The problem I have, when reviewing books I enjoyed, is that it's so much harder to articulate what makes them good than what flaws they had.
This is thThe problem I have, when reviewing books I enjoyed, is that it's so much harder to articulate what makes them good than what flaws they had.
This is the second book I've read by Sharon Cameron and it's very different from the first one, the science fiction-toned The Forgetting. This one has a gothic air and tension builds through most of the book as penniless orphan Katharine is sent to confirm that her uncle is squandering the money of an estate her cousin will inherit--the cousin she'll be dependent upon for her life. But when she arrives, she finds her uncle isn't quite as described--and employs hundreds of people who would be in the poorhouse without him.
The book does a good job of slowly revealing information throughout. While I could guess at a couple of the end results, I was surprised several times. Most of the characters were distinctly written and enjoyable; Uncle Tully appears to be on the autistic spectrum and while Katharine is unsure at first, he's treated with fondness and respect by everyone, and his particular special interests are worked with.
The ending keeps this from receiving five stars. It wraps up most, though not everything, but felt a little rushed. One person in my book club thought that maybe the author changed from wrapping everything up nicely to hint at the sequel.
There were some things I just didn't get. (view spoiler)[Why, since Mary and everyone else is convinced she likes to get drunk--AND she's found herself out of bed on several occasions--WHY doesn't Katharine actually ask someone about what she's been doing? Especially Mary, Mary would probably give it to her pretty straight. She probably could have figured things out a lot sooner if she'd done so. (hide spoiler)]
But overall, this wasn't enough to outweigh my enjoyment even now as an adult, adn I imagine I would have enjoyed it even more if I was younger....more
As someone who is a Certified Wuss™, this is the kind of ghost/horror I want (and would have enjoyed even more when I was younger): a ghost that actuaAs someone who is a Certified Wuss™, this is the kind of ghost/horror I want (and would have enjoyed even more when I was younger): a ghost that actually has the power to kill, but isn't all bad, and who helps save the day...
(Okay, so basically I really liked Anna Dressed in Blood and this had some superficial similarities, though is appropriate for a younger audience, so...)
Is the book itself really all that creepy? Am I going to have nightmares? Nah. But did I think the ghost was unique? Would I have tea with her if I could? Yeah, sure.
There aren't a ton of English-language books incorporating Japanese folklore, and I had no familiarity with Japanese ghost traditions, so 1) I dunno how accurate Okiku's methods are and what kind of authorial license was taken, but 2) I thought the book did a good job explaining enough for everything to make sense. There were a handful of untranslated Japanese words, nothing that really took away from the plot, though if you knew what oneesan meant, you knew at least who the evil spirit was several chapters before it's explained.
Okiku, who was wrongfully murdered centuries prior, has essentially dedicated her afterlife to wreaking vengeance on murders. A ghost with a heart of gold. But unable to pass on because only nice ghosts get to go to heaven, she just drifts around until she discovers Tark, a teen with an evil spirit sealed inside him...and the seals are breaking. (Dun dun dunnn)
The narration style took some getting used to: I finally figured out it's entirely narrated by Okiku, the ghost, but she seems to have the ability to know what other characters are thinking, and to essentially teleport from place-to-place. So sometimes you'd have Okiku talking about what the boy is thinking, then the next chapter another character is in another place doing computer research. But because of that, it can seem like it switches from 1st-person (Okiku) to 3rd person every so often.
There was, of course, the trope of "going to another country but you've got a completely-fluent-in-English guide to translate for you." It meant the book didn't have to have any kind of communication problems, which would have interrupted the flow of the ghost story, and it didn't have all Japanese characters able to speak English, and in maybe a couple instances it paid lip service to the Americans trying to learn Japanese, which I appreciated.
There was no romance, and while apparently there's a sequel, the book can easily be standalone; no loose ends....more
Your enjoyment of this book probably depends on whether you can take the story by itself and enjoy a high-stakes adventure, or whether you want lots oYour enjoyment of this book probably depends on whether you can take the story by itself and enjoy a high-stakes adventure, or whether you want lots of world-building details and can't turn that part of your brain off.
I fell into the first camp--the tone reminded me of Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon books I read in middle school, and I was (amazingly!) able to read the book through and take the society at face-value as the narrator described it.
The idea behind it--that every 12 years the entire city loses its memories, which some people use as an opportunity to change identities or commit crimes in the lead-up, a society that considers nothing truth but whatever is written down--was intriguing, though I found it easy to start punching holes in parts of the world-building.
Reading it straight, the tension keeps building and kept my attention as the Forgetting had a definite date, so heroine Nadia had a deadline. Nadia is the only person, as far as she knows, who remembers what happened before, and she's determined to find out why.
Plucky, inquisitive YA heroine, check. Love interest, also check. I didn't mind Gray as a character, since he proved to have a brain and they spent more time looking for answers than mooning after each other. Romance is so much easier to stomach when the love interest can contribute to the plot.
Are there things that don't make sense? Absolutely. And if you linger on them too long while reading, you'll just get frustrated. (view spoiler)[*Nadia isn't the only one to think about going over the wall. 12 years between Forgettings is more than enough time for multiple people to get curious. *They don't use money--people work, but everyone gets an allotment of whatever. Does no one try to invent things? Is there not an artisan who thinks, I wanna try making a Thing, or someone who asks an artisan to make a Thing in exchange for Other Things? *How does the population hold steady-ish if they don't have birth control? They live in a one-kilometer walled city, FFS. *As important as it is for people to write things down--to the point where people without books (diaries) after a Forgetting are called "Lost," made to do the hardest work and ostracized--I can't believe how easy it is to make a new identity after a Forgetting, or that no one has realized Janis has been in power forever. Surely people write down things like "my neighbor is Raynor and he is definitely not dead" or "Janis is on the Council." (hide spoiler)]...more
So I knew it was a play's script. And I knew it wasn't written solely by JKR. And I had a rough version of the plot figured out, so all that's fine. ISo I knew it was a play's script. And I knew it wasn't written solely by JKR. And I had a rough version of the plot figured out, so all that's fine. I wasn't expecting a single-year romp of Potter Offspring and Friends like the original series. And definitely, I want to see this play.
But as a story, this was frustrating because Harry Potter has never even come close to being the best part of Harry Potter. And there was a lot of Harry being obnoxious and COMMUNICATION ISSUES ALL OVER THE PLACE. Like, LET ME SIT Y'ALL DOWN FOR AN INTRODUCTORY COMMUNICATION CLASS. BECAUSE YOU ALL SUCK.
And it reminded me of some of the more obvious flaws of the wizarding world. I love the world JKR created and it's super fun to read about, but it's populated by people with a great lack of common sense. And witchfolk need to get with the technological times: some cell phones would have solved a lot of problems, TBH.
The second act/half is actually good, because it finally gets into the time-turning story and such. But the first half was mainly excruciatingly dull.
Two high points: Scorpius, who is absolutely adorable and knows how to be a good friend, and Hagrid's little speech near the end (see my last status update below).
Regardless of what JKR says, this isn't canon: it's a completely different medium, not wholly written by JKR. It posits that Cedric, whose entire characterization is being a decent guy, would somehow (view spoiler)[decide to become a Death Eater merely after being humiliated in front of the school. You know, the school that routinely mocks Harry Potter and his friends. The school that usually gets over itself. (hide spoiler)]
And apparently, if Hermione hadn't married Ron, he would have married (view spoiler)[Padma Patil (hide spoiler)] because THAT makes sense (14-year-olds: your future mate hinges on who you date now, apparently). And Hermione herself (view spoiler)[remains single and becomes a crotchety, Snape-like Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, (hide spoiler)] because THAT makes EVEN MORE sense.
Things that make more sense: Hermione marrying Viktor Krum, Hermione remaining single and happy, Hermione moving to Australia and meeting someone there.
Ron isn't canon. While Harry is obnoxious, it's unfortunately not very different from his brand of teenage obnoxiousness. Ron, on the other hand, has turned into a dimbulb, the awkward uncle. He gives Harry's son a love potion as a joke--this from Ron, the guy nearly killed after drinking a love potion while at Hogwarts? He's not funny, he's...it feels like he had no place in this story, but a blank stand-in named "Ron" was occasionally inserted so people could see the Golden Trio again.
Heck, Delphi says (view spoiler)[she was born in Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts. Bellatrix, her mother, wasn't pregnant in the books, even if I believed that Moldy Voldy would father a child, which is ludicrous. (hide spoiler)]
There are many other problems. (The Trolley Witch is nearly 200 years old? Uh-huh.) Best I can tell, this should be thought of the way that new "official" Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes books are approached: they have official seals of approval, but they're not part of the original stories, and shouldn't be considered canon....more