Who is ready for our next Book Chat?
Our February book was Making Midlife Magic by Heloise Hull. This book now has 90 Amazon ratings with the average being 4.4. The Goodreads average is 4.38 with 229 ratings. I have to note that when I picked this book just a few months ago there were definitely fewer ratings – either the author has great marketing or it is the PWF trend (which we’ll discuss below). Below is the cover and blurb for easy reference.
After finding my soon-to-be ex-husband together with my soon-to-be ex-assistant, I realize his “for better or for worse” didn’t include my forties.
An extended vacation on a remote Italian island sounds like the perfect antidote to a midlife crisis—until I arrive. I’m expecting Chianti and pasta. What I get is a run-down bed and breakfast with the oldest Nonna in existence.
There’s something about this island. Something odd. Like how everyone keeps calling me Mamma or how I’m the first tourist in decades.
And that’s before I wake up to a talking chipmunk holding a glass of wine. He says I have something ancient in me, and for once, it’s not my creaking joints.
When I finally discover the island’s deepest secrets, I know my forties are about to be fabulous, if only I can survive long enough to enjoy them.
Making Midlife Magic is in the current hot/ trending genre of Paranormal Women’s Fiction (PWF). When we discussed this one week in PRUF (Facebook group: Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Readers), I found I wasn’t the only one new to the PWF.
PWF is contemporary fantasy so you get all kinds of magic and supernatural creatures. Like Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, there’s also action and adventure. So, what’s the difference then? In most PNR and UF, the main characters are twenty-somethings or even teens. However, the heroines in PWF are more mature women in their forties and possibly with an ex-husband and/ or kids. This brings a new twist into the tropes and expectations associated with fantasy.
This isn’t a new idea, but it is one that’s been given a boost in popularity by a group of writers known as the Fab13. You can find them on FB and Twitter under #PWF.
I discovered this genre during a FB group chat about the hot PWF trend when an author mentioned her book. That is why I started with Making Midlife Magic instead of one of these better known works. If you’ve read any of my other writing/ reading posts though, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Kristen Painter so hers are already on my TBR!
Now, back to Making Midlife Magic.
As I’ve already noted previously, this is my first book in this subgenre so I didn’t have many precise expectations. Despite the bump in ratings, there are still fewer than in our Jan book choice (and later ones), which means there aren’t as many complaints to discuss! However, I do still believe the negative comments are great way to discuss a book so here we go!
Negative review highlights
- MC too accepting
- Same as many books in this genre
- Confusing timeline
So let’s start with the MC. I certainly prefer character driven plots so liking/ cheering for the MC is a must for me. It also helps when I can understand where they are coming from and why they are making the choices they make.
–MC too accepting
Oddly enough, this is somewhat addressed directly in the book. I won’t share spoilers, but there is a discussion about the MC’s reaction to the big magic revelation. However, prior to that, it was something I had noticed too and will discuss a bit more further down.
–Same as many books in this genre
Even without reading others in this genre, I can see where this could be a problem. If your subgenre is this specific (mid-life, kids, juggling real life and magic), I can believe there would be some overlap. I found the book to be well-written though and that always helps me enjoy the same tropes. TBH, I have no problem reading my favorite tropes again…and again…and again…
Shall we revisit the trope of the grumpy one falls for the sunshine one? No? Just me still loving that one? That’s okay! I’m also a sucker for forced together and two-people love triangles too. Oh well! Let’s get back to the book then.
This is something I struggled with myself at times with this one. Pacing is important. I’m an impatient reader so I like a faster pace and this one has it. However, whenever I read the reminders of how little time had passed, it always threw me off. I appreciated the knowledge, but it didn’t seem to fit the timeline in my head. I can definitely understand this criticism.
Overall, I did enjoy this one and would rate it a solid 3.5 (yes, do rate harshly and I’ll have to blog about that in another post). Anyway, there were very few typos, the characters were likable, and it was fast-paced. We jump into the fun pretty quickly, but did anyone else find the first chapter bedroom scene strange in comparison to the rest of the book? It may have been intentional to separate her life into before magic and after, but I’m not sure. I won’t start with spoilers here, but we can discuss in the comments! 😉
The plot does move quickly but again the pacing was confusing at times. The side characters were fun which is always a plus to me especially when we have a first person POV. I will say I found it odd how little interaction she had with her sons at the beginning. I would’ve thought the family/ mother angle would be important in this subgenre. Again, I don’t wish to spoil, but it does get more attention in the later half. This also relates to how accepting the MC is of magic.
Point of view is always a big issue with me as I prefer 3rd person. It allows me to see and know more than the MC may know. I also very much enjoy getting the POVs of both love interests. In this case though, the first person keeps the island more mysterious as well as the potential love connections. It definitely worked well I think.
There is a sequel and so I didn’t expect to get a final happy ending. Again, impatient reader here so I often prefer to wait for a series to be complete before starting. However, as a writer, I know readers taking a chance and jumping in early is a necessity to keep a series going. While I’m not a fan of cliffhangers, I understand the need to keep the reader hooked when there are so many book options available to us. As I like the author’s style and world, I would read more from her.
So, what writing tips can we gather from this one? Part of this blog series is to discuss books as a reader and part is to learn as writers. It’s now time for that second part.
Writing tip: Characters
There are a lot of tips for writers to add quirks to our characters so we avoid perfect Mary Sue/ Marty Stu. However, a complaint about a character flaw was one of the few criticisms for this one. Again, it was something I noticed too. As a reader and author, I try to put myself in the character’s shoes. If a quirk or anything feels ‘out of character’ it can be jarring to the reading experience. There was a later payoff explanation in this particular book – it worked for me but nothing works for everyone.
I’ve seen several discussions about unlikeable leads in FB reader groups. While there is a market for that, it truly isn’t my thing. I love a flawed character, but I need to be able to root for them. Writers, how do you walk the line between character likability and the flawed/ human aspect?
Writing tip: Hot trends/ writing to market
I haven’t tried this, but it is something I’ve been considering. I’d be curious to hear about other writers’ experiences in this. Do you write to market? Do you join hot trends?
To be clear, I’m not saying this author did so with this book. I haven’t read anything by this author previously and have no knowledge of any other books she’s written. I would love to hear from authors who have made the choice to write in a hot trend or who strives to write to market.
As I mentioned above, I love tropes and that’s part of what writing to market entails. There are certain expectations within genres – I know I need a happy ending with a romance! I think this is also where the writer advice of ‘read in your genre’ comes in. If there are reader expectations that we want to meet then we need to know them.
Of course, that was the criticism we noted above – too similar to other books in the genre. There’s certainly a fine line to meeting expectations and making a story your own. I do believe that being aware of those expectations is the starting point though. This is something I’m personally focused on as I move into writing romances. As a lifelong romance reader, I know my expectations, but I need to know industry standards before deciding what I go with and what I make my own.
Writing tip: Pacing
We discussed the action, fast-pace in our January Book Chat for Night Huntress 1 by Jeaniene Frost. However, I think it’s important to mention it here too. Action-packed is great, but there’s a difference between fun and confusing. That was one of the few complaints for this one…and it was one I understood.
What’s up for next month’s book chat? That would be K.F. Breene’s Chosen (The Warrior Chronicles Book 1). I’ve listed Amazon links below for this month’s choice and next month’s as well. Check them out then be sure to come back to chat! If you need the full Book Chat schedule for 2021, here’s that blog!
Happy reading and writing, my friends!
Making Midlife Magic by Heloise Hull