Career Talk Tuesday with N. D. Jackson

career talk

Hello all! Today I have another amazing guest post from N. D. Jackson! Please give her a warm welcome. I love hearing how writers came to do what they’re most passionate about, even if they had a different kind of education!

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My name is Natasha (if you know my books you know me as N.D.) and I guess you could say I came to the same way most writers do; just doing it. As a kid I used to write stories that were pretty much my secret hopes and dreams but as I became a consummate bookworm, my stories took on a life of their own. It was always something I just did when I was happy or sad or if the mood just struck me. Sometimes it was poetry or song lyrics but mostly it was always stories. Always involving politics or romance or murder…or all three.

In high school I took a few creative writing classes to help me improve upon my craft and to find other wannabe writers. A few poems and stories were even published in the literary magazines published by my high school and university. Of course by the time I got to University I was set on…law school! I still wrote stories and poems but writing was put on the back burner while I pursued a political science major and psychology minor. It’s strange that as much as I loved reading and writing that I never considered an English or Lit degree, but that’s probably because I loved arguing with people…still do, actually.

After my undergrad and graduate degrees were complete I decided, what the hell, and went after my dreams of working in politics.

Well we all know how the 2004 Presidential election turned out so let’s not rehash, but let’s say that the process and all the rest of it kind of soured me on a life of politics. That winter I began taking small freelance writing jobs doing things I had already perfected: press releases, marketing, fundraising etc….

I moved across the country and took on more and more freelance writing jobs, while finally getting back to my writing. My first love is politics and so it should come as no surprise that my first full length novel was a political satire…which no one wanted to touch as the economy was tanking.

But after my first year in Europe I was encouraged to just bite the bullet and do it, publish a novel. I decided to start with romance because I had written a few of them in the past and figured there was a wider audience and…here I am with 2 romance novels published under my belt. My third book is a political satire and it will be released later this month.

My path to becoming a published author wasn’t as direct as the 12 year old me would have thought but when it’s in your blood, in your bones you will always find your way there. While pursuing my Master’s degree I did more writing than I ever thought I would between endless papers and my thesis, and that kind of helped me reconnect with my first love. Of course writing on the drug trade in the Golden Triangle wasn’t the same as my Mustang Prairie series but it did help me find my old friend.

In fact if I ever decide to publish that first novel you can see the policy wonk in my writing!

I don’t think it’s necessary to pursue a degree in a particular field to become a successful author as long as you have the passion and the skill as a writer. I mean it helps to be former FBI if you’re a famous writer of crime books but a few interviews with the right people can still get you the information you need, which is where any degree can help. If there’s one thing we all learn how to do by the time those college years are over it’s how to conduct good research!

That’s my two cents!

N.D. Jackson

Find me online:




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Thanks so much Natasha! If you want to learn more about her books check out A Little Bit in Love!

Want to get involved in Career Talk? Email me at caughtbetweenthepagesblog at gmail dot com to see how you can join in!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes #1

author : sabaa tahir

pages : [hardcover] 446

memorable quote There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel.

favorite character : elias

summary :

Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

review :

Wow. There is so much going on in this book and it left me wanting (needing?) more.

First, I have to talk about this book summary. It was what interested me in the book, but it’s a little inaccurate. Laia isn’t a slave–not exactly. She’s born ‘free’, still beneath the ruling class, and can do whatever she wants. As long as she doesn’t step out of line, learn to read or write, or speak up for herself. Still, she isn’t a slave as defined in this world. Her life changes when the Empire comes knocking and destroys her life and her family. I won’t say more because I think it’s better for you to read about the changes and struggle Laia goes through, but I loved seeing her find her strength.

Elias, I think I loved more. Maybe it was because I was so interested by the military life he led. He’s been trained since the age of six to become one of the Empire’s deadliest assassins. But after all of that rigorous training (including a stage where ten year olds are sent to live in the wild for four years?!) he still have a soft spot. The others call him weak, but I loved that about him. He still had a heart.

Though the book is told with each chapter alternating between Elias’ and Laia’s perspectives, there was never a chapter I wanted to skip over. The only frustrating thing was that it seemed like every chapter ended on a mini cliff hanger. So I’d rush to see what was going to happen to one character, only to have the other in peril by the time I had a chance to see what was going to happen to someone else!

I really, really loved this book and I’m definitely going to be recommending it. I can’t say much more about it, for fear of spoiling what I think needs to be experienced. But Sabaa Tahir is an author to look out for.

5/5 stars

Neverland by Shari Arnold


author : shari arnold

pages : [hardcover] 358

favorite characters : jilly & meyer

memorable quote Live as if they’re going to tell stories about you.

summary :

It’s been four months since seventeen-year-old Livy Cloud lost her younger sister, but she isn’t quite ready to move on with her life — not even close. She’d rather spend her time at the Seattle Children’s hospital, reading to the patients and holding onto memories of the sister who was everything to her and more.

But when she meets the mysterious and illusive Meyer she is drawn into a world of adventure, a world where questions abound.

Is she ready to live life without her sister? Or more importantly, is she brave enough to love again?

In this modern reimagining of Peter Pan, will Livy lose herself to Neverland or will she find what she’s been searching for?

review :

I LOVE Peter Pan. Obsessively. I love the characters, I love Neverland–the whole shebang. What I also love is trying out retellings of the tale. Retold fairy tales are some of my favorite things to read, ever, and there are some great ones out there so I’m extremely excited that they continue to be published. Neverland is imperfect, but I think that some of the book’s best qualities come through in its imperfections.

Livy was interesting. I thought that she was a sweet girl and liked her as soon as I realized why she spent so much time reading to the children at the hospital. Those kids need as much happiness in their lives as they can get and Livy is there to shine for them, as long as she can. She’s struggling through life after her little sister died. Her parents are distant. And then there’s a little spark of something when a boy–well, more than a boy–starts listening in to her stories. Enter Meyer, who was so perfectly Peter that sometimes I wanted to smack some sense into him. And Livy was Wendy, with her own twist. Because of all she’s already experienced, she’s much less . . . naive. She’s willing to try new things with Meyer and invite some fun back into her life but stops whenever it might blend into danger.

Neverland will keep you hooked–even though the ‘Captain Hook’ of the story has both of his hands. The concept of who the villain might be in the novel continues to twist and change, which I thought was awesome. I never knew what was going to happen next because I didn’t know what I needed to prepare myself for. Livy didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she agreed to play Meyer’s games and neither did I!

Another thing I absolutely loved was how some of the concepts of the story throw back to the original (non-Disney version) in a way that I know many people who know the story don’t know exists. It was a pleasure for me to read about a modern take on it all, with a few twists along the way of course.

While this isn’t my favorite story, I do think that I’ll be recommending it. I’d love to go adventuring with Meyer someday–and maybe I will, when I read this book again.

4/5 stars

Career Talk Tuesday: Ann Livi Andrews

career talk

Hello all and welcome to an exciting new addition to the blog — Career Talk Tuesdays! As I’m drawing close to the end of my own education, I’ve found that there are so many people like me wondering what they can do with their English major or how they can get into the publishing industry or what it takes to get a book out into the world. If you’re wondering about the possibilities of your own future, take a look at these posts and talk to the wonderful people participating. This is going to be fun!

To pump us up in our inaugural post, please welcome Ann Livi Andrews to the blog!

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I’m Ann Livi Andrews, a self-published author writing under a pen name, and attempting to lead a new way of thinking in the self-publishing world. I have a Bachelor of Science in English Education but have never used it. Throughout my life I’ve held jobs at a library, a Wal-mart, a variety of law offices, a Taiwanese corporation, and even a private jet company. But being a stay at home mom slash self-published author is by far the highlight of my job experiences.

Not going to college wasn’t an option for me. At the time, I was excited. I applied to two colleges and got accepted into both of them. I chose one three hours from home because “I needed space.” There were four of us from my high school who ended up at the same university. Two of us had boyfriends back home and were constantly driving back and forth. After our freshman year, we all left. Three of us went to the same university for our sophomore year. After that year, I left and returned home to the university in my home town because I was determined to marry my high school sweetheart and that’s where he studied. And so I managed to finish my Bachelor of Science in Education in four years despite the fact that I attended three different universities during that time. I graduated with a inevitably doomed marriage and a degree that I had no intention of using.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in first grade and I started writing short stories. But when it came to college, I was told to ignore dreams and aspirations for realistic life expectations. “You’re too short to play volleyball in college” and “It’s too hard to become a writer” were pieces of advice that I heard all too often. They were interchangeably used with “Be an English teacher. You’re good at English.” So that’s what I did. And you know what? I was and am good at English. I can create amazing and beautiful lesson plans that follow as many of the educational standards as you want. But when it comes to standing up in front of condescending and attitude driven teenagers who are all mostly taller than me – I am terrified, anxiety ridden, and am overall lacking in confidence. The one school I would have taught at (the school I grew up in) offered me a job and I was told that I was ridiculous for considering teaching at a private school that wouldn’t even pay me minimum wage. That was 2006.

Now to make a huge jump.

In January of 2011, I met the man of my dreams – even though I wouldn’t realize it for another 4-6 weeks. As I caved to his stubborn (he prefers persistent) advances over the course of a 3 day RV Trade Show, I found myself walking around looking at RVs with him. We were bluntly honest with each other about who we were (I’m Christian, he’s undecided – I was straight laced, he was rebellious – We both had horrible ex-baggage, etc.) And so it came up that I wrote books despite a lack of agent and publisher interest. He said “I’d like to help you self-publish.”

Turns out that he was the nicest, most caring, and honest man I’ve ever met. Part of our adventure together has included self-publishing my books. While he started out helping me with marketing and social media, over the past year I’ve taken over the majority of that.

With Self-Publishing, I hold complete control over my work, my covers, my genre, and how I choose to market myself, which has been a wonderful experience. I also have the ability to experiment freely without an agent or publisher looking over my shoulder.

Does all this mean that my Bachelor of Science in Education was a waste? Not at all. I use many of the skills I learned to help me with my plot construction and editing process. Plus I have the degree to fall back on if need be. But I desperately wish that I had experimented with classes a little more. The closest I came to a creative writing class was creative nonfiction, and we had to include some aspect of truth within our writing.

My husband never finished his degree and while he would tell you that it hasn’t helped his resume, he still ended up with a Director of Marketing position that he loves. With the direction our country is heading in, I’m not sure that college degrees will hold much meaning in future generations.

My advice for anyone wanting to be an author—traditionally or self-publishing—is to maintain a Plan B, just in case you need extra funds. We have dreams for a reason. They force us to strive for a higher purpose, for a job that we’re passionate about, something to work towards. You should never give up on your dreams – even if you have to compromise with them slightly. But make sure you have a safety net in place to support yourself and your family. If dreams were easy to achieve, I don’t think they would mean as much to us as they do. Publishing my first short story on Amazon was an amazing feeling. As it is, I’m getting ready to revise and expand on the first story I ever published, but it was still a step in the right direction for me.

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Thank you SO much Ann for sharing your career, goals, and advice with us! I know that it’s helpful to me and that there are others who’ll love to see the path you’ve taken.

Want to check out Ann’s work for yourself? On July 4th, for one day only, have the chance to download her book–completely FREE!! This is an awesome opportunity to check out an amazing author. Come back and let me know what you think! I know many of my readers are YA fans so I think that The Two Lands: Return will be a perfect match for all of you!

Connect with Ann on social media:


Twitter: @annliviandrews

Pinterest: annlivi

Goodreads: AnnLiviAndrews


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Are you interested in Career Talk Tuesday? Want to participate? Email me at caughtbetweenthepagesblog at!

Kisses and Curses (Short Story Collection)

Kisses and Curses

edited by : lauren burniac

pages : [paperback] 400

featuring : marissa meyer, leigh bardugo, marie rutkoski, and many more!

summary :

A fabulous collection of short stories from your favorite Fierce Reads authors, perfect for fans and new readers!

Beloved of readers and booksellers, our Fierce Reads program has garnered tons of enthusiastic fans since its inauguration in 2012. Now, the authors you know and love are coming together in one book! With standalone short stories from a handpicked set of FR authors, this fabulous collection will include a mix of original content and popular favorites, and will often feature characters or worlds from existing Fierce Reads books. Extended, personal introductions from each author will make this a must-buy for fans as well as a fantastic portal for engaging new readers with the program. With a wide range of genres and subject matter, there will be something here for everyone!

review :

I LOVE short story collections! I grabbed up this one as soon as I spotted it in the store because it had Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, and Marie Rutkoski included. Three of my favorite authors! I immediately sat down to read this and hit an unfortunate snag. Although all of these short stories can, technically, be read on their own, all except one are inspired by these authors’ well-known series. This is less annoying when, as in the authors I mentioned above, I knew the context these stories were going into and could enjoy the extra insight into the characters or world these little bits provided. For other stories that I haven’t yet had the chance to get to the series . . . It was frustrating. These snippets would rarely have a conclusion and in one instance I couldn’t even read the story because I was warned it would spoil the book. Who knows if I’ve managed to spoil something else for myself already?

I wouldn’t say there was any one story in this I didn’t like. Overall, the writing was pretty solid (after I got over the whole blow about none of the stories being original). The one unique story was told in a twitter exchange between two authors, which was a surprisingly entertaining way to read the unconventional Sasquatch love story. If that isn’t enough to convince you to try this collection, I don’t know what else could.

I had to rate this collection lower than I wanted to (because I LOVE these authors and know that there are other favorites in here just waiting to be discovered when I actually read the series’ I just spoiled). The stories weren’t satisfying on my own. I feel like they would have been better suited in their own domain rather than this bind-up. Hopefully, I won’t get tricked into a collection like this again.

3/5 stars

DNF Review: The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark

The Boy Next Door

author : katie van ark

pages : [paperback] 347

summary :

Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.

Gabe can’t imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.

But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

review :

I was super excited to read this book, especially because I was fortunate enough to receive a copy to review. Unfortunately this book didn’t work for me and 100 pages in (I need to give every book at least that much of a chance!) I threw in the towel.

The Boy Next Door has a cute premise: Maddy and Gabe are ice skating partners, have been for years, and have high hopes of making it big in the skating world. Now that they’re older, their musical numbers are becoming more romantic. Maddy has always had a crush on Gabe and sees this as their big chance to finally get together; Gabe is convinced that a relationship off the ice would end badly and ruin the partnership they’ve spent years cultivating. Honestly, I could understand both points of view. Maddy doesn’t want to live her life wondering ‘what if?’ and never getting a shot at this relationship; Gabe doesn’t want to break something that’s already perfect.

The characters felt too forced to me. Maddy doesn’t react well to Gabe’s responses to her advances. She doesn’t respect his decision and instead is determined to make him jealous, seduce him, ignore him–all of the above in an attempt to see her as a girlfriend, not just a female partner. After the initial shock of Maddy’s reaction to their romantic musical number (featuring of course music from Romeo and Juliet), Gabe gets pretty wishy-washy over what he wants. And that’s where I finally lost interest.

People who love figure skating will like this book. I think. I know I’d be terrible at the sport but enjoy watching it and most of what I was reading had to do with the characters worrying over whether they’d get together or if they should be kissing or how to be more romantic on the ice. It started to get very repetitive, the thoughts each character would have about their personal worries and fears. It just wasn’t for me.

1/5 stars

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart

One Thing Stolen

author : beth kephart [also wrote going over]

pages : [hardcover] 272

favorite character : nadia

summary :

Something is not right with Nadia Cara. She’s become a thief. She has secrets she can’t tell. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. In Florence, Italy, with her epicurean brother, professor father, and mother who helps at-risk teens, Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom no one but herself has seen. While her father researches a flood that nearly destroyed Florence in 1966, Nadia wonders if she herself can be rescued—or will she disappear?

Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is about language and beauty, imagining and knowing, and the deep salvation of love.

review :

I was so interested in reading this book because I really like Kephart’s writing style. I’ve also read her novel Going Over and while it isn’t a favorite of mine, I do love her writing. I think I feel similarly about One Thing Stolen — though this is a story that is going to haunt my thoughts for a little while now that I’ve finished it. One Thing Stolen is told in three parts, each featuring a different point of view and Kephart flawlessly changes her style and tone to reflect each narrator.

This book is unique (at least to my reading experience) in that it deals with a teenager facing a neurological disorder, possibly a type of dementia. Although many of the books I’ve read lately have spoken about mental illness, that has tended toward OCD and schizophrenia. Nadia suffers from something we typically only think of the elderly facing and she’s so incredibly young. I think it’s so important that books like this continue to be written because the more these diseases are spoken about, the more people in general will understand them as well as the people who suffer through them daily.

Nadia is the first narrator to the story (I won’t spoil who the others are) and her thoughts are chaotic to say the least. She’s an unreliable narrator and she can’t make sense of things for herself so she’s constantly pleading for the reader to understand it all for her. She can understand words but finds it nearly impossible to communicate anything about herself. Being trapped like that is unimaginable, utterly terrifying, and as the story continues you’re fully immersed in Nadia’s world and trying to pick it apart alongside her.

Unfortunately, for all that I loved about this book, there were parts that just didn’t work for me. I wasn’t feeling that spark in the narrative that would compel me to continue reading when I finished each chapter. There is a love interest that, well, didn’t interest me too much. Several things are introduced that seem like they should be major parts of the book that are never fully acted upon.

Although I think that many people may enjoy this book, it simply wasn’t for me.

3/5 stars