Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

“We are dealing with a monster from a bygone era.”
– Preston Packard

SYNOPSIS: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden. – via IMDB

I finally got to this, and I must say that I was more impressed than I expected to be. While Kong: Skull Island has some issues, if you don’t overthink it and just go in for what it was made for (pure entertainment), you are bound to have a pretty good time. I quite enjoyed myself throughout.

I had quite a good time with the humour, which was cheesy at times, but every now and again had a good, sharp snap to it. I also absolutely loved the soundtrack, which was totally right up my alley, and worked with this. I think the movie touted quite the impressive cast, though some of them were underused. None of them were actually given a character to really chew on, but they all served their purpose of bringing the story of Kong to life. I thought Hiddleston to be a good ex-military type, Jackson played who and what he always plays, Larson was solid (as is to be expected), and it was a treat to see Reilly here.

I did not enjoy the romance that was squashed into this (I could totally have done without it), and I must acknowledge that the movie had some super dodgy effects at times. Also, just don’t overthink it, because this is a movie to entertain, not to be picked apart like The Godfather or something. Kong was really cool, and I totally enjoyed his scenes. Those icky-ass monsters on the island that Kong protected everyone from served their purpose – to be gross as hell. Ewwww. There were also plenty fight scenes, and all were done quite well – exactly what they needed to be, which is a blockbuster action film. If that’s what you are going in for for Kong, then that is exactly what you are going to get.

Anyway, there isn’t really much to say about Kong: Skull Island other than it is quite a bit of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had a few laughs, there were some cool fight sequences, a great soundtrack to carry it all, and decent performances from the cast. It’s seriously not a bad movie to while away some time with.

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Review: The Stolen Girls – Patricia Gibney

Detective Lottie Parker #2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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.

June Blind Spot Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

“When you separate an entwined particle and you move both parts away from the other, even at opposite ends of the universe, if you alter or affect one, the other will be identically altered or affected.”
– Adam

SYNOPSIS: A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister. – via IMDB

You know, this was an odd one. Even after all these years, I was not quite sure what this was all about, only that the characters were vampires. I was pleasantly surprised with the movie, after I had spent some time chewing on it, that is.

Okay, right off the bat I want to say that the film was extremely visually appealing. It was all shot at night, and everything looks dark but never really dreary, just sort of… I don’t know, typically that dark and romantic vampiric vibe. It really was pretty to look at. The score, too, complements the film every step of the way, and the sight and sound combining like they do really set the tone and the atmosphere for the movie, and then the rest is up to the cast, and boy, they really work that. The comedy in this is also very sharp, and delivered effortlessly throughout and never comes across as jarring, yet it is also extremely subtle.

Tom Hiddleston is fantastic. Really. His Adam is quite a complex character who truly entertained me. He is reclusive, haunted and depressed, yet brings massive amounts of humour to the table, which I thoroughly enjoyed. He is classy to boot, and absolutely gorgeous. Tilda Swinton, as always, delivers a solid character, and Eve is one that I quite liked. She gets this almost childlike joy out of things in the world still, despite having been around so long. Adam and Eve perfectly complement each other, and are just this incredibly beautiful, mysterious couple. Hiddleston and Swinton worked wonders together – they just click, everything falls into place when they are together. There is this comfortable, passionate energy between them.

Wasikowska, while breezing in and out, irritated me, and yet provided comedic scenarios in the midst of all the heaviness that was present. Hurt, of course, is excellent here, and his character is a good one, one I could definitely have seen more of. Naturally Yelchin shone here, as expected. While Adam might hate the “zombies”, he has quite the appreciation for Ian, and I liked how that was handled.

Only Lovers Left Alive is dark, haunting, comedic, sophisticated, and most certainly well worth a watch. It’s a movie you chew on after the fact, and that is something that I appreciate. Definitely a different kind of vampire film, and I liked that. This movie is not going to appeal to those who do not enjoy a slow burn film though, or a movie which is not spoon fed to you. There are a lot of little nuances here, things that make the bigger picture that much better.

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.

We’re Moving!

I know I have been MIA for quite some time now, and I am sorry about it. I really want to catch up with everyone, see what’s been going on, and actually create some fresh content for my blog, but I have been ridiculously busy lately. Why, you may ask? Because my husband and I have made the decision to emigrate from South Africa to the United Kingdom. Since we have decided that, life has been a whirlwind.

It’s quite a big decision, and has understandably taken up every moment of my time, from ironing out the details, getting paperwork together, my husband doing all the crazy interviews and nailing something down, the extreme calculations, packing up our home/life, to selling stuff and just all the big and small things that come with the decision to leave one’s country. In between this all there has obviously been the thing of finalising everything at our jobs and saying goodbye to everyone, so things have been mad.

That being said, I think I am fluctuating between extreme excitement and sheer terror at the prospect of venturing out into the world with no support structure of family, etc. that one usually comes to rely on. I am really looking forward to starting our new adventure, and hope to be back on the blogosphere with more consistency sooner rather than later. I think my blog is going to be living up to its namesake in the foreseeable future for a change.

Catch up with all of you sporadically, and hopefully with more regularity soon!

Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)

“I think if we are kind, it will be a kind world.”
– Walter

SYNOPSIS: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape. – via IMDB

Alrighty, this is a movie I have been looking forward to for some time, and I know that my review is rather late in posting, especially considering I actually watched it weeks ago when it first came out. Alien: Covenant is worth the watch. I know that there has been some bitching online, but people need to breathe. There were some niggles to be had here, and there were some things that should be celebrated too.

First and foremost, Covenant managed to balance what I had hoped Prometheus would have when it came out: the gore and the existential philosophising. This is handled really well. The creation question still emerges and is dealt with far better here than in its predecessor, as it handles the themes as introduced in Prometheus more successfully, yet still delivers the blood and gore one craves when watching an Alien movie. It sets an atmosphere again that is both isolated and creepy as hell, much like the Alien films of old. It also has plenty action and some deep themes to look into, and there is blood. Oh yes, all that blood.

The cast, too, was pretty good here. Yes, a lot of them were there purely for sacrifice and the bloodletting we spoke about above, but then there are some performances that stand out. I was surprised that Danny McBride didn’t get under my skin as always, and I actually quite enjoyed Tennessee’s scenes, he was entertaining. Then there is Katherine Waterson’s Daniels, a resolute woman who is easy to root for, and I appreciate that. Naturally everybody has been raving about Michael Fassbender’s performance(s) in this, and I totally get why. The man is brilliant and an absolute scene stealer. I mean wow. He totally got involved here and brought all the goods to the table.

Now, I did have some issues. I didn’t like that the one huge plotsie that was set out here is so damn transparent it is impossible to miss. I would have liked some more mystery there. Another thing, I was not overly sold on all the different xenomorphs here. Yes, we get different ones for each film, yes, they all bring something to the table, but these ones made me thing a lot of the cat-like, super bad CGI xenomorphs of Alien³. Really. Also, the effects were a little dodgy at the best of times and pulled me totally out of the experience, which sucked a bit. A huge gripe I had was that ridiculously unnecessary sex/shower scene that was tacked in here. It had no place in the movie, and was totally uncalled for. Not a fan.

Alien: Covenant hits the ground running with its story and execution. Definitely nothing new at all, but it is brutal, fast paced, carried by good performances, and sets an atmosphere for the audience. The pacing is also quite good, as it doesn’t feel rushed or drawn out. While not a perfect movie, it is a damn enjoyable one. Scott gets to balance out his Prometheus themes with the horror of his original Alien, and so Covenant is birthed and I can appreciate it. Worth a watch I say, especially if you are a fan of the Alien franchise.