divergent – a mixture of all the factions, and Four, who appears to be the same, but really isn’t. I never quite grasped why, for he embodied all of them, but for the plot to work, Tris had to be the only true divergent one on the planet. Hence, poor Four, who has already suffered enough, loses his divergent status. I read the books three or four times. Are you sensing a trend? divergent-series

Shatter Me opens with Juliette in an asylum.  She has a supernatural gift (think Rogue in X Men), and she is traumatized beyond endurance. Adam (Bella in The Twilight Saga) is placed in the cell with her. She has had no human contact in more than three years. She can’t touch anyone without killing them, so she’s reverted to a nearly feral state. The books are all from her point of view. Once I understood her difficulties, I was more impressed with the author’s writing. It works for Juliette, though it grated on my English teacher’s nerves. Another thing I didn’t care for, Juliette whined constantly. I began to lose all sympathy for her.

Also, I need to say that there is a good bit of touching and sensuality in Shatter Me, though body parts aren’t named, and they are constantly interrupted before they can do very much physically. They never get past touching, much to Juliette’s frustration. Her inner dialog is quite loud about what she’s experiencing, but not specific. To me, that isn’t erotica, and it didn’t offend me, but it might offend you. I can understand how a person who could never touch anyone in her entire seventeen years without killing them could be carried away if she finally finds an unusually handsome, well-built, kind young man (eighteen years old) who can touch her and not die. Juliette is starving for physical contact.

All of the main good guy characters have supernatural gifts, and I could identify nearly all of them from X Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Avengers.

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The first book in the series, Shatter Me, deals with Juliette’s discovery of more ways to use her gift and revelations about the other supernatural characters. Mafi sets up the next two books, setting the stage for us to hate the antagonist, Warner (another aspect of Rogue in X Men), and The Reestablishment. Every good DYA features an evil government which must be battled. The Reestablishment serves quite nicely.

If you think I didn’t like Shatter Me, think again. I’m rereading the series. If I weren’t caught up in the story, I wouldn’t reread it. Now that I’m reading it with a better understanding of the characters, I’m enjoying it more.

Any book that gets a reread from me deserves 5 stars.

Come back next week for a review of Unravel Me, the second book in the series.

 

What are you reading now?

I’ve posted about the books of my childhood, the books of my teen years, and the books which influenced me. Obviously, I love books!

You do, too, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

So tell me: What are you reading right now?

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My daughter Melanie gave me a set of books for Mother’s Day last year, but real life was keeping me too busy to read anything not on my phone. I read while I wait in doctors’ offices or lines, and I don’t want to carry around paperbacks.

I saw them on a side table yesterday and decided that I’d like to know why these books had captivated her enough that she would spend the money to buy them (in paperback!) and mail them to me.

So far, I have to agree with her. They’re attention-grabbing time sinks. The writing style is different, but I like it. The characters are interesting – not just rewrites of Katniss and Peeta, Bella and Edward, or Tris and Four. Great covers, too!

shatter-me

It’s Dystopian Young Adult, so if that isn’t your “thing,” skip on by. Remember, I’m the reader who loved the Divergent series, The Hunger Games, and The Twilight Saga. Like those books, this is a series. She gave me the next two as well: Unravel Me and Ignite Me.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if these grab my attention and hold it or not. I’m not worried about whether or not there are erotic scenes, because my daughter would not read or recommend books that portray graphic sex. Romance? Yes, she would like that.

So, what are you reading now? We at Jane Started It want to know.

 

Understanding Elizabeth

Book Release!

understanding-elizabeth-3dMore and more, I understand Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “The Author to Her Book,” written nearly 350 years ago. The first line, “Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,” just about sums up how I felt when I touched the publish button Tuesday night.

A good writer always reveals a part of herself when she writes, and that’s a bit intimidating. In the case of Understanding Elizabeth, there are clues about my childhood and teen years.

I have never been very good at sports or physical games. I should clarify that I was actually hit in the forehead by a fly ball while holding my glove over my face trying to catch it. I was a teenager playing in a church softball game, and I had the attention of our entire small town at the time. Embarrassing? Yes. It knocked me flat on my back, and I think I passed out for a minute or two. Or maybe I just didn’t want to get up and face the crowd.

A similar incident, in which I was hit in my jaw by a ball straight off the bat, happened in elementary school. I was so humiliated that I stuck my finger down my throat so I could pretend to be sick and go home. It worked. I was a tricky little person.

However, I never had any problems with the three R’s, and I loved that aspect of school. I shared in a previous post that my sister Gayle (a natural-born teacher if there ever was one) taught me to read when I was four. She also taught me to play chess. Since I don’t remember when I couldn’t play, I have no idea how old I was.

I was lousy at basketball, softball, or anything else with “ball” in it, but I loved word games and games of strategy. Playing musical instruments came fairly easily as well, because I enjoyed practicing. My entire family was musical. Gayle and I played piano and flute, Layne played clarinet, and all of us (six children!) sang along with Mama and Daddy.

I incorporated that feeling of joy at being good at something into Understanding Elizabeth. My Elizabeth doesn’t ride a horse, though there’s a lovely scene in which Darcy teaches her (le sigh!), but she’s a chess master. She isn’t shy about it, either. They fall in love over books and chess.

Darcy is socially awkward, but he excels in academic and physical pursuits. He’s a man who can discuss favorite books with the heroine. (My husband read all of Jane Austen’s works so he could understand what my daughters and I were talking about. He’s watched the film versions several times, too. Yes, ladies, there really are men like that.)

These are two capable, intelligent people who recognize their strengths and their weaknesses.

I have no problem with knowing your strong points as long as you also know your limitations. To me, that isn’t being proud; it’s giving yourself realistic goals. It’s okay to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s fine to be happy with yourself, as long as you don’t settle for less that what you can do.

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Elizabeth as much as I enjoyed writing it. This book is very different from my six previous books. I will be very interested in your feedback.

 

 

Southern Fried Austen

Bumfuzzled

Lizzy had just put on a new outfit and come out of the dressing room when Caroline Bingley strutted into the store with a full head of steam, loaded for bear.

Caroline: Charlie! You’re so low you’d steal the nickels off a dead man’s eyes. Why didn’t you tell me the store was open? You must be completely bumfuzzled. You know I wanted first choice of everything, and it’s your store, so I should get it. I’m your sister. Lizzy and Jane aren’t related to you.

Charlie: Tie the tent down. Here comes the wind storm. Caroline, we aren’t open yet.

Caroline: Hey! I like that dress Lizzy’s wearing. Who picked it out for her? I know she didn’t choose that herself. She looks almost pretty in it. Lizzy, take it off. I want to try it on. Red’s one of my colors – not yours. It makes you look like a streetwalker, while I would look elegant in it.

Lost and Confused Signpost

Definitely bumfuzzled.

Lizzy: You can have it, Caroline. I don’t really care. You’re right that I didn’t pick it out.

Caroline: I knew it. Who did? Jane?

Darcy: Georgie and I selected it for Lizzy, and it’s hers. I think she’s stunning in it. She and Jane get first choice of everything. You can come in tomorrow.

Caroline: I heard Charlie owns this store as much as you do.

Charlie: No, Caroline. I don’t. Darcy owns sixty percent, and I own forty. Even if we were equal partners, I wouldn’t overrule him for you.

Caroline: It’s not good to put your girlfriend before your family. Wait ’til I tell Daddy you’ve got more loyalty to your girlfriend than you do to your sister.

Charlie: Go ahead and tell him. Jane and Lizzy aren’t just our girlfriends. They’re the store managers. Employees get first pick of everything.

Caroline: You never gave me a chance to work here. That isn’t fair.

Charlie: You’ve never held a job for more than a few weeks. Uncooked meat has a longer shelf life than you do. We needed people who were dependable and well-liked to manage the place. You fuss with near ‘bout everybody, and your buddies wouldn’t buy clothes in a consignment shop. The girls who will come here won’t want someone waitin’ on them who turns up her nose at everyone who isn’t rich. You must be bumfuzzled to think they would.

Caroline: You’re so dumb you couldn’t find your hiney with a flashlight in each hand. I have an army of friends, and they’ll follow me wherever I go. If I shop at CW’s, they will, too. You must’ve forgot I was prom queen twice in high school. Everybody likes me. If I say the clothes in this store are tacky, they won’t shop here. Your stupid little store will go out of business.

Lizzy: She has a point. Just let her have the dress. There are plenty more in here.

Darcy: That’s your dress, but I’m sure Caroline can find something she likes. Bingley, I don’t care if your sister chooses some clothes today. If she wears them around town and tells people where she got them, it will help our business.

Jane: I agree. I don’t want any hard feelings between us. I can’t enjoy my new clothes if Caroline is unhappy about my having them.

Lizzy: I could, but I’d rather have her working with me than against me.

Caroline: Well, Charlie?

Charlie: It gripes me that you always get your dadgum way. I’m bumfuzzled as to why y’all want to give in to her, but I won’t stand in the way if you’re all in favor of it. Fine! Pick out a dress, Caroline.

Caroline: Do I get a family discount?

Charlie: It’s a consignment store, for cryin’ out loud. The prices are already lower than the lowest settin’ of a limbo stick.

Darcy: I don’t object to a ten percent discount. Georgie can have the same deal.

Charlie: This is ridiculous! If you give in to her, it never stops. She always wants more.

Caroline: Ten percent off, or I walk and take all my friends with me.

Charlie: I think I’ve lost one too many balls in the high weeds, but if it’ll make you leave faster, you can have the discount. We’ll give the same deal to Lydia, Kitty, and Mary.

Caroline: Why? They aren’t related to you or Darcy.

Darcy: No, but they’re related to the store managers. I’m beginnin’ to see Charlie’s point. It’s never enough, is it? You not only want the discount, you also want to say who can and can’t have it. It’s not up to you. If you can’t take what’s offered without tryin’ to control everything, you can go somewhere else.

Charlie: Yep. She’d start a fight at the drop of a hat, and she’d drop it herself. She’s meaner than a skillet full of rattlesnakes. She’s a playground bully.

Caroline: Just shut your ten-gallon mouth. I want to shop in peace. Jane, honey, can you help me?

Charlie: Janie’s pickin’ out clothes for herself. You don’t need help.

Caroline: ‘Course I do. Somebody needs to hold what I pick out so I can keep shoppin’.

Charlie: Your arms aren’t broke. Hold your own stuff.

Darcy: You’re not emptyin’ out the store before it opens, Caroline.  Just choose a couple of things and try them on.

Caroline: Will you stay around so I can model them for you like Lizzy’s doin’? I’d like a man’s opinion.

Darcy: I’ll stay out here to see how Lizzy looks. If you come out at the same time, I guess I’ll see you, too.

(Caroline walks away to pick out clothes.)

Lizzy: I’d rather not try on clothes in front of Caroline. She enjoys this stuff, but I don’t. She’s right. I just look ridiculous.

Darcy: There’re more dressing rooms on the other side of the store. Let me help you get your clothes, and we’ll go over there. Charlie can give her “a man’s opinion.”

Lizzy: You’re my favorite weakness. Lead the way.

Darcy: (smiling) You must be the square root of two, because I feel irrational around you.

Lizzy: Your name must be Waldo, ‘cause someone like you is hard to find.

Darcy: Is your name Wi-Fi? I’m feelin’ a connection.

chocolate cake

Lizzy: I love that you look at me like I look at chocolate cake.

Darcy: Did we just share electrons? I’m feelin’ a covalent bond between us.

Lizzy: You breathe oxygen? We have so much in common.

Darcy: You must live in a cornfield. I’m stalkin’ you.

Lizzy: With guns like yours, who needs a phaser?

Darcy: If you were fruit, you’d be a fineapple.

Lizzy: Are you a ninety degree angle? ‘Cause you’re lookin’ right!

Darcy: I want to be the reason you look down at your phone and smile – just before you walk into a pole. Then, I want to be your emergency contact person.

Lizzy: Do you believe in love at first sight? Or should I walk by again?

Darcy: Always walk by again. I’m callin’ this a tie.

Lizzy: I love that shirt. You know what it’s made of?

Darcy: Polyester?

Lizzy: No. Boyfriend material.

 

 

 

 

Front porch friends

Cokes 5 I’m still in the midst of running around, finishing up with wedding details. There is light at the end of that tunnel. I’m finally making some headway on my (second) list after finishing the first.

Dylan & Mel meet

However, friends should always find time to sit down together and visit. Gayle and Barbara, I’m still looking for you, and Pamela, please accept my apologies for calling you “Pam.” There was no “Pamela.”

I’ll post a few wedding pictures next week! Maybe then I’ll even have time to drink the Coke.

Here’s a picture of the very first time Melanie met Dylan. They were both at the Passion Conference in Atlanta.  Three-and-a-half years later, they’re getting married. #PassionSincePassion

You’re Still the One

Trash_FlowersWhen we were talking about a theme for Valentine’s Day here at JSI, we finally came down to Epic Fails in Gift Giving. Robin told about her husband’s interesting gift choices over the years, and how they are more than made up for by many fine, personal qualities. This post is a continuation along those lines. Except, the gift giving failure in my family is me, and I guarantee you that I have few fine qualities to make up for them.

I should have known I was in over my head when it came to gifts when my husband saved me from being drowned on our first date. He hates the story so I respect his feelings and don’t tell it, but suffice it to say that for a guy who showed up for the date in ratty Puma running shoes and a pickup with knee-deep cans and fast food wrappers in the passenger’s side floor, he did himself proud as a shiny knight and won my heart.

My attachment to Persuasion is probably because we are like Anne and Frederick, gradually acquainted and falling quickly in love. We met on June sixth, 1977 and were married the following March. That first Christmas together he was buying me clothes. His taste is so good it was that Christmas outfit I wore when we got married. He was good about picking things up unexpectedly and surprising me. I didn’t think much about it until we had been married for seven or eight years.

At that point we had survived a couple of lay-offs from his job and the economy of rural Missouri was killing us. One evening he brought home a small bouquet like you find at grocery stores. It cost maybe two-fifty, three dollars. When stretching unemployment, a bouquet of flowers translated into a couple of pounds of ground beef and several meals to me. I launched and made it clear as crystal that I didn’t need flowers, we needed every dime to cover real expenses like rent and food.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t take many receptions like that to kill natural romantic inclination.
Other than the standard flower-giving holidays, I haven’t received a bouquet since.
I don’t have the clothes anymore and I wouldn’t be able to wear them if I did. It’s probably a good thing they aren’t hanging around to remind me how stupid I can be. Thankfully, Bill has given me something better that the perfect gift for any occasion. He’s given me complete acceptance.

I’m not an easy person to be married to, to be the child of or to be friends with. I’m depressive, angry some of the time, and have situations in my life that leave me muttering most of the day. Yet, every day, when I wake up, I know that Bill accepts me just where I am at that particular moment. He expects certain things like coffee in the morning and dinner before he goes to work at one, but even if those are sidetracked, he’s flexible and finds a way to soldier on. He listens when I blather on about my writing even though writing has, at times, been an obsession of mine that kept my face in the keyboard and not paying attention to him.

None of this is to say that we aren’t annoyed at one another on occasion. We don’t fight, but we do have those times when all the bristles are out and just walking into the same room is … tense. But we find a way. We persist in being relentlessly constant to one another.

Ours is not a romantic passion. We were never, even when I was slender and it looked good, one of those couples who are all over each other in private or in public. In fact, most people seeing us in public probably feel sorry. “Those people aren’t even talking. I’ll bet they don’t even like each other.” Well, I’m sure that some days he would agree with them.

Today is Thursday. Garbage day in the neighborhood. I’ll get up and rat around the house until everyone else gets up. My granddaughter will be screaming through the kitchen as I cook dinner. Bill will be at the table drinking his coffee and playing referee for me. After dinner, before he goes to work, he’ll go get the garbage can. He’ll come home around eleven and endure me watching an episode of The Walking Dead before he can watch The Big Bang Theory or Top Gear. We’ll go to bed around 12:30.

There is nothing crazy, exciting, surprising or toe-curling about our lives. The gifts are still spot-on—techy stuff that sometimes takes me further away from him for a while. There’s nothing extraordinary about us, except he loves me in the way I need to remain sane.

Click to hear the song, “You’re Still the One” by Orleans and listen to what is still the anthem of our marriage. (Hey, it beats “Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles, which was the runner-up.)

Honorable Clergymen

Most of us probably watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday night (just to see Linnea’s son Davis rock that palm tree in the halftime show). I really didn’t care which team won, but there was a person on the sidelines for the New England Patriots who caught my attention – their chaplain, Jack Easterby.

Jack Easterby, chaplain of the New England Patriots

Jack Easterby, chaplain of the New England Patriots

The typical team chaplain is a pastor at a local church who volunteers to host Saturday chapel for 10 or so players who attend and is compensated with cash in a collection plate. In New England, Easterby has an office. He 
hosts Bible study, works coaches’ hours in his office counseling players and their wives, throws passes in practice to Darrelle Revis and sometimes even jumps in on scout-team drills. When he’s not listening, he’s texting. When he’s not texting, he’s writing players and coaches individual notes, recapping their personal goals and reminding them of how thankful he is to know them. He prefers to be called a character coach, not a chaplain, because he doesn’t push religion on anyone. “He just wants to love you,” Slater says. “He just wants to be your friend. How can you not love a guy like that?”

I’ve never met Easterby personally, but I’ve known about him for several years as the University of South Carolina campus director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. My future son-in-law did an internship with him a few summers ago. In 2005, he got a job as the academic adviser for the Gamecocks men’s basketball team. He began hosting Bible study for all of USC’s athletes and coaches, and he learned how to bond with all kinds of young men — fatherless, fathers themselves, black, white, rich, poor — by focusing like a laser on what they needed, not what he wanted. “Jack cut across all religious beliefs,” says then-coach Dave Odom.

He still lives in Columbia, SC, with his wife and two young daughters. He travels to Foxborough for Thursday through Monday, but he sees himself as a character coach more than a team chaplain.

There are very few admirable men of the cloth in Austen’s writings. Henry Tilney and Edward Ferrars are the only two which come to mind. I’ve already mentioned Edward in a previous post, so the spotlight is on Henry today.

Tilney (Northanger Abbey)is intelligent and witty. He’s fairly handsome, loyal to his family, particularly his sister Elinor, and attracted to the heroine Catherine Morland. When Catherine is dismissed in disgrace from his ancestral home while he is on his own estate, he follows her, apologizes for his previous misunderstanding of her, and proposes. There is no hint of a Collins in the man – no subservient, overly complimentary tendencies. No fawning. He is straightforward and honest.

JJ Feild as Tilney

JJ Feild as Tilney

Peter Firth in the role of Henry Tilney

Peter Firth in the role of Henry Tilney