Review: Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

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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.

Sporadic Scene: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) – Hit Me Baby One More Time

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Man, this sure was a movie that knew what it was about and how to embrace it. There was tons of silly stuff going on and giggles to be had, but a standout scene from this is hands down the Britney Spears/zombie sing out that happened. Oh man, really now. It seriously cracked me up as everything about the scene is insanely ridiculous, and yet it feels right at home in this movie.

Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

2

“The Bible says to never take revenge, to leave it to the Lord. But I wasn’t prepared to wait that long.” 
– Darius Kincaid

SYNOPSIS: The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Criminal Court. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time. – via IMDB

Dear Lord, I didn’t expect a great movie or anything like that, but I am truly shocked at just how terrible this movie turned out to be. It was godawful and a bag of chips. The trailer had me thinking it would be alright, and it literally featured anything worth seeing in this movie.

My husband and I watched this looking for something a little silly, nothing serious, as we were exhausted from packing up the house (again) and thought something light would tick the boxes. Well, uhm, yeah, then there was this. We expected a bit of cheese, instead we got this hunk of junk. It was not even good cheesy, it just sucked. And it was so long. The two hour run time was so excessive – the movie felt even longer than that, while we are at it. A total punishment to watch.

The jokes were so lame in this, and not one brought forth even so much as a smile from me or my husband. It was deadpan all the way and checking the time more often than not. I know, stupid, we are completists and just sat through it and had regrets. I watch terrible movies because it is fun to write about after the fact, and you all know I have seen some really bad ones over the years.

Anyway, not even Ryan Reynolds could save this, and even a healthy dose of Samuel L. Jackson did nothing to cushion the blows from this. Lame, embarrassing, littered with crappy action sequences and horrendous dialogue, the plot is also just stupid and has no kick to make it worthwhile. It is predictable and messy, that’s all there is to it. Reynolds and Jackson work together, but it just isn’t enough for this wreck.

Yes, I disliked The Hitman’s Bodyguard immensely. That it had a decent cast attached to it and still managed to fail is not shocking, but I honestly didn’t think it would be quite so bad. But it is. It’s long, bloated, badly written and comes together poorly, I would say give this movie a wide berth, you won’t be missing anything at all.

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: White Chicks (2004)

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“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. “We?” Kevin, this ain’t about “we.” It’s never been. It’s about you. You come up with some stupid idea and I’m dumb enough to go along with it.”
– Marcus Copeland

SYNOPSIS: Two disgraced FBI agents go way undercover in an effort to protect hotel heiresses the Wilson sisters from a kidnapping plot. – via IMDB

I can’t help it. It is so bad but so entertaining in the most brain dead kind of way. In general, I absolutely hate movies like this, and yet this one entertains me so much. Maybe it is the nostalgia, who knows? But man, this just works for me and it should not. Gosh it is an instance of something so bad it is actually good.

Now that I can move on past my personal guilty pleasure disclaimer, let’s talk about the movie… not that there is really much to say or an awful lot to praise, but let’s talk about it anyway.

Shawn and Marlon Wayans really get into this, which I think is something that works for the movie. In fact, all the actors and actresses involved know exactly what kind of movie this is and they roll with it, and it totally works. The brothers are suitably ridiculous as the Wilson sisters, and their antics really did make me laugh. One can never, ever forget Terry Crews in this, as one will never hear Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles the same way again. The man has an absolute ball as Latrell Spencer, and his enthusiasm comes across plain and simple.

The plot is so thin, and yet the movie goes about it with gusto. Shut your brain off at the door and don’t even remotely try to make this a hypothetically realistic scenario, and you will be able to laugh at the ludicrous Prada handbag jokes, silly dance-offs, plenty bitchiness and have a good time with these two idiots running around trying to be fantastic FBI agents by impersonating two super shallow rich trust fun babies. I did think that there was just a bit too much toilet humour the movie could totally have done without.

You gotta admit that a lot of work went into making this Wayans brothers white women, as they did look a little creepy (let’s not pretend otherwise), but you cannot deny that it was a pretty damn solid transformation. The writing, too, with the silly jokes and all is actually quite fun, especially if you are looking for a fluffy, light movie to make you smile.

White Chicks is stupid but entertaining. I know most people dismiss it as outright terrible, and, well, it is kinda terrible in an amusing way (for me). The cast has fun, the soundtrack works with it, and it delivers exactly the kind of movie you would expect from the poster, and I appreciate that. That being said, I don’t know how I would have felt about this if I didn’t have the teenage nostalgia to go with it.

Review: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

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“It’s the zombie apocalypse! Come on, we’re scouts! We’re trained for this!”
– Augie

SYNOPSIS: Three scouts, on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak. – via IMDB

Decided to give this a go recently, and I must say, I was not disappointed. Mind you check your brain at the door though, otherwise this is going to be a waste, and do be in the mood for a silly comedy, because that is exactly what Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is going to deliver. That, and crude humour, but littered throughout that crude humour are some real gems, too.

Anyway, I thought that the cast was good. Sheridan, Miller, and Morgan all work together really well, and definitely pull together those three awkward friends thing. Dumont did her thing, too, but also really came across as the token female, which is also a little annoying.

The movie has a lot of crazy stuff going for it, too, such as the trampoline escape, and how can you not be intrigued by zombie cats? Really? Anyway, the pacing is a little off at times, but for the most part, this movie rolls along just fine and has a ton of ludicrous scenes that work with this. Scouts Guide is completely aware of the type of movie it is, and doesn’t put on airs to be more. It just wants to have fun, and by goodness, that is exactly what it does.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is juvenile and crass and absolutely ridiculous, and yet it works for a silly comedy, and it entertains, that cannot be denied. Worth the watch and a lot of fun, provided you check your brain at the door.

Review: Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

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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.

May Blind Spot Review: Big (1988)

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“So you got a job, where you play with all these toys?”
– Billy

SYNOPSIS: After wishing to be made big, a teenage boy wakes the next morning to find himself mysteriously in the body of an adult. – via IMDB

You know what… this one was going so well until it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t going well, my stomach was churning. Maybe let me back up and get this going properly so we are all on the same page.

In the beginning, I was having a good time. The movie was sweet and silly and so totally eighties, and Tom Ha

nks was totally just owning it. Preposterous movie, but cute. But then it went icky – quickly. Despite the fact that this 12 year old is now in an adult body, it does not make him an adult, so for the writers to have to engage in a sexual relationship with a coworker was just too much for me. I just went ICK and the movie never recovered from that.

Besides that whole section of nasty, the second half did suffer from being too adult-y and all that. Yeah, I get why, and yeah, I get the message and all that, and it is necessary for the story arc to start somewhere, progress, and then complete, but after Josh started kicking it with Susan, everything fell apart. I got the whole concept of how much life changes when you have to grow up, how the simplicity is lost, I didn’t mind the message, but I was having severe difficulties with the relationship component – even with his body, he is still a child, and my skin crawled.

In the first half there were a lot of fun things – it was funny to see a child find himself in an adult body and try to pick up a life and make things work, all the while having a total ball with all that cash and freedom. Tom Hanks is also excellent here, to be sure, and I thought he handled the role really well. He came across and genuine and adorable.

Anyway, I can’t really say Big was much of a winner. It started out alright and then it just went super dodgy, and it ruined the experience for me. I will certainly not be rushing out to watch this again. Once was enough.

Review: Nora Roberts – Divine Evil

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SYNOPSIS: A decade ago, sculptor Clare Kimball fled Emmitsboro, Maryland, to take the art world by storm. Now she’s celebrated as the artist of her generation. But no amount of success can eclipse the nightmares that haunt her—or the memories of her father’s suicide. Just as her star is shining brighter than ever, Clare leaves it all behind to face her demons.

Emmitsboro sheriff Cameron Rafferty loved Clare from afar all through high school. Now that she’s back, they form a bond that grows stronger each day—fueled by an attraction that’s been simmering for years. But Clare’s past soon rises up with a vengeance, rocking the town with a sinister murder that is clearly linked to her return. As an investigation gets under way, Clare and Cameron will learn that evil can linger anywhere—even in those you love and trust the most. But it’s a discovery that may come too late to save them.… – via Goodreads

Ugh this book. I honestly don’t know what I expected, if we are being honest, but it wasn’t this. There was this whole Satanic aspect to it that had the potential to be so damn interesting, but instead comes across as Hollywood hysteria. So the Satanic section fell totally flat, but this is a romance, so there might have been something to salvage it, right?

Wrong.

This whole aspect of the book peeved me, too. So there wasn’t much to save this book. Clare and Cam fall into each other’s arms and beds within like… ten minutes of meeting each other. Within a week he is talking about her moving in and marrying her. He is super controlling, she is such a bitch to him all the time, constantly mad (read: stereotypes galore). I mean love and marriage and all that after sex a few times within days of meeting each other. Damn. The romance is unrealistic (which is to be expected), but I resent this thing of the woman not wanting a white knight but needing one, and some man needing a woman and stepping in to take over her life because she, har har, needs saving.

Moving on from the meh romance, I also didn’t like any of the characters. They are all messy caricatures of stereotypes, so they really have nothing working for them. I was a bit perturbed by the decent people (Jean Pierre and Blair, etc.) being overly invested in young high school girls/majorettes. I totally wanted to get a romance from this with an investigation into the occult, but my hopes and dreams were crushed man. It isn’t that it is a terrible book, per se, it is just such a generic, bland book and it is excessively long. It had no right to be that lengthy, and the drag in this is what changed the story from being a decent, fluffy read to being a schlep.

Anyway, Divine Evil is not the worst mystery/murder romance you could read, but it certainly leaves a lot to be desired (haha, yes, I am on a roll). Shallow, flat characters litter a tedious book that cannot decide if it wants to be useless erotica or a hardcore murder mystery, yet totally lacking the conviction to be either.

Review: The Ritual (2017)

7

“My old scoutmaster used to say ‘If the shortcut was a shortcut, it wouldn’t be called a shortcut, it would be called a route’.”
– Dom

SYNOPSIS: A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them. – via IMDB

So I have been meaning to catch up with this at some stage since the posters took over the tube stations before it was released, and found it the other day. Decided to give it a go with my husband, and I thought it to be a pretty decent horror overall.

We have the isolation of the woods, some friends out and about in the wild to pay their final respects to a dead friend, so there is that whole aspect. Naturally their perfectly planned trip fall apart, and we get into the horror neck of things when they enter into the woods. Things start to go haywire from there, and I like the fact that the movie took its time with that. Subtle freaky things happening, nothing too on the nose.

The Ritual is really weird in the sense of how the scary things happen, blurring between reality and the nightmare of our main peanut basically, and the two get twisted together. Also, the creepy that is hunting them really is creepy, because you never see too much of the monster, and when you do, it really is messed up. Near the end we might have seen a touch  more than was strictly necessary (I always prefer glimpses and the concept of the big bad more than I actually like seeing it), but it didn’t ruin it. The Ritual is suspenseful and maintains that and the eeriness throughout, which is quite a feat, considering how that gets forgotten so often nowadays.

There is not too much to say other than this is a pretty good one. I don’t know how it will stand up to rewatch, or if that would even be necessary, but it is worth it while you are watching. There are some niggles, of course, and definitely some flawed logic, but for the most part it works. The pacing isn’t bad, laying everything out without rushing it or dragging it. The actors all did a good job, too. The fear is truly there, and I enjoyed it. I didn’t love it like some horrors, but this is definitely better than I was expecting.