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Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1)
Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1)
Maureen Johnson | 2018 | Mystery, Thriller
8.5 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Feisty heroine (2 more)
Great mystery plots
Keeps you guessing
That cliffhanger! Be prepared for a long wait until 2019 (0 more)
Fun, suspenseful page-turner
Stephanie "Stevie" Bell is very excited when she is accepted to Ellingham Academy, an elite private school in Vermont for free-thinking junior and senior high school students. Ellingham was founded by wealthy Albert Ellingham as a place where students can learn in their own ways, and where puzzle and riddles take center stage. The school became especially infamous when Albert's wife, Iris, and young daughter, Alice, were kidnapped not long after it opened. Shortly before the kidnapping, Albert received a mocking riddle threatening of murder in all sorts of forms via the mail. Now that Stevie is at Ellingham, her goal is to solve Iris and Alice's cold case. A true crime junkie, she knows everything about it and believes that being on the scene is the missing piece she needs to put everything together. But first she needs to get used to being away from home, befriend her eclectic group of housemates, and then deal with a shocking new crime that rocks Ellingham to its core.

I really love Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series, so I was really excited to see she had a new mystery series coming out. It didn't disappoint. This was a really fun, fascinating book featuring a great, feisty heroine in Stevie Bell. I fell for Stevie immediately, with her awkward demeanor and allegiance to old-school detective novels. Johnson has done a great job in creating a well-rounded character in Stevie, who really shines in this novel.

The intersecting mysteries will suck you in immediately. I basically wanted to ignore work and responsibilities and keep reading this one. The novel tells the book mainly from Steve's point of view, but we also get bits and pieces from the past--various narrators, case notes, etc. It's quite effective, and you'll find yourself intrigued by the Alice/Iris kidnapping, as well as the current tragedy that befalls Ellingham.

Steve's housemates at Ellingham are diverse and a bit crazy--they are a lot to sort through, but interesting nonetheless. This book will definitely keep you guessing, that's for sure. The cliffhanger ending is crazy--be prepared that this is a trilogy and that everything isn't wrapped up tidily!

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this one, and I cannot wait to read the next book! I love Stevie--I felt such a pull to this plucky detective, who owns no jewelry, wears a lot of black, and can't dance. The book also treats mental illness in a great, matter-of-fact way, with its honest portrayal of Stevie's anxiety and panic attacks. Everything combines into a fun, interesting, suspenseful, page-turner that will leave you wanting more.
Goodbye, Vitamin
Goodbye, Vitamin
Rachel Khong | 2017 | Fiction & Poetry
8.3 (3 Ratings)
Book Rating
Funny (2 more)
Sweet moments
Lovely, touching read
After a rough breakup with her fiance, Ruth reluctantly accepts her mother's request to return home and help care for her father, Howard, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Once home, Ruth realizes that Howard--an extremely well-respected professor of history--has his good days and bad days, while her mother has stopped cooking (blaming the aluminum in cookware for Howard's illness). Floundering at first, Ruth eventually steps up, cooking for her family, helping her father, and generally trying to regain her footing. But even she cannot ignore that her father's condition is worsening.

This is an interesting novel, told in short bits and pieces, as if Ruth is talking to her father and describing their days. It covers one year after she comes to stay and comes across almost as if a diary, with a very conversational tone (interspersed with her random thoughts). It's oddly compelling and often humorous, despite the serious subject matter. Occasionally, we get a few snippets from a journal Ruth's father kept during her childhood, chronicling funny things she did or said as a child.

As for Ruth, there's a lightness to many of her stories and observations, but also a sadness: she's watching her beloved, intelligent father fall prey to Alzheimer's; there is a darkness as well, as she grapples with finding out imperfections about her parents' marriage and life. The character list is limited, but all we need, including Ruth's younger brother, Linus; Howard's former teaching assistant, Theo; and a few of Ruth's friends. Ruth comes across as a very real person: she doesn't have it all together, but that's okay. A few pieces of the overall story path are predictable, but do not detract from your overall enjoyment of the book.

The few portions we get from Howard's journal regarding young Ruth are amazing: they humanize him and definitely capture parenthood perfectly. They also so well illustrate how Ruth and Howard are slowly switching roles from child to parent, as Ruth almost begins to have similar observations about her own failing father. The way Khong depicts the sadness and poignancy in these moments is just beautiful and brilliant.

In the end, this is a different kind of book: you have to have the patience for it. It doesn't necessarily tell a story in a full arc, but it's sweet and moving. I very much liked Ruth and the novel (even I did wonder how both Ruth and eventually Linus could afford to stay with their parents, while jobless, but oh well.). Lovely and touching - certainly worth picking up.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review
All That  Remains
All That Remains
Al Barrera | 2015 | Fiction & Poetry
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
A wonderful zombie thriller
All That Remains is a dystopian horror following Kyle, Tim and Sara 13 years after the apocalypse. After finding young girl Kaylee, they need to get to Oak Ridge to protect themselves and maybe save the world.

There's normal reanimated human zombies, but also other monster like creatures that roam the earth. All That Remains is able to describe the monsters, make them horrifying, yet not interrupt the plotline to do so. In previous books I've been pulled out of a tense moment because there's too much description, but Barrera is able to bypass that problem.

There's varying themes of hope and morality within the book. All four of our characters experience hope, and lose hope throughout the book. Whether it's hope to find more people, hope that cities are inhabitable or just hope for survival. Because of this focus, I felt attached to the characters. Even when they were being pessimistic, they still didn't give up.

Morality is a fine line in this new world. You must kill to survive at times, but is it the right thing to do? If you kill a bad person does it make you just as bad? One of the lines mentioned that right is nothing but a direction anymore which I think is relevant to the book as a whole.

As we get to see the point of views of both Sara and Kyle you do feel attached to them. The characters are extremely likable, even when they're not being the best they can be. They don't consciously make bad decisions which puts them in danger, which makes me route for them more. Although problems do arise due to accidents or it's out of their control.

Sara in particular is a great character. She shows both mental and physical strength by not only surviving 13 years but also with her mental fight with 'the walking cancer'. The walking cancer is a monster that no one has ever seen before. It's a new, worse monster in the world, and the main bulk of the book is spent running and hiding from it. Due to Sara being a scanner she can sense and also connect/talk with the monster.

The plague-like spread of zombies and natural disasters mirrors that Kyle is ill throughout the book. It's implied that it's a cancerous tumor, most likely in the brain due to headaches and blackouts. As the situation for the group gets worse, the illness gets worse. I think Barrera was definitely trying to show the similarities. There's also a underlying message of having hope throughout which I think is an important takeaway.
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
2000 | Drama, Musical
Selma is a simple woman leading a simple life. She lives with her only son in a trailer on the property of her friends the nice cop and his wife. She works at a metal factory making sinks and basins. She doesn't make a lot of money, so she holds on to almost every penny she earns for something secret. She can't even buy her son a present for his birthday, so her friends and landlords buy the boy the used bicycle he has been yearning for. Selma also enjoys musicals. She loves them. Especially The Sound of Music, She is actually cast in a local production and gets to play Maria. She can even hear rhythm through the common sounds of life like a train on its tracks or even the sounds of people walking. She creates melodies in her head to distract from the mundane events of life. Sometimes these melodies turn into full production numbers only visible in the confines of her cerebrum.

Now the problem.

Selma is going blind. She knows she is. She is trying to set her plans and set up her son for a better life than she is able before her illness runs its course. Out of nowhere, tragedy strikes from an unexpected source. She is petrified and acts in haste with dreadful results. Now she must deal with the consequences of her actions and let the pieces fall where they must.

Controversial writer/director Lars von Trier finds an unexpected leading lady in Icelandic alternative pop singer Björk. I guess maybe not so unexpected considering all the singing in the film which she also wrote. I was surprised to read only one of the songs was nominated for Best Song in 2000 and no nomination for her acting prowess. Her emotional turmoil is the spine of the film and her simple, yet powerful demeanor holds the film together through its humorous and tense, gripping melodrama. All Selma wants is to give a good life to her son and is content with a meager existence, which, unfortunately is ripped from her.

The songs are brilliant as most of the them begin with the random noises of life in Selma's brain and become a glorious, choreographed splendor which I found myself really loving. These events make the 2nd half of the film such a tragedy as her spirit is resilient always sees the lighter side of life.

Unlike a lot of Von Trier's other work, no sex scenes and only one scene of violence in the film. The actions of the "normal" people here are the true horror.


JT (254 KP) rated Joker (2019) in Movies

Mar 10, 2020  
Joker (2019)
Joker (2019)
2019 | Crime, Drama
This is the film of the year for me. A comic book adaptation like no other. Thought-provoking and difficult to watch it conveys more than just the transformation from abnormal loner to one of the greatest comic villains ever. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance goes some way to matching the psychotic heights of Heath Ledger’s incarnation in The Dark Knight. Ledger was posthumously awarded an Oscar for that performance and I would expect Phoenix to be front and centre when award season comes around.

Arthur Fleck is a clown for hire. Scraping to make ends meet while looking after his ailing mother (Frances Conroy) he has ambitions of making it as a stand-up comedian. Sadly his narcissistic personality and uncontrollable fits of laughter (through no fault of his own) make him a target for society. Gotham City is an unforgiving place and for Arthur, it is a constant struggle of acceptance. He’s belittled and beaten down at every turn and he’s not strong enough to fight back. The bruises on his skeletal frame are a testament to this. He’s an awkward character not least because his quiet personality simmers beneath someone ready to explode – and explode he does.

A comic book adaptation like no other it’s thought-provoking and difficult to watch

But Arthur is sick. That much is clear. Society no longer wants to help. As a result, his social worker explains that the city has cut all funding and the facility and access to his medication he relies on will stop – “All I have are negative thoughts,” he says. When the brutality takes a serious turn he unwittingly becomes a figurehead for Gotham’s society. The clown is a symbol of defiance. Fighting against the rich, of all people Thomas Wayne, who is running for Mayor. Wayne becomes wrapped up in a storyline that brings Arthur together with a familiar young face.

The strong comparisons to Taxi Driver are unavoidable, but there is a definite Scorsese feel to the film. The casting of Robert De Niro as talk show host Murray Franklin is almost a direct nod to King of Comedy in which De Niro stalks and kidnaps his idol to take the spotlight for himself. Here it’s Arthur who lovingly worships Murray. The build up to the clown prince of crime is worth the wait as the transformation builds up to a frenetic and gruesome final act.

One of the biggest takeaways from Joker is its focus on mental illness. Arthur’s battered notebook is not only a journal for his jokes but for his dark thoughts. This is a topic that will hit close to home for many people who might experience similar, with an outward animosity to society.
The Silent Patient
The Silent Patient
Alex Michaelides | 2019 | Mystery, Thriller
8.5 (29 Ratings)
Book Rating
Twisty and captivating!
My rating: ☆☆☆☆

TRIGGER WARNINGS: talk of suicide, mental illness, depression, stalking, cheating, loss of a parent, and child abuse.

The Silent Patient is told through two different point of views: Theo's, who narrates majority of the novel and Alicia's diary entries. It starts with talking about Alicia and her husband, the life they had, and that one fateful night that changed multiple of lives.

Alicia was seeing things, a man who watched her but she could never see his face clearly. She tried talking to her husband and a therapist about the stalker, but they didn't help one bit. They put her on medications for hallucinations, Alicia didn't take them because she didn't believe that they were hallucinations she was seeing. Then one fateful night, the police barged into the apartment to see Alicia standing standing over her now dead husband. He had been shot five times in the face by Alicia.

Alicia went to court and was charged guilty with her husband's murder but did not speak at all. She became a mute and instead of being sent to prison, she was assigned to a psychiatric unit called The Grove. This is where Theo comes in.

Theo is absolutely obsessed with Alicia Berenson and is determined to get Alicia to talk as nobody else has been able too. But he soon realizes that it isn't what he wants to hear. This is the big twist and I can't tell you cause that would be a spoiler and I don't want to spoil you. *insert winky kissy face*

“That's how therapy works. A patient delegates his unacceptable feelings to his therapist; and she holds everything he is afraid to feel, and she feels it for him. Then, ever so slowly, she feeds his feelings back to him.”

Reasons why I rated it 4 stars:
1. The plot:
The Silent Patient was not only compelling, but captivating as well. It did start a tad slow but soon became unputdownable!

2. My enjoyment:
I really enjoyed the twists, turns, Greek stylized tragedy, and the mysteriousness of both the main characters' stories.

3. Character and story development:
Wow! The development in The Silent Patient was really amazing. Background was given for both characters and story. There was development, even with the switching of POV's. I was not expecting to be enthralled with both Theo and Alicia's stories.

4. Grammar and spelling:
This is a freebie star as I listened via audiobook. But everything sounded grammatically correct!

5. The overall story:
At first, The Silent Patient was slow and I was pushing myself to just get it finished. But it eventually picked up and I was blown away with the mysteriousness and enthrallment of the story.

“We're all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.”

Emma @ The Movies (1029 KP) rated Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) in Movies

Jun 22, 2019 (Updated Sep 25, 2019)  
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
2018 | Biography, Drama, Music
I'm in danger of spouting praise all the way through this review. I honestly can't bring to mind anything that I didn't like about the film.

Even before it started you're gearing up for the main event with the 20th Century Fox tune rejigged in the Queen style, which I thought was a nice touch.

So much of this made me smile, genuinely grinning from ear to ear. The sequences they put together throughout were fun and done in a way that they flowed really well. With no dialogue in the compilation pieces, just the background of music and characters, there's always a danger that something won't make sense or it's done too fast to keep track of. I didn't feel that was an issue at all here.

I really enjoyed the way the creation of the songs were shown on the screen. It's difficult to explain without the visuals, but you could see the thought processes coming to life through the actors. The connection you get between the band members and the music feels very real, especially when you see the tension dissipate when there's a new beat to explore. One scene in particular gave me goosebumps, and that was seeing Freddie looking out over the fields as the hint of a piano tune is playing in the background... we all know that tune, and the anticipation of what's coming next is electric.

Rami Malek really did something stunning with this role. His reactions felt so real in all the scenes. Seeing Freddie react to the crowds singing their songs back at them was such a powerful moment.

All the cast members were great. The band in particular. At some points I was astonished that I wasn't watching a documentary with the actual people in it.

I wasn't sure how they were going to handle Freddie's illness in the film, but I'm relieved that it was done in a sensitive way. The serious note it take when showing him watching a report about AIDs on the television really takes hold when you hear Who Wants To Live Forever playing in the background. It gives you time to realise just how bad the diagnosis was back then. It also makes you realise just how far medicine has come in such a short time.

Rounding out the film with the Live Aid set is amazing. It brings the joy of music, performance, and fandom to life. I genuinely can't wait to go and see this one again.

What you should do

The only reason not to see this film is if you don't like Queen's music.

Movie thing you wish you could take home

That live music feeling, those goosebumps, the singing at the top of your lungs. That good vibe is what everyone needs in their life.
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