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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 10 July 2011
Arcadia Falls starts with a recently widowed mother, Meg Rosenthal, and her teenage daughter, Sally, travelling to an elite private college in the North East of the United States, where the mother has been appointed as a teacher. The daughter is a stereotypical teenager and is far from happy about this move. The author seems very comfortable with this sort of setting. The Lake Of Dead Languages and Carol Goodman's latest offering, Incubus (Fairwick Chronicles 1) both also involve single woman who have moved to similar colleges to teach. There are gothic overtones, pagan rites, witchcraft and folklore with strong hints of the supernatural which are all recurrent themes in Goodman's work.

The author has two parallel stories unfolding, one in the present day and one set about 80 years ago. These are linked by a journal written by one of the founders of the school, Lily Eberhardt, which Meg reads. Lily died tragically, and this is paralleled by a present day death at the school. The underlying theme of the book is the mystery as to the real circumstances of these deaths as there is a hint in both cases that there is more to these than straight forward accidents. Meg tells the story in the first person in the present tense - this can be an awkward way to write, but it generally works very well here.

For most of the book the author tells the story at a very gentle pace but writes beautifully. The descriptive passages are well worth lingering over, as her scenes, which are often very atmospheric, are set very skilfully and it is very easy to see them in your mind's eye. However, towards the end the action speeds up significantly. The conclusion is quite complex and ties up the loose ends with plenty of twists and turns, but for me the last revelation was one too many and stretched credibility a bit too far.

I find it very surprising that Carol Goodman has not acquired more of a following in the UK. Arcadia Falls is typical of her style and apart from a few reservations about the ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If action packed page turners are your favoured genre, this may not be for you, but this is writing of high quality and many will be captivated with this story as I was.
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VINE VOICEon 27 April 2010
Boarding school in the wooded Catskill Mountains, secret compartments, weird "pagan rites," unconventional relationships, untoward deaths--if these ingredients are your cup of tea, then "Arcadia Falls" is for you. And the mood-driven Gothic revival novel will keep you reading to the end, even though the author perhaps leads the reader down one too many twisting paths in her story line.

The main character is likable, but the novel is structured in such a way that any reader familiar with the genre will be way ahead of Meg in jumping to the expected conclusions as well as in recognizing when she is being manipulated, not only by the other characters but also by the author. And while improbabilities and coincidences are par for the course in such novels, the ending is so pat as to be beyond belief.

Curiously, the most effective part of the novel is the changeling fairy tale, which is so beautifully written that one can picture it mentally, complete with 1920s wood-block illustrations. And although it later became apparent to me that the main character narrates the story in the present tense in order to distinguish her story from the fairy tale and from Lily's journal--written in past tense, use of the present tense in the central narrative bothered me (I also found that while Lily's 'journal entries' were necessary to organising the plot, they interrupted the flow of the narrative). Mention of several actual brand names during the course of the story also gave me the feeling that I had become the victim of commercial product placement.

Bottom Line: "Arcadia Falls" is an entertaining book to take with you to while away your tedious hours of waiting at the airport in the unlikely event that your flight is delayed.

Reviewed for Vine; Amazon.com
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on 5 February 2015
Having never read anything by Carol Goodman before, I was interested in the book title, summary and cover and decided to give it a read. Overall, I enjoyed it. The imagery in the book is startlingly good- the author has a real talent for building up tension and setting a scene. I could picture Arcadia quite clearly as she discussed the grounds and characters over the course of the book. In particular, I found Sally Rosenthal, Meg's daughter, to be quite an intriguing character, to the point I wish the book had been written from her perspective over Meg's. Chloe Dawson was another character that stood out well and I feel like her personality and motivations translated well. The mystery aspect of the book was interesting, especially as the author intermingles an aura of witchcraft and the supernatural into her story without being overt about it. As the plot unfolds into the complicated relationships between the characters of the past, I was eager to find out just what those behind it were hiding. The diary entries with Lily's perspective were very interesting and the author did a good job conveying the differences in time periods, as well as communicating the passion for the arts felt by the characters very well.

What prevents the book from getting five stars was first of all, while I loved the actual story and the author's descriptions, I found Meg Rosenthal very annoying. We're supposedly meant to sympathise with her, but she comes across as whiny, petty and quite superior, which is possibly why I enjoyed Lily's chapters (even if Lily was clearly very deluded), because they gave me a break from Meg's narration. The plot twist at the end of the book was incredibly confusing and kind of undermined another plot twist that had happened before. It felt a bit like the author just wanted to pad the book out for another couple of pages, and I feel like it didn't really add anything to the story overall.

Another subplot I disliked was the 'romance' element, which I felt was really unnecessary. For a book that is mainly centred on women, female empowerment and about women having to sacrifice either their family or careers and how they have more choices these days, I found the fact Meg had her own romantic subplot to be entirely predictable and quite boring, especially as I was able to tell who was her designated love interest from the second he was introduced. He didn't really function much as his own character to me and the fact he always seemed to believe Meg and be in the right place at the right time hammers home how he's more of a plot device than a person.

Overall, an enjoyable book with an interesting backstory (with clearly extensive research on fairytales and how to craft a fairytale lore), but I felt like the ending let it down and that it took a while for the real mystery to get going. Still, it was likable and I'm glad I discovered it.
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on 23 March 2014
It's difficult to work out who this book is aimed out. At times I thought I had chosen a children's book by mistake. It seems in places to be aimed at teenage girls but the main protagonist is a 40+ woman and so presumably it is not. In places the writing irritates with a particular phrase repeated several times in a few pages. It is readable if far fetched. Part of the denouement can be guessed at half- way through but the conclusion is an unsatisfactory way of tying up loose ends. I have done a lot of train journeys recently and have read in succession, 'Before I go to Sleep', 'The Shining Girls' and 'Gone Girl'. This book is not of the quality of any of those but it did pass time on the rail journeys and I did finish it which must say something. rwe
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on 28 June 2013
I thought this was a fantasy novel or a ghost story. I'd never have chosen it if I'd realised it was a romance. But like Harry Potter it's about orphans, a strange school, and a load of pupils whose parents and grandparents were once scholars. And I really enjoyed it.
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on 17 February 2012
I have read al the books by this author and despite her repeats (main character being usually a single mother, teacher at university or in the boarding school) she still makes the plot entertaining enough to keep going. It is yet again a very engaging read with twists and turns on Italian soil. Great evening or beach read!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 April 2010
but well-written. "Arcadia Falls" is the first Carol Goodman novel I've read. The story she tells, about an arts colony turned boarding school, is complicated, but at the same time, interesting.

The story is told in the first person by recent widow, Meg Rosenthal, who arrives with her 16 year old daughter at the boarding school in Arcadia Falls, New York. The school is run by a rather spooky older woman, Ivy St Clare, which is just one of the problems at the school. The faculty is predictably odd, and the students, mostly girls, are at the prime of teenage angst. Rituals lead to deaths which lead to murder charges. While most of Goodman's novel takes place in current times, the diary of one of the founder's of the art colony, Lily Eberhardt sends the story back to the 1920's, 30's, and 40's. Out of wedlock births and botched adoptions lead to people at the school not always being who they assume they are OR who are assumed they are by other people. It's all a bit confusing, but by the end, loose ends are tidied up.

Goodman's a good writer and the novel is enjoyable.
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on 9 February 2014
I've liked Carol's books for a long time, and this novel follows her usual format. However I thought the ending was rather rushed, as if she was already thinking about her next novel.
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on 8 November 2012
This was the first book of this author that I've read and I was instantly hooked! I think the characters were brilliant and the thrill of the read - well what can I say - read it!!!
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on 12 December 2013
As this is an Xmas present and what was requested I am sure it will please the person who is to receive this.
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