Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

unnamed (2)I can’t believe I haven’t written a review for Gone Girl yet. How do these things happen to me? Oh, that’s right, TWD obsession. Well, fear not my friends. The time has come. Gillian Flynn sure does know how to pull the feelings from you, doesn’t she?

Amy and Nick are a thirty-something married couple who’ve hit some financial and family trouble. They are now back in his small Missouri hometown, and we open on the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary. The narrative shifts back and forth between Nick present day and Amy’s diary from the beginning of their relationship. Because Amy’s gone missing and it doesn’t look good. We go from there.

The film trailer was released a few weeks ago, and so I knew I had to get on reading Flynn’s latest and greatest. I refused to even watch the preview before I’d read the book. GG was a huge darling a couple of years ago and fell victim to the hype monster, which means I refused to read it until things had calmed. While I waited, I read her first two novels – Sharp Objects and Dark Places. One I loved; the other I liked.

Gone Girl is a whole other thing. What impressed me so much about Sharp Objects were the risks Flynn was willing to take, particularly in making people nasty and the imagery even worse. She had a grit and a bluntness to her work that was able to shock even me. GG is different in its way but not any less shocking. But this time, she’s focused primarily on making you hate all of the people just because they are shitty people. The worst, really. You think someone can be redeemed and then shit just falls apart. You will want to punch everyone and fling the book across the room, but you will not be able to stop reading. And that’s the pleasure of Gone Girl. It grabs you, shakes you, and won’t stop until you’ve turned the last page.

Was the novel perfect? No. Personally, I had moments where I wondered what was the point, you know? All those pages just to see the lengths people will go to out-do one another. To see how shitty we can be at the core of who we are. To see how much our childhood or rearing can fuck us up? To just play with the audience like we’re the mouse and Flynn’s the cat? But it’s one hell of a ride so who cares?

The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell

unnamedThe Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell is exactly that, weird. But in the best of ways. It’s a Faustian tale for the millennial generation.  Throw in a Devil-owned Lucky Cat, and well, you had me at hello.

Billy Ridgeway is kind of an odd, hipster-ish guy. He’s 30, works at a sandwich shop, and lives in Brooklyn. He’s a writer without much success and has a girlfriend who may or may not be that into him. But one day, Satan shows up in his apartment looking to make a deal. Help him retrieve his lost Lucky Cat in order to save the world from a fiery extinction, and he’ll grant Billy his one true desire – the chance to become a happily published novelist. How can Billy refuse?

If you aren’t sold by now, you might as well quit reading. Because if that synopsis doesn’t push all your buttons, this isn’t the book for you. Sorry. For those still with me, I really think you’ll love The Weirdness. It’s the perfect beachside romp filled with clever moments and well-written sentences. Bushnell gets NYC and failed writers in a way that makes this fantastical story feel very, very much like some truth you never thought you needed to know. The whole story is mostly just a giant metaphor of what writing is like these days, particularly being an unpublished writer. Which is pretty much just the most amazing metaphor, certainly the most fun, that I’ve read in a long while.

The Weirdness gets two thumbs up and several wet, sloppy kisses from me. I think most readers – from the casual to the very serious – can find something to love here. The sci-fi/fantasy kids get a nonstop, crazy adventure. The literary folks get beautiful writing and a plethora of smartly done literary devices and allusions. There’s religion and romance, if that’s your bag. And werewolves. Because someone out there always needs werewolves.

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

unnamedJames Baldwin is a literary legend who needs next to no introduction. Except that I feel like no one reads any Baldwin anymore. Is this true? Have y’all read anything by him recently? If Beale Street Could Talk is my very first and will not be my last. Now that I’ve read one, I intend to read his entire backlist. And I need y’all to do the same thing.

Tish loves Fonny and Fonny loves Tish. They are a young, sweet couple living in NYC just trying to create a home and a family of their own. But when Fonny is wrongfully accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman, he’s thrown in jail, separated from his now pregnant fiance.

And it’s heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because how much this fictional story embodies the harsh realities of life and racism and shitty people. The irony of the police force and the law system being the very evil they’re supposed to serve and protect us from. Baldwin’s writing is no nonsense and doesn’t allow you to make excuses for the fact in his fiction. He demands his readers see through the bullshit. But he does so by making you fall in love with these wonderfully drawn, full-bodied characters who will crawl inside your heart and stay there even when you put the book down. It’s a story of the human spirit pitted against the ugliness of humanity.

The novel is short, yet powerful. The ambiguous ending was expertly done. Baldwin’s talent with the written word had me underlining and highlighting and sharing quotes on Tumblr with every turn of the page. It’s a book that still feels so very relevant even decades later. Because we’re still trapped inside this horrific bubble of prejudice and racism and making people feel other despite knowing better by now. So perhaps we need James Baldwin now more than we ever have.

So, what’s your favorite Baldwin novel? Where should I head next?

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

1102116So I read this book and now I shall discuss it in this post. So get ready, y’all. Oh my goodness, I’m in a mood. But this should be fun, I promise. Anyway, I read this for multiple reasons: It’s our chosen book for April (my IRL book club), it was a booktube book club choice in March, and Adichie is such a queen of all writers that it was a thing that just had to be done.

Half of a Yellow Sun follows five different protagonists from different walks of life as they navigate the civil unrest/war that occurred in Nigeria during the 1960s and the turmoil following Colonialism. The pov switches back and forth between these five narrators and between the early 60s/late 60s. So basically, character driven African historical fiction.

And there’s a whole lot to love about this book. Seriously, it won many awards and well-deserved accolades. Adichie’s writing speaks for itself. Despite its 500+ pages, I flew through the story with a fervid pace. I cared about each character and needed to know what happened to them. I loved Adichie’s decision to jump between the now and then. To show us the effect of moments that hadn’t yet been divulged to us, the readers. And then to rewind and spill the beans in reverse. So good. And spectacularly effective.

What was a bit of a miss for me was bogging down the story with so many historical facts and figures and events. Sometimes I felt like the characters had a hard time rising above being mere historical vehicles. Instead of being living, breathing people they had a tendency every now and again to feel like dusty relics from a museum tour. That sounds so, so harsh. And it’s not meant to be, really. Some might even really enjoy this aspect. But I’d have preferred a little more subtlety to my story telling. Just a personal preference.

But overall, I loved the book. I still think Americanah is her stronger novel (although I think I’m in the minority there), but Half of a Yellow Sun is not to be missed. Honestly, Adichie can’t write fast enough to satisfy my cravings for the way she tells such a complete and enthralling tale.

Can’t wait to see what my Litwit ladies have to say when we meet later in the month to discuss. I’m nervous because I’m such a delicate Adichie fangirl and can hardly stand to hear a negative thing said, even if it’s coming out of my own mouth!

Happy Monday y’all!!

A Farewell to March

Hey there, folks! How ya doing? Having a good day? Loving the weather where you are? I guess I should use this time more wisely and wrap-up March. Because not enough has gone on in April, so far, to talk about yet.

Ah, March. Where the last vestiges of winter go to die (at least in Georgia) and spring attacks with a smattering of pollen. My reading started off like a high-speed grand prix and ended with a soft pfft. I read four novels and the latest issue of Saga. The real win was that I loved all of them. Quality over quantity and all that.

Books read:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Three Souls by Janie Chang
Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn

I spent most of my time watching, talking, or writing about The Walking Dead. I’m sure you’re shocked. April has been spent coming down off the TWD high and returning to normal life. What else happened? Let’s see…a whole lot of nothing. We did our taxes. Ate at some good restaurants. And spent a lot of time working. We attended the auto show. Be jealous.

With all that nothing going on, Jimmy and I were able to spend far less money than usual. We’re paying off my car in May (FINALLY) and another small debt as well. A major win for adulthood. Okay, I’m gonna quit putting y’all to sleep and sign off.

Happy Apriling, dearies!

Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn

unnamedNo spoilers, I promise! Man, I was so stoked to find this on my doorstep last week. I ALMOST thought about taking an extended lunch break and just reading the whole thing then and there. But I managed to wait until later that night and had an absolute blast.

Compared with the previous two volumes, I’d say this one has amped up the action quite a bit. There were some shocking moments and plenty of the laughs we’ve come to expect. The social commentary still packs a punch, and I am just tickled pink everytime I pick up this story. It puts and leaves a smile on my face which is the kind of thing everyone needs more of in life, am I right?

All gushing aside, I will say that this is perhaps a weaker installment than the first two. I mostly think this is because the story/plot is progressing at a relatively fast pace here so we have less super awesome, silly character bits. But I still gave it 5 stars. Because it’s still more entertaining than almost anything else on this planet or the next.

Volume 4 should have been here, like, yesterday. Boo.

The Walking Dead: “A” and a Season Four Wrap-Up

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Within The Walking Dead community, it’s a widely accepted opinion that seasons 2 and 4 were the slowest. Bitch, bitch, moan, moan. Whatever. These 2 seasons are my favorites. I like the slow storytelling aspect of both, that they allow the characters to breathe and grow and evolve.

“A” was my favorite season finale thus far. It was the perfect ending to an almost perfect season. Rick, Michonne, Carl, and now Daryl – to me – are the absolute best grouping. Carl and Michonne might have the most interesting relationship on the show. Loved that the final episode focused on them. The brutal scene between them and the Claimers was just amazing. No, seriously, AMAZING. Rick using his teeth to save his son’s life grabbed me in the gut. The lengths this man will go to. The monster within he now embraces to keep his people safe is one of the most compelling dynamics on television. And he no longer gives a fuck. Rick Grimes has ascended to a new level of being. And I can’t wait to take that journey with him.

Daryl and Rick’s scene the next morning. ALL OF THE FEELS. Thank God Daryl’s back with his family. I’m so glad Rick’s first instinct is to take Daryl’s guilt away. To claim him as brother. And I’m glad they discussed Beth. Because Beth will play a MAJOR role in season 5. I’m calling it now.

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TERMINUS. Fuck those motherfuckers. Rick is so right. He’s going to jack these sons of bitches up so bad. Team Prison is back together and that’s perhaps the biggest mistake the termites could have made. Because Team Prison reunited and headed by warrior!Rick is an unstoppable force. Not to mention, I think Rick and his group went into Terminus with a plan. Rick leaving those weapons behind – including his signature python – is telling.

So what is Terminus? Are they simply cannibals? We saw the human bones. But we also saw the memorial room that screams religious cult of some sort. I think they might be the cannibals from the comics but with a twist. As for how Team Prison will get out of this scrape, I imagine that Beth will be essential to that. Which is one of the most fantastic twists the show has taken (along with no deaths). Everyone online was clamoring for Beth’s death, expecting it, hoping for it. But not under Scott Gimple’s watch. Too obvious. Too boring. I believe Beth was taken by Father Gabriel (from the comics) and that they’ll form some kind of team to help Rick and the others escape. Am I crazy? Maybe, but in the final Hershel flashback, Rick throws his sheriff’s hat on Beth’s head and proclaims her the ‘new sheriff’. I think that was done on purpose. I believe Beth will become the Andrea of the comics. And I’m so ready for this. The weakest becoming one of the strongest? Yes, please. And then her and Daryl can have their sexy little way with each other and it will be the hottest thing on television EVER.

Speaking of the Hershel flashbacks: I miss him so much!! But I can see how his journey, his story, was very, very done. Hershel wanted something for Rick and Carl that just can’t be. He wanted them to be something they’re not. And as much as Hershel’s morale strengths and lessons really helped both characters, ultimately, they can’t come back from the things they’ve done. They are different people now. They all have a monster within that is undeniable and even necessary. Recognizing, accepting, and embracing this part of themselves is the only way to continue on this journey. Like Carol said, “You can be a farmer, Rick. But you can’t JUST be a farmer.”

Where are Carol and Tyreese and Judith???

I actually really liked little punk ass Gareth as a villain. He has this weird control obsession – this evil genius – this horrific cat and mouse game going that almost makes him more formidable than the Governor. Because this kid thinks things through. He’s well-organized, calm, calculating, and extremely smart. But we all have our weaknesses.

So, kudos, TWD for being awesome. Kudos for making a believer out of my husband. He’s never really watched the show but LOVED this finale. I hope that Melissa McBride earns an Emmy nomination. I hope that season 5 raises the bar, yet again. More than anything, I just hope that the next 7 months hurry the fuck up.

Also, I’m thinking of taking a trip down to the Terminus mill and (hopefully) taking pictures this weekend. First, I’ve got to discover its location, which shouldn’t be too hard between the interwebs and Google maps. Excited!!

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March Movie Madness

Not an entirely accurate post title because I didn’t watch a whole hell of a lot this month. At least, not beyond The Walking Dead. Remember how I was supposed to be embarking on a new cinematic journey? Well, did not happen. Didn’t watch a single one of the four films I had vowed to make time for. Here’s what I did manage to get around to:

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Veronica Mars (The Movie):

Of course I watched this and loved every single stupid second. LoVe for life, bitches.

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Thor: The Dark World:

Jimmy and I just watched this On Demand a few days ago and mostly enjoyed. I love Loki so he steals the show for me EVERY TIME. Jimmy thought the cinematic scope of the film was gorgeous and wishes he’d seen it in IMAX theaters. Wasn’t the biggest fan of Natalie Portman’s character, but loved, loved Kat Dennings.

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House of Cards:

Just started watching season one. Enjoying the Southern campiness of Kevin Spacey. And Robin Wright is fierce.

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Game of Thrones, Season Three:

Squeezed this in just in time for the beginning of season four. The Red Wedding might have been even more brutal on screen than on the page. Of course, I did throw the book across the room during that scene and refused to pick it up again for three days. So both were highly affecting.

What did you watch in March?

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

17333319The Litwits met on Sunday to discuss Hannah Kent’s debut novel released last year. Putting this book off for almost a year was next to impossible because so many of my online bookish friends loved, loved this story. And for the first time in a long time, I had to force myself to stop at 50 pages a day because I wanted to savor this gem of a book. I never wanted it to end.

Burial Rites is another novel that I don’t feel needs much introduction. It takes place in Iceland in the 1820s. Two women and one man have been charged and convicted of killing a man. Our protagonist, Agnes, has been sentenced to death by beheading. Kent writes of her final months living with a farm family as she awaits her looming death.

That’s not spoiling anything because this is a historical fiction novel based on the true story of the last beheading in Iceland. So…you know how it ends going in, but damn if you don’t hope and pray Agnes will find someway to beat her murder wrap. Whether or not she even committed the crime becomes almost a non issue as you fall in love with this orphaned, lonely, sad woman. I defy you not to want Agnes’s name cleared!

Beyond the central plot, Kent gives you so much else to love. The Icelandic landscape in all its cinematic glory and rolling hills and biting cold surrounds you and places you firmly within the story. Her writing is GORGEOUS. Her descriptions are lyrical and immersive. Some members did think she could be a bit long-winded at times and a little too dirty with her imagery (she doesn’t shy away from the nasty smells and ugliness of  bodily function), but others adored her language for its realism. Personally, I found myself reading the passages out loud – sometimes over and over again – mesmerized by all the pretty words.

Agnes was my favorite character, but many Litwits loved Margret as well. We discussed how Margret desperately didn’t want Agnes in her house, sleeping right next to her own two daughters. But once Agnes arrives in her pitiful state, Margret can’t help but feel for the doomed woman. What makes that so particularly interesting is how un-motherly Margret seems around her own children. Margret’s daughter, Lauga, quickly grows to resent her mother’s affection for Agnes creating such tension as the story unfolds.

We discussed the novel’s ending at length. Several of us felt the ending to be very abrupt, too rushed in its conclusion. Others thought this was done on purpose to emphasize the death that couldn’t be stopped. But it was just so sad.

So Burial Rites was a winner among the Litwits! We got a lot of good conversation in before our inevitable fall into the descent of television, tumblr, and fanfiction. Until next time ladies!!