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[Review] The Sweetness by Sande Bortiz Berger

The Sweetness Book Cover The Sweetness

Historical Fiction
She Writes Press
September 23, 2014
NetGalley/SheWrites Press

Vilna 1941. An inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother why she is carrying nothing but a jug of lemons and water when they are forced by the Germans to evacuate their Vilna ghetto. "Something to remind me of the sweetness," the wise woman tells her, setting the theme for what they must remember to survive.

Set during World War II, the novel is the parallel tale of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents, whose strikingly different lives promise to converge. Brooklyn-born Mira Kane is the talented eighteen-year-old daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer of women's knitwear in New York. Her cousin, eight-year-old Rosha Kaninsky, is the lone survivor of a family abroad exterminated by the invading Nazis. Yet, unbeknownst to her American relatives, the orphaned Rosha did not perish. Desperate to save his child during a round-up, her father thrust Rosha into the arms of a Polish Catholic candle maker, who hides her─ putting her own family at risk.

The headstrong Mira, who dreams of escaping Brooklyn for a career as a fashion designer, finds her ambitions abruptly thwarted when, traumatized at the fate of his European relatives, her father becomes intent on safeguarding his loved ones from all threats of a brutal world. Everyone must challenge his injurious and spiraling survivor guilt.

Though the Kanes endure the experience of the Jews who got out, they reveal how even in the safety of our lives, we are profoundly affected by the dire circumstances of others. Like The Book Thief and Those Who Save Us, The Sweetness is a poignant portrait of life during a most tragic time in history.

I was just saying the other day, how I liked historical fiction but that I preferred it be set in the US and not during War Time. So to say that I was intrigued by the blurb to this book speaks to the allure of this story. I was invited to read this book by the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Sweetness is a poignant look into the lives of two girls, cousins who live worlds apart, both in distance and lifestyle. Mira is the daughter of a well-t0-do Jewish businessman in Brooklyn, New York. Rosha is orphaned and secreted away in a root cellar with the prayer that the Nazi soldiers in her native Vilna will not find her.

The story is told from multiple points of view but the lion’s share falls to Mira and Rosha. The differences between the cousins could not be more polar opposite. Mira worries about finishing her fashion design degree and Rosha worries about the people who have risked their lives to hide her and if Poppa and Bubbe will come back for her. With only photos and  a few mementos to keep her company, Rosha suffers through seasons and sad times while Mira meets and marries the man of her dreams.

The Kane (formerly Kaninskly) family is large and loud and loving. The closeness  between Mira and her Aunts, who left Poland many years before the Nazi invasion, is palpable through the pages, most especially when dealing with Jeanette and her illness.

There were a few things I thought were convenient, like Mira naming a child Rosh, after the cousin who, they supposed, had died many years ago, however at few points in the book did I feel that Mira felt any particular closeness or heartfelt sadness about the loss of her cousin. Certainly, she commiserated with her father and her aunts, but then it was not mentioned again until she decided to name her third child. It seemed a convenient vehicle, to me.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and traveling back to Brooklyn/Poland in the 1940’s. The imagery was vivid, the descriptions rich, most especially of Mira’s designs. A deeply poignant, stirring novel. If you enjoy historical fiction and Jewish history and fiction, I think you will enjoy The Sweetness.

So many book reviews, so few writing updates!


photo credit: LoKan Sardari via photopin cc

It’s been awhile since I posted a writing update. It’s been awhile since I WROTE. Anything. Besides a book review or a Facebook/twitter/Tumblr status update. I go through these long dry spells where I just need to do something else. I’ve always heard that if you can quit writing, you should do it. But also that if you can quit writing, you’re not a real writer. Welp, by that standard I wouldn’t be considered a real writer cause I can quit with the best of them.

That doesn’t mean that writing isn’t on my mind. My book, Ruby’s, is always forefront. I just have so much work that needs to be done to improve it. And I can’t decide if I really want to query this novel, or self publish it the way I want it published, on my terms, with me in control…. it sounds appealing to the control freak in me. Aside from not knowing what the heck I am doing, anyway. I have feedback and grammar checks that I need to incorporate, plus another few review sessions… I’m just not feeling up to it right now. I did tell myself that by October I need to get on the grind because I wanted to start writing the next book for NaNoWriMo, Nov 1-31.

I’m also still very slowly updating the serial that I started because I missed updating a serial. :/ Yeah, I don’t know how that works. I’m kind of out of story and conflict and I really want to just leave it as is but I should probably find a way to finish it. It started off with two people who HATE each other (but really LOVE each other) and now it’s at a point where I’ve lost the fire between them that used to compel each chapter. They’re too sweet and loving and the story line is predictable ; we all know what’s going to happen, do I really need to write it out? Meh. SO that one is just kind of sitting. I might finish it, I might not, which disappoints some people, I am sure but you know that thing where you just don’t care?


I was also supposed to have helped to start up a writing challenge at the archive but it fizzled before it even hit the floor. Which is fine, because I swore I’d never run another challenge there.

This is quite the grumpy writer update! But you know…….. it’s reality.

I DO have some plans for writing and maybe publishing something, just to get my feet wet. It’s finished but needs editing and some rewriting and, again…I’m just tired right now. I’ve been doing a ton of reading, which is what I do when I feel dry and non-creative and tired of writing. It’s been good for me and I’ve picked up some really great books by some deep, talented writers. I wish I could absorb such talent and drive via the pages of their books.

Alas……..it has to come from me.

[Review] Forever Starts Tonight by Roni Loren

Forever Starts Tonight Book Cover Forever Starts Tonight
Loving on the Edge, 5.5

Erotic Romance, Romance,
September 16, 2014
NetGalley/ Intermix

The wait is over. They fell in love in Melt Into You, but that was only the beginning. Now New York Times bestselling author Roni Loren dials up the passion as three lovers reinvent the meaning of togetherness and find out if love is truly enough…

Two dominant men, one beautiful woman. Jace Austin knows he doesn’t have what you’d call a conventional relationship with Evan and Andre, but it works. Boy, does it work—until Evan starts acting strangely and Andre’s ex-fiancée pops back into his life, unbalancing a perfectly happy threesome. Jace is forced to face the unthinkable: that the two people he cares most about in this world are in danger of slipping away from him.

So Jace plans a surprise getaway to a secluded mountain cabin for the three of them. And he knows exactly what he needs to do: give both his lovers a fantasy week they’ll never forget. And the possibilities for pleasure are endless. But when they get snowed in and the heat between them reaches a fever pitch, secrets come out. And Evan has one that could change all their lives forever.


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I almost never watch a movie sequel. The followups are never as good as the first, because the characters have already told their story and resolved their conflicts. What usually results is a thinly veiled, flimsy excuse for the characters in the film to reunite, solve new conflicts and try to bring closure.


Book sequels are a different animal to me. Less a reason for characters to reunite, more of continuation of a story that was started. The next chapter, if you will, especially if there is great chemistry and opportunity for more story at the end of the previous novel. As is the case with Forever Starts Tonight, in which we revisit the relationship of Andre, Jace and Evan, I feel more like sitting down with good friends for coffee and catching up on what’s been going on in their lives since we last chatted.

Forever Starts Tonight is a novella length return to the M/M/F committed relationship that we first read about in Melt Into You. Evan is a successful photographer and happy in her relationship with her two main men, but she’s feeling the slightest longing for something more. Andre is feeling the same, especially when confronted by an ex girlfriend, the one he thought he could have married and had a family with, had he not chosen to explore his feelings and eventually end up in a poly-amorous relationship. Neither are interested in the vanilla family set up- husband and wife, 2.5 kids, white picket fence… but some part of each of them is looking toward the future and not finding any answers.

Sensing that his partners need a getaway– and a long serious discussion about this word FUTURE, Jace sweeps his partners away for an unforgettable ski weekend… foiled only by Evan’s little surprise, one she’s not sure if she’s happy or upset about, but one that will change the direction of their relationship forever. What happens to a couple of three when the words marriage and family and FOREVER start getting tossed around?

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed not only the steamy, heavy on the enjoyment, sexy scenes but also the storyline. The inner fight, specifically with Andre but also Evan as the memories of giving up a child for adoption was palpable. I wanted them all to win and wasn’t sure how things would work out, but the ending was, as usual, satisfying.

I’ve always enjoyed how much Roni’s characters seem real.. real people with real problems, real issues, real conflicts that I can relate to. I’ve also loved how her characters are so into each other… there is love and respect, especially within the roles of BDSM and how everyone plays their parts, but there’s also passion and pure lust, an almost uncontrollable desire between committed partners.

To me, that’s what romance is, and Roni weaves and crafts these experiences through words so well, it’s almost like these people actually exist.

Roni is one of my favorite authors and reading one of her novels is always a pleasurable experience!

Happy Release Day to “Every Time I Think of You” by Tracey Garvis-Graves

We’re celebrating the release of Every Time I Think of You by best selling Author Tracey Garvis-Graves! Check out how Tracey came up with the idea for the book and take a peek at the excerpt below. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Title: Every Time I Think of You
Author: Tracey Garvis-Graves
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Amazon US (e-book and paperback) | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Amazon Australia  | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo


Thirty-year-old Daisy DiStefano has two people she holds dear: the grandmother who raised her, and her three-year-old son, Elliott. But when Daisy’s grandmother is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Daisy must take steps to protect herself and her child.

Despite a thriving career in San Francisco, thirty-six-year-old Brooks McClain has returned home to spend what little time his mother has left before she succumbs to the deadly disease that is ravaging her. The seasoned investigative reporter has taken a position with the local newspaper and been on the job less than twenty-four hours when he’s summoned to cover the death of Pauline Thorpe.

Brooks is all business, but the more time he spends with Daisy DiStefano, the more invested he becomes; there’s something about a single mother, a defenseless child, and an unsolved crime that has stirred Brooks’s protective instincts like nothing ever has before.

And when the unthinkable happens, Brooks will do whatever it takes to clear the name of the woman he’s fallen for and the child he’ll protect at any cost.

Romantic and suspenseful, Every Time I Think of You shows how far two people will go to fight for the ones they love, and the life they’ve always imagined.

Check out an excerpt of Every Time I Think of You and enter the Giveaway below! Congratulations Tracy!


[Review] A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

A Light in the Wilderness Book Cover A Light in the Wilderness

September 2, 2014

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him. Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost. Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for. As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.

When I was invited by the publisher to read this book via an offer from NetGalley, I only hesitated for a second. I’m a sucker for historical fiction, set in the US in the 1800’s. Add a beautiful cover and an intriguing blurb and I am game.

That said, had this not been based on a true story, I probably would have stopped set it aside, rolling my eyes at the story of a freed slave marrying a white Irish immigrant and setting off with him across the country, where along the way they meet and commune with several other friendly whites who treat Leticia Carson like family. I know enough of my history to know that sympathetic friends would have been hard to come by.

Knowing that this novel was built on the backs of history made it worthwhile to push through, to read of the trek from Missouri to Oregon, and more importantly to explore the bonds of friendship and relationship where the law stood in the way. Davey and Leticia were married in words only… though she was free, he could never claim her as his wife. Several moments of foreshadowing ring Letitica’s fears about what could happen to her, their property, the life they’d built, should something happen to Davey.

The most irritating character throughout this book was Davey. I couldn’t figure out his motivation for doing the things he did, saying the things he said. He lied, he took shortcuts, he left his family in grave peril for the hollow promises of money and riches. I also didn’t understand his reluctance to make Leticia feel safe and secured. Surely she made her preferences known but he continually brushed her off as if her feelings weren’t important. With so many against their union lurking in the shadows, I felt Davey was irresponsible and cowardly when it came to caring for his wife. She risked so much to be with him.

This novel was well written, a bit slow in pacing and changing POV a few times, which I found refreshing. I was just thinking about the Grapes of Wrath the other day… this book reminds me a lot of that novel– a family venturing west for a better life, meeting joy and tragedy along the way. This was an excellent read.

Welcome to The Sweet Escape, home of writer Melinda Jones. I blog about my adventures as a Literary Fiction/Romance/ Women's Fiction reader and writer. My work has appeared at IndieInk.org, Short-Story.net and Storyfix.com.

I enjoy reading (lots and lots of reading) writing, candy, Sprite, and things flavored with raspberry... but not raspberries themselves. I blog Mondays and Fridays and random Wednesdays and Sundays as time and material allows. I hope you'll drop by often and share in the joy (uh huh) of writing! Enjoy your stay!



A Proud Stop on the Forever Starts Tonight Blog Tour!

Check back here on September 18th for my review of Roni Loren's steamy new release Forever Starts Tonight! FST Blog Tour Button

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