18 May 2024

Review: YA novel, XOXO by Axie Oh


 It's been a while since I've picked up a YA novel. I think, the last series of YA books I read was the Twilight series. This one caught my eye because of the synopsis---"an Asian American high school student meets an up and coming K-Pop star".  That's all I needed to pique my interest. I love K-Pop (and before you ask, yes, I'm proudly ARMY and a STAY). 

I also want to add that it's been a very long time since a novel has made me cry. That's an honor that's usually reserved for the visual media. But here I am, having just finished XOXO by Axie Oh and still wiping at my eyes and blowing my nose. 

XOXO is the story of Jenny Oh, that Korean American high school student who meets an enigmatic young Korean boy in her Uncle's Karaoke bar. It's an experience that leaves a lasting impression on her. She doesn't know it then but she'll know soon enough that Bae Jaewoo is in the US with his group to film a music video for their first hit. And yes, he is an up and coming K-Pop star. But since they're never destined to meet again, she thinks, who cares. 

Until her Mom tells her that her grandmother is very ill and needs an operation. And because it's her family, they need to go to be with her. Happily Jenny wants to go too and manages to transfer for period to a local high school. And wouldn't you know it. The first day of class, guess who happens to show up in that class. Two members of the group, XOXO, and one of them is that very same young man, Bae Jaewoo. 

Now what?

Well that what is a beautiful romance between these two characters and the cast of friends that join them. All wrapped within that plot of music. Jenny is a typical teenage girl, but she has a future ahead of her in her classical cello. Jaewoo is a typical teenage boy but with the added responsibilities of the group and family and success in the pop world. Both of them handle things with all the angst of a teenager but with a bit more of the adult sentiments than we associate with the teens.

The plot is wonderful, with an emphasis on wonder. The characters are diverse and packed with the drama one has with the foibles of high school. The drama of it all. The gossip. Even in a Korean high school there's plenty of drama and gossip. Seeing our main characters in their own elements, the family. I was so caught up in all of it that I forgot I was reading a YA novel. And when we got to the conclusion--all I'm gonna tell you is that it's a happy ending. You'll have to read it to find out what kind of a happy ending, because it's not exactly what you think.

Ms. Oh has written a wonderful book. I didn't really expect to like it. I'm a lot too old to be reading YA fiction, but it didn't matter. I was still caught up in it. Her details in the story make it. I could imagine being in the thick of it. Brought back a lot of memories of my own high school years. I hope there's more from Ms. Axie Oh. She's got a bright future ahead of her.

Another five out of five stars.

Find this book at

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo/Rakutan










17 May 2024

Review: STARZ series, Mary & George, starring Julianne Moore, Nicholas Galitzine, and Tony Curran


 So, watched the last episode of Mary & George on Starz. Considering that James Stuart (James the VI of Scotland, the I of England, the man who fucked up the Bible) was one of my least favorite English kings, my only reasons to watch this were Nicholas Galitzine and Julianne Moore.


What little I know of the history of the Villiers family leads me to believe this was pretty damn historically accurate. Were James and George lovers? Kinda depends on whom you ask. There was just enough gossip and innuendo to suggest they were but just as many say they had a close but not physical relationship as says they were doing the nasty. But George was definitely James' favorite for the last years of his life and James lavished him with titles and lands and favors. Did George actually murder James? Again, rumor. George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, might have been favored by James I and his son Charles I, but George was truly hated by the populace. The show portrays it as fact, but again, rumor only.

George outlived James by three years and was assassinated in 1628. Mary outlived him by 5 more years and her favor at court was pretty much erased when George died.

Brilliant casting. Julianne Moore serves as one of the producers and her Mary Villiers is one of a strong woman who could be devious when required but was simply a woman in a male dominated world who was trying to take care of her family and herself. Someone like that will also make enemies along the way.

Nicholas Galitzine is a star on the rise for all the work he's done. And he doesn't disappoint here either. He and Juliane have a great chemistry as mother and son. His character has a definite arc as George ages in the series. He goes from whiny spoiled/ignored brat to a confident man who has his own streak of deviousness.

The story is intricate, filled with the machinations of life with the royals. So much drama, so much angst. The plot is tight and a different kind of action than most of us are used to. Yeah, there's a lot of sex. And then, there's Tony Curran as James. Wow.

If you have STARZ, it's definitely binge worthy. Period piece/Costume drama for sure but the actors make it worth your while and I'm quite sure you'll find something that will mirror a modern society in how things play out. Seven episodes/Seven hours. A good day's binge.

Five out of five stars.

08 May 2024

Review: Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score


 I'm here to admit that Lucy Score is my new favorite author.  And this was a book I could not put down. When I begrudge any moment that my nose is not buried in that book, it's a definitely keeper. 

Poor Naomi has to deal with a bad twin sister, a 11 year old niece that's half wild, an ex-fiancĂ© who suddenly decides to get possessive, a small town with an off the beaten path sensibility, and a boss who pushes her away but won't let her go. Recipe for disaster, right? 

Nope. Recipe for a fantastic read with ups and downs and plot twists, romance, great sex, and a spark or two of danger. The characters were amazingly real and fascinating to me. The relationships were deep and complicated. So was the romance. The pacing of this story is right on the mark -- holds your interest, keeps you reading along, never gets slow or boring. Author loses one point for a slightly cliched denouement but, I figure one point out of a hundred still counts as a five star success in my book. 

I love this book. Enough that I'm off to read 2 and 3 because I loved those two characters in this story too. I can't wait. 

Five out of five stars!!! Available through bookstores everyone, even online. 

05 May 2024

Review: The Idea of You - the Movie

 

So, I watched The Idea of You, the movie. Well. It's not great but it's not bad either. It's actually rather good.

Speaking as one who read the book first, I can understand what the director was going for. And after reading other reviews, especially about the changes made to make the movie a true Rom-Com, I really wanted to hate this movie. I'm a bit of a purist, you see. But I couldn't. And can't. I may not be madly in love with the movie, but I do know that it was enjoyable and faithful to the book in spirit, anyway.

The book is very powerful in the story it tells. And the movie retains a flavor of it but the truth is, aging up the daughter to 16, aging up Hayes, other changes in the story watered the story down. Supposedly to make Solene more likable. She was already pretty darn likable. A recently divorced woman finding her way in the world and refusing to be an old fuddy duddy at 40. A sexual reawakening and if life begins at 40, then a definitely coming of age story. I didn't miss the big fight over Hayes having an affair with Oliver's sister. Some of those changes weren't a bad thing. But some things should have been left alone and if the writer couldn't find away to make that happen and show that Solene was a good, honest, decent woman, that's on the writer.

But there is a lot good in this film. The chemistry between Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries) and Nicholas Galitzine (Red White & Royal Blue, Mary & George) is electric. Seeing them onscreen together made this film come alive. The story they played was, in turn, vibrant, romantic, erotic, heart-breaking. It was so easy to get lost in the story, fall for the characters. I really wanted to hate this film and yet I couldn't. I've watched it a time or two now. And might even watch it a few more times.

Definitely a 4 out of 5 stars and a darn good watch. 

29 April 2024

Review: 'The Idea of You' by Robinne Lee -- the book

 

Yes, another book and movie combination. And yes, another one with actor Nicholas Galitzine starring. I found out there was a book and I glommed onto that sucker like no one's business. I figured if it was as good as Red White & Royal Blue, the movie had a lot going for it. And I suppose we'll see - it opens this weekend on Amazon Prime Video. But for now... The book.

We all find someone talented, in the public eye, who is fetching to look at and everything we could ever want in a love. We fantasize about our perceived romance, dream of life with someone that talented, that charismatic. That beautiful to behold. Wanting to hold on to that one moment of artistic expression filled with vulnerability and sensitivity. Life lived within the bubble of perfection. Spending forever wrapped within each others arms. And in most contemporary romances, everything always works out. And then came The Idea Of You.

This book is brilliantly written. The kind of story that sucks you in and makes you want to keep reading long past the point where you had to go to work. Or go to bed for the night. Or have dinner. Or mend your dress, darn your socks, or some other errand that required your attention. There's always some excuse to keep reading. Just one more chapter. One more page. Just one more! This book is that book. Well written and packed with plot and amazing characters. I fell in love with all of them, especially Hayes and Solene. I was caught up, I was enraptured. The two of them together were amazing.

Ms. Lee captures the exhilarating feel of romance while dealing with the uglier side of fame and fortune. And how things might not always work out as we want them to. The pain and the torture. The brilliant highs and the debilitating lows. All of this makes for a wonderful story, well told, and one I could re-read without a qualm. But if I were you, I'd have at least one box of kleenex to hand. Because the road to bliss is filled with the potholes of how our joy is someone else's hurt.

Now. Bring on the movie. 

Five out of five stars for The Idea of You

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition (June 13, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1250125901
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1250125903

    Purchase from 

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    Kobo




20 February 2024

Review: 'Murder Under A Honey Moon' by Abigail Keam


Marriage and Murder and Pirates -- Oh My!!!

New Mona Moon is always a cause for celebration. And a great excuse to tuck up with cookies and hot tea and a great read. Murder under a Honey Moon is yet another exciting book by Abigail Keam. 

Mona and Robert have tied the knot and, after an emergency trip to the Moon copper mine to sort that out, they're finally on the boat for their honeymoon. FINALLY!!! But, after all, the course of true love never ran smooth, as Shakespeare once noted. On the ship, they meet a few unsavory characters, have their cabin ransacked and Mona's jewels stolen, and then come across a very dead body investigating the theft. And what cruise on the high seas is ever complete without the threat of pirates? Poor Mona. Just can't catch a break.

It's been a while since I've been this glued to a novel. I came very close to reading straight through the night. Definitely hard to put down once you've started. Keam's ability to interweave historical figures into her narrative makes it all so real. Mona is a strong female character in a time when women knew their place and men ruled the world. But with her beloved Lord Farley at her side, the two make a dynamic power couple and the rules don't interfere. Once they get started investigating, they are unstoppable until the truth comes out. And believe me, it does. 

This is an excellent read. And as long as Ms. Keam keeps writing them, I'll keep reading them. So worth the time!  

Five out of Five stars for Murder Under A Honey Moon! Now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any online bookseller.

Amazon
Barnes & Noble


17 February 2024

Review: 'Red White & Royal Blue - The Movie

 


I can't believe I'm sitting here, weeping. I do love a good romance. Me, the cynical pervert. I'm crying over a really good romance!

Just finished watching Red White & Royal Blue after having just finished the book, and I was not disappointed. I usually am when I love a book and watch the movie thereafter. I usually avoid doing that because the movie turns out to be a bad imitation. But I can tell you, this ain't the case.

Casey McQuiston made some amazing characters in a compelling story. I should write half as well as she does. I love that book. I love Alex and Henry--together and apart. They're truly wonderful souls. But together, they're one romantic power couple. Each damaged in their own way, but they complement each other. And compliment each other. My favorite scene was the "Cake-tastrophe" scene (of course) that sets it all up. It was freaking hilarious. But the talks that Alex has with Henry to bolster his confidence and then the "discussion" with the King about Henry's freedom to love whom he chooses were heart felt and glorious as well. 

The movie doesn't disappoint. In fact, it complements and compliments the book. Taylor Zakhar Perez is the perfect Alex. He's got Alex's smart mouth, sarcastic soul, and gorgeous Latino good looks. Nicholas Galitzine is the perfect Henry. He's snooty and confident, then vulnerable and afraid, and the blond handsomeness of a true prince. These two together lit up the screen like a house on fire. Watching their romance was awesome. Uma Thurman was wonderful as Madame President Ellen Claremont and Clifton Collins Jr was equally divine as Oscar Diaz, her husband. 

McQuiston's story retains its flavor of humor and romantic inclinations with all the complications that such a romance can hold. Watching Alex and Henry navigate through the problems and setbacks, then fall into such heights of love and joy, I was so caught up in it that I sat here with a box of Kleenex on my knee while giggling madly at their antics. Yes, a few details were changed, a couple of characters left out, but I didn't miss them, really. The story focused where it needed to be and was just as compelling without them. 

I love the book. I love the movie. And another 5 out of 5 stars. Forget the "I don't read or do same sex romance" and just enjoy the beautiful story for what it is. A romantic fairytale for the ages and certainly for the modern day.

Red White & Royal Blue is streaming online at Amazon Prime. Worth the free week to watch. And maybe stick around for other good stuff on the channel too. 

16 February 2024

Review: 'Red, White, and Royal Blue' by Casey McQuiston--The Book


 As books go, this one was a little slow out of the gate--set up and exposition usually is. But, like a few other books I've ready, your patience will be rewarded. Once the two men come together, this takes off at a gallop and it's one hell of a wild ride, for sure.

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the son of the first woman president in the history of the US. His sworn, mortal enemy is Prince Henry of Wales in the UK. These two have had a tempestuous relationship since their first meeting and nothing has changed. Or has it? A fiasco at the wedding of Prince Philip, Henry's brother,--the two having a squabble at the reception ends up with them both in the cake. Literally--turns into an international incident. President's answer--you go there and make nice. OR ELSE!! Alex is determined to make the best of it and decides that the only way they can convince the world that they're besties is to start texting. Seeing each other socially on occasion. But friendship has a way of turning into something deeper. And there are always consequences to becoming lovers in a public forum. 

The two are a study in opposites. Alex is a foul mouthed, rebellious son with charisma and real love for the world of politics. He's an idealist who believes in doing good for the people. He's free, if not closeted and questioning. Henry is a true child of royalty, restricted and confined. He's always known who he is and he's not questioning, but he's closeted in more ways that one. Henry is also charismatic and a major romantic. Together, these two are madly in love and afraid of the world at the same time. Watching this play out between them brought me to giggles at times and tears at times. I got so deeply involved with their story that I pretty much forgot MY life. 

The pacing is delicious. Watching the romance bloom and blossom was perfect. The romance itself flowed along a logical progression of events without losing that sense of the romantic. They learn about each other in intimate terms. Nothing is glossed over, nothing is left out. And when the relationship turns physical, it's tasteful and so damn hot that I busted out a sweat, then had a drink and a cigarette.  

Ms. Mcquiston has turned out a brilliant book, a great read, and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. This weekend, I plan on watching the movie. I hope it's as faithful to the book as I want it to be. That review will follow. 

In the meantime, five out of five stars. A must read for anyone--even if you're not into LGBTQ lit. If you want a great love story, this is just the thing.


Red White and Royal Blue is available at:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple -- must be purchased through the Apple Bookstore on your Apple Device

31 December 2023

Review: "Saltburn" is a "Mr. Ripley" rehash without the charm


 I found an article whinging that "sexual antics" had no place in family entertainment and the movie Saltburn was mentioned specifically. Ooooo, depravity. Any article having a small hissy about depravity in film and preaching against such things certainly piques my interest. I said to myself, "Self," I says, "I simply must."

I really should have saved myself the time. 

Saltburn is certainly no holds barred in the story telling, I'll say that much for it. But it's such a tired cliche, it's not even worth the time it takes to watch it, And if there's a familiarity to the plot, it's not your imagination. You have seen this before. In fact, Matt Damon did it better in The Talented Mr. Ripley. I wasn't overly impressed with the plot then, either. 

Barry Keoghan plays the down-on-his-luck, scholarship student Oliver Quick, a socially inept young man who is only in Oxford by the grace of someone's largess. Ollie is looked down on by the wealthy elite of Oxford until the day he does a solid for the fantastically handsome, favored son Felix Catton, played by the gorgeous Jacob Elardi, and a friendship begins. Felix invites Oliver to his home at Saltburn, to relieve his boredom and things begin to fall apart so easily. The puppet master pulling the strings and watching the wealthy tapestry begin to unravel.

Gods, I wish I could say that the machinations were worth the watch, but they weren't. The sexual antics was about as titillating as a PG film. I've seen more racy Disney films than this. The plot was plodding, taking forever to develop and play out, and by the time the events did play out, I had stopped caring way earlier. The final scene of a naked Oliver dancing his way through the family mansion seemed so gratuitous that I was more bored than intrigued or aroused. 

Elardi's performance was fairly stereotypical as the rich, favored prince. Jude Law was, at least, real in his acting in "Ripley". The normally brilliant Richard Grant and Rosamund Pike did their best to inject life into their scenes but by then, it was too little and too late for me.

And that's usually the problem with British films for me. They're either amazingly filled with action and life or they're so supremely boring that I'm falling asleep. Saltburn falls in the latter category, I fear.

If you've got Amazon Prime, you'll find Saltburn included for your viewing (cough) pleasure. But truthfully, watch The Talented Mr. Ripley instead. Far superior since that movie did it first and did it better. 

One star out of 5. And that's a gift.

 



17 December 2023

Review: "40 Ways to Lose a Guy" by Donna Mcdonald.

 


There are very few authors that I will move heaven and earth to read. And then spend more money buying every book they write or have written. Diana Gabaldon. Abigail Keam. And Donna McDonald. 

I've been really enjoying her latest series, Tales of a Midlife Witch. Nothing like a feisty woman who just happens to be a Celtic Witch and puts up with no shit from the son of a bitch who put her in prison on a trumped-up charge. Add a demon familiar, a daughter who thinks she's guilty, and a Wu Shaman named Mulan, and life gets interesting, if not downright dangerous. 

But add an even more dangerous wrinkled -- a hot, studly, sexy celestial being known as a Guardian -- and we're talking danger on a whole other level.

Welcome to the second book in the series, 40 Ways to Lose a Guy

McDonald has this amazing talent for taking the fantastical and making it mundane. You mean we don't walk amongst angels and guardians and demons on a daily basis? Sure feels like it. And after reading these books, I'd be hard pressed to say we don't. The plot is tight, lots of action and suspense. Her characters are so real, you almost expect to have them walk out of the pages and into your living room. And each character has a story to tell and a way of making you involved in their doings and comings. 

I can never put these books down once I start reading. It was no different with the first book, too - 40 Ways to Say Goodbye. And I don't think the coming books will be any different. I look forward to them. I plan on carving out a weekend to sit with some Walker shortbread cookies, a steaming cup of Earl Grey, and the next book - 40 Ways to Tell a Lie

5 out of five starts. Another must read from a talented author. 

Available from:

Amazon - https://amz.run/7WAa
Barnes & Noble - https://bityl.co/N2SU