October is the month for scary books, and I'm happy about that! I recently read two books designed to get your heart pounding. Both were by authors whose work I've enjoyed. One was pitched as a thriller, and the other is a retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe short story...
Kiss Kill Vanish
by Jessica Martinez
To be published
on October 7, 2014
by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: e-ARC from the publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind. She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real. She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.My take: I'm a big fan of Jessica Martinez. I loved her first book, Virtuosity. But I felt that Kiss Kill Vanish was a book which, like its main character, seemed to be suffering from an identity crisis. The synopsis leads you to believe that this book is a fast-paced, dark thriller. I'd call it a contemplative, noir-ish story of girl who learns some pretty tough truths about just about everyone in her life. I loved the writing and the atmospheric setting(s) but found the pace slow and the main character a little frustrating.
I think that my annoyance with Valentina (a.k.a. "Jane") stems from the fact that virtually none of the juicy stuff described in the synopsis is actually in the book. That's all backstory, as the book begins with Jane having fled her old life. She's now hiding out in Montreal, working as an artist's model, moping around because she needs money. Finally, something pretty dramatic happened, and I was like, hey, this book is taking off! But ... no. The pace slowed down again, to include more moping and some sneaking around. The romantic aspect of the book was ... complicated. There three guys, all of whom Jane seems to have varying attachments to, two of whom are brothers and all of whom are somewhat sketchy. The ending, which moved the action from wintry Montreal to sunny Miami, was definitely suspenseful, but again, because this was my first ever real-time glimpse of Valentina's family, it was hard for me to feel fully invested in what was happening.
In sum: loved the writing and the general atmosphere, but I wished I'd felt more of sense of thriller-ish urgency and/or an emotional attachment to the main character and her story.
by Bethany Griffin
To be published on
October 7, 2014
by Greenwillow Books
Source: e-ARC from the publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Madeline Usher is doomed. She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin. Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house. In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down?
My take: I loved Bethany Griffin's Masque of the Red Death duology, and was very excited to read this. In those books, Griffin proves that she's a master of creating a creepy, atmospheric mood, and The Fall followed in that pattern.
I'd say the synopsis above really sums up The Fall very nicely: spooky, cursed house; weird, cursed family, and a story that's told in fits and starts. A back-and-forth in time storytelling technique is not my favorite, but in this book, I think it worked. We're given brief glimpses of Madeline at eleven, at nine, at eighteen, at fifteen, at ten, at twelve, and so on, plus a few excerpts from a relative's diary. At first I wasn't sure about all the jumping around, but gradually I began to see that each snippet of her memory serves as a piece to a puzzle, until the reader has a fuller picture of the horror that is poor Madeline's life. The little mini-memories slowly build up a terrifying sense of dread and foreboding, and the reader slowly gets a sense of the history of the house and the Usher family.
I loved how different The Fall was. It isn't a character-driven book (unless you consider the house a major character, which is arguable) and it isn't really a Gothic romance, but if you love books that combine skillful storytelling with a high creep factor, you should definitely give it a try!