Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Science fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: The Remember Experiment (By Joanne Elder)

Big thanks to Voracious Readers Only for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Remember Experiment brought together two things that I find interesting – the concept of reincarnation and serial killer thrillers. So obviously I went in with quite a few expectations. Did the books meet those expectations? Read on to know!

Genre: 

Thriller, Sci-fi

Length: 

335 pages

Blurb:

Jake Monroe is a PhD. student working with nanobots. He becomes instrumental in the first experimental treatment on an Alzheimer’s patient. But the results of the treatment are barely in when Jake finds himself being injected by experimental nanobots. Slightly different than the ones used on his patient, the nanobots have an unexpected reaction – Jake begins to have horrifying memories of being murdered in a past life. As he attempts to find out who could have injected him with the experimental tech, his memories continue to grow… until he remembers that the person he used to be, was a serial killer. Framed for theft of nanotech worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, facing terrible effects of the unexpected procedure, and with his past and present clashing together, Jake begins to question reality, and his sanity. Will he find answers to the unending list of questions plaguing him? Or will the strange impulses taking over him, changing him, finally win and turn him into something – or someone – capable of horrific things?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10 for most of the characters; 5 out of 10 for one specific character whose arc was more convenient than convincing

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its thrill and sci-fi

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Maybe. Although this is currently a standalone and the book does not end on a cliffhanger, it definitely ends with potential for a series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An interesting and not-too-often-done concept coupled with the much-loved serial killer thriller theme makes for an intriguing premise that is well explored.

What I Liked:

Some of the scenes, especially those that referred to Jake’s nightmares and memories, were done really well – pulling you right in. The story itself is interesting, and the premise is intriguing.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story, although not too long at 335 pages, definitely seemed a lot longer. There were times where it seemed like it just wouldn’t get to the point. The blurb on Voracious Readers Only and Goodreads also point to an aspect of the story that is made to seem a lot more central than it actually is. That set inaccurate expectations from the story, which was possibly why I felt like it moved slow. Also, a couple of the characters were terribly unlikable, and they weren’t actually meant to be unlikable. That is where I felt the characterization wasn’t as good as in other places.

Who Should Read It:

If you enjoy psychological thrillers or thrillers where the main character tries to make sense of not just what’s happening to them, but also what they’re experiencing (emotionally, physically, mentally), you’ll probably enjoy The Remember Experiment. It’s more about that than the actual serial killer theme.

Who Should Avoid:

If you are firmly against the idea of reincarnation, then I would strongly recommend avoiding The Remember Experiment. It definitely assumes the existence of the concept (although, to be very honest, its implementation has been very different than everything I’ve read on the topic).

Read It For:

The odd mix of reincarnation, sci-fi, and a serial killer theme, which manages to make an interesting tale.

If you’re an avid reader and enjoy reviewing books on Goodreads, Amazon, or other portals, check out Voracious Readers Only. And drop a comment below if you’d like to share anything about the site that’s bringing readers and authors together or Joanne Elder’s The Remember Experiment.

And as always, thank you for stopping by The Book Review Station and reading this review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery

Book Review: Treachery Times Two (By Robert McCaw)

A big thanks to the author, Robert McCaw, and Oceanview Publishing for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Treachery Times Two brings to the forefront one of the biggest ongoing arcs in the Koa Kāne series – Koa’s one mistake that made him who he is, but the revealing of which could take away everything that he’s earned. Does the book do the arc justice? Read on to find out.

Genre: 

Mystery

Length: 

361 pages

Blurb:

Numerous bodies are unearthed in an old, abandoned cemetery when a volcanic earthquake disrupts Hawai’i island. In them is the mutilated body of a woman, unrecognizable, and clearly buried only days ago. Chief Detective Koa Kāne’s investigation into the woman’s death leads him into the world of a politically connected defense contractor, an incredibly powerful and secret military weapon – Deimos, and an FBI espionage investigation. Forced to defy his Chief of Police in his search for justice for the victim, Kāne faces a new threat – that of his thirty-year-old secret being revealed. Years ago, Kāne had killed his father’s nemesis – the man who’d been responsible for Kāne’s father’s death – and covered up the murder. Now, the grandson of the dead man has arrived, and Koa is forced to investigate the homicide he had committed. Until another man is falsely accused of the murder. Can Koa stand by and watch an innocent man pay for his crime? Or will he accept his guilt before everyone, losing the chance to find justice for the mutilated, forgotten woman, and losing the woman he loves, the respect he’s earned, and everything he has ever held dear?

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:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book No. 4 in the Koa Kāne series. The books are connected and are best read in order, but can be enjoyed as standalone-s too. Check out the review for Book No. 1, Death of a Messenger, here, and Book No. 3, Fire and Vengeance, here.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Even better than its prequels, Treachery Times Two brings everything you’ve come to love about the Koa Kāne series – mystery, culture, and characterization – and ups the ante.

What I Liked:

There were three things that I liked the most in Treachery Times Two:

  1. It’s got the perfect mix of culture and story, with neither outshining the other.
  2. It showcases Koa Kāne in his rawest, most human form – flawed yet morally strong.
  3. It has multiple storylines and brings them all together perfectly.

What I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing I can say I actively disliked in the book. I found it to be even better than the earlier books in the series (except for Book No. 2, which I am yet to read), and feel that it’s set the bar higher for the series.

Who Should Read It:

If you like mysteries, especially those that have multi-layered plots, you’ll definitely enjoy Treachery Times Two and other Koa Kāne books.

Who Should Avoid:

I don’t think anyone would really dislike this book, unless you absolutely do not enjoy mysteries.

Read It For:

Koa Kāne’s ultimate test – professional and personal. And the always-enthralling representation of Hawaiian culture.

Treachery Times Two releases in January 2022 – pre-order it from most online bookstores or Amazon.

Got questions or something to share about Robert McCaw’s Koa Kāne series or Treachery Times Two? Drop a comment below! And as always, thanks for stopping by The Book Review Station and reading this review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Horror, Thrillers

Book Review: The House of Twelve (By Sean Davies)

I received a free copy of this book from Voracious Readers Only in exchange for an honest review.

Genre:

Thriller, Horror

Length: 

146 pages

Blurb:

Twelve strangers wake up in a house with no memory of how they got there, nor of who they are. A set of rules awaits them. One, they will not be able to escape no matter how much they try. Two, there is limited food and water and no more will be provided. Three, the eerie music that plays non-stop will stop for one hour between 11 PM and midnight every night, and one person must die within that period. If no one dies, at midnight, they all will. Four, only one person can die and only when the music stops – whether by accident, suicide, or murder. If anyone dies when the music is playing or more than one person dies when the music stops, they all die. Five, there is one way, and only one way out – redemption.

And so begins the harrowing tale of twelve people pitted against each other in their fight for survival… survival at any cost.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

2 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

4 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book #1 in the Houses of Penance series, followed by The House of Thirteen.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An interesting concept, and a tale that does not shy away from showing the worst that people can offer.

What I Liked:

The House of Twelve is full of action – the story moves along fast, and can be read in a single sitting (or a couple).

What I Didn’t Like:

In its speed though, the book forgoes on character development, to the extent that you don’t find yourself caring too much or rooting for any character at all.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys fast-paced thrillers and may not care too much about depth of character will find this an easy read.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like gore or violence, I would strongly recommend avoiding The House of Twelve. There is no dearth of either.

Read It For:

A quick vacation or weekend read if you’re a fan of thrillers.

Although I found Sean Davies’ The House of Twelve interesting, the lack of depth adversely impacted the reading experience for me. I wouldn’t actively purchase his books, at least of the Houses of Penance series, and it may be a while before I try any of his other books.

Share your comments on similarly themed books or other Sean Davies recommendations below. And as always, thank you for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction, Young adult

Book Review: Phoenix Island (By John Dixon)

I had added Pheonix Island to my TBR pile all the way back when the show Intelligence had come out, primarily because its theme was supposedly based on this book. Although I eventually learned that the two are pretty different (and Intelligence didn’t really take off), the book stayed on my list and I eventually got around to it last month.

Read on to know how it turned out.

Genre: 

Young Adult, Sci-fi

Length: 

320 pages

Blurb:

Carl Freeman is sixteen years old. He’s a champion boxer who has immense skill, but who finds himself repeatedly in trouble and being moved from foster home to foster home because of his short temper. Quick to jump in and defend weaker classmates from bullies, Carl’s distaste for those who abuse their strength leads to him ending up in court. And the judge sentences him to Pheonix Island, where repeat offenders like him – who have no home, no family, and no future – are sent for a Spartan-style boot camp until the age of eighteen. Phoenix Island was supposed to be where Carl would train to control his temper, to direct it better. But Phoenix Island turns out to be something completely different. Off United States land and untouched by its laws, the island is run by sadistic drill sergeants worse than any bully Carl has met. The children are pushed beyond their physical and mental limits, and those that break are sent to the ‘chop shop’ – ground zero for the latest in combat intelligence. Except, no one is a willing participant, and the technology is still evolving. When Carl’s inability to bow to bullies lands him in trouble yet again, he discovers that the island is hiding more horror than he knew before. And when Carl is sent to the ‘chop shop’ as part of his growing list of punishments, he knows that a transformation awaits him. But after everything he’s seen, he doesn’t know what they’ll transform him into… nor if he wants to become what they want to turn him into.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10 stars

Plot:

8 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

7 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 stars for the science fiction, which was a given and not really explored

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #1 in the Phoenix Island series, followed by Devil’s Pocket.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An interesting premise, with a really likeable lead character, Phoenix Island is perfect for its primary, young-adult audience. Adults may find it less than perfect, but enjoyable nonetheless.

What I Liked:

There were three things that I really liked about the story and characters:

  • Attention to detail in the action scenes – John Dixon has been a boxer and his knowledge is evident in the details and specifics of the action scenes. If you follow any form of hand to hand combat, you will find the narrative very visual.
  • The story touches upon some serious moral and social issues (at both individual and wider levels), providing some great food for thought conveyed through character development and story advancement (instead of preaching prose).
  • Characterization was really good, with the evolution being easy to associate with.

What I Didn’t Like:

The only issue, I felt, the book had was its pacing – it was a bit slow, and I genuinely thought that just a bit more speed would have made it a page-turner.

Who Should Read It:

I would recommend Phoenix Island to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction (including adults who often or occasionally dabble in that genre).

Who Should Avoid:

Phoenix Island may not be the best choice for adults who are used to faster-paced, edge of your seat thrillers or those who haven’t read any young adult.

Read It For:

A very likable, warm-hearted main character whose story you will end up wanting to follow.

I don’t read a lot of young-adult, although I have found some quite enjoyable, such as David Baldacci’s The Keeper. Occasionally though, I do pick up a young-adult book, especially if it’s based around science-fiction or fantasy. Although I didn’t love Phoenix Island, I think it has many things that were highly enjoyable, and I definitely want to read the sequel and follow Carl’s story.

Share your thoughts on Phoenix Island or any young-adult recommendations in the comments below. And as always, thank you for stopping by and reading my review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Non-fiction (Business and Other Stuff)

Book Review: The Data Detective (By Tim Harford)

The Data Detective is the first thing I’ve ever read from Tim Harford. And it was definitely unlike many non-fictions that I’ve read in the (recent) past. Read on to know what works and doesn’t work in this book on statistics by the famous economist.

Genre: 

Non-fiction

Length: 

336 pages

Blurb:

Statistics are all around us. With more and more studies becoming the basis upon which sociological discussions and debates take place, it’s becoming even more important for people to really understand statistics, and how they’re applied. Tim Harford delves into how statistics can offer great insight into human behavior, but only if they’re understood correctly.

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 stars (for the flow of the book and the subject matter)

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

One of the most fun non-fictions I’ve ever read, that explains serious topics through beautifully presented and easy-to-consume stories.

What I Liked:

A few things really stood out for me in Tim Harford’s writing style and the presentation of the subject matter:

  • Tim Harford comes across as humble and conversational – both qualities that I’ve often found lacking in other non-fictions (for example, Zero to One by Peter Thiel) that tend to be too preachy. It made it really easy to follow what he was trying to explain.
  • The use of case studies and real-world examples adds immense value, making the concepts simpler and their impact that much more real.
  • The ideas in The Data Detective are refreshing and can guide anyone on how to maintain an objective and information-centric outlook, especially in this often-polarized world that keeps throwing information and misinformation at you.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing to specifically dislike in the book. Smooth reading through and through.

Who Should Read It:

I have been recommending The Data Detective to everyone, regardless of whether they usually read non-fiction or anything economics and statistics-related. For those new to non-fiction, Tim Harford’s book is easy to read, making it a good starting point. For those who regularly read non-fiction, it’s a refreshing change of voice. And for those who normally don’t find statistics interesting, I share that I don’t love statistics either – and this book is way more than that. It is a whole new outlook.

Who Should Avoid:

People who spend a lot of time working with numbers and the prevalent themes may find that this doesn’t add great value (as per some Goodreads reviews). I still think it’s a book everyone should read at least once.

Read It For:

The Data Detective is a lot more than being just about statistics. It incorporates sociology, psychology, and a lot of themes that are underlying in our day to day activities and thinking. It is for that very reason that it offers usable tips to help navigate today’s world a little better. If there’s one thing to read it for, it’s the simple yet highly useful eye-openers.

After The Data Detective, I’m definitely looking forward to following more of Tim Harford’s work. Although I borrowed this one from the library, it definitely should be on an ‘owned’ list for easy reference. Share your thoughts on the book or Harford’s other work in the comments below. And as always, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: Eeny Meeny (By M. J. Alridge)

I came across Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge in the Goodreads Giveaways list. Although I didn’t win a copy, I checked it out from my library as soon as possible because of its very interesting blurb. Read on to know if it met expectations.

Genre: 

Thriller, Crime fiction

Length: 

421 pages

Blurb:

The first victim came out of the woods, starved, barely alive. She had been abducted with her boyfriend. The abductor had left them without food or water, with one gun, one bullet, and one choice – one kills the other, and the murderer survives. Survival, though, may be worse than death. Guilt and horror break the survivor’s mind, leaving her a shell of her former self. And Detective Inspector Helen Grace is forced to accept the girl’s horrifying, almost unbelievable, account when more people get abducted, and more survivors show up… leaving more dead bodies in their wake. DI Grace finds herself in one of the most terrible and challenging cases of her entire career. And the demons in her past, that she’s staunchly fought off in her rise to the top, finally seem to be winning. Will DI Grace find what’s driving the unseen monster before her past catches up to her? Or will a sadistic murderer bring about her downfall?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10 stars

Plot:

9 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

8 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its thrill and suspense

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is the first novel in the DI Helen Grace series, and is M. J. Arlidge’s debut.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An excellent debut, Eeny Meeny is not for those who get queasy easily. Some very disturbing scenes and themes and a layered, complex plot keep you turning the pages relentlessly. M. J. Arlidge is definitely an author that crime fiction and thriller lovers would want to follow.

What I Liked:

There are three things that made Eeny Meeny super interesting for me:

  • A layered, complex story with multiple arcs that tie in well.
  • Narrative that really pulled you in, making you truly feel for the characters (good and bad).
  • A strong lead character, who is as human as they come.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was only one arc that I didn’t really like too much, primarily because it felt a little out of character for me.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers, crime fiction, and thrillers. Eeny Meeny is definitely hard-hitting.

Who Should Avoid:

If you feel queasy with scenes that show the sheer desperation for survival inherent to human beings then you may want to avoid this one. The realness of the characters’ struggles and actions definitely had me squirming at certain points.

Read It For:

A new author and a new main character, both of which show an incredible amount of potential.

Before signing off on this review, I’d like to share that the revamp of The Book Review Station are underway. Starting with a new look (that we’re still fine-tuning), we’re soon going to be moving to author interviews and other new content. Let us know in the comments below if there’s something you’d like for us to include, and what you think about the new look.

As always, thanks for stopping by and checking out the latest book review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Non-fiction (Business and Other Stuff)

Book Review: Zero to One (By Peter Thiel and Blake Masters)

I found out about Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future through Goodreads’ Giveaways. I found a copy at my library and dove right in, super excited about the unique perspective that this book claimed to provide.

I’m not going to go into a detailed blurb (shocking, I know!) but I will quickly touch upon the topics the book covers: technical stagnation ongoing today, the potential of incredible innovation and “unchartered frontiers”, and the technique to overcome the former to tap into the latter. All by genius entrepreneur and investor, Peter Thiel!

Does the book actually go into all of that?

Not until the first 40% is over, at least. I may be in the minority with my lack of love for this book. But at about 40% in, after finally being unable to ignore many cringe factors, I gave up and marked it as DNF.

So what’s the rest of this review about? My unpleasant journey with Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future, and the reasons for this discontent as summarized into the points below:

  1. Peter Thiel loves himself, and does not tire of showing you how smart he is by putting down a lot of opinions. I accept that self-promotion is part of any non-fiction, business book. But he does it by outright dismissing tried and tested ideas, and I genuinely felt it was for nothing more than giving a shock factor. I’m not denying that he has his skills (at all), but the sensationalism in his writing ends up just putting you off.
  2. The arbitrarily selective focus was another huge turn off for me. In short, his entire approach is “US innovation is the best, everyone else mostly fails”. There is nothing wrong in focusing your book or your research to a specific geographical area. But if that is what you choose to do, you can’t pick and choose examples from other regions when it suits your narrative – positively or negatively – only to completely disregard other examples that don’t suit you. Targeting, in research and readership, needs more consistency, especially if you’re talking about better business strategy.
  3. And last but not least, Zero to One is terribly preachy. It’s true that most business books come with some amount of preachiness; but coupled with actionable tips, they tend to offer some key takeaways that you can apply to your own work/business. But I found Peter Thiel’s writing lacking the actionable part. The end result is just a long literature review, seen from Thiel’s sensationalizing point of view.

Before ending this review, I’m going to share a disclaimer: Thiel may be an incredible business-person and strategist, and I am not commenting on his capabilities. I am only commenting on the book and how I felt about it as a reader and as someone who’s always curious to learn (which, I don’t think, is too far from the intended audience for Zero to One).

What did you love (or not) in Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future? Tell us in the comments below! And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction

Book Review: A Study in Crimson (By Robert J. Harris)

A big thanks to Robert J. Harris and Pegasus Books for a free copy of A Study in Crimson in exchange for an honest review. I’ve always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson; I’ve read most of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels and short stories, and have watched the Robert Downey Jr. movie adaptation and the Benedict Cumberbatch series. I haven’t, however, seen the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies (around which this book is primarily based) but those who have say that the tone and vibe of A Study in Crimson perfectly encapsulates their essence.

There a lot of Sherlock Holmes adaptations out there, in books, movies, and television. So does A Study in Crimson stand out as one of the better ones? Read on to know!

Genre: 

Mystery, Crime

Length: 

256 pages

Blurb:

It’s 1942 and the streets of London are blacked out every night in an effort to avoid devastating bombings. But in the dark, a new danger arises. A man calling himself Crimson Jack is murdering women on the same dates as Jack the Ripper, and Scotland Yard turns to Sherlock Holmes to solve the case. But the killings have a ripple effect and people high up in power have their own reasons for wanting the case solved, and fast. Can Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve this mystery before more women die? Or will the killer disappear into oblivion, never identified, as his predecessor did?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No. But it is based around the films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I felt like there were references to some of those films and characters specific to them (not having seen any of them, I can’t say for sure), but you don’t feel lost at anytime and it doesn’t take anything away from the story.

Highlighted Takeaway:

With all the expected quirkiness of the main characters and the charm of the original author, Robert J. Harris’ A Study in Crimson will be an easy and enjoyable read for fans of Holmes and Watson.

What I Liked:

The story moves steadily and has no lulls, leaving you quite engrossed. The writing style is very reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work; adjusted for the change in period, but not having lost any of its charm. It’s also wonderfully descriptive, allowing you to really imagine what the city and settings look like. I also found that the (possible) references to the related movies were done perfectly so that someone who hasn’t seen them can still enjoy A Study in Crimson, with the right amount of depth to all the additional characters and enough detail to not leave you confused in the least. And if these weren’t references, they still came across as well-detailed, with all characters contributing immensely to the story.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing to really dislike in Harris’ book – it moves along well and is a really good adaptation of some of the most popular characters in literature.

Who Should Read It:

Robert J. Harris’ A Study in Crimson can be enjoyed by readers who like:

  • whodunits
  • classic mysteries
  • anything Sherlock Holmes-related
  • stories based during World War II

Who Should Avoid:

If you prefer your mysteries to be based in modern times, full of forensic evidence, and bad-a** cops or detectives, A Study in Crimson might not be the perfect fit for you. (That is not to say that Sherlock Holmes isn’t bad-a** but that that this book might not be the best fit if you’re looking for more violent or action-filled cop/detective mysteries.)

Read It For:

The classic Sherlock Holmes de-mystifying you would expect (and love)!

I really enjoyed Robert J. Harris’ A Study in Crimson, and I would definitely read more of his work. Share your thoughts on Harris and his books (or any other Sherlock Holmes’ adaptations) in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

Before you go, I’ve got some news! The Book Review Station is undergoing a bit of a revamp and rebrand. A new look, a new name, and all new categories of content! This move is still in its nascent stage and I will post regular updates as we go on. You will still be able to find all of the old posts on the new platform. Until then, the reading and reviewing will continue right here 🙂

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction

Book Review: Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob (By Paul Haddad)

Thank you to the author and Book Publicity Services for a free copy of Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob in exchange for an honest review.

I didn’t have any specific expectations going into this book, but I was definitely excited about it because it’s one of the few crime noirs I’ve read. I wanted to explore the genre more and Paradise Palms sounded like a good one to start with.

How’d it turn out? Read on to know!

Genre: 

Crime Noir

Length: 

296 pages

Blurb:

When Max Shapiro’s wife succumbs to her long illness, she leaves behind a widower who is barely able to keep his own hotel – the aging Paradise Palms – running. Their eldest son, David Shapiro, takes on a leadership role, trying to keep the hotel, and his brothers, together. But what begins as an attempt to save a near-dying business, which is a reflection of the challenges of the Golden Age of Hollywood, turns into something much more. David, desperate to retain his family’s business and family honor, discovers that his father is not at all who he thought he was. Even as he struggles to keep the business from failing in its fight against changing times, he finds a bigger challenge in mobster, Mickey Cohen, who is attempting to commandeer the hotel. As one fight leads to another, David struggles to do what he’s always tried to do – keep his family intact. Except this time, the price he is forced to pay may be too much even for him to bear.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its noir feel; 5 out of 10 for its crime angle

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Reminiscent of some of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s books and even (slightly) of The Godfather, Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob follows a family saga at the heights of one of LA’s most tumultuous, yet glorious, times.

What I Liked:

There is a general goodness in Paul Haddad’s characters that is refreshing and keeps you rooting for them. There are also complicated emotions, between people and within oneself, that are explored really well and with an appreciable, raw honesty. The story itself takes some surprising turns that add to the intrigue of, “How is this going to turn out at the end?”

What I Didn’t Like:

Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob has a lot less crime than its blurb may lead you to believe. It is more of a linear story, touching upon the relationships within the members of a family and the challenges a son faces as he attempts to come to terms with what is expected of him (this is where I found the similarity to The Godfather). Given its format, it’s not a very exciting read – but it is definitely consistent and manages to keep you engaged to know how it turns out.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys family saga-style stories as well as stories based around the 1950s world – you’d definitely like the world that Paul Haddad builds.

Who Should Avoid:

If you’re not fond of family sagas or slow burn books, I’d recommend skipping this one.

Read It For:

David Shapiro’s story – the character gains more and more prominence as the story goes on (he’s not too central to start with), and you can truly associate with each one of his wins and losses.

All in all, I’d say that Paul Haddad’s Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob was a good read. It keeps you invested, although not rushing to turn the pages, and is definitely an emotional ride due to its excellent characterization.

Leave us a comment below if you’d like to share any recommendations, thoughts, and/or rants! And as always, thank you for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

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