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Book Review: My Sister’s Grave

I started reading My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni near the end of August, after I had finished writing the first manuscript of SheAfter letting off for a few weeks as I worked on another manuscript and edited She, I went back to the book slowly. There was tons to like about it, but a few things stuck out to me that made me hesitant to read. Up to that point, it hadn’t really grabbed my attention.

That changed.

Anyways, the book is a good-sized one, about 400 pages, but it didn’t feel nearly as long when I was reading it. Never before has a book flown by so fast in some parts and taken ages to crawl along in others. The pacing was sometimes frantic, sometimes as slow as pineapple juice mixed with glue (which is pretty darn slow).

book book book

 

Now to the actual review part, before I get really off topic.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • How It Dealt With Courtroom Drama

There were scenes in the book -and the whole premise of the story- that relied heavily upon a court setting. This included lawyers, judges, courtroom terms; the whole deal.

This can either be a great thing or a terrible problem, depending on how skilled the author is and how the story goes. Court can, ultimately, be boring. Or, it can be surprisingly exciting. Like I said, it depends on the characters and therefore the author. (I try my best to stay away from courts and such. I have no experience. It would be a disaster. Just like the sales on the book.)

Although I’ve only read a few books that had to confront this aspect, I’ve read two that were notably on opposite ends of the spectrum. One, a John Grisham book, did an excellent job. Nearly the entire book was set in a courtroom setting or a lawyer’s firm, and it worked wonderfully. The other, however, was the opposite. It flopped. Terribly. And made me scared to write a courtroom-drama, -mystery, -murder, -anything.

This book had a few chapters and a subplot that relied heavily on the courtroom scenes. Dugoni did a fantastic job, and made them not only exciting to read, but a part of the book that I couldn’t put down.

(The love story mixed in didn’t hurt at all, either.)

  • How It Was Hard To Put Down

As I’ve hinted at, this was originally going to be both a good and bad category in my opinion. Parts of the book kept me on the edge of my seat and reading late into the night, even when I told myself after every chapter that I needed to sleep. Because of this, I read over 100 pages in two days, even though I was only reading right before bed.

On the other side, there were parts of the book that I found quite difficult to follow or to keep reading. Sometimes, I wanted to go to sleep before the chapter was over. Or just play Scrabble. (That game is addicting.) Because of this, I didn’t read the book at all for nearly a week, even when I had ample time.

  • Flashbacks

Robert Dugoni -at least in this book- is a master of flashbacks. He uses them to enhance the stories, add depth to the characters, quicken the pace, and do everything that those online articles about flashbacks tell you to do. Of all the books I’ve read, this was a perfect example of how to use flashbacks, a technique that I have never been quite able to master myself.

This is one of those books I would go back and read again, taking notes on how to improve my own writing through it. Not only that, but it is completely entertaining as well and a great story.

(I’m trying to stick with three points but there is another I can’t help but mentioning. The characters. Everything is so life-like and understandable. Every character is like someone you might meet in real life. I would highly, highly recommend this book.)

WHAT I DISLIKED:

  • Meaningless Movements

There were a few instances where the author described characters doing everyday, casual details. A few times, I understood the purpose behind it, revealing something new or moving the story along. But a few times I was unsure what the purpose was.

Ultimately, this is not a big deal, but because I don’t have much to talk about, I had to mention it. Great books are so hard to review.

  • The Killer’s Identity

The jury’s still out on this one. (Get it? Courtroom drama? You know you got it.)

In some ways, the final identity of the murderer was brilliant. In some ways, it was cliched. In some ways, it just seemed lazy.

It was certainly a twist in the story, but there were plenty of those. This seemed unnecessary, and although the ending was brilliant, it could have been achieved a different way. There were some loose ends that might have been left hanging, but there are two more books in the series after all. (I’ll be reading those next.)

I can’t give much away on this without giving the whole book away, and that would be extremely rude of me. Instead, I’ll just encourage you to buy the book. (Or if you have Kindle Unlimited, read it for free. Trust me, you want to read it.)

  • Cliched Background Characters

There were some background characters which had no imagination put into them. I do the same thing all the time and I could absolutely tear one of my books apart in a review like this, but this isn’t about me. (Thank God.)

Anyways, the characters were just so obvious and predictable. There was an old woman crocheting, with photos and porcelain dolls everywhere. I understand that the characters should be familiar and this is only one example, but I saw the same kind of repetition over and over again in the book.

MY RATING: 8.5/10

This book was fantastic. I highly encourage you to buy and read it, especially if you’re a fan of mystery, suspense, thriller, or even courtroom drama. It even has a love story. This book has something familiar for everyone to love and something new for everyone to realize they love.

Now just go click a few buttons, but it, and start reading.

NEXT IN SERIES: Her Final Breath (The Tracy Crosswhite Series) by Robert Dugoni

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Turn the page. Trace the plot. Tempt the panic.

Movie Review: Krampus

On Friday night, I went to go see the new movie Krampus (pronounced Crum. Pus.) with some friends. I’d seen lots of commercials for it, and I wanted to hang out, so we just picked that, since it was out and horror movies around Christmas-time are either:

1. Very good or

2. Easy to make fun of.

krampus

This movie generally falls into the second category, and there were more parts of the movie were I laughed than jumped.

Was it because I was with friends? I mean, possibly, but the movie itself wasn’t scary in the least. But since this is a (hopefully) fair movie review, I won’t poke fun at it too much. Except for “Krampus.” I’ll be making fun of him. Enjoy.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • The Ending

One redemptive part of the movie was- like many other movies- the way the movie ended. I don’t mean the last half-hour or so. (Because I didn’t like that at all.) More like the final… five minutes or so. I won’t give the ending away, but I will tell you that it was something entirely unexpected, at least for me. The way they ended it was both clever and somewhat unique, until the last few seconds, when they tried one last, desperate jump scare.

I didn’t jump.

  • The Story Line (Kind of)

There were parts that were great, and parts that could be improved upon. (Not that I could improve the actual movie. I’m definitely not a director. Of anything.)

Some scenes would have been good, and could have been made into very scary moments. For instance: Krampus is chasing a girl as she runs down the deserted street. Instead of making it dark and playing scary music while she is being chased in the middle of a snow storm, they show him clearly jumping from roof to roof like some kind of demented frog. No music. No darkness. Just watching a goat-man jump while listening to a girl scream with a terribly-high pitch.

There were a few other instances, but that’s the one I clearly remember. The first 3/5 of the movie were great, funny enough to be humorous and creepy enough to be a horror movie. Then it all kind of fell apart.

  • Max

The other redeeming quality about the film was the little boy in the family on whom the story centers. Max was a character that, by himself, made the movie tons better. I saw growth and change in the well-rounded character. I saw wonderful performing by the young actor.

When all the characters at times seemed insane or selfish or unlikable, he was always someone you wanted to succeed and wanted to live, up until his last moment when he finally confronts both his fears and the literal monster in front of him.

WHAT I DISLIKED:

  • Krampus & Co.

I don’t even know where to begin. Krampus, as I said, is like a goat. A big, ugly goat with an enormously long tongue he likes to show off. When the old woman recounts her first experience with Krampus, how he is showed is indeed creepy and that wink (which seems to be a staple in Krampus stories) might haunt me for a little while. But overall, he was a disappointment.

Whew. Next on my scathing list is his “helpers.” Like, they’re straight out of a circus. The gingerbread man on Shrek was creepier than these (except for those laughs. *shudders*). The dolls and elves (they were not elves) all looked the same. Just clowns from jack-in-the-boxes that had gone mental. In one scene it looks like Krampus has mini-Krampuses following him and darting through a field of demon-looking snowmen. So why don’t we see them, the only helpers that look even a bit frightening?

Oh yeah. And three gingerbread men try to use a nail gun. (Yeah, I found a link. That’s called research, babyyyyy. And that’s called my Dick Vitale voice.) It works… not very well. They go a little crazy. Reminds me of my brothers and sisters with Nerf guns. Actually, the nail-gun scene was more weird and hilarious than scary or full of anxiety.

  • Final Confrontation

All those crazy buffoons I mentioned up there (^) get a bunch of caffeine or something because it seems to me that they’re on a sugar high. They just start bouncing off the walls and shooting fools with nail guns and eating people or something.

(Speaking of eating, a gingerbread man gets very angry that half of his head got eaten. That was probably my favorite part of the whole movie. No, definitely my favorite.)

Everything was really hectic and hard to follow. They had all the family members pinned down, ready to kill them, and yet they never do. They just stand there like awkward elves/monsters/gingerbread fools. So, yeah. That was a strange scene.

(I could make many more points but I’m constraining myself here. You can send me a Christmas card for thanks. Not with Krampus on it.)

MY RATING: 0/10

I really could have made this lower, but my expectations for the movie weren’t high as it was. There was just a lot more laughing than I expected for a horror movie. Maybe The Forest next month will make up for it, but the last two horror films I was in theaters (this one and The Visit) were major letdowns.

Until next time, Merry Christmas all you folks and Happy New Years!

(If there’s a blizzard on Christmas, like in the movie, just… don’t go anywhere. Just stay home. Celebrate the next day. Christmas-day blizzards are bad apparently.)

Watch out behind you. There may be a rabid goat-man chasing you on rooftops. If there is, please don’t scream. Just shout. I like my ears being able to hear.

Audios!!

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Turn the page. Trace the plot. Tempt the panic.

Movie Review: Insidious 3

 

creepy thing ahhhh (That gives me shivers.)

A while back, I went to the movies with some friends and saw the latest chapter of the Insidious saga. Chapter 3 was, in my opinion, the best of the three, serving as a prequel to the original two. I had seen only Insidious 2 at the time of my watching, as I went back and watched the first one later that week.

(That makes me shiver —>)

Insidious 3 had hints -some subtle and some explicit- to the first two, foreshadowing events. It tied in exceptionally well with the originals, keeping the suspense and horror alive. Although I know absolutely nothing about directing and producing, that doesn’t stop me from having opinions, which I gladly share.

Because of my unfamiliarity with movies, these posts could be anyway from 4 total points to 8 total long. My book reviews I will try to structure with 3 good and 3 bad points, but for these I’m kind of just winging it, so bear with me. Also, I will try my best not to give away any spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movie yet.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • The Jump Scares

One thing that separates the good horror movies from the bad is the quality and quantity of their “jump scares.” As the old saying goes, “Quality over quantity.” Insidious 3 certainly had the quality in theirs, as well as the quantity. There were slow, dramatic build ups before surprising appearances from all sorts of devilish creatures, monsters, or whatever you choose to call them.

The best, least expected scare was at the very end of the movie. Literally every person in the theater shot up out of their seats. A group of teenagers in front of me started screaming, and still looked shaken as we all made our way out of the theater. I won’t give anything away -you’ll have to see for yourself- but never let your guard down.

  • The Subtle References/Foreshadowing

Throughout the course of the movie, there were multiple references to the original two films. One was that the main villain, labeled “the man who can’t breathe” always wears a breathing mask (duh), and this mask is first seen in the basement of Lin Shaye (the woman who fights off the breathing mask man), during the second film. I didn’t realize this until I saw the second film again, and noticed an innocent-seeming breathing mask, sitting quietly in the corner.

There were many others instances like this, connecting all three films like a spider’s web. I enjoyed finding them as I watched and re-watched the movie, and hopefully you can find some for yourself, too.

Now, before I reveal too much, onto the dislike category. (Which was quite hard to make. I loved this movie.)

WHAT I DISLIKED:

  • Uncertainty About Future Sequels

This is one thing that probably means more to me than others. When there is a series I follow, whether by reading or watching, I like to know exactly when it will stop. I want to have some evidence and some clear plans, so I’ll either begin to find a new series or obsessively wait for the next installment.

Insidious 3, for all of the great things it did, left me in the dark on this particular area. I don’t know if there’s going to be another chapter, or if this “book” is finished. They certainly left ample room for sequels (or would they be prequels in this case?), but that doesn’t mean anything is certain.

Internet research hasn’t helped either, since there’s been no complete, undeniable word on the matter. Until then, this is going in my dislike category, partially because there wasn’t much to not love about the movie.

  • Dependence On Jump Scares

This might seem like I’m contradicting myself, but I’m not. I loved the jump scares, especially the one at the end, but it seemed like the entire movie -except for a few parts- depended on these cheap methods to scare the audience. Of course, we all jumped and screamed at the appropriate times, because it was terrifying, but it wasn’t a terror that lasted.

For instance, I watched Silence of the Lambs not long ago, and that movie was utterly, psychologically horrifying. Why? Not because of jump scares, not because of fantastic acting- thought it had some-, and not because everything took place at night- it didn’t-. That movie disturbed me because of the story line, and the plot. It messed with my brain and my dreams for the next few days. It didn’t have me shivering as I walked down dark hallways and went into a room with the lights off. Instead, it affected me when I was sleeping and at the most random times, because it was an effect that didn’t go away in a few seconds.

Insidious 3 depended on jump scares, and they were effective in their use of them, but at the end of the day I’d rather have a movie more like Silence of the Lambs. Maybe I’ll write a review on that one someday.

MY RATING: 8.3/10

Why the .3? Because it was better than just a eight, but not quite a nine. And it’s the third chapter, so it’s .3. Don’t ask questions.

Anyways, this was a movie I thoroughly enjoy watching every time I turn it on. I would highly recommend this. In fact, I’m going to cut this one a bit short and go watch it right now.

*Terminator voice*

“Hasta Lavista!”

******

Turn the page. Trace the plot. Tempt the panic.

 

 

Book Review: IT by Stephen King

*None of the books reviewed on this website are written by myself. Everything stated here is simply my opinion, and a fair assessment of what I thought about the book.

**If you have any suggestions for books to be reviewed, let me know in the comments section of this post.

it by stephen king

 

A while back, I read It by well-renowned author Stephen King. I’d heard many things about the book -some great reviews and some not so good- and decided that I should give it a read for myself. Over the summer, I read the extremely large novel, and these are my thoughts on it.

 

WHAT I LIKED:

  •  It Was Easy to Read.

All of Stephen King’s work that I’ve read has been easy to understand and clear. He gets his message across and has impressive descriptions that still allow me to view the scenery and area in a familiar way. The sentences weren’t confusing, and I didn’t have to labor to understand them.

  • Everything Felt Like Real-life.

The characters in this novel were what astounded me the most. Throughout the novel, a group of seven kids -and later adults- are known as “The Losers’ Club.” Their backstory is given at perfect intervals, and when you finish the book they are more like friends than characters. In some ways, you feel like the eighth member of their club, having gone through all the ups and downs of their lives in a single novel.

As well, the town of Derry, Maine seems like such a real place that I Googled it, making sure it was in fact fictional. The descriptions and layout seem as authentic as my own hometown, and familiarly comfortable. I saw many similarities in my own town and Derry, making a part of me doubt even now that Derry is a fictional town.

  • The Different Plot Threads.

There are two stories within this one, both of them centering on the Losers’ Club interaction with It -a.k.a. Pennywise the Clown. Both parts to the story and intertwined and the first majorly affects the second; as well, they take place in the same town.

In the first, all seven kids are about nine years old, and still in school. This was my favorite, personally, because of how effective King was in describing and explaining the inner emotions and dreams of the children. I felt emotional with them, ached with them, and cheered for them as they took on the monster I wanted to help defeat.

But the monster isn’t finished. In the second thread, they have returned to their hometown as adults, leaving behind lives of luxury for some, relationships, friendships, and familiar places. This section of the story was mysterious, intriguing, and kept me on the edge of my reading couch. King once again showed his expertise in understanding and showing not only emotions, but how those emotions affected the actions.

WHAT I DISLIKED:

  • The Length.

I’ve read long books. Seven-hundred, eight-hundred… They’ve been long. But never have I even seen or heard of a fiction book being over one-thousand pages long. And this book clocked in at one-thousand, one-hundred, and four pages. That’s 1104. More pages than I’ve even written as an author in my lifetime. Remember how I said there were two story lines? That’s about five-hundred pages per story line. I understand there was a lot of information and character depth to dive into, but I don’t see why it couldn’t have been shortened or split into two separate novels.

  • Certain Aspects of Pennywise.

Don’t get me wrong: Pennywise the Clown is a frightening adversary. I love the creepiness factor of him (I think it’s a him when he’s a clown?), but there is one thing that puts me off a bit. He can change shapes in the novel, taking many different form to better scare whichever child he is in contact with. There have been other shape-shifters in horror books and novels that I thought worked quite well, but this just seems off. Pennywise could have efficiently frightened and killed the children without needing to be a shape-shifter, at least it seems so to me. Then again, I am definitely not Stephen King and I trust his judgement in this matter.

***SPOILER ALERTS***

  • A few scenes

There are a few scenes in the book that paint a poor picture for Beverly, the only girl in the Losers’ Club. Besides being a victim of abuse from first her father and then her husband, there are two specific scenes in which she has sex with another member of the Losers’ Club. At the ending of the first, younger story line, after they have defeated Pennywise for the first time, they are stuck in the sewer and lost. In the midst of their struggles, they begin to divide and argue, and she “solves” this problem by having sex with each of the seven boys, one after another. Then, later as adults, she and one of her two romantic interests in the group have sex, only for her to walk off and leave with the other man. I don’t want this to influence your decision or feelings about the novel, but it is something to keep in mind.

***SPOILER ENDED***

MY RATING: 4/10

Overall, the book was entertaining at times, extraordinarily tiresome at others, and ultimately quite a challenge to finish. If it had been shorter and had the ending not left a bad memory in my mind, I would give it a much higher grade. The best part was the continued growth that you see in the children as you read. As it is, I give this book a 4 out of 10.

*******

Turn the page. Trace the plot. Tempt the panic.