On the top of the hill Christ himself stands with his arms outstretched, facing both Juarez, and, on the other side of the river, El Paso, in a gestu
On the top of the hill Christ himself stands with his arms outstretched, facing both Juarez, and, on the other side of the river, El Paso, in a gesture of brotherly love. It’s a misleading gesture. His arms are outstretched because he is nailed to a cross.
The first few reviews for Saint Death haven't been that great and I honestly wasn't expecting to find Marcus Sedgwick at his finest. But to say I thought this book was fantastic is an understatement - this book may be the best book I've read this year. It is, I think, one of the best YA books I've ever read. That being said, this smart, literary YA isn't for those who shrug their shoulders and say "kids these days have no interest in serious issues". I don't, I can't buy into that way of thinking - it's the kids who must have an interest, if the world is ever to change.
I don't know where to start. This book deeply affected me to the point that I actually cried. It comes at a chillingly appropriate time when issues of immigration and border controls are at the top of the list on every political agenda. Nationalism is on the rise - as it was during the 19th Century as political alignments shifted towards a set-up that would fuel two world wars - and the funny thing is so few people seem to see it.
I'm a Brit living in Los Angeles, which is an interesting view to have right now. My British family and friends are appalled that someone like Donald Trump can become a serious candidate for president, on a platform of hate and racism. "How are people voting for him?!" they say. In my other ear are my American family and friends "I can't believe your people voted for the Brexit. They must be either crazy or racist?" It really makes me worry that one day school kids will write essays on the causes of World War III and talk about how people in the early 21st Century developed an irrational fear of "The Other" - immigrants, refugees, a family crossing the border in the back of a van because they want their babies to grow up without fear.
This book is about that, as well as other things. What kind of world are we creating? What future are we moving towards? Sedgwick focuses on Juarez in Mexico and Mexican immigrants, but what he's ultimately saying is much bigger than that, the bold suggestion that there is no such thing as immigrants. Or, rather, that we are all immigrants out of Africa, and national borders are simply the way rich immigrants keep the poor immigrants confined to poorer areas; often areas that were made poor by the rich.
And they end up in the rich countries, and you know what people say... ¡Migrants! ¡illegal aliens! But everyone is a migrant, everyone, outside of the African cradle. It's just a question of how back in time you care to look...
This particular story is about the Mexican Arturo who lives in Juarez, right alongside the gang warfare and drug crime that exists on the US/Mexican border. His adoptive brother - the Guatemalan Faustino - has gotten himself into serious trouble by losing the money of a prominent gang leader. In a story spanning less than 48 hours, Arturo must try to get it back in a suspense-filled journey into the dark corners of the city. With Sedgwick's writing, Juarez comes to life in exquisite detail that equally captures its bright lights and its darkness:
“There are shadows in every alley, every doorway, and the lights of shops and bars and adverts and cars dazzle and blind and make the shadows darker still.”
Saint Death is woven with Spanish phrases and cultural elements - to me, it seems extremely well-researched. I recommend a basic knowledge of the Santa Muerte or "Saint Death" before picking this book up. It helps with understanding that element of the story, and it is also pretty fascinating. I hadn't heard of it before and I love learning something new.
“She’s wearing a white shawl over a long white gown, which reaches to the ground. From under the shawl glimpses of a black wig can be seen, grotesque against the skull face, almost ridiculous, Arturo thinks, and yet it’s more disturbing than it is funny, and in a way disconcerting because it is somehow comical too, and Do not laugh at death, he thinks, we do not laugh at death.”
Of course, enjoying this book depends on your interest in the subject matter, but it was absolutely enthralling to me. Arturo is such a sympathetic character who dares to long for something more than what he has, and parts of the book are filled with such nail-biting tension, hope, and horror because of the reader's desire that he will be different; that he will succeed. His story is peppered with extracts from social media pages, facts about NAFTA, and backstory on him and Faustino - the latter came to Mexico on a gruelling journey from Guatemala, in which he lost both his parents in their desperate search for a better life.
It's really hard to review books like this. I can't fully explain how important it is, how horrifically hopeful and sad it is. Just writing this review and remembering the book has me on the verge of tears. I can only hope you read it.
Seeing as We Need to Talk About Kevin is famous for being such a gritty, disturbing read, I always expected to love it inOverwritten. Arduous. Boring.
Seeing as We Need to Talk About Kevin is famous for being such a gritty, disturbing read, I always expected to love it in a sick, twisted kind of way. Unfortunately, it is not what I expected at all. I had to force myself through one overstuffed sentence after another, only to be left feeling drained and dissatisfied.
I knew I was in for a paint-dryingly slow read almost immediately. Every sentence is padded out with big words and details that are clearly there to impress, but actually only weigh the narrative down. Damn, it was hard work. And it was made even worse because it's an epistolary novel - I couldn't get past the fact that no one would ever talk this way in a letter. This is the second sentence (and they are all like this):
But since we've been separated, I may most miss coming home to deliver the narrative curiosities of my day, the way a cat might lay mice at your feet: the small, humble offerings that couples proffer after foraging in separate backyards.
Kevin's crimes are revealed in the very first chapter, so it's a struggle to see what we're really reading for. I suppose it is an attempt to show how he got to there - built up through tedious anecdotes from his childhood - but without mystery or action, it was merely dull. We already know Kevin is a sociopath; we already know he killed a bunch of his fellow students.
I also had no sympathy for Eva. In fact, I felt a certain amount of anger towards Eva for deciding her baby had an evil agenda (that's honestly not even possible!*) and mistreating him. I don't buy into any interpretations that Kevin's psychopathic nature was something he was born with - it seemed pretty obvious to me that his mother fucked him up from day one. Eva was unlikable, Kevin was unlikable and Franklin's blind defense of his son despite the contradicting evidence was just plain annoying.
1 1/2 stars. What is extremely impressive about this book is how David Baldacci has managed to convince thousands of readers that this kind of shit is1 1/2 stars. What is extremely impressive about this book is how David Baldacci has managed to convince thousands of readers that this kind of shit is not only good, but something shiny and new.
First of all, Amos Decker is a *gasp* "memory man", meaning that an injury gave him the ability to never forget ANYTHING! You got that, right? He remembers everything he has experienced. Literally everything. Isn't that completely unique and never heard of before? So weird how no mystery/crime author has thought to do this!
Okay, I'll stop.
But the big selling point of this novel is a character who forgets nothing and, let's be honest, this is pretty common in the genre. Sherlock Holmes, one of the most famous fictional detectives of all time, has a photographic memory (slightly different from Decker's hyperthymesia, but mostly the same). The fact that this is pretty much the extent of Decker's characterization and it is somehow supposed to be shocking - well, that kind of fell flat instantly.
There are many things in this book that I suspect we are supposed to exclaim dramatically at and be impressed by, but we've either seen them before or they're flimsy at best. For example, Decker is supposed to be the absolute best at his job because of his memory, and yet rather than being wowed by him, I got the impression that everyone else in the book was dumbed down to make him look better. He would make a fairly obvious deduction and all the other agents' mouths would gape open in awe. Seriously, I could have told them that.
Backstory goes like this: Decker left the police after discovering his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law murdered in his home. The murderer was never caught. But he now finds himself pulled back into an investigation of a school shooting, because he is just so damn good that they need him on the case. Nobody else can figure this out. What's more, a guy called Sebastian Leopold confesses to his family's murder and gets taken in - but some things just don't add up.
The story is full of plot holes - the detectives ignore key pieces of evidence to prolong the mystery, instead looking into other dead ends. They mostly do nothing, anyway, and just stare googly-eyed at Decker, waiting for his instruction. As a reader of fairly average intelligence, I definitely don't like to feel I could conduct a murder investigation better than trained detectives. I did here.
Also, the "motive" did not make any sense to me. I do not think the reasons given in this book added up to the sum of the crimes at all. It seemed like Baldacci had a random idea for a crime and a random idea for a "reveal" and simply stuck the two together, even though they didn't fit. The answers to the mystery are kind of ludicrous, throwing more mess into an already convoluted plot.
I'd even go so far as to say the conclusions add some disturbing implications, and I don't mean in a good way. (view spoiler)[The use of a crazy murderous genderqueer character leaves a bad taste. Perhaps it would not have been quite so bad if LGBTQIA persons had received some other kind of representation in the novel. As it was, however, it had the same effect as a black murderer in an otherwise white novel would have - i.e. not a good one. (hide spoiler)]
The rating gets rounded up only because Baldacci knows how to keep you interested and turning the pages. His writing has a certain easy-to-digest charm that makes me think I should try his other books. This one, though, was clearly not a good place to start.
When the email came through from the publisher about this book, it said "for fans of domestic thrillers" and I was like: is that me? That's me, isn'tWhen the email came through from the publisher about this book, it said "for fans of domestic thrillers" and I was like: is that me? That's me, isn't it?! I must read it.
I won't mention the book that this is obviously being compared to (two words, rhymes with John Swirl) or the bestseller from last year that it's also being compared to (five words, rhymes with The Twirl in the Rain), but these books are like crack for us unromantic people. They're like the opposite of romance books. Instead of two angsty people figuring out that they're perfect for one another, you have two blissfully married people being torn apart by secrets, lies and murder! Yeah! Muahaha. My bf sleeps with one eye open.
But, problem is, this one just isn't that good. Sure, it follows the same pattern: this guy dies, leaving his wife and kids behind, and it turns out that maybe their perfect marriage was not quite so perfect. The clues are a little glaring, though. Even without my issues with the writing, my lack of empathy for Fran and that one twist which is so ridiculous I can't even - yeah, even without all that, it's just a little obvious and dull.
Firstly, Fran Hall is no Amy Dunne Flamy Sun. She will probably be remembered by very few people. She has no personality. From the opening of the book when she discovers Nathan's body, she is "the victim's wife" and she never really becomes anything more than that.
Second - still on Fran - it's absolutely amazing that she never asked any questions until now. Suddenly it turns out that she knew literally nothing about her husband, where he was most of the time, what he was doing, and that only starts ringing a "this is weird" bell when she discovers his dead body. The flashbacks to their relationship don't really paint any chemistry between them either, and caring about the story depends on your investment in their relationship, on him being “the loving husband”, but I never got that.
Also, as I mentioned above, I had some problems with the writing. The narrative is very choppy, moving quickly backward and forward between the past and present. It wasn't smoothly incorporated and the author's habit of leaving you on a cliffhanger and returning to the past/present actually killed the tension she had built - by the time I got back to the good stuff, I didn't care anymore.
And not every noun needs an adjective. Just sayin'.
So yeah, I'm all for these domestic thrillers - they have all the nastiness of a good ol' thriller and they're creepily close to home - but this one isn't a new favourite. That's before we even get to the thing that happens which is completely absurd. REAL SPOILER ALERT:(view spoiler)[how the hell did she not know the guy she was shagging wasn’t her husband? (hide spoiler)]
And the base emotion underlying it all that was getting harder and harder to ignore. Terror. The strengthening sense that something was very, very wron
And the base emotion underlying it all that was getting harder and harder to ignore. Terror. The strengthening sense that something was very, very wrong.
As with The Magicians, I have to confess I like the TV series Wayward Pines far better than the book.
Yes, I know the "reveal" has been spoiled, but that really wasn't my problem with it. Pines is built on a fantastic idea - no, really, a truly epic idea - and that strength just about manages to carry the book despite some poor writing, an asshole protagonist, and an exceptional lack of diversity that, given the situation, has even more troubling implications than usual.
Coming into this book after watching the show definitely affects how you view it. It's impossible not to notice how every woman becomes hot or "cute". And the pearly-whiteness of the cast of characters practically glows from the pages. Perhaps I wouldn't have picked up on it if I hadn't already seen a diverse cast in the show, but it was like coming to a lesser, whitewashed version of the story I've come to love.
The plot is really very compelling. Special Agent Ethan Burke is involved in an accident on his way into Wayward Pines, Idaho - a place where two missing agents were last supposed to be. He awakes in a hospital without his personal belongings and with no way to contact his boss or family. Right away, something feels wrong. Everyone is friendly but they all seem reluctant to help him make contact with anyone outside the town.
It's engaging because Ethan's situation is genuinely frightening. The need to know what the hell is going on keeps the pages turning or the episodes playing; even reading the book knowing the truth, there was a knot in the pit of stomach as I imagined being in Ethan's situation. It's weird, it's creepy, it's a lot of mind-boggling fun.
But the TV show is better. The book is written in a very simplistic way, which may not seem like a terrible thing, but it is noticeably juvenile - I'm not usually someone to notice the writing unless it is very good or very bad, and this one I picked up on right away.
As well as the writing issues and the whiteness, Ethan Burke is far less likable in Pines. Maybe if he'd been more developed and complex, instead of just mindlessly arrogant and annoying, I would have liked him despite his flaws. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
So I will say that this story is great and you should experience it. However, I think the best way to experience it is on your TV screen. And that's not something I usually say.
3 1/2 stars. Okay, listen up. This book is not the next Gone Girl. Don't let anyone tell you that. It just isn't. It's not that kind of twisty, secret3 1/2 stars. Okay, listen up. This book is not the next Gone Girl. Don't let anyone tell you that. It just isn't. It's not that kind of twisty, secretive book at all. It's the kind of fast-paced, pulpy read that plays with your emotions without ever making you think too hard. But, so help me, I could not put it down.
karen nailed it when she described this book as being fuelled by its action, not its suspense. The story actually gives up its secrets almost immediately - in fact, most of you probably figured it out after reading the blurb, right? It's not rocket science. And yet, this is a real strength here. The pages flew by in my desperate need to know what happens next.
It is an extremely emotional read with potential triggers*. I can't remember the last time a book made me feel such an all-consuming, visceral hatred for a character. I could feel my emotions bubbling up from the pit of my stomach; I could feel my heart pounding with fury and fear. Because this is a truly frightening book, a disturbing book. Scarier than any horror with demons and monsters.
It is an awful, exciting ride of terror. But a certain suspension of disbelief is a must. It is neither the most realistic book, nor the most deeply meaningful. There are some black and white aspects to the characterization - (view spoiler)[The guy is an evil psychopath. And while this is not completely unrealistic and I could believe he would go to such trouble to create his "fantasy", the mindless villainy of him, plus his penchant for showmanship, verges on a caricature. (hide spoiler)]
Between the breakneck pacing and the emotional nature of the read (Grace's love for her sister with Down's syndrome is particularly heart-wrenching), my eyes were glued to the pages. Sometimes I saw some things coming before they happened but, rather than feeling "spoiled", this meant I just had to sit and watch the car crash happen with no way to do anything about it.
Yeah, what can I say? - I loved it. I know, I know, it's not even that fantastic, but I still want to recommend it. And I thought the ending was just perfect... the kind of perfect that makes you do an evil little smile. However, if you are looking for a dark, edgy read but are put off by the lack of depth in this one - try The Butterfly Garden instead.
*Triggers & warnings: (view spoiler)[Severe psychological abuse; non-violent but very disturbing. There is also a dog - I'll just leave it at that *sob* (hide spoiler)]
I wanted to know why she did not behave the way I would have expected. I wanted to know why I could not see the rape in her eyes.
TRIGGER WARNING - R
I wanted to know why she did not behave the way I would have expected. I wanted to know why I could not see the rape in her eyes.
TRIGGER WARNING - RAPE Additional warning to anyone particularly sensitive to graphic scenes of brutal sexual violence.
Everything about this book is just repulsive.
But I can sum up my main problem with All Is Not Forgotten into four words: I hated the narrator. And I also hated the style of narration.
Strangely, this book is actually written in my favourite narrative style - first person minor. It's used in many of my favourite novels, from Wuthering Heights to Tiger Lily. I'm not sure why I love it so much, but there's something about a first person narrative from the POV of a character just outside of the main plot events, a mostly quiet observer, that gives me a broad scope of the story and characters, but also pulls me in on a personal level.
Here, though, I hated it. All Is Not Forgotten is told by a psychiatrist, Dr. Forrester, who treats a rape victim, her mother and father, as well as several other characters. After Jenny Kramer is brutally raped, her parents agree to an experimental treatment that will erase her memories of her attack. But she soon finds she cannot cope with the not knowing and this leads the family toward Dr. Forrester.
The doctor tries to help them - help Jenny uncover her memories, help her father deal with his obsessive quest for revenge, and help her mother deal with some childhood issues. Through him, their stories are told and the rapist's identity is gradually uncovered.
Problem is, this guy is an insufferable douchebag. And no, I don't mean he's a flawed, interesting character prone to human vices like selfishness and jealousy. I mean he's a smug, pompous know-it-all who slut-shames, patronizes his wife, and wants to see the rape in Jenny's eyes.
He introduces himself like this:
My name is Dr. Alan Forrester. I am a psychiatrist. In case you are unaware of the various credentials that exist among mental health professionals, I am the kind that went to medical school. I am a medical doctor, an M.D., graduated from Johns Hopkins University summa cum laude.
Dr. Forrester is a nauseating narrator. His narrative made my skin crawl and this tale of such a horrific crime feels so gratuitous through his eyes. I can't explain without posting quotes that I honestly just don't want to post, but he's not interesting, not even evil (which would have been preferable), he's just plain... icky.
I mean, let me just share some of the gems we get from him:
It is hardly worth the effort to elucidate the vapid motivations of this particular girl.
My wife's name is Julie Marin Forrester. I love my wife. It feels disingenuous to use this phrase after I have proselytized to such a degree about how nebulous love is.
This perfect child, her body defiled, violated. Her virtue stolen. Her spirit broken. I sound melodramatic. Cliche. But this man ripped into her body with such force that she required surgery. Consider that.
For fuck sake. Why would I want to sit through this self-masturbatory bullshit? Consider that.
He does that a lot, by the way. Side-eyes the reader and says something like "consider that" or "don't you think?" or my personal favourite “I know I belabor this analogy...”
... yes! You have been belaboring this analogy for a whole chapter! If you know you're doing it, why won't you stop? Please?!
Also, he goes off on a million tangents that just drag the narrative down even more. We get a chapter full of psychobabble about why Demarco can't be the culprit. We get "Writing Class 101" tangents where he waxes poetic about human nature and how stupid everyone but he is. It made the book very slow and boring.
It is true that complex, morally questionable characters are the best kind, but a narrator this insufferable simply irritates. The reveal at the end elicits little emotion, most likely due to my hatred for the doctor, and it just further complicates an already messy plot.
At night the Garden was a place of shadows and moonlight, where you could more clearly hear all the illusions that went into making it what it was.
At night the Garden was a place of shadows and moonlight, where you could more clearly hear all the illusions that went into making it what it was.
The Butterfly Garden was a book I knew nothing about. I haven't been highly anticipating it for months and it only made it on to my "to read" shelf a few days ago. But it popped up in my GR feed and everything about it called to me. It exuded a dark creepiness that drew me in. It promised a story of beauty and horror. And my instincts were right - I was enthralled from page one.
Oh, where to start with this book.
It's set in the present with two FBI agents trying to uncover the truth behind the crime scene they have just discovered. What they know is that they have found "The Garden", a prison where the psychopath known as "The Gardener" has kept young women trapped for decades. He calls them "Butterflies", tattooing wings on their backs before renaming them, raping them and letting his violent son terrorize them.
Yes, they know this. We know this. But it is the witness they are interviewing - known only as Maya - who really knows what it was like behind the garden walls. The horrors that occurred. The truth behind what happens to the girls when they turn twenty-one. And maybe, just maybe, she knows something more. As she recounts her tale of life as a captive, it becomes clear that she is hiding something, and the agents begin to question what part Maya played in these crimes.
During the day there was conversation and movement, sometimes games or songs, and it masked the sound of the pipes feeding water and nutrients through the beds, of the fans that circulated the air. At night, the creature that was the Garden peeled back its synthetic skin to show the skeleton beneath.
It is a chilling, terrifying thriller, and yet it is so beautifully told. The perfect balance of ugliness and beauty.
And Maya is the perfect narrator. Mysterious, cynical, sympathetic. Full of secrets that keep us reading, but likable enough for us to be pulled along for the ride on an emotional level too. The author doesn't shy away from grotesque details, but it is so well-written, each character so well-crafted, that it never feels gratuitous or deliberately sensational.
But, perhaps the thing that makes The Butterfly Garden stand out so much from other thrillers that contain tension, mystery and psychopaths, is the relationship between the young women. The intricate friendships and different personalities. There are no throwaway characters and the author portrays each victim as an important individual in her own right.
“Honestly? I don’t think I know what that kind of love is. I’ve seen it in a few others, but for myself? Maybe I’m just not capable of it.” “I can’t decide if that’s sad or safe.” “I can’t think of any reason it can’t be both.”
The depth of the characterization is fascinating. The straight-talking, spirited Bliss who never knows when to shut her mouth. Zara the bitch who is mean to everyone and yet still claims our affection in the end. Lyonette who is the mother hen to the other girls. And aging Lorraine who is so far gone that she craves love and approval from the Gardener. All of them complex, layered and thought-provoking.
The Butterfly Garden is somehow both a horrifying thriller and the tale of the friendships and rivalries between young women. It's a strange combination that leaves the reader with a bittersweet aftertaste. I doubt I will ever forget it.
2 1/2 stars. Here’s the problem: this is a good book, but I just didn’t really like it that much.
Comparisons between The Last One and Station Eleven a2 1/2 stars. Here’s the problem: this is a good book, but I just didn’t really like it that much.
Comparisons between The Last One and Station Eleven are spot on, in my opinion. So if you liked the latter, there's a good chance this book will suit your tastes more. It's another dense, wordy, literary post-apocalyptic novel. It's clever, and yet I found it emotionally distant.
Oliva presents us with a great premise - a reality TV show turned nightmare. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods with zero knowledge of what to expect. The show is about survival and is meant to test their limits, this they know, but no one knows just how far the producers are willing to go. So when corpses and devastation show up, it's kind of assumed that this is just a twisted, staged part of the game.
Yeah, it isn't.
Unbeknownst to the contestants, a pandemic has broken out and shit has gotten really bad. Communications have broken down and there's nobody out there to pull them from the game. So this survival "game" turns into something very real.
Interspersed with Reddit-like forums, The Last One is a book about the media, reality TV culture and the way our obsession with both impacts us in the modern - and post modern - worlds. It's a fantastic idea.
I also can't argue that Oliva spends a lot of time on her characters, especially Zoo. They get description and development and oh so many words, but as with Station Eleven, I was never convinced that the main character(s) were worth reading about. I appreciated the book in a kind of abstract way, but never engaged with it or cared where it was leading.
For the most part, it's a very slow and dry survival story. It alternates between the present where Zoo is experiencing a dying world and doesn't know it, and the start of the competition where the contestants are referred to by nicknames like "Banker" and "Cheerleader Boy". This way of treating the contestants as things and not people was interesting, but also didn't help me warm to them.
With only a few rare exceptions, I’m just not the type of person to enjoy a story without caring for the characters. I don't have to like them, but I have to be interested. Oh, the world ended! But what does it really matter if there’s no one in this world I find interesting?
A smart book, with a lot of thought obviously gone into it. Probably more interesting to study than it is enjoyable to read.
Okay, I just can't do it. I cannot go any further.
I am giving up around the halfway point - which is arguably very generous for a 600-page book - becaOkay, I just can't do it. I cannot go any further.
I am giving up around the halfway point - which is arguably very generous for a 600-page book - because I'm just getting more and more irritated. I picked up I Am Pilgrim after seeing it on Goodreads' 16 Underrated Books That Deserve Your Attention post, and thinking that it was about time I found myself a fast-paced thriller.
And it starts fairly well, I'll give it that. The novel is broken up into "parts", each dealing with a different part of Pilgrim's life - as an Intelligence agent, an assassin, a criminal investigator, etc. - and the first part is quite exciting. It opens with a grisly murder, seemingly sexual in nature, with the victim dissolving in acid in the bathtub. The scene is so lacking in evidence that it looks like we got a badass on our hands.
Come on... murder, sex, perfect crimes - who wouldn't be interested at this point?
The bestest, baddest super spy of them all - the so-called "Pilgrim" - seems a little generic and lacking in characterization beyond the repeated affirmations by everyone that he really is THE BEST at everything, but that's okay. This book has over six hundred pages; surely he will develop a personality in time.
He doesn't. The few times the author attempts to connect us with his protagonist are over the most obvious universal sentiments - by that I mean he is sad for the people who were tortured and starved during the Holocaust, and angry because of 9/11. Oh wow, so that makes him like... almost everyone else.
Also, it seems strange that his narrative "voice" changes significantly in each part, depending on whether he is being sad for the war victims or delivering a diatribe against the crazy Muslims. I felt like I was reading stories told from the perspective of different characters.
AND it's all tell, tell, tell. He is the best in the world. This super badass former Intelligence Officer who knows everything… or so we keep being told. In action, he acts like an idiot for the most part, makes stupid mistakes, is somehow allowed to publish a book about his time as a secret agent (wtf?), and then spends his life running from all the readers who want to hunt him down.
Every single woman he meets his beautiful beyond belief, and I lost count of how many times we had to hear descriptions of the various curves, boobs, legs and heels wandering around. I'm not even looking at this as a feminist critique - political issues aside, frankly, it's boring. And yes, I absolutely would feel the same way if someone was constantly describing all the gorgeous men with rippling muscles.
Yet, this didn't stop me from reading. Nope, it was something else. These things are, in fact, all minor criticisms compared to the raging Islamophobia. It honestly made me very uncomfortable. I know that authors are not their characters, but I swear I could feel Hayes' disdain for the Saudi culture and people dripping onto the pages.
Now, I'll admit it: I don't think Saudi practices should be beyond criticism. I don't agree with their laws limiting women's rights, and the government is guilty of many human rights abuses. BUT Pilgrim's self-righteous superiority as he marches through this Muslim country is embarrassing.
Despite its huge wealth, vast oil reserves, and love of high-tech American armaments, nothing really works in Saudi Arabia.
The driver thought I was crazy - but then his religion thinks stoning a woman to death for adultery is reasonable, so I figured we were about even.
This whole book is about a white American milking 9/11 as an excuse to defeat the crazy Muslims. It perpetuates the notion that Muslims hate America, and that Saudis are lecherous pervs who lust after white women.
And, by the way, that last quote there just bugs the hell out of me. I'm a British atheist and I have no religious affiliation, but someone needs to say it: the Christian Bible also thinks adulterers should be put to death!
"If a man commits adultery with another man's wife both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death." (Leviticus 20:10)
AND, if we're being nitpicky, the Qu'ran doesn't sentence adulterers to death, it sentences them to a flogging. The Hadiths, however, is the text that sentences adulterers to death BUT it does not distinguish between male and female adulterers.
When an unmarried male commits adultery with an unmarried female, they should receive one hundred lashes and banishment for one year. And in case of married male committing adultery with a married female, they shall receive one hundred lashes and be stoned to death. — Sahih Muslim, 17:4191
I read on for another couple hundred pages after the Islamophobia started because I wanted to give the book a chance to redeem itself. But it didn't. The story literally is about an amazing American agent defeating the Muslims. It's cringy.
This is how I kill someone. And I don’t feel bad about it.
BRUTAL. That's how I would describe this book. It sits there all unassuming with its cute y
This is how I kill someone. And I don’t feel bad about it.
BRUTAL. That's how I would describe this book. It sits there all unassuming with its cute yellow cover and pictures of animals, but underneath it has some serious fangs. Rather like the female of the species, I suppose.
Quick warning: this book may not be suitable to those sensitive to rape and/or animal cruelty. Make no mistake, it's a nasty book. At times it's absolutely disgustingly awful. But it's a very sharp and effective look at sexual assault and rape culture too. And somehow so fucking funny. Well, maybe if you have a sadistic sense of humour, which it turns out I do.
I don't even know how to adequately explain it. The Female of the Species is told from the perspective of three different characters - Alex, whose sister was raped and murdered; Jack, the popular guy who desperately wants to get to know Alex; and Peekay, the preacher's kid whose ex-boyfriend ditched her for the beautiful Branley, and who now works at the animal shelter with Alex.
Alex is haunted by her sister's murder. She is detached, strange, and knows there's something wrong with her. That there always has been. When she kills her sister's murderer and gets away with it, she realizes she might not be able to stop.
It's a very dark, unflinching look at rape culture, slut-shaming and the long-lasting effects of sexual assault; not just on the victims, but on those close to them.
I’m living my life waiting for the man who comes for me like one did for Anna, with hungry eyes behind the wheel and rope in the trunk. I’m ready.
All of the characters are so complex and well-developed, not just in themselves but also in their relationships with their families and each other. Obviously, we know we shouldn't agree with Alex's methods of taking the law into her own hands, but it's difficult to not adore her and see her as a kind of twisted hero. There's a lot of examples like that in this book - the fine line between what we know we should do and what we really feel.
So many interesting tidbits about human nature are woven into the story. Alex's straight-talking unravels why we do the things we do, and the misconeptions we hold about other people and relationships. Also, she does an amazing takedown of slut-shaming:
"You shouldn't be that way about her," Alex says. "I hear what people say and I bet half of it isn't even true. And even if it is - fine. She's no different from you and me; she wants to have sex. So let her…She likes boys, and she can get them. You were hurt by that, but it wasn't Branley who hurt you. It was Adam."
There are so many ways this could have ended, but the author chose the one that hit the hardest. Right in the feels. It's like someone just punched my heart right out of my chest. It was completely evil and the perfect ending to a book like this.
Olivia Michelle Sumner: if that doesn’t spell money, I don’t know what does. She was head-to-toe Barneys and Bloomies, preppy with a price. The rest
Olivia Michelle Sumner: if that doesn’t spell money, I don’t know what does. She was head-to-toe Barneys and Bloomies, preppy with a price. The rest of the girls gave her a wide berth even as they squealed, “Welcome back, Olivia!"
This book caught my eye at the Los Angeles Festival of Books. The press releases and fliers stood, calling to me, from under the Random House booth. The title said "dark thriller" and "dangerous girls". The cover, with it's shadowy silhouette, promised a story full of secrets.
It didn't occur to me for one second that this book would be another Gossip Girl. A marginally darker tale of private school girls, designer clothing and A-list parties. Make no mistake, the characters in Gossip Girl were just as screwed up and twisted as these; they just didn't feel the need to tell us with a dramatic monologue (we could see the lies and backstabbing for ourselves).
The narrative jumps between Kate, a self-confessed liar and manipulator with an abusive past, and Olivia, a girl whose mood swings from happy to depressed as she relies on pills to get her through. Kate befriends Olivia to further her own goals, but a wedge is driven between them when Olivia becomes involved with an older man.
Beware That Girl is too contrived and heavy-handed to be a good thriller. Abuse is used as a plot device here and it leaves a bad taste. Almost all the characters are stereotypes, from the empty, shallow rich girls who feed into our expectations of rich girls, to the heavily-accented Russian servant, to the cackling villain who is only a few short steps away from twirling his mustache and going "Muahahaha".
It is also hard to see why the characters behave and think the way they do. The villain is recognizable as a creeper from day one - a school staff member who has his hands all over the teen girls - and yet everyone is obsessed with him anyway.
A man - and I mean a truly male representation of his species - strode in. It had to be him, the brand-new director of advancement. I don’t know how to describe it, but the guy was such a guy. That must be it. He wasn’t like a movie star or anything, not really, but God, he exuded raw masculinity.
The twist at the end will be obvious to most readers. Not only that, but I also thought the climax of the story was melodramatic and silly - perhaps because the lack of character depth throughout made it hard to empathize with Kate and Olivia, therefore turning those final scenes into an empty piece of exaggerated action.
I've been seeing a lot of hype for Bohjalian's new thriller - The Guest Room - and it even made it into Goodr
Everything, it seemed, was unraveling.
I've been seeing a lot of hype for Bohjalian's new thriller - The Guest Room - and it even made it into Goodreads' most read books of the week. The author was unfamiliar to me, but I decided to pick this up because I personally can't resist the call of the latest juicy thriller.
And that's just what this book is. It wouldn't be fair to sell this as something life-changing, or genre-defining; it's just really not that kind of book. What The Guest Room is, however, is a fast-paced, utterly gripping story of family, sex slavery, and the disgusting levels that some people will sink to. I couldn't put it down.
This is the kind of book that opens with thrills and an enticing narrative voice, then continues to pack punch after punch. From gory action, to some well-crafted emotional scenes, it's one of those stories that makes you furious. And fury is my Achilles heel with books. If you can make me angry at the events, and/or the despicable people, then I'm invested until the end.
The story starts with a bachelor party gone horribly wrong. Firstly, the erotic "dancers" quickly turn into something far less legal; a fact which will haunt Richard Chapman and his family for a long time after. But that's not all. Because, in a bizarre twist, the dancers suddenly turn on their bodyguards, racing out of there and leaving two bloody corpses behind.
From then on, the narrative is split between Richard and Alexandra (one of the dancers). Richard's tale is of the aftermath of the party and how his possible infidelity affects his marriage. Richard, his wife, and their daughter must all adjust and try to continue with their lives while the investigation into these "dancers" reveals ever more shocking truths.
Alexandra's perspective tells of her life up until that moment. Young, screwed up and afraid, Alexandra's life story is a horrifying tale of naivete, false hope and lies. It's hard not to get caught up in it.
If you enjoy engrossing, gritty thrillers about some of the most despicable, selfish people (not all of them who you'd expect), then The Guest Room should be a new favourite.
You know, I actually have very little author loyalty. By that I mean I can easily dislike a book by an author I have preTana French is just fantastic.
You know, I actually have very little author loyalty. By that I mean I can easily dislike a book by an author I have previously loved, and vice versa - a second or third chance can lead to a new favourite. But at this point, I feel completely safe going into Tana French's novels. I settle down to read them with such faith in the author because she is so consistently good. For me, I don't have to wonder whether this one will be good, or that one will be good, because the author just is that good.
I loved this book. You may notice that this review is lacking in quotes, but that was another thing I picked up on while reading this: French's fantastic scenes and little pieces of dialogue are all about the context.
A certain line is snort-out-loud funny because you know the characters so well; you can just picture Detective Conway delivering it. Another scene is creepy because French has built the story up to that moment so well. And I can't quote the whole book to you... so I guess you'll just have to read it!
As always, the characterization is absolutely perfect. These characters come to life and they are complex, hilarious, stubborn and so damn likable, even when they shouldn't be. The Trespasser is told from the perspective of Antoinette Conway and anyone who read the last book knew this was going to be freaking awesome. Her narrative voice is bitchy as fuck - goddamn, her sarcasm is biting. I love her.
Her unlikable attributes become likable as French peels back the layers. I think it's great how her books are about the detectives as much - if not more than - the murder mystery. It's extremely compelling to read a thriller where you care so much about the narrator. Conway's hilarious dynamic with Steve Moran is also perfect.
I won't detail the mystery - you can read the blurb if you want and you'll find out soon enough if you read it - but I will say that TF knows exactly how to weave lots of intertwining little mysteries and surprises throughout, so even those readers who work out one reveal will be shocked by others, or at least be shocked by the hows and whys (which are the most interesting mysteries of all, right?)
The question I always get about this series is: "Do I have to read them in order?" You don't, but I think you should. Here's why. The mysteries all stand on their own and you don't need knowledge of the previous books to understand them. However, French introduces each narrator in the previous book. Just gives us a glimpse of them to pique our curiosity, and I think that's important. We see them from the outside, we wonder about them, and then we get their story. I think it works incredibly well. So that's my suggestion.
But if you want to jump straight to this book, you probably won't be disappointed either.
The Trespasser is so well plotted, the characters are memorable, the atmosphere is creepy when it suits, there's a lingering melancholy after the book ends, and I literally laughed out loud several times. What more could I want?
One detail can change an entire story. A necklace. A phone call. The smallest things could mean the difference between a man’s life and death.
One detail can change an entire story. A necklace. A phone call. The smallest things could mean the difference between a man’s life and death.
3 1/2 stars. The Darkest Corners is a slow, mature, character-driven mystery about lies and truths, the media involvement in crimes, and confronting one's past. It doesn't have the usual fast-paced, pulpy style we might expect from YA, but slow start aside, I was glad for it.
And it does start slow. I feel like I should issue a warning about that. I found that it gradually became more thrilling as little pieces of information were revealed, but Thomas spends some time setting the scene and establishing relationship dynamics first. As it turns out, this is not a negative. The complex characters and relationships lend depth to the later story as it unfolds, making this a book about far more than just "whodunnit?"
Tessa has been trying not to think about her past ever since she helped put a serial killer in prison as a child. It's a dark area of her memory that she's afraid to revisit and confront; afraid of what she might find and how much truth was really in her childhood testimony. Now she is forced to go back to the place where it all happened - Fayette, Pennsylvania - and things start to resurface. Things involving Wyatt Stokes, Callie, her family, and herself.
It's a tale full of red herrings, twists and suspense. The kind where it's impossible to know who to trust - even those the narrator loves most:
Yes, I am a liar, but there are a couple of things I feel the need to say about that. One: I come from a family of liars.
There is absolutely no romance, but plenty of girl friendship - the relationship between Tessa and Callie is a fantastic portrayal of two teen girls who've been through hell together. So many layers explored.
I also really liked the working class elements. Many mystery/thrillers stick with upper middle class families and look at the crazy going on behind the white picket fences - and yeah, that's fun too. But it was refreshing to see a thriller focus on characters from disadvantaged backgrounds - their life and family experiences and how this affects their outlook and the options that have been available to them.
There's a running theme of truth and lies in this book, demanding that the reading question the nature of them both and making the conclusion even harder to see coming. An enjoyable, unexpected story for teens and adults alike.
Two pretty girls, an exotic foreign location, mystery as to why I did it, and the potential for revenge and jealousy to be the cause. It didn’t matte
Two pretty girls, an exotic foreign location, mystery as to why I did it, and the potential for revenge and jealousy to be the cause. It didn’t matter what the truth was — what mattered was that it was fun to talk about.
3 1/2 stars. I'm not going to pretend With Malice is perfect or a game-changer. It's nothing but a fast-paced, page-turning YA thriller. But - what can I say - I just had so much fun reading it.
This is a mystery/thriller clearly based on the Amanda Knox trial. Jill Charron wakes up in hospital and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life - a time in which she was involved in an accident that killed her best friend. That by itself would be hard enough to deal with. But now statements are emerging saying that Jill fought with Simone before the accident, that the crash looked deliberate, that their friendship wasn't all it seemed.
Jill can't remember this at all. She remembers a long, loving friendship. Two girls who shared everything. Two girls who would never let a boy come between them. So, how can she explain what people telling her? And there is, of course, the darker question: could she somehow be a murderer?
Anne looked at me as if I were delusional. “It doesn’t matter what’s true — what matters is what people believe.”
With Malice is very much driven by the plot and mystery. It's likely that you will find sympathy for Jill along the way, as she deals with the cruel depictions of the media and her increasingly suspicious parents (truly, the slut-shaming of her was enraging), but this is not the kind of book you remember for the characters. It's the kind of book you remember for the not knowing.
Jill's narrative is split up with interview transcripts, written witness statements, emails and Facebook statuses and comments. I enjoy multi format novels, especially in mystery/thrillers, so this worked well for me. And it showed how the truth could be distorted and differ so greatly among different people.
I foresee comparisons to Dangerous Girls arising, and it's not quite that good. But where DG is about the obsessive nature of teen girl friendships and all the lies, jealousies and manipulations of that world, this book is about the relationship between truth and memory. The flimsy nature of them both. Even when Jill's memories start to return, her doctor reminds her that she could just be remembering events she's been told happened by her parents and the press, making her an unreliable narrator and the truth even further out of reach.
It was exciting, thrilling and extremely enjoyable. I sometimes felt my eyes trying to skip ahead on the page because I couldn't wait to find out what would happen. There are problems with it - as I said, it's not character-driven, and some of the Italian characters/witnesses seem to fall into comical stereotypes - but, overall, it was a whole lot of fun.
"So many things you never think you'll do until you do them.”
4 1/2 stars. I'm just going to say it: Megan Abbott is one of my favourite authors. I'v
"So many things you never think you'll do until you do them.”
4 1/2 stars. I'm just going to say it: Megan Abbott is one of my favourite authors. I've read three of her books and I've loved three of her books. I get it - her writing isn't for everyone; but it's for me. Holy shit, is it for me.
It's hard to explain. Abbott writes about quiet people politics and the small details that all add up to something bigger. Suspense hums beneath the surface, turning the most mundane events into something darker, something more meaningful. She narrates real life and still keeps you on the edge of your seat.
You Will Know Me is a murder mystery, and yet it is mostly about a family that revolves around its anchor - a gymnastics prodigy called Devon. Like all my favourite mystery/thriller writers (Tana French, Gillian Flynn, etc.), Abbott makes her stories about so much more than the mystery. If you guess the truth - as you might here - it doesn't matter. It's about the whys, the hows, the intricate details and characterization. I think the telltale sign of a really good thriller is when the "whodunnit" can be spoiled and the book is still worth reading.
That’s what parenthood was about, wasn’t it? Slowly understanding your child less and less until she wasn’t yours anymore but herself.
The Knox family are at the centre of this tale. There's Katie - a mother overwhelmed by her changing daughter; Eric - a father obsessed with helping his daughter achieve her dreams; Drew - an oft-neglected boy who notices more than anyone realizes; and Devon herself - a teenage girl caught up in the intense, competitive world of elite gymnasts.
Into their world comes a death - a death that could very well be a murder. It shakes their tight-knit community and brings many secrets to the surface. As everything unravels, it becomes clear that the Knox family might not know each other that well at all.
You Will Know Me is an adult book about a murder, but once again Abbott demonstrates where she really shines: in portraying that nasty, psychotic little world of teenage girls. How hard it is, how much it hurts, how cruel they are to one another. It's just real life, after all, but the writing simmers with a barely-suppressed mania.
Low self-esteem, desire, jealousy, sex, confusion... add some top-level ambition to the teenage girl pot and it's easy to see how this normal part of life can turn dark in an instant. Abbott captures it perfectly and convincingly, writing beautiful, simple little moments, filled with meaning:
He’d never woken up, and the only sound now was his breathing, hoarse and ragged. For a second she thought she saw his lashes lift, the white of one eye looking at her, but she was wrong.
It is not what it’s about, but how the story is told. In fact, the more I read, the more I come to think that’s always the case. Writing pretty words into sentences is something that can be learned in a writing class, but being a good storyteller, like natural charisma, is something you simply have a knack for, or you don’t.
I buy violets for Amy. Not roses. Roses are for people who did something wrong. I have done everything right this time around. I’m a good boyfriend.
I buy violets for Amy. Not roses. Roses are for people who did something wrong. I have done everything right this time around. I’m a good boyfriend. I chose well.
And so begins the sequel to Kepnes' beautiful little mindfuck - You. We are taken, once again, inside the mind of Joe Goldberg as he, yet again, pursues his "true love". This time, his adventures take him all the way to Los Angeles.
Hidden Bodies is good, but honestly, Kepnes has lost a little magic here. I think it was always going to be hard. You presented us with a unique kind of narrator - the kind of charming, intelligent, witty sociopath that we all loved to hate. Armed with gorgeous prose and an underlying murderous quality, Joe was something new and surprising.
This book is... more of the same. It's beautifully-written and the writing has a dynamic flow that keeps the pages moving quickly, and yet there's no spark of discovery. Readers will come to this book knowing what to expect from Joe and getting it, which, while sometimes enjoyable, does not add much to the story.
Joe's narrative is as dark and hilarious as before. I especially liked his criticisms of Los Angeles; even though I personally love the city, it's funny to see his perspective as a New Yorker. His observations are witty and oh so true.
But, where the first book was different and shocking, this book was merely "fun". I personally feel You ended in a perfect place to haunt its readers and make them think long after they put the book down. Hidden Bodies attempts to add to a story that didn't really need to be extended - and it shows.
The plot occasionally felt like rambling. Joe was less exciting to read about. So, while an entertaining commentary, this book just wasn't needed.
This book is nuts. Abso-freaking-lutely nuts. And it just kept getting worse. Like, laughably bad.
We didn't start out on the best terms. I've seen varThis book is nuts. Abso-freaking-lutely nuts. And it just kept getting worse. Like, laughably bad.
We didn't start out on the best terms. I've seen variations of these YA crime/mystery stories many times and I've lost count of how many involve a missing/dead best friend, a hot guy who was involved with said best friend (a douche who turns out to be not so much a douche), a mysterious text, and two teens deciding to solve a mystery without telling any parents or police - and, seriously, they never have a good reason for doing this!
In this book, Wylie's friend - Cassie - has gone missing. While her dad goes to help Cassie's mom, Jasper (Cassie's boyfriend) turns up at the door with a strange text from Cassie. They must go driving across state lines to find her! And they must tell no one! OTT, unbelievable thing #1.
Despite suffering from agoraphobia since her mom died, Wylie takes a deep breath, grabs her coat and leaves her house for the first time in forever. As easy as clicking her heels together! OTT, unbelievable thing #2.
Then they set out on this long road trip, which is a) boring, and b) when not boring, absolutely ludicrous. Near-death experiences, chases through the woods, and (view spoiler)[literally everybody is out to get them (hide spoiler)]. OTT, unbelievable thing #3. Plus, I started to hate Wylie for ignoring her poor dad's concerned texts for so long.
Also - are these two TSTL or what? Cassie sends another mysterious text saying the people she's with are “not who I thought they were” and Wylie is worried. Oh, worried are you, Wylie? How's about calling the police instead of tootling along to where your friend is in trouble with an unknown number of people? There could be fifty of them with guns, for all you know. OTT, unbelievable thing #4.
And then we get to the final stretch of the novel, which is so ridiculous it is actually funny. One twist after another after another. But they're not good twists. I promise not to give away any spoilers, but the only way it could be more insane is if Wylie was actually an alien with a mission to destroy earth and she'd been lying to us all this time (I'm only slightly exaggerating).
It's also possible - though still undetermined - that the author may be taking us towards a complete genre change by the end. Who knows, though? It was so messy, I think I might have got lost.
The novel jolts to a close with a melodramatic cliffhanger that made me snort with laughter. Everything about this book is so farfetched to the point of being farcical. I mean, let me just tell you the last word, just the single last word of the book (spoiler-tagged, of course, even though it doesn't give away anything): (view spoiler)[Run.(hide spoiler)]
This book, like many others, is recommended for fans of Gone Girl, but I think if you gave it some different marketing and a younger protagonist, youThis book, like many others, is recommended for fans of Gone Girl, but I think if you gave it some different marketing and a younger protagonist, you could easily slot this in among the YA/NA romances.
If this book hadn't been the only one I was carrying on a flight, I doubt I would have finished it. The sluggish pacing is more suited to quiet family dramas than thrillers, and yet the characters' lack of depth paired with trope after trope make it fail as a worthy contribution to that sub-genre as well. Try A Spool of Blue Thread or Everything I Never Told You, if that's what you're looking for.
Everything about this book is so obvious. I predicted the ending from the moment Mia is kidnapped (yes, another thriller about a missing rich woman) and - to be honest - started to guess it the moment the book was compared to Gone Girl. I also don't know if the Stockholm Syndrome was meant to be surprising, but that too was obvious almost immediately.
I think The Good Girl needed stronger, more nuanced characters to carry its plot. Instead, we have the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy judge (who also happens to be the black sheep of the family), the aforementioned wealthy judge who is defined solely by his cruelty, the judge's unhappy trophy wife, and the detective who is such a cliche detective that it was hard not to imagine him with a funny hat and magnifying glass.
On top of this, the story is so underwhelming and... boring. In this case, because of the changing perspectives, there is very little mystery behind the kidnapping. We know exactly what happened to Mia and, because of the changing "before" and "after" perspectives, we also know that she will be "rescued".
The story is a long, detailed look at how a girl is kidnapped by a guy who is kind to her, looks after her, and tries to protect her. I was hardly hanging on the edge of my seat and wondering what would happen to her. I mean, I saw the Stockholm Syndrome coming from a mile away. No tension, no suspense, no mystery. Just a predictable "twist" flying in at the end.
Also, I can't remember if anyone else has said anything about this, so it might just be me, but some of the emphasis placed on skin colour made me really uncomfortable. The author seems to go out of her way to point out when the white, privileged characters are minorities - usually to indicate that they are in a dangerous, shady place. What's up with all the "black" and "dark" characters being the bad guys?