Publisher: HyperionRelease Date: January 21st, 2014
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Publisher's Description: Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired…and who the world believes is dead.
When she arrives at the Sinclairs' enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her "too-good-to-be-true" position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.
The Vanishing is the type of book you read when you want to escape into another world and another time. Though it is set in the present, most times it certainly doesn't feel like it. It's gothic, it's creepy, and I think it's the perfect book for fans of Rebecca and Jane Eyre. There's a large crumbling mansion, ghosts, a swoonworthy love interest, a mystery to be solved, you name it, it's there. In many ways it is the quintessential gothic novel, and it was a joy to read. The characters were well-developed, the tone creepy and a bit scary, and I flipped through and finished this book quicker than most I read.
But it wasn't a perfect book for me, and I think the main issue I had was the writing style and that started from the get go. It felt forced and pretentious. As I read further, I began to get into the story and most of my troubles with the writing became desensitized as I got used to the prose. There was a point in the book where I felt completely hooked and into the story. I read most of this book overnight (I have pretty odd sleeping patterns), and I felt VERY isolated in the dead of the night when the rest of the world was asleep. It was the perfect book for that moment. Past the halfway point though, I began to have issues again. I'm not sure what it was, but the book seemed to lose me. I know I can pinpoint some of the problems I had on the protagonist. I just didn't think she had a whole lot of common sense. Some of her decisions felt ignorant to me and I don't think she made the right ones. I found myself thinking, OUT LOUD even, how I would have gone for help. I would have left. I would have done things differently.
Aside from that, I found the book got a bit repetitive towards the middle as well. I felt that characters were withholding information from Julia just to keep the plot from progressing more quickly. There is nothing that irritates me more than plot devices I can see coming from a mile away. And when the ending finally came, though it surprised me, I found it abrupt and rushed. If you are going to drag the rest of the book out for the sake of building tension, why rush the ending? It didn't make sense to me.
But here's the thing. I read it all and I liked most of it. I enjoyed the usage of giant dogs and I LOVEEED the atmosphere. I thought the author captured the feeling of a gothic novel through her words and setting brilliantly. I never thought I would have been able to find the Great Lakes creepy, but I did. I loved Amaris Sinclair, and I almost wish she had been the protagonist instead of Julia. I have a feeling she would have made smarter decisions. I don't think this book was a waste of time, by any means, and I really look forward to trying the author's other book, The Fate of Mercy Alban, because I think I might like it more.
I think if you are looking for a read to escape for a day, this is the perfect book for that. I can imagine someone reading it in front of a fire, cuddled under an afghan with a large dog at their feet, and a cup of cocoa in hand. If you are looking for the perfect book for THAT situation, this is the one.