Reviews Reviews en Book review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark
This serial rapist and murderer raped around 50 women and killed at least 10 people during his reign of terror in the 1970s and 80s.

Something about this cold case triggered a memory of a murder committed in her neighbourhood when McNamara was younger.

She was determined to unmask the Golden State Killer, which motivated her to create the website. This book is based on information she collected over the years.

McNamara never managed to complete the book before her death (it was finished by Billy Jensen and Paul Haynes based on information she left in her computer).

Essentially, the book looks at the crimes and profile of the murderer who remained elusive and unknown, evading capture for years. But McNamara's friends vowed to continue to find him.

It is an interesting read but is also disturbing. The book ends without the killer ever been found or named.

But recently, the police identified and arrested a man they said is the Golden State Killer based on DNA evidence. McNamara would have been proud.]]>
Reviews Wed, 23 May 2018 02:49:34 +0000 S. Indra Sathiabalan 549686 at
Book review: Top Ten
But things go better if you have a best friend to see you through all sorts of alarming situations. Gabby Hart is lucky in having Ryan McCullough for that best friend.

Gabby is always anxious and the type who would rather do anything than go to a party. Ryan is super popular, a hockey star destined for a sports scholarship, who can get any girl he wants. Strangely, he wants Gabby.

The fact that they are as different as night and day doesn't matter. They just click. They talk about everything under the sun and moon, make top 10 lists about anything and everything. He's at home doing dorky Monopoly nights at her place and she makes the effort to attend his rowdy house parties.

Along the highway of their friendship, however, things change and comes to a head on the night of their high school graduation night.

Can they make a go at being a couple or are they more suitable being just best friends?

This is a book about friendship as much as it is about romance, and it is really quite enlightening. However, I would have enjoyed it more if the story did not jump from one time frame to another. It was rather disconcerting and breaks up the flow of things.

Look past that and Top Ten is a pleasant read.]]>
Reviews Wed, 23 May 2018 02:47:54 +0000 K.K. Wong 549684 at
Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Turning the franchise into an annual event has its price.

Solo: A Star Wars Story manages to rise above it, but barely, with a story set before Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

Over the span of the original Star Wars trilogy, we thought we knew all that we needed to know about the lovable, stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.

But Disney thought otherwise.

The story tells of how young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) met Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), became friends with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), got the Millenium Falcon, became a smuggler, and ultimately did the oft-referenced Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

The film is at its best when it is not trying to be a Star Wars movie.

An early battle scene in the movie looked like World War II trench warfare but with lasers.

It conjured up images of the dirty and muddy encounters of the Astra Militarum, the human foot soldiers of the Warhammer 40K universe.

This is how ground-level fighting on a grand scale would look like.

There was also the heist scene, where Han and Chewbacca decide to work with Beckett's (Woody Harrelson) crew to steal refined fuel to pay off their respective debts.

It looked and felt like an intriguing and essential side of the Star Wars universe we have never seen before.

However, to me at least, the Star Wars tropes, cliches, and references were laid on too thick.

Nods, nudges, and winks to iconic scenes, lines, and characters from past movies were too on the nose. I guess old habits die hard.

Another jarring thing about the movie is Han himself. His developmental arc here does not seem to line up with what the character is supposed to become by the time of the other movies.

It also does not help that Ehrenreich did not try to act like Harrison Ford (the original Han Solo), while Glover plays a believable young Billy Dee Williams (the original Lando Calrissian).

I felt I would enjoy the movie more if I knew nothing about Star Wars, and enjoyed it as a story that is part of a larger universe, but not necessarily connected to the Skywalker legacy.]]>
Reviews Mon, 21 May 2018 02:58:07 +0000 Azizul Rahman Ismail 549029 at
Movie Review: Deadpool 2
But then again, it is smart, fun, exciting, and will pull your heartstrings in all the right ways – and that is just in the first few scenes.

After the many mind-numbing superhero movies (thanks Marvel) these past months, Deadpool 2 is to me the much-needed breath of fresh air. While the continually-lampooning Merc with a Mouth is not appropriate for innocent ears, what makes Deadpool endearing is his big – and most probably cancerous – heart.

While the first movie gave Deadpool form with his origin story, the sequel gives him substance.

With a cast that is bigger than the previous movie, it still manages to balance the backstories of each person to make me care about everyone.

Without spoiling the movie, I can say that the story in Deadpool 2 is more personal and has a more profound emotional impact than the first movie did, or dare I say, more than all Marvel movies.

From the start, I was invested in Deadpool (Reynolds) trying to do the right thing, in Russell's (Julian Dennison) plight for a better life, and Cabel's (Brolin) reason for travelling back in time. So much so that I forgot that Domino (Beetz) is very different from how she looks in the comics, although I still like her in the movie.

The cherry on top of the Deadpool 2 pie is its soundtrack. The music is an eclectic mix of blockbuster movie-sounding music like Ashes by Celine Dion, to the haunting unplugged version of Take On Me by a-ha, to a hilarious orchestral piece with rude lyrics and a title that I cannot say here without getting into trouble. I loved it.

Comicbook fans, keep your eyes open and ears sharp for fun and quick cameos, Easter eggs, and references that, although not essential to the movie, will add to the experience and perhaps warrant a second or third viewing.

A tip for those who are going to see the movie, there is one mid-credit scene, and no post-credit scenes so you can leave the hall and let the cleaners do their job early.]]>
Reviews Fri, 18 May 2018 02:04:39 +0000 Azizul Rahman Ismail 548580 at
Book review: Keep Her Safe
A simple mistake at the front desk leads Cara to a room that is already occupied by a man and a teenage girl.

She later realises that the girl in the room is someone who is supposed to be dead – the most famous murder victim in America, Melody Chapa.

Seven years ago, when Melody was only seven, she went missing, and evidence points to the fact that she has been murdered. Her parents were convicted of the crime, and are serving life sentences.

So how could Cara, who knew nothing about that case before, be sure of what she saw? Without knowing who or what to trust, Cara reads up on the case but soon realises that if she had really seen Melody, her own life could be in danger.

It is not something she would choose to poke her nose into, especially since she is up to her eyebrows in problems of her own. But fate works in strange ways, and Cara soon finds she has no choice in the matter.

The plot twists and turns like a maze, and with an amusing character like Tarin Fry to stir things up, Keep Her Safe is an intriguing read.

The only thing is that the ending is a little ambiguous, and you are left wondering if there is more to come.]]>
Reviews Wed, 16 May 2018 02:30:20 +0000 K.K. Wong 548033 at
Book review: Rainbirds
Ren Ishida is told that his sister, Keiko, has been found murdered in the street of a small town called Akakawa, with her body pierced by multiple stab wounds, and a knife (given to her as a gift by Ren) left by her side.

Keiko left the family home in Tokyo after a fight with their mother, and Ren had not seen her in a while.

As Ren collects his sister’s belongings in her apartment in Akakawa, he tries to find out more about her new life and also what led to her murder. He then decides to take over Keiko’s teaching position in a cram school.

As he meets the various people she came in contact with, Ren reminisces about growing up with Keiko.

He also finds himself drawn to a young girl whom he refers to as ‘Seven Stars’, who has a rebellious streak which masks something else.

The book is compelling because even though it takes its time to reveal who killed Keiko, it gives us an insight into her character from Ren’s point of view.

From the angelic being who comforted him while their parents fought bitterly and prepared home-cooked meals for him, to the very human creature who sought love in all the wrong places, we learn to accept Keiko’s flaws, like Ren does.

All in, this is a good debut effort by author Clarissa Goenawan.]]>
Reviews Wed, 16 May 2018 02:26:14 +0000 S. Indra Sathiabalan 548027 at
Movie review: Truth or Dare
Overall, I could not care less about the film, but it managed to surprise me.

Like any good and enjoyable horror or thriller movie, Truth Or Dare has a simple premise, simple rules, and a group of people who must do their best to survive it all. The movie had all the right boxes ticked.

However, to get to the good parts, you must first survive an introduction where a bunch of pretty young millennials went on spring break, and shot a montage of vertically-framed videos and photos. It was just about the most obnoxious thing about the movie.

The story begins on their last days of spring break. Because of hormonal and alcohol driven reasons, the group decide to follow someone they just met to a secret location in Mexico to continue their escapades.

It was then that they, with little convincing, started to play the game. Caught in the curse, they are haunted by a demon that possesses people and turns their faces into what the characters themselves described as a “messed up Snapchat filter”.

Basically, it makes people look like Jack Nicholson in 1989’s Batman.

The rules are easy to follow: Tell the truth or die, do the dare or die, and play the game or die.

It was so much fun watching the main characters and the game trying to outsmart each other, and I was impressed at how fast the group of friends figured things out.

It did not take them long to start using common sense, Google, and Facebook to help solve their problem. Nevertheless, the group still made some stupid decisions up till the end.

Although Olivia (Lucy Hale) was the main protagonist, it was Markie (Violett Beane) who took the brunt of the curse’s emotional abuse. She was so constantly the emotional victim of the game, that it was laugh out loud funny.

Truth Or Dare is the perfect movie to mock while watching (a la Mystery Science Theatre 3000) with a bunch of like-minded friends, and it is enjoyable too.

Power through the cringe-worthy millennial parts, and you will be fine.]]>
Reviews Mon, 07 May 2018 02:45:21 +0000 Azizul Rahman Ismail 545828 at
Movie Review: Bad Samaritan
The film revolves around Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan), a 'young, tortured artist' who secretly robs homes with his best friend, Derek (Carlito Olivero), to pay the bills.

They gain access to private homes through their jobs as car park valets (incidentally, the movie will teach you to never keep your house keys in the car if you have a navigation system set to home).

Getting involved in this criminal activity is more out of desperation rather than profit for Sean, as he targets homes belonging to rude and entitled customers.

One night, the boys are instantly intrigued by a Maserati pulling up for valet. When the rich but rude Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) steps out, Sean has no qualms robbing his home.

What he ends up finding inside Cale's house is a young woman tied to a chair. The shock and fear get the better of Sean, and he runs away, abandoning the chance to be a good Samaritan.

Consumed by guilt and feeling that he had to help, Sean decides to do the right thing and inform the authorities.

However is action soon leads to trouble from Cale, who dangerously disrupts not only Sean's life but the lives of everyone he loves as well.

Sheehan's emotion-filled portrayal of Sean means you can't help but root for him, especially when no one believes what he saw in Cale's house, not even the police.

Tennant does a brilliant job, perfectly embodying the beyond-bad Cale, a complete contrast to his charming image he once had as the Doctor in Doctor Who.

The film gets darker and more dramatic towards the end, but the culmination of Sean's journey is still satisfying nonetheless, and you will soon realise why the film is called Bad Samaritan.]]>
Reviews Fri, 04 May 2018 01:50:22 +0000 Marion Fernando 545173 at
Book review: Leaving Time
Alice and her husband Thomas Metcalf’s lives revolved around the elephants living in the sanctuary they once ran, and their genuine concern and scientific curiosity for the pachyderms have trickled down to their daughter Jenna.

However, 10 years ago, Alice, a scientist studying grief in elephants, went missing after an accident in the sanctuary in which one of their employees was trampled.

Alice was later found unconscious, and soon escaped from the hospital. Since the incident, Thomas has spent the past decade in a psychiatric hospital.

Meanwhile, Jenna digs up anything she can find about the night her mother disappeared.

The girl enlists the help of Serenity, despite being sceptical of her ability, and Virgil, who was one of the detectives investigating the incident in the elephant sanctuary.

What makes this book a good read is the layers Picoult weaves in her characters with intriguing circumstances. She likens the bond between Jenna and Alice to that of a mother elephant and her calf – a bond of close proximity until the demise of one.

The story offers breadcrumbs of information along the way that points you to an emotionally-charged ending.

You’ll be rooting for Jenna, and by the end of it all, will not be surprised to find yourself emotionally attached to more than one of the characters in Leaving Time.

It’s evident that Picoult has invested a lot of time researching about elephants, where she also attempts to raise awareness on the poaching of these creatures and the work of real-life elephant sanctuaries.

A definite good read that will tug at your emotional strings.]]>
Reviews Wed, 02 May 2018 03:10:09 +0000 Marion Fernando 544685 at
Book review: As White as Snow
But her tranquillity is shattered when she is approached by a young woman, Lenka, who claims she is Lumikki’s long-lost half-sister.

Intrigued, and a little suspicious that it could very well be the truth given the secrets her family has been harbouring, Lumikki gets drawn into the scheme of things.

Her suspicions are further fuelled when Lenka’s presence and revelations cause her to have dreams of another girl in her life.

She wants to know more, but discovers that Lenka is living in a strange environment. Soon, she finds herself on the run from an assassin, and she is determined to fight for her life – and possibly her sister’s too.

This happens to be the second book in Finnish author Salla Simukka’s Nordic crime series The Snow White Trilogy that delivers action and hard-hitting chills. The first book is As Red as Blood.

As the book draws to an end, there are still unresolved questions, and you know you’ll have to read the third and final instalment, As Black as Ebony, to find the answers.

Overall, the book is an intriguing read.]]>
Reviews Wed, 02 May 2018 03:10:09 +0000 K.K. Wong 544684 at