Parent Network for the Post Institutionalized Child (PNPIC)

The PNPIC began in 1993. Four “moms” from different parts of the country connected, and began sharing information. They soon realized that there was a significant amount of information available on the effects of institutionalization, and they worked together to find resources to identify and find remediation for the behaviors that their adopted children demonstrated. They began to share this information with others, and they quickly realized they had to find a way to relate the information to the families who had contacted them throughout the country. They agreed on some guidelines and began to publish a newsletter in 1995. Since then, they have heard from thousands of families and professionals. They have made every effort possible to educate families about post-institutionalized children, and have made many contacts in the medical/therapeutic community to further their understanding. In addition to their newsletter, THE POST, they are very active in planning conferences around the United States for families and professionals. Their introductory newsletter which is on this website, describes the potential problems of post- institutionalized children. Other issues of their newsletter contain articles written by professionals and address, among other topics, medical, social, psychological and educational issues and treatment strategies for “their” children. Please use the order form to subscribe to THE POST and to obtain other information that they have available. They accept checks and money orders.

The PNPIC is not involved in the adoption process itself; they talk about issues that agencies generally don’t want to discuss – the effects of institutionalization on a child.

They are frequently asked by pre-adoptive families how they can avoid some of the problems they have been hearing about in the media. There really isn’t a good or simple response to that question. Its a wonderful idea to adopt a child from an institution – but the harsh reality is that it is often not a “happy ever after” story.

Many families are lead to believe that with love, attention, medical care and good nutrition the adopted child will become “typical” in six months. It just isn’t true. Their research has shown that most children coming from a deprived background will have some issues that will not go away on their own and other issues that may never go away. Professional intervention is inevitable. Dr. Victor Groza, who conducted a study of over 400 Romanian adopted children, concluded that 20% of the children “overcame their pasts and are thriving” ; 60% “have made vast strides, but continue to lag behind their peers” and 20% “have shown little improvement and are almost unmanageable”. These statistics have subsequently been validated by a study done by Dr. Dana Johnson /Dr. Laurie Miller and by a Canadian study done by Dr. Elinor Ames. Be aware, too, that a child’s behavior in an orphange setting is not necessarily the behavior you will see in a home setting. It is almost impossible to predict and fully evaluate a child who has learned to cope in an institutional setting. Educate yourself. Learn about the types of problems associated with institutionalization. Know what you can handle emotionally, financially and physically. Make your decision on what you can handle – adoption is a lifelong commitment – so make it a decision based on fact, not on emotion.

They have appeared on a number of television shows and in the print media. Their children have significant developmental differences as well as developmental delays. They had no idea of the challenges they would face or how their lives would change. They are lucky that they have been able to cope with their children’s problems and needs. Not all families have been so fortunate. Neither of us, for a moment, regret that they adopted their children. they wish that their adoption agency had been honest about the kinds of issues they would face, and provided us with information on where to get help the moment they got off the plane from Romania. they wasted two valuable years thinking that the problems would magically disappear with love, nutrition and medical attention! they cannot imagine life without their children – their challenges are great, but their love is unmeasurable.

Advice for Tenants

The Tenancy Agreement

When you move into a rented flat or house, you will normally be asked to sign a tenancy agreement. This is a legally binding agreement between you and the landlord and sets out the basis upon which you occupy the property. If you are not given a tenancy agreement, you should insist on being provided with one.

The tenancy agreement should set out the following information:

  • the name and address of the landlord
  • your name (as tenant)
  • the type of tenancy agreement (normally, these days, an assured shorthold tenancy – see below)
  • the date the tenancy began and its duration (a fixed term, say 12 months, or periodic from week to week or month to month)
  • the amount of any deposit required and any rent payable in advance
  • the amount of rent payable and when an increase in rent can be expected
  • who is responsible for any other charges (such as council tax, a service charge or water rates)
  • an address to which notices can be sent to the landlord (e.g. that repairs are needed)
  • a list of conditions for the tenant to agree to (e.g. not to sublet or cause a nuisance)
  • a list of requirements on the landlord (e.g. to maintain the property in good repair)
  • a section outlining the ways the tenancy can be ended and grounds for repossession of the property

Landlords Obligations

The tenancy agreement does not always deal fully with the landlord’s obligations. Note that the landlord is legally required to do, or not do, the following.

  • provide you with a rent book if you pay rent weekly
  • allow you quiet enjoyment of the property
  • not to evict you by force
  • maintain the property in repair (although you may be responsible for certain minor repairs)

Assured Tenants

All tenancies granted these days are assured tenancies. These are tenancies expressed to be from week to week or from month to month carrying on for an indefinite period. Unless you aree to leave, the landlord can only get you out if he gets a court order and can prove one of a number of grounds for possession (such as, non payment of rent or damage by you to the property).

The most common type of assured tenancy is an “assured shorthold tenancy” which is a tenancy agreement for a fixed term (minimum 6 months). Under these agreements, the landlord is legally entitled to repossession of the property at the end of the fixed period provided he or she serves you a notice in writing 2 months prior to expiry of the fixed term of the tenancy requiring you to leave at the end of the tenancy.

Note also the following.

  • the landlord must serve a notice in writing giving 1 month’s clear notice of a rent increase providing details of it,
  • if the landlord wishes to gain repossession of the property prior to the end of the fixed term of the agreement, he or she must give you 14 days written notice and, if you do not agree to leave, he or she must get a court order requiring you to leave,
  • the court will only order you to leave before the end of your tenancy agreement if the landlord can prove grounds for repossession such as your poor treatment of the property or you have not paid the rent,
  • if you have done nothing wrong, the landlord will normally only be able to evict you before the end of your agreement if he or she can offer you reasonable alternative accommodation.

Licences to Occupy

Your landlord may get you to enter into a licence agreement instead of a tenancy ageement. This is something less than a tenancy agreement and applies where you do not get exclusive possession of any part of the property. This may occur where the agreement requires that you share a bedroom with another tenant who is not renting the place with you. Where your right to the property is by way of a licence, you will not have any rights as a tenant. Where your landlord claims this to be the case, you may need legal advice.

Accommodation Agencies

If you use one of these, note that it is illegal for them to take money from you before they have found you a place to live.

Problems with Neighbours

These can arise in a number of ways such as neighbours playing loud music during the night, barking dogs or rubbish not being properly bagged. There are a number of possible solutions.

  • if the neighbour is also a tenant of your landlord, then complain to the landlord who will have an obligation towards you not to allow his other tenants to cause you a nuisance
  • complain to the local Environmental Health Department who have wide powers to take legal action against unreasonable neighbours
  • if you are being seriously harrassed by a neighbour, then complain to the police

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it

We originally wrote this post for Make Magazine.  The article appears on Make here

Products!  Products Products Products!  Such were the thoughts flooding my head as we move into our fourth hour of the Victoria flea market without selling a gorram thing.  Our printers are cranking away merrily, we’ve got a crowd hovering around, captivated, and Bilal, Ilan and I are chatting up the crowd like our charming selves.  Lots of looking, but no buying.

For those of you who have no idea who we are, we’re the Pocket Factory!  We are Bilal Ghalib and Alex Hornstein, and we’re traveling around the country for a month with a Prius-full of low-cost 3D printers, starting a business printing and selling things on these machines.  We think of ourselves as modern-day troubadours, moving from town to town with our moneymakers in our trunk, eliciting inspiration and fascination where we travel and making a living for ourselves off our ideas and wits.  We’re chronicling our successes, failures and stories from running a design and production business using Maker 3D printers as our production machines.  You can read about our exploits weekly on Make, and also on companionpage.com.  Back to the story.

We know how to make six things:  iPhone cases, belt buckles, 3D portraits, a gramophone horn that amplifies iPhone speakers, custom nose cones for model rockets and a little necklace I made this morning of a little duck with gears in its belly, and the gears spin as you move it along the necklace chain.  In the last week, we’ve worked out ways to quickly customize and print ‘stock’ designs for belt buckles and phone cases.  We’ve developed three products from idea to a saleable ware.  We’ve got our wares spread out in a merry display on a table, prices carefully taped under each one so that it’s clear that they’re for sale.  But the people aren’t in a mood to buy ducks.  In fact, they’re not buying anything.

 

One reason is the printers.  People are way more interested in the printers themselves than in what we’re making.  I can understand this–our prints are pieces of plastic standing next to a futuristic robotic machine that can make anything.  One of these objects is more interesting than the others, and the printers are stealing the show from us.  People will stand around for hours watching the machines print and talking excitedly about the possibilities, but they won’t pay $5 for one of our prints.  We’ve actually started downplaying the technology–when we’re selling, we make a point to not mention the words “three-dee printer.”

 

We’ve got a theory about printed products — when you’re sitting around for hours not selling anything, you have lots of time to come up with theories.

The way we see it, there’s three valuable parts to the products we sell:  There’s the aesthetics and utility of the design itself, any customizations we add to it for a customer (we change shape, logos, add text or initials or images as the customers like) and there’s the story of how the customer got the product.  Printers help with customizability, and we can spin them into a great story, but they don’t dictate the utility of the object–that’s entirely up to us as designers.  For someone to buy one of our products, the sum value the customer puts on the design, the customization and the story has to be greater than whatever we’re asking for it.

Now, Victoria has a wholesome down-to-earthness that I’ve come to love over the last couple days.  This is a city that fights to keep iPads and laptops out of classrooms because they value the tradition of taking notes by hand.  Technology for the sake of technology isn’t really a big selling point here.  There goes the value of our story.  The guy at the table across from us is selling antique Chinese coins and 20s-era pornography.  He’s raking it in.

It’s not really an iPhone crowd, either, but Victoria has its share of phone slingers.  Problem is, there’s another table a few booths down selling chinese-made iPhone cases and belt buckles.  They’re selling a few pennies of molded silicones for ten bucks.  We’re selling ours for $20.  Whoops–we’re undercut, and there goes our margins.  Competition’s a bugger, and while we have a good-looking robust cases and belt buckles, when confronted with a choice between something printed on a machine run by scruffy 26 year-olds and a plastic-wrapped factory-finished products, well–the people of Victoria have chosen.  If they named the town after us, they’d call it Sucktoria.

 

We might not be selling in the flea market, but something very interesting starts happening.  Flea markets are rife with entrepreneurial energy.  It’s the nature of the game—everyone sitting behind the tables next to us has a nose for business—they’re always thinking about what people want and how they can make a business out of it.  As the day goes on, we start to get more and more visits from the other vendors—visits that turn into brainstorming sessions.  One guy, Tim, came over and watched the printers for a while, asked a few questions and walked off again.  Half an hour later, he’s back, “why aren’t you guys making personalized license plate frames?  You could print out little pieces for each corner of the plate and put people’s initials on it, or photos of their kid.”  Five minutes later, he’s back again, “What about printing replacement parts for antique radios?  You can’t buy that stuff anymore, and there’s always people in here looking for some ancient dial or other.  How much did you say one of those machines costs?”  It’s incredible—you could see the gears spinning in his head.  The guy at the booth next to us sold jukeboxes, and he started chiming in, thinking of custom wall mounts for vintage records and jukebox memorabilia.  We might not be pulling in the dough here, but we’re surrounded by seasoned entrepreneurs who are certain that if they had our tools, they could kick butt.  It’s awesome!

In the months leading up to this trip, I started paying special attention to people who make a living shaping plastic into valuable forms.  As it turns out, it’s a time-honored tradition, and it has its own masters and marketplaces and disciples.  Look in any dollar store, and you’ll see the result of years of thought figuring out how to mould a few pennies of plastic in $.99 of value.  Look at Lego.  Look at the Tijuana toy vendors.  Look at Walmart.  All these products are made by artists in the same genre, and they ask a similar question:  “People don’t want to spend a lot of money, so how do we make something really cheaply so we can sell lots of them, cheaply?”

 

But while the general class of product may be the same, the commodity plastic-angle doesn’t work well with 3D printed production.  It takes about an hour to print out one of our iPhone cases, and takes ~$.75 worth of plastic and ten minutes of human time to clean it up, put it in a box, and ship it.  Mass-produced cases similar to ours sell for as low as $2.50 online.  Even if we keep our printers running around the clock (as it turns out, this is hard), we can barely produce and ship our product for the retail price of these commodity cases.   We can produce pretty cheaply, but we can’t race to the bottom.  If we want this to work as a business, Bilal and I figure that we have to net at least $10/print.  So, we’ve got these machines that can melt plastic wire into any shape imaginable.  Great.  What’s a plastic shape that customers will value at $20?  $35?  What do people love about their products?

For some people, the story is enough.  3D printers have an undeniable cool factor, and our on-the-spot printing makes for a compelling story.  They’ll tell the story of its creation time and again, showing it off to their friends, thinking of other stuff they could make.  We give them photos of their product as it’s being created.  We note down where we were when the print finished.  Not everyone is a printerphile–not by a long shot, but the 3D printing story has sold the majority of our products.

And customization!  If we run into a customer who has a punchy vision for something he’d like to make, we can swing right back with a designer-cad-printer uppercut.  We had a great experience making custom earrings for Jake, a guy who was watching us print in Boulder.  He took one look at our printer and asked if we could make him some custom gauges for his ears (for the un-pierced among you, dear readers, an ear gauge is basically a grommet that you put into your ear).  We measure his current ones with calipers, design and size a new set in a couple minutes…he’s really into the Foo Fighters and wants their logo on the gauges–no problemo.  Ten minutes later, the printer spits out a couple bright blue gauges and they’re in his ears seconds later.  It’s rare to find someone with such a clear picture of what he wants, product-wise, but it’s great.  He’s able to realize his vision–one that would be hard to pull off by any other means, and we’re fast and flexible enough to make it for him.  We’re clearly providing value.  The printers are the perfect tool for the job.  We offer ‘stock’ customizations on many of our objects (debossed initials/text/images), and we pull out CAD software to do more open-ended customizations for a customer.  The big challenge here is to find customers who place value on customization, and then working with them to build up a custom object.  After our recent experience with the earrings, we think we’ll be spending some quality time in tattoo and piercing shops.

We experimented with a “bring your busted plastic stuff to us and we’ll repair it” booth.  Armed with calipers and CAD software, we advertise on-the-spot repair of whatever possessions we can fix–busted knobs, cases, toys…bring it and we’ll design and print a replacement/repair, starting at $5.  Yes, it’s undervalued, but we want to see if customers would use a cheap repair service for products they already own.  This is a surprisingly hard thing to pull off.  We’re fighting against 20 years of tradition that says plastic parts are best repaired with duct tape or a store warranty.  It takes time to think of a broken possession, bring it in, listen to Bilal and I tell bad jokes in Boston accents, pay for the print and walk away with a fixed part.   Everyone we’ve spoken to likes the idea of using printers to repair things, but so far, we have yet to make a single sale this way.  It’s always difficult to convince people to change, and pulling off a repair-yer-parts angle will take a lot more experimentation to get right.

 

Sometimes the printers enable us to make a product that simply wouldn’t exist unless we made it.  Bilal and I had a design exercise where we went through a dollar store in Salt Lake City, looking at products and thinking about ways to make them more fun or interactive.  We paused at the silly string aisle.  “Wouldn’t it be cool,” we mused, “if we made a device that would automatically spray people with silly string if they got too close?”

Out comes the calipers, the printer heats up, and twenty-four hours later, I’m standing in the shredded plastic ruins of nine flawed iterations and there’s an arduino-controlled silly string shooter in my hand, unfortunately choosing my face as its first target.  This must be what having children feels like.  We have a bill of materials, we know how to make it, and it does exactly what we set out to do.  Thirty six hours from having our idea, we have a new product up for sale in our store.

Now, having access to printers didn’t let us build our silly string shooter–we could have build a device like this in any garage or hackerspace in the world using whatever materials and tools we could cleverly cobble together.  What’s special about the printers is that they make it easy for us to sell our device once we develop it.  Having access to cheap printers means that our R&D process is exactly the same as our production process.  If we get a design that works off the printers, we’re done.  Making another copy of the design is as easy as pressing the print button–we don’t have to figure our how to tweak our original garage hack into a product–our original garage hack is a product.  As an added bonus, 3D printers really speed up the iteration time on a project.  Most of the time, if I spend all night on a hand-built project and it’s 90% working, I’ll just cover the ugly or non-working bits with a band-aid and call it done.  Spending another all-nighter in a hackerspace, rebuilding a project to fix a relatively unimportant final detail (like adding brakes to my electric bicycle) is a huge drag (I know, I know…everybody’s got 20/20 hindsight.  Shut up!), but if it just takes a couple tweaks in CAD and a half-hour print to bring the product to perfection–sure, I’ll do it.

And, of course, it’s pretty rewarding to watch a couple of kids go nuts with something you dreamed up a day ago.  There’s something glorious about designing a product this way–we went from idea to sell-able product in 24 hours, with an R&D budget of $15 (most of that was silly string).  Sure, maybe there’s only a couple hundred people in the world who want a silly string booby trap, but if we can find and sell to just a few of them, it’s totally worth the development sprint.  This quick build/quick test development cycle is already a common way for product development firms to do product R&D, but now printers are just cheap and reliable enough to let us use them as both prototyping and production machines, and they’re accessible enough that an individual or small company without a ton of money can feasibly own, run and maintain them.  This is a technological advance, led by makers, that creates empowering tools for other makers to start their own businesses, to find a way to earn a living off their own creativity.  It’s a glimpse into the power of open-source maker tools, and it’s a power that extends far beyond the scope of our project.  It’s something we’d like to see more entrepreneurial makers taking advantage of.  It’s big!

Back at the Victoria flea market, a man comes up and watches our printers for a bit.  After a few minutes, he turns to me.  “My name’s Paul, and you’re making crap.” he says, matter-of-factly.  “Nobody needs what you’re making.”

We talk for a while, and it turns out he’s a really neat guy.  He refurbishes antique books, tanning his own leather by hand, hammering new gold leaf into book bindings and painstakingly using herbal compounds to restore inks and pages and stains.  Standing next to our machines pooping out slice after slice of steamy molten plastic, it’s obvious to me.  With these machines, I’ll never be anything close to the craftsman that Paul is.  I’m not making things that are glorious works of art.  But I’m not a craftsman.  I’m a troubadour.  Bilal and I carry these machines from city to city, making our living any way we can.  People don’t buy from us because our plastic parts are elegantly produced works.  They buy because we can offer products in a way that nobody else does.  We give our customers clever designs, we give them a good product, and we also give them a story to tell.  We make things for people in a way that delights them, that’s different from how they normally browse and choose products.  We tell them a story that’s unique and interesting about how and where and why our products are made, we pull our customers into the design and production process and give them that unique and bizarre story, that peek into the troubadour’s tent where everything’s just a bit different from the everyday.  So no, we’re not craftsmen, and we’re not trying to be.  We have machines that make little things out of plastic, and it’s our job to make this interesting and valuable to customers.  We’re 3D troubadours, and the show must go on.

BLOG TOUR ~ EASY VIRTUE BY MIA ASHER

With champagne and caviar inundating my every sense, I slither through the light wooden floors of the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing in The Met. As I walk, I pretend to admire the expensive jewelry being showcased tonight by a famous designer whose name I can’t remember. A multicolored diamond butterfly sparkles to my left and a cobra made out of black stones glistens to my right. Rows upon rows of precious gems twinkle under the soft lights of the room, flooding the space between the walls with the glow of a thousand stars. Furtive glances. Secrets gossiped. Beauty criticized. Lofty music fills the atmosphere as the über rich mingle and pretend to like each other, yet you can almost taste their conceit and derision for one another in the air.
        This is Walker’s world, and I love it.
        Standing across the room, where the crowd is thinner and the music fainter, I spot Walker’s blond head in the corner of the room, talking to a group of his colleagues and their wives. He looks polished and worth every penny of his trust fund in his sleek black tuxedo, perfectly starched white shirt and black bowtie. His long golden hair parted to the side shines like the sun. He is truly flawless.
        I smile because it’s hard to picture that this is the same guy who likes to snort coke off my tits as he fucks me while hardcore porn plays in the background. He looks untouchable and so cool, but his searching eyes, scanning the crowd for me give him up. He’s wondering where I am. He did tell me not to go too far, after all. Soon after we arrived at the party, I gave him some space to talk to his friends and do his thing while I did mine. I hate clingy people, so I avoid being one.
        I grab a third flute of champagne from a passing waiter, and try to decide which of the different displays to check out first when my eyes land on a spectacular piece of jewelry. On a bed of black silk, similar to my hair color, lies an extravagant necklace made of diamonds and rubies—a small heaven within one’s reach as long as you can afford the price.
        I bridge the space between the glass protecting the necklace and me until it’s within my reach, fighting the urge to touch the cool surface. As if under a spell, I observe how the rows of diamonds embedded in platinum form leaves and thorns. At its center is a rose made out of red diamonds almost as big as my palm.
        I feel someone walk up and stand next to me, but I don’t give him or her a second thought as I continue to admire the way the light hits the gems, making them shine.
        “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
        His voice is smooth and commanding, dripping absolute power. I keep my eyes locked on the display. Call it sixth sense, but somehow I know that under no circumstance should I make eye contact with the stranger who speaks like the ruler of the world.
        “Yes,” I say simply.
        “I wonder how much it is?” the man asks.
        “I don’t think it matters … I highly doubt anyone can afford it.”
        He chuckles, and the sound is more delicious than his voice. Lusher. “Oh, but I can.”
        I smile at his self-assurance. I love cocky assholes. “I still doubt it.”
        “You shouldn’t. I only speak the truth,” he retorts coolly. His voice is nonchalant yet his words leave no room for disbelief—a demand and a statement all in one.
        Suddenly, the noises of the room become distant. People talking and laughing amongst friends and the orchestra playing all fade away until all I hear is him speaking.
        And at this moment, that is all that matters.
        “The truth is very subjective, sir.”
        “The truth may be subjective but money isn’t. Money can buy anything.”
        His answer is like an electroshock, jumpstarting my brain from a champagne-induced haze. My pulse begins to accelerate, excitement making it hard to take a deep breath. Don’t look at him … don’t.
        “Oh really,” I say, my voice dripping with sarcasm. He’s right, though.
        “Of course. I believe everything,” he pauses, “and everyone has a price.”
        Curiosity winning the battle against curiosity, I turn to face him, and what a fucking big mistake that is. When our eyes meet, I feel incapacitated of all sense and movement. The sight of him takes my breath away. This man gives the term “lust at first sight” a whole new meaning.
        In my short twenty-three years, I’ve been with extremely handsome men, perfect even, but to classify the man standing next to me in any kind of category would be a disservice to him, and not really fair to the others. Longish, light brown hair wildly framing his face, vacant eyes the color of dollar bills, a slightly crooked nose, and a mouth that begs to be buried deep within your thighs. His beauty is as harsh as it is stunningly perfect. Dressed in a simple black tuxedo and unbuttoned white shirt, the man exudes innate virility and grace, reminding me of a black panther stalking his prey. And just like a panther, it’s the pure raw and powerful energy emanating from within him that I find most attractive. Because just by standing next to him, I get the sense that his word is always the last spoken and his wishes the first ones to be fulfilled. He doesn’t ask, he demands. He doesn’t hope, he expects.
        He’s quiet for a moment; his uncanny eyes hold me captive as though they are baring my soul to him and I hate it. I tighten my hold on the crystal flute. I want to look away, but I can’t. The way he’s staring at me makes me want to squirm.
        “I wonder … do you have one?” he asks softly before turning to examine the piece of jewelry once more.
        “A what?” I ask, momentarily stunned.
        He smiles. “A price.”
        “For the right amount … I just might,” I say quietly, my heart beating so fast it feels as though it wants out of my chest. As soon as the words leave my mouth, there’s no shock coursing down my body, no rolling waves of shame pulling me down for having said that to a complete stranger—nothing.
        And why should there be? I am who I am.
        I’m staring at his profile, waiting for him to acknowledge my answer, when a breeze of cool air floats past us, making me shiver. About to chase the goose bumps on my arm with my hand, I watch as he slowly turns to look at me, catching me staring at him. Time stands still as I watch him raise his large tanned hand and touch my bare shoulder, his fingertips lightly grazing the temporary small bumps covering it. Then he smiles as if he knows that my skin is tingling from his scalding touch, and looks away.
        “I thought so.”
        We remain standing next to each other for another minute or so, the distance between us almost nonexistent. It would be so easy to reach out and hold his hand. The sound of an incoming call breaks the silence, bringing us back to reality.
        He takes his cell phone out of the inner pocket of his tuxedo jacket and ignores the call after noting the name of the caller. He lifts his gaze to meet my own.
“Sorry about that.”
        “It’s okay. I should go … I’m here with someone,” I reply, not really wanting to leave him just yet.
        “Yes, that’s probably a good idea.”
        I frown. He didn’t have to be quite so blunt. The stranger extends a hand toward me, holding something in his fingers.
        “Here … ”
        I open my hand as I feel the edges of what I assume is his business card poke the skin of my palm. “What’s this?” I ask stupidly.
        “My business card, of course.”
        “Obviously … but why?”
        He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Let’s just say that I’m an interested buyer.”
        And then he’s gone.
        He turns and walks away from me, disappearing into a sea of colorful gowns and black suits. As the sounds of the party infiltrate my ears once more, I lower my gaze to stare at the simple cream-colored card in my hand. Its simplistic and elegant design draws attention to the name printed in bold black letters on the paper.
        Lawrence Rothschild.
        I smile and let my fingertips trail his name. It depends on what you’re willing to pay, Mr. Rothschild.

Continue reading BLOG TOUR ~ EASY VIRTUE BY MIA ASHER

RELEASE DAY BLITZ ~ LIVVY BY LORI L. OTTO

In her first year of college at Yale, challenging courses and new friends provide a much-needed distraction for Livvy Holland. Beyond the tears–for the most part– she won’t allow the lingering anger she harbors toward her ex-boyfriend to consume her.
Even after taking steps to conceal her identity, Livvy is still very recognizable and popular among her new classmates. She takes advantage of her situation and accepts dates with multiple guys, trying to piece together an image of ‘her type of guy’ that differs from all the good qualities Jon Scott once possessed.
An unexpected letter arrives on Livvy’s 18th birthday, shifting her focus and forcing her to reevaluate all the relationships in her life. She now knows the identity of her biological father, and struggles to make sense of the news alone. Fortunately, she won’t have to.

Just as Livvy’s life begins to normalize, one of her professors provides her with the creative opportunity of a lifetime. Trusting in the bonds she’s made with everyone she loves, she believes she can have everything she wants and makes the decision that allows her to be true to herself.
She was chosen for a reason. Chosen to be a gifted artist that–with a few strokes of a paintbrush–could touch people emotionally; profoundly. Chosen by her parents so they had a place to share their boundless love and devotion. Chosen by her friend so he could return the encouragement, inspiration and affection she’d shown him for so many years.
Livvy Holland will never again take her position in life for granted. She wears the name with humility and respect. She is Choisie.

When I reach the lobby, it’s not Finn that’s waiting for me. “James,” I say, recognizing Granna’s husband. I
hadn’t seen him in months, and it wasn’t often that I spent any time with him socially. He traveled a lot, and wasn’t around very much. Granna’s independence helped make that marriage a success. I was starting to think that’s how Jon and I would have been, now that I’ve gotten some perspective.
“Are you here to see me?”
“I am,” he says kindly. “First of all, happy birthday.”
“Thanks. Um, did you want to come up?” It would be awkward to have him in the loft, but it was Donna’s
before she left it to me. Maybe he heard about the renovations.
“No, I just needed to bring you this.” He hands me an envelope. The stationery is soft, and feels more like
fabric than paper. I recognize Donna’s handwriting immediately. Olivia Sophia Holland. Personal and confidential.
“What’s this?”
“This was part of her will, Livvy. She asked that I hand-deliver it to you on your eighteenth birthday.” It still

surprises me how meticulously she had made her will, as if she knew she wouldn’t be around. My mother had reminded me that Granna had learned early on that life was brief, and could be over any day with no warning.
“Do you know what it is?”
“A card, I guess,” he says. “But she requested that you be alone when you read it.”
I look at him curiously. “That’s an odd request, isn’t it?”
“I thought the same thing. But I don’t question her.”
“Of course not,” I say with a wistful smile. “I still miss her every day.”
“I do, too. She loved you so much.”
“She loved you, too,” I tell him. He nods, looking sad. “Thank you for bringing this by. I can’t wait to read
it.”
“Have a good birthday, Livvy. It’s good to see you.” We hug one another before he turns to leave the building.
“That was a surprise,” Francisco says.
“Yeah. Hey, I was actually expecting someone else, so–”
“You don’t have to come down every time, you know? We have a master key that takes us to your floor. I can accompany someone up, if you’d like.”
“That would be great. Thank you. I guess I’ve got some reading to do.” I untuck the flap as I get back on the elevator. When it doesn’t respond to the press of the H button, I remember to insert my key. The note is handwritten, and dated a month before Granna died.
“My dearest Livvy,
“I’ve struggled with how to best deliver this news to you. I’d thought about telling you in person, but ultimately I decided this is a private matter that you and you alone should face.”
When she wrote this, she had no way of knowing she’d be gone a month later.
“I have not told your parents, and I don’t want to play a part in your decision unless you specifically ask me
to.” The elevator stops at my floor, and I almost forget to get out before the doors close to return the car to the lobby.
“When you asked me a few weeks ago if there was any way that Nate could be your father–”
Suddenly, I feel like my heart is going to throb right through my chest. What is this?
“…if there was any way that Nate could be your father, I told you no, that there was no possible way. You
accepted that answer, but I didn’t.”
The letter falls from my hands, sailing quietly onto the floor in the hallway separating my apartment from Matty’s. I stare at it, frozen, fearing news that I don’t want. I’d left this notion behind. Nate can’t be my father.
Quickly, I walk to Matty’s door and pound on it.
“Matty!” I yell, finding it difficult to produce words when my mouth is so dry. My uncle isn’t home. I knew he wasn’t anyway, but I’m not sure I can continue reading the note by myself, as she apparently requested. I move slowly toward the paper, picking it up tentatively and flipping it over so the words are hidden from me.
I could rip this up right now, and everything would be just how it was. Jack Holland is my father. He’s the only father I want. My knees weak, I fall into the decorative bench in between our apartments. I look at the envelope once more. Is this a joke, Granna?
A small ding demands my attention toward the elevator, but I can’t tear my eyes away from the letter to greet Finn. Personal and confidential. The doors open, and slow footsteps move toward me. Dress shoes. I know that walk. It’s not Finn.
“Olivia?” I close my eyes. Although the footsteps have stopped, I know that was Jon’s walk. That’s Jon’s
voice. That’s the name that only Jon calls me. I try to take a deep breath, but broken, shallow gasps are all that come. I turn my head and see him. “Are you okay?”
“No,” I answer quickly, standing up abruptly. We face one another and stare, as if we haven’t seen each other for years, instead of weeks. His hair’s longer. He’s more muscular. He’s wearing glasses. A small wooden box tied with a ribbon is tucked under his arm. “What are you doing here?”

RELEASE DAY REVIEW ~ NATURAL LOVE BY S. CELI

My whole life, I wanted one thing: to be the perfect son.
Growing up, I did everything my father required. Straight A’s in school. Perfect manners. I forced myself to live up to his standards–standards that pushed the Chadwick family name to the highest rungs of society.
Over the years, we climbed so high that my father hoped we’d never fall.
If only he’d been right. With each successful year, the Chadwick family skeletons grew bolder and darker. Every lie threatened to undo us.
The secret Avery Jackson and I shared was the worst one of all.
She was the one person I shouldn’t love–the one person I couldn’t love. But I did. I loved Avery Jackson. I wanted her, even though a romance with her threatened everything.
It all felt so natural.
And that was exactly the problem.

I know the rating doesn’t really show it, but I did enjoy this book up until the point I didn’t. The writing was solid and as a lover of taboo and forbidden romances, I was happy with a surprise reveal in the beginning that added yet another complex layer to the story. However, the excellent premise was overshadowed by some issues that gradually dominated the story and by the end of the book I was so disappointed when I read how everything was wrapped up. But taking the book as a whole, this was a decent read. Nothing that wowed me, but it did keep me flipping the pages.

Back home from 2 years in the Peace Corps, Spencer Chadwick is ready to take over his father’s multimillion-dollar business. Striving to always be the perfect son in front of his father and the rest of their social circle, Spencer is dedicated to showing everyone he’s changed from the reckless youngster a few years back. However, the only thing that has never changed is his love for Avery Jackson, the girl who grew up with him since they were kids and also the one girl he can never have.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is a taboo aspect but in an unconventional way. Spencer and Avery together technically doesn’t violate any rules or laws and there is absolutely zero cheating and no love triangle, but because of the stifling, perfectionist society they grew up in, a relationship between them is frowned upon and severe enough where it can mar their family names.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book. The story was intense and individually, I really felt for these characters and the unfairness the situation placed them in. And because they were trying so hard to suppress their feelings, the atmosphere was almost always heavy and laced with sexual tension. But as to be expected, they give in to their attraction and that’s when the secrets started to pile up, the drama surfaced, and I started to get annoyed.
As the story progressed, I noticed that the writing became more ‘telling’ than ‘showing.’ I’m told repeatedly that their relationship is forbidden, there are so many family secrets, etc…over and over again, even all the way to the 70% mark. I’m not a fan of stories that like to elongate and drag out plot devices to create conflict and in my opinion, I think that’s what the author did with the ‘secret’ that the hero and heroine were hiding. And then when it was actually revealed, I felt…underwhelmed. It’s bad of me to say, but because I’ve read SO many books with this kind of secret, it desensitizes me. While I felt sorry for the characters and wished it never happened, it wasn’t a compelling enough of a reason to drag it out through almost the entire story. Lastly, the final 20% of the story was just drama overload. The pace of the book totally changed and while the first portion moved steadily, the author cranked up the pace, stuffed, then wrapped up all the loose ends in this teensy last portion. It’s safe to say I wasn’t a fan of the rushed ending. I do think if the book were longer there would be more room for plot development.
Natural Love is a NA forbidden romance standalone unrelated to the author’s other books. I will not spoil what makes their relationship taboo, only because it’s revealed in the very beginning of the book so it’s not like it’s intentionally hidden from readers.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Journalist. Novelist. Broadcaster. Blogger.
An overactive imagination has always served Sara Celi well. Starting from age 10, with an epic tale about a soldier during the Civil War, Sara has made creating stories her life’s work. After graduating cum laude from Western Kentucky University in 2004 with a degree in Broadcast News and History, Sara Celi started her decade-long career in broadcast journalism at TV stations in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Ohio.
Her love of the written word came to fruition with the publishing of her first novel, The Undesirable, in 2013 and has since published The Palms and Prince Charming.
Born in New Orleans and having lived all over the United States, Sara Celi now calls the Greater Cincinnati area home. In her spare time, she likes to read, shop, travel, run, volunteer with the Junior League, serve on the board of Wesley Community Services, and work with Cooperative for Education, a non-profit providing educational opportunities for the children of Guatemala.
To keep up with Sara Celi and find out about her future works, subscribe to her mailing list, The Celi Circle. Subscribers can participate in exclusive giveaways and events. You can also follow Sara

BOOK REVIEW ~ ARCHER’S VOICE BY MIA SHERIDAN

When Bree Prescott arrives in the sleepy, lakeside town of Pelion, Maine, she hopes against hope that this is the place where she will finally find the peace she so desperately seeks. On her first day there, her life collides with Archer Hale, an isolated man who holds a secret agony of his own. A man no one else sees.

Archer’s Voice is the story of a woman chained to the memory of one horrifying night and the man whose love is the key to her freedom. It is the story of a silent man who lives with an excruciating wound and the woman who helps him find his voice. It is the story of suffering, fate, and the transformative power of love.

4 stars!!
I honestly wasn’t planning on reading this book just yet but my crazy fingers swiped on it, the book opened, hours flew by, and whaddya know? I’m through with the book. As for my rating, it took me some time to decide as I was spinning between the 3 and 5 star range. I mean, I liked the book. I loved it actually. But I didn’t LOVE it. The praise for this book is absolutely warranted though. The deep emotional pull and one of the very best literary heroes is probably enough to give this book 5 stars, but as much as I am a romantic at heart I have very cynical tastes and there were too many coincidences in the story along with a few particular scenes I wasn’t fond of and so that made me think 3 stars. But no matter what parts of the book I loved or disliked, at the heart of everything is this beautiful man Archer who I loved like crazy and I can’t bring myself to 3 star him…so 4 stars it is to account for both the parts I enjoyed and struggled with.
The heroine Bree Prescott has been through a traumatic ordeal and in an effort to escape those lingering memories, ditches her home and arrives at a small town in Maine hoping for some peace. Bree is a very likable heroine who is both lovely and kind, and for someone who is afflicted with terrors and understandable trust issues, she easily makes new friends, gets a new job, catches the eye of the town’s most eligible bachelor, and is the first to coax out the reclusive hero Archer Hale in just days. And while her goal in town is simply to try to live without fear and looking over her shoulder, she can’t help but feel a connection to Archer and a desire to want to know him more.
Archer Hale. Honestly one of the best heroes I’ve ever read, Archer has suffered through a childhood experience no kid should have to go through. He’s misunderstood by the townspeople as an eccentric loner because no one will take the chance to get to know the real him. No one but Bree.
I think it’s easy to mix up sympathy for love and while some of my love for this character does stem from sympathy, most is from an admiration of how much Archer suffered through, both physical and emotional agony, to get to where he is today, and his efforts in making his relationship with Bree work despite his social stigma.
As much as I loved everything about Archer, some things in this story bothered me, like Bree just happening to be the only one who could communicate with him with sign language. And the whole ‘one person politically and financially controls the town’ theme. Then there was a specific Travis/Archer scene that really pissed me off and then the ending scene, no matter how appropriate it might be, came off as cheesy and overly sweet as if all the loose ends had to be tied up in a nice, neat bow. And then when Bree’s past caught up with her, that secondary plotline felt underdeveloped and haphazardly thrown together. I get that this story’s main focus is the romance and that’s perfectly OK, but by doing so the author really does ignore the minor plotlines running parallel to the romance.
This is a book that has very strong and compelling main characters but because the book focus is solely on the romance, the actual storyline is inherently weak. Nevertheless, the writing is beautiful, evocative and triggers deep emotions and the hero was extraordinary, so I think this book is worth reading for those reasons alone.
Archer’s Voice is the 4th book in the Sign of Love series and a complete standalone. It is not related to any of the books in this series and is a story inspired by Sagittarius.

BOOK REVIEW ~ NOCTE BY COURTNEY COLE

My name is Calla Price. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m one half of a whole.
My other half– my twin brother, my Finn– is crazy.

I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I’m terrified he’ll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me.

I’m doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I’m drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline.

Dare DuBray.

He’s my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I’m afraid, where I belong, where I’m lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me.

He has the power to destroy me.

Maybe that’s ok. Because I can’t seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt.

Why? Because of a secret.
A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming.

You won’t either.

Buy NOCTE (Kindle)

4 stars!
When it comes to luring me to read a book, I really do have simple standards. A gorgeous cover will usually do the trick but in this case, Nocte not only has a eye-catching cover but an enticing blurb too good to resist and an author letter that gave me CHILLS so whaddya know? This is a book that no matter what I had to read the second it was available to buy. And now that I’ve finished I can say that the author definitely delivered on her promise in her letter. I was repeatedly warned about how surprising the big twist would be and how unconventional the ending was but nothing could really prepare me because when I got to those parts, I actually flinched at how chilling the words and the mood of the story was, and just like the characters, I, too, fell into despair over the big reveal and the fact that the ending answers one question but dangles an even bigger one in front.
This is the story of Calla Price, a girl who’s surrounded by death and morbidity. Her father is a mortician, her mother died in a horrifying car accident, and her twin brother is mentally crazy. The poor girl just can’t get a break! But despite all the ugly in her life, she remains positive and is confident that her twin bond with Finn will ultimately save him from his sick mental health. They always say that twins have an extra special connection and so for Calla, nothing and no one is more important to her than her brother and his well-being.
On a day just like any other, Calla drops off Finn at one of his therapy sessions and meets this guy Dare. Her connection with him isn’t so much as insta-love as it is soul recognition but there is just something about Dare that makes Calla hyperaware of him and him of her.
They bond over similar past ordeals and Calla finds that the more time she spends with Dare, the more she feels free from all of her worries. It’s clear, however, that Dare is hiding some pretty important things from her and she from him, so as much as they come to like and love each other, there is an unspoken agreement to avoid confrontation about their secrets. But the truth can’t be hidden forever and soon enough, both of their pasts – especially Calla’s – catches up with them and when it is revealed, it is absolutely shocking and devastating to both the main characters and everyone around them. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change Calla and Dare’s relationship a bit; if anything, their rocky relationship only motivates them more into making things work.
Up until the big twist, I was a little bored with the book in terms of not really knowing what direction the story was going in. It’s written in alternate Finn and Calla POVs, and many of the Calla scenes bored me with mundane descriptions of daily life activities. Finn’s POVs, however, really captivated me with his dark, edgy ferocity, and the author really captured his sick mental health and channeled it into his POV, projecting a very unstable individual who’s both fascinating and frightening. So when that big reveal came, I was shocked speechless. I finished the book in a daze and sat in my chair for half an hour staring at nothing and contemplating everything I read. Books like these where the enjoyment level is mainly contingent on one huge turning point in the book I’m always wary of reviewing because I may let the shock override my true feelings. I’ve let the shock wear off and I have to say that while the actual twist itself is original, imaginative, and unique in the context of this book, the fallout is huge and the wake left behind presented several plot holes that made me scratch my head. This is the main reason why I can’t give 5 stars because I am a very logical, factual reader and even if I get emotionally overwhelmed and let my feelings dictate my review, the facts also must align in order for me to give a high rating.
I think it’s no secret that the ending is a cliffhanger, and might I add it is one MASSIVE cliffy that has the power to cripple you, force you on your knees and beg the author to release the next book at once. However, I knew it was this kind of ending and still decided to read it because I was just SO curious about the book, you know? And so even though I wished the book didn’t end the way it did here, even though I admit it would’ve made me heart feel a lot better if I read this when at least book 2 released, I don’t regret reading this book one bit. In my opinion, the shock, agony, and pure torture of not having the next book available is worth experiencing.
Nocte is the first book in the Nocte trilogy and not a standalone. The story will continue on in book 2 Verum which will be released in February.

BOOK REVIEW ~ THE DUET BY R.S. GREY

When 27-year-old pop sensation Brooklyn Heart steps in front of a microphone, her love songs enchant audiences worldwide. But when it comes to her own love life, the only spell she’s under is a dry one.
So when her label slots her for a Grammy performance with the sexy and soulful Jason Monroe, she can’t help but entertain certain fantasies… those in which her G-string gets more play than her guitars’.
Only one problem. Jason is a lyrical lone wolf that isn’t happy about sharing the stage—nor his ranch — with the sassy singer. But while it may seem like a song entitled ‘Jason Monroe Is an Arrogant Ho’ basically writes itself, their label and their millions of fans are expecting recording gold…
They’re expecting The Duet.

Though I don’t read many of them, sometimes it’s great to unwind with a lighthearted, humorous read and when I picked up The Duet it hit the nail on the head with light and funny. Though the premise isn’t anything I haven’t read before, the witty banter, nearly drama-free plot, the close camaraderie between the two Heart sisters and the two very charming main characters totally won me over and I had a blast reading this book.

Pop singer Brooklyn Heart is a hoot. She’s the quintessential popular girl with an occasional wild side, and is fiercely loyal to those she loves. In order to rack up an audience and even wider recognition, Brook’s label has her paired up with the hero Jason Monroe to perform a smashing duet on Grammy night. Problem is, she and Jason couldn’t be more different from each other and though she’s got the hots for him, her bubbly attitude and his ice-cold indifference clash again and again. Both resign to the idea they have to work with each other for one month to collaborate on their duet and for inspiration, they head out to Jason’s ranch out in Montana. It isn’t too long before their inspiration ideas come from sex and they agree to the rules: no relationships, no complications, just sex.

As to be predicted, feelings get in the way. He gets jealous. She feels jilted. A little drama scene in between. Usually I’ll start rolling my eyes but instead in here I just couldn’t stop laughing. The story is just simply too funny, and even when things got overly dramatic because of Brook’s exaggerated antics, the book remains lighthearted so it’s hard to take some things seriously and it all felt comical.
I think I enjoyed this one a lot more than I normally would because I was in the mood for this kind of read. Having read another book from this author I feel like her writing forte is to channel the wild, spontaneous side of love in the characters’ relationships, and it worked really well here. Mind you, I didn’t exactly go gaga over these characters but they’re extremely likable and despite their fame and popularity, the author portrayed them both as characters everyone can relate to in some way. I did feel like the love on Brook’s side leaned more towards obsession (because seriously, this girl was daydreaming about Jason way before she even met him and then after she did, it was bananas) and so in terms of their romantic connection, I thought it was weak, hence the 4 star rating. But everything else, from the laugh-out-loud hilarious writing to the awesome character dynamic to the killer ending is a thumbs up from me.
The Duet is a fun romantic comedy standalone and sets up the stage for another standalone companion that stars Brook’s younger sister Cammie.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.