Cool Concept, Bro BUT…: Freya by Matthew Laurence

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Freya is myth. She is legend. And she’s about to make one hell of a comeback.

Sara Vanadi is more than she appears to be.

In her prime, she was Freya, the Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, and death. Now all that’s left of her legacy is herself. Her power comes from belief, and for an ancient goddess in the 21st century, true believers are hard to come by.

She’s been lying low for a few decades, when all of a sudden a shadowy corporation extends an offer: join them and receive unlimited strength and believers—or refuse and be destroyed. Sara chooses neither; she flees with the help of a new friend named Nathan.

With a modern power rising that wishes to bend the divine to its will, Sara decides to fight back—but first she needs some new clothes.

Source: GoodReads

Eh.

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This is a DNF but it’s a me not you DNF. I do think for the right person, this book might work but for me.  Not going to happen.

It had an interesting concept, don’t get me wrong.  That is why I picked it up after all, I don’t read a book that’s concept I know is going to dull me, I just didn’t like the execution.  Especially the depiction of the main character.

I get that Sara/Freya is supposed to be a goddess, but she comes off being completely unrealistic.  Much like the plot was a series of unrealistic events as well.  It seemed more or less like it was just an advertisement for the Orlando tourism circuit.

And I’ll admit it, when I first heard that the characters were running away to Disney World I was excited.  Until I actually read it and was like nope…just nope…

It just felt like an advertisement and as much as Freya was supposed to be this spunky fish out of water protagonist, I did not like her.  She seemed more like and idealization than a person (think the stupid MPDG cliche)

As a whole the book  felt very stilted.  And I didn’t care for Nathan either who was more or less an idiot just along for the ride.  Things might’ve improved but…

No just no.

By the time I got through about a hundred pages of this and could spot half a dozen plot holes, I really didn’t care to continue further.

I just didn’t have the time or patience to carry on.

There’s really not a lot to say other than that.  I just really didn’t care for this one because it had such a cool concept.

Overall Rating: DNF

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Simply Marvelous: The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Source: GoodReads

I loved this book.

Was it perfect, no.  The syntax was off at times and it had some disgusting purple prose, but it wasn’t too over powerful to deprive the book from its wonderful characters and story.

The Star Touched Queen incorporates a lot of things I like and it is different from a lot of the fare in YA, yet in a weird way it reminded me of A Court of Thorns and Roses (I think in the fact that this was one sexy and sensual book-and it had  mysterious dude takes girl to his castle trope in it as well).

The book world is inspired by Indian folklore and mythology and the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades with maybe a little bit of the Psyche and Cupid story thrown in there for good measure.  It was a very enjoyable book.

And it wasn’t ridiculously long either.  Which was nice.  I think one of the reasons I get so bogged down with YA fantasy is it’s so long.  Give me a contemporary and I can finish that puppy in a good couple of hours max.  With fantasies it usually takes me four or so hours.  But not this book.  I read it in the course of about three hours and I liked it a lot.

The story is also self contained.  While the author did mention that she planned on writing about other characters in this universe, Maya and Amar’s story is clearly done in this book and I was glad.  No need dragging this book out longer and it ended on a perfect note.

The thing is even though I liked The Star Touched Queen and will be recommending it a lot on this blog for probably at least the next six months or so, it was not free of problems.  Like I previously mentioned the language at times was a bit purply.  Also, while I did appreciate the short length of the story, I did think that some parts of the book could’ve been expanded on.

Still though, I think it’s one of my favorites that I’ve read so far for 2016.

Overall Rating: An A.  Yeah, maybe it should be an A- but I really enjoyed this one flaws and all.  It had tropes I enjoyed and the book was so much fun.

If I Was a Publisher: Reawakened by Colleen Houck

 

When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can’t imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.

But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

From New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck comes an epic adventure about two star-crossed teens who must battle mythical forces and ancient curses on a journey with more twists and turns than the Nile itself. 

Source: GoodReads

Note: This letter would’ve been sent to Ms. Houck if I was a publisher.  I’m not.  I’m a cantankerous lawyer, who frequently wears Grumpy Cat t-shirts and has no problem telling people what assholes they are, especially after the last month I had.  I especially like writing nasty letters. I think it’s my forte.  Most people would not like to admit this. It should be noted that this letter is directed solely at Ms. Houck’s manuscript not her as a person.  In today’s day in age of whiney author’s I think it’s necessary to put said disclaimer even though I really don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about this.

Ms. Houck:

Just tell your book to go away.

I want to pretend that this manuscript didn’t exist.  That you don’t exist, but imagine to my surprise when my assistant told me you had a back catalogue and proceeded to hand me the books.

I did what a reasonably prudent person would do after reading said book, I fired my assistant.  And he was a cute assistant.  So that makes me even more pissed off at you.

He looked like Dan Stevens, you made me fire Matthew Crawley.

All because of five horrible books.

But I am not writing you to lament about that.  I am writing you to tell you that your book, Reawakened is being rejected.  I don’t care if you are contract with the publisher’s house.  I am sure after reading this piece of rodent excrement that I’m pretty sure I can convince our legal department to say that you breached your contract by producing something that wasn’t of publishing quality. At the very least you caused me physical pain (a headache) and that has to be worth something, though the verbal vomit I read was painful enough.

The reason why I am rejecting this manuscript is quite simple.  A certified moron  on a British 80’s sitcom wrote better poetry than you.  In fact, I am pretty sure that Baldrick could write a better book than you.  At least I would actually enjoy reading a book about a turnip.

Because well, turnips are already bad where they can’t be defecated on for some crass little self inserted fantasy.  Because this is all this book is.

I am not stupid, Ms. Houck.  I can read through the lines.  Plus, with the other work of yours in front of me it was very easy to see that Liliana is yet another self insert version of you  because she is essentially a rich version of Kelsey.  With bad, evil, parents.  That are bad because they like having money and want their daughter to major in something where she can make a viable living.

Well, at least you tried with character development this time around-I guess.

That’s not a compliment just for you to know.  I’m just acknowledging that you didn’t go the poor little orphan route this time around.  You just went the poor little rich girl route.

Not that big of a difference if you think about it.

I really don’t know how you think you’re fooling anyone.  And after reading your Tiger Curse series I really don’t know how you’re fooling someone that you are writing something original.

From what I read-I stopped at 200 pages because (hey, life is too short to read dung that not even a dung beetle would roll in) it’s the same fucking thing relying on the same fucking tropes and being offensive in the same fucking way.

I feel like I owe you a favor.  Maybe no editor had the balls to sit down with you and tell you what the fuck is wrong with this abomination of shit.  So, I am going to take out time where I could be doing something smarter-like rehiring that Matthew Crawley look alike-and tell you what you need to do before I’ll accept your shit.

1. Don’t rely on Just Google Maps and Wikipedia When Doing Research

I know you do this.  You’ve even mentioned this.  While Wikipedia is a good place to start or do less extensive research, when you are doing a book that involves lots and lots of research you probably need to expand on your research material.

Heck, you could’ve even learned more from Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen than you could from the amount of research you did.

For one thing if keeping track of time periods is so difficult for you, make a timeline.  That way, at least you will sort of have an idea in which things chronologically happen.  Like maybe you’ll realize that the Valley of the Kings was meant when the pharaohs were in power.  And maybe since your main character woke up a thousand years before he would be aware that the Egyptian pantheon is no longer worshiped by mainstream society.

But hey, details.

Though I guess some of those things aren’t so much of a research thing but a lack of common sense.

You can’t help that you’re a complete duff.

See, I am becoming nicer in my old age (sort of).

You still made me fire Matthew Crawley though.  That is just blasphemous.

2.  If you are going to feature a culture, don’t give the Big Mac version of the country.

Seriously?

Tourists?  You featured tourists.  And have the characters eat pizza in a hotel room.  You don’t explore local cuisine, or the local modern culture and conflicts that this country is facing.  Nope.  It’s just fancy swoon worthy  hotel with fifty thousand calorie meals and fanny pack wearing retirees.

You don’t even discuss the language that the characters use.  They all just speak English or gibberish.

Talk about marginalizing and offensive.

This book might as well took place at the Epcot version of Egypt that is how watered down the descriptions of it were.

3. Realize that making a character “exotic” can be offensive and racist.  Especially when you don’t respect his culture or do your research.

Oh my God.

No Houck.  No just no.  Ren was bad enough.  But with Amon you bring it to new levels  especially with quotes like this:

A desert lily need not turn jealous eyes toward the common violet (86)

To someone with any form of common sense, I shouldn’t even have to explain why this quote is offensive.  But Houck, you dear, lack common sense so I’ll be-nice enough, to you.

A. It’s presumptuous of Amon to even think Liliana (that’s her name, despite the fact that Amon gives her an automatic nickname-seriously) is jealous.

B. Desert Lily?  Seriously.  I know he’s from another time period, but ew.

C. Again, why is he judging women based surely on their physical looks that in itself is offensive.

It’s obvious that you try to make him this way because you think you’re making him old world and romantic.  Well, no.  Instead, he just sounds like a stupid idiot at best.

Also, while you describe the character as an Egyptian prince nothing about him says anything about his culture.  He’s merely “exotic” candy.  Complete with eyes that aren’t exactly a common color for someone who is of Amon’s ethnic background.

Seriously, what is wrong with brown eyes?  Both Ren and Amon genetically speaking should’ve had them.  But nope.

You should’ve just gone with purple.

I mention the eye color because this is one of many ways you “white wash” the characters.  This is also seen in the cases of both Ren and now Amon in the way their so called women try to Americanize them thus depleting the little culture they have.

Instead, of celebrating Egypt we merely see Amon strip out of his toga and bald head, grow a messy bed head and steal some jeans.

Uh, huh.

And guess who saves the day (or is part of it) plain old  I don’ t know anything about Egypt, American Liliana.

4. While food porn is nice (I guess) it can become excessive and sort of gross.  Especially when said guy is trying to cram at least 20,000 calories down the main characters throat.  

Does this sound like a healthy meal to you:

He was now surrounded by eggs done eight different ways, hash browns and skillet potatoes, country ham, apple sausage, maple bacon, biscuits slathered with honey and melted  butter, caramel-apple topped pancakes with whipped creme, creme brule French toast, malted Belgian waffles, a fruit platter, and a basket full of croissants, Danishes, and streusel-topped blueberry muffins. (63)

If you ate all of this you would die.  Yet, Amon frequently tries to force food down Liliana’s throat. It’s annoying and offensive.  It’s HER own damn body, she should be able to decide when she wants to eat.  Period.  It’s not cute.  And while I think you were trying to make it seem like Amon loved Liliana’s body it didn’t sound that way for me.  It just seemed like an a-hole who wanted to make someone miserable by making them stuff their face with way too much food.

Again, if you ate all that you would die.  Just reading it made my stomach turn and it’s not just because of the wheat overload. It’s just way too much food.  And this happens frequently throughout the story.

It is an annoying quirk and a waste of fictional food.

5. NO one likes your poetry.  NO ONE.

Give it up.  You are not Keats.  You are not Wordsworth.  You are not even Dr. Seuss.  Your poems suck.  I don’t read them.  No one does.  Again, a man who’s goal in life is to have a turnip of his own writes better poetry than you do.

6.  Power in relationships is important.  Having the guy over power the female, and take away her will to make her own decisions, while acting like she is taking control of her life is just plain insulting.

The food thing is a prime example of this.  But really the entire manuscript that I read encompasses this point.  We are told that Liliana can make a choice.  Yet, Amon has dragged her to Egypt.  Is trying to stuff food down her throat.  And even gives her an unintended makeover.

Seriously, Liliana.  No guy should ever touch your hair unless he is a licensed stylist/colorist.

7. Info dumps are not cool.

I know I skipped this section.  If I wanted to know this stuff, I could’ve Googled the same thing you did.

Look Houck, I really thought this book might have something.  The premises is pretty cool.  But unfortunately it fails for me.  It doesn’t appear that you have developed as a writer at all.  There are still some major issues with how you handle your research skills and how you depict cultures.  In other words, this is the most offensive book I’ve read in 2015.

I hope this letter at least gives you some reasons why I consider your book to be worse than  bad Mexican food diarrhea. I have to go now and apologize to my ex fictional assistant.  I really don’t want to lose him.

You can take the book though.

Best Regards,

MJ

Pretend Book Editor/Publisher