I was beginning to believe that people were capable of anything. People are multi-layered. Anyone can have a private side that verges on the dark and
I was beginning to believe that people were capable of anything. People are multi-layered. Anyone can have a private side that verges on the dark and dangerous. Your doctor could be a sadist. Your primary school teacher could be a paedophile. Your beauty therapist could be a murderer.
2 1/2 stars. Silent Child should have and could have been a new favourite of mine. It is compelling and eerie, set where I came from in the North of England, in a quiet (and fictional) little Yorkshire town where everyone knows everyone. The mystery interested me and the story had a very creepy vibe, which I personally liked.
Too bad everything - every twist, reveal and "surprise" - was completely transparent.
It is told from the perspective of Emma Price, who lost her six-year-old son, Aiden, in a flood ten years ago. When the police found his coat floating in the water, everyone assumed he had drowned. Now Emma is married to a new man, pregnant, and finally ready to move on with her life... until Aiden is found staggering out of the local woods, malnourished and mute. Where has Aiden been all these years? What kind of monster took him? These questions kept me turning the pages.
I think it must be very hard to write a mystery/thriller that is both realistic and surprising. The reader is working against you - trying their hardest to solve the mystery, but disappointed if they actually succeed. You need a cast of characters large enough to offer many possibilities (because it's a total cop-out if it's a random stranger who no one cares about) and you need to weave multiple mysteries and surprises together. This is so some of them are red herrings, and also so that if the reader figures out one mystery, they can still be surprised by another. Or, alternatively, make it so even if they work out the WHO, the WHY is mind-blowing enough to save them from disappointment.
This book kind of failed at all of that. One character will seem weird to most people almost immediately, so the reveals around them will probably come as no surprise. I know they didn't for me. The truth is so obvious that it is hardly even a twist, though I think we are supposed to view it as one. And anyone who pays close attention will notice some details that all point towards a certain individual - so much so that I was hoping it was a red herring.
Not only is it easy to guess who is responsible here, but it is also easy to work out the whys and details. There can only be so many characters in a book, so if you suspect them all, then you're going to be right with one of them. I get that. Which is why I think the detail of the mysteries is important. There are conversations in this book that reveal all the details fairly early on. And there was that one incident with the (view spoiler)[crib (hide spoiler)] that was laughably easy to see through.
It was really difficult to get past the transparency of the plot. I'm no Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I'd say I'm a fairly oblivious mystery reader most of the time; everyone else usually works it out before me. So if I can see right through this, I imagine it must be really obvious.
The lead soldier is the clearest to make out; his long legs taper from narrow hips and a boxy, solid chest. He is the first man I have seen in person
The lead soldier is the clearest to make out; his long legs taper from narrow hips and a boxy, solid chest. He is the first man I have seen in person. My eyes widen to take him in. He is more fascinating than the chapel murals of the sky-god, Anu, and his son, Enlil, the fire-god.
^This is on the third page; the first time the MC meets the guy who - surprise! - will become the love interest.
Every now and then, I like to take a break from my TBR. I'll either pick up a classic I've always been meaning to read, or I'll check out what's hot right now among my GR friends. So when I kept seeing The Hundredth Queen in my feed and I was in the mood for some light fantasy, I decided to give it a shot. But I fail to understand the popularity of such a cliche, derivative fantasy novel.
Maybe there was a time, however many years ago, when it was somewhat interesting to write a fantasy with little world-building, a plain, boring protagonist who everyone else thinks is special, instalove, beautiful mean girls, and a central conflict that doesn't really make sense... maybe there was that time, but I really thought it was long gone.
In this book, a plain and unremarkable orphan called Kalinda has grown up in the Sisterhood - a religious group that grooms girls to be servants, courtesans, or, if they're lucky, wives to powerful men. We are repeatedly told how unattractive and bad at fighting Kalinda is, but in the first few chapters alone, we see her defeat a strong opponent and be called "beautiful" by several others.
The evil and vindictive girls are, of course, stunning (and aware of it) in comparison to Kalinda who says she's plain but is somehow believed to be special by everyone else:
“Natesa and Sarita flaunt their bodies, unrushed to get dressed. They are replicas of the goddess Ki, petite and round, soft yet firm, fit yet feminine. So unlike my gangly, angled shape.”
The whole plot of the book is about women competing against one another for men's affections, among other things. When Kalinda is chosen to be Rajah Tarek's 100th wife, she soon realises that she must compete with the other wives in a rank tournament. This is a series of fights where wives can challenge one another for their rank and, hopefully, gain more power.
I found this part really poorly-explained. The reasoning behind it seemed weak, and the wives didn't seem to have much to gain from competing in potentially fatal battles. It was just another thing in this book that made it seem like it needed some tighter editing. Everything from reasons that don't quite add up, to weird sentences that shouldn't have made it to print:
Jaya frowns so hard that a crane could roost on her lower lip.
Add to this a romance set up with instalove, and it just wasn't an impressive read. There was absolutely no chemistry between Kalinda and Deven because there was no gradual build to their relationship - no banter, no tension, nothing to keep me excited. They are obsessed with one another from the very beginning. And while you could maybe explain away Kalinda's obsession with the fact that she's grown up in the Sisterhood and never seen men before - what's his excuse?
Maybe I'll just stick to my regular TBR for a while.
I am really disappointed with how Since We Fell turned out. It started okay. I've seen some other reviewers mention the slowness of the first half butI am really disappointed with how Since We Fell turned out. It started okay. I've seen some other reviewers mention the slowness of the first half but, to be honest, I didn't mind so much because I assumed it was leading up to something bigger; something important. Unfortunately, though, it kind of wasn't.
The first part turns out to be an overlong and elaborate backstory about Rachel's childhood, adolescence, her mother's death and the subsequent search for her absent father, her career in investigative journalism, and her first failed marriage. Many characters come into the book and leave just as quickly, never to be mentioned again. Then Rachel meets the wonderful, perfect Brian who is willing to help her through her personal issues, and she settles into a second marriage.
The second part of the book is one of confusion and suspicion, as Rachel stumbles upon a secret that will change everything. And, lastly, the third part is a ludicrous stream of action that requires a suspension of disbelief I seem to be incapable of.
Gillian Flynn said that this book contains two different stories, but I would argue that it contains several. All of them failing to come together successfully. It’s like Lehane pooled all of his notes and shoved them together, regardless of whether they fit or not. And I say this as a fan of several of Lehane's books.
The later chapters of Since We Fell are really quite ridiculous. I felt like I'd been transported into a cheesy action movie like Mr and Mrs Smith, or something like it. The plot twists are somehow both predictable and seriously farfetched. Lehane drops huge hints earlier in the story that something is not quite right so the big "oh my gosh" probably won't come as a surprise, and one hint is only subtle if you’re American (view spoiler)[or don’t use the date format dd/mm/yyyy (hide spoiler)]
I think, perhaps, that many feel this book gains its strength not from its thrills and surprises, but from its character exploration, but I can’t say I liked anyone. Rachel was bland to me, and every other character was either outright bad, or so unbelievably great that I could only assume they were hiding something.
The comically dramatic action scenes of the later chapters felt so cheesy. Even the dialogue seemed to lose something towards the end of the book, feeling scripted and unrealistic. I can almost see the movie already. Lehane finishes with an open ending, so I didn't even get any closure on this disappointing story. No surprises. No suspense. No resolution.
I had mixed feelings after finishing Kang's The Vegetarian, but I cannot deny that the book sucked me right into it's dark, weird allegory. Which is wI had mixed feelings after finishing Kang's The Vegetarian, but I cannot deny that the book sucked me right into it's dark, weird allegory. Which is why I'm surprised that this book left me feeling cold and detached. It feels so distant and impersonal, lacking an atmosphere worthy of the subject matter.
Human Acts tells an important story that I'm sure many people know nothing about - that of the South Korean Gwangju Uprising in 1980. In a daring plot choice that should have been far more effective than it was, Kang begins by talking about bodies. Specifically, the corpses lined up in boxes, waiting for family and friends to come identify them. One chapter is even told from the perspective of a dead body.
Are you horrified, and yet intrigued? So was I. Unfortunately, the second person narration is jarring and strange. Where The Vegetarian's weirdness kept me interested enough to read on, here the weird aspects left me feeling detached and bored.
All of the chapters, though connected, feel like individual stories. I jumped around from perspective to perspective, never coming to feel an attachment to any character or their story. I realize I am in the minority, perhaps not unlike how I was with The Underground Railroad, but I cannot connect with these books about historical horrors that lay out in the events in such a cold way, lacking any human emotion.
I appreciate that it is probably a conscious choice on the author's part; a decision meant to serve a purpose and - probably - demonstrate the cold inhumanity of such parts of history, but any book that leaves me feeling emotionally cold, whether intentionally or otherwise, is not one that will stay with me.
This was an easy, information-filled read, made compelling by the author's conversational no-bullshit style. It was definitely interesting to read aboThis was an easy, information-filled read, made compelling by the author's conversational no-bullshit style. It was definitely interesting to read about popularity, the difference between status and likability, and the ways our entire lives, careers, relationships and mental health can be affected by our popularity in early childhood and adolescence.
I think the only problem is how reductionist some of the ideas are. Prinstein straight up acknowledges that the five popularity types - Accepted, Rejected, Neglected, Controversial and Average - are reductive in nature, but then proceeds to form generalizations based upon them anyway. I am skeptical as to how universal his findings are.
The book is driven by anecdotes, featuring many different people who fall into one of the categories of popularity. I liked this a lot. Prinstein explores how this affects their life, showing how more qualified people can be passed up for a promotion if another candidate is an "Accepted", or how people unconsciously listen to and value the opinion of popular "Accepted" people over others.
Lots of interesting info and thought-provoking anecdotes, but I don't know that it's as simple and black and white as the author portrays. Personality, popularity and privilege overlap in many complex ways; it seems silly to suggest that all people who enjoy a certain type of popularity will reap the future benefits, or alternatively, those who are "Rejected" or "Neglected" may be affected more or less by their status and/or likability, depending on the individual. Factors such as gender, wealth, and class surely also come into play.
What a painfully boring book. 166 narrators chiming in and overlapping in a story that seems so random and disconnected for the most part. It might beWhat a painfully boring book. 166 narrators chiming in and overlapping in a story that seems so random and disconnected for the most part. It might be deep, and it might be clever, but if there isn't the barest spark of something to make you care what's on the next page - then why even bother turning it?
This is exactly how I like my mysteries. It's a shame mediocre books like Into the Water will soar the charts this year, when books like this probablyThis is exactly how I like my mysteries. It's a shame mediocre books like Into the Water will soar the charts this year, when books like this probably won't get the attention they deserve.
The Last Place You Look follows private investigator - Roxane Weary - as she attempts to solve a fifteen-year-old case and, possibly, save an innocent man from death row. It doesn't look good; in fact, the guy looks guilty as sin, but Roxane needs the PI money. However, her digging into small town secrets and a buried past unearth something bigger than she'd ever imagined. It's just so damn compelling.
The real strength of this book is Roxane herself. I adore mystery/thrillers that make you care about the investigator and their private life just as much as you care about the whodunnit. Roxane is bisexual and juggling two unhealthy relationships, one with a man and the other with a woman. She also has a drinking problem that is starting to affect her work.
Roxane's messy, imperfect life makes her all the more interesting. She's set up as someone I would like to read more about - not just to see her solve crimes and get her hands dirty, but because I care about her. I'm really glad to hear there are more books planned for this series.
Some of the reveals are not difficult to guess, but I've said this maybe a hundred times: the best mysteries are those where it doesn't matter if you work out who did it. And here, it doesn't matter. The story stands strong without leaning heavily on its reveals; it is so much more than its outcome.
So if you like small town mysteries, charmingly screwed-up private investigators, cases that expand and get bigger and bigger, and a touch of weird phone calls and creepy houses, I would highly recommend this book.
Tana French aside, it's easily the best mystery/thriller I've read in a while.