Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review: Ashes to Ashes

ASHES TO ASHES
Ashes #1
Paranormal Young Adult
Melissa Walker
356 pages
Katherine Tegen Books
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When Callie's life is cut short by a tragic accident, she expects to find nothingness, or maybe some version of heaven.

Instead, her spirit travels to the Prism, an ethereal plane populated by the ghosts she thought were fictional. Here she meets a striking and mysterious ghost named Thatcher, who is meant to guide her as she learns to haunt and bring peace to the loved ones she left behind.

However, Callie uncovers a dark secret about the spirit world: The angry souls who always populate ghost stories are real, dangerous, and willing to do whatever it takes to stay on Earth, threatening the existence of everyone she ever cared about.

As she fights to save them, Callie will learn that while it may no longer beat, her heart can still love-and break.


MY THOUGHTS
Ghost stories can be tricky beasts, particularly ones with a romance mixed in, often testing the boundaries of believability even with the generous dollop of disbelief we already suspend when cracking the spine of a paranormal tale taken into consideration. Ashes to Ashes gives us the most believable version of a ghostly romance though, one wherein both parties are on the same plane of existence rather than struggling to bridge the life and death gap to find lasting happiness. While the romance does play a role, it's a fairly minor component overall, and we instead get to take a closer look as the word haunting is given new meaning thanks to Callie's guide Thatcher. No longer is haunting a word that inspires fear, causing goosebumps to scatter across our skin at the thought of an unseen presence watching our every move; rather we come to see it as a word synonymous with comfort, Callie's haunting of those she left behind a way for her to fill them with the peace and acceptance of her passing.

Though the setup of Ashes to Ashes is a deeply fascinating one and the pages turn quickly and easily as Callie struggles to let go of a life unfinished, Callie herself can be extraordinarily problematic at times. At first, her disorientation and her desire to let her friends and family know that she's not entirely gone is completely understandable, as is her bristling at Thatcher's attempts to tell her how her new world works, but as the story progresses and Callie continues to buck Thatcher's authority at every turn, we find ourselves losing our sympathy for her plight. Despite all signs pointing to the fact that Thatcher is both knowledgeable and not without compassion for her situation, she always allows herself to be persuaded otherwise by those who give her a bad feeling, one she readily ignores again and again.

For most of the book, she wallows in a selfishness masquerading as the selfless desire to help those she loves, staunchly refusing to see just how much pain her way of going about haunting her friends and family causes them and convincing herself that Thatcher's way of bringing them solace is something it clearly isn't. Callie continues to hurt Thatcher with each blatant disregard of his teachings, and given his stoicism and quiet suffering profoundly affect us whenever he's on page, we can't help but work up a little resentment of her misguided attempts to contact her best friend and boyfriend. Though it takes a while, Callie does come to see the error of her ways before crossing a line she'd never be able to uncross, and in the final few chapters she makes great strides toward repairing the damage she's caused to her character in our eyes.

Overall, Ashes to Ashes is a story that flows well and inspires a myriad of reactions as we read, and while one of those reactions is undoubtedly frustration, this book is still easily devoured in a short amount of time. The ending is wrapped up – while perhaps not neatly as there are still some questions floating around seeking answers – definitely satisfactorily, though we can't help but hope there's more to come with Callie's story now that she's seen the proverbial light and has a new appreciation for the people who matter to her.


Rating: 3.5/5

*Update: When I wrote this review, I wasn't sure whether or not this story was going to have a sequel, but it turns out it will, so I imagine some of those lingering questions will be answered in book two:)
  
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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

27 comments:

  1. I really love ghost stories and it seems like I saw a so-so review for this one before but I'm thinking that it's one I'll have to try to find out for myself. Especially if it's a series...

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    1. I think it's a duology...that's what it sounds like from the Goodreads description anyway. I liked Callie toward the end, so I would read book two just to see what happens, but she was a challenge for a good part of the book for me.

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  2. I've been dying to read this one, so I'm glad you were able to read and review it, Jenny! I watched Epic Reads' video on this book when Melissa talked about her book and I was really intrigued on her take on ghosts in ASHES TO ASHES. Jenny, I love the way you describe the word 'haunting' in your review! I'm looking forward to reading about this different perspective. However, I'm not sure Callie is a character I would like. I'm glad that she is a dynamic character by the end of the story though. Thank goodness for that sequel, because I hate loose ends! Gorgeous review as always, Jenny! :)

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    1. Callie was tricky for sure Jen, I just got so irritated at her when she continuously did the opposite of what Thatcher suggested when he gave her absolutely no reason to doubt his intentions. The first couple times I was okay with it because who wouldn't be disoriented after learning they're dead, but after those first couple times I couldn't rationalize her behavior anymore.

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  3. I do not think I have come across this one before...hm, no

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    1. Glad I could bring it to your attention!

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  4. Nothing wrong with a little frustration because a book's too short (in the reader's mind, anyway)! Ghost stories can definitely be tricky but it sounds like Walker got this one right.

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    1. I really liked the ghost aspect of this one Mary, and the setup for the romance seemed like one that would work well, but I did struggle with Callie at times. Still, given the ending, I'm curious to see where things go!

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  5. Ooh nice review! I am trying to hunt this one down myself, but apparently the bookstores don't have it on its release day. That or its buried in back and no one feels like getting it with the holiday approaching! Hoping to get it soon as I love a good "ghost" story! Glad to hear that it was a pretty good read!

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    1. Well that's a shame! Hopefully it's in stock after the holiday and you can grab a copy:)

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  6. I am still on the fence with this one, I struggled with the last few YA paranormal that I read. I like that it flowed well and wrapped up nicely.

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    1. Even though the ending left some things open, I still would have been satisfied if there wasn't going to be a sequel. I'm really glad there is though, because I am curious to see how a few things work out.

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  7. I don't do ghosts and faeries. I just can't. Faeries are just a mystery to me, but my ghost issues are a lot of what you touched on Jenny. I just cannot suspend my sense of realism that much. And romance? Where is that romance gonna go? Unless the dead are being resurrected, they're just going to float off into the afterlife and ... exist?

    Oddly enough I have been sent multiple copies of this, but I just don't think I can do it. Especially if the main character is a brat.

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    1. I thought the romance in this one was the most believable type a ghost romance could be, so I did like it, but Callie was a challenge at times for sure:)

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  8. I don't normally like to read ghost stories as you can tell and I've seen a couple of negative reviews for this book, so I don't think I'm actually interested one bit in reading it, especially after your detailed character portrait of Callie. I understand that she was going through a tough time, but I think her poor decision making skills and her selfish behavior would bother me too much, Jenny. Thanks for the honest review. :)

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    1. She was a hard character to root for Nick! I was all in favor of her in the beginning because it would be pretty horrible to die as she does and wind up all alone in some unfamiliar place only to have some guy show up and tell you that you have to haunt your family to help them move on, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt when she did the opposite of what Thatcher said. The problems came when she continued to do so despite knowing she was hurting him by not listening. Grrr.

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  9. This one sounds like a pretty good series starter. I am partial to ghost stories! Love the cover too! :)

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    1. The cover is gorgeous isn't it? Love it:) This one ended better than it started for me, so I'm curious about the sequel!

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  10. YEAH! Some of your lingering questions will be answered :) I love when I find out that there will be sequels :)

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    1. RIGHT?! I'm looking forward to book two since Callie seemed like she was making some serious progress in the growth department by the end. Hopefully she keeps that up and doesn't revert back... :)

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  11. I am a sucker for a good ghost story and well. Glad that there will be a sequel so hopefully those pesky questions you still have will be answered in the next installment.

    Great review Jenny, have a wonderful Christmas!

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  12. Callie sounds very frustrating, but I like the sound of Thatcher. I also really liked the fact that both Thatcher and Callie are ghosts. As you said, "Ashes to Ashes gives us the most believable version of a ghostly romance though, one wherein both parties are on the same plane of existence rather than struggling to bridge the life and death gap to find lasting happiness." It's a huge reason why I generally avoid stories where there's a romance with a ghost.

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  13. I'm not sure I'd enjoy this book since the heroine is so frustrating, but I'm glad to see it's such an original plot line and truly does contain growth. I'm curious about any potential sequels...maybe if they wind up being better I'll have to give this a shot after all. Great review, Jenny! :)

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  14. Well, I'm glad it does end up satisfying. Any more that is what I first seek in a book. I hate cliffies so much. Lingering questions in a series I can deal. :) I'm glad that the character shows growth too. I don't think I would like it otherwise.

    Have a Happy Holiday!

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  15. I'm so happy to hear that it will have a sequel. That ending nearly killed me! YAY!

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  16. This looks like a great read. I've been avoiding ghost stories for a while now, the last time I read one it left me depressed and miserable for days...

    I'll add it to my to read list but I'm hoping it won't leave me with the same feelings! *fingers crossed*

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  17. I can't read any more ghost stories where one person is alive and one is dead, because they either end sadly, or completely unrealistically with the dead person rising again. I'm glad at least that both these people are existing the same way. But I'm getting fed up with these stubborn/unsympathetic heroines, so I'll probably skip this one. Glad you found more to like than dislike about it, though!

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