This review contains photos of mentioned locations as a gift to international readers.
My review is split in to five sections: Writing, Plot, Worldbuil...moreThis review contains photos of mentioned locations as a gift to international readers.
My review is split in to five sections: Writing, Plot, Worldbuilding, Characters, and X-Factor. Each section comprises of either half or one star, except X-Factor which can utilise two whole stars.
I’ve read some other reviews of this book, and like my friend Shirley Marr, I agree this book should probably be rated in two separate halves . The first half is pretty damned awesome: Tessa has amnesia, and the things she does remember suggests she’s from another time. The second half is much less awesome, where Tessa finally figures out what she is and embraces her true nature.
Writing 1 The writing in this is pretty good. It’s second person point of view, for the most part, although because it’s Tessa writing down her story the second often drifts away into first person. It’s not technically, purely second person because of this. It’s more like first person with references to a second person. I also really enjoyed Tessa’s ‘awakening’, I suppose. Her re-learning little things that she’s forgotten such as OMG WAFFLES ARE AMAZEBALLS. That was fun. Overall the writing was clean and elegant, with recurring motifs such as I am Tessa. I am brave. I do not cry. It’s a powerful message that recurs in the book as Tessa tries to gather her lost memories.
Editing errors: Call me pedantic, call me what you will, I really don’t give a flying. This is a book about my city with local characters written by a semi-local. I don’t know Gordon’s background, only that she grew up on the north-west coast and now lives on the east coast, but if she went to university she probably – like the majority of Tasmanians who stay in the state of a tertiary education – went to the south for her further education. There aren’t really many reasons why these errors should be in the book. The only reason I can think is that it was either changed to appeal to an American audience, or the editor made some changes that Gordon missed because I can’t imagine a local referring to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens as the ‘botanic gardens’.
See? It says it right there in the name, and I have never ever heard of them referred to as simply ‘botanic’. I may be obsessing over a tiny little ‘al’ but really, locals would never make that mistake.
The other error is one of the other students calling Scottsdale High School ‘Scottsdale Public’ like an American school. That’s not how we refer to our schools. This grated on me as well, as if it was trying to appeal to an American audience but the book’s not even for sale in America, so I couldn’t figure out WHY.
The final error is one of the students referring to her education achievement certificate as a ‘diploma’. In Tasmania, you don’t get diplomas at high school, you get them at University (they’re less intense than degrees). We get a Tasmanian Certificate of Education at the completion of college (two seniors years before university) and a Higher School Certificate at the completion of high school, which is four years previous to the college years. A diploma is a foreign concept. It shouldn’t be in this book.
The magical hat incident: Page 116:
“I pulled the hat out now and pushed it roughly on to my head, then strode towards the door.”
“I reached in my bag and pulled out Laurel’s woollen beanie, the beanie I never got to wear.”
I don’t even need to make a comment about that.
Plot .5 First half 1 Second half 0 The plot was decent and quite strong in the first half of the book. It followed the mystery of Tessa trying to figure out who she is and remember things after her ‘incident’ – her being found in the bush, unconscious, dirty, with hair in rat’s tails and mysterious stripey scars on her back.
In the second half, once Tessa figured out her secret (LONG after I had) I didn’t enjoy the story very much. Tessa turns into another character, not like the amnesia girl at all. She blurts her secret to her friend, whom she thinks might be an enemy, but does it anyway because she thinks her friend-maybe-enemy is ‘different’, like her. I didn’t like Tessa’s incessant need to eavesdrop info-dumping sessions and then not be able to put one and one together. I didn’t really like how her random memories would pop into her head and play back like a film, taking over her whole life at that point in time, because that’s not how memories actually work. Then the end was all kinds of cliffhangery which I didn’t like. I didn’t feel satisfied about the conclusion.
The blurb promised more of a mystery to do with Cat as well, which totally didn’t happen.
Worldbuilding 1 I loved the worldbuilding. It almost made perfect sense. Of course the Diemens would follow convict women halfway across the globe to a small town hardly anyone has heard of. The world was injected with enough real-life landmarks to make it almost believable. I didn’t like the idea of an all-girls’ school built next to the brewery, but I liked the idea of the school. I quite liked Tessa’s backstory, just not how it was revealed.
Characters .5 Overall, I generally liked Tessa, even when she exhibited very typical YA heroine empty-headed ‘sense’. She was curious, and although I think her actions pushed by patience I understand the need for her to react the way she did. The story needed conflict, and that was the best way to inject it. It doesn’t endear me to Tessa, but it does push the story along.
And also… Tessa does cry. On more than one occasion, tears come to her eyes. She just pushes it away. She’s not an unfeeling robot who never has tears come to her eyes. So the whole ‘I am Tessa, I am brave, I do not cry’ was weird. All the same, I liked the way Tessa was built and for the most part I enjoyed reading about her.
X Factor 0 This book should be getting at least one star for X Factor because it’s set in my home state with landmarks I totally squeed over. I dragged my photographer partner out to take photos for this review, to demonstrate some of the real landmarks mentioned:
Taroona High School
Yep, that’s ocean right outside the back door (well technically a river), and I fondly recall the time we convinced our maths teacher to let us go down to the beach to watch the dolphins and humpback whales swim up the river.
Mures Seafood Restaurant
Cascade Brewery, where the school is supposed to be built next to... but um… who would build a school next to a brewery?
The Female Factory
Also bonus! This is a quern-stone we found while exploring the Female Factory site. It’s used to grind grain. Isn’t that awesome?
Note – this photo was taken a few years ago when I lived at the base of the mountain, literally a two minute walk from the Female Factory. That’s snow, which is a rare occurrence in the city but quite common on the mountain from about May-September, although it has been known to snow in March (end of summer) and October (spring). I’m pretty sure it even freak snowed in December once.
This book didn’t have an X Factor for me. The emotional response was purely because I grew up in the same city as Tessa, and that’s extremely rare in not only YA literature but also literature of Australia. The second half of the book let me down too much for me to recall anything I may have been excited over in the first half.
Overall This is a strong paranormal novel consisting of several familiar tropes. Its strength is its location and the unique take on not only Australian wildlife but particularly those extinct or near extinct Tasmanian animals. Gordon is a clear and concise writer who utilises familiar themes and motifs to continue the narrative thread. The failure of the second half of this novel will not detract from readers who enjoy a good paranormal story utilising an amnesiac heroine.
This book is known to me as "The book with the name I can't pronounce."
I read half of the preview of this book available on Smashwords to decide if I...moreThis book is known to me as "The book with the name I can't pronounce."
I read half of the preview of this book available on Smashwords to decide if I wanted to read the rest or not. It is a Young Adult high fantasy, the genre I feel most at home in, so I was interested to see how it was handled by a vanity publisher as opposed to a self-publisher or a traditionally published author.
I hesitated when I read the Preface. There was a distinct line of defensiveness I was forced to read before I'd even read a word of the story. The following quotes are lifted from the Preface:
"It is a novel with both a storyline and a background theme."
All books I know have both a storyline and a background theme. Where would English teachers be if a book had neither? Can one exist without the other? In my opinion, no. It's impossible to write a story without a theme. Every single story ever written tells of a central conflict, and that conflict revolves around the theme, whether it is Tangled's selflessness, Mulan's bravery, or Beauty and the Beast's compassion. Yes, I am using Disney films as examples. Bite me. You literally cannot write a story without some kind of conflict. Let me reiterate: without conflict there would be no story, and every conflict leads to a theme.
"As you read, you may come across language, names, or terminology in the text that appear out of place or anachronistic. They are not. There is a reason for them that will become more clear as the story progresses. In fact, almost every detail in the novel has a purpose, from the intricately-drawn scenery in the beginning to the hair color (sp) of the heroine of the story. Again, those purposes will become clear later on."
It seems this Preface is written for people who do not normally read, and especially people who do not normally read fantasy. This Preface is written to defend the story simply for being. I find this tragic and incredibly sad. It's like writing "This is a work of fiction" at the beginning of Twilight, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, or anything by Terry Pratchett. It's superfluous; especially as this book is a high fantasy. High fantasy readers are used to those really hard to grasp concepts such as different languages, names, and terminologies. We certainly don't need to be told that it will all make sense later on. Only someone extremely uncertain of their ability will write at the beginning of the book, "I swear it all makes sense if you'll only keep reading!"
See, the point of an author is to convince people to keep reading, even if it doesn't make sense (Fallen, anyone?).
As for the actual writing itself, I found it littered with poorly-placed telling-not-showing and passive voice - which admittedly can be a stylistic choice, but along with the excessive use of 'that', it's not my cup of tea. The writing is also not very tight, a skill that often comes from experience, a skilled editor, or a very good mentor; but I can forgive this loose writing seeing as how the author very self-depreciatingly says in the Preface, "I never thought I could be a writer given that my talents lie in other areas, mostly in mathematics and science."
There is an over-abundance of unnecessary commas that seem to be randomly dropped in:
This was a little too suspicious, as anyone who was studied in the botanical nature of the Trui’Quirre, knew that sage did not grow near oaden trees
Half her height, a small, brown, furry creature, wearing a light brown, hooded cloak and carrying a small rucksack, brandished a tree branch at her and growled malignantly.
She told herself, however, that the house was, more likely, just abandoned, like the village had been, so she plucked up her courage and proceeded to enter.
The overuse of commas annoys me. I don't think it's a classy or elegant stylistic choice. It serves to slow the book right down, and if there’s one thing high fantasy doesn’t need, it’s a drop in pace.
I found the dialogue forced and unnatural. The dialogue tags were also poorly chosen and inelegant. Tagging is supposed to happen at the first appropriate pause, so you know who’s speaking: not after several sentences.
And then, amongst all this simple descriptive language, the thesaurus was suddenly flung open and I was assaulted by words such as unctuous and obsequious, which, no I am not ashamed to admit, I have no idea what they mean. I don’t even think they are in The Mellifluous Book of Hard Words: Read It, Know It, Use It. I’d check, but I’ve already packed it away in preparation for moving house. But luckily Google is my friend – lucky that this is an ebook and I can quickly flick to another tab – and tell me ‘unctuous’ means “Excessively or ingratiatingly flattering; oily” and ‘obsequious’ means “Obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.”
And now, because I’ve had to set the book aside to figure out what the hell those words mean, I’m going to go play on Twitter and Tumblr for a bit because this isn’t interesting enough to hold my attention.
Note to authors: don’t deliberately use obscure words to try to prove your intelligence because if the reader doesn’t know what they mean and have to look it up, then they’re putting your book down and are no longer reading. Kinda defeats the purpose.
an hour later…
Where was I?
There is an over-abundance of double letters in proper nouns. I’m not against this. Holly Lisle uses double vowels really well in Talyn (Korre, #1). ‘Taak’, the word used for house or village or gathering place (I left my copy in another country, cut me some slack!) is pronounced with a long A (hay) and then a short A (cat) so that the double A sounds like TAY-ack. Instead of the Preface warning that there will be unusual words, perhaps a pronunciation guide could have been included instead. While some words, such as Darrenfell are obvious, it certainly would have helped me be able to decipher Vaassa, Vlaad, Lucce, Draaquan, and Trui’Quirre.
The double and triple use of punctuation marks is simply childish and unimaginable. There should never be ‘?!?’ ever. It’s ugly and shows no skill or talent whatsoever. I often do accept ‘?!’ in dialogue only and then very sporadically, and there must also be a reason for daring to use two punctuation marks together like that – i.e. in extreme circumstances only. And what’s worse, the ‘?!?’ didn’t only happen once, but several times in the first thirty odd pages. I also found ‘?!’ in two neighbouring sentences. What’s with all the exclamation points? LESS IS MORE.
Also, it’s pretty important when characters are speaking that you introduce a new paragraph for them with each new entry. That’s an incredibly basic rule of writing that I learned when I was ten years old. The dialogue tags and indications are so painful it hurts to subject my eyes to this torture. I’m pretty sure I’d rather read the incredibly boring descriptions rather than the incredibly painful dialogue.
As for the plot: admittedly I gave up at around page 40 but from what I did read I found an awful lot of description and hardly anything that was actually interesting. Even the dialogue between main character Chalice and her childhood friend is boring, info-dumping, talking about things I have not been convinced to care about yet, and I’m skipping over it waiting for something disguising itself as conflict to enter.
Considering this book is vanity-published, I'm surprised that the quality is so low. If I was going to pay someone to edit I'd at least want them to do a good job and pay them accordingly. Otherwise, at these rates, you may as well self-publish. Thoughts are inconsistently italicized, commas seem randomly added, and on several occasions I found typos that should have been caught: ‘shown’ instead of ‘showed’ and a name that wasn’t capitalised. If this was self-published I probably wouldn’t be so harsh, but that’s what copy editors are for, right? Oh, I see. The vanity publishers, Lucky Bat Books, charge line-editing and plain editing at $55 an hour. Yeah, no wonder all this was missed. It's kind of long.(less)
It was an amazing book. So powerful, and incredibly emotional. It helped me personally, too, for reaso...moreHow is anyone supposed to rate a book like this?
It was an amazing book. So powerful, and incredibly emotional. It helped me personally, too, for reasons I won't go into it. But I did not like it. I can not bring myself to like it. There is not much to like, and the terrifying thing is that it's a true story.
When I say there is not much to like, I mean the writing itself is fine, it's the memories that are horrible.
Yet I think it is one of those memoirs that a lot of people need to read. Especially people in their safe little bubble where only first world problems apply. Especially people who have gone through similar things.
I reiterate: this book was amazing, and if you're ready to face real-world issues and accept that awful things happen, sometimes for no reason, maybe you're ready for this book.(less)
I was born and raised in the only place in the world where foxes do not live besides Antarctica (Tasmania, Australia), and as such, I find foxes extre...moreI was born and raised in the only place in the world where foxes do not live besides Antarctica (Tasmania, Australia), and as such, I find foxes extremely exotic and fascinating. They have been my favourite animal for as long as I can remember. I cannot rave enough about this book. It's a talking animals book, sure, but for adults. It follows the life of rural vixen O-ha as her home is slowly taken over by a developing town. There's a viscous enemy bent on taking her down and making her life miserable. It's a nice exploration of traditionalism versus contemporary life, the old ways of the country foxes and the old hunts (with horses and hounds) being taken over by humans who wish to preserve foxes when they appear in the town. Just gorgeous. The life of foxes will no longer be a mystery to me.(less)
I actually suspect Katherine Applegate ghost-wrote this one. There's just something about the girls kicking ass that reminds me of Applegate's stronge...moreI actually suspect Katherine Applegate ghost-wrote this one. There's just something about the girls kicking ass that reminds me of Applegate's stronger female characters, and the humour is identical.(less)