Sunday, January 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW - Shearwater [Ocean Depths part one]

((I totally didn't realize this cover pic MOVES until I was setting up my post. LOVELY EFFECT!))

Author: Derek Murphy -

Format: ARC Kindle ebook. Free from author in exchange for an honest review. Amazon link. The website with more detail is

Did it feel like a full novel: No, but is just a part of the full novel after all. Very in depth though (no pun intended) for just a first parter.

Cliffhanger: The end was set up as a "dun dun DUN" part, but not one of those shocking, unexpected, and annoying kinds.

Genre: fantasy, young adult, merpeople

Dates Read: Jan 17 to 20, 2016

Official Blurb: "I watched the colored lights and sparkles coming off of Sebastian in the dark water, as the ocean began the process of rebuilding his tail. I longed to join him in the water, to wrap my arms around him and let him carry me under the sea; but I wasn’t ready. For him, the ocean was a home; for me it was death. Without being able to transform, the ocean depths would suffocate me, the pressure collapse my bones and flesh." 

After her parent's accident, Clara is shipped off to live with a grandfather she never knew, in a town she can't pronounce. In Ireland, she soon discovers that her mother's secret past is filled with tragedy. Trying to track down the truth, she begins going through changes of her own, until she's not sure just who - or what - she is anymore. 

Then she meets the mysterious Sebastian, who won't leave her alone, and Ethan, who apparently can't stand to be near her. Both of them seem to have supernatural powers, and she's not quite sure whether they want to kill her or kiss her. Just when things are getting interesting, someone attacks her, and she gets a revelation that destroys everything she thought she knew about the world, humanity, and herself. 

>>>Explore the magical coast of Northern Ireland, and an new interpretation of the Tuatha de Danann, the Fomorians, and mermaid mythology. 

>>>An innovative paranormal romance with a brand new magical system, and a version of mermaid biology that actually makes sense. 

One Sentence: Fantastic YA story with an amusing heroine, enrapturing story, grand settings, and hot romantic interest(s)!

Full Review: I wanted to read this novel for several reasons. Some are silly, such as the author's last name being my pseudonym's as well ;) And the FMC's last name being the same as a good friend of mine, and their first names are also similar. I took this all as a sign to read the synopsis and then I knew I just had to get my mitts on the book! Very glad I did too, heh.

Clara is a great lead, being strong enough that even when she has her teenage moments, she realizes she is having them. And she has some great face palming moments that just killed me! There was really only one thing she did (or didn't do) near the beginning that felt pretty dumb and railroaded, but we all make mistakes, so I can't really judge her too harshly. Her interactions with her friends and other characters were very individually based and realistic. I really liked how she dealt with Sebastian (and how he acted around her), though her minimal interaction with Ethan was interesting too. Their use of Facebook, Instagram, Harry Potter references, etc, all felt very authentic, not just tossed in to be "hip" like some people do.

I hate reading just parts of books like serials, but this one hooked me within a chapter or two pretty well and I couldn't stay away. I enjoyed Mr. Murphy's writing, it being fast paced enough to develop the story but not so much to overly rush everything. I don't think I can take waiting until October for the very end, aaaaah!

Another thing I liked was the way he writes his mermaids/men. Interestingly possible yet still within a magical world. Ooo, and the accurate locations were also cool! I would have liked to visit Ireland if I ever go to Europe, but now I think it kinda got pushed up the more top locations ;)

As to what I didn't like, well, besides Clara's mistake of keeping something a secret (I don't think it actually did much harm, but it COULD have), was the part where... ack, I don't want to ruin something, but I want to mention it. Well, she kinda gets her YA-style 'specialness' in a way that you no longer really feel like you could just be in her place, which is something I kind of like about YA novels. But it's not all that bad as it develops, and you appreciate and still find Clara enjoyable as a heroine. At least I did. Also, I don't know if I'll be able to deal with this becoming a love triangle later, but that's really just an assumption I have. Maybe it won't even occur that way. 

I have posted this review before my usual schedule because I wanted you all to know about it prior to its launch on January 26th. ... ... .... ALTHOUGH.... Mr. Murphy will be selling this first part for only 99 cents starting then, yet on January 28th it will be available for free! Fantastic, right? Well it gets better!

Check this out, straight from the author:
I’m wrapping up Part One of my first novel Shearwater – an epic YA mermaid romance – and I want to do something fun and meaningful for my book launch: raise money for ocean conservancy and to protect marine wildlife.
During launch week, not only will all earnings be donated, but I’ll further donate $1 for every sale. My goal is to sell 1000 copies at 99cents each, which which will raise about $700 + a $1000 bonus.

That is pretty awesome, right? Being it was a fun novel, I really do suggest you try it out, whether when it launches originally, or when it's free. Very nice read (and for a good cause!) starting off 2016 in a delightful manner!

Rating: 5 stars

Saturday, January 23, 2016

MEME - Stacking the Shelves - 01-23-16 #24

Not a lot, but I feel rather behind with what I should be caught up with. All ready finished Shearwater and can't wait to do a review hopefully this Wednesday for it!

Author Request:

Won in Giveaway:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW & DISCUSSION - The Court Jester (1955) [AKA: Why I may like a certain male/female dynamic]

Before we get too far along in this, let me say this is one of my favorite films ever. A comedy that still makes me laugh every time I watch it. I scoured Amazon for a DVD copy being that no store had one, despite its awesomeness. But yes, at last I own my own! Because I loved it so much I would regularly rent it previously. But now it's mine, MINE, ALL MINE, HAHAHAHAHA! 

I hope you'll forgive me for having the love I have for this film coming out so thickly, but I hope that maybe this long post can shed some light on why I treasure it so.  SPOILER WARNING: Please be forewarned that I'll be talking about the ENTIRE film, giving away the ending and all. If you have any interest in seeing it before I spoil all the good bits, I suggest you find a copy to watch first!

To start, it's a period piece, where the Black Fox is a masked vigilante (think like Robin Hood), trying to serve justice as the current king has unlawfully taken over the throne. The true heir is only a baby, recognizable as royalty by having the royal birthmark, the purple pimpernel! The Black Fox's men are keeping the child safe, and the main character played by Danny Kaye, Hawkins, has the job of showing off the baby's bottom to new recruits. 

When he mentioned that wouldn't it be better if a woman does it, the Black Fox tells him "each one serves as best he can." Hawkins is a former carnival performer, and has a bunch of little people who are his friends from it (though they can't join because they can't fight).

Anyway, Hawkins is sent with the captain of the troop to take the royal baby to a safe place. The captain is Jean, played by Glynis Johns (who also played Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins, something cool I didn't know until writing this post! Research is awesome!), whom Hawkins has a major crush on. I love that he accepts her authority, always being all "Yes Captain" when she tells him to do something or whatnot. Actually kind of reminds me of the Princess Bride's "as you wish" heh. You get the feel that she kind of likes him, but it takes a rainy night and a heart-to-heart conversation to get them talking about a close relationship. Of course, then she tries to be sensible about that they shouldn't until the real king is safely on the throne.

This is the first thing that I can see how it triggered certain likes and dislikes I have now. I like seeing guys devoted to their ladies. Where they are the ones who stare and have to look away, or blush and titter nervously. When they ask for a kiss rather than taking one. So anyway, they get interrupted by another traveler seeking shelter from the storm. The great Giacomo, newly arrived from Italy, here to serve the King as his court jester. They hint at each other what to do without having to talk about their plan (something that indicates they are close if they can do that pretty quick). Hawkins is unwilling to knock out Giacomo, so Jean has to do it. I wish I could find a pic, but pretty much she bashes a log against his head (shadow play, was it too violent to show onscreen at the time?). Now Hawkins can pretend to be Giacomo, get chummy with the king, and steal a key that could help the Black Fox's men get into the castle via a hidden passageway. They separate, her with the baby hidden in a secret compartment in their wine cart, and Hawkins to the castle as Giacomo!

At the castle, he whistles a special tune that's a way for this vigilante troop to recognize each other in searching for an inside man, but mistakenly thinks it is Sir Ravenhurst. He's played by Basil Rathbone so that tells you what side he's on. He has his own nefarious plans, and the true Giacomo is a part of them, so the two have no idea something is much amiss.

The king is curious about Giacomo, but Hawkins being Danny Kaye, he talks his way out of it splendidly. By saying everything and nothing at the same time.

OK, so in the meantime Jean had been caught as one of those aforementioned wenches but at least she make contact with the inside man, who can hide the baby while she has to go be bathed and dressed before tonight. The king has been making plans with some guys of other regions to gain strength, one of which he wants his daughter to marry (she is played by the young and beautiful Angela Lansbury), Sir Griswold. She doesn't want to because her maid Griselda has been telling her stories of true love. The maid sees an opportunity here so she enchants Hawkins into thinking he's super suave and that he will charm the princess. The magic is turned off/on with a finger snap.


While he's enchanted and swinging about the exterior of the castle like a badass after saying goodbye to Gwendolyn, he meets up with Ravenhurst and accepts the job of assassinating three of those guys the king wants to make a deal with. Then he has to take down Sir Griswold. When he gets back to his room, Griselda makes him forget everything. 

Later during the dinner, he performs as a jester. Take note that though this a musical comedy, pretty much all the songs don't detract anything from the film, they only enhance the scene they're in. There's lots of stuff going on around with Jean and the baby, so he has to do a number to distract everyone.

During all this, Griselda hears those three guys talking about how they have to make absolutely sure that the princess marries Griswold. She poisons their drinks, and they die. Ravenhurst is just super impressed with "Giacomo", telling him to proceed to Plan Two. Sir Griswold arrives and it's discovered that the princess' clandestine lover is Giacomo. Griswold (Robert Middleton) demands satisfaction, since he can't challenge a commoner to mortal combat like he would a real knight.

Of course Ravenhurst suggests to the king that they knight the jester, because he's thinking this is ALL PART OF THE PLAN. I'll give you three guesses which one is Hawkins.

Now a knight, he challenges Griswold to mortal combat (Jean told him the Black Fox would come and fight in his place). Through this arrives one of the most loved and quoted scenes of Danny Kaye's cinematic career. It's technically two parts, but I'll only put the first one here.

Suffice to say, it doesn't work out. Ravenhurst, because of a something one of his friends tells him, outs Hawkins as.... the Black Fox! 

Lots of stuff happens, leading up to a battle thanks to the forest group and Hawkins' small friends swinging about, knocking heads and taking names. Then Hawkins must fight against Ravenhurst. Griselda is around and spells him so he is suddenly a fencing master (but as before, it comes and goes with a finger snap). I remember reading that Kaye took fencing lessons because he wanted to parody appropriately. And I believe Rathbone was an experienced fencer, but he had to let the fight choreographer do quite a bit since he was 63 to the time of filming. 

In the end, two little people distract Ravenhurst, Hawkins bodily flips him onto a catapult thing, and Jean sends him flying. The real heir is presented to everyone including the false king, they all bow to their real liege, and it ends with the short song based on the opening song with Hawkins and Jean holding hands and everyone seems happy to join in the chorus. 

A delightful romp in silliness of which I have tried to spare you most of the jokes because if you know the plot there should still be something you have to look forward to in watching! So yeah, if you can't tell, I absolutely love this movie for almost every little thing. But enough of me going over the film; how's about some actual discussion now!

I saw this film early as a preteen and I think it helped get me to realize women could be quite awesome on their own, despite it being filmed in the 1950's. Jean never really loses her cool. She reaches points where she's obviously concerned things are just not going according to plan, but she never gives up to feel sorry for herself. She doesn't wait to be rescued by someone else. She works through things as best she can, sometimes figuring out crazy but effective ways to protect herself or do what needs to be done.

Gwendolyn wants romance and true love, but that's a decision she's made by herself. She doesn't have a lot of negotiating power against her father, which is why she has to threaten her own life to demand she get what she wants. But then she also threatens her dear Griselda's life TWICE because she wants that love (the first because she thinks Griselda has been lying to her, and the second for Giacomo/Hawkin's life). This is a serious, goal oriented princess who will not let her ambitions be denied.

And then Griselda acts more like one of the evil characters, but more for her own protection than other gain. She doesn't wiat for others to do something, she gets stuff done herself! She sees her chance when she first hears Giacomo around, and she enchants him to fall in love with the princess. She doesn't care about his wants (and dare I say, his consent), only how this can benefit her. She hasn't done this before, so maybe she was waiting for Gwendolyn to find someone on her own to fall in love with, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Oh yeah, and poisoning the three guys without even a blink of an eye.

These three women are not the norm when it comes to period films. Despite two of them having some moral ambiguity, they are all strongly written in that they have goals they work towards. Two are towards a man, and the film does fail the Bechdel test, but you could see they are certainly not just sexy lamps in this. The film is far from perfect, but it does give quite a different feel to the more traditional romantic storylines and gender roles. Though Gwendolyn looks like she's reconsidering Griswold at the very end, it could be construed as being merely one of those scenes for the entire cast to be in. They all did just swear fealty to the baby-king, but not one is trying to tar and feather her or the former king, right?

Speaking of gender roles... Hawkins really just wants to get through all this madness, hopefully by initially looking like a super cool fighter so he can either impress Jean (not that likely in that she'd still outrank him), or just prove himself at least minimally competent (more feasible). He has to let Jean handle a violent situation that looked like it make him uncomfortable or maybe even queasy. He lets Jean make the decisions because she has a better mind for plans. Though he loves her, he doesn't let himself get too carried away, remembering his mission and his need to protect the baby-king. But he also doesn't just listen to every little thing Jean says. Remember up there in that pestle video where Jean says, "It's so easy I can say it" and he doesn't skip a beat before replying, "Well then you fight him." While most of this is likely irritation that he can't remember the rhyme, probably a bit is that he's bitter that she really can't for him, since he would probably sure she could kick his butt. Remember how the Black Fox says "each man serves as best he can"? There's no way Jean could have made the position of captain if she hadn't proven herself able.

Near the end, the two are cornered by Ravenhurst, and he tries to shield Jean with his body. She does a little of the damsel-clench thing, but it's not like she has a weapon so there's not a lot she could do anyway. But Hawkins is still unarmed and still tries his best. Flipping over Ravenhurst though uses his own natural self, he didn't gain new strength or anything like that (he's been quite physical throughout this whole film, and you can guess he was maybe an acrobat or tumbler from the hints of his circus past). Jean is still the one to flip him via the catapult, and I wonder if it's because Hawkins still wouldn't have the stomach for it.

So yeah, I can see how this may have laid a good foundation into "guys I like" just as I was hitting puberty. The men don't have to be the biggest and baddest. Their romantic interests can be stronger, and they aren't threatened. They still want to protect them and be devoted, but not in an annoying or stalker way. And they still have a way to do so, even if it's not in a way that is comparable to others. 

So that's that! Goodness I just kept  going, didn't I? I hope this makes sense, and I'd love to hear any comments or questions, regardless if you've watched the film or not. Being I think one of the better Danny Kaye films though, I hope you may view a copy soon!

Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BOOK REVIEW - After the Machines (ep 1: The Awakening)

Author: Robert Stanek -
Format: Kindle ebook. Free on amazon.
Did it feel like a full novel: no, it's a serial with a cut off at the first bit of rising action
Cliffhanger: yes
Genre: sci fi, post apocalyptic?
Dates Read: Dec 31 2015 - Jan 3 2016
Official Blurb: Our World Is No Longer Ours... It's Theirs.

The human survivors lead a hardscrabble life, scavenging what they can from the dead city, waiting and watching. Cedes isn't like Matthew and his regulars. She dreams. She talks. She questions. She wonders why Luke disappeared, where Luke disappeared to. She wants to know what we are to the machines. This is her story. This is our story. This is the story of us, the humans who survive.

In the ruins of our world, a new order arose, an order controlled by the very machines humankind created. The end for us came not from a massive global war but from something unthinkable, incomprehensible. The machines simply replaced us and we let them, and so, in the end, humanity went out not with a bang, but with a whimper. No shots fired. No bombs dropped. No cities destroyed. We ended and the machines began--or at least that is what the few human survivors of the machine apocalypse believe.

One Sentence: Great idea, but lacking in execution

Full Review: It sounds like a great synopsis, but the book itself kinda lets you down. The style of Cedes' thinking is very awkward. She repeats herself a lot. There's not a lot of explanation, which sort of makes sense being that the main character isn't sure about anything, but there should still be some context clues for the reader. I assume they're hiding at Grand Central Station, but their book is something I can't quite guess at. Even the landscape is more than a bit fuzzy. If they're near a formerly populated area, what's left around them? It just gives you a heck of a lot of questions but no answers.

Even the fact that Cedes is special doesn't make sense. I assume it'll be explained later on, but right now she's just too much a 'special snowflake' that it's annoying. A shame this one turned out as such, as I think it could have been a lot better because the plot seems fascinating otherwise.

Rating: 2 stars

Monday, January 18, 2016

BOOK TOUR - Debt by Rachel Dunning

99c Pre-Order Sale
Over 400 Pages
Standalone Novel
New-Adult Romance / Sports Romance

By Rachel Dunning

Expected Release Date:
March 2016

What’s it about?

The Debt Collector

I pay my debts, and I expect others to.
I was raised in the slums of London, I knew nothing of privilege. My father was murdered when I was seventeen. Morty figured my father's passing meant I would automatically take on dad's debts. I refused.
And I paid for that refusal.
So did my sister.
So now I fight. All I know how to do is fight. The best cash is in the states, so that's where I am now. A big fish called Vito came along offering me a "favor" when I arrived.
Another debt.
I paid for that one too.
I knew Kyla Hensley would be trouble when I met her. But I wanted her. I could see through the falsehood of her wannabe-slutty clothes and her sexy legs. So I chased her.
Besides, trouble is my middle name.

Kyla Hensley

I was brought up in privilege, but I lacked everything else. My father is a business tycoon who buys and sells and doesn't care who gets rolled over in the process.
I never knew my mother, and all I have of her is a photo with a note scrawled on the back in French saying "I'm sorry." The only Female Figure I had growing up is my dad's wife who is a bleach blond with seven boob jobs. We never bonded.
I drink. I party. I meet guys.
But I wasn't always like that.
I've had a string of lovers in the last few years, the worst and most recent of which was Vince Somerset. My best friend Vera was dating a guy called Rory Cansoom who is the opposite of Vince in so many ways, and yet so the same.
She and I hit the road for the summer, getting away from the two college psychos and just trying to have some fun.
But there's a funny thing about trouble, the more you run from it, the more it finds you.
Which is when I met the Debt Collector.
It was only supposed to be sex. He made that clear. I made that clear.
That's all it was supposed to be.
I never expected to fall in love. I never expected to fall so deeply, madly, uncomfortably in love with a man who is wrong, so wrong for me.
And unbelievably right.

Content Warning

Not intended for readers under the age of seventeen.

New-Adult Romance
Sports Romance


About Rachel
Rachel Dunning hit the scene in August 2013 and is the author of the highly praised Naive Mistakes Series, Truthful Lies Trilogy, Johnny Series and the paranormal romance series, Mind Games.

A prolific writer, she sticks to stories where Alpha Males aren’t pricks and where women have guts.
She’s lived on two different continents, speaks three different languages, and met the love of her life on the internet. In other words, romance is in her blood.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

MEME - Stacking the Shelves - 01-16-16 #23

Kinda ran out of time last week so here's the past two weeks. Feel like I've started getting very slow on my reading, which is a pity. I'm not going to handle very many TBRs and others to review if I keep up this snail's pace! The Scarlet Pimpernel is this month's selection for our book club :D

Author Request:




Friday, January 15, 2016

OFF TOPIC - 40 Bags in 40 Days Decluttering Challenge [White House Black Shutters]

Firstly, this "Off Topic" title and label will be used a touch more this year. Obviously it will be stuff that isn't about books or films, but I feel the urge to post up regardless. It's important to me for whatever reason, heh.

So this post has to do with this fantastic challenge that should help bring at least a hint of peace to one's house, in theory ;) I had just talked about my flirtation with minimalism to someone on their review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and figured I needed to go back to it. To explain, here's a list to keep things as organized as possible:
  • Lived with my mom but she didn't like my stuff to be anywhere but my room or out of sight in the garage. Got a 5x10 storage unit for the excess. Shared with my BFF and decided to add a 10x10. Also, packed up some stuff in the garage. After a while, got a second 10x10. Storage lady then offered to hold a 10x15 so we got rid of one 10x10 and the little 5x10.
  • Moved to an apartment with BFF. While we got more stuff we needed (kitchen stuff, furniture, etc), we also got stuff we didn't but we liked (craft stuff, wee!) or for 'whenever' we got a house (knife set, Ninja blender, etc).
  • Moved to a house that has a two car garage (one door will not open at all, and the other only manually, so it's not that great for cars yet) and a shed. Plus a maid's room and extra bedroom. As you might guess, since we didn't have craft room furniture and the like, so a lot of boxes forced their way 'as is'. This was supposed to be temporary.
  • Of course, a year later, now I curse the 'extra space' which just begged for more junk. On the plus side, we managed to empty the 10x15 unit and put everything in the garage. Every so often we take out a box or two to go through it. Alas, some useful boxes from the apartment (at least two of kitchen supplies) are trapped like at the far end. We ended up wasting money on some doubles. Others we just try to do without. I miss my mixing bowls :*( 
  • We started to empty the remaining 10x10 unit, but having run out of room in the garage, started putting things in the shed. At least this time we tried to do a quick scan of an incoming box so that it can be sent 1) to appropriate room, 2) to shed to go through later, or 3) given away to friend who was planning a garage sale. My crap at my mom's house is still there, eep. Bless her for letting me enjoy the free storage space.
So you can see how this challenge should help me get some structured work into this! I love my house, but I wish I could just do a quick cleanup and invite people over rather than always making excuses (cleaning is the least of my problems when there's stuff and boxes scattered about). Though I may make a concentrated effort over the next month to empty the last storage unit, even adding those boxes to my current clutter should hopefully not drown me too much further if I dutifully work on this challenge. Or so I hope, anyway. While I won't bore you too much with daily progress, I will likely do updates on occasion. Did I mention I plan this taking much more than 40 days? Oh yes, because I doubt I can do this literally daily, but at least I can show some real progress over a few months! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

BOOK REVIEW - Sacked: A gay stepbrother romance

Author: Jack Woolf 
Format: Kindle ebook. Free at the time on amazon.
Did it feel like a full novel: had a beginning, middle, and end, but the second half felt too quick with too little.
Cliffhanger: no
Genre: romance, m/m, stepbrother
Dates Read: Dec 29-30, 2015
Official Blurb: Kellen and Rhett grew up together. The two young men could not be more different. 

Kellen is a rising star in the National Football League. Sensitive Rhett doesn’t like sports. He’d rather read and cook all day. When Kellen’s wild antics threaten to tarnish the family name, Rhett is forced to move into Kellen’s bachelor pad. His only job? Keep Kellen’s name out of the tabloids.

The stepbrothers have not spoken in years. Now they're living together. Kellen keeps acting like a macho jerk, but Rhett clings to the memory of a fleeting moment the young men shared long ago.

Kellen remembers more than he lets on. But his true feelings are buried so deeply, only Rhett can show him how to love again.

One Sentence: Had a good start then just fell flat

Full Review: Rhett was interesting to start, and you preferred him to jerky Kellen a bit. But then he felt almost a bit annoying, and a little too Stepford Wife-ish. And his friends seemed kinda weird. Who would jump to go clean a stranger's house that's a foul-smelling dump? Especially is quick to point out they all have good paying desk jobs. The continued interaction between the two stepbrothers gets interesting, though I don't think it's clear who's parent is whose or when/how they became stepbrothers. It should've been a little more worked with, considering that was supposed to a major hook for this story. 

Then the unveiling of Rhett's feelings happens, a little drama (of which the excuse was BS), and happy times with Rhett being the shy virgin and Kellen being more than ready to get things going. Felt more than a little fake, and made the happy ending seem tripe unfortunately.

Rating: 2 stars

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