adventures, books & creative lifestyle.

Book Reviews feat. Joe Dunthorne

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Oh hai, fellow creatures! I've been indulging in fictional worlds, again. I know, what am I like?! I didn't read as much as I would've liked to in April, but I read some interesting things nonetheless! As ever, feel free to let me know what you thought of these books in the comments below and I'll have a gander! It'd be pretty cool if you recommended me some more fictional worlds to hide in too! 

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Dark places by gillian flynn (2009)

dATE FINISHED: 16/04/14 | ISBN: 0753827034 | PAGES: 424
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered...She survived and famously testified that her fifteen-year old brother was the killer. 25 years later, (Libby is forced to relive the details)...As Libby's search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started - on the run from a killer. 

This was the second of Flynn's works to completely consume me and bring me out of a dreaded reading slump and holy shit it was a seriously compelling read. Dark Places was ridiculously clever, tense and brooding right up until the last page and, remarkably, I genuinely had no idea how things were going to pan out...and that's saying something as I'm pretty much a young Jessica Fletcher.

Flynn's writing style was incredibly sharp and, yet again, she managed to produce a novel that was absolutely full to the brim with complex characters in disturbing situations. I think that's one of the things that draws me to Flynn's books, really. Her characters are always unapologetically flawed and dimensional. Their clouds don't have a silver lining. In fact, they have no lining at all. Flynn adopts a time-split - shifting through time periods to make it possible for you to engage with characters that you otherwise wouldn't have been able to. This meant that you could marvel at the monotony of small-town life but also meet a selection of the macabre beings that resided within it. Despite being full of graphic imagery, the story didn't rely on it at all and I think it's important to note that. Sure, there were a few parts that were a little bit over the top but I don't mind a gimmick or a friendly trope every now and again so I had no qualms. 

Dark Places was wonderfully compelling and I'd definitely return to it in the future.  I'm definitely going to read Gone Girl soon. I have quite high expectations because it received the most critical acclaim, but I'm also realistic because a lot of readers have said that her first two books are her best. I would definitely recommend this book to those who like their thrillers extremely dark and visceral. Don't read it if you're particularly offended or triggered by the following though because it's quite heavy-handed...TW: sexual assault, suicide, animal slaughter, graphic violence, drug abuse...

RATING: 4.5/5 

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wild abandon by joe dunthorne (2011)

DATE FINISHED: 23/04/14 | ISBN: 9780241144060 | PAGES: 243
Kate and Albert are not yet the last two human beings on earth, but Albert is hopeful. The secluded communal farm they grew up on is disintegrating, taking their parent's marriage with it. Don, father of the family, leader and maker of elaborate speeches. Faced with the prospect of saving his community...he sets to work reunifying the commune by bringing it into the modern age through self-sufficiency, charisma and a rave with a 10k sound system. 

I absolutely adored Dunthorne's Submarine so I had pretty high expectations for his second offering, Wild Abandon. Dunthorne's strong debut, and the promise of another piss-my-pants reading experience, made me make a promise to myself to read it in 2014, read my 2014 TBR post if you don't believe me, and I have now done so. Look at me go, achieving my wildest hopes and dreams!! 

Unfortunately, my high expectations weren't particularly met. Boo! Don't get me wrong, there were some funny moments and I did warm to some of the characters that Dunthorne created. Albert was a character that I was particularly invested in due to his youthful imagination and infectious determination. However, I felt like the rest of them struggled to meet their potential. Wild Abandon was told in third person, as opposed to first person like Submarine, and whilst Dunthorne demonstrated his ability to use that voice relatively well I think the story would've benefited from the use of first person narration. I, personally, would've liked to have read chapters told from different characters perspectives because I think they all had a lot more to say and I think it would've made for interesting pacing. However, that's just my opinion.

This book was, admittedly, quite different to what I imagined it'd be and, if I'm being perfectly honest, I don't think Wild Abandon was anywhere near as good as Submarine. There were some interesting characters in this novel but I wanted more from them. It just lacked a strong identity, for me, and it all felt a little too slow and disjointed as a result. You're very welcome to read it if you're curious at all but I would definitely advise you to read Submarine first because it's superb. I'm not sure whether I'll give this a re-read...

RATING: 3/5 

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ham on rye by charles bukowski (1982) 

dATE FINISHED: /04/14 | ISBN: 1841951633 | PAGES: 318
Follows the path of the author's alter-ego Henry Chinaski through the high school years of acne and rejection and into the beginning of a long and successful career in alcoholism. 

Bukowski writes about loathsome people stuck in loathsome situations and he's bloody good at it. 

Whilst Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's alter-ego, and I were pretty much polar opposites, his story never failed to evoke some sort of reaction from me and I was hooked throughout. Whilst nothing really happens, Bukowski sails from anecdote to anecdote seamlessly and I came away from the book feeling like I had learnt something about certain individuals and their place in society. Ham on Rye was as disturbing as it was enlightening, and I'd recommend it to those that like to read tales of tortured souls and uncertain youth. I'm going to pick up some of Bukowski's poetry next as I've heard quite a bit about it!

RATING: 3.5/5 

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books vs. cigarettes by george orwell (1946) 

DATE FINISHED: 26/04/14 | ISBN:  0141036613 | PAGES: 126
Beginning with a dilemma about whether he spends more money on reading or smoking. George Orwell's entertaining and uncompromising essays go on to explore everything from the perils of second-hand bookshops to the dubious profession of being a critic, from freedom of the press to what patriotism really means. 

An interesting selection of essays from Orwell. 

Some of them were highly engaging, whilst some were full of comforting nostalgia. Admittedly, a couple of them went over my head a little so I should probably return to them at some point when I have time to give them the attention that they probably deserve. I would definitely recommend Books Vs. Cigarettes to readers of Orwell's works and to those interested in the mechanics behind literature. 

RATING: 3/5 

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The vast majority of my book collection has been bought with my own money. Sorry, bank balance! However, sometimes I'm sent books to review. These books are marked with *. Handy, eh?! This page also contains affiliate links. If you buy the books through the links I've so lovingly provided, I'll earn a tiny commission to put towards books in the future. If you've used my link to buy books, thank you! You're a good egg.


  1. Ohh the Gillian Flynn number sounds intriguing! I like a book that keeps you guessing right to the end. I will be checking this one out at some point.

    Doing good on the 'books for 2014' count so far, peach!

    Oh, Bee, I said I would let you know when I have a bash at writing a little something... If you grab a spare 5 minutes I have put my first venture into creative writing up on my blog, would love any critique you may have.

    Faded Windmills

  2. I hated Gone Girl with a passion (don't let that put you off though, you might love it!) but I have to admit Dark Places does sound good!

    Lauren | Bits and Bobs xx

  3. I started Wild Abandon over three years ago now, and still haven't finished it. I absolutely loved Submarine, but just couldn't get into Wild Abandon x

  4. Dark Places sounds really intriguing. I still haven't read any of Gillian Flynn's novels but I keep hearing really good things!


  5. I really need to read some more of Gillian Flynn's work, thus far I've only read Gone Girl. I also happen to think the cover art of her work (the one you have featured) will look very striking on a bookshelf.

    Wild Abandon doesn't sound like my kind of book however the cover of this particular edition really catches your eye.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Bits & Bobs

  6. I didn't read much at all in March and April but I finally got the inspiration to start reading again :) I need to pick up Dark Places soon I've been thinking about reading it for a long time!

  7. I've read quite a bit in the past month or so. The Pink Suit took a little getting into, but once I had I really enjoyed it.


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