Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Review: The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard

by Scott Alexander Howard
Release Date: February 27, 2024
2024 Atria Books
Kindle ARC; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1668015476
Audiobook: B0C&YM2Z5P
Genre: Fiction / Sci-fi / Magical Realism
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old Odile is an awkward, quiet girl vying for a coveted seat on the Conseil. If she earns the position, she’ll decide who may cross her town’s heavily guarded borders. On the other side, it’s the same valley, the same town--except to the east, the town is twenty years ahead in time. To the west, it’s twenty years behind. The towns repeat in an endless sequence across the wilderness.

When Odile recognizes two visitors she wasn’t supposed to see, she realizes that the parents of her friend Edme have been escorted across the border from the future, on a mourning tour, to view their son while he’s still alive in Odile’s present. Edme––who is brilliant, funny, and the only person to truly see Odile––is about to die. 
My Thoughts
The Other Valley is a speculative fiction novel where you can travel either forwards or backwards in time if you decide to leave your home in the valley, to see loved ones if the current ones have passed away.  This has a really interesting premise, and if you love philosophy, this opens up a lot of 'what if' questions. Naturally there is a governing body who decides who gets to visit the other towns and there is a gendarmerie that protects the boundaries of the towns which are outlined by tall fences to discourage the townspeople from questioning things and leaving. 
The main character, Odile, is a shy, introverted girl who is being pushed to join the governing body as an apprentice by her mother. For the first half of the book we learn about her school experiences as well as her relationships with her peers. I almost had Divergent vibes during this part of the book as the teenagers were trying to figure out the rest of their lives, discovering their career paths, and who would take them on as apprentices.  Odile is a very passive character and seems to be one of those people who gets things simply because she is at the right place at the right time. We see Odile twenty years later in the second half of the book, and I really liked seeing what happened to her and the consequences of one's choices had on one's life. It shows you how you really need to fight for what you want in life because if you just settle, you can be content, but not necessarily happy.  
The secondary characters were very under-utilized however, and it's a shame as there were a couple that were quite intriguing. The author used them to forward Odile's story line rather than use them to forward the plot, and there is a huge difference.  
The plot itself was more philosophical in nature, and once you stop trying to understand how the timeline works, especially with the villages to the east and west, it works so much better. My scientific brain was going crazy at the beginning trying to work it all out, knowing how the butterfly effect works, knowing that you just can't wipe out whole timelines of people, so there had to be so much more to the stories the students were given. Once I relaxed and just went with it, the experience worked so much better. Now, in hindsight, the gaps are still there and I just can't let them go.  In the book Odile finally understands the consequences to knowing more than she should, but I don't feel the author went far enough with those consequences.  It asks the question: Is it worth the risk to change something from the past? And what are the consequences to the future if one does? These questions are not really explored. While I understand the author wanted to put the emphasis on Odile and her life and her choices, pushing the importance of world-building to the background as something that doesn't need to be explored hurts the overall story as the actions of the characters within that world don't always make sense because we don't fully understand it. 
The Other Valley was quite original and I really enjoyed the speculation behind it, but that's my thing. However, Odile is the only one who really got any character development, and the pacing was uneven throughout the book, as if the author wanted to explore other avenues but wasn't sure if that was a wise route to take.  Personally, I felt the ending was too predictable in such a world, too perfect, and would have like something more...philosophical.


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Review: Granite Harbor by Peter Nichols

by Peter Nichols
Release Date: April 30, 2024
2024 Celadon Books
ARC Paperback; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250894816
Audiobook: B0C3PBR8H7
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

In scenic Granite Harbor, life has continued on―quiet and serene―for decades. That is until a local teenager is found brutally murdered in the Settlement, the town’s historic archaeological site. Alex Brangwen, adjusting to life as a single father with a failed career as a novelist, is the town’s sole detective. This is his first murder case and, as both a parent and detective, Alex knows the people of Granite Harbor are looking to him to catch the killer and temper the fear that has descended over the town.

Isabel, a single mother attempting to support her family while healing from her own demons, finds herself in the middle of the case when she begins working at the Settlement. Her son, Ethan, and Alex’s daughter, Sophie, were best friends with the victim. When a second body is found, both parents are terrified that their child may be next.
My Thoughts
Granite Harbor had an interesting premise, and I thought the murder concept was intriguing, but neither the plot nor the character development lived up to the potential inherent in those ideas.  Definitely being atmospheric in nature, I found the pacing to be quite slow and I grew quite frustrated with the police procedural stuff.

First of all, I didn't mind Alex as a main character, but honestly, he doesn't really stand out from any other police procedural that I have read except for the fact that he was more inept than most. I get the author was trying to show that not all detectives are tough, seasoned, knowledgeable, have superman instincts, etc..., but it didn't quite work as it made Alex seem silly and passive more than likeable and inexperienced. And frankly, I was skeptical that such a small town would even have a detective. And it was the little things that bugged me the most. Being shocked at people using tracking devices in phones to locate someone? Even I used that with my daughter when she was a teenager. Who doesn't?  I think there is a fine line when you develop a character, to make them seem likeable, not necessarily inept, but inexperienced, and I don't think it quite worked in this book.

I actually liked Sophie and Ethan, the teenagers, the best and would have preferred their perspectives over anyone else's. And in the case of Isabel, the author went where I was hoping he wouldn't, the paranormal element, a trope I despise in these types of books to propel a story forward when doing investigative work would have done the job.  

So, that brings me to the plot. I actually thought the mystery was interesting and I liked the reasons for which the killer did what they did. It doesn't have to be political or huge, just personal, and it was.  I don't have to understand it, but it does have to be plausible. What I had reservations about was the way we got to the solution. The investigation was almost non-existent, using so many red herrings that anyone could see through them with a brain, and the writing style gave away too many clues to who it actually was.  No tension, no shock, no surprise.  

Granite Harbor was a fast read, the plot had an interesting premise, but the overall execution did not quite work and fell a bit flat. There just seemed to be a lack of everything, character development, plot development, twists and turns, tension, mystery, use of paranormal element to drive forward the story, that made the overall experience not quite work. The author tried very hard to take an overused formula and make something new, but I don't think it worked.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Review: The Puzzled Heiress by Lyndsay Consable

by Lyndsay Constable
Release Date: December 13, 2023
2023 Lyndsay Constable
Ebook; 263 Pages
ISBN: 979-8988182023
Genre: Fiction / Historical Mystery
Source: Review copy from author
5 / 5 Stars
 Pomona Moriarty, the artistic, quirky, half-American daughter of the notorious Professor James Moriarty, finds herself on the trail of clues, puzzle pieces, and artwork that taxes her mind and creativity to the limit. Her journey exposes her to danger at every turn throughout Victorian England as old confederates of her father attempt to steal her inheritance. Can Pomona utilize her knowledge of art to unravel the mystery and prevent her father’s last, most dastardly crime being committed from beyond his watery grave? With her faithful lady's maid and the distractingly fascinating Inspector Liam Lestrade to aid her through her worst scrapes, Pomona doggedly pursues each clue to complete the puzzle and prevent her father from executing his final, most vicious deed.
My Thoughts
The Puzzled Heiress intrigued me simply because of its ties with Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes, one of my great passions as a kid.  Because I tend to read anything relating to Holmes, I was happy to have this one fall into my lap, and even better, it was a fantastic read.  Pomona was an intriguing character, I loved the puzzles woven into the story, and I enjoyed the intrigue as Pomona raced around Great Britain searching for clues, trying to evade her father's confederates.
Pomona was a quirky character, one who actually has a lot of independence for a woman during this time period.  After her father's death, she receives a package of puzzles, and this is where she shines as she tries to figure out the clues to the puzzles and gets into all sorts of scrapes doing so. While one could argue that she enjoys breaking the rules of the time period, I also think there is a limit as to how far she will go as she also puts in an effort to dress and behave appropriately when she has to go out into society.  It's only when she is with those with whom she feels comfortable that she abandons those restrictions and does what she pleases.  Her faithful lady's maid, Agnes, is there to hold her back from doing anything too silly in public and I liked the relationship between the two, one who wants to flaunt the rules, one who tries to hold the other back, and I think there was a nice balance woven between the two, with a healthy dose of respect from both sides.  Again however, a subtle snub at the conventions of the time as one did not really become friends with one's lady maid. 
Honestly, I didn't know to think of Pomona at the beginning as we have a woman trying to cry over the death of a father she barely knew, in such a comical way, that I knew I would like her immediately. The plot pretty much picked up from there and had me in its grip right until the end.  Twists and turns galore, some I figured out easily, some completely caught me off guard although the clues were there. I am not a fan of conveniences, and they were used in this story, especially in the case of Inspector Lestrade and his saving the day (and Pomona), but the writing was so engaging, I was actually able to forgive those transgressions, just this once though.  And while the ending was satisfying for this book, not all the threads were complete, so it looks like Pomona will be off on another adventure.  
The Puzzled Heiress was an enjoyable first book and I had a hard time putting it down. If book 2 was out right now, I would have grabbed it immediately, but alas, I need to wait a few months until its release.  If you love stories about Holmes and Moriarty, especially ones that feature hypothetical progeny, then you will love this entry into their world. 


Sunday, March 17, 2024

Review: The Misery House by David Kummer

by David Kummer
Release Date: July 7, 2023
2023 David Kummer
Ebook Edition; 232 Pages
ISBN: 978-1088059364
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from author

3 / 5 Stars

This rural town has never seen a string of tragedies like this. A local store burns to the ground with two bodies inside. A newlywed couple goes missing, and all signs point to the abandoned house. With no answers, the townsfolk grow more and more worried.

The Woods family has lived here forever. But when their friends and their own children are put in danger, the threat hits home. This close-knit family must risk everything to find answers, but time is running out.
My Thoughts
The Misery House is the first book in a planned trilogy, and I thought this one set up the story quite well, even if it was a quite slow at times. And by slow, I mean it took a very long time to get to the house and even now, I won't even pretend I understand anything about it.  The author did have a very descriptive writing style that drew you into the lives of the characters, but upon looking back, that's exactly what the story was about, the lives of the characters. And while I don't mind descriptive writing, I would have liked to have seen more build up of the atmosphere, some more horror, some tension, but it was a bit lacking overall.
At this point, I'm still on the fence about the use of multiple POV in this book, at least from the whole family. I enjoyed learning about the Woods family and their different perspectives on things, and I definitely enjoyed the author's writing style when it came to the characters, but the way it was written left some gaps in the story line. Because of this writing style, it was left to the reader to assume the sheriff believed certain things because the characters said so, not because you actually got to witness his behaviour through the story. Or Malaki, we just assume he is this horrible person because of someone else's POV, but never really see anyone else's POV or hear his side of things.  I am not a fan of assumptive story telling as I would prefer to draw my own conclusions about characters, not be led around by the nose.  Now Malaki has this association with the house, we hear all these rumours about it through other characters, but where is the investigation or where are the dialogues about this behaviour? Nowhere.
I did enjoy this book quite a bit, but that doesn't mean I was oblivious to the plot holes.  The author has a great writing style that I enjoyed, he has a way of drawing you in, but he does make use of assumptions way too much. When Kaia's best friend Allison goes missing, a witness saw her in that creepy abandoned house, but the sheriff doesn't go looking for her asap? Why not? Why does he arrest someone else in the community instead? We don't even get to see that part of the story, it's all told through other characters and how angry they are.  And personally, it doesn't really make sense. As a reader, we are just told this is what happened, but the why is glossed over and we are expected to just accept it without motivation or cause.  Uh uh, not me.  And Kaia? The minute she got that text from Allison, why would she not report it or at least text her back?  And then get all upset because nothing is being done.  What?! The author was trying to build up suspense, but honestly, the scene with Nate and Naomi when they were cycling past the house is the way to go as that scene had me rushing through the pages.  Withholding info, never a good way to create tension or to create a way for someone to go investigating on their own.  
The Misery House had a lot going for it, definitely enough that I will be grabbing the second book when it is released in June (The Silent Forest).  It does have a lot that I love in a haunted house book, and the author's writing style does draw you into the story and the characters' lives. There were a lot of gaps however, that were not explained or covered up through assumptions, and the ending definitely lowered my rating as the book simply...ended. And honestly, there is just so many times you can read about a character having an 'ick' feeling about something, but do nothing about it, before you start rolling your eyes. That being said, I am curious about that dang house, so I have to read book 2.


Friday, March 15, 2024

Review: The New Couple in 5B by Lisa Unger

by Lisa Unger
Release Date: March 5, 2024
2024 Park Row
Ebook ARC; 382 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778333340
Audiobook: B0C798PQC5
Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

Rosie and Chad Lowan are barely making ends meet in New York City when they receive life-changing news: Chad’s late uncle has left them his luxury apartment at the historic Windermere in glamorous Murray Hill. 

At first, the building and its eclectic tenants couldn’t feel more welcoming. But as the Lowans settle into their new home, Rosie starts to suspect that there’s more to the Windermere than meets the eye. Why is the doorman ever-present? Why are there cameras everywhere? And why have so many gruesome crimes occurred there throughout the years? When one of the neighbors turns up dead, Rosie must get to the truth about the Windermere before she, too, falls under its dangerous spell.
My Thoughts
The New Couple in 5B had an interesting premise, and I definitely love stories about older apartment buildings that tend to have shadier pasts. The story moved along rather quickly and there were parts that were engaging, but I felt like it tried too hard to be spooky, adding in paranormal elements that really had no relevancy to the story. 
First of all, I wasn't a fan of the character development in this book. Rosie is described as this big researcher, having written a non-fiction book that has sold moderately well, and is currently doing research on, you guessed it, the apartment building to which she is moving.  While I didn't dislike Rosie, I can't stand it when an author makes a character so stubborn they can't see the roots for the trees, and this is the case with Rosie, as in my husband is so kind, loving, perfect with me, therefore there is no way he can be mean, nasty or whatever to anyone else.  It's not the blind devotion that bothered me, but the fact she didn't do any research about any of those people who are in her life that bothered me. There is a mention about her hesitancy over the keyboard, but that's as far as it goes.  Really?  I'm a researcher and I research EVERYTHING!!!  
And Max. His story line didn't make sense either.  Just trying to throw some controversy in this book, but that whole story line bothered me so much, from the lawyer right down to Rosie's reaction. It gave me such 'ick' feelings, I didn't want to read any more about it. Do better. Same with Willa's story.  I really hope the author wasn't expecting me to feel sorry for someone who pretty much cheated and threatened everyone around her.  That's how it felt coming across the pages, but I am totally on the husband's side and the young boy's.

And the rest of the secondary characters, while I enjoyed them, I do like some development when something happens or when they do something unexpected. Which leads me to plot development. Because this story revolves around the characters' motivations, it is more character led, than plot led, but I definitely need to really understand their motivations and reasons, something I don't really feel came across well in these pages.  There were a lot of coincidences and assumptions used to move the plot along, both of these I think are weak tools to use when trying to move the plot forward.  

The New Couple in 5B suffered from a clear lack of motivations from most of the characters which left me feeling somewhat disconnected from both the plot and the characters.  It was a quick read however, and there were parts that I did enjoy.  However, the plot is somewhat predictable, the characters lack depth, and some of the plot points don't actually go anywhere, like the paranormal stuff. Overall, one that was full of potential, but definitely fell short of the mark for me. 


Thursday, March 7, 2024

Review: Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera

by Amy Tintera
Release Date: March 5, 2024
2024 Celadon Books
Paperback ARC: 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250880314
Audiobook: B0C3PCKQGX
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.75 / 5 Stars

After Lucy is found wandering the streets, covered in her best friend Savvy’s blood, everyone thinks she is a murderer. Lucy and Savvy were the golden girls of their small Texas town: pretty, smart, and enviable. Lucy married a dream guy with a big ring and an even bigger new home. Savvy was the social butterfly loved by all, and if you believe the rumors, especially popular with the men in town. It’s been years since that horrible night, a night Lucy can’t remember anything about, and she has since moved to LA and started a new life.

But now the phenomenally huge hit true crime podcast "Listen for the Lie," and its too-good looking host Ben Owens, have decided to investigate Savvy’s murder for the show’s second season. Lucy is forced to return to the place she vowed never to set foot in again to solve her friend’s murder, even if she is the one that did it.
My Thoughts
Listen for the Lie features a women who has returned to her hometown five years after a scandal hoping to discover some answers as to who killed her best friend. Because she is the main suspect, she is skeptical about coming home, and I was hoping to see the sparks fly when she did, but it was a lot tamer than I would have expected.  I enjoyed the podcast slant to this story, even if it is no longer original, but I am not necessarily a fan of the amnesia trope, especially when memories start to come back at convenient times.
Lucy at first was too sarcastic and cynical for my liking, especially in the first half of the book. I am a sarcastic girlie myself, but even this was over-the-top cynicism and it didn't endear her to a lot of people, including her family. I understand that sarcasm can sometimes hide a host of feelings and sentiments as I do that myself, but it can also go too far and make a person downright unlikable. Luckily it did subside halfway through and you got to see a more vulnerable side to Lucy. Although I understand the author's intentions, using sarcasm and snarkiness as a character trait as a red herring doesn't really work, in my opinion.  
Except for Ben and Grandma, the other characters kind of all blend together into one harmonious whole as they didn't really have their own personality traits other than everyone was sleeping around.  I guess fidelity isn't a thing in this town.
I rather enjoyed the plot and didn't figure out who actually committed the crime until about two-thirds of the way in. I don't mind a slower burn, but then I am a huge fan of police procedurals and those are not known for their quick plots, so I like the slower burn and the tension the author created in this book. Don't get me wrong however, I was definitely not turning pages like a maniac, just enjoying the ride.  And there were a couple of surprises in this book, ones that I liked, because it makes you realize that you never really know someone or what they are capable of or what their situation is.  Lucy points that out to her mother when she says that she lived just down the road and her mother had no idea what was happening behind closed doors, partly because she didn't want to see.  I don't feel the use of the amnesia trope was a strong part of this book however, as it can be used too conveniently, which is exactly how it was used. Conveniences are not appealing for readers. 

Listen to the Lie had a lot going for it and I think the author is very talented.  The voice in Lucy's head, while at first entertaining, got rather annoying as it didn't really go anywhere, so I would have liked that device to be used a bit more to build up tension in the story. I would be lying if I said I wasn't invested in the story as it was immensely readable, but I do think having some likable characters and maybe easing up on the cynicism would be helpful in the future.  And I am still not sure what I think about that ending. I do look forward to reading another book by this author.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Review: Relative Truths by R. Lindsay Carter

by R. Lindsay Carter
Release Date: November 17, 2022
2022 Rock and Flower Press
Ebook Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 979-8985907261
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery
Source: Review copy from author
5 / 5 Stars
Cressida Curtain doesn’t let much get under her skin when it comes to bounty hunting. In fact, there’s only one person who can really ruffle her her work nemesis, Gavin St. Cloud.

Still, she’s a natural at her job, and she’s been offered an exclusive high-stakes bounty to prove it. Now it’s a race to find the truth before any other hunters find the bounty first. And the truth may be messier than even Cressida imagined. She might need some help from the last person she’d ever ask–if he’s trustworthy enough.
My Thoughts
Relative Truths is the second book in The Familiar's Legacy series, and while I really enjoyed the first book in this series, I absolutely loved this book. This book has everything I love in a cosy-fantasy type story; secrets galore, a mystery to solve, great world building, good character development, and enough new threads built in to the story, continuing into the next one, without being overwhelming or left so unfinished you get frustrated.  
Cressida is a really fun main character. A shape-shifting cat, I loved her personality and her reactions to all things human. While she is spunky like a cat, she also gets spooked, and I was trying to imagine her with her tail all puffy while in human form. Too funny.  Her escapades as a cat were some of the best pasts of the book.  I really enjoyed the Gavin as a secondary character and the growth we saw from him throughout the book. Although there is potential here as a love interest for Cressida, the way things went in this book, I am not sure what is going to happen, but I am enjoying how things are playing out for the moment. Gavin was not fond of cats at the beginning of the book and I really enjoyed his reactions to some of the scenarios in which he found himself with Cressida. Also, without giving too much away, the end of the book had me sputtering with laughter as Gavin took on his next task, something I bet he thought he would never do.
While the series is interconnected, the actual books could be read as stand-alones. The plot moved rather quickly, with Cressida jumping from clue to clue, tracking her father to figure out what was happening. Because she didn't know him at all, and she wasn't sure of his guilt or innocence, she still had to be careful. Realizing there was a lot more going on than she though, she had to team up with Gavin in order to get more information and to figure out who was involved. I enjoyed the banter and the competitiveness between them as they searched for clues, loved the witty dialogue, and thought the way Cressida used her cat identity to sleuth was downright fun.  There was definitely a lot going on, and while the focus was on her father, there were clues to the curse that has involved Cressida's family for generations twisted around everything as well.  
Relative Truths has everything from ballroom scenes to prison breaks to a scene straight out of the musical CATS, at least that was how I kept picturing it in my head.  There were a lot of adventure and great creativity in this book. Highly recommend this series to anyone who is looking for a fun read with lovable characters and a great story. 


Sunday, March 3, 2024

Review: The Twelve Books of Christmas by Kate Carlisle

by Kate Carlisle
Release Date: October 24, 2023
2023 Berkley
Ebook ARC; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593637692
Audiobook: B0C21DZP73
Genre: Fiction / Cozy / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

1.5 / 5 Stars

In the middle of a wonderful Christmas holiday in Dharma, Brooklyn and Derek receive a frantic phone call from their dear friend Claire in Loch Ness, Scotland. The laird of the castle, Cameron MacKinnon, has just proposed to her! They plan to be married on New Year’s Day, and they want Derek and Brooklyn to be their witnesses. And while they’re visiting, Claire hopes that Brooklyn will be able to solve a little mystery that’s occurred in the castle library—twelve very rare, very important books have gone missing.

My Thoughts
The Twelve Books of Christmas is definitely not like the books at the beginning of the series, books I absolutely loved. Those were full of mystery, mayhem, complicated plots, and interesting twists and turns. This one is about beautiful and rich people who fly around the world at a moment's notice on a private plane, stay at fancy castles, do things on a whim, and maybe solve a mystery or two while they do all their other stuff in between. And everyone calls Derek ''commander", never investigating him or Brooklyn, simply because of who he was, even though he was right there when everything happened.   Not the same at all as the earlier books.
First of all, Brooklyn's independent character was something I enjoyed, even if she was somewhat whiny throughout the books. I mean her life got upended numerous times because she happened to come across dead bodies and it was natural that she would become a suspect, so I enjoyed those interactions she had with police officers and other people as she tried to solve the mysteries. Now, she just has Derek make a phone call and everything is good as he "pulls his magic strings" and suddenly, everything is taken care of. This despite the fact that he was one of the most suspicious people at the beginning. I get they are married now and I get that he would support her, but I would like to see them be a bit more suspicious of those around them.  
The plot itself was so thin you can't even see the wire in the trees.  For the first two thirds of the book, there were a lot of discussions about the missing books and how they were related to each other, but honestly, not big mystery came out of them simply because there was little to no investigation.  And I don't necessarily need a murder in these books, just a good mystery, but neither was actually interesting. Both just seemed thrown into a plot that was weak, at best.  Motives didn't make sense, the behaviour of certain characters made no sense, plot points were 'developed' and then discarded for no reason that I could see, so overall it was just a big mess.  And pages of descriptions of the food. Ugh!

The Twelve Books of Christmas was my least favourite entry in this series, and I was so disappointed over the plot and character development as well as the ending. It was a mish-mash of stuff thrown together in order to give the author an excuse to send Brooklyn and Derek to Scotland over the holidays, one of the only things I liked about the book.  Unfortunately, this series has been going downhill for a few books now. I will probably give it one last shot, but after that, if it doesn't go back to the magic of the earlier books, I may have to call it quits. 


Saturday, March 2, 2024

Review: That Night in the Woods by Kristopher Triana

by Kristopher Triana
Release Date: October 1st, 2023
2023 Cemetery Dance Publications
Ebook Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-1587679032
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

When Jennifer receives a message from Scott Dwyer after twenty years without contact, her first reaction is one of excitement. Scott invites Jennifer to his house in Redford, the very same town she grew up in. It’s a place she’s made great effort to put behind her, for not all her childhood memories are sunny. 

Scott invites three other people from their past to honor Steven’s memory—Corey, Traci, and Mark. But the group is more than old friends. They share a dark secret that has troubled them for decades. Together, they must unravel the mystery of what happened that night in the patch of forest behind Scott’s house, a place once known as Suicide Woods. 
My Thoughts
That Night in the Woods is built around a trope that I really like, trauma that occurs in your teens and you get together twenty years later to finally confront what happens. Because this is written by the author of one of my favourite horror novels, I thought, what could possibly go wrong with this book? It turns out that even a really good author can have a one-off.
First of all, the characters were so stereotypical they just made me want to drop them all off in the middle of that forest and hope whatever was in there got them all. And I am not generally a violent person, but they sucked the living energy right out of me.  I get their behaviour when they were teenagers, but to continue that same behaviour as 40-somethings just did not work.  I get the author was trying to show how traumatized they were from what happened, but...there had to be a better way to do it. We have Mark, the out-of-work construction worker with two kids from two separate moms who has been in jail a couple of times, who smokes and drinks and ALL he thinks about is sex.  Jennifer, newly divorced, has no personality although the other boys apparently all had something for her as a teenager. She can't make decisions if her life depended on it, especially when lover-boy Scott is around, and this is as a teen and as a 40-something-year-old. Corey, the character I liked best, constantly talked about what a nerd he was because he liked comic magazines. What? And Traci? I get her alcoholism, but not her lies.  Together, it was hard to tell who was who at times.  
The build-up at the beginning was slow, something I didn't actually mind, as I like it when the tension builds up this way and then becomes explosive and you can't put down the book.  Unfortunately, the tension never really builds in the way it was meant to. The characters are given bits and pieces of information through Scott, and none of them questioned this at all, didn't even ask for paperwork or anything, especially with Traci being a lawyer? This would have sent my spidey senses tingling right away.  They are given mysterious journals, pieces of information about Steven's life and death, all being doled out bit by bit by Scott. Instead of questioning this behaviour, they react like a bunch of teenagers, squabbling and making stupid decisions, forgetting they are adults who can decide for themselves what they can do or not do.  I found I just had to suspend belief way too much during all of this and I kept shaking my head in disbelief.  And there was no blasted way you would have got me back in that forest after what happened all those years ago. No *^%%* way!!  And when we finally got to the part where it was supposed to get scary, I was like, Are you kidding me?  
That Night in the Woods had so much potential, but I was so deflated by the end. And speaking of the end, what was that? The one character who fought and fought decides to just give up, just like that, with no explanation? Overall, there were a couple of moments that were chilling and horrific, but the overall experience left me shaking my head and feeling so disappointed, especially after the last book by this author.  It wasn't badly written by any stretch of the imagination, and I do think a lot of people will enjoy this book, I just wasn't one of them.