Fae

And the score is…

Sometimes when sitting down to write a review I find myself thinking like I am preparing the box score for last night’s baseball game.  But instead of ERA, base hits, errors, etc., I am thinking in terms of (1) plot development (or furtherance, depending on whether the book is the 1st or 5th or last in a series), (2) character development (ditto on the “or furtherance” part), (3) dialogue, (4) plot holes, (5) world building, (6) reality scale (to me, this is akin to the difference between animation, like Zootopia, and Tomorrowland – both fiction with fantastical elements but one is clearly trying to emulate reality in at least some aspects (Tomorrowland) whereas the other is a cartoon), (7) action (both pace and excitement levels), (8) pace of the story, and (9) if I read an “adult book” – steaminess or if I read a YA book – teenage angst.

So, how exactly did Faelorehn by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson fare?  If this were a baseball game, I would say that we are in extra innings, waiting to see how things end up.  (And we would be waiting for a little while, because while it looks like I could get at least the next book right away, I have a number of other things I need to read first)!  If it were soccer, in a non-playoff sense, I would say it was a 0-0 draw.  Why?  Well, if I were rating all 9 items (you know, like innings) above on a scale of 1-10 (worst to best) then the score would look a little like the chart below.  Which isn’t terrible, it wold be extra innings after all, where there is still a chance to add a notch to the “W” column (for the reader, since I see this as author vs reader and if the reader wins, its because they were able to enjoy a truly excellent book and if the author wins, then it was just about getting words on pages).  But, it’s close enough that there is still risk of loosing too.  It all depends on the next book, or more at bats.

Pregame (what you need to know):  Meghan is a foster child, in a big family, who all love her.  She is different though.  For as long as she can remember she sees things, thing the trees can talk to her, stuff like that.  She is a teenager, going to school, and has a small group of close friends who are all the non-popular kids.  A few of the popular kids really hate her though.  A mysterious “hobo” starts hanging around school.  She spends some time in the swamp near her house one Halloween and she starts seeing and hearing things again.  He reoccurring dream starts to change.  She gets attacked.  And that’s when she finds out she is really from a different world – she is Fae.

  Plot Dev. Character Dev. Dialogue Plot Holes World Building Reality Action Pace of Story Genre Specific
Score 5 7 7 7 7 8 4 3 3

See?  Looks a little like a score board.

Plot Development:  Book 1 was really more set up than plot development; the real “plot” could be summarized in about 3 sentences and didn’t need the whole book to flush out.  The entire plot really was:  Megahn is different and discovers why from a mystery man.  Turns out she is Fae and she needs to stay away from her real home or she will be in danger.  In the end, she is tricked into stepping into her homeland, looses her protection, and is now going to be hunted.  Oh, and she falls for the mystery man.  Ok – so that took 4 sentences.  It was missing something, something that makes even a set-up book more compelling.  It wasn’t awful, just wasn’t a thrilling enough set-up and plot to leave me starving for more and what ever comes next.

Character Development: Meghan – pretty well developed.  Cade, not so much.  But that was ok since Cade is the dark, strange, handsome mystery guy.

Dialogue:   It was decent.  I wasn’t rolling my eyes as I read stuff, an most of it felt pretty natural.  There is a “but” though.  Some of the word choices were a little… off… to have Cade say her kind has a character “flaw” or defect, when really , it’s just that they are a little different, bothered me.

Plot Holes: There weren’t too many, but the ones that existed were pretty big.

Example 1: Meghan really goes with the strange crow woman (doesn’t take a genius to figure out who she really is, by the way) after less than 30 seconds of convincing?  Nope, don’t believe it.

Example 2: Her best, closest friends don’t know her well enough, see her often enough, hang with her enough, so that she can hide/create a mysterious made up boyfriend?  Nope, don’t believe it.

World Building: This installment was mostly set up.  But it only gets a seven because the “world” was not really all that different from the real world.  And we don’t get many rules of the Fae world until the end, and even then, we get very few.  I adored the spirit guide dog though!  Need more!

Reality: Almost a little too real – very little paranormal/fairy in it.  At least until the end.  Needed more fantasy.  Although, it was nicely set up with the  real world elements, including down to the information about Meghan being placed with her family.

Action:  Lots of non-action action.  Sure, Meghan get attacked, and followed by some crows.  But she spends too much time reading, and like I said about the plot, not enough time getting into situations where I felt pulled into the world and the action and the plot.  I will read the next, but I am not yearning with every breath to see what happens to Meghan and Cade next.  Just not enough to it all for that.  Wish I could say otherwise.

Pace of Story: Super, duper, extra, awfully and tremendously ssssssslllllllooooowwww.  See all the previous items for details on this!

Genre Specific:   There’s a little bit of romance (although it is mostly implied and the reader has to infer it from the minimal actual page time Meghan and Cade have together).  Not tremendously consistent with the genre, the parents are not absentee parents.  Instead, they are present, and so are all of Meghan’s adoptive siblings.  The story is just built so that the parent’s don’t need to be absentee to move the (little bit of) plot along.  Seems that actual Celtic mythology influences the story, and that is great!  As an add, there are teenage bullies here and they are pretty awful.  But it is clear that they are bullies and their actions are not glorified, so I am ok with their presence (as well as a little bit of ass-kicking with them, since I think most bullies eventually need a whopping or they don’t learn).

There’s also the standard miscellaneous items that tend to go with a box score – in this case, the grammar wasn’t terrible and the bottom line, what isn’t evident from a perusal of just the numbers, is that I will read at least the next installment.  I just hop it has a little more plot depth, so that when the game is over, there is a clear winner.  But at the end of the 1st, score is tied, and I can’t tell which way the game is going to go!

My love for YA, the Fae, and really almost anything by Holly Black

I think back to when reading YA stuff became such an obsession for me, and I realized that while much of it has to do with my undying, unyeilding, still-growing-even-after-all-these-years, love of Harry Potter, much of the rest of the love/obsession came from two other authors: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.  I picked up City of Bones when it first came out (I think it was one of a few that I picked up at the release party for Deathly Hallows – I think – one of the others I know for sure was the Alchymest (Nicholas Flamel #1) by Michael Scott).  And I devoured it.  The Club scene where Clary sees the Shadowhunters reminded me much of my youth when we trekked into Manhattan to go to the Limelight. The story was enthralling and I loved it instantly.  I loved the world it was set in (right up until the dawn of City of Fallen Angels, when I was disappointed by the contrivances needed to stretch what I swear I remember seeing was originally slated to be a trilogy into more than that, but I digress…).  That was the start of the love affair with all things demon, vampire, werewolf, etc., in the YA world.  Holly Black’s Tithe Tithe (Modern Faerie Tales, #1)was the start of the love affair with YA Fae stories on the other hand.   I am not sure when I read this, but it was certainly after Sorcerer’s Stone (as I read that before Chamber of Secrets came out – I was one of the not so large group to read the first right after it was published) but before City of Bones.  The dark and creepy gothicness of Tithe and its sister books sucked me in.  I couldn’t get enough.  I even ended up diving into the Spiderwick Chronicles, clearly written for an even younger audience.  The courts, the settings, the quest in Ironside for a fairy that could lie…  it was all so much fun.  Then, some of the more mature PNR stuff started making its way into the to read pile and I flitted away from Holly.  I caught the Curse Workers when those came out (and really feel like there was unfinished business in the last of that series, and wouldn’t turn away from one more of them) but the universe of books to read was just becoming impossible to track.  I do have a life outside of reading after all.  So, to it was much to my delight that I noticed I had missed a book that was both Holly Black’s and Fae.  I hesitated because these days I tend to steer clear of stand-alones but for Ms. Black and the Fae, I didn’t hesitate long.  And I am so glad I read this one!

The gist of the story goes something like this:  in the town of Fairfold (some where in the US presumably based on the relative ease of a move to Philadelphia by Hazel’s family at one point), the Fae are a part of life.  There is a horned boy in a glass coffin near the town that has been sleeping for ages.  Hazel and Ben, her brother, hunted Fae when they were little, pretending to be knights.  Jack is both Ben’s best friend and a changeling. One day, the horned boy is set free and a terrible monster is set upon the town.  Hazel is trying to solve the mystery of the horned boy’s release because all signs seem to point to her being the one who broke his glass coffin.  She encounters the Alderking who requires that Hazel bring the horned boy to him, as well as a sword Hazel found when she was younger.  Turns out, Hazel also made a bargain with the Fairies when she was younger and she has been serving the Alderking as a knight for some time, during the night, without her remembering (her not remembering is thanks to the Alderking’s magic).  Hazel wants to rescue the town, the “boy” she loves, and the horned boy.

I found this to be one of my favorite stand-alone stories in a while.  The suspension of reality is just enough to bring magic to the story but not so much so as to be overdone.  Some of the elements were, I thought keen observations of society.  While others made me happy The Darkest Part of the Forestthat they were teaching a message of tolerance and courage.  The scene where Carter’s and Jack’s human parents are at their house defending Jack and Hazel’s mother also stands up for Jack were both demonstrative of the mass hysteria that humans get swept up in, so often without all the facts and based in fear alone, as well as how important it is for good people to stand up to injustice.  Especially when the injustice is being done to others.  While I can’t say whether Ms. Black intended that social commentary or lesson, or whether it was just what I read into it, I thought it was well written and provided clues to me that this was going to be a story with an ending I would be pleased with.  And I was so happy to get to the end and find that feeling was completely accurate.

There are some dark and scary moments.  It is indisputable that the portion of the narrative around a 10 year old girl finding a boy’s dead body, half eaten by something, only to then have her be attacked by a hag intent on killing her, only to have the 10 year old strike the hag dead with a magical sword, is grim.  The story of the monster, her genesis, and how that is resolved is both dark and clever, disturbing and understandable.  And many of the details in between are creepy and scary.  But, like always with Ms. Black’s storied, the imagery is wonderful and  it is tremendously easy to get swept up in the story.  I had a very difficult time putting this one down.  I just wish there was the potential to see more of Jack, Hazel, Ben and Severin for apparently, my love affair with all things YA and Fae continues!

Not So Magical Magical Tendencies

magical tendenciesI may have found it – the series that after only one installment it is too terrible to continue.  Typically, when I quit a series it’s because I get too involved in other books and I forget about the rest of a particular series.  Although when the entire series is good enough, that never happens.  But, sometimes, series start to fade away.  The installments become stale, the stories have stretched on too long, and the need to read the next fades into a memory and I just never get around to what is next.  And sometimes, when a series isn’t very good I read all installments anyway, for various reasons.

But… I may have actually found a series where I just don’t care to read what is next.  Which book, which series?  Magical Tendencies by Selena Hunter.

From Goodreads.com:

“Celeste Woods is happy with her life. But after one swift move by fate, a deliciously gorgeous man saves her from a demon attack and she learns that her life has never been what she had believed. 

After finding out that she is the queen of a supernatural realm with remarkable subjects, she wants to run away…and fast. But where would she run to? Into the arms of the incredibly sexy vampire, Solomon Ryker? Or back to the safety of her castle and her ex-husband, the handsome white warlock, Von Edwards? Or is there another choice to be made?

Celeste is torn between the past and the present–literally. 

During the twists and turns along the way to making it back to safety, Celeste meets shocking characters that leave their mark on her life. Namely Leonzio Emilio Castillion, the dangerously seductive demon king that has discovered her and now wants her for his own. 

What is a girl to do?”

Twists and turns abound.  Without really much else.  A series of twists and turns does not a story make.  A bunch of characters with not the best descriptions isn’t exactly magical.  And a story like this, without any real story should be a prequel, e-only, offering.  (And that should tell you regular readers how much of a waste I think this is – I am suggesting it be e-book only!)

We have Celeste.  Turns out she is a queen, of the Fae.  And she doesn’t know it.  Ok – I can deal with that.  Getting her memories back and finding out that Tish has known all along because she’s involved and she is trying to protect Celeste I can deal with too.  Even the story about how she does this repeatedly, that is, she has her memories wiped clean and she lives on the run I can live with.  Then, she meets the vampire and the warlock and in the past she gets all her memories back when she kisses one of them.  Each claims to be in love with her and each claims to be her destiny.

Then thrown in the mysterious Gabriel Running Wolf guy.  And the demon.  And all claim to be her destiny and that she will be the mother of their children.  So what we have isn’t a love triangle, but a love pentagon?  Sorry, that’s just too much to take.

Then, throw in what I hate more than anything in books.  Bad time travel.  Notice the adjective there.  I didn’t say “time travel” but “bad time travel.”  See, time travel normally makes my brain hurt.  But I can live with it, and the ensuing pain, when it’s done well.  And just because an author thinks of a story that involves time travel, doesn’t mean that an author does it well.  Here, we have a great example of that.

Celeste all of a sudden starts time traveling.  All over.  And impacting events without any care or realization that there are paradoxes to worry about when talking about time travel.  It comes out of nowhere, isn’t explained (the how or why), and fainting brings it on, maybe?  But her body stays in the present because she, to others around her, merely appears to be out cold.  So, how does that work?  You know what?  I don’t care.  Because it doesn’t work as far as a plot device, at least not as far as this reader is concerned.

The absurd just gets more absurd.  There’s a demon who kidnaps her.  And traps her and the vampire.  And he’s built some sort of world where a person can’t escape unless he gives permission (what the hell kind of escape happens with permission?) and he doesn’t give his permission, yet because of some other demon’s attack on the prisoners they escape anyway.  I can’t figure out how all that happened or what it was about anyway.

There is so much left unanswered.  And I don’t mean in a good cliff hanger kind of way.  I mean dropping the not subtle at all type of hints.  There is the question as to whether the color lavender, with respect to Celeste’s eyes, is important.  There’s the fact that Tish seems to have all the answers but after the first few chapters she never graces the pages again.  Kissing seems to bring back memories, but who does the kissing is important.  So, what is really going on?  All we know is that we are told the warlock has been running the kingdom since Celeste went away and everyone seems to be in love.  Celeste had a dream/vision where she had a child and that is remarkable because children aren’t all that common (Nicole Peeler influence?) in this world.  And everyone wants to be the baby-daddy.  And then the end, well, there really is no end.  It’s simply that the book has no more pages.  We get the introduction to everyone and then the book is over.

So, plot is shaky.  Twists and turns in the reveals of who everyone is and all the kidnapping and the vision stuff and the visit by Celeste’s daughter at the end.  But in addition to plot, the rest of the writing is really, um, not good.  The author has accomplished something that sounds like an oxymoron – she’s over descriptive and underdescriptive simultaneously.  She’s never met an adjective that she didn’t love.  And really, giving us the exact heights of the men?  Really, you can’t let us imagine what tall, dark and sexy looks like – you have to specify that it’s 5’11?  And, could you get an editor?  Please, please, please?

Let me give an example.  Here’s a description of Jack (one of her band-mates and apparently some type of royal guard too): “I snickered at that adorable expression on the 5’11” shaggy-haired musician.” Then, (and I counted to be sure) a mere four paragraphs later: “He’s a bit shaggy for my liking but he’s built like a Mack truck.  His body is amazing, having brushed up against him a couple of times… He stands 5’11” and he has gorgeous coppery skin that never seems to get lighter.”  How in the world did that not get edited – its duplicative and not helpful the second time around.  It needed to be revised or removed.  To show how height-happy the author is, we get no less than 4 more exact heights of characters – “Tisha stands about 5’3″ with a tiny little figure and a chest that would make a NFL linebacker beg for his mama, 32D I believe.  She has amazingly gorgeous blond hair that flows all the way down her back and touches her butt when she wear it done.”  And later, we get another character that is “about 5’11” and relatively short compared to Solomon and Von.  But Solomon is 6’2″ – which we are expressly told – and a 3 inch difference isn’t exactly huge.  That’s part of the danger with being so exact in height descriptions.  Do we need a thesaurus for gorgeous?  Is there not another way to describe an attractive person?

Besides all the point-in-time jumping and scene jumping, the writing is choppy.  The relationships described are too unbelievable.  Celeste kisses everyone, claiming to not like any of them, but is totally attracted to them (based on her shallow judgement of looks alone), yet she kisses everyone anyway.  There is a word for women like that, and I don’t like women like that in my PNR or mystery or paranormal what-ever category that this book falls into.   And the magic –  not so much of it as there is the time traveling.  And it all is just not very enjoyable.  So, I have decided that Ritual Magic, the second in what is at least a 6-installment (planned as the author says books 5 and 6 are underway), will never be a ritual that I partake in.

For those who are interested anyway, I am not putting a page up for this series, I will just list a few things below, including the titles of the books in the series so far.

Books:  (1) Magical Tendencies (2) Ritual Magic (3) Magic Isn’t Everything (4) When All Magic Ends magical tendencies2

Characters:

Solomon – Vampire.  Head of Celeste’s guard because he saved her back when.  He loves her.  He also built a beach house for her.  He seems genuinely like the good guy in the story.  Also a king in his own right as he was a prince who’s family died and he survived (being a vampire and all).

Von – Warlock.  He ran the kingdom while Celeste was gone.  He seems like the power hungry guy as he never before, when she disappeared, did anything but send others to look for her.  Celeste’s husband, but apparently they need to renew their vows through some ceremony every so often and they didn’t do it the last time.

Leonzio Emilio Castillion – the demon.  Who happens to be Italian too.

Gabriel – His parents and Celeste’s children promised them to each other when they were children.  He’a a Native American Indian Chief who says the fates say they belong together.  He mentions Celeste’s mother but not father and Tisha thinks this might be important.