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: 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: Her Last Day – T.R. Ragan

Jessie Cole #1

SYNOPSIS: Ten years ago, PI Jessie Cole and reporter Ben Morrison each suffered a tragedy that changed their lives—and now these two strangers are about to share a nightmare.

For Jessie, who makes her living finding missing persons, no case has consumed her more than the disappearance of her younger sister, Sophie. But left alone to raise Sophie’s daughter, she realizes that solving the case has become an unhealthy obsession.

For Ben, a horrific car accident resulted in scars both physical and emotional—and amnesia that has made his life a mystery. But curiously, out of his shattered memories, there’s one person he recognizes without a doubt: Jessie’s sister. He just doesn’t know why. Yet.

But Sophie isn’t the only phantom drawing Jessie and Ben together. An elusive serial murderer known as the Heartless Killer has reemerged from the shadows. His next move will cut even deeper into Jessie’s worst fears. And for Ben, what happens this time is going to be unforgettable.  – via Goodreads

Ha! This! This was good. I have been reading Ragan’s Lizzie Gardner books, but they have certainly not hooked me and drawn me in like Her Last Day. Initially when I started I saw it was yet another private investigator with a past and a possible boyfriend in law enforcement, and I felt my enthusiasm dwindling, but I was drawn in by the writing that is better than the Gardner books and characters who are more real and far less grating. This world drew me in, and the story is really good.

From the off, minus my initial gripe, I was interested. This is dark and gritty and the characters are good. While a little predictable at times, it is a solid story that is methodically laid out. Jessie has more than one case she is working on, what with Zee Gatley and the Parker Koontz stalking case, not to mention re-investigating her sister’s disappearance. Even with all of that going on, none of the cases is really forgotten. Sure, the stalking case is the least handled of the lot, but it does feature, and I liked how it all balanced. The pacing was also quite good, nothing feeling too forgotten, or shoehorned in randomly at a later stage.

Ben Morrison is a complex character, and I am interested to see where his story goes, as well as find out more about who he was before his accident, as a lot of his flashbacks are a bit dodgy and rather violent, which begs pause. I never really thought he was super involved with any of the cases Jessie was investigating in this (with the exception of his possible involvement with her sister), so that makes me wonder all the more. This has a lot of potential, and I liked how it was not rushed into this, or that Ragan didn’t rush to resolve it all in this book.

The plot flows rather well, and the book doesn’t read like it is chock full of filler to make the book longer or lots of roundabout reasoning. It gets into everything, and does so well. Overall, I think that Her Last Day is a solid read with good characters, a captivating premise, and reads really easily. I am quite looking forward to seeing where Ragan goes with this series.

Review: The Last Mrs Parrish – Liv Constantine

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne and her husband, Jackson—the beautiful philanthropist and the confident real estate mogul—are a golden couple straight out of a fairytale, blessed with two lovely young daughters.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrish family, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces. – via Goodreads

Disclaimer: I am so over reading these taglines for books touting it an addictive/shocking/thrilling and having “the best twist” or a “twist you won’t see coming”. Eventually this is going to cause me to not request books or something I swear.

Now, moving on from that, let’s get to the book. Initially I was not a fan of this book. I liked the concept, but didn’t know how well the execution was going as it was a bit rocky in the beginning. I resented reading from Amber’s perspective because really, what a bitch and what a horrible piece of work. There were absolutely no redeeming qualities to her, and the more you read about her, the more you realise that she is one hell of a selfish twit and sociopathic and all. Yes, I am aware that is exactly how she is intended to come across.

I won’t say that the book is shocking – Daphne is a character I liked from the beginning, one I did not believe to be even remotely as stupid as Amber thought her to be. Jackson set my teeth on edge, and I felt so justified in my belief that he was an abusive douche nugget and that he and Amber totally deserved each other. I felt vindicated man, really. They are truly icky characters.

The book flows quite well, laying this sordid tale bare, and you cannot help but be drawn in. As I said, it might come across as a bit predictable, but in no which way does that mean it is not engaging. It is compelling, but it could certainly have toned down on the money shaming that went on the whole time in the beginning, it got old fast. To read about the reality of Jackson and Daphne’s marriage was quite rough because really, that was some mad stuff going on there, and I was fascinated to see how Constantine would carry through with it. Every time you think that something might have been forgotten/overlooked in the narrative, Constantine delivers the goods.

All in all, The Last Mrs Parrish is well worth the read. It is engaging and interesting and has some things that will make you think (spoiled children and one’s notion of abuse amongst other things). The Last Mrs Parrish is a solid psychological/drama read (though not a shocking! thriller! like it is marketed), and I am so glad I checked it out, and can certainly recommend it!