Psychological thrillers invariably do one of two things to me: piss me off, or fascinate the fuck out of me.
This book belongs to the latter group.
I went into TWISTED with very low expectations and came out impressed by a well-written, solid, twisted storyline.
Dr. Christopher Kellan is a psychiatrist at Loveland Psychiatric, a haven for the sickest of the sick. The patients he deals with here wouldn't be out of place in a sequel to Silence of the Lambs.
His latest patient, Donny Ray Smith, has been accused of murdering young girls, the latest Kellan's own son's age. His assessment could make or break Smith's defense, and if Kellan wants to do his job successfully he has to put his biases on the shelf and make his diagnoses as impersonally as possible.
But Donny Ray Smith seems familiar. And he knows things about Kellan he couldn't possibly know.
Is he a victim? Or a sadist? Or both?
And where has Dr. Kellan seen those eyes?
I can't really say more about the plot of TWISTED without giving away some major spoilers, but Kaufman did an excellent job writing a creepy novel without resorting to shock horror or gore. Reading TWISTED is a lot like looking at a fun house mirror at a carnival; half the horror and the creep factor comes from seeing fractured reflections of yourself, and what could be.
Part of the fun with this book -- which is also why I won't be sharing any spoilers -- is trying to guess what's really going on. I was so sure I had figured it all out. So sure. But when I thought Kaufman was going to go one way with the ending, instead he went another route.
I always find it so odd when craft books like these find their way on Netgalley's list of titles. Not that I want to discourage any author from trying to promote their wares in an acceptable space, but just what, exactly, are we supposed to do with e-copies of an origami book? Especially when all the origami paper needed to make the origami is specially printed with the necessary designs?
Oh, book. You cruel, cruel bastard.
Superhero books seem to be flying every which way on Netgalley. In addition to DC's "New 52" and various other rehashings of the popular franchise, I've also seen a book about the history of Captain America and another one about superman called BENDING STEEL.
I love superheroes. I don't always like superhero movies, but I'm a pop culture junkie and I absolutely love reading about them. Especially in long and history laden books that throw around words and terms like "zeitgeist" and "hero's journey." Give me liberty, or give me superhero histories!
I'm also very into art, so when I saw DC SUPER HEROES ORIGAMI, I was excited. Even if I couldn't actually use the paper in the book, it might be replicable.
As I said, the paper included in the book has all the designs printed on it. I thought the paper doll-ish looking superheroes on the front of the book were just there as concept imagery, but they're actually part of the origami repertoire. Which is a little depressing, actually. Only a handful of the designs can be done over and over, and I'm not sure where you would be able to get refills. In my edition, there seemed to be enough paper to do each design twice. Which is good for a family, but bad if you're a teacher purchasing this book in the hopes of endearing children to arts and crafts. You'd have to buy about 15-20 books in order to have enough paper for one class.
Also, there was a mistake in my edition. The set of instructions for the Batman characters was repeated twice. It was only the Batman section--I checked, and all of the others were only printed once.
I love the idea behind this, but I'm sorry to say it failed on execution.
I don't always read children's books, but when I do, they're fucking adorable.
Books about the sasquatch/bigfoot were pretty popular a couple years ago, but this book is on the totally opposite spectrum of titles such as CUM FOR BIGFOOT and BRED BY THE SASQUATCH.
Jess Bradley was going for a walk in the woods when she saw something large and blue and furry lurking in the trees. She was so terrified she turned and ran, and dropped a pack of her favorite chewing gum in her terror.
When she turned and looked over her shoulder, which people always do, and always in super slow-mo in horror movies, Jess realizes that the sasquatch really isn't all that scary.
Could anything that loved candy so much really be a monster?
By the way, if you know what movie this is from, major props to you! (If you can't figure it out, here's a hint.)
So anyway, Jess and the sasquatch become fast friends. He introduces her to his forest animal buddies and they wander around and have adventures. I really liked the illustration style in this. It was like a hyper-cute version of Dav Pilkey's work, and all the illustrations are overlaid over actual pictures of the forest and nature.
I don't know how she did it, she even found a way to make the Mothman look adorable.
I KNOW SASQUATCH is a little like Jellaby but not as complex. It would be a fun bedtime story for little kids who are afraid of monsters, especially when paired with a movie like Monsters, Inc.
The only criticism I have is that there are pretty big issues with the way the text was set in my edition. A lot of the sentences were overlapping or blurred, and I'm not sure if this was an issue of the actual book itself, or my e-reader not being able to read their font, or if the document was created using "tables," which don't always take kindly to being crammed into a reader. But it was an issue.
Overall, this was a cute read and I enjoyed the pictures. I was in kind of a blah mood today, but seeing all the cute smiley creatures made me grin a little myself. :)
My favorite thing about this book is that some parts are set in Inverness. I used to live in Inverness, so I was like OMGGG.
Also this line:
"It's not so much my own death that is intolerable, it's the death of those around me. Because I love them. And part of me dies with them. Therefore all love, if you like, is a form of suicide" (131).
THE ICE TWINS is tricky. It shares many traits with some books that I have loathed, and yet I did not loathe this book. I loathed every single character in this book, including those two fucking children, but I did not hate this book. So that is something.
THE ICE TWINS is one of those women's fiction thrillers. On the surface, it's a whodunnit mystery, but it's women's fiction because it's about children and motherhood and parenting and the main character's increasingly ambivalent feelings for her husband.
Sarah Moorcroft is just getting over the loss of one of her daughters. She had twins -- Kirstie and Lydia -- but about a year ago, Lydia fell to her death and now she just has the one child.
One day, the surviving twin makes a chilling announcement. She says that she isn't Kirstie after all; she's Lydia -- they pronounced the wrong child dead.
But is Kirstie really Lydia? How can Sarah prove she's right? If she's wrong? And what reason would her child have to lie?
I'm going to clear the air here and say that I wanted to murder Sarah. She was the narrator of our book (well, mostly -- there were a few chapters where Angus, her husband, gives his oh-so-grim narrative in third person). In fact, from here on out, I'm referring to her as Bitchmom.
Where do I even begin to describe the nerve this woman has?
**WITH SOME SPOILERS**
**MILD SPOILERS, BUT SPOILERS**
First off, Bitchmom actually has a favorite child. Is it the child who's most like her? Of course.
Does she keep her favorite a secret from the children?
HA HA HA. NO, BECAUSE THAT IS SOMETHING A GOOD PARENT WOULD DO.
And Bitchmom is a fail.
Bitchmom also had an affair. You learn this pretty early on in the book, and you also learn that she's pretty unrepentant about it. She claims that her cheating is her husband's fault because he wasn't more emotionally available after the death of Mystery Twin. She also claims that cheating rekindled her marriage, because it made her a carnally desired object (or something like that). Yeah, right.
What makes this even more annoying, is Bitchmom's reaction when she suspects her husband might have had an affair of his own. TOTALLY DIFFERENT BALLPARK. TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. THIS WOULD MAKE HIM THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD IN BITCHMOM'S BOOK.
Fuck you, Sarah.
When Kirstie makes her announcement that she's Lydia, Bitchmom wants to find out if she's lying or not. Her way of deciding? To make her child scream. Why? Because apparently the children had two distinct screams, so she purposefully scares the shit out of her child to make her scream.
Here's the thing about Bitchmom. She goes about the book doing whatever she wants, and then acting surprised when there are consequences. If this were The Office, she would be staring into the camera with that muggy big-eyed look of surprise that Jim does, and say, "But I'm such a good parent, I'm grieving and yet I'm still parenting, which makes me a saint among men! SO I CAN TREAT MY HUSBAND LIKE SHIT AND DO FUCK-ALL AND MAKE MY DAUGHTER CRY, BUT I STILL GET TO BE MOTHER OF THE YEAR BECAUSE I DIDN'T JUST LIE DOWN IN BED & DIE."
I repeat: Fuck you, Sarah.
The main reason I kept reading was because of the mystery. I wanted to find out what happened with the whole twins business, and also some other things that are brought up towards the end of the book. I was hoping this book would be a bit more twisted than it was. The ending was pretty stock.
You know, now that I think about it, I think it's funny how many of these books about twins are murder mysteries. It seems like every time I find a book about twins that isn't about the Sweet Valley Twins, someone ends up getting murdered in that book.
This one is especially odd because the girls are so creepy and morbid.
Also, their "secret twin language" is lame.
"Nnneeooo nononon yes free up thrre up fff... Wakey wakey no yes paka. Sufffy sufffffy nnnn Mmmmm. Nana nana nana" (146).
Fiona Ng is the daughter of an evil super-villain who cackles. A lot. He's also color-blind, and if you think that this might impact some of his inventions, you would be right. Fiona finds her dad embarrassing and frustrating by turns; she doesn't want to be an evil genius, she wants to be a doctor. And no, not an evil doctor.
At school, pretty much everyone is afraid of her because her father could incinerate everything with a snap of his fingers. The only two kids who aren't are also children of evil geniuses: Jai is the son of an evil submarine captain and Ruby is the daughter of an evil pilot (she's also albino). The three of them are collectively referred to as "the Kingpins," and their parents are constantly at war.
The only rule is that the kids are off-limits.
One day, things get serious. Fiona's father, Manson Ng, is kidnapped during a raid and she receives a note. The note says:
We have your father. Deliver the NOVA in 24 hours or we will kill him.
The NOVA is a bomb 100x more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima and more than capable of vaporizing the entire city in an instant. In other words, it's pretty much the last thing you want in the hands of a super-villain. Especially one who cackles.
But if Fiona wants her father back, she might have no choice. She might have to resort to outside help...from another super-villain.
I applied for LITTLE MISS EVIL because the chibi on the cover reminded me of the avatars on Gaia Online (which I used to use obsessively). I have to admit that the idea of reading about a super-villain's daughter hooked me: how would the authors approach the topic? Would it be dark? Annoying fluffy? Peppered with terrible puns?
I think the tone of this book is what didn't quite work. It was too light and tried too hard to be funny. I honestly think a more subtle, satirical approach might have worked. LITTLE MISS EVIL wants to be Spy Kids meets a super-villain themed version of The Incredibles but it lacks the fantasy and gadgets of Spy Kids and the action and twists of Incredibles. In fact, it moves way too fast, and relies heavily on deus ex machinas, and is pretty predictable (although the color blind twist was quite funny).
LITTLE MISS EVIL would be great for young children, especially girls, looking for a strong heroine to relate to. Especially one who isn't boy-obsessed.
Whoa. I am a little surprised by how good this was. When you're the first person of all your friends to read a book, it's a bit of a crap shoot, and I have to admit, when I read the premise and realized I was going to be diving (ha -no pun intended) into a book about alien merpeople, I thought, "This intrigues me, but it could also go very, very badly."
Lyric Walker was there on the night the world ended. Strange creatures came out of the sea by Coney Island, and nothing has ever been the same since.
If America is a melting pot, Coney Island is the overcooked crusty stuff on the bottom of the pan (28).
Those creatures were the Alphas -a group of ocean-dwelling aliens that are battle-hardened and live life according to a rigid hierarchy of honor that is, for lack of a better word, alien.
There are different types, who serve different functions in their caste system. There are the Ceto, the Sirena, the Triton, the Fiege, the Prime, and the Rusalka, whom nobody seems to want to talk about much.
In a plot arc that parallels the aftermath of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the children of the Alphas are introduced to Lyric's high school as part of a pilot program intended to desegregate the aliens from human society. Because currently they all live in a camp that is an awful lot like the one in District 9, where they have little resources and battle each other in disputes over honor...to death.
One of the Alphas is the son of the prime, or the Alpha's prince. He's a beautiful adonis of a man, except for the fact that he has blades that continually shoot out of his arms. I don't care. I'll still take him. Lyric is selected to make good with him by the government in exchange for something personal (no spoilers). So she and Fathom are forced to spend an awful lot of alone time together, IYKWIM.
But tensions are brewing high. There is a total assclown of a governor named Buchman (I think it was Buchman) who's a lot like that mutant-hating senator in X-Men. You know, the one everyone hated who got served by Mystique? Yeah. She's like the lovechild of that senator and Dolores Umbridge. Be prepared to hate her...a LOT.
One of the things that I really liked was how strong a character Lyric was. She reminded me of Rose, from Vampire Academy. She's a very strong heroine who will do amazing things to protect the people she cares about, and even when a boy enters the mix, she doesn't lose her head over what's important. Never for a moment did I say to myself, "Now this is a girl who will hurdle herself off a cliff into the sea if the love of her life decides to go away." *cough*
Fathom was another character I didn't expect to fall in love with, but did. He has a very arrogant, regal bearing -I love icy men, what can I say? -but is also very childlike and vulnerable at times because of his utter ignorance of human ways.
He eyes me intensely and I brace for another tantrum, but instead he laughs. It's a wild horse locked in a corral, but it's real. I can tell he hasn't laughed in a long time. He's not even sure he remembers how. I know because he laughs just like I do (100).
If you've ever read the Animorphs series, he kind of reminded me of Ax, except without the constant sense that he was there for comic relief.
"It's called a selfie. It's what people who are in love with themselves do to keep themselves busy. You can't really be an American teenager if you aren't willing to take one of these a couple dozen times a day" (152).
Okay, maybe a little.
Mostly he's here for this:
If I am going to heaven or the Great Abyss or wherever, this boy's kiss is what I will take with me (256).
If you're side-eying these characters' names like I was, I totally get it. But there's actually an explanation for the weird names that -gasp- makes sense. So bear with it. You'll probably figure it out on your own because of foreshadowing and shit, but in case you don't, all will be revealed.
Over the last couple years, I've watched YA slowly circling the figurative toilet. Now it seems that authors are taking readers' complaints to heart and trying to write things that, if they aren't completely original, at least feature diverse and relatable characters.
The only thing that keeps this from being a solid 5 is the pacing. There were times when it moved very slowly and I found myself eager for the plot to get on with itself. I'm hoping the sequel resolves that issue. When will it be out? Soon? And I have a copy earmarked for me? Of course I do. I'm very important you know.