thriller

Who makes bestsellers best-selling?

Long time no review. So long, in fact, that WordPress updated its UI.

This is my review of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. As the title of this blogpost suggests, it’s a pretty popular recent novel (released 2014). After seeing it name-dropped everywhere, I Googled it and found some excerpts. It seemed like an interesting light read, so here we are.

It is the story of a teenaged girl, Lydia Lee, who goes missing one day in her hometown in Ohio. We’re told almost immediately that she is dead, and we follow her family as they come to terms with the loss and the secrets that are revealed. In typical thriller style, the narrative has flashbacks interleaved with the current events (that is, the police investigation and her parents’ grief). Her parents have their own backstories- their inter-racial marriage triggered them both to leave their dreams by the wayside and dedicate themselves to average, small-town life. Lydia bore the burden of these failures, apparently, and this shaped her personality and brief life.

My first impression- interesting, light read- was correct.¬† The narrative touches on several themes- interracial relationships, “tiger parents”, peer pressure, homosexuality. It is reasonably good at keeping the reader interested, though this could be attributed to the short length and not the narrative (this took me just a couple of hours to read!).

But apart from these positives, I honestly couldn’t find the appeal of this book.

Firstly, Ng has turned the Asian Tiger Parent and inter-racial marriage stereotypes on their heads by having an Asian father and a white mother, with the mother being the pushy parent. In reality, the opposite is much more common- Asian mother, white father, and the Asian parent is the task master. Apparently the author herself is in an inter-racial marriage, so it seems odd that she chose to write about a different dynamic- is it because of her own baggage? The LGBT subplot also seemed a bit insensitive, and seemed like it was shoehorned in as a plot twist.

Secondly, every single character in this book is extremely unlikeable. Maybe I’m naive, but I like to believe that when people do wrong things, it’s because they either justify it to themselves or because they don’t really stop to consider what they’re doing. The people in this book are downright awful to each other for no particular reason, and on occasion stop being awful, again for no particular reason.

Overall, 2/5 just for its sheer readability. I read it in two sittings, and it suited my fried attention span perfectly.

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Crime Club

This is my review of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Yes, the same Gillian Flynn who wrote Gone Girl, that masterpiece of mindfuckery. And this novel is much of the same.

Libby Day is a bitter woman with a terrible past that has left her scarred, both mentally and physically. As a child, her brother Ben murdered the rest of their family, and was subsequently thrown into prison for life. She has lived most of her life as a hermit, getting by on donations from well wishers. But now she’s short on funds, and willing to do anything to make a living (except, God forbid, get a job). She becomes involved with a group of oddballs who get their kicks from solving crimes that have received a lot of media attention- and they’re convinced that Ben Day is innocent.

They pay Libby to help them with their investigation, and she is forced to revisit repressed memories and approach estranged relatives. Eventually, all is revealed and the magic *DNA evidence* saves the day (pun intended).

Gillian Flynn’s writing style really stands out in this book- the gritty, dreary atmosphere is palpable. She strings the reader along with vague, improbable clues, revealed just when it seems that Libby and co. have reached a dead end.

Overall, this one isn’t as good as Gone Girl, but it makes for a good weekend read. Recommended if you are a fan of gloom, doom and crime thrillers. 3.5/5

Here’s one for Halloween

This is my review of Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.

From what I’ve heard, the movie based on this book is something of a cult classic. Honestly, I just picked this one up because I wanted something quick-I’m way behind on my Goodreads book goal for the year. It was surprisingly good; I expected something much more ‘pulp fiction’.

Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse are a young newly-married couple looking for a house in NYC. They fall in love with a four bedroom apartment and immediately move in, despite its history of bad luck and strange occurrences. Rosemary wants to have children, but Guy is an upcoming actor and wants to wait until he makes it big on stage.

They befriend an elderly couple who live in the next apartment. Guy, in particular, becomes very close to them and their circle of strange, but well-meaning, friends. He agrees that it is time for them to have a child, and Rosemary quickly becomes pregnant. Soon after, he gets his big break when another actor mysteriously goes blind and he’s called in as a replacement.

Rosemary is severely ill for the first few months of her pregnancy. She loses weight and craves raw meat. She grows increasingly suspicious of her kindly neighbours, but is unable to pinpoint any malicious intent. She eventually works out the plot, but cannot escape in time.

What I liked- The story is refreshingly unique and subtle. Makes for a quick read. Was successful in creeping me out- what more could I ask from a novel of this genre?

What I didn’t like- The overly simplistic plot would be more appropriate for a short story. As it is, most of the plot focuses on ‘setting the scene’ for the final revelation. It probably makes for a brilliant movie, though.

4/5. Recommended for rainy nights when you want to spook yourself out.

Confession: I’m not as free as I once was, so I’ve resorted to queuing posts weeks/months in advance. Shouldn’t make too much of a difference, I hope.

Fantasy-Crime-Thriller-Romance-Mystery

Whew, quite a mouthful. This is my review of Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher. As the title says, this is a very mixed-genre book that’ll appeal to anyone who isn’t a literary snob.

Harry Dresden is a wizard. In the mortal world, he makes ends meet by offering his services as a private investigator. He’s also a consultant for the police force, working on cases that have supernatural involvement. Think Psych with magic.

One day he receives a house call from a woman whose husband has gone missing without a trace. Almost simultaneously, he’s called on to investigate a gruesome double murder.

The best part of this book is its fast pace. Both the mysteries (plus a false framing, some flirting, comedy, and a spirited demon) are wrapped up in under 150 pages. The literary equivalent of a 20 minute sitcom episode. It’ll take longer than 20 minutes to read it, but you get the idea.

The worst part of this book is its predictability. No part of the story will evoke even the mildest surprise. It’s about as original as a Hardy Boys book. But I’d love to see this series on the small screen.

4/5, would read the rest of the series if super bored.