Off the Shelf: A Review of Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell

First and foremost, I just want to thank the readers who have stuck around during my hiatus. It was really something to log in and see that there were so many visitors each day checking out my reviews even without me posting regularly. It was due to that confidence booster that I decided to upgrade a few things around the site, and I hope you like the new look! Once things calm down a bit, I’ll get back to posting regularly and more importantly READING regularly (*sigh* I can’t wait…). Now – on to the review!

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately between work, my last semester of grad school, and planning a wedding, so I’ve been trying to sneak in a little stress-relief reading whenever possible. What’s my kind of stress-relief reading? Anxiety-ridden, high intensity thrillers, of course. I’ve read so many lately that I wish I had time to review them all. Pretty Girls Dancing by Kylie Brant kicked off my new year and my thriller-spree on a positive note with a creepy, dark suspense story set in my home state. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn provided the pulse-pounding rollercoaster ride I’d been looking for and quickly became one of my most recommended titles to friends and fellow Rear Window fans (seriously, read it – NOW). The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor was an impressive debut that turned the creepiness dial up to eleven. All of these were worthwhile reads in my book.

And then we have Silent Victim

A psychological thriller from former police detective Caroline Mitchell, Silent Victim was offered on KindleFirst as one of the February selections. With a summary that sounded right up my alley, I couldn’t wait till the March 1st release date, and so I jumped on getting to read it early. But did it live up to the other thrillers in my recent reading spree?

 

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Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell
Release Date: March 1, 2018

Summary (via Goodreads)

Emma’s darkest secrets are buried in the past. But the truth can’t stay hidden for long.

Emma is a loving wife, a devoted mother…and an involuntary killer. For years she’s been hiding the dead body of the teacher who seduced her as a teen.

It’s a secret that might have stayed buried if only her life had been less perfect. A promotion for Emma’s husband, Alex, means they can finally move to a bigger home with their young son. But with a buyer lined up for their old house, Emma can’t leave without destroying every last trace of her final revenge…

Returning to the shallow grave in the garden, she finds it empty. The body is gone.

Panicked, Emma confesses to her husband. But this is only the beginning. Soon, Alex will discover things about her he’ll wish he’d learned sooner. And others he’ll long to forget.

 

Things I Liked:

The summary sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? I won’t lie, I got giddy the first time I read it. Dark Secrets? Dead bodies? Correction: MISSING dead bodies? I’m all about this, and I want to know MORE. Enter: Emma. It doesn’t take long to figure out that we are probably working with an unreliable narrator here. Is she actually crazy or is someone just making it look like she is? I LOVE unreliable narrators, so I should probably love Emma, but I just never made the connection with her. To be completely honest, she actually annoyed me. BUT – she’s only ONE of the three POVs that this story is told from. We also journey inside the head of her husband, Alex (he had potential, but I ended up not caring for him either…he comes across a little too self serving and just as secretive as his wife) and Luke, the teacher that seduced Emma when she was a teenager. To be honest, Luke kept me reading. His chapters were creepy and uncomfortable to read, but being able to see inside such a sick mind was like a train wreck – you just couldn’t look away. Probably not the best promotion of a book to say that the best chapters are from a pedo’s POV, but I will say that it kept things interesting, especially seeing the same scenes depicted from both Emma and Luke’s POVs.

I typically try to find a few things (however small they may be) that I like in books that don’t win me over. Maybe it’s just that it has been a couple weeks since finishing this book, but I can’t quite remember much that stood out as redeeming. I at least finished the book…that’s something, right?

 

Things I Didn’t Like:

Looking through some other reviews, I feel like there’s an elephant in the room. Anyone going to talk about it? Anyone? Ok, just me then.

*SPOILER ALERT*
I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one out there who has problems with that particularly rape-y scene. So, get this… Emma is cornered by her abuser who offers to leave her alone forever, if only she will just have sex with him one more time. She even says she knows she should run, grab her phone, and call for help. But wait! An idea occurs to her – the sex will last only minutes, and it’s not like she loves Luke, so maybe some good can come of this situation! She could use her attacker as a means of impregnating herself with the child that she and her husband can’t conceive….wait….what??? Yep. You read that right. This chick is justifying her own rape. “Perhaps something good could be salvaged out of all this mess. It was not like I was being unfaithful. I loved my husband. A baby would make our marriage complete, and with Luke out of my life for good there would be nothing to threaten our happiness.”  How can you read that and NOT find it problematic? It still makes me cringe.

There were several times I wanted to just put this book down and give up. That moment in particular was almost enough to seal the deal, but at that point I had to wonder if it could get any worse (ehhh, the ending is pretty contrived, but this is the part that stands out to me as I-Want-to-Throw-this-Book-Across-the-Room-Level-Bad).  

I will also issue a word of caution for anyone who feels triggered by depictions of eating disorders. I was not prepared for that subject to come up and play such a prevalent role in Emma’s life throughout the story, and perhaps if I had known that, I would have selected a different Kindle First book. I won’t comment on how it’s portrayed, but it was a struggle for me to read those parts. Fair warning.

Overall Rating:

I guess I’m just the odd man out on this one, because as popular as it seems to be, Silent Victim was not a winner for me. I’d give it 1.5 stars, and that’s mostly because there was at least enough of a story to keep me wondering how it all would end (and boy, did I keep wishing for it to end). Spoiler alert, even the ending is disappointing. I’m sorry, folks. I just don’t get the appeal to this one. I didn’t care about any of the characters, the “twists” were eyeroll inducing, and it just really missed the mark of being suspenseful to me. The only thing killed by this book was my thriller reading spree. Oh well, guess it’s time to switch to something different…

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Off the Shelf: A Review of By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Although my reading list has stayed consistently full, Among the Authors has been on a bit of a hiatus while I finish up with grad school (the end is in sight! Come on, May!). However, an enticing email from Entangled Teen recently popped up in my inbox and promised a dark carnival story full of mystery and mayhem. Even with a growing to-do list (major life update since my last post: I’m engaged and getting married this year!), I couldn’t resist the call of the carnival. You all know how much I loved Caraval, and while I went into this thinking that By a Charm and a Curse would be similar, I found it to be nothing like Caraval, yet still a uniquely fun read.

I received an eARC from Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review.

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Summary (via Goodreads)

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

 

Things I Liked:

By a Charm and a Curse is a very, VERY quick read. I picked it up and didn’t sit it back down until I was finished, only a couple of hours later. The 300 pages seemed more like half that. It’s a great book for an after-work-wind-down, when you really need something light and easy to escape the stress of the day. What better way to do that than by visiting a mysterious carnival?

The setting is a major strength to this book. It is well-written, and even though the closest thing I had to a carnival growing up was the county fair, I could clearly imagine this whimsical, enchanting circus. Speaking of circus, you might see this book compared to The Night Circus as well as Carnaval, but let me reiterate that all of these books have very different stories. They merely share a similar setting. The setting is vibrant and makes an interesting playing field for a diverse cast of performers.

Telling the story in dual points of view between the two main characters, Emma and Benjamin, was a wise choice on the part of the author. Emma was an interesting enough character, and I thought her struggles with the marionette-like transformation were uniquely creepy. Between the two of them though, I found myself looking forward to the chapters told from Benjamin’s perspective because I feel like he had a bit more depth. However, Sidney, the former Boy in the Box, easily stole the show for me. He was fun, engaging, and I wanted so much more from his character. Had the book been a little bit longer, that might have been possible.

 
Things I Didn’t Like:

There’s not much that’s surprising about By a Charm and a Curse. I think you’re meant to be shocked by the true nature of the curse, but most readers will see it coming from very early in the story. I actually was surprised by a dark and deadly moment towards the end, but unfortunately, I feel that it was unnecessary and didn’t really do anything to further the plot. While the story can get predictable, there are other parts that get rather confusing, like how certain characters don’t react to things the way people normally would or they don’t ask questions that should have been obvious.


To be completely honest, after the first few pages, I was a little concerned that this was not the book that I expected it to be and that I was going to completely dislike Emma. She complains a lot about having to stay with her dad and brothers while her mother is out of the country. She’s stuck in this place that is just soooo awful and the only thing her one friend in town wants to talk about is setting her up with boys. Then, she meets a complete stranger who, after only a few moments, Emma believes completely gets her, and all she wants to do is hold hands with him and maybe kiss him (her first kiss! *gag*). It’s all a little bit eyeroll-inducing. But stick with it! I promise the story does get better from here, although even the real romance portion of the book does feel pretty rushed and without any real conflict (other than an overprotective mother).

 
Overall Rating:

I’d give By a Charm and a Curse a solid three stars. This book is a fun escape, and one that can be easily read in one afternoon or evening. The premise is intriguing and the setting full of whimsy. The cast of characters, while sometimes lacking in depth, are memorable and add to the mystery of the carnival itself. Although it will leave you wishing it was a little longer, it’s a fairly impressive debut for Jaime Questell, and it makes me look forward to the possibilities of what she may write in the future.