Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love Best

So there's this blog I've been loving lately, and they usually participate in this little thing called Top Ten Tuesdays, which is just where you list your top ten of something. Generally, there's a set topic that all participants use, but this week the topic is "freebie," so today seems like a great opportunity to jump in and get my list on.

You know, it's hard for me sometimes, to think of a Top Ten anything. When I did the Fat Chance tour with TTC&B2B Book Tours back in the end of March/beginning of April, one of the bloggers involved asked me for a Top Ten list, and I was in total panic mode for a week.

It should have been easy, you know? Like, okay, what about Top Ten Foods?

Nah, a chunky author who wrote a book about a depressed plus-size woman CAN NOT write about food, right?

Okay ... so ... Top Ten ... uh, Favorite Colors? Um, no. Boring.

Top Ten Songs?? Yes! I love music!!! But wait, another blogger wants a playlist which is basically the same thing. Hmm. What to do?

I did finally figure it out by simplifying the concept and giving a regular Top Ten of my favorite things in general, spanning different topics because I really couldn't think of one topic where I had ten solid favorites.

Maybe I'm a little ADHD.

Or maybe I'm just REALLY varied in the things that I like. But, there are certain topics that I love more than others, and there are things that I definitely love at least ten of.

Like books. Because duh, I love books.

So, here they are, my Top Ten Favorite Books. Or series', because it'd be silly to have a Top Ten that's mostly made up of one series. 

Anyway ... In no particular order:


DIANA GABALDON's Outlander Series is first up on the list, both because they are the first books I thought of and because they are the first books I always think of. Thick and heavy - both with pages and well-written plot - these books have been my go-to favorites for years and I've read the entire series so many times that I've lost count.

They are an intriguing mix of sex and medicine, past and future, war and peace, love and hate. They fascinate me; they teach me. They've sucked me in and still haven't let me go yet. I love them.

Each book is a heavy, time-consuming commitment that took me at least a month (each book) to read because of the thickness of the book. I swear there isn't a book in the series that's less than about 800 pages, and I LOVE that. I do enjoy the shorter, more quickly pleasurable read ... but Diana's Outlander books have such meat on them, so much to absorb and take in, so many characters that are so easy to love, or to hate. They aren't thrown in all at once, either, but are instead introduced in bits, and there are even some that we get to watch grow up through the pages of the series, from childhood right on up to adulthood where they deal with their own issues and experience their own loves. The premise behind these books is a woman from 1946 who is accidentally thrown through a sort of hole in the stretch of time, and she finds herself suddenly two hundred years in the past, deep in the highlands of Scotland. Understandably, things are rather different there than what she is accustomed to, and poor Claire is forced to adjust pretty quickly. She does well though, and her journey makes readers maybe begin to crave a simpler time when people were (generally) more honest and life itself was more (typically) routine. Not to mention, rough and tough but sweet and loyal Jamie Fraser?? Yum, yum. Granted there are odd things about him that I had some trouble with, but a simple reminder that he's from somewhere around 1745 generally helps me to regain my sympathy for his old-old-old-fashioned and sometimes downright primitive ways. He's sweet, and his loving way of always providing for Claire, always looking out for her just wins me over, every time.

Thus far, the series consists of:
Written In My Own Heart's Blood is expected to release in the fall of 2013, and let me tell you, the wait is almost literally killing me. I read other books mostly because that one isn't out yet, to tell the truth.


The LEFT BEHIND Series is next, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. These books are almost entirely responsible for my salvation as a Christian. Now, I won't go too far into that right now, but I'll say this, I read these books (at first, at least) as a non-Christian and that didn't stop them from being fabulous. From a non-Christian perspective, they've got it all: action, adventure, good guys, bad guys, love, life, and learning. It's the long-awaited apocalypse and the bad guys are taking over. Through the series, you follow a little group of the good guys, just trying to get by in a world that is entirely new to them, albeit familiar in many ways to the way it used to be.

From the Christian side of it, these books help to explain the book of Revelation and the End Times prophecies in a way that a lot of "regular" people just don't understand. They bring reality to the end books of the Bible is a terrifyingly real way, bringing home the horrors predicted in the book of Revelation. These books take the prophecies in a literal way (which I love), showing us what the world will be like when the prophecies come into play and Revelation takes hold of the world. They tell us (Christians) why it's so important to minister to others, to our loved ones. Because as Christians, we aren't afraid of the apocalypse, we aren't afraid of the wars and the ... whatever. Because we won't be there. We believe it all starts with "the Rapture," when Jesus calls believers to Heaven, and then there will be the final battle between good and evil, God and Satan vying for the hearts and souls of those left behind.

And none of us want our loved ones to be here for that.

But anyway, Christian and non-Christian alike, these books are AWESOME, even if you're only reading them for the story.


My, my, this post has grown long, hasn't it? Better get on with this in shorter form for the rest then, huh? Here are a few other favorites of mine, also in no particular order:

The Malory Family Series - historical romance series by Johanna Lindsey
The Twilight Saga Complete Collection - certainly different, but they were a courageous break from the norm, and I love the love story
Anything by Nicholas Sparks - I have never read ANYTHING from him that I didn't love
The Half-Blood SeriesLauren Dawes brings back Anne Rice's old style, but with a twist
A Little Princess - an oldie but definitely a goodie from Frances Hodgson Burnett
Island of the Blue Dolphins - I loved being assigned to read this Scott O'Dell classic in school
... and ...
Hatchet - This series by Gary Paulsen is my all-time favorite YA read. The survivalist theme caught me right up, fascinated from the beginning.

And there you have it! My Top "Ten" Books!


NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that if you click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. This is, of course, at no extra cost to you - but my family and I appreciate your support! (To see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: Shattered Illusions, by Leigh Hershkovich

Today I'm reviewing 'Shattered Illusions', a book that caught my attention right from the get-go because the blurb sort of gave me the feel/expectation of a psychological thriller. I knew from the beginning that I'd love this book - but let me tell you a bit more about the book in general first. Blurb, anyone??


Unique cover, isn't it?
About The Book:
When Sam, a proprietor of a local cafe is shot dead on the street, four strangers become the unwitting witnesses to a seemingly accidental crime. As the investigation progresses, this quartet of accidental onlookers find themselves not only haunted by the homicide, but pursued by their own pasts.

The deeper into the death they plunge, each is forced to face to face that the loss of Sam is far from their most devastating. Inner anguish reaches a climax point for Ella, Marco, Sarah and Danny as the answers they want continue to elude them, and the evidence they want to escape refuses to retreat.​​​

Interesting, right? Makes you curious? It certainly made me curious, so when I was invited to participate in the tour, I knew right away that I'd be reviewing this one. It kept me company between visits with my mom, it kept me busy when I wasn't writing, & it kept me up late more than a few times too!


My Review of the Book:
This is one of the more unusual books that I've read in that it jumps, sometimes a bit abruptly, from one character to another in perspective. However, it was still easy enough to keep track of and the individual stories of the characters were well-planned, well-thought, and well-written. From the very beginning, I was impressed with Leigh Hershkovich, from her easy style to her conversational speech, right down to the way she respectfully writes "G-d" instead of "God," staying true to her own beliefs and not letting her own values down in her writing. I respect that level of self-respect in a great way - not to mention, the writing itself is top notch. Other than the few expected errors which generally cannot be escaped, this book shows off the talent of the author spectacularly.

This story begins with the murder of a man, following bits and pieces of the police investigation of the death as the story unfolds. Throughout the book, we meet and get to know four witnesses to the murder. We learn to relate to them, even if they are vastly different than we are. We learn to feel for them - all of them.

We do learn who is the murderer. We watch the witnesses together figure out who the murderer is, and in the end we watch them stand up and seek justice, but not in the way you might expect.

This book is full of twists and turns, unexpected little things, and the simple emotion of four very different people thrown unexpectedly together in a crisis. It is an undeniably amazing read, one which I have already recommended to several friends.

Ms. Hershkovich? You should be very proud of yourself. You've done an amazing job!


About The Author:
Leigh Hershkovich’s writing career began almost at infancy. Born and raised in The City by the Bay, Leigh was never seen without a pen and paper by her side, and was never without a story to share. With her vivid imagination and sharp writing tactics, she has taken the world by storm twice over. Now, with her debut novel Shattered Illusions, readers will get a first time glimpse into her first full fiction attempt.

An avid reader, accomplished pianist, passionate scholar of language and the arts, Leigh currently resides in New York with her imagination.


Wanna follow her around the web and keep up with her future workds? Find her here: Facebook / Goodreads / Website / Blog

And as if that wasn't cool enough, there's a giveaway!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"The Vase" Excerpt

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in 
ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.


Photo courtesy of  anankkml  freedigitalphotos.net
The Vase
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

It took me half the night to finish dusting the last of the artifacts, and putting the broken vase back together had nearly killed me with the force of the headache. I was proud though, when I stood back and looked over what I had done. It wasn't complete; there were still pieces missing, but I'd done well with the pieces we'd been able to find.

It had been a long, weary night, dusting and sneezing, dusting and placing pieces of the vase, dusting and sneezing some more. I was exhausted and for the first time, the idea occurred to me to simply find a corner in the back of the cave and sleep the night away peacefully until the crew came back in the morning.

That's when I heard it: a clatter at the mouth of the cave I'd been working in. I settled the vase as safely as possible, leaving my dusting brush on the table beside it. Standing, I dusted myself too, running my palms briskly over my clothes to loosen the bits of cave dirt that clung to my jeans and faded yellow tank top.

"Is someone there?" I asked, my voice echoing in the vastness of the cave, rattling out to sound again and again in the tunnel that led to the outside world. I heard scrambling in the tunnel; looking one last time to be sure the vase was secure, I followed the sound, acutely aware that I was trapped below the ground. There was no 'back way' out of the caves, the only way out was to follow the tunnel, which now appeared to be hiding something - or someone - suspicious.

The only thing that gave me reassurance was the radio attached to my hip, the one thing that connected me with the outside world. My captain knew that I'd stayed behind, and if I radioed him with trouble, he'd send the guards down for me.

But first, I needed to know what was lurking in the tunnel. I couldn't request the guards, risking exposing them to our discoveries, only to watch them die if our research had unleashed something horrible. And I certainly couldn't be the scaredy-girl who called for guards if the skittering were only caused by some animal that had become trapped in the tunnel and couldn't get out.

"Hello?" I called, carefully trying to control the tremor in my voice.

"Why are you here?" The voice was male for sure, though it was rather disembodied, echoing through the tunnel.

I sucked in a breath. "Just a prank, it's just a prank. One of the guys messing with the new girl," I muttered.

"You don't belong here, weak human. Woman."

"Oh, I get it," I replied testily. "You guys don't want me here because I'm not a guy. Right, no man-parts. Shame on me, growing boobs like I did. Being a girl, what a crime. But I'm the best archaeologist your team could find, so I guess I'm woman enough for the job whether you like me or not."

"You are insolent, woman."

"Uh huh," I muttered. "Insolent. What I am, sir, is busy. So go back to wherever you came from. I have work to do."

He laughed, the sound bouncing chaotically around the tunnel and caves. "Come," he said, and I felt an unspeakable pull. My mind went blank and my feet began moving without my permission. "Come, insolent woman."

I walked slowly down the tunnel, turning in a direction I'd never been before. The tunnel was well-lit, bulbs floating as if by magic along a cord that followed the wall on one side. It occurred to me that I should stop walking, but my feet moved faster. Fear bloomed in my chest, filling my throat, strangling me, and I reached for the radio on my hip.

"Uh-uh-uh," he said. "That is not needed here."

I watched in shock as my mind fought the urge to obey, and yet my hand turned the power knob on the radio, tossing it gently to the floor of the tunnel as I walked on. Opening my mouth, I took a breath and cleared my throat. Finding that I was still capable of vocal noise, I spoke again to him. "Where am I going?" I asked.

"Come."

Grinning like a fool, I realized the irony in his command. My body was obeying his wishes now, not mine. I would walk wherever he wished, and we both knew it. I rounded the corner and there he was, black hair shining in the meager light of the tunnel, his face stark and angular against full pouting lips. He looked into my eyes and I stepped closer, suddenly remembering the fearful tales about the man who'd filled my job before I'd been hired. He'd left the post unexpectedly, raving that the vase could not be rebuilt, that 'it was impossible' and that 'no force could hold it back.' I'd been hired to do what he would not.

Apparently then, I'd succeeded well enough with the rebuilding of the vase.

"I have been trapped for so long, broken like the shards of that vessel you useless humans have been digging for."

"Apparently not too useless," I retorted, smirking before I felt the cold around my throat. He never moved, only lowered his brows in anger, but the cold was there, unmistakable. Suddenly, I was choking, dangling by the icy grip of a hand that wasn't there. Panicked, I clawed against the barrier around my throat, but there was nothing tangible there to remove, only the sense of cold and the very real sensation of strangulation.

"And stupid, too," he continued, drawing me closer somehow, drawing my nose flush against the tip of his. "Insolent. Stubborn. But maybe not useless. I have been locked here by the forces of ancient magick for far too long. And now I am free. But ... I find myself hungry."

He stared into my eyes again, and I was quite suddenly filled with an upswelling of love, though I still fought for air. My head clouded but my heart filled, my skin tingling, my body wishing to edge closer to his even as my mind screamed for escape. He smiled, his eyes crinkling slightly in the corners; I smiled idiotically back at him, wondering how he managed to fill me with both glee and terror at the same time.

As he pulled me closer still, he curled the tip of his tongue around one sharpened fang, tilting his head to bury his nose in my throat. The cold grew more intense even as my body heated to what it must have known was coming. He nudged my chin with the tip of his nose, urging me to tip my head back, exposing the length of my throat.

He licked the pulse in the side of my throat and I moaned helplessly, barely aware of the sting as his fangs pierced me. Flashes of his life flickered on and off like a damaged movie in my mind, slowing and growing more steady as my blood slowed. He clutched me tightly against him, one hand pressing me closer as the other cradled my head. He moaned softly, the vibrations of the sound tickling against the pierced flesh of my throat.

I filled with ecstasy at the sound of his pleasure, moaning with him, my hands finding their way helplessly into his hair as he drained me of life, pleasing me mercifully as he murdered me. And then,he was done, and as he lay me gently on the floor of the tunnel to breathe my last, I saw one final image in my mind.

Somehow, the vase was now complete.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Twitter Trending. Because It's Funny.

Lately whenever I'm on Twitter, it's become my personal challenge to check the trending tweet list for a hashtag I can say something about. Yesterday I found one.

It was #iGetAnnoyedWhenPeople. And I tweeted:
"Because it's trending and funny #iGetAnnoyedWhenPeople talk to me while I'm on the phone. 'If I'm not on the phone with you, wait your turn.'"

Today I found another, which was #IfYouKnowMeYouKnowThat. And I tweeted:
"#IfYouKnowMeYouKnowThat I am a loving person but one who becomes fierce in an instant to protect my loved ones."

But then, because I was on the phone with my cousin Dana - who inspires my inner insanity to come out - I thought it would be fun to go and check what other people had to say, and see how many I could find that I could relate to. And boy did I find some.
  • @SinglesDaNewBlk said, "#IfYouKnowMeYouKnowThat I will verbally assault you like you would never expect from a white girl."
and
  • @_bitchchxo said, "#IfYouKnowMeYouKnowThat it's hard to piss me off but when you finally push that last button, I seriously explode."


These both fit me perfectly because ...

As stated in my own tweet, I tend to be a very nice person to everyone. I prefer it that way. It's just nice to be nice. But then ... when I'm run over more times than I can handle and I reach the end of my tolerance for being someone's doormat ... that's when I say all those things I've been wanting to say for a long time. And I say them all at once. Viciously, and with near perfect timing. When I'm angry or in a fight, I have never needed a weapon (though I am rarely unarmed). I've never needed to possess more physical strength than the other guy, and I've never needed any knowledge of technical fight skills (though I do have some).

All I've ever needed is to open my mouth and unleash the power of words, in a way that no one would ever expect until they've had the unfortunate chance to encounter the force of my verbal rage. And I think the worst part of it is that in order to get close enough to hurt me enough to make me let it fly, you'll get to know me enough in the process to know that I don't just say vicious things in anger to be hurtful. No - it's more along the lines of me no longer caring enough to protect the other person from the truth of what I've probably been too nice to say for a long time.

But like I said, I prefer to be nice.

And then:
  • @KaitlynWendell said, "#ifyouknowmeyouknowthat I'm that person who's still laughin 5 mins after the joke was told."

A while back, Dana and I were having one of our crazy conversations (not that there's a pattern of this of this or anything), and I don't even remember the course of the conversation. But at some point, someone made a joke about sending annoying people away to "stupid people island". That happened to be a day when I was particularly annoyed with people in general but one certain person most especially. This person happened to be really really tall, so Dana and I were saying we'd need a huge box.

But since Dana and I are both plus-sized women, somehow we got into talking about what size it would take to ship our big asses anywhere. And someone, probably me, said something dumb about a big giant box, and without missing a beat, Dana fired back, "Are you callin' me big, you bitch?!"

It was a joke, months ago, and it's still something that randomly pops into our conversations now, because it made us dissolve into helpless snorting laughter that day. It has done that many times since, because I really am that person who's still laughing 5 minutes, or days, or months after the joke was told.

Let's keep the fun going, shall we? Leave a comment here on this post, and tell me your version of #ifyouknowmeyouknowthat!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Catching Up

This last week, I've been basically on vacation. Not because I wanted to be.

I didn't go to France, England, Australia, Italy or any other awesome tourist spot that would have marked me immediately as an American by my wide grin and wildly unchecked excitement.

Instead, I spent the week walking a million miles, back and forth from a waiting room to a hospital intensive care unit. On Monday morning, exactly seven days ago, my grandmother called me. My family isn't one of those wildly close, talking-every-few-minutes kinds of families. We probably take each other for granted most of the time, not feeling the need to call or talk often because we just each know that the others are there. My cousin and I talk all day almost every day and we have very few secrets from each other - but the closeness sort of stops with us.

All that just to say that my grandmother and I don't talk often, though I love her to pieces and admire her greatly. For such a short, tiny little woman, she's amazingly strong and there isn't one person in the younger generation of my family who can imagine a time in the future where she might not be around. It's hard to watch her approach her 80's - and maybe that's part of why we don't talk often. We're both realists and neither of us much like the idea that she's getting older. I call her occasionally, though rarely.

She only calls me with bad news. I hear the phone ring and I look; her face is there on the screen and I immediately fill up with thick and heavy dread. My chest tightens; my breath quickens.

She always calls with bad news about my mom, who has been in ill health for most of my life. Sometimes it's just, "Have you talked to your mom? I can't get her on the phone," because my mom and my grandmother are like a future version of Dana (my cousin) and I. They talk all day almost every day. Other times, most usually within the last few years, it's more like, "Your mom's sick again and in the hospital." They live close together -- about fifteen minutes apart from each other whereas I'm maybe an hour away -- so when my mom is sick, it's generally her mother, my grandmother, that she calls first.

(last) Monday morning. The phone rings. And there's my grandmother's face.

"Hello?" I answer.

There's a pause, a horrible, terrifying pause. "Brandi?" she asks, and my heart drops to the floor. She sounds old, her voice is shaky, and I think she sounds ... tearful. Panic fills me as I try to remember a tearful vision of my grandmother and I can't. There simply isn't such a memory inside me. Or, well, there wasn't, until this past week.

I don't remember seeing her cry when her mother died, though I'm sure she did, privately. I don't remember seeing her cry when her husband died after many years of illness, though I'm sure she did, privately. I don't remember seeing her cry. Ever. She's strong, she's untouchable. She's immortal.

Except that on this phone call she's tearful. And I'm terrified.

The conversation goes on - and to protect my family's privacy I won't tell you everything, but I can tell you this was maybe the longest week of my life. This coming week will likely be just as long; we're still all running back and forth to the hospital to visit with my mom, but it seems that the worst is over ... for now. And with my mom's health, "for now" is all any of us are really asking for.

I haven't written much of anything. The other day I sat down and opened Selkie, trying to work through a new scene with Annie and Brenna, but I read it about three times and nothing made sense. I sighed, closed it out, and moved on with my day. Fighting For Freedom is still in my mind in a big way too, and now Harmony Kingsley is beginning to push herself to the forefront of my thoughts. She's trying to cheer me, distract me.

It isn't working.

But things are looking up and I am back to writing this week. And that's got to count for something. Doesn't it?

*sigh*

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother, A Poem

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.
Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic
freedigitalphotos.net



Mother
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

We all have one. Some of us love her beyond measure. Some of us despise her, resent her. But she's always there. She's inside our hearts, because we are inside hers.

Formed within the womb of the mother, we are birthed into the world, guided in our journeys, shaped and sculpted by her influence. Sometimes we look back and remember good things we didn't see before; other times we look back, desperately seeking something good that simply wasn't there.


There are those of us who grow up without knowing what it's like to have a mother's guidance. There are those of us who grow up without having someone pet their hair back from their fevered foreheads, those of us who don't remember the gentle touch of a mother's hand.


Of those, many are now mothers themselves, now facing the choice of what they will become as mothers to their own children. Will they be gentle, loving guides who take their children by the hand and show them the safety of a mother's protection? Or are they ruled by the influence of the past, unable to rise and become:


THE MOTHER.

She swells slowly,
quietly creating life
over days, months.

Her belly grows,
and with the gentle beat of a new heart
her life changes forever.

Her own heart becomes
something that it wasn't before: full,
basking in the life and the promise of the unborn.

Birth comes upon her,
 the life within her womb stretching,
reaching out for the adventure of life in the world.

And she holds her baby
her pink, soft offspring curled perfectly
held for a time within the safe confines of her arms.

But the birth of the child,
brings the birth of another creature:
The mother.

She becomes something entirely new
someone all-important, someone she never knew she could be awakens inside her heart.
She becomes necessary, everything that matters to a helpless soul swaddled in diapers.

She watches, listens,
teaches, guides,
firmly, gently persistent.

She is nurse, counsel,
taxi, chef,
doctor, healer, love.

Each new year on the face of the child
brings indescribable wisdom to the mother
and she grows with her child, learning, changing.

She becomes the willing sacrifice,
she goes without her deepest desires, she contentedly takes last place.
And it is in love that she is able to give so much of herself.

Someday she will face
quiet mornings, no more bedtimes
no more diapers, children gone.

And yet they will call, they will return,
to need her, to love her, and they will continue to learn
because wherever they may be, whoever they might become,
she is, and will remain:

THE MOTHER.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Close To Home

Today I want to get a little personal.

I have my public profile on Facebook, my author profile that I use to reach out to my readers. It's the way I communicate most often (and in the most timely manner) with the people who read my books and reach out to me for one reason or another. It's the way I keep people updated on what's coming next, my writing progress on current projects - and I hope to someday post photos from signings and other events like that.

But I keep a personal profile too. I generally ignore friend requests on it unless I actually know the person, because that personal Facebook page is like a daily newsletter into who I am. I post songs that I've listened to that touch me in whatever place my life has taken me. I post bible verses or quotes that inspire me. I post my personal thoughts, movies I'm watching, news about my daughters and my family. But it serves a second purpose, too, that personal profile. It's my personal newspaper. I follow my local news channel, my local police department, and several blogs that I've been reading for years.

One of them is the "It's Almost Naptime" blog, which is the Facebook page for the popular blog of the same name. The blog is written by a funny Christian mom just trying to do her best every day, something that I as a Christian mom can relate to.

But then she touched my writing. I woke up this morning and was browsing around when I saw that Missy (the aforementioned fabulous mom-blogger) had posted a link to an article about the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch. She said:
"I don't let my kids wear Abercrombie & Fitch. Why? Because they pretty much defy all I stand for."

It made me curious because I have read this woman's blog literally from the beginning. Not since the beginning of the blog, but because when I first found it years ago, I literally went back through the archives and read them all, slowly falling in love with the honesty of this mom and her efforts to show both her successes and her miserable mom-fails to the world. She became a sort of role model, and her family's journey through Ethiopian adoption has been incredibly inspiring, wildly touching, and amazingly, astonishingly beautiful.

Not to mention, the newly adopted addition to the family is. Just. Absolutely. Charming.

But what does that have to do with me or my writing? 
Hang on. I'm getting to that.

So, I read the article (linked above) - in which the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch is quoted in several arrogant and obnoxious instances, describing how the overweight population of the world is not good enough, or "hot" enough, or "cool" enough to wear the Abercrombie & Fitch brand. And I was like, "Wow. Seriously?"

In case you didn't already know, as a teenager I was pretty overweight. Due to health issues and some other personal issues with my mother, I led a slow life and spent a lot of time at home. Tack on hormonal changes and personal life issues and you've got an overweight, self-conscious teenaged girl who doesn't need help not feeling good enough for anything. Two kids later, the confidence is better but the body issues are permanent. Things just don't look the way they did before.

And now? Now I have two daughters of my own, two little girls growing up in a world that will pressure them mercilessly to be thinner, smarter, prettier. Skankier. Sluttier.

The older they grow, and the more exposed they are to the world outside of our home and the safe confines of our extended family, the more battered they will be.

This is Josephine. My oldest daughter is nine years old and thin as a rail. She was born at exactly 20 inches long and weighed exactly 8 pounds. She's average height for a girl her age, but she's thin. She's so thin her bones'll poke you if you aren't careful, and her weight is monitored closely in her pediatrician's office. She's really really thin. Really thin. 

Abercrombie would approve, though my oldest daughter eats like a horse. She has a cousin only a few short months younger than she is, and he's an athletic boy with a stocky build and a healthy energy. He's rough and tough and never leaves the house without his Superman complex; he's charming and funny and sweet. But my daughter can sit down to dinner with him and out-eat him any day, all day long. She's the classic stereotypical example of a wild and fast metabolism ... Our family is quite convinced that she could live on cake and still be thin.

Which she wouldn't mind, but since diabetes runs in our family she lives on meat and veggies and noodles like everyone else.

In the meantime, I have a second daughter. Eden is a chubby little whirlwind that'll be four in less than two weeks. She was born larger, taken early by c-section and still weighing in just short of ten pounds. For those of you who don't have children, you should know that those two pounds? They make a difference.

My youngest daughter was covered in those classic fat little baby rolls; she was like the little segments of an earthworm all smashed together, or maybe one of those little marshmallow figures you can make with toothpicks ... if you use way too many marshmallows. She's outgrown a lot of that "baby fat," but my youngest daughter will likely never know what it's like to be truly thin.

She's got a little round belly, and she got her mama's ghetto booty. She's got chubby little fingers and she's easier to snuggle with because her bones don't stick out. I'm sure Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO would be outright disgusted. Aren't you? I mean really, those chubby cheeks? Someday she'll be a woman with hips and breasts and curves and everything. Isn't that revolting?

Right. No, it's not. Because she's beautiful - and she will be beautiful regardless of the shape and size of her body. And so will her sister.

But they are already being told they aren't good enough unless they live up to a standard decided by the bullies of today's corporate world. My daughter Josephine is already being told that she's okay as long as she does whatever is necessary to stay thin enough, even if that means excluding, rejecting, or outright bullying her own chubby little sister. She's being told that if she has to starve herself, she should. If she needs to puke herself half to death, she should. And if she ruins her health forever? Who cares, because in remaining thin enough, she can be cool enough to wear an overpriced shirt that doesn't look any better and isn't made any better than a reject shirt in a thrift shop.

I don't think so.

At the same time, my daughter Eden is already being told by the photos in magazines and advertisements that she's not cool enough. She's not pretty enough. She's not good enough. Why? Because she's not thin enough?

Right from the beginning. It means that she never had a chance. It doesn't matter that she's sweet, that she's hilarious, that she's charming. It doesn't matter that she's busy and energetic, talkative and bright. Because she's not thin enough?

This is part of the message behind Fat Chance, part of the message behind Cass Keaton and her story, a story about an emotionally battered woman driven to the brink of suicide by a society who cares more about the number on the tag in her jeans than the character that oozes from her heart. It's about her inner strength and her ability to carry on; it's about her willingness to accept herself, no matter what pigs like Mike Jeffries would say.

Fat Chance is about taking a stand against the commonly accepted viewpoint that "fat" means "ugly," "unhealthy," lazy," "smelly," "uncool," or "subpar." Because every now and then? "Thin" gets into someone's brain like cancer, and it eats at them until there is nothing left inside them but a "small(minded)," "shallow(personality)," "ugly," "arrogant," "selfish," "high-handed" "loser."

It's disgusting, really. People like Mike Jeffries and his anti-fat campaign are why we need organizations like the Pacer National Bullying Prevention Center, the WWE Be A Star program, and others that help fight the permanent emotional damage inflicted by shallow appearance-based exclusivity. He and others like him are why there are books out there like Fat Chance, he's why we need this message trickling through the inner workings of our hearts. Because I've said before and I'll say it again:

Fat or thin, short or tall, large or small, rich or poor, we're all just people. And no one person has the right to tell the rest how to look, what to wear, what to weigh, what to eat, or how to exist.

Because in the end, we're all still just people.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Comfort Food, by Kitty Thomas

About The Book:
Emily Vargas has been taken captive. As part of his conditioning methods, her captor refuses to speak to her, knowing how much she craves human contact. He's far too beautiful to be a monster. Combined with his lack of violence toward her, this has her walking a fine line at the edge of sanity.

Told in the first person from Emily's perspective, Comfort Food explores what happens when all expectations of pleasure and pain are turned upside down, as whips become comfort and chicken soup becomes punishment.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a story about consensual BDSM. This is a story about “actual” slavery. If reading an erotic story without safewords makes you uncomfortable, this is not the book for you. This is a work of fiction, and the author does not endorse or condone any behavior done to another human being without their consent.


My Review of the Book:
It's funny sometimes, what you find yourself reading. I wouldn't normally have picked this book up at all because it's WAY outside my general reading genres. I'm not into hardcore erotica, and I'm definitely not a BDSM fan.

Ask anyone who knows me; I'm sure they'd all testify to how much of a prude I am, what a private person I am, and how much the romance in sex is important to me. I just can't get into all that kinky stuff.

But you know, even though that's such a main focus in this book that the author has actually included a disclaimer, I didn't notice it too terribly much after the first few instances.

What I did notice instead - and in a huge way - was how well-written the work was. I loved how Ms. Thomas developed her characters, I loved how she gave depth to both the heroine (submissive) and the hero/villain, and I really really loved the courage that it must have taken to explore such a hot topic in this way.

The book introduces us to our heroine, who has been kidnapped and is being slowly conditioned in the ways of Stockholm Syndrome. She falls victim to the conditioning in spite of her own psychological training and her absolute awareness of what is happening to her. The psychological exploration makes the entire book for me, and I really loved how real the narrative felt in this story. I will likely read it again one day as well, as I found the honesty to be intriguing and rather fascinating despite the taboos.

In the end, you have to feel for the heroine. You can't help it, and you're sorry for what she's been through while admiring her inner personal honesty. She knows what she wants, and she goes for it, consequences be damned. But the thing that will surprise you most is that you might even find yourself feeling for the hero/villain too - once you have a chance to look inside his mind and his heart.

He may be doing something terribly wrong, and poor Emily might be terribly terribly broken - but they each have their own reasons for the choices that they make throughout the book.

I LOVED IT.

Wanna love it too? Check it out here, available on Amazon. You can also learn a little more about Ms. Kitty Thomas (the author) by checking her out at here: blog / goodreads / twitter

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What Might Have Been, A Poem

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in 
ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.


© Dan Tataru  Dreamstime.com

What Might Have Been
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

*****
We all have those moments, the ones where we sit back and think about where our life is, the ones where we get lost in what we once desired more than anything.

We all have lost moments, lost people, haunting memories of lost opportunity. We are all haunted, at times, by "what might have been."
*****

I thought it would pass away,
that it would be swept away like the silt
from the depths of the river.

I thought it would pass away,
that it would fade like the heat
of a raging fever.

I thought it would pass away,
that it would burn out someday like the fires
of love's passion.

I thought it would pass away,
that it would die quietly like the bodies
of the aged.

I thought the dream would leave me,
that the house I never walked through
would cease to haunt me.

I thought the dream would leave me,
that the ring I never wore
would fade away from my heart's memory.

I thought the dream would never leave me,
Paris and the lover's bridge
the windsor knot and your arms forever.

I thought the dream would never leave me,
the words you spoke, the way you understood,
and the romance of mutual need.

And now, you echo as if you'd never gone,
your face unfading, your kiss still tingling,
even as your words become only precious memories.

You chime like a bell that cannot be un-rung
a song that cannot be un-sung.
a sweetness that cannot be untasted.

And all of that love, all of that effort,
all that it meant, so much potential
nothing but wasted.

A lifetime of "possible"
lost in the sad and broken loneliness of
"what might have been."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cover Reveal: Dark Deceit, by Lauren Dawes

Dark Deceit.

The time of the Aesir gods is over. Now they live among the humans in their bustling modern cities. Their brutal dominion over the gods and humans may have ended, but their actions have not been forgotten.

Korvain is feared like no other. His ruthlessness and cold heart are legendary, but when he is given the task of killing one of the most fabled goddesses of all time, he is left with an undeniable desire to make her his own. Failure in his task means only one thing: death. Will he follow his orders, or will he follow his heart?  

Bryn’s whole world crumbled when she left Odin’s service to protect the other Valkyries. Now living with the humans, she is the only thing standing between them and total destruction. But her beliefs are about to be shaken to the core when she meets Korvain—a completely irresistible Mare who threatens to take away more than just her innocence.

Dark Deceit Excerpt/Teaser: 
Stepping past one of the only humans she actually liked, Bryn opened up her office door and stopped dead when all the air came rushing out of her lungs.

Korvain was sitting on the edge of her desk, his black eyes glittering in the overhead lights. Although he was sitting down, she could tell he was taller than her by more than just a few inches. His skull-trimmed hair was black, matching his eyes and the dark slashes of his eyebrows.

He was bigger than any other male she had ever seen. His arms were as big as her thighs, crossed tightly across a stomach so well defined the muscles of his abdominals threw their own shadows from under the material of his shirt.

Her eyes took in the breadth of his shoulders, the size of his chest. Bryn swayed suddenly, her hand shooting out to catch the door jamb to keep her balance. Gods, the scent of the male was intoxicating. She had a sudden vision of having his body on hers, pressing into her. She gasped to hide the groan that wanted to push its way free from her throat.

She watched as his eyes seemed to grow darker, his luscious mouth parting in the most seductive way. Bryn shook her head and cleared her throat.

‘Korvain?’

After a long, hot, lingering look, he nodded.

Her eyes slid shut as another flash of them touching intimately assaulted her. Letting out a breath, she pinned him with a look that usually sent most men into hiding. ‘Mind getting your ass off my desk?’ she snapped, stalking past him to sit in her huge leather chair.


With the release date set for July 1st, be sure to enter the giveaway below to get yourself in the running for some awesome Dark Deceit swag!

Check this out: a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Lauren:
Lauren Dawes is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance writer and the author of the Half Blood Trilogy. You won’t find any friendly vampires in between the pages of her books; just blood, teeth and violence. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or teaching. She currently lives in Victoria, Australia with her husband and cat.

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In other news, today is Lauren's birthday!!
Make sure you show her some love today!