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Gets-Under-Your-Skin Scary: A Review of Hell by Tom Lewis

I’m a scaredy-cat, always have been, and I doubt that’s ever going to change. But when I saw Jeffrey Keetan‘s review of Hell, I checked out the blurb, found it incredibly interesting, tried to find a copy on Amazon, couldn’t find it, reached out to the author, and Tom Lewis was actually kind enough to get back to me and give me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

(Insert deep breath here).

What followed was a day and a half of intense page-turning as I delved into the story of the Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens. I’m going to admit that I did have a few nightmares in the nights that followed. Hell corroborates that unwelcome but always-there feeling that comes over you when night falls and the lights are turned out – something is lurking in the shadows.

Hell by Tom Lewis

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Horror

Length: 374 pages

Blurb:

After a devastating personal loss, young Cassie finds herself pulled into the macabre world of darkness, death, and beyond. What starts as curiosity ends with Cassie getting addicted to drugs and partaking in strange activities… until she dies in an accident. Revived 20 minutes later, Cassie recovers and becomes her normal, pre-goth self. And then strange things start to happen around her. Cassie knows something is watching her from the shadows, something that is not just around her but inside her, and something that she’d managed to get away from when she’d been revived. But the thing within her is not ready to let go yet… not until it claims what is rightfully its – Cassie’s life.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 7 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 8 out of 10, for its ability to re-enforce the fear of the dark

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway:

The way Tom Lewis manages to weave a story that is not in-your-face scary for the most part but still manages to scare the heck out of you by building on fears inherent in people.

What I Liked:

The characterization, the insight into a whole different lifestyle, and the story itself. There was also a relatively large dose of gore, which might not be up everyone’s alley, but definitely added a whole other layer of ‘disturbing’ and ‘creepy’ to the book and really rounded it off as a horror.

What I Didn’t Like:

Some arcs weren’t closed or explained, and although they didn’t greatly affect the story-line, the addition probably would have made it even more intriguing. Also, the use of ‘phenomena’ instead of ‘phenomenon’. It’s commonly used, I know, but the lack of distinction between the plural and singular has always been a pet peeve of mine.

Who Should Read It:

Fans of horror, especially those who like Stephen King’s work. Hell has certain elements that are very reminiscent of King’s work, especially the ability of the story to make you extremely aware of every tiny sound, want to constantly look over your shoulder because you feel like someone’s right there, and avoid the darkness for a few days.

Who Should Avoid:

People who tend to avoid horror in general because the stories stay with them for too long. Hell will stay with you for a few nights for sure, so proceed with caution.

Read It For:

Its unapologetically gory take on things satanic and disturbing, and to remind yourself that sometimes, primal fears are unavoidable and un-overcomeable.

A big, big thank you to Tom Lewis, the author of Hell: The Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens, for agreeing to give me a copy of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend his work to fans of horror, and read more of it myself (albeit with long non-horror periods in the middle).

Which is your favorite horror book? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Amateur: Review of The Last Avatar by Vishwas Mudagal

I received a paid-for copy of The Last Avatar from Vishwas Mudagal’s marketing team in exchange for an honest review, and would like to thank the author and his team for reaching out to me and giving me a chance to read this book.

I normally don’t read Indian fiction because my first (and understandably last) experience with the genre was when I read Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. Over time, I‘ve read excerpts from books of Amish and other Indian fantasy authors, and I’ve never been particularly fond of the general writing style. I was in two minds about picking this book up initially. The blurb of The Last Avatar, though, was intriguing and a bit strange. When I saw that it was published by Harper Collins India, I figured, “Why not?”

I also thought the book would be a good point to drop my reservations about Indian fiction, and maybe enjoy the evolving fantasy mythology genre and work that’s available from a growing set of authors. Let’s start with saying, “That definitely did not happen.”

The Last Avatar - Age of Kalki Book 1 - Vishwas Mudagal

Source: Goodreads

Genre: Indian fiction, Fantasy, Mythology

Length: 328 pages

Blurb:

A terrorist organization, the Invisible Hand, has found a leader and financial supporter in the Chinese General, Jian. A plot that was decades in the making has led to attacks all across the world. Cities have crumbled and India is in tumult after the Prime Minister and entire Union Cabinet are wiped out in one of the attacks. There’s only one person who can save India and the world from Jian’s ambition – Kalki. But is the vigilante-hero that India relies on a human being, or is he the tenth avatar of Vishnu as prophesized? And will he be able to save his country and the world, or will he meet his match in Jian and the Invisible Hand?

Overall Rating: 1 out of 10

Plot: 2 out of 10

Characterization: 1 out of 10

Primary Element: 1 out of 10 for its action and suspense

Writing Style: 0.5 out of 10

Part of a Series: Yes; this is Book 1.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The ending… because it allowed the book to finally end, and me to be done with it.

What I Liked:

Nothing.

What I Didn’t Like:

I’m just going to jot down a quick list here.

  1. The writing style – it was terribly amateur in style and needed a lot more work to even get the basic emotion across.
  2. The dialog – inane, unrealistic, and inconsistent.
  3. Narration – the book does not give you any sense of visualization; it just seems to go on and on, failing to evoke any emotion whatsoever.
  4. Story – the story goes on and on about how Kalki is India’s savior but does not offer a single example of what he may have done in the past.
  5. Plot – weak and convenient, and highly unrealistic even for a fantasy.
  6. Characterization – Kalki talks and behaves the same way at ages five, ten, fifteen, and whatever age he’s finally at; all other characters are one-dimensional. You could actually replace one for the other and not notice the difference.
  7. Pandering – random romance scenes that come out of nowhere and serve little purpose, as though added just to titillate (doesn’t succeed in doing so).
  8. So many errors! – syntax errors, grammar errors, incorrect words being used, and lack of continuity such as beards being shaved then reappearing overnight at full length (I mean, seriously?).

Who Should Read It:

I honestly would not recommend this to anyone. Maybe if you’re a die-hard fan of everything Indian mythology fantasy, you could give it a shot.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who actually enjoys reading books because they can pull you in and stories can be absorbing. The Last Avatar is too dull to do any of that.

Read It For:

… or don’t.

I genuinely wanted to like The Last Avatar but, unfortunately, just couldn’t (and I tried very hard to like it). I will definitely not be reading the rest of the trilogy (or howmanyeverbooks-ology) or any works of this author again.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

– Rishika

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Enjoyable and Intriguing: Review of The Woman In Our House by Andrew Hart

After I read Tell Me A Secret (review here), I’d more or less sworn off of books that tried to imitate the niche genre highlighted by Gillian Flynn. Which is why I picked up The Woman In Our House with some reservations. The blurb was intriguing, but would the book focus more on the thrill factor as I’d hoped or go down the rabbit hole of a main female character’s self-pity was something to be seen.

Thankfully, it met expectations. And made for a captivating read. Before I go ahead, I’m sending NetGalley a big thanks for an ARC of this book! The Woman In Our House comes out on 18 June 2019.

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Suspense, Psychological thriller

Length: 347 pages

Blurb:

Anna Klein and her husband decide to hire a live-in nanny when she decides to return to work as a literary agent after her second child turns a little over 6 months old. Oaklynn Durst arrives after numerous interviews and with stellar references. The children take to her immediately, leaving Anna feeling a little unwanted even as she remains thankful for Oaklynn and being able to go back to work. But when the children begin suffering from sudden illnesses and bruises, Anna begins to worry that Oaklynn may not be what she seems. But are her own insecurities driving her suspicion, or did she really put her children and even herself and her house under the care of a lying, scheming woman who wouldn’t hesitate to hurt any of them?

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 8 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 7 out of 10 for its thrill and suspense

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway: 

The plot. Let’s just say, “You will not see some things coming at all!”

What I Liked:

Characterization, especially that of the main protagonist, Anna Klien, was really well done. She wasn’t over the top or too self-pitying. In fact, she was just the right amount of neurotic and self-aware to make it easy to empathize with her, and even associate with her in many places.

What I Didn’t Like:

Similar to Tell Me A Secret, the men were only present when convenient. Even Anna’s husband is more ‘her husband’ than ‘a supporting character’. Given that he actually had a role to play in the book, there should have been a little more focus on him.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys a good suspense read, because it is surely that while definitely not being a ‘mess with your mind’ style psychological thriller. Those who like Mary Higgins Clark’s older books would probably like this one.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t like books that focus on women as central characters. The women in this book aren’t unrealistic in all action and thought in this book, but it’s still predominantly a woman-centric story.

Read It For:

Reminding yourself that the world still has those people who don’t exactly believe in the “live and let live” ideology, and that things aren’t always as they seem.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my book review. Say Hi! in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

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Charming Creepiness: A Review of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn

I didn’t review a book called Charming Creepiness… just trying out a new heading style!

Rebecca, which I’d read ages ago, made me a fan of Du Maurier’s modern-classic style. There’s just something about the way she weaves classical charm and dark psychology that makes for incredibly compelling reads.

And if you go into Jamaica Inn expecting that, it definitely does not disappoint.

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Classic, modern classic, mystery, thriller

Length: 315 pages

Blurb:

Mary Yellan honors her mother’s dying request and moves with her few belongings to stay with her Aunt Patience, who is married to the landlord of Jamaica Inn. She’s never met Joss Merlyn, her uncle by marriage, until she ignores the warning from the coach-driver and reaches the forbidding, run-down inn. She finds her Aunt, a shell of her former, happy self, who cowers behind her hulk of a brooding husband. Mary stays only because she does not wish to leave her aunt, and is determined to get them both away from Joss Merlyn and Jamaica Inn. But as weeks and months pass, Mary realizes that there are strange, sinister goings-on at Jamaica Inn. Can she find a way to get her aunt and herself to safety before she loses herself like her aunt did? Or will her uncle succeed in breaking her will… and taking her 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 creepiness and mystery

Writing Style: 8 out of 10

Part of a Series: No

Highlighted Takeaway:

The style of the book that somehow manages to be charming while also evoking goosebumps.

What I Liked:

Mary Yellan’s character, which was very self-aware, embracing her strength and weaknesses. This stands out even more because of the era in which this book was written.

What I Didn’t Like:

At times, the style can become a little too archaic to follow easily. Had me wishing I could long-press any button to see its archaic meaning (I couldn’t because I was reading a paperback and not my Kindle).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who already loves classics, and anyone who wants to try classics but is hesitant. This is a great place to start exploring the genre. And anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers.

Who Should Avoid:

Probably anyone who detests classics.

Read It For:

Its beautiful mixture of narrative that’s just detailed enough to be engaging, characters that are realistic, engaging story, effective but not overplayed creepiness factor, and charming storytelling.

Got some classics or modern classics to recommend? I’d love to add some to my TBR so do drop your suggestions, or anything else you’d like to share, in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: Tell Me A Secret (By Samantha Hayes)

A big thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for an ARC of this book, in exchange for a really honest review.

Although I’d received this book early last year, it’s taken me a long time to get to reading it. I finally thought I’ll just give it a shot. Before going further though, I think it’s important for me to disclose that had the previous book I was reading not ended up as a rare entry on my DNF list (for reasons cited here), I’d probably have tossed this one on that pile. But the last one did, and so this one didn’t… which is how we’re now on this review! Let’s get right into it!

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Psychological thriller, mystery, and suspense (that’s what it says on the cover)

Length: 360 pages

Blurb:

Lorna is a psychotherapist. (This is something I really want you to remember as you read on… really, really remember!) She lives her life by an uber tight schedule because she’s trying hard to not allow herself a moment to think about the dark secret she holds. A new client of hers turns out to be someone familiar – Andrew, who she’s tried hard to forget, and failed. Aware of the risk to her marriage, family, and career, Lorna signs up on a dating site and messages Andrew anonymously (again, she’s a psychotherapist). Then Andrew dies – is murdered – but messages from him keep coming. Someone knows Lorna’s secrets and is out to destroy her. What happens next?

Overall Rating: 1 out of 10

Plot: 2 out of 10 (and most of this is for the climax)

Characterization: 1 out of 10

Primary Element: 1 out of 10 since it was too annoying to be thrilling, mysterious, or suspenseful

Writing Style: 1 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No. (Thank everything good in this world for that!)

Highlighted Takeaway:

The characters proving true the adage – You attract what you are – because they’re all idiots, surrounded by other idiots.

What I Liked:

The final few plot twists – not the best or even surprising, but definitely the best part of this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

Jotting down a quick list here:

  1. Lorna, who spent most of the book going, “Oh, I know this is a mistake but let me make it anyway and now let me regret making it but continue making it while continuing to regret it and making it, which brings me back to the regret as I continue making it… you get the gist!
  2. The constant use of, “I know I’m a therapist, but…” before Lorna makes another stupid decision. Honestly, that’s just lazy writing and the most ridiculous justification for a character’s actions.
  3. The fact that all the men in the book were literally nothing more than props to move the women’s stories ahead. They were insignificant, convenient, and had an incredible lack of any character other than that trait which suited the women’s story at the moment.

Who Should Read It:

Those who love books with highly dysfunctional, self-destructive persons and families, like The Couple Next Door or Daddy Darkest.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t like books with characters that have multiple chances, but never seem to learn, while being aware that that’s what is happening.

Read It For:

The knowledge that Gone Girl (review here) may have been the only successful attempt at a psychological thriller based on dysfunction that actually made sense.

I’d also just like to add that Tell Me A Secret joins Daddy Darkest (review here) and The Couple Next Door (review here) to make up a genre that I am probably never going to read again. People just aren’t as ridiculous as the characters in these books, and if they are, I’d honestly just not read about them.

Tell me what you thought about Tell Me A Secret and this review in the comments below! And as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: The Man of Legends (By Kenneth C. Johnson)

A shoutout to NetGalley for a free ARC of this book.

(“NETGALLEY!”)

Reading and reviewing it has been long pending from my end; made longer by the fact that I tried super-duper hard, but just couldn’t go through with reading the entire thing. It’s now one of the entries on my scarcely populated Did-Not-Finish list.

But… reviewed it must be, even if most of what I say is based on the 30% I did end up reading. So, here goes!

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Something between fantasy, science fiction, thriller, and mystery

Length: 428 pages

Blurb:

Will is a thirty-something old man with brown eyes and brown hair, who never ages and is visible in multiple photographs next to almost every famous person across the world and across all time. He’s being chased by some Vatican emissary (don’t know why) and generally goes around being kind and gentle, while also being a super famous (but unidentifiable) author and painter. Jillian, of some tabloid-fame, discovers the fact that he’s been around forever, and then something happens over the span of 48 hours right after New Year’s Eve that brings everyone in the story (mainly the people that Will has somehow been in touch with) together for a traumatic experience they never forget. Oh, and something evil lurks in the shadows (apparently).

Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 10

Plot: Promise of a plot gets 8 out of 10; Plot that actually unraveled gets 2 out of 10

Characterization: 6 out of 10

Primary Element: Too ‘all over the place’ to identify a primary element other than ‘drones on’

Writing Style: 1 out of 10

Part of a Series?

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Will – a bit over the top maybe, but likable to some extent.

What I Liked:

Nothing to write home (or on this blog) about.

What I Didn’t Like:

An immense amount of buildup from Page 1, but absolutely no movement, at least until 30% in (or even 40% in, as seen from the quick page-flipping I did).

Who Should Read:

  • I don’t know… maybe people who can cook, work, clean, raise a child, answer calls, walk the dog, and undertake some personal grooming at the same time, because that’s how good at multi-tasking you need to be to follow the sheer number of storylines and characters.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t want to spend the first ten minutes of every reading session going, “Who’s this person again and have they come before?”

Read It For:

  • Ummm… checking to see if you’re still as sharp as you’ve always been?

Loved The Man of Legends or hated it? Let me know in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: Zero Day (By David Baldacci)

Hey there! Starting the year off with some David Baldacci and a whole new style of review! Read on and let me know in the comments what other books you’d like to see dissected this way (or just say Hi!).

Oh and… Happy, Happy New Year!

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Thriller

Length: 434 pages

Blurb:

War hero and brilliant US Army CID investigator, John Puller, gets sent on a solo mission to investigate four gruesome murders in the remote town of Drake, West Virginia. He works with local Police Chief, Samantha Cole, delving into a mystery that only deepens with every answer. Now, it’s up to Puller and Cole to solve the puzzle behind the increasing number of murders in a case that has greater implications and risks than either of them could have ever imagined.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 7 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 6 out of 10 for its ‘Thrill’ factor

Writing Style: 9 out of 10

Part of a Series?

Zero Day is the first book of Baldacci’s John Puller series. It would be best to start from here to get a good grasp of Puller, his background, and what makes him tick.

Highlighted Takeaway:

John Puller – the book is all about him, and his hard as nails but ideal within character and personality make that focus well worth it.

What I Liked:

Baldacci does not shy away from showcasing his main character’s strengths but also shows his vulnerability, which makes him a lot easier to relate with.

What I Didn’t Like:

Samantha Cole’s character gets a bit too subdued over the course of the book, losing a lot of its edge in Puller’s shadow.

Who Should Read:

  • Those who enjoy Baldacci’s work
  • Fans of the Amos Decker series
  • Anyone looking for a well-layered, complex plot-based book

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who gets queasy easily, because there is a good chunk of violence in Zero Day.

Read It For:

  • its complex, layered storyline
  • an intriguing and very likable hero
  • Baldacci’s style finesse (which made him the success he is)

Want me to include any additional elements in this new review format? Let me know in the comments below!

– Rishika

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