Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #42 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I was late to the whole Gone Girl thing. It was one of those books that everyone was reading, which makes me not want to read a book ever. I caved on this one, because everyone was raving about it, and I was curious.

I’m still not sure about whether I liked this book or not. It was certainly a page-turner, very compelling, interesting, and not like anything else I’ve ever read. The problem was (and I’ve heard this about Flynn’s other books as well) that every single person in the book is a total dick. Most people read to get away from shitty people (at least the shitty people we deal with on a daily basis), and the last thing we want to encounter in our leisure hours is a psychopath and her narcissist husband.

Anyway, if you haven’t read this book, stop now & go get it. Also, there may be some spoilers ahead. So – Amy and Nick Dunne. The book is told from both of their points of view – although both narrators are full of themselves, and full of shit. Nick leaves stuff out because he’s non-confrontational and wants everyone to like him. Amy just makes stuff up – I mean, literally. The entire first third of the book is a phenomenal set up – but who’s being set up? Nick? The reader? Everyone? Amy has disappeared on her 5th wedding anniversary, after being dragged from New York to the midwest. Nick thinks Amy has been isolated, and hates everyone and everything. Meanwhile, Amy has been cultivating a different image, outside of Nick’s knowledge. Not that Nick has been paying attention.

There is too much to deal with in this book (definite spoilers ahead – danger to all who have not read this book) – like I said, the first third is a set up. We hear what’s happening to Nick in real time, and hear from Amy in retrospect through her “diary.” So she disappears under mysterious circumstances. Initially people sympathize with Nick, but as we all know – the husband is always the first suspect. It doesn’t help that circumstances conspire to make Nick look as awful as possible. As the investigation progresses, Nick looks worse and worse.

Then we hit the middle third of the book – where we find out what’s really going on. Nick’s still pretty much a douche, but now we meet the real Amy. And hoo boy, is she a piece of work. She hasn’t been murdered, clearly, because now she’s with us. Not only is she alive, but she has orchestrated the whole freaking thing, because Nick has disappointed her. We learn that she has a nasty habit of destroying people who have disappointed her. Amy is awful. She’s evil. She has lied to everyone about everything. One can only hope that what we’re hearing from Amy here is the truth. Not that we want her to be that way, but we do need a reason. The big question is “why is she that way?” Did her parents make her like this – because of the series of “Amazing Amy” books? Or was she just born awful?

The end of the middle, and the final third of the book is full of manipulation. Is Nick manipulating Amy, or vice versa? Or both? The two of them end up playing each other to the point where I had no clue who had the upper hand. The end of the book has caused a lot of consternation, and for good reason. But the buildup to the end makes me think that while Amy has the last word in the book, I don’t believe she had the last word for real. I have partially written the epilogue – at least the epilogue that suits me. The one where the good guys win. Or at least the less bad guys.

One thing that weirded me out is that after all the darkness and borderline evil of the book, the author’s notes and dedications part reads like a high school yearbook. It was odd and strange, and didn’t feel like it meshed with the rest of the book. I still have to recommend this book, because it’s incredibly well-written and because it’s well outside the norm. You may not like anyone involved, but the story is compelling enough to make up for its characters’ flaws.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #41 – Pride & Prejudice & Zombies – Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

I’m not sure if P&P&Z was intended to be a trilogy, or if there are any more books forthcoming, but I certainly wouldn’t protest if there were more in the pipeline. The further adventures of Lizzy and Darcy, along with the rest of the Bennett gang and the nasty Lady Catherine de Bourgh are always entertaining, at least when a plague of the undead is involved.

Here, we pick up four years or so after the events of P&P&Z, with Lizzie and Darcy having some marital issues. Lizzie hasn’t been able to work as a zombie slaying warrior woman since they were married, because that’s not what respectable married ladies do. Jane & Bingley keep having kids, whilst the Darcys haven’t been able to – although given Lizzie’s thoughts on the subject, maybe she’s just been able to shut the whole thing down. Darcy gets bitten by a zombie kid, and is infected with the dreadful disease. Lizzie has nowhere to turn for help, except to the one person she doesn’t want to turn to: Lady Catherine. But she loves Darcy too much to just behead him and have done with it, so she makes a deal with the devil and off Darcy goes to Rosings Park.

Lady Catherine has a mission for Lizzie, as well as Mr. Bennett and Kitty, in London. Mary gets wind of it, and heads there on her own. The doctor who runs Bedlam Hospital may have a cure for the dreadful zed disease, and Lizzie is supposed to get it for Darcy. London has been divided into sectors, some of which are reasonably safe, and some of which are hells on earth. Lizzie and family are undercover as nouveau riche, and fall in with an interesting crowd.

The usual story happens from there, with the wit and subversion that one expects from the Quirk Classics. Anyway, at the end, most of the bad people are dead in some way, and Lizzie and Darcy are back together again, and killing all the zombies they can manage. Kitty finally gets some respect, and even Mary gets kind of what she wants.

Every time I read one of these books, I end up kicking myself for not thinking of it first. The idea was brilliant, and the execution of the series lived up to the promise of the premise. Guess it’s on to Sense & Sensibility and Sea Monsters after this.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #40 – The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket

Almost there. . . . Book 11 of 13 finds the Baudelaires in peril once again. Of course. They literally bump into a home-made submarine, driven by Captain Widdershins. I had to look that one up, because the term sounded familiar. I was right – it means to go counterclockwise, or against the sun. In olden times it was a bad thing to walk widdershins around a church or in other places. To do so could land one in faerie, or even worse. Foreshadowing, or just goofing around? Good question. The Captain is kind of a jerk, who says “aye” all too often and whose motto is “he (or she) who hesitates is lost.”

Also aboard is a guy the kids knew at the lumbermill they worked at in one of the earlier books. He’s the ship’s cook. The Captain’s stepdaughter Fiona is there too, and she and Klaus take a shine to one another. The sub (the Queequeg – named after the Moby Dick harpoon guy) is looking for a sugar bowl that is an object of much desire and pursuit, by the good and the bad guys. They end up following the currents to an underground cave, to Gorgonion Grotto – named after the Gorgons of Greek mythology. Why? Well, there are some mushrooms growing there that are very Medusa-like in appearance and deadliness.

The kids hit the grotto to try to find the sugar bowl, encounter the ‘shrooms, and bad things happen. As ever. This isn’t the series of fortunate events. Anyway, the usual baddies make their appearance, and some unknown family ties are revealed. The book is exactly the same as all the others, with slight variations on the peril. It’s still an entertaining read, but I need to take a break before I tackle the last two.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #39 – Pride & Prejudice & Zombies – Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

I really enjoyed P&P&Z, and was pleased to find that there were more (yes, I’m way behind on this stuff, but I’m trying to catch up, give an old lady a break). Dawn of the Dreadfuls is the prequel, telling us all about how the Bennett girls became the fierce warriors that they are in between the lines in Austen’s novel. We learn a bit about what went before, and how Mr. Bennett was involved in the initial zombie wars.

There has been a period of peace and rest, and England has returned to normal. They’ve even stopped beheading all of the dead – which was a bad move. No one knows how the strange plague has returned, but it has. Lizzie and the gang first experience this at the funeral of a local man, who sits up in the middle of the ceremony. His wife thinks that he was declared dead prematurely, but Mr. Bennett knows what’s up. He deals with this one, and realizes that soon enough the rest of the dead will be rising. He sends word to everyone who needs to know, including his old master as well as the army.

The army sends a rag-tag group of novices, led by an armless, legless Captain Cannon. He lost his limbs to zombie injuries in the war, and somehow lost his heart to Prudence (who became Mrs. Bennett). Master Liu sends Geoffrey Hawksworth to train the Bennett girls. Geoff takes a fancy to Lizzie, and vice versa. He’s a great teacher, but his battle skills haven’t been tested.

The smashing finale is at a ball at Netherfield, its owner prior to Mr. Bingley still in residence. Lord Lumpley has earned his name, and then some. He also earned his end, so to speak. All the townspeople are holed up in the big house, which is surrounded by zombies. No big spoilers to say that the Bennett family lives through it, otherwise there wouldn’t be any more books.

Like P&P&Z, Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a fun read. Maybe Austen purists are bothered by it, but as a huge Austenite, I really enjoy the off-shoots. At least the well-written ones.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #38 – The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket

Ah, the tenth in the Series of Unfortunate Events. We’re nearing the end. Each book has 13 chapters, and there are 13 books in the series. However, we’re still dealing with the mess that is the lives of the Baudelaire siblings. The worst thing possible has just happened to them at the end of The Carnivorous Carnival: Violet and Klaus are rolling back downhill in a caravan, whilst Olaf and his gang continue to drive uphill with Sunny. The poor baby. Happily, Sunny is a pretty clever and resourceful baby, but she’s still forced to deal with the awful group, and sleep in a casserole dish.

Meanwhile, Violet and Klaus try to get up the hill to rescue their sister. They meet someone they believed was dead (not one of their parents, but I won’t spoil anything just in case), and come upon the burned-out remains of the VFD headquarters. They get some information in the ruins, and continue up the mountain to save Sunny. They all use their talents to achieve things, with Violet inventing, Klaus reading, and Sunny biting stuff and saying funny words. She also cooks for the baddies, and finds she has a facility for it. Oh, and they run into their old nemesis from the Austere Academy, that nasty chick who calls everyone cakesniffers (whatever that means. I personally love to smell cake, so I’m not sure what her problem is).

The kids end up together, and (thanks to Sunny’s suggestion of “Rosebud”) they use a toboggan to escape from the nasties. As they’re riding the sled down a thawing waterfall, they lose their friend – I wonder if they’ll find him again?!

The stories are fun to read, but I’m wondering if the choice to read them back to back (to back to back . . .) was wise. I’m getting a bit burned out on them, if you haven’t noticed. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – I only hope that it’s not a train coming for the Baudelaires.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #37 – The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket

The Baudelaires escaped the Hostile Hospital (which was kind of in the middle of nowhere) in the trunk of Count Olaf’s car (bold move). As Olaf and his troupe of baddies drive into the hinterlands to meet with a psychic that’s been feeding Olaf information about the Baudelaires. When they arrive, the kids need to figure out how to either escape (impossible, they’re in the middle of nowhere) or blend in. But how to blend?

Luckily enough, the carnival also has a freak show. So the kids disguise themselves (no better than Olaf ever did, but in these books people aren’t especially bright) as freaks: Sunny wears a long beard wrapped all around herself and becomes Chabo the Wolf Baby; Violet & Klaus share one shirt and become Beverly and Eliot, the two-headed freak. So they get taken on as part of the freak show, and bond with the freaks. They also get to know the psychic, who isn’t all that she seems. Of course Olaf does what he does, and bad things happen.

I apologize if my reviews all sound very similar regarding these books, but if you’ve read them, you know that they are pretty similar, aside from the various types of peril the kids are in. I honestly have no idea how the series ends, but I do sincerely hope that the kids get some kind of resolution.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #36 – The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket

The eighth installment in the Series of Unfortunate Events picks up right where #7 (The Vile Village) left off. The kids are on the run from the nuts from the Village of Fowl Devotees, in a desolate wasteland. They happen upon a store, and try to contact Mr. Poe. The events of the previous few books have been reported in The Daily Punctilio, the newspaper in this world that always gets everything wrong. Unfortunately, there are pictures of the Baudelaires, so they’re definitely in danger of being caught. In fact, the first time this happens is at the store, but they escape by getting a ride with the “Volunteers Fighting Disease” – yet another V.F.D.

This VFD is heading to a hospital to sing stupid songs and hand sick people balloons, because apparently that’s better than medicine. Anyway, the kids end up working in the records room (or library, as it’s called, so Klaus has a purpose). They play a dirty trick on the mostly blind library guy, so they can get a look at the Snicket file, which supposedly contains information about their parents’ death (and if someone survived the fire).

Of course that nasty Count Olaf shows up in “disguise,” along with his nasty girlfriend Esme Squalor. They chase the kids down, and this time it’s Violet in peril. The younger Baudelaires come to her rescue, to a point, and the kids once again make it out alive. Alive, but not necessarily happy.

Again, one of the funner things about these books is to pick out the cultural references and Sunny-isms. Sometimes I have to look them up, but that’s part of the fun as well. I’m only slightly embarrassed by reading these books as an adult, but my excuse is that they didn’t come out until I was an adult, so it’s not like I had a choice.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review # 35 – The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket

The seventh book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events starts with the Baudelaire kids being sent out into the wicked world again by the useless Mr. Poe. He’s a big believer in the “it takes a village to raise a child” concept, so off they go to the village of V.F.D. As you know, the kids received a clue from the Quagmire triplets (both of them) regarding V.F.D. and the death of everyone’s parents.

The village is filled with jerky, selfish idiots who follow a goofy rule book. Oh, and they also worship (sort of) the crows that blanket half of the village every day. The crows roost in the Nevermore tree at night. The tree is in the yard of the only slightly sane person, Hector the handyman. The kids are placed with him so they can do everyone’s chores. The Baudelaires find a clue that could only have come from the Quagmires, so they begin investigating, knowing that if the Quagmires are nearby they could only have been put there by the evil Count Olaf.

Of course Count Olaf is there in disguise, and makes life miserable for the Baudelaires. They end up in jail, falsely accused of the murder of Jacques Snicket (!). Of course Violet invents a way out, Klaus reads a bunch of books that help, and Sunny bites stuff. She also says odd things, and one of the fun bits of the books is trying to figure out where Sunny’s words come from.

Bad things happen, some good things happen, but at the end the Baudelaires end up alone and in trouble, and parentless. Again.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #34 – Cover Her Face by P.D. James

Cover Her Face was P.D. James’ first Adam Dalgliesh mystery novel. Dalgliesh is called to a country house to investigate the death of the family’s newest maid, Sally. Sally has recently graduated from a home for unwed mothers, so she also comes with an infant boy.

The Maxie family is led by mom Eleanor, dad is terminally ill and bedridden. Deborah, the divorced daughter, lives at home, and son Stephen is a doctor in London who comes down at weekends. The family maid, Martha, takes care of everyone, and does not like Sally at all. Also visiting is Catherine Bowers, a family friend who is in love with Stephen. So there you have most of the suspects. There are a couple of others, because that’s mandatory.

Stephen asks Sally to marry him, which she announces to the family one night after the church fete that was held on the house’s grounds. No one is pleased, of course. The next morning, Sally is dead – behind her locked bedroom door. Oh yes, a locked-room mystery. Sally was drugged and strangled, and everyone is a suspect.

Dalgliesh interviews everyone, pokes around Sally’s past life before she went to the unwed mothers’ home, and uncovers whodunnit. The story kept me guessing for a while, but there were a few tells about the culprit that (once I knew who really did it) stood out.

I’m a P.D. James fan, so of course I enjoyed this book. She definitely has a formula, but that doesn’t mean that her stories are predictable. James’ mysteries are always a fun read.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #33 – Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Oh, I love Agatha Christie. Her stories are so fun, even if the mysteries are usually easy to solve. Five Little Pigs is one of the Hercule Poirot mysteries; he flies solo on this one. The book was originally called Murder in Retrospect, not sure why it was changed, but it also makes sense.

Amyas Crale was murdered, and his wife Caroline was executed for the crime. Sixteen years later, their daughter returns to England (after being raised in Canada) to try to clear her mother’s name. Her mom wrote a letter just before her execution saying that she didn’t do it. However, she raised almost no defense at her trial, and everyone figures she did that, because she did it.

The daughter enlists Poirot to re-investigate the crime, so he goes back to scene of the crime and speaks to everyone who was involved. Our Five Piggies are: Phillip Blake, a stockbroker (“went to market”); Meredith Blake, Philip’s brother, a reclusive former amateur herbalist (“stayed at home”); Lady Dittisham (nee Elsa Greer), Amyas’s lover (“had roast beef”); Cecilia Williams, the governess to the Crale’s child (“had none”); and Angela Warren, an archaeologist and Caroline’s sister (“cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home”). Each had motive, means and opportunity. But so did Caroline.

Poirot interviews everyone, and has each write out their memories of the events leading up to the murder. He also talks to the police and lawyers involved in the case, and in the end, he figures it out, and does the whole “gather everyone together & reveal the real killer” bit. For me, that never gets old. Highly enjoyable, like all of Christie’s books.