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review 2019-01-15 19:28
Some Thoughts: Lost Island
Lost Island - Phyllis A. Whitney

Lost Island

by Phyllis A. Whitney

 

 

Lacey, Elise, and Giles.  They grew up together on a mist-shrouded island off the Georgia coast.  Long ago, and without Giles's ever knowing it, Lacey gave birth to his son.  But Elise, the beautiful, domineering one, got Giles.  She got Lacey's child, too, to bring up as her own.

Lacey has tried hard to forget.  But in ten years she hasn't been able to.  So she's going back.  To see her son.  To confront Elise.  To exorcise the spell of the island - and of Giles.  Or perhaps to be trapped by them forever....



One star is the for the writing and the other star is for the atmosphere.  But otherwise, I can't bring myself to understand what was even going on in this entire tale of chaos.  It felt like a daytime soap, with birth secrets, dysfunctional family dynamics, and characters soaked in amorality.  The heroine was a clueless pushover who couldn't seem to figure out how to stand up for herself NOR fight for her life, and her antagonist really had way too much power, with everyone letting her get away with every misdeed.

The little boy seemed too old for his age, and none of the men really stood out aside from spending all of their time brooding and acting self-righteous.

I've been interested in Phyllis A. Whitney for some time now, after seeing her name surface in discussions of Gothic romance or romantic suspense.  I'm thinking that this book was probably NOT the best one to start with, but it happened to be one I came across at the library one day.

In all honesty, the fact that I DID get drawn into it in spite of the convoluted plot and dysfunctional character dynamics is a feat in itself.  So this isn't an entirely terrible book, and a younger Ani might have actually enjoyed it more a long time ago.

Here's a quote that I particularly liked, though, for whatever reason.  The writing, as I've mentioned, was probably one of the best things going for this book.

 

The smell of the ocean is something one never forgets.  I breathed it deeply as the wind came whipping into my face, tossing my hair.  The tide was part-way out and the sound of surf rushing in over the low shore summoned me to follow it.  I walked toward the sea wall.


And this particular paragraph managed to draw me into the book...

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/01/some-thoughts-lost-island.html
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review 2019-01-09 05:30
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys's reputation was made upon publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into light one of fiction's most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. A sensual and protected young woman, Antoinette Cosway grows up in the lush, natural world of the Caribbean. She is sold into marriage to the coldhearted and prideful Rochester, who succumbs to his need for money and his lust. Yet he will make her pay for her ancestors' sins of slaveholding, excessive drinking and nihilistic despair by enslaving her as a prisoner in his bleak British home. In this bestselling novel, Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind. 

~ back cover 1982 Norton paperback edition

 

 

 

 

So you've recently read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and you think to yourself, "I really want to know more about the story behind Rochester's first missus!" Well, aren't you in luck! Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea takes a stab at what that story might have been. Taking the reader away from all they know & remember at Thornfield Hall, Rhys has us visit 1830s Jamaica (Dominica), introducing us to pre-Mrs. Rochester Antoinette Cosway (aka "madwoman in the attic"). 

 

Young Antoinette grows up loving the lush climate of her native land, the warmth, the abundance of creature comforts... but some years into her youth, things turn ugly. There is much tension around the family, what with Antoinette's parents being slaveholders. The time of Emancipation rolls around, bringing several riots and all-around domestic upheavals to the area. In one instance, even one of Antoinette's own friends attacks her! Fearful that the employees will turn on the family, Antoinette's mother, Annette, makes the choice to burn the house down. Annette becomes mentally unstable after the fire and Antoinette is enrolled in a convent school. This pretty much makes up Part 1 of the novel.

 

"I am not used to happiness... it makes me afraid." 

~ Antoinette Cosway

 

Part 2 is where we first meet Rochester and hear of how Antoinette came to be sold into marriage to him.  (Part 3 of the novel is basically her life as the first Mrs. Rochester, though the novel periodically rotates between these three periods of her life as the story progresses). Rochester and his new Mrs. seem to get along pretty well in the beginning but the choice to return to the Cosway family estate as their first residence after marriage proves problematic. The whole place seems to make Rochester increasingly restless, but it doesn't seem to be the sole source of his unease. Any number of things appear to trigger his dark moods. Still, outwardly Rochester admits to liking the natural environment of Jamaica (even if he is giving off that "great place to visit but wouldn't want to live there" attitude). Meanwhile, there are momentary glimpses into Antoinette's character that suggest a true genetic struggle with mental illness of some sort, but there's a sadness to it, as behind her words and mannerisms, she gives off something of a sad, confused, scared little girl trying to figure out what happened to her life. Where did her sunlight go?

 

Antoinette's half-brother, Daniel (same dad, different moms), writes a discreet letter to Rochester warning him of the "mad" family he's so casually shackled himself to. Rochester shrugs the dark warning off at first, but as the story moves along, we start to see that that letter actually did quite successfully leave its mark on his mind, gradually driving him into his own unique madness. He becomes consumed with anger and righteousness until he comes to the decision to imprison Antoinette as punishment for her family's history with slave trading.

 

I'd say Rhys does a respectable job staying true to Eyre's Rochester, at least to a point. He still carries a certain level of charm, still somewhat child-like with his petulant moods. But this story takes him to an even darker place. Rhys forces the air of mystique around Antoinette a little too hard at times, making the reading experience annoying at times with the over-reliance on cryptic behavior or speech.

 

The few pages that make up Part 3 take the reader back to Eyre's setting, first getting impressions from Grace Poole, attendant to Antoinette all that time she was locked up in the tower. The very last pages are given over to Antoinette once again to offer her final say before we bring things back to Eyre's scene of the fire.

 

It's a decent prequel to a beloved classic. Not earth-shattering, but entertaining in the ideas it presents. I noticed in the list of discussion questions at the very end, one opens with "In Jane Eyre, the madwoman in the attic is a very unsympathetic character...". I can't help but disagree with that. Sure, she comes off as insane when we first meet her in Bronte's book, but even so, I myself wouldn't go so far as to say I found her unsympathetic. Isn't that why we are compelled to pick up Rhys's book in the first place, because we were left wondering what drove Rochester to have her secreted away all those years? He gives Jane a much sanitized version of events, or so we readers suspect... which is why so many classic lit. lovers can't help but have this on their TBRs at some point in their reading lives.

 

As humans, it unnerves us to think that criminal behavior is entirely senseless, without root. There is a small measure of comfort in being able to say, "Yes, this person was undoubtedly mad, but look at what they were driven to... they just snapped... it's tragic!" That need to have everything compartmentalized, explained, rationalized... Even in the worst of stories, we don't want to think of souls coming into this life with a purely demonic makeup... sometimes we can't help but feel the need to understand, rehabilitate, counsel. Even in Eyre's story, there was something to "the madwoman" that left me thinking some earlier version of her had been deeply wronged to have ended up so... seeing how Rhys wrote a whole novel on this premise, looks like I wasn't the only one feeling a sad question mark around such an "unsympathetic" character! 

 

 

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review 2019-01-08 17:25
Book Review: Apparition Island
Apparition Island - Jenifer LeClair

Book: Apparition Island

 

Author: Jenifer LeClair

 

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

 

Summary: A chilling tale of murder unfolds during a fierce September hurricane on the Maine coast in this haunting story of two deaths mysteriously bound together by the long reach of time. As Hurricane Ivan bears down on the coast, the crew of the Maine Wind retrieves the body of a young woman from the sea. Who is she and how did she die? The search for the woman's identity thrusts Homicide Detective Brie Beaumont into an investigation on Apparition Island in the aftermath of the violent storm. A verdict of undetermined death begs the question: Was this an accidental drowning; did Claire Whitehall commit suicide, or was she murdered? As a baffling investigation unfolds, Brie is drawn back into a decades old cold case - one that has cast its shadow into the present, where she could become its next victim. - Conquill Press, 2015.

 

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review 2019-01-06 09:59
A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz
A Bound Heart - Laura Frantz

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning--together. Laura Frantz's prose sparkles with authenticity and deep feeling as she digs into her own family history to share this breathless tale of love, exile, and courage in Colonial America.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up together on the Isle of Kerrera, Scotland. Now it's the year of 1752 and Magnus is laird of Kerrera Castle while Lark is the castle beekeeper, herbalist and manager of the castle stillroom. When Magnus's young wife, Isla, suffers her 6th miscarriage, he goes to Lark requesting something that will not only bring his wife physical comfort while her body mends but also something to help her successfully bring a child to term. Lark certainly has elixirs for pain management, but getting a pregnancy to stick? That's trickier. She seeks counsel from her grandmother, who trained her in the ways of medicinal plants. Lark's grandmother vaguely remembers something that may work, but she's struggling to recall the full recipe. 

 

When Lark's cousin goes into labor (this is a baby-making lovin' place, people!) Lark rushes to assist. Upon her return to Kerrera Castle, she finds the place in an uproar. Castle staff tell a wild story about Lady Isla apparently going mad from something, running off, her body later discovered at the bottom of a cliff. To Lark's shock and horror, fingers point to her as the culprit, even though several voices come to her defense, noting that she wasn't even in the area when all this went down!

 

It's for naught though... she's the herbalist, and it's suspected that Isla's sudden burst of madness was due to an overdose... but Lark hadn't given her anything yet, so how can that be? At least, nothing that would cause that kind of reaction in a person. What really went down? Lark's guess: Isla, having previously showed signs of depression, turned suicidal. Her parents, not wanting to deal with any social stigma attached to suicide, looked to have a scapegoat to save face for the family name. Lark was the easiest target. 

 

After a short joke of a trial, Isla is found guilty of manslaughter. Rather than the death penalty, she is sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies (Virginia, specifically) for the duration of 3 years. Placed on a womens' transport ship, she gets word that two Kerrera locals are on the mens' transport: Laird Magnus (charged with wearing a kilt, of all things) and Lark's pirate friend, Rory MacPherson (charged with smuggling goods).

 

Magnus uses his connections to pull some strings and have Lark moved to the mens' ship, so that she may serve as the ship's herbalist / botanist. Immediately, Lark's beauty grabs the attention of every man on board, though Rory finds himself unable to shake the sailor's superstition of women on a ship being bad luck. {Considering the events that later unfold, he may have been onto something!}

 

Magnus has his work cut out for him, protecting Lark from the ship's lust-filled men, the main one to watch being Surgeon Alick Blackburn. Magnus and Lark now both being convicted criminals -- guilty or not -- brings them back more on equal footing, as far as societal ranking goes. Lark's family name, MacDougall, was once one of great prestige but later fell out of favor and "time and misfortune turned them common". In recent years, Magnus's family line had taken hard hits as well -- father killed in battle, mother and sister dead from pox, Magnus's wife's struggles with pregnacy... and now she's gone... with Magnus headed to the New World, people may give an impressed nod to his former titled self, but it'll mean little else beyond that outside his homeland. Besides, Magnus hears rumors that he may be sent to a Jamaican estate to serve out his sentence, not Virginia with Lark. Can he manage to find a way to stay with her? If not, can he convince her to wait for his return?

 

Though I have a few other of Frantz's books on my TBR shelf, this is the first of hers I've now read. Inspired by the story of some of Frantz's own ancestors, A Bound Heart lacked a lot of heart IMO. It's not a bad story by any means, but all the 5 star ratings I'm already seeing for it (being offically released just a few days ago) strike me as awfully generous. Frantz has a solidly enjoyable writing style, the novel definitely shows the woman is dedicated to research! The novel is detail-rich, but almost to a fault, as the plot is very slow-going. 

 

Now typically I don't hate a slow-burn novel if a steady increase or layering in plot complications or character histories can be seen. I'm all about being invested in fictional worlds! Unfortunately, this one fell a tad short for me in that department and I found myself not only not attached to the characters but I think at one point I believe I literally fell asleep mid-read. There are little bursts of action here and there but they are SUPER brief. The rest of the story seems to be just general conversing, lots and lots of conversations going down while characters (and readers) wait for their lives to turn eventful. That said, I will say the pace of things noticeably picks up once our primary characters board the transport ships. 

 

The romances -- or the suggestion of pairings, anyway -- tickled me about as much as flat soda. The only character that really struck my interest was Lark's smuggler friend, Captain Rory. He appeared pretty personable in the beginning of the novel, but boy, did he end up showing his true colors towards the end! Trevor grew on me a bit, but he seemed like the type who'd want to pin down Lark's strong, independent nature. As far as Magnus and Lark, there's a sweet friendship there to be admired but the reader isn't really given enough of a backstory between them to really feel much for them beyond that. 

 

The glossary for Scottish terminology provided at the beginning of the book was helpful. While I was already familiar with some of the terms, there were a few in there that I'd never heard used before. Also a nice touch, the quotes from famous poets, novelists and philosophers that Frantz uses to foreshadow each chapter's events. She found some particularly great quotes to reference! 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Revell Books kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

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text 2019-01-01 15:28
January 2019 TBR
Three Fearful Days: San Francisco Memoirs of the 1906 Earthquake & Fire - Malcolm E. Barker
The Turning of Anne Merrick - Christine Blevins
Cheer Up Love: Adventures in depression with the Crab of Hate - Susan Calman
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic - Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
North to You - Tif Marcelo
Sweet Disorder - Rose Lerner
Ellis Island - Kate Kerrigan
A Dance with Danger (Rebels and Lovers) - Jeannie Lin
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History - Elizabeth Kolbert
The Last of the President's Men - Bob Woodward

Image result for january

Happy 2019!

 

From my physical non-fiction shelf - Three Fearful Days: San Francisco Memoirs of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire by Malcolm E. Barker

 

From my physical fiction shelf - The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins. 

 

From my Winter COYER/BoB cycle 24 reading list - Cheer Up, Love by Susan Calman; Mary & Lou and Ted & Rhoda by Jennifer Armstrong; North to You by Tif Marcelo; Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner; Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan.

 

From 24 Festive Task game: A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin, my pick for first book of 2019.

 

From my Science reading list - The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.

 

From my Nixon reading list - The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward.

 

 

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