Review: What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

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Gretchen is a 16-year-old photography enthusiast, living in New York City with her oft-absent father. Her mother, renowned owner of the Mona Axton Gallery, disappeared without a trace nearly five years earlier. Gretchen is surprised to receive a call from her Great-Aunt Esther—a woman she doesn’t know—informing her that she is leaving the Axton Mansion, which Gretchen will inherit as the last remaining member of the Axton family. Gretchen agrees to go and help Esther with the house, and the next day she is on her way.

Contrary to her expectations, Gretchen arrives at her family’s ancestral home to find a dilapidated, 150 year old house that appeared ready to collapse. The interior of the house wasn’t any better. Papers and books lay in piles everywhere, and the house was cluttered with countless objects all over the place, looking as if nothing had ever been thrown out once it was brought into the house. Believing she came here to help clean up the house and help Esther move, Gretchen is overwhelmed—then she discovers that’s not the sort of help her Great-Aunt requires of her after all.

The Axton Mansion holds the key to a terrible secret from the past. Somewhere, hidden within old documents, the faded letters and journals of Gretchen’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Fidelia Axton, and horrific photographs from the past lies the answer to an unsolved tragedy that occurred at the nearby church. A tragedy that the dead—and the living—cannot escape, even after 150 years. In order to free them all, Gretchen must discover and expose the truth of the evil deed.

What the Dead Want is a fascinating paranormal young adult mystery. Olson dives into the action almost immediately, and there’s never a dull moment. Gretchen’s story in the present is  interspersed with glimpses into the past,  through the letters and journal entries of Fidelia Axton and other relevant documents. Rather than being an unwelcome interruption, each piece is a crucial part of the story, taking the reader one step closer to solving the mystery.

The one thing that prevents me from giving this beautifully written story a full five-star rating is the inaccurate usage of the word racism. Fidelia uses this word several times in her letters and journals, which were written before and after the American Civil War. It seemed out-of-place as I was reading, and after I finished the novel I looked it up. The original date of its first usage was either in 1902 or 1927. I was unable to find a definitive answer on which date was correct, but either way, it was long after the time period in which it was used in the novel.

I feel very strongly that historical writing must stay true to the time frame it portrays in every way, but especially when it comes to word usage. Using a word that didn’t exist during the time frame you are writing about is a guaranteed way to throw your reader out of the story every time they see it. It’s always an unfortunate thing to run into, but it’s even more disheartening to see it in an otherwise wonderfully written story.

The out-of-place usage of that single word is my only criticism, however, and I still highly recommend this book.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books and Goodreads Giveaways.

Author: Norah Olson

Title: What the Dead Want

Publication: July 26, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

Rating: ★★★★

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Review: Whitefern by V.C. Andrews

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It’s been nearly 30 years since I first read My Sweet Audrina. I loved the book, and read it many times over the years. I always wished a set of sequels had been written for this book, as there had been for the Dollanganger and Casteel series. When I heard a sequel had finally been written, I was very excited to read it. I was looking forward to finding out what came next for Audrina, and hoped the sequel would be a worthy follow-up to the story Virginia Andrews wrote so beautifully.

I was sadly disappointed, however.

Whitefern definitely had potential. Arden, once a loving husband, is now cruel to Audrina and obsessed with making money. Her father dies, leaving Audrina controlling interest in the family business, which surprises her and enrages Arden. Why did Arden change? And why did her father change his will? The answers to those questions were not nearly as shocking as I’d hoped they would be.

In fact, none of the major plot points delivered any shocking revelations. Every moment that was meant to leave the reader wide-eyed and thunderstruck fell flat, because I’d been anticipating it practically the entire time. There was only one thing that happened regarding a secondary character that actually surprised me, but given the explosive potential that could have played out involving multiple characters in the story, that one surprise didn’t pack much of a punch. The final conclusion was unimaginative, and boring in its predictability.

Whitefern is a pale imitation of the brilliant and hauntingly tragic My Sweet Audrina. As readers, we often crave to know what happens next with characters we’ve grown attached to… but —as the sequels to Gone with the Wind have proved— sometimes ‘what happens next’ is best left to the reader’s imagination.

I received an advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.

Author: V.C. Andrews

Title: Whitefern

Series: Audrina #2

Genre: Young Adult

Publication: July 26, 2016 by Gallery Books

Rating: ★★

Review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

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In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

 


 

This is the best zombie apocalypse book I’ve read, so far. Highly recommended to other readers who enjoy this type of book! I’m looking forward to reading book two in the series.

 

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Title: Rot & Ruin

Series: Rot & Ruin #1

Published: September 14, 2010 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Rating: ★★★★★

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This (brief) review was originally posted on Goodreads on December 20, 2014.

 

Review: The Long Way Home by Andrea Stark

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Terra is 28, single, and muddling through her life as though locked in a time capsule of early adulthood. She obsesses about an old crush, commiserates with her best friend from high school and scours her old diaries for answers. That is, until a strange encounter with a violent waitress whisks her back to the world she documented in her diaries — a world where she is 16 years old, her life hasn’t yet ground to a screeching halt, and she might still have a chance with the boy of her dreams. As Terra sets out to change the mistakes she made as a teenager, she discovers that her memories and reality don’t quite fit together in this new version of her old life. A boy who claims to be in love with her becomes more dark and controlling, her own crush is more aloof than ever, and a mysterious girl lurks in the periphery, threatening to tear down the walls of Terra’s past. As the truth begins to unravel, Terra slips into a time-bending spiral of memories and lost dreams that she might not be able to escape with her life.


I really wanted to like this book. The premise sounded great. But, like so many free kindle books, it didn’t live up to its potential.

I thought I could overlook the bad spelling, but I doubt I’ll ever forget seeing ‘common’… instead of ‘c’mon’, which would have made more sense. Or ‘axe’…instead of ask. How does that mistake happen? Good grief!

After a certain point, the story just fell apart. Time shifts happened without warning, and it took too long to realize it. The closer to the end, the more confusing it was, and it seemed to break all the rules that had been previously established. The ending was abrupt, and made no sense whatsoever.

A careful rewrite (and edit of all the spelling mistakes!) would do this book a world of good. I’d even be willing to give it another shot, if it happened. I just hate to see good ideas go to waste. What a shame…

Author: Andrea Stark

Title: The Long Way Home

Published: June 9, 2011

Rating:

goodreads-badge-add-plusThis review was originally published on Goodreads on February 28, 2015.