Posts tagged ‘suspense’

December 19th, 2012

Shadowlands by Kate Brian; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Shadowlands

Author: Kate Brian

Published: January 2013

Number of Pages: 336

Rating: 4/5


Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived… and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a goodbye.

Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again? [From Goodreads]

Official Review:

Shadowlands starts with a bang, turns things around and lulls you into a comfortable sense of security, and then takes great pleasure in laughing in your face when the climax hits, leaving you breathless and astonished by the frightening action and incredible twists. Kate Brian has woven a story using the best of thrilling materials – suspense, confusion, attractive young men. I found surprise around every corner, the last most of all. Needless to say, I’ll be doing all I can to get my hands on the sequel.


Wow. Just wow. I love it when I’m utterly surprised by a book. Shadowlands‘ synopsis did not strike me as altogether groundbreaking, but Brian skillfully turns what could have been an average book into something that leaves a reader totally breathless.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s freaky right from the start. Delightfully so. However, what doesn’t become apparent straightaway is how eerie and mysterious this book is. As I said in my official review, I was really fooled into a false sense of security, only to find that what I had believed all along was untrue. The scariness with which the book begins is an obvious sort – the main character, Rory, has been attacked, and the man who attacked her is still after her. There’s enough suspense to keep the story moving. However, Brian takes the suspense and thrill even further.

Speaking of Rory, she’s awesomely nerdy and easy to relate to. I found her a refreshingly reasonable character. Certainly, she seems a bit paranoid, but wouldn’t we all be? Her fear is well-founded and entirely justified. What is unreasonable is the seeming lightheartedness with which some of the people around her face the situation she’s in. Her family has been deteriorating for years, and Rory knows that the stress and anxiety left by recent events could leave them ruined or bring them closer together. Shadowlands, though an awesome thriller, is also a fantastic story of what family is and how resilient people can be.

Rory’s relationship with her sister is also one with which many people can relate, I believe. I don’t have a sister myself, but as a teenage girl in general, I can sense the brutal honesty of their relationship. I see it between my friends’ and their sisters all the time. Though Rory and Darcy’s relationship is not easy in any sense, it is inspiring.

I can hear you all wondering, “What about this attractive young men she mentioned?” Notice I said attractive men. Yes, that’s plural. One fascinating thing about the attractive boys in this novel is that, though mutually good-looking, their personalities and relationships with Rory are quite different. There’s the boy she’s liked for a long time, with whom she has a history. There’s the macho, ridiculously handsome boy. There’s the cute best friend. There’s the strikingly good-looking but altogether confusing boy who clearly has a secret. Let’s see… that’s four? Need I give you another reason to read Shadowlands?

Cute boys aside, what I appreciated most about Shadowlands was its refusal to be what I expected it to be. It’s the sort of book that ends in such a mind-blowing way that you can’t help but run over every event in your head, examining things in a new light. The end is also a maddeningly great cliff-hanger and left me full of eagerness to read the next book.

In short, read Shadowlands, and prepare for shock.

June 28th, 2011

Clarity by Kim Harrington; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Clarity

Author: Kim Harrington

Published: March 1st, 2011

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: 4/5


When you can see things others can’t, where do you look for the truth?
This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.
Clarity “Clare” Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift.
And a curse.
When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case – but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare’s brother – who has supernatural gifts of his own – becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most? [From Goodreads]


Excitement in Eastport? Nay! But I had time to snoop around Nancy Drew style.


I haven’t read many books like Clarity, which is difficult to believe. The synopsis alone tells you there’s a love triangle (one boy is blond, the other has that dark-hair, dark-skinned look. Neither description is shocking), a girl with a potentially dysfunctional family, and a paranormal element. One could immediately assume this book complies with just about every trend/stereotype in young adult literature. I don’t have too much against that idea, personally. They trend because they’re fun and entertaining – two adjectives I’m rather fond of.

The feature that sets Clarity apart is the mystery. Mystery is not the most prevalent subgenre in YA (from what I’ve seen, at least). Certainly all books have a bit of it because they have to have suspense, but most don’t focus on it. Clarity does, and it emphasizes those fun and entertaining adjectives I mentioned earlier. Clarity’s mystery is executed beautifully. Kim Harrington begins the book with the climax, then jumps back nine days. She pretty much gave the reader a tantalizing nibble of a delicious slice of cheesecake and then swiped it away, saying, “Read 240 more pages and I’ll let you eat the rest.”

About mid-way through the book, I was certain I could predict the end. Then, I switched one character out for another. And another. And another. There were multiple possibilities and every single one seemed like a probability at some point along the way. I love that my final guess was wrong! Just as it should be. Harrington kept me on my toes and still managed to outsmart me.

Clarity is one of my favorite protagonists ever. She’s witty and clever and is great at insulting people. GO CLARE! My favorite people are those who can engage in a good argument or “teasing match.” She and I would complement each other beautifully, I think. It really is too bad we’ll never be able to argue with one another. (I also think she’d get along great with Paranormalcy’s Evie.) Clare certainly has her weaknesses, prejudices, and silly tendencies, but she realizes a few of them along the way – the first step toward becoming a better person. I could read a dozen books from her perspective and am definitely looking forward to a sequel!

The main reason I was initially interested in Clarity was a comment made by Andye in her review. She said that though she knew she should be rooting for the “smoldering young detective,” she preferred the cheating ex-boyfriend.

Unsurprisingly, I was curious.

I could go on and on about the pros and cons of both, um, candidates, but suffice it to say that neither struck me as very original, personality-wise. I’ll be interested in seeing how their characters develop in future books. (I can’t even say much more without giving something away!) Justin (the ex) is evidently a pretty decent guy, despite Clare’s assertions to the contrary, while Gabriel appears shadier and alluring. Both appearances are generally attractive to the YA audience (admit it), and Harrington does a great job of creating these two crowd-pleasing guys.

The two most unique and enjoyable aspects of the novel are the mystery and voice. I read the book in one afternoon. The 250 pages pass in a flash. It’s so much fun to feel supported by an adept author. I could let the story carry me, like the current of a river, along a natural and organic path. Clare’s voice gave the story buoyancy, and the mystery gave it a strong current. I have no doubt that many other readers will be pleased by the enthralling ride that is Clarity.

July 22nd, 2010

Can You Do That Again in Normal, Please?

by Madeleine Rex

Three dimensional characters do not have to be difficult to understand. There just needs to be a lot to understand. There has to be a depth to them that makes them human, not holograms or cartoon characters. The depth that we give characters by molding them into three dimensional people makes them real and full of meaning, but complex characters are a totally different species of being and require a different approach.

We don’t want all of our characters to be so complex that every word is full of hidden meaning. Giving the reader more work will not improve their experience (it won’t necessarily ruin it either, but…). Our book doesn’t need to be a puzzle. However, occasionally a story calls for a complex character, one whose words hold various meanings and can be interpreted differently. Whose actions don’t always correspond with the message we’ve previously sent the reader about their personality. Characters like these are both difficult to understand and create.

But they’re wonderful to read, particularly if they’re the POV character. Whether they are or not, they add suspense to the storyline simply by being relatively unpredictable. The reader will shiver in their seat when a situation presents itself that they think the CC (complex character) will handle badly – or worse, when they have no idea how the CC will react. In a pretty simply way, you’ve added an indispensable nugget of reader apprehension and eagerness that will help propel the story forward and keep the reader turning pages.

Even better is when the CC has not only a complex personality, but a confusing past. You’ve made a story out of a character. When a complex character seems to have a place in your book and you think you can handle the task of creating them, take the opportunity. There are infinite possibilities for a character that unravels as you go, and there’s a greater likelihood that a reader will be intrigued by the mystery that is the CC.

One complex character I’ve run into lately is Will Herondale from Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. He is a fantastic example of someone who could keep me reading all on his own. I’m constantly surprised by what he does, his sudden change in mood, his odd tendencies, secretive past, and the weird reasons he lies. Every one of these things is enough to keep me reading. Add to them sarcastic and clever comments and a few adorable moments, and you have a character that both intrigues and entertains me. Cassie has done a great job with this CC.

As I said at the beginning, not all books call for a very complex character, but there should always be someone who is difficult to grasp onto. I think it’s important that there be a character who doesn’t quite make sense, isn’t predictable or well known, until the end. However, the complexity of plots very, so the complexity of characters must, too.

In the end, I think that complex characters lend a mystery to any sort of novel, and mystery is something that readers enjoy. Apprehension is fun to feel. If you can integrate suspense into your book, do it.

Do you have a CC in your book? Should you? If so, how complex should they be to fit within the parameters of the story?