A Review of Grace Lost, by M. Lauryl Lewis
Grace Lost is not recommended for people under the age of eighteen due to mature content in the novel.
Zoe and Boggs have known one another since they were kids, but haven't seen one another for more than two years. When Boggs comes home from college with news about a woman he slept with and who aborted their baby, Zoe is shocked and disappointed in his behavior. She doesn't have much time to think about it, however, as a neighbor lurches through the trees, clearly dead but standing on his feet.
Fleeing their hometown with little more than a couple of sleeping bags, several boxes of food and a handgun, Boggs and Zoe must fight for their own survival in a world in which the dead rise upon passing. During their journey, they meet other survivors and witness gory zombie feedings at every turn.
My Thoughts on the Book
When I download freebies, I try to look at the reviews before doing so. I'm not the type of reader to puts everything that's free for a day onto my Kindle and then packs it away for a future date when I can read it. Ratings and reviews actually matter to me, and because of this, I look for books rated 4+ stars on Amazon. Once in a while I'll double-check with Goodreads if I want to make sure that this is a book I'll appreciate reading and want to review in the future.
Grace Lost has fantastic reviews. I use the word "fantastic" strategically because the types of reviews this book gets are the "fantasy" of any novice author trying to get her name out into the market and to garner more readers. What I'm trying to say is that the reviews are unrealistically positive. Yes, I'm implying that I think some of them may have been purchased by the author for a small monetary fee. And no, I will never do that to my readers: My reviews are always honest and genuine.
I hated this book. For the first two or three paragraphs I thought I might be able to enjoy it, but ultimately I hated everything about this book (except maybe for the apocalyptic setting and the zombies). The author has so many style problems that I don't know where to begin. Passive voice is her biggest issue, and one she needs to improve before I'll read another of her novels.
Moreover, the "romantic" element of the book is weak due to an awful lack of character development. I've never read a book filled with flatter characters than Zoe and Boggs. The pair of them have little personality (other than crying at the drop of a hat). What I do know of Boggs is that he manipulates Zoe in a traumatic situation and convinces her to become physically and emotionally entangled with her in a way that borders on sexual assault. The only really likable character from the beginning of the book is Gus, and Lewis has plans for any other characters who come in later and happen to get the reader's interest.
I'm not even going to touch on the inappropriateness of erotic sex scenes in a zombie novel. Warm Bodies this is not!
I will not be reading Tainted Grace, the second book in this series.
Thoughts on Style
Had there been a plot to Grace Lost (which there was not), I still couldn't have gotten around the style issues. You may remember from my review of Jenny Pox that I stated I kept reading through the style issues because I enjoyed the story. The problem with Grace Lost is that there isn't a story to keep reading for. After I'd gotten through 75% of the book, I speed-read to the end to make sure that I wasn't missing anything (because the reviews all said that this was a "new twist on Zombies").
I've written twice about the issue of passive voice in this novel. If you don't know what passive voice is, please take the time to look at the post on my Blogspot blog, where I discuss the specifics of what Passive Voice is.
- Odd spellings of common words are annoying. Some reviewers have mentioned frustration with Zoe's constantly saying "Kay" instead of "okay" in the novel. I additionally take issue with the use of "Ya" in place of "Yeah." The word is spelled "Yeah," and many people read "Ya" like "Ja." It's annoying and every time this word appeared I found myself stopping to analyze it, how Lewis meant it to be pronounced, and whether this was a vocabulary issue on her part.
- Lewis went out of her way to filter her characters' thoughts and feelings. I understand that this probably had something to do with attempting to make the most of first person, but the author failed at this. When an author filters a character's thoughts or experiences, it distances the reader from the character and her story. Instead of maintaining a single perspective, it keeps the reader in her own head instead of the character's head. I'd recommend that Lewis avoid this practice in the future. (I've placed an example of this issue on my Tumblr.)
- The character development is non-existent. Ordinarily I'd try to say that the character development needs some work, or that the author could improve in this area, but in this case, there's no saving this situation. The characters are flat, with no personality, and the two main females (Zoe and Emilie) are interchangeable with one another in terms of their personality and voice. If Lewis had done more work in developing a voice for each of her characters and less work on filtering them (probably in an effort to stay with one point of view), she'd have done much better.
- Rape isn't romantic. I couldn't help but feel throughout the book that Boggs was manipulating Zoe and that their romantic interactions were creepy and lecherous. It's amazing how Lewis managed to make Gus (significantly older than his romantic partner) seem like a good man with a solid head on his shoulders and Boggs (best friend of his romantic partner) come across as the creepy old man, but she somehow managed to pull this off. While this isn't the only case in which I've read a book where one romantic lead is clearly manipulating the other (see The Hunger Games trilogy!), this one bothered me.
- Passive voice is exhausting. I had to take breaks while reading because between the lack of plot development (i.e. there was no plot outside of the romance at all) and the passive voice, this book made me tired and I preferred to take it in small bursts. Once I'd started I committed to not reviewing the book without finishing it, but this one was particularly difficult for me to get through, and I nearly gave up at 80% finished when Lewis did something with one of the characters I didn't like.
I've read reviews of this book that call it "the best book I've ever read" and "amazing" and have said "wow" of the novel. While it's altogether possible that these reviewers don't read very much and this is one of the first books they've read for pleasure, I think it's more likely that Lewis paid professional reviewers to boost her ratings on Amazon, Goodreads and related services. Because of Grace Lost, I will be doing more to scrutinize the reviews I read of Kindle fiction in the future, and look at it critically. Very short reviews that say little about the book itself are more likely to be "fake."
Note to the author: You seem like a wonderful person. I've read some of what you've had to say on Goodreads and I don't mean my review here as a personal attack on you. My notes are filled with points when this book could have been fantastic and then just flubbed out short of what it could have been. A few changes (mostly the passive voice and stronger plotting) would have me giving your books another shot. Take what I've said the way it's intended: As a way to improve on your foundation in future novels.
Where Lewis Goes Right
Because this review is so overwhelmingly negative, I wanted to take a moment to point out the positives of Grace Lost (which, rated by enjoyment and not by style, I'd have given 1 star).
Lewis knows how to hook the reader. The action starts out right away, and you're involved from the word "go." If the book kept up this pace with a strong storyline and solid plotting, the book would have been fantastic. In the very first chapter, the world changes and the reader is thrust into the apocalypse. More development of the reasons behind the plague and the apocalypse instead would have been preferable for me as a reader, but I was drawn in instantly and expected to love the book. It disappointed me that I could not.
Unfortunately this just wasn't enough to push me into purchasing the second book in the series. I wanted something more in between the beginning and the end of the book.
Is This Book Appropriate for Kids?
This book is in no way appropriate for children under the age of eighteen. It contains explicit descriptions of sexual activities as well as more gore than I consider to be appropriate for children. Grace Lost is best considered a novel for mature audiences only, and parents should avoid giving their children this book to read.
You Might Try Instead...
Who Might Like This Book
This book is most likely to be enjoyed by people who like the following:
- Zombies (with little explanation of the apocalypse or plague)
- Apocalyptic Fiction
Have a Zombie Book to Recommend?
Please post your recommendations of Zombie novels in the comments section. I am personally looking for some more to read and would like to have some recommendations. My recommendation and current favorite Zombie novel is Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. You can purchase it to the right.
Books Like Grace Lost
If you've read Grace Lost, what do you think? Buy, Borrow, or Bypass?
Buy, Borrow or Bypass
My enjoyability rating of Grace Lost is a 1-star rating. Therefore, I'd recommend that other readers simply bypass this novel. I got it when it was free on Amazon and I don't personally think that it's worth the asking price of $3.99. I'd have an easier time recommending this novel if the price were lower or if it had real page numbers to go along with it. As it is, this book was forgettable and I don't believe that my followers would enjoy it.
© 2014 Becki Rizzuti