Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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I’m not usually a big mystery genre reader. There are a few great crime/ mystery novels I’ve encountered, but overall I’m not a big CSI/ Law and Order/ Criminal Minds/ Whatever else fan. However, last summer everyone was raving about this novel, and it topped all the best books lists so I put it on my “To Read” list.

And in true procrastinator fashion, a year later I read it.

Gone Girl by NY Times bestselling author Gillian Flynn opens on the anniversary of the main characters, Nick and Amy Dunne. Nick narrates the first part of the novel, recalling how he and his wife came to relocate from New York to Missouri and the tension their marriage had been under. Then it is discovered his wife has gone missing. Nick is immediately targeted, and there is plenty of evidence to convict him, including his behavior. The book also includes past diary entries from Amy before she went missing, detailing her type-A personality and how she feared her husband. Seems like a pretty open and close case.  And then…

A TWIST!  And then… ANOTHER TWIST!

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I had heard that there was a big twist in the novel, and I thought I had it all figured out as I am a well-read cynic and have figured out my share of plot twists. Let me assure you, you will not see this coming. At all. And the ending is nothing I could ever have predicted. That Gillian Flynn is a tricky one.

My break down of the novel:

The plot is an incredible jigsaw, manipulating the readers like they’re marionette puppets. Flynn does a great job of giving just enough information to manipulate you however she wants. You identify so much with each character’s flaws that it’s difficult to figure out which one you’re rooting for. The best part about Flynn’s characters is that they’re so ridiculously human. She’s not trying to depict rom com role-models. Theses people will disgust you, but you can’t deny their realness.

Through theses characters, Flynn writes some really quote-worthy passages about relationships and how people act. The entire novel plays with perception in a really interesting way.

Some reviews I’ve read online talk about how the novel has inconsistencies and how they hate the ending, but I honestly think that’s part of Flynn’s Big Idea. It plays perfects with some great rawness that will leave you wanting to devour the book whole.

According to Buzzfeed’s list of “14 Books to Read Before They Hit the Big Screen” http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/books-to-read-before-they-hit-the-big-screen, the book is in the process of being made into a movie. I’ll be interested to see how they translate the narration onto the silver screen because of the diary entries and inner monologues. The best part is that it is rumored that Reese Witherspoon (coming off that crazy incident with the police) will be playing Amy, and I cannot think of anyone better to play the part. Reference: her performance in Cruel Intentions.

Film poster for Cruel Intentions - Copyright 1...

Film poster for Cruel Intentions – Copyright 1999, Columbia Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Read Gone Girl immediately. Then force your friends to read it immediately because you’ll want someone to talk about it with!

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The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

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A children’s book! With pictures! Blasphemy!

I picked this up on a Barnes and Noble excursion the other day. The cover drew me in. I, like many of you, grew up as an avid crayon user (pronounced “crown” where I’m from). Your art tools are rebelling!

This book is an absolute delight. I took turns reading it allowed with my little (Big Brother Big Sisters), and we had a great time reading why each crown decided to go on strike, each extremely self-righteous. It’s a very clever little book with an actual child’s drawings for illustration.

To take it to a deep, literary level, it challenges children to think about why they use the colors they use when drawing. It even throws in some gender commentary (which I obviously loved). I highly recommend to young readers as a unique read. Or…readers of all ages who enjoy a good crayon tale.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

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It hath arrived. The long-awaited final book in the 13-book Sookie Stackhouse series. Or the Southern Vampire Mysteries. Whatever you prefer.

I fell in love with the series in high school. I’ve read every page. I’ve watched every episode of True Blood (based on the books with several liberties taken), and I’ve even read the fan fiction. There I said it. I’ve had a voracious appetite for anything Sookie Stackhouse.

It was like a high school relationship too. It was puppy love. Nothing serious. No Crime and Punishment, but it was fun. I suck with it for far too long. Everyone said to give it up, that the books had gone downhill, but I remained faithful until the end.

I won’t spoil the ending for you like the rest of the internet so I’ll just stick with my literary criticism.

I think Harris created lovable characters, which is extremely hard to do in her genre of jaded romance paperback lovers and mystery solvers and fantasy fans. The first books had this wonderful magic about them. They were enchanting.

As the books went on, they experienced a prolonged sophomore slump, if you can say that about multiple works. I thought the struggle was all about coming through to a brighter ending. It was as if Harris was like: “Listen, y’all (because she is southern), these books are gonna be rough, but stick with me, and I’ll carry you through.”

Did this happen? I’ll leave that up to you.

I will say that I was disappointed. Incredibly so. Harris failed to evolve her series as it went on. It became formulaic. I knew how it would go without opening the cover. The books were like an episode of Scooby Doo.

It had so much potential, but Harris’ charming southern colloquialisms and Sookie’s stubbornness could only go so far. I wish she would have developed what she was working with and stuck with a good thing instead of stretching the series beyond its reach and alienating its fans.

If you’re feeling the post-series emptiness, fill the void with fanciful fan fiction until you find another series that can hopefully follow through.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale, and Nathan Hale

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I absolutely loved this book. I was surprised to find it in the juvenile section in the library since it was featured in the YALSA list. It’s also about a fairy tale character so I wasn’t sure if this would be advanced enough for young adults.

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of humor and narration in the story. There was also a lot of violence as Rapunzel used her hair to whip and tie up the bad guys. The authors took a classic story and revamped it for a modern audience and an older reader demographic with great success.

The pictures in it are great because they look like the type that would be found in a young child’s picture book, colorful and cartoony, but also take on a comic book vibe with all of the action in each panel.

What I loved most about this book was how Rapunzel was an Annie Oakley style heroine instead of a damsel in distress. She’s funny and brave. She was a joy to read about.

The only criticism I have is that I found it difficult to read, but I believe that’s just because I’m not used to reading graphic novels. I would absolutely recommend this. AND there’s a sequel: Calamity Jack!

Curriculum Connections/ Caveats: I would suggest this book for a middle school reader, especially a girl. It’s a great transition from juvenile to young adult literature. It’s a more mature Junie B. Jones fun in graphic novel form. I think it’s also important that it features a girl protagonist since many super heroes and graphic novel characters are geared toward males. However, I would also suggest this book to young boys because it’s action packed enough to keep them interested, and it allows them to see a girl in a role that is not often seen.

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This is a book log entry I did for my education class:

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I picked The Scorpio Races because I read the Shiver trilogy Stiefvater wrote, and I loved it. However, I was disappointed with this novel. It wasn’t as interesting as the trilogy, and I found the writing to be less than stellar.

To begin, the novel has 400 pages. I thought they would go by quickly because, like I mentioned, I loved Stiefvater’s other books. This story dragged on for the first 300 pages. I understand the need to lay a foundation, but this took it to another level. The pace was sluggish, and the real action in the story didn’t even get started until around page 350. If I wasn’t reading this book for a class, I’m not sure that I would have kept reading.

The book’s redeeming quality lies in its characters. The narration switches every other chapter between Puck and Sean. Both of them become contestants in the Scorpio Races on their island. The races are run by water horses, monsters from the sea that must be tamed by the riders. Puck is a teenage girl who enters the race on her family horse, a pony, in order to win the prize money to save her family. Sean is a horse trainer who races to gain independence and his own horse. The struggles both of the characters go through is compelling, despise the sluggish narration.

Puck is a great heroine. She’s admirable and strong. She is the first girl to ever enter the races, and works hard for her family. Sean has integrity and is passionate about his horses. The two share a pretty PG-rated romance that doesn’t take from the plot. I would like to see more characters like Puck and Sean in young adult literature just because they’re so real and are great role models. The only issue is that the author doesn’t change voice when switching their narration so they end up having the exact same voice.

I enjoyed the race scenes and the characters, but overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book.

Curriculum Connections/ Caveats:

I don’t see myself teaching this book in the classroom. I also wouldn’t suggest it to a reluctant reader. However, I have noticed that it’s a popular book so I would recommend it to a strong, eager reader in early high school or an advanced middle school student.  It could be connected to The Hunger Games because of the characters’ ages and the violent nature of the races.