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Straw Dogs (2011)
Straw Dogs (2011)
2011 | Mystery
4
4.5 (2 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Successful actress Amy Sumner (Kate Bosworth) is returning from her big city life to her southern hometown of Blackwater. Along with Amy is her well-educated and wealthy husband, David Sumner (James Marsdon). David quickly finds this vacation is filled with tension, particularly when it comes to Amy’s ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård), who is not ready to be out of her life. So it is up to the weakling Harvard hero to protect his relationship, home, and way of life in a town he doesn’t quite understand.

A remake of the 1971 thriller classic of the same name, “Straw Dogs” has lost a lot of its appeal and logic with time. It still has gory moments and the plot is very similar to the original but many of the base thrills have been lost in the move to a present day setting.

This film asks the viewers to suspend disbelief, ignore a number of unfinished back-stories, and stand behind characters who are not engaging or believable. Details, both big and small miss the mark. James Marsdon is incorrectly suited as the shy bumbling academic. The house is a seeming fortress for no apparent reason. The side stories, interesting detractions from the overly built tension between the two leading males, are left unresolved.

Additionally, the themes are awkward and incomplete. There are literary throwbacks and some blatant social commentary but all of the film’s depth is lost on an audience who has no reason to care. Viewers will be preoccupied wondering what the point of the film is.

Sure, the story is engrossing and it does force self-analysis, but the modern adaptation would have benefitted from serious editorial cuts. Had the film been completed in a quarter of the time it might have actually managed to be thrilling!

Unbalanced, vapid, and pointless as a thriller “Straw Dogs” falls prey to the unnecessary remake trap. For a real psychological thrill it would be better to opt for the original.
  
One of us is Lying
One of us is Lying
Karen M. McManus | 2017 | Young Adult (YA)
8
8.3 (41 Ratings)
Book Rating
<i>This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review </i>

Inspired by <i>The Breakfast Club</i>, Karen M. McManus has set the stakes high with her debut novel <i>One of Us is Lying</i>. Taking typical young adult themes and adding a mix of mystery has resulted in a gripping book that intrigues as well as entertains the reader.

Five high school students find themselves in afterschool detention, but only four of them leave alive. Simon Kelleher suffers a fatal allergic reaction after drinking from a cup laced with peanut oil. It is clear that someone intentionally caused Simon’s death, but who, and why? The remaining four students are the immediate suspects, but they all claim to have nothing to do with it.

The main characters are all walking teen movie stereotypes. Bronwyn is a typical geek, getting high marks in all her exams. Cooper, the jock, is destined to become an exceptional baseball player. “Princess” Addy is perfect and popular, looking down on anyone who does not fit in with her social group. And then there is Nate, the drug dealer who is currently on probation for his reckless and capricious behaviour. Naturally, it is Nate that is the most suspect, but as certain secrets come to light, the others begin to look just as guilty.

Simon was known for his gossip app that revealed shaming secrets of students at Bayview High. As the police investigation begins, it is discovered that the four suspects were due to have their failings exposed in the next app update, thus giving them each a motive. However, the four are adamant that they were not involved and are desperate to clear their name. So, simultaneously with the police inquiry, the Bayview Four dedicate their time to unearthing the real culprit.

As the four unlikely friends become closer, romance blossoms and personalities alter, leaving no one unchanged. Gone are the original stereotypes. Despite upsetting circumstances, Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate are given the chance to discover who they truly are, and not just what society labels them. Putting aside the potential ruination of their futures, Simon’s death has serendipitous results for the suspects, or rather, the victims.

Nothing is given away during the narrative until the closing paragraphs, leaving readers guessing all the way through. Admittedly, I did entertain the thought of true culprit toward the beginning of the story, but McManus throws in so many red herrings and possible motives that the main suspect is constantly changing.

Dealing with themes of drugs, alcoholism, suicide and homosexuality,<i> One of Us is Lying</i> covers far more than a general murder mystery story. Some authors forget about the characters’ lives, only focusing on the plot at hand, however, McManus was far more detailed in the backgrounds of the four students, making it possible to understand and sympathise with each character.

<i>One of Us is Lying</i> shows how unfair the justice system can be, and although the saying is “innocent until proven guilty”, it is not often easy when every little move is judged and analysed by the police.

With a satisfying ending, Karen M. McManus’ introduction to the literary world is a significant taste of potential works to come. With a deep insight into young adult minds, McManus successfully connects with the reader, drawing them into a world that is hard to shake off. <i>One of Us is Lying</i> is definitely a book to look out for.
  
My Side of the Diamond
My Side of the Diamond
Sally Gardner | 2017 | Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)
3
3.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Impassive
This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

My Side of the Diamond is the latest novel by British author Sally Gardner. Employing the use of science fiction, Gardner explores the concept of love in a unique tale of a covered up alien invasion. The main characters are unfortunately caught up in the drama; however, no one will ever believe their story.

Jazmin Little’s best friend, Becky, has disappeared. Some say she was murdered, others claim she committed suicide, but what everyone agrees on is that she jumped from the top of the Shard in London, but never landed. Jazmin knows what happened but the authorities have torn her witness statement to shreds. Now everyone believes that she is the cause of Becky’s disappearance.

The reader plays an active role as the mysterious Mr. Jones who is interviewing a handful of characters involved with the mystery surrounding Becky’s fate. Jazmin and the others tell the reader, as Mr. Jones, the truth about the lead-up to the moment their lives changed forever. Jazmin explains the events that preceded Becky becoming infatuated with the enigmatic Icarus. From their first meeting, bizarre and frightening things began to occur. From Becky’s sudden recovery from anorexia as though she had just had an epiphany, to being chased by an impossible monster, the friends and their relatives are suddenly in serious danger.

Icarus claims to be an alien who has come to Earth to learn about love. Becky instantly believed him, however, Jazmin and the others remained sceptical. As they open up to Mr. Jones, they wish they could go back in time and change the way things panned out. In hindsight, they know who was good and who was bad, but at the time, it was impossible to know whom to trust.

Although the main story focuses on the relationship between Becky and Icarus and their resulting disappearance, Gardner also explores themes of social classes and friendship. Jazmin and Becky were polar opposite: Becky came from a family made of money, whereas Jazmin was lucky to have a can of baked beans for dinner. Despite this, they were best friends who did not let their backgrounds interfere with their relationship. The significance of their social class comes to light as Jazmin explains what happened at the trial after Becky’s disappearance. Being from such a low caste, it was easy for everyone to pin the blame on Jazmin.

The concept behind My Side of the Diamond is interesting, as is the method of narrating the story, however, it lacks any emotional connection. Mr. Jones, although having no dialogue of his own, comes across as an impassive character, and that is how I felt whilst reading the book. None of the characters were particularly relatable and it was difficult to care about what happened to them. Their circumstances were creepy, but also far-fetched and hard to comprehend.

Although Sally Gardner’s ideas are good, My Side of the Diamond is a disappointment, especially coming from a prize-winning author
  
WT
Who’s That Girl?
Mhairi McFarlane | 2015 | Fiction & Poetry, Romance
6
7.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Edie's life is going along just fine, she supposes. Until the fateful day of Jack and Charlotte's wedding, when everything changes. Edie is caught in a particular transgression with the groom, Jack, and immediately everyone blames her, without knowing the full story. Since Jack, Charlotte, and Edie work together, Edie finds life at work unbearable and winds up taking an assignment from her boss in Nottingham, her hometown. There she meets famous actor (think "Game of Thrones" famous) Elliot Owen, for whom Edie must ghost write his autobiography. But things only seem to go from bad to worse, as Elliot seems a pompous, self-absorbed actor and Edie's sister and father don't exactly seem thrilled she's living back home again. Not to mention she can't show her face on social media (or in public) due to Charlotte's revengeful friends, who all hate her... will things ever go right for Edie again?

I admit that I really didn't really know (remember?) the genre of this novel when I picked it up. It's a bit confusing at first, though certainly has its charming moments, especially as a romance.

<i>"Do we ever choose who we fall for? Edie has many a long lonely evening in with only Netflix for company to contemplate that one."</I>

Edie's quest for love is just one of the book's central themes. In many ways, she's on a journey to find herself, and only in doing so, can find love. The novel switches between the present tense (starting with the wedding) and also gives us a little of the past in some places. My biggest beef was how the adults in this book acted like bullying schoolchildren. So, Edie's transgression is really so bad that she's completely ostracized and the subject of intense in-life and cyber shaming and scrutiny? It seems like high school gone really wrong. Her "friend" Louis is just awful; are people really like this?! It's a commentary on social media and cyber bullying, perhaps, but also just terrible and hard to believe at times. These are grown adults! I found myself a little too appalled and couldn't believe grown people would act this way. It's really sad if they do, honestly...

However, once you get further past the wedding day and more into Nottingham, the novel picks up. Edie isn't always the most enjoyable of characters, but I did like her, as I liked Elliot. Parts of the book are just downright funny; I actually found myself laughing out loud. Edie's friends from school are particularly hilarious and a good fit for her. Her boss, too, even if he falls a bit on the dramatic side.

Just when it all seemed normal, it did get a little preposterous again, but hey, that can come with a good romance at times. Overall, while I found some of the characters and plot points frustrating on this one, much of it was balanced out by the charm and humor of the novel. 3.5 stars.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!).
  
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Hazel (1813 KP) rated Mr. Deathmask in Books

Dec 7, 2018  
Mr. Deathmask
Mr. Deathmask
Lee McGeorge | 2017 | Horror, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller
6
5.5 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
<I>This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.</I>

A satanic cult, an angel, a ghost, and lots of murder,<I> Mr. Deathmask</I> is a novel like none other. Horror-novelist Lee McGeorge has created a character that blurs the lines between good and evil. Members of a satanic cult in the heart of London are slowly being killed off one-by-one by a mysterious figure going by the name of Mr Deathmask. The murders shock the community, not only in their brutality but because the worshippers of the “one true Lord” should not be able to be harmed by another living being.

Mr Deathmask, so named for collecting the death masks of his victims, is a man with superhuman strength who is believed to be a “son of light”, i.e. an angel. Accompanied by a ghost of a girl, Magdalena, he plans to seek out and destroy the satanic cult before they can raise the son of the devil.

To begin with, it is not easy to differentiate between the good and the bad. On one side is the anonymous murderer, and the other, the perverted and barbaric sect with unearthly powers. But once innocent lives get tangled up in the violent fiasco, it is clear whom the readers are expected to root for.

Hiding behind the façade of doctors and other professionals in the public sector, the cult easily preys on vulnerable people, resorting to sickening methods to satisfy their abominable desires. Difficult as it is to read about these vile deeds, <i>Mr. Deathmask</i> becomes gripping, the race is on to prevent unnecessary death and get revenge for something that happened centuries ago.

<i>Mr. Deathmask</i> is not for the delicate-minded individual due to its violent and sexual nature. Plenty of expletives and foul terminology make up the narrative, which, although is to be expected in this nature of novel, is not the easiest story to stomach.

Unlike previous books with heavy themes or social connotations, Lee McGeorge has penned <i>Mr. Deathmask</i> as a form of entertainment rather than to challenge morals and judgement of his readers. However, it still has its fair share of shock tactics to keep the story going. It will certainly entertain fans of the author and the genre.
  
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Hazel (1813 KP) rated Mr. Deathmask in Books

Oct 1, 2017  
Mr. Deathmask
Mr. Deathmask
Lee McGeorge | 2017 | Horror, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller
5
5.5 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Slightly sadistic
This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

A satanic cult, an angel, a ghost, and lots of murder, Mr. Deathmask is a novel like none other. Horror-novelist Lee McGeorge has created a character that blurs the lines between good and evil. Members of a satanic cult in the heart of London are slowly being killed off one-by-one by a mysterious figure going by the name of Mr Deathmask. The murders shock the community, not only in their brutality but because the worshippers of the “one true Lord” should not be able to be harmed by another living being.

Mr Deathmask, so named for collecting the death masks of his victims, is a man with superhuman strength who is believed to be a “son of light”, i.e. an angel. Accompanied by a ghost of a girl, Magdalena, he plans to seek out and destroy the satanic cult before they can raise the son of the devil.

To begin with, it is not easy to differentiate between the good and the bad. On one side is the anonymous murderer, and the other, the perverted and barbaric sect with unearthly powers. But once innocent lives get tangled up in the violent fiasco, it is clear whom the readers are expected to root for.

Hiding behind the façade of doctors and other professionals in the public sector, the cult easily preys on vulnerable people, resorting to sickening methods to satisfy their abominable desires. Difficult as it is to read about these vile deeds, Mr. Deathmask becomes gripping, the race is on to prevent unnecessary death and get revenge for something that happened centuries ago.

Mr. Deathmask is not for the delicate-minded individual due to its violent and sexual nature. Plenty of expletives and foul terminology make up the narrative, which, although is to be expected in this nature of novel, is not the easiest story to stomach.

Unlike previous books with heavy themes or social connotations, Lee McGeorge has penned Mr. Deathmask as a form of entertainment rather than to challenge morals and judgement of his readers. However, it still has its fair share of shock tactics to keep the story going. It will certainly entertain fans of the author and the genre.
  
S
Sheltered
8
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
(This review can also be found on my blog <a href="http://themisadventuresofatwentysomething.blogspot.co.uk">The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl</a>).

I heard about Sheltered by Debra Chapoton on someone else's blog. After reading the synopsis of the book, I knew it was one I was going to have to read. Luckily, this book didn't disappoint.

Ben, a teenager, is renting out a house to troubled teens. He creates a fictitious landlord called Mrs. Kremer to make things believable. As time goes by, it becomes apparent just how troubled these teens really are. Are their troubles from this world or are they something more sinister?

I must admit that I'm not a fan of the cover. I don't think it's done very well and doesn't look very professional. I admit I was a bit put off this book by the cover, but the synopsis of the book really intrigued me.

I don't think the title of the book really fit in with the story at all. Besides living in a house, that's all the title really describes. It doesn't sound creepy nor does it make me envision anything pertaining to this story.

The author did a fantastic job with the world building. Everything happening in the world of Sheltered felt very real which made it that much more freaky. The whole set up of the book is written fantastically!

The pacing was great! Not once did I find myself struggling to get through this book. Each chapter is fast paced and thrilling, and I love the way how each character gets their point of view across. I found myself eagerly devouring every word of Sheltered.

I loved the dialogue in this book. There are a few words that I didn't understand, but perhaps that's just my limited vocabulary. There is moderate swearing in this book, so be warned. However, the interactions between the characters are done brilliantly. There's not very much humour in this book, but that doesn't take away from the dialogue. One thing I did find slightly annoying was the fact that in one part of the book, Cori's (one of the characters in the story) name was spelt "Cory" and then changed back to Cori.

I loved the characters of Sheltered. Ben comes across as being wise beyond his years. Megan comes across as one of those people who tries to see the best in everyone. Chuck seems like the type of person who's anti-social. Emily surprised me as she started out being a shy teenage girl. Her true colours eventually become apparent. Cori was my favourite character. I loved her sarcasm and her wit. I think I found myself relating with her more than any other character.

Then ending was a bit confusing and felt a bit rushed if I'm honest. In fact, I was a little disappointed by it. I really wish I could explain why, but then I'd be giving away spoilers. Sheltered, judging by the ending, has the ability to become a series. If it does become a series, perhaps the ending would be explained better.

I'd recommend Sheltered by Debra Chapoton to those aged 16+ due to the swearing and the themes throughout the book.
  
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Bookapotamus (289 KP) rated The Glitch in Books

May 31, 2018  
The Glitch
The Glitch
Elisabeth Cohen | 2018 | Fiction & Poetry
5
5.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Incredible Character Development (0 more)
All over the place. (0 more)
Not worth the hype
So, when I first heard about The Glitch, I was all like - Wow. What cool idea for a story! This is going to be awesome. I need to get my hands on this one! And then I read it, and I was all like - WTF did I just read? Did someone slip me drugs? Did I miss something?

Shelley is like one of those Steve Jobs-esque corporate tech CEO robots who is basically all work and zero play. Her company is called Conch, and is sort of like a Siri for everyday life that clips onto your ear. Even Steve jobs seems like a wuss compared to Shelley. She's stiff, and brusque and her marriage and friendships are more of business arrangements it seems, as well as having children (Nova and Blazer?!? ummm what?), she has ZERO social life - and she likes it all this way. In fact she thrives on it.

The story starts out with Nova going missing on the beach and her and her husband CASUALLY STROLL around on the beach looking for her while they are both ON THE PHONE taking conference calls. I cannot even believe people like this might exist. Then a "glitch" happens with the Conch product and weirdness ensues. I'm all for weird books. I don't base a books review on unlikeable characters. In fact Shelley is written PERFECTLY. Elisabeth Cohen is apparently a technical writer by trade and she shines at developing Shelley as a character. Her writing is SO smart, and sharp and I LOVE the way she writes. I'm giving a slight pass since it's her first novel because the words are there - and they are exquisite! They just need some finesse in arranging the story better. But the themes here all ALL over the place. Kidnapping? Corporate espionage? Time travel? Lightning? Weird romantic feeling for coworkers and nannies? Women's empowerment? Technology? Work/Life/Mom balance? I had enough trouble with being in Shelley's head with her ramblings and descriptions - thoroughly written, and passionately descriptive - but the story itself just fell flat.

And the ending, just really unsatisfying. And a bit unbelievable knowing how hardcore Shelley was about most things - It was like she just conceded and gave up? Which seemed so out of character.. There were several times I was like "No WAY this type A personality would let this chick in her house!" and "Why isn't she calling the cops!" It was like you knew so precisely who Shelley was by the incredible character development of how robotic and precise her actions would be and then - what? Huh? What just happened? I'm still just really confused.

I hate when this happens. I find out about a book that sounds so ridiculously awesome that i rush out to find it wherever I can immediately. The description when I first heard of the book had a question in it like "What would you do if you met your younger self?" I want to read THAT book. That's what I thought I was reading and where it was going, but it turned into this whole other story that went somewhere else entirely. There was so much promise and potential and I'm pretty bummed. It wasn't worth all the hype I've been hearing.
  
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Midge (525 KP) rated The East End in Books

May 8, 2019  
The East End
The East End
Jason Allen | 2019 | Fiction & Poetry
10
9.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
A Brilliant Début!
My word, how exciting and enthralling was this début novel by newcomer Jason Allen?!

Being honest, I went into The East End without much enthusiasm, thinking “Oh well, yet another novel about dysfunctional behaviour and taking drugs.” (Huge sigh). But if I had continued with that line of thought and not read The East End, I would have missed out on so much as it turned out to be one of the best reads of the year, so far.

I was immediately blown away by all of the drama, from page one. Yes, there was some drug-taking - well a lot actually - however, it was absolutely essential to the story-line.

The book opens with a break-in. Living with his mum, Gina, in the Hamptons, Corey Halpern has just graduated from high school and Gina is employed as a housekeeper for billionaire Leo Sheffield. Full of angst towards the filthy rich, Corey spends much of his time breaking into their homes, not to steal but to play pranks on them. He decides to break into the Sheffield mansion which is home to Leo, wife Sheila and teenage daughter, Tiffany and witnesses something he wished he had not. But what will he choose to do next?
The East End was told from several different perspectives which is normally something I am not too fond of, however, Jason Allen achieved this admirably and without any confusion for me.

The characters that Jason Allen created were so well drawn it was almost unbelievable. I felt that I was part of the unfolding drama with every chapter, as I found myself shouting out advice to the particular character who was facing their latest dilemma. I found it difficult to choose a favourite character so I opted for three of them - Leo, Gina and Angelique. Leo, I felt huge sadness for, as he was so down on his luck, though he did habitually make a lot of bad choices. I had so much empathy with Gina and who could not adore Angelique? She was so feisty, gutsy and full of hope despite her start in life.

The emotional complexity of the story was definitely one of the highlights of The East End and I loved the tenderness between Corey and Angelique.

Jason Allen’s writing style was very unique. There were longer paragraphs of narrative and less dialogue in this book than I’m used to, however, the plot was so engrossing that it didn’t prevent me from loving the story.

This book has everything from secrets, love and family to addiction, scandal, desperation, tragedy and greed. The plot was presented in the form of a slow-burning mystery with underlying themes of class, social structure and discrimination packaged as a family drama but with added comedic aspect.

The ending was a surprise and, for me, very fitting and fulfilling. All in all, I found this book to be a fantastic and very worthwhile read and I look forward to reading more from Jason Allen.

Thanks to NetGalley, Park Row Books and the author, Jason Allen for my complimentary ARC of The East End. My honest review is entirely voluntary.

My review will be published on my blog, Brianne’s Book Reviews on May 8, 2019.
  
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
2018 | Comedy
A Rom-Com with Substance
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t really the kind of film I’m particularly fond of. Everything about it screams ‘cheesy rom-com’, just look at that poster. But, I’m happy to say I walked away from this film feeling so glad that I had watched it. This is a classic example of not judging a film by its poster or trailer, as it has so much more to offer.

As the title of my review suggests, I mainly loved this film because of the overall narrative. There’s a lot of character development and dark secrets, meaning your interest is constantly held throughout the film. You really start to care about these characters and their lives, and I didn’t feel like anyone was just thrown in there for the sake of it. The dynamics between characters is really well done and realistic, and it’s very easy for you to quickly love or hate them. I was so impressed by the quality of the acting, and how each actor brought their characters to life on screen. I was especially blown away by Michelle Yeoh and Gemma Chan, for very different reasons. I was also happy to see an all-Asian cast in a mainstream film, as we still have a lot to do when it comes to wider representation and films like this are a huge step in the right direction.

I also feel like people could identify with some of the themes, especially this idea of a class divide and feeling unwelcome. It was so eye-opening to see how some people are shunned by families because of their social status, and how important it is for families to protect their name and heritage at all costs. Whilst Crazy Rich Asians shows an extreme version of this type of behaviour, class divides are prevalent across the world so this was a really interesting theme to explore. This theme is one of the reasons why I felt this film had so much substance, as it goes beyond simply being just another rom-com and shows us some serious, real-life issues instead. There are some scenes in Crazy Rich Asians that are far from comedic, and shows us a darker side to life within a wealthy, influential circle. The results are as dark as you’d expect. I don’t want to give any spoilers – experience it for yourself instead.

As for the comedy, it was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. I am always apprehensive with comedy films as sometimes it can become too ridiculous and slapstick, but Crazy Rich Asians was satirical and smart, with some silly moments thrown in there too. I’m so impressed with how they blended humour with drama this effortlessly. It knows how to balance this without going too far one way, and the result is an incredibly well-rounded and three dimensional film that made me laugh and cry in equal measure. It’s a truly captivating film from start to finish.

Visually, it’s a stunning piece of cinema. You’re greeted with bright colours, gorgeous set design, and you’re transported to a world of luxury and Chinese culture, with these hostile undertones. On the big screen it’s even better, because you get to experience this gorgeous film on a large scale. It’s hard to take your eyes off it. I’m looking forward to revisiting this film in future so I can look for more details the second time around, as I’m sure I missed stuff during my initial viewing!

If this is the future of rom-com, consider me converted. I was so impressed by the overall film and would recommend it to anyone. Please don’t let the title and synopsis put you off, it’s such a smart, funny, heartbreaking film and I urge you to give it a go. You might end up as surprised as me!

https://lucygoestohollywood.com/2018/09/16/a-rom-com-with-substance-my-thoughts-on-crazy-rich-asians/