The importance of endings

Studious Saturday

A few months ago I posted my feelings on the influence of opening lines and catchy beginnings and today I wanted to discuss the importance of endings, an aspect which I find can completely change my feelings towards a book, for better or worse.

Unexpected twists

There is something so captivating about stumbling upon a twist that you never saw coming. If executed well it is my favourite writing mechanism in thrillers as it is always surprising and shocking which I feel is the most crucial aspect of mysteries. Many authors choose to throw in twists within the middle of the plot however I always find that some of the best twists are those which the author delivers with precision, ease and skill towards the end of the book.

Bittersweet phase out

Perhaps one of my least favourite types of endings are those in contemporary fiction and romance where the author decides to tie up any lose ends by summarising the events that occurred throughout the book. It is often concluded by the main character sitting in a park/their house/a train station or any other main location, staring off into the distance after they have ended their relationship or someone close to them has died. Although I enjoy delving into the characters’ mind and exploring their emotions, I find these endings repetitive and exaggerated and often feel like the plot slowly drifts away until it reaches the last mediocre sentence. I am often left feeling disappointed with these endings, even though the story line until that point may have been interesting.

Revelations and discoveries

In Historical Fiction which switches from past to present day, authors often try to link the main characters and events but it is only towards the end where their stories merge. It is at this point that the reader understands the significance of their existance as many anecdotes are shared and discoveries made, often through a face-to-face encounter. This type of ending can be very powerful and moving, especially if the main character has been through many obstacles to arrive at this point. It is also very difficult to keep the suspense until the last few chapters and few authors manage to handle this well so I am usually impressed with these kind of endings.

Cliffhangers

To put it simply, cliffhangers as endings can make or break a book. I personally believe that it can be an effective way to encourage the reader to continue reading the next book in the series however I do not understand why many authors decide to end a book cliffhanger style in a standalone book if there is no follow-up. I end up frustrated and upset that I invested so much time in the book and connected with the characters to then read a few closing lines that do not reach any conclusion. However, if there is a sure way to keep the reader interested in a series it is definitely through a cliffhanger and I have read several series where the author uses this mechanism well, for example the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling and the Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer, both of which made me rush to buy the following book in the series as soon as I had read the previous one.

Question time

Which type of ending do you enjoy and think is most effective?

Book review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Publication date: 13th June 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

“Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My review:

I must start by saying that I have never read a book like this before and I don’t think that any other similar books exist. It is hard to categorise as there are so many different aspects that merge together to make this book the masterpiece it is. Although it is not quite an autobiography as it involves fictional characters, the narrative stuns with detail and creates the same feeling of proximity as that of an autobiography. Throughout the entire time I felt like I was right next to Monique as she was taking notes of Evelyn’s life and this notion created a very atmospheric feeling which is hard to come by and even more difficult to explain.

Evelyn Hugo has experienced many difficulties and hardships in life and her relationship are the focus of this book. Although “Husbands” is included in the title and the book is separated in sections relating to each of her husbands, I was actually more interested in her relationship with Celia. I really appreciated the divisions but even more so the way in which all the characters were interlinked and continued to reappear in future chapters as it added continuity. Each relationship had its downfalls leading to the continuous row of husbands and ultimately it was the complexity of each relationship which added depth and intensity.

Unfortunately as much as I tried I could not warm to Monique and felt that the chapters focused on her were too plain compared to Evelyn’s. I understand that it was her job to note down Evelyn’s life but I think that Monique’s character could have been developed in other ways to make her bolder and more charismatic. In contrast, Evelyn is perceived as a mesmering, mysterious and exquisite actress with many secrets which are about to be revealed. Characters are often portrayed as either good or bad but Evelyn could not be more of an inbetween character with many wonderful qualities but also a range of immoral and unjust actions and decisions she has taken in her past. Her character is without a doubt the main reason this book seems so different and special and, even though she made many mistakes in the past, the intricacy in her character traits made her a very memorable character and an iconic part of this book.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an extraordinary book with a great deal of aspects to love, from its multilayered main character to its narrative. A huge part of what makes this book so powerful is the discussion of sensitive topics such as sexuality and violence with a lot of thought and inclusion. This book is certainly original and unlike any other book in the market. For this reason alone I can highly recommend any reader interested in trying out something different to choose this book because I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Book Addiction Tag

Studious Saturday

 

I’ve been tagged in the Book Addiction tag by Ash. Thank you so much, Ash, this looks like a really fun one to do! If you don’t follow her blog then I definitely recommend that you check it out!

QUESTIONS

1. What is the longest amount of time you can comfortably go without picking up a book?
2. How many books do you carry on your person (or kindle) at any one time?
3. Do you keep every book you buy/receive or are you happy to pass them on to make space for more?
4. How long would you spend in a bookshop on a standard visit?
5. How much time per day do you actually spend reading?
6. Where does the task ‘picking up a book’ appear on your daily to-do list?
7. How many books do you reckon you own in total (including e-books)?
8. Approximately how often do you bring up books in conversation?
9. What is the biggest book (page count) you have finished reading?
10. Is there a book you had to get your hands on against all odds (i.e searching bookshops, online digging, etc.)?
11. A book you struggled to finish but refused to DNF?
12. What are 3 of your main book goals for 2019?
13. Have you ever had the privilege of converting someone into a reader (maybe via inspiration or incessant nagging)?
14. Describe what books mean to you in five words.

MY ANSWERS

1. What is the longest amount of time you can comfortably go without picking up a book? – There have been times when I didn’t read for pleasure for months, mostly when I was at university. However, as a general rule I can go a few days without reading if I am very busy.

2. How many books do you carry on your person (or kindle) at any one time? – I normally only carry my kindle with me if I am going out and I generally have around 10 unread books at any time. It gives me the option of choosing a book I am in the mood for when I’m travelling which is always great.

3. Do you keep every book you buy/receive or are you happy to pass them on to make space for more? – If I buy them as an ebook then I am very happy to share with others however I rarely give away any paperbacks. There are exceptions, for example books I didn’t enjoy or those which friends want to borrow.

4. How long would you spend in a bookshop on a standard visit? – I could easily spend hours! I tend to go alone as it is usually what ends up happening but if I go with people I would only spend a half hour.

5. How much time per day do you actually spend reading? – It varies, sometimes I don’t read at all and other times I can spend hours reading. On several occasions I have read a book from start to finish in one sitting and I only realise when I finish it that I have been reading for hours.

6. Where does the task ‘picking up a book’ appear on your daily to-do list? – I try and prioritise it but it doesn’t always work, quite often life gets in the way. However I usually read on my commute to and from work.

7. How many books do you reckon you own in total (including e-books)? – I own roughly 200 books, the majority of which are ebooks.

8. Approximately how often do you bring up books in conversation? – It depends who I am with but if I know the person likes reading then very often! If not then I try not to bring it up as I know many people get bored (though how they can get bored I really don’t understand!).

9. What is the biggest book (page count) you have finished reading? – I had to check my Goodreads statistics and it appears to be 576 pages – Absolute Power by David Baldacci – and I am quite surprised as his books never seem that long to me!

10. Is there a book you had to get your hands on against all odds (i.e searching bookshops, online digging, etc.)? – I had to get Origin by Dan Brown as soon as it was published which was difficult because it wasn’t originally available in English here in Spain but I managed to do it eventually!

11. A book you struggled to finish but refused to DNF? – I really struggled with The Martian by Andy Weir but decided to keep reading until the end as everyone around me at the time was insisting that it would get better. I found it to be an average read in the end but I think it wasn’t for me and can see why others really loved it.

12. What are 3 of your main book goals for 2019? – Read more in Spanish (I am failing at this miserably!), read 55 books, read a wider range of genres

13. Have you ever had the privilege of converting someone into a reader (maybe via inspiration or incessant nagging)? – I wish but unfortunately not!

14. Describe what books mean to you in five words. – Possibility to escape and dream

I won’t tag anyone this time as I realise that I have been doing a lot of tags lately. However, it has been quite an interesting one and looking back at some of my answers it may seem that I am not such a keen reader although I promise I am! If you want to find out more about your reading style then I suggest doing this tag as it’s very insightful!

Book review: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter


Title: The Good Daughter

Author: Karin Slaughter

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 13th July 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy smalltown family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – Pikeville’s notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.
Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself – the archetypal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again – and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatised – Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case which can’t help triggering the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried for ever …
 

My review:

The Good Daughter starts with a horrific murder which is suggested to leave a mark on sisters Charlotte and Samantha forever. The first chapter stuns with intensity, suspense and mystery. However, what I didn’t know at the time is that the rest of the book follows suit with some parts even more thrilling than the preface.

“I’ve got to figure out before I die whether I want to be happy or I want to be right.”

After reading the first chapter I knew that I would be hooked and would not be able to put this book down until the end. There was too much unknown which I felt I wanted to understand immediately and although we had only been given a glimpse into Charlotte and Samantha’s lives, I instantly felt a connection to them and a need to find out how the tragic events affected them. Needless to say I got what I wished for as the story line unfolds in a chilling  and vivid manner with flashbacks, retellings and snippets of an even more gruesome act of violence that follows.

As far as character growth goes I can undoubtedly agree with other fans that Karin Slaughter is one of the best in the genre. I often find it hard to connect with the main characters in Thrillers as very often the author decides to focus on the plot, however I found myself invested in Charlotte and Samantha’s story lines right from the beginning. It was incredibly interesting to see how their fates after that day twenty-eight years ago took entirely different paths not only based on the event but also their reactions. There was even room to explore the complexity of father-daughter relationships as Samantha is soon reunited with her father, Rusty, after years apart. On the complete opposite end there was also variety in the characters one might expect to find in a small town in southern USA, however still explored with dignity and integrity.

Upon reflection I feel like there was not enough depth in the parallel story line which dominated the present-day plot. The characters involved in the trial were diverse and the hints given throughout on what happened were just enough to keep the reader interested. However, it felt like the backstory rather than the main story line at several points throughout the book. Towards the end a few shocking twists were dropped which shifted the focus from the sisters’ relationship to the current murder investigation and it was at this point where I finally felt like both story lines were as relevant and significant as each other.

Karin Slaughter managed to get just the right balance of complexity and tragedy in The Good Daughter. I was impressed at how the book felt slow and long-winded yet intense and sharp at the same time. This delicate mix gave way for a superb thriller with many wonderful characters and a plot thickened with suspense. This was my first book from this author in years and I was quickly reminded of why she is one of the finest in the genre.

Book review: The Passengers by John Marrs


Title: The Passengers

Author: John Marrs

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Publisher: Ebury

Publication date: 1st April 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

The new gripping page-turning thriller from the bestselling author of THE ONE – soon to be a major Netflix series.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

My review:

In an alternate universe driverless cars have become a popular form of travel. Technology and expertise have created what appears to be a safer and more efficient way of getting to places and it is thought that fewer accidents happen as a result. However, their safety is put to the test when a hacker decides to test the power of the authorities when he warns the public that eight cars have been reprogrammed to crash into each other in several hours time. What follows is an intense and remarkable story line which follows all eight passengers as they are informed of their fate in the most twisted circumstances.

The concept behind The Passengers seem simple at first yet it is cleverly plotted and developed which ultimately results in a gripping and evolving story line that is difficult to break from until the very end. The narrative is engrossing and fast-paced and the plot moves from one twist to another with ease. At no point did I feel bored or detached from the story line, in fact I found myself rushing through each chapter keen to discover the passengers’ fate. The pace felt ideal, with just enough room for character growth but also fast enough to make the reader feel like they are speeding down the motorway in one of the cars.

The focus jumps from one character to another as we are introduced to the events leading up to the crash. Each passenger has a unique background and, although it was easier to relate to some more than others, the variety of controversies that the author brings up, from infidelity to death, felt both daring and exciting. Being able to relate to each character on a deeper level created a very realistic reading experience and I had to reassure myself several times that I was not trapped in one of the self-drive cars with a passenger. Although the concept may seem engaging, it is ultimately the characters which made this book truly special for me.

John Marrs doesn’t disappoint with his latest release, in fact this is easily one of the best thrillers that I have read this year. The mixture of a thickened plot, diverse characters and an exciting setting created a masterpiece which will linger in my mind for a long time.

Book review: Dear Lily by Drew Davies


Title: Dear Lily

Author: Drew Davies

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 17th May 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

“Dear Lily,
It’s me, Joy, your much wiser and (very slightly) older sister. I thought I’d start a new tradition of letter writing – now that we’re long distance.
On the plane over here, I began to cry in seat 21C. I think the magnitude of it finally hit me, after everything that happened…
I haven’t even unpacked yet – the only thing I’ve taken out of my suitcase is Harville, your beloved childhood teddy. Sorry for stealing him, but I need him more than you do. Every time I look at that little brown bear I think about our childhood. Remember that dance we made up to Annie’s ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’? (Remember the broom choreography?)
I’m also sorry for abandoning you – I’ve always been your agony aunt, and a buffer in your infamous shouting matches with Mum. But I had to leave, Lily, I had to.
Anyway, I’m here now. I’m here to start over, and to face up to the past. I want to learn to laugh again, and to find someone to love who will maybe even love me back. You always told me I was just getting by, not actually living, so I’m finally doing it. Wish me luck, little sister.
Love,
Joy x

My review:

Sometimes authors manage to perfectly capture in words and feelings what the average adult goes through and Drew Davies certainly managed to do this with ease in Dear Lily. This book made me laugh, reminisce and wonder and that is exactly what I was hoping for when I decided to read it.

Dear Lily is told through a series of letters and this format cultivated an even stronger connection between Joy and Lily. Each chapter represents a letter that Joy writes to her sister Lily soon after her decision to move to Denmark. Not only were the letters insightful and wonderful but also allowed for discussion of some difficult topics that people usually don’t like to bring up face to face. It is somehow so much easier to do so in writing and this manifested itself as the chapters and letters evolved and the conversations become deeper as it Joy opened up to Lily and shared everything on her mind.

The characters are incredibly witty and genuine. Several times throughout the book I felt like I either was Joy or I could be a very good friend of hers as her struggles of living life in a foreign country started to develop one after another, very similar to my experience living abroad. So many of the cultural differences such as difficulties to make friends and attempts to understand her colleagues at work were sincere and extremely well incorporated. As each new letter was introduced I felt an even stronger connection with Joy and a willingness to keep reading and find out the original reason she decided to write these letters to her sister.

Unfortunately, I had a feeling very early on into the book about what really happened to Lily and I was right. This didn’t interfere with my experience while reading this book however I didn’t feel enlightened once details on Lily were revealed towards the end. If I have to be picky this would be my only concern with this book as all other factors worked wonderfully together to create a truly captivating read. The writing is excellent and the story is heartfelt and beautifully told. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to connect with the narrator and to those readers who thrive on passing through a range of emotions during their reading experience.

The Liebster Award

Studious Saturday

Happy Saturday! It’s going to be a rainy weekend here and so I am really looking forward to spending the majority of my time reading in bed. This week’s Studious Saturday post is a tag which has been really fun to complete.

What is The Liebster Award?

“The Liebster Award is an award that exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.” – The Global Aussie

Rules:

  • Say thank you to the person who has nominated you for the Award.
  • Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
  • Nominate 11 people
  • Ask the people who you have nominated 11 questions

I’ve been tagged by Emer who has proposed the below questions. Thanks so much for tagging me, Emer! These questions really made me think and reflect which I love!

  1. If you had the power to talk to and be understood by any animal, what animal would you choose and why? – Dogs because I would love to have a dog one day and it would be extra special if we could communicate not just through actions but words as well.
  2. If you could spend a year living in another country where would you choose and why? – I’ve already done this twice before but only one was a choice. If I had to move again I would probably choose Switzerland because I fell in love with the country when I visited last year and it is one of the few places I have been to where I can see myself building a life.
  3. Would you rather be the best player on a terrible team or the worst player on a great team? – Tricky question but I think that I would prefer to be the worst player on a great team because I would be able to learn a lot from my teammates and improve enough to become like them.
  4. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Explain your reasoning. – No because they are both different shapes. A hot dog is like a sandwich but it is not a sandwich. You could also argue that nachos are pizza because of the topping and technically if you ignore the size they are something like a pizza but that doesn’t make them a pizza, same with hot dogs and sandwiches.
  5. Do you like to read the book before you watch its film adaptation? – Yes! I almost always read the book before watching a movie.
  6. What is your all time favourite TV show? – Friends is by far my all time favourite TV show. I’m currently rewatching it from the beginning and realising all over again how much I love it!
  7. Do you have any special or unusual talents? – I am quite a good ballroom dancer after having been dancing for over 15 years. I wouldn’t say that it’s unusual because there are many ballroom dancers across the world but it’s definitely a special for me!
  8. What strange food combinations do you enjoy? (Mine is scallions in milky tea… yes I know it is weird!!) – Yes, that is quite weird! My favourite food is strawberries and I eat them with anything I can find.
  9. If they were making a film of your life who would you like to cast as yourself? – It’s a tough question but I would probably pick Mila Kunis because she has a background of various cultures and languages and a story similar to mine and if they made a movie of my life I would like that to be the running theme.
  10. What would you do if you were invisible for a day? – Travel! The temptation to sneak into any flight would be too much so my first stop would be the airport.
  11. What three books would you recommend that everyone read? – A Thousand Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Quiet by Susan Cain and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I tag:

MeggyIngeYvoManiMarinaEllieAshToyaMeaghanShrutiDee

My questions are…

  1. If you could pick anywhere in the world to be right now where would you pick and why?
  2. Do you have any pet peeves?
  3. Do you ever skip to read the last few pages of a book to find out how it ends?
  4. If you had to keep only one physical book in your home which book would it be and why?
  5. What is your opinion on audiobooks?
  6. Do you have a favourite quote that you like to live by or follow?
  7. What’s the first thing you like to do when you get back home from a busy day?
  8. Imagine you wake up one day only to realise that you are famous. Would you love it or hate it?
  9. If the world from Fahrenheit 451 ever becomes a reality how would you react and what would you do?
  10. Is there a book that made you fall in love with reading?
  11. If you met your five year old self right now what advice would you give him/her?

All the people tagged deserve this award and I hope that they enjoy answering the questions if they choose to do it. (No problem if not!) If anyone else decides to do this tag and answer my questions please let me know as I would love to read your answers!