Review: The Hunting Party ★★★

EVERYONE’S INVITED.
EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.Everyone’s Invited

Everyon

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather.
The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider
The victim.
Not an accident – a murder among friends.

Blurb from Amazon
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party was another book that didn’t live up to expectations. From the blurb I was expecting an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery, 9 guests, one of them has been found dead, who is the killer?

Instead this is more similar to Big Little Lies were we know somebody has been murdered but we don’t know who. There are chapters from the point of view of different guests, leading up to the murder, and the lodge staff after the murder interspersed throughout the book.

I think I would have enjoyed the story more if it had been told in a more linear fashion, with the discovery of the body (and the identity of the victim) at the start of the book, then flashing back to the start of the holiday. I personally find more enjoyment in trying to guess the identity of the killer. I don’t find that hiding the identity of the victim adds any tension to the story and it removes the opportunity to guess at the identity of the killer.

I did really like the following quote from the book. I’ve always believed that anyone is capable of murder given the right (or wrong) circumstances.

Some people, given just the right amount of pressure, taken out of their usual, comfortable environments, don’t need much encouragement at all to become monsters.

The Hunting Party

Overall I did enjoy the book, it just wasn’t what I had been expecting.

Review: The Chalk Man ★★.5

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out his other friends got the same messages, they think it could be a prank… until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realises that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Goodreads blurb
31936826

The Chalk Man is another book with great reviews that missed the mark, it alternated between 1986 and 2016 but I didn’t connect with either storyline.

This book follows a pretty standard thriller plot, with events from years before finally being resolved, but didn’t bring anything new or create characters that I cared about. The events were vaguely connected, but mostly due to the fact that they took place during the same summer rather than any deeper connection.

Often the characters in thrillers are flawed or unlikeable and the author draws the reader in, making them care about the character in spite of this, but I didn’t get that in this book. I didn’t like the character any more at the end of the story than at the beginning. I also felt let down that the twists weren’t unexpected or gripping. They were the predictable ‘twists’ that you would expect with no surprises.

I think this book may have suffered due to my reading it after Twisted, as this just wasn’t up to the same standard. It was okay, but nothing mind blowing.

Review: Quality DNA ★★★.5

Quality DNA by [Martin, Beth]

I received a free copy of Quality DNA through BookSirens in exchange for an honest review.

Quality DNA tells the story of a future in which a strict one child policy is enforced in the US. Both parents are sterilised following the birth of their child, and don’t have another opportunity to have a child. When cases of men fathering more than one child become more common, Irene investigates the cause of this unusual trend.

This was a really interesting idea. China has had a one child policy (and a two child policy), so as the population increases a future that restricts the number of children people can have doesn’t seem farfetched, but isn’t something that I’ve come across in other books.

It took me a while to get into this, but once I did I enjoyed it. I thought the science seemed a bit iffy in a couple of places but overall most of it was reasonable.

Although this was described as science-fiction I would probably put it as a crime/mystery. The investigation, and going undercover with the FBI wouldn’t be out of place in any TV crime drama. I enjoyed this part of the plot, while parts of it were complicated, it kept me really interested in the story as I tried to guess what was going on.

I’d recommend this book more to fans of crime mysteries than science fiction fans, but it was an interesting take on a future that I haven’t read in other books.

Review: Circe ★★★

I’ve seen a lot of reviews raving about Circe and it won a Goodreads Choice Award last year, so when I needed a book about a mythical creature for a readathon, this seemed perfect. This tells the story of Circe, daughter of Helios, her witchcraft, exile, and beyond. Sadly this book didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

This book didn’t tell us anything new. I love mythology but this didn’t feel like a story connecting me to the characters. I didn’t feel anything towards Circe, and I didn’t feel like there was a connection between the different parts of her story. This book moved through her life without drawing me in. If I’m reading a story, rather than a book of mythology, I want the author to engage me with the characters, but this book didn’t create any new emotions.

I thought the book was fine, but nothing special.

Review: Twisted ★★★★★

BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK 
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:


1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.

Goodreads Blurb

There is a lot of hype around this book and it is well deserved. This book is amazing. I borrowed a copy from the library and I could not put it down. I watch The Orville on Thursday evenings with my housemate and I was annoyed that I had to stop reading. I stayed up late to finish it (always a risky decision with a cat who likes to wake me up to see if he can get breakfast earlier). My only thought when I finished was ‘holy fucking shit’. I bought my own copy on my way to work the next morning, because I had to own this so I could read it again.

40735214

I’m not usually a fan of books that start near the end of the story, and then go back to the start of the story, but it worked wonderfully well in this book. This lets the reader make their own assumptions and conclusions, and then changes them multiple times throughout the book. Twisted is an apt title, as this book is full of twists. I hadn’t fully recovered from one before another came along. If you think you’ve figured everything out, you’re wrong.

I didn’t particularly like the characters in this book when I first started reading it, and only slightly more by the end, but I think that’s part of what made this book so good. Steve Cavanagh creates characters that are human and flawed, and that you root for regardless of your feelings towards them. 

The book describes the success of JT LeBeau’s novels being down to the fact that they’re the type of books that when the reader has finished, they immediately tell e they know ‘You need to read this book’, and Twisted creates the same reaction.

I can’t say too much about Twisted without being spoilers, but if you haven’t read it yet, you should get yourself a copy as soon as possible. This is the best book I’ve read so far this year. 

Review: We Were Liars ★★★★

Goodreads Blurb

We are the Liars.
We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.
We are cracked and broken.
A story of love and romance.
A tale of tragedy.
Which are lies?
Which is truth?
You decide.

20935171

This isn’t the type of book I would usually read, but I really enjoyed it. I’d been considering buying if for a while, and I finally bought it, and read the entire thing in one sitting.

We Were Liars tells the story of Cady and her cousins, ‘The Liars’. They spend every summer together. Cady has suffered migraines ever since ‘the accident’ in Summer 15, but none of her family will talk about it. What are they hiding from her?

This book was a very short read, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It kept me curious all the way through the book about what had happened. The writing style was unusual, and I wasn’t a huge fan, but overall I liked the tone and pacing of the book. This made me cry when I finished it, something that only a few books have done.

I can’t say too much about this book without being spoilery, but if you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend it.

Review: As Old As Time

As Old As Time is another book in the series of Disney retellings. In this retelling Belle’s mother is the enchantress who cursed the beast. How will Belle cope with this knowledge and save the inhabitants of the castle?

Given that I really didn’t enjoy A Whole New World, I wasn’t sure whether I still wanted to read this book, but I had listed it as one of the books for my O.W.L.s magical readathon, and they’re quick reads so I went ahead. I enjoyed this much more than A Whole New World.

This book alternates chapters between the story of Belle, and the story of her mother, Rosalind, explaining how she came to curse the Beast, and what happened to magic in the kingdom.

In the early chapters of this book we learn that magic was prevalent in the kingdom, but soon became feared and hated, and all of the les charmantes disappeared. Unlike A Whole New World this book does explore more of the characters back stories and develops them in a different way than the film. I was much more interested in how this was going to be resolved.

This book did lose points for using censi instead of the correct plural of censuses, but if you’re not a statistician and a giant nerd you can probably get past it.

My rating: 2.5 stars, it was enjoyable, but still nothing special.

Review: A Whole New World

As Old As Time is the first in a series of retellings of Disney classics. In this version Aladdin never summoned the Genie, instead Jafar uses his first two wishes to become the Sultan and the world’s most powerful sorcerer. Aladdin and Jasmine must then work together with the Street Rats and people of Agrabah to defeat Jafar before he makes his final wish and becomes unstoppable.

I wanted to like this book. I love retellings in which we find out more about characters we think we now, particularly ones explore those characters motivations and back story to present them in a different light. That doesn’t happen in this book. Jafar is a one-dimensional villain Aladdin is still the hero.

The first 25% of the book is exactly the same as the Disney film, even using some of the same lines. The story doesn’t get much any better after this, following the stereotypical let’s overthrow the government/dictator storyline, but with none of the depth that makes us care about the characters.

If you want a retelling of Aladdin focussing on Jafar’s story I would recommend watching Starkid’s Twisted on youtube. This is a moving and hillarious retelling of Aladdin with a misunderstood Jafar. Otherwise just watch the Disney film.

Review: Murder Games

His victims appear to be total strangers. The only clue that links the crimes is the playing card left behind at each scene that hints at the next target.

The killer, known in the tabloids as the Dealer, is baiting cops into a deadly guessing game that has the city on edge. Elizabeth Needham, the tenacious detective in charge of the case, turns to an unlikely ally – Dylan Reinhart, a brilliant professor whose book was found along with the first playing card.

As the public frenzy over the Dealer reaches a fever pitch, Dylan and Elizabeth must connect the clues to discover what the victims have in common – before the Dealer runs through his entire deck.

I watched the first episode of the TV adaptation last year when it aired and didn’t enjoy it, but I did think that the plot was interesting and would have been better in the book. A year later I finally read the book, and I was right, it is much better.

The book gets straight into the story and I was immediately hooked. I read the entire book in one evening.

I loved the characters in this book, particularly Dylan, and I liked finding out more about him as the book went on. His relationship with Tracy was particularly adorable and made the character more likeable.

The plot in this book is really interesting. There’s a lot going on, but everything adds to the story, and keeps going to the last page of the book. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an easy to read mystery. This would be a good rainy day read, an enjoyable read but doesn’t require a lot of concentration.

My rating: 4 stars. I don’t know that I’ll try the TV show again, but I’m looking forward to book two.

Pet Sematary: Book vs Film

Film adaptations seem to be hit and miss. They’re either great; The Hunger Games and The Book Thief (perfect), or they’re awful; The Maze Runner (I still haven’t watched 2&3), The Vampire’s Assistant (I can rant for hours), or The War of the Worlds (just no). With that in mind, reading Pet Sematary and watching the film so soon after probably wasn’t the best idea, but is what I did.

I really enjoyed the book, but thought the film was lacking. I think the changes made for the film removed some of the suspense and creepiness that made the book so good.

One of the first major changes is the relationship between Jud and Louis. Instead of the wonderful relationship they have in the book, Jud is the creepy neighbour, and the lack of relationship means that some of Jud’s actions don’t quite make sense, or take on a sinister edge. While in the book the relationship between Jud and the family mean that him showing Louis the place to bury Church demonstrates how much he cares about Ellie, whereas in the film Jud has barely interacted with the family so this action doesn’t have the pure intent behind it. In the film Jud also seems to be aware that this will change Church in a bad way, which doesn’t match with what we see in the book.

The film also changes which child is killed. While I partly understand the decision to kill Ellie instead, an older child can act the part of creepy zombie, this meant that one of the creepier parts of the book didn’t happen in the same way. Ellie having nightmares about what Louis was going to do, and scaring Rachel into trying to stop him, was one of the most sinister parts of the book, and while the film tried to recreate this with Gage, it didn’t create the same feeling of suspense and terror.

In the book we get to understand Louis’s thought process, which adds to the suspense, particularly at the end of the book. We don’t get the same sense of this in the film, and the ending differs quite a bit from the book. The film is quite forgettable and the end doesn’t leave you with anything, whereas you’re left with a feeling with unease after finishing the book.

Overall the movie seems to move closer to a stereotypical horror movie relying on jump scares, rather than building up the terror through the story where we both fear and understand Louis’s actions.

I’d recommend reading the book and skipping the movie. On an unrelated note if anything ever happens to Dominick then he’s being cremated.

Have you read/watched Pet Sematary? What did you think?