Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: Finding Meara by Lara Schiffbauer

Genre: NA Contemporary Fantasy
Formats avail: ebook
Word Count: approx. 77,500
Publication Date: March 2013
Kindle locations: 3636 (story text ends at 99%)
Print Length: 267 pages (Amazon estimate)
Ebook includes a Table of Contents
Source: Review Request from Author

SERIES:  Adven Realm Adventures, #1

BOOK BLURB:
To keep her safe, twenty-six-year-old Hazel Michelli's parents never told her she was adopted, or that her birthplace was in an alternative land where magic and monsters exist. She found out the truth the day a ferocious winged creature stole her from her Denver apartment and delivered her to Lucian, the sadistic Lifeforce magician who happens to be Hazel’s biological father.

“Dysfunctional family” takes on new meaning when she learns Lucian must sacrifice a daughter to maintain immortality and take over the Realm. When Hazel’s younger half-sister disappears just days before the Rite, Lucian moves Hazel to the top of the sacrificial short list.

Afraid, yet compelled to protect her four-year-old half-sister, Hazel races between both worlds, searching for Meara while being hunted by Lucian. Their lives, and the future of the Realm, leave her no room for failure.

MY THOUGHTS:
It is going to be very difficult for me to discuss aspects of this book without giving away some spoilers. So I’ll start off with a vague overall opinion and then get more specific about some things that jumped out at me after the page break. If you don’t like spoilers, don’t read further than the spoiler alert below.  To see the text highlight the blank area with your mouse.  If you are seeing this on a feed, it may not come through as invisible so just avoid the spoiler section if you don't want to see any spoilers.

When I first read the sample for this book, I was drawn in to the story. The premise of the story interested me and I liked the cover, though I think it makes the heroine appear younger than she is. There was some action early on when Hazel gets kidnapped by the winged creature and brought to another realm. It got my attention and I wanted to keep reading. In the end though, I don’t think the rest of the story lived up to the promise in the sample. It wasn’t a bad story but it didn’t really engage me in the way I expected. I had some issues with the characters and what happened to them. I found some things that made me go “hmm” and there were some technical issues like typos and inconsistent spelling. Not a huge amount, but enough that I noticed it. There was no cliffhanger but I didn’t like the ending and I have no idea where the next book in this series is headed as it seemed pretty much wrapped up. 

Though I was interested enough to finish the book, I can’t say I was really engaged in the story. I could have put the book down and not missed it.
 
So here are some other things that jumped out at me about this story.

***SPOILER SECTION ***
Highlight the area below with your mouse to see the text.

- When Hazel first escapes from the manor, she meets Arden and they have an immediate attraction, but not one they immediately act on. Later in the story she meets Rodd who is also attracted to her and a romantic triangle is born. But it doesn’t last that long since Rodd gets killed off later in the story and the problem of the romantic triangle is resolved. Getting rid of Rodd seemed pointless, because she doesn’t get together with Arden in the end anyway. I don’t think this triangle moved the story forward. I just didn’t see much point in it. In addition, Rodd was a likable character so I was annoyed that he was so quickly removed from the story.

- In one scene Hazel is trying to escape from some caves by going through some type of vent. She sees an apparition of Rodd’s face who stayed behind to fight so she could escape. This vision of him indicates to her that he was killed. Um, oookay. So does she normally have visions or see ghosties? Is this a result of her being in this realm or her innate magical ability? It is noted in the beginning that she makes money by betting on horse races due to a special talent or intuition for picking winners, but I don’t think visions were mentioned. I didn’t see a good reason for her to see an apparition of him and it seemed a bit corny. And yes, this is the third point of the romantic triangle that has now conveniently been removed and leaves the way clear for Arden who, for some reason unexplained, must resist his feelings for Hazel.

***END OF SPOILER SECTION***

-  While escaping through the vent noted above, she can barely move her arms because the space is so restricted, yet the voluminous dress she is wearing has no problem fitting through the small space and doesn’t obstruct her way through the vent? The way it is described I just can’t picture how she is dragging herself through the vent, especially with her legs wrapped up in a long, bulky dress. 

- Loved the Firecat! He didn’t speak but he was always helping Hazel. I do keep wondering why he was there in the manor when Hazel first found him and he helped her to escape. Did the Daragward send him? Does he usually just hang around the big bad’s house waiting for someone to rescue? There is a brief scene with a talking bird in the story though, so I did get my talking animal fix to some degree.

- I suspected who Garron was (the creature who kidnapped Hazel at the beginning) when he showed up outside the caves after Hazel escaped through the vent. He turned out to be one of the more interesting characters to me because of his situation. You could tell there was something more to his character early in the story when Hazel was escaping from the manor. He had a chance to prevent her escape but he didn’t.

- Her biological father, Lucian, the one who wants to sacrifice her to extend his immortality maintained his “evil” character to the end, but he actually doesn’t appear that much in the middle of the story except as an unseen threat who is looking for Hazel and company. His minions seem to do a lot of the searching and chasing of Hazel.

- The heroine, Hazel, is supposed to be 26-years-old, but she felt younger, maybe more like 18. Part of this might be due to the cover art that gives me the feeling of a younger character, but I think it is also her characterization in the story. She just comes across as much younger.

- Rodd picks a lock with apparently nothing but his hands as there were no lock-picking tools mentioned.

- Inconsistent spelling of gray/grey and traveled/travelled. Considering the author appears to be American, I would expect to see gray and traveled to be used, but I have no way of knowing which spelling was intentional. There were a few more typos (but not a huge amount) than I would expect and if you consider all the instances of the inconsistent spelling then it increased the count quite a bit.

- I really didn’t like the ending. The story jumps immediately from the end of the climactic moment to one year ahead. In addition, the romance/attraction with Arden seems to be dried up. You get no information on what happened between them after they defeat Lucian. Arden doesn’t even appear in the story at the end. He is mentioned but only to say that being around him is difficult. Though the end wasn’t a cliffhanger, I didn’t feel satisfied with the ending. I don’t like that there wasn’t a better resolution to Hazel and Arden’s relationship or lack thereof, and I don’t recall it ever being explained why Arden had to resist his feelings for Hazel. I didn’t even need an HEA necessarily. I just wanted to know what the heck happened between them after the big battle. Actually, there was another big thing that happened to Hazel during that year that is also left up to the reader’s imagination, but I won’t give that one away.

So, I read it, liked it well enough to finish but had some issues that dragged it down for me. I can’t really say I am that interested in knowing what happens next and that might have something to do with my disappointment in the ending.

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Heat Level: Mostly sweet with some kissing but there is a memory flashback to a sex scene in the past. It is quick and quite mild in my opinion, not at all explicit.

Typos found: 11 ~ 27 (upper range if you factor in the inconsistent spellings of gray/grey and traveled/travelled)

Rating: 2.5


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You can find Lara Schiffbauer on the web at:
  Website / Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

  Finding Meara is currently only available as an ebook at Amazon
  

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