Review: Of Vengeance by J.D. Kurtness

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★★½

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 you 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?

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Review: Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker

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★★½

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 really 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?

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Review: The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

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★★

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 Yale would call it entrepreneurship.

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Review: The Family Next Door – The Heartbreaking Imprisonment of the Thirteen Turpin Siblings and Their Extraordinary Rescue by John Glatt

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★★½

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 honestly, 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.

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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 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.

There is actually very little science-backed 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 the 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 horrors 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: Crime Scene (Clay Edison, #1) by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

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★★½

Ballantine Books | 2018

Opening Hook: About as chill as dying in your sleep.

Main Character: Definitely used to be a frat bro.

Plot Twisty-ness: Tediously overwrought.


I forgot there is a reason I haven’t read Kellerman in a long time. His writing doesn’t work for me. I find it formulaic and boring as hell. And I know that’s sacrilegious for Alex Delaware fans, but whatever. I am who I am. You can’t change me!

Crime Scene was so boring to me that I read this book like a month ago and completely whiffed on writing a review. It just slipped from my mind, uneventful and easy to forget.

It doesn’t really seem to me that anything happened in this book.

You have Clay Edison, a death investigator – or something that’s not totally explained – for the coroner’s office, who gets caught up in the death of a man who very clearly seems to have died of natural causes. But because Edison fucks the dead guy’s daughter, he becomes borderline obsessed with the idea that there is something more sinister that took place.

I mean, of course, he’s right about the sinister bad stuff (otherwise there would be no book,) but the fact that it took penis-in-vagina to get his interest piqued and the plot moving, had my eyes rolling so far back into my head that I think I sprained an optic muscle.

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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 his work and 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: Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

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★★

Grand Central Publishing | 2019

Opening Hook: German sausage.

Main Character: Lisbeth Salander on Ambien.

Plot Twisty-ness: Twisted into boring knots.


I can’t believe I waited 13 years for the author who inspired my love of writing and reading and serial killers, to reenter my life only put me to fucking sleep.

I’m so sorry Mr. Harris, but girl what is you doing?

After such an extended hiatus, one would think the brilliant creator of Hannibal Lecter – arguably the greatest villain of all time – had come out from hibernation because he had a story that just needed to be written and shared.

After reading the blurb, I thought that was clearly the case here because the summary is straight fire so I needed this book immediately! ASAP. Pronto. Gimme!

Beneath an unoccupied Miami Beach mansion that used to belong to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, there is rumoured to be millions of dollars worth of gold. Two men are in a race to get to the gold first. Don Ernesto, a Colombian mob boss, and Hans-Peter Schneider, a depraved “business” man who kills women and sells their body parts to wealthy buyers to satisfy whatever their particular sexual fetish is.

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