NaNoWriMo 2k18

So, against my better angels, I’m doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I say against my better angels because I think there’s a lot about the way NaNo is structured that is exhausting and bad practices (no editing, 50k in one month, the idea of winning or losing/failing at writing).

I’m doing it my own way, which is to say I’m continuing to work on my current work in progress–a tale of love and espionage set at a video game company–rather than start something new. I’m going to go back and add in details or remove scenes as I see fit instead of not touching anything/no backtracking as in the “rules.”

I tell myself that it doesn’t matter how many words I get done, but if I’m being honest when I missed a day of writing yesterday due to family commitments I got stressed about it.

If you’re doing NaNo, add me–Delilah Night

For the month of December, I’ll probably only post 1-2 times a week so I can dedicate as much of my writing bandwidth to my novel as possible.

ARC review: Media Darling by Fiona Riley

Media Darling by Fiona Riley can be purchased here

4.5/5*

published 11/13/18

 

I received an arc of Media Darling from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Media Darling is a f/f queer romance between a star and a celebrity reporter.

Haley is a would-be screenwriter who works at the Sun to make her bills. When she is asked to fill in at a media event for another reporter, she’s determined to get something done. When she can’t get Emerson’s attention on a red carpet, she lets out a piercing whistle, which unfortunately silences everyone around her, which gives a paparazzi the opportunity to yell an embarrassing question about Emerson and Rachel.

Emerson is a star under siege when her ex-girlfriend Rachel (who was kicked off the movie they were working on together) accuses Emerson of smearing her reputation and that it was all Emerson’s fault. After the red carpet incident with the paparazzi, Emerson tells her assistant that she never wants Hayley near her again.

Later that night, when Hayley gets between the same cruel intentioned paparazzi and Emerson, Emerson decides to investigate Haley. What she learns makes her decide that Hayley is the right person to tell her side of the story, including the explosive secret Emerson is terrified that Rachel will weaponize. As they spend more time together, sparks fly. But when their relationship is outed (pun intended), they need to decide if what they have is real, or just Hollywood magic.

Riley is a strong writer. Each of the women have a distinct voice. This is especially important in f/f or m/m or multi-partner couples because pronouns, which serve as shorthand in m/f romance can often make things blurrier. Despite seemingly oppositional occupations (in fact, their first encounter leads to a horrible paparazzi encounter for Emerson) Riley lays the groundwork for why these characters could work. The sex scenes sizzle.

The only thing that took it from a 5* to a 4.5* is that the real villain is so obvious that it’s surprising that it takes any effort to figure it out. But even with that, I didn’t mind the ride to see how the characters figured it out, and how they’d react. The writing is strong enough, though, that I think that it could’ve been masked a little better.

Check out Media Darling when it drops next week, or pre-order today!

 

Review–Decoy Date by Mira Lyn Kelly

Pre-order here for $6.74 on Kindle

4/5*

Published December 2018

I got this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gwen has been in love with Ted since she was a little girl. He was her first kiss, her first sexual experience, and more. But it’s always been hot and cold. She’s never been his girlfriend. She watches him hit on women and take them home. But she just can’t get over him.

Brody had no idea what Gwen sees in Ted, who’s just jerking her around in his opinion. But he has a thing for Gwen, and if she really wants Ted, he’ll help her do it. The key, he tells her, is to make Ted jealous. And how better to do that than to pretend to date him?

This is a slow burn romance between Gwen and Brody, and the book does contain sex scenes. What starts off as a fake relationship begins to slowly turn real. Both Gwen and Brody try to write off their feelings, but they’re real. They’ve just settled into a relationship when Ted declares his love for Gwen.

I thought this was a great romance. It kept my interest, and I was rooting for Gwen and Brody. When their plan worked a little too well, I got really engrossed, needing to know how it ends. The sex scenes are well done–very steamy.

The characters are well done, with unique voices. I like that Gwen is curvy, and not some stick thin supermodel type. My favorite romances are the ones where women are done more realistically–which means different skin colors, orientations, sizes, etc. Brody is hot, and has a really sweet heart.

My issue with the book is that at times motivations are murky. I would have given it 5* but at times it felt like Brody was manipulating Gwen.

This is book four in The Wedding Date series, but works as a stand alone. I haven’t read the other books in the series, and while it was clear that there were previous romances in the series it wasn’t hard to step in and start with this book. I don’t feel the need to run out and buy the other books in the series, but I’ll probably add them to my Goodreads want to read queue.

 

Great American Read 6-10

So I talked about the top 5 books in the Great American Read on Wednesday. Today I’ll talk about books 6-10. This is a short hot take on the books.

#10 Jane Eyre

I actually really loved this book. It has brilliant commentary on race, class, and gender. Is it in my top ten? No. I think this is another maybe people actually love it/maybe they just think they should entry on the list.

#9 The Chronicles of Narnia series

Loved them as a kid, they’ve been ruined for me as an adult because of how heavy handed the allegory is. WE GET IT. But while I will share The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with the girls, I’m not going to push the rest of the series. That book seven ends with the Rapture, and that Susan is left out because she wears makeup is shit. I think it’s on the list because people have warm fuzzy memories of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

#8 Little Women

I actually took an entire grad school class on Little Women. It’s a good book, but I think it’s on the top ten because people think they’re supposed to like it, or have warm fuzzy memories of it from childhood.

#7 Charlotte’s Web

This is also a warm fuzzy from childhood. I have trouble believing that so many adults think of a kids book as the best book ever. That said, I blubbered when reading this with my daughter, who stayed dry eyed through Charlotte’s death scene.

#6 Gone With the Wind

I have a nostalgic relationship with Gone With the Wind because I first read it at eleven. I used to identify strongly with Scarlett when I was a young teen. But as I got older, I saw what a child she still was. But that was before I really started thinking about race and gender and history carefully. I now see it for all of it’s racist, problematic themes. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it helped form me. But like the other four books, I think there was a lot of I should like this book or I’ve heard of this book driving its place on the list.

 

Great American Read 1-5

The voting is over, and the Great American Read has been selected. Today I’ll give my hot take on the top five books, and I’m assuming you have at least a minimal understanding of the plot. Spoilers abound.

#5 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

They’re overrated sausage fests with the occasional woman. But the women are all fucking problematic, especially Eowyn. Eowyn kills the witch king, in a pretty badass scene, and she does have the “I am no man” line BUT she’s only there because she’s following around a man who doesn’t love her in hopes that he will one day. Also, they’re so fucking long because Tolkien loved Norse mythology so a fucking death scene takes like twenty pages. I happen to hate the books, but tons of people love them. I believe that it genuinely earned its place in the top five.

#4 Pride and Prejudice

So I have a complicated relationship with Pride and Prejudice, because I read it instead of Sense and Sensibility or vice versa. Regardless, I read the wrong book in college, and had to read the correct book in a single night so I could do the assignment. I looked like an idiot in class, too, for bonus points. I love a lot of media based on P&P, though, and I think I need to give it another chance. But I’m not sure if this is here because people legit love P&P or if they think they’re supposed to.

#3 Harry Potter series

I totally buy this. It’s a complex, well written series that turned a generation of kids into readers and their adults (including me) into YA readers. It’s been twenty years and my daughter started a Harry Potter club, is going to be Hermione for Halloween, and is having her second Harry Potter themed birthday in a row. This isn’t just a book series, it’s a phenomenon that no one is ready to leave, because it’s for Always.

#2 Outlander series

My hot take is that it scored so high because of the tv show. I think it would always have scored high because the series is very popular. But #2? That’s inflation caused by the tv show (which, don’t get me, I watch and love). But I buy it a hell of a lot more than #1.

#1 To Kill a Mockingbird

Seriously? This won because people think they should love this book. I mean, it’s okay. I read it like three times in jr. high and high school (I moved a lot), and for a while it was even my “favorite book” when I was like fifteen. But even then, while I made the claim, there were books I liked way better but was embarrassed to admit that I did. With perspective–it’s an overrated book.

What’s your hot take? Thoughts, opinions?

Book VS Movie–The Hate U Give SPOILERS

This post has spoilers for both the book and movie. You have been warned.

Book 5/5*

Adaptation 3.5/5*

Movie without the context of the book 4/5*

When I heard that the movie for The Hate U Give was coming out, I decided it was time to read the book with my 5th grader. Originally I had thought 6th grade would be appropriate, but I took the movie coming out as a sign.

We did a car read along–I bought the audio book on Audible and a physical copy for Elanor. As a side note, the audio book is amazing. The narrator has a great sense of when and how to use emotion, and she made my eyes well more than once because of that. She differentiates the characters well.

Elanor struggled a lot with the scarier parts of the book–Khalil’s shooting, the riots, the fire at the store. But we had a lot of talks about police brutality and the complicated relationship between cops and communities of color. My husband is a person of color, and my daughters are as well, so these are discussions we have to have.

I took her to the movie yesterday. Here’s our discussion about the movie versus book. Below the video, I’ll give my review.

I feel like the book is very nearly perfect. I can’t think of anything I would change–it’s a 10/5* book. But because of the subject material, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy adaptation, especially as so much of what makes the book work is Starr’s inner voice.

The movie uses voiceover as a tool to give exposition and to allow us into Starr’s head. I think this works pretty well. If anything, they could have used it a bit more.

Obviously when adapting a 400+ page book, things are getting dropped.

The biggest change in the book versus the movie is that the character of Devante has been cut. This also cuts down the role of Carlos and his relationship with Starr (he’s basically a second dad). Much of Devante’s actions are done by Seven–King beats the shit out of Seven instead of Devante in the final act of the book.

Chris, who is the “good” white person in the book. The one who wants to learn, and who stays through the riots, almost getting killed with Starr, Seven, and Devante is gone. Instead we have one who says things that are kind of ignorant (“I don’t see color”) and he takes Kenya and Lyric away in the movie and never comes back. I had hoped to see Chris learn and grow, but I don’t think he did, really.

Maya isn’t Asian and there’s no minority alliance. While the whole “eating dog” thing is a minor plot point that I can see dropping, there was no need to cast a white/white passing actress in Maya’s role.

But let’s talk about Starr. If Amandla Stenberg doesn’t win awards, I’m going to flip tables. She embodies Starr perfectly. Her Starr is exactly like the one I pictured in my head. Her emotions come across so strongly that she made me cry at several points. She doesn’t pull any punches, and leaves it all on the table.

Overall, I think it’s great movie. It’s a 3.5/5* as an adaptation, and a 4/5* just as a movie without the context of the book. Be prepared to sob your heart out at several points, especially if you cry easily like me.

My only big complaint about the movie is the end. Starr should’ve done the last lines of the book verbatim. It would have been a far stronger ending.

Review-Big Fat Bitch by Ginger Voight

Buy here on kindle for 2.99

5/5*

Published September 2018

 

I received a free copy of Big Fat Bitch from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

CW/TW–there is a scene with a graphic sexual assault in the book. It is part of a larger #metoo subplot, but could prove hard for victims of sexual assault.

Sofie Vincent has clawed her way to the top, and is now Queen Iron Britches, showrunner and writer of Vindication, the hottest show on television. Everyone jumps to do what she says out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

Fletcher Sullivan is a divorced single dad of Ava (12) and a hospice nurse. Together, he and Ava read to the residents of the hospice. One day, they read to a new patient with dementia, Rose, and she calls Ava “Pudgie.” When Fletcher mentions it to Rose’s nurse, she tells him that Rose is the author of a famous series of books about a girl named Pudgie. Fletcher decides to find Pudgie–her daughter.

Sofie ensures that Fletcher gets fired. Then ends up hiring him herself out of fear that he might spill her secret.

Big Fat Bitch is a romance, but it’s a slow, slow, slow burn. There are no sex scenes.

I had considered giving Big Fat Bitch a 4/5*, but the complexity and slow changes that Fletcher inspires in Sofie earned it the 5/5. Sofie is smart, successful, and scared. So scared of being found out to be Pudgie–who she views as her mother’s favorite child, the one who succeeded where she, Sofie, failed. Sofie has a huge mansion, a fat bank account, and very little else.

As a plus-sized woman, it meant a lot for me to see her be all of those complex things, and also a size fourteen. She doesn’t lose weight to be happy and that’s a big deal.

Fletcher is a less complex character–he wants to provide for Ava, and he wants to make the world kinder. He could have outed Sofie for revenge, but doesn’t. He only takes the job Sofie offers because his ex-wife is threatening to take away more of his time with Ava. But being Sofie’s assistant, and respecting her an employer doesn’t mean he isn’t going to go toe to toe with her.

This is a story of mothers and daughters, and of the kind of love that never dies.

I think the love story that really twisted my heartstrings, though, isn’t the one between Fletcher and Sofie. It’s the one between Sofie’s parents. Her father has lived on a boat since her parents divorced when she was a tween. When Fletcher can’t find Pudgie, he does manage to track down Rose’s former husband. Rose and Vincent had a hell of a love story, and the end of it made me sob.

In another author’s hands, Fletcher and Sofie would’ve sparked off each other and it would’ve been a concussive explosion. Which is what I kept expecting. But by keeping it slow, Voight gives us more time to get to know the characters and see why we should want them together beyond “the plot demands it.” It means there’s no magic kiss to wake the Beast from her slumber–instead, she has to make the changes herself. The changes are slow and there are several steps backward.

I invoke Beauty and the Beast because at its heart, this is a retelling of that story where Sofie is the beast and Fletcher the beauty. Which isn’t an obvious retelling, but there are just enough breadcrumbs for the reader.

I think this is a great romance that subverts the expectations of what a reader might think a romance “should” be. I can’t wait to read more by this author.