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A unique thriller: Review of Here to Stay by Mark Edwards

A big thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of Here To Stay by Mark Edwards. I discovered Mark Edwards on NetGalley with The Lucky Ones, and have really enjoyed his work since. The Retreat, I thought, was even better than the former. So when I saw Here to Stay up for grabs, I absolutely had to give it a read.

Did it meet expectations? Read on to find out.

Mark Edwards Here to Stay
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Psychological thriller

Length: 

370 pages

Blurb:

Elliot lives a simple life. He never felt like anything was really missing, until he met Gemma Robinson. Suddenly, she seemed to fill a void he hadn’t realized he even felt. They were married within a matter of months. When Gemma mentions that her parents were visiting for a couple of weeks, Elliot did the only thing he found right – invited them to stay over. Days later, Gemma’s parents and extremely quiet sister, Chloe, come over. And never leave. They encroach on every aspect of Elliot’s life, while Chloe remains silent and mostly to herself, and Elliot begins to suspect that they are trying to escape from something they’ve done. As Gemma’s parents show no signs of leaving, Elliot decides to dig into their lives to find answers and save his marriage. The truth, however, is much worse than he could have ever imagined.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Like with all other books by Mark Edwards, the highlighted takeaway is the end. There are very few writers who can conclude a thriller with a real surprise, but Edwards manages to do so consistently.

What I Liked:

The story doesn’t slow down for a single moment, in spite of being based on such a simple premise.

What I Didn’t Like:

Oddly enough, Elliot. Although his character was developed well and a lot of his behavior made sense because of that arc, he seems too submissive to be real. It made it a little hard to associate with him because I genuinely could not imagine any person being the way he was.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys thrillers. This is a different style of thriller, but definitely keeps the pages turning.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not enjoy psychological thrillers, or stories based on characters who are just plain sociopathic.

Read It For:

An interesting and not-too-commonly-done take on the thriller genre. With so many thrillers out there, this one is a fresh (albeit slightly disturbing) read.

Here to Stay was published on 1st September 2019. If you haven’t tried Mark Edwards yet, this is as good a place to start as any.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Great start, but fizzles out: Review of Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci

David Baldacci introduces a new lead character – FBI Agent Atlee Pine – in the first of a series dedicated to her. A well-developed, likable heroine, Atlee Pine leaves an impression in Long Road to Mercy. The book had some great parts and some not-so-great parts. Keep going to read the entire review!

Long road to mercy - David Baldacci - Atlee Pine
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller

Length:

404 Pages

Blurb:

Atlee Pine was six years old when a kidnapper snuck into the room she shared with her twin sister, used a random nursery rhyme to select his victim, and left with Mercy. Atlee never saw her sister again. But the event drove her to become the justice-keeper she is. Thirty years later, the only agent assigned to the FBI’s Arizona Resident Agency at Shattered Rock, she is responsible for the protection of the Grand Canyon. But even with her experience and outlook, Atlee could not pre-empt the convoluted web she finds herself in when she begins to investigate a stabbed Grand Canyon mule and its missing rider. Soon, Atlee realizes that those she considered her allies may not be so, and enemies – known and unknown – are waiting at every turn. Will Atlee win the fight for the democracy of the country she swore to protect, or will her battle end with her life?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its suspense-filled storyline, and 6 out of 10 for its thrill.

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is the first of the Atlee Pine series. The second book, A Minute to Midnight, comes out in November 2019 (and looks pretty kick-ass).

Highlighted Takeaway:

Atlee Pine, as created by Baldacci. Admitting that it’s his first time attempting a female lead, Baldacci does a good job of creating a character that is easy to associate with, and complex enough to be realistic.

What I Liked:

The plot: It was really well-woven, introducing the reader to unknown ideas that could very well be real (some aspects may or may not be based in reality, in fact – I didn’t check).

What I Didn’t Like:

The depth of the Grand Canyon’s geography: While it was meant as an immersive narrative, it got a bit too mundane and made me zone out a bit when there was little but details of the Canyon for pages on end.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys political thrillers and other Baldacci books. Or anyone who likes crime fiction.

Who Should Avoid:

The book has nothing that would specifically turn someone off.

Read It For:

The beginning of a new character series that shows a lot of promise and sets the stage for a story arc that you would want to follow, if you enjoy crime fiction.

Got something to share about Long Road to Mercy or David Baldacci or Atlee Pine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Strong social commentary, and well-paced: Book review of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill

A Time To Kill is John Grisham’s first novel. It came into the limelight after the success of his second book but, once discovered, became known as a masterpiece. There are some brilliant aspects to the book, many of which are relevant even today to the different forms that segregation takes. At the same time, a lot of it feels dated and cringe-worthy. Read on to know whether its positives outweigh the negatives or not.

John Grisham A Time to Kill
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Legal thriller

Length:

511 pages

Blurb:

When Carl Lee Hailey’s ten-year-old daughter is brutally raped by two men and left for dead, he takes justice upon himself and kills the men who hurt his child. Jake Brigance chooses to defend Hailey, a black man in a county that’s predominantly white. It becomes the biggest trial of the Southern town of Clanton, Mississippi. The media attention begins to escalate, as does the racial tension. Threats and violence unfold as extremists take a stand against Hailey. And the trial that began as Jake Brigance’s biggest career opportunity turns into a battle for justice beyond the prejudice of race, and the fight for his client’s life… and his own.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10 for its tale that combines hard-hitting emotion, political and social factors, and the simplicity (both good and bad) of basic human instinct.

Characterization:

6 out of 10. The attempt at making certain characters come across as raw and very human in their reactions came off, instead, as people who were primarily good, but with a healthy dose of being arrogant jackasses.

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its legal action and drama, 9 out of 10 for its emotion, and 10 out of 10 for its rare but well-placed humor.

Writing Style:

7 out of 10. You can tell there’s really good talent there, but it is clearly the beginning of potential being realized.

Part of a Series:

Yes, as Book #1 of the Jake Brigance’s series, from what Goodreads says. Book #2 is Sycamore Row.

Highlighted Takeaway:

This book hits you hard, much harder than you would expect. And it remains relevant across the decades, in numerous ways.

What I Liked:

The blatantly honest narration. No words minced, nothing sugar-coated. It was a clear reflection of the society, mindset, and even language of the time in which it was set, making it much more believable and relatable. Although, not everything believable was likable, which brings me to my next point.

What I Didn’t Like:

The sexism and other societal norms, although self-deprecated, were a bit cringey in today’s day and age. You need to constantly remind yourself when reading those parts that the time in which it was set was very different than today.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys books with courtroom drama and/or books with social commentary. Or even anyone who just wants to read a good book that’s emotional, raw, and has a good story to tell.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who finds it difficult to look at the concept and practice of gender roles as different than what they are today. If you cannot ignore those era-specific nuances, you won’t be able to enjoy the positive aspects that the book offers.

Read It For:

Emotion, courtroom drama, and an engaging story.

What did you think of A Time to Kill by John Grishan? Worth its hype or a let-down? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika

Much better than its prequel: Book Review of Tony Parsons’ The Slaughter Man

I read my first Tony Parsons book at the end of 2018. Having been in the middle of a whole lot of stuff, I gave the book – the first one in the DC Max Wolfe series titled The Murder Bag – 3.5 stars on Goodreads and a super short review (check it out here). When I look back at that review though, I’m honestly surprised… because the second book in the series – The Slaughter Man – was a really, really good read.

More details follow below!

The Slaughter Man Tony Parsons
Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Crime thriller, Suspense

Length: 

384 pages

Blurb:

A wealthy London family – mother, father, teenaged son, and teenaged daughter – are murdered in cold blood. The family’s youngest child is kidnapped. The weapon takes DC Wolfe and his team to a man who was convicted decades ago in the murder of an entire family, his choice of weapon earning him the nickname, The Slaughter Man. But the man, who has served his time, is now old and dying. Could he really be responsible for the new murders? And if not, was it a contract hit, copycat thrill, or revenge killing that resulted in the murder of an entire family? Can DC Wolfe find the right answers, and the missing child, before it’s too late?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Part 2 in the DC Max Wolfe series. Although it can be read as a standalone, there are some references to its prequel. And I also feel that reading it in order will help the reader understand Wolfe’s character arc development better.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Heart. At its very crux, this book has a lot of heart. It shows people – ordinary people – trying their best to do the right things, and being prepared to face the consequences of that choice.

What I Liked:

The story itself – multilayered, addressing very real events the existence of which many people would find easier to deny, and built upon the basic and raw emotions that drive human beings.

What I Didn’t Like:

While Tony Parsons’ blunt style works really well for the stories he tells, it does at times feel choppy. But that was felt much less often in The Slaughter Man than in The Murder Bag.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a gritty crime thriller.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who gets squeamish easily – this book has sections that just aren’t meant for the faint-hearted.

Read It For:

DC Wolfe. His character – a man who does the right thing because it’s the only thing he knows how to do while torn between being a good cop and good father – is raw, real, and very easy to associate with, and support.

The Slaughter Man only strengthened my interest in DC Wolfe and Tony Parsons’ writing – will continue to follow the series that seems to have a lot of interesting titles already out. If you like crime fiction, give the series a shot – it’s worth trying out for sure, even if you choose not to follow the entire thing.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika

Enjoyable, even if predictable: A Review of I Know Everything by Matthew Farrell

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of I Know Everything by Matthew Farrell.

I Know Everything Matthew Farrell
Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Mystery, Psychological Thriller

Length: 

334 Pages

Blurb:

Renowned psychologist, Randall Brock, is devastated by the death of his wife. Police Investigator Susan Adler is all set to call it death by accident, until she receives evidence indicating murder. Randall Brock becomes her prime suspect.

While Brock remains oblivious to the turn of events, he comes face to face with a stranger, promising information about his wife’s death. But first, he wants Brock to give up the secrets he holds, secrets of a violent past that the stranger threatens to reveal if Brock refuses to accept them. With pressure mounting from Adler and the stranger who seems to know everything about Brock’s past, the psychologist’s life and mind begin to unravel. He knows he didn’t kill his wife… so who did? And who are they going after next?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

6 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The portrayal of the complexities of the human mind and the behavior to which it can drive the worst and best of people.

What I Liked:

The storyline was based more on actions that were shades of gray. It showed that people aren’t either good or bad; they are complicated beings who, for the most part, behave to their possible best in trying circumstances.

What I Didn’t Like:

The excessive use of the term ‘revert back’. A pet peeve of mine, I have always been very annoyed that it’s becoming acceptable to say ‘reply back’ and ‘revert back’ instead of just ‘reply’ and ‘revert’.

Randall Brock was a difficult character to like. He had a lot going for him, but I would have liked to see him with just a tad more of a spine.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who can’t tolerate gore – there is quite a bit of disturbing violence in I Know Everything that isn’t always easy to digest.

Read It For:

An intriguing storyline that isn’t too tarnished by some of it being predictable, a tale with different elements that come together well, and its liberal take on right v/s wrong.

Matthew Farrell’s I Know Everything released on 6 August 2019 and is now available for sale.

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

– Rishika

Would not recommend: A (Sort-of) Review of Blood Relations by Jonathan Moore

This book lands in the did-not-finish (DNF) pile at around 10%. Would not really recommend it to anyone.

Jonathan Moore Blood Relations
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Mystery, Thriller (Apparently)

Length: 

357 pages

Blurb:

Probably best to read this on Goodreads here.

Overall Rating:

1 out of 10

Overall Review:

Could not really get past the first 10% of this book.

You know those books that get started right in the middle of a story – sort of like you’re pushed into the deep end of a pool with a flimsy float that eventually starts to do its job?
Blood Relations was like that – but with sharks swimming around you, no end in sight, and the float disintegrates the moment you hit the water.

It just got more and more convoluted and had so much assumed knowledge on part of the reader, that I was lost from the beginning and just kept getting more lost.
Tried to read it three times from the beginning thinking maybe I missed something. I didn’t. Gave up eventually.

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this book. If you want to give it a shot, Jonathan Moore’s Blood Relations is now available for sale.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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

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

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

Stephen King - It
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Horror

Length:

1376 pages

Blurb:

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

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

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

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

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

Highlighted Takeaway:

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

What I Liked:

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

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

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

Who Should Read It:

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

Who Should Avoid:

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

Read It For:

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

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

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

– Rishika