Off the Shelf: A Review of Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

Let me start by saying that I picked this book as my selection for July’s Book of the Month box. When selecting one of five book selections, subscribers see a genre, brief descriptions about the book, and a synopsis. I typically always pick the thriller selection. However, I had already read July’s thriller (The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager), and upon reading through each book’s synopsis, found myself really drawn to Ghosted. It confused me that the genre said “Romance” while the synopsis sounded fairly more like a mystery, but I figured – why not? Even if it had a bit more romance than what I normally read, it may be a welcome change to try something different. While I’m sure there will be plenty of people raving over Ghosted, having finished the book, I find myself feeling rather ho-hum and like the romantic bits were the only parts that kept me away from a DNF.

 

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Summary (via Goodreads)

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

 

Things I Liked:

Like I said, the romantic bits did keep me reading. It may be because I just kept picturing Eddie as Colin Firth, and Colin Firth is charming enough to make anything better. I actually didn’t hate the insta-love for once, and Sarah and Eddie’s scenes together truly worked for me…the key word there though is “together”. Most of those are told through flashbacks. The way the story is broken up doesn’t really lend itself well to establishing the depth of the relationship in a timely enough fashion to make the reader care about why Sarah is this level of brokenhearted over being ghosted after one week.

The reveal of why Sarah was ghosted was an excellent twist, and it answered many of the questions that had been building. It kept me guessing, and even though I thought I had it figured out, I didn’t. It definitely goes deeper than what you may expect.

I enjoyed most elements of Walsh’s writing style. The characters were interesting, and she kept the story feeling like it straddled the line between romance and mystery. I read through it in just a few hours, mostly in one sitting, and I really found myself enjoying Walsh’s use of dialogue and tension. While this was touted as a debut book, it’s actually described on the jacket as Walsh’s “American debut”. She has several other titles under the pseudonym Lucy Robinson, and I would be fairly interested to try some reading one of those in the future.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I had a really tough time finding Sarah believable. While being “ghosted” after such an emotional connection with someone would surely be nerve-wracking and spur some kind of obsession, there are some moments when I felt like she was an over-the-top teenager rather than an adult woman nearing 40. Her antics are a bit too angsty for my taste, especially when she borders on being a real stalker.

The story is spliced with flashbacks, letters, and emails which go a long way in showing us that there’s something more going on than what we might think. However, the structure and pacing of how these unfold often distracts from the momentum of the main story. Many parts felt repetitive, unnecessary, or occasionally eyeroll-inducing.

While the original twist of why Sarah was ghosted worked well for me and was mostly unexpected, the twists that take place after that point in the story fell incredibly flat. I felt they were pretty obvious choices to tie the story together, and the two I’m thinking of in particular were entirely predictable. I think I wanted the ending to be a bit darker rather than being packaged up so nice and neat, but I have to remind myself that this was meant to be a romance.

 

Overall Rating:

3/5. It was a very quick read and parts of it were fabulously written, but overall I found myself pushing to get through it. Didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it. Like I said before, I’m sure there will be plenty of people that love this book, so if you’re looking for a romantic story with a slow burn, give this one a try.

Add Ghosted by Rosie Walsh to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads

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Off the Shelf: A Review of By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Although my reading list has stayed consistently full, Among the Authors has been on a bit of a hiatus while I finish up with grad school (the end is in sight! Come on, May!). However, an enticing email from Entangled Teen recently popped up in my inbox and promised a dark carnival story full of mystery and mayhem. Even with a growing to-do list (major life update since my last post: I’m engaged and getting married this year!), I couldn’t resist the call of the carnival. You all know how much I loved Caraval, and while I went into this thinking that By a Charm and a Curse would be similar, I found it to be nothing like Caraval, yet still a uniquely fun read.

I received an eARC from Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review.

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Summary (via Goodreads)

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

 

Things I Liked:

By a Charm and a Curse is a very, VERY quick read. I picked it up and didn’t sit it back down until I was finished, only a couple of hours later. The 300 pages seemed more like half that. It’s a great book for an after-work-wind-down, when you really need something light and easy to escape the stress of the day. What better way to do that than by visiting a mysterious carnival?

The setting is a major strength to this book. It is well-written, and even though the closest thing I had to a carnival growing up was the county fair, I could clearly imagine this whimsical, enchanting circus. Speaking of circus, you might see this book compared to The Night Circus as well as Carnaval, but let me reiterate that all of these books have very different stories. They merely share a similar setting. The setting is vibrant and makes an interesting playing field for a diverse cast of performers.

Telling the story in dual points of view between the two main characters, Emma and Benjamin, was a wise choice on the part of the author. Emma was an interesting enough character, and I thought her struggles with the marionette-like transformation were uniquely creepy. Between the two of them though, I found myself looking forward to the chapters told from Benjamin’s perspective because I feel like he had a bit more depth. However, Sidney, the former Boy in the Box, easily stole the show for me. He was fun, engaging, and I wanted so much more from his character. Had the book been a little bit longer, that might have been possible.

 
Things I Didn’t Like:

There’s not much that’s surprising about By a Charm and a Curse. I think you’re meant to be shocked by the true nature of the curse, but most readers will see it coming from very early in the story. I actually was surprised by a dark and deadly moment towards the end, but unfortunately, I feel that it was unnecessary and didn’t really do anything to further the plot. While the story can get predictable, there are other parts that get rather confusing, like how certain characters don’t react to things the way people normally would or they don’t ask questions that should have been obvious.


To be completely honest, after the first few pages, I was a little concerned that this was not the book that I expected it to be and that I was going to completely dislike Emma. She complains a lot about having to stay with her dad and brothers while her mother is out of the country. She’s stuck in this place that is just soooo awful and the only thing her one friend in town wants to talk about is setting her up with boys. Then, she meets a complete stranger who, after only a few moments, Emma believes completely gets her, and all she wants to do is hold hands with him and maybe kiss him (her first kiss! *gag*). It’s all a little bit eyeroll-inducing. But stick with it! I promise the story does get better from here, although even the real romance portion of the book does feel pretty rushed and without any real conflict (other than an overprotective mother).

 
Overall Rating:

I’d give By a Charm and a Curse a solid three stars. This book is a fun escape, and one that can be easily read in one afternoon or evening. The premise is intriguing and the setting full of whimsy. The cast of characters, while sometimes lacking in depth, are memorable and add to the mystery of the carnival itself. Although it will leave you wishing it was a little longer, it’s a fairly impressive debut for Jaime Questell, and it makes me look forward to the possibilities of what she may write in the future.