The Madwoman Upstairs + Into the Dim: 2 mini reviews!

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
Pub. Date: March 1, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Touchstone!)
Summary: In this smart and enthralling debut in the spirit of The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind.
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction

The mere mention of her surname causes heads to turn, and now that she’s arrived in England to attend Oxford, Samantha Whipple’s life isn’t about to get any easier. As the last living descendant of the Brontë family, Samantha’s entire identity is overshadowed by the three sisters and, quite frankly, she hates discussing them. She hates talking about them, about their books, and definitely about the idea that there’s a treasure trove of writings and artifacts hidden away from the public. When her father passes away Samantha never expected his will to lead on her a wild scavenger-esque hunt…could there truly be some truth in those rumors?

I love books about books, namely that glorious little subgenre featuring authors and shattering secrets. Charlie Lovett’s First Impressions comes to mind, a novel that explores the idea of Jane Austen plagiarizing Pride and Prejudice. VERY scandalous and oh so fun. In The Madwoman Upstairs, it’s said that a vast Brontë estate exists – stories, artwork, diaries, letters – and, with her father’s death, Samantha is the sole inheritor. Only she’s never seen this estate, despite what the public and papers believe.

I wanted to love this one more than I did, but it wasn’t a bad read. In fact, I finished in a day and was very intrigued while reading. Once I finished, however, I couldn’t help but feel a little letdown. The scavenger hunt I had been looking forward to just wasn’t there, that clue-to-clue search was little more than an eye-opening realization that came at the very end. I’m wondering if perhaps someone more well-versed in the Brontë sisters might have found more to love here, but for me The Madwoman Upstairs was little more than an entertaining few hours.

As a side note, I hated how Samantha’s education was portrayed. Homeschoolers get a bad rap and this book only furthered those stereotypes. Her father thought it was funny when she misspoke and never bothered to correct her when she got a word wrong (“I went to high school thinking that it was trivilous instead of frivolous, exasperate instead of exacerbate.”) and now, at 20, she finds social settings and interactions hard to handle.

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor
Pub. Date: March 1, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, HMH!)
Summary: When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Time Travel

After losing her mother less than a year ago, Hope isn’t quite ready for a stepmother. She’s certainly not ready for an invitation from an aunt who wants Hope to visit her for the summer. In Scotland. Meaning she’ll have to get on a place and tight, enclosed places are NOT Hope’s idea of a good time. Surprisingly, Hope agrees, and discovers a shocking secret: not only is her mother still alive, but she’s trapped in the 1100s and Hope has to be the one to go and rescue her.

into the Dim was one of my most anticipated releases of the year (hello, time travel!) and I couldn’t wait to dive right into it when I received a copy. Right away I couldn’t help but notice a LOT of disappointed early reviews. Not just readers feeling letdown, but they were outright furious and viciously tore this one apart. So I wasn’t a big fan of Hope’s Super Special photographic memory and the crippling fears mentioned in the blurb all but disappeared instantly, but honestly, this one wasn’t as bad as people are making it out to be.

Into the Dim is your run-of-the-mill YA but with some time travel and secret societies thrown in. The boys weren’t anything special, the time travel aspect was interesting but a little frustrating (once you visit a certain point in time you can never go back again,) and I don’t know if I’ll be reading the sequel, but Into the Dim wasn’t terrible. Just very bland and forgettable.


3 thoughts on “The Madwoman Upstairs + Into the Dim: 2 mini reviews!

  1. I loved The Madwoman Upstairs, but I feel we had a different reading experience than you did. I never thought the book was about the scavenger hunt. The inheritance mystery was just a side story, but to me, the real heart of the story was Samantha coming to grips with her family heritage. As for the homeschooling issues, again I never thought it was directed at homeschooling but more of her father’s quirks. As a Bronte fan, I loved the discussions of the books. Even though the opinions expressed vastly differ from my own, I love how they made me reconsider these books in a whole new light. I also love the process of critical thinking that was part of Samantha’s curriculum in her program. I have never considered thinking such deep thoughts on books until Samantha’s discussions with her professor forced me to sit up and take notice.

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