Review: I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

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★★½

William Morrow | 2018

Opening Hook: Putting a cold case in the microwave.

Main Character: When bad men do evil in sweater vests.

Plot Twisty-ness: The reader gets Punk’d.


It’s such a bummer to read a book by an author you hear nothing but praise for, only to walk away from that reading experience thinking your time has been thoroughly wasted. All I have in my head is like why? And like don’t? And like why again?

When I’m reading a new-to-me author, I seem to have a habit of choosing the one book that makes all the fans go, “That one’s not their best…THESE OTHER ONES THOUGH!!”

Sure. Okay.

I’m not done with Macmillan just yet because I’m not a completely horrible person & also I think I spent real human dollars on another of her books and it’s currently sitting on my bookshelves… but this book is getting a big UGH from me.

Cody Swift has one of the hottest true crime podcasts around, Time to Tell. It focuses on his search for what really happened to his two childhood best friends twenty-years earlier when they were killed and the intellectually-disabled target of their bullying, Sidney Noyce, is convicted of their murders.

In the present day, Sidney Noyce (think Brendan Dassey, but slower,) has taken his own life in prison and then a new body is discovered at the same site the two boys’ were found decades before. Cody uses the renewed spotlight on the case to sell his podcast with the goal of finding the real killer.

I love the idea, but the execution is severely lacking for me as a reader.

Schitts Creek Comedy GIF by CBC
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Review: Evil – The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side by Julia Shaw

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★★

Abrams Press | 2019

Opening Thesis: Evil is just a misunderstanding.

Main Evil: Apparently pedophiles aren’t that bad?

Thesis Conclusion: Shockingly shallow.


I really wanted to like and I’m having a hard time with the rating, because I didn’t like this, and frankly parts of it are so off-putting I want to toss it out a window.

But it’s not a bad book either in terms of writing quality.

My biggest problem really comes down to the fact that this book is not about the science behind humanity’s dark side, as the cover suggests.

I wanted to learn about the brain, human chemistry, nature vs nurture; I wanted case studies and scientific journals and theories and experiments. What I got was the author explaining why evil is subjective and nothing is really bad because all humans fuck up. The overall theme boils down to “rethinking evil.”

While that may be a provocative topic to tackle, I wouldn’t have necessarily started the book with the argument that we should reconsider labelling Hitler as evil.

There is actually very little science-back study and explanation in this book. She invokes the Milgram Experiment to discuss the banality of evil, and then uses the Stanford Prison Experiment to explore group-think, but never mentions that many issues with that study that led to it being discredited. Shaw doesn’t do a very good job at tying the referenced studies to the points she’s trying to make; they are loosely thrown together and barely make a correlation.

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Review: Miao Dao (Dark Corners Collection) by Joyce Carol Oates

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★★

Amazon Original Stories | 2018

Opening Hook: Boobs are hilarious.

Main Character: Ride or Die for cats.

Plot Twisty-ness: Unpredictably weird.


Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh…

I don’t know what the fuck this is, but it’s weird and awkward and I do not like Oates’ writing style at all.

Usually, I’m pretty chill about writing styles and can adapt to mostly everything, but Oates writes like she wishes everything was poetry and I’m sorry, but some shit just isn’t poetic. Like a stepdad sexually harassing his 14-year-old stepdaughter and the lasting effects that can have on a person.

I was really hoping this short story was going to be some Carrie kind of shit, but with killer cats. Unfortunately, it’s following the same footsteps as The Tangled Woods, where the horror are the real-life issues we face in a messed up society, instead of escapist horror.

I think I’m finding that I’m not the kind of person who likes “reality horror.” I much prefer monsters and crazed slasher killers over sexual abuse and institutionalized racism. I read as an escape, not to be reminded about how much humans fucking suck.

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Review: Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue, #2) by James Patterson & Candice Fox

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★★★

Little, Brown & Company | 2018

Opening Hook: Stop writing down your murder plots.

Main Character: Drywall is not safe around her.

Plot Twisty-ness: Patented Patterson Predictability.


I’ve gone and done it again *said in Kevin Spacey John Doe voice* (if you don’t understand that reference, please leave, watch Se7en and then come back.)

Alright?! OKAY? I admit it! That makes that twice this year I’ve broken my New Year’s resolution to not read any Patterson at all.

I’m weak! I have issues. I need a 12-step program for letting shit go; for being okay with not knowing. It’s really my worst quality as a human being. My mental health agrees.

But whatever. It’s done. I read it. So here’s the review.

CONTENT! *does jazz hands*

While I didn’t necessarily think this book was anything amazing, I have to say, I can see Candice Fox all over the writing in this book and that makes it infinitely better than most Patterson publications. The chapters are still short, the content shallow and a lot of moments are overly dramatic, but the actual prose felt more mature, unlike what I’d typically classify Patterson writing as: juvenile.

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Review: The Sleep Tight Motel (Dark Corners Collection) by Lisa Unger

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★★★★

Amazon Original Stories | 2018

Opening Hook: Never go on the run in a car that needs an oil change.

Main Character: Does not get stabbed in a shower.

Plot Twisty-ness: Unger does a lot with a little.


This is an adorable spooky short story in the Dark Corners Collection.

Eve is on the run in a shitty old car. She’s got a bag full of money, a gun and a piece-of-shit ex on her tail. It’s very much Psycho-esque in that way.

When Eve realizes she can’t run anymore with a little bit of sleep, she pulls into a country motel with lots of vacancies. She’s just going to spend one night and leave first thing in the morning. Through the night there are bumps and scrapes that convince Eve someone is staying in the room next door. But when she checks, it’s empty.

And I’m sorry, but I’m such a cheap whore for creepy motel shit. Honestly, I will watch or read nearly anything that takes place in this eerie setting. It’s just so obvious, ripe-for-the-picking scenery and atmosphere.

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Review: The Tangled Woods (Dark Corners Collection) by Emily Raboteau

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Amazon Original Stories | 2018

Opening Hook: a mid-life crisis never looked this annoying.

Main Character: Deserves a swift kick to his cheating balls.

Plot Twisty-ness: Same thing as watching MSNBC.


In the spirit of the fall season, I’ve started picking up some scarier, horror-themed books. Now all I need is genuine sweater weather. Honestly, what is with this heat? Greta Thunberg is amazing, but she’s clearly too late. I shouldn’t still be running my air conditioner.

Why couldn’t she start yelling at all these adults when she was like eight? Would that have been too much to ask? FOR A CHILD TO FIX ALL THESE PROBLEMS SOONER!?

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Honestly, nothing makes me happier than watching boomers lose their minds over this teenager rubbing what they’ve ruined in their faces. Her and David Hogg need to host a Ted Talk together or something, purely just for the shit-show conservatives will put into production.

Anyhooters… when I realized I had Amazon Prime Books, which lets me borrow ebooks and return them whenever I’m done (easily the greatest discovery of my 30-something years of life so far,) I knew it was time for me to finally read the Dark Corners collection, which I’ve had my eye on for a while.

Three dollars for a 40-page story? That’s gonna be a no from me dawg. Oh, it’s free now? I’ll read that shit out of that.

Yeah, I said it. You were all thinking it.

Continue reading “Review: The Tangled Woods (Dark Corners Collection) by Emily Raboteau”

Review: City of Windows (Lucas Page, #1) by Robert Pobi

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★★★★½

Minotaur Books | 2019

Opening Hook: Stop for a pedestrian, get shot by a sniper. The moral is, stop being polite.

Main Character: Excuse me, sir, your glass eye is upside down.

Plot Twisty-ness: Once you get off the soapbox, it’s a complex, snow-covered road.


Okay, listen up! You want to read this book.

If I could tie you up, for completely non-sexual sexual reasons, and force you to read this, I wouldn’t because I am a strong supporter of consent. But you should still read this, regardless of if I am exerting my will over you or not.

I’m going to go full Stefan on you right now, and say this book’s got everything! Blood, guts, impressive sniper shots and lots of action. There’s a retired FBI agent with one eye, a prosthetic leg, five foster children, dead old rich lady flashbacks and Page’s dope ability to solve crimes using mathematical algorithms that he does in his head just by looking at things. Seriously, he mental-MacGyver’s the fuck out of some crime scenes.

It’s like borderline dumb but also really cool, so I’m not mad about it.

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Review: The 18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club, #18) by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

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★★½

Little, Brown & Company | 2019

Opening Hook: Where’s Waldo the War Criminal?

Main Character: Lindsay’s gonna Lindsay.

Plot Twisty-ness: Typical predictable Patterson


Let’s get this straight, Patterson and I broke up a long time ago. But just like every toxic relationship cycle, sometimes I go back to him.

Specifically, I go back when a new Women’s Murder Club instalment is released. I’ve been reading this series since the first book was published in 2001. I was fifteen, and at that time, I thought Patterson was the epitome of great crime fiction. It took me into my 20s, with exposure to crime fiction that was legitimately good, to realize that Patterson isn’t a very good writer, he’s just prolific. And I like a lot of people, confused “popular” with being talented.

That’s not to say people don’t genuinely enjoy his work. Obviously they do, but objectively it’s pretty bad.

Now, I don’t care if you’re the biggest Patterson fan around, I’m not interested in a debate. Go read, write glowing reviews for him to your heart’s content. It affects me zero percent. But my opinion is that he’s a terrible writer. TERRIBLE. But remember, it’s only one opinion. I am not the final say in the matter. So don’t fucking @ me about it.

Every year I make a resolution to not read any Patterson, and every year I break that resolution at least once. This is my one for 2019.

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Review: Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

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★★★★

Ballantine Books | 2018

Opening Hook: Basic bitch googles body burial.

Main Character: Good girl gone bad and gets a Swiss bank account.

Plot Twisty-ness: Call the gangster in prison to fix it.


What can I say? I fucking liked this. But it’s going to be a love it or hate it kind of book for readers because it’s different and crammed with multiple genres and plot elements. So, if you read it because I gave my elusive stamp of approval and walk away thinking I must have been high, then one: you’re right. and two: I’m also high right now.

Please don’t lose trust in me, but this worked for me. I readily admit that might have a lot to do with the audiobook quality because that shit was fucking FIRE.

The author narrates, and at first I was like that’s kind of weird, but then I found out she’s an actress who has been in things like Downton Abbey (never watched it, don’t act surprised.) Seriously, try the audiobook if you’re looking for maximum entertainment from this novel, because Catherine Steadman burns it down.

robin williams cooking GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

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★★★

William Morrow | 2019

Opening Hook: No one cares about your sports trophies in real life.

Main Character: Catching a killer has never been so boring

Plot Twisty-ness: Over-the-top, yet done to death


The first book I ever read by Peter Swanson was The Kind Worth Killing and it totally impressed me enough to grab a four-star rating from my crabby, judgmental ass. Despite the characters being dull as hell, the plot was completely engrossing and the twists, duelling narrations and dark Strangers on a Train-like premise kicked me right in the crotch.

Since then, I’ve picked up Swanson’s work a few more times with optimistic expectations and have struggled with each reading. Fuck me for being positive, I guess. Before She Knew Him is no exception to that struggle. It’s better than All the Beautiful Lies (which was a goddamn snoozer,) but it’s still not touching me the way my first time with Swanson did…that’s what she said.

This, like a lot of Swanson’s work, seems to borrow heavy inspiration from Hitchcock, but just isn’t doing it as well as the original or adding anything new to the template. Before She Knew Him has serious Rear Window vibes when Hen and her douchebag husband, Lloyd, move to a small town outside of Boston so that Hen can find some peace and quiet while attempting to get the symptoms of her bipolar disorder under control. She’s an artist who works from home, and wouldn’t you just know it, she eventually suspects her neighbour, Matt, is a serial killer. BUT NO ONE BELIEVES HER dun dun dunnnnn…

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Also, a serial killer named Matt? BRO.

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