Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blog Tour: The Marked Ones (+$50 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway!)

Title: Five Corners: The Marked Ones
Author: Cathi Shaw
Series: N/A
Pages: 294
Publisher: Ink Smith Publishing
Date Published: Jan 30th 2014
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
Source: GoddessFish Tours

Synopsis:
Growing up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, it was easy for Thia, Mina and Kiara to forget such horrors existed in the Five Corners. That is until the dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. A Mark their mother had always told them was unique to the girls. Kiara's suspicions grow as their Inn is soon overrun with outsiders from all walks of life. Strangers, soldiers and Elders who all seem to know more about what is happening than the girls do. After Mina barely survives an attack in the forest, the sisters are faced with a shattering secret their mother has kept from them for years. As danger closes in around them, the sisters are forced from their home and must put their trust in the hands of strangers. With more questions than answers, Kiara finds herself separated from everyone she loves and reliant on an Outlander who has spent too much time in army. She doesn't trust Caedmon but she needs him if she has any hope of being reunited with her sisters and learning what the Mark might mean.
~~~Interview~~~
1. Is your life anything like it was two years ago?

Two years ago I had written Five Corners in my head about a million times but I’d not put it down on paper. Then in November of 2012 I actually sat down and wrote the first draft of the book. It completely transformed how I approach writing.

2. Have you ever had an imaginary friend?

I have never had a specific imaginary friend but when I’m really into writing my books, I wander around talking to my characters constantly. I’m always amazed at what they say back to me!

3. Do you have any phobias?

When I was a young adult I had an extreme phobia of heights. So, in my early 20s, I decided to start rock climbing to conquer the fear. It took a while but I was finally able to put that fear behind me for the most part. I haven’t rock climbed in years now and I'm sure the phobia is lurking in the corners of my psyche.

4. Ever broken any bones?

I’ve actually never broken any major bones. But when I was 15 my horse stepped on my right foot and I broke a little tiny bone in that foot. They didn’t put me in a cast or anything but I had this weird bump on my foot where the bone stuck up for the longest time.

5. Any weird things you do when you’re alone?

Besides talking to my characters out loud, no.
~~~Try an Excerpt!~~~

Kiara felt her own mother watching her closely. She forced her gaze away from the small lifeless form. Brijit murmured softly to the parents and then moved to Kiara's side.

"Come away from here, Kiara," her mother said firmly.

But Kiara couldn't stop herself from looking back at the child, noting how someone had twined a pretty scarf around her neck, concealing the ugly slashes that she knew were hidden beneath the colorful material. The result of a blade taken to vulnerable flesh. This poor girl had had no chance against her assailant.

Brijit tugged on her arm insistently. "There is nothing more for us to do here," she whispered in a hushed undertone. "Let’s go and give the family some peace."

Kiara felt a sudden wave of shame wash over her. She suddenly wondered what she was doing here?

Don’t try to deny it, she told herself vehemently, you know why you’re here.

She had seen the Mark on the child's shoulder. She resisted the urge to rub her own shoulder where an identical Mark was hidden beneath her tunic. It was something she’d believed she only shared with her sisters. But this child proved different.

And there was no question that this child had been assassinated.
~~~Meet Cathi!~~~
Cathi Shaw lives in Summerland, BC with her husband and three children.  She is often found wandering around her home, muttering in a seemingly incoherent manner, particularly when her characters have embarked on new adventure. In addition to writing fiction, she teaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College and is the co-author of the textbook Writing Today.

Cathi will be giving away a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble Giftcard to a randomly drawn follower of the tour! To enter, please fill out the rafflecopter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 17, 2014

Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte Blog Tour!

Title: Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte 
Author: Susan C. Muller
Series: N/A 
Pages: 270
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Date Published: January 1st 2014
Format: Kindle copy
Genre: Thriller/ Romance
Source: Goddess Fish Promotions
Buy HERE

Synopsis:
A frantic phone call leads Detective Remy Steinberg racing through the night toward the one place he vowed never to return. With the life of his kidnapped daughter at stake, he willingly faces shotgun-wielding drug dealers, corrupt law-enforcement officials, and a raging hurricane. Scouring the seedy back alleys of New Orleans for information, he goes undercover at a sinister voodoo ceremony, and struggles to understand the forces of black magic that hold his daughter hostage. With time ticking down, he battles for his life against a high voodoo priest, but can he face the two things he fears most: the swamp that terrorized his childhood, and the ex-wife he’s never stopped loving?

~~~My Thoughts~~~
As a big fan of both New Orleans, and Voodoo as subjects for any book, I was thrilled to get a chance to read and review Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte. It's actually my hopeful plans to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans next year (plus about a week before or after so I can see it when it's not quite so...topless?) So this was quite the thrill for me to get to read.

The story starts off with the announcement of any parent's nightmare to main character Detective Remy Steinberg when he receives a call saying that his daughter has turned up missing. He reluctantly heads back to Louisiana, a place he thought he'd never have to go again. He knew that dealing with his ex would be difficult, but all of the sudden sparks start re-kindling and he doesn't know what to do. The couple race against time to find their lost daughter-risking more than their lives in the process.

While I tend to dislike cop stories ever since a horrible stint in crime fiction for a class of mine, I actually really liked Remy. It's hard not to find a father searching for his lost daughter pretty awesome. The scene was truly set off by the Bayou and swamp setting. I could practically hear the slither of alligators slipping into the waters to go stalk their prey. So cool!! The mystery element was fun as well and I enjoyed playing "who-dunit"...though in this case it was more about "whats-going-on" lol.
~~~Try an Excerpt!~~~
Remy gritted his teeth and turned off his flashing light bar as he crossed the state line. His badge might carry some weight in Texas, but not in Louisiana. Those guys resented against everything from Texas except the money that rolled in.

Well, too bad. He felt the same about their whole state. Had since the day his mother dragged the family there from New Jersey.

He understood, forgave her even. When his father died, she needed someplace that felt like home. Only it never felt like home to him. In fact, it felt more like purgatory. And he got out of there as fast as he could.

Unfortunately, that meant dragging Gabrielle and Adrienne to Texas with him. And Gabby had refused to do that. She’d given him an ultimatum. Come back or get a divorce. Well, he’d never much liked ultimatums. And he sure didn’t plan to ever live in that state again.

He’d gone to Texas in search of work, sure that if Gabby loved him enough, she’d follow. Only she hadn’t, and he’d refused to give up a good job and return to a hand-to-mouth existence, sponging off of family, and feeling like a failure because he couldn’t support his new baby and his wife.

The same wife who hadn’t loved him enough to come with him.

His hands tightened on the wheel until his fingers went numb. Would things have been different if he hadn’t been so bullheaded? Was Adrienne paying the price for his stubbornness?

He could beat himself up later for rash decisions. All that mattered now was his daughter’s safety.

And every minute that passed, the knot in his gut grew.

He stopped for gas, a quick burger, and to study the map. Nothing had changed. A few more fast-food joints, a few more casinos. But the swamp was still only feet off the road in places.

Another hour of driving, and he turned off the interstate, into bayou country. The lights fell away and he was left with only his headlights poking a hole in the darkness. Even the air felt heavy, like the weight on his shoulders.

How he hated this place. And now it had taken his daughter.
~~~Meet Susan!~~~
Susan C. Muller is a fourth generation Texan. She attended Stephen F. Austin State University where she majored in Business Administration. She started her first novel at age eleven, but it wasn’t until after she had worked many years and raised a family that she returned to her first love, writing. She is a member of Northwest Houston RWA, Kiss of Death online RWA, and The Houston Writers Guild. Her novel, The Secrets on Forest Bend, has won several awards. Susan and her husband, Sid, live in Spring, Texas with their rescue dog, Buster, a 120 pound black lab of advanced age. They have two children and four grandchildren. They love to travel and have been fortunate to see much of the world. Her favorite places include Kenya, New Zealand, and the Galapagos Islands. When not writing, she can be found doing volunteer work at a local hospital. She loves to read, travel, snorkel and take long walks.

Susan will be awarding a $20 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour so put on your comment hats! If you want to want to find out more about Susan, check out the links below!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blog Tour! The Handyman's Guide to Profit (+$50 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway!)

 
~Guest Post!~
The View From My Workstation 

Photo One shows the view of my workstation from my chair. Directly ahead is my 23 inch monitor that is invaluable when doing layout, formatting, and creating covers. To the left is a granite light I received as a gift long ago and just feels good and soothing. At the far right is my 17 inch laptop that I move to the deck or living room to work. Behind that are several external hard drives I use because I am definitely somewhat of a backup freak.

Photo Two is the view of the window in my office that is directly behind me and is just open to the trees and my neighborhood.

At present I share this office with my wife Barbara who is also a writer. She has her own desk in the opposite corner. I am presently working on building an office outside in what was formerly a storage area. My wife has dubbed this my man cave.

~ Try an Excerpt~
Advertise Carefully To Avoid Wasting Money

It is easy to over spend on advertising and get little if any benefit. Try to pinpoint your best prospects and how best to reach them. A good place to start is with local weekly newspapers. The ads cost much less than the daily papers and they are kept around for a whole week instead of just a day.

Keep the ads in the paper for a few weeks before deciding if there are any results. A one-time ad will seldom generate results. The same ad over several weeks may start to generate interest from readers. Continue to run the ad as business comes in and until your backlog grows sufficiently.

Use The Internet

Don't overlook the Internet for advertising. Get your web site noticed by always mentioning it in every ad. This way with just one long word you put prospects in touch with your photo album and information about your business. Don’t just build your web site and forget it. Add to it every time you finish a good job. Ask the owner for a testimonial and permission to use it on your web site and your album. Also ask if you can use them as a reference that prospects can call. This may help turn a prospect into a customer.

Remember that the emphasis of any advertising should be on the benefits to your prospect, not on you. Potential customers want to know what is in it for them. Don’t tell them how wonderful you are. Instead, emphasize the valuable the benefits they gain by dealing with you. Tell them how they are guaranteed a good job that will satisfy them completely for a reasonable price.

Tell them that you realize how difficult it is to live while a messy job is going on in your home so you will make clean up after yourself regularly to avoid leaving a mess behind. Make a list of all these benefits and include that as part of every sales pitch, ad, web page, etc. People want to know what is in it for them so you need to tell them clearly so they will choose you instead of your competitors.


From age twelve I spent my summers and weekends working with my dad, a general contractor, building homes and buildings. I contracted my first home at age nineteen and built my own home by age twenty. For more than 30 years I have operated one-person businesses. Twelve years of my life were spent working for local government managing federally-assisted housing programs. I started as an inspector with a three month assignment and was Director of Community Improvement with 78 employees when I resigned to do writing and consulting.

Writing, Publishing and Consulting
During the 80’s I established Rehab Notes Library, a publishing company that published a monthly newsletter (Rehab Notes) with subscribers in all 50 states, Canada and England. I also did consulting and public speaking on housing related topics for agencies and organizations in cities across the country and testified before the U.S. Congress on housing issues.

I wrote and published nine guidebooks on the subject of housing rehabilitation. After 1980 when most federal funding was pulled from housing activities, I took advantage of my construction and business experience and started a handyman and woodworking business.

Over Twenty Five Years of Handyman and Woodworking
For over twenty five years, first in Tampa, Florida and then in Austin, Texas, I did handyman and repair jobs and built hundreds of small and large cabinet and furniture projects for individuals, companies and government agencies. During these years I began writing books about my woodworking business experiences.

Positive Publishing
In 2007 I established Positive Imaging, LLC, to publish a children’s book for my wife and then begin publishing my own books on the handyman and woodworking business and also books written by others using methods I call positive publishing. To date we have published twelve paperback books, a half dozen ebooks, and presently have several books in various levels of completion.

Computer Experience
My computer experience dates back more than fifteen years and began in response to poor technical support for our computers.   I used home study to acquire A+ and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer Certifications.

I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida and moved to Austin, Texas in 1986, where I now live with my wife, Barbara Frances. We have three adult children, eight grand-children, and two great grandchildren.

Links: Blog / Website

GIVEAWAY
The author will be awarding a $5 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter at each stop and a Grand Prize of a $50 Amazon Gift Card will be awarded to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found HERE.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blog Tour! The Cottage on Juniper Ridge (+ $25 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway!)

Title: The Cottage on Juniper Ridge
Author: Sheila Roberts
Series: N/A
Pages: 262
Publisher: MIRA
Date Published: March 1st 2014
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours

Synopsis:
Can a book change your life? Yes, when it's Simplicity, Muriel Sterling's guide to plain living. In fact, it inspires Jen Heath to leave her stressful, overcommitted life in Seattle and move to Icicle Falls, where she rents a lovely little cottage on Juniper Ridge. And where she can enjoy simple pleasures—like joining the local book club—and complicated ones, like falling in love with her sexy landlord, Garrett Armstrong.

Her sister Toni is ready for a change, too. She has a teenage daughter who's constantly texting her friends, a husband who's more involved with his computer than he is with her, and a son who's consumed by video games. Toni wants her family to grow closer—to return to a simpler way of life.

Other women in town, like Stacy Thomas, are also inspired to unload their excess stuff and some of the extra responsibilities they've taken on.
But as they all discover, sometimes life simply happens. It doesn't always happen simply!
~~~~~~~~~~
Today, we're lucky enough to get to hear from Sheila herself, and she's here talking about Girl Power! Our ladies are our strength...Hoes before Bros! You know...why Don't I just let Sheila tell you about it...
~~~Guest Post~~~
Where would we be without our girlfriends? Who would feed us chocolate when we’re feeling down or tell us “I know you’ll get that job,” or “He so didn’t deserve you!” when we’ve just broken up with the love of our life?  Girlfriends stick by us in hard times and encourage us in good times, and when we all band together to make our lives better there’s really no stopping us. At least I’ve found that to be true in my own life. My friends are always there for me. And they’ve seen me through a lot, everything from career crises to health issues.
Maybe that’s why I keep returning to my fictional town of Icicle Falls so often. I love the women who live there because they’re always up for making positive changes and they’re always there for each other. And in THE COTTAGE ON JUNIPER RIDGE, they’re helping each other simplify their lives.
If you’ve tried this, you know it’s not always as simple as it looks. Our schedules get full fast. So do our houses! (I’ve tried to downsize twice now – why does the garage keep filling up again?) But when you’ve got your girlfriends on board, telling you that you can do it, it makes all the difference. And only a true friend would ask, “Are you sure you really need those?” when you have found the cutest ever pair of shoes on sale and are strongly tempted to start filling your closet all over again. Only a true friend will remind you that your car doesn’t always have to brake for garage sales. And only a true friend will remind you that your stress levels have been rising due to over-commitment. (My worst problem by far.)
 Girl power squared by girlfriend support is unstoppable, and I think that’s why it’s a theme I keep returning to in my fiction because this particular fact of life rings true for me. We woman are true team players. We understand that when one of us does well that we all do well.
I like reading about women’s friendships and what women can accomplish when they band together. I’m blessed to have friends who are always there for me and it’s made my life so much richer. And how about you? Have you got the kind of friends who encourage you to exercise your girl power? I hope so because those kinds of friends are the best.
~~~Try an Excerpt!~~~
Sometimes we get so used to the status quo that we forget we can change it.
Muriel Sterling, author of Simplicity
            
Jen Heath hurried along the downtown Seattle sidewalk, hunching her coat against a freezing rain, her holiday to-do list dogging her every step, breathing down her neck. Trees along the street twinkled with white lights and store windows boasted displays of Santas, presents, and happy elves. A steel drum band had set up in the Westlake Mall and was playing Jingle Bells. Bah, humbug, she thought grumpily as she strode past them.

Anyone peering inside her head would think she hated the holidays. She didn’t. She loved them. She just didn’t love being so darned busy.

How had she gotten stuck in charge of planning the office Christmas party? Oh, yeah, Patty Unger, her supervisor, had volunteered her. Thanks, Patty. Not that Jen minded planning a party. But having to plan one this year wasn’t fun. It was just one more thing to add to a very long to-do list.

In addition to her full time job, she sold Soft Glow Candles on the party plan – all so she could whittle down what she owed on her credit cards, keep up her car payments, and make the mortgage on her First Hill condo that she could barely afford. The car she’d needed, but the condo? What had she been thinking when she bought it? Oh, yeah. She hadn’t been thinking. She’d taken one look at the granite countertops, the hardwood floors, and the view of the Seattle skyline out the window and condo lust had come over her like a fever. By the time the fever broke she was a homeowner. (Thanks to the bank and her parents.) And her charge cards were maxed out. (Because, of course, she had to furnish the new condo.) Now she was a stressed homeowner.

Who was never home. She had three candle parties booked this week and two more on the weekend. The following weekend she had another candle party on Saturday, and then on Sunday a cookie exchange at her sister’s followed by the church choir concert. Oh, she would be home later that evening, right along with the eighteen other people she’d invited to her place for the post-concert party. (This was the symptom of yet another fever - - new owner pride. She’d been dying to show off the condo, and hosting a party had seemed like the perfect way.) The day before she’d gone to see the gingerbread house display at the Sheraton Hotel with her mother, her sister, and her niece Jordan. She’d been pooped, but when she tried to wiggle out of going Toni had reminded her that this was a tradition and, anyway, she needed to spend time with her family. Guilt, it was the gift that kept giving. After that she’d visited her grandma, who was complaining that she’d almost forgotten what her granddaughter looked like. It seemed everyone in her family was giving guilt for Christmas this year.

Tonight she absolutely had to do laundry. But what she really wanted was to flop on the couch and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. None of her friends understood what she saw in that old movie but she’d been watching it with her family every year at Christmas since she was a kid. Well, except for the last couple of years. Between having her marriage fall apart and getting a divorce she’d been too busy for a wonderful life.

Those days were over now. No more fights about money. No more fights about how she mismanaged her time or how impetuous and irresponsible she was. No more fights about, well, you name it.

When they’d first married Serge had loved her spontaneity, her joie de vivre.  After a year he developed a vision problem and saw only her flaws. They fought about everything from money to the amount of time she spent with her friends. “I don’t know what we’re doing together,” Serge had finally stormed one night, throwing up his hands.

Neither did she. So Serge had moved out and moved on. She’d run into him at The Last Supper Club six months after the divorce was final when she was trying to enjoy a night out with the girls. He’d been with a skinny tattoo queen with maroon hair and ear gauges. And he’d complained about how impulsive Jen was?

She’d wanted to hit him and his new woman, too. Instead, she’d buried herself in the crowd and danced until both her feet and her heart were numb. Good riddance, she’d told herself, but later that night she’d cried herself to sleep.

Now it had been a year since the big D and she was so over him and so moving on.

Now she was in charge of her own destiny, her own life, and that was fine with her.

Except so far this new life wasn’t exactly playing out as she’d envisioned it would. When a girl barely had time to wash her bra she was in trouble. When was she supposed to squeeze in things like dating? And if she didn’t even have time to date, well, what was that going to do to her sex life?

She scowled. Many of her friends were now having babies and she’d love to have one of her own. She sure didn’t see a bassinette on her horizon though. At thirty-two were her eggs giving up all hope of ever meeting a sperm?


Well, girls, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re just going to have to hang in there because right now I don’t have time to find a new man. Now, there was a depressing thought.
~~~Meet Sheila!~~~
Sheila Roberts is married and has three children. She lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have appeared in Readers Digest Condensed books and have been published in several languages. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her her novel The Nine Lives of Christmas has been optioned for film. When she’s not writing songs, hanging out with her girlfriends or trying to beat her husband at tennis, she can be found writing about those things dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.
Sheila will be awarding a $25 B & N gift card and an eCopy of The Cottage on Juniper Ridge to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a $25 B & N gift card to a randomly drawn host.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

LGBT Tuesday: Parents, Please Talk to your Kids...

Welcome to Unabridged Andra's LGBT Tuesday!
This is a weekly meme designed to foster discussion about books that have LGBT main characters, or prominent side characters, and have LGBT themes in them. It is my hope that by reading about of LGBT people, a better understanding, empathy, and compassion will start to exist in the mainstream culture. Each week, there will be a discussion post that deals with issues from the LGBT community, some info on what's going on in the real-world with LGBT issues, and reviews of a book that I've read that has something to cool to bring to the table.  I also have a few of my awesome gay friends popping in from time to time to make their fabulous presence known. Rcmember to link up YOUR reviews of LGBT books, and I will go check them out! 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hi guys, so for this edition of LGBT Tuesday, I'm going to get up on my soapbox a bit. I typically try to stay off it and let the books do the preaching talking... for the most part, but I feel like I have to share a personal experience with you all so that it might help out someone in a similar situation.  Deep breath...okay here we go......

So recently, I had the chance to visit my brother-in-law "Joe" in Washington DC and spent a month with him, my man, and our niece. While Josh and I do NOT have kids, we are always talking about parenting, and what we want to tell our kids, and how we want to deal with certain aspects of parenting when they eventually come up. Our niece, let's call her "Sarah" because I don't exactly have permission to talk about her on the interweb, is a bright and inquisitive 10-year-old. While she doesn't read nearly often enough for my liking, she is a smart kid and, as kids do, has started to ask questions about things she sees in the real world. Namely: Gay People. She would ask things like, "Why do gay people not like who they are supposed to?" and "I really like my best friend Lisa, does that make me gay?" and other questions. My brother-in-law and his wife are very supportive of the Gay rights movement, so I was really surprised that Joe simply brushed off the questions and changed the subject. Later on, we were watching TV as a family, and Joe wouldn't let us watch Modern Family because of the two gay characters, Cam and Mitchell, who are central figures of the show. We then tried to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and had to turn it off when it turned out to be an episode where Raj dates a lesbian by mistake.

I'm not hating on my brother-in-law, but this kind of behavior is SO ignorant and very destructive. The "head in the sand" style of parenting is not helping Sarah at all.  By not speaking openly in their home about gay people and topics, my dear family is accidentally turning the concept of gays and lesbians into a taboo subject. When something is taboo and just not talked about, it makes children view it as bad or wrong. Just like a teenager who isn't allowed to talk about sex and relationships at home views sex with a combination of fear, anxiety, and guilt-- when being gay, or just gay people in general are declared "improper topics", that also sends the message to a child that gays are people who are "different" and "improper". Instead of having someone's sexuality being a simple trait, like I am blonde, or Josh has hazel eyes, someone who is gay is to be feared, ostracized, and in general viewed as something "not normal". Although I was really uneasy when all of this was taking place, I didn't speak up for fear of getting my head bitten off and getting the whole lecture about, "Don't you tell me how to raise my kids...yada, yada, yada..." So I just bit my tongue and just watched Modern Family with my headphones in...

However my uneasiness never disappeared, and my fears were confirmed a week or so later. Josh and I had to babysit Sarah and her friend, so we took them to the mall. There, right in the middle of the cavernous mall entryway, was a huge, rotating digital poster for the show "The Fosters". For those of you who don't know, this ABC Family show features lesbian parents and their foster children and the various struggles and challenges that life throws their way. While I am not a fan of that show or any ABC Family show really, it is an interesting concept and does a very good job presenting issues that a family could face.  Sarah and her friend started pointing and snickering at the poster saying things like, "Ewww look, lesbians" and "That's just nasty." While I was fuming inside with the rant that I was going to deliver very loudly and passionately to my brother-in-law, my heart was also silently breaking because these two girls, who are very smart, kind, and fun in many ways, are being led towards hatred and ignorance simply because no one is willing to talk to them about what it means when a boy likes a boy or a girl likes a girl.

Also, it's worth noting how much more widely accepted gay people are in pop culture. In two weeks, there were three different shows that had prominently featured gay characters, and we BARELY watched TV while we were in DC. That's the fact about gays and lesbians. They exist! Just because you don't talk about LGBT issues at home doesn't mean the kids aren't assaulted by visuals on a daily basis. If they don't get an understanding about what it means to be gay from their parents, they are going to pick up on what other kids say, and that puts them at risk for picking up homophobic tendencies like my niece got from her friends and school. If you support gay rights, why in the WORLD would you want to leave it up to a ten-year-old to tell your child about effective and productive marital relationships? What do you think is going to happen if someone in their school comes out as gay? Will they welcome him or her with open arms because being gay is fine...or will they say, "Ewwww" and make that child feel bad? Or even worse, will they bully him or her because she is different? And on another level, what if Sarah is actually a lesbian? What kind of message is ignoring her questions sending to her at a such a young age? She is being taught to shut up, to keep her thoughts to herself, and not be "weird". This is the kind of treatment that would eventually lend itself to depression, even suicide if she were a lesbian and didn't feel like she could talk about it even to those who are closest to her. It's just that, in today's modern world with all kinds of new families springing up, no parenting option, different types of marriage, etc should be taboo.
I know, I know...until I'm a parent, I can't possibly understand XYZ about parenting because I'm not one, but please just listen to this childless supporter of equality. Just because talking about being gay may be hard for you to do, doesn't mean you can just ignore it and hope that someone else will talk to your kids and set them on the right path. Talk to your kids about being gay, about what it means to be attracted to someone for their personality, not by their skin color, gender, or body size. If you take the fear and secrecy out of being gay, and talk about it like it IS just another way for families to be...it will become that way!  When your kids see gay people on TV and start to ask questions, be honest and open with them. Speak in a casual way, because this IS something casual, this IS something normal and there is no need to make a big deal out of it. If YOU make being gay as ordinary as a tween having a crush on like...One Direction or something...your kids won't blink twice when their classmate comes out of the closet.
If I have ruffled any feathers, please smooth them back into place. I am entitled to my opinion like anyone else, and hope that maybe this article has delivered some clarity or food for thought. I had some thoughts on the subject and I thought it would be a good discussion to have with readers and followers. I will now gladly get down from my soapbox, and open up the floor for discussion to anyone who chooses to do so. Remember that only kind words, or constructive criticism is accepted here.

Next week's Topic of Discussion: Favorite Gay Characters is Movies and TV! :) 


Are you an author of a really AWESOME LGBT themed book? Are you a reader or follower who has read a groundbreaking LGBT novel? Let me know!  Feel free to contact me at andralynn7@gmail.com, because I am ALWAYS looking for new books to read! If you have written a book with LGBT characters or themes, you can be featured on LGBT Tuesday in an interview or guest post. Just let me know what you would have time for, and we will get things rolling! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Hobbit 
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien 
Series: Prequel to Lord of the Rings
Pages: 365
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Date Published: First Published 1937
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
Source: The Library 

Synopsis:
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
~~~My Thoughts~~~
The Hobbit movies have been dominating at the box offices lately, and I do love me some Orlando Bloom, and Martin Freeman.  As a dedicated Lord of the Rings fan (the movies, not the books...) It was really only a matter of time before I got around to this little beauty, and since it fits the qualifications of both the TBR challenge on Bookish, and the Back to the Classics challenge on Books and Chocolate, I decided that the time was nigh to begin a great fantasy work of art. There is a reason that Tolkien is one of the most renown authors in all of Epic fantasy. He has the hero's journey down to a T, and knows how to make characters that fascinate, and that are very easy to relate to.

Bilbo Baggins is NOT your typical hero. At his full-grown hobbit height, he very nearly reaches the height of a dwarve's chin. (Yes, in Tolkien-esk, that is spelled correctly). He is very comfortable in his little Hobbit-hole, until one day he sees Gandalf coming down the road. In the spirit of being polite, he says hello to the old wizard, promptly sending him on a journey that he would never expect, and would change his life forever. With the addition of a dozen dwarves, Bilbo sets out as the burglar on an expedition to free the king under the mountain of gold. Basically, he's going to help the dwarves reclaim their throne from an evil nasty dragon. It was REALLY cool to see Bilbo change over the course of this book. He starts off meek, fearful, and a little bit snotty to tell you the truth. He really grows into his own and learns who he is and how to be okay with going against your friends as well as your enemies.

What I loved most about this story is that it deals in the qualities of the brave, such as courage, chivalry, honor, and justice. There are good guys who can be part bad, and bad guys who are sort of good, and all of the above can be honorable or cruel by the turn of a hat. The Hobbit also explores the bond of friendship as Bilbo and the dwarves learn to depend on each other and on Gandalf to get out of tricky situations with elves, goblins, giant spiders, and all sorts of other obstacles along the way. Intelligence is also a key characteristic that plays into the story, because while Bilbo may not be particularly agile or brave, he uses his wits, his advantage, and his luck to achieve his goals and defeat his enemies.

The Hobbit is a MUCH easier read than the other Lord of the Rings books, which makes sense, considering that he wrote it as an adventure story for his children. While it took me about 1 month to get through The Fellowship of the Rings, and then I didn't make it through The Two Towers, I felt that the Hobbit was just entertaining enough without losing me in the names and the "Hebor, son of Habormir, son of Hobas" that really lost me in the sequels. The writing style is somewhat childish, without dumbing down the language at all. It's not a watered down version of the Lord of the Rings, it's just an easier way of reading the same kind of epic fantasy story. I would definitely read this to my kids before bed, or it could also be used as an excellent "growth" book for middle schoolers to read on their own to challenge themselves.
I give The Hobbit 4 out of 5 Keys! It's really a great book and I can understand why it persists in the memories of others. This one is right up there with the Chronicles of Narnia, and with Harry Potter for fun and amazing children's bedtime stories. I will say that at the end, there is this massive awesome battle scene that also culminates in the big bad eagle guys from the Lord of the Rings movies showing up to save the day. My thought is, the next time any kind of threat or quest happens in Middle Earth, just call up the eagles beforehand and get the job done in like, two days as opposed to years.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

LGBT Tuesday: LGBT History Month!

Welcome back to Unabridged Andra's LGBT Tuesday! This is the place for your reviews and interviews about books, characters, authors, and themes that revolve around the LGBT community. Why? I believe that books, any books, help people empathize and understand people in a way that they couldn't normally. When reading a book with an LGBT main character, the reader gets to be inside their head, and experience what they think, feel, and know. In this way, straight and gay readers alike can really learn what's going on in the lives those who identify as something other than straight. Like you learn courage, bravery, and justice from Harry Potter as he battles Lord Voldemort, so too do you learn courage, empathy, and compassion from going through the trials of being transgender when you read Luna (This week's LGBT review!).  The Re-Launch of this bookish event couldn't have come at a better time. While the US is still in hot debate in places over the issue of Gay-Marriage, the overall tide of the debate has turned a corner. More people in the United States support gay marriage than don't and on a global level, things look good for the progress of LGBT relations.

The UK- being vastly ahead of the US in the past on issues such as slavery, interracial marriage, etc.- has already passed a measure to make gay marriage legal which will be enacted in 2014. That being said, February is the UK's LGBT History Month! The LGBT community has gone through a lot, and has such a long way to go in order to achieve equality on all fronts, but we're getting there. This month is important to commemorate the terrible losses and discrimination that those who are gay have faced, as well as directing hope towards a future that focuses more on human rights and equality than on than on petty differences.

Still, some setbacks, such as the criminalization of "Gay propaganda" in Russia persist in our world. It is my hope, that through literature and thoughtful discussion, this blog can play some small part in opening up minds and hearts to equality. This week's post is a short one. I have only just re-launched my blog and the new direction that I am planning on going. Check in next week for links, history, articles, reviews, and maybe a giveaway or two!

Also! Come back next week as I bring up MY Top 10 Moments in LGBT History!