As much fun as it is to hear about book long before their release date, it can also be a really bad thing. In the cas...moreOriginally posted at Small Review
As much fun as it is to hear about book long before their release date, it can also be a really bad thing. In the case of Wake Unto Me, I was so looking forward to reading about that charming ghost who visits Caitlyn at night but the reality didn’t live up to my expectations.
Can I strangle her, please?
CAITLYN! Ugh, I so hated her. She’s very angsty and she looks down on almost everyone around her because she’s convinced that she’s “special” and doesn’t belong with the rest of the inferior people around her.
The peons of Caitlyn’s world include not only her classmates, but also her entire living family…who clearly love her and go out of their way to treat her well. Right off the bat I hated the main character and wished nothing but very uncharitable thoughts on her.
Now, before you get too disappointed, keep in mind that I’m not the age of the target audience. When I was that age, I probably would have eaten this angst-fest up. Caitlyn reminded me very strongly of Jessica from Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ book Demon in My View. I loved that book when I read it as a teen, and even though I kind of roll my eyes at Jessica now, I have enough nostalgic love to keep me rereading that book. So consider that when reading my thoughts on Caitlyn, for what it’s worth.
The ghostly romance that wasn't
I was expecting a ghostly romance, but that isn’t really what happens here. The guy is not a ghost. Instead, there’s time travel through Caitlyn's dreams. Ok, I could get on board with that given how much I love time travel, but I was disappointed that I was sold a ghost romance and then not given one.
The romance was also 100% INSTA love (major emphasis on the "insta"). It all happened so fast and that, combined with a lack of character development, made it so I couldn’t get into their romance at all.
Not only wasn’t he a ghost, but the guy himself was also just ok. There wasn’t anything wrong with him, but he wasn’t much more than a sketch of a generic caricature. I couldn’t help but compare him to Marcello and the guys in Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series (an EXCELLENT historical time-travel romance) and he just fell completely flat in comparison. I don’t even remember his name.
I would like it more if I actually understood it
There is so much potential here for this to be an awesome story. The plot points are fantastic and there are some truly original parts here. The problem is that none of it was developed enough for me. The delivery of information felt convoluted and unevenly paced.
I read through chapters and chapters about boring and irrelevant stuff like Caitlyn complaining about the food or her inability to find her classrooms and then there’s a dump of tons of information. The information chapters were great and I definitely enjoyed reading them, but the deluge of information that was only somewhat explained left me really confused.
It was fun reading about the historical parts and piecing them together, but I’m not sure I ultimately understand how it all works. I don’t get Caitlyn’s power and why it happened to HER of all people. I can’t ask my questions here without giving out major spoilers, but suffice it to say I have a ton of questions.
I think these questions were explained and I just didn’t understand the explanation, so it’s not like I’m supposed to have them and wait for a sequel for the answers. I don’t even remember them all now and, honestly, I don’t really care.
The historical parts were fun for me, but I think you really do have to be into history for them to be appealing. Frustratingly though, it also wasn't filled with historical factoids. So, it was pretty much too much historical fic for someone who doesn’t like that genre, but not enough for someone who does want that genre.
The evil but maybe not evil sisterhood thing also felt like a caricature with no original meat. They came into the story early on and then disappeared for most of the book. They didn’t serve much of a purpose outside of only tenuously explaining why Caitlyn is special. They had so much potential to be awesome, but their history, function, and goals were never fully explained. I don’t even know if they’re good or not.
I was disappointed by the mystery, but it did grab my attention well enough to keep me reading in spite of a main character I couldn’t stand. I can totally see why people would like the book because the basic story is pretty great (especially the "big reveal").
For me though, this felt way too much like a draft that needed more revisions. The original parts were wonderful, but were overshadowed by lack of development and too many cliches.
I don't know if this is supposed to be a standalone or not. It wraps up as if it is a standalone, but who can tell these days. If there is a sequel, I don't know, I guess I might give it a try through the library to see if the writing has caught up to the ideas.
I enjoyed the first book in the series (The Ghost and the Goth, review), so I was super excited when I found out the...moreOriginally posted at Small Review
I enjoyed the first book in the series (The Ghost and the Goth, review), so I was super excited when I found out there was going to be a sequel. The first book ends well as a standalone, but this second book relies enough on the events of the first that you shouldn't read the sequel until after you've read the first book.
The Ghost and the Goth tackled serious issues with a good dose of levity, and that same winning combination is here as well. Alona provides mean-girl snark but still manages to be completely lovable. Will is a lot more sure of himself now and seems to be in the process of taking control of his life again. Both characters grow a lot throughout this book and it is their growth that adds a depth to the series that isn't really hinted at on the covers. It was nice to fall back into the swing of things with this pair. They work so well together; I could happily read many more books featuring them.
...Which brings me to the biggest downside of Queen of the Dead: Alona and Will's relationship. The book opens with the two of them together, tentatively feeling out (literally, though maybe not so tentatively then) a romantic relationship. The first few chapters are absolutely perfect! Wow, who knew PG/PG-13 kissing could be so hot?? Even though they're together, they still maintain a love-hate relationship that sizzles.
The honeymoon ends far too quickly though, and instead of getting a book full of Alona-Will goodness, most of the time they don't even share page time. Huge, teasing disappointment.
Instead, Will spends a lot of time with Mina, a ghost-talker like Will. I understand why Will wants to spend time with Mina--she's a ghost-talker AND she has connections to his father, but, ugh, I so hated her. I bonded majorly with Alona over our shared dislike of Mina.
While Will is being a traitorous meanie (ok, so I'm biased), Alona spends her time getting into trouble. Alona is a strong personality and she can totally stand on her own without Will (can you tell how much I love Alona? She's a BFF character for sure), but boy does she know how to make a mess of things. These parts were fun because she just kept digger her hole deeper and deeper. I enjoyed her scenes a lot more than the Will/Mina scenes.
I should probably mention that the book alternates chapters between Will's perspective and Alona's perspective. Both voices are completely distinct and the dual narration does a really good job in allowing the reader to connect with the characters when they're talking and also see another side of them through each other's eyes. It also helps events move along at a nice pace and teases you to keep reading ahead.
The story itself is good, but I wanted a little more. The first book had more of a mystery than this one. Honestly though, this isn't a series that I read for the plot. I read it because I love the characters and the world of ghost-talkers. We do gain more insight into ghost-talkers in this book, but our understanding is still tantalizingly incomplete. We also learn that Will's dad had a whole lot of secrets that Will is only beginning to uncover.
I'm not sure how I feel about the resolution. It's, well, I can't really say anything without giving away spoilers, but I'm not sure I like it. I trust Stacey, though, so I'm holding out judgement on that until after I see how she handles it in book three.
This one is wrapped up pretty well, so I'm not sure what the blurb is talking about with a "killer cliffhanger." This isn't really a cliffhanger--killer or otherwise. I mean, there's definitely more to Will and Alona's story, but this main story arc is wrapped up just fine. That doesn't mean I'm not still impatiently awaiting the next book, because I so am! If you liked The Ghost and the Goth, then definitely check out Queen of the Dead.
This is a goooood book. Really. I wasn’t especially grabbed by the cover photo, but when I got the book through inter-library loan I wa...moreLove the pretty
This is a goooood book. Really. I wasn’t especially grabbed by the cover photo, but when I got the book through inter-library loan I was delighted by the heft and detail put into its construction. The publishers and illustrator Lisa Brown really went all out in designing a book that is visually attractive and replicates the feel of a scrapbook (something that plays an important role in the story). The combined package serves to create a reading experience rich in atmosphere that perfectly complements the spooky story inside. As an added bonus, the pictures contain clues and foreshadow the events to come.
Romance, historical fiction, Gothic fiction, ghost stories, and mysteries are all great genres, but you know what’s even better? When an author mixes them all together. And when that author is the amazing Adele Griffin, you have nothing short of pure awesomeness. Oh my gosh, I’m flailing, I’m dying, I’m clutching the book to my chest and swooning over how much I loved Picture the Dead!
Ok, here’s what you need to do
Get this book, go find a comfortable spot and tell everyone you know to leave you alone for the next few hours. I mean it. Threaten them if you have to. Bribe them with cookies. Whatever you do, make sure you’re left alone. (Except, maybe bring a dog with you. They'll sense if there's a ghost nearby--just ask Susan Hill). You want to let yourself become totally absorbed and transported into the story. For me, this is one of those books where the real world disappeared around me. The scenes! Scenes! Ah, they’re seared into my brain. The images created are just so tangible. It was like I was a ghost in Jennie’s world, stuck in that delightful and infuriating position of observing and experiencing, but having absolutely no ability to affect anything.
If you’re brave, read it at night. If you’re a wimp like me, ha, good luck. Even daylight won’t save you because what makes this story so spooky is the constant state of confusion you’re kept in until the climax. Sure there could be plausible, non-supernatural explanations, but the supernatural explanations are just as possible. Whatever the cause, though, you’re so totally screwed because if the explanations aren’t supernatural, well, you just might find yourself wishing they were because the alternative is almost scarier.
The story is filled with twists and turns that kept me constantly guessing and gripping the edge of my seat in anticipation. I just wanted to reach into the book and start shaking the characters to tell me the truth already! But I never knew whose neck to wring…not that I would have believed a single one of them anyway.
Friend? Enemy? Ulterior motives and alternative explanations abound and all of the possible scenarios are equally convincing. I felt like I was in a choose your own adventure book where I was presented with numerous possible paths. Is there a ghost, or isn’t there? Which brother is good, and which is evil? Or are they both good, or are they both evil? Oh wow, there are even more questions but I can’t tell you without spoiling things. All of the threads come together in an explosive climax that left me positively giddy. I was clutching the book so tightly it’s a good thing I had a durable hardcover copy and I gasped so loudly that even my library patrons took note ("Ah, you must be at a good part!" "Yes, yes, now shush and leave me alone." I was a terrible employee that day).
From page one, my heart broke for Jennie, the narrator, but she’s a tricky one herself. She has a tendency to stretch the truth and steal, so I was often unsure as to how much I could trust her. Still, her exaggerations were amusing and actually made me like her more. I felt so connected with her over our shared hatred of her despicable aunt. Now that aunt was a woman I love to hate! She’s so awful I’m thinking she must be Dolores Umbridge’s long lost ancestor.
I felt so strongly about all of the characters. Even the minor ones drew out a reaction from me. I just want to have a sleepover party and gasp, gossip, and giggle about these people. It would go sort of like this:
“Oh no she didn’t!” *gasp* “Oh no you didn’t?!” *giggle* *gasp* “Oh my gosh, you didn’t!” *shakes head* “Oh my god he did!!” *claps hands excitedly* “How dare he!?” *rage* “You SO rocked!” *high five*
But it wasn’t a complete giggle fest either. There’s so much sadness and loss here. Usually when I think of grief I think of just a horrible blanket of mourning that smothers everything. The feeling is unbearable, but it is clear. The other side of death, however, is often confusion. Not every death is neat and concrete with tangible explanations we can grasp onto as an anchor in a sea of grief. These types of deaths can be messy and are almost crueler in the confusion and swirl of conflicting emotions they evoke. This yo-yoing torment is what poor Jennie experiences and it is both terribly sad and morbidly enthralling.
If you were in my library you’d be walking out with a copy in your hands whether you wanted to or not because I’d Book-Pusher it on you. If you like books like The Thirteenth Tale then read it. If you want a good ghost story (even if you’re a wimp like me) then read it. Even if you don’t like historical fiction, read it. The Civil War backdrop is perfect, but it serves to create atmosphere and doesn’t bog you down with historical details.
The chapters are short and even though the book has 262 pages, probably about half of them are pictures so you’ll fly through it. If I hadn’t returned my copy to the library I’d be so tempted to read it again. And when I get my very own copy, you can probably tell what shelf I’ll be putting it on, right? You guessed it: The Special Shelf.
Billed as a loose retelling of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Tighter at first follows the original plot closely and then spirals into Adele’s un...moreBilled as a loose retelling of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Tighter at first follows the original plot closely and then spirals into Adele’s unique creation. The transition is flawless, using the setup and features of the original story as a backdrop and then spinning the reader into a story that is both completely different and yet still fully compliments The Turn of the Screw. It is not necessary to have read or even liked The Turn of the Screw to enjoy Tighter. The story updates and pays homage to the original, but it is a fully developed story that stands perfectly well on its own.
I have read The Turn of the Screw, so I had a ton of fun picking out all of the little references and ways Adele wove in the original with her new story. I am curious to hear a review of this book from the perspective of someone who has not read The Turn of the Screw.
As with the original, I did not like the main character of this book. Jamie has an attitude, is addicted to prescription pills, and makes terrible choices. She isn’t someone I would want to be friends with at all. If I wasn’t familiar with the original, I think I might have been turned off to the story because of my inability to connect with Jamie. Usually, if I can’t connect with the main character (or even like them), then I stop reading the book.
Having read the original, however, I knew that you’re not supposed to necessarily like the main character, so please, please, please don’t let Jamie turn you off to this book! The beauty of James’ book is not just that it is a chilling ghost story, but that it is also a fantastic study of an unreliable narrator. Both the ghostly happenings and the unreliable narrator are retained in Tighter, leaving the reader constantly questioning whether the events of the story are a result of a supernatural haunting, Jamie’s state of mind, or a frightening mix of both.
Even though I didn’t like Jamie as a person, she was a fantastic narrator. Jamie’s voice is strong and clear. Her haziness and confusion as a result of the pills she is constantly popping amplifies the reader’s uncertainty and sense of peril, but the plot never feels convoluted or difficult to follow. The pieces of the mystery come together at a good pace, but only half of these pieces are apparent clues.
There are clues laid from the very first page, but these are the type of clues that you don’t realize are important until the climax of the story. At that point everything clicks into place and I couldn’t help but immediately flip back and read whole passages of the book again with this new knowledge. I kept gleefully exclaiming, “Ah ha! I see it now!” realizing how, even having read the original, Adele’s subtle tweaks added an entirely new feature that completely surprised me and left me delighted. These features make this book an excellent candidate for rereading. I think I would discover and notice a ton of little hints and clues I missed on my first reading.
After the startling climax the story winds down and I felt content with the way Adele chose to end the book. But then…just when I thought the events were resolved one way a final bit of information on the very last page turns events around again and all of my suspicions and questions I thought were resolved came flooding back again. This was excellent! I didn’t realize the ending could get better, but then it did! I loved the way the author chose to end this book and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better resolution.
The only reason I rated this four instead of five stars is because I would have liked a little more. This may be a bit unfair, but because the author’s writing was so enthralling and because her plot twists were so exciting I found myself wanting more. I wish the ghostly parts had been expanded just a little bit more. They were scary (and some really were downright chilling), but I wanted them to be just a little bit scarier, or more of them. I wish the secrets Jamie uncovered about the deaths were just a little…juicier and developed just a little bit more.
Adele is a National Book Award finalist and it is easy to see why. Tightly plotted, well paced, and beautifully written, Tighter pulled me in from the very beginning and, days after having finished, it still hasn’t let me go. I read this one for my Gothic Reading Challenge, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for a good ghost story, a contemporary read, a classic retelling, or a creepy Gothic tale. This is the first book I have read by Adele Griffin, but it won’t be the last.
Book received through Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.
All of the ingredients for a great Gothic story were present here. You have the master of the hou...moreOriginally posted at Small Review
A recipe for success
All of the ingredients for a great Gothic story were present here. You have the master of the house, slowly going mad and harboring a dark secret, the evil housekeeper, a ghostly presence, the attractive son returned injured from war, a murder mystery, and the plucky scullery maid caught up in the middle of it all in a spooky old mansion. Sounds good, right? And it was. Except it also wasn't.
Abi is easy to like, though I sometimes wondered if I could trust her narration wholly. Likewise, her fellow servants made for a cast of characters I both liked and couldn't help but suspect.
Tension was kept high in that I never knew who to trust because every friendly face seemed to have an equal amount of motive as well. This was creepy and unsettling, which only made me turn the pages faster in order to find out the identity of the murderer. Combined with the steady pacing and short chapters, and I pretty much flew through The Poisoned House.
Mrs. Cotton, the housekeeper, is an excellent villain and someone I couldn't help but despise. She evoked such strong negative feelings from me. Heads up: there's one scene in particular where she commits a horrifying act of animal cruelty that underscored how vile she is in her core.
The big reveal at the end concerning the history of the household was satisfying, perfectly capturing the essence of Gothic fiction without feeling stale or overdone.
The not so good
I was really hoping to be scared, but I was only scared once and it was a minor scare at that. Even the human/psychological aspects of the story weren't as frightening as they could have been.
Like the scare factor, most of the things in The Poisoned House lacked a certain spark for me. The characters were good, but nothing special. Abi was nice, but largely forgettable. The "secret" behind one of the characters is predictable. And while I didn't see everything coming, much of it did seem overly familiar and a little less vibrant than the other Gothic stories I've read.
I think my biggest problem is that I've read a lot of books in this genre already, and they were better. If you're new to Gothic fiction and want to get your feet wet, then The Poisoned House is a perfect introduction. All of the classic elements are there, and while this ultimately took away a little for me because I'm so used to them, they probably won't feel that way to someone less familiar with the genre.
The lack of scariness might also be appealing to readers looking for Gothic fiction, but not looking for something to terrify them. Aside from one scene, the ghost parts are extremely tame. This is a good, solid Gothic book that will probably go over well with younger readers and Gothic fiction newbies.