July 24, 2013

Culture Shock by Jeanette Pekala

CULTURE SHOCK is a witty tale of mystery and romance with a large helping of southern hospitality.

Macy Holmes is a seventeen-year-old socially-isolated introvert since her best friend's death a year ago. When her family decides to move from Manhattan to the quaint country town of Bougainvillea, Florida, Macy finds she's in a completely different world. Macy is no longer the outsider hiding behind designer clothes when she is sought out by three strange students, one of whom she is particularly interested in. The more time she spends with Chad the more things don't add up. When his true identity is finally revealed, Macy is pulled into a supernatural society with its saturation of inhabitants residing in Bougainvillea. 

You would think she has enough on her plate, but no, then her dreams become infiltrated by an external magical force, Macy and her band of supernatural misfits must find the culprit behind the magic-induced nightmares. They must dodge zombie assassins, shifty shape-shifters and high school bullies in order to stop this perpetrator before Macy, her friends or her parents pay the ultimate price. Especially when Macy has the sneaking suspicion that these dreams are reality...

My Thoughts:

Well, this is without a doubt an interesting book. It has a very lovable main character (Macy), an incredible setting, and the southern drawl has me feeling like I'm home.

However, there are quite a few problems for this southern paranormal romance book.

For one, the book was far too long. 676 pages for any book other than a textbook is just too long for my taste. Especially for a paranormal romance. I would highly suggest to the author to cut it up into three complete novels. (Even Twilight was 450 pages for the first book!)

Especially since the villain was so obvious from the beginning.

Of course, what ultimately killed the novel was the exposition dumps and description dumps. There was literally a point where I skipped ten pages of description to get to the dialogue between the characters.

It was simply too much.

In fact, I think if the editor would have insisted on her cutting it, the book would have been 400 pages of solid work. And if the author was in a good slicing mood, 250 pages.

Anyway, let's dissect this book even further.

Characters: I have to say, I liked all of the characters. Macy can get annoying, but overall, I like her personality. She's a NYC gal dropped into the southern part of the US. 

Chad and Max were okay to me. I didn't really jive with either one of them. I liked Max better than Chad because of his charming personality and he's such a sweetie pie.

The problem I had with Chad was that he reminded me of the whole Edward Cullen struggle. He's trying to be the "vegetarian" type vampire and not be involved with humans. So he doesn't want to be with Macy. He tells her this point blank. But, of course, he can't help himself but to get jealous and to try to stop her from dating other boys.

Does this sound familiar? All I ask is for originality in the vampire-human romance stuff. I know it's a tall order, but please something different. Couldn't we start with Chad trying to kill her, straight up taking her as a victim, but something about her makes him stop to reconsider not killing her as a monster? Maybe something about her reminds him about his childhood sweetheart . . . Or something.

You know what I mean! Originality, please!

Additionally, I'm so tired of wishy-washy guys. 

Like pick what you want (either date Macy and screw the consequences, or firmly decide that you are not dating Macy ever) then stick with it! I know it's part of the struggle of his attraction to her, but it still irks. And it's not like it was a gradual, I don't know if I should let her go sort of thing, it was more one day he's jealous, the next day he's all over her like white on rice. Plot is something I'll get to in a minute, but I wish the author took more time to sort this whole thing out.

One more issue with Chad: His vamp teeth. Really? Needle thin teeth to dig into his victim? Not only is that a weird choice, it just seems like Chad is a wimpy vampire. I'm use to seeing vampires really go into their victims neck with all of this blood oozing from the side.

And they didn't do that with some needle-thin teeth. They did that with strong canine teeth. 

Anyway, I absolutely adored Emma. I even love that name. I'm actually going to name my daughter Emily, or some other variation (and no, I won't tell you, because I don't want YOU stealing it! :D). Which is why none of my characters will have that name.

Another concern was that Macy claimed that she never dated before. At 17. But she could get a friend? But she could be social? I get it, she's somehow (with a bubbly personality) an introvert but even introverts have close friends that they have crushes on. Or at least dream crushes that they pursue. And besides, she's gorgeous! How can someone NOT ask her out? OR hit on her?!

I'm sorry. I'm calling bullcrap on that one.

Dialogue: Overall, I have to commend the author on a job well done on depicting the southern drawl almost perfectly. However, I did notice one combination that didn't sit well with me. One character said, "Y'all 'ill."
As in you all will. I've never heard of that combination. Maybe it's just me, but I haven't heard of it.

Another thing that bugged me so much was the romance between Chad and Macy. Like the language was just so corny. The one liners reminded me so much of Twilight and Shiver it wasn't even funny. I couldn't even laugh at the corny lines (unlike Shiver, I had to laugh, they were just terribly corny). I just skipped right over them and sighed. 

I wish she would have been more creative with the love lines. That's all I ask for. 

Plot: Point blank: It needs a ton of work. For example, the big reveal of the supes and it's like the author decided randomly, "I'm going to put the big reveal (closes her eyes and selects a spot) here!"

Like no. I'm not buying it.

There needs to be a slow progression of what makes these characters so different than everybody else. Sure she managed to show on the outside that they look different. And I will fully admit, meeting them and her description of the characters did make me think that something was different. 

But then she stopped right there and got into a different plot avenue.

No reveal of any superpowers? No really weird strength or quickness?

Sure, she jammed it right at the end for Chad and Max, but nothing for Emma. I had no idea what she was other than British. That's the only clue I have to go on?

Not cool.

This is where the author could have seized the opportunity to build on the tension of not knowing who they are and questioning if they could really be friends of Macy. 

But nope. 

Additionally, the plot was rushed in some places (like the whole ending) then it was slowed down by description. It was just a hot mess.

Setting: I liked getting to know Florida through a northerners eyes. It was a refreshing take on Southern culture. I liked how she noticed all the landmarks and how far city life is from the country. 

All of the quirks of southern living were included and I have to applaud her for getting that distinctly right. As a matter of fact, you can tell this author is well versed with southern life so I'm glad somebody is doing their research.

Word Usage: I have to be nit picky on this. It was driving me bananas. 

The word coven does NOT refer to a vampire club or group!! 

I don't know why the author used a word that distinctly, even when it was first used, associated with a group of witches but it just irked the crap out of me. 

I can somewhat understand, as an author, expanding the definition of a word. But this still irks me. I think the English teacher side of me just hates that a word is being used incorrectly.

That's like using the word Wicca for vampire. It just hits a direct nerve.

Anyway, I had to point it out for that simple reason. It may not irk everyone, but it certainly irked me. It irked me so bad I had to look it up. But if I'm wrong, please feel free to correct me with the link and educate me. I would love to be informed of this new word usage.

Ending: Did I love it?

Hmm, still chewing on it.

To me, she wrote the ending well. It was well paced. I just skipped half of it because I was tired of reading it. I just wasn't invested and connected enough to the characters to care. I knew what was going to happen anyway.

Sorry but I have to be honest. 

I did read the last few paragraphs and caught the little twist at the end. Still chewing on it if I believe it or not. If that could seriously happen. It smells like Amy Plum sorta deal and I'll leave it at that.

Don't want to ruin the ending for you. :)

Overall: Would I recommend this book to persnickety people like me?

Absolutely not! Read something you can't dissect through editing eyes! 

This book is just not the type of people who are very particular about plot development and length of books. The characters I could stand. The plot, the description dumps, and the telling not showing killed the writer and English teacher in me.

However, it may be for you. I see there are a tons of good reviews for this book (surprised the snot out of me), but they state their reasons for loving it and I can't blame them. I do like the characters a lot. 

So overall, I would recommend this book to fans of Shiver. And maybe Twilight. To people who maybe want more description instead of action. Who want predicable villains. 

Anyone who is as picky as me, shouldn't read it. Read Dearly, Departed instead (if you're a zombie lover, like yours trully). You will thank me later. :)

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