Review: When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes

When Stars Die

When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes
Read: September 7 – September 9, 2013
Advance reading copy.

Many thanks to Amber Skye Forbes, whom I follow on Tumblr. She provided this review copy in exchange for an honest review. I don’t normally review Amazon-only books, but I did this time, as Amber is something of a friend.

Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Price: $3.99
Format: Amazon e-book

Goodreads Book Blurb:  “Yet, even when stars die, they leave a lasting impact through their light, their diamond brilliance as they scatter their material to form new stars. When people die, they leave the same impact with the footprints they leave on people’s hearts. Even the ones who feel insignificant go out, leaving behind dust that can nourish the world anew.”

Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.

Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?

My Opinion: Ok, I really agonized over writing this review. Amber is, as I mentioned, something of a friend. We were following each others’ personal Tumblrs long before she was working on releasing When Stars Die. I read the book, and then I was confronted with a very serious concern. How do you tell a friend that you didn’t like their book?

I offered not to publish the review, but Amber, being an awesome person and very reasonable author, recognized that not all of her reviews would be positive and encouraged me to go ahead. And then I got really sick and in a bit of a blog slump, so I am only NOW writing the review. I am SO sorry it took so long, but here we go.

There wasn’t much that I liked about When Stars Die, unfortunately. I really wanted to like the book, but there were just too many things that rubbed me the wrong way, as a reader.

The few things I did like? The setting was every well flushed out. The world had a very interesting premise, if it was a little religiously heavy-handed for my tastes. Amber’s prose, I found, tended to be a little on the purple side. But there were a few phrases that just shimmered and made me think that with more polish and more writing, the prose could be taken from where it is, which for me was a bit of a hot mess, to something elevated.

And now, the things I didn’t like.

Amelia was not a likeable character for me, at all. Her motives change partway through the book. First she wants to stay at Cathedral Reims for her little brother, but then she wants to stay for herself all of a sudden. It would be an OK shift if it didn’t happen in the span of a page or two.

The other big issue for me was that the style and even some of the phrasing was very modern, yet the book is set in the 1800’s. In that time, they wouldn’t have known what happens to stars when they supernova, or that most of the stars in the night sky are actually dead. They wouldn’t be using matches, which weren’t invented until the mid 1800’s in reality, not to mention when they became used widely.

Adding the above two notes to the general unpolished state of the prose, and I had a hard time finishing the book.

Bottom Line: A really great book in theory, but lacking the polish and execution to take it to the necessary level.

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Mini Update – Camp NaNo and Other Things

Hello followers!

I apologize that I haven’t been blogging much lately.

In addition to being really focused on Camp NaNo (27k words tonight!) I have been dealing with some health things. I will probably be quasi-MIA for a while until I can get my health sorted out to my satisfaction.

I don’t want to bore you with the details, but many tests and things are being done. I am OK — just need to look into some things.

Also, it is kind of hard to write my NaNo words and then think of coherent things to say on the blog while under the influence of painkillers. Just sayin’.

The good news about having health issues? It gives me a lot of time to read. The bad news? My current book – Insurrection by Robyn Young – while very well written, is very slow in the story department. And I have issues reading multiple books. I get confused very easily, so I tend to keep it to 2 books max at a time.

Ah well, hopefully I can get through it soon and then move on to other more exciting books!

Keep reading, keep writing.
And just keep swimming!

Quick Thoughts, Aug 10

So, I didn’t want to do a full “Currently Reading” on these two books because I don’t feel like I am far enough into them yet. So I thought I would try something new… “Quick Thoughts”.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

  • The foreshadowing is fairly heavy-handed here. Is it a diversion tactic, or is the book really transparent? Only time will tell.
  • Very light on descriptive prose.
  • All in all, enjoying this one and want to read more, but am stuck at the Book Club stopping point.

Insurrection by Robyn Young

  • I thought this might have some Outlander type properties to it. So far, nothing. Not a single mention of a kilt. Which, if I had done my research or known my history, I would know that kilts weren’t the traditional dress of Scotland until the 16th century.
  • Very heavy prose. Political, historical… not much action yet.
  • Kind of forcing my way through this one for now. After all the light (prose wise) reading I have been doing lately, this one is bogging me down. It is exceptionally well written, but not what my brain wants right now.

Reveiw: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (ARC, Spoiler Free)

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Read: June 11 to June 13, 2012
Other Information: ARC, Random House Canada – Won on Goodreads

Book Blurb: (From Goodreads) On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

My Opinion: I won this book as part of Goodreads’ First Reads program. Thank you to Random House Canada for sending me my first EVER ARC of a book.

I entered the contest for this book because I thought the idea sounded interesting. And while I don’t normally enjoy books from such a young perspective, I thought I would give it a try.

Karen Thompson Walker has some truly wonderful moments with her prose. Unfortunately I am not able to quote the book as of yet, but trust me when I say that she has a gift for metaphors and using them to paint a lovely picture.

That said, Walker also has moments of glaring weakness in her prose. Most notably is the switch between using contractions and not. It read very haltingly and did not flow.

The other note on Walker’s prose is that while the writing is, at times, lovely, it never really felt like it was coming from an eleven-year-old girl. Even written in hindsight, I don’t know ANY eleven-year-old who would have noticed the things that Julia did or expressed them in that way. I also don’t know an eleven-year-old girl who wouldn’t be more concerned with other things in her life. Julia had her moments as a character, but really seemed to lack depth and growth.

The premise was very interesting, but not executed to its full potential. There wasn’t enough science to make this a science-fiction book, there wasn’t enough chaos and end-of-the-world-syndrome to make it a dystopian book, and there wasn’t enough growth from Julia to make it a really great coming of age story.

The entire book is painted with this sense of foreboding. There is a lot of build up, and then… nothing really happens. OK, so not nothing, but nothing to warrant the kind of build-up that is present.

Overall, I felt like this book is a flower bud, just starting to open. The promise of a truly beautiful story is there, it just needs a little bit more care to make it emerge fully.

My rating: 2.5 stars