Review: Where The Missing Go – Emma Rowley

0

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: My name is Kate.

I volunteer at a local charity – young people who have run away from home call me and I pass on messages to their loved ones, no questions asked.

I don’t get many phone calls, and those I do are usually short and vague, or pranks.

But this morning a girl named Sophie called.

I’m supposed to contact her parents to let them know their child is safe.

The problem is, Sophie isn’t safe.

And Sophie is my daughter. – via Goodreads

Alrighty, so the synopsis for this totally looked like my cup of tea, and I was pleased when I was granted access to it from Netgalley. When I started this book, I was quickly and easily drawn in, and that is good. The premise is interesting, and I think everyone’s nightmare – for their child to go missing. That being said, you quickly realise you don’t really know what’s cracking, and the book slowly gives up its secrets.

I didn’t love all the characters, and that is okay. I liked the story, even though I feel that sometimes the writing style and the pacing let the story down a bit. There were sections that were a little unbelievable and then there were moments where something happens that is so stupid you are just stumped. But the story still keeps you engaged, even when the story goes from “missing” to “runaway”, and you start wondering how Rowley is going to keep you going.

The book is a simple, fast read, and very engaging, as I said. It probably could have been slightly shorter, but it is not so long that you lose interest, or wonder why you have spent so much time. There are some lulls, but for the most part, the story moves along. It is hectic to think about parents that have gone through/are going through something like this, it is horrible. I don’t have too much to say, just that the book was well worth a read, and I enjoyed it. It was twisty at times, and while predictable in some places, it wasn’t like that when it counted. Definitely worth a look see.

Review: Us (2019)

12

“Once upon a time, there was a girl and the girl had a shadow. The two were connected, tethered together.”
 – Red

SYNOPSIS: A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them. – via IMDB

I tried to read as little on this as possible prior to seeing it because I really love going into movies blind sometimes, just go with the flow. I am glad I did for this one, because I didn’t have any actual concept about what we were about to watch, and it was a weird one to watch unfold. I was interested to see where Jordan Peele would go after Get Out.

I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers and such. Tonally, the movie is a little all over the show. There is a lot of confusion, and there is a section before we get into the third act that just feels like the movie was falling apart – the creepy factor was gone, and nothing was happening, but no explanations were given up, and you don’t really get involved with these people. Because they are just people who turned up in a house and suddenly had doppelgängers chasing them, you don’t root for them more than you would the average horror movie character.

Anyway, just as you think that is going on, the third act brings the movie right back up, and I really liked how it all came together. While watching Us, you cannot shake this unsettling feeling that it brings on you, and it lingers after. The score worked hand in hand with this to leave you disconcerted. The performances were quite good, Lupita Nyong’o nailing her role, and delivering a solid performance for a seriously strange story.

In places, Us is nothing unique, but on the other hand, it is a different beast altogether. I thought the story was refreshing, but there were places where the movie was let down due to pacing and is certainly uneven at tomes, and the humour also didn’t work for me (sparingly used, but comes across as unnatural). Overall, I thought it was well worth a trip to the cinema. I can’t say much about a lot of things, because I hate spoilers, but so far I have enjoyed Peele’s work, and I am interested to see where he goes next.

Beware, the trailer is pretty much the whole movie bar the twist :/

Review: The Rosary Girls – Richard Montanari

4

Byrne & Balzano #1

SYNOPSIS: Sprawling beneath the statue of William Penn, Philadelphia is a city of downtrodden crack houses and upscale brownstones. Somewhere in this concrete crazy quilt, one teenage Catholic girl is writing in her diary, another is pouring her heart out to a friend, and yet another is praying. And somewhere in this city is a man who wants these young women to make his macabre fantasy become reality. In a passion play of his own, he will take the girls–and a whole city–over the edge.

Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies.

Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most. – via Goodreads

So I randomly stumbled across this on Amazon one day and bought it and then (imagine) me forgetting all about it. I was searching for something to read the other day and saw this in my library and figured why not? Couldn’t remotely recall what it was about or why I bought it, and I headed in blind and man, let me say I was impressed. This book has everything in it that I usually want from a book, and has it in spades.

This is a really satisfying read in the sense that it flows well, introduces you to a lot of characters, but never gets too much. It isn’t excessively complicated, and a solid introductory book to a fresh series (something I have been hankering for). I liked Jessica, though the book really seems to gloss over how she has become a homicide detective and is never around for her daughter anymore and her babysitting neighbour seems totally fine with constantly having a kid dumped on her by a neighbour.

There were a lot of characters introduced and written off with no fanfare whatsoever, so you never really get attached to anybody, and constantly have it in the back of your mind that any/all character are disposable. I quite enjoyed Montanari’s writing style. It is descriptive, immersive, and it flows well, which is something that doesn’t always happen. Maybe because I am so used to the brutality in Karin Slaughter’s books, I thought that Montanari might be a bit more… vicious like that, but I found it not to be the case. The ick was there, but hurried over in a sense, which might make this book appeal more to people who usually enjoy a thrill but not the gore.

The case for this novel is interesting and barrels along. I liked our main peanut characters, and have already purchased the next five books in this series and a standalone. I am hoping there will be more growth for the characters now that we have been introduced to them all, so we will see how it goes. Well worth the read, especially if you are into something a little more dark.

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

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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

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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.