Tag Archives: fiction

“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” By Carson McCullers


“Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them.”

I was pulled out of my “book rut” when I opened a copy of this novel.  By book rut, I meant that it’s been (in my opinion) too long since I read a book that grabbed my attention, transported me, and left me breathless and overwhelmed with emotion.  Being in a book rut is quite disappointing for bookworms such as myself. I thus scoured the Internet looking for ideas of well-written books that would captivate me.  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter came up on a few lists so I took that as a sign.

It’s funny how loved, popular, and timeless the book To Kill a Mockingbird is, yet I’ve never heard of  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter before.  In many ways, they are very similar.  Both take place in the Southern US, both have a tomboy as a main character, both tackle issues of racism and growing up.  I was actually astounded at the similarities.  However, while To Kill a Mockingbird is centered around white people and the experiences of blacks through a white lens, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has prominent black characters that are richly developed, and complex.

This book was written in the 1940s by a 23-year-old white woman, yet had I not known that before reading this book, I would never have guessed that.  What makes this book so brilliant is the fact that a young Southern and white woman could write about complex issues of racism, grief, and sexuality with empathy and a deep insight that is beyond her years.

The cast of characters is a rag tag melee of misfits in the South who are united by their friendship with a mute named John Singer.  There’s Biff, a recently widowed store owner who is exploring his gender identity; Dr. Copeland, a black man who is frustrated with the plight of African Americans in the US; Jake Blount, an alcoholic who is obsessed with leading a revolution; and Mick, a young teen girl whose high hopes for life are slowly crushed by her family’s descent into poverty.  Singer has his own issues: his best friend/ soul mate (probably lover) is in a mental institution and so he has no one to lay his own burdens and love onto.

The most interesting part about this book was the deep biblical undertones.  Singer is like Jesus: the main characters are constantly coming to talk to him and tell him about their life, their burdens, their hopes and their fears.  Being a mute symbolizes that while people pray to Jesus or God, they don’t get a direct answer.  His character also represents how humans project their own ideas of who God should be.  For Singer, he means something different to each of the characters.  A significant moment in the novel is when all the main characters are together in the same room, and no one can talk to each other.  They all want to talk to the mute instead.  This scene is one example of how brilliant, metaphorical, and powerful this book is.

I could go on and on about the symbolism and meanings in this book, but I don’t want to spoil anything.  Do yourself a literary favor, and read this book. Be warned though: there are a lot of emotional parts.

Have you read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought about it.  Let me know in the comments your opinions!



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The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson


Where do I even begin?

I’ve read my fair share of books that scared me, scarred me, haunted me.

But until now, I had never encountered a book that managed to do all of that while also being mesmerizing and surprisingly readable.

This book is a young woman’s (Maya) confession in a police station.  All we know at the beginning is that she and many other girls were kidnapped and endured unspeakable horrors at the hands of a man referred to as “The Gardener.”  Though reluctant at first to open up to the cops, Maya slowly shares her heartbreaking account of her childhood and life as a prisoner with the other women.

Soon we learn that the gardener tattoos each woman with large butterfly wings (each woman’s unique) on their backs and refers to them as his “butterflies.”  As Maya confesses to the cops, the reader is taken with her on the same twisted, terrifying path of discovery as to what being a “butterfly” for the Gardener entails.

We know from the beginning that Maya and other women ultimately escape.  The purpose of the story and the impending climax is how Maya eventually became free and why she seems to hesitate at incriminating her captor.  As the novel builds up to this, the author develops through Maya’s account the characters of the butterflies and the gardener, giving them a raw humanity that sparks conflicting emotions.  It’s not a victim versus villain scenario.  It’s a complicated exploration of the dichotomy of the human condition.

This book with scare you, scar you, haunt you.  Its superior writing and storytelling are worth every emotion.

Have you read this book?  Let me know in the comments what you thought!

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas


‘Had I but known, Tam-Lin, she said
What defeat this night I’d see
I’d’ve stolen both thine eyes
and changed thee fast into a tree.

‘Had I but known, Tam-lin, she said
before we left this night to roam,
I’d’ve et thy heart of flesh
and left thee with a heart of stone!’ -Tam Lin


Tam-Lin is a beautiful ballad that describes a teenage girl facing off against the Queen of the Faeries as she claims her inheritance of Cartenhaugh manor and her love for captive Tam-Lin.  I still have a beautiful picture book version of this tale that I would bring out each year on Halloween, aka the night that the Fairy Court allegedly rides out into the human world.

Anyone who knows me even the slightest is aware that my favorite Disney movie and fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast.  Stockholm Syndrome be damned, I think it is a lovely tale of learning to accept others for who they are, being ok with who you are, and that beauty is only skin deep.

This all ties into A Court of Thorns and Roses because the book is essentially a reimaginig of Beauty and the Beast with overtones of Tam-Lin.  In this case, the protagonist Feyre is held captive in the fairy world by a High Fae Lord named Tamlin after she unknowingly kills his friend while hunting.  Feyre, like Belle, is an outcast in her village.  Her family is impoverished, her mother had long ago passed away, and she is responsible for supporting her family.  Tamlin appears as a beast, but later transforms into a man, but with a mask that he cannot take off.  In fact, everyone in his court is stuck wearing masks, because of a blight that was cast long ago.

I bet you can imagine where this is going.  Feyre hates Tamlin at first for taking her away from her family and everything she has known, but as they become acquainted, save each others lives on several occasions, and Tamlin offers her an art gallery (unlike Belle, she’s an artist not a reader), their relationship gets steamy.  As a side note, I could not believe this book is considered “teen” fiction but perhaps I am becoming more sensitive in my (26 years) old age.  Anyways, this book is full of romance, adventure, fairies, an evil Queen, and pretty much everything fans of the fantasy genre will love.  While there are a lot of familiar elements in this book, it manages to be unique enough to create an engaging tale.  It’s passionate, it’s fast-paced, it’s the perfect summer escapist book.  If you haven’t read the ballad of Tam-Lin, I recommend doing so before starting this novel.

If I haven’t convinced you enough how enjoyable this book is, I just found out it’s a series and as much as I hate getting roped into them, I have to find out what happens next!

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Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow



“he knows that it’s impossible to tell a wolf
from a man if
he keeps his chin up
and his teeth clean.”-Sharp Teeth

What drew me to this book?  Was it the short and snappy title?  The stark cover?  Is it simply impossible for me to want to read anything but horror this summer?

No matter the reason, I found myself picking up a copy of Sharp Teeth and was subsequently sucked into an alternative reality of Los Angeles: a place spread out over the desert where wild dogs fight for power, money, and love.  Written in free verse, it reads like an epic poem; a classic tale of a hero on a journey fighting an enemy and winning the love of a fair lady.

In short, the novel centers around Anthony, a dog catcher who falls in love with an unnamed werewolf who just left her pack.  Their romance buds in the midst of a gritty and apocalyptic LA, where werewolves slip between their human and dog forms as their competition builds up to an inevitable war.  The plot is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, or West Side Story.  There’s impending chaos, but the beauty of the story is how love endures within the storm.

The most striking thing about the book is the metaphor of what the werewolves symbolize.  It’s not just a story about werewolves engaged in gang wars, but how we all have a little dog inside us; a wildness that we can learn to control, but not always.

Most of the time, the werewolves can turn into humans or into a dog whenever they wish.  When they are about to fight or kill, most often they revert to their wild side and become a dog.  However, they prefer to make love in human form.  The process of the characters changing into dogs represents their resignation to their basic, barbaric side.  As dogs, they can fight and kill with no remorse.  As humans, they are held to the same societal norms as everyone else.

Lark, a former alpha werewolf from one of the packs, is the character that stands apart because for him, turning into a dog is an escape from human responsibilities.  As a dog, he prefers to enjoy the freedom and simplicity that comes with being an animal by being with his “owner.”

Supporting the romance, action, and metaphor of this book is how the book is structured.  The free verse strategy makes you slow down and savor the words.  Otherwise, with the intense action the reader would easily slide through the story without taking time to appreciate some beautiful anecdotes.  I’ll end this review with one such example:

“Everyone is always looking in the wrong direction,
we worry about our lovers while losing our jobs
we stress out about cancer while our children run away
we ponder the stars while burning the earth.
Lark used to say the bullet we’re running from
is almost never the one that hits us.”


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Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist


Summer is in full swing and for a few months I am not a student who is also working two part time jobs. That means that my schedule is full of opportunities to read, and reading I have been doing. Guilty pleasure reading that is. My plan to tackle the behemoth that is Infinite Jest was put on the back burner when I stumbled across the horror novel Let Me In by the Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. An anti-Twilight vampire romance/horror novel? My curiosity thus piqued, I began the ultimate descent into a Swedish vampire nightmare.

The book begins with introducing a young boy Oskar, who is a loner and frequently bullied at his school. One day he meets a young girl, Eli, at his apartment whom he befriends and falls in love with; even as he becomes more aware of her increasingly bizarre habits and behaviors. Peppered in with the central story are other characters within the town. There’s a group of poor alcoholic peers dealing with their own issues and the mysterious murder of one of their friends, the bully’s point of view, and a teenage boy living in Oskar’s apartment complex. Eli’s “father” is given his own storyline as well. I am still deciding whether or not I like this tactic. On one hand, using multiple characters and perspectives, Lindqvist transforms the novel from a simple bloody horror fest to a sort of social commentary on the poor and overlooked population in Sweden. However, I found myself caring more about Oskar and Eli and wished their relationship and plot line had been more flushed out.

This is a heavy, dark book, and not just because of the vampire aspect. Pedophilia, genital mutilation, violence, alcoholism, poverty, and loneliness are all equally prominent themes which together create a sense of pure dread. I took longer to read this book than I expected because I needed to take frequent breaks and watch something funny on Netflix to mitigate the effects this story had on me.

On the other hand, this book is very well written and fans of the horror genre will not be disappointed. It’s creepy in a way that it sneaks up on you, making you feel like you’re walking down a dark street and are positive someone is following you, even though you keep turning around and see nothing.

As people have said before, this is the ultimate anti-Twilight book. It’s a vampire love story, but it’s not sparkly skin and Robert Pattinson’s pouty expression. It takes the erotic themes associated with vampires and twists them in a way that is satisfyingly disturbing to a horror fan like me.

Curl up in a blanket, and invite this book in.

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Horror Novels as Scary as the Films

In college, I developed an obsession of horror movies.  Not the gory ones meant to shock and appall you, but the slow burning ones that creep under your skin and exploit your perception of what is safe and comforting.  Many people like to be scared for kicks, I just prefer to do so within the solace of my apartment.

Anyways, I was jonesing for a good scare last weekend and without anything better to do, ended up reading two books that were written in the 60s/70s and promptly had successful movie adaptations that are considered classic horror films.  Have you figured out what those books are?


Of course, The Exorcist, the movie that spawned a whole franchise of demonic possession films. Most people are familiar with the story: a sweet girl Regan, who is the daughter of an actress becomes possessed after talking to an entity she calls “Captain Howdy.”  After exhausting all other options, her desperate mother calls upon a Jesuit priest to help her daughter.

The movie is frightening in that you see a very innocent young girl turn into a projectile vomiting, swearing, cross desecrating, head turning all the way around being.  The book however is even more terrifying in that there is more of a build up of the characters, so Regan’s decline into possession is gradual and ultimately shocking.  Also, if you thought the movie was bad, the book describes in detail some more disgusting things the demon makes Regan do, which ultimately would not be appropriate at all to be shown in a movie.

Besides containing more horror than the movie, the book is better in that the characters have time to become more developed, and thus the motivations and actions shown in the movie are better understood.  For example, Karass, the priest that determines Regan is possessed, is shown to be a man full of guilt for abandoning his mother and feeling responsible for her death.  This is touched upon in the movie, but the book does a better job of showing the scope of his emotional baggage.  Compared to the movie, his ultimate action to save Regan in the book seemed more natural and satisfying.

The last great thing about the book versus the movie is the build up towards the exorcism.  In a movie, if they spent screen time covering all the events leading to the exorcism, it would quickly become boring as it would be a string of scenes involving Karass doing research.  In the book, it was a logical string of events that created eager anticipation for the climax.  Karass is very careful in the book to admit that Regan is possessed.  He actually spends most of the book convinced that she is suffering from some sort of mental disease.  It is only when he carefully considers her actions and eliminates any clear sign of mental illness that he decides to propose exorcism.  I actually appreciated this attention to detail because it seemed realistic to me.

Watching the movie before reading the book did not make this horror story any less enjoyable.  Of course, the book is always better so reading the novel made me appreciate the movie that much more.  I give this book five out of five stars for great character development, and a good mix of shocking and slow building horror.


What if you found out the person that had vowed to love and respect you til death do you part, was actually a member of a satanic cult and let the Devil have his way with you? Yeah I don’t know what I’d do either, but that is the very situation Rosemary finds herself in in this book that went on to become a successful horror movie in the late 60s.

The horror in this book isn’t your typical serial killer or monster/ghost situation. Rather what makes it scary is the idea that the people you think are your friends and the person you think you love are actually conspiring against you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Poor Rosemary, she married the man she loved and for that her parents cut all ties with her.  All she wanted was to have a happy life in New York with her husband and have three children.  After moving into a fancy new apartment and making friends with her new neighbors, the Castevets, she finds out she is pregnant.  From there, the horror starts to sneak in as she realizes something is wrong with her pregnancy, and her husband and neighbors might not be the devoted husband and nice old people they seem to be.  Furthermore, her husband suddenly starts to become more successful in his acting career.  Is she going crazy or is there some deep dark secret the Castevets and her husband are hiding?

Of course, many people have seen the movie already or already know the ending.  I had already seen the movie myself but I enjoyed the book a lot more.  I realized that Roman Polanski did a great job adapting the book and casting the characters, but overall I feel that Rosemary’s Baby is more effective as a book rather than a movie.  My biggest issue with the movie was that not a lot happened.  In the book, you get more into Rosemary’s mind and psyche and that drives you to keep reading.  The only thing the movie added to the story was showing how the pregnancy affected Rosemary’s health.

I give this book five out of five stars because it is a good mix of camp and horror, and hooks you from the first page (I ended up reading this in less than 24 hours).

Overall, I highly recommend both of these books to the lovers of classic horror. After watching the movies, you will enjoy the great writing of these two books.  After going back and reading the novels, you will then have a greater appreciation for the films.

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“Cloud Atlas” By David Mitchell


Do you remember the first time you encountered nesting dolls? You saw an ornately painted wooden figure and picked it up out of curiosity.  Then you noticed a crack running through its midsection.  Puzzled, you pulled both halves apart to find another, smaller wooden doll on the indside.  You repeated the process again and again, until finally you were left with a tiny replica of the original figure, and the disassembled parts of the larger dolls.  Next, you put the smallest figure into the one that was slightly bigger, and so on, reversing the process until you are left at the beginning.  You weren’t quite sure of what exactly the purpose of the nesting doll was until you had reached the center, and returned to where you started.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is a literary nesting doll.  The book consists of six novellas.  The first five novellas stop mid story.  When you reach the six novella, there is no interruption in the plot.  From there, the stories pick back up and finish, but in the opposite direction.  To put it simply, if each novella were assigned a number, the structure is: 1-2-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Each of the novellas has a different genre within itself, but the overall book is a complex exploration of religion, science, philosophy, and reincarnation.  The unifying theme is a comet birthmark, which makes its appearance in each story on one of the characters.

The message of the book, which is that we are all connected by time and souls that float from one body to the next, becomes obvious as the reader progresses from one novella to the next.  Each novella is fairly weak when examined apart from the other novels, but perhaps this was an intentional strategy.  Like a nesting doll, you need to read the entire book to fully appreciate the message.

My biggest critique of the book was that the delivery of the moral lacked the literary punch I was expecting.  Perhaps Mitchell was trying to achieve too much in this behemoth that his main message was overwhelmed by sub-meditations and revelations.  I found myself wondering what exactly he wanted the reader to take away from this ambitious novel.  It was only after I watched the movie and couldn’t fall asleep that night that I realized: if anything, this book makes you think.  There I was, lying awake at night, trying to decipher all of the complexities and subtleties and finding myself going around in mental circles.  I can’t remember the last time a book has affected me in this way.

My recommendation to readers is to watch the movie after reading the book.  Even for the seasoned bibliophile, this book is complicated and seeing the action on screen helps in peeling away the layers of the story.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars for being thought provoking, but falling short of delivering a novel, mind-blowing message that it promised.

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“Atonement” by Ian McEwan


In my quest to read at least 50 out of the 100 books on the BBC Book List Challenge, I chose Atonement because it is a short book and I saw the movie a few years ago.  I remember somewhat enjoying the movie, but found it a little depressing.  However, the book is always better than the movie so I went into this book hoping that good writing would make up for the melancholy theme.

Aptly titled, Atonement is a family saga of sorts that traces the aftermath of a young girl, Brionny, who witnesses her cousin being raped and mistakenly blames her sister’s lover (Robbie) for the crime.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the title does make it clear she spends the rest of her life trying to atone for her error.

The success of the book comes from showing the maturity of Brionny, who transforms from a naive girl living in her head, to a nurse who rues her mistake and tries to find absolution with her sister (Cecilia) and Robbie.  Mixed in with Brionny’s character development is what happens to Robbie and his relationship  with Cecilia following the false accusation.

Does Brionny ever find forgiveness?  Do the Romeo and Juliet-esque lovers ever find their happy ending after being torn apart?  For those answers, you will have to read the book.

My only criticism of Atonement is the very last part, which seemed to drag on.  The only purpose seemed to answer the question of what happened to Robbie and Cecilia, but I think the reveal could have been done in fewer pages and still leave the reader satisfied.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars for its en pointe writing and character development.


Filed under Classics, Fiction

Sci Fi and Horror Short Stories…Oh My!

Last week I wondered whether I was becoming a literary masochist.  Between the two volumes of short stories I read, I bounced between being horrified and depressed.  All that influenced my reading choices however was that both of the authors happen to be my two favorite novelists.  With that, let me dive into the scary one first:


Night Shift by Stephen King

Just when I think that King can’t frighten me anymore and that I’ve read enough of his work that I know what to expect from him, he shocks me again.  Though some of these stories have ties to his other novels, such as Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and Christine, there is plenty of new horror to experience in this anthology.  Many of his short stories in this book have been made into movies, such as Children of the CornQuitters Inc., and The Ledge.  

Just as he does in his novels, each short story starts out slowly, with characters surprisingly well developped given how condensed the action is, and by the time you start to notice the goosebumps rising on your arms, the climax whacks you in the face and you suddenly feel yourself shifting uncomforably in your seat.  King is a master of what I consider to be the key to creating good horror: he takes a seemingly normal situation you would feel comfortable in, then turns the plot completely around, making you realize no one is safe and evil can lurk anywhere.

Best story in the book: it’s a tie between Graveyard Shift and The Ledge.  Graveyard Shift is terribly frightening for any one who has even a sliver of disdain for rats.  The Ledge is less scary but is suspenseful and has one of the greatest literary twists at the end.  It will have you on the edge of your seat, pun intended.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

After I read Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury became one of my all time favorite authors.  Although I am not a huge fan of science fiction, he uses the genre as a way to promote his warnings about humans and violence and our dependency on technology.  In that way, his books are powerful and dreamlike.

The Illustrated Man is a collection of short stories with an encompassing theme: in the prologue a man meets a tattooed carnie in Wisconsin.  Each tattoo tells a story.  Following are the stories that are pictured on the tattooed man’s body.  Many of the stories are about space travel, Mars, and aliens.  The sub plot in these novels is about how advances in technology have caused man to become isolated, either physically or mentally from others.  The other main theme is the generation gap between parents who hold onto old traditions and books, and the younger generation that embraces technology and distances themselves, again physically or mentally, from their forefathers.

This anthology is sometimes depressing, sometimes scary, but overall thought provoking.  It never ceases to amaze me that Bradbury warned us of a world of people dependent on technology and passionate about violent media in the 1950s, before TV had become ubiquitous.

Without a doubt, the best short story is The Veldt, which is about two children who live in a smart house.  They come to love their nursery, essentially a room completely composed of TV screens, more than their parents.  This story is completely terrifying and makes you question your own dependence on techonolgy.  If you aren’t a fan of science fiction, I recommend you at least read The Veldt.  

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

I was trying to articulate why it is I love short stories so much.  The fact that you can read them quickly is, of course, a plus, but the reason goes deeper than that.  David Sedaris said: “A good [short story] would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.” I don’t think I could explain my sentiments better than that.  Great short stories, such as the ones I’ve talked about in this post, have done just that.  They achieve what a great novel does in a fraction of the pages: leave you dizzy, unoriented, and somehow different.

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Fall Reading Finds

In my last few posts, I have poured my heart out and addressed aspects of my past that have lead me to where I am today.  Today, I am going to take a break from writing about my journey of self discovery and am going to focus on one of my favorite hobbies: reading.

Over the past month(ish), I have finished four books.  Go ahead, call me a nerd/dork/bookworm/introvert.  However, when I lack inspiration for writing, I read as much as I can.  If i want to be a writer someday, I feel that reading is as important to training myself as writing is.  So what has Hilary been reading?


First up: Catch-22.  A classic book that I somehow was not forced to read in high school.  Since one of my life goals is to read all the books on the BBC book list challenge and since this books is on my list of classic books I should be ashamed I haven’t read yet, I decided it was about time I read it. To give a very brief review: this book was extremely slow moving until the last 70 pages.  I had to keep reading Sparknotes to understand just what the heck was going on.  Not that it is a hard book to read, but I kept finding my eyes glazing over every other page.  However, to give the book credit, it is supposed to be a unique novel in that its style was very different than other WWII novels at the time.  To give the book credit, some parts were funny and it had a strong message about the absurdity of war.  I wish though that I had read this book in high school to fully understand the historical and literary context.


Gillian Flynn is a phenomenal writer.  I’m sure most of you have heard of or read her newest book, Gone Girl.  I read that book too and thought it was great, until the very end.  However, I love her development of characters, the dark themes she writes on, and the shocking twists in plot.  This book came highly recommended to me by a fellow reader I have high esteem for (my mom).  It was the beginning of October and I was looking for a creepy, dark book.  Every October I get in the mood for gory slasher flicks and twisted, suspenseful books.  Sharp Objects had everything I was looking for.  Basic premise: a woman goes back to her home town to investigate the murder of two young girls.  Like Gone Girl, this book hooks you right away and keeps you guessing until the climatic end.  It’s a short book that can easily be read in one day if you have nothing else to do, or cancel all your plans because you are so enthralled in the story (which is what happened to me).


After reading Sharp Objects, I was hungry for more Gillian Flynn, more messed up protagonists, more crazy families, more twists, and more darkness!  Again, my reading guru suggested that I must read this next Gillian Flynn book.  Basic premise: one night a girl’s mother and two sisters are brutally murdered.  She escaped and survived.  Her brother gets blamed for the murders based on her testimony and is sentenced to life in prison.  Years later, desperate for money, she finds a group of people willing to pay her to find out what exactly happened to her family to seek justice for her brother.  Again, there are imperfect characters, a crazy family, and plot twists.  What I like about this book and Gone Girl is that the stories are told from different perspectives.  It switches from the present to the day leading up to the murder.  This book is longer than Sharp Objects, but I finished it quickly because the suspense hooks you in.  As I got closer and closer to the time of the murder, I forgot basic things like eating and sleeping.  For anyone looking for a dark, well written read, I recommend these two books.


It was still October, and I was still on my creepy thriller kick.  After doing some Amazon.com research, I came across this book.  I remember it from working at a bookstore because I thought the cover was intriguing.  Reviews of this book said that it was a lot like Gone Girl.  Since Gillian Flynn can’t come out with new books as fast as I am reading them, I decided to give this book a try.  Basic premise: a mom finds out her daughter committed suicide at her posh high school. She then gets a text saying her daughter didn’t jump.  For the rest of the book, the mom is trying to find out what happened to her daughter.  As she does this, she starts to learn there is a lot about her daughter she didn’t know.  I went into reading this book expecting the same great writing Gillian Flynn puts out.  That was a bad idea.  This book only compares to Gillian Flynn in that it is told from multiple perspectives and is suspenseful.  I expected huge plot twists.  There were a few, but they were revealed rather casually rather than hitting you hard like Gillian Flynn’s books.  I didn’t really like the mom character.  I found her kind of flat.  The daughter, Amelia, slowly became a more complex character but compared to Gillian Flynn’s books, she was pretty tame.  Compared to Gillian Flynn’s books, the plot twists seemed very mild and not that shocking.  Maybe they  would seem shocking if you were a very sheltered person.  Additionally, there were a lot of plot holes at the end.  The whole book seemed to build up to a huge climatic ending with tons of intrigue, but then it seemed like the author got tired of writing and just ended the story as quickly as possible.

Conclusion: read Gillian Flynn. So far, I haven’t found any other books that compare to hers.

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