Book: Brynnde Now Up for Pre-Order

You can now pre-order my Regency romance novel Brynnde on Amazon! Release date is February 9. The price goes up after release, so pre-order and save!

Brynnde Archambault needs to find someone to marry, else she'll be stuck with dull Mr. Dallweather. The answer to her problem arrives in the form of handsome and witty Viscount Burbridge, but just when everything seems to be going smoothly, scandal strikes and the engagement ends.

Meanwhile, Brynnde has no trouble matchmaking her friends and even her own brother. But while she breezily finds suitors for everyone else, for her time is running out. Must she resign herself to becoming Mrs. Dallweather? Or will Brynnde yet succeed in making a match for herself?

Brynnde is a light, bubbly, and sweet Regency romance in the vintage style of Zebra and Signet.


The other day my iPod tried to tell me one of its stories. It played the following:

  1. "I Will Wait" by Mumford and Sons
  2. "Just a Memory" by Train
  3. "Through with You" by Maroon 5
  4. "Wave Bye Bye" by Gin Blossoms

Um . . .

As for me, I'm having a difficult time focusing on my work these days. There is a lot going on, a lot of noise, and it's frankly terrifying. This is how dictatorship begins: censorship and pulling the rights out from under people. Threats of torture to keep people quiet and scared. Is this wall meant to keep people out or in? We've been such a fat, sassy country for so long . . . It was only a matter of time before we'd become complacent enough that someone could waltz in and take advantage. Now more than ever we must be vigilant and informed. They will try to throw lies at us, confuse us, but we can't let that happen. They will try to divide and conquer, get us chasing our own tails, but we can't let that happen. They will try to scatter our energies by doing so many bad things at once that we don't know where to look, but we can't let that happen. We must have our eyes everywhere. And we must act before they take away our ability to act.


Books: The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry

I met Ms. Perry at a writing conference where we were both guest authors. Can you imagine? Anyway, she's just lovely, and I felt bad for never having read any of her books; I'd always meant to, but there are so many I didn't know where to start. So I asked her, and she handed me The Face of a Stranger.

I really liked it.

It's the first in the William Monk series of books, and in this story Monk—a police detective in Victorian London—wakes up after a carriage crash and can't remember anything. Like, anything. Not even his own name. And so he must piece together his life while also trying to solve a murder and hide the fact that he kind of doesn't know what he's doing.

The book breaks a lot of rules, at least the rules that are in place for writers now; maybe when Ms. Perry was writing this those rules hadn't been set yet. For one, it begins with the protagonist waking up. Also, amnesia. And the book also jumps from one character's perspective to another, which I think nowadays is called "head hopping." But Perry is far from the only one to do this; I noticed it when re-reading Dune recently, too. So clearly it used to be no big deal.

So I will say I noticed all these "flaws" while reading. (Maybe it says something about the way we pound the "rules" into writers' heads that they can detract from reading a good book.) And there were parts that were a tad repetitive. Monk constantly thinks about who he must be, what kind of man he must have been before the accident, etc. I suppose it's realistic that he would go over the same ground a few times, but that doesn't mean the reader has to.

Still. I really enjoyed the book overall, and I'd pick up the next one.


Movies: The Girl on the Train

It seems like unreliable narrators and whole casts of unlikable characters are the in thing these days.

I haven't read the book. Maybe it's better? But I really disliked the Gone Girl book and still thought the movie was okay . . . So if I didn't like this movie, is the book worse? Or is this one just the flip of Gone Girl? Is it because David Fincher directed Gone Girl and he's plain awesome? I don't think I've seen anything Tate Taylor has done (didn't see The Help but loved that book, so . . .) I guess what I'm saying, not very well, is that I have to wonder how much of this is the source material and how much of it is the filter that is the director.

Emily Blunt slurs her way through this film as alcoholic Rachel whose husband Tom left her for Anna. Rachel and Tom suffered through infertility, but Anna promptly gives Tom a baby daughter. Rachel torments herself by riding the train past her old house each day, catching glimpses of Tom's and Anna's life, the life that should have been hers. Two doors down from her old house, too, there is another woman living a seemingly perfect life. Rachel makes up stories about who this woman is and what her life might be like. Then she flips the fuck out when she sees this woman kissing a man who is definitely not her partner/husband. When the woman—whose name is Megan—goes missing, Rachel tries to "help" by bringing up what she saw to the police and Megan's husband Scott. Unfortunately, because Rachel is constantly soused, no one believes her and they even suspect she may have done it. And since Rachel blacks out a lot and can't remember things, she wonders if she did something to Megan too. But of course we all know better because then there isn't really a story.

Not much suspense or many thrills in this supposed "suspense thriller." Again, maybe the book did it better. We know we can't trust Rachel's memories/flashbacks. So there's no surprise when she unravels things and discovers she was wrong about what she remembered. The whole thing has a Gaslight vibe that could have been really cool if played up differently. As it was, it was just kind of like ::shrug::


Movies: The Accountant

This had a promising premise but was bogged down by flashbacks, a long explanatory sequence (that included more flashbacks), and reveals that weren't all that surprising (except one at the very end that was pretty cool).

Ben Affleck, in an attempt to prove to Matt Damon that he can also play "smaht," is a math savant on the autism spectrum that works as—wait for it—an accountant. But also works for bad people, I guess? Because J.K. Simmons is there as a Treasury Department officer trying to track this accountant down.

Affleck—whose character is named Christian Wolff—takes a job for a company called Living Robotics, run by John Lithgow. There are some, let's say, discrepancies in the books, and then this other team of guys is going around killing people off to keep the truth from coming out. Chris and a Living Robotics accountant named Dana (Anna Kendrick) are on the hit list. Lucky for Chris, and actually also for Dana, that there are a lot of flashbacks to tell us how Chris' military father had him and his brother trained to fight and kill.

Honestly, the whole thing is a kind of mishmash mess with almost too much going on and lots of things filmed in heavy shadow. And then it grinds to a complete halt when J.K. Simmons goes into a long voiceover that explains Chris' criminal background and how he (Simmons) got pulled into the mystery of who this guy is. By that time, I'd all but lost interest. Still, I'm glad I finished it out if only for the final little reveal at the very end of the film. There's at least one other reveal before that, but it is underwhelming and not at all surprising.

I'd really had hopes for this movie. It had such potential. But oh, it really needed to be edited and tightened. As it stands, it's somewhat sloppy and periodically flat-out boring.


Television: Elementary, "Crowned Clown, Downtown Brown"

So the ads made this look like a killer clown thing, but in actuality it was more Flint water stuff.


It really couldn't manage to hold my interest.

However, they did a bit more with Detective Bell's character by throwing a lot at him at once. 1. Watson asked him to help her dad out with some of his mystery novels? Like as a consultant, I guess? 2. That ADA Bell had shown an interest in a few weeks back is now his semi-girlfriend? Like, this was their third date, so I guess it's not exclusive or anything yet, but it must be good enough to merit repeating. But it was sort of sprung on the viewers (and Watson), which feels a bit like a cheat. 3. And then Bell had to deal with the ADA's ex. And ended up blackmailing him, more or less? Good of Bell to show some backbone, but . . . You know, when someone feels cornered and threatened they're even more likely to lash out and look for a way to get rid of said threat. So I don't feel like this was the best way to handle the situation. Also, you're a cop. You shouldn't blackmail people. And I shouldn't have to remind you of that.

Clearly, though, I paid more attention to the Bell stuff than the clown-turned-water-filter story. ::rolling my eyes::

We're about halfway through the season now and ratings are dwindling (though some of that may be due to football). Maybe the whole Sherlock Holmes cycle we've been in is starting to come to a close. Let's just hope Elementary ends better than That Other Show*. Not that that would be difficult to do. Gah.

*I really disliked all but the final minute of so of That Other Show because that minute was the show we should have been watching all along.


Books: A Royal Duty by Paul Burrell

I written before about my feelings regarding Princess Diana. You know, I grew up at a time when she was the "real-life princess" every little girl could look up to.

Anyway, I stumbled across this book at our library's book shop, and I'm not entirely sure what compelled me to buy it. Curiosity, I suppose. And reading this book certainly gave a lot of insight into the way royal houses work and then also into Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana specifically. Which was interesting—engrossing even—but I felt kind of sick as I read it, too. I don't know how else to describe it. I sort of hated myself for reading it because it seemed so voyeuristic.

Going into the book, I wasn't really aware of who Paul Burrell was, largely because (a) I'm not British or one of those people who obsessively follow the royals, and (b) at the time of his court case I had a lot going on in my own life and wasn't paying much attention to the news. Which sort of made for nice reading since it was really all fresh and new to me. Though I suppose even if you did follow those proceedings at the time, this book is still an interesting perspective.

Burrell makes himself very likable, but of course what else would he do? He tries to make things sound reasonable, or at least tries to explain why he did some of the things he did. For me, that was only partially successful. In some instances I was just shaking my head. Because, yeah, he sort of seems obsessed. Maybe good servants are obsessed? I dunno, I feel like there's a lot of psychology to be explored here. Stuff about deriving your self-worth from whom you serve and how important you are to them, etc.

Come the end of it all, Burrell doth protest . . . if not too much, an awful lot. The letters to Charles and William were, of course, suspect since they came after the fact of his arrest. So naturally it was only when the Queen herself said that, no, Burrell had said the same things to her prior that the case against him collapsed. I'm not sure why Burrell professes in this book to be bewildered by that. He keeps going on about the letters to Charles and William but those could easily look like attempts by Burrell to cover his a**. And it's fine if we believe he's in earnest. But one has to look at it objectively, and from the court's point of view. People are tried on facts not personality. (Or should be, though I'm sure personality must color things.)

As for personality, while Burrell does seem earnest, he also comes across as somewhat smug, and then again at times desperate, almost pleading. He definitely wants to be understood, and wants Diana to be understood as well—or maybe just viewed through his particular prism? One can never be free of the bias in this book. Burrell was simply too close to everything to be able to put forth a big picture.

But one doesn't read a book like this for the big picture. This is an intimate story, if one sided. This is a man attempting to explain his devotion and also possibly excuse himself from certain things.

Burrell writes glowingly, lovingly of the Queen, the princes Harry and William, and of course Diana. He's less effusive about Charles though seemingly strives to not be outright damning. For people wanting to get to the juicy stuff quickly, there's a bit of Burrell's family history and such first. A primer of sorts on how he became a royal butler.

On the whole, it's a good read, but as I mentioned, it also made me a tad uncomfortable. I asked myself more than once: Why am I reading this? But once I'd started, it was difficult to stop. Indeed, I didn't—until I reached the final page.


Presented Without Commentary

  1. Irene - a "strong" woman with a shady past who ultimately needs to be rescued by the hero
  2. Mary - a "strong" woman with a shady past who ultimately needs to be rescued by the hero (but isn't)
  3. Eurus - a "strong" woman with a shady past who ultimately needs to be rescued by the hero
  4. Molly - a weak woman whose attempts to assert herself are unconvincing and unsuccessful, and who pines for the hero and allows him to manipulate her repeatedly
  5. Mrs. Hudson - a strong [older] woman played for comic relief

Books: My Favorite Stephen King Novels

Okay, so one of the groups I'm a member of is currently debating whether Stephen King's Revival was great or terrible. Of course, it's all a matter of opinion, but as people started writing that it was in the "bottom 10%" of his books or whatever, I began to think about which of Uncle Stevie's books are my favorites. (BTW, you can find my review of Revival here.)

Now, I've read a lot of King but not nearly all. So I can only rank what I've read. And I also sort of see Uncle Stevie's work in two parts: pre-Bag of Bones and post-Bag of Bones. So I'm going to rank them in two "eras" accordingly. And I'm only looking at novels, not anthologies.

Pre-Bag of Bones Favorites

  1. 'Salem's Lot
  2. The Dead Zone
  3. The Dark Half
  4. Misery
  5. The Shining
  6. Pet Sematary
  7. It
  8. Needful Things
  9. The Green Mile
  10. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
  11. The Stand
  12. The Tommyknockers
  13. Insomnia*

*I didn't actually finish this one, but I'm grateful to it for introducing me to the work of Stephen Dobyns.

You'll see I never read beyond the first Dark Tower book. And there's a lot more I haven't read, too, and might never get around to.

I used the press conference scene in The Dead Zone for a dramatic interp piece once. I had to do a lot of different voices!

Post-Bag of Bones Favorites

  1. Duma Key
  2. Bag of Bones
  3. Lisey's Story
  4. Revival
  5. Dreamcatcher

I really, really disliked Dreamcatcher. I started both Under the Dome and Finders Keepers but never finished either of them. Cell, meanwhile, is one I really want to read but—dare I say it—I'm a little frightened to!

'Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone, and Bag of Bones are the only Stephen King books I've read more than once. I'd definitely re-read Duma Key, though, too. In fact, there are a lot of books on this list that I find myself periodically wanting to go re-read, but then other books are stacked and waiting and I never quite get back around to old favorites.

Do you read Stephen King? If so, which of his books are your favorites?


Television: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Finally tried this one out. Well, actually, I tried a random episode some months ago but didn't find it all that funny. Over time, however, I wondered if maybe I just needed more context. So I went back to the pilot and started from there.

Now I'm bingeing.

This show is incredibly funny though at times also truly cringe-worthy. What I really appreciate, though, is that none of the characters is perfect and almost none are caricatures. For example, the main character Rebecca (played by Rachel Bloom) is socially inept but very good at her job. I'm so glad they didn't go with her being an all-out mess. She has facets, as do almost every other character. (So far—and I'm only a few episodes in, mind—Valencia is the one character that seems to be from cardboard stock.)

You can't always like Rebecca, but that's okay. They even call out the fact that she's sometimes terrible in an episode in which she tries to prove otherwise. (Remember, kids, if you're doing good things for the wrong reasons, you're still a terrible person.) But the genuineness of the characters makes them ultimately relatable. And yet they're just over the top enough to be hilarious in a way real life almost never is.

Also: musical numbers. That are amazing.

I think I've been starved for comedy, so I'm really, really glad to have this to watch. I'm trying not to eat it up too fast because then I won't have anything left.

I'd say if you like, oh, Kimmy Schmidt, you'd probably enjoy this too. Rebecca isn't quite as alien as Kimmy but they come from neighboring petrie dishes, I think. As the straight man, Greg is my favorite character and probably the most sympathetic.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can be bought On Demand or streamed via Netflix.


Television: Elementary, "Be My Guest"

In a moment of spectacular coincidence (or possibly we're supposed to believe it's Providence?), Holmes stumbles into a case regarding a woman being held captive that is likely to be killed soon if he, Watson, and the police cannot find her first.

Because I was having to deal with my cat, I missed the exact scenario. Holmes either overheard a conversation about "take care of her" and assumed the man was arranging to have someone murdered, or he saw the video on the man's phone . . . Well, both, but I'm not clear about the order of events. It hardly matters. Sum total was that he turned his sights on said man—Decker—and from there it's a race against time and a matter of outwitting the baddie.

The missing woman proves to be an immigrant named Preeda who'd been working on a cruise ship but disappeared on her day off . . . five years before. Instead of being helpful, law enforcement had apparently chalked it up to "another illegal burying herself in the home soil and hiding to avoid being deported." Go, 'Merica.

I won't give away the ending, but I will say this was one of the better episodes I've seen in a while. Elementary seems to be upping its game in the second half of the season. All we've ever really wanted was Holmes + Watson doing their thing, and here they do just that.

There is some Shinwell. Sigh. It's not terrible, though. He tries to set up a drug deal so he can snag some better intel or something, but thanks to the training he's been getting, he notices right away when things start to go south and is able to bail before getting in too deep. Also, he learns to pick locks? But sucks at Spanish? ::shrug::

All in all, a solid episode.


Movies: Moana

I really liked this movie. Like, really.

The story is fairly simple: Moana, daughter of the chieftain, is chosen by the ocean to be the one to find the demigod Maui and take him to return the Heart of Te Fiti, a kind of earth goddess. The idyllic life of Moana's people is on the line.

The movie isn't perfect. The two encounters—one with coconut pirates, one with a crab that collects shiny things—were not particularly tense and felt like minor speed bumps rather than major conflicts. And the twist (I won't give it away) was obvious to me from the start. I didn't even think Maui was all that funny or clever.

So . . . If all that . . . Why did I like this movie so much?

I'm not entirely sure. I can tell you it's gorgeous to look at. I can tell you the music is the best a Disney movie has had in a long, long time. But in the end, the movie simply spoke to something in me. I found myself tearing up at the weirdest moments. And I'm steadfastly not a cryer.

So maybe this is a very personal kind of connection. Your mileage may vary. But, despite minor points, I think this is a fabulous movie.

P.S. The short before the film was also cute. It wasn't saying anything new, but it did get across its message in a fun way.


Movies: The Brothers Bloom

This 2008 offering from Rian Johnson is some parts Wes Anderson and some parts Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Which is to say it's cute and bears little to no weight.

Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are the titular brothers (named Bloom and Stephen respectively). They're con men doing the usual "last job," which in this case is to mark lonely but extremely wealthy Penelope (Rachel Weisz). They script an adventure for her that, given her isolated existence, amounts to the time of her life. Of course Bloom falls in love with Penelope and things get complicated. Except not really because this is a fairly straight forward little movie that moves quickly from location to location, plot point to plot point. The romance was inevitable.

I enjoyed The Brothers Bloom for what it was though it did not command all of my attention and I ended up spending a fair amount of time playing on my iPhone. The cast does a fine job and the production design is somewhat whimsical, which is the overall tone of the film as well. There is a suggestion of having tried for something meaningful—talk of the "unscripted life" and hints of childhood trauma and abuse—but the movie overall leans away from that, away from darkness and toward light. It's as though they wanted you to be able to watch on two levels: just for fun, or fun + deep. But the "deep" here isn't plumbed very far.

In the end, a cute little gem of a film if you like that sort of thing.



A reminder that I post my monthly IWSG on PepperWords. If you were pushed here by a link, I'm giving you another shove. Sorry.


Television: Elementary, "Pick Your Poison"

I watched this one a while back then promptly forgot about it. Television has just not been a huge part of my world lately.

So in this episode, Watson is accused of writing illegal prescriptions, which of course prompts her and Holmes to investigate who is really doing this. Yeah, she no longer practices medicine, but she keeps her license current, so she could technically be writing prescriptions? Anyway, the trail leads back to a doctor she used to work with way back when . . . This part of the story was actually kind of interesting, and I wouldn't have minded getting some insight and background into that part of Watson's life, but it was not to be. Said medical colleague is found murdered along with a patient and we get a story about Munchausen by proxy. It becomes immediately clear who the murderer is the moment we meet him, so the rest of the episode feels inevitable.

And then there's some more Shinwell stuff. OMG, come on. We weren't done with that? But okay, I will admit it's more tolerable now that we've got his gang thing out of the way and are moving into training him as a pseudo Irregular. That's a story arc that has potential.

In all, it wasn't a bad episode. I only worry it comes a bit late in the season to help the show overall. There's been an uneven start to things that makes it difficult to stay interested, and the ratings reflect as much. Unless something astounding happens, it seems likely this will be the final season. Let's hope the second half is stellar, if only to give us something good to remember it by.


Television: Doctor Who, "The Return of Doctor Mysterio"

I finally watched this. Kind of.

Ever think you care about something only to realize you really just don't? At all?

Thing about this particular Christmas special is that there was a perfectly cute story going on about a superhero masquerading as a nanny (or "manny") for the reporter whose infant daughter he criminally neglected cared for satisfactorily except when saving other people.

But then there was some other, stupid, confusing, boring story about brains in jars. Do. Not. Care.

This just didn't really need to be a Doctor Who special. It would have been fine as its own thing. Or maybe we could retrofit my original TV pilot to be a Doctor Who, too. I mean, we could just make everything DW, right?

Whatever. I don't even care enough to be angry or annoyed, except at their version of New York, which was just ridiculous.

I guess when you can still be bothered, it means you still care. When you're indifferent, it means you've given up on something.

I'm indifferent to Doctor Who now.