My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: White Lies

White Lies – Jeremy Bates, 2012. Rating: 1/5

On a dark and stormy night, high-school English teacher Katrina Burton acts against her better judgment and picks up a hitchhiker. A skeevy, drunken, angry hitchhiker. Katrina lies to get him out of her car, and while the trick works, it spirals into a series of untruths that involve her falling for a sociopath and covering up multiple murders. Don’t get too excited. The book is awful.

Katrina is recovering from the death of her fiancé two years ago and looks forward to her new teaching job in small-town Leavenworth, WA. Unfortunately, she discovers that the creepy hitchhiker she picked up is Zach Marshall, the philosophy teacher at her new school. Zach is equally unpleasant sober. He thinks she lied about having a house on the lake (she did). To catch her out, Zach wants Katrina to throw a teacher party at her home. He decides to “start a vendetta” against Katrina and sneaks around her house, peeping in her bathroom window while she’s bathing.

Meanwhile, Kristin meets tall, broad-shouldered, charismatic, handsome Jack Reeves. Jack is Kristin’s knight in shining armor. Plus, he has a Porsche. They hit it off immediately and fall into bed, despite Jack’s admission that he was a pit fighter with mob connections who killed a guy in the ring (!)

** Major plot spoilers ahead in the next paragraph. But frankly, I hope no one reads this book. So go ahead, read the spoilers. **

Kristin and Jack throw the faculty party at a rental house. Jack savagely kills the elderly landlord. Kristin believes that it was self-defense or an accident—whatever: the point is, Jack’s not to blame—and helps Jack stuff the body into a truck and to make it look like the old man died in a car accident. Except they mess it up and have to go back and set the truck on fire. But a witness already found the truck, so Jack kills him. Zach also witnessed the murder, but he’s falling for Katrina’s sister and doesn’t want to screw up his chances with her by calling the police on Katrina. (What?!) More murders (four, I think) and more intimidation (Jack threatens to have a friend rape Zach’s mother) ensue. Kristin and Zach finally tell the truth, and we learn that Jack is not what he seems. (He’s a homicidal ex-CIA agent. Really.) Despite being charged as accessory to murder and receiving a year of probation – Kristin keeps her job at the school. Excuse me?!

** Spoilers over. **

This book is dreadful.

The characters are shallow, unbelievable, and completely unlikeable. Kristin is bald-faced stupid. She helps Jack because she can’t envision him in jail. He has such zest for life, he’s like a “stallion,” who is “not meant to be caged.” Please. Kristin weakly argues with her conscience that maybe Jack is a murderer and a liar, (Yes!) but more likely, he’s a “decent man doing what anyone would have done.” (No! No!) Even the priest she confesses to urges her to turn Jack in, but she is “blinded by love.” Ugh. I can’t suspend my disbelief (and basic outrage) at such a wuss of a character to enjoy any part of this book. And she’s supposed to be a teacher! Look: I don’t need or want strong female characters in everything I read. I’m not asking for Arya or Hermione, here. But there’s a difference between a well-written vulnerable female character, or a meek character, or even a weak-willed character, and this caricature of a helpless female character. She thinks hardware stores are “men’s places” for gosh sakes. Everyone else is just as disagreeable.

I’m a thriller junkie. But this wasn’t thrilling, it was ridiculous and irritating. I typically don’t review books that I don’t like—I don’t want to waste my time. In this case, I’m doing it to save other people time. Don’t bother with White Lies. Cons: Characters. Plot. All the biggies. Pros: It was over quickly.

rating system one crow


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Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware, 2015.

In this twisty whodunit, Ruth Ware modernizes the classic closed circle mystery: striking readers’ nerves and resurfacing our own painful teenage insecurities.

Having lost touch with Clare, her former schoolmate and BFF, Nora is taken aback when she receives an invite to Clare’s hen party weekend.

It sounds fun. A cozy bachelorette celebration.  An upscale cabin in the northern woods. A chance to see her old friend.

But Nora isn’t sure whether to accept.  Although still socially awkward, she’s managed to overcome trauma from her teens and reinvent herself as a successful crime author in the years post-Clare.

She decides to go and realizes almost immediately she made a grave mistake.  The identity of Clare’s fiancé turns out to be a bit of a shock. Nora also discovers that some old emotional wounds haven’t quite healed and that the small circle of frenemies at the party is adept at picking at those scabs.  Everyone has their own secrets.

In a Dark, Dark, Wood is nimbly plotted. Foreshadowing and flashbacks, little twists and red herrings keep the reader flipping pages at a lightning pace.  With the character of Nora, Ware holds a mirror up to most of us readers.  We see ourselves in her: reliving painful teenage years of low self-esteem, uncertainty, and the agonizing navigation of true – and false – friendships.  We feel the insecurities of being the token nerd at the popular girl’s sleepover. Nora is everygirl. But can we trust her narration?

In a Dark, Dark, Wood is a whippity-quick read. Fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and others in the new wave of fast, sinuous thrillers will eat this up.

rating system four crows