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review 2015-02-07 21:06
It's Like a Sad Grown Up Version of Sophia First With Bonus Misogyny
Stray - Elissa Sussman

Once upon a time, I would’ve forced myself to finish if not at least read most of Stray.  But I’ve grown up a lot since I started regularly blogging (circa 2012). And I’ve grown fed up with books like Stray.


Common reaction to books like Stray.


I’m going to be frank, this book should’ve never seen the light of day from an agent’s slush pile let alone a publishing house.


It’s that bad.


However, it’s a perfect book to talk about the craft and some common mistakes in writing.  So, I think I can do a somewhat decent review on discussing these issues.


Problem One: There is WAY Too Much and Not Enough Going On:


This book is sort of like being on an acid trip.  Or what I imagine being on an acid trip must be like since I’ve never been on one, unless you count drinking three bottles of grape soda and singing “Yankee Doodle” very loudly in rural Illinois  when you’re nine an acid trip.



I don’t. Watching Sponge Bob would probably be a better comparison.


The point is, that nothing that happens in Stray really makes sense despite  Sussman is a huge fan of info dumping and telling rather than showing-it never works. Even with these info dumps, I’m sort of left in a case of other confusion.  Because the world in Stray is pretty isolated save for the fact that we know our dumb ass heroine (better known as Aislynn) likes to bake and still has a heart despite  the headmistress going all Once Upon a Time on her.


Oh, and something about how there’s lots of kings and queens, while there’s really like one reigning queen who’s like the Evil Queen from Snow White but called the Wicked Queen.


Does any of this make sense?



If you’re like me, just get a glass of wine at this point.


At the same time while you’re confused with this big old mess, don’t expect anything to happen except for Aislynn to eat lots of things and complain about the color coordinated clothing system.


Problem Two: Did I Mention that Aislyn is Dumb?


Dumb doesn’t even begin to describe Aislyn.  I think she gets a Golden Bella and then some when it comes to her lack of intelligence.  I might’ve been able to buy some of it if she’d been younger, might’ve, but I don’t.  I think I know what Sussman was trying to do with this character.  Screw ups can be fun to read about.  And let’s face it, no one wants to read about a perfect character.  But Aisyln is sort of the Mary Sue of screw ups to the point it’s just painful to read her POV.


Plus, she makes some real idiotic choices.


Oh, and falls in love instantly.  And is too special for her heart to go all Once Upon a Time bye-bye.  It’s no wonder why I hate her.


Problem Three: Wrong Genre:


I really think this book would’ve benefited from being middle grade.  It could’ve been a cute middle grade book if a lot of editing was done and the whole purity subplot was diluted somewhat.  I think it rings more MG than YA for me because the character just reads really young (despite being  either fifteen or sixteen).  It would make a lot more sense for Aislyn to be younger, it would’ve made her behavior seem more natural.

Instead, she seems like an overgrown cast member of Sophia the First.


Problem Four: Tell Rather Than Show


This book tended to do rampant info dumps of telling rather than showing.  And I get it, first book in the series, of course you’re going to info dump a bit…but this was way too much.  Way too fast.  I couldn’t get into this world and even though I was told what the characters motivations were, but based on what was shown to me they felt too stilted and stiff.



Again, like a bad kid’s show.


Problem Five: Balancing Mystery versus Manners


I spent a good semester in my Writing Projects course talking all about this.  Mystery versus manners is in some ways, an extension of showing versus telling-except what you want to tell and show.


While there weren’t a lot of things shown, the things that  that were shown, were mere glimpses were rather fascinating but they did nothing to add to the plot. They were just sort of there yelling-look, this book could be good if it ever learned writing basics.

As for that information that was dumped upon us, it was essentially useless to the part of the book I read other than that fairy godmothers wear purple.


Overall Thoughts:


This is one case where I blame myself more than the book.  I was warned and I should’ve known better. But I was still intrigued, and you only have one life to live so I was like why not. Needless to say, I  learned quick not to give in to intrigue.


Overall Rating: DNF F.


Source: howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/stray-elissa-sussman
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review 2014-12-30 20:13
Stray - Elissa Sussman

Follow The Path or be Redirected. 

If I had to live under this system of caste, I'd go batty. However, it made this a fantastic read.

Magic, Princesses, tales of an evil magical queen abducting young women. And of course, a pet wolf. No great fairy tale is complete with out a wolf! OR fairy godmothers! Although, the majority of them in this book make me angry.

Stray is GREAT if you're in the mood for a fairy tale!

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review 2014-11-03 00:43
Review for Stray (Four Sisters #1) by Elissa Sussman
Stray - Elissa Sussman

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

Princess Aislynn has spent her life trying to follow her Path.  This dictates that she will refrain from using magic because only wicked girls do that and she will await her 16th birthday with grace and dignity.  Upon that day, she'll meet many suitors and must find one to marry within a year or she will be Redirected to life as a fairy god-mother.  But Aislynn has a difficult time adhering to the rules because her magic is powerful and hard to keep under control.  She will not deviate from her Path, no matter how her body craves the magic and all will work out well, right?  

Aislynn was a character that I felt extremely bad for.  She is constantly getting the short end of the stick and she doesn't really do anything to deserve it.  It's not like she can stop the magic flowing through her veins or prevent the awful teasing that pushes her over the edge.  The problem was that even though I could sympathize with her, I really didn't care about her.  I spent a good deal of the novel confused as to who the bad guy was and why was magic so bad to really spend time getting behind Aislynn's issues.  Yes, life for her sucks, but I've got more important things to work out here!   

That was a problem for me is that I don't understand the bad guys motives completely.  Maybe I'm just dense, but I don't get it!  It felt a bit too political for my YA tastes (or for my tastes in general because I don't care for politics).  I also felt like it was very slow.  The things that were occurring were of interest, but they felt like they were happening in slow-motion.  I just wanted to put things in fast-forward.  I had a difficult time stopping myself from skipping ahead because I just didn't want to hear the endless amounts of stuff being said or done.  I was also expecting something fairy-tale-esque and I feel like I was letdown.  The story has magical and fairy godmothers, but fairy-tales are about more than that.  

It gets 3 stars because the writing was good and the characters were interesting. Also because it's not difficult to read.  This was not a novel I had to force myself to continue with.  I kept going because I wanted to see how it would end and I needed to know what happened next.  Unfortunately, when I requested this, I didn't realize it was the first book of a series so I was not expecting yet another cliffhanger.  I was not happy about that, if you couldn't tell.  I think that was part of my problem, is I was expected a stand-alone, so I wanted everything to be laid out and explained all within this novel and we don't get that because there has to be content for the next book and the one after that, so we can't be giving away all the secrets up front.  

All in all, this is an interesting novel with a great concept, it just wasn't all that I was expecting it to be.  It's marketed as a new fairy tale but it doesn't deliver on that level and the plot takes so long to get into that I wondered a time or two if I was ever going to understand what was going on.  There is a bit of romance mixed in for my love story lovers, but it's very downplayed.  There is only a little humor, so don't expect to be giggling while Aislynn makes her journey.  This is a decent novel, I was just expecting so much more.  Maybe you'll disagree!

****Thank you to Greenwillow for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****

Tabitha's signature

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review 2014-11-02 21:57
Review: Stray
Stray - Elissa Sussman

I always have a heart for fairytales so I definitely wanted to give this book a try. This story is quite unique and gives the reader a story to look forward to.

Plot: This is about a girl who has magic, yet this magic is restricted. I found that in the beginning of the story the plot moved slowly. It wasn’t until the middle did it finally start to catch up. Things moved along nicely with the plot line, giving the reader more insight on magic, fairy godmothers and the world that Aislynn lives in.

Magic: I found this part hard to understand. They have magic but have to control it to the extent of not really using it. And if they do use it, they get moved out of society in being fairy godmothers. Their taught to use their powers but not really. I just found it how they treat magic like it was good but BAD as well. For me, it was like geez make up your mind. Either they use it or not.

Ending: The ending ends well with lots of questions answered yet more left unaswered. I wonder what the lives of the other girls will become and how magic being exposed will do to the people.

I found this story to be quite unique. I never really read anything like it and it has inspired me to want more. I like to know more of the history of this world and where it will lead to. Stray is an amazing story of magic and having faith in your path.

Source: www.bookswithbite.net
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review 2014-09-22 01:45
Started off good but ultimately disappointing
Stray - Elissa Sussman

In a misogynistic world where women’s natural magic has branded them dangerous, stupid, and in need of controlling constant guidance, Aislynn is living the dream: she’s a princess in a fairytale world complete with fairy godmothers, handsome princes, and happily ever afters. Except that when Aislynn accidentally uses her natural magic to defend herself, she’s Redirected onto the fairy godmother Path, sent to a new Academy, and must serve another princess.


Stray is an interesting book. It’s been branded as ‘a new fairytale’, except that is brings in lots of elements of other faiytales such the aforementioned fairy godmothers, magic, the Glass Slipper, spinning needles, and wolves, without really building much of its own tale. In Stray, the horrible misogynistic world built leaves all young girls in the most horrifying and vulnerable of positions: they are not allowed to use their natural magic. Advisors and fairy godmothers keep girls under constant scrutiny until they are handed over to their husbands, who keep a record of their magic use. And when they cross a line (which is undefined, as some girls are Redirected for much lesser crimes than other) and are Redirected, they are expected to be experts at all sort of domestic magic. Aislynn is yelled at constantly because she can’t heat tea or alter dresses using her magic. It’s an awful position to be put in, and I couldn’t help but think of the pressure put on virgin girls in the real world to suddenly become porn stars the instant they lose their virginity.


Contrary to just about every book ever written, Stray suffers from one mighty setback: it shows us too much without telling us anything at all. There are so many mysteries left unsolved at the end of the book I have to wonder if it was done on purpose or if the author is simply incompetent. A wolf that Aislynn has been dreaming about suddenly appears literally out of nowhere and no one asks any questions, Aislynn included. Aislynn’s own fairy godmother leaves cryptic clues that only serve to deliver more questions, and doesn’t answer anything. Aislynn spends a lot of her time being a failure of a fairy godmother and baking, except that at one point she’s Redirected (again) to become a princess (again), which begs the question that why on earth did we have the fairy godmother sections except to show that Aislynn isn’t very good at magic, except those random moments when she’s exceptionally good at it? It may have been to show the developing relationship between the gardener and the other servant, except that those relationships (however realistically portrayed) go nowhere as well.


Two-thirds into the book the plot takes a drastic change. This is with the introduction of the wolf. Aislynn’s back to being a princess. No one has any real idea of what’s going on, and as the reader I was just as lost. There was no clear goal in the novel and no real hurdles to overcome. It felt more like a ‘slice of life’, a series of montages showing how Aislynn couldn’t do anything right, how she was punished, and how she wasn’t quite bright enough to figure out someone was keeping tabs on her. She didn’t even have a goal of escaping the horrible society she was trapped in. The whole thing felt kind of aimless, even though the first two thirds seemed like a dystopian novel, which made it more difficult to read because as I said, no one had any goals and the villain that was being built up to be the villain turned out not to be a threat after all. Despite the dystopian feel to the fairytale world, there seemed to be no central conflict. Just ‘Aislynn can’t do anything right, except when she does.’


On top of that the characters in one location are replicated almost exactly in another location (the creepy pedo old man, the dour old woman who needs her heart back), and they hate Aislynn for no reason. AND THEN the contradictions started kicking in. The party Aislynn finds herself in think she’s being targeted for attack (no reason for them to believe this) when someone else was shot first, and then one characters says another character, who’s been as dour as the old woman mentioned previously, actually likes Aislynn.


Overall it kind of felt like the author wrote two-thirds of the book and realised the story couldn’t continue with Aislynn as a fairy godmother, so the story went off in another direction in an attempt to inject some danger and/or goals, much the same way Twilight was simply a romance until James was introduced to include a Big Bad and a direct threat to Bella.


Will I read the next book in the series? Honestly, probably not. I’m too disappointed by this jumble of half-plots and messing around doing nothing constructive. I feel that the novel could have been so much more, but then I re-read the blurb and saw how little it actually promised. I was just way too excited about the idea of a princess with magical powers. That’ll teach me.


Bonus points for hinting at possible lesbianism between two supporting characters.


Thanks to Greenwillow and Edelweiss for providing a free review copy for an honest review.

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