As soon as I read the synopsis of this book I knew I had to read it! My undergrad degree is in psychology and I've always found the subject matter fascinating. I've also always found the paranormal interesting, so the combination of the very grounded and measurable study of psychology and this wild and unpredictable investigation of reincarnation was too delicious to pass up. It seemed to promise to be dark and eerie and thought-provoking, and Yesternight comes through on all of those promises.
My first two thoughts when I started reading Yesternight were 1) This tossed and stormy setting is PERFECT for a creepy story! and 2) How cool is Alice Lind, a smart, determined woman pushing her way through a man's field and refusing to back down! The author did a great job of showing how hard Alice had to work to be taken seriously as a psychologist as well as the double standards she faced when it came to her sexuality. A good amount of time was spent on her sexuality and the fact that her needs were considered obscene for the times, while we know now those needs would just be considered normal. I have to say that this aspect of the story was my least favorite as it drew away from the much more interesting (in my opinion) past lives aspects, however I understand it served a point that becomes a little more evident towards the end of the story.
My very favorite aspect of the story was the exploration of the past lives a few of our characters (not only Janie) experienced, and how those past lives bled into their present, affecting them in some interesting and disturbing ways. The ending was absolutely chilling to me and the whole discussion really made me think about how much I believe in reincarnation and, if it is true, how many traits (both bad and good) someone could bring over to their new life. It was really interesting to watch the characters grapple with the frustration, fear, and confusion they inevitably felt trying to figure out what truly was happening to them...and what had already happened that they couldn't remember! Some of the actions of the characters were really horrific and went quite a way to make me dislike them as a whole, however the process they all went through was really fun to read about.
Yesternight definitely gave me that creep-factor I want this time of year and in novels dealing with this subject matter. It took some turns that I didn't expect (and some that I didn't necessarily enjoy) but all in all it was a well written story that made me think long and hard about the possibilities it presented. I'm excited to read the author's first novel, The Uninvited, and look forward to what she comes out with next. ...more
When it comes to historical fiction, I've often found myself drawn to long, weighty books that completely immerse the reader in the details of the time and place the story inhabits. It seems to take a good amount of time to make me feel like I'm right there with the characters, utilizing all my senses to be a part of the world the author is building. So when News of the World came up for review I have to admit to being somewhat skeptical. How would the author make me experience this world in such a limited number of pages? I mean, a 400-mile journey in under 250 pages?! I feel horrible admitting this now because News of the World is a gem of a story and not only tackles that long and arduous journey within its slim pages, but presents two of the most admirable and heartfelt characters I'm come across in a while.
The story's formatting did take some time to get used to, with no quotations around the dialogue and a sparse, bare sort of style, but once I got used to the pattern I very much began to enjoy it. The style matches Captain Kidd's personality very well and, as he's the narrator, this began to make perfect sense as the story developed. The writing is true and honest, yet curt and grounded, with a light sprinkling of humor and sarcasm thrown in from time to time. It became so easy to see Captain Kidd, this gritty yet compassionate old man, as he dealt with a world he wasn't quite sure he liked anymore and a young girl who was set to change his world whether he liked it or not. The way the author wrote Johanna's small yet pointed dialogue was perfect as well, with her strange yet endearing way of speaking and her determination, pride and bravery always at the forefront, I completely became enamored with her. The odd yet beautiful relationship these two very different characters develop is delightful and I'm amazed as much heart and feeling could be expressed in so few words.
This relationship between Johanna and Captain Kidd was so touching. At the point where we meet Captain Kidd, he's become bored, disillusioned and even depressed with the life he was living. Being put in charge of Johanna, as aggravating as she could be at times, gave his life a new purpose. She kind of brings him back to life, giving him meaning and structure and something to care about beyond the news and his family far away in Georgia. In turn, he begins to calm this wild child and allows her to remember not only a language she had forgotten but the realization that there was kindness in this strange world of the white man. They're both brave, tough, and determined, and each does there part to bring love and life back to the other.
Something else I really appreciated about the story was the way the time period was expressed and the depth that was given in regards to the politics and changing landscape the US was undergoing at the time. I haven't read much about the US post Civil War, but, again, I was amazed at the breadth of knowledge that could be expressed in such a short amount of time. I could perfectly feel the danger and fright that existed so close to Indian territory as well as the anger and resentment on both sides of the political divide, and the skillful way Captain Kidd juggled all of these things to stay alive and deliver his charge as he promised.
My only complaint (not that it's that much of a complaint) would be that the pivotal turning point at the end of the book (I don't want to say too much and give anything away) went down a little too cleanly to seem realistic and seemed to wrap up quickly and neatly for a story that held so many obstacles. When all the figurative mountains these two had come across took fighting to get through, why this final mountain would be so easy just seemed odd. That being said, the very end of the novel brought me to tears and I realized that this short book had held an epic and arduous journey that can't be known from just looking at the page count. I felt like I had been on a long, hard road with these two and was just as cathartic and enlightened by the outcome as they were.
News of the World is such a divine study at what it really means to be a family, and how you never know what path your life might take or where that path might lead you. It is not hard to see why this book has been long-listed for the National Book Award and I'm so glad I took a chance and went along on this exciting and touching journey. ...more
This might be one of the most heart-breaking yet touching and hopeful novels I've read in a good long while! From page one the reader is thrown into a crate in a locked attic room with Charlotte and from that moment on you feel every emotion - fright, anxiety, confusion, anger, and, yes, even happiness - with Charlotte and her family as they navigate through this new world created by her kidnapping. I did have to put it down from time to time as the subject matter can be hard to read (let's face it, it is every parent's worst nightmare!) but I always picked it back up and continued as the story is told with such sensitivity and compassion and is an important story to look at in order to be able to approach the subject matter with clarity and empathy.
One of the aspects I appreciated most about Aftermath was just how delicately the story was told. Given the horrid abuse, both psychologically and physically, Charlotte experienced the narrative could have easily become too graphic and salacious, but instead is presented to the reader in the words and views of a young girl who has experienced this abuse, as she might describe it. As I imagine would occur in someone who has experienced such atrocities at such a young age, we get to learn more about the long lasting and far-reaching after effects of the abuse, such as PTSD, guilt, gripping anxieties and even dissociation from herself in order to avoid dealing with what happened to her, then the details of the abuses themselves. I, for one, appreciate the subtlety displayed when discussing the details...you will know exactly what horrors happened to this poor girl without having to read anything too graphic.
Another aspect I really found well done was the mystery surrounding "The One Before", the girl who Charlotte's kidnapper used as a threat to keep her complacent and obedient. I found that adding this mystery and giving Charlotte this goal of finding out what happened to her and making sure the girl's family knew the truth, kept the story from becoming overly heavy with Charlotte's experiences and giving some hope and drive for the character as well as the reader. This aspect really kept the story moving.
Aftermath is by no means an easy read. It digs right into that pit of fear we all have and exposes those nerves we would all rather keep buried. However, I think this is a really important book to read in order to understand and appreciate what someone in Charlotte's situation goes through and feels, and to help us understand the healing process and how to best interact with someone who is dealing with this sort of pain. It's hard to say you "enjoy" a book where the characters go through so much pain, but I am in awe of Clara Kensie's ability to present this story with such tenderness and I'm excited to see what stories she brings to us next. ...more
I think this might be one of the coolest concepts for a thriller I've read in a while! An author who writes a novel that details her sister's murder in order to draw in the killer, all while she can't leave her home due to her anxiety, is brilliant. The fact that the sanity of the person telling the story is called into question from the very beginning makes it even more appealing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love unreliable narrators and trying to piece together the truth from the information they are giving to the reader. Melanie Raabe does a wonderful job of stringing the reader along as Linda's trap is laid and the twists and turns of the aftermath fall into place.
From the very beginning it was easy to see that Linda spends the vast majority of her time in her own head, and that her head is full of a fantastical imagination and boundless fear. It also doesn't take long to figure out that Linda herself isn't even sure which of her memories and thoughts are real and which she's made up to fit what she wants to be true. I found Linda to be quite the complex character and, while I didn't particularly like her as a person, I loved her as a character I had to try and decipher. Most of the other characters fell a little flat to me (and none of them were particularly likeable characters) but Linda stood out as a unique and enjoyable character to read about.
I also really enjoyed the format of the story. Mixed in with Linda's current situation of trying to trick the person she emphatically believes killed her sister into confessing and in such a way that she has evidence to present to everyone else (since she is, remember, not the most reliable of people), we get to read excerpts from the novel Linda wrote regarding her sister's murder. I particularly enjoyed these sections as they gave a better understanding of what happened that night - at least what Linda says happened - and that helped fill in some gaps in her current story. I've not read another novel that used this sort of technique, but I really wish more would as I found it really exciting!
I did have some issues with the story that kept The Trap from being a complete hit for me. The fact that none of the characters are particularly likeable didn't influence my enjoyability of the novel too much, but it did make me not care overmuch regarding the eventual outcome for them. The pace of the novel slows down quite a bit around the middle as Linda confronts the would-be killer as well, and I found myself just wanting that long evening of confrontation to get to an end and move on to the next step in the story. There's also a mild love story thrown in for some reason, and I really didn't think this added anything to the story overall.
All things considered I did enjoy The Trap and found that it scratched that psychological suspense itch I've had as of late. It's definitely worth a read for the unique situations and formatting I discussed above and I think those that really enjoy mysteries and thrillers will find it worth a read. This being Melanie Raabe's debut, I'm excited to see what stories she comes up with next!...more