It's an amazing thing to be a book lover these days. Not only because of the massive amount of books available for purchase, loan, and lending, but also because of the ease of access the internet and reading devices have provided. It works that way for authors as well. Now instead of suffering through the endless rejections, authors have the ability to self-publish through mega-corporation engines, like Amazon, and be heard in ways that were not possible a decade ago.
This has good and bad sides to it. Several months ago, when I went back to school, I made the decision to no longer accept self-published works simply because my time was valuable and I needed to choose my reading wisely. I had been burned, no only by bad writing (which I can deal with) but also by plot-less story-lines and inane drivel which covered anything from political rants to wild and steamy fantasies which made me feel uncomfortable.
But every once in a while a book appears on the radar which has that glimmer of hope.
I will admit, first off, that I know Luna Lindsey. She is dear to close friends of mine, but she and I do not know each other that well. She knew I review books and requested that I read and review her book, Emerald City Dreamer, and I will admit to agreeing with a bit of trepidation. I'm not one to pull punches when I review books, but she's accepted that about me and, with that said, I finished Emerald City Dreamer tonight and have feedback that should please and challenge her.
Lindsey's book takes place in a fantastic city and one that's ripe for an urban-paranormal book. Seattle is quirky, artistic, and if there's any place that could be filled with the Fae it definitely is top of the list. The first thing that came to mind upon finishing this story, however, is that Lindsey may have bitten off more than she can chew with her first novel in this series. I was overwhelmed by the number of characters and events taking place. As I tried to absorb everything what I consistently was thinking was how, if she'd split it into two novels, things would have been both simple and more complex.
For example: Jina. Jina was the center point of Emerald City Dreamer, but I never connected to her - and I think that's because the character of Jina was lukewarm. She was defined by labels, but never really exhibited those labels in a passionate way - unlike Ezra who was, by far, my favorite character and one of the most conflicted characters I've read in urban-paranormal stories. Jina, however, lacked conviction and she never really came into her own voice. I got the impression that she was being held back by the same labels that should have freed her. Jina is bisexual, yet the sex scenes (well, what passed for a sex scene) in Emerald City Dreamer lacked the steaminess that I've grown used to seeing in these types of stories. She is poly, yet very little focus is given to her emotions with regard to one of her partners. Instead, I got the feeling that Jina was just a bit of a playgirl and unable to commit to anyone, which was strange considering how quickly she "falls in love." These contradictions made it difficult for me to focus on the story, because without a strong character, the story struggles.
The added stories of Ezra's past and Jett's past also seemed haphazardly thrown into the story. Each of these stories deserves something more than just mere mentions and assumptions that the reader is able to grasp everything that is happening. Instead of being enthralled by their stories, I felt put off by them - instead wanting to focus on the here and now.
I think it's a common thing when writing to be worried about tension in a story - after all, we've been taught that every story needs tension. But tension is not built in setting a scene and describing every item of clothing for characters who barely exist in the overall story - it's set in dialogue, movement forward, relationships between people. I felt very little tension between Jett and Jina - yet they proclaim their love for each other without a second thought.
The best advice I have for Luna as she works on her second book in this story is to examine the relationships between characters, and to look deep into the characters of Sandy, Jett, and Jina and figure out just how strong each of their voices should be. The strongest voice in this book was Ezra's and, I think with some examination, Sandy, Jett, and Jina could have just as strong a voice - just don't be afraid to show it to us. Forget the labels - write the actions.