Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jane Litte

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

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REVIEW:  Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

REVIEW: Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

Dear Ms. Elkins:

Your editor emailed me and asked me to take a look at this book. I think it sat in my inbox for at least a week and she contacted me again. She loves this book and wanted it to get read. Now I love this book and want it to get read.  In fact, in the last podcast I recorded with Sarah from Smart Bitches, I threatened to not talk during the next podcast if she didn’t at least read Stir Me Up.  Sarah called me a book bully.

Stir Me Up by Sabrina ElkinsCami Broussard grew up in her father’s kitchen and wants to be a chef someday but her father keeps pushing her toward college.  The chef’s life is not an easy one and he tries to explain to her all the negatives. She will have to work every holiday.  She won’t be home for dinner.  She will miss more family events that she will make. The restaurant will own her.

While Cami pretends to be interested in colleges, she and her current boyfriend (and employee at her father’s restaurant) dream of their restaurant owning future together. Cami’s last year of high school is interrupted by the arrival of her step cousin, Julian. Wounded while deployed, Julian comes to Cami’s home to recuperate.  He’s angry, sullen, and bad tempered and takes it out on everyone including Cami.  Worse, Cami’s abruptly ousted from her first floor bedroom to an attic alcove that doesn’t even have a door or a closet.  And what can she say? No, the war veteran should sleep in the floor in the living room? Things with her boyfriend take a turn when he continues to pressure her for sex which Cami isn’t quite ready for.

I couldn’t decide if this was a hamfisted way to clear a path for Julian but given that the breakup between Cami and Luke doesn’t quite happen in an expected way, I weighed in on the no side. Besides, I like it when the heroes of YA books are okay with waiting because that’s a message I’ll want my daughter to read. Just putting my bias out there.

The relationship between Cami and Julian is entirely believable as they go from antagonists to reluctant confidantes to something more.  Cooking plays a huge role in this book and I loved how evocative the writing was as it pertained to Cami’s love for food.  In the book, the creation of food becomes a metaphor and initially the only way that Cami reveals her feelings for Julian, perhaps at first even unconsciously.

Cami is a great heroine. She’s not hung up on her looks or getting the guy in this story; she’s trying to figure out her place in the world. Her thoughts aren’t filled with where the next party is or whether she is fitting in with the right crowd at high school. She’s busy trying to cope with her feelings for the wounded guy in her bedroom and deciphering what it means when he tells her to decide for herself what she wants out of life.

“No big deal,” he says. “For this one… ” He scrolls back up. “Just start with something like Ever since I was little, my father has owned his own French restaurant.”

He moves away from the computer and looks at me. “Ever since I was little…. ” I say.

“You’ll need to put it in your own words.”

“Okay. How about: I spent most of my childhood playing behind the stoves of my father’s French restaurant.

This mildly impresses him. “Did you?”

“Yes. Basically.”

“Did you like it?”

“I loved it. All the action and noise.”

“The noise?”

“Sure. The noises are great—the pots and pans and utensils and searing sizzling food, the chefs hollering and shouting at each other and the wait staff running around and the doors and the plates. It’s a concert.”

“You… maybe you should just be a chef.”

“Dad’s convinced I should get a degree first. So I don’t limit my options. Also because…” Julian’s kind of staring at me. “Because he never was able to go to college himself and he thinks it’s too hard a life.”

Oh God. Stupid pale complexion showing everything all the time. I cover my cheeks with my hands. They’re burning.

“Okay, well… let me know if you want me to read the new versions,” he says. And he wheels away.

Julian’s presentation as a Marine with a medical separation due to his amputated leg was sensitively handled.  Cami admits that on the one hand it bothers her because it represents a painful loss to Julian but on the other hand, the loss of his leg doesn’t define him in Cami’s eyes or anyone else’s eyes in the book.

One of the things that I think young adult books do so well is show how the characters actually fall in love. Cami’s movement from resentment toward curiosity and into desire is believable and sweet. There are love scenes but they are tactful and appropriate for the tone of the book.  Overall, there’s just a sense of loveliness and sweetness about the romance and Cami’s journey that I hope others pick this book up and read it. B+

Best regards,


PS I know I’ve talked up this book a lot but I feel like at $1.99 it’s a low risk proposition.

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Dear Author

The personal boycott and how it’s not censorship

I rarely talk overtly about politics on Dear Author but I think it is fairly obvious that we support gay marriage. I have a few very close friends who are gay. I once mentioned off handedly that my daughter had gone to Chick-Fil-A for a school project on restaurant reviews and my friend looked at me aghast and said he was surprised I would financially support that company. After an awkward silence as I tried to tell him that I didn’t, my friend apologized and said that he didn’t care if I did or didn’t go to Chick-Fil-A.

For those who are unaware, Chick-Fil-A is a fast food chain in the United States that has come out publicly against gay marriage. That evening I went home and talked to my daughter about why we didn’t go and eat at Chick-Fil-A because if we did we were essentially supporting people who were trying to prevent our friends from obtaining rights that she and I took for granted. When my daughter wrote her review for the restaurant she included that while she enjoyed the food she disapproved of their policies.

Just last week,  Guido Barilla chairman of a pasta manufacturing company Barilla announced that Barilla would never feature a gay family.  His explanation is even worse.

 I would never make a spot with a homosexualfamily. Not out of a lack of respect but because I do not see it like they do. (My idea of) family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role.

He also reportedly said he opposed adoption by gay parents and that if gay consumers “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”

I like Barilla pasta. They make a whole wheat, multigrain pasta that we’ve bought for a few years now.  But I can’t imagine having a box of that in my house and inviting my friends over for a meal. There is a restaurant in town whose owner has made terrible comments about Asians and my friends don’t go there with me and if they go at all, they never mention it to me.  We all make buying decisions based on personal feelings and books are not exempt.  When it comes to entertainment from deciding not to support Orson Scott Card or avoiding an author who has a street team that is designed to harass reviewers until they remove their one star reviews, some of us decide that we’d rather try one of the other thousand authors out there than support the author whose actions or activities are anathema to a reader.

The business of books has become increasingly personalized. Look at the existence of street teams. Street teams are comprised of readers who go forth and leave reviews and promote books of a particular author to another reader.  Sometimes they do more such as descend en masse on a blog or an Amazon review to inform the reader who wrong she was in her response to the book.  Sometimes they work in tandem to downvote negative reviews and upvote positive ones.  These street team members take on this role willingly because they love both the work and the author herself.

Many new authors believe that the role of reviewers and bloggers is to support an author and those that do not are hateful, spiteful individuals who have no happiness in their lives.  Here is the key.  Support of the author.   Blog tour requests are sent to bloggers and require you to agree to be part of the tour without having read the book. In fact, some tours do not give the blogger an ARC unless they agree to the tour first.

Authors are told by their publishing houses and their author friends to go forth and make friends with people in the community.  Give of yourself and in return these readers will feel invested in your success. Your success is their success and your failure is their failure.  Thus the strong, rabid response.  The cult of personality creates both love and the converse – hate or at least dislike.  By making the promotion about the author as opposed to the object, the attending rise of objection to books based on author personalities is natural.  Because if you are to support the authors that you love; you also don’t want to support the authors you don’t love.

Reading is deeply personal and online readers who are prone to leave reviews, either negative or positive, are readers full of passion. When they love something, you’ll hear about it and when they don’t love something, their opinions are just as strong.  Is it any wonder in this increasingly intimate online environment between readers and authors that there are conflicts based on personal behavior?

But a personal boycott is not censorship because the reader isn’t saying author A with the bad attitude shouldn’t be published (or maybe she secretly does but she doesn’t have any control over that).  Censorship is about the suppression of speech. Deciding not to read a particular author or buy a particular author does not suppress the author’s right to publish (particularly in this day and age).  Concerted boycotts can have that effect but only if the numbers are large enough which is highly rare in the case of a reader and an author.

A personal boycott can happen for any number of reasons and it happens to all kinds of artists from the Dixie Chicks to Dane Cook.  Whether you agree with the personal boycott depends largely on where you fall on the side of the issue. For instance, if you believe that comics should have free reign to make jokes about anything they want then a personal boycott over Dane Cook who enjoys making rape jokes might seem small to you.  If you believe that singers should be able to make a political stand then the Dixie Chicks punishment for criticizing George Bush might seem small to you.   If you believe that book should be judged solely on their content and not their creator then personal boycotts are the anathema, not authorial behavior.

All of those opinions are right because they are personal and non violative of another’s individual rights whether it is the First Amendment to free speech (and the right not to be censored by the government) or whether it is the right of the individual to support who and what she pleases.