Kate’s Review: “Every Last Lie”

32735394Book: “Every Last Lie” by Mary Kubica

Publishing Info: Park Row Books, June 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

“The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us.” 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

Review: I have many anxieties in my life, some that are realistic, others that are unrealistic. Or at the very least not worth worrying about. One of those anxieties is becoming unexpectedly widowed. I’m the person who can’t sleep too well at night if her husband isn’t home, especially if I’m expecting him home and he is late to return. Because OBVIOUSLY it isn’t that he’s just running late or finding that time has run away from him. Obviously he’s dead.

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Yes I am, Gene Wilder. (source)

So reading “Every Last Lie” kind of made me confront my anxieties on that at least a little bit, so it has that going for it. Mary Kubica is one of those authors that I really, really want to like, mainly because I really enjoyed her book “Pretty Baby” and the subversion of expectations that we were given. I wasn’t as thrilled by “Don’t You Cry” (if you remember) just because it was less a subversion of expectations and more a tangle of unnecessary twists and turns. But I was willing to give “Every Last Lie” a chance because overall, I like the author. Unfortunately, this was less of a “Pretty Baby” experience and more of a “Don’t You Cry” experience.

Note: I am going to try avoiding spoilers here, but I can’t really critique it without saying at least a little bit of how scenarios kind of play out. So even though I’m avoiding specifics, you may want to skip this review if you want to read it.

“Every Little Lie” is told through alternating perspectives. The first is Clara’s perspective as she’s trying to piece together what happened to Nick, finding potential clues to suggest that maybe her husband didn’t die by accident and that perhaps he was murdered. The other is Nick’s perspective in the weeks leading up to that fateful car ride that sets the plot in motion. I will give this book credit where it is due, I really enjoyed this structure. It allowed for the reader to be able to see the clues that were presented in ways that Nick and Clara couldn’t see them, and I liked picking up on truths that one or the other weren’t privy to. It’s good when these books find fun and interesting ways to reveal the solution to the reader, and I definitely felt like Kubica did a bang up job in terms of pacing and reveal. It also made it for a fast read, and a pretty entertaining one in the moment.

But plotting aside, I didn’t really care for either Clara or Nick. I didn’t feel like I knew that much about Clara as a person outside of the trauma that she was experiencing and what it was doing to her mental state. Sure, that makes sense that we are only going to see that side of her in her chapters, but even in the chapters that Nick had before the car accident we only got a partial view, and it wasn’t a very telling one. Nick was a bit more interesting, seeing Clara’s views of him alongside the truths about him was a very good way to get to know him as a character. But ultimately, he wasn’t terribly interesting, and just fell into pretty familiar tropes of a desperate man with a lot of secrets. And then you add into that a lot of really odd red herrings that never felt satisfying, as they never led anywhere. I know that red herrings usually don’t, but there were so many things in this book that I wanted to have SOME sort of resolution, only to find that there is no resolution in sight for a good deal of them as we turn the last page. And some of them, I felt, really needed resolution for me to be satisfied with the story. I was left saying “Well what about ______?” too much to be happy or at least okay with how things ended up.

I still fully intend to keep giving Mary Kubica a shot, because there is a lot of potential there. And “Pretty Baby” was proof that I do like stuff that she has done, and can like it again. It’s just too bad that this one fell flat. I keep hope alive that the next will be better.

Rating 6: A quick and entertaining enough read, but none of the characters really grabbed me and I wasn’t terribly invested in how it all turned out. Especially when many problems were left unresolved.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Every Last Lie” is fairly new and not on many relevant Goodreads lists. But it is on “2017 Suspense and Thrillers”, and I think it would fit in on “Female Psychological Thrillers and Suspense”.

Find “Every Last Lie” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review and Giveaway: “Genuine Fraud”

33843362Book: “Genuine Fraud” by E. Lockhart

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, September 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: An ARC from the publisher at ALA.

Book Description: The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Review: I mentioned a book on this blog this summer called “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. It’s a deeply unsettling thriller about a man named Tom Ripley who befriends a wealthy playboy, only to kill him and take on his identity. It’s super messed up and a very fun read, and I think that many of the more recent psychopaths as protagonists characters owe a lot to Patricia Highsmith, who created the character. So when I started to read “Genuine Fraud” by E. Lockhart, it didn’t take long for me to pick up on the fact that this book is a genderbent version of that story. Throw in a little bit of timeline tweaking that starts at the end for good measure, and you have the newest novel from the author of “We Were Liars”, with more coastal scenes and protagonists that you aren’t sure that you can really trust.

I do like it when YA authors experiment with structure and plotting, so to see that it started at the end was a great way to start this book. We start with Jule, who has taken on the identity of her best friend Imogen, a flighty heiress who was as aimless as she was charming. We don’t know what happened to Imogen, only that she is dead, and Jule is pretending to be her. Just as it seems she’s about to be arrested for some sort of crime (fraud? something worse?), we go backwards in time. And then we go further backwards. As we go back more and more, the pieces start to come into place, not only about who Jule is, who Imogen was, how they found each other, and how everything went wrong… plus the collateral damage along the way. We kind of get a sense for Jule and who she is, but she is definitely the definition of unreliable. Things that are said about her may not be the truth, and certainly things she tells other people probably aren’t. The backwards structure was a really neat way to get some of the facts, foreshadowing to events that happened before the moment that you are reading about. You forge thoughts and attitudes towards characters, but then as you shift backwards through the story your attitude changes and you see them in completely new ways. The more I see this device, the more I come to appreciate it, to be sure. It also made it so that I had a hard time putting this book down, needing to take any down time to keep going to find out what happened. It was such a fast and engrossing read that I consumed most of it in one sitting, and then stayed up probably far too late, battling sleep, just to see how it all turned out. There is no denying that the pacing and the little smattering of clues throughout the pages made this a very fun read.

But the problem that I had with it is that it is most certainly borrowing a lot from “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. I’m sure that it’s meant to be an homage to this classic story of obsessive friendship, identity theft, and murder, but there were a number of parallels that felt more like lifting plot points instead of honoring them. The close friend who has always been suspicious of the interloper. The lover who is being played like a harp. The parent who reaches out because their child has ditched responsibility in favor of carelessness. An incident in a boat with an OAR (my God, this basically played out the same way in “Ripley” as it did here). The list goes on. For the target audience, that isn’t going to really make much of a difference. For them Imogen won’t be Dickie Greenleaf and Jule won’t be Tom Ripley, but in my mind I couldn’t separate the characters in this book from the ones that they appear to be modeled after. I think that perhaps if it had been made a bit more clear that this was, in fact, a genderbent retelling with a different structure I would have been more thrilled by it, but instead it was frustrating because I would always be thinking ‘well that was just what Highsmith did’.

All that said, it’s undeniable that “Genuine Fraud” was an entertaining read. Definitely the kind of book that will keep you guessing and keep you completely obsessed with it. I would be curious to see if Lockhart will be following it up with other stories about Jule. After all, since this is an homage to Tom Ripley, it’s important to note that he had a whole series dedicated to him and his exploits. I’d probably read more about Jule, just as I’ve always meant to with regards to Tom Ripley.

Rating 6: An addictive thriller that I ate up quickly. However, it feels less like an homage to “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and more like a copy in some ways.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Genuine Fraud” is brand new and isn’t on many Goodreads lists yet. But I think it would fit in on “Mistress of Disguise”, and “Dark Obsession and Stalker Books”.

Find “Genuine Fraud” at your library using WorldCat!

But you can have a chance at owning this book as well!! Because I’m giving this ARC away for free!!

Enter The Giveaway Here! 

Kate’s Review: “The Breakdown”

31450633Book: “The Breakdown” by B.A. Paris

Publishing Info: St Martin’s Press, July 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Review: Whenever I travel I like to bring a big stack of books with me, because most of the time I am able to tear through most of, if not all of, them. My husband and I went to Las Vegas for his birthday weekend a few weeks ago, and it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that Vegas isn’t really my cup o’tea. BUT, a vacation is a vacation no matter how gaudy, so I usually spend my time in Vegas at the pool with a book and a mimosa as opposed to in the casinos. Such compromise works for both of us.

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(source)

But while on this trip, even though I brought four books, I only was able to spend time with one, and that was “The Breakdown” by B.A. Paris. It wasn’t for lack of pool time or down time, I can assure you of that. The problem was that this book written by the person who wrote the runaway hit “Behind Closed Doors”, was a slog and a half to get through, and I kept putting the book down in favor of my phone or conversation. I was determined to finish it, however, so I slowly picked away at it…. until the last fourth, when everything changed.

I didn’t really know what to make of this book for those first three fourths. Cass is definitely an unreliable narrator, and from her first person perspective we are only given what she sees. It’s established pretty early on that her mother suffered from early onset dementia, and that Cass has anxieties about her own mental health. After seeing a stopped car on the side of the road on a rainy night in a dark forest while she’s driving home, she is too fearful to stop and investigate. So when she finds out that not only was the woman inside the car murdered that evening, but that she knew her, her anxieties start to really fester and pulsate. When mysterious calls start coming in, with silence on the line, Cass starts to think that maybe the murderer is out to get her. Cass is pretty much your run of the mill hysterical protagonist, and while you understand where she is coming from, I found her to be basically insufferable. Yes, the fear she is constantly oozing is understandable and realistic, but she made so many choices that didn’t make much sense to me. Instead of confiding in anyone that she did, in fact, pass the woman in the car that night, she hides that fact, thinking that people would judge her for not stopping. Even when she is fully convinced that she’s being stalked, she doesn’t tell anyone, and at that point it just didn’t seem worth it to keep it secret. SO WHY KEEP IT SECRET?! I was also pretty convinced that I was diving head first into an ‘unreliable narrator with a huge shocking twist’ kind of story, and just couldn’t bring myself to give much of a damn until I decided that I just needed to finish it.

And then…….. it totally switched gears and blew my mind.

B.A. Paris made me think that this book was one thing, then that it was another thing, so when she revealed that it was NEITHER of those things but a whole other thing, I was totally thrown off guard and blown away. And going back and reading different parts, it was all there, hidden in the pages and in the exposition in ways that I completely glazed over as I read. Once we got to that last fourth, Cass went from a character that I was totally frustrated by to a character that I was actively cheering for. Everything changed and I didn’t see it coming. Now, that said, it probably shouldn’t have taken until the last fourth of the book to finally get me interested, because there were a couple of points before where I was tempted to set it down. While I was completely relieved that I stuck it out, I almost didn’t, and that’s not great, and it might have been too little, too late had it not been so bananas it where it went.

Now, I don’t want to go into much detail beyond that, because this is one of those books that you could be spoiled by just about anything. Just know that “The Breakdown” was a strange read for me, but I can say that yes, it’s worth the read, even if you too are frustrated by it for most of the time spent with it.

Rating 7: Though I felt like I had to slog through a fair amount of it, the moment that it really picked up I couldn’t put it down.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Breakdown” is new and isn’t included on many relevant Goodreads lists, but it can be found on “2017 Crime Books You’re Excited For”, and should be on “Psychological Chillers By Women Authors”.

Find “The Breakdown” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Lying Game”

32895291Book: “The Lying Game” by Ruth Ware

Publishing Info: Gallery/Scout Press, July 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Review: As you guys have seen on this blog previously, one of my favorite suspense writers out there today is Ruth Ware. I read and reviewed both “In A Dark, Dark Wood” for this blog, as well as “The Woman in Cabin 10”, so of course I was going to pick up Ware’s most recent novel, “The Lying Game”. These women centric whodunits are the perfect reads for travel and leisure, as they go down very easily and keep you entertained. When I finally got to “The Lying Game”, I settled in, ready for a page turner with twists and turns to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Our protagonist is Isa, a relatively new mother of a baby named Freya and partner to a kind man named Owen. She’s made a new life for herself away from her teenage years, where she had a tight knit group of friends named Kate, Thea, and Fatima, with whom she shares a deep secret. They haven’t seen each other in years, trying to suppress their past in various ways. But when a body is found in the town of their boarding school, one that may reveal too much, they are flung back together. The bonds of a secret are hardly a new theme in books like this, but the strengths are in the characters here. While Isa is our protagonist, she actually felt like the least interesting of the foursome, falling back on pretty well explored tropes. Shy and meek, but fiery when it comes to her child, and in a relationship with a well meaning but somewhat clueless man, I was more frustrated with Isa than I wanted to be. I was far more interested in Fatima, the most centered of the group who has become a surgeon and has recently become more faithful in her practice of Islam. We so rarely get ‘with it’ women at the forefront of these stories, and I think that Fatima had some serious potential and more to explore than Isa. Isa was just a woman who is falling apart because of the lies she’s told, and it’s not only a frustrating scenario to watch play out, it’s also been done before and didn’t really give me much to chew on.

But the atmosphere in this book is exceptionally spot on. If you want to guarantee a moody atmosphere for a novel, you really can’t go wrong with a house in a tidal estuary that is right on the water. It worked for “The Woman in Black”, and it works here as well. Kate, the woman who has stayed behind after the disappearance of her father and the secret shared between them, is living in her childhood home… which is slowly sinking into the water. The idea of a house that at certain tidal times is close to being enveloped by water is creepy and suffocating, and it really added to the general unease of this novel. While all of these women are still somewhat trapped at The Reach, Kate is trapped there physically as well as emotionally. The secrets that the Reach and these women hold are always just beneath the surface, and as they start to rise up the tension builds so slowly you don’t realize it’s there until you’re already drowning in it. You add that into the fact that this is a small town with a prestigious boarding school, and you know that the scandal and secrets are going to be oozing off the page. Boarding schools and sinking houses in an isolated setting? Hell yes I’m going to love that.

In terms of the mysteries and secrets of this book, it was kind of a mixed bag. There were some things that I definitely was caught off guard about, or at least didn’t figure it out until Ware wanted me to. But there were other things that I figured out pretty early on, and when it came to the ultimate climax and the ultimate solution, I was left kind of underwhelmed. While I don’t necessarily want to have twist after twist after twist, I also kind of want to have a little bit of a ‘gasp!’ moment when it comes to the solution to a book like this. I didn’t really get that anywhere in this book. If the characters had been a little bit stronger on all ends, I could have given it a bit of a pass, but as it was, I think that of Ware’s three books “The Lying Game” is the weakest for me.

That isn’t to say it’s a bad read at all. “The Lying Game” was a quick and tense read, and I tore through it pretty quickly. Fans of this genre really should give it a go, because it’s a solid mystery with some good suspense in it.

Rating 7: A solid premise with some good suspense building, but the solution was a bit underwhelming, just as the main character was grating at times. The atmosphere and the supporting characters, however, were solid.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Lying Game” is included on the Goodreads lists “2017 Library Recommended Books”, and “Anticipated/Best 2017 Literary Fiction”.

Find “The Lying Game” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Reviews: “One of Us Is Lying”

32682118Book: “One of Us Is Lying” by Karen M. McManus

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, May 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.  Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention: Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule; Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess; Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing; Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher; and Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?  Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Review: You want to talk about classic high school movies, one of the assured mentions is going to be “The Breakfast Club”. While I really don’t like what happens to Ally Sheedy’s character (as a ‘basket-case’ in high school myself, I didn’t appreciate being told that if I just got a makeover boys would like me), I have to admit that the concept of kids coming from different social circles and getting along for one day is really appealing. ESPECIALLY when one of those kids is Judd Nelson, my GOD. So when I heard about this book, and that it’s basically “The Breakfast Club” with a murder mystery to boot, I was TOTALLY IN!!!!

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I say naaaah, nah nah nah nahhhh… (source)

But we actually got so much more than that. While sure, the Brat Pack in that movie each gets their own little piece of vulnerability, McManus has an entire book to explore each of her characters to their fullest extent, and can paint them in complicated and well rounded ways that gives the reader reasons to be invested in all of them. We get four perspective characters in this book. Bronwyn is the brainiac who is carrying an Ivy League dream not only as a legacy, but as a biracial girl whose Columbian side of the family literally pulled itself up by the bootstraps to start said legacy. Addy is a girl who has been taught that her only strength is her beauty, perpetuated by a vapid mother and a controlling boyfriend. Cooper is a star athlete whose family is riding on the idea of him getting a major league offer because of his pitching arm. And Nate, oh my sweet sweet Nate, is a dealer on probation living in a ramshackle home with a drunken father. And all of them have secrets, which is why all of them are viable suspects when Simon, app creator and provocateur extraordinaire, is murdered while they are all serving detention together.

All of these characters had realistic and believable voices, and I saw the vulnerability and desperation in each of them as their secrets started to come to light. It became pretty clear from the get go that none of them were actually suspects to be taken seriously, and while I don’t know how I feel about that, it was a delight to be able to see them hide other things instead of throwing an entire barrel of red herrings my way. And while some of them had secrets that weren’t that hard to guess, getting to the answers was a heck of a ride, especially since all of them grew and evolved so much as they got there. Addy especially went on a character arc that felt so organic and so heart-wrenching and yet empowering that I was especially happy to get to her perspective chapters. This storyline brings up questions of relationships, romance vs domination, and what sort of value we put on women and girls who are attractive but not encouraged to be much more. I also really liked reading how Nate and Bronwyn’s relationship progressed and evolved. There of course was going to be some romance in this book, and of COURSE the geeky girl and the bad boy is a trope that’s ripe for the picking. But I liked how McManus had these two interact and complement each other without  making either feel like they were out of character. I also liked that we got to see Nate’s backstory and how it wasn’t the usual ‘my Dad’s abusive and that’s why I’m a nasty prick’ sob story. It wasn’t much more than that, but it did address the struggles of families with mental illness, especially when resources are limited when it comes to getting help.

The big mystery itself though? Well, while I had a super fun time just going with the flow and following it to it’s conclusion, I did find the final answers to be a bit disappointing. True, I did like that our four main characters were pretty much in the clear from the get go, I still think that had there been some more twists and reveals instead of things being pretty easily explained and neatly finished it could have been a seriously stellar mystery. As it was, I was pretty much satisfied with how it all shook out, but it wasn’t much to write home about. The strengths in this book were definitely in the characters, and the supporting characters that they each had in their lives. I would have been completely content if there was no murder mystery at all and it was just about a bunch of kids from different groups learning that they could, in fact, become friends….. So, basically, “The Breakfast Club”, but without that bullshit makeover scene.

“One of Us Is Lying” was a fun and entertaining read. The side mysteries were fun, the characters were well written, and I would totally read something else from Karen M. McManus down the line. With the right amount of mystery and suds, it’s the perfect read for the dog days of summer.

Rating 8: Though the solution felt a little bit thrown together and convenient, I quite liked learning the various secrets of all the characters in this book, as well as seeing them all grow and change.

Reader’s Advisory:

“One of Us Is Lying” is new and not on many lists yet. But it is included on the Goodreads lists “2017 Suspense and Thrillers”, and would fit in on “Cliques and Crime”.

Find “One of Us Is Lying” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Kate’s Review: “The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper”

72445Book: “The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes” by Scott Frost

Publishing Info: Pocket Books, 1991

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Former Eagle Scout and lifetime audio freak Dale Cooper brings us his autobiography, culled from his private collection of personal tape recordings beginning with his thirteenth birthday. Discover the secrets, never before seen on television, of Twin Peaks’ most-wanted man, who scored a perfect 100 on his marksmanship test and once let a gentle, beautiful woman lead him astray. He’s Dale Cooper – the man who seems too good to be true – and this is his story.

Review: This “Twin Peaks” train keeps on chugging along!!! And while the revival of the show has been both wonderful and absolutely confounding, I have also been turning to the books that came before it. This time instead of focusing on poor dead Laura Palmer, we are getting to know a little bit more about the always optimistic, super enthusiastic, but also ultimately a bit tragic, Dale Cooper, the main protagonist of the show. Dale Cooper is one of my favorite characters of all time, his bubbly earnestness completely charming and absolutely adorable. I was a little skeptical that this book would be able to do him justice, as Kyle Maclachlan just brings him to complete and total life. BUT, I have GREAT news. This book pretty much manages to do it. A warning, though, if you want to see anything else about the town itself and it’s inhabitants, sadly it ends right before Cooper arrives. This is all Cooper, all the time, and while that was totally fine by me, it’s good to know that this is his story, not that of the beloved town.

Much like “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer”, you have to go into this book with the knowledge of the show to really get anything from it. We get to see Dale Cooper’s life through his ‘tapes’, transcribed audio recordings that start at his thirteenth birthday. And boy, did it just sound like good ol’ Coop to me as I read them. It really shouldn’t surprise me, as Scott Frost was a writer on the show, but I found myself smiling and cackling with glee as I read this book, it’s content far less heavy than “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer”. Even thirteen year old Dale Cooper is filled with joy and wonder for the world around him, as well as picking up on little hints and details about the people in his life that sheds a little light on things that happen to him later in life. This book explores more of the theory that Cooper is deeply intuitive to the point of being a bit psychic, and expands upon it through his childhood and his family members (specifically his mother; seems that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this regard). I enjoyed reading about how he saw the changing times of the 1960s, how he viewed his coming of age, and what life was like for him when he first came to the F.B.I. I was ESPECIALLY waiting for mention of one of my other favorite characters on the show, Albert Rosenfield, because boy do I kind of ship the two of them, and without spoiling anything I can tell you that THIS BOOK DID NOT DISAPPOINT!

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The ship sails on. (source)

But along with the fan service that felt totally designed for me, this book also gave me a dark side of Coop that isn’t seen as much in the original series. His tapes do serve as his own diary in spite of the fact that he’s sending a fair number of them to Diane, and there were moments of despair and existential angst that I’m not as used to seeing in my man Cooper. He did have his darker moments in Season 2, and in the revival BOY are things bleak for him, but in this book I felt like we got to see a whole other side to Cooper that I tend to forget, or did even know, existed. He expounds upon the losses of the important women in his life with a subtle grief, or will disappear for months at a time, and I just felt like this book does add a new darkness to the character who can be seen holding chocolate bunnies or gleefully experiencing coniferous trees with childlike wonder. Sometimes this could be a bit too much, especially when we get to the Wyndam and Caroline Earle part of his life, but in the right amounts it was very pathos ridden and melancholy.

Plus, there were genuine moments of creepiness that I thoroughly enjoyed. Be it the brutal natures of some of the crimes that Dale investigated, or the weird moments of odd rambling that he would do with his tapes in darker, more harried mind spaces, there were parts of this book that gave me chills down my spine. Nothing was totally scary or freaky, but there would be moments that were turned just a little bit odd, and that when I thought about it for a moment I just felt weirded out. That’s the power of “Twin Peaks”, the little moments that are just a bit askew, but completely set you  on edge. This book is filled with them.

Do you have to read this book if you are a “Twin Peaks” fan? Probably not. It didn’t give me any new insights into anything, really. But it’s a fun little bonus that can be put to the mythos of the series as a whole, especially seeing some of these things being played out or alluded to in the new revival. If you can’t get enough of “Twin Peaks” and are still scratching your head over some of the stuff in the new series, “The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper” will probably suit you just fine.

Rating 7: A bit more enjoyable than “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” in tone, Frost has Coop’s voice down pat. Not much is added to the “Twin Peaks” experience, but it’s a fun, and at times creepy, read.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper” is included on the Goodreads lists “TWIN PEAKS”, and “Books Written by Fictional Characters”.

Find “The Autobiography of F.B.I Special Agent Dale Cooper” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Kate’s Reviews: “Final Girls”

32796253Book: “Final Girls” by Riley Sager

Publishing Info: Dutton, July 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: A free ARC provided by Net Galley.

Book Description: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. 

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Review: First and foremost, I want to extend a sincere thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. It means a lot and I greatly appreciate the generosity,

You all know my deep deep love for horror movies, and that I have a serious guilty-ish pleasure for the slasher film genre. There are so many things about it that are kind of grotesque and trite, but I really do enjoy a slash ’em up kind of flick like “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, or “Scream”. I think that my love for that subgenre stems from my time as an awkward teenager who was a bit more cautious and shy than some of her lady friends. Because of this, I really related to the “Final Girl” trope that those movies almost always trot out: the virginal good girl who triumphs over evil and is the only one who can vanquish the bloodthirsty villain. The movie “Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon” did a great job of deconstructing the concept of the Final Girl, as did the movie “Final Girls”, and I’ve been aching to read a book about it as well. When Lauren Beukes “Survivors’ Club” didn’t quite get there, my only hope left was “Final Girls” by Riley Sager, and BOY am I THRILLED to say that this book nailed it and gave me everything I needed.

The very scenarios given in this book as the mass killings that the Final Girls endured are so textbook 80s slasher film that I was living a Dayglow glittered fever dream. You have the college kids in a cabin in the woods, the sorority house massacre, and the isolated motel ambush with a killer who is wearing a sack on his head! PERFECTION. But even beyond setting up the perfect slasher scenarios, Sager also painted pictures of how an actual ‘Final Girl’ might endure after the trauma. As much as we love the idea of Nancy Thmpson or Laurie Strode going on to live happy lives, in the real world the consequences would be far more long lasting. Quincy is a complete mess whose outward appearance is a lie to the pain underneath. She has her baking blog and her true blue fiance, but she is addicted to Xanax and unable to let go of Coop, the cop who saved her all those years ago from a killer in the woods. She has distanced herself from other survivors of violent massacres, Lisa and Sam, because while the media loves to lump them together, she just wants to be herself and to live her life. I really loved Quincy for her full damaged self.

The thing that surprised me the most about this book was that it wasn’t the meta and self referential homage that I was expecting it to be, even though it’s set up was one hundred percent spot on for such a novel. Instead there was a serious mystery here, specifically involving Sam. After Lisa, the original and perhaps most ‘with it’ Final Girl is found dead of an apparent suicide, Quincy is approached by the second, Sam, who had been off the grid for years. The mystery at the heart of this book is about Sam’s experiences, as well as Quincy’s. Though I went in thinking that it would be about the two of them teaming up to find a killer, it turned out to be something much different. And then it superseded my expectations AGAIN when it also became a question about Quincy and her experience at a cabin in the woods. The movies like to portray these Final Girl types as innocents caught up in a whirlwind of circumstance, the ultimate Madonnas who are better than the Whores that surround them and therefore they get to live. But Sager poses that perhaps it’s more interesting if they are just complex, well rounded people instead of just a trope, and questions whether being innocent is the absolute only thing you can be to deserve to survive something as brutal as a slasher killer.

I truly enjoyed this book as a fan of the slasher genre, even if it wasn’t the self satisfied wink fest I thought it was going to be. Fans of this genre really need to go out and get their hands on “Final Girls”. Quincy has every right to stand with Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, and all those other badass women who take out those who wish them ill, and she can do it while still being damaged.

Rating 9: A great mystery with some excellent character studies, “Final Girls” goes beyond a meta romp for slasher horror fans and is a fabulous and suspenseful summer read.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Final Girls” is new and isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists as of yet. But I think that it would fit in on “Best Female Driven Mysteries”, and “Popular Slasher Books”.

Find “Final Girls” at your library using WorldCat!