Monday 24 February 2014

My first New Adult genre book, Out of the Ashes ... this one stays in the ashes for me - Out of the Ashes (Out of the Ashes #1) by Diana Gardin

I've been sitting on this review for a while. Like, a really long time, actually. I wrote it a few days after I had finished it, because I didn't want to give a negative review until I had time to think about it and ensure that my initial feelings were warranted. And my initial feelings were not good. And when I read over my review, I felt bad about posting it because this is self-pubbed and I did not want to contribute to its downfall, neither did I want to write a dishonest review for the sake of being nice. But now that I've had time to think it over, like two months later, I've decided to post my review because, well, I wasted my precious time reading it, so I have a right to my honest opinion. And that's what I do, I post honest reviews. So here it is. But first, let me get this clear, this is not my usual genre, I don't ever read NA contemporary, I'm more of a YA dystopian reader so that may affect my judgement. I received an arc from the author so I decided to give it a shot.

Paige has lived through a traumatic experience (a fire) and is a year delayed in starting college as she spent a considerable amount of time in hospital. It begins with Paige and her best friend Gillian, who has helped Paige through the tough time and is now supporting her decision to go to college. We learn about Paige's struggles right away, and we understand that Gillian is basically the perfect best-friend.

When Paige goes to college she meets Clay, a supposed playboy who falls in insta-love with Paige and we have a romance that progresses faster than I can say 'er'. And then we meet Hannah, a former flame of Clay's who is basically only there to serve as a villain and make life hell for our Romeo & Juliet. So basically, it's a love story, with a few obstacles thrown in here and there to make it interesting. I feel like the whole traumatic experience thing didn't really serve a purpose for the story as it was just a love story, with random obstacles. Like the fact that we had a jealous ex-girlfriend, but then there's a sprinkling of reasons for Clay to also feel insecure and jealous just to keep it interesting. I didn't really buy it. It felt too cliché and forced. Clay and Paige's relationship, felt unnatural. Like, how did they just fall in love? Where were the parts where we connect with the characters and see why/how they fall in love with each other? I felt like this was missing.
I mean, I like the characters, but I didn't LOVE them. I didn't even hate Hannah (who is a bat-shit cray cray biatch), but the fact that I didn't feel much about the situation tells me that the author didn't succeed in engaging me with the characters. There was no process of building the connection, or maybe there was a little bit but it felt unnatural, forced. I just didn't really care about the characters. I mean, Paige has been through something major, so traumatic, and I feel horrible for saying this but I didn't really care. It didn't really affect me the way it should have.

Voice. This was a real problem for me. It felt like I could hear the author's voice the entire time, and not each individual character's voice, which made it impossible to really immerse myself in their world and connect with them. The writing is at times purple prosy and overwhelms the plot, which distracts me from the story and I begin to go cross-eyed and my eyeballs feel like they will drop from their sockets because I'm reading through a jungle of words put together for the sake of sounding intelligent but really, it's just freakin' distracting. Ahem, sorry. Seriously though, just write a freakin' story people, stop trying to sound all prosy and writer-y and like you regurgitated the thesaurus onto the page, just write the damn story!

Let me explain this in simple terms. For instance, when the characters speak to each other, it sounds more like they are writing to each other rather than conversing. Also, there are way too many instances where characters each have turns at speaking whole passages to each other, it sounds like a speech. People don't speak to each other in paragraphs. We speak in short sentences in everyday conversation, we speak over each other, we make funny noises, we make expressions. It was like the author wanted to tell us rather than show us. But people communicate 70% more through body language rather than speech. Also, people don't speak in correct English to each other, we don't use the correct grammatical terms etc. Especially not 20 year old college students. I can see how the author tried at times to convey their age through slang terms, but some of those terms felt a little outdated, and other times where they were speaking looked the same as the their thoughts. People don't articulate their thoughts exactly the way they were thinking it into speech. We filter, and we don't all think and speak the same way. But sometimes it was hard to tell, especially with the dual pov, sometimes I forgot whose pov I was reading. 
About the previous thing I mentioned, that 20 year olds don't speak they way we'd write, here's a part where Clay is reassuring Paige that she's not dragging him down. 

"You could never do that. I don't think you realize what an upper you are. You're like a phoenix, rising out of the ashes. I can't even understand how you stand up every day, much less do everything you're doing. I'm humbled by you, Paige. Perfectly humbled. You're amazing."

Yeah, it's that kind of book.

Also, what 20 year old guy speaks like that? A phoenix rising out of the ashes? Unless he was a lit major and studied lots of Shakespeare type literature, but we know he's not. Even so, WHAT FREAKIN 20 YEAR OLD SPEAKS LIKE THAT? Clay is supposed to be a typical cool-guy player turned loved-up puppy, so, seriously, how did he begin speaking like he's freakin' Rumi or something? See what I mean by it all feels a little unnatural and forced?

Another thing, it seems like they are all perfect with no flaws with perfect relationships and the only reason why there's any tension is due to other people. Basically, if there's no Hannah, or obstacles like her, then Clay and Paige's group would be perfect (Mary Sue alert). They're all so nice to each other (I call it cupcake-nice), and it's annoying because it's unrealistic. Everything is too cliché. Paige has the perfect best-friend, the perfect secondary friends (all who say the perfect things to her, always complimenting her and saying nice things and supporting her), a perfect boyfriend who instantly gives up his life of love-crimes to be her perfect Romeo, and the perfect scenario where a string of potential interested parties (competition for Clay) begin to appear at the perfect times to pepper the story with intrigue. It's all too damn perfect and cup-cakey. I mean, both Clay and Paige have love-sick psycho's who will do anything for them (however twisted) is a stretch. What are they, a love God and love Goddess who once a person has had a taste, MUST have him/her at ANY cost? Or is this an America where college students have gone all Bollywood and deep passionate love even at the cost of the most extreme of acts is the norm? Nope, I don't buy it. Hannah alone as the third party who-won't-give-up was enough. But to throw in a second and maybe a third into the mix? It doesn't sit right with me.

Look, it wasn't all that bad. Maybe it was that it's not my usual genre so I'm used to characters being put in much tougher situations like the world ending etc and having to be tough and there being no room for the fluffy drama that this book entailed, but it is what it is. This is how I saw it. There was a cliffhanger at the end which has me interested to know what happens next -- wait, no, I lie, I'm not really interested in the sequel -- it didn't engage me enough to want to lock the release date of the next book in my calendar. I'm sorry, I'm really sorry because I really wanted my first NA to be a great experience so I can be interested in reading more, but this is my honest review :-/ And come to think of it, it's not that I don't like the genre, I'm still open-minded about the genre, I think it was just this one. The writing, the plot, the bad characterisation, the dialogue. Look, I'm trying to be nice but it's just not working. I'm sorry! BUT, good news is, it's not the WORST I've ever read, it's not THAT bad. Oh God, I feel like Smeagol right now.

I am hoping with my fingers and toes crossed that the sequel improves over this one. Because the backstory is okay, if not executed entirely well. I guess if you're an NA fan, you MAY like it. So if you read it I hope you like it and you tell me I'm wrong wrong, completely wrong and just didn't get it because I'm outside of my area of experience or interest. Read it and tell me it's me and not the book. Because I wish the best for this author, I see what she was trying to do, create an epic love story, one worth believing that insta-love happens, and I love love, so I hope she can translate that better in the next one.

Sorry Diana.


Copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

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Nora xoxo

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