The line, “I’m a big fan of the lie of omission,” (said by possible wife killer Nick) perfectly sums up author Gillian Flynn’s writing in Gone Girl. Her prose style is compulsively readable and enjoyable, but the reader is quick to learn that not everything is as it seems. Flynn has packed enough unpredictable twists and turns into this genius novel to keep any reader full engaged to the very last page.
The story opens with Nick discovering that his wife has gone missing. Quickly the police are involved and all the clues seem to point to Nick as the culprit. As we follow Nick’s attempts to find his wife (did he really kill her?), we also follow her diary entries from the previous years that tell the story of her and Nick’s relationship. Amy comes off as a great wife who has recently been stuck in a souring relationship (but did Nick really kill her?).
It’s not long before we realize that we can’t trust Nick (he tells us in almost every chapter that he’s lying about things), but there is also something that doesn’t quite sit right with Amy’s narrative either (and when you start part two, you’ll know why). Flynn has created two deeply flawed characters that you concurrently sympathize with and despise.
Though this novel is classified as a mystery/thriller, it’s truly a character-driven story about a married couple at the darkest time of their lives. Flynn’s pacing and plotting of the story are perfect, always giving enough to advance the story but without revealing everything. She also has a gift for description that’s concise and incisive.
This book is definitely one of the greatest books of 2012. I highly urge all of you to read it.
Posted by xoxojk on June 26, 2012
Six years after the events of Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Darcy is throwing the annual Lady Anne Ball and everything is going smoothly. But, as close friends and family are celebrating the night before, her sister Lydia unexpectedly bursts into Pemberley screaming that her husband Wickham is dead. So begins the latest work of crime fiction by master writer P.D. James.
Turns out, Wickham isn’t dead; but he is found holding the bloody corpse of his friend Captain Denny in the middle of the woods. Darcy himself is quickly involved and stays involved throughout the investigation and trial of Wickham. The novel gives a very interesting look into the British legal system of the time. And James gives some very Dickensian twists to our favorite Austenite characters.
Many secrets abound in this tale, but James juggles them easily while also seamlessly introducing us to some of the other new characters that didn’t exist in Pride & Prejudice. (Austen fans will also enjoy the few moments when characters from other Austen books are fleetingly referred to.)
Although some parts of the book seem to drag, know that everything will be resolved in Elizabethan fashion—in other words, 3-page-long monologues delivered in the final chapters will reveal all. And if, in your course of guessing whodunit, you begin to suspect lycanthropic involvement (Full moons! Mysteriously ill people!), then you have merely read too many supernatural books. Don’t worry; this isn’t Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (although that book is also really good, just in a different way).
Death Comes to Peberley is great way to revisit old friends and see what they’ve done with their lives. James creates believable futures for Austen’s characters while also reexamining their choices made in P&P. Just be warned, Austen fans, that after reading this book you will want to revisit Austen’s classics.
Posted by xoxojk on May 31, 2012
So many critics have derided One for the Money, but I’m here to defend it. I’ll admit that I was apprehensive about this film. I’m a big fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and I was worried they would ruin the franchise (plus I was really holding out for them to adapt to a TV series—wouldn’t it make a great TV show?). However, the film was very enjoyable and very true to the book.
Casting was probably the biggest issue for the film. Katherine Heigl does a great job with Stephanie; she grows into the character the same way Stephanie grows into being a bounty hunter. The problem is that everyone’s preconceived notions of dislike for Heigl biased them against enjoying anything about her and the film. But if you look past the terrible Jersey accent (it really doesn’t suit her), then you can see that Heigl does her best.
Daniel Sunjata was my other concern as regards casting. Although he isn’t as dark and mysterious as I imagined Ranger in the books, Sunjata is still charming and devastatingly handsome enough to pull off this seasoned bounty hunter. Plus, his chemistry with Heigl was fairly palpable.
Speaking of chemistry, Jason O’Mara did a great job making Morelli both smarmy and lovable (and sexy as well!). I was definitely hoping for some steamy action between him and Stephanie. Sherri Shepherd was perfectly cast as Lula, the hooker-cum-secretary; and she cracked me up as much as she does in the books. Also, I would have liked to see more of Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur—that character is always good for a hoot and a half.
The plot was the same as the book, but it isn’t really the “plot” that drives these stories. It’s seeing everyday girl Stephanie Plum kick ass—or attempt to—as she gets into these ridiculous situations (again, a TV series would be perfect for this!). So, if you want a fun, entertaining film, then One for the Money is the one for you. And if you need some summer reading material, then Stephanie Plum series is always the perfect beachside accessory.
- Loving Ms Plum (onbecomingwellread.wordpress.com)
- One for the money. (shernor2.wordpress.com)
Posted by xoxojk on May 30, 2012
K loves Sumire who loves Miu who loves no one. Thus begins this small Haruki Murakami novel. It’s a simple premise that’s been done before (though not as often with a straight boy-lesbian girl-indifferent woman triangle), but Murakami’s writing makes it a very enjoyable read.
K is our narrator (his name is never revealed—only Sumire refers to him as “K”); and he is madly in love with Sumire—not that it stops him from sleeping with married women (more on that later). They are as close as friends as they could be, since Sumire lives in her own bubble. But that bubble pops when she meets Miu (a silver foxy lady who confuses the term “beatnik” with “Sputnik”); and it’s basically all downhill from there.
Sputnik Sweetheart transforms from a love story to a mystery to a basic character study all in the span of 200 pages, and the best part is that Murakami makes it work so well. My biggest problem with the novel is that Murakami tacks on a pointless section post-mystery that does nothing to advance the story. It seems like a wayward short story that was attached at the end to give the book more length. And that phone call at the end (which I will chose to believe was a dream) seemed like a lame attempt to enhance the story.
But otherwise, it is a fairly solid novel (just stop reading around the time K returns to Japan). He certainly knows how to create engaging characters with very curious backstories. And I’m definitely interested in reading more of Murakami’s work (since I know this wasn’t his best novel).
Posted by xoxojk on May 10, 2012
Jo Nesbo’s stand alone thriller makes for an interesting tale of deception and distrust. Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter (and part-time art thief) who is unknowingly thrown into a game of manipulation, which results in the death of many. In his attempts to create a perfect life for his wife Diana (he’ll do anything for her except give her a child), he finds himself spending above his means and so he steals art and sells it on the black market to make extra money.
When a legendary painting is discovered in the house of his new client, Clas Greve, Roger can’t help but attempt to steal it. From that setup alone, you can tell that not all will go well (and it does not). But there is more going on around Roger and the people in his life than he could even have imagined. What’s great about this thriller is that you know something is going to go wrong, but it’s never quite what you expect. That’s something that makes Nesbo stand out not just among Nordic crime writers but also among all crime writers.
Nesbo utitlizes a sparse (for lack of a better word) language to spin his yarns. He’s a concise writer who only includes details and descriptions if they’re necessary (even if they don’t seem necessary to you at first). I was easily able to enter into the mind of Roger and follow his logic as he attempts to fix his world that is spirally out of control. And the ending that Nesbo delivers is perfectly orchestrated. I love when a book comes together at the end so perfectly.
If you’re a fan of Stieg Larson’s Millennium Trilogy – the “dragon tattoo” books – then you’ll find much more to enjoy in Nesbo’s writing. From what I’ve read of his Harry Hole series, I find it far more enjoyable (see also: Henning Mankell). And with the film adaptation of Headhunters coming to American cinemas very soon, I’m eager to see how they tackled this thrilling Nordic crime novel.
Posted by xoxojk on May 2, 2012
Sarah Waters takes inspiration from Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins as she weaves the complex fabric of Fingersmith. What begins as a seemingly simple long con grows suddenly into a much larger conspiracy. And, like all good conspiracies, you never know whom to trust.
The story starts with young Sue Trinder, an orphan being raised in a house of thieves. When a handsome man (Richard “Gentleman” Rivers) arrives with a proposition, Sue quickly finds herself posing as a lady’s maid in an isolated mansion. Her task to is gain the trust of heiress Maud Lilly and convince her to marry Rivers because upon doing so he will have access to her fortune. Rivers tells Sue that he will dispose of Maud at a mental asylum after he’s gained her money (and she will inevitably get her cut of the profit).
A simple enough premise for the first third of the book. Although, as Sue spends time with Maud she begins to feel compassion for her (even though she knows she’s sending her to her doom). The inner turmoil that Sue faces during this time (and that we see Maud faces later in the book) ads much to a story that would otherwise be a simple crime fiction story.
At the end of Part 1, everything is turned on its head. The twist is so delicious that I have no intention of ruining it, but it definitely piqued my interest. However, what comes in Part 2 becomes instantly tedious, and it takes another hundred pages or so to get to the juicy twists (trust no one). And again in Part 3, tedium reigns. The overall story and the path to the end are well thought out and I have no argument with them. It just felt to me as a reader as if everything were moving very slowly.
There seems to be no small scene with Waters. She invests a lot of description into every detail, but what does it really do but slow the momentum of the story? A story that is, by itself, inventive and engaging. Even the finale confrontation scene (which lasts nearly 20 pages) felt tedious (is there a better word to describe it?). The characters all want to do something, yet they each refrain. They all want to say something, yet they refrain. It was highly frustrating.
Waters creates a very vivid Victorian London, and a very imaginative and twisty plot to inhabit that London. But there is something lacking in her execution that prevents the novel from reaching true greatness.
Posted by xoxojk on April 19, 2012
Jonathan Coe’s satirical British novel What a Carve Up! (or The Winshaw Legacy in America) is both hilarious and touching in the way that only a postmodernist novel could be. The historical context of the novel deals with the political and social climate in Britain during the 1980s and early 90s as it builds to the Gulf War in Iraq. We learn of these developments through the point of view of our protagonist Michael Owen and the infamous Winshaw family.
Michael is tasked with writing an epic historical book chronicling the Winshaw family with a specific focus on all the terrible deeds they have done. Coe uses the current generation of Winshaws to stand in for the most basic of societal constructs (Politics, Finance, Media, Military, Art, and Agriculture) and explores their influence on British society and on Michael’s own personal life.
But the novel is more than just a scathing look at Britain’s society. Coe also incorporates great humor through his homage to the campy murder mystery genre. When Michael sees the film What a Carve Up! (an actual 1961 film) on his birthday, his life is forever changed. The movie consists of a family gathering at a creepy, old family home for the reading of a will. But when Agatha Christie-style murders begin occurring, everyone is put on edge.
The absurdities that occur in that genre of film come alive in the Winshaw family where a sister accuses her brother of secretly killing her other brother and gets locked away in an asylum in the process. Other secrets are kept family members and as Michael becomes to uncover them his own life is put in danger.
The complexities of the story become even more tangled before the reader can truly untangle them all, but there are enough answers given throughout the book to prevent the reader from getting frustrated with the mysteries. Coe’s style of writing is quick-witted and was very enjoyable to read. I found myself laughing throughout the novel, and the intrigue he provided kept me reading it for hours at a time. Think of the novel as a blend of Clue and Brideshead Revisited and you’ll have some idea of the tone and scope. This book is about so much and has so many subtle complexities that it would take at least a 10-page term paper to explore everything satisfactorily. But if anything I’ve written about in the last few paragraphs seems interesting to you then I definitely recommend this book (you won’t be disappointed).
Posted by xoxojk on April 19, 2012