Cover Image: What Lies in the Woods

What Lies in the Woods

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Member Reviews

Marshall's These Fleeting Shadows was one of my favorite unexpected reads of the last year, and I was SO excited for this one. While it didn't absolutely enrapture me quite as much as These Fleeting Shadows, I still had a lot of time with What Lies in the Woods. It's more Gillian Flynn than Shirley Jackson/Lovecraft, but that's not inherently a bad thing. This wasn't the book I expected it to be, and the pacing was a bit off (too slow to start, too quick to end), but I still really enjoyed it, and am looking forward to Marshall's next book!

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What a great story! I will be honest, I was not immediately hooked and had put it down for a bit. But when I came back to it it scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. There’s a great unreliable narrator, and man oh man did the red herrings in this book get me. I love that I was constantly second guessing who was really to blame, and who could be trusted (spoiler alert: trust no one!!). I really enjoyed this story and feel like it’s a bright light in a super saturated “murder girls” market.

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The atmosphere of What Lies in the Woods makes it a compelling thriller. I enjoyed reading this book. I was constantly trying to figure out who was involved and what was about to happen. I never put the pieces together. This is an excellent book by Kate Alice Marshall and my first one by here also. This one is very twisty and while some of it I saw coming, other things I didn't. I don't want to say too much about it other than grab it if you can. It's a bit darker and contains more mature elements than her YA books, and I really enjoyed my time with it. It's also casually queer as Naomi is bisexual. The audio narration is fantastic, and I just wanted to keep listening to the end! I received an audio review copy via Net Galley, all opinions are my own.
*Content warnings include death, violence, injury, suicidal ideation, possible suicide, gun violence, attempted sexual assault of a child, references to child abuse, infidelity, depictions of hoarding.

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3.5 stars

I loved the beginning of What Lies in the Woods, Marshall captures that feeling of being a young girl who is on the cusp of becoming a teen and knowing friendship can change. As someone who spent summers in the woods with my friends at that age, that part drew me in…

The twists at the end were, eh… one was pretty obvious and the other just didn’t work for me… but that’s just my opinion.

Overall still a good mystery and thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for a review.

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Three best friends spent their eleventh summer in a world of make believe in the woods near their homes. When one of the girls is violently attacked one day, their testimonies sent a serial killer to prison. Or did they. When the girls get together as adults, secrets start to come out. What will they do to stop them?

Highly recommend this for anyone looking for a thriller they won’t be able to put down. This book will leave you constantly wondering who can be trusted.

Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for the ARC in exchange for a fair review.

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This is my first Kate Alice Marshall book, and I can confidently say this won't be my last. I am usually not a huge fan of thrillers, but this book was amazing. I could not see the twists and turns coming and I really loved the main character. I felt like I was discovering everything along with her and the pacing was excellent.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys thrillers with twists and turns you won't see coming.

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I thought that this one started off a little slow. I don't really know what I was expecting going in and I must confess that Thrillers aren't my normal genre. I really loved the concept. I am always a sucker for a "is this the right person/lapse in memory" scenario. I did really dig that the characters were flushed out thoroughly, and I don't feel like the twists and turns were too predictable. I would probably read another book by the author, even if thrillers aren't my jam.

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The nitty-gritty: Secrets, lies and shocking plot twists will have readers scrambling to find out the truth in this excellent thriller.

What Lies in the Woods is a slow burn mystery that was nearly impossible to put down. With this book, Kate Alice Marshall has made it onto my auto-buy list of authors, it was that good. With impeccable pacing, deep character development, and stellar writing, this is a definitely a "must read" thriller of 2023.

Naomi survived a vicious attack when she was only eleven years old. She and her best friends Olivia and Cassidy were playing in the woods when Naomi was attacked and stabbed seventeen times. Cass and Liv saw the attack and were able to identify a man named Alan Michael Stahl, a suspected serial killer who the authorities were only too happy to send to prison.

Twenty years later, Naomi gets word that Stahl has died in prison, and wanting to bring some closure to her horrible experience, she decides to go home and reconnect with Liv and Cass. But rather than bringing her comfort, seeing her old friends only opens up old wounds. Liv is clearly distressed about something and claims she has a big secret she wants to tell Naomi. And that isn’t the only secret threatening to spill out. The three girls discovered something in the woods all those years ago and swore never to tell, but when tragedy suddenly strikes, Naomi begins to question her memories. What really happened that day in the woods? And how is the girls’ big secret connected to it? With the help of a podcaster who has his own doubts about what happened, Naomi embarks on a dangerous quest to find the truth.

Marshall brilliantly shows how fragile memories can be and how over time you can convince yourself that something is true, even if it isn’t. I loved watching Naomi come to the realization that perhaps the events from the past happened differently than she remembers. Naomi was an interesting protagonist in many ways. She still has terrible scars on her face from the attack, a daily reminder of what happened to her. She changed her last name because she was tired of the notoriety that came with surviving a serial killer attack, and she just wants to be left alone. Coming back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, isn’t doing her mental health any favors, but you can see how badly she wants to discover the truth and put the past to rest.

There are quite a few characters in the story, but the author gives each one an important role, and of course casts suspicion on many of them, making it nearly impossible to guess the final outcome. All of the characters seem to be damaged in one way or another, and none of them are very good people, but honestly, doesn’t that make the story more interesting? I ended up really enjoying the relationship between Naomi and her estranged hoarder dad, who was never a very good father to her growing up and didn’t give her the support she needed after the attack. But seeing them interact as adults was, believe it or not, one of the more heartwarming parts of the story.

I also loved the feeling of nostalgia I experienced during the flashback scenes, when Naomi, Liv and Cass spent hours playing something called the Goddess Game. The “game” revolved around Greek goddesses and magic, a heady experience that ultimately spiraled out of control. These scenes in the past leading up to Naomi’s attack were steeped in mystery, as the author only sparingly hands out details of the game and the actual events. I remember as a child myself having an overactive imagination, and I could see how the machinations of such a game could lead to misunderstandings and high emotions. The author brought the past and present together in spectacularly thrilling ways, and even readers who don’t like dual timelines will probably find themselves riveted by Marshall’s skillful plotting.

There were so many twists and turns in the last twenty percent of the story, I couldn’t stop gasping from shock! In fact, that might be the only negative for me, that there were just too many crazy twists so close together, I couldn’t keep up. I did love that Marshall chose a feel-good, emotional ending that felt highly satisfying. I cannot wait to read more from this talented author!

Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

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🌲Book Review 🌲
What Lies in the Woods
Kate Alice Marshall
January 2023
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Qotd: How do you feel about daily affirmations? Do you use them?

Thank you to Netgalley and the author for my digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I chose this book strictly on the cover and title and it did not disappoint. Full of plenty of suspense and mystery with just enough red herrings to keep you guessing. I did not figure this one out and was quite surprised by the ending. The writing was fluid and easy to readand I found myself disappointed when it was over.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend this one for a beginner thriller reader but maybe middle of the road. Not too gorey but plenty descriptive. Looking forward to reading others by this author. If you enjoy thrillers, go find this one.

Synopsis: "Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes.
And they were liars.
For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods—no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be."

#review #mondayreview #bookreviews #Reviewer #whatliesinthewoods #netgalley #netgalleyreview #thriller #thrillerbooks #katealicemarshall #digitalcopy

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This was my first five star read of 2023. It had everything you want in a murder mystery plus some. Our MC was a survivor of an attack when she was only a child. Seventeen stab wounds and the ability to not only survive but name a wanted killer her attacker sure did put her on the map. It also instilled some crucial emotional and social survival skills that outlined the last 22 years of her life. She was a riveting main character filled with trust issues, isolation, and skepticism.

So what brings her back to the small town she had always been desperate to escape - even before the attack that solidified her reasons to leave? The killer she pronounced responsible for her attack dies. Her best friend calls her back asking for the truth to be set free. Naomi was always curious how she was able to identify her killer seeing as she couldn't remember anything about the attack besides the excruciating pain of being stabbed seventeen times. She had always been able to compartmentalize this "wounded" side of herself but returning back to her hometown opens the floodgates.

I appreciated Naomis unwavering personality but willingness to use her brain to decipher what didn't seem right. I loved the writing of this author. The first page had me sucked in and glued to the book. Her writing is enchanting like a fantasy book but invigorating as a murder mystery should be. I had read it alone at night and was spooked at every small noise going through my house. It had me double and triple checking the locks at night. Everything about this book was perfected. It creeps into your mind and festers, calls to you. Loved every second of this read.

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Wow!! I will admit this one was a bit of a struggle to get in to for me in the beginning but man I’m glad I stuck with it. Kate Alice Marshall has woven together a wild ride of a thriller with so many questionable characters, it’s hard to know who to trust. Definitely didn’t see the many twists coming, but in the end they made sense. Such a well-written thriller that should be on every thriller lovers tbr!!

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Not a bad read! While this is the author’s adult debut, the narrative did still feel very YA, with it’s fade-to-black intimate scenes, copious flashbacks to a younger time with the girls, and an immature vibe to their grown counterparts. The villain unfortunately felt predictable from the moment they appeared on page, but there still was one twist that “got me”. A very fast paced popcorn thriller that will appeal to readers looking for an entertaining, time filling, story.

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Thank you NetGalley for providing this audiobook for an honest review. I absolutely loved this book. The narrator did a great job! Normally when I read a mystery/thriller I can usually guess the ending. This book had so many twists and turns. I kept changing my mind about what was going to happen and I was still wrong. I will definitely look for more books by this author.

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This book was ok. At times I thought I thought it had potential to be better then it ultimately was. The main reason that I found it to be just ok is that none of the characters were likable and I figured out where the book was heading almost from the beginning.

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Slow burner. I usually do not like that about thrillers, but this one made you want to keep reading because you wanted to find out what happened. Baby when you get to the end. Ohhhh childdddd. Go listen while reading!

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Three young women, a serial killers, lies, and repercussions. I'm sold already! As you should be too. You will need to sleep with the lights on for a while after reading What Lies in the Woods! It kept me up reading the entire thing in just two days. I was seriously annoyed that I had to stop reading and sleep in the middle. Being an adult is dumb. Lol. But it really was that good, it kept me reading through the entire thing. This was the first Kate Alice Marshall novel I've read, and from what I understand, her first adult thriller novel. Which for being her debut novel for adults, I found I really enjoyed it, and I hope she continues writing thrillers in the future, because I'll definitely be reading them.

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I really liked this book. I don’t usually reach for thrillers first, but generally like them once I read. This one however really pulls you in from the beginning and there’s no slow spots to speak of. I enjoyed getting to know the women in the book and learning their history as girls in school. The ending really surprised me, though I did think it had to be something like that. Really good! Would recommend!

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I do not recommend this book. And I am Editing my original review down to 2 stars.

(New edit) Spoiler:
This story is extremely disrespectful to the real life family in Waukesha, WI…where the victim is also still alive. (See below)
This book is also so problematic! We basically let a child rapist go and tell the reader it’s OK, they didn’t murder someone, so nothing needs to happen further. Ugh! The fact that this is a debut adult novel with all of these trigger touchpoints with no resolve to any of it and the rest of what I have to say below is why I’m notching it down.

Thank you to Flatiron Books, the author and NetGalley for an advanced eCopy for review
—Pub date, January 2023

TW: Child sexual abuse, rape, alcoholism, hoarding, suicide thoughts, vicious friends and much more…

**** MAJOR PLOT SPOILER ALERT*** (because this just couldn’t be overlooked by me)

The main the reason for 2.0, I have to spoil the plot. Here’s the thing— after just a couple of chapters, I shared with a friend that this story had Major SLENDER MAN vibes!!! I live near Waukesha, WI where this case made national headlines. So, as I read through the book that I was enjoying for the most part, I thought I was wrong. This book is no less than 2.0 stars for the simple fact that the author did a good job of placing at least four suspects on my radar. She made me think and “plot point” in my head multiple times. HOWEVER, in the end, I was correct— and to be honest, I hated it!... I really wanted to see something come out of left field because it was so predictable to me in the beginning. I didn’t want to have to come all that way just to be right. I want to be fooled!! For that reason, and the fact that we kept hearing about all the statutory rape that occurred with our protagonist —but the perp got nothing and we received ZERO “outcome” with this major plot point! What the hell— not even in the “post wrap up”, of 10 months later. The ending was a disappointment for me in that way.

One last thought— the story of a make-believe game in the woods between 3 girls that requires a sacrifice (and stabbing!) was too similar in nature to the story in WI. And like the story, the girl lives to tell about it and put her friends behind bars in a highly televised court case. The author could not have come up with this on her own… She keeps interviewing stating she came up with it on her own bc her friends played a game in the woods. Nothing was mentioned in the acknowledgments about the case in Waukesha nor out of respect to the family. Google it for yourself, but here’s a tiny blurb:

On May 31, 2014, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States, two 12-year-old girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, lured their friend Payton Leutner into a forest and stabbed her 19 times in an attempt to appease the fictional character Slender Man. The stabbing took place in David's Park, a wooded area during a game of hide-and-seek. The perpetrators, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser pinned down Payton Isabella Leutner (also known as Bella, a nickname used at the time of the crime)and stabbed her nineteen times in the arms, legs, and torso with a five-inch-long (13 cm) blade. Weier and Geyser told Leutner to lie down while they would find help, but they did not get any upon leaving. Afterwards, Leutner dragged herself to a nearby road where she was found by a cyclist.

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"To believe is to hold dear, to cherish, to claim as a truth more fundamental than fact. I believed in magic. We all did."

Wow. To say this book kept me on my toes would be the understatement of the century. I couldn't put it down and ended up staying up until 2am to finish and figure out who did it!

Being a thriller reader, I knew to keep myself wary of everyone, but every single time I thought I knew what was coming, another twist was thrown in. I could never decide who it was. Cass's pervy older brother, the actual serial killer, Ethan the podcaster? Heck, EVERYONE was a suspect in this book. Everyone seemed to be hiding something and no one was trustworthy. I loved it.

There were so many moments throughout this book that I had to second guess my perceptions of a character's morality. Just when you thought you had everything figured out, the author would throw in something small that made you question your opinion of someone. Was Cody really a good golden boy and loyal husband? Was Cass really a protective friend? Was Liv mentally stable and trustworthy? Was Ethan playing Naomi? Were Naomi's memories even reliable? Kate Alice Marshall did an amazing job outlining everyone's secrets and making the reader believe that everyone had a motive for murder.

This was an all around great thriller. I loved everything about it. The magical Goddess elements in the girls' game, the description of the woods, the development of the relationships between characters, the description of each character's personality and how the Marshall really made you hate some and love others, It was just....*chef's kiss.*

5/5 stars

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Huge thank you to the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Overall i thought this book was strong but nothing super different than most thrillers. I did enjoy that there was so many twist and turns and unreliable memory to account for a long that (i’ve been reading a lot of books with memory issues…odd but okay).

I like the set up of the book and how everything unfolded. The moral of the study is stop being jealous over stupid things and then don’t lie.

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