Before I start, I acknowledge again that I am hard to please with mysteries and thrillers. I still read them, because even if I am not wowed, I usually find something enjoyable in the reading experience.
The Sun Down Motel was billed as an exciting and frightening ghost story. What I read was a little different.
The POVs of the book alternated between Viv in 1982 and her niece Carly in 2017. Viv disappeared in 1982 after a shift at a creepy motel and Carly arrives 35 years later to find out where she went. Listen, that mystery was interesting. Big fan over here. And I liked the mysterious Nick Harkness. I wanted more of him…just like Carly.
However, the ghost story that surrounded it didn’t seem necessary to my enjoyment or understanding of the mystery. I felt like I was looking for an explanation for the ghost appearances beyond what I was given. That one is on me. I am willing to admit it.
Again, I am hard to please. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t wowed, you may be!
From what I can tell on Goodreads, people loved this book. Any moderately exciting thriller ends up with rave reviews because people have never read anything like it. And if people are going to read, I love it! Even if I don’t necessarily get as excited about the same book.
But, listen, mystery/thriller books do not always shock or surprise me. I have read all of them. I’m almost not kidding, I have been reading mysteries and thrillers since I was six years old and I think I have encountered almost every possible incarnation of this genre.
This book started off as a very middling and unmemorable thriller. Therapist tries to reach mute, accused murderess/artist. You do not know who is telling the truth and you are always questioning character motivations. I felt like I had seen it all before. That means, for much of the book, I was saying to myself “Why do people even like this? It’s okay, but I am not even kind of shocked by any of this.”
Boy, was I wrong.
Until the end, I felt like the book moved slowly and was not the most engaging, but by the end, I changed my mind. I was finally suprised and I call that a win for me and the author.
I found The Hypnotist on a list…as I do….of thrillers that kept readers on the edge of their seats. While I have been reading a lot and writing a lot about “guilty pleasure” reads and YA books, I have not been reading too many mysteries. And, I love a mystery. The first chapter books I remember reading were Nancy Drews. My mother and grandmother were always reading mysteries. It’s a family thing.
Any ways, this book is un-put-down-able. In my opinion. Seldom do I find a book that can surprise me and capture my attention. I don’t want to say too much, but, the book follows Detective Joona Linna as he tries to solve the murder of a family; a murder that was witnessed by one child, who lies in a coma. He turns to a disgraced hypno-therapist to help him question the surviving boy. What results is a fast-paced and, at times, anxiety producing story.
I devoured this rather lengthy mystery/thriller in record time. It was fascinating, horrifying, and never predictable. I kept trying to solve one layer and then, another layer of another case was exposed. What a ride.
When I was in college, studying great works of literature…mostly by white, dead, British men, a friend endlessly mocked me whenever I picked up a “chick lit” book. They would tell me: “You are better than that. You are smarter than that.” It bothered me. It bothered me a lot. At some level, I agreed with her and started hiding my “guilty pleasure” books from everyone. You know, things I enjoyed, that were not challenging or part of the literary elite.
Why are some books considered more worthy than others? Who decides this? Who decides that an English major at a large private university is reading beneath them if they pick up something that is not in the “canon” or, god forbid, fun? Why do we have to hide our reading of books that we enjoy and call them “guilty pleasures,” as though we should be ashamed to read them? Why is it often women who feel this shame and use this labeling?
**We KNOW who decided this and we KNOW why** But that is a longer and more complex conversation.
In my teen years, I learned more complex vocabulary words and more about history from vaguely historical bodice rippers, than I did from AP European History. To be fair, I did go and research the time periods and the people that the books were about, once the romance was done. I learned about feelings and continue to further my emotional and social growth by reading middle grade books, YA books, and romance novels. Sometimes I even pick up these genres because the plot or setting of a book appeals to me the way some movies and TV shows appeal to other people . Even if the plot, structure, or word choice are not always complex for this 32 year old, the feelings and emotional reactions still can be.
I always tell my students that I do not care what they read, as long as they read something. At the end of the day, a person that reads at least twenty minutes a day will learn a million more words than their same age peers. Whatever they read, article, how-to for a video game, graphic novel, middle grade fiction book, can be enough. If they like it and they will read it, that is the start of a lifelong love of reading…anything.
All books can be valuable, if the reader gets something out of it. No shame allowed.
Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate, enjoy, and read the “canon” (such a problematic term,) various classics, and modern literary fiction. I read books to learn, to see what the buzz is about, to get me out of my comfort zone. And that is all important! But, often, I need something different.
Book Review: Verity By Colleen Hoover
That brings me to my first review. I plan to give my rating and break it down by star. You’ll see!
The literary elites might write off this author and her books as “guilty pleasures,” but I do not. Colleen Hoover is known for her Contemporary Romance and Thrillers. I read them and I am not afraid to admit that I like them.
Verity tells the story of down on her luck, one-hit wonder novelist Lowen Ashleigh, who is on the verge of losing everything. Seemingly randomly, she is offered the opportunity to finish the last book of a celebrated thriller novelist Verity Crawford. To do this, she must head to Verity’s remote Vermont home and sort through her papers. What Lowen finds among Verity’s papers and Verity’s home, leaves Lowen and the reader both disturbed and on the edge of their seat.
Why I liked it: First Star– My emotional reactions to the characters and plot were complex. I loved and hated everyone. I trusted everyone and no one. I was intrigued and disturbed, all at the same time. Second Star– The plot moved and the text wasn’t super challenging. I sat down for a few hours and devoured it. Never a dull moment. Third Star- The romance, although I could have done with the circumstances, was hot. Fourth Star– I cannot stop thinking about what the truth is. What really happened. I am still not certain.
What kept me from giving it 5 stars: Lowen finds a journal of Verity’s that details some horrifying things that she admits to doing. Some of it was very hard to read, even if it was compelling. Also, I found the main character to be a fairly weak one with almost no agency. I wish that she had been empowered to do more and take more control.
Did any of that stop me from enjoying the book overall? Nah. A reader can critique a book and still be able o enjoy. Myself included.
In sum, read what you want. Read what intrigues you. Read what interests you. Read what you think is fun. Read what moves you. No shame allowed.
But hey, occasionally, sneak out of your comfort zone and read something different, if you want. The way I see it, if people are reading anything that is a good thing.
What do you love to read, even if some might label them “guilty pleasures?”