Up until now, I’ve been hesitant about reviewing books, but I figured, just because I’m an author doesn’t mean I can’t comment as a reader. There’s nothing I can do if someone wants to retaliate, and I shouldn’t let that silence my opinions. I love discussing books, and since I don’t belong to a book club, this is my way of discussion. Reader participation is highly encouraged and appreciated.
I’ll be pairing my book reviews with a type of food or drink, and each section will receive stars based on a 5-star rating. Of course, these reviews are completely my own opinion. No one has paid me (although I do like money), coerced me (I’m okay within certain situations), and none of my other personalities have come out in the process of writing this review.
Today, I will be discussing Unseen by Stephanie Erickson and pairing it with Gummy Bear Cake.
Mackenzie Day constantly struggles to silence the voices in her head. The inner thoughts of those around her intrude upon every aspect of her life, threatening to turn it into chaos.
All her life, she thought she was alone as a mind reader—a freak.
Then a member of a secret organization called The Unseen suddenly introduces himself, and she’s immersed in a world she never knew existed. They teach her to hone her skills as a reader, but to what end? Secrets surround her, humming just out of reach, filling her with questions.
Who are they? What do they do with their mind-reading abilities? In the end, just how far will Mackenzie go to be part of The Unseen?
Book Cover: 5/5 Stars
The book cover captured my attention right away. Within the words, you can see parts of a woman, such as her eye, mouth, and hair. Her eye color is similar to the butterfly. The way I interpret the butterfly is a representation of her freedom. Her iLs kept her cocooned, closed off from everyone around her. Once she meets the Unseen, she becomes free of her iLs. This book’s frosting made me want to read it.
For instance, take this Gummy Bear Cake. The surrounding frosting on top and the colorful layers within the dark, chocolate cake makes me want to eat it. And let’s not forget the Gummy Bears and all their different flavors.
Book Idea: 5/5 Stars
This book was free on Indie Author News, so I downloaded it because I also thought the premise of the book was great. A mind reader trying to fit in by quieting the voices using iLs. Music helped her as a child, so it was no wonder she wanted to become a Music Therapist. Then she comes across this secret group called the Unseen. They’re also mind readers, who invite her to join so they can help improve her skills. These are the fixings of a good paranormal book, which isn’t a normal genre I read.
The makings for a Gummy Bear Cake sound awesome too. Even though I don’t often eat cake, the combination of sugar, butter, buttermilk, flour, eggs, and icing is a sugar coma waiting to happen. Sometimes, it’s good to dive into something different.
Erickson started out strong, but then it seemed she got lazy with the story. She wanted to make everything neat and tidy. Readers are able to predict what comes next because there isn’t any conflict. The main character, Mackenzie has lived her life listening to music. It blocked out the voices and helped her concentrate. Her best friend, Maddie is the one person she has trusted throughout her entire life, yet not enough to tell her she was a mind reader until she meets the Unseen.
They constantly text each other, and neither could do anything without talking to the other. I felt the author wasted pages of meaningless dialogue. Below is an excerpt between the two friends. They’re taking pictures of what they are wearing on their dates and texting. This is just a little bit of the 2-1/2 eBook pages of conversation with thoughts tossed in between.
Lovely! Thank you! Although, you might want to keep the face to yourself.
And how about you?
A little daring, don’t you think?
No wardrobe malfunctions tonight, huh?
Haha! No malfunctions here! If these babies come out, it’ll be on purpose.
Okay, well, good luck with that. I gotta run to the restaurant.
Have fun and call me when you’re done!
And while I tried to ignore some of the wasted dialogue space, I couldn’t get past the unrealistic scenes in the story. Mackenzie is excited to start her life’s dream as a Music Therapist, which she worked hard at and is now working on her thesis. Some guy, Owen shows up and introduces her to the Unseen. She’s very wary of them, thinking they might kill her. Of course, if she decides to join the Unseen, she has to give up everything, live in their complex, and dedicate the rest of her life to them. This is about the amount of build up the reader gets before decisions are made and all goals abandoned.
Owen kisses her, and in a flash, she decides to be with the Unseen. Below is an excerpt of the scene.
“Instead, he leaned in, kissing me deeply, and sensation eclipsed thought. His lips were soft and warm, his hands tangled in my hair, my own hands wrapped around his shoulders, holding on for dear life…”
“Does that answer your question?”
“I need to find David.”
“Not quite what I wanted to hear after giving a girl some of my best moves, but okay. How come?”
“To tell him I’m in.”
Really? This is unbelievable to me. I don’t know anyone, no matter how smitten they are, who would give up their life’s dream, friends, and their home for people and a future they know nothing about. Once she joins, there are these secrets about their leader, David, and what they do. Mackenzie blindly walks away from everything all because a guy kissed her. To add to my aggravation, there was no mystery, because I figured out what they did and who David was early on.
Erickson took a great idea, and did little with it. All of these things are signs that she didn’t care much about the validity of plot. It reminds me of something Samuel Johnson wrote: “… fiction loses its force when it departs from the resemblance of reality.” I couldn’t get into the book because it departs from reality.
It’s similar to baking a cake. If I’m baking a cake and leave out the flour or eggs, the cake isn’t able to stand on its own. It needs flour and eggs in order for it to be a cake. A cake, like a book, needs to have certain elements to keep everything together.
The characters are in their twenties, yet they come off very immature. It reads like a teen book. Maddie and Mackenzie are always texting. Mackenzie is either pushing or throwing something at Owen. Plain and simple, Mackenzie is unreliable. She flips her feelings around faster than a “heartbeat.” I need to rely on the protagonist in order for me to connect and like the character. It’s fine for a character to change their mind, but then show the change and its effects. In regards to this book, the characters made life-altering decisions within a matter of hours or a day, and when tragedy hits, feelings of loss don’t flood the pages.
Plus, all the characters are one-dimensional. There aren’t any layers to them. Mackenzie remains the same whether it’s getting a new job, going on a date, or something tragic happening. None of the characters grow as the story moves along.
When she finds out the Unseen are counter terrorists, she is horrified, throws up, and doesn’t want Owen or any of them near her, yet she stays to listen to Owen. Why? Because what he says will be different from what the leader said. He might change her mind. I felt it was the author’s way of filling pages.
It’s like ordering a cake. Based off the name, Gummy Bear Cake, I would have certain expectations, such as the cake having Gummy Bears or it’s shaped like one. I’d be pissed if it arrived with marshmallows all over it. I want to eat Gummy Bears, just like I want to read about characters realistic characters. And the blurb doesn’t hint to romance but paranormal, which is what I was expecting with layers of secrets. This cake has layers of icing, but the book failed to produce any. It’s just a thin coat of vanilla.
Writing and Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Similar to the above Gummy Bear Cake, this book didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. It lacked ingredients to keep it together. Because of the weak and predictable plot, and the boring characters, I can only give this book 2-1/2 stars.
The story is void of character conflict and progression. The characters remain the same from beginning to end. There is plenty of dialogue between Mackenzie and Maddie, which doesn’t move the story forward.
Erickson had some good lines, but repetition spoiled it. I liked the simplicity of this line. “…he laughed that beautiful laugh of his.” And this one, “You know, for someone who says he’d hate to say goodbye to me, you’re sure not giving me much to say hello to.” Unfortunately, the repeated rolling of the eyes, smiling, and creepy, buried these types of lines.
Also, I found too many things stated without being described or the action described could not be done. “I knew his feelings ran deep (How? This is where show comes into play); I can tell you’re enamored with him (How? Describe); I could tell the sentiment was genuine (How? Describe); We stood face-to-face for a heartbeat (A heartbeat is pretty quick); The look in his eyes said he was telling the truth. (How can a look say you’re telling the truth)”. These are just a few from the book, but there are plenty more I could tells.
I don’t think I’ll be reading another Stephanie Erickson book, even if it is free.
Have you read this book or any by Stephanie Erickson? What are your thoughts about the book? What are your thoughts about the review?
Reading and Cake,