Reviewing the Pages: In a Dark, Dark Wood

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What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.

Sometimes the only thing to fear…is yourself.

When reclusive writer Leonora is invited to the English countryside for a weekend away, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. But as the first night falls, revelations unfold among friends old and new, an unnerving memory shatters Leonora’s reserve, and a haunting realization creeps in: the party is not alone in the woods.

From the very beginning, this book draws you in and leaves you wondering “what’s going on?”, but in a good way. This book leaves you in suspense, always leaving two questions when one gets answered. With such a remote setting to add to the chills, it takes well placed reveals, as well as doubts into the narrator’s own reliability that make this a wonderful read. Sure, there will be a character or two that annoy you, and a couple of scenes that would make the reader feel uncomfortable (I know I was), but don’t let those pieces take away from the overall scene. Take a dive into this book, fellow reader, and beware, not everyone is what they appear to be.

Before I begin, hi everyone.  I’m back.  September is probably going to be a rough month for me for the foreseeable future, so I do apologize in advance if I suddenly and randomly disappear.  Plus, starting a book that requires A LOT of focus on didn’t help matters (seriously, when one of the SIXTEEN POVs is a character with the name of Hajjaj, one has to question their reading choices).  So, here I am.  Thank you for being patient with me, and thanks for sticking around.

Anyway, on with the book.  This is a marvelous read.  If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down.  The book wastes no time in throwing you into the mystery, and continues to bring you into it little by little.  With every new piece of the puzzle revealed, it draws you further in, and at times, further away from the truth.

I mentioned in my review above that it would make you feel uncomfortable.  Well, one of the big parts of the plot is about love, and the effects that it can have on a person, even a decade after the fact.  And, during this hen party, the trivia session that took place in the car made me feel rather uncomfortable, because I could see myself in Nora’s shoes (granted, in a reversed sort of situation, but you catch my drift).

This book also makes great use of the unreliable narrator, but in a way that makes it perfect for the plot.  While most unreliable narrators that we get are that way from the beginning, we get that sense towards the middle of the read, and it provides to be more of a way to drive the plot along than a hindrance (like some other unreliable narrators that I know The Girl on the Train *coughcough*). In fact, like The Girl on the Train, there’s a character in this book that I couldn’t stand, but instead of it being the MC this time; it’s the maid of honor and thrower of the disastrous hen party, Flo.  I could not be sympathetic towards her, especially before we got to all of the reveals.

There, that’s all I’ve got.  Seriously, go check out this read.  Dive within the pages, and let the mystery unfold for you.  Just, keep on your toes.  You don’t know who you can trust.

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Reviewing the Pages: The Silence of the Lambs

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Hannibal Lecter. The ultimate villain of modern fiction. Read the five-million-copy bestseller that scared the world silent… A young FBI trainee. An evil genius locked away for unspeakable crimes. A plunge into the darkest chambers of a psychopath’s mind– in the deadly search for a serial killer… Thomas Harris is the author of Hannibal , Red Dragon , and Black Sunday . As part of the search for a serial murderer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill,” FBI trainee Clarice Starling is given an assignment. She must visit a man confined to a high-security facility for the criminally insane and interview him. 

I’ve forgotten just how fast this book starts out, and it never lets up. Information comes at the reader fast and furious, and leaves out just enough information to leave the pieces untied. Sure, the reader knows what the picture looks like before the cast of good guys (certain characters not-withstanding of course). For those of you who haven’t been introduced into the cold, calculating mind of the pure sociopath Dr. Lecter, this is a fantastic introduction into a character (that is, if you decided to skip over Red Dragon, which this book references a few times, but it not a necessity to get involved in this story). I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good suspenseful read, with a lot of detective work involved as well. But, be careful. One never knows when Lecter might get into your head.

I want to make note of something that I found interesting.  Now, I haven’t seen it happen often (possibly because I don’t actually realize it), but the last line of this book contains the title.  In fact, the title is the last five words of the story.  It’s rather interesting, and I may have to be on the lookout for more of those interesting title tie-ins somehow.

Anywho, as I said in my Goodreads review, there is a lot of information that gets thrown right in our face.  In fact, we get our first meeting between Starling and Lecter only 15 pages in, and boy do we get a lot of information.  At times, it’s enough to make a man’s head spin.  But, at other times, we are only given just enough information that may be overlooked at the time, but helps to add to the big final reveal.

Then, there’s Lecter.  He’s absolutely terrifying here.  Here’s a man who kills without remorse, nor does it excite him any.  He just…kills.  And to top it all off, he uses his vast intellect to outwit everyone.  There’s a reason why Hannibal is an iconic character not just in the world of ink and paper, but the big screen as well (thanks to Sir Anthony Hopkins for his amazing portrayal).  And we can’t forget about his opposite here, Clarice Starling.  Starling is a strong character, who gets pulled into this case based on her skill set, and stays in it until the bitter end.  She stands up for what she believes in, and she doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to people that cross her (I don’t want to be that cameraman that she dropped the garage door on).

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys thrillers with some elements of horror and mystery.  But just remember, not everyone wants to invite you for dinner.  Some might want you FOR dinner…or wear you to dinner.

Reviewing the Pages: Reliquary

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Hidden deep beneath Manhattan lies a warren of tunnels, sewers, and galleries, mostly forgotten by those who walk the streets above. There lies the ultimate secret of the Museum Beat. When two grotesquely deformed skeletons are found deep in the mud off the Manhattan shoreline, museum curator Margo Green is called in to aid the investigation. Margo must once again team up with police lieutenant D’Agosta and FBI agent Pendergast, as well as the brilliant Dr. Frock, to try and solve the puzzle. The trail soon leads deep underground, where they will face the awakening of a slumbering nightmare… in Reliquary, from bestselling coauthors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Following the events of Relic, this book follows some of main survivors of the incidents at the Museum as they follow a new threat that takes the fear from the Museum beast and spreads it around the deep underground of the New York tunnel system.

For me, it felt like there were too many stories in this one to follow. Sure, we had many different characters that eventually converged their storylines into one, but there felt like too many to worry about. The main story was enjoyable, and I felt like there could have been more done with Kawakita, but the story gave us enough information at the right time. I wasn’t a big fan of what they were doing with Smithback with the Take Back Our City rally that devolved into a riot. I felt that it wasn’t right for the story.

The action will keep you motivated, and every new reveal will keep you guessing. Sure, it’s not super stellar, but it will keep you entertained until the epilogue. For those of you who like mysteries tinged with science, you should check this, and Relic out.

So, I left out Frock for a reason.  Yes, it was a good twist that Frock is found out to be the main villain, and there may have been hints that it was him throughout the tale, but the whole reveal fell just a little flat.  It was just “Oh…Doctor Frock?!”, and that was it.  Sure, the motivation (stated afterwards) was there.  A man that has been crippled for most of his life is practically gifted the ability to walk again, with some…side effects.  Granted, the drug that has been extracted could very well be part of the problem, or it can only have enhanced the mental strain because of his jealousy of being confined to a wheelchair.  Who can really say for certain?

We do get a lot of new characters mixed in with the old.  Some, like Hayward, are fleshed out and given some life here.  Others, like Snow and Mrs. Wisher, are rather one-dimensional, and I hope that we aren’t going to get them back in a future book.  Which concerned me a little bit.  Both characters are rather instrumental in the plot, yet, they have little depth to them.  I do want to like Snow, but at the same time, there’s not much there.  At all.  There were some characters that we got introduced to that I was really glad to see go because I found their personality to be rather grating, yet there are some that still stuck around to the very end.

You should schedule this one into your busy reading schedules, fellow reader.  Reading Relic can be very helpful to you here, but not necessarily a requirement.  Dive underground into the New York City labyrinth.  You’ll never know what sort of mysteries you’ll uncover.

Reviewing the Pages: One Dark Summer Night

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The fairies are coming…the fairies are coming…

To kill us all.

It’s 1989. A small Midwestern college town with a history of strange sightings and hauntings. A summer intern program in the biology department that actually pays. And coworkers who don’t warn you about vivisection day…

Della Rae planned to keep her head down and work as many hours as she could get, while filling in the gaps with a lot of old sci-fi novels.

Her plan was interrupted by a sudden friendship with a townie student, a weird girl named Merc who shared Della Rae’s tastes in fiction. It was Merc who warned her not to go to the bio department that day…

Soon, there would be hell to pay for what happened in the bio department. And only Della Rae, Merc, and their friends can stop it from spreading.

I received this through a free download in exchange for an honest review.

In order to fully grasp the entire story of this novella, one must read it in one sitting. I didn’t, and I feel like I’ve missed a few details along the way. Which isn’t a bad thing. There are a lot of shifts around that I felt a little disjointed when getting back into the read, but at the same time, it helps the plot by having so many perspectives and shifts. There is a lot going on in this read, and for Della Ray, it’s one very long night. Well, technically this book covers a whole day, but still, the majority of the action takes place after the sun sets. It’s dark, a little bit creepy, and gives me some new fears about having creatures make random inanimate objects…animate (that, and skeletal zombie mutant creatures). Do take care when you read this one fellow readers; you may never come back.

Alright, so this book is a stand-in for my original planned read, “Soul Smuggler”, which was only a preview in the edition that I downloaded.  And I do not regret my choice.  Granted, I did have some struggles reconnecting some plot points together (like how Craig goes from random stranger guy to the new Lord of the Hunt), and some of the twists and turns makes me pause and think about how we got here.

However, those twists and turns make sense in this world.  This is kind of what I would imagine the information I would get if I were in Della Ray’s shoes.  An outsider to this world, getting thrust into the situation via an acquaintance come situational friend, I would be rather confused about all of the revelations coming at us left and right.  Even though I don’t like the whole “I’m not sure about this, but I’m accepting of this” that the characters go through, it just works in this story.  Don’t ask me how.  It could be the inter-dimensional portal that is on the edge of town (or what appears to be a completely different one in the basement of the science lab), or the sheer magic of the fairies constantly crossing over.  Either way, I do love that some of my questions from the first story get answered here, but it leaves me with some more questions.  Who are these other beings that keep getting referenced? Are we going to see them in the next read? So many questions, and so impatient in getting the answers.

So, if are going to check this read out, make sure to keep something heavy handy.  You’ll never know if you have to smash your animated entertainment center down to size.

Reviewing the Pages: Four Days

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Four days to locate the killer. Four days to take revenge. Four days to find redemption.

Jim Harris is a hard-drinking detective on his way to a nervous breakdown. Every day, he works alongside corrupt cops and dangerous crooks. That is, until a brutal murder case unravels his career, bringing past indiscretions to light. Alone, afraid, and out of control, Harris makes a pact with himself: finish it.

I went into this read thinking that I’m going to enjoy it…but in the end, I was so lost for two-thirds of this book that I couldn’t completely enjoy the read. The plot that was described in this novel takes place in the last section, and could have been stretched out a little bit longer, rather than getting page upon page of backstory. Sure, I’m all for getting backstory at some point, but I would have preferred to have it intermixed with the main plot. Other than that, it was a good read. I enjoy detective novels, and this one, with a protagonist with absolutely nothing to lose, is rather intriguing. Don’t let my review sway you away from this read, dive deep into the mystery. Can you solve the case and keep your head?

The one thing that got me in this read, is the title of one of the chapters.  It goes: “Friday, October 12 to Friday, February 2, 1985”.  That wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t placed after chapters that were also dated 1985.  Now, I could be completely wrong and it’s supposed to be like that, but my brain got stuck on that, and I think that’s part of the ruined enjoyment for me.  That, or the amount of questions that I had early on that I wasn’t getting sufficient answers to.  As we dove deeper into the corruption (and for a small little bit, became a part of it), I kept wondering when the title was going to play into it.  And I finally got my answer, like 2/3rds of the way through.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the premise, but I do really think that it should have been spread out throughout the book.  Start out with the doctor’s visit and the wait time, then dive into some back story and character development.

Now, getting those gripes out of the way.  I did enjoy what we got here.  I did enjoy all of the backstory (as confusing as it was).  It’s dark, gritty, and doesn’t hesitate to throw the other side of the law at you.  The side that most people think happens all the time in their own neck of the woods.  And sometimes, they are right.  Well, I don’t know that for a fact.  After all, I’m just a reader from a small town in the least-populated state in the US (we have more problems with our current mayor than the police department.  All of my town’s officers are good men).  The unfamiliar (to this reader) setting is something different, and I rather enjoyed the experience of finding things out as Harris did.  There are still a lot of questions left unanswered (such as the VERY last line…is he just talking out loud, or is the person he’s with someone he actually knows).

I do recommend this book, and I hope that you can look past all of my criticisms.  Dive deep into the corruption; can you find a safe way out and solve the mystery?

Reviewing the Pages: Doctor Who: Shada

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From the unique mind of Douglas Adams, legendary author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, comes “Shada”, a story scripted for the television series Doctor Who but never produced—and now transformed into an original novel…
 
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Imagine how dangerous a LOT of knowledge is…
 
The Doctor’s old friend and fellow Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, has retired to Cambridge University, where among the other doddering old professors nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. He took with him a few little souvenirs—harmless things really. But among them, carelessly, he took The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Even more carelessly, he has loaned this immensely powerful book to clueless graduate student Chris Parsons, who intends to use it to impress girls. The Worshipful and Ancient Law is among the most dangerous artifacts in the universe; it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.
 
The hands of the sinister Skagra are unquestionably the wrongest ones possible. Skagra is a sadist and an egomaniac bent on universal domination. Having misguessed the state of fashion on Earth, he also wears terrible platform shoes. He is on his way to Cambridge. He wants the book. And he wants the Doctor…

Can I give this more than 5 stars? Goodreads seems to think I can’t, but I will. I will gladly proclaim this book a hefty 20 stars out of five. Why? Because I enjoyed this book. Because it’s a mixture of humor, science fiction, suspense, drama, and humor. Yes, I said that twice. Gareth Roberts does a tremendous job of keeping Douglas Adams’ humor and tone within this story (even though Adams never did actually write a novelization of this, you can tell he’s in there). Yes, there are some places where you are fit to be tied about finding out the last little detail, but it pays off in the end.

This book will make you laugh out loud, so be prepared to get some very strange or dirty looks (I got one from the family cat). This is a brilliant adventure, and I recommend anyone who enjoys science fiction to check out this book. Just, make sure to keep track of your mind. You’ll never know when you just might lose it.

Oh my.  Hang on…thanks River.  Anyway, I love this book.  It blends together Doctor Who, and the wonderful humor and imagination that is Douglas Adams (through the pen of Gareth Roberts).  Now, mind you, I have seen very little of Classic Doctor Who (meaning I’ve only watched clips on YouTube, shame on me).

Now, let’s get right down to it…this book is amazing.  And a lot of the details that came out of this, which is based off the series script for the Fourth Doctor, would have been incredible to watch on the screen, if only they could have gotten it right.  Which they apparently hadn’t.  All thanks to a production strike during the time that this was filming.  But that’s alright…I think this one would be much more appreciated on the page, rather than the screen.  But that’s just me.

As I stated in my Goodreads review, you can tell where Adams’ tone shines through, and it’s thanks to Roberts keeping in touch with it.  Roberts does a fantastic job of keeping Adams’ humor in, while adding his own humor and giving us just the right amount of suspense on certain plot elements.  Yes, there were times where I was confused on Skagra (goodness I’ve had to spell that name a bazillion times), but I loved the pay out in the end.  And there’s Chronotis.  I honestly didn’t expect to see that coming, but it worked wonders when it did.

I want to show love to some of my favorite parts of this book, but I’d be here all day.  So, I’ll summarize.  There’s the bit where the Doctor (in a fashion that I’m not sure is in line with the Fourth Doctor, or if it’s just him being patronizing), Romana, and a medal (which is where I cracked up); the ship reading out The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey to Skagra (and the Doctor’s subsequent reading of it); and the brief little reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which is all shared to the annoyance of my ex-Mrs./lovely friend Princess Penguin).

If you are a fan of Doctor Who, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams’ work in general, or just quirky and fun science fiction, check this one out.  Just watch out for friendly, yet scatterbrained, old professors.  You never know what secrets they might hide.

Reviewing the Pages: Odd Thomas

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“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.

Maybe he has a gift, maybe it’s a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd’s otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo’s sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it’s different.

A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15.

Today is August 14.

In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere.

From the very get-go, Odd Thomas explains that he is going to be an unreliable narrator, well, at least in terms of the writing that he is doing for the tale that he is publishing, but it still works here. Odd is…well, odd. An avenger of sorts; Odd inspires to be nothing more than your everyday common man, but his special gift tells him otherwise. I have to say that this tale gets you invested with Odd’s way of telling things, plus getting you rooting for him and Stormy. This is one of the very few tales that I would make me cry because I feel for Odd. Is that a bad thing?

For those who like a bit of a odd tale, with a bit of love, happiness, supernatural elements, and some Elvis within, then you should check it out. 

Within the first three pages, Odd already establishes himself as an unreliable narrator, and it certainly shows throughout the tale.  Odd throws a lot of humor at us, interspersed between the darkness that he is plunging himself into.  From the humorous introductions of the supporting cast, or his self-deprecation (one of the clearest moments of this is during his interaction with his father’s Girlfriend of the Moment).  However, there’s a darkness to Odd’s tale.  A family that doesn’t love him, and a fear of firearms that doesn’t get explained until the latter third of the book.  Though, while it seems like it goes away, part of me thinks that that fear got suppressed by Odd trying to save the people of the story.

Which is where the sadness comes in.  I’m glad that we didn’t get Odd seeing Stormy.  I can only imagine what sort of dark character turn it would have taken Odd down, and we don’t need that.  Reading chapters sixty-four through sixty-six, for a brief moment (even though I had read this before, and remembered the ending), I was rooting for Odd and Stormy to have their wonderful life together.  But, alas, it just isn’t meant to be.  And for Odd, there’s so much more for him…like six novels worth.  As stated above, those who like odd adventures should check this read out.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll know why the dead don’t speak.