30 Books For My 30th – Number 22

30booksformy30th, 30th birthday, books, fucking awful, fucking obvious, thriller

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dscn7305Dear Gone Girl,

A few years ago, I lent you to my sister and you have been sat on her shelves ever since. At least until last weekend when she finally brought you back. I can’t say that I was very pleased to see you. Really, I only wanted you so I could take a picture to accompany this post. I’ve never liked you. I didn’t finish you. You annoyed the shit out of me and, if I’m honest, I was glad to get you out of the house. You have a ton of hype surrounding you even to this day. But I don’t get it. I feel like I’m the lone survivor of some awful disease that makes you love shit books.

You’re constantly being praised for being clever but you’re not. What you are is super obvious. How anyone can read the first half of the novel and not realise that it’s all bullshit is beyond me. I didn’t even finish the first half because I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the inevitable. And before you start crying and saying “but how do you know if its obvious if you didn’t finish it?” Bitch, please. I have Wikipedia.

I’ve put off writing this letter for ages because I just didn’t want to come face-to-face with you. I’ve never met a book that deserved its reputation so little. Even 50 Shades of Grey was acknowledged as being shit despite its massive success. But you. You fooled everyone. You continue to fool everyone and you’ve started an endless parade of increasingly poor psychological thrillers. Girl on a Train? Urgh. It was even more obvious than you were but at least I fucking finished it.

Whether it admits to it or not, at least Girl on a Train knows its place. It knows it’s trash. You have the audacity to think you’re better than trash. You suffer from the Dan Brown complex: a trashy novel that thinks it of great literary worth. Just because you put on a fur coat and some fake diamonds it doesn’t make you different. You’re still Jenny from the block.

So why am I writing this letter to you? After all, this is supposedly a list of the books that “changed my life”. Well, in spite of everything, you did change my life. You were the first book I ever purposefully did not finish. Before I met you I struggled through every shit book I picked up no matter how hard it was. No matter how long it took me. I mean, yeah, there are books I stopped halfway through with the intention of picking up again that still sit, unread, on my shelf. That’s not the same. See, I genuinely hated you. You made me angry. I was so annoyed by you. I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how you’ve managed to fool everyone else but I see through you. I see what you really are.

There is a lengthy and oft-praised passage inside you which discusses the idea of the “Cool Girl” and how it doesn’t really exist. You know what? You’re the ultimate Cool Girl. You pretend to be this clever and refreshing new type of thriller so everyone will like you. But it’s all just bullshit. It’s all just pretend. Your tagline is “there are two sides to every story”. Well, there is: mine and all the idiots you’ve managed to trick.

We complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way

The line “Sleep is like a cat: It only comes to you if you ignore it.” is the biggest piece of bullshit I’ve ever read. This isn’t good prose. This is nonsense!

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Book Review – When the Serpent Bites by Nesly Clerge

blogger, blogging, book, book blogger, book blogging, book review, books, crime, prison, review, reviewing, reviews, thriller

I’ve been blogging since September 2011 and I’ve been on Instagram since December 2014. I don’t think it’s too big-headed to say that I’ve improved in both areas since then even if I’m still a bit shit at sticking to my schedules occasionally. In the last 7 years, I’ve managed to keep my online persona fairly secret and it’s only recently that people in my life started to find out about it. It kind of feels like I’m a superhero and everyone has suddenly seen through my secret identity. It’s weird to have it out there even though it’s still only a select group of people who know. It’s one thing to write for strangers (or nobody) but the idea of someone I see on a daily basis reading it… still can’t deal with that. I only bring this up because one of my work friends was so impressed with my Instagram following that she started talking about how much money I could make. I was super quick to shoot her down on this idea because I’m still a small fish in a fucking huge pond. Although, after spending years trying but never quite succeeding as much as I wanted to, I can’t deny that things are starting to change for the better. In the last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be approached by authors to get involved in marketing their books. You’ll be aware that earlier this month I was involved in the cover reveal of the upcoming Above the Stars book and I was also sent an advanced copy of Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino to share on Instagram. I realise that I still have some way to go before the big gun publishers would even think about approaching me but, as someone who is interested in getting into the marketing world, this is a fairly big deal. In keeping with this, two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to review the 2015 debut novel of writer Nesly Clerge. I said yes, because I’m not really in a position to turn these chances down, but I wasn’t sure this novel was going to be for me.

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Girl on the Train

Emily Blunt, films, fucking awful, meh, review, thriller

Before writing this review I reread my book review of Paula Hawkins’ book because it’s been a while since I read it. If anything I’d forgotten just how much I disliked the book. It was a badly crafted crime thriller with underwhelming characters. It has been universally praised for it’s realistic portrayal of the alcoholic Rachel but it just felt so fucking familiar. I’m bored of self-destructive female narrators who have turned to drink after their family life starts to fall apart. It’s an easy way to create dramatic tension but it’s also a really dull and overused one. All I crave is a psychological drama where the female lead is a dick for reasons beyond men and children. So, I wasn’t exactly desperate to watch the film but I have a real love for Emily Blunt. She’s a great actor and I was always hopeful she could save this from being the same travesty that the novel was. Even if she is far too beautiful to successfully play the dowdy and unattractive Megan. I guess that’s just Hollywood for you. And I certainly didn’t care about the changes that the book fans have been crying about. London. New York. What does it fucking matter? It’s still a shitty thriller wherever it’s set.

The Girl on the Train was the incredibly successful psychological thriller that readers lapped up back in 2015. The film rights were acquired way back in 2014 as the book that was being touted as the “new Gone Girl” was believed to be a surefire hit. The film follows the narrative of Paula Hawkin’s fairly faithfully apart from a few minor changes. The most obvious being the change of setting from London to New York. None of these changes really affect the narrative so we still open during the commute of divorcee Rachel (Emily Blunt). Still depressed from the break-up of her marriage and being in the downward spiral of alcohol addiction, Rachel has little to celebrate. Her only glimmer of hope comes from the glimpses she gets of a mysterious couple she views from her train compartment. The seemingly perfect life of Megan (Hayley Bennett) and Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans) gives her a daily look into true love. Well, until she sees Megan in an embrace with another man. When Megan later goes missing Rachel begins investigating, sure that she holds the key to her disappearance.

The Girl on the Train takes it structure from the novel it is based on. The narrative keeps jumping back in time and between the perspectives of the three women at the heart of its story. As Rachel investigates and attempts to remember her own movement’s the night Megan went missing we switch between Megan’s perspective pre-disappearance and the point of view of Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom’s (Justin Theroux), new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) as she cares for her young daughter. It’s an annoying device that really doesn’t add anything to the film. It just makes everything unnecessarily confusing and drags out the inevitable that little bit longer. It’s just not handled very well and I could really have done without the constant shifts.

After all, it is Emily Blunt and Rachel who really carry this film. Without her great portrayal of the damaged Rachel The Girl on the Train would fully fall into the realms of over-the-top melodrama. Blunt’s performance is considered and she manages to bring more heart to the character than Hawkins ever could in the book. The film gives Rachel more time to reflect on herself without feeling like too much of a parody. In the film more than the book I almost started to sympathise with Rachel Although, one suspects that without Blunt’s involvement this would have been less likely.

Any potential for character development and intricate weaving of plot is avoided in favour of brash and trashy thriller. The actual plot, instead of focusing on the three women at its centre, focuses on a hollow and convoluted mystery that, when it comes down to it, really isn’t a mystery at all. It’s a film full of awful stereotypes and unrealistic characters. There are aspects that, given a bit of work, could have made this film much better but it all falls apart thanks to its own slow-paced narrative and increasing melodrama. Ultimately, you don’t really care about anyone in this film or care why they’re doing the things they do. Which, actually, is fine because it fails to offer any real resolution to anything. The final plot ‘twist’ is both incredibly obvious and completely nonsensical. It was dreamed up for the purposes of shock rather than good story telling. It’s an awful film that is only barely brought out of the depths thanks to Emily Blunt. I can’t imagine the kind of trash we’d have got if she hadn’t agreed to star in it.

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Nice Guys (2016)

buddy comedy, film, film noir, films, fucking funny, review, Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Shane Black, thriller

So this review is only a week later than I planned. It’s also been a fair while since I watched the film and, after my family had some sad news today, I really don’t feel like writing this. To be honest, I don’t feel like doing much. But I’ll endeavour to do something. After all, this is a film that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. I love Shane Black, film noir, and Ryan Gosling so it sounded fucking ideal. The only thing that stopped me? I think it’s my inability to remember whether it’s Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson that I find super annoying. I’m pretty sure it’s Mel Gibson on account of his recent years of craziness and anti-Semitic rants. But then there’s Les Mis to consider. He was hardly a suitable Javert and some of his “singing” was just awful. Still, Russell Crowe seems like a nice man so I think my negative opinions of him just stem from my inability to tell American actors over a certain age apart. There’s was a whole thing when I was younger about Richard Gere and Harrison Ford. I mean they were both grey haired men: how was I supposed to tell the difference? Anyway, I finally watched this film a week or so ago but my intense feelings after finishing Losing It meant that I moved back my scheduled post to this week. Let’s see if I can remember this.

The last time we were treated to a Shane Black movie it was Iron Man 3. For a director most associated with the classic action comedy type films it never seemed like the most obvious career move but, as it turned out, Iron Man 3 pretty much rocked. Well, if you’re willing to forgive the fact they all but ruined the Mandarin but the MCU have never really excelled with their villains. The main thing Black achieved in that film was to adequately make amends for the dismal Iron Man 2, which is, in my humble opinion, the worst film in Marvel’s cinematic history. Yes, I’d even put it after Thor: the Dark World. Turns out there isn’t anything Shane Black can’t do and there isn’t a film around that he can’t find an opportunity to buddy someone up for a few witty interactions.

Still, that was about 3 years ago now so it was high time for a return to form. A return that came thanks to Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Seriously, the story behind how The Nice Guys came to be made is almost a better story than the final film. Black and Anthony Bagarozzi started writing the script way back in 2001 but it never quite fell into place. After a few rewrites, including an attempt to revamp it for TV, the time setting was changed to the 1970s and everything started falling into place. The success of Iron Man 3 and having successfully bagged the film’s two leading stars, Black was finally able to make the film he had been working on for 13 years.

The Nice Guys follows two Los Angeles private eyes in the 1977 as they investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Their investigation uncovers connections to a recently deceased porn star and starts to reveal a host of political scandals. The two mismatched detectives first meet up when the teenager in question, Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley), pays Jackon Healy (RussellCrowe) to intimidate the men following her into leaving her alone. One of those men, Holland March (Ryan Golsing) is actually being paid by the dead porn star, Misty Mountainss (Murielle Telio), aunt who believes her neice is actually alive. After Healy is attacked by two thugs looking for Amelia, tht two mismatched detectives end up pairing up in order to find her first.

With some help from March’s young daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), we are taken through the seedy underbelly of LA in the 1970s, which was already in a fairly dismal state thanks to the dangerous smog and the prevalence of the pornography industry. As Healy and March get closer to finding Amelia they are quickly put in the sights of hit man, John Boy (Matt Bomer). Can the two overcome their differences and find the girl before John Boy finds them?

The Nice Guys is an enjoyable and funny film that is firmly within the genre and style that Black is comfortable with. Gosling plays the alcohlic, ex-police officer who is still recovering from his wife’s death and trying to do right by his daughter but mostly failing. Crowe plays the tough enforcer who, still bitter from the divorce to his adulterous wife, uses violence to help people and make a quick buck. Neither know what they are getting in for and are unprepared for where it takes them. However, the pair somehow manage to pull together and get the job done. It’s the same kind of thing we’ve seen before but it is still just as enjoyable. Gosling and Crowe work supremely well together and the chemistry between the two detectives is what drives the story forward.

There are plenty of traditional Shane Blackisms and is full of the type of sharp and witty banter than fills all of his films. In terms of story, it’s hardly the most original but it’s undeniable that the 70s setting makes the film. It adds a new dimension to the narrative that a modern setting would have lacked. The Nice Guys is one of the most Shane Black films that Shane Black has ever made and, provided you’re a fan of his style, it’s hugely entertaining ride. I can sort of see why not everyone cared for it and can understand why it failed to make a huge noise upon it’s release. It’s very self-indulgent in a way that some of Black’s films are. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It has all you could want from this genre and has a cast that bounce of each other incredibly well. I can’t wait to see Black’s Predator sequel.

Tuesday’s reviews – Inferno (2016)

bullshit, dan brown, films, fucking awful, review, thriller, Tom Hanks

Considering my general anger about the whole thriller genre it shouldn’t come as any surprise to you guys that I’m not a fan of Dan Brown. However, this dislike comes from a place much deeper than mere genre. It basically comes down to the fact that Brown is a fucking shit writer. Something that is even more worrying when you consider he used to be a creative writing professor. Still, it’s something that seem unwilling to admit. I have had several arguments with people over the years about why his books are so awful but Dan Brown’s fans are as stubborn as his books are dull. There’s no way around it, Dan Brown just doesn’t know how to write. He uses words in completely nonsensical ways; he’s incredibly repetitive; his dialogue is clumsy; he gets bogged down with insignificant details; and he’s incredibly repetitive. He’s a man who’s name should be Dan “tautology” Brown and who should really ask a creative writing professor what a real metaphor is. Not only is his writing bad but it’s incredibly simplistic in the midst of all the biblical/ literary history. I mean each chapter is about 2 pages long and each one ends on some kind of underwhelming cliffhanger. It’s fucking awful. However, desperately trying to find something positive to say, Dan Brown’s stories do make fairly adequate cinematic experiences. Once Ron Howard and co manage to remove all the bullshit and get down to the puzzle then it’s not quite as bad. I mean it’s not good but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Plus, Tom Hanks is so fucking likeable that it’s easy to get swept away. So, despite the fact that I never bothered to read Inferno I was interested in how it would work on screen.

Inferno is the third attempt by director Ron Howard to bring Dan Brown’s character Robert Langdon to the big screen. This time we’ve moved away into the literary world because the novel was basically Brown’s way to show off how much he knows about Dante. Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in Florence with a bullet wound in his head and no memory of the last few days. Thankfully, a kindly assassin soon turns up to remind him that he’s in the middle of some bad shit. With the help of his doctor, Sienna (Felicity Jones), Langdon figures out that he’s on the trail of a deadly plague that’s set to be released and wipe out half of the world’s population. It was produced by crazed billionaire geneticist, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who believes that the only way to solve the population crises is to wipe out most of humanity and start again.

Following the clues that have been left, Langdon and Sienna follow a trail connected with Dante’s works and personal history. All the while the pair are being tracked by not one but two sinister organisation. The first is the World Health Organisation, headed up by Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who, as it happens, used to bang old Robert back in the day. The second is the hilariously names private security firm The Consortium and their CEO Harry Sims ((Irrfan Khan)). It was the latter who sent the previously seen assassin, Vayentha (Ana Ularu), who is tasked with killing Langdon before he can track down the vial containing the virus.

If you’ve read any of Dan Brown’s books or seen any of the other adaptations then you won’t be shocked at what unfolds here. Brown’s stories are rather formulaic at this point. Someone dies in the opening, Langdon starts looking for clues and shows an insane awareness of all aspects of history and culture, and comes across many shady people and plenty of double-crossers.  The actual narrative is so absurd and outrageous that it’s best to pay as little attention to it as possible. I mean if you really start thinking about why people do things the way they do then you’ll fall into so many plotholes that you’ll make it all the way to China. Now I’m not saying that you can’t enjoy a thriller when it’s utterly stupid; God knows some of the best films I’ve ever seen are also the silliest. Still, Inferno is more than just a dumb thriller, it’s also one of the most pretentious and egotistical thriller you’ll have seen for a while. The main problem I have with Brown and his stories are that they think they are much more intellectual than they actually are. A thriller that’s as outrageously bad as this that also wastes so much time dissecting Dante’s Inferno is the ultimate oxymoron.

But it tries to keep its audience entertained despite this. There are more twists and turns than you really need and people change their allegiances so much it feels like an episode of Game of Thrones. There are plenty of action sequences along the way where the ever weary Langdon is expected to face off against men with guns, women with guns, and men with knives. Although, Howard really doesn’t seem to know how to deal with these action sequences and everything comes across as really confusing. The main attention is given to the more sedate aspects of the puzzle solving which means the film drags and gets pretty boring pretty quickly. By the end I was desperate for the virus to be released so it would kill everybody on screen and end my misery. In the Dan Brown tradition, Inferno is part awful thriller and part tedious lecture.


books, currently reading, Halloween, Harry Potter, horror, Man Booker, Penguin Books, thriller

Today has been horrendous. Last night was my work friend’s 21st birthday so we all went out. It’s safe to say the gin was flowing quickly. Unfortunately, I happened to be working at 7am today. Even with the added hour I gained by the clocks changing, I’ve spent the day in a bit of a haze trying to get my brain to speed up. Somehow I made it through my 9 hour shift without any problems but I’ve spent the evening doing nothing. I just really want sleep so this will be brief. Also, because I’ve not had a very exciting literary week.

Currently Reading
  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

I finally started reading this after wanting to for ages. It’s not going too well so far because I’ve not been in the mood to read. I’ve only read one chapter and, despite being interesting. I’ve found it slow to get going. I’ll carry on with it but it might take a while.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
I decided last night that I wanted to reread this. I haven’t actually reread books 1 and 2 because they seem so badly written now. They’re both so childish that it feels cringey to go back. Still, I’m intrigued to revisit it. We all know the story but I wonder if I’ll get the wave of nostalgia and love that everyone else sees to feel. After being so disillusioned with the series for a while. 

Recently Purchased

  • Penguin Worlds Series
Is there anything better than a set of Penguin books? Well I don’t quite have a complete collection yet but I currently own 3 books in this series. The Penguin Worlds series is a collection of five forgotten classics from the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. They have been reissued to ensure they earn their rightful place on people’s bookshelves. The three I own are: True Names by Vernor Vinge; The World in Winter by John Christopher; and Horror Stories by E. Nesbit. Not only are these books fucking gorgeous but they sound amazing. I’m so glad I could be introduced to them.
  • The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
Just in time for Halloween I bought this story about a hotel in Venice. It’s from the author who wrote The Woman in White and The Moonstone so I figured it was worth a try. Who knows. If nothing else it gave me a good Halloween inspired shot for my Instagram.

  • Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson
This is the new hardback edition of Shirley Jackson’s greatest stories. Jackson is known for her disturbing tales of American gothic. This collection is all about the nasty secrets in Suburbia where nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe. It’s a gorgeous collection and it sounds fucking creepy. Ideal really.

  • Don’t Look Now by Daphne duMaurier
I love Daphne duMaurier but I’ve never read this story. Everyone knows the film adaptation starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie… mostly for the on-set rumours but also because it’s a classic. So, again inspired by Halloween, I bought the Pocket Penguin edition of the tale of horror. The short story is also accompanied by more of duMaurier’s tales of dread. I’m looking forward to it. 

TBT – Finders Keepers by Stephen King

books, crime, fucking awful, meh, murder, readers, Stephen King, TBT, thriller, writing

Today has been so bloody hot again that I’ve done so little. I can’t focus on anything. I could easily have written this hours ago but, once again, we’re fast approaching the time at which I need to be asleep to function for my 7am start tomorrow and I’m finishing the damn thing. It’s not as if I can’t keep to a deadline I’m just in this hot weather haze where the idea of doing anything other than watch Netflix seems too taxing. I spent some time trying to organise my room and nearly fell off a step ladder earlier. It’s just one of those days. The thing I’ve done best at today is spent money on clothes that I really didn’t need. I mean I really really wanted them but I definitely didn’t need them. After that, I’ve been fairly successful at reading. It’s amazing how easy it’s become now I’m reading a book I actually want to pick up. His Bloody Project may be the only Man Booker Prize nominated book I’ve read but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be my favourite. Oh, what a difference it is to that End of Watch. I kind of wish I could get my time back from Stephen King after reading his Bill Hodges trilogy. You know, add up the minutes, take them off his life and put them onto mine. It only seems fair. That final book was ridiculous. Although, they kind of all were.

TBT – Righteous Kill (2008)

cops, fucking awful, Robert DeNiro, TBT, thriller

There was no part of my that was at all interested in watching Righteous Kills but my friend at university had been in London whilst the premier took place. She came back with blurry snaps of Fiddy Cent and Al Pacino telling me how much she wanted to see it. For some reason I agreed. Just like Forsaken had more attention than it perhaps deserved because it brought together two great actors, Righteous Kill was talked about because two acting greats would finally share screen time together. Yes, 2008 was the year that finally saw Robert DeNiro acting alongside the rapper Fiddy Cent. Oh and some shit about him finally sharing some real screen time with Al Pacino since they briefly crossed paths in Heat. It was supposed to be the greatest film event of all time. I mean these two could read a bus timetable and make it seem like the best thing you’ve ever heard. So how could Pacino and DeNiro working together not equal success and quality?

In Righteous Kill Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino play partners, Turk and Rooster, in the police force. Both are Detectives with many years experience who have both grown tired of watching guilty men get away with their crimes. When criminals start turning up having been shot by the mysterious Poetry Boy killer they both have to wonder how much of a problem it really is. Until a couple of younger cops (John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg) start to suspect that Turk (DeNiro) is guilty of the crimes. Will Rooster (Al Pacino) be able to convince them of his partner’s innocence or will he have to accept that the man he thought he knew is a cold-blooded killer?

I’m going to be straight up with you here: I hated this film the first time I saw it and I felt no better about it the second time. Righteous Kill attempts to survive based solely on the meeting of two great actors. Yes, there is some joy to be had in watching Pacino and DeNiro acting alongside each other but that soon wears off. Then you can’t help but notice that the script is exactly the kind of shitty thriller that was constantly being churned out in the 80s and 90s. It’s chock full of clichés and is just generic. It ticks a lot of crime thriller boxes but offers nothing in the way of excitement or suspense. Director Jon Avnet clearly has no idea what do with the story or his two lead actors and the plot bumbles on to its awkward twist ending.

Let’s talk about that “twist” ending for a second. Not only it is a completely fucking stupid way to end the film but it is also cheap, unoriginal and completely see through. Anyone who watches this and doesn’t instantly see what’s going to happen 100 minutes later is obviously too fucking naive to function in modern society. Every decision about this film was made in order to pull of this impressive trick but it’s just not worth it. Everything that makes even the worst crime drama palatable are sacrificed for something so utterly mindless and unnecessary. Where is the mystery and suspense? There are some questionable narrative and editing decisions that had to be made in order to pull off the world’s least surprising twist. It’s just fucking insane.

The film thinks its better than it is partly because of the aforementioned ending and the questions it hoped to raise and partly because it somehow managed to bag two of Hollywood’s greatest actors. There is a problem with that though: the two heavyweights are completely wasted. The script is so boring and badly written that the pair just become SNL parodies of themselves. For lack of any juicy material DeNiro’s classic acting face just goes insane. I’ve never seen his eyes look thinner than they do for the majority of this films run time. I’m shocked he didn’t walk into more things on set it would have been that difficult for him to see.

Righteous Kill thinks it is telling an intelligent and thought-provoking story about morality and law enforcement. Unfortunately, the story cannot sustain the weight of it’s own self-righteous belief that is has something to say that is worth listening to. It’s hard work to make it through and the film is hardly long. Righteous Kill poses less questions than it wants and is nowhere near as complex as writer Russell Gewirtz clearly hoped. The film is just disappointing in all areas. Plus, it wants to constantly remind us that Robert DeNiro is drowning in pussy. I’d somehow managed to forget the aged DeNiro sex scene but there it is. In fact, I actually think the thing that pissed me off the most about this film is the romance between DeNiro’s character and his colleague played by Carla Gugino. There is 28 year age difference between DeNiro and Gugino and Bobby was 65 when the film came out. Now no offence to dear old Bob but that’s more difficult to swallow than any aspect of the shitty narrative.

Tuesday’s Review – The Widow by Fiona Barton

books, fucking awful, meh, review, thriller

So yesterday’s rant wasn’t the greatest testament to my level-headedness. It was self-indulgent and angry even for someone with a history in general ranting. Still, as a normal human being I tend to lash out when someone I care about is threatened. There are only a few things in life that are certain to get me really fucking angry and that’s one of them. Another good bet is a really shitty thriller that is mistakenly being hailed as the next big thing. I’m really the only one to blame because I keep buying them. I know by now that it’s not my thing and, more often than not, author’s just don’t dig deep enough into the mind of a criminal/psychopath/sociopath/whatever. I just expect more and no half price hardback, especially when it’s a debut, is not going to deliver what I need. Still, when The Widow by Fiona Barton appeared in front of me one day, I let myself believe that maybe this time was the time.

The Widow is the debut novel of British journalist Fiona Barton. It carries on the trend, no doubt brought to the world of literature thanks to the popularity of Nordic Noir, of focusing on the minutiae of criminal investigations. It tells the story of Jean Taylor, wife of the recently deceased Glen Taylor. In the wake of Glen’s death Jean is hounded by the press because, in the years before he died, Glen was the chief suspect in the disappearance of a toddler, Bella. Jean is finally ready to tell her side of the story but just how much did she really know about what her husband was up to?

The novel is divided into chapters primarily based on the perspective of the widow herself, a journalist keen to bag an exclusive interview, and the chief detective in the case. However, it is only Jean who gets the privilege of first person narration. This is her story and it’s only her head we get to see inside. We must see behind the façade of the grieving widow to see the glimmer of relief that her husband’s “nonsense” is now over. Barton is obviously ambiguous about Jean’s involvement until the last and leaves little phrases such as that hanging to draw her reader on.

Rather than being a crime thriller, The Widow seems more comfortable in exploring the relationship between the police, the media and, the victims or witnesses of crimes. The police and the media need each other in the line of duty and Bella’s mother must utilise her time in the spotlight to manipulate the public into still caring years after the event. Understandably, the novel is on much firmer ground during the chapters from the point-of-view of the crime journalist, Kate Water, who knows exactly how to use her feminine sentimentality to get people to trust her and agree to her demands. Her understanding of just how far she must be and is willing to go to get her scoop.

What the novel does less successfully is dramatise a crime. The story of a lost toddler is certainly a harrowing one and explains why Barton didn’t keep trying to ramp up the tension with extra bodies and more drama. However, in terms of psychology, there really is little insight into the criminal mind. This isn’t the story of a crime but a story with a crime somewhere in the mix. The drama and shock value is basically non-existent and, at the final “shocking” reveal, there feels to be far less pay-off than the novel required.

This is a good representation of the media’s place within a criminal investigation but, beyond that, The Widow had little to offer. Yes, Barton attempted to create depth in Jean but this is only really evidenced through her obsession with children. That’s the extent of the psychology of the main character: women want kids. Jean is by no means a sympathetic character and is difficult to get on board with. This, however, is not enough to make the novel unsettling. I never got a sense of the importance or the awful consequences of Bella’s disappearance because Barton mentions it in such a casual way. Maybe if the crime itself was allowed to be more of a central aspect of the story then Barton’s novel would have had more of an impact.


book, books, currently reading, fucking awful, Harry Potter, Lego, thriller, YA

I had such great plans for today. I was going to write this early, get a head start on tomorrow’s post and watch something to review on Tuesday. By this point all I’ve done is tidy and rearrange my room. On the plus side, I’ve no longer got books stored on every inch of available floor space since I’ve taken over an unused bookcase. It does, however, mean I’ll be playing catch-up all week. We’re only in 2016’s second month and already my plan to sort my shit out is failing. I haven’t updated my blogging schedule in ages. At least I’m actually reading though. That makes shit easier. Although, I’m also still buying a fuck load so I still need to get quicker. Come on 2016. This is still THE year.

Recently Finished
  • The Widower by Fiona Barton
Finally finished this one and. have to say, it was as disappointing as I expected. To say that this was the new The Girl on the Train it a massive overstatement, and I say that as someone who really didn’t enjoy that book. The twist ending in Girl on the Train was shot but at least it existed. The Widower didn’t even try to be surprising. And the whole psychological thriller thing? The extent of the psychology on display was “women like kids y’all”. An dull and insipid novel that, at times, felt like it was written by a child. Not a fan.

Currently Reading
  • Things We Have In Common by Tasha Kavanagh (Kindle edition)
I swear this book has been following me around for months now. It’s fucking everywhere I turn. So I decided it was time to finally read it. Not sure how I feel about it so far but I’ve only read a tiny amount. I imagine it’ll be a slow burner.

Recently Purchased
  • This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (Kindle edition)
Saw this on my Instagram feed and was obsessed with the idea. Taking place inside a school during a mass shooting. It sounds dark and sad but an incredibly interesting prospect. We all know how I feel about YA though so I’ll probably moan it’s not deep enough. I worry I’m getting to predictable.
  • The Buried Giant by: Kazuo Ishiguro (Kindle edition)
Bought this in hardback but found myself unable to get into it. I decided that, as I’ve been finding Kindle reading so easy, it was worth the small price to buy a second copy. I really want to make it through this because I love Ishiguro so I hope this helps. 
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
I loved the film adaptation of this book and was desperate to read the novel before I saw it. That, obviously didn’t happen, so I’ve been putting off getting the book until now. My friends have told me its really good and I’m interested to see how the idea works on paper.

  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Another impulse buy because it was cheap. It keeps popping up in my recommended section and I’ve heard non-stop good things about it. Of course, this is mostly from YA fans so I’m holding out judgement until I’ve read it. It’ll probably take a while to get to it though.
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Why did I get this book? It was free. Amazon have an ongoing deal that if you do something Kindle related before Feb 26th then you get a free Kindle book. This was the best one for me out of the 6. I know nothing about it so we’ll see. 

Recently Played
  • Lego Harry Potter
I had this for DS years ago but thought the use of touchscreen was clumsy and didn’t make for comfortable play. I gave up really early on despite my unbreakable love for all of these games. So I finally got it for PS3 and I’m loving it so far. Casting spells is so much easier and the whole thing is less of a mind-fuck. It’s also making really nostalgic for the whole franchise. I have a sudden urge to read the first book and watch the first film again, which is something I haven’t felt in years. Maybe the old Harry Potter fan is still in me somewhere.