Off the Shelf: A Review of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

There are two things out of the ordinary about this review:
1) It’s not a Young Adult book.
2) It’s not a new or upcoming release.

So why would I write a review about a thriller that was released in 2006? Because I’m late to the party, and I simply can’t stop recommending it to everyone I come in contact with.

Let me start by saying this – I have always assumed Gillian Flynn was a hack. I tend to avoid books or authors that get a lot of hype because too often they end up being a disappointment. I watched the movie of Gone Girl and wasn’t impressed; however, I do remember thinking “this probably made a better book”. Even if it did make a better book, I still didn’t plan on reading it. Didn’t seem like the sort of book I’d be into. Then, my best friend (who also expected Flynn to be some over-hyped hack) picked up Sharp Objects on a whim and immediately had to recommend it, saying that it was a must read and that the author’s writing was vastly better than what she had imagined. She was so surprised by how much she liked it, that she actually wanted to read all of Flynn’s other works as well. “Meh,” I thought, “Maybe I’ll read it if I get some time.” Knowing full well that my to-be-read list was and is getting a little out of hand. Then, by chance, I stopped by a warehouse book sale while out of town, and Sharp Objects became one of several books purchased that day. It looked fairly short, and we had a long drive home, so I figured why not?

I was pages away from finishing the book by the time we got home.

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Summary (via Goodreads)

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, 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 in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

 

Things I Liked:
At the most recent meeting of my writing group, I recommended this book as one of the best books I’ve read recently in regards to characterization. I was almost worried at how easy it was to slip into the mind of Camille Preaker, which is a rather dark and unsettling place to be. She will leave you feeling raw, having experienced the unravelling of both the mysteries behind the murders and Camille’s own secrets. And it’s not just Camille that is a crystal clear character. This was one of the books where you can easily see it play out like a movie (and I believe it is starting filming for a tv series this year), and I couldn’t help but cast a few of the characters in my head. My personal cast would have included Ellie Kemper as Camille, Jessica Walter as her mother, and Dakota Fanning as Amma (Camille’s sister). While two of the three mostly do comedic roles, for some reason they just fit the image of what I wanted the characters to look like. I’d love to hear who you think fits each role!

You might be waiting for me to tell you about some positive, uplifting thread to this story.  Instead, I’ll caution you that, if you’re looking for something happy, look elsewhere. There’s really no place for it in this book, and I think if the author had tried to add anything positive it would have felt forced and out of place. For example, a lot of mysteries and thrillers might include a romance to lighten things up. While there is a little bit of flirtation and sex in Sharp Objects, through Camille’s eyes it feels more like she’s using the other person – whether it’s for information or just a momentary bit of comfort. If you’re like me and enjoy a truly dark and disturbing read, this book will definitely live up to that.

Things I Didn’t Like:
The only thing that I disliked is that there’s a bit of a time jump at the end that feels disjointed from the rest of the story. The big reveal comes in two parts, and it’s obvious that time needed to pass between the two events. Unfortunately, once the author makes the time jump, her writing becomes a bit choppy, as if she’s racing through the ending, tossing out details, and trying to make the big reveal come full circle. I enjoyed the ending immensely, but this is one part of the story where I found the author’s writing to be a bit lacking.

Overall Rating:
5/5 I finished this book a month ago, and I have a million reviews I need to be writing right now for ARCs I’ve received. Instead, I HAD to tell you about this one. That’s how you’re going to feel when you close the final page – like you need to talk to someone about this book. I find myself still thinking about all of the complexities to the story and just how much I truly enjoyed Flynn’s writing style. I would go so far as to say that this is the best book that I’ve read so far this year, and having already read a couple other Gillian Flynn titles in the month after reading Sharp Objects, I’d be willing to say that Sharp Objects is her best work overall.

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My Waiting on Wednesday Reading List

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases. Normally, when I post my Waiting on Wednesday pick, I select only one book to feature. However, I have some pretty incredible ARCs in my reading list right now, and I thought that this week I would change things up and give you a little preview of some of the books I will be reviewing in the near future. Keep your eyes on these six books which are sure to be a hit when they reach the shelves!

shadowA SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING
By Jessica Cluess

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Summary (via Goodreads)
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Why I’m Waiting:
I’m currently reading this ARC, and I am about to hit the halfway point. Let me tell you this – I cannot WAIT to rave about this book! I’m completely enraptured by the protagonist, Henrietta, who is essentially a Victorian lady human torch! I know it’s going to be a series, and I’m already dreading the wait for a sequel.

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Off the Shelf: A Review of One Was Lost by Natalie Richards

Do you ever get really excited when you read a book, and it mentions someplace you are familiar with, maybe even someplace you call home? While reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series, I bombarded my friends with photos of every mention of West Virginia, particularly when she talked about I64 and Charleston (which happens to be about 30 minutes away from my library). Well, I had the same excitement when I found out that Natalie Richards and I have something in common – we’re both from Ohio. I live in the southern half of the state, but I like to go camping around the areas that Natalie writes about. The teens are students from Marietta (a great little place to visit that’s right on the Ohio River and full of history). There’s also a hospital in Columbus that is mentioned, and I’d say most every Ohioan has visited Columbus at least a time or two. Let me tell you though, when you’re reading a story as frightening as One Was Lost, you don’t exactly get excited that you know the places the author is describing. You get creeped out. You start questioning visiting that part of the state again, especially to camp. You know it isn’t some made up fictional city. Knowing that makes every aspect of the story more real, and when things start to get scary, it makes your fear more real. One was Lost is a fast-paced, thrilling adventure about fighting to survive, and one that you will probably want to read from the comfort and safety of your own home.

onewaslost
Summary (via Goodreads)

Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it’s clear; they’re being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…

I received an ARC of One was Lost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The current publication date for One was Lost is October 4, 2016.

Things I Liked:

This isn’t some cut and dry murder mystery. There’s a killer on the loose, and he/she is toying with a group of teenagers that wouldn’t exactly refer to each other as “friends”. Add to that, mysterious words have been drawn darkly onto their wrists which call into question the nature of each character. Damaged, Deceptive, Dangerous, and  Darling can all be heavy labels to bear, but there is a special reason why these words in particular were chosen for the group. Natalie Richards does a great job only revealing what she absolutely has to at any given moment, and she effectively builds the rising tensions. There may be a few moments where readers will feel like something was predictable, but it won’t be in regards to who is hunting the group nor will it be that person’s motivation behind the hunt. It will keep you guessing from cover to cover.

One was Lost has a great core group of characters. I felt attached to each of the four main campers, even when I didn’t trust them. I think this story would have benefited more if it included multiple points of view and still maintained the suspicions and possible unreliability of the narrators, something similar to what Laurie Stolarz does in the Dark House series. If we could have seen the situation from Lucas, Jude, and Emily’s points of view, I think we would have learned a great deal more about their characters and personalities. Sera is the soul narrator, we only receive her outlook, and so it’s hard to be 100% invested in her when she is surrounded by so many character’s with backgrounds that are more rich than her own. The other great thing about these characters is the fact that there’s an actual depth to each of them, one that as you can probably tell, I wish had been explored more…but that depth keeps them from coming across as corny or overly stereotypical teenagers.

The most important thing that I liked – the big reveal. So many thrillers cop out on an ending. It’s like they spend the whole book building up to it, and the second the bomb drops, everyone cleans up the debris neatly, and it’s all over. Not here. This was what I needed in an ending for this book. I needed it to be messy. I needed to know not only who but also why. I needed a motive, and I needed a thrilling confrontation between hunter and hunted. Not only that, but I also needed the characters that I spent the whole time getting close to to have a consensus about what happened between them and what the aftermath would be in the wake of their terrifying ordeal. This ending hit the mark and gave me everything I was looking for.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Honestly, I feel like the references to Sera’s mother slowed down the story. I loved the Sera and Lucas young love angle, but I kinda felt like I should make a drinking game out of it. Take one drink for every time Sera thinks about her mom in relation to her feelings about Lucas. No winners in that game. These mommy issue monologues felt very forced, and I just couldn’t get interested.
Beyond that, I feel like the built up animosity towards Lucas, especially in the beginning of the story, was unwarranted, and the slow-to-reveal reasons behind it didn’t really provide an acceptable explanation in my eyes.  This was the only real let down I had with this book.

Also, without spoiling anything, I still have a few unanswered questions about some of the circumstances leading up to this trip and an unexplained link between two characters, but maybe I just need a good reread. I could have possibly missed a small detail somewhere while playing the mommy issues drinking game.

Overall Rating:

I’m giving this one a solid 4/5. It had some predictable moments, and I wasn’t a fan of Sera’s fixation with not being like her mother, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book the whole way through. It was a thrilling ride from start to finish, didn’t seem overly corny, and had characters that I wanted to personally know. I raced through the pages because the tale gets very twisted, and it kept me anticipating how the ending would play out. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on this one come October and read it on your next camping trip.

Add One was Lost to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
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Waiting on Wednesday #9

What if you could take part in dangerous and thrilling activities without ever truly being at risk? What would you do? Skydive? Chase tornadoes? The Running of the Bulls? Is it still just as exciting even if the danger element is taken away? In Paula Stokes’s upcoming release, Vicarious, we are introduced to Vicarious Sensory Experiences (ViSEs) – where, for a price, you can experience any enticing activity without the danger thanks to neural impulse recordings of digital stunt girls who are willing to take on the risks. For me, I wouldn’t be keen on experiencing some death defying exploit, but I have a feeling this book itself is going to be an adrenaline rush.

Vicarious-type 11-final
Release Date: August 16, 2016

Summary (via Goodreads)

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

Why I’m Waiting

As if the concept of ViSE isn’t enticing enough, now there’s a murder thrown into the mix! And can you imagine having a recording of the brain activity of the person being murdered? It’s already making my skin crawl just thinking about it. I’m especially looking forward to finding out the history between these two sisters and what led to their employment as digital stunt girls. Some advance reviews praise the twist ending, so I’m going to go ahead and predict that the killer definitely isn’t Rose’s ex-boyfriend turned employer, but this futuristic whodunit already has me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out the truth.

Add Vicarious to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases.

Off the Shelf: A Review of Shutter by Laurie Stolarz

I’ve always revered my father as a master of foreshadowing. It never failed – we’d go to see a movie in the theater, and no later than fifteen minutes into the film, Dad would lean over and whisper to me how it would all end. Not because he knew any spoilers, but because he could pick up on the tiniest of details and already be five steps ahead of the plot. Now, it’s become somewhat of a game I play with myself whenever I go to see a movie or pick up a good mystery – I immediately start looking for those little ‘tells’. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten as good as Dad at my predictions, but then I happened to receive an ARC of Shutter by Laurie Stolarz…

28963881Summary (via Goodreads)
THE FACTS
• Julian Roman, age sixteen, is an escapee from the Fairmount County Juvenile Detention Facility.
• His parents, Michael Roman and Jennifer Roman, are dead.
• Julian is wanted for murder.

THE QUESTIONS
• Why is Julian Roman on the run?
• Just how dangerous is he?
• And who did kill Michael and Jennifer Roman, if not Julian?

Seventeen-year-old Day Baker views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she pictures and the truths she believes-neatly captured in black and white-begin to blur.

Julian is not the “armed and dangerous” escapee the police are searching for, but his alibis don’t quite add up, either. There is more to his story. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture . . . whatever it reveals. Did he? Or didn’t he?

Day digs deeper into the case while Julian remains on the run. But the longer her list of facts becomes, the longer the list of questions becomes, too. It’s also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels for him. Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

 

Things I Liked:

A lot of folks find their way to Laurie Stolarz care of the Blue is for Nightmares series or the Touch series, but for me it was the Welcome to the Dark House series. It was fabulous, frightening, and haunted my nightmares for weeks after I closed the covers. What really got me hooked is that Stolarz truly gets inside the minds of her teenage characters and brings out voices that are wholly believable as well as engrossing. While Shutter isn’t a book that will occupy my nightmares, it is one that has now spent several days occupying my thoughts. I’ve been turning over the mysteries of the story and the intricacies of the characters in my mind, and I am still rocked to the core that I didn’t see such a fitting yet shocking ending coming.

Julian (I have to just love that name, don’t I? I’m named after a Julian, after all.) is a teen on the run, escaped from juvie with the clothes on his back and a story full of holes. Day is a young girl taken in by his shy demeanor and mysterious circumstances, and her determination to find the answers in Julian’s case leads her to ask questions others might not. She’s desperate to prove herself, not only for Julian’s sake, but also for her own. Day is constantly trying to live up to her justice-seeking, do-gooding parents who seem to make everything work… except for a marriage and having time for their daughter.

Day also has a passion for photography, hence the name, and it doesn’t feel at all like a superficial character trait. Some authors might add it to make their characters seem more artistic but never really follow it up with much depth… Not here. Day has some beautiful concepts for projects detailed within the story that actually had me aching to see the photographs, however fictional they may be. Day’s photography helps to weave the story together and evoke some of the heavier themes, especially in relation to her feelings towards her mother and father.

I love the format of this book, told in alternate points of view between Day in the present and Julian writing in his journal. Julian’s journal entries are especially powerful because you glimpse more of his past, his relationship with his family and the tragedy that changed them forever, and also snippets from what really happened the day Julian found his mother’s body in the bathtub and was accused of murdering his father. These were my favorite parts of the book, the journal entries, because you really begin to feel for Julian and want to fight right alongside Day to vindicate him.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I’ve seen an early review or two that have mentioned some aspects being unbelievable. I’ll tell you what, the only part I found unbelievable was this:
“I must say, I’ve never had a customer take photos of items they purchased in the past. What is this really about?”
“A school project. Photography class.”
Come on! You know she wanted to say she was a writer doing research. This is actually how I feel anytime someone questions my Google history. I promise that “gruesome ways to kill a person” was totally just my research for something I was writing.
By the way, I am JUST KIDDING! It’s so hard to pick out things I didn’t like in a story that I really did love. I was so engrossed by the story that I didn’t really find anything about it unbelievable. Society can be pretty screwy, and I know plenty of kids that come from rough backgrounds. I also know plenty of intelligent kids with chips on their shoulders. For me, this story totally works.

If you really want me to nitpick and find something that I didn’t care for, I’d say Day’s friends. Well, mostly just Tori. I think the real reason she annoyed me is that we all know a Tori, and she’s just as annoying in real life as she is in fiction. Tori’s the taunting friend, the one that gives you a hard time about the things you like to do or a boy showing interest in you. She’s also the one that’s too preoccupied with her flavor of the week to really have any interest in anything else. Tori’s got her own issues going on, but that’s discussed briefly before she’s off to the next boy. Totally a believable aspect, but I did find myself trying to read faster through any part with her in it.

Overall Rating:
5 stars for getting the better of me! I thought that I had this one figured out at least halfway through, only to be completely, totally, utterly wrong. You’re going to race through the pages trying to piece together the truth, and meanwhile that little DUN-DUN sound clip from Law & Order is going to play on repeat in your head… I mean, at least it did for me. Laurie Stolarz has quickly become one of my favorites in the genre. She is masterful with chilling atmospheres, concealed mysteries, and characters that truly feel like people you would want to get to know (or in the case of some Welcome to the Dark House characters, I’d rather not meet them…not in a scary, horror house, nor anywhere else). She’s definitely an author you’ll want to check out!

The current release date for Shutter is October 18, 2016, and I definitely recommend picking it up before Halloween for a good, chilling mystery.

“Everyone has their own story – their own version of the truth, a rationale for how they act.”
“Because everyone has a unique perspective,” I say, thinking about my photo project.
“Exactly. In most cases, your mother’s political escapades aside, I’d say that people act out when they’ve lost their way, or when they aren’t getting the support that they need. They’ve fallen through the cracks and gotten desperate. I’m not saying that what they do is justified, but you have to wonder: if those same people were given different opportunities -“

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Waiting on Wednesday #8

I’m currently working my way through several ARCs that are due out around September and October, all of which share a common theme – being super creepy! I’m sure the release date timing has something to do with getting readers in the mood for Halloween, but I’m the type of person who loves a good thriller or horror story any time of year. Even in the bright sunshine of summer, I crave stories that are dark and haunting, which makes me even more excited that I don’t have much longer to wait for this week’s Waiting on Wednesday selection:

The-Telling-cover

 

The Telling

By Alexandra Sirowy

Publication Date: August 2, 2016

 

Summary (via Goodreads)

Lana used to know what was real.

That was before when her life was small and quiet.
Her golden step-brother, Ben, was alive, she could only dream about bonfiring with the populars, their wooded island home was idyllic, she could tell the truth from lies, and Ben’s childhood stories were firmly in her imagination.

Then came after.

After has Lana boldly kissing her crush, jumping into the water from too high up, and living with nerve and mischief. But after also has horrors, deaths that only make sense in fairy tales, and terrors from a past Lana thought long forgotten: Love, blood, and murder.

Why I’m Waiting

First of all, check out that gorgeous cover! It’s the first thing that drew me to this book. It’s mysterious, haunting, and somewhat similar to some other covers that take up residence on my shelves. I’m a major fan of horror/thrillers within the YA genre, and I can’t wait to add this one to my collection.
Alexandra Sirowy is one of those authors I keep meaning to read, and this time, I’m determined to check her out. Her first book, The Creeping, has an incredibly gruesome premise (check it out on Goodreads), and I’ve heard great reviews from other readers.
I’m looking for hair-raising twists, chilling characters that will live on in my nightmares, and enough mystery to keep me guessing till the last pages. The Telling sounds like it will certainly fit that bill.

Add The Telling to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases.

Waiting on Wednesday #4

The plots that tend to get stuck in my head usually are of the thriller genre. My on-again-off-again work in progress is tentatively titled Captive, and is about a young girl who has spent the majority of her life imprisoned by her abductor and who must make some very difficult choices in order to save herself. While I was sitting at lunch the other day, an idea struck me for a different story about two friends, self-destruction, a disappearance, and guilt. Won’t reveal too much about that one just yet… BUT I can say that once I saw the synopsis for After the Woods, I knew I would have to read it for the inspiration to tell the story I want to tell. That’s why it earns this week’s Waiting on Wednesday.

After the Woods
By Kim Savage
Publication Date: February 23, 2016

afterthewoods

Synopsis (via Goodreads)

“Would you risk your life to save your best friend?

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.”

Why I’m Waiting

Well, if you read the opening of this post, then you know I’m looking for inspiration for my own story. This book sounds right up the alley of what I like to write. I want mystery. I want suspense. I want to see the power of friendship facing the evils of the world.
From the reviews I’ve read (which seemed to consistently be 5 star reviews), it’s looking like Julia will shape up to be a fantastic heroine, strong and self-sacrificing. I’m looking forward to all of the twists, turns, and complications she will encounter.
This is the author’s debut novel, and if it’s as good as I think it will be, then I think Kim Savage will definitely be one to watch in the future. Her next thriller (title TBD) will be available in 2017, so we will have a bit of a wait to see what’s next from her.

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