Kings and Queens: A Review

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About Kings and Queens (from Amazon):

KINGS AND QUEENS tells of the life and loves of charismatic Harry Lanchester, which just happen to mirror the story of Henry VIII and his six wives. All the passion and suspense of the Tudor court, but set in modern times.

Harry’s realm is his South of England property developing company, Lanchester Estates, while his ‘wives’ are the twentieth century sisters of their historic counterparts: Anne Boleyn is reincarnated as the equally intriguing Annette Hever, and Henry VIII’s fifth wife with the risqué past, Catherine Howard, lives again in 1999 as Keira Howard, a former lap dancer.

The saga is narrated by each of the six women, in turn, interspersed with short chapters from the point of view of Harry’s lifelong friend, Will Brandon.

About Terry Tyler (from Amazon):

Terry lives in the north of England with her husband, and has published nine books on Amazon. Readers say she has created her own genre, which lies somewhere in the area of contemporary drama and romantic suspense, with the occasional bit of rock fiction thrown in.

A light, summer novella, ‘Round and Round’ is her latest release; ‘Kings and Queens’ is her latest of seven full length novels, and is a modern day re-telling of the story of Henry VIII and his six wives. A sequel is in progress.

When she is not writing, she practices housework avoidance, advanced Twittering, and worship at the altars of Jack Bauer, Tyrion Lannister, Deacon Claybourne and the macho blond one in ‘Vikings’.

Terry has a blog on which she writes about anything she feels like, and also writes for the UK Arts Directory on a weekly basis about self-publishing. Both blogs are widely read.

You can connect with her on her blog and Twitter.

My Review:

I give Terry Tyler’s Kings and Queens 4 out of 5 stars.

When I first heard about Terry Tyler’s Kings and Queens, a modern day retelling of Henry VIII’s court, I was intrigued.  Outside of the end of the Romanov dynasty and the Bolshevik revolution in the early 20th century, the Tudors (especially Henry VIII and his children) are my favorite royal family from history.  Naturally, Kings and Queens went straight to my to-read pile.  (Which is not a literal pile, because it’s mostly on my Kindle).

It didn’t disappoint.  Each of Henry VIII’s wives had her modern day parallel who struggled with relatable issues: food, self-image, drugs, control, and even Daddy issues. And some of the economic issues Harry found himself dealing with in his company reminded me strongly of Henry VIII’s England.

I did find Will Brandon’s narration a little dense at times, like I was reading a history book instead of a novel.

Overall, though, Kings and Queens was a fun read.  I recommend it for fans of Henry VIII’s reign, The Tudors (ShowTime), or even Reign  (CW). (Please don’t be shocked that I’ve watched and enjoyed both of those shows).  I’m looking forward to reading The Last Child.

Happy Women in Fiction Day!

Since it’s Women in Fiction Day, I thought I’d take a post to discuss some of my favorite literary heroines.

The Classics

anne of green gablesAnne of Green Gables

I mean, who doesn’t love a girl with this much imagination and flare for the dramatic?

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.” ~Lucy Maud Montgomery,  Anne of Green Gables

250px-Ellaine_-_EowynEowyn

She’s the ultimate warrior princess.

“And then her heart changed, or at least she understood it; and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.”  ~J. R. R.   Tolkien, The Return of the King

“[I fear a] cage … To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.” ~ J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

jo marchJo March

Yet another imaginative and slightly dramatic heroine.

“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle–something heroic, or wonderful–that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.”   ~Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

sara creweSara Crewe

The princess who is always a princess.

“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”   ~Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

nancy drew

Nancy Drew

Yet another female detective, who always drove the speed limit.

“I don’t promise to forget the mystery, but I know I’ll have a marvelous time.” ~Carolyn Keene, Nancy’s Mysterious Letter

The Contemporaries

dagny taggartDagny Taggart

Dagny Taggart is Dagny Taggart.  You know what I’m saying? Seriously, though, what a smart and powerful woman.

“You don’t have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is–say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

anna wulfAnna Wulf

Her vulnerability, the way she compartmentalizes, and just they way this heroine thinks resonate with me.

“Free women,” said Anna, wryly. She added, with an anger new to Molly, so that she earned another quick scrutinizing glance from her friend: “They still define us in terms of relationships with men, even the best of them.” ~Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

 

rebecca bloomwoodRebecca Bloomwood

A heroine who gets into all kinds of trouble because of her bad spending habits. Relatable and funny.

“When I shop, the world gets better.” ~Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic

The Ones You’ve Probably Never Even Heard Of

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Claire Trevelyan

A heroine that’s something of a mix between Sara Crewe and Dagny Taggart.

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Sparrow

I completely identify with Sparrow’s desire to be free (and also, her love of grape pop).

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Anna-Kate

She learns about herself after she breaks up with her boyfriend.

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Bella

She owns who she is, and also, she’s not afraid of making difficult choices.

Mortis

Jane

A female assassin.  Need I say more?

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Sarah

Sarah just wants adventure before settling into the routine of college (and everything that comes after that), and she doesn’t seem to want a romance to be that adventure.  She relates to people in real ways: she experiences awkwardness, anger, and even jealousy.  Beyond that, she’s direct and has a sense of humor.  Seriously, what’s not to love?

Who’s on YOUR list?

Cinderella Gone Wrong

Everyone is singing the new Cinderella movie’s praises, and rightly so: both Cinderella and her Prince were role models of courageous and kind character.  It was the kind of story that inspires hope.

Still, because I’m a storyteller by nature, I wonder … is that really how things would have gone down?

What if Cinderella hadn’t known her mother long enough to be strengthened by her memory?

What if working as a servant in the house that she had every claim on as a daughter stirred up resentment, not only against those she was serving, but against her father, who brought these people into her life and then abandoned her?

What if, instead of staying, she had run away to get out from under her family’s collective thumb?

What if she’d needed a fairy godmother to transform her character after everything she’d been through, not just her physical appearance?

What if there was absolutely nothing in her or about her to attract a prince?

I know, I know.  Cinderella is a fairytale, it’s not supposed to be realistic.  And if Cinderella was anything at all like what I just described, she wouldn’t be the character we know and love.  In fact, what I just described was what would have happened if it had been me in Cinderella’s shoes, because reality is, I’m flawed.  We all are.

Now, of course, the story can’t end there, but I think in order to create relatable characters (and not just optimistic characters, however inspiring), it has to start there.  I love a story where the protagonist’s character goes from rags-to-riches.  Some great examples of this are Sparrow and Leah Hilarey Johnson’s Sovereign Ground and Heart of Petra, Bella in Sarah E. Boucher’s Becoming Beauty, and even Chad in R. J. Conte’s Angel Lover.

I try to include flawed characters in my own writing as well.  Lilly tends to have a defeatist mentality when things aren’t going her way.  Delilah – well, Delilah takes care of herself, and is pretty convinced she’s doing a good job.  Hava is simultaneously self-righteous and hiding out in shame about her past.

I won’t spoil any of their endings for you, but I will say that if any character of mine changes for the better, it’s a hard-won victory.

And in spite of protagonists like Cinderella or Claire Trevelyan who display noble character no matter what their circumstances (and are loved for it!), I’d rather read flawed characters who change and grow within their stories any day.

Pinterest THE FIELD

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I am Irish, and although St. Patrick is well known as the patron saint of Ireland (and Nigeria and engineers), that’s not why I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  In fact, not being Catholic, I’m not prone to celebrating saints at all, as if they’re good luck charms, or worse, excuses to get drunk.

I am less interested in my Irish heritage and more interested in a legacy of faith and courage. St. Patrick’s was one of those, being a missionary to pagan Ireland with not much religious experience to commend him, only a call.

In honor of his life, I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes of his.

“Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me” (from “The Breastplate of St. Patrick”).

“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many” (from St. Patrick’s Confession).

“[There] is no other God, nor will there ever be, nor was there ever, except God the Father. He is the one who was not begotten, the one without a beginning, the one from whom all beginnings come, the one who holds all things in being – this is our teaching. And his son, Jesus Christ, whom we testify has always been, since before the beginning of this age, with the father in a spiritual way. He was begotten in an indescribable way before every beginning. Everything we can see, and everything beyond our sight, was made through him. He became a human being; and, having overcome death, was welcomed to the heavens to the Father. The Father gave him all power over every being, both heavenly and earthly and beneath the earth. Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, in whom we believe and whom we await to come back to us in the near future, is Lord and God. He is judge of the living and of the dead; he rewards every person according to their deeds. He has generously poured on us the Holy Spirit, the gift and promise of immortality, who makes believers and those who listen to be children of God and co-heirs with Christ. This is the one we acknowledge and adore – one God in a trinity of the sacred name” (from St. Patrick’s Confession).

“Even though there’s truth in my excuse, it gets me nowhere” (from St. Patrick’s Confession).

“The Spirit is a witness that what is of the countryside is also created by the Most High” (from St. Patrick’s Confession).

“Those who wish may laugh and insult. But I will not be silent, nor will I hide the signs and wonders which the Lord has shown me even many years before they came about. He knows all things even before the beginning of time” (from St. Patrick’s Confession).

“So I want to give thanks to God without ceasing. He frequently forgave my lack of wisdom and my negligence, and more than once did not become very angry with me, the one who was meant to be his helper. I was not quick to accept what he showed me, and so the Spirit prompted me. The Lord was merciful to me a thousand thousand times, because he saw in me that I was ready, but that I did not know what I should do about the state of my life. There were many who forbade this mission. They even told stories among themselves behind my back, and the said: ‘Why does he put himself in danger among hostile people who do not know God?’ It was not that they were malicious – they just did not understand, as I myself can testify, since I was just an unlearned country person. Indeed, I was not quick to recognise the grace that was in me; I know now what I should have done then” (from St. Patrick’s Confession).

“Now I commend my soul to my most faithful God. For him I perform the work of an ambassador, despite my less than noble condition”  (from St. Patrick’s Confession).

So, I’m not wearing anything green or eating and drinking anything unnaturally green today.  I don’t expect to eat the traditional Irish corned beef, cabbage, and potato dinner, either.   I’m not that focused on my Irish roots at all.

I’m thinking about what it’s like to be a young Christian with a calling to an unconventional life and ministry, and how doing things differently can bring out criticism like nothing else.  But you know something? If St. Patrick can do it, so can I.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT).

 

Give ‘Em What They Came For

I totally judge books by their back covers – that is, by their synopses.  I am extremely attracted to interesting concepts- like a society where everyone has a clock that tells them when they’re going to die, or a girl who falls into a book and alters the plot, or a society where women existed first and how man’s arrival changed them, or a not so beautiful woman in the role of Beauty.  If a book’s synopsis introduces something unusual, I can guarantee you I’ll pick it up and start reading it, whether I know the author or not.

Unfortunately, not every interesting concept delivers, and I find myself ploughing through bland plots from time to time.  On these occasions, I find myself facing a dilemma: finish the book and give an honest review, or put it aside and forget about it.  Last week, while reading once such book, I finished the book with the intention of reviewing it, then I decided against it.  After all, reviewing can be rough when you upset an author.

I changed my mind again.  Today, I’m going to semi-review it, without naming the book or the author.

First of all, a synopsis is a sort of promise: readers base their expectations for a book upon it.  Based on this particular synopsis, I expected a strong, action-oriented, female protagonist and a snappy, suspenseful plot to accompany her, and since it takes place in another world – well, I hoped for another world.  The protagonist was female.

After a tragedy in the prologue, the protagonist sits around for approximately the first half of the book pining for her love interest, complete with flashbacks to conversations about things that had no relevance to the overall plot.  Once the love interest shows up, our protagonist has a fresh perspective on her life and purpose.  I have a big problem with this: it reeks of co-dependence in a book geared toward young women, and it’s a far cry from the protagonist I expected to encounter.  If the synopsis had mentioned the protagonist pining after her soul mate – well, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.  It’s just – not my thing.

(This is not to say I don’t like romance. Heck, even The Field has a little bit of romance. Generally, I enjoy plots with romantic elements, and if the plot does center on romance, I prefer it to be of the triangle variety, where the protagonist is learning who best suits her (or him, as the case may be).  The Word Changers by Ashlee Willis, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes, Mortis by Hannah Cobb, and Becoming Beauty by Sarah E. Boucher are all excellent examples of how I like to see romance done.)

So fast forward through that first half of the book where nothing (aside from whining-and-pining) happens to when the love interest arrives.  Finally, the plot sputters to a start, as the protagonist takes interest in the world around her.  (Because her boyfriend showed up – I’m having a hard time getting over that).  Forget what I was expecting from the synopsis, every story should start in the first chapter and it should progress from there.  It doesn’t have to be action-packed from the get-go, but it should always develop and build, or else you run the risk of losing readers.  This particular story was told from the first person perspective and in present tense, which typically does engage readers when done correctly, but it can make it difficult for the author to get out of the character’s head and on with the story.

Most of all, I don’t understand why this particular story had to take place in another world.  The characters had certain powers, but nothing so terribly extraordinary or original as to warrant an entirely different place.  The society was slightly more technologically-advanced, but nothing I can’t see in our world a few decades down the road.  Even the main moral issue this fictional society faces is one we deal with here.  I don’t know – I guess I think if a writer is going to build another world, they should build another world.

All that being said, the moral issue is really where this story should focus, and I think had the author introduced its gravity earlier in the story, and the protagonist had been more proactive about it (without her love interest), I would have related much differently with this story.

The bottom line is this: I pick up every book I read for a reason.  It might have an interesting concept, or it might be a social issue near to my heart, or it might be by a favorite author.  Any way it’s sliced, I come to every book I read with expectations, usually set up by the author in the synopsis, and most of the time, the synopses are accurate and my expectations are satisfied.  (You can see that by the number of positive reviews I’ve written).  Basically, I want to like your book.

This morning I woke myself up from a dream yelling “give ’em what they came for” at someone, and I thought it fit how I’ve been feeling about certain books.  When a writer grabs my attention and sets up my expectations for a proactive protagonist and an exciting plot, I fully expect them to follow through.

And, no, I don’t think I’m asking too much.

 

 

 

 

 

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina: A Review

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a review, and I’ll get into the whys and wherefores of all that … in another post.

Today, I am immensely delighted to bring you a review of Shelley Adina’s Lady of Devices.

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Synopsis (from Amazon):

Book one of the bestselling Magnificent Devices series! London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It’s not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices. When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices.

About the Author:

RITA Award-winning author and Christy finalist Shelley Adina wrote her first novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Shelley is a world traveler who loves to imagine what might have been. Between books, she loves playing the piano and Celtic harp, making period costumes, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.

You can connect with Shelley on her website, blog, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

My Review:

I give Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina 4 out of 5 stars.

I’m going to be honest: Lady of Devices is my first venture into steampunk, so I have no idea how it stacks up against other books in its genre, and I won’t be evaluating it as such.  (Because I can’t).

Lady of Devices explodes off the pages (pun totally intended) from the outset, and there is no stopping point in the action after that.  The snappy plot – accompanied by a colorful cast of characters worthy of a Dickens novel, in a setting reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes (at least, in my mind) – kept me fully engaged from start to finish.

Claire Elizabeth Trevelyan reminds me of Ayn Rand’s Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged: she is never a victim, no matter what happens to her, and her personal philosophy is, “A lady of resources makes her own luck.” Claire takes charge of her circumstances, and her resourceful actions always seem to pay off, even if in unexpected ways.  I had difficulty relating to her, because every time she was knocked down, she got right back up and went back at it.  (Something I find it difficult to believe anyone is able to do all of the time).  I know this book is part of a much larger series, and I hope to see her struggle a little more as the story progresses, but who knows – maybe that’s just not her character.  Either way, I am delighted to have found such a curious, intellectual, and compassionate (if slightly arrogant) female protagonist.

In my opinion, she ranks not only with Dagny Taggart, but Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, and Sarah E. Boucher’s Bella.

I also loved how Adina introduced the concept of a bird’s flock and earning trust.  Nice touch.

I look forward to payday so I can download the rest of the series.

P.S. The first book is free on Kindle, so you know, get it while you can!

When You Compare My History with the Church to A Bad Chick-Fil-A Experience

There is this article by Perry Noble that seems to show up in my networks every few months.  In it, he compares a customer service experience at Chick-Fil-A to how some people treat the Church – one bad experience and they’re done. People share this message like gospel truth.

Every time I see it, though, it infuriates me.  You see, it displays an attitude that the issues people (especially my generation, Millennials) have with the Church are almost strictly the result of consumerism mindsets.  Frankly, I don’t think that’s the issue at all in most cases – it certainly isn’t true of my situation.

Not that I’m done with the Church; sometimes, I just feel the urge to withdraw.

Why?

This Church thing?

It’s HARD.

Can we all just take a few moments and let that settle?

Being part of the Church is hard.

I don’t mean that accepting Christ and becoming a part of this Christian family is hard.  I mean the day-to-day relating to and loving and being involved with our brothers and sisters in Christ is hard.

Being part of the Church is hard.

And being part of the Church is not hard because I have certain preferences regarding the way things should be done or handled that may or may not conflict with others’ preferences.   To explain away my struggle (or anyone else’s struggle) with Church involvement in such a way is not only an oversimplification, but a disservice.

First of all, the Church is a body – it functions organically.  Thus, it doesn’t play by the rules and strategies secular institutions and organizations use, nor does it need such structure to stay afloat.  There is a lot of freedom in the Church, functionally speaking.  Yet, every believer in Christ is going to come to the Church with different ideas of how things should be – can’t get away from that, it’s a human thing.  We all tend to hold tightly to those ideas, and most of us are scary good at making the Bible conform to our own ideas.  Rather than embracing freedom for others and ourselves, we bludgeon people until they see things our way.  That makes being a part of the Church hard.

The Church doesn’t seem to know what to do about sin.  I mean, we all sin, and it’s obviously serious business, but we can’t seem to reconcile seeking justice and loving mercy.  The circles I run in (and I run in a number of vastly different circles) might deal with sin in a spectrum ranging from a shunning-like response to sweeping it under the carpet. And naturally, everyone is judging everyone else for how they’re handling it, each convinced s/he has the best response.  As someone who deals with abusers and manipulators (sometimes in very close proximity), it’s critical to my spiritual and emotional well-being to know how to relate to them justly and mercifully.  While I have received good counsel from the Church regarding personal sin issues, the advice I’ve received regarding sins against me often leaves me feeling confused and alone, ill-equipped to cope.  That makes being a part of the Church hard.

Finally, because the Church has become so service-focused, we lose any sense of value apart from our service to the Church.  I’ll be honest: this has been my biggest struggle in the Church.  From five years ago up until around two years ago, I would take on ministry and giving opportunities because that’s how I would earn approval.  On a deeper level, it’s how I ensured I would be missed. (That is not as sinister as it sounds, I promise. Five years ago, I left the church I had grown up in, and at the very least, I did not feel missed.  I think I believed on some level that if I had been more involved, things would have played out very differently.  It’s a long, complicated story, but that’s the heart of it).  My problem is (and always has been), I take on way too much, and I end up crashing and burning.  Rather than admitting I’m gravely overextended, I withdraw, and pop up somewhere else when I’m ready.  So about two years ago, God told me I had to stop using ministry to make me attractive, and I’m sorry to say I only half-way listened, because I ended up in the same place I always do.  I gave it another shot this past year, and I can’t remember a time when I’ve attended a church and been so uninvolved.  I’ve discovered I don’t know how to build relationships in the Church apart from serving, and I’ll be honest, I don’t know if that’s me, or if it’s just how churches operate now.  Either way, that makes being a part of the Church hard.

In my case, just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s not worth endeavoring to be a part of anyway.  So, unless I’m sick or, as in yesterday’s case, just too overwhelmed by my schedule, I make it a point to be with a local gathering of the Church on a consistent basis.  I serve in a way I know I can handle during this season, and try not to feel bad about not taking on more.  And I try not to worry to much what people will think of my lack of involvement, or the fact that I have no idea how to build relationships with people when I have nothing to offer them.

It IS hard.

And it is so much more complex than a bad customer service experience.

I think it’s good, though, too, when you begin to realize all that the Church is.  When you have dinner with old friends, and that is the Church, even if it’s been years since you shared a pew (or row of chairs).  When friends call you up for prayer and support, and that is the Church, even if you are the only Church they have or know.  When a complete stranger somehow knows your gifts and calling and speaks life over you and them, and that is the Church, even though you’ve never met and aren’t likely to meet again.

The Church is not contained to four walls or even a local body.

Maybe that’s where the consumerism mindset originates – thinking that we must be in a certain place, with certain people, who all believe certain things in order to be a part of the Church.

In reality, though, we are the Church, and the Church is all around us.  There are opportunities to be the Church and be a part of the Church wherever we happen to be.

And so, however hard, it’s also beautiful, and maybe that’s why I’m compelled to keep trying.