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Smashwords book reviews by Lena Grey
- The Cat in the Cradle
on Sep. 07, 2011
Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! a Chimera, a werewolf, and a Pegasus too. These were but a few a few of the creatures encountered by Dylan, the main character of 'The Cat in the Cradle' by Jay Bell on his fantastical quest to restore order to his world.
Jay Bell did a good job of presenting Dylan's progress from a spoiled older boy to that of a competent young man. With each achievement Dylan grew in stature, gradually became more responsible and decisive. An important development in Dylan's quest for autonomy was his decision to come out to the world and proclaim his love for Tyginn which laid the ground work for him to operate in complete honesty.
The plot was consistent, but at times it was difficult to maintain an even reading pace. Some sections were naturally slower because of all the important background information explaining the fantasy world; without it, the story would have made little sense. Like Dylan's journey toward manhood, the beginning of the story was a little stiff; but when things became exciting, it loosened up and began to fly by with me practically running to keep up with the action.
The imaginings in the story were inventive and unique—the five lands themselves, the animals, the gods, the religious beliefs were all very creative and consistent. Jay Bell pleasantly surprised me with some of his twists and turns in the tale. One concept I especially appreciated was Jay Bell's excellent use of colors to convey mood, emotion, temperament, and pace. It was quite effective, particularly in distinguishing between the 10 oligarchs. Using a specific color to denote each of their realms was brilliant. Considering the detailed information involved, I would never have been able to keep it straight without these associations.
The concept of a large, talking cat, particularly one with Kio's wit, delighted me. His perspective added to the story in a humorous and important way. He could say and do what humans dared not.
'The Cat in the Cradle' was an enjoyable fantasy adventure with unique characters whose personality quirks added both levity and intensity. Along with all of the magic, intrigue, suspense, and romance was an important moral lesson; as William Shakespeare wrote, 'Above all: To thine own self be true'. This is an excellent message not only for the YA readers for whom this story was written, but for us all.
- Language Lessons (gay romance)
on March 11, 2012
'Language Lessons' by Jay Bell takes a look at Joey, a 17 year old young man, who hasn't experienced and doesn't understand the necessity of being in love. He flits around, somewhat irresponsibility, dwelling on the superficial things in life, not caring about the consequences. Joey thinks he has it all, but having everything on a temporary basis, eventually catches up with you.
At first, I didn't like Joey at all. I thought he was a conceited, shallow, little ass! He certainly was a master of manipulation. He did, however, redeem himself by reuniting two guys who had deep feelings for each other. This made him take pause and think about his own life. I actually began to feel sorry for him as it began to dawn on him that having someone special in your life might not be such a bad thing.
Phillip was absolutely adorable! I loved his mixture of honesty and innocence and the way he had Joey doubting his 'methods'. I didn't feel too sorry for Joey as he whined:"I don't know what to do!" I really liked Joey's mom. She was very insightful. I was both amazed and amused when he asked her for advice about how it felt to be in love. It was very touching. His friend, Maggie was great at giving him advice too, although I imagined that she was probably busting at the seams trying not to laugh at his predicament which he would have so richly deserved. And, of course, I liked 'the first time' between Joey and Phillip, especially since Joey, for the first time, was more interested in Phillip's needs than his own. Sweet Phillip was so adorably naive about carnal matters and Joey was so infinitely patient with him. When Phillip asked: "Uh, how do we decide which one of us is the girl?” I had to giggle, but was proud of Joey for the way he handled the whole scene.
'Language Lessons' is a brief, but meaningful, story which looks into the trials and tribulations of teenage boys discovering what it means to be in a relationship. It was funny, serious, endearing, frustrating and, best of all, it had a happy ending. For a quick, but entertaining and purposeful read, this story will be just the thing.
- Hell's Pawn
on March 13, 2012
I've often wondered what will happen after I die, where my soul would travel, but the myriad of choices presented in Jay Bell's book 'Hell's Pawn' made me rethink the whole idea. John Grey takes an amazing journey beginning in Purgatory and ending in Heaven. During his traveling, he has the privilege of visiting several versions of the afterlife which he portrays in vivid detail. John has a special sort of energy which allows him to do things on the other side that others can't, and this is his key to success. John has a sense of purpose that others don't possess. John seems to be the only one with a drive to change, unlike his friend Dante who is comfortable being himself, being in the moment, without any desire for redemption. He wants to be productive and if the activity in which he's engaging isn't, he quickly loses interest. John's mission is to help Hell unite the different realms to free Purgatory from the domination it is under, but he's determined not to simply be Hell's pawn. The song 'I Did It My Way' kept filtering through my brain as John puts his special touch on negotiations between the realms, wheeling and dealing for their support. It was gratifying to watch John's confidence grow while he honed his diplomacy skills.
Rimmon is a fascinatingly complex character. With him, as with many other characters along the way, I see the theme 'don't judge a book by its cover', even if it has red skin, horns, and a tail and stereotypically speaking, looks like a demon which we associate with evil. However, it's the heart that counts and as John discovers, regardless of appearances, Rimmon has a good heart. He admires John and wants to love him, but his heart belongs to his estranged lover and he is unable to move on and get it back. Reconciliation with his lover is the only thing that will put his heart to rest.
One of the themes that I appreciate greatly is that animals have souls too, and if not inhibited by external sources, they have free reign and a much keener sense of direction than humans. So does John's traveling companion in spirit. Animals have the ability to travel in whatever realm they wish, which, to me, speaks to the purity of their spirit. Personally, I wouldn't want to be in any kind of afterlife that didn't include animals.
The amount of information Jay fits into two hundred and seventy six pages is amazing and a bit overwhelming; still the story flows so well. I can hardly begin to describe the plethora of ideas put forth in 'Hell's Pawn'. At the same time, Jay's incredible sense of humor shines through along with references to the past such as: Then the music changed, and his ridiculously bloodshot eyes widened. “Hey, who’s singing this?”“ Nirvana. They’re after your time.” “Man, they’re really good! Music is way better in the future.” John thought of the endless boy bands and sophomoric teenage pop stars that had dominated the music scene since the likes of Kurt Cobain had died, but kept his mouth shut. It was kinder to let Dante believe the lie.” It's a departure from Jay's usual storytelling, yet it still maintains his comfortable lyrical style, his passion and depth. Even though it's fantasy, it's a book that is best read at a slower, more deliberate pace, and perhaps even more than once, in order to grasp its significance, but in the end, it's worth it. Thanks, Jay for such a thought provoking look into the other side.