Thalia @ Pictures in the Words

I'm Thalia! I run a book blog called Pictures in the Words and I hope to be an editor for YA fiction. I'm a GoodReads refugee!



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Ashes on the Waves (Review)

Ashes on the Waves - Mary Lindsey

(that pesky formatting!)


You’re reading this now and I have some number of stars up there that represents how I felt about this book, but at this moment, as I’m typing, I have no idea in heck how many stars or going to be up there, or even how I felt about this book as a whole. I’ve been left so confused as to how I feel and how to interpret this book and what happened in the last hundred pages and everything that I honestly have no idea what I’m about to say in this review. But I’ve also sat thinking about it long enough that I know the only thing that will actually help me sort out those feelings is just writing the review and worrying about that pesky little rating later.


The problem with this book is that it’s based on “Annabel Lee”, my favorite poem of all time by my favorite poet of all time, and the poem was based on the real life story that kind of breaks my heart into little pieces when I think about it, and I had huge expectations–and this didn’t deliver on any of those. It took almost three hundred pages for the poem itself to actually fit in with the story, and there was a whole paranormal level that was completely unnecessary. However, by the time we got to that point, I actually started to care about what was happening–though I’m not sure if it was the story itself or just wishful thinking on my end. I can’t forget about all the things I hated in the beginning just because I was getting into it by the end, but I also can’t forget about how I felt at the end, because the whole point of writing reviews is to talk about how I felt. And sometimes you have to screw the voice in your head saying it’s illogical to like something, because you just do. And none of this makes sense yet, but I’m really hoping it does by the time we get to the end of this.


For non-spoiler readers…I’m sorry about that terrible description of how I felt. This book had huge pros and cons, and I guess my only recommendation is to read it if you really want to, but if you’re not interested, then that’s okay because you’re probably not missing much.


What I Liked: Spoilers!

  • The      relationship between our main character, Liam, and the Annabel incarnate,      Anna, actually grew on me by the end of the book. I was squealing and “aww”ing      and fangirling during the whole bonding ceremony thing, even though I was      keenly aware of the fact that a hundred pages before, I couldn’t stand      either of them. I eventually fell into the romance of their relationship,      even if there really wasn’t a logical reason to want them to be together,      and I felt…comfortable, I suppose, with them. I do think the bonding      ceremony, however, dramatic, was actually really cute and made me like both      of them a whole lot more–at least the book didn’t kill the romantic in me!


  • The      biggest thing here is that I really admire Lindsey’s dedication. It’s so      obvious that she spent so much      time researching for this book, trying to take Annabel Lee and stick it in      the modern day in a way that made sense, and finding quotes that fit each      chapter, all from Poe, and tying in little things from Poe’s life that      made it even more obvious how much this book must have meant to her.      However harsh it sounds, I don’t usually care about the author’s      intentions when I’m reading a book, because that should come across in the      writing. And the passion of the writer does      come across here, incredibly well. As a reader who adores Edgar Allan Poe,      I really appreciated that, even if the story wasn’t executed in a way I      thought would have been ideal. I have to admire that determination and      dedication and passion, even if I wasn’t a fan of the whole story. I was      really impressed by the author, even mimicking Poe’s style in Liam’s      words, and that part was just…honestly, magnificent. I enjoyed that more      than perhaps anything else in the story.


What I Didn’t Like:

  • For      most of the book, I didn’t like Anna or      Liam. Liam came across as an obsessed/stalker-ish character, who followed      Anna’s every move because he spent a week with her once when they were      twelve. He gets news and magazines and tabloids and pictures and everything      in from people on the mainland, and he knows everything he can possibly      know about her from what’s written in magazines. The way he talks about      her in the beginning, when they barely know each other, borders on kind of      disturbing. I mentioned to a friend that only Poe himself can get away      with creepy being kind of romantic, and it didn’t translate well, even in      a character that was supposed to represent him. Meanwhile, Anna…she didn’t      fit my interpretation of Annabel at      all. I mentioned in a reading update on BookLikes that I have a very      acute idea of how Edgar and Virginia’s relationship was, and even if I’m      totally wrong in reality, I love what I do think and the cute little      romantic version of them in my head is what drives my passion for this      poem in the first place. Annabel always seemed like a sweet, thoughtful      sort of girl to me, and while I admittedly don’t know much about Virginia      Poe herself, I do imagine that’s what she was like. Never in my wildest      dreams would I imagine someone who could feel something so incredibly romantic and…sweet would feel it for a girl who is driven by reaction,      doesn’t seem to care about anything in life, and is more of a lust-driven      maniac than anything else. The image in my head didn’t match to what I was      seeing on the page, and that was a huge disappointment for me, even though      I can’t exactly blame Lindsey for not getting my interpretation right in her      book. But oh well. I didn’t find anything likable about either of them      until well over halfway through the book, and that was sorely      disappointing to me. (Not to mention the fact that their relationship      seemed to be entirely physical, except on Liam’s end [sometimes], for the      entire book.)


  • The      poem itself, “Annabel Lee”, didn’t seem to make an appearance in the plot until      about three hundred pages in, when Anna gets sick. I understood the      references to the demons and angels in the poem were manifested in the Na      Fir Ghorm and Bean Sidhes. Everything else seemed…well, unrelated. And the      part that was about the poem      came and went so quickly that you could blink and totally miss it      entirely. I was just…frustrated, I suppose, since I read this book because it was based on a poem I      loved, and the poem itself seemed to make very little impression on the      story, basic plot aside. (And by that, I mean two lovers in a “kingdom by      the sea”.)


  • I’m      not sure where else to put this–I thought about including it in my earlier      dedication paragraph, but since I’m not sure whether I liked it or      disliked it, it fit more in this section, I guess. But really, when I say      Lindsey was dedicated to representing Poe, I really mean it. There’s this whole subplot that focuses on      Liam’s mother, and Anna’s lost uncle (or great uncle? There were some      relationship inconsistencies in here) and Brigid Ronan (the housekeeper)      and stuff. Somewhere along the way, I got this weird feeling in the pit of      my stomach that since Liam didn’t know his biological mother or father,      and Anna’s uncle had gone missing, and Brigid Ronan didn’t like Liam and      also seemed to be in love with Anna’s uncle, and everything, that Liam’s      father must have been Anna’s uncle. And I kind of spent the whole last      half of this book with that little ball of worry in my stomach, because      while it might be hypocritical of me to celebrate Edgar and Virginia’s      love when they were cousins themselves and find it weird here, in this      retelling…that’s exactly what happened for me. Such a plot would have      added a whole new level to the story, more complication to their      relationship (because nobody      will find that cute in the modern day–marrying your cousin is definitely      out of the question). I was actually kind of excited, even though it      grossed me out quite a bit. (I’m a glutton for punishment in that regard.)      I waited for it the whole rest of the book, and read far into the night      just to find out if I was right. Anna gets sick sometime later in the book,      and Liam goes to the library. I don’t remember how it happened, but he had      an epiphany, like me, that his father was Anna’s uncle–but he didn’t quite      remember that the guy was Anna’s uncle. He was just, “Oh, so-and-so must      have been my father–maybe I should tell Anna what I found out,” but the      plot just moves forward and…nobody ever talks about it again. (?!?!) I’d want to know if the guy I’d      bound my soul to for eternity was my cousin!      But…I guess nobody cared? Liam didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, but      I’m not sure if Lindsey was actually nodding to Edgar and Virginia in real      life, or just forgot that the guy was Anna’s uncle or what…because I would      have thought someone would have pointed out how messed up that was. But      they didn’t. And Anna died not knowing that she was in love with her      cousin. And this is exactly why I’m really confused about how I feel about      this book. I’m disturbed by this, and kind of impressed by it at the same      time, but mostly disturbed because it wasn’t actually part of the plot.      Just a casual, “Oh yes, Anna and Liam are cousins, END OF BOOK” sort of      deal. Which was…weird. And explaining it all made me even more confused      about how I felt at the end. So…I guess take all that as you will, and if      it makes you want to read it, great, and if it turns you off of reading      it, well, that’s understandable, too. Incest isn’t generally smiled upon      in the real world… (And honestly, wouldn’t you want to know if you      maybe-had-sex with your cousin!? Why      didn’t anyone think this was important?!)


  • This      is my last point, I swear. I just felt like the whole thing with the Nar      Fir Ghorm and Selkies and the Bean Sidhes and everything was just…overpowering.      I didn’t feel like the paranormal aspect of this book fit in with anything      at all. To me, it would have made more sense just to tell a story about      two lovers, and she fell into sickness and died, or something, and while      that was all part of the book, it just got…really confusing. The      paranormal creatures just added a layer that the story didn’t need, and      complicated it. There were so many subplots running around that it was      hard to keep track of which one was the real plot, in a way. The same goes for Liam (and everyone      else) thinking there was a demon inside of him because of his dead arm. He      got over his own discrimination towards himself pretty quickly when Anna      said it didn’t matter and she didn’t believe it. And it wasn’t a plot      point after that. Just…the whole thing was overpowering, and I think the      story would have been better had it been simpler. I didn’t like the      paranormal sprinkles.


Overall: Well, we’re at the end of the review, and I’m still not sure how I feel–not entirely. I really did get caught up in the emotion by the end of the book, but it also had so many technical problems that I really can’t overlook. I guess all I can say to that is that this was an okay book–not really anything one way or the other (or, I guess you could also say it that was everything in both ways, because liking it and hating it just don’t coexist very well). It had pros and cons, and this is really a case where the reader just needs to judge for themselves if they want to read it. I can’t even give a recommendation. Read the synopsis, read some reviews, decide for yourself. I’d probably say this is okay for ages fourteen and up–there were some make out scenes, but they all faded out (somewhat strangely) before anything happens.


Maybe someday I’ll know how I actually felt about this book. But I don’t think that day is anywhere in the near-ish future. Maybe when I’m thirty-five, it’ll hit me, and I’ll come back and added a little “PS” to this review to let you all know.