Read and Review: Sharp Objects

Read and Review: Sharp Objects

‘To say this a terrific debut novel is really too mild’ – Stephen King

  • Title: Sharp Objects
  • Author: Gillian Flynn
  • Published: 2006

I first read Sharp Objects after reading Gone Girl, due to the hype the film adaptation generated. Flynn’s writing introduced me to a style of thriller I now seek out by other authors too such as Paula Hawkins, Peter James and of course, more Stephen King.

Sharp Objects is the shortest of Flynn’s three novels, but is by far my favourite. I’ve only owned a copy of Sharp Objects for a few years and yet I’ve already reread it around 4 or 5 times.*

*Rereading novels is incredibly rare for me.

Sharp Objects is about a journalist called Camille Preaker, who is tasked with returning to the town where she grew up to uncover the mystery behind the murder of two young girls. Camille has barely spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother in years, but on returning to the town, finds herself reliving the psychological scars of her past in order to uncover the truth about the girls’ murders.

Warning: Sharp Objects, as one may be able to discern from the title and some book covers, deals with sensitive issues such as self-harm, abuse, and emotionally manipulative behaviour. If these are issues that may distress you, this is probably not the book for you.

I thought the pacing was good; on the shorter side, at 321 pages long, it means time is used efficiently. Flynn doesn’t write unnecessarily lengthy scenes and what is included adds to the story – both Camille’s own journey of recovery as well as the murder mystery.

I love the build-up and climax of this book, and every discovery Camille made was thrilling to me – even when I reread the novel now, I still get excited when the crucial plot points are revealed.

Furthermore, I empathise with the plight of Camille: a journalist struggling with the use of self-harm as a coping mechanism to combat the traumas placed on her as a child. I want to be a “proper” writer or journalist someday, and although I was never traumatised as a child, I understand the mindset of someone who uses self-injury to cope.

However, speaking of journalism, I wasn’t keen on the extracts of Camille’s articles included within the book. Flynn worked as a feature-writer for more than 15 years, and was still working as a journalist while writing Sharp Objects. Yet to me, when journalistic pieces are added into a novel, it never reads quite right because the two forms are so jarringly different.

Overall, I thoroughly liked the intriguing and disturbing story of Sharp Objects, the complex female characters and the topics the book draws attention to. If you liked Gone Girl, and want to be chilled by Flynn some more, I recommend Sharp Objects!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

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Read and Review: CHILD TAKEN by DARREN YOUNG @darrenyoungbook #BookReview #CrimeThriller

Read and Review: CHILD TAKEN by DARREN YOUNG @darrenyoungbook #BookReview #CrimeThriller
  • Title: Child Taken
  • Author: Darren Young
  • Published: 2017
  • Date Started: Monday 13th February 2017
  • Date Finished: Sunday 26th February 2017

Child Taken is the brand new, debut thriller from Darren Young.

One summer’s day, a young Jessica Preston disappears from the beach where she was playing with her family. The police say she drowned, but her mother thinks otherwise. She thinks she was taken. 20 years later, another child goes missing, prompting a young journalist to uncover the mystery behind what really happened to Jessica. She finds someone with an explosive secret, which not only threatens to reveal the truth, but puts lives in danger.

After reading Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train last year, I’ve really grown to enjoy mystery and crime thrillers, and so it was a pleasure to read Child Taken, which follows a similar narrative style.

The chapters were a short length, which kept the pace moving, and helped easily switch between the two narrative perspectives of our female protagonists: Danni and Laura. This style heavily reminded me of The Girl On The Train, which tells the narrative through the eyes of Rachel, Anna, and Megan, and I liked this.

I particularly liked Laura, particularly because she works as a journalist, which is a position I’d like to be in myself one day, and the fact she uses her journalism to uncover a horrible secret reminds me of another Gillian Flynn novel, Sharp Objects, which is another favourite thriller of mine.

At various points in the book, there was definite, and well-crafted suspense – one Goodreads user said Child Taken ‘sucked me in and … spat me out’ – and I can definitely see its potential to become a book that people struggle to put down.

However, although some parts were genuinely thrilling, I felt other parts were slightly lacking – introductions of new characters were often followed by lots of background information which I found a bit unnecessary.

I really enjoyed Child Taken – by halfway through I was certainly “hooked” – and it’s an impressive debut novel. In places, it could do with a polish, but I think it has brilliant potential.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Child Taken will be available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from May 2017.

***

Thank you for reading my review!

Thanks to Darren Young and Red Door Publishing for sending me a proof copy to read and review for free! I’ll leave their links below:

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

 

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

New year, new book tag. I found this on tinyobsessions.wordpress.com and I thought it was appropriate, given it’s January. I’ve chosen my favourite questions to answer.

1. What was the best book or series you read in 2016?

I’d say my favourite book was something by Gillian Flynn. Despite really enjoying Gone Girl, I read Sharp Objects more times – at least two or three times last year.

2. What authors have you recently found and would like to read more of in 2017?

I’ve got 3 authors to choose from: Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and C.S. Lewis. I read some of their books the first time this year and I really enjoyed them. If you have a favourite book by this author, please leave a comment with it below and I can add your recommendations to my TBR!

3. What is your most anticipated book-to-film adaptation?

I don’t really know what is coming out this year, apart from Trainspotting 2. I think I’d like to see some more good period dramas on the BBC. They really help me read and understand classics better.

4. What are the top 5 books on your 2017 TBR?

I have far too many books on my TBR to pick a top 5! I’d say Finders Keepers and End of Watch, the sequels to Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. I also want to read some more Dystopian books, so I’d like to read The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

5. How many books do you hope to read in 2017? 

I worked out that in 2016, I read about 70 books which is absolutely crazy. I’d like to hit the same number again this year, or maybe beat it – perhaps I’ll aim to read 80 books?

6. Do you have any book or blogging themed resolutions?

A blogging resolution would be that I’ve considered doing some more creative writing. I’d also like to be able to read more for leisure, or at least get the balance right between reading for my studies and reading for myself.

Happy New Year! (Is it too late to still be saying that?)

Please ‘Like’ if you enjoyed this little book tag; what would your answers to these questions be?

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

Happy Blogmas! This is Day 2 of my 12 Days of Blogmas!

Today I’ll be thinking over some of the books I’ve read this year, and choose three characters have been Naughty and three characters have been Nice. My judgements were formed based on how deplorable (or not) their actions were, and how much I like them (either as protagonists or antagonists).

Nice

Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump (Winston Groom, 1986)

Forrest Gump is one of my favourite stories, and I think Forrest is well-deserving of being on Santa’s Nice list. He’s such a caring, thoughtful, and lovable character who tries to do right by as many people as he can, despite his limited intelligence. Of course, he’s not perfect – he is easily lead, struggles with addiction, and hurts Jenny deeply – but then again, nobody is. Forrest learns from his mistakes however, and I think this is his redeeming quality.

Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)

Colonel Brandon is an absolute gentleman in Sense and Sensibility, and is particularly contrasted with the seemingly brilliant, but deceptive, John Willoughby. Both men fall in love with Marianne Dashwood and while Willoughby leads Marianne to believe they are in a loving, courting relationship and then breaks her heart, Brandon behaves with nothing but grace, generosity and kindness towards the entire Dashwood family. Safe to say, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, Marianne returns Brandon’s affections.

Sir John Falstaff from Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 (William Shakespeare, 1597)

Falstaff is a kind of father figure to Hal, particularly in Henry IV Part 1, and provides much comic relief, through his exaggerated recounting of events, over-exuberant lifestyle and use of language. I particularly enjoyed Roger Allam’s portrayal of Falstaff in the Globe on Screen productions, directed by Dominic Dromgoole. However, ultimately, Falstaff is flawed. He is fat, vain, arrogant and cowardly, spending most of his time with prostitutes and drinking away stolen money, and thus is cast out when Hal becomes King. However, annoyingly, I still really like the character of Falstaff, which is why I’ve placed him on my “Nice” list!

Naughty

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (Charlotte Bronte, 1847)

For anyone who has read Wuthering Heights, this is an obvious choice. Heathcliff is vengeful, calculated and seemingly takes pleasure from others’ misery. However, as a character, I am still drawn to him; Heathcliff fascinates me. He seems capable of love, particularly towards Cathy, but it is an all-consuming passion which is ultimately destructive and dangerous. He strikes up a special bond with Nelly, and is a subverted father figure for numerous characters, such as Hareton, Linton and young Catherine. In short, Heathcliff is a complex and “fun” character to read about and talk about, despite his antagonism and he’s my favourite character from Wuthering Heights.

Brady Hartfield from Mr Mercedes (Stephen King, 2014)

Brady is a heartless killer from King’s thriller and murder mystery novel. He slaughters a queue of people at a job fair by driving into them with a stolen Mercedes and leaves clues for the police for the next year and especially taunting retired detective Bill Hodges with notes and possible evidence. I really enjoyed this plot and I thought Hartfield was really well-written. He simultaneously sounds like a petulant child and a dangerous killer, a dumb criminal and a calculated genius. I found him very creepy and naturally, given the events of the book, a horrific character.

Amy and Nick Dunne from Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, 2012)

After speaking of horrific and evil characters, how could I not mention the Dunne family from Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl? Amy is such a powerful character; she is manipulative, clever but scarily violent too. I was also fascinated by her “pregnancy” storyline too – I really like it when creators explore this subject for some reason, be it in books. films or television. Nick is equally flawed – he is an unfaithful liar and uses some pretty creepy language such as:

‘I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts.’

And that’s only on the first page!

Amy and Nick are a scary, subverted form of the ideal middle-class idea of marriage and I really like how Flynn played around with this. The Dunne family are certainly worthy of being on the “Naughty” list.


Those are my thoughts: do you agree or disagree with them? Would you place anyone else on the “Naughty” or “Nice” lists?

Happy Blogmas!

– Judith

[Guest Post] Film Review: The Girl On The Train

[Guest Post] Film Review: The Girl On The Train
  • Title:The Girl On The Train
  • Director: Tate Taylor
  • Released:2016

Hello!

My name is Patrick from The Blog from Another World. If you want to check out Judith’s review of the book, you can find it here:

The novel, as Judith has written, is a page turner, a compelling read. This film then, should be gripping. It, in theory, should have maintained this tension and compulsive plot. Instead, The Girl on the Train has become a bore − a super-serious thriller without the thrills.

The most obvious comparison to this film is Gone Girl (2014), David Fincher’s brilliant adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s suburban murder mystery. Sadly, this film does not match the quality of Gone Girl at all.

I was struck in the first half an hour by how heavy and dour this film is. Each scene is laboured and miserable, characters complain about their lives and very little happens. It is not for a long time that the central disappearance occurs.

This film has a Hitchcockian plot; Rachel, played by Emily Blunt, commutes to and from New York each day on the train where she observes the lives of the people whose houses are near the tracks, including her ex-husband. When her ex-husband’s nanny goes missing, Rachel herself may be implicated in the mystery.

I recently watched Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train in the cinema and was struck by the light touch and thrilling pace of it. Characters have light moments and dark moments. They are gripping, complex and compel you to keep watching. Strangers on a Train is a magnificent thriller and I would recommend it to anyone who feels short-changed by The Girl on the Train as, in contrast to this, it feels grindingly repetitive. A scene will open, someone will complain about their lives and by the end, without fail, they will be in tears. This makes the film such a drag, and pulls down many excellent performers along with it.

Emily Blunt and Rebecca Ferguson are excellent actresses. Their performances in Sicario (2015) and Mission Impossible 5 (2015) are some of the most fun and exciting female characters of recent years.

In this film, however, both feel laboured and heavy, battling with boring material in an attempt to make deep and meaningful characters. In the end, both come across as cyphers, stereotypes of middle class women, trapped in their own separate worlds, enraptured by the men around them. If this film was more thrilling and fun, this type of characterisation might work. A savage critique of the American middle class is what makes Gone Girl so fun. This film wants to portray real life, and aim for realism but another side of it wants to make Gone Girl, the savage, darkly funny and vicious mystery.

A presence with the entertainment value of Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, or Kim Dickens would really have given The Girl on the Train another side, some more depth. People are naturally humorous, and a few amusing lines of dialogue or a dark sense of humour would have elevated things tenfold.

However, smaller roles seemed to feature actors who were really bringing something to the table. Justin Theroux as Rachel’s ex-husband and Luke Evans as the husband of the missing woman were far more convincing than most others. However, their involvement was too small for them to shine.

Blunt’s performance frankly is an embarrassment. She wildly overacts in some scenes and in others she seems slightly sheepish to be a part of this film. I was very disappointed by her and I think she is indicative of a lot of the problems this film suffers from.

However, most of the blame must be placed at director Tate Taylor’s door. He is the worst possible choice for director. This film needed a provocative and uncompromising director, someone who would tell the story truthfully and intelligently but with a sense of fun. The film handles tough real life themes but this doesn’t mean that you can skimp on the mystery and thrills at the centre of it. Taylor directs with a soporific and laboured style, glossy but shallow and with no sense of pace. This film is boring and silly with so few decent performances you wonder why these people were cast in the first place.

Overall, this film is a disaster, a page-turner turned into a cinema-snoozer which fails miserably at its central goal: to thrill and intrigue. I guessed the ending within the first fifteen minutes and I was so desperate for my guess to not be the case that I ended up making up theories to allow the screenwriter and director some credit.

However, I was sadly correct and I walked out of the cinema thinking: “This would be the movie David Fincher and Alfred Hitchcock would make if they were both stupid”.

***

Thank you for reading this very therapeutic review! I hope you enjoyed it, and if you want to see this film, just read the book instead. It’s obviously much better. On the other hand, watch Strangers on a Train – that’s how you do a train-based thriller.

I would just like to thank Judith for all her help and her agreeing to be a part of this collaboration! I hope we can work together in the near future.

All the best,

Patrick and Judith

The Halloween Book Tag

The Halloween Book Tag

Happy Halloween!

Okay, so it might not be Halloween just yet, but there’s no reason we can’t get into the spirit of things. I found this tag on candidcover.net and I thought it was just perfect for the occasion.

1. Pumpkin Carving: Which book would you carve up and light on fire?

Hmm, a book I really dislike… I would have to say The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003). I’ve already discussed my strong dislike to The Kite Runner already on ReadandReview2016, and the idea of seeing it on fire is somewhat amusing, if not a little Hitler-ish…

*Honourable Mention: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925). Another book I’d love to take apart.

2. Trick or Treat: What character is a trick? What character is a treat?

In terms of a ‘treat’, I would pick a really lovely, heartfelt character. My natural instinct is to say someone like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, or Jane from Pride and Prejudice (1813), both of whom are brilliant women that have lots of admirable qualities.

As for a ‘trick’ character, I want to talk about someone who is misleading, evil and duplicitous. I want to say Macbeth, from Macbeth (1611) but other villains such as Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series also spring to mind.

3. Candyfloss: Which book is always sweet?

I’m tempted to say Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson (2006) for fun! I think I’ll pick Anne of Green Gables though, by L.M. Montgomery (1908).

4. Ghosts: Which character would you love to have visit you as a ghost?

I’d be intrigued by any character that decided to bridge the gap between fiction and reality, as well as the gap between life and death! I like the idea of chatting with The Ghost of Christmas Past from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843).

5. Fancy Dress: Which character would you want to be for the day?

A really evil, sassy woman; I think they are so well-portrayed in literature. I think I would choose Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series. Then again, I also really liked the characterisation of Amy in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012) and I liked her sinister plotting and cleverness.

*Honourable Mention: The Evil Queen from Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm (1812).

6. Witches and Wizards: What is your favourite Harry Potter moment?

How am I supposed to choose?! I really like Harry Potter and rhe Deathly Hallows (2007) – particularly the scenes in Malfoy Manor and Hermione’s interrogation and torture. Grim, I know, but it was gripping.

7. Blood and Gore: Which book was so creepy that you had to take a break from it for a while?

The goriest book I’ve ever read so far is ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (1975), but I didn’t have to ‘take a break’ at any point. In fact, I was captivated by King’s work and could hardly put it down!

Those are my answers! Would you choose different books? I tag anyone who wants to do this tag (and I’d love to see some of your responses in the comments).

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Read and Review: The Girl On The Train

Read and Review: The Girl On The Train

I’ve been wanting to write a book review of The Girl On The Train for quite a little while now, and with the release of the film adaptation later this month, I thought this was the perfect opportunity.

 So, I’ve paired up with Patrick from The Blog From Another World, to do a special collaboration in honour of The Girl On The Train. My book review will be published on The Blog From Another World. and Patrick’s film review will be published on ReadandReview2016.

Let’s get cracking!

  • Title: The Girl On The Train
  • Author: Paula Hawkins
  • Published: 2015

The Girl On The Train is Paula Hawkins’ debut novel and was published in 2015. It has been since adapted into a 2016 film directed by Tate Taylor and starring Emily Blunt.

The Girl On The Train is a murder mystery and crime thriller in which we follow Rachel on her daily commutes back and forth on the train. She passes the same street (Bleinheim Road), the same houses and the same strangers each morning and evening. When one of the residents goes missing, Rachel feels compelled to try and help, but her own complicated history with Blenheim Road brings as many problems as it offers resolution.

I found The Girl On The Train so gripping that I didn’t want to put it down – a cliché, I know, but true. Stylistically, Hawkins’ writing reminded me of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and there was sufficient detail for me to understand the plot, but not enough to prematurely unravel the plot-twists.

I thought the repetition of the train as a motif was instantly obvious, but clever – the train is the only constant for Rachel after a life of instability, and links the character’s lives together.

I also liked the switches in narration between the three main characters: Rachel, Anna and Megan because it meant I could experience events from the perspectives of three different women who are all somehow involved in different events.

However, I couldn’t work out which character I wanted to support! Rachel seemed the obvious choice because she is the protagonist, and yet she is flawed. She struggles with alcoholism and isn’t completely honest with the police.  I suppose the next character of choice would be Anna – Tom’s beautiful wife and the mother of his child. However, she has a rather petty and pedantic attitude towards other characters, making me dislike her. Last of all, there’s Megan. At first, she seems fairly normal and down-to-earth, but makes quite a few disastrous and silly decisions that ultimately put her in danger.

Yet despite my ability to pick a favourite character, I think this actually added to the book’s charm, because it made me question and ponder each characters’ personalities and motivations, which is exactly what I expect from a murder mystery.

The major plot twists in The Girl On The Train completely surprised me, although other book reviews may tell you differently.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading The Girl On The Train; it tackled themes of alcoholism, abuse, murder and affairs, and I strongly recommend it! I look forward to seeing how this has been carried through in the film adaptation. Stay tuned for Patrick’s review of The Girl On The Train later this month!

That’s all for now!

– Judith and Patrick