It hurts my heart to do it, but it’s official – Bookish Creature will be on hiatus until May 2017.
Reviews may be posted sporadically, but I won’t be processing any new requests for the time being. My day job is in full swing and I just don’t have the hours in the day to read quite as much as I’d like.
But it’s just temporary. 🙂 See you soon!
Today’s book is The Helper, by MN SNow.
Length: 296 pages
Released: November 15, 2016
A tale that combines contemporary, speculative fiction with an ambiguous spirituality. The book explores relationships between lovers, friends, families, and what Powers of Good there may be.
John Sloan is a Marine Corps veteran with a life-long secret that is haunting him. He is a conduit to a healing light that draws him to people on the brink of emotional disintegration, people who are then healed and Helped by this light. His blue-collar world is shattered when he finds that his connection to this anonymous portal has vanished. He is alone, seemingly beyond aid, and in desperate need of a Helping himself.
The book tracks the intersecting lives of John and two other Helpers. His lifelong friend Dusty Hakalla is a mixed-blood Ojibwe, with a secret of his own. His power to Help is remarkable, but was once destructively misused. A career Marine, his scarred childhood and momentary abuse of power have left him jaded and bereft. Deena Morrison, also a Helper, is John’s girlfriend. Adopted as an infant, she flees John to find her birth-mother, while carrying within herself her own secret. Another character shadows their lives as narrator, Nan’b’oozoo, the trickster god of Ojibwe legend—at times sarcastic and petulant, at others insightful and humorous.
The novel travels from the gritty Lake Superior port-cities and Indian Reservations of northern Wisconsin to the Jewish neighborhoods of North Miami Beach, Florida—from Parris Island to the war zones of Kuwait and Afghanistan.
A spiritual, uplifting character study whose narrative style more than makes up for its need for an editor.
I’m not going to sugar coat it: The Helper is in desperate need of a thorough proofreading. It’s full of run-ons, fragments, creative uses of punctuation – and it’s all extremely forgivable, because the narration itself is such a joy. This book reads as though the story’s being told by your oldest and best drinking buddy, brimming with humor and constantly breaking the fourth wall. It has personality in spades. The run-ons were just part and parcel.
(That said, it still needs a good tightening up, but hey – forgivable.)
The story itself is one of those character-driven ones I love so much, following John, Dusty, and Deena through their respective childhoods and their eventual meeting. It could pass for Christian fiction, but I’d be more apt to put it down as just ‘spiritual.’ It was enjoyable and uplifting even to me and my complete lack of religious leaning.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend The Helper if errant commas don’t set your teeth too much on edge.
Today’s book is Dragonkyn, by Nathan Smith Jones. 🙂
Length: 213 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc
Released: February 14, 2017
Marc Mondragon is your average teenager: always getting into trouble, crushing on the pretty girl in school. But when strange things begin happening to his body, Marc is thrust into a new world where dragons are no longer just fairytales. Now knowing he’s part dragon, Marc joins a group of Dragonkyn who call themselves Sorceron. As Marc discovers new powers within himself, he starts to wonder how much he can really trust his fellow Dragonkyn. After the leader of Sorceron orders the rest of the group to kill Marc, he flees. But when he discovers that people are going to attack the Sorceron, Marc is faced with a dilemma. Will he try to help the Dragonkyn who tried to kill him?
Between flat characters and lackluster writing, I wasn’t hooked.
Dragonkyn‘s premise would make for some great middle-grade fantasy fare – after a vicious rewrite.
There’s definitely potential here! The plot gallops along with nonstop action and fun, reminding me a lot of Kaza Kingsley’s Erec Rex series (one of my favorites growing up). However, the writing is marred by dozens verb tense errors and misplaced modifiers. The narrative also has this weird quirk of telling you what’s going to happen at the end of a scene before it even plays out. Here’s what I mean:
Marc knew he should have kept his mouth shut, but when Mrs. Kessler targeted Katie, who had done nothing wrong, he had to rush to her defense.
Only after this line do we find out what Katie did (or didn’t do) and why Marc had to stand up for her. It reads oddly to me – why not just show me what happens in the first place?
The author’s penchant for telling extends to the characters as well. I kept being told what Marc felt, instead of feeling it along with him. It made the characters feel two-dimensional, and I really couldn’t connect with them very well.
But the main issue I took offense to is the way Marc interacts with the two main female characters – his classmate, Katie, and his fellow Dragonkyn, Jen. He develops crushes on both and gets upset and depressed when they pay attention to other boys instead of him.
Marc was going to say something, but didn’t. Why try? he thought miserably. He knew that Luke was funnier than he was. Great, I impress her, I’m the reason we’re walking home together, but he gets her attention.
And regarding Jen:
Great, Marc thought. I’m just the dorky friend to her. I might as well be a eunuch.
Dude. You’re fourteen! These neckbeard-y, ‘nice guy’ comments are alarming in their own right, but when I got to the end and realized that neither relationship was even important to the plot… yikes. Marc doesn’t learn or grow from these experiences at all. The story would be exactly the same – and probably better – without them.
I may not be have been impressed by Dragonkyn‘s current state of affairs, but I still think it has the makings of a great MG fantasy after a good clean-up.
Today’s book is Molly Bell and the Wishing Well, by Bridget Geraghty. 🙂
Length: 101 pages
Released: December 28, 2016
Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her cherished mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path.
Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again.
But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more that a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?
Sweet middle-grade fiction that tackles a heavy subject with grace, though it may not satisfy adult readers.
I’m stepping into the shoes of eleven-year-old me when I say that this book would be a fantastic read for any middle-grader. The main character, Molly, faces a double whammy of grief over her late mother and anger and uncertainty over her father’s remarriage. The story follows her as she comes to grips with these drastic changes with help from her family (and a very sweet dog) – the overall message is wonderfully uplifting, and I think it’s safe to say that it would make a lovely gift for any kid that’s going through similar upheavals.
Stepping back into my twenty-two-year-old mindset, I will say that I found Molly Bell to be slightly lacking in personality. The narration was a bit matter-of-fact, the dialogue rather formal… I also would have liked some more depth to the characters – I liked Molly, but I didn’t love her
However, this is definitely the perspective of an adult reading a book that wasn’t written for an adult in the first place. I think these are non-issues from a kid’s perspective, but since I know I’m not the only lover of MG who left middle school a looong time ago, I figure it’s worth mentioning.
In short, Molly Bell and the Wishing Well definitely gets my recommendation as a middle-grade novel. Kids-at-heart, your mileage may vary. 🙂
Today’s book is A Solitary Awakening, by Kevin Cady.
Length: 233 pages
Released: April 29, 2016
Elijah Warren’s world has always been one haunted by murderers. His personal life is non-existent, though it’s not like he’s noticed. Work consumes him, and he’s buried himself in the FBI’s exhaustive demands. There’s no time for romance with killers to track–that is, until the beautiful and erudite Aurelia Blanc is thrown into his life, along with the so-called “Poetic Murderer.”
The Poetic Murderer makes murder an art form, each crime scene an exhibit. To catch him, Elijah and Aurelia must decipher cryptic poems and study imaginative death scenes. They traverse the United States, into the uncharted past of a killer most twisted, whose brutal violence evokes not only empathy for the victims, but an interest in the killer himself.
In time, what these detectives discover about both themselves and the Poetic Murderer will change their lives forever. First, they must understand him. Then, they must stop him, but will a romantic liaison make the killings more personal? If Elijah and Aurelia don’t stay focused, one could end up dead at the hand of a Poetic Murderer.
The writing style was borderline impenetrable for me, and unfortunately I just couldn’t stick it out until the end.
Don’t get me wrong, the storyline is interesting enough – typical hard-boiled detective stuff that I’m sure would please any lover of the genre. But the writing…
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m overly attuned to this kind of thing. But either way, I found the narrative to be stilted, awkward, and even hard to understand in certain places. Between the odd turns of phrase and the tendency towards long-winded sentence fragments, I just couldn’t get hooked. Here are a couple of extracts – draw your own conclusions.
Days off from the bureau he found himself deep in Central Park, as far as he could get, loftily musing that he was beyond the city and away from concrete. He felt whole in those scarce moments, though it was work that satisfied, maybe occupied him, more wholly than that. He wore time-borne jeans and an Alice In Chains T-shirt. Elijah stood almost six feel tall and both men and women at the office wondered how his naturally-formed arms – that shone through that same white dress shirt he wore – got there to begin with.
Another from a later chapter:
The words eloquent and intricate were displaying in Elijah’s mind. The words ruthless, calculated, followed. A sudden wave of heat fell over him and he set down the images. He was at once overwhelmed with the idea that this was the beginning of something not soon realized.
I’m putting this one down as a not-for-me. If you feel like I’m being inordinately picky, though, I’d suggest that you check out a few other reviews before you write off A Solitary Awakening.