Review: Wrath – T.R. Ragan

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Faith McMann #3

SYNOPSIS: Those who hunt monsters must be careful not to become monsters themselves.

In another life, before human traffickers murdered her husband and stole her children, Faith McMann was a wife, mother, and teacher. Now she has become Furious, a merciless avenger on a deadly mission to retrieve her young son and daughter, no matter the cost.

Aided by unlikely but steadfast allies, the giant Beast and fragile Rage, Faith plunges ever deeper into a sickening underworld of sexual exploitation and slavery with steel-forged determination and righteous anger.

In this powerful, suspenseful conclusion to the Faith McMann trilogy, Faith is haunted by questions: Even if her children are recovered, will they be broken beyond repair? What terrible sacrifices will their rescue require? What are the limits of loyalty and love in a world that preys on innocents? And after her brutal awakening to the darkest aspects of human nature, what will remain of her own self? – via Goodreads

There we go, wrapped up and all done. I totally raced through these books, I was so hooked from book one, so I have to give this trilogy credit for that. Yeah, there are flaws, but the story keeps you hooked if you can overlook a few blunders to get to it. Then when you are there? Fantastic.

This book immediately picks up after the events of the Outrage, and keeps going. The story is at least finished here, as anymore would have started to feel like we were being taken for a ride. Faith is still damaged as all hell and desperate to find Lara, now that she has Hudson home. Faith’s family is still something lovely, and Beast, Vinnie, and Rage all gang together. It was nice to have a look see some more at the relationship between Beast, Vinnie, and Rage, and I was stoked to see some happiness what with Rage reuniting with her son. It was a good silver lining.

The book continues to deal with the sticky, icky world of human trafficking, and it’s still quite an intense read.

Wrath provides a satisfying finale to a solid trilogy. It is well paced, delivers all the goods, and is well worth the read provided, of course, that you are willing to suspend belief and hop along for the ride. I recommend this.

Review: Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

2

SYNOPSIS: “Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe. – via Goodreads

Man, a while ago Mettel Ray spoke of Dark Matter on her blog, and I decided it would be my next Crouch read, as I have a few on my Kindle and just didn’t know which one to go with, and man, I am glad I went with this one. I really don’t want to say too much about this book to avoid spoilers or to give away too much of the story, so I guess we will see how this review goes down.

Dark Matter is a super fun read. I was hooked essentially from the off. It took a few pages to get rolling, and I was wondering if I was sitting with another version of Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy, when suddenly it kicked into overdrive and built a truly fascinating story for itself.

The book might have been a tad too long, but that didn’t slow down the reading, just made it a touch more bloated than it should have been. The story is sharp and drags you in and really gets you thinking about a lot of things. Jason is a character you sympathise with and want to see succeed, but you are also not entirely sure exactly how he is supposed to emerge victorious, or what is really going on.

Okay, I don’t really want to say anything more, except that this is a great read. Dark Matter is smart, engaging, twisty and extremely entertaining. Without a doubt my favourite Blake Crouch  novel to date. It wasn’t missing anything, and delivered the goods in a solid fashion. I can highly recommend this one.

Review: Outrage – T.R. Ragan

2

Faith McMann #2

SYNOPSIS:  The happy life Faith McMann knew as a wife, mother, and teacher was destroyed when vicious criminals murdered her husband, kidnapped her children, and left her for dead. After paralyzing grief, fear, and despair, there was nothing left for her to feel…except fury. But striking a staggering blow against a brutal ring of human traffickers was just the beginning of her uphill battle.

Though her daughter remains missing and her son is lost in the wilderness, Faith’s relentless efforts have reunited some children with their families. They’ve also made her and the rest of her family the targets of a sadistic crime boss. But Faith has learned plenty about survival in the lawless underworld she’s storming. And she’s forged an unbreakable bond with two no-holds-barred allies in the war against evil. As they dodge assassins and take down predators, Faith travels deeper into the heart of darkness, determined to rescue her children at any cost. – Goodreads

So I blew through this one directly after having finished the first as I liked it that much. I thought that this was another solid read, and I quite liked it. There are a lot of things going on in this one, but it never gets messy in the way that it detracts from the story.

We get a closer look into the relationship between Beast and Rage, and especially with Little Vinnie in the mix, you have to appreciate it. It is also nice to get to know a little more about the characters and make them tick. Faith, too, grows a lot more and you can totally understand her frustration. Yeah, there are plenty “convenient” plot devices and things, sure, but it tells the story. Naturally you are not expecting a totally realistic story when going in for something like that. I still really like the family bond in Faith’s family, they truly do stand together.

This trilogy deals with a rather heavy concept – trafficking is not a light subject, and this book takes the horrors and weaves a fictitious story between it, but never minimizes the fact that the issues are real and truly despicable. The suffering is real and never undermined or forgotten. Miranda gets some more time and some payback in here, and I like that.

Outrage barrels along just as rapidly as Furious, never losing you along the way and keeping you hooked throughout. Again, it doesn’t feel like there is a lot of filler in this, which makes for another great read. As you guys can tell, I am highly enjoying this series of T.R. Ragan, and highly recommend it, providing you can deal with a heavier story than most authors are willing to tackle.

Site Overhaul

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Hi guys!

Alright, so it is time to announce a few changes on my blog. Terrifying Exciting times! I have decided I have been blogging for long enough that it would be worth investing in a domain and all that jazz, so I am pleased to present my site as http://www.sporadicchronicles.com. Gosh, feels all official and grown up.

Secondly, with that you probably noticed that I have changed my blog’s name. I know, I know, what is this?! But let’s face it, I haven’t been a beginner blogger for like… five years now, so it’s time to move on. However, I am a comfort creature and didn’t want to go completely overboard. I mean, you all know me, and my Sporadic Chronicles, so I have decided not to shock my anyone’s senses too much and stayed familiar. I have played with a new theme (go big or go home, right?), and had enough banners/headers done to keep things fresh and fun.

I have also decided that my rating system should be changed about a bit, too, so as to stop all this silly “can’t give it a ten because nothing is perfect” crap that was drilled into my head since primary school (ask Natasha, she knows exactly what I mean). So let’s try this new thing and see how it goes – it’s nothing super special, just different from what you are used to on here. If I can’t get into it, screw it, then we go back to the numbers.

I commissioned Daniel of Alpha Arts to assist me in overhauling my blog with the new banners, score tiles and logo, and I am incredibly pleased with the results. If anyone is looking for a designer for any purpose (no matter how big or small), I recommend you give him a look see. Here are links to his website, his LinkedIn, and lastly, his Facebook page.

To those of you who have been with me for years, I thank you once again. For new readers, welcome. I love my blog, I love the community we all have, and I look forward to many more years.

Review: Turtles All The Way Down – John Green

4

SYNOPSIS: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.  – via Goodreads

Yeah, uhm, this one was certainly not my favourite Green novel. I thoroughly enjoy his work, and some of it is definitely better than other stuff, but unfortunately this just wasn’t my jam. There was a lot to be appreciated in this book, to be sure, but for the most part, I found it to be rather bland and disappointing and really trying to be… I don’t know, too smart and sassy for its own good.

Turtles All The Way Down deals with a mentally ill main character, which is not something commonly handled in a book, and I thought Green did a great job bringing Aza and all her issues to life. There were times where her compulsion of picking open the callus on her finger and made it bleed made me squirm. Okay, not so much that as the rinsing it with clean alcohol over and over again. I could feel that burn. The mental illness issue is handled really well here – it never came across as just a ploy, or something Green is writing about because it is in vogue right now, or just to give us a quirky character, it comes across as genuine.

So while Aza is genuine mentally ill, as Daisy puts it, Aza is extremely selfish and closed off from the world. At times she is infuriating, at others you sort of get what is going on, so well scored there. That being said, the story was really just about Aza and her mental illness and dealing with it, but I thought we would get more. Davis is a character I enjoyed and really way more understanding than I expected, but overall each and every one of the characters, including Aza and the extreme attention to detail due to her condition, just felt empty. I know my opinion won’t be a popular one, but I wasn’t a fan of this.

Something that really got under my skin was Mychal’s name spelling. I swear to goodness, that is one of those new age things where names have to be quirky and unique, and these poor kids look like idiots. UGH. I mean my brother is a good, old fashioned Michael and it works just fine. Names deliberate being spelled differently really just… no. People,  NO. STOP IT THIS INSTANCE! #VentOver

Turtles All The Way Down is a quick read that deals with some serious issues, but it definitely isn’t my favourite John Green novel, and not one I am sure I want to be rushing to reread.

Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

6

“There used to be a time it was hard to tell a comatose person from a dead one, so coroners tied bells to everybody in the morgue. “
– Tommy

SYNOPSIS: A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harbouring dark secrets. – via IMDB

I have been wanting to watch this for the longest time, and just never really got around to watching it. This past weekend saw the God of War release, which meant my husband was unavailable and all over that game. I watched a few things and finally decided it was time to get this off my watch list. Slowly but surely (after playing the whole day), my husband started watching snatches of this as I was watching, and eventually asked me if we could watch it, he would take a short break.

Why? Because this looked intriguing. He was fascinated about a whole movie revolving around a single autopsy, and I was also interested to know how it would be handled. Man, there was so much that I liked about this movie. Right off the bat, you can’t help but notice the cinematography. It’s beautiful – the colours, the lights, the shots, everything is so deliberate and works to bring you this gorgeous cohesive whole together. I was so drawn in by the visuals alone. Then came the music – never taking over, but never absent, just so moody and ever present. Cox and Hirsch also give super solid performances to this movie, taking it up another level.

The movie balances well, too, going from a regular drama movie, a thriller with questions almost, and embarking on a dark horror path, and it handles it all smoothly and work along well. The jump scares are placed strategically and while maybe not totally unpredictable, are pulled off well. My husband jumped at each one successfully, at any rate. I also really liked the story, and how the set for the movie might be limited, but never felt like too little. The movie is a short one, giving you just what you need and not stretching itself out.

I felt that this movie to be fresher and more creative than many horror films over the years, and I liked it. Cool, understated, solid, super atmospheric, it was pretty much exactly the kind of movie that was going to appeal to me. I think it will work for most horror fans. I am so glad I have finally seen this, and can see how I will go back to it in future. Highly recommended.

April Blind Spot Review: Straight Outta Compton (2015)

4

“I got something to say.”
– Ice Cube

SYNOPSIS: The group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood. – via IMDB

You know, even after all the rave reviews and the love this movie got when it came out, I didn’t know for sure exactly what it was about (other than a hip hop/rap history biopic type deal), but thought it would be worth watching as it seems it was done really well. Well, let me assure you, this really is that good and a bag of chips. Damn, I was way more impressed than I thought I would be.

I only know bits and pieces of the history surrounding these guys (pretty much all of it passed down to me from an old colleague who knows plenty about this), so I didn’t really know how accurate everything was, and I wasn’t too bothered. I was there to watch a movie and it happened to feature people we have at least all heard about, and it seems that it was pretty accurate (checking after the fact) too, for the most part.

There was a lot to like about this movie. The music (obviously) suited the content, the history used is interesting. Something that really blew me away? The casting. I mean O’Shea Jackson Jr looks just like his dad, which is insane. Then you see after the fact that each and every one of these cast members looked almost exactly like the real-life counterparts they were playing. Wow! That doesn’t usually happen, and yet it was nailed down completely here.

There were also some flaws with this movie. The pacing is a little off at times. The movie does not feel as long as it is, but there are times when the narrative jumps around a bit or feels hurried (especially the beginning – these were guys struggling at home and then in the recording studio within a space of like… ten minutes). Like, the groundwork is there but rushed. The dramatic element is good though, and there is humour in here from time to time that is quite entertaining.

I am glad to finally say I got around to watching Straight Outta Compton. While rap/hip hop is not generally my cup of tea, I think that this movie is handled well and is engaging. You might/might not love the genre, but you cannot deny how these guys had their say and influenced/drove the genre the way they did. One has to respect that.

Review: The Woman In The Window – A.J. Finn

2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. – via Goodreads 

Uhm… I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this book. Not really much at all. It is not a bad read, at all. It is predictable – I mean we have all seen this plot in some book or some movie somewhere – someone housebound who sees something they should not and all the shenanigans that follow that.

The Woman In The Window had some interesting parts to it and some concepts that I enjoyed, and Anna’s situation is a quite fascinating – agoraphobic in the extreme, but a therapist helping others in a similar situation, and an alcoholic struggling to pull her life together. I thought at times this was overdone and other times it was underutilised. I feel that the only character that had any real depth is Anna, though that could truly be by design.

Anyway, the book is slightly longer than it strictly needs to be, though it is a pretty fast read. It’s decent but not fantastic, though I do think Finn writes quite well. I don’t really want to say too much because the book has some twists and turns, whether you expect them or not. I will certainly check out future works.

Review: Annihilation (2018)

6

“It’s destroying everything.”
– Dr Ventress

SYNOPSIS: A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply. – via IMDB

Alright, so this movie seems to have a lot of people either super loving it, or totally hating it. I guess when I think back on it I can totally understand how one could end up in either camp, if I am being honest. There is a lot to like about Annihilation, but there is also a lot that is going to be annoying and can’t be overlooked.

I liked it quite a bit. It was ambiguous, but not in that unsatisfying way that It Comes At Night was. It raised a lot of questions and answered very few, and the few answers it did answer, I could have done without, and some that I wanted, I went without. Visually Annihilation is a beautiful film, and that cannot be denied. Strange shimmer, exotic everything going on behind the shimmer, this new world, all of it, and it works really well.

Then there is the cast. I think this is where the movie got hurt a bit. The characters are all really flat and lifeless, after all is said and done. Jennifer Jason Leigh is just angry and resentful and there. I could have done with more Oscar Isaac, too. Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman are the only two that will remotely stay with you. The logic is also a little bizarre – for years soldiers have been going in and nobody has been coming back. Let’s send a group of all-female scientists. Like, I got the sending scientists in and all that, but… the definition of insanity? Nothing is changing, evidently. With this there were inconsistencies (lost time only happening and addressed once the whole time??).

There were moments of delicious creepiness (you all know what I am talking about), and the explanation took away some of that beautiful horror shine for both my husband and myself, but the conclusion for this makes up for some of the weaker parts, all while leaving us with another ton of questions, which I liked. I definitely think that this movie is worth a rewatch to pick up on more things.

I think that Annihilation is ambitious and visually stunning, with decent performances of flat characters, and has a score that works really well. I don’t necessarily need a movie spoon fed to me, but Annihilation took it’s ambiguity throughout a little too seriously, leaving a slightly unsatisfied feeling towards the end, though the ambiguity of that is not what left me unsatisfied. Yes, I know that all sounds crazy. Worth a watch, and a rewatch for sure. Not Ex-Machina, but not terrible, either. I look forward to more of Garland’s work.

I went into this blind. I read a lot of good reviews on it, but didn’t read too in depth or anything. Don’t even watch the trailer, just go watch the movie.

Review: The Fear – C.L. Taylor

2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey… – via Goodreads

You know, it rarely happens that a book makes me uncomfortable when I read it, but this was one of those that did. It just… I didn’t like that. It was weird. This book gives you a look see at how the victims of a paedophile feel about him and what is happening to them, and it makes me both sick and mad. Ugh.

Now let me get straight into the book – the story flips between Lou’s present and her past, so you get a look at her as she is now, scarred and emotionally broken, and then to the past, when she was kidnapped and groomed by a paedophile of note. Ugh. My stomach rolled reading about how she was so in love with him and how he understood her and loved her like nobody else, and to read how he preyed on her was absolutely horrifying.

I think with that being said, there will be triggers for some people, that’s for sure. I was both frustrated and disgusted reading this, and intrigued in other places (not the parts about the feelings of the victims that were preyed on, but the aftermath, and then there is the odd section featuring Wendy). I thought that it the story actually comes together quite well, and while making you queasy, keeps you interested enough to continue and see what happens.

There were so many unsavoury characters peppered throughout this book, but there were also some really nice ones, so the balance struck is decent. I don’t foresee myself rushing out to reread The Fear, and it is not necessarily a book that would be easy to recommend, but it isn’t a terrible read, but also didn’t strike the highs I was hoping for.