It’s a new year so I’ve decided to add something sweet to my book reviews! Well, cookie ratings anyway. I figure since I don’t have much time to make/bake something every time I read a book, I might as well show how much of the book I devoured by cookie measurement! Not that that’s too hard to understand–it’s really just me adapting the Goodreads ratings to baked goods. Yep.
PORTRAITS OF CELINA
by Sue Whiting
Switch Press, April 2015
provided by Netgalley
“Make him pay, Bayley. Make him pay.”
It’s as if the wooden chest is luring me, urging me to open it – daring me almost. Open me up. Look inside. Come on, just for a second; it won’t hurt.
A ghost story. A love story. A story of revenge. Celina O’Malley was sixteen years old when she disappeared. Now, almost forty years later, Bayley is sleeping in Celina’s room, wearing her clothes, hearing her voice. What does Celina want? And who will suffer because of it?
I’m not a very avid reader of ghost stories because I tend to get spooked out by some of them. I avoid ghost movies for the same reason (actually, I avoid horror movies if I can get away with them!). There are, of course, times when I am in the mood for scary stories, and Portraits of Celina was something that promised a mystery, some revenge, and a bit of spookiness.
The beginning certainly delivered in those respects. We have Bayley, a 16-year-old whose family is coping with a death. At the insistence of her depressed mother, the family moves to an old cottage in the middle of bumblefudge for a fresh start. (On a random note, other than the Australian city-name-drops and the fact that some of the conversations were more along the lines of the land down under, it was really difficult to pinpoint this nondescript town to anywhere, which made it doubly hard to visualize.) Only, how much of a fresh start can you really get when you’re living in a decrepit cottage that used to belong to a family whose daughter Celina–a spitting image of Bayley–mysteriously disappears?
And then there’s the weird feelings Bayley gets about her room–Celina’s room. And that chest with Celina’s clothes that Bayley has a compulsion to wear. And that eerie portrait of Celina and her family. I mean, something has to be wrong with that, right?
That’s where the spooky ends, however, because once the backdrop and the story continue, it just gets boring and slightly annoying. It is clear that Celina’s ghostly presence is around and haunting Bayley, and it is clear that Celina wants Bayley to exact revenge on her killer. What annoyed me about this was the fact that I did not find Celina likable at all. Not even through the perspectives of those who loved her. She just sounded like a manipulative, conniving high-schooler trying to exact revenge. With a couple million dollars, she might even give Emily Thorne a run for her money.
And then there’s all of that background noise Bayley has to deal with that she technically doesn’t deal with at all. Her sister’s a drunken party animal, her brother acts like he’s five and not seven, her mother is in a mostly self-inflicted breakdown. Even the love interest just felt wrong–in that he’s conveniently hot and popular and suddenly there’s a new chick in town and he’s head over heels in love with her.
Needless to say by the time the actual mystery is solved I was rooting for the murderer more than I was for Celina or Bayley. And that’s a problem, especially when the way the murderer got rid of Celina’s body was pretty morbid and sick and NOT something to root for. Admittedly, the whole portrait thing came to light and at the end of the “villain’s” monologue (yes, he monologued), I was beginning to see the rhyme and reason and cleverness of the title and the “portraits” of Celina.
A ghost story? Yeah. A revenge story? Kind of. A love story? Lols no. Still, the book hit a few spooky ridges and the first half of the story certainly kept me wanting to know more.
3 out of 5 cookies!