The Guest List by Lucy Foley | Book Review

★★☆☆☆
July 1st – 2nd

We all know that I love a good thriller. I like mysteries with compelling characters, a well-put together plot, and an interesting setting. I like when the reader has all of the pieces in front of them and they aren’t reliant on external information to solve what’s going on. I also love gothic settings. I love the isolation and distance. This had a lot of those elements and I was so excited to read it, but the execution was not for me.

This review will have spoilers.

To start, I think this book had too many perspectives. We were following multiple characters getting ready for a wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland. The bride, the maid of honor, the best man, the plus one, and the wedding planner. Five perspectives is way too many in most settings, but definitely a thriller.

Clocking in at just over 300 pages, trying to fill in the backstory of five separate people with all of their personality feels like a tremendous task, and as a result, I really think the writing of this one suffered. I was not a fan of how much the characters were telling me about themselves, but with so little time to explain anything, I don’t know that there really was an alternative other than making it significantly longer.

In addition to the five character perspectives which take place starting the day before the wedding, the book adds a sixth element where it jumps to the present. These pieces in the present I found to do absolutely nothing. I believe the intention was to add tension, but they were so infrequent and had cliffhangers so insignificant that it took away from the plot and general pacing of the book. One of the cliffhangers was what was in a character’s hand, and 50 or so pages later we find out that it was a flashlight. This was exceptionally frustrating to me, because it felt like an attempt at tension for the sake of tension.

The entire book takes place on the island, which I really enjoyed, and there was one or two characters that really stood out as being interesting. If the whole book was from the perspective of the plus one, I think I really would have liked it. She was a flawed character who was recognizing holes in her marriage and difficulties she was having with it. She was the only one who saw growth as a character, and she did her best to help other characters grow.

A lot of the complaints I saw from other reviewers talked about how predictable it was, and while I agree, that’s not typically a problem I have with thrillers. I tend to enjoy the ride more than the ending, but in this case I did not enjoy the ride. With each of these characters we come to find out how they’re all connected to the groom, be it from a past relationship, a childhood friendship with a dark secret, or connected to people who were hurt by him.

I really hated most of the side male characters who were part of the wedding party (with the exception of the best man). They had a very tribal attitude that I sometimes found hard to read through. I do think that was the point of these characters though, so I believe that was a successful bit of writing, and when combined with the plus one character, it was the best part of the book.

From what I’ve seen of Lucy Foley’s other book The Hunting Party, people have similar complaints. I’d like to see for myself if I’d like it, but as of right now I don’t think that their writing is for me, which is disappointing.

The Other People by C.J. Tudor | Book Review

★★★★☆
February 23rd – 24th

This was the February pick for the Literally Dead Book Club hosted by booksandlala on YouTube. I’m so glad that she picked this, because I’ve had my eye on trying a C.J. Tudor book for a while now. I wasn’t sure whether to start with The Chalk Man or The Hiding Place, so I was thrilled that this was the first pick for this horror/thriller book club.

The Other People feels like one of those books that starts with a bang and then keeps on going. It felt to me like the whole book flew by in an instant, and I’m still not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing for the book’s pacing.

We start with Gabe, a man on his way home to meet his wife and daughter, who’s stuck in traffic. The car in front of him is covered in terrible bumperstickers, and through the back window, Gabe thinks he sees his daughter Izzy’s face. Gabe attempts to chase the car, but loses it in the traffic. He tries to call his wife from a service station, but a detective answers the phone instead.

Fast forward about three years. Gabe now travels up and down the highway looking for the car which he believes stole his daughter. We also get chapters from Katie, a woman who works at a service station, Fran, a woman seemingly on the run with a young girl named Alice, and intermittent chapters about a girl in a hospital bed.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved Gabe’s character, and I especially loved Katie’s character and her devotion to her kids in this book. The story really played on the relationship between parents and younger children, and it was interesting to see three different types of these relationships.

The best part of the book to me was the unexplained magical element which kept me reading from very early on. There were elements to this book which I was baffled by early on, and was unsure if it was meant to be magical or if there was going to be a real-world explanation. I tend to really like unexplained magic in books, but I mostly like it when it’s perceived as normal to the characters around it. The magic in this book is tied to Alice’s character, and because we don’t see from her perspective, I felt that the magic element in the book didn’t come across as intended. That being said, I enjoyed the type of magic and the additions it made to the story.

Without getting into spoilers, I found the explanation of The Other People as an entity to be interesting (and sometimes unintentionally funny). I liked the way this was presented, but I found it to sometimes be a bit farfetched.

I’m really excited to go back and read C.J. Tudor’s previous two novels, as well as their next book coming out in 2021.

-Siobhan