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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: All Systems Red (By Martha Wells)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 144 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

SecUnits are androids that accompany exploratory teams traveling to different planets in a distant future. Half human, half machine, their job is to keep the humans in their charge safe. Their rules are governed and issued by the company that approves and supplies all interspace missions. But safety isn’t a big concern when profits are at stake. Which is why the SecUnit accompanying Dr. Mensah and her team doesn’t bother too much when they face numerous technical glitches. Until they lose contact with another exploratory team that was on the other side of the desolate planet.

In the search for answers, Dr. Mensah and her team discover something unexpected. Their SecUnit has hacked into its own governor module. It isn’t, and never has been, answerable to anyone. And it calls itself ‘Murderbot’. Murderbot has a history, one that gives the humans enough reason to question his role in the dangers surrounding them. But they have more reason to trust it. And no choice but to do so when they realize that their lives depend on uncovering the truth about what happened to their neighboring mission team. But is trusting an advanced AI who is openly apprehensive of humans and generally indifferent the right choice? What is it that Murderbot really wants? And who will have to pay the price when the android is forced to choose between the freedom it’s come to like, and a lifetime of servitude that awaits it if its actions were to go public?

The Bottom Line:

A fast-paced, action-packed read that takes the unique perspective of the android, Murderbot, itself, and hits the reader with a host of emotions, expected and unexpected.

My take:

All Systems Red begins without much foreplay. It just leaps right into the story, and into the head of its main character – Murderbot. As such, it takes some time to get used to the slang and style, making the first couple of pages really interesting, but also requiring slow reading. But once you get the hang of it, there’s no pausing.

At 144 pages, it’s a short book, and every page is filled with information. And somehow, Wells manages to depict detailed characterization and character development in this short length. The characters can get a bit confusing (I honestly took some time to figure out who was male and female!), but that doesn’t really affect the reading experience. The characters themselves are so defined that that is the only thing you really care about.

Although interesting, the story is not unheard of or not previously-never-done. But what really stands out is the POV. The entire story is told from the perspective of Murderbot itself. The android has no misconceptions about what it likes or dislikes, and its own strengths and weaknesses, but it continues trying to figure out what all that stuff really means for it as an entity. This is a character that is trying to understand itself, and yet the effort of this activity takes a toll on it. In all of this, it still continues to care about the people in its protection, showcasing that it is inherently good.

For the most part, Murderbot is like a child. It sees the good and the bad, focuses on the good, and tries to do what it perceives to be right. But, it also has a strong survival instinct, driven by its past. These two halves of itself often put Murderbot in a conundrum. All Systems Red follows the development of Murderbot as it traverses the confusing waters of what it means to be itself, while fighting off an external threat that is way out of its comfort zone and job description.

The story follows the basic arc of an abandoned planet, a team of researchers caught in a threat they don’t understand, an unidentified enemy whose motivation is just as unknown, and a desperate attempt for survival. Yet, its fresh take makes the book very interesting. Plus, it keeps moving without reprieve, has something happening almost all the time, and keeps you turning the pages wondering, “What happens next?”

I thought the end of the book was actually pretty brilliant. Although many people have found it to be anti-characteristic, I found it to be quite the opposite. What I felt when reading the end was pretty simple – there could have been no better, natural conclusion. I think that Wells was very clear about the personalities of her characters, no matter however much conflict they are in, with each other and themselves. They are basically human. And the end made me feel like she definitely seems to have a strong understanding of what that means.

All in all, All Systems Red is a fast, interesting read that introduces a character who I definitely want to follow. There are three more books in the series – two have been released and the fourth (and apparently final) chapter releases this October. I’m definitely putting this series on my list, and will explore more of Wells’ work too.

All Systems Red is highly recommended to those who enjoy:

  • sci-fi of all types
  • action thrillers
  • movies like Alien and Life

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: Brahma Dreaming (By John Jackson)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 239 page

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Brahma Dreaming is John Jackson’s version of the stories of the three great Gods of Hinduism – Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Preserver), and Shive (The Destroyer). Accompanied by illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, the book takes the readers across the many stories of Hinduism that represent the continuous forces of creation, preservation, and destruction.

The Bottom Line:

A charming read that introduces readers to Hinduism and the many epics that are its building blocks.

My take:

Brahma Dreaming can be considered an introduction to Hindu mythology. The subject is very vast and covered in parts by numerous books. Brahma Dreaming brings all of them together to share a brief look at the epics of Hinduism.

The book is extremely charming, especially the first chapter. It is written in a simple, straightforward, yet soft manner. Each chapter tells a different story in a continuing arc, and chapters are often interconnected. The illustrations are really good and really add to the book and the reading experience.

In essence, Brahma Dreaming is like the teaser of stories on which Hinduism has been built. It’s that brief a glimpse into the vastness of those stories. It gives a good introduction to the more well-known entities and tales on which a lot of Hindu children have grown up. But it doesn’t really delve into the lessons and morals that those epics are meant to showcase.

Personally, I’ve not read the detailed versions of those stories. I’ve read some abridged versions, and heard more through general discussion. So, I already knew a bit of the stories in Brahma Dreaming; but quite a bit was new and interesting too. Even in the cases where the stories differed from those that I knew in certain aspects, the retelling was intriguing.

Whether you’re absolutely new to the stories, or whether you’ve heard of them before, Brahma Dreaming (with its charming style and beautiful illustrations) evokes enough interest to make you want to explore the subject further.

I’d recommend Brahma Dreaming to:

  • people who enjoy reading mythology
  • those who want to know more about Hindu mythology
  • anyone who enjoys a bit of fantasy

Share your thoughts on Brahma Dreaming, or any related recommendations you may have, in the comments section below!

– Rishika

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Review: The Fix (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 428 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Amos Decker, the man who forgets nothing and who has just about managed to bring his life back on track, is walking along outside the FBI Headquarters. In front of him is Walter Dabney, a well-respected family man, and patriot who has built a successful business consulting on government projects. Everything seems normal. Until Dabney shoots Anne Berkshire, a high school substitute teacher in the head, and then himself.

The special FBI team of which Decker is a part is assigned the case. But they can find no connection between the killer and victim. And yet Decker can’t believe that anything about the shooting was random. Then Agent Harper Brown of the Defense Intelligence Agency orders Decker and his team off the case; the murder is part of an ongoing DIA investigation for which they aren’t cleared and which has now become an urgent matter of national security.

Unfortunately for Brown, Decker doesn’t care about rules. He only cares about finding the truth. Forced into a shaky alliance, Decker, his team, and Brown work against the clock to discover the truth behind the shooting and the connection between Dabney and Berkshire. The right steps will help them save the nation from an impending attack of unprecedented proportions. A wrong or delayed step leaves the nation vulnerable to an unknown but dangerous and armed enemy. Time and luck are against them; and this time, even Decker’s famous abilities may not be enough to solve the case.

The Bottom Line:

A compelling read that keeps you turning more for the combination of individual story and continuing (personal) story arc than just the story of Dabney and Berkshire themselves.

My review:

The Fix is the third book in the Amos Decker series. And it’s as good as its prequels. For more info on those, check out my review of Memory Man here, and The Last Mile here.

As with many of Baldacci’s works, The Fix takes a seemingly isolated incident and merges it with matters national and political angles. The book tackles the mystery of why Dabney killed Berkshire really well, slowly developing one angle into an elaborate story with an interesting political angle.

The characters are well fleshed out. They are very real, their human-ness being at the very core of everything that happens, and yet being something that isn’t made very obvious. That is what allows the story to unfold in the way that it does – the randomness and unpredictability that is inherent in people. And, this is more shown than told, making it seem all the more relatable.

The Fix introduces us to some new characters and re-introduces us to old ones too. One of the most appealing parts of the book was the development of the relationships between the characters, with each one really coming into their own. There is inevitable conflict, but there is also growth achieved by accepting and showcasing both vulnerabilities and strengths.

At the center of it all lies Amos Decker. A haunted hero if there ever was one, Decker is one of my favorite Baldacci characters. It can sometimes get annoying as to how much people expect from him. Or how much he takes on himself. But as the characters grow, the reasoning for this is also depicted. And it makes things a lot easier to understand and accept. In fact, it manages to give you new insight into a character who you may have considered easy to figure out, a character who can be painfully simply and oddly complex at the same time. But all within reason.

Overall, The Fix shows a lot of development in the arc continued across the series. The individual story is also very interesting. It does come across as a bit over the top at times. In retrospect, I realize that it’s not really about those seemingly fantastic parts. The story is about repercussions. And as a whole, it plays out well and makes for a difficult-to-put-down read.

I’d recommend The Fix to:

  • fans of Baldacci (this has enough background to be a standalone, but you may have a better experience if you read Memory Man and The Last Mile first)
  • anyone interested in getting started on a new series (The Amos Decker one is interesting, to say the least)
  • fans of political thrillers and crime fiction

Let us know what you thought about The Fix and why you love or hate Baldacci and/or Amos Decker. Shout out in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: Never Rest (By Jon Richter)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 242 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Salvation Island has a disturbing history, one that has left a shroud of darkness over the island. Ex-police inspector, Chris Sigurdsson, had experienced this darkness first-hand when he’d spent one week on the island investigating a case. The week had left him with terrifying experiences that still haunted his memories. Now, five years later, he has left his police life behind to become a successful private detective with a good reputation.

Then Erina Brennan calls him. She tells him she wants his help in finding her estranged husband, David Lithgow. A writer suffering from bipolar disorder, Lithgow had gone to Salvation Island in search of inspiration. Erina had lost all contact with him days ago. Chris decides to explore the case a little more before taking it up, unable to resist the macabre pull of the mysterious island; and unable to deny his growing desire to meet Carin Mason, the police officer he’d worked with on the island case five years ago, the woman who he’d wanted to call after, but hadn’t.

When Chris reaches the island, he finds much more than he’d bargained for. Lithgow had hurled himself into the depths of the island’s terrifying past. Chris tries to make sense of what Lithgow had been doing before he’d disappeared in the hope that it would help him find the man. But he finds only growing chaos instead. Before he realizes, he gets pulled into a world of insanity where reality and fantasy, past and present begin to merge. And as Chris soon discovers, his mind is not the only thing he risks losing. Salvation Island has more secrets than anyone could have imagined. And someone is hell-bent on keeping them protected, even if it means killing anyone who discovers the truth.

The Bottom Line:

Terrifying at times while being a page-turner throughout, this book does extremely well until the very end where, in some ways, it falls short of excellent.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Bloodhound Books for an ARC of this book.

Never Rest is not for the faint of heart. It is chaotic, insane, and disturbing. Incredibly graphical, it does not just tell you about the madness inside someone’s mind, but takes you right into its depth. It starts and ends by making your skin crawl. And it keeps the pace up in between, too. Chaotic in a good way, it keeps pulling you into labyrinths of thoughts and ideas that mingle with reality, until the line begins to blur.

The characters are easy to associate with, while not being too two-dimensional. They’ve got some complexities, but are not highly complicated individuals, making them very relatable. There are aspects of the story (and to some of the characters) that, in retrospect, seem highly improbable. But this isn’t something you would notice in the flow of the story and, in fact, the oddity adds to the thrill of the tale.

The only part that left me wanting is the end. The story is well written and comfortably fleshed-out. But the end seems a bit hurried, leaving a few things unanswered and some things to the reader’s choice. While the latter isn’t a problem, a few pages extra may have made the former less of a problem.

There are three stories over three timelines referenced in the book. A disturbing past, Chris’ first case, and the current case. While the first and third are well explained, the second seems to only appear in brief mentions. As it turns out, this is because the second story is the main plot of Book 1 in the Chris Sigurdsson series (Deadly Burial). (Now I wish I’d read that first.) The end of Never Rest leaves you slightly dissatisfied because it leaves you with a lot of questions. The next book in the series will probably answer some of them (I hope).

The main thing I realized about the book is that it reminded me a lot of the work of Simon Beckett – specifically, Written in Bone (you can read my review of that great book here). It’s got this spooky, chaotic, disturbing feel that is hugely compelling and intriguing.

I’m going to read Richter’s first book, Deadly Burial, very soon. I don’t know if my experience with Never Rest would have been different had I read the first book before. What I do know is that you can read Never Rest as a standalone or start here at least, and other than a few things seeming random, you won’t really be lost.

Highly recommended to:

  • fans of Simon Beckett
  • fans of Tim Weaver
  • crime fiction and thriller fans
  • fans of psychological thrillers (this actually does check the boxes for both psychology and thriller)

Never Rest released on 30 March 2018, and is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Let us know what you thought of Never Rest or Deadly Burial (or just say Hi!) in the comments below.

– Rishika

 

 

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Don’t forget to write a review… Please?

Have you ever stopped to consider the role a review can play in the fate of a book and its author? This is a question that everyone needs to ponder, whether you are an author or just a lover of all things that can be read!

How can a review help a reader?

Ever read a book so good that you thought everybody could learn something from it? Then, spread the word. Or ever read a book so bad that you simply had to warn other book lovers to stay away from it? Then, spread the word. That’s what book reviews help you do. Whether you loved or hated a book, you can tell others about it simply by posting your thoughts on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, or any other platform or electronic store. That way, you help others decide whether they need to spend the money on that book or not.

With the growing number of authors in the market, self and traditionally published, readers have never had these many choices from which they can pick up their next book. And anything that can help you choose your next book can also be responsible for saving you hours of reading time or your finding your next favorite author. That is the power that a review has. You can be the one who wields that power. Your review is responsible for people choosing or ignoring a book. You can make people try out new authors, new styles, and new genres too!

By sharing your thoughts, you not only help another reader decide on a purchase, you also give the author an idea of what you would like to see more of and what you could do without. You help an author discover aspects of their own writing that they may never know existed. All it takes from you are ten minutes and ten lines. And just as your leaving a review helps others, reviews can benefit you too; because if most people who pick up a book leave a review, it can only help you discover books about which you didn’t know.

That’s great for readers, but how can a review help an author?

Today, the world of literature has more competition that it has ever seen. Indie authors have changed the landscape of the industry. And many of them are actually pretty awesome. But with so many choices, how do you know which new author to trust and follow?

That is where reviews help authors – they help set authors apart from one another. If people recommend your work, you get increased sales and a larger fan following. If people don’t recommend your work, you get critical feedback which can be incorporated in your next piece of work. As long as people voice their feelings and thoughts about a book through a review, the author will know which aspects of his work appeals to people and which doesn’t. And that can only help you, as an author, get better.

As an author, getting a review can be scary. And it isn’t always pleasant because for five people who love your work, there will definitely be a couple who don’t. This happens because even though certain people may like a particular genre, they have different expectations from the books in that genre. You meet some of these and you don’t meet others – that’s just how it goes. But every review, good and bad, is helpful to you. You earn from the good ones and learn from the bad ones.

 

Simply put, reviews help books and authors establish a following for themselves in the face of intense competition. As an author, a review can help you become a huge success or simply get better until you become a success. And as a reader, a review will help you find books that were previously unknown to you and you can help someone find their next favorite book too.

Lastly, reviews are a great way to share your thoughts, discuss the emotions you developed for a book and its characters, and even make friends over discussions sparked by matching or clashing reviews. When you look at it that way, don’t the ten minutes it would take you to drop a rating or a review become worthy of spending? Remember, as a reader, you hold the success of an author in your hands. So why not help them towards success if you like their work or help them get better if you don’t?

– Rishika

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