PeopleFish by Medella Kingston
Rating: 1 Star
Publisher: NineStar Press
Genre: Lesbian Romance
Tags: Sex Addiction, Theft, Child, Contemporary, Bisexual Scenes, Quasi-Paranormal/Mystical/Metaphysical
Length: 118,000 Words
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com, NineStar Press
Her Cree grandmother called it the gift of seeing, but for Petra Orvatch, knowing things in ways that defy explanation has made reality and fantasy blur in a world where the clocks literally go backward. Her fascinating and clairvoyant mind is a riddle that many doctors have tried to solve with medication. Love comes her way unexpectedly when she meets Fiona Angeli, a stunningly beautiful single mother. A risk-taker by nature, Fiona is not scared off by her new lover’s psychic abilities and eccentricities.
The two of them share passion and secrets on a magical and surprising journey, and their torrid love affair takes them to thrilling new places until betrayal divides them. Both these women fight battles within themselves; Fiona must gain control of her dangerous compulsions, and Petra’s onerous gift ultimately puts her at risk of losing herself in the gap between delusions and the real world.
Two women meet at a doctor’s surgery, one’s stomach rumbles, the other gives her an apple – as good a meeting, I suppose, as any romance novel, except this connection forms in a psychiatrist’s office, not necessarily a functional meeting place. Anyway, Fiona, the giver of the apple, suggests that lunch might be nice. Pete, the other MC, can simply reschedule because the doctor is running late. They have a nice time at lunch then hightail it back to Fiona’s house where they end up in bed together. Okay, I’m on board for some afternoon delight, but it just goes down hill from here for me. Fiona, who has a precocious seven year old son, Mack, asks Pete to come back to her house later on that same evening and to bring her dog. She can meet Mack and they can all have dinner, the two women can have another round in the sack after. I had some issues –
A) You just meet someone you don’t know from Eve in a psychiatrist’s office, yet you bring her back to your house, the one you share with your seven year old child. You ask her to stay over for the night and she’s only just met your child. She could be a serial killer. She could have any number of serious emotional issues. She could upset your child emotionally if they form an attachment and you two don’t work out. If it’s just you take your chances if you want, not when there’s a young child physically and emotionally at stake.
B) I love dogs, I’ve constantly had dogs in my life since I was twelve years old, that Fiona allows the dog of the person she has just met to sleep with her seven year old, a dog that hasn’t been around children/this child before was just so irresponsible and seemed a part of making sure she got into the sack with Pete. This may seem like a weird thought in fiction but it just forms part of the overall picture this book painted for me.
Anyway, Mack gets up during the night because of a nightmare and Pete and Mack are in bed together. He also walks in on them forty eight hours later in bed together. It just smacked of dysfunction, not potential romance, and I felt uncomfortable. It was compounded by the fact that Mack had met other bed partners of Fiona’s before if Fiona had a good gut feel about them, but there are reasons why Fiona’s gut is not so reliable. In between the first and second sexual liaisons Fiona has with Pete, she goes to a sex store and randomly hooks up with (what I am assuming is) a bi couple after a little lube discussion. Okay, on this occasion I’ll be fair and say that nothing is totally concrete in terms of Fiona and Pete’s relationship, but their actions spoke loudly – they text, have further arrangements in place for dinner and family time, Pete has slept over and Mack likes her and her dog too. I personally can’t call it cheating, I guess, but it was tacky. This behaviour continued after Fiona and Pete used the “L” word with each other, and had shacked up together, so that made it complicated because it wasn’t handled well. Also, Fiona is upset her brother is separating because her sister-in-law has been cheating- all I could hear was hypocrisy. But that’s Fiona, and from the beginning I didn’t like her terribly. So PeopleFish didn’t get off to a good start for me and it stayed on that same bad footing throughout.
Fiona does field investigation of people suspected of cheating for a company that works within Family Law, maybe a PI firm, but her job was really ambiguous to me. Sifting through the data, we learn that Fiona has a sex addiction, attends SAA, has a sponsor, and sees a psychiatrist. However, she struggles and hooks up regularly with other people. Not much happens in regards to on page therapy and her sponsor, or SAA, and this book is nearly 120,000 words long. Nothing made me want to cheer for her, nothing made me feel her issues with addiction – and it should have. I should have empathised and connected, instead I simply didn’t like her.
Pete works as a house painter and she sculpts and paints as well. Pete steals items from clients she paints houses for to create her art with, things that talk to her. Once again, I wanted to empathise with her plight, I just couldn’t really care. And again, very little is explored about her compulsion to steal. Pete probably had the most detail but it wasn’t much, however I did feel sorry for Pete in her choice of partner. I believed she was manipulated and fell for Fiona and her son as a package deal, that Mack was more of an incentive to stay with Fiona than anything else, and that’s plain sad.
The big issues –
This book delves into pages and pages and pages of everything and nothing. The best friends and Fiona’s brother get too much time – Calvin, Fiona’s best friend who is a part time hooker, sometimes babysitter to Mack, doesn’t have as much page time as others and is the most likeable character in the book. Sheila, Pete’s best friend, who is on an online tall-person dating website, which we know too much about, has tons of page time.
Below is an example, only part of an overall online discussion between Pete and her bff, Sheila. It’s nothing but filler. You get to read so much about the men who send Sheila messages that I was flummoxed as to whose book this actually was. It continued after Pete starts to talk about the doctor’s clock hands going backwards, something I actually wanted to know more about, but, no, more was detailed about Sheila’s online dating than ever was discussed about Pete’s… abilities? schizoaffective disorder? Nope, Sheila gets a whole lot of discussion –
She opened Sheila’s first email, which included copied and pasted highlights from the least likely candidate of the seventeen respondents; it was a real can of snakes. He didn’t include a photograph but went on in great detail about how he was a better-looking version of Abraham Lincoln. (Because that’s a winner) He also outlined how intelligent he was, which, as far as Sheila was concerned, never needed to be explained; it would just ring on its own like a bell in the wind. The second was from a guy named Strider who took a real social risk by not only mentioning he had a large penis, but also explaining how he had named it Mr. Happy. This actually made Pete laugh out loud. The third and fourth included highlights from the same man, a guy named Damon who could really write. Pete was taken with how much of his personality came across in the way he crafted his words. Sheila liked his response so much she immediately wrote back, which delighted Damon enough to send an email twice as long as the first. Sheila was asking Pete’s opinion about whether she should keep writing for a few days and then speak on the phone, or just go for it. She also wondered if he was too good to be true. Pete wrote her an email saying that she was overthinking it, and to just let it all unfold.
Why do we need this? Where was the editor in all of this? There is also an italicised journal that Pete writes to herself that goes on for over ten pages. Not to mention Fiona’s brother gets a POV as well to pile more on the reader that is redundant. Primarily it’s because the author struggled with dialogue throughout the book, choosing instead the inner ramblings of Pete’s and Fiona’s minds, giving large info dump sessions to the reader via others or themselves. It doesn’t help you connect to the MCs whatsoever. It doesn’t advance the story and when there is dialogue it doesn’t work well either. I understand Sheila wants to be a good friend to Pete but, for goodness sakes, these women are thirty seven years old –
“And if you find yourself in the type of jam that allows you one phone call, you’d better call me. I mean, I know Fiona is your girl, but she’s also a mommy, and mommies are always busy because they are in constant demand. I’m here for you 24/7, sweetie. Till the end of time.” She finished with a light squeeze of Pete’s hand.
Then there is a huge data dump about Mack’s ‘dad’ that was so ludicrous – they met at a resort and Fiona just knew her biological clock was ticking and he was the one to get that baby made. Why? He looked good, seemed intelligent and because he effectively agreed to sex with her, ‘sure, I’ll be your baby daddy’, and he had a good ethnic mix to add to hers –
She would not merely know what ethnic ingredients were being added to her Italian and Irish—Greek, Scottish, and Cherokee—but also have names, faces, and stories to share with their child. Fiona had mulled the proposal over carefully and started tracking her ovulation. He’d said he wanted to be her donor, and she knew he hadn’t made the suggestion just to have sex with her. She’d given in to her dreams and his generosity and officially said yes. Their first attempt had involved a collection cup and a turkey baster, but, despite Fiona’s carefully researched plan, had not resulted in pregnancy.
They ended up having sex and, voila, it resulted in Mack. Fiona has told Mack all about how he came to be – don’t know at what age but before seven, although she doesn’t tell her adult family members, all of whom she’s close to, which seemed so illogical.
As for the metaphysical or paranormal aspects, they are a nothing. What could have been incredibly interesting contains no substance. Then there’s the weird-arse therapist who is perfectly happy that Pete missed her appointment to hook up with another patient. There’s more info dumps about Pete’s strange perceptions of life and people and dreams given to us via her talk with Dr. Percy. What therapist calls a patient a “magical enigma?” That is not a diagnosis and, Pete, a diagnosis does not have to be a label.
When Pete pressed her for one, (now a label is fine) Dr. P had said, “Schizoaffective tendencies with claircognizance and clairvoyance.”
Say what?! Slap me now. Anyhow, you are not being “seen” and you do not feel comfortable if you can’t discuss voices in your head with your therapist. I’m also not sure how Dr. Percy diagnosed the SD with information like the following being withheld –
Pete hadn’t yet been ready to tell her doctor about the voices she sometimes heard in her head, and had been hopeful when Dr. Percy introduced her to cognitive behavioral therapy, working with her to develop plans to meet goals. She was the only health practitioner who made Pete feel seen, and not merely analyzed.
Look at the beautiful cover of PeopleFish, the title, the synopsis, the whole package is enticing. But, sadly, the writing is not up to what’s promised. It is far too long and there is so much superfluous filler, filler and more filler, and way too much about secondary characters, way too much about a child, way too much about nothing. This premise, this book, promised romance with a paranormal and/or metaphysical storyline, maybe a good look at mental health – none of that happened.
This is the writers first book. I don’t like to be all over someone having a go but I have to call them as I see them, and this book annoyed and frustrated me in equal measures from beginning to end. It was hard going and hard to finish, but a review copy was supplied so I finished it and reviewed it.
PeopleFish was not for me but if it sounds like you, if you like the quotes, then I hope you find enjoyment in the story. For me it’s 1 Star!
ARC supplied in return for an honest review.
Two things bugged me right off about this book. One, Fiona bringing what amounts to nothing more than a random fuck buddy around her child. Just, no. Two, the dog. No good parent would ever leave a strange dog with a child like that. Also, serious filler overload if the quotes you pulled from the book are to go by.
I could tell right off that I would not like either character and that the story wouldn’t work for me. Great, honest review.
Those things set the tone, and there were others that I didn’t have the time to talk about in an already long review. Good luck to the author in her writing career, but this book needed someone to say let’s rein some of this in, let’s make the characters more sympathetic and let’s cut this down and rework sections/chapters. I really did not like Fiona and I thought Pete to be sad. So much missed potential.
Others may love this book, I hope they do, but it was a miss for me.
Thanks, Cindi 🙂
I disagree with your review. This book was meant to make readers confused and uncomfortable, and to take them on a weird but wonderful ride. I thought it was unique. And the movie version will be even better than the book! I loved all the characters, major and minor, because they were flawed and vulnerable. Except Gram Sweets- she was perfect. I’m looking forward to Kingston’s next novel. Also- are reviews supposed to ramble on and divulge soooooo much of the plot? I thought they were supposed to put forth an opinion without getting into minute detail and be well… Read more »
First of all, it looks bad for Medella Kingston when one of her friends comes on here to be catty about an opinion. Or perhaps you are Medella Kingston. Second, you need to look up the word review – really think about it, too, let it sink in, hon. Third, go find your own forum to write something about the book that is constructive and not sycophantic. As for confusing readers, there is no confusion on my part, other than why it is so long and so meandering about nothing. I didn’t like the book, that’s pretty damn clear. If… Read more »
Anne, I always read OTDU’s book reviews because I have always found them to be honest and tell it they way both Cindi and Kazza K have found them. IMO, too many sites write misleading reviews and rate up books, for when I have read those books, I have found them to be disappointing and not what I was lead to believe. This has never happened to me with any of the reviews posted upon this site. Going upon the strength of Kazza K’s review, IMO, the author can either take the constructive route of learning from the criticisms contained… Read more »
Kazza pretty much said it all so I’ll just throw out my two-cents. Reviews are opinions – period. I’ve read 1 star reviews of books that I ended up loving and giving 4 or 5 stars. If authors can’t handle criticism they’re in the wrong profession. Good for you for loving the book. Kazza didn’t. It’s very poor form to pop on someone’s review ON THEIR SITE to basically attack them for – wait for it – their OPINION. We’re asked to review books every day. Authors come to us because they know we’re honest and fair. We’re not going… Read more »