The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

29542234One cold morning in 1945, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel to a labyrinthine library of forgotten titles, hidden in the old city of Barcelona. Allowed to choose one book, Daniel pulls out The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of library curiosity turns into a race to discover the truth about the life and death of Julian Carax, and to save those he left behind…


This book is simply amazing and superb.
I can find hardly any flaws in this. The story line is wonderfully and intricately crafted and it’s so twisty till the very last minute, which makes a perfect Gothic Mystery, I literally devoured this book. I gulped down the last 80 pages in almost one sitting; it goes to show how stunning and riveting this book is.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous; very strong and solid, not a single word is out of place, every single word is there for a reason.  It’s also very descriptive and suspenseful.
I like how the shadow of ‘Lain Coubert’ hangs in Daniel’s life in the first 100 pages or so.
Ever since the first encounter with the limping, faceless man under the name of the character from The Shadow of the Wind, he hovers like a shadow over Daniel’s life, his presence is always felt, wherever Daniel goes and whenever the moment is. It adds a lot of tension and creepiness to the already gripping story and makes it even more enthralling.

The plot is also very intriguing and twisty down to the very last minute of the book.
I personally think this is one of those books that makes you really think. Tugging the hints and the foreshadowing scattered here and there throughout the story, putting two and two together, you try to solve the mystery yourself. At least that’s what happened to me. I did a lot of tabbing and re-reading the paragraph and scene where the specific events and characters first mentioned in the book.
The power of the story and the writing is so strong. Although I have to admit that I felt it a bit dull somewhere in the middle and I reached the point where I almost gave up, but it makes sense; I now think the first half is spent on building up the story and tension that will come to a head in the second half. I am glad that I didn’t give up on that point. The story develops a lot from there and it only gets more intense and gripping.
I don’t remember how many annotations and scribbles that I made, which is a rarity for me.

The characters are all well-fleshed out and feel very realistic. I personally loved Fermin’s character; he’s comedic and funny, however somber and serious the scene was, his presence and remarks always brought a ray of hope and smile. I also loved the despondent yet calm voice of Nuria. She carries incredibly heavy luggage from the past and her life has always been fraught with grief, sorrow and sadness, yet I think that’s what makes her endearing to me. I really love her voice.
Although I found the description of Julian Carax in the latter part a bit over the top, reminiscent of some super-human characters from Marvel comics, but it works perfectly to bring an end both to this grand, epic story and the outstanding unfinished business between Fumero and Julian. It is just amazing how the story beautifully and masterfully wraps up towards the end.

Like I mentioned earlier, there’s not a single piece which is out of place. Every single hint comes together perfectly in the end and the ending is simply glorious.
The way the author describes how each character leads his/her life after all the mysteries solved is purgatorial and delightful. It put a smile on my face.
The undertone of the story is dark and somber but it lightens up in the end which I personally am very happy with.

I myself think this story conveys the message of ‘redemption’ and ‘rebirth’ or ‘re-do.’
Daniel’s urge to reveal the secrets of Julian Carax, the author of ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ ends up messing up almost everyone’s life and hurting them. It even drives a wedge between his long-time friend and himself in its wake and the consequence Daniel brings upon himself was heartbreaking for me; it was so poignant and haunting.

That said, I adore the message what I think Julian wanted to impart to Daniel – ‘live for me‘ – I thought it was so beautiful. It almost made me cry.
This is an incredibly dark, haunting and complex story, but the feeling that I had reading what a significant figure Daniel has become to Julian and how Julian starts to see a hope in Daniel is something I can never express with my words. It’s just inexplicable. It even felt purifying and purgatorial. It’s so, so good.

This book is beyond flawless. I almost gave up in the middle, but I am glad I persevered and kept reading. This now has become one of my favorites.
This is definitely worth your time. I highly recommend reading this.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

dark-matter

Title: Dark Matter

Author: Blake Crouch

Length: 352 pages

I’m still reeling from the impact that this book had on me.

I still can’t process all the feelings that this book gave me.

This book has just toppled my perspective upside-down.

Oh, my gosh.

This
is
Crazy!!!!

But fantastic!!
It’s so weird, straight-up crazy, mind-bending but so, so good!
The shear craziness and weirdness gripped me and never let me go, it was so addictive!

I think it is next to impossible to express my thoughts and feels on this book without giving anything away, because even a snippet of details can be a spoiler and ruin the fun you’d get out of reading this book, but the plot is just incredible, the writing is just superb and spectacular, the last 60 to 70 pages are super fast-paced, such a page turner, I just couldn’t put it down nor did I want to put it down.

Jason Desson is a brilliant physicist and teaches physics at Lakemont College. He was on the cusp of a scientific breakthrough in quantum physics when he found out that his girlfriend, Daniella, was pregnant with a boy who later came into being as their son, Charlie, fifteen years ago.

He was sort of content with his life as a mediocre professor and his role as a husband and a father.

One Thursday night, on his way home from the local pub where he had some drink with his old friend who has just won a prize, he gets abducted by a man with gaisha mask, knocked unconscious and then gets injected some weird substance.

when he wakes up on a laboratory bed, he senses that something is wrong.

Everyone seems to be overjoyed by his return but Jason himself doesn’t recognize any of them. They tell Jason that 14 months have gone by since his disappearing.
Daniella- who is supposed to be his wife in his world (The world Jason is familiar with) turns out to have been seeing his friend. Daniella and Jason parted ways 15 years ago; not to mention, they don’t have a son.

Dumbfounded and utterly baffled, Jason tries to figure out the way to get back to the life he belongs to – the way that leads to his beloved wife, Daniella and his son, Charlie.

The concept of the plot may come across a bit far-fetched, and I must say I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around on some points, there are things that I find hard to process, but it is not over-the-top difficult to digest nor hinder you from enjoying the story.
Blake Crouch did an amazing job to break the mind-bending concept into manageable bits of information and make them easy enough to understand even for people like me who can’t make head or tail of science or physics.
Yes, it is still mind-blowing and crazy, but one part of me actually finds the idea very intriguing.

What if different versions of life do exist? What if different versions of YOU do exist?

That’s all can divulge as far as the story goes, that I can vouch for this being an extraordinarily fantastic, amazing book.

The writing is also amazing and just spectacular – he makes what is already creepy and eerie even creepier, what is already intense even more intense. This book sucked me in straight away and spat me out at the end of the book. How gripping it was!

I found the pacing was a bit odd somewhere in the middle because Jason makes a game-changing discovery in how to get back to his own world, what factors affect to which world he lands next.
I was like, “Hold up, isn’t it a bit too early for him to figure this out? We’ve still got more than 100 pages to go.”

But that’s how it should be.

The plot gets even crazier towards the end.

Everything happens in the last 100 pages are totally unexpected – so twisty and mind-bending.
The last 60 pages in particular, is such a page-turner; I couldn’t put it down and I read the rest in one sitting. I could even hear my heart hammering in my chest. I’m not exaggerating, I didn’t even realize that I was holding my breath till the end.

My mind just went blank when I closed the book.

I have never read a book like this before.

I’m so glad that I believed the hype and picked this up (in hardcover format! Yay me.) 😀

I highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested. This is definitely worth reading!

The Kindness of Strangers by Julie Smith

julie-smithTitle: The Kindness of Strangers

Author: Julie Smith

Length: 358 pages

I gave this book 2 stars out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

I picked up this book as part of the Spookathon hoping to wrap up this month with something spine-chilling. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped.

As I mentioned earlier in my blog, I don’t usually give up on a book. I see it that I try as I might to find something nice in the book.

It may have been partly because the book that I picked up – ‘The Kindness of Strangers’ was the 6th book in the ‘Skip Langdon Series,’ but I just couldn’t connect to the story as much I had thought I would.

First, there are so many characters some of whom probably are from the previous series, and the number of characters who appear in the story expands in the course of Skip’s private investigation, so it became pretty hard to keep track of the character dynamics. (A lot of name remembering required.)

Secondly, the pacing felt a bit off to me. It was a bit slow in the first half and it suddenly picks up speed somewhere around 70% and then things start going at breakneck speed toward 90% of the book.

There are indeed some strong and exciting scenes where I couldn’t put it down, but what I thought the weak first half failed to keep me engaged as much.

Again, I am not a kind of person who easily gives up on a book, though, I was so close to give up on this one. I kept wondering if I should keep going throughout the book. My ambivalence may have clouded my mind and hindered me from judging this book subjectively, which I feel a bit sorry and unfair to this book.

My rating and thoughts might have been different had I followed the series.

Thirdly, I’m afraid to say that I couldn’t relate to the characters – I wouldn’t say ‘at all,’ I could relate to Torian being all broken-hearted, and I do think it was a nice attempt to set the protagonist Skip Langton as being rather substantial (tall, slightly overweight) as opposed to being all skinny and pretty. But for the most part, I found the characters are not much relatable.
I also found a bit distracting that there were too many characters’ inner voices and narratives. They were supposed to describe what was running through behind the characters’ mind and they may actually work for you, but it just didn’t work for me and I thought it kind of disrupted a natural flow of the story, unfortunately 😦

More than anything, the description of the villain was quite a letdown to me – I was expecting a real psychopath and he was NOT what I had envisioned. He miserably failed to get the hair stand up on the back of my neck 😦

All in all, I could only give this book 2 stars.

Although my gut-instinct went for 1 star out of 5 starts, for the sake of some strong scenes, I settled with 2 stars.

 

Mini Mini Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

the-firemanYes, I’ve just finished reading ‘The Fireman’ by Joe Hill. It took me precisely one week from start to finish.

I’d normally post a review immediately after I’ve finished, but with this book, I think I’ll refrain from posting a full review and there are good reasons for this.

Firstly, this book is quite long; it’s got whopping 747 pages. I hate to admit this, but I’m afraid I’ve missed out some details which could have played a huge role in the plot as I sometimes found myself dozing off particularly when I was reading at night. So, I figure it’s not fair to say much about this book before I get a better picture of what this book is about.

Secondly, I find it extremely hard to gather my thoughts to be honest – as there are so many things and stories going on in this book, it’s really difficult to pinpoint what I found were really good and what I had issues with.

Not that I’m saying I actually had a lot of issues with; although I felt there may have been too much information or side stories that could have been cut, I did enjoy reading this book despite its length. It almost felt so addictive, keeping me engaged the entire time.

I picked up this book expecting a very thrilling apocalyptic story, it was actually included in Bookbub’s ‘creepy books for October’ list and I got tempted and asked my friend to get it on my behalf.

The preface was really enticing and gripping – describing how the mysterious plague (that causes spontaneous combustion) exploded and people started bursting into flames across the world -I thought it was exactly what I had expected.

However, then the story takes a different turn from what I was expecting. To be honest, I found it a bit of a letdown; I was expecting a super-exciting life and death horror story, like ‘you gotta have to keep running, the enemy is coming after you!!!’ kind of story so to speak.

That said, I also have to admit that I got hooked by this book somehow. I found there is actually a lot more to this book than just a horror story. Joe Hill did a great job in the character development; the intricately entwined relationships between the characters and the ensuing dramas are just amazing. His writing is so powerful and so emotional, there are a lot of scenes where I just couldn’t put it down.

I particularly liked the way he describes the change in the dynamics in the Camp Whyndam; after a shocking incident in the camp, the insidious, sinister side of their personality gradually start searing into surface and people who used to be described as kind and generous start to seem like stolid and harsh, even bitchy.
I seriously doubt this can be categorized as ‘horror story’ by the way – it feels more of a human drama with some horror twists to me.

Although I definitely NOT happy with what happens to the fireman in the very end, yet I have to admit it is so dramatic and even emotional. Gosh, I lost my words at that point.

Even if this is not a type of book you normally read, I’ll recommend jumping out of your comfort zone at times. Despite its length, I highly recommend this and I’ll definitely re-read it sometime later. Because I don’t want to miss a thing!!

 

Irreparable Harm by Melissa F. Miller

irreparable-harmTitle: Irreparable Harm

Author: Melissa F. Miller

Published: April 19th, 2011

Length: 417 pages (Kindle Edition)

 

Although this legal thriller (suspense?) seems to have gotten pretty good reviews overall, I found this was not my cup of tea.

The story opens up with a tragic plane crash killing everyone on board. Attorney Sasha McCandless is appointed to lead a defense team to protect the airline, Hemisphere Air’s interest and then she discovers that the plane was rigged with an unauthorized remote system which enables anyone on board to remotely control the aircraft for a good cause and -needless to say – a bad cause.

She is then joined by a Federal Air Martial Leo Connelly who has also been investigating the case and he tries to protect her from the culprits who try to kill her.

Well, I was expecting a more intense legal suspense story something you’d expect from Jon Grisham books – something that keeps you holding your breath, being anxious to turn pages.

But alas, this book failed to live up to my (maybe high) expectation; it lacked the aspect of suspense by divulging who the bad guys were (partially as it was) way too early in the story. I would have liked to have been kept skeptic and would have liked to figure out who the culprits were by myself.

Secondly, the characters were too weak; in particular, the villains seemed to be too dumb (far cry from formidable) and Connelly, who is described as a Federal officer, didn’t seem to be dependable at all, which was quite a letdown to me to be honest. Sasha seemed way smarter than any of the characters and it may have been exactly how the author tried to portray her, but again, it only reminded me of Angelina Jolie, who is generally portrayed as a strong, competent woman.

Overall, my impression and gut instinct toward this book was, ‘this could have been much better if only the author had made full use of all the resources in the plot.’ It’s got all the aspects – airplane crash, legal battles, conspiracy and suspense – which would have made this book more engaging and gripping, but it kind of fell flat, at least to me.

I’m not saying this book is a complete trash though. If so, I would not have finished this book. It was entertaining enough to keep me going until the end.

If you don’t expect full-on suspense from this book, this will make a good read.
I wouldn’t say I love this book, but I would definitely say ‘it’s OK.’

 

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

postmortem<Synopsis (Excerpt from Goodreads)>

Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it’s being sabotaged from within—and someone wants her dead.

<My thoughts>

I got to know this book a long time ago, I picked up the Japanese translation version.
I loved this book right from the beginning.

This is a story about Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta struggling to track down a heinous serial killer who has strangled and brutally killed four women in Richmond.

I couldn’t particularly connect myself to Kay, but I enjoyed her pursuit of justice together with  a detective Marino and a suspect profiler for the FBI Benton Wesley. (There is actually one more character whom you wouldn’t imagine until you reach the latter half, but I will restrain myself from divulging :p)

The author fooled us into believing the detective Marino zeros in on the wrong suspect based on his biased assumption, but it later turns out he is far cry from biased; he’s actually dang smart. She got me on that one.

In addition to that, the character description of her 10-year old niece Lucy is also brilliant. She is smart as a whip for a 10-year old, handling computer programming commands with ease, but is also described she is as fragile and susceptible as normal 10-year olds. The stark contrast of her brilliance and childishness breathes new life into the story.

The plot itself picks up speed and gets gripping after Kay’s meeting with the forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Spiro Fortosis; she decides to go aggressive rather than remain passive by taking a gamble, setting a bait and waiting for the killer to be lured out.
The development from this point onward was the part I most enjoyed and is worth calling a page-turner; the mystery and astounding discoveries sandwiched in between, it was a terrific read.

Throughout the book, Kay is described as all serious and a kind of person who easily lets her concerns affect her life, but at the very end of the story you’ll be surprised to see her transformation.

and I’ll bet you’ll enjoy it too 😛

 

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I go to sleepTitle: Before I Go To Sleep

Author: S.J. Watson

Published: April 28th, 2011

Publisher: Doubleday

Length: 372 Pages(Kindle Edition: 495 pages)

 

<Synopsis (Excerpt from Goodreads)>

Memories define us.

 

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

 

Welcome to Christine’s life.

 

<My Thoughts>

This book consists of 3 parts:
Part 1 that describes the current situation where Christine is in,
Part 2, where the last couple of weeks of Christine’s life is narrated in the form of her journal, and
Part 3 that describes the events that happen after Part 1.

In Part 1, I felt the author somewhat fixed our default-mindset (or perspective, as it were) as to what frame of mind we should be in going forth.  It left me wondering whether I should take everything I read at face value or be suspicious.
The story then moves on to Part 2 – Christine’ journal that describes what Christine has gone through and the discoveries she has made. This part is quite long and quite detailed, I seriously wonder how many hours on average she spent writing every single thing she did or every piece of conversation she had.
The tone and the ambiance that the journals carry are generally rather quiet yet Christine’s vulnerability, desperation and sort of fears are amazingly well-described in the entire section. I wonder how a mere journal can be such a page-turner; that entire part completely hooked me on adrenaline and kept me reading for hours without stopping.

As for Part 3, I think I’d rather not mention here. There are things that are better off left unsaid and Part 3 falls exactly into the category. You must pick up this book and see what happens with your own two eyes.
Let’s just say I really enjoyed this book and I’ll highly recommend this one.