“I’m going to carve my name into his soul.” // Review of “Sadie” by Courtney Summers

Title: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Audiobook narrator: Full Cast
Genre: Crime/thriller
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 08/08/2021 – 14/08/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

There are a lot of five star reviews for this book but I have to admit, I didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. It’s not bad book by any means, but I saw things coming and found the ending quite unsatisfying, so I just never got the heartbreaking emotional payoff that I think so many other readers got.

Some reviews have vaguely referred to “the big twist”, and if it’s what I think it is, then I saw it coming quite early on. To be honest, it all seemed kind of predictable to me.

Having said that, the characters are very well done. Sadie is broken and hellbent on revenge. The more reckless she become as the plot progresses, the more I had no idea whether she would make it out alive.

West McCray, the podcaster following Sadie’s path five months later, was harder for me to get into. He just seemed a bit bland, but I eventually warmed to his need to know attitude. Wes has the final line of the book, one that ties in with a theme that’s run throughout the whole story, and I’ll admit, delivered in that final way made me tear up.

Other characters such as Claire and May Beth, Sadie’s mother and surrogate grandmother, are also well drawn, and this was strengthened further by the full cast audio production. While I thought the full cast aspect worked well in the podcast chapters, I could have done without it in the chapters solely from Sadie’s POV. Every time a random other voice appeared in there, it threw me off.

I mentioned that I found the ending unsatisfying, and that was because I felt it was inconclusive. I get that it was probably aiming to mirror real life by leaving a few strands untied, but at the end fo the day, this is a novel, and I have certain expectations. I don’t mind an ambiguous ending, but I don’t feel like I even got enough for this to be ambiguous. Sadie’s POV sort of just stopped and flipped back to the podcast.

Still, if you’re looking for a gritty YA revenge thriller… this is probably up your street.

CW: Pedophilia, sexual abuse, drug abuse, murder


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“The threat is here… I’m ready. Another howl. Closer. Here we go.” Review of “Devolution” by Max Brooks

Title: Devolution
Author: Max Brooks
Genre: Horror/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 06/07/2021 – 13/07/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’ve been thinking for a while that I want to read more horror. I’m a bit inhibited on that front, though, by virtue of being an absolute scaredy-cat. Still, I enjoyed Max Brook’s World War Z, so I thought Devolution might be a good second toe-in-the-water.

I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it, and with the initial just-finished momentum, gave the book five stars. The last 70 pages or so are full of fast-paced action that’s hard to put down. I kept making deals with myself about when I would go to bed, before finally acknowledging that I was going to have to find out what happens in the end.

The opening of the novel creates a lovely insidious feeling of isolation, and a sense that something is very wrong. Brooks gently criticises these types of “back to nature” people who don’t really want to get back to nature at all, who just want all the modern conveniences of urban life surrounded by some trees. One of my favourite lines in the book was “They all want to live “in harmony with nature” before some of them realize, too late, that nature is anything but harmonious.”

But the book did drag a bit in the middle. Yes, it was interesting observing the changing character dynamics as the characters realised they were cut off from the rest of the world and under threat. And yes, I made this GoodReads update at page 231: “Damn book lulled me into a false sense of security and now I’m all creeped out again.” But the real threat did sort of disappear for a while.

This was probably exacerbated by the framing device of an abandoned journal, which meant we knew that the character always survived the events she was describing, though we are told in the introduction that since the last entry, she’s been missing for thirteen months.

Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it overall, and it has led me off on Wikipedia rabbit holes about Sasquatch, Yowie, and other related personas such the Grizzly Man, Timothy Treadwell (who thought he had a communion with the bears in an Alaskan national park, until he was eaten by one in 2003). It gives a lot of food for thought, and not just about Bigfoot/Sasquatch. Recommended for fans of survival thrillers as well as horror.


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Book Review: “Murderland” by Pamela Murray

Title: Murderland (Manchester Murders #1)
Author: Pamela Murray
Audiobook narrator: Clare Eden
Genre: Crime/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 20/06/2021 – 23/06/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

It’s been quite a while since I read a thriller or listened to an audio book. It was a pretty good feeling to get back into both. This was an easy read, and honestly, I did like it, but I found there were a few things that bothered me enough to prevent me from enjoying it more.

The first is that this was written in a very detached style. The old adage of “show, don’t tell” was definitely not adhered to, and I really felt like I was listening to someone relate the events of the book after the fact, instead of being in amongst the action. On top of this, it’s written in 3rd person omniscient, not a perspective I read much. And I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy jumping between different characters’ thoughts and perspectives on the regular.

These two aspects combined particularly bothered me when I was told things like “the DCI knew that Burton had strong feelings for Fielding.” Well, okay, but there’s not been much at all to really suggest that to me. Fielding and Burton share the stage for quite a bit of the novel and there was very little chemistry there. There were also lots of “He felt that” and “It seemed to her” type sentences, which put me at an arms length from the action.

I also felt the murderer’s motivation, once revealed, was a bit far-fetched.

Still, it was a reasonably entertaining thriller. I found myself wanting to know more and being drawn back to it. Clare Eden’s delivery of the audiobook sometimes felt a bit dry, but as far as I could tell with my limited knowledge of Northern English accents, she had a fairly good grasp on the small differences between the regions.

I still haven’t decided whether I’ll continue with the series, but I certainly haven’t written it off entirely yet.


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ARC Review: “People of Abandoned Character” by Clare Whitfield

Title: People of Abandoned Character
Author: Clare Whitfield
Genre: Historical/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 29/09/2020 – 04/10/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was still a great read.

I was expecting a fast-paced thriller, with main character Susannah racing against the clock to discover whether her husband is Jack the Ripper and possibly prevent the next murder.

Instead, it was slower, with a sense of dread creeping insidiously under the surface. The book takes it time looking at attitudes towards both women and queer people at the time. It doesn’t shy away from vivid descriptions of life in Whitechapel and other slums of London in the 1880s.

I loved the way (is loved the right word? Probably not) the Jack the Ripper murders were tied into the plot of Susannah as she tries to make her marriage work despite Thomas becoming more and more erratic and volatile. In particular the way the murder of Mary Jane Kelly is tied in is especially clever, though when I try to sleep tonight I am probably going to regret enlarging the police photograph of her body on Wikipedia to compare it to the description in the book (pro-tip: don’t do that).

Susannah is not an entirely reliable narrator and she’s definitely the sort of character to be labelled “unlikable” with all the baggage that comes with that descriptor. I imagine she would have been a difficult character to write, particularly in the first person, and I applaud Clare Whitfield for how consistently she wrote Susannah. This is Whitfield’s debut novel and I think she will definitely be an author to watch out for in the future!


Thank you to Zeus Books for the gratis copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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“Books. Moonlight. Melodrama.” // Review of “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Gothic horror
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/08/2020– 12/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

Hoo boy. This was one of my most anticipated 2020 reads, but I have to put the disclaimer that I maybe didn’t know what I was getting into? I loved Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow enough that I wanted to check out her haunted house book. This is despite only managing to get through 30 pages of the last haunted house book I tried because I am a wuss.

It may be that my lack of experience with the horror genre, and with gothic horror in particular, meant I didn’t know what to expect. Some of it was expected, like the creepy, barely accessible house with a lot of death in its history, the awful people living there, and strange dreams and glowing apparitions. But I have to admit the final twist lost me! Without saying anything too spoilery, is that sort of thing common in gothic horror?

Still, the historical world-building and the characterisations were spot on. There’s also a lot of exploration of themes such as racism and misogyny, and colonialism is also an important aspect of this story. I had real visceral reactions, both good and bad, to some of these characters and the things they said and their ways of thinking. This was the reason I wanted to see it through to the end, even when things got a bit too strange for me…


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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “A large male orderly stands sentry, securing her passage to the place beyond sanity, and Emma steps inside…” // Review of “None Shall Sleep” by Ellie Marney

Title: None Shall Sleep
Author: Ellie Marney
Genre: Thriller/historical fiction
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 17/08/2020– 20/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

People who know me tend to view me as the boppy, cheery, showtune-belting one, so it always comes as a surprise to them when I announce how much I love books about serial killers (only fictional ones; I can’t do the real ones).

When Ellie Marney announced earlier this year that she was writing a serial killer thriller, I couldn’t have been happier! (I’m sure there’s a showtune I could find to express the excitement.)

I did find that I took a little while to really get into this one, but by the time I got to the end, I was thinking it was my favourite Ellie Marney book (second only to White Night). There are lots of twists and turns, including a character death I totally wasn’t expecting. There are lots of references to blood, and the climax gets violent and bit gory, so I would caution against it if you are faint of heart.

I was surprised there was no romance, given this is an Ellie Marney book. But it works just fine without it, and to be honest, given the things the characters have already gone through and what they continue to go through, it would probably be a bit squiffy to have it in there as well. I really liked the friendship that formed between Emma and Travis instead, that they could recognise each other’s trauma and be there for each other, but also knew how much the other could take and when they needed to step in.

The book is set in 1982 but to be honest, I sometimes forgot! Until the characters are trying to get somewhere without a map, or need to go and find a nearby phone to contact someone. This was fairly early days in the behavioural science field, and it was interesting hearing learning about that.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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(I received a free copy of this book from Ellie Marney in a Twitter giveaway)

Book Review: “Bitter Falls” by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 13/01/2020 – 17/01/2020
Rating:★☆

Review:

I’m not sure if this is the last book in the Stillhouse Lake series or not (a few things at the end made me feel it might be), but either way, I think it is the last one I will read.

The depiction of the PTSD all of the Proctors are experiencing is really well done. There’s a scene early on during an active shooter drill at the kids’ schools, and it was particularly heartbreaking seeing Connor’s reaction.

I also thought the cult was depicted well, including the self-proclaimed prophet who lead the group, the way many women were the most stout believers, and the whole setup itself. The action sequences at the end of the book are well done, as usual. There is one explosion that is particularly chilling, knowing what its intended purpose was even if it didn’t achieve it.

If I had realised that the case Gwen is working on in this book was closely connected to the events of the previous one, I might have re-read it beforehand. As it was, being eight months between instalments, I didn’t remember all the ins and outs and so I felt a bit lost. It’s not as connected to Wolfhunter River as Killman Creek is to Stillhouse Lake, but I would recommend having the events of Book 3 fresh in your mind.

I also couldn’t help feeling frustrated with some of the decisions the characters made, particularly running into things without solid plans, and in contradiction to what law enforcement has advised them. I know that without them doing things like this, there is no story, and that it was quite in character for Gwen, but it reached the point where I couldn’t suspend my disbelief anymore.

All this meant that I was never especially keen to pick the book up, and that I wasn’t terribly engaged when I did. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic series, and Stillhouse Lake/Killman Creek as a duology are definitely among my favourite thrillers ever. But as I mentioned at the top of the review, I think I’ve reached my limit with this series.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Book Review: “Wolfhunter River” by Rachel Caine

Title: Wolfhunter River (Stillhouse Lake #3)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/04/2019 – 17/04/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Back in 2017, I devoured books one and two in this series in four days. I absolutely loved them, so I was really looking forward to the long-awaited third instalment. It didn’t quite deliver on the fronts I hoped it would, but it was still a good read overall.

At the heart of the novel is the Proctor family, along wtih Sam Cade, trying to move on with their lives post-Melvin Royal. Their pasts still haunt them in ways they could never imagine, and there are betrayals lurking around every corner. I enjoyed this character-driven stuff even as I was a bit disappointed that the suspense was lacking.

The crime story and the suspense really picked up in the last third. Up until the 60% mark, I was thinking that not much had really been happening plot-wise, but there was enough in that last third to make up for the rest. It did get a bit complicated and I had to remember who a lot of different people were. A few different sub-plots all came together, so there was a lot to keep track of.

I suspect that this is something of a bridging book between the original Melvin Royal duology and future crime-solving instalments. I am definitely interested to see if/how this series continues.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#WWW Wednesday – March 21, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

Due to me having no time a couple of weeks ago and still alternating Wednesday posts between this blog and my writing blog, it’s been about three weeks since I last did a WWW Wednesday. I’ve finished a number of things, and am progressing through my March-April TBR quite nicely. But it does make for a bit of a long post! Sorry!

What have you recently finished reading? 

First up, I finished Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.  I enjoyed quite a few of the essays in here, particularly the way she explained her depression and the stories about Simple Dog and Helper Dog. I’m not going to get around to reviewing this one properly, but I would recommend picking it up if you enjoyed the HaaH blog.

Next, I finished my ARC of Deadly Sweet by Lola Dodge. This was such a cozy urban fantasy mystery and I enjoyed it a lot. Though it did make me hungry. I want to hang out in Lola Dodge’s kitchen while she’s baking. My review is here.

The next one was Deep Storm by Lincoln Child, which I listened to. This was a sci-fi thriller, I guess. I found some of the ideas quite interesting, but it is in a third person omniscient style, and I found it a bit too detached to get interested in anyone.

On the same day, I finished an ARC of Daddy Dearest by Ellery Crane. This was a compelling thriller though there was one character where I couldn’t decide whether to sympathise with her considering how messed up she was, or whether I just thought she was completely irresponsible. So that did affect my enjoyment a bit. You can read my full review here.

Next I finished Call Me Sasha by Geena Leigh. This is Geena Leigh’s memoir of her time working in prostitution in Sydney. I’ve read a few books in this vein and it wasn’t my favourite. Though I think the audio book narrator also contributed to that because it sounded like she pouting at everything. You can read my review here.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester was my next read. This was a damn fine piece of historical romance, set in 1920s New York, and featuring young women bucking societal norms and also lots of Broadway. So I was sort of destined to like it. My review is here.

Last but certainly not least, I finished the audio book of The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. This was fascinating, and I’m already pretty sure will be one of my favourite books of this year. It is another historical fiction, set during the “War of the Currents” and featuring historical figures such as Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. I have never googled so many real events to find out more while reading a novel. My review will be up on Friday.

Phew! That’s it. Only seven books, but I do tend to go on a bit, don’t I? (I have actually been drafting this post for at least a week and adding books as I finished them, but it still feels like it took forever to write).

What are you currently reading? 

I’ve been reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which is on my March-April TBR… I feel like the blurb promises one thing and the words between the covers go off in a completely different direction and I’m not sure how I feel about that. So I’m having a bit of a break from it.

In the meantime, I have started The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. I’m not quite as into it as I was into The Last Days of Night. I think it’s little things like small Americanisms in the chapters set in Victorian London, and a fictitious descendent of Arthur Conan Doyle (I’m never sure how to feel about liberties taken with such recent historical figures). But I only started it last night and I’m  already a third of the way through, so there’ s that.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve got Ready Player One by Ernest Cline out from the library. To be honest, the excerpts I’ve read, along with everything I’ve heard from people with similar reading tastes to me, suggest that it is pretty terrible, so the best I’m hoping for is “so bad, it’s good.” Yes, every now and then I like to rage-read a book, it’s true.

It will probably be another three weeks before I post a WWW again, as I am flying to Nepal on April 2! Eeeek! I won’t be reading much while I’m there, but I have a number of ebooks lined up to read on the flights!

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

Book Review: “Daddy Darkest” by Ellery Kane

Title: Daddy Darkest
Author: Ellery Kane
Genre:
Psychological thriller
Date Read: 0/03/2018 – /03/2018
Rating:
 ★★★

Review:

This thriller started off very strong, and the writing was strong the whole way through. I definitely found it gripping, but as I went on, I did find myself a bit confused by some of the choices one character in particular made, which resulted in an ultimately lower rating.

When Sam’s best friend, Ginny, disappears in an airport bathroom while wearing Sam’s letterman jacket, it soon becomes clear that the kidnapper intended to take Sam. As she struggles to find Ginny, she starts to question whether everything she’s ever known is a lie…

The book alternates between chapters in Sam’s first-person POV and her mother, Clare’s, bacak in 1996, when she worked as a prison psychiatrist. I enjoyed Sam’s chapters, I thought her voice was really authentic. Even if it did sometimes stray into YA tropes such as kissing the hot guy you’ve known for two days, despite the fact he seems to be pretty shady.

Clare’s chapters were well-written and unraveled the details of Clare’s past at a good pace. It was Clare herself I couldn’t figure out. I couldn’t work out whether her messed up upbringing could be blamed  for her bad decisions, or whether she was just completely irresponsible. While the author was going for the former, I expect, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like the latter to me.

There were a few aspects of the plot that I had predicted, but it wasn’t completely predictable overall. It was interesting to see how all the characters were tied to one another, not just in obvious ways. The ending was intriguing, but I felt it fitted the events of the book. I think it is just an ambiguous ending, and that there will be no follow-up, but it works that way.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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