Holiday Reading

I got myself a whole slew of Christmas novels and novellas that I figured I’d read and review for the holidays. That hasn’t worked out so well, I’m only halfway through my second one, so at this rate I’ll still be reading Christmas stories in April!

Still, I wanted to ask – does anyone have any recommendations for good holiday romances? Do you like holiday romances?

I did read a few last year, so I will give my notes on those (and the one I finished this year) for now.

Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham

This holiday romance starts with Gwen who’s at a charity auction to bid on her sister’s boyfriend (on her sister’s behalf), but after a conversation with another handsome rugby player ends up bidding on him instead. At 6’1”, Gwen has always felt like a giant, but “Little” John Sheldon makes her feel all woman.

I did like the chemistry between the two main characters in this book. Gwen has some baggage from something that happened to her in her youth, and it threatens to derail any relationship she’s ever had as an adult. John is quite understanding about the situation, and tries his best to help. Which doesn’t always work. I liked that when he acted like an ass, whether intentional or not, he did usually realise and would try to fix his behaviour.

There were a few things in the novella I liked less, but I can’t go into it without possible spoilers. Still good enough to read once, and you don’t have to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one.

MILF on the Shelf by Nico Rosso

This is an erotic novella so it contains explicit language, in case that’s not your thing. It’s about a middle aged woman who takes the chance to feel something again with a younger man. I wouldn’t say it’s a love story per se, but more about finding a way back to yourself.

I liked that it has a Chinese-American heroine and an African-American hero. It’s also refreshing to read about an older woman/younger man rather than the other way around. I’d say it’s definitely worth the read as long as you don’t mind explicit language.

Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter

This was a sweet romance where Harley, still recovering from the loss of her husband and children, takes a temporary job over the holidays at a ranch to get away from all of the memories for Christmas. The owner of the ranch, Brock, is a gruff widower, and is out of the house most of the time – which suits her perfectly. Things change when Brock’s twins unexpectedly arrive home from school, something Harley didn’t sign up for.

When she realises that the twins have never celebrated Christmas, she makes it her mission to make sure that they do. To Brock’s initial dismay. (I personally got a bit of a von Trapp feeling early on, but it plays out quite well.)

The book is sweet, and it deals with the personal loss of both main characters quite well. However, I was very thrown when the book turned very Christian towards the end. I hadn’t realised that this was a spiritual romance, and it seemed to come out of nowhere, since there had been no real references of it up until that point. That did sort of ruin the book for me a bit, mainly because I didn’t expect it.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan

Ski Pro Brenna has been in love with ex-skiing champion Tyler for years, so she knows all about unrequited love. When an overbooked skii resort forces them to share a chalet for the holidays, they are both forced to look at their relationship in a new light.

I quite enjoyed this book, there’s a fair amount of unresolved sexual tension (though any actual sex scenes take place behind closed doors), and both main characters seemed realistic and interesting. Tyler is a single dad, which is quite new to him (the daughter has lived with her mom up until recently), and the feelings involved in having to now take care of his daughter seemed real.

This was possibly one of my favourite Christmas romances so far.

I read a few others, but they can’t have been very good, because I have little to no memory of them.

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation by Erica Ridley

No memory of this whatsoever. I’m sorry.

The Twelve Nights of Christmas by Sarah Morgan

Little to no memory of this. The one thing I can remember is that the couple’s meet-cute is the hero finding the heroine naked on his hotel bed. (As I remember, she lost her job and worked in a hotel – so a friend/colleague told her to stay the night in the suite – then her clothes got wet and she had hung them up to try, only to fall asleep on the bed.)

A Christmas Kiss by Jess Michaels

I remember it being a Regency, and that it felt too short. It suffered from what a lot of novellas do – the lack of time for proper character growth. Everything felt just a little bit too rushed.

Movie Review: Beauty & the Beast

I had meant to post this ages ago, when I actually saw the movie, but I never got around to it, because I’m a terrible person. Or a forgetful person. One of those things.

It’s a tale as old as time… and you know what, let’s not do this. I think we all know how the story goes. If you’re anything like me, you saw the original Disney movie about a trillion times anyway and probably know it by heart.

There’s definitely a level of nostalgia that goes into watching this movie, and Disney counts on it, giving us a nearly frame by frame remake. There are changes though, and some (most?) are for the better. Some new songs have been added, and Belle is a little less victim and a little more feisty. She’s the inventor rather than her father, which is one of the reasons the villagers find her odd. That and the fact that she can read, which is apparently a terrible, terrible thing. Even worse when she tries to teach one of the children (a girl! oh noes! how dare she?!) to read.

Some of the things that might have made us go ‘huh?’ in the original movie have been addressed, some of which makes sense now and some of which still kind of don’t. As well as a few new bits that may or may not make sense.

I could go into detail about all these things, but I won’t bore you. (An example is how the villagers could have forgotten that there’s a huge castle with a prince right next door, and some timing in regards to the Beast’s age. If you pay attention in the original and do the maths he was basically 11 when the curse happened. How bad can an 11 year old be for you to curse him like that? I’m kidding, 11 year olds can be terrible, but I mean – ground them or something, don’t turn them into a beast!)

Let’s talk about the things that I really care about when it comes to this movie; the characters and romance!

The Beast/Prince

They did an amazing job creating the Beast in CGI! Dan Stevens truly shine and is allowed enough of his features through the CGI to properly convey all of the feelings he needs to. Not only that, but he can sing. I will be honest, I had no idea that Dan Stevens could sing.

In fact, they did such a good job on the Beast (those pecs… I mean, the scene where his shirt is open created some very confusing feelings for me) that I was disappointed when he turned into the Prince. Which was very badly done, because Dan Stevens is a handsome man. What’s up with the temple curls?! And did he have to be given the ugliest suit of everyone in the whole movie?

Belle

I liked Hermione Granger Emma Watson as Belle, though I’m not sure that someone else couldn’t have done a better job. I feel terrible for saying it, but while she was good, and I’m sure she put a lot of effort into learning to sing, she’s not actually a singer – and it’s noticeable. In fairness, I didn’t notice it as much when I was watching the movie – but I listened to the soundtrack afterwards, and when you don’t have the movie to dazzle you, you notice that her voice doesn’t quite measure up to some of the others.

Also, I know she’s like 27 years old now or something, but I struggle to see her as older than she was in early Harry Potter movies. This is my problem though and may not be someone else. It did however make me think that her first reaction to the Beast turning into Dan Stevens the Prince would be “oh wow… eh… you’re older than I thought”.

Gaston

After the Beast, Gaston was definitely my second favourite character in this version of the movie. Luke Evans does such an amazing job and is so charismatic that it’s difficult to hate Gaston as much as you did in the original. I wonder if they made him extra villainous to make up for the fact that Luke Evans is so amazing that people might end up rooting for him instead of the Beast if he doesn’t show how properly evil he really is?

If for no other reason, watch the movie for Luke Evans.

LeFou

Josh Gad does a great job of making LeFou more than just the funny sidekick that he was in the original. He gets his own character arc and Gad portrays this perfectly, while still being funny and endearing.

Everyone else

I don’t have many thoughts about the others. They were all fine. I’m not sure about Ewan McGregor with a French accent… Also, Emma Thompson’s accent as Mrs. Potts threw me a bit. I love Kevin Cline in pretty much everything he does. Didn’t realise Stanley Tucci was in the movie until the very end!

The Romance

As in the original, the timeline is somewhat compressed (and that’s with the live action movie being longer than the original already), so the romance is still happening quite quickly. I always wish we’d have a little bit more time with Beauty and the Beast to see their relationship develop. It definitely feels a little bit rushed, but it is given a little bit more time than in the original, which at least helps.

It might be because I’m a romance writer and reader, but I could probably have spent another half hour getting into their budding relationship. But that’s what all the books inspired by the Beauty & the Beast story are for I guess.

All in all, I really loved the movie and would recommend anyone who liked the original to see it. There are a few things that doesn’t necessarily make sense (but you’d find that in nearly any movie if you look hard enough), but I’ll forgive it because I’ve always had a soft spot for Beauty & the Beast.

Ps. This Beauty & the Beast clip from James Corden is absolutely amazing. And it has Dan Stevens, Luke Evans and Josh Gad in it!

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Tonight I went to the cinema to see the new JK Rowling movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

It’s not really a Harry Potter prequel or sequel per se, but it does take place in the Harry Potter universe. To be exact, about 70 years before the first Harry Potter book. I’m a big HP fan, so I admittedly am somewhat biased when it comes to this movie. If you come into this movie with no knowledge of the HP universe, you can still enjoy it as a good movie – but I think that you definitely get a lot more out of the movie if you do know the universe that you’re stepping into a bit. There are someĀ little nods to the original books, but the story can hold up quite well on its own.

fantasticbeastsposter

The story is about Newt Scamander, who you might remember from the original books as the author of the book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them“, that Harry and his class mates study in school. I find it quite amazing how JK Rowling has taken a tiny reference in the original books, and made a whole new series out of it.

Newt, a British wizard, is having a brief stop in New York with his case full of magical creatures. It would have been a brief and uneventful visit, had the case not gotten lost and some of the creatures escaped. We get to see Newt trying to get his beasts back, while trying to avoid getting into trouble with the Magical Congress (American version of Ministry of Magic), and things quite quickly get out of hand.

There’s a lot more to the story than I originally thought, and I really enjoyed delving deeper into the wizard world. It’s also interesting seeing the differences between the British/European wizard world and the American one. The cinematography is beautiful, and the beasts themselves a combination of adorable, imaginative and impressive.

Eddie Redmayne is a brilliant Newt Scamander, and I must say that I really enjoyed Colin Farrell as Graves. Dan Fogler deserves a mention as well, as the “no-maj” (American name for a “muggle”) that ends up entangled in Newt’s mess, and allows us to see things from his eyes in a world that he didn’t know existed.

I don’t want to say too much about the movie, because I don’t want to risk spoiling it. There are a few things about it that bothered me, but because they are mainly in regards to plot twists and things that happen later in the movie, I won’t get into them here.

All in all, I think it’s a film that’s definitely worth seeing, especially if you enjoy the world of Harry Potter.

Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think?

The Edge of Reason

Or rather, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. I went to see that tonight with a friend of mine (her birthday present from me together with a dinner in an Italian restaurant… A pleasant evening on the whole…) and some of my fears were really there, but it still was better than expected.

My worry before seeing the movie was that it would ruin the experience of the first. Fortunately that didn’t happen. However, I found myself quite frustrated and annoyed at times, just watching Bridget muddle her way through some thoroughly embarrassing situations. She’s over-reacting a bit much, and several situations are just too over the top or trying too hard to be funny.

The fact that she was even for a moment considering going back to Cleaver bothered me a lot, but I suppose we all make misjudgments every now and then, so I can forgive her that one. Her friends weren’t as charming as in the first movie, in this one I found them mainly selfish and annoying, their suggestions horrible.

However, on the whole it’s a pretty sweet movie. And it’s got Colin Firth… After all, there’s not a movie with Colin Firth in it that’s not worth watching… My favourite scene in the entire movie was probably when Darcy was chasing Cleaver around to the music of The Darkness. I found that part hilarious!

Something about the movie I found difficult to believe though was that even though only 6 weeks had passed since the first movie, Bridget was already starting to fret about when or if Darcy would propose to her. Isn’t it a bit soon to be worrying about that so soon after you got together?

But then, I haven’t got much to judge from I suppose. Considering that after a 5 year relationship I don’t even live with my boyfriend. But even so, 6 weeks seems awfully short.

Anyway, the movie is worth watching. I probably wouldn’t even mind seeing it again some time, if only to see Darcy trying to drown Cleaver again…