Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Where There's Smoke by E.B. Vickers!

It's another book birthday! This one actually hit the shelves yesterday, but I've got my party hat on and am ready to celebrate, anyway. It should slide into the thriller direction and promises all sorts of secrets after a father's funeral. I'm in the mood for a tense read and hope it entertains. I'm going to settle down next to my fireplace and see if that helps add to the mood.

by E.B. Vickers
Knopf Books for Young Readers
YA Thriller
336 pages

In this fast-paced thriller, eighteen-year-old Calli finds herself alone after the loss of her father—until a bruised and broken girl shows up on her property, forcing her to face the present, rethink her future, and unearth the skeletons of her own past.

Life has never been easy in the small desert town of Harmony, but even on the day Calli Christopher buries her father, she knows she is surrounded by people who care about her. But after the funeral, when everyone has finally gone home, Calli discovers a girl on her property. A girl who’s dirty and bruised and unable to speak. And petrified.

Calli keeps the girl secret—well, almost secret. She calls her Ash and begins to nurture her back to health. But word spreads in a small town, and soon a detective comes around asking questions about a missing girl from another town. But these only raise more questions--about Ash and about the people Calli knows well. Still, she must is Ash in danger…or is she the danger?



Usually, I start reviews with a tagline, but I'm going to skip over that with this one, since I have a package of thoughts. Calli's dad has passed away, and she's surrounded by people, who are there for her in every way. He was well-liked and up to the point where her mother passed away a few years before, the Bishop of their congregation. When she discovers an injured girl, who's been horribly traumatized on the edge of her property, she does her best to take care of her despite pressure from those around her to turn to the authorities. The girl thrives under Calli's care, which helps with Calli's own mourning process...until strange things begin to occur. The girl is afraid, and it appears that there's much more behind everything then Calli believed.

I picked this one up without any expectations of any kind (extremely neutral) and was surprised to find myself caught up to the point that I read this in one go. The author does tension very well, and masterfully weaves Calli's personality and thoughts. It grabs and draws in with wonderful pacing and glimpses of dark secrets and moments to come. The other characters add a variety of personalities and intentions, mixing in humor, care, and even uncertainty and enough mistrust to wonder what is truly going on. For the most part, this is written from Calli's point-of-view and it works very well.  I say 'for the most part' because the author adds poetry in at the beginning of each chapter (and at other times as the story continues), which wasn't quite my thing but adds a nice touch of mystery. About two-thirds of the way through, threads started to loosen, and while I did finish this in one sitting, it felt as if something was a little off.

The writing is grabbing, but the plot weave loosened as the tale went on. Calli often draws her support from Bible verses or memories from her father's sayings (which was carefully and well done, too). His voice in her head was very prominent, which made me wonder if this was going to take a paranormal twist, but it works considering Calli's circumstances. There's a cult on the edge of the desert (which introduces more verses along the way), but while this grabbed attention, it missed the mark for me. There were several other plot/character paths, which had the same effect...and were built up and could have been so much more. Several moments/events fell into the same trap, where they 'worked' but seemed a bit tailored and not completely logical. But only a bit, so that the read still remained interesting. The conclusion ties up all the knots nicely and left with satisfaction. 

As said, I did read this in one sitting and was hooked by the writing and tension enough to keep me drawn to the pages until the end. I do recommend this for especially Christian fiction fans, who are ready to dive into a more thrilling novel, which also spends times on issues such as grief, abuse, and discovering others flaws.

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