By Gini Rainey
By Gillian Flynn
If you like to read books that involve mystery, suspense, strange folks, and twisted endings, then Gone Girl is most definitely a book you need to read. Gillian Flynn, the writer of this New York Times #1 Best Seller, even says that she specializes in difficult characters that are “…damaged, disturbed, or downright nasty.” The two main characters of this book, Amy & Nick, are certainly no exception, although the reader would like them to be, because on the surface, they seem to be.
Their story begins on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, and anniversaries have always been a big deal to Amy, but for some inexplicable reason, Amy turns up missing and under suspicious circumstances. As the investigation digs deeper into her disappearance, we get the lovely back story of their courtship and the odd little twists and turns of fate that have brought them together, despite their disparate pasts. New York City is just the right place for this attraction of opposites, where Amy writes quizzes for women’s magazines and Nick writes for a small paper. After both Nick and Amy lose their jobs, they move back to Nick’s home town in Missouri to help take care of his ailing parents and the mystery begins to unfold.
This story, so well told from the alternating perspectives of Nick and Amy, sends a powerful and thought-provoking message about marriage in general, and women’s lives specifically. Flynn is unstinting in her portrait of a marriage between two people who are fundamentally flawed in such a way as to be toxic to each other. Each of their perspectives is a harsh character study that can be broadened to cover men and women that we know – that we ARE. There are some very uncomfortable truths spoken here.
One particularly gripping passage ruthlessly describes how often women pretend to be a certain “type” to attract a man, betraying their “real selves” (which eventually and inevitably emerge). Flynn’s character says she accomplishes this adaptation to being a “Cool Girl” by not thinking past the first step of anything. Just have fun! Don’t think about the calories in that beer he enjoys seeing you guzzle, don’t think about the misogyny in the movie he wanted to see, don’t wonder about the future! Who can’t relate to a time we tried to change our true self to be attractive to someone else?
The less you know about the details of this book, the more you will benefit from the harrowing twists and turns. Flynn has a phenomenal grasp of character and never takes the easy way out, nor does she use clichés or stockroom phrasing. Her characters–primary, secondary, even tertiary– are authentic, and she has done her homework on the unstable ones. Flynn avoids stereotypes. Her characters are organically portrayed, heads and hearts projecting like rockets from the pages. The plot sizzles with a sense of immediacy, led by the people who populate it.
I would say run, don’t walk to your, to a book store and pick up a book you’ll have difficulty putting down.
5 of 5
Copyright 2014 – Broadway Books
The Lies About Truth
By Courtney C. Stevens
Although admittedly a Young Adult book writer, the basic truths and lessons to be learned in Stevens’ books are totally applicable to young and old alike. The main plot of this book takes place a year after the lives of five very good friends are dramatically changed following a car accident that claims the life of Trent, the driver of the car. Although only one dies in the accident, all of the participants suffer from physical, as well as emotional, scarring. Additionally, the closeness they had all shared was lost, along with a great deal of the trust they had for each other.
The main character, Sadie, suffered significant injuries that resulted in scars, both physical and emotional. Sadie gave the scars names (like Idaho and Pink Floyd), but wasn’t able to put a name on the inner scars that tragically became a real part of her life. Thinking that she was the only one who walked away with injuries, she was pretty much blind to the emotional pain that her friends were carrying. Gray (Sadie’s boyfriend at the time of the accident) and her best friend, Gina, became closer, while Sadie and Max, Trent’s brother, developed a close relationship through emails after his family moved to El Salvador following the accident.
As is the case with a lot of people who carry huge emotional weights around with them, the process of moving forward for the remaining group of friends managed to separate them from one another. Each one of them separately tried to recover and move forward and in the process, mistrust developed and forced Sadie to bond with Trent’s brother Max.
Through a great deal of therapy and challenges given to her by her therapist, Sadie made a list of seven objectives that were necessary for her recovery. Some of them she was able to accomplish on her own, but the rest of them required the cooperation and honesty of her friends. Honesty seemed to be in short supply because no one wanted to “hurt” anyone else. However, as is true in a lot of relationships, honesty for the remaining friends was hard to come by, but it was in being honest that all four were able to finally put the past behind them and move forward together.
Courtney Stevens did a great job of taking a huge pile of messiness, filled with broken people and steering them towards a promising future. Her character development was exemplary and her story line was completely believable. It’s writers like Ms. Stevens who can help change the attitudes and directions of her young adult audience, as well as those of us who have moved beyond young adulthood, but can still use her wisdom and guidance to work through our own messy, adult lives.
5 of 5
Copyright 2015 – HarperTeen
How many of you readers have discovered goodreads.com? If not, you are missing out on some great reading advice from your friends, as well as other readers who are members of this great website. Not only are there great reviews, but if you let goodreads.com know your reading preferences, it will make suggestions and recommendations that will fit in your favorite type of literature.
Every year goodreads.com hosts a competition for new books on the market in nearly every genre imaginable. The winners make a great starting point for you if you are a serious reader. Just a few of the winners you might want to add to your must-read list for 2016 are:
Not too surprisingly, Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee was voted the number 1 book in fiction. This is a continuation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s award winning novel. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins received first place in the Best Thriller & Mystery category. I reviewed this book a few months ago, and must admit this is a well-deserved award. If you haven’t read this book yet, make plans to do so in the near future. It’s riveting!
In the Best Non Fiction category, Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg captured first place. This is “a hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of thepleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices.”
The Best in History and Biography category is Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson and is gripping and important. Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.
These are just a few of the many great books that you can find on goodreads.com. Additionally, they have daily give-a-ways for books, and you might just find yourself a winner of a great, new read. Be sure to get to get the books you want to read in 2016 included on your New Year’s Resolution list. This might be one of the resolutions you might actually be able to carry through on!