Review: Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett

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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: Good Me, Bad Me – Ali Land

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SYNOPSIS: How far does the apple really fall from the tree?

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter. – via Goodreads

Well, I remember seeing this book and thinking it looked like it was a decent read, and then just never getting to it. It happens, don’t even judge me! Then I stumbled across it the other day quite a while back now on an Amazon deal and figured I might as well give it a shot, it looked interesting and like something I might like, what with my affinity to the darker elements of books.

Good Me, Bad Me is a decent read. The content is something that you are drawn to reading about, something that is dark and messed up, something that makes you want to see the larger picture to understand the extent of just how despicable Milly Annie’s story is, because that is human nature. You go for all of this and instead you get a relatively generic read.

The sentences are staccato and short, making it frustrating to read. Yes, I understand why this was written the way it was, but that doesn’t make it any better. It is also extremely difficult to pick apart when Annie is thinking something or when she is remembering something or if something is happening right now and it is her interpretation of the current issues. But still, all that being said and done, it doesn’t save this.

The story is winding and rather interesting, even while it is annoying and not enough answers are ultimately provided, though there is a lot of hinting. I saw a lot of rave reviews for this book, so I thought it would be better. Good Me, Bad Me is not a bad read, but it won’t linger with you long after, and it is rather forgettable.

Review: I Know Where She Is – S.B. Caves

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: On the tenth anniversary of her daughter Autumn’s abduction, Francine receives an anonymous note containing just five words: I KNOW WHERE SHE IS

When a young woman approaches her the next day claiming to have sent the letter Francine wants to dismiss it as a cruel, twisted joke.

But the stranger knows things that only Autumn would know.

It soon becomes clear that Francine must go to dark places in order to learn the truth about her child’s kidnapping.

She will discover that danger comes from unexpected sources. She will do things she never imagined herself capable of.

But will Francine get her daughter back – or is it too late? – via Goodreads

You know, I picked this out a while ago, but never got to it. I recently decided to give it a go, and I had just finished Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life, and drew so many parallels between this fictitious world and her horrible experience. Not because I was supposed to, but Dugard’s story was so fresh in my mind, the concept of snatched kids returning after all that time, hence the link for me, I suppose, because they aren’t really alike aside from that.

Right off, I would like to say that there are absolutely no likeable characters in this book. Francine, our main peanut and perpetually grieving mother, is just… meh. I understood the concept of her, and I felt for her, but this does not mean that I had to like her. And I didn’t. Next up in her permanently exasperated husband. Sure, another character I understood and felt for, but again didn’t like. Not to mention all the other characters peppered throughout this novel, none of them with actual stories, none of them real characters, but there to move the story along. While that was hollow at times, it also served the purpose really well that the only two characters who actually really meant anything were Autumn and her mother, for better or worse.

I think the concept was decent, and you know, nobody wants to think of the ugly world we live in, and that some seriously sick, nasty stuff really does happen. This book hits on that, but there are a lot of things that remain vague and never detail out, and are never explored in more depth. For instance, the pregnant girls, where the babies go, who raises them, how much more of this could possibly go on, how extensive it is, how the cops are involved but nobody is saying anything – so many loose ends. Still, you are drawn in and the story hooks you pretty early on.

I Know Where She Is wasted no time in getting started and barrelled along throughout the time I read it. It was also a quick read, and I think the flow of it helped a lot for that, too, and it quite well written. Even with its flaws, it is an engaging read, one you would like to know what happens, and what has happened, although you might not get the most satisfactory answers in those quests. But the story is good, Autumn is the only decent character, and it all comes together alright. I see that many people enjoyed this more than I did, but I think it might just have been the fact that I expected more from the conspiracy and brutality of it all, and a more well thought-out read than was ultimately delivered. Still, not a bad read, especially if you want something fast that has dark sections to it.

Review: I Know A Secret – Tess Gerritsen

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Rizzoli & Isles #12

I received this in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: The crime scene is unlike any that Detective Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles have ever before encountered. The woman lies in apparently peaceful repose on her bed, and Maura finds no apparent cause of death, but there is no doubt the woman is indeed dead. The victim’s eyes have been removed and placed in the palm of her hand, a gesture that echoes the terrifying films she produces. Is a crazed movie fan reenacting scenes from those disturbing films?

When another victim is found, again with no apparent cause of death, again with a grotesquely staged crime scene, Jane and Maura realize the killer has widened his circle of targets. He’s chosen one particular woman for his next victim, and she knows he’s coming for her next. She’s the only one who can help Jane and Maura catch the killer.

But she knows a secret. And it’s a secret she’ll never tell.  – via Goodreads

As you all probably know, I am a long time reader of Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, and I was pretty excited to be granted an advanced copy of the latest novel in this series, and I got to it as soon as possibly. I Know A Secret is a relatively fast read, but this is truly one of the novels in this series I found to be rather flat. Hear me out…

For starters, I Know A Secret never hits the heights you expect it to. It starts off running, but doesn’t ever go anywhere. Some grisly deaths, to be sure, but nothing special, not on the death scene, but the investigation. It just feels like it never goes anywhere, like there are moments it wants to break out and go somewhere, but instead it just gets stuck. All the material comes across as a rehash of sections of the previous novels and offers up nothing new.

There is no real character development here, either. Twelve books down, you would expect some more development coming in, because so many situations have been set up in previous books, and instead all just feels tired. Gerritsen explores nothing new, and instead just falls back into old patterns – Angela leaves Frank (thank goodness), Barry Frost returns to his ex-wife, Alice, and Maura and Daniel run right back into each other’s arms. Just like that, we are back to where we were a couple of books ago – no real growth or change, unfortunately. I thought there would be some major changes, especially with Amalthea Lank passing on. On that note, it also felt like she was forced into this, and I honestly thought she would have more to do with the book, especially after the way the novel opened.

I was quite pleased to read about Gabriel once again, though my (constant) wish is still that he would feature more prominently in the books, he is a great character, and he and Jane work really well together when we go get to read about them. I did like the concept of this book – kids being hunted down and butchered after all being involved in some heavy witch hunt as kids, and one that seems to be rather flimsy as the novel progresses. Holly Devine, too, was a character I never warmed to. She sort of felt like a caricature of a dangerous character, not someone who was actually dangerous. She had the potential to be more, but just like the rest of this novel, she just felt a bit tired

I Know A Secret is not a terrible read, and there were aspects I enjoyed, I just felt that it was quite a flat affair when all was said and done, an idea that never really spread its wings and took flight. It was uninspiring all round, and I am hoping that the next instalment proves to be a worthier addition of the series.

Review: Wayward – Blake Crouch

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Wayward Pines #2

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Wayward Pines, population 461. Nestled amidst picture-perfect mountains, the idyllic town is a modern-day Eden…except for the electrified fence and razor wire, snipers scoping everything 24/7, and the relentless surveillance tracking each word and gesture.
None of the residents know how they got here. They are told where to work, how to live, and who to marry. Some believe they are dead. Others think they’re trapped in an unfathomable experiment. Everyone secretly dreams of leaving, but those who dare face a terrifying surprise.

Ethan Burke has seen the world beyond. He’s sheriff, and one of the few who knows the truth—Wayward Pines isn’t just a town. And what lies on the other side of the fence is a nightmare beyond anyone’s imagining. – via Goodreads

So I returned to this after completing Pines, a book that was entertaining enough, albeit predictable and messy. Wayward brings more to the table, though it is still flawed. The fragmented sentences still reign supreme, and Ethan is still not the most likable protagonist in the world, and the logic and reasoning is still all over the show and a little hard to swallow, but overall the story definitely had more kick to it this time around.

Wayward breezes along, and to not have to follow Ethan around just trying to figure out who he is and just running is nice. We understand all that is sinister, and while we don’t know everything, we know enough to follow what’s cooking. Ethan’s actions are sometimes beyond ridiculous, but I have come to accept that it is simply how this character is. David Pilcher is explored a little more in this novel, and so is Pam. Ethan and Pam are supposed to hate each other to the ends of the world, but it just doesn’t feel real.

The story of Alyssa, while super engaging, was also rapidly swept under the rug, and dragged out once in a while to remind us that there was a murder investigation at play. I am interested to know what else Tobias learned on his furlough beyond the town, but it was no shocker whatsoever to learn who he is. Theresa annoyed me quite a bit – finally learning the truth and taking that anger out on Ethan, making out that he is an idiot for not changing things, that is not fair.

This book also did a much better job at addressing how things are handled in Wayward Pines, the structures, and how things worked. It almost makes it worse knowing how everything works in the town. Something I did take issue with, however, is how they want the residents to think that they are dead right, but they keep them in line with the fear of death? If you are already dead, how is death an effective threat? SO CONFUSED. I felt that there was a lot of filler stuff in between the actual plot as well as the explanations behind the town and what was going on, but because of the writing style this just zips by at least. As before, the book is more predictable than it would like you to believe.

Anyway. I will definitely read the final installment of this series. I have come this far and I need to know how things are going to work out for everyone, and what the end game is.

Review: The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

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“I don’t wanna take up a ton of your time, but I’m gonna kill myself. I just thought an adult should know.”
– Nadine 

SYNOPSIS: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. – via IMDB

Alright, so I know this rated really highly with people, so I was interested to see how this coming of age film sets itself apart from others in the genre, and there are a few ways, some good, and some bad. It was definitely different in the sense that you don’t actually really like our protagonist, though she does grow as the movie progresses (as to be expected), and ultimately you can see the changes.

Nadine is a more unlikable character than you are used to for this type of movie. Sure, they are supposed to have unlikable aspects, things that change as the movie progresses, but Nadine has virtually no redeeming points, and is selfish on a totally believable teenage level, this is to say that the whole world had to revolve around her. She also encounters situations where being abrasive doesn’t always helps, and other times it did. All that being said, I did like the way the movie did a really good job capturing the insecurities of a teenage girl, as well as the constant stress and complete teenage selfishness.

Even with that being done exceptionally well, I didn’t love this. It isn’t a bad movie, it just didn’t make me feel much of anything. I enjoyed watching Woody Harrelson, because he’s awesome and so was his character, but aside from that? Oh yes, there is Erwin, and I thought he was adorable. Besides them? There were no characters I really enjoyed, or situations, or interactions (except between Nadine and poor Mr Bruner). The movie just came across as really flat and shallow, which is unfortunate. It also wasn’t funny, which at times it felt like it was desperately trying to be. I didn’t find this as deep and poignant as others did. It isn’t a bad watch, it just didn’t do for me what I was hoping it would.

The Edge of Seventeen does a great job of capturing the totally self-centred nature of being a teen, as well as all the awkwardness of it. The movie features sold performances and is shot well, but it doesn’t have the heart or humour it thinks it has.

 

Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

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the-girl-on-the-train-cover

SYNOPSIS: EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? – via Goodreads

Uhm. Yeah. This. Why? Why was this so hyped? I disliked it within the first few pages (and not just because I am still bitterly missing 11/22/63 or anything like that). I kept reading. The jumping around of time grated on my last nerve. Seriously. It didn’t even jump around and make sense. It only made sense by the end. That doesn’t help man! I was left frustrated the whole way through. Forget the time skipping for a moment, and just look at the characters. They were hateful!

Hateful characters don’t help. There is nobody to root for. There is nobody you support, that you want to see win, come out tops, nothing. Rachel, our main main lead, grated on my last nerve. Alcoholic, broken, whiny, sorry case, pathetic. Which was fine, but she was also completely unstable. I mean completely. The things she did, the way she thought? Rachel was the pits. Like, I felt sorry for her on one hand, but on the other, come on. Then there is Anna, another unlikable character. A cheat with no integrity and the gall to be the bitch that she was. Then there was Megan, too. I just… the whole book is about these upset, depressed people playing games, and that would have been okay, except the book dawdled around and around in circles and really didn’t feel like it went anywhere. It could easily have been shorter.

The book also requests you suspend belief way too much (I mean just look at the crap that Rachel gets up to). The police investigation is another thing that just annoyed me. Ugh. None of the characters worked for me. I also had major issues with the fact that if you don’t read who is guiding the chapter at the beginning and stick to it, you cannot pick up a voice and be like “oh, this is Rachel/Anna/Megan”, which is criminal, in my minds.

The pacing didn’t work for me. This book was excessively long-winded for the story it told. It dawdled. It didn’t build tension. It didn’t reel me in. I just don’t get why people loved the heck out of this? It just wasn’t my cup of tea at all. I can’t recommend it, but my opinion is in the extreme minority on this one.

Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

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suicide-squad-poster

“But we almost pulled it off despite what everybody thought. Worst part of it is they’re going to blame us for the whole thing. They can’t have people knowing the truth. We’re the patsies; the cover up. Don’t forget, we’re the bad guys.:
– Deadshot

SYNOPSIS: A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force. Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse. – via IMDB

suicide-squad

GRADE 6This movie is one of the films this year that got showered in hate. And a lot of it. I have finally seen it to form my very own opinion and, while I thought it was messy and a missed opportunity, it really was not the heinous film that it has been painted. There was quite a bit to like, but there was more to dislike, and that is quite the issue.

We know David Ayer has the goods – just look at Fury, if you want a quick, amazing example. He knows how to shoot a film, and weave a super engaging story. Suicide Squad did not do that, and it sucks, because there were moments in the film where you could almost see something brilliant hiding, something that could have broken free. I thought the film boasted some super sketchy effects, and it really just threw you out of the watching experience.

Let’s also look at the whole concept of the Enchantress. Why? I mean Amanda Waller creates the Suicide Squad, but in so doing creates the threat, and then her newly formed squad must end the threat? Come on. Let’s also not forget a group of psychopaths becoming besties in a matter of hours. As a psychology graduate, I had such issues with this. The music, too, was something that irritated me. Initially it was something I loved, great music choices, but ultimately it was something that grated on me because it felt like as many cool songs as possible were being squeezed in, and when the soundtrack becomes more important than the film, and overshadows what you are watching and pulls you out of the movie, you have done something wrong.

I gotta say though that the performances were pretty good. I thought Robbie and Smith worked wonders together, and were hands down the standouts of the film. One of my biggest issues with this? Jared Leto as the Joker. In the trailer I could already tell he wasn’t going to work for me, but I had no idea how terrible he was actually going to be. Every time he came on the screen, I felt that he was just killing the movie for me. Ugh.

Overall, the movie wanted to be something more than it was, and it was sad because you could see something awesome trying to escape the mess it eventually was. It didn’t break barriers tot he genre, and was quite predictable throughout. Not the worst watch in the world, and certainly not deserving of the hate, but it’s a decent, mindlessly entertaining watch.

 

Review: Two Days Gone – Randall Silvis

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two-days-gone-cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.

Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes. – via IMDB

GRADE 6Okay, so this novel had more potential than was realised. That is not to say that it wasn’t a decent read, but there were times where I was frustrated. Two of the biggest flaws being the totally unnecessary and awkward cussing (it just didn’t flow right), and the way the book waffled on and on unnecessarily at the best of times. Two Days Gone could have been tightened up quite a bit more than it was. Also, I never really bought into any of the characters, or their relationships. Nothing really gelled there like I thought it would. The mystery surrounding Huston and his family’s murder was something that, when I read, I was like “oooooh”, and then it just went nowhere. I know I sound terribly critical of this book, and I don’t mean to come across this harshly, because the book did read very quickly, even though it dragged, and it was relatively engaging, despite not being as thrilling as it could have been. I liked the book more as it progressed and I warmed to it, now having dealt with the unlikable characters and jarring cussing, and even accepted the totally flawed logic that was presented because, at the end of the day, I was still entertained, though never actually surprised. The writing is not bad, and I did like how quickly the book flowed. Two Days Gone was neither great nor terrible, it was just in the middle of everything – an okay read.

Rapid Review: The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

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the last with hunter poster

“Do you know what it’s like to live forever?”
– Kaulder

SYNOPSIS: The last witch hunter is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history. – via IMDB

the last witch hunter fight

GRADE 5I didn’t have much hope for this movie, but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in seeing it. For the lols, you know? It was an alright movie, nothing fantastic, but I think of many worse movies to waste time on. This one also had a cast that intrigued me, and they all did a relatively good job. It was good to see Michael Caine again, but disappointing that there is nothing fresh and new to bring to the table with his character. Vin Diesel doesn’t shock, either, and delivers the performance you expect from him as well as the character he represents. It was crazy strange to see him in all the scenes from back in the day. My husband was immensely disappointed when the movie flicked from the past into the present as we know it, he thought he was totally in for something else. However, it isn’t a bad thing that the movie was set in the present because the effects for the past and the sets and all were just… not good at all, but I could understand his disappointment when he thought he was getting this badass film about with hunters with swords and old school and stakes and all that. Nope, it was just not meant to be. Rose Leslie is, of course, beautiful, and holds her own here, though I feel that the role was somewhat beneath her talents. The movie boasts some terribly corny dialogue, this has to be stated. Like, there were times I cringed, times I actually just laughed, and other times I rolled my eyes. I think if people take this seriously, they are going to hate it. If they just want something to pass time and turn their brains off for, you can do worse (though granted, you can do plenty better, too). It’s just an average film that doesn’t break any boundaries, and never strives for brilliance, which is the pitfall. Oh, and some dodgy screenwriting.