Fairy

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!

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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!

A Taste for Great Hexpectations

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, books are like food in a lot of ways.  The creator can possess all the requisite technical skills that would, in theory, make for a great creation but there is always room for failure because the creator is still human and can make mistakes.

Or, the execution might be flawless, but the consumer still hates it because that person has his/her own personal tastes.  And if one hates it, others might love it.  Or vice-versa.  This is true with food, music, art and yes, books.  I sometimes gander at reviews written by others when deciding what to read next.  While I tend to take suggestions from friends or folks I know share my tastes more seriously, I sometimes need some third-party sources to help me find what to read next.  I knew I was going to read Great Hexpectations by H.P. Mallory.  But exactly when I got around to it, and if I read something else first, was totally influenced by reading a few reviews of the books on the top of my “to-be-read” stacks (since I have a number of them).   I realized when looking through the goodreads reviews that there is such a huge disparity out there when it came to this book and its quality.  It has happened plenty of times: I totally fall for a book (or series) and others think it is less appetizing than Hilly finds Minnie’s chocolate pie (if you’ve seen the movie, you know which pie I am talking about…).  And it happens with books in all sorts of genres and those written by a range of authors – both established and new – critically acclaimed and not.  Although critically acclaimed is also relative since critics too are people whose views are subjective and influenced by all sorts of things – so I don’t put too much stock in “critically acclaimed” as a result.  This book, of this series, struck me as a particularly good example of this duality – tons of 5 stars and tons of 1 stars.  It was such a love-it-or-hate-it response.

For me, it was a solid 4 stars (remember, goodreads 4 means “really liked it”).  Sure, it has some issues.  But I am not reading F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It was entertaining, fun, cute, a little steamy and filled with lots of the things I like when reading.12977456  Not to mention, it did the job.  It was an escape from the day-to-day of reality.  As a lawyer by day, mother by day and night, martial artist/instructor by hobby, there is so much seriousness in my life already.  I often find my colleagues look down at my reading choices because they aren’t haughty enough.  You know, I am not reading the so-and-so non-fiction NY Times #1 book about the most depressing human rights whatever…. zzzzzzzzzzzz……. I read enough big words in my day job.  I handle enough serious issues every day at work that when I read, I want to escape reality and laugh and smile and not have to think too hard or much about what I have just read.  Great Hexpectations, like the first two Dulcie books, squarely fit that purpose.  And I am enormously grateful for that.

This installment was “more serious” (relatively speaking) since there wasn’t really much of a mystery to solve but we find Dulcie off to rescue Knight after he has disappeared.  But it was still a cute little escape.  I mean how serious can it really be when we are talking about a drunk goblin, a fairy who doesn’t know how to use her wings, and a vampire that tries to get sex through a contract?  It was nice to see Dulcie and Knight consummate their relationship – and admit to loving each other.  And, it had a funny little twist at the end, with a hell of a cliffhanger.  I am just glad that the next installments (books 5 and 6 anyway) are already published so I can pick them right up and I don’t need to wait for what happens next.  Yes, the twist/cliffhanger didn’t require a CIA analyst to figure it out or predict it.  But, it didn’t feel like a sure thing either.  Marvin’s failure to blow up Earth with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator was a guaranteed.  Everyone knows that Bugs will spoil his plans – we know that from the moment we first see Marvin.  But the only thing I felt was as inevitable as Bug’s saving of Earth was that Knight would someone end up freed.  So, it was enough suspense for me to keep things interesting.

My biggest issue with this one is the name.  I followed and go the references in the first two installments.  Here, “Great Hexpectations”…. not so much.  Anyone who knows the genesis of the title (besides what appears to be the author’s attempt to use “Literature” titles and twist them for this series) or the explanation/relation to the story, please feel free to let me know.  And that’s a tiny issue.  Regardless, me and my tastes are looking forward to Wuthering Frights.

 

One note:  There was a little sex in this story.  Wouldn’t you know it – right after I go and declare that it fits more with a cozy since innuendo and threats is as much action as we actually see… the author goes and gives us two pretty good hook-up scenes.  First is steamier than the second, but they are definitely there.  And the mirror is definitely foggy after them.  I may re-classify, I may not.  We’ll see after I finish the next one.

Tale of Multiple Genres

A 10896701Tale of Two Goblins by H.P. Mallory presents me with quite a dilemma : how to classify this series.  Some call the series urban fantasy (I hate that genre by the way… a lot of the stuff lumped in there was PNR, and nice and steamy PNR at that, until this new “urban fantasy” classification came along and spoiled all that good fun and turned off the hot water.  Like the stories and authors are too good for those scenes.  I blame Fifty Shades of Crap for that – good authors don’t want their stuff thought of as the same type of crap.  That’s just my guess.  Anyone know of a better reason, let me know and I will happily retract what I just said.  But for now, that’s my conspiracy theory du jour).  Some call it paranormal romance.  Some, urban fantasy paranormal.  I kind of like the goodreads list called is Magical Chick Lit.  Personally, it reminds me of the cozy mystery.

Cozy mysteries usually have even less steam than this (and it’s pretty scarce here, a few references, scenes that never lead anywhere, and a few rare curse words).  So, not really sure it belongs there.  And not PNR, well, because despite the burgeoning relationship between Dulcie and Knight, there really isn’t much “R” in that.  Well, there’s some.  But not too much.  And if that sort of thing makes you squeamish, the one scene to avoid is near the end and you can see it coming and if it’s skipped, it won’t hurt a readers ability to follow the story.  Not to mention, the formula is more like the cozy.  You know, we have a mystery and watch it trying to be solved, only to have the culprit be someone that we never ever could have guessed – because only the author knows (there were not hints, no foreshadowing, and often the character makes its first appearance when the cuff are about to come out).  But, there are definitely fantasy elements too – fairies, werewolves, loki (still don’t have a great explanation of what this means in this world yet), witches, demons, etc.  And a fair amount of magic.  We have fairy dust that lets the user do pretty much anything, vampires with super speed, witches who can cast spells, potions and travel across dimensions.  So, what to do; how to classify this series.  I am sticking with the previous decision to let these sit in mysteries because to me, they feel much more like cozy mysteries than anything.  But… I reserve the right to totally change my mind, for any reason whatsoever, at any time.  I can do that because this is my blog.  🙂

I didn’t review the first installment, To Kill a Warlock (time wasn’t my friend when I finished it).  But I really enjoyed it.  I finished that and immediately bought a whole13608100 bunch of H.P. Mallory’s other stuff (including Dulcie #2).  With fingers crossed that they would all be as cute and as much fun.  I am so glad I did – this didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I think this was probably even an improvement over the first.

We have a little mystery here – someone is after Dulcie and they are going through people in her life to get to her.  We have a little paranormal – as vamps go, Bram is pretty cool and Dulcie’s fairy powers are fun too.  We have a little romance – Knight is really into Dulcie and she is probably falling for him too.  We get more time with our main character and get to see her in action, the lines she is wiling to cross to save a friend and who she really is.  We see what, in my opinion, is the appropriate amount of crass from her too when she refers to the a*hole after her and her friends.  These aren’t huge novels nor do I think there’s any danger of them being considered great literature like Wuthering Heights or anything, but they are fun little reads and a good way to occupy time while on line at the grocery store and they made me chuckle.  So despite not knowing what the heck to call their genre, the Dulcie O’Neil books are enjoyable and I will be reading Great Hexpectations very soon!