The Novel Life of Coral Ambrose by Bonnie Ballou
Warning: contains a (short) scene of child molestation
The Novel Life of Coral Ambrose by Bonnie Ballou is the story about the title character, Coral Ambrose. As an introvert, bookworm that’s borderline hoarder, I related to this character hard. When the book starts, Coral is just finished with a book and wants to shelve it, but she can’t find an empty spot on her shelf. Bookshelves are in every room and line her halls to the point she has to turn sideways to move down her hallway. Should she move, or try to get rid of some of her books? Coral likes her apartment as its affordable and close to her job, but she has a hard time getting rid of books. They hold good memories, and she fears that she’ll forget those if she gets rid of her books. Coral, we soon learn, has lost memories of the first five years of her life and doesn’t know why. She doesn’t want to lose any more. To counteract this, she hoards books and journals about them. When her older sister tells her to get rid of some books, Coral reluctantly pulls some off the shelf she knows she’ll never read again thanks to their poorly written stories (a girl after my own heart!) and takes them to a new to the neighborhood used bookshop. After conversation with the middle-aged shop owner, Coral agrees to let him come help her sort out books. Instead, he gives her an artifact that transports Coral through books. The shop owner tells her that the device will grant her clarity, though for what, it’s unclear (otherwise she wouldn’t need the artifact!), but things soon turn serious when others want the artifact for themselves.
Sounds great, right?
This novel was fascinating and kept me glued to my Kindle. Not only did we have the main storyline of Coral and her daily life, we get to visit the books Coral visits. There’s a horror, a fantasy, historical romance, PI mystery, a thriller/ spy novel, an English mystery, a children’s book, western, and a sci-fi. The author writes a fresh, unique voice for each book, so it’s easy to keep them separate, even when characters reappear. It was like reading multiple books in one and wondering how they all connected kept me reading. The twists were unexpected, and figuring out identities of recurring characters kept me guessing. Hearing Coral react as a reader being forced to act as a character in a genre was pretty fun. She said and did a lot of things I’d made comments about with certain genres and her commentary will make any reader laugh out loud. (Why didn’t the character do this? This character is useless, get rid of them! I know this is a historical romance, but how does someone cry prettily?)
Coral, being a bookworm, introvert, personal trainer, and borderline hoarder, has her own scarred past. She’s also smart, resourceful, and strong. I liked her as a character, probably because I related to her. The rest of the characters were just as fleshed out, though I wasn’t a huge fan of Pearl, the overbearing big sister. Still, she showed up and was supportive when Coral needed her and that made up for her nagging earlier on. The secondary characters were also fun, and getting to read a chapter from John Marshall’s perspective was great. The novel was fast-paced, plotted well and well-written. There was danger and adventure in every story line, so you never really knew what was happening next, but with each genre Coral visits, the author kept true to its guidelines and prose, which gave the book an immediately comfortable feel.
My only real problem with the plot is with the actual artifact. No one knows how the artifact happened, and they’ve yet to duplicate the results with similar man-made compounds. No one knew anything, which I found a little bit frustrating, but they were trying to learn, so I suppose that makes up for it. Also, I would have loved to see a chapter of Elliot and Coral going into a book together, but perhaps that will be a later adventure? There were a few typos, but those were very rare. Since the book was so good, it hardly bothered me at all.
My Rating: 5/5
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If you’re interested in this book, it’s only $3.99 on Amazon.
Thanks for reading!