Rajiv's Reviews

Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney

book00009Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney
Released: July 1st 1997
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
In a tense voice, Alice’s very rational father suggests that she drive his precious Corvette and meet him. But Alice doesn’t have a driver’s license. “It doesn’t matter!” he yells. Yet he never shows up. Something is very wrong.
Then Alice hears an announcement over the radio. Her father is dead. And someone has already confessed to his murder via E-mail.
That someone is Alice.
Everyone, including her mother, believes that Alice is guilty. The police are after her. And the real murderer is, too.
It’s only a matter of time before somebody catches her…

 

I feel like this book had a lot of potential for being a memorable fast paced thriller. The plot itself makes you want to pick it up and find out what happens next. However, after reading it, I felt like that I had wasted my time reading this lackluster thriller.

Firstly, I felt the pacing of the story was a bit haphazard and the storyline had a lot of unwanted information that was not needed. For instance, when Alice meets Paul, do we really need half a page of how she knew another Paul from school who was joining MIT? Or when she looks at the high tower offices and wonders how glass structure stays that way and if her dad worked in one of those buildings? Or how about describing how neat Ginger’s room is and spend another two pages of how it reminded her of her dad? I felt like for every action Alice was taking, we got an additional few pages description of how it reminded her of her father. I understand that Cooney probably did this to show that the character was mourning for her father and was in a confused state of mind, but it got monotonous to read it repeatedly.

Secondly, the ending was very disappointing. Considering that I spent around 220 pages reading about how Alice is a fugitive and doesn’t know how to stop the nightmare she’s in, I would have expected the climax to be a little more interesting and drawn out when Alice finally confronts the killer, but things just happened with a blink of an eye, and I just sat rolling my eyes thinking how everything just unbelievably wrapped up neatly in place in the last three pages.

Despite all this, I am giving this book 2.5 stars as the book did hold my interest in the second half where I kept wondering what Alice would do next and how the story would end. I feel like in these kind of thrillers, you really need to love the main character and root for them, but at times I really couldn’t care of what happened to Alice as I found her to be stupid and careless, but I can understand that’s probably how any teenager would have behaved in that situation.

Overall, “Wanted” is a quick read but not a very memorable one.

stars_2

Spring Break by Barbara Steiner

book00008Spring Break by Barbara Steiner
Released: December 01, 1997
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
Angie is looking forward to the perfect spring holiday with her four best friends. The only problem is all the cabins, shacks and motels in the village are full. Except one…

The Jamison place sits dark and mysterious on the edge of the cliff. Nursing a sinister past. When the unsuspecting five awaken the sleeping evil, there are deadly consequences…

One by one, Angie’s friends go missing, and somewhere, lurking in the shadows, someone or something is awaiting the next victim…


I used to love reading Point Horror, Fear Street, and well, mainly anything that R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike wrote. I still revisit some of these books from time to time, to see if it spooks me on re-reading it. While some of the books manage to give me the shivers even now (like the Babysitter book by Stine), I thought “Spring Break” was extremely boring.

Firstly, I found the main character of the book, Angie, to be very annoying. Throughout the book, I only got to see Angie getting jealous of her friends having a dating life, even though her friends are genuinely nice; bragging about how brave she is and is a go-getter compared to her friends; and worst of all, falling for some guy she hardly even knows just because he looks like Brad Pitt! I couldn’t find any likeable traits in this girl that made me want to root for her in the entire story.

Secondly, the book is SO slow! The story never seems to progress except for the last 30 or so pages when the girls finally decide to go attend the ‘party’. Otherwise the previous 150 pages mainly goes in this sequential loop: Angie meeting Val, she drools for him, he disappears, she gets depressed and gets jealous in seeing her friends coupled up, she hears strange noises in the guest house, and repeat. I started to fall asleep multiple times while reading this book, and had to force myself to continue.

The only saving grace about “Spring Break” is the ending. Even though I guessed who the culprit was, it was interesting to find the reason for why this person acted in this manner. Even the cover of the book was apt with the events that unfold in the climax, which usually doesn’t happen in Point Horror novels. Speaking of the cover, I thought the artwork for the cover was really cool, as it gives the perfect 80s horror vibe to it.

Overall, this was a tedious book that contains hardly any thrills or chills, and I would recommend any fan of the series to skip this one.

stars_2

Thornhill by Pam Smy

book00007Thornhill by Pam Smy
Released: August 29th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.
2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.


I loved how this book tells two stories in parallel from two different time frames, one through prose that happens in 1982, and the other through illustrations occurring in 2017. Coming to the story told through prose, the story is described in a simple manner through the diary entries of Mary, and how she struggles being bullied by one of the girls in Thornhill institute. As the story progressed, I was eagerly looking forward to Mary getting her revenge on the other girl who tormented and bullied her so much. While some people may find this book too negative because things don’t happen for Mary as you would like it to, it does depict the sad truth we face in our daily lives, where we realize that sometimes bad things happen, and you really cannot do anything to stop it, no matter how hard you try. It made me realize how many people there would be out there, who are extremely talented in their own way, but due to their circumstances, they really don’t get the recognition they deserve. However, having said this, I do wish that the story showed something nasty happening to the other girl, just to get a sense of satisfaction for the reader that she got what she deserved.

While I loved the illustrations depicting the present day story, the story itself did not make much sense to me. There are many questions I feel were not answered, like

  • Why is Ella curious to find out about Mary? Are they related?
  • Why is Ella sad? Did her parents get divorced and she does not have friends?

Perhaps these answers are depicted in the illustrations, but I couldn’t understand the reason for Ella’s motivation for going through all that trouble to find out more about Mary. However, the details in these illustrations themselves are hauntingly beautiful and I had to pause to look at each of them to admire the author’s talent.
Some of my favorite ones are:

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book00007A

 

This book isn’t really scary in terms of creating a gothic atmosphere, but it did leave me with a sense of discomfort and sadness upon finishing it. It is gripping and short enough to finish in one sitting, and I wouldn’t mind reading it again in the future.

45outof5

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

book00006Coraline by Neil Gaiman (10th Anniversary Edition)
Released: October 13th, 2013
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Gift from Friend

Synopsis: 
Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.

 

I received this book as a gift from a dear friend, as he knew I enjoyed reading young adult/suspense/thriller/horror novels. Since I have never read any of Neil Gaiman’s books before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew that “Coraline” had come out as a movie that was critically acclaimed as few years ago, but I haven’t watched the movie either so I wasn’t sure if I would like this book or not. Having said that, I really enjoyed reading “Coraline”. Gaiman’s style of writing is simplistic, unique, captivating and creepy at the same time. The story-line has interesting characters, good pacing, and a lot of creepy elements added to keep the reader turning to the next page.

One of the main reasons I liked this book was because of the main character, Coraline and how she interacts and reacts to the situations around her. Even though she is scared when realizes that she is trapped in the other world, she doesn’t succumb to defeat, and always tries to find a way to escape. Also, I’m not a cat person in general, but I found the cat ally of hers to be adorable, snarky, and humorous. I also found Miss Spink and Miss Forcible to be delightful, and would have loved it if the author had written an additional chapter on Coraline’s interaction with the “other” versions of them.

I disagree with some of the other reviewers out there saying that this is mainly a children’s book and not scary enough for adults. I found some parts to be extremely unnerving, like when the disfigured form of ‘other’ father approaches Coraline to trap her, or when the hand starts crawling around the house while Coraline is sleeping. However, this is a book meant for young adults as the target audience, hence the reader should not expect a Stephen King like story-line out of it.

Overall, “Coraline” is a wonderfully written book that tells young readers that sometimes people will tempt you with false promises and lies, but you should be smart and believe in yourself and do what is right, and have true friends who would support you along the way. Now it’s time for me to watch the movie and see which one is better (although I feel the book will be slightly better)

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The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang

book00005The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang
Released: May 2nd, 2017
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Aladdin
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together—one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.

When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.

 

The Emperor’s Riddle is an adventure tale of eleven year old Mia, as she tries to solve a series of riddles in Fuzhou, China, to seek an old Emperor’s treasure and help her search for her missing Aunt.

Personally, what I loved most was the way Zhang takes the reader on a tour of Fuzhou while the characters try to solve the riddles to the Emperor’s treasure. As I have never been to any of the places mentioned in the book, it was fascinating to get knowledge and visualize the historical places like Sanfang Qixiang, the White and Black Pagoda, the Ming Dynasty and the Cultural Revolution. Knowing that this was targeted towards younger readers, I liked the fact that she just touched the surface of the history and significant places (without getting into too much detail), thus creating a good blend of the story with the historical backdrop.

It was interesting to read how the main character Mia, who is a shy, sensitive and timid girl, goes about living the Grand adventure she always yearns. I also liked her relationship with her brother Jake and the way they fight and patch things together the book. The story itself is wonderfully written where Mia uses the help of the family in order to solve the riddles while getting close to them. The maps were an amusing touch added after Mia solved each of the clues.

Having said that, there are a few things that I felt could have been done better. Even though I could relate to Mia’s character, I personally didn’t like the way she treated her uncle throughout the book, especially since he was so nice to her. I wish Zhang had written a bit more to patch their relationship together. Secondly, while the riddles and the story was fun to read, it did seem unrealistic that Mia just happens to solve most of the clues in the first 3-4 days in a place she doesn’t even know well. The story felt rushed at times and I feel the author could have done a better job with the character development.

Overall, this was a delightful quick read that I would recommend to young readers.

35outof5

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