I'm going to try and make this review as quick and painless as possible -- if you liked this book you're not going to want to hear me bellyache about I'm going to try and make this review as quick and painless as possible -- if you liked this book you're not going to want to hear me bellyache about it, and if you didn't like this book, you already feel you've wasted enough of your precious reading time on this series and are just ready to move the fuck on (and hope King is too).
Things started out sort of optimistic for me with Mr. Mercedes -- I didn't hate it; in fact, some parts of it I really enjoyed. Even so, for me it was missing something fundamentally King. If he had stopped there I would have been fine -- but instead, he wanted to drag this wayward experiment into the crime thriller genre out into a trilogy and two more books. And that's where I started to get really frustrated and pissed off.
King is almost 70 years old. I hate to be morbid, but let's be realistic. Who knows how many more books this man has got left in him. Probably not many more. My heart broke a little reading End of Watch. Every part of my Constant Reader soul (which came into existence when I was eleven years old), sunk into the depths of near despair. King was wasting my time, and his time (however much either one of us has got left) on a weak, middling, trashy airport novel filled with ridiculous cardboard cutout characters and a ludicrous plodding plot that left me lukewarm, and quite frankly, bored. King's efforts to unravel his "mystery" with excessive plot details felt like excruciating, eye-crossing infodumps at times.
Arguably End of Watch is the best of the trilogy, but by the time I got to this one, my patience had run out with the entire experiment. When I think about what King could have been writing in the time it took him to peddle this schlock I want to sob and pull my hair out. There's other King books that haven't done it for me over the years, but they've still felt like King. In his ill-conceived foray into another genre, it's like King was a tad self-conscious and insecure and spent more time mimicking what he thinks makes the crime thriller genre so great rather than just writing as himself. When he did try to plug some supernatural elements into the final book, they felt forced and out of place, a messy, stitched up hybrid of a Frankenstein's monster NOBODY wanted. Well, this girl anyway.
And now to cleanse my reader palate of this bitter disappointment, I shall re-read The Long Walk to soothe my Constant Reader soul. It's feeling a little battered and bruised. ...more
Headed to the beach or cottage this summer? Got a long plane ride ahead of you? Just hanging out by the pool with a pitcher of margaritas? Yeah, this Headed to the beach or cottage this summer? Got a long plane ride ahead of you? Just hanging out by the pool with a pitcher of margaritas? Yeah, this is the book you'll want to have with you. It's one of those unreliable narrator psychological thrillers that once you start it, you will be utterly compelled to keep turning the pages until you get to the end to find out what the hell really happened? As these kind of books go, it's a satisfying resolution. There are enough sleights of hand, and red herrings, to keep a reader on their toes and guessing until the last page is turned.
The author is trying something a little tricky with her narrative too; she tells the story backwards over the course of fifteen days. This is a neat little fun trick, but really, at the end of the day, I don't think it added much to the tension of the novel, or its structure. Had she just adhered to a straight linear narrative approach I don't think anything would have been lost in the overall impact and delivery of her story.
There are also a few scenes that genuinely had me feeling creeped out and uneasy, because for most of the novel you're really not sure where the threat is coming from (and even if there's any threat at all). Miranda conjures up a heavy and pressing atmosphere that's practically claustrophobic at times, always welcome in a book like this. The setting is suitably small town and insular, carrying its secrets and guarding them closely to the peril of those who wish to turn over the mossy rock and expose the dank underbelly to the glaring sun.
None of the characters are very likeable, but I think because out of necessity, Miranda has to create an impenetrable distance between them and the reader to keep us off kilter and guessing. At their core however, most of their motivations are very relatable and when you finish reading and put the book down, you'll find yourself questioning what you would have done in the same circumstances.
I would like to thank Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy to review. ...more
It's easy to compare this one to The Girl on the Train or even Gone Girl. It definitely has that vibe of psychologically damaged minds perpetrating da It's easy to compare this one to The Girl on the Train or even Gone Girl. It definitely has that vibe of psychologically damaged minds perpetrating dark deeds in the midst of a twisty, sinuous plot. It also shares the multiple POV narration, which when done well, can add SO MUCH to these types of stories.
As it does here. I would actually argue that The Kind Worth Killing is an even stronger and more page-turning book than The Girl On the Train (whose underwhelming ending left me sort of underwhelmed by the time I was done, especially after such a great build-up).
If you're going to write a page-turning psychological thriller piece like this you had better stick the landing, otherwise all your hard work leading up to the main event is going to feel wasted. It's all a house of cards, an illusion built using smoke and mirrors; you are asking the reader to suspend their disbelief and come along for the crazy ride. When it's all over, don't leave them feeling like they've been had. Play fair. Don't cheat.
The Kind Worth Killing has a very noir sensibility in its tone and execution that I just lapped up like cream. And no surprise because the author is channeling Patricia Highsmith's classic crime novel Strangers on a Train that Hitchcock adapted into one of my favorite film noirs. When people start talking and planning the perfect murder, you know anything can -- and usually does -- happen.
Along with its noir vibe, The Kind Worth Killing is also reminiscent of the old pulp fiction crime novels churned out on cheap paper during the first half of the 20th century -- where sex and violence are expected to go together like PB&J -- a marriage made in heaven if you will, or more accurately, hell. The characters are not meant to be likable, or even relatable, and the dialogue and writing style is strictly utilitarian -- nothing fancy -- just let's move the plot along here, we've got places we need to end up. It's not always easy getting from A to Z leanly and meanly.
I really enjoyed the multiple POV narration here. It's probably what the novel does best. Sometimes there is some overlap too -- you get the same event described to you again but this time by a different character. It would be easy to screw that up and just have things seem repetitive. Here it's executed with aplomb and adds depth and interest to the story. At least it did for me. I would love to see this as a movie, especially if they fully committed to a noir style.
So this is how this one begins -- and let me tell you, the opening passage gave me the shivers, the little hairs on the back of my neck stood to atten So this is how this one begins -- and let me tell you, the opening passage gave me the shivers, the little hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention. If Ms. Megan Abbott should ever wish to venture into horror, I have no doubt she could make that genre her bitch. Read this:
At night, the sounds from the canyon shifted and changed. The bungalow seemed to lift itself with every echo and the walls were breathing. Panting. Just after two, she'd wake, her eyes stinging, as if someone had waved a flashlight across them. And then she'd hear the noise. Every night. The tapping noise, like a small animal trapped behind the wall.
Eeeek! Like seriously, if that doesn't creep you out check your pulse because you might be dead.
So this gripping short story isn't Megan Abbott doing horror, but nevertheless does this lady have a flair for the dark and ... unhinged. She loves to troll the deep end of those viscous psychological waters, where things with teeth swim, and bite. On the surface this story is a period piece -- circa 1950's Hollywood. Abbott is comfortable here in her noir sandbox.
The Little Men features Penny, an aging actress who has given up the fight and has decided to move on and do something else with her life. A fresh start if you will. She thinks she finds it in a new place to live, a place that will be all hers that she won't have to share with anyone. Her landlady seems kind and generous (at first), her neighbors friendly and warm. But there's something not right about this new low-rent bungalow, filled as it is with a dead man's things.
As Penny begins to uncover more and more about the life of the man who lived in the bungalow before her, she also begins to see and hear things. Disturbing things. What's real and what isn't? Is Penny losing her mind or is there something more sinister afoot?
Reading this I could not help be reminded of the classic short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Both women in these stories are coming unhinged, but there's a gravity and justification to their decline that lends empathy to their plight. Both women are trapped in their lives with few to no options, and are suffocating from the stranglehold their current realities have put them in.
In Penny's case, 1950's Hollywood is a cruel and capricious mistress. Women are (ab)used until they are no longer wanted: "You were a luscious piece of candy, he said, but now I gotta spit you out." In the land of casting couches, you sleep with the devil and wake up in Hell.
This is a gripping read with layers and subtext and all the more remarkable for its short length. This is Megan Abbott at her most teasing and it is excruciatingly delicious. This woman will always leave you wanting more, always more.
A free advanced copy was provided through NetGalley....more
Sigh. This almost got two stars. Almost. I mean, I liked it. There are things to like, but it's so far underachieving for King, so sub-par of his tale Sigh. This almost got two stars. Almost. I mean, I liked it. There are things to like, but it's so far underachieving for King, so sub-par of his talent and storytelling capabilities that it made me cringe in parts and left me embarrassed for the guy. The last third of the book with Hodges and Holly and Jerome running around trying to solve a mystery like an after-school special mixed with an episode of Scooby-Doo was just paaainful. Nothing about any of that was worthy of King for me.
I know Mr. Mercedes had its many problems and weaknesses: I present to you Exhibit A and Exhibit B. But I really liked it. A LOT. Mainly because the villain -- Brady Hartfield -- is some nasty piece of psychotic work. One of the better, more convincing villains King has written about in a long time. Brady isn't just a one-dimensional evil dude with sick tendencies and impulses -- King managed to flesh him out some and gave him an appropriately damaging childhood replete with a disturbed and abusive mother. There was some context there. Some texture and layering.
Unfortunately I do not feel the same about the villain presented to us in this book -- Morris Bellamy. Bellamy is a petulant, spoiled asshat -- entitled and vicious. I HATED him. He did not interest me in the least and the only satisfaction I was able to take from his legacy of brutal violent impulses was (view spoiler)[to see him die a burning fiery death (hide spoiler)].
For me, the most terrifying villain King has ever written is Annie Wilkes. On cold, dark winter nights I can still have feverish nightmares about her. Annie is the consummate fangirl gone wrong. She is a study in complexity and contradiction, a woman suffering from real mental illness and a menacing determinism and world view that bears no bargaining with. You're either one of the good guys (a "do-bee") or one of the bad guys (a "dirty bird"). And god help you if you turn out to be a "cockadoodie brat".
Morris Bellamy is just a selfish, shallow, ignorant prick who loves to blame the world for all his problems. He blames his mother for the first time he ends up in juvenile detention. He blames author John Rothstein for "selling out" and destroying his favorite literary creation thus setting in motion a terrible series of events. And most pathetic of all, he blames his "friend" -- future rare book proprietor -- of making him so mad that he goes out and (view spoiler)[gets blind drunk and brutally rapes a woman, a crime which lands Bellamy in prison with a life sentence rather than the home invasion and execution of the recluse author of his precious Johnny Gold. (hide spoiler)]
Whenever King writes about writing and the synergy that happens between reader and author I'm there. He captures some of that magic in these pages but I feel like it all gets poisoned with the less than inspiring creation that is Bellamy.
Since King is determined to get to the end of this foray into crime fiction, I am hopeful that the final book in the trilogy (if there has to be one) will return its focus to Brady Hartfield who may have developed some unusual skills. ::cue ominous music:: ...more
Eeek! I'm already behind on my October reading (let alone reviewing) but wanted to make sure I drew this one to your attention.October Country 2015 #1
Eeek! I'm already behind on my October reading (let alone reviewing) but wanted to make sure I drew this one to your attention.
HUSK (which every time I see that title I'm overcome with the urge to shout "Tusk!") is not horror per se, but it is a thrilling, page-turning nightmare vision of the near future. Reading this I couldn't help be reminded of King's early Bachman books, especially The Running Man. Both are set in a bleak future where people are struggling to eat and live, so much so that it is driving them to do desperate, dangerous things for money.
In HUSK's case, people are being driven to "rent out" their bodies to the very, very rich -- the 1% of the 1% -- to inhabit and do with as they please for periods of up to 72 hours. I don't even like to lend someone my jacket or use my bathroom. Imagining someone taking over my body and using it up in any porny, germy, physically punishing way they can think of gives me the heebie jeebies. Unclean! Unclean!
As if all the drug-fueled orgies and exposure to all kinds of STD's isn't bad enough, not to mention the cuts and bruises and dehydration and sheer exhaustion from lack of sleep (talk about being rode hard and put away wet), our protagonist Rhodes begins to suspect his body is being used for more sinister and nefarious purposes. ::cue ominous music::
It's especially worrisome when other Husks begin to show up dead or missing.
All the elements are present and accounted for here to make for a gripping read. Messum -- author of the unputdownable BAIT -- has a keen sense of where the pressure points of tension live in his story and how to exploit them. This isn't as fast or burning a read as BAIT -- it takes its time a bit more with world-building and character development and unraveling the mystery at the heart of the story, but these are all good things.
It wasn't surprising for me to read then that HUSK's been optioned by a UK company to adapt into a television series. The tone and themes are very similar to another show I adore and can't wait to get more of -- Black Mirror. That HUSK would make a great Black Mirror episode is probably the highest praise I can give it.
***The author was gracious enough to provide me with a free copy for review....more
"Take my hand when I falter, for I cannot make this journey alone. I do not know you, but you will know me." ~Nadia Comaneci, Letters to a Young Gymna
"Take my hand when I falter, for I cannot make this journey alone. I do not know you, but you will know me." ~Nadia Comaneci, Letters to a Young Gymnast
If, like me, you've lived a life of inexplicable obsession fascination with the world of competitive gymnastics, this latest by the Mighty Megan Abbott is going to rock your world. If you've never given competitive gymnastics a single thought what is wrong with you -- this book is going to rock your world anyway.
In recent years, Abbott has taken the domestic thriller, suburban noir and made it her bitch. She's often writing about the interior lives of adolescent girls because she's proven time and again what deep, murky waters run there, what unsettling truths there are to be found when innocence is lost and a sexual awakening is found.
You Will Know Me is more focused on the family unit this time, though its teen protagonist -- 15 year old Devon Knox -- certainly plays a major role. Devon's compulsive, all-consuming journey to be the best, to be a champion, has also consumed her family -- mom Katie, dad Eric, and little brother Drew (who just about broke my heart). Most of the book unfolds from Katie's viewpoint as she strives to be the perfect support and anchor for her prodigy daughter, while keeping the domestic front of chores, groceries, wifely duties and a freelance job on track. Katie also has a quiet, patient, introverted little boy to nurture who sees much but says very little.
Down into the rabbit hole of competitive gymnastics Abbott takes us, the sacrifices required of a family to raise an Olympic competitor, because the young female gymnast could never get there on her own. But Devon's quest to reach Olympic level competition will be threatened by the tragic death of a handsome young man, a death that comes like a nuclear bomb dropped into the middle of a perfectly, rigidly balanced life of discipline and routine. The Knox family are left reeling, seeking answers, and fearing truths. Secrets will out, and in the light of day they will come to realize that those we often feel we know the best, we don't really know at all.
This is a twisty book, and Abbott has a few surprises up her sleeve, but not of the Gone Girl variety -- that's not what she's up to here. I figured it all out several times, and knew where she was headed, but that in no way diminished from the sense of tension and inexorable suspense. If anything, knowing amped it all to eleven. As readers we're watching the train leave the tracks in slow motion as the main characters move closer to unbearable discovery. And I felt the point wasn't really figuring out what happened, the point becomes what characters do now that they know.
Abbott is at the top of her game here -- I had no hesitation awarding all five stars. This one you will not want to miss.
"Because now, of course, these gymnasts are girls but also, and foremost, powerful and blazingly talented women. Perhaps that is the paradox that keeps us rapt. Biles, four feet nine inches tall, in a pink, crystal-studded leotard and with that cherubic face, radiates girl. And yet the instant she takes glorious flight, she is beyond reckoning, defying gravity, logic, reason. ~Megan Abbott, "Why We are So Obsessed With Gymnasts"
I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myse I don't know how to describe the mad, dark, mash-up genius contained in the pages of Nick Cutter's upcoming release The Acolyte -- but I've found myself in a similar state of speechlessness with other titles released by the incomparable ChiZine Publications. Their motto is Embrace the Odd and embrace it they do with abandon. ChiZine's book covers alone are enough to send this bibliophile into paroxysms of delight. Here are a few of my favorites:
ChiZine has also recently gotten into the graphic novel game and I adore this cover too:
Let me wrap up the fangirling over cover art to conclude that ChiZine is a wickedly weird and dangerous publishing house ruthlessly seeking out unique voices in speculative fiction. There is nothing safe or sanitized or boring about them. And while I'm not always in the mood to enter into the wacky landscapes they pimp, I'm very grateful that they exist, and very proud that they are Canadian.
Fans of either or both of those books should not expect the same kind of story in The Acolyte. I'm not surprised it was ChiZine who published it for him because it is an odd, intense mixture of horror, police procedural, dystopia, and noir. It is violent, contemplative, thematic, and disturbing. It's not a book you 'enjoy' or 'savor': it is one you endure and survive.
And that's all I'm going to say about it. Read the plot summary if you want, but it's not going to help prepare you for what lies in wait in its pages. If you are feeling adventurous and brave, and want a taste of something not so mainstream that will take you off the beaten path into a darker part of the forest, then by all means take The Acolyte home with you.
An advanced reading copy was provided by the publisher for review....more
I picked up this book with the initial impression that I was in for an urban fantasy *Available today!*
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
I picked up this book with the initial impression that I was in for an urban fantasy piece in which Hell (and angels and demons) would play a role, but that some of the story would inevitably take place in a concrete, corrupted human city. But no. This is full on, 24/7 Hell, all the time Hell, everything Hell. There is no reprieve. And very little hope. The hope is so miniscule you need a very expensive microscope to see it.
So yeah. Hell. In as much technicolor, cinematic horrorscape that you probably can't handle. Seriously, it's brutal. Claustrophobic and suffocating. Unsworth's painstaking, meticulous world-building of this feared and unknown domain is impressive to say the least. He spares no detail and isn't shy about unleashing buckets of effluvia, viscera, despair and derangement. This isn't your paranormal fantasy version of Hell where the Demons are sexy anti-heroes brooding about looking for bodices to rip open. Noooooo. These are deformed, mutated, merciless beasts seeking out any hole of any body to violate, and throw in some torture on the side for good measure.
Unsworth creates a Hell populated by innumerable species of Demons of varying size, hierarchy, power and cruelty. In this devilish brew, forsaken humans doomed to suffer Hell's torment, must co-exist. They are Demon slaves. Mere chattel. With meaningless jobs and tasks to perform in the ever present threat of Demon violence.
Thomas Fool is one of those humans, and one of Hell's Information Men. Normally, Fool's job consists of looking the other way -- of NOT investigating Hell's crimes. But when a human corpse shows up with its soul entirely gone, Fool is pushed into an investigation he is not ready for. He must learn his Detective's trade fast before whatever is consuming human souls turns its appetites on all of Hell itself.
This is a book extremely dense with description, and understandably so because the author has cut himself out a big job to build Hell and its fiery inhabitants from scratch missing no detail, no matter how small. There is A LOT of narrative exposition to move the story and action along too. Dialogue is minimally used. And that means the book can read heavy and slow in parts. You have to be patient with it and soak up the landscape. Let it unfurl in your mind and agree to stay with it until the tale is done.
Now that the book is done, and I've laid it aside, I find flashes of it continuing to haunt me -- certain scenes appear to be burned onto my retinas. I can't unsee them. This is a dark book, but for those seeking a dark fantasy set in the darkest and most fearful place, then you might want to give this one a go.
A free copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for this review.
I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you t I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you the lady's got mad skills.
It helped a lot I think that I picked this book up at the exact right time. I was ready. I was primed if you will. That kind of timing doesn't always work out. But I'd just come off my binge listening, over analyzing obsession with Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast where I lost countless hours pondering motives, cell phone logs, cell tower pings and an anti-Glee cast of Baltimore teens. I was in an arm-chair detective frame of mind. I was already down in the rabbit hole before the first page was turned. The exact right place to be for where Beukes was going to take me.
And where was that exactly? Broken Monsters is unique and surreal and dark and weird, but there's some lingering familiarity of remembrances past that give the story texture and resonance. And what the hell do I mean by that?
Well, think of the gritty procedural elements to be found in True Detective, Seven or Silence of the Lambs. That's a start. There's a substantive case here and a seasoned kick-ass woman detective chasing down clues and following a trail that's twisted (and broken!) and could run cold at any moment. There's pacing and reveals. Tension and release.
Then there's the atmosphere, mood and vivid -- vivid! -- descriptions of crime scenes, urban decay, and violence that bleed across the page -- an artistic fusion of destruction with creation -- visual feasts in the mind's eye both terrible and beautiful.
The following images may be offensive to some so I shall hide them behind a spoiler tag. However, fans of True Detective and NBC's Hannibal should click (because you know you want to).
I mention these two television shows not just for the obvious authentic procedural similarities found in Broken Monsters, but for each show's masterful artistic vision and gobsmacking cinematography. Whatever inky black well these kinds of hellish tableaux originate from, Beukes has a bucket of her own and is drinking her fill to bursting.
Something else she's mastered with Broken Monsters is a rich cast of characters whose stories intertwine and crash together then rip apart again. She is a maestro here -- a mad puppet master -- creating a symphony of action and reaction. I surely do not want to be Job when this woman is God.
With so many characters running around you really have to sit up and pay attention as a reader. Beukes is not slacking so we can't either. It's easy to get a bit lost and confused in the early stages getting to know everyone and their back stories. It wasn't a smooth transition for me -- I had to go back and re-read a few sections just to orient myself before I read on. But that's okay. With that kind of investment comes huge reward.
I can't say I was completely satisfied with the crashing cacophony that was the book's climax. In some ways it was effing brilliant -- in others it was a hot mess (get on board the Lindsey Lohan/Charlie Sheen train to hell!!!!) Still, as Charlie would say: WINNING!
I agree Charlie. This is definitely a check mark in the win column for Lauren Beukes. I'll be coming back for more.
(Sorry, but nobody puts Charlie in a corner under a spoiler tag. Deal with it people) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more