Mini-Review Dump💩: The Wrong Woman, Watch Me, The Disappearing Act, The Girls

Jimmy Fallon Reaction GIF by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Reviews in this post:

  • The Wrong Woman by Leanna Kale Sparks
  • Watch Me by Jody Gehrman
  • The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman
  • The Girls by Emma Cline

🔪The Wrong Woman

LEANNE KALE SPARKS

The Wrong Woman by Leanne Kale Sparks

★★½

Crooked Lane Books | 2022

Filed Under: Please don’t name your penis

This is a generic, predictable procedural mystery with if-y police work and a triple-case storyline that the author chose to sideline in favour of an emphasis on the main character, FBI Agent Kendall Beck’s, personal life.

I found it a chore to read, burdened with details and scenes that didn’t fucking matter and trying, but failing, to balance the most interesting parts – police work, mystery, a serial killer – with the more mundane stuff the main character was going through and connecting it all through a missing roommate. The “I recognize now isn’t a good time to have sexy thoughts” vibe between Beck and the detective investigating her missing roommate, was pathetic and went nowhere sexy at all, so I’m not even sure why it was included.

The novel reads like the author didn’t really know what kind of story she wanted to write. A mystery? A serial killer thriller? Romantic suspense? It’s all over the fucking map and doesn’t really start to come together until the 80% mark. Up to that point, it lacks good mystery elements for the reader to piece together. Everything falls into the incompetent investigators’ laps by happenstance in order to move the plot along.

Like, what kind of detective waits over 24-hours to notify a family that their daughter is dead? Why would you not retrace every last step a victim took before their death instead of doing it only after you’ve arrested someone and then realized that person is probably innocent? A forensic team didn’t move any boxes or furniture when searching a home for a missing little boy?

Sloppy, bitch. Sloppy.

And then there was the detective calling his dick his “favourite plaything.” No, thank you.

The triple-case plotline – the “Reaper” serial killer, the missing child and the missing roommate – were all interesting and together could have created something dark and twisted with the right execution, but this missed the mark, drowned in sexless, personal baggage. The synopsis reads like it would be right up my alley, but it didn’t live up to the expectation.

The vibe for this one:

Uh Oh Rachael Kay Albers GIF

Book Source: The publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

🔪Watch Me

JODY GEHRMAN

Watch Me by Jody Gehrman | Goodreads

★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2018

Filed Under: Joe Goldberg’s attic twin

A delusional student, Sam, with a sociopathic personality disorder becomes obsessed with his creative writing professor, Kate, and will do whatever it takes to have a happily ever after with her. Even if he has to kill to get it. And he doesn’t see any contradiction or problem with that. How romantic.

Honestly, every fucking chapter in Sam’s POV reads as if Joe Goldberg had a twin that his parents raised in the attic and didn’t let out in the real world. Like friends would come over and hear a noise in the attic and the mom would prefer to say, “we have rats” rather than tell anyone they have another child. That’s the vibe I’m seeing.

Also, Kate was fucking annoying. She wasn’t as sympathetic as she was going for with her constant woe-is-me schtick. She was a little pathetic and her constant bad choices chipped away at whatever empathy I had for her recent divorce and stagnant career. The “oh, no, I can’t do anything if a man doesn’t want me and I know this kid is a psycho but he pays attention to me,” character direction was infuriating.

If you haven’t read You, maybe this will be a toxic love and monologue heavy breath of fresh air. But, if you have read You, there’s no way to get the comparisons out of your head. The parallels and style are so blatant, from the 2nd-person POV to the narrative voice of Sam which is saturated in judgments, observations and delusional inner-monologues.

The escalation of events between Kate and Sam becomes super repetitive and linear through the bulk of the novel. He’s pushy. She’s struggling. Then they make out and she ends it early. Blah. If it had been sexier in a taboo way, perhaps I would be able to overlook that Kate was making out with a psycho, but Sam was unlikable from the start. And the romance between him and Kate didn’t really hit with that “this is wrong, but so hot” passionate vibe, which I think was the intention.

Plus that ending was so ridiculous. I think the only believable part was that the cops were totally dismissive of a woman reporting sexual harassment and stalking.

It would make a good Lifetime movie though.

The vibe for this one:

Mtv Stalker GIF by Jersey Shore Family Vacation

Book Source: The publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

🔪The Disappearing Act

CATHERINE STEADMAN

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman: 9780593158036 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

★★½

Ballantine Books | 2021

Filed Under: My disappearing motivation to finish this

This is the third book by Steadman that I’ve read, and the second that I didn’t really like, so that’s not the best record.

She has a particular slow-building writing style, rife with detail, inner thoughts and “scenes” that don’t always matter to a story. I think that comes from Steadman’s other career as an actor. She writes like she’s playing the main character and is using the scenes to display emotion and nuance.

I don’t mind that style, but I think the plot line and characters need to be strong enough so that the reader’s interest holds between the author being indulgent, instead of dipping towards tedium.

This novel falls into tedium.

Mia, a British actor, moves to L.A. for work. At an audition, she meets a fellow actor, Emily, who gives Mia her personal belongings to hold onto while she goes in for her audition. Days later, Emily hasn’t returned for her things so Mia tracks her down. The only problem is, the woman Mia finds isn’t the Emily who Mia originally met. Yet, she’s acting like she is.

It’s an interesting premise, but it heavily relies on the idea that Mia would go full-on amateur sleuth for a person she talked to for five minutes. Most people won’t even let you merge into their lane on the highway, let’s be real.

Mia is a naive, slightly moronic MC who is hard to like at times as she digs herself deeper into a problem that really has nothing at all to do with her. The fact that she could have walked away easily tells me there was a miss in plot execution.

There are interesting insider details about working in Hollywood, but for the most part, this was incredibly slow and read more like a contemporary piece than a mystery or thriller. It lacked drive and intensity. The characters are bland and the plot was unbelievable in the worst ways. Steadman isn’t a bad writer, but this wasn’t for me.

The vibe for this one:

acting season 6 GIF

🔪The Girls

EMMA CLINE

The Girls by Emma Cline

★★

Random House | 2016

Filed Under: The cult of overused descriptors

*fart noises* Sooooo…this was definitely not for me. Everybody loved this, but I’m over here with my sourpuss on again. A sourpuss is a face you make, okay. I wasn’t saying that my p… you know what, never mind.

Based on the synopsis for The Girls, I was expecting a fictional take on the Manson murders. Give me a toxic hippie cult and an exploration of that psychology. Give me twists, a mindfuck and those dark, deep elements of how young people get pulled into culty shit.

What I got instead is a boring, annoyingly overwritten contemporary with vapid poor, little rich girl vibes and a plot where literally nothing fucking happens. And though there is a Manson-style murder that the entire novel leads up to, the main character isn’t involved in it, so it happens off-page.

The author took the events of the Manson murders, changed some names and then just left it there without taking any creative chance, choosing instead to sideline that element for the daily life of the MC, fourteen-year-old, Evie.

I just don’t get what the point of this was? The reasons why Evie would be drawn to a cult were written with clear perception, but then the cult, life within and the egomaniac cult leader are left unexplored. It revolved more around the mundane – hanging out like nomads, having only rotted food to eat, clogged toilets and leaky roofs. Maybe that’s the reality of a cult, but it’s fucking boring to read about.

This novel feels like it exists for the purpose of presenting a particular verbose style, as opposed to giving substance to the plot. It’s as if the author thought overdecorating a teen girl’s thoughts would make an emotional novel of depth, but it was mentally painful to read. The purple prose never took a break. Like, it’s not just spaghetti with parmesan, it’s a “glut of spaghetti, mossed with cheese.” Omg, shut the fuck up!

This was slow and felt unoriginal as it totally flaked on the twisted inspiration. The overly wordy prose is trying too hard and there are so many unnecessary moments of masturbation & sex that it started to seem they were standing in for actual plot points. I get that it’s the decade of free love and the sexual revolution, but there should be a purpose if the plot is structured well.

So, whatever. This gave me a headache. It’s my own fault. I should have read the negative reviews.

The vibe of this one:

grace helbig too much information GIF

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