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!

Kate’s Review: “Saint Death”

31145190Book: “Saint Death” by Marcus Sedgwick

Publishing Info: Roaring Book Press, April 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: In a shack on the outskirts of the border city of Juarez, a teenage boy is visited by a long-lost friend.

Arturo scrapes together a living working odd jobs and staying out of sight. His friend Faustino has joined one of the city’s violent drug gangs. Now Faustino is in trouble: he’s stolen money from the narcos to smuggle his girlfriend and her baby into the U.S., and he wants Arturo’s help getting it back before they kill him for what he’s done.

Review: One of the greatest discoveries that our book club helped me make was Marcus Sedgwick. When we read “Midwinterblood” I was completely enthralled by it, it’s dark fantasy/horrorscape sucking me in and twisting me all around. When we went to ALA in 2014, one of my greatest moments was meeting Mr. Sedgwick at a book signing (and a coffee klatch!), and getting to talk a little bit about the movie “The Wicker Man” with him, as “Midwinterblood” definitely took influence from it (and I’m talking about the original “Wicker Man”, not the one with Nicholas Cage in a bear suit). So now I do my best to read any Marcus Sedgwick books that cross my path. While none have quite lived up to “Midwinterblood”, Sedgwick has become one of my favorite YA authors. And that brings me to his newest YA novel, “Saint Death”. And amazingly, I think it’s his darkest one yet.

I will admit that I was a little hesitant to pick this one up when I first heard about it. After all, the subject of life for Mexicans in the border towns, especially Juarez, is a difficult and painful one. American corporate interests and consumption of illegal drugs has led to massive poverty, and lots of gang warfare between various Cartels. So yeah, my teeth got set a little bit on edge when I found out that a British man was going to tell a story set with this backdrop. I’m still not totally certain if I think it’s his story to tell. BUT, that said, I think that Sedgwick did take it on a portray it in a sensitive and responsible way. It’s pretty clear that he did some massive research on his own, and asked for input from those who may be more familiar with the realities of this situation. And besides, “Saint Death” pulls no punches in postulating where some of the blame can be laid for the violence, corruption, and poverty that is seen in Juarez. American corporations exploit NAFTA to profit off of factories across the border that make them richer but barely pay anything to the workers, and the American consumption of illegal drugs fuels the Cartels. Throw in the topics of undocumented immigration and closed borders, as well as some climate change to boot, and you have yourself a very political book that makes it’s readers question how culpable they are through Capitalist ideals and the supposed free market.

But even without the frank and brutal politics, the characters in “Saint Death” really kept me interested and invested. Arturo and Faustino both make terrible decisions in this book, decisions that may have baffled and frustrated me. But at the same time, because of how well written they both were, I not only believed that they would make them, but I also understood exactly why they were making them. Though it’s Faustino whose choice to steal money to save his girlfriend and baby sets our story in motion, it’s ultimately Arturo whose story we follow. His journey to try to get one thousand dollars for his friend is a short one, and only takes place over a couple of days, but so much happens and he grows and changes so much you really see how his circumstances have completely changed him and the course of his entire life. Even if we spend a comparatively short time with Arturo, Sedgwick does a great job of getting you attached to him. I felt completely tensed up as he got deeper and deeper into Faustino’s mess, especially because of the impending sense of doom that lingers throughout the pages. In part this is because of the presence of Santa Muerte, a folk saint that the people in Arturo’s community have come to worship, including Faustino. While Arturo goes in not believing in Santa Muerte, she is in the pages, given her own perspective points and waxing about the human race as a whole. I loved this device, as it was a great way to tie in the global politics to Arturo’s story.

Finally, while I don’t want to spoil anything about this book and the places it goes, I need to address one thing in vaguest terms possible. Remember all those times I’ve said that I hate last minute twists that feel like a cheap way to try and shock the readers one last time? Well, this book did that. But it did it SO WELL that it achieved what those kind of twists are supposed to achieve! When I got to that quick and fleeting passage that changed SO MUCH, I literally gasped out loud and yelled

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(source)

Now THAT is how you pull off the end page twist. I salute you, Mr. Sedgwick!

“Saint Death” is a difficult book to read, but I think that it’s a pretty important one. I’m impressed that Sedgwick trusts his YA readers to be able to take on these topics and think critically about them, and hope that more authors follow his lead. Just be sure to steel yourself for something very dark, as important as it may be.

Rating 8: A tense and politically relevant thriller that raises a lot of questions about politics, capitalism, and American social values, and how they affect people living in Mexican border towns.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Saint Death” is pretty new still and isn’t on many Goodreads lists. It is, however, on “2017 Titles By/For/About Latinx”, and I think it would fit in on “Books for Fans of BREAKING BAD”.

Find “Saint Death” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Kate’s Review: “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer”

119427Book: “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” by Jennifer Lynch

Publishing Info: Pocket, January 1990

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

Book Description: Laura Palmer was introduced to television audiences in the opening scenes of “Twin Peaks”–as a beautiful dead girl, wrapped in plastic. Now available in print for the first time in many years (and in e-book for the very first time!), THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER chronicles Laura’s life from age 12 to her death at 17, and is filled with secrets, character references, and even clues to the identity of her eventual killer. Fans of the show will love seeing their favorite characters again, and Laura’s diary makes compelling reading as she turns from a naive freshman having her first kiss to a “bad girl” experimenting with drugs, sex and the occult.

“As seen by” Jennifer Lynch, creator David Lynch’s daughter, THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER is authentic, creepy, and a perfect book for anyone who loves supernatural suspense.

Review: In case it hasn’t become abundantly clear at this point, I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE “Twin Peaks” fan. It was a show that burned too bright and went out too fast, but went on to change television as we know it. When I finally got to start watching the recent revival, I felt a need to actually get my hands on one of the tie ins to the show that I had heard of, but never actually experienced. That is, of course, the notorious “The Secret Life of Laura Palmer”, a book that is supposed to be the journal of the doomed and tragic Laura Palmer, the victim whose murder kicks off the series. It’s notorious because, similar to books like “Flowers in the Attic” and “Go Ask Alice”, it has a reputation for being salacious and scandalous.

There is definitely something that should be said right away about this book: if you are not familiar with the show “Twin Peaks” and it’s mythos, this book is probably not going to make much sense to you. Jennifer Lynch, daughter of the show’s creator (and amateur meteorologist) David Lynch, writes these diary entries and expects that the reader is going to understand who these characters are and what the significance is to the various situations that Laura describes. So while I knew why it was absolutely upsetting when on page 4 Laura write ‘p.s., I hope BOB doesn’t come tonight’, those who are going in blind would not. My advice would be that if you haven’t seen the show this book should probably be avoided until you have, not only because of confusion but also major spoilers to the plot. All that said, I found it to be a fun(?) read because of the hidden references and the first person perspective from the girl who was dead in episode one. I also have to admit that I smiled pretty broadly every time there was mention of one of my favorite characters from the show, like Bobby Briggs or Audrey Horne. This book also does a good job of expanding upon characters that we only saw through the show’s perspective, and showing sides that perhaps they couldn’t or wouldn’t show after Laura’s murder. This mostly applies to my bae Bobby Briggs. On the show we mostly see an angry teenage boy who makes dumb decisions and generally acts like a brooding whiner. But I loved that in this book we saw the sweet side that was long extinguished by the time we get to know him.

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When you are both vindicated and hurting in your love for Bobby Briggs. (source)

But, all that said, as fun as the references and new perspectives were, this book doesn’t really tell me anything that I don’t know about Laura Palmer and how awful and sad her life was. If anything, it merely puts the awful abuse, torture, and sadness that she endured on full display. I need to give Jennifer Lynch the utmost credit for writing the voice of a pre-teen to teenage girl so well. As I was reading this book there were so many moments that I thought to myself ‘yep, my diary entries at this age totally sounded like this’ (to an extent), and I think that it was a genius move to let not only a woman, but the daughter of the series creator as well write it. But the authenticity just made all the stories of sexual abuse, drug use, sex work, and violence feel all the more awful. I know that some of the appeal of books like this one and “Flowers in the Attic” is the taboo-ness of reading them, but when you are reading about a teenage girl recounting all the awful things she has been made to do and the reckless and dangerous coping mechanisms she finds herself in, I was less ‘wow this is fun’ and more ‘ugh, this makes me want to take a shower’. It’s not that I found it exploitative, exactly, as I think that Lynch is very good and making it uncomfortable and decidedly NOT sexy. But I did find it upsetting. Which, at it’s heart, Laura Palmer’s story is supposed to be. By seeing this side of her, it shows her as more than just that smiling picture that everyone thinks of when they think of the show.

“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” isn’t necessarily a ‘must read’ for fans of the show, and it certainly isn’t a way for people to get an introduction to the show’s universe. But I appreciate that it gives Laura Palmer a more personal voice than the show did (and I can’t speak for the movie “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” as I have not seen it). Maybe I would have had more fun if it was the secret diary of Audrey Horne.

Rating 6: While it’s enjoyable for a “Twin Peaks” fan like me, it doesn’t really add much new to the canon beyond a personal perspective. But that personal perspective is super sad and tragic.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” is included on the Goodreads lists “Epistolary Fiction”, and “Twin Peaks”.

Find “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Gwendy’s Button Box”

34430839Book: “Gwendy’s Button Box” by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Publishing Info: Cemetery Dance Publications, May 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!

Review: One of my favorite things about Stephen King (and there are so, so many things to love about this man, in my opinion) is that he likes to make references to his past works within his books. It makes it feel like his stories exist in their own universe, and it makes it fun to try and spot references as you read his books. He also brings some characters from some books into other books. For example, in his Science Fiction/Suspense book “11/22/63”, his main character travels back in time to stop the Kennedy Assassination… and makes a detour in Derry, Maine, the infected town in “It”. We even got to see some of the characters from “It” in that book, even though they were definitely just treats for his readers. But the character that he does this the most with is Randall Flagg, aka The Man in Black, aka The Walkin’ Dude, aka Walter O’Dim. Flagg is mostly seen in “The Stand” and “The Dark Tower” Series, but every once in awhile he’ll show up in other King works. It’s rumored that he’s He Who Walks Behind The Rows in “The Children of the Corn”, and Raymond Fiegler in “Hearts in Atlantis”. I’m always on the look out for Flagg to come back, as he’s one of my favorite villains of all time.

And in “Gwendy’s Button Box”, the new novella by King and Richard Chizmar, it’s very possible that he has.

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M-O-O-N that spells ELATED! (source)

Gwendy is a typical awkward pre-teen girl. Teased by her peers and living a less than ideal home life, she’s taken it upon herself to slim down before she starts high school. She does this by running up a very steep set of stairs every day in her hometown of Castle Rock, Maine. And it’s on one of these days that she meets Richard Farris, a mysterious stranger wearing a black hat and coat. The Initials R.F. tell us right away that this is very likely to be Flagg, as does his appearance due to his penchant for wearing black. Oh, and the fact he gives her a magical box covered in buttons, and tells her that it is her responsibility at this moment to keep this box safe. While he doesn’t say it outright, he implies that pressing the buttons could have dire consequences for the world around her. It’s such a terrifying and fascinating concept to hold such a small yet powerful thing in your hands, and Gwendy is the one who is going to be the keeper of that responsibility. At least for now. This is Flagg at a more benign level, as he feels less destructive and more impish, almost like a mentor to Gwendy. The Box rewards her with beautiful chocolate animals, antique coins, and a boost of self esteem. While it didn’t feel like the Randall Flagg that I know and love, this potentially kinder, gentler Randall was pretty fun to read and rather ‘aw’ inducing. After all, how kind and gentle could he be truly if he knows that this box could potentially spell doom for mankind if it falls into the wrong hands?

I think that King and Chizmar did a very good job of writing Gwendy. Even though this is a novella and doesn’t have many pages to delve into her psyche, I felt that she was a realistic and relatable pre-teen girl. She isn’t too popular, she is unsure of herself, and she is happy to take the highs of this box and it’s responsibilities, but reluctant and scared of the lows. I enjoyed that as I was reading this book it was hard to know if there was a cause and effect going on, at least part of the time. When Gwendy pushes one of the buttons, shortly thereafter the Jonestown Massacre happens. Is that coincidence? Or did Gwendy cause it? It’s philosophical tension at it’s finest, making the reader question if she has any affect on the world, or if Richard Farris (aka Randall Flagg) is merely toying with her. She struggles with the knowledge that she has this thing that could potentially be destructive, and yet lives for the perks that it may be giving her. I also think that King and Chizmar did a good job of capturing adolescence as a whole, even if a magical button box wasn’t there. Gwendy makes friends, loses others, finds first love and has to deal with cruel and bad people who are in her life, and it always felt so real and bittersweet watching her go through her teenage years, button box or not.

King and Chizmar created a pretty cohesive book. It’s hard enough to pull off a novella, to hit all the points that you want to hit, and I imagine that doing it with another person is harder still. But it never felt like I was reading two competing voices in this book. It sounds like they created a system that worked for the two of them, and I have to say that I was very impressed with what they came up with. It has that undercurrent of thriller, wondering if Gwendy is going to keep hitting buttons and cause a catastrophe. But it also has that coming of age feel as Gwendy learns about herself and life. Given that King and his son Owen just wrote another book together, I see this as a positive sign that King has the ability to adapt, or at least tweak, his writing to mesh with another person’s.

“Gwendy’s Button Box” was a quick and very satisfying read. We get a nice taste of a return of The Walkin’ Dude, but we also get a heroine grounded in realism, and an existential crisis that kept this reader on the edge of her seat.

Rating 8: Filled with ambiguity and philosophical horror, “Gwendy’s Button Box” doesn’t only bring us back to Castle Rock, it may bring back The Man In Black. King and Chizmar work well to make a cohesive story between two voices.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Gwendy’s Button Box” is fairly new and isn’t on many Goodreads lists. It is, however, on “Best Books to Read In Summer”, and I think that it would fit in on “Weird and Freaky Books”, partially because Richard Matheson’s “Button, Button” is on that list and this book is super similar.

Find “Gwendy’s Button Box” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Into the Water”

33151805Book: “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins

Publishing Info: Riverhead Books, May 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book DescriptionA single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Review: A couple years ago I got the book “The Girl on the Train” from my library, a spoil of war known as the ‘New Items Wall’. I had been waiting for it to be up for the allotted amount of time employees have to wait before it’s up for grabs, and as soon as that time was up I grabbed it and claimed it as my own. It didn’t take me long to read it. I found it pretty okay. I was entertained, even if I guessed the big twist long before the reveal was meant to happen. Though it’s gotten a bit of backlash as of late, I knew that anything else that Paula Hawkins wrote would get a lot of attention, and that I would be interested in reading it. So enter “Into the Water”, the newest book by Paula Hawkins. Like “The Girl on the Train”, I had to wait for this one to pass the time limit. And then I grabbed it for myself.

When “Into the Water” took me in, it took me in pretty hard. The book is told through multiple perspectives, each of them slowly giving tiny pieces of the overall puzzle as to what exactly happened to the two dead ladies who drowned in the local pond. The first is Katie, a teenage girl who jumped to her death from the cliff above the drowning pool. The second is Nel, a single mother whose daughter, Lena, was best friends with Katie. No one knows what happened to Nel. She was writing a book about the large number of women who died in the drowning pool over the years, either by suicide, witch craft trial, or straight up murder. Various perspectives include the eyes of Jules, Nel’s sister, Lena, Nel’s daughter, Sean, a detective and a man with his own connection to the pool, and Erin, Sean’s partner on the force. These four voices were the strongest of the bunch, as others either felt overdramatic (the mother of Katie was especially grating, even though I did feel sympathy for her), superfluous (a local psychic who has her own beef with Sean’s family), or just downright yucky (Mark, a teacher who may have had an improper relationship with one of his students). While they all added their own important pieces, it was hard to keep track of all of them at times at first. You add in chapters from Nel’s book about the other women who died in the drowning pool and you get a lot of information to process as you are paging through quickly because it’s so enthralling.

I had a few theories about what was going on this book, and unlike “The Girl on the Train” I wasn’t totally convinced about what had happened very early one. While I liked that it kept me guessing pretty well, I did take issue with the fact that this book is the kind of story that likes to keep yanking the rug out from under you. I am okay with twists and turns, but I get really sore when a solution is presented, a conclusion is presumed, and then in the last paragraph, NAY, the last SENTENCE, the solution is completely thrown out the window and a new reality is set in place. That’s not clever to me, that’s not inventive or an ‘ah ha!’ moment. That’s a cop out, and I am not impressed with cop outs.

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I think that I need to just start to accept the fact that while I am definitely going to keep up with Paula Hawkins books in the future, I’m going to have to accept that for me it’s going to be less about the solution and more about the journey getting there. I would definitely say that “Into the Water” kept me entertained and captivated well until the final pages were turned, but on the other side of the coin the ending was a huge let down. What I will say is that Hawkins knows how to construct a mystery and a thriller, and just because the endings have disappointed me it doesn’t mean that I will completely overlook the experience as a whole.

Rating 6: Incredibly engrossing and addictive, but with a dud of an ending, “Into the Water” kept me going but left me frustrated.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Into the Water” is included on the Goodreads lists “2017 Crime Books You’re Excited For!”, and “2017 Suspense and Thrillers”.

Find “Into the Water” at your local library using WorldCat!