Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager, Paperback, 339 pages, Ebury Press, £12.99, Waterstones

Overview

Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl. Quincy shares this title with two other girls, Lisa and Samantha. When Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances, Quincy can’t quite shift that something doesn’t feel right. With Sam showing up unexpected and angry at Lisa’s death, Quincy must quickly figure out whether to trust her gut reactions once again, to find out what happened to Lisa.

Characterisation

Riley’s characterisation in Final Girls is distinctive and really adds to the reader’s experience. Each character shows different qualities and varies in depth, regardless how much they are in the novel. Craig, Quincy’s love interest before the Pine Cottage incident, changes throughout Quincy’s memories, making him feel realistic and in some areas, relatable.

Reflecting on Quincy and Sam, their emotions have been shown in such detail that it makes the reader understand how their previous escapes have caused them to react differently to life. One element that Sager has mastered in Final Girls is that every character’s actions and emotions have all been created with intent. It is this understanding that makes this book intense from the very beginning. There’s a reason Quincy has memory issues. There’s a reason why Same is so angry. There’s a reason why Pine Cottage has not been forgotten.

Narrative

The narrative of Final Girls is written in two perspectives. The majority of the novel is written in first person through the eyes of Quincy Carpenter. However Quincy’s memories relating to Pine Cottage are in third person, closed perspective. Using various viewpoints works well here as it helps the reader differentiate between what is memory and what is reality. Furthermore with Quincy suffering from memory loss due to trauma, the narrative itself is pivotal for Quincy’s understanding of what happened at Pine Cottage and what has happened to Lisa.

Overall

Final Girls is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, trying to crack the case between Lisa’s death and Pine Cottage. Sager’s novel springs into action and doesn’t skip a beat until the very end.

Prepare yourself for twists and turns and then prepare some more.

I really enjoyed this book and was pleased to say that my instincts with this book were correct. Final Girls is a psychological thriller that you need to take with you on your next holiday. Final Girls is light enough to read with ease and suspenseful enough to keep you hooked.

This novel was compared to Gone Girl by Stephen King when I originally bought this book. However, I find The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins to be a much closer comparison – but don’t take my word for it. Grab yourself a copy and see for yourself!

Star rating: 4/5

Book Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, Harper Collins, Paperback, 384 pages, Waterstones, £8.99

There’s a very fine line between love and hate and Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, shows just how similar these emotions can be.

Synopsis

The Hating Game follows the gate between colleagues Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman. As soon as we read about a new job opening at Gammon & Bexley Publishing, the readers are plunged into the hating fest whilst watching Lucy and Josh compete for the Creative Director position.

Review

One of the best features of The Hating Game is Sally Thorne’s use of dialogue. I often found myself reciting some of the discussions between Lucy and Josh because they were just so good. I also couldn’t help belly-laughing at some scenes and re-read them a few times before continuing with the novel.

One element I was pleased to read was Thorne’s use of sarcasm between Josh and Lucy. Sarcasm can be really challenging to write. Not because each part of the joke needs to be written in order for it to be understood, but for the simple fact that it is very easy to misinterpret sarcasm. The sarcasm used between Lucy and Josh makes for excellent banter between the characters.

Another striking feature within this book is the characterisation. Whether Lucy and Josh are arguing, flirting, competing or even doing their job in the office, you can tell who is who, just by their actions. The phrase show don’t tell applies significantly to Thorne’s characterisation and provides its readers with a lesson on creating memorable characters.

The emotional connection that Thorne creates between the characters and the readers is truly magical. Whilst I would love to read a sequel, I would hate – pardon the pun – for the book to go in a different direction than it has done.


My only criticism is that I felt the ending was rather abrupt. I understand that this is a romance novel but I became so invested in the characters that I’d have liked to know a little bit more about their ending in relation to their future prospects.

Although I finished this book just before my holiday, I would thoroughly recommend this book as a holiday read. I was kicking myself afterwards, wishing I’d read it by the pool!

The Hating Game is a feel-good and uplifting read that I can guarantee you’ll want to read again, as soon as you’ve finished.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

Don’t believe me? Grab a copy here and see for yourself!

Tripwire by Lee Child

Tripwire by Lee Child, Paperback, Transworld Publishers, 544 pages, £8.99, Waterstones.

Plot

The book begins in a sunny Key West, when a man called Costello is looking for Reacher. After retracing Costello’s movements, Reacher finds himself returning to his army roots, in search for a missing soldier. Tripwire focuses mostly on Jack Reacher’s army life and what his possible future may look like. A drifter can’t drift forever, can they?

Narrative

Tripwire follows Reacher in the hopes of finding a missing soldier whilst the reader is simultaneously observing Chester Stone’s lifestyle and failing business. The book alternates between Reacher and Chester’s situation, in order to set the scene for the reader that will eventually overlap these narratives together. The pace of both narrative scenes quicken at the same time until reader is found racing to the finish line with Reacher on the lookout.

Review

This is the first book in the Reacher series I’ve read and it definitely won’t be my last. As a writer myself, I find his use of structure intriguing; how he creates tension and suspense with no nonsense language is mesmerizing.

One of the most impressive elements of this book, is Lee Child’s attention to detail. Child’s knowledge of guns and, in particular, Fighter planes, are so accurate that you would almost expect him to have flown a Fighter jet or have used a few of the guns he describes so well. The specificality of his writing appears to be exactly what the reader needs to allow themselves to be immersed in Reacher’s world.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action and adventure in novels. Tripwire is a great read for someone who wishes to get into reading without the flowery language that can often cloud a great narrative. Lee Child’s writing is raw and extremely well written.

Similar Writers

Although not many writers can compare to his writing style, I would recommend John Grisham’s Camino Island, as this also begins in the Florida state. Both writers create legal thrillers and have a similar pacing style.

Another writer that could be compared to Lee Child, would be James Patterson. The crimes within Patterson’s books mirrors some of Lee Child’s books, if a dark theme is your theme of choice.

You can buy Tripwire by Lee Child by clicking here

Are Blogs on the Decline?

With influencers rapidly increasing their net worth, it begs the question – What’s happening to all the bloggers?

It was only recently that I started to discover that some bloggers – not all may I add – began to describe themselves in this way when their main source of traffic was via Instagram.

With #bookbloggers as one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, it’s made me wonder… Are bloggers leaving their blogs for grid-style Insta?

I flicked straight to my WordPress account and began to scroll through all of the blogs I could find in relation to either writing or reading.

It was eye-opening.

I was showered with blogposts that showcased creative writing (short stories, prose, poetry, flash fiction…).

Although great to see, I wanted to find something that resembled the online article structure that I tried to use within my own blog.

I kept scrolling and came across bloggers who posted regularly. The catch?

The posts were really short.

After a good twenty minutes of searching the web, I managed to find some book blogs that resembled a larger showcase of their Instagram pages. They were filled with their monthly book goals, brief reviews and their views on plot, theme and narrative.

At last.

I’d found the book blogger that I used to love.

I clicked a like and follow on their blog straight away and felt instantly assured.

Looking through the blogosphere really reinforced why I love blogging so much. The blogs were clearly the writer’s own space within the digital world to ponder their thoughts.

It was refreshing to see; they reminded me of a digital diary that gave me an insight into the writer’s thoughts and beliefs.

I always used to think that a blog had to be long and focused around a key idea or theme.

Now I’m noticing that it’s great to add multiple visuals, whether that’s images or videos, and that size doesn’t really matter when it comes to word count.

In fact, they can come in all shapes and sizes and they’re all a joy to read.

And yes, that includes the short posts too!

But don’t take my word for it, have a look yourself.

Go to WordPress.com, Medium or Tumblr and search a topic you want to read about. I’m almost certain you’ll find a something of interest.

And If you don’t?…

Start your own blog.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night by Riley Sager, paperback, 336 pages, Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99, Waterstones.

This is the first book I’ve read from Riley Sager and this definitely won’t be the last.

Survive the Night follows a student called Charlie Jordan, making her way home from university. But what seems like a smooth ride, isn’t as smooth sailing as you may think. Charlie leaves behind her boyfriend in exchange for a ride home from another student. However with the campus killer still on the loose, Charlie can’t seem to grasp that she could be driving home with him. She can’t be the next victim after all… can she?

Sager begins his novel by introducing a handful of characters into Charlie’s life. We discover early in the novel about Charlie’s loss of her best friend Maddy and her boyfriend Robbie. However from the first chapter, the main focus in Survive the Night is around Charlie and Josh’s journey to her hometown. Not only does this keep the scenes intense but it also allows the readers to grow an attachment to the characters on a deeper level. Car journeys are brilliant for getting to know more about someone and as we follow their journey, the readers are well and truly along for the ride. Throughout the journey, Charlie begins to question who the driver is to reassure herself and to find out what his intentions of leaving so soon are.

Throughout Survive the Night, the tension is kept incredibly tight. So tight that suspicions are constantly among the characters and you can’t help but question character’s motives. Some characters you might like at the beginning but by the end, you might have a whole different take on them. If your views on the characters wasn’t change enough, then fasten your seatbelts because this ride is going to be bumpier than you think! If this novel could be summed up in three words they would be:

Don’t trust anyone.

I feel that Sager has built the tension up perfectly and has included more action in his scenes that I strongly favour over previous thriller authors. 

When I first read the blurb of this book, I was so intrigued. I knew it would seem very minimal with most of it taking place in a car but if anything, it showed a rawness to characters that I hadn’t seen before.

For anyone who is a fan of Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley and Allie Reynolds, I would strongly recommend Riley Sager. I was previously torn between reading Ware or Sager for my holidays and thought I’d picked well with Ware. Little did I know both choices would be so amazing.

Riley Sager’s Survive the Night is officially out in paperback in the UK and I strongly recommend anyone with a love of psychological thrillers and plot twists, to give this book a go. Oh, and brace yourselves!

Enjoy the ride!

The Heights by Louise Candlish

The Heights by Louise Candlish, Hardback, 448 Pages, £12.99, Waterstones

The very first book I’ve read by Louise Candlish but definitely not the last.

The blurb itself made me wanting answers before I’d even received the ARC. Imagine bumping into someone you thought to be dead? Especially when you are the one who tried to make it happen. This concept alone sent shivers down my spine – such an intriguing predicament.

Because of this gripping blurb, I began reading, not knowing who I should be sympathising with and as the novel progressed, it appeared that everyone had that little bit of dirt under their nails.

Throughout this novel there were so many twists, gradually increasing the intensity until the very last page. Admittedly, I’d have liked one less twist, although I guess that could depend on the reader’s morals.

The underlying issues of grieving for you child’s accidental death, was written in a way that felt sensitive, yet understanding, as the reader watches Lucas’ death affect many relatives differently.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.

This was the first novel I’ve read by Louise Candlish but definitely not my last.

Magpie by Elizabeth Day

Magpie by Elizabeth Day, Hardback, 256 pages, HarperCollins, Waterstones, £14.99

Magpie does not follow the whimsical tune associated with magpies. Instead Elizabeth Day has used other associations with magpies, to help tell this twisted tale.

Magpie begins through the point of view of Marisa, a creative individual who illustrates children’s stories for a living. The reader is soon introduced to Jake and Kate, as they all live together. Magpie is about how their lives weave into each other and how a very complicated love triangle can occur in a very unexacting way. If you were looking for a romance novel however, you would be mistaken with this novel. Magpie tackles women’s issues within family roles and questions what it is that makes a women, a mother.

Magpie is written in three parts, to allow the reader to see Marisa and Kate’s point of view in relation to what’s happening inside their house. The point of views work well in this novel as it gives an insight into Marisa and Kate’s background. The first part of the novel was quite steady and I found it quite tricky to read. It was only at the end of part one that my interest began to peak. The writing in part one seemed a little chaotic, however I believe this to be intentional to suit where the plot is going. For this reason I applaud Day in taking meticulous care with her narrative.

Elizabeth Day appears to have strong female leads within Magpie. This consists of Marisa, Kate and Jake’s mother, Annabelle. Each character is strong with survival instincts, however these traits are expressed differently throughout Day’s novel. As a result, readers are able to feel connected to one of these character’s, whilst the remaining women will likely remind them of someone they know.

Day’s novel is very calculating, gripping and brings to light the depths that women will go to for motherhood. A compelling read.

Magpie by Elizabeth Day is out September 2021.

Pre-order a signed copy at Waterstones today.

Star rating: 3.5/5

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Holly Jackson, A Good Girl’s Guide to murder, Paperback, 448 pages, Waterstones, £6.49

Holly Jackson’s debut novel is stirring things up in YA Fiction. Holly’s debut is about Pippa Fitz-Amobi, a grade-A student, who is trying to prove a previous student’s innocence in a murder trial, as her independent project for university. Soon Pippa begins learning more about the truths that lie just at her doorstep.

The format of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is very playful for the reader as they are shown snippets of Pippa’s investigation. This itself allows the reader to feel like they are solving the case with Pippa.

The structure of the novel is split into three parts, however, the pace appears to become much more steady as a result. Part 1 seemed initially set up to introduce the characters, however if this was it’s primary focus, it could be questioned as to whether the pace needs to be a touch faster.

When conflict occurs, the readers gain an insight into the characters’ strength and flaws. This act in itself makes them more realistic and relatable to the reader. It is this particular element that seemed to be missing at the beginning of the novel.

Jackson’s characters overall however, are striking and very easy to picture in your mind. Furthermore when her characters are faced with conflict, in parts two and three, they become as believable as your best friend.

Although I was not entirely gripped from the beginning, I would still recommend her books to teens looking for excitement and adventure. As a teenager, I know I would’ve loved this book. Holly’s writing is well thought-out, clear, funny and imaginative – everything sixteen year old me would have devoured in a book.

The First Line

First lines matter. Whether they are in a blog post, a newsletter or a novel, the first line is crucial.

Whilst you’re in the editing phase of your writing, it can be easily forgotten to revise your first line. The first line will have different purposes in various texts but there is one thing it needs to be. Good.

Your first line, if writing for a newsletter or a blog, must intrigue your reader and invite them to read more. Your purpose here is to keep them reading right until the very end. A great way to revise your first line is to read your writing as a reader. Would you be interested? Would it stop you scrolling? What could you add to the line to make it more gripping? If you’re still unsure, it could be worth letting someone read the first line to give you another point of view. They may even see something that you didn’t.

If however you are revising a first line of a novel, the aim and purpose of your writing may be different. Your goal, as a writer, is to lose your readers in your novel. Allow your readers to become invested in your characters and don’t settle for anything less. Although you still need to grip the reader with your opening lines, you have a variety of techniques open to you. Here are a few that you may wish to try:

Surprise the reader

This type of hook causes the reader to raise questions or surprises them by catching them off guard. A great example of this is from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit: ‘It was a pleasure to burn’. The concept that some would like the feeling of burning seems very unusual. The sentence itself could also suggest that someone likes the action of burning something. As your mind begins to question alternatives, it has sparked the interest of the reader to keep reading. 

Begin with dialogue

This can also have a similar effect on the reader as it can catch the reader off guard. An example of this can be seen in the opening lines of Rose Macauley’s, The Towers of Trezibond: ‘”Take my camel dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass’. The animal itself may surprise the reader in this sentence, as well as Aunt Dot’s previous actions. Using dialogue in your first line brings your readers straight into the action and provides them with wanting to figure out what is happening and why.

Setting the Mood and Atmosphere

Although this technique may seem simple, it can be really effective when used correctly. Louise Erdrich does this beautifully in Tracks: ‘We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.’ In this first sentence Louise Erdrich has managed to set the sombre mood perfectly by using the setting to help set the tone and atmosphere. This technique can work really well with the show don’t tell principle, as the sentence has given its readers an insight to what is to come.

Another suggestion could also be to revise what you like to read yourself. If you love a particular author like Lee Child or John Grisham, look at how they start their first lines. How did they interest you? Why did you want to read on? This technique also works if you are wanting to write a blog post or newsletter. If you follow several blogs, which article did you really enjoy and how did it start?

Once you have tried a few of these techniques, reflect on your work and see if any of them work for you. Remember the best way to get your writing noticed is to make your writing the best it can possibly be.

Follow me on Instagram @cbarkerwriting for writing tips on a daily basis.