WE WERE LIARS

5/5 Stars

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I picked this book up to read, I knew nothing about it. I didn’t even realize it was a young adult book. That didn’t matter. I read it in one sitting. It is sophisticated and modern and you will not stop reading until you reach the surprise ending. It is so compelling,  I have to include it in my Twister Hall of Fame. Just don’t let anyone spoil it for you by talking about. SHHHHhhhhhhh.

AMAZON link We Were Liars

GONE GIRL

5/5 Stars

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Well, this is it. THE book that started the psychological suspense craze in novels over the last 5 years. Gillian Flynn’s third book is a legitimate masterpiece. Even the movie was stunning (which rarely happens).

I’m a big fan as you can tell. (I’m also crazy about SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACESher first and second novels).

Exploring the malevolent side of ordinary people and taking a peek into their murderous motivations is an endless fascination for me.  After reading at least a few hundred similar books, I realize more than ever how special this one is. The New York Times called this book “ice-pick sharp”.  I agree.

It is biting and witty; a fast paced perfect story of love and marriage, murder and revenge.

Click here if you need your Gillian Flynn copies from Amazon!

A RELIABLE WIFE

5/5 Stars

Author: Robert Goolrick
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Algonquin Books

He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for “a reliable wife.” She responded, saying that she was “a simple, honest woman.” She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving her a wealthy widow, able to take care of the one she truly loved.

What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall so completely in love.

Filled with unforgettable characters, and shimmering with color and atmosphere, A Reliable Wife is an enthralling tale of love and madness, of longing and murder.

If you’re in the mood for a quick easy read, you might want to skip this one. A Reliable Wife deserves your time to digest, enjoy, study. Filled with symbolism and theme, it is one of my all time favorite books. It is a suspenseful, plot twisted story that takes place in the early American 1900’s. The setting is isolated, cold and creepy and the characters are wholly unpredictable. At the heart of the story is a smoldering power of sexuality. There are three main characters, all motivated by a kind of Victorian sexual lust you don’t see in modern books. It is a uniquely fascinating literary experience.

AMAZON link A Reliable Wife

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

5/5 stars

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me…

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

I must have read this gripping book at least 3 times. A true psychological drama with twists, turns and such a sense of urgency that you will not be able to stop reading. You will want to scream at the main character, Christine, GET OUT of that house! DON’T TRUST Ben! The beauty of this suspense is that the answers are so close, but the reader doesn’t see them because Christine cannot see them. She is suffering from a kind of short term amnesia and must keep a diary every day just to remember who she is and what day it is. And so much more. .. It is a brilliant story and I cannot recommend it enough.

BTW: The image ABOVE is from the movie. Although Nicole Kidman stars, it was really disappointing. It comes off as clunky, not nearly as slick and suspenseful at the book reads. Once again, the book wins! Sigh.

Amazon US  Paperback

Amazon US Kindle Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel

Amazon US Audio Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel

EMMA IN THE NIGHT

 3/5 Stars

Author: Wendy Walker
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Two girls go missing. Three years later, only one comes home. What happened to Emma?

One night, teenage sisters Cass and Emma disappear from their affluent, suburban home. Three years later, with just the clothes on her back and no evidence of where she’s been, Cass returns – without her sister. She talks of kidnapping and isolation, and a mysterious island where the two were held. But her story has holes – and it’s up to forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter to find the missing sister, Emma, and uncover what really happened in their tortured past. The truth will shock even Cass herself – a tale of fear, family and what it will take to survive her own past.

Emma and Cass have a strange relationship with their mother. For starters, they are required to call her Mrs. Martin, not mom. WHAT? That will get your suspicious mind working overtime to get to the bottom of this story.  Mrs. Martin is a narcissistic, self-involved mother and she’s not the only one in this dysfunctional family that has some psychological issues. The two sisters have an overprotective half-brother, a weepy-wimpy father, an out-of-control stepbrother and a stepfather that continually crosses personal boundaries within the family. WHEW! I’d run the hell away from that house too!

When Cass returns home from being missing for three years, she is alone. What happened to Emma? The FBI are all over the case and continue to grill Cass with a forensic psychologist, Abby, leading the interviews. The entire story is told in alternating views: a first person narrative coming from Cass and a third person narrative from Abby. Coincidentally, Abby the expert, grew up with a sister, too, and their own mother was a textbook narcissist. She knows firsthand what Cass and Emma may have been dealing with at home.

This is not as much of a suspense story as it is a overly long definition of the narcissistic personality type. I learned a bit more than I ever thought I would about the disorder. For starters, the disorder has been overlooked by the courts and by society when it is a woman suffering from it. And especially overlooked when that woman is a mother.

Normally I love psychological suspense. But, if I want to study a disorder, I will pick up my old psychology textbook. Please, SHOW me the actions and develop her character into a more layered person.  Showing is so much more exciting to read in a fictional story than telling.  A book that comes to mind for expertly illustrating a maternal narcissist in action is MOTHER, MOTHER by Karen Zalickas. A biting and disturbing character if ever there was one.

This book has all my favorite elements in a mystery. A BEAUTIFUL, INTRIGUING COVER, the semi-surprise ending, unreliable narrators, and a psychological disorder at the heart of the story.  As much as I wanted to love it, the book fell flat for me. The pages did not turn fast. My mind was wandering Unknownduring the long descriptions of the island that Cass gives the FBI upon her return home. She relates her experiences in a straight monotone manner (for a reason, as you will find out) and it just reads that way for most of the book. I was interested to find out what happened to Emma, but my gosh, it was a slow go.

AMAZON link  Emma in the Night: A Novel

DARK WATER film review

5/5 stars (for the BACKSTORY)

3/5 stars (if watched at face value)

 

Dark Water is a 2005 American horror film directed by Walter Salles, starring Jennifer
Connelly and Tim Roth. The film is a remake of the 2002 Japanese film of the same name which is in turn based on the short story “Floating Water” by Koji Suzuki, who also wrote the Ring Trilogy. The film also stars John C. Reilly. 

The film was released on July 8, 2005, to mixed reviews and grossed almost $50 million worldwide.

My 20-year old daughter and I started watching this random movie on Cinemax the other night. We neither one had even heard of it before, but I’ve since discovered this movie is anything but random or unheard of.  More on that in a bit.

The movie is set on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan and all of the action takes place in a dilapidated apartment building. This is the story of a newly divorced woman (Dahlia) and her kindergarten-aged daughter (Cecilia) moving out on their own, away from the cheating ex-husband. The neighborhood is rundown, the apartment buildings are stacked on top of each other and everything is gray and depressing. Very post-apocalyptic. This is what $900/month could get you in 2005 NYC.

Dahlia keeps having a problem with water leaking from an above empty apartment into hers and she has all kinds of issues getting it repaired. The super is a strange angry man and there are loud noises coming from the supposedly vacant apartment. All manner of weirdness ensues. Meanwhile, Cecilia suddenly has a new imaginary friend that keeps getting her into trouble at school. The plot is very much centered on this dark icky water that is spilling through their ceiling.

This isn’t a horror film, it is more of a family drama with a supernatural element thrown in. There is a surprise ending (plot twist!) and it’s a decent little movie. It’s no Sixth Sense, but it’s certainly not bad either.

We immediately noticed something strange about this story and setting.  Here’s the thing, this movie is infamous for another reason. The setting includes an old looking water tower on the roof of the apartment building. My daughter and I looked at each other and said immediately “THIS LOOKS LIKE THE CECIL HOTEL!” That’s the only building we’ve ever seen with a water tower on top of it.  If you’re into unsolved mysteries, you probably have seen the strange footage of the young Canadian woman, Elisa Lam. The footage shows her acting really bizarre in the hotel elevator at 2 AM before she disappeared. Her body was later found in that water tower on top of the Los Angeles Cecil Hotel. A quick search of YouTube will give you hundreds of theories and conspiracies about the events that led to her death.

There are few logical explanations of why she died, but her weird behavior, the haunted history of the Cecil Hotel, and the fact that police were not forthcoming with what they found all combined to make a perfect storm of controversy in this young woman’s death.

I know I’m rambling, I get overly invested in unsolved true crime cases. Is this a crime or a suicide? We still don’t know for sure, the coroner did rule that she died of drowning, but no word on why or how. My daughter and I even visited the L.A. hotel last summer in hopes of….I don’t know. Getting a feeling? However,  I had never heard of this movie and all the similarities to the case.

Back to the movie, Dark Water. We immediately started googling about it as the closing credits began, since we couldn’t figure out why this story was familiar.  I suggest you give yourself about 3 hours if you start digging too,  it is one deep rabbit hole. If you are just now looking into this story, you would assume that the movie was loosely based on the Elisa Lam case. Here’s the thing:  Dark Water was filmed years BEFORE the actual incident at the Cecil Hotel. WHAT???  Some similarities that we noticed:Unknown-1.jpeg

  • of course the name, Cecil, with the movie character, Cecilia
  • The Black Dahlia was known to frequent the Cecil hotel and is also the name of the mother in the movie
  • Cecilia’s red jacket looks like Elisa Lam’s red hoodie in the elevator footage
  • In both the film and the Elisa Lam case, guests complained of foul tasting, dark water coming from their taps. Disgustingly, this was due to the decomposing body in the water tank.

There are countless other creepy connections, but these are the the highlights that we picked up on with no idea that Dark Water had already been matched up by thousands of other interested people. Amazon has a great deal on the DVD!  click here >   Dark Water

IN A DARK, DARK WOOD

4/5 Stars

  • Author: Ruth Ware
  • Published August 4th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Audio book narrated by Imogen Church
  • 9 hrs and 34 mins

There have been many reviews for the regular book version of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware, but my review is for the audio version. I have had the actual book for awhile now and for some reason, every time I picked it up I just could not stay with it due to my unfortunately short attention span. As happens so many times, a beautifully made audio version of the same book will quickly suck me in, even if I just read the same words myself and they seemed so uninteresting in my own head. The fabulous Imogen Church is the narrator, she is wonderful and a one-woman show, acting out all the roles with authentically nuanced personality traits. I had previously enjoyed her narrations of Alex Marwood’s THE KILLER NEXT DOOR and all the BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY books by Helen Fielding. Ms. Church is also reading Ruth Ware’s next two books and I will definitely be listening.

I LOVE listening to this book. For me, the audio version is much more entertaining and suspenseful than reading it with my own eyeballs. So, maybe, Reese Witherspoon will take it up the next step and the movie version will be even better!!? (fingers crossed!). The story revolves around six frenemies tucked away for a “hen party” in a cottage in a dark wood far away from civilization. I guarantee that you have never been to a bachelorette party like this. The creepy location, the sarcastic barbs the “friends” hurl on each other, the drug use, the Ouji board playing, and last, but not least, clay pigeon shooting as the main activity, all work together to create plenty of foreshadowing of the murder we know is going to happen. But, which of the friends is the killer? And who gets killed? The book is written in a first person POV by Nora who has unfortunately suffered a terrible head trauma and is, therefore, a most unreliable narrator (yippeeeee, I love unreliable narrators!).

The story pays homage to the Agatha Christie “locked room” murder motif, one of many a mystery lover’s favorite plot devices. You will figure out the ending way before the main character does (sadly, no plot twist), but it is still a really well written psychological mystery and an excellent debut for Ruth Ware. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 is wildly popular and that’s always a plus for a new author, to be on the upward trajectory. I’m hearing great things about her third book, THE LYING GAME, to be published July 25, 2017.

click here to get your Audio version! In a Dark, Dark Wood