Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Part 3 of 3)

Note: This is the final installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnTitle: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover (Amazon) | Kobo

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River.

Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

There’s little more I can say about Gone Girl that hasn’t already been said. I was engaged from the first page, and as the story unfolded, I was more and more awestruck with the tight weaving of the tale. I won’t spoiler anything in my review, but let me just say that I loved and hated both main characters multiple times as the novel progressed. Even now that I’m finished, I love and hate both of them.

Certain people are unhappy with the world. It’s like they’re born hating their very existence, perplexed why they’re here, and angry that they are being asked to live. This is who I think the book is about: Someone whose soul was tainted before they proceeded to this earth. That, quite frankly, is fascinating to me and always has been. And I will never get enough of books and movies and television shows about those kinds of people.

Before reading this, I had heard the term “unreliable narrator” applied to the book. That’s not precisely what we’re dealing with, at least not the Holden Caulfield definition. Instead, it’s unreliable storytelling, secrets within secrets, lies by omission and painting reality a certain way, all for a reason. And that reason is to make you feel about the characters. And that’s what makes me love it.

While I like speculative fiction, I like dark, thinking books more. This one definitely fills both those criteria. After I read this, I decided I was going to pick up Gillian Flynn’s other two books and devour them as quickly as this one, though I posted my reviews in the order she published them. That was my fabulous Christmas break 2013–and there’s no question in my mind as to why she’s a New York Times Bestselling Author.

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Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Part 2 of 3)

Note: This is the second installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Dark Places by Gillian FlynnTitle: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre(s): Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon) | Kobo

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.”

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

I see glimmers of a future bestselling author in this book, but I don’t quite love Dark Places because it doesn’t deliver on some of the things it hints at. Don’t get me wrong–I still gave it 3.5 of 5 stars because I love the darkness inside Libby. But it doesn’t resonate the same way Gone Girl does.

Libby is, quite clearly, disturbed. She’s angry and doesn’t care who knows it. She’s desperate, greedy, and lazy, and willing to do anything but get a job, since getting a job means interacting with people. Of course, she can’t avoid interacting with people–but every interaction drains her and makes her hate the world more.

Quite frankly, I didn’t like Libby, not even a little bit, but I could identify with her struggles. What must it be like to become a child celebrity not for your cherubic face on the Mickey Mouse Show but because your family was brutally murdered? We see child stars become desperate, tearing their clothes off on television and humping the air (though I have a very strong suspicion that most of the time, that’s not their own desperation but their managers’/parents’, who see their cash cow drying up–but I digress). And Libby is even more desperate than that.

As with Sharp Objects, some of the big moments aren’t handled as well as I would have liked. They’re softened, blunted somehow, an “ah, I felt it all along” moment rather than an “OMG! I didn’t see that coming AT ALL!” moment. Yet with each novel, Ms. Flynn’s depiction of some of the saddest and dislikable of humanity becomes stronger, more compelling, sharper.

If you liked Gone Girl, I recommend picking up Dark Places. And next Friday, I will talk about the book that started this blog series, the one I read first, and why I loved it.

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Review: Acts of Violence by Ross Harrison

Acts of Violence by Ross HarrisonTitle: Acts of Violence
Author: Ross Harrison
Genre(s): Sci-Fi Thriller
How To Purchase: Kindle | UK Kindle | Smashwords

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Acts of Violence in exchange for an honest review.

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how.

Acts of Violence is more thriller than sci-fi, which isn’t quite my cup of tea, but in the end, it unveiled a shocking twist–and that’s always sure to make me love it.

Jack Mason is a guy with a purpose, although his purpose is veiled in mystery. He’s hunting a bigwig in a backwater colony whose shady business dealings, quite frankly, just piss him off. He’s not a cop or a private investigator–though for years, he’s tried to get his license. He’s a guy with a mission. Maybe just a guy seeking redemption.

I was hoping for a bit more science fiction when I decided to read it. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy/urban fantasy and wanted some awesome tech that I could really get wrapped up in. Alas, the sci-fi is a backdrop to Jack’s hunt for the truth, gadgets and vehicles that help him along his way but never come to the forefront.

The thriller part was interesting. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not something I usually care to read, but the details of the fight scenes were so realistic that I’m convinced the author has spent time in combat situations. The details about taking care of his gun, about when he has time to aim or not aim, and keeping a picture of the layout of the room he’s fighting in–Well, I would never think of those things, which is probably why I don’t write thrillers.

Besides the fight scenes going on for too long (but then someone who likes that sort of thing would probably disagree), my one small gripe was the writing style. Jack’s voice was what drew me into the story, but after awhile, it started to annoy me. He spoke in clipped sentences. Wrote without a lot of commas. Used a bunch of phrases. Got a little annoying. But maybe that was just Jack, since I could never decide whether to trust him or not.

If you like thrillers with a dash of sci-fi, this is the story for you. I hate to overplay endings because then you end up over-anticipating, but I really did not see it coming. Then again, I never do, so take that with a grain of salt.

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Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Part 1 of 3)

Note: This is the first installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Sharp Objects by Gillian FlynnTitle: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon) | Kobo

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.

Sharp Objects was a dark read, a tough portrayal of a woman still dealing with childhood scars. I liked it, but not as much as I wanted to, especially since I’d read Gone Girl first (which I review last in this series, since it was published last). Gone Girl was was so unrelenting that I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed.

This book was unrelenting, too, but the big reveal was softer. Suspicions bounced through my mind as I crossed the halfway mark. Camille’s realization of who the killer is was outshadowed by her fixation on who she–and everyone–thought it was. The big reveal was poorly done. If you blinked, you missed it. But then again, I’m chasing that Sixth Sense “aha” moment. Sharp Objects doesn’t deliver that.

On the other hand, I loved the portrayal of Camille’s struggles. Her cutting, her hatred of self, even her own apartment–transient, sad, empty. This is not a happily-ever-after story about a girl with a disturbing childhood. This is a gritty story about a disturbed girl with a disturbed childhood.

I had some trouble getting on board with the depiction of a small town, which distracted from my enjoyment of the story. Wind Gap, Missouri is a fictional town of approximately 2,200 people. I come from an Iowa town of 1,200 people. I know small town Midwest, and I’m sorry, but no town has eleven bars, a diner, an “upscale restaurant” (for serious, GiFly?), a hardware store, and several convenience stores. I found myself obsessing over these details way too much, going so far as to look up whether this was a real town (it’s not) and where Ms. Flynn originated from (Kansas City). If Wind Gap was a hub, then that makes sense, but she never called it out. She just blithely put it in there like it wasn’t out of the ordinary at all, which leads me to believe she’s not as well-versed in small-town America as she thinks she is. (Sorry, folks, Kansas City is not “small-town America.”)

Sharp Objects was a sharp debut from a future New York Times Bestselling Author. If you like this kind of dark, no-holds-bar story, you’ll like this book. Although I didn’t love it, I am glad I read it. I still looked forward to reading Dark Places (the next book I review in this series) and continue to look forward to whatever else she publishes in the future.

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Stories from beyond and Guarding Angel Cover Reveal

I’m very excited today to be able to share the cover of my book, Guarding Angel, coming April 28, 2014. Many book bloggers are sharing in my excitement today, so check some of them out (at the bottom of the post). But first, to commemorate this occasion, I wanted to invite my readers to share in some stories with brushes from beyond this life.

What do I mean precisely?

Have you ever had contact with a loved one who has died? Or have you ever been seeking something out and felt an answer from your guardian angel or spirit guide? Maybe God Him- or Herself? Have you ever seen a ghost? I will share a couple of stories, and I invite you to share yours in the comments below.

My Grandmother Says Goodbye

My first story happened directly to me. Although I’m absolutely certain that I had contact with my grandmother soon after she died, but you might not quite believe it–I’ll leave it up to you.

When I was 15 years old, my paternal grandmother had a stroke and went into a coma. We lived three states away, so unfortunately, it had been awhile since we’d seen her. My parents, brother, and I packed up the car a few days before Christmas and headed to Ohio. I was able to visit her in her room, but she was on life support and it didn’t feel like she was really there.

The other aunts and uncle came from out of town to say goodbye. On Christmas Eve, in the early morning, her children all gathered in her room to carry out her living will. They took her off the ventilator, and in a few short moments, she passed away.

This wasn’t something they wanted the kids experiencing, so I was at home, still asleep, since it was so early morning and I was, after, all, a teenager. Right before I awoke, I had a dream that Grandma came to me: We talked about her life and my life, everything that had happened and lots of things that were going to happen. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of peace about the rest of my life, but I can’t remember any of the specifics. At one point, I recall her saying she had to go, that she couldn’t stay. I begged her not to leave, but she disappeared, and I ran through a strange dreamscape looking for her. But she was gone–I couldn’t “feel” her there any more.

My mom was shaking me awake as I searched for Grandma. I opened my eyes. “Grandma’s gone, isn’t she?” Mom looked surprised and nodded. I said, “She visited me before she left.”

I don’t know for sure that she did or didn’t. Maybe it was my overactive imagination making this up, since I knew what was happening that morning. But I really felt her there, and I honestly believe that she did, indeed, stop by before she went into the afterlife. If only I could remember all the secrets she’d divulged about my upcoming life before she left …

My Uncle Comforts My Dad

My second story happened to my dad last year. He has four sisters but only one brother, and they were fairly close despite not living near one another. Unfortunately, Uncle Lanny had a clot that moved into his brain at the beginning of April, and he died within seconds.

Right before the visitation, Dad was getting out of his car when his pocket starting making noise. At first he thought his phone was ringing, but when he pulled it out, he saw that iTunes had started. “El Paso” by Marty Robbins–one of his and Uncle Lanny’s favorite songs–was playing. The last time he’d played that particular song was when they’d visited months before.

Was it Uncle Lanny, comforting Dad, who was quite distraught over his brother’s death at a relatively young age and only the beginning of his retirement? Or did the phone somehow happen to pocket dial a song that hadn’t been played for months and months? I, and my dad, like to think that it was Uncle Lanny’s way of saying goodbye.

What about you? Do you have any stories of contact with the “other side?” I want to hear about them in the comments.

Guarding Angel Cover Reveal

Now … The moment I, at least, I don’t know about the rest of you!, have been waiting for. I wrote Guarding Angel because I believe in something beyond this life. It started with a question: What if angels, just like humans, have personalities and struggles? What if they’re more than just silent watchers but have friends and lovers and decisions to make? Thus Enael, my main character, was born.

This cover was created by the fabulous Regina Wamba of MaeIDesign. As soon as I saw her work, I knew I had to have her. She did an amazing job, so if you just like gazing at beautiful fantasy/paranormal romance book covers like I do, take a gander through her portfolio on her website and Pinterest.

Here it is, Enael and her struggles, all summed up in one beautiful piece of cover art:

FallenRedemption-ebooksmgoodreads-badge-add-plusAbout Guarding Angel (Fallen Redemption #1):

Guardian angel Enael can’t seem to keep her human Wards in check. They’re the ones who choose their paths before reincarnating—she’s just there to help make sure they stay on track. But it’s not as easy as it might look.

When she meets and falls in love with charismatic Kaspen, a fellow Guardian, Enael’s feelings about Heaven, Hell, demons, and the life she’s known are turned upside down. Worse, angel-turned-demon Yasva, Kaspen’s former love, still holds him in her clutches. Even as Yasva works toward obtaining complete control of Earth, she taunts and haunts Kaspen’s and Enael’s lives.

Now Enael is forced to face her past (which is centuries long and bursting with secrets), her present (which is terribly unfulfilling and full of questions), and her future (which becomes more uncertain as time passes). Armed with a newfound love and fear of losing it all, she must figure out how to save the world—-and the angel she loves. Which side will win? Who will Kaspen choose? Will Heaven and Earth continue to exist, or will everything go to Hell?

Thank you to all the bloggers who helped me share the news of my cover:

Leave me comments to let me know what you think! Then find me on Twitter and Pinterest. If you’re a book reviewer and would like a review copy of Guarding Angel, send an email to Samantha.Saboviec@gmail.com or leave a comment with contact info. eBook ARC Copies will be available at the beginning of March, and Guarding Angel will go on sale April 28, 2014 at several online retailers.