Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Published: 24 May 2012 (print)/24 May 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Broadway Book/Orion Publishing Group
Pages: 415/19 hours 18 minutes
Narrator: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Thriller
★ – 1 Star

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

There have only been a few books that I felt cheated by, genuinely cheated by. These include The Last Battle by C.S Lewis, The End by Lemony Snickett, and to a very small degree To All The Boys I Have Loved Before by Jenny Hann. Being cheated by a book is more than disliking it, it is where I feel the author themselves have cheated me as a reader by building up my expectations and leading us to a point, only to dismiss our investment in their characters and turn the entire thing on its head with no point or purpose, ignoring everything that has come before.

Granted, each of these books cheated me in different ways, but Flynn’s crime here is not only making the book boring to read, toxic characters or not, but also because there is no satisfaction in anything that happens. The reader is not rewarded for dealing with this story, nothing to reward us for getting to the end of this long and tedious book. I don’t need a happy ending, make it as messed up as you like, but there was frustration in that conclusion, not a decent conclusion to the nonsense I had to sit through.

Irony could have played a great part, karma, justice, all these things. Instead, we’re left with these characters who I hated from page one and hated even more by page 400. It just got worse and then even when it got interesting it was still terrible. The writing was terrible which makes you hate the story they were telling. They were both poorly written, poorly expressed, and I think even though Flynn tried to give Nick some emotional baggage, the fact it is poorly explored means it all comes to nothing.

Surprisingly, the audiobook was also a bit terrible, Heyborne’s odd emphasis of some words catch in your ear and every time he said “my wife” (which, again, poor writing, is said A LOT), he sounded like Borat. I couldn’t escape into the story because having it read aloud highlights the problems even more. There is repetition, both characters constantly compare things to how it’s done in a movie, and they whine. They might have been decent characters if their story was better written.

When I hit part two I groaned because there was another chunk of this book. But luckily it somehow it managed to get more interesting. Predictable, but interesting. I got the result I expected, I was impressed that Flynn went the direction she does, but it didn’t remove the issues. The fact Nick’s narration is infuriating, and the language Flynn uses is repetitive, sexist, and boring. Even in the “exciting” part it is boring and monotonous.

When Part Three came, I rolled my eyes and prepared myself for another long boring section of this book. I can see the plan to make the ending some tragedy, some Shakespeare tragedy for us to wallow over, but it didn’t work. I could think of three better endings for this book and I wish any of them had been picked. I know this is apparently a psychological thriller in concept, it is not in execution. How Flynn has managed to make this story unentertaining is beyond me. The framework is there for a thriller, you get inside character minds and see their motives which was intriguing, but it wasn’t enough to save the story.

You can purchase Gone Girl via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

 

Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

Published: 14th June 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harper Collins
Pages: 359
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me… 

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. 

Welcome to Christine’s life. 

I have wanted to read this for years and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Again, I have seen it compared to 50 First Dates (like all memory books are these days it seems), but it is much better than that and totally not even the same thing.

Christine’s memory resets every morning and she reverts back to thinking she is in her twenties. It’s a phenomenal read seeing how she adjusts and copes with this realisation every morning. Her husband’s patience, their coping mechanisms are all wonderful.

The routine Christine and her husband had is changed when she starts to see a doctor without her husband knowing. Christine starts keeping a diary which she reads each day, but she still only knows what she is told every morning and what she’s learnt from herself the day before. The emotions you experience are similar to Christine’s – can you trust the doctor? Is the husband keeping secrets? Who is telling the truth? It’s an intense and incredible reading experience.

There were so many little things I loved about this book. I loved that Christine was middle aged and not younger. I loved that she is able to do what she does even when she has no idea about what she has done in the past. I love that Watson lulls me into a false security and then shatters my expectations. I love that when you think you know what is happening you could not be more wrong. I also love the structure of the novel. The before, the after, the fact we get to see her daily diary and it becomes part of the story.

Having a character who needs to be reintroduced to herself each morning has to possibility of being repetitive, but Watson never makes the repetition annoying or ironically, too repetitive. The exploration of Christine’s day to day life, her discoveries, and her conversations with her husband are approached slightly differently each day. And as Christine knows more, is shapes her conversations. And her mind focuses on different things each day.
The underlying mystery of Christine’s memory loss is always there and as it grows and takes hold your own suspense and tension and excitement builds. But without ruining anything, Watson plays with you remarkably well with this. There are twists upon surprises with secrets and things unsaid. It’s a roller coaster ride and when you think you know what is about the happen, something even better happens instead.

I implore that if you love thrillers, and love to be surprised and enthralled, that you should read this book.  And, I will say, that there is a film adaptation of this and it is actually very close to the book so if you were uncertain about checking it out, you totally should. But of course, the book is a more fulfilling experience on all fronts and you should read it first.

You can purchase Before I Go to Sleep via the following

Booktopia | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson Bookworld

Book Depository | Fishpond | QBD | Wordery

 

The Golden Child by Wendy James

Published: 1st February 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harper Collins
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Blogger Lizzy’s life is buzzing, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions are simmering with her husband, mother-in-law and even her own mother. Her teenage daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved beyond her grasp and one of them has shown signs of, well, thoughtlessness …

Then a classmate of one daughter is callously bullied and the finger of blame is pointed at Beth’s clever, beautiful child. Shattered, shamed and frightened, two families must negotiate worlds of cruelty they are totally ill-equipped for.
This is a novel that grapples with modern-day spectres of selfies, selfishness and cyberbullying. It plays with our fears of parenting, social media and Queen Bees, and it asks the question: just how well do you know your child?

From the very early pages I was hooked on this story, so much so I sat down in the morning to read it and was finished by the afternoon. I was enamoured by James’ ability to write such a seemingly ordinary story while still giving off the unsettling feeling that everything isn’t as it should be. That unsettling hidden something that makes you wonder about motives and who is telling the whole truth and who are we supposed to believe. Especially when you can’t find a reason for these feelings right away.

James’ storytelling ability is amazing. The level of tension and suspense it balanced wonderfully by the mystery of what is happening alongside the everyday. I am of course not going to mention anything about the plot. This is the kind of book you need to experience for yourself and have everything revealed to you as it’s intended.

I will say that on top of James’ excellent writing, the characters are really what make this story shine. The different and often clashing personalities mix together to create the perfect storm and propel this story into its brilliance.

There are so many things to praise and so much to digest as you read. You’re enthralled by these characters and their lives, and James’ uses emotions, motherhood, love, and friendship to bring this to life. Despite the constant feeling of unease I had while reading it, it remains a chilling and fantastic story.

One thing I loved was the clear differences between Beth and alter ego Lizzy. Beth deals with the real life of everyday; she has a family who have needs of their own and life decisions and adjustments to make. But what makes Lizzy such a great contrast is that there are elements of those same problems in her blog posts, but on such a different tone and level. Lizzy lets her vague words tell a story to her readers, she doesn’t give specifics and her commentary can be interpreted in multiple ways.

I thought James did a wonderful job with the blogging side of the novel. She captures the voice well and it reads quite realistically. I also loved that the comments were included too because not only are they another reflection on what commenting on blogs is often like, but they also help show the comparisons between Beth and Lizzy’s lives.

If you haven’t read anything of James’ before then this is a perfect time to start. It is the kind of book that is not only on topic in terms of issues with social media, but should be read by parents, teens, grandparents; everybody can get something out of this novel. You will be turning the pages none stop and will remember a story like this long after you’ve read that final page.

You can purchase The Golden Child via the following

Publisher | Booktopia

Kobo | Dymocks

 QBD | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld

aww2017-badge

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Published: 29th August 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Viking
Pages: 405
Format: Paperback
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

This is Marchetta’s first novel for adults and it is filled with everything that makes Marchetta great. There’s everything a psychological thriller novel needs: drama, secrets, and of course, secrets. Marchetta brings you in slowly and then hooks you when you least expect it, never letting go until the final page.

There is the expected middle-aged detective for the genre but Marchetta gives Bish a more rounded presence and fuller character than just a typical disgruntled cop who breaks rules and drinks. Bish starts off as a concerned father before anything else and his sense of doing what is right compels him to find answers, even if it means dredging up the past of others and his own.

I enjoyed the setting only because if gave me a greater sense of what it was like to travel from the UK to France, how frustratingly easy it is while I am stuck on an island at the bottom of the world. Marchetta also seamlessly ties in political factors like refugees and other political concerns that add another reality around the already tense and troubling situation.

While this is Marchetta’s debut adult novel, when she writes about the teen perspective her experience as a YA author shines, while still fitting wonderfully into the adult context. The lives and voices of her teen characters feel familiar if you are a fan of her YA work, and it brings more to the novel that she gives other characters such focus as she does the main character.

There are a lot of characters in the story, I found myself getting a bit confused for a while about who was who but you get into the swing of it eventually, people fall into place. I will say that her characters were very believable, as with Bish Marchetta has given each character their own something that makes them feel more real and not just another name on the page.

I loved the mystery that needed to be solved, and I loved that there is still a story about love and family amidst the terror and the thrill. The connection to the Shakespeare quote which the title is based on was fantastic and I loved how that was used in the story.

If you have only been reading Marchetta’s YA up until now, this will feel right at home with what you know, while still being new, different, and wonderfully compelling.

You can purchase Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | BookWorld

Amazon | Amazon Aus

Publisher

The Exclusion Wars by Sheila Agnew

Published: 21st December 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Oxiana Road Publishing
Pages: 204
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/ Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A thriller set in 2025, in which teenager, Mateo Rivera, is in hiding as “Matt” in New York City where he must avoid capture by Mr. Rienham, the new chief of the Deportation of Latinos Agency, hand-picked for the job by President Trent himself. 

But Matt isn’t alone; he’s got the Underground, an organisation which advocates peaceful resistance. He’s been trained by the mysterious Underground leader, Polaris; harboured by reluctant shepherd and drop-out lawyer, Steve; and he has the not always helpful but well-intentioned support of his best friend, fifteen year-old, wannabe Navy Seal, Danni Singh. 

Rienham, the DLA and its roving pack of DepoDogs aren’t Matt’s only problems. There’s a new enemy on the horizon, and it calls itself The Latino Alliance. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I really liked this book; it is every bit the thriller it claims to be while still balancing the storyline, drama, emotion, and all the other wonderful elements as well. With the Latinos being sent into exile or worse, those who haven’t fled are in hiding, and those who can pass are constantly worrying about being found out.

It’s a fascinating story with a wonderful insight into what fear and hatred can do to a country if the right voice is convincing enough. It also shows how laws and views of the few can shape the opinions of the many, influencing them in how they see others. What’s great about Agnew’s writing is that this can all be read into it, it doesn’t come across on the page as a blatant message about acceptance and about prejudice, Agnew uses the writing to subtly say things through the story rather than shoving it down our throats.

Agnew has created a story that is slightly prophetic in a way, because Agnew based Trent on a Trump like figure but wrote it years before Trump decided to run which makes it even eerier. It depicts a future that, honestly, is on the closer side to believable than not, the explanations are there about how this came about, gradually, and with the right set of circumstances, snowballing before it could be stopped, all really quite plausible. The dictator style of Trent and the control he and his lackeys have created bring this future to life with detail and well roundedness that makes it real.

The characters are fantastic and definitely a highlight of the story. They are all so unique, fully fledged, each with a passion of their own and not just there to play a role around Matt’s story.  Matt is a great kid and an excellent narrator. He tells his story well and Agnew uses his voice and conversations to inform the reader without needing to include large amounts of back story. Matt never forgets where he’s come from or who he is, but he is smart enough to keep the thoughts to himself, and always remember his training. He is adult in some ways, having to keep secrets about his heritage, knowing delicate information and constantly having to check his behaviour and actions so as not to get caught, but at the same time he is also very much the 14-year-old as well. He has an attitude, he has crushes on girls, he has friends to hang out with and get in trouble with, and he misses his mum immensely.

There is a continual sense of thrill and suspense, but all for different reasons. It’s the suspense of Matt thinking he’s about to be found out at school, the anticipation about whether someone knows his secret, tension when he is trapped and unable to send for help, the constant feeling you’ve developed that something is about to go wrong at any given moment. Agnew definitely makes you become involved with the varying levels of thrill and suspense she’s created and when there’s actual drama and action is brings it to a whole other level entirely.

You can’t ignore the similarities to the current situation in America when reading this story, but it is a fascinating read and doesn’t read like a response to current events, it remains in the futuristic realm, even if it is barely ten years in the future. Agnew begins and concludes this story wonderfully and it’s the right balances of everything in the middle. I would definitely love to read a second book so I can keep reading about these characters and this strange yet familiar world they live in.

You can purchase The Exclusion Wars via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

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