Kira’s #CBR5 “Review” #41: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

sharp-objects-book-coverPeople who have read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl tend to have opinions about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. And I mean OPINIONS. Loved the first half, hated the second. Loved her, hated him. Can’t believe they cast Ben Affleck in the movie. And so on.

Personally, I was a fan. Flynn’s approach to the mystery genre was weird and interesting and unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable. I can get down with that. Which is why I’d been looking forward to reading her first novel, Sharp Objects.

Sharp Objects homes in on the same creepy vibe as Gone Girl, centered on characters who seem just a touch shy of believable, but interesting all the same. The novel focuses on bottom-tier Chicago reporter Camille Preaker, who is assigned to write about a series of murders in her small hometown. Spending time at home is trouble for Camille, who must face her passive-aggressive hypochondriac mother, her 13-year-old half sister (think Regina George meets Satan) and a slew of other characters from her not-so-great childhood. Truth be told, Camille is perhaps not entirely in her right mind, having recently spent some time in a mental institution.

[FULL REVIEW]

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Arya of Winterfell’s #CBRV Review #11: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girlOthers have apparently been brief in their reviews of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl”.  On the cover: “Thought-provoking.  Entertaining.  Chilling.”  Agreed, on all three counts.  This is the kind of book you’ve thanked the original friend recommending it profusely and who you’ve recommended to your mom, husband, bff, co-worker, random grocery store clerk, and library check-out girl.  I can’t trust myself to say much about “Gone Girl” without divulging spoilers.  Even uttering the title feels like I’ve said too much; see, there I go, hinting at spoilers.  “Gone Girl” is a mystery, a good one.  Enough said.

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.

ElCicco #CBR5 Review #25: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

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The Other Typist is a fascinating new novel that fans of The Great Gatsby, Gone Girl and The Dinner will want to read.  The action takes place in 1925 New York, in a Lower East Side precinct where Rose Baker works as a typist. She and several other women have this new kind of work, taking confessions in shorthand and then transcribing them for the records. Rose is the fastest typist and a straight-laced, no-nonsense kind of girl in her early 20s. Having grown up in an orphanage, Rose has no family or friends to speak of and spends a lot of time in her own head. She greatly admires the old-fashioned, paternalistic sergeant whom she works alongside and places him on a pedestal. She is not overly friendly or familiar with her fellow typists and is especially cold toward the young lieutenant detective, who frequently tries to engage Rose in light conversation. Her life changes dramatically once the new typist arrives. Odalie stands out for her new fashion and fine jewelry, and later for her fashionably bobbed hair. She is a self-possessed, modern woman who is also blessed with beauty and charisma. She seems to mesmerize everyone around her. Rose is initially wary (and judgmental) of her, but they become friends and eventually roommates. Odalie introduces Rose to the modern world but something seems amiss. How does Odalie afford her apartment, clothes and decadent lifestyle? What is the truth about her past?

Rose serves as narrator and the question you ask throughout the narrative is do you trust her? Rose reminds me of the narrator in The Dinner. They both are narcissistic, condescending to those around them (who never seem to measure up to their standards), proudly holding ideas that are no longer popular, not seeing how they appear to others, assigning selfish and hostile motives to others. I found myself constantly wondering whether to believe her assessments of people and situations, whether any feelings of sympathy were misplaced. Is she mentally unstable? Is she an innocent victim of others who take advantage of her naivety? As the story unfolds, we see that Rose is telling her story in retrospect, as part of a therapy for her doctor, but where she is and why she is there is a mystery until the end.

First time author Rindell does a wonderful job of setting her story in historical context. She provides details of crime in 1920s — bootlegging, murder, the growing need for professionals to handle it, and the possibilities for corruption in the system. And there are plenty of details showing a changing society — young women becoming more independent but still vulnerable in so many ways, new fashions and opportunities to spend wealth. The Other Typist is an engrossing tale with a terrific ending. A good choice for those who are drawn to psychological thrillers.

Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #21: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlNick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne are a couple in their thirties. Nick was raised in a small town in Missouri and Amy was raised in New York, a cherished only child. The couple had moved from New York City back to Nick’s hometown two years before when both of them lost their jobs and Nick’s mom got sick. The book starts out the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy suddenly and mysteriously disappears. The book switches perspective between Nick during the present and Amy in the past through diary entries.

This book was better than I was expecting. The writing was incredibly good, combining the suspense of a missing person’s case, the emotional roller coaster of the collapse of a marriage, and the in-depth psychology of all of the characters. I stopped reading it one night because I had to finish some stuff up for work. But after about an hour, I just picked it back up again. I couldn’t let it go. Before I read Gone Girl, I wasn’t planning on reading any more of Flynn once I got through what I considered to be her most “famous” novel, but now I think I’ll end up reading all of her books.

Click here to read my review in full.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #31: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

8442457Gonna keep this short, since everybody and their mother’s first cousin twice removed has already reviewed this (and also because if I say too much, I’d be spoiling it, and this is a book whose enjoyment is predicated on not knowing what’s coming). I waited on my library’s hold list for almost six months for this book, and I have to say, I’m kind of disappointed.

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears, leaving her husband Nick the prime suspect in her disappearance, soon to be considered murder. But that’s only the tip of the super fucked up iceberg. The story is told through the POVs of Nick and Amy, both in the present and in flashbacks, and both of them are highly unreliable narrators (understatement of the year). It’s a mystery of many layers. As the characters try to figure out what’s happened to Amy, we as readers have to also determine what (if anything) we can trust as correct info from Nick and Amy, or if there might be something missing from the narrative.

Honestly, in terms of technical achievement, this book probably deserves five stars. At the very least, four. Gillian Flynn’s brain is ridiculous. The way she structures her sentences, with cutting precision. The intricate plotting. The dense psychological character work. How both of those last two things dance around one another in ways both unexpected, yet strangely obvious after the fact (because it was the only way things could go, really). It’s kind of a masterpiece.

However — and this is a big however — it also made me want to stab myself in the eyeball from despair over how despicable the human race is. There’s nobody to root for here. So even if I might even say that this book has a perfect ending, an incredibly satisfying piece of closure to a wonderfully crafted book, I can also simultaneously say that it’s not really for me. I’m feeling a lot more generous with it right now than I did at the time, enough maybe even to up it to four stars, but I’m leaving it at three for now because I remember how awful I felt after finishing it.

If you understand this reference, we should probably be best friends.

ElCicco #CBR5 Review#10: Schroder by Amity Gaige

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In the vein of Gone Girl and The Dinner, we have yet another novel with a narrator whose reliability is questionable. In Schroder, it’s not so much that the narrator is knowingly deceptive to the reader. It’s that most of the narrator’s life has been a lie, and as a result, the reader might be dubious about his reliability in explaining himself and the accusations against him. Erik’s is the only point of view presented here and while it might be tempting to peg him as a selfish, thoughtless scoundrel, the letter that he writes to his wife reveals a more complex, flawed person.

The conceit is that Erik Kennedy is writing to his estranged wife to explain himself. He has kidnapped their daughter and been exposed as a fraud. He is not a Kennedy at all but a German emigre named Erik Schroder who fled East Berlin with his father in his childhood and then moved to Boston. Young Erik, in applying to summer camp, created a new persona for himself and then completely assimilated it. Things unravel after Erik marries and his marriage falls apart for reasons that he does not understand.

Erik is a translator/scholar whose personal research deals with silences. This makes perfect sense for someone who comes from life under an authoritarian regime and who then must hide his personal truth in order to maintain his preferred fictional life. Erik has no strong sense of self though, no context to share with others such as his wife and child. His desire to assimilate makes Erik too willing to change his identity. He writes that when he met his wife and fell in love, “How quickly I dropped all other commitments, all other friendships, clubs, and interests.” He also eventually put aside his research to work in real estate for his father-in-law.

Most of the narrative follows the week that Erik and daughter Meadow are on the run and the things they did — driving to upstate New York, swimming, eating junk food, taking up with another drifter named April. Erik seems to be slowly working toward his past and is perhaps going to share it with his 6-year-old daughter when present day reality starts to catch up to the pair. Erik seems to understand that he will eventually get caught, but he doesn’t understand what the ultimate repercussions will be. “Maybe this was just the imprinting of my childhood’s apparat, but it seemed to me that if you scratched anybody deep enough, you’d reveal some criminality…. And so I had believed — right up to the moment when I saw myself on TV — that I had not ‘kidnapped’ Meadow but that I was merely very, very late to return her from an agreed-upon visit.”

Erik comes across as a sympathetic and exasperating character. He doesn’t make his wife out to be a bad guy and clearly deeply loves both her and Meadow. He simply doesn’t understand why things have turned out so badly, why his perfect life is falling apart. He doesn’t understand his own role in it but sees that he is losing them all. Gaige mixes revelations about Erik’s past in with the present-day story, which makes Erik’s story sadder but certainly not excusable. All in all, an interesting story about memory, identity and sins of omission.