Saturday, October 6, 2018

Mini Reviews: The Possessions || Stranded

The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

Genre: Adult fantasy / mystery
Pages: 368
Publication Date: February 2017

In an unnamed city, the Elysian Society allows paying clients to reconnect with their lost loved ones. The workers, known as bodies, spend their days in a numb routine, wearing the discarded belongings of the dead and swallowing pills to summon spirits.

Edie has been a body for five years, an unusual record. Her success depends on her carefulness. When she channels the wife of Patrick Braddock, an enigmatic widower, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the strange circumstances surrounding Sylvia Braddock's death, Edie pursues Patrick outside the Elysian Society walls, moving deeper into his life.

After years of hiding, Edie can't tell whether she's falling in love or whether she's being possessed by Sylvia. She takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. But as a disturbing murder case brings attention to the Elysian Society, Edie feels her quiet life unraveling. She grapples with both Sylvia's growing influence and with her own long-buried secrets.

Likes: The premise is pretty cool. The main character, Edie, works as a “body.” Basically, she’s an empty human who can take a pill and become possessed by a dead person. She runs into trouble when she gets obsessed with Patrick, one of her clients. Edie can’t tell if she’s in love with Patrick or if she’s just feeling the lingering effects of being possessed by his wife. It’s definitely an unusual love story. I’m not even sure how to categorize this novel. It’s a strange literary, fantasy, paranormal, character-driven, murder mystery.

Even though Edie is the narrator, Sylvia and Patrick are the stars. Their relationship was troubled. Unanswered questions swirl around Sylvia’s untimely death. As Edie gets closer to Patrick, she gets tangled in the mystery that was their marriage. Honestly, I struggled with this book, but Sylvia and Patrick kept me reading.

The first time I meet Patrick Braddock, I'm wearing his wife's lipstick.The Possessions

Dislikes: I probably shouldn’t have bothered finishing The Possessions. It’s so flat and slow-paced that it didn’t hold my attention. The stakes are low; there’s no climax, no payoff. The plot meanders in a confusing way. I only finished it because I wanted to know if Patrick is a murderer. Unfortunately, the ending is anticlimactic. I was disappointed with the resolution of pretty much everything.

Edie is a frustrating character. She has no personality. We’re told very little about her life outside of work. I understand that she was possessed by Sylvia, but I didn’t think that justified her obsession with Patrick. Edie is a stalker. She even impersonates a doctor so that she can interrogate Patrick’s friends. I didn’t know why she was going to these extremes when Patrick clearly didn’t care about her. Ladies: If a man asks you to swallow pills and become his dead wife so that he can talk to / frequently bang her, he’s not into you. Don’t stalk him.

We eventually learn a few things about Edie’s past that explain her behavior, but by then, I didn’t care anymore.

The Bottom Line: I got frustrated with the slow pace and Edie’s unclear motives. I shouldn’t have finished the book.

Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Genre: Adult horror / science fiction
Pages: 299
Publication Date: October 2016

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Dismissing Noah's warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

Likes: Let’s take a moment to appreciate the cover. It’s very ominous. Standing ovation for the cover designer. *Clap, clap.*

Okay, this story is not what I expected. At first, I thought it was a typical Arctic survival story. I’ve read a lot of those because I love them. The book focuses on Noah, a single parent who gets a job on his ex-father-in-law’s merchant ship. You already know that things are going to be tense, but life becomes unbearable for Noah when the ship gets stuck in ice. After that, the plot takes a sci-fi twist that I didn’t see coming. I’m not going to spoil it for you because I loved the surprise. Just know that you need a tolerance for weirdness. The story gets very strange, very suddenly. I actually put the book down for a while to puzzle out what was happening. (That’s not a bad thing. I just didn’t expect this oddness in a survival story.)

You also need a tolerance for gore if you want to read Stranded. Above all, this is a horror story. The pacing is relentless, the action is intense, and there’s a high body count. Don’t get too attached to people because most of the characters won’t make it out of the Arctic alive. Stranded will keep you up past bedtime. You’ll want to know how Noah gets himself out of this mess. Every time the characters seem safe, things get worse for them.

The tension builds quickly. Noah’s shipmates grow increasingly uneasy as the problems pile up. What’s happening to the ship’s electronics? Why is the crew getting sick? Where did all the ice come from? What’s that strange shape in the distance? I badly wanted Noah to solve the mysteries and get himself home to his daughter.

Dislikes: The writing isn’t great. Actually, it’s downright lazy on occasion. (Don’t read this novel if you’re one of those reviewers who has a stroke every time the characters “let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding.”) The author could have done more to make the action clearer and the setting atmospheric. The writing gets the job done, but this isn’t a book that I feel compelled to reread.

I wish there was more character development. The majority of the characters exist so that they can be killed. They’re just names to me. I didn’t feel anything when they were brutally murdered. More development would have also made the characters’ actions believable. Many of Noah’s colleagues are inexplicably petty. I didn’t understand the point of their childishness. Then there’s the ending: Like a lot of horror stories, this one ends with a bloodbath. I had a hard time believing the events that happen in the end. A group of 30+ people can’t all be that evil. (Can they?)

The Bottom Line: I like the twists and the mysteries. I felt let down by the end. There isn’t enough character development to make that ending believable for me.


  1. It's a shame that there's no pay off in The Possessions because I love the sound of the premise.

    Cait @ Click's Clan

  2. I had some of the same issues as you with Stranded, but I still enjoyed it overall. I'm sorry these were both letdowns.

  3. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy The Possessions. I liked it, but I can totally see how others wouldn't.

  4. Stranded sounds like it might have potential!

  5. oh wow The Possessions has one of the creepiest premises I've ever read! Sorry it was slow-paced and didn’t hold your attention! What a waste of a great premise!

  6. Both of these books have such a cool premise, but I wished that they were better written ... I really can't stand super flat characters! May give Stranded a shot, though. It sounds really interesting!

  7. The Possessions sounds amazing, but I'm so sad it's so slow :(

  8. Ah, I don't think these two books are going to be for me. Although the concept of The Possession sounds so promising, the execution doesn't seem to be done well enough for me to consider attempting it. The last one sounds okay and I don't mind gore, but the lazy writing would bother me to no end.

  9. Sorry they both weren't as good as you hoped them to be. I hate slow paced and find myself reading something else when that happens to me and don't even get me started about bad ending.