While any positive review is appreciated, I have a particular fondness for reviews that give an accurate picture of a book’s themes, strengths, and characters. Reviews like this help readers choose books. They also help authors because they attract readers that are actually interested in the book’s subject matter, not just people looking for a “good” book. These kinds of reviews might even deter people who are looking for a book that is totally different from the one in question, which is almost as useful as attracting your ideal readership.
BookLife’s recent review of Her Eyes Underwater is one of these gems (taken from booklife.com):
“This deliciously disquieting debut thriller gleefully toys with both emotions and sanity. Julia Strauss is a 30-year-old law student, bored by life in mid-1970s Missoula, Mont., and desperately longing for a romantic adventure. When she encounters charismatic and aloof Alex Bowman, a fellow law student, in a café, her yearning turns into an obsession. Alex’s looks initially attract her, but it is his enigmatic emotional distance, occasionally broken by moments when he takes bizarre and terrifying actions, that drives her into a frenzy. Further encounters in class and at parties leave Julia determined to uncover Alex’s secrets, without any care for her own safety or what unsettling mysteries she might unearth.
Simon’s detailed worldbuilding and sophisticated, evocative phrasing immerse readers in the minds of two unstable characters. Smooth prose allows for tension to build organically as the pace heightens; casual introductions quickly jolt to a fever pitch of passion that blurs the lines between socially acceptable interest and outright stalking. Julia attributes some of Alex’s alarming behavior to trauma from service in Vietnam, but readers soon begin to suspect there’s more going on. Scenes of graphic violence and sexual assault are a stark counterpoint to the more subtle, but equally horrific, mental manipulation between Julia and Alex.
In a delightful approach that pushes this firmly into horror territory, neither Julia nor Alex is especially redeemable, leading readers to uncomfortably wonder whom to root for, if anyone. The politically turbulent 1970s are the perfect background for the palpable sexual tension between the two leads. Julia’s sex-hungry fascination is complemented by Alex’s increasingly unnerving internal monologues. This disturbing foray into the minds of two deeply unhinged people will even make seasoned horror fans’ skin crawl.
Takeaway: Fans of horrific suspense and psychological terror will be enthralled by this obsessive, deadly game of romantic cat and mouse.
Great for fans of Gillian Flynn, V.C. Andrews.”