Sunday, 20 July 2014

Blog Hiatus

This blog is going on a brief hiatus. THANK YOU so much to everyone who has read & commented on reviews. I'm currently on holiday (in beautiful Indonesia) and after that I've got a bunch of assignments due for a distance Masters in GIS that I stupidly signed myself up for and have been putting off all year. So I'll be MIA for while, at least over here. 

I'm planning to revive everything in a month or two over on Wordpress. Fortunately my wife is a web designer and has promised to make me something beautiful :D 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Book Review: The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

The Lost (The Lost #1) by Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: Fantasy/ Mythic Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin/Mira
Date Published: May 2014
Author Information: Goodreads | Website | Twitter
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads): It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing--and what she's running from--before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found...

Against the backdrop of this desolate and mystical town, Sarah Beth Durst writes an arresting, fantastical novel of one woman's impossible journey...and her quest to find her fate.

Why I read it: The blurb looked intriguing, and I loved the cover. Happily the novel was as good as I expected!

My thoughts:

I really liked this one.

It begins with somebody called Lauren driving out of town, doing her best to ignore her life. She doesn’t call in sick. She doesn’t let her mother know she’ll be home late. She just leaves. It’s a very quiet breakdown: a lone girl speeding in a car on the highway, shutting off the static on the radio because listening seems “self-consciously melodramatic.” Still, it’s dangerous to go on such escapades when there is magic realism afoot, as our heroine Lauren later ends up trapped in a little town called Lost – seemingly the home of all the abandoned and misplaced things in America.

Honestly? It’s a great start to a good novel.

Lost itself was brilliant. It’s described like one of those American hick towns you only see in the movies: just another town in the middle of nowhere, complete with dirty motel and run-down diner. However, Lost’s suburbs are made up of abandoned and foreclosed houses, and the streets are dangerous. They’re patrolled by feral dogs; littered with trash, odd socks, and broken glass. There’s no escape – beyond Lost, there’s only desert, and a soul-destroying dust storm. And yes, I mean that literally.

Lauren is understandably pissed when she works out what’s happening – she doesn’t want to be stranded in a settlement that shouldn’t even exist, not when her mother is sick at home. She’s made increasingly unhappy when the Missing Man, the only person with the power to return people to their lives, disappears. This forces her to team up with Claire the knife-wielding six year old (who is completely unrealistic but adorable all the same) and a guy named Peter, who I’ll talk about later. On the whole, though, I really liked Lauren. She made good choices in this book, and was generally very competent in a subdued, undramatic way that I found appealing. It’s mostly for her that I’m so excited about the sequel.

However, underpinning this book is a romance… and this had problems! Peter is described as arty rebel boy: a good-looking, tattooed fellow who favours the colour black and is exactly Lauren’s type. So far, so good. But a huge power imbalance quickly develops between the two of them. Lauren is a newcomer to Lost. She doesn’t know how to scavenge and survive on the fringes; she hasn’t the faintest clue about the lay of the land and the local inhabitants. Peter, however, has lived in Lost for years. He’s also MUCH older than her (and possibly not human?). Worse, he has some creeptastic tendencies - like sleeping in her wardrobe without permission, and regularly putting her down because “he likes her”. To be fair, both the narrative and Lauren call him out on some of this behaviour, but not consistently. (Although I admit I still enjoyed their budding romance despite this.)

A note on diversity: There’s a decent mix of genders here. All the main characters seem to be white, although one semi-important secondary character (Victoria the waitress) is described as having rich brown skin. There’s also no queer content: all relationships are heterosexual ones, and everyone appears cisgender. This strikes me as a wasted opportunity for a town of “lost” people, and I hope we’ll see a wider range of people in the sequel.

But those complaints aside, I really enjoyed this novel. It was well-written, and even made me cry at one stage! The overall worldbuilding and uses of magic were very metaphorical, but if you’re a fan of magical realism, I would definitely recommend this.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 
Thanks Netgalley & Harlequin!