Review: The Chestnut Man – Søren Sveistrup

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen.

His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?

To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.

Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over. – via Goodreads

I got access to a copy of this awhile ago. The write up looked like my cup of tea, and a Scandinavian thriller/mystery is totally something I am on board for. As Jade said the other week, this is typically that story of a cop who neglects their home life in favour of saving other people and their loved ones. No different, box standard formula. Which would have been okay, except that it wasn’t.

I thought the story was going to be… more. So much more. But it was seriously bogged down by the writing, or (and I will freely admit this) the translation. There were plenty times while reading where I was like “oh dear, that could have been edited better, or translated more smoothly”, and it kept jarring me out of the story. I also feel that there is a ton of filler stuff, and that the book is filled with flat, bland characters. They are really by the numbers, nothing special… okay, except maybe for the fact that they were really daft. Almost wilfully stupid. I mean really. I know I am just the reader, but they were clunky and blind and, honestly, came across as incompetent more often than not. And I don’t mean the higher ups – I mean Thulin and Hess, our main pair.

Not only that, the author Søren Sveistrup weaves in a totally unnecessary and bland romance. It just came across as forced. I didn’t like that at all, and it pops up out of nowhere, and nothing comes of it. I mean they are trundling along, and all of a sudden they just want each other, then they don’t? What? Just, no. No.

So I am in the minority apparently about how I felt about this book – it seems other readers loved it. It just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like the characters or care about them, the book was very predictable in places, there was too much filler stuff between happenings, the logic is a little questionable, and the experience overall was not that great. The book felt like a super long read, so I didn’t love that, either. I just didn’t love The Chestnut Man, overall.

Review: Pet Sematary (2019)

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“It was a myth. Kids used to dare each other to go into the woods at night. They knew the power of that place. They feared it. Those woods belong to something else.”
– Jud Crandall

SYNOPSIS: Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. – via IMDB

After having a lot of fun at the cinemas recently, and completely forgetting that Pet Sematary was even still a thing, I saw the posters up for this and obviously decided I needed to see it. So, while I was maybe not expecting it to be It, or even The Mist (if we are looking purely at the more horror based side of King’s adapted works), I thought it would be a watchable movie, maybe not great, but entertaining. Plus, you know, I will watch Jason Clarke in just about anything.

Well, let me state it simply and succinctly: Pet Sematary sucked. I wasted time and money tripping out for it. And I took my husband, he is always keen on a horror. Then there was this, and it was just… rushed, sloppy, messy, and features a different story from the book. I felt that the movie was going downhill slowly pretty much from the minute that family arrives at the new house, and completely lost faith in the story as a whole by the time the wrong kid died. I mean, that is a driving point of the book! I know, I know, what lunacy is this, comparing a book and a movie? But honestly, you would think the basics would be the same. Also, I am capable of appreciating it for what it is and ignoring the book, but I really didn’t like this.

Anyway. Even the music was just meh in this. The movie was heavy handed trying for scares and failing miserably. The story doesn’t resonate at all and the characters are all flat caricatures. If there is one thing that Stephen King excels at, it is writing characters. This movie did not highlight that in the slightest. As much as I love Jason Clarke, this movie sucked. I wish it had been an okay movie, but it is not even that. I had serious regrets. I could have gone to see another movie. Any other movie.

Pet Sematary  isn’t very long at all, but it is absolutely chaotic – and not in the good way. Scenes jump all over the show, the content is heavy handed, there is nothing creepy or scary about it, and that whole child progression they are marketing on the posters? You see it once.  Skip this. Completely.

Review: Shazam (2019)

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“Billy Batson, I choose you as champion.”
– The Wizard

SYNOPSIS: We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM. – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the grown-up superhero Shazam. – via IMDB

I caught this on opening weekend and have just been faffing around about publishing. This wasn’t really on my radar until Zachary Levi was cast in it, and then I was sold. I mean really? Chuck Bartowski? Beyond sold! Then it was forgotten until a few months ago and I saw the trailer, and it looked like plenty of fun. When it was released, it was legitimately the first movie in months I was willing to go to the cinema to see. Glad I did.

Shazam certainly is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it. It is not the greatest movie of all time, but it is an easy watch. Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer have fantastic chemistry, and you can certainly tell that Levi is having a total ball. Asher Angel, too, is quite sweet as the young Billy Batson. I really liked how Victor and Rosa try to make a difference in these kids’ lives, and they seem to be such genuine, sweet people.

The third act of the movie is just a little bit too cheesy for my taste. It got a little bit too much and was a bit cringy, but not so much that it spoils the movie. I also feel that Mark Strong’s villain was very flat and generic and not really developed as much as he could have been. Also, some of the humour was most certainly geared at kids, but that isn’t really a problem because I think this is a great movie for kids.

Anyway, while Shazam has some issues, it is still amusing, and was certainly worth a watch.

Review: Where The Missing Go – Emma Rowley

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: My name is Kate.

I volunteer at a local charity – young people who have run away from home call me and I pass on messages to their loved ones, no questions asked.

I don’t get many phone calls, and those I do are usually short and vague, or pranks.

But this morning a girl named Sophie called.

I’m supposed to contact her parents to let them know their child is safe.

The problem is, Sophie isn’t safe.

And Sophie is my daughter. – via Goodreads

Alrighty, so the synopsis for this totally looked like my cup of tea, and I was pleased when I was granted access to it from Netgalley. When I started this book, I was quickly and easily drawn in, and that is good. The premise is interesting, and I think everyone’s nightmare – for their child to go missing. That being said, you quickly realise you don’t really know what’s cracking, and the book slowly gives up its secrets.

I didn’t love all the characters, and that is okay. I liked the story, even though I feel that sometimes the writing style and the pacing let the story down a bit. There were sections that were a little unbelievable and then there were moments where something happens that is so stupid you are just stumped. But the story still keeps you engaged, even when the story goes from “missing” to “runaway”, and you start wondering how Rowley is going to keep you going.

The book is a simple, fast read, and very engaging, as I said. It probably could have been slightly shorter, but it is not so long that you lose interest, or wonder why you have spent so much time. There are some lulls, but for the most part, the story moves along. It is hectic to think about parents that have gone through/are going through something like this, it is horrible. I don’t have too much to say, just that the book was well worth a read, and I enjoyed it. It was twisty at times, and while predictable in some places, it wasn’t like that when it counted. Definitely worth a look see.

Review: Us (2019)

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“Once upon a time, there was a girl and the girl had a shadow. The two were connected, tethered together.”
 – Red

SYNOPSIS: A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them. – via IMDB

I tried to read as little on this as possible prior to seeing it because I really love going into movies blind sometimes, just go with the flow. I am glad I did for this one, because I didn’t have any actual concept about what we were about to watch, and it was a weird one to watch unfold. I was interested to see where Jordan Peele would go after Get Out.

I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers and such. Tonally, the movie is a little all over the show. There is a lot of confusion, and there is a section before we get into the third act that just feels like the movie was falling apart – the creepy factor was gone, and nothing was happening, but no explanations were given up, and you don’t really get involved with these people. Because they are just people who turned up in a house and suddenly had doppelgängers chasing them, you don’t root for them more than you would the average horror movie character.

Anyway, just as you think that is going on, the third act brings the movie right back up, and I really liked how it all came together. While watching Us, you cannot shake this unsettling feeling that it brings on you, and it lingers after. The score worked hand in hand with this to leave you disconcerted. The performances were quite good, Lupita Nyong’o nailing her role, and delivering a solid performance for a seriously strange story.

In places, Us is nothing unique, but on the other hand, it is a different beast altogether. I thought the story was refreshing, but there were places where the movie was let down due to pacing and is certainly uneven at tomes, and the humour also didn’t work for me (sparingly used, but comes across as unnatural). Overall, I thought it was well worth a trip to the cinema. I can’t say much about a lot of things, because I hate spoilers, but so far I have enjoyed Peele’s work, and I am interested to see where he goes next.

Beware, the trailer is pretty much the whole movie bar the twist :/

Review: The Dirt (2019)

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“So here’s my theory, okay? If we want to knock people on their asses, then we’ve gotta give them a show. The punks, they’re doing the minimalist thing, so let’s take it in the exact opposite direction. I’m talking, I’m talking a stadium show in the clubs, man.”
– Nikki Sixx

SYNOPSIS: The story of how Mötley Crüe came to be one of the most notorious rock ‘n roll groups in history. – via IMDB

So, I know I might not be a Mötley Crüe fan or anything like that, but I still wanted to see how this would go. I believe options to do this film have been turned down for years, and that some big names have been pushed aside. So to know that it had finally happened, I was interested to see what the final product would be. And, how is that? Flat. Really, truly, honestly, flat.

The movie spends two hours essentially revelling in the debauchery that was Mötley Crüe’s heyday. And I mean that. Instead of taking any time to make these characters into real people, to look at all the nasty that was done in the past, to use it as an inspiration or anything like that, it is instead just an ode to how crazy these guys were (and not a particularly grand one, either). It also doesn’t help that the cast isn’t very engaging. Douglas Booth doesn’t possess the oomph to play the lead for this, or to be a horrific heroin junkie. I think the two that annoyed me the least were Colson Baker, and Iwan Rheon as Mick Mars. Okay let’s not even play – the performances all round were just a little sketchy.

The movie does nothing to sell me on Crüe, still, so nothing has changed. I also thought it cold and callous how some major issues were glossed over (that awful car accident, Skylar’s death, etc). There was pretty much no remorse from these guys, and that would be fine. except that this movie glorifies the band and their antics, but no lessons are learned. I believe this is based on the book (and not The Heroin Diaries, which I have been meaning to get to for years), and I might have to rather check that out if I am hoping for anything remotely resembling substance.

So, when all is said and done, The Dirt doesn’t deliver the goods in any way. There is nothing worth seeing here – essentially it is like watching Tremaine give us a better produced Jackass – all the outrage, wrapped up into the semblance of a movie. There was potential here, and it didn’t deliver. The Dirt is shallow and completely and utterly forgettable.

Review: The Rosary Girls – Richard Montanari

4

Byrne & Balzano #1

SYNOPSIS: Sprawling beneath the statue of William Penn, Philadelphia is a city of downtrodden crack houses and upscale brownstones. Somewhere in this concrete crazy quilt, one teenage Catholic girl is writing in her diary, another is pouring her heart out to a friend, and yet another is praying. And somewhere in this city is a man who wants these young women to make his macabre fantasy become reality. In a passion play of his own, he will take the girls–and a whole city–over the edge.

Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies.

Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most. – via Goodreads

So I randomly stumbled across this on Amazon one day and bought it and then (imagine) me forgetting all about it. I was searching for something to read the other day and saw this in my library and figured why not? Couldn’t remotely recall what it was about or why I bought it, and I headed in blind and man, let me say I was impressed. This book has everything in it that I usually want from a book, and has it in spades.

This is a really satisfying read in the sense that it flows well, introduces you to a lot of characters, but never gets too much. It isn’t excessively complicated, and a solid introductory book to a fresh series (something I have been hankering for). I liked Jessica, though the book really seems to gloss over how she has become a homicide detective and is never around for her daughter anymore and her babysitting neighbour seems totally fine with constantly having a kid dumped on her by a neighbour.

There were a lot of characters introduced and written off with no fanfare whatsoever, so you never really get attached to anybody, and constantly have it in the back of your mind that any/all character are disposable. I quite enjoyed Montanari’s writing style. It is descriptive, immersive, and it flows well, which is something that doesn’t always happen. Maybe because I am so used to the brutality in Karin Slaughter’s books, I thought that Montanari might be a bit more… vicious like that, but I found it not to be the case. The ick was there, but hurried over in a sense, which might make this book appeal more to people who usually enjoy a thrill but not the gore.

The case for this novel is interesting and barrels along. I liked our main peanut characters, and have already purchased the next five books in this series and a standalone. I am hoping there will be more growth for the characters now that we have been introduced to them all, so we will see how it goes. Well worth the read, especially if you are into something a little more dark.

Review: Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)

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SYNOPSIS: The twisting, turning, stranger-than-fiction true story of the Brobergs, a naive, church-going Idaho family that fell under the spell of a sociopathic neighbor with designs on their twelve-year-old daughter. – via IMDB

WTF?? No, really, wtf????? I cannot write a legitimate review. I just have questions. Questions like who the fuck:

  • Lets some manky dude sleep in the bed with their daughter for months?
  • Gave the kids back to these obviously negligent parents?
  • Starts banging the man that abducted their 12 year old (whom the abductor then marries and refuses to return her back home)?
  • Lets a man get away with this to harm their own daughter more and other girls because of wanking someone off?
  • Returns an abducted child to the man who abducted her in the first place?
  • Takes forever and six days to report their daughter missing?

So after all of this, all I can say that while this is not a great documentary, it is one of the most insane you will ever see. I have so many issues with what I have watched, and have no way to review this other than WHAT THE FUCK?! So much crap going on everywhere. This is no Bundy tapes, or Paradise Lost or anything like that. But it is a crazy viewing experience. My husband thought I was watching one thing, and then when it got to the bit on Berchtold manipulating Jan with aliens, he thought it was another show completely and that I was indulging my inner Fox Mulder. Har har.

And I know it’s bad, but there is also the legitimacy issue. As in, the only people in this whole documentary are the family, and one stray FBI agent. No reporters. No cops. No psychologists, teachers, friends, agents, anything. So no, that doesn’t lend much to truth in my mind. I’m not saying it didn’t happen (obviously shit went down), I’m just saying it’s a bit sketchy. Maybe I am just fussy? Need more critical examination? Don’t know. It was just… too bizarre.

Anyway. WHAT THE FUCK?!

Review: Come Sundown – Nora Roberts

4

SYNOPSIS: Bodine Longbow loves to rise with the dawn. As the manager of her family’s resort in Western Montana, there just aren’t enough hours in the day – for life, for work, for loved ones. She certainly doesn’t have time for love, not even in the gorgeous shape of her childhood crush Callen Skinner, all grown up and returned to the ranch. Then again, maybe Callen can change her mind, given time…

But when a young woman’s body is discovered on resort land, everything changes. Callen falls under the suspicion of a deputy sheriff with a grudge. And for Bodine’s family, the murder is a shocking reminder of an old loss. Twenty-five years ago, Bodine’s Aunt Alice vanished, never to be heard of again. Could this new tragedy be connected to Alice’s mysterious disappearance?

As events take a dramatic and deadly turn, Bodine and Callen must race to uncover the truth – before the sun sets on their future together. – via Goodreads

Ah yes, another Roberts for me. This one was one of her better ones, as I really liked this one. It had an incredibly dark side to it that, for once, Roberts didn’t really shy away from, which worked for me. Maybe because I like dark and gritty, and her novels usually provide easy reading and very little investment.

Come Sundown is like a big family saga. Yes, sure, we know that Roberts really nails that down, and I have found that all her books that feature that more prominently are the ones I like more than average. This one worked really well. I liked the characters, I liked the family, I was interested in the resort and business they had set up and how it came together. I feel that the triple romances were bland, but no shocker there, and that some of the characters were more hollow than others. Okay, most, but yeah. Then, of course, there is the Alice aspect to it, and that is intense.

Granted, not as intense as reading, say, Karin Slaughter, but by Roberts standards it was intense and rather graphic. To read about Alice’s disappearance and the animal that had kidnapped her and broken her was rough. Just thinking about it and all that she suffered through it heartbreaking. I think that Roberts tied story in quite solidly with the story of the ranch and all really well. There wasn’t really a hitch in the story and it worked.

Okay, so then there is the romance. It is nothing special, nothing new, and Roberts, of course, played out her recipe as always. Man falls is love with strong woman, bends her to his will, decides they will be in love and get married, the woman will come around eventually. After all, strong as she is, she is still a damsel that needs saving. Yep. That’s it. Luckily this book brings more to the table than just a predictable romance. Also, my eyes were rolling at the whole bar fight and all that. I, personally, do not think it is sexy when a man wants to mission out and give another man a beatdown, and makes it this big affair. Not manly, just so stupid. Once you’ve exceeded your teens, get over that crap. So stupid.

Anyway, Come Sundown is a good read. It flows well, features a fun family and great interactions between the characters, and is interesting. It also has a dark side to it that weaves itself into the story quite well. Granted, the more modern dark side in this is a bit messy, and not unpredictable at all, but the original starting point? Really good.

Review: The Equalizer 2 (2018)

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“There are two kinds of pain in this world. The pain that hurts, the pain that alters.”
– Robert McCall

SYNOPSIS: Robert McCall serves an unflinching justice for the exploited and oppressed, but how far will he go when that is someone he loves? – via IMDB

So I finally got to watching The Equalizer 2. I missed it in cinema when it came (and that sucked, because it is something I would have liked to have seen in cinema), but never mind that. I prepped myself by rewatching The Equalizer and then we moved on to this one and let me say, I was not disappointed. Definitely different from the first, but not in a bad way. Certainly not as memorable as its predecessor, but an engaging watch nonetheless.

Denzel Washington is, of course, an excellent pick for Robert McCall. He slips into the role and is simply fantastic in it. The storyline is a little more predictable than I would have liked, but it in no way detracted from the enjoyment to be found here. The action is solid and keeps you hooked, and Washington struts around demanding to be seen. I appreciate how the movie has grown from what was originally created, and it changes enough to not be too drastic, but enough to not be stale. That being said, it is not a perfect movie.

McCall is still trying to work with people, make them grow and realise their potential, and is now rather enterprising in his venture to help people out. There are loads of situations where I was pleased to see how he handled them, defending people who needed it. Of course we are supposed to like this aspect, but still. I quite enjoyed the humour, too, with a few good laughs in between. McCall is an interesting character to watch and follow, and so these movies are well worth it. The Equalizer 2 had tons of action, enough heart, pretty solid acting (with Washington dominating as a whole) and is pretty good, though nowhere near as good as the first.