Sunday, November 4, 2007

Spotlight Review -- ISABELLA MOON

I'll be shining the spotlight review in several directions for ISABELLA MOON, because reviews appear to be rather mixed. Some reviewers loved it, others could not get through it at all.

First up is Maria, a reviewer at FantasyBookSpot. Maria has this to say:

The premise of Isabella Moon is very, very good. It’s dark, mysterious, and intriguing. Isabella Moon is a dead girl, one that can’t rest until justice is served. Or so I believe, since I’m only about halfway through. It hasn’t been said, but you just know she was murdered. Why else does the little girl haunt, Kate, the main protagonist?

This debut novel by Laura Benedict has a lot of strengths; she has great subplots—we already know that Kate has a mysterious and troubled past. She’s running from something or someone, trying to build a quiet, respectable life. She doesn’t need the ghost of a little girl beckoning her to a gravesite and causing her problems with a suspicious sheriff. Kate is a compassionate woman, but she has trouble trusting people, especially men. She’s a strong woman, but conflicted.

A couple of things keep me from zipping through this book. There’s a lot of backstory dropped in. It’s handled well—shown rather than told, but we know Kate survived it because we know it’s backstory. The mystery of Kate’s past has to come out; it’s part of the main story and a large part of why Kate is who she is today. Backstory is just difficult—how much to tell? How much does it stand on its own?

The other thing that distracts me is POV. Anyone who has read my reviews over at FBS knows this is a killer for me. In many cases it is a complete and utter show-stopper. Some people don’t like romance. Some people don’t like first person novels. I really, really do not like multiple POV. Two POVs, I can handle. Three, well, I’m likely to go and get hot chocolate, and I might or might not come back to the book. That doesn’t mean that author Benedict isn’t skillful at POV. In fact she might be too skillful—she builds each character such that they have their own story. This makes for a lot of depth, and I think there are a lot of people that will enjoy these tangled lives as they unravel. Each snippet of a different POV shows us more mystery, more relationships. For me, well, every time the POV changes, I’m likely to put the book down.

However, Amanda Bittle over at BlogCritics had the opposite impression. I plucked this snippet out of the middle of her review:
The story is told through the eyes of a number of Carystown residents (and one dangerous out-of-towner). Benedict narrates the personal experiences of Kate and Sheriff Delaney, as well as Kate’s friend Francie, Francie’s secret lover, Paxton, Kate’s estranged husband, Miles, and various other characters. Sometimes the narration takes place in the form of a memory: Kate’s, of living in South Carolina with Miles, back when her name was Mary-Katie.

I really like this aspect of the novel; it provides insight from different perspectives into character motivation. There’s also the effect of a narrator who’s certainly not omniscient, but who is privy to all sorts of delicious gossip. As the story moves forward, readers get the skinny on who’s sleeping with whom, who’s making dangerous drug deals, and who just might have something to do with Isabella Moon’s unsolved disappearance.

Over at the Romantic Times, they gave ISABELLA MOON 4 1/2 stars in their short review.

This debut thriller shines, boasting evocative writing and a well-integrated mix of ethereal supernatural phenomena and gritty violence. Benedict employs that literary novel trademark of a somewhat ambiguous ending, but it works for this lush gothic-tinged potboiler.
Maria also adds that this novel is more thriller than fantasy:
This book is a bit of thriller, a lot mystery and a tiny fraction of fantasy. Well, I guess that last part depends on whether or not you believe in ghosts.
There are other reviews at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Curled Up. Maria also found an article about the author in the author's hometown newspaper, The Southern.


Robert said...

Premise sounds intriguing, so I'm hoping to get this one at some point. But I seem to be getting new books every day. It's gonna be hard to keep up ;)

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm glad you like the way it looks. The author is quite nice!

I'm trying to keep a lid on the influx of books, myself. However, I think I have 4 on the way over the next month.

Katie said...

I'm still thinking about this one.