Saturday, 20 October 2012
Book Review: Leah by Dana K. Haffar
Author: Dana K. Haffar
Based on the theme: Author Request
Published by: Self-Published
Date published: 2011
Length: 173 pages
Genres: Love, paranormal, curse, love, identity, adult fiction, tragedy, suspense, self-published
Synopsis: On the remote island of Puerto Franco, young Leah wades into the sea and disappears. Her body is never found. Thirty years later, visual artist Mar arrives on the island with her daughter, Lemay. She anticipates a haven where she can work on her craft, away from her controlling husband. Instead, Mar finds herself in the midst of a close-knit community haunted by a curse three-decades old.
The Review: (Warning - contain spoilers)
Plot & pace - A wonderful yet haunting story of a community trapped by a curse of betrayal and revenge. The death of Leah had never been explained. Her disappearance has left the people of Puerto Franco disheartened and suspicious. Believing it is a paranormal jinx placed on the island, it is a secret that is not openly discussed or revealed; the truth behind Leah's death.
As a community that is built on knowing everyone else's business, it isn't too long before Mar makes an impact. Mar becomes engrossed in the story of Leah's death as she explores the island and discovers the family home. Through her adventures on Puerto Franco, Leah communicates with her, forewarning her of danger and the identity of her murderer.
Thrown into the mix, is Sebastian, Leah's brother and swooning heart-throb of the island that encapsulates Mar's' affection. Bound by fate and the superstition of the community, he has a black mark by his name. Trapped in a relationship with Manuela, who I would class as the village bike \ bitch, he is constantly reminded of the life he could of had with his sister.
This a story and plot with a myriad of tales. In some scenes the story relays the historical tragedy and paranormal fantasy of Leah's death and in others it documents the love triangle with Mar, Seb and Manuela and Mar's vision of her own life and future career in art. It's not a 'mid-life crisis' book and likewise I would be hesitant to class it as chick-lit as it somewhat diminishes the skill the author has presented in crafting the story. However, I would have liked a little less 'love' and more paranormal thrown in, near the middle it was in danger of turning into another chick-lit; fortunately the ending was superb, satisfying and saved it; I won't give it away as it will be too bigger spoiler but it was a great finish to the book.
Setting and description - Aside from the plot itself, the setting was the other particularly strong element. Puerto Franco, Spain was described with such beauty it transported me straight to the island and previous family holidays I've had in the Mediterranean. I could close my eyes and almost touch the tip of the sea and feel the grain of sands between my toes. It sounds very cliched, but it was pure escaping.
The island was so atmospheric. Receiving the hostile, easterly winds, sea mist and storm waves it was an island of two faces; the lovely beach holiday destination and the harsh reality of a community living by the sea. The detachment from the mainland only served to enhance the islands isolation and closeness of the community from the outside world.
Characters - Though I warmed to the character of Mar, the upper class housewife escaping her prison to pursue her artistic work, I did feel her back-story was somewhat typical. The fact she fell for Sebastian was not altogether surprising, though I must admit how quickly Seb began pursuing Mar was. I really loved Sebs character. He lives in the shadow of a life he could of had, of the family that once lived. And though this haunts him, he doesn't want to leave the island and forget the tragedy.
Language & dialogue used - The book is neither hard to read nor follow. It does not require too much concentration and you can easily pick it up and put it down (if you can) and set off immediately where you left. The language used is beautiful, particularly the odd bit of Spanish thrown in here and there (which, oddly I didn't know the literally definition of the words I understood the message being conveyed).
Narrative - Told in the third person we follow the two main characters of the book, Sebastian and Mar through their thoughts and how they process the turn of events that befall them. The narrative is expressed very well.
Themes and ideas - Certain elements did feel slightly traditional and safe, such as Mar's backstory. Yet, for a novel with a foundation of a historical curse it packs a punch; we have the love triangle, the ghost-story come mystery of Leah, the middle aged housewife pursuit of a career, all within a sunny, tropical paradise.
Book cover - I don't usually comment on the front cover of books but I really liked the imagery. It looks as though the girl (Leah), is either walking towards or away from the sea. A good illustration of the paranormal theme of a spirit that is not at rest, one that is lost at sea and those souls which come out the water and haunt.
Overall review - I envisaged that this would make a great holiday read. There's mystery, romance, the beach all rolled into one book. I think this may become a 'guilty pleasure' book; an easy read which though does not push the boundaries does make a cracking good book. 4* Stars.