Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

Amazon Description: Boy, did Blink get off on the wrong floor. All he wanted was to steal some breakfast for his empty belly, but instead he stumbled upon a fake kidnapping and a cell phone dropped by an "abducted" CEO, giving Blink a link to his perfect blonde daughter. Now Blink is on the run, but it s OK as long as he s smart enough to stay in the game and keep Captain Panic locked in his hold. Enter a girl named Caution. As in "Caution: Toxic." As in "Caution: Watch Your Step." She s also on the run, from a skeezy drug-dealer boyfriend and from a nightmare in her past that won t let her go. When she spies Blink at the train station, Caution can see he s an easy mark. But there s something about this naïve, skinny street punk, whom she only wanted to rob, that tugs at her heart, a heart she thought deserved not to feel. Charged with suspense and intrigue, this taut novel trails two deeply compelling characters as they forge a blackmail scheme that is foolhardy at best, disastrous at worst - along with a fated, tender partnership that will offer them each a rare chance for redemption.

My Review: You know those books that seem to have such a great premise? They just seem really promising and cool...and then you read it and they're really blah? This was this book for me. The cover immediately popped out at me and the synopsis made it seem really cool, so I was quite eager to read it. I admit, the usage of the "you" tense during Blink's POV threw me off a little bit I got used to it pretty quickly and eagerly continued on with the story. And at first, it was alright. It was setting up to be interesting—we saw a crime happen early on, we met a drug dealer, we had a sense of approaching danger...

And then it all kind of just died. The book just fell very flat. The crime aspect spiraled into something completely bizarre and honestly? It made no sense how the two teenagers got tangled up in it. Realistically, they would never have gotten as far as they did without being tracked down immediately. The whole crime aspect felt weird too, it didn't have any feeling of suspense or danger...there wasn't even any real reason the kids got entwined in it! There was literally no reason at all for them to get involved and yet they did for some morally-ambiguous reasons which also felt really fake (because how could anyone their age really think their plan would work and they'd make major bank that way?). Basically, the blackmail crime plot was simply a device to bring the two characters together and force them onto a road trip together so they would have to be near each other and they would have to get to know each other. Honestly, that felt lazy to me. I'd have actually preferred if the whole crime/blackmail aspect had been cut out completely and Blink and Caution met each other on the streets and worked together just to survive, possibly to stay safe from Caution's dangerous ex-boyfriend (which, by the way, was a plot that was completely left by the wayside about halfway through the book). 

I just couldn't get over the unrealistic aspect of the book and the ridiculous plot. The characters felt a bit two-dimensional (I mean, really, why was Blink on the streets? Yes, his situation sucked, but he totally had a safe place to go the whole time...and yet, instead of utilizing it, he decided that being homeless was the better option?! What? It made a little more sense for why Caution was on the streets but it still felt too dramatic and fake to me) but the story might have worked way better had the book focused more on them trying to survive on the streets, evade Caution's ex-boyfriend, and really relying on each other and getting to know each other. As it was...the book had an unrealistic plot (which, about 2/3rds of the way in, stopped being suspenseful once you realized what was actually going on...and it wasn't even that big of a deal; let's just say the bad guys, or their "plot", didn't feel scary to me for even one second) and the characters magically found all the right clues just because they were smart and read some newspapers and stole a Blackberry. Which, oddly enough, the police decided not to trace until like 48 hours later, despite the fact that the owner of the Blackberry had clearly been kidnapped in a video released to the public. 

Sorry, this review is meaner than it should be; the book wasn't awful, it just felt...empty. Like it had so much potential but wasted it on a ridiculous action/thriller plot when it could have been focusing more on character development and growth. Not really too happy I wasted my time with this one. 

Cover: Alright, the cover's pretty freaking awesome. I'll give it that. It immediately catches your eye and it just looks so shocking and cool.  

Overall Grade: C-

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Goodreads Description: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

My Review: I almost feel like it's useless to review this book because what can I say that hasn't been said already? Everyone who reads books has heard of Gone Girl, knows the basic premise of Gone Girl, has heard the unending praise for Gone Girl. This review feels pointless because...everyone already knows! But I'll go ahead and do it anyway, even though it's been a few months since I read this book. 

Gone Girl is, in short, amazing. I'll keep this review simple and to-the-point because there are thousands and thousands of other reviews out there that can probably express the genius that this book is more eloquently than I can...but this book truly is genius. It deserves every bit of praise and attention is has gotten. 

Not only was the plot razor sharp and cutting, but it kicked a few misogynistic tropes and stereotypes to the curb (I won't say how, for the five people left in the world who haven't read this book) and its cynical-yet-truthful observations about relationships, about husbands and wives, about men and women...hit surprisingly close to home for a book whose plot is pretty far-fetched. The "Cool Girl" rant alone makes this book worth reading (because, when you think about it, how true is it? It's something so many of us have thought about but have never quite vocalized) but luckily, the rest of the book is amazing so it's all worth reading for. 

That's the genius of the book: it plays on images and perceptions. You think Amy is one thing. You think Nick is one thing. You think the book is one thing—but oh, wait! Nothing is as it seems! The evil, twisted one has a strangely honest, sympathetic side. The sympathetic, innocent one has a strangely dark, disturbed side. But who is who? Which is which? Or are they both a mix of all of it? Most people know the plot by now, the book having reached maximum fame, but when people first read the book—back when it was relatively unknown, or just picking up speed—the surprise twist really was a surprise twist. More like a surprise punch in the face, really. I'm pretty good about guessing twists in the books, but this one yanked the rug right out from under my feet. It made me question truth and lie, fiction and nonfiction in a way I haven't done since I read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. 

Aside from the plot and complex, intricate characters, another huge selling factor for this book is the writing style. Having now read all of Gillian Flynn's books, I can honestly say that I consider her works to be modern classics. She really has the potential to become one of the Greats in modern-day writing (joining the ranks of people like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and what have you). Her writing style is beautiful. She knows how to twist words and phrase things in ways that you've never seen before and it's deep and dark, but it never gets too flowery or sappy. She keeps her writing jolt-ish, disrupts her flow every now and then with short, brief phrases or words, which I loved because it made her writing feel more like someone's thoughts. Basically...her writing is electric on the page. It's short and to-the-point and yet it's also unique and fantastic. 

I guess that's all I can say! This is one of those read-until-five-a.m. type of books, those can't-put-it-down type of books. It's addicting and it's electrifying. And I know that some people hated the ending—but I LOVED the ending. I thought it was so...satisfying because it didn't have closure. She didn't wrap her story up in a pretty bow, she didn't make us feel good at the end, she made us feel horrified and numb...and that was amazing. Because it emulated real life: sometimes we don't get the ending we want or deserve. It gave me shivers.

Cover: It's not much but it seems iconic to me now, so I like it. 

Overall Grade: A+