I am super excited to have on the blog today, Marta Acosta author of the upcoming book Dark Companion. A myterious, gothic tale that will astound you! To celebrate the release of her book, I am hosting Marta here today to tell us about one of her favorite summer activities. Be sure to stay tune at the end of her post for my review of Dark Companion and an exciting giveaway! You don't want to miss it!
Here is Marta on Girl's Lunch:
When I was in high school, a friend and her mother lived in a lovely cottage among a stand of redwoods. Her mother collected antiques and I loved the femininity of the place – quite a contrast from my home with three large brothers tackling and slugging one another as amusement. I’d often retreat into my room with my books to escape the mayhem – and the female characters, like Jane Eyre, became my companions.
So naturally, my time with girlfriends is very special to me, and I really enjoy having girls’ only lunches in the summer. I set out the girly things that I like – flowers from my garden in pottery vases, vintage linens and glassware. I go to the Farmer’s Market and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I like to serve French rosé, because of the pretty color and because it reminds me of having lunch with my girlfriends at a sunny, white-washed restaurant in St. Germain.
We give each other little presents, relax, and catch up, and there’s always so much to share – and I’m happy to steal away a great phrase for later, such as when my best friend described a scandalous incident as “the icing on the sin cake.” I used that for a chapter title in one of my Casa Dracula books. We take out calendars and schedule when we’ll get together with the guys, but those occasions will be different...and definitely louder!
I tried to bring a little of that feeling, that wonderful female friendship, into Dark Companion, my new Young Adult Gothic, which is set at an exclusive all-girls school. Jane Williams knows how to excel academically and how to hide her rage at the world, but she’s severely emotionally damaged. Most people see the well-behaved girl she wants them to see, but a few others, including her irrepressible classmate, Mary Violet, realize there’s something beneath the surface. Mary Violet gives Jane the affection and love she so desperately needs to begin to heal from her tragic past.
Thanks, Heidi, for having me here at Rainy Day Ramblings!
And for the Giveaway...Marta is offering a hardback copy of her new novel Dark Companion to one lucky winner. This contest is open internationally. Fill out the Rafflecopter form to enter. See Contest Policies for details and good luck!
My review of Dark Companion by Marta Acosta
When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove. Something's not quite right about the school -- or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother.The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member. Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school...and be bound to Birch Grove forever?
Hardback 386 pages
Expected Publication: July 3rd 2012 by Tor/Macmillan
Four Stars: A mysterious, dark, compelling read full of surprises.
Jane is leaving the squalid neighborhood known as Hellsdale. She has spent the last few years living in Hell as she fights to survive the brutal streets, avoid prostitution, drugs, shootings and all the evils that plague those living in this run down neighborhood. The death of her best friend spurred her to apply herself and earn her way out of the poverty. Her studious habits and hard work have finally paid off. Jane is the lucky recipient of a full scholarship with room and board included at an elite all girl's school. For a girl like Jane who has known nothing but pain and suffering, it is a dream come true. She bids her friends goodbye and turns her back on the hellish foster home. Free at last! She is an emancipated minor on her way out of here. Once she arrives at the beautiful, old prep school, she soon begins to feel like something is a bit off. The town, school and people surrounding her seem like they are hiding something. Is the offer too good to be true? What exactly is going on at Birch Grove?
What I Liked:
- This book opens with a bang...a gripping scene with a young girl racing to hide trying to escape a faceless monster and then a reprieve and rescue by an unexpected source. I was astounded by the beginning of this book.
- I loved the way Ms. Acosta creates an atmosphere thick with suspense as she carefully takes her time notching up the tension, building and building to a big reveal. I love finding a book that relies on a mystery that is slow to unfold and heavy on the intrigue, and that is what I found with this book.
- I appreciated the time that the author takes to introduce the reader to Jane. She is a complex girl, one who has known a difficult life filled with pain, sorrow and little affection. She is fierce, determined, untrusting and emotionally frozen. After a lifetime of burdens, she finally seems to have a bit of good misfortune and the reader watches her tentatively taking those tiny steps into her new life, unwilling to open her heart and let anyone get too close, too soon. Not only does Ms. Acosta take her time sculpting and fleshing out Jane, she also creates a superb cast of secondary characters that were just as fascinating as Jane, from the tousled Jack, the tragic teacher, the lost Wilde, the bubbling, enthusiastic and totally lovable Mary Violet to the solemn and commanding presence of 2Slim and the prim and proper head mistress of Birch Grove. I was pleased to find an excellent set of characters in this book.
- I loved that this book kept me in the dark with its gothic setting and creepy atmosphere. On the surface everything appears to be in order, but the reader gets these little flashes and niggles that something is just a bit off. You have no idea what is going on for the longest time and then when you finally start uncovering the secrets, it is not what you expect.
- I appreciated that Ms. Acosta takes a supernatural entity and gives it yet another make over, providing a new and interesting take on well known lore and legend.
- I loved the mysterious trees, they are always in the background, waving and whispering in the wind, making the reader wonder if there is a paranormal aspect to the simple birch trees. I was fascinated and excited to run across a different and refreshing paranormal element in this book.
- I appreciated that this book has a nice, neat resolution. It appears to be a stand alone novel, but the author definitely leaves a few lingering story strands that could easily be gathered and spun into a new story.
- The writing is engaging and compelling!
And The Not So Much:
- As I mentioned earlier, I loved the way Ms. Acosta took her time to acquaint the reader with Jane, and I totally felt like I got her and knew what made her tick, until she gets tangled up with Lucky. Once she becomes enamored with this spoiled, pretty boy, she wavers. At this point, I lost a bit of respect for her as she meanders down a path that made me shake my head in disapproval. I was unhappy as this fierce girl let herself fall into a situation where she was being used and taken advantage of...It seemed to go against every fiber in her being, and yet, I understood why she acted like she did. In her desperate attempt to feel love and self worth, something she had only known when her friend, Hosea, was alive, she falls into the trap. As much as this disappointed me, I got it. Jane is quite the conundrum!
- Unfortunately, this book tries to introduce a love triangle but it never quite stands tall in a three angled shape. Instead, there are hints from the first meeting with one of the boys that he is totally into Jane with his antagonistic behavior, but Jane always brushes him off and doesn't take his advances seriously. She affixes her sights on the golden boy, who in turn does not see her as a romantic interest, he only wants her for is own twisted desires. So you end up with a triangle that never completely forms, which is a good thing.
- I wasn't satisfied with how quickly Jane flips her affections. Granted it was staring at her in the face the whole time, but her sudden change of heart felt a bit hurried to me. I think because she tends to make most of her decisions so carefully and methodically that this quick turnabout caught me a bit off guard. I would like to have seen her work through it a little more.
- I was a bit put off by the whole discussion on the Companions. Granted, it is a unique twist, but I just wasn't thrilled reading all the details. Less is more. This is a personal preference and I am sure it won't be an issue with most readers.
- I was so excited to find something new in the paranormal genre, but I was a bit disappointed in that the birch trees didn't end up playing a more prominent role. I was hoping that they would be a predominant feature, but alas they were just a tiny part of this engrossing tale.
Dark Companion is an interesting book that blends a gothic setting with some paranormal aspects that are unique and refreshing. This book takes its time laying out intricate story threads that will entangle the reader and pull them into the intricate web of story lines. This novel is one that will keep you on your toes and in the dark until the final pages. If you like a read thick with tension and suspense, pick this one up.
“On the night that I die, a storm rages, and the thin glass of the cheap windows shudder as if beaten by fists, and the wind howls like someone calling come away, come away.”
“I tugged away that memory as if I was tugging at a loose thread, little knowing that I was unraveling the entirety of my brief existence. Because who are we without our memories?”
“When our bodies decompose, it doesn’t matter if we were rich, poor, smart, stupid, good-looking, or ugly....None of that matters, because our chemical components are all the same. In death, we’re all equal.”
“He had a pleasant smile, but I could tell that it was like mine, something he was wearing to please others.”
“Are we afraid of what is outside lurking in the night, or do we dread the darkness of our own souls?”
“Art isn’t alive unless it’s seen and loved.”
“Money doesn’t solve loneliness, Jane. It makes it harder for me to figure out who my real friends are.”
“She smiled innocently, and my heart broke. She was like someone lost on the highway who keeps taking the wrong turns and getting farther and farther away from her destination.”
“I came to accept my past; I didn’t want to limit my experiences to the interior of a snow globe, no matter how pretty it was.”
“I wouldn’t forget where I came from, and I wouldn’t stop exploring unknown territories because others feared there might be dragons.”
I received an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Tor Teen Publishing.