Amber House: review

August 14, 2012 2012, 4 star books, Gothic, K., Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, Tucker Reed 44

Amber House
by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, Larkin Reed

I love a good Gothic novel, so I could not have been more eager to finally be able to sit and crack open this story. Amber House delivers a gothic/horror/scary tale in all its intrinsic glory. It involves a young girl, called Sarah, who returns with her family to the old family estate, Amber House, to bury the matriarch of this strange, strange dynasty. They decide to stay for a couple of weeks and very soon Sarah discovers shadows, echoes, and mysteries in every corner of this ancient place. Mysteries of her ancestry, of the past lives that walked among the halls and rooms she now occupied; disturbing revelations about her cold, abrupt mother, ones that threaten to loosen the already delicate ties holding the two of them together; and frightening enigmas about the house itself, a house that seems to have a life and purpose of its own.

So let’s check the list, shall we? This book includes all the right horror fundamentals: faint laughter of children who aren’t there; visions in mirrors, in dreams, and even when awake; that cold, pointed feeling that raises the hair on the back of your neck because you know someone is watching you; characters descending into madness; little girls in white dresses darting from corner to corner always in your peripheral sight; wet footprints on wooden floors as main character gets out of the bath to follow a noise (I mean, goodness gracious on that one!)…and et cetera. In many ways, due to the absolute readablity of this book, it read like a film. Which I don’t think diminishes its “writing pedigree”. It was just so vividly detailed that the scenes were seamlessly imaginable.

It felt like these characteristics came from a handbook on how to write scary stories — and yet, the supernatural niche of it is pleasantly original. It suggests the theory that some houses hold memories of the past, where, quite literally, images or imprints of specific moments are seared into objects long-loved by their long-gone owners. And that these “echoes” let you enter into another time, allow you to peek in on the before. I won’t lie, it did get a bit confusing, especially near the end when they sort of introduce a semi-new notion which turns out to be a very critical tool in the climax and denouement. It was lightning-bolt fast, intense, and satisfying. And I forgive the confusion — besides, I blame that largely to my mental inadequacy.

The characters are all pretty wonderful. Sarah is a funny voice to listen to; she isn’t anything too special but she’s down to earth, soft, shy, harsh, angry, polite, and brazen in all the right places. Her younger brother, Sammy, is a sweet little thing, and as they say, “his enthusiasms are infectious”. The mother is effectively distant, and as Sarah discovers more about her childhood, we come to understand why.

Now, the two love interests. I only fell for one. And I fell for the right one. But of course, because this book is near 400 pages, Sarah spends some time being oblivious. Frustrating because, hello, the other guy is totally generic and gross…but oh, just wait. Just wait. Because this particular romance is different, and complicated, and oh so heart twisting. Yes, it twists your heart — painfully, hopelessly, shockingly. It held me at arm’s length for a long time so that when those yearned moments came, my heart exploded the tiniest, tiniest bit. It was like my lungs were deprived of oxygen and the story kept teasing them with the anticipation of a deep breath. However, I do think The Right Guy could’ve been further developed because while he does feature quite a lot, he is still shrouded in mystery…having said that, I still want one of him. Please and thanks.

And now to the heart of the story…it’s about family, and the parts of your ancestors’ history that contributes to shaping your identity. Exactly how much is passed down to us, without our knowing? How much of our nature have we inherited? What part of us is us, and what part is them? It’s also about belonging to a line of memories, of past achievements and failures and ambitions and our responsibility of keeping these memories alive. It’s about the complexities of our choices and the power of will; how endless branches of what-might-have-beens erupt from a single point of contact. And of course, family dysfunctionalities. The bizarre, tense dynamics between members who must co-exist but cannot connect. It is most exemplified in the relationship between mother and daughter…when, as we get older, we learn that our parents too lived a life just for themselves, that they too have demons they must hide — sometimes, especially from us. This is a story of a broken family, severed by many things: infidelity, running away, alcoholism, lack of communication, mental disability, death, and the unceasing consequence of grief and guilt held for far too long.

This was such a good and satisfying read. I urge anyone who reads this review to please mark this book as to-read. Just leave it there on your shelf. If this isn’t your cup of tea, let it sit patiently, until you have a free afternoon, or a quiet evening when you can devote a few moments to the first chapters of Amber House. I couldn’t wait to get home to continue reading and when I did (and if there were witnesses), I would’ve been found gripping my hair, shouting at my Kobo, pinching the bridge of my nose, huffing and puffing and all those spells we readers are susceptible to when in the clutch of terrific storytelling. Despite my enthusiasm, I’ll concede that it wasn’t technically flawless, as there were loose ends I wished were tied up, little things that weren’t explained, and the ending left me with some questions I desperately need answers to. And I don’t think the weight of the theme of family was executed as smoothly at the close (as it was rushed and left me winded), but that may just be me still feeling bitter over the too-soon Epilogue. I did not see it coming, and I was not ready.

Rated 4 out of 5 stars

This review also appears on Goodreads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

44 Responses to “Amber House: review”

  1. Markee

    I just finished reading this book right now and I am SO glad that someone else feels the same way as I do about it! I felt the same emotions and the ending epilogue has left me completely frustrated and even a little angry. All in all, it’s a fantastic book and everyone should read it! I am looking forward to the second one coming out and I hope it ties up all those loose ends! Fantastic review! :)

  2. ナンヤ

    Great review! I read the book and fell in love with it though it reminded me of the secret garden. Adored Sammy and also loved the Right guy, he’s so much more interesting than the generic one.

  3. Vivien

    I just read a review for this book that really made me want to read it. I’ve been on a Gothic kick lately, and even if it is loosely based on a Gothic feel, I’m still eager to read it.

  4. Beth

    A love triangle with a heartbreaking twist!?? Sounds perfect and the story sound deliciously creepy :)


  5. Jaime Lester

    I love a good, creepy horror movie so much, and the same for a good horror novel. But horror is something that I have had a hard time finding in YA. When I first saw Amber House, and read the blurb, it definitely excited me but I was sure that it wouldn’t be scary. I am so glad to see that I was wrong, and I can’t wait to read Amber House. As always, thank you for a beautiful review!

  6. Ali @ Ginger-read

    I am completely intrigued now! I love a good gothic, mysterious love story. Adding the family heritage into sounds like a great idea, as well. For sure going to add it to my TBR~ great review, you hooked me!

  7. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    I’ve been seeing Amber House around, but honestly never gave it a second thought. I’m definitely reconsidering that now! I love that the story seems to touch on heritage and identity. Beautiful review, K!

    • K.

      I gosh, you must give it a try! It’s so worth the time. I loved this quite a lot. Hope you love it, Andrea.

  8. The Teen Book Guru

    Wow this seems so creepy and like a great Horror novel. If I ever want to read a super scary and freakily good Horror book, I’ll be sure to pick this one up. ;) Great review, K! I’ve never heard of Amber Lane, but it seems perfect for Halloween, which is right around the corner, so thanks for putting it on my radar. Sarah seems great! Can’t wait to meet her.

    Thanks so much for a lovely review, K! <33

    • K.

      It IS perfect for Halloween :) I might re-read this around then, thanks! Hope you like it.

  9. KM

    Glad this is good! I saw it the other day on Goodreads and was curious but wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick it up or not. But that cover is gorgeous, so I was leaning toward it. lol

    • K.

      Hey, if the cover is what’s going to sell this book, then I’m in! Read it, read it, read it :)

  10. Wendy Darling

    I cannot wait to read this book after this insanely awesome review, K.! You know me and gothics, and having your stamp of approval on it makes this a Must Bump Up the Pile read. :D

    • K.

      I love that you have a Must Bump Up the Pile shelf/pile, haha! And oui, this deserves that :)

  11. Melliane

    Oh I didn’t know this one but love the cover and the synopsis. Well you got me with “horror fundamentals”. I always love a book like that. thank you!

  12. Randi M

    So jealous! ;) This book was my Waiting on Wednesday pick a couple weeks ago; I can’t wait to read it! I’m a sucker for Gothic tales. Lovely review. I’m even more anxious to read Amber House after seeing your review!

  13. Leanne

    I adored your review of this on goodreads, and I now love it even more rereading it here. :) Such eloquence, K.! We’re book soul mates in terms of our love for gothic novels, don’t you think? And WHY was I declined for this on Netgalley? *whimpers*

    • K.

      Gasp! No lie? You were declined? Oh come on, publishers! Well, the wait for it isn’t too long now, if that helps. And yes, we do seem to love the Gothic :)

  14. Bookworm1858

    I kind of skimmed over the title of this book but I LOVE the dress on the cover. I’m not usually a reader of Gothic fiction so I don’t know if I’ll read this but at least now I know more about it.

    • K.

      I hope you end up giving this a try anyway, bookworm. And Gothic is a term used loosely for contemporary fiction — they’re more horror (though tame) than anything, not like the Gothic literary genre we learn in school.

  15. Sam

    I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I saw your rating on Goodreads. I have to echo what Mandee said – just reading your review gives me goosebumps! The horror aspects sound genuinely quite creepy and I’m looking forward to finding out more about this romance. A lovely review as always, K! :)

    • K.

      Well, I write to convince ;) So hopefully soon I’ll be reading YOUR review! And oh, the romance!

  16. Vegan YA Nerds

    I did as you said, I followed your Goodreads review link and added the book to my to-read list!

    This is such a wonderful review, I got goosebumps while reading it, and while I’m not a huge fan of horror, this sounds like a book I could deal with.

    • K.

      Woo hoo! You just made me very happy, proud, excited, satisfied… And sure, this was a little creepy but I, a very big wuss, was able to get through it, so worry not…though I did refrain from reading in the middle of the night…alone…haha!

    • K.

      Yes, it was very step 1,2,3 but still effective. Its the characters and the story itself worth reading, despite the formula its set on.

  17. April (BooksandWine)

    Oh, I am pumped up to read this, K. I think I have Amber House from BEA and I just love a good gothic novel, especially when there are love interests and the thing that creeps me out the most — the laughter of children coming from NOWHERE.

    Great review!

  18. Amy

    This sounds like a really fantastic book. I saw it on Goodreads a little while ago and was interested in it, but never really heard anything else about it. Thanks for the wonderful review!!

    • K.

      I know. There isn’t much buzz around this book which is a true shame as it was such a wonderful experience reading :) Give it a go!

  19. Keertana

    Wonderful review, K! I have to admit that while I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, your review has definitely made me add this to my TBR-Shelf! I love a good horror/gothic story and the fact that this story had some unique twists, wonderful writing, and deeper messages about family is very important to me. I can’t wait to read it myself! :)

    Ivy Book Bindings

    • K.

      Thanks, Keertana. Don’t let the love triangle discourage you…this one is worth bearing all of that!! Believe me!!