Reviews

Book Review: In the Woods ~ by Tana French

book review again but better

Review: In The Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) ~ by Tana French

Penguin Books/464 pages (paperback)

2008 – Mystery, Detective Genre

My Rating: 4/5

Click for Goodreads Description

My Thoughts:

In general, I think that I am pretty tough on most mystery novels. They have a tough job- they have to present just the right amount of detail about the case to be solved, they have to introduce suspects without clueing us into the “who done it,” they have to keep our interest in the case as well as in the lives of those surrounding the case, and they have to surprise us in the end. This is really difficult, which is why I am so rarely blow away by most mysteries.

“In The Woods” definitely ticked all of these boxes for me, and, more importantly, it ended up being a really insightful and fascinating story outside of the murder plot. Rob and Cassie were such complex and interesting characters – I could have read a book that just focused on their relationship and their individual pasts. French really shows the intricate working relationship between these two flawed detectives and how their pasts have colored every case that they come to. She also shows the unique relationship with the truth that most cops struggle with, and really gets into the mind of our lead detective (Rob). French’s writing is incredibly detailed, complex, and so so insightful.

So why didn’t I give it 5 stars? Without giving anything away, I will just say that the ending was slightly anticlimactic. I didn’t have a problem with the direction that the ending went plot wise, it just didn’t have the same punch that the rest of the book did.

If you are a fan of detective crime dramas, and specifically dramas that get into the mind of the detective, you should definitely give French’s work a look.

There is also a brand new Starz series of ‘In the Woods’ that begins on November 10th. I looks amazing – watch the trailer here

For more information on Tana French, you can find her here on Goodreads

You can find me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

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Reviews

Review ~ Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

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Review: Vengeful ~ by V.E. Schwab

478 pages ~ Adult Fantasy

2018~ TOR

My Rating: 4/5 ✰✰✰✰

Goodreads Description:

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

Link to my Vicious- Book 1 Review

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My Thoughts:

Even though I loved Vicious, I actually enjoyed the plot of Vengeful much more. With Vicious I found myself disinterest at times, but Vengeful grabbed me right from the beginning and never let go. The build-up/plot was much more complex and intricate than the first. Schwab is such a skilled writer and there were so many unique themes running through this book. Below were some of the high points for me:

  • My enthusiasm for this book is in large part due to Marcella. She was such a great addition to this story because she added the drama and romance that was lacking in the first book. Her relationship with her husband and their backstory made her revenge and descent into villainy even more poignant. I felt like I really knew her and the motives behind her actions, which is something that was often lacking for Victor and Eli. I loved that Marcella’s character was beautiful and powerful. Schwab did such a great job playing with this femme fatale vibe.

“People looked at Marcella and assumed a whole lot. That a pretty face meant an Empty head, that a girl like her was only after an easy life, that she would be Satisfied with luxury, instead of power- as if you couldn’t have both.”

  • The banter between June and Marcella was also a really great addition. Two powerful females, the hit woman and the mod wife, trying to feel each other and anticipate each other’s moves was really fun to watch.
  • I really loved June as well- she had a very Arya Stark vibe with her “kill list.” She protected Sydney but also tried to empower her by teaching her the value of a family that is chosen rather than the one we are born into. I would have really liked more backstory on June, but maybe Schwab has plans for that.
  • The connection with the mod also gave the book a very cool film noir vibe that I absolutely loved. I can completely see this being made into a film noir style detective mystery complete with black and white stylized cinematography.
  • Eli’s backstory was fascinating. It was so interesting to finally see the motivation behind his actions. His backstory then brought up so many questions about motive. Victor and Eli commit the same crimes but for different reasons- Is Victor less evil because he kills EOs in order to protect Syd, their makeshift family, and find a cure for himself? Do we still consider Eli purely evil once we understand the full extent of his motive? These were all really interesting questions that the book brought up and I actually really liked that it never attempted to answer them. “There are no good men in this game.”- because no one is wholly good or bad.
  • Haverty- AKA: Frankenstein – His desire to tap into what the EOs have was a really cool reflection on Victor and Eli creating their own monsters (themselves). I would have liked more with the doctor at the end of the novel. His role was really shaping up to be something pivotal at the end, but it was over pretty quickly.

What was missing?

  • Ok, my only complaint is really the same complaint that I had with book one. Victor and Eli are supposed to be these legendary friends turned enemies. The inside cover of the book even compares them to “Magneto and Professor X” and “Superman and Lex Luthor.” But because we never get very much of the backstory on the formation of their friendship, I just consistently found it hard to understand their intense hatred for each other and their desire to destroy each other. There is a small flashback to the day they met, but that is it. It was not enough to understand the connection and/or love that they once had for each other. It might seem a little nitpicky, but I just wanted to be more invested in their relationship than I was. Ultimately, it was the side characters that I really ended up investing.

Without giving anything away, the ending does seem to leave you guessing. This could mean a potential continuation of the EO would, I’m not sure, but I would definitely be there for that.

For more information on V.E. Schwab and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Monthly Wrap-Ups

November Wrap-Up

Happy December, Everyone! Time is flying by and now it is full speed ahead into Christmas. November was such a great reading month for me. I managed to read 4 books total, but I didn’t have a lot of time to write up individual reviews throughout the month. So, I thought I would do a monthly wrap-up with 4 mini-reviews. So here goes:

Roomies by Christina Lauren ✰✰✰✰

I was in the mood for something lighthearted and fun over the Thanksgiving weekend and Roomies was a perfect choice. It definitely indulged my weepy romantic side, but it was also really well written. The characterization of both Holland and Calvin was so unique and really gave a sense of the whole person, not just who they were in terms of the relationship and the plot. I loved that the authors included all of their embarrassing moments – including Holland’s obsession with her “hot subway busker,” and Calvin’s marriage lies to his family back home in Ireland. These were all very real and relatable moments. My only complaint here was that I never really questioned either character’s motives in the same way they questioned each other. So it was a little frustrating at times to watch the two of them essentially make up things to be upset about. But overall, this was a perfect feel-good romantic comedy with really adorable characters.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren ✰✰✰✰

img_1016Ok, full disclosure, I read Roomies so fast that I needed another feelgood romance to finish out the long Thanksgiving weekend. Since I loved Roomies so much, I picked up Josh and Hazel. This was a really cute “friends to lovers” troupe with a fun twist. Ok, Hazel herself is really the twist. She was so unlike any female lead character I’ve read. She is unapologetically over-the-top, loud, blunt, free, and absolutely amazing! I loved that even though she’d been told time and time again that she was “too weird” or “too crazy” she never changed. She never altered herself in any way or attempted to please anyone but herself. For that, I give Christina Lauren a big high five. Hazel’s personality contrasted so well with Josh’s uptight demeanor and they made such a funny pair of opposites. I also really loved the Portland vibes. Having lived there for two years, I can definitely see someone like Hazel being happy and thriving in this amazing city. Thanks for keeping Portland weird Christina Lauren.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager ✰✰✰✰

The second I read that this book took place at a creepy summer camp in upstate New York where a mysterious crime once took place, I was all in. Emma is a prominent New York artist who returns to the summer camp she attended at age 13 to confront the unsolved disappearance of her 3 cabin roommates 15 years prior. Once Emma actually arrives back at the camp, she starts to uncover cryptic clues and messages left by the girls. She has to unravel these clues in order to finally figuring out what happened to them. This novel was so fast paced and kept me guessing the entire time. It led me on a wild goose chase. Emma herself is constantly following different leads and theories, and I was following right along with her. Every time I thought I had it figured out, a new clue appeared and it was right back to square one. With about 5 pages left in the book, I thought everything was nicely wrapped up. I was completely wrong! Another crazy plot twist left me stunned. This was a perfect mystery with a crazy fun plot twist! My only complaint was that at times there was this weird time warp happening- where things happened exactly as they did in the past. Even down to what the camp served for dinner. I am not sure if all of this was intentional, but it took away from the believability at times.

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay ✰✰✰✰

After Halloween, I was really feeling the witchy vibes. Although the plot took a little while to pick-up for me, I loved the mood of this book. Witch grimoires, talking ravens, crafting spells, reading tea leaves- all of this created such an irresistible mood. The 1880s (Gilded Age) New York was the perfect setting for this story- gas lamps, horse-drawn carriages, bowler hats, parasols, plus the growing urbanization of the city. Adelaide, Beatrice, and Eleanor, our witches, are powerful women, but still, have to hide their talents for fear of persecution. With the start of Women’s Suffrage at this time, their little tea shop becomes a safe haven for all women seeking change. The overall message of the story was a really powerful one about what women can accomplish when they come together.

So that is my November Wrap-Up! Here’s to some more cozy holiday reads in December! Happy reading! 

-Erin

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Reviews

Review: Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) ~ by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Review: Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) ~ by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

656 pages ~ Detective, Mystery, Crime

September 2018~ Sphere (Little, Brown, and Co.)

My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Description:

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

My Thoughts:

Ok, let’s be honest, I’ll always be a little bias when it comes to Jo Rowling. She gave me one of my favorite series, which has been a constant source of light and love since first reading The Sorcerer’s Stone when I was 17. I can never thank her enough for bringing Harry into the world. That being said, her detective novels deserve the same amount of praise as far as I’m concerned. The attention to detail and suspense that we get in HP, works so well in her detective series. Every tiny detail is crafted to come together at the perfect moment, and suddenly, all of the pieces fit together and it is so satisfying. I have loved every Cormoran Strike novel so far, Cuckoo’s Calling being my favorite, but Lethal White was so much more intricate than the other 3 novels. I can now see why it took so long for this book to finally make it to publication. The level of detail and intersecting plot points make it seriously remarkable. Was it long? Yes. Did I care? No. The length was absolutely necessary when considering the intricacy of the plot and the investigation. Unlike all of the other Strike novels, we are not dealing with one crime in Lethal White. There is policial corruption, blackmail, and a repressed memory that, for the majority of the book, we’re not even sure is real). The length was completely welcome for me. I wanted to stay with Strike and Robin as long as I could and continue to take in all of the minute details of the case as they unfolded. I would have welcomed another 500 pages if it meant staying with these two a little longer.

Below were some high points for me:

  • The Detail!- Unlike most detective novels, where certain pieces of information are withheld from the reader until the perfect moment, Rowling doesn’t do this. The reader gets EVERYTHING! And I mean everything. All of the tiny pieces of the mystery that Strike and Robin are grabbling with and trying to fit together, are given to the reader. You have all the pieces to the puzzle, but like Strike and Robin, you don’t understand how they fit together. Because you have all of the pieces, seeing how they fit together at the end is even more satisfying. This is my absolute favorite element of Rowling’s detective novels, and it is really beautifully done in Lethal White.
  • The Realistic lives of Strike and Robin- If you haven’t noticed, I love these two. They are smart, funny, real, honest, and good, truly good – with no gray area. But now that we are into the 4th book with them, their personalities, their imperfections, and unique way of seeing the world and themselves are really coming through. There is so much of their own inner dialogue in this book and it was great to get to know them even more.
  • Politics: Every member of this diverse cast of characters has a political connection. There’s Jasper Chiswell- the Tory MP; his rich, dysfunction family; Della Winn- the blind, Liberal, Saint-like MP; her sleazy, power-hungry husband – Geriant Winn; Flick Purdue – upper-class daughter, turned Liberal activist; Jimmy Knight- troubled, Liberal activist, bent on bringing down the Tories; his brother- Billy Knight- mentally disturbed and convinced he witnessed a murder when he was young. All of these characters are multi-dimensional, none are wholly good or bad, and you find yourself liking them all at certain points in the novel.  I also loved that no political leaning came out squeaky clean. The Liberal characters (or Whigs in the UK), come out looking just as bad as the Conservatives (Tories), and vice versa.
  • Undercover work for Strike and Robin was new in this novel. There are small moments in the other novels, but we get so much more of it here. This was a really fun element in the novel. It was great to see them both thinking on their feet, taking on new personas, and reacting when things didn’t go as planned.
  • Romance: I have heard the comment so many times that J.K. Rowling can’t write romance, and I really just don’t agree. The subtle moments of tenderness and affection between Strike and Robin are realistic and in tune with their working relationship. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are so many lovely kernels of romance throughout the book- it’s just enough to give you the warm and fuzzies, and leaving you guessing.

Needless to say, I loved it. Rowling continues to be one of the favorite writers, and I can’t wait for book #5. I am keeping my figures crossed that this is planned for 2019. 

For more information on Robert Galbraith and the other Cormoran Strike novels, check out Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi