John Parker is pretty much one of the most arrogant characters I’ve ever come across in a novel. And yet, this arrogant attitude is actually part of w...moreJohn Parker is pretty much one of the most arrogant characters I’ve ever come across in a novel. And yet, this arrogant attitude is actually part of what I enjoyed most about Atom Heart John Beloved because for a less self-assured character, I can’t see how to the plot would have progressed along the same lines. However, if you really need a character you can sympathise with and root for, Atom Heart John Beloved is not it. There are moments when he is vulnerable and open, but there are many more moments when his own self-obsession overrides respect for other people’s feelings.
Plot-wise, Atom Heart John Beloved is also pretty confrontational - there are a lot of things that John did that I myself would never have considered, and his rationale is pretty hard to understand in almost every scenario, however in some ways it also feels like he is closer to a real person because of the mistakes he makes.
Although I would be reluctant to call Atom Heart John Beloved a romance in the traditional sense of the word, it’s a romance that nevertheless runs in an undercurrent through the whole story. The ending may not be the typical happily ever after either, but there’s a definite sense of unpredictability of it that perfectly reflects the less-than-usual plot and characters.
Confrontational, shocking and yet unexpectedly absorbing, Atom Heart John Beloved is a book that’s difficult to describe, often uncomfortable to read and yet really rather memorable.(less)
Chandra is sixteen, obsessed with Emily Dickinson, passionate about baton twirling and has had a terrible year physically and emotionally. And whilst...moreChandra is sixteen, obsessed with Emily Dickinson, passionate about baton twirling and has had a terrible year physically and emotionally. And whilst her best friend is a serial dater, Chan is looking for something safer – an online relationship with someone that can’t physically hurt her like her ex-boyfriend did. Sadly, this is my first problem with Chan – she’s so focused on finding a guy to make her happy I started to get frustrated. And I never really stopped. Chan isn’t exactly unlikeable – she’s a great friend to her best friend Devin, she’s had a hard time at school and still faces down her ex-boyfriends nasty new girlfriend on a regular basis, and is incredibly supportive of her younger sister who is dealing with all kinds of issues. However, Vaught tries to cover a lot of subjects in Exposed, and it means that Chan, as the main character, comes across as pretty flighty at times.
Firstly is the online boyfriend thing, which I kinda get. But then there’s the obsession with her weight, her worries about her father, her relationship with her coach that goes from icily distant to best pals in the space of a few chapters, dealing with her overbearing mother, stressing about school and regionals and ex-boyfriends and ex-boyfriends’ girlfriends, her best friends’ dating habits, her major English project and her own health. And of course when she meets someone online it’s just another subject to cover in what is a pretty short book to have so much going on.
I read Exposed in just two sittings, but I found myself skimming parts to get to what I wanted to read about – Chan’s online relationship. And although I get that Chan is pretty vulnerable, she makes some stupid, amateur mistakes in a very short space of time, even taking into account her vulnerability, that just didn’t ring true at all.
Overall, Exposed is a great idea and still a very relevant subject, particularly as Chan’s parents are pretty vigilant and aware, it’s scary what can happen to a susceptible teenager in a short space of time. However, the multiple sub-plot lines left me quite frustrated, and the ending was too fast and didn’t feel completely realistic to me.(less)
I went into Sharp Objects not having read the synopsis, which is actually quite rare for me. All I knew was the tag-line on the cover – This family is...moreI went into Sharp Objects not having read the synopsis, which is actually quite rare for me. All I knew was the tag-line on the cover – This family isn’t nuclear. It’s toxic. And it’s actually the perfect tag-line, because although the base of the plot line is a mystery, the overwhelming theme is how self-destructive Camille’s family really is.
Camille is a journalist, living in Chicago, far from the town in which she grew up when she is sent to investigate a murder and a missing child case. Camille’s unwillingess to go is obvious from the beginning, and it’s definitely not a warm homecoming. Her mother is abrupt, snobbish and treats Camille as an inconvenience, her stepfather is so pallid and downtrodden he exists like a shadow, and her half-sister, Amma is a nasty little piece of work.
The characters in Sharp Objects are so familiarly Gillian Flynn, mostly unlikable, with a heroine who is so damaged by her childhood shes alternately sad and scary, and the relationships are like train wrecks – all of which make Sharp Objects rather addictive in a dark, gritty way. At times it’s almost TOO much, and the ending is a real doozy, but although there were times I wanted to walk away, I could never quite bring myself to do it.
The plot itself isn’t exactly predictable, but it doesn’t set the world on fire in terms of action – there’s a lot of character interaction, Camille getting caught up in increasingly bizarre conversations and situations, and the unraveling of Amma’s completely screwed up personality – it’s far more a study of characters and how their pasts have and are shaping them rather than a full-on murder mystery.
Although I didn’t enjoy Sharp Objects as much as I liked Gone Girl, I’m still a huge fan of Flynn’s style – it’s so dark, the characters are so flawed and the plots are so twisty it’s almost impossible to predict the ending. Addictive, twisted and gritty, if you can stomach some truly fucked up characters, I recommend Sharp Objects.(less)
When The Catastrophic History of You and Me was coming up to its release date and all the reviews were coming in, I was completely hooked on the idea...moreWhen The Catastrophic History of You and Me was coming up to its release date and all the reviews were coming in, I was completely hooked on the idea of this book and immediately put it on my wishlist. Although I'm not the hugest fan of paranormal stories, books that deal with the afterlife are something I find infinitely fascinating. But it took me over a year to actually buy a copy because it kind of got bumped down the list a little.
The Catastrophic History of You and Me doesn't wait to get straight into the story - Brie's death happens pretty quickly and then combines flashbacks with the current day storyline. The flashbacks are not that frequent, and are used to give context to the current storyline, but for me it was the right balance - too many flashbacks probably would have had me a little bored.
Whilst I loved Brie's snarky, smart-arse personality, I didn't immediately feel a lot of affinity with her, or sympathy for her situation. I like my female characters with a bit of baggage, and Brie's 'life' was a little too charmed for me - with a great family and three BFF's, without the quick plunge into the afterlife I honestly would have found her a little irritating. However, Rothenberg does a good job of getting the action going early on and that made me feel more sympathetic towards Brie.
The relationship between Brie and Patrick is incredibly sweet without being overwhelming - they bounce off each other with a natural ease and although Patrick is quite protective of Brie, it's not overwhelming.
There is also an emphasis on Brie's growth which I particularly liked - at the beginning she comes across as a little overly-dramatic, but as she comes to terms with her own death, she also realises some things about her 'previous' life, and how she had actually interpreteded things a little immaturely, and tries to make amends for that.
The afterlife that Rothenberg creates is an interesting one - based on the idea of a personal heaven, with the option to 'zoom' back into the real world and see what is happening to her family and friends is a pull that Brie, understandably, cannot resist. But I did find it became a little too complicated later in the story, and I actually got a little lost and frustrated with this book for a while because it felt like things were made far more complicated than necessary, without a great deal of explanation why.
If I was asked to describe The Catastrophic History of You and Me in three words, I'd say Fun, Cute, Sweet. It's not a book that had me gasping in shock, feeling a little misty eyed or swooning over the romance, but it was a fun read, and one that I would definitely recommend if you need something light and entertaining.(less)
On my copy of The Silent Wife there are two back-cover comparisons to Gone Girl - and there are more on the inside covers, and even in the synopsis. A...moreOn my copy of The Silent Wife there are two back-cover comparisons to Gone Girl - and there are more on the inside covers, and even in the synopsis. And while The Silent Wife is a story about a marriage going completely wrong, I don’t think it’s really all that similar to Gone Girl - this is more a study of two characters, and their complete ability to avoid any and all confrontation until everything explodes.
Jodi is, to put it mildly, a cold fish. She’s controlled, has the ability to only see what she wants to see, and is obsessed with having what she feels is the perfect life. Todd is pretty much a dick - he’s a serial cheater, who seems to have very little moral compass, and almost no backbone. Which made him deliciously despicable - and every story like this needs a character to despise.
There’s not a huge amount of action in The Silent Wife - Todd and Jodi dance around each other for pretty much the whole book, Jodi is lost in her own idea of perfection and pretty much delusional, and Todd gets pulled from pillar to post due to his own spinelessness. All of which made it pretty engrossing - although it took a while for the actual climax of the plot, I was never bored or frustrated - rather I was completely intrigued by some very complex and difficult characters.
I know that some readers have to find something redeemable in the difficult characters, but there are few good characteristics in either Jodi or Todd, nor in any of the secondary characters. Both are rather closed off from the world, so there are only a handful of others to detract from their spotlights.
The Silent Wife is engagingly written - I could definitely feel the currents under the still waters of the characters, and it’s a story that’s incredibly easy to get lost in, and have that feeling of seeing an imminent crash - it’s hard to watch, but it’s harder to look away.(less)