Review: Beast (2017)

4

“Can you keep a secret?”
– Pascal Renouf

SYNOPSIS: A troubled woman living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider suspected of a series of brutal murders. – via IMDB

My husband and I have really been struggling to find new movies recently that are good and that we are actually drawn to or interested in. Everything is just a remake nowadays, or bland, or just… no fun. So we saw this and figured why not give it a shot? Well folks, I am here to tell you that this one was well worth the watch! Definitely a slice of something different.

Right off the bat, the atmosphere is fantastic, and the score works hand in hand with the imagery to keep you uncomfortable, and with a feeling of dread and foreboding. It is truly unsettling. The performances also blend right into this, completely dominated by Buckley and Flynn. Beast gives up its secrets slowly but surely. Never so slow you get frustrated, but so gently and well paced that you forget that you are waiting for them. The pacing was definitely solid for this, building up into this slow burn thriller. The story builds steadily from the opening, and you are whipped up into this bizarre story of Moll and Pascal.

Beast definitely is a focuses on Moll and her crappy life, and how Pascal coming into her life has changed her, and the change is not necessarily bad, despite what her family thinks. Bits and pieces of her life are revealed, and it is a gratifying thing to make the discoveries with the movie. The characters set forth in this are truly horrible. Her family made my blood boil, and Moll herself had me fluctuate between pity for her and being repulsed by her, much like the emotions Stephen King’s character Carrie evokes in a person.

All in all, if you have not watched Beast and are looking for a solid thriller, I would highly recommend this. It comes together well, and the bizarre journey that you undertake with the characters reels you in. The movie also leaves you thinking for quite some time after it, picking the characters and their actions apart, and it has been a while since I have seen something that did that.

Review: The Stone Monkey – Jeffery Deaver

0

Lincoln Rhyme #4

SYNOPSIS: Famed criminologist Lincoln Rhyme and his beautiful protege Amelia Sachs have been recruited by the FBI and the INS to help perform the nearly impossible: track down a cargo ship carrying two dozen illegal Chinese immigrants and the notorious human smuggler and killer known as the Ghost. – via Goodreads

Meh. This one just wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t expect it to be, really, but it just didn’t work out. Guess I should have seen that coming, but still disappointing seeing how much I have been enjoying this Lincoln Rhyme run I’ve been on.

The story just had so many twists and turns, and this time the finale twist was super predictable, which was disappointing for me because I like how Deaver always keeps you guessing. This book had good intentions, sure, but just didn’t deliver the goods. The characters brought into this story were a solid mix of interesting and frustrating, so there is that.

Deaver returns a litany of characters to us that we enjoy – dear Fred Dellray, Lon Sellitto, Thom and Mel Cooper all take up space here again, and as always, the entertain. Some of the new characters, such as Sam Chang and Sonny are also pretty cool. Rhyme and Amelia continue to deal with the struggles in their relationship, pertaining to everything from children to operations to help Rhyme’s quadriplegia.

The Stone Monkey isn’t a bad read, it just felt a little lacklustre to me, especially compared to some of the earlier books. I wanted more Rhyme as we have come to know him. I am looking forward to reading more in the series, but I truly hope this doesn’t mark a crazy downturn in the quality of the work I have come to expect.

Review: The Strangers (2008)

8

“Well they want something. People don’t just stand out there, staring at us like that. They want something.”
– James Hoyt

SYNOPSIS: A young couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants. – via IMDB

After always hearing how good a horror The Strangers is, I decided to finally give it a shot with my husband. While he hated it to the core, I can’t say that I liked it an awful lot more. Where do I even begin?

I know! The logic of the characters! These two are just hands down the stupidest two I have seen together in a horror in a really long time. For one, he returns and finds her hysterical and he’s like “it’s nothing”. Then he’s all macho and leaves her alone and realises there are a bunch of crazy people out there stalking, and he’s just like “oh whatever”. Together these two progress to make some of the most idiotic decisions I have seen in horror/thriller in a while, and let’s face it, this is not really a genre of smart moves.

The two characters we are following are also not really nice people, so you aren’t really invested in their survival, either. The movie starts with promise, it really did, but it went downhill so fast my head is still spinning if I think about it. You just say The Strangers around my husband now and he will start a bitchfest about this movie.

The Strangers is overly vague, which would have been fine, had it just been a better watch. With better writing, the potential would not have been lost, and there was quite a bit. A nonsensical home invasion, masks, psychologically torturing people, initially a great atmosphere, the whole lot. But instead it is bogged down by flawed logic, unlikable characters, a score I didn’t like (too loud for action/music ,speech nonexistent), faulty pacing, therefore letting itself down before it even got started. The tension that was built in the beginning, the scares it put forth, dwindle in the face of the infuriating decisions made by the characters. Overall, it is nothing but a bland and frustrating experience.

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: 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: Wrath – T.R. Ragan

0

Faith McMann #3

SYNOPSIS: Those who hunt monsters must be careful not to become monsters themselves.

In another life, before human traffickers murdered her husband and stole her children, Faith McMann was a wife, mother, and teacher. Now she has become Furious, a merciless avenger on a deadly mission to retrieve her young son and daughter, no matter the cost.

Aided by unlikely but steadfast allies, the giant Beast and fragile Rage, Faith plunges ever deeper into a sickening underworld of sexual exploitation and slavery with steel-forged determination and righteous anger.

In this powerful, suspenseful conclusion to the Faith McMann trilogy, Faith is haunted by questions: Even if her children are recovered, will they be broken beyond repair? What terrible sacrifices will their rescue require? What are the limits of loyalty and love in a world that preys on innocents? And after her brutal awakening to the darkest aspects of human nature, what will remain of her own self? – via Goodreads

There we go, wrapped up and all done. I totally raced through these books, I was so hooked from book one, so I have to give this trilogy credit for that. Yeah, there are flaws, but the story keeps you hooked if you can overlook a few blunders to get to it. Then when you are there? Fantastic.

This book immediately picks up after the events of the Outrage, and keeps going. The story is at least finished here, as anymore would have started to feel like we were being taken for a ride. Faith is still damaged as all hell and desperate to find Lara, now that she has Hudson home. Faith’s family is still something lovely, and Beast, Vinnie, and Rage all gang together. It was nice to have a look see some more at the relationship between Beast, Vinnie, and Rage, and I was stoked to see some happiness what with Rage reuniting with her son. It was a good silver lining.

The book continues to deal with the sticky, icky world of human trafficking, and it’s still quite an intense read.

Wrath provides a satisfying finale to a solid trilogy. It is well paced, delivers all the goods, and is well worth the read provided, of course, that you are willing to suspend belief and hop along for the ride. I recommend this.

Review: The Woman In The Window – A.J. Finn

2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. – via Goodreads 

Uhm… I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this book. Not really much at all. It is not a bad read, at all. It is predictable – I mean we have all seen this plot in some book or some movie somewhere – someone housebound who sees something they should not and all the shenanigans that follow that.

The Woman In The Window had some interesting parts to it and some concepts that I enjoyed, and Anna’s situation is a quite fascinating – agoraphobic in the extreme, but a therapist helping others in a similar situation, and an alcoholic struggling to pull her life together. I thought at times this was overdone and other times it was underutilised. I feel that the only character that had any real depth is Anna, though that could truly be by design.

Anyway, the book is slightly longer than it strictly needs to be, though it is a pretty fast read. It’s decent but not fantastic, though I do think Finn writes quite well. I don’t really want to say too much because the book has some twists and turns, whether you expect them or not. I will certainly check out future works.

Review: The Fear – C.L. Taylor

2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey… – via Goodreads

You know, it rarely happens that a book makes me uncomfortable when I read it, but this was one of those that did. It just… I didn’t like that. It was weird. This book gives you a look see at how the victims of a paedophile feel about him and what is happening to them, and it makes me both sick and mad. Ugh.

Now let me get straight into the book – the story flips between Lou’s present and her past, so you get a look at her as she is now, scarred and emotionally broken, and then to the past, when she was kidnapped and groomed by a paedophile of note. Ugh. My stomach rolled reading about how she was so in love with him and how he understood her and loved her like nobody else, and to read how he preyed on her was absolutely horrifying.

I think with that being said, there will be triggers for some people, that’s for sure. I was both frustrated and disgusted reading this, and intrigued in other places (not the parts about the feelings of the victims that were preyed on, but the aftermath, and then there is the odd section featuring Wendy). I thought that it the story actually comes together quite well, and while making you queasy, keeps you interested enough to continue and see what happens.

There were so many unsavoury characters peppered throughout this book, but there were also some really nice ones, so the balance struck is decent. I don’t foresee myself rushing out to reread The Fear, and it is not necessarily a book that would be easy to recommend, but it isn’t a terrible read, but also didn’t strike the highs I was hoping for.

Review: Furious – T.R. Ragan

2

Faith McMann #1

SYNOPSIS: Faith McMann comes home to a nightmare: her husband is killed and her son and daughter are taken. Although the intruders leave her for dead, she survives. Crippling grief and fear for her children make life unbearable. Until her anguish turns to anger…and she trades victimhood for vengeance.

Frustrated with the law’s efforts, she takes action to rescue her children—and wreaks havoc on the brutal criminals who tore them from her. With her family and newfound allies at her side, Faith descends into the hellish underworld of human trafficking, determined to make those who prey on the innocent pray for mercy.

The forces she’s up against have already proven that their ruthlessness knows no bounds. And there’s nothing they won’t do to turn Faith’s crusade into a suicide mission. But they’re about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a mother fighting for her children—especially one who’s earned the nickname Furious. – via Goodreads

Well, well, well. I picked this trilogy up on special on Amazon the other day as I was interested to see how Ragan would put this trilogy together. So far I have felt her books can be hit or miss, and upon thinking about it more, it’s mainly her Lizzie Gardner series that annoys me, as I am rather enjoying the Jessie Cole books and then there was this outing for Faith McMann and I was hooked! The more I read from Ragan, the more I look forward to checking out her work.

Furious deals with an icky story. It’s a little preposterous in the beginning, and takes a few seconds for you to give a damn about what is going on, but before you know it, you are dragged into this whirlwind horror of human trafficking and a mother going above and beyond to recover her children. The book flows really well, making this a super fast read, and it is engaging throughout. It doesn’t have any sections that drag too much, either, which I appreciated.

For the most part, the most fleshed out characters are our lead protagonist and shortly after that we have Beast and Rage, and they are more fleshed out than other characters. The others all serve their purpose, but they are just there. Faith really has a solid, supportive family, too, which I like.

Trafficking is not a joke, and it sheds a little look into the horrors of it, but doesn’t linger too long on the super nasty bits. I think if it delved into that too much there are a lot of people that would not be reading this based on the content. I wasn’t uncomfortable so much as sad to know that trafficking is a real thing and it is horrendous how people would use actual people as commodities without giving a crap about them being real people. This is a tough topic I am not going to get into, just know that it is a driving factor of the book.

Furious is a fast read that truly gets under your skin but keeps you coming back for more. It is an interesting story, albeit far fetched in some places, with a lot of things happening conveniently. It does not detract from the read, making it a fast paced action you cannot resist. Highly recommended.

Review: The Empty Chair – Jeffery Deaver

3

Lincoln Rhyme #3

SYNOPSIS: A quadriplegic since a beam crushed his spinal cord years ago, Rhyme is desperate to improve his condition and goes to the University of North Carolina Medical Center for high-risk experimental surgery. But he and Sachs have hardly settled in when the local authorities come calling. In a twenty-four-hour period, the sleepy Southern outpost of Tanner’s Corner has seen a local teen murdered and two young women abducted. And Rhyme and Sachs are the best chance to find the girls alive.

The prime suspect is a strange teenaged truant known as the Insect Boy, so nicknamed for his disturbing obsession with bugs. Rhyme agrees to find the boy while awaiting his operation. Rhyme’s unsurpassed analytical skills and stellar forensic experience, combined with Sachs’s exceptional detective legwork, soon snare the perp. But even Rhyme can’t anticipate that Sachs will disagree with his crime analysis and that her vehemence will put her in the swampland, harboring the very suspect whom Rhyme considers a ruthless killer. So ensues Rhyme’s greatest challenge — facing the criminalist whom he has taught everything he knows in a battle of wits, forensics, and intuition. And in this adversary, Rhyme also faces his best friend and soul mate.  – via Goodreads

Well, this one has been really different from the previous two books in this series. Like, totally different. I read this fast on the heels of The Coffin Dancer, which I liked a lot. This one… I just don’t know. It was just not at all what I have started getting used to in the series. While not terrible, it certainly is a rather weak entry, to be sure.

The characters are odd. I am not talking about the new ones brought in for this book’s story (that’s a whole different kettle of fish), I am talking about our mains. Rhyme and Sachs didn’t feel true to themselves and came across and forced and awkward, and there are massive jumps in their relationship that just randomly popped up (kids being a big one here), and it was really jarring. That being said, there also seems to be this massive distance between Sachs and Rhyme that has not been there previously. Sachs is  also more headstrong and less logical than usual, and Rhyme is far too emotional about thing.

I found the humour to be very limited in this book, but Thom and Rhyme together are, as always, an absolute treat. The Empty Chair really came across like it was painting these Southerners as backwards and revenge-fuelled and crazy. It seemed overly stereotypical, and that didn’t come across as natural. The story is, of course, twisty as hell, and it was an enjoyable ride, it just feels like it is not nearly as sharp a story as I have come to expect, and fell flat a bit. I guess what I am saying is that this book is a bit messy.

The Empty Chair is not as smart as its predecessors, and while it is a bit messy, it is still a fast, entertaining read, just a weaker entry to the series is all. Maybe because the characters were out of their element, it threw the reader out of their element, too, but yeah. Decent but flawed read.