For What It's Worth

Thursday, November 15, 2018

review: the Lying Woods by Ashley Elston


33803125Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions and drain the employees' retirement accounts, Owen's father vanished without a trace, leaving Owen and his mother to deal with the fallout.

Owen returns to Lake Cane to finish his senior year, where people he can barely remember despise him for his father's crimes. It's bad enough dealing with muttered insults and glares, but when Owen and his mother receive increasingly frightening threats from someone out for revenge, he knows he must get to the bottom of what really happened at Louisiana Frac--and the cryptic note his father sent him at his boarding school days before disappearing.


Owen's only refuge is the sprawling, isolated pecan orchard he works at after school, owned by a man named Gus who has his own secrets--and in some ways seems to know Owen better than he knows himself. As Owen uncovers a terrible injustice
that looms over the same Preacher Woods he's claimed as his own, he must face a shocking truth about his own past--and write a better future. ~ Goodreads

Source: ARC provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review

Review:
I was totally expecting a creepy, paranormal thriller with The Lying Woods. As I re-read the summary now – I can say that it’s pretty accurate but the cover just has a spooky *you will die if you enter the woods* vibe. This book isn’t that – but I was pleasantly surprised by how well this mystery/family drama was written.

Owen’s father vanishes after embezzling millions from his fracking company in a small Louisiana town. Think Enron. As the top employer in town almost everyone living there is touched by this – either by losing their retirement, savings or the residual business that the company provided.

Owen is a student at an elite boarding school but is forced to move back to the town in question with his mom and live with an aunt because they have nowhere to go. His father left them with nothing – their possessions about to be auctioned off to pay off the debt and they are left under a cloud of suspicion as to whether they (especially his mom) were co-conspirators in the deception, if they are still in contact with the father and more importantly – if are they hiding any money.

The town is not happy to have them back and there are threats made. Bricks being thrown at the house, threatening notes and phone calls - particularly towards the mom.

Owen starts out as an angry young man. Angry at his dad for leaving them broke, angry at having to move back to small town without all his little luxuries He gets into fights with the local kids and it’s completely understandable. But the way he rebounds is awesome! He has a chance to go back to the boarding school but instead stays with his mom and hunkers down, getting a job, joining a sports team. I absolutely adored this kid.

This is a hard book to discuss without spoilers so I’ll just say this…

The Lying Woods is told with a dual timeline. The present and from a summer in 1999 when Owen’s parents met and fell in love. Both timelines are fascinating and the way the author ties them together is brilliant.

I've read so many mysteries that either have a convoluted journey or a lackluster payoff. Nether is the case here. Both timelines are riveting and worth the emotional investment.

One other thing I want to note is how well the characters were written. Owen isn’t a petulant/know it all brat. If he encounters something dangerous or suspicious HE GOES TO THE POLICE. OMG that made me happy! Owen's mom isn't a story placeholder. She's very much part of the story and present as a parent despite also being a victim. The townsfolk are angry and hurt but react in surprising and nuanced ways. The characters from the 1999 story line – welp…I can’t say much about that but it was heartbreaking, twisty and completely plausible.

I’m one of those people who figures out the twists on page one without even trying so this is a difficult genre for me to enjoy but Elston managed it. All while getting me so wrapped up in the family and emotional drama of these characters just as much as the mystery.

I loved it and I’ll be checking out this authors back list right away!

39 comments:

  1. Boom! Added it to my list. The cover does give off a you-will-die vibe, but I'm glad that wasn't the case! I love when a book is so twisted that anything you say has the potential to be a spoiler. It means that all of the details and information are connected, so the author likely wrote a very compelling and complex story. I'm looking forward to reading it!

    Also, how the flark are you?? It's been ages since we've spoken! I miss you. You're one of my favorite people in the world! Tell Keven I said hello. :)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. Kevin* Dude, I don't know what's wrong with me. Maybe it's because it's after 2 AM? I need sleep or coffee. Probably sleep.

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    2. Once you adjust your expectations it's an excellent story!

      We just texted the other day didn't we?? lol

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  2. It makes a change to see the character going to the police for a change! We rarely ever see that!

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    1. I know right??!!! I was so excited. Everyone acted so realistically. And it wasn't those meddling kids solving the crime lol

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  3. I loved her last book and am so excited for this one. This is the second really good review I have read so I am really pumped now!

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    1. I want to read ALL her books now and I'm not a big thriller fan.

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  4. This sounds fantastic, and it sounds like Owen really grows a lot and doesn't do stupid things but enlists the experts. LOVE IT. haha I'm glad the dual narrative worked well and came together nicely!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. It's so rare! I was so surprised by how normal these kids reacted. Not always perfect but rational reactions.

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  5. Oh wow, I was thinking the same thing based on the cover. But I might still try it if the author tied things together that well!

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    1. At first, I kept looking for sinister forces in the woods lol but once I got over that it was so good!

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  6. You sure convinced me that I need to read this one. Our hero sounds wonderful and so does the mystery.

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    1. It was REALLY good Sophia!

      I'm also not a fan of dual timelines but this really works.

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  7. Okay, I’m loving that Owen’s action (and reactions) are reasonable and actually make sense. This is one of my pet peeves with YA mystery/thrillers. Or really any mystery/thrillers. It’s like, “Oh, I received a death threat from a seriously creepy person. I know, I’ll break into their house and investigate.” I mean, come on! Who does that? Owen sounds like a relatable MC and hooray for the mom actually being present. I’m going to check my library for this one. Great review, Karen!

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    1. I mean - he's upset at first and thinks of himself but he comes to understand what his dad did to others and is so mature about it. As are the other kids!! I was flabbergasted! lol

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  8. I'd be angry too if people were throwing bricks at my place.

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    1. Absolutely. But when he thinks he knows who might be doing it he goes to the cops instead of doing something stupid that puts even more people in danger.

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  9. I suuuuuck at figuring out twists, well if they are obvi I do, if not nope

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    1. OMG I figured one out last month I think from the blurb. I'm not even bragging about it - I hate that I do it - without even trying.

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  10. Oh gosh. You have me convinced to get this one. I like the sound of the mystery, the characters and the dual time lines. Headed over to my library Overdrive to see if I can snag an audio copy.

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    1. It was good! I'm not always a fan of dual timelines but these came together so well and were both interesting.

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  11. ooh...this book sounds wonderful and glad to see that it was such a rewarding book!!

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    1. It's rare the the payoff is worth it for me in thrillers but I liked this one.

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  12. I'm a big fan of well written nonlinear narrations and really interested to see how the past and present tie in with one another. It's been so long since I've read a great mystery and I love that not only is his mother present throughout his narration but he's quite level headed and won't hesitate to call the police, rather than the typically rushing in to save the world himself. Brilliant review Karen!

    Been thinking about you and the family today my darling and if you need to talk, please don't hesitate ♡♡♡

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    1. I wouldn't say that it's big on the mystery - more like family secrets unraveling but it really, really worked for me.

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  13. I am totally adding this to my list, thanks!

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  14. I had a feeling this was more of a creepy paranormal type book too, so that's good to know. Still it sounds quite good- I'm glad this one worked out so well. I'm seriously thinking of getting this one. And yay for a protagonist who actually goes to the police lol!

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    1. Between the cover and the blurb making the pecan woods sound creepy I was all in for a spooky read. It wasn't that but it was fantastic anyway.

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  15. WOW this sounds fabulous! I was on the fence about it, because I was kind of afraid of a lot of the stuff that you mentioned that ended up being good- Owen not being totally awful, parents being involved, someone actually calling the police like a normal person haha. So YEP now I need it. Especially if it pays off- that is hands down my biggest gripe in mysteries and now I feel like I can go into this without that concern! Thanks for the great review!

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    1. It's so uncommon for a character to call the police that it needs to be pointed out lol

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  16. Ooh! I'll definitely have to check this one out!

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  17. I expect creepy as well so I'm super curious. I love a good dual timeline!

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

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    1. That rarely works for me but this was a pleasant surprise!

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  18. More intrigued by this one than anything else. I can't say it particularly appeals to me and yet, the synopsis backed up by your review, has piqued my interest.

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    1. To be honest - if I knew what it was about before I read it - I would have given it a pass. I'm not into dual timelines or family secrets but I really liked it.

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  19. I would have expected creepy too! But I'm always in for a well written family mystery with well developed characters! This sounds like a winner!

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  20. This sounds like a great family drama that wasn't on my radar yet, great review.

    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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