Tag: thriller

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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November 13, 2017

Review | Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Review | Till Death by Jennifer L. ArmentroutTill Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: William Morrow, February 2017
Pages: 297
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In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . .

It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.
First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.
But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

Sasha Keaton wasn’t supposed to live.

Kidnapped and brutalized by the serial killer known only as the Groom, Sasha took a chance on escape and fled to a neighboring ranch. Clad in the wedding dress she was meant to die in, Sasha managed to thwart the Groom and save herself.

Ten years later, Sasha returns to the family inn in her hometown, hoping the emotional distance of ten years is enough to heal the trauma. But from the moment she arrives, something is wrong.

Till Death‘s Sasha gave voice to victims, to the struggle to heal and go back to normalcy. I admired the strength, understood (most of) her motives, and yet sometimes dearly wished she would pick up on the signs and stop throwing herself into the path of danger.

The real hook of Armentrout’s work lay in the dueling perspectives. While Sasha’s narration took center stage, the criminal’s occasional POV ratcheted up the tension, especially as the crimes increased. It brought the whodunit factor sky-high, creating this insatiable urge to know just who this psychopath was.

Till Death‘s romance came in a very close second. Cole’s feelings for the girl that disappeared on him ten years ago and the devotion he has for the dark-and-twisty heroine that she’s become is astonishing. It’s real, it’s intense, and it’s one of the few constants in Sasha’s life. My only complaint? I wish it were a little more drawn out – it felt like it happened entirely too easily, but then again, not much has been easy for Sasha.

Cole’s dependability and devotion, combined with his career as a local FBI agent, makes him a crucial character in Till Death and one I’m glad is standing by Sasha’s side, especially as the violence escalates.

Hidden inside this unsuspecting cover are a gripping thriller, heart-stopping romance, and powerful survivor story. Till Death is the reason  Jennifer Armentrout is at the top of my wishlist.

4 Stars

Posted November 13, 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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June 5, 2017

Review | Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Review | Jurassic Park by Michael CrichtonJurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Series: Jurassic Park, #1
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, January 1970
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
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State-of-the-art science and suspense combine in this uniquely exciting high-tension thriller from the author of The Andromeda Strain. Bio-engineers create authentic, detail-perfect, real-life dinosaurs for a Pacific island theme park, but scientific triumph explodes into horrendous disaster as the first visitors encounter the unbelievable.

Jurassic Park is one of those iconic stories that everyone knows. Whether it’s the image of the velociraptors prancing through the stainless steel, never-before-used restaurant kitchen or the haunting outline of the T-rex as it prowls through the park, it’s as crucial to a young moviegoer’s education as Star Wars.

So, naturally, when I found a paperback copy of Michael Crichton’s bestseller, I grabbed it.

The novel and the movie are alike and not, all at once. There’s power to Crichton’s writing that doesn’t make it into the film, an enchantment that makes science and the notion of a prehistoric theme park entirely plausible. This dominant narrative is in the movie, but I feel the characters are really what sets this story apart.

On the surface level, the characters seem somewhat multi-dimensional. John Hammond, the old man who fantasizes about bringing dinosaurs to life and has the funds to do it, his susceptible grandkids who just want to find an escape contrast with the glass-half-empty lawyer and the observant, scientific-minded folks. Together, they make more drama than the island of prehistoric animals ever could (not that they don’t try).

But it’s what each of those characters represents that really makes Jurassic Park a winner. Hammond is determined to buy his happiness, convinced that his money can overcome the power of nature. His constant refrain of “my animals” and something along the lines of “wouldn’t hurt a fly” indicates a man deep in denial, convinced his money can buy anything or both.

He sets up the argument of nature versus nurture and whether humankind can (and should) mess with the process that has evolved our world. The scientific group of characters appears to be the most rational, excluding one: Hammond’s scientist. He has, for lack of a better term, drunk too much of the Kool-Aid and only starts to realize what a monster (no pun intended) he’s created.

The other scientists waver between awe and fear. They are, strangely, the only ones who seem to realize the danger lurking around every corner of the island and the inevitable spread of the dinosaurs to other parts of the world. This constant tug of war between nature and humankind’s involvement brought a new level of fascination to Jurassic Park.

That being said, it was hard not to roll my eyes when the characters did something stupid (a battle I often lost). Some of the decisions made by otherwise smart, rational people took away from the storyline and disjointing the characters. The actions of Hammond and his employees, however, were entirely in character, but sometimes still as irritating.

The major flaw of the book lay in Crichton’s tendency to infodump. In his zeal to impress the scientific importance of the discovery, the evolution, and the progress of the park, he occasionally drops off into what I can only describe as an encyclopedic tone. It’s dry and really not needed. I’m reading about dinosaurs made from frog DNA, for heaven’s sake.

All in all, a good book and a must read for die-hard fans and science fiction fanatics.

3 Stars

Posted June 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 29, 2016

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. RobbApprentice in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #43
Publisher: Berkley, September 2016
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
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The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.
Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.
Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil...

Master and apprentice in death. It’s a new take for Lieutenant Eve Dallas, Homicide. She faced down lovers, loners, psychopaths and worse. But when a long distance serial killer (think sniper) starts killing in New York City, Eve has a feeling she may be out of her depth.

I couldn’t get into this book at first. After waiting (im)patiently for the latest book in the In Death series, I expected a grand opening scene. The initial murder scene at the ice skating rink didn’t catch me at first. The connection, the viciousness that I’d come to expect from Robb’s villains didn’t stand out. Instead, it was cold, impersonal, and almost clinical.

As Apprentice in Death began to play out, the implications began to sink in. I realized that these villains, the master and apprentice, were unlike anything Eve has faced before. I was hooked into the massive manhunt for the serial killers for one reason: the psychological profiles.

The depth and variation in both the master and apprentice’s mindsets, motives, and rationale were intense, emotional, and entirely engaging. In other words, I loved it. The dueling narration of Eve’s hunt and the snipers’ thought processes fascinated me, pulling me deeper into the story than I ever imagined.

Most of Robb’s installments are what I would consider thrilling, but the gritty nature of this manhunt made it downright heart-stopping. Although it took a while for it to get started, Apprentice in Death lives up to Robb’s standards.

As thrilling as the new characters were, it was the returning cast that made me fall in love with this book. The dynamics between Peabody and Eve in Interview always add a thrill, and Roarke…well, Roarke is an entity unto himself. Their perfectly imperfect marriage is one of my favorite relationships in literature today.

I don’t know why I doubt it; Robb’s In Death series has won me over time and time again. Apprentice in Death was no different.

4 Stars

Posted September 29, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 15, 2016

Review | Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy

Review | Red Storm Rising by Tom ClancyRed Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
Publisher: Berkley, August 1987
Pages: 725
Format: Paperback
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Tom Clancy, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Ryan novels--including his latest blockbusters Command Authority and Threat Vector--delivers an electrifying tale of international conflict.
Using the latest advancements in military technology, the world's superpowers battle it out on land, sea, and air for the ultimate global control.
A chillingly authentic vision of modern war, Red Storm Rising is as powerful as it is ambitious.
It's a story you will never forget.
Hard hitting. Suspenseful.
And frighteningly real.

Clancy pitches superpower versus superpower in air, sea and land in this alternate history telling of the war between NATO and Russia. As the story progresses, the lives of many hang in the balance. Through it all, the question remains: Will they survive the storm?

What would happen if the Cold War had broken out into World War III? That’s the question Clancy asks in Red Storm Rising. In his fictional ending of the Cold War, Clancy breaks out the big guns…literally. After Russia attacks the strategic island nation of Iceland, NATO pulls out all the stops to prevent, then contain the war. The dramatic descriptions of battle on ship, submarine, tank and plane kept me hooked. The ability to keep the reader engaged while switching between nations and narratives was key to Red Storm Rising.

Now, I have to say that there are stereotypes in this book. Lots of them. Pretty much everywhere. My theory is Clancy used these stereotypes to keep the focus on the action, not the characters (a strong departure from the books I’m used to). Normally, I’d hate this. In Red Storm Rising, it worked. Simply, the action was the enough to (more than) sustain the story – adding in deep character development would have been overkill.

There was some minor character development, especially for the pack of NATO soldiers stranded in Iceland. Their part of the story was the hardest to read. I kept myself at the edge of my seat constantly, hoping everything would turn out all right.

If you’re a military buff, Cold War fanatic, or can’t get enough of Clancy’s work, Red Storm Rising is definitely for you. I’d even recommend it to suspense/thriller fans, even if military history isn’t your thing. This is a world that can grab you in and never let go.

4 Stars

Posted September 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 4, 2016

Review | L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

Review | L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton"L" is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #12
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, November 2009
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
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When Kinsey Millhone's landlord asks her to help deceased World War II vet Johnnie Lee's family find out why the military has no record of his service, she thinks it'll be a cinch. But she is about to meet her match in world-class prevaricators who take her for the ride of her life.
When Lee's apartment in burgled and a man named Ray Rawson, who claims to be an old friend of Lee's, is beaten up, Kinsey soon finds herself on the trail of a pregnant woman with a duffel bag. Soon the intrepid P.I. is following leads halfway across the country and encountering another man from Lee's past—a vengeful psychopath.
Stalked by a new enemy and increasingly suspicious of Rawson—not to mention running out of time and money—now Kinsey must steer a collision course to solve a decades-old mystery that some would like better left unsolved.…

When Kinsey agrees to do a small favor for her landlord, Henry, she thinks it’ll be a small investigation. Well, not even an investigation – more of a research project. When a simple search for a deceased’s military ID turns into a story of cops and robbers, a missing stash of cash and jewels, and a lawless man’s hidden history, Kinsey may finally be in over her head.

Logically, I didn’t expect all of the Kinsey Millhone books to be murder mysteries, but I will admit missing the hunt and drama that accompanies Kinsey’s search for a killer. Instead, L is for Lawless tells the tale of how a seemingly simple quest to give a veteran a military burial turns out to be one of the oddest mysteries Kinsey’s ever unraveled.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this installment. I appreciated Grafton’s effort to shake it up, but Kinsey’s trek halfway across the country to unravel the truth about the veteran who wasn’t a veteran didn’t do it for me.

Kinsey herself felt disjointed, misplaced. From Dallas onward, it just didn’t feel like Kinsey. The odd situation and race against time didn’t showcase her character – instead, the landscape and weird family dynamics of the minor characters took over Lawless. Consequently, the rest of the story began to fall flat, and I found my mind wandering more often than not.

I would have loved more about Rosie and William’s wedding – the little glimpses Grafton shares were downright hilarious. As two well-loved recurring minor characters, I felt they deserved more of the story’s time.

Maybe L is for Lawless wasn’t a winner for me, but I’ll keep plugging away at the Kinsey’s stories. After loving the first 11 of them, maybe #12 was just a hiccup.

Posted August 4, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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June 18, 2016

Review | A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann

Review | A Drop of Night by Stefan BachmannA Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, March 2016
Pages: 464
Format: Hardcover
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Seventeen-year-old Anouk has finally caught the break she’s been looking for—she's been selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780's to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace has lain hidden and forgotten ever since. Anouk, along with several other gifted teenagers, will be the first to set foot in it in over two centuries.
Or so she thought.
But nothing is as it seems, and the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . .
A genre-bending thriller from Stefan Bachmann for fans of The Maze Runner and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods.
You cannot escape the palace.
You cannot guess its secrets.

Anouk is on the adventure of a lifetime. After receiving a mysterious letter in the mail and completing the vast amounts of training, she’s finally on her way to help with one of history’s most astounding discoveries yet: a forgotten palace from the French Revolution. But there’s more hidden in this historical site than meets the eye, a horror laying in wait for centuries.

I had one major problem with A Drop of Night that I just couldn’t get over, as much as I tried.

I hated Anouk.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you might notice that I rarely say I hate a character. Usually, I can find something in them, some redeeming quality. With her…no.

From the opening pages of A Drop of Night, she was bratty (scribbling her goodbye note on her parents’ fridge), childish (inner monologue is all about how jealous she is of her sister), plain bitchy (who doesn’t tell their parents they’re running off to France?), arrogant (inner monologue also details how almighty smart she is. Right.), and just rude (to the driver, the other students on the plane). How on earth am I supposed to identify with this girl?

To be honest, I didn’t. I couldn’t get over the opening introduction to her character, which seemed to deteriorate as A Drop of Night continued. Consequently, the entire premise of the story fell flat and I found myself yearning for it to be over.

The one redeeming quality that raised this from a one star to two? I loved Bachmann’s flashbacks to the French Revolution. His writing came to life in these scenes. I saw the light from the torches, heard the madness of the mob, and felt my heart race with the family as they struggled for safety.

More French Revolution, less (or no) Anouk? A winner for me. A Drop of Night? Not my cup of tea.

2 Stars

Posted June 18, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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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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