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Unraveling Isobel [Hardcover]

Eileen Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Jan. 3 2012
A darkly comic novel that blends paranormal mystery and romance with humor, from the author of The Eductation of Hailey Kendrick and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

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Product Description

Review

"Isobel, all snark and sharp edges covering some intense vulnerability as she continuously checks in to see if she has crossed into mental illness (as her father did when she was young), is a compelling narrator." --The Horn Book, January/February 2012

“Spine-tingling setting….Isobel’s sass and her steamy romance with her new stepbrother will help readers race toward the dramatic conclusion.” --Publishers Weekly

“This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments….Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, a likable narrator, and interesting characters.” --Kirkus

“Ideal for readers who like their stories supernatural but their dream guys human.” –The Bulletin

"[Isobel] will quickly endear herself to readers. Cook combines the perfect mix of mystery and romance to create a delightfully creepy chick lit-y ghost story that will hook readers and keep them engrossed long into the night–preferably with the lights on." --SLJ

“A wonderfully creepy mystery….Snarky, funny….Will keep readers up late into the night….Exceptional.” -- Shelf Awareness

"Filled with wit and humor, Unraveling Isobel draws readers in not only with romance and intrigue but also the compelling voice of a strong protagonist....The text pairs a captivating mystery with intriguing commentary on mental illness...clever prose keeps readers engaged....Isobel makes for a complex and interesting heroine, with readers certain to root for her until the very end of this simple but well-crafted mystery."--Voya

“An addicting ghost story….This will pull readers in and have them quickly turning pages.”--Booklist

“[Isobel’s] voice is wickedly entertaining, and she is very likeable, frank and funny.” –National Post

“A fast-moving thrill-ride of a novel.” –The Winnipeg Review

About the Author

Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. She is the author of The Education of Hailey Kendrick, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and What Would Emma Do? as well as the Fourth Grade Fairy series. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and dogs. Visit her at EileenCook.com.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun, delightful read Jan. 9 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book that will appeal to all ages, with its unusual ,slightly ghostly plot, a believable heroine who isn't too perfect and, of course, Eileen Cook's trademark humor.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unraveling Isobel - Unexpectedly Fun and Creepy Read! Jan. 20 2012
By Leanne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
*More like 4.5 stars; Received ARC through Goodreads First Reads from author

Unraveling Isobel opens up with one of the best (hilarious and touching) things about the book - Isobel's tendency to turn her thoughts into lists - the first one being reasons for objections to her mom's speedy wedding to Richard or Dick, as she likes to call him. Just a snippet:

1. "His name is Richard, which is really just a fancy version of Dick. I don't think anyone should be in a relationship with a Dick.
2. ...
5. Dick's first wife and daughter died seven months ago, and it seems to me he could have given it at least a year before bringing us in as the replacements. I may not be the queen of etiquette, but even I know some things are in bad taste."

By doing this, Cook sets up the background of the story well, and the reader instantly understands Isobel's strained situation with her new family and relocation, her crush on her stepbrother, Nathaniel, and her own snarky sense of humor. From the first page alone, I was already laughing and gaining an affection for Isobel.

When Isobel settles into her new room (which used to be Nathaniel's dead sister's room), and her new school, she learns of the haunted history of the estate and begins to see visions and signs of ghosts. The questions that arise are, is Isobel going crazy like her schizophrenic father, is someone trying to make her think she is going crazy, or is there really a ghost haunting her for help?

As Isobel attempts to answer these questions, I was impressed with the author's ability to unravel hints in a well-written, well-paced manner, as well as intersperse scenes of romance and humor, further endearing me to Isobel's plucky character and leaving me eager to find out the ending (I read this all in one sitting). I also found myself relating closely to Isobel with her outlook on school social "politics", and how she decided to play detective. I was pleasantly reminded of episodes of Monk and Murder She Wrote I have seen (great shows, by the way), when Isobel tries to set a trap to determine if there is a ghost or murderer. The twist at the end of the book was also statisfyingly unexpected, as I usually can figure those types of things out, but didn't until close to the very end.

Overall, Unraveling Isobel was a fun, stimulating, and creepy read (without blood and gore), and I was quite surprised how much I liked this book. I would recommend this to young readers (or those young at heart) who is a fan of mystery/detective shows/novels and who enjoys stories with a great mix of suspense, romance, and snarkiness. I definitely plan on reading other books by Eileen Cook, starting with "Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it! Jan. 28 2012
By Denise Jaden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had a chance to read an early copy of this book, and it ended up being one of my favorite books of last year. Along with Eileen Cook's usual laugh out loud humor, there's also a strong mystery element and some major heat between Isobel and her step-brother that kept me turning page after page to get to the end. Highly recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Feb. 1 2013
By Amber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm 17 years old and I find this book very amazing.
Great book for teens who like teen mystery.
I'd consider this book too all my girl friends<3
MUST READ!!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a ghost story April 12 2012
By Jasmine Baggenstos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Unraveling Isobel wasn't quite the psychological thriller I was hoping for, but it was still a great read.

First of all, I just want to say that I hated Isobel's mom and stepdad. They were incredibly heartless at times and it really bugged me. Not in the way that I thought it was unrealistic or anything, but more in the way that I just felt really bad for Isobel. Seriously, what kind of mom complains about all the years they've "given" their daughter.

Then there's the Isobel/Nate thing. I'm going to be honest, it really weirded me out. I understand that it's not technically illegal or anything, but it is certainly weird.

I appreciated the growth in Isobel and how she went from wanting to be friends with whoever would take her in to being proud of herself and standing up to catty biatches around her. Her inner turmoil over whether she was going crazy was interesting too. I can't imagine what it would be like to not only think you're going crazy, but to have basically everyone around you agreeing.

And then there's the creepy aspect. It really added something to the story that Isobel was constantly wondering whether she was crazy, but I can't say that I was always wondering what was real and what wasn't. I suppose it does leave it up to the reader to decide, but to me it seemed that certain things were obviously paranormal. It's up to you to decide for yourself, though ;]

The Nutshell: Though Unraveling Isobel didn't have quite the creep factor I was hoping for, it did still make me jumpy while reading at night. It's a lot deeper than just another scary ghost story too, though. Isobel has to deal with having a father with schizophrenia and constantly wondering if she has it to. Not only that, but everyone around her - mom, stepdad, peers - are basically reinforcing the idea that there's something wrong with her. If you're looking for a good mystery with a strong character that leaves the paranormal element up to the reader, this is definitely your book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bit like Rebecca meets a certain Buffy ep . . . Jan. 17 2012
By Book Sp(l)ot Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Unraveling Isobel is the first book by Eileen Cook I've read - I have others on my TBR list and have meant to read them but this is the first one I've read. It is a great one to start with. It leaves me wanting to know about all of the other books she's read. Unraveling Isobel is creepy and different.

Just months after meeting him on the internet, Isobel's mother has moved them to some tiny island to live with her new husband. It's Isobel's senior year and she has to leave Seattle behind, leave her friends behind. All to live with her mother and some man she doesn't even know in his huge, creepy mansion estate. Oh, and his incredibly good looking but incredibly off limits son, her new step-brother.

Just when Isobel thinks life couldn't get much worse, her first night in the house she sees something that leaves her with two options: Either she's losing her mind like her artist father did . . . or she just saw a ghost.

Isobel isn't quite prepared for just what life in this new town - and house - is going to bring.

Unraveling Isobel is like a perfect blend of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca and the Buffy episode "Ted," with a twist of Holly Schindler's A Blue So Dark.

The serious plot lines continue to progress and the characters develop all while this paranormal story line is happening. A paranormal background that, at first, seems like it may be imagined, but as things unravel we learn that there's more and more to it. And things get creepier and creepier. Both for the characters in the novel and for readers reading about it.

Unraveling Isobel doesn't go for the horror factor or pile of the gore of the violence, it's the best kind of creepy with things making you jump, things startling you, things being eerie or just that little bit off. It's fantastic.

That the interpersonal relationships don't suffer for sake of the paranormal in the book is great. Readers still get to see Isobel adjusting to being a new student (one who very much does not want to be there), learning things about her new step-father and brother - both from the island's residents and by living with them, and dealing with her mother and their relationship.

They also get to learn about the estate Isobel and her new family are living on - and what's happened there in the past. Big, creepy, old houses are perfect for spooky books.

There is one part/element that is pretty predictable (to say what it is would be spoilery, I think) but I don't think the story suffers for it. It may even supposed to have been that way - where the readers could guess it but not the character, I'm not sure.

Unraveling Isobel is a book I loved - one that is creepy, has a great setting (both the island and the estate) and the characters are well developed and have relationships with each other that progress well throughout the book. I hope you'll love it, too.
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