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  • Lauren Passell 1:30 pm on 2017/07/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , gillian flynn, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever 

    Warning: if you like to be surprised, stop reading right now. Get a glass of water or look at Buzzfeed or start working on your memoir.

    But if you’re curious about these books and their kick-to-the-stomach endings, then by all means, read on. (Because I’m not completely cruel, I’ve whited out the spoilers—just highlight the empty space to see the hidden words.)

    Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

    The Sinner, by Petra Hammesfahr
    One of the best examples of a “whydunnit” in recent years, German author Hammesfahr’s twisty novel (soon to air as a miniseries on USA starring Jessica Biel) is largely told in flashback after Cora Bender, a seemingly normal mother and housewife, inexplicably stabs a man to death while on a beach picnic with her family. Cora confesses readily and claims to have no idea why she just committed homicide—but a patient policeman thinks there’s more to the story, and slowly susses out the truth—Cora’s younger sister was born extremely ill, and her mother became obsessed with caring for her, forcing her father to share a room with Cora, resulting in a creepily close relationship between the two that comes as close to abuse as possible without crossing that final line. Her sister Magdalena isn’t as innocent as she seems—despite her frailty, she manipulates Cora and also has an intensely, inappropriately intimate relationship with her. When Cora is 19, she takes Magdalena with her to meet a boy and his friends, not realizing that Magdalena is near death and wishes to die. Two of the boys rape Cora while the third has sex with Magdalena—who dies during the act, a specific piece of music playing on the radio. When Cora freaks out, one of the boys hits her in the head with an ashtray, and to cover up the crime, they hold Cora captive for six months. Years later, when the music plays again at the beach, Cora snaps, and strikes out with a knife.

    Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
    In Ender’s Game, the survival of the human race depends on Ender Wiggin, the child genius recruited for military training by the government… But while you (and Ender) believe he is fighting in mind simulation, in truth, he’s been  manipulated into fighting a real war, and actually killing the enemies, called buggers. He moves to a new colony planet with his sister, where he discovers that the buggers have created a space just for him. They didn’t know humans had intelligence, and they want to communicate with him. They show him what the war looked like from their point of view, and Ender and the buggers meet a point of understanding. He vows to live with them in peace, starts a new kind of religion, and writes a Bible-like book about the buggers, signing it Speaker For The Dead, which is a perfect segue into the Ender’s Game sequel.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    Atonement is about misinterpretation and its repercussions. Briony observes her big sister Cecilia and Cecilia’s friend Robbie flirting and assumes something shameful has happened between them. She accuses Robbie of rape, and Robbie goes to jail. The story then follows Cecilia and Robbie as they go to war, fall in love, and wind up together forever. But at the end of the novel, you discover that Briony is actually the book’s narrator—and she’s been lying to you, too. She did accuse Robbie of rape, and he was jailed, but C & R didn’t live happily ever after together, after all. They both died in the war. Briony just wrote a happy ending for them to atone for her sins. That’s what she says, anyway. I’m not sure I believe anything she says anymore.

    And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
    Most Agatha Christie novels leave you gobsmacked (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, anyone?) But And Then There Were None is an absolute masterpiece of the whodunnit? formula. People invited to a party in a mansion keep on being murdered, but by whom? Well, if you’re sure you want to know…it was Judge Wargrave! Swaddled in a red curtain, he fakes his own death so that you, the reader, assume the murderer is someone else. But in a written confession at the end of the novel, you learn that he invited people to a desolate island in order to kill them one by one as punishment for the terrible things they’d done (and thought they got away with). Agatha, you sneak!

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
    In Gone Girl, husband and wife Nick and Amy tell the story of their tumultuous marriage. We read what we think is Amy’s diary, and it condemns Nick as a violent jerk. We start to believe that Nick is responsible for Amy’s disappearance and possible death. But in a series of twists, the truth is revealed—Amy and Nick are both liars. Nick was having an affair, and Amy has been alive all along, on the lam, trying to frame Nick for her death. What we thought was her diary is actually a cunning trap: it’s a piece of fiction Amy wrote for the police to find. Amy kills a friend and returns to Nick, pregnant with his child, claiming she was kidnapped. Nick takes her back even though he knows the truth. In the end, Amy says she’s getting ready to become a mom by writing her abduction story. She should hang out with Briony.

    Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
    Rebecca begins with one of the most mesmerizing first lines in literature—“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Things only get more interesting from there. The unnamed protagonist marries Maxim de Winter and moves into his home, called Manderley. She struggles to live up to the legend of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, who was seemingly perfect. Mrs. Danvers, the maid, almost gets the protagonist to kill herself in despair. But one day, divers find a sunken sailboat that belonged to Rebecca, revealing that Rebecca was murdered. Maxim then tells the truth: Rebecca was a wretched woman who had multiple affairs—one, with her cousin, resulted in her pregnancy. When Maxim found out, he killed her. In yet another twist, we find out that Rebecca was lying to Maxim—she wasn’t pregnant, but was actually dying of a terminal illness. In the end Old Danvers burns the joint down and disappears. As for Maxim and the protagonist? Happily ever after.

    The Dinner, by Herman Koch
    In Howard Koch’s The Dinner, two brothers and their wives sit down for a meal to discuss the horrific crime committed by their sons. The cousins have been caught on camera attacking a sleeping homeless woman in an ATM, throwing trash and a container of gasoline at her, and then burning her to death. Koch makes it clear that the family is bonded by a common sociopathology. The family argues over what to do. Serge, a politician, wants to come clean about the boys’ crime. Enraged by Serge’s stance, his sister-in-law Claire attacks him, disfiguring his face. Claire urges her nephews to “take care” of Beau, Serge and Babette’s adopted son, who witnessed the crime and is blackmailing the boys by threatening to reveal what they did. At the end of the novel, Beau is missing, and one of the cousins comes home covered in blood and mud. Wonder what happened to him?

    Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows, by J.K. Rowling
    In J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series, it’s revealed that Harry is a Horcrux, and must be killed before Voldemort can be. Viewing Snape’s memories in the Pensieve, Harry sees Snape talking to Dumbledore and finds out that Snape’s been his protector all this time. Snape loved Harry’s mother, Lily Potter, and spent his entire life spying on Voldemort for Dumbledore. Meanwhile, Dumbledore had been steering Harry to sacrifice himself for the larger good. Good and evil are blurred once again when Harry survives and learns that Dumbledore loved him, even if he expected him to sacrifice himself. Ms. Rowling, you’ve tricked us again.

    Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk
    This novel is an oral biography of protagonist Buster Landru “Rant” Casey, who has died. The reader gathers that Rant lived in a dystopian future where lower class citizens, called “nighttimers,” engaged in an activity called “Party Crashing,” a demolition derby where the crashers slam into each other in cars. The catch: if you crash in the right mental state, you’ll travel backwards in time. Rant disappears during Party Crashing, so his friends assume he’s time traveling. It takes some piecing together to figure out that Rant has been traveling back through time, raping his ancestors every thirteen years in an effort to become a superhuman. He isn’t one character; he is many. You can’t make this stuff up, but I guess Palahniuk did.

    Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
    Anna Karenina is about a lot of stuff, but the heart of the story lies with Anna and her downward spiral from captivating spitfire to insecure shell of a woman. The book is beautifully written. Much of its pleasure comes from the character studies and quiet plotting. Then, in one of the most shocking moments in literature, Anna throws herself under a train and dies and you are stupefied. One of my friends always says, of Anna Karenina, “if you only read one ‘old’ book in your whole life, have it be this one.” Agreed.

    Something Happened, by Joseph Heller
    You’ll spend more than 400 pages reading about not much happening, rolling around in the protagonist’s brain as he goes to work, cares for his son, and fantasizes about the secretary. I can’t tell you what happens, though. That would ruin the book completely. 

    Kidding, obviously. The whole point, here, is to ruin your enjoyment of surprising books!

    Slocum’s son is a weakling because Slocum never made him go to gym class. This son gets hit by a car. In sadness and despair, Slocum hugs him to death. I mean that very literally, not the new kind of “literally.” Slocum hugs his son until he dies from squeezing. 

    Even with the surprises spoiled, reading these books is still a worthwhile endeavor. You’re going to read all of them, right? What’s the best book twist you’ve ever read?

    The post DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Lauren Passell 1:30 pm on 2017/07/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , gillian flynn, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever 

    Warning: if you like to be surprised, stop reading right now. Get a glass of water or look at Buzzfeed or start working on your memoir.

    But if you’re curious about these books and their kick-to-the-stomach endings, then by all means, read on. (Because I’m not completely cruel, I’ve whited out the spoilers—just highlight the empty space to see the hidden words.)

    Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

    The Sinner, by Petra Hammesfahr
    One of the best examples of a “whydunnit” in recent years, German author Hammesfahr’s twisty novel (soon to air as a miniseries on USA starring Jessica Biel) is largely told in flashback after Cora Bender, a seemingly normal mother and housewife, inexplicably stabs a man to death while on a beach picnic with her family. Cora confesses readily and claims to have no idea why she just committed homicide—but a patient policeman thinks there’s more to the story, and slowly susses out the truth—Cora’s younger sister was born extremely ill, and her mother became obsessed with caring for her, forcing her father to share a room with Cora, resulting in a creepily close relationship between the two that comes as close to abuse as possible without crossing that final line. Her sister Magdalena isn’t as innocent as she seems—despite her frailty, she manipulates Cora and also has an intensely, inappropriately intimate relationship with her. When Cora is 19, she takes Magdalena with her to meet a boy and his friends, not realizing that Magdalena is near death and wishes to die. Two of the boys rape Cora while the third has sex with Magdalena—who dies during the act, a specific piece of music playing on the radio. When Cora freaks out, one of the boys hits her in the head with an ashtray, and to cover up the crime, they hold Cora captive for six months. Years later, when the music plays again at the beach, Cora snaps, and strikes out with a knife.

    Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
    In Ender’s Game, the survival of the human race depends on Ender Wiggin, the child genius recruited for military training by the government… But while you (and Ender) believe he is fighting in mind simulation, in truth, he’s been  manipulated into fighting a real war, and actually killing the enemies, called buggers. He moves to a new colony planet with his sister, where he discovers that the buggers have created a space just for him. They didn’t know humans had intelligence, and they want to communicate with him. They show him what the war looked like from their point of view, and Ender and the buggers meet a point of understanding. He vows to live with them in peace, starts a new kind of religion, and writes a Bible-like book about the buggers, signing it Speaker For The Dead, which is a perfect segue into the Ender’s Game sequel.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    Atonement is about misinterpretation and its repercussions. Briony observes her big sister Cecilia and Cecilia’s friend Robbie flirting and assumes something shameful has happened between them. She accuses Robbie of rape, and Robbie goes to jail. The story then follows Cecilia and Robbie as they go to war, fall in love, and wind up together forever. But at the end of the novel, you discover that Briony is actually the book’s narrator—and she’s been lying to you, too. She did accuse Robbie of rape, and he was jailed, but C & R didn’t live happily ever after together, after all. They both died in the war. Briony just wrote a happy ending for them to atone for her sins. That’s what she says, anyway. I’m not sure I believe anything she says anymore.

    And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
    Most Agatha Christie novels leave you gobsmacked (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, anyone?) But And Then There Were None is an absolute masterpiece of the whodunnit? formula. People invited to a party in a mansion keep on being murdered, but by whom? Well, if you’re sure you want to know…it was Judge Wargrave! Swaddled in a red curtain, he fakes his own death so that you, the reader, assume the murderer is someone else. But in a written confession at the end of the novel, you learn that he invited people to a desolate island in order to kill them one by one as punishment for the terrible things they’d done (and thought they got away with). Agatha, you sneak!

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
    In Gone Girl, husband and wife Nick and Amy tell the story of their tumultuous marriage. We read what we think is Amy’s diary, and it condemns Nick as a violent jerk. We start to believe that Nick is responsible for Amy’s disappearance and possible death. But in a series of twists, the truth is revealed—Amy and Nick are both liars. Nick was having an affair, and Amy has been alive all along, on the lam, trying to frame Nick for her death. What we thought was her diary is actually a cunning trap: it’s a piece of fiction Amy wrote for the police to find. Amy kills a friend and returns to Nick, pregnant with his child, claiming she was kidnapped. Nick takes her back even though he knows the truth. In the end, Amy says she’s getting ready to become a mom by writing her abduction story. She should hang out with Briony.

    Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
    Rebecca begins with one of the most mesmerizing first lines in literature—“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Things only get more interesting from there. The unnamed protagonist marries Maxim de Winter and moves into his home, called Manderley. She struggles to live up to the legend of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, who was seemingly perfect. Mrs. Danvers, the maid, almost gets the protagonist to kill herself in despair. But one day, divers find a sunken sailboat that belonged to Rebecca, revealing that Rebecca was murdered. Maxim then tells the truth: Rebecca was a wretched woman who had multiple affairs—one, with her cousin, resulted in her pregnancy. When Maxim found out, he killed her. In yet another twist, we find out that Rebecca was lying to Maxim—she wasn’t pregnant, but was actually dying of a terminal illness. In the end Old Danvers burns the joint down and disappears. As for Maxim and the protagonist? Happily ever after.

    The Dinner, by Herman Koch
    In Howard Koch’s The Dinner, two brothers and their wives sit down for a meal to discuss the horrific crime committed by their sons. The cousins have been caught on camera attacking a sleeping homeless woman in an ATM, throwing trash and a container of gasoline at her, and then burning her to death. Koch makes it clear that the family is bonded by a common sociopathology. The family argues over what to do. Serge, a politician, wants to come clean about the boys’ crime. Enraged by Serge’s stance, his sister-in-law Claire attacks him, disfiguring his face. Claire urges her nephews to “take care” of Beau, Serge and Babette’s adopted son, who witnessed the crime and is blackmailing the boys by threatening to reveal what they did. At the end of the novel, Beau is missing, and one of the cousins comes home covered in blood and mud. Wonder what happened to him?

    Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows, by J.K. Rowling
    In J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series, it’s revealed that Harry is a Horcrux, and must be killed before Voldemort can be. Viewing Snape’s memories in the Pensieve, Harry sees Snape talking to Dumbledore and finds out that Snape’s been his protector all this time. Snape loved Harry’s mother, Lily Potter, and spent his entire life spying on Voldemort for Dumbledore. Meanwhile, Dumbledore had been steering Harry to sacrifice himself for the larger good. Good and evil are blurred once again when Harry survives and learns that Dumbledore loved him, even if he expected him to sacrifice himself. Ms. Rowling, you’ve tricked us again.

    Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk
    This novel is an oral biography of protagonist Buster Landru “Rant” Casey, who has died. The reader gathers that Rant lived in a dystopian future where lower class citizens, called “nighttimers,” engaged in an activity called “Party Crashing,” a demolition derby where the crashers slam into each other in cars. The catch: if you crash in the right mental state, you’ll travel backwards in time. Rant disappears during Party Crashing, so his friends assume he’s time traveling. It takes some piecing together to figure out that Rant has been traveling back through time, raping his ancestors every thirteen years in an effort to become a superhuman. He isn’t one character; he is many. You can’t make this stuff up, but I guess Palahniuk did.

    Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
    Anna Karenina is about a lot of stuff, but the heart of the story lies with Anna and her downward spiral from captivating spitfire to insecure shell of a woman. The book is beautifully written. Much of its pleasure comes from the character studies and quiet plotting. Then, in one of the most shocking moments in literature, Anna throws herself under a train and dies and you are stupefied. One of my friends always says, of Anna Karenina, “if you only read one ‘old’ book in your whole life, have it be this one.” Agreed.

    Something Happened, by Joseph Heller
    You’ll spend more than 400 pages reading about not much happening, rolling around in the protagonist’s brain as he goes to work, cares for his son, and fantasizes about the secretary. I can’t tell you what happens, though. That would ruin the book completely. 

    Kidding, obviously. The whole point, here, is to ruin your enjoyment of surprising books!

    Slocum’s son is a weakling because Slocum never made him go to gym class. This son gets hit by a car. In sadness and despair, Slocum hugs him to death. I mean that very literally, not the new kind of “literally.” Slocum hugs his son until he dies from squeezing. 

    Even with the surprises spoiled, reading these books is still a worthwhile endeavor. You’re going to read all of them, right? What’s the best book twist you’ve ever read?

    The post DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2016/08/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , gillian flynn, , , , ,   

    5 Authors Following in the Footsteps of Older Writers 

    We’re all of us only on this earth for a short time, which means the next generation is always going to be following close behind, ready to take over where the last leaves off. In the literary world, that means a fresh crop of talented writers working in genres and styles built upon what has gone before, even occasionally taking up the mantle of older writers. The five authors have done just that, and on a level that reminds us of their forebears in the best way.

    Ryan Gattis (The New Richard Price)
    Richard Price is far from retired, and is still among the modern day’s most compelling chroniclers of urban life, in all its violence and occasional grace. Gattis brings a mixture of Midwestern and West Coast attitude to his books, which explore the same territory: sprawling urban milieus packed with viscerally real characters struggling for and against monumental forces, finding small moments of triumph and emotion amidst the noise and dehumanizing bustle of modern life. Gattis taps into the same pulsing vein of gritty, violent, and of-the-moment stories that has supplied Price with so many memorable works, giving us books with the same you-are-there immediacy and dialogue that feels like eavesdropping on real people in real place.

    Mike Ransom (The New Michael Crichton)
    In the world of techno thrillers (and just plain thrillers), scientific accuracy is often a low priority; research sometimes seems to consist of walking through a room that contains an open Google search window. Michael Crichton made his name by crafting tense, imaginative stories that often crossed boldly into science fiction without ever forgetting the science part. With his electric debut The Ripper Gene, Ransom brings his scientific background (he’s a molecular pharmacologist) to bear in a story about the hunt for a serial killer that involves identifying a genetic trait shared by 70 percent of all known mass murderers, resulting in a story that slips perfectly into the vacuum left by Crichton’s passing.

    Gillian Flynn (The New Patricia Highsmith)
    As Gone Girl-mania subsides to merely fanatic levels, Flynn still reigns as one of the top writers of thrillers-with-a-twist working today. Her work is dark and edgy, infused with a strain of misanthropy that places most of her characters squarely into categories like “unreliable,” “unlikable,” and “unthinkable.” This is a trait she shares with Highsmith, the master of misanthropic thrillers, whose clever mind constructed the sort of twisting, unexpectedly dark stories in which people kill for small profits and become caught in webs of lies and violence of their own creation. Flynn’s bleak worldview continues in grand Highsmith tradition; Amy Dunne just might be the Tom Ripley of a new generation.

    Garth Risk Hallberg (The New Tom Wolfe)
    Hallberg’s much-anticipated opus City on Fire sprawls, an ambitious novel with scope and intent that will take your breath away. If Hallberg didn’t quite hit the heights that Wolfe’s all-time classic Bonfire of the Vanities managed 30 years ago, it certainly isn’t for lack of talent, incendiary writing, or willingness to dive into characters’ inner lives in a way few other writers would even attempt, much less pull off as thrillingly. When it comes to big, fleshy books that bring an entire world to life (even as they threaten to drown us in detail), we can never have enough. Hallberg’s attempt to step into Wolfe’s famous white-shoes is more than welcome—it’s necessary.

    Laird Barron (The New H.P. Lovecraft)
    Barron has been the thinking horror fan’s writer of choice for years, quietly building an empire of poetic horror fiction that explores much of the same psychological territory as Lovecraft, minus the problematic political and social beliefs, and with a firmer grasp on why the darkness can be so darn attractive. No other working writer can boast as great an excess of muscular imagery or as fluid and adaptive a style. Barron has turned Lovecraft’s epic mythology into something purely his own—a terrifying wordscape presented with such ornamental flourish, you sometimes forget you’re supposed to be terrified—until he forcibly, skillfully reminds you.

     

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2016/08/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , gillian flynn, , , , ,   

    5 Authors Following in the Footsteps of Older Writers 

    We’re all of us only on this earth for a short time, which means the next generation is always going to be following close behind, ready to take over where the last leaves off. In the literary world, that means a fresh crop of talented writers working in genres and styles built upon what has gone before, even occasionally taking up the mantle of older writers. The five authors have done just that, and on a level that reminds us of their forebears in the best way.

    Ryan Gattis (The New Richard Price)
    Richard Price is far from retired, and is still among the modern day’s most compelling chroniclers of urban life, in all its violence and occasional grace. Gattis brings a mixture of Midwestern and West Coast attitude to his books, which explore the same territory: sprawling urban milieus packed with viscerally real characters struggling for and against monumental forces, finding small moments of triumph and emotion amidst the noise and dehumanizing bustle of modern life. Gattis taps into the same pulsing vein of gritty, violent, and of-the-moment stories that has supplied Price with so many memorable works, giving us books with the same you-are-there immediacy and dialogue that feels like eavesdropping on real people in real place.

    Mike Ransom (The New Michael Crichton)
    In the world of techno thrillers (and just plain thrillers), scientific accuracy is often a low priority; research sometimes seems to consist of walking through a room that contains an open Google search window. Michael Crichton made his name by crafting tense, imaginative stories that often crossed boldly into science fiction without ever forgetting the science part. With his electric debut The Ripper Gene, Ransom brings his scientific background (he’s a molecular pharmacologist) to bear in a story about the hunt for a serial killer that involves identifying a genetic trait shared by 70 percent of all known mass murderers, resulting in a story that slips perfectly into the vacuum left by Crichton’s passing.

    Gillian Flynn (The New Patricia Highsmith)
    As Gone Girl-mania subsides to merely fanatic levels, Flynn still reigns as one of the top writers of thrillers-with-a-twist working today. Her work is dark and edgy, infused with a strain of misanthropy that places most of her characters squarely into categories like “unreliable,” “unlikable,” and “unthinkable.” This is a trait she shares with Highsmith, the master of misanthropic thrillers, whose clever mind constructed the sort of twisting, unexpectedly dark stories in which people kill for small profits and become caught in webs of lies and violence of their own creation. Flynn’s bleak worldview continues in grand Highsmith tradition; Amy Dunne just might be the Tom Ripley of a new generation.

    Garth Risk Hallberg (The New Tom Wolfe)
    Hallberg’s much-anticipated opus City on Fire sprawls, an ambitious novel with scope and intent that will take your breath away. If Hallberg didn’t quite hit the heights that Wolfe’s all-time classic Bonfire of the Vanities managed 30 years ago, it certainly isn’t for lack of talent, incendiary writing, or willingness to dive into characters’ inner lives in a way few other writers would even attempt, much less pull off as thrillingly. When it comes to big, fleshy books that bring an entire world to life (even as they threaten to drown us in detail), we can never have enough. Hallberg’s attempt to step into Wolfe’s famous white-shoes is more than welcome—it’s necessary.

    Laird Barron (The New H.P. Lovecraft)
    Barron has been the thinking horror fan’s writer of choice for years, quietly building an empire of poetic horror fiction that explores much of the same psychological territory as Lovecraft, minus the problematic political and social beliefs, and with a firmer grasp on why the darkness can be so darn attractive. No other working writer can boast as great an excess of muscular imagery or as fluid and adaptive a style. Barron has turned Lovecraft’s epic mythology into something purely his own—a terrifying wordscape presented with such ornamental flourish, you sometimes forget you’re supposed to be terrified—until he forcibly, skillfully reminds you.

     

     
  • BN Editors 7:30 pm on 2016/04/01 Permalink
    Tags: bad girls, gillian flynn, maestra, oh no she didn't, ,   

    The Baddest Girls on the Thriller Shelves 

    Whether they’re in our books, our movies, or our dreams, we love strong, independent, take-no-prisoners women who know what they want and don’t care whose heads they have to step on to get it. Still, fictional bad girls have a particularly strong staying power—perhaps because, unlike those on the big screen, we have to use our own imaginations to help bring them to life—and I’m just saying, we have some crazy imaginations. From Maestras soon-to-be notorious Judith Rashleigh, to the inseparable (and frightening) Irish #GirlSquad at the heart of Tana French’s The Secret Place (which would eat T. Swift’s posse for brekkie, no offense), here are some of our favorite fun, fearless femme fatales of literature.

    Maestra, by L. S. Hinton
    Step aside, Amy Dunne (I’m sorry I said that Amy please don’t hurt me), because the beautiful and talented Judith Rashleigh is about to give you a run for your money. An art-house assistant who just knows she was made for better things, Judith is using her looks, brains, and ruthlessness to elbow her way into the glittery ranks of the rich and famous; and, subsequently, to claw her way out of some hair-raisingly dangerous situations). A complex antihero whom you’ll root for and then judge yourself for rooting for is motivated by restlessness, revenge, and a newly discovered knack for reinventing herself, and when Maestra (which has already been optioned by Sony pictures) hits shelves on April 19, she’ll be staying one step ahead of readers, and the law, as she wreaks havoc across glamorous, sun-soaked international borders.

    Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
    The “mean girl” trope has been a staple for a long time, even after it was punctured in the titular Lindsay Lohan film. It’s become a bit of lazy shorthand: rich, plastic pretty girls are horrible and cruel. Few books explore what makes Mean Girls so mean in the first place, and even fewer bother to wonder what happens to Mean Girls after high school. Luckiest Girl Alive does both, and performs a remarkable trick by presenting a protagonist who is mean and difficult to like at first, then slowly humanizing her as her twisty and surprising story (trust us, you will think you’ve hit the twist—and then there is another twist) unfolds.

    The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
    Angry, slightly unhinged Rachel is the definition of an unreliable narrator: an alcoholic still reeling from the end of her marriage, she’s prone to blackouts and rages, and has a dangerous obsession with her ex-husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. Though unemployed, Rachel gives shape to her days by taking a commuter train into London—and every day she watches out the window for “Jason and Jess,” attractive strangers whose lives she likes to fantasize about. Meanwhile, “Jess,” whose real name is Megan, is less happy than she seems, treating her suburban ennui with a secret life outside of her marriage. Megan’s sudden disappearance kicks off a police investigation and gives Rachel an opportunity to lie her way into Megan’s life. The two women’s voices, plus Anna’s, entwine in a time-jumping narrative that will leave you breathless.

    The Secret Place, by Tana French
    You don’t have to have read any of Tana French’s earlier novels to get sucked right into her most recent tour deforce, The Secret Place (I hadn’t). Once you’ve entered her shimmering, radiant, and twisted world, though, you won’t want to leave, and you’ll go right back and start with her stunning debut novel, the dark, radiant In the Woods. Featuring a hard-boiled murder investigation set on the grounds of a cutthroat shark tank of an all-girls boarding school, The Secret Place embeds you deep in the middle of a solid (almost too solid) friendship between four smart, cynical, but still naive teenaged girls, that is as teeming with secrets and lies as it is with love, loyalty, and rampant clothes-borrowing.

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
    I can’t have a list of badass female thriller characters without mentioning Amy Dunne, because I’m scared she’ll come after me and make me pay for it. So: Amazing Amy, hats off to you, for being one of the most compelling, twisted, and confusing fictional narrators we’ve encountered in a long time. When perfect wife/possible devious sociopath Amy Amy figures out what she wants, she makes it happen, no matter the cost, and whether you’re rooting for or against her may change depending on what page you’re on (and how strong your stomach is).

     
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