Jaded by Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie (@KFGillespie)

There are two reasons I finish a book in a day. The first is because I’m so pulled in by the characters that I just want to keep reading and stopping seems like the worst idea ever. The other is because I know that if I put it aside, I’m probably not going to pick it up again. The second option usually only happens when I need to do a review and I’m not totally enjoying the book.

Now, I didn’t finish Jaded in a single sitting. I was about a quarter of the way through when I sat down with it Sunday morning. And the first chunk wasn’t terrible. In fact, the first 1/3 was actually kind of enjoyable. It wasn’t the best dystopian novel I’ve read, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. The fact that I finished it is a good indicator that it’s not 100% awful.

The premise is neat. A commune existing in modern society but within its own restricted confines. Within the commune, a type of eye surgery has been perfected that divides people into factions. Three different colours each for adults and children, and blinding for those who try to escape. This could be crazy interesting!

Unfortunately, it feels like the author was so excited about the idea of the commune and the opportunity to come up with all these crazy colour names for people that she forgot to come up with an explanation for why the surgery is done in the first place. The fact that the surgery is extremely high tec is discussed at length, but the why is never actually explained. About halfway through the book, one of the younger characters is taken to view a video on the origins of the commune and the procedure. Yes! Finally. An explanation as to why this society even exists. Nope. The main character actually falls asleep during the video… what this leads me to believe is that the author doesn’t know the answer to this question. In any good dystopian fiction, the reason for any restrictive community is always explained. It’s integral to understanding why the characters want to escape. It’s engrained in the characters from a young age. They’re indoctrinated. Especially in communities where the people are required to follow rules as stringent as those in Nirvana. But that doesn’t happen in Jaded.

One of the greatest flaws in the book is the result of this omission. There’s no tension. Because we never know why they can’t leave and why the society exists, we can never really care if they get out. Why are the adults broken into factions? Red – medical. Yellow – teaching and tobacco. Blue – wine making. What about all the other professions? The division doesn’t seem to make any sense. And what’s up with the guards? Why are they dicks? What do they do other than drive around and make lewd comments? Oh, and get stabbed in the face with a pen and do nothing about it… How big is this restricted commune that the guards don’t know who people are? We get two events near the beginning of the book where Jade has run-ins with the guards – one with the aforementioned pen stabbing – and then other than guarding the Centre meetings, they disappear. No one appears to guard the fence. There’s exactly one location to turn off the power to the electric fence that surrounds the commune and no one guards it? Really? The guards literally do nothing. They’re set up to be these awful bad guys but then they just go away. Except for one weird appearance at the end that makes zero sense. Saffron is dating the guard…?

Other examples where events just kind of go away – Jade goes to Bronze for information from the outside. When she asks for it she just sits down in a public market and straight out asks for it. Without double checking to make sure they’re not being overheard. With no trepidation, even though she claims to hate this guy. He finds it for her in like a day and gives it to her with no fanfare. She’s just discovered that her grandparents aren’t dead. They escaped from a commune where apparently no one can escape and they live 40 miles away and are that easy to find? And Jades reaction is basically ‘huh’.

Kids appear from the outside after horrible car accidents that kill everyone but one child. And these happen about once a year? This is great tension. This is a story worth investigating. But once again, it’s mentioned once in passing and not talked about again. I’d rather Jade didn’t even consider it. It would be a great storyline for another book in the series, but why would she even thing about it? This is just the way the things happen in the commune.

Tyrian is colour blind because of a botched surgery. Mentioned in a throw away half page conversation. Never mentioned again!

Part of this is the fault of the writing. The author feels genuinely invested in the story, but the writing is clunky. “It’s like I opened a hope chest of truth and destroyed the lock of naivety”… Really? I was actually talking about this exact sentiment this morning with a writer friend of mine – the idea of killing your darlings. It’s something I find a lot in first time, and self-published authors. It’s something every author is guilty of. What I’m talking about is those sentences you can tell an author is in love with. They’ve written and struggled and massaged it until they think it is precious. It’s the shining jem of the novel. But what they really need to do is throw it away. The sentence is so over written that it actually takes the reader out of the story. I literally underlined it in red (I was reading a pdf. I do not write in my books, any of them.) and wrote ‘come on!’ beside it.

One of the Gillespie’s biggest problem in terms of writing is the which vs that conundrum. This is something that trips up many a young/new writer. ‘Which’ clauses are extraneous. They appear after a comma and can be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning. ‘That’ clauses are crucial to the meaning of a sentence. Their removal drastically changes the meaning of a sentence. This isn’t personal preference or writing style; it’s grammar. Gillespie uses which all the time. When which is used instead of that, it creates overly formal sounding sentences that don’t actually portray the writer’s meaning.

The dialogue is stilted and formal in some places and light and breezey in others. The lack of consistency makes it hard to figure out what this community’s relationship to the outside is. The Outside is supposed to be this great place of mystery, but they seem to have an awful lot of contact with it. People say things like wine o’clock. Where would they have learned this phrase? It seems like pretty much anyone could have access to the outside. Bronze was brought into the commune from the outside as a child and he’s allowed full access to the outside? That seems super counterintuitive. Wouldn’t you keep the kids you kidnap away from the place you took them from?

There are some inconsistencies within the story that are the fault of the editing, not necessarily the storytelling. In chapter fifteen, April Fool’s Day is explained in detail. It’s the focus of basically the entire chapter but later in chapter eighteen, Jade says that they’re running away on March 12 – 21 days later, so this thought is happening sometime in February. I’m sure it’s supposed to be May 1, but it’s a major error in the storytelling that should have been caught. At another time, Jade is grouchy because she’s going to be forced to have three children. But later her mother had her tubes tied because of a “commune law which states a woman may only give birth to two children”. Jade spends most of the book struggling to decide between teaching and winemaking but she can barely read? She says this over and over again. She and Peaches even bond over it. Reading is a struggle for her. But she’s still considering it as a career? A proper content edit would have caught these (along with other) mistakes and raised the story from mediocre to potentially really good.

I’m sure there are people that really love this novel, but it’s a little to surface for me. With a bit more depth, it could have been great. But as it stands, I won’t be waiting for the second in the series.

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Free For All Friday (@HawksleyWorkman)

Remember how I said Friday’s I would write about whatever I want? Well, today I’m actually doing that and not talking about books. I’m talking about music – specifically, Hawksley Workman. Who? Well, I really hope you didn’t say that, but if you live outside of Canada, it’s possible. But, if you don’t know who he is, this is going to be a good day for you. Really.

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My ipod is old and small in capacity and has only the smallest portion of my music library loaded on it. Last month, I realized I hadn’t loaded any of my Hawksley onto it. It was a grave mistake. I remedies that, but I hadn’t actually listened to any of it until I was running errands the other day and my audiobook ended. I switched over to music, cause heaven forbid I have to listen to the people around me in the store. Sometimes, I’m exceptionally anti-social. Especially in self-checkout lines. Anyway, I haven’t updated my playlists in a really long time, and I’m pretty tired of them. The whole audiobook thing makes my shuffle a little schizophrenic, so I ended up picking an artist instead and settled on Hawksley. It was an excellent decision. It’s always an excellent decision.

I’ve been a fan for years. Lots and lots of years. My first exposure was Striptease during an episode of Queer as Folk. I’m pretty sure it was a Michael/Ben related scene, but I can’t remember exactly. Right around the same time, I remember reading one of those magazine snippets where they ask celebrities what they’re listening to, and one of the responses was Hawksley. Honestly, I think it might have been Lance Bass that gave this answer… so it’s entirely possible that Nsync got me into my favourite artist. But, let’s say it was Queer as Folk. Yes. Let’s go with that.

One of the best things about the Workman is that he varies his style from album to album. And dude is prolific. He’s got a lot of work out there. Combine lots of music with lots of styles and there’s always something to suit your mood. It is downright impossible for me to narrow it down to a favourite song. I can’t even pick a favourite album. Oh, and he does more than just concerts. Earlier this year, I went to his cabaret show, The God That Comes. Amazing! Wigs, bullhorns, army men mobiles, and a song called Ukeladyboy. There’s no wrong here. I’ve seen him perform multiple times: each one its own unique and wacky experience.

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It’s so refreshing to see someone who is so in touch with their creativity and wants to express all of it. There’s no commercial structure to the albums. There isn’t the hit single. The follow up single. The ballad. There are reworkings of songs from previous albums. There are songs about crazy depression next to songs about dancing next to songs about random pop culture icons. Everything feels genuine.

I remember the first time I got to meet him; I was excited and nervous. What if he was a dick? Or just uncool? Or too cool? It was a giant waste of emotion. He’s crazy nice and down to earth. And not nice in that ‘I can’t think of anything else to say’ way. Nice in the good person kind of way. He made an effort to find a little something personal to talk to every single person about and made the experience more than a cattlecall line up.  Ah, good times.

I could spew my fangirl nonsense for pages –creative genius, quirky shows, adorable Canadian, twitter junkie – but it’s about the music. So, here’s a sampling of songs I really like – in chronological order of album. It is by no means a comprehensive list – there just isn’t enough room in one blog post.

(My intension was to have the videos right here in the blog, but I can’t seem to get it to work. So, instead, there are links to videos already in the ether. Sorry, dudes.)

Tarantulove – For Him and the Girls – this was the first Hawksley song I really fell in love with

Bullets – For Him and the Girls

 No Beginning No End – (last night we were) The Delicious Wolves – the guitar in this song…

No Reason to Cry Out Your Eyes (On The Highway Tonight) – Lover/Fighter

 All the Trees Are Hers – Between the Beautifuls

The City is A Drag – Between the Beautifuls/Los Manlicious

Kissing Girls (You Shouldn’t Kiss) – Los Manlicious – I’ve seen those green overalls in concert. They’re so minty!

Prettier Face – Los Manlicious/Between the Beautifuls

You Don’t Just Want to Break Me – Meat

We’ll Make Time – Meat – this is one of those songs I always forget about so it’s a happy surprise every time it comes on

Chemical – Milk

Suicidekick – Milk

Robot Heart – Milk – while i was finding the other links, I decided to add a third song from Milk. I love this one so much. I just couldn’t do just two.

Okay, on reviewing this, Milk probably wins as my favourite album. It’s the one I had the hardest time narrowing down to just a couple songs. But it’s really close with For Him and the Girls and Los Manlicious and Meat and Between the Beautifuls… Nope. Can’t do it. I just get all the feels from his music. There is no need to narrow that down to a single  favourite. Why do we feel the need to single things out all the time? But that’s another post. Enjoy!

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Throwback Thursday – The Eleventh Hour by Greame Base

My entire family is a sucker for a good puzzle – not actual puzzles (except my sister), but figuring things out. We were that kind of family that actually had family game night. We played board games regularly – we still do when we get together for more than an afternoon. And we didn’t play your normal games. Sure, us kids would play Mousetrap and Kerpluk and whatnot. But as a family we played weird games. The two I remember the most are National Geographic Pursuit – or something like that, I can’t remember the exact name – you answered trivia questions and built a world map, and Bazaar, you’re essentially in an Indian Bazaar and you have to barter to get the jewels you need to complete your card.

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This is quickly turning into a throwback to board games, but what I’m getting at is that we liked to do this kind of stuff together. So, when my parents picked up Graeme Base’s book, The Eleventh Hour it was something we worked on together. I was probably too old, but meh, it wasn’t like I was running out and telling my friends about it. I can’t remember when my parents bought the book, but I think it may have been for my brother’s eleventh birthday. But it was originally published in 1988, so it may have been earlier than that.

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This book is still sitting at my parent’s house and we pulled it out last year to look at with my nephews. We only looked at a couple pages. I think they were a little young at the time, but maybe this year. I think they would really like it. And the artwork is amazing.

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The book is about an elephant’s birthday where someone steals the feast. The reader’s job is to figure out who the thief is. There are other mysteries buried in there and things you have to find – like a certain number of mice hidden in each of the pictures, if memory serves me correctly. If you have kids, you should probably try to get your hands on this. It’s something you can all work on together or the kids can do on their own. And the mystery is hard enough that it’s not boring for adults.

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Top Ten Tuesday – Book Covers

Today’s TTT prompt is book cover trends. This doesn’t really light my booky fire. My increased library use means I haven’t really been following the trends lately. I get whatever cover comes onto my holds shelf. So, instead, I’ve decided to list books that I chose solely based on the cover – with varying degrees of success.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

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I’ve talked about this one before. It’s my favourite book cover.

 

I Wear the Black Hat – Chuck Klosterman

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I saw this cover before the book was released. I loved it so much that I went and found some of his other books to hold me over until the release date. It was a happy discovery.

 

The Diviners – Libba Bray

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I devoured this book. YA. Paranormal. Period. Well written. Humorous. Do yourself a favour and read it.

 

Soulless – Gail Carriger

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Steampunk. Well done steampunk. Also paranormal. Delightful.

 

The Rook – Daniel O’Malley

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Man, this is a string of paranormal books. I loved the cover and the book’s weird ass characters.

 

Industrial Magic – Kelley Armstrong

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This cover is what got me into the Women of the Otherworld series. It has exactly zero to do with the book. See anything similar to the last cover?

 

Wither – Lauren Destefano

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A perfectly adequate YA dystopian novel. Nothing to write home about. But a beautiful cover.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

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She’s floating. How could you not at least pick this one up.

 

The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield

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Pretty. It’s a pretty book. And it’s got beautiful paper. It’s also a great book.

 

Ghostgirl – Tonya Hurley

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The cover is cute. Hardcover. Skinny. The coffin section is clear with the black silhouette. It’s the best thing about the book. It reads very young.

 

Bonus Cover… (Yeah, I know I’m cheating) : Her Name in the Sky – Kelly Quindlen

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I actually read this one at the author’s request, but I think the cover is beautiful.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe (@SarahGreenhouse)

I tend to be a fan of linear story telling. I’m all for perspective shifts, but time bouncing is generally not my thing. This is totally my own fault. I’m awful at reading header notes on chapters. That means I tend to get confused because I don’t know where we are in the timeline of events. This is especially true when the shifts in time are close together. But there are some novels that suck me in so much that the non-linear style doesn’t bother me. This was the case with Far From You.

I’m a sucker for a good coming of age novel. It’s one of the reasons I love YA novels so much. And I particularly like those where the protagonist is suffering because of circumstances completely within their control. In Sharpe’s novel, Sophie’s troubles seem to begin with a car accident that happens when she’s fourteen. And technically, I guess this is true. If they’d never been in the car accident, she may never have developed her drug problem. But I don’t think this is entirely true. I think Sophie would have found something to hide behind even without the accident. Her trouble starts when she falls in love with Mina instead of Trev.

She’s in love with Mina. Mina’s in love with her. But so is Mina’s brother Trev. Who’s also one of Sophie’s best friend. Sounds very movie of the week, doesn’t it? Or maybe the plot of a bed teen drama. Except this one contains genuine emotion. Sophie struggles with her drug addiction for years, not half an hour. She hides it from everyone. Her drug of choice is pain medication. Her crime isn’t just hiding her addiction; it’s using her father’s prescription pads. This touches on one of the areas of the book I have a little bit of a problem with. If Sophie had been writing out prescriptions for the amount of drugs she says she was using for a registered narcotic like oxy, wouldn’t the fact that they were always prescribed by her father have triggered something in some database? Isn’t there some kind of master overseer for these drugs? Otherwise, why are they even registered? And wouldn’t her dad have been angrier that she had used him and damaged his reputation? But that’s beside the point.

Then we have the mystery aspect of the novel. Mina has been murdered and Sophie has been set up to take the blame for how it happened – not for the actual murder. Her driving need to find the man who murdered her best friend propels the rest of the story forward. There are links to a long missing girl, a newspaper story, and a local soccer coach. Sharpe even finds a way to mostly avoid the eye-rolling just go to the cops syndrome that happens so often in YA mysteries. This is the action, but it’s not the point. The point of the story isn’t the mystery it’s the love story.

This might be one of the few teen romances with an actual love triangle. Each of these characters loves the other two. It may not be romantic love, but it’s love that is powerful and painful. Sophie openly identifies as bisexual. I’m not sure I’ve ever read this in a YA novel before – or maybe any book. Books are starting to venture further into homosexuality but very few identify as bisexual. It’s a queer identity that gets flack from both sides of the spectrum, but Sophie isn’t confused. She knows that she is attracted to both men and women. And if Trev hadn’t been Mina’s brother, she may have actually dated him after Mina died.

Mina on the other hand just uses boys. She likes Sophie. She likes girls, but she’s so scared of her mother – unfortunately, we never really get to see the mother or Mina’s interaction with her mother, and that feels like a moment that’s lacking. All we have now is Sophie telling us what Mina told her. I know the story is from Sophie’s perspective, but to include one scene wouldn’t have been the worst idea. Being able to understand why Mina was so scared of her mother would have made her a little more sympathetic. Cause honestly, she’s kind of a bitch. When she finds out Sophie had sex with a boy – from someone other than Sophie– before the girls ever admit their feelings for one another, she doesn’t react like a typical hurt friend. Instead, she acts like a jealous girlfriend. She starts ignoring Sophie and flirting like mad with some boy, eventually has sex with said boy, and has Amber – the girl who wants to be Mina’s best friend – pass the information on the Sophie. Later, she starts dating Kyle – after the girls have has sex and while Sophie is away getting clean –and doesn’t even tell Sophie about the relationship. Trev does. Then when Sophie gets back to town, Mina tries to set Sophie up with Trev – knowing exactly how much this would end up hurting all of them. Mina is so at odds with her own sexuality that she treats the people around her with complete disregard for their emotions.

It’s the little moments that make this novel work for me. The characters swear – casually. Not with purpose or excessively. The way people actually speak. The language feels real. Mina’s neuroses feel real. Sophie’s obsession also real. The killers motivations aren’t some crazy complex thing – they’re about protecting your family. Okay, the show down with the killer in the woods – less real, but the character interactions and emotions come off the page so genuinely it’s hard not to feel for them.

It’s not a perfect book. It’s getting a lot of attention because of the characters sexuality – probably more than it would if that content wasn’t unique. And I liked it. It’s probably a book I’ll by, but I’m not saying it’s the best book I’ve read. It’s not even the best book I’ve read this year. But it’s good. I love the style of the writing. The phrasing and language choices. This is the style I like and that probably makes me think more highly of the book than I would based on the story alone. It’s not a book I would recommend for everyone, but it’s one I will recommend to a lot of people.