3.5 star, adult

Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood: Amazon.ca: Ware, Ruth: Books

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room….

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.



Yet another Ruth Ware, albeit one of her oldest ones. I just couldn’t resist, there’s something about her work that draws me in, and need I have any other reason to pick up the novel and read it? Although this may not have be my most highly rated one from her, I was certainly captured by the spookiness of the setting of this thriller – I had very real goosebumps from the beginning all the way until the end.

This story is set in an eerie forest inside an almost entirely glass house, clear from all sides, in supposedly what is a summer getaway spot. The story follows the main character Leonora, who is called to a bachelorette (or hen) party by a friend she left behind long ago to this very house. Immediately as we get to the glass house, something feels off, or at least very creepy. The house is completely surrounded by the dark woods, giving the impression of eyes looking into the house from all sides at all times. Even the bathroom hardly has any privacy. I found that this was a great setting for all the suspenseful action to take place.

For me, the plot felt fairly average, nothing too special about it – there were the usual red herrings, the feeling that any or all of the parties involved could be guilty, and it’s a classic case of the main character suffering from amnesia trying to remember desperately the details of the night before. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the way this thriller was written from its first person perspective. Ruth Ware masterfully crafts all the elements of a thriller – I was genuinely nervous from the first sentence of the book. It made me feel like I was also searching through hazy memories for the truth of that night, which for me marks the feel of a true thriller!

Overall Recommendations:

In a dark, dark wood is a story of our main character, Leonora, struggling to remember what happened on a tragic night in a creepy glass house during a failed bachelorette party. What secrets from the past surface to haunt her at this party, and why can’t she remember what happened? A truly thrilling experience from beginning to end, if you are the type of reader who enjoys the experience of reading through the novel for the way the suspense and tension pulls you along, you will definitely enjoy this book. Despite its relatively normal plot, I was completely spellbound along with Leonora in search of the truth.

3.5 star, adult

Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Amazon.com: The Silent Patient (9781250301697): Michaelides, Alex: Books

The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.

“Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word…”

This story follows the criminal psychotherapist, Theo Faber, who has long waited for a chance to work with Alicia Berenson, to discover the truth behind her eternal silence, and her motivations for killing her husband. The plotline starts off innocuously as one might expect, we follow the point of view of Theo as he picks up his life to head to The Grove where Alicia is being treated. When he gets there, he discovers layers and layers of secrecy which he must unravel to find the real cause of Alicia’s silence and the truth of that fateful day. Occasionally letting us peer into Alicia’s diary in parallel to Theo’s point of view, Michaelides weaves an exciting tale, one that straps you down into the seat of the rollercoaster and doesn’t let go until the exciting finish.



3.5 Drink Me Potions


I found myself quite enthralled with the premise of this book. One of the main driving mysteries is the last painting that Alicia paints before she was locked away. It was titled Alcestis and is based on a Greek tragedy – a heroine of self-sacrifice. This is the narrative that is the key to unlocking Alicia Berenson. What on earth drove the painter to the point of murder? And how can it possibly be related to a heroine of self-sacrifice? Was it really possible for a move like murder to be altruistic in some way? This was one of the main questions I had throughout the whole book, driving me to read along, to find out what happened.

We quickly find out that Theo has issues of his own, a rough childhood with a tormenting father, and very keen to escape the shadows of the past. The novel really explores the theme of the past being an important precedent for the future. Many psychological and psychiatric themes are laid out in the many characters that are introduced. This also really tended to blur the boundary lines and create a type of moral ambiguity present in each character – how much can you blame a person for acting according to what their past has defined them to be? I found myself wonder what I’d be like in each of the character’s shoes, or how I would personally react to the same situations.

To be honest, I found some of the characters rather shallow and underdeveloped. A little bit inconsistent even, sometimes. That being said, it wasn’t badly written or anything like that. Some of the characters and actions just seemed a little bit unnecessary, or a bit out of place – this may have been to place red herrings for the readers, but I wasn’t completely convinced. This novel is kind of a hybrid between a thriller and a mystery, it has the setting of a murder mystery narrative but is also of course written in a first person POV that keeps us on our toes at every turn.

All that being said, I actually really enjoyed the ride! I’m also a sucker for Greek mythology, so that really rung true for me. If I think about the minor details and little twists and study them individually, I don’t find that I really appreciated the mall that much. However, if you are talking about the the holistic experience of a thriller “ride”, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even if I was able to see the little twists that were coming up, I still felt like the way that it was written was very exciting for me, and the parallel chronological storylines particularly captured my attention. After all, I did finish this novel in one day!

Overall Recommendations:

The Silent Patient follows the deceivingly perfect life of Alicia Berenson and her descent into madness and murder, and how a psychotherapist comes to save her from her self-imposed silence. More and more secrets are revealed as Theo dives into Alicia’s past, uncovering her own troubled childhood, not unlike his own. And how does Alicia’s famous painting Alcestis tie into all this? This is a very exciting thriller from beginning to end – if you enjoy the uncovering of secrets and watching a puzzle come together, this is definitely one that you will enjoy!

3.5 star, YA

Review: Once a King by Erin Summerill

Series: Clash of Kingdoms #3

once a king -erin summerillAodren: A lonely, young king, searching for a way to dismantle his father’s dark legacy.

Lirra: A girl with the power to control the wind, torn between duty and following her dreams

For twenty years, Channelers—women with a magical ability—have been persecuted in Malam by those without magic. Now King Aodren wants to end the bloody divide and unite his kingdom. But decades of hatred can’t be overcome by issuing decrees, and rumors of a deadly Channeler-made substance are only fueling people’s fears. Lirra has every reason to distrust Aodren. Yet when he asks for help to discover the truth behind the rumors, she can’t say no. With Lirra by his side, Aodren sees a way forward for his people. But can he rewrite the mistakes of the past before his enemies destroy the world he’s working so hard to rebuild?


3.5 Drink Me Potions


Finishing the Clash of Kingdoms series had me wondering this exact thought: what would the king of Malam do now that his crush chose someone else and there’s a whole kingdom to restore in unity and reputation.

Thankfully, Erin Summerill clearly heard my thoughts. And this, my friends, was the answer to that question.

While Once a King was marketed as a separate standalone from the Clash of Kingdoms series, I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily to be read before the others. It’ll still mildly make sense but a) there are spoilers as to what happened with the plot and some characters from the prequel series and b) there isn’t as much background information of the world building here so it would make the experience less enjoyable in a way with so much scrambling to catch up.

Much of the book (if not it’s entirety) was spent in the kingdom of Shaerdan, a kingdom that celebrated its channellers (women with magical abilities) while Malam was known in the past for hunting them down for their differences. Being king of that kingdom here? Not such a fun position to be in.

Aodren was an amazing protagonist. I loved his POV as you really get to see what’s inside. He felt so deeply, especially for his people, yet no one else could seem to understand how hard he was trying to restore Malam in the eyes of the rest of the world. And even among its own people who were still being prejudiced against Channellers.

Meanwhile, I can’t quite say the same for his love interest, Lirra. I liked her POV but I’m not sure I could stand her at times. She was initially the epitome of judgmental towards Aodren, listening to all the stereotypes about his character, calling him the bloody king o’ Malam. Yes, she changed over time, and really came through for everything that tied the plot together, but something about her just still sets me apart from truly loving her.

Aside from the characters, I must say that the plot line was leaning towards the simpler side. A counterfeit product has been released among the different factions of warriors from the different kingdoms that came to celebrate the festival. Marketed as an elixir of energy and strength, it unfortunately has lethal consequences that point towards Channeller magic, further fueling the still-remaining hatred and prejudices among the people of Malam. Wow, Aodren has his work cut out for him.

It was kind of fun hunting down the culprits with the clock ticking down as the contest and festivities came to an end with Aodren no closer to regaining trust and union for his kingdom. I didn’t quite guess who it was, although in hindsight I probably should’ve.

While I always love a good high fantasy with many twists and turns that are usually unpredictable by nature, sometimes a nice simple fantasy is also great for a quiet day in. It was a little slow sometimes but overall, it was a cute and heartwarming story of individuals learning to reach out to those who are different and not cower in fear ’cause of it. I definitely stand by the moral of the story, and that’s the most important part.

Overall Recommendation:

Once a King continues the storyline from the Clash of Kingdoms series with King Aodren as the protagonist. At its heart is a mystery for the supplier of a deadly product that has fueled more hatred against magical women in Aodren’s kingdom. But around this central storyline is a heart for those who are different, and a man who starts the call for change by humbly doing what he can for the people he loves. If that speaks to you, regardless of the simplicity of the plot, you should pick this book up (maybe after the other two books).