Week by numbers.

It’s been a bit, hasn’t it?

  • 3, workouts this week – yay for getting back on schedules!
  • 45,012, words on the manuscript.  Next up – 50K!
  • 1, very nice dinner enjoyed with Hubs in the past week.
  • 1, not so nice dinner I forced Hubs to sit through this week.
  • 3, days until Mercury is out of retrograde.  Y’all, this is an absolute real thing.  The past 3 weeks have been nothing but upside down for me in terms of my plans vs. the universe.  I’m so glad I chose not to publish my next book during this time.  While I don’t believe it will be complete flowers and sunshine immediately on April 15th, I’m certainly hoping motivation returns.
  • 1, write up on our rather amazing trip to Zanzibar last week, if you’d like to read.
  • 1, cooking lesson I’m going to undertake this Saturday — wish me luck.
  • 1, 1 star review I’m trying not to let bum me out (on Life After Joe).  The formatting is fine — I checked!
  • 2, trips booked to Georgia (both the country AND the state this week).

What did you do this week?

Ewan = me.

 

Book Review: The Portrait of Molly Dean.

I requested The Portrait of Molly Dean via NetGalley (which, full disclosure, was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review).  With an art and mystery angle, I knew it was one that would be good research for the heist book I’m currently working on.

To start, Ms. Kovacic does an impressive job of pulling the audience straight into the world of these characters.  We quickly are immersed in not only the buying and selling of art, but more specifically, art in Melbourne, Australia. In addition, a few chapters in, we get some insight to Melbourne in the 1930s.  With two simultaneous timelines, it’s easy to follow the actions (even if we know one character is moving closer to her – not spoiler alert – death).  Our protagonist, Alex, is a no-nonsense woman who deals in art and, in her research and due diligence for a recently purchased. stumbles onto a bit of a mystery with one Molly Dean, the subject of a painting.  In a well integrated 1930s timeline, we walk the last footsteps of Molly Dean.  Overall, the story is interesting and very well researched, with lots of wonderful details that truly create reveal the unique voice of the author.

Unfortunately, and only because it’s one of the biggest problems in my own writing, is that nearly all the characters sound the same.  Furthermore, we spend an inordinate amount of time with Alex.  Maybe it’s because I’m more used to reading books with more ensemble types casts, but in Portrait, we’re pretty much with Alex 70% of the time.  If she had a little more personality, that would be great, but in my mind, she ends up much as an audience insert — some readers might be happy with that, but I found the device a bit boring.  With the problem of everyone using the same ‘voice,’ the discussions of whodunit become almost like Alex speaking to herself (or us).  Anyway, I didn’t mind too much and continued reading.

Overall, my biggest problems with the book are the cover and price.  For all the research Ms. Kovacic did (and really, it is a staggering amount), the cover, which I assume to be the title, looks NOTHING like what was described in the book.  I think the publisher missed a huge opportunity here, and am quite shocked it was approved.  I realize we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but really…  Additionally, $9.99 seems high for a debut author.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely novel, however, I think the price point seems quite high for a book that I finished in three sessions.  My final issue is a bit nit picky, but the book is HEAVILY focused on Melbourne, to the point that it’s almost alienating if you’ve never been.  Even having visited last summer, I still thought the heavy handed references were a bit much.  Although the artist and portrait are (surprise) Australian, I think the author would have done better to make this somehow a more universal book, by perhaps choosing a different artist/subject.

Would I read another book featuring Alex?  I suppose so, but I would feel comfortable checking the book out from the library or paying under $5.

Have you read this book yet?  Will you check it out?

YA Scavenger Hunt: Spring 2018!

Welcome to the 2018 YA Scavenger Hunt!  This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes!  At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt.  Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! 

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt.  There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all!  I am a part of the BLUE TEAM — but there is also a BLUE, GREEN, GOLD, PINK, & PURPLE team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the BLUE team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).  If you’re wondering what mine is, I’m a big fan of my birthday, March 17.
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 8th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
Today, I am super excited to be hosting the fabulously talented Melissa Chambers on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!  (I love a good bucket list and have already marked both of her books to read).
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s books (links below)!
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

The Before Forever series is all about the music. In The Summer Before Forever, Landon has steered clear from most music after a well-meaning therapist pretty much ruined it for him, opting instead for sports talk radio. But Chloe can’t live without alt rock. Her earbuds are her sanctuary, and now she gets to introduce the guy she’s falling for to all her favorites? It’s on!

In Falling for Forever, Jenna and Miles go to Nashville’s Academy of Creative Arts and are battling to win their talent competition while being forced together as partners in their songwriting class. Miles is all about electronic, while Jenna is a pop princess. If they are ever going to get ahead in songwriting class, they’ve got to find middle ground!

Here is a playlist that weaves some of these characters favorite tunes together. A few of these songs represent some of the most intimate and significant moments in these books. Some may be head scratchers but will fall perfectly in place once you’ve read the books!

Chloe & Landon (The Summer Before Forever)

Band of Skulls—“Brothers and Sisters”

Beach Slang—“Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”

Beware of Darkness—“Sweet Girl”

The Arctic Monkeys—“R U Mine?”

Death From Above 1979—“Virgins”

Civil Twilight—“Letters from the Sky”

Wolfmother—“The Love that You Give”

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club—“Lose Yourself”

Jenna & Miles (Falling for Forever)

“America’s Sweetheart” — Elle King

“eez-eh” — Kasabian

“Run” — AWOLNATION

“Tongues” — Joywave, KOPPS

“Dance Like Yo Daddy” — Meghan Trainor

“Into You” — Ariana Grande

“Alice” — Pogo

“Blue Sky” — The Allman Brothers Band

Click below for link to this playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/1249593839/playlist/5r7G1gJhARKRF8FNfdw79Q?si=jkB3nd-VRcSpFXue8IUZpA

Click below to view the Before Forever series on Amazon: www.amazon.com/Before-Forever-2-Book-Series/dp/B071RGKD7F

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Melissa, and more! Just a reminder, to enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT
 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next awesome author, T. Rae Mitchell.

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Book Review: The Rembrandt Affair.

Finally moving beyond the world of Victoria and steampunk, it’s time for me to start reading thrillers and heists, as I work my way through the rough draft of Under the Rain of Light, an Ocean’s 11 style manuscript I’m in the process of writing.  In addition to some video content (see previous posts), I downloaded The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva just after my birthday.  For a cost of $9.99 this is well outside of my usual purchase point, however, without access to a library (sobs), this is really my only option.  The book comes very highly rated on both Amazon and Goodreads, so I figured I would be in for a Dan Brown style novel, with twists and turns and some art stuff.

For serious, what is this cover?

I’m not going to lie, the book took a solid effort for me to get into.  Like, I was more than willing to drop out at 11%.  Knowing how much I had paid, I forced myself to continue.  Things got better for awhile, but overall, I had to skim to the end.  So, what were the highs and lows?

Pros

  • Well researched.  I learned some helpful things for my book, which I appreciated.  It was clear Mr. Silva can put together not only a location, but also a relatively believable story (with some degree of suspension of disbelief).
  • Unique and well developed art history points.  I’ll definitely tip my cap to any author who can find an interesting point in history and do something creative with it.  In the case of the Rembrandt, the art and its provenance follow an interesting trail, and I rather wish the author had stayed with this primary storyline instead of jumping into the world of global espionage.

Cons

  • A wife who is utterly pointless.  So, having to cut a fair share of characters in my day, the charming Chiara pretty much just takes up space and add nothing of value in almost every scene she’s in.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice married fictional couple, but only when they are true partners.  In most of the book, the only comments surrounding Chiara are about her looks.  Like Benicio del Toro’s character in The Usual Suspects, her presence is almost entirely pointless and if you cut her dialogue, I don’t think much of anyone would notice.
  • Exposition city, population this book.  Let’s say you needed to learn about a certain topic through research or character dialogue.  In The Rembrandt Affair, the reader is treated to exposition dumps rather than character driven conversation.  For the first third of the book, the characters go from place to place getting buckets of information.  I think readers are more evolved than that.
  • FAR too much politics.  Look, thrillers tend to have a bad guy/antagonist, which is all part of the genre.  And with an Israeli protagonist, we’re going to probably have a bit of a unique approach than say, a Brazilian lead.  However, I found the amount of politics in the book to be wildly off-putting.  Dan Brown manages (I think) to skirt this issue by using religious fanatics, cults, or mentally unstable individuals which I far prefer.  I could literally see through the pages to the author inserting his politics into the storyline.  It’s not as if I don’t do this in my own work (Juliette was always going to be a feminist), but Mr. Silva’s in your face political insertion are something I absolutely want to avoid.
  • A lack of developed characters.  Sure, it’s a series.  Yes, I’m supposed to know ‘the team.’  However, I found almost every character in the book to be woefully without depth.  How am I supposed to care about what happens to them if I’m not really involved with them? Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
  • Treatment of women.  Yes, some of the women are resourceful and admirable in this book, but this is overwhelmingly a man’s world, run by men, manipulated by men, led by men.  As I work on my heist novel, I have three prominent lady characters.  It is imperative to me that they are more than a pretty face.  Each is wildly talented in their own way, and have important roles in moving my plot forward.  In Mr. Silva’s book, women very much take the role of supporting characters, responding and reacting to the men, but not forcing things forward.  I think he can do better.
  • Price point.  This book is worth $4.99 at best.  I’m genuinely disappointed to have paid $10 for it.

Sadly, I think I will be purchasing another of the Gabriel Allon novels.  More for research than anything else, I think it’s important to get another dose of this particular genre fiction (and hopefully understand what it is that I’m missing).  Clearly, given the overwhelming majority of people who LOVE not only the series, but also this book particularly, I am in the extreme minority.

Do you have any heist/thriller authors to suggest?  Did you read this book and enjoy it?  Why?

Some reviews.

Ahem, I’ve had some down time this week, where my brain was not able to coherently put words together, thus I was able to increase my reading and television watching pursuits (mostly under the name of research).

The Best Offer


So, I watched this with a view towards the Heist book.  BTW, you can follow some of my ‘research’ via my Pinterest board for the manuscript, if you want to.  While I did see the ‘twist’ coming from a literal mile away, I enjoyed the ride and thought the characters were all interesting.  While the pacing was a bit slow, the locations were stunning (like, I want to live in Geoffrey Rush’s apartment) and the acting was fabulous.  It’s one to recommend for your parents (and I mean that in a good way).

The Last Panthers

Meh.  Another one for my Heist research.  While the pilot episode starts big (a jewelry heist, completed almost to precision), my interest quickly waned to the point that I didn’t finish watching.  No offense to foreign productions, but I think they sometimes suffer from what keeps more mainstream shows interesting (in this instance, better casting, faster editing, and more precise pacing).  Whereas in my book (and Danny Ocean’s team), I want you to root for the ‘bad guys’ (i.e. the guys who want to steal a painting), in The Last Panthers, there is really nothing engaging about a single member of the team. Perhaps if I keep watching I would’ve got a backstory or something, but honestly, at the twenty-minute mark, I didn’t care about any of them.  Also, I understand the idea of shooting something ‘gritty,’ but think there should be a difference between straight up ugly and stylized.  Pass.

The Pisces

I don’t like to knock another author’s work, but sometimes it’s called for.  With a frankly obnoxious protagonist and overall representation of women that is categorically disturbing, an overuse of the word ‘cock’ and (spoiler alert) an avoidable death of a dog (honestly!!!), I skimmed through this ‘merman erotica’ (no, seriously) on the first afternoon of my flu.  Of course, the book is not presented as merman erotica, but that’s more or less what it turns into (with some terrible antiheroes along the way).  The ending is also a  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ where I’m fairly certain the writer gave up and the editor didn’t seem to care.  It’s rare that I would actively avoid an author based on one novel, but that’s what The Pisces was for me.

What have you been reading or watching recently?