Chameleon by Zoe Kalo


by Zoe Kalo

Kindle Edition
Zoe Kalo, 2017

Read: January 27 – 28, 2016

Paloma is a few months shy of turning 18, graduating high school, and moving on with her life when people at her old school have had enough — she’s expelled from school and home. Her mother and step-father deposit her in a convent school with a mix of the privileged and orphans. Isolated, rejected, and defiant, Paloma determines that she’ll endure the experience no matter what it takes.

At that time however, she hadn’t considered the types of nuns she’ll meet, the kind of peers she has — and the very real possibility that she’ll meet a ghost (and maybe more than one). The nuns are a mix of judgmental and prejudiced against her; and welcoming and encouraging Her peers are largely a different assortment — some seem to be conscientious and studious, spiritual and compassionate, or spiteful and catty; most turn out to be everything they seem not to be. Paloma quickly (and despite herself becomes part of a group and finds that to be both a comfort and a source of distress. The ghost seems to be . . . well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Paloma’s life up to this point hasn’t been that easy — there are some dark things in her past, and your idea of what some of those are is constantly evolving and you understand her better and she reveals more about herself. As you learn about her, she learns about her friends and “friends.” There’s more going on at the convent than many would guess, and many of those things will be exposed in one way or another before the reader finishes Chameleon.

My wife and kids have been watching a lot of Chopped lately, so you’ll have to forgive me for this metaphor: but Chameleon does a good job of using all the ingredients in the basket — paranormal elements (or are they?); complex female characters; even more complex relationships between them; a handful of mysteries; complicated family dynamics; and so on — combines them in some interesting ways, but the end result is a little undercooked. Yeah, it’s a stretch, but as I’ve thought about this book the last few days, that’s what kept coming to mind — if Kalo had given this another revision or two to smooth out some of the rough spots, better develop a few scenes, characters and relationships, this could’ve been much better. It’s a good, enjoyable book — but it’s not as good as it could have been.

I’m not sure what the point of setting the story in 1973 was — other than it being safely on the other side of PCs, the Internet, etc., I guess. It doesn’t hurt or help the story — I just think that for a setting as specific as that, there should be a clear advantage.

It’s a touch melodramatic for me with characters that need a little more time in the oven — but it did what it set out to do. Chameleon tells the story of this group of girls in a way that keeps you guessing, on your toes and turning pages. I anticipate the target audience will respond to things I didn’t here, but even for those of us a couple of decades past that target, this is an enjoyable read.

Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for this post — thanks Ms. Kalo.


3 Stars

City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

City of Dark Magic
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Doctoral candidate Sara Westen gets a summer job (that she didn’t apply for) in Prague to help a royal Czech family in the creation of a museum displaying the greatness of that family over the centuries, as they’ve recently been reunited with their treasures after the pillaging of the Nazis and Communists. Once there, she stumbles into international (as well as inter-chronological) intrigue, the mysterious apparent suicide of her mentor, and paranormal events of some order. Oh, and there’s sex, too. Can’t forget that, it’s part of the sales pitch.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

On the one hand, this is well-written, clever, surprising, all the twists and turns you could ask for (and then some), a novel approach to time travel and supernatural-ish storytelling. The hero, Sarah Weston is great — the kind of strong women character you can relate to. The writing is brisk, and often amusing. The conclusion is wild, heart-warming, and not what anyone would expect. It’d almost seem worth reading just for the depiction of Beethoven and the way his music effects even people in the 21st century.

But it left me cold and apathetic. I had to force myself to push beyond page 100, and the only urgency I felt towards the finish was so I could move on to something else (although it was pleasant enough while reading, there was just nothing that kept me going). As amusing as I found some of the characters — the blind girl/musical savant, the impossible and very talented dwarf, a very American Czech prince, the gun-loving Asian from Texas, — I didn’t care about any of them. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the villain of the piece had twirled her moustache at some point. (yes, her moustache…I’d believe she’d have grown one just to twirl at appropriate moments).

And don’t get me wrong, I’m neither a prude nor the son of a prude, but the sex was a too graphic. It felt very incongruous to the rest of the book — especially the first “encounter” Weston had in Prague, which appears to be only semi-consensual for all involved. That really put me off, and I’m surprised two women writers would’ve included that and put it in even a slightly positive light.