In very preliminary stages of trying to write a cozy mystery or a murder mystery or something like these things, and came across this great video on YouTube that easily breaks down 5 clue types and how you can use them. So I turned the concepts into an infographic for easy reference.
So I read the Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas. This book was all over the place. [Fair warning: This post is full of spoilers.] It started off very strong. The opening two sentences are amazing:
This house was made for someone without a soul. So I guess it makes sense that my mother wanted it so badly.
Immediately set the tone. We have a strong, intelligent, very dramatic teenage protagonist. We discover quite quickly that Monica (which for some reason doesn’t sound like a real teenager’s name, in present day, to me) made some stupid decisions over the summer, got knocked up, and is physically reeling from the abortion she has instigated via pills.
So to take her mind off of her physical pain, she begins digging into the seemingly too-coincidental deaths of 5 cheerleaders that happened within a few months of each other 5 years ago. One of the rah-rahs was her sister. Oh, and maybe she made poor decisions over the summer to try to poke through the numb veneer that has covered her soul since her sister’s death. Or maybe she’s just a melodramatic fucking teenager who prefers to delve into a dark web of potential conspiracy rather than face the fact that her sister committed suicide.
Sounds pretty good so far, right?
Of course, the problem with an unintentional roller coaster is that although you clink to a great height up, there are dips that can take you just as far down ahead.
First, there is the fact that Monica is not very good at using her intelligence. She breaks into her stepfather’s locked desk drawer, and only afterward is like, “Oh, wait! He’s going to realize it used to be locked and now it’s… not.” How was that not something she considered as she peeled apart paper clips? Also, there’s the fact that her stepfather is a police officer. I just think someone would generally know how to be sneakier if she had a police officer for a stepfather.
Or there’s a whole section of the book where she makes a total leap in logic, assuming she knows who wrote certain notes and she knows what they mean, and I was rolling my eyes so hard, thinking I see this twist that is coming, Ms. Thomas. And then… it turns out Monica’s right. Which was even worse.
Then, there are the randomly disconcerting bits that seem like the book just didn’t have a very good editor. For example, on page 150, there is this little exchange:
‘That’s crap,’ she finally says.
It’s the first I’ve heard Ginny curse and it’s like a jolt to my brain, waking me up.
This section completely pulled me out of the story. Is there a high school student out there who considers “crap” cursing? Because, like… it’s not. We all know the curse equivalent is shit. And frankly, even that is not much of a curse-word. I would probably be more “jolted” to hear a high school girl using “excrement” instead of a curse-word. But “crap…?” Pretty lame. If you’re going to curse, fucking curse.
Or there’s this nugget of idiocy near the end of the novel. I literally had to read it like 10 times, wondering if I was just blind or just completely misremembering. But Monica says:
I read it again to make sure I have it right. Ginny said her father left on October 18, a full three days before this report says he was last seen.
The “report” (which is actually an e-mail written by a reporter of a National Enquirer-ish paper) says:
Anyway, the motion to have Phil declared dead states that the last time his wife saw him was the morning of October 27.
October 18th is 9 days from October 27, not 3. I checked my math with Excel and everything. Maybe it used to be 3? Or used to be 9? And the length was changed for added drama or something but only in one spot? It’s such an odd, glaring error to not be caught, though.
The worst, though, is definitely the ending. It’s a confrontation scene, where Monica has finally figured out what the reader has known for about half of the damn book, and decides to get the killer soliloquizing. First, though, she is interrupted by her younger brother, and she gets through to the killer by saying, he’s “not a kid killer.” Except that the whole thing is that he killed a 15-year-old, because she wanted to be his girlfriend and not just a warm, young receptacle for his sperm. And he claims he didn’t mean to do it, but he still killed her, and her friend. So this guy who is “not a kid killer” has, in fact, killed two girls. And Monica later taunts him by calling him a pedophile – which is accurate, but also supports the idea that he’s a kid killer…
In short, excellent beginning, murky middle, terrible ending, and mediocre editing. I… do not recommend.
2019 has been over for awhile, and this post on contemplation and reflection of my own self-imposed task of getting through my TBR list is woefully overdue. In 2019, in an attempt to actually begin getting through my TBR list, I tried to read (and post about) one book from my TBR each month. I was better at reading the books than remembering to blog about them.
Let’s talk stats.
At the beginning of this quest, initiated in March 2019, my TBR list had 60 books on it.
In 2019, I read the following 10 books from my TBR list:
- The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Short stories that play on the darker side of fairy tales, which adults told around a campfire with the kids in bed. These stories have influenced the likes of Neil Gaiman and other reputable literary darlings, but are not always 100% on point. 3 out of 5 stars
- Truly, Devious – At the elite Ellingham Academy, Stevie is getting the opportunity to pursue her passion of solving a cold-case mystery involving the very school she has recently joined. Then, her peers start getting murdered, and the pressure to figure out who is Truly, Devious becomes even more pressing… 5 out of 5 stars
- The Winters – Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, this novel is a more modern setting and interpretation of the famed gothic novel. 4 out of 5 stars
- The Girl Who Knew Too Much – A mystery novel set in a small town close to Hollywood that fails to deliver on its’ promise of glamor, intrigue, and an interesting murderer. 2 out of 5 stars
- The Rest of the Story – Another of Sarah Dessen’s tales of the summer that changed everything, this novel is a bit more sophisticated, featuring a character who is the offspring of someone from both sides of the tracks who is learning about who she is and what matters to her. 5 out of 5 stars
- My True Love Gave to Me: 12 Holiday Stories – Stephanie Perkins’ nose for romance has resulted in this delightful anthology of YA romance stories from established authors that gives you a warm, butterfly-filled stomach, even in the midst of winter chill. 5 out of 5 stars
- A Study in Charlotte – Jamie Watson doesn’t much care to go to some stuffy prep school in America, but of course, parents don’t always give teens a choice, do they? At first sight of Charlotte Holmes, great-great-great granddaughter of Jamie’s great-great-great grandfather’s best friend, Jamie is intrigued. Then crimes alluding to the mysteries their great-great-great grandparents solved together, and Dr. Watson wrote of, begin occurring, and the pair have to begin working together to find out who is targeting them and why. 5 out of 5 stars
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Evelyn Hugo, the rich and famous and mysterious and glamorous actress, has granted magazine writer Monique Grant the privilege of hearing the story of her life – the real story – and writing a memoir on the rich and interesting material. For some reason. The well-read reader will likely figure out why Evelyn has chosen Monique far before the dim-witted and somewhat unlikable human standing in for a tape recorder does, and the ending of the novel was far too predictable and boring for the glamorous Evelyn Hugo around whose life it predominantly focuses. 4 out of 5 stars
- We Sold Our Souls – Horror novel following Kris Pulaski’s disgusting and visceral journey to face her enemy-and-onetime-best-friend Terry Hunt. Once upon a time, they were in a decent heavy metal band, before Terry stole their music to start a solo career that catapulted him to stardom. The world sees Kris as an insane conspiracy theorist who can’t congratulate her friend on his success, but Kris knows what really happened… 3 out of 5 stars
- The Raven Boys – Four boys who go to Aglionby, the private school primarily attended by the rich, are on a quest to find Glendower, a mythological Welsh king who is sleeping and will grant a wish to whomever awakens him. When they meet Blue Sargent, a girl raised in a house of psychics who is herself a psychic conduit and magnifier, their search heats up. But they’re not the only ones who want to find Glendower… And so begins the first well-written book in a YA fantasy series. 4 out of 5 stars
My TBR is currently sitting at 112 books:
Overall, this has been fun! I like decreasing, and then increasing, and then decreasing my TBR pile, and will continue to do so, though I am not going to even bother pretending I will post blog posts about each of them. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that, in general, I did enjoy the books on my TBR. My self-confidence in my ability to know what I like is bolstered. How does your TBR fare? Do you have any specific recommendations that I should add to that Sisyphean TBR list?
Full disclosure: I read this book in May and am only now getting around to writing about it. I have been procrastinating, because I did not much like it.
The problem with a series written by an already popular author under a pseudonym is you expect something amazing. If you bothered to take the time to write this, and get it published under a different name even though people will readily purchase anything that has your already known name on it, then it should be fucking amazing. Or maybe a total disaster that your publishers forced you to write, at gunpoint, barely legible, because the sweat was rolling into your eyes as you typed on the keyboard, and the fear froze your mind so you barely knew what was pouring forth from your fingers.
This book is neither. It’s a mediocre story, with a lot of unrealized potential – the largest affront an established author could put forth into the world.
Amanda Quick, for those who don’t know, is Jayne Ann Krentz. And The Girl Who Knew Too Much is the first of the “Burning Cove” series, a fictional town near Hollywood that offers escape to those burdened stars who never get any privacy and have to cry into their 1000-thread count Egyptian cotton covered pillows, wiping the snot away with their millions of dollars. This book was supposed to be glamorous and fun and interesting – instead, it was boring and predictable. I knew who the murderer was almost immediately. And I’m a reader who is somehow surprised, every time, when I read an Agatha Christie novel (unless I’ve read it before, because… I’m not brain-dead. Just bad at solving mysteries).
The author knows how to put together her nouns and verbs to form sentences appropriately – it’s just that those sentences aren’t worth reading.
I’m sure it’s a shocker, but I am not recommending this book to anyone. If you must read it, I recommend seeing if you can get it cheap on your e-reader (not from Amazon, though, ’cause, like, the tech giant sucks) or from the library.
Novel #2 from my TBR list: Maureen Johnson’s Truly, Devious.
This novel, while classified as a mystery, is in reality a pure escapist fantasy that hardly solves anything. Having said that, I liked it.
Johnson’s writing is funny, inclusive, and intelligent, while writing about things that are, at their core, both interesting (if you’re into mysteries and/or true-crime documentaries/podcasts) and dark. In general, I consider this novel a portion of the treasure – more akin to gold doubloons stolen from the pirate’s corpse than discovery of the actual chestful buried beneath a large, red “X.”
It has all of the elements of a mystery novel, except for the solution. It is the most interesting book entirely comprised of exposition I have read. Yet at the end of the day, this book is entirely comprised of set-up for, at the least, a second novel, and more likely, an entire series. And the mystery set-up throughout this book is not solved. So I am currently queued up for the second book in the series (The Vanishing Stair) through my library.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?
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