Here, There be a Writer

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Awoken - A Cthulhu Love Story

This is truly a first!!! I don't normally read for a whole day! And I especially don't read "Teenage Paranormal Romance". In fact, I normally detest this genre as a whole. It seems filled with silly, empty-headed characters and poorly-written dialogue. (The most famous of these is the "Twilight" Series, by the Princess of Vapid Characters herself, Stephenie Meyers. Granted, those thoughts are based on the movie representations of her characters, not the book ones.) My distaste for this genre knew no bounds, but I admit to have scarcely read a word of these books for a long time. I know it's not really fair to judge when I haven't read them, but I couldn't be far from the truth, could I? What little I had encountered with this genre made me wretch with literary disgust.

H.G. Wells
Edgar Allen Poe
Agatha Christie

Anne McCaffrey

What can I say about "Teenage Paranormal Romance"? That it's glorified fan fiction, something of which I am far more familiar with. I have stayed away from this genre, because it doesn't do anything for me. I prefer something with a bit more substance, such as the likes of Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Anne McCaffrey, H.G. Wells, or Douglas Adams. I am an avid reader of most everything, but I do fall into certain genres a bit more than others. I was an English major in college, and have thus read many of those works by Chaucer, Poe, Homer, Arthur Conan Doyle, L. Frank Baum, and a good many others, in a wide variety of courses during my time at SUNY Fredonia, as well as on my own. Even after college, I couldn't stop. I love a good story.  Every time I went in a book store (especially a used book store), I would come out with bags of books (almost as bad as my husband is with VHS tapes of public domain cartoons nowadays). In recent years, I have gotten into Garth Nix, Philip Pullman, James Owen, JK Rowling, and Cornelia Funke. My primary genre has always been Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but I love a good mystery/suspense thriller, and anything that's a classic (Of Mice and Men for example).

Cover Art
But what happened when I received an advance copy of Awoken by Serra Elinsen, a relative newbie to the writing world? It's odd how she appeared out of nowhere, but I guess that being a full-time stay-at-home mom doesn't give you the chance to get out much. She has a blog, and I guess with her free time opened up (having her home-schooled chitlins attending public school now), she needed to find something to do with her time. I really applaud her for starting a blog, as I am still new to this concept (at least, that;s how it feels to me), though the year mark is coming up fast (how the time does fly). I can only imagine how Mrs. Elinsen feels having her book, her FIRST book, Awoken, published (in Kindle format).

When the actual book copy (the special "first edition") arrived, I didn't really think much of it. I mean, a love story involving Cthulhu, in the style of Twilight? I scoffed! I have many friends who swear by Twilight (we are not talking movies either, a different format entirely and for a different time). But really, me, read a schmaltzy romance novel aimed at the teenage set? I hardly think....

It then struck me that I was missing a critical opportunity here. In the realm of the internet, with the countless blogs out there to compete, I needed an angle. I could read this thing and rip it to shreds as others have done, but would that be enough? I think so!

I have tried reviews before, such as when I read the book Eragon and then watched the movie. I ripped that one to shreds. That was quite the eye-opening experience. I have a greater respect for the storyteller, and as I am a struggling writer myself, I thought, why not. I hadn't really done a full book review yet. Why not reach outside my comfort zone, and tackle something that I was not familiar with, but use my skills as a reader and writer of story to really get the meat of the book? And besides, it is about Cthulhu, the Destroyer of Worlds!

So, what does "Awoken" bring to the table? Well, surprisingly more than I'd previously thought. It is probably not--no, it IS NOT--the best thing I have ever read (e.g. Anne McCaffrey or James Owen), but it's not "The Old Man and The Sea" by Hemingway either (I hated that book in high school; Still do). But, I didn't really detest it, either. Did "Awoken" awaken something in me? (Sorry, that was really uncalled for. Bad writer! This is a No-Pun Zone ~slaps own hands~.)

When I started reading at 9 o'clock this morning, I was convinced that I was reading something that a high school freshman was writing in her dairy, with all of these overly zealous descriptions of her hygienic habits, how dumb her house looked, and how horrible her life was. Often in the lengthy and rather dull descriptions of her life, there would be a rather amazingly awesome vocabulary word tacked into the middle of the paragraph. Oh, the usage was right, but it hardly fit the feel of the chapter or the paragraph. One would think that someone was using a spelling list to bolster their writing. Not that I am slamming Mrs. Elinsen for trying to increase her vocabulary; She clearly knows how to use words in proper context. However, the use of "frenetic" and "vertegris" felt awkward.


Art by Zahno91
Now, I am going to say something here: I really like a better part of the middle of "Awoken". There is some really beautiful imagery here, especially when Mrs, Elinsen has Andromeda Slate meet Riley face to face, and when Riley brings her back to his place. I found myself sucked in. I am less familiar with the Legend of Cthulhu than most. What I do know is that he is a God who looks a lot like Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie...and that there is an adorable Squishable Cthulhu. (please click here to see super cute Cthulhu)

It's not without it flaws, though. The overly EMO character of Andromeda Slate gets really irksome and often repetitive. But to give Mrs. Elinsen credit, I saw some decent-to-nice character development within Andi, but also Bree, Vik, and even Riley. There is talent there. I guess when you write for teenagers, that's what you get. I could stand without a plot that drops out in the middle, not just having Andi and Riley rush to NYC to retrieve a book, only to have 6 or 7 chapters of mildly entertaining, but kind of boring vapid romance goings on, then have the big build-up battle between Epistola and Riley and the awaking of Azathoth.

Though the romance between Riley/Cthulhu and Andromeda was unique, it did boarder on schmaltzy and overly saccharine at times. Still, I honestly was rooting for them by the end. Not many girls would choose to look at the great face of Cthulhu out of Love and survive the ordeal. It was kind of sweet!

Would I read it again? Probably (after all, I do have a copy of the book). Do I recommend it to others? Maybe. To those who loved the Twilight series, I definitely would; and  for the others I would say...sure, why not. It's fun, and sweet. Mrs. Elinsen left room for a possible sequel, which I'm certain would draw folks in. Is it the best out there? Not really, but then again, it's not the worst, either. It's a cute story. It did hold my attention through most of the story and I did enjoy the much of the characters' interplay.  I applaud Mrs. Elinsen for completing her first novel and wish it success (as I hope to someday experience). If you want to get to know more of Serra Elinsen check out her blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages:

Serra Elinsen Blog
Serra Elinsen  Twitter
Serra Elinsen  Facebook

Oh, and when I poked around on amazon I discovered that Awoken is #2 in  "Teen & Young Adult Paranormal & Urban Fantasy eBooks" for Kindle downloads. Pretty darn good for a first go! Congrats,  Serra!

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