Category Archives: Book reviews

Review: The Width of the World (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 455 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Vega Jane, her best friend Delph, her dog Harry Two, and their new companion Petra Sonnet finally escape the Quag and its nightmare experience. But the place they end up in is much worse. Monsters don’t roam the peaceful streets. Instead, the people of the town they’re in are blissfully happy. When Vega Jane and her friends dig a little deeper, they discover that those very people are unaware of their true lives – their memories have been taken away, their lives erased, and their existences left as little more than blissful enslavement. The desire to help them and discover the reality behind all the lies she’s been told all her life drives Vega Jane to investigate what is happening in the strange town. But it isn’t going to be that easy. Danger lies at every turn; and the enemies against whom the people of Wormwood were protected by the Quag, the enemies that were little more than legend, suddenly become very real. History is about to repeat itself. War is inevitable. And Vega Jane is at the helm of it all. But how can she win a war that even her very powerful ancestors had lost, so many centuries ago? Can she find a way to face the enemy, when she has almost no hope of victory… or even survival?

The Bottom Line:

An entertaining read that is more similar in pace, style, and intrigue to the first part of the series than the less impressive second part.

My review:

The Width of the World is Book Three in the Vega Jane and The Finisher series. It is almost as good as the first book in the series, which has thus far been the best. It has similar elements of intrigue, fantasy, and the reckless but good-hearted actions of a very determined heroine.

It is fast paced and keeps you turning the pages, keen to know what happens next. It also brings together a lot of aspects of the first two books, tying many things up quite neatly. At the same time, it offers enough suspense and intrigue to mimic what the first book had achieved and take you into an interesting fantasy world.

A lot of the childishness that was existent in Book Two is, thankfully, missing from The Width of the World. There are childish elements, but there are also clear indicators that the characters are growing up, with the responsibilities they carry gaining prominence and the childishness diminishing. That growth is actually very refreshing and fits well with the storyline too.

The story itself is quite interesting and adds quite a few new angles to the fantasy world that Baldacci has built. It’s not the most unique of worlds, but definitely has its charms, making for an immersive read.

The book does have some problem areas though; one of the biggest ones being the parts where the otherwise very likable Vega Jane seemed a little too self-absorbed and obnoxious. She began to take herself a little too seriously as the leader whereas, until now, she had the utmost faith in her comrades. She definitely needed to be the leader, but there were times where her approach to the role didn’t seem to fit in with the character we’d seen until then.

In spite of its pace, the book does come across as a bit too long. There are sections – of introspection mainly – that could have been cut down. If it had been a finale, the length could be explained and even understood. But (and this really caught me by surprise) it isn’t the end of what I’d assumed to be a trilogy. It is more of a ‘preparation for the end’ kind of story. And definitely too long for that.

All in all, the book manages to keep you intrigued about the story of Vega Jane and its many other characters. It definitely keeps you interested enough to want to read the next book (whenever that may release). I’d recommend it to:

  • fans of young adult (young and adult, alike)
  • anyone looking for a quick read in the young adult genre (be prepared for some childishness)
  • anyone interested in fantasy (and doesn’t mind a little teenage drama)

Read, liked, or hated The Width of the World? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: Daddy Darkest (By Ellery A. Kane)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 358 pages

My rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars

Small-town girl, Samantha ‘Sam’ Bronwyn heads from Texas to San Francisco with her best friend, Ginny, on an after-graduation trip. But Ginny disappears from the airport bathroom while wearing Sam’s letterman jacket. Suddenly, the guy who had been sitting next to her on the plane, and who had managed to carry a gun onboard, is her only ally. But she knows nothing about him or even whether she can trust him.

A dangerous serial killer escapes from San Quentin and is on the loose in San Francisco.

Spanish speaking, vicious looking men attack Sam’s hotel, the guns in their hands and tattoos on their body telling her that they’re affiliated with a notorious gang.

The FBI agent looking into the disappearance of Ginny’s case seems to know Sam’s mother.

And Sam’s mother, Clare Bronwyn, seems to be a whole other person – someone who knows too much about the events unfolding around Sam, someone who has too many secrets, and someone who Sam can barely recognize.

Sam does not know whom to trust. And every step that she takes pulls her deeper into a web of lies. Soon, Sam discovers that her life, and identity, isn’t what she believed them to be. And she may not live long enough to discover who she really is.

The Bottom Line:

A terrible waste of time, Daddy Darkest is a story that does not (even remotely) do justice to the psychological thriller claim and is actually painful to read at most parts.

My review:

A big ‘Thank you’ to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review (‘honest’ being the key word here).

Daddy Darkest begins with a lot of promise. It starts with Samantha and Ginny traveling to San Francisco, Ginny’s disappearance, and a shifty but somewhat-trustable man coming to help Samantha. All intriguing factors, and all with great promise.

Then, it goes back to the past, to the story of Clare Keely, which (as it’s painfully obvious in the first three sentences) is the story of Samantha’s mother. It’s about two chapters into the past when everything gets really bad.

At the outset, I should probably state that I don’t really have a problem with characters who are anti-heroes or anti-heroines. No one is categorically black or white. And gray makes books and characters interesting. I think ‘gray’ was what Ellery Kane was aiming for with Clare (Bronwyn) Keely. What she ended up with, instead, is a very whiny, annoying, selfish, bratty b***h of a main character.

Sure, Clare has a past – one that’s not too nice either. It messes her up a bit. But that is really not enough of a foundation to become the person she does. In fact, most of her personality traits were highly conflicting with one another. And much more than the ‘this is who I need to be, but this is who I really am’ conflict that complex characters have. Plus, who she needs to be and who she is are both really annoying. To put it down in some discernable order, this is what she’s like:

Oh! I’m so pretty, it’s such a curse. Oh! I’m so pretty, every man lusts after me. Oh! I wish they wouldn’t. Oh! I need some information from this guy, let me just flirt with him and sleep with him and he’ll tell me. Oh! I wish he wouldn’t touch me. Oh! Come, let’s jump into bed together again so I can get you to do what I want. Oh! I wish every man didn’t lust after me, it makes me feel uncomfortable. Oh! I’m so bad. And I love it. No, I hate it. Oh! I’m such a good girl, why don’t people just let me be? Oh! My beauty is my curse. Oh! My beauty is my power. No, curse. No, power. And so on and so forth. Until Clare Keely whined about everything she didn’t like, and everything she liked too.

There are characters who are tainted but who you call still sympathize with – but Clare Keely is not such a character. She’s just annoying, and there is a point where you just want her to shut up.

And Samantha isn’t the brightest bulb either. Likable at first, you can sympathize with her for a bit. Until Kane seems to absolutely lose the shape of the character and Samantha melts into some kind of mix of her old self and her mother.

As the book proceeds, all characters other than Clare sort of slip away from the limelight and become secondary, to the point that the book doesn’t even wrap up their story cleanly. The story actually had the potential to be multi-arced, but all of it is pushed to the sidelines while Clare Keely rambles on and on, until you just don’t care about any of those promising angles.

That, unfortunately, is how this book makes you feel – uninterested. I actually found myself physically straining to push ahead instead of just giving up (a lot of people gave up, so I know I wasn’t alone in this struggle). Then I reached a point where I started fast-reading a lot of the book to remain informed of the points that mattered (skimming over the whining and lamenting, which made up for a surprisingly large amount of the book throughout). I did this in the hope that the book somehow redeemed itself. Short answer? It does not, in any way. I actually think it just gets worse as it goes on.

So all in all, this book has no redeeming factors. There’s nothing dark or psychologically thrilling about it. The story isn’t really twisted like the blurb states. And the only thing criminal in it, is Clare Keely’s character.

I would recommend this book to:

  • No one.
  • Seriously. Pick up any other book. Literally, any!

I’m sure there are people who disagree with my view on Daddy Darkest. Drop me a comment or two below to say why. And, of course, say why if you agree too!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

 

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Review: If I Die Before I Wake (By Emily Koch)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 320 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Alex Jackson has been in a coma for two years. At least, that’s what everybody believes. What they don’t know is that Alex can hear and feel everything around him, even if he remains incapable of responding. He can hear his father and sister discuss letting him go, he can hear his friends talk about how his girlfriend – Bae – needs to move on, and he can hear the discussions that reveal a shocking truth.

He hadn’t ended up in the hospital because of a climbing accident as everyone had thought. Someone had tried to kill him. Now, lying in bed and incapable of doing anything but listen, Alex needs to figure out who hated him enough to try and murder him. He only has clues from his past to mull over, clues that tell him that whoever his attacker was, he’s not done with Alex yet, nor with the people he loves. Now, Alex struggles every moment to wake up, desperate to discover the whole truth, and desperate to protect his family and friends, before they decide to let him go.

The bottom line:

An interesting storyline with implementation that holds its own for the most part, but that does leave some things lacking.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for an ARC of this book!

If I Die Before I Wake is the debut novel of Emily Koch, and it’s pretty good for a debut. It has a very interesting storyline told from a (sort-of) unique perspective. What’s really remarkable about it, though, is that it isn’t easy to create a 320-pages long book when you’re writing the entire thing from the perspective of someone in a vegetative state who can do nothing but listen, think, and occasionally feel. And yet, Koch manages to spin a page-turning tale that doesn’t get boring at any point.

The story itself is quite good. It addresses a gamut of very real, raw human emotions and thoughts, and makes it quite easy to associate with the characters. The suspense, twists, and turns are also well done, definitely managing to evoke a good amount of surprise. Alex’s feelings, struggle, and emotions come across especially well. As one of those “if you woke up in a coffin” type of situations, it is quite disturbing. But I did think that it could have been executed even better because, to be honest, his outlook and emotions seemed a little too calm to me. The feeling of being trapped in your body, unable to move while your mind is screaming at you to do something (to the point where you hallucinate that you’re actually doing it only to find out you hallucinated that too) is much more terrifying than the story depicted. And it probably would have had much more reading value if it had gone that extra bit on what Alex really felt.

What brought the rating of the book down for me (I was leaning towards 3.5 stars or 4 stars earlier), was the first half and the end. The first half tends to jump a lot between different events of the past. While a little ambiguity in the order was the aim (I think), it just got a little too messy to be easily followed. The second half really picks up though and was good enough to compensate for the first. Until the few pages at the end.

A story of this type is meant to be a little abstract in its delivery, I suppose. That’s part of its beauty, and can really make for a great read that evokes crazy amounts of varied emotions. But that kind of chaotic order is also very difficult to achieve. That’s where If I Die Before I Wake was lacking. It was abstract and even hit the right emotional chords. But it did so with very little conviction. As a result, the book (that was probably meant to leave you in thinking about it for a long time) ended without much impact.

All in all, If I Die Before I Wake is definitely worth a read. I won’t say that the author will make my watch-list. But she definitely has a style and genre choice that I would opt for and enjoy (once the chaos has a little more order). In the meanwhile, I’d recommend readers to give Emily Koch’s debut novel a shot, especially if you:

  • enjoy slightly obscure literature
  • like fiction and want to experiment with new styles
  • are interested in crime fiction

If I Die Before I Wake releases on 11th January 2018. Have a read and tell us what you liked/disliked about the book in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: The Adventures of Tintin (Volumes 3 to 6)

Tintin

Source: Google Images

Happy New Year, Peeps!

I spent the last couple of months reading through a few volumes of Tintin (Volumes 3 to 6). Since I didn’t have a lot of specific things to say for each one, I thought I’d share this summarised post/review. Here are the books in order of preference:

  1. Volume 5 which contains Red Rackham’s Treasure, The Seven Crystal Balls, and Prisoners of the Sun – 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Volume 6 which contains Land of Black Gold, Destination Moon, and Explorers on the Moon – 3.5 out of 5 stars
  3. Volume 4 which contains The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Shooting Star, and The Secret of the Unicorn – 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Volume 3 which contains Tintin and The Broken Ear, The Black Island, and King Ottoker’s Sceptre – 3 out of 5 stars

 

And here is a list of the stories these volumes covered, listed in order of most enjoyable to least (least being good, but not as good as the ones above):

  1. Explorers on the Moon
  2. The Seven Crystal Balls
  3. The Prisoners of the Sun
  4. The Secret of the Unicorn
  5. Red Rackham’s Treasure
  6. Land of Black Gold
  7. The Shooting Star
  8. The Crab with the Golden Claws
  9. King Ottokar’s Sceptre
  10. Destination Moon
  11. The Black Island
  12. The Broken Ear

Volume 3 is where Tintin begins to connect various stories. You will run across characters from previous stories after Volume 3. Which is why it may be a good idea to stick to the order the books were written in while reading them.

Regardless of how you go about reading them, don’t miss out on Tintin and his adventures. They are books and stories that everyone must try, at least once.

Let us know what you think of Tintin and which is your favorite adventure by dropping a comment below. Stay tuned for the summarised review of the rest of the volumes (which will probably come up in a few months). Until then… Happy Reading!

– Rishika

 

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Review: Wonder (By R.J. Palacio)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 316 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

August Pullman has a condition that makes his face very different, and he knows it makes him unpleasant to look at. Numerous surgeries necessary to keep him healthy have kept him from attending a regular school. After being homeschooled for years, August joins Beecher Prep and is about to start 5th Grade. All he wants is for the other kids to treat him normally. But he knows how people react to him and his face. And he knows that that is going to make ‘normal’ very difficult. As he overcomes his trepidation and begins to enjoy school, August faces new challenges and makes new friends too. Told from multiple perspectives, Wonder is August’s story of stepping out of his comfort and safe zone, and venturing into the world.

The bottom line:

A sweet story that avoids the true realities of the world we live in and reminds you what it’s like to lose yourself in a tale of fiction where things are meant to make sense.

My review:

Wonder is written in the first person perspective of August, his sister, her boyfriend, and some of their friends. Each person’s character comes through easily enough and holds its own without seeming too much like the same person. The story moves along smoothly enough, although there do seem to be some jumps in the timeline that are a little too abrupt. Some additional details on certain events would surely have added to the book. There are also a few tangents that are begun but that don’t really go anywhere or even get mentioned again, leaving you wondering why they were there in the first place.

It is a feel-good book in which things that go wrong fall into place soon enough. However, I did feel that sometimes, these instances were a little too easy and a little too convenient. Often, behaviors that led to things getting solved aren’t explained and you just have to accept that it is the way it is. This is in stark contrast to the other angle of the book where people are shown to be hesitant in accepting anything different (as often seen in reality). That’s why the book comes across as an odd mixture of real-world view and fictional paradise.

Given this stand, I felt that Wonder is one of those books that you read to feel warm and fuzzy inside. It wasn’t completely realistic and that was a good thing. Sometimes, you want to read a book that helps you escape the reality that surrounds you every day. The negativity that the book has, at the same time, builds a strong case for the main character and gives you a reason to root for and against someone – which makes the book even more enjoyable.

The story itself is very sweet. August is quite likable, and all the other characters are easy to associate with too. All in all, Wonder is a good book and one that definitely has a lesson within its story. It is powerful enough in its prose to change minds and hopefully, will help make the world a little kinder by influencing the people who read it. And that’s why I would recommend Wonder to:

  • fans of fiction, including young adults and adults
  • fans of young adult books
  • anyone looking for a sweet, comfortable read
  • anyone looking to slip into a world that’s a little more black and white than the one around us, if just for a few hours

Have you read Wonder? Are you going to watch the movie based on it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

– Rishika

 

 

 

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Review: The Chinaman (By Stephen Leather)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 420 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A casual observer saw The Chinaman as little more than the owner of a small Chinese takeaway business in South London. That was the life he’d chosen when he was finally able to put behind him his years as a jungle-skilled, lethal assassin who had fought for the Viet Cong and the Americans. He had already watched two of his daughters being raped and killed by Thai pirates. So the hardworking, quiet life suited him, his wife, and only remaining daughter.

When his wife and daughter are murdered in an IRA bombing, he does what any law-abiding citizen would do – reaches out to the authorities. But he’s shunned by everyone he approaches, labeled a nuisance. That’s when The Chinaman realizes that his days of war aren’t truly behind him. And this time, he’s fighting for revenge.

The bottom line:

A hard-hitting, emotional, violent story that is much more than what its title suggests.

My review:

The first thing to know about The Chinaman is that it is intensely emotional, especially during the backstory of the titular character. But it is equally hard-hitting during scenes where other characters interact. You really feel for the characters because everyone has something going on beyond what the world within the book sees, and their constant turmoil is beautifully displayed.

The second thing to know about it is that it is extremely violent. There are moments when you just cannot accept the horrifying scenes unfolding in front of you as you read, and are yet are compelled to move ahead. There is no sugar-coating on death. It is displayed in all its ugliness, and in its raw, heart-wrenching honesty.

The story itself is much more than what the title claims. While the Chinaman is an integral part of it – the one who ties everything together – there is a lot more going on. A lot of people play pivotal roles in the development of the story, making it much more than a simple tale of revenge. It is built on the foundation of a political issue, but avoids being typical in its delivery when venturing into the political aspects. There is always something happening and it keeps you turning the pages.

Stephen Leather’s style is refreshing. It is strong and raw. It does not shy away from depicting the horrors of life and death. And he creates strong characters who, through their strengths, weaknesses, and flaws, are incredibly human. It is also extremely detailed, delving into the real technical aspects of skills possessed by the characters. Also, the book comes with a good amount of twists you don’t see coming.

There are only two things I thought could have been done differently. The first is the amount of detail at every step – that could have been reduced. I loved reading about the Chinaman’s skill, but it did get a bit monotonous after a while. I mean, I don’t have to know every step taken to make every single bomb. The second is the reactions that some of the characters had at certain moments. They seemed highly absurd and although these were explained at a later point, I still think that they could have been handled better. These few problems did reduce the overall quality of the reading experience for me.

What I like most about the book is that it isn’t black and white. It is various shades of gray where antagonists seem to have a good side, and protagonists carry out the most heinous of acts. And yet, they all seem to do what their lives force them to do, forever burdened or comfortable with their own actions.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Chinaman, and Stephen Leather’s style. I’m definitely going to be adding him to my list of authors to follow. I’d recommend the book to:

  • all readers who enjoy fiction
  • thriller and mystery fans

I read The Chinaman when I did because of the movie inspired by it and that was to hit the cinema sometime now. While I’m still not sure if it’s going to be screened at any cinema in my city (which is terribly upsetting because I would have loved to see the adaptation), I’m still glad it gave me an opportunity to discover Stephen Leather.

Read The Chinaman? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.

– Rishika

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Review: Two Girls Down (By Louisa Luna)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 320 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Jamie Brandt leaves her ten and eight-year-old daughters alone in her car for less than five minutes at a strip-mall parking lot… only to come back and find them missing. When the overworked police department fails to provide answers, Jamie hires Alice Vega – a bounty hunter known for finding missing persons. Vega comes to the small Pennsylvania town, learns more about the case, and finds herself facing a tight-lipped police captain who wants her to have nothing to do with their investigation. So Vega reaches out to Max Caplan, a disgraced former cop turned PI. Together, they begin the search for the two missing girls. But soon they discover that there is a lot more than what meets the eye in the kidnapping case. As stranger and stranger connections are uncovered, Vega and Caplan realize that the kidnapper will stop at nothing to remain hidden. And with time going by all-too-fast, that may lead to the girls being lost forever.

The bottom line:

Two Girls Gone has an interesting storyline and attempts to hit audiences right in the feels, but ends up being a little too confusing instead of intense.

My review:

Received an ARC – So a big thanks to NetGalley and DoubleDay Books!

First, let’s look at the good things about Two Girls Down. It’s a really good story with twists and turns that you don’t see coming. It contains a good amount of suspense and keeps you turning the pages almost relentlessly. It also does justice to the genre, does not shy away from violence, and keeps you guessing till the last minute. As a crime thriller, it does well and has a lot of interesting angles.

But, it also has aspects that take away from how good it could have been.

Alice Vega and Max Caplan’s characters are really interesting. They are honest, raw, and easy to associate with, and unfold as the book progresses. But, there are these random moments where their actions make no sense and don’t even remain consistent with their characters.

A large part of the writing is through thought based narration. So you can really tell what the characters are feeling in any situation and you get to see the entire moment through their eyes and thoughts. I’m assuming that this was meant to come across as “intense” and to a great extent, it does. But at times, the writing is just so convoluted in its attempt to be human that it becomes too confusing and even annoying.

The most irritating part, though, is Vega and Caplan’s relationship. It’s an interesting and honest relationship, for the most part. But there is this element of attraction that is weakly explored at odd times. Honestly, I think the story could have been even better if that aspect was either ignored altogether or explored more fully. The way the attraction angle is used comes across more as forced than the intended (I assume) impulsive.

There are also a lot of characters who are briefly mentioned and then play an important role. With so many names being thrown at you on every page, keeping track can get difficult. And this makes the story a bit cumbersome.

These tiny problems really reduce the reading quality of the book. And yet, the book manages to be interesting enough to want to finish. It also has some great “kick-ass” elements for both the protagonists that are a lot of fun to read. It flows really well and in the end, has a great story. Although it is being published as a standalone, I’m hoping that Luna will write sequels because I want to see the development of the very interesting partnership between Vega and Caplan as they take on new cases.

So, in spite of its flaws, it can definitely be enjoyed, especially by:

  • crime fiction fans
  • mystery and thriller fans
  • fans of female-centric books

Two Girls Down releases on 9 January 2018. If you’re a crime fiction fan, I’d recommend marking the date and getting a copy. In the meanwhile, let us know if you’ve already read the book or what you’re looking forward to about it by dropping us a comment below!

– Rishika

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