Steady-paced and Occasionally Annoying: A Review of The Stranger by Harlan Coben

I’m going to start this post with two disclaimers.

One, I’ve only read one other Harlan Coben book – Fool Me Once – and had thought that it had its moments but was average overall. Two, I picked up The Stranger only because I wanted to read it before deciding whether to watch the Netflix show that’s based on it (still thinking about that).

The main takeaway from The Stranger, for me, was the question: Are all Harlan Coben books average thrillers, or do some of them get mad exciting, unpredictable, and also more believable? Read on to know why I ask this question.

Harlan Coben The Stranger
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Length: 

386 pages

Blurb:

Adam Price is living the American Dream with a big house, good job, beautiful wife, and two great sons. Until he meets The Stranger. The Stranger appears out of nowhere, and hands over undeniable information backed by proof to the people he targets. His reason is unknown. But the secret he reveals to Adam brings his marriage to Corinne, and his perfect life, to the edge of destruction. When he confronts his wife, she says little before disappearing. Adam’s hunt for Corinne and the truth puts him in the middle of startling events he can barely understand. Soon, Adam, The Stranger, and others affected by their actions are on the path of collision. Will Adam discover the truth and manage to survive it? Or will his moves cost him his marriage, his family, and even his life?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

6 out of 10 (with 1 point of that being for the end)

Characterization:

4 out of 10

Primary Element:

5 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The twist at the end. It wasn’t exceptionally shocking but was quite entertaining.

What I Liked:

I really appreciate that, for the most part, Adam and Corinne were shown to be a normal couple, unlike the massively dysfunctional individuals that make up most ‘husband/wife has a secret’ books nowadays.

What I Didn’t Like:

The fact that the minute the secret was revealed, the entire basis and strength of Adam and Corinne’s relationship fell apart like a house of cards. I mean, c’mon! Is it that difficult to just speak to your spouse? Especially when you seemed to be having a normal conversation even in a confrontation before you decided to clam up just for the heck of it? The reason for said clam up is revealed later, but that does little to change the fact that it was an entire personality shift just for that moment, and just so that the story could move forward.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys the books that focus on family/spouse secrets (The Stranger is actually one of the better ones in that it is not made up of psycho people who act like dumbasses all the time for no reason). And anyone who enjoys steady-paced, mild-twists-holding suspense.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who’s expecting a story with major plot twists. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should probably pick up something else (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was really good in that regard).

Read It For:

A relatively intriguing, well-paced story that is ideal for when you don’t want anything too complicated, and when you’re not expecting too much either.

Did you like Harlan Coben’s The Stranger? Did you like its Netflix adaptation (i.e. Should I watch it)? Which is your favorite (twisty, suspenseful) Harlan Coben book? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And as always… thanks for stopping by to read my review!

– Rishika

A Must Read In Spite Of A Few Hiccups: A Review of Law and Addiction by Mike Papantonio

Thanks to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have to say, this book was a little difficult to review; not because it was a bad book, but because it had so many elements going for it so well and some that did the complete opposite.

All in all, though, it had some really hard-hitting aspects that made it a compelling read. Read on to know why you should definitely read Law and Addiction, and what you could expect in the form of a couple of turn-offs.

Law and Addiction Mike Papantonio
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Legal thriller

Length: 

250 pages

Blurb:

Jake Rutledge is days away from graduating with a law degree when he receives devastating news – his twin brother, Blake, had died of a drug overdose. Until then, Jake had had no idea that his brother even took drugs. Delving into the event, Jake discovers that his once homely town of Oakley, West Virginia, has become (and even casually renamed) a Zombieland. An opioid epidemic has swept the town, which, as Jake discovers, has been carefully orchestrated by America’s big pharmaceutical companies in the greed of greater profits and wealth. Little more than a rookie, Jake decides to take on Big Pharma and turns to Nicholas ‘Deke’ Deketomis, partner at a powerful law firm and no-nonsense lawyer who fights for causes he believes in. But the battle isn’t easy. Betrayal, schemes, and powerful enemies stand at every turn. And just when things really heat up, Jake disappears. Did something happen to him or did he abandon the fight? And where does that leave the case that has been so carefully built?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

6 out of 10

Part of a Series:

The story reads as a standalone, but Deke has appeared in Mike Papantonio’s work before – in Law and Disorder and Law and Vengeance.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The facts behind the fiction – I found myself shocked at the sheer extent of the opioid crisis. Some of those numbers seem fantastic but, sadly, are very real. You’ll find yourself thinking about the extent of the devastation and even talking about it often, during and even much after you’re done with the book.

What I Liked:

  • The theme of the book – a real David v/s Goliath story that showcases the goodness and courage of regular people.
  • The technicalities that showcase the schemes behind the epidemic were shared (for the most part) in an easy-to-understand manner, giving you better insight into the problem and its growth.
  • The surprisingly emotional aspects that come at you out of nowhere but leave a resounding impact. These parts manage to really drive home how much loss this problem has caused.

What I Didn’t Like:

The book jumped a lot; it seemed like the story was based around a few pivotal scenarios and the bridge between them wasn’t too elaborate. Consequently, it often felt like you were reading disjointed chapters, where some remained highly technical (to the extent of being theoretical) and others seemed like proper fiction.

Who Should Read It:

I think anyone who enjoys mystery and thrillers, especially those by John Grisham, will enjoy Law and Addiction. 

Who Should Avoid:

No one. Everyone should give Law and Addiction a shot, even if you aren’t too used to the genre of legal thrillers. There are some drawbacks (jumps and over-technicality at points), but everyone should be privy to the statistics, basic premise, and general outlook this book offers; especially in this day and age where almost every single one of us remains at the risk of unwittingly becoming dependent on medical pills or unintentionally ending up addicted.

Read It For:

A reality check on the negative effects of over-reliance on medication. The problem of medical pill addiction is very real and has nothing to do with strength, weakness, social status, economic standing, or even upbringing. This book helps you see it for what it really is.

Two things you absolutely cannot deny is that Mike Papantonio knows his stuff and that he is extremely passionate about the causes he’s fighting for. That, and the way he brings to light difficult realities, is enough reason for me to say that I will definitely be reading more of his work. And you should too.

Share your thoughts on Law and Addiction or other books by Mike Papantonio in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my review!

– Rishika

A Fast, Easy, and Intriguing Read: Review of A Case of Need by Jeffery Hudson AKA Michael Crichton

Happy New Year Peeps!

A little late on those wishes but, as is often said, better late than never! I actually finished reading A Case of Need at the end of November 2019. I didn’t get around to writing any reviews after the one for The Perfect Mother though (mainly because I spent the last couple of weeks of the year working on my own book).

Anyways… here we are (finally!!).

A Case of Need, written by Michael Crichton, was published under the pen name of Jeffery Hudson. It’s a little different than his later work (the more science-fiction-y stuff), but it is still incredibly interesting.

Michael Crichton A Case of Need Jeffery Hudson
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Medical thriller, Mystery

Length: 

416 pages

Blurb:

It’s the late 1960s and abortion is illegal in the United States of America. Some doctors, however, like Dr. Arthur Lee, choose to provide the service to needing mothers. When Karen Randal, the daughter of a prominent doctor and part of one of Boston’s medical dynasties dies, Lee is blamed and arrested for a botched abortion. Except, Lee swears he had nothing to do with Karen’s abortion. Dr. John Berry, Lee’s friend and pathologist at the hospital is aware of Lee’s activities and believes his claim. He is determined to prove his friend’s innocence, even if it means going up against the medical elite of the city who could not only break his career without a second thought, but also end his life.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its medical detail and 9 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

John Berry’s resilience and history. There is a lot more to the character than meets the eys, and his story unfolds well.

What I Liked:

Crichton, as always, balances the science and mystery elements perfectly, delving into the former enough to keep it interesting yet not overwhelming for non-medical readers. As a result, the book reads very much like a mystery with a medical element, rather than medical jargon.

What I Didn’t Like:

While it didn’t bother me specifically, I think the dated-ness of the book may be a turn-off for some readers. There is some sexism within the medical professional and assumed gender roles within couples that is very inherent to the time it was set in (1960s), but that may seem a little cringe-worthy in today’s time.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes the work of Michael Crichton or Robin Cook. This is an easy-to-read, intriguing medical thriller, with a good splash of mystery thrown in that keeps you turning the pages.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not enjoy books that are technical to an industry like medicine.

Read it for:

Getting into a new genre – A Case of Need may be a good place to start if you’ve never tried medical thrillers and mysteries out because the book isn’t heavy at all.

This was Michael Crichton’s debut, and I can surely say that he got even better with time. I’ve been a fan since I first read Jurassic Park (although my favorite remains Sphere). Now, I’m discovering a whole new genre of novels that he’s written under various pseudonyms, and I’m definitely going to be reading a lot more of his earlier work.

Have you read A Case of Need? Share your thoughts on this medical thriller, other work by Michael Crichton, and even your favorite Crichton book in the comments below. I’d love some recommendations!! And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review.

– Rishika

Too unrealistic to really enjoy: A Review of The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of this book. It looked super interesting and had its good parts, but overall made for a read that just wasn’t that great.

Read on to know why.

Caroline Mitchell The Perfect Mother
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Suspense

Length:

368 pages

Blurb:

Finding out she’s pregnant after a one-night stand leaves young and broke Roz, terrified. She knows she wants to bring her baby into the world. But she doesn’t want it to have the same chaotic upbringing that she had had. Determined to do what’s best for her child, she signs up on an elite adoption service website. Within days, she is on the way to New York to meet with a celebrity power couple whose names she doesn’t yet know, leaving behind her only friend. Sheridan and Daniel are wealthy and kind, and the perfect parents that Roz could have wanted for her baby. Within hours of meeting Sheridan, she has signed away her freedom until the baby’s birth so that Sheridan can pass the event off as her own pregnancy. Once settled in their basement suite, Roz begins to realize that not everything is as welcoming as it seems. And when she finds out that there had been another woman who’d moved into the suite before her, a woman who had simply disappeared, she realizes that she may have made a terrible mistake. Her baby is the only reason she believes she’s alive. What happens when her due date, which is coming closer by the day, arrives?

Overall Rating:

5 out of 10

Plot:

5 out of 10

Characterization:

3 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An endearing writing style, which is strongly representative of Irish slang and mannerisms.

What I Liked:

The Perfect Mother has an interesting basic premise. It reads smoothly, and moves fast enough. Unfortunately, these aren’t enough to overshadow the negatives of the book.

What I Didn’t Like:

Characters were just too shallow and behaved in the most irrational ways possible. I know that tough situations can call for strange behaviors, but this was just too implausible. Also, the characters are not fleshed out. They act and do what the situation demands more than the story building around the characters and how they would actually react.

Another thing that really got to me was how convenient everything was in the story and the characters’ reactions. It felt like the author had a very obvious predetermined arc and that everything and everyone played a role to fulfill it, consequently making the story too unrealistic to associate with or really enjoy.

Who Should Read It:

I would not actively recommend this book to anyone because if it’s a suspense or thriller novel that you’re looking for, there are definitely many other options out there that would do better.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not like shallow characters and a storyline based on convenient inputs rather than a fleshed-out book where story and characters build off of one another.

Read It For:

If anything, the endearing mannerisms and slang that the writing style offers.

I still think Caroline Mitchell’s work could be good, if her writing style is anything to go by. I may or may not try another one of her books, but would have definitely loved to see her style combined with better characterization and story development. All in all, The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell was not a great read, and not something I would actively recommend.

If you’re interested in reading it though, The Perfect Mother is expected to release on 14 January 2020.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Nicely twisted: Review of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient (by Alex Michaelides) had been on my TBR pile for a while, and when I saw that it was in contention for Goodreads’ Choice Awards 2019 – Mystery and Thriller + Debut – I brought it up to the top and delved right in.

Does it meet the hype and expectations? Keep reading to find out.

Alex Michaelides The Silent Patient
Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

323 pages

Blurb:

Alicia Berenson was a famous painter, happily married to Gabriel Berenson, an equally famous fashion photographer. Until the day that she shot her husband five times in the face. Since that fateful day, six years ago, Alicia hasn’t spoken a word. The silence turns the crime into a sensational mystery, and Alicia becomes one of the most intriguing cases for criminal psychotherapists around the country. Theo Faber believes he can be the one that gets her to speak up, to reveal what happened that night, and to save her. But soon he finds that the case begins to reveal his own demons, long since buried. Theo may or may not save Alicia; but can he save himself?

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.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The major plot twists. You’d expect twists from a mystery/thriller, but you do not see these coming in the least.

What I Liked:

The book begins similar to Tell Me A Secret by Samantha Hayes (review here). It also has a bit of the, “I know I’m a psychotherapist but…” justification that Hayes’ book had in abundance. I had really disliked Tell Me A Secret and that justification. But, The Silent Patient does not use those words as a justification. Neither does it go down the self-pity path you’d expect from the first few pages. It actually walks that fine line between justification and self-awareness really well, and that aspect contributes to the story rather than giving an excuse for it. As it turns out, done well, that kind of first-person and self-aware narrative can add great perspective to a story, as it does for The Silent Patient.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing that would actively dissuade you from reading the book.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t enjoy books based on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

Read It For:

An interesting mystery with an unexpected plot twist. The Silent Patient is a good read that moves fast and has some really intriguing angles; it’s just not a read that I would classify as, “Oh my God, this is the best thing ever written!” If you enjoy mystery and thrillers, though, go for it. And I have to mention here that, at no point, does it seem like a debut novel. I would definitely read more works by Alex Michaelides.

Got something to add about The Silent Patient? Drop a comment below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my review! 🙂

– Rishika

Compelling: Review of Their Last Breath by Sibel Hodge

Sibel Hodge is another author I discovered through NetGalley (much like Mark Edwards, I had one of her books on my list but got a chance to read another one through NetGalley). When I read Into the Darkness, I absolutely got hooked onto her writing style, settings, and characters. And when I saw that an ARC of Their Last Breath was up for review, I (obviously) grabbed it. The fact that it featured Warren Carter from Into the Darkness was a happy bonus. Keep reading to know if Their Last Breath met expectations.

Sibel Hodge Their Last Breath
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Mystery

Length:

380 pages

Blurb:

It took just a few short months for Warren Carter to realize that retirement didn’t suit him too well, especially with the memories of his last case and the ensuing bloodbath still fresh in his mind. Then, six women die in a fire that claims an abandoned building – six women who were chained to their beds with no means of escape. Carter is called back into the system to investigate members of the police force itself, and find the corrupt officer involved in the heinous crime that claimed six lives. As the case unfolds, Carter finds himself relying on an old, unexpected friend. But will he find the culprits in time? Or will he trust the wrong person and let more people die?

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Their Last Breath features Warren Carter and other characters who were part of Into The Darkness.  Warren Carter also makes an appearance in an earlier book. For the most part, though, this can be read as a standalone. References to Into The Darkness are minimal and easily understandable.

Highlighted Takeaway:

There are chapters of the story told from the victim’s perspective. This was surprising in the beginning because it seemed like it would give away a lot of the suspense. But Hodge manages to showcase the victim’s side of things without really disclosing anything about the mystery, while also evoking stronger association for the victim, consequently making you associate with the fight for justice even more.

What I Liked:

The book and story are very well-rounded, right from the characters to the unfolding of the mystery. In a world where cryptic endings are becoming increasingly common (and are often done well), reading a well-rounded book felt extremely satisfying.

What I Didn’t Like:

Can’t think of a single thing that adversely affected the reading experience.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good mystery or thriller, but with a touch of real-world ugliness.

Who Should Avoid:

Sibel Hodge is a great writer who is unafraid to dabble in very real events. This may make Their Last Breath a bit too realistic at its essence for some to take. I would still recommend it to all mystery and thriller lovers though – its dark side really adds to the reading experience (which, I suppose, is the intention).

Read It For:

Warren Carter – a great character who knows that things are either good or bad, but that sometimes you have to be both.

Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for a free ARC of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can safely say that, after Their Last Breath, Sibel Hodge is one of my favorite mystery and thriller authors.

Their Last Breath was released on 24 September 2019 and is now available for sale.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading my book reviews!

– Rishika

Surprisingly disappointing: Review of The Revenant by Michael Punke

I haven’t seen the movie, The Revenant. I had wanted to read the book first. The blurb made it sound like an incredible story so I went into this with a lot of expectations. Surprisingly, though, it didn’t live up to those expectations.

I have to mention that I didn’t know that the characters and events in the book have been so heavily inspired by, and in cases even based upon, real ones. In that regard, the book does a great job of offering a relatively fictionalized tale of what is supposed to be a real story of survival.

But, as a piece of fiction, it does have its flaws. Read on to know more.

The Revenant Michael Punke
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Historical fiction, Adventure

Length: 

308 pages

Blurb:

When expert tracker Hugh Glass is viciously attacked by a bear, his fellow-trappers know that he won’t survive. They do what they can to keep him comfortable. Until they are forced to face a terrain over which they can no longer carry him. Two men are left behind with him, to give him a decent burial when he dies. But they abandon him, taking his rifle and hatchet, and leaving him with nothing to defend himself… leaving him to die alone. But Glass is not ready to die yet. He has a new reason to live…

Revenge.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its historical depth and accuracy; 5 out of 10 for its adventure

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Hugh Glass. Even with so many other characters that play pivotal roles, Glass steals the show with his shades-of-gray character.

What I Liked:

The book delves into a lot of history, which I hadn’t expected, but that I quite enjoyed reading about.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story arc. It starts off really well, but its end falls a bit flat, especially when you consider the buildup. It sort of felt like Punke just got tired of writing and wrapped up the story super fast to get done with it.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Even if you don’t love the premise and the way it plays out, you’ll enjoy the historical details.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who can’t handle violence. There are just so many things that die in this book, and every single aspect of hunting, trapping, and wilderness-living is highlighted. If you aren’t used to gore, this won’t go down easy.

Read It For:

A character that will remain incredibly memorable in both, fiction and real life.

The fact that Hugh Glass was a real person who (probably) actually faced these things is pretty incredible. But it also makes it sadder that the book had such a flat ending. Now, I’m just hoping the movie is better (going to watch it soon).

Got thoughts on Michael Punke’s The Revenant? Share them in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika