April 30, 2013

Top Ten Aspects of a Book That Make Me Want to Pick It Up

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the bloggers of The Broke and the Bookish. I altered this prompt slightly to be: Top Ten Aspects of a Book That Make Me Want to Pick It Up." Relying just on words or topics on the cover/blurbs/paratext felt a little too confining for me.

The Chosen One  This is perhaps my greatest weakness of all. Time and again, I just love reading about characters who are usually raised up from obscurity because they are the ONLY ones able to save the world/complete this task. I'm an extremely character-driven reader, and the depth of  characterization this type of story can provide is wonderful. Yes, I realize there's definitely a possibility for these types of books to fail - and fail epically. But there's nothing sweeter than reading a book like this that was done well. (ex. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling) 

The Girl Masquerading as a Boy  Whether it is to fight against injustice, protect her identity, or find a sense of freedom, I just love reading about females who actively fight against conventions by masquerading as males. To clarify, I view masquerading as an active choice, rather than being forced to hide or adopt a disguise. Generally these types of books show that the females are in control of their own fates and are not about to allow male conventions to dictate their lives.  (ex. Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce)

The Fighting Female Protagonist I am well aware that there are tons of ways that females can assert their equality (or superiority) to men,  but this never ever fails to appeal to me. In general, females are smaller, less muscular, and less athletic than men, so it's so rewarding to read about females who are able to overcome those particular issues and prove that their physical strength is a force to be reckoned with. (ex. Graceling by Kristin Cashore)

A Character Thrust in the Middle of Intense Political Intrigue — Although real-world politics don't interest me all that much (something I do need to work on), I find myself so fascinated by political situations found within fantasy and historical fiction novels. And what makes that political drama even more exciting for me? When a character who couldn't care less and fully intends to remain far-removed from it all suddenly becomes a player, forced to learn about all the nuances in the political conflict and work to determine his/her own views. (ex. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith)

Unreliable Narration  I think it's so easy to fall into the assumption that everything the narrator says is true. I know I do it all the time. After all, for the most part a singular narration is our guide into new conflicts, worlds, and characters. So when the information we've learned comes into question, it can be both an exciting and frustrating experience. Mostly exciting, I think, and it pushes me to become an even more active reader, which is a good thing. (ex. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner)

Focus on Non-Romantic Relationships  Romance is well and good in stories, but sometimes I get the feeling that it's overdone. Every book has to have a romance, or so it seems, especially for young adult novels. So when I find a book whose focus isn't on romance (and maybe even doesn't include one at all), I get ridiculously excited. Our lives are so much more than romance, and relationship doesn't have to equate to romantic love. Friendships and family relationships are just as important. (ex. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein)

Retelling of a Favorite Fairy Tale/Story/Myth  Retellings are so wonderful because they allow people to rethink and reexamine widely known stories. Even already knowing the basics of a story, there are so many variations that can be taken in retellings. I appreciate both lots of creativity and innovation in rewriting a favorite story and also those stories that toe much closer to the original tale, yet still are able to add extra facets to a beloved story. (ex. Beauty by Robin McKinley)

Alternate POV of a Well-Known Story/Historical Event  I love learning about historical events or reading original stories, but, as I mentioned in the point above, there's something so fascinating about being able to look at it from a different perspective. And let's face the truth here: only in recent history have events and stories been told in ways that do not primarily privilege the white male point of view. I'm not only talking about gender issues here, but more broadly about any underrepresented group through the history of the world and written text. (ex. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley)

Fantasy World with a Complex Map  I love reading about fantasy worlds. I love seeing the creativity that go into them and just to learn about a place that's different from the world we inhabit. It can be difficult to visualize those worlds, however, so I always appreciate a map. I remember reading somewhere the dumbest argument ever: one fantasy author kept getting so annoyed that his readers asked for a map, arguing something along the line that we don't urge contemporary authors to include maps. (Anyone else read about this and know who said it?) How exactly are extra aids like maps and glossaries detrimental to a reading experience? Books are ultimately made for the readers, and I think maps can only enhance that reading experience. (ex. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin)

Standalone  Perhaps I'm becoming a bit of a broken records here, but I adamantly believe that not every story needs to be told in more than one novel. There's absolutely nothing wrong with an author having a specific story to tell, and being cognizant of the fact that while the story could be expanded (or the world could be expanded, or the secondary characters could be better explored, etc.), that's not really necessary. Few things make me happier in books than a standalone that ends on a perfect note. (ex. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater)

Please let me know what are the top ten words/topics that make you want to buy or pick up a book!
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April 29, 2013

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Published: 2011, Tor Teen
Series: Anna, #1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Library book
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We’re not children, neither of us. We don’t believe in fairy tales. And if we did, who would we be? Not Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty. I slice murder victims’ heads off and Anna stretches skin until it rips, she snaps bones like green branches into smaller and smaller pieces. We’d be the fricking dragon and the wicked fairy.

By reading Kendare Blake's novel I accomplished two things: first, I read a (pseudo) horror book, and second, I read a book for my school's YA book club and actually attended the meeting. Yay! I'm not a fan of anything remotely scary, but enough reviews reassured me that I'd be fine reading this book. And then I was able to discuss it with real people afterwards. Even though the book wasn't my favorite, it was entertaining enough and fit these two criteria, so reading it was time well spent.

Ever since his father died, Theseus Cassio Lowood has inherited the family profession: he seeks out ghosts and sends their spirits onward with the help of his athame. By removing ghost after ghost from the world of the living, Cas feels closer and closer to his ultimate goal: destroying the ghost that killed his father. Only one ghost remains in Cas' way before he thinks he'll find himself prepared enough to take on his father's killer: Anna Dressed in Blood.

When Cas, his mother, who is a traveling herb witch, and their cat Tybalt travel to Thunder Bay, Ontario to find Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas finds the challenge is a bit more difficult than he initially expected. Not only is he no match for Anna's incredible power, but Anna herself elicits much more of his sympathy than any other ghost, and he begins to form attachments to the inhabitants of Thunder Bay both human and ghost.

It was incredibly refreshing to read a book from a male perspective. Although there certainly is not a lack of male narrators within literature in general, and perhaps not even much of a lack in YA books, I myself have not read too many. I found Cas to be a believable teenage boy, for which Blake should be commended. It's not easy to write a protagonist of the opposite gender, and Blake is able to successfully integrate her readers into Cas' head. Cas is cocky, arrogant, a bit self-righteous, yet he's also a bit insecure and ultimately simply wants to find a way to avenge his father. His multi-faceted characterization is well-drawn out.

Just as equally is the focus of this story on the titular character, Anna Dressed in Blood. As Cas and the readers come to learn, there are two sides to Anna's character. There's Anna Korlov, the young, innocent girl who was so brutally murdered in 1958 on the way to a school dance in her white dress. And then there's Anna Dressed in Blood, the vengeful ghost who kills every person that dares to enter her family house. Anna Dressed in Blood is a terror to behold, with blood dripping from her once white dress, veins blackened against her pale skin, and a fury within her eyes like nothing seen before. Yet she still retains the sweet and innocent girl inside of her. The dynamic between these two is fascinating, and the story that unfolds over Anna's transformation is tragic. Along with Cas, these two are by far the most interesting aspects of the novel.

Against the impressive and nuanced characterizations of Cas and Anna, however, all other aspects of this novel fall a bit flat. None of the remaining character are fleshed out to any degree. Carmel is not quite the stereotypical popular girl, but that seems only because she's willing to listen to Cas against all logic. Thomas is simply too flat to be seen as Cas' true "best friend." Mike, Will, and their friends are disappointingly stereotypical jocks. Cas' mother is given an interesting backstory, yet Blake doesn't really expand enough on her character to make her sympathetic. She's there for Cas, but over and over I found myself questioning just why she'd allow her son to work in the same profession that got her husband killed.

Cas and Anna's relationship, while easily one that readers can root for, still left me with a lot of questions. Why doesn't Cas instill the same murderous desire inside of Anna that every other living human does? What makes him so special? The fact that their relationship consisted of a human and a ghost didn't bother me too much, however, since Blake does show how lost and lonely each are individually, and how, through each other, they're able to find strength.

Worldbuilding is another area that does not seem sufficiently explained. Near the very beginning of the novel, Cas mentions how important his job as ghost hunter is, because the world is teeming with unhappy and restless souls. He specifically notes that no place is free of ghosts; but, if ghosts really are as prevalent as Cas claims, then how are people able to willfully ignore them? Are there more ghost hunters out there that Cas doesn't mention? I just did not understand the relationship between ghosts and humans in this world. Nor do I understand the mythology that Blake builds upon for her ghost-hunting culture. There are mentions of voodoo and witchcraft, yet I did not feel as though anything was explained substantially enough.    

While I did not love this book and there are certainly many aspects that could use improvement, I enjoyed reading Anna Dressed in Blood and definitely plan on reading its sequel, Girl of Nightmares, in the near future.
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April 27, 2013

Review: Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son by Richard Wright
Published: 2005, Harper Perennial Modern Classics (Originally 1940)
Genre: Adult Fiction
Source: Paperback gifted by boyfriend
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I am fairly certain that nothing I write can truly do justice to this raw and emotionally wrenching book, but I shall try. I received Native Son as a gift from my boyfriend. Since I've always been a much bigger reader than he, he wanted me to read something that he enjoyed so that we could discuss it. Now a few years later I've finally gotten around to actually reading it. Sorry for taking so long! Seriously. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read this powerful, moving book on the racial inequalities that continued to resonate in the first half of the twentieth century. 

Native Son tells the story of Bigger Thomas and how his discontent with his life precipitated a downward spiral into infamy. Twenty-year-old Bigger lives in a tiny apartment in an all-black suburb of Chicago with his mother, brother, and sister. His family barely manages to get by, so it falls upon Bigger as the oldest child and man of the household to take a job as the chauffeur for a powerful white family. Besides having no desire to work, Bigger struggles to make sense of his job. Although the Dalton family is well-meaning, taking on young African American men as help whenever possible, giving them a job, a place to stay, money, and education for a better future, this is not how Bigger or most African American men expect to be treated by white people. Mary Dalton and her Communist boyfriend Jan Erlone's gestures of friendship and advocacy contribute to Bigger's looming sense of unease. When tragedy strikes, unexpected and unconventional and horrible, Bigger reverts back to basic, more primal instincts. For from his view, it's him against the white people, and he will do whatever it takes to ensure his survival. 

Native Son has an incredibly dramatic opening that works well to foreshadow the rest of the novel's events. Bigger's family wakes up to finally see the rat that's been hiding in their apartment for the past few days. As the oldest son, it is Bigger who is responsible for getting rid of the rat, which he does by smashing it with a frying pan. Violence is the only method that Bigger can determine will free his family from the threat of the rat, and, as the story continues, readers see that violence has become a tragic necessity in Bigger's life. Instead of being able to trust others for help or use his words to express his feelings, again and again Bigger finds himself reverting to violent tactics. The novel is quite graphic in  many scenes, and those scenes work to show the influence that pure, physical violence has over Bigger's life. 

Bigger lashes out precisely because it's one of the few things he can do. He can either accept his impoverished and uneducated lifestyle - with no real chance to keep himself or those he loves from suffering - while the white people continue to live in naive bliss or he can disrupt the naive bliss of his oppressors. As much as the Daltons would like to believe that they're better than most white people in their relationship with blacks, that's simply not the case. The Daltons may give the occasional young black male the opportunity to better his life, but slightly altering a person's economic situation cannot amount to much when socially that person is still viewed as inferior. Although the Daltons and their like are unable to see it, there really is no middle ground for Bigger. Short of a drastic change of opinion, nothing can really stop the cycle of oppression. Wright illustrates this through the fallout related to Bigger's crime and subsequent chase. Innocent workers are being turned out on the streets simply because they happen to have the same skin color as Bigger.

It can be difficult for me to enjoy a novel without feeling any sort of connection or empathy with the protagonist. Bigger is not a likable character by any means. He's cruel, crude, petty, and abrasive. Although this in no way excuses his behavior, much of Bigger's actions are indicative of his strong feelings of oppression. Many times throughout the novel he implies and outright states that he feels forced into corners, and that the only way for him to gain some control over his life is to lash out. The novel is divided into three sections: Fear, Flight, and Fate, and those perfectly mirror the journey that Bigger undergoes, both mentally and physically. Native Son is ultimately not about Bigger, however. Not truly. It's about so much more. About race relations and the continued lack of inequality. About fear. About trying to establish meaning in a life where everything seems meaningless and futile. About despair. 

Even with such a difficult protagonist, Wright brings up important issues that need to be discussed. While I in no way disagree with the blame heaped upon Bigger during his hearing, his lawyer Max's speech is one of the most empowering speeches I have read. A person may be more than simply the sum of his parts, but that doesn't mean that those individual parts cease to exist; instead they contribute to a fuller, more complex human. For, after all, how much can we really distance a person from his upbringing and circumstances? 

I highly recommend that each person reads this book at least once. While not the easiest read in the world, it is an important one. As I cannot portray Bigger's plight and the (fictional) ramifications it held for an entire race of people nearly as eloquently as Richard Wright does, I thought it best to end my review with some of the novel's more powerful quotes. 

"Confidence could only come again now through action so violent that it would make him forget. These were the rhythms of his life: indifference and violence; periods of abstract brooding and periods of intense desire; moments of silence and moments of anger--like water ebbing and flowing from the tug of a far-away, invisible force. Being this way was a need of his as deep as eating. He was like a strange plant blooming in the day and wilting at night; but the sun that made it bloom and the cold darkness that made it wilt were never seen. It was his own sun and darkness, a private and personal sun and darkness."

"Had he raped her? Yes, he had raped her. Every time he felt as he had felt that night, he raped. But rape was not what one did to women. Rape was what one felt when one's back was against a wall and one had to strike out, whether one wanted to or not, to keep the pack from killing one. He committed rape every time he looked into a white face. He was a long, taut piece of rubber which a thousand white hands had stretched to the snapping point, and when he snapped it was rape. But it was rape when he cried out in hate deep in his heart as he felt the strain of living day by day. That, too, was rape."

"It was too stark, not redeemed, not made real with the reality that was the warm blood of life. He felt that there was something missing, some road which, if he had once found it, would have led him to a sure and quiet knowledge. But why think of that now? A chance for that was gone forever. He had  committed murder twice and had created a new world for himself."
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April 25, 2013

A Grandmother's Legacy

Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.
-Author Unknown

On April 15, 2013, the majority of the United States mourned the tragedy in Boston. My own family suffered a different, personal, and more acute sort of tragedy that day as we watched my maternal grandmother pass from this world to the next.

It’s been over a week since I said goodbye to her and I still feel a strange sense of loss and helplessness whenever I think back on the past few days. My questions linger, as does my hurt and pain. At times I marvel at humanity’s capacity to endure so many instances of suffering. How is it possible to move forward through grief? Do we even want to?

At the same time, however, how much sweeter, how much more meaningful everything becomes when we consider how transient life is. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had all four of my grandparents alive for the first twenty-four years of my life. As I developed from a young child to an adult, I’ve become able to see my grandmother not simply as a secondary mother figure or figure of authority, but as a person in her own right. I’m not sure every person can say the same, especially those who lost a grandparent at a young age.

When I think of my grandmother, what first comes to mind is her zest for life. How her blue eyes would sparkle with joy. How she always liked to keep her hands busy, whether it be in cooking, cleaning the dishes (always by hand), folding laundry, gardening, stroking the keyboard’s ivory keys. Her unerring kindness towards every person she met. While I still cannot believe that she’ll never be able to do any of these things again, I feel comforted in the knowledge that she did live life to the fullest.

My maternal grandparents came out to the Midwest to temporarily live with my family after their house in New Jersey was flooded from Hurricane Sandy. At the time, my family could never imagine being grateful for the massive storm and its ensuing destruction, but I suppose we are, in a way. After living no more than an hour and a half away from my grandparents for the first eighteen years of my life, I went to college in another state while the rest of my family moved to Wisconsin. I graduated college and moved in with my family. For the past six years, those once monthly visits have turned into twice yearly visits at most. In the advent of Sandy, my family and I have been able to spend every single day of the past six months with my grandparents. It’s been an experience I would not change for anything.

Everyone’s been telling me it gets easier with time, that the pain gets more muted, less desperate. Once the pain begins to leave and the rhythms of life stabilize, however, the question remains of how to adapt to this new reality. Life goes on, as it always will. People endure their own personal trials and tribulations, even as they’re unaware of mine. As for me, I hope to come to terms with my grandmother’s passing by being able to look at it not simply as the end of a life, but as the beginning of a new chapter in my life, a life guided by the same sense of dignity, compassion, and kindness that she possessed.

Over the years my grandmother has taught me so much. I hope someday to become a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend to a degree that would make her proud. And, through it all, to keep her memory strong. For it is the task of those of us who remain to
ensure that the memories and the love continue to be passed down.
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April 16, 2013

Rewind (Top Ten Books I Had to Buy, But Haven't Read Yet)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the bloggers of The Broke and the Bookish. This is a rewind week, so I decided to visit a topic from a few weeks ago that I never answered: the top ten books I had to buy, but, for some reason or another, haven't read yet. 

Before blogging, I used to be really good about this. I always had a few books on my shelf that I had not read, but that was it. I decided to limit my list to physical books, because my Kindle library is ridiculous and I have such a lack of willpower over $1.99 deals. I also didn't include books I've received as gifts, unless I specifically asked for them.

The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier  I've read the majority of Marillier's books now, and none compare to her original Sevenwaters trilogy (which I only just got myself recently). I read and own her The Light Isles duology, Wolfskin and Foxmask, and was a little underwhelmed. This is the first book in The Bridei Chronicles and I just haven't been as excited to start this yet. Maybe that will change soon.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo  I absolutely love the musical. I saw a production in Philadelphia back in high school, had many friends obsessed with this story/musical, and had all the songs basically memorized, so when I saw a used copy for sale, I knew that I had to own it. It's just so intimidating. I know I'll need a solid month at least to devote almost entirely to reading this book. Eventually it'll happen.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell  I bought this years ago promptly after being introduced by friends to her World War II novel, A Thread of Grace, and absolutely loving it (highly recommended, by the way). The Sparrow is a more futuristic story and has gotten quite a bit of praise, but for some reason I haven't been able to really get into this story. I've started it twice already, but, since I haven't been able to finish it yet, I'm counting it here.
Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott  This was the first book I bought when I started my blog. It was a really good price at my local used book store and was a "Cinderella" retelling. I really didn't need any more reasons than that, but I also knew that bloggers I follow loved it. And yet for some reason I still haven't managed to find the time to read it.
Rapunzel and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner  I just had to buy this to help me with my personal WIP writing. Have I even opened it yet? Of course not. I don't expect to read this all at once, but I do hope that I can start reading bits and pieces here and there (because then that means that I'll also be working on my WIP again!).
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman  Grimms fairy tales compiled and annotated by none other than Philip Pullman? This is a combination made of win, and I knew I had to have it. As with Heiner's work, I intend to read it in bits and pieces. I need to make myself get into a more scholarly mood. Hopefully that can happen soon.
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta  At least I have a good reason for not reading this! I read Finnikin of the Rock last January and really enjoyed it but was reluctant to read Froi of the Exiles since I really disliked the character Froi. But I've heard such good things since then and decided I just had to own this trilogy. I'm going to read Froi, but I want to wait until I also own Quintana of Charyn so I can do an epic Lumatere Chronicles reading.
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor  I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone so much that I had to buy my own copy of the first and the second, which had just released. I guess I bought in to the initial hype and wanted to own this book, yet I wanted to wait a little while before reading it and posting my own review, since I kept seeing reviews everywhere for it. It's been a few months now though, so I think it's about time to return to Karou and Akiva's story.

At least I have intentions to read most of these in the near future. Let's hope these intentions eventually turn into actions!

Please let me know what previous top ten list you focused on this week!
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April 14, 2013

Review: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Published: 2011, Sourcebooks
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Source: Personal ebook

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There was something about this remote western corner of Britain that captured the soul and refused to let go, something ancient and wild in the moors and black cliffs and the voice of the sea that spoke always of something unseen and enchanted.

The Rose Garden was an impulse buy for me, I'll admit it. I saw it available on my Kindle for a discounted price and, without knowing anything about the author and little more about the book than that it was a historical romance that featured time travel, I decided to buy it. I read it as a way to vary my reading choices and read something catered towards a more adult audience, but upon finishing it I was more than ready to start making a dent in the rather large pile of YA books I had to read. I suppose this describes my overall feelings towards the book: it kept me vaguely interested as I was reading it, but I found it ultimately didn't make much of an impact on me.

When Katrina, a famous Hollywood actress, dies a few months after contracting a debilitating sickness, her younger sister Eva is at a loss. It falls upon Eva, not upon Katrina's husband, to scatter Katrina's remnants wherever her sister felt most happy. Eva decides that this should be the town of Polgelly in Cornwall, where she and Katrina spent their childhood summers. While there, Eva stays at the Trelowarth house and becomes reacquainted with the Hallett family, Mark, Susan, and Claire.

While at Trelowarth, Eva tries to find a sense of purpose in her life. She's quit her PR job in California; she only moved there to be close to Katrina anyway, and with Katrina dead Eva has no remaining family left alive. Eva agrees to help with the publicity of Susan and Mark's latest venture: a tearoom and rose garden tourist attraction on Trelowarth's lands. It's something for her to do as she ponders the next steps in her life. While at Trelowarth, however, Eva keeps seeing images of paths that are not there, and people who do not exist. Soon enough she finds out that she possesses the ability to travel back and forth between the Polgelly of her present day and the Polgelly of the eighteenth century.

Perhaps you'd think that The Rose Garden is about Eva coming to terms with her sister's death and regaining a sense of direction in her life once more as she struggles with these new time-traveling abilities. That would make sense, based on the novel's set-up. Unfortunately, that's not truly what The Rose Garden is about. While Eva does start finding things worth living for once again, this newfound purpose comes in the form of Daniel Butler, a eighteenth-century man, rather than any true self-reflection on Eva's part. I went into the story expecting a romance, and somehow it managed to overwhelm and underwhelm me at the same time. In many ways, the romance took the place of Eva's personal development. It also, however, felt kind of bland. I never truly understood the draw that Eva and Daniel had to one another, and their actions did nothing to convince me of the legitimacy of their feelings. If the romance is supposed to be the central aspect of this novel, then I'd rather have seen Kearsely go all-out in her portrayal of it.

The time travel aspect of the plot had so much promise, but I also felt like that did not quite live up to its full potential. Why does Eva possess this ability? Why does she only travel to one specific time period? I still can't answer these questions after finishing the novel, but, then again, neither can Eva. It appears that Treloworth is what connects the past and the future, which is an interesting concept in and of itself. At one point Susan and Claire reveal that Treloworth is situated around ley lines, and that perhaps those give the estate a certain mystical power. I prefer having answers to questions about such a major aspect of the plot, but I am willing to pass that by and concede that perhaps Eva's time-traveling ability simply is. What I cannot ignore, however, is how time travel did not make sense in the context of the seventeenth-century Britain that Eva kept appearing in. Besides initial shock and confusion, past residents of Treloworth Fergal O'Cleary and Daniel Butler pretty much took Eva's random appearances in stride. And Eva later makes a point how neither of them really pry her about the future.

Through both Susan's attention to the tea house and Eva's time travels, The Rose Garden does have a big emphasis on the history of Cornwall, which I enjoyed. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres for a reason; I want to learn what life was like for people in other lands and during other time periods. Usually when reading a work of historical fiction, I tend to scour Wikipedia's archives for more information about the historical people and their time period. I haven't done that yet for eighteenth-century Cornwall, and I can't help but feel as though that's because I was not as invested in the historical time period presented here. There are interesting aspects presented, but for the most part Eva is in the dark, and I just could not muster the desire as the reader to distance myself from her cluelessness.

For all my criticisms, I did find some value within the pages of The Rose Garden. Although it literally took up until the last few pages of the novel for the reader to have even an inkling of understanding about Eva's time traveling, Eva does spent a large percentage of the novel examining the greater implications of time travel, as well as questions of morality and ethics. She is faced with the unique dilemma of knowing what the future holds for Daniel, Fergal, and supporters of the rebellion against Queen Anne's successor George I. Can she tell them what she knows? Or, the better question here, should she? I love it when a story makes me really think about broader conflicts, and The Rose Garden certainly fulfills that need.

The story also ends on a satisfying note. Not all answers are given, not everything is certain, but it was enough. I also love my happy endings. 

Overall, I found The Rose Garden to be a quiet and contemplative sort of book, full of beautiful prose and thought-provoking questions. Where I become slightly less satisfied with the story was in the execution of the time travel and historical aspects. Still, for someone not as picky as me on those aspects, I could see this story being a satisfactory few hours of historical fiction escapism.
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