Kristin Hannah – Night Road

Kristin Hannah – Night Road

If I stuck to my reading patterns, then Kristin Hannah would be a novelist I would be totally unfamiliar with; being more of a crime/military fantasy reader myself. But then, what’s the point of reading if you stick to well-established patterns, right? Also unavoidable is the fact that Night Road was staring at me from the top among my Goodreads recommendations. Of course, I had to get to it sooner or later.

Night Road begins with a girl, Lexi Baill, an orphaned teenager adopted by her aunt Eva and taken to her place on Pine Island, where Eva lived in a trailer park. Lexi joins the high school and on the very first day, makes friends with Mia Farraday, who is more or less a social outcast in her class. Outwardly, Mia and Lexi couldn’t have been more different; Mia came from a prestigious and wealthy family, and had a loving mother in Jude Farraday, and mischievous and incredibly popular twin brother in Zach. Lexi on the other hand, grew up in seven different families which came forward to adopt her, only to be pulled out of them by her drug addict of a mother who spent most of her time in prison. However, both had similar mentalities, both of them loved reading, and most importantly to Mia, Lexi was the only one who didn’t care if she would be shunned by others for befriending Mia.

When Jude Farraday catches wind of this, she is at first both happy and worried for Mia; something similar had happened before when another girl became friends with Mia, but the girl only used Mia to get close to her brother Zach. But over time, Jude’s worries are alleviated and she comes to treat Lexi as one of the family. Later on, things get more complicated between Mia and Lexi, but the issues get resolved. But one incident that occurs, changes their lives forever; hearts are left broken, never to heal, hopes crushed to the ground, you know the drill. How can they all come out of this and begin to hope for the future again, with renewed life?

Don’t put her in the dark…

At first I thought Night Road would be a cheesy romance novel and was regretting buying the book on an impulse[considering there are many other books on my recommendations list I don’t give a second glance to], but all my doubts were put to rest within 20 minutes of my starting the book. Kristin Hannah writes brilliantly, there is not a shred of doubt about it; the writing flows smoothly, without any disjointedness even when she is switching perspectives from Lexi to Jude to Zach. The story is not very complicated, but her writing makes all the difference in the world. Character development is spot-on; especially with Jude Farraday, and the relationship between her and Miles, her husband. The events and the dialogue really get you emotional, and some of us might need to keep a tissue box in reach; it gets that touching. I must iterate, Night Road has been a real emotional rollercoaster ride for me.

If you are a fan of emotionally draining books and tear-jerkers, just go for Night Road without another thought. I’m not someone who generally reads that kind of books, but Night Road makes me want to change it, even if just for a little while.

RATING : 9.8/10

 

 

William Landay – Defending Jacob

William Landay – Defending Jacob

For quite some time, I really wanted to read a good court-room thriller. After seeing Defending Jacob on my Goodreads recommendations, I decided to give it a try. And am I glad I did…

Andy Barber is a respected and well-admired assistant district attorney, and one of the best prosecutors in his county. He leads a peaceful life with his wife, Laurie, and his teenage son Jacob. However, this existence is shattered by the murder of a young boy in the neighborhood. And the prime suspect of this murder is Jacob. Andy, being a father, of course believes completely in Jacob’s innocence, despite the emergence of some damning new evidence, which rocks the family boat and strains the relationship between Andy and Laurie to near-breaking point.. As if this was not enough, Andy has been withholding a secret for more than twenty years, something he hasn’t disclosed to even his wife. How far will Andy go to protect his son?

The plot is pretty solid, with minimal loopholes and plotholes and whatever other holes there may be in a novel; if there were any, I didn’t notice them at the very least. At the outset, the concept is simple, but the plot-progression adds layers of complexity that jsut cannot be ignored. The character development by William Landay was so good it approaches near-perfection. It’s painfully heartbreaking how Laurie changes over the course of the book from an optimist to a wreck; the case takes a toll on Andy too in more ways than one can imagine. Defending Jacob reminds me of A Simple Plan by Scott Smith, in the best way possible.

Just pick up this book, and I’ll guarantee you will not be able to put it down until you get to the end. It’s hard to believe Defending Jacob is only William Landay’s third novel. Okay, let’s stop the posturing; just buy this book already! Doubly so if you are a fan of court-room thrillers like me.

RATING : 9.6/10

The Chaser(2008)

The Chaser(2008)

I have said it before, and I will say it again; Korean films are a blast to watch. Not because they are entertaining or fun; no one who has seen movies like Memories of Murder or Oldboy will say anything contrary to my statement. No, they are a blast because they are really intense pieces of art, which will make you question everything and assume not a single thing. Or maybe it’s just my awesome choice at picking out the cream of the Korean offerings, but anyways. Let’s get into The Chaser now, without further ado.

The film begins with the former Task Force detective-turned-pimp sending out one of his girls for business, if you know what I mean. But the guy is also getting paranoid about his state of affairs, as two of his call girls have quite probably just escaped without giving him any information of their whereabouts. He wants to tighten up his protocol to ensure these incidents do not repeat in the future. Unluckily, the girl who the pimp has just sent out, is also on her way to meet him. I don’t think I will be able to tell you readers any more about the plot, as some key details might be spoilt for those of you who wish to see the film. But I can assure you of one thing; it is pretty twisted and messed-up on a different level.

                                                                           The chase is on!

This is a different kind of film from the normal, as we already know the antagonist at the outset itself. Something I haven’t often seen in the suspense thriller genre. The screenplay ought to be tight, which is a requirement for this type of film, and thankfully the film delivers on that front. Also, this is quite possibly the Korean film with the fastest pacing I’ve seen yet. And the acting is spot-on, I must say. All the characters are fully fleshed out, from the pimp to the antagonist to the call girl and her kid daughter, to the police.  It is as if they are living in their roles. That might seem a bit cliche, but that is god’s honest truth. And the story is based on some real-life events, which honestly does throw up some red flags about the existence of hope in this world. This is some really depressing shit.

Overall, I’d say this: if you have watched a few Korean film, chances are you’ve watched this already. If you haven’t, guess what; it’s time for you to do yourself a favor already. And those of you who don’t[or haven’t yet] watched Korean suspense thrillers yet, this is a great way to initiate yourself into it.

RATING : 9.7/10

PROS :
– top-notch acting
– insane pacing
– pretty dark and disturbing

CONS :
– may be too dark for some

 

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

It’s been some time since I’ve seen some really awesome anime, something that could actually blow my mind with its events. So, when I saw Re:Zero get high ratings in multiple anime-related sites, I felt this would be one anime worth watching. Only, I had to wait till the show was nearing completion, because my general style is to pick up an anime, and just blow through all of it at once. All right, enough of my ramblings about my viewing habits, let’s get down to business.

The show starts off with the protagonist Natsuki Subaru, a hikkikomori who plays video games all day, get suddenly transported from a convenience store to a fantasy world, with nothing but his groceries and phone in his hands and clothes on his body; he has absolutely no clue where he is, or what he’s supposed to do there. While exploring this strange new world, he crosses a small group of thugs, but is soon saved by a silver-haired girl who’s chasing after her stolen insignia of unknown importance. Since Subaru has already caught a glimpse of the thief while getting accosted by the thugs, the girl decides to take his help in catching the thief. But what starts off as a simple tracking mission leads them to the thief’s den, and death. I’m not going to say anything more about the plot, but suffice to say it shares some elements with Steins;Gate.

Image result for re zero kara hajimeru isekai seikatsu

The premise of the anime starts off being simple enough, with elements of a regular fantasy-adventure with comedy and harem elements sprinkled about, but it will strip you of your misjudgment faster than you think. Re:Zero is a great psychological rollercoaster of a ride, set in what appears to be inspired from Renaissance-Europe, and reminds one of old-school RPGs. Subaru, whenever he gets killed, ends up respawning at some previously visited spot at a preset time, which leads Subaru to start referring to them as save-points as the story progresses. And let me tell you, the psychological aspect in the story is profound, and will mess you up as the anime progresses.

The RPG-feel of Re:Zero will attract many to the anime, at least those who game a lot, I’d say. And the plot-progression is also fluid, with minimal slow-downs through most parts of the show. The medieval time-period-inspired settings look grand in stature, and animation is pretty good in my opinion. The best part of the show, was Natsuki Subaru’s character development, and that of another female character, who seems to be more of a lead player in the happenings than the silver-haired girl; though the anime creators may say so otherwise. Only issue with the show, at least for me, was that it sort of lost its character towards endgame. The feel of the show felt kind of tampered with, for me at least.

If you liked Steins; Gate and play RPGs fairly regularly, chances are you will like Re:Zero a lot.

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– game-like concept
– character development of Subaru and another character is well-done
– medieval fantasy setting works great

CONS :
– lead female character isn’t as well-developed as Subaru
– loses some of its character towards the end

 

 

BLACK MIRROR [SEASON 1]

BLACK MIRROR [SEASON 1]

These days, I’ve started watching more TV series than I’ve ever watched before. Excepting my marathon through Breaking Bad, that is. In the course of my browsing through some shows I should watch, I came across Black Mirror, a British show about how technology can influence our lives in negative ways. So I thought to myself, “Hey, let’s try this out!”

Black Mirror is a show of just 3 episodes, each of which are about 40 – 60 minutes long, with each of the episodes containing their own self-contained story. The show goes where no other show has gone in its exploration of the dark things that just may happen due to over-dependence on technology. The first episode has one of the princesses of Britain kidnapped, with the ransom being that the Prime Minister has to perform a degrading act if he intends to get back the princess alive. And the other episodes are set in different locations and timelines too, probably, with their own tales to tell.

The acting in Black Mirror is pretty solid throughout the show. And the settings for the incidents are unique from what most would have seen in TV shows[unless you watch sci-fi stuff all the time]. The writing is pretty good for all the episodes, too. But what I found to be a bit inconceivable in the show, was the technology being used. Some of it felt a bit too far-fetched for me, but who knows, it might become the reality of the future. But the biggest weakness to me, was that it wasn’t altogether as special as I’d hoped; maybe my expectations from the show were a bit too unrealistic, but what I felt was that the later episodes couldn’t hold a candle to the pilot episode.

If you want to watch a psychological drama in a somewhat futuristic setting, try out Black Mirror.

RATING : 7.8/10

PROS :
– unique settings
– cool concepts
– good acting

CONS :
– later episodes aren’t as good as the pilot
– technology shown seems a bit too far-fetched, for now

 

Keigo Higashino – The Devotion of Suspect X

Keigo Higashino – The Devotion of Suspect X

I’m guessing just about everyone has heard of The Devotion of Suspect X in some form or the other; maybe you’ve heard of the novel from a friend or colleague, maybe you’ve heard of, or watched, a movie based on this novel. How did this book get so famous, and more importantly for us book-lovers, is the book really that big of a deal; i.e.; is it any good?

The novel starts off giving us a glimpse of the main characters; a mathematician and maths teacher, Ishigami, his neighbor, Yasuko Hanaoka and her daughter Misato. Yasuko is estranged from her husband Togashi, who used to work for a well-known car manufacturer until he was discovered lifting the company money and subsequently fired from his job. Ever since then, he turns into a good-for-nothing who keeps harassing his wife for money whenever he’s short. He also becomes a drunk who hits his wife and child. Yasuko leaves her old job as a bar hostess and begins to work for her friend Sayoko at the luncheon shop; she also changes her residence to keep away from her husband.

But one chance encounter with her past changes Yasuko’s life forever. And this is when her neighbor Ishigami comes to her rescue and offers to get her out of the difficult predicament Yasuko’s found herself in.

When Detective Kusanagi of the Police Department begins to investigate the case, he finds himself unable to make much progress in the case and that nothing is quite as it seems. This is when he enlists the help of Dr.Manabu Yukawa, eminent physicist and professor at Imperial University, known in the police circles as “Detective Galileo”, for his often invaluable advice in seemingly uncrackable cases…

The story is really gripping, and it doesn’t really take long for the reader to become engrossed in the novel. Within 40 pages or so itself, the story reaches breakneck pace. And the intrigue is real here. The crime details are amazingly well-rendered by the writer. But the highlight is the collection of all those mind-games being played throughout, and sometimes even the reader is left wondering as to the reality or falsity of a detail, or a suspect’s accounting of the happenings.

This is one messed-up book, no second thoughts about it. It is also the most brilliantly written crime-mystery I’ve read in a while. Fully recommend this to anyone who’s even halfway interested in reading whodunits and psychological mysteries in general.

RATING : 9.5/10

Pi

Pi

Ever wanted to see a movie that attempts something out of the ordinary? A movie where you have to really stress your mind, like really? I’m not talking about stuff like Inception. I’m talking of something much more hardcore, like Primer. Well, this is one of those messed-up movies you can recommend to your friends just to see the expressions on their faces while they struggle to understand what the hell is happening on the screen.

Max Cohen, the protagonist (and narrator) of the story, is a mathematician whose current project is to predict the direction the stock market is about to take, using his computer Euclid. But in a more general sense, Max believes that everything in the universe follows a pattern , and similarly, even the stock market must have an inherent pattern which no one has yet discovered. One day, when Max is outside, he happens to meet a person Lenny Meyer, who happens to be researching on the mathematical significance of the Hebrew alphabet and the Torah, and shows Max some fascinating implications of the math involved in the Hebrew words.

    Max Cohen, with his computer Euclid

One day, when Max conducts a routine experiment with Euclid to predict the next day’s stocks, the computer prints out seemingly-garbage results for the next day, along with a 200-odd digit number, and hangs. Max throws the results out in frustration, but when he visits his mentor’s house and reads the newspaper there, he finds that Euclid was right all along. And when Lenny talks of a 216-digit number which was supposed to be of immense importance to the Jewish world, he realizes that this has to do with the final thing his computer printed out before it crashed on him. Now begins a mad dash for the number, and from here, the film goes places, both real and imaginary.

Sean Gullette, in his portrayal of the main character Max Cohen, is amazing. Max’s psychosis is disturbingly unnerving, and the intensity of Sean’s acting can only be understated. Also, you never know if what is being shown on screen is really happening, or if it is only a product of his imagination. He suffers from frequent cluster headaches and hallucinations, and they are truly freaky to watch. Ben Shenkman, playing Lenny, and Max’s mentor Sol, played by Mark Margolis, are great as well. The atmosphere of the film is tense throughout, and really builds the suspense in the viewer.

The movie, although a great attempt, isn’t without its flaws. The technical flaws aren’t always noticeable, but if you are observant and knowledgeable, you will notice a few goofs. Still, this movie is worth watching for the thought put into it, and the acting prowess on exhibition.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– unreliable narrator
– atmosphere
– concept

CONS :
– some noticeable goofs
– may get a little bit too disturbing for some