Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Guest Review of Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Who am I?
My name is Rea. I’m a 23-year-student and blogger and a British expat from the Netherlands. I joined the blogging community at the start of the summer. My blog is Rea’s Reading and Reviews I review most of what I read on there and I read a bit of everything depending on my mood at any one time.

Tara and I are part of a Goodreads group called Basically Books! (yes, it was named after this blog!) Our group has been holding an autumn reading challenge where each participant has to read books from their friends’ favourites shelf. My pick from Tara’s shelf was Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey. So when Tara told me that she was looking for guest posters, it was obvious to me that this would be the perfect choice for my guest review.

The book is one that I had been aware of prior to the challenge. In fact, I’d bought it mere days before the challenge started so when I found out that Tara had read and enjoyed it, I knew I would pick this book from her shelves, even though our reading tastes are sometimes very different. I seem to be going through a reading phase where I gobble up books about ghosts so I found myself rather excited about the prospect of reading this book!

What’s it about?
Violet’s mother is a medium in London in the late 19th century. She goes to great lengths to put on the best paranormal show money can buy and Violet has been helping her in these schemes to trick the rich out of their money for years now.

When Lord Jasper invites Violet’s mother and her little entourage to put on a big show for the toast of high society, Violet, her mother, their maid (a former prostitute), and Colin (a jack of all trades who Violet’s mother rescued from the streets some years previously) head out of the city and into the country to the large manor house where this séance will be held. As always, her mother captures the interest of those present with the little tricks to ensure a show to any and all present, including the young man she’s hoping will ask for Violet’s hand, but Violet has bigger problems than their lies. It would seem that she really does have a gift and one ghost in particular is adamant that Violet will help her… or she’ll make her life difficult until she does.

Who is it aimed at?
Young adults. Violet is 16, Colin is 18. It is clean.

What did I think about it?
This book provided an interesting look into séances in that period. They were really quite popular at the time and provided the rich with something interesting and different to distract them. Actually, I’ve read a few books recently that have included séances in this period and it’s interesting to read about what lengths the mediums were willing to go to in order to get the desired effects. A large amount of research must have gone into being able to recreate (if only in a literary sense) these Victorian secrets.

I quite liked Violet herself. As an illegitimate daughter, she can never aspire to the heights of upper class society, and she knows this. She’s pretty much the antithesis of her mother who is conniving, wrapped up in her lie of a life, and always wants to be the centre of attention. Violet is humble and does not like this life they’re living, often feeling remorse for the tricks she has to play, but she understands that they do need to do this in order to stay out of the mills.

The ghosts were interesting, though most of them were ignored because Violet didn’t want to let them in. The provenance of Violet’s abilities is unfortunately completely ignored; they’re just suddenly there, but the descriptions of Rowena make up for it. I adored these. Despite this, as the reader I would still have liked to have come to understand how and why Violet has the third eye.

There were multiple scenes and subplots in the story that didn’t really seem to have any impact on the story as a whole. I think they were there to bulk it up but every scene should add to a final picture. One such scene was when Elizabeth, Violet’s friend and the daughter of a member of the ton, is introduced. That scene just seems to exist and doesn’t add to the story at all. The same thing can be observed with the whole subplot that has Elizabeth drooling over Frederick. Nothing ever comes of this – this is no resolution one way or the other, it just exists and then the book’s finished. Again, it can be seen in the passages when Violet meets her dad. It never evolves past her actually meeting her dad, there is no point to this subplot and had it not been included, the story would not have suffered for it. I have to admit that this tendency bothered me when I was reading.

Words cannot express how relieved I am that Harvey did not try to introduce a love triangle. The courtship with Xavier felt real in how awkward Violet was but how she knew she could not afford to say no to such a potential rise in her status in society. At the same time, the budding romance with Colin was not quite so satisfying. It was cute, yes, but in the scenes prior to Colin kissing Violet, Violet never thinks of him as anything other than the boy she grew up with, but then she’s suddenly thinking about him as the boy she’d rather be with. I would rather have been offered a glimpse into how the feelings evolved, or her surprise at him kissing her and then a re-evaluation of her own feelings for him. That didn’t happen. The chapter just ended and then after that it was accepted as given that she liked him now. Again, this bothered me.

Despite this, the story itself was a fun, quick read and managed to both capture and hold my interest. It frustrated me that so many plot points were never addressed properly when this book appears to be a standalone, but it ended on a note where the main plot was neatly tied up.


I would just like to say.. Thank you to my first ever Guest Blogger :) Rea :D 



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