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Book Reviews

The Obsession – Nora Roberts Book Review

But where had her father gone?

He had secrets—she figured all adults did. Secrets they kept from everybody, secrets that made their eyes go hard if you asked the wrong question. Maybe he was an explorer, one who went through a magic door to another world.

9780349407784.jpgPublisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9780349407784
Number of pages: 544
Weight: 362 g
Dimensions: 197 x 128 x 34 mm

Naomi Carson is a survivor. As a child, her family was torn apart by a shocking crime. It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all around the world.


He looked around, and for one terrible moment she feared he looked right at her. This man, she knew into her bones, would hurt her, would use hands and fists on her like the father who worked to provide security for his family never had. With a helpless whimper in her throat, she thought: Please, Daddy. Please.

As I was reading this book I could not shake off the feeling of dread creeping into me. Storms, odd sightings, skull-like figures, cold, cold bones and rusty hinges. This book was designed to creep people out while reading it.

I Loved That!

But where she imagined a puppy whimpering in his crate was a woman.

Her eyes were wide and shined like glass as tears streamed from them. She made terrible noises against the tape over her mouth. Scrapes and bruises left raw marks on her face and her throat. She wasn’t wearing any clothes, nothing at all, but didn’t try to cover herself.

Couldn’t, couldn’t cover herself. Her hands were tied with rope—bloodied from the raw wounds on her wrists—and the rope was tied to a metal post behind the old mattress she lay on. Her legs were tied, too, at the ankles and spread wide.

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I’ve read some crappy books last year from Nora Roberts and I have no idea what I was hoping for with this one but let me just say that it was awesome. Truly terrifying and absolutely shocking, I read the whole lot over a weekend and when I was done, I could not help but think that maybe, just maybe, Nora Roberts can still write.

“Ashley said she thought she’d been down there for a day or two. There was more rope down there, and pictures. There were pictures on the wall of other women, tied up like she was. Worse than she was. I think some of them were dead. I think they were dead. I’m going to be sick.”

The Story

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defences failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.


The Good Parts:

  • First half of the book (when Naomi was 12) was really well written (5/5 stars)

The Bad Parts:

  • Naomi’s adult career seems to take a lot of space in the second half of the book, really going into detail about interior design and shopping. Not a fan of that section (that’s more than half)
  • Rooms, plans and furniture descriptions. Renovations ideas. Construction work. Furniture descriptions of the friend’s house. New ideas. Colors. Patterns. More furniture ideas.
  • The love interest is a bit of an A-hole and verbally abusive. Not sure if she picked him due to her past trauma and her needing someone to tell her what to do in the same way her mother needed her dad to tell her what to do.
  • The most anticlimactic kiss ever. He just puts his lips on the heroine out of the blue. No chemistry. No anticipation. No passion. The dialogue continues as if the kiss didn’t happen.
  • The mother is a bit of a depressive mess who keeps going back to the killer husband in jail until he serves her the divorce papers. I mean what woman does that? Presented with irrefutable evidence that your hubby is a serial killer – wilfully keeping your eyes closed and listening to abuse.
  • The killer in the second half of the book was – SPOILER – a friend from highschool that felt slighted she didn’t tell him that she was the daughter of a serial killer and then would not share her side of the story with him to be published in the school newspaper. He did pick a bad time to ask too – at her mother’s funeral. Ummm… ok?

“He was in the house. He was going to shoot the dog. I couldn’t let him shoot the dog. He . . . the gun. He has a gun.”

“Not anymore. Don’t worry about him. Broke his nose for you,” Xander murmured, laying his brow to hers.

“High school nerd.” “What?” “Chaffins. Anson Chaffins. Tell Mason,” she said, and slid away.

That was really, really, really bad villaining here. I mean weak as hell.

Just a smart, nerdy kid who’d gone to a school dance with her, who’d put a couple clumsy moves on her, easily brushed off. And a monster, all along.

I would say read the first 30 pages and the last 10 pages and you’ll have a lovely night in. I would also thank Mrs. Roberts for another book that will burn so brightly in my bonfire night due to the 370 pages of interior design crap that pad this mess (my copy had 418 pages).

Categories
Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz – The Bone Farm

An audio original novella featuring bestselling author Dean Koontz’s compelling new heroine, Jane Hawk. From the case files of the former FBI agent before she became the nation’s most wanted fugitive – The Bone Farm details a desperate man-hunt for a serial killer before he murders again.

Katherine Haskell, a young college co-ed is on her way back to school, but she never makes it there. Instead, she becomes the latest prey of the rapist and murderer dubbed by the tabloids the “Mother Hater.” He is a twisted soul who kidnaps young girls for pleasure then discards them.

Katherine is missing, but she’s not yet dead. FBI agents Jane Hawk and her partner Gary Burkett must descend into the hell of this killer’s mind to solve the case before it is too late. The question is – will they both get out alive?

Categories
Book Reviews

Dexter by Design * Jeff Lindsay (Book 4)

Why bother inflicting enormous pain on yourself when sooner or later Life would certainly get around to doing it for you?

The book begins just after Dexter returns from his honeymoon in Paris. Having experienced the city of lights and romance, Dexter and Rita are ready to return home.. until they get invited to an exhibition called “Jennifer’s leg” which leaves them trembling and Dexter’s dark passenger riveting in excitement. Much like this interlude in gory art, the rest of the book focuses on the dark attraction between the unspoken and spoken art.

After witnessing this avant-garde display of bodies and dedication to a purpose, Dexter and Rita return home to their lives. Life is almost normal for Dexter Morgan. Married life seems to agree with him: he’s devoted to his bride, his stomach is full, and his homicidal hobbies are nicely under control.  The discovery of a corpse (artfully displayed as a sunbather relaxing on a Miami beach chair) naturally piques Dexter’s curiosity and Miami’s finest realize they’ve got a terrifying new serial killer on the loose. And Dexter, of course, is back in business.

Previous books:

Darkly Dreaming Dexter Dearly Devoted Dexter Dexter in the Dark
Darkly Dreaming Dexter Dearly Devoted Dexter  Dexter in the Dark 
Categories
Book Reviews

Dexter in the Dark * Jeff Lindsay Book Review

I’ve listened to Jeff Lindsay * Darkly Dreaming Dexter Book 1 and Dearly Devoted Dexter * Book 2 * Jeff Lindsay and I must say I enjoyed the third book in the installment.
The blood splatter analyst is about to get married and his dark passenger is no longer an entity that’s part of Dexter. It becomes a fluttery angel from times immemorial, with its own history and its own monsters.
In this book Dexter, who is usually so sure of himself, suddenly loses something very close to him. It throws him off. He has no fallback. He is in the Dark! See what I’ve done here?

“What a frail thing a human being is—and without the Passenger, that is all I was, a poor imitation of a human being. Weak, soft, slow and stupid, unseeing, unhearing and unaware, helpless, hopeless, and harried.”

Categories
Book Reviews

American Psycho * Bret Easton Ellis – 1991

Because I read Dexter recently, and it’s the scariest month in the year, I decided to pick a book from my bookshelf which I’ve been avoiding for quite some time – an all-time American Classic, banned from the publisher for extreme violence and torture scenes – eventually allowed and then made into a movie.

Disintegration—I’m taking it in stride

This is the story of Patrick Bateman (remember Bateman – the original Psycho – that killed women inside a shower with his dead mother in the other room?). Patrick Bateman narrates this story and as we slip into the book, we slip into his skin. His perfect, flawless, 26-year-old skin. Patrick is a psychopath. Patrick just wants to fit in. But Patrick can’t as he also has a Dark Passenger – one that drives him to murder and sadistically torture people.

Categories
Book Reviews

Dearly Devoted Dexter * Book 2 * Jeff Lindsay

Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005) is a crime/horror novel by Jeff Lindsay, the second in his series about sociopathic vigilante Dexter Morgan, which has been adapted into the eponymous television series. Read Book 1 Review Here:

In this acclaimed follow-up to the bestselling novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, we pick up with Dexter Morgan when he’s under considerable pressure. It’s not easy being an ethical serial killer—but he’s doing his best to keep up the disguise, spending time with his girlfriend and her kids, slowly becoming the world’s first serial killer couch potato.

“Everyone is so cheerful and happy,” I said
“This isn’t Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Dex. It’s Miami. Only the bad guys are happy.” She looked at me without expression, a perfect cop stare. “How come you’re not laughing and singing?”
“Unkind, Deb. Very unkind. I’ve been good for months.”
She took a sip of water. “Uh-huh. And it’s making you crazy.”

Categories
Book Reviews

Jeff Lindsay * Darkly Dreaming Dexter Book 1

It’s been close to 13 years since I first read this book. The “Dexter” show was in full swing and I ran across the book in the stores and, since I wanted to be a police-woman, I wanted to see how serial killers thought and behaved first hand. And who could teach better than Dexter, the sociopath serial killer with a killing code.
I remember being disappointed with the small book and its ending and thinking how the show was so much better, but now that the entire series ended after eight marvelous seasons, I decided to give it another go and listen to the audio book while driving to/from work.
I found myself laughing at points and making mental notes of different things that define a serial killer and what makes them tick and how can they blend in in our society so well. It’s a black comedy and witty to no end and my favourite type of book: a tingling spine chiller.

Dexter, a forensic `blood splatter analyst’ for the Miami Police, is a secret `controlled sociopath’.
The sociopathic tendencies as defined by Psychology today are:

  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan

Where Harry’s code has helped Dexter – it has given him a life plan. To weed out the people who went free from the justice system and deserve to die. This is probably why the book starts off with Dexter and his “dark passenger” following a priest and then kidnapping him and confronting him with his deeds: the killing of seven or more innocent children.

After killing him, Dexter does showcase a bit of empathy for the children, which later gets re-iterated when talking about his girlfriend’s two children – Cody and Astor. He does not think of other people as humans, to him they are like props in a world, they do not feel real to him, but children are special – they are still innocent, young and need protection. And he does not want them becoming like him when they grow up. Does this mean that he yearns for his innocence back? To be like a kid again before his mother was brutally murdered and then taken into foster-care?

I am unlovable…I have tried to involve myself in other people, in relationships, and even – in my sillier moments – in love. But it doesn’t work. Something in me is broken or missing and sooner or later the other person catches me Acting or one of Those Nights comes along.”

Otherwise, Dexter is a fully functional adult. He has a job which he loves as he deals with blood splatters and as he puts it – solving crimes is just what others take out of his job. His main purpose is order – wanting to put the drops of blood into a pattern and arrange them so that they make sense. This is probably why he keeps a small drop of blood from all his victims in a case (the priest joins them).

So when a serial killer turns out in the lovely sunny city of Miami, where the light is so bright that makes every murder seem unreal, Dexter finds himself drawn in into the investigation – first by his sister who wants to advance to detective status after working the streets in the Vice department, then by his Dark Passenger who finds himself oddly fascinated by the purity and the beauty of the murders.

No blood. Why didn’t I think of that? Ice stops the blood from spreading.

Dexter also notices – barely – that he is still in the loop because detective LaGuerta has the hots for him and in a very non-subtle way. I mean she massages his leg and makes hints that she knows where to find him if she needs him… Come on! She is full on hitting on poor and unassuming Dexter and the only way he sees her is as a worm, someone to flatter to appear more human in the eyes of others. Well, the flattering paid off and LaGuerta was eyeing him as a woman and not as a co-worker.

“She stared at me “You have a message,” she said. “On you machine.”
I looked over at my answering machine. Sure enough, the light was blinking. The woman really was a detective.
“It’s some girl,” La Guerta said. “She sounds kind of sleepy and happy. You got a girlfriend, Dexter?” there was a strange hint of a challenge in her voice.
“You know how it is,” I said. “Women today are so forward, and when you are as handsome as I am they absolutely fling themselves at your head.” Perhaps an unfortunate choice of words; as I said it I couldn’t help thinking of the woman’s head flung at me not so long ago.
“Watch out,” La Guerta said. “Sooner or later one of them will stick.” I had no idea what she thought that meant, but it was a very unsettling image.
“I’m sure you’re right,” I said. “Until then, carpe diem.”
“What?”
“It’s Latin,” I said. “It means, complain in the daylight.”

He has such a big list of things he needs to do to fit in – from the way he dresses to how he speaks and how he behaves in every situation.

Surpassing the clichés of eroticized violence and the too serious scientific special effects of CSI series, Dexter’s narrative uses an intelligent dark humour to subvert the rational power of forensic experts, showing that an efficient professional can be as perverted by irrational impulses as the criminals themselves, and what really obsesses a serial killer may turn to be the most normal obsession for a common man: to keep up appearances.

Whenever Dexter pretends to be normal, we recognize his daily rites as things we all do every day, and this explains the audience’s interest in the opening credits sequence for the TV series, Dexter. It shows a man putting himself together (piece by piece, close-up by close-up) in the course of enacting his morning rituals. It begins with an extreme close-up of a mosquito (like Dexter, a blood-sucking predator). Dexter swats it easily indifferent to another kill, another day. A trickle of blood flows into the top of the frame and down the tender skin of the neck. Some drops splatter near the drain in the sink, evoking Hitchcockian memories of blood and drains. He is sure he can present a “normal” face to the world.

He has been doing it all his life, every day. At the end, we see Dexter pulled together, the complete look, as he leaves his apartment and heads out into the world in the harsh light of day. Over-determined, controlled, Dexter catches our eye and flashes an unconvincing but polite smile. Cordial without being warm. He knows we know, but nobody else does. Like Norman Bates, he shares with us his little secret. A common secret that makes us anxious nowadays: modern monsters are no longer visible to the naked eye.

Dexter’s effort in keeping his monstrosity under the cover of appearances expresses a pervasive anxiety similar to a hidden terrorists.

“stay neat, dress nicely, avoid attention.” .. He “took pride in being the best-dressed monster in Dade County”

The only moment he is caught off-guard is when the ice-truck killer leaves the body of a victim in the net of the Panther’s ice rink.

“It was beautiful – in a terrible sort of way, of course. But still, the arrangement was perfect, compelling, beautifully bloodless. It showed great wit and a wonderful sense of composition. Somebody had gone to a lot of trouble to make this into a real work of art. Somebody with style, talent and a morbid sense of playfulness.”

The others around him feel slightly dumb by comparison. He is about three steps ahead of the investigation and he attributes this to the fact that he thinks outside the box. Policeforce is used to putting everything into fitting patterns and when something new appears that does not fit the pattern, they find it hard to adjust and see where it could go. It’s interesting to watch how he feeds Deb information and how he talks to LaGuerta :

“Home or away?” he asks LaGuerta .

She thinks he is joking but he is deadly serious and very smart. Everything has a significance to Dexter. The rink meant that the ball was in their court now. The rearview mirror identified with the body was not a rushed job – was an actual hint that he was watching. They were after him but they didn’t catch him yet. They were being watches. Dexter was being watched. It was personal.

It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not.

The thrill of the hunt is what connects both and there is a small bond forming between them. I’m not going to spoil the book by revealing who the killer was but if you, like me, have watched the show, already know this.

The only notable difference from the show is that LaGuerta does not make it. She gets killed and Doakes gets framed for it.

Why I liked the story now even though I didn’t 13 years ago?

Dexter’s contradictory personality is like a mirror reflecting everyone and everything that surrounds him. When he asks himself “what was I?” he immediately answers: “a perfect imitation of human life”. This means he is a true reflection of today’s society. In his contradictions we can see ourselves. Like everyone else, he can build a careful life, be charming, socialize, stay neat and dress nicely, if he doesn’t mind pretending he is human. Consequently, he considers himself “a neat and polite monster, the boy next door.”

This closeness can be frightening, but at the same time very revealing, because this is the true monster’s role in Western mythology.

His past trauma made him a damaged being who is neither a man nor an animal, but something monstrous and different, that can therefore assume a human shape to show that he is often more human than the majority of people living in a repressive moral system. He can be a utopian and amoral sociopath, but he has a moral code with which he controls his Dark Passenger, his dark self – the darkest and most repressed part of human personality that we often avoid to recognize.

This explains Dexter’s loneliness and isolation, which reminds us of Frankenstein’s feeling of exclusion: “Nothing else loves me, or ever will (…) I am alone in the world, all alone, but for Deborah. Except, of course, for the Thing inside.”

However, this strangeness and distance from normal human beings is also what connects Dexter with his readers, who sympathise with his perspective while feeling uncomfortable about this intimate and strange connection with a serial killer, who makes them understand his motives to take justice into his own hands. This transgressive sympathy for the monster and subversive understanding of his actions began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, where the representation of Gothic monstrosity caused a shift in sympathies and perspectives that allowed the monster to justify his monstrous behaviour, thus creating a deep empathy with the reader. Furthermore, the reader always wishes for that order and balance to be re-established, even if his hero uses Dexter’s peculiar method of making order out chaos. Ever dark element in Lindsay’s narrative evokes positive values through their negative counterparts. It is as if everyone has a double and everything is inverted and seen on the other side of the looking-glass. As Dexter says:

“It’s like, everything really is two ways, the way we all pretend it is and the way it really is.”

 


Jeff Lindsay is the author of the acclaimed Dexter novels, now adapted into an award-winning TV series. In addition, Jeff’s plays have been performed on the stage in New York and London. Outside of his writing, Jeff is a musician and karate enthusiast. He lives in Cape Coral, Florida, with his family.

Here are the Dexter novels in series order:

Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Dearly Devoted Dexter
Dexter in the Dark
Dexter by Design

 

Did you notice?

The title of Jeff Lindsay’s novel is itself representative of a kind of literary mode that is directly associated with the Gothic. Gothic fiction is known for the power its dark narratives hold in penetrating into the most obscure and irrational experiences of human existence to bring to the light of consciousness what had been kept secret and unconscious for a long period of time

Categories
Book Reviews

Perfume – The story of a Murderer by Patrick-Süskind book review

Never could I have imagined the manner in which the story would be presented, the life that was given to the world of our “hero” and the total contrast this made with his own inhumanity. I have rarely felt so distant and estranged from a book character, which totally reflects his position in his world, the only living creature without a scent, an “abomination” almost inhuman. But for me the most moving thing about this book was the way in which I was suddenly made so aware of the importance of scent in our world. Without it, there is no reality, no third dimension to what we see and feel.
This is definitely worth reading, but be warned, I found this book decidedly eerie and chilling.

It is about smell, all the smells of 18th century Paris, from delicate perfumes to foul stenches. Each scene is described in terms of smell rather than by sight or sound, and I felt that the book was a worthwhile read because of this novel technique alone.

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Book Reviews

Dear Amy * Helen Callaghan Book review

In her guise as ‘Dear Amy’, agony aunt for a local newspaper, Margot Lewis has dealt with all sorts of letters – but never one like this…

Dear Amy,

I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man.
I don’t know where I am.

Please help me,
Bethan Avery

This must be a cruel hoax. Because Bethan Avery has been missing for nearly two decades.

Categories
Book Reviews Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz The Door to December Book Review

128573If you are wondering who was Leigh Nichols, it was none other than Dean Koontz doing a bit of Richard Bachman-ing. The Door to December book, written in 1988 is a small thriller gem, filled with ghosts and Paranormal activity, is a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon in a hammock.