Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

TV Review: Jane the Virgin

Let me start by saying that this is not the sort of thing I normally watch. I do enjoy romance in books, but rarely in TV or movies, and my impression when I saw this recommended by TV Guide was that I’d watch the first episode, dismiss it as crap, and move on with my life. Why bother watching that first episode? I don’t know … probably something about the ludicrous idea of a virgin getting accidentally artificially inseminated. I mean, it sounded so awful I almost couldn’t help but look — like a sex scandal on the news. Wow, almost *exactly* like that!

So I just finished the second episode. It’s great!

All right, so it’s got a corny setup, but to give credit where it’s due, they’ve owned the setup. The most likely thing to go wrong with a setup like this is that the show writers and producers treat it like the joke it sort of is. But a strange thing happens when you embrace it and make it a real thing … you can’t stop watching!

The best thing about this show, oddly enough, is the narrator. When he first started talking I thought this was going to be terrible, but it’s not. The story is being “told” by a Hispanic man with a warm, sexy voice who introduces the characters to you and who sometimes tells you what’s going on inside their heads. This adds a bit more depth to the story than you usually get, and as you get used to the concept, it’s kind of fun too. A lot of the comedy is in the narration.

This show is a comedy — not the laugh-until-your-sides-hurt variety, but it is definitely amusing. The convoluted cast of characters all add something to the mix, and Jane herself is very likable. I even get why she was a 22-year-old virgin (which was something I wasn’t sure I would buy).

Give the pilot episode a chance. Seriously. It’s corny in the right places, serious in the right places, well acted, amusing, and utterly bizarre.

Is The Doctor Dead?

Should I even be watching this show?

Well there it is. The bottom line. Folks, I have come to a sad point in my Doctor Who Fandom — the point at which I must seriously consider giving it up. I’ve been a new series fan from the beginning. I literally dreamed of David Tennant returning and taking up the role of The Doctor again, although I liked Eckleson too. I wasn’t a big Matt Smith fan but while the Smith years had me cringing at times, disappointed at others, I still basically enjoyed the show and I clung to hope of what could still be.

Peter Capaldi is not the problem.

I want to start by making it clear that the actor, Peter Capaldi, is not the problem. He is delivering the lines written for him the best way he can. Nevertheless, seven episodes into a thirteen-episode season that introduces Capaldi as the new Doctor I’ve gone from cringing to scowling. From disappointment to outright dislike. I am no longer enjoying the show.

Steve Moffat is the problem.

I’ve said for years that Moffat is big on ideas and short on follow-through. He isn’t very good at character development (and being a character girl at heart, this is a huge problem for me). But throughout the Matt Smith years there was always some driving force behind the show that kept me watching. Wanting. Waiting.

Among other things, season eight seems directionless. I’m not honestly sure what the show is *about* anymore. We’re down to a series of unfortunate events, many of which defy logic and credibility.

Confusion and Disbelief

 

Let’s take “Listen,” for instance. It begins with the ridiculous assertion that if nature had evolved the perfect predator, it must also have evolved a creature with the perfect ability to hide — and that of course we wouldn’t see it. I might even have bought that premise if the show hadn’t been internally inconsistent. They seemed to have found such a creature, but ultimately this is never resolved.

“The Heist” was ridiculous as well. I think someone thought it would be cool for The Doctor to rob a bank but ultimately I wasn’t convinced that he needed to do any such thing.

Meanwhile, where are the big ideas? 

Oh, there’s a hint about something going on … dead characters are going to “heaven.” (Or something like that.)  But this is a tiny part of the stories we’ve been shown so far.

Clara isn’t doing anything for me.

I don’t dislike this companion, but now that her “Impossible Girl” arc is over, there’s not much left for her to do. In truth, she was never the companion I hoped she would be or that she could have been, but in this season it feels as if the writers simply don’t know what to do with her. It doesn’t help that she and the new Doctor have little chemistry together, nor that Clara’s interest in The Doctor and being his companion is not well established.

But worst of all, there’s The Doctor himself…

He’s grumpy. Maybe that’s a simplistic way of looking at the problem, but when it comes right down to it, that’s how I feel. He’s humorless, and seems to have lost much of the heart he spent the past seven seasons developing. He’s more distant, less approachable (although the lack of chemistry with his companion could explain part of this).

I’m getting particularly sick of all the pseudo-deep character revelations that lead to no lasting change.

To tell you the truth, I could have forgiven all the rest. But this is the point that is keeping me from enjoying the show. It’s just not fun this season. For all his faults, the Matt Smith version of the Doctor was fun. He even had his trademark bowtie and his fez.

Will it get better?

All of which leads me to the real reason I haven’t stopped watching. Hope. Will it get better? Will Moffat hear the criticism and make changes? I don’t know. I’ve seen shows go downhill before, and they never seem to recover once they’ve hit that downhill stride, do they? Fans keep hoping, reminiscing about the glory days. Is that why I’m still watching Doctor Who?

The other night I watched a David Tennant episode with my kids — they wanted to see the one with K-9 (from season 2 — “School Reunion”). What a great episode! It was cheesy, but it was a good kind of cheese. And what fun! I know that as I watch now, that’s what I really want — the Russel T Davies episodes back again.

TV Review: Orange is the New Black Season 1

"Orange Is the New Black" Season 2 debuts in June, and if the first photos are any indication, the Litchfield women are in for another bumpy ride.

A unique, dramatic, and entertaining show!

I’ve been hearing about “Orange is the New Black” for a while now but I’m often slow to pick up on new shows, especially when they’re “out of genre” for me (science fiction and fantasy). But the world is full of entertaining stories and this is certainly one of them.

Piper Chapman is sent to prison ten years after committing the crime of transporting heroin. At the time, she was involved in a relationship with a woman who was part of an international drug cartel. Now she’s about to get married and is trying to start a business. But someone said something to someone about her ten-year-old transgression and she has to do the time — 15 months.

The first episode was a little hard to follow, to be honest, A series of poorly constructed flashbacks made it confusing, although the back story did turn out to be important as at the end of episode one, we discover that Piper’s ex-girlfriend is also in prison with her.

After the first episode, the flashbacks get far less frequent and more manageable. Many of them help explain what the various other main characters are doing in prison, and they add depth to the ongoing situation.

There is no shortage of drama! Piper starts out by sticking her foot in her mouth and insulting the food, which leads to her being deprived of food for several days. A crazy woman decides that Piper is her “wife” and gets a bit scary. Over time, Piper’s relationship with her fiance on the outside gets seriously strained while her relationships on the inside have her calling into question who she is.

This show is classified as a comedy/drama, but I believe that is a misclassification. It’s a drama. There are some humorous moments, as in life, but the primary goal of the show is not comedy. It is far more thought-provoking than funny. And as a drama, it is definitely a winner!

I highly recommend this show. Adult viewers only.

Forsaken Excerpt + $50 Gift Card Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sarah will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please click the banner to see a list of other stops on the tour.

Her past is back to haunt her—and this time, it’s got a gun.

When Gage Lawton finds his brother shot to death on his back porch, every shred of evidence points to one person: Gage’s ex-lover, Riley Beckett. The only gun in town that fires a bullet of that caliber belongs to her.

Certain the shooting is payback for his part in the loss of her parents, he abandons his promise to stay out of her life and confronts her, his rage backed up with a revolver. Yet when she steps through the door, all thoughts of revenge burn to ashes.

A year after Riley unwillingly walked away from Gage, she enters her home to find him sitting in the dark, gun pointed at her head. One look into those achingly familiar blue eyes reminds her how wrong she was to let him go. But now there’s more standing between them than their heated past.

A twist of fate—and a hail of sniper bullets—puts them in the cross hairs of a killer, leaving Riley with just two slim options: trust her greatest betrayer, or face a murderer alone.

This book has been previously published.

Warning: Prepare to get caught in a crossfire of profanity, danger, and desire. Intense violence may trigger the desire to wear body armor…and take it off. Very, very slowly.

Now enjoy an excerpt:

The evidence had been right in front of him. He didn’t want to believe it, but he couldn’t deny it either. Not until he saw her reaction for himself, and he wasn’t going to do that unarmed. He reached for her, feeling the charge of their connection long before his fingers grazed her skin. A hint of blue peering from beneath her thick lashes caught his attention. She was watching him.

Frozen by her beauty—by all she meant to him and everything he tried to tell himself she didn’t—his thoughts left him. He fell closer, his hand dipping to her jaw line. Tracing the familiar contours of her face with a fingertip came as naturally as breathing.

“Riley…” The tangle of emotions in his chest loosened. The evidence was unmistakable, but she couldn’t have done it. Not the Riley he knew.

Contentment drifted behind those thick lashes. For a single moment the last twelve months of hell wasted away, and she was his again. His name spilled from her lips, soft and sweet, like no time had passed. God help him, he wanted it to be true. He’d give anything to go back to the day he lost her and change it all.

She reached for him, and when she drew him in he didn’t—couldn’t—resist. Her arms circled his neck, her fingers tangling in the hair she always said was too long, and every bit of the fight fled his traitorous heart. He forgot the cold, hard floor. He forgot why he had waited in her living room, untouched whiskey taunting him, tempering his rage.

He forgot murder.

Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids.) When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or in search of that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her. To learn more about her work in contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense, please stalk accordingly.

Website: http://www.sarahballance.com/

Blog: http://sarahballance.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sarah.ballance.author.news

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahBallance

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/SarahBallance34/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4103362.Sarah_Ballance

Buy Links:

Samhain Publishing – http://store.samhainpublishing.com/forsaken-p-73612.html

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Forsaken-Sarah-Balance-ebook/dp/B00K7YXB4Q

Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forsaken-sarah-ballance/1119867315?ean=9781619222625

Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/forsaken-25

iTunes/iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/forsaken/id878566015?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Google Books – http://books.google.com/books?id=F5OSAwAAQBAJ&dq

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Forsaken-Sarah-Ballance-ebook/dp/B00K7YXB4Q/

Amazon CA – http://www.amazon.ca/Forsaken-Sarah-Ballance-ebook/dp/B00K7YXB4Q/

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Book Review: Sin Brothers Series by Rebecca Zanetti

Forgotten Sins (Sin Brothers, #1)I may as well review the first three books in this series together because that’s how I read them — together! I picked up the first book and couldn’t put it down. The series … not just the one book! When I finished the third book and saw that #4 wasn’t ready yet I practically mourned my need to wait.

The books are: Forgotten Sins, Sweet Revenge, and Blind Faith. Together, they introduce us to the Sin Brothers, four (well three, more on that latter) brothers who were created artificially and trained brutally to be part of an enhanced soldier program. Eventually, the brothers escape and begin planning revenge on the people who hurt/used them.

Sweet Revenge (Sin Brothers, #2)Sound familiar? Okay, okay! I didn’t say it was original. Just addictive. This series is like really good chocolate. Nothing fancy, but oh how sweet!

The first book begins with Shane, who can’t remember who he is. (No, don’t put it down yet! It’s okay.) His wife is called in to identify him and take care of him … except, his wife hasn’t seen him in two years and is pretty ticked off at him for running out on her without a word of explanation. She was just about to file divorce papers when he shows up, and it is her greatest desire to have him sign them.

Things don’t go according to plan. Shane doesn’t want a divorce, and there’s someone trying to kill him — or her. They’re not sure. Plus at some point he begins regaining bits of memory. That’s when his brothers swoop in.

These books have a high steam rating … so be prepared! There’s also plenty of action, adventure, and mystery. I found the mystery to be a bit predictable. I guessed at the endings most of the time, especially after the first book. But some books are predictable in an “I really couldn’t care less now that I’ve figured it out” way and other books are predictable in a “I’m still enjoying the ride” way. These books definitely fell in the latter category.

Blind Faith (Sin Brothers, #3)The best thing about these books was the brothers themselves. Each one was super good looking of course, but more than that — smart, strong, capable, and enhanced. They had super hearing, among other things. And underneath the rough exterior was a marshmallow heart. Each book begins with a prologue that shows the brothers as kids, just trying to survive in their harsh environment with nothing but one another for support. As adults they want a family more than anything else, and I wanted to read about them getting it.

Each book focuses on one brothers … Shane, Matthew, and Nate. The last book will focus on the missing brother, the one who disappeared two years ago and who they fear is dead. (That’s not a spoiler, it’s pretty obvious from the first book.) They also have another problem they are struggling to work through. They’re going to die soon if they don’t get these chips implanted near their spines disabled.

I can’t wait to see how this ends!

I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy steamy romantic suspense with a mild scifi/fantasy twist.

TV Review: “Into the Dark” (Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 2)

The second episode of the new series and we’re once again facing … Daleks. I have to admit, I groaned when I saw the preview. How many times is The Doctor going to destroy the entire Dalek race before they’re actually gone?

But this time The Doctor is faced with a Dalek who seems to have seen the light and become a good Dalek. He doesn’t believe it, but he agrees to help the damaged Dalek. He, Clara, and three others are miniaturized and go inside the Dalek to find the problem.

This was one of those darker, more philosophical episodes, in which The Doctor must take a cold, hard look inside himself. Cappelli pulled off those moments well. The chemistry between The Doctor and companion Clara was much better here. And we now have two people who have died around The Doctor going to “heaven” or “paradise.” Hmmm…

I do hope the next episode is lighter. The first two Cappelli episodes have him coming across as entirely stoic, with none of the underlying humor I’m used to. Or maybe those moments got lost in translation.

Secrets of a Heart Excerpt + $50 Amazon Gift Card

VBT Secrets of a Heart Tour Banner copy

BLURB:

MEDIA KIT Book coverLondon, 1815. At the age of nineteen, Blaine Whitmore loses everything dear to him in a brutal assault on his family line. Left with nothing, he finds himself aboard a merchant ship sailing far from home. Years pass as a boy becomes a man, and yet no amount of time or distance will help Blaine forget all that he has lost. After ten years sailing the high seas, he is finally ready to restore the Whitmore name.

Felicity Canton is as lovely as she is penniless, and has been left to care for her three sisters while attempting to maintain a crumbling estate. With no hope for escape from her predicament, she is resigned to a peasant’s fate. She never anticipates attracting the attention of her wealthy and mysterious new neighbor, nor does she expect him to be her savior.

As Blaine searches for truth and doles out vengeance, he becomes increasingly captivated and distracted by Felicity’s beauty and inner strength. Does he dare confide in her the secrets of his heart? Will his future be as bleak as his past, or will he finally have a chance at happiness?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

EXCERPT

The sound of a snapping twig turned her attention, and the object of her thoughts stood a few feet from her, leaning against a huge tree with gnarled roots as if he had all the time in the world.

I thought I managed to escape without anyone seeing me,” she said in lieu of formal greeting.

I saw you leave just as my carriage was pulling into your driveway,” he explained. “Why are you here alone?”

Mr. Fletcher is giving a grand tour of our home to strangers, in hopes that they buy it.” Her tone was acerbic.

His gaze softened, but she thrust out her chin, daring him to offer her sympathy. She changed the subject, unable to dwell on the idea that her childhood home, one that had been in the family for generations, would be sold. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”

So proper?” Gray asked, moving away from the tree and coming toward her.

I feel out of sorts today.”

Gray reached out to touch her cheek. “I came to hand deliver an invitation to the masquerade.”

Oh.” Her brown eyes dropped to his lips. Moving closer, he wrapped his arms around her. “Is this your way of trying to distract me from my woes?” she asked with a smile.

Is it working?”

Too soon to tell,” she replied wickedly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Samantha Garman currently lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. She loves Scotch, a great MEDIA KIT Author Photoconversation with anyone willing to speak their mind and flannel pajamas. While yearning for a backyard and a dog, she’s decided to stay busy working on her next book, Dandelion Dreams.

Websites: @samgarman

For Facebook they can follow me personally (Samantha Garman Author) or visit my page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Samantha-Garman-Author/223423047668564?ref=hl

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4859885.Samantha_Garman

BUY LINKS:

http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Heart-Samantha-Garman-ebook/dp/B00EDR2GUS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402184544&sr=8-1&keywords=secrets+of+a+heart

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/secrets-of-a-heart-samantha-garman/1116394615?ean=9781493562626

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TV Review: “Deep Breath” (Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 1)

The Doctor is back!!!

We’ve all been waiting for over a year, with only a couple of special to tide us over. And now here we are, Season 8 of the modern Doctor Who series starring the brand-new Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

The jury’s still out on how Capaldi will rate. The first episode with a new Doctor is always a bit awkward as both I and the characters around The Doctor adjust to his new face. But right off the bat, there are a few things I like about Capaldi’s Doctor:

1. He speaks with a Scottish accent.
2. He’s older than any other Doctor in the modern series.
*3. He believes that there is some significance in his choice of face and that he is trying to tell himself something by having made this choice. Hmmmm ….

Well, I have to give Moffat credit. He’s big on ideas. Not so great on follow-through, but he once again has me intrigued.

The one glaring problem with this weekend’s Season 8 debut was companion Clara, who doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose now that her “Impossible Girl” arc is over and whose personality has fallen victim to the demands of the plot. Her reluctance to accept the new Doctor didn’t ring true to me on many levels. First, she’s a smart girl. Second, she’s a brave girl. Third, she sacrificed herself to save The Doctor by splitting herself into pieces and following him around through time and space. I’m not sure what the current incarnation of Clara knows about the other lives she lived, the other Doctors she saved, but she knows he changes faces so her dismissal of him felt far more thematic than honest. Having Matt Smith call her from the end of his life was a particularly bad touch, one that left me with very little respect for Clara as a character.

Nevertheless, I remain hopeful about the new season ahead!

TV Reivew: Food Fighters

Reason I started watching this show: It comes on NBC right before America’s Got Talent.

Reason I started muting this show and reading a book until America’s Got Talent came on: The premise is intriguing but ultimately flawed.

Here’s how it works: Home chef? Think you can beat one of the best celebrity chefs in the world? Come on the show, bring your five best recipes. You know, the ones that have been in your family for generations, that you’ve made at least a hundred times. The ones that have been tweaked and tested to perfection through decades and thousands of taste testers.

You have fifteen minutes to cook, all the while a professional chef who doesn’t know what he or she will be making when he walks on the stage has the same fifteen minutes to come up with a winning recipe on the fly and try to stop you from winning $100,000.

If that sounds easy, it’s probably because it is. Pro chef or not, coming up with a recipe from scratch in fifteen minutes isn’t going to beat a time-tested recipe prepared by someone who has made that exact recipe a hundred times.

The home chef almost always wins. It really takes all the suspense out of it and it’s no fun to watch.

Stolen Dreams in AUDIO!

Stolen Dreams: A Cassie Scot Novel, Book 4 | [Christine Amsden]

 

I am a BIG audiobook fan, so when I got the chance to turn the Cassie Scot Series into audio productions, I jumped on it. Melissa Reizian Frank is a true professional; talented and easy to work with.

For me, audiobooks are a near necessity. I am legally blind. This doesn’t mean I can’t see (in large print), just that even Ereaders give me headaches and at the end of the day, after I’ve worked hard in my usual 26 to 36-point  font, it’s nice to let someone tell me a story instead. I curl up with my audiobook player, close my eyes, and live the story inside my mind.

There are tons of great reasons to listen to audiobooks though. I’ll also listen while I clean the house. Many like to listen while driving to or from work, or on long trips. It’s a hands-free method of reading that still gives you all the heart of the story.

If you’re an audiobook lover too, check out the Cassie Scot Series. Read them in order! (I’ve only said that a thousand times. Hope people are listening. :) )

 

Here’s the link for the latest:

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Stolen-Dreams-Audiobook/B00MNJBF32/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1408539028&sr=1-1