Alyssa Cole

Dynamite Review Best of 2020

This was a unique year. Books were plentiful, movies were not, and I dedicated myself to one game. So in some ways it was easy to make my lists this year. In other ways it wasn’t.

Movies

I have ten movies to list but the ones at the end weren’t necessarily movies I loved, but they were movies I enjoyed.

  1. Hamilton on Disney+ – I have re-watched this movie so many times. Years ago when everyone was into the soundtrack I could never get into it. The visual made all the difference. I love it.
  2. The Old Guard on Netflix– The first time I watched The Old Guard I thought it was a good generic action movie. With each re-watch, and there have been a few, I love it more. It’s almost everything I’ve ever asked for in an action movie. I hope they’re able to make a sequel.
  3. Bill and Ted Face the Music – This was the movie I needed in 2020. It was so hopeful and fun. When it came out I streamed it with friends and when we finished I felt so happy. It wasn’t amazing, but it was definitely something I needed.
  4. Jingle Jangle on Netflix – This was such an amazing Christmas musical. The songs were great, the story was heartwarming, and oh my god those costumes.
  5. Enola Holmes on Netflix – This was a fun watch. Enola was an entertaining character and I enjoyed seeing her make her way in the world.
  6. Birds of Prey – The one bright spot in the DCEU. Seriously, the only DC movie I like after Wonder Woman 1984 retroactively ruined any goodwill I had for Wonder Woman.
  7. Happiest Season on Hulu – Another Christmas movie but one that I connected with on several levels. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s true so I’m leaving it.
  8. A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting on Netflix – This was another Netflix movie that I hope ends up birthing a new franchise. It was one of those rare movies that my kids and I both enjoyed.
  9. Sonic the Hedgehog – How did this end up being such a better movie than Detective Pikachu?
  10. The Babysitter: Killer Queen on Netflix – I had no idea this was a sequel and despite my extreme dislike of horror movies I plan on watching the first one. It was so ridiculous and over the top that I found it difficult to ever be too scared to continue.

Books

I tried to read all the books in 2020 that I was interested in. I failed. Epically. If I was to wait until I’d read them all this list wouldn’t come out until the middle of next year. Still, I read a LOT and there were several that I loved. I’m going to include one book that didn’t come out this year that I read for the first time because I enjoyed it that much.

  1. Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews– Is there every going to be a list without an Ilona Andrews book? I hope not.
  2. The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan– My historical romance reading this year was off the charts and this was my favorite.
  3. The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler– I laughed so much while reading this book and the sequel was just as good.
  4. How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole – The first book in the new Alyssa Cole series and it was easily just as good as the Reluctant Royals series.
  5. The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk– Wow I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did but it is one that stuck with me even after I finished reading.
  6. Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams– This series is one of my best finds of 2020. It’s so much fun and I love the premise.
  7. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix – After being disappointed by the last Garth Nix book I read I was so excited after I read this one. It reminded me why I consider him to be one of my favorite authors.
  8. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare– This is the older book I’m including on my list. This entire series was excellent, but this book in particular was highly entertaining. It was a sexy romantic comedy.
  9. The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde – Ughhh this book was so good. Even better after the recent events in the US.
  10. Snapped by Alexa Martin – I’m not a fan of football, but this series has been one I’ve enjoyed reading. I thought Martin did a good job in Snapped handling a very difficult issue.

TV Shows

Like with books I had a lot of TV Shows I re-watched. It was the year of finding comfort wherever I could. I’ve tried to keep this list to just 2020 seasons, but in cases where there were older seasons I often re-watched the entire series.

  1. Brooklyn 99 on NBC – Easily one of my all-time favorite TV shows, it’s a miracle I didn’t re-watch this more than once last year.
  2. Bridgerton on Netflix – Please, please, please Netflix make this entire series!!
  3. Julie and the Phantoms on Netflix – The music was great and completely overshadowed the teenage angst for me.
  4. The Good Place – I legitimately forgot this ended this year. I loved the ending. I thought there was no way it could live up to the rest of the show and it did.
  5. The Babysitter’s Club on Netflix – This was apparently the year of babysitters, I believe this is the third one to end up in this post. I loved the book series and I was so happy to see how they modernized it.
  6. The Mandalorian on Disney+ – This season was so much better than the first and I enjoyed the first. There were several great episodes and they better get Mando back with baby Yoda.
  7. The Umbrella Academy on Netflix – Five, Aidan Gallagher, is such an amazing actor. I can easily see him as an old man. The story this season was better than last season and I’m glad the family seems to have gotten back together. After that cliffhanger ending I’m eagerly waiting for the next season.
  8. Sex Education on Netflix – Last year was just too long of a year. Shows came out that I enjoyed that I forgot came out. This was one of them. Every time I watch Sex Education I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it.
  9. Doctor Who on BBC America – I’m enjoying the new Doctor and companions so much, though, honestly I barely remember this season.
  10. Guys Grocery Games on Hulu – This was one of my biggest comfort watches of 2020. This beat out The Great British Baking Show to be my favorite cooking show of the year. It’s fun and yummy.

Video Games

Did games that weren’t Animal Crossing come out in 2020? I couldn’t scrape together ten games that I played and liked this year. I play most games on the PC through steam, but included links to Amazon versions. So here is my abbreviated list.

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons by Nintendo – I played hundreds of hours of Animal Crossing in 2020. I’d play an ungodly amount, take a break, then come back and play an ungodly amount again. I’m currently taking a break, but I’ll be back, there’s no question.
  2. Hades by Supergiant Games – Holy shit this game was so unexpectedly amazing. The voice cast was phenomenal. The art style was beautiful. The game play was fun. I knew nothing about Hades until all my friends started playing it and I am so freaking glad I went out on a limb and bought it.
  3. Stardew Valley by ConcernedApe– Technically this game didn’t come out in 2020, however it had a pretty big update so I’m including it. The update got be back into the game and it’s currently replaced Animal Crossing in my obsessive playing.
  4. No Man’s Sky by Hello Games– Another game that didn’t technically come out in 2020, but it had several updates. It’s crazy to think back to when this game first released and compare it to now. They’ve added so much. It’s one of those games that I love to go back to again and again.
  5. My Time at Portia by Pathea – Yeah, yeah, I know it didn’t come out in 2020 either. I filled my time before Animal Crossing came out playing it though.
  6. The Sims 4 by EA Games – The Sims 4 had two Expansion Packs that came out this year. I wasn’t a fan of Eco Lifestyle and haven’t played Snowy Escape yet. However, I needed another game for the list and it’s one I played a fair amount of earlier in the year.
  7. Two Point Hospital by Two Point Studios – I mean, there was DLC released this year so…I’m including it.
  8. Civilization VI by Firaxis – Just deal with it.

How to Catch a Queen (Runaway Royals #1)

How to Catch a Queen (Runaway Royals #1)

By: Alyssa Cole

Blurb:

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

Review:

 I have mentioned, many times, that I’m an Alyssa Cole fan. I love her Reluctant Royals series. I’ve re-read each book at least twice. How to Catch a Queen came out on December 1st, and I set aside my stack of library books so that I could read it, and I devoured it.

How to Catch a Queen is set in the same universe as the Reluctant Royals series, and we get to read several mentions of characters from those books as well as some texts. The heroine, Shanti, was actually in Princess in Theory.

Since the age of seven, Shanti’s life goal was to be a queen like her hero, the queen of Thesolo. Everything she’s done in her life is toward that goal. She’s driven and incredibly smart and has made herself the perfect queen. Unfortunately, she had issues finding her king. Until the kingdom of Njaza became in need of one.

Sanyu, the new king, does not want to be king. He doesn’t even want to be in his country. After a pretty harsh upbringing, he’s got some understandable anxiety. He’s also grieving for his recently deceased father. He’s a very sympathetic hero and never does anything genuinely horrible. He does have his chauvinistic tendencies, but Shanti doesn’t let him get away with anything.

The couple is married at the beginning of the book. The story is about them working together to help the country of Njaza and falling in love along the way. It’s an interesting backdrop for a romance, and I enjoyed it.

I am, of course, very excited for the future books in this series and world. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

5/5

Goodreads Choice Awards Final Round

It’s the final round! We’re at the point of the awards where I just vote for books from authors I like or skip whole categories. The only category I’ve read more than two books is romance. Sadly, Ilona Andrews Emerald Blaze did not make it.

My nominations:

Mystery & ThrillerWhen No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Fantasy The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Romance Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Sci-FiAxiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

Food and CookbooksModern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

Graphic Novels & ComicsFangirl, Vol 1: The Manga by Sam Maggs, Rainbow Rowell; Illustrated by Gabi Nam

Middle Grade & Children’sThe Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

Picture BooksThe Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Dalai Lama XIV; Illustrated by Bao Luu

Alright, so I’ve read three of the above books. The library has the graphic novel Fangirl waiting for me to pick up, so if I’m able to pick that up before the deadline, I could change my vote. Unless I absolutely hate it, I don’t see that happening. All the other books were books from authors I’ve enjoyed in the past.

This is pretty normal for me when it comes to the Goodreads Choice Awards. Usually, I end up finding a lot of books that I hadn’t heard about that I’m interested in, but not this year. I’ve been in a very critical mood lately, and there ended up only being a couple of books that I added to my list.

In my opinion, the Goodreads Choice Awards needs some changes. I was pleased to see more diversity, but I would love to see the categories changed. Why is Biography not in the same category as Memoir and Autobiography? Having one category for romance is ludicrous. Why are books that aren’t even published yet allowed to be included? The Pioneer Woman cookbook doesn’t even come out until tomorrow.

There are so many illustrated covers. I liked the trend, to begin with, in romance, but I’m starting to miss beautiful women in elaborate gowns draped over bare-chested men.

Anyway, there you have it, the conclusion to the Goodreads Choice Awards.

2019 Top 10 Books of the Year

Yeah, so January is almost over, but it took me a bit to catch up on the books I was most looking forward to that came out in 2019. There are still books from 2019 that I haven’t read, but what’s left I don’t believe would make the list. Maybe I’m wrong, I’ll find out in ten years if I ever catch up on my to-read list.

  1. Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell – Great LGBT fantasy with wonderful characters.
  2. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – Love Helen Hoang, this book was a great romance with an autistic hero and a mixed race heroine.
  3. The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite – Holy shit I never knew astronomy could be so hot. Same sex historical romance that was just beautiful.
  4. A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole – This is a book in the Reluctant Royals series and like all the others I devoured it. So freaking good.
  5. Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh – Book 18 in the Psy-Changling series and somehow this series just continues to deliver amazing stories. I loved this empath wolf story and all the development that was done in the universe.
  6. Well Met by Jen DeLuca – I never expected a book to make me want to attend a Ren Fair but this one did. Cute romance with wenches in corsets.
  7. Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews – I love Ilona Andrews, there will always be a book from them on my list (I hope)
  8. Paper Girls Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson– Final volume in this series and it was a wonderful wrap up to the story. I love the art in this series and the fact that it’s a mostly female cast.
  9. Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity by Felicia Day – This book was so positive and uplifting. Even though I haven’t finished it yet I had to include it on my list.
  10. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore – I’m loving these historical romances that infuse a lot of modern day ideals. I don’t care if it bends historical accuracy, the books are fiction after all, I just want more.

 

Honorable Mentions

  1. Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon – This book was ridiculously hot. Like holy cow fanning my face as it turns beet red.
  2. Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews – Maud is a kickass mom that is so smart and capable and I have a weakness for characters like that.
  3. Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks – Great art, super sweet story, lovely characters.

A Prince of Paper

A Prince on Paper

A Prince of Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) By: Alyssa Cole

Plot:

The Reluctant Royals series returns with a good girl searching for the life that’s not too big, and not too small, and the bad boy prince who might be just right for her…

Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.

For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.

Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.

Review:

Johan has lived the last decade of his life trying to make the life of his younger sibling better. He wanted to make sure they didn’t suffer the same way that he had done, but by doing that he sacrificed a lot of his own happiness and smothered them in the process.

Nya is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants. She wants love, but struggles with all the abuse her father subjected her too. She’s grown stronger, but doubts herself in some things.

These two are beautiful together. I cried through a lot of this book, especially the ending. I loved seeing Nya stand up for herself. My heart broke for all the pain that Johan was in and I only wanted to hit him upside the head once. They were perfect for each other and I’m very glad that Cole didn’t make the video game into a huge hurdle, they were adults and acted like it. Loved!

5/5