Review: Don’t Let Go – Harlan Coben

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for.

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine. – via Goodreads

Alrighty, right off the bat, this was a super quick read, so it hooks you very early and keeps you busy throughout, the pace barrelling along at a breakneck speed, never really slowing down. It’s a thrilling little story that is well written and doesn’t waste your time dawdling around.

The characters are not particularly fleshed out or robust, but that doesn’t hurt this in the least. Nap is the most important, and he is a character we get to know more than the others purely because the story is being told by him and the conversations he has in his head with his dead brother Leo. Then there is his best friend, Ellie, who is only really his best friend, and never becomes real. Augie is also a peripheral character, but important to Nap, and so, like Ellie, he becomes important to us.

There were many leaps and bounds that the story took, but nothing too outrageous. You hang in for the ride, filled with twists and turns every step of the way. I do think that a lot of the humour fell flat though, which is unfortunate. It came across as trying to be smarter and sharper than it was, and just didn’t get really well. While there aren’t a lot of super likable characters in this, there is an interesting story. Conspiracy? Murder? Secret clubs? Obsession? So many boxes ticked for me, so naturally I was on board.

Don’t Let Go is a book that hustles and bustles along, a busy little read that zooms by before you even know what’s happened. It reads easily enough and has a story that will keep you hooked from the get-go. It won’t linger long after you have read it, and will not change the way you think about things, but that does not detract from the fact that the read is entertaining as all hell. If you are looking for a quick, gripping thrill of a ride, this book definitely meets that criteria.

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Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

“All the courage in the world cannot alter fact.”
– Wallace

SYNOPSIS: A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years. – via IMDB

VISUAL FEST. AUDIO FEST. RYAN GOSLING FEST. Okay, now that that is off my chest, I am going to try to form whole, coherent sentences to express how much I loved this. I expected to like it, Villeneuve is super talented, and figured even if the plot fell a bit flat, visually it would still be gorgeous, right? Right, well, I got a story I enjoyed the heck out of and it was visually arresting to boot and Gosling… yes.

Back to trying for the coherent sentences… I loved the way this movie looked. The perfect dystopian future, and the colours used were awesome. The sound, too, is not to be underappreciated here as it was the perfect fit and just blended with everything and worked to build and maintain that heavy atmosphere. Gosling struts around all gorgeous, and delivers a very Drive-esque performance, and I liked it. He’s good at it. It was great to see Harrison Ford return, as it really ties the two movies together strongly.

I see this movie is getting a lot of praise and a lot of flak. Obviously I fall into the former camp. I was engaged throughout, and thought it was a good bit of writing that even people who have not seen the original movie will be able to follow this. The plot takes time to set up and play out, and while some people gripe that this makes the movie too long, I didn’t feel that. I was hooked throughout, watching both the story unfold as well as taking in that world that had been spun for us, simply amazing.

Blade Runner 2049 is carried by some solid performance. Gosling impressed me, as always, and Ford is Ford, which in my opinion works for this. Leto can’t really be overlooked, either, as his Niander Wallace is a right creep, and Robin Wright was fantastic as the hardened Lieutenant Joshi. I am not going to discuss every single character, just know that everyone contributed something to the story. I really enjoyed the story, too, as it was engaging and interesting. Sure, you can poke holes in the story, but I feel that it was presented quite well regardless and it flowed. It made sense to me, and the pacing was just right, so that works for me, personally.

I can wax lyrical about Blade Runner 2049 for quite some time, but I think I am going to wrap it up now. A delectable visual buffet with sounds that will draw you right in and some great performances, Blade Runner 2049 is a prime example of how to do a successful sequel to a classic movie, and is definitely something I am looking forward to seeing again, and not just for science.

Review: The Coffin Dancer – Jeffery Deaver

Lincoln Rhyme #2

SYNOPSIS: NYPD criminalist Lincoln Rhyme joins his beautiful protege, Amelia Sachs, in the hunt for the Coffin Dancer–an ingenious killer who changes appearance even faster than he adds to his trail of victims. They have only one clue: the madman has a tattoo of the Grim Reaper waltzing with a woman. Rhyme must rely on his wits and intuition to track the elusive murderer through New York City–knowing they have only forty-eight hours before the Coffin Dancer strikes again. – via Goodreads

Alrigthy then folks, let’s get on with this series! I recently read the first one after putting it off for so many years (don’t you dare judge me, my To Read list is so daunting I sometimes just stare at my Kindle wondering where I will go next on my reading journey, and then just keep staring). I loved it, and I just knew that I had to keep on with it and see where it all went. Well, the follow up to The Bone Collector certainly does not disappoint!

Lincoln Rhyme returns in style, and certainly has more drive for living than he did in the first one. Apparently the Bone Collector drew him out of his depressive shell, and reuniting with Sellitto and acquainting with Sachs is the best thing that could have happened to him. I truly enjoy Rhyme’s mind, and was again drawn into this book and fascinated with our main man being a C4 quadriplegic. Sachs, too, is a character I thoroughly enjoyed. They both had actions in this book that felt a little jarring to the characters we have been presented with up to this point, but oh well.

Percey Clay is a character that really peeved me in the beginning, and not just because I am attached to Sachs and love the interactions between her and Rhyme (that dynamic is fascinating). No, I had beef with how incredibly selfish Percey was, and then she was lauded as being to brave. No, being pigheaded does not necessarily make you brave. Ugh. But on the opposite side of her, we have Roland Bell and Fred Dellray to read about, and they are both characters I thoroughly enjoyed.

I always appreciate reading the interactions between Rhyme and Thom, they are like family, and Thom does not put up with Rhyme’s temper and neglect of his body, and the two are quite close. This is never more clear than when Thom is proud of Rhyme’s accomplishments and how much he (Rhyme) is enjoying his new gadgets, etc. It’s adorable. Then there is the realtionship between Sachs and Rhyme, and I really like it because it is not a romance as you would think of it – that fire is there, don’t get me wrong, but they have immense amount of respect for one another and both push each other, which I like. I did not like the insane jealousy plot that was put in here, it felt a little forced and silly.

The Coffin Dancer was another smart, worthy nemesis for Rhyme to track, and it was quite an intense journey. The Coffin Dancer is as twisty as you would expect, which totally works, and kept me hooked. The plot barrels along, proving that Deaver is quite a deft writer. There are some niggles and issues here, to be sure, but for the most part this is a super entertaining read.

Overall, The Coffin Dancer is a solid follow up for Lincoln Rhyme, and this series has certainly hooked me with these two books. I am really looking forward to reading more on this. The books so far have proven to be smart and well written, two things I appreciate in a book.

October Blind Spot Review: Deliverance (1972)

“Sometimes you have to lose yourself ‘fore you can find anything.”
– Lewis

SYNOPSIS: Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country. – via IMDB

FUCK THIS FUCKING MOVIE. I bitterly regret having put this on my Blind Spot list – just to completely appreciate all the Deliverance references you see peppered everywhere all the time. Well, let me tell you, fuck this thing. I wish my brother-in-law had done me a zero graphic – I really should have asked him for one when I got him to pull together my score cards. Ugh. This thing should even go into the negatives. I am sure that this opening paragraph tells you all you need to know about how I felt about this pile of shit.

How the fucking fuck did this shitstorm end up with ratings like this?! Why?! Copious amounts of drugs is the only real answer I can think of :/

Anyway, there is nothing to like about this movie. It is shot terribly and accompanied by some absolutely godawful awful sound, making it a real chore to sit through. Then let us not forget how damn slow it is. Like oh… my… gosh. My attention was wandering all the time, and I am usually a really attentive watcher. For minutes on end you watch a man be raped, a man climb a cliff, men canoeing, men having the same argument, a man lining up a shot for a deer… like seriously. Not like it served a purpose other than to irritate the crap out of me. Let’s double back for a second to that rape scene – so out of the blue and so unnecessary. Ugh. WHY?

Speaking of irritating, Burt Reynolds’s Lewis is a Class A twatbag. It took me three sittings to get through this movie. Lewis was hands down one of the most offensive characters ever. I desperately wanted to see some hillbilly take him down, really. I had to settle for him going through what must have been ungodly pain with a shattered leg and dumped in a canoe in the rapids. I call that karma, you dweeb. Kry vir jou, as we would say in Afrikaans. Now that I have raged about him, I just want to add that all the characters were forgettable and flimsy, but Lewis was an asshat of note and that is why he is the most offensive.

So all in all, my opinion is fuck Deliverance. It was hands down one of the worst movies I have wasted my time on and is one of the most deserving movies of all time for that Shitfest status. If you have seen it, I feel for you (whether you liked it or not), and if you haven’t, avoid this fetid skunk of a movie. Run for the hills. Stay away. AVOID.

Review: Split (2016)

“You like to make fun of us, but we are more powerful than you think.”
– Dennis

SYNOPSIS: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th. – via IMDB

This is something I wanted to check out for a multitude of reasons. The front-runner being McAvoy, let’s not play, but another being that it seems M Night Shyamalan is making a tentative comeback. Apparently. I still need to see The Visit, though I have started watching Wayward Pines, which I see he has a hand in (UPDATE: it’s gone horribly wrong, unfortunately). Anyway, the only thing I knew about this is that McAvoy plays a character who suffers from Disassociative Identity Disorder.

Well, right off the top of my head, McAvoy is, unsurprisingly, great here. Really. When he gets to sink his teeth into bizarre roles, he really shines. He can pretty much play it all, and he is without a doubt the part of this film that keeps it truly engaging, seeing as the entire movie depends on his portrayal and his role. Each one of his personalities was distinctly different from the last, from speech to mannerisms and body language. I really liked that. Ana Taylor-Joy is also very good here, and I thoroughly enjoyed her. I liked her character, and thought she and McAvoy played off each other quite well, and she held her own really well, making her more than just the kidnapped girl on the side. Betty Buckley, too, was quite good, though you really need to question how she did not investigate more thoroughly what was going on when certain personalities/alters were evidently desperate for her help.

Anyway, a lot of people had a lot more to say about this than I am going to. I liked the way it was done, and thought the pacing was good, because the story gets rolling pretty quickly, and then gives you all that time to watch McAvoy splinter and Casey fight for survival, trying to be cunning and escape unharmed, who constantly has us wondering about her past, which we get these flashbacks for throughout, delivered at exactly the right moments. Man, what a messed up story! This movie really is all about the characters, and I feel that they were balanced quite well.

Anyway, Split handles itself well, and is carried by solid performances from McAvoy and Taylor-Joy. It is engrossing, and truly draws you into this bizarre story and crazy world, and Shyamalan style presents many twists and turns, some you see coming/guess at, and others you don’t. Split is quite silly in a lot of aspects, and yet manages to present itself as quite serious. It blends the ludicrous and heaviness rather well. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.

September Blind Spot Review: JFK (1991)

“Telling the truth can be a scary thing sometimes.”
– Jim Garrison

SYNOPSIS: New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison discovers there’s more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. – via IMDB

A movie about the JFK assassination? Man, this must have been tailor made for me! Ask anyone I know (Natasha knows about as well as my husband) how I feel about the Kennedy assassination. It is ridiculously fascinating and I love reading about it or watching things on it – it never gets old for me. So yeah, this is something I just never got to, and this was the year to correct that.

I think JFK is actually a great movie for someone to watch who doesn’t really know much about the Kennedy assassination, or the ludicrous explanations that were put forth about it, and that embarrassing investigation into it. Really, it covers a lot of relevant ground, and also happens to have another story over and above it, bringing to Zodiac to mind, because of watching Jim Garrison’s obsession with the case. A lot of research went into this and that is evident, but I would not say to go into this movie and take everything it presents as gospel, for reals. Look at it as entertainment, don’t take it as a hardcore documentary and the holy grail for answers to the JFK assassination. Enjoy it for the conspiracy it discusses.

The movie is shot well and I enjoyed the pacing – it is long, but takes the time to lay down the evidence and the story and then get going with it, which I liked, but I can see how it could annoy others. One also cannot deny that the movie looks and feels dated. The pacing was just fine here, and the performances were pretty damn good all around. I was so engrossed by the telling of this from Stone, how the case was presented and researched and pursued. It was quite tense and definitely entertaining. There are obviously a lot of issues with the movie in the sense that there are a lot of fictitious characters brought in and spewing “facts” and Stone sets out the good guys and the bad guys in a classic black and white way without actually finessing anything there. The movie is also presented as “fact”, which at times is a little difficult to swallow, and you can see a lot of confirmation bias going on for Garrison at times. That being said, this movie had a lot of things to balance, from fact to fiction and everything in between.

Overall, JFK is an entertaining watch sure to keep you hooked, especially if you enjoy conspiracies (whether you take them seriously or just like to hear what they are) and especially if you are interested about what happened that day in November of 1963, provided you don’t think this movie is going to give you all the answers, evidence and proof you are looking for. But as a movie taking a look at some of the conspiracies surrounding the assassination, balancing fact, fiction, everything? So worth it, truly.

Review: The Innocent Wife – Amy Lloyd

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Twenty years ago Dennis Danson was arrested for the brutal murder of Holly Michaels in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a Making a Murderer-style true crime documentary that’s taking the world by storm – the filmmakers are whipping up a frenzy of coverage to uncover the truth and free the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.

Samantha may be thousands of miles away in Britain, but she is as invested in Dennis’s case as any of his lawyers. Perhaps even more so, as her letters to the convicted killer grow ever more intimate. Soon she is leaving her life behind to marry Danson and campaign, as his wife, for his release.

But when the campaign is successful, and Dennis is freed, events begin to suggest that he may not be so innocent after all. How many girls went missing in Red River, and what does Dennis really know?  – via Goodreads

Obviously this premise was going to speak to me. I am fascinated with the whole death row thing, as well as the women who marry these men there. Surreal, crazy stuff. I very briefly skimmed this synopsis and gave it a shot, and I have no regrets.

The Innocent Wife is an extremely absorbing read. It gets cracking really quickly, and doesn’t waste your time. The plot pacing is a little all over the show because it starts with a bang, and while it remains engrossing, the middle section feels a little all over the show. That does not hurt the read though, as it is engaging and a super fast read. I really enjoyed the premise of this one (I mean we have all watched documentaries about convicted murderers/wrongfully convicted folks and everyone has an opinion on the death penalty), and felt at times it was a little predictable, but not too often, so it makes for a super immersive read.

Sam is a character who initially comes across as insipid and weak, and then when you see later is actually a hot mess in life. She is a particular brand of strange, because she pushes people away, has a super mean streak that bubbles to the surface from time to time, is super jealous and she lives in her head and shuts out the world. She also made Dennis her life, her whole world, and that is just sad. The relationship between Dennis and Sam is an odd one, and he is a cruel bastard to her at times, but she, too, is just weird. They are not particularly well suited for one another, and yet you want to read all there is to read about their twisted romance.

I did like the way that the book was structured, skipping between a book that was written about Dennis Danson and the accusations levelled against him, as well as letters between him and Sam, and then to what is going on between them in real life. It definitely works to keep up suspense. The book is really well written and lingers with you when you (sadly) have to go about your day to day (read: job that pays your bills) activities. I just wanted to read!

I am impressed that The Innocent Wife is Amy Lloyd’s first novel, and will most certainly be keeping my eyes peeled to see what else she comes up with in the future. I would say that this book is well worth the read!