BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Release Day Review of Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine

Series: Stillhouse Lake #4
Read As A Stand Alone: Maybe? It starts a new story arc but you'll miss a lot of backstory and character development.
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review
Release Date: January 21st, 2020
Buying Links: Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository*  |
* affiliate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.

Blurb from goodreads:

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?


My Thoughts:

I was up until about 4AM finishing Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine. It was so good. The characterization was wonderful, and the world building amazing. Initially, I had concerns about spinning the first few books into a series. I wasn't if sure Ms. Caine could continue spinning the darkness and intensity while still maintaining plausibility, but she did it. If anything, the story was a little less dark than its predecessors. And the growth of the characters is delightful. No stagnation here. I have a few minor quibbles but a 4 star book for sure.

At the end of "Wolfhunter River" Gwen started a new job and I had hesitations about that. I wasn't sure how it would work in the context of the series and characters to date. It actually seemed like a good place to end the series. When I heard it would continue, I had mixed feelings. I have loved the series and the stories but I had doubts about continuing it. How would Caine maintain the darkness and intensity? Could she sustain them and still make the stories plausible? To be honest, I had a few moments where I doubted the plausibility as I read. I had to wonder how likely it was that her husband's fans and enemies would still be after her and threatening her kids. Internet trolls can be vicious but are they that persistent? I honestly don't know but I've read enough gross comments online that I can't discount it even as I doubt it.

"Bitter Falls" actually repeats a lot of what happened in "Wolfhunter River" - religious cult, missing student (much older this time, though), attacks on Gwen and her family, townspeople turning on her, etc. If you read these two back to back, you may feel as if you are reading the same book over again. It felt a bit repetitious at times. I also don't see why the character of Vee had to be brought back. She didn't add much to the story and her role could have been left out while still allowing events to happen

And yet....

The book was utterly enthralling. I started it at work but didn't get my teeth into it until after work and then I was up until 4AM. I couldn't put it down. There was so much happening, emotionally, plot-wise, and action-wise. The pace was fast, there were twists, and despite the repetition, some neatly done character development. Caine's characters do not stagnate. All of them, well the major ones - Gwen, Sam, Lanny, and Connor - have changed and grown over the series. I've gone from loving Sam, if not completely trusting him, to hating him to loving him and rooting for him. Lanny is reckless but also a teen; she's irritating and occasionally stupid but feels real. Connor, oh he's been through so much. I feel for him. And Gwen. Initially I doubted her, wasn't sure about her. She's prickly, stubborn, and hard-edged. But over the series, I've come to like her. One thing I like is that she can, eventually, admit when she's wrong. And in "Bitter Falls" she realizes she has to give up on a dream that's no longer right for her and her family. That's hard, gut-wrenching, but she does it.

The mystery mostly kept me guessing and had a couple of twists. The suspense, oooh. At one point, I had to put my Kindle down because I was afraid to read what happened next. I was truly worried. I couldn't resist for long and dived back in. And that's Caine's gift. She draws you in and makes you want to keep reading. You can't stop for long without feeling the urge to continue. She lures you in and doesn't let you go until the end. Her stories are compelling, and "Bitter Falls" is no exception.

Some favorite quotes:

For the first time in my life I have to depend not on myself alone, but on the goodwill of friends I've made along the way. People I respect and love. And giving up control is the hardest thing I've done in a long time.

The internet enables and organizes hate very effectively; it lets people believe they're righteous warriors for justice when in reality they're just clicking keys.

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My review of book 1, Stillhouse Lake
My review of book 2, Killman Creek
My review of book 3, Wolfhunter River

Book Beginnings and Friday 56, Bitter Falls

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