Looking for a different kind of vacation, Wini, Pia, Rachel, and Sandra book a whitewater rafting trip in an isolated region of Maine. Each of the women is seeking to escape an aspect of her life, whether it’s Wini coming to terms with the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her brother or Sandra never quite getting over how quickly Pia jumped into bed with one of her ex-boyfriends. Maybe a long weekend away from the modern world will help things.
Or everything could go horribly, horribly wrong.
What starts out as an adventure vacation soon becomes a fight for survival among the four friends.
Taking a page from Deliverance, Erica Ferencik’s The River at Night delivers a taut, page-turning tale of survival among the four friends (and their tour guide). Stuck out in the middle of no-where the group must overcome nature and each other to find their way home. And it won’t be easy because there are a number of obstacles along the path standing between them and civilization.
If I’m being a bit vague with this review, it’s for a reason. There are some nice surprises and turns of the story that you’re better off discovering for yourself. And like the bend of a river, it’s more fun to be surprised about what’s ahead than have every moment of the trip mapped out. The novel spends a good quarter of its length establishing the characters and the details of their lives before beginning to put them through an emotional and physical ringer.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
As the winter semester begins at Opportunity High School, most of the student body is assembled in the auditorium for the principle’s welcome back message. There are a few exceptions to this from the track team preparing to defend their state title winning streak and the two guys trying to break into the principle’s office to get a look at their permanent records.
A few minutes after ten, the doors to the auditorium are bolted shut and the first shots ring out. Former student Tyler has something to say and he’s going to say it to everyone gathered at the business end of several guns and multiple rounds of ammo.
For the next hour, This Is Where It Ends puts readers in and around Opportunity High School, watching events unfold through the eyes of multiple narrators who all ask the same question, “How did this happen here?” As the story unfolds, we find out just what drove Tyler to plan and carry out the attack on his classmates, teachers, and administration as well as feeling the desperation of those in and around the school as they struggle to survive Tyler’s attack.
The opening pages of This Is Where It Ends channel the confusion and terror of a high school shooting incident. But it’s once Tyler settles in and begins to demand that the student body listen to him now that the novel slowly begins to lose its focus. As the possible step stones to this event are slowly uncovered, Tyler more like a comic book villain while the characters around him spend a lot of time wondering if they could have contributed to or stopped this attack somehow. Included in the narration are Tyler’s ex-girlfriend, his sister and the girl he sexually assaulted on prom night. And while these characters offer different insights into who Tyler who then and is now, it never quite gels into something more. There’s also a great deal of teenage angst thrown in along the way that feels a bit out of place at times in the story that’s unfolding.
The novel also isn’t helped because it feels like it’s working too hard to make the adults appear as useless and ineffectual as possible. As the shootings begin, the track team is outside training for the upcoming season. The track coach is less effective at finding a way to address the situation and calm the fears of his team than one of his students (who happens to be Ty’s ex-girlfriend and is a member of the ROTC). I’m not asking that the adults be superheroes that can somehow magically stop the rampage that Ty goes on, but it would be nice to feel as if one or two of them was somehow portrayed as having a bit more sense.
Henrietta Hoffman (better known as Hattie in her small town) wears a lot of hats. Whether it’s honor’s student near the top of her senior class, the loving daughter of her parents or the dutiful girlfriend. But does anyone really know the REAL Hattie Hoffman?
Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be examines a year in the life of Hattie Hoffman as she struggles to find out the role she really wants to play in life. The big problem is that just as Hattie is figuring out who she wants to be, she meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances. Continue reading
Because many fans first entry point into the sci-fi/fantasy world is Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, it can be easy to assume that writing funny genre pieces is something that just about anybody can do. But a look at the myriad of pale imitators who have tried and fallen short continues to prove that being funny on the printed page isn’t as easy as it first appears.
Every once in a while an author comes along who is able to channel what made Adams and Pratchett work so well. And while not all of John Scalzi’s works have been a “laugh riot,” he has shown the capacity to land his jokes more often than not. Continue reading
Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
On the day she was supposed to marry her best-friend, Aimee Turney attends his funeral instead. Her fiance, James, went on a trip to Mexico before their big day and vanished without a trace. Missing and presumed dead, Aimee must now attempt to pick up the shattered pieces of her life.
Her depression isn’t helped when her parents reveal they’re closing the family restaurant, leaving without the life she knew and counted on building. Continue reading
Seven and seventeen and five. That’s how Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life.
The seven years before she met Josh, the seventeen years they knew each other and were together and the five years since he went missing. Josh vanished the night of a friend’s bachelor party under mysterious circumstances. Five years of questions, rumors and a trial for Aubrey haven’t provided any answers as to where Josh went or why.
As the state of Tennessee has her husband legally declared dead, Aubrey’s life takes an interesting turn with a man who reminds her a lot of Josh and the coming battle with her mother-in-law, Daisy, over the beneficiary of Josh’s rather large life insurance policy.
With the abundance of unreliable narrator mystery/thrillers on the market today, J.T. Ellison’s No One Knows could easily feel like it’s just another entry in an already crowded field. But Ellison deftly weaves in enough questions about Josh’s disappearance and gives readers just enough of a glimpse of the history of Josh and Aubrey to set the hook early and continue reeling you in for the entire story’s length. Continue reading
The Girl From Home by Adam Mitzner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Once a high powered financial whiz, Jonathan Caine’s world has come crashing in around him. Accused of insider trading, his assets are frozen and his seemingly charmed life has evaporated around him. With no where else to turn, Jonathan decides to head back to his family in New Jersey to care for his ailing father, just in time for his twenty-fifth high school reunion.
Jacqueline Williams is the former prom queen who married the high school quarterback. But Jackie didn’t get the happy ending she was hoping for — her husband abuses her and has threatened to kill her and cut off access to their children should she ever bring up the word “divorce” to him again.
Back in the high school, Jonathan couldn’t have thought of approaching Jackie. But now he’s back and the two soon strike up a romance. If only they could find a way to get Jackie’s husband out of the picture without creating more harm for Jackie or her kids.
Adam Mitzner’s The Girl From Home starts off with a great hook and then slowly unravels the lives of Jonathan and Jackie. The first section of the novel moves from the past to the present, painting a solid picture of how and why Jonathan and Jackie have got themselves into their respective situations and then beginning their affair together. It’s one the past and present merge that the novel hits a bit of bumpy spot and loses some of its early momentum. Continue reading