I still remember the thrill I got when I read my first Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code. His book was already gracing so many bestseller lists that it wa...moreI still remember the thrill I got when I read my first Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code. His book was already gracing so many bestseller lists that it was hard to back down and say no. Besides, I was very curious about this dude and whatever it was that he had written. I read. I enjoyed. I favorited. Then, I read all the articles of how he didn't really get all his history right and how he bungled some of them for maximum impact. Literary license, they said. That fogged my impression of Dan Brown tremendously, but not before I devoured two more of his books - Angels & Demons and Digital Fortress. Later, I also read The Lost Symbol, and was excited by the fact that it was set in a place I had actually visited multiple times (D.C.).
Still, none of the books, barring Angels and Demons really reached the caliber and awesomeness level of The Da Vinci Code, Inferno included. By now, everyone can write a template of a Dan Brown book in their sleep and they just need Brown to fill in the blanks with some essentials such as location and lead female character's name. They all involve his protagonist, Robert Langdon, racing across a huge landscape within a humanly impossible timeframe. He also seems to have a knack for knowing exactly what mystery to solve to get the next piece of a puzzle, plus, he seems to have a different lady companion each time (whatever happened to Vittoria Vetra (Angels and Demons), Sophie Neveu (The Da Vinci Code) and Katherine Solomon (The Lost Symbol)? For a supposedly unadventurous professor, he sure seems to go through women too fast.
Inferno has pretty much everything you would expect from a Dan Brown novel - there's a puzzle, there's a race against time, there's a woman (ha!), there's a life-and-death matter, and there's a bad guy. The puzzle is constructed almost with the intention that someone should solve it and stop the Bad Deed. Surprisingly, Inferno does deviate from the regular path considerably. For once, there is not much Symbology in here - there's just enough to warrant Langdon's presence. The prime art theme in Inferno is Dante and his The Divine Comedy. Halfway through the book, Dante plays second fiddle to the Malthusian theory, which is actually the main crux of the book.
Dan Brown spends a good chunk of the book exploring the population problem in the world as of today. The various characters give different perspectives on dealing with the problem. While it made me better appreciate the enormity of the problem we really have, I didn't quite enjoy Brown's repeated attempts to dance the issue in front of my eyes - the preaches honestly got tiring. Besides, a lot of elements came showing up repeatedly once in a while, almost as if Brown forgot that he had already mentioned them. A pretty good aspect of the book is the introduction into Transhumanism. I can't say that I've ever come across that term and the idea of it frightens and repulses me but it was fascinating to know that something like that exists.
Besides the few new elements, everything else about Inferno is standard Dan Brown fare. It wouldn't be a Dan Brown book if Robert Langdon could get shot in the head and not wake up from it without any repercussions. Plus spend the next 5-6 hours racing across the world and solving a mystery that would in reality take days, or at least more than a day. But this is Robert Langdon, why am I being so hard on the superman?(less)
Ian Hunt is working a regular day at the dispatch office, receiving more prank calls than genuine ones at the job, when a call comes through from a pa...moreIan Hunt is working a regular day at the dispatch office, receiving more prank calls than genuine ones at the job, when a call comes through from a payphone. The distressed caller is a girl who introduces herself as Maggie Hunt, Ian's own daughter who has been missing for the past seven years, and whose funeral was arranged four months earlier to give her mother closure. She had just managed to escape and is hoping for help, but her abductor manages to get her in time. Ian, now convinced that his daughter is very much alive, will stop at nothing to get her back, even if it means punching a few noses, chopping a few fingers or killing someone.
This book is not really my usual fare, but I only chose it because Ryan David Jahn wrote it. After loving the ingenuity of Good Neighbors, I was looking for more magic when I opted to read this one. Unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me. I know it is my elevated expectations that spoiled my enjoyment because otherwise, The Dispatcher was a pretty good crime novel.
One of the main strengths of this book is its characters. There are quite a few narrators, from Ian to his daughter, from her abductor to Ian's friend. Except for Maggie, the daughter, all the other narrators were very well-etched. Maggie felt quite weak to me, and I guess it's because of the minimal information I got about how she has been managing for seven years - her education, her mental condition, her emotional maturity, etc. She didn't appear too affected by the abduction - there is a lot of anger but not any of the emotional effects I would expect to see.
The Dispatcher was pretty fast paced and a bit gruesome. There are some really stomach churning moments and a lot of bloodshed in the book. I didn't feel all that uncomfortable reading the book, but it should be stated that there are quite a few kidnappings and child killings in the book, in case that's something that gives you a headache. The gruesomeness was pretty vivid in Good Neighbors as well, but I think The Dispatcher will take the cake in that department.
The plot itself was pretty well setup. My usual problems with crime novels are how much the writer teases the reader - the good guy will be thiscloseto catching the bad guy before something happens, he escapes and I roll my eyes. I didn't feel manipulated in this case - the expected things happen, and then some unexpected things happen, but nothing that involves the police coming in at the last minute after all the gunshots are fired. The setting being in Texas, there is a lot of landscape descriptions that are not really my cup of tea but will be delicious to anyone who loves a good setting.
One of my issues with this book has to do with my ebook copy itself. I read it via Kindle, sent directly from NetGalley, and the copy was pretty badly organized. The paragraphs weren't properly split up between perspectives. The transition from one narrator to another is not so obvious that sometimes I am a couple of paragraphs into the next person's story before I realize it. This was my first time reading NetGalley copies on the Kindle app - I usually read on my Nook. Not a big issue, but a jarring note, nevertheless.
Despite all the wonderful things I wrote about this book, it didn't really intrigue me much. The middle portion of the book slowed down quite a bit and there wasn't much happening either to move the story along. There are many other characters who come and go through the book. I was disappointed that some of them aren't explored more considering the strategic placement of quite a few subplots. I also felt that Maggie's abductor was occasionally acting out of character - of course, what's out of character for a kidnapper is debatable. His wife was quite frustrating most of the time that I wasn't sure what her ailment was. It was these weak characterizations that eventually took away my enjoyment. I did however like how the author left the ending ambiguous, and although I would love to know how Ian manages after it all ends, I do see how I will be dissatisfied with whichever ending the author chooses.(less)
Kat Marino was returning to her Queens apartment from her shift at a local bar at 4 AM in the morning, when she was attacked by a man, who was hiding...moreKat Marino was returning to her Queens apartment from her shift at a local bar at 4 AM in the morning, when she was attacked by a man, who was hiding beside a tree nearby. Kat had never met the man before and is completely taken by surprise and shock. A few of her neighbors whose apartment windows face the courtyard, where the action was unveiling, hadn't yet gone to sleep and were watching dazed, having been interrupted from whatever argument or conversation they were preoccupied with at that hour. None of them however make a move to help her. None call the police either. While Kat screams for someone to help, and every observer assumes someone else is making that 911 call, this 280-page short book gives us a brilliant insight into the lives of all the people, whose paths cross Kat's, however marginally, between 4 and 6 am.
This is one of those books I wish I had reviewed right away. I know my head was buzzing with thoughts to share with you but somehow I'm only getting to it now - a good month after reading this book. Even now, I cannot stop thinking about how brilliant this book was and how much I would love to reread it. Good Neighbors is based on a true incident whose details are very much similar to that of this book's. If you don't want to be spoiled by the details of the real crime, skip the rest of this paragraph. New Yorkers will probably be aware of this incident better. 29-year old Kitty Genovese was returning home at 4 am in 1964 when she was attacked by a man thrice, the last time fatally, over the span of a half hour. A lot of the neighbors saw some part of the attack but no one saw the whole thing. Nobody called the police believing that someone else was making that call, though a few claimed to have called. There's a term for it - bystander effect. The New York Times posted an interesting article on this tragedy a few days later. A lot of the facts about this murder are disputed, but it does appear apparent that very few people responded to her calls for help, and although one man did call the police, they didn't turn up. "I didn't want to get involved" was the predominant sentiment.
Good Neighbors is a work of fiction. Although it is based on the Kitty Genovese murder, all the characters in it are fictional. In Good Neighbors, Ryan David Jahn sets an incredible array of characters against this tragedy. On one side, we have Kat making her way home, only to be attacked by a man who then just runs away, leaving Kat shocked and immobile outside. On the other side, we get an inside look into some of the neighbors who see a part of the attack. They are each however plagued by their own problems, so much so that they only feel an odd sense of curiosity over what's happening in the courtyard, before they return to their problems. There is a 19-year old boy who has been ordered to report for the Army's Physical Examination, but he also has an ailing mother he has to look after. Another couple is playing swinger for the first time, until it goes horribly out of control for them, making them question their own relationship. Yet another man is trying to come to terms with his homosexual orientation, but is finding himself reluctant to. Another man, who knows Kat very well, had just left in his car when his wife returned home panicking after hitting a stroller. His own actions form a subplot within this book, opening the pages to more characters - a paramedic, a corrupted cop and his equally corrupted chief, and a paedophile, while they get themselves involved in a car accident just down the road and in an attempted murder.
The huge number of characters is the main asset of this book. While it would have been easy to end up with cardboard cutouts instead of solid characters, Ryan manages to carve out intricate characters, none of whom get 'boring' for the reader. The primary sensation you get is that of the role of fate or chance in life and people's beliefs that they are the center of the world and hence their problems are the most important ones in the world. I found it very interesting to read about all the problems the other characters were having, while a woman was dying outside and calling for help. The last chapter left me thinking a lot - was it worth trying to fix your problems while a woman was losing her hold on life minute by minute? When is it okay to say that "my problem is important, because it affects me and only I can fix it!" Would you be selfish for thinking that or just looking out for yourself? Would you be happier having saved a life, but in return lost everything that meant the world to you? Or would you end up feeling resentful towards life for how things turned out for you? It's fascinating how complex we humans really are. There's plenty of gray in every picture. This book could be an intriguing theater production - I'm sure the questions it raises will be quite humbling. Quite a few of the stories come to some interesting conclusions by the time the clock strikes 6 am. I did feel very curious as to how their stories led from there, because many of the lives did change drastically.
Good Neighbors is one of the best books I've read this year, and I think waiting a while to write this review was a good thing in one respect - in that I know the book has withstood the test of time, wherein sometimes you find you loved a book immediately after reading it, but days or weeks later, your perspective changes a lot, and you start criticizing the book quite a lot, but this book has managed to leave me still impressed a month later. Have any of you watched the movie Crash? The story-telling technique is very similar here - a multitude of protagonists with their own issues, apparently unconnected, but they all have something that ties them together. If you haven't watched the movie, you should. I hope I have convinced you to pick this book right away!
(If you're interested in reading about the real Kitty Genovese, this piece on TruTV is fantastic.)(less)
Sara Gallagher was adopted as a baby, by foster parents who couldn't conceive. But then her foster mom soon gave birth to two girls, who have been the...moreSara Gallagher was adopted as a baby, by foster parents who couldn't conceive. But then her foster mom soon gave birth to two girls, who have been the apple of their father's eyes ever since. Her foster dad never showed any affection towards Sara, and was always ridiculing or scolding her even for no fault of hers. This contributed to her increasing curiosity about her birth parents, forever wishing for them to come and rescue her. Her foster parents weren't cruel - her mom absolutely loved her, and her dad was just extra strict with her. Still right now, Sara's life is going great - her wedding is just around the corner and she and her fiance, Evan, have a happy life with Sara's daughter. But then she thinks she is ready to meet her real parents and that decision catapults her whole life as she knows it - her birth mother is the only known survivor of the Campsite Killer, who might as well have been her birth father. Are killer genes hereditary?
Last year, I read Still Missing by the same author and found that the whole ride through the novel was thrilling. It was the kind of book that you just couldn't abandon for trivial things like sleep and dinner. And although I had mixed reactions to this book after completing it, I liked this kind of book - where each chapter starts rather than ends with suspense, where there are no words wasted in superficial descriptions (this is after all not a literary novel and I don't care how lush green the grass was or how mellow her voice was when there was a humongous mystery to be solved), and which I could read anytime anywhere. Still Missing however suffered from a weak ending and some outlandish twists that only served to make the whole suspense unbelievable. Moreover, it left open several questions that just didn't seem to connect any missing dots.
Never Knowing, Chevy Stevens' second novel, avoids making the same mistakes again, for the most part. This time, I found the ending decent. I didn't like the way the protagonist's fears about her aggressive personality was neatly eased with a bow at the end. It didn't look to me an issue that one can easily get closure from. But I appreciated the belief quotient of the mystery. What boggled me was how even with modern technology, the police couldn't track the killer when he kept phoning Sara. The first few reasons the police gave I could excuse, but after that it became quite a joke. Here was a killer still on the loose after 35+ years, who was still succeeding in fooling the police. Moreover, as Sara noted once, there didn't seem to be much police resources dedicated to the case, whatever the two main officers on the case may say.
As with Still Missing, there are actually two mysteries in this book. I wasn't surprised by that, in fact I was waiting to see when the second one would be revealed because it was a little too obvious to me. Again, I didn't see a reason why we needed two bad people. I hope this isn't going to be a trend with her novels. Although the killer's background and psychology are somewhat explored, I still found it lacking. There is at least more understanding of the killer here, but still insufficient. I love it that Chevy Stevens creates these compelling killers who appear to be caring but have serious issues with relationships, temper control and warped solutions to their problems. But I wish there were more psychological explanations of such psychopaths, rather than just a they-just-were approach.
The book made me ponder over the question of how similar we could be to our parents. It is not the same having a parent who is obsessed with organization as having one who rapes and murders people. Turning out to be the same as the former parent can be slightly annoying but one can live with it. But how does one know that the latter parent's murderous tendencies aren't lying dormant in one's own genes? The protagonist is understandably worried about what this knowledge means - she has once pushed a person down the stairs and moreover, her daughter is also struggling to control her temper. While the author somewhat explores this realm, I thought she could have gone in a little farther. After all, as with Still Missing, the protagonist of Never Knowing is also seeing a psychologist (in fact, the same one - Nadine). But, most of the focus was on Sara's eventful life, as some of her relationships take a hit, than on her own fears about what this means. Okay, maybe she had a lot going on in her life, but still I would have loved to see some more psychological impacts.
I know I mostly compared Never Knowing with Still Missing, rather than reviewing it as an independent work, but that's because I felt the books were very similar except in plot. This is just as fast-paced and edge-of-the-seat-thrilling as Still Missing. Each chapter is a session that the protagonist shares with her psychologist. Although the novel is totally in first-person, so we never read the psychologist's advice or opinions, Sara occasionally refers to them in her narration. And although I didn't love this book much, I did find it hard to put down and will look forward to Chevy Stevens' next book.(less)
I hold on to her hand. She wants me to believe so I'm trying to but it hurts my head. "You actually lived in TV one time?"
"I told you, it's not TV. It's the real world, you wouldn't believe how big it is." Her arms shoot out, she's pointing at all the walls. "Room's only a tiny stinky piece of it."
"Room's not stinky." I'm nearly growling.
By now, there will be very few of you who have not heard of this book. It has featured in almost every award nomination, and has been on so many reading lists, that my thoughts on it will only add to an already swollen review database.
Room by Emma Donoghue explores the possible consequences of an abduction and a child born in "captivity". Emma sets out to create a tightly isolated environment in which the child grows up - never seeing the world outside or another human being, with the exception of his own mother and her abductor. And then, she proceeds to show how escape can mean different things to the mother and her son.
I'm sure you have heard this before - Jack's voice took me a while to get used to. It's not just the fact that the narrator is a five-year old. It has more to do with Jack's vocabulary and naming system. He occasionally used words I wouldn't expect to hear from a five-year old, and sometimes speaks like a child much younger than himself. He saw every object in his room as a proper noun - Rug, Bed, Plant, Duvet, Skylight, Wardrobe, etc. He had conversations with these objects, and far from sounding cute, that actually scared me a bit.
From Jack's perspective, there is no outside world. There is just Ma, himself and Ma's abductor. And then there's TV. Each time Ma's abductor comes to their Room at night to rape her, Jack sleeps in Wardrobe, which is his "bedroom". When I started the book, I was quite curious about how they spent each day. Didn't they tire out due to lack of things to do? Did they even have enough entertainment to last a day? Emma spends considerable time showing Ma and Jack's routine for one day - breakfast, games, TV, lunch, nap time, exercise, cooking, etc. I have to admit I was surprised when the day just whizzed by. I was most impressed with Ma's creativity with inventing games for Jack's amusement. On weekdays, they play Scream, that is, they spend some time yelling at the top of their voices. Since Jack is narrating this, it took me a long time to understand why Ma invented such a game.
Once I understood the complex structure of Room that Emma has created, I began to wonder how Jack ever got Outside, and how he coped. I enjoyed the second part of the book more because once I understood Jack, it was far easier slipping into his mind. There were a couple of areas I strongly disagreed with because even for Jack, or rather especially for Jack, they seemed near impossible. But barring those events, the rest of the book felt very plausible. Jack's attachment to Room and hence his abhorrence to leaving Room was very understanding. And yet, to Ma (we only know her as Ma in this book), Room is a prison. Having hidden from Jack any hints about the existence of the outside world, Ma struggles to convince him about everything she has denied so far.
Room was definitely a different kind of read for me. Coming on the heels of Still Missing by Chevy Stevens, I found myself thinking of the latter more often than I wished to. Abduction for an extended period of time and the victims' pregnancy are probably the only similarities between them. They were however enough to tamper with my enjoyment of this book, and so I have a feeling that I will not be picking another abduction-themed book in a long time. However, it's not fair of me to taint this book's review by mentioning the similarities, because as I recollect it, I had plenty of issues with Still Missing, whereas Room was more a clever and innovative piece of writing. It is about abduction, but it is much more than that. I'm not too big into thrillers, the ones I read have to be different in some aspect, and Room definitely met those expectations.(less)
Annie O'Sullivan, a thirty-two year old realtor, was at an open house, trying to sell a house, but the day moves slow for her, with very few customers...moreAnnie O'Sullivan, a thirty-two year old realtor, was at an open house, trying to sell a house, but the day moves slow for her, with very few customers. Just as she is about to close, in comes a charming guy who is very keen on buying the house. Believing it to be her lucky day after all, Annie proceeds to give the visitor a tour of the house. Halfway through, however, she is attacked by him and dragged to his van.
Annie spends her next one year in captivity. Her abductor, whom she refers to as the Freak, has taken her to a cabin, from which escape is impossible. He doesn't allow her to leave the cabin for any reason. She has no way of knowing whether it is day or night outside, except by crouching on the floor of the bathroom and looking through a very tiny crack on the floor. He doesn't allow her to use the restroom as per her wish. Instead, each trip is scheduled. One time, when she sneaks a trip to the toilet in his absence, she is accidentally caught by him and assaulted for violating the rule.
Still Missing was an intensely creepy read. Not creepy as in ghosts or gory scenes. But creepy as in the extreme evils capable of being committed by man without even being malicious. The Freak was a man who was highly disturbed. He had an insane routine sketched out for Annie, down to her bath time. Every night, he would bathe her, and then clothe her, before raping her. He spent a whole year playing house with her.
Right from page one, we know that Annie escaped. Half the book is her story of abduction, abuse and escape. The other half is set in the present and shows her recovery from the tragedy. The two halves are interleaved, with each chapter starting with the present and moving to her past. Her present is actually set in her psychologist's office - in fact, each chapter is a session. (Instead of the usual "Chapter", Still Missing has "Session".)
Still Missing is told from Annie's perspective, and I have to say that Annie has a very strong voice. I remember reading the first couple of pages the moment I received the book. I was immediately hooked and found it hard to put it down. The book had the same effect on me when I finally got around to reading it, so much so that I finished it in two days.
The ending was a sure twist - that's the kind of ending one doesn't see coming. I had mixed feelings about it though. I am not a fan of the really unpredictable endings, just as much as I don't like the very predictable ones. Although the whodunit of Still Missing was a real shocker, I found some elements of the ending hard to believe. To me, it was possible but not plausible. It could have happened, but really could it have sustained for a whole year? The author establishes the motives clearly, and I could see why the person did it. But what I couldn't see is why the person stuck through it.
But that doesn't take away the sheer thrill quality of the book. Annie's experiences at the cabin were scary, and very harrowing. That's not to say that she never connected with her rapist. The only time she was ever able to be with him without feeling disgust was when they were reading and discussing literature. Chevy Stevens created a very realistic scenario by mixing elements of fear and disgust, occasionally stirring in sympathy. While Annie doesn't feel overly empathetic with her abuser, she is able to co-exist with him after the first few weeks.
Although, Annie is the protagonist of Still Missing, I felt that The Freak was the more vivid character. I felt sheer disgust towards him and his actions. He had a very strong presence in the book throughout, and even after closing the book, I couldn't shake off visions of him. No, he didn't give me nightmares, and I doubt anyone would get nightmares, but this is one of those portrayals that you will think of for a long time.(less)
Very thrilling - that's as succinct as I can say! I was glued to this book for a day and finished it quite fast.
My opinion The 13th Hour starts with Ni...moreVery thrilling - that's as succinct as I can say! I was glued to this book for a day and finished it quite fast.
My opinion The 13th Hour starts with Nick and Julia having a minor disagreement, before Julia sets off to work and Nick spends his day working from home. At almost 7 pm, Julia is murdered and Nick distraught. In the background of this story, a plane has crashed causing the death of all 212 passengers. With all the police at the crash site aiding with relief efforts, only 2 are spared for Julia's murder investigation. Nick is however, soon hauled into prison, with a murder charge hanging over his head, and the police's claim of finding his prints on a gun he had never seen, much less touched before, is threatening to keep him holed up in prison for long. At that point, walks in a European gentleman with a watch and a letter with certain instructions. What follows next is 12 hours of going back in time, learning what really happened, watching his wife die over and over again, bringing about the death of his best friend, Marcus, at one point, as he races against time to change the one thing to save them all.
The 13th Hour was a roller-coaster ride into the last 12 hours of a couple, as Nick tried desperately to save Julia from the clutches of death. It was very suspenseful and had all the delightful elements of a thriller - a bunch of baddies, multiple murders, crime lords, diamonds, wealthy tycoons and innocent protagonists. Each time the clock goes back into the previous hour, Nick learns something new as the magnitude of the entire crime slowly unravels.
All through the book, there is the message of the importance of one's actions echoed very strongly.
One simple selfish act can reverberate through time, through life, robbing a stranger of existence. A loved one could meet her death from the repercussions of a moment or an event she may never know or understand. Yet if this one moment didn't occur, if it could be found, could be taken back, the lives it touched could be changed, could be altered, and that one life saved.
How true that is, and how often we sit back and wish we could undo a lot of our actions. How fitting that when we invented computers, we gave it the now ubiquitous Undo-Redo function. Ctrl-Z has become one of my most pressed buttons on this keyboard. Each hour that Nick gains back, he strives to change things, save Julia. But it's interesting seeing how his different actions during each hour change the events that happen, sometimes bringing about Julia's death earlier than 7 pm. Sometimes, I wished I could see how his different actions changed the future timeline, but since Nick only goes backward, the reader doesn't get to see that. It annoyed me though that Nick wasn't learning from his experience. He kept making the same mistake of trying to change the present, knowing that he is still going to go into the past, and that what he does now will not matter in that new timeline.
I still gave the book only 4 stars because it could have done with some better editing work. While Richard Doetsch's writing is definitely good and something I enjoyed, some portions of the book had needless repetitions and were stating the obvious. Also, the lengthy description of the couple - Nick and Julia, wore me out. There were too many sentences testifying to the fictional fact that the two were a perfect couple, who always loved each other and met under a high-school romantic situation, and always supported each other. The stereotypical perfect American couple. Phew! The wordy descriptions alone made me not like the couple at all. In addition, the first time Nick sees Julia in the past, he gets so overcome with emotions that they have sex. Excuse me? Time is running out, answers are to be found, the killer is coming any time and sex is the first thing on your mind?
Overall though, I found the suspense quotient of this book really high, with its many twists and turns. It was also interesting to read the go-backwards formula work well in this case, (as opposed to the go-forwards formula of most suspense novels).
Title Demystified This book starts at Chapter 12. It ends at Chapter 13. In between, there are 11 chapters, from Chapter 11 all the way down to Chapter 1. As said in the synopsis, this book is told in reverse. Technically, Nick is the only person going to the past. He is the only constant (LOST vocab!) in all the hours. It is interesting that this book has the title The 13th Hour, since all things of importance happen in the last hour - the 12th hour - Nick's 12th hour in the past. Or is it his 13th hour, since he lives 9pm-10 pm once, and only then starts going to the past. (Was that confusing?)
Cover Art Demystified Nick is able to go into the past, by one hour each time, only because he was given a pocket watch by the European gentleman. A time-turner, to those familiar with the world of Hogwarts except that he doesn't have to wind it. It pretty much works automatically. (Spoiler alert) The only nagging point I had was when Nick finally returns the timepiece to the owner, who ends up with two of them - the one he had originally in the new timeline, and the one he had given to Nick in the timeline Nick erased. If that's the case, shouldn't there be a lot of such pocket watches in the world, since it had been used a lot of times in the past. That was never explained. And it annoyed me!(less)
Brash, sassy John Corey is on the Anti-Terrorist Task Force team, waiting to meet Asad Khalil - a terrorist suspect who had defected. He waits with fo...moreBrash, sassy John Corey is on the Anti-Terrorist Task Force team, waiting to meet Asad Khalil - a terrorist suspect who had defected. He waits with four others in the Conquistador Club, for the flight to land at the NY airport. Asad however has other plans, which do not include surrender. Although he was handcuffed and escorted by two armed officers, he manages to escape after committing a puzzling, almost impossible crime. Worse, no one knows what he is up to.
I have deliberately left out some things from the summary, because there is so much to this book than the plain escape of a terrorist. I have to admit, reading about terrorism is so not my cup of tea. So I was definitely pensive about what I will find, going into this book. I worried needlessly. The suspense in this book was simply awesome! Crimes that seem so impossible being pulled off with panache, making you wonder 'How did that happen?' I'm not big into thrillers, and usually pace them out but The Lion's Game reminded me of all the good books in this genre. It's not a 'whodunit' at all. We know the good guys and the bad guys right from page one. Instead, we have an old grudge simmering in a man bent on getting his revenge. And the methods he use! Much as I despised Asad for many reasons, I found myself understanding (not sympathizing) him better too.
The narration switches between John and Asad. Initially I waited for John's chapters for the laughs he provides, but I soon found Asad a compelling person as well. Compelling and psychologically interesting. It's not easy writing from the point of a person hell-bent on terrorism or murder. It's not easy reading either. You don't want to like the guy or feel sympathetic or understanding or even plain interested. So many things Asad did made my skin crawl. At times, I wondered what would have happened to me had I met him in the streets and recognized him, since he believes in erasing his tracks. His character became that alive for me - not in a creepy way but in a more in-this-world feel. And authors who create characters like that ought to be commended.
John Corey, on the other hand, is one heck of a guy. Hilarious sarcasm oozes off him. I was first introduced to him in Plum Island, and he is just as sassy as I remember him. I've saved some of his quotes for you.
Kate was wearing black slacks, by the way, and a sort of Heinz Ketchup-colored blazer over a white blouse. I was wearing what I wore yesterday.
She asked me, "What kind of clearance do you have?" "About six foot, one inch. Sorry, old joke." She wasn't smiling. I said, "Only confidential. Working on secret."
The Lion's Game is however 670+ pages long. It took me quite a long time to get through. While I didn't exactly mind it, I thought it was longer than needed by at least a 100-200 pages. Some of the dialogue could have been reduced even though they contributed to the story as a whole. But since John Corey contributed to quite a bit of those pages, I enjoyed them. Besides, it is fast-paced so I was barely aware of turning the page. If you haven't read a DeMille book, I strongly recommend him. This is my third book by him, and I can't seem to be getting enough of his books. The next book in the John Corey series and sequel to The Lion's Game - The Lion - has been released, and I sure can't wait to pick it up.(less)
What the Dead Know has some very vivid characters. I could almost love or hate some of the characters strongly. The woman-in-accident was a vibrant ch...moreWhat the Dead Know has some very vivid characters. I could almost love or hate some of the characters strongly. The woman-in-accident was a vibrant character, who I hated from page one. That's saying something since a major chunk of the book is from her perspective or focuses heavily on her. I do believe that Laura Lippman dressed the woman-in-accident in a persona that will be disliked by the reader, for reasons you will understand on reading the book. That was a clever ploy and served to both giving a convincing touch to the woman-in-accident's claims and also building an initial bias within the reader (Something to be careful about!).
Dave, the father of the two sisters, was a person who insisted on openness and sharing within families. His grief when the girls disappear is so palpable you could feel it through the pages. Till the day he died, he kept hoping for them to turn up. Miriam, his ex-wife and the two girls' mother, gave up on hope instead, so that she could grieve. It was interesting following her life, but for the most part, I was unimpressed. She always struck me as a mild woman. Probably the girls' disappearance changed her, but the hardening of her character didn't really convince me.
Also, am I being bad if I said that I totally disliked the eleven-year old child Heather for her "manipulative"ness?
The prose switches between the present and the past (from the day of the girl's disappearance to the day the father died). The narration of the past introduces way too many details, which I didn't appreciate initially. But once the mystery was solved, what I was especially fascinated by was how many countless chips came together to bring about the disappearance. Now I wouldn't call that coincidence at all, because it wasn't. But there were several ordinary everyday events that one day led to something extra-ordinary. I applaud how these seemingly irrelevant matters were suddenly made significant in the light of the girls' disappearance, without feeling contrived.
When the revelations started coming out, I can't say that I totally bought what happened during the sisters' disappearance. From that point on, it didn't really strike me as convincing. Nevertheless, it was a well-thought out and intricate plot that had me wanting for answers.
That said, I didn't love the book. I found it too wordy and rambling, so much so that at one point I stopped caring about what happened to the characters and just wanted to get to the end of things. That's never a good thing. I usually appreciate the verbose kind of writing, anything that lets me understand the characters and their situations better is always welcome. Somehow, I felt that there was an excessive amount of that in What the Dead Know.
Title Demystified: Till the end of the book or rather near-end, I was in the dark with regards to what this title meant. When someone comes up saying she personally knows something about a thirty-year old case, the biggest challenge is finding eye-witnesses, ALIVE, to corroborate. In this case, they are dead or mentally ill. The eye-witnesses need not be directly connected to the disappearance, they can be witnesses along the thirty-year journey as well. But when all the leads turn to dead-ends, it almost becomes a case where only the dead know what happened. (Luckily for you and me, there was one never-considered witness who saves things for us.)
Cover Art Demystified I liked this cover, though I can't say I really felt a connection between it and the plot. Going in alive and coming back dead is quite the antithesis of what really happens.(less)
I should say at the outset, that I really enjoyed this book. I liked the buildup of the mystery, the well-etched characters and the whole ride through...moreI should say at the outset, that I really enjoyed this book. I liked the buildup of the mystery, the well-etched characters and the whole ride through the book. While I enjoyed Twisted better, this book was great as well.
Sloane's and Derek's relationship was pleasant to read. I was really rooting for them to get over their issues, and was pleased by the maturity with which it was handled. The whole concept of art theft ring was engrossing, especially with the amount of research that Andrea Kane put in.
Also, while initially it appears as a set of independent crimes, I really liked how it was all tied in together, without leaving the reader crying 'coincidence'!
Overall, a great suspense! A definite recommendation.(less)
She smiled darkly and shook her head. "I'm not crazy. I'm not. Of course what else would a crazy person claim? That's the Kafkaesque genius of it all. If you're not crazy but people have told the world you are, then all your protests to the contrary just underscore their point. Do you see what I'm saying?"
My very first introduction to Dennis Lehane was through the movie, Mystic River. At that point, I didn't know the movie was based on a book, but when I did come across the book many years later, I knew I had to read it. Now I have a huge tome of Mystic River staring at me every time I look at my shelf. It's not that I'm not keen on reading it, I'm terrified. One, because it's huge. Second, because I never really understood the movie, Mystic River, and had to read reviews and spoilers to actually know what it was about. I assume the book is the same. So instead, when I saw Shutter Island at an airport bookstore, after browsing through the shelves for 15 minutes (making me almost late for my boarding), I decided to risk it. At best, I'll enjoy it. At worst, I'll sleep.
Luckily, the best happened. I actually devoured it. Here's the first thing I noticed - Dennis Lehane's writing flows easy. There were no heavy-vocab crunching or roundabout phrases, which is the impression Mystic River the movie put into my head. Instead, I got pulled into this thriller right from page one and enjoyed it to the last page.
US Marshall Teddy Daniels arrives in Shutter Island along with his partner Chuck Aule to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from this inescapable fortress. Teddy is convinced that the place reeks of radical brain treatments and experimentation. What Chuck doesn't know is Teddy has his own personal vendetta to carry out and that getting out of the island may be harder than either of them expected. To add to their troubles, there's a vicious storm brewing and communications with the mainland has failed.
Even before I started, I knew there is a major twist in the ending, thanks to my wonderful friends who had to mince the movie ambiguities in my presence, when it first released. They were generous enough not to talk about the ending, but they dropped tantalizing hints about how awesome it was. When the twist came eventually, it still took me by surprise. Whatever I expected, it wasn't that. And when the ending of the ending came? I needed a cup of coffee to sort it out. Well no, I had to read the ending again to decide which side of the the ambiguity I wanted to be in.
I'm not generally a big fan of ambiguous endings, that is, if the ending is wide-open. One book that I read last year, One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni had an ending which could have gone either way. I certainly didn't appreciate that. On the other hand, books like Shutter Island, and movies like Memento and Inception, although having ambiguous endings, have plenty of hints strewn all over, which can be dissected in so many way to come up with plenty of theories. I don't mean to say I do that, but I enjoy reading the theories.
I even enjoyed the movie, which I watched about a week after reading this. This is another one of the book-movie pair I enjoyed. Most often, I prefer the book, but in this case, I can't choose a favorite. I enjoyed both!(less)
This is my first Andrea Kane book, and I was really impressed with her writing. For me, one of the most important criteria in books is the writing sty...moreThis is my first Andrea Kane book, and I was really impressed with her writing. For me, one of the most important criteria in books is the writing style, which really scores here. The suspense, the characters, their relationships, the actual events all were truly remarkable. I should say the killer in this book is one of the most horrific minds I have read about. I was actually shuddering at one point and wondering how can a man get this bad. I liked the whys and the whats of this murder thriller. It was different not from the usual mill. I absolutely loved the amount of research Andrea has put into this book. I thought it was stellar. She has done a good job writing about Krav Maga, Greek mythology, the FBI, even about data structures at one point (I was impressed by that, since I work in that area).
I thought the book started really well, and liked how the action starts and builds up right from page one. Though I predicted who the murderer was, after about 1/3rd of the book, it was still done nicely, not too predictable, not too unpredictable. I truly liked Derek and Sloane, and their personal relationship was amazing to read about. :)
All in all, I'd recommend it to anyone who needs a good mystery.(less)
I finished reading this book at lunch yesterday, but since then I have been puttering around gathering my thoughts. The truth is, right after finishin...moreI finished reading this book at lunch yesterday, but since then I have been puttering around gathering my thoughts. The truth is, right after finishing it, I was not sure what I felt. I definitely felt relieved, since there was a lot of jargon in it that I didn't care for, but I know I enjoyed it too.
Firstly, this is not an easy book to get into initially. I read the first page of the book many times before I felt comfortable in going ahead. The first page is the most important page for me. I won't give up on a book after starting it, no matter how disillusioned the book makes me feel, but if the first page doesn't grip me, then I may not care for it much. Which is why, when I go to a book store to buy a random book, I read its first page before picking or dropping it. Now, I did give up on Haunted Ground a few times, but some of my friends kept insisting that the book is worth it in spite of the starting trouble. I guess I would say almost the same thing, but I would still prefer not to have to struggle for a few pages to get into the plot.
Haunted Ground has two good mysteries weaving in and out. Both suspenseful. Thrilling. And gripping. Erin Hart laid out the initial buildup pretty well, and switched between the two plots fluently, without letting one get way too ahead of the other.
One thing I enjoyed about Haunted Ground is Erin Hart's writing style. Just ponder this prose: "And with the force of the blow, time seemed to telescope. The spaces between seconds allowed an almost unbearably acute perception of each sensation as it passed through him. He was conscious of the grinding sound of stone and mortar giving away, of sharp pain and snapping tree branches, then falling, falling into darkness, and the earth seeming to meet him too soon, with a shuddering thump. And then silence. A most pure and sublime silence roared in his ears as he struggled to take breath." Such a beautiful paragraph, don't you think? Just to describe a man falling down.
There are many such wonderful passages, which are a delight to read.
I did have some qualms though while reading this book. One thing is the excessive technical jargon that went way over my head. I understand most of it was central and necessary to the story, but some kind of footnote would have been helpful.
As for the characters, I couldn't bond with them well. Although Erin Hart did give plenty of pages to some characters, I still felt something lacking, like an unfinished story. Some actions of the characters just weren't making sense to me.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed the book. I don't think I will pick the next book in the Nora Gavin / Cormac Maguire series right away, but I might get to it someday. One of the unfinished subplots in Haunted Ground concerns Nora Gavin's sister. After reading the blurb on the 3rd book, False Mermaid in this series, I gather that Erin Hart is focusing on this subplot in that book. So I am definitely curious to know where she takes that story.(less)
Overall impression: it was entertaining, gripping, and genuinely created a sense of fear in me.
It was not what I expected. When I read the book descri...moreOverall impression: it was entertaining, gripping, and genuinely created a sense of fear in me.
It was not what I expected. When I read the book description, I expected something paranormal. I thought creepers themselves were sub-human. Even the first quarter of the book still made me expect something to that tune. Especially the albino cat, the mutant rats and the skeletons. Come to think of it, there is no clear explanation given for these asides.
I liked the way the story played out. But 3 things didn't quite work for me. One is the use of coincidence in the story. The second is how all other characters became puppets in the matter of death. And finally, but once in a rare while, the writing didn't work out for me. In one or two places, I sensed repetition (almost as if there was no other way to write the sentence), and a few points that were best left out from the book. However, looking from the perspective of the main protagonist, I would say these two jarring points fit in well with his character, so I won't count against it.
On the positive side, the author's description of the place was very very realistic. I still have a lot of photo images in my head of the building and it's interiors. It was very horror-inducing and even gory for a book. Some of the deaths were just candidates for a Final Destination movie. I couldn't put the book down right from page 1. Of course, I had to put the book down sometimes, but that was since I had no choice. Overall, I enjoyed it.(less)
It took me really long time to finish this book and I kept dropping this book to read something else interesting. What kept putting me off is the terr...moreIt took me really long time to finish this book and I kept dropping this book to read something else interesting. What kept putting me off is the terrible language. I can understand the author's intention to write real-life dialogues rather than just dialogues centering around the plot, but Carlene definitely overdoes it here. There is a lot of irrelevant detail in this book, and after painstakingly developing characters and establishing their mannerisms, we see them do something totally out of the character.
I couldn't identify with most characters, but I could least identify with the 5-year old kid in the book, Willow. She sometimes has a vocabulary of a pre-teen and sometimes behave nothing like a child.
Overall, I just wanted to finish the book all the way to the end, simply because I find it hard to stop a book midway and give it up, unless I really cannot digest a book. To me, this book was really not worth my time.(less)
This is the first CJ Box I read. I'm sure I will be picking up more. This was a good thriller. Good, not great, because some plot points just didn't s...moreThis is the first CJ Box I read. I'm sure I will be picking up more. This was a good thriller. Good, not great, because some plot points just didn't satisfy me.
The book started really well and ended in exciting action. It never dragged. There were 2-3 sub-plots as well, and it was great to see all of them moving along.
I liked how Box demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of the characters rather than just mentioning them. I liked Newkirk's character the most, because this was a guy fighting to save himself from the soup he was in and fighting with his conscience. The act he committed in the next-to-last chapter possibly redeemed himself (not his crimes, of course).
Much as it was suspenseful, the last few chapters were disappointing. It looked like Box wanted to finish off his book asap and rushed. It was hardly satiating. The last chapter of all was very poorly written. It was all muddled just like the thoughts of the protagonist of that chapter (it definitely was in sync with the thoughts of that person) but it was confusing overall, because being the last chapter, it had to answer certain questions, but instead ended up puzzling me more.
The dialogue delivery could have been better, plus Monica's character was very badly written. I just didn't like this character, because she hardly seemed mature to me.
The one redeeming feature of this book, in spite of its problems, is that it created good suspense. I truly enjoyed reading this book, and would have given it 5 stars if not for the small weaknesses.(less)