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
God of the Internet by Lynn Lipinski
An Islamic fundamentalist known as God of the Internet looks to cripple the United States by attacking various systems involved in the day to day function of our country. Using worms and back doors to various software programs, the hacker throws monkey wrench after monkey wrench into things like water processing, the electrical grid and other things that Americans take for granted in an attempt to cripple our country and bring the United States to its knees.
A group of cyber-security experts try to figure out the next target all while getting various systems back on line as the worm slowly becomes more insidious and clever with each attack. Part of that task force includes Juliana Al-Dossari, the wife of one of the world’s leading authorities on cyber security. Struggling in her marriage, Juliana can’t understand why her husband would put her on the task force instead of taking a leading role himself. Continue reading
When her senior year at her prestigious private school comes crashing down on her, Taylor is expelled in disgrace. Covering for her boyfriend, Taylor figured her powerful senator father’s reputation and influence would be enough to help her survive being caught with a backpack full of prescription medication.
Turns out she was wrong.
Now she’s home, forced to go to the Hundred Oaks High School and starting over. She’s got daily visits with her guidance counselor to make sure she’s staying away from the drugs and trying to recover from this huge hit to her goal of getting into Yale and following in the family business.
But what if the life that Taylor had planned out for herself isn’t necessarily the one she wants or needs?
Miranda Kenneally’s latest Hundred Oaks Defending Taylor novel examines this question and gives us a fascinating character study into Taylor and the people who inhabit her life. Taylor’s frustration at her family, her situation and her ex-boyfriend spill over time and again and are well explored. As with Kenneally’s other novels, the characters and situations in the novel feel completely authentic and are well realized. Taylor’s struggle to find her role on her new soccer team is well done, as is her confusion over her feelings for that one boy who broke her heart years before but has suddenly turned back up. Turns out that like Taylor, he’s harboring his own secrets from his family and the two find themselves back in each other’s orbit with feelings beginning to resurface. 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