Review: Bonfire – Krysten Ritter

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her. – via Goodreads

Well, this one was unexpected. When I saw Krysten Ritter’s name attached to this I requested it purely to see how it was. I was interested to see whether I would prefer her writing to her acting. I honestly didn’t have high hopes – it can’t be easy getting involved with multiple arts. Well, I am here to tell you that Ritter indeed writes rather well, surprisingly!

The book opens and hits the ground running, but in fragmented pieces, so it takes quite some time to get the flow of things and work things out, and it works really well here. The lead character, Abby Williams, is not necessarily a character you like too much, but she grows on you. You can understand parts of her logic, too, even if you don’t always agree. Most of the characters are rather flat, but this book is Abby’s internal show, and you definitely get some of that. To see her return to her hometown and to see how a decade has made a difference is quite cool.

The story is quite a heavy one, told in  bits and pieces, and the primary water investigation becomes a totally secondary thing in Abby’s hunt to find out what, exactly, happened to Kaycee, who sounds like a right piece of work. Misha, too, is a nasty character. Bonfire does fall prey to some debut mistakes in some parts of predictability in characters, but it is a pretty good ride all the same.

Abby’s investigation yields results piecemeal, and it ties in rather neatly with what Abby originally went to Barrens for. I liked Condor as a character, and Brent just seemed odd. I was relieved that a love triangle was not jammed into this, as it is not the time, story, or place for it. The reveals are spaced just right, giving you what you need, when you need it. I do feel that the relationship between Joe and Abby was glossed over, and yet it is described as more important in the book.

Bonfire might not be perfect, but it is engaging, has a pretty good story, hooks you while barrelling along. Well worth checking out I reckon, and I will certainly check out any other work from Ritter in future.

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Top Ten Books I Read In 2017

So I decided to put together a list of the top ten new (to me) books that I have read this year. Now, I read some amazing books this year, but I also read some really meh books, so without further ado, here are the ten books I enjoyed the most this year.

10. Her Last Day – T. R. Ragan

I was quite impressed with Ragan’s newest offering, especially considering that I am not really a fan of the Lizzy Gardner books. I found this one to be similar but refreshing, featuring a much better story and characters that actually interest me and come across as more realistic. Worth the read, and I will certainly be checking out more books in this series as they come along.

9. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson

First book I have ever read from Jim Thompson, definitely encourages me to check out more! The book is creepy in that it gets under your skin, telling the story from the perspective of a criminal, where you get a good look-see inside the mind. I liked it a lot, and I believe there is a movie now, too. I will certainly be looking into that.

8. The Innocent Wife – Amy Lloyd

Man, was this just something else or what? A debut novel from Amy Lloyd and all! The book tells the story of a woman who falls in love with and marries a man on death row, and we all know how morbidly fascinating that is. Well, The Innocent wife is well worth the read, and I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for more from her in future.

7. The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Man, I really liked this. Fantastical, magical, dark adventure, and I quite enjoyed undertaking this journey. It sweeps you up and carries you away, and it is well worth the read.

6. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Indeed, it took me far too long to read this, but I am glad that I have. I totally get why this book is a classic. It reads pretty easily and has plenty sass and humour to it as well as a ton of social commentary, all the while going with the classic girl meets guy she hates but later doesn’t story. I was so hooked on this, and can see this being something I will return to time and time again.

5. It – Stephen King

This was one of my monster reads of the year, and I have no regrets. It is such a good book. While not King’s greatest work, it is a mammoth story that engages you throughout, and has some truly amazing character work going on. It is such a coming of age story mixed in with some solid horror, and was worth every second I spent on it.

4. The Bone Collector – Jefferey Deaver

Heck yeah, I am so stoked to finally have started this series, and it’s been a blast! The Bone Collector is one hell of an opening for a series, and I truly enjoy reading about Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. The book reads fast, has so many great twists and has plenty good humour and is good fun while still having some grit to it.

3. The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

This book was so my cup of tea. Oh yes. It is dark and gritty and explores some heavy themes, and is set out in such away you are drawn in. Amy Engel was also super cool about it all on Twitter, and I always appreciate it when an author/writer/director/actor/whatever gets involved with their fans. The Roanoke Girls explores a taboo subject, and the book is quite compelling and fascinating throughout, and tells the story of Roanoke in a really chilling way. Plus Cooper is book crush of the year for me. #JustSaying

2. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter 

I love Karin Slaughter. She’s amazing, and a brilliantly talented writer. This was probably the book I was most excited for this year, and let me tell you, it did not let me down at all. I was yanked in from page one and got so super invested in the lives of Charlie and Sam. Wow, what a story. I loved it, and could highly recommend this Slaughter standalone. Ballsy, heavy, some absolutely fantastic humour and great characters, this is the definition of a fantastic read.

1. 11/22/63 – Stephen King

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that, after I finished this book in January 2017, I have yet to stop hanging. This book blew my mind apart. What an amazing read! If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour, do it. Don’t let the size put you off. King weaves a masterful story with amazing characters. 11/22/63 is engaging, sharp, and stays with you long after. Yes, I am a Kennedy assassination junkie, so this was going to appeal to me, but the book is ultimately more than just attempting to stop Kennedy’s assassination. Read it. Do it. Now.

Review: Hot Fuzz (2007)

“You do know there are more guns in the country than there are in the city?”
– DS Andy Wainwright

SYNOPSIS: A skilled London police officer is transferred to a small town that’s harbouring a dark secret. – via IMDB

Man, you gotta hand it to this movie, it totally goes for the entertainment factor, and is so heavily laced with dry, witty humour throughout. So, let me get right down to it: Hot Fuzz is fantastic comedy, and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost work absolute wonders together to bring this story to life on our screens.

Nicholas Angel is not the most sympathetic character out there, and most often you laugh at him while he is being a pain in the ass. Soon, though, his life is upside down and he is essentially banished to the countryside, and that is where the adventure begins. Hot Fuzz paints this little town as super non-descript and bland, but something’s cracking here. The colleagues Angel gets at the new police station are great, and nobody is mincing about that they don’t like him or his big city-ness.

Angel and Danny Butterman become fast friends, but it takes time for their relationship to develop, and it is a friendship that grows that is so sweet to watch, and super hilarious, too. Another point of entertainment is, without a doubt, their pub trips.

Hot Fuzz is also really well made, too. It looks and sounds good, even if it is a little choppy at times and not as smooth as you would hope. Timothy Dalton makes his appearances here, of which I am quite the fan. Bill Nighy is dangled in front of us and snatched away super fast, as is Martin Freeman, but it all works. While Nicholas Angel is a bit uptight and a pain initially, you cannot help but root for the guy throughout.

Eventually the movie devolves into all out hilarity and utter lunacy, and you are so drawn in. All the jokes are hard hitting and fast, they land well, and the movie is completely aware of how totally over the top it has gone and embraces it, owns it, drives it all home. You cannot help but have a laugh. The violence is over the top, the fights are insane, every cliché you can shake a stick at has been dragged up, and everyone is having a right time of it, and that is evident.

Review: The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong. – via Goodreads

I was intrigued by the sound of this when I read the write up, and thought it might be worth looking into. I quite enjoy a fantasy fairytale type story that deals with the fantastical in a particular manner, especially when it reels you in. From the off the vibe I got from this book made me think of one of my closest friends.

The Hazel Wood is, in a word, magical. Right in the beginning, when it starts, you wonder what it is that you are reading and where, exactly, it is going to go, and before you know it, an adventure barrels in and sweeps you off your feet, dragging you, whether you are ready or not, off into the Hinterland.

Melissa Albert builds a really good world, too. Alice is our protagonist, and her story unfolds slowly but surely, giving you bits and bobs and plenty more mystery than you know what to do with. Her search for her lost mother is conducted with the assistance of Ellery Finch, a character I quite enjoyed, as he brought a lot to the table in terms of diversifying the story. He knew things, so many things, and he was quite involved with helping Alice in her quest, and I quite liked the dynamic between Alice and Finch.

Albert seamlessly blurs the lines between Hinterland and the real world, and it is balanced so well, too. You know what is and what isn’t, and yet the story cleverly weaves between the worlds, the Stories, the characters. Sometimes not too many answers are provided, which I think added to the vibe of the book, though it is something that might irritate other readers.

The Hazel Wood is a dark, magical, crazy, weird story that is bound to sweep you up if you are into fantasy edged with grim fairy tales. The writing flows and the story engages, making this book well worth the read. I can see it is something I will revisit.

Review: The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson

SYNOPSIS: Everyone in the small town of Central City, Texas loves Lou Ford. A deputy sheriff, Lou’s known to the small-time criminals, the real-estate entrepreneurs, and all of his coworkers–the low-lifes, the big-timers, and everyone in-between–as the nicest guy around. He may not be the brightest or the most interesting man in town, but nevertheless, he’s the kind of officer you’re happy to have keeping your streets safe. The sort of man you might even wish your daughter would end up with someday.

But behind the platitudes and glad-handing lurks a monster the likes of which few have seen. An urge that has already claimed multiple lives, and cost Lou his brother Mike, a self-sacrificing construction worker who fell to his death on the job in what was anything but an accident. A murder that Lou is determined to avenge–and if innocent people have to die in the process, well, that’s perfectly all right with him. – via Goodreads

I had no idea what I was getting when I ordered this book, so I went into this one totally blind. In fact, I didn’t even read the synopsis when I opened it, I just decided to go ahead and see what it was all about, and see how dark and twisted it would be, how accurate the blurbs from King and Kubrick would be, and I was not disappointed.

This book is told from Lou’s perspective, and the longer you read, the more you realise that Lou is, indeed, not right, and definitely has a deviant mind and a masterful way of rationalising the way he thinks, and definitely feels that he is smarter than anyone around him. It is evident throughout that Lou is off, and the more you read, the more chilling his detachment from people and regular social norms is.

The story is simply told, and you put together the puzzle pieces of Lou, his life, and the reasons he provides for the things that he does. It is also a cold look into events and people, and that makes this a right fascinating read. Lou seems like a dude that everyone likes, but it soon shows that the more things go wrong, not everyone is swept up by his Southern charms.

The Killer Inside Me also spends some time on some hardcore deaths, some sad ones, and a look see at some master manipulations. There are allusions as to Lou’s past, and they crop up consistently, but it is also evident that, because the telling of this story is from Lou, there is a lot of stuff that he doesn’t want to spend too much time examining, so we ultimately only have hte bare bones of his childhood and how his father and Michael fit in, and how that comes together. You get a lot of opportunity to fill in the blanks.

The Killer Inside Me is compelling, from the off. You are drawn into Lou’s world, the strange way he deals with people, how he has a mask on, and how that slips. There is some scheming and wheeling and dealing all the time that you are reading, and it is interesting to see how it all ties together, and what Lou’s thoughts on the matter are.

Indeed, The Killer Inside Me is a darker, more chilling insight and read. I was fascinated and thought it was excellent. It is a short book, so it tells the story quickly, but it never actually feels rushed and is a breeze to read. I could highly recommend this if you are into reading a book that is telling the story from the perspective of a killer, one you get to spend a bit of time with. I could definitely recommend this one.

Review: Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

SYNOPSIS: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.  – via Goodreads

Okay, so I finally got off my lazy butt and got to this. I think it was in large part inspired by Natasha and her incessant hounding of me to join her in her latest addiction, and also after watching Pride and Prejudice and Zombies once again and falling even more in love with Sam Riley as Mr Darcy, I had to get to the original. Usually I feel that classics can be a bit heavy to read, because of the old writing style, which I think is a big reason I kept putting this one off. However, this does not read like I expected it to. In fact, it was quite a quick read to go through, and did not come across as stiff at all.

I can totally see why this book is a classic. Even after all these years, there are still so many themes in here that are still relevant, which is quite crazy. It’s also still really good social commentary. It tells a phenomenal story of a proud man and a prejudiced woman, and their love story, while one we have seen told over and over again (oh look, hot person, oh look, what a dweeb, oh look how much they have changed, oh we must be together), it is told with class and dignity, and you get so involved. From the off, while Mr Darcy is proud and cold, you cannot miss how stupid Elizabeth is to latch so hurriedly onto Mr Wickham’s claims. Like really, your pride and vanity may have been wounded, but now you are just being silly.

A lot of the characters were not overly fleshed out, but that is okay. The ones you need to have depth to have depth, and it is amazing to watch the character transformations, chiefly between Darcy and Elizabeth, of course, Also, Mr Bennet is the king of sass. I swear, unladylike as it was, I snorted a few times when he got some page time. The man is so snarky. The book is also highly entertaining, and features some fantastic wit and is quite sharp. The drama kicks, too, so it balances the two rather well. I think that Pride and Prejudice is also written well, as it feels so much more modern than one would expect. The pacing is, for the most part, just fine, but there is a whole section in the middle that just drags and does not feel like it truly contributes to the story, and could definitely have been tightened up some.

There are a few characters I could not stand. I am only going address the two biggest transgressors here, being Lydia and Mrs Bennet. Truly, two frustrating beings. Lydia is so far and beyond selfish it is actually shocking. Then there is Mrs Bennet who is a gold digger for her children and seriously one of the most embarrassing characters ever. Ugh. My eye actually twitched whenever she opened her psycho mouth and I cringed. And not in the awkward kind of Kick-Ass cringe, either, just flat out “dig me a hole” kind. Oh, let me list Mr Collins here, too, because what a totally pompous ass. He is a cruel, mean spirited, condescending, insipid suck up whom I could not stand.

Pride and Prejudice is quite a quick read, which surprised me, and has a solid story to tell in a timeless way. Elizabeth Bennet, while a bit silly in the way that she handled the entire Darcy situation, is a strong woman who knows her worth, and does not want to just be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, just married for title, money, or societal expectations, and I definitely appreciate that. If you have not yet read this book (I was so guilty of this), I highly recommend that you do read it, and as soon as possible. It is fun, it is sweet, it is frustrating, well written and it is well worth its place among the classics.

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be.”
– Kylo Ren

SYNOPSIS: Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order. – via IMDB

Oh my gooooosh! I loved this. Yeah, I hear there is some hate, but there is a lot of love, too. I am one of those that thought this was really good. After The Force Awakens, I have been so amped to see where the story goes, and The Last Jedi totally rewarded for my excitement, for the most part (even with the little niggles).

Kylo Ren is baaaaack bitches, and he is freaking awesome! This is something my husband and I will debate for many years to come. This time around we get to see more of Adam Driver’s face and that gorgeous hair, and man, we totally got to explore more of his conflict. Imagine your legacy is Anakin and Luke Skywalker, the light side and the dark? Polar opposites. Imagine that you have been manipulated by someone and it was easy to do so because someone you trusted betrayed you (from what you could see), and you are a kid? Confusion! I love it. I could watch that battle rage forever.

There were new things introduced in this one, too. Kylo’s new plan  has definitely piqued my interest. War profiteering reared its head in here, too, so there was some social commentary on the go. I was so pleased to see BB-8 back in action, he is so adorable! Poe, too, is back in action. The Last Jedi brings up some really solid, strong moments for our female cast, and has some awesome action sequences, too. So it is great to watch like that. I quite enjoyed Beneicio del Toro’s appearance, and would like to see if he pops up again.

Let’s not deny that the movie had flaws – those freaking porgs annoyed me. Cute the first time you saw them, and then they were just jammed in all over the show. There is the super cheese between Finn and Rose, which also got a bit annoying quickly. Also, a lot of questions that JJ Abrams had set up in The Force Awakens were glibly answered here (I am hoping they go back and give us real, fleshed out answers, because if these are the answers, that is bitterly disappointing). Another thing, the story is not overly solid, and the pacing is a little off at times, but nothing too extreme. I was totally engrossed, even with the hiccups. I adore Andy Serkis, for reals, and I really wish there was more to Snoke than we eventually got – so short lived and a bit meh 😦

There is a lot of back and forth about Luke Skywalker and his role here. I expected to see more Luke Skywalker, and I didn’t think he would be quite so bitter and ready to end the Jedi lines like he has, though it brings up the notion that the Force is not just accessible by a small group of elite individuals. Not sure where this is going, but I will give them enough rope and see what they do with it. Anyway, it was strange to see him go the way he did, but I was really impressed with where his character went later on.

Continuing with unpopular opinion time, Rey is still a flat, bland, annoying character for me. I just don’t get the love man, not at all. Every time she was on screen, I felt like precious time was being wasted. I don’t like her, and it sucks that she is one of our new, major protagonists. Oh well. Also, the whole Skywalker legacy is something to wonder about – where are we going from here? I feel that the original characters have been handled a little more poorly than I expected, to be honest.

Ultimately, I still preferred Abrams’s The Force Awakens over this – it looked better, sounded better, and was handled better, though The Last Jedi is by no means a bad movie and does not deserve the hate being flung its way. There is a hell of a lot to like about it – it is fun, it is dark, there are some new concepts being introduced, and has plenty of action. I am seriously looking forward to watching it again sometime and seeing how it holds up. Maybe because I have mad Abrams love and want him to keep going with the story…