Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Owlet" - by Emma Michaels (Tribute Books Blog Tour)


"Somewhere between falling and flying...there is a girl.

Iris has a secret.  She lost her memory eight years ago and never told a living soul.  After an asthma attack one night she finds out that her dreams of a strange house on a snowy island may be a memory resurfacing but the more she learns about the past the more she realizes the life she has been living is a lie.  As the facade her father has built starts to crumble around her she will have to decide which means more to her: the truth or her life."

About the Author
"Emma Michaels is the author of the 'A Sense of Truth' and 'Society of Feather' series.  Her goal with her latest YA novel 'Owlet' is to give others what she did not have growing up: a strong female protagonist with asthma.  While her previous aspiration was to be a lady knight she realized that not being able to run more than a few feet might become a hindrance so turned to writing instead.  Her day jobs include being a cover artist, marketing consultant, and silk screen designer.

As the founder of The Writers Voice blog, she loves to connect authors and readers.  As a book blogger turned author, she was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, until she moved at eighteen to Washington State.  Suddenly, the world was a new place filled with tall green trees that reached further for the sky with every moment, making her want to do the same.  Ever since, she has tried to make her life something new and different from what it was before, pursuing her future career, setting high goals and reaching for them.  With the support of her fiance, Chihuahua, and her amazing blog followers and fellow bloggers, she wants to prove to the world that anything is possible and help inspire fellow literary lovers to reach for their dreams."

Even in our so-called "enlightened" society (pardon the sarcasm), it is difficult to find a book that has a character with a significant physical or mental illness.  Emma Michaels aimed to provide a book that shows just how capable of a "normal" life people with illnesses are when she chose to make the protagonist of "Owlet" a young lady with asthma.  Mythical elements, song, and fanciful writing come together in this work to weave a beautiful portrait of what happens when a special young lady finds out about the past she has forgotten.

The Good
When we envision superheroes, those superheroes need to be able to do things like jump tall buildings, pick up cars with a pinky toe, stop traffic with a glance, etc.  Thanks to societal stigmas (don't get me started on societal thesis in college was about children and stigma surrounding those who have a psychological diagnosis), rarely do we see a superhero who has anything wrong with them...except they are perhaps attracted to their enemy or are just a little too tall.  While Iris, the main character of "Owlet" is not exactly a superhero (though the argument could be made), it is refreshing to see/read that she has asthma.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not glad that the illness exists, it is just that I am glad someone had the cajones to risk writing a complicated illness into a main character.  Not only that, but this person is rather frail...a trait I haven't found in a main character since "The Yellow Wallpaper".  Well, I guess it is fair to say she is only really frail at first...but then I'd be letting on too much of the story.  Long story short, it is incredibly refreshing to see a protagonist who actually has something wrong.  Not because having something wrong is the ideal, but because it is the real.

Okay, now that I've gushed over the main character enough,  let's get on with it.  I enjoyed this book, I really did.  While it is not my favorite read, it is definitely worth the time, is quite enjoyable, and exercises muscles lain dormant since my "reading fairy tales" days.  You see, Iris is a young lady who finds out something about herself that is rather startling...namely that she is a person whose body shares soul-space with that of a human and that of an Owlet and she is a descendant of a group of people who all have qualities of specific birds - her mother was an osprey, her "mate" is a falcon, etc.

The plot moves along quite nicely and at a pace that is rather like Baby Bear's porridge in "Goldilocks" - it is just right.  Near the end it picks up a bit, but that is to be expected during the climax of a story.  I as a reader was not thrown for Sonic-the-Hedgehog style loop over the plot trying to cram too much into too little of a space.  It starts partway into the story in the sense that there is an awful lot of history to learn in order to understand the story's present, but that history unfolds itself rather nicely through dream-flashbacks, revelations by characters, and the discovery of a rather long letter.

Settings in this story are just beautiful and were a joy to make up in my mind's eye.  I mean, c'mon - who wouldn't want to imagine a scene including feathers falling like snow on a gorgeous island designed to attract birds?  Scenes are set very well and came alive on the page.  I felt as though I could almost walk right into the bedroom Iris used to occupy on the island it was so well described.

Now, let's consider the writing style itself.  Everyone seems to have slightly different font packs on their computer, but think about a scrolly, fancy kind of font with big loops and lots of swirls.  That may seem like an odd image to put together for a writing style, but it seems as though Michael's writing style in this work is best described with lots of loops and scrolls.  That is not a bad thing (though I admit it may make more sense in my head than it does on this blog).  Rather, it makes me believe this tale would be perfect to be handwritten on an old scroll.

The Bugly
While I enjoyed the book, I - of course - found something to gripe about.  (Seriously, readers of my blog should not be surprised...I find something to nit pick about even in those works I enjoy the most.  A professor in college once expressed extreme shock that I was unable to find anything to complain about in one psychological study that I read.  This professor had grown rather used to my rather nitpicky - though valid - criticisms).

Do you remember reading chapter books as a kid that had a glossary in order to help readers keep track of who was who and what was what?  This book needed one.  I kept losing track of who people were, who specific groups of people were, and just how in feathering tarnation all of them were interacting/related to one another.  This was not a consequence of the plot moving too quickly.  It was, however, the consequence of a very intricate tale being told in a relatively short space (this novel is shorter than many I have read).

Now, this particular paragraph might seem slightly unfair given that this work is part of a series, but there were questions left unanswered that I wanted to be answered within the scope of this work.  How did Iris lose her memory?  How did her mother die?  I don't like lose ends, never have.  I like the tapestry of a written work to have nice even edges with all the stray pieces tied up and figured out.  I didn't like that there were stray pieces left over here.  Now, this gripe may be invalidated later as these questions may be answered in a later book (so I will hope).

My number one writing pet peeve (and one that I fall into as a writer is hard not to) showed up here in a big way: the characters all pretty much sounded like each other and had the exact same voice.  I understand this is a reflection of the author's writing style, truly I really do get that.  It just bugs me when I feel like I'm reading the same person speaking over and over again when it is different people engaged in a conversation. That being said, it is also difficult at times to tell exactly who is speaking.

While the overall scenes are set well, there were a few times that I was left wondering how one person got across a room, or it could have been made clearer exactly what was happening in the scene.  For example, near the end it is unclear that a specific person had been pulled into the plane's cockpit (read it yourself to figure out who and why!) until I read the section through at least four or five times.  Readers need to do some of the work, admittedly, but we need to be told when people are moving around.

My super nitpicky nit pick?  Voice is unclear in a few parts and sentence structure is just plain confusing sometimes.   While these nit picks are rare, they are present.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to a friend.  I loved the story itself, the plot is driven at a good pace, the protagonist actually has a real flaw that is not her nor anyone else's fault but is simply caused by biology, and it is mythical without being terribly dystopian. Yay!  It has a few issues, but I am definitely looking forward to the next installment in the series!!

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give "Owlet" by Emma Michaels a 7.

"I will find you," Iris whispered into the breeze, not sure where she was going.  She thought of her dreams all those nights and the way she had felt when walking toward the house; that feeling of being guided by something more than her senses.  She thought of the feathery white snow and how it had felt against her skin.  She kept walking slowly, letting herself get lost in her thoughts.

"Izzy?"  She heard the whisper, and her eyes fluttered open.  She could feel the sudden blush of her cheeks.

"I found you," she said in quiet surprise.

"Izzy, you have always been able to find me."

She felt herself smile and he reached out a hand to her.  Taking it, the weight of the questions immediately fell against her chest.  She snatched back her hand, realizing that this was all too fast, too real.  Suddenly her head clouded with thoughts she couldn't explain away so she convinced herself that she was just still recovering from the dream.

Stryx are different, Iris.  Don't pull away.  You...

The voice stopped; for the second time since she could remember, it was hiding something from her.

"Is something wrong?"  Falcon asked.  His head tilted to the side, looking the way he had when she had first asked him who he was, as though her taking his had would only be natural.  Iris felt perturbed and tried not to grind her teeth together.  She didn't like the idea of a guy she had just met already thinking that he knew what to expect of her.

It is because he knew you.  He knew you better than anyone else had, even your parents."

Extra Stuff


  1. Nora, thanks for the in-depth review of Emma's book. I'm with you, it's very special to have a main character who is battling a serious health issue. Emma does a beautiful job in showing how strong Iris is in coping with it.

  2. This book looks great! I love the cover and excerpt. Thank for the chance to win!
    -Brooke Banks