Review: The Girl Before

The Girl Before
The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. Thank you to the author, J.P. Delaney, and the publisher for providing a free digital copy!

One of the best suspense thrillers I’ve read in a very long time. Can’t wait to see what this author writes in the future!

The lives of two women are interwoven when one rents out the other woman’s former high-tech residence. The town home was built by an architect who seeks to manipulate his renters’ behavior through architecture and technology (making it what we know as a “smart home”). The home’s occupants have to agree to all sorts of ridiculous stipulations about how they will behave in the home and how they will care for it. Soon, the home malfunctions and its occupants’ lives begin to unravel. The home, its designers, and its occupants are full of secrets and surprises – ones that will keep readers turning the pages of this book and not wanting to put it down.

There was nothing about this book that seemed forced or contrived. The dialogue flowed naturally and I could easily envision this book being turned into a suspenseful movie. There were many twists and turns that surprised me, but none of them unrealistic or untrue to the characters. The characters were all fully sketched out very well, so much so that by the end of the novel I was left desiring a sequel to the novel. The characters and their flaws seemed genuine and relatable.

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Review: The River at Night

The River at Night
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reviewer’s Note: I received a free galley of this book via NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Erica Ferencik, and her publisher, Gallery Books, for access to this book.

Erica Ferencik’s The River at Night is a page-turner, one of those books that keeps you reading up half the night wanting to know exactly how it is going to end. Three women are convinced by their good friend to take an adventure camping-rafting trip in a remote part of the country where there is no cell phone service and few people live. All four women on the trip are feeling the trappings of being middle-aged, whether that means the emotional damage the years can rack up, the demands of parenthood, the stress and monotony of a 9-5pm job, and the disappointments of failed relationships and marriages.

A multi-day rafting trip promises an escape from these four women’s hang-ups. There are many red-flags, but the women’s need to withdraw from their quotidian lives prevents them from fully acknowledging them. Their young and handsome college-age river rafting guide dismisses them, reflecting his naivete and youth more than his knowledge of rafting and the river that will pose a threat to them.

The narrator, Win, is especially convincing. As someone who is also a middle-aged women, I could relate to her sadness and loneliness, as well as the frustrations of being an older woman in a youth-driven workplace and culture. She was relatable, authentic, and real. I didn’t feel as though she was a character on paper; it felt as though she was truly someone who I could see befriending in my day-to-day life.

The first half of the book builds up to a crescendo where a devastating event occurs, one that will forever alter all of the characters’ lives. The backdrop of the forest and its merciless nature helps drum up the suspense, as does the sometimes strained relationships of the four women. The women’s inability to trust one another also lurks in the background, making the reader wonder if the true horror is not the natural world surrounding the women but rather the human beings who inhabit it.

The second half of the book has several plot twists, including some that let me down as a reader. However, the beautiful prose and well drawn characters made up for what the plotline lacked.

Overall, this book is a quick and exciting read that delves into the risks we take when our lives seem stale or at a standstill. I recommend this book for readers interested in suspense, female relationships, and the dangers of both the human and natural world.

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