Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: Envy (Empty Coffin Series, #1) by Gregg Olsen

Envy (Empty Coffin Series, #1)

Author: Gregg Olsen

Purchase on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Synopsis: Murder is such a dirty word . . .

Crime lives--and dies--in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen--and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town's victims and culprits.

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins' old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out--and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.

Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying, 
Envy will take you to the edge--and push you right over.

Brought to you by TeamNerd Reviewer Annabell Cadiz

Review: I haven’t read any books in the Young Adult genre that mainly came off as suspense thrillers with paranormal elements mixed into the plot so Envy was a book I was looking forward to diving into. It gave off the promise of being something that would surprise me and it very well did!

I had expected a story filled with ghosts who would help the main characters solve the death or come to terms with something life changing but instead I found a story ripped from real life headlines. Envy dissects how bullying, even through the internet, can have deadly consequences.

Hayley and Taylor are not only sisters but twin sisters. They share each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. But the two couldn’t be any more different. Hayley is more gentle and patient whereas Taylor is straight to the point and emotional. They also happen to share a secret no one knows about and they never talk about to anyone else: they’re psychic. When their ex-best friend Katelyn is found dead in her bathtub on Christmas morning, everyone in the small town of Port Gamble, Washington, automatically suspects suicide but Hayley and Taylor aren’t as convinced as everyone else. One evening Taylor is staring out her window watching a boat decorated for the Christmas season when suddenly the word LOOK forms in the water. Taylor instantly commands her sisters attention and so begins the journey Hayley and Taylor will face to discover just exactly how Katelyn died and who was really responsible.

The beginning to Envy is somewhat misleading which was one of the best parts to the book. You don’t really know how the beginning ties into the rest of the story until closer to the end and I was ACTUALLY surprised by the discovery. I had suspected two of the characters to be apart of what happened to Katelyn but not the third one that came out of the blue, at least for me. I also loved how dark the story was without having many in-your-face-paranormal-moments. The darkness built within the story came from the way the human characters behaved and interacted, from the secrets everyone is holding onto and the desperate need to keep them from finding their way to the surface.

All of the characters relationship are told separately and gradually become intertwined with each other. There’s a lot going on throughout the book which was somewhat of a draw back at times because you wanted to focus on mainly one aspect of the book before moving on. But eventually every hidden secret and revealed truth and every relationship connects with each other to reveal a pretty messed up story.

The paranormal element to the story—the fact that Hayley and Taylor are psychic—played out gradually as the story progressed. First in small glimpses then in larger doses. I liked learning about their gifts but still feel confused about them. Since Envy is the set up to the series I can let that go since I’m guessing the author will further explore what the girls can do in future books.

I also loved how complicated the adult characters secrets were as much as the teenagers secrets. Katelyn’s mom, Sandra, is not all she seems at first and for most of the book, the reader won’t have as much sympathy for her as others but will discover a misconception about her at the end. At first I just couldn’t fully feel bad for Sandra. She was an alcoholic who refused to admit she had a problem and a “poor me” attitude that annoyed me, even though she lost a daughter my sympathy for her only went so far. That is until the truth about why she always drank was revealed. It’s heartbreaking, the guilt and regret she had to live with for so long.

There are many backstories to the adult and young adult cast: Hayley and Taylor, Starla—the gorgeous, totally stuck-up, mean as hell cheerleader. Beth—the best friend to Hayley and Taylor who is angst ridden and jealous of the twins relationship but she carries scars of her own. Teagan—Starla’s younger brother who seems like every typical teenage boy but underneath he has some dark secrets of his own. Katelyn—even though she dies at the beginning of the book her secrets and family life come to the surface as Hayley and Taylor work to uncovering the truth. Mindee—Starla and Teagan’s mom who doesn’t have a clue about raising her kids and cares more about looks then substance. Kevin Ryan—Hayley and Taylor’s Dad who is a famous crime writer, using other people’s tragedies to make a living and who loves his daughters more than anything else in the world. Valerie—Hayley and Taylor’s mom who works at an asylum and has kept a secret from her daughters since they were babies. Savannah Osteen-the specialist from the university who studied Hayley and Taylor when they were babies because they were apart of a special being done about babies who spoke in full sentences at just ten months old.

There are a few issues I had with the book. All of the teenage characters come off flat. It’s hard to tell them apart since all their personalities come off one dimensional. The adult characters come off just at flat at times so I hope there is more depth to them as the series moves forward since I do like some of them. There is a good amount of repetition at times and moments where scenes seemed to dragged out the story more than needed. I also didn’t fully like the ending. Where I did like discovering those responsible for what exactly happened to Katelyn and how each played a part, and was surprised by one character’s role in particular, the rest of the ending was wrapped up too nicely. Two of the characters that played an intricate part in what happened to Katelyn got away with a slap on the wrist while the third character I could be okay with since the character genuinely came off remorseful and heartbroken and he has to live with what was done for the rest of his life; but I still wanted their to be more of a punishment. Then again in real life sometimes evil walks away with nothing more than a smile on its face. I also couldn’t stand the scenes where text messaging was involved!! I don’t think that’s actually what teenagers sound like when they text and sometimes I just couldn’t make out what the text was trying to say.

Envy at its core is more than just about a girl who died in a bathtub via electrocution. It’s a story detailing how gossip, rumors, resentment, regret, guilt, and shame can ultimately destroy not just ourselves but the people we love and sometimes permanently.
It was a pretty great start to a series that shows promise.

About the Author: Throughout his career, Gregg Olsen has demonstrated an ability to create a detailed narrative that offers readers fascinating insights into the lives of people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

A New York Times bestselling author, Olsen has written seven nonfiction books, three novels, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on dozens of national and local television shows, including educational programs for the History Channel, Learning Channel, and Discovery Channel. He has also appeared on Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Today Show, FOX News; CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, MSNBC, Entertainment Tonight, CBS 48 Hours, Oxygen’s Snapped, Court TV’s Crier Live, Inside Edition, Extra, Access Hollywood, and A&E’s Biography.

In addition to television and radio appearances, the award-winning author has been featured in Redbook, USA Today, People, Salon magazine, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times and the New York Post.

The Deep Dark was named Idaho Book of the Year by the ILA and Starvation Heights was honored by Washington’s Secretary of State for the book’s contribution to Washington state history and culture.

Olsen, a Seattle native, lives in Olalla, Washington with his wife, twin daughters, three chickens, Milo (an obedience school dropout cocker spaniel) and Suri (a mini dachshund so spoiled she wears a sweater).

Where to Find the Author

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