BITS 2019: Hunter’s Moon (World Premiere 2019)

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Hunter’s Moon (2019)

Hunter's Moon

Director (and co-writer): Matthew Campagna

Cast: Steven Morana, Holly Deveaux, Ari Millen, Colm Feore, Katie Boland, Art Hindle, Marco Timpano, Bobbie Philips, Melissa D’Agostino, Jon Cor

A creature-feature twist on the Agatha Christie Whodunit thriller-genre, that turns into an action-packed race for survival when the killer is revealed. – IMDB

I always say that werewolf movies are really not done enough. In fact, if you look back at the last while, there really hasn’t been too many without them having to pair with the vampires world or some other world. Its why Hunter’s Moon is a movie that hits a lot of elements that become very intriguing and one that breaks through overused topics especially as it hits a clever style of whodunnit (which is a fairly challenging mystery to tackle) and action-paced survival.

Hunter’s Moon is about a video game launch party that has to be hosted by their introvert and anti-social lead designer, August (Steven Morana) who reluctantly takes the reins when the game development company’s owner Brian (Art Hindle) is under scrutiny for some questionable practices. While August would prefer to be anywhere else but the party, he is motivated to be there to meet an online friend, Cheyenne (Holly Deveaux) that he has been interested in furthering their relationship. Unfortunately, the party takes a turn when the guests start falling dead in different ways and its seeming that the game is somehow coming to life in its way. As they try to survive while deciphering who is behind all this, its a rather wild ride.

There’s this very cheesy satisfaction to Hunter’s Moon. Its not that the effects aren’t done well or that there are any technical elements that aren’t done on point. Actually, the scenes itself including the cinematography and the atmosphere matches with the style here, whether its in the first part of the whole who-dunnit mystery investigation or the second part where its a game of survival. The story here feels like a fun little ride. Its never really that intense but its an entertaining fun time, which feels like what its partially trying to achieve. The oddest part of the film is some weird change in tones with its background music especially one specific scene that gets some sudden action happens and then switches to some sexy music. Its a bit odd in the beginning but then its also something has this very satisfying moment to it all in the most awkward way. Plus, the whole werewolf transformation (which is a key element in werewolf films) as well as the whole blood and gore is executed pretty good.

If there were any little things that may have fell a little short, it might be that some of the characters weren’t written well or there was some overacting for some of the supporting cast. There are quite a few smaller roles here and its a question of whether they were intended to have this bit of over the top elements to give them a sort of more comedic element to the film. I can’t quite decide the intention yet. Other than that, there is a certain level of deliberateness to how some items come into play like Cheyenne having a gun in her purse for example. Coincidences sometimes gives the film a level of being on rails but yet, there are quite a bit of unpredictable turns here and transitions that do take it off guard mostly in a good way.

The main cast was very fun to watch including Steve Morana as the male lead here who has this subtle intensity to this character behind his introvert personality paired up with Holly Deveaux as Cheyenne who is a rather bad-ass female character. There are some comedic reliefs  as well as some other more intense characters like Remy (Ari Millen) and even a supporting role from Colm Feore (who honestly seems to appear in some of the less expected films).

Overall, Hunter’s Moon has some little things that fall short here and there but its a fun little experience. Its always great to see these lesser used film story telling themes/genre get used and in one film, they hit werewolves and whodunnit all in one shot along with the backdrop of a video game launch party turned into a night of survival which somehow all fits together rather well. Its shot well and the atmosphere is done well and between all this supposedly more suspenseful environment, there still a good balance of fun entertaining elements. Its a satisfying film overall to watch and so much to appreciate.

As an ending thought, the ending does leave me wondering whether there is space for a sequel because that could be fun.

BITS 2019 Shorts: Sky So Blue/One in Two People/Songs My Mother Taught Me/Break In Break Out

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As we continue the Blood in the Snow Festival coverage, these are the next batch of films that were paired with full feature films screened. This time, we’re taking up four films: Sky So Blue, One in Two People, Songs My Mother Taught Me, Break In Break Out. Four very impressive horror shorts!

Sky So Blue (2019)

Sky So Blue

Director: Tyler Williams

Cast: Jeff Sinasac, Daniel Park

After being attacked and imprisoned in his own home, a man stands accused of creating a strange piece of music that may or may not have the power to kill anyone who hears it. – IMDB

Sky So Blue is a 15 minute short that is a psychologically unsettling and suspenseful interaction between two people: a man being accused of creating a deadly music piece that has gone viral and since then killed a lot of people and the other a man who has lost his family because of it. The interaction leads to a whole did he or did he not do it. Is the accusation right? Is the other one just acting innocent? The questions constantly rise as the man asks him questions to get the reason of why and how he created this music. Its a little bit of a cat and mouse sort of conversation with not a whole lot of resolution but as revenge seems to get stronger between them, its a rather “shocking” sort of ending that still manages to keep it slightly ambiguous. Those types of endings are the best as they can spark up some nice afterthought and reflection.

*Sky So Blue screened at the Blood in the Snow Festival with Dead Dicks on November 23 at 7pm*

One in Two People (2019)

One in Two People

Director: Ali Mashayekhi

Cast: Ashley Leggat, Katie Boland, Karissa Strain, Jade Hassouné, Katie Strain, Adam Tsekhman, Matt Murray

Emily is surrounded by her friends as she reveals her dark secret. – IMDB

One in Two People is a 7 minute short that plays with the unseen and the unknown. This one is executed really well as it leaves a lot of suspense and guesswork that only be deciphered through the conversation between the friends and their different position in Emily’s life and how they view her. It all becomes a question off deciphering both the character of Emily and whether she is to be believed. Of course, being a short film, it wouldn’t possibly be nothing but rather how this something will be presented. One in Two People uses the reactions of entering into this locked and the aftermath that builds up the unsettling horror feeling and giving this well-executed finale that honestly was rather creepy. As an addition, Jade Hassouné who played Meliorn in Shadowhunters plays the boyfriend of Emily in this short which was pretty great.

*One in Two People screens at Blood in the Snow Festival with The Nights Before Christmas on November 23rd at 9:30pm*

Song My Mother Taught Me (2018)

Song My Mother Taught Me

Director (and co-writer): Doug Cook

Cast: Julian Robino, Ace Hicks, Brock Morgan, Jane Moffat, Farid Yazdani, Allison Dawn Doiron, Blake Johnson

After Bobby and Lydia lose their mother to cancer, life becomes a difficult feat, especially for Bobby. In an attempt to cheer up her brother, Lydia throws a Halloween party with a close group of friends. It is on this night that they will discover what they mean to each other and learn an important lesson…the dead should always be left alone. – IMDB 

In some ways, Songs My Mother Taught Me starts in a rather generic rundown especially with the recent overuse of Ouija as a central focus however, this short film takes it for a refreshing new twist as this Ouija channels something very different from the moment that the literal countdown starts. From the first moment of how they present what this group channels that causes from a lot of craziness that ensues. It builds up the tension very well and adds in a different element of surprise of what is actually going on, leaving a bit of mystery of the whole situation. Its a fun, tense and quick-paced spiral of events executed with a lot of heart to give this premise a refreshing take.

* Songs My Mother Taught Me is screening with Majic on November 24th at 4:30pm at the Blood in the Snow Festival.*

Break In Break Out (2019)

Break In Break Out

Director (and writer): Michael Driscoll

Cast: Athena Karkanis, Nick Smyth, James Rejent, Robert Morse, Tara Yelland

Break In Break Out is a 7 minute short about a routine burglary goes terribly wrong. This short is probably the one which is the most daring in its execution as it keeps it silent with no dialogue. Its hyper focused on the actions and the sound effects around the scene to build up the interest. Its a awesome and unique way to present this story as within the few minutes that it is presented, it adds in two surprising twists, flips the typical story that you’d expect around and then adds in so much style to its execution. Its a lot of awesomeness to this one that gives it a wow actor. Its one that shouldn’t be missed!

*Break In Break Out is screening with Hunter’s Moon on November 24 at 9:30pm in the Blood in the Snow Festival.*

Blog Tour: Proximity (iMe Series, Book 1) by Jem Tugwell [Review]

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Proximity (iMe Series #1)
by: Jem Tugwell

Proximity

Publisher: Serpentine Books
Genre: Techno Thriller/Procedural

SYNOPSIS

You can’t get away with anything. Least of all murder.

DI Clive Lussac has forgotten how to do his job. Ten years of embedded technology – ‘iMe’ – has led to complete control and the eradication of crime. Then the impossible happens. A body is found, and the killer is untraceable. With new partner Zoe Jordan, Clive must re-sharpen his detective skills and find the killer without technology, before time runs out for the next victim…

Leading the trend in speculative crime thrillers, Jem Tugwell’s thrilling and thought-provoking debut sits alongside Black Mirror and The City and the City in a compelling exploration of our near future. Proximity draws on Jem’s 20 years of professional experience as a software developer in the city to give an unnerving insight into how our world might be transformed by the rapid advance in embedded technology and fitness trackers.

What if the cash-strapped public healthcare system can be given a second life by using tech to regulate our health and behaviour?

What if we can eradicate gun, knife and other proximity crimes by tracking everyone’s activity?

What if civil liberty is seen as an acceptable sacrifice for the greater good?

What if the convenience of technology is used for control?

“Proximity is inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. From my own experience, technologists are often amazed or horrified about the other uses that people imagine for their products. Clive and Zoe’s world might be closer than we think, but is it heaven or hell? How do we decide the perfect balance of free will and greater good?” – Jem Tugwell

ADD TO GOODREADS

REVIEW

Proximity is set in a future where technology of override the lives of society as one technology as made everything so functional that it takes away any risks while controlling the every lives of the people which is a foolproof way against crime and tracking the citizens every step of the way. In a world with this technology, the police has also over-relied on this technology, making it hard when an anomaly happens. Of course, that exactly happens. On one hand, Proximity emphasizes the dangers of a society over-reliant on technology but on the other hand, it always shows how sometimes the untraceable element and the part of life that isn’t controlled makes some balance that may work and is needed.

In this sense, the futuristic world and the technology design and how it interacts with the characters is one of the most fascinating part of the mystery. The technology itself has its own life which adds to the characters here who is a team of two detectives: one of which has gone through the old-fashioned, before iMe technology investigation while the newbie is learning how to do this. The story also chooses to let the readers be the third party and see the efforts of this serial killer but never quite reveal who it is but rather the mindset behind its choices, slowly converging the big reveal in the final few chapters. One of the parts that usually work very well to character-building is using different characters’ point of views as a focal point. In  this case, the three main characters all have their own chapters that shift between each of them to see their own views and opinions of what is going on and how each of the character develops.

Proximity is a solid page-turner with a lot of potential to build up this new future. Technology is such a key element in the current day that its not hard to imagine a future that could possibly turn out like this one. Its only a matter of time, making this feel rather realistic. At the same time, the plot is executed very impressively, giving it so much room to guess who is the serial killer but never revealing too much too early. Its hard to grasp the pacing in thrillers and Jem Tugwell handles this very well. Proximity sets a great foundation as the starting novel of a series. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

Score: 4.5/5

Purchase Links:

Amazon
Amazon (Canada)
Amazon (Australia)
Barnes & Noble
Kobo (USA)
Kobo (Canada)
Google Play

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JEM TUGWELL

I am a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University. Proximity is my thrilling debut novel, inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. Available on 6 June 2019.

In a past life, I had a successful career in investment management, and now live in Surrey with my wife. I have two great children and dog. Outside of my family and writing, my loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes.

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Double Feature: Murder on the Orient Express (2017) & My Teacher, My Obsession (2018)

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My Teacher, My Obsessions (2018)

My Teacher My Obsession

Director: Damian Romay

Cast: Rusty Joiner, Lucy Loken, Laura Bilgeri, Jana Lee Hamblin, Alexandria DeBerry

Riley struggles to meet friends after transferring to a new high school where her father is an English teacher. When she meets Kyla, a fellow loner, they become close friends until Riley learns that Kyla is obsessed with her father. – IMDB

I had zero expectations when I started up this one. Frankly, this whole subgenre has me quite sad that there aren’t better films and My Teacher, My Obsession is no exception. It had a lot of bad dialogue and that really does make it hard to digest the whole thing better. Not to mention the execution is not too good either. Its hard to understand what movies, especially thrillers try to achieve in starting the film from a scene from the finale and then going back in time to meet up with there and then make the big reveal. There is no reveal when its already obvious from the start who is doing the obsessing and how it will get worse and worse. Not only that but the teacher in question is a rather well-built good-looking gentleman who happens to be the father of one of the girl characters that gets befriended by the girl who is attracted to the teacher and the daughter.

There’s just a lot of hard to understand decisions here. However, I am not one to only talk negatives so to wrap this up on a positive note, the cinematography was actually pretty good here and some of the scenes with Kyla, the girl obsessed was also done pretty well plus she did pretty good with the material she had to work with.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Tom Bateman, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Sergei Polunin, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench

When a murder occurs on the train on which he’s travelling, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case. – IMDB

Murder on the Orient Express is a great choice among (the few that I’ve read) the Agatha Christie books to adapt. Kenneth Branagh is a director and actor that I have alwayd rather appreciated. He can usually put together very competent pieces cinema and while we can all complain about all the adaptations being done nowadays, this one is really good. It has a stellar cast with some biggers stars like Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad. Then Hercule Poirot is played by Kenneth Branagh who does capture the role so well.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries (probably much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes) has so much depth and big twists that make them almost perfect for adaptations. However, it has those moments of whether these stories are as thrilling for those who have read it and how it executes it for both connoisseurs and those who are new to this character. It was one of the few concerns I had before I started up this film to be honest. However, the characters each played together so well and the experienced cast brought of them to life in turn so did the mystery. It had great visual style and lovely cinematography. There’s a lot to love here. It set the tone right from the opening act right to the end. I honestly can’t wait for the next movie, Death on the Nile.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Murder on the Orient Express & My Teacher, My Obsession?

Blog Tour: Hope by Terry Tyler (Review/Giveaway)

Hope

HOPE
BY: TERRY TYLER

Hope

Publication Date: May 24, 2019
Genre: Dystopian/Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS

Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller set in a dystopian near future – the UK, Year 2028.

Blogger Lita Stone and journalist Nick Freer live and work online, seeing life through soundbites, news TV and social media. Keeping the outside world at bay in their cozy flat, they observe the ruthless activities of the new PM and his celebrity fitness guru wife, Mona (hashtag MoMo), with the mild outrage that can be quelled simply by writing another blog post.

Meanwhile, in the outside world, multinational conglomerate Nutricorp is busy buying up supermarket chains, controlling the media, and financing the new compounds for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Lita and Nick suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, until the outside world catches up with them – and Lita is forced to discover a strength she never knew she possessed.

Add to Goodreads

REVIEW

Hitting quite close to home as the main character Lita is a blogger who talks about fairly touchy subjects in a future dystopian UK that results in rather dire circumstances, Hope is a gripping psychological thriller. Its dystopian setting is one that has similar goals to those familiar with movies like The Purge, where the government schemes in their own way to thin out the non-working class which is seen as being a burden to the society and disposed of in whatever way possible. “Out of sight, out of mind” kind of deal. This dystopian future is always a nice topic to look at as it also refers to different events that has happened in our current day and age and how it has affected the future of the UK (such as Brexit). This setting opens up through the eyes of Lita about the levels of governmental control, its manipulation of technology, the lies and secrets as well as its schemes to push the non-working class or the poor/less fortunate to these camps called Hope Village in the middle of nowhere and working to live there for credits while having a lot of underlying issues that the three soon discover for themselves.

Separated into a few parts in the book quite cleverly, the situation of Lita and her two friends, Nick and Kendall end up in different locations as they move from one place to the next trying to maintain their bond and stay together as they view each other as family. Each location creates a new section of the story which gives it structure. In each phase, it moves from the struggle to stay afloat as things go sideways for each of them one by one and how it leads them to live in a Hope Village which makes them desperate for change and their actions to this puts them in a much worse situation.

Its these situations that also give Lita the hard times that give her character a lot of development. It shifts from each location from the honest blogger to a much more toned down version that treats situations a little smarter through her many losses throughout the story and shifts her character trajectory. While a few of these situations, from the reader’s view is quite easily predictable and doesn’t quite do any out of the left field. Its really the combination of all these events that make Hope quite an intriguing read.

The finesse of crafting  each of the characters and the hardships they encounter each lead to their own outcome. The setting of this dystopian future UK also is one that has lots of discover. It manages to touch on a lot of the different angles from the government motives to the characters reactions and how to face this situation and find their ways to uncover the secrets trying to be hidden. There’s also a little to think about this dystopian future as the society going backwards as these Hope Villages feel very similar to restrictive camps in history. As thrilling as this might be, where it falls short just a little is that it was fairly predictable and I like thrillers to be slightly more shocking. While I say that, there is no doubt a lot of really great writing and story execution done here. 

Goodreads: 4/5 

Where to Buy:

Amazon UK
Amazon
Universal Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler is the author of nineteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Hope’, a dystopian, psychological drama set in the UK, a decade into the future. She is currently at work on ‘Blackthorn’, a post-apocalyptic stand-alone story set in her fictional city of the same name. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

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FNC 2019: Diner (2019)

Diner (2019)

Diner

Director: Mika Ninagawa

Cast: Tina Tamashiro, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kubota Masataka, Hongo Kanata, Okuda Eiji, Maya Miki, Anna Tsuchiya

Kanako Oba uses a mysterious site to apply for part-time work. As a result, her life is soon in jeopardy. She is forced to work at the restaurant Diner as a waitress or she will be killed. The restaurant is membership only and their customers are all contract killers. – MyDramaList

If John Wick’s elite assassin world was moved to a diner exclusively crafted to serve their culinary needs with experiences specific for their business and and pleasure with the Japanese over the top flair, this is what Mika Ninagawa’s Diner would best relate to. Engulfing its scenes by flamboyantly dangerous characters, techno, punk and classical background music to pair with its scenes and constrasting sharp color palettes in a dark underground setting, its a feast for for the senses on many levels.

Mika Ninagawa’s vision for Diner is visually stunning. From its pink lettered neon lettering to its stylistic introduction for each characters and its choice of how each of them interact with the female lead, Kanako Oba (Tina Tamashiro). There’s a lot of style and substance in Diner from how the culinary experience is shown to the different over the top meals are done to the reactions as well as how the action scenes are done. It has a lot of the fun and over the top elements of Japanese films that add a certain level of weird but fun especially when matched with the different killer and the rooms they eat in, each matching the killers personality.

Talking about character designs now, the main story revolves around Kanako Oba where Tina Tamashiro does a lovely job at playing this quiet and shy girl whose life is mostly summarized in the opening scene rather uniquely blending with its background music, which honestly sets the tone for what to expect, and tackles the main issue of her shyness and unknown desire of what to do in life because she feels unwanted until she sees a colorful picture of Guanajuato that makes her try to find a way to get money to go. In terms of character design and possibly development, her character is the focal point and also the most developed throughout this story. However, opposite her is male lead playing the Diner owner and head chef also an ex-elite assassin, Bombero (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who is very tough on her because those preceding her have died due to the dangerous clientele. Bombero is a fun character mostly because he has this subtlety to his character that relies a lot on his observation and what he does but then also has this loneliness that he closes himself off to because of the company he keeps.

Flamboyant characters are a center of Japanese films when it comes to over the top elements and here, the assassins themselves, as shallow as their characters are with not a lot of back story to work with, are perfectly suited to simply push the story forward and give those little hurdles or connections with Kanako Oba to surprise and frighten her in this new setting. It all works up to the point that every killer has a weakness and tipping point and it all leads to the final dinner where it discusses the decision of change of crime lord that runs the Yakuza entirely which of course, doesn’t run smoothly and has some crazy action sequence. Of course, there are a few selected assassins that get a little more screen time than others and one of them called Skin (Masataka Kubota) really takes his role and runs with it in such an impressive way.

Diner is a really entertaining sort of film. While the culinary element might be done a little more to fit a culinary experience title, there is still a lot of impressive balance between the crime thriller and the whole setting in a diner. Its a straightforward story and not hard to imagine where all this leads but keeps it on the fun level. Most of its characters are fairly shallow in development and yet, due the film’s length and staying on path, they achieve what the film needs to set up these main characters to deal with this final group. The action scenes are well choreographed and there’s some ridiculous moments, not to mention the ending result is a bit of a headscratcher logically, however, somehow because of the over the top elements in Japanese films, anything is possible so its easy to let it pass.

Diner has a second screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 15th at 8:35pm at Cinema du Parc. You can find more info HERE.

Sketch by Didi Oviatt

Other reviews of Didi Oviatt’s work:

Search for Maylee
Justice for Belle

SKETCH
BY: DIDI OVIATT

Sketch by Didi Oviatt

When local girl Misty is found dead in an underground bunker, the town is thrown into a whirlwind of panic and speculation. Times are tough, but the spaced-out farmer community pull together as one, trying to uncover who’s guilty.

Thrown smack in the middle of the chaos is a group of teens: local troublemakers, but with good hearts. Although they’re innocent, the local law enforcers believe otherwise, and the true killer is lurking far too close for comfort.

Will the four be able to uncover the truth before one of them pays the price for Misty’s death? – Goodreads

*Book received through R&R Book Tours in exchange for honest review*

Its always been a pleasant time reading Didi Oviatt’s stories and this novella Sketch is no exception. It is a thrilling glimpse into a little country town set in the Old Depression era where the people there are still close-minded and the sheriff and his police department are run with a lot of prejudices and the groups of young adults there have been friends for a long time and specifically a group of friends who get caught in the latest disappearance of an acquaintance called Misty which reveals a deeper level of relationship and connections between the people around her.

The characters here are actually outlined pretty well. There is a good group of people here that are involved in the whole case of finding this crazy killer. The killer reveal was done fairly early however gave it the space to still develop. The brothers here also have their own trajectory of development as they go out to face up to these issues and get caught up in it when they are wrongly accused and beat up by the police department to hopefully have them confess. While the brothers friend who is a rich girl helps them out and there is a little romance that buds in the midst of the crazy stuff. Its something I don’t quite mind having or not but it does end up tying into the story itself well enough.

At the same time, the town has their own secrets which the group of friends eventually follows for multiple reasons like trying to find justice for someone they care about or proving themselves innocent and such. It unveils some past secrets that link back to the present. This is a novella length of the characters and story are paced in a certain way where there is just enough depth. However, where Didi Oviatt excels is in her descriptions. She’s not afraid to dive deep into those truly gruesome and gritty moments and bring the words to life. Sketch does a great job in describing the different scenes and scenarios and getting the whole reading experience very involved because of it.

Overall, Sketch is a gripping crime investigation set in a small town that has a few twists and also, keeps it very intriguing to read. Its a page turner and well-paced in its compact story. Its definitely worth a read.

Goodreads score: 5/5 (rounded up from a 4.5)