BOOK REVIEWS

Haffling Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-05-28 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 35 user ratings
ISBN:1623808944
LANGUAGE:English

"3,5*

"What's wrong, Alex?"

"What’s wrong is we live in a shit hole. What’s wrong, Alice?”

Without breaking stride, she answered. “What’s wrong is we live in a shit hole, and my clothes come from thrift stores. What’s wrong, Alex?”

“What’s wrong is we live in a shit hole, your clothes come from thrift stores, and our mother has schizophrenia. What’s wrong, Alice?”

“What’s wrong is we live in a shit hole, my clothes come from thrift stores, our mother has schizophrenia, and you don’t have a boyfriend. What’s wrong, Alex?”


"What's wrong" is one of game Alex played with his sister, Alice, try to lighten what they've been through. Schizophrenic mother was just one of "the wrong" in Alex's life. But this schizophrenic mother who keep him and Alice away from the foster care, so when his mother goes MIA (again), Alex have track her down through the danger of faeries world.

I love the idea of teenager who struggle to keep his family together and Alex doing his good job to keep him and Alice away from foster care while fighting the evil fey queen, May. How's cool is that!
But, as much as I drawn to the family-drama and romance side of this story, the fantasy side doesn't impressed me much. Granted, there's no rule about how you build your fantasy world, but when it come to fey realm I was expecting a mysterious, dark, dangerous, beautiful world. Yes, the realm here has some of elements of that, but for me it felt mostly confusing and errr... ridiculous. Holly Black's The Darkest Part of the Forest has better fey realm.

I enjoyed better the dynamic between Alex-Alice & Jerod-Clay interaction rather than Alex adventures in fey realm. Really. (And Alex-Jerod were really cute together, I shipped them hard!) I hope to see more of them in the next book.
" said.

"(Originally reviewed for Love Bytes Same Sex Book Reviews with a copy provided by the author / publisher for an honest review.)

I wasn’t sure what sure what to expect when I read the blurb for this book on our available books to review worksheet. It intrigued me enough that I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. It was a well written tale of the world of the fey, or fairy, or faerie, breaking through into modern day Manhattan.

Alex Nevus is a super intelligent sixteen year old attending Stuyvesant High School, a school for the gifted in Manhattan. His life hasn’t been easy though. His mother has schizophrenia, and it is getting worse. Alex is doing everything he can to keep himself and his sister from being taken away from their mom and put back into foster care. The ended up in foster care once before…and really bad stuff happened.

Now Alex’s mother is missing. The very day she has to appear in front of the state reps to continue her disability, housing assistance, etc. If she doesn’t show up, at a minimum Alex’s little sister Alice will be taken into foster care.

Alex follows his mother’s cell phone GPS to a remote park at the north end of the island of Manhattan. But what he finds there won’t be just his mother. Maybe the land of the fey is real?

There begins a topsy turvy journey between our world and one that lies beyond. Along the way there will be a really cute, but straight, boy in Alex’s class, an assortment of various fairy species, an evil fairy queen, and a truth that Alex might, or might not, be ready for.

I recommend this book for anyone looking for a modern day tale of fairies. Notice I didn’t say a modern day fairy tale. There is a big difference. I, for one, much prefer the tale of the fairies. This tale is also a young adult read. There is no sex in the book, and there shouldn’t be, as it wouldn’t fit the tale. I saw that the book originally was published in 2013, but the end of this current edition has a teaser for book two, so I’m hoping we will see it soon!
" said.

"This book starts off pretty well, with a very sympathetic main character in Alex, a gay NYC teen trying to keep his family together in the face of adversity. Alex juggles school, social services, his little sister Alice (who is plenty damaged herself), and his mother, whose apparent mental illness belies more complicated issues -- fae issues, as it turns out.

I enjoyed seeing Alex navigate a recognizable if cartoonishly outmoded version of NYC, as well as the ins and outs of his precarious family and legal situations, about which the author clearly knows something. I enjoyed his love of martial arts, drawing, and a seemingly straight classmate named Jerod. I even enjoyed his initial foray into Faerie, by way of northern Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park.

Unfortunately, this book went wildly off the rails for me the more time it spent of Fairie and fairies. This stuff was just WAY over the top, as Queen May obsessed over entering the human world through reality TV fame, her sister proved to be posing as a famous children's book author (wearing slutty clothes at an NYPL appearance, no less!), and Alex's mother's madness proved to be the result of too much time spent in the other realm with her faerie lover. Alex and Alice's home situation is ultimately solved by their mother being replaced by a "sane" changeling of sorts, while the genuine article stays in faerie. Not a very clear message about mental health in the real world, I would say, especially considering how much time the first half of the book focuses spends on that element. I also didn't appreciate how quickly Alex and Jerod's relationship went from Zero to True Love -- I just didn't buy that, and it was bothersome that we never saw Jerod's girlfriend and school friends again after their early introduction.

So, this book had a lot of good things going for it, but was ultimately scattershot and disappointing. But I'd still be interested to read the sequel, which concerns one of Haffling minor faerie characters dumped in the human world. There's a lot of potential in the world that James has created here, and a lot of potential in his writing abilities.

** I received a Review Copy of this book via NetGalley ** (2nd edition, DSP Publications, January 2016)
" said.

"Fantasy is not something I read a a lot of, but Haffling is a book that I have had my eye on ever since it was first presented on DSP's website. Now I have finally got around and finishe dit - and I am glad I did.

Haffling is more and better than I expected on so many levels. First: the writing itself; the language is right on spot, the words flow so well and even though this is a story told in 1st POV - an other thing that is not my first choice of narrators in a story - Alex's voice is captivating. Second: so is Alex's family matters. I love the way the author intertwine Alex's life in the real world and his life in Queen May's remnants of the fairy land. Alex has a sister that is eleven years old, and a mother that has schizophrenia (or has she?) and the siblings are about to loose the one safety they have - the ratty apartment.

Third: the author has populated this world with some real sinister characters. These are some blood-thirsty creatures that we encounter while reading. And when circumstances look realy bad for Alex adn his sister, they don't get better, they get worse, and worse and worse.Until you ask yourself how on earth they will make it better again. I like that too. Too often you find stories with too little conflict, too little tension and/or too little at stake. Stories where problems are without real stakes or are solves too quickly and too easily. Not so here.

Fourth: although this is a story about a gay boy it is not a story about being gay, neither is it making it the central issue. Yes, Alex ponders about being gay on occasion, but he is far too busy with coping his other much bigger life issues. He has a crush on a presumably straight boy (we all know he's not that straight, just too shy to say it outright, yeah?).Alex and Jerod's falling in love is a sweet romantic sub-plot, but that's it. It's a sub-plot. The main plot is about keeping Alex family and mainly Alice safe, and the consequences that will follow in its lead.

At one point toward the end I reached a passage where I came to miss the contact with "real life" and it got too much fairy land actions for my part. It caused me to put it down for a day and a half. I am happy I picked it up again and finished it, because I liked the end too. Haffling has a satisfying end, but leaves opportunities for a sequel open. Will there be one?

When I reach the end of the novel I read that Caleb James is a psychiatrist (could explain where some of the ideas for this novel came) and that he has written both fiction and non-fiction under other names prior to this book (could explain the swift and precise language use and the great build-up that leads to an almost explosive finale). Now I'd like to find out more about that.
" said.

" This is my review of Exile, by Caleb James, from my M/M Romance Books Blog, OJ He Say.Click the links below to see the whole review and more.
OJ Library LOGO - Copy (2)

Exile by Caleb James at OJ He Say!

EXILE – HAFFLING BOOK 2

To be honest I’m not one for fantasy usually, however after having read Dark Blood by Caleb James and then seeing that he’d gone on and written other fantasy I just had to give this a whirl, and I am so glad I did. Mr. James, AKA Charles Atkins, weaves an incredible tale of fantasy in the modern world that, for me, makes it all work wonderfully. By bringing the age old stories of the fey in to the 21st Century one can see the plausibility of such happenings. To do it as masterfully as he does? That’s an awesome talent! One bit of advice: read Haffling, the first book in this series, as Exile follows the happenings in book 1.

THE CHARACTERS

Liam Summer:

The man, who had to be about his age, in his early twenties, with matted blond hair that glinted gold from the reflected flashers on the streets and the shoots of fire that surrounded them, met Charlie’s gaze. Even in the dim light, Charlie marveled at the color of his eyes— purple. Guy’s naked in an abandoned apartment, wearing colored contacts. Stop staring at him, Charlie. “Come on. Can you stand?” Is he totally naked? Shit! He averted his eyes. Don’t be a perv… It didn’t help that, even covered in soot and sawdust, He’s perfect. Like someone out of an underwear ad, only… no underwear.

Charlie Fitzgerald:

For an instant he couldn’t recognize the tall man, but he knew those blue eyes, the dark hair matted to his scalp from the helmet Liam had originally taken to be an ogre’s head…
He’s not hurt, just filthy. His face, hands, and arms were smudged with soot, and his thick wavy hair clung matted to his scalp from the Kevlar hood of his respirator.

THE STORY

Exile, Haffling Book 2, is the story of Liam Summer, a gorgeous, blond fey whose gift is the ability to glamor others. May, Queen of The Fey, enslaves him as a youth after she kills and eats his parents and uses him as her tool to glamor others so she can eat them, as that is how she maintains her powers.

Exile picks up at the end of Haffling as Liam escapes the world of the fey, the Unsee, into the realm of humans. Even though May is being held prisoner by her sister Lizbeta she is steadily regaining her powers and re-starting her attempted conquest of the human realm. May attempts to kill Liam by sending a ball of fairy fire after him and instead ends up burning down the condo where Liam has entered the human realm. As the building is burning down Charlie Fitzgerald, a hunky, tall black Irish firefighter, rescues Liam and falls head over heels for him.

As I don’t do spoilers I’ll leave it for you to continue with this wonderfully written story of gorgeous, magical fey and hunky Irish firefighters. Trust me, you won’t regret it.


THE WRITING

Mr. James’ writing, AKA Charles Atkins, is simply, superbly flawless. This is the third book I’ve read by him and I can honestly say the experience is consistently flawless. It’s that rare ability to develop the characters and build a universe with such laser-like precision that allows the reader to totally and completely immerse him/herself in the story and go along with the ride.
" said.

" I really thought that story plot would be a fine reading material. But I was wrong. Why? Somehow it was not for me. I couldn't connect with the logic of the story plot. The start was pulling, but as soon as Author started to include fairies and other world in it, it got more and more ridiculous. Again, that is not my type of tea. " said.

"Book – Haffling (Haffling #1)
Author – Caleb James
Star rating - ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 250
Cover – Great!
POV – 1st person, one character
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult


** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **


Haffling is like nothing you have ever read before. It's fantasy, contemporary, romance and weird all rolled into one. And it's fantastic!

At first, the book starts with quite a lot of information, but trust me when I say that it's needed. There is so much we need to know before throwing ourselves headfirst into the story. We meet our MC Alex through his 1st person POV, which I normally don't really like, but this story was written so well that I barely noticed. The usual problems with 1st person – not being aware of gender, age, appearance or having an overload of explanation about all three in the first page – were absent here. The way that we were introduced to Alex felt natural, gave us the information we needed up front and allowed us to feel placed into the story without feeling like we'd entered in the middle of something we couldn't understand.

When it comes to characters, I loved how diverse and interesting they all were. Alex and Alice were the first two we got to know – showing us their small, hectic world that whittles down to having nothing but a roof over their head, welfare and charity to survive, because their mother is schizophrenic and can't take care of them. Their lives are so lacking in wealth, love and even safety that I immediately felt concerned for their futures and what they'd been through before we entered the story. Then we slowly learn about their past and all the struggles they've survived until now, as well as their current dilemma of having to deal with their mother going AWOL so often.

Their mother, Marilyn, is actually much more interesting than you'd think, because she doesn't get a lot of page time. She's got an interesting psyche and a very huge part to play in the story, despite the fact that she's not in it a lot. And I can't explain why, but I promise you that it's important and very intriguing.

Next up, we meet Jerod. He is the super cute crush that Alex has been harbouring in secret, until suddenly Jerod meets him outside Alice's school, where his own little brother Clay (also a very interesting addition!) goes to school. Jerod is the stereotypical hot, flirty, charming and popular kid. Except...there's nothing stereotypical about him. He is, in fact, so much more than what he first appears. Especially in terms of his slightly homophobic girlfriend, Ashley. (cough *beard* cough)

Things really picked up when Alex discovered the world of Fey, which kind of proved his mother wasn't schizophrenic, but in fact able to see a world that no one else knew existed. The incredible attention to detail and imaginative world building really soared here, leading us into a world that was still somewhat familiar but also incredibly new and exciting.

Here, we discovered more about Alex's fairy Nimby, who shouldn't exist where she is. And, although we don't get an obvious answer to this, Alex does figure it out in his thoughts, until it makes a whole lot of sense. There's also May, who is the biggest troublemaker in existence, who speaks in riddles and lays vocal traps for everyone she talks to. Through her, we learn about Katye, May's sister, who has a really good part in the last half of the story that impacts everything! Also in the Fey world are Liam – hottie and interestingly jealous of Alex and and Jerod – as well as the mysterious Cedric.

The entire story, while having so many characters important to the story, never feels over-stuffed or complicated. It's a whirlwind of an adventure, right from page one to the very end, and keeps that momentum to a tolerable level without leaving us readers feeling the tailspin of too much action and no time to breathe in between.

On top of all of the genius writing and characterisation, James covers some seriously heavy topics – poverty, mental health, schizophrenia, coming out, coming-of-age and the prospect of having nothing but family to begin with and risking the loss of that family. But what makes this story so incredible is that there is a whole lot of believeability, in amongst the humans scenes, plenty of fantasy in the Fey scenes and still, it manages to cover these topics frankly, with with compassion and care. There is no judgment between the characters or an imagined prejudice or judgment from the author. There is only depth, trust and truth as the worlds – both human and Fey – are explored with intricacy.

Most of all, I have to say that the very best thing about the story was the romance. Alex and Jerod together were truly something fantastic and beautiful. Their chemistry was palpable and so strong that it was amazing to see the ways that it really transcended all the struggles, craziness and chaos that they went through from beginning to end.

The ending was fantastic, though I hesitate to mention anything about the last 30% because it's a huge spoiler. But I can guarantee that it's incredible and answers all of my questions, while leaving me excited to read book 2.

~

Favourite Quote

“Today on Sadly, Alex is still gay, has never been kissed, has a crush on a straight boy, is going to get pulled into foster care, is probably going to lose limbs to a crazy fairy, and just leaned that he might not be human.”
" said.

" I definitely enjoyed the characters... the storyline was something I’ve never read before so that was refreshing. I bought the entire series but I’m not sure if I’ll read any more of it. Some things were a little much in this book. I don’t want to give anything away but the ending was a little disappointing I felt like Alex was going to finally have his big moment but that didn’t really happen. Something weird did. And I’m not sure it was a good weird. " said.

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