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The Clearing Paperback – February 13, 2011
About the Author
Anne Riley is an author of young adult fiction disguised as a high school Spanish teacher. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and their daughter.
After graduating from the University of Alabama with a double major in advertising and Spanish, Anne wrote several complete manuscripts, none of which will ever see the light of day. In fact, she likes to pretend they never existed in the first place, although this isn't really fair as those manuscripts helped her find her voice as an author.
Anne has written two novels she's willing to share with the world, and a third is coming soon. She plans to write until she runs out of stories to tell, which, she admits, isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
Other than writing, Anne enjoys reading, painting, watching interior design shows, pretending to cook, and drinking coffee until she starts to twitch. Her literary inspirations are as varied as her hobbies and include J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Kate Morton, and Alexandre Dumas.
Top customer reviews
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This novel kept me on the edge of my seat. It was quite suspenseful, and there's a historical twist to this paranormal. I was also sympathetic towards Natalie. I felt for her during the trying times with her classmates and the unrelenting grief over her parents' recent deaths. The character development, along with the nonstop action, kept me engaged throughout.
Yeah, I liked this book that much.
Riley's debut novel is right up there with the best in the urban fantasy genre. THE CLEARING boasts a suspenseful, spooky plot and relatable, tortured characters. I thought about it for days afterward. I wished for a sequel or companion novel to continue in the unique world Anne Riley created. I cried multiple times as the protagonist Natalie dealt with such serious issues as bullying at school and her parents' deaths. The twists are sublimely surprising, and the magical escapism enchanted me. Doesn't every girl hope deep down that she's special? Especially those of us who were bullied relentlessly in school!
And that is as specific as I'll be with the spoilers. :)
My one complaint, which I repeated on goodreads, is that I really wish the publishers that courted Anne had completed the sale. She ended up self-publishing with the blessing of her agent after multiple near-successes (which I think is admirable), and her book has received very positive reviews on goodreads, amazon, and smashwords. However, after reading it, I felt a bit of righteous indignation on Riley's behalf. I wanted THE CLEARING to get the royal treatment of comparable books! I wished it had been covered in the beautiful art that made me pick up Mistwood or any of Cassandra Clare's books. It needed something spooky and Druidish, ancient and compelling. I don't mean to insult the author's current cover, but it doesn't dress for the occasion. One might very well believe he's picking up a literary novel rather than a YA urban fantasy with commercial, mainstream appeal.
So I advise readers not to believe what the cover is telling you. Imagine ancient symbols and a Druid cross encrusted with jewels or a girl and a boy embracing in a forest clearing with a spooky light glowing around them. Imagine Anne Riley's name in a script-and-scroll font, disappearing into the darkness on the bottom.
And once you've done all that, crack open this pleasure read and enjoy! It gets FIVE STARS from me. Well done, Anne! I hope to enjoy many more books with your name on them.
Riley has done a phenomenal job creating an intense piece that keeps the reader's interest from start to finish. Natalie is a wonderful character. She's caring, concerned, smart, yet struggling with the death of her parents. She's not a push over, and though her roommate and school peers taunt her for being the new girl, she takes it with stride and doesn't let it ruin her life. I really liked that about her. It was refreshing to see a character so sure of herself that bullying didn't cause her to crumple to nothing. I also really enjoyed the strong adult presence throughout the novel--Natalie doesn't suffer alone, and she has a wonderful relationship with her aunt, confiding in her and letting her aunt know about the bullying. Yet, the novel's main focus isn't as much dealing with bullying as it is with Liam and the secrets he holds. Yes, Liam is the mysterious redhead suspected of murdering his own sister, though no evidence has even been found. He's a very cryptic character, and though we don't get to know him right away, as the novel progresses, we learn a lot of interesting information about him as a character and, through him, we learn the connection between the alternating stories within the novel.
Okay, let me back up. This novel really drew me in because there are alternating stories. The novel actually begins 317 years in the past, and the scene we first witness is quite chilling. Yet, Riley doesn't give the reader all the facts just yet, and the next chapter jumps into present day, where we first meet Liam and Natalie. I was intrigued by both stories, but didn't make the connection until halfway through the book. When I finally did make the connection, I'll admit I was flabbergasted. I can't divulge any secrets, but I can say that it threw me for a loop and actually made the story even more powerful, in my opinion, as Riley made some awesome connections between the past and present.
Honestly, this is a phenomenal story, and I really enjoyed it. The main characters are fleshed out and real, and while I would have liked to know a little more about some of the other characters, like Ethan, as they're not the core characters, I feel Riley did a great job. She is an author to watch, and she's made a true fan out of me! I cannot wait for more novels! Four and a half stars!