February 2015 archive

Gone Girl is Now Gone From My Shelf

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WARNING: There be spoilers ahead! If you plan to read this book or even watch the movie, do not read this post. I will spoil the plot for you. All is fair in love and blogging!

The next book in my two-person book club that we read is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This was my first experience reading any of Flynn’s work, and I’m not sure if I’ll read more. Gone Girl was entertaining, and I couldn’t put it down. The writing was intelligent, and I loved that she wrote from both characters’ points of view. However, something was bothering me – really bothering me – and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Sure, I didn’t like the ending, but that’s not a new occurrence for me as a reader. Why then did I dislike a well-written, page-turner of a book?

It wasn’t until my friend and I watched the movie and I pondered what I had seen that it hit me. I didn’t like the book because it was well-written and kept me on the edge of my seat, and after thinking about the negative message of this book, I hated that I was so into it initially. Let me explain. Amy Dunne, the “gone” girl in the book, disappears, and her husband Nick takes the fall for her disappearance. Every circumstantial clue points to him killing her. There is no body, but cases have been built on less. And in the state where the story unfolds, Missouri, they have the death penalty. Nick isn’t looking at just prison time; he’s looking at a death sentence. But you want to know the really weird thing? The thing that I feel was in the subconscious as I read Amy’s journal entries? Amy isn’t dead. In fact, she’s planned the entire disappearance and framing of Nick. She’s been planning it for two years and has meticulously planned every last detail down to the woodshed. Why would a wife do this to her husband? Because she was a woman scorned, of course. She found out Nick was cheating on her with a much-younger woman. So that justifies all this, right?

Hell no.

Adultery is horrible, and as many of us have experienced, it’s not an easy thing to get over. However, this doesn’t constitute framing your husband (or lover or boyfriend) and essentially murdering him through the death penalty. One does not call for the other. Every scorned woman may have had revenge fantasies, but few of us think of following these through. Unless you’re a psychopath like Amy Dunne. Throughout the book, we see her breaking the law through lying about the actions of past boyfriends, we see her constantly lying and deceiving to pull of this coup against Nick, we see that she has little regard for the safety of others (Desi, anyone?), and we see that she has no remorse or guilt for what she has done. Looking back, I do appreciate Flynn’s portrayal of the psychopath. She wrote the character of Amy beautifully from a psychology point of view.

OK, so the story doesn’t sound that bad. I mean, who doesn’t like a good revenge story? I do, but I like them when the vengeance is warranted and when the protagonist gets revenge for the correct reason. Amy only gets revenge through lying. She manipulates and fakes evidence. She makes up an elaborate ruse about how physically abusive Nick was that she was actually fearful for her life and had to buy a gun. Later in the story to escape, or really more like rid herself of another male, she fakes rape. Flynn writes, “I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…” This isn’t the first time I’ve read a book about a woman who lies to get her way, but this one upset me more than any other.

Why? Because in our society, many people do not take rape seriously. Many think that a lot of women make up their sexual assault for the attention or to belong to the “club.” Women are the victims, yet they are all too often silenced because of the 2% of women who do lie about their sexual assault. Add to that the lack of enforceable laws concerning domestic violence and restraining orders. Too often it’s a “he said she said” situation, and historically the men have the voice. Amy’s lies throughout the book perpetuate this idea that women are conniving and men are the victims of this manipulation. Her vindictiveness and jealously give her reason to lie, and even her older age compared to Nick’s mistress can be cited as a reason for these untruths and need to seek vengeance against Nick. All of these reasons for lying have now become cliche. How often do we see that? Women are labeled as hysterical and not trustworthy. In a culture that already paints women in such a bad light, why perpetuate this myth?

So, yes. It does anger me that the book is so well-written and a page turner. It angers me that Flynn created the character of Amy so well. It angers me that my initial response to this book was one of enjoyment rather than outrage. I’m even frustrated at myself that I didn’t realize why the book was niggling at my subconscious until I watched the movie. I despise that it spreads the fallacy of women lying about their rape/abuse and that men are the true victims (and even that affairs are not really that big of a deal in the long run).

Yes, Flynn is free to write what she wants, and I’m interested in her other books and what those deal with. Perhaps Amy’s lying really isn’t that big of a deal solely because she is a psychopath; however, it still bothers me. She is a talented writer, and if looking for a book to enjoy but not really delve into the societal problems with the crux of the story as a whole, this is the book for you. The movie was a great adaptation of the book, following the main plot lines perfectly. What else would one expect from director David Finch? I hate to give praise, but praise is due for the sheer craft of the director and writer.

 

A Pointed Assessment: Reviewing Horns

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My friend and I have recently started a two-person book club that includes only books that have been adapted to the big screen as well. We read the book first and then watch the movie together, discussing both afterwards. Our first book in this club was Joe Hill’s Horns. This was my introduction to Joe Hill (his real name is Joseph Hillstrom King), a brilliant author in his own right but also the son of Stephen King, and I was not disappointed. I’m not a big horror genre fan. Sure, I like the occasional movie like You’re Next or The Cabin in the Woods, but I do not like to read horror books. I’m thinking this has more to do with the fact that movies are usually two hours or less while books take considerably more time to read. I can be in and out of whatever horrific storyline is within a movie, while I feel as if I’m living it with a book. I also tend to cry more when reading than when watching movies. There’s something about the connection with a book as opposed to a movie. But I digress. Perhaps the fact that Horns is contained within the horror category yet is also a crime story and a romance story helped dull my pain of the horror genre.

We originally picked out this book because of the movie. The movie stars Daniel Radcliffe and is a definite break from anything Harry Potter. (For another great Radcliffe movie, watch What If.) Because we wanted to watch the movie, we decided to read the book first. I’m so glad we did. The book Horns is an awesome book. It’s about a guy named Ignatius (Iggy or Ig) who is suspected of his girlfriend Merrin’s murder from a year ago. Because of lack of physical evidence, he has not been convicted yet. He wakes up one morning with a pair of devil-like horns protruding from his forehead. He finds that people can see the horns but cannot remember that he has them once they look away. Instead of acting afraid or perplexed by the horns, everyone he comes in contact with begins to reveal their darkest desires and thoughts. These desires become movie-quality when he has skin-to-skin contact with a person. After revealing their secrets and desires, people ask Ig for his permission to act on these, giving him the power to manipulate people if he so chooses. From this premise, the story takes some interesting turns. There is even the past love story between his departed girlfriend and himself that feels genuine and true but is intertwined with the here and now of Ig’s horrific existence.

The thing that makes this story great besides the intelligent plot and writing and the unique story is that this book delves into the question of morality. What would you do if you had the power to know people’s darkest secrets? What would you do if you could manipulate people to act on these? Would anyone have the strength to not use this new-found talent? Would this be a gift or a curse? Are humans innately good or evil? Is the pull of the devil stronger than the pull of God? So many different topics are brought up seamlessly in this book, and while you can just enjoy the story, you can also ponder the depth of the story. Again, such a good book!

“Maybe all the schemes of the devil were nothing compared to what men could think up.”

The movie, however, left much to be desired. The casting was all wrong except for Ig and Merrin. They switched the physical attributes of Lee and Terry (like the characters of Murphy and Susan in the TV series The Dresden Files based off of Jim Butcher’s series). I hate when this happens because there is then more of a disconnect between what I envisioned in my head while reading and what I then see in the movie or TV show. The tone of the movie doesn’t fit with the book, and the director Alexandre Aja appeared to be more interested in spectacle rather than translating the meaning and nuances contained within the book. The ending is also completely different than the book and misses the mark. Perhaps the movie would have been more appealing had I never read the book. It’s a bit of an either/or situation, not a both situation. The only redeeming quality of this movie is Radcliffe’s stellar performance that shows he is much more than a boy with a lightning scar. However, the director didn’t seem to really appreciate Radcliffe’s talents to the detriment of the movie.

So what do I recommend? The book of course. I would say 9 times out of 10 the book will always be better, and Horns is definitely no exception. It’s worth a read, but don’t expect miracles while watching the movie. 😉 Now I’m off to read Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.

“’Only the devil loves humans for what they are and rejoices in their cunning schemes against themselves, their shameless curiosity, their lack of self-control, their impulse to break a rule as soon as they hear tell of it, their willingness to forsake their immortal soul for nookie. The devil knows that only those with the courage to risk their soul for love are entitled to have a soul, even if God does not.’”

“Him and God are supposed to be at war with each other. But if God hates sin and Satan punishes the sinners, aren’t they working the same side of the street? Aren’t the judge and the executioner on the same team?”

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A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

You know that feeling when you’ve read all by a favorite author, and you’re craving more? I’m that way about many authors, but lately I’ve been craving more books by Barbara O’Neal. Her books, like Sarah Addison Allen’s books, are great reads when one needs to heal. When I’m down and need to see the good in the world, I turn to these books. O’Neal writes about deep issues that can bring a tear to my eye (OK, sometimes I sob), but she manages to still give the book a lighthearted feeling. She also offers closure at the end of each book, and although I sometimes find that an open-ended book is necessary and even better than closure, I appreciate closure at times as well. I previously wrote a post on O’Neal and how I re-read all of her books last fall. Recently, I’ve needed more, though. She’s just not churning them out fast enough.

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That’s when I discovered Barbara Samuel. Samuel and O’Neal are one in the same! (Readers, if you ever find out that Jim Butcher is also writing under another name, you must share. I have a major crush on his writer brain. Ugh, now I sound like a fangirl zombie.) I happened upon this tidbit of information when I was using my Google-Fu, and lo and behold there are a whole lot of books for me to read now. Unfortunately, Samuel is more of a romance novelist than O’Neal is, and I’ve never been much of a romance fan. Yes, I like romance within my books. All you need is love, right? However, when that’s the sole premise of the books and it’s full of throbbing members (that’s what she said), I tend to lose interest quicker than a virgin having sex.

However, there are some noteworthy books by Samuel in the same vein as O’Neal’s The Secret of Everything, The Lost Recipe for Happiness, The Garden of Happy Endings (not solely a romance novel, I swear!), How to Bake a Perfect Life, and The All You Can Dream Buffet. If you liked any or all of these, check out Barbara Samuel’s A Piece of Heaven, No Place Like Home, Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas, The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, and The Scent of Hours (which may also be published under the name Madame Mirabou’s School of Love). All of these appear to have been republished under the name of Barbara O’Neal, but you should be able to find them under Barbara Samuel as well. I’ve only read two of these novels so far (No Place Like Home and A Piece of Heaven), but I’ve been pleased with the stories and have had my appetite for more Barbara O’Neal satiated for the time being. I also found that there’s a good chance these books are at the library, especially for the huge library system where I live, but like the O’Neal books, I may need to actually buy these so that I can re-read.

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Anyone out there have any other authors they know of that write under a different name as well? I know Anne Rice writes, or at least used to write, under the name of Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure. I know there are others out there, and I was well aware of this before discovering the O’Neal and Samuel connection. However, my interest has been newly sparked in this practice. Now I’m off to read more!