Blog Tour Stop: Eileen Cook’s The Hanging Girl!

Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books tour for Canadian author Eileen Cook‘s latest young adult novel, The Hanging Girl! Read on for my thoughts on the novel as well as a special Q&A that the wonderful author herself participated in!

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Skye Thorn has given tarot card readings for years, and now her psychic visions are helping the police find the town’s missing golden girl. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realizes the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.

Eileen Cook’s last released YA novel, With Malice, was met with solid reviews and great reception from the YA reader and mystery lover crowd. I had the luck of getting to read and review With Malice, and was delighted to see Eileen focus more in the mystery/suspense genre (a genre which I particularly enjoy!). With The Hanging Girl, the author strongly continues in the mystery genre with an even twistier, more complex, layered, exciting- and surprising- story.

At the core of the story is our protagonist, high school student Skye Thorn. Daughter of a single mom (who is a self-professed psychic), Skye has used tarot reading and her own ability to read people well to fake classmates out (and make money) with her own so-called ‘psychic’ and tarot reading abilities. Then, in a quick turn, readers find out that Skye has gotten herself with involved in…a kidnapping scheme with a supposed big payout and no repercussions. Yes, Skye has become inextricably and dangerously- due to reasons which will reveal themselves- involved in a seriously unnerving, twisted kidnapping plot. And readers, let me just say that the author does a wonderful job of throwing major curveballs in how Skye’s involvement with the kidnapping- and the supposedly ‘simple’ kidnapping job itself- turns around. The Hanging Girl is one of those hard-to-put-down reads- I actually read it in one big gulp (staying up very, very late into the night) transfixed by this unusual, suspenseful story. Skye herself is not the most sympathetic of characters, but she holds major interest- and experiencing the story- especially as big reveals happen- through her first-person narrative makes it all the more intriguing and edge-of-your-seat. While a tiny bit rushed toward the end of the novel, my enjoyment with the story was absolutely held from start to finish. With The Hanging Girl and With Malice, I think Eileen has more than shown herself a very strong, exciting writer in the YA mystery genre.

Overall, a solidly plotted mystery with genuinely shocking moments, The Hanging Girl bests With Malice as an even darker, more surprising, sophisticated mystery entry. Readers who adored With Malice, and/or readers who have enjoyed novels such as Caleb Roehrig’s Last Seen Leaving, Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be, or the work of Megan Abbott might especially enjoy sinking into The Hanging Girl.

 

Q&A Time with Eileen!

Q: I am always interested in hearing about the research that goes into a book! In With Malice, the protagonist deals with post-accident amnesia and recovery- areas in which you have personal experience given your past career in counseling patients recovering from major trauma and injuries. For The Hanging Girl, what was the preparation for writing the character of Skye and the plot focus on tarot reading and psychic abilities? Did you have the opportunity to research and/or interview practicing psychics and tarot readers?

A: One of the things I enjoy best about the writing process is the chance to do research. I love learning things. Sometimes this can become a procrastination technique (I also can spend hours online chasing random bits of information.) However, in this case I felt if I was going to write a character who read tarot then I felt it was something that I needed to understand. Especially because reading the future was so important to Skye and her mom. I wouldn’t say I’m very good at it—but I did like learning about the history of tarot and the meanings of different cards.

A lot of what makes for a good tarot card reader is like being a counsellor. Counsellors are always listening not just to what you say, but also what you don’t say. We’re paying attention to body language. For example, if you cross your arms and scowl as I’m saying something, I get the idea that you either disagree with me, or have strong feelings about what I’ve said. A psychic is often doing the same thing, paying attention to how you react and moving their reading in that direction.

I also went to about a half a dozen different psychics to have them do a reading for me. I compared what they said to what I’d learned at a conference put on by The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. They’re a group of people who use science to investigate various topics— including psychics. The session I went to covered how easy it is to fool someone into believing you have psychic ability. I found that fascinating and filed away the information knowing it would be useful for a character and because I hadn’t realized how easy it could be to take advantage of someone who wants to believe.

Thank you so much for your time, Eileen!

Don’t forget: you can check out the other stops on the blog tour this week!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog post. All opinions and comments are my own. The interview with the author was kindly organized by Raincoast Books.

Advertisements

Coming up: Blog Tour for Eileen Cook’s The Hanging Girl!

Coming up next week: the Raincoast Books blog tour for Canadian author Eileen Cook’s latest young adult novel, The Hanging Girl, stops by Fab Book Reviews on October 2nd! I’ll be talking about The Hanging Girl as well as sharing a Q&A I had the opportunity to do with the lovely author. Hope you get a chance to visit some of the other great stops on the tour as well!

Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

with_maliceReview: With Malice by Eileen Cook
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: June 7, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Verdict: Very Good
Book Description:

For fans of We Were Liars and The Girl on the Train comes a chilling, addictive psychological thriller about a teenage girl who cannot remember the last six weeks of her life.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron’s senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident… wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

As a firm fan of the mystery/thriller genre, I understand that it can be a tricky- if not fickle- category: many titles which sound promising and/or get rave reviews and unending press can end up being disappointing; conversely, titles which are quieter and/or perhaps less buzzed about can impress, surprise and shock. I am very happy to say that Canadian author Eileen Cook has done a wonderful job with her psychological thriller With Malice. Compulsively readable, enticing, fast-paced and sharp, With Malice is a great example of YA mystery done right.

Through the first-person narrative of eighteen-year-old Jill, readers are taken for a disquieting, terrifying and revealing journey. Slowly recovering in hospital after a devastating car crash that killed her best friend, Jill is not only mourning, but also frantically trying to remember anything about the last six weeks. The weeks leading up to her and Simone’s fatal trip abroad to Italy and the accident itself are a big blank, and Jill and her parents are in a panic. To add to Jill’s frustrations and worries is the matter of the press and media outlets which have made Jill out as a monster and murderer: the cold, rich and jealous plain Jane who crashed a car in order to kill her popular, beautiful, poor and supposedly angelic best friend.

In chapters alternating between Jill’s fascinating narrative, there are also mixed media entries- i.e. police interview transcripts, reports from psychiatrists, emails, social media posts, and messages. I have said it before that the mixed media format can be a terrific addition to a mystery, and Cook clearly knows how to work it for the best here! Through these tantalizing and often sensational entries, the story- and Jill’s narrative- gains an additional level of intrigue and doubt. I have to say that while I was initially uncertain/surprised by the ending the author chose to give to Jill and Simone, upon closer consideration, I find it supremely interesting- and likely debate-inducing!

Overall, I very much enjoyed With Malice and would absolutely recommend it for readers looking for an imminently readable young adult mystery. Fast-paced, focused, and strongly written- with careful consideration to give just enough background on brain-injury and patient rehabilitation- Cook has done a terrific job. Readers who enjoy the writing of authors like Mary Kubica or Kimberly McCreight, or those who enjoy the mystery offerings of YA authors such as Jessica Warman, Mariah Fredericks, April Henry, or Ally Carter might especially appreciate the thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride that is With Malice.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (39): Eileen Cook’s With Malice & Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King

BOOKSTACKSWelcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: contemporary young adult lit! First up is With Malice, the upcoming release from popular Canadian YA author Eileen Cook. Turning her hand to the mystery genre, Cook’s latest young adult offering sounds like it has the makings of a surprising and taut thriller…and I adore a well-done contemporary suspense with twists and hooks! Full disclosure here: I’ve had With Malice on my TBR for weeks now, though I very recently had the pleasure of meeting the lovely (and very funny) author at an event! Hearing Eileen talk about With Malice only spiked my eagerness to get my hands on her latest book! Second up is Jeff Zentner‘s debut novel, The Serpent King. Categorized as a contemporary, coming-of-age drama, I have heard and read nothing but solid praise for The Serpent King from authors and reviewers I follow and trust. The description alone grabbed my attention initially, and now after reading so many favorable comments, I cannot wait to sink into this YA read. Here’s to strong contemporary YA lit!

 

WITHMALICE26153925With Malice by Eileen Cook
Expected publication: June 7, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

 

SERPENTKING25739107

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Publication: March 8, 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.