Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart
I am not ashamed to say I often purchase a book based solely on its cover or title and this read was once such purchase. Little did I know that between the pretty covers is a strong, emotional, and compelling story that is a fictionalized account of historical events and is based on survivor testimony. In Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys draws the reader into the cold and cruel world of World War II and the Lithuanian (Estonian and Latvian too) deportees whose story is often completely overshadowed by that of the Jews.
The night Lina, her mother and younger brother are taken from their home by Russian soldiers – on Stalin’s orders – is a night the young girl will never forget. Sadly, despite how awful this night is, it is the last night for many, many long years that Lina will know a sense of safety and security. Lina and her family are only three of many who are being rounded up and loaded into cattle cars where they are soon to discover they are being deported to Siberia. Their crime is much the same as the Jews, they existed. The initial ride is long and brutal with people being packed into the cattle cars like sardines. Within a few short weeks hunger is rampant, the stench from both human waste and the dead is unbearable, and most among the living are covered head to toe with lice. All the more horrifying is the treatment given to the deportees by the soldiers, men who clearly hate those they do not know and care not for anyone’s comfort but their own. While you would never expect there to be any moments of happiness or kindness during such horrific times, there are in fact a few. Lina’s mother is kind and generous and often encourages both her children and the others gathered with them to act similarly. She encourages all to come together and help one another as best they can. And, she leads by example, sharing the limited food they are given with those who need it most, sharing her warmth (literally and emotionally) with all who will accept it, and often putting herself in harm’s way in order to protect another. While Lina is often frustrated by her mother’s behavior and tells her they must fight back Lina ultimately learns her mother’s kindness and generosity are the means by which she fights back.
No matter the circumstances, their location, or their treatment, Lina never gives up hope that she and her family will survive this horrific ordeal and be reunited with her father. To that extent, anytime they are allowed (read bargain, barter, or bribe) to send a letter, Lina leaves clues as to their whereabouts for her father hidden in her artwork. This is a treacherous and risky course for Lina to take but one she feels is worth the risk. Thankfully Lina is stubborn and single-minded in this pursuit because after a time she and many of the other deportees are once again loaded into cattle cars and then a barge where they are dumped in the middle of Siberia just a few short months before the raging winter arrives.
As if the story, up to this point weren’t bad enough, the time in Siberia is unbelievable. By this time most of the deportees are nothing more than skin and bones, they are malnourished, and most harbor some illness that is just looking for the smallest of opportunities to become worse and claim yet another life. They are weak yet still expected to build large-scale buildings for the soldiers’ comfort and their own shelters with whatever materials they can scavenge and/or steal. Inexplicably, Lina and her group, which still includes her mother and her younger brother, are able to construct a small enclosure that provides only the barest of protection against the harsh Siberian environment. For most, Siberia is the final stop on their life journey.
The Bottom Line: Between Shades of Gray took me completely by surprise with its power and message and though it is a very hard story to read in terms of its subject matter it is also very hard to put down. Without doubt, Between Shades of Gray is driven by its characters and though Lina and her family are fictional characters, they, and all the characters, are based on the accounts of survivors collected by Ruta Sepetys during her research for this novel.
As Sepetys clearly notes the Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians were geographically stuck between two enormous evils – Russia and Germany – and both evils wanted them all gone. Like so many others from this tragic period in human history, the names of all those who suffered and died are not known and Sepetys has remained true to this by giving a few of characters descriptions rather than names. The bald man and the man who wound his watch for example; though these characters are not named, they are just as real as Lina and her family.
Then, there are the soldiers, a mindless, faceless group whose deplorable treatment of other human beings brought out a special kind of hatred in me. Whether intentional or not, Sepetys creates characters who are heroic even in their darkest moments as well as characters we can all hope have found their very special place in Hell.
On a more positive note, Sepetys also made sure to include the moments of kindness, love and hope, all of which existed alongside and in spite of the pure evil. Lina finds love that will last her a lifetime, some who never should have survived do because of the care and compassion of others, and those who did not survive met their deaths with honor. It is among these moments that I was reminded of the triumph of the human spirit and the power of the positive to counteract the negative.
Should you choose to pick up Between Shades of Gray, and I highly recommend that you do, I would also suggest reading the author’s note and interview which follow the conclusion of the book. There is a wealth of information to be found there including the primary reason so many of us never knew the story of the Lithuanian, Estonian, and Latvian survivors of WWII.
A girl who needs to undo the past.
A boy who wants to forget it.
In love, there’s no way back.
At high school in Steep Hill, Kansas, Cassie O’Malley and Josh MacBride were the poster couple for quarterback/cheerleader romance until they starred in their own tale of teen pregnancy. No need to say: their shotgun wedding was low-key. But when there was no baby anymore, they went their separate ways.
Five years later, Josh has breezed through Georgetown and is about to finish his post-grad degree at Oxford University. He is set to join a lobbying group on Capitol Hill, owned by his new fiancée’s father. For Josh, the sky is now the limit… only he must first take care of a tiny legal matter: technically, he’s still married to the girl who broke his heart.
Meanwhile, Cassie has been waiting tables in Steep Hill to pay for her sick grandmother’s care. On the day of the old lady’s funeral, Cassie is served with two sets of papers. Josh is asking for a divorce. Her heart squeezes, but, well, he moved on a long time ago. But the second envelope shakes Cassie to the core. So, for the first time, she leaves Kansas and heads to good ol’ England.
There, Cassie finds that Josh has not just “moved on,” he’s freakin’ engaged to some blue-blooded heiress. The feelings Cassie had buried deep rush back to her. But no matter if he keeps thrusting the divorce papers under her nose, she needs him to save the only person she loves more than Josh, more than life itself…
Marion loves to share happy vibes, talk book crush, fictional boyfriends and sexual chemistry with like-minded people. And because she spends most of her days on her own deep inside her writing cave, you are welcome to come and say “hello” from time to time. Just to make sure she doesn’t sink into insanity.
Her friends, family and arch-enemies (there are quite a few) will be forever grateful for your help.
The author is offering a giveaway to accompany the cover reveal. Up for grabs is (1) eARC of NO REVERSE . The giveaway is open internationally and the winner will be emailed in late June when the ARC becomes available.
Also up for grabs is a (1) signed poster of NO REVERSE.
Just click the cute ‘copter link below to enter for your chance to win.
From time to time and when the mood strikes I do a general erotica search on Amazon. Make no mistake, I don’t purchase the first thing I find but search for reads that have received decent to very good ratings from multiple readers. If I am going to read erotica, I want a good story to accompany the naughty bits and have found this many times over. Unfortunately, His Every Touch fell sorely short of this mark despite having received solid ratings.
I freely admit there are no major issues where writing style, grammar, the type of sex described etc. are concerned; it is with the characters and plot that I take issue. Courtney Bell is a young woman who has, unbeknownst to herself, held the attention of her boss Vance Forster for many, many years. In fact, Courtney and Vance went to high school together and while Courtney never knew of Vance’s existence, he well knew of hers. In fact, as an adult Vance still carries anger and resentment toward Courtney for never acknowledging his presence while in high school. Mind you, Vance never, ever bothered to try and approach Courtney or make himself known to her.
In the interceding years, Vance has schooled himself in the art of BDSM with the intention of not only satisfying himself and his own desires but also to satisfy a more devious and insidious plan. Vance has spent his adult life planning to ensnare Courtney and make her sub to his dom and when she is broken and totally and completely his, will then reveal to her just how humiliating her submissiveness really is in his eyes. Vance’s ultimate goal is to humiliate the woman who ignored him in high school. I remind you, dear reader, Vance never, ever attempted to make himself known to Courtney.
As planned, Courtney falls at Vance’s feet and submits to every naughty lesson he has for her. Though, admittedly Vance offers Courtney a way out in the beginning and adheres to BDSM rules regarding safe words, he inflicts nearly every humiliation he can think of on her unsuspecting body and mind. Though Courtney often enjoys her encounters with Vance she is conflicted by the things he does to her and struggles with her mixed feelings toward their “relationship”. All comes crashing down when Courtney spills her entire story to her best friend Maggie, a best friend since well before high school and one who immediately recognizes Vance Forster’s name. Suddenly, Courtney is forced to examine every moment she has spent with Vance, his motivations, and why he would not reveal to her just how long he has known her. As Courtney is dealing with her own issues, Vance has come to the startling realization that he loves Courtney and wants to keep her by his side. Thus ensues the HEA. Are you effing kidding me?
The Bottom Line: As previously mentioned, I have no problem with the writing style, BDSM themed sex, etc. I do however have a problem with a woman who would willingly fall back into the arms of a man who has willfully and with ill-intent sought to humiliate her for a crime she never committed. In fact, Vance admits to wanting to punish and humiliate Courtney so she will understand how he felt all those years ago in high school as a result of her perceived slight. A feeling he suffered because of his own weakness and cowardice, I might add. When the weasel comes to Courtney, apologizes, tells her he loves her and offers to be her sub, she not only forgives him but moves in with him. WTH?? I simply cannot understand how a woman could have so little self-respect as to ignore the fact that this man has watched her for years and spent his time planning to humiliate her because of his own weakness. While I fully appreciate this is Courtney’s choice and one that will make her happy it is also a choice that makes her appear weak, needy, of seriously low self-esteem, and incapable of breaking her ties to a man that is ultimately a sick stalker. For this reason alone, I cannot in good conscious recommend this novella series to any reader of any age.
A Magical Journey of Epic Romance
Layla: Layla Callaway has found comfort in her new role as a coven member, and she’s declared her love for the heartthrob who led her home, but as beautiful as her life appears, it’s shadowed by the evil threatening to rip it away.
Quin: After years of meaningless flings, Quin Kavanagh has finally found love in Layla and yearns to keep her close, but the strength and longevity of their relationship is tested by Finley, a powerful wizard who promises to rid Layla’s life of danger… then claim her as his reward.
The Enemy: They’ve attacked once, leaving Layla with grievous injuries, and the worst has yet to come. The Stranger has drawn closer than anyone knows. And with the disappearance of his lieutenant, Agro is on a rampage, determined to get his witch… or make her family pay.
Stretching from coast to coast and teeming with loathed villains and beloved heroes, The Mystic Series is rich with emotion, magic and intrigue. Whether the reader is laughing, crying or falling in love, they’ll find themselves invested in Layla’s fate through the rich dialogue and emotionally driven characters that weave the web of this fiery tale.
Quin awoke feeling rested and alert, and when he looked down at Layla’s peaceful aura, his mood soared. She was well and safe and in his arms, and he couldn’t ask for more out of life than what he held at that moment.
He closed his eyes and magically started a pot of coffee and breakfast. Then he tightened his hug and nuzzled her hair. “Good morning, angel.”
“Yes…” she purred, stretching against him, and a second later he was on his back, forced into the position by her surprisingly strong palms. She straddled his waist and flashed a bright smile. Then her lips were on his and her tongue was in mouth, kissing deeply and hungrily.
A moan muffled in his throat as his hands drifted toward her on their own accord, but then an odd thump of his heart awoke his willpower, and he flexed his fingers, stretching away tingles as well as the urge to rip off her underwear. Instead, he worked one hand into her spirals while moving the other to her waist.
B. C. Burgess is a small town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, where she still resides with her devoted husband and their young son. She’s addicted to coffee and writing and thinks the combination is heaven. Inspired to write by her love of reading, she feels fiction provides a healthy escape from the hardships of life, and hopes her stories touch the hearts of her readers, just as she’s been touched time and again. Though most of her visions flower in the form of fiction, she dreams of the day her passion for writing, along with determination and hard work, will prove to her son creative dreams can come true.
If you like the tales B. C. weaves, let her know. She loves hearing from her readers.
When Maddy graduated from Columbia University, she was ready to change the world. She’d get a job at Newsline, meet a nice guy, and live happily ever after with a real designer handbag on her arm. Five years later, she’s stuck producing puff pieces for News 9 San Diego–where “if it bleeds, it leads.” She’s still single, her family’s falling apart, and so is her knock-off Kate Spade.
Then Jamie Hayes walks through her newsroom door. The former filmmaker is everything Maddy has ever dreamed of. Creative, smart, sweet—and with eyes that could make a girl melt. The perfect guy…but perfectly unavailable. And the more Maddy tries to stay away—the further she starts to fall.
Now a secret scoop from her favorite knock-off purse guy has Maddy chasing a lead that could make her career. Or destroy it forever. How far is she willing to go to broadcast the truth? And will this breaking news lead to a happily ever after…or a broken heart?
Stay tuned…it’s the story of a lifetime.
Mari Mancusi used to wish she could become a vampire back in high school. But she ended up in another blood sucking profession –journalism — instead. Today she works as a freelance TV producer and author of books for teens and adults. When not writing about creatures of the night, Mari enjoys traveling, cooking, goth clubbing, watching cheesy horror movies, and her favorite guilty pleasure–videogames. A graduate of Boston University and a two time Emmy Award winner, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Jacob, daughter Avalon and dog Mesquite.
Qhuinn, son of no one, is used to being on his own. Disavowed from his bloodline, shunned by the aristocracy, he has finally found an identity as one of the most brutal fighters in the war against the Lessening Society. But his life is not complete. Even as the prospect of having a family of his own seems to be within reach, he is empty on the inside, his heart given to another….
Blay, after years of unrequited love, has moved on from his feelings for Qhuinn. And it’s about time: The male has found his perfect match in a Chosen female, and they are going to have a young—just as Qhuinn has always wanted for himself. It’s hard to see the new couple together, but building your life around a pipe dream is just a heartbreak waiting to happen. As he’s learned firsthand.
Fate seems to have taken these vampire soldiers in different directions… but as the battle over the race’s throne intensifies, and new players on the scene in Caldwell create mortal danger for the Brotherhood, Qhuinn finally learns the true definition of courage, and two hearts who are meant to be together… finally become one.
Dear J.R. Ward,
Bloody Effing Hell!!!! Are you effing kidding me???
A BDB Slut
While I fully appreciate this introduction can lead one to believe I may not have enjoyed Lover at Last, let me assure you, I am more committed to this series than ever before. Lover at Last is way worth the wait and I can’t believe it took me three days (Damn you, work!!) to read it. Blay and Quinn’s story is not just what I have been hoping it would be but so, so much more.
From the very beginning Blay and Quinn are in a bad place and both have a butt-ton of emotional baggage to get through before they can truly be ready for one another and a real future together. Quinn just can’t let go of how horribly his family treated him and how he has never truly felt as if he fits in or belongs anywhere. Add to the emotional turmoil the fact that he has knocked up a Chosen and life among the Brotherhood has not slowed down one bit since the attempt on Wrath’s life and you have a recipe for disaster. Blay is no better a position; his relationship with Saxton has all but run its course, he is constantly driven to distraction by Quinn’s relationship with Layla, and he just can’t seem to decide if Quinn is actually worth all the heartache he has caused. Yet another recipe for disaster.
Typical of Ward’s Black Dagger series, the primary focus of the latest edition is broken up by chapters that advance some older sub-plots and introduce some new sub-plots and characters. Also typical, all of the old and the new come together in a cohesive way to create yet another fantastic read. Here’s the down and dirty:
*Xcor and his Band of Bastards are back in action and looking to advance their plans to take down Wrath and take his throne. There is only one tiny little glitch in this plan, Xcor can’t stop thinking and dreaming about Layla, a woman he now considers to be his own and knows he can never have.
*Assail is still desperately trying to stay out of glymera politics all while dominating the cocaine market in Caldwell. Business is booming as a new and very ambitious buyer/distributor (and new head of the Lessening Society) is looking to get in on the action. There is only one tiny little glitch in this plan, Assail can’t stop thinking about the luscious and quite criminal Marisol, a young human woman sent to spy on him.
*Wrath is wicked pissed and looking to make some radical changes. He knows it was Xcor and the Bastards who tried to kill him and he also knows the Old Laws are limiting the Brotherhood’s numbers and crippling them. I must say, this little sub-plot is one of the highlights of the novel and is made all the more awesome by the fact that Ward is clearly not done with it 🙂
*Trez and iAm are finally starting to make a much larger appearance and living in the BDB mansion! I have always been interested in these two deadly Shadows but have been given frustratingly little about them. Turns out the two are incredibly interesting and I am very, very much looking forward to finding out more about them. Especially iAm, gggggrrrrrr 🙂
Now while this may all seem like a little bit of a tangent it is in fact all tied to Blay and Quinn’s story. Getting to their HEA is hampered at nearly every turn by events unfolding in all of the above sub-plots as well as their own individual drama. It is, in fact, damned impressive that the two come through everything with some semblance of sanity. After some pretty ugly fights, both between themselves and in the field, some intensely hot sex (holy crap those scenes are smokin’ hot!), and some terrifying emotional trips the two do finally get together and for the first time in his life, Quinn finally feels like he belongs.
The Bottom Line: Several years ago I heard a nasty rumor that the BDB was going to be complete with the release of book ten. I am very, very, very happy to say that Ward is absolutely, positively not done with this series. She constantly surprises me with the crap she cooks up in her head and then pours out into her novels. In all honesty, I keep waiting for the series to disappoint me the longer it goes on but it never has. (OK, that’s a teensy bit untrue, I think Phury is a whiner and his book pissed me off :)) Overall, Ward keeps things fresh and exciting with new sub-plots, new characters, and continually including and in some instances further developing older, beloved characters. I meant it when I signed my introductory letter as being from “A BDB Slut”! Boys and girls I have on my hooker boots and walking the streets with the BDB to the very end!
I’m not scripting my life anymore.
I’m living it.
I’m done with the God of all Hotties.
I’m going to give my heart to the boy who I think deserves it.
The boy whose kisses are hotter than molten lava.
The boy who offered me the key to his heart.
The boy who asked me to Homecoming in a big, sexy way.
There are so many things to look forward to.
Parties at the Cave. Homecoming festivities. Drama Tryouts. Shopping trips to NY.
But things aren’t always as perfect as they seem.
I find out that my best friend has been keeping a secret from me.
Not that I can blame him.
I have secrets too.
But, for now, I’m going to pretend I’m just a normal girl.
I’m going to pretend he’s not still out there.
I’m going to pretend he’s not getting desperate.
I’m going to pretend I’ll never see him again.
But, I will.And this time, I might not get away.
After dinner, he parks his car down by the field house and leads me out onto the big green commons ground, where we played football and he kissed me in the grass. My heels are sinking into the damp grass and I’m worrying about ruining the suede when he says, “This is where I first laid eyes on you.”
“No, it’s not. We met at dinner, when you said Riley was a cheap imitation of the real thing.” He scrunches up his nose. Kisses me. “You tease me about the worse kiss ever, but you’re lucky I even talked to you. You were so mean.”
I laugh. “You were a jerk and, besides, I apologized.”
“Still, this is where I first saw you. When you stole the soccer ball from me.” I remember that day so vividly. Like it was a scene out of a movie. I felt free and fearless. I could’ve never done something like that at my old school. I glance over at the goal. The spot where I first saw Aiden. I can still feel that instant connection. But I’ve learned that instant connections aren’t enough. Sparks aren’t enough. My mom always says that life is about the choices you make. And I know that I’ve made the right choice. The smart decision. Because I’m here with Dawson. “You didn’t have a shirt on that day. I thought you were gorgeous.”
“I thought you were crazy.” He laughs and grabs a piece of my hair, twirling it lightly on his finger. “Crazy, but hot. So, Keatie, will you be my girlfriend?” His big brown eyes glitter in the moonlight. Our relationship has been all backwards. Bad first impressions. Bad manners. Bad kisses. Sex way too soon. My supposed rebound could have gone horribly wrong in so many ways. But it hasn’t. It’s been better than I could have scripted. “I’d love to be your girlfriend, Dawson.” He undoes the necklace. I turn around and lift my hair up, while he clasps the key to his heart around my neck. Of course, once he has it clasped he attacks my neck with his mouth.
Jillian Dodd grew up on a farm in Nebraska, where she developed a love for Midwestern boys and Nebraska football. She has drank from a keg in a cornfield, attended the University of Nebraska, got to pass her candle, and did have a boy ask her to marry him in a bar. She met her own prince in college, and they have two amazing children, a Maltese named Sugar Bear, and two Labrador puppies named Camber Lacy and Cali Lucy.
She is the author of the That Boy Trilogy and The Keatyn Chronicles Series.
Up for grabs is one (1) copy of Date Me (The Keatyn Chronicles #3). The book will be gifted from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble and the giveaway is open internationally. Just click the ‘copter button below to enter for your chance to win. 🙂
Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Julie from AToMR Tours for organizing this release week event. 🙂