Review: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her… (Goodreads)


This is a fast-paced, gripping, and compelling read. This book kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time while I was reading it and I literally gobbled this book up in two days. It was quite a ride.
I really, really enjoyed this book.

This book is simply delightful and glorious for its entire package; the writing is strong and captivating, and the characters are well-drawn, especially the main character, Cass was wonderful; I didn’t get to relate to her for the most part, but reading how she confronts her own fears and develops herself into a stronger, calm and collected woman in the end was such a delightful experience.

And most importantly, the plot. This is what I found the most striking and engaging, and what entertained me the most. It was pretty unputdownable once I picked it up and I couldn’t wait to see how the story develops and how and where Cass ends up.
That said though, there’s not much murder investigation going on in this book; it’s quite slow-paced, if any, and I personally saw this book as more like an introspective and psychological thriller that depicts a woman who is slowly sent into a state of insanity and paranoia.

As the synopsis suggests, Cass runs into a woman who seems to be stranded in a downpour and attempts to help her out. But the woman doesn’t show any signs of distress, Cass decides to drive on and check in with the police from home to make sure she will be fine. But once she gets home, she forgets all about it and then she finds out that the woman was brutally murdered the next day.
From then onwards, she torments herself over the sense of guilt, blaming herself for what she could have done but she actually didn’t and starts to feel she’s partially responsible for the woman’s death. The constant sense of guilt and the fact she lied to her husband for having taken the shortcut he specifically told her not to, combined with the problems with her short-time memory start to plague her and gnaw at her sanity, slowly driving her into a mental breakdown.

This gradual torment and Cass’s inner struggles and fears are brilliantly executed and left a big impact on me. It was compelling, emotionally evocative, and gripping. As I said earlier, I initially couldn’t relate to Cass for not coming forward and confess what she saw that night, and for keeping telling fibs to cover things up and protect her self-esteem (that frustrated me the most, by the way), but witnessing how she loses confidence in her memory and how her constant fear – the murderer is coming after her – gradually poisons her mind and drives her into madness was really suspenseful. Enhanced by its strong writing, this book had me guessing and wondering what will happen to Cass throughout the book.

The plot-twist that comes in the last 25% was something I got to partially predict, but what caught me by surprise. This is also where the story really picks up and gets exhilarating to read through. The narration formats that are employed here are also clever and smart. Flashing back and forth between the two-time frames and the formats, I got to feel with my heart that Cass and I are getting closer to the truth, getting down to the bottom of the whole thing.

The only issue that I had was the ending. The murder itself and the problems that tormented Cass are solved in the end, yet I wanted a distinct ‘closure,’ to this book. The ending felt a bit anticlimactic and rushed, it could have been better had it have an Epilogue that depicts how Cass moves on with her life and how she copes with the aftermath of the incident.
That was the only complaint that I had with this book. Other than that, it was quite a satisfying, suspenseful, and entertaining read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

If you are into psychological thrillers that keep you guessing and on pins and needles, I highly recommend picking this up. This is a brilliantly written, glorious read.
I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Thank you, NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my unbiased, and honest review.

Review: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Who Are You When No One Is Watching?

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka. (Goodreads)


I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I requested this book from NetGalley, I was expecting a full-on whodunit or mystery; the book descriptions did say so and it sounded quite promising and intriguing. Needless to say, I went into it expecting a ‘propulsive’ mystery that would keep me on the edge of my seat, a twisty plot that would have me guessing who the killer is throughout the book.

However, it took me nearly half of the book to realize this book probably isn’t what I was expecting and that I probably should have started this book with a different mindset.

For me, this book is neither ‘mystery’ nor ‘pulsating thriller’; it’s more like accounts of introspective exploration of the three main characters – Cameron, Jade, and Russ. The mystery element is there, of course, and the investigation progress is touched on here and there throughout the book, but it seemed that it merely goes through the motions, I felt the focus of this book is to delineate the darkness in each characters’ mind, a fine line between sanity and insanity, and the reflections of their past and wounds they were inflicted upon.

It is undeniably an understatement to say I was disappointed when the realization dawned on me, I even felt frustrated and wanted to scream – I almost did not finish this book.

That said, however, as soon as the realization clicked in, and as soon as I realized that I needed to change my mindset and look at this book from a different angle, this book started to grow on me. I finally came to appreciate what it is; this book started taking on a new meaning to me.

This book is incredibly slow-pacing; there’s hardly any plot movement until we are well into the story – somewhere around 70% of the book. The clues and foreshadowing are scattered around, yet we only get a tiny droplet of information in each chapter, and that they are not at all explicit enough; it’s got an ambiguous, hazy undertone to it. The story is mainly woven by those three characters’ introspective reflections of their respective past, their relationships either with Lucinda or their loved ones. Some of them are totally inconsequential to the investigation nor the truth that leads to the killer, I sometimes wondered why I had to keep reading such accounts.

The writing is absolutely beautiful. It’s lyrical, hypnotic and very descriptive. Her writing style fits really well with this plot, it consistently made me feel like I was in a thick fog, groping for the exit that leads to the killer.
One thing that had me wondering is the style of narration; Only Jade’s chapters are narrated in the first person and Cameron and Russ’s chapters are told in the third person omniscient. It’s unique, but I didn’t get to figure out why the author chose this writing style when telling a story from three characters’ POVs.
In addition to that, I didn’t find their voices (not technically their ‘voices,’ given the other two characters’ chapters are not in the third person) very distinct. They sounded quite similar, and I didn’t get fully invested in any of the characters.

That said, though, I was really impressed with how strong the writing was when delineating the escalation of Cameron’s voyeurism, Jade’s near-desperate yearning for Zap, how slowly but steadily they get swallowed up in the darkness in their own mind and tormented by it.
Her writing described really well how flawed each character is, and how their thoughts wander around, flashing back and forth between the present and the past. It was really well done, I appreciate that.

The last 20% is such a page-turner. As the revelation of the true killer kicked in, it got really gripping and had me on pins and needles. The intense writing aided the suspense building up, I was totally hooked at this point.

I also liked this book ended on a positive note. The last 20% of the book is totally a redeeming factor for me.
Although I initially disliked this book, feeling betrayed and misled, and I had some issues with this book for some things not being completely wrapped up at the end of the book, leaving some intrigues unanswered and hanging in the air, I am glad that I persevered and powered through the book.
It didn’t blow my mind – certainly not – but I ended up liking this book – to some extent – and I am glad about that.

If you are a fan of such introspective writing style and like books that explore inner turmoil or struggles of the characters, this book is for you.
But if you are expecting mystery or thrillers that make your skin crawl, you might be hugely disappointed as I was.
Readers should bear in mind this is not your typical whodunit and I think the blurb is misleading and this should be promptly addressed.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

 

Thank you, Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for granting me an opportunity to read this book in exchange for my unbiased, honest review.

#WeekendReads & Emojiathon Wrap-Up (Final)

Hello, everyone! Like it or not, June is almost over – this is June 30th (in Japan) and it’s time for doing my Emojiathon wrap-up and sharing a book that I’ll be reading over this weekend.

Let’s start off with my Emojiathon wrap-up. I set out 7 challenges for this Readathon, you can check out my challenges here.

Out of those 7 challenges, I completed 6 challenges as follows:

HeartRead a romance or contemporary
My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon : Complete!  (for my thoughts: here)

smile  Read a book you bought because of its cover 
The Keeper of Lost Things : Complete! (For my thoughts: here)

freebie Freebie! Read any book
Paige’s Turn by Jennifer Peel : Complete! (For my thoughts: here)

horror  Read a thriller or horror
The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek : Complete! (For my thoughts: here)

eyes  Read a book you’ve been seeing everywhere
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood : Complete! (For my thoughts: here)

baby  Read a 2016/2017 release
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sadhya Menon : Complete! (For my thoughts: here)

 

The only challenge I failed to complete was ‘To read a book about a current event.’
I picked up The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas for this, but I’m only halfway through the book and it’s apparent that I cannot complete it by the end of today. So, there you have it – 6 out of 7 challenges. I still count it as a victory 🙂

Which leads me to my weekend reads. I’ll definitely continue reading ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas.

The Hate U Give

Seriously, I cannot figure out why it took me so long to pick this up – I got this book at the beginning of March, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it.  All the hype and this book being a YA must have put me off a little bit.

But why, how strong this book is – I do find some parts/scenes are slightly  redundant and monotonous, yet there are incredibly gripping scenes that evoke my feelings … I even had some scenes where I felt my blood boiling. Again, I’m only halfway through the book, but I’m convinced this book will topple my world and perspectives upside-down and I cannot wait to find out what big an effect this book will have on me.

I’m so glad that I participated in this Emojiathon. I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up otherwise.

 

So, that’s it! This concludes my Emojiathon wrap-up and weekly updates in the month of June.
How about you? What are the books you’re currently reading or planning to read?
Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you in my next post!
Hope you have a fabulous weekend 🙂

Noriko

 

Note: I’ve decided to change my Handle name for WordPress from ‘Norin’ to ‘Noriko,’ which is my name. Don’t be a stranger! It’s me! lol

Popsicles

June Book Haul

Hello, everyone! This is not technically a book haul, this is just a monthly book-buying which ended up being way over my budget (again, yes), but I’m going to share with you the books that I bought this month. I’m pretty much certain that I’ve bought all the books that had been on my radar or I had been meaning to buy, but we’ll see…

Here are the images of the books that I’ve bought this month (so far):

I completely lost track of the number while I was buying them, but I ended up buying 17 books… this is plain crazy lol  But only five are physical copies (paperbacks) and most of the Kindle books were on special offers (or incredibly low-priced), so the number itself is pretty staggering, but as far as the bottom line goes, it didn’t put me in much of a strain.

Totally unexpected was this:

Kindle

Yes, my new Kindle Fire 7 which came out on June 7th. I didn’t even intend to buy this, but I noticed what had stopped me from reading on my Kindle was the colorless, black-and-white display of my Kindle Paperwhite. As you guys know, I do AN AWFUL LOT of cover buy. I am an epitome of ‘judging-a-book-by-its-cover’ reader, so not being able to appreciate beautiful covers means quite a downside to me 😦

It’s been more than a week since I got this baby and I’m really enjoying the reading experience. This won’t change my preference for physical books but I’m now more inclined to read on my Kindle than before unless physical books seem more appropriate than e-books (For instance, I don’t think books like ‘Everything Everything’ and ‘Illuminae’ will work well with e-book formats; they do contain a lot of graphics and I’m not quite sure how truthfully e-book formats can recreate and visualize them.) If you have such e-books and think they work perfectly well, definitely let me know. I might change my mind about e-books in general 😀

In addition to those books, my dear Twitter friend (she likes reading English books, too) got me Jane Green ‘Summer Secrets’

I asked her to get ‘Summer Days & Summer Nights,’ a collection of short stories by popular YA authors on behalf of me and then she decided to throw in that book, too!
I don’t know if you can tell from the pic, but the SPINE IS ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS with an alternative stripe pattern of different shades of blue, I fell in  love with it.
This is going to be my very first Jane Green (as a newbie, there are so many authors whose books I have never read…), and I am so excited to read it this summer!
Thank you, my friend! I know you’re reading this, I cannot thank you enough for all the love toward me ❤

 

That’s it for today. Those are the books I recently bought and plan to read during this summer (not everything, but hopefully).
What are the books you’re planning to read or you’re anxiously waiting?
Let me know in the comments and I’ll talk to you all again soon 🙂

The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek

The nightwalker

The Nightwalker: A Novel

 

Leon Nader suffered from severe insomnia as a child.

His night-walking even caused him to be violent.

After extensive therapy he was cured.
Or was he?

Now as an adult, Leon wakes one morning to find his wife Natalie hastily packing a suitcase. Severely bruised and evidently scared of him, Natalie runs out of the door and disappears.

Confused about what’s happened, Leon begins to wonder if his night-walking has started again. Fitting a motion-activated camera to his forehead to record what he does when he sleeps, Leon makes a shocking discovery. There’s a hidden door in his apartment which he never knew about. As he descends into a nightmare somewhere between sleeping and waking, Leon discovers that there’s a fine line between reality and dreaming – but sometimes waking up isn’t an option…


This is the most mind-bending book I have read all year; I still can’t completely wrap my head around what I’ve just read. This is such a disorienting, trippy read – far more trippier than I had expected.

When I started this book, I was expecting a story describing a young man once suffered from insomnia resumes his nocturnal excursion and commits a litany of brutal, abusive conducts.
How far off I was – the plot is by no means as simple as that – it is more of Leon’s unsettling exploration of his sleepwalking self. It is much more complex, strange and absolutely mind-bending. I felt like I was groping for something to latch on in pitch darkness.  The deeper I went into the book, the more discombobulated I was.

The writing is solid, strong and extremely descriptive. The goriness and brutality displayed in torture scenes are so graphic and raw, it was painful at times thus I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who can’t tolerate such writing styles – this book is definitely not for the faint of heart.
The unreliable narration has a stunning effect on building up the tension and anticipation. It beautifully amplifies the uncertain, hazy feel of the book and blurs what is already a fuzzy boundary between reality and imagination even more, making you keep questioning yourself whether to believe what you’re seeing or doubt there may be more to that.

And the huge, HUGE twist that arrives in the end… my gosh, I didn’t see it coming at all!
Trust me, it is really a surprising twist that will take you by surprise. I almost felt it sickening though. How could they possibly go to such length????
That was the first thing that sprang to mind.

It is extremely hard to talk about this book without giving anything away; all I can say is just ‘pick it up and read to see how you feel about it.’ That’s pretty much says it all.
The eerie feels running throughout the book and the cliff hangers at the end of some chapters… this is such a page-turner, such a delight to read. Simply gorgeous. I loved it.

This is one of those books that’s best to go into completely blindly without knowing almost anything. The joy of reading will be tenfold that way, I’m convinced.

Although I ducked a half star due to a bit anticlimactic and extended epilogue which comes across an afterthought, this is undeniably an exhilarating, thrilling read that gives you creeps.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

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Fourteen-year-old Cynthia Bigge woke one morning to discover that her entire family – mother, father, older brother – had vanished. No note, no trace, no return. Ever. Now, twenty-years later, she’ll learn the devastating truth. 
Sometimes it’s better not to know…

Cynthia is happily married with a young daughter, a new family. But the story of her old family isn’t over. A strange car in the neighborhood, untraceable phone calls, ominous “gifts” – someone has returned to her hometown to finish what was started twenty-five years ago. And no one’s innocence is guaranteed, not even her own. By the time Cynthia discovers the killer’s shocking identity, it will again be too late… even for goodbye.

 


Upon finishing this book, I thought this book deserved solid 3.5 stars. However, as I reflected back on the story to write up my personal thoughts, I changed my mind and decided to give 4 stars instead for its entertainment value.

This is my first Linwood Barclay; as I mentioned in my #FridayReads post, I got this book from my friend and it turned out to be quite a read. I enjoyed the ride from beginning to end.

First, it is gripping right from the start. The writing is engaging and the plot is well-crafted. I liked how the undertone of the story gets darker and creepier as the story develops. When the story takes off, where Cynthia decides to make an appearance in a program to glean further information on her vanished family, the tone of the writing is still somewhat uplifting; it well showcases the one happy family despite the indelible, dark past that Cynthia has.

However, as Cynthia and Terry get themselves deeper into the case, the more strive they are to get down to the bottom of what happened to Cynthia’s old family 25 years ago, the strings of mysterious things start to happen around them; her father’s fedora left on the table, untraceable, anonymous calls, a stranger watching their house on the street, and a strange brown car parked on the street. These small bits and twists kept me intrigued and engaged in the story; it made me keep turning pages. This is really a page-turner.

It’s quite twisty, too. When I say ‘twisty,’ I mean ‘twisty down to the last minute.’ Although I found some of the revelations a bit anticlimactic, yet the revelation that is to be made in the very end kind of took me by surprise. I didn’t see it coming.

That said, however, it also left me feeling a bit far-fetched; it seems to me a bit inconceivable for a certain character – whose name I won’t divulge here – to go to such length even the given situation. I felt it was a bit of a stretch and spoiled the thrill, yet looking back the whole story, I guess I have to admit there were some hinting throughout the book. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me, yet it did to some extent. I guess I could live with that.

Story-wise, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot on a vanished family and the mysteries surrounding it. I also liked how the side story on a crumbling marriage deftly intertwined with the main plot. While Cynthia gets more convinced that her family is still alive, Terry remains skeptic and even starts to doubt if Cynthia is pushing herself over the edge and making up the whole story to atone what he wonders she did 25 years ago. And the slight discordance on their take on the case starts to cause a rift in their relationship. I really enjoyed this aspect of ‘trust’; it gives more depth to the story.

The Clayton part is also gripping, too. It is where the big revelation is made and where the questions that readers might have will be answered.
Up until that point, with some of the questions being answered, I still had some issues with the story. I was like, “Okay, I got how it works. But how do you explain such a such a thing?” There were still some questions need to be answered.
This is where this Clayton part comes in; I personally absolutely loved this part. I would even go so far as to say this is what made this book for me. This is what hold this story together and shows the true meaning of the title of this book. I thought it was beautifully done.

Another thing I want to mention about this book is the tone of the writing.
Despite being a thriller, I didn’t scare the daylights out of me. There are some scenes where I found a bit graphic and too descriptive, but it was not like a full-on spine-chilling thriller to me; it was more like an entertaining, exciting thriller if you like, and I quite enjoyed it.
It is also pretty gripping, too. I think the author is really good at displaying the ferocity of the villains in the story. In particular, the sudden display of Vince’s ferocity made me gasp in surpise; it completely caught me off guard and grabbed me, wondering what’s going to happen next.
He is also brilliant at building up the tension at the suspenseful moments; there are some scenes that really put me on the edge of my seat, made me turn pages with bated breath.
It was a pure joy to go through his writing.

Although I didn’t get to connect to the characters as much, it didn’t pose any problems for me. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even emotionally attached to Terry, the narrator of the story. If anything, I adore Jane and Vince – the side characters. Jane is sassy, yet well-minded, such a likeable character and I liked how Vince’s character undergoes a change as he hangs out with Terry. I pretty much warmed up to him. I really liked him.

To wrap up my thoughts, I’m afraid to say that it didn’t grab 5 stars from me as a thriller, but I can say this is a such a delightful read.
This is undeniably a page-turner with an engaging, twisty interesting plot. You won’t get bored, I can vouch for that.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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The Shadow of the Wind

 

One 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 from 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 therapeutic. 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.