Sunday, February 5, 2012

Book Review: Wake Unto Me, by Lisa Cach (second review for the 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge)

This is my second review for this
wonderful challenge!!

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just click on the challenge button in my sidebar.

There are great prizes involved,
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Title: Wake Unto Me
Author: Lisa Cach
Format: Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Publisher: Speak (an imprint of Penguin Group, USA, Inc.)
Publication Date: March 31, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance, Historical Fiction

Caitlyn Monahan is not quite like the rest of her family.  She hardly remembers her birth mother, her father has always remained emotionally distant, and she doesn't feel all that close to her two half-brothers.  Although her stepmother does love her, Caitlyn knows that they're very different in every way.  At school, she doesn't quite fit in, either.  In fact, she has never felt at home anywhere in Spring Creek, her Oregon hometown.  Then there are the Screechers, those strange, terrifying creatures that people her nightmares, and which she obsessively draws, with equally terrifying accuracy, in a journal she carries around with her...

Her life changes dramatically when she receives a mysterious letter, inviting her to apply for a scholarship at a French boarding school for girls, located in a castle named "Chateau de la Fortune".  Caitlyn takes the plunge, and is accepted.  Soon she finds herself in France, meeting the rather intimidating headmistress, Madame Snowe, and begins to attend her classes.  The school's students are mostly the daughters of wealthy families.  Caitlyn's roommate is a princess from Liechtenstein, a small European country.

One night, Caitlyn meets Raphael, who lives in the 16th century, and has connections to the de Medici family... She can see him only in her dreams, and yet, he seems so real... 

This is a truly fascinating story, one which kept me reading almost obsessively.  I would have finished the book much sooner, but in my impatience to find out what happens with this unusual relationship, I committed the bookworm's sin -- I stole a glance at events near the end of the book.  I received a huge shock when I did so, and I have promised myself never to do this again!   The plot element I discovered turned me off the book for a while.  So I started reading one of my non-fiction books.  Days later, I returned to Cach's novel, becoming entranced with it again.  This time I was able to finish it.  I guess I just needed some time to process what shocked me before, although I'm still uncomfortable with it.   Of course, I won't reveal what it is, so as not to spoil the end for other readers.

The really interesting thing about this book is that one is not always sure just what is real, and what is not.  This might be frustrating to some readers, but not to me.  Instead, I was totally entranced and intrigued!  Cach skillfully handled all the transitions from Caitlyn's dream world to reality.  Each time Caitlyn dreamed, more clues were revealed, all leading to the ultimate fictional draw -- the finding of hidden treasure.

In the process, Cach brought in references to the Tarot, which is a fascinating thing in itself, although I don't like the way the author used it in this novel -- as a fortunetelling device.  To me, the Tarot is much more useful as a tool to explore the unconscious mind.  Still, Cach's use of it does fit in quite well with the plot's emphasis on the hidden designs of destiny.   The three cards featured are the Wheel of Fortune (which depicts the goddess Fortuna with the wheel of destiny), and the Knight of Cups (which depicts a young man in armor, bearing a golden cup), and the Queen of Swords, a rather forbidding-looking woman representing a real-life woman who can be an ally just as much as an enemy.  

There's also a ghost in the castle, known as The Woman In Black, who is said to roam from room to room looking for her lost love.  Some of the students have seen her. 

The relationship between Caitlyn and Raphael is so sweet...yet so passionate.  Of course, they don't consummate their passion, since this is a young adult novel.  They do share some heated kisses, however, and it's very touching to see how much they care for each other.  They both desperately want to remain together, making this reader long for a satisfactory resolution to their dilemma. 

The characters are so well-drawn!  This is one of the novel's major strengths.  Caitlyn is not 'a damsel in distress'.  Far from it!  From the very beginning, she wants to take an active part in molding her future.  She's not only intelligent, but resourceful and resilient, as well.  She realizes that she's different from everyone around her in Oregon.  Accepting the scholarship is a defining step for her.  Once she arrives at the Fortune School, she realizes that she feels at home.  As her relationship with Raphael develops, she also takes an active part in unraveling the mystery surrounding him and his past.  She doesn't expect him to tell her what to do next, at any point in the story.  Instead, she takes the initiative, although she and Raphael do work together on the clues they uncover.

Raphael is the perfect guy every young girl dreams of...sigh...  He is definitely a romantic.  The tender way he treats Caitlyn, from the very beginning, is so wonderful!  He's a gentleman throughout, as well; at one point, his passionate kisses are leading to something more.  Caitlyn isn't ready for that, and begs him to stop.  He does.  And he doesn't try to convince her to go on, or force himself on her.  At this point, I was wondering if this was realistic behavior for a young man from the 16th-century.  But then, Raphael was brought up by a very unusual woman -- Bianca de Medici.  That would surely have influenced his treatment of women.  He is never condescending to Caitlyn; in fact, he respects and admires her just as much as he loves her.  I found this immensely satisfying.

The other characters were very well done, as well.  I really liked Naomi and Amalia, who were Caitlyn's fellow students at the Fortune School.  They were very supportive of her, never once accusing her of making up her incredible dreams, never once telling her that she was crazy.  Naomi in particular was very understanding, aiding Caitlyn in the quest to resolve the story's mystery..

Cach drew her inspiration for the fictional character of Bianca de Medici from two portraits by the Italian artist Bronzino.  which she saw in the Uffizi gallery, in Florence, Italy.  (Oh, my gosh, what a lucky, lucky woman!  I've always yearned to visit Italy!)  Bianca remains rather vague throughout the book, except almost at the very end, when she suddenly makes a rather frightening appearance.

The setting of this novel couldn't have been more beautiful, too!  The castle is nestled near the edge of a cliff, in the French countryside, an area known as the Perigord Noir.  (I'm not sure if this area was created by the author.)  The Dordogne River is also nearby.  Cach's descriptions of both the castle and its surroundings are wonderful, creating just the right stage for the story.  (And I've always wanted to visit France, as well...) In her Author's Note, located at the back of the book, she explains her sources for the Chateau de la Fortune -- the castles she visited in France a couple of years ago.  Even the trail followed by Caitlyn and her classmates is based on reality -- it's the pilgrimage route leading to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, to visit the shrine of St. James.

Summing up, I greatly enjoyed this book, despite that shocking detail towards the end.  The ambiance of the novel is heavily supernatural, and there are a couple of other things that bothered me.  On the whole, however, this is a very well-written novel, one that successfully immerses the reader in its world.  I had no problem whatsoever suspending my disbelief as I entered the story.  Cach has penned a brilliantly constructed, tightly woven plot, with engaging characterization and a romantic, Gothic setting that somehow doesn't scare the reader, although it does build suspense to a nearly unbearable level.  Everything is neatly and satisfactorily tied up in the end, too, so I'm not expecting a sequel.  If she is planning one, though, I'm certainly interested!

I'm tempted to give this book five stars, but will give it four instead, because of the couple of uncomfortable things I alluded to above.   Most paranormal fans will enjoy it, so I do recommend it!


Where To Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble


  1. T was a great review and I love it! This looks like a great book, unique too! The cover is gorgeous as well. Thanks for telling me about this book i will read it for sure!

  2. Hey, Cambria! I'm so glad you enjoyed my review so much that you want to read this book! And yes, the cover is absolutely gorgeous!

    Thank you so much for the lovely comment!! : )

  3. Hey Maria!! What a great review. I definitely want to check out this book. If you say it's well written, then it must be really worth it... and I want to check out the usage of the Tarot, and of the historical background. The Medici are interesting, to say the least.

    I'm adding this to my wishlist! Thanks for sharing!


  4. Hi, Ron! Thank you!! Yes, it's very well written! The way the author keeps the suspense going, it's just nerve wracking...but of course, that's what makes the book so hard to put down. The Tarot is an integral part of the story; it fits right in. I just don't much like fortunetelling, as I said in the review.

    The Medici are indeed fascinating!

    I'm so happy you're adding the book to your TBR list because of my review! You're welcome for the share! : )

  5. I read this book last year! I loved it! I totally agree with your review! The setting of the book WAS amazing! I would too read the sequel if she had wrote one!
    Awesome review!(:

  6. Hi, Anastasia!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this novel, as well as my review of it! Thank you so much for the compliment!! Thanks as well for participating in the "Love In Bloom" Giveaway!! :)


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