Book Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Title: Spoiler Alert
Author: Olivia Dade
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Olivia Dade bursts onto the scene in this delightfully fun romantic comedy set in the world of fanfiction, in which a devoted fan goes on an unexpected date with her celebrity crush, who’s secretly posting fanfiction of his own. 

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster.  Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

Spoiler Alert is a body-positive yet somewhat angsty romance, ultimately a feel-good story but one that makes its characters work pretty hard to get there.

April Whittier is a 36-year-old geologist who’s comfortable in her own skin, despite the constant pressure from parents who’ve always wanted to fix her through diets or exercise or “foundation garments”. As she gets ready to start a job with much less focus on image, April decides to come out as a cosplayer by posting a photo of herself in her full Lavinia glory.

Lavinia is one half of the madly shipped pairing of Lavinia and Aeneas from the hugely popular Gates of the Gods book series and TV adaptation. In the world of Spoiler Alert, Gates of the Gods is the biggest thing on TV, adapted from the books series by author E. Wade — but the author has only published three books so far, and the TV series has moved beyond book content in its later seasons, with plotting and scripts by the showrunners. By most accounts, their work is a disaster, at least according to true fans. Only the cast knows what’s coming up in the final season which has just finished filming (and they’re sworn to secrecy) — but privately, most of the cast feels like their characters have been ruined and given plotlines that destroy or negate seasons worth of development.

Marcus Castor-Rupp is one of the stars of Gates of the Gods, in the leading role of Aeneas. Almost 40, Marcus is known for his gorgeous face, fine physique, sharp acting skills… and lack of intelligence. His public persona is all about his good looks. He’s a truly pretty face, but there’s no there there.

When April posts her cosplay picture on Twitter, the trolls come out. When some particularly cruel comments are posted which tag Marcus, as if inviting him to have fun mocking April, Marcus swoops in in hero fashion and declares April gorgeous and asks her out. It may be a publicity stunt, but April decides to be brave and accepts.

Their date is horrible. April wants to get to know Marcus, and Marcus is dull as rocks (or duller than rocks, since April is a geologist and finds rocks fascinating.) But finally, April starts to realize that the pretty boy facade might hide someone else, a man of intelligence, and almost unwillingly, she’s intrigued.

As April and Marcus get to know each other better, a further complication arises: They are each active fanfiction writers, and their fanfic alter-egos are actually close friends, and maybe even more. While April admits to her fanfic identity up front, Marcus does not, knowing that his writing could get him fired and make him untouchable in Hollywood if anyone ever found out. As they continue dating, Marcus digs himself a deeper and deeper hole — the closer he gets to April, the more he wants to tell her the truth, but that would mean admitting he lied in the first place, which he’s sure would drive her away.

There’s a lot to really enjoy about Spoiler Alert. I liked the fictional world within the world, learning about the plotlines and characters of Gates of the Gods throughout the story. There are snippets of fanfic included in between chapters, as well as some rather hilarious script selections from the truly awful movie and TV productions Marcus was in before hitting it big.

I also appreciated the confidence both April and Marcus have when it comes to their chosen professions. They both have devoted themselves to becoming great at their work, and they have faith in themselves and their own abilities. (Also, it’s kind of awesomely funny every time we find out about yet another skill that Marcus has learned in preparation for roles — not just horseback riding and sword skills, but also how to chop like a chef and even ride a unicycle.)

April describes herself as fat, and she’s okay with that. While others (especially her mother) might try to change her or make her feel unworthy due to her size, April knows she’s an attractive woman and dresses to show herself to best advantage. She’s also clear that she wants to be loved for herself, and not despite or because of her fatness. She’s also very sex positive, understanding what she like and what she wants, and being very upfront about giving and receiving pleasure.

Both April and Marcus carry heavy baggage from the pain of their childhoods. April’s parents fat-shamed her her entire life, and it’s amazing that she grew up to be as well-adjusted as she is. Marcus, the son of two academics, was made to feel slow, lazy, and stupid throughout his childhood and adolescents, because his undiagnosed dyslexia made his schooling a nightmare. His sense of shame from this stays with him and absolutely informs the “just a pretty face” act that he puts on in public. Even though he’s recognized his dyslexia and learned adaptations to help him succeed, the scars have stayed with him.

Other stuff I like:

  • April and Marcus’s hot chemistry
  • How frequently we hear Marcus think about how gorgeous April is and how attracted he is to her
  • April and Marcus’s ages — they’re adults, not teens or early 20-somethings. I like the maturity and the stage of life they’re both in, where they’re both successful, but feel like it’s really time to make changes in their lives if they’re ever going to.
  • The story within a story, particularly when it comes to the Lavinia and Aeneas characters
  • The tongue-in-cheek humor shown in the fanfic and the script snippets
  • The way Gates of the Gods is clearly meant to be a Game of Thrones-type production
  • April’s professional pride and success
  • The celebration of fandom culture as a whole — I loved the positive portrayal of cosplay and fanfiction and cons. The author makes this world rich and vibrant and so much fun.

Some quibbles:

  • SO much pain and angst. I appreciate how thoughtful April and Marcus are and how deeply they feel everything, but the scenes of anguish and mental suffering are way too frequent and long. As April’s fanfic persona points out to Marcus’s early on, some writing should be tagged “misery ahoy”.
  • Perhaps one reason the angst felt like too much to me has to do with the overall length of the book. For a fun, upbeat romance, it’s long. I think the story would have been stronger with about 30-40 pages whittled down, at least.
  • The conflict over secret-keeping is obviously going to cause a break-up. We readers can see exactly where it’s going, right from the start of the relationship. Being obvious isn’t a deal-breaker, but at some point I found myself just waiting for the inevitable.

For those who prefer to know in advance, the sex scenes in this book are explicit, which usually isn’t my taste in romance reading. However, there aren’t so many that it’s overwhelming, so overall I was okay with it.

Whew. This is a long review. I love the positive messages conveyed by this steamy love story: You don’t have to fit some society-determined idea of what perfect is to be attractive, sexy, desirable, and most importantly, to be loved. The body-positivity is lovely, and the plot itself and the charming characters are really enjoyable and entertaining.

I understand that there will be a follow-up novel focusing on Marcus’s best friend and his love interest, and I will definitely be on board!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that should be adapted into Netflix shows or movies

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies.

Two of the types of watching I like to do on Netflix are (1) scifi/fantasy series and (2) light and fluffy romantic movies. Yes, these are really completely different, but each takes me away from the day-to-day and lets me become immersed in other worlds or other people’s lives. And who doesn’t need that right now?

My top ten picks:

First, to be made into one or more seasons of a series:

1. The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black: The story of mortals being raised in Faerie and rising to power by their wits could be so excellent as a series! I’d love to see the scenery, the magical elements, and the characters themselves.

2. The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger: Can you imagine how awesome this would be as an ongoing series? Maybe one season per book? The characters, the costumes, the dirigibles — I need this in my life!

3. InCryptids by Seanan McGuire: I think this could have a little bit of a Grimm or Supernatural vibe, but a little more light-hearted. A big extended family of cryptozoologists dealing with scary enemies and all sorts of entertaining otherworldly beings. All this, plus ballroom dancing!

4. Wanderers by Chuck Wendig: Well, now probably isn’t the best time for a series about a pandemic wiping out humanity — but I loved this book, and could see the story working as a 10-part series.

5. The Beauty (graphic novels) by Jeremy Haun: Again, a story about a virus maybe isn’t a great choice — but it would be very cool to see this story about beauty being a sexually transmitted disease brought to life. It’s weird and dark, but I think it could work!

6. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: The concept is so fantastic, and don’t we need another great space battle saga in our lives?

Next, a bunch of sweet books that would make great rom-com movies:

7. Well Met by Jen DeLuca: Romance at the Ren Faire! And since there are two more books on the way, if the first movie was a success, there’s material for more.

8. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary: The basic concept of two people sharing an apartment but never meeting is just so cute. I’d love to see it on my screen. I bet it would be hilarious to watch.

9. The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan: Any of the three books in this loosely connected series would be great, but this one is my favorite. Between selling books out of a van, finding true love in the Highlands, and dealing with a strange but endearing family, I think it could be a hit! And like with Well Met, there are more books, so more related plots to spin off!

And finally, a book that I think would make a terrifying movie:

10. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: The clothes! The setting! The creepy house and the weird people there! It’s just begging to be made into a film.

**Updated to add: Wishes do come true! Hulu is developing Mexican Gothic as a series! Woo hoo! Read about it, here.**

 

What’s on your TTT list this week? Please share your links!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten favorite book-to-TV adaptations

tulips-65036_1280

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is a Page to Screen Freebie  — meaning we come up with our own topic related to book adaptations. And here we go — ten TV adaptations that I’ve loved.

1) Outlander: Big surprise, right? I love the books, but I’m finding that I’m really loving the TV version too, even when it veers away from the plot and character details in the books. Great cast, gorgeous costumes and sets, overall excellent production! Four season in, this show is going strong.

2) A Discovery of Witches: Granted, this show hasn’t even finished its first season yet (in the US), but it’s really growing on me. Once again, great cast and gorgeous settings help a lot, but also the plotting and dialogue are really well conveyed in the TV version. I didn’t expect to like this as much as I do!

3) The Expanse: I’ve loved the books in the series (up to #3, which is as far as I’ve gotten), and think the TV adaptation is fantastic. So happy that’s it been picked up by Amazon for another season!

4) iZombie: Did you know that this CW series was based on a comic series? To be honest, I didn’t love the first book, but the TV version is great. I’m just sad that the current season will be the last.

5) The Walking Dead: I started watching the show before I read the books, but now I’m completely up to date on both. Call me crazy, but I’m still enjoying the show, despite a LOT of major bumps in the road lately. I’m hooked — too late to give it up now.

6) Big Little Lies: I think the HBO series was a great adaptation, and can’t wait to see what they do with it in the 2nd season, now that they’ll be off-book.

7) The Magicians: I hate to say it, but as much as I liked the books, I think I like the TV show even more. Despite the plot often being mind-boggling and impossible to follow, I just love the cast. and will watch them in whatever crazy situation comes their way. Bonus points for the random musical episodes.

8) Pride and Prejudice (BBC version): Well, of course! This is an oldie, but it sure stands the test of time. I feel the need to pull out my DVD set and rewatch every couple of years.

9) Game of Thrones: I hesitate to include this one, not that it’s not spectacular, but because my feelings about this final season are really conflicted, and I’m so worried about how the storylines will wrap up in the very last episode — this coming Sunday!

10) NOS4A2: Okay this one hasn’t aired yet, but it’s coming soon, and looks absolutely terrifying!

What are your favorite TV versions of beloved books? If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten book-based TV shows to check out

TTT summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. The broke & bookish folks are on break from TTT for the summer, but I thought I’d write a list of my own anyway.

This week, it’s all about TV. I’ve been watching A LOT of TV this year, mainly because (a) I finally broke down and signed up for Netflix and (b) I’ve gone on a few serious binges and became obsessed with certain shows *cough*Walking Dead*cough*.

Here are my top 10 shows based on books — most that I’ve already watched and love, plus a few on my to-watch list:

1) Outlander — based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. And if you’ve ever visited my blog before, you’ll know the depths of my love for these books and the TV series.

2) Games of Thrones, based on the books by George R. R. Martin

3) The Expanse, based on the series by James S. A. Corey

4) The Walking Dead, based on the comic series by Robert Kirkman

5) The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood

6) Big Little Lies, based on the book by Liane Moriarty

 

7) 13 Reasons Why, based on the book by Jay Asher

 

And three more that I haven’t seen yet, but want to:

8) Mr. Mercedes, based on the book by Stephen King. It starts tonight, but unfortunately not on a channel that I get. (DirectTV only, maybe?) I just read the book earlier this summer, and loved it. Would love to be able to see this!

9) 11/22/63, also by Stephen King. I missed this when it aired on Hulu, but I believe my library has the DVD set available to borrow.

 

10) The Leftovers, based on the book by Tom Perrotta. I watched the very first episode when it aired and just wasn’t hooked, but now that the series has ended, I keep hearing how amazing it was. I think I need to give it another try.

 

What book-to-TV adaptations do you love? Which do you recommend the most? I’m always looking for new shows to check out, so please share your thoughts!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Grand Beginnings: The Man in the High Castle

Amazon has unveiled its newest original series, and it’s something you really need to see!

The Man in the High Castle debuted this past week, and all 10 episodes are now available for streaming (free for Amazon Prime subscribers). I’ve watched two episodes so far, and I’m hooked.

Adapated from a 1960s book by sci-fi master Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle has as its premise the concept that the United States lost World War II. As the show opens, it’s 1962, and the US is divided into three parts: The eastern half of the country is under the rule of the Nazi Reich, the west coast is controlled by Japan, and a neutral zone runs between the two along the Rockies.

Two episodes in, I’m finding the series disturbing, detailed, and utterly absorbing. I won’t go too far into the plot at this point, since I have so much yet to see and have no idea where this is all going.

What I do want to share is the opening title sequence, which is just perfectly chilling. Check it out:

Are you watching The Man in the High Castle? Do you intend to?

If you’ve given it a try already, please let me know what you think!

 

News for bookslovers: Oddities and goodies

All sorts of good book news came our way this past week. In case you were snoozing and missed something, consider this your friend public service announcement from the land of book obsessives:

In book-to-TV news:

  • The BBC announced that it will be producing a TV adaptation of Susannah Clark’s wonderful Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. So far, it sounds like this will be a six-episode mini-series airing in the UK sometime in 2013… let’s hope it crosses the pond to the US soon thereafter. You can read more about this delightful news here.
  • Coming next summer on CBS: Stephen King’s Under The Dome! This was one of my favorite books read in 2011 — big, creepy, and scary in an all-too-human sort of way. I can’t wait to see how this translates to TV. Read about it here.

In sheer insanity news:

  • Because apparently it’s not enough to have read and loved the Harry Potter series… Amazon is selling a $1,000 gift set about the Harry Potter movies. Sure, why not milk this cow for all it’s worth? If you’re thinking, “So worth it! Where do I get one?”, click here to read more. As of today, Amazon is offering this item at a 40% discount… so for just $600, all this can be yours:

hp set

Author updates:

  • Herman Wouk has published a new novel — at age 97! The Lawgiver, an epistolary novel about screenwriters working on a movie about Moses, is Wouk’s 18th book, and, he says, not his last. According to this article in the New York Times, he’s already begun his next writing project.
  • In early November, Philip Roth announced his retirement from writing. His last book, Nemesis, was published in 2010.

And in other bookish news:

  • British author Nick Hornby will be writing the screenplay for the movie adaption of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild. I haven’t read the book yet, and I always enjoy Nick Hornby, so… wait for the movie version?
  • Remember the Janie series from your distant or not-too-distant teen days? Starting with The Face On The Milk Carton, published 20 years ago, Caroline B. Cooney’s engrossingly addictive series focuses on a teen girl named Janie, leading a happy suburban life, who accidentally discovers that she may in fact have been kidnapped as a child. If you walked away from the final book in the series wishing for more, your wishes are about to come true! Janie Face To Face will be published in January, and promises to reveal (according to the Amazon blurb) “if Janie and Reeve’s love has endured, and whether or not the person who brought Janie and her family so much emotional pain and suffering is brought to justice.”
  • Did y’all see this awesome creation from EpicReads? It’s a YA fiction map to the US, with a book for each of the fifty states. Pretty amazing — check it out. You may even want to hang up a copy, or use it as a checklist, or — just thinking here — put it up on the wall and throw darts at it in order to pick your next book. I’ve read 10 out of 50, and can definitely see a bunch more that I’d like to add to my TBR list. Fun!
  • And finally, on a hopeful note, NPR Books reports that this is looking to be a good holiday season for independent bookstores. Which reminds me, I have more shopping to do…

Cheers, all! If you have any other interesting tidbits from the world of books, please share in the comments!