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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

Title: Of Bees and Mist 
Author: Erick Setiawan 
Genre: Fiction - Drama 
Finished: June 2, 2009 

Monarch Street, where Meridia grows up, is cold and uninviting, and certainly haunted. Her mother Ravenna, a severe woman in all black, cooks and mutters strange and angry curses all day long. Gabriel, Meridia's father, is a cruel and loveless man who spends his nights elsewhere, carried away at night and delivered home at morning by a strange fog. It's not long before Meridia is aware that her father is sleeping at another house with another woman. Memories of a scream and a flashing light haunt Meridia, as well as the shadows of the house that hold secrets she cannot begin to unveil. When Meridia meets and falls in love with a boy named Daniel, she relishes the thought of marrying him. Daniel's mother Eve is a bright and laughing woman, larger than life. At the age of 16, after struggling with her father to get what she wants, Meridia is allowed to marry Daniel and moves in with his family on Orchard Street. Her high hopes of having a happy family are soon dashed when it comes to light that Eve is not all she appears to be. Underneath her laughing, boisterous exterior is a cunning, selfish woman, cruel to the people around her and quick to do what will benefit her above the people who love her. It is a constant battle between Eve and Meridia. Eve takes as much money from Meridia and Daniel as possible, keeps them dependent, and says horrible things about Meridia behind her back while committing terrible crimes to her own gain. To make matters worst, Daniel refuses to see anything wrong with what his mother is doing. So how can Meridia break free of this? How can she gain the independent and support she has craved for so long? And, of course, finally have the loving and stable family that she has also always wanted. Help comes from strange places and magical clues help and hinder her. All the while, Meridia becomes a strong woman, aided by the tight laced nature of her mother and her father's quiet cruelty that is, in fact, loving. The one thing that Meridia refuses to do is back down and bow to Eve, which for a while brings her a lot of grief. But determined to free herself, she runs into all obstacles placed by Eve head on. 

I wasn't sure what to make of this story by the description on the back. The first few pages confused me a few times because I wasn't sure if I should understand the setting as an alternate universe or a common universe. And I will admit that some of the descriptions of things and events sort of threw me off-- I wasn't always quite certain of what the author was trying to convey or paint an image of. Still, the story was good enough that even the occasional time of confusion didn't make the book hard to read and ultimately understand. The use of imagery, when not abstract, was really very beautiful and heightened the sense that there was something sublime and magical all around. And there is something wonderfully disorienting about the whole story, which makes it dreamlike at times. What I wish, though, is that Ravenna and Gabriel had their own story! Just as much as I was drawn to the development of Meridia and her character, I was drawn to the complicated relationship between her parents. Maybe I am mentally ill with poor taste in men, but I found myself powerfully attracted to the character of Gabriel. Meridia's parents are so closed off and cold that it made me want to crack them open and see why they behave the way they do. And, ooooo, Eve is so insidious! So many times I wished I could reach into the pages of the book and strangle her, or knock some sense into the people around her who didn't see her manipulations and selfish lies. Every small and large victory won by Meridia I cheered, and I hurt every time she lost a battle. Eve is definitely a character to hate, but still one that I think readers can understand. All in all, Of Bees in Mists is a wonderfully crafted book of magic and reality, with characters that are well developed and unique. When reading, you clearly feel the workings of unseen forces and malice all around, and you sigh with relief along with Meridia.

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