B is for Booktastic Brilliance

Book LoversA while back I wrote a post sharing the books that influenced my youth…

Now I’d like to honor some of my favorite MUST READ authors and why I absolutely adore them. To be fair, I won’t spend a ton of time talking about J.K. Rowling (mostly because everyone already knows her and gets her appeal). The ones I’d like to honor are the ones who haven’t yet had their books turned into movies. 😉

First, I’d like to recognize Lexi Blake/Sophie Oak.

Her Lexi Blake persona writes fabulously exciting spy BDSM romances and caused me to fall madly in love with one of my all time favorite book boyfriends, Ian “Big Tag” Taggart. Her heroines are feisty and smart. The heroes are snarky, sarcastic in the best possible way, and loyal to a fault.

Then there’s her Sophie Oak side. Ooh-la-la! In this universe, being quirky and different is embraced. Ménages of two guys and a girl (one series is bisexual males and their woman, the other is more best friends/brothers and their lady love) are considered normal and traditional, as is the D/s lifestyle. In the Bliss series, the womenfolk get to join the “I Killed A Son of a Bitch” club (the SOB’s are bad guys). Yeah. I want one of those t-shirts.

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The one common thread she has through all of her books is the humor, sarcasm, and pure unabashed sense of fun! The dialogue will get you laughing out loud. And the heat level is scorch-your-undies HOT!

Next is Terry Goodkind. I fell in love with his books and characters when I discovered The Sword of Truth series. His wizards are so far removed from Harry, Ron, and Hermione that it would be impossible to compare them. They’re badass, fight with swords, and the women? Take your pick of powerhouses who can fight, steal your magic, take control of your mind, body, and soul, work their own magic, or see your future. Sorceresses, Mord Sith, Confessors….

His message through the whole series? There’s definitely good and evil in the world, but evil acts don’t always make evil people. Kindness and compassion can go a long way to changing a person’s heart and soul if they’re open and willing to make a change. And finally, don’t let the bad things that happen in your life change who you are at the core. It’s truly the only way evil can gain a foothold and win. I actually believe that to be true about everyday life, as well.

Have you ever heard of Cherise Sinclair? She writes about the most amazing BDSM clubs. The Shadowlands (owned by Master Z, and based in Tampa) and Dark Haven (owned and run in San Francisco by My Liege aka Xavier Leduc). To be clear, those places are fantasy, not real world…but she sure does a great job making you wish they existed. She also writes some awesome shifter erotic romances.

What I love about her writing is the conscious effort she makes to educate about the many different aspects of the BDSM lifestyle, both safe and unsafe. The importance of education, safe words, trust….all without being preachy. And you can sense in the way that she writes, the immense respect she has for the honesty, vulnerability, and strength it takes to be a submissive. Her Doms don’t like wimps. They prefer real individuals of character who are willing to give up the reins to Alphas like them who cherish their gift, admire their strength, and seek to build them up and empower them. And hey, the fact that the subs have a smart, bratty streak every now and again is just icing on the cake!

These are all terrific authors with fabulous books to share…. But as I got to thinking, the book that’s impacted my adult life most (besides The Bible, of course) is a book by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog. This book has given me a ton of tips that I use daily to maximize my productivity, to manage my time, and ways to help other people around me become more efficient as well!

So what about you? Who are your must buy authors of your adulthood? Why do they appeal to you? What book has most impacted your adult life (either personally or professionally)? I’d love to hear what revs your engine!

Characters From Our Youth and Lessons Learned

I’ve always been two things: an extrovert and a bookworm. I don’t think one came before the other, but rather grew simultaneously. Before I was able to read on my own, my mom spent a lot of time reading to me. It was the benefit of being both a military bride and stay-at-home mom.

According to my mom, I started reading on my own when I was 3, but before that she would read me Bible stories and a set of books called Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories. I used to love these little stories about children like me. Through those stories I learned the importance of kindness and sharing and doing nice things for others while expecting nothing in return. These stories showed me that my good and bad days were under my own control.

It was also during this time that I found my first favorite heroine. Who was it? A young girl from my Bible stories named Hadassah, who later became known as Queen Esther. Not only was she beautiful, kind and loyal, she caught the eye of a king and won his favor….putting her in the right place to save her uncle who raised her as well as the entire Jewish race. She was, even from my young view, bold, brave and a bit heroic. And so began my love of strong female characters.

As I got a little older I read books like Heidi , but found them to be nothing but interesting reads…until at about 7 or 8, I discovered Little Women. When I met Jo, it was love at first sight. She was a bit of a rebel and outspoken…and (in my opinion) a bit of a tomboy. Yup, I completely related. Maybe that’s also why Jo from The Facts Of Life.

Of course, along the way there was The Wizard Of Oz series, A Wrinkle In Time and Encyclopedia Brown. The first two encouraged me to open my mind to fantasy and other worlds while the second one had me looking for clues everywhere. Of course, he was also my gateway to The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (I preferred the Hardys, by the way).

Then I discovered Ponyboy Curtis. I was in 4th grade when I read The Outsiders. That poetic soul who wanted to be the loyal friend and brother while dreaming of being a writer/poet. It touched my soul in a way few books have….and opened me to the idea that books and poetry could touch a heart and change a life. It also showed me that there is a hero in all of us if given the proper inspiration. Sometimes, what appears to be a lost cause can simply be a case of being mistreated and misunderstood. I saw a bit of that in Dally… Ponyboy changed the way Johnny viewed the world…and Johnny changed Dally for the better. It also reflected how different people handle loss. Losing Johnny destroyed Dally, but strengthened Ponyboy’s resolve to be the writer he was meant to be.

Not all my lessons were so solemn. I think it was 5th grade when I discovered Kit Montgomery and The Witch Of Blackbird Pond. This is probably what I’d call my first “romance”, but it was so much more than that. Kit was a young lady who sold everything she owned after her grandfather died and travelled from her home in Barbados to stay with the rest of her family in Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials. Kit spoke to me…the way she stood up for what was right, even when it meant the disapproval of the only family she had left…and the potential accusation that she was a witch. Who would have thought that knowing how to swim and read (and teaching a young girl how to read), not to mention an old, widowed Quaker woman could be grounds for that kind of accusation. It was a lesson in bigotry and the importance of tolerance and love and kindness. It was another example of how people fear what they don’t know or understand…and how family can surprise you in a good way if you let them.

Probably the last character from my younger days was Eleanor of Aquitaine. I think I was in 7th grade when I ran out of books to read in our school library, but we were required to check something out. Shoved in a tiny corner was a book I hadn’t remembered seeing before. Maybe it was the unusual title…or maybe it was that the bordering along the cover reminded me of stained glass, but I checked it out.

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The book was called A Proud Taste Of Scarlet And Miniver. It was a historical fiction based on the life of one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages…a time when women weren’t really known to have power. She was the wife of not just one king, but two…and her second husband was 9 years younger than her. Her first husband, Louis VII of France, married her because she was land and money rich, while he only had his crown. When it didn’t work out, the Pope allowed their divorce (where she got to keep all her lands/monies thanks to a progressive thinking father) because she hadn’t given him sons. Henry II of England (the younger man) married her next.

Though she’s not the most famous of women, she had always been my favorite female historical character. She was smart, cunning, with a bit of a temper…and she is actually known as the Grandmother of Europe based on the matches she made for her children across the world. Heck, you know you’re pretty badass when Katharine Hepburn played you on the silver screen. What movie? The Lion In Winter. It’s about the time when she finds out her husband cheated on her and nearly lost his kingdom…because her sons went to war against him on her behalf. Yeah, one of them was the infamous Richard The Lionheart. Yup, I’m sure you guys can see why such a strong minded powerful woman would be someone I’d relate so strongly to.

So now you know a little bit about my influences in my youth. What were your influences? Were they book characters? Movies? Athletes? Maybe even musical…? What historical character most impacted you? Why?

Priceless Treasures

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To the average person, this little book probably doesn’t seem like much. To them, it’s just another book. To me, it’s priceless.

I’ve had this book since June of 1989. If you look, you’ll see it’s well maintained. In pristine condition. If you were to open it you’d see an inscription. Nothing major, just my name written with fancy curly lettering followed by “Happy Birthday” and my friend’s signature.

It was given to me on the last day of my freshman year of high school along with a bookmark that said “Get Me To The DIRTY Part” and my second blank journal book. She’d given it to me on that day because we wouldn’t be seeing each other on my birthday.

That was a very difficult time in my life. Not only was I dealing with a new high school because we’d moved, but we were also handling the loss of a close family member. I was the new kid who didn’t know anyone. Kids are cruel at that age and they mocked my love of writing, especially poetry. I learned to wrap my gift close to my heart, hidden from the world.

But somehow she knew. This little book was a symbol of her deep understanding of the fifteen year old me. She saw the inner romantic that my tomboy side hid. She knew and appreciated my inner need to write of love and grand passions. She found the gift that fueled my inner poet’s dreams and imagination. It was her way of telling me to keep writing. So I filled that blank journal with poems often inspired by the classic poems in the other book she gave me. In fact, I still have that book, too.

And I valued her friendship. She moved away our junior year. Unfortunately, as with most things, time and distance got in the way and we lost touch. The last time I heard from her was nearly twenty years ago. I think of my friend fondly, hoping she is well and has found a love deserving of her generous heart.

That book became a symbol to me; a reminder that the good things in the world far outweigh the bad and we need to hold on to them. It’s a reminder that love and romance still exist and should be cherished. But most of all, it’s a reminder to follow your dreams and value the people who value you. I think she’d be thrilled to know that I still write today.

Everyone has priceless treasures, things that they hold near and dear to their heart. What are yours? What do they mean to you? What things helped to shape who you are today? Share with me….