Review: Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine

Time for a book review! I was able to pick up an early copy of this new suspense novel from author Rachel Caine (of Morganville Vampires and Weather Wardens fame…and I did love the Weather Wardens). It was released on July 1 by Thomas and Mercer.

ABOUT STILLHOUSE LAKE: Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom. With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace. But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop. 

WHAT I LIKED: This is one of those books I flew through—so much so, I thought it was a short book. It wasn’t; it was just that hard to put down. Rachel Caine has created a set of characters it’s hard not to fall for: the determined, diligent Gwen, her teen daughter going through an eye-rolling, goth phase, and her geeky son in whom she sees haunting echoes of his father. This is a family on the edge, perpetually on the run, but who want desperately to settle in and live a normal life. Stillhouse Lake seems the perfect middle-of-nowhere location…until it isn’t. The suspense is taut. The question marks—who’s doing what to whom, and why—are well developed with multiple suspects. And how does the jailed serial killer husband fit into the whole puzzle—or does he fit at all?

WHAT I LIKED LESS: I’m probably naïve. Okay, I’m naïve. It’s hard for me to imagine that Internet trolls and fanatic groups are obsessive enough to be harassing the spouse and children of a serial killer years after the fact—even if she was suspected for a time of being part of his evil. Don’t people have better things to do? Then again, I read political crap on Facebook and think, maybe it’s not so implausible after all. So you have to suspend disbelief that there are such people out there.

CONCLUSION: This is a great beginning to a new series. A few other reviews I’ve read have complained about a cliffhanger ending, but I didn’t find it a cliffhanger at all. The immediate conflict was resolve with just enough questions to keep the series going. Book two, KILLMAN CREEK, will be released in December.

I give STILLHOUSE LAKE a rare five gators!

 

Have any of you read STILLHOUSE LAKE yet? Do you have plans to? If you’ve read it, what do you think?

Review: Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter (and #Giveaway)

Tuesdays, at least for the foreseeable future, will be set aside for reviews or “what I’m reading” posts. Because I made only two resolutions for the new year and one was to read more. I’ve been so busy writing and working the day job the last three years that reading became a luxury when it needs to be a necessity. For a writer, it’s sort of like fuel for the car. Not for ideas or writing styles but just the experience of being immersed in story.

So I did finish a book over my two-week holiday break, and it was a 2016 release by author Karin Slaughter called Pretty Girls. I resisted it at first because it’s one of those trendy “girl” books—Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, yadda yadda. But I’m glad I read it because a) I hate to admit it but this is a new author for me even though she’s quite high on the authorial food chain; b) there were way more things I liked about it than things I didn’t like; c) it’s set in my neck of the woods; and d) it’s a helluva story.

ABOUT PRETTY GIRLS: Sisters. Strangers. Survivors. More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed….The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it. 

WHAT I LIKED MOST: What I liked: as I said, it’s a helluva good story, and the kind I like: very twisty and twisted, where every time I think I have the outcome figured it, it takes another unexpected twist. Both Claire and Lydia are interesting characters, although I found Lydia much more likeable and relatable. Both women have a wicked sense of humor in their internal dialogue. Both are terribly damaged in their own way. It’s one of those books where once I finally got into the rhythm of it (see below), I found it hard to put down. You know the syndrome: just one more chapter and I’ll turn out the light. Okay, one more chapter….And suddenly it’s 4 a.m. The writing is terrific–very dark and yet infused with enough humor to make us care about the characters.

WHAT I LIKED LESS: A couple of things bothered me. One was the insertion of a third point-of-view character—Claire and Lydia’s late father, in sort of first-person diary entries. The rest of the chapters are all either from Claire or Lydia’s point of view. So when I’d hit a dad chapter, it jarred me out of the story. I understand why it was done, but as a reader it just didn’t work for me. The other negative—and go ahead, laugh if you must—is the depth of brutality. Rich coming from me, right? My books are not sweetness and light. But there was a scene I literally had to skim over because I just couldn’t read it. There’s not a lot of it in the book, but the evil is there. God knows I have written some bad guys in my time but holy cow. Then again, the unpredictability of the bad guy(s) in the book is one thing that kept it so tension-filled and readable. So just know it’s there.

I’d rate Pretty Girls a solid 4 Gators—my only negatives were the insertion of the third point-of-view character and the one scene that I couldn’t read. Both of those are purely subjective.

THE GIVEAWAY: Have you read Pretty Girls or another book by Karin Slaughter? Leave a comment to win a chance at a $5 Amazon gift card!