Saturday, 1 August 2015

Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

Publication Date: August 1st 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Length: 400 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark  for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
Annabelle Aster doesn’t bow to convention—not even that of space and time—which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.
Annie and Elsbeth’s search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery—and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and yet somehow already did.
So that blurb left me pretty eager to get stuck into this one, time travel, a feisty heroine and a murder mystery? I was definitely intrigued.
Which is why it was such a shame that the first half of the novel (for me) didn't live up to the promise of the blurb (it's an entirely different kettle of fish for the second half though). The pacing was a little off, there was too much extraneous detail, too many plot threads that weren’t going anywhere fast enough and were building up to several twists and reveals that were unfortunately obvious for me.

I kept putting the book down and having to really push myself to pick it back up again – my motivation was shot. There was so much attempting to be crammed into this 400 page novel. As soon as I started to become invested in one story line, we’d skip to another one (either a new one or a previously introduced one) and there was just so much happening without enough time given to develop it thoroughly.

But then at around the halfway point everything starts to pick up and I found myself becoming more invested in the story and enjoying it immensely. It was wonderful seeing all the characters converge and the threads start to make more sense as they tie together and provide a much more cohesive whole.

I began to care more about the characters and I loved seeing how the time paradox kicked in and watching events from the first half of the book play out again from different angles with different pieces of fore knowledge in the second.

The pacing also works much better in the second half – I found myself desperate to know how it would end, what would happen and breathlessly awaiting the final showdown as the baddies close in on our heroes. There were even a few gasp out loud moments of twists that I hadn’t seen coming which were very well played.

It was a strange mix of things, both good and bad, that luckily picked up so that I really enjoyed the second half and ended up thinking about the story several days after finishing the book. I've found myself feeling melancholy and wanting to go back and revisit the quiet of Annie's kitchen and the solitude that accompanies El's cabin and her back forty. Given that the story and I started on such a wrong foot it's surprising how much I ended up loving the second half. But I did, and it's one that I'm sure I'll come back to. Be warned though, the first half hides the brilliant story that emerges in the second, so if you find yourself growing tired and disenchanted, stick with it, Annie is a fascinating character that you'll grow to love and root for.


  1. Agh, I'm sad this book is a disappointment BECAUSE HELLO TO THAT COVER AND TITTLE. It sounds incredible and quirky...gah. I'm tempted, but. That beginning sounds like an entire jam jar of un-fun.

    1. The beginning is not the most fun jam jar I have encountered, but the second half definitely does a lot to rectify the situation. It's a bit of an odd one because based just on the first half I wouldn't recommend it, but the second half is surprisingly enchanting and I ended up loving it. If you do read it I can't wait to hear what you think!