The Life We Bury

Finding a book I haven’t read shouldn’t be that hard, but when the librarian tried to give me recommendations, she went with the most popular books as of late, all of which I have read. For the 2017 book challenge, I have to read a book recommended by a librarian, so I approached the desk with my query. She recommended The Nightingale, Gillian Flynn books, The Girl on the Train, etc. Check. Check. Check. So, she went to Amazon to look for books that are similar to these and came up with The Life We Bury. So, not officially librarian recommended, but I’m sticking with it.

Joe Talbert is a college kid with the assigned task of writing an older person’s biography. He has no one in his life that fits this bill, so he heads to a local assisted living facility and finds Carl Iverson. Carl has been let out of prison because he’s dying of cancer. And, even though he was convicted of rape and murder, letting him out to die seemed to be the right thing to do. Unlike the other residents, Carl is fully lucid each day and is willing to tell his story. Joe isn’t really sure he even wants to hear this story, but the assignment is pressing. Joe lives two hours away from home, leaving behind an alcoholic mother and an autistic brother. As his mother pulls him back home for various reasons, we see Joe as a caring, protective brother. One night Joe has to bring his brother back home with him, to his tiny apartment, and runs into a neighbor, Lila, who is great with his brother and ends up getting sucked into Carl’s story as well.

Of course, being a thriller, there are twists and turns. Did Carl really commit this horrible crime? If not, who did? Carl has a very mysterious past, going all the way to Vietnam, and he has never been the same since. But has whatever happened in the past affected him so greatly that he would rape and murder a teenage girl? I felt like Joe’s brother was more of a catalyst to get Joe and Lila together rather than an actual important part of the story. But that might just me being overly critical. I really did enjoy the author, Allen Eskens’, writing style. I wouldn’t say the plot was predictable, but writing an original thriller is hard to do these days. However, his writing was really great. Sadly, I returned the book to the library already, or I would type up a few phrases that stood out. My apologies. But I have looked up his other works on Amazon and hope to read some of them soon.

Ink and Bone

Thank you Netgalley for another great title! I have been a bit discouraged with the thrillers I’ve read lately. They seem to be lacking some unique quality, jump the shark at some point in a very unsuccessful way, or are just plain boring. Thankfully, Ink and Bone was one worth reading!

When doing a little background research, I discovered that the setting of this story, The Hollows, NY is a fictional town, but there is a town called the Hollow (formerly named Allentown) that was founded by two families that has only recently become slightly modernized, think indoor plumbing a few years ago, but no telephones, and the residents live in near isolation. Here’s a link the Hollow to a NY Times article about the town. In the book, however, the town is a tourist trap with abandoned mines nearby, and the mountain folk aren’t as isolated as you would think. Interesting tie to real life, however.

The main character, Finley, can see and communicate with the dead. A little girl goes missing and, as a last resort, Finley is asked to help find her. The police have no leads, the parents are desperate, and Finley has been hearing a mysterious noise that leads her to the grieving family. I’m not one who believe in this kind of stuff, however, that didn’t really matter in this novel. I took it as a work of fiction from beginning to end and the author did a great job of creating a character to relate to. Finley struggles with her ability. She wants to help families, but she wants to be a normal person, too. She is a college student, with a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, a mother who doesn’t understand her, and a grandmother who shares her abilities.

The story is told in multiple perspectives, which is interesting, but a bit hard to follow at times because it takes a few sentences of a new chapter to realize who the narrator is. However, because this is from Netgalley and isn’t an official published copy, maybe some clarification was added to the final version. It’s certainly not a reason to avoid this book, though.

Overall, really great thriller. Goodreads has it listed as horror, but it’s really not. It’s more of a mystery/thriller, and a great one at that!

Murder in Missoula

Here’s another book I got from Netgalley. I tend to select thrillers because I really do enjoy a good mystery, but this one left me wanting a bit more.

This story isn’t exactly a mystery, because you know who the killer is almost from the beginning. Instead, you are trying to see if the killer will be caught, who will figure out the killer’s identity, are there others involved, will an innocent person be arrested, and so on. I won’t tell you if any of the above questions are answered, though, but I will say the book does have a resolution. Whether it was an appealing one is left up to the reader.

My biggest issue with this book was the lack of emotion from any characters. A woman is murdered and her best friend just drinks a lot of wine as a result. I understand trying to drown your sorrows, but no tears? No sadness? It just seemed really strange to me. The main character, who is involved with the murdered woman, just needs to find the killer. He doesn’t show much sadness for the death, either. This was just really bizarre to me. Maybe I’m being too particular, but the characters just seemed really flat.

Overall, this was a pretty easy read, but not one that left me with tingles or anything. It was just a mediocre story.

No One Knows

I managed to get a lot of thrillers from Netgalley, including this one. I like a good mystery, especially one that is unique, has a great plot twist, or leaves me thinking. And up until the last few pages, I was ready to give this book four stars. However, the forced plot twist at the end dropped it to two stars. I was really disappointed by the time the book was over.

Without giving too much away, the main character, Aubrey, is mourning the death of her husband. He went missing five years ago and, since so much time has passed, he has been declared dead. Aubrey has spent much of this time either incarcerated, drunk, or barely hanging on. She was suspected of her husband’s murder, given the amount of blood found in their home, but was found not guilty due to the lack of evidence. She drank a lot just to numb the pain. But after hitting rock bottom, she cleaned herself up, got a teaching job, and is putting her life back together. Until a man, looking much like her husband, enters her life.

I really was okay with the majority of this book. Is he dead? Did she do it? Did his mother, due to inherit a lot of money? Did his jailbird father? What about his mystery man who seems to know a lot about Aubrey? All of this, thankfully, is resolved by the end of the book, and there are a few plot twists along the way, but the final one just did me in. It was so unbelievable completely out of the realm of possibility given the rest of the book, that it just infuriated me. I have pretty high standards when it comes to plot twists. Even if I see them coming, that’s fine, but it has to be plausible. That’s my one requirement, and this book failed it, miserably.

 

I Am Pilgrim

I really dislike the Mad Max movies. Which is odd, considering dystopia is my thing. I can read any book about the genre, and most movies, as well. But the Mad Max movies are not my thing. So, when I heard about this book, written by the screenwriter of Mad Max 2 and 3, I was out. No interest. Then I read the plot and reviews. And maybe, just maybe I would check it out. Then a friend raved about it. And harped on me about it. And I caved. 600 pages later, here I am on the other side. I survived.

I love a good thriller. I will read most types, but this one about espionage, catching the Muslim extremist in a post 9/11 world, covert operations, etc just didn’t appeal to me. But the more I read, the more sucked in I got. And I was so impressed with this story. Because something that is mentioned on page 100, that was just a hint, just a tidbit, turned out to be huge later in the book. And that happened a number of times. This is an expertly constructed book.

You never really know the character, in part because his identity shifts so much due to the covert business, but you see who he is deep down. He’s not a heartless man. He isn’t ruthless or cruel. He simply wants to protect people. And unfortunately, he knows you sometimes have to kill people to protect the many. Even when he does, he still takes no joy in what he has done, making him human. And this is the main reason I enjoyed this book. There are so many small events that link together within the novel. Hayes does a great job of tying up all the loose ends as well. Very impressive first stab (pun intended) at a novel from this screenwriter.

Pretty Girls

My online book club selected this for our December book. I have never read anything by Karin Slaughter before, so I had no idea what to expect. I enjoy a good thriller, but this one fell short.

I felt like the main character was able to solve all the problems and put all the pieces together too easily. She wasn’t particularly intelligent given her inability to see people for who they really are, so giving her almost magical powers to fix every mess was a little too miraculous to me.

There were a few pretty awful red herrings as well. I like a good solid red herring, but there has to be character or plot motivation behind it. One in particular in this book just was thrown in for no reason. About halfway through the book, there was a fantastic plot twist that I didn’t see coming at all, which was a pleasant surprise, and I expected more out of the second half of the book, but it went downhill after that. The main character’s mother was just the worst of all. She obviously cared about her children, but not enough to ever be honest with them, and when she is needed the most, she arrives with no questions about the most hairbrained plan of all time. She reminded me of Lucille Bluth.

I gave this one 3 stars, because I did want to keep reading, but I just rolled my eyes too many times at how far fetched the entire book was.

Sharp Objects

I’ve only read one of Gillian Flynn’s books, Gone Girl, and was blown away, like most. And I’ve been meaning to read her other works, but just kept putting it off. So my early New Year’s Resolution is to read books that I’ve been meaning to get to. Since I finished the 2015 book challenge, I figured I might as well get a head start on my 2016 list. And thanks to my library, I have access to them all!

Having read two of Flynn’s books, I’m sold. She’s got what it takes. I will read Dark Places when I get it from the library, and already can’t wait. I knew absolutely nothing about this book other than the title. I’m not even sure I had ever seen the cover. Sometimes this is the best way to enter a book- completely blind. The story follows Camille, a reporter, who is sent back to her small hometown in Missouri to investigate a missing girl.

This book is like an onion of reveal. First there’s a missing girl. Turns out there was another girl murdered a few months before. Camille has issues with her family, to put it mildly, and you are slowly brought into the world of crazy that is her family, former friends, police, and suspects. There are few red herrings, but all are plausible and aren’t distracting to the main plot of “who is behind all the crimes” that you are pulled into.

I really loved this book. Excellent thriller, but not in an overdone way. Camille is seriously flawed, but we understand why. She isn’t just some crazy woman for the sake of the story. There’s depth to her, which makes her even more fascinating. Highly recommend this one!