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Book Review: The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson (2/5)

6 Jun

This was a book my sister in law got for me for Christmas one year. These books aren’t ones I’ve asked for so it’s always a surprise what the title will be. I decided to tackle this one as an ebook because of it’s availability and that might have been to it’s detriment. I read ebooks very slowly, that’s always been the case with me. But this one was particularly slow. It took me about 10 months.

GhostThe Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

Summary from Amazon:

It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

At times, I felt this book assumed a lot of knowledge of Daoism and also info-dumped about Daoism. I can’t put my finger on exactly what the right balance would have been, but it felt inauthentic. It was also no surprise to me that the writer wasn’t female because Li-lin’s voice sounded inauthentic as well. Some people can write other genders without issue but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Overall, it didn’t feel like this was the right story for the author to tell and it left me feeling detached.

The voice for Li-lin felt hollow. She didn’t seem to go deep enough into feelings that should have been triggering, even for someone trying to repress some of her feelings. She also seemed to be very observant and then miss obvious things which was inconsistent. She didn’t give off a very believable vibe. Since she was really the only character and voice we got, it was hard to believe in her.

I didn’t like any of the characters, which made this book hard. Besides Li-lin, we don’t get a lot of characters to latch onto. Her father, the spirit of his eye, and a handful of gang members are the only other characters we meet. None of them are fleshed out very well so it seems silly to say I liked any of them most.

I struggled to relate to Li-lin. The most relatable part about her was her love for her husband but he dies before the book starts which is harder for me to relate to. The magical elements of this book were too far removed from anything I’m familiar with for me to feel like it was the same world I live in.

4unvl994ct5r1d3kto10r3f1fp._SX450_I thought the book was paced well. It kept moving and didn’t seem to have any slow spots. Li-lin was a person of action and she kept pushing forward, even when things were hard. I didn’t put this book down because I was bored at any point.

The ending was rough for me. The big fight scene had a significant death in it which Li-lin seems to brush under the rug. Honestly, I forgot it happened at one point because of a pause in my reading and how little she reacts. That tinged how I felt about the book and I was frustrated as I finished it the rest of the way.

There didn’t seem to be much of a theme or message in this book. Li-lin pushed forward when things were hard but that’s about all I got from it. Maybe my lack of knowledge of late 1800s life in the US Chinatowns is to blame for not picking up on nuances of Li-lin’s struggle, but I’d also hope the author could have highlighted those more if they were relevant.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book focused so much on action that the characters suffered. I was hoping for some insights about the time period and culture and instead I got a kung fu book. For the same reasons that ‘shoot ’em up’ movies aren’t for everyone, this writing isn’t for everyone. I think it could have benefited from some more character development and emotions.

Overall, this fell really flat for me. Two out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1800-1899 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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