Review: End of Watch – Stephen King

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Bill Hodges Trilogy #3

SYNOPSIS: In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city. – via Goodreads

And so ends the Bill Hodges trilogy, and that’s sad, too, because I enjoyed the trilogy. This one definitely had me drawn in because I wanted to see Hartsfield and Hodges have their showdown again, for them to go toe to toe and all that, and I was not let down, though I honestly was hoping that Hartsfield was more Carrie than an electronic handheld device, but no matter.

End of Watch is, of course, well written, and brings Hodges, Holly, and Jerome back together, and I always like it when the trio teams up and gets to it. This is definitely the first of the three books that goes back to a typical strange, supernatural King story as opposed to the simple, clean investigative mysteries so far, which I like, as it marries this current series with a style of his we are more familiar with, and he does it successfully.

This is a fast, easy read, and I must say that the story was engaging. A little more predictable than some of the other work we are more used to from King, but well worth it. I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this, other than I enjoyed it.

End of Watch is a solid end to a good trilogy, and I enjoyed it. Well written, good pacing, characters we have come to love, I would recommend this trilogy for anyone wanting to check out King, especially if they are looking for his work that is not firmly rooted in the supernatural horror.

Review: Deadly Recall – T.R. Ragan

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Jessie Cole #2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: When you search for the missing, there’s no telling what you’ll find. PI Jessie Cole learned that painful truth firsthand when her sister disappeared. Now a new case will test Jessie and Ben once again.

Owen Shepard, the public face of one of the country’s biggest health insurance companies, has become the target of a vengeful father. The man blames Shepard for his child’s death and plans to make the CEO know what it’s like to live with a broken heart—and watch others die. After killing two employees, the desperate father kidnaps Shepard’s daughter. Tasked with finding her, Jessie and crime reporter Ben Morrison are running out of time to save her.

Meanwhile, Ben is still seeking insight into the man he used to be before a car crash erased his memories. And each discovery is leading Jessie and him down a frightening road. What they find could scar both of them forever. – Goodreads

You know, I have read the majority of the Lizzy Gardner series, and I am really not a fan. It’s like… they are okay to read, but nothing special at all. When this series launched, I thought it would be worth giving it a shot, and I was actually impressed with Her Last Day. I didn’t expect to be, but I was. I am pleased to say that the second instalment in the Jessie Cole series is also a pretty good read.

There really are so many parallels between the Gardner books and the Cole books, but I honestly feel that the execution and characters are far better in the Cole books. Again, the pacing is a lot better in this. The book speeds by and is interesting throughout, not suffering from a lot of unnecessary bloat, and the multiple cases being dealt with are handled really well here, neither being forgotten or wasted away.

Zee returns in this book, and I am glad about that, as she is a character who is odd but I like her. Deadly Recall also gives us a bit more time to chew on Ben Morrison and who/what he is, as this book spends some more time digging into that. I really like this aspect, and I think Ragan is handling it really well.

Overall, Deadly Recall is a solid follow up to Her Last Day, and I am really interested to see where Ragan takes it from here. The book reads quickly, is interesting, and has characters that are more memorable than her other series. All in all, it works better, and is well worth the read if you are looking for a little something new to look into.

Review: Dead Weight – T.R. Ragan

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Lizzy Gardner #2

SYNOPSIS: Private investigator Lizzy Gardner knows a thing or two about living in the past. As a teenager, she was terrorized by a serial killer, an ordeal that haunted her for more than a decade before the maniac was finally stopped. So when terminally ill Ruth Fullerton begs Lizzy to reopen the cold case into her daughter’s disappearance, it’s hard to say no. More than twenty years have passed since Carol Fullerton vanished, abandoning her car by the side of a California freeway. The police wrote her off as a runaway, yet something tells Lizzy the truth isn’t so simple…

Carol’s cold case has barely begun to thaw when Andrea Kramer shows up at Lizzy’s door. Andrea’s sister, Diane, has been missing for months, and she’s convinced a charismatic weight-loss guru—part Tony Robbins and part Richard Simmons—is responsible. Diane was obese, but could her obsession with losing weight have led to her disappearance?

As if two active missing persons cases weren’t enough, Lizzy is also trying to manage her two teenage assistants, including one as wounded and haunted by her past as Lizzy. – via Goodreads

Decided to check out more of the books in this series (I bought almost all of them on a monthly special on Amazon). I was maybe not the biggest fan of the first, but Lizzy’s past was an interesting enough motivator for me to check out more. Well. Well. Well. Uhm, yeah. This wasn’t bad, but it was essentially more of the same.

The romance that was so hugely built between Lizzy and Jared in the first book is dragged up time and time again in this without actually going anywhere, and then we also  need to deal with Lizzy’s fear of so many things. Then there is Hayley, who is not adjusting to her new life and carries a lot of bitterness and resentment and is incredibly unlikable here, even though I liked her well enough in the first. I understand her anger, just got over reading about her silly inward fights. The competition and edginess between Jessica and Hayley was something I liked.

I didn’t like the pacing for this – it was messy. Lizzy is working two cases, and yet neither case feels like anything as the book is just all over the show. The one case definitely took precedence, but they both felt hollow. The saddest thing about that is that both cases are actually rather interesting, just not handled really well.

Well, considering I have all the others to check out, I will go ahead with that at some stage. I don’t think these are the worst books, and they are decent filler reads that zip along and don’t require too much investment, and that’s decent at least.

Review: The Coffin Dancer – Jeffery Deaver

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Lincoln Rhyme #2

SYNOPSIS: NYPD criminalist Lincoln Rhyme joins his beautiful protege, Amelia Sachs, in the hunt for the Coffin Dancer–an ingenious killer who changes appearance even faster than he adds to his trail of victims. They have only one clue: the madman has a tattoo of the Grim Reaper waltzing with a woman. Rhyme must rely on his wits and intuition to track the elusive murderer through New York City–knowing they have only forty-eight hours before the Coffin Dancer strikes again. – via Goodreads

Alrigthy then folks, let’s get on with this series! I recently read the first one after putting it off for so many years (don’t you dare judge me, my To Read list is so daunting I sometimes just stare at my Kindle wondering where I will go next on my reading journey, and then just keep staring). I loved it, and I just knew that I had to keep on with it and see where it all went. Well, the follow up to The Bone Collector certainly does not disappoint!

Lincoln Rhyme returns in style, and certainly has more drive for living than he did in the first one. Apparently the Bone Collector drew him out of his depressive shell, and reuniting with Sellitto and acquainting with Sachs is the best thing that could have happened to him. I truly enjoy Rhyme’s mind, and was again drawn into this book and fascinated with our main man being a C4 quadriplegic. Sachs, too, is a character I thoroughly enjoyed. They both had actions in this book that felt a little jarring to the characters we have been presented with up to this point, but oh well.

Percey Clay is a character that really peeved me in the beginning, and not just because I am attached to Sachs and love the interactions between her and Rhyme (that dynamic is fascinating). No, I had beef with how incredibly selfish Percey was, and then she was lauded as being to brave. No, being pigheaded does not necessarily make you brave. Ugh. But on the opposite side of her, we have Roland Bell and Fred Dellray to read about, and they are both characters I thoroughly enjoyed.

I always appreciate reading the interactions between Rhyme and Thom, they are like family, and Thom does not put up with Rhyme’s temper and neglect of his body, and the two are quite close. This is never more clear than when Thom is proud of Rhyme’s accomplishments and how much he (Rhyme) is enjoying his new gadgets, etc. It’s adorable. Then there is the realtionship between Sachs and Rhyme, and I really like it because it is not a romance as you would think of it – that fire is there, don’t get me wrong, but they have immense amount of respect for one another and both push each other, which I like. I did not like the insane jealousy plot that was put in here, it felt a little forced and silly.

The Coffin Dancer was another smart, worthy nemesis for Rhyme to track, and it was quite an intense journey. The Coffin Dancer is as twisty as you would expect, which totally works, and kept me hooked. The plot barrels along, proving that Deaver is quite a deft writer. There are some niggles and issues here, to be sure, but for the most part this is a super entertaining read.

Overall, The Coffin Dancer is a solid follow up for Lincoln Rhyme, and this series has certainly hooked me with these two books. I am really looking forward to reading more on this. The books so far have proven to be smart and well written, two things I appreciate in a book.

Review: Abducted – T.R. Ragan

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Lizzy Gardner #1

SYNOPSIS: Elizabeth Gardner (Lizzy) is seventeen-years old when she tells her parents she’s going out with her girlfriends. Instead, she meets up with her boyfriend, Jared Shayne. As she walks home beneath an inky black sky, her perfect night becomes her worst nightmare.

Fourteen years later, Lizzy is a licensed PI known as the ‘one who got away’. When she’s not searching for runaway teenagers, working on insurance scams, or talking to her therapist, she’s at the local high school teaching young girls to defend themselves. But her world is turned upside down for the second time after she receives a call from Jared Shayne. He’s an FBI special agent now and he needs her help. Lizzy has no plans to get involved. Not until Jared tells her the kidnapper left her a personalized note. – via Goodreads

I picked this up recently on an Amazon deal, and figured it might be worth a read. Not wasted money, that’s for sure, but a lot tamer than I thought it would be. Well, I suppose it was never going to be a Karin Slaughter novel (so few are), but I didn’t expect it to be so romancy. For reals. But okay, we will talk about all these things.

The concept of a girl being trapped with a serial killer for two months before escaping is quite heavy, and there could have been so much more material to work with there. Ragan plays it safe, however, and gives us just enough for our imaginations to cook up the rest of whatever happened to Lizzy while she stayed with Spiderman. The aftermath is also never really addressed, which would be fine, but more about her parents and what happened after would have been something. Also, Cathy’s lack of empathy and support for her sister is shocking.

An issue I had with the book is how one dimensional all the characters are, which is a pity. The only characters you can really feel for are Hayley and Lizzy, no more, no less. Oh, and Jess also had quite a bit going for her. Jared, the love interest, the boy who carried guilt about what happened to Lizzy as well as a torch for her all the way into his adulthood never really becomes real, if that makes sense. Jimmy, the FBI agent who has worked the longest and hardest on Lizzy’s case is a side character who rarely gets brought up, and is supposed to have such a close relationship with Jared,  yet it is never showcased.

I liked the fact that the book was a really quick read, and despite being predictable and not really shocking, it definitely keeps you interested enough to see where it all goes. I felt that the ultimate explanation we got for the Spiderman and his antics was a bit of a cop out, and was also glossed over so quickly. I was not particularly thrilled with how quickly Jared and Lizzy picked up some sort of a relationship, despite having been in one when she was a teen and abducted. It just felt a little far fetched and forced for me. The logic was questionable, and the writing sloppy at the best of times, too.

Abducted may not be the strongest entry to a series of books and is predictable, but it was enough to entertain me (and frustrate me with the ridiculous logic) and convince me to give the next book a shot to see how it works out.

Review: Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter

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karin slaughter pretty girls cover

SYNOPSIS: Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7Gosh, I have had this book for a while and yet I never got to it (shame on me), which is madness, you all know that I am a major Karin Slaughter junkie. Anyway, finally it was time. I really like the fact that Slaughter has a bunch of standalone novels, and they are really good, but I am having serious Will Trent withdrawals, and totally need another look see and a story there. NOTE: It would appear that her latest novel is a Trent one, yay!

Pretty Girls is structured in a strange way, but that is not a bad thing. There are sections where a father writes to his daughter, by way of journal, then other parts that tell a certain part of the story from one person’s perspective, and then later by another. There was a plotsie that I thought about round about the same time Paul died, and I brushed it aside because come on, this is Slaughter, she is not a rookie writer. I almost kicked myself shortly thereafter because the cliché and predicted plotsie came to pass. You can ask Natasha, I was supremely miffed by the turn of events, and was not best pleased. I reminded myself that this was Karin Slaughter we were talking about, this woman has got this. My faith paid off, and she corrected what I thought was a blunder, and made it work for her.

Pretty Girls is not filled with a lot of likable characters. In fact, you would be hard pressed to particularly enjoy either of the leads, but they grow on you. I did like the deceased father, Sam, though it is evident that pain and suffering and obsession ripped his family apart. Rick was awfully nice, too. The novel barrels along, and at just over 400 pages, one would assume that it feels long. Well, that is totally not the case, and the pages rush by, expounding a story that tells you about what loss can do to a family, and the variety of coping mechanisms that people turn to, for better or worse. While there are some brutal moments laced throughout the novel (and they do pop up from time to time), they are not nearly as harsh as her usual works, which surprised me a little.

While this was not my favourite novel of hers, I had a really good time and would obviously recommend this to folks. Slaughter is good. I mean, really, really good.

Rapid Review: Sicario (2015)

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sicario poster

“Nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything that we do, but in the end you will understand.”
– Alejandro

SYNOPSIS: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. – via IMDB

sicario

GRADE 7I was so looking forward to this, especially seeing how much love it was getting. Plus I thoroughly enjoyed Denis Villeneuve previous two films. I thought Prisoners to be really dark and messed up but fantastic, and while Enemy won’t be for everyone, I liked that, too. But then there was this one, and while it was good, I think it is awfully overhyped. It is shot beautifully, and features some solid performances, without a doubt, and it is interesting. However, the downfall is that the movie presents itself as though it is far smarter and difficult to understand than it is, so even though you follow the movie the whole way through, by the end you feel as though you have theoretically missed something, but upon reflection and reading, you know you haven’t. It also didn’t help that Emily Blunt’s Kate Macer will work on your last nerve for the duration of the movie. I totally didn’t want to say that cause I really like Emily Blunt, but hell man, what a nuisance she was here, and so whiny! Sicario showcases some impressive violence – not anything I thought to be overkill, but then I have realised over the years that I do not have a very good gauge for that, I am too desensitized. Maybe someone else can comment on that. However, in the movie’s defense, it was never just gratuitous violence, it all served a purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed Benicio del Toro’s turn as Alejandro. His character fascinated and scared me in equal measure, and was shrouded in mystery. He worked incredibly well across Josh Brolin. Del Toro was definitely the big draw for me here, and he did not let me down. I wish I could talk more about the characters and what went down, but there would be spoilers, so I will be quiet instead, cause screw spoilers. All in all it isn’t a bad watch, is put together well, looks fantastic and is interesting, but it falls short of the mark at times, and seems to be striving to be so much more than it actually is.

Sporadic Scene: RocknRolla (2008) – What Are These Guys Made Of?

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RocknRolla was just one of those movies that had so many great things going for it. There was plenty humour, an excellent cast and it was shot really well. Probably my favourite scene of the whole movie is when Mumbles, One Two and Handsome Bob pull a job together against some Russian thugs. Well, these Russians didn’t really take too kindly to being done in, and started fighting back. Mumbles, One Two and Handsome Bob try their utmost best to flee. The Russians didn’t like that, either. The scene progressively gets funnier and funnier, and I am in stitches every time I see these guys and their crazy antics.

If you have a scene that you would like featured, drop me a mail at sporadiczoe@hotmail.com with a link to the scene and an explanation as to why.