I’m Going To Need Bigger Yoga Pants. And Probably a Cheeseburger.

Because this is my blog, and I get to do what I want, we need to talk about binge-watching. This has become a completely legit phenomenon in today’s society thanks to Netflix, Hulu, OnDemand, and even tv series on dvd. (If you’re old-school. Which sometimes I am. I need my Downton Abbey at my fingertips at ALL times.) Even our local cable provider is in on the deal now, hosting the brilliant “Watchathon Week” where they make seasons of hit shows available to marathon to my little introverty heart’s desire.

I can’t help but be both a little sad and relieved that this wasn’t really a “thing” while I was in college*.

On one hand, there’s no way that I would have been able to successfully juggle my 20+ credit semesters, practicing and performing ensembles if I knew that I had a couple of seasons of Dawson’s Creek waiting for me back at the dorm. (WHAT. It was the early 2000s.)

On the other hand, the idea of a lost weekend with my college friends watching smutty tv, not changing out of our pjs and imbibing some TOTALLY legal adult beverages with nothing else to worry about but maybe venturing to the caf for food is completely AMAZING. Kids these days, they’re totally not grateful for these opportunities. Back in my day, the most “social media” we got was posting angsty song lyrics as our AIM away message.

Oh yeah. I went there**.

Anyway, out of the blue I received a tweet on Friday from none other than XFINITY!


What?! They noticed my obsession with the completely pants-meltingly  face-meltingly amazing “Outlander”?! I was intrigued, so I dm’ed them back.

And look what arrived for me in the mail!



A complete Watchathon survival kit, including amazing Outlander Swag! Please imagine me jumping up and down for five minutes nonstop. Then texting Army Boy to show him, and resuming jumping up and down for ANOTHER five minutes.

Now, my only problem is deciding just what show to focus on.

Some of my favorites currently?

Outlander– OBVIOUSLY. I don’t even need to tell you how the story of a nurse from the 1940s who gets swept back in time through a stone circle and “rescued” by a clan of highlanders is my favorite thing right now. Ever. If you have feelings or want to have feelings, you should probably watch it. It’s on Starz, but the whole first half of the first season is available On Demand right now for Xfinity/Comcast customers. You can ALSO buy it on dvd wherever fine Scottish Men dvds are sold.

ER– Somehow Army Boy never got into this series! We’re buying a season at a time and marathoning it. Before tv doctors were Mc-Anything, this show set the bar high on medical drama. Noah Wyle! Young George Clooney! Alex Kingston! Anthony- do I really have to continue? Because I could. My college ritual involved putting on pjs and running across campus to watch every new episode with my bff Jeff.

The Only Way Is Essex– I’ve tried SO hard to get my friends as addicted to this UK phenomenon as I am! This show is available on Hulu, and is basically Britain’s answer to the Jersey Shore. Ridiculously attractive early-20-somethings hook up, fall out, and always look fabulous. I really want to hang out with them. Really really. There are 13 seasons available, so tuck in and enjoy!

Nashville– I KNOW. I have no idea why I’m so behind the curve on this one, but I’ve been watching it on Hulu and it’s just so juicy! Season one was a little slow, but season two picked back up with more music, more scandal, and loads of juicy relationships. Sometimes I find my eyes leaking from a particularly poignant performance. It’s so embarrassing.

The Originals– I never got into “The Vampire Diaries,” because I read the books back during Twilight Fever and was not impressed. The characters were flat, the setting boring, the vampireyness not too sexy… Needless to say I didn’t really give it a try. However, this spin-off series set in New Orleans with the “original” vampire family features witches and werewolves, and enough bitchy one-liners to keep me laughing. I’m watching this one on Netflix.

What else should I be watching on Netflix/Hulu/etc? Have you ever had a lost weekend due to marathoning tv? Pull up a chair, we’re all friends here.

This post was not really sponsored by Outlander OR XFINITY, I just got super excited. It happens. Now excuse me while I go put on even faker pants and resume sitting on my butt. For… science?

*- I just got invited to my TEN year reunion. From College. How did we get to this point?! Someone hold me.

**- since you asked, YES favorites did include Ani DiFranco, Jimmy Eat World and Dar Williams. Shut UP.

Release-Day Review: “Bai Tide” by Erika Mitchell

BAI CoverI couldn’t be more excited to finally be sharing my review of “Bai Tide,” by my good blog-friend and author extraordinaire Erika Mitchell. Erika and I have been in correspondence since she published her first book, PWNED, and I am always on tenterhooks waiting for her next release.

Erika writes thrillers for those of us that wouldn’t necessarily characterize ourselves as thriller-readers. If I was stranded at an airport and forced to choose between the latest sugary YA Vampwolf Saga or Steve Berry, you can guess which way I’d go.

All that was definitely turned on its ear when I started reading Erika’s work. She takes characters from unlikely circumstances (A professional StarCraft player and an accountant among them) and allows them to grow into the protagonists that she needs. Bai Hsu is her first “typical secret agent,” but even his assignment in the beginning of the novel is far from mundane.

We pick up shortly after “Blood Money,” with Bai on assignment at a private Girls’ School for the daughters of high profile political figures in California. Erika makes good use of the humor of the situation off the bat, with Bai making multiple remarks about his undercover work mixed with the more mundane aspects of his cover as a gym teacher.

As an undercover counterintelligence operative, however, it was a matter of no little concern that I hadn’t caught and questioned the man who’d blown up a car to get away clean. I’d need to phone in to headquarters about this one and do a little digging, to say nothing of the inevitably unpleasant conversation I was going to have to have with [the headmistress] about why I’d failed.

All that and a volleyball tournament next Friday. It was shaping up to be a busy week.” (pg 4)

The action in this book doesn’t take long to kick off- from the first page you’re thrown in and scrambling along with Bai as he attempts to find out who on Earth would break into the school’s Welcome Formal and what their motives are. The plot is far from crystalline, though. There are some clever side plots involving other teachers and students at the school thrown in for interest. There’s even a thorny bit of romance for those of us who tend to lean more toward books with more kissing than butt-kicking in them.

The story is populated with a number of convincing characters, with distinct mannerisms and backstories. A particular highlight to me was Agnes, the headmistress of the school, who I immediately pictured as an “M” from James Bond (Most recently played by Dame Judi Dench).

The similarities to Bond don’t just end there though- Erika creates a twisty villain on par with some of the Bond villains, were there are far more dangerous motives lying beneath a pleasant façade. I wanted to keep reading, but at the same time almost wanted to look away for fear of what would happen when the end fireworks began.

For fear of giving away too much of the plot, I won’t say more, but definitely need to give props to the writing itself. I’m always in awe of just how much research goes into books, and it makes it that much more impressive when you’re in contact with the author and can picture her poring over martial arts styles and international airport terminal layouts. The challenge of getting a character from plot point a to plot point b is confusing enough without having to know the architecture of Beijing international and the perks of particular firearms. I think it’s fabulous that she’s managed to avoid some TSA watchlists, to be honest. 😉

In all seriousness, the action sequences are impressive, with great descriptions of hand to hand combat. Erika clearly did her research to make the fight sequences exciting, and not a standard recitation of “kick kick kick punch punch ow blood.” She also writes very well from the point of view of a cocky CIA agent. It was fun to get to know Bai a little better, and to see some vulnerability from him as well. He’s an entertaining hero with a young voice who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Though he’s obviously an elite agent, he’s far from stuffy and his internal monologue is relatable for a younger generation of readers looking to venture into espionage thrillers for the first time.

Also, a certain blogger that you’re familiar with may or may not make a very well-dressed cameo appearance as a junior officer at the San Diego field office, and gets to flirt with Bai just a leeeeeeetle bit.

I was not blushing, I swear.

Ok, I was. Book crushes, for the win.

By the way, if you think I’m finished talking about “Bai Tide,” you’d be sadly mistaken. I have some more fun posts in store, including the first in a new series I’m hoping to start and an interview with Ms. Mitchell herself to coincide with the paperback release. I have all kinds of surprises up my sleeve!

As the weather is starting to FINALLY warm up, download your copy of “Bai Tide” and enjoy some early summer reading! You’ll be just as hooked as I was!

Bai Tide is available every downloadable books are sold- Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play. There’s even a giveaway right now over on GoodReads.

Also, pop over to Erika’s blog today for some more trivia about the hottest new superspy around. 😉

The TxtingMrDarcy Life List

Some time during my pseudo-blogtirement, I celebrated my 30th birthday. Well, I use the term “celebrate” lightly, because the day was mostly spent prepping for a bridal shower the next day and staying out of the home that we were trying to sell. Also I had my second broken foot in three years. So there’s that.

(Note to self: add STOP BREAKING BODY PARTS to Life List.)

Anyway, something about hitting that milestone birthday got me thinking about the many, many things that I’d like to experience in the wild and wonderful time that’s ahead of me. It might have been turning 30, an age which was associated with being “over the hill” by the generation before me. It might have been the feeling that Army Boy and I only have so much longer before we need to really make a decision about having children and all the changes that come with that enormous step. Or it might have been the feeling that so far I’ve lived a pretty “safe” life, and need to push myself a little more to do things that scare me or seem out of reach for one reason or another.

Either way, I’d find myself making a mental list during time that I was alone and during the quiet hours of the night when I was supposed to be attempting to fall asleep.

I know, I know… the “Life List” is like, so five years ago in blogland. But honestly, five years ago I had just moved into our first house and was thinking about getting engaged and planning a wedding. Those BIG! SHINY! THINGS! were right in front of me, and I was incredibly focused on building a home and a family.

ANYWAY…. These are some of the things that I’ve been dreaming up (and doing) since then. And I tried REALLY hard not to make the entire thing travel-related. Because obvs.

  • Get a Tattoo
  • Add a “different” color to my hair (June 2014)
  • Learn to Paddleboard
  • Go wine-tasting in California
  • Visit 100 bookshops (at least)
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Appear in a Book*
  • Swim with Dolphins
  • See and swim with Whale Sharks
  • See an Opera at The Met
  • Visit 20 whiskey distilleries
  • Taste Midleton Very Rare Whisky (March 2015)
  • Have afternoon tea at The Ritz and The Plaza
  • Drink on Bourbon Street
  • Buy a ridiculously impractical and expensive pair of heels
  • Learn how to apply a perfect red lip (September 2014)
  • Ski in 10 different states/countries
  • Attend a Black Tie New Year’s Eve party
  • Go Back to Ireland
  • Go Back to Scotland
  • Spend at least a week in England (That is a life list all its own…)
  • See Prince William and Princess Kate in person
  • Travel to:
    • Norway
    • Italy
    • Germany
    • Denmark
    • Quebec City
    • Lake Louise
    • Vancouver/Whistler
    • The Caribbean
    • Nantucket
    • Iceland
  • Go to Universal Studios Florida/ the London Harry Potter Studio Tour
  • Ride the London Underground
  • Renew our wedding vows in Vegas
  • Learn to make sushi
  • Visit Yosemite National Park
  • Go “Glamping” (Sorry Army Boy, that’s as close to camping as I’ll get)
  • Travel the Trans-Canadian Railroad

Like I said, this is just a start to the list…. I expect it to constantly evolve and change. Is there anything that I’m missing? Have you started a life list of your own?

*Coming sooner than you would think!

Life List Item: Try Midleton Very Rare Whiskey

One of the highlights of our honeymoon to Ireland was what could actually be considered one of the misfortunes of the trip. We were delayed in Philadelphia by engine trouble for long enough that we had to spend the night there (so frustrating, as it’s only an hour and a half from our home and we could easily have caught a train to our next destination). When we did manage to get on our flight the next day, we were given separate seats on the short flight to Newark.

There I sat, already exhausted by a full day of travelling with a broken foot, and the gentleman sitting next to me began to make small talk. He was amused by my wedding stress-fracture adventures, and appropriately sympathetic of our missed day in Ireland. We passed an enjoyable hour in the air, and by the time we landed he had introduced himself as “Cousin Rob” to Army Boy and shepherded us into the Continental Club so that I would be able to put my foot up for the day before our next flight.

We spent some time talking before he caught his flight, during which time he ALSO called our airline and somehow mysteriously pulled stings to get us bumped to first class for our return trip home. He then walked off into the terminal, leaving us completely stunned and marveling over the kindness of strangers. We tried upon returning home to contact him and thank him for his generosity, but too much random questioning at his company could probably get one posted on the TSA watchlist.

He did, however leave us with two bits of advice- while in Ireland, visit the location of “The Quiet Man”, and make sure to try Midleton whiskey.

Somehow, we managed to fail at both of those tasks, being limited in our activities by my charming walking boot. We kept a quiet week around the small town of Clifden with some short drives to nearby attractions in Galway. We’ve already planned that our return trip to Ireland will be much more like our recent vacation to Scotland, with loads of driving and much more of the country seen.

This week, we finally managed to enjoy Midleton whiskey at an amazing whiskey pairing dinner at a local restaurant.

The menu was five rich courses focusing on Irish/British cuisine and highlighting some of the common tasting notes found in whiskeys. Each course was paired with a different variety of whiskey, from regular Jameson to Red Breast 12-year, culminating in a tasting of the Midleton Very Rare. It was fun to see the sparkle in the eye of all the diners as the Midleton was brought out, as all of us were equally looking forward to tasting this rare dram. Paired with velvety grilled duck, it was a completely sensuous experience.

The evening was a bit unique for the shared seating style that we enjoyed- we were paired with a group of four gentlemen enjoying a work dinner. We made introductions, and quickly got down to discussing our respective whiskey adventures. Each course we chose a “table trivia” topic (Favorite foreign food enjoyed, most disappointing vacation spot, most random celebrity encounter) and the conversation was as much fun as the meal itself.

At one point, the gentleman on my left looked at Army Boy and I and toasted to us, staying “I just read somewhere that finding a woman who likes whiskey is as precious as gold.” We both grinned at each other like nerds, and laughed because it’s something we’ve definitely learned about and come to enjoy together.

But, as he said that I was reminded to glance around the room. There were far more men there than women, and I was the youngest among them. One of the wives remarked, “I’m here for the food! At least I have a happy husband!”

So, what gives? Where are all my fellow whiskey-drinking women at?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a taste that was acquired all at once. In fact, the first time we went whisky tasting in Scotland I was actually pretty disappointed. We pulled up to the gorgeous Dalwhinnie distillery nestled in the foot of the Cairngorm mountains, and it smelled amazing. There was this warm, grainy scent of mash permeating the air with notes of honey and vanilla, and I couldn’t wait to taste Scotch straight from the source.

It was…. STRONG. And burny. And I somehow missed all of the delicious flavors that I could smell in the air. What was I doing wrong?! I couldn’t reconcile this bracing, almost astringent liquor with the booze so sensually savored in the local pubs.

Not ones to be daunted by disappointment, we tried a tasting highlighting whiskies from the different producing regions of Scotland. While it was easy to distinguish between the styles, I wouldn’t necessarily have called any of them “delicious” at that point.

We completed three more tastings during our time in Scotland, each one more informative than the last. We learned about swirling the whiskey in the glass, adding a drop of water to release the flavor and breathing while sipping to allow the aroma to reach your soft palate. By the end of our trip, we’d narrowed down our search to the lowland malts, including Glenkinchie 12-year and Auchentoshan. Those came home with us, and we continued tasting and studying while back home in the states.

A year and a half later, there are definitely occasions that call for a few fingers of whiskey, rather than a beer or a glass of wine. One of these occurred recently while I was on a trip for work. It was my first solo business trip, and at the end of my stay I felt like I wanted to celebrate a bit. I stopped in at the hotel bar downstairs, amidst a crowd of other business travelers.

A group of men who looked to be in their mid-to-late 50s was at the bar ahead of me, ordering up a round of margaritas and bantering with the bartender. They stepped aside as their drinks were served, and the bartender turned to me.

“What’ll it be tonight?” he offered.

“Can I have the MacCallan 12-year on the rocks?” I asked. You could have heard a pin drop.

“Is that for you??” questioned one of the other patrons in the bar. I must have looked confused, because he elaborated, “Not many women your age drink Scotch.”

“Yup, it’s for me,” I smiled, taking a sip and heading back to my room.




Since I’ve Been Gone*

It seems only natural that once I started to work from home, with my only company being coworkers over the computer and a rather gassy beagle, I should start to reach other for other forms of interaction. I mean, preferably interaction that doesn’t involve wearing pants with zippers and makeup, because I am really enjoying not needing those in my day-to-day existence.

Oh, I’m sorry, what? You’re questioning the over-a-year gap in my posting? Well, uh, I was hoping to just gloss right over that and pick up where we left off. I feel like that’s just more entertaining than a litany of “my job this” and “our house that” and ugh bored.

Obviously I never really stopped using some of the forms of social media that require less time and commitment and forming of complete sentences.

However, I did come across a number of books that I reeeeeally enjoyed, and figured that would be as good a thing as any to discuss as I come out of semi-blogtirement.

Anna and the French Kiss,” “Lola and the Boy Next Door” and “Isla and the Happily Ever After”- Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie Perkins absolutely NAILS the breathless feeling of your first love. I will admit to being totally shallow and loving Anna and Isla more than Lola, just because of their setting of a Parisian boarding school- how can you not win with starlit walks around Paris and jaunts to other European countries? Perkins also addresses young women and their sexuality in a responsible, matter-of-fact way. These aren’t exactly a series, but contain some overlapping characters which feels like meeting up with old friends.

Fangirl”- Rainbow Rowell

I’m not going to lie- I wasn’t the first to jump on the Rainbow Rowell bandwagon. I read “Attachments” years ago and just wasn’t knocked out by it. Fangirl completely converted me. The story of Cath and Wren, twins who attend the same rural college and write Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fanfiction on their spare time, was the logical next step after a trio of high-school-themed romances. I’m not remotely sorry that my alma-mater seemed to creep into my head as the perfect setting for this story. Every note of this freshman-year story of growth and finding out where you belong was pitch perfect to me. Now I can’t wait to read “Eleanor and Park” and “Landline.”

The Throne of Glass Series– Sarah J. Maas

Two words: Female Assassin. Are you hooked yet? Because “Throne of Glass”, “Crown of Midnight” and “Heir of Fire” had me completely sucked into the story of Celaena Sardothien, the most deadly assassin in Adarlan. There’s romance, plenty of intrigue, magic and one of the most butt-kicking heroines that YA has ever seen. (Sorry Katniss, it’s true.) If you haven’t read them yet, it’s the perfect time to join in. The fourth book, “Queen of Shadows” is due out in September, and Sarah J Maas has written another book “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” which is the beginning of a NEW series that comes out in may. Also I think she never sleeps. These are also great if you love big books (and you cannot lie. Sorry. I had to. Now I’m embarrassed. Moving on-), with the shortest being 404 pages.

Red Rising” and “Golden Son”- Pierce Brown

Listen, if you follow me on Twitter you know that I am sliiiightly passionate about these books. Passionate enough to first coerce friends into reading them (Here’s looking at you, Chris) and then BADGER THE CRAP OUT OF THEM when they disagree with me. #TeamMustang

I originally sold “Red Rising” to him via Twitter as “Hunger Games on steroids from the male perspective.” Chris agrees, but thinks that I should add “meth” in there somewhere.

Darrow is a miner born of the lowest caste of humans on Mars, the reds. He and his family spend their lives under the surface of the planet helping to terraform Mars for eventual human occupation. Or to they’ve been told.

A series of dramatic events forces Darrow onto a path that he could never have imagined, fighting for his life and the legacy of his wife, Eo. These books are a high-drama space opera, with hints of mythology and epic battles that even I’m sucked into. Plus, Pierce Brown has a Twitter account and will get involved in your fan arguments if you’re annoying enthusiastic enough.

So… there’s just a taste of what I’ve been up to in the past year and some change. Thanks for bearing with me as I warm up the old blog-thing again and get used to sending little thoughts out into the void.

(Ps- all links are to Amazon and not affiliate. I don’t gain anything from sending you there.)

*Semi-deliberate shout-out to Kelly Clarkson. You go GIRL. #hatersgonnahate

In Which Nobody Puts TxtingMrDarcy in a Corner… Least of all Herself

Hello again Blogloves!

I have a confession to make. I’m sure that it’s going to surprise exactly .01% of you, but here it is:

I wrote myself into a corner.

After years of reading blogs, and loving blogs, and writing blogs, I felt the need to try to FOCUS myself.

“I should pick one thing and be really good at it!” I thought. “Every REALLY good, successful blog has an IDEA! Or a FOCUS! Or a THEME!”

Obviously, since I posted about books a great deal of the time, I pegged them as the thing that I am PASSIONATE! about, and started only posting about that.

And then? I got bored. SO bored.

If I didn’t love a book, I didn’t post about it. I got tired of trying to sound knowledgeable, and trying to formulate well-written opinions based upon my vast amount of reading. Even when I loved a book so much that I wanted to buy a notebook solely for the purpose of writing “Brooke + Life After Life” over and over again with pink puffy hearts? I still didn’t want to write about it.

I started to long to get back to just writing about LIFE again. Life, while it’s happening. Whether it’s boring and repetitious,  or fantastic and fresh every single day. That’s what I did when I started almost three years ago. (Holy crap) It worked for me.

(Example: I didn’t even blog about THE ROYAL BABY. Because I didn’t think it “fit.” How stupid is that?!)

(PS- OMG da widdle PrinceGeorgiekins and his widdle cheeks!@.)

Even while I didn’t blog for so much of this year, I tried to keep connected via Twitter, and Instagram, and other forms of social media. And even though it’s been A YEAR, the smoke has started to clear, and I’m ready to get back to interacting with all of you again. I miss the perspective that you give me- that whatever I’m going through here, there is a BIG world out there full of fun and laughter and amazing friends that I have yet to meet.

So, allow me to introduce myself, Internet.

My name is Brooke. I’ve been married for two years to my childhood sweetheart-of-sorts Army Boy.

We are parents to a devious beagle named Wesley (OF COURSE it’s after the Princess Bride.)

We live in a small town in Pennsylvania, with a lot of corn and cows, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We just sold our first home and bought our second, and I suddenly found myself a bit of a country girl.  Not, like Pioneer Woman -level country girl, but it feels close.  We dream sometimes of adventure, and when we do we do it big-time. See: Ireland in 2011 and Scotland in 2013. (The UK has my heart forever and ever.)

I am a completely unashamed book hoarder, but also share my affection with cupcakes, wine, travel and anything British.

Thank you for stopping by today, and I can’t wait to get to know you all again.


When Katniss Met Bella… Or Something?

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawaimmortal rules

Book Description: (from Amazon)

In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

It’s official, Interwebs… I have gone to “The Dark Side.” While my primary preferred method of reading is definitely real physical books, I have to admit to installing the Kindle and iBooks apps to our iPad, and making liberal use of both lately.

A great deal of my reading this winter has been of the smut variety… Two Nora Roberts Trilogies, in fact. While they may be wonderfully escapist and make great entertainment for the time I spend on the elliptical, I don’t find myself particularly inspired to write reviews about them. If you’re looking for a fun diversion during the rainy spring months, don’t hesitate to check out the Irish Born trilogy and The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. I particularly enjoyed my time spent with the feisty Concannon clan in County Clare.

The one perk of having an e-reader is that I can finally make use of the fantastic resources out there for book bloggers, and can finally make good use of having signed up for Netgalley. In preparation for the release of The Eternity Cure (on April 30!!), Netgalley had The Immortal Rules available for download this month. I’m really not sure how I let this one slip under my radar… Perhaps it was a bit of YA Fatigue, and seeing yet another angsty-face cover didn’t make me inclined to give it a second look during my book-buying jaunts?

In any event, I am SORRY Julie Kagawa. I will never stray again. Plus, great call on the new paperback cover. It is bitchin’.

For the first time in a few months, I’ve found myself talking about a book and its heroine. As I mentioned, I was starting to weary of the YA dystopian heroine, who all too frequently falls in and lets her story happen TO her. Allie Sekemoto is the exact opposite of this, and would belong more in the company of Katniss Everdeen than Bella Swan. In attempting to explain this book to Army Boy, I actually referenced both characters.

“It’s like… The Hunger Games meets Twilight… only Allie is Edward… and the world is more like The Passage, with crazy vampires running around killing indiscriminately instead of being veggie-vamps or whatever the Cullens were…”

Allie is an UnRegistered living in the vampire city of New Covington, where every day is a struggle to stay alive and to remain under the radar of the city’s vampire officials. After finding a cache of food one day, Allie brings her gang outside the city walls, with disastrous results for all involved.

Forced to leave her old life behind, the reader is caught up as Allie learns about her new life from her sire, and struggles to come to terms with being what she most despised. She’s got spunk, and is determined not to lose her humanity, no matter how difficult that may become. Her loyalty to the human race could be her undoing, and her affection for Zeke continually tests her. She’s a character that the reader both admires and empathizes with, because at heart she’s still a scrappy teenaged girl who allows herself to care too much about the “wrong” people.

Best of all, Julie Kagawa doesn’t write “down” to her audience. She doesn’t rely on some of the clichés that running rampant through the YA genre right now (Love Triangle, I’m looking at you!), and instead gives us a story that’s both epic in scale and personal for Allie. I’m thrilled that I was able to go right into The Eternity Cure.

Five out of Five Kitanas.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review.

Author Interview: Erika Mitchell

small photoOne of the true marvels of being a blogger is connecting with people from all over, regardless of age, location, or life experience. I started reading  Erika’s blog when I was a baby bloggerling, and was immediately drawn to her wit and fellow geek-girldom. I mean, of course I was hooked when she decorated her son’s nursery in a Mario Bros. theme. Can you think of anything cooler?!

Luckily for me, we struck up a blog-friendship that has lasted a few years, two children (for her) and now two published novels! Oh, and she’s not even thirty yet. Let me pause and let that sink in. (Really, I’m pausing while I re-evaluate my life goals. Don’t judge, y’all.) I had so much fun doing a Week of Erika Mitchell when PWNED came out that I jumped at the chance to do it again for Blood Money.  But enough of me blabbing…. Erika was kind enough to answer my questions about life, the book, and everything in between.

I really have to ask- what gave you the idea to make the protagonist of this book an accountant?? After reading it, it makes perfect sense, but I’m dying to hear about your ‘lightbulb moment.’

Accountants never get to be the hero, you know? They’re kind of like the gears inside a watch, they keep everything going but you never see them. When I was coming up with this story, I knew the protagonist had to be someone no one would ever see coming, someone in a position to do some real damage. It just goes to show you: Never turn your back on an accountant.

 I make absolutely no secret of the fact that I’m an unabashed anglophile, and loved that the beginning of the book was set in London. Why did you choose to make that Omar and Azzam’s “home base”?

Whenever I write a book, the main character kind of just walks up to me and introduces him/herself. Azzam had an English accent right from the start, and it was up to me to figure out how my Iraqi accountant came to sound like he hailed from London. It puzzled me at first but I figured it out eventually. Since London is an international business hub, it made sense to me to have Sun Corp headquartered there. I’ve never actually visited the city in person, but I’ve had a craving to go ever since I wrote the first draft of this book.

You and me both, obviously. Only if we can do a wee bit of royal watching in the process. Princess Kate Baby Bump Whaaa?


The amount of research that went into this book had to have been immense. (Unless you are actually a secret Muslim counter-terrorist accountant in your free time.) Did you ever feel overwhelmed as the scope of the book got bigger and bigger? 

Ha! No, not overwhelmed. God bless Google. I mean seriously, what did writers do before Google? I spent so much time Googling everything from pound/dollar exchange rates to how long it would take to ride the Underground from Hampstead Heath to Charing Cross to biological weapons, and even to how to use C4. It was a lot of fun to find out things I thought I knew from movies (like how long it takes to pick a lock) are wrong (it takes a few minutes, even if you’re pretty darn good at it).

Did you have the plot for Blood Money mapped out from the beginning, or did you learn about events as you wrote them? Does a character or plot twist ever come out of nowhere and surprise you?

I had the seed of an idea when I first started writing this book, I was as surprised as anyone about what happened as I went along. I remember when I was about three quarters of the way through the first draft when an idea tackled me in the shower and I raced out all sopping wet to jot it down on a notepad before I forgot it. That idea turned out to be a pretty big twist in the story, but it truly came out of nowhere. It was awesome.

I felt like Blood Money was a very sensory experience. From the floor of the mosque, to Azzam’s greasy American food, to a certain hard wooden chair, I really enjoyed all those details that kept the reader sucked into the story. Is that something you focused more on in this book?

Yes! It tickles me that you noticed. I took a writing seminar in 2011 and the presenter said something that stuck with me. She said that modern novels are nowhere near smelly enough, and I took that to heart. It’s fun to write that way, using all the senses to tell a story.

I would say that you definitely accomplished that! As well as giving me fast food cravings multiple times throughout the story.

shah1If this book were made into a movie, who would be your dream cast? For some reason I was picturing Azzam as an older Dev Patel the entire time I was reading it. Which is totally the wrong ethnicity and why I’m not a casting agent.

When I was writing, I kept picturing Shah as being played by Naveen Andrews (he played Sayid Jarrah on Lost). He has the look and the body type and would play that part perfectly. I’m not sure who would play anyone else, though. Who would you cast?

Is it wrong to suggest Maggie Grace for Ashley? It could be that I am really behind the rest of the world and JUST saw “Taken,” but she is who immediately springs to mind when you need someone who could be both vulnerable and have the emotional steel needed for that role. Plus, she’s really got a “girl-next-door” quality that Ashley needs.

…Which also just happens to be a perfect segue into my next question: Ashley shows remarkable strength and composure throughout the story. Would you picture yourself handling her situation similarly?ashley1

I hope so, I really do. Ashley is a very special character in that I felt her emotions deeply when I was writing her scenes. To a somewhat alarming degree at times. I had a lot of fun thinking about what I would do in that situation and problem solving in as realistic a way as I possibly could. It was a fantastic theoretical exercise.

When you wrote your first book, you were balancing writing and being a mom to a busy toddler. Now you’ve got TWO little ones at home. Has the juggling act changed for you at all?

Oh my gosh yes. When I wrote Blood Money I had just the one tiny human and I wrote that book during his nap times. Now I have two tiny humans whose nap times don’t always happen concurrently. That means I work in fits and starts and frequently lose track of what I was doing or thinking about. This is why I haven’t written any new novel-length stuff lately, it’s just not possible for me to work like that. My kids are adorable distractions.

You are fabulous at coming up with unlikely combinations for your heroes (Azzam, Sean, and your ballerina jewel thief notable among them). Have you thought of some other protagonists that you haven’t shared with the world?

I literally have a running roster of main characters (and villains) I’m just waiting to get to know better. An autistic college student who saves the world from the zombie apocalypse, an unemployed social media marketing expert who runs PR for a guy who overthrows despots, you name it. The minute I have more spare time I’m going to let these characters run wild.

Both of your protagonists so far have been male- was that intentional, or were they just clamoring for their stories to be told? Do you find it easy to write from a male point of view?

I don’t know why, but yes. I do find it easier to write from a man’s point of view. I’m not averse to writing a woman’s story, I just haven’t had many female protagonists snag my attention. I really liked Ashley from Blood Money, and enjoyed her streak of quiet courage, but I’m still waiting for that one special lady who can carry a whole story on her own.

When I talked to you about PWNED, you mentioned that you’d started writing a third novel. How’s the progress on that? Is it the same story that you worked on during NANOWRIMO this year?

You are talking about my unfinished novels number three and four and unfortunately they’re both languishing on my hard drive, unfinished. I love them, though, and I miss them. I’ll finish them someday when my kids don’t need my help/attention/boobs every five freaking minutes.

 I have to admit, I had a little literary crush on Bai. He was level-headed, capable, and just a little bit mysterious… Would you ever consider a sequel following him to his next assignment? (Please say yes!)

You liked Bai, huh? He was the most fun character of the novel, for sure. Just for you, Brooke, I will consider writing a sequel following his exploits post-London. It would definitely be fun to spend more time with him.

*Updated to Add*:


If it happens on Twitter, it has to be true!

As always, Erika, it has been a real pleasure. I eagerly await the further results of your literary endeavors, however long they may take.  Thank you for “stopping by”!

Just as a reminder, Blood Money is available to download via Amazon, OmniLit (in a variety of formats), Kobo and directly from the publisher, Champagne Books.

(author photo courtesy of E. Mitchell, other photos via Google)

Release Day Review: BLOOD MONEY by Erika Mitchell!!

“Blood Money”~ Erika MitchellBlood Money cover

Plot Teaser (From Erika’s website):

Blood Money, published by Champagne Books, tells the story of Azzam Abdullah, an Iraqi-born accountant living and working in London for Sun Corp.

Sun Corp has a squeaky-clean image, but only a handful of trusted employees know its true purpose: a front for global Islamic extremist terrorism.

When Azzam’s employer finds out Azzam’s been informing on him to the CIA, he kidnaps a woman from Azzam’s past to ensure his surrender.

A stranger in a foreign land, Azzam has the dubious honor of deciding between the life of one woman and the safety of millions.

I have to admit, nothing would make me come out of writing-hibernation faster than a request from Erika Mitchell to do a review of her newest thriller! I couldn’t have been more excited when her name popped up in my inbox the other week, asking if I’d be interested in reading her second book, “Blood Money.” From following her blog, I knew that it was going to be a doozy, and that she was very excited about it, so naturally I was as well.

Of course, you remember Erika from her last visit to my blog to talk about her first novel, PWNED. If you need a refresher, it’s about a gamer-turned-fugitive who overcomes the nefarious plotting of his rival with the help of his gaming friends. One of whom happens to be wicked hot. Throw in some possibly-illegal international travel and some edge-of-your-seat tournament action (something I never thought I’d be typing!), and you’ve got a refreshing, witty thriller for a new generation of readers.

Most notable about the plot of PWNED was how (for me) it turned “Gamer” stereotypes on their head. That seems to be a general theme in Erika’s work, because she’s gone and done it again with Blood Money. If you’ve followed this book from the beginning (*ahem,* like me), you’ll know that the working title was “Enemy Accountant.” Which, wha?!? Because  typically the word “accountant” does not exactly bring exciting things to mind. That, my friends, is where you’d be dead wrong.

As mentioned in the teaser above, Azzam is an accountant for a London-based corporation that is actually a front for an Islamic terrorist group. What we learn quickly, however, is that Azzam isn’t really down with the whole “murdering innocent people in the name of religion” thing, and has been working with the CIA for years to attempt to bring down Sun Corp. By knowing where the money goes and what it’s being spent on, he’s able to tip off his contact and keep the CIA one step ahead of his boss’s plans.

Unfortunately for Azzam, his boss didn’t become the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation without having some brains, and begins to be suspicious when his latest scheme goes awry. He has one of his “guns for hire” start looking into who could be leaking information, and that’s when things start to get REALLY interesting. What nobody counts on is an “Enemy Accountant” with honor and courage in addition to brains.

This book, even more than PWNED, had me absolutely hooked from the very beginning. It was a treat to escape from our recent blah winter weather into the intrigue and excitement of Azzam’s life, and a sweaty-palmed rush to see how Erika was going to bring the threads of her plot together. I was also blown away by what a departure this book was from her first novel- we got to spend a lot of time with Sean and Norman in PWNED, but they were our main points of view. We met other characters, but none with the depth and vitality of the people that chose to take up residence in Blood Money. They each had their own strengths and weaknesses, and watching those unfold throughout the pages was a delight. It was a great step in the evolution of Erika Mitchell as a writer, and guarantees that I will keep coming back for more of her stories.

(And if you’ve followed my reviews, you know that I’m typically NOT a ‘thriller’ person.)

Five out of five sudoku puzzles!

**LINK TIME!!** Blood Money is available TODAY to download via Amazon, OmniLit (in a variety of formats), Kobo and directly from the publisher, Champagne Books.**

Of course, when I come out of pseudo-blog-tirement, I have to do it with style. Erika has agreed to do another interview with me, and she’ll be here on the blog later this week, talking about life, writing, and hypothetical Blood Money movie casting. Stay tuned!

(image file used with permission granted by the author)


Happy Super Bowl Sunday, any and all faithful readers who continue to check my poor neglected blog despite months of radio silence.

I wanted to crank up my line to the Interwebs a little early this week to let you know that I’ve been scheming with Erika Mitchell again, and we have an exciting week planned for the release of her new book!! *Squee!!*

Please check back Tuesday for my review of Blood Money, as well as links to buy your own copy. Wednesday, I’ll have an exclusive interview with Erika herself, which I couldn’t be more excited about.

Just to further entice you, here is a photo of Henry Cavill, shirtless.

henry cavill

He does not appear in the book, but this is not at all gratuitous. Not at all.


Update for those Male readers*:


*-Yes, CJHannas. I’m talking to you. That’s as gratuitous as I could get with an Olympian… but gotta give the girl credit. She looks cute in a swimming cap. (Bathing cap? Diving cap? Head-swimmy water-maker-faster-thing?)

(Image via here)