Sunday Wattpad Feature

Hey all, I’ve decided that on Sundays, I’ll review a Wattpad story that I especially like. First up is:

Bloodlines

https://www.wattpad.com/story/115952641-bloodlines

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Completed: Yes

Mystery/Thriller/Crime Fiction are not my favorite genres, so it takes something pretty special to catch my attention there. So far I’ve enjoyed Bloodlines so much that it’s one of the stories that I actively monitor for updates. The author has a real skill with ending each chapter on a cliffhanger or similar pausing place that leaves the reader with questions, curiosity, and dread.

Zane, our protagonist is a young guy with a lot of problems. The story opens with him fired from his job, his mother dead in extremely questionable circumstances, his young teenage sister homeless and parentless, and the girl that he loves slipping away from him with ever increasing speed.  The modern day poverty-stricken Oklahoma setting is dark, and it continues to get darker as Zane tries to navigate his way through the maze of pit-traps that his life has always been while the traps just keep getting deeper.

Atmosphere is a big thing in any genre of suspense writing, and lynnlipinski writes the Oklahoma setting with an insider’s knowledge, but with a clear eye that neither sentimentalizes nor sensationalizes the problems of rural poverty.  H.P. Lovecraft once recommended that the sense of place or “atmosphere” can almost become a character in its own right. This is certainly true in Bloodlines.  There’s a literary feel to Bloodlines that takes the already gripping storyline and moves it up a notch.

I also have a great deal of respect for the author’s portrayal of Zane’s Native American father and Zane’s own half-blood status. As the daughter of a Native American myself, I appreciate portrayals of Native Americans as individuals and not tropes. Zane’s father is a complicated person not only because of his culture and the crushing poverty of Reservation life but also because he’s a complicated and flawed person due to his own choices and circumstances.  Zane is a flawed protagonist who makes the frustrating kinds of mistakes that a young man in his position might make no matter what the color of his skin. He’s likeable despite and because of his flaws, and all the more believable as a character because of them. Zane’s accompanied by a supporting cast of secondary characters who are also all drawn that a sympathetic but clear-eyed view that brings them to life so sharply that they feel like people you know.

You can see other Wattpad reviews of mine at Island of Lost Toys, my Wattpad review book.

Books I Have Loved 2016

2016 reading.png

Many of these are not newly published, so apologies if everything on here is old news to you! I don’t know what to say about this eclectic mess, or what it says about me. I can’t pick an absolute favorite as I liked each of these for different reasons. Here they are by month read, with a couple of “cheats” over the border of one month to the next for books that I liked better than anything else I read in the following month. Also discovered that I have a lot of “lost” books on my Kindle. For example Luther Siler’s Benevolence Archives, of which I loved the sample and even meant to recommend to a friend, got lost or it would most likely be on this list. I must make a TBR list, and learn to make Kindle collections. And read Benevolence Archives soon, before it gets lost once again in my massive TBR!

January
The Sorcerer’s Garden by D.Wallace Peach

February
How To Be A Tudor by Ruth Goodman

March
The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski

April
Power of the Matchmaker by Karey White

May
Far West: The Diary of Eleanor Higgins by Linell Jepson

June
You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt

July
The Mini Farming Handbook by Brett L Markham

August
The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter

September
Miss Landon and Aubranael by Charlotte E. English

October
Through Streets Broad and Narrow by Gemma Jackson

November
The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman

December
Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss

Your Slip is Showing

I just abandoned a Historical Romance novel set in the mid-1800s because of its underwear. In some cases of underwear missteps, I’ll limp on if the underwear is the only problematic part of the story. But one of the things that I’ve noticed is that if the underwear is a problem, there are almost inevitably other flaws that will render the book unreadable for me.

1830s gown

Woman’s 1830s sleeve plumper, muslin dress and straw bonnet, via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the thing about Historical Romance. It has to walk a fine line between authenticity and fantasy to work as a story that ‘s going to entertain a modern reader. A lot of Historical Romance depends on characters behaving badly (for their time). That’s part of the fun, really. Will they get caught alone in the summerhouse? Will he be forced to offer marriage because her maid found those racy notes and gave them to her father? Will she fend off his advances, or find a way to encourage him?

So why the big deal about underwear? Clothing, even intimate clothing that most people don’t see, shapes not only our figures but our behavior. If you consider the photo, there is no way a woman is going to be that particular shape unless she’s wearing underwear that makes her that shape. The clothing will dictate a great deal of her body language by the movements it allows and disallows.

In the novel in question, the heroine decides to go underwear free at the suggestion of her suitor. It’s a character motivation breaking moment. No lady in straitened circumstances would risk sweating all over one of her few good gowns in an age where laundry was difficult even with a dedicated lady’s maid. Also, even if you ignore the impossibilities of fit, which the author tries to hand-wave away with a reference to the heroine’s preternaturally small waist, everybody at dinner would know. Her bodice would be lumpy and strange, her skirts and sleeves wouldn’t hang correctly. Sweat stains generated by the summer heat referred to in the story would spread on the “thin, sensuous, delicate silk” like the frustrated tears of costume junkies on our modern paper tissues.

You could argue that I’m just grumpy, and these sorts of missteps don’t bother that many readers. Do a little internet searching on the subject and you will find that grumpy historical readers are legion. It’s lazy not to do your research. You might think that you might deserve a free pass because you think the rest of your book is so sexy and so good, you don’t and it isn’t.

If you want to write a story with a heroine who daringly goes to dinner with no underwear, pick a time period (there are LOTS AND LOTS) when that would actually be physically possible. Otherwise, your heroine is nothing but a hot mess inside and out.

Vivian Roycroft: A Different Sort of Perfect

roycroftA few reviewers on Amazon have dubbed this “Master and Commander meets Jane Austen”.  It’s very much more “Master and Commander” than “Jane Austen”, for all that it’s a romance set in the Regency period. It’s definitely a romance, but it’s not a steamy, tumultuous, emotionally stormy book, not even by Jane Austen standards. The falling in love happens sotto voce, in the thoughts and observations of the characters, not played out on the main deck.

In “A Different Sort of Perfect”, Roycroft takes a very common Romance novel trope, the female stowaway, and then proceeds to write an entirely unexpected story that seems at least in part based on the premise of what would really happen if. . . Of course it’s a fantasy. There’s no “rocks fall, everybody dies” scenarios of “woman gets thrown into brig and put off at first available port” or “pirates live up to their name and unspeakable things happen”.

What does happen is where the “Master and Commander” part comes in. Roycroft presents a naval world that actually makes sense. She blends her stowaway and the inevitable stowaway/captain romance into that world in a way that seems much more believable than the more usual stowaway romances.

The heroine has the strongest character arc, growing and changing in a manner similar to a midshipman in one of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey Martin novels while never masquerading or becoming a boy herself. I love the way she grows from spoiled, unrealistic, and willful into a confident woman who realizes her own worth and capabilities, and who has compassion for others.

If you like shipboard romances, give this thing a try. There will be no skinny-dipping in moonlit tropical bays, no captain’s cabins the size of luxury hotel suites complete with bathtubs, and no stolen kisses in the rigging, but there will be a very engaging story with characters both main and secondary that will quickly seem like friends.

Review: No Time to Cry by Stasia Morineaux

No Time to Cry

by Stasia Morineaux

This book has a really grabby opener– it starts right bang on the action with no fooling around with scene setting or back story. Sometimes I find that disorienting. Here I found it engaging and suitable for the story, which follows the story of a *very* disoriented protagonist, Isabelle, as she navigates her new life-after-life career as an escort for recently deceased souls.

Suddenly Isabelle is catapulted into an unfamiliar world of hard to pronounce Celtic myth and legend, and her ability to fit in will determine whether she gets to keep her new life or not.  The reader, like Isabelle, has a lot to learn about the inhabitants and workings of this Celtic afterlife world. Fortunately the author has provided us with a glossary and a pronunciation guide!

Stylistically, it’s as if Chick Lit and High Celtic Fantasy had a love child. There have been other books that attempt a similar mash up and some that are quite successful, like Dead is the New Black. I think No Time to Cry is an even more ambitious mashup since it doesn’t just add supernatural elements to the modern world, but instead introduces us to a whole new mythology.

There’s a lot going on in this book. Mistaken and secret identities, behind the scenes plots and subterfuges, hidden enemies and secret allies, unknown powers, romantic subplots. It’s all a bit much to resolve in one novel so of course it doesn’t, ending instead with a cliff hanger guaranteed to have readers anxiously biting their nails in anticipation of the next book. Coping with cliffhanger endings and waiting for book releases are not strengths of mine, so I finished with a bit of pouting and foot stamping.

If you enjoyed the TV series Dead Like Me and/or Lost Girl, you’ll like this book. There seems to be quite a bit of angels and reapers type stuff around these days. No Time to Cry is a unique, well written, contender in this growing paranormal sub-genre. I lucked into a reveiwer’s copy, you can snatch up your own for only 99 cents right now on Amazon.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

On Monday we went to G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra, which may only be beaten by "Tokoyo Gore Police" as the worst movie I've seen in a very long time. I was absolutely addicted to the 80s G.I. Joe cartoon. G.I. Joe the cartoon and comic had capable, complex women characters. Very few action adventure movies or series treat their women as well as G.I. Joe. This movie pooped all over that as well as being deadly dull in other areas. If your plot depends on your leading man being indecisive and unable to do his duty and you're making an action movie, you are in deep, deep trouble. We like the sensitive mens, but we don't like the sensitive mens who are so sensitive that they don't do what they must to save their comrades and not commit dereliction of duty. Plus. Too many explosions. Never thought you'd hear me say that, but really it is possible to blow too much shit up and "G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra" went there.

Back to the women. Scarlett can still take down the bad guys with or without her nifty crossbow, but she needs rescuing by the boys and is turned into a love interest for Ripcord. Ripcord and Scarlett are cute as a couple, but please do not be making Scarlett into someone who needs to be rescued by her one true love. And it would have been nice if they hadn't turned Scarlett, originally a complex character who had a complex relationship with Snake Eyes, into some kind of sad little genius person with emotional development issues. Why couldn't she have had a complex and authentic relationship with Ripcord if they were going to pair her off with someone new? Bleh, I say. Blech.

The Baroness is reduced from her awesomely complex moral ambiguity to a mind-controlled love interest for Our Hero. The mind control thing existed in the cartoon/comic, but had a different flavor. The Baroness seemed totally happy COMMANDING COBRA (instead of being rescued from teh evul by her once true love) even when she wasn't all jacked up on mind control chip. Really, this turning capable women into love interests in remakes and re-imaginings needs to stop. What's next, a remake of "Courage Under Fire" in which the brave Karen is simply working to save her boyfriend and doesn't die after all, but is instead rescued by said boyfriend at a later moment?

Cover Girl is transformed from awesome tank jockey into an Aide de Camp who gets killed fairly early. We're missing Lady J., Jinx and Snake Eye's pet wolf (I'm not sure the wolf was a girl, but really, I'm in a totally pissy mood about this movie, so where's Snakey's wolf? Huh? Huh!!) and pretty much every other female character. Because an action movie only needs a couple, right?

There will be sequels. Sigh.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Arranged

Arranged is a little indie movie you probably haven't heard of. It's the story of Rochel and Nasirah, two young Brooklyn schoolteachers who are about to enter into arranged marriages. Rochel is an Orthodox Jew, Nasirah is Muslim. Their shared difficulties with dealing with the demands of their families and cultures in the 21st century is portrayed in a thoughtful and non-judgmental way. It's interesting insight into two American subcultures into which most of us never get a meaningful glimpse.

There's a great Review of it at Jewish Week: The Sheitel and the Hjab

I'm probably setting my feminist and liberal friends' teeth on edge. First homeschooling apologia and then movies sympathetic to patriarchal cultures.

I am of two minds on the headscarf thing. On one hand, I think that veils are a despicable symbol of female submission. On the other, having worn headrails continuously in SCA persona, I know that there's a subtle strength there that we modern females have no access to. For a Muslim or Orthodox woman to wear such things in the US today takes a great strength of character. It does annoy me when it's portrayed as modesty. There is nothing modest or humble about marking oneself in such a noticeable way. But it is a great show of pride in one's traditions, and I do respect that aspect of it a lot.

Arranged marriages, well, Ick. I wouldn't presume to try to arrange marriages for my children when they were of age, but with over half of all American marriages ending in divorce I feel we have got no moral ground to speak from

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman

A riff off of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, this is a middle grade reader sort of book that I really enjoyed. It doesn't have the torturous language or moralism of Kipling's 1897 book, but it does have the structure: stories within a story building up to the finale. Parts of the story seem to have been kept deliberately shallow. It may be that I don't judge the audience very well; since the Girl Unit isn't home I don't have her opinion to help guide me. As an adult reader I found myself thinking that he hadn't gone into more detail with one thing or another because its a middle grade reader. A middle grade reader might notice the lack of detail and feel talked down to, though.

Looking at the (very few in number) poor reviews on Amazon.com (I like to see what people didn't like about books that I like, I find it educational), the things that other people seemed to find most upsetting was a middle grade reader starting with a bloody murder and the supposed lack of happy ending. The ending is not unhappy and ends very much like Jungle Book. The story has ended well, but the boy's story is in many ways just beginning. We don't really need to know what happened to him after this. Chances are he finished growing up, became a tax accountant and now has 3 kids, a dog and an odd penchant for ouija boards.

The whole "how dare he start a book for children with murder?" crowd simply mystifies me. I've no clue what they've been reading or what reality they've been living in, but golly, everything from Snow White on up has that sort of stuff. Unless you're going to keep your kids reading Teddy Ruxpin flip out books for their entire lives, they *are* going to come across some unhappy scenes in literature.

If you don't mind reading middle grade readers, I highly recommend Graveyard Book to anyone.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

3 Play

I just watched an interesting little movie, 3 Play. It's not often that we see menage a trois movies that are about the relationship instead of the sex, and when we do, it's usually portrayed in a very negative way like in The Duchess or End of Innocence. This movie has the triading of a female bi-sexual couple and the man they both love. That they're a Latina/o threesome makes it a bit different from usual Hollywood fare. The threesome gets a HEA, along with a semi-thoughtful exploration of some of the problems and joys of triadic relationships.

Poly friendly movies are a rare thing indeed. Thinking back, I could only come up with one and a half, or maybe they should each count as one half. First was the Substitute Wife, a movie starring Lea Thompson as a dying prairie wife who recruits one of the local girls from the brothel (played by an aging, amazing Farrah Fawcett) to be her replacement wife. The husband falls in love with the replacement wife, the original wife rallies for a bit and they get along as a threesome for a bit, but then the original wife conveniently relapses and dies to let the new couple have their two person happily ever after.

Vicky Christina Barcelona, which came out last year, also has an almost functioning triad with Christina, her artist lover and his crazy ex-wife. But it all ends in tears and gunshot wounds, suggesting that such things might work for a while, but ultimately, it's just a phase that young people pass through.

I'm looking forward to Edge of Love, which holds out some possibility of portraying triadic relationships in some other light than porno or mentally ill.

3 Play is not the best made film around and it definitely suffered in its forays into pseudo-documentary style, but overall I liked it. I'd like to see a triad relationship movie that was three relatively straight people who get along, or two bisexual guys and the woman they love. Probably going to be waiting a bit on those. 🙂

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Movies for March

Against the Dark
Steven Segal versus some zombies. Very disappointing though, as Segal is more of a bit character despite being the featured star.

American East
Social drama about an Iraqi family and friends living in the US, set shortly after 9/11. Heartbreaking, thoughtful and ultimately uplifting.

Australia
You know how we all say silly things like we could watch our favorite actor read the phone book? Turns out that 3 hours of Hugh Jackman wandering around gorgeous scenery is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. Add cheezy pseudo-aboriginal voiceover and it becomes close to unbearable.

Babylon AD
Dystopian SF with Vin Diesel. It was engaging in a bloody way but the ending pissed me off, and not just because I like it when everyone lives happily ever after. Ending has issues.

Bangkok Dangerous
Nicholas Cage doing an Eastern-style assassin movie. Slow, angsty and unbelievable.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Mental spray can cheese with some really funny moments. Drew Barrymore as the Chihuahua exclaiming: "You owe me a cashmere sweater, buster!"

Center Stage: Turn it Up
If you like dancing, skip the scenes with abysmal plot and watch all the dance scenes. Amazing hip-hop and modern stage dancing. Rachele Brook Smith dances like a boy, even when she's wearing toe shoes. Somehow it works. See the pretty finale here on YouTube

City of Ember
More dystopia, cleaned up and made into a Family Friendly movie that plays sort of like one of those "after school specials" of old. Billy Murray does not make the most believable villan ever and the final adventure scene looks like it's ready to be made into a ride at a theme park. Even so, it is a dystopia and does have some interesting social commentary.

Chrysalis
French SF movie. Dark and disturbing tale of crime and personality, this is somewhere beyond dystopia without ever falling into the horror genre. It is very much the sort of SF tale that deals with the ethics of Science, like Gattaca or Bladerunner. Watch it in French with subtitles, the English dub is not so good.

The Deal
I really wanted to like this movie starring Meg Ryan and William Macy, two of my favorite actors. It's about a writer with a writing project gone bad, even! But it is really, really slow even with skipping past the really, really, really slow parts.

Gene Generation
Bai Ling spends an entire movie looking weird and hot while killing people in yet another gritty dystopia. Some interesting subplots about family, love and tangled ethics makes it not just about the mini skirts and fighting.

Ghost Town
Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni and Greg Kennear in a ghostly love triangle. Ricky Gervais is brilliantly, obnoxiously funny as the misanthrope suddenly deluged with new friends in the form of ghosts who depend on him to communicate their last wishes to the world. Tea Leoni plays the beautiful but not quite normal archeologist wonderfully well.

Henry Poole was Here
Weird little film that I'm not entirely sure how to describe. It's about loss, anger and the nature of faith. Funny and touching in turns.

High School Musical 3
I can't say how horrible this was for me. I think I need therapy to get over it.

Igor
Cute little animated musical about a land populated by evil scientists and their Igors. Except this Igor wants to be an evil scientist and ends up finding love. Not as fun as Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride, but still very fun.

Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice
Either you're a fan of the Librarian series already, or you need to be really, really brave. Not recommended if you're not a follower of the series but good fun if you are. Librarian and Vampires! Whoot! Way to capitalize on current trends.

Madagascar II: Escape 2 Africa
Better than the original, and I thought the original was brilliant. More penguins and scary old lady with purse.

Miracle at St Anna
WWII drama about Black American soldiers in Italy. Runs a little long but is well worth it.

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist
People pay a premium price to rent this. I don't know why.

Nobel Son
Incredibly black family comedy about a brilliant but amoral university scholar and his very messed up family. Alan Rickman at his best, and Mary Steenburgen is fabulous as the long-suffering but finally fed up wife. Loads and loads of blackly funny plot twists make this like modern Film Noir.

Princess: A Modern Fairytale
Another movie that plays like the after-school special of old. Cute fantasy mythology with a clever plot beneath the boy meets girl.

Racing Daylight
Reincarnation romance set partly in the US Civil War and partly in modern times, with an intermediary subplot thrown in. Very quirky film full of strange twists and turns.

Religulous
Bill Maher pestering various folks about the nature of religion and faith. Thought provoking and probably more than a little offensive to everyone he interviewed and their cohorts.

Screamers: The Hunting
Budget SF film with creepy man-made aliens who reproduce themselves out of spare parts. Hey, didn't I write this story? Not quite, but a bunch of us have certainly written things very similar to it. Tepid homage to everything from Starship Troopers to Alien.

Secret Life of Bees
A drama about family secrets, tragedy, and race relations set in the 1960's US. Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Alicia Keys and a bunch of other very talented people. Well acted and beautifully done. I cried a lot during this movie.

Space Buddies
Golden Retriever puppies go to space station. OMG awful. Why do people inflict this stuff upon innocent children?

Vicky Christina Barcelona
A very different sort of coming of age movie. Two young women have odd romantic adventures while on their summer vacation in Italy. It's not over until Penelope Cruz (as the crazy ex) tries to shoot someone. 😉

Wanted
This was so stupid, I'm not sure I want to admit to having watched it.

Zach and Miri Make A Porno
Possibly the most brilliant movie I've seen in ages. It's also crass, embarrassing and completely lacking in moral values. I think it will be remembered long after the current award winners are forgotten.

Must see list: Zach and Miri, Secret Life of Bees, Miracle at St. Annas, Madagascar II, Gene Generation, Chrysalis, American East.

Must miss list: Wanted, Space Buddies, Screamers, Nick and Nora, High School Musical, The Deal, Bangkok Dangerous, Australia, Against the Dark.

eta: Battle Planet, too awful to even make the Must Miss List. With luck, you'll never even hear of it. Currently only outranked by House Bunny on my worst movies ever list.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend