Thursday, December 31, 2009

REVIEW: Maid For Me

Title: Maid for me
Author: Kat Lieu
Genre: YA
Price: $11.00
Publisher: Nummyz productions
ISBN: 9780982188118
Point of Sale: Lulu
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

Attributing a numerical score to a review is a very arbitrary process. But this book illustrates one good reason for doing it. I want to say up front that I am giving this book an 8/10. This might seem odd because most of the rest of this review is going to be critical. How does this make sense? Basically, this book is charming and charm is an ineffable quality that has very little to do a book's tangible attributes. I don't know how many other readers would be won over by the book's charm or find it charming at all. That is the risk you take when you listen to someone else's opinion, be it in numbers or words.

The cover sums the book up nicely. It is a cheerful, minimalist YA romance with a strong manga style and some stylistic quirks and shortcomings (Cherchez the capitals? Why credit the artist on the cover?). The story starts very strong with teen protagonist Mina Lin confronted with her fragile mother's gambling debt, and the boy she is besotted with finding a shallow but gorgeous girlfriend. By a series of events that requires some suspension of disbelief Mina becomes the maid, bodyguard and pretend girlfriend of a gorgeous industrialist's son--a somewhat older boy who is being stalked and threatened by a mysterious villain.

Mina's good nature, plight and ugly duckling-to-swan moments are all very enjoyable--and probably the books strongest element is an authorial "voice" that is idiosyncratic, sweet and very self-assured. Qualities that would normally bother me, from head hoping to a complete failure to understand how to use an em dash, didn't seem like such a big deal, so long as Mina got to go to the ball. In the second half the book seems rushed, plot twists jump out of nowhere and the cast of characters doubles. My disbelief got a little less suspended as new characters blithely involve a young teen in solving a kidnapping and attempted murder. The story saves itself at the end by resolving the love triangle in a satisfying if unnecessarily violent way--although as the boys in question had only met once during the story it really was not much of a rivalry except in Mina's mind.

Maid for Me is an adorable but deeply flawed novella that could, with a little extra work, become a much more commercial YA novel. However I suspect the author is more interested completing the work to the standards of its existing fandom rather that moving it fully into the mainstream.



nummyz said...

thanks for the awesome and helpful review! it will help with my future writings~


Diane Scott said...

Agreed! Your review is incredible! Might have even taken more time to write than the book itself???

ConnieFoggles said...

Sounds like this is one book I want to avoid reading.

corrin said...

Very nice review...I find the numerical ratings very helpful!

A. @ A Changing Life said...

I admit I find it hard to do at times, but often suspending disbelief and indulging in a bit of escapism is just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes I thoroughly enjoy books but when I come to think about them, the plot and/or characters, I realise they don't stand up to much analysis.

kat said...

century plus year old boy vampire sparkles in the sun and endures years after years of high school-- billion-dollar franchise.

diane scott-- 40,000 words would take a bit longer than a review to write, hopefully ;)

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Agreed Kat. Even my lengthy lit reviews only take a day or so to write. I doubt very much you wrote your book in two days, even with flaws. Every book is flawed to some extent. Just take the commentary and use it to improve your craft.

When it comes to book analysis and critique, I think we can leave the passive aggressive snark at the door. Emily said a lot of good things in her review, but you have to decide which parts of her review will be of value to you in the long run. Focus on the good and the bad technical things, discard all the subjective, and move on from there. Write for your ideal reader.

On the good:
--Your story started strong.
--An authorial "voice" that is idiosyncratic, sweet and very self-assured.
-- Mina is a charming character.

On the bad side:
--Head hopping narrative. Watch your POV
--Flawed punctuation, specifically the em-dash (though this is subjective: the em-dash can be used in a variety of ways for effect. However, should you get daring, the Chicago Style Manual Nazis will waive their finger at you, so be careful here.)
--Second half seemed rushed.
--Plot twists jump out of nowhere. Try to foreshadow more before blindsiding the reader. Of course, the reader might not get the foreshadowing either, so you just gotta go with what works.
--Implausible plot devices. Sometimes escapist implausibility is good and sometimes the reader wants real-life believability, so you need to focus on your “ideal reader” before making drastic changes.