Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of the Year Book Survey 2017

Greetings Pups,

I wasn't really planning on posting anything today, but I found this really fun book survey and I thought I could post my answers to all these questions. I certainly read a lot of books this year, 115 to be exact. I even did a couple of videos about that, which I will link below, if you want to check them out. I'll also link my GoodReads page, if you wanna follow me, and this very survey, if you'd like to do it yourself. That was a lot of "if"s. Anyway, what with reading that many books, I have a lot of opinions about them. And as always, these are just my opinions. You can love or hate whatever books you want. So, anyway, let's get this thing started. Settle in. It's gonna be a long one.

1. Best Book You Read in 2017? - Well I reread my favorite book, The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers, this year, so technically, I guess that would be considered the best. But that one aside, I would say House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. It was just so different and fascinating and engaging. It was an experience and one that I'm very glad I had.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? - I'm not sure if I thought I was going to love it, necessarily, but I did expect more from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It wasn't bad, but I just feel like it might be over-hyped. Just my opinion. Calm down.

3. Most Surprising (in a good way or bad way) Book You Read? - I was pleasantly surprised by The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. By the synopsis, I was expecting something very . . . "fanficcy", and to be fair, it kind of was. At least, in the general idea of it. But the writing was so stellar, that it went above and beyond that, and I got a very entertaining reading experience out of it.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)? - None that I know. Honestly, I don't know a lot of people who read very much. I reviewed some books on this blog, wherein I would recommend a few of them, so there is a possibility that someone read a book due to that.

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017? - I started quite a few series this year, so I had a lot to sift through. I started the Fox and O'Hare series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg and read quite a few of the books therein. I actually reviewed the first one, The Heist, recently, and that was the series I was most entertained by. For a sequel, I loved Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle, which was #5 in the Coffeehouse Mystery series. And the only ender I read, as far as I know, was The End of Oz by Danielle Paige, so that one wins. It was very good, though, so it probably would have won anyway. Still, I don't know if it even is the last book in the series. I had heard that, but I wouldn't be against more.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017? - I would probably have to say Michael Robertson who writes the Baker Street Letters series, which I read all five of this year. I don't know what it is, but I really get drawn into the world he creates and I love the characters, as flawed as they are. I'm hoping to read more from him.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? - I don't read a lot of YA, but this year I did read of few. And I think the best was Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Is that YA? I don't know.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? - I'm gonna go with In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. I know a lot of people had mixed feelings about and felt the end was predictable. To be fair, it was a little, but as far as the journey of the story goes, I was quite enthralled.

9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? - Have you seen my TBR pile? There will be no rereads! But if I must choose something, what the heck, I guess I'll just reread my favorite again.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017? - I audiobooked my way through High Rise by J.G Ballard and according to GoodReads, said audiobook has Tom Hiddleston on the cover. So, yeah, that one.

11. Most memorable character of 2017? - Well, I read some H.P. Lovecraft this year, so who else but Cthulhu!

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017? - I thought The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was written very beautifully, especially considering the subject matter. But maybe that's exactly why it came out that way.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017? - I reread The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and the first time I read this book it made me think and changed my life. It kinda did the same thing on repeat. And, of course, I was reminded of how it inspired one of my favorite songwriters of all time, Rich Mullins.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? - The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. And I love Batman, so what in the heck took me so long?

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017? - I don't really pay attention to specific quotes from books, but thanks to GoodReads I managed to find some from a book I mentioned just a couple of questions ago. It's from The Ragamuffin Gospel and the quote is “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.” I find this one rather topical.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017? - Again, according to GoodReads, the shortest book was Pros and Cons at only 28 pages, but it was a short story prequel to the aforementioned Fox and O'Hare series. Still, it was counted as an actual book, so there you go. The longest was Les Miserables at 1,463 pages. And it felt 1,463 pages long.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most? - I guess Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn would have shocked me if I hadn't seen the movie.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!) - OTP is One True Pairing, in case you don't know. And how can I not say Chip and Joanna Gaines from The Magnolia Story! Yes, I know it's a non-fiction, but no one said it couldn't be.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year - I do love the Heath brothers, Reggie and Nigel, from The Baker Street Letters series. They're very different from one another and their relationship can be rocky at times, but when you put them together, it really works for me.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously - Sister Mine by Tawni O'Dell. I've read a few of her books before and she is one of my favorite authors. I actually got to meet her at a book festival a couple of years ago. She was very nice and she even bought one of my books.

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure - Everyone told me to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, or anything by Donna Tartt, so I did. And she is a darn good writer.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017? - I have to bring up the Fox and O'Hare series again, because . . . Nick Fox. Dang! Yes, I know he's a criminal, but we like our bad boys. For some reason. And he makes me laugh, which counts for a lot, especially these days.

23. Best 2017 debut you read? - If this means a book that was published in 2017, I only read two of those and I already mentioned one of them, so I'll say the other one which was Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Hmmm . . . I read a lot of Loki related things this year. Why?

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? - I suppose I'll say Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. He did have to create pictures with words and words with pictures, all at the same time. And he did a fantastic job.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? - I read a book by Jim Gaffigan called Dad is Fat. Which book do YOU think was the most fun for me to read?

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017? - Broken Harbour by Tana French. I LOVE Tana French. She writes about the Dublin Murder Squad, so obviously, there was a murder in this book. No spoilers, but when you find out what actually happened, it is heartbreaking. I didn't full on cry, because I'm not really a book crier, but she almost got me there.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year? - I haven't heard a ton of people talking about The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, but I found it just delightful. I liked the characters and the journey that they went on. I love books and bookshops, and I once loved Paris, so there a feeling of nostalgia for me. I had a good time with this one and I hope more people read it.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? - I found it very difficult to read the book Reed's Beach by Bret Lott. Don't get me wrong. It was a great book, and I love Bret Lott as a writer. But due to the subject matter, it was tough one to get through.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017? - There's no way I can't not say House of Leaves again. Seriously? Have you seen the thing? Yeah, unique is an understatement. Actually, there's a great YouTuber named Austin McConnell. He did a really good video giving a bit of a quick look at it if you're interested. I'll link it below along with the House of Leaves episode of a bookish podcast called Overdue. They gave some decent insight on the book as well.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)? - Gotta say The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers. Mostly because there were a couple of characters that were very slap-worthy in there. I know violence is bad, but they're fake, so it's okay.

Okay, then there were a few questions about book blogging, and I'm going to skip that part. Technically, I'm not a book blogger. I'm a whatever the heck I feel like blogging about blogger, and not a very popular one at that. So, I passed on those. No offense,

And then, there was a Looking Ahead section, wherein there are questions about what is going to be read in 2018. Off we go.

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018? - I have so many books in my TBR pile that I'm excited about. I do really wanna get to the next Tana French book, The Secret Place, but I also have a Betty White biography in the mix, so I guess we'll see who wins. You just never know what kind of reading mood you'll be in.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)? - Well, I have TWO books coming out in 2018, another poetry collection called After the Ashes Cool and a novel called Beyond Starlight, so I'm be a shameless self-promoter and say those!

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? - Sadly, I don't really know about any debut authors who will be releasing their books in 2018, but God bless them, I wish them much success and if I see one of their books, I'll have to check them out. Literally, because I go to the library a lot.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018? - I don't know if there is going to be another book in "many times mentioned in this post" The Baker Street Letters series released in 2018, but if there is, I am SO there. And I'm sure that Janet Evanovich will have something new in one of her series coming out. She usually does.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018? - I hope to review a lot more books on this blog. I've done quite a few this year, but I really want people to be excited about reading. And if I can help them by recommending good books, it is certainly my pleasure.

6. A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable) - I have no idea. I don't get ARCs. I am not that special . . . yet.

So, that was fun, and I had a lot of fun reading this year. I hope to finish a lot of books in 2018, maybe even more than I did this year, but we'll see. Either way, as long as I keep seeking out good books and good writers, first and foremost, I'll be helping to keep what is important about literature alive and well.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer


Friday, December 29, 2017

Top Ten Worst Hit Songs of 2017

Greetings Pups,

And now for the "fun" list. Well, not fun for me, because I had to suffer through listening to all of these songs. But Worst lists tend to get more views, which makes me think that people enjoy them. And I guess if I put ads on this site, yeah, it would be fun for me, too. Also, if you like any of these songs, fine. I'm not saying you can't. You do you. I'm just saying that I personally don't like them. Anyway, let's get this over with.

#10. "Thunder" Imagine Dragons - Hey, guys, you made the best AND worst list this year. Congratulations? This song . . . this song is weird. And not in a good way. The real reason why I put this on the bad list is because I can hear something in it that makes me think it could have been good. But overproduction and just not so great decision making turned it into whatever the heck it is. I just hate wasted potential.

#9. "Praying" Kesha - Oh, look. She dropped the dollar sign from her name, because marketing ploy. And she's doing this "personal" power pop ballad, because marketing ploy. And you're not allowed to say that her music is crap anymore, even retroactively, because . . . reasons. I know a lot of critics are praising this, but it just feels contrived to me. Maybe it's not. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. I hope she's being sincere, but I'm feeling the opposite and that makes me feel nothing . . . but bored.

#8. "Bad Things" Machine Gun Kelly and Camilla Cabello - I have heard some bizarre instances of sampling in my day, but this might be the weirdest. Plus, I really don't know who these people are. I mean, I saw the guy on an episode of Ridiculousness and I think the girl is formerly one fifth of Fifth Harmony. Either way, not impressed

#7. "Attention" Charlie Puth/ "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back" Shawn Mendes - I'm tying these songs because, frankly, I am about 97% convinced that the guys who made them are the same person. But I'm 100% convinced that both songs are awful.

#6. "Body Like a Back Road" Sam Hunt - I've heard people intentionally give backhanded compliments, but, clearly, this guy is doing it without knowing. I think he legit believes that this is a nice thing to say. It's not. It's weird. But congrats on pushing a metaphor so far that it slingshots back and smacks you right in the face.

#5. "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" ZAYN and Taylor Swift - Yeah, apparently this hack has an all caps name. Give me a massive break. Oh, and this song is a great example as to why, if I see anyone seeking out advice through example on how to do a falsetto, I point them in the direction of either Frankie Valli or every album that the Bee Gees made after 1975. A man doing falsetto is supposed to be impressive, not headache inducing. And don't even get me started on her. Mostly because we'll be discussing her later. Stick around.

#4. "Sorry, Not Sorry" Demi Lovato - Sorry, not sorry, but didn't you already record this song years ago and called it "I Really Don't Care"? And isn't the video you made for this song the same as the one for "Cool For the Summer"? If you're gonna be repetitive with something, at least, choose something good.

#3. "Side to Side" Ariana Grande - Ya know, I try not to let how people are IRL affect how I judge their "art", but it's so difficult with this woman. Don't get me wrong. I can't stand this song, but I also can't listen to her music without thinking of some of the . . . I'll be kind and say foolish things she has said and done. Funny how things change. I put her at the top of my Best Of list a mere four years ago. Crap! We've been dealing with her for that long. Yeesh. Look, Ariana, I know you look perpetually 15, but it is time to grow up.

#2. "Chained To The Rhythm" Katy Perry - Hey, remember that thing I said two seconds ago about not judging someone's work based on who they are? Well, yeah, I try and fail to do that with this person, too. That's why I hate the media these days. People used to just make their music and you might inadvertantly find out something about their personal lives, but now that is ALL we know anymore. That's how I know that the message of this song compared to how Katy Perry behaves makes her look like a total hypocrite.

#1. "Look What You Made Me Do" Taylor Swift - Believe it or not, there was a time when I would come to the defense of young Miss Swift. Anytime people criticized her for writing about her boyfriends, I would say, "Hey, she's young, she's dating, and she's writing about that. That's what writers do. They write about their lives. No problem putting that life drama to music". And, at the time, I think I was right. HOWEVER, whilst there is no shame in writing about your drama, I do have a big problem with people seeking out said drama so they'll have something to write about. Or getting into a "relationship" so contrived a two year old could see that. Something about her current process strikes me as a bit inauthentic. Look, I used to think Taylor Swift was an artist. Now I think she's a product. And her biggest marketing tool to sell herself is her own fabricated victimhood. Still, I have hope that she will return to some place of sincerity someday.

And there are the songs I consider the worst of the year. As I said, I was not too impressed with anything this year. I certainly wish that 2018 will be better, but my hopes aren't remarkably high. But, miracles happen.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2017

Greetings Pups,

Here we are again. Talking about music that I don't listen to until the end of the year when I make these lists. I actually contemplated not doing this at all for 2017, for a few reasons. First of all, as I've mentioned, I am currently not too keen to associate myself with anything having to do with the entertainment industry, and that would include the music part of it. Second, and to be honest, I haven't listened to the radio at all this year. So, I really didn't know many of these songs at all. What I have heard, though, I have not been overwhelmingly impressed by. Of course, a few things were passable, and this is a tradition, thus, I powered and did it.

Same rules as always. Every song I mention has to have appeared on Billboard's Year End Hot 100 chart and it can't have appeared on any of my previous lists. And since I found music so "meh" this year, this best list mostly consists of things that didn't bore me or anger me or make me sad because I know we can do so much as a society. So, don't expect me to be too enthused about much of it. Off we go.

#10. "Believer" Imagine Dragons - I don't really know why I like this song. It rather defies logic. But I always stop and listen. Plus, Dolph Lundgren is in the video, so . . . yeah, if for no other reason than that, they get a spot on the list.

#9. "I Feel It Coming" The Weeknd Featuring Daft Punk - So, I put one of his songs on my list last year, and yet I still don't really consider myself a fan of The Weeknd, but every now and then I hear one of his songs and I like it. This one, for example, I kind of enjoy because it's got a very nostalgic sound to it. Sounds a bit 80's but I think that's his thing.

#8. "Despacito" Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber - I don't know a lot of different languages, but sometimes I like to listen to songs in those languages that I can't speak. Some of them just sound beautiful to me. That doesn't change when you put a dance beat behind it. Or even if you put Bieber in there.

#7."Love On the Brain" Rihanna - I've got issues with Rihanna. I think we all do. But she's not untalented and sometimes she gets it right. I like she sounds on this song and I like the sound of this song in general. Very old school with the melody and done correctly. So, good on you for this one, Rihanna.

#6. "Stay" Zedd & Alessia Cara - There's something kind of interesting about the chorus of this song. I can't put mu finger on it, but it's there and it's not terrible. And that's enough to put it on the list. Also, I really like Alessia Cara's voice.

#5. "Sign of the Times" Harry Styles - Let me make this abundantly clear. I absolutely loathed One Direction. Still, I can't act like this song isn't pretty good. I do like the melody, and to be fair to Harry, this is much better than anything that's been getting released by his former . . . possibly current . . . inevitably future group members. So, there you go.

#4. "24 Karat Magic" Bruno Mars - Again, wouldn't really consider myself a huge fan of Bruno Mars. He's done some songs that I really, REALLY hate, after all. However, most of the time, his stuff is just fun to listen to. This is no exception.

#3. "Scars to Your Beautiful" Alessia Cara - Oh. Hi, again, Alessia. Ya know, I don't how much I'm a fan of these self-empowerment songs. They run the risk of sounding incredibly contrived. (See tomorrow's list for specifics). But there is something about this young singer that gives her work a good amount of sincerity and I think she feels genuinely about the message she wants to share. We could use some of that.

#2. "Castle On the Hill" Ed Sheeran - Okay, Mr. Sheeran is seriously hit or miss for me and he has been for quite a while. I know everyone, including me, enjoyed what he did on that X album with the more pop, dance-y type, but sometimes I just like the more acoustic, guy with his guitar stuff. And this one is decent.

#1. "Water Under the Bridge" Adele - Well, this is just unprecedented. For the third year in a row, Miss Adele is Number One. I can't say that I'm not surprised. She's about one of the only artists that I think are worth listening to these days. There's always something very genuine about the songs she writes. I like that.

And those are what I consider the best hit songs of the year. Tune in tomorrow for the Worst.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Straight From The Theater Review - The Greatest Showman

Greetings Pups,

Well, I wasn't planning on going to the movies at all this year. As I've mentioned, I'm a bit disillusioned with Hollywood at the moment. I mean, I haven't been to the movies in well over a year. But I was invited to go on Christmas Day, so I figured what the heck? So, I spent the holiday watching The Greatest Showman. Because the person who invited me picked it.

To be honest, I didn't know much about this movie at all. I knew it was coming out, that it was about P.T. Barnum, that Hugh Jackman was involved and I suspected it was going to be a musical of some kind. Spoilers! It is. Now the last time I went to see a Hugh Jackman musical on Christmas it was was Les Miserables, and . . . yeah, no. So was this experience any better? Let's find out.

I'll start with the good things. Hugh Jackman. Yes, Hugh Jackman was great in this, but he usually is. I've always thought he was the epitome of an entertainer, so, obviously, this part was perfect for him. He has such a commanding presence and he steals every scene he's in. He also just seems like a nice guy, which is saying a lot considering how other celebrities carry themselves. And most importantly, he hasn't been accused of any untoward behavior. Let's keep it that way.

There are also a few familiar face in the supporting cast. Michelle Williams is there and she's . . . she is there, alright. Look, I've made it no secret that I am not a fan of Michelle Williams. I think she is very overrated as an actress, but as a singer? Well, as a singer, she should stick to acting, even in my opinion. Okay, she wasn't horrible, but she's not a singer. Then, we have Zac Efron, who was really good and worked incredibly with Hugh Jackman. It's nice to see him break free from that teen idol status he had years ago and become a skilled actor. And it's nice to see him singing and dancing again. Unless I missed something, I think this is the first he has done of that since "high school". In fact, if he stays on this trajectory, I could see him someday being as respected as Hugh Jackman in the triple threat department, and never seen again as just some kid who did a Disney Channel thing a few times.

And whilst we are on the subject of kids who do Disney Channel things, Zendaya is in this as well. Admittedly, I know very little about her. Obviously, I know about her Disney Channel career and I think she was on Dancing With the Stars. That's about it. She was okay in this. She's an okay actress and an okay singer, but as she gets older and gains more experience, I think she may get a lot better. She did shine with her dancing abilities, and some of the choreography was super intricate, so hats off for that. And speaking of young actors, who are always a gamble, the kids in this did a great job. Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely, who played Barnum's daughters really managed to hold their own against a lot of seasoned professionals. I wouldn't mind seeing either of them in some more movies.

Aside from people we recognize, this film had a lot of secondary characters who were members of the show. They all did great, no matter how big or small their parts were, but there were two that really stood out. First was Sam Humphrey as Charles Stratton, a dwarf who was one of the first to join Barnum's show and the first to be convinced that his "flaws" could be something that would make him endearing to people and very special. Second was Keala Settle as Lettie Lutz, the bearded lady. And dang, this woman has a crazy amazing voice. She was mesmerizing every time she sang, and I hope she gets a lot more work out of this. Overall, every one of these actors portrayed these people who were always considered outcasts with a lot of heart and they made you want to embrace them.

Now let's discuss the music, because it's a musical. When I heard the opening notes of the first song, it sounded a bit like a Fall Out Boy song, so I thought maybe this was gonna be like Moulin Rouge. But no, these were all originals written by the team of Pasek and Paul, whose work I am not super familiar with, but they did write a few good songs from the second season of Smash. I'm happy to say I really enjoyed all the songs in this. They weren't just story points with music behind them, but they were actually well-written and memorable songs. Big thumbs up on that.

So, did I have any other problems with the film? Yes. I admit I know very little about the life of P.T. Barnum and I think whoever wrote this was in the same boat. I mean, as far as historical accuracy goes, it would seem that what they got right was that Barnum existed and he did a show and that's about it. I think they also may have made Barnum look like a much better person than he actually was. Whilst this version was a flawed man and made big mistakes, especially when it comes to the question of whether or not he was exploiting the people he hired, the real one may have been even worse in that department. I just wish they would have gone deeper into that and made it more precise. Sadly, I think the idea of getting facts straight may have been tossed aside in favor of pandering. Now I understand that this is a musical that is merely based on a real person and his life, so things are going to be made fantastical, with possibly some magical realism, so I can look passed this problem a bit. Considering what the subject of a lot of the story is and that Hollywood is still running the show, said pandering could have been much, much worse. Still, I think if you're going to do something that is based on a certain time in history but you want to mix it up a bit, doing things in this stylized manner is the perfect time to do it.

In conclusion, I had an enjoyable time at this movie. I don't think it's going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're into musicals and if it looks like something you'd like, it might be worth a watch. It's one of those films where you just kinda know if you're going to like it or not, just by seeing what it is. Personally, I like musicals, I like Hugh Jackman, so I give this a thumbs up at, like, a 45 degree angle.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

Ya know, for being such a book snob, people are surprised when they find out how eclectic my book collection is. It's like they think it's filled with nothing but Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. Well, for their information, if a book is good, I will probably like it, because being good is the only requirement I have for what I read. Also, sometimes the best kind of book you can read is one that's just flat out fun. And, in my humble opinion, no one does fun books better than Janet Evanovich.

I started reading the books of Janet Evanovich years ago, most likely in the same way that a lot of people did, by way of the Stephanie Plum series. I read those books so much back in the day, but sadly, I have fallen behind. The last one I read was the seventeenth, and they're up to twenty-three now. I plan to remedy that and catch up in the coming year. However, I have done plenty of reading when it comes to Janet's latest series, where she teams up with fellow writer, Lee Goldberg, starting with the book I will be reviewing today, The Heist.

The Heist is 2013 novel, which I just happened upon in the store one day and picked up a copy for a really good price. I trust the Evanovich name and I was pleased to see that it was book #1 in a series. Nothing worse than picking up a book that looks good and finding out that it's #3 or something. Anyway, these books follow the team of Fox and O'Hare, and when I say "team" I mean kind of mortal enemies who are forced to work together. I think this kind of set up may have been done before, but, again, if it's written well, then I'm all for it.

Our main characters are FBI Agent Kate O'Hare and conman Nick Fox. Kate is very dedicated to her job and is extremely ambitious, and for five years, a lot of that has been aimed at one person, Nick. She has a habit of almost getting him, but then . . . not. But it turns out that he'll be in her sights again and much more regularly when he convinces the FBI to let him aid in the capture of another criminal. And, of course, he wants to work right alongside Kate in the investigation. I wonder why.

As you may have guessed, between these two, there's a bit of, well, I call it romantic tension, because I'm very pure of heart. But you know. Yes, Nick is one person who annoys Kate more than anyone and, yet, she finds herself very attracted to him. Them bad boys, though. And the attraction seems to go both ways, but since Nick is a conman by trade, there's always this thing in the back of your head where you're wondering if he's serious or just messing with her for his own reasons. Normally, I would predict that they'll get together eventually, but considering she's a cop and he's a straight up criminal who should pretty much be in prison, I'm not sure how much of a happily ever after these two could have. But that is part of the fun. And, as usual, this is quite a fun book to read.

It was exactly the kind of book I expect from Janet Evanovich, and it led me to go further into the series this past year, as I have read the first three books and a few short story prequels. On top of that, I have decided to add some books by her co-writer, Lee Goldberg, to my "To Read" list as well. He actually was a writer for the show, Monk, which I have heard was a really good comedy/action series. No wonder Janet decided to write with him. They clearly make a good team.

Speaking of good teams, I'd say the same thing about Fox and O'Hare. And when I say good, I mean quite entertaining. I love the back and forth between them and how they can really hold their own against each other. I love how Evanovich always writes these fantastic characters who are great and fun (again!) . . . and not perfect. Yeah, it's often the flaws that make them so likable, especially her lead female characters. They're strong and can take care of themselves, but they also make a lot mistakes. Almost like they're real people. And THAT is what can make a character relatable to readers. Not by making them a blank slate that anyone can put their own face on, but rather by making them have realistic qualities, which include things good and bad.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Nick Fox might be one of my new literary boyfriends. Yeah, Janet is good at writing those for me, too.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend The Heist and the series that follows, especially if you're already a fan of either of these writers. Now, I read this book, before I found out about the prequel short stories. I don't think that matters too much, but if you go on to GoodReads you can find their titles and then try to read them first, if you want. I found a couple on my library's ebooks collection, but I think they're still on Janet Evanovich's website. Either way, though, if you decide to dive into this series, you're in for a treat.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Novel Romance - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

As I've mentioned on several occasions, I love a good movie about writers. I also may have mentioned fewer times that I like Hallmark movies, as well. Some of them. Look, don't judge me. Life is hard, the world is cruel and they make me feel cozy. There! So what could possibly make me feel happier than a Hallmark movie about writers! There are more than you may think, but I've chosen one to discuss today called A Novel Romance. Get it? Always being clever, those Hallmark folks.

A Novel Romance is a 2015 movie about a mysterious writer and the woman who cracks the code . . . to his heart! Did you like that? They should hire me to do their promos. So, the writer is named Liam Bradley, played by Dylan Bruce. Well, Liam Bradley is his REAL name. The pen name that he uses is Gabriel August, because of course it is, and, for the life of my, I can't figure out what kind of books he writers. Although, considering his large female demographic and judging from the book covers, I imagine he's a morph of a romance novelist and Nicholas Sparks. There's a thought. Anyway, no one knows who he is or what he looks like. It was a gimmick that worked, as he has become very successful, but the clock is ticking down to the time when he must reveal who he is to the world. And he is under extreme pressure to do this AND finish another book, by his publisher and his agent, Jackie, played by Camille Mitchell. Can I just say I love this character and this actress. Moving on.

On a plane trip from New York to Portland, where he plans to overcome a bout with writer's block, Liam meets Sophie, played by Amy Acker. She just happens to be a book reviewer for a local newspaper and she also just happens to have an ARC of the latest Gabriel August book. What ARE the chances? But alas, Sophie does not think highly of this new book and makes it known. Of course, what is not known to her just yet is that she is talking to the author himself! Okay, not exactly Elizabeth and Darcy here, but we might have some conflict.

Despite parting ways without really knowing anything about each other, they end up meeting again through a few coincidental incidents. Clearly, it's fate, so they begin the dating thing. But they do so very cautiously as they both have secrets that they hold close. Some of those secrets are revealed quickly; others take time and result in even more conflict. Because people being honest with each other and having conversation is the enemy of a plot. It's like the opposite of a MacGuffin. Still, while Liam and Sophie get to know each other, they both have support from good friends. Liam has Jackie, who is a bit of a mom figure to him, in my opinion, and Sophie has her two best friends, as well as Harris, the owner of this bar/restaurant thing, who is played by Charles S. Dutton (YES!). He is yet another character that I love. All these friends do their best to give sound and encouraging advice, but ultimately, Liam and Sophie must make a decision for where their lives will go and if they will go anywhere together. I wonder.

Now, look, I know that we all have ideas in our head about what a Hallmark movie is and some of us may be a bit judgey about it. I understand. These films aren't exactly groundbreaking and they are overly sappy about 99% of the time. But isn't that the point? I mean, you can't not know what you're getting into with these things. Still, there are some gems in there. I happen to think this is one of them.

Yes, it is a bit convoluted and predictable, but if you look a bit deeper, you can find a decent story about trust and moving on from one's past. And love, of course, but not just romantic love, though that is featured prominently. Like I said, I love the Harris and Jackie characters and I enjoyed Sophie's best friends as well. Those relationships spotlighted the love that comes with real friendship and how good friends look after one another and care about each other. That was the best part of this thing for me. And I liked seeing Portland through those Hallmark colored glasses. Almost made me want to visit there. Almost.

So, if you're into this kind of movie, I say it's worth a watch. It's got a cute story, it's heartwarming and the acting is pretty decent. And what more can we want from the oeuvre of Hallmark. I love a company that knows its brand.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Terrible Writing Advice - YouTube Channel Review

Greetings Pups,

Ya know, even writers like myself, who are brilliant, genius, and obviously kissed by the literary angels, need to occasionally humble ourselves and get some writing advice. Now, thanks to the interwebs, there are plenty of places that one can go to obtain very good doses of just that. But ironically, I've decided to spotlight a place where I found some - you guessed it - Terrible Writing Advice.

Okay, in all seriousness, I am talking about a YouTube channel called Terrible Writing Advice. I think I found it when I was just looking for videos about writing. I do that a lot, but I run the risk of coming across videos of arrogant and pretentious writers who are more looking to pat themselves on the back talking about how great they are, rather than to give any decent advice. Well, these videos are nothing like that. They are pretty unique, I must say. And even though the channel is clearly labeled as to what it is, I may have been taken aback a bit when I started listening and thinking, "Hey, wait. That's not right." But therein lies the point.

What the creator of this channel, J.P. Beaubien, does is make these hilarious and kinda adorable little animated videos where he gives really bad advice about writing. But the joke is that all that advice is framed as though it is good. Very good, in some cases. With each one, he chooses a topic, such as Urban Fantasy, Mary Sues, Writer's Block or the dreaded task of Taking Criticism, and proceeds to very amusingly tell us what (not) to do. And it's just glorious. Not to mention surprisingly beneficial.

See, that's the ironic thing. Even though I'm pretty sure this channel was created for entertainment purposes, if you pay close attention, you will actually end up getting some really valuable writing advice. I can't even tell you how many times I've watched one of these videos, heard him talking about something that I know I am sometimes guilty of doing and thought, "Oh, crap. Maybe I should stop doing that". It's almost like some form of reverse psychology or something. But whatever works, as they say.

And this works quite well. I often wonder if the best companion of education is entertainment. This channel sort of proves that might be true. I mean, anyone can make monotonous videos with boring lectures listing off all the rules of writing, but I doubt anyone would learn much from that. 'Cause they'd fall asleep! But if you can keep someone laughing whilst giving them some great info, said info will sink in a lot deeper and be easier to remember.

So, that is why Terrible Writing Advice is officially one of my favorites on YouTube. I even have it featured as such on my own channel, not that Mr. Beaubien needs my help. His channel is doing nicely and growing at a good rate, something that is much deserved. In fact, I hope it continues to grow, especially among young and new writers. Heck, I kind of hope that some English teacher finds these videos and shows them in class. They all have some excellent education for the craft.

And did I mention that I love how this guy talks?

Anyway, I always appreciate when people try to help others, and doing it this way, with so much effort put into it, makes me feel even more grateful. As a writer myself and one who wants to be the best that I can, I take all the advice I can get to achieve that goal. And if someone can make me smile at the same time, I welcome that even more. So, I am extremely happy that I have something like Terrible Writing Advice to go to for a laugh and a lesson.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer