“A” is for An Affair to Remember

Welcome welcome welcome to Day 1 of the April A to Z Blog Challenge.  I’ll be participating by watching movies I’ve never seen before and telling you all about them.  I’m super excited, because I love movies and I love giving my opinion on things 🙂

To select my movies, I had a few simple criteria: 1) It had to be a movie I hadn’t seen before (duh) which meant I passed on a lot of movies I’ve seen once and wanted to watch again. 2) I wanted to be able to view for free so I could watch it easily at any time. This meant a few DVDs I’ve had on hand for a while but haven’t gotten around to, and a lot of Netflix. 3) I wanted to mix up genres and release years.  I didn’t want to exclusively watch classics or new-releases and I wanted to get out of my comfort zone in terms of the types of movies I normally watch. 4) “A” “An” and “The” do not count towards the alphabetical order, so the “A” in An Affair to Remember is for “Affair” and when I get to “D” for The Descendants, the “D” will stand for “Descendants.”  Get it?  Now on to the main event.

First up, the letter A!  As you can see by the title of the post and the previous paragraph, I selected An Affair to Remember for my “A” movie.  I was really excited as I love a good love story and Nora Ephron gave it a huge endorsement in her film Sleepless in Seattle.  I live-tweeted the experience.  Here are the details you need to know:

an affair to remember posterWatched: February 25, 2015 on Netflix

Hashtag: #WatchingAff2Remember

Year Released: 1957

Genre: Romance

Starring: Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr

Run Time: 119 minutes

Description (from Amazon): In this poignant and humorous love story nominated for four Academy Awards, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr meet on an ocean liner and fall deeply in love. Though each is engaged to someone else, they agree to meet six months later at the Empire State Building if they still feel the same way about each other. But a tragic accident prevents their rendezvous and the lover’s future takes an emotional and uncertain turn.


I was actually pretty surprised by my reaction to this movie.  Perhaps I’m growing more cynical and sarcastic as I get older, but I found it more ridiculous than romantic.  The dialogue was unrealistic, the situations were contrived, and the plot felt forced.  The two leads did have chemistry (for the most part) and the locations and costumes were beautiful, which were the saving grace of the film.  It made me want to watch more films starring Cary Grant.

Several times throughout the film, I found myself thinking about the changes in cinema from then to now.  The characters seemed so distant, so removed from the audience.  Movies made nowadays feel more intimate, like the audience is allowed to be a part of the action.  It took me forever to figure out character names and careers in Affair, but in modern films, we know those things straight-away.  I probably wouldn’t watch again.

Here’s a sampling of my tweets, but if you want more, follow me on Twitter @RLHammAuthor.


Fairy Tale Fun Blog Hop


It’s February, which means Valentines Day is almost here, which means romance is being shoved down your throat wherever you go, which inevitably means a Disney Princess movie marathon, right?  Oh, that’s just me? Well, luckily, my fellow chick lit authors think like me and have organized this snazzy Fairy Tale Fun blog hop!  The authors participating (i.e. super cool awesome women just like me!) have been asked to compare their heroines to princesses, and since I love a good princess (see my post on the Defense of Disney Princesses for proof) I jumped at the chance to participate.

Deciding which Princess to compare my heroines to was more difficult, though.  I love both of my female main characters (Abigail from Twenty-Five and Honor from Honor’s Lark), but neither of them scream “Princess!” to me.  Abigail is meek at times, unsure of her worth, and full of big dreams that she needs a push to accomplish.  Honor is (to quote her boss), “prickly”.  She’s also selfish and has a weird relationship with the truth.  I racked my brain for weeks trying to figure out which princesses my characters would relate to, and even now, I’m not sure how accurate my choice is!1052889_10100455146559846_619394793_o

Honor is going to have to stand on her own.  She wouldn’t WANT to be a princess and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t appreciate being compared with one, either. (Good for you, Honor!)  Abigail, on the other hand… She would totally cuddle with me on the couch and sing “I See The Light” at the top of her lungs while watching Tangled.  Not that I’m comparing her to Rapunzel, but I’ve got to keep you on your toes!  So, which princess is it going to be?  My first thought was Belle, who is famous amongst her counterparts for being a lover of books and a dreamer of adventure.  Abigail is often described as being a prolific reader and I’m sure Belle would approve of her bucket list, which includes such adventures as riding a motorcycle, climbing a mountain, and going scuba diving.  But something didn’t feel right to me about the Belle/Abigail comparison.  I love Belle, she’s probably my favorite Disney Princess, but I don’t know that I approve of her choice in men.  Sure, the Beast’s heart grows three sizes once he falls for her, but the whole hate turning to love thing is just kinda “meh” for me.  I think Belle would agree that being an outsider is no excuse for being an aggressive kidnapper.  Besides, Abby’s one true love is the boy-next-door type.

INTO THE WOODSSo, moving on. My next thought was Cinderella, because Abigail did have that unfortunate quality of waiting til a man came around to change her situation.  But! She’s more badass than Cinderella because once she realizes that’s what she’s done, she leaves!  She makes the decision to head off on her own and try and build the life she wanted without help from a man (or anyone else).  She seized her independence. And that act made me think of the Cinderella of Into the Woods (you can see my review of the movie here).  She thought everything would be better when she married the Prince, and in some ways she was right.  She moved to the palace and had servants and clothes and food and everything else she could want, but it didn’t make her happy.  She realized she needed more than the dream of perfection and she told him so.  She struck out on her own.  I loved that about the movie.  Because fairy tales always end with happily ever after, but life isn’t quite that easy.

In the end, Abigail’s prince (i.e. boyfriend) does come back to her, but they both admit they made mistakes and they both know that she had to leave in order to be happy.  To clinch the deal – I “cast” Anna Kendrick as my dream Abigail!

Abigail is Into the Woods Cinderella, but with an infinitely better Prince.


Sprite 24Don’t run off, yet!  There’s more!

There’s a fabulous prize available to all who hop with us today.  The Grand Prize is the Sprite 24 Gift Box from Fairytale Brownies, which includes a snack-size assortment (Caramel, Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate, Original, Peanut Butter, Pecan, Raspberry Swirl, Toffee Crunch, Walnut, White Chocolate, Espresso Nib, Cream Cheese) of 12 delicious gourmet brownies.  The Giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry my international lovelies) and there are a bunch of opportunities to win!  Just head to each stop on the hop and leave a comment answering their question attached to the giveaway.  Entries MUST include valid email address in order to win.  My question for you – on a rainy day, what’s your favorite romantic movie to get all cozy with?


Now, what are you waiting for – go check out the other hoppers and see which Princesses they paired their heroines with!

April Aasheim

Sheryl Babin

Kathryn Biel

Brea Brown

Geralyn Corcillo

Patricia Eddy

Erin Emerson

Jamie Farrell

Hilary Grossman

Gina Henning

Celia Kennedy

Tracy Krimmer

Becky Monson

Theresa Munroe

Diane Rinella

S.K. Wills

Movie Review: Into the Woods

Into-the-Woods-Movie-PosterLast weekend, two friends and I went to see Into the Woods.  It was Sunday night, cold, the theater was only mildly crowded, and we shared a large popcorn (with free refills!).  I had been wanting to see the movie since the first trailers were released, simply because the cast looked incredible, I love musicals, and I love all things Disney.  I was expecting a good show and I wasn’t disappointed.

I need to probably say that I really didn’t know a ton about the story before I saw the film.  While I participated in musical theater in high school and I love singing and dancing and acting, I don’t necessary obsess over musical theater as some do.  I’d never seen the stage show, but I knew people had strong feelings regarding Bernadette Peters playing the witch and how dare the producers cast Meryl Streep instead.  I knew the story was darker than what we normally expect when it comes to Disney movies.  I knew there’d be a lot of singing and I knew the cast featured some of my favorite actors (Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine) plus some living legends (Streep, Tracy Ulman, Christine Baranski), so though I was anticipating an enjoyable film, I didn’t have many expectations beyond that.

into the woods the bakers wifeThe film kicks off with a musical number – it doesn’t hold anything back.  The leads and supporting characters are all right there, up front, their melodies combining and their stories interweaving quite beautifully.  The actual look and style of the film is lovely, but dark.  The prologue shows the characters in the daytime, but then quickly transitions into the woods and darker locales.  The further into the movie, the darker the atmosphere seems to get – matching the events surrounding the characters.

The first half of the movie follows The Baker (James Cordon) and his Wife (Blunt) as they try and collect some rather unusual ingredients for a potion the Witch (Streep) plans on making in 3 days at the Blue Moon.  The supporting characters posses these ingredients and are blissfully unaware of their importance as they go about trying to find their happily ever afters.  The Baker’s Wife really steals this portion of the film.  She’s lovely and subtle and clever and every time she opens her mouth to sing the audience (i.e. me) were surprised by how beautiful a voice she has.  I really hope Blunt does more musicals in the future, as her singing voice was my favorite from the film.

into the woods the princeMy favorite musical number, however, was most definitely “Agony,” sung by Cinderella’s Prince (Pine) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen).  It’s the kind of song you can’t get out of your head and I’ve found myself playing it over and over and over on youtube ever since getting home from watching the movie.  In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I type.  The song, already amazing, gets even better with the visuals from the film.  I was listening to the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour’s podcast discussing this film and they mentioned how in the stage version of Into the Woods, there is very little set decoration and the actors are often playing on a bare stage, but the setting in the movie for this song was absolutely brilliant.  I don’t want to give it away, because it is incredibly funny and fitting and had the whole audience laughing throughout, so I’ll just say, go and watch it and come back and tell me how much you loved it.

Chris Pine is simply hysterical in this role – best casting award.

The second half of the movie shifts tone slightly drastically, as our cast of characters must now fight a giant who has begun “terrorizing” the countryside.  I’ve read in the stage version that there is a intermission in between the two acts, which I’m sure makes the transition seem less jarring, but I do think the movie did the best it could in making it.

The film ends with our characters all learning something about themselves and the nature of others.  Cinderella (Kendrick) and the Baker’s “No One is Alone” swan song is hauntingly beautiful (and another one I’ve listened to several times since seeing the movie) and gets a nice reprieve from the Baker’s Wife at the very end.

My biggest complaint with the film is that all of the music shares the same tone and musicality.  There are very few tempo changes and no variation in instruments – it’s all winds and strings complimenting the piano (at least, that’s what my untrained ears hear).  I’m not sure if this is a trademark of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, but I found myself wishing the songs were more distinguishable from one another.

Final verdict – definitely a movie I’ll buy once it’s on dvd.  I’ll probably also buy the soundtrack in the meantime.  It makes me want to see the stage version, but I’m glad I saw the movie first, because hopefully that means I’ll be able to love both!

We Need Diverse Books

With 9 days to go until Honor’s Lark is officially released via Amazon, I’m getting excited and sentimental.  I feel like a parent about to release her baby into the real world.  So, before I do that, I want to let the world know how I view my baby and it’s main characters.

There was a hashtag trending on twitter last week: #WeNeedDiverseBooks.  I thought it was wonderful that people were calling attention to the fact that so many books (the good, the bad, and the in-between) are lacking in the diversity department.  When I started writing Honor’s Lark last September (when it was still called simply Lark), I thought a lot about the world I was creating and how I wanted it to be as inclusive as possible.  I am never much of a descriptive writer, though I usually give my characters a few physical traits.  Not in HL.  I wanted readers to be able to envision themselves in the characters, regardless of what they looked like, so I barely described the characters at all.

Having said that, I do have pictures in my head of what I think the characters look like.  I imagine in this world that, due to the larks, people have traveled all over and if races did exist, they’ve been combined over time so that they aren’t really identifiable anymore.  Basically, everyone has some color to their skin.

So, here’s what my main characters look like in my head.  They may not look like this in your head when you read the book.  In fact, I kinda hope they don’t!  Picture them however you want and then let me know what you see 🙂

zoe-saldana honor sandoval



Honor Sandoval

Sedric Eckland : wentworth miller
Sedric Eckland

Diversity isn’t just about race, though.  I also thought a lot about sexuality when creating these characters.  The initial concept – that everyone is destined for another person – gave me the perfect opportunity to showcase that love is love, no matter a person’s gender.  The terms heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual don’t exist in the world of the larks.  I know it’s not a perfect representation of all members of society, but hopefully readers will appreciate the effort.

 rashida-jones bonnie


Hannah-Simone- caron


9 days to go.  NINE DAYS!!!


In Defense of Disney Princesses

I don’t think it will come as a shock to anyone that I’m a bit of a Disney fangirl.  I’m not totally obsessed, but I’m getting closer every day.  The release of Frozen has certainly not helped to curb my appetite for all things Disney with its catchy and forever singable songs or beautiful story of two sisters trying to understand each other.   Frozen has been getting a lot of media from the idea that it is the “first Disney Princess film to teach women that we don’t need a man to save us.”  I respectfully disagree with that statement.  While I think the message of Frozen – love for family and friendship over love-at-first-sight – is a great one, I think reducing it to that phrase does an injustice to the film and the films that came before it.  Let’s take a look back, shall we?

Okay, I’m not going to try and pretend that Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella had a strong message for females.  Yes, those movies played up the damsel in distress needing a man to rescue her from dire circumstances and Frozen pokes fun at the True Love’s Kiss the first two mentioned movies rely on for their climax.  But those are just three movies, and given the time they were created and released (1937, 1959, and 1950 respectively), I don’t think anyone is surprised by the lack of feminist message.


Let’s move to the Renaissance of the 1990s and the more modern era.

The Little Mermaid (1989) can arguably be viewed as the first movie of the Renaissance and the first modern Disney Princess.  While it is true that Ariel does suffer from love-at-first-sight syndrome, before she meets Eric, her desire to see the world above the water was the strongest motivator in her life.  She had dreams and goals outside of the Prince.  She gets a little distracted from those goals once the Prince comes along, but I don’t think we can discount them completely.  Even Kristen Bell, who voices Anna in Frozen, has said that The Little Mermaid was a huge influence on her as a child because it showed a Princess who wanted more than just the Prince.  Ariel does need “rescuing,” but the film also shows viewers important values.  Sebastian, Scuttle, and Flounder are all devoted friends willing to help Ariel in whatever way they can.  Ariel’s father is willing to sacrifice his own life for hers.  These were all male characters, but they certainly weren’t love interests, and you get the distinct feeling that Ariel would do the same for any of them were the roles reversed.  In the end, it IS Prince Eric who kills Ursula (in the absolute most horrific villain death to date), but let’s not forget, if Ariel hadn’t rescued Eric from drowning, none of the events that followed would have been possible.  No one ever takes the time to mention Ariel’s heroic act.  She defied her father and her Community, risking her own life in the process, to save his.  That seems like a pretty great message to me.


Our next Princess is Belle, from Beauty and the Beast (1991).  Belle is almost the very definition of an independent woman.  She is not afraid to stand out from the crowd and she doesn’t let it bother her that she’s seen as different.  She refuses to marry the attractive, but cruel, man who first proposes to her (no love-at-first-sight for Ms. Belle).  She voluntarily takes her father’s place as the Beast’s hostage, with her eyes open no less.  She sees the treatment her father has been subjected to: a damp, cold cell and a captor who literally looks like a monster.  If Belle needs saving, she needs saving from the Beast – he certainly can’t DO the saving.  Though Belle initially discourages the Beast’s attempts at “friendship,” eventually, she allows him to prove himself a better person than he appears.  She doesn’t remain entrenched in her first impression.  When the Beast releases her – she wants to save her father’s life – she voluntarily returns to protect him.  Throughout the movie, the viewer is reminded that the Beast needs Belle, not the other way around.  In the climatic rainy scene, it’s Belle’s love that saves the Beast and transforms him into the Prince.  At no point was Belle “saved” by anyone (unless you count Chip breaking into the cellar).


Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994) are centered around male protagonists, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time with them (and The Lion King isn’t a Princess movie), but I want to say that while Jasmine does need rescuing from time to time, she’s another smart and strong Princess.  She challenges the men around her to not see her as only a “prize to be won” but as a real person with real feelings.  Aladdin falls for her at first sight, but it’s his charm, vulnerability, and a common sense of oppression that attracts Jasmine to him.  In The Lion King, Nala and Sarabi take on the task of protecting their pride when Mufasa dies and Simba runs away.  And we see Nala defeat Simba twice while wrestling.  It’s well known that female lions are the hunters and male lions are lazy asses who wait around for food to be brought to them.  Just saying.


Pocahontas (1995).  The next time someone tells me Frozen is the first movie to tell girls they don’t need a man to rescue them, I’m going to plop them in front of a TV and turn Pocahontas on.  Put aside the blatant historical inaccuracies for a minute and look at the movie as a fairy tale.  Pocahontas is a free spirited woman.  She doesn’t blindly follow her father’s or her tribe’s path for her.  She thinks through her decisions.  She questions.  And when there’s a war going on – she runs through the opposing sides and throws herself between her father’s club and the man she’s grown to love.  She literally covers John Smith’s head with her own.  Pocahontas saved his ass.  But does anyone talk about that?  Just because Disney shows women falling in love does not mean those women need men to “save” them.


I can’t speak intelligently about The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), which is the next Renaissance movie, because it has been so long since I’ve seen it.  It was never one that I enjoyed – sorry!  It’s also not considered a Princess movie.  But, if anyone wants to make the case for a strong female influence in it, I’d love to hear it in the comments!

Hercules (1997) is another one centered around a male protagonist and Megara isn’t considered a Princess, but it’s worth mentioning that she was the first female character (in my opinion) to show that sass that has become so beloved in animated movies since.  She only needed rescuing at the end because she put herself in harm’s way to protect Hercules.  He’s seen as the hero because his rescuing comes last.  And again – Hercules was enamored with her at first sight, but she needed more convincing.  I’m seeing a pattern of men being just as foolish, if not more so than women, and yet, it’s the women who are treated as vapid and incapable of taking care of themselves.


The crown jewel in my argument, though, that Frozen is NOT the first Princess movie to show women that they don’t need a man to rescue them is (1998)’s Mulan.  Mulan is a freaking BAD ASS.  Mulan dresses like a man, takes her father’s place in the army, is the first to figure out how to climb the tall-ass wooden pole to collect the arrow, and then she freaking single-handedly destroys 99% of the Hun army.  After that, she uses her brains to defeat Shan Yu when the Emperor’s life is in danger.  She has a little crush on her commanding officer (and who doesn’t?  Shang is dreamy), but their romance is not the point of the story and they don’t even kiss.  Shang is the one who must come to terms with the fact that his first impressions were incorrect.  Mulan is a warrior.  Does anyone actually believe she needs a man to save her?  Why are people forgetting this movie?


Still don’t believe me?  Let’s skip ahead to The Princess and the Frog (2009), the next official Princess movie.  I’ve only seen this movie twice, so please contradict me if I’m wrong, but again, the viewer is not subjected to love-at-first-sight.  Neither Tiana nor Prince Naveen particularly like each other when they meet.  Tiana agrees to kiss the Prince because he offers her assistance with her restaurant dreams.  That may not be a particularly healthy message, but it’s a far cry to say she’s being “rescued.”  She worked her butt off almost her entire life to save the money she needed for the restaurant and she was swindled by the gentlemen supposed to sell it to her when they received a more lucrative offer.  This could have happened to her just as easily if she was male.  Then, when she becomes a frog, she and the Prince have to work together to transform back to their human bodies.  At the end, they make the decision to stay frogs and stay together.  To me, that’s a beautiful message.  As a couple, they realize compromise is important, they realize being united is important.  Not every woman needs to remain single to prove she doesn’t need a man.  And, it’s Tiana’s kiss that transforms Naveen back into a Prince, which in turn turns her back into a human, as well.  Tiana rescues him as much as he rescues her.


Last, but not least, let’s talk Tangled (2010).  (I haven’t seen Brave yet, though I have a sneaking suspicion that Merida would fit very nicely into my argument.)  One of the things I love about Rapunzel is that she is a very complex character.  She strives to do right by Mother Gothel while desiring her own freedom.  She’s afraid of “ruffians and thugs” but brave enough to stand up to them.  She feels very deeply.  She’s passionate.  She’s a little crazy at times.  She’s feminine.  She needs Flynn to escort her to the kingdom because she has no idea how to get there, but I wouldn’t call that needing to be rescued.  When Flynn is about to get beaten up in the Tavern – who stops it?  Rapunzel.  When they are about to drown in the cave, whose hair gives them the light needed to find a way out?  Rapunzel’s.  Flynn ultimately comes to rescue her at the end when Mother Gothel is attempting to drag her away from the tower and the outside world forever, but it is Rapunzel’s love and compassion that causes her to give up her own happiness for Flynn.  They both make sacrifices – she sacrifices her freedom in an attempt to save him from dying, he sacrifices his life to save her from Mother Gothel.  They save each other.  And it is demeaning to reduce that down to the simple idea that Rapunzel needs Flynn to rescue her.


It isn’t necessary for women to choose between love and independence.  They can have both IF they want it.  And I feel like Disney has done an amazing job in the last two and a half decades showing us that.  So, please, can we stop acting like Frozen is some feminist masterpiece?  I love the movie, but I love the ones that came before it, too.  Anna choosing her sister over Kristoff in those crucial moments SHOULD be celebrated, but it shouldn’t lessen the progress of the other Princesses before her.  That is all.

Book Review: Blogger Girl, by Meredith Schorr

blogger girlBlogger Girl, by Meredith Schorr

Genre: Chick Lit / Romance

Overall: **** 4 out of 5 stars

Legal secretary and popular Chick Lit blogger Kimberly Long is seriously crushing on a junior associate at the law firm where she works.  She’s also facing the challenge of reading and reviewing the debut novel of the girl who made her high school years miserable.

I did not receive a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I’ve heard/read some buzz about it on Facebook and Twitter (which the heroine of the book would probably get a kick out of) and I paid my own money for it.  Yesterday, needing something to read, I went to my trusty book box (where I have slips of paper listing all of the books I own but have not read yet) and pulled a title out.  Blogger Girl!  Yay!  I was excited because I’ve been wanting to read it for a while.  I started it last night and finished it about a half hour ago.  It was an easy, breezy read (to take a phrase from the book itself).

*Spoilers below*

The opening of the book introduces us to Kim and her crush on the very likeable, very cute Nicholas Strong.  Up until a night of drinks with office pals, Nicholas has never seemed to know she existed, but once Kim’s boss tells N. about K.’s book review blog, suddenly N. is finding more and more opportunities to talk to her.

K’s best friend, Bridget, is always around for support, especially when N. asks K. to meet him for drinks after her big 10-year high school reunion.  Unfortunately, the reunion also means a run-in with Hannah, who did her best to make high school a nightmare for K & B and who is now breathing down K’s back to get a favorable review of her to-be-released debut novel.

As Kim navigates her feelings/relationship with Nicholas and her jealousy and hatred for Hannah, she begins to realize that the thing she really wants most is to write a novel herself.

Character Development: ***** 5 out of 5 stars.  Kim was insanely relatable and likeable.  Nicholas is a dream, without being cliche.  I love that Schorr made him a short, but still hot guy.  Short guys are so underrated.  His sudden interest in Kim at the beginning felt slightly forced, but once their banter was established, I was all in.  They had the cutest conversations that always seemed realistic for where they were at in their relationship.  The supporting characters were all well-developed as well.  I feel like Schorr spent the most time on Hannah, but Erin (Kim’s sister) had a full personality despite only being used for phone call scenes, and Kim’s two best friends (Bridget and Caroline) were distinct from each other with their own backstories and subplots (Caroline didn’t really have a subplot, but it was shown that she had a life outside of the events of the book, which is not always easy to do).

I do wish that Schorr hadn’t gone the route of two mean girls as Kim’s adversaries.  Hannah was needed and great, but Daneen seemed unnecessary.  I get why she was included – to assist in sparking the fight between K. and N. in the middle of the book, but I feel her role could have just as easily been male.  I don’t like that women always assume that other women are their enemies.

Plot: **** 4 out of 5 stars.  The pacing is good and the character development has a lot to do with that.  Schorr relies on some cliches – the big misunderstanding leading to a breakup, the mean girls mentioned above – but I enjoyed the ebb and flow of the story, so it didn’t bother me too much.  After all, the entire book was a little meta and probably would have felt awkward if those cliches hadn’t been included.

Writing Style/ Voice of the Author: **** 3.5 out of 5 stars.  This was really easy to read, but sometimes the meta-ness worked against the author instead of for her.  The description of Hannah’s book, which Kim is reluctant to admit sounds interesting, did not sound interesting at all.  The repetition of certain phrases and descriptions became distracting – I found myself wanting to tally how many times Kim and her friends giggled.  Were they incapable of laughing?  Did it have to be a giggle?  But – the dialogue was solid and the author never went off on descriptive tangents that take a reader out of the scene, and her characters are so well done, it makes up for any defects.

Favorite Lines:

He put his mouth to the harmonica, played a few notes, and started singing to the tune of the chorus of Penny Lane by The Beatles.  ‘Kimmie Long was in my pants and it felt nice.


Nicholas rubbed his lips.  “Isn’t it supposed to be first comes date, then comes sex?  We had sex before the date.”

“I think the correct words to that ditty are ‘first comes love then comes marriage.’  But lots of people get that order wrong too.”


The last two lines – I’m not going to write them here, because I don’t want to deprive you of the humor when you read them for yourselves.  They are just the perfect conclusion to a running joke throughout the book and you won’t find them funny on their own.

Book Review: Fate War Alliance, by E.M. Havens

book coverFate War: Alliance is the first book in the Fate War series.

Genre: Steampunk Romance

Overall **** 4 out of 5 Stars.  I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

An arranged marriage between Prince Cole and Princess Samantha provides the alliance needed to defeat the Fate Army.

Prince Cole is your basic playboy-not-interested-in-being-King.  Princess Samantha is anything but basic.  When Cole’s brother is killed, Cole is forced to step into his place as next-in-line to the throne, but he doesn’t exactly go willingly.  Sam wants to escape palace life, but before she can, her parents send her to a “finishing” school and wipe out her uniqueness and free will.

After being forced to wed and then consummate the marriage in front of a room full of strangers, Cole and Samantha get off to a bit of a rocky start.  He wants to get to know her, but all she wants to do is please him, and the two wants don’t exactly compute.  Eventually, Cole is able to coax out pieces of the true Samantha: she’s a fast reader who retains everything she’s read, she loves horses, dessert is her favorite part of a meal.  But Samantha is constantly at war with herself, having been “taught” in the finishing school what a true lady is and Cole’s behavior won’t let her follow her what she’s “learned.”

When it is finally revealed that Samantha’s mother repressed her daughter’s genius in order to hide her paternity, Sam finally accepts herself for who she is and allows her true self to come to the surface.  Cole gifts her a tinker shop and she shows aptitude for battle.  When the Fate army begins closing in, she proves herself capable of of much more than building trinkets by leading the Alliance army to victory against the Fate.

This was my first foray into the steampunk genre and I quite liked it!  Because the world is based on something I was already familiar with, Victorian England (with some medieval elements), the world-building didn’t throw me.  It intrigued me.  Havens does an excellent job of dropping in phrases and technologies unique to her world while giving the reader the context clues needed to figure out what those references mean.

The heat between Cole and Samantha was ABSOLUTELY FANFREAKINGTASTIC.  Havens teases the characters and the readers and when things finally happen, it is well-worth the wait.  It’s sweet, it’s sensual, it’s loving.  And then, to top it off, the reader can tell the characters genuinely like and care for each other, beyond lust and love.

Character Development: **** 4.5 out of 5 stars.  Samantha is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read.  Her constant internal battle is not only well-written and believable, it is also so unique.  She merges the two stereotypical female characters we’ve come to expect in Princess stories: the weak, damsel-in-distress, needing her Prince to be her Savior, with the strong, bad-assed, take-no-crap-from-anyone warrior, and she does it in a way that is not stereotypical at all.  I don’t think I’m explaining this correctly, but read it, and I think you’ll get what I’m saying.  I loved Samantha, because to tell the truth, I’m a little sick of female characters who are strong only because it is un-PC to write a female character who isn’t strong.  Samantha is weak AND strong.  Insecure AND confidant.  Subversive AND dominant.  But she’s not all obnoxious about it.

The other characters were also really well-written.  Cole started out a little cliche, but he grew on me, especially in his good intentions towards Samantha.  Zeb was amazingly well-done, and he was only featured in a few scenes, so I imagine he’ll have a larger role in the next installment.  Then there’s Jasper.  Oh Jasper. For a character who appeared only once and who didn’t technically say anything, he was incredibly interesting.  There’s mystery surrounding him – we don’t know if he’s good or evil, we don’t know why he joined the Fate army, we don’t know if he’s somehow controlling Samantha in her dark periods.  So many questions, but good ones!  I didn’t feel unsatisfied not knowing the answers to them, it just made me ready to read the next book.

Plot: **** 4 out of 5 stars.  A lot happens in this book.  We meet Cole and Samantha, they begin their married life, and Cole begins Samantha’s “re-education.”  Then there is the discovery of Samantha’s true self.  They fall in love.  Samantha finally enables herself to trust Cole and become intimate with him.  The Fate army draws near.  Samantha proves she’s more than just a pretty face by leading their army.  The progression of the plot is steady, the tension between Cole and Samantha perfect.  There were a few scenes of conflict between Sam and Cole that felt a little forced/contrived to me, which caused me to remove one star, but for the most part, it was beautifully plotted.

Writing Style/ Voice of the Author: **** 4 out of 5 stars.  Havens keeps it simple, which I really like.  The story was easy to read, the dialogue flowed well and felt natural.  The book is a breeze.  There were a few awkward scene jumps, but for the most part, I liked the pacing.  The author’s voice never intruded.  I said it in my review of Gone Girl, and I’ll say it again: nothing ruins the flow of a book like the author’s voice intruding.  Havens showed her story beautifully .

Favorite Lines:

“Although he had managed to cooperate as little as possible over the years with his father, King Arnold, his duties as Prince could no longer be ignored.  Duty.  He just couldn’t understand how societies so technologically advanced, and continuing to advance, could hold on to such archaic and simply barbaric traditions.”

“Sprocket Defend!”

“Sam found it wasn’t just warmth that soaked into her body from his touch, strength seeped in, too.”

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HeadshotAbout the Author:

Who is E.M. Havens? I’m a lot of things. The word that seems to define me most at the moment is mom. It can be all consuming. Not only am I a mom of three (one of them is a teenager…pity me), but I also home-school (pity me more). I share this awesome responsibility with the love of my life, best friend, and soul-mate husband.

Add to that, the twenty-five chickens, twelve turkeys, ten guineas, nine pigs, three barn cats, two Great Pyrenees guardian dogs, a Chihuahua, a house cat, and a goose, it makes for one crazy, full, and certainly entertaining life.

Somewhere in there I find the time to write.  I started out young writing poems, then moved on to songs. I actually have a Bachelor in Music with a secondary in Science because I can’t stand English. Yes, the writer hates English.  I like to read the story for the experience of reading the story, not to nitpick each letter and comma. But I digress.

I eventually found blogging and really enjoyed sharing my life that way. When an unfortunate turn of events separated me from my music equipment, I decided to use my overactive imagination, my love of reading, and my new found hobby, prose writing, to release some of my creative energy.  I wrote my first novel and loved the experience. Fate War: Alliance is actually the second novel I wrote and the first to be published.  Now I’m working on my third and several sequels to Fate War!

So that’s pretty much me, sitting in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, reading, writing, collecting eggs from the coop, and being a schoolmarm. It’s a pretty great life.

E.M.’s Blog

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Write What You Know

One of my co-workers said to me today that it was hard separating me from Abby in Twenty-Five.  She said reading the book was like reading my journal.  And she’s exactly right.  It took a long time for me to allow anyone I knew in real life to read the book because she hit the nail on the head – I poured my emotions into Abby’s story.  Her feelings are my feelings.  The things that happen to her haven’t happened to me, but the way she feels about them is.

You have probably heard the old caveat, “Write what you know.”  That’s what I did with Twenty-Five.  I wrote about the person I knew best in the world – myself.  It’s embarrassing and liberating at the same time.  The book was written five years ago and I’ve changed even more than Abby does in the course of the story, but it doesn’t change the fact that at one point in my life I was feeling very vulnerable, frightened that I would never amount to anything, a hundred percent sure no one would ever love me.  I’ve moved past some of those things, and some of them I’m still working on; knowing that I’ve exposed myself to the world, though, is freeing.  I don’t have to hide my fears.  I don’t have to hide my morals.  They are who I am.  And that’s what I wrote.

Book Review: Wicked Hunger, by DelSheree Gladden

wicked_hunger_previewWicked Hunger is the first book in the SomeOne Wicked This Way Comes series.

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Overall **** 4 out of 5 Stars.  I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Brother and sister Zander and Van have a secret.  A BIG secret.  They protect their secret and each other at all costs, until the new girl in town, Ivy, threatens to expose them both.

When I was reading Wicked Hunger, I had an eerily similar feeling as I did reading The Hunger Games.  The two stories aren’t alike, plot or character-wise, but they both have a darkness that one doesn’t usually associate with YA.  As I was reading Wicked Hunger, I kept thinking, I shouldn’t be enjoying this, I shouldn’t be enjoying this.  Exactly the same reaction I had to The Hunger Games.  With HG, I shouldn’t have enjoyed it because it was about children killing children.  With WH, I shouldn’t have enjoyed it because it was about Zander and Van struggling with their hunger to cause others intense physical (and sometimes, emotional) pain.

Sometimes it’s the books we shouldn’t enjoy that we enjoy the most.

Zander and Van can’t explain WHY they have this hunger for pain, only that it has been passed down through their family.  They think they are alone in the world and can’t explain their struggles with anyone, for their own safety as well as the safety of everyone around them.  They both do their best to control the hunger, Zander by channeling it into football, and Van by gathering a group of close friends around her and teaching dance classes; but controlling the hunger is the hardest thing Zander has ever done when he meets Ivy.  She fuels his hunger unlike any other person he’s ever met.  Plus, he is immediately attracted to her, so that really doesn’t help!  Van feels her hunger for Ivy, too, but luckily, her judgement isn’t clouded by teenage-boy-hormones.

When Van discovers what Ivy has planned to “out” their secret, she races to save Zander, Ivy, and herself.

Character Development: **** 3.5 out of 5 stars.  Zander and Van are well-thought out and portrayed.  I like that they have distinct personalities, but you also REALLY believe them as brother and sister.  Ivy is complicated – the reader can never figure out what’s going on with her, but Gladden does a great job showing how untrustworthy she is.  But my favorite character is probably Oscar.  He is Zander and Van’s older brother who has literally been driven insane by his hunger.  Although he only featured in 2 scenes, I could tell Gladden had his character down pat.  His moments of crazy were beautifully interspersed with moments of lucidity and I’m really hoping for more of him as the series progresses.

I had to take stars off for some of the minor characters, though.  Van’s group of friends is made out to be very important to her controlling her hunger, but the only one who gets any major “screen” time is Ketchup (fun name!).  And even Ketchup’s character is very minimally drawn.  We don’t get to see what it is about him that Van loves so much.  I really wish there had been more scenes showing us their history together, because it is clearly important to Van.  Then there’s Noah, a new kid in Van’s life, who seems to only be introduced as a distraction immediately forgotten.  Van and Zander’s grandmother is their care-giver, but only appears in a few short scenes.  We are told how strict she is, but it’s never shown.  A definite missed opportunity that I’m hoping will be corrected in book 2.

Plot: **** 4 out of 5 stars.  There actually is not a lot of action to this book.  What drives the story is Zander and Van’s inner turmoil as they deal with the hunger.  That being said, it is obvious that Gladden has put a lot of thought into her world.  There are many of questions left unanswered at the end of the book, plenty to fill books 2 and 3!

Writing Style/ Voice of the Author: **** 4 out of 5 stars.  Gladden does something unique, and it really works well for this story.  She combines present tense and past tense.  It gives the story an immediacy that intensifies the emotions of the characters.  She also does a fantastic job of moving seamlessly between Van and Zander’s points of view.  I never once got confused as to which character’s head I was in.  I took one star off because I found it difficult to jump into the story.  Gladden held back at the beginning a lot of the backstory, but then teased the reader with it continuously.  I don’t mind teasers when they are subtle, but these were not subtle!  I understand the purpose – build up the mystery and the tension and then reveal bombshells throughout the book – it’s just not my favorite way to do it.  I know some readers who would absolutely disagree with me, though!

Favorite Lines:

“Bruises can tell stories better than most people.”

“The pain burns up my arms and into my chest, but I can’t escape the animalistic thrill of destruction.”

“Instead, the colors look to be slowly blending together, a potter’s clay not yet molded into what it is meant to become.”

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Sheree SmallAbout the Author:

DelSheree Gladden lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology. Local folk lore is strongly rooted in her writing, particularly ideas of prophecy, destiny, and talents born from natural abilities. When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually teaching yoga, coaching gymnastics, reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist. Her works include Escaping Fate, Twin Souls Saga, and The Destroyer Trilogy. DelSheree’s newest series, The SomeOne Wicked This Way Come series, follows Vanessa and Zander Roth, siblings with an uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering that will either gain them limitless power or lead them to their deaths.

DelSheree’s Blog

DelSheree’s Website