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"Depth of Lies" by E. C. Diskin
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I've just learned there is a planned companion novel from Luke's POV. I am, therefore, retracting my complaint that there was not enough initial character development where he was concerned. I have, however, left my statement intact for those who care to understand my thought process on that niggling detail.
** Original Review **
This novel has a bit of an identity crisis thing happening, or perhaps it's a bit bi-polar, I'm not exactly certain. It's tone is very Y/A, from the narrative to the chaste love scenes. In fact, I had to continually remind myself that, no, this was an Adult Contemp. Given it's main characters ages, I don't think it quite fits into the New Adult genre. So I was confused.
Here's why I had a hard time catagorizing this into a genre. Ash's voice is very youthful. Occasionally she'd say something and I'd need to remind myself that this was a twenty six year old woman. Coupled with her shyness and the author's choice to exclude any sexual content had me scratching my head on occasion. Now, I don't usually care whether or not characters have sex in the Contemp Fic I read, that's why there's erotica. Sometimes sex is absolutely warranted, other times not so much. However, in this particular novel it almost felt needed. Let me explain. When we meet Ash, she is reeling from the death of her boyfriend, Sam. Throughout the novel, she and her co-worker, Luke, become closer and closer, while we get to read flashbacks of her relationship with Sam. When the relationship with Luke eventually evolved into more than friendship, I felt rather empty when the author chose to skip what I felt was an important aspect of that evolution. It wasn't necessary to get too graphic, nor was it necessary to detail every instance of sex in the book, but that first time... that missing piece... I mourned it. I mourned it because I was not allowed to see the inner turmoil that must have occured as Ash gave herself to another man for the first time. I was not allowed to see or feel the conflict that must have warred within her as she let that piece of Sam go. I was prohibited from feeling the depth of meaning in the act itself, because to Ash it must have been huge, it had to be, given all that had happened to her. So why skirt around it? This seriously and truly bothered me. Still does.
Aside from this, I have to say that the premise of the book was fantastic and the love story was believable and lovely. Even though Sam is long gone by the time we meet Ash, I really appreciated that the author spent time on developing him as a character. In fact, I kind of adored him by the end of the novel. Natalie Ward also spent time developing her other characters, those dead and those alive. Everyone had a distinct voice and a story to tell, which is always refreshing. Luke was particularly lovely, though I would have liked to have gotten to know him better. Oddly, most of his portion of the story is told through narrative and that, of course, is jaded as it's Ash telling us the story. It would have been nice to get more dialogue from Luke in the beginning and middle of the novel, so I could have gotten to know him better. While I appreciated his quiet understanding and absolute adoration, it would have been nice to hear it from him directly.
Without getting spoilery, the ideas in this novel are really stellar and the author took her time exploring death and survival, love and healing, the concept of family. As the reader experiences Ash's struggles to recover, they also get a chance to experience the catalysts that have caused her so much heartache. It's really a wonderful balance, and beautifully executed. Each death is explored, each character is introduced, allowing the reader to understand the relationship and comprehend the devastating impact. These backstories are built and revealed over the course of the novel, usually at pivitol moments, and with true consideration. I'm not usually a fan of flashbacks, but in this instance it really added a huge amount of depth to the overall picture.
Two tiny complaints I have to point out. First, the author utilized short sentences for dramatic effect during key moments in the story. However, these choppy sentences were so obvious in their intent it pulled me from the story. Every time I saw them coming, I felt emotionally manipulated. Second, the author wrote American characters but was very clearly not American herself. It showed. There were many colloquialisms and manners of speech that simply are not utilized here in the States. That's it. That's my little complaint-fest. Just needed to point it out.
Altogether though, a really great story and very well written.
I was excited to pick up this book just from the cover alone. It's amazing. Then I read the blurb and I was sold. From the first page, I loved the playlists included and they way she tied music into the entire story. I would say that I have and regularly listen to about 95% of the songs she listed in here. This made me all the more connected to the story because I felt like seeing that playlist before starting the chapter gave me an idea of what I was in for.
"It's hard to believe that a combination of sound and silence can have such an effect on you. But it can. And it can affect you in ways you never thought possible."
My heart broke for Ash. So completely. I wanted to give her a hug, tell her it was going to be alright and keep her out of harm's way. She was so fragile and in such a dark place (and really, how could you not be?). I loved how it was told in the first person, because even though I would LOVE to see inside Luke's head, being in Ash's head created such emotional turmoil. It was written in a way that when she felt butterflies, so did I; when she was frustrated or angry, so was I. It was so very powerful.
"It's funny the things you wish for. When you get them, you never want them anymore. And you'd do anything to take them back."
Luke - I don't even know how to go on about him. Because there really aren't any words. I LOVE HIM! The way that he was introduced to the story was great, and the relationship that evolved between him and Ash was beautiful. I appreciated every aspect of their story. He was so patient and kind and caring and really he was her saving grace. The tension between them was SO THICK I felt like I couldn't breathe at times. And then, I would think something was finally going to happen, and someone would call `uncle.' Talk about frustrating...but in a good way.
"I've wanted to be with you since the first minute I saw you. The very second you walked back into that shop and I felt my heart stop when I looked at you. I knew right then, I would do absolutely anything for you."
Natalie did a fantastic job of writing between past and present tenses. If not done correctly, this can be super confusing and muddy a story. She did this SO WELL that it's unreal. It really brought the story full circle and helped me make all the connections. It was fantastic! Because of the way it was written, too, it was damn near impossible to put down. I had a sick kid, so there was a lot of moving watching and snuggle time going on yesterday, which allowed me plenty of time with my iPad...and thank God for that because I NEEDED to know what happened next. When I thought I had it figured it, it completely changed...and I'll tell you, I was FREAKING OUT. What happened was not what I expected, and I felt like I couldn't catch my breath...I was flipping the pages so damn fast. But, overall, I would say that it ended how it should have. I don't want to give anything away, because it's just too good not to experience firsthand, but it was very powerful.
I give this book 4.5 stars and recommend it to anyone. It's a more mature contemporary - some coarse language, sex (although not overly graphic), but the characters are 25-27ish so that's to be expected. This is a MUST READ! It will have your head spinning, heart pounding and a flurry of butterflies in your stomach, but it's so worth it and so beautiful!