REVIEW: Unearthly Things

Book Review: Unearthly Things
book cover Book title Unearthly Things
Series/standalone standalone
Author Michelle Gagnon
Pages 288
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Retelling | Mystery | Supernatural | Contemporary
Rating 3star

Official Summary

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre retold against the backdrop of San Francisco’s most fabulous—and dangerous—elites.

After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason trades the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco and new guardians—the Rochesters—she’s never even met. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy cotillions, and chauffeurs. The only person she can relate to is Daniel, a fellow surfer. Meeting him makes Janie feel like things might be looking up.

Still, something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic that everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between devil-may-care John and fiercely loyal Daniel. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, she learns the truth about why the Rochesters took her in. They want something from Janie, and she’s about to see just how far they’ll go to get it.

Review

In A Nutshell

A modern retelling of Jane Eyre with biracial MC, 100% more wave, and more … ghost? Or was it an actual ghost?

Highlights

  • Biracial protagonist. Janie Mason, the lead/narrator is half Filipino. She spent her childhood in Hawaii before being transported against her will to San Fransisco to live with the Rochesters. Janie didn’t know much about her ancestors since her parents, specifically her mother, didn’t want to talk about her painful past. Despite not knowing much, Janie is curious and trying to learn more about her roots, something many readers may find themselves relate to.
  • The story pace. I recalled vehemently trying to finish Jane Eyre on two separate occasions before finally succeeded. It took me sometime around 2 years?! Unearthly things is definitely faster paced than its predecessor. For some readers, this might be the book’s Achilles heel, trying to fit so many things in less than 300 pages and truth be told, characters development suffered slightly from it. However, for me, the pace is probably the saving grace of this book. It made Unearthly Thing a fun ride and compulsively readable.
  • The contemporary part. Honestly, I opted to read this book for its paranormal/mystery aspect since I’m now focusing on reviewing speculative fiction. However, the part I enjoyed the most is the story of Janie, the surfer girl, moving to new family and meeting new people. She is a sympathetic protagonist and easy to root for. Her interactions with her evil and not-evil ‘siblings’ are hilarious and occasionally heart-breaking.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Stereotypical characters. The necessary evil siblings, nerdy best friend, and hot boyfriend were all there and made it felt formulaic. For readers who have read Jane Eyre, let me tell you that this is a loose retelling and for most part, the author just borrowed the names and slap them to completely different characters. Unfortunately, for Unearthly Things, character depth is lacking and I found no chemistry between Janie and her love interest. It was so insta-love, I couldn’t get on board with it even if I liked the person who became her love interest. Similarly, Janie was said to have close friends, but there was nothing in the book that suggest the close relationship between them.
  • The book is a mystery, but somehow it’s lacking in atmosphere. Jane Eyre might take me forever to read, but one thing it truly delivers is Gothic atmosphere. Unearthly Things is more generic in comparison; the description not nearly as haunting and the scenes didn’t scare me.
  • Compare to its predecessor, Unearthly Things didn’t deliver as strong message of female empowerment. Granted this might be an unfair comparison seeing that Jane Eyre is a classic. However, when I hear ‘Jane Eyre retelling’, I’m hoping for a book in a similar vein. Unearthly Things is surely fun, but it didn’t have the same power nor did it make an effort to.
  • Some of the key plot and twist are not convincing enough. There were scenes that made me think, “did they actually buy that explanation?” and they did! Sure, it’s fiction and a speculative one at that, but readers still want logical explanation.

Final Score

3star
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Unearthly Things is a fun, modern retelling of Jane Eyre. The author’s effort to support diversity by putting a biracial protagonist at the front and center is commendable. However, stereotypical secondary characters, plot holes, and the lack of convincing atmosphere made it fall short from being a truly satisfying read.

Review: Dangerous Girls

Header Image
Book Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
cover Book title Dangerous Girls
Series no
Author Abigail Haas
Pages 388
Year published 2013
Rating 4 star

Official Summary

It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.

As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…

Review

Lately, I was in the mood for some good thrillers. Fortunately, I stumbled upon this review by Symone @ Symone Books where she recommended Dangerous Girls. It wasn’t the first time I heard about the book, but apparently I am the type of person who easily swayed by good recommendation because I bought it on impulse after reading Symone’s review (either that or it’s because she wrote very persuasive review, or maybe a bit of both).

Having read several great thrillers throughout 2015 (thank you Gillian Flynn), I was sort of prepared to be let down. I was not. Dangerous Girls is gritty, full of suspense, and it doesn’t sugarcoat the story to make it “more appropriate for teenagers.” Before I dived in, I need to mention that this book includes drinking, drugs, sex, and profanities. Oh and murder.

Plot

Dangerous Girls started out simple enough. A group of friends went to Aruba for spring break. There, they spent their time partying, drinking, and having the best time of their life. Until one of them found murdered in her room. Our MC, Anna, found herself as a suspect and she was arrested and had to spend months in prison while awaiting for the verdict.

Now, for those of you who live in a country where criminal cases go to jury trials, you might be not familiar with the judge trial system. I am by no means a law expert, but this book shows us how is it like to be trapped in a foreign country where the legal system is totally different than what you used to. Strange as it was, the difference in legal system, more than language or cultural difference, seemed to be the one that gave the “trapped in foreign country” vibe. Anna felt like she was being treated as a scapegoat because she was a foreigner. Her frustration was most evident during the trials when she realized that a single judge will decide her fate.

The narrative went back and forth between the current murder investigation and the past when Anna met Elise, became her best friend, and the days leading to Elise death. I could see why Haas decided to weave it that way, because in this book, the past is about as important, if not more, than the current events. At its essence, this book is more about psychology and human relationships than it is about murder investigation. We were left blind, in prison, with Anna while the world kept going and her friends went back to live their life.

There are some strange things that felt a bit like happenstance and other elements that felt forcefully added to advance the plot. However, those are minor stuff that I was able to shrug off because I was too busy tapping my phone to read the next page.

Characters

Anna is not a likeable narrator. There, I said it. She did, however, tell a very compelling story. It’s like when you were at the party and one of your classmate that you don’t like was sitting there telling a story. And you came anyway because she always tells such a good story. It is weird because I do sympathize with her situation, but not with her.

The book is not without its limitations, mainly in terms of secondary characters. It is partly because we only got one POV and Anna isn’t really the type of person who looked beneath people’s exterior. Apart from Anna and Elise, we don’t really get to know anyone, even her friends. We are told that Mel is whiny and Chelsea is uptight, but they aren’t actually given any real personality. And what about AK or Max? I barely know anything about them. We were only shown the important bits that related to the case, not the parts that make these characters real. This is perhaps a compromise the author has chosen to take because she wanted to dig deeper into Anna’s mind, but at the end of the day, I knew who the murderer is long before the book ends because of this sort of cherry-picking. I’m definitely not saying that you should fill your book with red herring though.

Verdict

I have been guilty of rating a book, especially a murder mystery, based on whether or not I could guess the murderer. If it’s too easy, I will dock half a star, if you manage to fool me, I give you an extra half-star. It’s sort of stupid, but I do feel my enjoyment of a crime mystery decreases if it’s not a mystery at all. However, I will refrain from doing that here, mainly because Dangerous Girls felt more like psychological thriller than murder mystery, and partly because I try to be objective (the keyword here is try).

Am I allowed to say that I enjoy a book about murder and debauchery? Because yes, I really enjoyed Dangerous Girls. So what if it’s not the most mind-blowing thing ever? It’s a ride you’d want to hop on all the same.

Final score

4 stars
  4 stars (out of 5 stars)


Let me know if you have read Dangerous Girls or if it’s on your TBR. If you have read it, do you like the book?


Twitter | Follow my blog with Bloglovin