25 June 2015

Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger, Book 5)

V.C. ANDREWS

Synopsis from back cover: Long before terror flowered in the attic, thin, spinsterish Olivia came to Virginia as Malcolm Foxworth's bride. At last, with her tall handsome husband, she would find the joy she had waited for, longed for. But in the gloomy mansion filed with hidden rooms and festering desires, a stain of jealous obsession begins to spread...an evil that will threaten her children, two lovely boys and one very special, beautiful girl. For within one innocent child, a shocking secret lives...a secret that will taint the proud Foxworth name, and haunt all their lives forever!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Pocket Books, 1987.

How acquired: Acquired through BookCrossing.

My thoughts: After having read all the books in the Dollanganger saga, some enjoyable, some forgettable, I looked forward to going back in time with this prequel to see how the Grandmother came to be the cold formidable woman who would hide her grandchildren away in an attic. And while it's certainly not great literature, it is a quick and engrossing story.

We meet Olivia just prior to her first meeting with Malcolm, living with her father and taking care of his accounts, longing for love but despairing of her plain looks and tall stature that turns off would be suitors. Malcolm coming into her life seems like a dream come true, as he looks past all the outside trappings and is interested in the real Olivia. After a very quick courtship, they marry and he takes her to Foxworth Hall. Little does she know – though she quickly finds out-- he has no actual interest in her as a person, but just wanted a wife to run his home and give him lots of children.

V.C. Andrews apparently only had one voice to write in, as Olivia's narration is just like Cathy's in FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. Olivia and Cathy are very different characters of course, as Cathy was beautiful and beloved and well aware of it. But it still felt like reading Cathy again at times. And teenage Corrine is very reminiscent of Cathy's adopted daughter Cindy in later books.


But if you just go with everything that happens, it's quite an adequate story to while away an afternoon with. 

22 June 2015

Midsummer Dreams


Synopsis from Goodreads: Four people. Four messy lives. One night that changes everything. Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect. Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself. Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers. Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach. At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one. A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, published by Choc Lit, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley.

First line: I’m alone again. 

My thoughts: Emily’s father is in Verona, attending a conference, and when he comes home he brings a surprise – a fiancĂ©. A younger, free-spirited woman who Emily instantly dislikes. She’s all wrong for her dad, a professor, and is determined to make her dad see that, and to prevent the wedding from ever happening. Meanwhile, Emily has been dating Dom for quite some time, and while she thinks everything is good, she finds herself attracted to Alex, her friend Helen’s new boarder. Alex is the master of one night stands, but he is also drawn to Emily. And Helen has been in love with Dom for ten years, so Alex tells himself that by pursing Emily, he’s helping Helen. 

The short chapters alternate among the four characters, with Emily’s chapters in first person POV. Helen especially resonated with me more than the others, though partly I think because she’s a little older and more mature than Emily. Emily lives with her dad, works for her dad, and takes endless driving lessons without ever having the confidence to actually get her license. She has a lot of growing up to do. But of the four, Helen also reminded me the most of myself, such as with this passage:
“They need volunteers to help. It’ll show that you’re a team player.”
“It’ll be outside,” Helen pulled a face. “With mud, and weather, and outside things.”
And this one, when she and Alex are discussing her need to get over her infatuation with Dom and start dating:
Helen wasn’t sure. The whole notion sounded horrendous. She liked familiar people. She liked people she already knew. Meeting new ones was traumatic. 
None of the four friends are particularly happy with their lives, though they all seem to be constantly convincing themselves (and each other) that everything is great and nothing needs to change. And while I decided along the way who should be with who, the author left me hanging practically until the very end. 

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the writing. There’s plenty of humor, and each character’s personality is distinct and well drawn out. I sometimes wanted to smack a character and tell him or her to chill out or grow up, especially Emily, but I liked all of them, and I was quite satisfied with how everyone’s story was resolved.