Review: Cause to Kill (By Blake Pierce)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 184 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Avery Black was one of Boston’s most notable criminal defense attorneys – until she successfully got a Harvard professor off murder charges, only for him to kill again, and dedicate his last murder to her. Avery’s life fell apart after the event and she lost everything in its aftermath, including her husband and daughter. She began a new life as a cop in an attempt to put away the kind of people she earlier fought for, and her skill and talent has finally gotten her promoted to Homicide Detective. Yet, she continues to face the scorn of her colleagues who still hate her and the public who is yet to forget what she’d done.

Then a girl from an elite college turns up dead. Avery’s ability to truly get into the head of psychopaths gets her assigned to the case, and she is forced to fight against the prejudices, mistrust, and hatred her colleagues have for her as she attempts to solve it. But as the body count continues to rise, Avery finds herself pitted against a serial killer who is as brilliant as she is. Consumed with trying to redeem herself, Avery allows the case to become her entire life. But even she could not have expected the horror into which it would lead her, and from which she might not escape.

My take:

The basic story line of Cause to Kill has the potential to be an extremely good book. Its execution, however, does not let that happen. Its potential was wasted by problems such as bad characterization, weak connections between events, and an average writing style.

The story’s main protagonist, Avery Black, was quite annoying as a character. Her need for redemption for definitely stressed upon, but she did little to actually make it reality. She was as arrogant as she was earlier, while constantly reiterating that she was no longer the same person. For someone who was supposed to be brilliant, she made very stupid choices in spite of being aware of the repercussions, and then blamed life for being unfair. Not exactly the best behavior for someone whose main goal was to begin taking responsibility for her actions and decisions. Then there was the way she kept switching from serious to flirty to friendly to God-knows-what – you just could not get an idea of what she really was as a person. So associating with her was very difficult.

Another annoying aspect was that Pierce seemed very keen on labeling her antagonist as a serial killer. And she went on to do so before the appearance of a second body and while the first case was still being worked upon as a personal crime. Serial killer based crime thrillers definitely have a following – but Cause to Kill did not unfold like one, it was just assumed to be one from the get-go, which gave the entire investigation a muddled-up feel.

The story also seemed choppy. Some aspects could really have been elaborated upon to give it that well-rounded feel, but they were left short. As a result, the story felt like it was trying too hard on the unexpected twists, which ended up being abrupt, often pointless, and forced.

Finally, the killer’s motive and psychology were also not explored to their full potential. It began really well, with great promise, but wasn’t really delved into or even bothered with, which left you with that uncomfortable this-story-didn’t-end-in-a-neat-little-bow feeling. And it also just took away all the impact with which the killer’s story had begun.

What Cause to Kill did have going for it was the relatively fast pace and storyline which, at the very crux of it, was decently intriguing. That’s why I would recommend it to:

  • people looking for a quick crime thriller junk read
  • hardcore crime thriller fans

After the slight disappointment that this book was, I would not bother with the rest of the Avery Black series by Pierce. But, I had definitely enjoyed Once Gone more than I did Cause to Kill (you can check out my review for that book over here), so I may read some of her other series if I need a short and fast crime thriller fix.

Share your thoughts on Cause to Kill and Blake Pierce’s other works in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: As Time Goes By (By Mary Higgins Clark)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 278 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Betsy Grant is on trial for the murder of her husband, renowned Dr. Ted Grant, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s for eight long years. The evidence against her is strong, and even her lawyer believes that accepting a plea bargain may be her best option. But Betsy refuses. She will fight to prove her innocence.

The trial is being covered by up-and-coming journalist, Delaney Wright. The sensational murder trial is the biggest story of her career and puts her right in the limelight. Sitting in the courtroom, day after day, Delaney begins to believe that, in spite of the damning evidence, Betsy Grant is innocent. Yet, another matter fills her thoughts. She can no longer ignore the growing desire to locate her birth mother. As the case progresses, Delaney turns to her friends Alvirah and Willy to ask for help in locating her mother.

And as they begin to uncover the details of Delaney’s birth and adoption, Delaney herself begins to work to prove Betsy’s innocence. But she faces one challenge after another as she finds herself caught in the intricate web spun by the real killer – someone who has gone to great lengths to murder Dr. Grant, and someone who will do whatever it takes to keep their identity a secret.

My take:

If you’ve read Mary Higgins Clark before, you’ll know what to expect from this book – unpredictability, great suspense, and an amazing story. And it delivers… for the most part.

As Time Goes By is an interesting story with numerous storylines that come together at the end in classical Clark style. It has also got the large gamut of characters you expect from her work, their relationships and connections revealed in time. And, it’s also written in that typical, fast-paced style of hers that keeps you turning the pages frantically in an effort to know what’s next.

What it doesn’t have, though, is that strong unpredictability element that was a massive part of Clark’s older works. It is predictable on most aspects, which takes some of the fun out of reading a Mary Higgins Clark. Also, it’s an Alvirah and Willy mystery which, as I discovered, aren’t as much fun as her other series because I found the detective duo to be missing the depth and complexity that her other characters have.

All in all, the book has the suspense, the mystery, the likable characters, and the story, that make for a good crime fiction read. You should definitely go for it if you’re a regular Mary Higgins Clark reader. But if it’s your first time with the author, then you should opt for something else. I’d started with Let Me Call You Sweetheart and although I remember very little of that story, I vividly remember absolutely loving it. But, like me, if you’re getting back to Clark after a while, As Time Goes By is a decent place to start. It definitely made me remember why I used to love her work. And I’ve already begun adding her books to my to-be-read (and re-read, in some cases) list.

Recommended to:

  • Fans of Mary Higgins Clark
  • Those who’ve not read her work for a while
  • Die hard fans of crime fiction (because any Clark book would be a good addition)
  • Anyone looking for a quick crime fiction read (even at 278 pages, it moves along really fast)

Let us know what you thought of As Time Goes By or drop us some recommendations in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: The Circle (By Dave Eggers)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 500 pages

My rating: 0 out of 5 stars

At the outset, I’m going to tell you that I didn’t finish this book. In spite of trying my damned hardest, I got only 30% in (150 pages), before I gave up because reading it just made me so, so angry. So, my blurb is going to be based on the author’s itself.

Mae Holland finally gets a break from her dead-end job when she gets a new job at The Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company. The place has around 10,000 employees, and a sprawling campus that gets visits and performances from rock stars, Nobel Prize winners and other such celebrities on a daily basis. She loves her job, loves the campus, loves the company and forgets about the world outside of it for the most part. Some things hit her as strange but she loves everything too much to pay any attention. Then her role becomes highly public and something (apparently) happens, after which she (and I’m assuming some other persons) start questioning the company and its practices that have no respect for privacy and democracy.

Okay so maybe my blurb also includes some ranting on my part. Read on to know why.

My take:

I could do this paragraph-wise, but that’ll be too long. So I’m doing this point wise.

  1. This book has the laziest writing I have ever read. Eggers seems to write whatever he fancies, going into the most mundane and unlikely of conversation and narration, before getting bored himself and just ending it abruptly. Also, it just has bad prose that is lazy, and often redundant.
  2. I have never come across characters more annoying or lost. There is absolutely no depth to any of the characters. And half the time, there is no character to any of the characters. It’s like Eggers forgets who he’s writing about and just adds on aspects that make no sense to their already barely existent personalities.
  3. Mae is one confused character, whose entire life seems to go on with the dead-pan expression made famous by Kristen Stweart in Twilight. She is dull, uninteresting, and just too… non-existent as a character. Oh and she’s also oddly selfish and arrogant, and talks in few-syllabic responses to questions. And did I say annoying as hell? Let’s just tag Annie on at the end of this point – equally annoying, confused, and just rude in conversation while being spoken about in narration as an angel who walks among mortals.
  4. There were actually five entire pages on a discussion between Mae, a colleague she’d never met before, and their senior about how said colleague was hurt (to tears) that Mae hadn’t attended a Portugal-themed brunch to which she’d been invited through their social channel. Some apologizing later, the matter is successfully handled and the HR department is sent a written notice. Because the HR department of a company that large gives a damn about an unseen brunch invite – very busy people, these.
  5. The Circle apparently makes ground-breaking innovations and supports external individuals who do this every single day. Except the innovations are only discussed from one angle – the one that will make them seem like the best ideas in the world, when they’re actually mundane, done-to-death, concepts that are only made to seem awesome by the never-ending applause from the watching audience. It’s like Eggers couldn’t really think of good ideas, so he took dull ones and tossed in social acceptance to make people think they’re amazing.
  6. Apparently, social networking is an extremely important part of Mae’s job (and that of every ‘Circler’)… and everyone in this ‘biggest internet company of the world’ has the time to send hundred of messages to the newbie on the job congratulating her for getting good ratings on her customer interactions. There may have come about (if I’d read on) a reason for this apparent importance of one new person in a company that hires at least ten people daily; but from what was written, this seemed like just something they all did, because it’s a “community”. A community of the most brilliant minds in the world (as Eggers repeatedly reminds the reader), who are working on the next set of amazing tech for the world, and who have altogether too much time on their hands to act like college-kids who thrive on gossip. Man, how I wish this place was real and I got an awesome job like the ones all these people worked so, so hard to get. (Not.)
  7. 30% in meant I was 150 pages in. And there was still no sign of an actual story. Boring, mundane, forcibly-cool things kept happening, people kept acting annoying, and conversations driveled on without any structure or direction. I’m sure there was a story coming up, but if you haven’t bothered with it until 150 pages in, you’re not exactly scoring reader-enjoyment-points.

To be honest, I thought this would be a great book. It had been recommended to me earlier, it’s coming out as a movie starring Emma Watson who’s more or less always taken up sensible roles in her career, and the movie trailer looked good. But the book was a massive disappointment, offering no story, no characters with whom you could associate, no meaningful conversations, and a highly-dramatized, cheesy-film version of one guy’s idea of what a ‘cool tech giant’ would be like.

I absolutely hate leaving books midway, because often times even bad books get better. And I really did try to keep going on. But it was just painful, boring, and irritating to read. It had no redeeming quality whatsoever.

Book readers always hope that movie adaptations stick to the original stories. I really want to watch and like the upcoming movie because the trailer seemed to signal towards an interesting flick. So I really, really hope that the movie adaptation of The Circle is as far away from the book as it can be except for whatever the crux of this story is. After all, the last movie adaptation that starred Tom Hanks was Inferno. And they sure as heck deviated from the book for that one (check out my book review for Inferno here). Although the deviation didn’t work then (check out my movie review of Inferno here), it may be just what The Circle needs.

Recommended for:

  • nobody
  • seriously, literally, nobody

Tell us what you thought of the book and whether you’re interested in watching the movie. Or tell us anything else you’d like to share too! Just drop us a comment below.

– Rishika

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Review: Murder on the Orient Express (By Agatha Christie)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 347 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks in the middle of the night due to a snowstorm. No one can get on or off the exclusive train. The morning reveals a ghastly shock – American millionaire, Simon Ratchett, is dead in his compartment. Twelve stab wounds lie in his torso, depicting the hatred that the killer had for him. But the killer had not anticipated two things – being stuck on the train due to the storm, and being accompanied on the journey by the famous and highly skilled detective, Hercule Poirot.

Now, isolated by the storm, the people aboard the Orient Express become suspects in the grisly murder. Poirot needs to find the killer amongst a dozen people. But with no means to verify their evidence and with growing understanding of who Ratchett really was, Poirot finds the case to be one of the most complicated ones he has ever come across. Little misses the detective’s keen senses. But can his talents help him identify the killer before it’s too late this time? Or will the murderer, in an effort to protect his identity, strike again?

My take:

I used to read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was younger. She was one of my favorite authors. I’m probably reading Murder on the Orient Express for a second time. And I’m very glad that I didn’t remember any of it. It is a classic whodunit that definitely packs powerful surprises and a massively unexpected ending.

The main thing about Christie’s work is that it doesn’t beat around the bush. The aim of the book is to solve a murder, and that’s what it does. It was also written at a time when cultural generalizations were acceptable and understood. So it’s definitely not something you want to read if you feel that such generalizations are in poor taste – because the book is filled with assumptions of the way Italians, Englishmen, and Americans, amongst others, behave.

One thing that I’d forgotten about was the amount of French used in Christie’s work. You definitely need to have a basic understanding of the language, or at least Google translate open at your fingertips to be able to understand a good chunk of the dialog. It’s not that being unable to understand will take information away, but it will definitely take away from the camaraderie among characters and general feel of the setting.

Coming to the story itself – you will surely not see the end coming. It unfolds in an extremely unpredictable manner and, in Christie’s classic style, will have you guessing wrongly until the very end. Even when you’ve grasped a large part of the mystery, aspects will continue to evade you until Poirot himself explains them. That’s why, as a story, it is really good.

All in all, Murder on the Orient Express is definitely worth a read, regardless of your age. You can enjoy it for multiple reasons, and it is a fast-moving, page-turning, classic whodunit written in the very unique style of Agatha Christie. Highly recommended to:

  • fans of Agatha Christie
  • fans of classic mystery
  • those who’ve spent their childhood with Christie (this is an enjoyable blast from the past)

The film adaptation is going to be out soon – catch that if books aren’t your thing. But if you’re even remotely interested in reading, then get your hands on the book before (and keep your French to English translator handy). Do share your thoughts on the book, Agatha Christie’s other work, and any other random musings in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: My Cousin Rachel (By Daphne Du Maurier)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 335 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When Philip Ashley is orphaned at a young age, he is brought up by his older, kind, and generous cousin, Ambrose. Never having been keen on marriage, Ambrose loves Philip like a son and considers him his only heir. The only family Philip has ever known is Ambrose, who is father, mother, brother, and guide to him. Philip never finds the need for anyone else. Their world is cozy, complete, and perfect. Until Ambrose travels to Florence, and falls in love.

He marries Rachel, a woman Philip has never seen and knows little of. The jealousy of having to share the love of the only family he’s ever had causes hatred for Rachel within Philip’s heart. And when he learns of Ambrose’s sudden death, his hatred, anger, and dislike turn to suspicion. But when Rachel turns up in England, Philip finds himself drawn to her mystery and beauty. The hatred he’d resolved to hold onto begins to melt away and as he gets to know her, new, strange emotions take its place. Yet, rearing its ugly head occasionally, lies one question at the back of his mind always – does he really know his cousin Rachel, or does her beauty hide the murderous intent that had claimed Ambrose’s life?

My take:

Daphne Du Maurier has a beautiful writing style that pulls you incredibly deep into the story, the lives of the people within, and the very setting in which it takes place. She weaves a tale of mystery and psychological suspense that moves along briskly and keeps you turning the pages as you’re perched on the edge of your seat.

What I really loved about My Cousin Rachel was the myriad of emotions and their depth. The dialog is powerful and intense, with the simplest of sentences delivered with an impact that you can physically feel. The beautifully woven conversations go much further in meaning than the words spoken, and you can actually sense all that meaning around you.

Association with characters is stronger in this book than in most others that I have read. You feel for and with the people – their pain, their joys, and their turmoil. But the thing is that it isn’t just a feeling like one you would have for a friend or loved on, it’s a feeling that completely surrounds you. You sort of feel like you’re standing there, next to the characters, experiencing (almost tangible) wave after wave of their emotions. And it’s touching, elating, and overwhelming, all at once.Du Maurier explores the darkest and purest of emotions, and the chaos they can reign when combined. And she does so beautifully.

But the rollercoaster of feelings and emotions that you’re on throughout the book is only a part of its charm. There’s also the suspense that is always a part of every page, every event. You’re always wondering just what will happen next. And you’re always wondering just what had really happened to Ambrose.

The only reason the book gets a 4.5 instead of 5-star rating is that I wanted it to be just slightly shorter. While reducing it by 100 pages or so would definitely take away from its charm, it could surely have been 25 pages less. Because when every page is an addition to the suspense, those few extra paragraphs can be maddening.

All in all, the book is an exceptional read, regardless of whether you like classics or not. It’s a period novel, reminiscent of the time in which it’s set; it is charming, and full of suspense. The best part about it is that it really transports you right to its setting, making for quite a reading experience.

Highly recommended to:

  • fans of Classics or Modern Classics
  • people who shy away from Classics (it’s a Modern Classic and does not drag)
  • fans of suspense
  • anyone who liked Rebecca

Let us know how you liked My Cousin Rachel, or tell us whether you’d rather wait for the movie that’s coming up soon or read the novel. Drop a comment below!

– Rishika

 

 

 

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Review: Memory Man (By David Baldacci)

 

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Source: Pan Macmillan

 

Length: 403 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An injury suffered during his first professional game ended Amos Decker’s football career before it had a chance to begin. It also gave him the incredible ability to never forget anything. The ability was a gift for twenty years as it made him the great cop and Detective he was. But the day he returned home to find his wife and daughter murdered, that gift turned into a curse. The killer was never caught and the motive remained unknown.

Unable to forget any detail of the night, Decker lost everything and wound up homeless on the streets of Burlington. Sixteen months after the incident, he’d barely picked himself up, taking up a few jobs as a PI, when his old partner tells him that a man has confessed to the murder of his wife and child. Decker barely has a chance to come to terms with the news when tragedy strikes the town yet again. The local high school is attacked by a shooter. Teenagers are shot dead, and the killer slips away. The cops enlist Decker’s help because they believe that his ability could help them. But as the investigation progresses, the cops, FBI, and Decker discover that the shootings were related to the murder of sixteen months ago. And Decker is at the center of a dangerous game orchestrated by a killer who’s not done with his list yet.

My take:

Memory Man has been on my to-read list for a while now. And now I’m wondering why exactly I hadn’t picked it up sooner.

Like with all of Baldacci’s work, Memory Man is a complex story with numerous angles that are interwoven masterfully. The story isn’t your run-of-the-mill vengeance thriller. It’s more complex, deeper, and plays over a much larger picture. Interesting twists, some predictable but more not so, keep you turning the pages furiously. It touches upon conditions such as hyperthymesia and the information (while mostly molded to suit the requirements of the story) is presented in a way that gives you great insight into what the persons who may have such conditions actually go through.

What I loved about the book, though, was not its story, but its characters. Memory Man has complex characters that have a number of layers. Each character holds its own and pulls you into his or her story – this is equally true of the protagonist and antagonist, and evreryone else too. Baldacci doesn’t paint a hero versus villain story. He tells the story of people who are simply human and who have been shaped into whatever they are by the events of their life. He shows how empathy, anger, hatred, and love may never be found where most required and anticipated, and yet may be existent where least expected. And he tells the story of people so realistically that a part of you is forced to wonder whether human beings are really human at all.

The story moves along briskly, with no breathers. You’ll be turning pages long into the night because it is difficult to put Memory Man down. And at the end of it, what stays with you is not the story, but the complicated and deep characters that made it. To wrap up, all I can say is that I’ve read only his young adult work recently, and I am so very glad that I picked up Memory Man. It’s more along the lines of what I’ve always loved about Baldacci’s story-telling prowess and made me realize just how much I missed reading his books.

Don’t miss out on Memory Man if you:

  • have enjoyed any of Baldacci’s previous work (it’s one of his better ones)
  • like intricately designed and neatly interwoven thrillers/mysteries with numerous angles
  • want to try out Baldacci for the first time (it’s a great place to start)

Have you read Memory Man? Let us know what you thought about it in the comments below.

P.S: I think this could make a good movie. What do you think?

– Rishika

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Review: Drained (By E.H.Reinhard)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 157 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Hank Rawlings has just made Agent in the homicide division of the FBI’s serial crimes unit. But the ex-Tampa Homicide Detective barely has time to settle into his new role before he’s sent to Chicago on a case. A serial killer who has managed to evade the law for years has resurfaced. His victims are turning up in dumpsters, drained completely of all their blood. And the body count is rising steadily. Rawlings and his new partner, Agent Beth Harper, have to dig deep and dig fast if they have any hope of catching the killer before he disappears again. But can they track down a killer who always manages to stay one step ahead? Or will the case cost much more than either of them is willing to pay?

My take:

Drained is your pretty regular, fast-paced, crime fiction. It doesn’t take a whodunit approach, but more of a will-they-catch-him approach. This brings in its own interesting elements as you see the protagonist and antagonist trying to out-do one another.

You get great insight into Hank Rawlings who played a supporting character in Malevolent and he comes into his own, evolving into a likable and strong personality. There’s also some light being shed on the relationship he shares with his wife – a relationship that was only touched upon in the first of the Lieutenant Kane series. There are other well-rounded characters that bring a wholesome feel to the story.

What I liked about Reinhard’s work, and it stays true in Drained too, is that he offers a certain amount of completion as far as motive, methods, and background of the antagonist are concerned. So you’re not left high and dry, wondering why someone would do what they do, and feeling like you didn’t get any closure.

The story moves along pleasantly enough, isn’t gore-filled, and keeps you turning the pages fast. The only thing it has against it is the play-by-play that is Reinhard’s preferred style. Personally, I’m not a big fan of having every action spelled out for me, so that can get a bit tedious to read (I’ve explained more about this in my review of Malevolent which you can read here).

All in all, Drained isn’t a great piece of literary excellence and, to be honest, I don’t think it’s meant to be that either. It’s meant to be a fast reading crime fiction with a considerable amount of suspense and twists, and a decent group of characters. On all those fronts, the book delivers. And it definitely keeps you interested enough to want to follow the series and Hank Rawlings’ FBI career.

Recommended to anyone:

  • who wants to indulge in some quick crime fiction
  • is a die hard crime fiction fan
  • as a travel read (it’s just 157 pages long)

– Rishika

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