Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction

(Quick) Book Review: Win (By Harlan Coben)

Before jumping right into this review, I have to highlight three things:

  1. I have not read any of the Harlan Coben Myron Bolitar series, so Windsor Horne Lockwood III is a brand new character for me.
  2. I have always found Harlan Coben’s work good, but not great, so I pick up his books solely on the intrigue in the blurb. Win has a lot of intrigue in the blurb.
  3. This review is going to be different than the usual way my reviews unfold.

On to the review!

I tried hard to like this book – I really, really did. I absolutely hate giving up on books, persevering in the hope that they will improve at some point. But at 60 pages in and struggling to read more than one chapter at a time, I read a few (rare) negative reviews that said that the mystery isn’t so mysterious, and the titular character doesn’t get any better. I was still holding on and was determined to continue reading the next day. But when the time came, I just couldn’t pick it up.

And so, I finally marked it as DNF and moved on. Below are a few reasons I couldn’t get on board with this book or its titular character. You can check out the blurb for Win here.

  1. Win goes on and on and on and on and on and on some more about himself all the time – about how good he is at mixed martial arts, at kicking people’s asses, at sex, and at everything else. He’s a self proclaimed vigilante who enjoys violence. While the vigilante part was what made the blurb interesting, Win ends up coming across as a sociopath who cares about vigilante justice not because he should help others, but because he can. He does not actually care about the people he’s defending or avenging nor about the consequences of his actions on those very people, as long as the perpetrator got a good beating at his hand. Which made me feel like it was more about his ego than his apparent unique brand of justice.
  2. Other characters are interesting but seem to be part of the story more for Win to come across as socially woke and aware rather than anything other reason, inadvertently (and ironically) becoming plot points in the process.
  3. He literally has to “attempt to seem emotional”. It’s really tough to associate with a character who feels nothing except for arrogance and pride about himself.
  4. The book seems to go nowhere – 60 pages in and all I’d read was how awesome Win thought he was and how he thought he was Batman (his comparison, not mine). While the basic mystery was introduced at some point, it did little to generate curiosity because of it being shared through Win’s egotistical outlook. Consequently, for a book that’s meant to have a mystery and some suspense at its core, it took a really, really long time to get going.
  5. And by the time it did get going, I cared about Win so little that I didn’t care at all about what happened to him or his family. Which is why I ended up giving up. And that is the basic problem with Harlan Coben’s Win – the main character is so unlikeable that you simply don’t care about what happens to him. So why would you read any more?

I know I’m in the minority with my thoughts on this book. But the lack of interest I had in Win by this point and the reviews that said that the mystery wasn’t Coben’s best made the decision for me.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 stars (I genuinely did not find anything redeeming, but I didn’t finish the book either, so I can’t give it a 0)

All in all, Win by Harlan Coben was a big no-no for me. And it will be a while before I go back to Coben’s books.

If you’re a big fan of Harlan Coben, you may enjoy Win. But if you’re on the fence about his books (or generally dislike characters who come across as gigantic as**s while trying to be ‘super-cool’ or anti-heroes), I’d recommend passing on this one.

Got some thoughts on Win (the character or the book)? Drop a comment below to share it with us. As always, thank you for stopping by and reading my reviews! Coming up next – a review of The Whisper Man by Alex North.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

Genre:

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Length: 

386 pages

Blurb:

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

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

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

Characterization:

4 out of 10

Primary Element:

5 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Who Should Read It:

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

Who Should Avoid:

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

Read It For:

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

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

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

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: Fool Me Once (By Harlan Coben)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 387 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Maya Stern is no stranger to death. Having served in the army, she’s seen her share of loss. And learned to deal with it. Which is how she manages to bear the pain of having witnessed the death of her husband in a mugging gone wrong. She’s forcing herself to get through one day at a time, fighting against the loss and the nightmares she brought home from the war with a smile on her face for the sake of her two-year-old daughter. But some things are too much even for Maya’s willpower. When she sees her husband on the feed from a secret nanny-cam – feed from a week after his death – she begins to question everything, and everyone. She begins digging to find an answer, but instead finds only more questions. And secrets that go back decades. Everything she’s ever known begins to come under suspicion, and Maya is forced to face the fact that she can trust no one – not even herself. Things simply aren’t what they seem. But is that the result of a conspiracy that goes back years, or the loss of Maya’s own sanity?

The Bottom Line:

A relatively typical crime thriller whose saving grace is its incredible, and unpredictable, ending.

My take:

Fool Me Once has an interesting story that is told with the nearly infallible skill that only an experienced author can possess. Harlan Coben has been around for a while and yet, this is the first book of his that I’ve read. And I can say that the man is, without a doubt, a really good storyteller.

Fool Me Once moves along briskly, and the suspense keeps you turning the pages relentlessly. It is written with the effortlessness that seems so simple, but is probably extremely difficult to achieve. And that translates into a smooth, effortless reading experience too.

The characters are well defined and very human. In fact, they’re human enough to like and dislike at the same time. This is another aspect in which complexity is presented exceptionally well, in seemingly-effortless simplicity. The most enjoyable thing in Fool Me Once is Coben’s skill; I definitely want to read more from him.

As a story, however, it’s pretty average. The premise is interesting, and it unfolds well. But the many twists and turns that were meant to be shocking are quite predictable. That’s not to say that they aren’t enjoyable. But at the same time, it leaves the book lacking the quality that gives it an edge, that pushes it to the level of evoking an, “I loved it!”

The one thing that was surely unpredictable though was the end. And that is what takes the book up from 2 stars (read: It was okay), to 3 stars. All in all, Fool Me Once is a very average thriller, but one that deserves to be read for its story-telling finesse and pretty awesome end. Recommended to:

  • fans of crime fiction and thrillers
  • fans of Jeffery Deaver and/or Agatha Christie
  • anyone who wants to read a fast-moving but not heavy crime fiction

Liked Fool Me Once? Or think that another Coben book is better? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

– Rishika