Thursday, 28 November 2013

Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

Best friends Jennifer and Sarah keep a "Never List" - they are all-too-aware of the dangers in the world and have implemented restrictions on every aspect of their lives in order to keep themselves safe. Sadly it doesn't stop them from being kidnapped and locked in a basement, along with two other women. They are tortured for years before Sarah and the two other women escape - but not before Jennifer is murdered. Ten years later, Sarah has escaped and is trying to put her life back together, but is rarely able to leave the house. She is very much still a prisoner, only this time it's self-inflicted, a result of her severe PTSD. When the possibility arises of their torturer getting out of prison, Sarah makes it her mission to leave her comfort zone and find out what happened to her best friend once and for all - for her own peace of mind, and also in the hopes that uncovering Jennifer's body will allow murder charges to finally be laid.

The Never List unfolds in the present, as Sarah sets out to find the truth, with flashbacks to what happened to her and the other women in the past. We slowly find out what Sarah went through, how she escaped, and why the other women she was trapped with hate her. Sarah is deeply, understandably, traumatised, and the exploration of her anxiety is confronting but well-handled. I did feel like there were times she was able to get past it a little too easily, putting herself in extremely dangerous situations after years of not even being able to leave her apartment, but at the same time it was great to watch her gaining power back over her life.

Alongside psychological trauma, forgiveness plays a big part of the story. It delves into just how far people will go for freedom - and how much they're willing to forgive, not only of others but of themselves. Many of the revelations about the past are quite horrific, and you get a strong sense of Sarah's internal struggle to come to terms not just with what was done to her but also what she herself did.

I really liked the twists and turns of The Never List for the most part, and there were a few great surprises, although some plot points were a bit unbelievable. There was also a few times it veered into torture porn territory, which made me incredibly uncomfortable. Plus the dialogue was very clunky and distracting in places, and some of the characters were pretty flat. What I liked most was following Sarah's journey and the ups and downs of her inner conflict. The Never List is a disturbing thriller about the horrible things humans do to each other and themselves, and the lengths we go to in order to survive. While it is incredibly bleak at times, it's also bittersweet and ends on a somewhat hopeful note.

Rating: 3/5

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository

Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

"A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires." How can you not be drawn to a book with a blurb that starts like that?! What... just me? Ahem... But seriously, the premise of kids killing their families all over the world grabbed me straight away. I don't know what that says about me. But there's something about murderous children that makes them the most unsettling kind of villains in the horror genre. The Uninvited certainly delivered on the creepy children front.

Hesketh Lock, an anthropologist with Asperger's Syndrome who has trouble with people but excels at patterns and puzzles, is investigating a case of corporate sabotage that ends in the perpetrator's suicide. Similar events are happening all over the world. Hesketh begins to see a pattern, and detects it's somehow connected to the increasing number of attacks by kids everywhere. But it's not until events hit closer to home than he ever imagined that he realises just how connected everything is. 

I don't want to give too much away, because this really is a deliciously suspenseful read and it's best not to know a lot going into it. I loved the central mystery, the creepiness of the whole thing and the way events escalated to the point where the world of the story was well and truly a horror to behold. But what made it so compelling was the unique and complex character of Hesketh, and the way he reacts to the situation and tries to make sense of everything. His complicated and often touching relationships with the other characters, and the way the horror enters his own life, provides the emotional core of the novel. And boy, was it emotional.

Liz Jensen's writing is strong, and Hesketh's voice felt very authentic to me. I really liked the pace of The Uninvited, as it starts out as a slow burn before expanding to Lord of the Flies-type mayhem on steroids. The only thing that let this book down for me was the ending. I just found the explanation of what had happened to be really silly. It's a shame because otherwise this is a really effective horror story.

Rating: 4/5

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Bloomsbury
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository

Friday, 22 November 2013

Friday Link Dump: Vampire Academy, Internet Linguistics And Ra-Ra-Rasputin

-A new trailer for Vampire Academy has been released and it looks much better than the first teaser. I hope the movie is good. Or at least craptastic. (Yahoo!)

-As much as I love Anne Shirley, this post about how you'd react if you met her in real life is hilariously accurate. (The Toast)

-I love words, and I love getting creative with them. So I really love internet language and totally agree with this article in defense of it. (The Toast)

-I am loving this season of American Horror Story, so I found this post on the real story of one of the characters fascinating. (Flavorwire)

-There is a TV series about Rasputin in development and I am excited. (Deadline)

-Kids movies in the '80s really were pretty scary. (Flavorwire)

-I am SO excited about the Muppets Most Wanted movie. The trailer looks great. (YouTube)

-Oscar the Grouch met Grumpy Cat and it was the most awesome meeting of cranky minds in history. (YouTube)

-You will not believe these drawings aren't photographs. (BuzzFeed)

-This acapella version of Royals by Lorde is aca-mazing. (YouTube)

-The napping adventures of a boy and his puppy is my new favourite Instagram account. (Instagram)

-These dad jokes are actually pretty funny. (BuzzFeed)

-This is why killing a lion is the most cowardly thing you can do. (BuzzFeed)

-This account of two journalists who went undercover on an asylum seeker boat headed for Australia is a must-read. Amazing. And heartbreaking. (The New York Times)

-I saw Catching Fire yesterday and it was amazeballs and of course I reacted in GIFs. Earlier in the week I discovered you can actually buy Katniss' wedding dress, although no word on if it comes with fire tricks. (This blog)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Movie Was Amazeballs: Catching Fire

Omigod, you guys. Catching Fire was amazing. 

Going into it, I was a little nervous, because Catching Fire is my favourite book in the series and I hoped the movie would be great, too.

But I loved the first movie, so more than anything I was really, really, excited.

The opening with Katniss and Gale, connecting back with the first movie, was great.

Then the Victor's Village was perfect.

President Snow was so deliciously creepy.

The tension between Peeta and Katniss was great.

Peeta my bby.

The Victor's tour was heart-wrenching.

There were some sweet and funny moments though.

And then, OMG...

Poor Gale.

Poor Katniss.

Poor Peeta.

Poor Effie.

But then there was Finnick.

And Johanna.

And Mags and Nuts and Bolts.

Katniss was totally impressive.

But Peeta stole the show.

Then there was some sweetness.

Followed by a big whammy of heartbreak.

It was Quarter Quell time.

And I was all...

And then...

Then it was like...


With a bit of...

And some more...

Finally it was like...

With some of this...

Then it was like...

With a bit more...

Then at the end I was like...

And it was over and I was all...

And now I'm ready to watch it again.