July 22, 2016

I Need to Talk About America for a Minute

I love this country. 
 
It is an amazing place to live when you think about all of the other countries in our world. 
 
I am humbled and feel incredibly lucky that my boyfriend/partner, my grandfather, my father, and so many many others fought for us to live in this country.
 
I feel incredibly grateful that I was born here by random luck. God could have chosen me to be born into a brothel in Calcutta or into a family in North Korea. I am extremely lucky and I know it.
 
This country has been through so much from fighting against monarchy rule to fighting against enslaving another human being to fighting for women's rights and the rights of black Americans and LGBTQ Americans and beginning the long arduous process of restoring respect to Native Americans. We are a country of people who fight for ourselves. We are an amazing, amazing country. 
 
So it hurts me that I feel people are getting confused about what patriotism means. They get angry when someone says that we could change something and make it better. Wanting America to live up to its name is not about ensuring that only some of the people have these freedoms. And it is not about ensuring that we all go around punching people in the mouth with a bald eagle when they dare to stand up and say we could do better than we are doing because we are perfectly capable of it because this is the United States of America for goodness sake.(Read this: Patriotism v. Nationalism)  
 
And by better I do not mean better for white people only - such as the much-lauded Leave it to Beaver America of the 1950s white middle-class suburban neighborhood that oppressed women and blacks and in which people were having meltdowns about McCarthyism (which has had a resurgence in the last 8 years and we should totally be over by now) and those pesky people trying to redefine gender roles and sexuality and people building bomb shelters in the backyard.  Wasn't America GREAT? 
 
 
Or maybe the America of the 1980s Wall Street segment who got rich off of the backs of the working class and poor, and where Reaganomics tripled our national debt from one to three trillion dollars and widened the gap between the rich and the poor to an extent it has never recovered from.  Neither of these "great" experiences were had by most of America even during those decades. So when was America so great for anyone who wasn't white or male or heterosexual or wealthy or Christian? What exactly are people trying to take us back TO? 

 
America and America's right to freedom are for EVERY single American whether you like them or not. Right now not every single person has an equal amount of rights and freedoms even though they are supposed to. Many people and politicians are pretending this is not true because it makes them uncomfortable or it distorts their worldview or it means they might need to make some changes so every American is treated like a white man is treated (and, yes, white, straight, ci- men you have it the easiest, yes even with affirmative action, so please realize how much worse everyone else must have it if you still have it the best out of us all.)
 
I know, right?
See, just because most people are not racist or sexist or xenophobic in this country does not mean that racism and sexism and xenophobia do not exist in the country. Nor does it mean that these -isms cannot be executed in subtle ways that you might overlook if you are not the target. Nor does it mean that there are not still actual laws on the books both federally and in states that make it legal to oppress certain people because there absolutely are these laws. Not to mention just two months ago Obama signed a bill eliminating racist slang from federal laws. In 2016. 
 
 
 
 
 
Just because you personally don't experience an America that oppresses you in one way, big or small, does not mean it does not occur every single day. I've never experienced what it is like to leave the house without being judged sexually before I'm judged by the content in my brain or without worrying about getting raped just because I had the audacity to go to the gym in a tank top because there are some men who have never been taught that raping someone because you are in lust is immoral and illegal.  But I know that the experience of not worrying about these things exists because most men do not have these concerns. Boys, do you worry about being cornered by a gang of men each twice your strength looking to feel you up because you wore a sleeveless jersey to a basketball game?  No, not really?  So it IS possible to know an experience exists in this country and not have it ourselves. Radical notion, right?  I am sure your mind is blown. Facts can be crazy hard to deal with.
 
America is the best country we could possibly live in hands down, but that does not mean it is without flaws. Patriotism is about recognizing these flaws and loving the country so much that you continually strive to make it better.  Every American deserves to live in the same America and right now that is not the case. We should love our country and our people enough to continually move forward. 
 
 

Review & Giveaway! - The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

The Secret Language of Stones Banner 

SYNOPSIS

AS WORLD WAR I RAGES AND THE ROMANOV DYNASTY REACHES ITS SUDDEN, BRUTAL END, A YOUNG JEWELRY MAKER DISCOVERS LOVE, PASSION, AND HER OWN HEALING POWERS IN THIS RICH AND ROMANTIC NOVEL BY NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR M.J. ROSE.

Nestled deep within Paris’s historic Palais Royal, safe inside La Fantasie Russie’s once-bustling workshop, young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi spends her days making trench watches for soldiers at the front and mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. Opaline has a rare gift, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones enable her to receive messages from beyond. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her. So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family.



Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

“Spellbinding.” —Alyson Richman, author of The Lost Wife

MY REVIEW

Much like the previous book, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, I immediately fell in love with both M.J. Rose's writing and the main character.  I like the angle of the stones that Rose chose to be Opaline's connection to the occult.  I thought this was a great second book for the series.

I really liked Opaline right from the start.  I found it easier to connect with Sandrine in the first book and that is probably due to her interest in art, which is also an interest and hobby of mine. Opaline connects through stones and works as a jeweler, which is very interesting, but it's not something I do so I think that was part of it. I also think part of it was that Sandrine was full of passion and rebellion and curiosity right from the start all the way through and Opaline is full of anxiety and reluctance and a desire to be normal and has to be coaxed and convinced into dealing with the La Lune gift.

I love that in a random passage on the way to a Russian Orthodox Church Opaline casually drops she went to Picasso's wedding there a few weeks ago with her parents like it was no big deal. I guess back then Picasso was just another artist like her mother, but I love that it was just part of her world to do something like that.

I liked the added backdrop of World War I Paris, as well as the Romanov dynasty coming to an end and how that effected her Russian mentor. It was a little more heavy-handed in the historical aspects than her previous book in this series, but what was included was very interesting.

I did want more of the magical realism aspect to be incorporated into the story, though. I know the historical aspect came up more mainly because a) Opaline is reluctant and resistant to her gifts so she is not seeking out the magical realm, and b) it is set during WWI and her job involves making mourning jewelry. However, I really wish it had more magical realism in the story.

I loved that more information on Sandrine's motives were revealed. I do wish that Sandrine (Opaline's mother) and the great-grandmother had been a little more of a part of the story. I never really connected to Anna, the jeweler's wife and Opaline's tutor in the occult.

I sometimes had trouble picturing in my head exactly what the intricate mourning jewelry Opaline created looked like. I would have loved to see a couple pieces drawn out and incorporated between paragraphs or even added in the back of the book. 

The Secret Language of Stones is a bit heavier of a story than The Witch because of the war going on and the nature of Opaline's job making mourning jewelry for the mothers of soldiers killed in battle. The mourning jewelry using a lock of the soldier's hair with the precious stones is what triggers Opaline's gift of hearing the soldiers speaking to her from the other side. 

One thing that kind of bugged me was that in a scene in which Opaline visits and looks at a painting in the Louvre by French master Fragonard entitled The Bolt, Rose basically copied the insight into the painting from the Louvre website or maybe she copied an art critic. It's basically verbatim from the site. Even in university my art history professor could explain the erotic symbolism using different ideas and words.  Doesn't Opaline have any original thoughts on the painting that is supposed to be rapidly expanding her world into that of erotic and sensual thought?  Doesn't M.J. Rose as an author have a talent for wording things differently? Not as an impressive scene as it was meant to beIt took me completely out of the story.

Overall, even though I enjoyed the first book in the series more, I enjoyed this one, as well, and I do recommend it to you! Other than the things I mentioned above, there is no fault to find in the book. M.J. Rose has really been honing her craft and the writing is beautiful. You can read The Secret Language of Stones without reading the first book, but reading The Witch of Painted Sorrows will help you understand both Opaline and the history of La Lune and the Daughters of La Lune better.  

 

A FEW QUOTES I LIKED:

"What does it take to make a grain of sand become a pearl? They say the sand is an irritant. Maybe love starts that way, too. You're alone in yourself and then meet someone who upsets your balance, who you can't quite explain away or put in a comfortable place. Someone who shakes your very soul. Who has ideas that jar you and make you think. Who does more than understand you, who understands what you need."

"If I were there with you now in the gallery, I would touch your neck behind your ear, with my lips, and whisper to you to just look at the painting. Not to turn to me. And while you studied the Watteau, my lips would travel down your neck until you'd need to put your hand out to steady yourself."

"Every morning the pavement in front of our shop in the Palais Royal is washed clean by the tears of the mothers of dead soldiers, widowed wives, and heartsick lovers."

 "Under the marvelous Palais courtyard and fountains and gardens lay a mysterious world (the carrieres) where no light penetrated and the only sounds were made by rats, falling rocks, or men stealing through secret spaces. At least that was all most people heard. For me, other sounds, terrible sounds, haunted me."

  ***

 GIVEAWAY

You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open to US residents only: 9 participants will each win a print copy of this book.

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS, GUEST-POST AND EXCERPT

The Secret Language of Stones Banner  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

mj-roseM.J. Rose
grew up in New York City
exploring the labyrinthine galleries
of the Metropolitan Museum
and the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park
—and reading her mother’s favorite books
before she was allowed.
She is the author of more than a dozen novels,
the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers,
and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com.
She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Please visit her website, her blog: Museum of Mysteries
Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases, free book downloads,
contests, excerpts and more.
Or send an email to TheFictionofMJRose-subscribe at yahoogroups dot com
To send M.J. a message and/or request a signed bookplate, send an email to mjroseauthor at gmail dot com
Follow her on Facebook and Twitter
Buy the book:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  | Indiebound | Books A Million

July 12, 2016

Cover Discover: Gardens!


 Cover Discover is all about judging book covers (frontlist and backlist) within a particular theme.  We'd never judge the story inside by the cover outside, but it's fun sometimes to judge the cover on its own!

HOW I COUNT VOTES:
I tally up the votes for each of the questions and include rank as a percentage, as well.
Example: 5 votes for Favorite Cover
counts as higher than
4 votes for Favorite and 1 for 2nd favorite cover
which counts slightly higher than
1 vote for Favorite, 5 for second favorite.
ETC. 

First, the results of last time's Cover Discover poll: Black and White Covers
 
FAVORITE COVER:

 
 SECOND FAVORITE COVER:
TIE

  THIRD FAVORITE COVER:
TIE




Which covers did you choose as faves?  Did they place?

 
TODAY'S TOPIC:
Gardens

 Here are the contenders for your vote: 











NOW, ON TO THE VOTING!

July 4, 2016

What I've Been Reading - Books Finished in April, May, and June


Later this week I will be posting what I am currently reading, but since I (FINALLY!) have caught up with my reading enough to be on track with my Goodreads goal (for half a minute at least!), I have lots of finished books to share. That's why the separate post.


SOURCE: Book Club
# OF PAGES: 258
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE:114
REVIEW

SOURCE: Net Galley
# OF PAGES: 464
READ: 40-100%
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 279


SOURCE: Edelweiss
# OF PAGES: 288
READ: 36-100%
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 185
RATING: 3 STARS

  TITLE/AUTHOR: Poems by Maya Angelou
SOURCE: Library
# OF PAGES: 224
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 199
RATING: 4 STARS


TITLE/AUTHOR: Fables #1 by Bill Willingham
SOURCE: Library
# OF PAGES: 127
PAGES READ: 127
RATING: 4 STARS


TITLE/AUTHOR: Fables #2 by Bill Willingham
SOURCE: Library
# OF PAGES: 112
PAGES READ: 112
RATING: 4 STARS

 

SOURCE: Net Galley
# OF PAGES: 336
READ: 41-100%
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 199
REVIEW


SOURCE: TBR Pile
# OF PAGES: 374
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 218
RATING:  3.5 STARS


SOURCE: Net Galley
# OF PAGES: 240
READ: 31-100%
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE:166
RATING: 3 STARS


SOURCE: Newly bought
# OF PAGES: 224
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE:112
RATING: 5 STARS

 
TITLE/AUTHOR: The Wander Society by Keri Smith
SOURCE: Purchased
# OF PAGES: 208
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 208
REVIEW

 
 TITLE/AUTHOR: Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden
SOURCE: Library
# OF PAGES: 144
ON PAGE: 23
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 121
RATING: 2 STARS


  TITLE/AUTHOR: Cambodia Noir by Nicholas Seeley
SOURCE: Net Galley
# OF PAGES: 352
READ: 10-100%

PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 317
RATING: 4 STARS

TITLE/AUTHOR: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
SOURCE: Library
# OF PAGES: 652
ON PAGE: 105
# OF PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 547
RATING: 4.5 STARS


TITLE/AUTHOR: Alex + Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna
SOURCE: Library
# OF PAGES READ: 128
RATING: 3 STARS


TITLE/AUTHOR: Married Sex by Jesse Kornbluth
SOURCE: Net Galley
# OF PAGES: 246
READ: 0-100%
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 246
RATING: 3 STARS

 
TITLE/AUTHOR: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson
SOURCE: Library
# OF PAGES READ: 120
RATING: 3 STARS
 

SOURCE: TBR Pile
# OF PAGES: 567
ON PAGE: 267
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 300
RATING: 3.5 STARS

 TITLE/AUTHOR: A Scandal in Bohemia (Sherlock Holmes) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
SOURCE: Serial Reader App on iPhone
# OF PAGES: 85
PAGES READ: 85
RATING: 4 STARS



SOURCE: Author
# OF PAGES: 496
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 303
REVIEW COMING SOON


TITLE/AUTHOR: Anthem by Ayn Rand
SOURCE: Serial Reader App
# OF PAGES READ: 105
REVIEW COMING SOON


 TITLE/AUTHOR: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
SOURCE: TBR
# OF PAGES: 896
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 450
RATING: 4.5 STARS

 

TITLE/AUTHOR: Death Beckons by J.C. Diem
SOURCE: Freebie from Amazon
# OF PAGES: 306
READ: 0-100%
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 306
RATING: 3.5 STARS

 TITLE/AUTHOR: Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter
SOURCE: Publisher
# OF PAGES: 400
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 339
RATING: 2.5 STARS
 
TITLE/AUTHOR: Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
SOURCE: Book Club
# OF PAGES: 336
PAGES READ THIS UPDATE: 336
REVIEW 


DNF:
I think the main character is boring and I cannot take her anymore.
My Review
I read most of this but ended up being unable to finish.
I really tried with this one because I have heard great things about Elizabeth Berg, but this read like an encyclopedia entry instead of a novel. How anyone can make George Sand's life boring and tedious is beyond my comprehension.


I haven't really been keeping up with my stats this calendar year, but I'm going to include the total page numbers read this week for when I eventually do end up doing something with my stats.

TOTAL PAGES READ SINCE 4/11: 5,622
TOTAL PAGES READ IN 2016: 7,009
# OF BOOKS READ IN 2016: 41

 Whew! Finally all caught up!  What have you been reading lately?  Anything really good or really bad?  Share in the comments! :)