ABR’s #CBR5 Review #20: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

dark-placesOn its own, Dark Places is probably a very good book. But if you have read Gillian Flynn’s other novels, Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, Dark Places will seem familiar, derivative.

Dark Places may not be the page turner that Gone Girl was, but I still really like the way Flynn composes her novels. Her back-and-forth style not only creates suspense and tension, it gives the characters a chance to tell the story. You hear events from one character, and in the next chapter, another character corrects the errors, fills in the blanks, expands the story. I also think she is a uniquely descriptive writer.

That said, there is certainly a recipe to the success of her novels. Start with a troubled girl. Throw in a tragic past. Give her an addiction or vice. Make her family dysfunctional. Add a colleague who may turn into a love interest. Include one or two truly terrifying women. Turn the female protagonist into an amateur detective. End on a slightly optimistic note that still makes you feel dirty.

Libby Day is the troubled girl in Dark Places. In her tragic past her sisters and mother were killed, and when the signs and the townspeople pointed to Libby’s brother, she claimed he killed them. Libby’s vice is that she has lived off insurance money for 25 years. She doesn’t want to hold a job, have friends, clean herself or her apartment. And yes, she drinks and steals. Her possible love interest is Lyle, a member of the local Kill Club, a strange organization that is fascinated by murders and believes her brother is innocent. Libby herself is a pathetic character, but the doozy in this novel is Diondra, a sexually precocious 15-year-old addict, alcoholic, abuser, Satan worshipper. She’s a peach.

When Libby’s insurance money starts to run out, she teams up with Lyle and the Kill Club, who pay her to reconnect with her father and incarcerated brother, and sell mementos from her dead family. It’s no surprise that she begins to question her brother’s conviction and doubt her memories.

I would like to say that this book also ends more hopefully than it begins. But in the end Libby’s family is still dead (that isn’t a spoiler) and now you have the Diondra character in your head.

 

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ElCicco #CBR5 Review #51: The Night Guest: A Novel by Fiona McFarlane

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The Night Guest is one of those mysterious, sly novels that throws you off balance and causes you to second guess the author all the way through. You know from the first pages that our main character Ruth is someone out of the ordinary. As we learn more about her, it becomes less clear what is real and what is fantasy.

Ruth is a 75-year-old widow, mother of two grown sons, living alone at a beachside house in Australia. When we first meet her, she has been awakened by a sound in the house which she is certain is a tiger. The next morning, a government carer named Frida Young unexpectedly arrives on Ruth’s doorstep to help her for a few hours each day. While Ruth is willing to accept Frida’s help, and her sons are pleased that someone is looking after mum since they are too far away and too busy to check in on her, there is something a bit off, perhaps even sinister about Frida. Ruth experiences occasional qualms over her presence, but what we learn throughout the novel is that Ruth is experiencing the onset of dementia. How much of her concern is genuine and how much is a figment of her imagination? And what about that tiger? It seems easy enough to write that off as a bad dream or a sign of dementia, but what if it’s something real?

The Night Guest is, on one hand, a story about growing old, losing your faculties and independence, and needing to rely on strangers for help. It was especially poignant for me because we, like many, are dealing with this in our family right now.  Ruth’s dementia becomes an opportunity for her to revert to her past, to remember her youth and first love in Fiji. Ruth’s parents were medical professionals and missionaries there and Ruth did not move to Australia until she was 19 or so. McFarlane reveals Ruth’s dementia through her recollections and telling of stories about her time on Fiji, stories whose details change and become muddled as the disease progresses.

But it’s that tiger that really fascinates me. The tiger appears at the very beginning of the story and again towards the end. Ruth’s reaction to the thought of a tiger in her home is not what you might expect. Rather than fear, she experiences something more like exuberance. “… there was another sensation, a new one, to which she attended with greater care: a sense of extravagant consequence. Something important, Ruth felt, was happening to her, and she couldn’t be sure what it was: the tiger, or the feeling of importance…. She felt something coming to meet her — something large, and not a real thing, of course, she wasn’t that far gone — but a shape, or anyway a temperature.”  She goes on to think, “For some time now she had hoped that her end might be as extraordinary as her beginning.” I can tell you that the end of the novel is rather extraordinary and would be a topic of some discussion in a book group.

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. This progress of the dementia plus our concerns about Frida make for a suspenseful and tense tale. And that cover art is pretty cool, too.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #124: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

This is the second book in The Raven Cycle, which according to Stiefvater’s homepage is going to be four books in total. This is not a series where the books stand alone, so if you haven’t already read The Raven Boys, you should probably start there. My review of it is nice and non-spoilery, if you want to read why you should really give it a chance. If you haven’t yet read it, you may want to give this review a miss, as I can’t actually review The Dream Thieves without referring to some pretty spoilery things that happen during the course of the first book. So somewhere else – say a library, to find a copy of book one.

Still here? Then I’m not to blame if you get stuff spoiled. Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle has a bit of an ensemble cast, really, and given the way this book was structured, I suspect that each book in the series is going to focus more on one or a couple of the characters, with the rest taking a backseat for a while. Let’s recap – in The Raven Boys we were introduced to Blue Sargent, an independent teenager raised in a household full of psychic women, yet her only ability is to amplify their visions. She’s known since she was little that if she kisses her true love, he will die. Not that she had anything to worry about, until she met the four boys from the preppy Aglionby Academy who have now become her good friends.

Full review on my blog. 

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #116: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

4.5 stars

Do you like/love Robin McKinley’s Sunshine? Then you should read this book.

Tana wakes up after a high school party to find that while she was passed out in the bathtub, the other party-goers in the house were brutally slaughtered by vampires. As she’s dealing with the shock and trying to find her things (you don’t want to escape a house of carnage in your bare feet if you don’t have to), she discovers that there are survivors – her douchy ex-boyfriend Aidan, and a dark haired boy she’s never seen before. Both are tied up in a back bedroom where the windows have been covered, most likely left as a snack for later. When trying to untie Aidan, he lunges for her, and Tana has to face the fact that Aidan is turning Cold.

In this world, there were always vampires, but they were few and kept themselves hidden. Until one day, a single individual decided to just feed a little off his victims instead of killing them, starting an epidemic that soon spread world wide. When bitten, but not killed, by a vampire, the victim turns Cold. They start to hunger for human blood, and once they drink it, they transform fully into vampires. If they manage to lock themselves away and avoid the temptation to drink the blood for 88 days, they’re cured of the infection, but barely anyone ever has the strength to manage it. As a result, to stop the spread of vampirism, there are walled off cities around America, where vampires and the ones who are turning Cold are confined. In the Coldtowns there are celebrity vampires, and live streams of their glamorous parties and all over America there are people who worship and dream of becoming just like them.

Full review on my blog.

Katie′s #CBR5 Review #28: Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson

Title: Fear in the Sunlight
Author: Nicola Upson
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: 
Review Summary: I almost really loved this well-written, atmospheric mystery, but the end was just too unsatisfying.

Mystery writer Josephine Tey is in Portmeirion to meet with Alfred Hitchcock and his wife about a film deal. Hitchcock is also in Portmeirion to scout the location and set up tricks to reveal his crews response to guilt and fear. In this tense atmosphere, no one is prepared to deal with the murder of two women on the island. The island police don’t seem particularly interested in finding the killer and it’s only years later that another murder connected to a Hitchcock film begins to lead to the truth.

Read more at Doing Dewey…

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #104: Fatale, vol 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Nicholas Lash meets a stunning young woman at his godfather’s funeral. Soon there are black clad gunmen after him, and the beautiful woman rescues him and drags him along on a high speed car chase. There is clearly more to her than meets the eye.

Josephine, the beautiful woman, is seemingly ageless, and in flashback we are told how she first met Dominic Raines, Nicholas’ godfather, back in the 1940s and more about her mysterious and dangerous past. Every man who meets Jo seems to fall completely under her spell. Why doesn’t she age? What was her connection to Raines, and why have sinister gunmen chased her through the ages?

The comic starts as a noir, but clearly has Lovecraftian influences, in a story involving dark forces, sinister rituals, corrupt cops, starry-eyed reporters, car chases, gun fights, murder, mystery and mayhem. The story is brilliantly told by Ed Brubaker, and wonderfully and very appropriately illustrated by Sean Phillips. Jo is a true femme fatale, and unwittingly brings despair and destruction to any man who falls under her spell. This first trade collects the first five issues, and while the story continues in the next volume, it can be read as a satisfying story in and of itself. Of all the comics I bought during my Chicago vacation, this is the one I’m so far the most certain that I will continue reading. Brubaker writes amazing mystery and suspense, and I can’t wait to see how the story develops further.

With this, I complete my double Cannonball, 3 months earlier than I managed it last year. I’m still unsure if I want to attempt the monumental triple Cannonball, only ever completed by one participant, as far as I recall. Still, with four weeks left of my summer vacation, and several long plane journeys ahead of me, I’m not going to rule it out.

Cross-posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #56: Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson

4.5 stars

Quicksilver is the sequel to Ultraviolet, and while you might be able to read it as a stand-alone, I wouldn’t recommend it, as I doubt it would be as satisfying a read.

Tori Beaugrand had everything a teenage girl could want. Beauty, popularity, money. Then she disappeared, without a trace, for several months, only to be returned, bruised and with a broken nose, with no apparent memory of where she’d been or who’d taken her there. With her is Alison, the girl who was suspected of murdering her, and who spent much of the time of Tori’s disappearance in a mental institution. During the investigation of her disappearance, certain strange medical results turned up as a result of DNA testing. Tori and her parents are getting calls from a genetics lab, and one police investigator in particular, refuses to believe that Tori has no recollection of what happened to her.

Tori and her parents relocate, and change their names, all to protect her secret. Being the centre of attention is no longer an option. She needs to stay as anonymous as possible, which seems to be going well, until Sebastian Faraday, a man she thought she’d never see again, suddenly appears in her bedroom, warning her of danger to come. Her new friend Milo, who already suspects that everything is not entirely is what it seems with Nikki (which is what Tori calls herself in her new life) and is dragged along on an adventure beyond his wildest dreams. More on my blog.