A Tale of Escape
Reviewed by: Nicole DeVincentis
Cover/Title: The cover is definitely eye catching, and I love how the soft browns blend with the girl’s skin. I haven’t read far enough to determine the significance of what looks like a mask in the center, but I like how it connects the the top and bottom images. The latter of which provokes curiosity for the reader, and I especially like the dimensions. The male figure going into a long corridor acts like a vortex, and just draws you right into the hallway with him. The few suggestions that I have are to either enlarge the subtitle and the name at the bottom, or change the color. The smaller font is a little hard to read. Also, the mask seems to be off center by a space or two from the left. Other than that, the cover is aesthetically pleasing and sparks an acute interest in readers.
Summary/Synopsis: Short, but informative. The description accurately portrays Portia’s (our protagonist) persona and struggle throughout the story, and leaves us wondering what occurs between her and Javier. Questions immediately populate about his “dark past” and how that affects Portia now. The sentences may be a little long, so it might be beneficial to shorten them. For example, the sentence in the middle, which takes up about four lines, can definitely be cut into two.
Grammar/Structure: Grammar is exemplary, and it’s clear that the author has a firm grasp on English grammar and an extensive vocabulary. As far as punctuation, there were a few inconsistencies. For example, whenever mentioning another character, but in the middle of a sentence, commas should be on either side of the character’s name. (e.g. “in regard to my ex-boyfriend, Jordan Daniels, and his current”). Going back to long sentences, in the first chapter, there is a lengthy sentence that starts with “The conversation behind me” that runs about five lines and includes several parenthetical statements. It’s a little long-winded and can be slightly confusing, and splitting it into two sentences might help. That said, the author’s language and voice throughout the story is poetic and has an even flow, which attests to the author’s outstanding writing skills.
Vocabulary/Descriptions: It’s evident that the author possesses quite an extensive vocabulary, and utilizes it to the best of her ability. I noticed quite a variety of verbs and adjectives and was pleased to note that she rarely used the same word twice. Her ability to weave together phrases like “wavy-haired loner” and “dutifully attached” that just roll off the tongue is astounding. As far as descriptions go, I feel like we get a good grip on every character except Portia. We get little hints with her hair and skin color, but for other characters we get things like body shape, hair length, clothing style, etc. I think we need a little more about her, especially since she’s our protagonist and we hear the story through her POV. We need to feel like we’re seeing the story through her eyes, and that might be difficult if we can’t see her clearly. That said, the author does well to appeal to our senses and provide vivid details for the setting, offering phrases like “musty, mothball smelling charter bus” and “populated flagstone streets.” Her inventive vocabulary helps entrance readers into the tale, and it’s magnificent.
Pace/Character Development: In the beginning of the story, it seems to take a bit for us to really “get anywhere.” Meaning that the protagonist spends a lot of time reflecting and giving us general background information about her school, friends, teacher, and overall, her life at boarding school. What I like about the beginning is that the story started in the middle of the school field trip, which is a great way to rein readers in, but we get so much internal dialogue that instead of plopping right into the story, we seem stuck. The same goes with the second chapter, which, as well-written as it is, it’s basically background information on Portia’s and the rest of her friends’ lives and how they grew up as “Army brats.” As helpful as this information is, it’s best to slip it in at various parts of the story, so readers don’t lose focus. Nevertheless, the quality of information gives us a very vivid picture of each character. Drew is awkward and clueless, Caylee is obsessive and vulgar, Jordan is misogynistic and narcissistic, and we have Portia at the center trying to balance the pressure and stress of it all. We immediately get a feel for these characters and it’s like we’ve known them for much longer than we actually have. The author clearly has a flair for character personification.
What I Liked Most: I’ve noted before how lyrical I think the author’s voice is and I just want to reiterate it here. The language she uses is fluid and it’s almost like we’re in the protagonist’s mind, thinking what she’s thinking. Going off of that, I have to wonder if she’s also a poet. The poem after chapter two absolutely gave me chills to read. I can also tell that the author has a knack for cliffhangers. She leaves every chapter in just the right spot to leave us eagerly flipping to the next page.
Concluding Thoughts: The very beginning sentence was a brilliant way to open. It’s also very relatable, as I’m sure many readers can say they’ve thought the same. By the way, “Hey Ma” is one of my favorite songs, so points for that!:) I love the level of anticipation and suspense with which the author ends each chapter. It’s a sure way to make me flip to the next page. Also, the level of mystique and utter fascination that surrounds the boy in the museum is phenomenal. The hints of danger we get from his language conflicts with his demeanor and teasing when he first meets Portia. There’s something unmistakably inviting about him at the same time our senses tell us he’s dangerous. As we learn more about him, we’re only more intrigued. I think character development is a major strength for the author, among other things, but I especially notice how real her characters seem. It helps further pull me into the story, and feel like I’m experiencing it rather than reading it. Brilliant work in this story, and I would be quick to recommend it to readers.
Reviewed by: Nicole DeVincentis
Cover/Title: The cover is absolutely beautiful. I might be a little biased because I love martial arts, but her solemnly looking down with the sword (I believe it’s a katana, right?), and the foggy outline is so captivating. The tint of blue draws the reader’s eye right to the girl, and I love how she’s also shaded in bluish hues. The colors clash perfectly and it’s exactly what you need to reign the reader in. My only suggestion might be to make the font for your name and the title a little smaller. The girl and the mist are so attention-grabbing, but I feel like the title sort of takes away from them. It covers a lot, so bringing it down one or two pegs might have her stand out more. I see the story has won several awards, congratulations on those! The title definitely beckons the reader to the story, and coupled with the sword and the pose it absolutely raises questions and teases our curiosity.
Summary/Synopsis: So intriguing! I can tell you know your story and you only give us a few details to lure us in. Sometimes, I feel like writers tend to write their synopses when their stories are still incomplete. While they’re written well, it’s either not enough to pique our interest, or reading feels pointless, because the majority of the plot given away. This synopsis is full of just the right context and gives an accurate depiction of the novel, while enticing the reader and leaving us itching to dive in.
Grammar/Structure: I found few mistakes with grammar, but there are some inconsistencies. For example, in the sentence “blood poured from a nasty gash on his brow smeared his face,” there is either an “and” missing after “brow,” or “smeared” should be “smearing.” This seemed to appear a few times throughout the story, so I recommend a quick read-through. Also, the formal language sort of takes us away from the story. Normally we read like we talk and we use contractions, so any time any of the characters use “I will” or “as” it momentarily throws us out of the story. For Honda, it seems a little more fitting, because he feels very old-fashioned and traditional. But Lana seems like she’s a millennial or close to it, so that formal language doesn’t sit quite as well. Also on that note, we read “I will” a lot, and I think it would be helpful if you went through and highlighted each time you used those words together so you can see how often they’re used.
Punctuation: The oxford comma seems to be included in some sentences and excluded from others. Chicago style generally uses the oxford comma but, more importantly, writers should remain consistent. Also, coordinate adjectives should have a comma between them, (e.g. dark, honey-blonde). Besides these, punctuation was accurate and consistent throughout the novel.
Vocabulary/Description: The author demonstrates quite an extensive vocabulary, and it’s refreshing to read words such as vitriolic (malicious) and megalomaniac (egotist) rather than more common adjectives like spiteful and narcissistic. As far as adjectives go, the reader utilizes them expertly in describing the scenery, the characters’ moods, and the atmosphere, creating vivid depictions to engulf the reader. I cannot begin to describe how important it is to make the reader feel like they’re in the story through sensory detail and visual depiction. The author has mastered this technique, and has structured their vocabulary with such precision and style, they leave the audience captivated with each line.
Pace/Character Development: The pacing of the story is excellent and I found no issues with that. Characters are well-rounded and fleshed out. So much so, that even with multiple characters in one scene, dialogue feels natural even without tags at the end of each line. Lana’s fiery temper is evident in her every thought and her “no nonsense” attitude and tendency to challenge authority is what defines her. Based on the title and synopsis, we find ourselves wondering what challenges she’ll face and how she’ll overcome them. Honda is much more complex, but his principles are firm and to the point: respect me, and remember your place. Despite his ostentatious show of authority, he wants Lana to challenge him. He keeps readers bemused, and we never know what to expect. His wife, Yuki, has a rather interesting relationship with Lana, acting like a mother half the time, and as a temptress the rest of the time. But her persona is oddly soothing to readers; we know we have nothing extreme (as far as limitations go) to expect in their scenes together. It’s very different from Honda’s demanding sexual escapades and we almost take a relaxing breath every time we begin a scene with her in it. Finally, I love the sisterly dynamic between Lana and Gabriella. It rounds out Lana’s character and makes her relatable to have someone to confide in besides Yuki.
What I Liked Most: I absolutely love the opening with Lana and her boss. Starting a story in the middle of an argument is an awesome way to reel the reader in. We don’t have time to think and our attention is instantly caught up in the storyline. Before we know it, we’re devouring each page, utterly fascinated. What I really liked most was the protagonist’s personality. Lana’s sharp tongue and tendency to flare up at the slightest challenge had me relating to her from the start. Her combative nature engages us and tells us she won’t back down, especially when it comes to Honda. He is a sensei; a teacher above all and he pushes her limits, physically, sexually, and emotionally. Despite his harsh methods, his affection and consideration for Lana is evident in his mannerisms.
Concluding Thoughts: This story is really straightforward and descriptive. It’s easy to feel like we’re in Lana’s shoes, and the author does a phenomenal job at personifying the characters. The expert use of descriptive language is what makes the story so colorful, and the author has a way of being very clear and even more lively with each chapter.
Son Of No City
Reviewed by: Nicole DeVincentis
Cover/Title: The cover is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and really caught my attention. The bright orange and yellow makes the title jump out at you and the near-black background offers the perfect balance. This combination immediately drew me in and would have me taking the book off the shelf in any library. My only suggestion would be to include your name somewhere on the cover, so readers become more familiar with you. Perhaps placing it at the very top, or directly underneath the title in the center. The title is unique and gives us only subtle clues as to the plot, effective in making us all the more curious.
Summary/Synopsis: The last part of the summary is my favorite part. It tantalizes the reader, teasing them with this “cheeky” fellow with a nickname that bodes trouble. We immediately form a curiosity for who this boy is and how he might impact Leithan’s life. The first paragraph comes off just as impactful; however, I did notice a grammar mistake or two. Despite these minor oversights, the information introduced is spectacular. We get little pieces of the puzzle, without getting the full picture and it piques our interest.
Grammar/Structure: I found very little mistakes in grammar. Punctuation is superb and fluid sentence structure makes for an easy read. It’s clear that the author has a firm grasp of English grammar and exemplary writing skills.
Vocabulary/Descriptions: Vocabulary is extensive and well integrated, and descriptions are spot on. There are several characters introduced very early on, so the small attributes included give us some very effective markers to distinguish between characters. As a side note, the made-up language is a nice touch. Especially the execution, where the author has other characters “learning” the language. It makes it interesting for readers, and we feel smart when we can follow as well.
Pace/Character Development: The story has a very fast pace to it. As it is, I feel the pace works well, but it can be a little slower. For instance, as helpful as the descriptions are to differentiate between characters, slowing it down may also be helpful. Several characters are introduced very early in the story and it can be a lot to keep track of. What I really like is the beginning; we don’t have paragraphs upon paragraphs of backstory or setting description. We’re thrown right into the middle of things, and dialogue starts a few lines in. It’s very well executed and is a refreshing change. As far as character development, it takes a few chapters for everyone to assume their own identity in the story. My earlier mention of either slowing the story down, or possibly tacking their characteristics onto the end of dialogue tags might prove effective in that. Just so I’m clear, I didn’t find it “difficult” to keep track of the characters, but the more characters introduced so early in the story the greater chance of overwhelming the reader.
What I like most: To reiterate my earlier point, I love the way this story begins. The author has an excellent way of putting us right in the middle of the conflict without confusing us. Other authors try to be almost poetic in describing the setting in the first three paragraphs and, while it’s always nice to have visuals, the story comes off as slow, often tedious, right away. In Son Of No City, we get right to the excitement, and it’s brilliant.
Concluding thoughts: Son Of No City offers unpredictable plot twists, relatable characters, and even a new language to enthrall readers with a story of betrayal, coercion, suspense, and loyalty. It’s protagonist, Leithan, narrates the story through the young eyes of a teenager, but with the mind of an astute detective, carefully assessing the situation and offering valuable insight to the reader. However, as acute as Leithan is portrayed to be, his extensive insight seems questionable. For instance, how does he know Nix (his boyfriend) is up to something in the first chapter and that it has something to do with his clan? The author attributes it to the drug he ingested, and how it magnifies his perception, but I didn’t see how the accusation was preluded. He also seems to have a very specific idea of what it is, asking Nix if it has something to do with his shaman. The reader is left to question how Leithan could know that. Other than that, I found Son Of No City to be a very enjoyable read, and would certainly recommend it.