A girl from Pittsburgh came to Ellingham Academy and she wanted to see a dead body. She got her wish.
HarperCollins | 2018
Opening Hook: Youtube is a talent now, I guess
Main Character: Not a unicorn
Plot Twisty-ness: Like Hanson, it’s in the Middle of Nowhere
As you may have picked up by now because of all the not-at-all subtle clues I keep dropping that goes something like: “I hate YA thrillers!” and “I’ve never read a good YA thriller!” or “Please stop recommending me YA thrillers because I don’t like them!” – I am not a big fan of YA mystery/thrillers.
I’m not sure why I keep reading them other than the plot summaries and beautiful covers continue to reel me. I’m so goddamn naïve. “This one will be a good one!” I think to myself about a book I will end up not liking at all 🤡
Is that the case with Truly, Devious?
I’ve had my eye on this novel for a while mostly because of the goddamn plot summary. A private school famous for a decades-old unsolved kidnapping/maybe-murder suddenly sees a new murder and the possibility that the original Big Bad, know as Truly, Devious, is back to wreak havoc on the students and faculty of Ellingham Academy once more.
As concise as I wrote that, it’s actually a lot more interesting than what the plot turned out to be for my tastes. I typically hate private school shit. That setting is just an excuse to allow children to not have any real parental supervision like they would/should so they can do shit most teenagers would never fucking do. And I think I’m too old for that shit.
But, whatever. You all know I’m a grumpy reader.
Continue reading “Review: Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1) by Maureen Johnson”
Atria | 2020
Opening Hook: Drowning an entire village
Main Character: Can’t stop, won’t stop talking about dams
Plot Twisty-ness: Drowned along with the village
I’ll be honest, I read this book in July 2020 and it was so fucking boring that to write a review now is going to be difficult. All I know for sure is that it was a fucking snoozer when it was supposed to be a pee-in-your-pants supernatural horror/thriller.
So, we’re off to a great start.
Basically, the small village of Galesburg in upstate-New York was flooded a century ago to create the Chilewaukee reservoir – nicknamed The Chill – to provide water to millions of southern New Yorkers. Of course, Galesburg residents weren’t super psyched to have their hometown put underwater, which is totally understandable, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. It was a political decision that was moving ahead whether they liked it or not – their town was being confiscated.
That didn’t mean, however, that the townsfolk would go down without a fight. They banded together, starting a fierce rebellion that promised to kick ass and get revenge, no matter how many lives were lost along the way.
But, you know, government versus village rebellion means the government won.
Continue reading “Review: The Chill by Scott Carson”
Ballantine Books | 2020
Opening Hook: Amnesiac beach bum
Main Character: Needs a hobby
Plot Twisty-ness: A flatliner
This is such a bummer for me. I really loved Steadman’s debut novel, Something in the Water (though I’m chalking up about 33% of that to the audiobook narration, which was fucking stellar,) so I was eager to get my hands on her follow-up, Mr. Nobody.
But… *fart noises*
This isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed by a sophomore novel and it won’t be the last, but it’s still a bummer.
Mr. Nobody is the most vanilla – and slightly annoying – thriller I’ve read this year.
I know I can get a bit spicy like a Jalapeno when I write negative reviews, but then there are times like these where I’m just bummed out that I didn’t like something.
I’m Eeyore writing this fucking review right now.
That might change the further I get into writing this. Sometimes I can work up a bad attitude from nothing. It’s like magic.
Continue reading “Review: Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman”
G.P. Putnam’s Sons | 2020
Opening Case: How much did Fatty Arbuckle actually weigh?
Main CSI: Gil Grissom maintains “old man crush” status.
Plot Truthi-ness: Beefs and peas in a dessert trifle.
You might think that you’re getting a novel about “murder, forensics and the birth of American CSI,” when you pick up this novel. That’s exactly what I thought. And also exactly what they put in the fucking title. But why should titles ever tell you what you’re really going to be reading about, I guess?
What you’re actually getting here is a choppy, mishmash of relatively boring cases and life stories about Oscar Heinrich, the “American Sherlock.” If I had known this was going to be about one man’s life, and not a historical rundown of the evolution of forensic sciences centred around different murder cases, I probably wouldn’t have read it.
But since I did, it’s necessary to note that I have no issue with a true-life story about a remarkable human who deserves to be applauded. It’s the execution of the telling of that life where it falls apart on this one.
I think this book is best described as the trifle Rachel makes on Friends. It was almost good, but something got fudged up so no one really wanted to eat it.
Continue reading “Review: American Sherlock – Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson”
Dundurn | 2019
Opening Hook: Self-awareness via murder.
Main Character: An anti-hero minus the hero.
Plot Twisty-ness: A straight-forward diatribe.
*shakes fist* THIS COULD HAVE BEEN SO GOOD! I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed in this story.
Of Vengeance starts with an unnamed female narrator telling the reader she sees a cold-blooded killer every day when she looks in a mirror.
Oh really?! Do go on….
She recounts her life, starting at the age of 12 when she discovers that she really likes murdering terrible people after accidentally killing the worst bully at her school. It’s like a revenge fever dream that might have popped into your head for the briefest of moments when you think back to that time Andrew put a basketball under his shirt in Grade 7 and said: “Look, I’m Krystin!” because you were a chubby 12-year-old.
But what do I know?
Continue reading “Review: Of Vengeance by J.D. Kurtness”
Gallery Books | 2019
Opening Hook: Stroke your ego more than three times, you’re just playing with yourself.
Main Character: Douchebag of the Year!
Plot Twisty-ness: Straight fall from the roof.
I didn’t really love this. It’s kind of boring??? There were moments of intrigue and it’s unlike anything I’ve read recently, but it didn’t live up to the hype I saw online for it.
Now, before you decide to add some salty comment to let me know I’m a bitch, just remember that 1. I already know that, and 2. My reviews aren’t personal indictments against other readers. I’m just saying that, for me, Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker was just alright. It was meh. I liked it a reasonable amount for a thing that was just okay.
Certainly, my opinion is going to fall way below all of the THIS IS THE MOST MAGNIFICENT BOOK TO EVER BOOK reviews that are posted. I’m going to land somewhere in the “most okay-est thing to ever mediocre” category.
My expectation was that this was going to be more of a sinister thriller with a cunning anti-hero at the helm of the POV, but it just ended up being a character study about an unlikable, mostly boring narcissist, his untrustworthy family and shallow relationships. But that’s very on-trend for the last couple of years, isn’t it?
Continue reading “Review: Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker”
“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”
Ballantine Books | 2019
Opening Hook: Blow jobs weren’t on the curriculum.
Main Character: Good at flowcharts.
Plot Twisty-ness: Needs some spit on it.
This is a popular read with high ratings on Goodreads from other reviewers, but my overall opinion is basically WHAT THE FUCK THIS IS REALLY DUMB???
I don’t mind being one of only a few people going against the grain here, but honestly, I just can’t even with this book. I had to suspend disbelief in such an extreme way that I started to feel legit angry about it.
This was 400 pages about girls at a boarding school going all Sally Field-Norma Rae with shaved heads because they’ve somehow fallen into a secret game of giving blow jobs for points to all the popular boys at the school who have a yearly championship bracket.
All of the teaching staff knows kind of (the six of them running a school of hundreds of students,) but turn a blind eye because…I guess…rich parents? Or college admissions? Or reputation? Or whatever else rich people care about. Someone ask Lori Laughlin. I’m still a little fuzzy on why full-grown, educated adults dedicated to America’s youth would be all elbow patches and tweed, and please ignore our student sex ring.
I mean, there must have been a way to stop the abuse without putting “ran a blow job side-hustle his senior year” on school transcripts. Then again, maybe the Ivy Leagues would call it entrepreneurship.
Continue reading “Review: The Swallows by Lisa Lutz”
St. Martin’s Press | 2019
Opening Imprisonment: Bologna and chains.
Main Crazy Parent: Probably the dude with the bowl cut.
Cult Theology: Be the Duggars…but crazier.
I heard about the Turpins when they first made international breaking news back in 2018 (which honestly feels like 100 years ago, at this point,) but I obviously didn’t pay enough attention to the whole story because the level of insanity is just jaw-dropping once all the details are laid out, as John Glatt does for you in this true-crime novel.
I mean, this is some fucked up shit.
I must have brushed it off as just another set of weird religious parents doing weird shit to their kids in the name of their self-tailored beliefs – that is one way to chalk it up. But, when we get into the real details, this is a banana-sandwich story turned up to eleven. Spinal Tap, amen.
If you’re looking for a story on how Louise and David Turpin went from falling in love to popping out 13 kids who they would regularly beat and chain up to their beds, only freeing them to brush their teeth or use the bathroom, then this is the book for you.
But what this book won’t tell you is the why.
Continue reading “Review: The Family Next Door – The Heartbreaking Imprisonment of the Thirteen Turpin Siblings and Their Extraordinary Rescue by John Glatt”
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!!”
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 find the real killer, but using his podcast to do it in the hopes that it’ll be a real money maker story.
I love the idea, but the execution is severely lacking for me as a reader.
Continue reading “Review: I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan”
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 this 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.
Continue reading “Review: Evil – The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side by Julia Shaw”