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: “Here and Gone”

32336395Book: “Here and Gone” by Haylen Beck

Publishing Info: Crown Publishing Group, June 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… 

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Review: Though I never saw the movie “Flightplan”, the concept of it caught my interest. A woman and her daughter get on a plane, her daughter disappears, and then when she reports it the flight crew tell her that she never had a daughter with her. I would assume that part of the movie is spent making the viewer question whether Jodie Foster is insane or not (if I am wrong, tell me!). It’s a trope that has been used before, sometimes very effectively and other times…. not. But while I was thinking that “Here and Gone” was going to be this trope all over again, effectiveness to be determined, it’s established pretty early on that this is not one of those stories. And frankly, I was relieved. Instead of wondering whether Audra was going to end up being yet another unstable and messed up protagonist in a “Girl on the Train”-esque mystery, we get corruption in a small town and the dark web. And to that I say ‘hell YES’.

What I really liked about “Here and Gone” is that since right away we know that Audra’s children, Sean and Louise, do exist, we don’t have to worry about trying to solve a mystery on top of another mystery. In fact, I was really just along for the ride of trying to see how Audra was going to escape custody of a corrupt sheriff, and how she was going to save her children from being sold into sex trafficking (yes, it went there). I wasn’t worried about some crazy reveal about Audra’s mental state, and while there were still a couple questions that had to be definitively answered I pretty much was able to sit back, relax, and let it all play out. Because of this, I found myself incredibly engrossed in this book, picking it up one night and then finishing it up the very next night in a marathon reading session. Beck knows how to sustain the tension in this book, even when jumping from character to character, time period to time period.

While none of his characters are super intricate and complex, they all have just enough defining characteristics that I always believed the choices that they made. Audra as a protagonist was especially fun to follow, as she is a scrappy dame who has completely pulled herself from victimization to empowerment, and not in a way that seemed cheesy or laid on too thick. We get the past with her husband and we see how it all happened, but we also saw that she believably has made a new life for herself, and left the despair of abuse and addiction behind her. Not once are we manipulated into thinking that oh, she may slip up in her sobriety, or oh, she may have to be victimized again to get her children back. In her steadfastness she was fun to follow. The secondary protagonist is Danny, a man whose daughter was taken under similar circumstances. When he sees the news reports of a woman who may have murdered her children but insists they were with her when the cops pulled her over, he thinks of his wife, and how their daughter disappeared in similar fashion. His wife committed suicide shortly thereafter. His backstory was a nice juxtaposition to Audra’s showing just how grave this situation really is. Beck also made a point to show cause and effect of the slow death of small town America, built up with promises of an American Dream only to find themselves in poverty when industry has left them. The town filled with a corrupt police force is dying because of a now defunct mining community, and as poverty sets in, greed and entitlement (as well as tragedy) drives our antagonists to do the unthinkable. It was far more interesting than the scenario I thought we were going into, and I think that because it was so straight forward, I was more hooked than I would have been had I been waiting for a twist. I should also note that Haylen Beck is a pen name for Irish writer Stuart Neville, and while he may be based in Northern Ireland I think he did a bang up job of writing about Small Town Americana.

Sure, it’s not a perfect book. There are some things that seem to fit together a little to perfectly, and sometimes I had to suspend some of my disbelief in how some scenarios shook out, or how lucky some things ended up being. But as far as fun thrillers go, this one was very engaging and would be a great pick for a plane or a beach read as summer starts to wind down.

Rating 8: A fast paced and suspenseful thriller that was hard to put down.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Here and Gone” is new and isn’t featured on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Child Abduction”. 

Find “Here and Gone” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Reviews: “When I Am Through With You”

32957193Book: “When I Am Through With You” by Stephanie Kuehn

Publishing Info: Dutton Books for Young Readers, August 1st, 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC at ALA thanks to the publisher.

Book Description: “This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”

Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of. 

Review: I am always on the lookout for well done and legitimately suspenseful YA thriller fiction. While sometimes it’s well written and holds my attention, there are other times that the characters are too trope-ridden and the plot is too spoonfed to the reader, as if teens couldn’t possibly stomach a bit of nuance once in awhile. This is why I thank my lucky stars for Stephanie Kuehn, as she is one of the consistently shining stars of the genre when it comes to writing it for teens. I have loved her ever since I read her book “Charm and Strange”, and every book she’s written since has pleased me and sated my need for cerebral and dark themes with complex and damaged characters. Because boy, do I LOVE complex and damaged characters, and no I’m not sorry about it.

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Case in point, my longtime obsession with Bobby Briggs from “Twin Peaks”, who demonstrates how resigned I am to my tastes. (source)

Our complex and damaged character this time is Ben Gibson, a migraine-riddled teen who lives with an addict mother who resents him and has no hope of ever leaving his small California town. True, he has a girlfriend named Rose, but she is a bit manipulative and has big dreams of college, and a life that’s on the other side of the tracks. Ben is our narrator, and while he does sort of fit the mold of unreliable, he also is incredibly honest, so the reader is left not sure if what he’s saying is true, but knows he believes that it is. While Ben has accepted that his life is pretty much going to be stuck park and not deviate from it’s current path, he still tries to make those around him happy, even if it’s to his detriment. Be it trying to please Rose, or striking a deal with his teacher Mr. Howe to become a wilderness guide for a modest fee so that he can support his mother, Ben is both a doormat and a knight in shining armor for those who don’t want saving. Kuehn slowly peels back the layers to show just why Ben is like this, and his added dimensions and complexity make him all the more interesting, and yet slightly uncomfortable, to follow.

The wilderness survival story also went above and beyond expectations. I had expected one way that it was going to go, but then it went in a whole different way than I anticipated. I don’t want to give much away, but I will say that Kuehn doesn’t pull her punches when it comes to portraying a bunch of multi-faceted, and pretty realistic, teenagers who make trouble for themselves and don’t know how to react when it blows up in their faces. The group is filled with a few different tropes, the artsy and mysterious girl, the troublemakers, the emo snob (who also happens to be Rose’s twin brother), the sporty girl, but while they all have their niches to fill, Kuehn gives all of them their due and fleshes most of them out. It would be easy to keep them in the lines of their various stereotypes, but instead we kind of get to see the perspectives of a good number of them and that makes them a bit messier and also sympathetic to a degree. Along with being unafraid to try and draw complexity from these kids, Kuehn is also unafraid to be frank and honest in depictions of violence and sexuality. The violence and the consequences of the violence are upsetting and appropriately gory, but it never feels like it’s being written just for the sake of shocking the reader. She seamlessly walks the line between exploitative and realistic, and while some of it made me cringe, it wasn’t because I felt like a voyeur to something gross. She also does a good job of portraying sex and sexuality in a number of ways, from a couple of momentary sex scenes to brief portrayals of fleeting intimacy between lovers. I know that some people would probably be uncomfortable with the sex in this book, and while even I was like ‘whoa’ during one scene in particular, I think that Kuehn clearly gives her readers credit and thinks that they can handle it. If they can handle the violence, they can certainly handle the sex.

I think that for me the one problem I was was a final twist that didn’t feel like it really fit in too well. I understood the thought behind it and while it was set up pretty well, ultimately I didn’t really feel that it added much to the story overall. But given that everything else was so well done I wasn’t too upset about it, and was far more willing to accept it.

And it wouldn’t be a Stephanie Kuehn book if there wasn’t a whole lot of tragedy. I just want to put that out there because 1) fair warning, and 2) I love that Kuehn is more than willing to pile it on, and does so in a way that never feels melodramatic. I love melodrama, but the fact that this ISN’T melodrama makes it all the more tragic.

If you haven’t already picked up books by Stephanie Kuehn, “When I Am Through With You” would be a good place to start. If you like dark and suspenseful, and super honest, thrillers, I implore you to check out her entire body of work. You will not be disappointed.

Rating 8: Kuehn once again delivers a dark and suspenseful book that takes the YA genre above and beyond the usual expectations.

Reader’s Advisory

“When I Am Through With You” is new and isn’t on many relevant lists yet, but I think that it would fit in on “Books About Survival”, and “Best Wilderness Survival Books”.

Find “When I Am Through With You” at your library using WorldCat!

Summer Giveaway: “We Were Liars”

It’s time for another Library Ladies giveaway! And since we’re in the heart of summer, what could be more perfect than giving away a SIGNED hardback copy of “We Were Liars!” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. But it may be better if you haven’t. Read on…..

16143347Book: “We Were Liars” by e. lockhart

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, May 2014

Book Description: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Mini review & Synopsis:

Kate here! So I read “We Were Liars” a few months after it was first published. I knew that it had a lot of buzz surrounding it, and I knew that people were keeping pretty tight lipped as well. I basically swallowed it whole over the course of two days, reluctant to put it down unless I absolutely had to, and I can say that it is amazing, and the perfect summer book to give away.

So why is it the perfect summer book? For one, it’s compulsively readable. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down while I was reading it. It would be a great read for the beach, or an airplane, or just sitting around your house on a super hot day whilst drinking lemonade. And for another, the story and setting really set the mood of summer. It’s about a teenage girl named Cady Sinclair who spends her summers on the family island out east (think Kennedys). She goes with her mother, and spends a lot of time with her cousins. She is closest to cousins Mirren and Johnny, but is also very close to the nephew of Johnny’s mother’s boyfriend, Gat. They’re all so close that they formed a little clique that calls itself The Liars, and Cady and Gat even strike up a summer romance. But during the fifteenth summer, something happened that has left Cady with horrible headaches and few memories. After taking a summer away from the island, she and her mother return for the seventeenth, and she’s reunited with The Liars. But what did happen that fifteenth summer? And why did she forget?

Seriously, this book is a major treat and a lot of fun with its twists and turns. You may not have a private family island to read it on, but the story will nearly whisk you away so that won’t be necessary. Good luck, everyone! You’ll want to get a hold of this book! For a fun bonus, this book has been signed by the author!

Enter the Giveaway!