Seeing spots alright – “Sunspots” by @KarenSueBell Twofer Tuesday #BookReview
Welcome to the first ever Twofer Tuesday review!
Leanne, one of Cabin Goddess’ minion reviewers who focuses on romance, paranormal romance, erotica and all the other books I usually don’t read because of my other than paranormal romance (which at times I read) I am more of the blood and guts and zombie reader. But SUNSPOTS promised magical realism and it is something I have done a bit of studying and do enjoy at times. One of my reviewers also likes this type so I suggested she read it too. Ummmm well……….. Let’s just say I decided perhaps I was going to need a voice of reason and asked that Leanne also review it. I don’t usually bother with reviews for books which… evoke these kinds of feelings (both physical and mental) but when Leanne, someone who loves books like this has some of the same responses I do and since I read the synopsis and it sounded good (doesn’t it???) AND because heck, it has a photo of the Northern Lights, and hey! I am an Alaskan, these dance all winter long in our skies! I figured what the heck, sure! Well……… I will let Leanne go first, because I am still wondering how I am going to do this without being a complete … douchebag reviewer. So without further delay, Come on Leanne! Or is it …
by Karen S. Bell
Published by Karen Bell
Genres: Literary Fiction
Amazon • • Goodreads •
Sunspots is personal. A personal journey of grieving, a personal journey of self-discovery, and a personal journey geographically. A young woman from Brooklyn, Aurora, a man from Austin, Texas, Jake, meet accidentally in NYC and it changes the trajectory of their lives. Aurora decides to grab on to what she perceives may be her only chance at the comfy married existence that has so far eluded her. It is also no hardship to leave NYC and her stalled acting career for this apparently wealthy, dynamic, handsome lover who whisks her off her feet. But after the honeymoon, reality sets in and she realizes that marriage can be isolating, and that the socio-economic differences between her and Jake can become a wedge. How can Aurora adjust to these changes? How can she regain the independent personality she had before Jake became her only focus in life?
Fast forward two years, and Aurora finds herself a widow. An accident. Unexpected. And then her journey becomes one of accepting the harsh reality of encounters with Jake's ghost, the real nature of her time travel experiences, and Jake's true character. Viola Parker is her guide through these episodes not of this world. Viola, a ghost who has a connection with Aurora's past lives, leads her to find, Cliff, her true soulmate, her true love in this life erasing the pain of her mistakes with Jake Stein through the centuries. Sometimes from the ashes, sometimes from blackness awaits the brilliant light of a life of happiness.
**This book is a verified Amazon purchase**
I rarely give two stars on a book, but Sunspots brought out my redneck hillbilly side of me. Two stars I think is pretty generous.
Now I am not a grammar Nazi and I will never be one so my review has absolutely nothing to do with which pronoun or adjective was used and if the verb was conjugated appropriately. It will however have a whole lot to do with the realism and believably that this story was meant to convey. I would be rather amiss if I didn’t let you know that some spoilers are unavoidable after this paragraph so proceed with caution.
The prologue was beautifully written and captured perfectly what I felt when I lost my grand daughter a little over a year ago. I was devastated. I didn’t want to live anymore because the world seemed so empty. I felt horribly alone and the words that flowed through the authors mind and filled my screen, made me cry. Someone out there got me, they understood enough that they could physically write it down. That however was where the realism for me ended.
The next several chapters were filled with flowery prose and unrealistic series of events and I am not talking about the ghost stuff. In a paranormal book that stuff to me is what I expect but I cringed every time I read a sentence that just didn’t seem to fit. Let me see if I can explain this better, give me a moment to collect my southern side that is way more honest than the respectful lady side of me is.
Okay so the author sucks us in with her beautiful mourning and then tramples all over us like horses crush hay in a freshly mucked stall. Her description of the parents being hippies was comical and her mother the now lawyer and her constant references to classical film about did my head in. I mean come on she told us how she came from these crazy roots and how different her life was and the only time I heard the character she should have been was when she meets Jake the jerks mother. For real? That one paragraph should have been her character all along and not this Bertha better than you, hoity toity, innocent and super naive persona that overtook 90 percent of the book.
Here she was this new age, I can feel things mystical and she knew it because she was named after it and even used a stage name that suggested it, but she was so naive that she couldn’t see all the things that blasted me in the face from the beginning. Maybe my vision is green tinted though as I have had experience with a cheating partner and can recognize the neon signs that she was blasting before her mother ever blew the lid off of Mr. Perfect in Celeste’s eyes.
From the first sentence of the book I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to read a story about how someone dealt with that kind of loss and moved on. The ghost thing could have even helped her get through it but I didn’t get that. Instead I got a high society rich girl who put blinders on and trolled through a ton of inconsequential memories. I have no idea what this author was attempting but as the reader I felt like I was wading through the corral outside the milk barn without waders. I was up to my armpits in … well, poop.
I kept prodding myself to get through the story because somewhere there had to be a middle and an end right. Wrong. There was no story, not really. She caused a major blockage in the main pipeline, so much so that the septic tank stood empty while the toilets overflowed. She filled it with so much backstory that when I finally reached the end I wondered where the hell the year of grieving went. What happened to the middle of the story? I skimmed through it a second time, thinking what the heck did I miss a chapter or two somewhere? Nope all the same information dump filled the pages although I was able to glimpse where she was trying to go, she just never got there.
Ahem, *clears throat* while smacking my redneck into the next room. This could have been a great story, it had super potential not just as a moving away from grief but also as a paranormal book. The problem was that there was so much other stuff added in there that I got bored. I had to force myself to read it, I hoped with each new chapter that somewhere along the line the information dump and pompous quality would go away and we would get to see the real character emerge. The other characters were stereotyped and information we could have used to see the story as the author wanted was overshadowed.
Her insane ability to flesh out things the reader didn’t need to know and then to add insult to our already injured minds she stereotyped some of the important characters and left a bad taste in my mind.
OMG! The author unleashed Betty Sue!
I felt a bait and switch here!
Oh jeez Betty Sue, thanks for visiting!
Betty Sue… err that is Leanne Herrera is an avid speed reader with a bachelors in Fine Art. She is the mother of three grown daughters and has been married for 22 years. She loves Romance, paranormal, erotica and basically any book with a powerful female character.
OK It’s my turn. Bear with me, I really tried to reign it in, I promise I swear I did. Below you can find out what Magical Realism is (drop down) I also included a definition and examples of what Purple Prose are.
What is Magical Realism?
Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction  in which magical elements are blended into a realistic atmosphere in order to access a deeper understanding of reality. These magical elements are explained like normal occurrences that are presented in a straightforward manner which allows the “real” and the “fantastic” to be accepted in the same stream of thought. It has been widely considered a literary and visual art genre; creative fields that exhibit less significant signs of magic realism include film and music.
As used today, the term is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous: Matthew Strecher has defined magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something ‘too strange to believe'”.However, it may be that this critical perspective towards magical realism stems from the Western reader’s disassociation with mythology, a root of magical realism more easily understood by non-Western cultures. Westerners’ confusion regarding the style of magical realism is due to the “‘conception of the real'” created in a magical realist text; rather than explaining reality using natural or physical laws as in typical Western texts, magical realist texts create a reality “‘in which the relation between incidents, characters, and setting could not be based upon or justified by their status within the physical world or their normal acceptance by bourgeois mentality.”‘ Today, there are many varieties of writers whose work is categorized as “magical realist”, to such an extent that critics and readers alike are confused as to what the term really means and how wide its borders are.
I am just going to leave the magical realism info up for y’all to read. Me? I don’t think I can even write a review here which is critical, discuss magical realism and be honest within the realms of this book which insists it is part of the magical realism genre. As I have said in the past, just because a story has a touch of fantastical aspects of magic does not make it magical realism. Plus let’s face it, Betty-Sue also took up a lot of space (wordy are we Leanne?). So I am going to attempt to make this brief (do not laugh I can do it, I swear and believe me I do not want to waste any more of anyone’s time than I already did reading this book! OK I tried.. I really, really tried, smite me with turkey bacon why don’t you!!)
Let me start by saying Karen S. Bell is obviously a very intelligent person.. and she knows it and embraces it and expects everyone else to recognize it too because, well it is obvious she is not just confident, she is convinced.. It’s also quite obvious from the voice she uses from her protagonist. Personally after finally finishing this book, which I had to stop myself from skimming past the purple prose so I could honestly write this review (that and I would have been done in 30 minutes if I did), I wanted to drink 5-liters of wine, black out and forget I had read it. Damn it.. I promised I would not be one of those reviewers, but this is really hard. Seriously, I am trying not to be mean, but the thing is? It really is the perfect example of purple prose (and this is not a good thing). Let’s try this again.
Sunspots, if you like a story which is full of itself, whose characters are stereotyped from the tippy top of the heels of her Milanos and descriptions are tell.. tell… throw a bunch of $25 dollar words in to prove just how smart you are but never show what you are trying to show. Where the magic that is the Aurora Borealis (and believe me, honey I know, I am an Alaskan) is.. umm wrapped up in TIEDDIE (we will cover that little SP issue in a bit). If you like an author who uses those big words to make it balloon out into a full length novel. If you are looking for a story with .. umm wait what was this about? Oh gods I give up, if she gave up trying to be so bloody flowery and put more effort into showing (this doesn’t mean showing off) and not telling it may just have been a novella around 10-15K but at least it would have been a story and not, whatever this was! It would have been so much more tolerable, probably really enjoyable and it would have been a much better experience if it were. The repetitive style also seemed like an attempt to be allegorical without really understanding allegory, basing the use of her poem at the beginning, I maybe assuming too much here, but the use of the poem throughout the novel leads me to believe this is the case.
As it was, I wasted an afternoon reading it and yet I still keep giggling a little bit inside when I think of some of the things I read. I was struck with the evocation of smugness which screamed from between these ballooned lines. So when I got to the third chapter and it starts with “One can never be, and should never be, smug about life.” I spit my drink out and thought holy shit… yep, that’s about all I could do. After this, the protagonist when not whining) was all of a sudden barreling through this myriad of name dropping, pop-culture, mish-mash something or other with .. again I am just still at a loss for words.
I was insulted on the extreme pompous tone, the cliche and generalized characterizations and extreme stereotyping of her characters. I also loath when the characters are constantly harping on with name brands they are wearing. I am reminded of the class I took from Bram Stoker award winning editor Michael Knost who says “Remember when writing a description, the rule of WGAS (who gives a shit.” If you are going to write it, does it really matter. Does it matter that Frodo has green eyess? No, who gives a shit, SHOW It don’t tell it. What brand of shoes she wore, or purse she had, etc, did not really matter in this story, it just did not fit!! And.. MAGICAL REALISM, don’t claim to be a story within the genre of magical realism just because there is a bit of magic in it. The tone is passionate and as I said above, has magical aspects, but that does not make it magical realism. This is as much a book that falls in the realm of magical realism as the last zombie book I read. Sorry, that is base fact. It has qualities of paranormal and magical feelings, a touch of the unknown and again passion but, not magical realism.
I know folks like books like this! And sometimes there is something to be said about ones writing of purple prose. It is a style which can be done well and successfully. Dickens did it and did it well. Vladimir Nabokov is another author who not only studied romantic styles of language but again did it well, like Tolstoy who successfully pulled it off and many contemporary writers have made and make it work. But, if you cannot even spell tieddie right and yet the protag is constantly talking about her parents hippie lifestyle .. ummmm, hello? Then in next breath how she bought some name brand shoes which takes a few paragraphs to pontificate about and doing the whole obnoxious swoon…
Yet with all this passion there was still no depth, nothing and I still never really figured out what the hell this was about. Sure I know the story was about loss, her prologue was pretty nice. I did finally manage to figure it out.. I think, but I kept thinking.. THE POINT, what the hell is the point? The synopsis promises us a journey through her grief, not the showing off vocabulary!!! ARGH.. again sorry, sorry sorry I am really trying here!!!
This was suppose to be this magical journey, this window into grief and coping… I think? One may want to make sure you know how to spell important words, use a comma or semi-colon correctly and understand what run-on sentences are. (I certainly do and am OK with writing a blog post with run-ons however…) Or you insist on using tee shirt instead of t-shirt and your grammar is worse than mine in some places (yes some because it was not consistent at all). At least I know, can admit and be humble enough to admit my grammar blows? The book is in hardcore need of a very tight line-edit. Maybe I am off-base here but if it takes me out of the book it is probably worse that it is.
You would think someone who is obviously as intelligent as this author is and who is as passionate as she is she would want it to be perfect, self-published or not. Finding the magic in everything she observes is great, but she may want to find something other than contemporary romance to express it with because this book fell flat on it’s face.
What are Purple Prose???
Purple Prose: Writing so extravagant or orate that it breaks the flow of the narrative and draws attention to itself.
The Elements of Style calls this writing that is “hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating.” There’s no solid example of purple prose since the definition is subjective, but it is something you definitely don’t want. Below is one example of the evolution from concise language to purple prose:
- Plain: He set the cup down.
- Middle Ground: He eased the Big Gulp onto the table.
- ACK: Without haste, the tall, blond man lowered the huge, plastic, gas station cup with a bright red straw onto the slick surface of the coffee table.
I do want to say some positive things here though. I thought the prologue shows promise and I liked the structure of the book, yep I did. I loved how she took a poem, one of hers … of course *wink* and she used the lines for the titles of her chapters. I liked that and thought it was clever and I am sure Ms. Bell does too *wink*.