Some sunny day baby
When everything seems okay, baby
You’ll wake up and find out youre alone
Cause Ill be gone
Gone, gone, gone really gone
Gone, gone, gone really gone
Gone, ga-gone, cause you done me wrong
—“Gone, Gone, Gone,” Alison Krauss & Robert Plant
Once upon a time, there was a married couple, named Nick and Amy Dunne. They seemed so perfect, so fabulous, so wonderful. It was their fifth wedding anniversary. This day of planned romance is immediately forgotten when Amy is is suddenly gone—missing. There’s no body, but there are signs of a struggle. Of course, Nick is the prime suspect in her disappearance.
I wasn’t expecting a lot from this novel when it was given to me. I heard the book was good and I wouldn’t be able to put it down. I pshawed that notion, but I was taken aback when I found myself totally enthralled by the first person narrative of reading Amy’s diary. I felt like I knew Amy, she was written so well. She told me things about her relationship with Nick, how it began, how he made her feel, how things changed when their fortunes changed and they had to move from their hip digs in New York to the Midwestern commonness of North Carthage, Mississippi. Amy was someone I was rooting for and I was so concerned that her amazing husband had done something terrible to her. Isn’t it always the husband in cases like these?
There are always two sides to every story and author Gillian Flynn deftly swapped narrative voices in the novel and allowed us to experience Nick’s side. He was just as honest and engaging as Amy. He’s just a good-hearted Midwestern boy who loved this fantastic girl. Now, whose side am I on? Nick was a good husband, not perfect but Lord, he tried. Amy was such a perfectionist. She was so spoiled. He did the things he did to survive and try to find some happiness.
I was very pleased with how the book played out and was taken by surprise the entire time. I could not put the book down. I highly recommend it for the suspense, mystery, and the warped psychology of the plot. It is an entertaining quick read.
(cross-posted from my blog.)
24 / Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Dark and twisty. Fun and depressing. Full of unreliable narrators. It’s been a while since I read anything resembling a mystery, so this was a breath of fresh air.
Like in my review of Room, I really don’t want to give anything away plot-wise, but I will say this: the first part of the book plays like a pretty standard whodunnit. At the halfway mark, though, shit gets real. Ms. Flynn is a crafty, crafty lady.
Four stars. Trust no one.
25 / Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
One phrase kept running through my head as I read: “nerd nostalgia porn.” Lots of my friends inhaled and enjoyed this book, but I was slightly less charmed.
Combining elements of Reamde, Neuromancer, For the Win, and strongly reminiscent at times of Ender’s Game (which, strangely, was not referenced in the book, unlike every other piece of media released in the 1980s), Ready Player One is an enjoyable “fight the man” tale set in a near-future where nearly everyone lives in squalor and spends most of their time “plugged in” to Oasis, the ultimate cyberspace environment.
Our protagonist, Wade Watts, is one of thousands of Oasis-dwellers on a hunt for a mysterious prize. He’s just a poor kid, and he’s up against a group of professional “gunters” (“egg hunters,” as in “easter egg”) who aren’t just fighting dirty in the game. Hijinks ensue.
Three stars. Not totally for me, but fun.
Holy shitsnacks was this book crazy! I was hardcore addicted to this book. I haven’t been sucked into a mystery in quite a while, and it was awesome. This is definitely a book where you need to know as little about it as possible to really enjoy it. I kept screaming at acquaintances to read this book so I would have somebody to discuss it with. This book is dark and deeply disturbing.
Nick and Amy Dunne move to a small town in Missouri after both losing their writing jobs in New York. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. There are signs of a struggle, and the mounting evidence points to Nick. The chapters in the book alternate between Nick’s perspective starting the day of Amy’s disappearance, and Amy’s diary. I really can’t discuss any more without giving away major plot twists, but this book is crack. It’s addicting, and dark, and it makes you a little crazy.
I was curious about this book after seeing the Twitter buzz from fellow book bloggers. Unfortunately, I chose to read this book after finishing a Tana French book. Both books focused on families that looked like they had the perfect marriage but underneath there was turmoil.
Even though the main premis of the book sounded fascinating, I found the two main characters annoying. I appreciated this alternating points of view from the two main characters even when the same plot twist was told from each of their perspectives.
Flynn definitely delivers clever plot twists throughout this book, but at times it was hard to “trust/believe” the characters’ actions based on past actions. I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read it at a different time or if I had read previous books by Flynn.
I’ve read a lot of scary and disturbing books over the years. Lots of Stephen King, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, Joe Hill, Battle Royale-esque stories, etc. And I keep going back for more. I’ve seen — and have enjoyed — tons of horror movies (Eli Roth is one of my brother’s BFFs from childhood, you can see him die brutally in most of Roth’s work. Fun!). I guess what I’m trying to say is that I guess I’ve become desensitized to the “horror” genre. And maybe that’s why I think its such a big deal that I found Gone Girl so downright frightening. I started the book expecting a Dennis Lehane style mystery, and ended up with something much, much different.
Gone Girl has been everywhere for the past few months. Book clubs. Online discussions. Displays at Barnes & Noble. And before I read it, I knew a little bit about it: a young wife goes missing and her husband becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Told partly in flashback and in journal entries, we get the story of a marriage from both sides. We also get to see what happens when a news story (like a missing spouse) turns into a media circus, complete with a terrible Nancy Grace-esque talking head, and how the media can sway public opinion regardless of the facts. I expected and was interested by of it.
What I was not expecting, and ended up being both fascinated and terrified by, was the rest. This book surprised me more than any other book I can remember reading. Every 30 or 40 pages, I would completely change my mind about what I think the ending would be and what had happened to Amy (the wife). Was it handsome husband, Nick? Or his adorable mistress, Andie? Or maybe one of the many people who have been accused of stalking Amy over the years? A jealous neighbor? A homeless vagrant? His angry father? Her bizarre parents? Who would want to hurt beautiful, lovely, wealthy, perfect Amy? And why?
And then, about halfway through, something shifted…and the psychological portrait the story painted of this seemingly normal American couple turned into the scariest thing I can remember reading in ages. And at that point, I couldn’t put the book down. I’ll definitely be seeking out other books by Gillian Flynn. The characters she painted were vibrant and real, and the backstories and details about each of them were fascinating.
I love that this book seems to have fallen into the Sixth Sense/Fight Club/The Crying Game territory, where nobody who has read it is willing to spoil the outcome, leaving interested readers to find out for themselves.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl ended up being one of the hot books of the summer. I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the book cover, or reading a blog entry about it. After reading that Reese Witherspoon had signed on to star and produce in the adaptation, and seeing that Jezebel chose it as their inaugural book club selection, I decided to take the plunge.
The book starts out with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot: wife goes missing, world suspects husband. The book is sort of told in three pieces. His side of the story, her side of the story, and the ending as it unfolds. This isn’t quite a traditional mystery, it’s a psychological thriller.
And it’s creepy. Every 50 pages, I thought I’d figured out who did it. The husband. His mistress. She’s faking it. Her creepy best friend from high school. And then 50 pages later, I would be so thrown by the sheer force of both the husband and the wife’s masterful manipulation that I’d be lost again.
Gone Girl is a twisted psycho-thriller/mystery that is hard to put down once you start reading. If you have heard anything about this novel, you know that very little about the plot can be told without spoiling the story. In short, this is about Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne. Both professional writers, they meet in New York in the late ’90s, fall in love, and get married. Amy’s parents are psychologists who have written a series of very popular children’s books featuring the character “Amazing Amy” based on their daughter. Amy is wealthy, intelligent and beautiful. Handsome, witty Nick is from a working class midwestern family. His father, now suffering from Alzheimers in a nursing home, was abusive to his wife and twins Nick and Go (Margo). When Nick and Amy lose their writing jobs in the recession and Go tells Nick that his mother is dying of cancer, the couple moves to Nick’s home town, New Carthage, MO. Go and Nick use Amy’s money to open a bar in the struggling town, where the recession has taken a toll. Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. It looks like foul play, but there is no body, no ransom note.
The rest of the story really can’t be explained without spoiling it. The plot gets gritty and disturbing as Flynn takes you inside the minds of critically flawed characters and a genuine sociopath. The resolution to the story is downright creepy but brilliant. I remember feeling the same way after reading some of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine’s and PD James’ novels, which likewise feature brutal crimes and disturbed but very intelligent perpetrators.
Flynn takes the reader on a roller coaster ride. You will think you have it figured out, only to be surprised by Flynn’s brilliant plot twists. I like the way she constructs the narrative, alternating between Nick’s point of view in real time and entries from Amy’s diary. One of the side themes in the story is journalism, particularly TV journalism, with its sensationalization of crime stories. Every reporter is trying to get the scoop but brings his/her own prejudices to the story. By the same token, Flynn manipulates her readers’ opinions of characters throughout the book. It can be unsettling, and I loved it. Flynn’s creativity and imagination are stunning. This is an excellent summer book choice.
Blue Latitudes was an engaging, informative read that touched on so many things I enjoy. Sailing, history, world cultures, philosophy, religion, science – they’re all in there. The author, Tony Horwitz, is an American journalist living in Australia. Becoming interested in the story of Captain James Cook, he sets out to visit many of the places where Cook was the first Westerner to arrive and try to understand the man behind the legends. Along the way, he discusses Cook’s journals and the writings of others travelling with him, as well as the responses of the indigenous people he encountered.
The Captain Cook he presents is a man who achieved great fame in his day, but today is largely forgotten and tossed aside in a sea of political correctness. Cook was born into extremely humble circumstances in northern England, but through luck, hard work, and the occasional astute sponsor, rose to a high rank in the British naval system. At the time, this was an extremely unlikely story, as England had not long outgrown feudalism. Given a ship, the Endeavour, he was tasked with mapping the transit of Venus across the sun in the Pacific Ocean and then to continue on in search of a southern continent. Along the way, he visited Tahiti and many other Pacific Islands and was the first Westerner to map the Eastern coast of Australia. In many of these island nations, he is now considered a villain and blamed for opening up their lands to outsiders. However, Horwitz points out that in approaching locals, Cook tried to communicate, tried to avoid harming locals and tried to prevent his men from passing their venereal disease to the island women. He paints a sympathetic portrait of a reserved but fair man.
He looks at situations from both sides, that of the indigenous peoples as well as the sailors. The indigenous people didn’t know what to make of several hundred strange looking men with no women, in a boat taller than they’d ever seen before, who suddenly appear on their shores. Are they looking to settle? To fight? To trade? Are they outcasts from their own homes since they have no women or children with them? Meanwhile, the Western sailors expect to find islanders, but since the sailors are generally uneducated and living in a brutal and oppressive culture, they aren’t exactly the most open-minded people to go adventuring.
In addition, Horwitz also talks about his own travels to many of these same places, journeys which range from banal to hilarious to soulful, and generally involve copious amounts of alcohol since it is a sailing related book. Writing about the misery involved in serving as crew of a week on a reconstruction of the Endeavour made me question my own desire to do something similar – sounds dreadful.
I finished the book with a great admiration for Cook, as well as sympathy for everyone involved, sailors and islanders alike.
(cross-posted from my blog.)
15 / The Instructions by Adam Levin
Not quite sure where to start with this one. I loved it. It’s one of the longest books I’ve read (along with Infinite Jest, to which it owes much and with which it shares many themes). The protagonist is a totally amazing, unbelievable, genius, psychopathic messianic ten-year-old (Judah Ben-Gurion Maccabee) – and oh, what he’ll do for the love of a girl named Eliza June Watermark, who may or may not be a Hebrew in the eyes of God.
At over a thousand pages, it’s not a particularly easy read. Pages upon pages examine the interpretation of a piece of Torah scripture as it relates to sitting very close to a girl you like. Other passages detail the uncoordinated coordinated chair-scoot as revolutionary mechanism. The narrative builds to a beautifully-coordinated climax that’s improbably miraculous – and then the story gets even more interesting.
I learned things about Judaism, about behavior disorders, about being a kid, about righteous disobedience. I fist-pumped, cried (quite a bit), marveled at these kids and the writer who conjured them into being, hated that writer for doing such terrible things to the kids he created.
Five stars. Recommended.
16 / Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Dear Leigh Bardugo: your characters are textured and interesting, even if I could see the twist with the secretly evil one happening a hundred pages away! Your weird alternate Tzarist Russian fairytale world is totally cool and compelling. There’s magic, which is always fun, and all those robes with different-colored embroidery would make J.K. Rowling proud.
Just… come on. Enough with the “chosen one” stuff already. Hero girl’s got some inherent mojo that makes her super-powerful, and super-intriguing to the bad guys. Isn’t there something a little more original we could do here? Plus the romantic angle is more than a little Twilight-creepy. Even Harry didn’t fall in love with Voldemort.
Three stars for all the cool stuff I mentioned above. I’ll probably read the sequel.
17 / The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
Yes. YES. Nick Harkaway, you’re my new favorite.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I feel like Stefon talking about a hot new club: The Gone-Away World has freelance truck drivers, ninjas, mimes, broken hearts, horrifying monsters, and the Jorgmund Pipe. (“What’s the Jorgmund Pipe?” “It’s when a midget sits in a trash can and…” … my analogy breaks down right about here.)
But seriously: this is a celebration of storytelling, of imagination, of pulp fiction at its finest. It’s twisty and turny, with a huge amount of heart, guts, and balls. I really don’t want to say more – just read it.
Five stars. So good.