Movie Review: Wonder Woman

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Originally I didn’t have any intention to see the new Wonder Woman movie in theaters even though she was one of my favorite super heroes as a girl. The preview looked promising but DC’s movies, eh…*sad head shaking*. They’ve lured me in with awesome trailers before only to find out later that the preview had a better plot line than the actual movie. But then the Wonder Woman released and everyone exploded about it and I thought, “Well, all right then. I guess I better see what it’s all about.”

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The result? It’s the best DC movie to date. Hold your applause, people, that’s not a high bar. The truth is, it’s a good movie. It’s not MOVIE OF THE YEAR, but it’s good. It has a coherent story line (apparently DC thought they’d give that a try), a character arc for the protags, and a satisfying conclusion (even though the end was a tad CGI wonky and included some too-stupid-to-live moves by the Big Bad).

So, why is everyone going bananas over this movie?

Well, even if the story isn’t the best ever made, it 100% portrayed the Wonder Woman we’ve always loved. The one who is strong but not vengeful. The one who seeks truth and cuts through the pretenses. The one who believes in the best of us even when we’re at our worst. A warrior who kicks some ass but is also capable of a smile. A woman who can love a man but owns her own destiny.

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Gal Gadot portrayed her perfectly. Aside from her obvious knock-you-over beauty, she exuded that hope, strength, and intelligence we associate with Wonder Woman. And Lord, she was TALL. I loved that they didn’t try to downsize her at all. I mean, you could see she was one towering woman. The movie itself started out centered on the Amazons on their hidden isle. In fact we didn’t even see a man show up for quite a while. It’s a bummer that this is something noticeable because it means we aren’t accustomed to movies revolving strictly around a woman’s story.

That’s the part of the film making waves, in my opinion. It felt authentically dedicated to a woman’s journey. It didn’t devolve into anything catty with other women. It wasn’t overburdened with a love story, though there was one. The man never rescued her from danger (excellent job on that score). It also wasn’t a role reversal where she had all the control over the men and they were subordinate to her. It was as though her presence uplifted the situation to one where respect was simply a normative state.

This isn’t to say there wasn’t sexism when Diana traveled to the world of men, but it wasn’t something that seemed to touch her, or at least it appeared to fall below her notice. It was there, we the audience saw it and detested it, but it didn’t have any effect on Diana herself. The comments slid off her like Teflon. Some have said they didn’t like that the character never addressed that issue, but I disagree. Considering the culture she came from, she did not understand she was seen as a “woman” in our world. She didn’t possess that concept as we understand it. She was herself, strong, noble, and heroic, unquestioning in her worth–a wonder in every sense of the word. I only wish we had loads of examples like this to show our girls.

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Will there be more Wonder Woman movies, independent of Batman, Superman, and the Justice League? I hope so, because it would be a shame if this fell into the “Okay, we did the Wonder Woman origin story so we’re done with that. Back to the shitty male-centered ones we were busy with before.” That would be a shame, if only because of how unsurprising it’d be.

Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think?

The trailer (RAWR!!):

Free Book in Awesome Sci-Fi Series

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Hi everyone! Been out this week with some righteous strep throat which I’m finally recovering from *hugs bottle of Penicillin*. The hubby has had to do everything for the house and kids and me, besides the full-time job. We work as a team on these things so I know it had to be exhausting.

In his words: “I figured out that I can do it all on my own, I just really don’t want to.”

He also found time to do a huge batch of yummy homemade chicken noodle soup for me. He’s an amazing, incomparable guy. That internship I decided to take in Holland where we met keeps paying off. Thank you past-Anela, for your bold, nerdy self.

Anyway, I’ll be back next week with regular blogging but I wanted to do a shout out for a Free book that’s available this weekend only:

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This series was part of my Five-Star Roundup post you can check out here. Here’s my original review of book one. The blurb:

Ash was never supposed to visit Earth. After a genetic engineering catastrophe wiped out civilization, the survivors—inhabitants of a lunar mining colony—planned to rebuild on Mars. That was before a group of rebels seceded to the dark side of the moon, taking critical materials with them. Now conscripted teenagers scavenge the ruined third planet for species to use in terraforming. At fifteen, Ash is the best diver in a generation. But when tragedy strikes, he vows to end his colony’s dependence on its old homeworld at any cost.

Skye has never set foot on Earth. It’s not even visible from the moon’s far side, although the exiles’ mystic leader promises they will return home someday. Skye has discovered something that could realize this long-awaited dream, but she’s an outcast among outcasts, and no one will listen to her plan. To save her people, she might have to betray them.

Worlds collide when Ash and Skye meet, blurring the boundaries between enemies and allies, deception and truth. Their choices could preserve a future for humanity…or finally drive it to extinction.

Fans of contemporary science fiction classics like Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” will enjoy “Transient Phenomena”, the first installment of the “Syzygy” novella series.

A fast-paced and intriguing Sci-Fi series that is just cracking along the entire way. The fourth installment is coming out on June 27th so now is a great time to get caught up. If you’d like to read an excerpt, there’s one up on the author’s page right now.

Or you can just go grab a FREE copy on Amazon (Do it!)

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week!

Five Star Roundup

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In January I usually do an summary of my favorite books from the year before. This year I didn’t get around to it with my husband’s cancer diagnosis throwing life into a spin, but here it is now!

Scanning over the titles, it’s a pretty good mix of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and even some Paranormal and Steampunk. I didn’t run into any contemporary Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic that hit my five-star rating (though I do covet that fifth star for the truly special books) but 2017 is only half over so we’ll see what shakes out in the last six months.

Without further ado (yes, people still use that word) here are my favorite books from 2016 (Click the titles to read the full reviews):

~ SCIENCE-FICTION ~

The Singularity Series

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(From Book One, “The Legacy Human”)

What would you give to live forever? 

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender–a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid–after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

Anela says: Amazing, amazing series and I’m dying for the next installment! The story examines the nature of existence and the definition of self (and so much else, but for that click on the review link above). The tech and the science woven through was like dark chocolate for my Sci-Fi soul. Book one is only 99 cents!! Available on Amazon

The Syzygy Series

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Ash was never supposed to visit Earth. After a genetic engineering catastrophe wiped out civilization, the survivors—inhabitants of a lunar mining colony—planned to rebuild on Mars. That was before a group of rebels seceded to the dark side of the moon, taking critical materials with them. Now conscripted teenagers scavenge the ruined third planet for species to use in terraforming. At fifteen, Ash is the best diver in a generation. But when tragedy strikes, he vows to end his colony’s dependence on its old homeworld at any cost.

Skye has never set foot on Earth. It’s not even visible from the moon’s far side, although the exiles’ mystic leader promises they will return home someday. Skye has discovered something that could realize this long-awaited dream, but she’s an outcast among outcasts, and no one will listen to her plan. To save her people, she might have to betray them.

Worlds collide when Ash and Skye meet, blurring the boundaries between enemies and allies, deception and truth. Their choices could preserve a future for humanity…or finally drive it to extinction.

Anela says: The review link to book one is above and the reviews of the books that follow show up beneath it. Overall this has been one of my favorite Sci-Fi series, totally unique with a climate fiction and post-apocalyptic bent. I love the characters and the unexpected twists are jaw dropping. Installment one is also only 99 cents. Go get it! Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

 

~ FANTASY ~

Sorcerous Moons Series

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(From Book One: Lonen’s War)

An Unquiet Heart

Alone in her tower, Princess Oria has spent too long studying her people’s barbarian enemies, the Destrye—and neglected the search for calm that will control her magic and release her to society. Her restlessness makes meditation hopeless and her fragility renders human companionship unbearable. Oria is near giving up. Then the Destrye attack, and her people’s lives depend on her handling of their prince…

A Fight Without Hope

When the cornered Destrye decided to strike back, Lonen never thought he’d live through the battle, let alone demand justice as a conqueror. And yet he must keep up his guard against the sorceress who speaks for the city. Oria’s people are devious, her claims of ignorance absurd. The frank honesty her eyes promise could be just one more layer of deception.

A Savage Bargain

Fighting for time and trust, Oria and Lonen have one final sacrifice to choose… before an even greater threat consumes them all.

Anela says: An intricate system of magic that examines the expectations of gender–and challenges them while weaving a really beautiful love story. More books to come on this series and I can’t wait to see where the story leads. Book one is currently $2.99 on Amazon. Worth it!

The Sunbolt Chronicles

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(From Book One: Sunbolt)

The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.

Anela says: I believe this one is fully in the Noblebright categorization of the Fantasy genre (Click here for a definition of Noblebright. I like to call it: Fantasy that won’t make you want to kill yourself afterward *cough*Martin*cough*). Another fascinating system of magic I haven’t seen before that takes place in a non-Western Fantasy world with a heroine I absolutely adore. The sequel Memories of Ash also got five stars from me, as did a separate short-story, The Bone Knife (FREE everywhere!). At this point you can probably tell I love anything Intisar Khanani writes. Trust me, she’s amazing. Book one is available on Amazon for $2.99.

 

~ PARANORMAL ~

The Scribe: Irin Chronicles Book One

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Ava Matheson came to Istanbul looking for answers, but others came looking for her. A reckless warrior guards her steps, but will Malachi’s own past blind him to the truth of who Ava might be? While ancient forces gather around them, both Ava and Malachi search for answers.

Whispering voices. Deadly touch. Their passion should be impossible… or it could be the only thing that will keep them alive.

Anela says: A beautiful take on the Nephilim/angels mythos. The setting in Turkey was awesome and the scope of the ancient conflict and history of the nephilim (known as Irin in the book) pulls you in. This one really stole my heart. Currently it’s FREE on Amazon, so seriously, get a copy if you want to be swept away by a story.

 

~ STEAMPUNK ~

The Flash Gold Chronicles

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(From Book One: Flash Gold)

Eighteen-year-old Kali McAlister enters her steam-powered “dogless sled” in a race, intending to win the thousand-dollar prize and escape remote Moose Hollow forever. The problem? Fortune seekers and airship pirates are after her for the secret to flash gold, her late father’s alchemical masterpiece.

With her modified rifle and a pocketful of home-made smoke bombs, Kali wouldn’t normally hide from a confrontation, but taking on a whole airship single-handedly is a daunting task. Unfortunately, the other racers won’t assist her–they’re too busy scheming ways to sabotage her unorthodox sled.

When a sword-slinging stranger shows up, wanting to hire on as her protector, she’s sure he has ulterior motives, but he’s the only one interested in helping her. The question is…why?

Anela says: Great action and adventure, quirky characters and a smart-mouthed heroine, what else can you ask for? I had so much fun reading this series. Book one is FREE on Amazon right now so grab a copy and give it a try.

Shattered Past (Dragon Blood)

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An elite forces officer with a dreadful reputation.
A bookish paleontologist with a love for mysteries.
An ancient stronghold full of secrets that will take both of them to unearth.

Professor Lilah Zirkander (yes, she’s related to the famous pilot, and no, she can’t get him to autograph your undergarments) is looking forward to a summer in the paleontology lab, researching and cataloging new fossils. But that summer takes an unexpected turn when the king sends her into the Ice Blades to a secret mine where ancient dragon bones have been discovered. Rumor has it that they’re cursed and dangerous, but Lilah is more concerned about dealing with the outpost commander, a fierce officer with the temperament of a crabby badger.

As punishment for irking the king, Colonel Vann Therrik is overseeing the hardened criminals working in the remote Magroth Crystal Mines. He would like a chance to redeem himself—and escape the loathsome duty station—but nothing is going his way. Cursed fossils have delayed production, miners are trying to escape, and now a scientist has shown up, making demands on his time. Worse, she’s the cousin of his nemesis General Zirkander. As if one Zirkander in his world wasn’t bad enough.

Investigating the fossils leads Lilah and Vann into the depths of Magroth Mountain where centuries-old secrets lurk, and a long-forgotten threat stalks the passages. To have any chance at survival, they’ll have to work together and perhaps learn that neither is what the other expected.

Anela says: Is anyone surprised that Buroker won both five-star reviews for this genre? Granted, this book has some Fantasy elements as well but since there are airships too it feels like it falls into this category. Great characters, hilarious banter, and a cool mystery to unravel. Buroker’s imagination is always fun to spend some time in. Currently it’s $3.99 on Amazon. This one works as a standalone but if you’d like an intro into this world the first book–Balanced on the Blade’s Edge–is FREE on Amazon.

So, there you have it! All these awesome books are either free or under five bucks. The Indie world is good to its bookworms. Happy reading!

The SnowFang Bride (SnowFang Book #1)

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Title & Author: The SnowFang Bride (SnowFang Book #1), Merry Ravenell

Genre & Publication Date: Paranormal, Oct. 11, 2016

Book Description: “Centuries of political games killed most of the female werewolves. Now only a few survive, and the Elders work to change the old ways of thinking.

Winter, the only daughter of the SilverPaw Alpha, finally meets the soul Gaia has chosen for her: Sterling, the cold, demanding, and entirely-too-human Alpha of the tiny SnowFang pack.

Thrust into a world of human wealth for which she was never prepared, Winter must become Sterling’s flawless wife and Luna from the moment she arrives. The city is full of threats, both werewolf and human, and Sterling’s past is full of secrets best left undisturbed.

When they are betrayed by those closest to them, Winter and Sterling embark on a dangerous game of brinkmanship that will change their lives, and the future of the werewolves, forever.”

First Line: The werewolves lacked females.

My Take: It occurs to me that the book’s first line is going to give folks the wrong impression of this novel. It’s not one of those “alpha male werewolf kidnaps human female to force her into marriage and then they end up falling in love” things (I can’t stand those, by the way. Taking someone against their will does not lead to warm, fuzzy feelings. Full stop.). Rather, this first line is a reference to a population concern going on in the werewolf world of this story.

This book has to be the most intricate and detailed depiction of werewolf culture I’ve ever read. History, customs, political intrigue, rules of the pack, how they greet each other when they want to show respect (or not), the cultural differences between rural and city wolves–Everything seemed so friggin’ REAL you could swear this secret world truly existed alongside our own.

An example from a situation with a prominent pack:

“Do we have to bring a gift? Might be better if we don’t.”

“We don’t have to. But it would be in our favor if we did.” I had seen many gifts given to my father and the SilverPaw over the years. There was a very delicate etiquette surrounding gift giving. It could not be trivial, and offer insult. It could not be too grandiose and be seen as a bribe or ostentatious or above the perceived station of the giving pack. It ideally would be something that represented the strength or character of the gifting pack, and something that the recipient’s entire pack could enjoy and benefit from.

The main character, Winter, is from a more powerful rural pack and is very familiar with all the rules and customs of the werewolf world. When she finds her fated mate in Sterling of the SnowFang pack he relies on her to help him understand how to navigate the customs due to his more human upbringing. He knows a lot about the human world, something Winter knows less of, so they’re matched in that way. I love a romance based on equals, y’all:)

TONS of intrigue, starting with the search for Winter’s mate, finding Sterling and her father’s weird behavior afterward, the Wanderers (lone wolves forming miscreant packs and causing harm) in the city streets of her new home, and much more. There’s not a ton of shape-shifting, FYI, and I didn’t mind this at all. It’s a more cerebral werewolf tale told through the smart voice of a very likable heroine.

The Magical: I really believed in Winter and Sterling’s relationship. They might be soul fated but they still didn’t know each other when they were thrown together. That partnership grew over the course of the book which made it feel as real as the werewolf culture the author created.

The Mundane: There are a lot of mysteries going on throughout the book but the ending didn’t answer any of them. I mean, ANY of them. That left me feeling a little adrift, especially when more mysterious things happened. It seemed at least some things could have been answered without spoiling what’s coming in the sequel. It didn’t cliffhanger but the pay off felt a little deflated as a result. Still a great ride, though.

Summary of Thoughts: Currently, this book is $2.99 for the Kindle. Not your typical werewolf story which was awesome because werewolf stories tend to be all about the bulging biceps of an Alpha male and the resistant (called stubborn) way of his mate who *wink*wink* is secretly dying for him to take her. Ugh. Here is something much more interesting: a fully fleshed out culture (not just a smattering of habits), and two people trying to lead a tiny pack in their complex world. Intrigue abounds and I loved it. Recommended and dying for the sequel!

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Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know more about the author and her work? Explore her website here

Writing Beneath a Glass Ceiling

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Today I’m visiting author Intisar Khanani’s blog and talking about women who write Science-Fiction and the gender challenges they face in this genre.

Stop on by and check it out:

Writing Beneath a Glass Ceiling

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In other news, heads up on a FREE Sci-Fi anthology available on Amazon right now with stories by multiple writers, including Lindsay Buroker. Don’t know how long it’ll be free so grab your copy ASAP!

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FREE Sci-Fi!

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Hi everyone!

I’m really excited to announce a new publication available for FREE right now:

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Indra knows adjusting to life in a new town can take time but after a month she still hasn’t settled in. The gaps in her memory and her husband’s tendency to run mysterious errands at night don’t help matters. When she believes he is being unfaithful she follows him, never expecting to find an unimaginable confrontation and a stranger who knows her better than she knows herself.

While I was working on other projects this Sci-Fi short story barged in and demanded to be written down. Being an obedient penmonkey, I complied. As is my usual, there’s a lot of action, unexpected twists, and a wily heroine with a dry sense of humor. It was a lot of fun to write and I hope you’ll enjoy it:)

Grab your FREE copy on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

Have a great weekend and happy reading!

Roll Credits

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Recently I came to the ending of a couple of books that I’d been SO looking forward to. One was the final book in a trilogy and the other was a standalone sequel. There I was, boppin’ along happily, enjoying the story and the writing (well, more for that standalone sequel than the trilogy finale, but that’s unrelated). There’s a big confrontation in both. The heroes are backed into a corner. DEATH is on the line! I’m thinking, “Woah, how are they going to get out of it all?? This is going to be great!!” while at the same time a frightened part of me is praying the authors won’t go for some cliche deus ex machina cop-out to haul the protags assess out of the fire.

I get to the plot’s crescendo AND…

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Yeah, both went with the saw-it-coming-a-mile-away, take-the-easy-road, one-fell-swoop solution to ALL the problems ending.

*sobs*

I shambled around the house afterward feeling gloomy. My husband asked if something happened at work or if I argued with my mother, to which I replied, “No, it’s worse. I have book blues.” His face got really still like he was trying very hard not to roll his eyes or make that wry smirk of his that says, “Reeeeally?” I guess since he’s a social worker this sort of mood crasher seems a tad exaggerated given the things he sees everyday. Hm, he has a point, but STILL!

Has this ever happened to anyone else? When the end of a book you’ve been dying to read just completely disappoints? I’ll admit I’m a bit of an odd duck–I know, you’re shocked, right?–when it comes to endings. I can absolutely accept an unhappy ending as long as it makes sense and isn’t just trying to be avant guarde about it (Don’t get me going on The Departed’s stupid ending).

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I can also be good with happy endings, as long as there isn’t too much shiny-shiny-the world is at peace-everybody lives-no one had to sacrifice squat. AND, most importantly, as long as the ending included characters fighting their own way out of trouble and not simply delivered from it by some other “all powerful” force rushing in from the sidelines to resolve the problem and defeat the “Big Bad”.

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These two books I mentioned were traditionally published which really leaves me scratching my head as to how these lazy-written endings (because when you get down to brass tacks, that’s what they were) got through the author’s team of editors, critiquers, and beta readers. Granted, these are very big authors so maybe the publishing house didn’t bother with much polish time because they knew they were going to make a ton of money no matter what. That irks me, particularly since they now own my money too and didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain.

When I finished the review draft of my first novel, I sent it out to trusted beta readers before I contracted an editor. Being a novice author, I admit there was some deus ex machina toward the end. Yeah, my betas all jabbed fingers at it and said, “Nuh-uh. Make the characters we’ve been rooting for take the spotlight.” I took their advice and rewrote the entire ending (yes, the whole thing, several chapters worth) and I’m so grateful for their feedback because it was 100% better. In fact, my editor only had minor notes for it.

The point is, I realize it’s easy to fall into the cheap fix to a story’s problem, but that should never make it out of the draft stage. The authors of the books I referenced are not novices but big names. Maybe it’s naive to hope that despite their fame they will still strive for their best rather than “good enough to sell”. Yes, it’s a business but at the heart of it, it’s art. To me, art deserves our best every time.

Has anyone else had the “book blues”? Ever get to the end of a read you were excited about only to see it unravel?

The King’s Man (Welsh Blades Book 1)

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Title & Author: The King’s Man (Welsh Blades Book One), Elizabeth Kingston

Genre & Publication Date: Historical Romance, June 20, 2015

Book Description: “Ranulf Ombrier’s fame throughout 13th century England for his skill at swordplay is rivaled only by his notoriety as King Edward I’s favorite killer. Ranulf’s actions have gained him lands, title, and a lasting reputation as a hired butcher. But after years of doing his king’s bidding, he begins to fear for his mortal soul and follows his conscience away from Edward, all the way to the wilds of Wales.

Gwenllian of Ruardean, Welsh daughter of a powerful Marcher lord, has every reason to leave Ranulf for dead when one of her men nearly kills him. As a girl she was married by proxy to a man Ranulf murdered, only to become a widow before she ever met her groom. In the years since, she has shunned the life of a lady, instead studying warfare and combat at her mother’s behest. But she has also studied healing and this, with her sense of duty to knightly virtues, leads her to tend to Ranulf’s wounds.

Saving her enemy’s life comes with consequences, and Gwenllian and Ranulf are soon caught up in dangerous intrigue. Forced together by political machinations, they discover a kinship of spirit and a surprising, intense desire. But even hard-won love cannot thrive when loyalties are divided and the winds of rebellion sweep the land.”

First Line: Wales 1280: When he first woke, he thought he must be roasting in the fires of Hell.

My Take: Every once in a while I pick up a book in historical fiction rather than speculative. I’ve only ever done one review of this genre on the blog. It’s a little odd since I’m a big Masterpiece Theater fan and just loved Downton Abbey (For anyone in withdrawal since the show ended, there’s another awesome series called Larkrise To Candleford that was made some time back. Equally amazing). My point is, it takes an especially good book to push me off my usual reading habit of imaginary worlds and space exploration. The King’s Man is one of those.

Initially I just grabbed the sample chapter, intrigued by the blurb. Pretty much after the first paragraph I knew my life was about to come to a standstill:

When he first woke, he thought he must be roasting in the fires of Hell. Later he would know if was a raging fever that burned him, and she would tell him it was delirium that caused insensate visions. These were practical and unromantic explanations that were true enough. But earthly truths would never be as real as hellfire, and angels, and the moment he put the tattered remains of his soul into her hands.

I mean, yeah. I didn’t stand a chance. The writing throughout the whole thing is just exquisite. I kept running into whole sections where I’d be like, “Oh wow. Hang on, I’ve got to reread that a few more times just for the love of words.” Yet, it never became heavy handed, the writing deliberately holding off on those more epic phrases until just the right moment. Then, while you’re curled around your Kindle, when you’re utterly rapt with the scene at hand, it releases that poetic style. Let me tell you, it hangs on to your thoughts well after you’re done reading it, like sillage from an open perfume bottle.

The plot itself is also solid. This is set during the reign of the ruthless King Edward I, otherwise known as Longshanks (some of you might remember his portrayal best from Braveheart). On the one side you have Ranulf, the King’s assassin, on the other you have Gwenllian, a Welsh noblewoman of a people long at odds with the King Edward’s rule. With murmurs of rebellion in the air, it sets a series of events in motion that neither one of them ever anticipated. Awesome historical and monarchical intrigue set against a very personal story of two people who find they are both enemies and allies at the same time.

The Magical: Loved Gwenllian! Such a great character with confidence and leadership ability, strong and steadfast, but also grappling with self-doubt and a wish for belonging. I also really loved Ranulf though. He’s as strong as Gwenllian, a strategic mind and cunning, but dealing with terrible self-loathing—adrift, never feeling at home in his home. Their trust grew slowly and in such a beautiful and believable way.

The Mundane: …I can’t think of anything, people! *sits down and checks pulse*

Summary of Thoughts: An amazing tale set in medieval Wales with three-dimensional characters, including the supporting cast. I enjoyed this one so much! Gwenllian and Ranulf felt like real people. They loved but they also argued, they made mistakes, they said stupid things and regretted them–just like a non-fictional relationship! I think that’s what I liked most. Currently it’s $4.99 for the Kindle on Amazon. I definitely recommend it (in case the gushing didn’t tip you off). Cool historical stuff, sword fights, a haunted past, and two people trying to learn what it means to love someone.

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Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know more about this author’s work? Explore her website here

Sci-Fi Movie Review: Coherence

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With “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” out in theaters right now earning wheelbarrows full of cash for its producers this movie review about a low-budget Sci-Fi film that 99 out of 100 people have likely never heard of might strike you as odd…BUT IT WAS AMAZING! Thus, I feel duty bound to spread the word.

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Here’s the summary:

On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events. Part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama, COHERENCE is a tightly focused, intimately shot film whose tension intensely ratchets up as its numerous complex mysteries unfold.

I’m not sure how I feel about putting the words “tension intensely” next to each other, but intense is definitely an apt description for this film. You’ll recognize its small cast of actors but might not be sure from where. The guy who played “Xander” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and another woman who was a frequent side character on the TV series “Highlander” are the only ones I really knew. It doesn’t matter though. All of them did a fantastic job.

As the summary said, the movie starts out with a dinner party at a friend’s house. There’s some relationship drama going on as someone thought it would be a great idea to invite over the ex-girlfriend of the main character’s boyfriend. Naturally the ex sashays in fashionably late wearing a slinky red dress. So they get you on the protagonist’s side pretty quickly because, ugh, you just want to smack her and the dopey eyes she makes at the other girl’s boyfriend. Reminds me of this little hussy named Jasmine who had a thing for my husband (then boyfriend) and sat on his lap while I was right there in the room. We were even holding hands at the time. Since this was in Holland I pondered introducing her to the way Americans handle a situation like that. My guy took care of it though, setting her promptly off of him and telling her to get lost. Ah, satisfaction–Um, but let’s get back to the movie review:

The night of the dinner party coincides with a comet passing the Earth. It’s affecting phone signals and internet. Then the lights go out in the entire neighborhood…except for one house two blocks down. They decide to head over there and find out what’s going on/maybe use their phone, but what they find only leads to more questions and an out-of-this-world scenario of mind-bending Sci-Fi awesomeness that keeps your jaw dropping all the way through to the end. Incredibly memorable and amazingly done. Just goes to show that you don’t need millions and millions of dollars to make something spectacular.

Here’s the preview. It doesn’t do the film justice and makes it seem like a big Maury-Povich-style shouting match and semi-horror but that’s not how it was. I think they had to go for that feeling to drive interest because they can’t tell you too much without giving things away. Trust me, this one had a lot of thought put into it. I still plan to see the big Sci-Fi blockbuster but I’m so happy I found this gem.

 

Fallen Empire Series

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Title & Author: Fallen Empire series books 2-8: Honor’s Flight, Starseers, Relic of Sorrows, Cleon Moon, Arkadian Skies, Perilous Hunt, End Game, Lindsay Buroker

Genre & Publication Date: Science-Fiction, May – November 2016

Book Description: (From Book Two: Honor’s Flight) “After spending four years fighting for the Alliance, fighter pilot Alisa Marchenko only wants one thing: to reunite with her young daughter. But this involves a journey to her former home world, which has become the last imperial stronghold. Since the imperials have a lot of reasons to loathe members of the Alliance right now, just getting down to the planet will be a challenge, and it doesn’t help that her passengers are stirring up trouble of their own…

Even if Alisa is able to land, she may find that more questions await her than answers, and that her late husband kept a startling secret from her, one that could change her life forever.”

First Line: (From Honor’s Flight) Alisa Marchenko, Captain of the Star Nomad, the only Nebula Rambler 880 in the galaxy that hadn’t been scrapped decades earlier, fiddled with the flight stick as the planet Perun grew larger on the view screen.

My Take: These books were provided to me by the author for review.

A while back I reviewed the first book of this series, Star Nomad, which became part of an 8 book series with a spin-off novella on the side and another spin-off series called “Sky Full of Stars”. First, let us pause for a moment and recognize the word count powerhouse that is Lindsay Buroker. Between May and November of 2016 she published eight FULL novels. *blinks* Now that is just impressive. I assume she has to replace her keyboard often because of scorch marks. Wow.

Now, if you’ve read my review of the first book, you’ll know I was kind of lukewarm about it. I love Buroker’s writing style, her humor, her quirky characters, and in this case, her “universe building” but book one just didn’t grab my Sci-Fi heart as much as I’d hoped. Still, I thought I’d give it more time to do so and I continued the series. My attention definitely held throughout each book and I was interested to know how things would end but…I have to admit that I remained rather meh feeling about the main thrust of the story. Okay, okay, this sounds really contradictory–to feel ‘so-so’ about a series while at the same time reading the whole thing. I agree, it is. How to put this into words…Let’s try this: As I tapped the final page on the last book I didn’t lean back in post-book languor thinking, “That.Was.Awesome.” It didn’t hang around in my thoughts. I didn’t flip through previous books to reread favorite passages just to experience it again. I didn’t bemoan the fact that it was over.

Lukewarm.

The author says this is like her tremendously popular “The Emperor’s Edge” series but set in space (by the way, if you haven’t, GO READ THAT SERIES. Book One is FREE). I could see hints at the ways she tried to replicate that feeling but it felt like a lesser version of it. The main character, Alisa, is trying to reunite with her daughter after waking up in a medical ward to find out the war was over and her home, systems away from where her craft went down, had been destroyed. Her daughter survived. Her husband didn’t. One would think she’d let nothing come between her and getting to her daughter. Yet, it felt like this was just the setup for the adventures rather than the incredible emotional upheaval it would actually be. She was continually distracted from her mission to find her daughter by other things going on. Sort of, “Well, okay, I’ll take care of this issue with these people and then be back on my way.” She didn’t have the soul searing neeeeed that a mother ought to have to get to her child. I think this is where it went awry for me. How could she let her focus slide to anything else? Impossible. It affected my enjoyment of things because I constantly thought, “How is xyz more important to you right now???”

The Magical: This is a complex universe and the series visits plenty of different systems and planets. The history is really well thought out and the characters all have unique voices.

The Mundane: I really, really admire the author for her dedication to the craft and her utterly amazing ability to get an entire series out within seven months. However, I also think there was some plot stretching going on and I’m not entirely convinced it actually needed to be eight books.

Summary of Thoughts: Now, there are hoards of people who disagree with my opinion on this so please check out the Amazon link below to see reviews for more input–Honestly, people loved this so much I’m a little afraid they’ll be picketing my house if they read this review. It’s possible I’m the odd duck (and not for the first time in my life). So I’m giving this series a three star rating with the added note that Sci-Fi fans should give it a try for themselves. In fact, book one is only $0.99 (also on Kindle Unlimited) so why not, right?

Interestingly, I began the spin off series “A Sky Full of Stars” and am really liking that one. A coming-of-age in space? Yes, please! But that’s for another review;)

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Many thanks to author Lindsay Buroker for providing copies of the books to review!

Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know more about the author and her work? Explore her website here