Saturday, May 21, 2022

Stacking the Shelves #193

         

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc.

Library Treasures

BookSirens Arcs

Happy Reading!
Sarah

Monday, May 16, 2022

Book Review | Night Film

 

Rating ⭐

Initial reaction: Good gracious, what a slog that was. I read this one because it was on a spooky books list from BookRiot. Nothing remotely spooky or sinister about it. The insufferable main character wandered from one clue to the next with the help of two sidekicks. He was utterly boring, and that made what should’ve been an attention-grabbing book utterly boring as well. I don’t even know why I kept reading. I should’ve DNFed it. I guess I kept hoping for some shocking twist, and my persistence would be rewarded. Big fat nope. This book was an absolute waste of time.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

After a couple weeks away, my initial assessment has not changed. This book was absolute shit.

So our main character Scott is a former investigative journalist who had previously done a piece on the elusive Stanislas Cordova and it ended up costing him his career. Cordova is hyped up as this cult-figure director who has not been seen in public in thirty years. But Cordova is back on Scott's radar when his beautiful daughter Ashley is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in NYC, her tragic death ruled a suicide. Scott doesn't believe it was a suicide and embarks on a ridiculous adventure because of his own vendetta against Cordova, who he has built up in his mind as this mythical being who must be taken down.

At least, that's how it all came across to me.

Oh, and I almost forgot - his wife left him too. So now he hates women and is incredibly sexist. More on this in a bit.

Cordova and his family have lived on this secluded estate for decades and his movies were so disturbing and unsettling that they're impossible to find and you have to bootleg copies from the darkest depths of the Internet or whatever.

So Scott begins his boring journey, picking up two sidekicks along the way who had absolutely nothing to the story because all the characters are so flat, the only way I knew who was talking was because of the author's identification of who was speaking when.

We are repeatedly reminded about how elusive Cordova is. There are very few known photographs of him, and in most of those that do exist, the photo doesn't show his whole face. He bought this huge estate and filmed the majority of his movies there, and everyone signed NDAs and blah blah blah.

Yet every single person Scott and his two dopes talk to spill every last possible detail to them, so that these idiots just wander from person to person, getting more information. While they don't get to Cordova himself, they talk to tons of people who are connected to the family in some way, either personally or professionally, or by pure chance.

As that is the basic set-up, each new conversation feels incredibly repetitive and you find yourself wondering if you already read this conversation a few pages back. Nope! Just someone new, ready to give Scott all the info he needs to keep plodding along.

The investigation that was supposed to be about Ashley really is all about her dad and Scott just can't let go. We see lot of media that they stumble on along the way - interviews given in newspapers and magazines, blog posts, chat forums, photos, medical reports, etc. Some of it is also from Scott's personal stash, from his previous investigation. It's all just more info-dumping that we and Scott need to figure out what's going on. I think this is actually a pretty useful tool, in the right story. But it didn't work here.

Scott himself is also super problematic because he is a racist, sexist d-bag. I still don't quite know if that was the author's intention or not, but I hated him in a way that was probably unintentional. Now if you have read any of my reviews in the past, you know I am cool with unreliable and unlikable characters. They make book-life more interesting at times.

The issue is, Scott is not unlikable in that way. He is simply a terrible character and terrible human and I hated him and pretty much everything he said and thought.

The only purpose for any character of Color is to help Scott further his investigation. And all the while as they give him the info he needs, he is judging them for obviously not being as perfect as him, the white male who is obviously the true star of the book, forget even Ashley - despite it being her death that led to all of this anyway.

Scott is aided at various times by: a Black taxi-drive (with gold teeth), a Hispanic hotel maid who annoys him with her 'superstitious ramblings', and a Chinese man. Literally the only diversity in the whole book are people who fit stereotypes of that certain race or culture. Gross.

Sexism abounds as well, as this Bitter Betty can't get over his divorce. He constantly comments on his ex-wife's looks and how he wishes she was not as beautiful. Like, he wants her to be ugly now because they're divorced. What? It's CONSTANT. Like, every time they interact.

The writing itself is also pretty lackluster. It really was such a slog to get through but I kept going because I thought that surely there would be something suspenseful, some twist or turn that would make it all worthwhile. Nope. Not even a little bit. But you can definitely tell the author thinks she is just the most clever by a lot of this nonsense, especially the actual ending.

Since the author IS so much smarter than us, she provides tons of explanations for things she just wrote, immediately, usually in parentheses. I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent human being who does not require such help, but who knows at this point I guess, since I hated this book so much.

Very highly NOT recommended.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Book Review | Tidepool



Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Greg insisted that I read this one and boy, am I glad I did.

First though, let's admire that cover, shall we? It's a beauty.

I was not entirely sure what to expect going in, but I trust Greg's judgment because he and I have pretty similar tastes in our fave kinds of fiction. I've never read Lovecraft and probably won't, so that did not help me in the slightest when others have described the book this way. After I finished, I took a gander at a few reviews and they all loved it and said it was very Lovecraftian, so if that is  hook for you, you will probably like this one.

On the other hand, if you are not into Lovecraft but love a atmospheric and creepy read that might make you lose your lunch over some of the descriptions, then do I have the book for you!

True story though, it's not actually that gross. I just have a really easily activated ability to gag over just about anything slightly yucky.

Anyway.

The story is set in 1913, in this crappy little seaside town called Tidepool. The citizens are quite content with their shabby little town that has caught the interest of Henry Hamilton and his associates, who want to turn it into a kind of resort town by the sea. When Henry does not return from his trip to scope things out, his sister Sorrow is determined to find him. Despite explicit orders from her father, she ventures off in search of her brother and finds way more than she bargained for.

Sorrow knows the residents are hiding something, that they know what happened to Henry. Yet she can't get a single one of them to talk. When remnants of bodies begin washing up on the beach, Sorrow decides to let her father handle it after all. But by then she knows too much. She's seen too much. Tidepool can't let her leave.

Super creepy, right?!?!

I won't go into further details than that because this book was SO GOOD. I could not put it down. I had no idea this was the author's debut until afterward. Absolutely enthralling.

I really liked Sorrow. She was incredibly well-developed and her words and actions believable as she tries to piece together what is going on. Her grief and frustration is genuine as she begs people to tell her what has happened to Henry. Her whole arc is so well-done, nothing seemed out of character as she evolved within the story.

Our other female lead, Ada Oliver, is just as well done. I was both intrigued and disgusted by her, sometimes at the same time. Her backstory was so crucial, without it there is no book. I did not see it coming, but it was masterfully done. I have a decent amount of sympathy for her, all things considered. That might make me sound a bit crazy, but oh well. She does what she needs to and takes care of business. That's that.

Tidepool itself becomes its own living, breathing character at times. The chilling atmosphere kept me coming back for more because though we find out in the prologue what happens to Henry, we are there when Sorrow finds out as well and the sinister feel of it all grabs you and won't let go. Before you know what the whole story is, there is no doubt in the reader's mind that it is nothing good and I wanted Sorrow to get out of town just as desperately as she did by the time things start coming to a head. So close, so many times.

Beautifully suspenseful and harrowing. Highly recommended!

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Book Review | Under Her Care

Rating ⭐

Initial reaction: I don't know how this book is rated so highly. Terrible dialogue and idiot characters, not to mention mistakes that editors should have noticed. Blech. Thank goodness this nonsense was free.

First of all, this book is definitely NOT a thriller. The mayor's wife gets murdered, and so technically the book is about a mom insisting her autistic son could not have committed the brutal crime, and that there is a Monster out there who did it and is now stalking her, but you will not give a shit about any of that because the whole book is just so painfully stupid.

Genevieve Hill and her 14 year old son Mason were out walking and Mason stumbles upon the dead body of Annabelle, the mayor's wife. I don't even remember her last name, or if that was even given. This takes place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the author wants us to believe that this city of 100,000 people is such a small town that everyone knows everyone else's business.

Genevieve is a former beauty pageant queen but has devoted her life to her son as it became clear he was autistic...at six.

Um, no. That does not happen, not that late.

Luckily our wonderful main character and 'autism whisperer' (no really, the detective called her that) Casey Walker realizes something is up because Autism is diagnosed far earlier than six.

Except Casey is also a fucking moron just like everyone else in the book. Morons and sociopaths. Definitely a winning combination.

So the detective on the case calls in Casey to help get Mason to talk, despite the fact that Mason is non-verbal. He's pretty shady himself and such a wiener throughout the whole book that I kind of wished Mason would smash his head with a rock, too.

Casey comes to all different kinds of conclusions and they all kind of make sense for a little while and then something else and then something else and then something else. She meets with Genevieve's daughter Savannah, who is also a piece of work, maybe, we don't know for a while. Then we do. Not a surprise.

The book is told from the perspective of Casey and Genevieve, though we get Mason's from time to time, though it is never labeled as his. Those sections are just titled "Then". At the end we get Savannah's, which was just as pointless as the rest of the book.

Spoiler ahead: Turns out the mom MADE Mason autistic, basically. She says she thought he was pretty boring and average, and she would make him 'extraordinary'. EXTRAORDINARY.

What. The. Fuck.

She basically gave him a bunch of meds and trained him to fail tests in a certain way that would ensure he received a certain score, which would determine that he was autistic.

And when you as the reader find this out, you should be appalled, right? Should be, except you aren't, because that seems exactly like something this lunatic would do to her son.

Casey is also a piece of work but in a different way. She was strictly there to educate about autism, but she didn't even do that well. She was not involved in the investigation in any way except to be a puppet for the detective (the only one on the case? Again, the author was trying to make Tuscaloosa sound small. It's not).

She basically fumbled around making random discoveries and told the detective who sometimes listened but most times didn't. She talks to her dad about the case a lot and that's just as pointless as everything else she does.

I have a big issue with the main character comparing autism and cancer. Cancer is a deadly disease that claims countless lives every single day. Autism is not. People with autism are not broken or unusual. They have a different neurotype.

The dialogue was awful. The phrasing at many times was awful. In general, the writing was clunky and weird. I'm also pretty sure the book never saw an editor.

I will leave you with a couple examples before I say this book is stupid and you shouldn't bother with it, even though it is free with Prime this month:

At one point the author describes another character as "head of the school newspaper and a star player on the debate team." You mean editor-in-chief? How is one a star player on a debate team? Captain, probably, if they're that good.

Here's my favorite: she talks about another character being drafted by Alabama and how he "became their golden boy until he tore his ACL sophomore year." I'm sorry, what? Despite what Alabama fans thinks, Bama is not a pro team. Colleges don't draft players. They recruit them, though. Did you mean that? I think you meant that.

Savannah talking about Mason: "He did get really sick once, and I'm pretty sure it was around that time, but I could be wrong. Everything's filtered though my little-girl memory, so it's hard to say, but I remember him getting really sick." Who talks like that? Such weird phrasing.

And lastly, "He's thriving ever since he got put under Blanche's care." He GOT PUT? GOT PUT??!! You mean "since he was placed in Blanche's care"?

There's more, but I can't waste any more time on this, and neither should you.

Not recommended even a little bit remotely at all.

Tackling the TBR Week 18: May 8 - May 14, 2022

  

I am now in year FOUR of Tackling the TBR. Slowly but surely I have made big strides in getting my TBR under control. When I first started in 2019, that list was topping out at over 5,000 books. I don't know that I will ever get below 500, but a #BookDragon can dream!


I will be posting on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the last day of the month. Feel free to join in if you'd like!


Previous Week's TBR Total: 2,438


Currently Reading



Books Added to TBR: 0


Books Removed from TBR: 0



Books Reads




Books DNF-ed: 0




Duplicates Removed: 0


New TBR Total: 2,438


Happy Reading!
Sarah

Stacking the Shelves #192

        

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc.

Library Treasures



Happy Reading!
Sarah

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Tackling the TBR Week 17: May 1 - May 7, 2022

 

I am now in year FOUR of Tackling the TBR. Slowly but surely I have made big strides in getting my TBR under control. When I first started in 2019, that list was topping out at over 5,000 books. I don't know that I will ever get below 500, but a #BookDragon can dream!


I will be posting on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the last day of the month. Feel free to join in if you'd like!


Previous Week's TBR Total: 2,463


Currently Reading



Books Added to TBR: 0


Books Removed from TBR: 12



Books Reads





Books DNF-ed: 0




Duplicates Removed: 0


New TBR Total: 2,438


Happy Reading!
Sarah

Stacking the Shelves #191

       

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc.

Prime First Reads


Happy Reading!
Sarah

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Eleanor Reads! April Edition

 

Each month Eleanor and I share the chapter books we read. We've been reading chapter books since before Kindergarten and her attention span as a four year old was definitely something to brag about. Eleanor was born a reader and that makes my heart so, so happy.

I am making a couple changes because Eleanor is becoming a more independent reader at home. She has no problem plowing through books at school, but at home she prefers I read to her while she is drawing, painting, working on a science project, etc. Plus, who doesn't also love being read to at bedtime?

Currently Reading Together

Read Together


Currently Reading Independently*


*Eleanor has begun reading more than one book at a time. I can't imagine where she got that idea from.

Eleanor's Independent Reads

Eleanor's DNFs

Do the kiddos in your life have an interest in any of these?


Happy Reading,
Eleanor and Sarah

State of the ARC #45

 

State of the ARC is a monthly feature hosted by Evelina at Avalinah's Books - and now me, too! I took over temporary hosting duties back in early 2020. A couple months ago Evelina asked if I would like to co-host and of course I said yes! If you are new to the meme, you can check out the guidelines HERE.

Links go to my review. The majority of the ARCs I receive are through NetGalley. I sometimes find a book or two via Edelweiss or BookSirens. Others have come from authors, publicists, or were offered to me from a publisher who specifically approved me for it on NetGalley; I will always note in the review how I acquired the ARC.

Currently Reading
Gun Barons - May, 2022
Spare Parts - May, 2022
The Women of Rothschild - Oct, 2022

Finished, Review to Come
Sweating in the Land of Smiles - July 2021 (Author Gift)
The Other Dr Gilmer - Mar, 2022

Review or Feedback Sent

When I first started blogging my monthly State of the ARC I felt like I was drowning in ARCs. My main goal was to get my NetGalley feedback ratio above 80% and thanks to this meme, I slowly but surely clawed my way up. At my highest I was at 97%. I am currently at 96%.

How are you doing with your ARC goals? Let's talk ARCs!

Happy Reading
Sarah