“If you’re struggling with writing a character, write 20 things that the reader will never know about your character. These will naturally bleed into your writing and provide a richness even though you don’t share the detail.”
Title: Black Panther #1-3
Themes: government, rulership, duty, race, technology
Setting: the fictional country of Wakanda
Plot: The small country of Wakanda is the most technologically advanced in the world, which is both a blessing and a curse. All that vibranium has made it a target for the villains of the world, and the citizens are sick and tired of it. The country’s ruler Black Panther comes home to civil unrest and intense pressure to fix the damage said villains left behind.
Review: Oh, I really wanted to love this book. It’s by a famous author. It’s entirely cast with POC. The art is a-maze-ing. But the story — well, it’s a mess. There’s a group of women, the Dora Milaje, who are taking power into their own hands. I want to root for them, but I don’t see how that’s going to work with T’Challa’s leadership. Then there’s some subplot with a mystical woman and some sinister dude and maybe a ghost and – well, I just don’t know what’s going on at all!
I got this comic for free, and if the second volume is available for free also, I would read it, just because I hope maybe it would finally make some sense! But if I had to pay for it, I wouldn’t bother with the next book. So disappointed.
Title: Midnight Pearls: A Retelling of the Little Mermaid (Once Upon a Time #4)
Author: Debbie Vigiue
Genre: fairy tale, YA romance
I am a big fan of the retold fairy tale, so I was happy to find this series of familiar tales and fables rewritten for teens. I just finished this one yesterday, and I enjoyed it. Finneas is out fishing one night when a terrible storm blows up. Just when he is ready to give up and surrender to the sea, he spots a child floating in the ocean. He rescues the girl and together with his wife, they raise the girl as their own. They name her Pearl. It’s a promising beginning, and I did enjoy the book. It’s not really anything unique, pretty much a classic tale. All the regulars from the original story are there – the handsome prince, the Sea Witch – but there are a few twists. I read it in a day, a quick fun story.
If you like this genre, I can recommend some titles from the ‘Once Upon a Time’ series. Overall, the writing is uneven. Some of the stories are really well done. My favorites are The Storyteller’s Daughter (1001 Nights), Sunshine and Shadow (The Magic Flute), and Golden (Rapunzel). Before Midnight, based on Cinderella, is my very favorite. But there are a few I just couldn’t read, one based on Little Red Riding Hood that has her falling in love with the wolf, and some one I can’t remember set in France during World War I. I got this one at the library.
As some of you might know, I’m working on a book right now and it’s kind of tough. I could use some support. Would any of you be interested in a writing challenge? Sort of a support group to see how many words we get, or pages edited, or dialogue or something? I’m just throwing this out there, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m currently working on a mystery and fantasy short story, if that helps.
Title: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Author: Erik Larson
Setting: NYC and Atlantic Ocean, May 1915
Story: The RMS Lusitania was one of the top luxury liners of the day, filled with the bright and beautiful (and a bunch of 2nd & 3rd class passengers too.) Millionaires, actors, writers, debutantes and spies all crowded aboard this ship. Besides the passengers, the ship was carrying beautiful paintings by Van Gogh and other masters, editions signed by Dickens and Thackeray, gold bullion, and lots of ammunition. So when it went down, the news traveled fast, and eventually resulted in the United States entering World War I.
Review: I knew a little bit about the Lusitania, but I’d never heard the whole story. I’ve read other books by this author, so when I found this one on audio at the library, I couldn’t wait to check it out.
The numbers are pretty sobering. Out of 1962 passengers and crew, only 764 survived. But what makes it more interesting than the statistics is the way Larson tells the story. By using journals and letters that survived the voyage, he lets you get inside the ship and travel right along with them on their final voyage. I had my favorite people and I was trying not to skip ahead, but I admit that I couldn’t stand it and had to look up who survived and who died.
I have a couple of criticisms about the book though. The first is that he spends all this time talking about President Woodrow Wilson’s courtship of Edith Bolling. Wilson’s state of mind and his love life weren’t really relevant to the story. His reluctance to enter the war was relevant and didn’t get enough discussion.
Also, I was left wondering about the passengers who survived. What percentage of them were first class? Did it matter where their cabins were? How many were women and children? Maybe he answered these questions, but since it was on audio, I could have missed that part.
It did definitely get me interested in the story. It was all so sad and so pointless. Why wasn’t the ship more protected? Why hadn’t Wilson done more to help with the war already? I was totally involved in this story. I’m giving it 4.2 stars out of 5.
Title: Anne of Green Gables (Avonlea #1)
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Themes: challenges, family, coming of age, friendship, religion
Setting: Prince Edward Island, Canada early 1900s
Plot: Anne Shirley is not the boy the Cuthberts were expecting from the orphanage, but she was just what they needed to turn their lives upside down.
Review: I read this classic when I was a little girl and I was charmed. I think Anne would have been my “bosom friend.” I had the same vivid imagination, but I wasn’t as outgoing and talkative as Anne was. I definitely wasn’t as sweet as Diana Barry either.
Even when I was young, Anne Shirley’s story was about a different, gentler, slower way of life. To a child of the 21st century, I can’t imagine what they would make of this book. I hope there’s still room for the lively red-haired orphan. She’s a sweet little thing.
Title: The Tuesday Club Murders or The 13 Problems (Miss Marple #2)
Author: Agatha Christie
Setting: England 1930s or so
Format: physical book
Plot: Author Raymond West is staying with his aunt in the country. One evening at a dinner with friends, he proposes that they each relate a mystery, then see who can come up with the best solution to the story. To his surprise, sweet little Aunt Jane wins every time.
Reaction: I love Miss Marple. I always pictured her as a sweet, white-haired lady with “a mind like a steel trap,” as a police acquaintance says. Now that I’ve seen the mysteries with Joan Hickson in the role, I can’t imagine anyone else. She’s deceptively mild, but oh, what a wicked tongue she has when she wants to. Miss Marple was always very much a gentlewoman, but not always a gentle woman.
While I prefer the longer books like The Body in the Library, the nice thing about the short stories is that you can pick them up when you just have a few minutes to read and then put it down again without worrying about remembering where you were in the story next time. I’ve been working on rereading this one for a couple of months, and I never felt any rush to finish, just a bit of happiness every time I picked it up.
My favorite story is the one told by glamorous actress Jane Hillyer of a burglary. If you haven’t read Miss Marple before, I think I’d recommend starting with the first one, Murder at the Vicarage.
You’re looking forward to a quiet walk by the lake when you see a couple in boat. Suddenly one person falls into the water. Were they pushed? What do you do next?
My guests. I’m going to make this an all female party, because it’s my meme and I can, so let’s get that out of the way. My picks would be
Menu. Right, any party I attend would be better with chocolate, so let me start there. We’d have a chocolate fondue, tea or coffee for my guests and more chocolate for me. Maybe Molly Weasley would surprise us with some magical desserts and Scheherazade could bring Turkish Delight.
Activity. Maybe a few old-fashioned parlor games? I think Miss Marple or Elizabeth Bennett would be the winners there. Then we could just sit around and tell stories and eat the chocolate.
Right, so that’s my list. What about you? Who would you invite and why?
Title: Spindle Fire #1
Author: Lexa Hillyer
Themes: sisters, sacrifice, jealousy, curses, love
Plot: “Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.
And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.”
Isabelle leaves everything behind to find a cure for her sister and break the curse. Meanwhile, Aurora is trapped in a dream world, looking for a way to escape and return to her own home. But are the two sisters living their own lives, or are they doomed to repeat a legend?
Reaction: I always love stories about sisters, because I have a sister and I’ve fought many battles for her. And I love fairy tales, so this seemed like a real winner. Unfortunately I felt like something was missing.
I’ve gotten away from YA for the most part, but a good fairy tale is one thing that will suck me right back in. (That and steampunk.) Sleeping Beauty is not my favorite story, but I do like it, especially when the hero is the sister! But this one was nothing like say Two Princesses of Bamarre. There’s a LOVE TRIANGLE. 3 men, 2 women. I did like the characters. I wasn’t crazy about Aurora to start with, but she gets more interesting the longer she’s out of the palace.
I thought Isabelle’s blindness made a lot of her actions unbelievable. How does she get around so well in the forest and on a ship? It was never explained in a way that really made sense to me. And while I’m pointing out plot holes, how does Aurora learn to speak so quickly? It takes babies a long time, and she does it in a day.
I don’t know whether to recommend this one or not. I’m not going to continue the series, but I didn’t hate it. I liked the way Hillyer wove together the story of these sisters and the fae sisters. That was almost enough to make me read more. But in the end, the love story was just not working for me. 2.5 stars out of 5.