Book: Corpse in the Mirror

"Corpse in the Mirror"

Remember Voices in the Theater, and how I didn’t like the book? Well… I read the second book. Why would I do that, you ask? Well, because I made the stupid mistake of buying the second book before I bought the first one. Like I did with the Twilight saga. So instead of letting the book go to waste, I decided to give A.S. Santos’s trilogy another try.

Samantha Davidson’s powers have been growing. Now, not only can she hear other people’s thoughts, but she can also sometimes see things through others’ eyes. They aren’t much—momentary glimpses, really—but these are dark things. Twisted things. Things she can’t bear to watch. But since she is the only one who can see them as they happen, she may be the only one who can prevent them from happening again.

Putting the book down, the first thing I thought was–this book is more cohesive than the first one was: from the way the story was structured, to the novel uses its characters, all the way to how it handles religion. That said, I still feel like it suffers the same crisis of faith as its predecessor.

But let’s start with the good things.

Although we don’t learn more about our main protagonist in Corpse in the Mirror, we do see a development in her relationships with the other characters–from her family, to the other members of the organization she’s with, and the guys she’s being paired with. One of the most noticeable differences in the two books is that Samantha is no longer left alone for stretches of time. She’s always interacting with someone, and that helps readers know more about who Samantha is without having to write paragraphs upon paragraphs of exposition.

There’s also less spotlight on characters who don’t actually do anything to propel the story forward. The first book had a few characters introduced who ended up not really contributing anything to propel the story forward, and it was really frustrating thinking about how we wasted pages on getting to know them, only for them to not really matter at all. This book has streamlined the characters to just the essential; and though we do get to meet new people, it never feels like they’re taking up valuable time away from the main players.

The romantic subplot and dilemma doesn’t feel forced. Although one of my biggest problems with the first book is carried over, in that our protagonist Samantha is inexplicably besotted with an angel, the conflict we actually get in this book doesn’t really stem from said angel. Author A.S. Santos actually offers two viable options for Samantha to agonize over, and you can understand why she can fall in love with either one.

And the best part about said subplot? It actually supports the main storyline of Samantha seeing a corpse in a mirror, and doesn’t take away from the actual problems that the protagonist is facing.

Corpse in the Mirror actually makes me want to read the book that follows it. Which I will. But before I do, I want to talk about my number one problem with A.S. Santos’s trilogy.

Religion.

I am not a religious person. And I love that Samantha is agnostic. It opens her character up to readers who aren’t of the Catholic persuasion. And I also love that Author Santos actually posits the problematic relationship of the paranormal with religion through our main character and several peripheral characters in the book. The problem is being addressed. But that doesn’t mean the problem is actually being resolved.

Because at the end of it all, we know we’re never really going to be able to separate faith, superstition, and the supernatural. Especially here in the Philippines. So I feel like being upfront about Samantha’s lack of religion is something the author can look into in future printings of the book. Lean into the fact that Samantha isn’t just dealing with the paranormal for the first time, in a foreign land. But that she’s also doing so with no religious affiliations, and that it’s one of the things the book tackles.

As it is, I think one of the reasons why I was able to appreciate Corpse in the Mirror more than the first book in A.S. Santos’s trilogy is because I am fully aware of the religious leanings of the story now.

Advertisements

Book: Voices in the Theater

"Voices in the Theater"

Ever since her grandmother died, Samantha Davidson has been carrying a secret: She can hear voices–other people’s thoughts, some from the living, some from the dead.

Plucked from her roots and transported to another country, estranged from her family and friends, Sam joins a pioneering club in her new school that investigates paranormal activities.

As they examine the mystery behind a haunted theater inside the university, Sam starts to hear voices from those that are no longer earthbound.

Will she heed their voices as they accuse her of a dark secret she has buried deep in the past? Or will she surrender to the light offered by newfound allies and a love that caught her by surprise?

Will the many voices drown out the one voice she has long suppressed? Will she listen?

If I’m to be objective, there is nothing wrong with A.S. Santos’s Voices in the Theater. The plot is good and well-paced, and although some decisions made by the characters make me want to tear my hair out, I understand their choices are organic and not pushed by the hand of the author. There is really nothing bad to be said about the book–

But I still didn’t like it.

Here’s the thing: Voices in the Theater is marketed to be a horror novel. From its back synopsis, to its book cover, to the first few chapters– The story is clearly set-up to be a horror novel that deals with ghosts and unresolved issues. And I was fully on board with that. What I didn’t like was the sudden turn for the religious.

I mean, I completely understand having religious characters. The setting is the Philippines, characters are bound to be non-practicing Christians at the very least. And you can’t really take out religion when you’re dealing with ghosts and the afterlife. They come hand in hand.

Still, the book presents the main character as religiously neutral. Our entry point into the supernatural is science-based. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t. And I felt like the story, and the writer, forced the main character into a religion by the end of the book.

The thing is: I would totally understand the religious deus ex machina had there been more visual cues from the way the book was published or presented. Going back to what happens in the story, there’s really nothing there that explicitly says the book wasn’t going to go the religious note. And aside from the first few chapters that established the back story of main character Samantha, the rest of the book does establish the necessity of faith.

But the turn to the religion still threw me off.

It could just be my fault for expecting something else. For wanting something else. It’s just… I’m not the book’s target market. And I wish I knew this fact before I bought the book. Or, at the very least, I wish I had a warning before I delved into the book expecting a horror story. That could have spelled the difference in how I received the novel after finishing it.

Book: The Cardturner

"The Cardturner"

The summer is looking bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to go out with his best friend, he has no money and no job. And then his parents insist that he drives Uncle Lester to his bridge tournaments four times a week.

Uncle Lester is old, blind, very sick…and very rich. Which is why his parents are desperate for Alton to worm his way into his good books. But they’re in competition with other distant relatives.

Not expecting much from the outings, Alton soon finds himself getting to know a lot about his uncle, his family’s history, and pretty Toni Castaneda, another contender for Uncle Lester’s inheritance.

It’s good, but… I don’t know. I was expecting more from the author of Holes, I guess. I really liked Holes. The Cardturner–not so much. I mean it’s good, but… What do you mean I already said that?

Here’s the deal: the story itself is interesting enough. Alton Richards, our main character, gets to know the eccentric uncle he’s had to pretend to like his whole life–and finds out that he might actually like the guy genuinely. And it’s all thanks to the card game bridge. Okay, so that part wasn’t as interesting.

The author tried really hard to make the card game more teen-friendly, but at the end of the day, it’s either you like the game or you don’t. Nothing anyone says will get you to change your mind. Not even Louis Sachar.

But what really made me give up on suspending my disbelief was when–spoiler alert–Alton started hearing his uncle’s voice in his head. Which really made me cringe. And I do mean in real life. Come on, imagine a grown man cringing while reading a book called The Cardturner. That was me.

Thing is; I can forgive the really unnecessary forays into the rules and game play of bridge. I can look at them as something educational even. But I really don’t know what came over the author for him to think that giving Alton voices in his head a good plot twist. To tell you honestly, it felt like a cheap ploy to get the plot moving again. Or, at the least, to give it an ending he wanted to give.

Of course, the author did try to plant it ahead of time, with talk about ideas and how it can exist beyond the body fo a person. Which I would’ve accepted. But it wasn’t. For all intents and purposes, our two characters (Alton and Toni) were just hearing voices in their head and, to an extent, possessed by their relatives.

And then we hear nothing more of it. Sort of. We get a wrap up of where the characters are, with no mention of any more voices in heads, and then the book cuts off to give way to an article about bridge.

Again, the book’s good, but it could’ve been so much better.

Of course, this could just be me. Other people might have loved the book way more than I did. So, why don’t we see what other people have written about the book?
Daisy Chain Book Reviews
Rhapsody in Books
Story Snoops