Lord Fisher to the Right Hon. Winston Churchill
My Dear Winston,
I am here for a few days longer before rejoining my “Wise men” at Victory House–
“The World forgetting,
By the World forgot!”
but some Headlines in the newspapers have utterly upset me! Terrible!!
“The German Fleet to assist the Land operations in the Baltic.”
“Landing the German Army South of Reval.”
We are five times stronger at Sea than our enemies and here is a small Fleet that we could gobble up in a few minutres playing the great vital Sea part of landing an Army in the enemies’ roar and probably capturing the Russian Capital by Sea!
This is “Holding the right” with a vengeance!
Are we really incapable of a big Enterprise!
I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis-O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)–Shower it on the Admiralty!!
My first book, A Royal Pain, came out November 1 (please don’t tell my publisher I called it twaddle) and, especially while I was writing it, I’ll confess it relieved me to think that none of my friends at the Smart Table would ever pick it up in the bookstore.
But guess what? She realized that given other Ivy Leaguers like Julia Quinn and Eloisa James are romance writers that it was okay for her to like and write romances too. Because the degrees of the Ivy League wash all the unsmart filth away? Mulry “now realize[s] they are great books in their own way.”
The irony is that I needed to let go of all of my preconceptions of what “smart” meant in order to let it all out. And then sell it. Those ugly words. Repeat after me. Sell. It.
Dear Mr. Benton,
A good friend of mine steered me in the direction of the Franny K. Stein books. Her daughter loves them so much that she was crushed when she discovered that she couldn’t make her own monster. Or at least….not yet. Her daughter is still young though so who knows what she’ll be up to in ten years!
Franny and her family live in a cutely painted house on Daffodil Street. It’s bright and cheery except for a room with a round window at the top. That’s Franny’s room and she likes it dark and scary. Her mother can’t understand where all the bats in Franny’s room keep coming from but Franny likes them. “They’re like rats with pterodactyl wings,” she’d say. “What’s not to like?” Franny has other amazing things in her room such as bubbling beakers and buzzing electrical gizmos she made herself. Oh, and a tarantula, a snake, and a flying piranha.
Since Franny and her family just moved to Daffodil Street, Franny is new in her school class. The other students don’t know what to think of Franny, who wants to be friends, but who is so different. Franny likes her teacher Miss Shelly, even if Franny thinks Miss Shelly would look better with a white streak in her hair and Miss Shelly doesn’t really believe it when Franny says she’s a mad scientist. Miss Shelly does know how to motivate Franny to try and make friends. “Think of it as an experiment.” An experiment is the one thing Franny can’t resist.
But Franny’s efforts to fit in just aren’t working. Her homemade dolls, Chompolina and Oozette, aren’t like the other girls’ dolls. Lunch is a challenge too since all the children have white bread sandwiches instead of Franny’s shish kebabs, casseroles and stews. During recess Franny is about to offer one of her live bats for the softball game when she discovers that there’s more than one kind of “bat.”
Franny goes home and examines her notes then whips up a concoction to transform herself into … a nice kid. Kind of boring but nice. Her family is stunned by the change. Her mother is amazed by Franny’s request for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But Franny still rubs her hands together in a mad-scientist way. School doesn’t go quite like Franny expected and she missed Chompolina – who now has glitter and a unicorn – and thought her sandwich was squishy and boring. She enjoyed playing softball with the other children – though she thought a giant squid eye-ball or a skull for a ball would be more interesting.
Not everyone is pleased with Franny’s experiment. Miss Shelly is questioning Franny on the wisdom of transforming herself so radically when suddenly! a scream tears through the room. Franny quickly assesses the situation and realizes – Gadzooks, it’s a Giant Monstrous Fiend!
Now it’s up to Franny, and her mad-scientist brain, to save the day.
I love that Franny transforms herself back into the old Franny in order to take control and overcome the Giant Monstrous Fiend (aka the Pumpkin-Crab Monster). She calmly and coolly directs the other children and uses her smarts instead of running around in circles screaming. Mad-scientists, even if they’re only four feet tall, can be very persuasive. Franny even figures out a way to use everyone’s boring lunches in her plan to defeat the Fiend.
But better still, Franny gets accepted by the other kids for being exactly who and what she is. And the book even comes complete with a few pages from “Franny’s Book on Monster Making Techniques.” I’m looking forward to the other six “Franny” books already. B
Dear Ms. Browne,
In all fairness, the title does promise what is delivered. But I found that I didn’t care for a woman who would consider this acceptable behavior. The romance is like one of the heroine’s mother’s fairy cakes or ‘light as air’ sponge cakes. And even the farting dog and images of Amy hauling a wheelbarrow around during her daily work as a garden designer aren’t enough to ground this story for me. Perhaps had I read it 25 years ago, I could have totally bought into it but today reality has reared its ugly head too often and I need more to get me to believe in a Royal HEA. I feel that this review is going to be like slamming the oven door on the souffle of this book.
Amy Wilde is a simple Yorkshire lass who’s found her niche in London as a garden designer. She works with her friend Ted, who supplies a lot of the muscle, and lives with posh society roomie Jo, who can keep you entertained for hours with the scoop on her outrageous family, and dog Badger, who never met a smelly thing he didn’t want to roll in. Jo specializes in wild parties and there’s always a crowd who show up at their flat but one night a truly over the top man appears, complete with an entourage that includes three pencil thin women and one harried looking man. Amy and the harried man, who introduces himself as Leo, talk and flirt a little as Leo attempts to fix some damage that OTT Rolf caused. Amy’s natural Yorkshire reticence keeps her from being as verbally dazzling as Jo keeps trying to help Amy to be but Leo reappears anyway and the two begin to date.
Leo’s obviously loaded and well known in the ritzy circles of London but Amy believes that he’s the investment banker he’s introduced himself as. It takes Jo to open Amy’s eyes to the fact that Leo is actually Prince Leopold of Nirona, a wealthy European principality. Suddenly Amy’s in a whole new world and feeling overwhelmed by it. Still, she can’t fight her attraction to Leo any more than he seems to want to fight his with her. A romantic proposal later and Amy’s now being featured – and trashed – in the paparazzi tabloid website YoungHot&Royal. It takes a sudden reversal of the succession at his grandfather’s deathbed to thrust Leo from fifth in line to being the Crown Prince. And where Amy thought she could manage being the wife of a minor royal, now she’s not so sure if she can handle what her future will be if she stays the course. But…will she?
I used to want to be a Princess – lovely clothes, priceless jewelry, adoring crowds, what’s not to want? Then I grew up and followed – along with the world – the saga of Princess Di and the Duchess of York and, backdating a bit, learned that Princess Grace was miserable too. Suddenly, the perks didn’t seem like nearly enough for what you’d have to give up – which seems to basically be your entire life. And not only your life but that of any one near or dear to you who might make a salacious story if only as a 9 day wonder has to deal with it as well. Plus most of the time, it ends in divorce or bitter unhappiness. Really, who wants this? Okay, there are some who seem willing but for me, the price is far too high.
So, in the beginning, I can understand Amy’s heel dragging and dismay as she gets a wider and more complete glimpse of what she’s facing. I like that the book is upfront about the high cost of looking good enough to be front page all the time, the effort and constant maintenance that it takes to be a modern Royal – even if only a second tier one. The routine, file books and organizational calendars could be soul sucking. Knowing the press and paparazzi are lurking to catch you out and gleefully publish the results could make me want to hide under a flowerpot. Just the duties alone would be daunting but add to it the complex mix of years-in-the-making issues Amy and her family have got simmering and I might have not only second but fifth thoughts as well. And certainly the time to question if this is truly what she wants should be now since she already realizes that she and Leo really aren’t talking things out.
But to do a runner as she does? Whoa, talk about a way to bring her relationship with Leo crashing down because believe me, were I Leo, I would take a few steps back and reconsider given Amy’s (repeat) actions and her lack of communication with him. This is the heart of my problem with this book. These two are supposed to be building towards a lifetime together and they can’t even talk to each other. It was obvious to me that they were both having issues – Leo just a little but Amy a whole lot. Lotsa lot.
Let me elaborate. Were I Leo, I would be very hesitant about picking things back up with Amy because of the way she lied by omission to him. The issue with her family is one thing but the crack Nirona spin doctors and lawyers are ready to do damage control about that. No, it’s the fact that this woman who said she loved me and was going to spend a life with me hadn’t trusted me. Not with a major secret in her life but also not with her fears, doubts and issues with my heritage/lifestyle and what would be expected of her and also of how my family was used to using money to fix all their problems. There’s lip firming, words bitten back and silences enough here to raise all kinds of red flags. And all that’s before Amy’s runner. Were I on the receiving end of that I would be as devastated as Leo and need a lot of time to be sure Amy was over her fears and ready for what her future could be. I would need a lot of talking and airing of the issues we hadn’t talked about much less dealt with before being ready to take the plunge – whether I was still in love or not. As Amy showed, love doesn’t conquer all fears nor make everything all right.
I also felt that as much as Amy does try to meet Leo in the middle between their two former lifestyles – it’s Leo who changes and gives and meets her the most. Amy does change, – some – and does learn but it’s Leo who bends the most. Leo who’s almost a saint anyway. Seriously, a few flaws would have made him more real to me instead of him coming off like a cardboard cutout paper doll. He’s wonderful, handsome, intelligent, thoughtful, charming, polite – a great chap all around – but he’s not real. He’s a fairy tale and I’ve lost my belief in real live fairy tales now.
Jo and Ted are fantastic characters and I ended up enjoying their presence in scenes a bit more than Amy’s. Generally I adore chick lit but I have to see the heroine grow and it helps if I can at least sympathize with if not like her. Here, I felt I really needed Leo’s side of the story since a lot of the time I felt like he was getting the shaft end of this relationship. Plus he’s too fantastic for any reality and Amy’s meltdowns and repressed feelings don’t make her the most sympathetic of heroines. I finished the book convinced they’re in love but not truly convinced that they’re ready for marriage or have a good shot at a HEA. Amy’s matured but I don’t think enough. Yet. C-
Dear Ms. Stasse,
Ah, the dystopian subgenre. For something touted as the new vampire, it wore out its welcome fairly quickly, didn’t it? Despite the popularity of the recent Hunger Games movie, I remain skeptical that it’ll see a resurgence in popularity. I’m still willing to give the subgenre a try because you never know, but it’s hard to stand out these days. One thing I wish is that the dystopian genre as a whole had been less introspective and more action-based. The Hunger Games had a lot of action, but many of the titles that came out in its wake did not follow suit. So when your debut novel was touted as Hunger Games meets Lost, it caught my interest. That sounds right up my alley. Having finished it, I don’t think that description is inaccurate but in some ways, calling it a dystopian Lord of the Flies might be more apt.
At some point in the future, global chaos descended which led to the United States, Mexico, and Canada joining forces to form a new nation called the United Northern Alliance, or the UNA. Of course, this being a dystopian novel, we have the requisite guy who gets elected Prime Minister and promptly makes sure he retains that position for life. What’s a bleak future without a dictator, right?
As you’d expect, all dissidence is suppressed in this society. Our heroine, Alenna, has always felt out of place with her peers. Part of that is because she’s an orphan. When she was ten, her parents were dragged off by government soldiers and never seen again. After that, Alenna became a ward of the government.
Then six years later, she takes the government exam administered to all sixteen-year-olds. The test looks for subversive tendencies. If you pass, you’re fine. If you fail, you’re sent to a mysterious jungle island and left to fend for yourself. As for the conditions of the island, well, let’s just say the life expectancy of anyone sent to the island is eighteen.
As is a surprise to absolutely no one, Alenna fails the test. She is the protagonist, after all, and let’s not forget her parents were dragged off by the government and accused of being dissidents. Based on the latter, Alenna probably should have been a little concerned about her fate and not so complacent about her chances of passing.
When Alenna wakes up on the island, she discovers the teens sent there have split into two very different groups. One group tries to form small makeshift towns and survive with some semblance of civilization. The other has completely eschewed that and centered itself around a cult-like figure. Their perspective on life is one of violence and survival of the fittest.
Luckily for Alenna, she manages to join the first group. That doesn’t mean she’s safe. The other group launches daily attacks on them, destroying their villages and killing their people. Worse still, they grow in numbers and power so at some point, Alenna’s group is going to lose. So when she’s given the chance to help with a plan to escape the island, she jumps on it. Because while the other tribe is dangerous, they are far from the only thing to worry about.
This was a pretty quick read. I liked how it didn’t slow and kept moving. No parts dragged and I found myself flipping the pages to see what happened next. On the other hand, it is a fairly linear narrative so readers looking for subtlety or nuance might be disappointed. The storyline proceeds with few surprises. Alenna is dropped off on the island, joins the safer group, finds a place, makes friends, falls in love, embarks on a quest, and so on. These plot points are presented fairly straight without any subversion so you get what you expect and that’s great if you’re in the mood for it. If you’re not, however, and were wanting something a little more different, it might be a letdown.
I didn’t particularly care about the romantic subplot with Liam. It’s one of those instant love at first sight cases, which can be a tough sell for me. There is an attempt to explain the instantaneous affinity, but I’m not sure it succeeded since it was kept till the end. On the other hand, I liked that a good chunk of the book is devoted towards Alenna wanting to rescue Liam. That said, there was also a part of me that wondered if their relationship was really that genuine and sincere. I didn’t fully buy the depth of their feelings. Superficial attraction, I could easily understand, but beyond that? Not convinced.
I liked Alenna’s relationship with Gadya overall. I enjoyed most of their interactions and the parts where Gadya taught Alenna to survive. As a result, I was very frustrated by the stereotypical conflict of Alenna falling in love with Liam while Gadya was still in love with him. (They used to be together but broke up at some point before Alenna came to the island.) I’m not a fan of female friends fighting over the same guy. It’s lazy conflict, especially if it follows the path of one abandoning the other because of it. Do we really need more stories like this?
Alenna, despite being the main character, ended up being something of a cipher for me. I had a hard time getting a handle on her character. She’s the daughter of dissidents who’s never been able to fit in. She gets dropped on an island and thanks to Gadya, is able to join the group that doesn’t treat girls like crap. Many guys immediately like her – including the hottest guy in the tribe. She’s helpful. The leader of the tribe takes a special interest in her. These things aren’t unbelievable and while reading, were fine but after completing the book, I wonder if Alenna didn’t have things just a little too easy? There should have been a little more struggle and conflict on the interpersonal level. This might be why I was so disappointed about the conflict between Alenna and Gadya being generated by their feelings for Liam. Alenna ran into problems because of it, but it was mostly because Gadya stopped helping her since she was jealous and upset about what was happening. It’s one-note.
Regardless, the narrative proceeded fine for the first three-quarters of the book. Then the last quarter happened and so many revelations occurred that my suspension of disbelief snapped. I actually think this book would have been well-suited to be a standalone but unfortunately, it’s a first of a trilogy. To be fair, it’s not a cliffhanger and I think a lot of the rushing towards the end was to avoid that while also introducing more threads to hint at a larger scale conflict to fill out two more books. I’m just not convinced more books were necessary to tell this story.
I don’t regret reading this novel so thank you for sending us a copy. I’m glad we have one more adventure and survival-based dystopian YA rather than the more ubiquitous introspective types. Those are more interesting to read, in my opinion. But overall, I think this would have been better suited as a standalone than as the first in a trilogy. B-
Ever dream of being transformed into a bombshell?
Grace Cavanaugh thinks she’s in for an easy, lazy summer when she takes a job as companion to her great aunt Sophia in Pebble Beach. She’ll dab spittle from her aunt’s chin, watch ‘Animal Planet’, and work on her dissertation for her PhD in Women’s Studies.
But Sophia has other plans. With a tart tongue that would put Bette Davis to shame, Sophia sets about transforming her dumpy great-niece into a copy of the B-movie bombshell Sophia once was, and in the process teaches her a thing or two about men, sexual liberation, and power.
Caught in Sophia’s web along with Grace are Declan O’Brien, the college football star turned financial advisor, and Dr. Andrew Pritchard, Sophia’s dewy-cheeked personal physician. Declan makes Grace’s body melt, but it’s Andrew who seems to be on her same mental wavelength.
By the time the summer’s over, though, Grace isn’t going to know whether she’s a scholar or a bombshell, or maybe a little bit of both
Dear Ms. Cach,
Several of your books reside on my “I love these books!” shelf. So when I hear that you’ve got a new addition to your oeuvre, I tend to get excited. After reading “Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells,” I was more confused and “meh” than excited. Let me explain. I just wasn’t sure what this book was supposed to be and be saying. Was it Chick Lit? Or a romance? Or an erotic romance? It didn’t really end up being any of those for me and thus could be labeled – for me at least – as a disappointment. I did, however, come up with some alternate titles.
“What Not to Wear – The Bombshell Version”
“How to Win Friends and Sexily Influence People”
First let me say it’s hard to like a lot of the characters. There are lots of disagreeable characters and I almost quit after chapters 2 and 3. The feelings and thoughts initially revealed by Aunt Sophia will dismay or upset so many. It disparages both lesbians and feminists plus makes men seem to be cads. Aunt Sophia reveals herself as a master manipulator and she definitely has an agenda with Grace so some of this could be said just to pull Grace’s strings but I was aghast. Other characters, such as Darlene, appear and conveniently disappear at random. Andrew is cardboard cutout only there for plot reasons and turned into mess at end. Sophia didn’t see the real man? I find that hard to believe so again maybe she was using him to achieve her ultimate ends. Grace’s friend Cat is another problem child. Is she Grace’s friend who will tell it like it is when Grace needs to hear it or is she a whiney bitch out to cut Grace down? I never was sure but I was glad Cat doesn’t have a large role in the book.
The story also feels choppy as it lurches back and forth. Parts are slow, crawlingly slow, and parts whiplash especially both Declan’s realization of his feelings and the final HEA. Grace does a whirlwind turnaround at end as well – from “it’s over!” to agreeing to marry Declan. The sexing is hawt, frequent (at least by Grace’s journal entries, though we don’t actually see all of it by a long shot) but it’s more erotic than romantic. Well, maybe not much of that either since we only actually see two hawt scenes and the rest are just recorded in her journal as having occurred. So in retrospect, it’s not really that erotic overall. And there’s precious little romance to make up for the lack of erotic.
As for the “ILY” – I can see that these two have fallen (separately) in love with each other but they don’t know it until almost the very last little tippy tip of the book. In the end, I’m left wondering about Declan and Grace’s HEA. Both have changed but I’m still not entirely sure I like all the changes. At the end, Grace says love should make you want to be better – should make you better. Is she? I don’t know. Is Declan? Probably but the final change in him is too fast for me. I think I would have been happier with a HFN and “let’s see what happens” ending.
Sophia isn’t lying about how the world is full of people who manipulate to get what they want. And Grace becoming more confident, rather than truly nothing but a bombshell, and using her feminine power of allure isn’t necessarily bad. All Sophia’s lessons seem fairly cold but there are nuggets of truth there as well. I’ll have to think about this. Was Sophia acting and arranging the whole thing? I was pretty sure over course of book and this was proved at end. It was a bold move to make her so crabby and manipulating. Everything Sophia does did achieve her goal of getting Grace married off, if that was the goal – but she’s still a disagreeable old bat. I give her credit though – she is still firm in her beliefs.
The book works more as a discussion and exploration of changes/evolutions – or not – in male/female relations as seen through Sophia’s lessons vs Grace’s female studies and modern thoughts. Is either right or wrong? Have people changed that much or is it only surface stuff? Will inter/intra gender issues ever really change? And not just about sex and love but about getting what you want and how to interact with others in all social situations? By the time I’d finished I still didn’t know. But notice I didn’t say it works well as a romance or an erotic romance. D