Friday, January 15, 2016

Guest Review: The Memory Jar by Elissa Janine Hoole


Since the accident, Taylor's memory has been fuzzy. But at least she's awake. Who knows what her boyfriend, Scott, will remember when he comes out of the coma. Will he remember that Taylor was driving the snowmobile when it crashed? Will he remember the engagement ring? Her pregnancy?

Will he remember that she tried to break up with him?

Taylor doesn't know. And she doesn't know if she wants him to remember. Plenty of things happened that night and before—secrets wrapped in secrets—that she'd prefer be forgotten.

Facing choices she'd rather ignore, Taylor searches for something more solid than whispers and something bigger than blame to face the future and forgive herself.

Publication Date: April 8, 2016

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:

Joanna's Review:

"The Memory Jar"
By Elissa Janine Hoole

"The Memory Jar" is a ratings stumper, as in I had no idea how to rate it. Parts of it were so juvenile that I was loathe to scratch up the required one star, and other parts were so brilliant I'd easily award it all five. I felt kind of like the author could be a gifted Physics student, earning A+ grades on all her finals, while flatly failing every History course she sets foot in, so her end result is a student with a C average. In fact, such a student would have no resemblance to a student who is actually a typical C student, but we have no other way of categorizing people other than sometimes blending their highs and lows into a single recognizable term.

So this book gets three stars.

Why the one star parts? Oh, it's unoriginal, it's predictable, it's got all the tropes of a YA/NA book trotted out in formulaic order… The one interesting organizational aspect of alternating sections titled "Then" and "Now" was done so ham-handedly that sometimes the "Then" was someone else's "Then," not the main character's "Then," which was a heck of a sloppy way to tell a story that ended up needing to be told with a third-person omniscient narrator, rather than these first-person perspectives that do not work together. No lie, I did this same format in fifth grade when I wrote a story about a family of dragons, and either I was talented and ahead of my time (I wasn't) or this author needs a lot more disciplined study of narration before she sees the light of publication (she does). If a story needs to contain multiple perspectives, then set it up that way – don't derail your own narrator to throw in other people's perspectives just in a couple of places because you have no idea how else to work it in. All I could see, as I read, was the glaring evidence of, "She had no idea how to work this in."

Why the five star parts? Well, the characters are real live people, and I didn't like any of them. Taylor, our protag, got on my nerves more than once a chapter, as did Scott her boyfriend, as did Joey her boyfriend's brother, as did Emily, her boyfriend's sister, as did Taylor's mom, who's clearly trying with mixed success to rein in an abusive parenting trait, as did Taylor's bestie whose name I mostly forget but it might be Dani, who was the only one I MIGHT have liked but was also the one character that started to fade to one-dimensional. These characters are REAL. They are so multi-faceted and deep that disliking them is the highest praise I can give in the sense that even my own beloved husband, children, and closest friends piss me off sometimes. Because they are real, flawed people who try hard and make terrible decisions and battle with themselves and sometimes the people around them… and it's what you will recognize because it's everything else you have going on in your own life, too. It's real life. I found real life in these pages, and that is RARE. Suddenly, the author's clumsy hands turned into skilled loomer's hands as she weaved and weaved and weaved and weaved, layering these complex people throughout "Then" and "Now" sections, revealing new layers and facets of each person's identity and history… and it blew me away.

But it was also a dopey story, pandering to the YA/NA audience the way the genre does, throwing in a random hot police officer lest the fleeting attention span of barely literate new readers dare to stray back to a reality show on TV for a minute. If I communicate nothing else to the authors I review, it's this: TRUST YOUR READERS. Quit dumbing it down, quit trying to write on the level you think they're on. Whatever age you're writing for, JUST WRITE. And dear Ms. Hoole, I do hope you continue to write, because you have a lot of room to grow and with a little more finesse you'll be blowing me away even more with a next book.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Too often I read something that's dumbed down. :) Great review! Thanks so much for sharing.