Review: The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

8166391The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
Published by HarperCollins ebooks in October 2009 (first published 1999)
Pages: 416

Genres:
Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Source: Purchased
Buy:
Amazon | Book DepositoryBarnes and Noble
Rating:  photo three half_zps8cnkrlqd.png

Flannery Culp wants you to know the whole story of her spectacularly awful senior year. Tyrants, perverts, tragic crushes, gossip, cruel jokes, and the hallucinatory effects of absinthe — Flannery and the seven other friends in the Basic Eight have suffered through it all. But now, on tabloid television, they’re calling Flannery a murderer, which is a total lie. It’s true that high school can be so stressful sometimes. And it’s true that sometimes a girl just has to kill someone. But Flannery wants you to know that she’s not a murderer at all — she’s a murderess.

This was Daniel Handler’s, aka Lemony Snicket, debut novel. It’s a character driven novel (as opposed to plot driven) about a group of high schoolers that call themselves the Basic Eight. The book is epistolary, we’re reading the narrator’s journal as she counts down to Halloween, the night she murders her crush, Adam. She tells us in the beginning that she’s writing from prison, so we know she’s been caught and is serving time for her crime. She wants you to know that the media is wrong wrong wrong about her and the Basic Eight.

This is Flannery Culp, a wholly unreliable narrator. But she makes sure you know she’s unreliable, she tells you several times that she’s editing and rewriting her journal, that what you’re reading isn’t necessarily exactly what happened. And if it happened, it might’ve taken place at another point in time. You can’t trust Flannery, that’s part of what makes this novel interesting and fun to read. 

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Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

kidnapping booksRoom by Emma Donoghue
Published by Macmillan in September 2010
Pages: 401

Genres: Adult
, Contemporary, Mystery
Source:
Purchased
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Rating: kidnapping books

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.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

I bought this book on a whim sometime in 2010 or 2011, whenever it was in stores here. I bought having heard nothing at all about it before because the synopsis was interesting. From reading the synopsis, I somehow came to the conclusion that it’s about a boy who lives with his mentally ill mom who doesn’t go outside and who doesn’t let her child go outside either. It wasn’t until way later that I found out it’s inspired by horrific real life events like the one with Josef Fritzl. I was even more interested then. 

I finally decided to read this book recently and I’m glad I finally picked it up because it was good. I’ve never read an adult book from a five-year-old’s perspective before and I found it very believable. Frustrating at times, yes, but what five-year-old isn’t frustrating? What five-year-old doesn’t throw tantrums for things that seem like nothing? 

The thing is, the person you really feel for is Ma. Because Jack, the child, doesn’t know any better than Room, he’s happy. Ma is not and the reader can see all the subtle (and sometimes not as subtle) signs even if Jack doesn’t. His situation is horrible too, you as a reader know that, but in his head it’s not. I felt so bad for Ma and I rooted for her to make it through. And when I watched the movie after I was done reading I felt for her even more, because the movie allows more focus on her. (The movie was phenomenal, by the way. Amazing actors, both of them.)

At times the book was a bit slow for me, though it’s still a quick and easy read. The first half was very interesting and gripping, but at times it could drag just a little bit. The climax of the story happens in the middle and then it really gets good, like edge-of-your-seat kind of good. The last half is intriguing, I didn’t know before I read it that that would be a part of the book (I’m trying not to spoil anything, haha). But like the first part, the last half could also drag a little bit here and there. 

This is a book that’s definitely worth reading. If you don’t feel like reading it then you should check out the movie. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing the actors are. 

I’m dying to know how Ma and Jack are doing a couple years into the future. 

kidnapping books

Have you read/watched Room? What did you think?  

I’ve seen the POV annoyed some people, did it annoy you? 

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ARC Review: The Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston


The Truth by Jeffry W. JohnstonThe Truth
 
by Jeffry W. Johnston
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Pages: 240
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Rating:  photo three stars_zpsohkkn6ww.png

Lie, torture, kill—there’s nothing Chris and Derek wouldn’t do for their younger brothers…

When Chris wakes up tied to a chair in a dark basement, he knows that he’s trapped—and why. He shot and killed Derek’s little brother. He had his reasons, but no matter how far Derek goes to uncover the truth about that night, Chris’s story won’t change. It can’t. There is far too much at stake…

Derek is desperate to prove his brother didn’t deserve to die. And if kidnapping his brother’s killer is the only way to the truth, than he’ll go to extremes. But Chris’s truth is far more dangerous than Derek could have imagined, and knowing could cost both their lives…

I received a free ebook copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a short, quick and easy read, it took me about 2-3 hours.  It’s a mystery/thriller story as well as a tragedy and it will keep you wondering what the big “truth” is.  

It’s a story about family, sacrifice, and the reveal of said truth. There are two pairs of brothers in this equation: Chris and Devon, and Derek and Caleb. I just realized the characters share initials for a reason. Nice. 

The story starts with Chris waking up tied to a chair in a basement. It’s Derek who’s kidnapped him, and Derek wants to know why Chris shot and killed his little brother only a few days ago. 

The Truth reveals the, well, truths, bit by bit throughout the story. It alternates between “then” and “now” sections, i.e. it switches between Chris talking to his kidnapper and flashbacks to what happened before, during, and after Chris shot Caleb. A lot of the reveals are predictable and I was worried the very final reveal would be too, but I actually didn’t see it coming. Perhaps I should have because I had plenty of pretty wild theories throughout, some much wilder than the actual truth, but for some reason what actually happened didn’t cross my mind. I feel like an idiot, haha. 

The brothers, particularly Chris and Devon, have a Sam-and-Dean-Winchester-esque relationship. At least that’s the association I got almost immediately. Chris is 16 years old, Devon is only 10. Chris is fiercely protective of Devon and always puts him first, forgetting to have fun himself and actually act like the teenager he is. After their father was killed in the line of duty three years ago, Chris ended up taking over that role. Their mother admits that Chris is a “better parent than [she is].”

The book keeps you guessing and it’s fast-paced and fairly intriguing. You read and wonder what the hell Chris could be hiding that he’s willing to lose his fingers for. Still it’s only an okay book. I mean, I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t love it either. It lacked something that kept me from giving it more than 3 stars. Just that little something that would have made it into a complete page-turner. I can’t really tell you what that is, it might be just me. 

I did want to feel more connection with the characters though. I wish it made me really care about Chris and Devon, Devon in particular. 

There are also some lose-ish ends, like what happened to Rita? What was the purpose of her character outside of being some sort of love interest? I didn’t feel the connection between her and Chris, so to me she didn’t even work as the love interest. She says she said no the first time Chris asked her out (pre-story) because she legitimately wasn’t interested in him, but now she suddenly is? Why? Because he killed someone and she feels bad for him? I wanted just a little bit more there, without the book turning into a romance. The Truth doesn’t really need the romance part at all, but maybe the author felt like he should have at least one female character in the novel who’s not the mother? Possibly. But in that case you should probably avoid making her the love interest only. 

The constant “I know there’s something you’re not telling me” from Derek got a bit repetitive after a while too. I get it, you have to move the plot forward because there is something Chris is not telling Derek, but is there another way to get to that point? Or is Derek psychic? He seems pretty certain Chris is hiding just that one thing. 

That aside, this is an interesting little thriller. It’s easy to read and I admit I was surprised by the ending and I, like most readers, like being surprised. It’s not gory, despite the garden shears, but there are some mentions of child abuse (including rape) so if you need warnings for that then consider this your warning. It’s nothing descriptive or graphic at all though. 

I recommend this book for fans of young adult psychological thrillers/mysteries and interesting sibling dynamics. Don’t expect a masterpiece, but expect to be asking yourself some interesting questions after you’ve read the final page. 

The Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston
Have you read The Truth? Are you going to? 
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Review: The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan

The Private Eye by Brian K. VaughanThe Private Eye (Deluxe Edition) by Brian K. Vaughan
Published by Image Comics in December 2015
Pages: 300
Genres: Adult, Graphic Novel, Mystery, Crime, Dystopia
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
 photo four stars_zps2ktftgcp.png

 

I received a free ebook copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review was written for the Dystopia Reading Challenge

The Private Eye is a series of ten issues that, as far as I understand it, were originally posted online but has now been published in hardback. It’s horizontal, I love that. 

You might recognize the author as the author of Saga, which is a well known sci-fi graphic novel series. I’ve read the first four volumes of Saga and I love it a lot, so when I saw this on Netgalley I couldn’t resist. I ended up not loving it as much as Saga, but I really enjoyed it. 

The story is a hardboiled detective story merged with a dystopian future in which everyone has a secret identity. This came about after “the cloud” burst 60 years ago and exposed everyone’s deepest and darkest secrets. So now there is no more internet, no more smart phones, and everyone uses masks and fake names to hide who they are. 

“Look, nobody knows if it was an act of war or an act of God, but for forty days and forty nights, everything just poured right out for the whole damn country to see. Every message you thought was safe, every photo you thought you deleted, every mortifying little search you ever made… it was all there for anyone to use against you. People lost their jobs, families were torn apart, blah fucking blah.”

Just imagine everyone knowing your complete browser history, and more. Yikes. 

Our main character is P.I., an unlicensed private investigator, who suddenly gets a visit from a mysterious woman who has a case for him (in true hardboiled style). When his client winds up murdered, P.I. gets dragged into a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the newfound world-order. 

Okay, so I loved the plot of this. It took me a little while to get into it, but when the ball started rolling I got sucked into it and finished it in one sitting. The premise is great, I love how current it is (in the sense of the theme of privacy and the internet) at the same time as it’s so incredibly wacky. They’ve really gone all out with the whole secret identity thing. No one’s going to know who you are dressed as a giant fish. 

The Private Eye

One of my favorite things about it was probably the characters, especially P.I.’s grandfather, who is basically from our generation. He’s slightly senile (or just deeply in denial) and keeps trying to get onto the internet and turn on his old iPhone, to no avail. I feel his pain. He’s also not a fan of the younger people’s obsession with anonymity. I love him because I’m always wondering what kind of things our generation will sit and grumble when we complain about “today’s youth” when we’re in our 80s. 

The Private Eye 

I also liked Mel, P.I.’s assistant. She’s a young girl who can’t wait to be 18 so she can get rid of her charm bracelet (that shows she’s underage) and finally get a “nym” (fake name) and a mask. 

Like Saga, this comic is wonderfully diverse, both racially and sexually. P.I. is a black man who’s previously been in a relationship with a man. Whether or not he’s gay or bi or whatever I’m not sure, but I was delighted to see that. This is coming to be one of my favorite things about Vaughan’s stories.

Also like Saga, this is in no way a “clean” graphic novel. There’s violence, blood, nudity (though not that much) and swearing. I don’t mind it at all, it adds to the grittiness of the story and makes it realistic by not shying away from anything.

I’ve seen a lot of people are iffy about the ending. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but I didn’t necessarily hate it. I think I kind of liked it. 

I really recommend The Private Eye, it’s fast-paced, highly interesting, and the really colorful art captures your attention. If you don’t read too fast you’ll notice fun little things like the characters standing in front of Madonna’s memorial, which predicts she’ll die in 2017. Hm.

The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan
Have you read The Private Eye? What do you think? 
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The Nostalgic Book Review Tag

Jenna @ Reading With Jenna put an “and YOU” at the end of her tag list, so I jumped on that and considered myself tagged because this is a great idea for a tag and it’s sorely needed.

In this tag you review a book from memory (no googling allowed!) that you read 3 or more years ago. Separate your review into three sections: synopsis, thoughts, and epilogue. Check Read, Think, Ponders guidelines for more info on what to put in each one. As they say, sometimes you don’t remember the details about what made the book so good, but you remember the feeling it gave you and that’s the most important thing.

Here are the rules:

  • Please link back to Read Think Ponders post, so that the original rules are always accessible to anyone who is curious and wants to participate!
  • Remember: do not look up your book when writing its Summary and Thoughts.
  • Acknowledge the person who tagged you in your post.
  • Tag your friends and fellow bloggers – it’s up to you how many!

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Published by Ordfront Förlag AB
on December 28th 2004 (Swedish)
Published by Quercus
on August 2nd 2007 (English)
Pages: 513
Genres: Adult, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository 

THE SUMMARY

When did I read this… I don’t even know. 2007? 2008? No clue. It’s a long time ago. I read it while on a family vacation because my mom had just finished reading it and she thought I’d like it.

The book is originally written in Swedish, so I read it in Norwegian. The languages are very, very similar so I always prefer reading Swedish or Danish books in Norwegian rather than picking up some English translation. It’s been since made into a movie, one Swedish and one American remake because America needs to remake everything always. I believe the remake is called Let Me In.

So, what is this book about. Well, let’s see what I can remember. The story is set in the 80s in Stockholm, and is about a young boy who’s bullied at school (Oscar???) who meets a strange and creepy 12 year old girl called Eli. Eli lives with a creepy middle-aged pedophile in their strange bolted up apartment next to Oscar’s. They meet outside and I think it’s cold but she’s not wearing many clothes, but I could be wrong. And she’s never seen a rubik’s cube before and is very intrigued by Oscar’s but to Oscar’s disappointment she solves it on her first try. They bond and become friends (and something slightly more than friends, but in a sweet and childlike way), speaking to each other with morse code tapped against their bedroom walls. It’s very cute. Why is Eli so damn weird? She’s a vampire. The raw and bloody kind, not the sparkly kind.

What happens when a vampire comes inside without being invited is so so creepy, especially in the movie adaption where you see it happening. Yikes. It’s gross and brilliant. 

The POV changes, and there’s also some POV parts from one of the alcoholics that frequent this bar. And a crazy cat lady???? I seem to remember a crazy cat lady. But it could have been a crazy cat man.

THE THOUGHTS

This is a gritty vampire novel that’s not afraid of being disturbing or taboo. It’s a very realistic novel even if it’s got vampires in it, I think that’s one of my favorite things about it. And it’s so, so dark. And there’s a plot twist at the end (or, rather, character twist) that I didn’t see coming and that only made me love this book even more even if the twist is actually quite horrifying.

I really loved this book when I read it and I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads when I added it in 2011.It creeped me out, it really is very disturbing, and I was probably left with a WTF feeling after reading it. I don’t know if I can say that it “changed me” in any way, but it definitely made me appreciate vampires in their “true form” instead of the Twilight kind.

I don’t know what I’d think about it if I read it again, I’ve wanted to try it but I don’t know if I’ll have the time. I can’t guarantee I’d give it 5 stars again but I don’t think I’d dislike it. I’d definitely still find it disturbing, it’s supposed to be disturbing. It deals with issues like pedophilia and murder and anyone should be creeped out by that. But it’s also got a beautiful friendship in it and as far as I can remember, Lindqvist writes really really well.

THE EPILOGUE

This is the Goodreads summary:

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

Book Depository says it is an “unique and brilliant fusion of social novel and vampire legend, a deeply moving fable about rejection, friendship and loyalty.” This is true. The fusion of a social novel and a vampire legend was, like I said, one of my favorite aspects of it.

I can’t believe I actually forgot the whole starting point of the book, namely the murdered teenage boy they found strung upside down in a tree.

And it’s Oskar with a K, of course. This is Scandinavia.

I did remember the rubik’s cube though. I remember quite a lot of scenes but I don’t know if I should mention them, they might be too spoilery.

This didn’t tell me much about the alcoholics or the crazy cat lady/man so onto wikipedia I go. Oh right, Lacke and Jocke! Ooooh, and Virginia who gets attacked by Eli, I can’t believe I forgot this subplot. I couldn’t find anything about the cats but I remember a lot of cats, they might have been Virginia’s. Yes, that makes sense now when I think about it.

Even if you’re not interested in the book might you might want to check out the movie(s):
Swedish trailer (w/ English subs)
American remake trailer 

This was a lot of fun, I might do this again with another book at a later time. Thanks for a great tag! 😀 Because I don’t know that many people here yet I tag everyone who wants to do it!