Review: Psycho Analysis – V.R. Stone

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer who wants to quit. A detective struggling to keep his personal life out of a murder hunt. And a celebrity psychiatrist facing an incredible challenge. Three damaged individuals, linked by their traumatic histories. They’ve chosen very different paths. Now those paths are about to cross.

Sarah Silver is a hedge fund manager – from Monday to Friday she makes a killing in the markets. At weekends, though, she hunts men, not profits. Martin White used to be a brilliant detective. But his family, judgement and self-control are deserting him. And Karl Gross has sold millions of books on serial killers. However he’s a controversial figure in the medical community.

Can Martin keep it together and catch a killer who commits almost perfect crimes? Is Karl capable of unravelling Sarah’s psyche and putting an end to the killing? Or will she disappear when she realises that the hunter has become the hunted? – via Goodreads

Hmmmm. I really thought that this would be better, appeal to me more than it ultimately did. I liked the cover, I studied psychology, this books speaks of a female serial killer… all things that are fascinating, and should have held more sway. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Psycho Analysis has all the makings to be good, but is instead a silly, bland affair. Not impressed.

The story, which I assumed was going to be engaging, was something that left me bored and unsatisfied. I was never reeled in. I also couldn’t stand any of the characters. The writing of them also implied that we knew more about them, which at a stage had me wondering if this book was part of a series, to find that it is not, but is in actual fact a debut novel. For a debut novel that means it is written well enough if I thought it was part of a series, but the story never actually did anything for me. Considering the author had studied psychology, I was really expecting more punch. It just never came.

I found the dialogue in Psycho Analysis stinted, and was also not a fan of the lead, DI Martin White. He was just… no. Plus when the whole reveal about his life came? So poorly executed. The book just came across as messy. The doctor who was discussing Sarah’s issues with her had his own, but they, too, were glossed over. I really thought there would be more of a twisted relationship between Sarah and Karl, as it was an interesting component. Then, of course, there was the silly relationship between Martin and Sarah – it never took off, and I didn’t care whether he was killed or she was caught. I also struggled to suspend reality for a lot of this book, and it should not have been that difficult to do.

Psycho Analysis is an uninspiring debut novel, and not something I would recommend.

Review: The Long Hard Road Out of Hell – Marilyn Manson with Neil Strauss

the-long-hard-road-out-of-hell-marilyn-manson

SYNOPSIS: In his twenty-nine years, rock idol Manson has experienced more than most people have (or would want to) in a lifetime. Now, in his shocking and candid memoir, he takes readers from backstage to gaol cells, from recording studios to emergency rooms, from the pit of despair to the top of the charts, and recounts his metamorphosis from a frightened Christian schoolboy into the most feared and revered music superstar in the country. – via Goodreads

GRADE 9This is a book I have read a few times over, and I enjoy it every single time I read it. The first time I read it, I was about 17. I was so excited, being a Manson fan and all, and my husband and I lay sprawled on the couch all day, reading together. It is a mark of the book that it is, because my other half will not willingly read, but he read it in an afternoon. It was good. It was interesting. But let’s talk about the book.

Manson has always been a controversial figure. He freaks a lot of people out, others think he is some god, I don’t know. I think he’s a talented artist that had a message to share and found a slid way to do it. I find him to be highly intelligent. He is a nihilist, has an ego, sure, but the man is also exceptionally interesting. I enjoyed that this book handles a bit about Manson and a bit about getting the band together, the blood, sweat, tears, narcotics, and lunacy it took for the band to make it, and how that all came to be.

My husband and a group of friends had a band when they were younger that did really well for themselves, and I know how crazy some of the stories get of playing shows and the people you meet, so I could totally see some of the stories in this happening. Rock/metal is such a different type of genre and the people attached to it see life differently, so I thoroughly enjoyed that. The Long Hard Road Out of Hell is smartly written, and it flows pretty well. It jumps here and there for things, but it all just fits. You cannot help but be drawn in to read more of the depraved work. It is a shocking novel, which I am pretty sure was the intent from the outset, but it is engaging, and it is smart.

I really liked the layout of the book, too, what with the colour photo inserts, as well as the art, sketches, photos, interviews, diary entries, etc. that were littered throughout the book. It made for the book look cool, because the layout is so different from your average biographical book. This makes it a memorable read. It’s also quite a quick book to work through. It pretty much deals with Manson before the super big time, all the way until the release of Antichrist Superstar, which was the band’s ticket to the big time, and how it went with that. I appreciated this. It didn’t carry on for forever and twelve days about decades worth of material. It picked a time frame, and then got on with it. Much appreciated.

Okay, as you can all tell, this is a book I enjoyed. There’s a lot to like about this, even if you don’t like the man. There are some really humorous sections, and others that are really dark and honest, and plenty pages dealing with the depravity and insanity that comes with that world, but it all just works. If you like being shocked, or you enjoy Manson, or think that some of these bands have some crazy stories to tell, then this is definitely worth checking out.

Review: After You – Jojo Moyes

after-you-cover

Me Before You #2

SYNOPSIS: “You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future…

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.  – via Goodreads

GRADE 5Alrighty, so after months of procrastinating after reading Me Before You (and even watching that substandard movie), I finally got to this. Primarily because Natasha read it and loved it. Either way, it finally happened. I know Natasha was seriously taken with this, and while I enjoyed it, I definitely didn’t like it as much as the first. Not because all sequels suck, blah, blah, blah, because that is not the general consensus for book series, but because this one just didn’t speak to me, and Me Before You didn’t really need a sequel. Let me explain all of that.

Louisa really annoyed me in this one. Really. I get that death and loss can really ruin people, so on that front I was fine. But I was annoyed by how useless she was. She was just existing, which is pretty much what she was doing before Will came along too, so there is no way you can tell me she is like this just because of Will. She is also intent on sabotaging herself, and I really get annoyed with people who are content to play the victim, and not to strive for more in life. That’s a personal feeling of mine, but yeah. It coloured her in the book. Then there were the characters again – I liked some, I resented others, that’s just how it was.

The frenemies relationship between Lou and Treena was highlighted here again, and it is something that you can like and dislike in equal measure. I found the tone of this book to be totally different from the last, the writing style, the characters, they just seemed so loosely related to Me Before You, and I didn’t much like that. Way too different. I enjoyed reading about Josie’s feminist awakenings, but felt that they were handled terribly and the idea never really found its feet, thus making it very awkward at the best of times. It didn’t flow right. There was so much more potential to that than was realised. That being said, there were still times where this provided a smile.

The humour was greatly lacking in this book, if we are being honest. There were one or two moments where I had a good laugh (the waxing, good gracious!), but for the most part, I just read this. There was also Lily, a character that I frequently disliked. She came across as a brat. I know she was going through rough stuff and all that, but jeesh. I don’t know, I think I just wanted something of substance from this book, as the last really gave you something to chew on. This one reads like a breeze, but it also feels like it never really takes off and gets going. I liked it, but I certainly didn’t love it.

I enjoyed Sam and Donna quite a bit as characters, and found them to be interesting and entertaining. I thought a lot of the antics in this book were crazy. I was pleased to see Nathan return, as he was a character that I enjoyed. I must say that while the book brought back a lot of characters and all that, it felt like quite the generic romance novel, so I was quite let down about that. It also got really crass at times (looking specifically at Lily and how she talks to people, but also all the ways that sex was addressed in this book).

I thought After You to be unnecessary, if we are being honest. So much more could have been done, though a sequel was totally unnecessary in the first place. Instead of making this an inspiring story, adding humour, making it amazing, it is ultimately quite a bland and flat affair. I was really hoping for more, but this was really not that.

Review: The Butterfly Garden – Dot Hutchison

the-butterfly-garden-cover

The Collector Trilogy #1

SYNOPSIS: Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…  – via Goodreads

GRADE 7.5I picked this up on special on Amazon recently, and the synopsis looked interesting enough and it had a pretty good rating, so I figured why not? I must say, I think this was definitely money well spent, grabbing something out of the blue. There are issues with the book, for sure, but the minute you figure out how to deal with them, it changes the reading experience altogether. I suppose I should explain that.

The Butterfly Garden asks you to suspend reality. I mean suspend a hell of a lot of it. Sometimes you can imagine some of the things happening and seeing how that would interact in a real-world situation, but there are too many things going down that are just a little too fantastical (including a plotsie near the end). However, if you stop trying to compare this to the real world setting, you will be fine. Just read it as fiction. In fact, rather look at it like… an alternate world/reality. Don’t think about how this would be in real life. Also, realise that the characters are ridiculously unaware (the Garden being built, no questions asked about how his time is spent and why there is a giant greenhouse withing a greenhouse, etc.). Like totally blind – super implausible. Again.  As soon as I had made that mind-shift, I was drawn into this.

The story is rather icky. Seriously, kidnapped girls held as a captive harem to a really sick, twisted man – interesting stuff by far. The book also deal with a lot of characters, all really interesting. I was quite the fan of Bliss – snappy, blunt, honest, I understood her. She had a point when she said the Gardener never asked them to love him. Maya was a character I went back and forth between liking and disliking, and that is not a bad thing. She was quite well written. Then there was Avery, a sick tyrant, and Desmond, a spineless fool. The book sort of tried to manipulate you into liking Desmond, and to pity him, but I couldn’t. Twisted individual that he is, weak and useless. At least the book also highlights that and runs that point home, and isn’t too sympathetic of Desmond, although it still wants you to sort of feel for him. Nope. I know that sounds confusing, but that is how he was put forth. Like him, but don’t like him.

The atrocities the girls suffer at the hands of the Gardener and his sons is awful. Truly, there are such sick things going on all the time. Eventually (and I hate to say this), you become desensitised to it, though it is still quite nasty to even consider the events unfolding for these young girls. I appreciated the bond that formed between them, and how real names were given as sad parting gifts.

I enjoyed the pacing. There were times that I thought it meandered (especially around the middle – lots of drag), and could have been tightened up, but for the most part the story just zipped along. The writing draws you in from the off, and even the style in which the story is told is something I highly appreciated. It wasn’t overly complex or anything like that, so don’t expect a super detailed, in depth book here. The jumping back and forth between the present and what happened in the Garden was seamless, effortless, and it didn’t get on my last nerve, as this style can usually grate on me. The Butterfly Garden also flies along, and is really quick to get through, though it is dark and very messed up. The ending, too, wraps things up (there is a sequel, though I see it is not necessarily delving too much into this story). I felt it was a little rushed, so I hope the sequel spends some time just tying up those last ends neatly.

This was quite an interesting read for me, one that had me hooked, one that I stumbled on totally by accident.If you are willing to forget about reality, and are okay with suspending it to the extent of an alternate reality, then I would recommend this one. Even if you can’t, and you don’t mind things not being too realistic, you might like this. I have pre-ordered the sequel, I would like to see how that goes.

Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

the-girl-on-the-train-cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Final Girls – Riley Sager

final-girls-cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7.5Alrighty, this one was actually good. It is what I expected – entertaining, keeps you reading, reads really quickly, but never actually delves into the psychological aspects of surviving something so horrific. Sure, it touches on it, and uses some abnormal behaviour to showcase it, but it never gets to the guts of it. That being said, I enjoyed this read.

The story barrels along, and between the main story, there are flashbacks to Pine Cottage, telling us what happened to Quincy. They are spaced really well, because it is not frequently enough to rip you from the main story, and gives you just enough to get us wondering what exactly happened on that terrifying birthday trip. I appreciated that. The pacing was also pretty decent. I feel that the book could have been tightened up in places, it felt a little long winded at times, but not so much to make the book a drag.

To be honest, I was not really taken with any of the characters. I found Jeff to be empty and spineless, Quincy to be the insubstantial shadow she was (I suppose we call that good writing right there), and then there was Sam, who was constantly so abrasive I could not stand her. The situations these two women find themselves in is crazy, and yet you are interested to see where it all goes.

I really wished that Sager had delved more into the psychology of survival, but didn’t really expect it, so I was not horrified when it was all there. I thought the novel truly succeeded in not being bland and boring or overly predictable, as it kept you guessing and also showcased some great twists and turns.

SPOILER: I didn’t ever actually buy into Joe Hannen being the Pine Cottage killer because Sager almost tried too hard to sell that, so my back was up. Plus (and this was intended, I am sure) when you read more about him later in the flashbacks, something just doesn’t sit right or ring true about him being crazy like that.

Final Girls was a fine pick, and an entertaining read that I can see becoming rather popular. I can definitely recommend the read, especially if you are into horror. If you aren’t into horror, no worries, there is plenty to keep you entertained here. The book did drag a little strangely in some places, but I enjoyed it. Worth checking out!

Review: Southern Gothic – Dale Wiley

southern-gothic

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Aspiring author Meredith Harper owns the hottest bookstore in Savannah.

Michael Black is her favorite writer—long thought dead—until he mysteriously approaches Meredith with a new manuscript, and a most unusual offer. Meredith can keep the manuscript to herself, or publish it under her own name.

Her decision results in a bestseller, but the novel contains a coded secret; one that will put her on trial for murder and in hiding from “the blood stalker,” proving too late that making a deal with the devil comes at a heavy price.  – via Goodreads

GRADE 2Man, I wanted to like this. But it was a flat and supremely irritating affair for me for so many reasons. The book was messy. It starts off okay, if not a little bland. But next thing you know, it rushes into this woman having a stalker, and before you can blink your eyes and wonder when the tension is going to kick in, she knows immediately it is a famous author she is a big fan of. Uhm… yes. The next time I hear something go bump in the night, I am going to hope some hot celebrity I am into is there.

The pacing was so off. It was ridiculous, and I couldn’t stand it. Don’t get me wrong, the book reads super quickly, but meh. I really didn’t like it. There are absolutely no likable characters. This is not necessarily a deal breaker, provided that there is a solid story to tell. Which there wasn’t. Not even remotely. Also, there is the way this author flips between the actual book that I am reading (Southern Gothic), and then the book within the book (Red Ribbon). Both stories sucked, and it was jarring to read like that because there was seriously no voice to differentiate between the varying chapters. They both sound exactly the same, and that is something I cannot forgive. The dialogue is all over the show, too, and I found the plot to be glaringly obvious.

There is also just way too much sex in this book. I am not talking the super explicit kind like Nora Roberts, but enough to annoy me. It served no purpose, either. And when Michael and Meredith weren’t banging each other, she was constantly thinking about it. Uhm, nope. No thanks. Also, Meredith falls in love with Michael just like that? She doesn’t know him. She loves his literary work, and ignores the fact that there is something distinctly off about him? Puh-lease. Idiot. It isn’t like Michael was doing an awfully good job of hiding his weirdness.

I wanted to like this more, I did, and it could have been more. But Wiley brings no heart to the book. While it is a fast read, it is a hollow, forgettable one that frustrated me while reading, and not one that I can recommend. I see that it has pretty good ratings, but it didn’t work for me on any level.