First Lines: I was almost sixteen the first time my grandmother died.
This was a book I saw at a book sale and well, it looked like something I would like. And even if I didn’t like it, my students might. I mean, how could I turn down a pretty dress and a creepy old house in the background? You just know there’s something weird going on.
Sarah Parsons has more family history than she could’ve guessed. When her grandmother dies, Sarah and her family visit Amber House, her family’s ancestral home that spans 3 centuries of Sarah’s family. With its tall hedges, secret corridors, and local legends, Amber House is a mystery to Sarah. Jackson, a local boy who works at Amber House, convinces Sarah that one local legend, one about lost diamonds being in the house, is true. As they explore, Amber House seems to come alive. Sarah begins having visions of events that the house remembers, like those of the old Captain who lost his diamonds or a fiery great-grandmother who might have been insane. Then there’s Richard Hathaway, the son of a local senator, who catches Sarah’s eye and maybe even her heart. But when the visions/ghosts of Amber House begin threatening the living, Sarah has to make a stand before they change the course of history–and the present–to something horrible.
Alright. There’s a lot up there. If I could, I’d tell you how I categorize this book. But it’s just so many things. It’s kind of an adventure story, but it’s also kind of a paranormal story. Yet paranormal isn’t quite right, it’s almost sci-fi. And then there are hints of a romance novel as well as a problem novel. There isn’t any easy way to label this book, like it had its fingers in too many pies. Not that I want books to easily be labelled, but I just never knew what this book was even trying to be.
I was a bit conflicted with this book. Well, “bit” may be an understatement. I’ll start with the good stuff.
First of all, there’s a nice, low undercurrent of “spooky” in the story. As the story goes on, we know just enough to be suspicious of things/people, yet not enough to really know what’s going on. It keeps a low level of suspense and that helped keep me interested.
Also, I really found myself drawn to some of the minor characters. They were nicely created and usually added something to the main characters.
And the ending. Let’s just say I didn’t see that coming. There was a lot of action there, and it just helped build up everything that had previously happened. It was pretty exciting and most of our questions were answered…or were they? Oooooh.
But there were a lot of issues too, and I wonder if some of that comes from having 3 writers. I was constantly getting confused throughout the story as it jumped between the present and the past. I realize that part of it is because these shifts are sometimes supposed to throw Sarah off too, but there were just too many for my liking. I don’t like to spend half the book questioning when I am and who the characters are.
That’s another thing. With three centuries worth of ancestors, there are a heck of a lot of ancestors that pop up in the story and never really resurface. For many of them, if I had a name, I would have remembered them better. When they’re only described as the “girl in white”, well, that doesn’t really tell me anything and I forgot from one chapter to the next.
Also, there were almost too many secrets for the story. The first half of the story doesn’t really answer any of your questions. That was frustrating. I didn’t see why I needed to keep reading if I still didn’t even know what was going on. Plus, it kept making mountains out of molehills and trying to make those sound like major plot twists. I guess I just felt that a few key points missed the mark.
It probably didn’t help that I frequently found myself not liking the main characters. There were very few characters I actually liked. Most of them were minor characters, maybe because I didn’t have enough time to form a full opinion of them? I don’t know. But everyone from Sarah to her mother to Richard had moments where I just wanted to roll my eyes and put the book down.
Oh yes. The love triangle. It was a pretty low-grade love triangle that doesn’t even really make a blip on the story, but it’s there. I really don’t want to talk about it. Love triangles just…sigh.
Overall, I thought it had some nice moments of history or adventure or paranormal/sci-fi (whatever it is), but I struggled at times to keep my motivation going. It was good, but it wasn’t great.