Monday, December 27, 2010

The Second Half of Life (Sionna Cailey)

Overall: 3.6
  • Plot: 4/5
  • Originality: 4/5
  • Language: 2.7/5
  • Believability: 3.8/5
The Second Half of Life by Sionna Cailey

Tequila, magic and rock & roll set the stage for midlife rebellion when Aidan, Kathy and Diana decide that witchcraft is the only way to rev up their boring small-town lives. They discover the secret of a demon that grants your heart’s desire and magical wishes always come with a high price tag – can they afford it? A wicked, Wiccan Romance...

Genre: Women's Fiction
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In an ongoing effort to assuage their dissatisfaction with life, Kathy, Aidan, and Diana – the so-called "Committee of the Disaffected" – dabble in one activity after the other. Their quest for that elusive something, that sense of purpose or meaning, eventually leads them to dabbling in witchcraft. At first, I was uncertain as to whether or not this would all be some major hoax, an instance of their minds convincing them that they were indeed commanding things. Then, the demon appeared.

The results of the wishes reminded me of Bedazzled, where the supernatural being takes real desires and perverts them, ruining what should have been wonderful. The concept was not particularly original, but then Cailey twisted it. Both selfish and unselfish wishes are fair game for Aosotha's warped sense of humor, but the results of its meddling are ambiguous. In all honesty, however, it was an unexpected turn in the latter portion of the novel that rescued its plot from becoming trite. From then on, I read with considerably more interest, and while three quarters of a book may seem like a hefty price to get to that point, I was able to appreciate the build-up once I reached the climax (and some very surprising revelations).

One of my favorite aspects of this work was that Cailey took the time to address the wants of each character, fleshing them out so they are not simple, selfish desires, but rather the result of many different factors. People are a mixture of "good" and "bad" personality traits, and their lives are shaped by circumstances that may or may not be within their control. The author addresses this, and the humanness of her characters' struggles makes it easy to identify with them. Don't be fooled by the cover: there is more than romance to be found here.

The weakest aspect of The Second Half of Life was actually the inconsistency in writing quality. Overall, the author appears to have a wonderful vocabulary and a great sense of dialogue, as well as a good grasp of how to organize thoughts so that readers can take large amounts of information in without becoming lost. The fault lies mainly in the overuse of run-on sentences and sentence fragments, as well as the occasional use of the wrong word ("subtly" versus "subtlety," for one). The author also makes the mistake of starting sentences with digits instead of writing the number out ("12th" versus "twelfth"), and while this is more of a technicality than something truly distracting, it does happen to be a personal pet peeve. Admittedly, there were portions of the novel that were very well written, and sentence fragments were occasionally used to very good effect. These fluctuations made the language of this book very difficult to score.

On the whole, I found The Second Half of Life to be an easy, enjoyable read. It makes its point without becoming overbearing, allowing readers to take away what they will.

(Review copy provided by the author)


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