June 21, 2011

The Septavalent Stone by J.O. Jones


Synopsis:

Mrs. Ugabi never told Andrew that she was a renowned witch or that his uncle was a retired magical salesman who traded contraband dark magical objects. If she had, he would have known that:


    1.    Travelling to his uncle house to stay for a few weeks was a bad idea, and,
    2.    Forgetting to search his box before leaving the house in case anything sinister found its way into it was also a bad idea.


Instead, Andrew has to learn about his uncle the hard way as strange things begin to happen around him. As the medical schools in Africa grow worse academically, Andrew transfers to Norgads University in Ukraine where a group of fellow nephews-and-kids of mystic parentage have mysteriously convened, unaware that he holds, in his box, an ancient relic that belongs to a very powerful being called an elder.


But just when he thinks he can settle down and finally study, he discovers the stone, and to make matters worse, his cousin, the wild and unpredictable Aloysia, arrives on her father's orders to retrieve it. With a second war threatening to repeat itself between the two families, and the power of the stone causing the school cadavers to arise and attack the students, Andrew and Aloysia must put aside all differences, and team up to solve the mystery behind the stone which leads him to learn lesson number three:


3. There are some situations that two enemies cannot pass through together without becoming best friends.


The Septavalent stone is an epic 80,000-word novel about family rivalry, secrets, campus life and supernatural beings, which will engage both loyal and casual YA readers, with cross-over potential for twenty-something men. Andrew's story celebrates a broad multicultural and international appeal.


My Thoughts:

So this is my first indie book to review (that the marvelous author J.O. Jones gave to me to review)! So hoorah for that!

*does a little dance jig*

But um, overall, I was really confused and conflicted over this book. Let me tell y'all why:

Characters:

There were WAY too many characters. Not only that but there were five characters with the same first initial. Andrew, Alex, Ama, Agatha, and Aloysia. Can you say confusing?

I wish I could tell y'all that Alex and Andrew (who's the main character) sounded completely different and  could I tell the difference from one or the other. But I couldn't. So I kept confusing them both up. When Alex would talk, I thought he was the main character then I was like oh no it's not Andrew but Alex. Darn.

So the first suggestion I would make to the author (who I'm going to give pages of notes to that I took) is to limit the name giving. It confuses the reader and it's hard to keep all of those names in the text. I think 10 names at the most is a reasonable number. I know that in my book, Angel Diaries, there are like five main character and like three side characters. A lot of the side characters are going to come into play, but I don't name them except I think one. Why? To avoid confusion and because it's not relevant at this point of the game. So they are not given names.

Alot of J.O. Jones did was he gave names to the side characters, the guard at the passport place and to the people of the meeting in the very beginning of the book. A lot of side characters are given names that don't really need names. You can say Joe Schmoe number 1 or Mrs Debate or something along those lines. Something that's easy to remember but that's not going to be needed to remember. I know he didn't give a name to one character but a nickname to an elder who had an afro but I think he was important. I guess. It was kinda ironic that he gave names to characters who only showed up once in the book but didn't decide to give names to an important side character.

So that's one of the reasons I was confused: The names.


Setting:

Oh my gosh. I didn't know where we were until like page 100. No lie. I had no idea that the main character was from Nigeria! I would have been gripping my seat and been like, "Huh! A main character is African and it's a fantasy sort of book! Very interesting!" Instead I said that in the middle of the book.

Then when I read that they were from Nigeria, they move halfway across the world to Ukraine. And funnily enough, I speak Russian (Prevet to my Ukrainian visitors!). I'm learning Ukrainian. Apparently there isn't a big difference except some words sound completely different . . . Anyway, getting back to the point. He uses Russian words in his text and I have to say they were all correct. I'm pretty sure. Besides, I think J.O. Jones lives in the Ukraine, so I'm not surprised that he knows Russian and Ukrainian. Which is interesting because people don't suspect that African and African Americans speak Russian (and the fact that it is hard to find a place that teaches Eastern European languages is also a factor)! I had to bust out my coworker and tell him that yeah I speak Russian. He had the most funny look on his face that I almost busted out laughing. But I didn't.

Anyway, veering right back to the point. I knew the second he entered the Ukraine but I had no idea that the setting was in Nigeria. So that's why I confused on that notion.

But I have to say the way he described the market place was very realistic. One of my political science teachers is from Africa, I think Nigeria (lol, you never know what I know, do ya?) and he described it exactly the same way. And when he described Ukraine, it definitely rang true to me. So all he needs to fix is make it apparent from the start that we are in Nigeria and what city and everything. Once the character leaves it, I know we are in Ukraine, so that part of the setting is fine. Just need some clarification on some other things.

Plot:

***THIS MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS! JUST READ THE FIRST PARAGRAPH AND SKIP TO THE NEXT SECTION!***

Most confusing part of all. I did not get the ending. Like you know when there's a major fight scene? It was like that, but I had no idea who was good and who was bad or even who I should cheer for. Like I knew Andrew was the main good character, but other then that . . . *shrugs* I couldn't decipher what the heck was going on. Especially since he exposes one the supposedly good characters as a bad character then all of the sudden he's good again? :S

Let's back track. I understood most of it, until Andrew flew over the Ukraine. I think the plot arch (if anyone doesn't know the classic plot chart, then this would be the time to drag it out on the Internet and view it with me. Yes, I will wait. Seriously. It's that important. I'm an up and coming English teacher, what do you expect?) was a bit difficult to decipher.

I got the exposition, the rising action, the falling action and the resolution. But the climax? Eh. I didn't feel any sort of tension. There was a GASP moment, but I didn't gasp. Why? It just didn't feel like it was believable. Then most of the work on the falling action was already done for them, which is a big suspense killer. Then I already explained the ending. It was just confusing.

I'm just hoping that the book I just read is going to improve leaps and bounds, because it can only get better from here. I liked some of the building tension that he's kinda thrown into a world he knows nothing about but there was something getting in his way: The extra story stuff.

What the heck do I mean by that? Um, like when he landed in the Ukraine there was a lot of hints that this wasn't an ordinary school. So he did a lot of back story. To the point where I thought it would be important. It wasn't. All of the cute interactions between the characters and their stories didn't really progress any further then that: Stories that just added to the big bomb of foreshadowing that pretty much led to nowhere.

I mean, yeah I totally get the whole: HEY he's in a weird school part, but I say drop two hints about it, be really light handed about it, then move forward. There's no need to drop, I think it was, like five hints. I got it the first two times. Then of the course the incident with his cousin should be highlighted (since I'm thinking that's the climax), but other then that, cut it. It just distracts the reader from the main core of the story. Seriously. I thought it was important so I stored it into my memory which clouded the whole climax moment.

Another thing. It seemed to me that there was too much going on. First it was about him and the septavalent stone. Which made sense since the stone came in handy. But it was only that one time, from my understanding. So why name the book The Septavalent Stone when it came in handy once?

Then it seemed like the whole conflict was over the professors at school and their lineage. Yeah, I was definitely confused too. I was like: What the heck? This is a fantasy book. FANTASY. If I wanted to get some teacher drama, I could wait for that when I student teach next year. So I don't know where he was going with that, but it seemed to stem from that yet it had something to do with the stone . . . ?

Okay, let me back track. I know the bad guy used the stone to get some sort of magical edge over the elders. Okay. But then it's like how did he get the stone if Andrew had it? How did the souls of seven elders get caught up in the stone? Doesn't this seem a little Harry Potter-esque and did that come into play when you thought of the plot?

Actually, now that I thought of it, some things reminded me of Harry Potter. I mean, he goes to a school of magic portions (HELLO) even though it's not a high school, it still reminds me of it. Harry Potter had no idea of his powers. Andrew didn't either. The whole Lord Voldemort (sorry Harry Potter fans for slaughtering the name if I spelled it wrong. It's been like almost a half a decade since I read the books. And I didn't read the last book. Don't look at me like that!) thing trying to get the pieces of his lost soul back then elders giving their magical souls or parts into one stone? Yeah, definitely some Harry Potter themes there. The same sort of teacher drama, since Snape couldn't get the job that he wanted, Dumbledore got kicked out then killed (as far as I know), Malfoy's father was . . . I could really go on and on with the comparisons and the drama but I won't.

Point is people do your research: If you're going to write in genre, then read the most popular books in that drama and steer clear of comparisons.
I know there are ALOT of Twilight rewrites out there. And some people may love that. I hate it. Nobody can replace Twilight and I know twilight fans agree. The movie fans and the true Twilight fans alike. We can at least agree on that.

What was my main point again!? *snaps her fingers trying to remember then bingo!* Yeah, the plot was confusing, not enough tension and needs some clarification on what's the climax in the story. I think I know, but it needs some tightening up.


Dialogue:

I wish I could say yeah this guy wrote great dialogue. Something positive to take away from this. And fortunately I can say that most of the dialogue was believable. until it came to conflict. That's what everything went up shit creek.

Literally.

When the climax came, the surprise twist and the slapping of the knee oh no! part the dialogue between the two characters (one trying to influence him to do something while the other person is like hell naw) was not convincing. Not one little bit. When his father and mother speak, it didn't sound convincing. When Uncle Jeffrey and Ama speak, it didn't sound convincing. It just sounded stifle and fake.

And it's strange since the characters he has created and their voices sound natural. Like breathing. But when something isn't right, it really hits the fan and flares up as fake. Like my bullshit meter goes off. It beeps, then starts to really starts to beep. You know the sound. I'm not even going to post it up here. It's like a gay-o-meter, except louder and beeps the word bullshit. Same thing. So anyway, laughing and kidding all aside, I just wish that he could have worked on the conflict and tension parts a little bit more. But there is something else I would like to bring up.

Conrad and Felix. Yes, I remember their names. For some odd reason, I think I got them right. J.O. Jones, please correct me if I'm wrong. The way he presents them leaves no room for debate. They are late, rude and have bad motivations.

*reference to iCarly*

They're bad people.

*end of scene of iCarly*

And that's not how real life works. People aren't just "bad". There are reason unless they are insane which I doubt that's the case with Felix and Conrad. If you want to present characters that are not favorable, don't make it SUPER obvious. I had to learn it the hard way. I did the exactly the same thing with Phillip in Angel Diaries. I made him the ultimate bad guy and people were like, "Where's the tension? Where's the conflict? Why can we not judge this man for ourselves?" And they were absolutely right. We have to let the audience determine his goodness or badness.

Now how in the world do we do that? We humanize them.

Instead of standing on a soap box and preaching about how bad these characters are (much like history textbooks portray slavery and not actually blame Europeans for the whole mess. Hey, wait, that's for the next book review. Lol, anyway, moving onwards!) we need to just present their actions and let the audience decide if it's rude to stand in a meeting and say that they have a life and if this meeting is coming to a close.

I think most of us would be a little annoyed and we would be like, "Eh, Felix is not a good guy huh? Or maybe he has a legit excuse for asking that question." Let us decide who the monsters and bad guys are. And besides, it's kinda fun. It's kinda like Spike or the Phantom of the Opera.

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And yes, I know people will argue with me that THEY ARE bad people. But really, how do you know that? How did the person who wrote the screenplay/book/comic portray that? Through their actions. The only way we will ever be able to debate the topic if Phantom of the Opera and Christine would ever be together (and don't look at me that way! She belongs with him! Even though that's debate-able, I still think it's true. There's even a rumor that the author made them be together in the original book until his editor told him not to. Ah hah! Now you're thinking I'm not as crazy or that it's a simple rumor. Either way, I got you thinking about the possibility! So ha!) or if Spike is just a tool (because let's face it, um, Spike almost raped Buffy)  is because the authors allowed us to make the judgement calls.

Yes, I know it's a bit scary to let go of the reins. I think all of writers can attest to that, but instead of overdoing it with screaming HE'S BAAAAD we can just be like, there are his actions. You figure it out. It's allowing the readers to think, feel and explicate (and yes I like that college word, explicate. So yeah, there it is! Bam!) characters and be able to see them as human. Just like us. It breeches the gap from monster to human. And it's a heck of a lot easier for us to just put it out there and not have to explain it to the reader, like they are five year olds, what's going on.

This is what some people call: Show versus tell. I already hear the groans from fellow writers. I'm not going to continue down this path, but know that telling us that a character is bad and showing us that a character is bad are two different things. Anybody Joe Schmoe can write John is sad, it takes a real artist (and yes, writers are artists) to show us how John is sad.

Theme:

I think there were two different themes going on here. There were parts in the book where it became a little preachy, like "HEY YOU SHOULDN'T BE RUDE TO PEOPLE" or "HEY YOU SHOULDN'T FORCE PEOPLE TO DO WHAT THEY DON'T WANT TO" or even, I think he screamed this too, "HEY YOU SHOULDN'T BE GREEDY! POWER CONSUMES!"

But I really couldn't pick up a certain theme here. Like I think if I knew where he was going, I would be like

*Despicable Me reference*

Light bulb.

*end of reference*

But there wasn't a real lightbulb illuminating part except for finding out the setting. A zillion light bulbs burst on. It was like Christmas in my head, lol. Anyway, main point: I didn't know what the main point was. I got confused. But there is some good positive news in all of this:

GOOD NEWS:

This is all easily fixable. Okay, not so easy, but it is fixable. You would just have to love editing, like I do, to do it. Fortunately for J.O. Jacobs, he's not publishing this sucker until August.

*cue the heavenly angels*

THANK GOD!

*end heaven song short*

So he has a little bit of time, hopefully, to fix this. I would put off publishing it until next year. Why? Because there is a lot of stuff that needs to be fixed. I know that sounds like ah man, dang it, I was so close but you know what? As a writer, I would rather wait then put out my first book which has a lot of issues with it. If you're going to self-publish you have to make sure it is clean as a whistle.

Other fellow writers can attest from the peanut gallery.

There's this stigma that self-publishers write crap and that Amanda Hocking was the exception and not the rule. Well, it's time to put these naysayers to rest. I want this book to be spotless which is why J.O. Jones is getting a full book critique for free.

Now, don't think I'm going to be doing this all the time. Because trust me, this whole critique/review took A LOT out of me. And the timing was perfect. I didn't even start school yet, so it left me time. Now that I'm in school, working and dealing with personal life stuff I don't know where I would find the time to do this again. But luckily he gets one.

So please other self-publishers stop lining up at my door for a free book critique. That will NOT happen. Okay? If I'm going to edit your book, then dang it I want a fee. I'm broke, poor education student with loans up the ying yang, so no. Stop lining up and go back.

Now, I do look forward to doing other indie book reviews. You guys can reline if that's what you are after. In fact, I already had one person ask me for one. So, you can shoot me an email about requests for book reviews all day long. And I will do it for free. And maybe if you are extremely lucky (and if you are I suggest buying a lottery ticket) then I might do a whole book critique.

That being said, I've got to go to work and send this email to this fabulous author who will get some pointers.

If you guys have any questions and want to visit his website then please click here: http://theseven-piecestone.blogspot.com/

And what did you think about the references? *wiggles eyebrows like Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura* Ha! Another reference. Boom goes the dynamite! (OMG! That's ANOTHER reference! Almost didn't catch that reference! Tee hee! Another reference! That one is from Sunny With a Chance. Lol, I'm good.) Gosh, I wish I could post forever but I can't! So much to do, and such little time.

On a side note though: I'll probably stop doing so many book reviews and switch it up. Who is tired of book reviews!?

*raises hand up nice and high*

So am I!!!! Ugh! So hopefully the next thing I post about will be something completely different. Maybe some more tips and tricks, part II. Hmm. *writes down ideas on a notepad and strikes thinker pose*

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6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I asked for a review didn't I lol. i have nothing else to say but to go back to my writing board and see what happens, thanks.

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  3. And just to show you how true Larissa's review is, here's the first chapter link, http://theseven-piecestone.blogspot.com/p/chapter-1.html.. it has been up there for a while, will be taking it down anytime now for a major rewrite

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  4. Hey J.O. Jones! You sure did, lol. At least now you can only improve and get better. Can't wait to see the final product.

    Thanks for commenting and allowing me to review and critique your book.

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  5. Wow, so much I could say. Great book review. I can tell you're a teacher (I'm guessing working towards English/Language Arts? That's what I do, as well). I skimmed around your blog and could say many more things. Like how Sherman Alexie does a pretty good job of showing us true Native Americans (I think it helps to be one :) And that one of my goals as a teacher is to get students to relate on a personal level to stories that may have been written 400 years ago (in the case of Shakespeare). Or that I relate to your desire to just get your book out there via self-publishing and see if anyone bites. And the fact that your blog entries could compete with mine length-wise :) Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye on your blog and would hope you would check out my relatively new one, as well (www.pauldail.com).

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  6. Thanks for commenting and visiting my blog, Paul! :)

    Wow, so much to say in such a little bit of time. Thanks for all the comlpiments. At first I was a bit sad to give such an awesome author such a rip it shreds review but I couldn't lie. I had to tell the truth. So I'm glad that you appreciated the review.

    There's something funny about this whole historical romance fiction section in the bookstores yet not really acknowledging their culture. And it's kinda sad that people eat this section up but the thought of actual Native Americans writing their own stories instead of European Americans writing their stories seem to be weird unless it's Sherman Alexie. And I'm sure there are other people out there who are Native American and write Native American stories, but it's not nearly as popular or even in the spotlight as much as the romance authors. How screwed up is that?

    Oh yeah, I'm defintely an English major. I'm down to one class to get my bachelors degree! *high jump with a round kick* Then I go back to Hampton and get my masters degree in education. Then I go wherever I want and get my dream apartment. Of course, I still teach students stuff. So yeah that is the plan. It's also my plan to get students to just read and understand that what they are going through has been done before. These old texts are not unrelatable. But that reading for pleasure and for understanding is okay. That not all English classes have to be boring that they can be fun and entertaining. It can bring old texts back to life and still be debateable and relatable.

    Lol, you did a lot of browsing huh? Yeah, I wanna self-publish. I'm defintely tired of being reamed by the traditional publishing industry. I really am. So I'm going to give e-publishing a shot. And if I'm going to do it then I'm going to do it right and post my results. Hopefully everything will turn out all right. We'll see.

    Gosh, we just love to post nice long posts, lol. Glad to be constantly watched. Wait, that didn't come out right. You can tell I'm tired, right? Anyway, thanks for stopping by and keeping tabs on me. I just saved your website to my favs. So I'll be peeking in from time to time. Good luck with your endeavors!

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