Posted in All Book Reviews, Thrillers

Book Review: The Hit (By David Baldacci)

The Hit brings assassin Will Robie back. The first book in the series – The Innocent was good (although not great) and Robie stood out as a character with a lot of potential. And in Book #2 of the series, you can see that potential being realized!

Genre: 

Thriller (although, I would label the Will Robie series political thrillers)

Length: 

392 pages

Blurb:

Will Robie works for a small, elite unit of the US Government. He has only one duty – to kill enemies of the state before they can unleash hell on thousands of innocent victims. And he’s the best at the job. The only one who can match him in skill and talent is Jessica Reel. A fellow assassin, she has almost as many kills as Robie and is just as reputed for her ability and her loyalty. But now, Reel has turned on the agency. She’s hunting their own. And Robie is ordered to bring her back – alive or dead. Robie can think like Reel, which makes him the agency’s best chance at capturing her. But as Robie pursues Reel, he discovers two things – one, he is always one step behind and Reel can predict him just as well as he can predict her, and two, something about her being a traitor doesn’t fit right. Soon, Robie discovers that there’s much more than what meets the eye, in Reel and in his assignment. And he needs to find the answers that remain elusive if he is to thwart a threat targeted not only at the United States, but at the world at large.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10, mainly because I felt the strong characterization drop a bit as the story progresses

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book #2 in the Will Robie series. It has characters from the previous book, and is best read in order if you don’t want spoilers.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A twisted tale of patriotism, family, and duty, The Hit is equal parts action and political gambit.

What I Liked:

Will Robie’s character is really fleshed out in The Hit. His humanity, sense of duty, and even patriotism is questioned, as are his skills – and each challenge gives the reader a chance to see more of what he’s made of, even as he discovers it himself. Reel’s character is also just as good, and the two keep the reader very invested. The detail in some of the action scenes was incredible, painting an extremely vivid picture. The story itself was good too – not over the top as some political thrillers can be – and maintains the mystery and suspense till the end.

What I Didn’t Like:

I loved Jessica Reel’s introduction, and for the first half of the book, she gave Robie a real fight. But, at one point, it seemed like her awesomeness was… conveniently downplayed. I really wanted to see her hold her own more than she did.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys thrillers based around political aspirations, or books that are based around spies and international assassinations.

Who Should Avoid:

If high-stakes political threats are not your cup of tea, I would recommend avoiding this one. For lovers of more crime-related thrillers, I would recommend other books by Baldacci, such as Memory Man featuring Amos Decker (one of my favorite literary characters) or even the Atlee Pine or John Puller series. Although the latter two do start with some political/government angles in their first books, they eventually evolve into crime-thriller series.

Read It For:

The interesting results of two trained assassins tossed out of their depth, discovering themselves, as they strive to do what they believe is right.

I hadn’t expected the second book to be that much better than the first, and so I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. The Hit started a little slow, but really picked up. If you liked Baldacci’s Camel Club series, you will definitely like the Will Robie series!

Got anything to add? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: A Minute to Midnight (By David Baldacci)

I’d read the first book of the Atlee Pine series, Long Road to Mercy, a while ago. It was good, but not great, and set the stage for Baldacci’s (sort-of) first female lead protagonist. The characterization of Atlee Pine was the best part of the book, which made me want to read more about her. And so, I picked up the second book in the series – A Minute to Midnight. Read on to know more about how and why this was so much better than its prequel, and where its shortcomings were.

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

434 pages

Blurb:

Atlee Pine’s past is catching up. When she was six years old, someone snuck into her bedroom, kidnapped her twin sister, and left her for dead. Their parents were passed out downstairs after a night of partying. Pine suspects Daniel James Tor, a serial killer who fits the bill and is now locked away in a maximum security prison in Colorado. Now an FBI agent, Pine has put a lot of bad people away. But when an incident at work makes her realize that she’s letting her demons take control, she does the only thing she can to set things right – returns to the town where she lost her sister with the goal of finding answers. But when a body turns up indicating a ritualistic killing, Pine is pulled into the investigation. Working on both cases, she soon begins to realize that nothing is as she believes – not the present… and definitely not the past.

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book No. 2 in the Atlee Pine series. You could read it as a standalone, but you would definitely miss out on some background and context.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A super-smooth read, A Minute to Midnight has everything you’d want in a page-turner – mystery, action, and well fleshed out characterization.

What I Liked:

Atlee Pine makes for an interesting character – easy to associate with, impressive, emotional, and intrinsically genuine. The story has really good suspense, leaving you guessing until the end. Even where things seem predictable, there are aspects that retain their mystery until the very end. And, as always with Baldacci’s work, there are numerous story arcs unfolding at the same time and they do come together well.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing that I specifically disliked – the book reads really well through and through.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys murder mysteries, crime thrillers, and crime fiction. A Minute to Midnight is, for the most part, about the murders, with a smaller chunk dedicated to Pine’s past.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t like multi-layered stories (there is a lot going on in the book) and crime fiction.

Read It For:

The evolution of Pine’s character – she is much easier to associate with in the second book of the series and you will find yourself rooting for her.

I’ve always enjoyed Baldacci’s work, and am now planning to finish reading the remaining books in the series of Atlee Pine, Will Robie, and John Puller, before returning to my favorite Baldacci character – Amos Decker. That seems like a lot of books, but the best part of them is that each character works in very different settings, and Baldacci definitely uses slightly different styles for each. Which makes it that much easier, and that much more fun!

Coming up next, a review of The Hit, the second book in Baldacci’s Will Robie series. If you’d like to share your thoughts on David Baldacci or any of his books and characters (or any books in general), drop us a line in the comments below. And as always, thanks for making a stop at The Book Review Station!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: The One (By John Marrs)

I had John Marrs’ The One on my to-be-read pile for a while. I didn’t actually know about its screen-adaptation until just before I started reading it. I haven’t watched the Netflix series but have read the excerpt, and it’s quite different from the book.

That being said, the book was very intriguing (and it definitely sounds more intriguing than the show). Read on to know more about what worked and what didn’t in The One.

Genre: 

Sci-fi, Thriller

Length: 

412 pages

Blurb:

Match Your DNA is a multi-million dollar company, built on matchmaking backed by science. With just one swab, the matchmaking website can find your perfect match – the one you’re genetically meant for. When the company announced that they’d discovered the gene that was responsible for pairing you with your soulmate, it led to millions of sign ups. In the decade since its launch, the concepts of romance, dating, and love have changed, and DNA test results led to hundreds of relationships ending as people chose to instead be with their genetic soulmates. Now five people have got the notification that they’ve been ‘Matched’. They are on the verge of meeting their true loves. But people have secrets. And some secrets can threaten anyone’s ‘happily ever after’… even soulmates’.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its suspense/thrill, and 6 out of 10 for its sci-fi angle (which needs to be taken as just ‘given’)

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

More emotional than you’d expect, The One is an insightful page-turner that will make you stop and think about relationships, loneliness, and what we’re gaining – and losing – in a world where technology is becoming the norm for everything.

What I Liked:

In spite of having to follow the stories of five characters and their partners, John Marrs manages to make readers root for some, love some, and hate some – keeping you very invested in the book. Plus, each story touches upon the larger and smaller complexities of life in today’s world, leaving you with some interesting observations and realizations.

What I Didn’t Like:

It does take a bit of time to get a hang of all the characters, because there are so many of them and the stories run in parallel, going from one character to the next. I did find myself going back a few times to check each character’s introductory chapter as they appeared only for a second or third time. But this issue does resolve itself, and soon.

Who Should Read It:

The One isn’t exactly a mystery, nor is it exactly sci-fi, although it does have elements of both. If you enjoy either of those genres, or even thrillers, you will probably enjoy The One.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like books with too many characters or parallel storylines, you should probably avoid this one.

Read It For:

The characters and the (slightly) existential questions and thoughts that John Marrs’ The One leaves you with long after you’ve turned the last page.

Want to share your thoughts on The One or its Netflix adaptation? Drop us a line in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Thrillers

Book Review: The Whisper Man (By Alex North)

The Whisper Man by Alex North had been on my TBR pile for a while. It seemed like the perfect thriller – a small town with a dark past, a broken but loving family taking a chance on a new beginning, and a new case that brings both together.

But did it meet expectations, or did The Whisper Man fall short? Read on to know.

Genre: 

Thriller

Length: 

355 pages

Blurb:

After his wife’s sudden death, Tom Kennedy moves to the small town of Featherbank with the hope that it would give him and his son, Jake, a chance to fix their otherwise distant relationship. But Featherbank has a troubled history – it was the home and hunting ground of “The Whisper Man”, a name given to Frank Carter who lured young boys out of their homes by whispering at their window, before torturing and murdering them. Detective Pete Willis had caught Carter twenty years ago, ending his reign of terror after he’d claimed five victims. Now, twenty years later, another young boy has disappeared in similar circumstances, and young Detective Amanda Beck needs Pete’s help. Because “The Whisper Man” will only speak to the man who captured him and may finally talk about the suspicion that he had worked with an accomplice. But while Willis tries to overcome the emotional strain of his own personal past and that Carter’s visits place on him, while Beck tries to find the missing boy before it becomes too late, and while Tom attempts to settle into the new town, young Jake begins acting strangely. And soon… he begins to hear a whisper at his window.

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The perfect combination of thrill, mystery, and emotion, The Whisper Man will leave you thinking about its characters (and looking over your shoulder) long after you’ve turned the last page.

What I Liked:

The Whisper Man is scary. It creeps you out, gets under your skin, and leaves you feeling unsettled – which makes it a brilliant ‘thriller’. Then there’s the characterization – you don’t just read about people and their circumstances and reactions; you go right to their essence. What makes them flawed, what leaves them struggling, and where do they find their strength – Alex North does a great job of making his characters as real as possible. And that ease of association will leave you shocked, smiling, and tearing up at various points as the characters’ stories unfold.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was very little to dislike in The Whisper Man.

Who Should Read It:

If you love thrillers, especially the kind that leaves you slightly jumpy at every small unexplained noise, then you will love this book. It is so much more than just the mystery though and, somehow, all of it comes together.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like violent crime, I would recommend avoiding The Whisper Man. It isn’t too graphic or violent, but there are some shocking scenes that can be disturbing.

Read It For:

Although the creepy-factor was strong in this one, I would say that The Whisper Man should be read for its emotional impact. The intricacies, struggles, and joys of relationships – especially that between father and son – are beautifully shown and will stay with you for a long time.

I haven’t read any of Alex North’s other works, but I definitely plan to. After The Whisper Man, I can easily place him among the best thriller authors I’ve read, and I’m hoping that his finesse and craft is maintained in his other books. In the meanwhile though, I did read another book that had long been on my TBR pile. So coming up next – a review of The One by John Marrs.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

A Massive NO!: A (Quick) Review of Win by Harlan Coben

Before jumping right into this review, I have to highlight three things:

  1. I have not read any of the Harlan Coben Myron Bolitar series, so Windsor Horne Lockwood III is a brand new character for me.
  2. I have always found Harlan Coben’s work good, but not great, so I pick up his books solely on the intrigue in the blurb. Win has a lot of intrigue in the blurb.
  3. This review is going to be different than the usual way my reviews unfold.

On to the review!

I tried hard to like this book – I really, really did. I absolutely hate giving up on books, persevering in the hope that they will improve at some point. But at 60 pages in and struggling to read more than one chapter at a time, I read a few (rare) negative reviews that said that the mystery isn’t so mysterious, and the titular character doesn’t get any better. I was still holding on and was determined to continue reading the next day. But when the time came, I just couldn’t pick it up.

And so, I finally marked it as DNF and moved on. Below are a few reasons I couldn’t get on board with this book or its titular character. You can check out the blurb for Win here.

  1. Win goes on and on and on and on and on and on some more about himself all the time – about how good he is at mixed martial arts, at kicking people’s asses, at sex, and at everything else. He’s a self proclaimed vigilante who enjoys violence. While the vigilante part was what made the blurb interesting, Win ends up coming across as a sociopath who cares about vigilante justice not because he should help others, but because he can. He does not actually care about the people he’s defending or avenging nor about the consequences of his actions on those very people, as long as the perpetrator got a good beating at his hand. Which made me feel like it was more about his ego than his apparent unique brand of justice.
  2. Other characters are interesting but seem to be part of the story more for Win to come across as socially woke and aware rather than anything other reason, inadvertently (and ironically) becoming plot points in the process.
  3. He literally has to “attempt to seem emotional”. It’s really tough to associate with a character who feels nothing except for arrogance and pride about himself.
  4. The book seems to go nowhere – 60 pages in and all I’d read was how awesome Win thought he was and how he thought he was Batman (his comparison, not mine). While the basic mystery was introduced at some point, it did little to generate curiosity because of it being shared through Win’s egotistical outlook. Consequently, for a book that’s meant to have a mystery and some suspense at its core, it took a really, really long time to get going.
  5. And by the time it did get going, I cared about Win so little that I didn’t care at all about what happened to him or his family. Which is why I ended up giving up. And that is the basic problem with Harlan Coben’s Win – the main character is so unlikeable that you simply don’t care about what happens to him. So why would you read any more?

I know I’m in the minority with my thoughts on this book. But the lack of interest I had in Win by this point and the reviews that said that the mystery wasn’t Coben’s best made the decision for me.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 stars (I genuinely did not find anything redeeming, but I didn’t finish the book either, so I can’t give it a 0)

All in all, Win by Harlan Coben was a big no-no for me. And it will be a while before I go back to Coben’s books.

If you’re a big fan of Harlan Coben, you may enjoy Win. But if you’re on the fence about his books (or generally dislike characters who come across as gigantic as**s while trying to be ‘super-cool’ or anti-heroes), I’d recommend passing on this one.

Got some thoughts on Win (the character or the book)? Drop a comment below to share it with us. As always, thank you for stopping by and reading my reviews! Coming up next – a review of The Whisper Man by Alex North.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Quintessential ‘Skeletons in the Closet’: A Review of Broken Heart by Tim Weaver

Continuing with the David Raker series by Tim Weaver, we’re talking about Broken Heart this time. Read on to know if this book fails in comparison to its prequels or if Tim Weaver can keep the momentum going.

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

451 pages

Blurb:

Security footage from one of the headlands overlooking the Devon coast shows a woman enter in the morning. Her car is found in the parking lot days later. The woman is not seen or recorded leaving from the only entrance and feasible path in and out of the area, and yet she’s never found again. Months later, David Raker is hired by her sister, who lives halfway across the world, to find out what happened to her, if she’s even alive, and where she may be. What led the woman, widowed from a reclusive film director, to disappear… and how exactly did she disappear? An already complicated case gets even more so as Raker digs deeper and decades-old secrets begin to emerge. Someone has kept these secrets hidden until now and, as David starts to discover, no cost seems too high to keep them buried. Raker finds himself caught in an intrinsic and dangerous web. And yet, that may not be the cause of Raker’s destruction. Because the demons and memories of his past are slowly catching up.

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, 9 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #7 in the David Raker series. It can, to some extent, be read as a standalone. But the development of David’s character is best read in order, starting at at least Book #4 – Never Coming Back.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Tim Weaver is the master of ‘skeletons in the closet’ tales – and his talent in bringing these to life is undeniably evident in Broken Heart.

What I Liked:

The creepy factor – the narrative in many parts of Broken Heart leaves you feeling unsettled, and with the feeling that someone is around you but just out of sight, providing the perfect ‘thrill’. Another aspect that’s really enjoyable is the depth of information (narrated entertainingly) about the movie industry and its evolution (from technical and cultural aspects). Both these elements manage to pull you in and keep you turning the pages.

What I Didn’t Like:

I did feel like the book could have been a few pages shorter, that some chapters were lengthened without cause. But it didn’t really take too much away from the momentum of the story.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who loves thrillers and mysteries will enjoy Broken Heart, and the entire David Raker series.

Who Should Avoid:

There are a few graphic parts that do make your stomach turn. So if you’re easily put off by violence, I’d recommend avoiding this one.

Read It For:

Unsurprisingly, David Raker. Without giving too much away, I will say that his character development is becoming interesting and even unexpected. But it leaves you wanting to know that much more about what happens next!

Love the David Raker series? Or have recommendations for similar works? Drop a comment below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my book review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Emotional, Insightful, and a Page-turner: A Review of Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay sounded like the perfect book that brought together mystery, thriller, and true-crime documentaries (especially around wrongful convictions). It took me around four days to read the book – which is quite long at 368 pages – because it definitely manages to hold the reader’s interest (and I had a long weekend!). So what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s unputdownable about it? Read on to know.

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

368 pages

Blurb:

Seven years ago, Matt Pine’s elder brother, Danny, had been convicted of the murder of his teenaged girlfriend. Danny swore innocence. His parents and younger sister stood by him and so did the rest of the country as they followed the case – portrayed as one of wrongful conviction – in a viral true-crime documentary. Matt didn’t know what to believe because he saw something the night that made him suspect his brother’s guilt. Now a student at NYU, Matt is trying to pick up the pieces of the life left in the aftermath of the documentary that villainized the town, forced his family out of the city, and drove a wedge between him and his father who had centered his life around proving Danny’s innocence. Until he wakes up after a night of partying to learn that most of his family – his parents, younger sister, and kid brother – were dead, killed in an accidental gas leak when taking a rare holiday in Mexico. Numb and shocked, Matt is forced to face the past as he attempts to bring his family’s bodies back home and give them a proper funeral. But as suspicions surrounding his family’s death arise, the past and present crash… and Matt is left fighting for his own life and facing hidden fears. When the truth behind his family’s deaths, his brother’s conviction, and behind what he saw that night finally surfaces, will Matt, Danny, and the Pine family receive their redemption… or will it destroy them and their memories forever?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its mystery, 6 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No. (Could be in the future given that one of the main characters has a lot of potential to become a leading protagonist in their own series.)

Highlighted Takeaway:

Successfully maintains the mystery, keeps the pages turning, and keeps the reader guessing.

What I Liked:

If you’ve read enough mysteries and thrillers, you learn to pick up on the subtle clues. But Every Last Fear doesn’t let that happen. It takes a while before you figure out the primary mystery, and the many other smaller ones unfolding alongside. The main characters really shine in all their glory and all their darkness – their flawed but hopeful outlook making them seem very human and very relatable. There also exists an idealistic outlook – the author normalizes choices, expression, and actions that are otherwise only part of ongoing social issue debates. Seeing these matters as a ‘given’ was just… really nice!

What I Didn’t Like:

The story is told from the point of view of multiple characters and over past and present periods, which takes some getting used to. There are also quite a few references to Linkin Park and other pop culture, which was good, but at times came across as a little forced. These issues are easy enough to get over though, and a few chapters in, you can get easily find yourself engrossed.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers will enjoy Every Last Fear. You’ll also really enjoy it if you like true-crime shows, especially The Staircase or The Innocent Man.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like violence at all, I would recommend avoiding this one. It’s not got a lot of it, but the amount it has is hard-hitting.

Read It For:

A fast-paced, well-layered mystery that definitely manages to surprise.

One of the things that Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay touches upon is the effect of a true-crime documentary on the persons that the documentary covers. The documentaries that are famous on Netflix and other platforms don’t always show the after-effects of their airing on the people concerned, and this take on the matter, although fictional, was definitely interesting. I found the highlighted issues about the justice system easy to believe and accept as fact because of the many true-crime documentaries that have brought to light similar matters. These are problems that need to change, and it’s interesting to see more work – fictional and non-fictional – being dedicated to their awareness.

Love true-crime documentaries or thrillers? Share your thoughts on your favorites in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review. Coming up next… a review of either The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman or Broken Heart by Tim Weaver.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Dry, but Interesting in Parts: A Review of Hooked by Nir Eyal

It’s the age of technology addiction. Some apps have you logging in three-four times a day even months and years after you’ve been using them, and some fail in their attempts to keep users coming back, even if they seemed really fun at first. In Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal – consultant, author, investor, and expert in user experience and behavioral economics (among a few other things) – explains why there may be such a difference in why some products get their users addicted and others don’t.

A really interesting topic with great potential. But does Hooked keep you hooked page after page? (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself on that pun!) Read on to know.

Genre: 

Non-fiction, Business, Psychology,

Length: 

256 pages

Blurb:

Nir Eyal delves into why some products become more addictive for their users versus others, and how this can be explained by the Hook Model – a four-step process that market leading products use to influence user behavior. It also goes on to show how you can replicate the steps in this model, and what psychological influences you need to consider when thinking about building a product that gets users “hooked”. Hooked also touches upon the ethics that should be a part of creating addictive technology, and what responsibility lies on the creators attempting to influence the behavior of millions of app users.

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10 for its teachings

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No. 

Highlighted Takeaway:

Impactful and applicable points, but presented in dry, jargon-filled prose.

What I Liked:

The chapter that touched upon the ethics involved in the creation of addictive technology was really interesting. The Hook Model itself is useful and thought-provoking.

What I Didn’t Like:

The main case study fell really flat for me – it seemed forced, like the app in question wasn’t making the points another one could have probably made, and like it was trying really hard to talk the app up. Also, the book does seem a bit dry and relies on too much jargon, instead of getting its point across in a simple, clear manner.

Who Should Read It:

App developers and product managers would find this most useful, but it would also provide good insight to people working with customer experience, retention and engagement, and product analytics.

Who Should Avoid:

Hooked is hyper targeted to the B2C tech product industry. While people working with B2B tech products can also glean some interesting stuff from the book, it doesn’t have anything for readers uninterested or uninvolved with these two segments.

Read It For:

A few interesting takeaways that offer a refreshed outlook on user engagement for products you work with (or are creating / want to create), and you own behavior with apps.

It’s hard for me to say if I’ll read more of Nir Eyal’s work, even though he is one of the leading writers on user experience and behavioral psychology in tech. On the one hand, I found some of the information to be quite useful, but on the other I did find his style cumbersome to read. I guess it would really depend on how much of the information ends up being applicable in the next few weeks and months. So… I guess we’ll have to wait and watch.

Coming up next – a review of Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay.

Share your thoughts (on anything and everything) in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by to read my review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Simple yet Deadly: A Review of Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

The first book of Keigo Higashino that I ever read was The Devotion of Suspect X (the English translation). And I have recommended it to everyone since (review here). So when I picked up Salvation of a Saint (I just couldn’t resist picking this over the other options), I had a lot of expectations. Read on to know how it (finally) went!

Genre:

Mystery

Length:

330 pages 

Blurb:

Yoshitaka Mashida is on the verge of divorcing his wife. But before he can do so, he dies of being posioned by arsenic-laced coffee. His wife, Ayane Mashiba, becomes the prime suspect. Except for one problem – she was hundreds of miles away the day that Yoshitaka was murdered. When Detective Kusanagi begins his investigation, he faces an unexpected challenge – he is smitten with the prime suspect and believes her to be innocent. But Junior Detective Kaoru Utsumi holds onto her belief that Ayane is guilty. Their difference of opinion, however, turns out to be the smallest of their problems in a case that becomes increasingly unsolvable as it unfolds. And so, Utsumi does what her boss has always done in such tough situations – she turns to Kusanagi’s brilliant friend, Professor Manabu Yukawa, known by the Tokyo Police as Detective Galileo. Will Yukawa be able to help Utsumi and his friend solve another seemingly unsolvable case? Or has he finally met his match in Yoshitaka Mashiba’s killer?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Yes. Salvation of a Saint is the second English-translated book in the Detective Galileo books, although it stands at #5 in the original (Japanese) series. It can easily, however, be read as a standalone or even as a starting point of the series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Salvation of a Saint is unputdownable with twists that keep you guessing and questioning your earlier guesses, before coming to a brilliant and satisfying end.

What I Liked:

The cultural aspects were really beautiful. They give you so much insight into a completely different culture than what you may be used to if you usually read crime thrillers and mysteries from North America or the U.K.

The writing style is beautifully simple, and equally impactful. I just could not keep this one down and took every opportunity I got to read a few pages.

The representation of gender equality (in, I am given to assume, a male-dominated culture) while still being able to showcase (and celebrating) the strengths of each gender.

Lastly – the story. Keigo Higashino continuously manages to create complex stories that are simply presented. In fact, in both of his books that I’ve read, I’ve always started with wondering how he can stretch out and add mystery to something that seems obvious. And yet, he repeatedly does just that, leaving you with a sense of deep satisfaction when the mystery is finally solved.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing that I really disliked about Salvation of a Saint, but I did feel like it fell just under The Devotion of Suspect X in my list of preferences. It was great but not as phenomenal as the latter.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who loves a good mystery. You should especially give Keigo Higashino’s books a shot if you like/liked Agatha Christie novels and other whodunits.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good whodunit-style mystery.

Read It For:

A writing style that manages to highlight some of the most terrible aspects of people and humanity with simplicity that seems to be right at odds with the heinousness, and that yet manages to perfectly encapsulate it.

Share your thoughts on Keigo Higashino, Salvation of a Saint, or any of his other works in the comments below. Recommendations for similar books are very welcome! Coming up next… either a review of Tim Weaver’s Broken Heart or Nir Eyal’s Hooked.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Beautifully Chaotic and Oddly Emotional: A Review of Recursion by Blake Crouch

Our lives and we, ourselves, are made of our memories. Does that mean that altering these memories could alter our realities (or the perception of our realities)?

I’d been looking for a good science fiction novel for a long time. I’m a huge fan of Michael Crichton’s work – his books have always had an incredible mix of science fiction and psychological outlook, making for great stories with great characterization. Obscura by Joe Hart was the last ‘really good’ science fiction novel that I’d read (review here). And Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter has been on my list for a while. Before I could read that though, I heard about Recursion, added it to my TBR pile, and managed to get my hands on a copy.

Needless to say, I had high expectations. Read on to know if they were met.

Genre: 

Science fiction

Length: 

329 pages

Blurb:

NYC Cop, Barry Sutton, can do nothing but watch as a woman kills herself – driven mad by painfully vivid memories of a life she hasn’t lived. Sutton is a functioning alcoholic, unable to come to terms with the hit-and-run that killed his teenage daughter eleven years ago and his subsequent divorce. But he’s a good cop, which is why he cannot let the suicide go. Just another in a mounting number of cases of FMS – False Memory Syndrome – it leaves Sutton searching for a truth and opening the doors to a world he didn’t know existed.

Brilliant neuroscientist, Helena Smith, knows the importance of memories. And she wants to create the technology that will help people preserve their most precious ones, so that they can live them again in vivid detail. Driven by the desire to save her mother’s memories before Alzheimer’s claims them all, she cannot refuse an incredible opportunity that promises her everything she needs to achieve her goal.

The paths they set down on bring them together – and against a terrifying force… born from the greed of wealth and fame. Can Barry and Helena defeat this invisible enemy, or will reality as they – and everyone else – know it, change forever in catastrophic ways?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10 (lower than my initial thought of 8 out of 10 because I found some of the character development toward the last one-third of the book a bit hurried and abrupt).

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its fictional science-y element

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No. 

Highlighted Takeaway:

The (surprising) emotional impact that comes in at the (approximate) 60% mark of the story. Without giving away too much, I can only say that Blake Crouch manages to evoke a lot of feelings in the reader for his main characters.

What I Liked:

The tumult that many of the main characters go through and the different conclusions they reach – all of them make you feel like, if such an event were to really take place, these would be the very human and very humane things that most of us will probably do. It added a realistic element to the characters and the story.

What I Didn’t Like:

I found two things a bit off-putting. The first was the writing style. The tense used was a little difficult to get used to. You do get past it, but it takes a while and, until then, I found it keeping me from getting pulled right in from page one (even though the events that kickstart the book are pretty great). The second was the abrupt and sudden character development jump I mentioned above. It was easy to get past it and say, “Okay, this is happening with this person now,” and you even root for the persons involved, but I felt like it could have had a few more pages dedicated to it.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes science fiction will probably enjoy Blake Crouch’s Recursion, especially if you like Michael Crichton’s work.

Who Should Avoid:

There are elements of thriller and mystery, and even a dystopian feel to Recursion. But its crux is science fiction and a large part of the book is dedicated to explanations. Plus, its very story is based around popular science fiction themes. So unless you have at least a little bit of interest in science fiction, I would recommend avoiding Recursion.

Read It For:

A few excellent insights about us (as humans) and about living life – with all its ups and downs.

I can happily say that Recursion satisfied my craving for a great sci-fi read. And Blake Crouch is definitely an author to follow if you like the genre.

Share your thoughts on Blake Crouch’s work, Recursion, or anything sci-fi related in the comments below (book recommendations are very welcome!).

Coming up next… no idea! I’ve got a few books I’m looking at including Salvation of a Saint (by Keigo Higashino), Antifragile (by Naseem Nicholas Taleb), Hooked (by Nir Eyal), and Broken Heart (by Tim Weaver). Let’s see which one I end up starting with 😀

As always, thank you for stopping by and reading my two-cents’ worth on another book!

– Rishika