Miracle Creek by Angie Kim ★★★½

Read 1/1/20 – 1/5/20

This was my first read of the decade and I liked it. I left it ready to give it 4/5 stars, but a week later it doesn’t really shine. I read this while traveling. I enjoyed it, but I am struggling with whether it is worth giving 4 stars. It was a compelling story about a mother accused of killing her son and several others in a fire. The author crafts an enjoyable legal drama. It feels like it could be an episode of SVU, which is good and bad. I think the worst part of the book was just an inability to connect with the characters. I didn’t always follow who was who, and by the time I caught up, it made what was happening less effective overall.

It wasn’t a bad story aside from being a little convoluted. It was a solid mystery thriller than I don’t regret reading. I am reviewing this a bit late after having the flu, so I don’t have much more to say. It is a good book that I recommend. For me, it doesn’t shine among the best of the best as it fades into the background of good books I’ve read, but not loved. 3.5/5 stars.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn ★★★★★

Read 12/27/19 – 12/30/19

Gone Girl is basically a phenomenon. The book came out in 2014 and the film soon after, yet somehow I never got around to reading or watching the movie. Granted, back then the most thrillers I read were exclusively Stephen King. What is surprising is that I went 5 years (half a decade) without getting this story spoiled. I am glad I am finishing the decade off with this book because it was fantastic. I absolute loved it.

There is a massive twist in the book that, I can’t say I outright predicted, but I definitely recognized it as a possibility. What I loved about the start of this book is that despite my ability to guess what is going on, it is too damn murky to say with certainty what’s actually going on. I loved that. Everything suggested something more was going on, yet I kept returning to this underlying suspicion that I won’t elaborate on to avoid spoilers.

I think the best way to explain is to highlight how well these characters were fleshed out. We are presented with information that is hard to make sense of, and its only confused by how everyone in the story is a pretty bad person. I found myself almost hoping the husband gets locked up even if he was innocent simply because of some of the things he was saying in his inner monologue.

Then, que twist, and it is like we are reading an entirely different book. It is dark and twisted and everything I am here for. I absolutely loved how far Flynn took the story into a truly messed up territory. It is true that the events toward the end begin to become increasingly bizarre which requires some dispense of disbelief, but it is in service of a truly delightful conclusion. 4.5/5 stars

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware ★★★★★

Start 11/26/19

This book may have been my most anticipated book of the month. That’s because I saw BooksandLaLa’s thriller recommendation video where she discusses some great thrillers. Among those, is The Turn of the Key which she happily calls her favorite thriller of the year. That really set my excitement for this book, so much so I may have entered it hesitantly. Admittedly, there have been a couple books I haven’t loved as much as her or vice versa, but I am hoping for some good recommendations nonetheless.

Books and Lala discusses some great thrillers. Jump to 6:35 for her discussion of The Turn of the Key.

Same Day Update (~40%)

I am definitely enjoying this story so far. This is about a nanny who is in prison for the murder of one of the children she cared for. She writes this detailed account of her innocence via letter to a desired attorney. The set up reminds me a lot of Dolores Claiborne which I really like. Also like that, our main character may no be a reliable narrator. I think I see myself really liking it, and so far it isn’t disappointing!

Finished 11/28/19

This was the last book I am going to start (and plan to finish) this month. I had plenty of reason to scarf it down first, but of course there is also the benefit of saving the best for last. I am so glad I did. This novel is a fun and engrossing ride. I was a little hesitant on how much I loved it, but any uncertainty I had about it was resolved by that fantastic ending. I can’t say much about it without spoiling it, so I’ll just say it’s everything I need it to be to be a satisfying ending.

The story is about a woman who takes on the position of nanny, like a full time baby sitter. Except, she is telling her story from a jail cell as she tries to convince a lawyer she isn’t guilty of a crime (I won’t say what, but it’s revealed very early) committed after she takes the job. While there, she find the children to be very difficult and obstinate. All that is couple with stranger occurrences that are happening around the house.

The book has a perfect atmosphere. It is a mix of mystery and the paranormal much like The House of Dies Drear. Except, Ware’s story was far more effective. I mentioned (or thought) before how this is very similar to King’s Dolores Claiborne, and that sticks. The format is very much the same. Although, I think Rare’s story is slighlty less effective at that format because it read almost entirely like a regular novel where the mystery, while engrossing for me as a reader, seems overdone for someone who is supposedly trying to tell her story and convince the lawyer to fight for her.

That doesn’t really hurt the story itself. I think the biggest flaw of the book isn’t even a flaw so much as it is a preference. I enjoyed all of the book, but it took longer than I would have liked to really connect with the story. That isn’t enough to rate it poorly because it comes together in the end. However, it was on my mind as I read it. 5/5 stars.

Sadie by Courtney Summers ★★★★☆

Read 11/25/19 – 11/27/19

I found Sadie, by Courtney Summers to be a solidly enjoyable story. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect to it on the same level that many people did. This follows the story of a young woman by the name of Sadie who is hunting down the man she believes killed her little sister. Her intent is to get revenge and kill him. The story is told in the form of a podcast. As an audiobook, it works really well, but it didn’t save it entirely. That said, it wasn’t entirely a podcast.

We are following along a true crime podcast called Girls which is following this story of Sadie who has gone missing as she is in search of this man. As the podcaster begins to uncover new information, we the reader get to follow Sadie in each of these situations. This format makes for a solid book, and I think most people would enjoy it if they read it. However, the story never really worked for me.

The concepts being addressed are dark, hard hitting topics, so they have great potential. The problem is, I never really connected with Sadie. Sure, she’s unlikable which is the point, so I suppose the problem is that she just wasn’t that interesting. I don’t know what the author should have done to make it more effective. There is definitely a lot of potential here. In fact, the most emotional parts of the book were less to do with the characters and more to do with how these situations have effected me and people I love in the real world. Of course, that just isn’t enough.

I wish I felt the same passion for this book as so many other people did; I just don’t. I can’t help but think of Girls Burn Brighter which is a similar story of abuse that is also hard hitting, and in it I found it easy to sympathize and with the main characters. I don’t have any concrete reason why. Maybe it was the format. It is a slow revelation of information, and maybe it would have worked better if Summers focused more on Sadie’s tragedy sooner. It starts on her chase with her missing. All we see is her with her game face but not how she got there, and by the time we get context, I guess it was too late for me to connect.

I honestly don’t know what the right answer is here. This is just my heartfelt attempt to ask myself why I didn’t connect. I assure you, I really wanted to and thought I would. I didn’t, and that’s disappointing. It just wasn’t the best book for me. 3.5/5 stars, rounding up.

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton ★★☆☆☆

Started 11/22/19 (10% progress)

This was the worst (updated after finishing) book I chose to read for Buzzwordathon 5.0, and you can read more about why I choose 7½ Deaths there! I’m about 10% into the novel, and I don’t see me liking this. It is too soon to give up on it. Unfortunately, I have I good idea of this author’s writing style, and it just isn’t for me. For starters, the story is about a wealthy family (Evelyn being the wife I think) who just don’t seem that interesting. I just read the story of Evelyn Hugo, and I really enjoyed the subtitles of her and her story. Here, this feel like your caricature of a pretentious wealthy family.

I recognize I can’t make a sweeping judgment off of 10% of the book. Nevertheless, I get the impression this story is about the spectacle of the idea rather than the using the idea to write interesting situations for interesting characters. If we aren’t given real characters then it doesn’t matter how cool the situation is. All that said, I am not giving up; I am hoping I enjoy this more. What’s more, I want to complete the book for the readathon and because I already own it own hardback.

Finished 11/24/19

This story did not work for me. There was no redemption; my initial impression was a good one. The story is mildly interesting, but I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. As I said before, this is a concept or plot driven narrative. The characters are boring and lifeless; our main character literally has no character because he has no memory. This story feels like a twist on Clue but not a good one. On top of that, I really do not like Turton’s writing style. It’s all so pretentious and contrived. He leans heavily on the histrionics when describing different situations, and fails to get me interested on those overdone scenarios.

I think the mystery is supposed to be what gains our interest since it can’t possibly be the characters. Unfortunately, there is no reason to do that. We have a lifeless main character trapped in some loop; the problem is we aren’t given any reason to actually care. The central character, Evelyn Hardcastle is a victim of murder. Again, what’s so interesting abut her or anyone else around her. From where I’m sitting, the answer is none.

It seems an overarching theme of this novel is redemption and punishment. Unfortunately, anything it tries to say just isn’t earned. We rush to a plot convenient revelation of what’s going and why, but it happens far too late to actually work. Part of me wonders if Stuart Turton is actually Game of Throne’s Weiss and Benioff. That is how poorly written this story is. Like W&B, Turton wants to subvert expectations with an underlying lesson. It is sadly rushed and is poorly executed.

This book probably wasn’t worth finishing. The big reason why I didn’t was because I become so compelled when I create goals (i.e. buzzwordathon). What’s more, I made the mistake of buying it on bookoutlet.ca, and I didn’t want it to be a waste. That’s another book that can go on my shelf as read; it’s a reminder of what I don’t enjoy. 2/5 stars (literally the second book to get that low a rating from me this year).