Category Archives: Thoughts on Plots

Thoughts on Plots: Big Little Lies

I heard about Big Little Lies the same way that everyone else did. The trailer dropped and I said “Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz all play moms of the same age kids?”

I set up my DVR to record it immediately and when it popped up, I watched the pilot in shock and awe. But as many of us writers do, I headed out to the store and read the whole book before the second episode came out. (I did the same thing with Outlander many years ago. A pilot is just like a reeeaaaalllly long book trailer to me, I swear.)

Big Little Lies is totally not in my genre, but the brilliance of it is that it’s so intriguing that I barely noticed. I couldn’t put it down! I had to know what happened to Jane, if Ziggy was innocent, and who died. From my own school days, I remember all the parent drama that used to fly. So the idea that it could end in murder? Exciting.

I continued to watch the series after reading the book (although I almost stopped after a few over-the-top HBO scenes). In the end, I’m glad I did. It was a well done show! Well acted and well written, but I always have some complaints when they turn a book into a show.

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What the series got right:

  1. The overarching eerie mystery of who is hurting Amabella. They struck the tone well and made Ziggy seem sweet, but a little off, so that we do question him.
  2. The casting was perfect. There’s not a single actor I would change. Reese Witherspoon is perfect as Madeline and their choices for the kids were excellent too.
  3. Laura Dern as Renata deserves her own line here. Renata is an off putting, powerful, in-your-face, drama mama. And Laura Dern plays the weariness of her so well. She’s overworked, exhausted, and clear concerned that she’s not a good enough mom. I’ve seen that in so many real moms and I loved seeing it so accurately portrayed on screen.

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What I’m sad they changed:

  1. Why the hell did they have to make Madeline have an affair? It just seems over the top. I get that they needed to stretch one book into a whole mini-series, but seriously? Her husband was one of my favorite characters in the book and I enjoyed their dynamic. Madeline steamrollered him constantly, but he loved her anyway.
  2. No back story for Bonnie! I miss getting to know a little bit about why she did what she did, but I also appreciated how they really highlighted the way Madeline was willing to go to bat for her.
  3. The final sequence left out the husbands! I really liked the fact that it was husbands and wives together, facing down their demons and covering for each other. I really missed that in the show! I think they were going for a girl power moment, but it felt misplaced to me. This book is all about marriage and relationships, after all.

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What I liked that they added:

  1. Those opening credits were awesome. I love the idea of the shots from the backseat of the car- how the kids see their moms! So brilliant. And it set the tone so well for the show.
  2. Yoga class. This was a small scene, but I got such a kick out of seeing a bunch of the feuding parents stuck in yoga class together.
  3. The expanded drama of Amabella’s birthday party. I liked the twist of the moms judging Bonnie for being too sexy.

 

For anyone who just watched the show: read the book! It’s even better!

XOXO

************

Cameryn

Thoughts on Plots: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses came out a few weeks ago, hitting the New York Times Bestseller list at Number 2. As a fan of Sara J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, I had to read it. It is a fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast – or at least the first half is. The book takes a serious U-turn about halfway through and becomes something very different. But never fear, it is still excellent! Here are the pros and cons.

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Pros:

1. Characters that you root for. From the first chapter, I understood and liked Feyre as a character. She’s smart and says what’s on her mind. Tamlin, the Beast to her Beauty, is perhaps a more simple character, but very enjoyable to read. He’s the tortured, responsible warrior type. Lucien, the third primary character, is very dynamic, as his painful honesty is very enjoyable to read! Lastly, there’s a wonderful redemption arc involving one of Feyre’s sisters that I did not see coming at all! (I love it when I don’t see things coming!)

2. Pretty sexy. These books take the steam level up a few notches from Maas’s Throne of Glass series. No fade to black in these books! The romance is exciting and believable, but readers should be at least 16 to indulge in this book.

3. Gets you amped up for Book 2! The way the book ends has me DYING for Book 2, which won’t hit the shelf for at least a year. After surviving all of her tests and torments, Feyre’s life has changed in several key ways (no spoilers, don’t worry!) She has plenty to worry about for the next book, after she was forced to cut a painful deal that involves her becoming a regular plaything of the Night Court’s High Lord.

Cons:

1. Not another love triangle! (But I secretly love it).- In the end, Feyre gets the man she loves, but there’s another attraction brewing with a man who has ability to enter her mind. She’s intrigued by him, but she will be forced to spend a lot of time with him in the next book! It seems pretty clear that it’s going to be an intense love triangle with Feyre pulled between a straight-laced warrior and a dirty politician. While I’m definitely tired of the Gale/Peeta crap that will never end, I really like the characters and appreciate the unique situation that Maas created for the triangle. It’s not another Katniss whining ‘I can’t make up my mind!’ At least, not yet.

2. Felt like two different books. (Part 1: life at Fae court. Part 2: life in a prison/fight to the death) The first half, Feyre is getting to know the magical Fae world. She’s falling in love with Tamlin and struggling to get over her former life. The second half, she is plunged into a prison and forced to serve as a maid/exotic dancer while competing in three Herculean tasks where she’s expected to die. Whaaaaaaat? And side note, in Part 1 she kills a Fae in cold blood and only feels slightly bad. She doesn’t brood on it at all. Then in Part 2, she kills two Fae and now she says that those deaths will haunt her forever. I don’t see why they would be so much worse than the first one. (Thoughts? Let me know!)

But, what can I say, I still loved the book and am really excited for Book 2! There’s no official word on it, but it’s clear that it will have a Hades/Persephone element!

What do you think? Will you be picking up a copy of A Court of Thorns and Roses?

Thoughts on Plots: Red Queen

Red Queen, the debut novel by Victoria Aveyard, is an exciting YA fantasy that came out in February 2015. It was one of the biggest YA hits this year, becoming an instant New York Times Bestseller. Elizabeth Banks is already in talks to direct the movie!

It’s about a dystopian society where a poor, starving girl is brought to the big, fancy city and is forced to participate in a society she doesn’t understand, where she must fight in a series of games. She’s caught between an old, loyal friend who is attracted to her and a new love that she meets, who she must cling to for self-protection. Sound familiar? With the plot having some remarkable similarities to other novels you might have read, you won’t be surprised to learn that Red Queen has made a killing this year! What can I say? The formula works!

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I bought Red Queen when it hit the shelves, partially because of the awesome cover, but also because I’d heard so much hype. I read it as part of my 50 Books Challenge and found it very readable and fun, though I often found myself picking out pieces of other popular YA novels, like The Selection and, of course, The Hunger Games.

What I will say for this book, as an individual, is that it has really cool, unique magic. Awesome magic always gets me to read a series, even if the plot is a little basic. The premise is that the wealthy elite have silver blood, and the poor have red blood. The silver-blooded elite have supernatural abilities in varying forms, while the red-blooded poor have none. When Mare is discovered as having both magical powers and red blood, she is forced to join the silver-blooded society and live under the tyrannical control of the evil Queen, who passes her off as a long-lost silver blood. She plans to marry Mare off to her son to keep the whole situation quiet. Mare finds herself in between the two princes, Cal and Maven, not knowing who to rely on or who to trust, as she works to assist the rebellion of the Scarlet Guard from inside the silver-blooded society.

The Pros:

– Unique system of magic that is very interesting and fun!

– Enjoyable, quick read. I read it in a day!

The Cons:

– The plot has a lot of similarities to other popular YA novels.

The final verdict: An enjoyable and easy read, but don’t expect too much from the story.

Thoughts on Plots: Reign

In the effort of full disclosure, I will say that I love Reign. It’s my first ever CW show, but I love the acting, the story, the wardrobe, and the semi-historical nature of the show. Not to mention: some serious badass girl power. Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) may be the young queen of a troubled country, but she is a powerhouse and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Even though she reigns at a time when women have almost no freedom, she still makes her actions count and uses her power for all it’s worth. But I’ll admit, Reign has a few flaws. It features some pretty ludicrous and unhistorical plot twists and relies heavily on romantic drama. So here’s the best, the worst and the essential. Then you can decide whether you want to binge-watch in time for Season 3!

Here are the predominant aspects of the CW’s historical drama, Reign: 

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                                                              Killer chemistry between Kane and Regbo

The Romance: Oh, the romance. The show starts Season 1 with Mary moving to French Court to get to know her fiancé, the dauphin of France, Francis (Toby Regbo). He immediately pushes her away, insisting that he doesn’t know whether they will actually be married. Yet, the attraction between the two of them is obvious and they eventually admit their feelings. Unfortunately, romance is never that easy for royals. Everyone from the King to Scottish rebels seem to get in the way. There is great chemistry between Kane and Regbo, even if the Will They/Won’t They becomes a bit excessive. For the supporting characters, the exciting romance between Lady-in-Waiting Greer (Celina Sinden) and kitchen boy Leith (Jonathan Keltz) is one for the ages. And a surprising romance between Narcisse (Craig Parker) and Lola (Anna Popplewell) involves some unexpected games- including one where Lola tricks Narcisse into watching a maid bathe from a balcony.

Reign -- Image: RE01_KEYGroup1 -- Pictured (L-R): Toby Regbo as Prince Francis, Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Torrance Coombs as Bash – Photo: Mathieu Young/The CW -- © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Magic: What separates this show from actual historical events (besides some of the high drama), is the slight hint of fantasy. There are minute magical elements to the show that keep viewers guessing if they’re just superstitions or if they’re actually happening. The show starts off with prophecies made by the Court Seer Nostradamus, but they also face Pagan Rituals, a cannibal, a woman who can bring back the dead, and a castle ghost. It’s a lot of fun and adds some much needed romance-free intrigue!

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The Friendships: The show has several prominent friendships that play important roles: the relationship between Mary and her ladies (Lola, Greer and Kenna), and the relationship between Francis and Bash (half brothers). Mary’s relationship with her ladies is one of mutual support through any failure. From Lola’s unplanned pregnancy to Kenna becoming the King’s mistress, Mary is frank with her opinions but never stops supporting her friends. Francis and Bash’s relationship is a bit all over the place. They hate each other, they love each other, but they are always brothers and would take a knife to the chest for each other.

If you’re undecided about whether or not to tune in, here are the best and worst aspects of the show: 

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Greer’s tough, but savvy, decisions show her strength as a character and role model.

Highlights:

1. Believable Bad Guys 

One of my favorite things about the show is that the bad guys are very believable. They all have reasons behind their actions. Firstly, Catherine (a sometimes good, sometimes baddie) did all of her worst deeds for love and protection of her children. She would go to any length for them. Conde became a bad guy because he was abandoned by Mary and pushed into a corner by his brother, leaving him no alternative but to follow through with the only people offering him support.

2. Greer

The only non-noble in Mary’s crew, Greer is under a lot of stress to marry up. After meeting a gorgeous, funny, and smart kitchen boy, Greer starts sneaking around to see him without ruining her reputation. A season later, for reasons I won’t give away, Greer loses her money and standing at the castle. She is forced out and carves out a life for herself as a Madame. She experiences the first slice of power and freedom that she has ever had. When the love of her life proposes, she rejects him, because she would have to give up her lucrative business. Celina Sinden did some fantastic acting throughout both seasons, but her character is given so much more to work with in Season 2!

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                                                                      Ridiculously good looking bad guys.

Lowlights:

1. Unrealistic Drama

Even though I love the show, I’ll give that some of the drama is pretty unrealistic. Lola’s one night stand with Francis, with no reason why she would want to do that, and Bash’s immediate ‘will die for you’ love for Mary, without any lead up are the two most predominant examples. However, Mary’s reaction and decision to wed Bash after she finds out about Nostradamus’s prophecy is a bit hard to swallow. And lastly, Catherine’s romantic interest in Narcisse is unbelievable, considering he has hooked up with her daughter AND her grandson’s mother.

2. Too Many Attractive People

Everyone is gorgeous. Even the bad guys! Narcisse, Conde and Catherine, all featured bad guys from both seasons, are ridiculously attractive. Get a look at this face. It was almost enough to make me root for Narcisse sometimes! It wouldn’t kill the show to throw in some normal looking people once in a while, just to shake things up!

3. Not historically accurate.

The most common complaint that I hear about this show is that it isn’t historically accurate. No, the dresses that they wear aren’t period appropriate. Yes, they made a lot of changes to the history. And finally, Bash, King Henry’s bastard son, is a made-up character who plays a major role in the show. (He is credited third after Mary and Catherine.)

After reading my lengthy breakdown, what do you think? Will you give Reign a shot?