Sunday, April 28, 2013

Arcadia's Gift by Jesi Lea Ryan - Book Review

Most people who experience death don't live to tell about it.

When sixteen year old Arcadia "Cady" Day wakes in a hospital after experiencing what can only be called a psychic episode, she finds her family in tatters. With her twin sister gone, her dad moved out, her mom's spiraling depression and her sister's boyfriend, Cane, barely able to look at her, the only bright spot in her life is Bryan Sullivan, the new guy in school. When Bryan's around, Cady can almost pretend she's a regular girl, living a regular life; when he's not, she's wracked with wild, inexplicable mood swings. As her home life crumbles and her emotional control slips away, Cady begins to suspect that her first psychic episode was just the beginning...
As you may or may not know, I’m going to be reviewing more self-published books on this blog.   I’ll still post reviews of past and present bestsellers, but there will be more of a mix.  Arcadia’s Gift is one such self-published novel, so I won’t be judging it as harshly.  How can I hold one person to the same standards as an author, their agent, and a group of meticulous editors?  I won’t sugar-coat and will be honest, but I’m more inclined to ignore little hiccups along the way in favor of the overall journey.

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when I agreed to review this book.  Self-published books are always a gamble because they can be either a diamond in the rough, or a pile of steaming dog crap with a price tag.  While Arcadia’s Gift wasn’t quite a diamond, it’s closer to that side of things than the other.  By a landslide.

Jesi Lea Ryan is a very talented writer.  I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see her picked up by a publishing firm in the near future.  She’s a strong story teller, and her novel was blessedly clear of your typical mythical creatures.  It did have a strong supernatural element to it – that gift of Arcadia’s, get it? – but it really does read like a contemporary story of loss and love as much as, if not more than, a YA paranormal book.  Her dialogue isn’t always very strong, but when it is, it’s spot on.  There’s a specific phone conversation between Cady and her best friend Bronwyn that delivered some of the most genuine laughs from a book that I’ve read in a long time.

On the negative side of things, there’s a bit too much description in Arcadia’s Gift.  I’m not talking purple prose, more like a tendency to describe actions that didn’t need to be described and so take the reader out of the story a bit.  Sipping sodas, scratching itches, little everyday things that happen getting from Point A to Point B.  These are things editors look for and cut, things that bog down a novel and hinder that quick-read feel.  There are a very few misused words and grammatical errors that only the most hardcore Grammar Nazis will catch, but I do feel compelled to mention this in case you’re one of them.  The romance was sweet, but I do wish it was a bit more…I don’t know, just a bit more.

All in all, though, this is a novel I’m so glad I got to read.  It’s one that reminds us that there are good self-published books out there, and a depth of talent for publishers to plumb should they take the time to look.  It’s not a polished, magnificent reading experience, but for those looking for their next self-published book and author to support, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than Arcadia’s Gift.  I can almost guarantee it’ll at least be worth the time and money you spend on it.

Arcadia's Gift - 3.5 out of 5 stars


  1. I think it's awesome that you're reading self-published books, just because you never really know for sure what you're getting yourself into. I mean, it's the same in ways with a traditionally published book, but then multiple people have worked on it and it's usually a bit cleaner so there's something to work with.

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. Reading the summary, it doesn't sound like something I'd be interested in, but I look forward to seeing what else pops up from this author. She sounds promising!

    1. Thanks, Asti! I have a friend who self-published before I sarted blogging, and since I saw her struggle to find an audience I knew I'd eventually want to branch out and try to help indie writers find theirs.

      I understand that. If it's not for you, it's not for you haha. She's published other books, but I don't know a whole lot about them.

  2. I'm like you, I try Indies, I'm always hopefully of finding an author before they become the next big thing. The book sounds interesting, I think its one I would like. Thanks for clearly showing the good and the bad as you always do :-)

    BookishTrish @ Between the Lines

    1. Thanks, Trish! Who knows? Maybe we'll help lead the world to a new amazing author one of these days. ;)

  3. Thank you for the lovely review! It means a lot to me that you took the time to read and review my book. You made my day!



As you may or may not know, life is eating up way too much of my spare time right now, so pretty please don't hate me if it takes me a few days to get back to your wonderful comments. I read each and every one from my phone, and they always make my day. <3