Book: Mr. Kiss and Tell

"Mr. Kiss and Tell"

The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms, then smuggled out and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove the woman’s story.

But the case is a convoluted mess. The accused employee is no longer in the country; the security footage shows the woman entering the hotel, but there is no evidence that she ever left; and the victim is someone from Veronica’s past who has no good reason to trust her. As Veronica works to fill in the missing pieces, the one thing that becomes clear is that a dangerous predator is still on the loose…and that he’s one step away from striking again.

Previously on Veronica Mars…

In our titular detective’s debut in print form, authors Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham re-established the world of Neptune, California. As Veronica took on a case very close to her heart–while also padding her wallet–she also took us on a tour of what her town looks like now: a little more grown-up and a little more corrupt, while continuing to feel like the same town we left more than ten years ago. We saw them set up how the father-daughter relationship between Veronica and Keith had matured, and we saw how Veronica is with friends Wallace and Mac. It felt like a reintroduction to the Veronica Mars world.

And now, we’re getting the second episode.

If The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line felt very much like an episode of Veronica Mars, Mr. Kiss and Tell feels even more so. In fact, it feels more Veronica Mars than the entirety of the television series’s third season. This time, we get an even more closer look at what Veronica’s life is now that she’s returned to Neptune. We see familiar names crop up: Weevil, Duncan, and even the Sinclairs; and we see Keith working with Cliff McCormack again to right the wrongs of the corrupt justice system that Don Lamb (who also gets a name check) started way back when he told Veronica to go see the Wizard.

Oh, and Logan also exists in this book.

But let’s begin with the things I loved about Mr. Kiss and Tell.

If the debut novel gave us twists and turns and red herrings galore, the second book presents a pretty clean-cut mystery. And while the mystery serves as the a-plot of the novel, the b-plot is the one that really pushes the novel to great heights. Now that authors Thomas and Graham have re-established the world, I feel like they’re pushing for Neptune to grow even further than what the television series (and the movie) allowed before. And while I grew not to be an advocate of this when Buffy went to the comics world, I can’t help but feel reassured with what Veronica Mars is doing. Mostly because Thomas and Graham are showing us the journey to a new Neptune. Mr. Kiss and Tell is the episode that bridges the pilot that sold viewers into trying a new series, and the rest of the series that populates and makes rich a whole new world.

We’re getting a whole new Neptune in print form! And the authors are using established characters to push that change!

Keith, Cliff, and Weevil take center stage in the b-plot that will create new dynamics in (hopefully) future novels. And this is the backdrop to the a-plot that takes Veronica back to who she was before she left for Stanford, to a past plot that wasn’t completely resolved in the series and creates wonderful tension in this novel.

And, unfortunately, it also underlines why I’m not a fan of Logan continuing to be part of the series.

Yes, I did say that I don’t mind the Logan-Veronica relationship. But I may have said that too soon. Mostly because the Logan in the Veronica Mars movie was dealt in small doses. We barely had any Logan in the first novel. Now that he’s present for most of the book, I feel like Thomas and Graham are scrambling to clean up a character that wasn’t a moral fit to Veronica.

Here’s the thing with actor chemistry. It messes up stories. Kristen Bell is wicked good, and Jason Dohring sparkles when he’s in scenes with her. I understand why the writers would want the two to keep interacting, and from there, it felt like natural progression for their characters to fall in love. But novels do not have the luxury of having actors sell their characters. In print form, Logan would’ve been just a jackass rich-douche who doesn’t deserve Veronica. But fans want them together. And the film promised them to be end game. And now we’re seeing a ret-con of the character. Well, what feels like a ret-con. I must commend Thomas and Graham for actually trying to explain the changes in Logan. But at the end of the day he doesn’t feel like Logan. He feels like a new character. A new character that, based on the callbacks to the past in the a-plot, Veronica Mars doesn’t really need.

Yes, you read me right. Veronica Mars doesn’t need a love interest.

What Veronica Mars needs though? Is more growth. In more future releases, whether in print or film form.

Book: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

"The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line"

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappearance from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

I’ve been looking for this book for ages! Okay, that’s an exaggeration: the book has only been out for a couple of months. But I was starting to lose hope that I’d find it here in the Philippines. So… Much thanks to National Bookstore in Quezon Avenue for stocking up on books that no one else has heard of… and books that should get more attention. Like this one.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is Veronica Mars’ debut on print form. I was a little scared at first, I admit. Novels based off television franchises tend to not match the show we loved watching. Thankfully, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas is also a novelist. And he’s co-writing the series of books that follow the events of Veronica Mars the movie. And the book is crackling with the wit and zingers that made me love the television series.

Mystery-wise, the novel follows the format that an episode of Veronica Mars would employ in delivering the clues, the twists, the red herrings, and etcetera. And this is one of the things I really loved while I was reading the book. Rob Thomas and co-writer Jennifer Graham didn’t go crazy with the story-telling just because they’re no longer limited by production budgets. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line will fit right as an episode of Veronica Mars the TV series because it didn’t go big–it went right back to what fans loved about the show: Veronica being Veronica.

Another things I would like to rave about in A Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is how the writers developed the father-daughter relationship that was central to the television series. How they act around each other felt like a natural progression of where the television series and the movie left off. Veronica’s relationship with friends Wallace and Mac also felt natural, and don’t feel in any way tacked on.

I do have a request though: I hope we get to meet some new people in Veronica’s life too. We meet a Stanford professor in this book, but what about classmates? Friends? Enemies? I would also like to see Duncan and Piz show up again. The former, just to see how much Veronica has grown as a person, and the latter, to help us fill in the missing years in Veronica’s life.

And lastly, and I might be alone in this, I loved how we didn’t have a lot of Logan. Although I preferred Veronica to end up with Piz, I’m not against the Veronica-Logan relationship. But their relationship also tend to take away from the drama of whatever mystery Veronica is solving when they’re together, so I’m glad that Logan took a backseat in this story. Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham are reestablishing the status quo, it’s nice to see that love–however epic–is not their first priority in a female-centric mystery series like this one.

Movie: Veronica Mars

"Veronica Mars"

Years after walking away from her past as a teenage private eye, Veronica Mars gets pulled back to her hometown – just in time for her high school reunion – in order to help her old flame Logan Echolls, who’s embroiled in a murder mystery.

If you weren’t a fan of the television series while it was on the air, I don’t know how you’re going to like the film. Because, as a fan, it’s everything I wanted–but that might not be what casual viewers are looking for.

See, Veronica Mars is a series built on nostalgia. Not just for us fans, but for the characters as well. Events unfold in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business–where one character’s history ties in very much with another character’s. And the film even capitalizes on this, bringing back characters from the television series for one last victory lap, bring the characters back for a mystery that hinges quite strongly on events that have happened almost a decade ago.

Veronica has turned her back on the life of a private investigator. At the end of the series, Veronica cast her vote for Keith Mars to be the replacement Sheriff after the death of Don Lamb. But her dad lost. And she flew off the coop. She got out of Neptune to become a resident in a house of lies.

But a call from Logan changes everything.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

As a fan of the series, I know that Veronica wouldn’t have been able to stay away. Although, I must admit at being impressed she was able to stay away for nine years. For casual viewers though? Veronica looks like she’s doing something half-assed.

And she is. The difference between fans and non-fans is that we’re actually expecting this.

And Veronica falls right into step when she comes back to Neptune. Even picking the phone up at her dad’s private investigator’s office.

I missed this. While I love Veronica Mars, and while I thought Piz was a great addition to the show, I wasn’t a big fan of the final season. As I said, Veronica Mars is built on nostalgia. The third season of the program introduced too many new things. It wasn’t the same. And the film learned from this.

And so we see Veronica and the characters we love grow, mature, and be different people–and yet have that familiarity permeate their existence. Regardless of the years that had passed, these characters remain the same at their core.

Let’s face the facts: Veronica Mars is no Nancy Drew. Sure she can solve a mystery like the best of them, but it’s Veronica’s resourcefulness in the Neptune setting that actually elevates her to become something more than Nancy Drew could ever be: Veronica is as real a person as you can get in the world of television…and video-on-demand.

Which is why I think the film succeeded–even if reports of the weekend box-office say otherwise. Veronica Mars came back, delivered a doozy of a story, and kicked ass.

And she did it her way.

Whether or not we get another film, or if we’re just going to continue her adventures in the novels that were announced…I don’t really care. I will continue to support. I will continue to be a fan.

Because I don’t want to sing the lyrics of the Veronica Mars theme song and actually mean the words.

Book: Rats Saw God

"Rats Saw God"

For Steve York, life was good. He had a perfect GPA, a tight circle of friends, and a girl he loved. Now he’s flunking, stoned, and brokenhearted. The only way he’ll graduate is if he writes a hundred-page paper explaining how he got from point A to point B. In telling the story, Steve will find his way back to who he wants to be.

People don’t change. Even when writers want them to. And that, I think, is one of the reasons why I really enjoyed reading Rats Saw God…and why I really related to the main character: Steve York.

Steve is an introvert. I wouldn’t want to waste time trying to analyze his psyche, as I’ll probably get him wrong anyway. But this is how I understood his character; he likes staying out of the spotlight because his father was always in one, his whole life. Steve is always expected to be like his father–and he doesn’t want that. Especially after what happens to his parents.

They split up. Saying who’s to blame would be moot, as it isn’t the point. The only thing we need to know here is that Steve doesn’t want to be like his father because of how the split happened, and because of what happened after.

Rats Saw God is a character study of what happens when a person lives out the life he never wanted for himself; the life he fought so hard to not have to live…the life he got nonetheless. And author Rob Thomas, of Veronica Mars fame, writes the story in way that lets the story unfold while we learn just who our character is.

It’s a great example of showing, and not telling.

Admittedly, I was scared that I would be disappointed with Rats Saw God. That’s the main reason I’ve put off reading it for so long. I’ve held Rob Thomas in such high regard since he created my favorite foreign television program of all time–the aforementioned Veronica Mars. And I didn’t want to ruin the image of a brilliant writer if this failed expectations.

But it didn’t. In fact, it’s one of the books where my expectations were met and exceeded. Rats Saw God is a precursor to the career Rob Thomas was carving before Veronica Mars became a reality. A career that is being filled with characters that jump off pages (and screens), characters that are flawed–and are all the more lovable for it. Characters that exist in the real world.

Rats Saw God is a must-read. So if you find it, buy it. Read it.

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