Marissa Meyer is no stranger to my bookshelf, and her elegantly crafted fractured fairy tales are a joy to behold. Heartless is no different, as it tackles Lewis Carrol's Wonderland from an entirely new perspective: the POV of the Queen of Hearts.
She's not the dreaded Queen yet, though - she's just Catherine, a young girl with dreams and a formidable skill with tarts. The strong will we have come to expect is heavily tamped down by a desire to please those around her, but Catherine is determined to find her own way to persevere through annoying croquet games and strange tea parties.
When she meets Jest, the court joker, her plans become flexible enough to include him as well. Unfortunately, no one else is flexing.
What struck me above all the cleverness and playful nods to the original story was the accessibility of the tale. Readers of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and (to a lesser extent) Through the Looking Glass will enjoy the references to the timeless classics, but those who haven't read either story will love Heartless just the same.
The tale is poignant and thoughtful while retaining the Wonderland zaniness. So many connections between characters almost seamlessly fit with their originals that it seems eerie at times, in a good way. Once again, Marissa Meyer has married classic stories to powerful emotions, and the result is well worth the read.
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
Normally I'm not much of a thriller fan, but Yeager's Law by Scott Bell is well worth the detour. This book doesn't rely on cheap jump-scare tactics and eerie feelings to communicate a sense of danger, which is nice. It's fast-paced and action-heavy. If you're looking for a bit of modern-day swash and buckle, this one is for you.
Bell flips back and forth between multiple viewpoints to give us all angles of the story. That can get confusing, but I never had to check back and figure out who was whom. For a batty reader like me, that's an impressive feat. Even with all the viewpoint switching, there were still a few surprises saved up at the end, which made it fun as well as interesting.
There's a low-key romance element there too, which helps a lot - especially since the love interest in question is an impressive lady herself. Fainting damsel in distress she is not.
My only complaint is that the "bad guys" were at times a little too definitively "bad," but only a little. I never felt it was outside the bounds of reason, but once or twice I wrinkled my nose a bit. Still, Abel Yeager and his cast of co-stars were plenty awesome enough to make up for it.
This book is part one of a series, and I definitely plan to check out the next installment!
Abel Yeager is dead broke, down on his luck, and suffering from a serious case of what-the-hell-does-it-matter. His transition from active Marine to stateside long-haul trucker hit a wicked speed bump when his rig was involved in a wreck that claimed the life of a pregnant woman and laid him up for several months.
Back at work but deeply in debt, Yeager meets bookstore owner Charlie Buchanan in St. Louis and jumps at the chance to haul a load of remainder books to Austin for her. On the way south, a crew of truck thieves tracks his every move. But none of them know what Charlie’s ex has smuggled inside the book pallets, who he stole it from, or how far the owner will go to get it back. Charlie’s the first person Yeager has cared about in a long time, but as their bond deepens, so does the danger they’re in.
With enemy forces closing in, Yeager battles greed, corruption, and his own fatalism in a bid to hold true to Yeager’s First Law: come home at the end of the day.
I'm sure by now you know all about my Patreon page, but you might not know that I am also a patron to six artists on Patreon. Today, I'd like to share a couple of my favorite Patreon artists.
"Don't quit your day job" is the kind of sarcastic saying people use to indicate that someone is bad at what they're doing, but for many artists, that statement applies even if they're awesome. The arts don't usually pay well, and even when they do, it's notoriously inconsistent. As a result, even artists who are talented and successful can't turn their full focus to their craft. Enter Patreon.
Patreon is a great crowdfunding program which allows artists to work without worry about fluctuations of income.
Without patrons, artists have to find a way to supplement their income, which can be a huge bummer when those supplemental income sources have nothing to do with the art they create.
Today, I want to share with you six artists I support directly from my own income on Patreon, because nothing is better than knowing that your contributions support not just one, but seven members of the artistic community. I'll also add in some super-useful animal pics along the way, for science. Here's a preview:
Look at those adorable knees! I mean - AHEM. In no particular order, here we go.
N.K. Jemisin is an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Her work is always fresh and exciting. She sets up strange worlds and storylines with effortless poise, and her characters are so full of heart it hurts sometimes. If you've never read her books, I highly recommend her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
This should of course be followed by everything else she's ever written in quick succession.
What do I mean by "award-winning author," exactly? Well, check out her description on the about section of her website:
Her work has been nominated for the Hugo (three times), the Nebula (four times), and the World Fantasy Award (twice); shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar, and the Tiptree; and she has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel as well as the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award (three times). In 2016, she became the first black person to win the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season.
So what does this masterful storyteller need from Patreon? Well, from her own description, she wanted to quit her day job. In order to quit her job and devote herself to writing, she needed a steady, dependable income.
N.K. Jemisin had serious writing chops and the awards and publications to prove it, but she still needed the promise of steady income to quit her day job and devote time to her craft.
What do patrons get?
She reached and blew past her initial income goals, so she has time to write and even opened up some of the upper-tier bonus award to everyone. Patrons can expect perks like:
Exclusive short stories
Adorable cat pics
Monthly Q&A videos
Early looks at chapters
All of this is available to every patron, for a dollar per month as long as her income stays above a certain level.
Best of all, she writes more than ever now, so you can binge read her work with even fewer interruptions.
Fredrin/Fred Gallagher/Piro is a webcomic artist best known for megatokyo, a manga-style online comic which started in 2000 and has maintained a devout, sometimes obsessive, fanbase ever since.
I'm one of those fans, and as soon as Fredrin mentioned he had set up a Patreon account, I jumped at the chance to add my name to the list. He quit his "day job" to support himself and his family with his art years ago, and ever since Megatokyo has had fewer and fewer updates.
That seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Part of the reason was because he devoted his time to many, many projects, like the Endgames Series or re-draws of the comic for his Megatokyo Omnibus. Part of it was due to a much more basic reason, as addressed on his Patreon page:
Oddly enough, the writing, drawing and creation of comic pages is the one thing in Megatokyo that does not directly support itself.
Megatokyo has always been free, and he doesn't stuff his page with ads, so the money he made from the site was always from side jobs. Thankfully, his side jobs involved illustrating characters from his own comics for commission, which is closer to making money via your art than any of my other favorite Patreon artists got.
What do patrons get?
He has a few tiers of rewards, but even at the very lowest level (one dollar per months) patrons can expect things like:
New comic strips 1 day early
New drawings 1 day early
Best of all, he's back to posting regularly! Yay comics.
That's all for now. I'll be back soon with another installment of my favorite Patreon artists. Check these two out! You have nothing to lose!
I've read a lot of opinions lately about romance, and some of them seem a bit - off. I don't intend to cite them here, both because:
I don't want to lend some kind of implied legitimacy to their claim, and
This blog is about why I write romance. I can't pretend to answer for all romance writers.
Just the romance writers who are also awesome, amazing bats.
I didn't grow up reading romance novels. This is, I understand, somewhat odd in the romance writer's world. In fact, it's probably odd in general. A lot of young women read romance novels. Most of the girls I knew did, anyway.
I didn't have time with that. I was reading Serious Fiction. Science fiction and fantasy, mostly, but obviously literary masterpieces which were far superior to anything featuring a burly man in a tartan.
Of course, since I read constantly, I would run out of books to read, and I'd occasionally venture into my mother's stash of romance novels. This was out of necessity, of course. I wasn't reading them because I enjoyed stories about love and loss, betrayal and redemption, no no. I was just desperate for any book at the time, you see.
You believe me, right?
Years later, I was working on a story, and I realized I had created a love triangle with no real knowledge of how to write one of those. Sure, there were several novels I'd read which had complex romantic situations, but not enough for my comfort.
I've always been a researcher. I was that kid who needed just a little bit of reference material from the library and walked out with a four foot high stack of books - the perfect amount for my two-page paper.
So when I needed to know more, and came up empty on books to read for my love triangle, I panicked.
That was when my mother handed me a stack of books from her shelf. Romance novels. The horror.
Those books sat on my shelf for almost a year, while I struggled and cursed and eventually just gave up and munched a bucket of crickets. Then I rearranged my bookshelves one day and rediscovered the novels.
I should really get these back to mom, I thought. Okay, I'll just read one, and that way I can tell her I tried them and it didn't work.
Then I dove into the first book. And the next book. Before I came out of my book-reading haze, I was on Amazon buying more e-books from the same authors. This was when I realized something which had somehow eluded me for years.
Romance novels are fun.
I'd spent so long thinking of writing a novel as an important work of art, and never considered that maybe I was getting in my own way about this whole reading thing. Naturally, my next thought was maybe I was getting in my own way about writing, too.
So I started writing romance. That was fun too. Now I make a point to write or read a little of it every day, because it makes me happy. Happier than I ever was trying to write the Book of the Century.
That's what reading and writing romance is all about, for me. It makes me happy. And that's something special
I've read, watched and agonized over a ton of twisted/fractured/rebooted/whatever fairy tales lately. My favorite in the last several weeks is Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. It has nothing to do with the story I'm writing, unfortunately. Still, you may find some of it has crept into my mind.
The main character, Nicolette, is an inventor and an analogue for Cinderella. She lives a life of constant servitude to her stepmother and evil stepsisters, but without all the sweetness and kindness of the Charles Perrault version. Nicolette (named Mechanica by her stepsisters) has a plan to get herself out of this mess, and it relies on her brilliant abilities as an inventor.
This YA novel explores themes of independence, morality and the nature of love without seeming like a lecture. Nicolette is heroic and admirable, but she is also flawed. She hurts others in her struggle to break free, and she finds herself in a state of deep regret many times. Despite or perhaps because of her flaws, it is easy to cheer her victories and mourn her defeats alongside her.
Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell is a story worth reading, even without the Cinderella twist. The world is believable and complex. The main character is interesting and likable without being saccharine. The magic is well set up with obvious rules without retreating to overly simplistic cliche. All in all, it's fun to read.
Go check it out!
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.
I've decided I want to be like Julie James when I grow up. She's already a bestselling author, so you probably already know of her. If you don't, please allow me to introduce you!
She's got a ton of books with great protagonists and super hot love scenes. Her leading ladies are self-assured, professional women always ready with a quip, and the men they fall for can keep up with them in every arena.
Best of all, every story is funny. She seems to delight in putting these attractive, successful people in every embarrassing and frustrating predicament in the book. (ha! you get it?)
I've included an amazon associates link to the first in her FBI/US Attorney Series, which is 6 books long and still going strong. You can easily jump into the middle of the series without a problem, but I always like reading from the beginning.
I finally feel comfortable calling my move "complete," although the task is never truly over, is it? The place is nice, but it doesn't feel like home yet. I suspect it will take some time. For now, I'll just enjoy the view.
I've been moving, which I've learned is an awful idea around the winter holidays. I've been running rampant for a while, trying to make sure everything goes well. You know, making sure I don't pack an adorable alphabet-teaching octopus in a box which says "kitchen" and gift wrap a toaster for my six month old niece.
Not that everyone's kitchen couldn't use a bit of alphabet-teaching octopus.
Would you like something to read, at a great discount? Of course you would.
I'm joining some of my fellow Scribophile members in a reading round robin, where we each buy everyone else's books and check them out. We all priced our books reasonably for the event, so many of these books will be 99 cents for a limited time! Many of them are also in the kindle lending library, if you have that. This means that my reading list is pretty packed for this month already.
I don't normally plan my reading list so far in advance, but it seems like a good opportunity to give everyone a peek at my bookshelf. Note: I haven't read any of these yet, so I'm not sure what genre they are or how long. This is my untested future plans.