Review: The Bat – Jo Nesbø

5

Harry Hole #1

SYNOPSIS: Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case. – via Goodreads

You know, I have been interested in reading these books for years as you always see Nesbø books around the bookstore and all that, then there was the movie that came last year that people got excited about and it apparently let them down. Well, I saw this one at the library the other day and figured I would give it a shot, even though I have it on my Kindle because there is nothing like reading a physical book.

I believe that the first two books in this series were translated long after the subsequent novels, which is interesting. I also understand that the original two offerings are the weakest of the lot, so let me get into it. The translation is really good, you don’t get hung up on the fact that the book is translated. Maybe it is because Harry is a Norwegian man in Australia, so you are constantly in Australia as is, and not in his native hometown, so there is no constant reminder that English is not the first language of the book. Now, that being said, there are some issues.

For one, there aren’t a lot of likeable characters, and this includes our main peanut. I was also not super impressed with Harry’s relapse, and how he somehow managed to solve a case he had no business being in anymore. Also, the villain is a total let down. A complete and utter let down. There were times where I felt that the book was trying to be too smart, and ultimately ended up too confused for its own good, but it is what it is. The direction and pacing also felt a little strange to me, but yeah.

The story itself moves quickly, though the characters are quite meh, and it feels like its running in circles. The mystery had more potential than it ultimately delivered. I do think that the book takes more heat than it deserves, and that may very well be because people started later in the series and got a more complete man to follow as opposed to this one. Anyway. I did like the scattered premise, and I did like that it was a quick and easy read, and I did like reading about Aboriginal history in pieces here and there as well as some of the cultural stories, I thought they were some of the strongest and most fascinating pieces of the book.

I liked that Harry as such a flawed protagonist, so while The Bat might not be the most solid book I have ever read, I am willing to get through the first two to see what Nesbø does with Harry Hole. He is interesting and has loads of potential, and even though people say that the first two are weak and can be skipped, I cannot start a series a few books in in good conscience.

Review: Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett

0

SYNOPSIS: We all know someone like Thomas.

The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.

Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.

But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world. – via Goodreads

So, it did take this book a while to actually become something to me, but it finally did ramp up from the slog it was initially. While it did not hit the heights of the claim of being “the feel good novel of 2017”, it certainly was a decent read, and it was a quick one, too.

The plot is absurd, and it is good. A lot of time is spent in the beginning of the book telling us a little bit about Thomas and then the Ormerod family, and it isn’t happy, pleasant stuff. Not super dramatic either, it just feels like filler, even though it is important to set up the remainder of the novel. Necessary, though. Then the novel just dives in. The whole story is built on a wrong number call made by Thomas Major, and from there, things snowball.

I really like Gladys. She is sweet and endearing and it is really sad to know that she has knowledge of the fact that dementia is taking her. Ellie is a character that did not grow on me, not at all, no matter what was happening. James is a cute and confused little boy, and Delil is the comic relief we need in this whole thing. I really enjoyed the interactions between Major Tom and James, super sweet.

The book is a bit predictable though, not going against anything in the heartwarming formula, and that is okay. Once you accept the premise, it gets rolling, and when you start wondering when the humour is going to start kicking, you get some particularly juicy Taxi Driver, ninja granny moments, and it is great. Calling Major Tom also plays heavily on Thomas Major’s name and mission in connection to David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and it works for this. It is just enough to not be too much. It also has a pretty decent message it presents, never too heavy handed about it, either.

While not my favourite book, Calling Major Tom is a decent read and is very sweet. Characters you don’t expect to grown on you do (like Craig), and the story is fun to follow. I liked it, even though I didn’t love it. Others will likely enjoy it more than I did if this is their genre – let’s not forget mine is mind games, gore, and twisted killers.

Review: Bitter – Francesca Jakobi

0

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out?

It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son. – via Goodreads

Bitter is a really strange book. When I read it, I initially disliked Gilda intensely. She is nasty and cruel and reminded me of someone, and I didn’t like how obsessed she was with her son. Like really, it is unhealthy. She is not a likeable character at all. And yet she is the main character of the book and we need to follow her story, and as we do, we slowly learn more about her.

Gilda has a fantastic friend she treats like dirt but who loves her enough to stick around, though why anyone would put up with that for as long is beyond me. Then there is her obsession with her son and jealousy of his wife. It is pretty intense when a mother cannot see her son (child) as an individual, something more than just a title, a person who has hopes and dreams, but instead has a concept for them that they must adhere to, but still insists that they know their child better than anyone.

Anyway, let me not get caught up in that. It really seems that Gilda needs some serious mental health help, and the book goes on to show you the disturbing things she does, and as it does so, you learn more about her, that ultimately you can understand how Gilda got to the place she is in life, and you really hope that she will be able to overcome it. Bitter is not an easy read, though it reads fast. It is a decent one, one I am glad that I read. I could definitely recommend Bitter to anyone interested in darker books that are more of a character study.

Review: The Mist – Stephen King

5

SYNOPSIS: It’s a hot, lazy day, perfect for a cookout, until you see those strange dark clouds. Suddenly a violent storm sweeps across the lake and ends as abruptly and unexpectedly as it had begun. Then comes the mist…creeping slowly, inexorably into town, where it settles and waits, trapping you in the supermarket with dozens of others, cut off from your families and the world. The mist is alive, seething with unearthly sounds and movements. What unleashed this terror? Was it the Arrowhead Project—the top secret government operation that everyone has noticed but no one quite understands? And what happens when the provisions have run out and you’re forced to make your escape, edging blindly through the dim light? – via Goodreads

I have been on a real roll with King recently, and wanted another read recently, but did not want to commit to a bigger book again (don’t even judge me), and decided I have put off reading The Mist for way too long now, even though I have seen the movie and enjoyed it, too. Well, The Mist is a great pick as you get your King fill and it breezes along so quickly that it is over before you even know it.

The Mist is not a long book (obviously), but is a bit longer than one would expect for a short story, so it’s pretty cool like that. The book wastes no time setting itself up and diving into the story, and also doesn’t spend too much time exploring the whys and the whats, it just gets into it all, which is fantastic. You get this little slice of terror and then it is over, leaving you reeling, asking all the questions that won’t really get answered, and that is okay.

For a short story, there are quite a few characters, and more are fleshed out than you would expect, and I liked that. Our main peanut is David Drayton, and we read of him, his struggles, and how he tells the story of all the crazy that ensues after Maine suffers a heavy, odd storm. Ollie is a character I enjoyed, as well as Mrs Reppler (teacher). Mrs Carmody peeved me, so in a few short pages King still manages to give you a character to dislike.

The Mist is a great example of a monster horror, which is awesome. Not much mincing around with the paranormal or psychological here my friend, oh no, let’s get straight into that bizarre, nasty, monster horror that one sometimes so desperately craves. This book totally delivers on all fronts there, so that is good.

Overall, The Mist is a pretty damn good short, quick read if you are interested, and has monster horror to keep you going. It knows what it is and it goes for it, no mincing about. It is well written and barrels along, definitely worth the read.

Review: Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three – Mara Leveritt

2

SYNOPSIS: In 2011, one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American legal history was set right when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were released after eighteen years in prison. Award-winning journalist Mara Leveritt’s The Devil’s Knot remains the most comprehensive, insightful reporting ever done on the investigation, trials, and convictions of three teenage boys who became known as the West Memphis Three.

For weeks in 1993, after the murders of three eight-year-old boys, police in West Memphis, Arkansas seemed stymied. Then suddenly, detectives charged three teenagers, alleged members of a satanic cult, with the killings. Despite the witch-hunt atmosphere of the trials, and a case which included stunning investigative blunders, a confession riddled with errors, and an absence of physical evidence linking any of the accused to the crime, the teenagers were convicted. Jurors sentenced Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley to life in prison and Damien Echols, the accused ringleader, to death. The guilty verdicts were popular in their home state, even upheld on appeal, and all three remained in prison until their unprecedented release in August 2011.

With close-up views of its key participants, this award-winning account unravels the many tangled knots of this endlessly shocking case, one which will shape the American legal landscape for years to come. – via Goodreads

You know, I heard about this clusterfuck when I was much younger and watched Paradise Lost. I was horrified. Me, my husband, my circle of friends? We were (and still are) those “weird” kids, those “Satanists” with our black shirts, our band shirts, our black trench coats, spiked wristbands and belts, outspoken questioning of religion, dark hair, dark makeup, black nails, the whole shebang. Back then, and even now, if you had to look at my reading habits, movies/series collection and Google search history in a witch hunt style and with and closed mind, I would probably also have been tossed in prison and the key thrown away. Appearances can be deceiving.

I know that there is a vehement back and forth about whether Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley are innocent or not. This book is a great read to get you up to speed with the finer nuances of the case, investigation, and trial. Yes, Leveritt tried and for the most part succeeded in being as impartial as possible concerning the West Memphis Three, and the book never came across as repetitive. The book read very easily and was a thorough affair. The notes substantiated the content, and the content is written in a way that it is not bogged down by inner monologue and personal opinions, and so presents the horror that was visited on those three poor victims, as well as that botched investigation and joke of a trial. It is presented in a clear, concise way and is structured in a way that is understandable and easy to get into. It is presented that the information never bogs you down, and makes logical sense.

I was hooked on this book, and I highly recommend it for a read. It is not boring, and doesn’t read too heavily, either, making it daunting. It just barrels along and isn’t repetitive at all in giving forth the information, and you don’t feel Leveritt is forcing an opinion on you, just informing. The lunacy of the situation had me gasping and in shock on multiple occasions. Super solid true crime read.

Review: Haunting the Deep – Adriana Mather

3

How to Hang a Witch #2

SYNOPSIS: Samantha Mather knew her family’s connection to the infamous Salem Witch Trials might pose obstacles to an active social life. But having survived one curse, she never thought she’d find herself at the center of a new one.

This time, Sam is having recurring dreams about the Titanic . . . where she’s been walking the deck with first-class passengers, like her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, in Sam’s waking life, strange missives from the Titanic have been finding their way to her, along with haunting visions of people who went down with the ship.

Ultimately, Sam and the Descendants, along with some help from heartthrob Elijah, must unravel who is behind the spell that is drawing her ever further into the dream ship . . . and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers. – via Goodreads

So I devoured How to Hang a Witch and loved every second of it. When I saw that Adriana Mather had a second book, I didn’t even hesitate to order it, and as soon as it arrived, I sunk my teeth into it. I didn’t read a single thing about this book before buying it, so I was beyond thrilled to see that we got to continue on with Sam’s story. This is a great example of a sequel not ruining all that fantastic groundwork laid in the first novel.

Sam’s dad is back in action, and he is actually a character I thoroughly enjoy. The setup between the Meriwethers and the Mathers is adorable, too, and I am impressed with how Mather handled the whole Jaxon/Elijah/Sam triangle from the first. Speaking of, having Elijah pop up made me way happier than I can say. For reals, the interactions between him and Sam are fantastic.

While the villain of this book was not surprising or shocking, the read is a super fun journey to undertake again. There is magic, romance, teens with their issues, friendship and personal growth, so Haunting the Deep hit all the same highs as the predecessor, which is rare. It’s cool that the Descendants are back, and we get to learn a bit more about them here, too. Salem is also the perfect town for the backdrop for this world that has been woven, so that is really cool.

Adriana Mather writes well, has given us characters to love and a world eager to be returned to, and there is not really much more you can ask for. There is heart, humour and fun to be had. Again, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Go out. Read them now. You won’t regret it!

Review: How to Hang a Witch – Adriana Mather

4

How to Hang a Witch #1

SYNOPSIS: Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself. – via Goodreads

I stumbled on this randomly recently, thought it looked alright, bought it, let it languish. I mean really, isn’t that what readers do? Then I saw it in my library and was like “it’s time”, and man, I have no regrets. This book is absolutely fantastic! It is so much more than I thought it would be, and it really does tick like all my boxes. I think one of the blurbs was something like “Mean Girls meets the Salem Witch Trials”, and dammit, it really is just like that.

I need to back up a minute and find a way to articulate myself. There is just so much going for this book that had me thrilled every step of the way. Uhm, let’s see… I really enjoyed the characters. They are not super deep characters or anything, but they all have their little quirks and things, and they really give the story some oomph. The author gives a great, authentic vibe throughout the book, too. The story flows and doesn’t ever feel forced or unnatural.

I was super swept up by this, as you can tell. Everything just worked in it, and I particularly enjoyed Elijah’s character, and Sam, too, is a fun protagonist to follow. Mrs Meriwether is a lovely lady, and Jaxon (despite that spelling) is worth reading about. The book is steeped in history, but not like historical fiction. It has most definitely been modernised, and you can tell the author has put a lot of research and time into the history (not surprising when you see she is a fourteenth generation Mather).

I think that How to Hang a Witch has it all. We have romance, fun, the supernatural, a mystery, magic, everything you would need. I really felt like a young kid reading this again. It’s awesome because while this is probably directed at young adults, it totally works for adults, too. The book speaks of bullying and alienation and other themes, too, but I am really not going to get smack involved with discussing the hell out of that. Know that there are a lot of themes in this and they are all handled really well.

The book is really well written with some super fun characters and a great story to sink your teeth into. I raced through this and was heartbroken when I got to the end because, well, then it was over. I can see how this is something I am going to revisit again in the future. I loved this and highly recommend it, and will calm down now and put a sock in it.

Review: Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

7

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.  – via Goodreads

You know, last year I read Final Girls by Sager and quite enjoyed it, though I didn’t quite love it like most people did. When I saw he had a new book, I thought I would definitely have to check it out, and boy, this time I loved it, not just like.

Last Time I Lied slowly (read: excruciatingly slow) reveals Emma’s story. The book constantly flips between Emma as an adult, returning to Camp Crystal Lake Camp Nightingale as an instructor, and fifteen years before when she was a gangly young teen who was present when something awful happened, something that coloured every aspect of her life. Now, this flipping between the past and the present totally sets up the reveals, but is also so gradual that it gets under your skin because you just want the damn story already. Clever, because even as the fingers of frustration claw at you, the atmosphere wins out and you can totally deal with the mystery unfolding painstakingly.

I won’t lie, I got a super Pretty Little Liars vibe while reading this. Like, something awful happened at this camp, something terrible, and it is laced in secrets and people incapable of just revealing something and dealing with the consequences. Vivian also made me think of Alison diLaurentis, which is a cruel but accurate description. I quite enjoyed reading about all the suspense, the theories, the conspiracies, as well as digging into this mystery with Emma, because soon I, too, needed to know exactly what happened to Vivian, Natalie, and Allison (no, that is not lost on me).

There are some snags along the way, but nothing that detracts too heavily from the experience. A touch of predictability tossed in here and there, but nothing that made this eye-rollingly obvious and cliché. I truly enjoyed the characters as well as some of the feelings that were conveyed successfully here – the guilt, the confusion, the childishness at times, the betrayal, the anger, it all worked quite well.

All I have to say when all is said and done is that I was so hooked while reading Last Time I Lied. Sager crafts a mysterious, suspenseful story that will take you hostage. I raced through this book, and even thought about it when I was denied reading it because I have to adult and hold down a job (speaking of, what utter nonsense is that?!). I would highly recommend this read, especially if you enjoy Sager’s work. It is solid, thrilling, entertaining, and this is something I might very well return to in future.

Review: Obsessed – T.R. Ragan

4

Lizzy Gardner #4

SYNOPSIS: Desperate for better ratings, radio psychologist Madeline Blair tells her listeners she’s being stalked, unaware that her long-time listener and biggest fan, Seth Brown, will do anything to protect her. When her publicity stunt is revealed, Seth becomes enraged by her deceit and dangerously unhinged.

When her friends mysteriously begin to vanish and damning evidence points to Madeline, she turns to private investigator Lizzy Gardner for help. Lizzy knows her way around a murderer’s mind, after surviving her own horrifying ordeal at the hands of a serial killer years ago.

As Lizzy closes in, Seth Brown is undeterred. Madeline wanted a stalker and now she has one. Nothing is going to stop him. He’s obsessed.  – via Goodreads

Ah, another better entry to the series. I thoroughly enjoyed A Dark Mind, and was interested to see if Ragan was able to continue with the series, which started dismally and forgettable for me, and has moved on to better things. Obsessed is another decent entry to the series, and continues to step up the darkness that Ragan is setting up.

The book picks up two years after the events following the Lovebird Killer, and Lizzy’s life seems to be much better – not constantly being stalked, attacked, etc. and she’s engaged. It seems to be going well. Hayley, however, seems to be stuck in this Brian Rosie obsession (har har) still, and not letting up. It is really getting a bit old to be reading about her fixation on him (even though I get it) and take all this Punisher-style stuff seriously. It just… doesn’t come across as genuine or realistic. Kitally featured previously before, and gets a much bigger role here. I must admit, I quite like the character, and I am interested in reading more about her, even though her story is, as with the rest of the backstories in these books, a bit out there.

I cannot quite believe Jessica slipped off the radar for two years and conveniently pops up for this chapter in Lizzy’s life, but okay. Again, these books require a lot of suspension of belief. Numerous cases are juggled again, and once again it is handled better than the first two books. Obsessed also features another compelling villain, one that I was quite intrigued with, especially what with reading about things from his perspective, and how he set out to do things. Bizarre, and handled well.

Obsessed barrels along nicely and is engaging throughout, provided you are willing to accept this world as not completely grounded in reality as we know it. Not a bad entry, and it definitely contributes to me checking out more from Ragan, a writer who is rising in my esteem with each book.

Review: Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

6

Bill Hodges Trilogy #1

SYNOPSIS: In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable. – via Goodreads

This is yet another of those books that I have been meaning to read and just never got to… I am seriously starting to contemplate a book blind spot list alongside my movie one! Anyway, I have thoroughly been enjoying the King books I have been reading recently, and decided that now was a fantastic time to dip my toes into this trilogy, and boy, I wasn’t wrong!

King, as always, weaves some truly interesting characters. These didn’t necessarily feel as nuanced as some of his other works, but they were good. I really liked Jerome, he was a really good character, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his interactions with Holly as well as Hodges. Holly, too, was a character I grew to like a lot, as I was rather suspicious of her initially. Hodges and Janey have such a lovely relationship, and it was something I did look forward to.

Mr Mercedes is a book that gets down to business relatively fast. There are characters we meet, they get killed, and the story gets underway. The books breezes by really quickly, too, so it just gets into the swing of things, and reads as though this is not the first instalment in a series, which is an art to be appreciated. The humour, too, was pretty solid here, and I had a few smiles throughout. I also really liked the Judas Coyne reference that was thrown in here by King – little Easter eggs like that are thing I super enjoy in his world.

Brady is an engrossing villain, too. I was hooked reading all his pages, though he made me sick. Without a doubt he was definitely off his rocker in some fundamental ways, and it was so sad to read about his childhood – not for him, but for Frankie. The relationship between him and his mother is proper disturbing, too.

Mr Mercedes might not be King’s greatest work, but it is definitely still well worth the read. It flows well, has a good story and it is interesting, and is peppered with characters you will get involved with and invest in. I will definitely be checking out the other books in this series.