Unputdownable: A Review of Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

A big thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this book, and for introducing me to an author and character that I will surely be following. This is the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series, based on the character of the same name who is a con artist turned defense lawyer. It’s completely readable as a standalone and although it does mention a bit about Eddie’s life and character journey, nothing leaves you feeling lost.

36543419

Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Thriller, Suspense

Length: 

368 pages

Blurb:

Eddie Flynn protects the innocent. When a high profile case involving an incredibly popular actor comes his way through one of the biggest law firms in the city, Eddie refuses. The actor is on trial for the murder of his actress wife and bodyguard. Eddie has no reason to believe his innocence, nor does he know why the reputed firm wants him on the case. Until Eddie meets the accused. Willing to go to any length to protect an innocent man, Eddie takes the case up under overwhelming evidence against his client. Eddie is confident that the real killer is out there – he just has to convince the jury of that. But the killer is closer than even Eddie can imagine. And convincing a jury may not be so easy when the killer is part of it.

Overall Rating: 

8 out of 10

Plot: 

9 out of 10

Characterization: 

9 out of 10

Primary Element: 

9 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style: 

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is #4, but can be read as a standalone without any problem.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The plot twist. It’s very rare that the killer-reveal takes you by real surprise, but Steve Cavanagh manages to do just that.

What I Liked:

Eddie Flynn’s character is one of the most rounded, yet realistic, I’ve read. There are a few fictional characters who I absolutely love because of their complexity and human-ness, with David Baldacci’s Amos Decker being one such character. Eddie Flynn makes it to that list and as one of the top ones for sure. Cavanagh has created a very relatable character in Flynn, one who keeps you hooked from the first page.

What I Didn’t Like:

Not a thing!

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoyed watching The Mentalist, and anyone who enjoys reading fast-paced courtroom-action-suspense novels. Also anyone who enjoys a good serial killer mystery and legal thrillers.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who is put off very quickly by violence. There isn’t too much gore in this book, but there is some violence which may not sit too well with those not too used to it.

Read It For:

The suspense, the intricate storyline, and Eddie Flynn.

Got recommendations for other books like Thirteen or any other good legal thrillers? Drop a line in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Inspirational and a Must-Read: A Review of Akhada – the Biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat

The story of Mahavir Singh Phogat became widespread public knowledge when Indian actor, Aamir Khan, starred as the wrestling coach in a dramatized biopic of the man who forever altered women’s wrestling in India. Phogat’s official biography, penned by Saurabh Duggal, was released a few days prior to the film.

The film in question, Dangal, was another in a string of dramatized biopics that have been released in the past few years. Mary Kom, starring Priyanka Chopra as Olympic champ Mary Kom, and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, starring Farhan Akhtar as Milkha ‘The Flying Sikh’ Singh were two more that became huge successes. Compared to the actual stories of Mary Kom (Unbreakable, which I’d read the night before I saw the film) and Milkha Singh (The Race of My Life, which I read a little after watching the film), the movies downright sucked (Sorry, not sorry!).

So when I watched Dangal, I decided to let some time pass before I read the real story. And one thing I can say for sure now that I have read it is that the movie wasn’t bad, but it’s more of an entertainer, because it does almost no justice to the crazy, inspirational, and often tragic life that Phogat actually led – a life that made him the man, father, and coach that gave India some of her best wrestlers. Here’s my review of Saurabh Duggal’s Akhada: The Authorized Biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat.

Akhada Biography Mahavir Singh Phogat Saurabh Duggal

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography

Length: 232 Pages

Blurb:

Mahavir Singh Phogat challenged the social stigma, lack of literacy, and stoic lifestyle of Haryana, a state known for its female foeticide and female infanticide, to train the girl-children of his family as wrestlers. Taking girls into a sport that was traditionally concerned a male-sport was not easy. Phogat had to fight not only deep-rooted rules written off as tradition but his own family and even tragic circumstances to fulfill his dream of training his daughters for a life different than that which the girls of their time and generation had come to accept as a given. In doing so, he became the father who gave his daughters the dream they had never dared to see, and the coach who changed the face of Indian women’s wrestling on a national and global level. Akhada is the real-life story of that man.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Primary Element: 8 out of 10 for its raw-ness and simple but impactful storytelling

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Highlighted Takeaway:

This isn’t a dramatized version of the story of a man who changed the society he lived in, but a very real look into it. And that is what makes it so good – the story had to only be told to be inspirational, it didn’t have to be embellished to be made so.

What I Liked:

The way the author showcases all the strengths of Mahavir Singh Phogat, but does not shy away from showcasing his weaknesses too, making it truly reflective of the wrestling coach.

The way the author describes the social and economic circumstances of the region for what it is, without turning it into a social justice gimmick, and consequently displaying its grim reality as well as cautious hope.

What I Didn’t Like:

The book isn’t sequential. Given the sheer number of events mentioned in the book, it makes it a little difficult to identify and follow the timeline, which takes away some of the effect of a life led full of struggles and achievements.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone interested in sports and autobiographies/biographies.

Who Should Avoid:

I don’t think anyone would dislike this book or the story it tells. Even if you aren’t interested in sports, it’s worth a read, if only for the inspirational tale it tells.

Read It For:

A look at the real struggles of real people, and the proof that greatness can come from the most unexpected of places – you just need one person to see potential. This is the story that changed the face of Indian wrestling in an unprecedented manner and has also changed the deeprooted beliefs of a system that wasn’t necessarily working. More than a tale, it’s history that shaped a different present and future and, as such, should be more known.

What did you think of Akhada? Do you feel the book was better than the movie or vice versa? Share your thoughts below. And as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Gets-Under-Your-Skin Scary: A Review of Hell by Tom Lewis

I’m a scaredy-cat, always have been, and I doubt that’s ever going to change. But when I saw Jeffrey Keetan‘s review of Hell, I checked out the blurb, found it incredibly interesting, tried to find a copy on Amazon, couldn’t find it, reached out to the author, and Tom Lewis was actually kind enough to get back to me and give me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

(Insert deep breath here).

What followed was a day and a half of intense page-turning as I delved into the story of the Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens. I’m going to admit that I did have a few nightmares in the nights that followed. Hell corroborates that unwelcome but always-there feeling that comes over you when night falls and the lights are turned out – something is lurking in the shadows.

Hell by Tom Lewis

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Horror

Length: 374 pages

Blurb:

After a devastating personal loss, young Cassie finds herself pulled into the macabre world of darkness, death, and beyond. What starts as curiosity ends with Cassie getting addicted to drugs and partaking in strange activities… until she dies in an accident. Revived 20 minutes later, Cassie recovers and becomes her normal, pre-goth self. And then strange things start to happen around her. Cassie knows something is watching her from the shadows, something that is not just around her but inside her, and something that she’d managed to get away from when she’d been revived. But the thing within her is not ready to let go yet… not until it claims what is rightfully its – Cassie’s life.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 7 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 8 out of 10, for its ability to re-enforce the fear of the dark

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway:

The way Tom Lewis manages to weave a story that is not in-your-face scary for the most part but still manages to scare the heck out of you by building on fears inherent in people.

What I Liked:

The characterization, the insight into a whole different lifestyle, and the story itself. There was also a relatively large dose of gore, which might not be up everyone’s alley, but definitely added a whole other layer of ‘disturbing’ and ‘creepy’ to the book and really rounded it off as a horror.

What I Didn’t Like:

Some arcs weren’t closed or explained, and although they didn’t greatly affect the story-line, the addition probably would have made it even more intriguing. Also, the use of ‘phenomena’ instead of ‘phenomenon’. It’s commonly used, I know, but the lack of distinction between the plural and singular has always been a pet peeve of mine.

Who Should Read It:

Fans of horror, especially those who like Stephen King’s work. Hell has certain elements that are very reminiscent of King’s work, especially the ability of the story to make you extremely aware of every tiny sound, want to constantly look over your shoulder because you feel like someone’s right there, and avoid the darkness for a few days.

Who Should Avoid:

People who tend to avoid horror in general because the stories stay with them for too long. Hell will stay with you for a few nights for sure, so proceed with caution.

Read It For:

Its unapologetically gory take on things satanic and disturbing, and to remind yourself that sometimes, primal fears are unavoidable and un-overcomeable.

A big, big thank you to Tom Lewis, the author of Hell: The Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens, for agreeing to give me a copy of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend his work to fans of horror, and read more of it myself (albeit with long non-horror periods in the middle).

Which is your favorite horror book? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Amateur: Review of The Last Avatar by Vishwas Mudagal

I received a paid-for copy of The Last Avatar from Vishwas Mudagal’s marketing team in exchange for an honest review, and would like to thank the author and his team for reaching out to me and giving me a chance to read this book.

I normally don’t read Indian fiction because my first (and understandably last) experience with the genre was when I read Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. Over time, I‘ve read excerpts from books of Amish and other Indian fantasy authors, and I’ve never been particularly fond of the general writing style. I was in two minds about picking this book up initially. The blurb of The Last Avatar, though, was intriguing and a bit strange. When I saw that it was published by Harper Collins India, I figured, “Why not?”

I also thought the book would be a good point to drop my reservations about Indian fiction, and maybe enjoy the evolving fantasy mythology genre and work that’s available from a growing set of authors. Let’s start with saying, “That definitely did not happen.”

The Last Avatar - Age of Kalki Book 1 - Vishwas Mudagal

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Indian fiction, Fantasy, Mythology

Length: 328 pages

Blurb:

A terrorist organization, the Invisible Hand, has found a leader and financial supporter in the Chinese General, Jian. A plot that was decades in the making has led to attacks all across the world. Cities have crumbled and India is in tumult after the Prime Minister and entire Union Cabinet are wiped out in one of the attacks. There’s only one person who can save India and the world from Jian’s ambition – Kalki. But is the vigilante-hero that India relies on a human being, or is he the tenth avatar of Vishnu as prophesized? And will he be able to save his country and the world, or will he meet his match in Jian and the Invisible Hand?

Overall Rating: 1 out of 10

Plot: 2 out of 10

Characterization: 1 out of 10

Primary Element: 1 out of 10 for its action and suspense

Writing Style: 0.5 out of 10

Part of a Series: Yes; this is Book 1.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The ending… because it allowed the book to finally end, and me to be done with it.

What I Liked:

Nothing.

What I Didn’t Like:

I’m just going to jot down a quick list here.

  1. The writing style – it was terribly amateur in style and needed a lot more work to even get the basic emotion across.
  2. The dialog – inane, unrealistic, and inconsistent.
  3. Narration – the book does not give you any sense of visualization; it just seems to go on and on, failing to evoke any emotion whatsoever.
  4. Story – the story goes on and on about how Kalki is India’s savior but does not offer a single example of what he may have done in the past.
  5. Plot – weak and convenient, and highly unrealistic even for a fantasy.
  6. Characterization – Kalki talks and behaves the same way at ages five, ten, fifteen, and whatever age he’s finally at; all other characters are one-dimensional. You could actually replace one for the other and not notice the difference.
  7. Pandering – random romance scenes that come out of nowhere and serve little purpose, as though added just to titillate (doesn’t succeed in doing so).
  8. So many errors! – syntax errors, grammar errors, incorrect words being used, and lack of continuity such as beards being shaved then reappearing overnight at full length (I mean, seriously?).

Who Should Read It:

I honestly would not recommend this to anyone. Maybe if you’re a die-hard fan of everything Indian mythology fantasy, you could give it a shot.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who actually enjoys reading books because they can pull you in and stories can be absorbing. The Last Avatar is too dull to do any of that.

Read It For:

… or don’t.

I genuinely wanted to like The Last Avatar but, unfortunately, just couldn’t (and I tried very hard to like it). I will definitely not be reading the rest of the trilogy (or howmanyeverbooks-ology) or any works of this author again.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Enjoyable and Intriguing: Review of The Woman In Our House by Andrew Hart

After I read Tell Me A Secret (review here), I’d more or less sworn off of books that tried to imitate the niche genre highlighted by Gillian Flynn. Which is why I picked up The Woman In Our House with some reservations. The blurb was intriguing, but would the book focus more on the thrill factor as I’d hoped or go down the rabbit hole of a main female character’s self-pity was something to be seen.

Thankfully, it met expectations. And made for a captivating read. Before I go ahead, I’m sending NetGalley a big thanks for an ARC of this book! The Woman In Our House comes out on 18 June 2019.

39904261

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Suspense, Psychological thriller

Length: 347 pages

Blurb:

Anna Klein and her husband decide to hire a live-in nanny when she decides to return to work as a literary agent after her second child turns a little over 6 months old. Oaklynn Durst arrives after numerous interviews and with stellar references. The children take to her immediately, leaving Anna feeling a little unwanted even as she remains thankful for Oaklynn and being able to go back to work. But when the children begin suffering from sudden illnesses and bruises, Anna begins to worry that Oaklynn may not be what she seems. But are her own insecurities driving her suspicion, or did she really put her children and even herself and her house under the care of a lying, scheming woman who wouldn’t hesitate to hurt any of them?

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 8 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 7 out of 10 for its thrill and suspense

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway: 

The plot. Let’s just say, “You will not see some things coming at all!”

What I Liked:

Characterization, especially that of the main protagonist, Anna Klien, was really well done. She wasn’t over the top or too self-pitying. In fact, she was just the right amount of neurotic and self-aware to make it easy to empathize with her, and even associate with her in many places.

What I Didn’t Like:

Similar to Tell Me A Secret, the men were only present when convenient. Even Anna’s husband is more ‘her husband’ than ‘a supporting character’. Given that he actually had a role to play in the book, there should have been a little more focus on him.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good suspense read, because it is surely that while definitely not being a ‘mess with your mind’ style psychological thriller. Those who like Mary Higgins Clark’s older books would probably like this one.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t like books that focus on women as central characters. The women in this book aren’t unrealistic in all action and thought in this book, but it’s still predominantly a woman-centric story.

Read It For:

Reminding yourself that the world still has those people who don’t exactly believe in the “live and let live” ideology, and that things aren’t always as they seem.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my book review. Say Hi! in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Good Potential, Weak Implementation: A Review of Done With Her by Chirasree Bose

A big thanks to the author who reached out and asked me to review her work! I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This is the debut novella (wouldn’t call it a novel at 73 pages) of techie turned content writer turned creative writer, Chirasree Bose.

43904547

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Romantic thriller

Length: 73 pages

Blurb: Aveesh Mathur is shocked when he lays eyes on Spreeha, the new girl in his office whom everyone is lusting after. He cannot deny that she’s desirable, but she resembles someone from Aveesh’s past, a past he doesn’t want uncovered. Spreeha, who lives near Aveesh, already has a man in her life but is attracted to Aveesh because he resembles someone from her own past. As they are pulled inexplicably toward each other, Aveesh and Spreeha’s actions set off a chain of events that threaten all their relationships, and even their lives.

Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 10

Plot: 4 out of 10

Characterization: 1.5 out of 10

Primary Element: 6 out of 10 for its mystery/suspense

Writing Style: 1 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway:

The social element that the book touches upon.

What I Liked:

Nothing specific.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The characterization was very weak and the characters lacked depth.
  • Too much abstract prose where it wasn’t required; it didn’t add the depth that may have been the aim.
  • A good basic story, but very weak implementation; it seemed like I was reading a long essay rather than a fleshed out story. And the basic premise did have enough depth for the story to have been more fleshed out.
  • Felt more like a work-in-progress story than an actual, completed book.
  • It also needs a lot of work on the POV; it’s written in the first person and the sudden changes across abrupt chapters made it difficult to follow the character from whose perspective the section was written.

Who Should Read It:

I wouldn’t actively recommend this book until it was further worked upon to flow better, be more complete, and went through a thorough, professional edit.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who likes stories that are complete and rounded, and does not like abrupt chapters strung together.

Read It For:

If at all, then for the social message that’s at the root of the book.

Overall, I think Bose has good vision and creativity. Translating it into a complete book (as all aspiring and existing authors have admitted) is about much more than just having a story idea. A good amount of time and effort investment could take Bose’s vision into a complete book that far surpasses Done With Her.

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Charming Creepiness: A Review of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn

I didn’t review a book called Charming Creepiness… just trying out a new heading style!

Rebecca, which I’d read ages ago, made me a fan of Du Maurier’s modern-classic style. There’s just something about the way she weaves classical charm and dark psychology that makes for incredibly compelling reads.

And if you go into Jamaica Inn expecting that, it definitely does not disappoint.

40019792

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Classic, modern classic, mystery, thriller

Length: 315 pages

Blurb:

Mary Yellan honors her mother’s dying request and moves with her few belongings to stay with her Aunt Patience, who is married to the landlord of Jamaica Inn. She’s never met Joss Merlyn, her uncle by marriage, until she ignores the warning from the coach-driver and reaches the forbidding, run-down inn. She finds her Aunt, a shell of her former, happy self, who cowers behind her hulk of a brooding husband. Mary stays only because she does not wish to leave her aunt, and is determined to get them both away from Joss Merlyn and Jamaica Inn. But as weeks and months pass, Mary realizes that there are strange, sinister goings-on at Jamaica Inn. Can she find a way to get her aunt and herself to safety before she loses herself like her aunt did? Or will her uncle succeed in breaking her will… and taking her life?

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

Plot: 9 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 8 out of 10 for its creepiness and mystery

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway:

The style of the book that somehow manages to be charming while also evoking goosebumps.

What I Liked:

Mary Yellan’s character, which was very self-aware, embracing her strength and weaknesses. This stands out even more because of the era in which this book was written.

What I Didn’t Like:

At times, the style can become a little too archaic to follow easily. Had me wishing I could long-press any button to see its archaic meaning (I couldn’t because I was reading a paperback and not my Kindle).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who already loves classics, and anyone who wants to try classics but is hesitant. This is a great place to start exploring the genre. And anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers.

Who Should Avoid:

Probably anyone who detests classics.

Read It For:

Its beautiful mixture of narrative that’s just detailed enough to be engaging, characters that are realistic, engaging story, effective but not overplayed creepiness factor, and charming storytelling.

Got some classics or modern classics to recommend? I’d love to add some to my TBR so do drop your suggestions, or anything else you’d like to share, in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews