Today, my heart breaks a little. When I decided to review self-published and new authors, I was hoping to draw a little attention to the hard working, and talented authors who are out there on their own. Sending your creative works out into the world is difficult. Your story is more than something you do in your spare time, it is a small piece of your soul, broken off, shaped and passed around. There is so much potential for damage as others choose to ridicule something that is a part of you, it is amazing anyone ever chooses to do it.
I don’t want to be the person who helps to break down something. However, I also know if I simply choose to review only books I can rave endlessly about, my opinion is nothing. For a review to hold weight, I must be willing to tell the truth, the good and the bad. Sure, you may never know I had selected a book I didn’t like for review if I don’t tell you, but I’ll know.
So here goes.
I like to read almost all genres. I’m not really big on western or erotic, but maybe I just haven’t found the right stories to get me interested. (I would accept recommendations on those if someone knows a great one.) Knowing that, I wanted to make sure to mix up my reviews a little. I intentionally sought out a fantasy/paranormal novel. I was a little nervous about this from the beginning. When writing fantasy or paranormal works, you need to create a believable world, weaving in the changes in a way that informs the reader without either overwhelming them or leaving them confused. It is a delicate balance, and I imagine many writers within this genre are often sent rewrite orders from editors to get it just right. I thought I might have found a good one, when I found Amethyst by Heather Bowhay. This book was published in October 2012, as a work of YA fiction and will give you 271 pages of reading. As a bonus, it was free on Amazon, so you don’t need to invest anything to give it a shot. I personally thought this book should technically fall under the new adult category, as the heroine is 18 and just leaving for college, but she is walking the line between the two. There is that fuzzy gray area, and this story is not technically about the difficulty of becoming an adult, so I suppose we can give it a pass. This is the first of a trilogy, so prepare yourself for the commitment before you start reading.
Amethyst tells the story of Lexi Adams, a girl who has just moved to attend Western College with her best friend Ally, and Ally’s fiancé, Ben. It was a few weeks between finding the book on Amazon and actually reading it, so when I started reading I could not remember anything about the story. I had to start reading the book four times, because to be honest, I was a little confused. Here were my thoughts for the first few pages.
This person is angry. They killed someone? With carpentry? Okay, they feel bad about it, so not on purpose. Oh, they saw a car accident. Why do they feel guilty? They weren’t driving. Why did they purposely give themselves a splinter while using a saw? Is carpentry going to be a thing? Wait, now we’re watching a spider spin a web. Is this like an alternative spiderman? Now they are going to bed. Apparently there is some insomnia issues. Something is back. This person is not happy about it. It hurts? Snapshots of a person being attacked by a dog. Oh! They get premonitions in the form of little pictures. I guess these visions make them sick. Now they are moving, going to save the person. Oh, their name is Lexi, so this is a girl. Okay. Cool. Good info. So, no one knows what she can do. She’s on her own with a baseball bat. Okay. The premonition doesn’t say where to go, but she knows anyway. That’s handy.
I’m all for sending the reader into the world you have created, but the intro confused me too much to grab me right away. Unfortunately, much of the book was like that.
My daughter and my niece are both aspiring writers. As a loving family member, I read anything they write and make accessible to me. I try to be supportive, but they are young, and their writing is still developing. I am constantly telling them both, show don’t tell. Yes, sometimes telling is easier, but showing is more effective if done correctly. With Amethyst, the shows didn’t seem to tell me much that was useful. (Carpentry did not play a large part in this book as I assumed it would. It was apparently an attempt to show that Lexi was a bit of a tomboy. It’s only mentioned when discussing the fact that she can’t cook.) This particular author utilizes the tell method of writing. It’s straight forward, which is nice, but it also means there is a constant stream of facts coming at you.
There were a few other little things that bothered me. Firstly, I hate repetitive writing. Maybe not everyone cares, but I notice when the same words are used over and over again. It grates on my nerves when a short paragraph or even a page has the same word in almost every sentence. Most often this happens with “said.” This book had several words. Essence, amethyst, guardian, premonition. I know these were important points in the story, and therefore it made sense to repeat them. This one is just a personal preference issue.
I think one of the hardest points for me with this book was the large cast of characters. For the first half of the book it seemed like there was a new character every few pages. Many of these characters seemed to be important, but some of them were almost just fillers. It was as though they were trying to say that Lexi does have a life outside of everything else. That would be a good thing if she were a real person, but it can be a little distracting from the story. If I am only going to meet this character once, I don’t need to know too much about them. There was too much character development for minor beings, and not enough for the key players.
Additionally, I didn’t see too much of a point in the additional male who appeared to be included simply to create a love triangle. I’ll be honest. I hate love triangles. To me, they are stupid. No matter how many people claim to be team couple who didn’t get together, I usually am with the author. Who the character is going to end up with is painfully obvious, but it gets dragged out forever, until I am ready to declare that none of them deserve happiness. Maybe that’s unkind, but I don’t think love needs to be that complex. You either feel it, or you don’t. The idea of a love triangle seems more about one person’s need to feel desired than about a person who is actually looking for happiness. I hate watching the poor guy be strung along as he plays the role of ego booster and back up plan. In spite of my personal feelings on love triangles, both of the guys featured here seemed to be slightly unlikeable. One pushed Lexi away, saying it would never work and they should just avoid each other; the other was arrogant and pushy, ignoring Lexi for days, before announcing they were going somewhere together that night. For the most part, the redeeming quality each of them had seemed to only be the physical attraction factor.
With all of these complaints, you would expect me to now announce I hated the book. But I didn’t, not completely. It took a long time, slightly over half of the book, for things to get moving. Once the story picked up a little, it was pretty decent. There were people with several different abilities; premonitions, healing, shape shifting, speed and strength. Of course there are bad guys, out to get them, and mystical connections linking people together just to create a little more tension.
There was so much potential here. This is a good concept (which I think may be the literary agent kiss of death), but the book was just not there yet for me. I think given another re-write or two, and this could be amazing; right now it’s more of a good first draft. Finishing this book required me to push through more than I would have liked. This was very close to being a “did not finish” review.
I haven’t yet decided if I am going to finish the series. By the end of the book, I was left wanting to know what was going to happen to everyone. Slight spoilers from the second book description tell me there may be more to one of the “normal” characters than originally thought, which I like. The concept is good enough that I do want to know what happens to everyone. The sad truth is, while the first book is free, the sequels are four dollars each. With the many other books I have to read, I haven’t decided if I want to know what happens enough to spend eight dollars. With so much time spent setting the scene in the first book, the other two could be that much better. There won’t be as much need for explanations, so maybe they will get to the point a little more easily. I’m just not sure if I want to gamble my book funds on a maybe.
In the end, I have to rate this books as an empty notebook. The potential is there to fill the notebook with beautiful storytelling, but it hasn’t quite happened yet.