I've never been able to listen to an entire novel by Gillian Flynn all the way through without taking a break in the middle for a week or two. In the case of this novel it was several breaks over the course of several months. The characters are so messed up that it's too painful to listen to the whole story without a reprieve. But I've never regretted downloading a Flynn novel and I have rarely found books so satisfying or surprising as hers are. Listen to the end. The process might be painful, but it is worth it!
This book is like a fictional version of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." Multiple murders on a rural Kansas farm that seem to have no comprehensible motive. At first, you might hate the main character who sets out to solve the murders, but she is a complex and fraught human being and in the end, you will want to cheer for her. Her flaws only make her more believable.
Flynn's descriptions of rural middle America are spot on. The setting is just as thoroughly developed as the characters.
Just a word of warning: there are clues early on in the story that are relevant to solving the overall mystery. Because I had to take some breathers in the middle of listening to this novel (I just couldn't handle listening to it all the way through) I forgot some of the clues Flynn had embedded early on in the narrative that would have helped me solve the mystery. If you are interested in figuring out the ending before the end, I'd suggest listening through the book in its entirety without breaks. Or at least, I'd suggest a good/attentive memory...
I can see why people think this book is so funny, and it did make me laugh at times, but I was irritated more often than I was amused. The book is written from the perspective of a 43 year old father and so a lot of the story is told through the random leaps and associations his mind makes and through his internal dialogues. True to his character, all the jokes (which are essentially constant) were bathroom humor, vaguely homophobic, or about fat people. Sometimes it was funny. Mostly it was annoying.
Equally annoying was the fact that all the female characters in the book were irrational/hysterical caricatures and pretty much useless. The teenage characters also felt more like stereotypes than real people.
Also, this is a nit-picky detail, but how can the main character only be 43 years old??? Say that the oldest daughter is 20 years old (we never actually get her age i don't think, but her little brother is 19, so at the very least she has to be 20), that means the main character had to be 22 when he got together with his wife. But before he even met his wife he'd been to college, had a 5 year relationship with some other girl, moved to Colorado with her, had a messy break-up, moved back to the east coast, then joined the Marines, and then met his wife. How could he do all that before he was 22? I think I'm predisposed to be a little judgmental of this book, but that was something that really stuck out as kind of sloppy about the story.
It doesn't take long to listen to the story (less than 3 hours) but the author packs a lot into it.
The premise is essentially: a nice guy, irregardless of how he lived on earth, ends up in hell, which actually does not seem so bad at the beginning. The demon in the first scene is more like an affable business manager than genuinely scary; people get idealized bodies once they're admitted to hell; and they can order whatever food they want from the food kiosks. Even though the task set to each person is tedious (find a single book in a mind-shatteringly huge library) there are optimistic/encouraging rules that give everybody in hell hope that they will eventually get out. Over time, the story slowly dismantles, piece by piece, this initial impression by undermining anything that might lead the main character to believe that hell is actually not that bad, while at the same time progressively building up, piece by piece, his growing realization of how horrific and tragic his circumstances actually are. It's a really impressive about-face. A great story, funny and tragic and hopeful and horrific all at once.
This was a fun, pretty straightforward urban/sci-fi/fantasy (I'm not sure how to classify it exactly) story. It's kind of steam-punky (there's a back story with Nikola Tesla in it) but set in modern LA. It was easy to listen to and kept me distracted for a few days at the gym. I didn't stay up late to finish it or feel any pressing urge to know what was going to happen next, but sometimes that's the kind of book I like to read.
I downloaded this book because I'd read Gone Girl and really enjoyed it. I was not disappointed at all. Flynn has this incredible talent for writing short, incisive character sketches that can be both cynical and fascinating, but still somehow feel really true to life. Her characters are unique and nothing about the plot is obvious, especially the ending. I wish all mysteries were this good!
This book did an amazing job telling the same story from the perspectives of two very different, very messed up characters. So good!
I can't remember ever reading a book before (admittedly, I haven't read a lot of mysteries) where the characters lie so blatantly to the reader. This made the story über-suspenseful. It was almost too suspenseful at points - I had to take a break for a while about 1/3 of the way through because I couldn't take the self-destructive tendencies of the main character anymore. It was painful watching him slowly hang himself (metaphorically speaking) with all his unnecessary lies, which were intended to cast him in a good light, but ended up backfiring on him.
The ending comes out of nowhere. It's like the author asked herself what the least likely scenario was, picked the craziest one, and went with it. Brilliant!
Etiquette and Espionage was a very quick, easy little book. Much like Carriger's other books, it's absurd in the best possible way (paranormal mystery/comedy/alternative history?). :-) The story is funny, very light, and kept me entertained for a few days at the gym. It doesn't demand much from the reader, but sometimes that's exactly what you need. I liked it, obviously, even though it won't become an all-time favorite.
This was a quick mystery/adventure, fun, and it made me laugh at loud at points. Definitely enjoyed it.
That being said, I am a bit worried. Mead just keeps adding more and more conflicts and more and more characters without following through on some of the earlier conflicts and characters she introduced but never resolved in the first two books in this series. This is shaping up to be a big mess. It really felt like a digression away from the main problem in the series that Mead set up in the first book. Characters that had been central in the other books, only appear briefly in this one, and I'm worried that this series is just flying out in too many directions at once to be manageable.
I downloaded this 32 hour-long book less than a week ago and finished it yesterday, which might say more about my feelings towards this series than anything else. My day job might have suffered for it, but I couldn't stop listening.
The conclusion to the "big mystery" in the series wasn't a surprise, but by the time I started listening to the final book I had become so attached to the characters that it didn't really matter that the surprise was ruined. It was simply a pleasure to listen to well-written dialogue and to have a whole group of characters with well-developed, distinctive personalities interact in unexpected ways.
I know I said this in my review of the second book, but it was refreshing to have a love story told in a way that wasn't always in your face or about sex or defined by immature angst-ridden decisions. The two characters complement each other in a very real, very sweet way. Though the love story is understated, it put a silly grin on my face.
That being said, the book could have been shorter. I did feel myself getting impatient, thinking the author should just get on with it. I think the first novel in the series might have been edited more rigorously, which is why I enjoyed it the most, while the next two were each longer, even though they didn't need to be.
I downloaded this the same day I finished the first book in the Riyria series and am still quite happy with the story. I've known the answer to the "big mystery" since about a quarter of the way through the first book (at least I think I do - still have to finish the series, obviously) but I still feel an incredible sense of suspense listening to these books. It's a fine balance for an author to strike between revealing enough hints about where the story is going, but still keeping his readers guessing what will happen moment to moment. It's so much fun to read something where the big story arc is clear, but all the little details are so unexpected.
Also, this has to have one of the most understated but sweetest love stories I've read in a long time. It's perfect.
I didn't give it 5 stars because the ending was not satisfying. It annoyed me a little that the book was so long and still nothing was resolved. But I suppose that's why there is a third book... which I've already started listening to.
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