Review: Pines – Blake Crouch

Wayward Pines #1

SYNOPISIS: Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive. – via Goodreads

I’ve always wondered about these books, and been interested in checking them out, and just never got to it until recently. Amazon had them on special, so figured I would get my hands on them and see. I have never read anything about them and I have not watched the show, but I see it cropping up all over the place, hence I thought it might just be time to look into it.

Reading this, the first thing that popped into my mind is that it read like a Koontz novel. The longer I read, the more it reminded me of Koontz’s The House of Thunder in specific.I have not read spoilers for this story (there are few things I abhor as much), but the twists and turns in this novel did not really keep me in suspense. Why? Because I felt it was really predictable, and nothing really shocked me.

So let’s start with this – the premise is interesting. It is. A special agent in an accident and suffering from amnesia in a creepy little Stepford style town? For sure. Soon after that though it becomes evident that our leading man is not a particularly likable character, and there is a lot of him running back and forth but nothing happening. That does not necessarily make for a boring read, and it helps in this regard that the writing is not particularly meaty – meaning you are really just going to run through this, there is nothing you are going to chew on and think over, to really get involved with. So it certainly scores in the way of a quick read with an interesting premise, even though the execution is a little weak and definitely leaves one wanting. The fragmented sentences littered throughout the book were a source of endless frustration for me though, seriously!

I feel that Pines is a messy book, but entertaining. There was enough mystery to keep me going, although I had pegged the majority of the outcomes and plot twists before they were delivered, and the reveals were no shocker, save one. I have also got to admit that the reasoning behind things as well as some of the logic is completely preposterous, something I struggled to buy into. I know it sounds like a lot of bitching, but the story flows fast and it does pull you in, even though a lot is left to be desired. All that being said, I will check out the next novel in this trilogy. The completist in me will have me read all three; for the sake of completion as well as the fact that I paid for them.

Decades Blogathon – Zodiac (2007)

Guys, yet another Decades Blogathon hosted by Tom and Mark, and I participated this year with a review of my favourite Fincher film, Zodiac.

three rows back

Welcome to Week 2, Day 5 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Thomas J.For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and today it’s the turn of the one and only Zoe from the one and only Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger who, unlike director David Fincher only needs one take to nail the 2007 true crime classic Zodiac.

“I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.” – Robert Graysmith

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in…

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Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

“My daughters are trained for battle, sir, not the kitchen.”
– Mr Bennet

SYNOPSIS: Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies. – via IMDB

Guys. Guys. Let’s just talk about this. I cannot believe that I had so much fun with this movie. I mean seriously. Take a classic and add a ton of zombies to it? Not traditional zombies either, mind. How exactly was that supposed to work out? Super fun, let me tell you that! I am so pleased that Natasha enjoyed this so much and made me watch it, as I had zero designs on checking this out before she insisted. Now I have seen it a few times and still think it is so much fun. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies totally embraces all that is ludicrous about it, and delivers on so many fronts. Like Warm Bodies, this is a movie that has no right to be as good as it is, and yet here we are.

Right off the bat, I must say that I enjoyed the cast. I think everyone was well cast and they all seemed to have a total ball. Sam Riley is an actor I quite enjoy, and do wish he was in more things. He’s an absolutely brilliant Darcy, and there is just no way that you are not in love with the dude when all is said and done. For reals. Riley just sneaks up on you – he delivers a harsh Darcy, a man so reserved and focused, and before you know it, you are like oooooooh… totally get why Elizabeth would fall for him. Then there is Lily James, and she is a wonderful Elizabeth Bennet. Got mad love for this character – ballsy, educated, can take care of herself and is strong? So ahead of her time and a great feminist? Hells yeah. I was rooting for her all the way. I absolutely loved watching her and Riley together, they had lovely chemistry – so contained and yet completely through the roof. Jack Huston is another actor I particularly enjoy, and I so wanted to trust Mr Wickham, but he is a smarmy bastard. Pretty one, but still.

I would like to take a moment to talk about Mr Collins and Matt Smith’s portrayal. It is evident he is having a blast portraying such a total twat, and is beyond exasperating. My inner feminist was just like “wtf” the whole time, and yet his character made me laugh and groan, and that is purely down to how well Smith played Collins. Charles Dance was also great as Mr Bennet, and I had a lot of respect for how he saw his girls as more that just marriage conduits. Well played, sir!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies totally embraced its weirdness. Right off the bat it has a crazy opening (that elaborate story and animation was really cool), girls with all sorts of weapons in all sorts of places and mad training and a mother who just wants them to marry rich. It’s insane. While being totally out there yet still loyal to the source material, this movie looks good, too. The sets and costumes are really good, and it does not come off as a budget film. It goes all out, and it really helps the cause.

As you can tell, I thought the movie was a lot of fun. Don’t go into this and expect to see the classic as you have come to expect. Why can’t people just accept this as a fun adaptation, not something competing with a classic? Don’t take it too seriously. For reals, it will ruin the experience. It is silly popcorn entertainment that is actually put together quite well, and has a cast that just makes it well worth the watch. It’s funny, it’s ridiculous, it has zombies and manages to convey a classic love story, where you get involved and want to root for Darcy and Elizabeth to just, you know, find each other. So I think in terms of that the movie delivered, and I would say watch it if you are not going to nitpick for issues and can just shut your brain down at the door and have some fun.

Review: The Follower – Koethi Zan

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: SHE’D DO ANYTHING FOR HER HUSBAND.

Julie has the perfect life.

A kind boyfriend, loving parents and good grades. She has everything ahead of her.

Cora’s life is a nightmare.

A psychopath for a husband, a violent father and a terrible secret. There’s no way out.

But one night, their worlds collide.

Locked in an isolated house together, they must work out what has happened – and who they can trust to set them free. – via Goodreads

Well, what a read this has been! The Follower is a pretty quick read, and rather messed up. I do not say that in a disparaging way, you all know how I like a dark, gritty psychological thriller, and I must say that I feel Zan delivered on those fronts.

It takes a while for The Follower to find its rhythm, but when it does, the story barrels along. It maintains a creepy, depressing feeling to it the whole time, even though the actual horrendous parts are mostly glossed over. It is the setting and the snippets of information that we glean as we progress and the repercussions and consequences of actions that highlight the horrors that the characters have faced in the past, and what they are presently up against.

I must be honest and say that I did not like any of the characters in the book really. Adam is supposed to be one of the three main characters, but he just grated on me, and was unhealthily obsessed, and the biggest plot holes came from him without a doubt. Then there is Julie, and you would expect the kidnap victim to be more of a main character in this, but the shining glory all goes to Cora, which makes this book very strange. Julie you sympathise with, you want her to escape and overcome all the awful things that Cora and James are putting her though, but the book spends a large chunk of time focusing on Cora, and the damaged individual she is, and how exactly she got to this place in her life.

There is a lot of religious fanaticism going on here, and I am interested in reading about cults, and the people that get sucked into them. Unfortunately, most fiction in that genre doesn’t live up to that and doesn’t hold your attention. There is crazy cult like stuff going down here, and it is important, but mostly this book focuses of Cora, and how James and his crazy views have infected her life, and how she has internalised it all. It works though. The book is definitely very character driven.

I found The Follower to be quite a decent read. Not the best in this genre, but it was just fine. It takes a while to get into, but as soon as you get into the flow, it zips by. One of my biggest issues was the end though, but the book worked well enough to override my distaste for that close. Surprisingly, even with characters you either can’t relate to or just don’t like, the book remains engaging throughout.

100 Happy Days 2: Day 71 – 80

Can you believe how quickly this challenge is zipping by?!

Day 71:

Absolutely awesome gift from a friend. I have always wanted one of these Urban Decay eye-shadow palettes. It’s been awesome.

Day 72:

So recently I went through the exercise of spring cleaning my nail polish collection, and boy, was it cathartic. Definitely time to sort through it, much to my husband’s delight.

Day 73:

I honestly think gift cards get a really bad rap, but I think they can be great gifts.

Day 74:

Oh yeah! Been looking for years for a nice, sturdy case for my hard drive. I finally found one the other day and it’s awesome. And yes, purple.

Day 75:

While my husband was out fishing with his dad this weekend, I rewatched a few movies, of which Lawless really was my favourite. The movie does not get the love it deserves.

Day 76:

Bittersweet moment again. Finished my Fringe binge once again, and I am sad it is done, but had a total blast watching this again. What a fantastic show.

Day 77:

My colleague bought me a Cherry Coke – blissssss.

Day 78:

When we were on honeymoon in Italy, my husband and I stumbled on these Twinkie-like cake things out there, and we loved them. I came across these in a store near me recently, and decided to give this flavour a shot. Nostalgia.

Day 79:

Ah man, did I have fun or what?! We got to build our own ice creams at Milky Lane, which thrilled me endlessly because I could have my Crunchie and my Jelly Tots and soft serve. Oh hells yeah.

Day 80:

Been a while since I photographed a manicure, but this is a new Avon Gel Finish polish I got recently called Very Berry. Quite a nice shade.

Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

“Do you ever feel like your life has turned into something you never intended?”
– Susan Morrow

SYNOPSIS: A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale. – via IMDB

Ah, Nocturnal Animals. Where do I even begin? I had forgotten about this completely, except Natasha wanted to check it out, and so we did. Goddammit, so we did. Two hours folks. Two. Nocturnal Animals is a pretentious pile of garbage that actually has some semblance of potential which is unceremoniously pissed away. The opening alone was just grotesque and came across as pretentious, right out of the gate. To shock, to inspire, to make you think that the movie has more depth than what appears on the surface? Screw that. It did not. Revenge tale, and that is that. Not even a good one, while we are at it, despite what it would have you think.

This also seemed like something I would like – dark and a thriller, plus Gyllenhaal? Ticked all the boxes. In fact, I liked the cast for the most part. The film is divided into three segments: the past, the present, the story in a novel. Three. Of these three, the novel coming to life is a fantastic revenge tale, a mysterious story that gets you worried and draws you in, and you feel for the main character of it, and are intrigued by his plight and the relationship he forms with the detective investigating the crime which the main character is a victim of. Awesome. But then there are the other two parts of the movie – the past and the present, and they are both boring and bland and just annoyed me.

My reception of the movie was not helped along by Amy Adams, whom I cannot stand. Her character was such a waste of space. Armie Hammer, too, felt like he was useless here – the script was so skinny. He was pretty much there for some aloof eye candy, and that is that. Gyllenhaal and Shannon are the stars of this, without a doubt. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, too, shone here. Every moment they were on screen, you were engaged. They were so good. A whole movie just about them and their segment would have been fantastic. Instead I had to sit through all that drivel and possibly one of the worst endings I have seen in my life.

I see this movie being lauded as dark, thought-provoking, deep. Pretentious, I will say it again. The movie is not as deep as it wishes to be, and because of that comes across as desperate. While we are at it, it is generic and brings nothing new to the table. I cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone, though I am aware my opinion is in the minority.

Review: Abducted – T.R. Ragan

Lizzy Gardner #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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