Sleeping Beauties [A Review]

Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King and Owen King

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   [Image courtesy of Amazon.com]

Okay, this is not one of my favourite Stephen King works. The only thing I like about this story is its interesting premise – What if women disappear from men’s lives? Do we want to? 

I think the problem with this book is that there were too many characters in there who didn’t have enough depth or distinctiveness, and that made it difficult for me to remember who’s who, especially at the beginning. And the pace was not fast enough to make it a page-turner. Neither was the narration gripping enough to send chills down my spine. The sub-plots were rather weak, and didn’t really work to beef up the characters. Despite having a story overflowing with characters, I couldn’t find one that I liked, and not even one that I hated.

So yup, the premise was the only thing that was anything Stephen-King-like in this book. 

VERDICT: Unless you are a hardcore Stephen King fan who must read every single publication of his, I think you can give this a miss. 😦

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Origin [A Review]

Origin, by Dan Brown

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

This has to be my favourite of all the books that Dan Brown has written since The Da Vinci Code. Because this book is such a timely read.

I think part of it has to do with the fact that we’re in an era in which we are questioning our future as much as, if not more than, our origin. Science is progressing at such a blinding speed these days, that it is hard not to think that anything is possible with the kind of technologies that will be available in the next few decades. Yet, when faced with “soul-less” technologies like super-computing, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and what not, one can’t help but wonder where the spiritual well-being of humans is going. We’re connected ubiquitously to one another by technology, but are we also losing the uniquely human connections in our everyday lives?

But I digress. This should be a review of the book, not what I think with regards to the dilemmas in religion and science.

Yes, the book is thought-provoking. While the issues raised in the story are not new, it is precisely because they are the perennial issues faced by mankind (and especially by this generation) that Brown is able to entice readers with its premise. 

In the tradition of Dan Brown books, everything happens and concludes within 24 hours, so you can imagine the breathtaking pace at which the story unfolds. Plus, many of the places, artifacts, quotes and history are real, so I couldn’t help learning at least a couple of new things about Spain and William Blake. And of course, the suspense grows with each chapter, and makes it hard for one to put down the book. Finally, the book has no lack of red herrings, and a conclusion that might just hint at Brown’s own inclinations where synthetic intelligence is concerned.

All in all, the book raises more questions than answers, and cautions against extremity. But then, humankind’s strength has always been our ability to look for and ask the right questions, hasn’t it?

VERDICT: Besides history, religion, codes and symbols, you’ll also get a quick flavor of the latest developments in science. So if you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller but would also like to use the time to learn something in the process, read the book!

Yesterday [A Review]

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

What a pity. 

This book had such a promising premise. I mean, questions like “how do you solve a crime if your brain forgets and resets itself at the end of each day?”, “how do you know you can love and trust your spouse if you cannot remember what happened two days ago?” and “is long-term memory really better than short-term memory?” have so much potential.

I want to like it, but I can’t help feeling disappointed. It’s simply a neither-here-nor-there novel, that has an interesting idea but just not executed well enough.

Not quite science fiction, because other than the fact that almost everyone in the story had only one-day or two-day memories, there was little else sci-fi about the book.

Not quite mystery-thriller, because the pace was just not fast enough, and I was able to guess the twists (if you can call them that) somewhere in the middle.

Not quite philosophical, because I thought the attempt to establish the link between love, hatred and memories felt a tad too weak and corny.

Now I don’t know how to categorize my review… Oh I so wish this had been done better!

VERDICT: You might like the different-perspective style Felicia Yap has adopted if you are a Paula Hawkins fan, but don’t expect to be wowed by the story.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore [A Review]

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

Three things struck me as I was reading this book.

One – Bookstores are a safe haven for weirdos. 

Two – Some of the gory parts read almost like something from a  Stephen King book, especially the bits with the “egg-cracking” sounds. Almost.

Three – Marital affairs seem to be the norm here.

Nevertheless, I have to admit I enjoyed the book. Sullivan’s prose flows in a way that makes the book a comfortable read. Other than that, I’m not quite sure what to make of the book, so I’m going to do this review in Q&A format:

Was the pace just right? Yes for a story; no for a mystery/thriller.

Were the characters believable? Yes, mostly, although I thought the descriptions of the emotions that led to the “deeds” were weak and rather lacking.

Was I surprised by who the Hammerman was? Not really.

Did I like the ending? The plot points sort of work, but the ending seemed kind of hastily executed.

VERDICT: I have mixed feelings about this. You might enjoy it more if you go in without any expectations.

Magpie Murders [A Review]

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

This is brilliant! Story within a story, two mysteries in one book.

I used to devour Agatha Christie books, and I’ve always liked a good modern whodunit. This book combines both, though I think Horowitz did a better job with the Agatha-Christie-like mystery in it. The puzzles, anagrams and red herrings were clever, and the pace of the story was just right.

Horowitz also used different font types to differentiate not just the two stories, but also different writings by different characters in the book. I think he (or the publisher/editor) did a great job using the right font types to influence the reader’s perception of good and bad writing, old and modern writing.

I really enjoyed the book, and now I’m on a roll to a crime/mystery binge! Oh, and I’m going to get my hands on his latest book.

VERDICT: If you are an Agatha Christie fan and wish that she were still alive to write a new mystery, read this book!

 

Into the Water [A Review]

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

It took me a while to decide to give Hawkins a second try, because I didn’t really like her first book The Girl on the Train, despite its popularity when it came out. I simply found it too dark, and at times I felt like the protagonist – miserable. This probably meant that Hawkins has a real talent for bringing out human emotions and instincts, and succeeded in drawing me into the character’s world, but it was just not my cup of tea.

For this book, however, Hawkins seemed to have pulled back slightly on the dark emotions, and the effect was just right. I have to say I enjoyed it, although the ending was not unpredictable. It’s probably not the best of mysteries, but her superior and intimate writing style just drew me in. Reading has always been about broadening perspectives for me, and the way Hawkins has provided so many angles to the story, while maintaining the pace and plot, is something that I appreciate.

VERDICT: If you read this, read it for the interesting way Hawkins brings out each character. Do not expect to be surprised by the ending.

The Circle [A Review]

The Circle by Dave Eggers

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   [Image courtesy of Penguin Random House]

 

I’m disappointed! 

The premise is an interesting one, and the fact that it got made into a movie, it must at least have something in there right?

But all I got were a predictable plot, two-dimensional characters, staccato narration, and an abrupt ending. Even the use of the scene where the shark devoured the octopus and seahorses as an analogy of what The Circle was doing was weak.

Now I wonder how bad the movie was, although the leads are among my favourites!

VERDICT: This is definitely not for science fiction/tech thriller fans, because it’s hardly that.