I was intrigued by this novel. A family of female morticians? Um, awesome. A murder Lily is a suspect in? Oh my god yes. The cliche romance? Eh, not sI was intrigued by this novel. A family of female morticians? Um, awesome. A murder Lily is a suspect in? Oh my god yes. The cliche romance? Eh, not so much, but finding YA without romance is like finding authentic Chanel on ebay: frustrating.
The Secrets of Lily Graves has a great set up but the limpest plot - I was intensely reminded of the Dinner Theatre episode of Bob's Burger's where Linda plots that terrible play and at the end, says 'the murderer was me!' with literally no clues or evidence. And that's a really sad thing to say about a murder mystery. And holy info-dump, Batman. This book is suffering from a fatal case of telling, not showing.
(view spoiler)[ - Matt bored me. He was bland and uninteresting, but still manager to come across as a bit of a creeper. If I have to look up the name of the love interest to write the review, that's a bad sign. I didn't find their friendship or romance interesting at all.
- Lily was intriguing. Her obsession with death! Her complete contentment to stay at home and follow in her family's footsteps! Oh man, I loved Lily, she was so original. Five seasons and a movie, seriously. And her family? Awesome.
- Erin. Erin and Erin's death was so cliche. How about the murder of a teenage girl that doesn't involve a secret, sordid life that involves drugs, rebellion and a SHOCKING pregnancy? Because none of those things are even vaguely shocking at this point. They are done. They are over done. They are charcoal and ash they have been over used so much. Nothing about Erin stood out or shocked me.
- Erin's friends were generic, boring and completely transparent as a way to trick us from the 'real' murdered. Ditto that Stone guy. Seriously, if I can mentally replace your characters with a brick and make no genuine change to the plot, then they aren't good characters.
- Sara. Oh man, Sara. I do not understand why Sara, Sara's arm and Sara's Russian adoption was at all relevant to the plot. Was it meant to reinforce how much she 'owed' her parents? How much she loved them? Ditto with all the college stuff. It was just an info dump.
- Okay, so the murderer is Dr Ken. And basically, other than the info dumps about Sara, her life, Erin, her life etc, there seems to be no actual clues that Dr Ken is the murderer. Zero. It just sort of happens for no reason. I think the singular clue was the cop's line about Matt and Lily being in the graveyard and 'no friend of yours'. That's the only clue that Sara's family is responsible for the crime. Plus, how deep was Sara involved - did she help her father hold Erin down? Drain the blood? AND WHERE WAS ALL THE BLOOD? And the random missionary trip? The drunken mother? Her silent brother? Blargh. (hide spoiler)]
Ultimately, this book is kind of a mess. Just a way to end the story. It's a genuine shame, because I kind of liked Lily. She was a different kind of protagonist.
TLDR a singular intriguing character, but ultimately a nonsensical murder mystery that uses every trope and a parade of forgettable characters to stumble to the end.
An interesting murder weapon though. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Something about this book captured me. I liked Emily, liked that she was a convincing teenage protagonist. A few plot points bugged me but overall, itSomething about this book captured me. I liked Emily, liked that she was a convincing teenage protagonist. A few plot points bugged me but overall, it was a pleasant read. I'm not fussed with poetry generally and didn't read those parts. Overall, I liked it. ...more
This book has about as much substance as reality tv itself. The ending is a complete cop out and Ken Baker makes Emery likeable but utterly generic. TThis book has about as much substance as reality tv itself. The ending is a complete cop out and Ken Baker makes Emery likeable but utterly generic. This book manages to drop all the balls, and makes me cranky, because it sounded like such an interesting idea. ...more
No, seriously. There's a YA trend at the moment to turn everything into a series - which is fine, if the sto Why why WHY does this have to be a series?
No, seriously. There's a YA trend at the moment to turn everything into a series - which is fine, if the story can sustain it. Unfortunately, it results in a lot of books having very little plot because the story is being stretched out. The most successful series have individual stories that fit into a larger world. No, really. It should be three books: four plots - the plot of each book, plus the larger series arc (a la Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the Lunar Chronicles.)
The Jewel, of course, suffers violently from a case of one plot: three books. And that plot? Very much ripped off from the likes of The Handmaiden, The Selection and the whole genre of whiny pseudo-fantasy YA.
Let's play Everything that is Wrong with This Book.
(view spoiler)[- The Augeries (spelling?) have not been explained in any way. The surrogates just have random super magical powers. Magical powers that want to kill them. Lovely. I suspect these will be Very Important when the inevitable rebellion occurs. There’s always an inevitable rebellion with a Generic White Teenage Female Victim at the center.
- The characters. Dahlia and Lily were completely interchangable. I hope Amy Ewing has a plan for Lily, because Dahlia was a wasted character, and it would have been far more effective to create one character for them. Raven is a standard-issue spunky best friend who falls victim to a horrible fate. No refunds. Lucien's characterisation seems GoT influenced and inconsistent.
I did think the twist with Garnet being in on the rebellion was clever. Didn't see it coming.
A lot of characters seem to have little point beyond piles upon piles of exposition - like the dinner parties.
Violet was generic and uninspired. I admit, I thought her actually ending up pregnant would have added some much-needed tension and liven up proceedings a bit.
Ash irritated the shit out of me. Oh noes, here is my utterly tragic existence as a selfless, brooding teenage boy. I am so attracted to Violet it makes me angry. Ugh. MY KINGDOM FOR a fantasy series about a girl who doesn't fall in love. No love story at all.
- The world building was terrible. Diamantes as currency? Yuck. I rolled my eyes when I saw that. Seriously? Marks, units, points, beads = all better options! Hell, make up a word! Diamantes make me think of cheap dress beading. And the prices for these girls were ridiculous to the point we really haven’t been given a sense of economy in this universe. What does an apple cost? A dress? A house. The royalty, too, seems extreme. How is this massive ruling class supported? How is this world not massively inbred? (hide spoiler)]
Utterly forgettable and generic. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There was nothing essentially wrong with this book, it just didn't do much for me. It felt like way too much was happening without really going in-depThere was nothing essentially wrong with this book, it just didn't do much for me. It felt like way too much was happening without really going in-depth on any of them. Alone, so many of the different strands could have been amazing, but in the end it just felt rushed. I do think it's an important story, and I think that it would probably be a good read for younger teens, because it does teach a valuable lesson. ...more
I was provided with a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review
I’ll be honest right off the bat. Self-published novels make me nervoI was provided with a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review
I’ll be honest right off the bat. Self-published novels make me nervous, since the editing process is at the author’s discretion, and quality varies wildly between ‘unreadable’ and ‘mythical in its brilliance.’
True, I’ve discovered some gems, but ultimately, they are a dangerous beast to be treated with caution until proved otherwise. Better safe than heart-broken or enraged, right?
Luckily, on the scale of self-published novels, Cara Rosalie Olsen’s Awakening Foster Kelly is a fairly solid effort. (view spoiler)[ A contemporary romance with a twist, Awakening Foster Kelly boasts a cast of very unique and quirky characters. I could try to liken it to another YA romance I’ve read, but I honestly cannot think of anything that comes close.
Foster, as a character, reminds me of the titular character of Odilly, but a more refined version. I really wanted to love Foster, but at times I found her hard to empathise with - the twist at the end justifies it to an extent, but it still makes her a hard character to connect with. A loner with an incredible singing talent, super intelligent, clumsy, unusual but gorgeous hair, reads classical books, comes from a wealthy family with parents who give her whatever she wants, great relationship with her parents, and a passionate dedication to the children at the HOH - plus she’s pathologically awkward and nervous. Obviously, this story is about Foster accepting herself as she is, and this is a very idealised version of her reality, her flaws were meant to be likeable. Clumsiness is definitely an overused trope for the ‘average girl’ in this genre, and Foster takes it to the extremes. Her compassion is refreshing, though her unwavering devotion to the HOH is rather intense. But I do love an unreliable narrator, and in the end, that is what Foster is.
Jake and Emily were great characters - at their introduction, I was so worried we were being introduced to the ‘mean girl’ and the ‘love interest’; it was a pleasant surprise. Olsen totally nailed the twins; Emily took the best-friend trope and made it her own - by the end of it, I wanted to be friends with Em. Jake was a great foil to Emily’s intensity, and their exchanges felt very natural between siblings. I almost want a book exploring Foster’s early days of fumbling through friendship with such a strong personality as Emily. Maddie, too, was written well - a satellite in Foster’s life with a very small role to play - but it felt very realistic to how teen relationships work.
Foster’s parents fall into the new YA trend of ‘cool’ parents - parents who treat their children like miniature adults, and get along great - and the ‘quirky’ intellectual trope, which was a little grating.
And Dominic. Oh man. The twist at the end of the story threw all my opinions about Dominic up in the air - I looked at him very negatively because of how he pushed and manipulated Foster continuously, but when you realise that this was all in Foster’s mind, then you have to wonder whether Foster was using Dominic as a way to become her true self (and then there are the Unfortunate Implications that since Dominic was dreaming with Foster, was he in control of his own actions, and therefore was, in fact, a bit too aggressive in getting Foster to put herself out there?)
I felt that Foster and Dominic’s romance become very intense very quickly, especially for how shy Foster is portrayed. I also genuinely wonder whether their romance would have had a stronger impact if it had come about much later in the story, if we had had a chance to invest in the relationship before it happened on the page.
The twist - that Foster has been in a coma and that this is all happening in her head - is one that has been done a lot of times, especially in the YA genre, but actually fits here. I admit, I would have been all for a plotline that had Dominic trying to replace Summer with Foster, Summer having survived, and Dominic leaving Foster in the end, and Foster having to deal with the fallout because I like to be surprised. Considering that Foster has created this better version of herself for Dominic, I think the impact of this scenario is one that takes some time to really sink in. In that, I think Olsen has managed to capture the insecurity of the teenage years.
The scenes where Foster uses what she learnt in her dreams - with Bevenny, and then Dominic and hers shared dreaming - I think needed more foundations in the earlier part of the story. Perhaps an interest in ESP, dreaming, even an opening monologue from Foster to just give us a clue that there was more at play here than what you were seeing.
The two things I did have a problem with in this book were the exposition and metaphors - the prologue definitely suffered from an overdose of both of these. I am very much a reader who would rather fill in the blanks left by too little information than have every detail handed to me; and overly long descriptions tend to take away one of my favourite parts of reading - seeing the story in my head, as I picture them. The amount of exposition made this book more difficult to read, and some of the metaphors were jarring enough to take me out of the story entirely. That was the area that I think a traditional publishing model would have helped - an editor focused on pushing the story to its best possible self and cutting away the excess would have taken it to the next level.
Honestly, the lapsed screenwriter in me looks at Awakening Foster Kelly and sees the potential for a solid film script - especially in the wake of the If I Stay trailer. And I believe that with a small amount of refining, that the characters and overall ideas that drive this story could really shine on the screen. (hide spoiler)]
Ultimately, for a self-publication, Awakening Foster Kelly is a good first offering with a few issues that I think come from this being Olsen’s first work. Awakening Foster Kelly doesn’t quite hit all the marks, but Cara Rosalie Olsen is definitely someone I’ll be watching out for in the future.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more