Review – MEMOIRS OF A GOTHIC SOUL by Rebekah Armusik

September 30, 2012 General, Reviews 8

TITLE:  Memoirs of a Gothic Soul
SERIES: 
The 13 Gothic Memoirs
AUTHOR:
  Rebekah Armusik
PUBLISHER:
  Lady Noir 
PUBLICATION DATE:
  August 13, 2010
ISBN-13: 
 9780615407296

PURCHASE BOOK: 

Amazon | B & N | Smashwords

**Copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review.

GOODREADS SUMMARY: 

Nadija Fey is weeks away from graduating college and is eager to escape small city-life. She feels suffocated by her eccentric Slovak family, an abusive ex-boyfriend and a drug addicted childhood friend. To her, life seems empty, lonely and stale. The only consolation she has, is a dream to move to Prague and start a new life. Despite her grandmother’s warnings, and the pleas of friends and family to stay, she embarks on her journey to find herself. But to her dismay, Prague seems to harbor more pain and suffering than she anticipated. She is forced to accept a life she would have never chosen for herself—a life her grandmother fought desperately to shield her from. Nadija quickly finds herself caught in a celestial world struggling to maintain its delicate balance—a balance contingent on her acceptance of her destiny. And though she finds the love she has always desired, it comes with and awful price—her life. In the first of her epic thirteen book series, author Rebekah Armusik captivates the reader with rich language and colorful characters. In Memoirs of a Gothic Soul, Armusik successfully redefines the Gothic novel and resurrects the sensuality, mysticism, and allure of the classic vampire with an unexpected twist.


 

She-Wolf Review

This is another hard one for me to review.  I think what it comes down to is that I liked the story but not necessarily the storytelling.  In Armusik’s debut novel, she creates an interesting world and premise:  a young woman, tired of feeling out of place and, at one time, powerless, in a small town in Pennsylvania, hops a plane to Prague to start a new life, continue her research on vampire folklore, and, ultimately, fulfill a destiny she never knew she had.  With its interesting vampire mythology rooted in biblical legend and a storyline ripe with potential, I had high hopes for Memoirs of a Gothic Soul.  Unfortunately, the storytelling kept me at arms length and prevented me from connecting with the characters.

One of the book’s strongest elements is its vampire origin story.  Armusik provides biblical roots to the vampire creation myth which points to a very complicated relationship between vampires and God.  In traditional Gothic tales, the vampire is a creature of Hell.  In Armusik’s world, they are creatures of Heaven banished to Earth to live immortally alongside mankind.  There is rich material here for conflict both in terms of physical battle but also in terms of more weighty issues like good vs. evil, faith and belief, and the like.  This world is interesting and dynamic.  Armusik sets up a fantastic supernatural backstory in which to drop her heroine, Nadija Fey.

Another strong point of the novel is the story arc for Nadija.  She goes from powerless to powerful over the course of the book.  I connected with the idea of a young woman finding herself in a foreign land, of moving away from the expected and immersing herself in an unfamiliar world only to find both romance and terror there.  Great ideas are at play.  Unfortunately, I just couldn’t connect with Nadija personally and I felt this way for several reasons.  First, Nadija’s voice is very formal.  There are quite a few lines like this:

 

I must have fallen asleep with my book in my hand, for it was resting upon my stomach.

 

A young woman, barely in her 20s, in a contemporary novel, just doesn’t speak like this.  It came across as stiff and forced.  Nadijia also rarely spoke in contractions which enhanced this formal voice, making it feel less conversational and more distancing.  I get that Nadijia is an old soul but she came across as pretentious and overwritten.  For instance,

 

I feared the staleness that was settling in – the ominous familiarity that brought with it regret and certainty.  Although I hated uncertainty – the weakness and frailty that moved one’s mind to the center of an argument – I hated certainty in my future more.  I wanted my life to romantically unravel to reveal itself in small portions that were easily digested.  My life, if it continued here, would be revealed quickly and with certainty – a most unpalatable dish.

 

There are great moments in that passage but I needed to read it a couple of times to get to the meat of it. 

 

Also, I felt there was a lot of telling and not a lot of showing.  We know Nadija is intelligent mainly because she keeps telling us.  Yet she puts herself in several situations that I find lack evidence of deeper thought.  I don’t want to give too much away but there is work to be done with Nadija’s great grandmother who has to show her, and prepare her, for her destiny.  There should be more scenes where we actually see her learning, training and becoming this new woman.  We don’t.  The few scenes we have don’t feel central to Nadija’s character development.  At a key moment in a pivotal scene when she has to prove herself to a council of supernaturals, Nadija has a surprise.  What happens in that scene should not have been a surprise to the reader.  Her self-discovery should have been a journey the reader was privy to, where we see her growth and are not told about it. 

Finally, the romance in the book is a cornerstone of the story.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the chemistry between the characters.  It felt like they were together only because they were prophesied to be soulmates.  There was lust, but I didn’t feel any deeper connection than that.

This book has gotten rave reviews on Goodreads so I know it’s been well-received by other reviewers.  For myself, I think there are good ideas here.  This is the author’s first book and I plan on reading the next in the series to see if the issues I have with it have ironed themselves out.  Unfortunately, with Memoirs of a Gothic Soul, I just couldn’t connect enough with the characters or the storytelling to give it a high recommendation. 

 

OK. Too flawed for a strong recommendation.

 

About the Author

 

From a young age, Rebekah Armusik was a gifted and dramatic writer. By the tender age of ten, she was writing poetry and short stories that were inspired by her grandmother’s tales of Slavic folklore. Even then, her poetry was rich and romantic, and it was soon apparent that Rebekah had a unique insight into the human condition—along with a style all her own. Surrounded by a culture rich with tradition, colorful family members, and a mother who was also a talented author, there was never a lack of inspiration or encouragement.
Following private school, she attended King’s College, where she majored in literature. Shortly after graduation she began writing Memoirs of a Gothic Soul. At first, the novel was more of an autobiographical project that centered on her eccentric Slovak family and her experiences in Northeast Pennsylvania, but soon her grandmother’s stories of vampirism became the focus of the book. Before long, Rebekah’s love of the romantic vampire began to change the direction of the novel and the series. At the same time, Rebekah met Eric Armusik, a romantic realist painter who had just returned from studying in Italy. The courtship was fast, and after several dates, the couple announced they planned to marry. And so, for love, the series was put on hold.
After several years remodeling their Victorian home and starting a family, Rebekah went back to work on her novels. Working from the original layout of thirteen books, she began feverishly re-working the tale. In August 2010, Memoirs of a Gothic Soul was released on the independent publishing label Lady Noir to great reviews, and she quickly established a loyal fan base eager to read more. Her second novel, Mariposa, opened to rave reviews on Halloween 2011, and the pressing sold out in the first week. In 2012, Rebekah will do the unthinkable by putting out two releases in one year. You can expect Book 3: Lucifer Rising this May 2012, and Book 4: Vlkolak King on her usual Halloween release date in 2012. And the story gets even better …

 

Please visit REBEKAH at her favorite spots:

WEBSITE | GOODREADS | TWITTER 


8 Responses to “Review – MEMOIRS OF A GOTHIC SOUL by Rebekah Armusik”

    • shewolfreads

      Yes, I think she is on the cover. Her husband is a celebrated artist and I think he does the artwork. The book has good ideas but I didn’t like how it was told. Will probably read the next one to see if it’s better. Thanks for stopping by, Braine! 🙂

  1. Opal

    That paragraph you quoted was really cumbersome. I don’t think it’s to my taste. Too bad because you’re right, the story sounds fantastic. Vampires from heaven? That sounds so cool . I wonder if I could make my way through the book anyway? O.o

    • shewolfreads

      It’s a good premise. Like I said, I plan on reading the next in the series to see how it is. Will keep you posted!

  2. Nicole

    I am in the middle of Armusik’s 3rd book right now, and was curious to see what others thought about her writing style. I must say, I was quite disappointed with the way her writing was portrayed in your review. To me, her novels are like a breath of fresh air. It confirms that there are 20-somethings like myself that are confident enough to speak with a strong vocabulary, and not in slang. This is one sign of a well-written book. I think in today’s world of cheap trash, a novel like this should be praised for both the story and the words used to tell it. Braine, I am disheartened to hear that you choose to take a pass on this simply because one review claims that the vocabulary is too intelligent for you to overcome. I hope that my own little review here will change your mind. Excellent story, excellent character development. The Memoirs series is one that I will keep on my bookshelf and revisit time and time again to remind myself that vampire and gothic novels do not equal porn.

    • shewolfreads

      Thanks for your comment, Nicole! This is what I love about reading – everyone has their own opinion. And, for me, every opinion should be respected. While I appreciate your admiration and defense of the book, I do take umbrage with the implication that its vocabulary was too much for me to overcome. It might surprise you but I didn’t have to open the dictionary not even once when I read this book! There weren’t too many big words for me. 🙂 The general rule here at She-Wolf Reads is that opinions don’t get personal and I would appreciate it if we could all respect that. Thanks again for stopping by!

      • Nicole

        Thank you for the reply! 🙂 I was not trying to take a personal jab at anyone, I was simply stating that the language is not just spoken by people of another era. I feel as if I do have to defend myself, in that I do speak similarly to the character in this series. When you say that a “young woman in a contemporary novel just doesn’t speak like this”, you may be under false pretenses as to what type of writing this is. The writing style and criteria of the Gothic genre is not something that can be compared to such a broad classification as a “contemporary novel”. It is much more than that. Ms. Armusik uses the overtly romantic language because that is something that is indicative of the Gothic genre. I’m hoping that my explanation would prompt you to perhaps rethink the harshness of the review regarding her language use. Now, not everybody is accustomed to this, and not everyone will consider it their type of reading style. However, I do believe that we must respect Ms. Armusik’s work for what it is … a Gothic novel. To say that the book is not worthy of a read simply because the character’s prose isn’t comparable to today’s young adult is just not fair. I urge you to give it a second chance, while respecting that it is following the criteria of fine Gothic literature. Thank you for your response, it was great to read! 🙂 🙂

      • shewolfreads

        Hello, Nicole! You seem to be a true fan and supporter of this series. I mean this very sincerely, the best thing you could do, if you haven’t already done so, is to write a review for the books on Goodreads. It’s a fantastic way to show the author support and an effective way to give advice to readers interested in reading the book. I’m positive Ms. Armusik would appreciate your support.

        And I also appreciate your commenting on the blog. This has been my first disagreement over a book (at least on the blog) and the discussion is fun.

        Now, I get that this is a gothic novel and that the writing style is an attempt to adhere to that of a classic gothic novel. But I would argue you can write a gothic novel using contemporary language, and it will still be a gothic novel. In my mind, romantic language is not the only, or even the most important, hallmark of this genre. Therefore, it was a stylistic choice on the part of the author to create a more formal voice for the heroine. And, for this reader, it didn’t work. Also, there’s a combination of the romantic and, let’s say, the contemporary (for lack of a better term) that I found inauthentic. One moment Nadija uses the romantic voice, the next she will say, “Fuck – now he was not just an asshole, he was a vampiric one.” That is not a phrase one would find in the overtly romantic language of a classic gothic novel. So there is a mix here – one that makes Nadija feel “contemporary” and one that makes her feel “romantic.” These two voices didn’t blend well. The inconsistency, for me, felt jarring. It made me unable to get a handle on the main character and distanced me from her. And if there are twenty-something’s out there that would express themselves, in everyday situations to friends and family, like this – “I must have fallen asleep with my book in my hand, for it was resting upon my stomach” – I stand corrected. However, you seem to be inferring from what I wrote that I think twenty-somethings are inarticulate. That is just…wrong. For myself, I’m not saying that a twenty-something is inarticulate. And the language is certainly not over my head. The problem, for me, is the voice. Romantic language does not equal intelligence. It’s a style. That’s all. Some of my favorite books of all time are classic gothic novels, so in no way is the author’s intent lost on me. The execution just didn’t work…for me.

        I also didn’t say the book was not worthy of a read because of the writing style. First, I had other problems with the novel in addition to the writing style. Secondly, I also clearly stated that there was enough promise that I planned on reading the second book to see if the issues I had with this debut novel worked themselves out.

        Again, thanks for commenting. I appreciate the discussion!

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