The Fire Within – review

The Fire Within by Racquel Kechagias.

Vampire Victor is lonely.  He strikes a deal with a dude he just met, offering to make the man a king in exchange for the man’s as-yet-unthought-of-future-daughter’s hand in marriage.  The man agrees and to seal the deal, Victor turns the man’s X-chromosome-carrying sperm into a Horcrux so that the man’s daughter’s soul will partially be Victor’s soul, binding them together forever.

Seriously, that’s what he does.  It isn’t so eloquently worded in the book, but that’s what he does.

Something like two decades pass and Victor finally meets Anna.  He has to fight some dude named Christian, who is also wanting to marry her, and Anna picks Victor because she can’t seem to resist him—she later learns it’s because her soul is partially his, and while she hates that idea for all of two seconds, she soon forgets about it and accepts that she should like him…even though she knows she lacks free will because of him.

Also, we get almost an entire quarter of the way into the book before we learn that the world is full of vampires, Fae, Mer-folk, Shape-shifters, etc., and everyone knows about them.  Absolutely no mention of this before then.  We know Victor the Vampire, and otherwise the world seems realistic, and then we’re in a completely-fantasy world.

I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if there hadn’t been a war breaking out and a million POVs.  The plot is all over the place.  Despite my dislike of the romance parts of the book, it really should have stayed with the romance parts.  Everything else was too much, too busy, too random.

And, oh, the typos!  The errors!  Simple mistakes, like using “breath” when it should be “breathe,” appear a few hundred times throughout the story.  Minute/minuet, who/whom, woman/women, etc.  Commas are neglected, big time.  Names are overused in dialogue (while not technically an error, it’s so jarring).  Things are repeated far too frequently.  It’s just…unedited, amateurish writing.

Would you like a sample?

“Anna I love you but you need to know. I’m a few hundred years old Anna and I didn’t want to live another hundred years without someone to love, without someone to care for. I chose you before you were even born but I didn’t know I would love you as much as I do. You’re my world now Anna.” –Victor the Vampire, The Fire Within, Racquel Kechagias.

Questions go unanswered, subplots are dropped completely… Editors aren’t that hard to find.

2/5 GR stars, pretty much only for Meg, Shade, and Kayden.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ


The Source – review

The Source by Hillary Flinn, a NaNovel.

In a world without oil, electricity is pulled from the bodies of human beings.  “Sources” are very special people, who proudly sacrifice their lives so that others can heat their homes and cook their (synthetic) food, and otherwise be rich and happy.  The only thing is, the Sources aren’t actually proudly sacrificing themselves, and only a few non-Sources realize this rather big problem.

Our main character, teenage Marina, knows in her heart that the Sources are being abused.  Her own house is powered by a Source, a woman named Rebecca who is locked in a Box outside the house, wires in her body, unable to speak or move or do anything other than glare at the people who happen to come round her side of the house.  For years.  Sources have a short life expectancy, understandably, but they stay in their Boxes until they have to be removed by paramedics, 20+ years after they’re put in.

The Sources are painted at once as better than other people, and less than; as invaluable and worthless. 

And yet, speaking out against the Source Program is considered treason.  When Marina speaks up at her high school and says she will not participate in a biology experiment that involves dissecting a Source because Sources are people who deserve respect, she is expelled.  She learns that continuing to voice her opinion will get her thrown in prison. 

So what happens when she meets a pre-Source, seventeen-year-old Levi, and falls in love?  Can she save him before he turns eighteen and gets put in a Box?

This book was written and self-published by a fellow WriMo, Hillary Flinn.  It reads well and is exciting—but it desperately needs an editor, and to be reformatted (I got the ebook). I noticed a lot of typos and a character who switched names (Nick/Noah).  Simple things that would have been fixed in one read-through with an editor.  And many people can find an editor for free on the NaNo forums.  So, Author Flinn, if you ever see this:  I’ll edit it for you and reformat it.  Just let me know.  I’d love to help.

Now, onto the plot.  I’m not great at picking out troupes and themes, but I could tell this would fall neatly into something related to white guilt.  A quick glance at TVTropes tells me it’s along the lines of Mighty Whitey. So, in that regard, not very original, and a few spots made me cringe, but it was still a fun read.  The romantic relationships could have been developed more.  And this may have just been me, but I just wasn’t feeling the “white people non-Sources are brainwashed, don’t blame them” deal.  It felt too extreme to get so little explanation.  Maybe if we had heard from those who support the Source program more (in ways other than yelling at Marina that she was a traitor), I could have gotten on board.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book and I am glad I read it.  It hasn’t been added on GoodReads yet, but I’ll put it there myself if it doesn’t show up in the next few days.  3/5 GR stars.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

More Anderson stuff

Today, I (mostly) finished fixing the problems/problematic areas my first critiquer pointed out. I also asked some well-known polyamorous folks on Tumblr if they would like to give it a read-through, and one has replied and received the manuscript.

She read the first chapter and immediately got back to me to say I need a better hook. I have a feeling this critique will be harsher/more real than the first. I’m ready.

And excited. Yay, yay.

Also, I’m critiquing a fellow WriMo’s draft. It’s about a stressed-out queer boy and I’m really enjoying it so far.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

A Glamorously Unglamorous Life – book review

A Glamorously Unglamorous Life, by Julia Albain. Book 3 of 2013.  

Young Julia Albain packs up and moves to New York!  This is a true story of a year in the life of a writer/actor/director who leaves her friends and family in search of fulfillment and adventure.  Meanwhile, the excitement is really taking place back home, where she and her group of friends are becoming famous, thanks to a Harry Potter parody musical they performed and posted online.  Author Albain gets homesick, struggles with depression and feeling stuck, loneliness, and generally is in need of hugs, which I desperately wanted to give her.

There were some spots where an editor could have helped out this self-published book, but the overall tone was so sweet that I couldn’t bring myself to mind.  I think if I were to move to New York, I would go through a similar experience—the difference is that I’ve never wanted to.  Julia (I call her by her first name sometimes, since I’ve met her, so bluuu on you) thought it was what she wanted, but she grows to hate it there.  It’s sad but a little refreshing to hear from someone who didn’t find everything they ever wanted in NY.  The fact is, not everyone is fulfilled by the same things, and this book is a good example of that.

I do highly recommend this book (I promise it isn’t just because the author is a Starkid).  It’s touching and heartbreaking, with the right dash of optimism.  It’s easy to read and she’s easy to fall in love with.  And there’s the added bonus of helping out a Starkid.

4/5 GR stars.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

A critique!

A fellow WriMo critiqued my novel. Seeing as I want to get this thing published, I’m going to try to get a few more critiques in pretty soon (any takers? It’s the Anderson Triad, you can read about it here). I haven’t had a lot of my stuff critiqued before, so I’m lucky this person actually liked my story. It’s like being eased in to critiques.

She gave me twenty pages (well, by her count…I re-formatted and got it to six) of thoughts and edits which I’m going over now. There aren’t a lot of big changes she thinks I should make–mostly grammar and the occasional typo–but she let me know what parts were confusing and abrupt and unrealistic. Yay, yay, yay.

It feels good, folks. Feels good.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

The Bully Book – review

The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale is the story of a thoroughly unremarkable sixth-grader who suddenly finds himself being bullied by three fellow students, including one of his best friends.  Eric (the MC, not the author) can’t figure out why this is happening, or how to stop it, but as other students join in on the bullying, it takes over his life.  He hears a rumor about The Book, a legendary book that gets sixth graders to pick out a single “Grunt” every year to bully for the rest of their school careers, and Eric knows he’s the Grunt of his class.

Written so that we read The Book as well as Eric’s story, The Bully Book gives us both sides—we learn why the bullies do it, and the effect it has on the bullied.  We get to meet Grunts of years past and see how being Grunts has changed them, possibly forever.  We meet older “Bully Bookers,” and see how they’ve grown.  All Eric wants to do is find out why he was chosen, what about him made him such a perfect target, so he can change and be done with it—but to do that, he must find The Book.

This book is glorious.  No shame, I got it because of Team Starkid’s promotion of it, and they didn’t let me down.  I finished it in one night, and sincerely hope Author Gale publishes something else.  I loved the characters as well as the entire plot; the search for a legendary Book sounds so epic but it all takes place in elementary school, which turns out to be the perfect setting.

Highly recommend this book.  It’s a fun, easy read with a surprising number of twists—and it’s just darn clever.  Plus, the author thanks Team Starkid.  What more can you want? 

5/5 GR stars, easy.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

Between Mom and Jo – review

Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters.

My first book of 2013!  I got through this in a single night at work, thanks to Text-to-Speech, just under the first-week-of-the-year mark.

Between Mom and Jo is the story of a young boy and his two mothers.  Their lives are pretty normal.  The moms fight with each other, they fight with their son, they laugh and love and embarrass each other.  They lose pets, they fight cancer and alcoholism and homophobia, and Nick feels very awkward when Jo talks to him about sex and relationships.

Erin (“Mom”) is compassionate but impatient, hardworking, strong.  Jo is butch, goofy, flaky, and straight-forward.  When they work well together, they’re adorable—when they clash, it’s cringe-worthy.  Like any married couple, they have their good times and bad.

Nick is a sweet kid.  The first story in the book happens when he’s three years old, and he’s fifteenish when the book ends.  He loves his moms, but for a while resents them for being gay as it gets him teased at school.  He loves animals, especially fish, and has a talent for drawing.

I loved this book.  This is the second book of Author Peters that I’ve read (the first one being Luna, story of a trans* girl, told through the eyes of her little sister) and I don’t expect it to be the last.  The writing isn’t especially eloquent but it’s easy to read and the characters are so lovable.  I especially fell in love with Jo—and the dogs.  Lucky 2 was my favorite. 

Don’t go into this book thinking it will paint lesbians as perfect marriage/parenting material, because it definitely doesn’t.  Their marriage isn’t that healthy, but they know it.  They deal with it.  Overall, no complaints…except when Jo is a bit slut-shamey, but hey, everyone has flaws.

5/5 GR stars.

I’m a little more than half-way through The Bully Book now, so expect a review for that soon

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ