Review: Books with alternate realities.

The Space Between Worlds

Although I haven’t done much with my Sliding Doors-ish project (working title Counterfactual), I do keep an eye out for books that count as research towards my future draft.  The reality is that for authors attempting the fairly incredible feat of simultaneous worlds at the same time, the struggle is real.  Fortunately, for her debut novel, Ms. Johnson does a spectacular job that is creative and seamless.  This might be one of the few books this year I literally couldn’t put down.  Highly recommended, and I’m desperately hoping someone will option this for adaptation to screen.

The Midnight Library

As soon as I read the premise, this book was on my list.  And while I didn’t love the protagonist, the concept was perfectly delivered.  While this wasn’t my first date with Matt Haig (read the post here, I was less than impressed with a previous outing), I think he’s come a long way with the topic, and The Midnight Library is one I would recommend to others.  While not perfect, the novel does raise lots of ‘could I have been any one other than me?’ questions. Recommended.

Reviews: Recent royal reading.

Majesty

This was the follow up of American Royals, which I really enjoyed last year.  The sequel was not quite at the same level, and the ending a bit abrupt, but overall, in 2020, it was a fun bit of escapist fiction that I had fun reading.  (And yes, if there are any further books in the series, I will continue reading them.)  Also, was I rooting for a completely different pairing in the book?  I was.

The Guinevere Deception

Wow, I really enjoyed this book!  Given my Queen Juliette’s connection to Arthur and Excalibur, I’ve always been interested in the legend.  Ms. White comes at the well known myth with complete originality, excellent use of magic and world building, diverse characters, and a plot that was an absolute page turner.

The Camelot Betrayal

Unfortunately, the second book in the series was a bit all over the place.  While I really wanted to see more interaction between Guinevere and Arthur (for various reasons), the author chose to keep Guinevere on a number of frustrating side quests which seemed clunky and distracting.  As much as I want to see what happens next (the book ends on a very abrupt cliffhanger), I’m not sure I would be in a rush to pick the next in the series up.

Have you read anything memorable recently?

Review: Enola Holmes.

Well, this little film was exactly what I needed!  Was there too much direct address?  Yes, and this is coming from someone who LOVES breaking the fourth wall.  Was the last thirty minutes unnecessary?  Also, yes.  Did I figure out ‘whodunnit’ after a particular scene?  I did.  Was it still a fun bit of entertainment that I would recommend?  Absolutely.  With nods to historical events, an engaging tone, and (of course) a strong female protagonist, I was very much a fan of Millie Bobby Brown’s Enola Holmes.

Honestly, it was just great to see a late Victorian adaptation, never mind if Sam Claflin’s Mycroft was massively chewing the scenery, and Henry Cavill’s Sherlock basically seemed kind of lost the entire film (even if he was incredibly handsome doing so).

All points to stylistic choices, costuming, and a fairly diverse cast.  Honestly, I would love to see my Queen Juliette get similar treatment (unlikely, given how expensive period pieces are, but I still like to be optimistic).

Have you seen Enola Holmes? Did you like it? Would you recommend the books?

Some recent royal reading (and watching) reviews.

Given my interest in royalty and all things Arthurian, I think the two subjects are things I’m always going to be involved in, thus – some recent reading and viewing choices.

The Heir Affair

A sequel to the very popular The Royal We, I thought the follow up was fun (just maybe not quite as good as the original).  The novel is a brunch soapy reading, and both books are quite long, so it’s excellent escapism (which I think is kind of necessary in 2020).

Once and Future

Always interested in interpretations of Excalibur, I was immediately interested in this futuristic retelling of Arthur and his knights (especially with a gender bent twist and such an excellent cover).  Unfortuantely, what I got was an unsalvageable bunch of nonsense, with what appeared to be a contest to stuff the maximum amount of ‘wokeness’ into one novel.  Yes, I believe in diversity of characters, but not at the expense of a narrative. DNF.

Cursed

Similar to above, this recent series had my name all over it.  Nimue (the Lady of the Lake) has a bit of a cameo in The Queen of England: Grand Tour, and I loved the idea of following her origin story.  Unfortuantely, the pilot was a bit of a snooze, and even though I’ve not seen anything past the first episode, if our lead is meant to have chemistry with Arthur, well, it’s not there.  We didn’t watch any additional episodes, but I imagine that I’ll watch this on some long flight in the future (if and when we get to fly again).

So, a bit of a mixed bag.  Do you have any royal recommendations to share?

The Old Guard: Review.

While I haven’t talked about The Fates project in awhile (mostly because I haven’t looked at it in years), every now and then, something will remind me of it.  In this case, The Old Guard, a film adaptation of a graphic novel series now available on Netflix, starring Charlize Theron.

Let’s review some similarities:

Immortal who can’t die?  Check.

Immortal who have unknowingly made their stamp on history?  Check.

A technology element where there are those searching/hunting to unlock the key to immortality?  Check again.

Series potential?  Check, and check again.

Really, one of the only differences is that Andromache works with a team, whereas my Ayah works alone (and is the only immortal, for a number of reasons).  It was good to watch to show, even if at multiple points I shouted ‘I know – I wrote that!’ at the television.

Once we finished, I was reminded of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (I like the podcast series much better than the book, TBH).  Essentially, she holds a philosophy that there are a finite amount of ideas in the universe.  As creatives, sometimes we hold onto them, but other times, they move on to other owners.  Is The Old Guard my idea gone to someone else?  Maybe.  Anyway, the film (if violent) does make me want to read the graphic novel that the film is based on.

Have you watched (or read) The Old Guard?  What did you think?

1 show I liked, 1 book I loved, and a novel that was meh.

The Great

I saw the trailer for this series earlier in the year, and it’s now available on Hulu. Produced by Oscar Award nominee, Tony McNamara (screenwriter of The Favourite), I knew I would be watching.  Given my love of a) women in history b) period dramas and c) amazing writing, I am literally the target demographic for the show.  Add in a wonderful amount of diversity (well, in casting, not so much for the LGBTQ crowd, sorry gang), and I’m basically recommending this show to anyone who will listen.  For their roles, Nicolas Hoult and Dakota Fanning might be at their peak, and I can only think both were delighted to take on such interesting characters.  I sincerely hope there is another season.

American Royals

I think you’re probably sending a theme here.  Although I finished this book last year (oops), I didn’t manage to write a review, even though I loved it.  Imagine a world where America is ruled by a monarch.  Now, put the story in modern times, add in the first Queen apparent, and of course – some romantic entanglements.  The sequel is out this year, and I cannot wait.  (For those looking for similar, The Royal We, by the Fug Girls, is also a fab ‘what if’ royal book).

A Shadow Bright and Burning

An alternate history Victorian England? One with magic?  Well, that certainly sounds familiar.  Unfortuantely, Ms. Cluess seems determined to overload the story with so many names and people that it’s nearly impossible to keep them all straight (never mind that there seem to be no less than three love interests).  The world building is so clunky, it constantly took me out of the story.  While there are other books in the story, I have no desire to read them.  with a protagonist that kind of has things happen to her (albeit with some cool magic thrown in), this one was a struggle to finish, and I won’t be reading the rest of the series.

So, have you read or watched anything interesting recently?  Let me know!

Popsugar 2020 Reading Challenge.

We’re here again – another year, another challenge!  Lots of great choices in the selection this year… And let’s see where I can help.

  • A book set in a city that’s held the Olympics.  Get started with The Queen of England: Coronation, set in London.
  • A book with a three word title.  Life After Joe gets the job done just fine.
  • A book published in 2020.  Well, check back with this post, as I expect The Queen of England: Ascension to be published, as well as maybe (?), Under the Rain of Light.  Keep your fingers crossed.
  • A book written by an author in their twenties.  There will always be a special place in my heart for The Line and A Fine Line, both firmly written in my 20’s.
  • A book with more than 20 letters in the title.  Well, my Confessions of a Teenage Band Geek rocks in at 29 letters (!), so that’s another one to pick up.

In case you need more reading suggestions, here are the links to 20192018, and 2016.

Happy reading!

Book Review: The Wedding Date.

I haven’t done too much on this blog that can be considered ‘research’ for my HS Reunion manuscript.  In fact, I think this is my first official post related to the book — even though I finished the rough draft in May.  Oops.  I think that’s because it’s a straight rom-com, which I have plenty of research in already.  Having lived almost forty years, and a fan of obvious tropes, sitcoms, chick lit, and other Basic™ romance, I felt more than adequately prepared for the challenge ahead.

So, The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory was on sale, marked down from its usual $7.99 (!) to either .99 or $1.99, which made it reasonable.  And with a lot of travel in the next few months, I guessed there would be some down time for me to read the book.

To start, although I’m self-published, I do always compare traditionally published books to my own.  In the case of The Wedding Date, I definitely found my work to come out ahead (and wondered why on earth Penguin would publish this novel in its current form).

Where did the book go so wrong?  While I loved the initial trope of Meeting In A Condensed Space (in this instance, trapped in an elevator), followed by an even better trope of Fake Dating (the best!), the book kind of ran out of steam at the 20% point, after the pair go on the titular ‘wedding date.’  There was no conflict.  I mean, other than the hero/heroine live in two different cities (but see each other all the time) and have a few communication errors, there’s really nothing going on.

Oh, except the boning.

I unapologetically love romance novels, and am nearly always reading one.  I have read some amazing sex scenes — ones charged with passion and tension.  Ones that are beautifully written and do right by the characters.  I can tell you that The Wedding Date is filled with absolute vanilla nonsense, that somehow is both what I would consider a ‘clean’ read (i.e. the descriptions are quite limited when it comes to anatomy) and ‘turning the lights out’ as in, the author leaves the audience to imagine what happens.

The problem is that the main characters bone a lot.  Like, half the book is just them having sex.  Great, kudos for them.  However, when sex is written poorly and while it appears they are fucking just to fuck, it doesn’t add anything to the book, especially when it’s poorly written nonsense.  If there’s any silver lining, I am glad the author focuses on safe sex, and they use a condom every time (no mention of birth control for the heroine).

So, if I learned anything from reading this book, it’s to make sure the sex in my novel is there for a reason.  That it’s well written and not just to take up space.  In my current draft, there are three separate scenes where the characters are intimate, but now I’m wondering if the third one isn’t a little gratuitous.  Also, writing smut has always been a weakness of mine, so when I go back to edit, I’ll need to make sure that the scenes are worth reading and not clunky Tab A / Slot B descriptions.

Also, why are these characters ALWAYS EATING?  Nearly every scene revolves around food in some strange way.  I’m not saying people don’t need to eat, but the constant eating made me feel full.  Also, who eats donuts that much?  Have the characters, one of whom is a doctor, never heard of diabetes?

Finally, while there is no doubt I’m happy to see representation with a POC lead, I wish it had been with another book.

Am I encouraged to read another book by Ms. Guillory?  No, unfortuantely, I am not.

Have you read The Wedding Date?  What did you think?  What are you favorite romance/chick lit tropes?

Book Club Questions: Foul Is Fair.

foul is fair book club questions, foul is fair book club

I cannot establish how much I’m infatuated with this book.  The language, the fierceness, the unapologetic nature…

Anyway, are you here for the book club questions?  I hope so!  If you haven’t read Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin, yes there will be spoilers ahead, so I highly recommend you finish the book first.  Spoiler alert: I read it in one sitting.  (Buy it here, in care you’re looking).

  • How do you feel about the inciting action taking place ‘off screen?’ Do you think it was an interesting choice by the narrator/author?  Do you think it makes the event stronger to only occur in flashbacks and conversation?
  • Violence is a key theme in the book.  Do you think it’s overused or realistic in the context of what happened to the protagonist?
  • Revenge at any cost.  Do you agree?  Do you think that the end justifies the means?
  • Parental oversight is used sparingly in the book, as are the involvement of parents overall.  Does this ring true for the novel, or is it a convienent plot point?
  • Who is your favorite character?  Why?
  • If you had to trade places with any character in the book, who would you choose and why?
  • What made the setting unique or important?  Could the story have taken place anywhere?
  • How reliable is Jade/Elle as a narrator?
  • Do you think this novel would be better adapted as a film or series?  Any suggestions for a dream cast?
  • The language in this book is unique.  Do you have any favorite quotes?
  • While there are many comparisons, describe at length the allusions and similarities to Macbeth.  Do you feel the ‘modernization’ of Shakespeare’s tragedy works in the context of the novel?
  • What do you think of representation/diveristy in the novel?  How are the POC/non-binary characters portrayed?
  • Who would you recommend this book to?
  • This book is listed as Book #1, what do you think will happen in Book #2?  Will there be another tragedy involved?
  • Based on this novel, would you read other work by Ms. Capin?

Would love to hear your suggestions for other questions to accompany this amazing book.  Please list them in the comments below!