Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Thought I’d Hate But Ended Up Loving

This week we have an interesting topic, as I often find my opinions on a book can change dramatically over the course of the story. I can go from loving it to hating it, or from hating it to loving it. Sometimes books start out strong, but sometimes you nearly give up on them but then they end up surprising you in the end. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Creepy Books, Characters and Creatures

For this month’s Halloween freebie, this list contains scary books and creepy characters or creatures. I haven’t read enough horror books to make a list of spine-tingling novels, so I’ve gone for a mixed list of generally creepy things.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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1) The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding – I first read this book years ago and remember finding the Wych-kin scary. There’s something really spooky about this book, maybe it’s also the underlying Jack the Ripper vibes in one of the subplots, but it’s definitely a creepy book.

2) Jonathan in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – I always found Jonathan to be a creepier and more interesting villain than Valentine.

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TV Review: Bodyguard

Aired: 26 August – 23 September 2018 on BBC

Created by: Jed Mercurio

Written by: Jed Mercurio

Starring: Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes, Sophie Rundle

Genre: Drama, thriller

Rating: 4.5/5

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Image: BBC

It’s the show everyone seems to be talking about, and the most-watched, as it had the biggest BBC drama overnight viewing figures since the Doctor Who Christmas episode of 2008. The big question is – is it worth the hype? The answer to that question is simply yes. This review will be relatively spoiler free, so don’t worry about seeing any in this post. If, however, you decide not to read on for fear of spoilers, take one thing away: go and watch this show.

Bodyguard follows the story of David Budd, who is assigned to protect the Home Secretary, played by Keeley Hawes. The story is set in London in a time when the terrorist threat to the UK is very high. The plot unfurls across six episodes, and maintains high tension and mystery throughout. Tension and suspense drives the thrill of this series, and boy does it have bucketfuls of suspense. There are lots of twists and turns with conspiracies, and I found it totally unpredictable in the most exciting way.

I liked that it wasn’t too violent. So many TV shows these days have unnecessary violence. There was one scene where rather a lot of blood got splattered about, and David Budd does seem to regularly walk about with injuries and blood on his face. But the suspense is built from tense scenes, rather than violence, which I really liked. Nothing felt rushed. The slow build of scenes meant that suspense took the forefront in this series.

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Book Review: S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett

35912128S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2017 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 304

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

A twisting thriller for fans of One of Us Is Lying and Pretty Little Liars.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.

To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ – an invitation to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S.

Greer joins the other chosen students at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, and soon realises that they are at the mercy of their capricious host. Over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying reality that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

Before reading this book I didn’t really know what ‘blood sports’ were so I wasn’t really expecting a book about a group of posh, aristocratic teens hunting deer, shooting pheasants and catching fish. I had to adjust my expectations a little as the term ‘blood sports’ and not knowing what it meant skewed my expectations a bit. I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t know what blood sports are…

The first few chapters of the book were written in a way that included a lot of summary, which I struggled to get into. Although reference to a murder on the first page certainly caught my interest. Fortunately, it didn’t continue with lots of summary and I enjoyed the writing more when the book got going.

I liked that it was set in England, that made a nice change, and how Greer often thought in terms of films as she has watched a lot of them with her dad, so her sphere of reference fit her interests. I enjoyed Greer’s character and her narration. Other characters, however, were not given much personality. The ‘villains’ of this book were very one-dimensional, quite clichéd, and given no individual motivations. They’re rich and evil and that’s basically it.

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Book Review: Spin the Love by Lisa Terry

Spin the Love by Lisa Terry

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Publishing Info: Self-published September 30th 2015

Pages: 192

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

It was supposed to be a game to heat up their summer—not ruin their lives.

Sixteen-year-old Whispy Callahan lands in trouble thicker than Florida’s humidity when she plays a twisted game of Dare. Everything would have been fine if she hadn’t fallen for one of the player’s “targets” along with dredging up buried murderous tendencies. Forget the game—now Whispy needs to find her boyfriend’s murderer, but that might prove difficult since everyone thinks she’s insane. They could be right.

 

In Spin the Love a game of dare takes main character Whispy on a bit of a roller coaster ride. A game of dare is quite an obvious tool for creating plot and tension, but what made it work really well in this book was the dynamics between the three characters involved in the game. The complications of their relations to each other made it much more interesting to see what would happen and how the plot would progress.

Whispy’s characterisation was great. Her voice and personality came through the first person narrative. Her mental health problems were dealt with with reasonable sensitivity to the subject, although the use of this aspect of her character for mystery in the plot is a bit of a trope. The other characters were also well described and fleshed out, with personal history that impacts on their present characters.

It doesn’t spoil anything to say that Whispy’s boyfriend is killed in the book, as that’s in the blurb, which is good because that’s something that didn’t quite add up to me and would like to discuss in this review. Her boyfriend is quite obviously murdered, and there is a funeral, but there doesn’t appear to be any investigation. I found this very odd and it doesn’t make sense. If someone is murdered there is an investigation, and people who know the victim are questioned. So why wasn’t Whispy questioned by police? It doesn’t make sense and I felt that was quite a hole in the plot.

The ending was phenomenal. There was a big twist that I didn’t see coming at all. I tried to piece it together as I read but I didn’t expect what happened. It kept me engaged and had a satisfying ending.

The book was well written and much more accomplished that the last book I read by the author, which while good wasn’t quite polished. Despite a couple of problems I had with the book, I really enjoyed reading it and it kept me hooked until the end.

Book Review: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Genre: Contemporary, Thriller/Horror

Publishing Info: 2013 by Abacus (first published 1984)

Pages: 244

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda more or less on a whim.
That’s my score to date.
Three.
I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again.
It was just a stage I was going through.
Enter – if you can bear it – the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.

 

The Wasp Factory is certainly an interesting read. When I started reading I wasn’t sure if I liked it but as I read it grew on me as I became more intrigued and realised how clever it is. It is most certainly an odd book, with some very strange goings-on.

The plot revolves around Frank, and the events that follow when he discovers that his mad brother has escaped from the institution where he was living and is heading back to the island in Scotland where Frank and his father live. The book is a sort of self-discovery for Frank as he finds out about his true identity, but I can’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil it.

The character of Frank is quite disturbing. He sacrifices animals and enjoys blowing things up with bombs. Yet he isn’t a villain or an anti-hero. He’s one of those characters you can’t categorise. And despite the awful things he does and has done I wanted to follow his journey. I quite like reading unreliable narrators and Frank is certainly one of those.

Apparently, what I’ve heard from other people who have read it is that it is a subtle dark comedy. I didn’t really see any comedy in it at all. But then dark comedy isn’t usually my thing so maybe I just couldn’t see it.

There was only one thing holding me back from giving this book five stars. There is a scene (which I can’t explain without spoiling the book) which I found particularly graphic and upsetting. It’s an image I won’t be able to get rid of now that I have read. Something which I can’t unread. Personal circumstances probably made this scene more upsetting for me then it might for other people. I just thought I ought to explain why I only gave it four stars.

I would really recommend this book. It’s unusual (in a good way) and such an interesting, dark read. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and there were a few twists and turns along the way that were very surprising. It’s probably not for everybody, but I would recommend having a stab at it. It will be worth it in the end.

Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Genre: Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: April 2013 by Harper (first published 2012)

Pages: 391

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

The girl who wouldn’t die, hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist…
A terrifying and original serial-killer thriller from award-winning author, Lauren Beukes.

1930’s America: Lee Curtis Harper is a delusional, violent drifter who stumbles on a house that opens onto other times.

Driven by visions, he begins a killing spree over the next 60 years, using an undetectable MO and leaving anachronistic clues on his victims’ bodies.

But when one of his intended ‘shining girls’, Kirby Mazrachi, survives a brutal stabbing, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery behind her would-be killer. While the authorities are trying to discredit her, Kirby is getting closer to the truth, as Harper returns again and again…

 

The premise of The Shining Girls excited me when I first read the blurb: a time travelling serial killer? Sounds interesting. Perhaps I set my expectations too high. It was a bit of a let-down for me, and not as good as I was hoping. I felt the author could have done so much more with this interesting, creepy idea.

The structure didn’t do anything for me. It switches back and forth with lots of different points of view in lots of different time frames which left me feeling rather confused. Most elements of mystery/suspense were taken out by the fact that we know the ‘answer’ to the mystery Kirby is trying to solve because the first person point of view of the serial killer is included. I didn’t feel motivated to keep reading and wasn’t intrigued like I like to feel when reading mystery/thriller. It was just lacking in tension and suspense.

The characters could have been developed more. They felt quite flat, their personalities not really showing through, particularly in the main characters.

It was quite repetitive, with lots of time given to each of the murders Harper committed. The only thing I liked about this part was that the author gave some details about each of the victims that made them like real people rather than just unfortunate victims.

The ending was a bit abrupt and I personally would liked to have seen more resolution. The little epilogue at the end was quite clever though and brought the end in a loop back to the beginning.

This concept had so much potential but I just wasn’t a fan of the way it was executed and found myself checking frequently how much longer it was before I finished it. Ironically, it lacked shine, it lacked the spark of something special to me.