Friday, October 1, 2010

The Phantom Diaries by Kailin Gow

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: the EDGE; 1st edition (May 31, 2010)

Book summary: What happens to the Phantom after the tragedy at the Paris Opera House is the basis for this fantastic tale of The Phantom Diaries, loosely based on Gaston Leroux's classic, The Phantom of the Opera, but with a new tale and a modern twist. This new series for older teens and young adults is told through the eyes of 18 year-old Annette Binoche, who lands a job at the New York Metropolitan Opera House as a seamstress' assistant only to become the lead singer of the Opera House, with the help of the mysterious, yet highly-seductive Phantom.

My review: The Phantom of the Opera is a classic novel and popular musical. This summer the ReaderGirls watched the movie version with Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler which we loved. We hummed the songs for days. When I received The Phantom Diaries I spent the evening caught up in this new version of a story I have come to love.

Annette is introduced to us as the assistant to the seamstress of the Opera House in NYC. She has just relocated from New Orleans with high hopes of making a life for herself in the Big Apple. She creates gorgeous costumes for performers she secretly wishes she could be. While she watches the star artist, Marie, on stage, Annette witnesses strange sounds and rumblings. It's as if the opera house itself is unhappy with Marie's performance. Afterwards, the company is shocked to hear Marie has left and their production is now without its lead.

This is where the supposed Phantom comes in. He hears Annette singing a song from the score and approaches her. Mysterious, alluring and seductive, Annette is immediately drawn to Eric not only by his musical expertise but also by his looks and voice. He helps her prepare her voice to audition. Secret meetings, creepy locations, and with lots of chemistry between the two, Eric makes Annette a star. 

As our main character transforms from shy newcomer to experienced stage performer. Annette is believable and I liked her. What I enjoyed about The Phantom Diaires were the constant twists and surprising turns which kept me wondering what would happen next. There is plenty of old fashioned heavy breathing and romance in this story. Annette is attracted to three men: Eric, her teacher; Chace, first chair violinist in the orchestra; and Aaron, her manager and owner of the Opera House. As she tries to decide which guy to choose, Gow manages to slip in more mystery and surprises. The ending, despite it being a cliffhanger, was unexpected and now I have to wait to see what happens next in Dark Memories (Phantom Diaries Book 2). 

My only complaint were the amount of typos and excessive word spacing in this book. This was not an ARC, it was the finished book. As a reader I would be incensed to purchase a book with mistakes and I have noticed this flaw in many of the smaller presses or self published novels I've read (and even in books put out by the bigger houses). This is not the fault of the authors; I wish copy editing would do a better job. Despite that, I continued reading simply on the strength of the story. At only 220 pages this is a fast paced, one night read. I really enjoyed The Phantom Diaries and bet anyone who loves the classic or simply enjoys clever mysteries with romance will also be taken by this book.

My rating: +++1/2

Favorite excerpt: From page 172.
"It says, only Annette."

I shook my head and walked to the edge of the terrace. She wasn't making any sense. "Judy, please. Be more coherent or you're going to drive me crazy."

"Sweetie, the mirror in the dressing room; someone wrote on it in blood red lipstick."

"Wrote what?"

"Only Annette."

My head began spinning and I had to sit down. The Phantom didn't like the other singers. I wasn't too surprised by that considering what I'd witnessed with Marie. But he knew my name. He'd asked for me by name." 

Cover comment: Visually strong and theatrical. The black and white tile of what is supposed to be the Opera House, with the red mask on the floor, plays up the mystery presented in the story.

Book source: Traveling ARC tours

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