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

Posted in All Book Reviews

Exciting, even if a tad over the top: A review of Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver

It’s been a while since I read Tim Weaver’s work, in spite of having really enjoyed the three books of his that I have read. I was recently reminded of his work by S.W. Kane’s The Bone Jar (check out the review of that thriller here). And a day later, I was reading Never Coming Back. Read on to know what you can expect from this crime thriller, based on Weaver’s missing persons investigator – David Raker.

Genre: 

Crime thriller, Suspense

Length: 

529 pages

Blurb:

David Raker leaves London behind to heal, physically and emotionally, at his parents’ old house in Devon. But there’s a reason Raker does what he does – he needs to help people keep their loss at bay, so that they never face what he had to. Which is why when his ex-girlfriend, Emily Kane, turns up at his door asking for his help in finding her sister, Carrie, and her entire family, Raker cannot refuse. Carrie, her husband Paul, and their two daughters, disappeared without a trace, leaving the house like they’d just been there moments before. That was months ago. The police have had no leads, and Raker’s the only hope for Emily. What begins as a missing persons case turns into something much more sinister. Will Raker find the answers he’s looking for, or will a decades-old secret claim even more lives than it already has… including Raker’s?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out 10 for its suspense; 7 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book #4 in the David Raker series. Although it can be read as a standalone, with enough information to bring a new reader up to speed while not sharing spoilers, it is best read in order.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A few of the plot twists. You come to expect certain trends and twists when you read a lot of crime thrillers and suspense. But Never Coming Back still manages to surprise.

What I Liked:

The strong characterization and the effortless display of the complexities of relationships. They made the story more intriguing and very easy to associate with, and left you really invested in what happens next.

What I Didn’t Like:

Part of the plot was a bit over the top. I genuinely do not know if the core circumstances that led to the events of the book could and/or do happen. Seems improbable but still just possible enough to be believable (to some extent).

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes crime thrillers and suspense. You’ll especially enjoy this if you like the works of Jeffery Deaver, Tony Parsons, and Simon Beckett.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who is turned off by graphic crime and conspiracy theories.

Read It For:

David Raker. He’s one of those literary characters that will make you want to read an entire series. He’s not shown to be invincible. In fact, he’s vulnerable, honest, and limited in capabilities, making it that much easier to think of him as a very real person and, consequently, to care about what he does and what happens to him.

Have you read any of the David Raker series? Let us know what you thought in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by The Book Review Station!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Better to avoid: A review of No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan

A big thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this book. I thought the blurb was really interesting and I tried really hard to like the book. But at the end of it, No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan was just a disappointing read.

I’m taking a slightly different approach in this review, primarily because I found it a bit difficult to get through the story. I didn’t want to close it as a DNF, so I’m just going to summarize what I felt after ensuring I completed it.

Genre:

Mystery, Suspense

Length: 

352 pages

Blurb:

Lieutenant John Driscoll begins investigating a series of murders in NYC. The perpetrator is twisted, as evidenced by his actions. But what’s driving him? And will Driscoll win the fight against the evil that the murderer epitomizes?

Overall Rating:

1 out of 10

Plot:

1 out of 10

Characterization:

1 out of 10

Primary Element:

2 out of 10 for its few random plot twists that did end up adding some elements of surprise.

Writing Style:

2 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Yes, it’s the third book in the John Driscoll series but can be read as a standalone.

A little more:

No One Will Hear Your Screams has some great reviews. Unfortunately, it just did not work for me. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Characters were very one dimensional. There was good, there was bad, and there was very little depth to either. Maybe that was because the character of the protagonist, Driscoll, has been developed over the series, maybe not. Either way, there was little in way of development that made you really associate with the characters, consequently leaving you un-invested in anything that happened to them.
  2. Random arcs that went nowhere. I’m not even sure why these plot points were added other than for shock value.
  3. Which brings me to my next point – random shock value. There were some seriously graphic scenes, which could affect even those who’ve read tons of violent suspense. They could have honestly added a whole other layer to the story but didn’t, because they were incredibly haphazardly placed instead of being part of the theme and the antagonist’s MO.
  4. One small, but extremely irritating, point was the constant and childish interaction between two characters that were, until that point, shown to be capable, functioning adults. Put together, they become bickering toddlers. Not only was it uncharacteristic, it was just cringey to read because literally no one behaves like that.
  5. Lastly, the writing, story, and persons were just all over the place. Connections between characters, motives, psyche, and even the past of the characters (which was shown to have some effect on the present) were just explained enough to take the story a step forward without really painting a picture. With nothing being delved into, you just end up reading a series of loosely tied events.

Should you read it?

Writing a book is tough work, which is why I really tried to find something that I liked in No One Will Hear Your Screams. It just didn’t work for me though. I would not personally recommend it to anyone because there are a lot of mystery and suspense novels out there that would probably be a better choice.

Drop a comment below if you’d like to share why you loved or hated No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan. As always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my review!

Until the next read…

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Too unrealistic to really enjoy: A Review of The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of this book. It looked super interesting and had its good parts, but overall made for a read that just wasn’t that great.

Read on to know why.

Caroline Mitchell The Perfect Mother
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Suspense

Length:

368 pages

Blurb:

Finding out she’s pregnant after a one-night stand leaves young and broke Roz, terrified. She knows she wants to bring her baby into the world. But she doesn’t want it to have the same chaotic upbringing that she had had. Determined to do what’s best for her child, she signs up on an elite adoption service website. Within days, she is on the way to New York to meet with a celebrity power couple whose names she doesn’t yet know, leaving behind her only friend. Sheridan and Daniel are wealthy and kind, and the perfect parents that Roz could have wanted for her baby. Within hours of meeting Sheridan, she has signed away her freedom until the baby’s birth so that Sheridan can pass the event off as her own pregnancy. Once settled in their basement suite, Roz begins to realize that not everything is as welcoming as it seems. And when she finds out that there had been another woman who’d moved into the suite before her, a woman who had simply disappeared, she realizes that she may have made a terrible mistake. Her baby is the only reason she believes she’s alive. What happens when her due date, which is coming closer by the day, arrives?

Overall Rating:

5 out of 10

Plot:

5 out of 10

Characterization:

3 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An endearing writing style, which is strongly representative of Irish slang and mannerisms.

What I Liked:

The Perfect Mother has an interesting basic premise. It reads smoothly, and moves fast enough. Unfortunately, these aren’t enough to overshadow the negatives of the book.

What I Didn’t Like:

Characters were just too shallow and behaved in the most irrational ways possible. I know that tough situations can call for strange behaviors, but this was just too implausible. Also, the characters are not fleshed out. They act and do what the situation demands more than the story building around the characters and how they would actually react.

Another thing that really got to me was how convenient everything was in the story and the characters’ reactions. It felt like the author had a very obvious predetermined arc and that everything and everyone played a role to fulfill it, consequently making the story too unrealistic to associate with or really enjoy.

Who Should Read It:

I would not actively recommend this book to anyone because if it’s a suspense or thriller novel that you’re looking for, there are definitely many other options out there that would do better.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not like shallow characters and a storyline based on convenient inputs rather than a fleshed-out book where story and characters build off of one another.

Read It For:

If anything, the endearing mannerisms and slang that the writing style offers.

I still think Caroline Mitchell’s work could be good, if her writing style is anything to go by. I may or may not try another one of her books, but would have definitely loved to see her style combined with better characterization and story development. All in all, The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell was not a great read, and not something I would actively recommend.

If you’re interested in reading it though, The Perfect Mother is expected to release on 14 January 2020.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Posted in Being a writer

A Chilling Must-Read: A Review of Their Lost Daughters by Joy Ellis

This was one of the first books I tried off of Amazon Prime Reading. And it definitely made me glad that this option exists for Amazon Prime users, and those without Kindle Unlimited subscriptions. An interesting enough premise led to me borrowing this one, and I have to say that the book far exceeded expectations.

Read on to know why.

Their Lost Daughters by Joy Ellis
Source: Goodreads

Genre: 

Thriller, Suspense

Length: 

331 pages

Blurb:

A young girl’s body is found on an isolated beach – she was drowned. A second girl – Toni – is found wandering alone, drugged, and with foggy memories of a nightmare. A third girl is missing, her name – Emily – the only thing that Toni remembers; her name and that she had been taken away from the party from where Toni had barely escaped with her life. Another girl has been missing nearly a decade, and her mother is forcing the police to reopen her case with the help of the press. DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans need to make sense of all these events and find the culprits. But the missing girls are only the beginning. And the Fenland police may just not be prepared to handle the horrors that begin unraveling as they fight against time to find the missing girls, and save others from meeting the same fate.

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its suspense and thrill

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book 2 in the DI Jackman and DS Evans series, but can be read as a standalone too. I haven’t read Book 1, but had no trouble following Their Lost Daughters.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The authentic feel of the Fenlands, which comes across in the descriptions of places as well as the conversation.

What I Liked:

A really well-layered, twisted story, where all arcs come together extremely well at the end. It is quite predictable, and does not shy away from showcasing real-world horrors that we wish didn’t exist, but need to accept.

What I Didn’t Like:

I can’t really pinpoint any one thing, because I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes crime thrillers with a spooky old town feel, and who enjoy suspense.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who can’t digest graphic scenes – there was no gore as such in this book, but there were some scenes that hit really hard and may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Read It For:

The very enjoyable mix of spooky but charming setting, real-world horrors, reality checks, and an intriguing storyline.

After Their Lost Daughters, I will definitely be adding more of Joy Ellis to my to-be-read pile. The first book in the series – The Murderer’s Son – seems interesting and I’m going to try to make it my next read by Ellis.

If you’re looking for a really good suspense/thriller with a whole bunch of twists, pick up Their Lost Daughters. I can say with some confidence that you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

 

Posted in All Book Reviews

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

Posted in All Book Reviews

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!

39837786
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

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: That Last Weekend (By Laura DiSilverio)

34051792
Source: Goodreads

Length: 312 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Laurel Muir did not want to accept the unexpected but familiar invitation and return to Chateau du Cygne Noir – the castle turned BnB – for a weekend getaway with her friends. The tragedy that had struck ten years ago had sent those very friends on their own individual paths, the friendship strained, almost broken by what had happened. That event had ended a decade-long tradition of annual weekend getaways, and filled each of their hearts with doubt for each other. Driven by the need to rekindle that friendship and overcome the past, she finds herself accepting the invitation. But the past is not done with them yet. When a murderer strikes, the remaining friends are forced to face the truth – a killer lies in their midst. Thrown once again into a police investigation and with nowhere to go, they decide to uncover the truth this time. But Laurel does not know who to trust as she adamantly takes it upon herself to find answers. And as the skeletons in the closet are slowly exposed, Laurel finds that she may have been too ambitious and that her ambition could cost her her life.

My take:

First off, thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of The Last Weekend. Here is my honest review.

That Last Weekend is a ‘novel of suspense’. And it definitely keeps the suspense. The story is interesting and is filled with twists and turns, most of which you don’t see coming. Set in the present, the story touches upon events of the past through flashbacks. The transitions are smooth and comfortable to follow. They don’t break the flow and, in fact, add some interesting dimensions to the book.

The book gets right into it without much preamble. As a result, you take some time to get used to who’s who. That is still easier to do here than it is with a Mary Higgins Clark novel, though. Keeping with its ‘let’s get right to it’ beginning, the book moves along at a fast pace, without a single dull moment. It also has some good creepy elements which really set the scene perfectly. The writing style pulls you in and keeps you there, really allowing you to experience the entire eerie castle and small town setting, and adding to the suspense.

Yet, there are some aspects of the book that come across as a bit annoying. Some of the characters, for example. While Laurel seems level headed and easy to associate with, some of the other characters are just irritating. It wasn’t an in-your-face sort of irritation. It is just the way they are – not too pleasant would be the best way to describe it, I guess. You could chalk that up to the diversity that is existent in people. But their reactions to the events are just not sensible enough for someone who was in that situation. I have to admit that the diversity is what brings credibility and depth to such a story, but that didn’t exactly stop me from growling at the screen of my tablet at certain moments.

The last thing is that the story itself is actually incredibly interesting. It is twisted to a whole other level. But that itself is what made me wonder, “Can someone even be like that?” And that hint of incredibility brings down its appeal just a notch.

(Yes, I am aware that the last two paragraphs have me contradicting myself a lot. It was just that kind of a book.)

All in all, That Last Weekend was a more-than-just-good kind of read. It moved fast, kept me turning the pages, maintained its suspense well, and had a storyline that was convoluted to the right degree. It may not be the best suspense novel you read (given its few drawbacks), but is definitely worth reading especially if:

  • you like suspense novels
  • you like cozy mysteries
  • you enjoy murder mysteries and classic whodunits

That Last Weekend is scheduled for release on September 8, 2017 by Midnight Ink. I’d recommend grabbing a copy.

Liked or hated this review? Drop a comment below and tell us why. Also, let us know what you thought of the book or why you’d want to read it. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika