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

Virginia

Title: Virginia

Author: William Esmont

Genres: Thriller

Length: 57 pages | 796 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Devious Productions, LLC

Publishing Date: February 13th, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Ray Shelby’s wife is dying of cancer.
While visiting her in the hospital, Ray meets a mysterious stranger that gives him a card and tells him to call the number on it because they may help.
Desperate, Ray calls. They can indeed save Virginia… if Ray is willing to pay the price.

Review:

Virginia is an extremely quick read but an enthralling one. You can connect with Ray, feel his desperation towards his wife’s impending death. The coming to terms with her fate but at the same time not being able to perceive a life without her.

And then a stranger opens a door. What if?…

The way Ray is introduced to this mysterious organisation is quite well achieved. The way it develops sort of hints at something paranormal because there are things the organisation’s representative simply had no way of knowing but, as is the way with novellas, we don’t get closure on that front.

I wish Ray had been more curious about some things. Eli is pretty much dragged into a car and it doesn’t even seem to bother him. Not only is he not curious or even afraid for the guy but he doesn’t stop to think what kind of stuff he may have gotten himself into, and goes ahead and dials the number he gave him. Also, where was the contract Eli referred to and Ray admitted he didn’t read? I don’t recall it being mentioned, just the NDA.

There are some things that are justified by Ray’s desperation. Others by his denial. So the author did manage a good balance between keeping the author interested in the story and justifying why we don’t get to know certain things – Ray keeps fighting what is proposed and by the time he wants some answers he is unable to reach them.

Virginia is clever, disturbing and makes you deal with uncomfortable questions like how would you deal with the imminent death of someone who is really close to you and how far would you go to save them.
Recommended.

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 on April 22nd, 2017
GR Review

Life

Life

Rating: 2.5/5

From IMDB:
A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Review:

I actually watched this movie a while ago but found it so unremarkable that I forgot to write a review.

It started out well enough and the photography was quite enjoyable, as expected. The didactic aspect of life in space is not usually portrayed in films of the sort so that was good. Although naming the alien Calvin was a bit too much, in my opinion.
The familiar environment made the team immediately grow on me and I wish the characters had been further developed. The only one that I did like was the first to die. Go figure.

However, after a point, it was bad decision after bad decision and some reactions felt so unnatural that they completely broke the pace and brought the quality of the movie well down. Also, too many developments require much too much suspension of disbelief and my disappointment only grew. Just a tiny example: the alien just happens to destroy the specific thing that causes communications to the exterior to go kaput. Whaaat??

Also, the description of the alien was creepy but beautiful and yet that thing that was described as being brain and muscle and eye in its entirety, suddenly develops a face and linear vision throughout the film. It’s like everything that was unique about the movie was absolutely wasted to make it fall into the same old clichés of amazing graphics in determent of plot.

The set-up for the ending made no sense and made me anticipate it early on. Kudos for originality but it could have been less obvious.

Alas, Life had a few pleasant surprises but overall it was an unremarkable and forgettable film.

I Found You

Title: I Found You

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genres: Mystery | Thriller

Length: 464 pages | 3525 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Arrow

Publishing Date: March 9th, 2017

 

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

In East Yorkshire, Alice, a single mother of three, finds a man sitting on the beach in the middle of the pouring rain wearing nothing but a shirt and jeans. Against her better judgement, she takes him in, after finding out that he does not remember who he is.
At the same time, at Surrey, Lily’s husband goes missing. They have only been married for a couple of weeks and she does not know much about him but she knows he would not just leave like this.
Who is this lost man and how does his past relate to the two stories?

Review:

I Found You started out really well. The writing was very engaging.

I found myself enjoying the chapters about Alice more because she seemed more real, even though she was obviously a bit off in the head:
And even if (…) he’s killed someone, he’d have a good reason for it; she knows he would.
Often saying she knew she was didn’t exactly help, it was just stating the obvious.
It was that realising things well before the character did that threw me off a bit. I mean, it took her forever to really grasp that she was putting her children’s life in danger by bringing in a complete stranger.

There were things that didn’t add up like how on earth she could support herself and three children and an unexpected guest just by selling her art occasionally.
Still, I enjoyed several aspects of this character, particularly her parents and everything she needed to deal with. It was refreshing to read about 40 year-old characters, their daily lives and concerns.

Lily on the other hand, I struggled to relate to. I just don’t get why a 21-year-old would move to another country, without money, without family, not even knowing her fiancé’s family or really much about him – or anyone else in that country, for that matter. It just didn’t seem realistic, fully relying on a single person to survive. And not having any money because Carl payed for everything? Nah, just doesn’t seem feasible. And, again, it took her forever to realise what I had grasped within a few lines.

I did appreciate viewing things at a foreigner’s point of view, since I am not native to the English culture and do find myself wondering about stuff that is so familiar to them.

After that, we get introduced to more characters – brother Gray, sister Kirstie and mysterious Mark – and things get even more interesting. The way the chapters ended made me want to know what came next and I looked forward to finding out how all three storylines would progress.

The way that we are told they are two separate missing men is very well achieved, with innocuous clues here and there. And even the whole memory loss thing, which is so popular in psychological thrillers these days, was quite convincing.

I did anticipate most of the revelations but as the book’s end approached I was surprised on a couple of occasions and appreciate how it wrapped up to the book’s title in the final lines – these days, often times I find myself wondering how a book’s title was picked. Most of them are just so generic. No wonder I can’t remember most titles when thinking of a particular character or storyline. I think this one, simple as it is, will stick with me.

As a note, the ARC’s quality was a disappointment. I am used to not having a chapter index but incomplete words were a first. Sometimes letters were missing in the middle of words, other times the beginning or end, and I had to guess based on context. Most times I could do that, others not so much.

All in all, I Found You was quite enjoyable. Not the most amazing thriller I have read but very enjoyable and I wanted to know what happened to all characters. Recommended.

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 Mar 11th to Mar 16th, 2017
GR Review