Novels

by Marcus Rowe

Mermaid Memoirs is one of those rare gems that you stumble upon accidentally. In my case, I was on goodreads.com updating my progress with the book I was reading at that time when an ad for a  hitherto unknown book showed up on the page. I followed the link to amazon.co.uk – it’s where I go to buy printed British books as I hate the Americanised versions – and then had to go back to amazon.com because when you buy a Kindle version, it has to be from the Amazon site for your country. With that bit sorted, I made my purchase and set about reading.

Mermaid Memoirs tells a poignant and often heart-breaking story of love and rejection. Jude and Sara had been married for almost six years when he brings up the idea of starting their family. Sara is not quite as keen as Jude but, in the end, she agrees to start trying. There follows a series of three pregnancies – all of which miscarry – and each one is of  a shorter duration than the one before it. At that point trying to start a family comes off the table.

On the evening of their 6th wedding anniversary, the couple are swept up in the romance of their celebration and sleep together without a thought  for the potential consequences. As luck would have it, Sara falls pregnant and this time it sticks. A routine prenatal scan turns up the possibility that the bones of the foetus may not be developing as they should and the spectre of a deformity is raised.  After a bit of agonising, Sara settles on continuing the pregnancy.

The following months are not easy on Sara and neither is her labour. Jude is the first to see his newborn daughter and discovers that she has a single deformed leg. It’s a bitter pill but he loves her just the same. Sara, however, is another matter. She immediately rejects the child, refusing to name it as she wants to place the baby for adoption as soon as possible.  Jude names the child Macy and by the time Sara ends her stay in hospital, she has somewhat grudgingly accepted motherhood.

Jude is more a mother to Macy than Sara is and loves her unconditionally. After a number of years, Sara cannot cope with Macy being almost the sole focus of Jude’s life and walks out on their marriage. In hopes of containing home schooling and baby sitting costs, Jude decides to enroll her in a nearby school. This only lasts a number of months before Jude withdraws Macy because of the bullying she has to endure on a daily basis due to her deformity. As a result, Macy spends the rest of her academic career studying from home.

On a Saturday’s outing to the sea, Macy places her deformed leg in the water to see what it feels like and discovers that the leg has been replaced by a mermaid’s tail. On subsequent seaside outings with her father, the two are observed by a merman who informs Jude that her place is really with the inhabitants of an underwater village and not on land. The caveat is that she can never return as the mer-folk are afraid of humans and worry that she might betray the location of their village.

Jude agrees that it probably is for the best and reluctantly sends Macy to live with her own kind. She loves the new-found freedom of movement but soon runs afoul of her new neighbours as they taunt and bully Macy because she once lived with humans. Macy has now experienced rejection both on land and sea as she finds that the mer-folk are just as bad as the humans they hate and fear.

Mermaid Memoirs is a wonderful story though like a diamond in the rough, it wants a bit of polishing. There are some dropped letters and words which the reader may be inclined to overlook as this book is self-published by Mr. Rowe. The only really annoying bit is that he repeatedly uses the collective noun, mermaids, to refer to the villagers – both female and male. The mermen may simply take this gender reassignment as a compliment but at times it can be confusing to the reader.

This book is definitely YA-friendly though young American readers should be aware that since Mr. Rowe is British, he naturally uses words, grammar, idioms and colloquialisms more often found on the east side of the pond which the inexperienced may find a bit off-putting.

There are a number of plot-threads left hanging at the end of Mermaid Memoirs but readers need not be alarmed. Marcus Rowe plans to publish a sequel in October of this year. Mermaid Memoirs is only available as an e-book at Amazon.com.

My Rating:

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Kindle – US Kindle – UK

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Read a sample of Mermaid Memoirs

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by Tracy Deebs

Tempest Unleashed stands head, shoulders and tail above the debut book in the Tempest series; Tempest Rising. This is no implication that her first book is not an enjoyable read – which it is – but rather, that Ms. Deebs really seems to have hit her stride with the second novel.

As the story opens, it has been 8 months since Tempest swam off into the sunset with her Selkie boyfriend, Kona, and in that time she has learned quite a bit. For starters, the Queen of the mer-clan that Tempest belongs to is not the frail, kindly old lady that appears in the latter half of the first book. Appearances are deceiving and Queen Hailana has turned out to be a scheming, conniving, and manipulative person for whom no deed is too dark if the safety and future of the clan is at stake. In short, she is the mermaid version of Don Corleone.

Tempest also learns that her late mother was often Queen Hailana’s enforcer as well as her advisor. In other words, she was a cross between Luca Brazi and Michael Corleone. This gives a whole new perspective on the term “Sleeping with the fishes.”

Finally, Tempest has learned that aside from taking over the franchise after the Queen’s (un)timely demise, she is also the Queen’s advisor and whipping girl who seemingly cannot do anything right. Tempest is not too sure about the Queen business but she does have a score to settle with the evil – is there any other kind? – sea witch, Tiamat, over the death of her mother.

Tempest is glad that she has chosen the life aquatic but cannot realistically leave all of her past behind. Though her ex-boyfriend, Mark, has moved on to court a cheerleader and Tempest has moved on with her new boyfriend, Kona, she cannot say a final farewell to her family. She can also not say farewell to burgers from In and Out but that’s another part of the story.

Tempest is making a surreptitious visit to La Jolla to check on her family even though Hailana has told her that the cause of many of Tempest’s troubles and shortcomings is her inability to finally close the door on her life on land. Tempest still has a trouble calculating her arrival times and winds up off La Jolla, CA in the wee small hours of the morning. Dawn comes and she surfaces to have one final glimpse of her house. In doing so, she sees him – Mark, her old boyfriend – and discovers that things aren’t quite as dead and buried as she thought. Mark sees Tempest out in the ocean and it is readily apparent that he has not moved on as she had hoped.

Thus, the stage is set and Tempest Rising takes the reader on a roller coaster of danger, emotions and action. Much of mer-fiction is written with a primarily young adult female audience in mind. There is more than enough action in this story to attract YA males – at least those who are secure in their masculinity. Overall, Tempest Rising is a YA-friendly story. The battle scenes can be a bit violent but they are simply part of the action and this reviewer can assure readers that there are no mermaids tied to the railroad tracks in advance of the 9:15 train from LA. There is action, adventure and – of course – romance in Tempest Unleashed which should make the story quite appealing to Young Adult readers. While Tempest Rising could have easily been a stand-alone book, Tempest Unleashed leaves the reader begging for more.

My Rating:

by Brenda Pandos

There MUST be some sort of “Mer Mojo” in this book because once I opened it, the covers of my Kindle were glued to my hands. I had promised myself that I would take it one chapter at a time but that went by the boards quickly and I wanted to send my wife over to her mother’s for the week-end so I could read this in one marathon sitting. No food. No naps. The only time I’d stop would be for bathroom calls. Fortunately, none of that happened . . . for the most part. I don’t know HOW Brenda Pandos does it but she does it very, very well and the reader would be well advised to strap themselves in and prepare for the ride of their life.

Consistency – in anything – is difficult and as is often the case, the second book in a series is not quite as good as the first. The reader need not worry about this happening with Evergreen; This book is just as good as the first but for different reasons. In Everblue, there is the requisite exposition by way of  introducing characters and world-building wrapped up in a very compelling story. Evergreen  allows Brenda Pandos to take what she created in the first book and give it all a good workout where assumptions are tossed into the proverbial cocked hat and quite a bit of what you thought you knew turns out to be wrong to one degree or another. This is what helps to make the second book in the Mer Tales series a success.

Then, there are the two main characters; Ashley Lanski  and Finley Helton, a.k.a. Ash & Fin. Ash is a young woman of seventeen years and a member of her school’s swim team. Fin is a Mer-boy and used to live with his parents next door to Ash. Together, they are promised to each other; a bit of Mer magic that binds the hearts and souls of two people from the moment of  their very first kiss. Forever after, any significant separation can be gut-wrenching and emotionally trying, especially in the early part of their new relationship. Mononucleosis is a breeze compared to this.

Fin and his parents are on the run from the decidedly unsavoury elements of their politically deteriorating Kingdom known as Natatoria. Their destination is Boca Raton, Florida – the home of Florida Atlantic University – where Ash plans to attend school on a swimming scholarship. Ash is looking forward to a  possible trip to the Olympics and a quiet college career on the FAU swim team where the most excitement will probably come from a bit of sub-aquatic snogging with Fin. As the story progresses, that becomes less and less likely. Ash will learn that sometimes, choices we thought we had are made for us and, most poignantly, that there is no going back from some things & gains are often accompanied by losses. Fin will learn that he doesn’t have quite as many options as he believed and that talking on the phone with Ash for too long can be hazardous to his health.

Evergreen is a YA-friendly book with enough thrills and excitement to keep older readers enthralled as well the young. Brenda Pandos teaches her YA readers about overcoming fear, enduring love, fidelity and hope. I cannot give this book any higher recommendation than this; It is a compelling and exciting book with endearing characters. If  humans want an idea of the pain of separation that those who are promised to one another must endure, then they should by all means read Evergreen and then try waiting until the next book in the series comes out in 2013.

My Rating:

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Paperback Kindle

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Read a sample of

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by Adrianna Stepiano

[xyz_lbx_custom_shortcode id=4]As part of the research for my great and probably never-to-be-published novel, this reviewer has become quite a connoisseur of mer-folk fiction. There has been a tidal wave of  this theme in Young Adult Fiction over the past year or two and a notable uptick in such books for adults. So far, I have tended to favour the former as most of the latter often seem to be a rather thin story line wrapped around a bumper serving of soft – and not-so-soft – porn. This reviewer has nothing against Adult themes but most of the time, they can get in the way of what could be a good story.

The Young Adult version of the mer-folk genre is often based on a young adult female suddenly discovering that she is a mermaid. (So far, I have seen few – if any – story lines where this happens to a young adult male.) This momentous event usually happens to girls who have been repeatedly warned by parents – living or dead – to stay out of the water. Not only is there this profound change in life-style, but the heroine discovers that she has special abilities (aside from being able to live under water), is a princess, a future queen, a savior of some sort, etc. Finally, she was originally born or goes to live in some sort of mystical, magical, mermaid-land under the sea.

All these are common elements of the genre and a number of them appear in this, the first book of the Memoir of a Mermaid series, but Adrianna Stepiano takes her story in a completely different direction. Seraphin Shedd is one such girl who discovers that things – including herself – are not what they once seemed. On the day of her high school graduation, she is completely alone; Her mother having departed when she was an infant and her father dead in the ocean when she was 10. To further complicate her life, she has blackouts at times of emotional anxiety like when she thinks of her father’s untimely death. On the same day she receives her diploma,  she also receives the key to the family estate, – an ordinary house on an ordinary street in an ordinary neighbourhood next to the sea – meets the somewhat baffling nephew, Joseph, of her biology teacher, and discovers that this very same teacher has suddenly disappeared.

All alone with no family and no college plans, Seraphin obtains a position as a housekeeper through the auspices of a neighbour. This job is at an oceanic research institute on nearby Great Cranberry Island. There, she finds the nephew of her now missing Biology teacher working under an assumed name. He has a friend in the person of a fellow researcher named Perrine Canard and working there as well is an acquaintance from high school named Ethan Cottington. Thus, the cast of central characters is gathered and the story really gets under way.

It is this reviewer’s policy not to include spoilers or plot synopses but rather to give his impression of the book as a whole and comment on some elements of the story. That being said, this book is a real “page-turner” and the plot keeps you guessing. I am always looking for teachable moments in Young Adult Fiction and Ms. Stepiano’s story contains a fair number. At one point or another, Seraphin encounters prejudice and bigotry, bullying and belittling.

One thing that makes this book stand out is that Ms. Stepiano has declined to create a magical undersea mer-kingdom. Instead, she portrays merfolk as ordinary people living ordinary lives and holding down everyday jobs. These are the residents of Seraphin’s neighbourhood who have been watching and protecting her ever since her father died. It is these characters that help give this story a few comic touches and grounding in the in the real, believable world. The heroine is an extraordinary girl doing extraordinary things, loved and supported by her friends and neighbours.

The story contains romance, mystery, danger and heroism. Although the book was aimed at the mid-teen segment of the Young Adult market, it is easily readable and enjoyable by older teens as well as adults. In short, it is fun and exciting.

When, At Last, He Found Me will be followed by When, At Last, She Could See in January of 2013 and this reviewer believes that it will be eagerly anticipated. Aside from Seraphin and Joseph, there is a budding romance between the other two central characters that many readers, including myself, hope will be continued or at least expanded upon in the second book. Indeed, it has the potential to be a novel spun off of the main story.

Adrianna Stepiano has the makings of a real Young Adult classic on her hands and I hope that the next book will be just as good – if not better – as the first.

My Rating:

I’ve done a lot of TechnoRants© lately and little or no reporting on what I’ve been reading. For those of you who just walked in, I’ve done quite a bit of reading over the past year as research for my Great American Novel which will most likely never be published. Some of the reading has included Young Adult Fiction even though the novel is supposed to be adult fiction with a small “a”.

Derrolyn Anderson’s series, Marina’s Tales is one that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the past years. Her characters are well crafted and very believable – or at least as believable as any character in a Young Adult fantasy novel can be. There are four books in the series and I am slowly reading what I understand to be the last one. My slow pace is due to my not wanting it all to be over with. Nonetheless, the series does need to end at some point. The main locale is a small town on the California coast outside of San Francisco and is now on my list of places to see some day.

In theory, Derrolyn could continue the series for at least several more books but that, I feel, would drain the life out of the locale and possible plots. No, I see the story arc coming to a conclusion and it is better to go out on a high note than to run things into the ground – or ocean in this case. I will miss Marina when the series is over and that is probably the greatest compliment you can pay to an author.

You will probably have noticed that I’ve been ranting about writing prose as much as writing code. (Or anything else, for that matter!) It’s a (not so) well-kept secret that I’m in the early stages of writing a fantasy novel. I doubt that it will ever be published – by anyone reputable, anyway – and even if it is, I’m not expecting to make any money or launch a new career.

It’s just that I’ve got this story inside me and I’m having great fun editing and polishing it in my head. You’ll learn more as the weeks and months go by.

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