Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Salbine Sisters by Sarah Ettritch


*ebook from NetGalley-much thanks!

Published October 2010
Publisher: Norn Publishing

Introduction
Maddie entered into the monastery of Salbine Sisters, a religious order of offensive mages that draw on the elements to defend their country. She begins her lessons with a mistress that she has taken as her lover, and discovers that she cannot draw on the first element, fire. With the news that there is something different about her, she travels to another monastery to find her answers.  

Story
It takes too long to establish how this world works, and I still have questions. Most of all, I want to know more about their religion. At one point we get a run down about Lina from a tapestry, but what about Salbine? It’s the name of their God/Goddess, a central aspect to this story, and I know nothing about Her.
The story was supposed to be about Maddie travelling and researching her condition. The story takes another turn and in the end I was left asking BUT WHAT ABOUT HER CONDITION? Nope, we have just forgotten about that. The book ends. Thanks, Book, for disregarding what you set out to do.
With this said, it was not a terrible story. It meandered all over the place, and it presented itself as fantasy. It’s really a romance. Straight up romances usually aren’t my cup of tea, but this story had me wondering about Lillian and Maddie’s relationship. How can it survive the awful conclusion that she cannot draw on the elements? So much happens consecutively after that, it made me anxious to read what would happen next in their relationship. There are many instances of dialogue that had me smiling or sad-the book was exceptionally moving to me, at times. Aside from a romance, the story accomplishes very little.

Characters
There are a ton of characters. For the most part, they are terribly flat. Because the story is concerned with an order of women, the characters that the reader is concerned with are women. It’s too bad that none of them have a convincing personality-the author populates the covenant with people whose only traits are that they are women. Gwendolyn is evil for about 10 minutes, and she has to most personality out of all the women.

Message
            The author’s website says that this is “A story about faith and love.” The faith, the religious kind, was alright until I felt like I was being hit in the face with everyone has a purpose set forth by a higher being. That became old quickly. Because I don’t want to spoil it here, Maddie’s purpose is the kind of thing I rail against with a feminist fervor.  

Verdict
Yes, it has two women as lovers, labeled lesbians (though the term is not used in the text), so some people will gasp, cover their mouths, and be offended. In this instance, it would be best to know a person’s sensibilities before you recommend this book. I recommend this book as a love story, not a fantasy. Because there is no fighting against a society that wants them to conform, I don’t even recommend it for people looking for LGBT literature that is about breaking free from society’s rigid structure. It's an nice love story of two women, one older, one younger, struggling against a series of unfortunate events, and I found it to have some wonderful moments.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Looking for Beta Readers for a YA Horror MS

Hello fellow bibliophiles

I have a bit of a problem. In the spring I went to a writers' conference and an agent was interested in my manuscript. Yay! It was still in the editing phase, so she told me to submit it when it is ready.

I'm done with editing, but I have yet to have beta readers. I had some lined up-I read and commented on their works, and they were supposed to reciprocate. They are not replying to their emails, and it's been months :c

So, is anyone interested in giving me feedback? Basic or detailed, all is appreciated. Even if you don't like it and stop reading, that's fine, and though I'd like to know how I can improve. Here's my premise for a YA horror, currently titled She Came From the Sea:

Tourist destination Star Harbor has picturesque waters, beaches, lighthouses, and residents. For moody teenager Brent, these things mean nothing. His crush rejected him publicly. His parents are divorcing and they fight over custody of the dog instead of him. They ignore him and obsess over ruining each other’s lives. Deciding to end it all he goes to a secluded beach of black rocks. He is about to throw himself in when a beautiful girl surfaces from the water. Her name is Nerin and she is half woman, half fish-a mermaid. Love binds them together and he swears to protect her.

A mermaid’s duty is to punish unjust men, and she enlists Brent to help her locate deserving offenders. Believing that she intends to scare them, he gladly sends his school bullies to her.

But there is something else is amiss in Star Harbor. Men have been going missing, with their body parts and entrails washing ashore. Somewhere in this mess is Nerin, and Brent has to keep afloat before he is in too deep to save himself.


So...if anyone wants some reading material over the winter holidays, we can swap material and give feedback. My email is my full name, at @gmail . com (you can find it on my profile page).

Happy winter reading!


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Audrey's Guide to Black Magic by Jody Gehrman


 
Website: Author's Website and Author’s blog
Publisher: Magic Genie Books
Publication Date: September 7, 2013 

Introduction 
                Audrey is back with a new section to her guide-the guide to black magic! Sadie takes Meg and Audrey back to the Land for protection and Audrey’s training. There she meets the handsome Ramone, the curt and inhospitable Kalinka, the sweet Leila, and her maternal grandmother, who happens to be the Land matriarch. Audrey’s mother is still fighting the evil Cormack, she misses her boyfriend, Julian, and one person on the Land has betrayed them and is working with Cormack. Audrey has to train, deal with boyfriend and little sister problems, and find the traitor before Cormack makes his next move.

                I was a beta reader for this book last year and I am so grateful for the experience! With a final release of the book, I happily re-read it.

Cover
                The colours are gorgeous! I can’t say I like the model used (I can’t look away from her chest and disconnected head), but the colours of the dress and background are stunning.

Story
                There is a lot more happening in this book than the previous book, Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft. They are far removed from the contemporary life we are familiar with. The Land is amazing; it is full of magic, yet magic also absent because they do everything by hand if they can (a far cry from the Harry Potter universe). Not being at home keeps the pace moving fast.

Meg
                First and foremost, I love what Gehrman did with Meg in this book. There is a steep role reversal here. I am so glad that the author didn’t do what most uninspired authors would do: have Meg continue to be the center of attention as the social butterfly that she usually is. On the Land of Mad River, she is the outsider, the outcast. Audrey is new, but welcome. In fact, a lot ride on Audrey being there. Meg is an ignorant interloper. I can honestly say that if someone in my family had magical powers and I didn’t I’d die of jealously. Meg’s frustration at being politely shunned by the entire community for being mundane was well-done.

Sadie
                The lady of ultimate cool is back to help. This installment gives her lots of attention, delving into her personality, interests, and hopes for her future. Her interest in black magic and why she’s interested is very compelling. It would be nice to see her magic in a fight, unless her magic isn’t offensive. The first book and the second had her absent from the final fights and I hope that we get to see her in action in the future.

Audrey and Julian
                There is not much development for Audrey. We get the reveal about what Julian means to Audrey’s magic, but nothing notable changes for her. She is her usual self and she goes about her adventure. There has a little inner conflict relating to Cormack, and that’s all that stood out to me, and that’s disappointing. I’d really like to see more done with Julian. Other than being the love interest, there isn’t that much that he does in this book. Now that we know what he is, I’d like to see him more involved in the action.

Final Verdict
                I highly recommend this book. In fact, I recommend this more highly than the first book. Lots of magic, action, and conflict. It’s an enchanting read that will fascinate girls who love the story of a witch defending what matters most to her. I cannot wait for a possible third installment to develop Julian and Audrey further, and you can never go wrong with more Sadie!  
 

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman




Published: June 30th 2012
Publisher: Magic Genie Books 
Author’s website 
Author’s blog 

Introduction
Audrey is a normal girl until a face appears in her Crème Brulee. This is the same day that her mother goes missing and her mysterious “cousin”, Sadie, appears at her doorstep. Intuition screams that something is dangerously amiss, and strange occurrences abound, eventually leading up the revelation that she is a witch. At 17-years-old, Audrey has to hone her rare abilities, save her mother, protect herself, and fall in love, all the while keeping her normal sister, Meg, in the dark about everything to do with magic.

Story
                This is a Guidebook. The first of many (well, at least two, thus far). She lives in the human world while trying to learn about her witchy abilities in secret. It’s about magic and love-maternal and the boy-crush kind of love. This all happens while going to school and dealing with the high school mean girl, and other everyday girl problems.   

Audrey
                My favourite aspect of Audrey is that she is far from perfect. She has many positive aspects: protective, independent, thoughtful, and funny. She also makes mistakes, such as going off on handsome boys about things that have absolutely nothing to do with them. Inside my head I was freaking out, thinking, Audrey! Stop it! Stop it now! She is snarky, cynical, and at times irrational. Her imperfections make her a believable character and someone you can root for. And she is a baker-you can’t go wrong with a witch that bakes.

Sadie
                The characters are far removed from the danger most of the time, as they are not with the central hub of witches. Audrey has to learn how to use magic to defend herself against the antagonist, and Sadie steps in, even though she cannot adequately tap into Audrey’s special abilities. The moment that Sadie arrives, she is cool, confident, and beautiful. Surrounded by animals, she holds answers and more mysteries that she keeps to herself. By far my favourite character here, I adore the mystifying way she handles herself. Her presence kept me wondering throughout the book.

Meg
                Meg is the little sister who is the foil to Audrey, yet she shares some similarities with Sadie. She is confident, manipulative, ambitious, social, and beautiful. She fronts the suggestively named band Cherry. It sounds like Meg always gets what she wants. However, Meg is a human with no magical abilities. If you do some digging and analyzing, you’ll see that she is arguably the most emotionally complex character in the cast thus far. Not a throw-away character. Not a character that is the “little sister” and nothing more. The family dynamics here are phenomenal.

Believability
Personally, I’m tired of heroines being unrealistically heroic or stubbornly buried in denial. Her mother goes missing and she discovers that she is a witch. After some healthy skepticism, she picks up the mantle to go help her mother fight, or rather, fend off, the big bad, knowing that she can’t possibly offer much help. It’s different from Harry Potter-this is the beginning of her new magical life, and she isn’t going to be killing He Who Must Not Be Named because skill wise, she isn’t there yet. Yes, it’s a little depressing to put yourself in her shoes, and it’s refreshingly realistic. It’s about survival and love.

Ending/Mysteries
                If you read my other reviews, you’ll note that I don’t mind open endings, as long as they don’t end in the middle of something important like a fight or a conversation. Some mysteries left unsolved are fine. In fact, they are awesome if it means that the book will get a sequel and this book does! Even if this book didn’t have a sequel (and I didn’t know it did when I read it), I like thinking about the possibilities that remaining mysteries leave behind. You know, sometimes an author leave these mysteries unsolved intentionally. 

Verdict
I received this book about a year ago, and it is still one of my favourite books, largely, in part, due to the characters, and the way that it is believable. I want more Guidebooks written by Audrey Oliver-it was one of my top three favourites in 2012. I recommend this for a teen book club read as it is relatable without being crass. Yes, it has witchcraft. Good witchcraft! And recipes for chocolate cake and crème brulee! I highly recommend this for girls into the paranormal but are perhaps sick of the overblown paranormal romances that are circulating.