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.

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.

Review: Insurgent – Veronica Roth

insurgent cover veronica roth

Divergent #2

SYNOPSIS: One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so. – via Goodreads

GRADE 5.5This is the second book in the Divergent trilogy. I would have assumed that this book would have more action than its predecessor, but I was evidently wrong. It seems that it was important for all the separate compounds to be revisited and what not. I got pretty edgy pretty quickly what with all the damn kissy kissy storyline the whole time between Tris and Tobias, and the continual hinting at sex. That whole thing was just totally incongruent to the story and the events that were going on around them. It also offended me because the romance was so intense in the last book, but it never took over. I loved it.

As though that was not bad enough, it soon escalated into Tris and Tobias fighting incessantly for absolutely no good reason, and silly childish fights, too. They do have a relationship that ranges from really sweet and intense to absolutely ridiculous, though ultimately I only want them together. They work, if they could just get over all their silly differences. Then there was Tris, who portrayed herself as so strong and invincible and all that, and suddenly a few things go wrong and she is shattered though still faking brilliance. She is whining and selfish and terrified. She is spineless and not brave, whimpering and crying all the time, she is not willing to think about anyone other than herself and that annoyed me endlessly. She is a heroine I really liked, and in a few pages just became Katniss Everdeen Bella Swan a total nuisance. Four, too, is still a character I have mad love for, though his character, too, is a little messy in this one. Still.

Veronica Roth’s writing style seemed so limited here, there were repetitive lines about laced fingers and mouths fitting over each other perfectly, etc. It upset me because the last book really reeled me in, and this one was quite the chore to get through. Roth does not build up enough rapport with the characters she has in Insurgent, and they are difficult to identify with and don’t seem real. This way, when she kills them, it seriously lacks impact. The story for Insurgent is a little weak. It started as something in the first one – something with so much potential, but it seemed very scattered in this one.

Insurgent is not a dreadful book, but it left me wanting a hell of a lot more. There are no real twists and turns, it is not exceptionally gripping and brought nothing particularly new to the table. Not the worst young adult dystopian novel you could lay your hands on, but this feels like it lacks direction and is not sure where it wants to go with the story after starting off with such a bang.

Review: Divergent – Veronica Roth

divergent veronia roth book cover

Divergent #1

SYNOPSIS: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. – via Goodreads

Years ago, my best friend Natasha was hopping up and down about me getting to this trilogy, so the Distance Book Club was reinstated quickly. Evidently she needed someone to share this with, and so I got onto it. I enjoyed it all those years ago, and recently decided to revisit it again to see how I felt now. The novel directly takes us into a dreadful dystopian future. The children, however, are not necessarily suffering like you would come to expect, though there are some issues.

I enjoyed the concept of them having to choose a faction, as well as what those factions stood for, though it seemed illogical to me that they would not be able to maintain ties with other family members in other factions, etc. I just couldn’t buy into that, though I understand why it was executed this way. Tris is definitely a better leading lady, far less selfish than Katniss Everdeen (who you all know I have some beef with), so reading about her did not grate on me. I actually really, really liked her as the heroine. She is strong, smart, calculating and enjoyable. Then there is Four. Let’s talk about Four. I have mad love for Four. He is strong, he is mysterious (but not in the annoying way), he is just… the more I read about him, the more I adore him. Major character crushing going on here. He’s just a character I understand, and I appreciate that.

These books are written for young adults, and it is evident in the writing style as well as emotions that are described and the flow of the story. There is a large amount of teenage angst (I am so glad that I am so over that ridiculous part of life), but not as over the top as these stories can sometimes get. There is plenty of petty jealousy, childish hissy fits and obsession, though it works eventually if you can just bear in mind it is a book for young people still in that period in life, so I suppose they can identify more.

It took me a while to get into the reading style as it was written in first person, present tense, which is always difficult for me to slot into. I did enjoy the electricity between Four and Tris – it was incredibly painful at times, and at others so sweet, so there was that. It is actually a brilliant romance that Roth hit on here, something I actually looked forward to when I got to the scenes for them. There is also at least only one love interest, which is refreshing. The romance – back to that. It is great. Four believes in Tris’s strength, not that she is some damsel in distress, and the romance isn’t this “if I can’t have the other, I will simply die”. Gosh and the build up damn near drove me wild, loved it.

There are also a lot of places that blatantly show that Roth is a first time writer, plenty of places she tries for too much mystery and executes with too little gusto, but overall it is definitely not a bad read. Her supporting characters can be entertaining (I really like Will and Christina), but ultimately they are not really robust characters. Roth fills out Four and Tris, but the rest are vehicles to carry the story, no more, no less, which is a pity. The first half of the book is very slow and meandering and seemed pretty pointless in places, but the second half catches and snowballs into something rather good. It is also a quick read, in case you are looking for a light filler between books. I was a bit iffy about how some stuff went down at the end, as it really was a bit of a wreck, what with no finesse and proper build up, but outside of that, I think this is a pretty decent read and would recommend it.

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.