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I am a retired school teacher, of 33 years, from Kansas. I enjoy writing, riding my bike, taking long walks, and spending time with my family. I am an avid photographer and photoshop user.
on Nov. 06, 2013 :
Of Stone & Mist is a perfect book to read in the Fall or around Halloween. It is a haunted house story filled with ghosts and an intriguing mystery of a missing girl.
Jessa is a photographer struggling to make ends meet until she meets the Eschers. They're a rich couple who are desperately searching for answers to their missing daughter Maria's case. The police have searched and nothing has been found these several years that Maria has been missing. The Escher's hire Jessa to take photos and investigate their daughters rich fiancé, Mitch. He's a politician with a perfect record and a charming personality, who lives in a huge Victorian house called Bristol House. As Jessa starts to sneak in and photograph the house, she suspects the house has many ghastly secrets. But as she develops a flirtation with Mitch she starts to fall for his charms...could he really have murdered Maria?
While I did find this novel to be a creepy and unexpected ghost story, I did have a few problems with it too. First of all, I felt like the pacing was a little off. The storyline kept dragging, which was weird because there were plenty of shock and awe moments littered throughout the novel. They just needed to be more evenly spaced. I also had a lot of frustration with the main character, Jessa. She takes a huge sum of money to investigate this guy and his house-- basically stalking him. I found it hard to believe that she seriously thought he was a murderer. If she did, how could she go on a date with him? Or continue to make him angry? Time after time she would have these creepy things happen to her at Bristol House where she would tell herself if she made it out alive she would never go back-- yet she kept going back.
Another big thing was I felt there were too many elements that made up the whole "mystery" behind the haunted house. We have a key, a door, a crazy relative, a family mystery, little shadow creatures, a Groundhog Day scenario, and a time loop. The shadow creatures, time loop, and Groundhog Day scenario are never explained. If it's never explained and chalked up to overall hauntedness-- it's unnecessary and makes the story confusing. I think there should have been a clear explanation for all of those things. Also, where did the key come from? Why in the first place is there a door in the house? We never learn those things and that bothered me. How it all wrapped up nicely in the end wasn't believable either. Vernon forgiven by his family? But why was he so evil to begin with?
There were a lot of good things about this story too though. As annoying as Jessa was, she's as also very feisty and courageous. She didn't lean in Mitch and was more courageous than he was! She didn't fawn after his money and failed to be impressed by it. These are all amazing qualities of a MC! I also really liked how I didn't know where the story was going. I continually was surprised and freaked out! It definitely was a creepy read. I liked also that it took place in my home state of Wisconsin. I don't read enough books that take place there and it was fun reading about Madison! :)
Overall I think this is a perfectly scary and atmospheric read for a cold fall day. For a debut author, I have high hopes for her future books and I think many of the kinks in this book are inevitable with a first novel. I'll definitely be reading more from this author, and I hope she decides to do more horror in the future!
(reviewed long after purchase)
on May 07, 2013 :
Great spooky read! Jessa is a spunky photographer that gets roped into the mysteries of Bristol House and Mitch. Great story. Great characters. Excellent writing! I could picture everything that was described. There's even deja vu moments that had me flipping back through the book to make sure I was in the correct place. Very clever, Donna Hawk! Thanks for the read!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on April 23, 2013 :
A wonderful mix of mystery and paranormal romance. I loved it from the first page and swallowed the whole book in one night. I couldn't wait to know how it finishes and at the same time didn't want it to end! Well written characters and scenery - reading it i've 'saw' each part of it happening! There is absolutely nothing I would change in the story!
(reviewed long after purchase)
on April 08, 2013 :
Wow, I really enjoyed this creepy story. (Although it also included in sweet love story as well). Loved the characters and the ideas within the plot. At times I felt like I was with Jessa in that creapy old house. Ms Hawk seemed to turn the tension levels up to 100 at some points and the end was just like watching a scary movie. Would definitely read more of her stories.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on March 24, 2013 :
Okay, do you remember being in junior high and learning about the use of imagery in literature? I think that my teacher used Shakespeare to explain every literary technique; thus, in the case of imagery, it was Romeo and Juliet. Stay with me here...a prepubescent girl, Catholic school, and the imagery of Romeo and Juliet; I can still remember the heavy sighs and distracting daydreams that accompanied those particular lessons.
What I'm getting at is this: I learned long ago just how strongly words can induce feelings, emotions, and images. However, not every author can pull out the kind of imagery that plays the story like a movie in your mind as you read, but Ms. Hawk absolutely does! The author's phenomenal use of imagery in Of Stone and Mist had me so caught up in the events of the story that I would catch myself giggling one minute, and curling into a tight ball while attempting to push my iPhone away from me with my big toe soon after.
Alright, I'll admit it, I am a scaredy-cat. I have never liked horror movies, and I slept clutching a crucifix for at least a year after reading about Anne Rice's Witches of Mayfair. However, with the few exceptions of toe-nudging, I couldn't put this book down!
So many things drew me into this story, the imagery is a big factor, but it wouldn't have worked without the strong MC, Jessa. I loved Jessa, she was written so realistically that I connected with her almost immediately. There were times when she would do something stupid and I wanted to pop her head like a grape, but what made her great is that she would acknowledge her poor decisions and learn from them. She has a great voice too, a little snarky, but loaded with courage and intelligence. I had connected with her so thoroughly that it was Jessa's anxiety or fear, more than anything, that would get me all antsy-pants during a particularly dark scene. Unlike the TSTL heroine, who makes crap decision after crap decision, Jessa uses genuine courage and ingenuity to act during some of the darker scenes.
I really enjoyed the development of the romance between Jessa and Mitch as well, they had a great connection. I particularly liked the moments when they were exploring the house together, their interactions and shared looks made me giggle!
Final thought...this was a great read, that draws you into the story and keeps you at the edge of your seat! You will love Jessa, but most of all, you will love her refreshingly honest reactions to the events of the story!!
(reviewed within a week of purchase)