Tag: suspense

November 16, 2017

Review | The Widow by Fiona Barton

Review | The Widow by Fiona BartonThe Widow by Fiona Barton
Publisher: NAL, February 16th 2016
Pages: 324
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When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

Caught up in the tempest of her husband’s horrific crimes, Jean Taylor plays the dutiful wife. She stays stalwart in the face of harassment, stares, and outright disgust. She remains silent against the onslaught of hatred aimed at her for standing by her husband. But after his death, Jean is free to say anything she wants…and the whole world is waiting to hear.

It’s only fair to call The Widow a book of the unexpected. The most surprising of all was the viciousness of the crimes. Barton’s novel addresses a genuine threat to today’s society: the internet and those who use it to their own nefarious ends. Although it goes without saying, the crimes of pedophilia perpetrated in The Widow were terrifying. Seeing them printed in black and white was heartbreaking.

It is these crimes that caused such a drastic shift in my perception of the characters, especially Jean. In the beginning, she’s almost a victim, portrayed as another damaged soul, collateral to her husband’s sick, twisted mind. But the story unravels, revealing more of Jean and making me wonder how innocent she actually is.

That’s the rub of The Widow. Neither main character is one to cheer for, an unusual problem in today’s popular literature. Instead of the story of the heartbroken, lost wife rebuilding her life after her monstrous husband passes away, Jean’s unreliable narration casts her own character into doubt.

Jean’s unreliable narration is what made me fall in love with this book. It made me question the truth in her mind versus truth in reality. Her outward demeanor didn’t match what was below, and the minor characters surrounding her began to show the complexity of her perspective. It cast doubt on Jean herself, but also her entire story.

While The Widow is not an emotionally easy read, it is, without a doubt, a unique one. Jean’s perspective and character development put a new spin on the typical crime/police procedural novel. Instead of looking at facts, examining clues, the story is told by a somewhat unreliable witness…if that is what you choose to call her.

Posted November 16, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 5, 2017

Review | Gone by Jonathan Kellerman

Review | Gone by Jonathan KellermanGone (Alex Delaware #20) by Jonathan Kellerman
Publisher: Ballantine Books, January 1st 1970
Pages: 365
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Now the incomparable team of psychologist Alex Delaware and homicide cop Milo Sturgis embark on their most dangerous excursion yet, into the dark places where risk runs high and blood runs cold ... a story tailor-made for the nightly news: Dylan Meserve and Michaela Brand, young lovers and fellow acting students, vanish on the way home from a rehearsal. Three days later, the two of them are found in the remote mountains of Malibu --- battered and terrified after a harrowing ordeal at the hands of a sadistic abductor.
The details of the nightmarish event are shocking and brutal: The couple was carjacked at gunpoint by a masked assailant and subjected to a horrific regimen of confinement, starvation and assault. But before long, doubts arise about the couple's story, and as forensic details unfold, the abduction is exposed as a hoax. Charged as criminals themselves, the aspiring actors claim emotional problems, and the court orders psychological evaluation for both.
Michaela is examined by Alex Delaware, who finds that her claims of depression and stress ring true enough. But they don't explain her lies, and Alex is certain that there are hidden layers in this sordid psychodrama that even he hasn't been able to penetrate. Nevertheless, the case is closed --- only to be violently reopened when Michaela is savagely murdered. When the police look for Dylan, they find that he's gone. Is he the killer or a victim himself? Casting their dragnet into the murkiest corners of L.A., Delaware and Sturgis unearth more questions than answers --- including a host of eerily identical killings. What really happened to the couple who cried wolf? And what bizarre and brutal epidemic is infecting the city with terror, madness, and sudden, twisted death?

If you disappeared, would anyone notice?

That’s the gamble young lovers  Dylan Meserve and Michaela Brand risk when they stage their own abduction and horrific ordeal. The romance of their harrowing escape fades away as they tell their story over and over to the police and, slowly, it falls apart. When the real story emerges, Michaela Brand is sent to forensic psychologist Alex Delaware.

You’d think that would be the entire story, right? It’s got tension, drama, even tragic(cally misled) young lovers – the whole nine yards. But you’d be wrong, as I was – all this occurs in the first few chapters of the book.

When I picked up Jonathan Kellerman’s Gone, I was looking for another police procedural to fill the void between “In Death” releases and the wait until my latest Sue Grafton request arrived at the library hold shelf. Alex Delaware, with his background in psychology and massive story library, felt like the right fit.

Maybe it’s because I started on book 20, but Alex and I… well, we just didn’t jive. Not that I disliked him – quite the opposite. But he felt like a peripheral character in his own series, so on the fringe that I forgot about him. He fell into the passive narration too often instead of the active storyteller that I longed for.

Michaela, Dylan and the entire cast of characters that made appearances in Gone captivated me. They were fascinating, terrifying, and entirely too real for my comfort. (Let’s just say I got up to double check the locks more than once that night.)

I loved the dive into the psychological element of crime that Gone takes; it brings a new element to the standard police procedural. Who better to examine the psyches of a criminal than a forensic psychologist?

Ultimately, I think I need to give Alex another go. But this time, I think I’ll start at the beginning.

4 Stars

Posted October 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 25, 2017

Review | Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Echoes in Death by J.D. RobbEchoes in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #44
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, February 2017
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
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Lieutenant Eve Dallas encounters her toughest case yet when New York's wealthiest couples are the targets of a calculated killer in Echoes in Death, a crime thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author J.D. Robb.
When the young woman--dazed, naked, and bloody--wanders in front of their car, Roarke slams on the brakes just in time, and Eve--still in glittering gown and heels--springs into action. It's been a long night for the tired homicide cop, and it's far from over.
Daphne Strazza is rushed to the ER, but it's too late for Dr. Anthony Strazza. A brilliant orthopedic surgeon, he now lies dead amid the wreckage of his obsessively organized town house, his three safes opened and emptied. Daphne would be a valuable witness, but in her terror and shock, the only description of the perp she can offer is repeatedly calling him "the devil."
While it emerges that Dr. Strazza was cold, controlling, and widely disliked--and that he treated Daphne like a trophy wife--this is one case where the evidence doesn't point to the spouse as the first suspect. So Eve and her team must get started on the legwork, interviewing everyone from dinner-party guests to professional colleagues to caterers, in a desperate race to answer some crucial questions:
What does the devil look like? And where will he show up next?

Home is a safe place. It’s where we go to relax, to unwind, to feel safe after dealing with whatever we’ve faced that day. But in J.D. Robb’s latest novel, Echoes in Death, that safety is violated when a killer destroys that santicty. Even worse? He’s dressed as our deepest fears.

There’s always a psychological element in Robb’s work, but Echoes in Death brings it to the forefront. She delves not only the psychology of the criminal, but into their many victims, their lives, and in turn, our own. It took me on a more personal thrill ride through my own fears (you can bet your doughnuts I got up to check the doors and windows were locked after finishing this book) that was pleasantly unexpected.

Each victim represents something we recognize in ourselves or in our lives. The first victim is struggling with an overpowering husband and an unhappy marriage. The second victims (a couple) feel more like the pinnacle relationship we all wish for. On and on, each brings something new to the table, something that will strike a chord in each individual reader. I loved it.

Eve, as always, kicks ass as the main protagonist. Her personality shines through even more while she’s helping the victims of the Echoes in Death criminal, creating the image of an avenging angel…that is, if angels wore magic leather coats and had short shaggy hair. In this installment, she reminded me most of Murphy, that sometimes love-interest/foil to Jim Butcher’s Dresden. Both have a great resemblance to the avenging angel stereotype, take absolutely no shit, and have no problem going after what they want. They are the type of female characters that I love to read.

From the theatrical, terrifying nature of this criminal to the dark psychological underbelly of society that they reveal, Echoes in Death is a winner for J.D. Robb’s fans and mystery lovers alike.

5 Stars

Posted July 25, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 22, 2016

Review | The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Review | The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game, #1
, May 2016
Pages: 399
Format: Hardcover
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Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

I’ve had my eye out for this book since last November. I fell in love with the cover, the blurb, and after seeing pages of positive GoodReads reviews, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. When it finally arrived at the library last week, I was thrilled.

But as I turned the pages, my thrill turned sour, and at page 54, I marked The Crown’s Game dnf. Why? Well, there were a few reasons:

1. The slow beginning

And when I say the slow beginning, I mean the slooooowwwww beginning. I loved the depth of description when it came to the scenery and magic – Skye’s writing prowess really shows here. But when it came to her two main characters, Nikolai and Vika, Skye fell flat. They had no depth, no vibrancy to them that made me care about them. Granted, I put the book down after only 50 pages, but there should already be a character hook here.

2. This felt a little familiar…

Let’s get this out right now: I am in no way accusing Skye of plagiarism. It was more that The Crown’s Game felt like The Hunger Games set in 1800s Russia with magic instead of arrows.

3. I really hate violence against animals.

It’s one of my major pet peeves in books. Honestly, it may be the one thing that will make me put down a book and never pick it up again. Around page 50, when I was wallowing back and forth on putting this book in my return bag, Nikolai returns home from his first sighting of Vika to find his room filled with wild animals, including a tiger and vipers. His mentor, Galina, tells him he needs to kill them to get used to the sight of blood.


What? Seriously? Useless killing so he can get used to blood? No.

I liked the premise of The Crown’s Game. I loved the idea of it: a magical test of feats, set in Romanov Russia. I wasn’t too big of a fan of the idea of a love triangle, but I was willing to look past it. But after a slow start, lack of character development, and the out-of-the-blue animal violence? I’m done.

Posted August 22, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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April 18, 2016

Review | After the Woods by Kim Savage

Review | After the Woods by Kim SavageAfter the Woods by Kim Savage
, February 2016
Pages: 305
Format: Hardcover
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Would you risk your life to save your best friend?

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.

Julia doesn’t know how to live her life after the woods.

She doesn’t want the attention, the weird looks, the flashbacks, or the nightmares. She doesn’t want to be afraid of trees or go to the therapist who wants her to act out what happened with dolls.

When her best friend was attacked as they ran through the forest late one afternoon, Julia acted instinctively, throwing herself in harm’s way so Liv could escape. Now, nearing a year later, the demons are back to haunt her. Yet something is off…but Julia can’t quite put her finger on what. Curious by nature, she takes it into her own hands to unravel the mystery.

As a girl who loves to run, this book scared the daylights out of me. The fear of being attacked while I’m out for a run is something that keeps me on my toes (great article on how to stay safe running alone here), but as I read, I realized After the Woods isn’t a story about what happened in the woods. It’s a story about growing up, growing out of friendships, and realizing others’ demons.

Some people respond to traumatic events by crawling inside themselves and refusing to talk about it. Julia deals with her abduction in a variation of this, but instead of closing herself off from it, she becomes borderline obsessed with getting to the bottom of her abductor’s motives. When Ana, another girl out jogging in the woods, turns up dead, Julia’s first instinct is to investigate.

I loved Julia’s narrative: she’s rightfully wary, slightly defensive, and sarcastic by nature, portraying the events and people around her with an arm’s length and a careful view. The few people she does decide to let close to her, including the local TV news anchor and Kellan, the cute boy whose dad was the head detective on her case, are the few she shares with, but she keeps her biggest suspicion close to her chest.

The writing was clever: Julia’s slow upacking of her memories of the woods brought flashbacks and conversations with Liv to help complete the picture. The anniversary of her attack forces Julia to revisit her memories and look at those around her in an entirely new way. It’s at this moment that she realizes the woods has changed her.

While the writing was beautiful and the plot done well, I felt like I was missing things, especially how View Spoiler ». I’m sure this connection was made, but even after going back in the pages to find the answer, I was still at a loss. This is the only drawback to Savage’s otherwise fantastic debut.

4 Stars

Posted April 18, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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April 8, 2016

Review | I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton

Review | I is for Innocent by Sue GraftonI Is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #10
Publisher: Pan Publishing, August 2012
Pages: 404
Format: Paperback
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When Morley Shine, a fellow PI, dies from a heart attack, Kinsey Millhone takes over the seemingly simple task of gathering evidence for Lonnie Kingman, a local attorney immersed in a civil suit.
Stakes are high. David Birney, acquitted of his wealthy wife's murder five years ago, got his hands on her fortune. Now Kingman wants to divest Birney of the money in favor of the wife's child by an earlier marriage. But the statute of limitations has about run out, and there is little progress.
Kinsey's easy investigation turns into a nightmare. Shine's files are in disarray and the key informant lacks credibility. And she senses danger...a killer waiting to see what Kinsey uncovers. Somebody got away with murder once...will it be Kinsey's turn this time?
From the Compact Disc edition.

Kinsey’s life is a bit of an upheaval. After losing her job with California Fidelity in H is for Homicide, she’s looking for a lucky break. One comes after a fellow private investigator dies suddenly of a heart attack and she’s asked to take over his case. The case, gathering evidence to support a murder charge (already once overturned), suddenly becomes a full-fledged investigation, one that brings into question who is truly innocent.

 Grafton’s novels are great reads on many levels, but what keeps me coming back is the moral hidden in each of the stories. In I is for Innocent, Kinsey faces the challenge of untangling who is telling the truth and what really happened that fateful night (normal day for her), but also ends up as a judge of sorts, a role she didn’t expect. She finds herself discerning just how innocent everyone is, because short of herself View Spoiler », everyone is complicit in some way.


Grafton’s gentle (and occasionally not-so-gentle) reminder that everyone has skeletons in their closet of some kind created a different atmosphere for Innocent – Kinsey’s main focus turns to finding out just what on earth happened that night.

Aside from the morals, Grafton has once again penned a superior mystery. When David Barney is acquitted of the cold-blooded murder of his wife, Isabelle, Kenneth, Isabelle’s former husband, doesn’t buy it. The conflicting emotions, hidden motives and long-buried secrets are slowly revealed as Kinsey starts poking around in the old case files.

The biggest hook came in the conflicting responses and actions of Isabelle’s husbands, both widower and ex. Both gave me the vague creeps from their differing reactions to Isabelle’s death, but the unusual situation and the varying nature of their personalities kept me captivated.

4 Stars

Posted April 8, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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February 27, 2016

Review | The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

Review | The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca PodosThe Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
Publisher: Balzer & Bray, January 2016
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
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All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.

Rebecca Podos’s debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us, and the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.

Imogene Scott’s world revolves around her dad. Sure, she’s got friends, interests, and a crush like any other seventeen-year-old, but the connection she shares with her dad, well, it’s different. Since her mom left when Imogene was a child, her dad has been her rock. So when he goes missing one day, she’s determined to find him.

Podos’ debut, The Mystery of Hollow Places, follows Imogene on her hunt to find her father, a medical mystery writer, after he disappears one day. At first, I thought this would be a murder mystery, whodunit style. Instead Podos delves into a psychological mystery/treasure hunt that looks back into Imogene’s past.

I adored the psychological aspect of it; Imogene’s detective skills are pretty good, and her constant literary references to everything from Rebecca to Sherlock Holmes made me laugh. The mystery of why her mom left, where she is now, and why her father disappeared keeps this element moving along at a pretty good pace.

When it came to Imogene herself, I had mixed feelings. Her literary references and habit of carrying a favorite paperback around with her everywhere was charming, but the way she treated other people irritated me. She uses Jessa, the girl she doesn’t name as her best friend until a good third into the book, constantly, but makes snarky remarks behind her back about her looks. She does treat Jessa better as the story progresses, but it’s not until the end that she’s actually grateful for what’s a pretty fantastic friend.

This same disregard stretches to her stepmother, Lindy. Lindy was portrayed as stunning (like Jessa), always put together (like Jessa), and Imogene made subtle snarky remarks in her narrative (like she does with Jessa). Again, Imogene progresses, and the last scene with Lindy made me cry, but it wasn’t enough to redeem her behavior. The amount of insecurity I felt coming from Imogene wasn’t endearing. It frustrated me and made it hard to cheer for her.

However, Mystery brings up a few sensitive topics: grief, depression, and the struggle of raising a child as a single parent. Imogene’s dad fights through many of these issues along with Imogene, and gives a voice to depression. I loved Podos’ emphasis on a support system – it’s hard to make it through life without one.

There were parts of Mystery that I loved and parts that just didn’t sit well with me. It’s not the psychological thriller I was expecting, but the discussion of the tough subjects makes it well worth a read.

3 Stars

Posted February 27, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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January 21, 2016

Review | Wonderment in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Wonderment in Death by J.D. Robb"Wonderment in Death" by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death,
Publisher: Jove, September 2015
Pages: 432
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Some of your favorite New York Times bestselling authors present five all-new stories told through the looking glass—including a new Eve Dallas novella!
You’re late for a very important date... Enter a wonderland of mesmerizing tales. It’s a place that’s neither here nor there, where things are never quite as they seem. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s whimsical masterpiece, ranging from the impossible to the mad to the curiouser, these stories will have you absolutely off your head. 
Don’t be afraid to follow them…


Wonderment in Death by J. D. Robb, Alice and the Earl in Wonderland by Mary Blayney, Love by Elaine Fox, A True Heart by Mary Kay McComas, Fallen by R. C. Ryan

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite fairy tales. The mischievous characters, the setting where truly anything can happen, and the determination of the heroine wins me over every time. When I saw that Robb had come out with a novella with strong Alice themes, you bet I was in.

Although it appears to be a typical murder suicide (if any such thing can be truly typical), there’s something odd about this one. Why was the sister wearing a camera on her lapel as she murdered her brother and flung herself off the balcony? Eve starts digging and finds that this doesn’t fit either sibling’s personality. She tugs that thread, unraveling the entire story in a fascinating tale. 
The theme of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” stood out strongly in Wonderment in Death. Eve could have taken one look, saw what she was supposed to see, and wrapped it as a murder/suicide. That isn’t who she is; even though Louise and other characters ask her to look further, Eve would have delved into their story until she was sure, was satisfied. I loved that extra development in her character – this case reinforces her standard to look beyond the surface. 
What really stood out for me were the overwhelming themes of Alice. From the villain’s cronies to the method of murder itself, Robb didn’t leave any stone unturned. The fairy tales shenanigans merged with the harsh reality of Eve’s world created a stark, fascinating contrast. 
4 Stars

Posted January 21, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 2, 2015

Review | Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title: Heroes Are My Weakness
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips {website}
Publication Date: August 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

He’s a reclusive writer whose imagination creates chilling horror novels. She’s a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids’ puppet shows.

Annie Hewitt has arrived on Peregrine Island in the middle of a snowstorm and at the end of her resources. She’s broke, dispirited, but not quite ready to give up. Her red suitcases hold the puppets she uses to make her living, the romantic novels she loves, and a little bit of courage–all she has left.

Annie couldn’t be more ill prepared for what she finds when she reaches Moonraker Cottage or for the man who dwells in Harp House, the mysterious mansion that hovers above the cottage from a windblown cliff. When she was a teenager, he betrayed her in a way she can never forget or forgive. Now they’re trapped together on a frozen island along with a lonely widow, a mute little girl, and townspeople who don’t know how to mind their own business. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes. It’s going to be a long, hot winter.

SEP has always been one of my favorite romance authors. From Lady Be Good, SEP’s books are my go-to comfort reads. I expected a strong romance, a little silliness in the plot, and an overall fun read from Heroes Are My Weakness and, skipping the slow start to the novel, I got exactly that.

What I didn’t expect were the powerful gothic elements in Heroes Are My Weakness. Most of the SEP books I have read tend to be a little lighter, even with dealing with dark issues. I didn’t expect the Heathcliff or Edgar Allan Poe references, or the powerful scenery of the large looming mansion atop the hill.

The story didn’t take off right away, unfortunately. The first third was oddly slow, even the first few pages. I considered dropping this book back into my library return bag, but SEP’s books have been so good to me in the past years, I hung on. Thank goodness I did. 

Theo is, initially, a creepy character. I actually had to check the back of the book to make sure that yes, he is indeed the romantic hero. As the story progressed, I loved his character despite myself. The wry humor, brief sarcasm, and hidden secrets was a combo I couldn’t resist. On the other hand, Annie is an open book: there’s very little that’s surprising about her, but considering the vast emotions of Theo, the story would have been overwhelmed otherwise.

The emotional baggage held by both Annie and Theo creates some amazing tension. Theo’s dark history touched Annie in the past, but the true story behind it isn’t quite what she expected. Both characters’ struggle with their intertwined past bumps the romance up a few notches. To be honest, I didn’t expect to love the romance so much. Theo and Annie weren’t just fighting against outside forces: they were fighting against themselves and their attraction to each other. The plot held up beautifully to such complex emotions, and definitely delivered in the end.

Posted July 2, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 27, 2015

The Canon Classics | Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Title: Rebecca
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Publication Date: January 1938
Publisher: Gollancz
Source & Format: Library; hardcover

Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

After a whirlwind romance & a honeymoon in Italy, the innocent young heroine & the dashing Maxim de Winter return to his country estate, Manderley. But the unsettling memory of Rebecca, the first Mrs de Winter, still lingers within. The timid bride must overcome her husband’s oppressive silences & the sullen hostility of the sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, to confront the emotional horror of the past. 

Beginning with some of the most famous opening lines in literature, Rebecca is a dark, ghostly tale full of crime, intrigue, and a gorgeous house called Manderley. I fell in love with du Maurier’s famous work when I saw the movie years ago, and have yearned to read it ever since. 

Normally the gothic atmosphere and mystery are my favorite parts of a story, but I fell in love with one particular element: the unnamed narrator. Think about it for a moment: how many books have you read where the narrator is never named? Short of “my wife” and “Mrs. de Winter,” the narrator never reveals her name. Initially, I thought I was reading too fast and possibly missed it, but as she reveals more and more of her story, I realize du Maurier has utilized one of my favorite literary elements: the unreliable narrator.

The narrator, at first, sounds reliable, a woman merely remembering a dark period in her life and seeing its effects in the present. When the narration turns to the past, reliving her life at Manderley, I started to question her. Her refusal to name herself and her strange obsession with age (I couldn’t not find the actual number of her age, odd considering how often she brings it up) made me look at her recollections more closely. She focuses on certain conversations, scenery, moments, but utterly skims over the rest with a wave of the hand. She quickly paints herself as uncertain, awkward, and without confidence, a young girl completely out of her depth. Her obsession with Rebecca, a name she mentions so often that it might as well be her own, only speaks to her deep insecurity and tendency towards the dramatic

From the first sentence, foreshadowing and a certain feeling of uneasiness slips in the narration. The sun might shine down on the narrator, but everything is fringed in shadows. I felt like she constantly saw the world through a vignette photograph. I couldn’t help but question her story when she depicted the other characters’ uncertainty or hostility. However, despite the unreliable narrator, Rebecca is shadowed. The plot’s foreboding became addictive, making me feel like I had to read more to figure out what on earth would happen. 

In my opinion, Mrs. Danvers and Nurse Ratchet must be related. The amount of hostility felt by the narrator from the housekeeper is overwhelming, but is only found in her actions and tone of voice. She is the ghost haunting the hallways, and one of the three most powerful characters in the entire novel.

If you haven’t yet read Rebecca, it’s time. You must. I was astonished by the power of the narration, the intense imagery, and the slow pull of the mystery. The suspense kept me up reading and I know this is a book I will return to again and again.

Posted June 27, 2015 by Ellen in the canon classics, Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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