Shane - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

Romancing Miss Right
(The Reality Romance series, Book 2)
Lizzie Shane
CreateSpace/Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, Romance
****+

DESCRIPTION: Romance novelist Marcy Hendrickson may write happily-ever-afters, but has never had the courage to pursue one herself; being turned down by the lead man on the reality show Marrying Mister Perfect last season was more a relief than a disappointment (and would've been even if she hadn't seen the man was already in love with someone else before the cameras rolled.) But the stint has been good for book sales, and being the star of this season's Romancing Miss Right might boost her even more. Marcy holds no delusions about actually finding love on reality TV, not even with thirty gorgeous bachelors (each hand-picked by a team of experts) vying for her hand, but she'd be a fool to turn down the opportunity.
Radio personality Craig Callow's bad boy persona makes him a hot property, but the big money's in television, and the exposure from a show like Romancing Miss Right will go a long way toward getting him out from behind a microphone and in front of the cameras full-time. Those shows love a villain to stir things up and boost ratings, and playing the heartbreaker is second nature. He doesn't even need to go the distance to the final round - which is just as well, as his beloved mother has made no secret of what she thinks of this year's bachelorette, the "Ice Princess" Marty. Craig will turn on the charm, create a little chaos, then walk away - nothing to it.
Neither Marcy nor Craig actually expect to find love - but their hearts have their own scripts...

REVIEW: After a couple of breakneck middle-grade fantasy titles, I figured I could use a lightweight escape, and romances are usually a decent choice for that. You generally know what you're getting with them. This one delivered on multiple levels, with well-drawn characters that balance each other nicely and a decent plotline to make it more than just an overlong and unnecessarily convoluted seduction (as some romance titles I've read were.) Marcy and Craig may seem like opposites, but both have problems coping with their own emotions; Marcy earned the nickname Ice Princess during her previous reality show stint for her refusal to break into emotional hysterics (which audiences and reality show producers prefer), while Craig has cultivated his heartbreaker persona after watching man after man break his single mother's heart. A subplot involves executive producer Miranda, whose struggle to balance her high-intensity career with a personal life drives many decisions related to the show, her own attitudes about the feasibility of love coming into play at key points as the show unfolds; unlike many side characters (not just in romances), she, too, is a well-drawn character, not just a plot-shaped cog snapped in to facilitate events. The end result may hit familiar notes, but does so in a way that feels authentic, driven by the characters and thier choices, not genre expectations. I threw in an extra half-star for its ability to keep drawing me back for "just one more chapter."
As a closing note, I have no idea why Book 2 of a series was offered for a discount rather than Book 1 - not that it matters so much in romances, where series titles tend to be loosely-linked standalones, but still...

You might also enjoy:
Wicked Games (Jessica Clare and Jill Myles, Fiction - On a reality game show, a writer is forced to team up with a hated rival)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
When Lightning Strikes (Brenda Novak, Fiction - When a self-destructive actor marries his straight-laced agent as a PR stunt, neither expected to fall in love for real)
Bidding on Brooks (Katy Regnery, Fiction - An ex-Olympian sailor turns to a longtime lady friend for help after being talked into a bachelor auction... never expecting to fall in love)
Someone Else's Fairytale (E. M. Tippetts, Fiction - A driven college student unexpectedly catches the eye of America's hottest star)

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Fantastic Realms
V Shane
Impact Books
Nonfiction, YA? Art
****

DESCRIPTION: Goblins, dragons, heroes, villains... these and countless more fantastic beings are all around us, in comic books and cartoon shows, on books and CD covers. With the help of this book, you, too, can learn to bring your imagination to life with just a pencil, paper, and lots and lots of practice. Included are practice templates at the back, and a random idea/image generation sheet (based on dice rolls) for inspiration.

REVIEW: I bought this book because of its focus on shading and inking techniques, and the author's method of starting with "seed sketches" (similar to thumbnails) for layouts intrigued me. He also deals with creating backgrounds and scenery more thoroughly than other fantasy drawing books I own. The templates are a nice addition, giving the artist pre-drawn images to practice inking techniques on; I, for one, could use all the inking practice I can get. I also liked his random idea generator at the back, even if I don't have any dice on hand to try it with. On the down side, there are some serious flaws in his animal anatomy, particularly his wings, as he neglects to mention or notice that bat and bird wings have elbow joints, not just wrist joints. He also could've used a better explanation of proportions and more in the way of basic human and animal anatomy, by way of demonstrating that the most convincing fantastic creations have a look of biological plausibility rather than being a collection of improbably pasted-on parts; as it is, those with a decent grounding in anatomy will get much better results with his instructions than newcomers trying to place seemingly random blobs and circles in seemingly random locations. That aside, enough inspiring and original information is provided to merit a four-star rating.

You might also enjoy:
Drawing & Painting Fantasy Landscapes & Cityscapes (Rob Alexander, Art - How to create fantasy settings)
Finlay Cowan's art books (Finlay Cowan, Art - Drawing fantasy beings, characters, and worlds)
How to Draw Dragons and Other Mythical Creatures (Emmet Elvin, YA Art - Easy step-by-step fantasy beasts)
Anatomy for Fantasy Artists (Glenn Fabry, Art - Stretching and twisting the rules of anatomy for convincing fantasy characters)
The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Science Fiction Art Techniques (John Grant and Ron Tiner, Art - Methods used in fantastic artwork)
Imaginative Realism (James Gurney, Art - Using maquettes and more to create convincing images of impossible things)
Jack Hamm's art books (Jack Hamm, Art - Very good overviews of various art subjects)
Human Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy (Christopher Hart, YA? Art - A good beginner's guide to realistic anatomy)
Manga Mania books (Christopher Hart, YA? Art - The imaginative art of Japanese comics)
Perspective Made Easy (Robbie Lee, YA Art - An illustrated guide to perspective)
Dracopedia (William O'Connor, Art - How to create and draw a variety of imaginative dragons)
DragonArt books (J. "NeonDragon" Peffer, YA? Art - Drawing dragons, fantasy animals, and more)
Drawing from your Imagination (Ron Tiner, Art - Developing creative imagination for artists)
Drawing & Painting Fantasy Beasts (Kevin Walker, Art - Conceptualizing and creating fantasy creatures)

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