I used to read fantasy books all the time when I was a kid (hell, I read whatever new to me material I could get my hands on) but as I got older I started to push fantasy aside in favour of contemporary stories. Everyone once and awhile I'll read a book that reminds me how much I like novels that have some sort of fantastical element. Most recently that book was The The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster. Scott Wilbanks has written a page-turning novel that kept me up way past my bedtime so I could find out how it ended.
Here's the synopsis:
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.
This debut novel isn't exactly a fantasy book in an obvious sense. It's very much a contemporary story that just happens to involve time travel. I enjoyed the way Wilbanks put his own spin on the time travel theme. It wasn't just the same old story but it was still very familiar. I don't think readers who aren't a fan of fantasy should be put off by the magical element.
I do have to say that I was just the teeniest bit confused at the end of this book. I don't know if it's because there actually were small loose ends that weren't tied up to my satisfaction (I have a couple of lingering questions about that door) or because I was finishing the book at 1:30 in the morning. I just couldn't go to bed until I discovered what happened in the end!
The cast of characters in this novel is so refreshingly eclectic. None of them are people you'd normally expect to read about in a book and I loved that. Every major character - Annie, Christian, Elsbeth, Edmund - is a loner and has appeared to come to terms with that. What I loved is that they all care so fiercely for each other and over the course of the novel they all seem to realize that life is a little better when you're surrounded by the best of friends. They all had hurdles to overcome and it was both uplifting and heartbreaking to read as they worked through their various issues.
Finally, there's a mystery in this novel that had so many twists and turns that it was almost hard to keep up. What I really loved was that I really couldn't anticipate many of the revelations. I don't think I've ever read a book that had my jaw dropping so often. It was awesome!
The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster is definitely a book for you if you enjoy time travel, mystery, and a damn good story. Scott Wilbanks has written an incredibly engaging first novel and I'm very much looking forward to what he writes next.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a guest post from Scott!
*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Sourcebooks, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*