Good, but not as good as expected: A Review of IT (By Stephen King)

I’d always assumed Stephen King’s IT would give me sleepless nights… because I’m a ‘fraidy-cat. So I procrastinated for a long time before choosing a period where I could manage with a few sleepless nights and finally got down to reading what has come to be known as one of Stephen King’s best books.

And I have to say… I was underwhelmed. Keep reading for more details.

Stephen King - It

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Horror

Length:

1376 pages

Blurb:

Something evil lives underground in the town of Derry, Maine – something that only the children can see, something that feeds on them. The horrific death of six-year-old George Denbrough sets off events that band together seven children who are forced to fight their worst nightmares, brought alive by IT that can take any shape. They survive the ordeal. And move away, going on to live successful lives, and forgetting everything they’d faced as near-teenagers. Until they get a call from Derry, 27 years later. Children are dying horribly again. The past is repeating itself. And The Losers have to return to Derry – to fulfill a promise made a long time ago, and to face their nightmares once again. Will they survive IT again?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its horror, a lot of which has a reduced effect due to the sheer length of the book. By the end, you’re all scared-out and the most horrifying things become mundane.

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Nope… just a single, reeeaallly big book! (And a 2-Part movie series.)

Highlighted Takeaway:

There is a distinct difference between the way adults see life and the way children see life. The general assumption is that the former are smarter because of their outlook. But there is a strength in children, brought forth by their innocence, imagination, and simple way of being able to maintain a wider view of the world than adults – just because they haven’t been molded by peers’ thoughts and societal conformity. That distinction and the often unappreciated ability of children is highlighted brilliantly in IT.

What I Liked:

The basic premise of the book, especially the part where it touches upon how we, individually, have the power to create (and sometimes overcome) our greatest fears.

Even though the book eventually loses some of its effectiveness (as mentioned below), it still manages to get under your skin, leaving you looking over your shoulder.

What I Didn’t Like:

The book is quite long, which isn’t a problem in itself. But what its length does is diminish its effectiveness. Like a word repeated too many times loses its effect, the extended horror eventually loses its effect. By the end, things get pretty intense and horrifying more often than in the initial parts of the book – but it just doesn’t seem as scary.

Spoiler alert! This spoiler doesn’t affect the outcome of the story in any way, but does highlight a specific part of the book. This part is only in the book and (from what I read), not in Part 1 of the film. The section where Beverly “gets together” with all the other boys of The Losers little group (six boys!), was altogether too much to take. I get why it was written (by reading Stephen King’s take on it) and even what it was meant to signify, but just… nope!

Who Should Read It:

Fans of horror and fans of Stephen King. And anyone who enjoys books with a supernatural touch.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who is turned off by violence and gore. And anyone who doesn’t enjoy stories driven by supernatural elements.

Read It For:

The experience. There are a few things that aren’t likable in Stephen King’s IT – the abovementioned spoiler, a somewhat childish aspect to the climax, and unnecessarily added story sections that the book can do without.

But, it is a book that everyone should attempt to read at least once. Even those who, like me, are generally scared of horrors. It is a prominent part of literary horror, and rightly so, with its complex yet simple understanding of human nature, gore-y and psychologically terrifying bits, and unabashed reflection of the societal problems and norms of the era in which it was set.

What did you think of Stephen King’s IT – movie or novel? Let me know in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Unimpressive: A Review of Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch (By B.J. Daniels)

The Harlequin Intrigue series had been one of my favorites growing up. They moved fast, had decent characterization, and intriguing storylines where romance met murder (and other criminal activity).

But when I moved to books by Iris Johansen and other such authors, the romantic suspense genre turned into something that had the potential of greater detail – in plot and characterization. Which is why I never really got back to reading anything from the Intrigue series.

I picked up B.J. Daniel’s Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch a while ago, when it came as a free download on an emailer list. I tried reading it, but couldn’t get past the first couple of pages because there was altogether too much drama. I tried again a while ago when I wanted to read something quick and not-too-serious. I don’t know whether it was this specific book or the genre in general, but I was definitely left underwhelmed. It was only for old times’ sake that I read it through to the end.

Let’s get right into the review.

Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch - BJ Daniels

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Romance, Romantic Suspense

Length:

250 pages

Blurb:

Five years ago, Dana Cardwell was betrayed by the man she loved. Hudson Savage left the town without explanation, and Dana hoped to never see him again. But when years-old bones are found on Dana’s ranch, an investigation is begun – led by the new acting Marshall, Hudson Savage, who is back in town for redemption, and some answers.

Soon, Dana begins to struggle with new revelations that threaten everything and everyone she believes in. Had she been wrong in questioning Hudson five years ago? Or is she wrong in trusting him now? Dana needs to find the right answers even as someone continues to threaten her every more, her home, and her life.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 10

Plot:

6 out of 10

Characterization:

5 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its suspense, 7 out of 10 for its romance

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No. 1 in the Cardwell Ranch series

Highlighted Takeaway:

Nothing really remains with you long enough to be taken away.

What I Liked:

The plot twists, although predictable, were decent.

What I Didn’t Like:

No one in this book speaks to one another. Apparently, it’s easier to remain angry and detach yourself, than give the person you supposedly love the most in the world a chance to talk. Is it really that difficult to just speak to one another?

Characters were incredibly clichéd. Women are feminine, but strong and determined. Men are sinfully handsome, troubled, but trying to do the right thing.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys Mills & Boon books, or similar, typical romances and the romantic suspense genre.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who likes their stories to go beyond the basic theme, and expects greater depth in story and characterization.

Read It For:

The love of basic romances – its typical romantic turmoil with a splash of suspense keeps the story moving forward. Or read it as a way to escape into a book for a short while.

The Intrigue series is a huge success and, I’m sure, for good reason. But it’s just not my cup of tea (anymore). If it’s romantic suspense you’re looking for, there are better ones out there. But if you are looking for something less complicated but still steamy enough with a touch of suspense, the Intrigue books will not disappoint.

As always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my two cents worth!

– Rishika

1 Comment

Filed under Book reviews

Good Premise, Weak Implementation: A Review of Trance (By Adam Southward)

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of this book. Trance released on 1 July and is now available for sale. I wish I could’ve enjoyed it more because the blurb had been incredibly promising. But there were some issues that just couldn’t be ignored in this psychological thriller.

Oh well… Let’s get right to the review of Adam Southward’s Trance.

Southward-Trance-28012-CV-FL-v4.indd

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Psychological thriller, Mystery

Length:

336 page

Blurb:

Three University scientists are found dead in a horrifying murder-suicide. Victor Lazar is found outside the room and imprisoned as the only suspect. But soon, other inmates are driven to suicide. And then the psychologist assigned to Lazar kills himself.

Private therapist, Alex Madison, used to be one of the best forensic psychologists in the city until the events that led to his downfall, personally and professionally. When he’s called in to interview and diagnose Lazar, he knows it’s a chance at redemption. But the case forces him to look beyond everything he’s known and learned about psychology and psychiatry. Will Madison find his redemption? Or will he end up losing everything he still holds dear in the revenge saga that Lazar is building?

Overall Rating:

5 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

5 out of 10

Primary Element:

4 out of 10 for the psychological thriller aspect, 6 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

6 out of 10

Part of a Series:

According to Goodreads, this is the first of the books in the series of the primary protagonist – Alex Madison.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The basic premise – if this had been explored more, it would’ve been a very different (and much better) read.

What I Liked:

The book doesn’t shy away from being violent and abrupt, making it a fast-paced read.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The psychological basis of the story was just a given, which takes away the entire mystery of, “How is this happening?”
  • Characters were one-dimensional
  • Plot twists were predictable
  • The main protagonist, although probably one of the better parts of the book, could probably have done with a little more rationality. Although not as cringe-worthy and annoying, Madison’s character reminded me a lot of another confused character that I’d absolutely detested – Lorna – from Samantha Hayes’ Tell Me A Secret (review of that apparent psychological thriller is here).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone looking for a quick mystery, pseudo-thriller – as long as you’re not expecting a book that stays with you forever.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who likes psychological thrillers because of the depth they often offer into the human psyche – Trance has a good premise but does nothing to follow it up.

Read It For:

A fast holiday or non-serious weekend read option.

All in all, I’d say that Trance doesn’t have to be one your TBR list. Adam Southward is a talented writer who probably has some great ideas. I’d love to see them more fleshed out though so as to actually make for a compelling, memorable read. As for Trance… it’s a good option for when you want something fast and not too sensible.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this review.

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Keeps the Pace Up: A Review of Redemption (By David Baldacci)

Amos Decker is back!

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews of the books starring the man brought to life by David Baldacci, you’ll know that Amos Decker is one of my favorite literary characters. And Redemption, while keeping up the pace that its prequel – the Fallen – had set, just adds more reasons to love the flawed, moralistic, often pig-headed Decker.

David Baldacci Redemption

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Mystery, Thriller

Length:

418 pages

Blurb:

Amos Decker returns to his hometown of Burlington to visit his wife and daughter’s graves on the day that would have been his daughter’s fourteenth birthday, and comes face to face with Meryl Hawkins. Hawkins had murdered four people, thirteen years ago, including two children. He’d been found guilty of the murder on the basis of overwhelming evidence – evidence that Decker and his partner, Mary Lancaster, had found as detectives assigned to their first homicide. Released due to a terminal illness, Hawkins claims that he’s innocent, and he wants Decker to find the real killer. Decker refuses. Until another murder shocks the town and brings up an unexpected connection to the thirteen-year-old case. Had Decker really made a mistake and caused an innocent man’s incarceration? If Hawkins was innocent, who had really committed the four murders? And how many people may die if Decker doesn’t find the right answers in time?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is the fifth book in the Amos Decker series, which is best read in chronological order:

  1. Memory Man (review here)
  2. The Last Mile (review here)
  3. The Fix (review here)
  4. The Fallen (review here)

Highlighted Takeaway:

The shift from who Decker began as in Memory Man, to the character he’s now been made into. It’s a risk – playing with the essence of what makes Decker, Decker. But Baldacci has built the shift well over the series, making it such that you can easily associate and empathize with this version of him.

What I Liked:

Each character holds their own in Redemption, making for a book that has multiple personal tangents that tie together really well. Vulnerabilities and strengths of all characters are well-explored to make them all relatable, and get the reader invested in the story.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing specific that is unlikable in the book.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys intricate and layered storylines, and anyone who likes complex mysteries that are about more than just the case at hand. Also, anyone who’s a fan of David Baldacci – the Decker series is one of his most popular one and for good reason.

Who Should Avoid:

People that enjoy thrillers where the chill gets into your bone. While Redemption is a thriller in that you’re turning the pages in a rush to know what happens next, it won’t leave you looking over your shoulder. So if that’s what you look for in a thriller, then it may be best to avoid Redemption.

Read It For:

A complex but well-laid storyline, great characterization, and the intriguing development of Amos Decker’s character.

Have you read David Baldacci’s Redemption yet? Share your thoughts on the book (or any other) in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Reminiscent of Stuart MacBride’s Misfit Mob: A Review of The Sleepwalker (by Joseph Knox)

I saw Joseph Knox’s The Sleepwalker in my Goodreads feed, and saw that it was available to read and review on NetGalley. So naturally, I had to get myself a copy (because of my obvious and possibly unhealthy love for the mystery/thriller genre). Three days later, I’m done with the book and can’t help but feel how similar the experience of reading it was to reading A Dark So Deadly by Stuart McBride (review here), which introduced readers to the Misfit Mob.

Here’s why The Sleepwalker was even better than A Dark So Deadly.

The Sleepwalker Joseph Knox

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

328 pages

Blurb:

Martin Wick was sentenced to death for the slaughter of an entire family. But Wick had no memory of the crime, earning him the nickname ‘The Sleepwalker’. Ten years later, Wick is dying in a hospital, under police watch. Detective Aidan Waits is part of the police protection detail that has only one job – watch Wick and try to find out the location of Wick’s last victim. But then, an attack leaves Wick and another policeman dead, and another gravely injured. And with his dying breath, Wick tells Waits something that sends him down a dangerous path where demons from his past, the search for the truth, and the threats of his present come crashing together. Will this be the end for Waits’ career and life? Will Waits fight the dangers that will pull him deeper into the storm from which there’s no return? Or will he embrace that darkness and the release it will bring?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book 3 of the Aidan Waits series. Book 1 – Sirens – has actually been on my list for a while. While I didn’t want to give up on the chance to read The Sleepwalker, I definitely felt like I should’ve started from Book 1. If you’re picking Joseph Knox as a new author to follow, start at the beginning – at Sirens.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Aidan Waits’ sour persona. It may have rubbed the other characters wrong, but I absolutely loved the way he was.

What I Liked:

Joseph Knox builds an intricately woven plot on the foundation of great characterization. The Sleepwalker reads really well, moves fast, and is also wonderfully human in its characters’ strengths and weaknesses.

What I Didn’t Like:

If I had to pick something, it would be the fact that the book wouldn’t have been complete without reference to its prequels. But, that very reference is what has now left me knowing more than what I would’ve liked to know about those very prequels. So if you pick this book up as a standalone read, you will enjoy it. But if you want to read the whole series, start with Sirens instead for a more complete experience.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who loves books set in the United Kingdom, especially if you like the works of Stuart MacBride.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not like books where the main protagonists are a little too dark; where they’re not anti-heroes, they’re just confused individuals trying to make the best of a situation and survive until they can be bothered to.

Read It For:

Aidan Waits’ struggle against himself and the hand he’s been dealt, as he tries to determine whether the effort is worth it at all.

A big thank you to NetGalley, Joseph Knox, and Transworld Publishers for an ARC of this book. The Sleepwalker comes out on 11 July 2019. Make sure to grab a copy if you love thrillers.

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

The One You Sorta Get, But Not Entirely: A Review of Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

There are a few things you should know about Gorky Park before you read this review for said review to make any sense.

One, Gorky Park was actually written in Russian and translated into English – not something you realize when you read the blurb or buy the book.

Two, the cover may look all new and contemporary, but it’s an old book – originally published in 1981. It’s set in the 1980s in Russia, which was a very, very different time wrought with political nitty-gritties that most people aren’t completely aware of.

Three, in spite of being translated, it is actually very accurate in slang and style, something I realized when I watched Chernobyl right after reading this book and found the characters’ idiosyncrasies making more sense than they otherwise would’ve.

Four, those idiosyncracies make no sense for the first third of the book, until you get into it.

Now that we’ve got those out of the way… let’s get to this review!

Gorky Park Martiz Cruz Smith

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Mystery, Crime, Fiction

Length: 

592 pages

Blurb:

When Chief Inspector Arkady Renko discovers three mutilated in Gorky Park, he wants to do everything he can to prove that the case is more suitable for KGB than the militia. What begins as a minimal investigation turns into the biggest case of his life. As Renko is forced to question everything he’s believed in and trusted, he discovers more about himself than he thought possible, or even wanted. But will this realization help him find answers, or will it kill him?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

6 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for the mystery

Writing Style:

8 out of 10 for its abstract yet endearing style

Part of a Series: 

Apparently, yes. This is the first of the Arkady Renko series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The way Martin Cruz Smith manages to beautify the saddest and weakest vulnerabilities of human beings while showing that that is what makes us strong in the first place.

What I Liked:

The conflict that Arkady Renko has with himself as a good person dealt a bad hand, wanting to do the right thing even as he’s incredibly tempted to not, so as to protect himself.

What I Didn’t Like:

It was a little too local. There was so much reliance on the political and inter-country relationships at the crux of the story that I think it would leave anyone who wasn’t living in 1981 Russia feeling a little lost. Some perspective might have helped (especially for people like me whose knowledge of geography and history is downright-laughable).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys the abstract narrative that is seen quite often in slightly older novels. Anyone who loves Russia-based literature. And anyone who wants to try a mystery with a twist (a very, very large twist… and some small ones).

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who likes clear-cut plots – this one is super-twisty and can get a bit difficult to follow.

Read It For:

The authentic manner in which it captures a culture, and a look into the relationship-intricacies of two superpowers pitted against each other. Oh and also for this weird oxymoron that the book seems to be – it’s actually engaging and frustrating, simultaneously. You literally feel like putting it aside and not picking it up for a while, but still feel like turning page after page at the same time!

Gorky Park isn’t the easiest read, but it’s definitely an interesting one – to the extent that, in spite of feeling a little lost at many points, I wouldn’t mind reading more from Martin Cruz Smith, and am definitely going to follow the story of Arkady Renko. Before I come around to picking that one up though, there are many books to read and many reviews to share. Next up – The Sleepwalker by Joshua Knox.

Got something to add? Just drop a comment below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

A Satisfactory Sequel: A Review of The Forgotten by David Baldacci

The Forgotten is the sequel to Zero Day (review here), which introduces us to John Puller, an Army CID agent who is disciplined, patriotic, and has a strong moral axis. While the introductory book had him handling a matter of national security, The Forgotten has Puller on a case that’s more personal.

A good sequel, it adds a lot of depth to Puller’s character, and makes for a good, quick-paced read with a lot of layers.

The Forgotten by David Baldacci

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

596 pages

Blurb:

John Puller is still struggling to come to terms with the events of his last case. When he visits his father, his plan to unwind during a few weeks off comes to an abrupt halt. His father has received a letter from his aunt, one in which she confides that her town, Paradise, is far from its namesake. Puller hasn’t been in touch with his aunt for a long time, but remembers her for the crucial role she played in positively shaping his childhood. So when he travels to Paradise and discovers that she’s dead, he knows there’s more to the story than meets the eye. The police insist that his aunt’s death was caused by accidental drowning. The town of Paradise is separated into the side that the tourists see, and one that no one wants to see. And Puller has attracted the attention of some very unpleasant men who want to see him dead, or close to it. But Puller will do whatever it takes to get the right answers… as long as he can stay alive long enough to do so.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its mystery, and 5 out of 10 for the ‘thriller’ factor.

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #2 of the John Puller series. It can be read as a standalone, but is best read in order of the series. If you want to start with this one though, you can, because it gives nothing of Book #1 away.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Some very large plot twists that you don’t see coming, and that really overcome the predictability of some parts of the story arc.

What I Liked:

The way many different storylines that are running in parallel come together to make for a wholesome, very satisfying conclusion. And, the growth of Puller’s character – with every passing experience, Puller takes a closer look at himself and the principles and rules he’s lived by throughout his life, beliefs that are now conflicting with his sense of morality. Baldacci beautifully handles this development without making it seem forced, while also laying the groundwork for what could potentially be a very intriguing story arc for Puller.

What I Didn’t Like:

Some parts of the story were a little too predictable.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good suburban chaos mystery, David Baldacci’s work, or just a well-rounded, intricate mystery/thriller plot.

Who Should Avoid:

I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who doesn’t enjoy suspense or mystery, because the book is lengthy and convoluted, and takes its time going through multiple avenues before reaching a conclusion.

Read It For:

The continuation of John Puller’s story.

Have you read any of David Baldacci’s books? Who’s your favorite character – Puller, Maxwell, King, Pine, Decker, or someone else? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews