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review 2014-10-30 00:59
Brief Thoughts: Tell Me
Tell Me - Lisa Jackson

As the summary states:

Blondell O'Henry is the most hated woman in Savannah, having been put in prison convicted for the murder of her eldest daughter, Amity O'Henry, and the attempted murder of her other two young children. Twenty years into the present, she is now being released on the grounds that her son is recanting his testimony, given when he was just a child. Apparently, the entire investigation had been a weak one, relying solely on the testimony of Blondell's son, Niall, telling the entire world that his mother was the one who'd held a gun out at him and opened fire, that his mother was the one who'd shot and killed Amity.

Setting aside the fact that the legal system often times regards children's testimony as unreliable because of how easily influenced they can be at a young age, I guess this just goes to show that if you get the right jury and the right circumstances and biases together, anything is possible.

 

And now that Niall O'Henry is claiming that, when he was a child, he'd been coerced into testifying falsely against his mother, the entire case has fallen apart and Blondell will be released from prison.

Meanwhile, because of this big news, we get to see Nikki Gillette and Pierce Reed once again, both investigating the "Case of the Century" for each of their own individual professions. Nikki is out to write her third true crime novel as well as fill in with a new series for the Savannah Sentinel, and Reed's job is to re-investigate the case with fresh eyes to determine whether or not Blondell needs to remain behind bars.

The entire book centers around this investigation and re-investigation... a whole merry-go-round of continued rehashing and repeating and recapping of facts and evidence and testimony... again and again and again.

I like crime thrills; and I've ever only read two true crime novels. I don't know exactly what kind of format they're written in, but for a while now I've been more interested. While reading this book, I was almost wondering if Lisa Jackson was going for a "true crime format" for this Romantic Suspense... if there is such and format. It certainly didn't really follow the standard Romantic Suspense formulas, but then again, Nikki and Reed were already an item, having started their relationship in the previous book.  So I wondered if Jackson was trying for a semi-true crime type of story format.

 

I might have been thinking too much on it.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, despite being intrigued by the concept of Tell Me, I found the book to actually be kind of monotonous and boring. While the previous book flew by quickly, this one seemed to settle back into a game of repeating facts and information so many times that I could probably recite word-for-word all the testimony and evidence in the Blondell O'Henry case.  Kind of like how the first book in this series had been written. The events kept repeating themselves and we constantly found Nikki sitting around going over facts in her head, calling up witnesses and persons of interest, getting to a blockade in her investigation, fighting with Reed about sharing information from his side of the investigation, and then repeating the entire cycle at least twice more for the first half of the book.

I got so bored I started reading other books.

The last half of the book began to get more exciting when new progression developed, but it was still monotonous and I was already lost on interest by then.

Overall: An okay book that had a promising concept, but kind of just flat-lined.

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text 2014-10-29 13:17
First Impression: I've read 11%.
Stolen Songbird - Danielle L. Jensen

A lot of reviews gave praise to this book and i can see why.  It starts off exciting and while I'm slightly irked that the Prince of Trollus is described as "flawless" and "perfect" in appearance (cause, y'know, all the other YA heroes usually are and I was expecting to be surprised), there doesn't seem to be any insta-love here.  At least so far Cecile's mind is only on how she can escape from Trollus, which is common sense and natural human inclination after being kidnapped.

 

Anyway, I have to make myself put the book away so I can go to sleep, but given the chance I probably would have just kept right on reading.  I'm finding the story intriguing so far and I do like Cecile.  I find the arrogant Prince Tristan and bit irritating, but I'm sure that will change with time (as it always does in these stories).

 

My hopes are that Cecile remains strong with a back bone of steel as she continues to plan her escape.  I know that she and the prince are supposed to fall in love and whatnot, but it'd be a pity if she just started swooning whenever she sees him and forgets of her her own human dignity.

 

So we'll see where this story leads, but considering all the high rated reviews, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

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review 2014-10-29 02:44
Thoughts: Frankenstein
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley,Maurice Hindle

To be totally honest, the book itself only received 2 Stars; the extra 1 Star is for the fact that this book continues to remain a popular historical classic after all these years and I can see reasons why.

I don't claim to be a good critic of literature. Analyzing books in high school was one of my least favorite assignments. I read for enjoyment and entertainment; I like what I like and I don't like what I don't like. Frankenstein has been on my reading list for a long time for various reasons that aren't even all that significant. I'm glad that I've finally read it, but I'm not going to deny that I only partially enjoyed it--it's not a bad book, but it's not going to be one of my favorites any time soon.

The story itself is written very well. The format wherein a story is written as a series of letters sent to the sea captain, Walton's sister Margaret, is one of the appeals of the book. The long-running prose of Frankenstein himself is settled within one of these letters, written by Walton to his sister as well as edited by Frankenstein himself. On top of that, we then get an anecdote presented by the creature created by Frankenstein, told by Frankenstein to Walton, who embeds this short story into the long-running letter to his sister of Frankenstein's story.

Unfortunately, that may be where the attractiveness of the story itself stops. Frankenstein is a very intriguing and thought-provoking story and I dare to say that there is more meaning behind the concept, the ideals, and the reactions one would have towards the subject matter presented by Frankenstein. Is Frankenstein's creature pure malevolence by nature, or was he turned that way by society's treatment of him just because he's a hideous monster? Does someone become a monster because we turn that person into one, or would that same person become evil regardless?

The story itself, however, is filled with meandering tangents, long-drawn out monologues, and very little to draw out an emotional spark of any kind. The only time I might have felt saddened or slightly horrified was at the death of Elizabeth on her wedding night. Otherwise, it feels like good ol' Victor did enough angst-ing for the lot of us. The story also appeals heavily upon your suspension of disbelief as it gives very little credence to how one mad scientist could be so ingenious as to create a living creature by himself, or how this creature is able to be so far superior to human beings that he learns to communicate intellectually with Frankenstein in less than a year simply through observation.

Maybe I just don't know how to appreciate classic literature and I'm sure there are many people more apt to appreciate this book that myself. I've read very few old classics (I read Dracula in middle school and enjoyed it immensely, so it's not like I'm a complete pretentious jerk about classic literature). I'm not familiar with gothic horror either.

I understand that this is the fashion of which stories were written during Mary Shelley's time--long drawn out descriptions, lots of anecdotes and lots of stories within stories within stories (the format of which I do like), but that don't seem to pertain to the central plot. I was once told by a friend who is a lover of old classics that these books always loved to "tell, in five or more words, what can easily be told with just one".

It was a thing of the times, I guess.

Still, I'm glad that I read this book. I may not have enjoyed it much, but I have a better understanding of it's popularity now.

Reading this novel DOES bring into perspective how different the story of Frankenstein and his monster has become after Hollywood's touch, though. While reading this book, I tried very hard to conjure up the movie version of Frankenstein's monster, but it just did not fit the description given by the book itself. It makes you wonder, doesn't it?

 

This book was read for my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

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text 2014-10-28 07:00
Top Ten Tuesdays: Books... Movies... Characters... Halloween!

 

Top Ten Tuesdays is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  

 

 

Since everyone loves lists, especially me, I've chosen to begin my attempt at participating regularly--at the very least, it'll give me something to look forward to posting every week.

 

Also, it helps that I have something else to do when I'm floundering between books and don't know what to start next.

 

Anyway...

 

This week's topic is:

 

 

Top Ten Books/Movies To Read or Watch to Get In the Halloween Spirit

 

- or -

 

Top Ten Characters Who I Would Totally Want to Be for Halloween

 

 

So... very few books actually tend to scare me (maybe I'm just not imaginative enough to picture the creepy stuff in horror novels; maybe I don't read enough horror novels anyway).  I tend to shy away from scary movies (bad nightmares, bad childhood fears) and I like my Happily Ever Afters.

 

So this is going to be more of a suggestion list where I combine the above two topics and try to make it make sense.

 

 

Books/Movies

 

1.  Phantoms by Dean Koontz

This is probably one of the few books that I both adore and find eerily creepy-scary (I don't read scary or horror stories if I can help it).  I recall one dark evening where I was at home alone on a weeknight, sitting in my living room reading some scene in this book pertaining to the dark creature appearing out of nowhere... when I heard some noises down the dark hallway from the bedrooms and nearly shrieked.  It's not like this book actually sets off to be scary, but that was quite a memorable experience.

 

 

2.  Dracula by Bram Stoker

This book is just a given as a horror classic; I DO remember getting chills reading certain parts of the book, but I think it had more to do with the ideals behind the subject matter moreso than the creepiness factor of the subject matter itself.  I read this book in middle school, so it's hard to say whether or not I remember it being all too scary, but it certainly is a great novel and puts you in quite the Halloween spirit.

 

 

3.  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is revered as another of the horror classics in literature.  I'm currently reading this and had chosen it specifically this year for an October read in an attempt to get into the Halloween spirit.  However, while it's an intriguing and thought provoking story (there is more meaning behind the ideals of the subject matter as well as the humane topics imposed in contrast to the actual story itself), it doesn't come off as scary or spine-tingling--in fact, the long drawn out descriptions of horror and "subjects aghast!" are kind of counter-inductive (can this be a word?) to any scary factors.

 

 

4.  Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (collections) by Alvin Schwartz

This book is a compilation of short scary stories I remember skimming through and reading randomly as a child.  I don't remember just how scary these selections were, but they are the type of Halloween Spirit inducing subject material that excites any kid for this time of year.  For years after reading this compilation, I spent my time dreaming about recreating the same kind of magic with my own scary short stories... but alas, I am just not cut out for story telling!

 

 

5.  The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

By all rights, this book isn't really all that scary unless you really focus on specific elements and read it in the right atmosphere.  The first time I read this book, the "Footsteps on the Staircase" scene scared me completely out of my skin (I was in middle school and I'm still a scaredy cat at present, so multiply that times ten for my younger self whilst reading that scene).  When I reread this book again this year with my friend as part of our Mini Book Club pick, I was reading in the dead of the night and the book didn't feel as scary... until I decided to head out into the darkness of the garage where we keep our large storage freezer for a night time snack.  Then I ended up getting that tingling feeling of being watched and I could really feel a chill crawl its way up my spine.  It kind of happened out of nowhere.  So this little gem will always be an interestingly special Halloween spirit one for me.

 

 

6.  The Grudge

Known as Ju-on in Japanese, I've always been of the opinion that Japanese traditional tales of horror were far creepier than the scary movies I've ever seen created in America.  Something about traditional tales involving legends and historical matter and curses...  Anyway...

 

I don't watch horror movies or scary movies if I can help it.  I'm far too chicken.  I'm jumpy by nature despite my laid back outward persona and ice-cold heart and poker face.  Japanese horror has always been scary as hell to me.  I haven't seen The Ring, but I've heard of the legend and it scares me and would be on this list if I could make myself watch it.  Instead, having seen The Grudge, I was haunted by the little click-click-click-click-click sound for the longest time, and dreamt about the deformed dead woman in white crawling awkwardly down a set of stairs at least twice.  So The Grudge goes on my list.

 

This was the last time I watched a scary movie in a dark theater.

 

 

 

 

Characters to Be

 

1.  Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series

Everyone wants to be the hero or the heroine, and whenever choosing a female character in Harry Potter, Hermoine seems to be the favorite choice.  While I love Hermione Granger and believe she is one of the toughest, smartest, wittiest, and most resourceful tough girl in the YA universe, if I had to choose a character to be for Halloween, I think I'd actually choose Loony Lovegood instead--ethereal, spacey, unpredictable, strange... no one really gets her, but there's so much depth and insight in this character and I think that's the appeal.

 

Also: Nargles!

 

 

 

2.  Nagato Yuki from the Haruhi Suzumiya series

This being, in the form of an emotionless schoolgirl, is my favorite character in the Haruhi Suzumiya universe if only because she seems to be the all-knowing, ever-present, life-saving backstage damage control presence.  Troubles with weird happenings, Nagato Yuki will take care of it all and you won't even know there had been troubles to begin with.  It's just that, her eternal poker face really hits the right spot as well.

 

 

3.  Edward Wong Hau Pepulu Tivrusky IV from Cowboy Bebop

Yes.  Another anime character.  This young girl is just all sorts of cool:  A thirteen year old genius computer hacker who is revered to the point that people have created a legend out of her without even really knowing that she's just a happy-go-lucky thirteen year old girl (who could also be a contortionist, maybe) and has her own strange personality and habits.

 

 

      

4.  Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist

Hey, lookie!  Another anime character!

 

To be honest, I just kind of want to wear the suit and stand around and see what reactions I get from people.  But seriously, I do like Al a lot and the Fullmetal Alchemist series is uber awesome!

 

 

 

***

 

There you have it.  This is the point where I'd ask for scary Halloween book suggestions, but since I avoid scary stories now, I'm just going to end with a Happy Halloween!

 

 

Happy Halloween everyone!

 

 


 

 

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review 2014-10-28 03:30
Thoughts: Watch Me
Watch Me - Brenda Novak

Book 3 of The Last Stand series



Another day, another book, another Romantic Suspense devoured too quickly. I’m enjoying these Brenda Novak page-turners, and I think this third book is the one I like most so far (if only because the male protagonist isn’t a neanderthal like the first two and so, by default, despite some of his flaws, I like him the most). However, I can’t help but be slightly bothered by the all-too formulaic outline of the romance and the suspense. While the story is a different one, all the plot devices and all the twists and all the secrets are fairly predictable to a ‘T’.

As the story goes:

Twelve years prior to the present storyline, Sheridan Kohl was shot and left for dead at the age of sixteen. The same man shot and killed Jason Wyatt who was with her at the time. Afterwards, she and her family left their hometown and, presently, Sheridan is part of The Last Stand (as we already know). After receiving contact from a police officer in Whiterock about new evidence to the old case, Sheridan is determined to return to her hometown and investigate the case.

But (as the very first chapter begins) the moment she sets foot in Whiterock, she is attacked and almost buried, fortunate to be saved by Cain Granger. Cain is the type who has a good reputation and a bad reputation, though his bad reputation is what people focus on as an aloof, womanizer… despite the fact that he hasn’t slept with a woman in three years. People like him because he’s good with animals, has his life together, and is friendly enough. People gossip about him because of his teenage rebel years of being a trouble-maker and a womanizer. At the present time line, he is the police force’s favorite suspect for the murder of Jason Wyatt (also his stepbrother) twelve years ago just because the rifle found in his old abandoned cabin matched ballistics for the weapon that shot and killed Jason--a rifle that was lost twelve years ago and recently found in an abandoned building.

On top of that, Sheridan’s almost dead form was discovered by him on his property.

Basically, the murderer has a hard-on for framing Cain for every sin ever perpetuated since the dawn of time.

And then the infamous, long-sought murderer from twelve years ago, as well as the man who starts off the very first chapter trying to bury Sheridan, all but tells you that he’s the one. Yeah. That one was pretty obvious.

Aside from a few minor background characters, the brief appearance of Skye, and our resident main couple… I found that I really just didn’t like the rest of the people in this small town of Whiterock. The police are a joke (which I have a feeling they were made out to be on purpose, being unable to handle a homicide or cases as such and being unable to remain partial and professional); I’d hate to be caught in a small town where everyone knows your business and is already biased enough to never give you a fair chance at trial if you’re ever being suspected of something. I mean, the entire case wasn’t so much an investigation as it was a witch-hunt--they were looking for reasons to blame Cain for all the violence and all the troubles rather than trying to sift out the truth and find a real suspect.


RANT INCOMING

On top of that, all of these people involved in the case: police officers, related family from the murder twelve years prior… They all set out to crucify Sheridan as a slut just because she had sex once, when she sixteen years old, and then kept it a secret. Aside from never having mentioned that she’d had sex with Cain, her sex life really had nothing to do with the ongoing investigation. And I wasn’t aware that sleeping with someone was supposed to be publicly broadcast to everyone and their mothers. The last I checked, when you have overly religious parents, you tend to shy away from telling the world about something you know that they would disapprove of; and then she got shot a month later and almost died… so I’m pretty sure the entire “I had sex with a guy who has a bad reputation” thing should have been the last of everyone’s worries.

But what really got me a little irritated with the situation was that she wouldn’t stand up for herself. So what if she had sex, once, when she was sixteen? So what if she’s going to be having sex with him again now that she’s twenty-eight? Why does it give the officers on the police force the right to make her out to be a tramp? I’m sure if she’d been sleeping with someone who wasn’t being forced into a prime suspect for the murder twelve years ago, no one would even be saying such things, but the fact is, being sexually active is no one’s business except for her own. Being sexually active doesn’t give other people the right to make you feel bad about anything.

These “police officers” are acting like immature children rather than professional law enforcement. It’s true that human beings will have their opinions, but how are we to trust our local protectors if they purposely discomfit you for no reason rather than because of a personal vendetta? The “adults” in this book don’t seem to be able to deal with Sheridan’s “Big Secret Scandal” without resorting to name-calling and unmerited sneering. What’s up with all of that “She deserves to be humiliated”, or “She asked to be attacked”, or the “She should have just died out there” bullcrap?

Victimizing the victim? Slut-shaming? These people!

Of course, I’m glad that the tone of which this subject matter is written in a way that shows that the author, herself, perceives this kind of behavior to be crass and terrible and uncalled for. So it’s really the characters that were riling me up and not so much the author.

Kudos to you, Ms. Novak.

I’m happy that Cain stood up for Sheridan, and I was also exuberant that Skye had no problem being brutally honest in Sheridan’s defense against her ex-boyfriend (from high school) who wouldn't stop doing the "woe is me" dance while he bullied Sheridan about her relationship with Cain:

”Getting dumped and getting dumped on are two different things.” Skye looked directly at him. “She liked someone else, so she broke up with you. She had the right. Get over it.”

 

[...]

 

“In my line of work, I’ve seen some real suffering.”

Might I also point out that Sheridan was only sixteen at the time, so I don’t know why her ex-boyfriend thought it was okay for him to join in the slut-shaming just because his ego was bruised now that they’re adults.

Dude, you were getting engaged; you were in love with another woman now; move the fuck on!

But why did Sheridan just stand there and take all the insult like she really was to blame for all the problems. She didn’t ask to get shot; she didn’t ask to watch someone else get murdered; and her sex life is nobody’s business but her own. But she kept letting people walk all over her and kept apologizing for something that wasn’t her fault.

As a victims’ advocate, she really needs to get in there and coach herself.

END RANT


Heck of a place, no?

And while we’re on the subject of characters: Cain’s ex-wife, Amy is one hell of a scary, creepy stalker chick and needed to get herself some help. To think that she’s part of the police force, spends her free time stalking Cain almost every night, and investigates a case with personal biases rather than professionalism… Yeesh!

Anyway…

In spite of all the issues I’ve addressed above, I still managed to enjoy this book. It’s strange how that happens. Sheridan was a nice character, but I needed her to grow more of a backbone--it kind of irked me when she kept pushing Skye to leave. Aside from some TSTL tendencies, Skye is actually pretty damn good at defending herself and she’s not a bad investigator either and probably would have managed to help Sheridan crack the case. Her appearance in the storyline seemed only to be there to satisfy a “previous characters I remember” quota, which was a little disappointing.

I liked Cain almost as soon as he presented in the book. He owns three dogs that he commands with ease, takes care of small injured creatures and nurses them back to health, works with wildlife, and owns a vet clinic. Just that little description makes him kind of swoon-worthy. He’s like the ultimate tough-guy with a soft-heart type. And as I stated earlier, he’s not the neanderthal with caveman ideals that the previous two books presented us with. He was sweet with Sheridan and took care of her really well, but didn’t treat her as if she was a defenseless little woman.

The romance was formulaic, but also a little disjointed and strange… but I’ll take it. It wasn’t too bad.

Overall: This was another fast-paced page-turner from Brenda Novak, as expected. Maybe I like this book more than the previous two if only because I liked Cain a lot.

As far as this series goes, Jasmine is my favorite Last Stand gal; I have a soft spot for profilers just because I think the profession is intriguing.

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