Stephanie Johanesen's Reviews > Bittersweet

Bittersweet by Marcia Colette
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Sep 21, 11

Read in April, 2011

It can’t be said that Bittersweet lacks originality—because it certainly does not. With concepts like demon-like hags, demon-demons, psychokinetic powered-schizophrenics, voodoo priestesses and all number of other supernatural things, the book has its own flavor, for sure. A lot of the familiar, overly-covered stuff are just peripherals in this book on the most part. Vampires and werewolves are mere mentions. This book focuses on a whole new crowd of big bad.

Phaedra is a teenaged girl burdened with the responsibility of being the parent in her household, which is a difficult weight to bear on its own. She takes care of her little sister and her mother. However the challenges don’t end there. For this unfortunate girl, her mother is a crazed schizophrenic with psychokinetic powers who must be locked in the attic because consumed by her madness; she is bent on harming her children. In her brief moments of lucidity, she works with Phaedra to help arrange for finances and planning but leaves everything mostly up to her daughter. Phaedra too shares the same powers which she can barely control. She fears her future holds little more than succumbing to same madness as her mother and dismisses any hope for herself, moving forward only for the sake of her little sister.

The only thing that brings normality to the household and gives Phaedra a break are the Bittersweet leaves that she obtains from a magical healer. They bring her mother respite from her madness only temporarily, but Phaedra and her little sister can enjoy a brief taste of what life could be like were they normal. Abandoned by the eldest son and the father, the three women manage to scrape by on their own. This is largely due to Phaedra’s efforts to construct a façade of normality. They avoid raising too many eyebrows or attracting attention from the real world. But everything is tenuous at best.

But things get a lot worse when Phaedra’s brother reappears. He claims to know a cure for their mother’s illness and brings Phaedra a promise of a future she is to incredulous to hope for. Phaedra discovers that Kurt’s promises of positive change come with a price; for at his heels; an army of trouble and danger have followed in his wake threatening to destroy everything and everyone.

One thing I can say outright is that Miss Colette is an excellent writer. She is by far a better writer than Amanda Hocking or Lauren Burd. However, she is not always consistent and that is a bit of a bummer. It took me a while to work my way through this book. It had its moments where I couldn’t put it down, and moments when I could barely keep my interest engaged and found myself skipping pages of conversations and realizing that even doing that, I was still not losing any vital information in the progression of the story; which isn’t good. But she is not the first author to make this mistake.

It’s a lesson all indie authors should learn: scenes are deleted for a reason. Sometimes authors get too hung up on interactions between characters; they work too hard on the smoldering attractions, the exchange of witty banter or whatnot and they lose track of the story and often numb the reader’s brain and lose their interest. Authors who write for themselves rather than their readers often make this blunder. Edit yourselves! Read and cut out what isn’t immediately relevant to your story, cut out what has already been established, cut out the conversations and interactions that add nothing to the character’s personalities, story or the whole. If the story can live without it, and the characters lose nothing if it’s taken away, then it probably shouldn’t be here. That’s my advice.

In this book there are some editing issues, however they are fairly minor. Some misused words, some missing words; a couple sentences that look like chunks of them were accidentally cut out. But all in all, as packages go; this one is professional and the writing is quite high-quality. There’s a gritty quality to it that brings it down to the real world. Phaedra’s motives are believable, and the characters are who the author says they are and remain so throughout the book.

Don’t get me wrong, Bittersweet is not a bad book by any means, it just wasn’t a knock-your-socks-off excellent OMG I can’t believe this is an indie-book. But what I think does stand out is the author’s skill with language and description. I’m confident that the author’s future endeavors will only get better and better. I give this book 4 medallions.
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