ensoulment nick askew

Book Review: Ensoulment, by Nick Askew

I won an ebook copy of Nick Askew‘s Ensoulment through Goodreads.

ensoulment nick askew

Every being is infused with a soul upon their creation, but what would happen if a soul was split?

Running from his troubled past, Andrew arrives in LA, greeted by his loving boyfriend and headed for a night of celebration. When Jack gets down on one knee, the last thing either of them expects is Andrew’s sudden death, a tragedy that sets in motion a chain of events that will alter the fabric of reality itself.

As death thrusts him into a strange world full of outlandish and dangerous inhabitants, Andrew embarks upon a mission to reunite a princess with her long-lost prince. As familiar as it feels, he soon learns shadowy forces are working against him, and nothing in this land is as it appears. Andrew’s in a different kind of fairy tale, and he must seek out the other half of his soul if he ever hopes to find his way home again.

my review

Just yesterday I said I was going to make a concerted effort to be more tactful in my reviews, even negative ones. And here, the very first review I have to write after, I find I have very little positive to say, even when trying.

I’ll be honest. I found this immensely dissatisfying. It took almost a quarter of the book to even figure out what was going on (far too long) and, even then I often barely kept up with the erratic plot and perspective shifts. It was so dedicated to being Bizzaro that the plot itself suffered for it.

Then there is the writing. Some of it is just wrong in an editorial sense, like, “They were cold, tried and looking for any excuse…” But there are quite a lot of sentences that might or might not be wrong, but are just off, odd in a way that pulls you out to the story. Here are a few example.

“The ache in his heart, a pain he worked so hard to rid himself of, took bloom once again.”
—Do things take bloom? They take root, take flight. But do they take bloom…or just bloom?

“I left my wife in bed and crept down the hall to get a better listen.”
—You get a better look, does it work the same way for hearing?

“There was energy to his veracity, almost to the fact she wasn’t sure even he knew the reasons he did the things he did.”
—To the fact….or should it be to the degree?

“We were being precatious.”
—You have caution, you are cautious, you take precautions…Merrian Webber says precautious is a word, but man is it awkward in that sentence. Do we actually use it that way?

“He hoped repeating the name Lily would somehow convert the bird to find her…”
—Are we actually converting the bird—it’s possible in this odd book—or do we mean convince?

“As she attempted to lift her head, the dull pain retreated to sharp.”
—Does dull pain retreat to sharp, or should sharp retreat to dull?

You see what I mean, a lot of it is just a little…well, off. Which might be an authorial choice in a book so very dedicated to it’s own weirdness, but I rather think not. Then the whole thing ends with so little conclusion that I feel it better referred to as a fizzle than a bang.

All in all, I think the author had an interesting idea. The anthropomorphic animals were interesting. I liked Andrew to the degree I could, considering we get to know so little of him. But I’m not interested in reading more of this series.


Taking A Moment To Check Myself

A few moments ago I received a message on Goodreads that started out:

I’ve been thinking about messaging you and asking you to check out my book for a few days, but I was quite nervous considering how critical and honest your reviews are. Then, I told myself that I might as well and that every review I read from you had a pretty good and constructive critique, so at least I might learn what to make better next time. The harsh feedback is always what I learn the best from. (Though obviously, I’d still like to think that you would enjoy the book, lol)

And I suppose I could gripe about getting hit up on Goodreads for a review, instead of the request coming through the the process I’ve set up here on the blog. (No, I’ll never pass up  an opportunity to point out how many people don’t follow directions, in the hopes of correcting the trend.) But I almost feel like this wasn’t a formal enough request to warrant it. Or maybe I’m just so distracted by something else in it that I can’t be bothered.

nervous woman-Image by Eleatell from PixabayThe thing that most struck me about this message is the author saying she “was quite nervous considering how critical and honest your reviews areThe harsh feedback…*” Yes, the comment is couched in compliments, but it still really made me stop and think. (For the record, I’m not calling the author in question out in any manner. She neither insulted nor upset me; just caused me to consider her word choice, never a bad thing.)

One would think being honest could never be a unappreciated. But anyone who truly believes that hasn’t spent much time in the book reviewing community while we endlessly debate what should and shouldn’t be included in a review. A large contingent lives by “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”

And critique has it’s place, of course, even harsh critique. But the phrasing, the admittal of nervousness to ask me to review their work is awful close to implying that my reviews come across as overtly critical, as in primarily focusing on the negative. Is this how I come across, I wondered.

I’ve been writing reviews here on the blog, Goodreads, and Amazon for 7+ years. And it’s an unfortunate reality that familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t mean this to suggest I find books, authors, or reviews/reviewers contemptible⍣. But rather, it would be quite easy to have let myself slip into a mental space in which I throw out reviews easily, without giving enough gravity to how they might be received.

Yes, there are all sorts of caveats here. Reviews are for readers, not authors. I’m not obligated to be polite when saying I dislike something. I’m 100% not required to keep my trap shut if I dislike something. I am allowed to be as rude, churlish, and bitchy as I like, etc. etc. etc. But the reality is that that’s not the real me. I am generally one of those people that want their say (will insist on it), but don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

woman-Image by Eleatell from PixabayAnd the comment above makes me wonder if I’ve let myself be a little too laissez faire lately and come across as an angry harridan with nothing positive to say, instead of a considered reviewer that also happens to be honest when she dislikes a book. That’s not the same thing and not the reviewer I want to be. I don’t want authors to be afraid of me or my words.

I hope that isn’t giving myself too much importance. One person being nervous, does not a tyrant make. But this was a good reminder to be mindful of my general mien, not just each individual review. A reviewer can be judged by the whole of their work as easily as any individual piece of it.

Goodreads stats as of 3/30/3021

So far this year, I’m averaging just about an even 3★ rating, which makes sense. I feel like that’s how it should be. Most books I neither love nor hate, and I would hope for a roughly even number of books I do. But if I stop and think of some of the reviews I’ve written recently, I can think of some that I probably could have been more diplomatic in my phrasing. The question is, should I have been? Or does honest vitriol have a place too? Where is the line that allows for that without tripping the reviewer over into bitch territory?

I’d like authors to know they’ll get an honest review from me, but also trust that I won’t be needlessly cruel if their book and I don’t get along. I’ll probably never be bubbly enough, as a person, to be seen as a softball reviewer (and I wouldn’t want to be). I just don’t think I have enough of the fan-girl in me. But I also don’t want to be the reviewer that everyone knows will trash their book for the sheer joy of it. That really isn’t who I am or why I do this. It’s not where my joy comes from!

So, I’m taking this opportunity to recenter, to step back and ensure that I am more thoughtful and considered in my words and reviews from here on out. Maybe it’s not needed and everything was fine to start with. But honestly, can trying being more considerate ever put you in bad stead? (Can you be in bad stead, or only good…hmmm?)

And yes, in case you’re curious, I agreed to read the book in question above and I hope with my whole heart to love it.


*On a complete side note, it’s been my anecdotal experience that this is one of the primary differences between male and female authors seeking reviews. I 100% can’t imagine a male author preceding their review request with an admittal that they are nervous about it.

⍣OK, maybe there is a small, self-aggrandizing subset that I could do without.

magic for liars

Book Review: Magic For Liars, by Sarah Gailey

It was chore day, so I wanted to listen to an audiobook while I slogged away at them. But none of the ones I have on my Audible cloud looked appealing. Thus, I borrowed Sarah Gailey‘s Magic For Liars from the library.

magic for liars sarah gailey

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magical. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

I’ll admit that this was a tad on the slow side, but I generally enjoyed it. And I’ll tell you what I liked about it. I too am a salt-n-pepper woman (like the main character). That makes me 43. I figure Ivy was a bit older, though it’s not explicitly stated. She’s stuck in a high school dealing with teenagers. I have an almost 14 and almost 12 year old. They roll they eyes at me constantly, and generally think they know everything and parents are idiots, as teens are wont to do. The teens in Magic For Liars are the same. And like adults everywhere, Ivy sees right through their act. But because she has a mystery to solve she uses her adult knowledge to get the information she needs. She doesn’t posture and ensure the children know they’re children. As is always so tempting when their mien of superiority gets to be too frustrating. She lets them go right on thinking they’re the smartest people in the room. What parent hasn’t had that feeling while dealing with their teen? Maybe because I too am stuck dealing with tweens/teens in my real like, I found her manipulation of them with their own artifices superbly satisfying.

I did feel sorry for Ivy. She wanted to desperately to be loved, not too unlike all those teens. But her sister just wasn’t capable of it. I really hope the open ending, with the possibility of happiness on that front comes to fruition for her.

Interestingly, this could be read as a parable on the importance of providing access to safe contraceptives and/or abortions. There are certainly some interesting reflections of life and death, beginning, middle, and end of life going on in the book.

All in all, a winner for me.