Category Archives: Book reviews

Review: That Last Weekend (By Laura DiSilverio)

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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

 

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Review: Buried (By Matt Shaw)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 93 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Todd wakes up after the celebration of his 21st birthday party to find himself locked inside a box. Broken memories begin taking over his mind, blurring the line between real and imaginary. Todd needs to distinguish fact from fiction before his claustrophobia completely eradicates that line. With time running out, Todd has to face his darkest fears if he is to ever learn who put him in a box, and find a way to get out alive.

My take:

This short novella takes around an hour to read. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to try to keep the review short too. Buried is meant to be a horror, and even a psychological horror. Its main theme is the claustrophobia that Todd faces, something that the readers are expected to associate with.

What’s good about the book is that it moves really fast. You don’t really feel the need to even take a break from it and can read it in one sitting. The second good thing is that it has this surreal dreamlike execution which gives off an uneasy, creepy vibe that has a lot of potential (although that remains highly unrealized). The third good thing is the few twists that the story contains – interesting, not very expected, and quite well presented. Fourth good thing – you can associate with some (not all) characters and even feel for them.

What’s bad about the book is that it does not really fulfill its aim of being a horror or psychological horror – it’s just not disturbing enough. Second bad thing – the claustrophobia was not really easy to associate with, and that’s coming from someone who actually has a touch of the phobia. The discomfort that Shaw intended for his readers to experience just did not materialize. The third bad thing was that it wasn’t a very well written book. Tense errors were abundant and that’s a real problem when you’ve already got a book that’s leaping from scene to scene every few sentences. Lastly, the story was interesting enough but its execution was just too blasé to do justice to the genre.

Should you read Buried? Sure, if you:

  • need something to pass the time on the commute home
  • need something to read as you wait for your appointment with the doctor/dentist
  • need something to read while waiting for a flight

Do you absolutely have to read Buried? Nope. It’s one of those books that tries hard to be dark, but fails because it’s barely disturbing, making it completely passable.

A lot of people did like this book though so do let us know whether you liked/disliked it and why. Drop a comment below. And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (By Jules Verne)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 340 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A mysterious sea creature, believed to be supernatural in size and ability, haunts the oceans of the world. When Scientist Pierre Aronnax gets the opportunity to embark on a voyage to capture this narwhal, he simply cannot refuse. But a strange turn of events lead to him being captured, along with his manservant, Conseil, and Canadian harpooner Ned Land, and taken aboard the Nautilus. Prisoners of the mysterious yet charismatic Captain Nemo, who calls the Nautilus submarine home and claims to have renounced all land, the three men find themselves on a journey of the world – taken through its oceans. They experience the incredible world that they didn’t even know existed under the surface of the sea, with each day bringing greater marvels than the previous. And yet, none of them can fathom what future has been decided for them by Captain Nemo – their captor whose enigmatic exterior hides a torrential fury and hatred that grows with every passing day.

My take:

I spent almost two months (maybe more) on this book. That is a very long time for a book that’s just 340 pages. To be honest, I didn’t care for it much at first, and almost gave it up after about 75 pages. But that’s when I realized that 20000 Leagues Under the Sea isn’t a book you read as you would a present day thriller. You need to read it slowly, word by careful word, and absorb each sentence as you go.

This isn’t an easy task considering the book isn’t written in a simple manner. Most of the sentences are exceedingly long, often convoluted in presentation, and kind of make you forget where you started by the time you finish them. Maybe that’s because it’s a translated piece of work. Whatever the reason may have been, the result was that it was cumbersome reading.

But since the book had come very highly recommended, I gave it another shot. This time, I read it slowly; and this is what I discovered.

The book can become monotonous when it goes into pages and pages of fish and sea animal descriptions. There is a lot of race stereotyping based on the circumstances of the time during which it was written. I say race stereotyping and not racism because it was more matter-of-fact, and was based on actual global conditions, rather than hatred born out of the personal inability to accept diversity. There is a lot of hunting involved which, I suppose, was the norm then, but can come across as a bit barbaric today.

And yet, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea deserves a 4.5-star rating. Because the book is the embodiment of the idea that a book can take you around the world, to beautiful and fantastic places, while you’re sitting in a chair.

Something about the book is so engaging that you experience every single emotion felt by all the characters. Each character is very much his own, making it easy to associate with them even though they come from a different era. And, you are pulled into the depths of the events that transpire, giving you the feeling of almost being there, witnessing it with your own eyes.

Then there’s the fact that the book beautifully depicts the complexity of the human mind and emotions. Life isn’t in black and white, hatred is born through sorrow, and curiosity can trump the greatest of fears – these are just some of the aspects of life (that by its very nature is complicated) that are wonderfully shown rather than told.

On the science fiction side, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea was definitely ahead of its time. The descriptions of the engineering that created the Nautilus are pretty amazing and while you may not even understand most of it, you’ll still find yourself being impressed by its detail and magnitude. The book truly depicts, in a variety of ways, how an elaborate imagination can conjure up brilliance and how parallels can be drawn between fiction and fact. Add to that the myriad of emotions that the story goes through – humor, sorrow, wonder, anger – and you have a novel that is thoroughly immersive. In fact, I went through the latter half of it in about four days!

Normally, I’d end my post with a mention on who would enjoy the book being reviewed. But here, I have to say that everyone who’s a reader should read 20000 Leagues Under the Sea at some point in their lives. The only tip I can offer is how to make the experience less cumbersome (because a part of it will be so) and more enjoyable. So… when you pick this book up, make sure that:

  • you go slow and try and really absorb each sentence
  • you read when you have time to spare, because this isn’t a book you can read fast
  • you make the most of the paragraphs-long descriptions of sea creatures, because there are some pretty beautiful sights in there

Let us know what you thought of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea and/or this review. Drop us a comment below! And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: The Lucky Ones (By Mark Edwards)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 380 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Fiona had never been happier. In fact, today was the happiest day of her life. The only thing she didn’t know was that it was also the last day of her life.

Ben Hofland moves from London back to his small hometown of Shropshire after the discovery of his wife’s infidelity. Along with him is his eleven-year-old son who is struggling to come to terms with the separation and fit into this new life. Ben believes that the quietness of the town that had driven him away years ago is the very thing he needs to heal and build a new life for his son and himself.

Detective Inspector Imogen Evans had similar expectations when she left London, the city she’d grown up in, and its painful memories behind to move to Shropshire. The last thing she’d expected from the sleepy town was murder. But when another body turns up, Evans realizes that she’s dealing not only with murder but with a serial killer. And one who has already left three victims in picturesque locations with their eyes open and lips turned into frozen smiles of deadly bliss.

When Ben finds work and learns that his son’s bullies have decided to leave him alone, he finally feels like his bad luck has ended. That it’s finally time for him to have the happiness he deserves. But Ben has no idea that someone is watching him – someone who wants him to have much more than happiness. Someone who wants him to have eternal bliss. Will DI Evans be able to understand what drives the killer before he claims another life? Or will Ben pay the ultimate price for his happiness?

My take:

First off, I’d like to give a big ‘Thank You’ to NetGalley for a copy of this book and the opportunity to read (and review) it.

Now, to the book itself.

The Lucky Ones has all the right elements for a serial killer themed psychological thriller, and they’re all executed really well. It’s got great suspense with the end being quite unexpected. Even if you have figured out a part of it, there’s a whole lot more to the conclusion that you will not see coming. It’s got the right amount of gore, disturbing descriptions, and suspicious characters. And it’s got a relentless pace with something interesting happening on almost every page.

What I liked most about the book was the depth with which it went into the antagonist’s point of view. Many novels tend to have more implied explanations of why people do the things they do. But Edwards leaves nothing to your guessing capabilities. He lays it all out clearly, and that gives the story this rounded feel that I have always enjoyed. At the same time, it gives you insight into some seriously twisted ideologies that act as motivation for the antagonist’s actions. In fact, Edwards even goes on to say that the inspiration for this book was a conversation he’d overheard at a café. And this leaves you wondering just what people of our the world may be capable of thinking and doing.

All the characters are well-defined and you get a very real view of their struggles. Although protagonists, Ben and Evans have their own demons. Their decisions and emotions aren’t clearly segregated into black and white. Much like with most people in real life, they fall in a gray area. This realistic take on his characters adds good value to the book and allows you to relate with it on a much stronger level.

There were two aspects, though, that I thought could have been done better. There should have been more detail about how Ben and Imogen felt about their own emotional lives individually before that aspect abruptly appears in the latter part of the book (I would’ve called this a spoiler but c’mon… like you hadn’t already expected this angle to be present!). The second is that there were some parts, although not exclusively evident, that seemed to be missing depth. This was more of a feeling than a line or paragraph that I could point out – but the result was that it made certain parts of the story, and hence the book, stay just below the ‘this is brilliant’ line.

In spite of those problems, I would highly recommend The Lucky Ones to:

  • fans of thrillers, serial killer stories, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers
  • people interested in trying out a new author – Mark Edwards does not disappoint
  • people wanting to add a new author to their ‘I need to read all his books’ list

I’m definitely going to be reading more of Mark Edwards’ work. In fact, I’d had another of his books on my TBR pile for a while. Which is why I was even more excited when I got this book from NetGalley.

The Lucky Ones is expected to come out on June 15. Don’t miss this psychological thriller and let us know what you thought of the book and/or this review in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: The Woman From The Blue Lias (By D.M. Mitchell)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 202 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Toby Turner’s life isn’t going as planned. A walk along the Blue Lias cliffs was supposed to help him work through the tension of his bookstore and maybe-fiancee. Instead, he discovers the skeletal remains of a woman. The media attention that the discovery brings with it was bad enough. But then Toby finds himself being haunted by a woman he’s never seen before. He believes her to be the woman whose body he found at the Blue Lias – the woman who, as it turns out, had been murdered in 1978. And then Toby falls desperately in love with her. Soon, unable to imagine a life without her, Toby begins to unravel. Reality and imagination begin to blur together and Toby realizes that his only hope for sanity lies in finding out who killed the woman haunting him and find peace for them both.

But the murder of 1978 is connected to the events of today. Toby is pushed into a dark world of crime and death which he’d barely known existed. In the midst of all this, Toby discovers that his best friend, Mark, had nearly been convicted as a teenager for the murder of his girlfriend. It doesn’t help that Toby finds Mark collecting information on missing girls dating back many years – like a criminal collecting trophies. With his reality turning increasingly skewed, Toby struggles between finding out the truth and accepting that that would mean losing the only woman he’s ever loved. But that becomes the least of Toby’s worries when he realizes that the murder of 1978 was one of many secrets that people continue to protect even today. And they’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep the truth hidden. Including more murder.

My take:

The Woman from the Blue Lias is a murder mystery with a supernatural touch. I got this book free and, to be honest, didn’t expect it to be much more than average. To add to that, it was written in the first person which, I’ve always felt, is a difficult style to write in because it doesn’t go down too well with many readers. But, as it turns out, the book was really good – it pulls you in from the first sentence and keeps you in its grip until the end.

There were a few things that really worked for the book. The first was the writing style. The entire book is written from Toby’s perspective such that it seems like he’s simply telling you his story. It starts off, oddly enough, on a funny note. The event is anything but comedic, but Toby’s reaction to it is one of disbelief and this-is-so-weird-that-it’s-funny. As the book progresses and Toby’s mental state becomes more serious, so does the writing style. And it happens gradually, in such a way that you can almost share in the experience. What I liked exceptionally was that Toby himself brought attention to the fact that some of his emotions were irrational. This gives the book, and Toby, the feeling of being very realistic – because, at the end, people aren’t made of rationality and logic; they’re made of emotions and inexplicable reactions.

Another very interesting part of the book was the discussion on the supernatural, on ghosts, spirits, and the like. It didn’t just say, “Here’s a ghost, be scared.” It explained some very interesting ways to look at apparitions and people’s experiences with seeing ghosts. Whether true or not, I don’t know. But definitely thought provoking.

The story line of the book was good too. I wouldn’t say it was completely unexpected, but there were parts that came as a shock, and parts that made true the suspicions you formed while reading. Overall, it was quite good on the element of surprise.

The supernatural parts themselves weren’t exactly scary in the traditional sense. There were no malicious spirits who looked terrifying. In fact, the appearances and disappearances of the ghost itself were spoken of in the same relating manner as the rest of the book. And that was what was creepy. It just made everything seem so real that you can actually imagine that happening to someone. It gets under your skin and has you being a bit sensitive to sudden sounds for a while.

In spite of everything it had going for it, the book did miss out on a higher rating simply because it wasn’t the kind of book that would make you think, “This is really high-quality stuff.” The story was good, as was the writing, but there is a lot better out there. Simply put, it just wasn’t as good as a Baldacci or a King. There is just a difference in the level of quality (if that makes sense) that makes the book really good, but just short of great. And the typos didn’t help.

That being said, I’m very glad I read this book. I found it difficult to put down, to be honest, because it moved so fast. I would definitely read more of the author’s work. Only thing is that it would be more of, “Okay, I came across this in my library and remember liking the author so I’ll give it a shot,” rather than an active search.

The Woman from the Blue Lias is definitely worth a strong recommendation, especially to:

  • people who want a quick, interesting read
  • people who love crime and thrillers
  • people who are fans of whodunits
  • people looking for a holiday read
  • people who want to give new authors/books a try (you will surely not be disappointed)

Let us know what you thought of The Woman from the Blue Lias and/or this review in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: The Last Mile (By David Baldacci)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 417 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Melvin Mars was a twenty-year-old football star with a promising NFL career before him. But fate had other plans. Convicted for the gruesome murder of his parents, he spends twenty years in jail on Death Row. Except, minutes before his execution, another man confesses to the killings. The case hits too close to home for Amos Decker, now on the way to begin the next phase of his life as a part of a special team of the FBI. He convinces his team to take up Mars’ case. But the case is far from being simple.

As the investigation deepens, Decker finds himself in an intricately designed web of deceit, whose roots lie in a time of American history that most people want to forget. But that isn’t easy for the Memory Man. Decker refuses to back down even as he faces enemies at the highest levels of power who will do anything it takes to keep the truth from surfacing. Committed to finding the truth, Decker finds his new career, his life, and the lives of those he has grown to care about, threatened. Now, Decker can only hope that his unique talents and his team’s persistence are enough to solve the case, even if that means changing his and Mars’ lives forever.

My take:

Amos Decker returns in The Last Mile and becomes part of another great read by David Baldacci.

The book covers many sensitive topics including racism and hate crimes. At the same time, it shows the progression of thought that has led to better times, while also depicting the lack of that advancement in some cases. It derives from very real times and makes for great fiction.

You revisit the characters from Memory Man and find new ones – all of whom manage to make their mark. The progress of the characters is shown really well, especially that of Amos Decker. You learn more about the effects of his conditions and watch him try and fit into the new life he has, with the past having concluded as much as it possibly could for him. You also get to see the development of his relationship with the people he works with, and of his team as a whole, all of which makes every character seem familiar and known. But the primary focus remains on Decker and Mars, and their most unlikely of relationships.

Baldacci made a great protagonist in Amos Decker – he’s likable, easy to associate with in spite of his unique personality, and really pulls you in with his perseverance of the truth. Although wired in a complicated manner, Decker is oddly simple and straightforward, making you wish that you (and others) could be like him – where the only thing that matters is how things really are, and not how they’re convoluted or manipulated to be. Decker drives the entire plot and story, and although you do end up wishing for more participation from the others, the story moves ahead relentlessly.

The Last Mile has good suspense, amazing twists, an intriguing story line, and an insight into the best and worst of human beings. It doesn’t try to put things and people into how they should be, but just into how they are – and that means accepting that people can be good and bad, sometimes at the same time. The book is an edge of the seat read, leaving you turning page after page, and keeping you hooked from the get-go. Unsurprisingly, it matches its prequel in impact and enjoyment, and leaves you wanting to read more of Baldacci’s work. I’m definitely going to be reading the third in the Decker series sometime soon. And also picking up the other Baldacci books in my TBR pile.

Recommended to:

  • thriller aficionados
  • crime fiction lovers
  • fans of crime and thriller novels with a multi-angle approach that are more than a whodunit

Let us know what you thought of The Last Mile and this review in the comments below!

– Rishika

PS: If you haven’t read any of the Decker books yet, you should probably start with Memory Man. My review here tells you what to expect from the first book of the series.

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Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (By Stieg Larsson)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 554 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Harriet Vanger disappeared without a trace forty years ago. Her uncle Henrik Vanger was the head of the Vanger Corporation, one of the largest and wealthiest business families of Sweden. Now retired and aged, he is still obsessed with Harriet’s disappearance and is convinced that one of his own family members is responsible for her murder.

Mikael Blomkvist is convicted in a libel case for the publication of an article in his magazine Millenium against Swedish business bigwig Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. His unproven article destroys his reputation and brings his career to a standstill.

Lisbeth Salander is a private investigator, one of the best of Milton Security. Unbeknownst to her own boss, she is an exceptional hacker. But she is also young, dangerous, and keeps to herself. Behind her silent demeanor, she hides scars of a traumatic life. She trusts no one, least of all the police. Those who commit injustice against her are answerable to her, and her alone.

The paths of these three individuals cross when Henrik Vanger hires Mikael to find Harriet’s murderer in exchange for proof that will reinstate his good name in the field of financial journalism. Lisbeth finds herself aiding him in the investigation, and the most unlikely of bonds is formed. As the investigation continues, Mikael and Lisbeth find new evidence in the case after more than forty years. But someone does not want the case solved. And, as Mikael and Lisbeth learn, he will go to any lengths to ensure that old secrets remain buried forever.

My take:

The English translation of the original Swedish name of this book is ‘Men who hate women’. That should tell you exactly what to expect if and when you decide to read it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is primarily based on the misogyny in Sweden – in the form of sexism, rape, murder, and any other heinous act you can think of. This central theme is supported by financial crime and journalism and a simple murder mystery. The story follows multiple avenues that come together in quite a neat little bow.

It has decent elements of suspense and a good thriller vibe. It’s even got some abnormal psychology tossed in. All in all, as a story, it’s quite good and hard hitting, as expected from a book of the genre.

But there are a lot of things that could have been altered to make for a better reading experience.

Larsson’s writing style, at least when translated into English, is very in-the-moment. He tells you every activity of every character, however irrelevant. I suppose it’s a scene setting tactic, but avoiding it could have saved on about 75 pages of unnecessary reading. It also leads to some very dry storytelling of potentially edge-of-your-seat thriller material.

One of the main things is that approximately 25% of the book is done before the girl with the dragon tattoo actually comes into the limelight. Until then, she remains in the background, with the story occasionally covering her life, like a secondary character who you think will have an impact in some small way. But the fact remains that she has a massive role to play in the unfolding of the story and so, her delayed appearance does seem a bit odd.

The most difficult part of the book to digest, though, was the abrupt transition. True to its theme, the book describes the most horrifying rapes and atrocities you could imagine in the disturbing contrast of vivid, yet almost mundane, detail. Then, it shifts to scenes of consensual and casual sex as experienced by another character altogether. Frankly, after reading the former, I could’ve done without reading about the latter for a good three days. A double line spacing was not enough of a break!

At the end of it though, without your even realizing it, you’ll really like Lisbeth Salander. You will feel for her. And even though there are many things that turned me off about the book, I want to read the remaining two parts of the Millenium Trilogy – only to know what happens to Lisbeth. It’s weird that way – even with the many avenues the book took, it came through on its (English) name. It really is about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo… and she’s worth reading about.

Recommended to:

  • fans of thrillers, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers
  • those who have a strong stomach (because you need to digest a lot of graphic violence)
  • patient readers who can push through around 200 pages of random stuff before the main story begins (it can be very annoying at some points until then)

Let me know what you thought about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and/or this review – drop a comment below!

P.S.: Mikael Blomkvist is equal parts annoying as hell, and likable.

P.P.S.: Do the characters in this book do anything other than work, have sex, eat the occasional sandwich, and drink hundreds of cups of coffee? I mean, c’mon, eat real food now and then!

– Rishika

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