Review: The Stolen Girls – Patricia Gibney

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Detective Lottie Parker #2

SYNOPSIS: The young woman standing on Lottie’s step was a stranger. She was clutching the hand of a young boy. ‘Help me,’ she said to Lottie. ‘Please help me.’

One Monday morning, the body of a young pregnant woman is found. The same day, a mother and her son visit the house of Detective Lottie Parker, begging for help to find a lost friend.

Could this be the same girl?

When a second victim is discovered by the same man, with the murder bearing all the same hallmarks as the first, Lottie needs to work fast to discover how else the two were linked. Then two more girls go missing.

Detective Lottie Parker is a woman on the edge, haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her family together through difficult times. Can she fight her own demons and catch the killer before he claims another victim?  – via Goodreads

I decided to give this one a shot because the synopsis seemed alright, and people were comparing this to the work of Karin Slaughter, so naturally I was sold. Unfortunately for me, this is not the same genius as Slaughter, and I had a myriad of issues with the book. Some things I liked, but for the most part, I was not pleased.

To start, I figured out pretty quickly after starting this that this was the second book in a series, which sucks because I don’t like reading things out of sequence. It was obvious, too, because the author continually referred to things that obviously happened in the last book, and it felt like I was missing something major because I had not read it, which sucked. I prefer a book in a series to be okay on its own, even if you miss some things, but to feel like you have been chucked into the middle of the ocean is not cool.

I was not a fan of one single character in this book. Not our main protagonist Lottie Parker (I just think she’s a terrible mother and an all round bitch), and the supporting characters were not endearing, either. I just want to take another moment to talk about Lottie. She is really terrible – she knows her kids are going through stuff, and she is just absent. Completely, totally absent. I also found her extremely selfish and I didn’t like the way she treated other people. Not cool. I found most of the characters to be whiny. I was initially drawn into the writing style, because it came across as solid, but the longer I read, the more dawdling and long-winded it became, going around in circles and never really getting to a point. The plot also tried to be so much more in depth and complex than it ultimately was, so it came across as really convoluted.

I enjoyed the concept of the book, I did. I also liked reading about the young boy who fled the extreme horrors or his past, who survived, and who underwent even more harsh things at the hands of terrible people. I could have done with more of that and less rape scenes. Also, setting up this monster stalking these girls was something, but never really got to anything super scary because Gibney almost had too many bad people in this novel, so they ultimately all ran together and had no distinguishing features. There were way too many coincidences in this book to make the plot plausible, too.

I have to give Gibney credit for the grittiness of the book. She did not shy away from some heinous things (maybe that’s why this got the Slaughter comparison). I know it sounds rough, but when an author is ballsy about that stuff, I have got to respect it. You want to tell a story about human trafficking and the sex trade? You are going to have to get into some icky areas.

Anyway, The Stolen Girls is not the worst thing you could read, but it is convoluted, filled to the brim with unlikable characters, and is an excruciatingly long read that happens to have an interesting plot that is just drowned by all the issues presented throughout the book. I don’t know if I will be in a hurry to read anything else from Gibney, despite the fact that she is not afraid to go to the nasty places for her story, a book that is icky and gory does not mean it is a good read if it cannot substantiate the nastiness with a solid story.

Review: Karin Slaughter – The Good Daughter

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever… – via Goodreads

I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about receiving a book from NetGalley for review, ever! Karin Slaughter, as you probably know, is my favourite author. Hands down. The woman is phenomenal and her work is totally up my alley – it is so dark and brutal and unforgiving, and you get so hooked on her characters, they just draw you in. When I was granted access to this, I pretty much did my nut. But enough about that. How did the book hold up for my excitement?

W.O.W. This was one hell of an amazing read! Really. I was drawn in from the first few opening pages, and got hooked on these characters within moments. Slaughter delivers, once again, a solid story, told with such finesse. You get drawn in. The characters become genuine, real people to you, the women are strong (I will always appreciate this), and you never feel like you are reading a book. It is like someone is telling you this story.

I was a big fan of the characters in the book. Sam, Charlie, Rusty, Lenore and Ben all brought a distinctly unique voice to the book, and I appreciate that. You always knew who was who and what was going on. You could identify with each and every one of them. Rusty is described in such a way that even though the town hates him on principle, you cannot help but like the man. He is witty and entertaining and loves his kids. Lenore is strong and stands her ground. Charlie, while totally damaged, is difficult to hate, though originally you think you are going to. Sam, brusque and stubborn as she is, has such a brilliant mind. Ben is absolutely adorable, and a strong, supportive man. I really liked it.

The story that Slaughter tackles here is a heavy one, something I know Americans are particularly touchy about – school shootings. They are vile things, and a horrible, tragic occurrence. Slaughter delivers the goods here again in terms of story – we have a truly savage, brutal back story for the Quinn family, and to see how they all come together again 28 years down the line over a school slaying is quite something. Slaughter gets right up to her elbows in the narrative. The writing flows smoothly and is genuine.

I barreled through this book. I did not want to put it down. I was engrossed for every single second, and thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the story. I was hooked, plain and simple. Definitely one of Slaughter’s strongest novels, and very interesting to see a story told from the perspective of the sisters. Absolutely a solid read and well worth it, I highly recommend this standalone novel from such an accomplished writer.

Review: Two Nights – Kathy Reichs

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct. . . .

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help.

Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found? It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago. – via Goodreads

Okay. Uhm, let’s see. Two Nights. Uhm… no. This just wasn’t my thing. It could have been, but it wasn’t, and I should have known better seeing as this is a Reichs novel, and I have never actually enjoyed anything I have read from her. I thought this would be different, as a standalone and not part of her Temperance Brennan series, but boy, I was wrong.

I absolutely could not stand the lead character, Sunnie. Or her stupid freaking name (Sunday Night – I am not even kidding). Or her horrendous sense of humour. She was a gruff character, and not in the good way. She annoyed me, she did not come across and broken or strong or a survivor, but a whiny brat. Also, stupid little details that Reichs insisted on highlighting – such as exactly which shade of OPI Sunnie was wearing on her nails was just grating. I did not like the way the book was written, either. Certain phrases were constantly recycled (the biggest offender was “pro that I am”). So many of the sentences are short and snippy, which makes for staccato reading, nothing smooth. Just jarring.

The books dawdles and runs in circles the whole time, and there are massive chunks of time dedicated to, well, nothing happening. Just repetitive waiting, waiting, waiting, and I just couldn’t stand it. I think the best thing about this mess was Gus, and he was not featured nearly as much as he could have been. Another thing? The history of Gus and Sunnie had so much more potential than was realised in the book. This really could have been the something to draw us in. Instead the constant hinting but no real payoff really just got under my skin. Yes, it really seems that this whole book got under my skin, and it did.

Two Nights is sloppily written, filled to the brim with hateful characters, and has a rather thin story stretched out to within an inch of its life. It is dull and a total waste of time, and took me forever to slog through. Definitely not a book I enjoyed or could recommend. I am not a fan of Reichs and her work, though many people seem to love her stuff.

Review: The Last Town – Blake Crouch

Wayward Pines #3

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Wayward Pines, the last town.

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrived in Wayward Pines, Idaho, three weeks ago. In this town, people are told who to marry, where to live, where to work. Their children are taught that David Pilcher, the town’s creator, is god. No one is allowed to leave; even asking questions can get you killed.

But Ethan has discovered the astonishing secret of what lies beyond the electrified fence that surrounds Wayward Pines and protects it from the terrifying world beyond. It is a secret that has the entire population completely under the control of a madman and his army of followers, a secret that is about to come storming through the fence to wipe out this last, fragile remnant of humanity. – via Goodreads

Well there we have it folks, the trilogy is done. It’s a super fast trilogy to read, and I am glad that it is all done and dusted now. While not this insanely intricate trilogy, it was fun, albeit predictable and a little silly. Each book has a distinctly different feel to it, and this final one was through and through survival horror, but it was good.

Absolutely nothing shocking came to  light here again, but it was interesting to read about what happened in Wayward Pines after that cuckoo -crazy Pilcher shut off the power. Issues are addressed in this book, the ego of man, but there is no real and substantial lesson to be learned here. The book focuses on the residents of Wayward Pines and the narrative flicks between some characters, be it just to tell about a slice of horror, or to contribute to the main story overall.

Ethan is still not a character I am particularly sold on, and the supporting characters don’t really win you over either. There are still more fragmented sentences than you can shake a stick at and The Last Town still sports the phenomenally questionable and impossible logic and reasoning as its predecessors, but when ones does not focus too closely on that. It barrels on as a light, entertaining read. I am still frustrated at how one dimensional the characters are, and how preposterous things are at times, as well as the silly interactions between people. They come across as so hollow.

I have noticed that these novels are particularly popular and have a loyal following, and maybe I expect more mystery from a thriller, and you know, maybe more thrills, but I could recommend these books if you are looking for a light, quick read. Maybe you find more heart in it than I did. Either way, I don’t regret having purchased these, and they kept me buy and intrigued for a few hours – enough so that I read them back to back, not as filler reads.

Review: Wayward – Blake Crouch

Wayward Pines #2

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Wayward Pines, population 461. Nestled amidst picture-perfect mountains, the idyllic town is a modern-day Eden…except for the electrified fence and razor wire, snipers scoping everything 24/7, and the relentless surveillance tracking each word and gesture.
None of the residents know how they got here. They are told where to work, how to live, and who to marry. Some believe they are dead. Others think they’re trapped in an unfathomable experiment. Everyone secretly dreams of leaving, but those who dare face a terrifying surprise.

Ethan Burke has seen the world beyond. He’s sheriff, and one of the few who knows the truth—Wayward Pines isn’t just a town. And what lies on the other side of the fence is a nightmare beyond anyone’s imagining. – via Goodreads

So I returned to this after completing Pines, a book that was entertaining enough, albeit predictable and messy. Wayward brings more to the table, though it is still flawed. The fragmented sentences still reign supreme, and Ethan is still not the most likable protagonist in the world, and the logic and reasoning is still all over the show and a little hard to swallow, but overall the story definitely had more kick to it this time around.

Wayward breezes along, and to not have to follow Ethan around just trying to figure out who he is and just running is nice. We understand all that is sinister, and while we don’t know everything, we know enough to follow what’s cooking. Ethan’s actions are sometimes beyond ridiculous, but I have come to accept that it is simply how this character is. David Pilcher is explored a little more in this novel, and so is Pam. Ethan and Pam are supposed to hate each other to the ends of the world, but it just doesn’t feel real.

The story of Alyssa, while super engaging, was also rapidly swept under the rug, and dragged out once in a while to remind us that there was a murder investigation at play. I am interested to know what else Tobias learned on his furlough beyond the town, but it was no shocker whatsoever to learn who he is. Theresa annoyed me quite a bit – finally learning the truth and taking that anger out on Ethan, making out that he is an idiot for not changing things, that is not fair.

This book also did a much better job at addressing how things are handled in Wayward Pines, the structures, and how things worked. It almost makes it worse knowing how everything works in the town. Something I did take issue with, however, is how they want the residents to think that they are dead right, but they keep them in line with the fear of death? If you are already dead, how is death an effective threat? SO CONFUSED. I felt that there was a lot of filler stuff in between the actual plot as well as the explanations behind the town and what was going on, but because of the writing style this just zips by at least. As before, the book is more predictable than it would like you to believe.

Anyway. I will definitely read the final installment of this series. I have come this far and I need to know how things are going to work out for everyone, and what the end game is.

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.

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.