Book Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

OUT june 2nd 2020! Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.

From Amazon

♥♥♥♥ (4 stars)

Friends, family, and loved ones gather on a remote island off the coast of Ireland to celebrate the marriage of a perfect couple. In fact, all anyone seems to be able to talk or think about is how good Jules and Will look standing next to each other. And they do seem a perfect match. He, a reality TV personality, the star of his own survival show. She, the founder and CEO of a successful blog and lifestyle brand. But when tragedy hits on their wedding day, one is left to wonder if looks are in fact deceiving.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is an exciting thriller told both in split narrative and split timeline. Chapters alternate from perspective to perspective, and readers are treated to the thoughts of the bride, several wedding party members, wedding guests, and the wedding planner. The story jumps back and forth in time during the wedding weekend on the island, as Foley expertly reveals tantalizing bits of information little by little. She likes to take her time with the reveals, which only adds to the delicious suspense. Readers are also treated to multiple flashbacks from several of the characters. Foley’s The Hunting Party follows a similar structure, so if you’ve read that and enjoyed it you will most likely enjoy The Guest List as well.

Foley excels at weaving a good mystery, drawing us in, leading us astray, only to shock with a juicy reveal that changes everything. While some of her twists were predictable, some were genuinely a surprise! And even those that felt obvious were still exciting to follow, thanks to Foley’s skill with suspense. Her characters are created with true humanity and feel very real, their actions believable. What happens when you feel like you don’t belong? When you already doubt yourself, and then someone takes advantage of your insecurity? How much harm can be done, and what are the ripple effects? This book examines the tensions between classes and ‘boys just being boys’. It will inflame your rage and satisfy your thirst for vengeance.

And can I just take a second to discuss this SETTING!? Talk about setting as a character. Treacherous cliffs, deadly tides, quietly fatal bogs, winds that threaten to rip you apart. In both The Guest List and The Hunting Party, Foley selects settings that are both stunning and brutal. Nature alone would kill you in these places, but their beauty is so enticing. This is just like how I would imagine a siren to be. The island itself is so dangerous and holds so much death, grief, and history that you can never quite count it out as the perpetrator.

This was a fast-paced, plot-driven, wild ride full of twists and turns! Like many people, I’m finding it hard to focus on reading right now. My attention span is all over the place. But reading The Guest List was so much fun and proved to be a welcome delight and distraction from the stress of life right now. It swept me up and kept me entertained. If you are likewise struggling to focus, I highly recommend picking up this new release.

The summary of The Guest List on Goodreads describes it as an update of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, which I think is an excellent comparison. Make no mistake, Foley is the Christie of our time.

 

 

Book Review: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

OUT SEPTEMBER 24TH! Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.

the tenth girl-MECH.indd

Image from Goodreads

I say with no exaggeration that Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl contains the biggest twist and flip I have ever witnessed in fiction. This book is a slow burn that ends in the most unexpected way. In my wildest dreams, I could never have predicted what happens at about 80% of the way through. I can’t even truly review it because I don’t want to spoil anything!

A split perspective narrative, The Tenth Girl bounces back and forth between Mavi, a young woman in 1970s Argentina beginning work as an English teacher at a secluded prestigious boarding school in Patagonia (such a stunning place on this earth), and Angel, an American teen in the 21st century (I think) suffering from the loss of her family. Through a series of  events, Angel’s spirit finds itself at the very same boarding school as Mavi, and she soon learns that other spirits are hunting and feeding from the residents of the school.

Angel and Mavi make an unlikely connection but strong, and together they decide to fight the seemingly paranormal forces bent on destroying everyone and everything around them. These forces seem linked to an old indigenous Zapuche (mapuche) legend, where the tribes attempted to protect themselves and their lands by inviting back the spirits of their departed, but instead opened the floodgates of hell. The only way to quell The Others, as these destructive spirits are called, is to sacrifice a young girl.

If it seems like I’m being cagey here with details, it’s because everything I thought I knew about this book through 3/4ths of it is a lie. One of the biggest twists I have ever experienced in a book (perhaps even bigger than Gone Girl), occurs with only a fourth of the narrative to go, and from there on out it completely defies genre and expectations.

Up until that twist, I felt like The Tenth Girl was really dragging, lacking in character development, and uninventive with its plot. Most of the book, and it’s not a short book, is rather dull. After the twist, those potential faults are explained away, but I honestly don’t know if I like it any better. I wish the twist occurred sooner, and we got to spend more time acclimating to the new reality of the situation. And what Faring explores in the last ten percent of the book is more fascinating than anything that happened in the preceding ninety. I desperately want her to write THAT book, exploring the events that lead us to the conclusion and after.

Faring’s writing is beautifully descriptive, but it can drag in places. The Tenth Girl is written for a Young Adult audience, but it contains some very dark creepy moments. As I mentioned, it is hard for me to nail down an actual genre for this book, but predominantly I would say it’s a YA psychological thriller with elements of horror and historical and science fiction.

The Tenth Girl is Faring’s debut, and while I only rated it a 3/5 stars, I would definitely pick up another of her books in the future. She intrigued me with this one, and her sensational end saved it for the most part. Once you’ve read it, I’d really like to know what you all think!! It’s really frustrating to not be able to talk about the most interesting part of this book.

Readers’ Advisory: Supernatural Thrillers With Female Leads

A friend of mine texted me this very wheelhousey RA question a while back…and I was very very excited.

“Hey! I need a book recommendation and I figured you were just the lady I should ask. Do you know of any good thriller type books to recommend? Something real disturbing. Preferably with a kickass female lead. Maybe supernatural?”

I only sent her a handful of the books below, but I thought I would expand the list here! In addition to her female lead request, I also made all of my recommendations written by women as well. I’ve read most of these, and the ones I haven’t gotten to yet I have sitting on my bookshelves, waiting for me to dive in!

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The Shameful Book Club: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

December’s genre is mystery, my personal favorite. I paired it up with December because it’s usually a cold and stressful time with the holidays and the winter and such, so I figured I should be allowed to treat myself to my favorite genre in the midst of unpleasantness. I picked The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because it is arguably Agatha Christie’s best novel, and I, as a massive Christie fan, had not yet read it. I actually haven’t read as much Christie as one would think. I can count on one had the number of novels and novella’s I’ve tackled, so I personally find that rather shameful.

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Me and a real cool dude on Halloween. I am Agatha Christie, holding her book Halowe’en Party, at a Halloween party.

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Annd a close up. The only thing I can explain in this picture is that I deliberately drew age lines on my face so I look old.

I was very excited to finally get to Ackroyd. I’ve seen it appear on tons of lists like “Top 5 Biggest Twist Endings of All Time” and “Novels That Will Make Your Head Spin So Hard It Will Pop Right Off You’ve Been Warned”. And a coworker of mine, who actually hates this kind of old-school Scooby Doo novel, told me she really enjoyed Ackroyd because of it’s unique twist. I was very successful in avoiding spoilers and could not wait to try to guess who committed the crime, which I did at around page 133. I was very proud of myself.

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The Hitchcock Haul: The Lady Vanishes  (1938)

MV5BMTQ0MjQzMzcwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg5NjE1MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_Oh my god, guys! I didn’t think it was possible, but there has been an upset in the coveted position of “Jocelyn’s Favorite Hitchcock”!!! First held by Vertigo, with a quick upset by Rope, then landing firmly with Rebecca for several years, it now passes to The Lady Vanishes! This movie is smart, funny, thrilling, mysterious, sweet, and highly entertaining. Last night my girl Kodi came over for some much needed chill time, Chinese food, and a Hitchcock. She’s actually the one who lent me a multi-disc collection of old Hitchcock movies, without which this little project would be VERY difficult. So I let her pick this week’s movie. She instantly suggested The Lady Vanishes.

It begins when a cast of diverse characters are stuck in a small Inn in central Europe during an avalanche, and, while this part of the movie is rather inconsequential, we’re given a chance to meet our players. We have the beautiful Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood), who is on vacation with her girl friends but must travel back to England to get married — something she seems more resigned than excited to do. There is also the duo of Charters and Caldicott (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne respectively), who are just dying to get back to England in time to make the last day of a high-profile cricket match. These guys are incredibly funny and provide most of the comic relief. Then we have the matronly Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), a governess who is finally heading back home to England now that all her charges have grown. And lastly, we have Gilbert (a young Sir Michael Redgrave), a charming and attractive young musicologist who is studying the native folk music of the region.

The cutest cute-meet ever, Gilbert and Iris

The cutest cute-meet ever, Gilbert and Iris

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The Hitchcock Haul: Sabotage  (1936)

tumblr_miie7iws4J1qa6obyo1_500Adapted from Joseph Conrad‘s 1907 novel The Secret Agent, Sabotage (alternately titled, The Woman Alone) focuses on the investigation into a series of terrorist attacks in London. A young woman, Mrs. Verloc (Sylvia Sidney), runs a movie theater with her husband, Karl Verloc (Oskar Homolka), and her younger brother Stevie (Desmond Tester). Soon after the attacks begin, a charming grocer befriends Mrs. Verloc. This grocer is undercover Detective Sergeant Ted Spencer (John Loder) of the Scotland Yard. As he slyly attempts to pry information from the innocent and oblivious woman, she starts to suspect that something is awry with her husband.

Sabotage

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The Hitchcock Haul: The 39 Steps 

the-thirty-nine-steps-novelMy first exposure to the property of The Thirty-Nine Steps was when my aunt vigorously campaigned to watch the Hitchcock film during some holiday get-together last year. Unfortunately, the only version Netflix had was the 1959 rendition. We began it, but I don’t think we ever finished. In addition to these two film versions, there is another film version from the ’70s, and a stage play based on a combination of the Hitchcock film and the novel (the two vary quite a bit). Obviously, this is a popular work.

Lucky for me, Hulu Plus has the 1935 Hitchcock version as part of their Criterion Collection collection, if you will. I found the original screen adaptation of John Buchan‘s adventure novel of the same name to be charming, exciting, and a hell of a lot of good fun! I would say, however, that it contains two of the worst on-screen deaths I have ever seen.

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