I Sincerely Doubt This House is Haunted….

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Like many gothic house novels John Boyne’s “This House is Haunted” left me feeling far from chilled. Having come off the creepy ride that was Marisha Pessl’s “Night Film” and the excellent “After Her” by Joyce Maynard, I was hoping that “This House is Haunted” would require me to keep a light on while I read, however I was sorely disappointed.

Let’s be real– writing a gothic novel that centers around a decrepit, possibly haunted, house is hard. In my experience as a reader I have only encountered one or two novels that have done this well. While I was willing to forgive Boyne for not living up to this part of the bargain, the complete blandness of his characters made me put this one down after about 30%. I mean this in the kindest way possible, but some authors should stick to writing protagonists who share their gender.

Unfortunately life is too short to waste time on mediocre novels. Will I ever know if the house was haunted? Probably not. Do I care? No, not really.

“This House is Haunted” will be available from retailers October 8th, 2013.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: An advance copy of this novel was provided to me for review by the publisher via NetGalley. 

“After Her” by Joyce Maynard Reviewed

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A solid coming of age story with a few flaws, I enjoyed “After Her.” The novel tells the story of two sisters growing up outside of San Francisco whose formative years coincide with a serial killer’s rampage in the hills behind their home. Maynard does a wonderful job painting vivid, believable characters, and what I enjoyed most about the book was the way she gracefully captured the narrative of her teenage protagonist then and now. (Side note: I forgot how rough it is to be a teenage girl, BTW.)

While not as heart-pounding as some of the summer’s other thrillers, “After Her” is a nice mix of character study and mystery. The few flaws I found in the book most related to the awkward re-telling of some anecdotes that seemed to be out of order. ex. A favorite restaurant is mentioned and then given more of a description/context later as if it is the first time you are going there. A little annoying and confusing, I was surprised with the inconsistencies.

Overall, a solid recommended read that is the right length for a weekend!

Available from the New York Public Library or for purchase from Amazon.com.

xo The Book Bird

Night Film: A Review

Oh. My. Gosh.

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Where to start? Night Film was one of the novels I was most excited about for 2013, and boy, did it deliver.

A VAST improvement over Special Topics, of which I was not a huge fan, Pessl hits her stride in Night Film– expertly mixing media like websites, magazine articles, etc. with a story that is guaranteed to give you the creeps. I have to admit, I’m kind of disappointed that this was released in summer as it is the perfect rainy, fall weekend kind of book. Just thinking about reading it on a dark, wintry night gives me the shivers.

This is not a novel focused on character study, but I think that’s what makes it a great book. Instead, Pessl focuses on creating a rigid atmosphere that is wrought with tension and darkness. Just like the protagonist, you will find yourself slowly sleeping deep and deeper into a world that should seemingly not make sense, but yet does. It made me think of those horror-film-esque thoughts that sometimes come after dark, which you know are totally irrational, but yet make you pull the covers up higher.

Ideally I would give this book 4.5 stars: the middle lags a little bit and lacks the urgency that book ends it on either side. I should note though, that while the pace slows, I still pulled three late-nighters in a row to finish this over the weekend. The ending also tied things up a little too nicely, though you have to give Pessl snaps for the way she is able to sprinkle hints/clues through a 500+ novel consistently. It is truly impressive!

Available from Amazon.com (where you can also find this review) and the New York Public Library.

xo The Book Bird