'Americans like pregnant women...it baffles me that these self-righteous, self-enthralled waddlers get special treatment. As if its so hard to spread your legs and let a man ejaculate between them.'
I chuckled when I read that. Witty. Hilarious. Thrilling. Reading Gone Girl - the 2012 New York Times #1 Bestseller from acclaimed author Gillian Flynn is the best thing I have done so far this year. I have watched the movie twice and I still wanted to read the novel knowing the ending fully well. What does this say about the movie?? The fact that I watched it twice and still got hooked enough to want to read the novel?? (I'll come to that later).
Gone Girl is a runaway hit thriller novel. Reviews of this bestseller has been done thousands of times online and in print. It has become so successful, that some believe that it has already achieved a cult novel in the thriller genre. I guess I am quite late to review this book but I just had to. It was a very very brilliantly written novel.
Gillian Flynn has written Dark Places and Sharp Objects earlier but none of them skyrocketed to global fame like Gone Girl. It packs a winning formula of intriguing, frightening and enchanting readers all at once.
The novel is about Nick Dunne whose wife Amy Elliot Dunne disappears on their 5th wedding anniversary in Missouri. The journey Nick and the detectives take to find the 'Gone Girl' is crazily twisted. Told through alternating voices, the day by day chilling discoveries tumble out the skeletons in the closet. Shocking, disbelieving.
Some interesting quotes from the book,
From Amy :
'I could build my days around charity committees and home decorations and gardening and volunteering, and I don't think there's anything wrong in building a life around those things. The most beautiful good things are done by women people scorn.' (Interesting)
He came home from work and kissed me full on the lips... I almost cried. I'd been so lonely. To be kissed on the lips by your husband is the most decadent thing.' (Arguable)
'Tampon commercial, detergent commercial, maxipad commercial, Windex commercial. You'd think all women do is clean and bleed' (Funny)
From Nick :
'She was gone, yet she was more present than anyone else' (profound)
I honestly didn't expect the ending. It was beyond my imagination. How could Ms Flynn come up with such twists, such turns in the story? With so many different baffling ideas? Where does she get her inspiration from? An amazing storyline. An equally amazing totally unexpected ending. Ms Flynn is a very gifted author. Gillian Flynn is now my current favourite author.
I was comparing Ms Flynn to Ms Rowling - author of the Harry Potter series. We have a potterhead at home -my 12 year old Riya- and we watch the movies often. We always discuss how Ms Rowling could have come up with such intelligent ideas for her series. Another truy gifted author.
Comprising 415 pages in very small print, I took 2 weeks to read the book which explains why this review is so late. Gillian Flynn's novels have been published in 40 languages worldwide.
The movie was released in 2015 and I believe it was the best movie adaptation I have seen so far. Directer by David Fincher ( the same director who directed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and starring cool handsome Ben Affleck and beautiful blond Rosamund Pike. The ending of the movie was slighly different from that of the novel. But no change in story line. The soundtrack was equally amazing. Composed by Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross. I especially liked Sugar Storm.
I was blown away first by the movie, then by the music and then by the novel. Read it to love it.
Available at most bookstores for US$ 10.
'I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark....'
Dark Places tells the story of a 7-year old Libby Day who escapes from a horrible night in 1985, in Kinnakee, Kansas where her family is brutally murdered. I mean really brutally - axes and head blowing shotguns involved. She testifies that her 15 year old brother Ben did it. Then 25 years later, in desperate need of money, she reconnects with the players of that night to turn her tragic history into something money worthy. Through this process, Libby discovers the unimaginable truth and she finds herself back where she started - on the run from the killer!
I must say - this novel is indeed dark. As it was my first horror novel, I was quite apprehensive to continue after Page 47. I didn't read this novel in the evening too. It was just too scary. I did not want it to go to my head and give me nightmares... I mean when I read this Schoolyard Rhyme at the beginning,
The Days were a clan that mighta lived long
But Ben Day's head got screwed on wrong
That boy craved dark Satan's power
So he killed his family in one nasty hour
Little Michelle he strangled in the night
Then chopped up Debby: a bloody sight
Mother Patty he saved for last
Blew off her head with a shotgun blast
Baby Libby somehow survived
But to live through that ain't much a life
I knew I was about to embark on a really dark sinister novel. My 14 year old daughter Ranya read the rhyme and got a bit shaken. What a gruesome gory intro and it didn't help when so many bone chilling details were given in the actual murder accounts. And then there was another equally detailed account of a cow being sacrified to appease the Devil. I actually skipped that page! ( Shudder ). I can imagine what is going on in your mind. What a choice of a book to read!! I know, right??!! No, I didn't regret reading it.. Surprisingly. Thanks Aparna :)
The storyline was quite interesting and was well written. It was a real page turner. Libby's horrible encounter and what happens growing up with that kind of nightmare was well documented. She has become social outcast and can't leave a house or any place, for the matter, without stealing something. Anything small like salt shakers or body lotions....
As it was due for our book club meeting last Thursday, I had to read like 50 pages per day. It was really intense reading for a few days. I finished the 340 pages as quickly as I could - no choice, I had to. Not much blogging, not much watching TV or using my IPad. Just a whole lot of reading in between housework. I welcomed it. In fact, I actually get excited looking forward to read :) (Am I crazy or what?) It is so relaxing - a novel in my hand and a cup tea/coffee next to me. My kind of bliss. My family knows how much I love to read. Forget make-up, forget clothes or bags...Give me a great novel anytime and you will be in my 'good list' forever :))
Am I digressing? Anyway, if you don't mind a whole lot of mention of Satan, Devil etc and a lot of gruesome grisly details, do go ahead and read this book. Its not a yawn definitely. Voted one of the best books to read of 2009 by The New Yorker, a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Dark Plaes has also been made into a movie in 2015 starring Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicholas Hoult. Don't bother watching this movie. It totally failed to capture the darkness of the novel. Taken very lightly. Worse book adaptation ever.
Dark Places, the novel, is available at Amazon at US$11 paperback version.
Have you come across a story told so well that you soon start believing it to be real? When the lines between fiction and non fiction start to blur? When every dream, every hope and every tragedy seems like your own?
Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen is an emotionally powerful story about a family whom you will not forget. It revolves around Mimi Miller who recounts her life, beginning in the 1960s in Miller's Valley, a small rural town in Pennsylvania, America. We are introduced to Mimi when she is 11 and she lives with her parents and her two older brothers Edward and Tommy. Her Aunt Ruth (who harbors a terrible secret) lives in a small house behind Mimi's and never leaves the confines of her home.
Her family has been rooted in Miller's Valley for generations, 200 years in fact. The farmlands have been threatened by government officials who want to transform the flood prone area into a reservoir. Imagine flooding 6400 acres of old family farms, small ramshackle homes and drowning the entire valley under water?? As the river is released in little by little dampening the ground, it also seems to drown people little by little, forcing secrets to surface and people losing their way of life. As Mimi grows up and faces life's challenges, she realises that the people whom she counted on are not there for her anymore. The only stolidity in her rapid changing world is Donald, her childhood friend who lives in California. The story ends when Mimi is 65.
Told entirely through Mimi, Ms Quindlen makes her characters so alive and so believable. A very interesting moving novel. A bit of a twist at the end, which I didn't see it coming. Kept me glued to its pages. So much so that my husband actually asked me - 'what is this -some marathon reading race?' I finished it in 3 days. I could have read the entire 257 pages in hardback sooner, if not for the mountainous amount of laundry after returning home from our year end holiday.
Some interesting quotes :
' I have clear memories from that time, but they are not the ones you'd think. They are never the ones you think....No, its strange little moments that live inside you and keep peeking out the windows that open suddenly in your mind.'
' Sometimes there are things that you have rehearsed so many times, thought about so often, that when they happen, its like they already happened a long long time ago.'
' No one ever leaves the town they grew up, even if they go'
Miller's Valley reminds us that the place you grew up can disappear but the people who lived in it will go on to live in your heart forever.
Available in Amazon for US$18 paperback.
'You don't choose who you fall in love with, and it doesn't matter who they are, it comes with a very certain and specific struggle.'
Actor Joshua Sasse, 28 about his fiancee Kylie Minogue, 48
You don't go looking for love, it finds you and that this powerful feeling for another person often defies logic are the underlying themes in this debut novel The Rosie Project by Australian author Graeme Simsion.
An international sensation, this hilarious feel good 2013 novel is narrated by Professor Don Tillman, an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor, on an unusual quest - to find out if he is capable of true love. He is so wedded to his schedule (aka Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory), that an idea of being wedded to an actual woman precludes him. He designs a 16 page questionnaire to sieve out the potential candidates but which narrows his options. Enter Rosie Jarman, who scores a perfect zero, but in his interest to help her find her biological father (the Father Project), he discovers that opposites do attract and that he had unknowingly fallen in love with her and tries to win her over (the Rosie Project).
This novel was a gift from my 14 year old daughter Ranya for my birthday this year. A very thoughtful gift because she knows my love for reading. She had seen a video of a book haul featuring books to get for your mom and she chose this book for me. (Thank you darling - an absolutely unique book which I enjoyed reading all the 304 pages very much).
The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has tenaciously gone after love in the face of overwhelming challenges. Available online at Amazon for US$10.
A sequel, The Rosie Effect, has also been published in 2014. Look out for its book review soon!
'I love reading your book reviews. After seeing it on your blog, I went ahead and bought Me Before You..It was a lovely story. Just yesterday, I bought the sequel After You....'
- Shereen M.
Thank you dear friend for reading my book reviews. After what you said, I realised my last book review was more than a month ago! It made me sit up. As I was reading Glory Over Everything, sequel to The Kitchen House, I had completely forgotten about my last book I had finished reading - Olive Kitteridge. This ought to explain a whole lot about this novel, doesn't it? The fact that it had slipped my mind.
My interest in this book was piqued when I read a book review of Olive Kitteridge in Singapore's The Sunday Times a few months back. Someone (I can't remember her name but I believe she was someone newsworthy) had been reading this book and had particularly liked the story. Presuming I would to, I ordered this book online.
Olive Kitteridge the novel by Elizabeth Strout is a 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning collection of 13 stories about a group of ordinary people who lived in Crosby, Maine. It depicts their joys, sorrows, tragedies and grief all centered around a retired school teacher Olive Kitteridge. She deplores the changes around her - a lounge musician haunted by a past romance, a former student who has lost the will to live, Olive's own child who feels his mother is insensitive to his needs and her husband Henry who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
I am sorry to say so bluntly - I didn't quite enjoy this book. I took a long time to finish it (yes I finished it!) and yet it had only 270 pages. No doubt, it was my close companion during my tea in cafes or while waiting for buses or for my girls.. but I found it rather dry, long winded and quite depressing. There were 3 suicides, 3 other deaths, a lot of broken relationships, sad aging folks and a whole lot of loneliness.
I guess no one is immune to loneliness of their soul - no matter how busy they may seem. Probably, that is why this book is so sad - it reminds all of us too much about it. We all are starving on the inside.
Olive finished the doughnut, wiped the sugar from her fingers,
sat back, and said,"You're starving."
The girl didn't move, only said,"Uh-duh."
"I'm starving, too,"Olive said. The girl looked over at her.
"I am," Olive said. "Why do you think I eat every doughnut in sight?"
"You're not starving ," Nina said with disgust.
"Sure I am. We all are."
A Reader's Guide and questions for Book Club discussions are also available at the end of the book. Olive Kitteridge has also been made into a 4 hour TV mini series starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand in 2015.
Available online at amazon for Us$10 paperback version.
I read an interesting article 'Reading is a Must to Exercise the Brain' by Sharon Loh in The Sunday Times last month. In it, she mentioned that the majority of Singaporeans do not read even one book a year! She iterated that minds need to exercise the same way bodies do to become healthy.
Ms Loh suggested making book clubs a norm in Singapore. I would love that idea but will it be a success if more than half of our population do not read regularly? Let me know how you feel if I start a book club and whether you'll join me:) Ms Loh also mentioned that being in a book club guarantees that we read regularly and gives us an excuse to meet up with our friends, away from husbands and kids..I kind of disagree with you on that, Ms Loh. I would gladly bring my girls to Book Clubs with the intention of creating interest and awareness of good books. That is, if my preteen and teen would agree to attend!!
Now let's get to my latest book review. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty is the one of the novels I have read recently. A #1 New York Times Bestseller , the story basically depicts the lives of 3 women, Cecilia, Tess and Rachel who barely knew each other at the beginning but soon become interwined in a way they never would have imagined.
Cecilia Fitzpatrick is an ultra-orgnized wife, mother and Tupperware saleswoman who enjoys the joys of parenting their 3 quirky daughters with her husband John Paul. While searching for a piece of the Berlin Wall for her daughter's school project in her attic, Cecilia comes across a business sized envelope inscribed in John Paul's handwriting -
For my wife Cecilia Fitzpatrick
To be opened only in the event of my death
Cecilia is torn between her promise to her husband to not open the envelope and her duty as a wife and mother. The letter gets opened inevitably and her husband's secret turns Cecilia's world upside down.
Meanwhile, in Melbourne, 30-something Tess's marriage breaks down and makes the move to Sydney with her 6 year old son to live with her mother. There, sparks ignite between Tess and her former boyfriend Connor who is St Teresa's school gym teacher, where Cecilia's girls and Tess's son are enrolled.
The school's grief stricken widowed secretary Rachel Crowley is convinced Conner, who is the last person to see her daughter, Janie, alive, is the murderer. Janie was strangled in 1984, when she was 17. Rachel believes she could have saved her daughter if she had picked her up 7 minutes earlier.
Cecilia, Tess and Rachel all soon feel the earth shattering repercussions of the husband's secret.
Published in 2013 and voted one of 30 Hot Books to read in Summer 2013 by USA today, The Husband's Secret is thought provoking. How well do we know our husband? What would have happened or not happened if you had just stepped out of the house 5 minutes later or earlier? What if you applied logic to that situation? What if you had not denied the truth? It is as scary as it is familiar.
The Husband's Secret is a mystery novel with the right balance of romance and family drama. I like the way she has started off with Pandora's Box and how when it opens all hell breaks loose. Very apt for this book.
I have just finished reading The Kitchen House and am currently on to Olive Kitteridge. Look out for both the book reviews soon. You won't be disappointed.
The Husband's Secret is available in paperback at US$10 in Amazon and found in local booktores too.
(Don't forget to let me know if you'll join my Book Club.)
'You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible'
I love reading but I don't read just about anything. I like reading books or magazines which doesn't require too much thinking. Some thing light and breezy. Something that I could read and relax before going to bed. Something that won't tear me apart emotionally imagining the worst.
A few days ago I read the recent edition of the Time magazine and came across an article on the crimes of rape that befell women during the Sudan war. It was horrifying. I just couldn't read after 2 paragraphs. I had to put it away as I started imagining the worst and images of the women and girls suffering kept me up nights. I am still rueful on why I picked up that edition of the magazine.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a light romantic novel about a young woman who becomes a full time care giver for a quadriplegic man and after much resentment, things slowly unfold between them. Set in a small British town, the story shows how the main character Louisa Clark feels so much for the sufferings of Will Traynor and in the process falls in love and discovers herself too. The story alternates between laugh out loud humor , family fights, emotional drama and romance. Jojo Moyes was able to provide an eye opening look at what quadriplegics have to deal with on a daily basis, physically, emotionally and socially. Death with dignity was also addressed.
Winner of the Richard & Judy Galaxy Bookclub Spring 2012 and with more than half a million copies sold worldwide, Me Before You was first published in 2012. A sequel, After You was released soon after. A film adaptation of Me Before You is soon to be released in June 2016. I do hope the film lives up to the book. A trailer for the upcoming movie can be found here - Trailer Me Before You.
It was quite impossible to not fall in love with this deeply emotional, insightful and suspenseful book. That's right - Moyes doesn't telegraph the ending at all, which would have most readers turning the pages in a frenzy. Get it online at amazon.
Update as at 7th June 2016
The much awaited movie adaptation of Me Before You was released on 2 June here in Singapore. Directed by Thea Sharrock and casting Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. Mathew Lewis (the boy who starred as Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter series) acts as jealous boyfriend Patrick of the main character Louisa Clark.
Initial reviews :
'The most romantic movie of the year!'
'I just sobbed through the whole move'
I caught the movie last evening with my girls. (Rated PG 13) The theatre was packed and i was surprised to see quite a number of the elderly. Who dare says our elders are boring with no life ? :)
My review : The movie was very simply taken with no over the top show of affection. It was short - 110 mins- and I felt it was just nice. Any longer I would have started to feel its a drag. My younger girl Riya went - wasn't the movie quite short? A clear indication that she kind of liked the movie. Louisa's quirky character and her much to be loved fancy dressing sense provided many hilarious moments throughout. The light soft soundtrack by various artistes fitted well. I particularly liked Dont Forget Abut Me by Cloves. Overall, we enjoyed the movie - my girls and I. Even though it turned quite melancholic towards the end, to my own disbelief, I didn't shed a single tear.