Sunday, August 16, 2009

I say all this, but I still totally liked it.

I've got a soft spot for Michigan authors. Even if they don't live in Michigan anymore (like me!). I've got even more of a soft spot for books Actually SET in Michigan. It is NOT easy to find books set in Michigan.

So, what that means is that I'm willing to cut books from the homeland a lot of slack. But even I have my limits.

Lisa McMann's WAKE and FADE are massively successfully, so I'm not going to spend a ton of time here telling you what you already know: It's fast-paced, compelling, fresh, and thrilling. Super easy sell. Here's the booktalk I've used:

Getting sucked into other people's dreams is a bit annoying to Janie, but she's used to it. It isn't until she finds herself in slacker Cable's nightmares that things get truly frightening, because for the first time she's not just a witness, she's a participant.

The but:

Wake lost direction during the last third of the novel, suddenly transforming from a paranormal romance into a crime novel. The transition was weak and pretty jarring. It sets up a trilogy well, but failed to really honor the individual book and reader's expectations (at least this reader's). The book stopped being about the basic premise (girl gets sucked into other people's dreams! boy dreams of horrible things! she must help him!), and adopted another plot entirely.

Further hurting this transition was what I've come to call the "ZOMG We Can Love Each Other!" section. These sections are chock-filled with melodrama, insipid introspection, and copious making-out. Obviously this is all the rage with the Twihards, and WAKE definitely feeds that audience, but it just wasn't in line with the pacing set up in the first two thirds of the novel.

Nevertheless, just looking at the sales figures or the waiting list at your local library will tell you that, really, these things don't matter. It's a page turner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I know it's a fantasy, but that flower doesn't look like that.

I know, cause I looked it up. Not that it really matters. I'm just saying. We seem to be talking a lot about covers lately.

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry is a very loose Cinderella story. Lucinda was the prized daughter of wealthy and influential parents, but when they die, she is left penniless and sent to live with her uncle and evil step-aunt. Now she's fifteen, her life is bleak, and she doesn't see a way out. All of this changes in a matter of hours when three strangers separately enter her life - a mysterious lady, a handsome thief, and a prince (princes don't need adjectives).

Strengths: The evil aunt is given a reason for being evil - not an excuse, but the reader understands a bit better why she behaves the way she does. She's also not entirely irredeemable. Basically, she's a villain with a little bit of depth. Nice to see, and not something required of a Cinderella retelling. So, points for that.

Lucinda was interesting. The plot was compelling - I did want to know how it turned out (ok, mostly I wanted to see the bad guy vanquished and find out what boy she ended up with). I laughed in a few places. I was invested.


Yes, but. You knew this was coming.

I have to question if any fantasy elements were even necessary. I honestly don't think they were. This could have been written as a simple historical fairy tale (minus the, er, fairy bits) and, frankly, I think it would have been a stronger story for it. Alternate realities? Preternatural goats that that verge on magical, but are left without explanation whatsoever? There was a whole secondary world built up here, and very little need. It's like normal evil wasn't evil enough and needed to be ramped up with magic evil. And, ok, if magic was needed, why the alternate reality? Why go to the trouble? It's not like the powers were all that special to require that. They were pretty typical magical powers.

It was just too damn complicated. Which is a pity, because Berry did a good job with giving a known entity (Cinderella) a very fresh turn. I just, in my humble opinion, think she went a bit too far, straying out of my ability to suspend disbelief.

And, seriously, WTF was with that goat?

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