Review: The Confession by Jo Spain

“That was us at the beginning of our fairytale. But here’s the thing about fairytales. Sometimes they’re darker than you can ever imagine.”

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★★

Quercus | 2018

Opening Hook: As shocking as a golf club to the head

Main Character: I won’t be RSVPing to the pity party

Plot Twisty-ness: I guess anything can be called a thriller these days


I don’t think I’ve ever read a “thriller” this unimpressive before. And by that I mean, it’s like the author wasn’t even trying. For real, this was slowwwwwwwww. Boring, even.

I’m in the minority with my opinion, and that’s fine. But my opinion is the right one. HAHAHA just kidding (kind of.)

The Confession by Jo Spain is billed as a dark thriller, but it’s really more of a depressing autobiography of the main characters whose POVs we have to endure get to experience; how they got to that moment in 2012 when a banker is getting his head bashed in by a stranger with a golf club. These POVs take us all the way back to childhood in some cases, and quite honestly it was tedious as hell and in most cases, completely fucking irrelevant.

This approach to the storytelling drained all the energy out of the plot, making it feel sluggish, washing out anything that could be considered a shock or a twist.

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Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

“People live through such pain only once; pain comes again, but it finds a tougher surface.”

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★★★

Dutton Books for Young Readers | 2017

Opening Hook: Start your egg timers

Main Character: A fish-out-of-water, almost literally.

Plot Twisty-ness: Too busy writing characters making out to remember to write the twists


I’m going to try to be nice.

And I’m going to try to be nice because while I didn’t really love this like I wanted to, I also didn’t hate it on its face. It’s not a bad novel in terms of writing, in fact, I think Stephanie Perkins has a promising narrative voice, she just doesn’t know what’s she’s doing with a horror novel.

I read this as part of my search to find a YA thriller that I actually want to rave about after I finish the last page, and I had high hopes this would be that novel.

It’s supposed to be a horror/thriller. It’s supposed to be, as per the promotion, Scream meets YA.” The title, the cover – it’s all saying READ ME SO I CAN SCARE YOU!

You compare something to Scream and I say GIMME NOW.

I love Scream. I love all teen slashers. I grew up on that shit. It’s an important part of my developmental stages from child to teen to adult… which probably explains a lot.

awesome adventure time GIF
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Review: Medea’s Curse (Natalie King, Forensic Psychiatrist, #1) by Anne Buist

“‘Let it never be said that I have left my children for my foes to trample on.’…Medea killed her children to punish her husband.”

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★★★½

Text Publishing | 2015

Opening Hook: Probably a dick, they were everywhere

Main Character: Pet Parrot and Leather

Plot Twisty-ness: The Winona Ryder meme with math equations


This book wasn’t really what I expected it to be – it’s a mystery, but definitely not a thriller, and has a lot more erotic elements than I would reasonably expect from a story like this.

But Dr. Natalie King isn’t really what you expect a forensic psychiatrist to be either. She’s outspoken, emotionally dysfunctional and has no problem pushing a prosecutor down courthouse steps. She’s bi-polar and irresponsible with her meds. She rides a motorcycle, fronts an amateur band and has a pet parrot. She lives in a warehouse and has affairs with married men. But she’s a mothereffin’ queen in her field – dedicated to her patients and to finding the truth. And I basically fell in love with her as a lead character.

It’s a good thing that this is the first in a series, because there is so much more that can be done with a character this badass and damaged.

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Review: The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1) by Jane Harper

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★★★

MacMillan Australia | 2016

Opening Hook: I didn’t want to be involved as much as the lead didn’t

Main Character: Reluctant hero, personality missing

Plot Twisty-ness: You know who did it


Ok, I’ll do it! I’ll go against the majority on this one! HERE I COME MARTYRDOM.

But really, I have to say I found The Dry, to be, well, rather dry.

Yeah, the writing is technically good. The characters are fleshed out enough. The setting was different from the usual for me. There was a crime with a mystery to it. Past and present storylines were interwoven, and that can be tricky to do.

So, on the surface, it checked all the boxes.

But, I just found it kind of boring. Again, I gotta say dry.

I think perhaps I’m not a huge fan of cold case style mystery – where the predominant crime is old or closed. There’s no real crime scene to immerse yourself in. There’s no immediacy to the investigation.

And both crimes in this book fit this category, but the attention each was given felt lopsided. The murders of Luke Hadler and his family was the most recent, it is what pulled Falk back to his shitty hometown. This is what he’s supposed to be investigating, it’s where the red herrings and misdirection come into play, but the characters seemed too emotionally focused on the death of Falk’s friend Ellie from 20 years ago, while no one cared too much about Luke except for his parents.

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Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

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★★★

Scribner | 2017

I went into this book pretty blind. I wasn’t totally sure what it was about…maybe a bookstore called Bright Ideas? Something to do with suicide? But it kept popping up on my feed, and when a mystery novel has “bookstore” right in the title, how can a genre-lover like me resist? Plus, that cover! Come on!

It’s not often that I go into a book without a clear idea of what I’m about to read. I can be pretty particular in my reading criteria, so I’m not necessarily good at the whole “oh, just surprise me!” thing. My personal levels of neurosis start to kick in when I hear words like go with the flow or spontaneity.

This novel starts immediately. Not dicking around. And I was pretty hopeful that meant I was buckling in for a cozy little thriller with a side of dark sass.

Bookseller Lydia is closing up shop at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. She goes to look for regular “BookFrog” Joseph Molina, who hasn’t left the store yet. She finds him hanging. Suicide. She can’t figure out why Joseph would choose to commit suicide in her shop. But even more curious is why he died with a picture from her 10th birthday in his pocket. The mystery becomes too much to ignore when she inherits Joseph’s belongings and finds coded messages for her inside his books.

Lydia’s attempt to unravel the mystery of just what was going on with Joseph leading up to his death, and what the hell she has to do with it, forces her to reexamine a tragedy from her childhood – a household massacre that only she survived.

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Review: The Walls by Hollie Overton

“Love blinds us all…”

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★★★

Century | 2017

I’m on the fence about this one.

I feels like it doesn’t really know what it wants to be – A domestic thriller? Or a contemporary drama?

It touches on a lot of heavy subjects – domestic abuse, the justice system, the morality of the death penalty, wrongful convictions, motherhood and family and guilt and self-preservation. But it lacks the depth and analysis to be an emotional drama. And it’s missing the suspense and sinister atmosphere to be a thriller. Ultimately, it leaves a lot of these themes exposed, but not examined. And that felt unfinished to me.

For a story about a single mother who has to plan a murder to save her family from her abusive new husband, this was exceptionally slow and, and at times, straight up boring.

The first 40% is all build up, focusing on the story of Kristy and Lance – how they met, following the progression of their relationship from dating to marriage. I was not expecting this much emphasis on the romantic element. I experienced a cloud of confusion lingering around my reading experience. I kept thinking do I keep reading this? I didn’t want to read a romance? Is anything going to fucking happen?!

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Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

“People turned a blind eye, though, didn’t they? No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.”

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★★★½

Riverhead Books | 2017

My favourite book of 2016 was The Girl on the Train. And yes I know that’s such a cliché thing to say in starting this review. And it’s such a shit thing to do – to compare these novels. And it’s not like I want to compare them, and I’m trying really hard not to, but I read this novel because I wanted to consume The Girl on the Train in order to have it inside of me I LOVED IT SO MUCH (shit movie though.)

So honestly I’m going to try to divorce myself, as best I can, from my previous experience with Paula Hawkins and just focus on the merits of this novel as a standalone piece of fiction, *whispers* but at the same time, I’m only here because of her first novel…

That said, I did like this. But I didn’t LOVE IT.

Quick synopsis: Small UK town. Nel Abbott is writing a novel about the many deaths in a local river nicknamed The Drowning Pool. Nel dies in The Drowning Pool. Was it suicide or murder?

“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”

I got off to a shaky start because of the sheer volume of characters and changing POVs. I think there are 10 different voices, as well as excerpts from Nel’s manuscript, that are essentially quick POVs of each of the women who have died in The Drowning Pool, bringing the grand total up to 14 voices (if I’ve not forgotten anyone.)

I settled in about 50% of the way through, finally getting a handle of who each character was and why their POV was important. There wasn’t a single time I thought a character’s chapter was useless, but I still have to question whether there wasn’t a way to write this novel cutting out half of them? Just to un-muddy the waters, no pun intended.

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Review: In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

“It was growing dark, and somehow the shadows made it feel as if all the trees had taken a collective step towards the house, edging in to shut out the sky.”

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★★★

Gallery/Scout Press | 2016

This is an atmospherical oddball psychological mystery suspense novel that I liked….and at the same time I fucking hated? Like I’m so torn. Save me.

Here’s the problem. The main protagonist, Nora, is a fucking loser. I’m just going to put it out there. She’s a loser.

She’s 26 years old and still pining away for the boyfriend she had when she was 16. Come on! Ok, sure, it was a messy breakup, he broke your heart into a million tiny teenager girl shaped pieces and you never got closure. But how does someone never move on, like at all? Has she ever had sex with someone else? Gone on a date? Apparently not. So just…come on!

How many grown ass women are out there decidedly becoming Bridget Jones re-virginanized spinsters because their high school sweetheart peaced-out during a difficult time in your life? SHOW OF HANDS PLEASE…I won’t judge, despite what this review might suggest. I just need a headcount and to tell you to get over it! Find a man (not a boy) that knows how to work a G-spot and you’ll be over that high school flake in no time. Gotdamnit, NORA!

“I have not spoken to him for ten years, but I thought of him every single day.”

BARF.

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Review: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

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★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2016

I am feeling pretty meh about this whole thing.

I don’t know if it was the hype, or my standards are at some level not even I understand, but you guys seemed to effing love this and for me, it fell short of “special.”

It got off to a slow start. There’s an obvious underlying thread of unease to Grace and Jack’s marriage – her the beautiful housewife and him the successful lawyer – that you are quick to pick up on, but it takes quite a while to get around to just how nefarious Jack actually is. And by the time his true self is revealed, the story has taken on a stagnant quality.

Oh, more threats about Millie? Great. Did you want to use the word “perfect” a few hundred more times? Excellent. Grace’s friends are going to continue to think nothing is fucking weird as all hell? Okie-dokie.

So much focus is put on the small interactions, the paranoia Grace experiences in trying to figure out just how to act, and just what to say, in order to “win” against Jack, that it becomes quite tedious to read. And the plausibility is laughable (unless you’re really into it, which you might be!) – a high powered attorney who wins big and has his face splashed on the news, who probably works 60 hour weeks, also has time to monitor every single thing Grace does, to intercept all interactions, to feed her and care for her like a pet? How would any regular person have the energy for this – let alone a successful, busy attorney? …Even if he is a fucking looney-toon.

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Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

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★★★

MIRA | 2017

“They built a life on lies.”

Okay, if you say so.

I was expecting a dark domestic noir thriller, and instead what I got was two assholes who married each other and could have avoided a lot of shit if they’d just, I don’t know, talked like people who got married for a reason. Failing that, try therapy.

Their marriage issues were all tales as old as time. Nothing really shocking – he has a wandering eye, she can be cold and distant. They don’t communicate well. Sometimes they love each other, sometimes they want to chuck plates at each other’s throats. Big deal, that’s marriage for a lot of people.

What’s not life for most of us, however, is the amount of money these two assholes have. Or the death of their child. Or the sinister events that engulf their lives very quickly.

Much of the more mundane “crumbling marriage” tropes take place in an over-sized, fantastical world of good looks, success, wealth and travel – extremes that are not realistic for the general population. So, somewhere between the banal (for the genre) issues of their marriage and the over-the-top baseline for their way of life, is where you will find me still deciding whether or not this book resonated with me.

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