Hello everyone. Before we begin with the review, I am pleased to announce that I officially own the domain name for the blog and the new web address is Siwtblog.com.
Where did this book come from?
I will admit that I had found this book within my Twitter Stream being advertised as a giveaway on Amazon. As an active coffee drinker (4+ cups a day), I figured that I would give this book a go and review it. But let’s have a little insight to the author who had written this micro book, Charity Tahmaseb.
About the Author
Charity Tahmaseb is a Minneapolis-based writer, who specializes in young adult and children novels/novellas. Her work would be extensive as her writing portfolio ranges from magazine publications, non-fiction and fiction pieces as well as novellas and novels (Makes me a bit jealous.) She has collaborated with other authors for book releases such as Gary Cuba, Sean Patrick Hazlett, and Ken Liu.
Background about Ghost in the Coffee Machine
Ghost in the Coffee Machine is the first in a series of a micro novels that as of so far consists of three books. How Charity is marketing the series is as she best describes episodic, which can be a good thing as it can provide the opportunity for an author to create a suspenseful ending to keep a reader on their toes. But with that being said, the execution has to be planned out to make sure that the readers keep asking questions.
Before we go any further, I have to make a quick statement about the book cover that Mrs. Tahmaseb has used for the book. While the minimalist approach actually looks aesthetically pleasing and allows the readers to focus on the title of the book, I have two things to question.
- Apart from the title, the cup is the second thing that draws the eye of the reader when they either look at the E-Book cover or the Amazon page. Though, what I have to question her choice of cup for the cover. Using what many would consider to be a tea cup can appear to be confusing to the reader on first glance.
- The steam rising from the cup can be questionable. At first look, it made me question what it was exactly. It doesn’t look like steam or a ghostly apparition, but rather someone threw a cigarette into a tea cup.
Nitpicking aside, let’s get to the review. As with my other reviews, we will be looking at the author’s writing style, characters, story line, and as this book is meant to be episodic, we will look at if the book ends on a cliff hanger. So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and lets dive in, shall we?
The Author’s Writing Style
The first thing that the reader notices when opening the E-Book is the first sentence, which half of it is in all caps. I have to question to decision by the author to capitalize the words WHEN IT COMES TO GHOSTS. While this does create an emphasis to the fact that this book will have material that relates to ghosts, it seems unnecessary. Normally when an author uses all caps in a sentence, it is often used in reference to a specific item or if it is used with a first person perspective, the protagonist using an exclamation such as “S***!” or “JESUS CHRIST!”. Speaking of writing in the first person, the book is written from the viewpoint of the female protagonist which I think is a good decision in some aspects.
The primary protagonist of this micro book would be a young woman named Katy Lindstrom, who from a young age was taught by her grandmother to capture ghosts using coffee. Despite being the main focus of the story, I honestly have to say that she is dull as a character. She conveys little emotion even when facing the spectral form of her deceased grandmother. Some readers can relate to her as she tries to apply to for a job as a barista at the Coffee Depot as she discusses being inexperienced. Though the problem that I have with that is there is no way to tell how old she is. If she was a younger woman in her teens to early twenties, then it would be understandable. But there is little information given about her and who she is, so connecting to the character is difficult..
The second character that is the primary focus of this book would be Katy’s rival ghost catcher Malcolm Armand, who uses tea to capture ghosts much to Katy’s dismay.
Malcolm’s character can be best described as full of himself but naive in his work. From his first appearance in the book, he is described as wearing a ‘white dress shirt that gleams in the sunlight’. With the description of his dark hair and his ability to capture the attention of others makes me almost imagine Fox Mulder from X-Files rather than a unique character. He is also shown to be inexperienced in his work as he is unable to keep ghosts under control even after being seen by the public as a skilled ghost hunter. Much like Katy, he is underdeveloped as a character which prohibits the reader from connecting to either of them.
Another problem that I have with these two is that early on, they are supposed to be rivals in ghost hunting, but their mannerisms don’t show it. They hardly talk to each other during the extent of the book apart from the very end, so there is no way to tell what these two actually think of each other. Though despite only reading the first book so far, I can almost predict the all too common trope of the protagonists hooking up with each other.
The Story Line
The story that the book is trying to tell is of as I mentioned before of Katy who would capture ghosts or as she calls the smaller ones Sprites to release safely away from people’s home by brewing cups of coffee. Now this can be an interesting concept for a book if it was trying to create a satire of paranormal studies on a whole. But to create a successful satire, an author needs to draw a focus to what they are satirizing in order to make it successful and humorous. For example, one of the aspects of paranormal studies is how ghost hunters will often carry thermometers and motion detectors. If Katy pointed out to someone that she didn’t need all of that equipment that ghost hunters are often portrayed with, that would have been funny. But no, this book tries its best to have a more serious tone which can be questionable in choice.
Another question I have to ask is, how are the ghosts captured exactly? None of the characters give any explanation on how the ghosts are captured using these beverages. In other novels and media where ghosts are captured, it is at least explained how the person(s) captured the ghosts. A classic example would be from the Ghostbusters movies where they explained how their proton packs used positively charged ions to grab the ghosts before storing them in their traps. If the author made a brief mention of a spell or incantation, it would resolve this issue, even if it was scantly mentioned in one sentence.
Putting that grievance aside, Katy would learn that another ghost hunter named Malcolm (see above) has been taking her business as the town of Springside’s primary ghost catcher. However, the two will have to team up to fix the accidental release of Malcolm’s captured ghosts, which I honestly feel is rushed beyond measure. There is no debate on which person’s method is better or why they should work together, they just start to work together to fix the problem at hand.
As I have mentioned before, Charity Tahmaseb’s layout for this series is episodic and her continuation is based on her ending for this book. However, the problem is the ending is uneventful and non-provoking. Episodic story telling requires that you create questions for the readers to ask with the expectation that it would be answered in the next installment. Take for example, Alan Wake, a video game written by Sam Lake about a writer whose sanity is pushed to the limit as he fights a dark presence in the town of Bright Falls. Sam Lake wrote the story so that with each episode of the game, there were cliff hangers and plot twists that kept people actively involved in the story. Here, there is nothing to go on. There isn’t a cliff hanger or any underlying questions for the readers to ask. It is a bland ending to say the very least.
So, what is the final verdict of Episode One of Ghost in the Coffee Machine? I will be blunt, it is wasted potential for what could have been an amazing story. Charity Tahmaseb has the premise for what could have been a different turn for the paranormal genre and would have been a great satire of the ghost hunting as a whole, but it’s execution is missing on every single point. The characters are not only bland but they are underdeveloped even for a micro novel, there is no explanation for colossal plot points in the story, there is no emotion and there is almost nothing to draw the reader to read the sequel.
To Charity Tahmaseb, I am sorry if I am sounding like a heartless ba***** with this review, but this is something that needs to return to the drawing board. I actually enjoy some of your work such as Straying from the Path and how it showed a different portrayal of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, but Ghost in the Coffee Machine is a poor piece of literature.
If anyone wants to read Charity Tahmaseb’s work, she has her entire collection available on her website http://charitytahmaseb.com/
The first episode of Ghost in the Coffee Machine is available on Amazon for free on Kindle and $4.99 for paperback.