Always forever maybe book cover

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder by Kimberly DertingThe Body Finder (The Body Finder, #1) by Kimberly Derting
Published by Harper on March 16th 2010
Pages: 327
Goodreads
five-stars

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world... and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer... she might become his next prey.

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world… and the imprints that attach to their killers. Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him. Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer… and becoming his prey herself.

The Body Finder was deliciously dark and chilling. I’m so glad I gave this one a shot. The sweet friendship and slow-budding romance between Violet and Jay hooked me, but it was truly the inside look at the mind of The Body Finder’s serial killer that reeled me in. I’ve never felt so creeped out while reading a novel. I literally got goosebumps every time it switched to his POV.

“He loved the hunt; it was what kept him going. But this… this was his guilty pleasure. Watching his work–the aftermath of a kill–exposed to the world.”

[…]

“He ran his finger along the razor-smoothed edge of his KA-BAR tactical knife. He knew he wouldn’t have to use it; the terrifying effect of the weapon in the presence of the girls was enough to cause total submission. Just stroking the steel blade stimulated him in ways no woman ever had.”

Intense right?! Derting does a great job portraying a man so clearly disturbed and dangerous. His actions were horrific, but his mind, the things he thought, were what got to me the most. I was terrified of this guy. With a good chunk of characters being young carefree girls, in my mind I was screaming “WATCH OUT” and “Don’t walk down that street by yourself in the middle of the night!!!”. I loved that I could jump right into this story and get caught up in it.

Everything about this book just worked. The villain was hardcore-evil and twisted. The mystery element was suspenseful and thrilling. Although I suspected one of the surprises I felt like it was pretty well hidden. It didn’t jump out and say “HEY. Here I am” as some novels unfortunately do. I think another part, perhaps the biggest part of this book’s success, is its super stubborn yet totally fabulous heroine, Violet.

I adored Violet. Because of her uncontrollable ability to find the dead, she’s been through hell. Since Violet was a little girl she could sense through different senses the remains of both animals and humans. At only eight years old, Violet discovered the body of a young girl in the woods. Talk about nightmares! Violet refers to this sense as “echos”. She hears, sees, or smells the echo-remains of animals/humans who have been murdered. This echo also imprints onto the person/thing responsible for the death, which naturally comes in handy when girls in Violet’s town and the surrounding towns begin disappearing and their corpses reappearing.

I like to think of this book in terms of parts. I feel like it was one part creepy serial killer mystery, one part cool supernatural ability, as well as one part sweet contemporary. The love between Violet and Jay was so warm and real. They’ve been friends since early childhood, a friendship that through the years has grown stronger, downright impenetrable. The acceptance, love and protection between the two gave me warm happy feelings. I smiled when they interacted on a day to day basis; shared rides to school, lunch time in the cafe, homework after school and so forth. Frowned when certain *things* caused tension and minor separation, and most importantly, rolled my eyes insistently when the duo couldn’t see what was right in front of them. It was totally obvious that they were ying and yang, pb&j—quite plainly meant to be. I didn’t mind that Violet announced her love to the readers in the beginning of the book. It wasn’t insta-love. It was a slow-cooking love that’s been in the crock pot for the last 10+ or – years. I honestly loved this plot point so much that I believe that if the supernatural element was taken out of the story, the overall book would still be just as compelling and enjoyable.
I was hesitant going into The Body Finder. It had good reviews, which is always a plus, but the mystery part turned me off a bit. I don’t really care for those Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew type books. I was afraid that The Body Finder was one of those super heavy detective types. I’m glad to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, there is a killer on the loose with a mystery becoming more and more twisty, but the relationships between the characters is what sits at the helm of this ship. I’m so glad I looked past my original thoughts and tried this one out.

five-stars
Always forever maybe book cover

The Taking by Kimberly Derting

The Taking by Kimberly DertingThe Taking (The Taking, #1) by Kimberly Derting
Published by HarperTeen on April 29th 2014
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

The Taking  is the first book in a sure-to-be epic new series by Kimberly Derting. I’m a big fan of Derting’s Body Finder series, so I had complete confidence that The Taking  would be a great and organic story. Which it was! Derting really excels at creating meaty characters and engaging story-lines.

After fighting with her father during the ride home from a softball game, Kyra jumps out of the car and attempts to contact her boyfriend for a lift. A sudden, blinding light appears that instantly disorients Kyra. She blacks out. When Kyra finally awakes, to her, it feels like 5 minutes have passed. In reality it’s been 5 years.

Nothing is familiar to Kyra. Her boyfriend is now 21, at college and in a relationship with someone else. Kyra’s home-life is also especially different. There’s been a lot (emphasis on A LOT) of changes. It’s very hard for Kyra to grasp her new reality.

She’s confused. No one knows where she went because she has no memory and there’s no evidence. Tests show that Kyra is physically the same as she was when she was 16. It appears as though she hasn’t aged. She’s also having trouble connecting to anyone. She doesn’t know how to live in this new life, especially since everyone is 5 years older, wiser and more experienced than her.

This book was eerie. Strange events keep happening. Besides a body that doesn’t appear to age, Kyra is exhibiting other strange… behaviors. There’s two new men that keep appearing. One doesn’t seem to be watching Kyra, just suspiciously showing up all the time. Another is from the NSA and asking Kyra multiple weird questions. They both unnerve Kyra.

The Taking  was an original and addicting story. I needed to know what happened to Kyra. The closer she got to a semi-normal, and more importantly enjoyable life, the more strange things began to occur. You feel like a bomb is going to drop any moment.

The Taking  also has a killer ending – a big finale and epilogue – that has you eager for the next book.

five-stars
Always forever maybe book cover

The Countdown (The Taking #3) by Kimberly Derting

The Countdown (The Taking #3) by Kimberly DertingThe Countdown (The Taking, #3) by Kimberly Derting
Published by HarperTeen on May 10th 2016
Pages: 378
Goodreads
four-stars

She may no longer be human…but she’s their only hope.

In the concluding book in the otherworldly Taking trilogy, Kyra struggles to understand who she is as she races to save the world from complete destruction.

Ever since Kyra was abducted by aliens and then returned to earth, she has known there was something different about her. Now she knows the truth: she is an alien too. Her alien captors replaced all her human DNA with their own—gifting her with supernatural powers like incredible healing, enhanced eyesight, and telekinesis. But when she’s captured by an unexpected enemy, Kyra begins to wonder if her abilities are also a curse. And is she, as her enemies believe, meant to play some key role in helping an impending alien invasion? Is it programmed into her, something inescapable? Or can she fight that destiny?

No matter what the truth is, Kyra is sure of one thing: She just rescued the love of her life, Tyler, and she is not going to stand by and let anyone hurt him or her friends. Whatever it takes, Kyra will do everything in her power to save the world…even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

The Countdown is the final book in the Taken trilogy. After the NSA attacked Blackwater Ranch in the previous book, all the returned and replaced scattered to find safety. When The Countdown begins, Kyra, Kyra’s father, and Tyler are hiding out at a campground. The trio has been bouncing from campground to campground – never staying more than one night in one place in order to stay off the NSA’s radar.

Early on, Kyra is separated from her father and Tyler. She’s jumped and drugged by an unknown blonde assailant. For a while Kyra is on her own, her father and Tyler are desperately trying to find Kyra, and the rest of the Blackwater Ranch crew who made it through the attack, are trying to locate Kyra and any other potential survivors.

The first third of The Countdown was a tad forgettable because it was mostly recap and slow buildup. However, once that 100 page count came and went and more of the taken and replaced joined up again the story really exploded! We got some badass-power-wielding Kyra, deceptions and twists, and some swoony romance – all the elements that made me love this series so much in the first place!

I said it in my review for book two and I’ll say it again, the romance between Simon and Kyra was too forced. Maybe Simon had feelings for Kyra, but I never once felt like Kyra showed any romantic nor sexual feelings towards Simon. All Kyra can think about is Tyler. Even though I think it unnecessarily dragged the entirety of books two and three, I’m glad that this weird triangle was resolved by the end of The Countdown.

When I started reading The Countdown I thought I had everything figured out, but then towards the middle of the book a slew of hidden agendas and lies were divulged and I had no idea what to think anymore. Thank you Derting for pulling the rug out! It’s exactly what this last book needed!
I was initially worried that Derting had made the overall story too big for just three books but by the end of The Countdown I was satisfied with how she tied things up.

I’m sad to see the Taken trilogy end, but the story and characters ran their course. I’ll miss Kyra and her feistiness but I’m sure Derting is hard at work on another stellar book that you can bet I’ll be reading!

four-stars