Heart Search – Book One: Lost
by Carlie M.A. Cullen
I write, and I edit. This gives me two unique perspectives on what I read. As a writer, I can understand why authors struggle in certain areas. As an editor, I can’t understand why they would publish these problems without fixing them. I am not nearly this snarky with the people I work with; I would absolutely be if they published their work before it was ready. I get snarky because someone didn’t tell them, “Hey, this isn’t quite ready.”
Today’s First 50 Pages is talking about Carlie M.A. Cullen’s Heart Search. It’s an indie pub, and it kind of made my heart-break… and not in a good way. There may be spoilers, but this review is only about the first 50 pages, so I won’t be spoiling much.
So, I had plenty of gripes with these pages. So much in fact that I had to put it down. Now, this book was better than some books I’ve read recently, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough to keep me going. There were quite a few clichés I’m just so tired of seeing done in vampire books. The whole “I have to leave you to keep you safe!” scenario. Seriously? One of the main characters, Joshua, gets turned into a vampire in the beginning of the book. Now, this is problematic seeing as he’s supposed to marry his girlfriend Remy in two weeks. They have sex and neither of them remembers how during their romping session that he could have bruised her up so badly. He’s mortified. Does this sound familiar? This is pretty much unbelievable. I mean, I generally remember the bruises I get from sex, and even if I don’t it’s pretty much a badge much like a hickey is. While those can be somewhat embarrassing, it’s a constant reminder of the love-making that went on. And as “in love” as these two are, it shouldn’t have been a problem.
Following Joshua’s “I can’t stay or I’ll hurt you more” departure, Remy doesn’t even go after him. She needs her twin sister to coax her into it. Then, when we follow Joshua after he has left her, he thinks about how he misses her but then thinks, “he had a new and exciting future to embrace.” Wow. My first thought after reading that was, move on Remy! This guy isn’t worth your time!
But that’s just plot stuff. I haven’t gotten into the grit that annoyed me the most. Beware writers, I’m using a term you guys are (should be) terrified of: head hopping. I’m not kidding. Here’s another term to be fearful of: POV shifts. To my readers, this means that the story shifted from Remy’s point of view to a third person account of what was happening with Joshua. So one chapter is “I [blah blah blah]” and the next chapter is “he [blah blah blah]”. This made the story hard to follow. And in all honesty, the first person writing was borderline third person. At one point, Remy has a panic attack and states her lips were bluish. How would she know that? Was she looking in a mirror? No.
Also, there were several things that just seemed like the author gave up trying to make it right. I’ll just go through my notes (yes, I make notes about books as I read them. It’s much easier to go back later this way).
1. She struggled with introducing the twin sister. When Remy opens the door, she says she saw her own face staring back at her. This could have been done so much better. I mean, I’ve known a lot of twins, and every identical twin has tells. The way their smile is or how they do their hair even. It was too easy. It’s like okay, here’s the sister, and she’s the twin. There’s nothing special about it to me now.
2. She actually wrote “ha ha ha” as part of the dialogue. I felt like I was reading a text message.
3. After Joshua starts to predict he’s a vampire, he goes to the internet to find confirmation. Wow, cause this isn’t in the media enough already. Then only after his internet research does he start to exhibit vampire traits. Be logical folks.
4. During his transformation, Joshua is in such agonizing pain that he feels like he’s dying, but yet he manages to not scream. Okay, I’ve been in excruciating pain. I screamed. I couldn’t help it. It can’t be helped. So I was left to believe that the pain wasn’t nearly as bad as he let on.
5. I hate the “all of a sudden” or “I completely forgot until now” scenarios as well. What the author really means is that they didn’t want to fit it in earlier or that they were too lazy to weave this bit of information in better.
6. Oh, how about before Joshua leaves Remy, he comes into the bedroom and tidies up by making the bed and putting dirty clothes in the basket. But, then he ransacks the room packing to leave. I mean, what was the point?
7. When Remy and her sister start to get down to business trying to find Joshua, they immediately find his journal. This is a journal he looks like he’s written in everyday. Remy has never seen it. I dare my live in significant other to try to hide something like a journal and have me not know about it. I wouldn’t read it, but I sure as hell would know about it. And even if it’s possible that Remy didn’t know about it, I sincerely doubt Joshua would leave it behind. It was just too easy. They needed info about Joshua and *poof* a journal appears that Remy never knew about.
Here’s two things my writers should learn.
1. Adverbs are bad. Use as seldom as possible. Also, show don’t tell.
Examples: “suddenly felt extremely tired” and “unexpectedly, I was dreadfully vulnerable and lonely.”
Fixes: These aren’t perfect, in fact, they’re off the cuff, but you’ll get the point I hope. “The adrenaline was wearing off. The weight of my decisions cascaded down on me in a heap of exhaustion.” As for the second, I would go with something like, “Her absence made the room bigger, and I was left feeling like the only living thing left in the world. I rushed after her, avoiding the thoughts nagging at the corner of my mind.”
2. The UK vs. US language barrier. I’ve had this debate a number of times. I work with a lot of writers who are not from the US. In fact, most of the people I work with that don’t live in the US speak some form of British English. This is where I get picky. Some phrases are easy to figure out. For example, I think most readers will understand “cuppa” or “windshield”. Thanks to Harry Potter, most Americans recognize “bloody hell” as well. But, if it wasn’t for my working with UK writers, I wouldn’t get a lot of the turns of phrases that are frequently used in dialogue. So, I’ll say this. If there is an alternate way to say something that would be understood by both reader sets (UK and US) then go for that. One of my favorite examples to mention is a dressing gown. I ran across this early in 2012, and when I read it, I thought nightgown. In the US, that’s something typically reserved for a much older crowd. In fact, the author was referring to what we’d call a bathrobe or just a robe. This is a big deal because it defines the character… is the character trendy or wearing grandma clothes? Even common dialogue can be a little difficult to get through for US readers because it’s not something we are really used to. With the advent of ebooks, I think this is even more important. These books are easily available across oceans, and we no longer have to wait for a US version to come out or for our retailers here to carry the book.
I wouldn’t discount this author. I think she has potential. Maybe some more experienced beta readers would help. The problems I found weren’t tragic, but they were enough to make me put the book down. I’m sure during a long car ride I might pick it back up.