Release Date: June 5, 2011
More Info: Amazon Astraea Press
Book Blurb (from blog tour material):
Jess denies God. In his infinite wisdom, he’s taken everyone she’s ever loved. Moving to the French Quarter was a ploy to erase the guilt she felt for rebuking her faith. Perhaps, if she hadn’t met Justin, an angel preoccupied with getting back into God’s good graces, and drowning in his hatred for humanity, her plan would have worked.
Justin’s general disdain for the human race makes him difficult to like, but some higher power has appointed him her keeper. Justin’s convinced he can mend her broken relationship with her maker, but in the process he learns a thing or two about his own humanity.
Never mind falling in love, that’s not supposed to happen. In fact, it may even be forbidden. Jess just wants Justin to understand her plight, and he wants to protect her from a world she doesn’t know.
If neither are equipped to save the other, then whose soul will live and whose will perish?
Where to start? This review is difficult because, to be blunt, I just didn't like the book. Several times I came close to making this review a DNF - Did Not Finish. There were several factors - a glacially slow pace, irritating characters, and extremely poor proof reading and copy editing. Regular readers of the blog know that the latter item is a huge pet peeve of mine and it can impact my enjoyment of a story. I did finish the book, but it was a struggle.
I'll start with the slow pace. The book opens at a funeral, where we meet Jess, one of the main characters, and her brother Jordan. Their mother has died and Jess is a mess. After the funeral, she heads to New Orleans, where her parents, now both dead, had an apartment that they used for vacations. Jess ruminates on how much she hates God because he took her mother away from her. Then she goes to a bar, instantly becomes best buddies with a woman she's never seen before and is attracted to a group of guys, one in particular, who go out of their way to ignore her. There's an altercation between one of the guys and another man who walks up to their group (he is another key character in the book, it turns out). Then the woman, Vi, invites Jess, to join her the next night at a casino where the guys work. Doesn't sound slow, does it? Sadly, the pace dies. Jess meets, flirts, and fights with one of the guys, Justin, for the next 40% of the book. Oh there's the occasional bit of forward movement - the lone guy from the bar, Dawson, tries to run her down, Vi and Jess take a road trip, but most of the first half of the book, and much of the latter half, is Jess and Justin fighting, flirting, sulking, etc. We don't even find out that Justin is an angel until about a third of the way into the book. Oh, there are a few hints here and there but if I hadn't read the book cover, the hints would have had me thinking he was some sort of vampire. I kept wondering why Jess was so special that she had so many angels watching over her (Justin is only one); turns out the reason is nothing earth-shattering and was, in fact, anti climactic. Although, maybe if Justin, via the author, hadn't made such a fuss about how special Jess was and how important it was to keep her safe, I might not have been so disappointed. But, it was a big buildup with little payoff. The action picks up toward the end of the book but by then I just didn't care.
Now, the irritating characters. Sadly, those would be the main characters, Jess and Justin. Jess is naive, impulsive, and careless. Still, she could have been likable if she weren't also whiny, rude, and thoughtless. Justin is even ruder (these angels are not at all cherubic or angelic), more thoughtless, and has no use for humanity.
The piece of furniture was so representative of human decadence he found it nauseating, yet it was his favorite place to ruminate on all that irritated him about man's existence.
not…but if you’re asking me if I still hate humans, if I still think they’re an ungrateful stench clinging to the beauty God has created, then yes, sometimes I do.”
That last quote, I admit, is quite descriptive and evocative. The thing that really irritated me about him was his constant harping on how stupid Jess is. The problem was, most of the time, it wasn't borne out by the story. She does do one careless thing near the beginning, walking home alone from a bar in the wee hours of the morning, which is when Dawson tries to run her down, but that one action on her part is seemingly enough to condemn her in Justin's eyes. At one point he thinks to himself
There are several problems with this statement - Jess doesn't know about the demon, she doesn't even know that demons exist, she doesn't yet know that anyone wants her dead, and she doesn't yet know Justin is an angel. But, this is typical of Justin's thinking.Did she really not believe he could protect her from the demon?
Jess often acts much younger than her twenty-four years, though she does admit one point that her mother spoiled her. Vi, the woman she met at the bar, shows up at her apartment the next door and promptly takes over running Jess's life - cooking, cleaning, taking her clothes shopping, etc. Jess does, once or twice, think about how nice it is that Vi does all this, but she doesn't say it nor does she thank her or ever do her fair share.
Without complaint, her roommate kept the place sparkling and never pointed out what a slacker Jess could be.
I did like this thought that Jess had about Vi -
...she did make an excellent sister. She worked on Jess like her favorite pet project,...
That statement nicely sums up their relationship.Vi is seemingly content to care for Jess and doesn't really seem to have a life of her own. However, there is more to Vi than meets the eye (hee, I made a rhyme) and I was pleased to find that my guess about her wasn't too far off of the mark. I did have trouble believing just how quickly they bonded, it never felt real; once the truth about Vi is revealed, then it makes more sense. That said, Vi was easily the most likable person in the book. I would have liked more of her.
Finally, and what really got me, was the lack of proof reading and copy editing. While reading this, I made over 200 notes and highlights, and most were related to the shoddy proofing and editing. There were many, many other examples that I just didn't bother to highlight or note. I'll cite a few examples, some were just annoying while others made for more difficult reading.
Jess repositioned pain contorting her face.
Her mother was stroked her face, alight with the look of adoration only a mom could give.
She had to be imaging his inability to control his strength.
He bowed leveling with her, his eyes, which were usually in perpetual motion, were stone. (I shared this one, along with several others, on facebook and it provoked quite a reaction. I wasn't the only one bothered by it.)
“Awe come on, man."
There are many, many, many more such examples.
James tried to write a story about God (the Christian God) and humanity's relationship with him. Humans do doubt God; we doubt his existence, we question his motives and his actions,we doubt his love for us, we turn our backs on him. In the story, Jess is angry with God for taking away her mother, her father, and her sister. She hates him and fights Justin as he tries, in his own, "I hate humans and I'm jealous of them", twisted way, to help her find her way back to God. But Justin is so annoying and irritating, Jess is such a whiner, that I, for one, couldn't buy into the message.
There's also a sub-plot with a romance between Jess and Justin and that wasn't particularly believable either.
If you want a love story, a story about angels in the modern day world, or a story with a positive message about God's love, almost any other book will be better. However, as annoying as Justin was, I did like James' version of angels. It's different, has a solid base in Christian theology and mythology and I respect her for not making her angels all cute and sweet. She took a chance and you have to admire that.
I received a PDF of this story from Author Blog Tours for review.
ETA 8/14/11: Ms. James put a post on her blog announcing that she is temporarily pulling the book from vendors so that she she and her publisher can go through and fix the typos, grammatical errors, and other copy editing issues. After it's fixed, it will be re-released. Kudos to Ms. James and her publisher for doing this. It shows respect to the buyers and readers and can only improve the book. Good for you Ms. James.