LIFE OF PI

5/5 Stars

  • Member of the TWISTER HALL OF FAME
  • Author: Yann Martel
  • Published August 29th 2006 by Seal Books (first published 2001)

Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t a suspense/thriller type story in the least.  There are some pretty gruesome descriptions of animals devouring each other, but that doesn’t really count. Does it?

I have to include this gorgeous modern day fable in my Hall of Fame simply because the entire story is a twist. Is Pi telling the truth? Did he really spend 227 days with a Bengal tiger on a raft in the ocean? The beauty lies in what the reader wants to believe.  No matter how you react to the ending, you will find evidence in the book to back up your belief.

Life of Pi is now studied in most high school English classes for good reason. Yann Martel combines literary devices masterfully,  you could read this book one hundred times and never catch all the allusions, metaphors, and symbols. It is a rich and charismatic text that poses questions on religion, survival, nature, morality and truth.

This is a book that has stayed with me for years.  If you haven’t read this book, WHY NOT??? Also, you could watch the movie! (The book vs. movie snob in me approves highly of the movie).

Amazon paperback Life of Pi

Amazon Kindle Life of Pi

Amazon dvd Life of Pi

ENJOY.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

       5/5 Stars

  • Member of my TWISTER HALL OF FAME 
  • Author: M. R. Carey
  • Published June 19th 2014 by Orbit

I kind of hate that one of the major surprises in this book is all over the internet as if it is common knowledge. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE SECRETS works even better if you just go in blind. Trust me! I listened to this book on Audible when it first came out, based solely on the blurb below:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

This book is a little bit of every kind of genre you can imagine.  And it works. It is bursting with ideas, characters, explanations. The plot is based on the scientific theory of evolution and it is explained in such a manner, you will have nightmares for weeks just thinking it might come true.

The character of Melanie is so endearing, she’s one of my favorites of all time. She’s smart, fierce and scrappy.  She loves Miss Justineau in a heartbreaking way that will resonate with your own first crush on a teacher.

There are some longish sections of violence and war, but as a reader I was so invested in Melanie and Miss Justineau, I had to see how the book would end. It will not let you down. The ending is brilliant and unforgettable.

There is a movie version which I have seen. Don’t even bother, it was nowhere close to the Audible recording as far as performance quality goes.

AMAZON The Girl With All the Gifts

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