Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Number of pages: 424
Release Date: 10th of August 2010 (first published in 2009)
Publisher: Phoenix (originally published by Crown)
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller
Topics: family, poverty, class issues, Satanic cult hysteria in the 1980's
Similar books: Sworn to Silence, Into the Darkest Corner
Dark Places on Goodreads

Synopsis: When Libby Day was seven years old, her two sisters and her mother were murdered in "The Satanic Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas". Her older brother Ben was convicted for the murders and has reminded behind the bars for the past twenty-five years. Libby on the other hand has lived most of her life in solitude, living of off her family's life insurance and the kind donations that people have given her over the years. But the money is running out and in the mist of her money troubles Libby finds herself getting involved with The Kill Club, a group of people invested in her family's murder case. The members of The Kill Club believe in Ben's innocence and Libby, trying to profit from her tragic history, gets entangled in the clubs investigation.

Thoughts: Gillian Flynn's newest book Gone Girl was probably one of the most talked about books last year and it was also the first book I read from her. I'm not someone who reads crime books too often, so it's not a genre I'm most familiar with. But I definitely liked Gone Girl enough to pick up Dark Places.

What I most like about Gillian Flynn's books is her amazing writing. She has the ability to write really moving, real and honest characters. All of her characters have a very distinct voice, not just the main character, like Libby but even the smallest side characters are written in depth, you get interested and invested in them and wish they had their own books written about them so you could know their full story.

That amazing skill of writing and those characters are what make Dark Places (and Gone Girl too) to stand out from other crime novels. But to be honest, I did find the story a little bit predictable, especially towards the end. There's a problem with hyped books and authors, I assume that I will be absolutely blown away by them just because others have. And because I've built up my expectations when the mystery is resolved it feels a little underwhelming.

Dark Places is twisted, dark and surprising, but I'm not a person who cares too much about surprise endings. But I do love character driven books and with Gillian Flynn you get both; intense crime drama and absolutely brilliant, strange, infuriating, lovable characters. If you like neither, I recommend this book for you. If you like both, well you'll probably be one of those people who can't shut up about this great author.

Favorite Quotes:

“There are few phrases that annoy me more than I won't bite. The only line that pisses me off faster is when some drunk, ham-faced dude in a bar sees me trying to get past him and barks: Smile,it can't be that bad! Yeah, actually, it can, jackwad.” 
“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Discussion: Star ratings

I just started this blog but I’ve actually thought about starting a book blog for quite some time. And one of the things I had to give some thought was how am I going to rate the books I read. Most people use star ratings with their reviews and I personally also use them at sites like Goodreads, but in reality, I don’t like star ratings!

Why don’t I like them? Well first of all, I am very bad at giving star ratings. When I rate books on Goodreads, I usually do it immediately after I’ve finished a book. So I don’t really have time to think about the book, so how I rate the book is the feeling it leaves me with right after reading it. That might work with some books, but very often I feel like I have rated a book unfairly. That maybe the book just made me feel all the feels and that’s why I gave it five stars when in fact it wasn't a book worthy of the highest rating. And on the other hand, sometimes I don’t know how I feel about a book, and I end up giving it three stars when in fact it turns out to be a book I think about weeks later after reading it. Of course I could go back and change those ratings, but what do star ratings actually tell about the book?

Star ratings are ambiguous, someone can give five stars with careful though when someone else gives them to every good book they read. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but my stars might not be worth as much as yours and sometimes when I try to find books to read, I get confused what’s actually good and I find myself wishing that my Goodreads friends would write reviews or at least some thoughts about the books they’ve read.

Of course I could use star ratings alongside of reviews, that’s what most people do, but I feel like often people just look at the star ratings and if a book hasn’t got enough stars they won’t even read the review. When in fact maybe it wasn’t a book for me, no one likes everything. Here’s a little reading secret of mine, I couldn’t get through Lord of the Rings and I actually really just don’t like it! But if I did read it, would I give it two stars because I found it boring or would I give it four stars because I can appreciate the amazing world building and characters in the book. And which rating would be fair?

That’s another thing, Lord of the Rings is a classic, and I have no doubt that it’s not brilliant and that there’s a reason why every person I’ve ever met loves those books so much. Rating classics is hard, because even as someone who is kind of a fan of classics, I sometimes find them boring or just really hard to get through. But I can still appreciate what those books have achieved, what is so amazing about them that people read them decades or even hundreds of years later.

So, I don’t want to be ambiguous. I want people actually read my reviews and that way find their next book to read. I want to have good discussions about books and what the words on those pages meant to me. I want to tell you about good books, great books and awful books and more importantly, let you decide whether you agree with me or not. I don’t want you to be fooled by the stars that I'm not very good at giving. And that’s why you won’t find star ratings on this blog, but I promise to tell you honestly what I think, even if I sometimes don’t love, or even like, everything I read.

Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Number of pages: 208
Release date: 27th of August 2013
Publisher: Knoof Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult fiction
Topics: LGBT,equality, teenage relationships, depression, AIDS-epidemic
Similar Books: Ask the Passengers, With or Without You
Two Boys Kissing on Goodreads

Synopsis: Harry and Craig used to be boyfriends but now they are just friends who are trying to break the world record of kissing. While attempting this 32-hour kissing marathon, Harry and Craig become the focal point in the lives of other teen age boys, who are trying to deal with relationships, sexuality, gender identity and coming out. And all this is narrated by the generation of gay men who were lost to the AIDS-epidemic.

Thoughts: I absolutely adored this book! This is the first solo work I've read from David Levithan and I absolutely love the way Levithan writes. He's funny and thoughtful. He writes characters that feel very real and there is always a lot of diversity in the characters in his books. 

Two Boys Kissing is a quite short book, but it's still enough to tell the story that Levithan set out to tell. The narration is done in a unique way and I've never read anything like it. The book has multiple characters and smaller storylines that tie up together nicely. 

The biggest theme of the book is equality, especially in sexual and gender minorities. It talks about how things were before, especially during the AIDS-epidemic in the 80's and the 90's, but also the struggles people face today. Despite the very difficult things the book deals with it still manages to be hopeful and positive, but in a way that doesn't feel fake. It shows how much better things are now, but also reminds us how much we still need to do for all of us to truly be equal.

I think Two Boys Kissing is an important book full of positivity and love. And that it's wonderful that book like these are written and published, especially for young people. I mean, look at that cover, how amazing is that we can have books like these at bookstores marketed for the younger generation! We truly have come a long way, and writers like David Levithan are doing their part for making this world just a little bit better and accepting.

I recommend this book to absolutely everyone and anyone. Even if you're not into YA or contemporary fiction, read this, it's lovely and it will make you happy! And most importantly, people who have issues with sexual and gender equality, give this book a chance to change your mind!

Favorite Quotes: 
"There are all these moments you don't think you will survive. And then you survive." 
"You will miss the taste of Froot Loops.You will miss the sound of traffic. You will miss your back against his. You will miss him stealing the sheets. Do not ignore these things."