‘To say this a terrific debut novel is really too mild’ – Stephen King
Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
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!
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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:
The following blog post was written by Patrick, from The Blog from Another World, as the second part of our second collaborative series and again, the focus seems to have been on trains! You can read our previous posts, talking Irvine Welsh’s Trainspottinghere, and about Paula Hawkin’s The Girl On The Train, here and here.
I love Danny Boyle and I love Trainspotting. When T2 was announced, I was worried that the film would be a cash grab, a lazy retread. Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon had already disappointed me with Jason Bourne (2016), which was an ill-thought through bore. However, after watching Trainspotting again for my article with ReadandReview2016, the stakes were raised very high. Impossibly high?
No. Not at all. Danny Boyle is the finest British filmmaker in modern cinema. There is no doubt in my mind about this. T2 is fantastic. Possibly even better than the first.
Boyle performs camera moves, positions and set pieces which are truly thrilling. He and his director of photography Anthony Dodd Mantle work with light and shadow and perspective to create meaning.
He’s a director who inspires me and this might just be the biggest risk of his career. He pulls it off and shows a maturity and an evolution of film-making style which makes us understand just how much experience and persistence matters. In preparation for watching T2 I watched A Life Less Ordinary, the Boyle directed film which came after Trainspotting and before The Beach. The film is a flawed and underwhelming work despite a career best performance by Cameron Diaz.
My reason for watching A Life Less Ordinary was to remind myself of Boyle on a bad day (but even his low point is better than many director’s best). Slumdog Millionaire and Steve Jobs are big favourites of mine but T2 takes his best work and betters it. It’s funny, sad, euphoric, tragic and utterly brilliant.
The story of T2 follows Renton, Sick Boy (now Simon), Begbie and Spud as they deal with the modern world twenty years after the events of the first film.
This film is a wonderful look at ageing, our modern world and the responsibilities of adulthood. The characters feel deeper and emotionally richer although some plot strands don’t go anywhere and seem added in for nostalgia’s sake (the re-appearance of heroin is pointless).
The four leads are superb. Ewan McGregor is the best he’s been since the original film, Robert Carlyle has aged Begbie in the most perfect way and Ewan Bremner is the heart of the film. Only Jonny Lee Miller isn’t stretched, with Sick Boy always being a secondary character.
This film has a rollicking pace and heaps of style. It captures the spirit of the original whilst moving in an entirely new direction, away from drugs and toward some kind of recognition. For the first time, Renton is forced to face the consequences of his actions and it’s an explosive moment. I personally loved this scene (not a spoiler) which captures the hard edged but joyful tone of the original and is a perfect storm of music, action, comedy and character.
This film is the best thing I’ve seen all year. It would take a lot to top this, and I can’t wait!
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like’. . Thanks to Patrick for writing this film review. You can find his other film reviews here:
With the release of Trainspotting 2, the long-awaited sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 black-comedy film, I sat down with Patrick, from The Blog from Another World to discuss Trainspotting.
I read Trainspotting, the book on which the film is based, by Irvine Welsh last year and wrote a review of it here. Overall, the gritty Scottish social realism failed to captivate me, but I appreciated Welsh’s inclusion of Scottish slang and dialect. When I watched the film however, I felt much more engaged.
I asked Patrick if enjoyed watching Trainspotting. He said: “I think that ‘enjoy’ is a difficult term to use to describe this film. I think it’s is a British classic and a milestone for British cinema.”
He continued, “Many films have tried to emulate the anarchic and twisted style of this film (such as Jon S. Baird’s Filth in 2013 – based on another novel by Irvine Welsh) but nobody has ever really come close. I love Danny Boyle’s direction and he makes the film palatable for the audience.”
However, what I found unpalatable in Trainspotting was how every social situation was punctuated by, hard drug use aside, cigarettes and alcohol. Whilst Trainspotting is by no means the only film to feature heavy drinking and smoking, it’s something in film that irritates me every time; excessive consumption makes me feel physically sick. I also found it ironic that the characters who frequently binged on these “socially acceptable” drugs were the same characters berating Renton and his friends for their heroin addictions.
Yet the constant smoking and drinking was certainly not the most shocking part of Trainspotting. To say the film includes crude scenes is an understatement.
“It is a tough film to watch in places, so I understand why people can’t enjoy it for that reason.” Patrick said. However, he argued that these disgusting scenes are purposeful, and contrasted with moments of beauty and perfection.
“For example, when Renton dives down the worst toilet in Scotland, he lands in clear, serene water – brilliant juxtaposition; I really admire the sheer invention of it.”
Speaking of whom, Ewan McGregor’s Renton was my favourite character in Trainspotting: the protagonist and heroin addict, who provides a voice of relative reason and is capable of blending into “normal” society.
Renton is the central narrator of the film, which made the plot easier to follow and helped me put names to faces. It was also a nice change from the book, which frequently changed between different narrative perspectives, making for tough reading. The fact Renton’s narration helped me understand the plot better made me appreciate the voice-overs – a technique I normally dislike within film – and I thought they matched the style of Trainspotting well.
Patrick’s favourite character was Francis Begbie, a psychopath with violent tendencies, played by Robert Carlyle.
“Carlyle gives such a ferocious and frightening portrayal of a psychopath” he said.
“I can’t help but feel that Heath Ledger’s Joker and Andrew Scott’s Moriarty share DNA with Begbie’s pint-glass-throwing-chaos. True, Renton, Spud and Sick Boy are iconic characters, but Begbie is the character who sticks in my mind.
When Begbie starts a fight at the pub, it’s horrible. His callous violent bloodlust is frightening and his whim to have a fight is portrayed excellently.”
Patrick described to me another memorable Trainspotting scene, where Renton is forced by his parents to give up his heroin use, going through withdrawal symptoms, including vivid hallucinations. “It’s a horrific and surreal scene.” Patrick said, and I have to agree. McGregor’s acting here was fantastic; his screams really emphasised the suffering he was going through, and it was conflicting to watch.
Personally, I found the scene where Allison’s baby dies unsurprising but incredibly emotional. Allison, played by Susan Vidler, had an incredibly blasé attitude to drugs and promiscuous sex, resulting in a neglected baby surrounded by drugs and filth. When baby Dawn, inevitably died from poor health and neglect, it was such a raw and emotional scene – I could really sense Allison’s pain. However, what disturbed and angered me was that although Allison was in such pain, she still turned back to drugs – highlighting the vicious and destructive cycle of drug addiction.
It is scenes such as these that give Trainspotting a much darker tone, to juxtapose with its comedic elements.
Patrick said, “I think Trainspotting’s tone is very complex. It’s a film which is hyperactive but sombre, crass but frightening. The tone works because it’s about the ‘highs and lows’ of drug addiction; the tone wildly fluctuates to expertly capture and reflect what life is like for a heroin addict.”
“Many drugs films such as Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) show only the horrific parts of drug addiction. Trainspotting is the best portrayal of addiction since The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945). It gives a balanced but unflinching view of addiction – it’s as euphoric as it is disgusting. It is better to understand what drugs give you, before you see what they take away.”
Trainspotting 2 was released today in the UK, and will be released in March in the USA.
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like’.
This is part of another collaborative series with The Blog from Another World, and again, the focus seems to have been on trains! You can read our previous posts, talking about Paula Hawkin’s The Girl On The Train, here and here.
This is also the first post in my new series, From One Blogger To Another, where I will interview a different blogger / writer each month. I wanted to write some longer pieces for my blog that are more journalistic in style, and hopefully this series will allow me to do that.
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.
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.
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!
This September, it is officially 2 years since The Sims 4 was released! If you aren’t aware, The Sims games are hugely popular; they are life simulation video games where you can create Sims (people), make them get a job, get married, have children or burn down their house, turn them into a supernatural creature and a whole lot more.
I absolutely love The Sims series (although I was never taken with the look of The Sims 3: I much prefer The Sims, The Sims 2 & more recently of course, The Sims 4).
Therefore, I thought there was no better Tag to do this month than The Sims Book Tag. Enjoy!
1. The Original Sims: The Best Author Debut
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins (2015)! This was Hawkin’s first ever novel, after a life of journalism, and it was an absolute thrill to read. It was so well-done, that I wouldn’t have guessed it was her first time writing a novel. I definitely intend to read it again.
*Honourable Mention: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (2006). Like Hawkins, Sharp Objects is a thriller/murder mystery which kept me completely hooked. It raises issues of mental health and self-harm in particular, which I think was quite a bold thing to do, considering mental health awareness was not as publicised 10 years ago as it is today.
2. The Grim Reaper: The Saddest Character Death
I’m torn in my decision making, and either way it leaves spoilers!
I would have to say either Hans Hubermann from The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (2005) or Bruno from The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (2006). I think the thing about both of these characters is that they are portrayed continually to the reader as “morally innocent” (let’s make that a phrase, if it isn’t already) and so their deaths seem so unjustified – not entirely unexpected due to the war-torn German backdrop – but just so… unfair.
*Honourable Mention: Fred Weasley from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (2007). To be honest, a lot of the deaths in Harry Potter are quite emotional, but not enough to pip first place!
3.Sims Getting Stuck: A Character That Just Got In The Way
Honestly, I’d have to say Gale from the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I know he was “needed” to create a love triangle and cause some tension, but I much preferred Peeta and so I couldn’t help but want Gale out of the frame!
4. Simlish: A Book With Amazing Writing
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (1975). The descriptions were amazing, and I felt like each character was truly fleshed out without being bogged down in pages of mundane details. Of course, the scary scenes were truly scary (duh, it’s Stephen King!) and I think he is a very talented creative writer.To be honest, any book written by Stephen King would fit this question!
5. Expansion Packs: A Series Where The Books Kept On Getting Better
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – you can tell by the increasing sizes of the books that more action, more character development and more themes are included in every book, truly adding to the Harry Potter world and experience.
*Honourable Mention: The Blessings of Myrillia Series by Crystin Goodwin, for which I was a beta reader. I really enjoyed these fantasy / YA books and I felt that not only was the story more developed in each book, but that the style of writing developed too, and made the reading process very enjoyable and easy for me!
6. Sims Romance: The Worst Case Of Instant Love
Bella and Edward from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005). Bella didn’t seem to have any qualities, nay, a personality that would attract anyone – let alone a vampire. Plus, by the second book, New Moon (2006), it seemed ridiculous that Bella was simultaneously grieving over the loss of Edward, but starting to develop feelings for Jacob (I smell a love triangle approaching). I was then increasingly not keen on the direction Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008) took, in the speedy engagement, marriage, and birth of a child – all by the age of 19. Even without the supernatural creatures, that is just not normal.
7. Cheats: A Contemporary Book That Was Entirely Unrealistic
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (2012). I don’t think I even made it to the end?
8. Needs Fulfilment: A Character Who Made All The Wrong Decisions
All the wrong decisions? Did you say all? (5 points if you saw the Macbeth reference)
Although I wouldn’t say every decision he ever made was wrong, Harry Potter from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series definitely springs to mind, particularly as he gets older. For example,
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry ignored the advice of Dumbledore and others, refusing to learn occlumency, and was subsequently manipulated and tricked into the Department of Mysteries, risking many of his friends’ lives
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry randomly decides to use an unknown, untested spell found in an old textbook and nearly kills his classmate (even if it was Draco Malfoy, his arch nemesis)
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry says the taboo word “Voldemort” (a word he is notorious for casually using throughout the series), leading to his capture, Hermione’s torture and Dobby’s death
9. Error Code 12: A Series That Started Off Great But Went Downhill
Although I like the stories, I’d have to say The Hobbit (1937) & The Lord Of The Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien came up with a unique fantasy world, the narrative and characters are amazing, and this was developed when Peter Jackson launched his film adaptations. However, they are just so difficult to read! I’ve been ploughing through the series for quite a while now, taking lengthy breaks between each book. The Hobbit, the first book Tolkien wrote in the series, was the easiest for me to read but after that, it remains increasingly a struggle.
10. The Sims Vortex: A Book That Completely Engrossed You
As an alternative to The Girl On The Train, I would have to say Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012). I read this first and I read it in just a few days. I’ve mentioned it in a Book Haul and I’ve done a film review of Gone Girl too, so it’s safe to say that I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down because the characters were so intriguing, and you simply had to read more to access more flashbacks and diary entries to learn more about their pasts and mental states.
*Honourable Mention:Mr Mercedes by Stephen King (2014) – I was captivated by this book and hardly put it down!
Those are my responses to The Sims Book Tag: I hope you enjoyed this post. If you love The Sims as much as me, please feel free to do this tag!