Showing posts with label Mary Jennifer Payne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary Jennifer Payne. Show all posts

Friday, December 22, 2017

Solomon's Ring by Mary Jennifer Payne

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

"Smith flexes a well-toned bicep" Once again YA authors, it's biceps! Unless you do happen to be speaking about only one of the two upper attachments of this muscle: the long head or the short head. I favor the long head myself....

The twin motif in novels, especially young adult novels, has been way overdone, so if you want to venture into it as a writer, you need to offer something truly different or inventive and unfortunately, this novel offered neither. To be perfectly fair, this was volume two in a series, and I have not read volume one, but this seemed like it stood alone fairly well if you were willing to accept that there was baggage from the past that you were not directly party to. But every new relationship is like that, right?!

My problem with it was the writing which felt very amateur. There was nothing technically wrong with it in terms of spelling errors or poor grammar and so on, but it just did not tell the tale well at all, and some of the story seemed so poorly thought-out that it felt like reading indifferent fan fiction.

If you're going to call-up children to do a job that would normally be done by adults, you'd better have a more solid reason for it than simply "Oh she's a special snowflake" and then get all coy about why it's so, and in book two no less. It's just an insult to your reader's intellect, or did you plan on writing only for dumb readers? It's a good question to ask yourself as and author: who are you talking to? And do you really want to talk down to them?

The stakes are higher when the story is a fantasy, especially a religious one, because if you're calling on humans to do a job that a god cannot do and angels cannot handle, then you'd better have a good reason for that too! I know the Bible has countless instances of humans being called on to do a job which God can't handle, but that's a sign of really poor fiction, not of a well-written classic. Just to put it out there - that these kids are needed to fight demons - and offer nothing to support that contention is either empty plotting or the cowardice of hiding behind scores of other poor writers who've employed precisely the same blinkered plot.

The twins had been separated (in volume one) one of them being thought dead, but she was just in Hades evidently, although it's not called that here. Here it has a cutesy hipster term that I prefer to forget. Anyway, her sister discovered where she was and rescued her and now they're back together, but demons are walking the Earth! Or at least the town where they live.

There is a curfew and there are power outages, and these two sixteen-year-olds are so dumb that they let themselves get talked into staying out until dark, which is apparently (and for reasons unexplained at least in the part I read) when demons are loose. Why the demons can't walk during the day is unexplained of course because this novel cowers behind trope. You're expected to swallow all these dumb 'rules', like not crossing running water and being allergic to iron, and so on because it's always done that way! Why would an author strive for originality and to up their game when they can take the road most traveled like everyone else does?

The demons are hunting one of the twins because she's your predictable YA special snowflake although no-one, predictably, will tell her why, not even her angelic best friend, predictably named Raphael. This is one of those tedious stories with all kinds of unnecessary secrecy and poor plotting. If a city was in that bad of a shape, the national guard would have been called out, but no! Everything is going along 'normally' despite the dire crisis, the curfew, and the murders in the streets. This made no sense whatsoever.

It made no sense that one of the twins would be armed with a bamboo pole to fight demons. We're told that bullets cannot kill these demons, but this made no sense either given that the demons were occupying frail human bodies. Why would decapitation work? How do you decapitate with a blunt bamboo pole anyway?

Even were I willing to grant all of that, especially given that I'd not read book one, I can't overlook that it made no sense that the police would not find something highly suspicious in a young, rather frail-looking girl magically decapitating an attacker with a bamboo pole! It made less sense that they would simply nod their heads and say "Oh, okay!" when told the bamboo pole had disappeared. Police are not dumb. They know a lot more than you do, yet far too many authors treat them like they're clueless clowns. For all the faults that police do have, I can't respect an author who depicts all of them as idiots.

It was at the point where Raphael was being all mysterious and for absolutely no reason whatsoever that I could not stand to read another world of this book. There are people no doubt who will whine that you cannot gauge a book after reading only ten percent of it, but that is an outright lie. A book either does it for you from the off, or it doesn't; it's either smartly-written or it isn't. A novel is with worth reading or it's not, and this one simply was not. Life is far too short to waste it on a book that does not launch for you right from the beginning.

This one seemed dedicated to employing great leaps of faith as a substitute for thoughtful writing and solid plotting, and it relied on so much hand-waving to cover plot holes that I could feel a chill from it. To me, that's a sign that you should whack it with a bamboo pole. Intelligent readers deserves a lot better than this. Other readers deserve what they get.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Title: Since You've Been Gone
Author: Mary Jennifer Payne
Publisher: Dundurn
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Since You've Been Gone isn't the wisest choice of title for a novel since it's so common. I counted twelve on BN, and the title doesn't really describe the novel very well. It's another first person PoV novel, which typically don't work for me, but in some cases the writer carries it and it does offer a rewarding read. In this case, I have to say that I became really intrigued by the very first sentence: "Today I punched Ranice James in the face." You can’t get a more alluring start to a novel than that! And by that I mean not to condone violence, but to point out that this sentence immediately forces questions into your brain: Who the heck is Ranice James? Why was this narrator punching her (or him)? And if this is all true, why is the narrator 'fessing up to us readers? And why am I asking you? (You can read that first chapter on the author's website - or could at the time of posting this review.

The problem was that it went downhill after that first sentence! We never did learn anything about Ranice James (not in the part of this novel which I read). The narrator clearly has anger management issues, but that's actually not the worst of her problems. She and mom are apparently on the run from a violent father and husband, and have a habit of changing address rather frequently. How they finance this is a mystery, particularly the last move, since it’s a huge change, all the way from Toronto to London. And it gets worse.

Edie's mom all-too-quickly finds work cleaning an office on the night shift, getting paid under the table, but then she vanishes without a trace - or almost without one. Instead of immediately going to the police, Edie decides to become a detective and partners up with the bad boy of the class. My stomach was turning at this point because of an overdose of cliché. The bad boy of the class, really? Why not take a few steps off the path most taken and have her partner with a geek or a goody-goody - just for a change? Why even assign her a male partner? Must every girl have a guy to validate her?

This - not the partnering up, but the failure to go to the police - was the first of many bad decisions Edie takes. I have no doubt that she will find her mom, but the story was so predictable at this point that it held no interest for me whatsoever, so I gave up on it and moved on - to something I hoped would be a lot more rewarding than this one promised to be.