Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Laughter Reviews #21


Orphaned preschool teacher is reunited with her Harley-riding grandmother on the eve fo her 30th birthday and learns she must save a biker coven with her unsuspected demon-battling powers.

Eye-catching and attractive in color and graphics. Gives a pretty good idea of what to expect from content.

What Works
There were many original elements to this story. Apprentice Writer can honestly say she has never encountered a griffin shapeshifter hero, a septugenarian biker coven,or a talking dog (child-oriented movies excepted) before. There is a lot going on in terms of how many types of characters are packed in a short space of time, ensuring fast pace and low chance of reader becoming bored.
Those are good things. Yet AW couldn't help but wish that these new-to-her topics could have been explored a little more. The mythical beast shapeshifter hero was intriguing, but there no exploration of how his dual nature impacted on the relationship, with the heroine interacting with (and annoyed by) him solely in his human form and almost no use made of the fact that he could fly. The concept of a Harley-riding coven relying heavily on roadkill and drawn to a casino river-boat was unique, but there was no backstory on how it developed nor the almost exclusive female focus, with but a single male coven member and no mention of or curiosity about, for example, the heroine's grandfather (as might be a logical question with the sudden appearance in one's life of a never-before-met grandmother). There was no plot opportunity to find if the heroine could hear other animals speak, or whether other people heard her dog too.
Much of this was no doubt for the sake of maintaining fast pace. Maybe curiosity will be satisfied in future stories.

What Doesn't
Over and over, the characters act and react in puzzling ways that threw this reader off. This is most pronounced with the heroine, who tolerates being ripped from her life and tossed into extreme situations by a grandmother who gives her very little information to work with and never explains why she's been absent all these decades. Perhaps Lizzie's acquiesence, to her grandmother and the belligerent and at times outright physcially abusive behaviour of her biker friends, can be explained by the psychology of a person with abandonment issues who suddenly finds a family member. But her pattern of accepting poor treatment from the grandmother and then indulging in negative overreaction to the hero's supposed faults (as though giving him the dose her grandmother deserves as well as his own) grew tedious. It reached martyr complex level in a scene where she chastises herself for failing her grandmother who "...had shown her nothing but honesty and respect." No, actually. She showed neither, and Lizzie's inability/refusal to recognize this made the story clunky.

To be fair, matters improve a little towards the end of the book. For this reader's taste, it took too long to get there.

This debut author writes with verve and imagination. It will be interesting to see what she comes upwith next, especially in the publicity department. Who could resist finding out their own personal biker name at the author's website? Certainly not AW, who wears her moniker Spaghetti Neck Stella Wheeliegig with pride.

But does it make you laugh? YES (with qualifiers)
Much of the humor seems to center on roadkill and the hygiene/fashion-challenged nature of the coven. A little of that goes a long way. Due to the mismatch between expected character reactions and how they really react, some of the humor may also not have struck as intensely as might otherwise have be the case. But the parts that worked well were very enjoyable, mostly from the 'fish out of water' angle of a straight-laced, slightly obsessive-compulsive preschool teacher forced to deal with mile-a-minute new paranormal challenges to her concept of reality. At one point she wonders, not even sarcastically,

Did he know of another hideoutnearby? If werewolves ran Shoney's,

perhaps a dragon BBQjoint would be just the spot, or maybe a

Denny's run by leprechauns.I'd even be open to a mermaid water

park. "Where in the world of weird creatures are youtaking me?"

"Motel 6."

The hight point of the story may have been the depiction of hell. The scenes of final confrontation with the fifth-level demon, while rescuring someone from the second level of hell (AW kept waiting for an elevator joke) were highly creative, and the demon, a sort of world-weary mad scientist, gets the best line.

Did Apprentice Writer laugh as much as promised by cover blurbs? No, but she will read this author again to enjoy the sheer richness of imagination.


Ana said...

Great review there M. I felt pretty much the same way. I thought some things were highly creative, there were good laughs to have , the hell bit was awesome. On the other hand, yes the heroine put up with a lot without complaining and i felt the relationship with the griffin was less than satisfying.

It does feel like a first book though so maybe things will improve in the next book. I am definitely reading it.

Amy Ruttan said...

I like the title, but my TBR pile is so huge, it might collapse on me.

M. said...

ana - well put.

amy - i hear you! i'm toying with an extreme tough love situation to deal with my TBR already purchased and taking-up-space piles.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Extreme tough love TBR strategy - LOL!