Black Butterfly

Black Butterfly

Rating: 4/5

From IMDB:

Outside a mountain town grappling with a series of abductions and murders, Paul (Antonio Banderas), a reclusive writer, struggles to start what he hopes will be a career-saving screenplay.

Review:

Oh wow this was everything I had hoped and more. I could tell Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Antonio Banderas would act their roles well but boy they were brilliant. Banderas was superb in the role of the drunkard functioning writer and Meyer’s controlled lunacy kept me on edge.

The film has a good balance of tension and mystery, in such an idyllic landscape. The photograph and the way some scenes are shot and cut are very well done.

The twist towards the end was not 100% believable but it was good enough to leave me flabbergasted and the way the scenes unfolded after that was spine-chilling.

As has happened lately much too often, the last scene of the movie ruined it big time. It would have been so much better without that, it was an unnecessary cop-out.

Still, I highly recommend Black Butterfly. Savour it, don’t let a single moment slip away because you will want to review everything in the end.

The Teacher’s Secret

Title: The Teacher’s Secret

Author: Suzanne Leal

Genres: Contemporary | Mystery

Length: 432 pages | 5472 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Legend Press

Publishing Date: May 15th, 2017

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

A new year begins at Brindle Public School, which has a new acting principal. This change will bring about the unravelling of several characters, who will see their secrets exposed.

Review:

The Teacher’s Secret was tough to get into. There were so many characters that I could never remember who was who anymore. Let’s just say I was happy to have read this on my Kindle, where I could do a quick search to remind me. But yes, I did not find it very engaging and was beginning to wonder if I would finish it before the end of the month.

Not only are there a lot of characters but also many perspectives, too many. I think we follow at least 5 or 6 characters as main ones, learning about who they were, their routines and the people in their lives. I found that very exhausting and several of them did not add anything to the story.

Rebecca for instance, as well as her family and background, are utterly pointless to the narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I thought her characterisation was very well done and think she would be fine in a separate book, not just this one. As it is, it feels that the character was added to the book just so the author could write about what she knows (she specialises in refugee law) and to provide a twist that is not even related to the story.

Not remembering who was who for a big enough part of the read, aligned with the fact that nothing interesting actually happened, often caused my attention to drift. The events mentioned in the blurb do not take place until well after half of the book (and I feel cheated in that sense, I hate spoilers) and the ending is quite abrupt. The big teacher’s secret is anti-climatic and there really isn’t anything I could hang on to.
I almost wish Terry really had turned out to be a paedophile so that Laurie’s character had not been made so closed-minded and really one-dimensional, and we had had some form of twist to make it all worth while.

The strength of this book is the portrayal of a small coastal town, which is quite vivid and engaging, and each character, who has their own stuff to deal with, if you can keep up with the plethora of them.
However, as I finish the book I am left clueless as to what it was supposed to achieve and just a ‘well okay then’ feeling.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from May 22nd to May 29th, 2017
GR Review

My Sister’s Bones

Title: My Sister’s Bones

Author: Nuala Ellwood

Genres: Mystery | Thriller

Length: 400 pages | 3605 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Penguin UK

Publishing Date: March 28th, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Sisters Kate and Sally have been estranged for years. When their mother passes away and Kate returns to her hometown, she is faced with all the memories of her childhood and her sister’s degradation.
Sally has become an alcoholic and her husband Paul thinks only Kate can help her. Can she do it? And if so, will she keep her sanity?

Review:

My Sister’s Bones features the mother of all unreliable main characters. Our Kate is a war reporter and to say she has skeletons in her closet is and understatement.

In Part 1, the narrative advances between current events, where Kate is locked up, and the previous week’s, when she returned to her hometown after her mother’s passing. As the story advances we find that Kate refuses to deal with her hallucinations, a result of witnessing such horrors, and that several bad things have happened both recently and as Kate was growing up.

During that first part I found some things quite repetitive and Kate annoyed me both in past and current accounts. Her insistence that the interviewer must not realise the truth about her state of mind particularly irked me because it seemed obvious to me that she needed help.

Towards the end of part 1, about halfway through the book, things start to get interesting and in Part two the narrative is done by a different character. After that I was really invested and wanted to know what came next.

So I didn’t find the stuff that happened in the first half that interesting and I actually had to fight the urge to skim through the text because the unreliability of the character was taken to extreme. I didn’t know what the heck was going on. On the other hand, I found myself exhausted by the book. All the characters and situations were so dismaying.

I had anticipated some of what happened or at least who was responsible but I was still quite surprised at a few revelations.

A solid 3.5 stars.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from May 18th to May 21th, 2017
GR Review

Viral

Viral

Rating: 2/5

From IMDB:

Following the outbreak of a virus that wipes out the majority of the human population, a young woman documents her family’s new life in quarantine and tries to protect her infected sister.

Review:

I am not sure why I bothered to watch this one. I had a feeling it would be more of the same and for the most part it was. However, the main character’s innocence was quite believable and that added an interesting nuance to the film. The family dynamic was also well achieved.

There was one single scary scene and another that was quite tense; the others were just gross or boring. I liked that the build-up was slow because it added to the sense of normalcy prior to the events but I wish something interesting had happened, especially something that had made me connect to the main characters more. Instead it focused on Emma’s attraction towards Evan and nothing is really new. The characters’ decisions don’t make sense for the most part and although there is talk of a conspiracy and the concern of the two sisters for each other, after a while the puppy love gets annoying.

Also, for the entire movie we see infected people turning into zombies, completely blacking out and not being themselves anymore, yet for some reason the main character’s sister is able to control it enough so we can see she is struggling and tells her sister to stay away or it will make her hurt her.

I don’t know, stuff just didn’t add up. I was looking forward to a movie about a parasite that controlled people and their behaviour and there is so much that could have been done with this. In the end I was quite disappointed.

Get Out

Get Out

Rating: 4/5

From IMDB:

A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate.

Review:

This was pretty good. Unfortunately, as seems to be the norm lately, the trailer had already shown the creepiest scenes but there was still plenty to get freaked out about as Chris descends from his normal life to the craziness going on in his girlfriend’s hometown.

The characters are quite well-developed; this isn’t your regular thriller/horror movie. Chris grows on you and you feel for him. Also, his hilarious friend brings some welcomed contrast and humorous relief to the heaviness imbued in some scenes.

One of the first scenes, that you can actually see in the trailer, when they are driving and something hits the car, as well as the moments afterwards, is quite intense. The detail of image and sound grasps the viewer and doesn’t let go.

There are several moments when the visual and audio artistry is clear – but again, most are viewable in the trailer, which I find a shame.
The soundtrack adds to it, beginning with the opening credits. Boy, that tune freaked me out.

As for the plot… There is some surreal stuff going on in the suburbs. I got the chills for Chris as he slowly realised he seemed to be the only normal person around there. And all his reactions, as well as his girlfriend’s, were believable, which is not usually an easy feat in a horror film.

Pretty much my only criticism is that, especially towards the end, some things were oversimplified, and that took away some of the enjoyment. I craved a better explanation for several scenes. But overall I was thrilled, and I felt that Betty Gabriel’s performance was particularly superb, though everyone was great.

Recommended even if you are not a fan of horror movies, but enjoy suspense and mystery.

The Marsh King’s Daughter

Title: The Marsh King’s Daughter

Author: Karen Dionne

Genres: Mystery | Thriller

Length: 320 pages | 3194 Kindle locations

Source: Edelweiss

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Publishing Date: June 13th, 2017

Rating: 4.25/5

Premise:

Helena grew up in the marsh, not knowing that her father had abducted her mother.
She has managed to make a life for her in the outside world but now her father has escaped prison. She is the only one who truly knows what he is capable of and hence the only one who can stop him. But at what cost?

Review:

Blimey, this was not an easy book! It is extremely psychologically charged and even though I had to suspend disbelief a couple of times, like when Helena mentions she taught herself to read when she was 3 or when she knows how to count out of the blue – and I definitely don’t understand how Stephen could be married to her and not want to know where all the stuff that must have been clearly wrong with his wife came from, the fact is the author managed an amazing balance between making this character interesting while not imbuing her with knowledge she was not supposed to have acquired due to her isolation.

The book starts with an account of a normal day in Helena’s life. She has her jam and jelly home business, a loyal dog and most importantly a beautiful family. Who don’t have the slightest idea of her past. All that is jeopardised when her father breaks out of jail because she knows he will be coming for her.

The narrative is interspersed with snippets of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale and I loved how it related to Helena’s own story. In her account she goes back and forward between her time growing up and her current predicament. The pace succeeds at keeping the reader interested in knowing what comes next on both timelines, especially since Helena makes sure to include both her views as her child and as an emancipated adult.

For me, the novel brings the whole unlikeable character think to a whole new level. I tried to sympathise with Helena but it was not easy to read all the awful things she thought, particularly of her mother, even as an adult. Sometimes she said she understood her actions while others it seemed clear she didn’t. However, this came around more nicely towards the end so I came to terms with her. Overall I find this an extremely well developed character and there was so much that could have gone wrong.

Still, at times Helena sounded so conceited and I especially did not get why she would underestimate her father, like she really expected to best him, just because she won a game – whose rules her father had made. This lack of humility is present throughout the narrative and it was difficult to accept. However, even the things I did not like made sense and she is after all her father’s daughter.

I highly recommend this book but be prepared for some heavy stuff.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Apr 29th to May 1st, 2017
GR Review

The Ridge

Title: The Ridge

Author: John Rector

Genres: Contemporary | Mystery

Length: 284 pages | 3438 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publishing Date: April 25th, 2017

Rating: 3.25/5

Premise:

Megan was just going to talk with Rachel. But things take a terrible turn and something awful happens.
Except it didn’t. At least Megan’s husband doesn’t believe so and all evidence seems to support it.
Is Megan losing her mind? Or is something sinister happening at Willow Ridge?

Review:

In The Ridge we follow main character Megan around from what starts as a pretty ordinary scene of jealousy that morphs into something quite sinister throughout the story.

Megan doesn’t like Rachel due to her advances on her husband so she goes and talks to her. And that’s where what Rachel supposedly did stops being relevant and we begin questioning what the heck is going on in this tight community.
Megan knows what she saw but her husband’s comments about her mental health shine doubt on it. As she comes in contact with other neighbours, more questions arise, along with some clues, about what is happening.

The novel’s pace is good, as we watch Megan struggle with her relationship with her husband, hiding her secret and trying to make sense of what happened. And then there are those dreadful dreams about a little girl and a blue light that she just cannot make sense of.

This has some resemblances to the psychological thrillers out there because there is doubt about the main character’s mental stability as well as the good intentions of those around her. But that is pretty much where the resemblances stop.

The narrative is nice and fluid and though the first line bothered me due to the construction of the sentence, there was a connection to a later chapter that I enjoyed. There is no jumping back and forward in time here and that was refreshing.

As the story develops, there is a good amount of creepy factor and I thought things were getting really interesting. However, as the resolution approached, I was stuck with so many questions that I could not get complete satisfaction out of the book.

If they delete memories, how could Megan remember Julia? Why exactly was Rachel not right, as Megan put it, when she returned the first time? What happened to Mercer’s wife? If she was so important, being a founder and all, why didn’t they bring her back? Is it because the staff does not have those things implanted? Is that why they are not affected by the blue light? Or is there like a different frequency to each person? How does it work?? Why would Mercer’s wife show him the files like she was exposing an ugly truth when she was actually part of it? And why did Fiona not have a bit more stuff in her house to welcome her guests? I get why the rest of the house was empty but she could at least have some cookies and coffee, I don’t know. Not everyone likes tea. That did feel a bit like a plot device to add to the creepiness factor. Besides, Fiona was home when Megan called asking for a ride, so when exactly was she there? And why the heck does no one use cell phones??

So yes, as you can see, a lot of questions. Also, I didn’t really get some of Megan’s choices and that kind of thing usually bothers me quite a lot.

Still, I believe The Ridge is a book you need to appreciate for the ride, not necessarily the destination, as it can be quite enjoyable and an interesting approach on the Stepford Wife concept.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from April 27th to 29th, 2017
GR Review