Howdy, howdy!  Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful evening filled with lots of candy (whether you trick or treat or just hide from the doorbell and watch scary movies).  It’s time for another book review.  For this week, I decided to take a look at Louisa Luna’s Two Girls Down.  It’s a mystery/thriller that was released in January by Doubleday.  I read it as a recommendation from some of the ladies in the book club I’m part of.  So, let’s get down to it.

Decent cover.

Two Girls Down revolves around the disappearance of two girls (surprised yet?), Kylie (10) and Bailey (8).  Alice Vega, a kind of professional child finder, comes all the way across the country at the family’s behest when the police begin to prove useless.  She teams up with ex-cop/current PI, Max “Cap” Caplan.  They both have issues of their own to work through while conducting a search with few leads.  Basically, it’s one of your average mystery scenarios.

Let’s start at the beginning.  We’re in Jamie Brandt’s (the mother’s) head during the first chapter, which was kind of neat.  I was looking forward to seeing her progress through the story and seeing how she dealt with everything.  But nope.  We jump from her to a story that flops back and forth between Vega and Cap.  That would have been fine, but it made the opening chapter feel more like a prologue.  Why did I even bother reading that part?  Yes, it set up the case.  But that was just as easily done throughout the rest of the story.  I just felt kind of robbed that we never got to go back in Jamie’s head.

Me when I realized we weren’t going back to the initial POV at any point.

The characters were all pretty cool.  Cap was jaded yet optimistic, which was an odd combo, but it worked.  Vega had a lot of eccentricities and some emotional disconnect.  I kind of wondered if she was supposed to be on the autism spectrum, but it wasn’t addressed in the story, so who knows.  Nell (Cap’s daughter) was a little too good to be true.  And the bad people were pretty damn creepy.  Though I will say that a lot of Vega’s characterization made the story feel like the second or third book in a series.  Like I was supposed to understand references to her past cases.  But it’s the first (only?) book, so it was super disconcerting.

Me throughout the book.

The plot was slow and repetitive, which isn’t as uncommon in mysteries as it should be.  I didn’t particularly understand the bad guy’s partner, but I know people like that exist.  It took a hard turn towards gritty when everything pointed towards pedophilia (not really a spoiler since the possibility is there all along).  My only issue was that the bad guy’s preferred age range seemed to vary a lot.  Pedophiles usually stick to a pretty limited age range, so it made me wonder if something else was going on.  Apparently not.

Ultimately, I had problems with Two Girls Down.  It left me unsatisfied.  I don’t need a happy ending, but the one I got was lukewarm and just kind of there.  Some people loved the book.  I wasn’t one of them.

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Overall, I gave it two stars.  It was okay, but not something I’ll go out of my way to get sequels of, should they come out.  If you like average mysteries, give it a shot.  If you’re more into fast-paced thrillers with something new on every other page, skip this one.

Brace Yourself: NaNoWriMo Is Coming

Hello, hello!  It’s already nearing mid-October, which means November is right around the corner.  We all know what that means, right?  And no, I’m not talking about the election.  It means that NaNoWriMo is almost upon us.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month.  Every November, a bunch of writers (new and old alike) try to write a short novel (defined by the website as 50,000 words) or a good chunk of a larger novel in order to win prizes and bragging rights.

It’s like that.

 It’s a pretty interesting concept and their definition of “novel” is incredibly loose.  On the website, it says “We define a novel as ‘a lengthy work of fiction.’ Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of ‘novel.’ In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.”  It pretty much just requires you to write 50,000 words on one project in 30 days.  That’s roughly 1,667 words a day.  The goal is basically quantity over quality with the belief that it’s more important to get the words on the page, then you can revise and edit everything later to polish it up.  And the forum provides a nice community area full of helpful tips and plenty of others who are also procrastinating (why else would you be in the forums?).

I know many people who participate (many of whom often win), but I don’t.  I’ve tried in the past and failed miserably.  Up until recently, I couldn’t even fathom writing that many words in one day.  Even though I’ve done it before, I doubt I could do it more than two days in a row, let alone 30 days.  I don’t believe in writing every single day anyway.  It becomes a slog if I do that.  So, maybe I’ll try NaNoWriMo again in the future, but for now, I will remain a bystander cheering on those who do participate.

Part of the bystander’s job? Remind them to write.

 Why must we brace ourselves even if we aren’t participating?  Because, our friends who are doing it will be posting about larger than average word counts (I know some people are sensitive about this and that’s okay), they’ll bounce back and forth between love and hate for the new novel more often than usual, and they will generally be in a writerly panic throughout the month of November.  As bystanders, it’s our job to provide love and support and understanding during this process.  It’s also our job to gently remind them to keep on schedule or catch up when they miss a day.  We never tell them to quit.  If they don’t reach 50,000, we don’t recognize that as a failure, we celebrate the words they did write.  This is how we help.  We also remind them to eat and sleep and shower if need be.  The bystander’s job is an important one.

This works for writers too, just make sure to include a computer or something for writing.

 Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or are you going to be a bystander?  Any words of advice for newbies on both sides?  If you need support and encouragement throughout the month (or want to talk about why your writer seems crazier than usual), don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Until next week!