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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 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: Memory Closet (By Ninie Hammon)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 337 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Anne Mitchell has no memories of the first 11 years of her life. They vanished into a darkness that was filled with evil, inhabited by her own, personal Boogie Man who watched from the shadows. The fear of facing the Boogie Man kept her from making any attempt to remember. Until she saw the evil hiding behind the repentance in her dying mother’s eyes. Until the Boogie Man made an appearance that put Anne’s career and the little life she had made for herself at risk.

So, Anne moved back to the town of Goshen, back to live with her senile grandmother in the home where she grew up. It was the best place for her to try and remember, to face the memories that had, so far, eluded her. She’d been bullied all her life by the Boogie Man. The only way to get rid of him is to pull him into the light. But, for that, she has to go into the closet first, into the darkness. And as the lines between reality, memory, and imagination begin to blur, Anne realizes that she may never find her way out of the closet – that the Boogie Man has been waiting for her, and after all these years, he may finally win.

My take:

The premise of this story is surely interesting – amnesia triggered by a traumatic event and that plainly protects the protagonist from worse memories. It’s a psychological thriller with immense potential. There are also some characters that you can really associate with, feel bad or good for, and find them to be well-rounded.

But the book falls short on too many aspects to really make for a good read as the psychological thriller it’s supposed to be.

First is the fact that it really just goes on and on. I mean, the book could have been 100 pages less and still gotten the message across just as clearly. Each emotion is experienced to death until you’re just wondering when the scene is going to change, and still have to read about how sad or scared someone is for another four pages.

Then there’s Anne Mitchell herself. The character, meant to be raw, scared yet strong, kind, loving, and just a little confused, comes across as someone who is little more than annoying and a big cry-baby. She spends most of the book being exhausted for one reason or another, and avoiding good ideas that could help her… just because.

Now, I get that she’s meant to be emotional and maybe even a partial wreck, given the horrific things happening. But the resolve with which she’s introduced disappears within pages, and the other, more vulnerable emotions that she does go through just go on and on. That was where shortening the length could have been very effective. All in all, she was a character who was just about there, but forgot who she was a little too often.

Then there’s the excessive graphic nature of some narrative. It makes sense that Hammon was trying to be descriptive; but when it comes to these kinds of books, there is “show, don’t tell”, and then there is “just too gross to read”. At some point, the descriptions go from being necessary-psychological-thriller-disturbing to just plain “not-adding-any-value… move on”.

Another really annoying thing about it was the really long sentences that hit you with so much information that you just had to go back and read them again. Toss in some weird similes in the narrative (that were barely required, in the first place), and at some point, you’re just reading random words until the next sensible part.

Last, the book was, oddly enough, predictable – which is a major disappointment for a thriller. After 337 pages of excessive emotion, unnecessary description, and a lot of droning on, you’d think there was something better coming up in the climax. Instead, you get something predictable, anticlimactic, and extremely abrupt – it was like after all that writing, Hammon got tired and wrapped up the book really fast, without bothering too much on giving the audience an after-event look at the characters.

I had definitely expected much more from Memory Closet, and doubt I’d read more of Ninie Hammon’s work. The only reason it gets a 2-star rating and nothing lower is because the execution could have been worse (there were points where it, thankfully, took a turn off the bad path and back onto the good), but manages to be alright. Also, as a story idea, it wasn’t too bad.

Recommended for:

  • Hardcore psychological thriller fans who could read any story in that genre
  • Thriller fans (if you have nothing else to opt for)
  • Readers who like the very specific category of amnesia related thrillers

– Rishika

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Review: Hush (By Anne Frasier)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 380 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ivy Dunlap had been waiting for the call for sixteen years – the call that would tell her that he’s resurfaced. She had no doubt that he would. The man who had murdered her son and left her for dead wouldn’t stay in the dark forever – he was compelled to kill. As a criminal psychologist, Ivy knew that.

And when the call did come, Ivy knew that she had no choice. She couldn’t continue living the life that was a lie, the life where she was safe, but where no one knew who she really was. So, she went back to help the Chicago PD apprehend the man who had been murdering single mothers and their infant sons. But going back was not going to be easy. Keeping her real identity a secret was not going to be easy. Chasing the man who’d haunted her waking and sleeping hours for sixteen years may come at a price that even Ivy could never have anticipated. And all the while, a single question remains – will the Madonna Murderer succeed where he’d once failed?

My take:

There are a lot of things you expect from a psychological/crime thriller. And for the most part, Hush delivers. It’s got a good story that shows you the evil that can exist within people. It’s blunt, sometimes gory, the right amount of mess-with-your-head disturbing, and its criminal psychology seems to be pretty spot on (speaking from the perspective of someone whose criminal psychology course was basically watching Criminal Minds). It’s even got some interesting characters who seem to do justice (for the most part) to what you would expect, given their backgrounds.

But the execution of all those aspects is what kills a lot of the experience.

And the grammar and formatting errors. I mean, it can’t be that difficult to ensure that if you’re moving from one scene to another altogether, at least hit Enter twice. When you’re reading a fast paced thriller, those things can really throw you off, hitting the breaks on an otherwise good momentum.

Coming back…

The characters are as good a place as any to begin. The characters are good, but their growth is terrible. The main characters seem to have some bipolarity going on at the weirdest of times. They go from being angry and closed off to super emotional in seconds, and that too for no real reason. They have these over-dramatic reactions to random things, and mainly just seem a little confused about who they are. I get the intense aspect – cops, trauma survivors, and people dealing with crime day in and day out will be so – but there is no consistency in their personalities or evolution of personalities. And that really slows the book down.

Coming to the story – the delivery is choppy. A lot of things are happening which come together eventually, but they are presented in a way that leaves you confused about the timeline. You think days have passed and it’s been only hours, or vice versa. That makes it a little hard to follow and you have to take a lot of things as just given and move on.

The last aspect that wasn’t tapped to its full potential was the depth of the evil that the book touches upon. It does decently on showing you the darkness that people can have. But it seems to only scratch the surface and leave a lot implied. I wouldn’t have minded reading more thoughts, monologs, or even narration, if it would have helped paint a complete picture, instead of just bits and pieces here and there.

All that being said, the book does great on closure. It brings almost all tangents to a comfortable close, and gives you a nice, complete feel – at least on the story. And that’s why I wouldn’t greatly mind reading more of the author’s work. As long as there isn’t too much of the off-putting stuff, of course!

Recommended for:

  • 16+ (or maybe even 17+) because of the gore and disturbing details
  • Fans of psychological thrillers as a thrill (or holiday or easy) read
  • Readers who enjoy crime fiction and crime thrillers
  • Readers who tend to enjoy the commercial (TV/Book) versions of criminal psychology

Share your thoughts in the comments below! I’d also love a recommendation of a really good psychological thriller.

– Rishika

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