REVIEW: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Synopsis:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:
“A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.”

Review:

This book had so much potential. I was excited for it, I enjoyed the writer’s previous work and it had no shortage of good ideas. In the end I was left disappointed. I was so disappointed that I got three quarters of the way through it and decided to just skip ahead to read the big “who done it?” reveal you get at the end of every mystery novel, because I can’t leave a mystery unsolved even if the book is disappointing.

The main downfall I found was the characters. It was hard to care about any of them. That makes it hard to get into a book if everyone is your cardboard cut out, mystery novel trope character. Girl on the Train had those elements but it did them well and you ended up caring about the characters and what happened to them. This wasn’t the case with this book.

Another issue I had was the narration. This book was written in the same format as Girl on the Train: a mystery novel told from different perspectives. This can work well. It adds layers to the story and you can see the same mystery from different perspectives. It might have been done well in that novel but in Into the Water that style fell short for one big reason: There were too many point of view characters! We heard EVERYONE’S perspective. I am surprised there wasn’t a chapter dedicated to what a random cat’s thoughts on the whole thing. That and the fact that few of the characters were memorable made for a confusing read. I am normally perfectly fine with books that change character perspective but the fact that some of the characters were boring and non memorable made it hard to remember who was who in the story.

I doubt I will rush to read a Hawkins book again after this one. It might not have been the worst book in the world but it was such a default, dull mystery novel that it just left me disappointed and bored. I had to force myself to read it every day.

Warnings:

Strong language at times. Sexual references.


Rating:

2 our of 5

There was nothing overtly offensive about this book but overall it was just a snooze fest.

Dark Reads of the Month: May


This is a series that I started on Goth Amino in December and decided to add to my proper blog. It isn’t really a wrap up, I just read a pile of books (9 this month) and then pick out 3 of the darkest and most interesting. It gives me the chance to discuss and recommend classics or older books which might not get full reviews.

This month I had an accidental reading theme. I read a lot of books about people being kept locked up against their will or in situations they can’t escape. I don’t know what caused that theme, my to read pile just lined up that way. It was an intense month of reading.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

This is a fiction novel based on the real life torture and murder of Sylvia Likens. A young girl and her sister are left in the care of a woman who locks her in the basement, beats her and tells neighbourhood children to abuse her.

This book was so upsetting that I had to take a break from reading for two days, and that is impressive because I’m not normally bothered by things I read. It was just so intense. It is hard to say you enjoyed a book about someone being tortured to death but this is a great book. Well written and atmospheric. I will warn you though, this book has ALL of the trigger warnings. Rape, torture, abuse, general very adult content, it is all there. So if you are easily upset maybe this isn’t the book for you. Maybe read the wiki page on the real crime so you know what you are in for.

Read my full review here

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

If you don’t know what this book is about I am going to do you a favour and not tell you. Rosemary’s Baby is pretty famous so I already knew everything about it when I started reading and  I feel like it ruined the ending for me, so that is why I am not telling you anything. Don’t even read the blurb because that contains spoilers too. If you know what this book is about please don’t be a twat and write spoilers in the comments.
I have read a few of Levin’s books now and  I think this one is my favourite. Since I refuse to give out spoilers I can’t say why. Levin just does a brilliant job with writing horror that takes place in a normal every day situation. It makes you wonder if things are real or not. This is the worst review because I refuse to spoil things. Just read Rosemary’s Baby and enjoy it. A bit of a warning, this book is very much a product of its time so some of the attitudes to things like marital rape are a bit worrying by today’s standards.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C Andrews


This is an American gothic horror novel about 4 children who are told to stay in the attic of a grand mansion for a few days so their mother can claim an inheritance, but 3 years later they are still there.

I discovered this book through Tea with Mermaids blog. She has great taste, go check her out. We disagree on this book though because I enjoyed it and she didn’t. I read a lot of upsetting literature so I was a bit more immune to this novel and its upsetting plot twists.

This is a book that has been banned in several places due to its content, and banned books are always fun to read. I have read a few books about people in this situation but this book stands out because I have never seen one set in a large mansion where the captives get nice clothes and gifts when they are not being horribly abused. It also packs plenty of plot twists and mystery which is just the cherry on top of an already great novel. This book contains incest, abuse and sexual themes. The incest is the reason why it has been banned.

REVIEW: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:
“Suburbia. Shady, tree-lined streets, well-tended lawns and cozy homes. A nice, quiet place to grow up. Unless you are teenage Meg or her crippled sister, Susan. On a dead-end street, in the dark, damp basement of the Chandler house, Meg and Susan are left captive to the savage whims and rages of a distant aunt who is rapidly descending into madness. It is a madness that infects all three of her sons and finally the entire neighborhood. Only one troubled boy stands hesitantly between Meg and Susan and their cruel, torturous deaths. A boy with a very adult decision to make.”

Review:

Have you ever read a book so upsetting that all you can do afterward is just sit there and stare into space? One that fills you with the urge to read the happiest novel you can find afterward in an attempt to counteract what you just read? Well….This book is that bad.

Now dont get me wrong, the writing itself is amazing. It is detailed without being pornographic or too crude for the sake of it, it makes you feel all of the emotions and drags you along for a rollercoaster ride of horror. This book is amazing in that sense, the subject matter is just horrific.

Before I started this book I read some interesting reviews. The vast majority of them were from people saying they had to stop reading or simply asking “what the hell is wrong with this book?!” Others labelled it “gore porn”. I think the latter is going a bit too far. I would consider books like Clockwork Orange or American Psycho more pornographic than this. They are entirely fictional, sexual, novels written about some sort of fantasy. This book avoids that title because it is not entirely fictional. It is based on something that happened in real life, and even though some scenes are added in or exaggerated for dramatic effect, it really happened to a real person, Sylvia Likens. I think this puts the book more in line with other upsetting abuse novels like A Child Called IT, than gore porn.

Did I enjoy it? It is hard to say. The writing was brilliant, like I said earlier, and I enjoyed it enough to finish it. But I also had an advantage going into this novel because I had read about the real life events before.  I am a bit of a crime junkie so I knew what I was going into. It is just hard to say you “enjoyed” a novel that is about a teenage girl being abused and tortured. It was upsetting but that is a good thing because it made you get upset. It takes a good writer to make you feel that way.

The only real flaw I found in it was the ending. It annoyed me. I don’t believe in giving spoilers in my reviews but I will just say that I feel like justice was not served in the end. If you have read this book you will know what I am talking about.

If you are tempted to read this book and are anyway sensitive prepare for the worst, or even better, just put it in your freezer and forget about it. Bury it under a pile of frozen peas and go read something happier.

Warnings:

EVERYTHING! Strong language, child abuse, torture, sexual abuse, sexual language, sexual scenes, genital mutilation, rape, and emotional abuse.

Rating:

 3 out of 5

This book might have upset me but it kept me hooked and reading. I like when a crime novel gives me all of the nitty gritty details rather than show me things through rose tinted glasses. We might hate it and it might be upsetting but this sort of thing sadly happens in the real world. And sometimes we just need to read a book like this to satisfy morbid curiosity about what that sort of situation is like. If you are up to it, go give this book a read.

…Now I off to pet a bunny or something to cheer myself up.

As always feel free to follow me on GoodReads. What is the most upsetting novel you have ever read?

REVIEW: Strawberries by Casey Bartsch

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“Strawberries is the name he has been given.
When they let him out, they had no way of knowing what he was. A psychopath. A killer. The body count is at twenty already, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Agent Harry Bland can’t see one anyway. He doesn’t have a single clue to go on. It doesn’t help that his mind won’t focus. His heart just isn’t in it anymore. Half way across the country, Sylvia is in a different state of mind. When she isn’t selling sex to the rich, she is doing her best to disappear. She lives a life of assumed names, one night stands, and a constant stream of narcotics. Sylvia has heard of Strawberries. Of course she has. So has everyone who has turned on the television or surfed the net. Yet, she has no way of knowing just how much his life will affect hers.
Seedy hotels, cross country truckers looking for the meaning of life, homemade pie, a reporter with her own secret agenda, obscenely expensive champagne, and plenty of spilled blood await our cast. But make sure to read fast…..Strawberries has killed number 21″

Review:

I was sent an ARC copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Strawberries was a bit of a roller-coaster ride and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it. I had been promised the typical serial killer thriller level of gore so of course that perked my interest. It turned out different from what I expected.

Yes it delivered on the gore front, creatively so at times, but it didn’t follow the formula of the typical crime novel. I read a lot of crime and thriller fiction and many new crime novels follow a similar layout and writing style but this book was different. This had its good and bad points.

The story is written from different perspectives and follows multiple characters. This is different from the typical crime novel because some of the main characters seem to have nothing to do with Strawberries the killer. This makes you wonder where it is going while you are reading it but it has a downside because sometimes you wonder if the story has drifted off topic. It all wrapped up brilliantly in the end though. I am glad I kept reading. I had a feeling it would all work out in the end and it did just that. I don’t believe in giving spoilers in my reviews so I will say no more on the subject.

I also enjoyed the portrayal of the sex worker in the novel. She was realistic and portrayed as an actual person, which is something I like to see in my fictional prostitutes. She wasn’t sexualised, didn’t have a tragic backstory and had tons of character. Actually all of the characters were relate-able in their own ways, and there was a lot of enjoyable romance.

Warnings:

Adult themed novel with sex scenes, sexual references, graphic gore, drug use and strong language.

Rating:

3.5 out of 5. 

This is a solid crime novel with some very clever writing. If you are looking for a good gory crime novel with great characterization I would suggest you pick this one up. Strawberries was release on the 30th of April so you should be able to get your hands on it now.

As always feel free to follow me on GoodReads. What is your favourite crime novel? Tell me. The bigger my to-read pile the better.

 

REVIEW: Red by Jack Ketchum

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“The old man hears them before he sees them, the three boys coming over the hill, disturbing the peace by the river where he’s fishing. He smells gun oil too, too much oil on a brand-new shotgun. These aren’t hunters, they’re rich kids who don’t care about the river and the fish and the old man.

Or his dog. Red is the name of the old man’s dog, his best friend in the world. And when the boys shoot the dog — for nothing, for simple spite — he sees red, like a mist before his eyes. And before the whole thing is done there’ll be more red. Red for blood…”

Review:

How often do you see a revenge story focused on a dog? Never. That is why this book caught my attention during one bored evening of GoodReads browsing. I am sure there are plenty of stories like this in the contemporary section but a book with this sort of story marked as horror and thriller is a bit different. Safe to say, it caught my attention.

When I first read the blurb of this book it made it sound like it was a gory revenge story, like Old Man Logan meets Old Yeller. The focus on the colour red and the old man’s anger in the summery made it sound extremely violent. Did I get that? Yes and no.

The book was violent, yes, but was it the old man’s doing? Not so much. This is one of those horror novels where people are the monsters. It is one old man’s struggle to get justice for his dog but everything stands in his way. It isn’t until everything fails and things take a turn for the violent and horrible that it becomes what the summary promised.

As someone who reviews horror and thriller novels I see a lot of supernatural things in stories but I will always hold a soft spot for those novels where people are the monsters. Humanity and its corruption are the problem, not a ghost or other other supernatural force. Human based horror might not have the creep factor the likes of IT or The Ring have but it is scary in its own way. Events in human based horror can actually happen and THAT is what makes them scary. People are corrupt, people kill other people, people shoot dogs for so reason other an their own entertainment. It works.

I have never read a Jack Ketchum novel before this but thanks to Red I will be looking into more of his novels.

Warnings:

Strong language. Implied sex scenes. Mild gore. Animal cruelty.

Rating:

I gave this book 4 0ut of 5 stars on GoodReads.com. It is a short and sweet read. It might not be the most scary, detailed or gory book in the world but if you are an animal lover you will find yourself rooting for the main character and hating the villains. Also if horror isn’t generally your cup of tea this might be a book for you. It isn’t overly horrific, has its sweet moments and focuses strongly on character struggles.


As always feel free to follow me on GoodReads and if you have read Red tell me your thoughts on it or just suggest your favourite horror or thriller novel, the bigger my to-read pile the better.

REVIEW: Room by Emma Donoghue

room-978144727636401Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.”

Review:

An emotional book that deals with a horrifying topic from a different point of view, Room is about a boy called Jack who was born in captivity and his view on the world. This book is about those Josef Fritzl and Ariel Castro style crimes where a woman is kidnapped and held captive for years but it is told from the point of view of a 5 year old who has never seen the world outside because his mother is a victim of this sort of crime. This makes Room an interesting and sometimes difficult read.

This book was a bit more contemporary than books I normally read and that caught me off guard when I started reading it, but I still enjoyed it and I thought the dark subject matter of the novel would make it worthy of a review on this blog.

The book focuses more on Jack and his mother’s escape and how they adjust to life outside of the room they have been kept in for years, or in Jack’s case his entire life. Room is amazing written and uses language a five year old would use. This works brilliantly because the narrator is clueless to the more dark and serious events going on around him but it is told in a way that makes it perfectly clear to an adult reader what is happening.

I would recommend the book for anyone 16+. There is some bad language used by adult characters and hinted scenes of sexual abuse, but it is hinted so it isn’t shown graphically. If you can handle books like A Child Called It you might be able to handle this one.

Rating:

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.com. Even though this book turned out to be a little different from what I expected it was still a heart warming read that dealt with a lot of heavy subject matter. It was also brilliantly written. It is also extremely addictive so once you get started it is a pretty quick read.

As always feel free to follow me on GoodReads and if you have read Room let me know what you thought of it below, and I am always open to book suggestions.

Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote

30041879Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“My husband’s lover. They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them . . . until now.

Carmen is happily married to Tom, a successful London lawyer and divorcé with three children. She is content to absorb the stresses of being a stepmother to teenagers and the stain of ‘second wife’. She knows she’ll always live in the shadow of another woman – not Tom’s first wife Laura, who is resolutely polite and determinedly respectable, but the lover that ended his first marriage: Zena. Zena who was shockingly beautiful. Zena who drowned swimming late one night.

But Carmen can overlook her husband’s dead mistress . . . until she starts to suspect that he might have been the person who killed her.”

Review:

After the success of books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, everyone is jumping onto the mystery novel bandwagon, and that pretty much sums up this book.

I love mystery and thriller novels. A well written one can be so gripping and addictive that you can polish it off in a day or two. This isn’t one of them. Undertow follows the formula that every mystery novel seems to have now-a-days. An educated, middle class main character with a haunting past, an unhealthy marriage, a partner that has a lot of secrets and of course, a mysterious death that is somehow linked to their unhealthy marriage. The only problem with Undertow is that it does not make you care about any of the characters and the mystery isn’t deep enough to put you on the edge of your seat trying to guess who did it. Even when the big reveal at the end happens you are left thinking “Oh…ok” instead of the usual gasp of surprise you let out at the end of a mystery novel.

Saying all that though, this book isn’t awful. I have actually read worse Gillian Flynn books. This is the sort of book I would recommend if you want an easy read for a long plane ride or if you simply wanted another book to fill that mystery novel hole in your life after reading all of the best selling ones. It isn’t terrible, it is simply ok. It isn’t gripping but it isn’t quit-after-5-chapters either. To sum it up it is alright. I think if the book was longer or the characters and their relationships were fleshed out a little better it would have been brilliant.

Rating:

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.com. If you are looking for a quick new mystery novel to read pick this one up. I enjoyed the ideas in it but I wont be in a hurry to read it again as it left no real impact on me.

Also, what is with all of these unhealthy marriages in modern mystery novels?

As always feel free to follow me on GoodReads and if you have read Undertow let me know what you thought of it below.