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Reminiscent of Stuart MacBride’s Misfit Mob: A Review of The Sleepwalker (by Joseph Knox)

I saw Joseph Knox’s The Sleepwalker in my Goodreads feed, and saw that it was available to read and review on NetGalley. So naturally, I had to get myself a copy (because of my obvious and possibly unhealthy love for the mystery/thriller genre). Three days later, I’m done with the book and can’t help but feel how similar the experience of reading it was to reading A Dark So Deadly by Stuart McBride (review here), which introduced readers to the Misfit Mob.

Here’s why The Sleepwalker was even better than A Dark So Deadly.

The Sleepwalker Joseph Knox

Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

328 pages

Blurb:

Martin Wick was sentenced to death for the slaughter of an entire family. But Wick had no memory of the crime, earning him the nickname ‘The Sleepwalker’. Ten years later, Wick is dying in a hospital, under police watch. Detective Aidan Waits is part of the police protection detail that has only one job – watch Wick and try to find out the location of Wick’s last victim. But then, an attack leaves Wick and another policeman dead, and another gravely injured. And with his dying breath, Wick tells Waits something that sends him down a dangerous path where demons from his past, the search for the truth, and the threats of his present come crashing together. Will this be the end for Waits’ career and life? Will Waits fight the dangers that will pull him deeper into the storm from which there’s no return? Or will he embrace that darkness and the release it will bring?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book 3 of the Aidan Waits series. Book 1 – Sirens – has actually been on my list for a while. While I didn’t want to give up on the chance to read The Sleepwalker, I definitely felt like I should’ve started from Book 1. If you’re picking Joseph Knox as a new author to follow, start at the beginning – at Sirens.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Aidan Waits’ sour persona. It may have rubbed the other characters wrong, but I absolutely loved the way he was.

What I Liked:

Joseph Knox builds an intricately woven plot on the foundation of great characterization. The Sleepwalker reads really well, moves fast, and is also wonderfully human in its characters’ strengths and weaknesses.

What I Didn’t Like:

If I had to pick something, it would be the fact that the book wouldn’t have been complete without reference to its prequels. But, that very reference is what has now left me knowing more than what I would’ve liked to know about those very prequels. So if you pick this book up as a standalone read, you will enjoy it. But if you want to read the whole series, start with Sirens instead for a more complete experience.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who loves books set in the United Kingdom, especially if you like the works of Stuart MacBride.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not like books where the main protagonists are a little too dark; where they’re not anti-heroes, they’re just confused individuals trying to make the best of a situation and survive until they can be bothered to.

Read It For:

Aidan Waits’ struggle against himself and the hand he’s been dealt, as he tries to determine whether the effort is worth it at all.

A big thank you to NetGalley, Joseph Knox, and Transworld Publishers for an ARC of this book. The Sleepwalker comes out on 11 July 2019. Make sure to grab a copy if you love thrillers.

– Rishika

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Unputdownable: A Review of Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

A big thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this book, and for introducing me to an author and character that I will surely be following. This is the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series, based on the character of the same name who is a con artist turned defense lawyer. It’s completely readable as a standalone and although it does mention a bit about Eddie’s life and character journey, nothing leaves you feeling lost.

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Thriller, Suspense

Length: 

368 pages

Blurb:

Eddie Flynn protects the innocent. When a high profile case involving an incredibly popular actor comes his way through one of the biggest law firms in the city, Eddie refuses. The actor is on trial for the murder of his actress wife and bodyguard. Eddie has no reason to believe his innocence, nor does he know why the reputed firm wants him on the case. Until Eddie meets the accused. Willing to go to any length to protect an innocent man, Eddie takes the case up under overwhelming evidence against his client. Eddie is confident that the real killer is out there – he just has to convince the jury of that. But the killer is closer than even Eddie can imagine. And convincing a jury may not be so easy when the killer is part of it.

Overall Rating: 

8 out of 10

Plot: 

9 out of 10

Characterization: 

9 out of 10

Primary Element: 

9 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style: 

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is #4, but can be read as a standalone without any problem.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The plot twist. It’s very rare that the killer-reveal takes you by real surprise, but Steve Cavanagh manages to do just that.

What I Liked:

Eddie Flynn’s character is one of the most rounded, yet realistic, I’ve read. There are a few fictional characters who I absolutely love because of their complexity and human-ness, with David Baldacci’s Amos Decker being one such character. Eddie Flynn makes it to that list and as one of the top ones for sure. Cavanagh has created a very relatable character in Flynn, one who keeps you hooked from the first page.

What I Didn’t Like:

Not a thing!

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoyed watching The Mentalist, and anyone who enjoys reading fast-paced courtroom-action-suspense novels. Also anyone who enjoys a good serial killer mystery and legal thrillers.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who is put off very quickly by violence. There isn’t too much gore in this book, but there is some violence which may not sit too well with those not too used to it.

Read It For:

The suspense, the intricate storyline, and Eddie Flynn.

Got recommendations for other books like Thirteen or any other good legal thrillers? Drop a line in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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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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