Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts

Sunday, July 2, 2017

[Review] Last Seen Leaving - Caleb Roehrig: Sexuality and Missing Girlfriends

In LAST SEEN LEAVING, the police start investigating when Flynn's ex-girlfriend mysteriously disappears.

What intrigued me: Exclusively the hype.

Coming-Of-Age Rather Than Thriller

LAST SEEN LEAVING is a poster child for it's not you, it's me. It's undoubtedly a very skillfully written book, the prose is on point, the characterizations are great - but it's just not my thing. I found myself struggling a lot to get into this and pretty much immediately lost interest when I realized that this is a very character-driven coming-of-age story with a side of mystery instead of a fast-paced thriller. 

LAST SEEN LEAVING isn't really about January or her disappearance, it's pretty much simply an incentive to get the story started and fill some pages on the side so Flynn's self discovery won't be the only thing that this book is about. I definitely welcome this, I like that Roehrig wrapped a second story into this instead of just making this a regular thriller. We do need more #ownvoices stories that aren't solely about characters discovering their sexuality. However, the coming-of-age aspect is ultimately also why I didn't care much for it. I'm not really a fan of calm contemporary books that center around characters and their self-discovery, so LAST SEEN LEAVING didn't grip me at all.

Miscommunication and Slow Burn

Besides the very subjective aspects, LAST SEEN LEAVING is a very slowly paced book, which doesn't really work in the story's favor, considering the genre. I was hoping for a page turner, but I really only got a slow burn story about a small town mystery and a small town boy who got too caught up in heteronormativity to realize that he isn't heterosexual at all. 

A lot of the story relies on misunderstandings and miscommunication to preserve the mystery, which is probably my least favorite trope in the entire universe and also influenced my reading experience negatively. LAST SEEN LEAVING isn't quite as sharp and clean cut and to the point as I like my thrillers to be, which is highly, highly subjective, and therefore just wasn't my thing. Add flashbacks on top, which I also despise, and you pretty much got a perfect mixture of all the subjective things I don't like that are in no way an indicator about the quality of this book.

LAST SEEN LEAVING is definitely an important story regardless, and if you generally don't mind slow and character-driven books, you'll probably love this.


Rating:

★★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you're looking for a coming-of-age thriller narrative starring a gay protagonist that discovers their sexuality while investigating a disappearance, I guess this is perfect for you! LAST SEEN LEAVING is definitely well-written and unique, but just wasn't my thing, unfortunately.



Additional Info

Published: May 22nd 2017
Pages: 416
Publisher: cbj
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9783570173343

Synopsis:
"Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself. "
(Source: Goodreads)

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

[Review] Be My Girl - Nina Sadowsky: Marriage and Murder


In BE MY GIRL, Ellie and Rob get married and slowly realize that they are both keeping monumental secrets from each other.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for an adult thriller.

Great Beginning and Dual POV

BE MY GIRL really surprised me and snuck up on me with it's brilliant premise and beginning. Told in two alternating storylines, one set with protagonist Ellie in a hotel room with a corpse, and the other one right after her wedding to Rob, it's surely a unique read. 

You'd think the flip-flopping back and forth through the timeline would get confusing, but it really doesn't. Mainly because it's executed flawlessly and there are lots of secrets to explore in both past and present. BE MY GIRL is an absolute page-turner. For the first fifty pages that is.

Offbeat Pace and Over-the-top Story

As much as BE MY GIRL delighted me in the beginning, it absolutely lost me somewhere around the middle. The writing is quite strange and very slow, focused on telling rather than showing. While I didn't have a problem with the characters and found them quite intriguing and longed to find out more about them - the pacing is terrible. It takes so much time for things to get interesting and once they do, everything happens at once. BE MY GIRL has the most over-the-top storyline involving, murder, kidnapping, terminal illness, serial killers - it's like every action movie and thriller thrown together at once. While that can work for some people, it really didn't for me. I was hoping for a very satisfying and linear mystery instead of a mixture of ... everything. It's really messy to read and definitely lowered my enthusiasm despite the excellent start.


And honestly? This story is just ridiculous. Again, this is highly subjective but that amount of secrets and twists and turns rather made me roll my eyes than actually care about the story. Maybe this will work better for you, but BE MY GIRL was a little too much for me personally.



Rating:

★★★☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

BE MY GIRL is a very over-the-top thriller/action read that combines all tropes you've ever seen in a book. For me this wasn't really fun, but you might feel differently.

Trigger warning: blood, gore, murder, death, terminal illness, abuse, violence


Additional Info

Published: February 17th 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Adult / Thriller
ISBN: 9783328100041

Synopsis:
"Balanced on the razor edge of moral ambiguity, this sexy and seductive debut novel asks: How can you find out that the person you love is a killer...and continue to love him anyway?

On the night of her wedding to Rob, Ellie's perfect world suddenly collapses. Her suave, charming, sophisticated husband is not the man she believed him to be. Could he really be a killer?

Ellie is rapidly swept into a lethal vortex of betrayal, lies, and uncertainty: Who is the man she married, really?
And how far will she go to protect him?

From Manhattan to the Caribbean, Rob and Ellie struggle to escape the grip of Rob's former life - a life his employers are determined to ensnare him in for good.

When faced with a terrible choice -- to become a murderess herself to save the man she loves, or to let him die -- Ellie's decision propels her into a whiplash-paced adventure, filled with cinematic twists and a startling sense of unease."
(Source: Goodreads)


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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

[Review] The Amateurs (#1) - Sara Shepard: Rookie Detectives and Murder

In THE AMATEURS, Aerin and a bunch of amateur detectives are trying to solve the murder of her older sister.

What intrigued me: Felt like reading a thriller.

Awful Execution

THE AMATEURS has the strangest premise: A couple teenagers who are obsessed with unsolved crimes and frequent true crime forums decide to solve a murder case. What sounds really great in theory absolutely fails in the execution. Shepard's writing style doesn't really match the tone of the story, it's wonky at best, and never manages to convey the atmosphere you'd expect in a book like this. The multiple POVs neither work, nor are the characters fleshed out enough to make this story even remotely compelling. Had THE AMATEURS stuck with Aerin's POV alone, I would've liked this a lot more. The other characters are just messy to read about the writing feels stilted. This is definitely a subjective taste issue, if you've enjoyed other Shepard books in the past, you'll probably feel differently.

Another thing that bothers me about the execution is the fact that this is not a fast-paced thrilling narrative. It reads exactly like the premise sounds- amateurs working on a case, not knowing what they're doing. This is just not fun, and beyond that the whole reveal and set up of the mystery makes no sense whatsoever, and renders this story pretty much unrealistic and off-puttingly pointless. I also suspect that a ton of plot holes will open up when you're reading this for the second time.

Sexism, Racism, Exoticism

To a degree all I've said so far can be overlooked. It's really subjective. But the last nail in the coffin is just the horrible, extremely offensive portrayal of non-white characters in this. I hated every second of reading any description of non-white characters in this and seeing reviewers praise the "diversity" in this book is laughable at best, making me lose my faith in humanity at worst. I think there are a total of two non-white characters. One of the protagonists, Seneca, is biracial-coded. I don't think it's on-the-page representation, I certainly don't recommend that you pick this up because of this, and neither should this be on a list of books with biracial characters. She's described as exotic, with light eyes and light brown skin, and that's that. That's not how representation words, this is actually just exoticism.

Then we've got characters who homogenize Asians and make jokes about all Asians being the same, without having it addressed as racist, which renders me speechless.

Beyond that THE AMATEURS is dripping with sexism. From centering every female character's personality around their breasts, to turning the female characters pretty much just into sex objects and reducing them to their sexuality - this is as far from feminism as it gets.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Sexism, racism, bad prose, and a plot that makes no sense - decide for yourself if you think that's worth picking it up. I certainly regret the time I spent reading this. Hours of my life I'm never going to get back.



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 320
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781484742273

Synopsis:
"I need some answers about my sister. Help…

Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why.

So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful.

Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold."
(Source: Goodreads)


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Monday, November 7, 2016

[Review] Unnatural Deeds - Cyn Balog: Secrets and Murder Told in Retrospective





In UNNATURAL DEEDS, Victoria meets drop-dead gorgeous Z, who is too cool and beautiful to be interested in her - but he is. The problem is that Victoria has a boyfriend. 

What intrigued me: I've liked other books by Cyn Balog and the cover is insanely beautiful.

Unique concept

UNNATURAL DEEDS is the illegitimate child of DON'T LOOK BACK and WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT. It's just as dreamy and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. UNNATURAL DEEDS is a story about obsession and love, and the fine line between the two.

Told in retrospective and with little interview snippets and coroner reports, it's based on an undoubtedly very creative idea. The writing is unique as well, and might not be for everyone. 

Balog tells the story in second person singular, Victoria narrates it to her boyfriend Andrew, whom she feels she betrays by befriending Z. I'm not a fan of second person in general and feared that this would ruin the experience for me. I struggled with the first couple of chapters but quickly got the hang of it. Balog is an incredibly gifted writer, she effortlessly pulls it off, which I salute her for, that really isn't easy.

The Charmer vs. The ... what's his name again?

The main conflict of UNNATURAL DEEDS is the love triangle. And I have to say, I really did like it. I fell absolutely and utterly for the love interest Z, a charming snake with tons of secrets whom you can't help but be fascinated with. Their romance is absolutely epic, twisted, and fascinating. Memorable.

Boyfriend Andrew on the other hand remains rather bleak, I felt like their relationship wasn't explored sufficiently to even give the reader the opportunity to have an opinion about them. Balog does tell the story to him, but most of the information we're given is via telling, not showing, which I'm personally not a fan of.

UNNATURAL DEEDS is built upon mountains of secrets and it's so, so fun. I love trying to figure out the story as I go along and I have to say, I didn't expect that ending. It's certainly a strange twist that nobody will see coming, and I wasn't really satisfied.
Highlight for a light spoiler. I can't tell you about the ableism without being a bit spoilery.
Mental illness is used as a plot twist in this which is incredibly ableist and also really just bad writing. It's not even specified which makes it even worse.

I found it too easy of a solution concept-wise because the rest of the story really doesn't make sense anymore after that ending. With a different ending, this would have been a solid five star read, because I genuinely frantically turned pages and didn't want to stop reading.

I'm a firm believer in giving the reader an opportunity to guess the ending, a hint, anything, even if it's very small. Balog really just did a 360 and left me confused and upset. If you like a drastic plot twist, this is absolutely, positively a book you don't want to skip.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

The ending really spoiled this book for me. I was expecting more, a more satisfying conclusion. Yet this in no way negates the fact that I had a lot of fun reading this and enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery. It's surely worth the read if you like guessing games.



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 288
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781492635796

Synopsis:
"Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her."

(Source: Goodreads)



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Sunday, May 22, 2016

[Review] As Red as Blood (Lumikki Andersson #1) - Salla Simukka: Murder and Bloody Money






In AS RED AS BLOOD, some high school kids find a bag full of bloody money and absolutely freak out.

What intrigued me: I've been itching to read this since I first coincidentally came across this series. It's been translated in sooo many languages, I figured this just has to be good.

Contemporary or Thriller? Why not both!

AS RED AS BLOOD really is a strange book. I fully expected this to be a YA version of Stieg Larsson's Millenium books, and in a sense that (sort of) what I got. 

Protagonist Lumikki is 17, hs a sherlock-like mastermind and is incredibly perceptive, and when she stumbles upon the silly teenagers that found the bag full of money - she is instantly intrigued and wants so solve the mystery.

The problem is that AS RED AS BLOOD is really trying to be a typical contemporary set in a high school and a fast-paced detective story with a side of merciless criminal action. If you're going to mix the two, please, for the love of God, don't make it more complicated by having 328932 POVs from characters whose appearances are pretty much cameos. I absolutely hate how Simukka decided to switch to the POV of several people involved in the murder while Lumikki is still trying to figure the basics out. It's impossible for any first time reader to understand what's going on and I was so tempted to just skip this because it upset me so much to get thrown out of the story for no reason whatsoever.

Poor translation?

Another thing that I really missed is that I didn't quite get the Nordic vibe from AS RED AS BLOOD. Meaning that it feels like it could've been set in any town around the world.

The problem is probably that this is a translated work intended for the Finnish market. Many little things that should seem obvious to Fins remain unexplained, random Finnish words that I assume were untransable are splattered throughout this, and it's just not really able to paint the scenery in a way that would make it possible for non-Fins to really paint the world in their heads as they read. 

It's incredibly sad that this opportunity was wasted because there are very few translated Finnish works in YA in the first place!

Rating:

★★☆☆

  


Overall: Do I Recommend?

AS RED AS BLOOD does stand out in the genre and proves to be an interesting mix betwen crime and contemporary. Don't expect too much from it though, because the mystery isn't half as mysterious as it wants to be.



Additional Info

Published: 1st August 2014
Pages: 274
Publisher: Skyscape
Genre: YA / Thriller
ASIN: B00HFENI6W

Synopsis:
"In the midst of the freezing Arctic winter, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson walks into her school’s dark room and finds a stash of wet, crimson-colored money. Thousands of Euros left to dry—splattered with someone’s blood.

Lumikki lives alone in a studio apartment far from her parents and the past she left behind. She transferred into a prestigious art school, and she’s singularly focused on studying and graduating. Lumikki ignores the cliques, the gossip, and the parties held by the school’s most popular and beautiful boys and girls.

But finding the blood-stained money changes everything. Suddenly, Lumikki is swept into a whirlpool of events as she finds herself helping to trace the origins of the money. Events turn even more deadly when evidence points to dirty cops and a notorious drug kingpin best known for the brutality with which he runs his business.

As Lumikki loses control of her carefully constructed world, she discovers that she’s been blind to the forces swirling around her—and she’s running out of time to set them right. When she sees the stark red of blood on snow, it may be too late to save her friends or herself."(Source: Goodreads)

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