Dirty Angels by Karina Halle

Dirty Angels (Dirty Angels, #1)Dirty Angels by Karina Halle
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups


I’d never been the type of girl to fear the dark – when I was young, I loved for my father to tell me scary and thrilling stories. But now they were no longer stories, they were real.

Warning: Listen to what the author says in the blurb. I read the words “dark” and “violence” and “crazy” but I didn’t absorb the full meaning of them until I was met with some of the vivid depictions of torture and rape in this book. I like the darkness in Halle’s stories but believe me when I say this is undoubtedly the darkest one yet with many possible triggers. You should note that before picking it up.

But I am so glad I did! I can’t contain my excitement anymore so I’m just going to say:

JAVIER IS BACKKKKK!!!!

And badder than ever, I might add. This is definitely what I’ve been missing. I was a little disappointed by the ending of the Sins & Needles trilogy because of the way I thought Javier’s complex character was… dismantled, it seemed, to spin the plot in a certain direction. But let’s not worry, because all that is behind us – new and exciting things are happening now!

I honestly find Javier Bernal to be one of the most interesting characters ever to grace the pages of a romance novel. He is technically a villain, but a complex, well-developed one that has so many layers of humanity lurking beneath the surface that it’s hard not to be fascinated by him (whilst hating him a little bit too). He has such a powerful connection with the reader… we feel intense anger towards him when he’s doing something evil, and intense pity for him when he gets hurt. I love the kind of character that can inspire such emotional turmoil.

And I honestly don’t know how Halle has made me so damn interested in the politics of drug cartels in Mexico. I don’t know if this in any way resembles the reality – probably doesn’t – but I was hanging on every word, totally addicted to this shady world of power struggles and backstabbing. This sounds melodramatic, I know, but there were a couple of moments in this novel when my jaw literally dropped. She makes it so compelling, weaving intricate character development into such a dark setting. Amazing.

Like I said, this has to be Halle’s darkest novel yet, which I personally didn’t mind but feel others should be aware of. The story is about a Mexican girl called Luisa who marries Salvador – a powerful drug lord – to help provide for her ailing parents. Salvador subjects her to cruel abuse and rapes her almost every day, some of these scenes are not skimmed over either and might cause distress to certain readers. Similarly, there is a graphic description of torture that was incredibly unsettling. Despite my high rating, please don’t read if you feel you’ll be upset by this.

Anyway, Luisa is kidnapped and held ransom by Javier Bernal and his men in order to get Salvador to comply with their demands. While she is Javier’s prisoner, something neither Luisa or Javier expected begins to develop between the two of them. Javier was ripped apart inside when Ellie broke his heart at the end of Bold Tricks and he now wants to punish all women for the hurt inside him (being in his mind is not exactly a pleasant place to be). Luisa has only ever known how to be the victim of powerful men who wish to use her for their own benefit… and she’s sick of it. When this strange pair come together, however, it seems like they might have found exactly what they needed in the most unlikely of places.

Dark and disturbing as it was, I enjoyed this book a lot. I’m now even more excited for the companion novel (which is not about this pair, but about Javier’s sister). I can’t wait!


The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex, #1)The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings
My rating: 2 of 5 teacups

That’s it. No more YA dystopias for Emily. I think I’ve said this before so I might be lying again, but I am so ready to get away from this exhausted and overcrowded genre.

Finding some level of originality is a fundamental problem for those authors who decide to jump on the bandwagon and tackle the world of YA dystopian fiction. If you can possibly make a dystopia out of it, then you can bet it’s already been written in the past few years since The Hunger Games took centre stage. Every form of tyrannical government has been introduced and overthrown, every possible nightmare world has been explored, every little thing that people love has been outlawed and rediscovered – one of the latest even going so far as to get rid of food!

Therefore, new authors to the genre almost always produce one of two things: 1) a book that is a carbon copy of all the others before it, or 2) a book that has been deliberately over-complicated in a bid to make it seem original. The Murder Complex falls somewhere between those two.

On the one hand, this book seems like nothing we haven’t read a million times before. World in the shitter, young lovers from two very different worlds, oppressive government… like a less compelling version of Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy, which I do recommend if you haven’t checked it out (the first book isn’t the best one, though). But in this case, Cummings has also developed a dense plot that left me feeling confused, rather than wowed. One could attribute this to some fault in intelligence on my part, but I feel something less deliberately convoluted would have made the story better. I actually had to go back and read the blurb at times to remind myself of the basic premise.

The narration is split between our two main characters – Meadow and Zephyr. Meadow is a standard YA female MC who is defined by her badassery and willingness to kill if necessary; while I am pleased that seeing women as heroes and fighters is no longer an oddity in fiction, it is hard to care about them when they are so lacking in any real personality and development. Zephyr, on the other hand, is an orphaned Ward whose job it is to clean up the corpses of murder victims. He is also prone to mysterious blackouts and dreams about a silver-haired girl (guess who?). The real problem where the narration is concerned is that the two voices never become particularly distinct – a necessity if multiple POVs is to work.

Plot twists mount up, new discoveries that unmoved me are made, and instalove reigns supreme. I did not hate this book, there were a few scenes that I thought were particularly well-written and engaging. But there was no real spark in this story and, despite the bloody and dramatic plot, I finished it with no interest in what the sequel holds.

I would only recommend this to hardcore dystopian romance fans who want more of the same.

Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Dangerous BoysDangerous Boys by Abigail Haas
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups


Our lives are made up of choices, you see. Big ones, small ones, strung together by the thin air of good intentions; a line of dominoes, ready to fall.

Well, holy shit. I want to invite Abigail Haas over to my house so we can be best friends and plot world domination together. But possibly not before I hide all sharp objects first. Honestly, I cannot imagine what it must be like living inside her head, but I do know she writes some of the best psychological thrillers I have ever picked up.

Let me tell you: I am not generous with 5 star ratings. I give them out sparingly to books that really surprise me with their originality or a special something that just makes them stand out… so the fact that Haas has written a grand total of two books and both have prompted me to give out 5 star ratings is almost unheard of. I’m really struggling to think of another time when this has happened. Nope, can’t think of one.

This is another case where I don’t know how much to tell you. I just want to say: GO READ IT. Like all readers of mysteries, you will try to guess what happens. Maybe you will get it right, most likely you won’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Because Haas delivers something better than a murder mystery… she delivers complex psychology that had me questioning everything, wondering if I should be looking over my own damn shoulder, and hanging on every single word.

Despite the title, Haas doesn’t wander too far from her area of expertise – the twisted, confused, longing that permeates the minds of teenage girls. At first, I thought to myself “this book is good but I still prefer Dangerous Girls”… now I’m really not so sure. This book just played upon so many emotions and packed punches at every turn. Once you think you know something, the story spins in a certain way so that you change your mind.


From the moment you’re born, people start folding you into neat pieces and tucking you inside a box of their own design. They dress you up in their own expectations, before you even have a chance to understand the constrictions of your fate. That box becomes so cozy and warm, you never really notice that you’re bent double, fighting for room to breathe.

The story is about three people – Chloe, Ethan and Oliver – and the build-up of their complicated relationships and jealousies (told between the past and the present). We know that Chloe and one of the boys has made it out of a fire; we know that the other boy is dead; but what we don’t know is: which boy made it out alive? What happened inside that house? And why?

The author is a master of mystery… but more than that she’s a master of carefully-woven relationships. This story fascinated me on every level. From the sad story of Chloe’s mum’s depression, to the exploration of someone trying to deal with their dreams falling apart, to the way small bad thoughts are shown to be able to grow into something else. There’s an unsettling kind of truth in Haas’s psychology because she starts with the bad thoughts we all have now and then – a feeling of resentment towards someone who depends on us, a feeling of desire for someone we should never be thinking about – and creates something much more sinister out of it. In short: Haas appeals to the inner demons lying in all of us.

I’m not going to say anything else. Just seriously READ IT. I can’t wait to see what you all think!


Dangerous BoysDangerous Boys by Abigail Haas
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

Well, well, well, looks like we have a winner on our hands, folks! Abigail Hass has delivered another nail bitingly suspenseful book that will keep you on the edge of your seat and tips of your toes. And, mercifully, this cover isn’t horrifyingly terrible.


DO NOT OPEN SPOILERS UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED!

The story is about two boys- brothers, and one girl. The girl, Chloe, is counting down the days till she’s free from her small town and off to college where she can lose herself in the crowds and find the excitement she’s always dreamed of, but her plan veers completely off course just a scant few weeks prior to her sendoff. As she’s struggling to deal with this turn of events she meets a boy named Ethan, and he’s a great guy: caring, attentive, attractive, hard working, and everything else one would ever hope for in a boyfriend. But. But then Chloe meets someone else and her world suddenly becomes something out of a fiction novel and she can’t, or maybe won’t, put things back to rights.

In Hass’ other novel, Dangerous Girls, I flip flopped repeatedly on who I thought was the guilty person and there is no difference in this one, and though the mystery isn’t the same there’s PLENTY to be shocked at! Trust. I was thinking one thing and hoping I was wrong, only to go back and forth on the fact that I couldn’t be wrong, but oh how I had to be, surely that’s not what happened. Surely I’m wrong. I stayed up until I fell asleep on accident and would have finished this first thing this morning, but I couldn’t, and instead I had to obsess all day over what was at the heart of the story. Does good triumph over evil? Is there even a battle between good and evil at all or am I just looking at the whole thing with no gray areas? Maybe it’s just the pain of being young and dumb, and the choices that can be made that are so wrong, and even though one may know they’re wrong they still make that choice anyway. Isn’t that how we learn? How we become the adults we’ve become? I know I’ve got many (many) choices in my young adult life that I’d go back and do differently. Make better choices. Be the good person. There’s so many layers in this story that I could identify with, and others that I couldn’t help but be fascinated or repulsed by.

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The writing has to be addressed: I said it before and I’ll say it again, Abigail Hass is a master at her craft! I first discovered Dangerous Girls right when the censuring debacle went down, and I took that really hard. I was all over The Thread That Ruined It All and I didn’t want to participate with the bullshit that Goodreads was feeding us any longer. Then Em tells me about that book and it was exactly what I needed, that magical escape where I don’t have to live in my world, I’ll live in theirs and I loved her for it even though I wasn’t going to give GR a review. I love her still, and GR can still kiss my ass, but I’m going to keep reviewing for those who care enough to read what I think. Hass is something else I can tell you that. She writes with precision and there’s nothing unnecessary anywhere, if you miss something then you’re missing a clue, not just a needless set of words and nary a filler scene to be found. (view spoiler)

I’m in awe over the complexity that the characters are written with: the mother who suffers a debilitating breakdown and depression, the boy who has so many secrets and hidden agendas, the one who is earnest and free, the one who feels trapped in their own choices, the one who got off scott free, the one who knows better… so many characters and all of them perfectly written. Perfectly.

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If you don’t typically read mysteries then I still highly recommend you read this, and the first too of course though they’re not related, because this is a special book and a special author. This is the kind of storytelling and writing that stick with you no matter how much time passes and you don’t have to reread to remind yourself of so-and-so, nope, everything is still seared into your memory even months (and years) later. Seriously folks, you gotta read this.

Emily: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Dangerous BoysDangerous Boys by Abigail Haas
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups


Our lives are made up of choices, you see. Big ones, small ones, strung together by the thin air of good intentions; a line of dominoes, ready to fall.

Well, holy shit. I want to invite Abigail Haas over to my house so we can be best friends and plot world domination together. But possibly not before I hide all sharp objects first. Honestly, I cannot imagine what it must be like living inside her head, but I do know she writes some of the best psychological thrillers I have ever picked up.

Let me tell you: I am not generous with 5 star ratings. I give them out sparingly to books that really surprise me with their originality or a special something that just makes them stand out… so the fact that Haas has written a grand total of two books and both have prompted me to give out 5 star ratings is almost unheard of. I’m really struggling to think of another time when this has happened. Nope, can’t think of one.

This is another case where I don’t know how much to tell you. I just want to say: GO READ IT. Like all readers of mysteries, you will try to guess what happens. Maybe you will get it right, most likely you won’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Because Haas delivers something better than a murder mystery… she delivers complex psychology that had me questioning everything, wondering if I should be looking over my own damn shoulder, and hanging on every single word.

Despite the title, Haas doesn’t wander too far from her area of expertise – the twisted, confused, longing that permeates the minds of teenage girls. At first, I thought to myself “this book is good but I still prefer Dangerous Girls”… now I’m really not so sure. This book just played upon so many emotions and packed punches at every turn. Once you think you know something, the story spins in a certain way so that you change your mind.


From the moment you’re born, people start folding you into neat pieces and tucking you inside a box of their own design. They dress you up in their own expectations, before you even have a chance to understand the constrictions of your fate. That box becomes so cozy and warm, you never really notice that you’re bent double, fighting for room to breathe.

The story is about three people – Chloe, Ethan and Oliver – and the build-up of their complicated relationships and jealousies (told between the past and the present). We know that Chloe and one of the boys has made it out of a fire; we know that the other boy is dead; but what we don’t know is: which boy made it out alive? What happened inside that house? And why?

The author is a master of mystery… but more than that she’s a master of carefully-woven relationships. This story fascinated me on every level. From the sad story of Chloe’s mum’s depression, to the exploration of someone trying to deal with their dreams falling apart, to the way small bad thoughts are shown to be able to grow into something else. There’s an unsettling kind of truth in Haas’s psychology because she starts with the bad thoughts we all have now and then – a feeling of resentment towards someone who depends on us, a feeling of desire for someone we should never be thinking about – and creates something much more sinister out of it. In short: Haas appeals to the inner demons lying in all of us.

I’m not going to say anything else. Just seriously READ IT. I can’t wait to see what you all think!

True Detective: A Reading List

Are you a fan of HBO’s bleak and unsettling brilliance that is True Detective? The existential drama, out on DVD and Blu-ray on 9 June, follows detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they try to solve a case of brutal, bizarre and ritualistic murders in eerie Southern Louisiana. Read the dark, atmospheric and Southern gothic books that influenced it…
 
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto

True Detective’s creator and sole writer Nic Pizzolatto’s novel ‘Galveston’ is a gleaming dark thriller, rich with Southern atmosphere. A violent tale that follows Roy Cady (who has shadows of McConaughey’s Rust Cohle) who flees to New Orleans from gangsters with prostitutes whom he rescues from some hoods in the wake of a bloodbath.

 
 
The King in Yellow by Robert W Chambers
The deeper into their murder investigation Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson) get, the more bizarre their clues became. Throughout the series witnesses and suspects reference Robert W. Chambers’ 1985 novel ‘The King In Yellow’ and people kept saying the person is “in Carcosa,” which brings Ambrose Bierce’s influential 1891 short story “An Inhabitation of Carcosa” into the mix.
 
 
 
The Complete Short Stories by Ambrose Bierce
Robert W. Chambers borrowed elements from the great American story writer, fabulist and satirist Ambrose Bierce. He specifically borrowed the names Carcosa and Hastur and it is really only the story of “An Inhabitation of Carcosa” that ties into Chambers’ mythology, but Bierce’s fiction is really worth a read.
 
 
The Temptation to Exist by E. M. Cioran

If you want to explore into one of the finest existential philosopher’s of all time, look no further than E.M. Cioran’s The Temptation to Exist. Many of his philosophies are echoed by Ligotti – although Ligotti is far more disturbing than Cioran, who is actually very funny.  In exploring these philosophies, nobody has expressed the idea of humanity as aberration more powerfully than Cioran. His aphorisms could have come straight from the melancholy Cohle’s mouth.

 
 
Top 10 By Alan Moore

Graphic novelist Alan Moore has inspired many writers and Nic Pizzolatto said “the first time I got excited about writing was reading comic books by Alan Moore as a kid.” Moore’s lesser-known Top 10 is a tale of police in the supernatural city of Nepolis where everyone is blessed with powers and takes a unique and powerful police force to protect and serve, which could have come straight out of True Detective.

 
 

H. P. Lovecraft: Tales by H. P. Lovecraft

Horror influences such as Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft abound in True Detective and if you are unfamiliar with these writers they were the pioneers in the genres of cosmic horror and weird fiction. Lovecraft in particular writes about tales of alien gods, bizarre cults, insanity, despair and twisted horror stories. Lovecraft is a must read if you are into this genre.

 

 
 

Where the Summer Ends: by Karl Edward Wagner

But for more modern spine-tingling tales, Nic Pizzolatto recommends Karl Edward Wagner’s horror stories. His 2012 ‘Where the Summer Ends’ depicts psychological portrayals of wanderings with ingenious use of Southern eerie landscapes which are reminiscent of True Detective, even the cover art looks like the cult inspired driftwood that Cohle and Hart find throughout the series.

 
 
 
TRUE DETECTIVE is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 9 June 2014 courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment.