I've heard of Sandra Brown, but this is the first book by her that I've actually read, recommended to me by someone who said they couldn't put it downI've heard of Sandra Brown, but this is the first book by her that I've actually read, recommended to me by someone who said they couldn't put it down. And it was indeed a gripping read, if a little convenient in parts. Emory is a marathon runner who goes away for the weekend to run by herself in nature. The next thing she knows, she's waking up from a concussion in a stranger's house, and the man won't tell her his name but swears he's only trying to protect her. She can't leave, but as time goes by, she wonders how much is because the man wants to keep her there for his own reasons and how much is truly out of his control. When Emory doesn't return home, her husband reports her missing, and he's immediately the police's number one suspect because no one knows Emory is still alive.
Some of the dialogue in here seemed a little stilted, especially toward the beginning between Emory and her captor. It felt so convenient that he wouldn't tell her his name, that he had his own code, and that the weather just happened to be horrible. But, after that setting was shown and the book shifted to show other perspectives (Emory's husband and the investigation), I was hooked! The action kept moving and the mystery continually shifted so I could never quite guess what would happen next or who was doing things for what reasons. I liked how the book just kept moving forward, making me need to keep reading in order to find out what might be revealed next. The mystery unfolded so well, giving me just enough to want to read on and not so much that I ever felt like I honestly "knew" what might happen next.
There were only two things in here that didn't ring true to me. First, the romance was well written, but it felt unnecessary and also unbelievable because of the condensed timeline. Secondly, one of the reveals about the mystery man was great but I didn't fully buy the explanation because his history and motivations didn't seem to properly match up with his current life and actions. I don't want to say much more because it'd be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, I found him to be an interesting, complex character, but he was written in a more simple, suspicious way at the beginning than I think was needed.
This book definitely reminded me a lot of Gone Girl, although it seemed to rely more heavily on dialogue and the twists weren't nearly as deep. Still, I was quite entertained by this book and couldn't put it down once the mystery truly began. Definitely an engrossing read!...more
4.5 stars. I've read most, if not all, of this author's previous novels and enjoyed them a lot. This was no exception, although it was very different4.5 stars. I've read most, if not all, of this author's previous novels and enjoyed them a lot. This was no exception, although it was very different from her other books! Her other books have all been contemporary novels with humor mixed throughout, while this was a straight thriller. Jill wakes up in a hospital bed, confused about what she's doing there and told she was in a car accident. She has a lot of recovery ahead of her, and Jill asks if she can still go to Italy, a trip she's been planning to take for months. But the trip to Italy already happened, and it's where she was in the car accident. Her best friend, Simone, was in the car with her (a point confusing to Jill, since Simone wasn't supposed to go on the trip) and died. The police suspect it wasn't an accident, but Jill is convinced she'd never hurt Simone - only she can't remember anything about the past six weeks to prove her innocence or understand what actually happened.
This book was fun to read for so many reasons. The writing was engaging, the mystery was strong, and the pacing was perfect. I loved the way the narration went back and forth between Jill struggling to remember anything about Italy with the police investigation and various interviews conducted with witnesses. The actual mystery was captivating in that no one, including Jill, knew what had actually happened, yet everyone was willing to point fingers and cast blame. I also loved the inclusion of an online blog and interviews on various syndicated TV shows, showing how eager everyone was to cast Simone as someone completely angelic and Jill as a heartless killer, despite no one actually knowing what happened. It was a fascinating depiction of how the internet and the media are so quick to judge and the way public opinion is shaped by a few quotes or photos taken out of context. How often does this happen in real life? All the time! This was so well done.
The idea of Jill having lost her memories was convenient for the plot, not so convenient for Jill. It made the story riveting because Jill had no idea what had actually happened, leaving the reader to try and fill in the blanks based on what was said in the media and police reports (not all of it credible) and not let outside suggestions create false memories. The entire book, I could never be sure what was actually true and what was exaggerated or made up because Jill didn't know either - and, as her therapist noted, just because Jill thought she remembered something didn't mean it'd actually happened, just that her mind was trying to fill in the blanks.
The ending of this was excellent, tying it up just enough for me to be satisfied while still leaving loose ends. I wish I could have seen what happened after this book ended, since I feel like that'd be an interesting journey too, but it did wrap up in a good spot. Definitely a great book, and one that I couldn't put down while reading; when I did have to put it down, I couldn't stop thinking about it! Not necessarily the scariest thriller around but definitely a fascinating one. ...more
I'm not sure what to make of this book, as some parts were quite fascinating and others felt flat. This book covers a part of Rio de Janeiro that so mI'm not sure what to make of this book, as some parts were quite fascinating and others felt flat. This book covers a part of Rio de Janeiro that so many people have seen, whether in person or in photos: the favelas, the slums of Rio, easily recognizable as small colorful dwellings built on top of one another up the mountains. Rocinha, the largest of Rio's favelas, was under the control of one don after another until the subject of this book, Nem, took over. The author chronicles Nem's rise to authority in Rocinha and how his reign over the favela fared until he became the most wanted man in Rio, culminating in his arrest.
Although Nem was apparently once Rio's most wanted criminal and well known within the city, his name is not one widely known elsewhere, so I began this book without any real knowledge of what would be covered. I think this is the book's main weakness: while the book definitely contained an interesting history of how favelas came to be and Nem's rise to power, it failed to impress upon me why this story needed to be told. Additionally, with Nem currently in prison and many details of his arrest, and his ultimate fate, still unknown, this didn't feel as "complete" as it could have, had the book been written years from now. The author interviewed Nem multiple times as part of his research, and it also felt like he often sympathized with him instead of staying completely neutral - something I realize can be difficult to do when getting to know subjects. Yet the slant toward Nem being, yes, a criminal, but also someone almost "forced" into that life and one who was bad at times only for the greater good made the narrative seem more one-sided than it should have.
The best parts of this book, for me, were the parts that explained the history of the favelas and how they came to be, as well as day-to-day life there. These parts comprised quite a bit of the book, which I appreciated, since it really gave a good foundation for the bigger story; on the other hand, it often felt like the history of the favelas was the real story in here, with the narrative about Nem included only to provide a more "explosive" story. The two storylines - the favelas and Nem's life - intertwined, of course, but I felt like both could have been greatly expanded on. Nem's personal life, for example, was briefly touched upon here and there, his violent tendencies mentioned, but his personal life seemed glossed over a little too much for this to be a definitive account of him. Again, I felt like the author sympathized too much with Nem to portray him fairly - perhaps subconsciously, since there were passages that tried to balance out this slant. Perhaps part of this also stems from the fact that most of the people in these pages are still alive and clarity in hindsight has not yet been achieved.
This was a pretty easy read and nicely researched, although the narrative did jump around between people, places, and dates. I had a hard time keeping track of all the players in here and when/how everything unfolded. Some reviews for this book said it read like a thriller, a statement I don't agree with. This was interesting overall, but I never came to a part where I felt like I couldn't put it down because it was so riveting or tense. I did find many of the details fascinating, however, including how the police interacted with favelas and how some of the major players affected Rocinha's pacification and Nem's fate. It's so interesting to see other countries' strengths and weaknesses in dealing with internal problems.
I think this book would definitely be of the most interest to people with a knowledge or familiarity with Rio's favelas and its criminals. However, I would caution to recommend this simply because of how sympathetic it is to Nem, glossing over serious concerns and accusations and providing an inexplicably positive portrayal of a known drug lord and criminal. To be sure, this book was interesting to read and I definitely learned a lot. The underlying problem is that I think the book was written too soon; in another decades or two, when more is known and events/people can be examined through the lens of history, this would have a lot more depth and balance....more
This is the first time I've read anything by Connie Willis, courtesy of my book club's pick for the month, although I'd heard good things about her wrThis is the first time I've read anything by Connie Willis, courtesy of my book club's pick for the month, although I'd heard good things about her writing, making me quite intrigued. I'm not sure how well you can judge an author overall by a short story collection, but despite all the short stories in here being Hugo or Nebula award winners (some both), they were kinda hit and miss for me. Some I really enjoyed, while others fell flat.
A Letter from the Clearys
This story started off the collection on a weak note and really didn't make me all that excited to read on. It was written rather simply, probably due to the narrator still being a child, and instead of feeling intrigued by what was going on and why, I was rather uninterested. The story seemed to lack tension, and even when the narrator kept announcing she'd picked up a letter from the Clearys at the Post Office, I didn't ultimately care about what the letter said or why it was such a big deal.
At the Rialto
The second story in here was much stronger and quite different from the first. In it, the narrator goes to Los Angeles for a science conference and ends up dealing with all sorts of scatterbrained locals who are all aspiring actresses/models/whatever. I liked the zaniness of the story and how the author took stereotypes of people in L.A. and turned them into funny characters and completely bizarre situations. The only thing I didn't get about this story were the various science-oriented quotes sprinkled in throughout... maybe I missed something, but it was still entertaining to read.
Death on the Nile
Another engaging story. A woman heads to Egypt with her husband and two other couples and the entire journey there, and their journey once they land, is just off. I read it, unsure how things were unfolding the way they did (they leave their luggage at the airport to go see the pyramids and decide they'll return later to pick it up!). The entire story, I couldn't figure out what was really going on, and the ending wrapped it all up so perfectly. Disarming and thought-provoking, plus incredibly timely.
The Soul Selects Her Own Society
Probably my least favorite story of the entire collection. I couldn't get into this story at all. It's written in the form of someone's dissertation, explaining how Emily Dickinson was actually involved with an alien invasion. I didn't like the way the story was framed (although I do think it's clever for the author to have tried framing this as a scholarly paper) and I couldn't get into the story. My eyes kept glazing over, and I don't even remember all the details.
An interesting story, although I don't think I understood the full thing. In it, a man is sent back in time to St. Paul's Cathedral during the London Blitz, keeping a fire watch there. There was some backstory to what was really going on, sprinkled throughout the story, but I felt like it wasn't developed quite enough for me to fully enjoy it overall. I liked this one but didn't love it. Perhaps this could have been stronger as a full-length novel.
My favorite of the collection! The narrator works at a skeptic's magazine, dedicating his time to debunking psychics, channelers, and others. His employee suggests they check out a new channeler, whose show starts off with the usual theatrics and then suddenly a new being is channeled mid-show, someone who's skeptical of the entire channeler community and is insulting the audience. The narrator can't figure out the channeler's end game - trying to get him to endorse the channeler as legitimate? This story was clever, entertaining, and perfectly wrapped up. This was also one of the longer stories of the collection, which was great because I wanted to stay in the story for a long while!
Even the Queen
A weird but ultimately enjoyable story about a future when women are different from today and the narrator's daughter decides to join a cult called the Cyclists. This was a little odd, but the story ended up being entertaining and thoughtful, with questions of how feminism and patriarchy are compatible and what makes a woman herself. Strange but clever.
The Winds of the Marble Arch
Set in London, where a couple has gone for a conference, the wife refuses to ride the subway while the husband takes it all around town, feeling weird winds at certain stops that no one else seems to notice. The interactions between the main couple felt kind of stilted, especially at the beginning, but the story was interesting. Not my favorite but not bad.
All Seated on the Ground
A clever story about an alien invasion, where the aliens don't seem to be intent on attacking humans or communicating with them but are simply here, not doing anything - until the one day when they suddenly sit down. The narrator then tries to figure out what they respond to and why they obey certain commands (such as the command to sit). I liked both the characters and the storyline. It was different from other "alien invasion" stories out there and fun.
The Last of the Winnebagos
Kind of a weird story to end the collection. Another story set in the future, where most RVs and dogs are gone and there's only one Winnebago left. The narrator is a reporter sent to cover an event where a couple shows off the last Winnebago in existence. On the way there, the narrator sees a jackal that'd been hit by a car, which brings back memories of times when dogs still existed. I'm not sure what to make of this story. It wasn't enjoyable per se, but it wasn't bad. I think this is something that might have been better had more been fleshed out, but perhaps it just isn't a setting that I particularly care to read....more