Review of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn


Book Reviews

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I wrestled with whether or not to review Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. If you aren’t ready for an unpopular opinion, I might even suggest that you read a different one of my reviews. But here goes:

I didn’t like this book. And, although I’ve only read one of her books, I’m not sure I’m a fan of Gillian Flynn’s writing. There is no doubt that Ms. Flynn is a popular, accomplished author, with a very strong following. And believe me, as a struggling writer I aspire to that, and I look up to her. She did it! And I am in awe of her. But not of this book.

In a word, after all the hype about Ms. Flynn’s novels, and about Sharp Objects in particular, I confess I was disappointed. I mean, HBO turned the book into a miniseries. And Ms. Flynn is known for her prowess as a psychological thriller author. How could I be so late to the game? (No, I haven’t read Gone Girl, either). So I was truly excited to dive in, especially when someone very close to me thought it would be right up my alley.

Perhaps it’s because I couldn’t find a single redeemable character in the whole story. Or, maybe it was because I found the protagonist to be so utterly stupid in her choices. (Seriously, you’re in your 30’s and you’re going to let a 13-year-old convince you to go to a high school party for booze and drugs? Oh, you are? Okay.) It also could have been my distaste for how the big reveal was delivered. I had kind of figured out the twist somewhere around halfway through the book, and I hate that!

But I think the most difficult thing for me to understand was the style in which this book was written. The sentences, almost all of them, were incomplete, halting, jarring. Now, I will of course give credit where credit is due. Perhaps Ms. Flynn is so brilliant that even the structure of her sentences serves to make the reader feel as isolated as the protagonist. If that’s the case, then bravo, Ms. Flynn. Bravo, indeed. But I have no way of knowing if that was intentional or if it was simply a writing style that I did not connect with.

Obviously this review is going to do absolutely nothing to Ms. Flynn’s meteoric success, and I certainly wouldn’t want it to. She’s found a genre that people really enjoy, and I respect and admire her for that. I just don’t think this book was for me.

There are very few books in this world about which I would say “don’t read it.” And I’m certainly not going to say it for this one. Though it was not my cup of tea, I think it goes without saying that fans of anything written by Paula Hawkins and Ruth Ware would enjoy this. But if you’re looking for a psychological thriller that I did enjoy, check out Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon.

Official Kristine’s BRF rating:

March 15, 2019

Review of Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz


Book Reviews

A book within a book about a book. A sterling homage to the grand tradition of British murder mysteries, clearly a love letter to Christie, Fleming, and Conan Doyle. Delightfully fun, wickedly deceiving. A little protracted at some points but made all the worth it by the final act.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz is a treat for lovers of mystery. Structured quite differently than most books, Mr. Horowitz treats his readers to a double feature: a full-length novel within the novel, which I personally found to be more engrossing than the story about the novel. Confused? I was a little bit too.

It took me a little longer than I’d like to admit to figure out that everything in this story is, in fact, fiction. But Mr. Horowitz does such a wonderful job of pulling you into both stories that you have very little time to ruminate on this fact. No detail of this book is overlooked, right down to the page numbers, and the care with which it was edited shows that everyone involved – from writer, to editor, to publisher, and everyone in between – was fully invested in this work.

With characters that you immediately root for (or against), twists and turns enough to make you dizzy, and an easy, fast pace, Magpie Murders wins on all accounts. If you are looking for a more subtle, understated and truly fantastic mystery, this book is for you.

Official Kristine’s BRF Rating:

March 8, 2019

Review of The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein


Book Reviews

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein is a heavy book both about the heavy work of and heavy life led by Sandra Pankhurst. This is not the feel-good story it sounds like it could be.

Ms. Pankhurst’s experiences range from cleaning the homes of hoarders to natural disaster remediation to crime scene clean up. And from the start, we know that Sandra is dying a slow and painful death, despite her strength, humor, and joie-de-vivre. Through out the story, Ms. Pankhurst details memories, as best she can, of her life of abuse, tragedy, confusion, illness, and ultimately redemption. As you read, though, you find out that her entire life is an ode to dying, both by choice and by circumstance. And the author is recording that ode for posterity.

Sounds like an interesting read, right?

In theory, yes. In practice, however, while I was being told about Ms. Pankhurst through the eyes of the author, Sarah Krasnostein, I seemed to be learning more about Ms. Krasnostein than anyone else. In fairness, in the first chapter, Ms. Krasnowski calls the book a love letter to Ms. Pankhurst, or perhaps a love letter about her life. And it is true that that I was told that this is a biography like no other I’ve ever read. But I felt a little hoodwinked in that I was very much expecting to discover Ms. Pankhurst, when really Ms. Pankhurst seems to be the vehicle through which I learned about Ms. Krasnostein. All along, despite Ms. Pankhurst’s insistence to the contrary, it seems that Ms. Krasnostein wants to view Ms. Pankhurst’s life with optimistic glasses, and is trying to get us to follow suit. She’s too involved, too close.

To be sure, the book is full of interesting, funny, questionable, painful, and heartwarming anecdotes that Ms. Pankhurst relates about her life to varying degrees of reliability. But in the end, every one of the stories and experiences reflected back on the author in what felt like a backwards confessional. Call me a traditionalist, but I want the biographies I read to be about the person about whom they are written. For me, the author should be mostly invisible.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a challenge, emotionally and literarily (yes, it’s a real word). Ms. Krasnowski spends time with her words, savoring and revering them, and expects you to do so as well. But expect the book to be as much about the author as it is about the subject.

Official Kristine’s BRF Rating:

March 1, 2019

Review of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan


Book Reviews

Literary fiction meets ghost story meets romance in the easy-to-read, sweet debut novel by Ruth Hogan, The Keeper of Lost Things. Ms. Hogan creates a story of love and loss, grief and recovery, and of impeccable timing. Her characters are lovable and flawed, and their relationships and interactions are defined by enough conflict that they are interesting, but not so much that you simply want to throw your hands in the air and give up all together.

The Keeper of Lost Things interweaves delight, mystery, grief, and love, and is satisfying without being overwhelming and charming without being false. It’s not perfect, and falls into some easy cliché’s, particularly in the subplot of the main character’s personal relationship. But the flaws in the novel are easily overlooked and don’t come across as distracting. Will this book change your life? No. But it is an interesting interpretation of what happens to the things we lose, and how we can’t possibly fathom the stories each of us holds. In the end, it is a pleasant and entertaining journey.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for the satisfaction of a Jodi Picoult novel minus the heavy drama.

Official Kristine’s BRF rating:

February 22, 2019

Online Book Club Reviews


Book Reviews

You may or may not know this, but I also do book reviews over at Online Book Club! I’ve just recently started doing this, but it has led me to some very interesting books already that I would never had thought to even look for, let alone to read. I hope these reviews will help drive some readers to new, unknown authors and genres that would not otherwise be read.

 

So, here we go. As a special, opening day treat, there are not one, but two reviews for you to check out! (Please note, these links will take you to the reviews hosted at onlinebookclub.com.)

 

Seven at Two Past Five by Tara Basi

 

The Cult Next Door by Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone

February 15, 2019

Review of Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao


Book Reviews

Beautiful language and stunning imagery stand in stark contrast to some of the worst horrors humanity has to offer. Shobha Rao’s Girls Burn Brighter is a challenging debut novel that makes you wonder which is more powerful, the strength of the feminine or the cruelty of the masculine. With a strong message about the oppression and resilience of women, and the strength found in a soul mate of any kind, this story, while heavy handed in its delivery, is a strong voice for the promotion of the strength of women united.

 

Girls Burn Brighter is a novel for the reader who enjoys feeling emotions. Anger, sympathy, outrage, incredulity seep in from every corner as Poornima and Savitha navigate a world that does not care about them. But underneath is all is a current of hope. Because it is only each woman’s love for the other, and the certainty and desperation that they will one day reunite, that keeps each of them going. And for each woman that meas something different. In the end, if one might call it that, we are left to believe that there is such a thing as divine intervention, and that, for better or for worse, sometimes the universe looks the other way.

 

I recommend this book to fans of Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,  perhaps to readers who enjoyed The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and to anyone who enjoys a book that makes them feel strong and deep emotions.

 

Official Kristine’s BRF rating:

 

February 8, 2019

Review of Bad Blood by John Carreyrou


Book Reviews

Corporate intrigue doesn’t get any better than Bad Blood, especially when you consider that this is a work of non-fiction. John, Carreyrou, of The Wall Street Journal, documents the full trajectory of the meteoric rise and subsequent disastrous fall of the biotechnology company Theranos, and its young upstart CEO Elizabeth Holmes. In six words: I could not put it down.

 

I knew the gist of what happened through news articles, but the full story, told through interviews of previous employees with first-hand knowledge of the secretive goings-on within the company, pulled back the veil on what at best could be described as an exercise in blind ambition. This book reads like a fast-paced thriller and makes your heart race even more when you remind yourself that it’s a true story.

 

As Carreyrou details the near Watergate-like scandal, introducing sources both public and protected, the reader is forced to wonder exactly how someone would find themselves entangled in such a whirlwind of chaos. But the next inevitable thought is always, “It could easily have been me, too.”

 

Bad Blood is an out-of-control train ride from start to finish. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the dark side of a charismatic business leader, the inner-workings of a so-called Silicon Valley unicorn (and the culture that comes alone with it), or is simply looking for a wild time.

 

Official Kristine’s BRF rating:

February 1, 2019