Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: My Plain Jane by The Lady Janies

NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given a free Advance Reading Copy by HarperCollins and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on June 26, 2018. If you would like to send me an ARC, please see this page.


TITLE: My Plain Jane

AUTHOR: Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows (The Lady Janies)

GENRE: historical, paranormal

PLOT SUMMARY: Jane Eyre has left her oppressive boarding school to take on a job as a governess, teaching the child of the elusive and mysterious Mr. Rochester. But Jane has a secret: she can see ghosts. This ability has caught the attention of a society dedicated to capturing ghosts, who want Jane to come and work for them. Jane has no interest -- but her friend, Charlotte Bronte does. Charlotte manages to strike a deal with a worker for the society: if she can get Jane to work for them, she gets to work for them, too. But between Jane being in love with Rochester, and Rochester's own secrets, that may be easier said than done...

FIRST THOUGHTS: You may remember that last year, I posted a glowing review of My Lady Jane, a historical fantasy comedy written by the same team of authors. This isn't a sequel, per se, but it's a companion, and has the same general setup. Since I was just a big fan of the previous installment, I was thrilled to get an advance copy of this one. And yet... My Plain Jane just didn't do it for me. It's not that I think it's a bad book, and I can think of people that would like it, but compared to its predecessor, it didn't fulfill its full potential. At least, not in my opinion.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: Okay, I feel like I should preface this whole review with a disclaimer. I have not read Jane Eyre! (Yes, I managed to get through multiple high-level English classes without being forced to read it. I do intend to read it eventually, I just... haven't gotten there yet.) However, the book was written in a way that even someone who didn't even know what Jane Eyre is could understand what was going on. And, credit where credit is due, I thought the authors did that very well. I think there were a couple references and jokes that went over my head, but the actual plot, nothing was lost. Unfortunately, the plot didn't feel very substantial. My main problem with it was that the Evil Plot that the villains were carrying out wasn't revealed until the last minute. While the "hidden agenda villain" thing can work, here it felt rushed and tacked-on, almost like an afterthought. There were also a lot of plot developments that felt really contrived. Sometimes that was supposed to be part of the joke, but, well... a lame plot point is still a lame plot point, and the jokes weren't funny enough to just shrug it off and move on. (For an example of funny plot contrivances done right, see the "forest of coincidence" scene in Galavant.) There were also a fair number of plot twists, but they all lacked the proper buildup, and just left me going, "...Really?" I think the authors were trying to make it so it wasn't a straight-up rehash of the original novel, but the end result was rather lacking and difficult to get into.

4 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Nothing special, which is a real shame. I will admit that this is one place where never having read the original probably detracted from my experience a bit. Part of the fun of retellings is seeing how familiar characters are reimagined and changed. The characters as they were, however, weren't anything spectacular. (Nothing spectacularly bad, either, so that's good, at least.) I liked the way Charlotte was written, but I didn't care much for Jane. I think part of the problem was that Charlotte has such a strong and dynamic personality, so Jane, who's a bit of a shrinking violet, gets lost in the process. Not that there's anything wrong with having a shy and demure main character, but it can be hard to write well, especially when you put them next to someone more outgoing and forceful. The side characters were all pretty one-note, so not much to say there.

5 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: Okay, this was the real letdown. By far the best thing about My Lady Jane was the humor, especially in the narration. While this book had some of that, it just wasn't as funny. There were some witty asides here and there that made me chuckle, but it wasn't anything LOL-worthy. It also lacked the same "can't put it down"-ness of the first book. I basically skimmed the last half, just to finish it. I wanted to know how it ended, which is something, but overall, I just wasn't invested.

5 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: This is a rewrite of a novel from the 1800s; unsurprisingly, there are no POC or queer people to be seen. I personally don't think being set in a historical period is a good excuse for not having any diversity, but I'm also not very surprised. There's nothing glaringly offensive, though.

4 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: I can't help but wonder if I'd have liked this book more or less if I'd read Jane Eyre first. Jane Eyre is on my reading bucket list (which you can look at here, if you're curious), so I do plan to read it eventually. As a followup to My Lady Jane, however, this was a major disappointment. I won't let it turn me off from checking out any other books in the series, since they all stand alone, anyway, but as one of my most anticipated books of 2018, this was a huge letdown. Here's hoping the third installment picks up the pace again.

FINAL GRADE: 4 / 10


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If you've read or are planning to read My Plain Jane, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!



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Thursday, May 17, 2018

DNF: Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty


TITLE: Those Other Women

AUTHOR: Nicola Moriarty

GENRE: contemporary

SUMMARY: Poppy's world is turned on its head when her husband dumps her... for her best friend. Things only get worse when Poppy finds out her ex-BFF is pregnant. See, Poppy doesn't want kids. Ever. And she's getting pretty sick of everyone judging her for it. Helped by her new BFF Annalise, Poppy starts up a Facebook group for the other never-gonna-be-moms of the area. At first, the rivalry between the moms and the not-moms is harmless and playful... but then, shit gets real.

HOW FAR I GOT: 62/308 pages

WHY I DIDN'T FINISH: While this book had its strong points -- I liked Poppy, and a lot of her interactions with Annalise were funny -- I just wasn't drawn into it. It was a disappointment, since the judgment placed on women who don't want kids is a struggle I know all too well. I was intrigued by the synopsis, but the book failed to grab me. After skimming the first five chapters, I decided to call it quits. I'm not saying I'll never finish this book -- I didn't get far, after all, so maybe I'll give it another go -- but right now? Nah. Not for me.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus


TITLE: One of Us is Lying

AUTHOR: Karen M. McManus

GENRE: mystery

PLOT SUMMARY: Five students enter detention. Ten minutes later, one leaves in a body bag. The deceased Simon ran an app that spread malicious gossip about the students at his high school, so after his death is found to be a murder, suspicion turns to the four students in detention with him. Bronwyn, the geek, Addy, the princess, Nate, the criminal, and Cooper, the jock, couldn't be more different, and would never be friends under normal circumstances. But now that all four of them are being accused of killing their classmate, they're forced to band together to figure out who killed Simon... and are they being framed?

FIRST THOUGHTS: This book was a wild ride. I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in -- the summary was intriguing, so when my friend Annie told me she'd liked it, I decided to give it a go. The best way I can think of to describe the plot is Riverdale meets The Breakfast Club. It's fun, it's exciting, and it has an eclectic cast of characters to enjoy the ride with. The story had a very cinematic feel to it; it felt almost more like I was watching a movie or a TV show than reading a book. If someone's bought the adaptation rights, I haven't heard about it, but I hope somebody does soon. However, the book on its own is great, and one of the best mysteries I've read recently.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: I thought the mystery in this book was awesome. It was one of the few YA mysteries I've read that genuinely kept me guessing all the way up until the reveal. When I did find out who killed Simon, I was shocked. I didn't think that the subplots were as good as the main plot, unfortunately. I think that's a side effect of having four viewpoint characters, each of whom has a secret -- things get real complicated, real quick, and things sometimes fall through the cracks. I also thought that the conclusion (specifically, the last chapter) was a bit of a letdown in comparison to the big twist that had come earlier. That said, the mystery was good enough that I still think it was worth my time.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: This book is very "Breakfast Club," in that each character is presented as a typical high school archetype, but then as the story goes on, we see other layers to them, and see them grow beyond the stereotype. While I liked some of the leads more than others, it was interesting to see all of them grow and mature and change. So while the characters in this book aren't always likable, they are always engaging. And they're definitely realistic. There are times when the main four act like idiots, or say things they shouldn't, or make dumb choices, but, well... ever met a teenager? Now, ever met a teenager who's under extreme stress, and is currently undergoing a traumatic event that will probably change their life forever, no matter how it pans out? Yyyyyeah. Even when I wanted to slap one of the main characters for being stupid, I always understood why they were being stupid. So I can forgive it.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: As mentioned above, this book had an incredibly cinematic feel. Just for the hell of it, I decided to challenge myself to get through it in one day, and I did. In fact, I got through most of it in just one sitting. I have no major complaints about the writing style, though I will say that having four viewpoint characters did feel a bit crowded at times, especially since each character narrated their own sections. While all the character voices felt unique, I did think that it would've been better to have one or two narrators instead of four -- they would've been better developed that way.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Not bad, not bad at all. For the most part, this isn't a very political story, so the representation is almost entirely incidental. But that's not a bad thing in itself -- as I've said elsewhere on this blog, the idea that books need a "reason" to be diverse is nonsense. That's like saying people in real life need a reason to be gay, black, disabled, or whatever. So I was glad to see that this book wasn't entirely straight and white. That said, I have seen some criticism of how the twist was handled. I can't get too into detail without spoiling it, but I have seen some say that they think the way the book addressed the problem of male entitlement (specifically, white, straight male entitlement), is clumsy at best and outright problematic at worst. While I personally thought the way the book handled it was well-done, I won't tell you what to think. Everyone's free to draw their own conclusions.

7 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a solid, easy-to-read, easy-to-enjoy mystery. If you're looking for something a little more daring than standard YA fare, I'd highly recommend it.  I think it'd make a great read for a long bus trip, or a book for when you're trying to get out of a reading slump. Judging from the reviews on Goodreads, reactions to this book and its ending are a tad... divisive, and I can sort of understand why, but I really liked it. No matter your personal opinion on it, I give this book a sold thumbs-up. It's a fun ride, with an ending you won't see coming.

FINAL GRADE: 7 / 10


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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Editing and Excuses

*shows up 15 minutes late with Starbucks and a meme that's outdated by 4 years*

'Sup?

Photo courtesy of Pexels.
This won't be a very long post -- this is mostly a life update, mainly to explain where the hell I've been for the past couple weeks. I've never tried to hold this blog to a tight schedule, since I know myself well enough to know that that wouldn't work. But I don't like that this place has been a ghost town recently. Let's change that!

So... the promised explanation.

Many of you know that I've written a book. I won't get too much into the plot, but if you know me personally, you've heard me talk your ear off about this thing anyway. I will, however, say that this book is my baby. I'm extremely proud of it, and I think that once it gets published (because it WILL, by God), people will read it.

I hope you all like it as much as I do.

Anyway, I've been shopping it around, and while I won't go into too much detail (don't wanna jinx it), someone has expressed interest! However, they asked me to make some edits to the manuscript before they gave me a definite "yes" or "no." So, that's where I've been the past two weeks -- editing my manuscript, trying to make it the best it can be. I've now sent it off to my good friend/Fearless Editor, Annie, who will tear it to shreds, and then send it back. Then, I'll do even more edits and send it back to Annie, and this process will repeat for as long as it takes for me to feel comfortable sending the manuscript back to the person who requested the edits in the first place.

I don't know how this'll pan out, but I'm really pleased with the edits I've made. Even if the person who expressed interest ultimately passes on the manuscript, it'll be worth it. The book's stronger now.

So, yeah. That's where I've been.

We will now return to your semi-regularly scheduled blog. Thanks for your patience.

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Again, I'm so sorry for being radio silent over here! Here's to hoping I can get back to updating at a reasonable pace soon. 

If you'd like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.




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