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Archive for the tag “drama”

Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally sat down and read this book (well, I listened to it over the course the week leading up to Christmas). Sharp Objects was so good, Dark Places drove me batty, but was utterly enjoyable. Gone Girl…I don’t know what to think.


Okay, you’ve been warned.

The first third of the book was an absolute bore, but it’s by design. I hated Nick, hated Amy. I hated everybody except the cat, really. They were all just so mundane that it’s comical. I kept asking myself why Reese Witherspoon was producing this movie because nobody was gonna want to watch the equivalent of a grocery trip.

Even after Amy disappears, the book feels completely predictable. Let me add that the book alternates from Nick’s POV and Amy’s diary. Flynn uses this type of storytelling in all her books — I’m not a huge fan of alternating POVs which seems to be popular in today’s fiction, but I digress. Amy’s diary is that of a good little wife who loves her husband so much that she abandons her High Society life in Manhattan to follow her husband to his hometown somewhere in Missouri to care for his dying mother. Amy is dutiful despite living well below her upbringing, even after she and Nick both had lost their journalism jobs in NYC.

Nick is likable enough. He’s a typical guy. Nothing special about him, at least to me, but Amy thinks he’s hung the moon.

After Amy goes missing on their fifth anniversary, Nick is still likable enough. He does what his in-laws advise, appearing on TV shows and making pleas for his wife’s safe return. Forgetting Amy has an anniversary tradition of a scavenger hunt, Nick is handed the first clue by a police officer which leads to another clue…and another. In the past, Nick was never any good at deciphering Amy’s cryptic notes about moments and locations in their relationship that seemed to mean everything to her while Nick might not have paid all that close attention.

Things get interesting with the introduction of Nick’s twin sister, Go. I started to suspect she may have had something to do with Amy’s disappearance because of jealousy or something. All the while Nick is still so friggin’ likable, and not really all that worried about where his wife is. I can’t really say that I suspected him right off, but at this point I was not pleased with the book because it felt so formulaic. Things really get interesting when Andie shows up. Nick’s been boning one of his community college students–now he’s not so likable. Yay!

During all this, the dull drivel of a lonesome, but perfect, housewife keeps showing up in the form of Amy’s diary. That part was kind of confusing now that I look back on the whole book because the actual diary was not found until the third act, so what we’re reading is really Amy as she’s writing her diary entries; however, they don’t line up with the timeline of Nick telling his story. Okay, I’ve just confused myself.

Moving on…

Nick kinda-sorta befriends one of the cops investigating his wife’s disappearance. At least she doesn’t outright suspect and detest him like her partner.

So, at this point, I’m suspecting Nick because he’s taken the last of his wife’s trust fund and opened a bar, has been having an affair with a co-ed, and Amy’s life insurance policy was just bumped up. Amy’s belongings are turning up along the trail of her scavenger hunt, but not as part of the romantic clues. Whodunit? Lance Nicholas Dunne, that’s who.

But where’s the body?

After a Nancy Grace-esque TV show, Nick is painted as the villain, and we hear from Amy again. This time it’s really Amy — and Amy’s a bitch.

I won’t give much details about what happens next, but Nick figures out that he’s being set up once the cops show up with a stack of credit card bills that total hundreds of thousands of dollars. When faced with this damning evidence, he still acts unaffected for the most part, but finally wises up and gets himself a lawyer. A slick, big city lawyer who specializes in domestic cases.

After finding a couple more of Amy’s anniversary clues, Nick pieces together that Amy is setting him up because she’s somehow learned of his affair with Andie. He confesses this to his sister and his lawyer, and they formulate a plan to reveal this to the police and the press.

Oh, and we discover that Amy’s pregnant, and there’s blood that has been cleaned up on the kitchen floor. And that the crime scene is ludicrously staged. Nick knits things together and gets mad, but he keeps a lid on his anger. At this point, I’m hoping Amy stays gone so Nick doesn’t kill her because guess what? I like him for real this time.

Masterfully, Nick appeals to the public as the lost, contrite husband that Amy wants. All the while she’s up in a cabin watching her plotting unfold and laughing her fool head off. She meets some drifters at her little hideaway and kinda sorta makes friends. Then she gets her ass beat. I don’t condone violence, but this one time was well-earned.

With her plan changed, and her money gone, she seeks the assistance of a childhood friend that she’s kept on a short leash his entire life. All throughout Amy’s life, she’s left a trail of carnage of the lives of those who have wronged her. As the inspiration for a popular children’s series Amazing Amy, Amy Elliott Dunne could do no wrong. Whatever she said was bond. So if she said she was being stalked, was raped, and so on, it was the irrevocable truth.

There was one, albeit brief, moment when I felt sympathetic for Amy, and that was when she spoke of how she came to be. I’ll let you read that for yourself. It was soul-stirring, at least I thought it was. That sympathy was short-lived, though. That bitch is crazy!

I can’t even do justice to the insanity of the third act. I’m about go to back and read it again, it’s just that good! It’s like what the Sixth Sense‘s ending felt like the first time I watched it (a feat M. Night Shylaman has sadly failed to repeat, but again I digress).

What I will tell you is that Amy ends up killing someone. Like I said, that bitch is crazy!

As with all Flynn’s books, I’m left panting, drooling, writhing around for more. Her endings piss me off. I want to know what happens next, but as with King, who she claims to be one of her literary heroes (mine too), she leaves room for the reader to fill in the blanks.

Flynn does well with her descriptions, giving all the right details and leaving things out so as not to fill up the moment with useless chatter. Because I listened to the book and did not look at the printed pages, I feel as if there was not a whole lot of dialogue, but there was so much interaction and wit, that the pacing didn’t need the boost of expository conversations.

Although I said I was bored through the first third of the book, it is by design, and brilliantly done–Amy is a crazy bitch.

Do yourself a favor and read plotting and pacing done right. Gone Girl was a gripping look into what lies beneath the shiny outer layer. Do we truly know who we’ve bound ourselves to? Divorce is not an option for Amy and Nick. It’s not good enough for Amy, and Nick wants to live, so he endures.

I can’t say enough good things about Flynn’s novels. I look forward to what else she produces.

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Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had this, and Flynn’s other books, for at least six months and am just now cracking this bad boy open. I don’t quite know what to make of the story yet. The writing style is a bit peculiar, but the narrator is a strange bird. She’s a reporter for a small Chicago newspaper. When her editor sends her back home to a tiny Missouri town to investigate the murder of a small girl and the disappearance of another, she quickly assimilates, but hates what she’s doing.

After meeting her mother, sister, and some other townsfolk, the mystery surrounding who harmed these little girls seems to be solved; I think the real mystery is why she did it.

I’d love to have more time to read because things are just heating up. Camille’s mother is a piece of work. A pristine, proper, poised southern belle who looks upon her eldest child with so much disappointed annoyance it’s caused me to recoil. Then there is her baby sister – mother’s precious China doll – living a double life at thirteen. Between them is another sister, long dead, but ever-present. Adora, their mother, she has some skeletons. I think Camille will put the pieces together to solve this mystery, if she doesn’t let the hot-shot detective from Kansas City distract her too much.

It’s been a slow tick, but I’ve been reading in fits and starts since I began this book a few days ago. At chapter four a lot has been revealed with imagery that is unique and captivating.

I started this book having absolutely no idea what it was about. One of my co-workers had read Gone Girl and thought I should give Flynn a try. I should have checked out her website to give myself a bit of a buffer before I downloaded the book.

I’m about halfway through and have every urge to drop out of life for half a day and barrel through the rest of this book. I must know how things are resolved…IF they are resolved.

Camille has revealed more of herself, her demons, her self-image, her woes. As I read I wondered why she wrote on herself with pens and markers. Why was the act so significant? She’s a cutter. I never had any personal experience with this, so reading Camille’s thoughts of how she feels around others (particularly her mother and half-sister) burn through me just as words brand themselves invisibly on her flesh.

It’s hard to admit to liking a book about little girls who were brutalized and murdered and whose savior could have easily been in their same shoes, but I do not want to put this down. I yelled at my husband last night when he asked me a question while I tried to squeeze in a chapter before we went to our son’s curriculum night. The storytelling is so gripping with little nuances of the characters that speak so loudly, yet in a whisper. “…her face so perfect and character-free she could have just popped out of the womb. They all seemed unfinished.” That’s one of my favorite lines, so far.

I think Adora, Camille’s mother, is the perp, although that was made rather clear early on (unless my sleuthing skills are way off). Like I said in my earlier review, the mystery isn’t of whodunit, but why. These folks in Wind Gap have deep closets, and they’re filled with skeletons.

Sharp Objects – Flynn, Gillian, 100%

Holy crap! That’s the best way to sum up my feelings. Really well done, although not entirely the mystery I anticipated. This was one helluva journey. The characters and settings were vivid. The final act went too fast, as all final acts do. I was not ready for this book to end. Although there were no loose ends, I still had a lot of questions. But that would probably end up being a hundred pages of boring ‘where are they now’ kind of stuff.

Poor Camille, her family is a few chips short of a taco plate. I’m so glad I finally read this book. I can’t wait to get into her other work.

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Review: Dark Places

Dark Places
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m reading: Dark Places – Flynn, Gillian, 5.0%

It’s taken me a while to get through the first chapter of this book. I started this book, then stopped more times than I can recall. I thought I wanted something fluffy to read after finishing Sharp Objects, instead, I didn’t read much of anything. That book kind of blew my mind; I hadn’t read anything non-fanfiction in ages. I’d forgotten the wonders of a published book. It really is a beautiful thing — new characters, new settings, new voices.

But I digress. This book hits hard from the very beginning. It is a story about the sole survivor of her family being brutally murdered at the hands of her older brother. Libby has managed to survive all these years through trust funds that have now run out. Her lawyer encourages her to find employment. As she ponders this, she gets a proposition to appear at a true crimes type of convention.

That’s as far as I got, because I have to get ready for work. I’m left with a WTF feeling. This is all kinds of effed up. I will be sneaking in some reading time during my work day.

@I’m reading: Dark Places – Gillian Flynn, 84.2%

It’s been a slow read–not nearly as engaging as Sharp Objects. This is a deliberately slower-paced story which flip-flops between the first person narration of the main character, and third person retelling of events leading up to the MC’s family being murdered.

As the sole survivor, (her brother is in prison, convicted of slaughtering their family) Baby Day’s money has dried up. Twenty-four years later, Libby must find a way to support herself. She is approached by an odd young man who is the treasurer of the Kinkaee Kill Club (a group of oddballs who are obsessed with the Day family murders). Kill Club members believe a then seven-year-old Libby was coached in her testimony against her brother, and urges her to reassess what she always believed to be truth.

Libby is a hard sell, but she’s hungry, so she goes ahead with KKC’s idea to have her speak with her violent, drunkard of a father who seems to owe everyone. She even faces her brother, who she hadn’t communicated with since the trial twenty some odd years earlier.

What starts out as a hustle: meeting with people from her past, ask a few questions, get a few hundred bucks; sell a few inconsequential trinkets of her family, letters, journals, ramblings of elementary school girls, get a few hundred bucks. None of it mattered, so she thought. The KKC causes Libby to reevaluate everything.

Her mind changes kind of fast. Probably because her life has been so stunted since the murders. She’s just been stuck. Hiding out. Not moving forward or backward. She needed something to do.

New information is being uncovered through Libby’s investigation. She’s now not so sure her brother is guilty, but he’s not entirely innocent, either. Libby digs a lot of skeletons out of her brother Ben’s proverbial closet.

Switching between present day and the 1980s, Dark Places isn’t hard to follow, it’s just slow. I’ve been reading this book for nearly a month. Granted, I’ve been doing tons of other things too. I feel as if we’re coming to the climax of the story, the pace have picked up exponentially. I’m eager to know who really committed the crimes.

The murders are tangled in a mess of farms, devil worship, drug abuse, child abuse, lies, alcohol, slaughtered bovines, and hair dye.

If you’re able to read this book in one sitting, I’m sure it would be more engaging. I’ve read this in fits and starts, making an already slow story drag. Dark Places is richly written with Flynn’s usual colorful imagery filled with bizarre analogies and terms. There are laughable moments right along with squicky ones. The marriage of so many contrasting elements make for some really great storytelling.

@I’m reading: Dark Places – Gillian Flynn, 100%

Holy crap! Didn’t I say this was picking up? That was a thrilling third act! I’m bummed that it’s over. I wanna know what happened to Crystal.

The real murderer turned out to be who I thought it was, however, Flynn is clever, dropping hints here and there, planting seeds. Really good stuff.

I got choked up a bit at the end. I sincerely want to see these guys living out the rest of their days in the light–in peace. That probably comes from reading so much fan fiction where the writer doesn’t know where or want to end the fic. Sometimes just overcoming the current obstacles is enough. There’s no need to draw out the story–leave some things for the reader to devise their own vision of the future.

I’m going to start Gone Girl in December, after I pull out my hair over NaNoWriMo.

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Review: The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What do I think?

I don’t even know…

The book is herky-jerky, beginning when Theo is a man, then he’s a boy, and the reader follows his misadventures until he’s a man again. The opening of the end was like a punch to the gut. Journals? Letters to his dead mother? Incomplete recollections?

I see why this book is renowned, the imagery is breathtaking. However, I felt woefully under-educated and inexperienced as I read. I would probably flunk out of this book club.

‘The Goldfinch’ is an education in art history, antiquities, high society and those middling others who slink about feasting on the scraps of the wealthy and trying to blend in with fanciful histories and equally fancy attire. ‘The Goldfinch’ offers lessons in wealth, ill gotten gains, addiction, abandonment, self preservation, (homoerotic) love, and obsession.

But I can’t say I enjoyed this book…

Once I made it through chapter one, the plot became more engaging. I felt deeply for the poor orphaned Theo. I hoped he would turn out okay, but he won’t based on the beginning of chapter one (an unhappy fact that stayed with me as I read the 780+pages). I continued to read because I needed to know how he ended up in such a state.

There was no escaping the sense of being told a story. The language and tone of the narration, the word choice all felt deliberate. A boy of 13 would not speak in such a way, despite acknowledging he was gifted in words from a young age.

What truly kept me turning the page was the colorful supporting cast. Boris, Hobie, Pippa, the doormen, the Barbours, even Welty and Mrs. Decker were much more interesting than Theo. Perhaps because Theo himself believed them to be more alive than he was.

But I can’t say I liked this book.

Clearly, there is a master at work in these pages. Tartt paints vivid pictures that only come alive in the presence of others. Theo is a drugged out, paranoid antiques dealer who suffers from PTSD.

The book was ridiculously long for a simple premise which repeated itself. Theo the accidental art thief coveted his treasure. The painting was then stolen from him, and he was never aware until one of his antiques customers confronts him about being swindled. Why Hobie made replica furniture was lost on me… Boris, the loveable scamp, showed up to confess that he’d taken the painting some years earlier and had amassed a fortune from it, but he will get it back for his beloved ‘Potter.’

All the best parts had Boris in it.

But I still don’t know if I liked this book.

All the highbrow talk became tiresome, although Hobie remained likeable. I too would have enjoyed spending time with him in his workshop. Theo’s constant performing became exhausting. However, for a first person POV, I appreciated the visceral connection to Theo’s experiences and the narration. I usually don’t care for first person POV because so much of what else is happening around the narrator is omitted and the reader is stuck inside one person’s head. Theo’s head is effed up. He’s paranoid, so he saw everything and had a detailed opinion about it. He was most himself with Boris, I think. At first I thought the author was a bit inconsistent with the two boys’ voices, but perhaps Tartt is just that skilled to show the nuances in Theo’s development. That he would speak, and maybe even think, with the same cadence of the company he kept.

That ending… I never believed this would be a happily ever after, but there’s no real end. Theo kinda sorta celebrated that he was a part of immorality while he watched Boris shoot up.

For character development, Tartt gets top marks. Plot. The story is layered and engaging. Delivery. It’s a bit too long, yet I’m not sure what could be trimmed, perhaps cutting back on the descriptions would help move things along. After a painfully slow start, the story picked up (at about 30%) and never really slowed down until about 95% complete.

Read it, but start maybe in chapter 2, part 3.

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