Review: The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 192 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Second in the eight-volume collector’s edition, The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2 contains Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharaoh, and The Blue Lotus.

My take:

Volume 2 of The Adventures of Tintin is brilliant when compared to Volume 1. Individually though, it doesn’t reach that level of charm that the later books possess. Containing three stories, Volume 2 does get better as it progresses.

Tintin in America includes characters that are part of the earlier books. It’s just a brief mention though and you won’t really be lost if you choose not to read the previous ones. As a story, it’s quite random, with things happening abruptly and a little too conveniently. It doesn’t have an elaborately woven storyline and is also a bit racist. Of all the three books in Volume 2, Tintin in America is the worst.

Cigars of the Pharaoh has an interesting story. There is a bit of racism in this one too, but that’s quite negligible when compared to the others. It’s an interesting read and sets the stage for the next book too. It also includes characters that make appearances in later books (from what I remember). If you want to avoid the overly racist, not too great earlier books but at the same time don’t want to miss any central characters, then I’d recommend beginning the series from Cigars of the Pharaoh.

The Blue Lotus has the interesting, multi-layered, multi-dimensional type of story for which Tintin became famous. The story itself is quite interesting and (thankfully) has very little racism. In fact, at some point, the story mocks the stereotyping and racism habits of people too. All in all, The Blue Lotus comes across as the best part of Volume 2 and does leave you looking forward to Volume 3 and Tintin’s next adventure.

Highly recommended to:

  • people who enjoy Tintin
  • people who want to start reading The Adventures of Tintin (start from Cigars of the Pharaoh)
  • anyone looking for an interesting graphic novel to read

Let us know what you thought of The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2. Drop us a comment below!

– Rishika

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Review: Red Dragon (By Thomas Harris)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 464 pages

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Will Graham almost lost his life when he apprehended the psychopath and serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Surviving the horrific attack, he retired from the FBI and chose a quieter, more peaceful life. But when another psychopath brutally murders two families over the span of two months, Graham is forced out of retirement. His gift for seeing things that others can’t may have made him great at tracking killers. But it left him chaotic and broken. Now, he needs to embrace that dark part of himself as he goes after the murderer. This time though, even Graham might need some help. But the only one who can help him is Hannibal Lecter. While Graham finds himself trying to understand the mind of two psychopaths, the killer sets his sights on another family. And an innocent woman is pulled into the dangerous game between Graham and the murderer. Will Graham find all the answers in time? Or will his failure claim numerous lives, and his own sanity?

My take:

To begin, let me say that Red Dragon is the book that introduces one of the world’s most infamous psychopaths – Hannibal Lecter. But that’s about as far as Lecter’s involvement in the book goes. He makes a couple of appearances and that gives you decent insight into his scarily calculative and cruel mind. But it does not really instill the fear of Hannibal the Cannibal into the reader.

Coming to the story itself – Red Dragon has a story that has the potential to be absolutely terrifying. It’s insane, psychopathic, cruel, and often very raw. There are scenes that are just so disturbing that they will make you jump. And since they come so unexpectedly, this effect is felt even more so. You will cringe, you will wonder just what the heck happened, and you will be intrigued/grossed out at the same time. These scenes are nothing short of powerful and really bring that ‘crazy’ touch to the book.

The story moves along briskly. It’s a long read, but it does not really slow down at any point. There is something or the other always happening and that keeps you turning the pages briskly.

The characters are believable, sometimes unfortunately. The Dragon himself is a complex person and his personality is depicted well. Graham is a complicated character too, and his constant state of being in an internal battle with himself is nicely presented. Most of the other characters fill their roles out perfectly, and the various relationships add good dimensions to the plot and people. The only part that got really annoying was Graham’s wife, Molly.

I don’t know how marriages used to be in the 1980s. But there existed an odd coolness to Molly and Will’s relationship that seemed very unlike that of two people who were apparently in love. Maybe it was Will’s job that took a toll on the relationship, but that needed to be described more convincingly. Without that, Molly’s character came across as plain annoying.

As far as the writing style is concerned, the only thing that I can say is that Harris’ is freakishly weird. He switches between tenses, writes half sentences, and just has this vague touch to his prose. A lot of the book made me feel like Harris had these disturbing, chaotic images playing out in his mind’s eye and he just wrote furiously, getting it all onto paper, and then just moved on to the next image. And that made the book so darned infuriating to read at times.

It sort of brought down the entire quality of a story that could have been absolutely amazing in its chaos. It seems to just miss that mark where abstract turns into discernible image. As a result, for me, the book had a lot of potential that remained unrealized.

I wouldn’t say that everyone needs to read Red Dragon. I’m sure you can follow the Hannibal Lecter series even without reading this as he isn’t really the main part. But I’d definitely recommend the book to:

  • people who love serial killer and psychopathic themed books (this is one of the craziest!)
  • people who enjoy dark mysteries
  • people who want to learn what psychopaths can truly be like (it’s got an oddly realistic sense about it)

Let us know what you thought of Red Dragon and/or this review. Drop us a comment below.

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 206 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1 is the first in the collector’s edition of the series. It contains Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo.

My take:

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely love Tintin comics, which is why I have the collector’s edition in the first place. I’ve read all the comics over the years. But, I had not really read the entire collection in order. Until now.

I picked up Volume 1 because I wanted to start right at the beginning. And let’s just say that if these had been the first Tintin comics I’d ever read, I probably wouldn’t have given the rest of the series a chance.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets has no story as such and is just page after page of Tintin and Snowy escaping from crazy situations in ridiculous ways. I mean Tintin is famous for getting in trouble and getting away, but these scenarios were plain incredulous and un-entertaining.

Tintin in the Congo is painfully racist and depicts hunting in the most brutish and inhumane manner possible. It still has some story and is closer to the better Tintin comics in a few ways. But by no means is it a comfortable read (I’m pretty sure I actually cringed a couple of times).

Both books within Volume 1 aren’t really enjoyable. The creators have admitted that both books were heavily influenced by beliefs and assumptions of the time during which they were set. They’ve even updated some aspects of the books that just would not have been accepted later. But that still doesn’t make them a great read. And they definitely don’t compare in the least to the books that followed.

If you want to read Tintin then read any other than Tintin in the Congo and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. The others are surely enjoyable. But the only reason you can consider reading Volume 1 is if you, like me, want to go through all the books in order. That compulsion is the only thing that’ll get you through them.

Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought about Volume 1 of The Adventures of Tintin.

– Rishika

 

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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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