Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

We are tangled, we are stolen, we are living where things are hidden -Eddie Vedder

He just needed someone to blame, to take his grief out on. He wasn’t interested in facts or evidence. –Damien Echols



In 2001 I was a junior in a small, rural high school. I was taking classes through my high school in partnership with the local community colleges so that I would be ahead of the game when I got to college in two years. One of the classes I took was Introduction to Sociology. It was the professor in this class that first presented me with the film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills.



I was an awkward and moody and very angsty youth, especially my junior year. I remember sitting in that classroom with my all black outfit and my snarky sense of self and feeling the eyes of each of my classmates on me. One person even made the comment “that would have been you.” I was mesmerized and terrified by what was happening on screen because that very easily could have been my story. And every single person in that room knew it.



A little background on the West Memphis Three:
The West Memphis Three are Jessie Loyd Misskelley Jr., Charles Jason Baldwin, and Damien Wayne Echols. In May 1993 three eight-year-old boys: Stevie Edward Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers were reported missing and later discovered dead in a drainage ditch off of I-40 in their hometown of West Memphis, Arkansas:

The condition of the bodies of the boys was indicative of mutilation and sexual assault. For years rumors of Satanic worship and Black Magic swirled around the tiny, Southern town. Standing out against the crowd much like myself, Damien, Jason and Jessie were immediately fingered for the crime as it so obviously must have been part of some Satanic Ritual and the three young boys were the sacrifice. However, there was no evidence to support that it was any of the West Memphis Three who committed the horrible crime, or that the crime had anything at all to do with Satanism. The three maintain their innocence today, along with millions of world-wide supporters and several celebrities including Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Johnny Depp, Peter Jackson, Jack Black, Patti Smith, Fran Walsh, Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, and Henry Rollins, but that’s just naming a few.
After being found guilty on all three counts (despite a bumbled trial complete with lost evidence, public hysteria, false confessions, admited police incompetence, unexplored possible suspects, and a biased jury) Damied was sentenced to death, Jason and Jessie were to receive life in prision without parole.

Cut to August 18, 2012: An Alford Plea was struck and the three walked free.


If it sounds asinine, that’s because it is. After sitting in that classroom and viewing this film, I was outraged. It was obvious to everyone in my class that if something like this were to happen in my hometown, I could be jailed for life and/or sentenced to death because I was wearing a black outfit, I read Stephen King novels, I had a Metallica CD in my car! I began to read everything I could about the case and to write letters to the three boys. I put money into their prison accounts, I donated to the WM3 Defense Fund monthly, I sent them gifts from their Amazon.com wishlists, I let them know that the world wasn’t forgetting about them; that the world knew they were innocent and being punished unjustly.

So, this is a book blog, and what does all of this have to do with books? Well, good question. In honor of the one year anniversary of their release from prison, I wanted to share two books that I think capture the madness of the whole case. The first is Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt.

Leveritt is an Arkansas journalist who covered the initial trial in the local papers. Realizing the preposterousness of the entire affair, she went on to support the three and release this book full of facts, photographs, court records and interviews. A few years earlier, my mom and I spent all of Thanksgiving Day watching my DVD’s of Paradise Lost 1 & 2 (these are two HBO Documentaries by Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger that shine a light on all of the unjust facts of the case. The video I watched in my Sociology class was Paradise Lost 1. There is a documentary done by Damien, his wife Lorri Davis and Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings fame called West of Memphis that will be released in theatres this December. See the links at the bottom of this post for a trailer for West of Memphis. A fictionalized account of Leveritt’s book starring Reese Witerspoon is set to be released sometime in 2013. I don’t know how I feel about this. I like the documentaries because they bring a spotlight to the case, but a fictionalized film only serves to make it look made up; like a story. There is absolutley nothing fictional about this tragedy at all). After watching the videos and talking it all over with me, my mom became convinced that the three boys were innocent as well, and if not innocent, then certainly not given a fair trial. I gave my mom a copy of this book last year and she said “it was a good book, because the author was very un-biased. At times I found myself wondering if it could have been possible for those boys to have done it…” Leveritt is extremely un-biased, that’s what makes her a first-rate journalist. In this book she does a stellar job of presenting the facts and letting the reader come to their on conclusions of what really happened that summer night in 1993. And even after reading this book, reading all of the articles on the subject, watching all of the documentaries, and just generally educating myself on the case, I still found myself changing my mind about who the guilty party really was.

Last May I finally had the chance to visit West Memphis and to see it all for myself. Before going there and after reading Leveritt’s book, I was convinced that the murderer was most likely Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch. However, aftering physically being there, I have changed my mind and I now strongly feel that the killer was most likely a stranger from out of town. The position of the highways and the fact that this town is nothing but a truck-stop town makes it entirely possible that it was some sick-o just passing through. My money is on a suspect known only as Mr. Bojangles because of the ineptness of the West Memphis Police Department. 


The second book I want to recommend to those of you wanting to gain more insight into this case is Almost Home: My Life Story Volume 1 by Damien Echols.

This is the memoir told in Damien’s own words from prison. This is a book to read if you want to get a sense of what an unjust legal system does to it’s victims. The book is not a great work of literature, it’s not the best written, but it is exceedingly honest and heartbreaking. This September I am very excited to announce that Damien is releasing his  second book (it’s not volume 2. When asked about that, he states that there will not be a volume 2 and that volume 1 is out of print, so I consider myself lucky to have gotten a copy.) called Life After Death which he wrote last year on the topic of his release from prision.
From IndieBound.org: “Now Echols shares his story in full—from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades”. Hearing the case from soundbites on NPR and the nightly news was one thing, but hearing what it was like straight from the horses mouth will haunt your dreams.  I can not recommend these two books enough. They are both superior sources for those of you who may not know much about the case yet or for those of you who are long-time supporters of the three. Whichever of those categories you fall under, pick up these two, you won’t regret it, and I hope to see some of you become supporters soon!



I implore you to see also:





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You did a fine job of hiding that crooked ace up your sleeve -Brandon Flowers

One’s happiness must in some measure be always at the mercy of chance. -Jane Austen from Sense and Sensibility

This is my second book for my Classic’s Club 50 in 5 challenge.
This is my first book for my Austen in August Reading Event.

Classic: Sense & Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Publication Date: 1811
Pages: 846 (nook version, don’t ask me why so many)
Publisher: Smashbooks
Where I got it: Download onto my nook from Nook store
Dates Read: August 3, 2012 to August 12, 2012
# of Stars: 5/5

It took me a lot longer to finish up Sense and Sensibility than it really should have. There are several reasons for this and not one of those reasons is that the book is not very good or engaging- in fact, it is monstrous both. The school year started back up for me on Wednesday which took a lot of wind out of my sails and a lot of reading time out of my days. About a week before I decided to participate in the Austen in August reading even over at Roof Beam Reader’s site I had purchased a copy of the Masterpiece Theatre/BBC version of Sense & Sensibility. I simultaneously watched the episodes while reading the book. I believe that this helped me to get a visual of what was going on as well as assisted in deciphering the prose of the time that the book was written in. I had seen this version a few times on PBS and I loved it very much so there were no spoilers for me, though it would have been nice to not know that Willoughby was such a scoundrel and that Elinor was going to marry Edward after all.

Mmmmm…. Edward Ferrars….

I enjoyed this book immensly, and I am almost ashamed to write this, but it is the truth and I’m striving to be more like Elinor in my life, which in one respect is to say more honest and so I must confess: I prefer the movie version better (the Masterpiece version, as I have not seen the Ang Lee version, yet.).  I truly believe I prefer the screen version over the print because it was my first involvement with the story of the sisters Dashwood. If I had read the book first, I surely would prefer it.

My favorite thing about this story is the fact that I could have easily been Marianne (or to a lesser degree, Elinor). Even in the 1800’s in England, girls still fancied boys who are jerks and girls still had a tendency to slight the good guys! When it comes to the opposite sex I have made numerous mistakes in my years of dating. I tend to choose the Willoughby over the Colonel Brandon and then rue the wasted time and the heartbreak caused by my own dumb choice. So, I didn’t feel as embarassed and I didn’t cringe as much regarding my past mistakes in dudes since Marianne was doing the exact same thing I did at her age: impulsively falling in love, flaunting it all over town, ignoring common sense, getting the short end of the gossip stick, you know, just basically acting in love and then getting dumped for the rich (in modern language: popular) girl and mooning over it for months. However, one part made me feel a little old maid-ish and a little pissed off-ish at Marianne:

” ‘A woman of seven and twenty’ “ (Egads, I am 27 years old!) “said Marianne, after pausing a moment, ‘can never hope to feel or inspire affection again, and if her home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small” (very small, I work in public education), “I can suppose that she might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse, for the sake of the provision and security of a wife.'” Gulp!

I love Marianne because she is me, but my favorite characters were definitely Elinor and Mrs. Jennings. These two women are as opposite as night and day but I love them both for who they are. Elinor is so reserved and calm and cool and collected and everything that I just am not but that I strive to be. I love her for always keeping her cool and never going nuts and silently suffering heartbreak for MONTHS just to spare her sister and her mother from feeling heartbreak for her. If I’m heartbroken, I’m taking out a billboard and begging for sympathy and pity. Now, Mrs. Jennings, she is a hoot and a holler!! This is a sassy, brash little old lady that I pictured as Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls!

The brashness, the sauciness, the rudeness, the likability of these two ladies is what makes them the bitchin’ characters that they are. Neither of these ladies is afraid to lay on the innuendo and offend those around them, especially when it comes to relations! In addition to the talent of genuinely writing two such different characters that both become so love-able and appreciated and necessary to the rest of the story and the other characters, Austen also portrayed my favorite kind of character: the strong female. In an age of weaklings (see Bella Swan in Twilight) I am of the opinion that showing female characters, especially in this time when so much of their worth was dependent on the men in their lives. Austen blows that out of the water, and as the case with Willoughby shows, the MEN sometimes must be dependent on the WOMEN for money and status! Hu-zahhh Ms. Austen, Huzzah! Though each of her female characters are bad-ass women (even the deplorable Fanny- she knows how to turn John Dashwoods head and get EXACTLY what she wants, when she wants it, and how she wants it) they still find classy ways to tell each other to get bent, especially Elinor when dealing with that despicable Lucy Steele. This is what all women in every country and in all times should aim to be like and I am so thankful when I see these types of characters in books. So, thank you Jane for writing these characters into your works, and like Sophia would say, thank you for being a friend!

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With a holy host of others standin’ around me, still I’m on the dark side of the moon, and it seems like it goes on like this forever
you must forgive me, if I’m up and gone to Carolina in my mind. -James Taylor
Brava, Wiley Cash on your stunning debut A Land More Kind Than Home. I surely hope that this is the beginning of a long and successful career for this writer! It was hard for me to believe that this book was a debut from Wiley Cash. It’s not often that an authors first novel is as compelling and thought provoking and real and honest as A Land More Kind Than Home was. This book stuck with me and I don’t believe it did so because of my crippiling fear of all things snakes, but I think it was more to do with Mr. Cash’s writing style and his ability to make the characters part of you.

This is the story of a dysfunctional farm family living in Marshall, North Carolina.

There is a father who has lost his faith (and it’s a wonder he ever had any to begin with since his own father was an abusive drunk), a filandering and naive mother who can’t love her husband or her children because she is so blinded by her faith, a son who has been mute and slow since he was born, and another son who is (at the beginning, at least) the only disaffected one of the bunch, but don’t worry, that’ll change by the end of the novel. One day the two boys discover a secret that is held by their mother and the local Pastor. The mother and the two sons attend one of “those” Pentecostal churches that used to be more common out in the NC Mountains (and Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia too). You know the kind that are based only around Mark 16: 17-18:

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons;they will speak in new tongues;18 they will pick up snakeswith their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands onsick people, and they will get well.”


During one church service a child dies and the book then begins to provoke thoughts on such things as is it right or wrong to have children in those dangerous services with poisionous snakes and Strychnine swallowing? Is it murder if someone dies during a sermon? Was it the fault of a the brother who withheld information that could have prevented the child from even going into the church that day? Should the people of this religion be allowed to worship in this way or would revoking that right be revoking their freedom of religion? I don’t have all the answers to these questions, and neither did Cash and neither did any of the characters in his book. That’s what made the book so good and so authentic is that the characters didn’t behave in a way that we wouldn’t expect them to, they were raw characters with real emotions and reactions to the events unfolding around them. Having grown up in Western NC, I believe that Cash probably did what all great writers are told to do and that is “write what you know.” It was not at all difficult for me to believe that this story is probably one that was very real and very close to Cash and his upbringing.

I’m really glad that I checked this book out from the library at the same time I also checked out Ron Rash’s The Cove. These two books were so close to each other (both had a mute in them!) and both captured the feel and the setting of Appalachian North Carolina to a T. My aunt happens to live in Marshall, North Carolina and I love going to spend time up there. I remember one summer when she pointed out some of the Pentecostal Churches in the area that practiced serpent handling and poison drinking. I also remember meeting the people in the town and they are all just like the characters in this book. As I was reading both  books I found myself picturing the people that I had met there as the characters and the homes that I had been invited into there in Marshall as the settings. Perhaps having spent a good deal of time in this area made the book pop more for me and made it seem more like it was actually happening instead of a work of fiction.

So, would I recommend this book (and The Cove)? I absolutley do. And, in fact, I’m going to e-mail the moderator of my book club after I finish this post and let her know that I want to lead a discussion on A Land More Kind Than Home at one of our upcoming meetings. The book has violence all through it, and, like I mentioned earlier, (ugghhh) snakes. I have a horrible, paralyzing, awful fear of snakes and there were a lot of dangerous ones in this book, but the worst one of all is the Pastor of the church. I knew from the first time he was introduced that he was one bad dude, and he only got worse as the book progressed. Do you remember that guy that started up a cult and then he convinced all of his followers that he was Jesus Christ and then he made them (babies and all) drink the Kool-Aid? Yeah, that was this guy, just not on as big of a scale. Pastor Carson Chambliss ruined everything he touched including the church, the town, and an already struggling family. Don’t get to frettin’ none yet (did I mention that I am also from North Carolina, not western; coastal, actually, but NC all the same), the book had some good in it, too. We are told this story through three narrators- Adelaide Lyle who breaks from the church after the FIRST (yes, there is more than one) death and takes the children with her, Clem Barefield, the town sherrif who is trying to keep the peace of the town (and Marshall is such a peaceful little town) and do justice, and Jess Hall, the “normal” boy in the family. These three voices are honest and kind and good. Knowing that they want what is good and right to happen gives hope that there are angels and that not everyone is a devil like the Pastor.

Five out of Five stars to A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Four and a half out of Five stars to The Cove by Ron Rash

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Confession: Never on my own have I completed a reading of a classic just for fun. Actually, never have I even read many classics at all. I’ve only read a select few and they were all for school. I have felt intimidated by the classics ere now. When I did read them for school, it was different because we met two to three days each week to discuss what was happening in the book, so any parts I did a “huwahhaa?” face at were explained to me a day or two later.

Emma Watson Confused Gif

I just finished reading my very first classic on my own. Perhaps a 573 page tome was not the best choice for me to read first. However, I loved Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I selected this one despite its length because I had enjoyed reading Jane Eyre in college and believed that I would have done well with that one had I read it outside of a classroom.
Having started this blog with the intention of being more well-read and combined with the fact that my five-year life plan includes me going back to school to obtain a second Master’s Degree (this time in literature) I knew that I needed to face my fears and delve into the world of the classics. With the successful completion of this first solo-classic reading and with some group motivation and support from Jillian and the rest of the classic’s readers at The Classics Club I feel very confident that I can reach my goal of reading 50 classics in the next five years.

Classic: Villette
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Publication Date: 1853 -Victorian
Pages: 573
Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics
Where I got it from: Bought at B&N
Dates Read: July 14, 2012-July 26, 2012

“ ‘I live solitary.’ ‘But solitude is sadness.’ ‘Yes; it is sadness. Life, however, has worse than that. Deeper than melancholy, lies heartbreak.”

With my first reading of a classic, I did face some of the fears I had about classics readings: lots of big words that caused me to read the book with a dictionary and a pencil in hand, wordy sentences that if written today would be much condensed (“What you do is wrong…it is an act characteristic of men of your unreliable imaginative temperament; a step impulsive, injudicious, inconsistent- a proceeding vexatious, and not estimable in the view of persons of steadier and more resolute character.”), references that I am unfamiliar with (Labassecour), and words in French (the French actually persuaded me to enroll in a beginners French class at the local community college this Fall!). The fears were not unconquerable though and I jumped headfirst into my first classic novel and the result was greater than the fears. I succeeded at something I thought that I could not and now I am no longer apprehensive of taking on the other classics I’ve always wanted to read but been too intimidated to. Now, I am excited to do so.
Villette was just as good as Jane Eyre. I won’t say that it is better than Jane like George Elliot did in his glowing review of the book. Villette tells the story of Lucy Snowe who has survived some childhood trauma that left her orphaned and living with her godmother and godbrother (is there even such a thing?!). Later she gets a whim of courage and decides to move to France where she ends up teaching in a boarding school that is as mysterious as its inhabitants. The characters in this book are greatly fleshed out and you find yourself feeling strongly one way or another about them. Several of the characters appear briefly at the beginning of the book, and just as you are about to forget about them entirely, shazam! they pop back up out of nowhere and are suddenly front and center main characters messing stuff up for “Meese Lucy.” And of course like any good novel there is a small bit of romance sprinkled in. This book is deemed to be pretty auto-biographical. Apparently, Bronte herself was a teacher in a boarding school where she fell for her headmaster. Like Bronte, the heroine of Villette also has the taste of peanut butter taken from her mouth.Two possible suitors are present through most of the story and I found myself wondering which she would eventually end up with (if either! This girl is Miss Independent!) and if I even wanted her to end up with either of them.
Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe is not. She is practical and cold and she holds back from the readers. She never reveals all to us. It took me almost 400 pages to realize that the girl was seriously smitten for M. Paul Emmanuel. While reading Jane Eyre I felt like I could trust Jane and that we were BFFs from Page One. With Lucy, I felt like I was earning her trust and even after 573 pages, I still don’t have all of it. Lucy is guarded (possibly from the traumatic childhood she endured?!). This is a book that I needed several hours of quiet solitude to be able to read. This is not something that you can just whimsically pick up, read a few pages, and put back down. The action, the emotion, the characters, the writing style all demand astute attention at all times. However, that is not to say that it was a chore to read; far from it. It was a delight. The story is engaging and you find yourself yearning for that friendship and trust from Lucy. You seek to know what will become of her, of Ginevra, of Paulina and even fussy old Madame Beck. I dare you to pick this book up and not be pulled into the world- especially if you suffer from Classic-a-phobia like I USED TO! Five out of Five stars.

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Sail on Silver Girl, Sail on by -Paul Simon

It’s funny how you think you can know a person. -Tayari Jones

Reading Silver Sparrow felt like being the recipient of a secret. I had to read this book on my own. I holed up in my childhood bedroom in my parents house, blasted the fan on high, and read this book in two days and three sittings. Tayari Jones is my new favorite person. The book was such a surprise to me. Like receiving a secret, it was also like opening a gift, one page at a time. The synopsis blurb on the back only told me that the book was going to be told from the first point of view of the daughter of a bigamist so I didn’t know what to expect from the book.

The story is told from the POV of two daughters of James Witerspoon who is simultaneously married to Gwendolyn Yarboro and Laverne Witherspoon. The two girls are both his daughters but they are not treated equal. Dana, the daughter of Gwendolyn, the “second wife”, only gets to see her father on Wednesday evenings and then it’s only for dinner. Dana also gets shafted several times throughout the novel since she can not be around Chaurisse she is denied several opportunities like jobs, college and parties. However, as a trade off, she and her mother are aware of Laverne and Chaurisse, but Laverne and Chaurisse are completely in the dark when it comes to Dana and Gwen. After almost two decades of living like this Dana reaches out and befriends Chaurisse in order to see if life is better on the other side. As the two girls approach the end of their high school careers Dana becomes more and more involved in her “half sister’s” life and like every secret kept in the dark, this one will come to the light and explode each characters existence.

The novel is written with two very convincing and heartbreaking voices. I had to stop reading and research Jones’ life as the narration was so raw I honestly thought that perhaps this was a memoir. Each character has their own back story and their own cross to bear. Miss Bunny, the grandmother who only learns of one of her granddaughters right before she dies. Raleigh, the father’s best friend who has been in love with Gwendolyn since the day he met her. And Marcus and Jamal who are the first boys the girls let intimately into their lives.

The book poses many questions: Would you rather be the family that didn’t know about the other and living in privilege or would you rather know about the other and therefore that you are not #1? Is it possible for a father to love one child more than the other? Is James really married to both women? Are you on team Dana or Chaurisse? What is a marriage? What makes a family?

Though none of these questions are blatantly answered in the novel, the questions will linger with you for days after reading it. Five out of Five stars.

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She takes a little time in making up her mind She doesn’t want to fight against the tide -Garbage

“Yays, dat too, but stuff be in da air dat slice da spirits ta pieces. It pains dem.” -Kenneth J. Harvey

In a small Newfoundland fishing village Joseph Blackwood, recently divorced, takes his daughter, Robin, to Bareneed to spend some time with her and to get some rest. The vacation isn’t as restful as it should be and as soon as father and daughter arrive in town strange things start happening: centuries old corpses rise from the water appearing as if they had drowned just yesterday, ghosts come out to play, sea monsters appear, an epidemic plagues the town causing the residents to not be able to automatically breathe on their own any more and peoples behaviors take a turn towards violent.

This book was reminiscent of Chris Bohjalain’s The Night Strangers in that waterlogged little girls try to steal away a human daughter from an affected father, ghosts only reveal themselves to certain characters, the fathers personality takes a dive, eccentric old ladies run about the town and water is a main theme of both novels. The plot was obviously more character-driven than action driven. It was also a very Stephen King-esq book where it was an atmospheric spooky story without the cheap, scary overkill. Since the book was so character-driven I really liked how there was no actual one “main character” and instead we got a group of characters from a seven year old girl to a ninty-plus year old woman. The story was told in third person narration and I think that was best as I was more likley to believe a third person narrator, especially when dealing with topics like dementia and sea creatures. I didn’t care for the fact that none of the characters were particularly likeable save for the Tommy character and the Miss Laracy character. The book is a hefty one coming in at 468 pages which gave Harvey ample time to flesh out each character, which he did very well- he just forgot to make them likeable and as a result, I didn’t much care what happened to them. Let them eat cake (and drown).

The book could move very slowly at times and I found myself wondering if Harvey wrote in some of the descriptions and some of the scenes just to add page numbers. This book is definitely not the theatrical version I would have prefered, instead it had ALL of the deleted scenes intact. Towards then end I found myself skipping parts. The one good thing about the ending was the epilogue which is told from one of the main characters first person POV many years later. If you find yourself skipping parts towards the end, you’re really not going to miss anything, but do make sure to read the epilogue!

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“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” – Ray Parker Jr.

I received a copy of The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James from the Good Reads First Reads Program and I will honestly tell you that it took me a long time to get around to reading it. When I did finally sit down and start it, I was able to read it in about a day and a half. Don’t get excited though, I wasn’t able to get through it so quickly because it was a great book; it wasn’t a horrible book either. I gave it four stars on goodreads, but I’m now starting to wonder if maybe it only deserved 3 or 3.5. Let’s go with 3.5.

The story is set in 1920s England and revolves around a temp named Sarah Piper who has no family or friends and very little cash. Her temp agency calls her up and offers her a position which she accepts right away because..well…no cash. Sarah soon discovers that she has been hired to be the temporary assistant to a wealthy ghost hunter named Alistair Gellis. Piper and Gellis travel from London to a small English town containing one street of shops & pubs, one Inn, a few houses and a haunted barn. The barn is supposedly haunted by a mute girl named Maddy Clare who showed up to the Clare house one night dirty, frightened and unable to speak. The Clare’s adopt her as their own despite her periodic rages, inability to speak, and her avoidance of men. One day when she is 19 Maddy hangs herself in the barn and thus the ghost hunter is brought in to rid the barn (and the Clare family) of her raging spirit. Somewhere along the way Gelis’ actual assistant shows up (he had to hire Sarah because just like in life, in death Maddy hates men) and a romance blossoms between Sarah and the assistant.

What I liked:
-The story was engaging, cozy, and fun. I am a fan of ghost stories and a fan of historical fiction. The fact that this story was set in 1920s England was pretty much moot by the end of the book. Several times during reading it I simply forgot that it was set in the 20s. The story could have taken place at any time and it would have pretty much been the exact same book.
-It was a quick read. I was able to get through it in a day and a half. I was engaged in it and I was very curious to see how the romance would play out in the end, especially since the male romantic figure didn’t seem to like the female romantic figure very much at all, but more on that later in the “what I didn’t like section.” I was so engrossed in this book I read the last half at a coffee shop. When I realized I had been there for almost 2 hours and I should probably free up some space for the people still eating scones and drinking coffee, I went out to my car where I promptly sat until I had finished it.
-I like a ghost story and I’ll have to admit that on the first night of reading this, I jumped at a few odd noises. It’s not a scary book at all, it’s one that you can definitely read by yourself, but there are a few twists and turns and spooky goings on.

What I didn’t like:
-The setting. Like I mentioned earlier, I wish that it had had more of a 1920s feel to it. The only reason I was able to remember that it was historical as I was reading it was because I kept imagining the characters in the book as characters from Downton Abbey. Other than that and a few mentions of newfangled motorcars and antiquated outfits it really could have been set at any point in history.
-The characters. They seemed eternally flat to me. Let’s start with our main character Sarah. She was a flip flop. At the beginning of the book she was constantly blushing and getting embarrassed over small things like sitting at a table with Alistair. As the book progressed though she became more brazen and even admitted that she’d had several one night stands with random lovers. I couldn’t tell what kind of person Sarah really was. Was she this innocent little thing, or was she the wanton lover who allowed Matthew to use and leave her? Then there’s Maddy, the ghost. Towards the end of the book we discover what has actually happened to Maddy to cause her to become mute (and why she was so dirty when she first appeared at the Clare house). It was a pretty predictable event and the “bad guys” were easy to spot. So easy that I had it pegged by page 20. But I digress. Maddy was an unfortunate character who had endured a terrible thing, but I still could not find it in me to care about her. Instead, I resented her. She had rages, destroyed things, haunted people, physically hurt Sarah when Sarah was attempting to help Maddy, made the Clare families lives awful even though they were the only ones who would take her in and care for her and then she almost killed Alistair. There just isn’t a whole lot to like about her and I didn’t. The only character I actually appreciated was Alistair. Alistair (and Matthew) had both survived WWI which is where they had met. I say survived lightly because they both have a strong case of PTSD. I felt like Alistair’s PTSD was more fully explored and utilized in the story and consequently I found him to be the only tolerable character in the book. I wish that the book had taken on a more symbolic tone and made the ghost somehow symbolic of emotional scarring, which maybe St. James was trying to do, if so it did not work for me.
-The romance between Sarah and Matthew was soooo not believable at all. When the book first opens Sarah is gaga over Alistair but then being the flip flop that she is she is suddenly madly in love with Matthew out of nowhere.  Matthew takes it upon himself to physically use Sarah and then say “I won’t be back.” Jerk. In fact, Matthew didn’t seem to even like Sarah at all for the entirety of the book. He barely even tolerated her. In preparation for this review I read an interview with Simone St. James in which she said she wanted to write a ghost story with a romance in it. I really wish that she had just left the romance OUT of the book, if she had, it would have been a solid four stars for me. The romance dragged the book down and it brought me out of the story and I just didn’t buy into it.

Overall it was a cozy and fun read, just what I needed to end the school year with. However, I wouldn’t say I loved it. I give it a 3.5 which is in between 3 (it was okay) and 4(I liked it!). I’ve read better and I’ve read worse. I can’t say that I would recommend it to everyone. If you want a really good ghost story I have been told that The Woman in Black by Susan Hill and most recently made into a movie starring Harry Potter, I mean Daniel Radcliff, is a perfect ghost story. I have not read it yet, but I do hope to get to it sometime this summer so I can finally see the movie starring Harry Potter, I mean Daniel Radcliff.

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