Book Reviews

Review of Kim Chance’s “Keeper”

BOOK SYNOPSIS: When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

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ACTUAL REVIEW: The thoughts down below are more scattered than usual, including positives and negatives about the book simultaneously. I include sprinkles of plot and character critic throughout.

The ending to this book is by far my favorite part. The twists were well done even if they were a bit predictable. I felt a strong attachment to the characters and felt their relationships were wonderfully developed, which allowed the ending to have gut wrenching impact. I am unsure if I would read the sequel, for while the finale was grand, the book was mediocre at best.

I love the friendship Lainey and Maggie share. I enjoyed Maggie as a character, despite the fact that I usually did not like it when characters constantly refer to pop culture. I always feel like relying on pop culture within a story dates it.

I appreciate how the cover illustrates such a prominent scene in the book, and how all of its design elements were chosen specifically for this book. Unfortunately, using a girl in a dress on a YA book cover is pretty generic, and the cover is not striking enough to really stand out, especially since there are only a few copies of this novel on bookshelves at any given time.

To be honest, I would probably not have picked up this book if I did not know of Kim Chance’s YouTube channel. The plot is pretty predictable and straight forward until the end. While the end did offer a few surprises, most of them were rather predictable and one of them utilized a common trope, but did so effectively. Also, I have an issue with using witches in a fantasy setting, especially when Kim Chance also included a “Grimoire”. This is due to my experience of being Wiccan, so I can understand how this does not apply to most readers.

maxresdefault.jpgThe writing itself is rather simplistic, and constantly utilizes stereotypical phrasing. Kim Chance occasionally sprinkles in more advanced vocabulary and clever wording, which was enough to retain my interest. Her strong suit is definitely more in dialogue than description.

I enjoyed reading about the main character, though I did not like how she fulfilled the “book smart shy introvert” trope. In the story, it even described how for her 8th birthday she wanted an encyclopedia.

I do appreciate her motivation for excelling in school. It is just that I do not understand why most intelligent characters who do well in school always have to be portrayed like that stereotype. Most in real life people I know who do well in school do not fall under that category at all.

I do applaud Kim Chance for taking Lainey’s “school smart” characteristics and applying them to other aspects of her life, as seen by her more analytical thought process and skeptical nature. However, I feel like her more left brained tendencies slowly begin to degrade through out the story as she becomes more sporadic and emotionally motivated. I felt the switch was too much of an extreme even for the newly given circumstances to justify.

The main character is also another “chosen one”. The trope did not bother me as much as usual, at least. The author’s take on destiny is an intriguing one as well.

The villain was clique and boring. He was motivated by power, is corrupted by dark magic, handsome, and all that good stuff. I don’t know why most other reviews are not discussing him, for he is pretty prominent, and has a lot of pro’s and con’s to how he was written.

While his character may not have been that interesting, he did a great job of casting fear both into the characters and the reader. I was surprised how the degradation of women into sexual objects was so prominent. It was rather disturbing and made me hate the villain more than I already did. My blood boiled every time he referred to Lainey as “love”!

The romantic relationship was built up well, though it was rather over the top like most YA romance. Part of it I could forgive due to an explanation of magic being used and the romantic scenes being the most detailed and utilizing the most original writing (then again, I don’t read much romance).

The love interest was rather dull and, yes, that word again, stereotypical! If it were not for how well written their interactions where, I probably would not have been able to continue reading about it.

Overall, this was a pretty mediocre YA novel, though it did have enough surprise and interest for me to want to read more.

I am sorry if I came off harsh and overall critical, I was just trying to be as bluntly honest and straightforward as possible. Most debut books do not come out as masterpieces, and it is all part of the process. I am certain of Kim Chance’s capabilities as an author, and I hope that as her plot fleshes out her writing will improve and the intrigue will deepen.

Book Reviews

“Refilling Your Inkwell” by Kellie Sheridan Book Review

Preface

When I heard that Kellie Sheridan, one of the the people who uploads content onto the “Word Nerds” YouTube Channel, had a book on writing, I was ecstatic. I love the channel for its engaging content and fun tips, so I was really excited to hear this book be mentioned in one of their live streams. I had not read any of her other books before. I will start out by listing my positives and improvements for this book, and then wrap it up with a collected overview of my thoughts.

Positives

“Refilling Your Inkwell” provided an abundance of information from start to finish, and overall was a fun and engaging read with the same zest as the Word Nerds channel. It was a light read and could easily be finished in one sitting. My favorite chapter was Chapter 4, titled “Stretching your Writing Muscles”. The chapter was well written and best fit the set up argument of “just write” per described at the start and finish of the book.

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Improvements

While the book did cater well to its target audience of beginning writes, it lacked much new information to anyone who has heard a thing or two about writer’s block. The book lacked a personality, being a compilation of random tips formatted into a list. The author would list tips which did not even work for her. I know the book is trying to appeal to a large demographic of writers. However, by trying to create something that will be satisfying and be helpful to everyone, the creativity of a piece is diluted and it ends up satisfying no one. There is already so much information out there about how to prevent and get out of a writing rut. If the tips or their presentation are not original in some manner, the book will fade into the background. A book which took a similarly used and overdone concept and polished it into a unique gem is “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Another problem I had was with the central message of this book. The premise, as I mentioned before, is to “just write”. This is cemented at the beginning and end of the story, so I am certain of my case. But, throughout the middle, while there are some chapters and tips which contributed to the main idea, there are many other tips which act as mere filler. Because they do not contribute to the overall idea, these tips, good or otherwise, serve as mere fluff. I feel that if the book was more focused on the established central message, it would have been more personalized and have taken a step forward towards having an identity, even if the author did not add any more personal antidotes.

The third critical issue I had with “Refilling Your Inkwell” is with the product placement. I do not think any of the mentioned apps were sponsored, so that does make the issue slightly less glaring. And, indeed, some of the apps mentioned are very useful and work well alongside writing. It would have not been a big deal if the apps were not mentioned so frequently and described in such large chunks, which made the pacing even worse and more difficult to follow. Most of the mentioned apps are already well known and constantly discussed. Most everyone, new or otherwise to the author community, has heard of “Scrivener”, or, at least, have heard of a basic to do list app. Personally, I feel the app descriptions should be cut down and instead use the word count be used to elaborate on the given tip or to add more of a personal touch to it. Additionally, the book could have an entire chapter solely dedicated to more of an in depth description of these apps.

Finally, the few personalized bits of story weave into these tips fell flat due to them lacking a chronological order or an overarching central idea/message of their own. The stories discussed very surface level things about the writing progress. While they serve as fine examples of the tip’s effectiveness, they lacked anything the reader could attach to or become invested into. Books treated in this research paper way are fine. But, when such a tired concept as tips for writer’s blocks is being implemented as the whole of the book, there has to be something significantly new brought to the table.

Conclusion

Despite me having many improvements I would have implemented into this story, I do not hate the book. Like I said previously, it is a light, fun read, and, if you treat it as merely that (and as an occasional reference to look back on when you are feeling down about your writing), the book is fine. The book is perfectly average. My improvements only apply to boosting the book from something I would rate 3 stars into something I would rate 5 stars. Either way, the book is good, and I am interested in reading more of Kellie Sheridan’s work.

Book Reviews

“Essence” by Mandi Lynn Review

Preface

I had heard of Mandi Lynn through her lovely YouTube channel, and I was always inspired by her journey of becoming a self published teen author. I had always wanted to read her first book, “Essence”. When the Kindle version of the novel was temporarily released for free, I decided to take the opportunity to sit down and read the work for myself.

Improvements

Overall, I absolutely adored the book, so I will actually start out with my improvements, since they are less abundant than my positives.

I did read some of the other reviews, and I can reciprocate with a few of there suggestions. The book overall does have a more depressing tone, with very few scenes breaking that general emotion up. I did not mind this, for I felt that the happy ending was more impactful due to the sad overtone of the rest of the story. Still, I can understand why it would be unappealing to some. I think the whole thing that went down with her father in Chapter 21 “ER” did kind of cross into the territory of being melodramatic, especially since I felt like it came out of the blue.

I found the pacing to be rather slow. Then, suddenly, it would brush by scenes rather quickly. I felt like the pacing unfairly sped up with secondary yet still important characters falling outside of being Emma or her immediate family. Such characters include Eliza and Kenzie.

I do not understand the world building. We still have no explanation about why Emma and Kenzie randomly were able to cry, even though it was established that an Essence cannot cry. I also still do not understand why Emma could randomly feel warmth at times either.

While I overall enjoyed the ending and the implication of Heaven, I did find it rather strange why Luna did not tell the other Essences of this way to pass on. I mean, some are okay with being immortals, but there are plenty, like Eliza, who are just plain miserable. They should be the ones to decide whether to move on or continue living as immortals, instead of merely living as immortals out of ignorance. Then again, this would have defeated the entire purpose of the this book.

Also, I think the connection Emma had to Eliza and Kenzie was overlooked. I felt Emma discarded them too easily and quickly once she was moving up to Heaven. It had an air of selfishness as Emma passes on while the others are forced to be there. As I mentioned previously, I felt that the secondary characters, outside of Emma’s family, were overlooked too often.

Finally, and this is sort of nitpicking, but, around page 82, when Emma starts asking Eliza questions about the Phantom Lagoon, why does she not ask her about why Eliza can pose as a regular student, even though she is an Essence?

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Positives

I love how well built the connections were between the members of Emma’s family. Overall, the family was pretty stereotypical, however the relationships within the family dynamic felt unique and raw. I also love the psychological conflict within Emma as she battles being drawn to Phantom Lagoon and listening to what the two different mists want her to do.

I think Eliza’s backstory was handled well, and she was an interesting character. I also loved Sadie, even though she was just a minor character. I felt her relationship with Emma was really healthy, and the moment that Sadie saw Emma in town as an Essence was really sweet and touching.

I love the themes of death and immortality. I liked how the Christian idea of death was prominent yet not overpowering to those who do not practice Christianity (I am an atheist myself).

I loved how intricate to the plot Kenzie was, and I was surprised by the depth of Kenzie’s plot prominence. And, even though I felt the father’s illness sporadically come up did border on being melodramatic, it did work its way into the plot very well, and was intricate to the story’s completion. Also, it was nice to know more about Emma’s relationship with her father, which, through out the rest of the novel, was less prominent than her relationship with her mother’s.

I like the little twist about her mother forgetting about Emma. It was an unexpected little surprise.

A small detail, once again, but I adore how the weirdness of hovering was described. I have never seen an author describe the strangeness of suddenly being able to do that, and it was very much appreciated.

Finally, another small detail I appreciated was the minor character Harvi. I like how he appeared while Emma was in town, and then appeared again as the man Emma saved. I also enjoy how, despite the myths, saving someone did not give an Essence the ability to move on.

Conclusion

My Star Rating: 3.5/5 stars, though I would lean more towards 3 stars over 4 stars.

Overall, I enjoyed my time reading the story. I read it rather quickly, though the slow pacing did lag my reading time. As others mentioned before, the story idea is very unique. However, it lacks the same fast paced action or romance of typical mainstream YA. This is not a good nor bad thing, and is merely a fact. I would recommend it to someone who liked a darker take on death and contemporary fantasy, though I would not recommend it to someone who heavy values the romance and action found in mainstream YA. I will definitely read “I Am Mercy”, and I hope it provides a bit more action which was lacking in Mandi Lynn’s first installment.