Friday, June 7, 2013

The China Garden Book Review

Rawr Reader,

  I've had this book on my to read list for ages, and when I finally decided to buy it, it turned out to be out of print. Thank goodness for Amazon because I bought it for one cent and now I have it. Woohoo! This is the second book (after Goddess I've been waiting a year for-- and worth the wait!) out of a list of books I've been wanting to read for a while. So expecting good reads in the near future. But on to the book review! This is the novel The China Garden by Liz Berry, and the synopsis is provided by Goodreads:

When Clare moves with her mother from London to Ravensmere, a historic English estate, she can't shake the feeling that the residents already know her, especially Mark, a maddeningly attractive biker. Clare also feels compelled to take midnight walks in Ravensmere's abandoned China Garden. Then her mother reveals that their own past is tragically linked to the estate. But when Clare discovers that Ravensmere is in grave danger, will she risk her future-and Mark's-to save it?

   I don't really remember where I first heard about this book from actually, but I'll just guess I saw the cover on Goodreads and was hooked from there. I love this cover.

(safe for those who haven't read this book yet)
    I don't know what it is about this book, but I was simply drawn into it. It's quite slow in the beginning, but it was a pacing I didn't mind (like Eon). It unfolds itself at a leisurely pace explaining why the village of Stoke Raven is exclusive to those who know where it is, with reasons such as it must be kept hidden as much as possible without being suspicious. You understand why the further along you go why the villagers choose to keep it this way and sooner than later you discover this seemingly normal village turns out to be a more than pleasantries and fascinating histories; it's what you might call even a little magical.
    I'll admit I was a little taken back by the magic so to speak, since it isn't really outright Harry Potter magic per say. But there is a little. And I can't place this in a certain genre, because I firmly believe it intertwines many genres evenly (adult, young adult, romance, mystery, fantasy, "historical fiction," a little suspense). I don't know how, but when reading this, I knew it was a 90s book. I've been reading contemporary books as of late, so it was nice to go with an older book. It isn't a classic, but it was still a refreshing change.
    I was a little disappointed in one thing, which is that they call this a "love story," and with the book cover (isn't it pretty?) it looks like it is. But the story didn't fully introduce the main guy, Mark Winters, until 130ish pages in (out of 284 pages). And as Clare might agree, there romance is so rushed that I saw them falling into lust-- not love. There were some scenes thought I was caught off guard since it was a little graphic, not really flowing with the tone of the story, but it isn't a lot and I wouldn't completely disregard from younger readers. However they have chemistry, they both just simply fit together and for this I couldn't put it down. I'm just a sucker for cheesy romances I guess.
   Before continuing on with the good, I'd say another thing that slightly bothered me was the POV. It didn't happen a lot, maybe 3 or 4 times, but the POV would shift suddenly from Clare's to Mark's, or from person A to person B and I would have to backtrack a page to make sure I read it right. It isn't a big distraction, but still a distraction from the pacing of the story.
   The characters in this book were multifaceted (as much as they can be in a 284 page book), from the main girl Clare, to her secretive mother Frances, to the mysterious Mr. Aylward, to the smooth talking Mark Winters, to the ruthless Mr. Roger Fletcher. My favorite character is what would rarely come from my mouth, the main character, Clare. It's probably because I think that we think similarly and would act similarly, but otherwise I found her as a developed character (though the end might contradict my words). I loved her devotion to her mother despite the secrets and the neglect, and I loved how she tried to remain true to herself now that her boyfriend was out of the picture.    
   The village of Stoke Raven is such a unique fictional village I wish that it were real so I could add it to my bucket list of places I would like to visit. Even though American history bores me to death, European history fascinates me and I think I wouldn't mind spending a day there just learning all about the town's histories. But that's just the village, then there's the Ravensmere estate where Mr. Aylward lives in solace (for reasons you need to discover by reading yourself!) and that place is so interesting I would love to live there. I'll include the map of Stoke Raven Village below (all rights are to the author and publisher; I think it's okay that I show the map): 
    I felt like a little kid when I saw this picture. I don't read many books with pictures in them, so when I saw this one had one, I sort of jumped up and down. Is that still allowed?
    I want to live in Ravensmere. There's a lake nearby, a tower in your castle-mansion, a mysterious garden, a cute village, a waterfall, a field to take pictures in (because I would definitely take advantage of a field nearby!), everything so close and can make every day an adventure. I don't know if it's because it's in England or if it's because it's magical, either way, Ravensmere is one of my top favorite mystical places. 
    There was something about this book that was so magical that I found myself enjoying even the boring parts (for example when she's touring the Ravensmere estate). It was and still is a little confusing when trying to keep track of who was parent of who (since most of the men and women share the same name just in a different order), but I think by the end no one should have trouble with differentiating the more important names from the others.
   While the ending I thought was a little jumpy, I found it suited Clare's development, almost the cherry on top. That may sound like it wasn't good, but I can't imagine ending it another way. Also the final chapters were probably my favorite parts of the book since all the action was happening then and everything was being explained. Ugh, just go get this book! Read it!
    I'm so glad I finally got around to getting this book and while I rated it 5/5, I can confidently say that this makes my top 10 favorite books. I love it so much and it's going to be one of the rereads I will read this year (which I should start on soon since I haven't reread anything since last year *gulp*). This book is out of print so the only way you can purchase a copy is through amazon, or luck in a used bookshop. If you do cross paths with a copy, if the price is reasonable, I highly suggest picking it up! 

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Author's Quote:
“Education isn't for getting a job. It's about developing yourself as a human being.”

― Liz Berry, The China Garden

My Goodreads:

Next To Read:
Sirens by Janet Fox

River Song's Spoilers:
(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so don't read this section)
   I didn't really get the whole Benison thing. It was the water, but then the rock had to be thrown into it. I never really understood it. However my favorite part in the book was this chapter, specifically how the author wrote out Clare and Mark's actions and what they saw. For example when Berry described Mark lifting the "mother rock" and Clare could see through him like an x ray, the light shining through him and she could see his bones and spine and such. Obviously I worded it weird here but in the book it was inspiring yet elegaic (I guess just because it had to do with anatomy. which isn't a sad subject or anything. ignore my tangents >_< ) I also loved the end when Clare and Mark are discussing what they're going to do then, which was Clare going to study medicine to figure out the substances in the water while Mark would study about Agricultural management to just be more experienced with dealing with the land and such.
     Like I said in my review above, Mark and Clare's "love story" isn't so much about their connection, more just that they're drawn to each other. Which technically is how most everyone connects, physically or not at all (least not in a romantic sense), so I found their romance a little juvenile. I wasn't blown away by it, I would argue I've read better romances, but I will say that I like them together. And I won't guess how much that has to do with the author forcing them together. I mean, by how Clare made it sound, she wasn't happy with Adrian. 
    I was surprised when Mark turned out to be her half-cousin. It alarmed me since he's her half-cousin but then when Vivienne, Frances's sister revealed that they weren't related by blood, I felt a little better. I don't know about you but if the guy I liked turned out to be related to me, even if it is only through marriage, I'd have to stop whatever was going on. So in a way I admire that Clare and Mark don't mind-- though it does gross me out a little. (Only a little! Hardly at all.)

Until Next Time,
Nicole Ciel

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