Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes the spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room; two women are on the run from police; and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.

When Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother’s bachelor party, he expects a certain amount of debauchery. He sends his wife, Kristin, and young daughter off to his mother-in-law’s for the weekend, and he opens his Westchester home to his brother’s friends and their hired entertainment. What he does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, a dangerously intimate moment in his guest bedroom, and two naked women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Richard’s life rapidly spirals into a nightmare. The police throw him out of his home, now a crime scene; his investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave; and his wife finds herself unable to forgive him for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

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I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Guest Room will be available January 5, 2016.

This book made me really angry, but probably not in the way it was supposed to.

Richard Chapman is a happily married man and father who throws a bachelor party for his younger brother in his home. One of his brother’s friends hired strippers, but they turn out to be more than that. They’re not just prostitutes, either. They are victims of sex trafficking and they use the party as an opportunity to kill and flee their captors.

The story is broken down through the third person POVS of Richard, his wife Kristin, his 9-year-old daughter Melissa, and the first person POV of Alexandra, one of the girls from Richard’s party. I thought that Richard and Kristin’s perspectives were both very well done. I did not appreciate the perspective from Melissa, though. She really sounded nothing like a 9-year-old girl, but a grown man trying to portray a 9-year-old girl. I also didn’t really care for the passages from Alexandra’s POV. Each chapter ended with her and while it was informative and, quite honestly, horrifying, it really messed up the pace of the story. Most of it was backstory and it just didn’t seem to fit with the story of Richard dealing with the aftermath of the party. It really felt like two different books to me at times. I also didn’t like how she was written. The majority of the time she was perfectly well spoken, and then occasionally there would be sentences of broken English, to remind us that it’s not her native language, and it was just jarring. It should have all been written like that, or none at all.

I also found Richard to be infuriating much of the time. Yes, he did not actually have sex with Alexandra, but he was close to doing so – and got a lap dance, kissed her, etc. It was almost a case of insta-love in how enamored he was with her and it kind of disgusted me. He’s a forty-year-old married man and father and became kind of obsessed with this nineteen-year-old. Then later in the book, he suddenly starts to describe her with more of a fatherly affection, which kind of made the whole situation more uncomfortable. I just could not feel sorry for him or how his world started to crumble around him. I felt really bad for his wife and for his daughter. And for Sonja and Alexandra as they tried to figure out how to leave the city safely.

Overall, I just really did not care for this book. While the horrors of the sex trafficking industry is given a bit of a voice, it’s not a book that’s going to bring a lot of awareness to the problem. The inclusion of Alexandra’s backstory felt more of an interruption from the actual story instead of adding to it. I found the main character despicable which made it hard to find anything redeeming about the story. While I’m sure there will be plenty of people that would like this book, it just wasn’t for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars.

2 stars

Reviewing the Unreviewed: December 2015

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I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads

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Front Row by Rebekah N. Bryan. Read December 13-14. 2 Stars.

This book is basically one of those Lifetime Cautionary Tales movies, except the characters never realize how crazy they all are. I found them unrelatable and thought their behavior was super concerning, but for some reason I just couldn’t stop reading it. It was a quick, easy read and while not my usual kind of book, I am interested to see what the next installment in the series is like, which focuses on a boy band cruise.

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You (You #1) by Caroline Kepnes. Read December 19-20. 4 Stars.

I don’t even know what to say about this book. It was so messed up. It was uncomfortable to read at times. The characters are just awful, awful people. But…I couldn’t put it down. It’s written in second person and the “You” Joe is talking to is Beck, the girl he loves/stalks/obsesses over. It was a unique style and it really worked for this kind of story. I was so in Joe’s head that I was actually rooting for him and found myself thinking things like, “You need to lock the cage, idiot!” Yeah. You know the writing is good when you’re looking out for the sociopath.

However, it was a little too slow paced at times. It was a lot of repetition and it honestly wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be. If we were figuring things out with Beck there would have been really creepy reveals, but seeing everything from Joe’s POV his crazy behavior almost makes sense. Well, it doesn’t make sense. But we see how it makes sense to Joe. And we sympathize with him. And even though it was almost boring for a bit, it’s still why I have to give this book 4 stars.

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The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. Read December 22-26. 2 Stars.

This book made me really angry, but probably not in the way it was supposed to. Full review to come closer to release date.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. Read December 26-27. 3 Stars.

This wasn’t as funny as I expected it to be, but it did get several chuckles out of me and I still wouldn’t mind being best friends with Mindy Kaling.     

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BACK ON THE TBR

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These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. I really wanted to read this, but couldn’t get into it and then it expired from the library. I’ll try it again, though.

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DNF

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. DNF at 55%

When this book hit NetGalley I followed the hype and requested a copy. I didn’t know much about it, but I liked the cover. I actually got granted access to a copy and was excited to read it. However, after much effort, I just couldn’t finish it. I did not like the characters, the pace was super slow, the plot was a little confusing. At halfway through a book I expect to feel connected to the characters and invested in what happens to them, but I just didn’t care.

The one thing I did like was Nicholas, who was likable and intriguing, but he was not enough to save the book.

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The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield.

This is a book I really wanted to like, but just could not connect with the characters. While Fifield does write well-developed characters, I found them so unlikable and a little unprobable that I just couldn’t make myself read any more. I got about 25% and then skimmed the ending.

The one other thing I wanted to mention was that the letter from both the author and the editor at the beginning of the book really turned me off. The fact that I needed a letter explaining the book and then another letter about how great the book is before I even started made me think that the story wouldn’t be able to stand on it’s own. That initial distrust may have contributed to my lack of connection and interest with the story once I started it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to read more

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED To Read More. I’m going to broaden the topic a bit and also include authors I’ve only read one SERIES by. I have a tendency to binge read when I find a new author I like, so it’s a little more difficult to find an author I’ve read only one book from.

The Fever

1. Megan Abbott.
Book Read: The Fever
This book wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was well written and I enjoyed it. I’d like to give her other books a try.

All the Truth That's in Me

2. Julie Berry
Book Read: All the Truth that’s in Me
I really loved this book and it’s style. I definitely need more Julie Berry in my life

Secrets of Eden

3. Chris Bohjalian
Book Read: Secrets of Eden
I read this book before I became a super reader and it was so different from anything I’d read before. (*SPOILER ALERT* Unreliable Narrators!! *SPOILER ALERT OVER*) While I didn’t love the story, Bohjalian’s writing was great and I’d like to see what else he can do.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)

4. Sarah Rees Brennan
Books Read: Unspoken, Untold
I just discovered the Lynburn Legacy earlier this year and fell in love. I love how the characters are written. I need more!

The Fault in Our Stars

5. John Green
Book Read: The Fault in our Stars
Everybody loves John Green and I’ve only made it through this book.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)

6. Jenny Han
Book Read: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
This story was all kinds of adorable. I’ve heard her others are similarly so.

Maybe Someday

7. Colleen Hoover
Book Read: Maybe Someday
While I didn’t love Maybe Someday as much as everyone else seems to, but I’d like to try more from Hoover.

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)

8. Kiersten White
Books Read: Mind Games, Perfect Lies
I loved the Mind Games duology so, so much. I definitely need to read more from Kiersten White!

212 (Ellie Hatcher, #3)

9. Alafair Burke
Book Read: 212
I really enjoyed this book. It was a free ebook when I got it and it’s the third book in a series. I’ve always wanted to go back and read the beginning.

The Essence (The Pledge, #2)

10. Kimberly Derting
Books Read: The Pledge, The Essence, The Offering
While this isn’t my favorite series, I did enjoy it and would like to try more of Derting.

HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THE ABOVE AUTHORS? WHAT AUTHORS DO YOU NEED TO READ MORE FROM?