Author Archives: Fickle Fiona

Bear Naked by R.J. Eliason

I would really like to give this book a 2-1/2 rating. While I do feel the overall story has potential, there are some elements that could be improved to make the story more compelling.

Bear NakedTitle: Bear Naked
Author: R.J. Eliason
Series: Bear Naked Book 01
Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Amanda Burnson is a typical teen with all the typical problems: excess weight, struggles with body odor, random people trying to kill her . . . oh, and her boyfriend just might be a werewolf.

At seventeen, Amanda, who has been raised by her neo-pagan uncle, has more friends at the local Renaissance faire than at her high school. Most of her summers are spent at faires, festivals, and Aunt Maggie’s farm.

There is something new going on in the heart of America, in the small Iowa town that Amanda calls home. The whole town is changing—a tough way to begin a school year. New kids alongside the old; new attitudes colliding with the usual annoying old ones; menacing new faces alongside comforting ones. . . things will never be the same once this brew is boiled.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Fickle Fiona says…

Fickle_Fiona_100I appreciate where the author was headed with this story, though I feel it lacked some things in the way it got there. The first ⅔ of the book was extremely slow paced with no build up to the climax of the story. Secrets are revealed and fairly instantly accepted by other characters, without much display of reaction. It has the feel of an author writing a series for the first time and having trouble with pacing and development. I am interested to see if the second book has a better feel to it, now that she is invested in the story, and to see how the story develops.

I applaud the inclusion of vast differences of characters the author chooses to include. After looking into her history more, she appears to be an LGBT advocate, which is commendable. She incorporates characters into the story that are homosexual, as well as genderqueer – a term I was not familiar with before reading this book. That being the case, I feel like there was little outright explanation as to what exactly that meant. There were hints throughout the book that I eventually picked up on, but it would have been nice to know more earlier on. I originally felt like these were token characters. put in the book just to say she was being inclusive. Later in the story, I discovered they play a larger role; however, the genderqueer concept still has no major impact.

badge2v4The same can be said of the main character’s Pagan belief system. There are scenes in the book that are incredibly descriptive but sadly unnecessary. I would have found it more intriguing had the author gone into detail on scenes of the Pagan rituals and celebrations. With both the genderqueer and the Pagan lifestyles, I feel like the author could have taken advantage of this platform to educate people that are less informed on these topics.

Once finished, I can say that I enjoyed the overall story that the author was going for. Despite the basic writing style and lack of drama to keep the book moving, I never got to a point where I wanted to stop reading. It somehow managed to hold my attention and kept me turning the pages to see where it was going.

Other reviews…

If you liked this book…

Mama Cried by Talia Haven

Welcome to Saturday Shorts where we feature short stories and novellas.  Three reviewers read the short story, Mama Cried, in about 10 minutes, then proceeded to talk about it for an hour or more. Mama Cried is rich fodder for discussions about the nature of forgiveness, of justice, of the impact of offenders on victims and their families, on crimes against children, and even on religion. This is one you really want to talk about with someone; the three of us weren’t sure if we would have taken as much away from the story without the discussion.

Mama CriedTitle: Mama Cried
Author: Talia Haven
Publication Date: January 9, 2015
Genre: Literature
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Jenny was enjoying herself on the swings when Azula, one of the guardians of the playground came to take her away. Together they journey to a cinder building where Jenny must make a powerful decision.

Potential spoilers beyond this point. You might want to take 10 minutes to read the story, and then come back to this discussion. Seriously.


<Fiona, Ivana, and Annie are lounging around the living room, chatting. Ivana and Annie are discussing which book needs to be reviewed next while Fiona reads Mama Cried.>

Fickle_Fiona_50OMG, you two! You HAVE to read this story. It is crazy. This is NOT a kid’s story.

<Annie pulls up Mama Cried on Amazon while Fiona shoves her iPad into Ivana’s hands. They read.>

Agent_Annie_50Wow.

Invested_Ivana 50Wow.

Fickle_Fiona_50Right?!

Invested_Ivana 50The author had to have gone through something like this herself or been very close to someone who had. This is deep and emotional.

Fickle_Fiona_50I think I like it.

Agent_Annie_50I do, too. It reminds me of “Dead Man Walking.” I wanted it to end with that whole redemptive space. I was SO surprised when it didn’t.

Invested_Ivana 50I wasn’t. I love how it ended. I wanted there to be justice.

Fickle_Fiona_50What is the justice for? What crime was committed? The story never says.

Invested_Ivana 50It doesn’t, and I thought that was interesting. All we know is that the crime resulted in a child’s death. In that case, does it really matter what the crime was?

Agent_Annie_50Well, he wouldn’t be on death row for a small crime, and they wouldn’t have exhumed a body unless they were looking for physical evidence.

Fickle_Fiona_50Ewww, yeah. The the whole “I’ll give her a hug and kiss for you” really creeped me out!

Invested_Ivana 50Yes! Based on the way the mother reacted to that statement, and the way the priest reacted, I think the author was giving us a hint about the crime.

Agent_Annie_50Boy, I didn’t get that at all. I thought he was trying to convey that he saw the girl and wanted forgiveness. Like he had the assurance that he was going to a good place that the girl was escorting him to a place of goodness and he was trying to convey that he would be in a safe place.

Fickle_Fiona_50That’s interesting. It was like a Silence of the Lambs moment for me. Creepy!

Invested_Ivana 50Why does this guy believe he even deserves to be forgiven, anyway? Because a priest told him that God forgives? Shouldn’t the forgiveness of the victims be what’s important, rather than some ambiguous deity? Should he be forgiven because he hasn’t committed the same crime for a while? If he’s been in prison all this time, he hasn’t had the opportunity to commit a crime. He hasn’t been tempted. That’s not redemption or recovery, that’s just being locked up. No choice involved. When faced with the little girl and the mother, he doesn’t even act humble or apologetic. He seems very entitled.

Agent_Annie_50Ivana, you asked if the crime really mattered because it resulted in the death of a child. Would you feel differently if it resulted in the death of an adult?

Invested_Ivana 50Yes, because children are more vulnerable, more dependent, less able to defend themselves, especially against an adult.

Fickle_Fiona_50I notice that each of us read the story from a different perspective: Annie from the offender’s, Ivana from the mother’s, and me from the child’s. That’s interesting.

Invested_Ivana 50The girl is told she has to make a choice, but it is never articulated what that choice is. She just seems to know.

Agent_Annie_50I think it was realizing how much the Mom was still hurting that the made the girl’s decision. Up until that point she didn’t seem to care one way or another.

Invested_Ivana 50Yeah. A lot of us can put up with being hurt ourselves, but when someone we care about is hurting, it’s a whole different ball game.

Fickle_Fiona_50So, what was the point of the story? You wouldn’t give this to someone whose kid has died. You wouldn’t give it to a kid.

Invested_Ivana 50It might be a healing exercise for the author herself.

Fickle_Fiona_50It’s odd that it’s a stand-alone story; it’s only 3600 words or so. Having it in a themed anthology would give it more exposure. Or it needs a different cover.

Agent_Annie_50Yes. The cover is way too sweet to be on that story. I think this would be an interesting book club choice because it brings up so many issues to discuss.

Invested_Ivana 50I agree. This is such a thought provoking story, made all the more so by this discussion.

Fickle_Fiona_50This really needs to be read in a class or a group setting, like a college class.

Agent_Annie_50Or a survivor’s group; maybe even an offender’s therapy group. Someplace where the themes can really be fleshed out.

Fickle_Fiona_50I bet I could read this 5/10 times and get something different each time. I would give it a five… maybe 4 ½ since it needs a new cover.

Invested_Ivana 50Yes, I think it’s a five too. It really is pretty amazing.

Agent_Annie_50Yeah, me too.


badge5v4There was actually quite a bit more discussion; these are just the highlights. Other than telling you even more about the story, there’s not much more we can say. We all agreed this story had value way beyond entertainment if used in the right setting. Read it with someone. Talk about it. The time investment is so small, but the concepts in this story are so big.

Stand Out Award Badge2Other reviews…

If you like this book…

It’s kind of sad to think this, but there are very few short stories or even books I’ve read that are at quite the same level as this story.  Though I’m not sure where you’d find it now, the short story titled “For All The Rude People” by Jack Ritchie is one I would recommend as a though-provoking discussion piece.  It was most recently published in Little Boxes of Bewilderment: Suspense Comedies in June of 1989.

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