Friday 5 April 2013

My first 'read to review'

Dead Letter Office (Parish Mail #1), by Kira Snyder
Published by Coliloquy

Dead Letter Office
When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.
The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.

With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues.

I'm very excited to have received my first 'read for review' book, through the 'Never Too Old for Y.A.' group on Goodreads. I should probably point you to my new review policy at this point. This is also the first 'Active Fiction' e-book I've read. It gives the reader an option of the direction they want the plot to take. The last time I read a book (let alone an e-book!) in any way similar to that was when I was about 10, reading an Enid Blyton Famous Five 'red herring' book. I was therefore really intrigued as to what to expect. Would there be red herrings? Would it make the book worse? Well, no and no, as it turns out. I'll get to that in a bit.

This is a brilliantly written story that centres around Celia, who has just lost her father and moved to New Orleans with her mum so she can get to know her father's side of the family. Celia soon has 3 friends (2 of which are potential love interests) and bounces well off the other characters. Snyder has included the obligatory 'popular crowd', but added unusual details to a few of the group's members that makes it interesting, and slightly more dangerous than your average 'death-by-gossip' group.

Starting from the beginning, this was one of those books I knew would capture my interest as soon as I read the first line:
" The dead man smiles at me."

The rest of this page draws me in further, and I went from there. An odd thing I liked (and noticed fairly early on) is that Celia doesn't ruin the first person narrative she's got going on by telling us what she looks like. It's good enough for me to know she's pretty enough to have a surfer dude boyfriend before she moves away, haha!

Coming back to the reader choices, I was a little startled when the first one came up, but that's just me not being used to it! I liked the sense of power I got from helping Celia make the 'right' choice. They were also placed really well within the story, at pivotal plot moments, so there wasn't too much or too little of them. There was only one (right at the end) that I thought was pointless, although having re-read the description on Goodreads, I now know that it's a vote the author wanted so as to establish reader preference on Celia's love interests. Lucky Cee!

I must admit, I did read all the alternative versions, so I can say that there are no 'red herrings'. Some choices lead you to the answer faster than others, and sometimes there'll be a quirky scene that comes with one choice, but is barely mentioned in the other. Without wanting to spoil anything, something key to the background knowledge of Donovan and Peyton's relationship is only mentioned in one of the choices. I haven't quite decided if this is a good thing yet - that little piece of knowledge was good to know, I thought!

Overall, Kira Snyder has built a great sense of anticipation between the main characters, and has set the foundation for future crime/mystery-solving. It was a brilliant book and I'll definitely be reading the next in the series.

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