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Review #4199254
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Hello Airy Gracegiven , my name is Just an Ornery Jyo! and I am responding to your request for a review.

This review is made as a gesture of friendship and community, please accept it as such.


*Flower5* The Title: I love puns in titles, this one is several layers of appreciation: twisting a well known aphorism, using a pun, creating an expectation of plot or story line. *ThumbsUpR*

*Flower5* The Beginning: Now, in a novel 'the beginning' can be as long as a chapter, or the prlogue. In a shorter piece, it might be the first para or the first sentence, and in a 55 word 'quickie' it might be even one word! But, whatever length it is, it must be both impeccable in construction and it must create an impact, a punch that leaves the reader gasping, as if from the dive into a refreshing cold lake in summer, delighted to continue splashing around. Don't make the person peer uncertain and shivering, dipping a timid toe into murky waters, wondering if it might be better to wait for the sun to come out again.

See, your first sentence here:
"America is full of tight-knit communities just off of a highway"

The use of 'off of' might be grammatically correct, but the words trip off the tongue in awkward confusion, is just 'off a highway' wrong?

Other than grammar, what does this sentence do, what information does it impart. It does tell me that it's about such a place, a tight knit community just off the highway. But it tells me that, it does not show it to me. The rest of the that para, and indeed the a couple more, describes the setting, the town where the story unrolls. But nothing stands out vivid and strong, nothing that says, 'I'm out of the ordinary, find out more'!

Suppose it was this way instead:

Sleepy hamlet, small settlement, forgotten town, call it what you will - there are many of these places - people live and work, and generations pass, the highway roars away, with barely a glance, at the people and houses that huddle under Red Rock Ridge. Just another one-lane exit that flickers in the blur of tall trees, a dusty meandering road that curves back on itself, apparent mainly to its residents and few visitors.

Use your own words, your own metaphors or similes, your own adjectives, your concept of this town to draw us within the write. Make us want to visit.

Else where in the write you describe the confusion at the manor with a lot of people doing different activities, more telling in short bursts of sentences at times. Yes, this is a good device when the action is explosive, thrilling, where one wants to slow it down to increase impact. I am not quite so sure it worked here.

Take this bit: "Across town chaos rained down upon the manor. Decorating was in full swing. People were everywhere. Some were setting up tables and chairs. Others were hanging thousands of lights in every conceivable corner of the garden."

I'd prefer the term 'reigned at the manor' rather than 'rained down upon the manor'. But what kind of decorating, what kind of lights? I'm getting picture of exaggeration - 'thousands of lights in every corner'? Really?

How about: At the manor, chaos bustled and hurtled itself across once immaculate lawns. High stacks of elegant chairs staggered themselves into orderly rows and discreet groups, their pale peach covers had demure rose gauze bows at the back. More peach, rose and violet was looped, draped and knotted, starred with little crystal baubles, over walls and door frames, even through the banisters. Fairly lights were tucked into every nook and cranny, just waiting for twilight, ready to twinkle in competition with the stars above.

You will of course use your own words, this is just to show that a bit of punched-up description can 'show' the scene in a way that will make the reader want to attend that party! Reader engagement is the name of the game. Choose your images well though - "an ice sculpture of a roaring campfire." - are you sure that is the best choice for an ice sculpture? The leaping flames are going to melt pretty fast and it will whimper rather than roar at that point. I get the allusion to the cauldron here, but I'm still a bit skeptical. Why not ask someone who actually sculpts ice what they think would be a good symbol and a lasting sculpture. Of course if you have already done that, I have mud on my face from an epic 'Fail'!*Laugh*


*Flower5* The Setting: Cauldrona, the name shouts 'witches' to me. If the witches are in hiding, or at least not wanting to advertise their presence, I'd suggest a more discreet name. One doesn't get told why that particular name either. Is there a rock formation nearby that led the normal people to name it thus, or was a suggestion implanted in their heads?

Lots of houses, the shop, the town, there's a lot of opportunity to add depth to the tale. Please make use of it. I'd love to visit Cauldrona and the various witch lairs!


*Flower5* The Characters: There are a lot of characters in there, with unusual names, that's par for the course in fantasy. But I saw four generations and one ancestor, one 'familiar', some animated and talking objects, all packed in there, making the various relationships very confusing.

I found it difficult to unravel who was married to whom, who were the various levels of parents and kids. Also for a family of witches, they are particularly inept, forgetting spells, simple ones, like the seeking spell. And forgetting to refuel their version of broom was bad enough, but keeping stock at home and having to run to Walmart for it is just plain inexcusable.

Could you slow down the action, introduce the characters by their interactions - ones that explain the intricate relationships? And let's have a little less clowning around when there has been a kidnap of a close family member!

I needed description, some fleshing out of the characters, some creation of a bond with them. Right now I am not liking any of them very much. Even the protagonist is rude, casual, selfish, reckless, secretive ... her only redeeming feature is her youth. I think I am from too many generations back to like today's teenagers, but let's have some likable feature, okay? For all her professed fondness for dogs, especially Rip, she doesn't interact with the dog at all. She's rather mean to her mother. Doesn't interact with her kid brother. (Thinking back on my own kids, who bonded and 'had' each others' backs, who teamed up against the world but constantly jostled for dominance when alone ... well, it just seemed strange to me. And my sibs and I were the same, as were my mom and her six brothers!)


*Flower5* The Descriptions: There are some bits that are laudable. I did not get the allusion immediately in the quoted example below, but when I did I found the reference to an 'ambitious climber' worthy of an appreciative snort. But, is that what you want at that point, for the reader to pause, to ponder, and appreciate a witty allusion that punctuates the ongoing description?

"It's a small white cottage partially hidden by ambitious vines of ivy" I did like the sound of it, but maybe you could use that bit of transferred epithet elsewhere?


*Flower5* The Story as a Whole: The plot revolves around a magically empowered family and keeping the 'witchiness' a secret until the child turns thirteen. Okay, I get that the powers are not transferred until then, but why keep the potential a secret? Why not start sharing some things about the uniqueness earlier? A 13 year old may keep secrets better than a five year old certainly but will require lots of training to deal with her powers responsibly. Keep the superpowers a secret but why not let children know about plants and herbs, about bonding with people or pets, about respecting another's beliefs and practices, learning the concerned language, etc etc? Why do it in this kind of - "Surprise! Honey, you are weird and different and we want you to celebrate it!" Yes, it probably turns out fine, but it might be a disaster, in fact, it is more likely too.

*Flower5* What I liked: It's fantasy. *CheckP* There's magic and wizardry in there. *CheckP*. It's a coming of age story. *CheckP* It's going to have some wonderful positive-negative, human-superhuman, family-outsider conflict. *CheckP* Would I want to read more? I sure would! My detailed comments are because this shiny piece can become a piece of burnished gold, radiant and warming! It's not meant as negative feedback.

*Flower5* Suggestions: Remember these are made, not from any lofty pinnacle of ability or erudition, but more as a hiccup seen in the smooth enjoyment of a concerned reader -:
This is a long piece, if there are more examples of what I wish to highlight, I will, nevertheless, only give that one example quoted here. Please do your own edit do deal with any others.


*NoteO* Tense jump: "Silently she stands in the doorway just watching her baby sleep. As she stood there she was filled with a mix of love, tenderness, pride, and fear." She stands. She stood. Present tense, past tense. Can you sense the confusion that would occur in the mind of the alert reader? It can be a device, to create impact in fantasy, sci-fi, emotional drama, tragedy ... but other than actual intent to create the rift in reality it winds up as distraction. Commas are also required.


*NoteO* Word confusion: "Jacqueline Emilia Terne, you’re late" Jackie cringed at the the reproachment in her grandmother's voice. Reproach works perfectly well, the other word seems a confusion (reproachment-rapprochment, with the latter meaning a resumption of harmonious relations) to me, but even if it does exist and mean precisely the same as 'reproach', simpler is better.

Also: {c:red:}"She said to herself over and over as she dis-shelved the rooms"
I know I said I'd give only one example of each, but this one is not so clear. Did you make up the word to create impact? 'De-shelved' might be the better choice then. Or was it a reference to 'disheveled'? Whatever the intention, and however creative it may be, it creates room for a 'pause and reflect', not desirable, except at chapter endings.


*NoteO* Typo, and/or careless edit: "Yes the coordinator got her about thirty minutes ago..." I presume this needs to be 'got here'?


*NoteO* Phrase Jumble: "...but she just couldn't get the sight of her aunt kneeling on the floor in the office out of her head" She had an office in her head, and she she couldn't get the sight of her aunt kneeling in it? I know very well what you mean, but it is not the clearest way to put it. The stop and start then made me question - why would her aunt kneeling on the floor be such a puzzler? Surely there were other things more perplexing?

I'd suggest something like: She couldn't get it out of her head, the picture of her aunt kneeling on the floor, chanting in a strange tongue, and shooting pillars of flame into the air. For surely kneeling in the office, by itself, is innocuous, it would not generate much wonder or lack of comprehension.


*NoteO* Singular/Plural mismatch: "... she was already headed to get the door key from under the ancient cash register. Hailey eagerly snatched them from her and practically ran to the door." 'The key' matches with 'snatched it', 'the keys' would match 'snatched them'.


*NoteO* Construction confusion: "her shoulders drooping and sullen faced" It almost seems as if her shoulders were sullen faced. Sullen faced, with drooping shoulders ... does that seem a better construction? Or go for descriptive - 'her shoulders drooped, and there was just enough sullen in her face to predict impending 'heavy thunderclouds' forthcoming'.


*NoteO* Idiom/allusion confusion: "Annie patted her niece on the shoulder(*NoteV*) turned her back around and said, "Lets just wait to see if we hit a bridge before we start lighting matches." Is this a reference to 'burning your bridges behind you'? Ummm, the problem here is 'what if I don't find anything in here that I like'? So rather than burn a bridge, we need to cross it or build it. "Sweetie let's see if there's a chasm before we worry about how to cross it.'

Also, a comma might be useful in there - try one at the marked point(*NoteV*) You do need to check comma placement right through. Hire or wheedle someone strong with grammar and punctuation into taking a look at this.


*NoteO* Dialogue Tag Usage: "OK" Hailey said with a pout." The world is divided - opinions not only vary, there's vehemence equivalent to religious preference on either side. Some say, 'he said' and 'she said' are perfectly acceptable and the embellishments advocated by the other side are a distraction. Others say that kind of usage is boring, and to just use speech quotes and separate lines for dialogue - adding in names in the dialogue, or a sentence or two of setting, to distinguish speakers in a multi-cornered conversation. Still more say that it is an opportunity for description, for making it 'showing'. But, what ever you do, stick to one right through. Either - 'Hailey said' or 'Hailey pouted', not both.

*NoteO* Typo plus other things: Yep, breaking my own rules, but this seemed to call out to me - it needs several thing pointed out. "Before long both girls were rolling on the floor laughing til they had tears pouring from their eyes" One is an aunt, how old, how young is she? Young enough to be called a girl? ROFL? Over-reaction, and a cliche, just to a teen's excited response to 'do it gain' - find a placement for an object? And it should be either 'til, an contraction of 'until', or 'till'.

*NoteO* Unnecessary apostrophe and missing commas. "Alright guy's*NoteV* I'm outta here*NoteV* I'll be back as soon as I possibly can." Here the apostrophe indicates possession, but of what? Just 'guys', a collective pronoun, is sufficient. Commas at the indicated places are required, the first phrase is an exclamatory farewell, the second is describes one action, the third the ending, or conclusion of that action. Separation of the three concepts is mandatory, by some form of punctuation, comma, hyphen, whatever your choice. Comma is the safest bet, hyphen makes for a longer pause.

*NoteO* Missing word: "Maerynda, seeing she was ready leave" '...ready to leave...'

*NoteO* Adverbs: There are 50 pus adverbs in there. So what, one might wonder. Well, all the experts have this one basic mantra - 'Show, don't tell'.

Take this line: "Hailey eagerly snatched them from her and practically ran to the door."

Adverbs kill description, make it all about telling, not showing. Here you do it right in the part where you tell us she ran to the door. That shows eagerness. The 'practically ran' dilutes the effect; 'almost', 'nearly', 'roughly', 'more or less', all these do not increase the impact of description.

Now see if you can replace the adverbs with telling adjectives or descriptive phrases - maybe something like:

Hailey's eager hands reached out and snatched the keys; she skipped away to open the door. Can you get a clear mind's eye picture of an eager child, who wants to open that door? Use your own words, this is but a mere example of showing versus telling.

I do a search in my Word Document, with Ctrl F, and find all words ending in 'ly'. Some are fine, like family, but most are adverbs. Now just repair those bits, some at least, if not all.


Any comments are only an individual opinion. Please sip it all, allow what you find sweet to take the edge off what you think is sour.

*Flower3* May your words go on to shine! *Flower3*

*Flower1* Effort brings colour to Life *Flower1*
When a piece of writing makes you see things in vivid colour.

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
   *CheckG* You responded to this review 02/26/2016 @ 8:34pm EST
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