Saturday, April 27, 2013

DARK PLACES by Gillian Flynn

Finished Sa 4/27/13

My post at Good Reads-

The heart of this particularly grizzly murder mystery is the brutal massacre of a rural Kansas family during the 'Satanic Panic' of 80's America, yet the novel also offers a brilliant portrait of the effects of hopelessness and unrelenting poverty as the nation's family owned farm system imploded. Libby Day was only seven years old when she barely escaped the murders of her mother and two older sisters as they were stabbed, shotgunned, and strangled in their shabby farmhouse, and her hapless brother,Ben, was later convicted of the slaughter. Ben was a lonely high school student with no prospects who was about to be falsely accused of child molestation and slandered as a devil worshiper, and although connected to the crime by circumstantial evidence, he never revealed all that he knew. Nearly a quarter century later Libby is approached by 'The Kill Club', a group of True Crime enthusiasts, to help ascertain all the facts of this horrible bloody mass murder.
The pace of the novel is unrelenting, and I read it straight through in a couple of sittings. I loved it, and will read more of Gillian Flynn's novels. 

Friday, April 26, 2013


The April 2013 selection for the Contemporary Book Club

My post to Good Read-

I think that the strange title, and the epistolary style of the book will prevent many people from giving this delightful novel a chance. But, by all means, give it a shot, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

At the end of WWII, Juliet Ashton, a syndicated columnist from London, wants to change direction and become a novelist. She is searching for a worthy subject for her new book, and she inadvertently learns what happened to the people of the Channel Islands during the Nazi occupation. She receives a letter from a man from Guernsey who had a book that Juliet used to own about the 18th century English writer, Charles Lamb. Dawsey was fascinated by this man, and asks Juliet if she has any more by this author. Then, he goes on to describe how shortly after the German invasion,the inhabitants of the island formed a kind of resistance group under the cover of a book club which they called, 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'. Juliet asks him for the addresses of others members of the group, and her book evolves into a collection of her letters and the responses from the villagers.

The book is a little hard to get into at first, but soon, you will find yourself smiling at the amusing tales of life with the enemy on a tiny island in the Channel Islands during WWII. The novel deals with a serious subject, but the tone is light and brims with good cheer.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Finished Tu 4/23/13
My post on Good Reads-

 A truly fascinating account of the history of Atlantic City, New Jersey from its beginning as a vermin infested health resort in the early eighteen hundreds to the 'Las Vegas of The East Coast' of today. One thing has always remained consistent, and that is that the city government and the local businesses, both legal and illegal, offered a united front to give the tourists whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it. As one of the local residents said, "If the people who came to town had wanted Bible readings, we'd have given 'em that. But nobody ever asked for Bible readings. They wanted booze, broads, and gambling, so that's what we gave 'em. 
The author structures the book around the charismatic figures that were vital to the growth of the city, and we first learn of Dr. Jonathan Pitney's vision of a health spa on a remote and desolate seaside island. And, then we are treated to a ringside seat at the wide-open 'Babylon by the Sea' of Enoch 'Nucky' Johnson's 'Roaring Twenties'. The Eisenhower Years are profiled in Frank 'Hap' Farley's 'Republicrat' leadership up until New Jersey legalized gambling in 1976, and then the community enjoyed a much needed economic boost which was engendered by the real estate wizardry of Donald Trump
The local government has always been corrupt, however it's Capitalism at its purest. Profit is all that counts, and everything else doesn't even register. The book highlights how important the railroads played in the town's development. Also, the freed slaves of the Confederacy played an essential role in the development of the tourist industry. And, I was amazed that Prohibition laws weren't even enforced. All American cities had clandesdine 'speakeasies', yet in Atlantic City, saloons operated as if the 18th Amendment never happened.
This is a book about history that is thoroughly enjoyable, and you can't help but be entertained and enlightened. I bought the book because I had seen several episodes of the HBO series, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, but the TV show covers only a very small section of the book.Link to Amazon-

THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton

Classic Book Club selection April 2013      Mo 4/15/13

My post on Good Reads-

High Society at the dawn of the 20th century was very similar to what is being documented on many of the reality shows broadcast on BRAVO TV today. What you actually 'do' is far less important than who is doing it. And, certain rules of order must be obeyed unquestioningly. The lead character in THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, Lily Bart, is trapped by her own extremely limited view of herself, and she's far too concerned about how others perceive her. Unfortunately, Lily was born and bred to be an ornament of society, yet she intuitively grasps that she's far too intelligent to be trapped in that role, but she lacks the insight and the imagination to break free. She understands that she can't 'marry her way out', because that could never satisfy her, but she is unable to ascertain another way out under the rules that she has chosen to observe. I think Lily should have stiffed Gus on his loan(phony investment scheme), cashed her meagre inheritance, and taken the first train, stage, or coach West for a fresh start in life!

This is an excellent novel in that Wharton really allows you to grasp the motivations of the characters, but I found myself on the verge of throwing the book across the room because although I could understand Lily's actions, they ultimately seemed so very pointless.

GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

Finished Sa 4/20/13

My post on Good Reads-

This is a fast-paced thriller, that's a literary vortex of confusing points of view and dizzying conflicts. You're never sure what happened or why until the very last page, and even then, you wonder how things will 'really' end. I highly recommend this book!

My favorite Mystery format is, 'a tale told by an unreliable narrator',  and in this gripping psychological thriller, you get two of them! The novel is about the disintegrating marriage of Nick and Amy. They are a couple of Manhattan writers who have lost their jobs, and have moved to rural Missouri to live in Nick's family home and oversee the care of Nick's father who suffers from dementia. The chapters alternate between Nick and Amy's point of view, and then suddenly Nick comes home to find that Amy has vanished. And, it looks as if a violent struggle had taken place. But, what really happened, and is it  Nick or Amy who is the malign force in their disastrous marriage.