Review: GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn

This review may contain spoilers.

I think I am discovering that I’m not a huge fan of thrillers. Oh, they keep me obsessed, interested, enthralled, on the edge of my seat. But at the end, they leave me feeling either disgusted or empty. Maybe both.

I’m not sure I feel anything but disgust at the human condition after this read. That’s not necessarily an indictment of the book.

I only had it for 48 hours on audiobook, once I was available to listen to it, so I binge-listened. Maybe that was the problem: you can only take so much description of evil and depravity at one time? It should come with a “take only in small doses” label? I’m just spit-balling here.

The mystery was not readily predictable (because the characters were more insane than you imagined they could be). It was effectively shocking. The voices of the narrating characters were very distinct and well crafted–all versions of them, since they play different versions of themselves. It felt real. It was compellingly written. The uses of language were appropriate for the story: drastic, visceral, bold, unapologetic. It was darkly funny–humor tucked into the dank wasteland of the unfolding events. So, those were qualities that kept me going.

Gone Girl presents a very bleak outlook on love and on humanity. The book is rife with characters, even the outwardly-“good” ones, who are horrifyingly dark, even evil. It left such a bad taste in my mouth that I want to disparage it as being “needlessly, exaggeratedly dark,” but maybe that’s the point: we tend to think better of ourselves than we ought. The darkness in us cannot be exaggerated. Even the nicest, most put-together of us have a sliver of ice in our hearts.

I am very intrigued to see what the movie does with the story. One would hope that with David Fincher’s record, he would be able to handle this kind of content, keeping the effect intact. Can the filmmakers, can the audience, stand to have this level of depravity represented? Or will we get a redemptive side of the story–convincing us all that we’re really not that bad after all?

I would recommend the read if you’re into this kind of genre. But it’s pretty dark and graphic.

 

 

Review: ORPHAN TRAIN, by Christina Baker Kline

When I heard about this book via NPR, I immediately started researching orphan trains. At the time, I had just begun my piece of speculative fiction that follows an orphaned girl who is sponsored by a wealthy, elderly man to be trained as his “wife” (I’m still working on this by the way).

I was shocked to discover that these trains really existed, running in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, and that I had never heard of them before. In part, Kline’s novel presents a very bleak, pitiful look at what orphans might have experienced on this journey through the eyes of Niamh (phonetically: “neeve”), renamed Vivian.

The book is not linear. It jumps back and forth in time (the 1920’s-40’s and 2011), and also shifts between two narrators: Vivian and a modern-day teen in the foster care system named Molly. Their intersecting stories were an interesting method of storytelling, but in the end, it was really just Vivian’s self-narrated story that kept me intrigued in the novel. I found the events of her life fascinating, and Kline does an outstanding job of emoting through Vivian an intensity of grief, helplessness, and longing for acceptance that feels authentic to her experiences.

I listened to the audio version of this book, so my experience with it is connected to my experience of the reader, who I only liked 50% of the time. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I read it on my own.

I’m going to give it 3 STARS: Interesting. Well-researched. Authentic. Heart-felt.

Review: SCARLET, by Marissa Meyer

I finally finished the second book in the LUNAR CHRONICLES! I’ve been in it for a while–stuck in the middle where I had a hard time wading through the angst between Scarlet and Wolf, Scarlet’s hot-headed outbursts, and Wolf’s mysterious and alluringly tortured moods.

(BTW: Spoilers.)

Then it hit a stride, and man did it hit it! About 150 pages from the end, I stopped pretending I was “just going to read a few pages,” and settled in until it was done. Bad guys genetically spliced with wolves and on a killing rampage? Chilling. Love the only power strong enough to transform the heart? Yes, please.

I was especially captivated by how the characters finally came into their own at the end. Cinder was already well established after the first book, but by the last couple of chapters, I was really into the bantering, eye-rolling friendship between her and Thorne (he was very Mal-esque, with less baggage). Their personalities really became distinct and complimentary when all four were together, this little band of misfits trying to make a difference in the world. They had me laughing, and excited about the next book.

I like how these novels aren’t one-off stories. They are re-telling fairytales in a way that is inventive, fun, and interconnected, continuing to build and enrich the world Meyer has created. I’m glad–I’m not ready to let go of these characters yet!

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