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, 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, Thrillers

Book Review: The Hit (By David Baldacci)

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

Genre: 

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

Length: 

392 pages

Blurb:

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

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

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

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

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

Highlighted Takeaway:

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Who Should Read It:

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

Who Should Avoid:

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

Read It For:

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

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

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

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Thrillers

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

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

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

434 pages

Blurb:

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

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

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

Highlighted Takeaway:

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Who Should Read It:

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

Who Should Avoid:

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

Read It For:

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

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

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

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

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

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

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

Genre: 

Non-fiction, Business, Psychology,

Length: 

256 pages

Blurb:

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

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10 for its teachings

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No. 

Highlighted Takeaway:

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Who Should Read It:

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

Who Should Avoid:

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

Read It For:

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

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

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

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

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

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

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

Genre:

Mystery

Length:

330 pages 

Blurb:

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

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series:

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

Highlighted Takeaway:

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

What I Liked:

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

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

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

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Who Should Read It:

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

Who Should Avoid:

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

Read It For:

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

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

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

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

A few drawbacks, but an interesting read: A Review of Death of a Messenger by Robert McCaw

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Death of a Messenger is not the first Robert McCaw book I’ve read, although it is the first in the Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery series. I had earlier read and reviewed Book #3 in the series – Fire and Vengeance. You can read its review here. The first two books were on my TBR, so I was quite excited when I received this book for a review. Read on to know more.

Genre: 

Mystery

Length:

352 pages 

Blurb:

Detective Koa Kāne is called in to investigate a murder when a body is discovered in a lava tube at Pohakuloa, the army’s live-fire training area. In his many years on the force, Koa has seen a lot of horrific sites, but the mutilated body with signs of a ritualistic killing is one of the worst. Koa is determined to find the person capable of such horror while forced to fight against an ineffective ME, hostility from both nativists and westerners, and personal demons born of his own past actions. With grave robbers, thieves, astronomers, and nativists falling into the suspect pool and everyone concerned to the case sharing more lies than truth, Koa needs to use every skill, intuition, and bit of experience to find out who the victim was, why he was murdered, and who is behind the heinous mutilation.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #1 in the Koa Kāne series, followed by Off the Grid and Fire and Vengeance.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The depth of information regarding traditional Hawaiian practices and traditions. Like other books in the series, Death of a Messenger stays true to showcasing the various facets, past and present, of the region in which it is set.

What I Liked:

Death of a Messenger is a classic whodunnit. Or, as Captain Holt of Brooklyn Nine-Nine says, a ‘who has done this’. A series of suspects, all of whom have motive, keeps the story moving and the reader, guessing.

What I Didn’t Like:

Maybe it’s because this is the first book in the series, but I noticed that it had a lot of “tell, not show” instead of it being vice versa. There were random mentions of back stories when, instead, the point being overly-repeated could have simply been shown in character development after a couple of mentions. I found the writing style in those segments really strange and off-putting, and think the story could have done a lot better without the excessive repetition. (Much like this paragraph, you may be thinking!)

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes mystery, learning about new places (Death of a Messenger does not stray far from reality in setting and history), and suspense will enjoy this Koa Kāne story. In spite of its few shortcomings, it is an interesting read.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone uncomfortable with gore or violence – while not over the top, there is some violence in Death of a Messenger that can be a bit too graphic for those who are uncomfortable with it.

Read It For:

Koa Kāne. The leading character in the series is a relatable, likable, and kind-hearted person, with enough shades of gray to make you want to follow his story.

Want to share something about the Koa Kāne series or my review? Leave a comment below 🙂

Coming up next is a review of The Alienist (the book, not the TV show). Stay tuned to find out if the historical suspense fiction meets expectations. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this review.

Rishika