Saturday, 28 December 2013

Surfacing by Shana Norris

*ebook from NetGalley-much thanks!
Published:November 15 2011
Publisher: Self-published
Website: Author’s Website

When Mara’s mother dies, she is forced to relocate to the tiny island of Swans Landing to live with the only relative she has left – her estranged father. She counts the days until her 18 birthday when she can leave the ostracizing and riddle-talking community forever. That is until she hears a mysterious song and sees her mother in the woods. When the obvious is revealed, Mara has to find out why her mother left and never returned and why the human residents hate them, all while dealing with the humans of the island who want the finfolk to leave forever.

I feel that the author wanted her to have an edge with her attitude, but I found her to be melodramatic and childish. Lexa Cain’s Élan from Soul Cutter is a much better example of a girl with an attitude that you can still like and cheer for. Of course, Mara is torn between love interests. Did she really have to string along (and KISS) both? Not if she’s a good person. Overall, I didn’t like Mara. She walks away when people are speaking to her and then has the gall to demand that people stop treating her like a child and give her some answers. She also balls up the letter her mother left and throws it in the corner because it’s not telling her what she wants to hear. Oh, spoiler alert, it has the answers she wants. Brilliant.

The Rest of the Cast
Mostly a bunch of people who are a mix of angry, riddle-talking, racist, weak, or boring. Yay.

If I were Mara, I would have told everyone to buzz off. Why? When you keep asking people what is going on with the whole island hating you and absolutely no one is giving you an answer, but alluding to an answer, that’s ridiculous.

To be specific: Josh is kind of cool, in an aloof and snarky way. Yet he is secretive and hangs out with the cool kids who treat Mara badly. How can you be interested in someone who doesn’t stick up for you?

Dylan grated on me. He is just so nice and that’s his only character trait.

Sailor is interesting. She obviously hates Mara (me too!) yet she occasionally stands up for her when the bullying gets bad. When her history comes to light and you figure out why she hates Mara, she becomes a full character (and there are not many of those here). Also, her name is interesting. Most of the names in this book made me roll my eyes (Gale, Waverly, Westray, Mooring) but Sailor kind of stuck with me (I won’t lie, it might have something to do with Sailor Moon).

Miss Gale is an older woman who knows much and is maternal to the MC who has recently lost her mother. This lady is lovely and knows how to command a room. This is one of a few characters who I found interesting and I perked up when she was on the page.

To paraphrase: the island is mostly full of suck. I would not like to live there.

The Island
A well-written aspect of the book is the prejudice that is rampant in the island. There were a few events that have left the human residents with a bad taste in their mouths regarding the finfolk. There is a clear divide in the community that the readers can link back to racism or class.

However, these themes are a bit far-fetched with mermaids in the mix. If the humans hate them so much, why not take some pictures of the mermaids in action and publish them on the internet or in a magazine? The mermaids would be forced to flee.

Plus, all these girls are making fun of the finfolk. What girl wouldn’t actually want to be a mermaid?

Name of the Book
The author couldn’t bother to use a few key strokes on Google to see if there are other well-known and award-winning books with the same title? *cough*Surfacing by Margaret Atwood *cough*

The Swans Landing Series
Do I have any interest in reading more installments in this series? Yes, because I want to know what happens to Sailor and her quest to find the truth about her family history. I don’t particularly care about Dylan or Josh or even Mara. Maybe one day I’ll check out Submerging, the second installment in this series that focuses on Sailor.

Final Verdict 
I like mermaids, though I am tired of them being used in soft stories that you might see on the Family Channel. If a teen is still hooked (yes, bad pun) on mermaids and they have read through Amanda Hocking’s Lullaby Series, sure, give this book a shot. Everybody’s a mermaid and they all have their own colour of vibrant tails and the humans hate them…because. The overall story that linked the people of the island was nicely put together. If a teen is into mermaids, romance, and wants to get into a four-book series, Surfacing might be for them.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Soul Cutter by Lexa Cain

*Honest Review Requested by Author in Exchange for Free eBook
Published: December 6 2013
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Website: Author’s Blog
*BTW, the author has a fascinating post about Christmas in Egypt that everyone should go check out!

Élan, daughter of the psychic on the show “Psychic for the Stars”, spends her time debunking paranormal phenomena. After a traumatic experience, she became cold and cynical, especially towards her estranged mother. That is until the day her mother goes missing in Egypt without her insulin. Fearing this might be the last time to get her mother back for good, she hops aboard a plane for Egypt. Meanwhile, Ramsey is already in Egypt, working on the crew with Élan’s mother. Unbeknownst to him, the violent spirits that follow him and the legend of the murderous Soul Cutter have entangled him in a terrible game meant to hill him.

When I read that this is set in Egypt, and the author is from the very same place, I knew I was in for a more interesting read that I am used to. I can’t recall ever reading a story set in Egypt, and the author makes me believe in this Egypt because she has the authority and experience to write about it. Have you ever read a book about a foreign place that the author has never been? (The easiest example I know of is the Twilight Saga.)

It might not be obvious at all times, but an author’s imagination and research can only take the reader so far. Lexa Cain is from Egypt, so I am inclined to believe the culture and the atmosphere she describes. Egypt is vastly different from my Western perspective, and I appreciate a book that is outside of my norm without it being a complete fantasy.

POV and Characters
This book uses subjective third-person narration, and I enjoyed something different from the first-person books that are everywhere now! The focus switches between Ramsey and Élan, so we get a great sense of the two. I especially like it because Ramsey knows more about the culture, the forces behind everything, and the paranormal than Élan does. They play off one another nicely. They are both fully realized people with histories and motivations. Why can’t all main characters be this well written?

The Bad Guys
I knew who the baddies were from the start, yet I didn’t know what exactly was up until it was revealed. I think most readers will be like this too, and I felt like Sherlock Holmes or Agent York – you know who’s behind it, and the mystery is why and how exactly is it being pulled off. The legend about the Soul Cutter was compelling and, as it is the title of the book, a driving force in the novel. The Soul Cutter is a complex element in the story, and I enjoyed how it unfolded. There were times when I was so into the story, I worried about the main characters bumping into him. Every encounter with the Soul Cutter had me anxious. Every dark room and shadowy forest had me reading on edge. That, everyone, makes for a fantastic read.

Little Gripe
My only gripe about this novel is my nagging question involving Élan and the Mace she brings with her. How does one bring a canister of Mace on an airplane from the U.S. to Egypt?

I didn’t get a sense of closure with a lot of issues by the end of the book, especially with the relationships. After all that happens, it all just ends abruptly. There are lots of loose ends that could have been tied off before the final page. The book insinuated possibilities, but the bit concerning the mom is driving me batty. Perhaps the author will continue with the series, I don’t know, though that would be awesome. A world of demons and psychics in an international setting with two amazing characters at the helm? Yes, please!

Final Verdict
I highly recommend this to readers who are bored of the usual “Western” fare that they are bombarded with. Because Élan is from the U.S., readers can experience the culture shock vicariously through her. Older teens who can handle some of the more mature themes and the horror will enjoy this. Personally, I love it. We need more well-written books set outside of the West to give to our readers, and Soul Cutter by Lexa Cain delivers.