The Light Between Oceans

Title: The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman

Genres: Contemporary | Historical Fiction

Length: 362 pages

Source: Gift

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.25/5

 

Premise:

Tom and his wife live on an almost deserted island, where Tom is the lighthouse’s keeper.
In one April morning, the arrival of a dinghy will force them to make a decision that will change their, and others’, lives forever.

Review:

The Light Between Oceans took me forever to finish because it was a challenge to myself, not something I would normally read. I suppose I am used to more fast paced books so I didn’t find myself looking forward to knowing what came next, more looking forward to seeing what these characters would do with what was dealt to them.

It is most definitely a character driven book, and I have to admit they conquered my heart, particularly Tom. A man with a past that haunts him every step of the way but who always tries to do the right thing. Still, even the more secondary characters had a voice, and their own way of thinking, and their own desires, and I felt compelled by them as well.

Towards the last part of the book, the story takes some twists and turns, and it took my heart along with them. I honestly could not say ‘this is the right thing to do’. I could only suffer alongside with them an hope for good closure, which I got, all things considered.

There isn’t much I can tell you without spoiling the story. It’s one of those that are best savoured if you go into it knowing the least possible, so you can also better understand the characters’ motivations. It will particularly touch you if you are a parent. Just be warned that it broaches extremely difficult subjects, and that sometimes it is nearly impossible to do the right thing, or even tell what it is.

This is an extremely well crafted book and I highly recommend it.

Read from Nov 13th to Dec 27th, 2017
GR Review

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Rating: 3.75/5

From IMDB:
A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

Review:

The Autopsy of Jane Doe started SO freaking well. I was enthralled right from the opening scene, which first few seconds played with perspective and focus. We are carried from a peaceful environment to a grotesque scene where I jumped a little from my seat just by the exacerbated sound of a camera flash. The photography was stellar. The detail, the angle, the light, everything was superb and simply chilling. There’s a lot of play with perspective and the close-ups of simple objects contribute to the eerie atmosphere. For me, it was easily worth 5 stars till then point.

When we meet our two protagonists, father and son who will perform the autopsy on Jane Doe, I was still excited and in awe. The interaction between characters was believable and I enjoyed seeing how those two handled the work and each other, Austin his father’s pupil, trying to learn his father’s business as best as he could. The photography was still amazing and I was immediately hooked by how familiar the creepy workplace worked. These guys could not be more normal and this was their home. Sure, it had the potential to be creepy, but it felt safe and normal, if that makes any sense.

Throughout these scenes there were several suspenseful moments where the director had me slowly nudging towards the edge of my seat. I never knew if something really bad was going to happen. And the fact is, it usually did not, not in the way I am used to. There were no easy scares up to this point. There were several freaky elements that contributed to a creepy atmosphere but all in all it was a serious approach to the reality of two coroners. The gross stuff came so naturally I didn’t ever see it coming until it was in my face. The sounds were so graphic that I actually gagged on more than one occasion.

I really enjoyed the movie till about two thirds or so. Then it all started going downhill for me.
The father’s theory about what was happening seemed farfetched, Austin annoyed the heck out of me cause he kept putting his face in harm’s way and the acting or script was just bad, I still can’t figure out which. I mean, who peeks through a hole, suddenly sees a corpse looking back at him, just nonchalantly begins to figure out the next step? I am ashamed to admit I shrieked in that scene because I was firmly convinced nothing would happen, considering the previous setup, and that guy does even twitch. Eurgh.

Towards the end I felt like such a great work of art was being mistreated for no good reason. The film just became a mockery of what it had been until then – even though the scariest scene of the movie, for me, came then. And when I thought I could not be more annoyed, the last second of the movie proved me otherwise.

I don’t get it. I swear I don’t get how anyone could butcher such an awesome movie, a gem amongst all other horror stuff out there. So yeah, I am still a bit upset.

The House

Title: The House

Author: Simon Lelic

Genres: Mystery | Thriller

Length: 340 pages | 3075 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Premise:
Jack and Sydney move in to the perfect London house. A house where they can see themselves growing older.
But why was it so easy to get it? What secrets does the house hold? And what about their mysterious neighbours?

Review:

The House had quite a peculiar narrative style. Jack and Sydney, our main characters, are also our narrators. They write the story as a way of coping with the grisly events they have faced as well as figure out what to do next. It is almost a form of couple therapy too, since they end up writing as much to each other as to the one they want to read the manuscript. The narrative evolves at first as you would expect from someone who is not used to writing, gradually becoming more cohesive and culminating in a chilling diary for both parts.

The House was extremely enthralling. I could not bring myself to put it down and ended up reading it in two sittings, several hours past my usual time to turn in.

There were a few things I am still not sold on. I needed to know why a man would hate his children so much – thirst for control is not nearly enough to cut it for me because he was just plain malevolent and considering I read and watch a lot of profiling stuff I don’t remember coming across anything quite like this. I think that when Syd mentions her therapists would be a great opportunity to insert some relevant researched information about what would make someone tick like that.

Some things felt like plot devices to make the story move along a certain way, that the characters came across certain information only later on to cause the plot twists. For example, Jack not asking for Evan’s future contact since he basically told him he would be moving. Or Syd’s dismissal of her mother’s attitude towards the picture. I don’t get why she didn’t remove it from the frame then since it was obvious her mother knew that person and expected Sydney to know her too. And I feel that the owner leaving absolutely everything behind was not realistic at all – he should at least have taken some personal items that meant more to him; that was just too convenient.

Other than those things, this was a superbly written book featuring very real, vulnerable characters struggling to find happiness. Even if at first I did not like Syd’s voice (she came across as a wee bit bitchy and implicative), she grew on me and I felt all characters were pretty well developed, even the secondary ones.

The House is an utterly amazing read that will surely have you glued to the screen/pages, flipping them as fast as you can.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Feb 26h to Feb 27th, 2017
GR Review

Rings

Rings

Rating: 3/5

From IMDB:
A young woman finds herself on the receiving end of a terrifying curse that threatens to take her life in seven days.

Review:

Rings was a pretty solid horror movie. It would have been a lot better had the original ones not come first. As a remake it is not that good because at least the american version was extremely scary (I didn’t watch the original, original one). There were many reasons why it was so terrifying; in part because you just could not escape, also because it was pure evil, and because there was no chance to explain said evil.
Here it all changes.

Still, Lutz and Roe make a good couple and despite the several plot holes it can be quite entertaining.

Also, it was great to see Johnny Galecki in a more serious performance, I think he did absolutely amazing. And the role of his character in the story was quite intriguing.

I do have to mention that, once again, I have a big issue with the trailer. I am pretty sure a couple of scenes were not featured in the movie and that it did not portray accurately what happens there, showing scenes in the beginning that only show at the end of the film.

All in all, Rings is certainly no masterpiece, but it has its moments.

See What I Have Done

Title: See What I Have Done

Author: Sarah Schmidt

Genres: Crime | Historical Fiction

Length: 324 pages | 3368 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.75/5

 

Premise:
On the morning of August 4th 1892 Lizzie Borden cries Someone’s killed Father.
As we go through Lizzie’s fractured memories, as well as three other people’s entries, we try to figure out what exactly happened to Mr Borden.

Review:

Boy, I struggled with this one. At first I thought it was because I am not very used to Historical Fiction and the little I read the prose was not quite so lyrical and random, so I took it as a challenge to read something different and try to enjoy it. However, the more I read the less invested I felt.

I have read quite a lot of books where the narrative jumps back and forth and if done well it adds a new dimension to the story and I feel very involved in it, wanting to know what happened both back then and present day. But here it was just confusing. There are a lot of flashbacks in the middle of chapters so even when they were dated I never knew what was going on or when. One minute a character is having a pretty straight thought, then she thinks of something else and there’s paragraphs and paragraphs of that and by the time that was done I had to really make an effort to remember what she was doing before and catch the thread of the narrative again.

The prose could be absolutely enthralling. Some descriptions were extremely vivid, reaching out to all our five senses and making me feel like I was there. On a couple of occasions where things got pretty gross I was actually sick to my stomach. But good writing is just not enough when nothing much seems to happen and it gets really tiring after a while. Sure, the characters were peculiar and the writing was very good, but after a while that is just not enough.

To this day I don’t get why people kept eating a stew that was obviously spoiled. It felt like they had it for days but then again maybe it was just that one day.

And the worst part is I could not even get closure. The more the book approached the end the more enigmatic and riddled with innuendo the prose got. I never got how Bridget got her money back after it had been confiscated by the police, what was in the mutton broth and if it really was Lizzie who put it there and especially what happened to Abby and Mr Borden. There is only a half-hallucination by Lizzie about her father’s last moments but nothing concrete.

I was extremely disappointed at See What I Have Done. I do think others will enjoy it if they are okay with this prose and not getting closure at the end of the book. It’s one of those I classify under read it for the journey, not the destination, although I am sure even the ending will please folks who love lyrical writing.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Feb 17h to Feb 21st, 2017
GR Review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1)

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1)

Author: Ransom Riggs

Genres: Fantasy | Historical Fiction | Horror | Paranormal

Length: 382 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.95/5

Premise:

Jacob’s grandfather was always a bit peculiar, with his strange stories of monsters and odd children in the orphanage where he grew up.
As a young boy, Jacob marvelled in them, but as he grew up he stopped believing in them.
However, now Jacob finds himself on a quest that will answer his questions… and so much more.

Review:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children had me enchanted from the first page. Just when I was wondering what the heck was wrong with me because no book seemed to come even close to fully satisfying me, this masterpiece comes along.

First, Jacob is the first teenage character whom I actually enjoyed reading about in a very long time, if ever. He sounded his age and still managed not to sound completely annoying, go figure!!

Secondly. Wow. Just wow. What a beautifully weaved story. There is tension and suspense and humour and even the slower moments were okay because they served to set the picture – and what a picture it was! The detail and contrasts were amazing.

The characters were brilliantly developed. Miss Peregrine was exactly what I thought a Headmistress should be – strict but understanding. All the children had their own voices and particular quirks. Event though I felt a bit overwhelmed at first because there were several, I quickly got to know who was who and wanted to know more about them and their personal history.

For the first time in longer than I can remember, the mystery was properly developed. Every time I thought hmm, there is something fishy about this or what do they mean by that? or what does that word mean?, I would get the resolution in good time, which is, I wouldn’t have to wait until the very last page to get closure, even though I had to wait of course because, you know, suspense.

And I always got resolution. Sure, there is still an aura of mystery about some things and obviously some were left open because there is a sequel (which I fully intent on purchasing as soon as possible), but I did get full closure for the events unveiled in this story and that, to me, is priceless.

Some plot twists dropped my jaw and brought the creepiness level to a whole new height. I was excited, scared and marvelled while reading this novel. Most of all, I always felt I was right there along with our main character.

The only thing I would like to see further developed would be some of the children that show up in pictures and we don’t really hear much about them throughout the story, if anything at all, like the twins. It is okay because it would be difficult to keep up with that many characters, but I would love to see them mentioned or at least what happened to them.

I would also like to know how exactly Enoch learned about its power. The wight’s explanation was insufficient. I wonder how one gets the idea to harvest hearts and put them in dead bodies. Speaking of which, this explanation is one of the examples of closure I was talking about earlier because I kept thinking, how the heck did these children learn about their powers, at least the less obvious ones?

This edition finishes with an interview to the author. Learning that the story was weaved around photographs he came across in real life brought a whole new dimension to how I feel about this novel. How brilliant does a writer need to be to incorporate them so well into the book and develop such an amazing, magical story?

I finished this book last night – I just could not put it down – and I am not ashamed to say I dreamt about monsters. That is how deeply it affected me.

If you want to get lost in a work of incredible fantasy fiction, I urge you to read it as soon as possible, preferably in one sitting.

Read from April 1st to April 3rd, 2016

GR Review

Church of the Oak (The Brigid Series, #3)

Title: Church of the Oak (The Brigid Series, #3)

Author: Sheila R. Lamb

Genres: Fantasy | Historical Fiction | Paranormal | Romance

Format: Mobi

Length: 245 pages | 3491 locations

Source: Author

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

In this direct sequel to the second book of the series, Patrick continues trying to find Brigid, while remaining true to his faith in Christianity.
In the meantime, Brigid strives to keep her druid school while remaining a free woman and yearning to find Patrick again.

Review:

This book did not start as well for me as the previous ones. There were a lot of characters and I did not remember some of them.
One of the things that bothered me the most was Brigid’s father. I felt that he was out of character compared to I knew of him in the previous book. He had left his family to stay with Brigid’s mother and raise her as his own and yet now he stooped to a level I never saw coming, making all sorts of evil threats and even willing to sell her freedom to Maithghean. This is the part that stung the most: “Maithghean could probably use a servant’s help more than me.” Father’s lip lifted as if in satisfaction, a grin quickly reigned in. Not only is he pimping out his daughter, he’s actually happy about it? Eurgh.

Then as we went back in time and I began finding out what had happened since Brigid left in the previous novel, I reconnected with the story. I felt her struggle between wanting to help the Túatha de Danann and not allowing them to control her fate again, as well as her love for Patrick but loath of what he had become. She had a goal now, her school, and she was committed to it.

But I continued having trouble connecting with Patrick. It bothered me that he obviously wanted to be with Brigid, and he had experienced first hand the Dannan power, even having glimpses of his past life. Yet he acted as if none of that happened and that Christianity’s one God was the only one that ever existed.

I understand that he would choose not to be with Brigid, but I could not understand why, when he and Brigid met, she felt their energy as anam cara and yet he appeared to be immune to her touch and just so aggressive, with such an aversion towards her.
As in the previous book, it frustrated me that he did not listen to what Brigid said, she would have to repeat the same things over and over again (like her warnings about Maithghean) and he just would not get it. It wasn’t so much as he was confused about what she was saying, more that he would not register it.

Alas, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Brigid as a teacher, as well as all the techniques described. Watching her absorb energy from the earth and developing her powers was enthralling. I was eager to learn more of the magic – rituals, potions, spells… I did get to see some, but I wanted more. Instead, it seemed like chamomile kept being used all the time.

I felt for her in all the hard choices she had to make, even when none of them seemed to bring a way out of her predicament. Every decision made her grow as a woman and led to her finding out who she really was and what she wanted her future to be. She deserved to be happy and would try to do whatever led to her happiness, while trying her best to stay true to her values and her missions. I admired her.

I would like to point out that I am not familiar at all with irish folklore, so I took this series at point value, that is an independent work of fiction regardless of what it was based on. I have to admit I thought it odd that a woman would be appointed bishop, for instance. I don’t know if that ever happened back then but it just sounded weird.

I thought some things were repetitive, like all the mentions of Patrick and Brigid’s past together or how it was against druid customs to write. I did not get why Maithghean would kill Conleth when he knew about Patrick and their much stronger connection, and yet he seemed surprised to see them together. Regarding the formatting, I think it would make sense if thoughts were put in italic. Sometimes I would not notice the voice had changed and had to go back and reread.

So, all in all, there were bits and pieces here and there that I would have liked to have been handled differently, but I generally enjoyed Church of the Oak very much and sped through it. Getting lost in Brigid’s world is a joy.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 27 to Aug 29, 2015
GR Review

Fiery Arrow (The Brigid Series, #2)

Title: Fiery Arrow (The Brigid Series, #2)

Author: Sheila R. Lamb

Genres: Fantasy | Historical Fiction | Paranormal | Romance

Format: Mobi

Length: 274 pages | 4267 locations

Source: Author

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Patrick is a young man from 5th century Roman Brittania who has a bright future ahead of him. However, something terrible happens to him and he is transported to the island of Éire, where he will know hardship like he never dreamed of.
He will also start hearing the voice of a long-lost goddess – Brigid. What is her connection to him? What does she want from him? Will she shake his faith in the one and only Christian God?

Review:

As in the previous book of the series, Fiery Arrow took me on an exciting adventure.

There were things I enjoyed more in this book than the first one and others I did not enjoy as much.

The concepts were very innovative. I had not read about magic as in this series.
As in the previous book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about connecting with the Earth to the point of being able to extract energy from it and being in communion with it and do wish I would have read more about that.
The Irish gods and goddesses’ description and the notion of their strength depending on people believing in them was very interesting, as was the druid system presented in this book. I loved how there were various skills the clan members could specialize in and how it took decades to become a druid.

I actually enjoyed that there were no obvious good guys – everyone had their flaws. Even the gods and goddesses proved, as in the previous book, to show no mercy when it comes to achieving their goals.
The way Christianity was approached was also very new. Literature I have come across always seems to approach the conversion missions from the Christian point of view, so seeing it from the other perspective was very refreshing.
And the whole process of trying to remember a past life was tremendously engaging. Not knowing what Brigid would remember or who she could trust kept me on edge.

However, I do wish the ending would have provided a bit of closure in that aspect, as well as others. It felt rushed. I wondered why so much was happening after the 90% mark and the fact is I did not feel much closure at all.
And there were, again, things that confused me or that I did not get why they were approached in such a manner.
For example, the chronology threw me off a bit. The way the story was presented, I thought Brigid and Patrick were roughly 11 years apart, since the chapters where she is 5 years old are interspersed with Patrick’s 16 years of age. So it was extremely confusing to read that she was not born until he was 20 years old.
Even though I felt engaged throughout his trials, the fact is that I had a bit of trouble connecting with Patrick. I did not get how easy it was for him not only to keep doubting Brigid, even after she appeared to him in the flesh, even after he felt the connection to her, but also to completely ignore her request, no matter how urgently she conveyed it, to make sure that her people did not forget the Danann. Worse still, he thought she deserted him instead of the other way around. Even after she said she faced enormous danger just communicating with him and was not sure she could keep coming back because of said danger. It was difficult to care for a character who seemed so selfish and reckless of the well-being of the one he supposedly loved. That was something else that confused me – one minute he remembered he loved her and the next she was a figment of his imagination.
I felt some things kept being repeated, like Patrick saying he heard Brigid because the blow in the head made it soft, or her constant requests that he taught her people to remember the Danann. She kept saying the same things and yet he never once acknowledged her, only kept asking her to come and be with him. It was so frustrating!
And I definitely do not get why Brigid’s father did not request divorce from Sena, if he loved her mother that much and as a druid he had so much power.

All in all, I had a good time reading this. I could see myself immersed in this world. The concepts were refreshing and unique, and I am curious to know what happens in the third book.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 12 to Aug 14, 2015
GR Review

Once a Goddess (The Brigid Series, #1)

Title: Once a Goddess (The Brigid Series, #1)

Author: Sheila R. Lamb

Genres: Fantasy | Historical Fiction | Paranormal | Romance

Format: Mobi

Length: 320 pages | 4593 locations

Source: Author

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

This is the story of Brigid and what it means to be a Túatha dé Danann. It is a story of love and sacrifice with Celtic roots.

Review:

I was pleasantly surprised by Once a Goddess. Seeing the cover, I thought it was children literature, but it isn’t.

The story revolves around a strong but not flawless main character. Even though she is technically not really human due to her supernatural powers, she is easy to relate to. She has emotions and desires just like everyone but is forced to let go of her own happiness for the sake of her people’s survival.

There were a few things in the beginning that caused me to not get into the story straight away, mainly the fact that the powers of her people were listed instead of gradually presented to the reader and I just did not get why they allowed their magical people to be massacred, if they had the means to stop that from happening. Besides, they were in an island, not like anyone could live to tell others of their secret powers.

I liked the description of a people in direct link to Earth, and how acts everyone else considers mundane were profane, like carving a well or extracting ore. This communion with the Earth goddess Danu, as well as with each other, and the notion of anam cara were my favourite things of the book. Unfortunately, the first of these aspects was somewhat put in the background as the narrative developed. I really wanted to see more of this connection to Danu and the acts which harmed her. For example, building a moat – I am sure that was considered an aggression towards her, right?

There were things I wished had been handled differently or more developed, like Brigid’s relationship with her son. Instead, I felt the story focused too much on Adraic and Brigid’s sacrifice. I wondered if she knew Ruadan at all.

At times, I had trouble realizing transitions in place and time. It seemed several years went by without much happening.

Some plot twists did not bring me much closure, I was actually pretty confused and ended up with a lot of questions.
I did not get why Lia Fail chose Bres in the first place, or the whole thing between Dagda and Morrigan, and the so-called spell she placed on him (how could she perform magic in the first place??).
When it is said Bres planned it all long, is it really since the beginning, as in, from the moment they married? What about the revelation about his mother, did he know that then? If not, why did it not affect his plan?
And why were the Danann dying in the first place? Why did their magic wither? Why did half-bloods manage to develop skills the pure breed could not?
Again, why did they not use their weapons, if they were really that powerful and could have prevented so much death? What were those weapons? What did they do?
And I would have liked to see the wedding ceremony between Brigid and Adraic, because she made the whole ritual sound so special when she was getting married to Bres. I wanted to see the effect of the right words being pronounced. I suppose I wanted more magic.

There were several other things, but I was unable to take further notes.

Despite the unanswered questions and underdeveloped storylines, the fact is Once a Goddess carried me a way. There was plenty of excitement, a relatable main character, beautiful sceneries and an interesting magical concept. The book is well written and I recommend it to fantasy and myth fans.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 07 to Aug 09, 2015
GR Review

When a Child Is Born: A Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Story

Title: When a Child Is Born: A Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Story

Author: Jodi Taylor

Narrator: Zara Ramm

Genres: Historical Fiction | Science Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 32 mins

Source: Audible (free)

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

A group of time traveller historians is sent to an unexpected place. They are not supposed to interfere, or history will be changed. But can they let a wounded man die? What repercussions will helping him and his family cause to the future?

Review:

Time travelling is fairly commonly addressed in science fiction, but not always in a successful manner, due to all its implications.
This is a short story I found for free on Audible, so I was not expecting much. The group of three historians lands in a place which is obviously not where they are supposed to be. There isn’t much information about the means of transportation, other than it is a pod. I cannot recall listening to any details of it, particularly about its visibility to other people. That has always been an issue to me: if the device is visible, won’t the time traveller risk it being gone by the time he or she returns from prancing about?

It was on ok story, though it got a bit repetitive with the few guilty of thinking as an historian lines, and I did not much care for the three mage reference as it seemed too farfetched.
I also didn’t really know what to think about ‘Nature’ being the one to blame for how the events turned out. That seems to imply that time travelling is a natural matter, no?

There were a few moments where I chuckled, so I will rate the story up. The bit about the stew was especially funny.

Overall, it is a good story to listen to if you are going to do a quick workout as I did, or something of the sort; nothing stupendous and it will leave plenty of questions unanswered, but it will get you thinking about the repercussions of an event in the far past being handled in a different way. The narration itself was ok. Zara Ramm’s voice is pleasant enough, but the voices could have been done a wee bit better.

Listened to on Jun 23rd, 2015
GR Review

The World Before Us

Title: The World Before Us

Author: Aislinn Hunter

Genres: Contemporary | Historical Fiction | Magical Realism | Mystery

Length: 432 pages | 4833 locations

Source: Blogging for Books | Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.75/5

Premise:

Jane is tormented by an event which took place when she was 15 years old. She was responsible for minding 5 year-old Lily while taking a stroll through the woods, and the child was lost, never to be found. Since then, Jane has sort of been wandering through life, trying to find meaning for it. She comes across a story of a girl whose name she does not even know, only its initial (N), who got lost in the same woods as Lily and makes it her mission to find out what happened to her.

Review:

When I first started reading this book, I was curious. The story is narrated in present tense, first person plural; I don’t think I had ever read that before. From the start, I wondered who we were and although it did not take me long to figure it out, I did enjoy discovering who each individual was and their personal stories.

As intrigued as I was, I could tell I would have a difficult time with the prose. At first, I thought I just need to dedicate my full attention to this.
But then I realized that doing my best to focus was not going to be an easy task, or enough to increment my enjoyment of the book.

There were two main things that caused my attention to waver and my satisfaction to subside:
1) The prose was simply too dense; there were endless details in, well, everything. The sentences and chapters were much too long, filled with superfluous narrations that, despite being pretty, came across, to me, as utterly unnecessary and distracting.
2) The fact that there is more than one narrator managed to play against my enjoyment as well, since whenever something came up I would be presented with the myriad of ways to experience it. Example:

Ask us what shape certainty takes and we will all point to a different corner of the museum: to the pendulum of the long-case clock, to the black stones of the birds’ eyes, to the teacups in the upper gallery, to books, locks of hair, dress silk, to the computer in Jane’s office, or the cabinet of milkweed and wild strawberry glass models made in a factory between wars.

As you can imagine, these thorough descriptions convey the book an extremely slow place and, while pretty, the fact is not much was happening for a long time.
I also struggled trying to follow all the secondary stories and numerous characters, never really feeling connected to them. At some point, I had no idea who was who anymore.

There were good things, of course. I have not read much historical fiction, but following my brief experiences I did notice that writing accordingly to the time portrayed is not an easy matter. Everything seemed well in that stance, the context was quite believable, as was the language. Going through some instances of what happens in an asylum was eerily entertaining, as much as the attempt to rationalize the inmates’ thoughts and actions. The act of digging through archives, trying to excavate long past events drew me in. The mysteries were interesting and I did want to know what happened to Jane, I just got discouraged by all the endless descriptions. And I have to admit the last 20% or so gripped me.

Sadly, the good things were not nearly enough to bring the rating up. For me, the narrative style was just dreadful, and there were several unanswered questions in the end. Only a few examples: I wanted to know what happened to Lily, how she died; how exactly the ghosts became attached to Jane; what happened to them in the end, if they ceased or otherwise found peace; and I really wanted to know who the narrator was.

At the end of the day, I could not help but think this book was unnecessarily long and kept looking at the percentage progress on my Kindle, which is never a good sign. One thing that accompanied me throughout the read was the feeling that there was a really good story hidden underneath all that flourish and clutter. Shame, really.

I fully acknowledge that the writer is very talented with words and that this book is more than capable of bringing true enjoyment to readers who appreciate this sort of prose. It was just not my case.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher, Blogging for Books and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Read from Jun 16 to Jun 20, 2015
GR Review