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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Abandon by Meg Cabot

Having been thoroughly disappointed with my last read, I was hoping that my next Young Adult book would be more my style. I had read Meg Cabot books previously, specifically the first couple of volumes of both her Princess Diaries series and her Heather Wells series. The latter series I was quite fond of, and the former was far enough in the past that my recollections of reading it were hazy at best. So I had hopes that Abandon would at least be decent.

Abandon follows Pierce Oliviera, a teenager who had a near-death experience. Following her parents' divorce and a mysterious incident that caused her to be expelled from her previous school, she moves with her mother to Isla Huesos in Florida. Wanting a fresh start, Pierce can't help but be fearful, because when she came back to life, she brought something strange and possibly cursed back with her.
I wanted to like this. I'm something of a Greek myth buff, and while the Persephone myth isn't my favourite, I was interested in seeing how it would be reinterpreted. But Abandon just seemed to defy my efforts at every turn.
First of all, since I've mentioned that it's a re-write of the myth of Persephone's kidnap/marriage to Hades, of course there will be a death-god figure for Pierce to both run from and fall in love with. That relation could be interesting, if you went for the whole "I love the person, but I can't give up my life or family to be with them" angle. But despite the in-depth descriptions of John's good looks and the attempts to do the whole "they bicker, so they must be in love!" trope, there is so little chemistry that it all falls flat. And honestly, you have to be concerned when your main character's attempts to reach out emotionally to him devolves to her consciously using tactics learnt from working with wild animals. If you're treating someone you're attracted to like some kind of humanoid badger, then you have issues. Additionally, they don't seem to have actually spent more than a few hours in each other's company over all their encounters, and yet they're quite happy to talk about loving each other. I can barely get a general impression of someone in a few hours, let alone fall in love, so it smacks of obligation more than anything.
This lack of chemistry stems largely from the second issue that I have with Abandon. Pierce doesn't really seem to have a great deal of personality beyond the fact that she died and now has a magic necklace that warns her of danger. And considering that a huge chunk of the plot doesn't deal with supernatural stuff, but her attempts to settle into a new school following some severe traumas, that's a problem. She just sorts of gets carried along by events there, and all that I could take from those sections is that she's drawn to meddling in other people's problems without permission, and isn't especially suited to it. After a while, her incessant whining that somehow people think you're crazy when you tell them "I can protect you from the evil!" get really annoying, along with her repeated exclamations of "Check yourself before you wreck yourself". I don't care if it's even a little bit sarcastic, it soon starts to grate on your nerves. It wasn't long before I had concluded that I couldn't care less what happened to her, which is the kiss of death for a first-person narrative.
The third issue that I have with Abandon is that it takes far too long to get Pierce's backstory over and done with. So, there are two main issues that have impacted on Pierce's life within the past two years that are deemed to be important: her near-death experience where she met and escaped from the Love Interest, and an incident at her former school involving scandal and one of her teachers. What I would have done is maybe dedicate a couple chapters to each event and intersperse them with present-day events, but focus on the entirety of the event at one time. Cabot instead decides to drip feed both of them over the space of two thirds of the book, with both events frequently interrupted by mundane bullshit like school assemblies and queuing for ice cream. This is aggravating to the extreme, as it's obviously meant to raise tension, but there's a massive flaw that means that whatever tension is achieved falls flat. The events themselves are easy to work out. The scandal at her old school for instance? As soon as I heard that a teacher was involved and that Pierce had gotten herself in hot water by trying to get evidence against him, I knew that it would involve the teacher being pervy with his female students. And wouldn't you know, I was absolutely right. Now, compare Abandon with a property that takes this tired "Hot for Student" scenario and makes it work, namely the game Persona 5. Being a video game, it amps the tension by making it the focus of the consumer's attention and it raises the stakes with elements like a time restriction. It also spends a decent amount of time actually building up the secondary characters, so that when they start being harmed because of the teacher's abuse of power, you actually give a shit. In comparison, Abandon spends so much time stalling that you're praying to get the backstory over and done with, rather than being left on-edge to find out how it all turns out.
The fourth issue that I have is the role of the Furies. The Furies are depicted as enemies of John, and by extension Pierce, because they are damned souls who are angry at their treatment. This bugs me for two reasons. Firstly because according to Greek myths, the Furies were deities of vengeance who would target those who committed crimes like matricide or swearing false oaths. They're vicious, but their targets have traditionally been guilty in some fashion, they're the idea that certain crimes won't go unpunished even if mortal justice proves inadequate. To make them mindlessly evil is disingenuous to their mythic origins. Secondly, it seems weird that these all-powerful beings who exist solely to torment the deity running the Underworld are just the souls of evil people. If it's such a problem that Furies are actively possessing and corrupting living people to carry out their plans, then surely you would try and find out what the fuck it is that Hell is doing to make these things and stop it, not just keep shipping souls in to become new Furies only to wonder why your quality of life has plummeted. There's a line from Shakespeare's The Tempest that states "Hell is empty and all the devils are here", but I somehow doubt that it was meant to be taken literally.
Fifth issue is a bit of a spoiler. So it turns out that Furies have been targeting Pierce, and John is concerned that he can't protect her. His solution is to kidnap her again. But it's okay this time, because it's for her own good, and hey, if she gives it time then maybe she'll come to like being in the Underworld. Seriously, what is it with my reading list at the moment? I can't seem to get away from YA books that try to tone down kidnapping at the moment. I explored my issues with this last review, so just assume that it applies here too. Also, it ends having resolved absolutely fuck all of the issues that had been brought up. What was the point of spending so much time with the nasty popular kids in order to help her cousin work through some undefined issues that he has with them, if the main character is ripped out of the world before anything happens with it?
The last issue is just something that bewildered me to the point of exasperation. It turns out that Furies like tassels, so whenever they turn up in the narrative they signal oncoming danger. Let me state that again for the record. Tassels are a legitimate harbinger of doom. I don't think I need to point out the idiocy of that.

Abandon is a book that I wanted to like, but it manages to brain itself at every hurdle. The main character is a charming mix of annoying and boring. Her relationship with the love interest lacks any chemistry, having spent at most a few hours in each other's company over the entirety of their encounters and at times she treats him more like a wild animal than a person. The backstory is spoon-fed to the reader at such an excruciatingly slow pace that whatever tension the author hoped to create is destroyed. The present-day plot is boring and more or less entirely pointless by the end. The mythology that it reports to take inspiration from is cherry-picked and not especially well. It tries to justify kidnapping by the time it ends, and TASSELS of all things are harbingers of doom. Do not bother. 1.5/5

Next review: Junky by William S. Burroughs

Signing off,

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

If I hadn't gotten Stolen as part of an audiobook bundle, I probably would have passed it by. While I'm not averse to Young Adult novels, I usually end up pairing them with other genres like Fantasy or Science Fiction, rather than Contemporary. If I want to read about real life, my first instinct would be to reach for Non-Fiction. Nonetheless, the premise did intrigue me somewhat, and if I already had a copy there seemed no point avoiding it.

Stolen is narrated by Gemma, a 16-year-old girl who is kidnapped while en route with her parents to Vietnam. When she steps away to get a coffee, an older man buys coffee for her, drugging it to make sure she doesn't try and struggle. He takes her to the Australian outback, to a desolate outpost of his own making that she can only survive in with his aid.
I wanted to like Stolen because the blurb made it sound like a bid for survival against incredible odds. It is most certainly not that. I read this in what was a barely contained simmer of anger and frustration. There were a few reasons for this, and they can be embodied in the two main characters: the victim, Gemma, and the kidnapper, Ty.
So, first of all, Gemma. There were a couple things that bugged me about her. First was the fact that she didn't seem to have a whole lot of personality. I appreciate that when confined to an isolated outpost in the Australian bush, there's only a certain amount that you can do to signpost character building, but even the flashbacks she had about before she was kidnapped were more or less bare of personality. So it transpires that the kidnapper was first drawn to Gemma when she was a child, and her make-believe involved flower fairies, and the fact that she engaged in imaginative play like every other child in existence somehow made her special. When she got into her teenage years, she started resenting her parents for controlling her life! So special! So utterly normal for someone going through massive hormonal changes! The only other thing that comes up is her getting wasted in the park with her friends, which is also, say it with me, entirely mundane and not at all special for someone of her age group. At the end of the book, I knew practically nothing about her as a person beyond the stereotype of a middle class teenager. There are no hobbies that I can list, I know nothing about her friends despite her name-checking them multiple times during the narrative, there are no personality traits that I can name now that it's all over. So there's not much incentive for me to want her to get home. Additionally, and this is probably a personal issue, she doesn't seem to make much of the opportunities that she gets to escape. My husband finds it endlessly amusing that my reaction to most conflict in films can boil down to "Find the person responsible for the problem, and start breaking bones until the problem can be considered solved." Violent and a bit reductionist I accept, but it can be vaguely amusing. Not here. Here, that tendency just made the whole captivity bit endlessly frustrating. For example, there's a part where Ty gets a load of scratches on his hands and he pleads with her to help him clean up the wounds, otherwise his hands will be useless. When she first asked what he would do for her in return, I could have cheered. She asks to be taken back home, and he refuses. Fair enough, more or less what I expected. But then she just kind of drops the matter, and asks him some useless fucking question about how he built the hovel that he expects her to treat like a fucking palace. And my mind went wild, asking questions about why she didn't double down and keep asking to be taken back. Hell, a large part of me was screaming at her to find some lye, and see how long he really wanted to be stuck with her after that. She kept hesitating, like she can somehow reason with Ty.
Which brings me to my second major problem with the book. I could have appreciated Ty as a villain, if the narrative didn't want so much for the reader to want to fix him. He's kidnapped a girl almost a decade younger than him who he's been stalking since she was 10, sure, but look at how pretty and muscular he is. He's a hypocrite who wants freedom for himself but sees no issue with abducting anyone or anything that he could benefit from, but you can't be mad because he had a traumatic childhood. He'll prevent anything that Gemma wants unless it directly coincides with what he wants, but he hasn't raped her so of course it doesn't count as actual abuse. Sure, Stockholm Syndrome is brought up in the final chapter, but that doesn't mean I have to like how the narrative goes. There's a line towards the end where Gemma says "It's hard to hate someone once you understand them", and I hate it with a passion. Just because an abuser does something nice doesn't make up for all the awful things that they do. It reminded me of a scene in An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan, which is a hell of a harrowing read, but a really valuable experience in my opinion. There's a scene where the kidnappers, after months of horrific mistreatment, throw a birthday party for one of the hostages. It shows a more vulnerable side to the jailers, but all it does is make them repulsive instead. And that is what Ty's "tragic" backstory does for me: instead of making him more sympathetic, he only becomes more disgusting and pathetic. And the fact that anyone is taking anything romantic out of Stolen just makes me sick to my stomach.
About the only thing I did like was the description of the Australian outback. It's vivid and colourful and sensual, and I could only wish that such descriptions were contained in a less objectionable story.

Some pretty descriptions of the outback are about the only good thing that can be taken from Stolen. Otherwise it's an anger-inducing story about a girl utterly lacking in personality, who slowly becomes convinced that as her kidnapper hasn't tried raping or killing her, that means it's twue wuv. Christ, it's utterly nauseating. Newsflash, abuse isn't sexy and Stockholm Syndrome isn't romantic. Don't touch with a barge pole. 1/5

Next review: Abandon by Meg Cabot

Signing off,

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

Of all the books that I have on my reading list, this was the one that I had most trepidation about starting. There was the inevitable concern that the controversy about it and the possibility that it would eclipse whatever actual merit the book would contain. But, as I had received the book as part of a larger bundle of audiobooks, it seemed a bit of a waste to just leave it languishing on my computer unread. The fact that my attempts to listen to it on my tablet made it sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks were narrating did somewhat mar the experience too.

The Satanic Verses follows two Indian actors who miraculously survive the explosion of a hijacked plane over the English Channel, and the strange changes that come over them following this. First there is the popular Bollywood star Gibreel Farishta chasing after a lost love, who finds himself taking on the personality and divine powers of the archangel Gibreel. The other is Saladin Chamcha, a long-time resident of London returning from an unsuccessful reunion with his father, who takes on the rather more unfortunate shape of a satyr-like devil. Interspersed in their narratives about their lives after these unusual and distressing changes, are dreams that Farishta has about events in his celestial persona's past. First is the sequence starting with the episode of the Satanic verses. Second is a sequence focusing on a modern day Imam in exile. Third is a sequence following a seer named Ayesha, who convinces her village to go on a foot pilgrimage to Mecca, claiming that she will invoke God's will and part the sea for them to reach their destination.
Before I continue onto the review properly, there is something that I feel should tackle, if only briefly, lest it become an elephant in the room. I've been able to find out the basics of why The Satanic Verses was so controversial with some Islamic readers, mostly in response to the dream sequence about the Satanic verses themselves. And while I can definitely understand that some of the imagery and allegorical naming would be considered incendiary, I won't pretend to know enough in the realm of religious scholarship to comment too deeply on them. In addition, I would rather not start up a discussion about free speech here, because it is a complex subject that I would only be able to scratch the surface of. All I suppose I would commit to here is that while I am all for people facing up to the consequences of their proclamations, it is a step too far to try and kill someone for those statements.
Right then, so onto the actual book. The Satanic Verses is an ambitious work focusing primarily on the immigrant experience in Thatcher-era Britain, and the strict divide between white and non-white cultures. Chamcha's insistence throughout the majority of the book to model himself off of the ideal aristocratic, stiff-upper-lip style of Englishman, only becomes more pathetic and futile as the narrative goes on and he finds that London has retained all of the smugness inherent in conquerors but none of the sophistication. Similarly, Farishta's increasingly unhinged attempts to mold London to his city of ideals only ends with disillusionment. The book does a lot of clever things to create multiple, interconnecting stories of isolation and the conflict between being unyielding and maintaining one's cultural identity vs compromise and changing to suit your new culture. It does a lot of interesting things, but still I find myself quite content to never re-read this book. I think I may have a similar reaction to Salman Rushdie that I do to Gabriel Garcia Marquez: the books they write may be very clever and worthy of study, but it does nothing for me emotionally. The Satanic Verses is a book that, were I still in university, I would be quite happy to study and analyse to death, but I very much doubt that I will revisit it for reasons of pleasure. This is a matter of personal taste though, and I do wonder whether I would have been more forgiving if I had been allowed to tackle the text at my own pace instead of in the irregular intervals where it would be appropriate to be anti-social for hours at a time.

A clever and interesting novel about the immigrant experience in Thatcher-era Britain that unfortunately didn't really do much for me. Definitely more a text for debate and analysis than it is for pleasure. For those readers who are Islamic, then there are definitely elements that could be controversial, but I don't feel that I am really the person most qualified to discuss how inflammatory the novel is or isn't. 3/5

Next review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Signing off,

Friday, 26 January 2018

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Finally, we come to Acceptance, the last part of the Southern Reach trilogy, and it has quite a lot to live up to and possibly explain. I was really looking forward to finding out how everything would be tied up, and tucked into this with cautious enthusiasm. Spoilers will follow for Annihilation and Authority.

Following the collapse of Southern Reach when the border of Area X suddenly expanded, Control and the clone of the biologist, answering only to Ghost Bird, travel to the as-yet-uncharted island. Together they hope to find answers about how to get back home and what happened to the original biologist. The narrative also flashes back to the perspectives of Saul Evans, the lighthouse keeper who will eventually become the Crawler, and the former director as she prepares herself for being part of the first and final twelfth expedition into Area X.
I had a quick look over the reviews for Acceptance before starting my writing again, and I have just one thing to say about the main criticism that I saw levelled at this last installment. To those who have read Acceptance and were disappointed that everything wasn't explained in minute detail: were we reading the same series? I mentioned in my review of Authority that I didn't have more of an idea what was happening, I had a firmer grip on how the world and the people in it worked, and I'm quite happy to say the same for Acceptance. And honestly, I'm okay with that as an ending. For me, the Southern Reach series was never about explaining Area X, it was about how humans fare when they inevitably try and make it into something tame and conquerable. A novel, at it's best, is about documenting how people react to unusual, challenging settings or situations. And honestly, it would have been more disappointing if VanderMeer had just shoved in a load of last minute, bullshit answers just to placate readers who can't handle a bit of uncertainty. The Southern Reach series has never been super-detailed science-fiction, so why anyone would think that it would suddenly turn into that in the final installment is beyond me. For me, it was always about the journey of the biologist/Ghost Bird and Control. It was about how they both adapt to their new situation in their own separate ways. And in that sense, Acceptance more than succeeded.

For those people looking for concrete answers, look elsewhere. That wasn't the style of Annihilation or Authority, so to expect details at this stage is just baffling. The character arcs are the most important aspect of Acceptance by far, and they are handled perfectly. This conclusion is about as open-ended as you can get, but that is just fine with me. 5/5

Next review: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

Signing off,

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Having finished Annihilation, I was really excited to see where the Southern Reach series would go. From what I could gather from the blurb, Authority would focus more on the actual facility that sent out the expeditions, as they try and wrap their heads around whatever is going on in Area X, which I thought had a lot of potential. As a warning, there will be spoilers for Annihilation in the following review, so if you're still in the middle of it, I would advise skipping this until you're finished.

Authority follows John "Control" Rodriguez, a secret service agent who has taken over as the new director at Southern Reach, following Annihilation's disastrous twelfth expedition. Three of the expedition members have returned home without triggering any alarms at the border of Area X, only the psychologist, now revealed to be the former director, still missing. Having been charged by his mysterious handler, known only as "the Voice", to put Southern Reach back into some kind of order, Control must try and navigate deliberately obstructive staff who are certain that the former director will return, the unnerving and circuitous notes left behind by the former director, and the disturbing notion that his superiors are keeping secrets from him.
When I finish a book, what I usually do is write my review, submit it, and then take a look at other people's reviews to see where we differ. As I wanted to organise my thoughts a little before discussing Authority, I looked at the reviews first. The number of one star reviews that I found in surprisingly quick succession gave me a bit of a shock. But taking a look at the content of those criticisms, I could see where they were all coming from, despite personally quite liking it. So, the main criticisms seemed to be with regards to the comparatively slow pace and more mundane focus on what is essentially office politics, especially after the weirdness that was Annihilation. They seem like decent enough points to discuss, and I can avoid the majority of spoilers. Looking at Authority having finished it, I can say that the slow pace and the focus on office politics, while admittedly frustrating at times, does seem to have its place in the grand scheme of the Southern Reach series. The pace and focus serve to develop what could be considered the status quo of two elements: Control, and the Southern Reach facility.
I'll start with Southern Reach itself. While initially appearing rather normal for a facility dealing with Area X, the mundane routine of a 9-5 working week means that each day reveals layer after layer of weirdness and misdirection between all the different people working there. Control's return to his rented home in the nearby town provides a much more straightforward example of normality, so you can really see how Area X is starting to bleed out and affect its surroundings. And once you get to the part of Authority where the plot goes from 0 to 60, it is way more of a shock to the system. Having created a pocket of comparative normality, the uninhibited weirdness of Area X that turns up in the final third is stark and feels so much more threatening for it.
Then there is Control. He decides at the beginning of his term as the director that he won't let himself get emotionally involved in anything that he finds out, and that he will stay firmly in control of whatever he needs to do in order to clean up after his predecessor, meaning that he sets out with a hyper-vigilant mind-set. The set-backs that he encounters pretty much immediately, like the strange obsession that he has with interviewing the biologist and the deliberate withholding of information from both his employees and superiors, aren't necessarily big when he is first confronted with them. But with his hyper-vigilance, he picks up on every little detail, both legitimate cause for concern and irrelevant tidbit, and soon everything is being seen as part of a mass of competing conspiracies, leading him on a downward spiral to anxiety and paranoia. I think you can probably guess what a mindset that defensive and fragile will do when confronted with anything from Area X, right?

If you've started reading Authority with the intent of getting concrete answers for questions you had from Annihilation, then you will be disappointed. It does give some more details about the Southern Reach facility though, so while I won't admit to knowing much more than I did at the end of the last book, I think I have a firmer feel on how the world works. I have seen some criticism that Authority focuses too much on the office politics, but I think that the slow pace and (comparatively) mundane setting are very cleverly pulled off. The focus on seemingly unimportant details both develops how the normal world is affected by Area X even with containment, and allows Control to move from being stoic and hyper-vigilant to someone who is barely coping with his own anxiety and paranoia. You just have to be patient with it. 4.5/5

Next review: Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Signing off,

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve been a bit naughty with regards to my reading list. So my husband has been telling me how good the Southern Reach series was since shortly after it came out, but with my reading list as over-full as it is, I couldn't quite justify bringing the series forward. Cut to the New Year, and we found out that the series has been adapted into a film. My husband was utterly bewildered by this turn of events, and is determined to see it to find out just how they’ve gone about adapting what is apparently a very weird series. So now I have until late February to finish the series in time to see the movie adaptation.

Annihilation follows a nameless biologist as she enters a strange place known as Area X as part of a scientific expedition. Little is known about the area beyond that there was an apparent environmental disaster, despite the apparent lushness of the ecosystems there. The members of the all-female expedition have been given the seemingly simple task of charting the land and taking samples of anything unusual. But it soon starts falling apart, starting with the discovery of an unmapped tunnel right near their base camp.
Having just read Annihilation, I can kind of see why my husband was so confused about the trailer. While there is a lot that comes up that could be seen as scary, both with regards to the secrets that are revealed about the authorities behind the expeditions and the weird creatures that call Area X home, I think it's the kind of scary that is very difficult to translate to film. It's the kind of slow burn that most directors avoid, and it wasn't in evidence in the trailer that I've seen.
As to the actual book itself, I absolutely loved it, but it's a bit of a shock to the system after a lot of fairly standard novels. There's surprisingly little character interaction, and what there is is very detached and clinical due to the introverted nature of the biologist. It ends up being strangely claustrophobic in tone, as there is no secondary viewpoint to balance her out and her clear disinterest and difficulties regarding social interactions only makes her more isolated as a narrator. She's an intriguing voice to follow if nothing else. As for the plot, I probably couldn't say if I actually know what's going on in Area X, but I am hoping that the next installments of the series will be a bit more illuminating.


Seriously weird and claustrophobic, I would heartily recommend this if you're happy with a slow burn and not much in the way of answers for now. The narrator is refreshingly introverted, although I appreciate it might not be everyone's cup of tea. 5/5

Next review: Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Signing off,

Friday, 5 January 2018

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

It's been a while since I read a classic, but of the many classics out there, why pick up Lady Audley's Secret, a book by an author that I had never heard of in my life? Well, the blurb promised all sorts of scandalous acts that shouldn't come anywhere near the neutered Victorian ideal, so of course my interest was peaked.

After three years spent gold prospecting in Australia, George Talboys is keen to return home to his beautiful wife and young child. Upon his return, he finds that she has just died and, utterly bereft at this turn of events, he stays with an old friend to try and recover. His friend, Robert Audley, suggests a visit to his wealthy uncle in the Essex countryside as a form of distraction and as an excuse to meet his new aunt, a woman renowned in the local area as a great beauty. When the trip ends with George's disappearance, Robert finds himself driven to discovering what happened. The more he investigates though, the more suspicious his new aunt becomes, and he risks miring his family in scandal.
You probably noticed that I didn't mention any of the scandalous things that the blurb tempted me in with. Because knowing them in advance kind of ruins any surprise that Lady Audley's Secret has. Lady Audley, in my read-through, had no real secrets because with a couple of exceptions the twists are pretty clearly signposted if you've already been told the spoilers. Despite this though, I found this thoroughly enjoyable. The writing is a bit on the flowery side, but considering the focus on Victorian domestic arrangements it does work quite well. The only thing that truly bothered me was the ending. If you're interested in actually reading Lady Audley's Secret, which I really would recommend, then you might want to skip the next paragraph.
So, the ending. Lady Audley has been revealed to be a murderous bigamist who pushed her first husband, George Talboys, down a well after he discovered that she wasn't dead as he had first believed. In order to save his family's honour, Robert Audley spirits her away to a madhouse to quietly expire at a safe distance, but can never honour his departed friend by giving him a proper burial for fear that it would go to a criminal court. All well and good so far, and I could have accepted that as an ending. Then it turned out that George Talboys was alive all this time and just doesn't have any understanding of how this "keeping in contact" thing works. And everyone who isn't the eponymous Lady Audley has a happy ending. The book ends with a reference to a Bible quote where the righteous shall not be forsaken, and honestly it's so bloody saccharine after a plot that has been gratifyingly scandalous and treacherous. It was such a disappointment. Not enough to entirely ruin the book, but enough to leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Even having had the majority of the secrets spoiled by the blurb of my edition, I found myself really enjoying myself. That's probably why I was so disappointed by the abrupt turn into happy ending territory in the last couple of chapters. Still worth a read though. 4/5

Next review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Signing off,