3.5 star, buddy review

Buddy Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, non-stop, to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds, and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance, and entertainment—is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men in women working in offices across the city refuse leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find the answers before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its Friday night ribbon-cutting. 



Welcome to our next buddy read! This time we decided to experiment with an author neither of have read before, Linwood Barclay. We were completely intrigued by this snazzy title, and wanted to give it a try. However, as a mystery/thriller novel, it kind of fell short. Read on to find our thoughts!

Pacing and Suspense Build-Up

A: What I love about mysteries and thrillers is the build up to the climax. Being new to Linwood Barclay, I didn’t know what to expect. The multiple POVs took away a lot from the suspense because you don’t follow anyone for very long. It’s the same event being observed from different perspectives for a good chunk of the book. The main mystery took too long to ramp up. Even from the synopsis, we know there’ll be multiple incidents by Wednesday but each day took too long to get through. I swear Wednesday came more than halfway through the story. Being the omniscient reader also made it frustrating when it took characters so long to realize there was an issue.

F: Overall there wasn’t much what I would call “suspense” in the sense I was expecting. There was certainly a lot of build-up and intrigue. It wasn’t exactly slow per se, but the endless build up made it overall feel slow. I didn’t mind the pacing, but the payout at the end was slightly unsatisfactory. This is probably the weakest section for my review; as you’ll see as you keep reading, this book really didn’t fall into the mystery/thriller category like we thought it would.

Plot Elements

F: Like a mystery book, it did have a few red herrings dropped here and there. However, I really wasn’t a fan of how it was used and how it all tied together at the end. On the bright side, what I found the best about this book was probably its writing style. It was super easy to read, super easy to follow, good with the different voices and POVs. On the whole it was a very character-driven book, which was a bit unexpected given the synopsis and genre of the book. The premise of the book was excellent, but perhaps not executed in the expected way.

A: Likewise, I didn’t feel the red herrings were perhaps the most “useful” or relevant. I felt dissatisfied with how some closed out. This book also felt less like a mystery and more prominently like a literary fiction piece. Having that perspective helped change my view on what I was expecting this book to give me. It was definitely more character driven rather than plot drive which is a bit unusual for mysteries in my experience. The use of romance or other character-driven plots was at times distracting from the mystery as well but it fit better when discovering more of the unique backstories and struggles of each character whose POV we followed.

Characters

A: I struggled a lot trying to figure out who the main character(s) were in the beginning. There were just so many people, perhaps even some irrelevant characters we were stuck following. As mentioned, some didn’t wrap up the character arc very well, which can be expected with so many multiple POVs but it could’ve also been executed better. Besides that initial unease with so many people to follow though, the characters were good, very diverse, unique and interesting. Their voices were easily differentiated and I felt particularly connected with a number of them as I got to know who they individually were. Even in audio format it was still noticeable and that’s the sign of a good author to be able to do so.

F: The characters were all unique and distinct, each with their own struggles and motivations. This was definitely another highlight of the book. Great character construction, and it was easy for me to get invested into many of their storylines. Andge and I would both classify this book as more of a literary fiction, with interesting and intriguing characters driving the drama and plot forward. In that sense, it was a pretty good book! Just not what we were expecting.

Ending

F: Because of the nature of the book being character-driven, the ending was perhaps not enough. It wasn’t a bad ending by any means, but I think for me it left a bit to be desired. I wanted more from the ending for all the characters, considering we followed each of them so in depth for so long.

A: More closure would have been nice? That’s definitely my first thought. It’s not what I expected which can be a good and bad thing. I wasn’t really driven by the need for a conclusion to the mystery, so much as the need to know how the characters’ stories would wrap up. Because it was so character driven, I was invested in them as people and how the aftermath of the climax may impact them all.

Bonus – Audiobook vs. E-book

We “read” this together, but actually using different medias! That made for interesting discussions when we met up for discussions.

A: It was interesting to see if things were different reading the same book in different formats. I wouldn’t have caught some things, such as weird spellings for names and italicized chapters. I couldn’t rewind as easily if I missed something that may have been crucial. But I felt with the narrator reading it for me, the drag due to lack of suspense wasn’t as evident because someone was always pushing me onwards to the end. I really appreciated that ‘cause otherwise I might not have finished this quickly or perhaps even at all.

F: There were occasional things that I caught that Andge didn’t, or vice versa. I think the different methods of “reading” can really affect how some scenes are interpreted, and the visual (or audio) elements can emphasize different aspects of the book. It was easier for me to re-read or go back to find something in an e-book for sure though. And the visual elements of chapter titles reminding me of dates, etc. can also be helpful for grounding a reader. I should experiment more with audio-books though!


buddy review

Buddy Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, the “queen of spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.



Welcome back to another buddy read at Down The Rabbit Hole! Today we have another Kate Quinn for you: The Alice Network. Having massively enjoyed The Rose Code in our last buddy read, we were excited to try yet another one of these fantastic historical fictions. As you may already be able to tell, this one did not quite meet the mark in the same way. Nevertheless, below we will take turns explaining our views on various aspects of the book. Hope you enjoy our dual take on this story!

Historical Elements

A: If I could name a highlight for this book, it would be the well researched history into WWI that made this book feel alive off the pages during certain moments. I was excited for any tidbit of spycraft work our protagonist took part in during the war, and the attention to detail could definitely be seen. I don’t read a whole lot of world war fictions, but I must say, I’m pretty sure the effortless feel of bringing me back to the mid-1910s was due to an excellent writer knowing her research material well.

F: For me, I’d have to say that once again Kate Quinn delivered on the historical elements. The very same things I fell in love with in The Rose Code were definitely present here. The elements of historical realism were very convincing, and you really do feel like you’ve been brought back 80-100 years. I loved seeing all the interactions of the past and how different life was just in the little things, and contrasted with the present really makes for a sharp boundary. Nothing but praise for Quinn’s masterfully researched and executed historical elements in this novel once again.

Characters

F: If the historical elements are the shining glory of this novel, then I would have to say the characters come second to that. This is mainly a character-driven book, taking place in the POV of our two protagonists, in the present and in the past (World War I/II era). Unfortunately, we don’t get to witness as much of “The Alice Network” in the past as I’d like. However, the characters were overall very well-written, particularly Eve, and I felt that the relationships (or the allusions to) were fairly well done and played out naturally. Of course, this also left me wanting a little bit more from the plot since the characters and historical elements were good.

A: Of the two protagonists, I’m particularly more fond of Eve as well. She was a complex lady, and we definitely see her character development arc come out from the naive, enthusiastic girl who signed up for spycraft, to the bitter old woman we meet in the present day. Obviously, this was due to whatever happened to her and the Alice Network, but we only get to piece things together slowly. I had a little more trouble loving Charlie since she felt a little too single-mindedly focused in finding her cousin that nothing else really shone through about her character. When you take away this one element about her, there’s not a lot left to feel super interested in her story.

Plot and Suspense

A: The pacing wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. I didn’t love the present day chapters as much since it mainly focused on the hunt for Rose. The historical POV from Eve was the best, but even then, I had hoped for more action as part of a spy network. Unfortunately, we were denied a lot of that since her mission focused on a singular task more than playing a larger role in the network. And though there was hints of an underlying betrayal to the network, I found how it all came to light super anti-climactic and would’ve preferred a bunch of other theories I came up with.

F: Unfortunately, this is where the story really fell flat for the both of us. I also mostly enjoyed the historical POV from Eve, but it left me wanting more as well. Maybe I’m comparing too much with The Rose Code, where I really got a glimpse into the whole spy network and all its workings. I definitely felt that the modern day POV was not that exciting and therefore the drive wasn’t really there for me to propel me forward through the book. I wanted more and more of Eve’s historical POV, and the modern day one just felt too unimportant in comparison.

Overall Thoughts

F: I really enjoyed the setting overall as well as the characters. That being said, the plot and suspense really fell flat for me. In that sense, it was a bit forced, though I would say the plot generally supported the growth of the characters. I would rather have the characters’ growth driving the plot though, rather than the plot being used to supplement character growth. This is all personal preference though, so you may very well enjoy what I’ve just described. If you are into character-driven historical fictions, this may be the book for you!

A: We really wanted to love this one, but my expectations were so high after The Rose Code. If it had balanced out better between a plot-driven story and a character-driven story, I think things would’ve been a lot different.

Some things I would change if I could, if I may? (So sorry if you loved this book as it is).

  1. Have different betrayer(s) than what the story went with
  2. Include POVs from Lili, the leader of the Alice Network so we would actually see the bigger picture of what they did in the war
  3. Give Charlie another story arc in addition to her hunt for Rose

That being said, we appreciated the areas that I know deserve the praise. It just could’ve been more after the high bar I’ve come to associate with Kate Quinn. I can see why so many loved it, but our expectations got the best of us.


3.5 star, adult, buddy review

Buddy Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Maybe you don’t know your neighbors as well as you thought you did . . .

“This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.”

In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses–and into the owners’ computers as well–learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.

Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

In this neighborhood, it’s not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide . . .



Welcome to our latest buddy review! Once again Andge and I have banded together to review another book, and will be providing our dual comments here! This book by Shari Lapena was a bit more of a different genre than we expected. While we have set up the review in our usual thriller format, we both found out that it wasn’t exactly the traditional type of thriller, and found it to be a hybrid between a mystery and a thriller. We will discuss more details below:

Pacing and Suspense Build-Up

Fives: I think Andge and I both agree on this, and it’s that the little synopsis given for this book is rather misleading. I was definitely under the impression that it was going to revolve around the boy and his breaking into homes. This was 100% not the case. The murder was really the whole contentious point in this story, and the source of all the drama and tension. Sweeping that aside, the pacing was very up and down. The problems and tensions that were introduced were often resolved fairly quickly thereafter. The tension wasn’t really a slow build until the end, though of course there were elements of that as well. I would say overall the book read mostly like a mystery novel, with elements of a thriller.

Andge: Yes, I’d have to agree. The pacing just didn’t work for me when we switch from one person’s perspective to another, sometimes featuring only a few paragraphs for one POV. This omniscient third person POV also made everything less mysterious in some ways since we know certain secrets before other key characters do. However, we do get to see how the revelation of such secrets unfold and that sometimes was quite juicy.

Plot Elements

Fives: This was actually probably my favourite part of the book. Though I did initially find it a bit strange how this book is a hybrid between a mystery and thriller, I did overall enjoy how it was executed. It doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of either genre (which is what I was originally expecting), but I think in its own right, it does well. There were many moving pieces in this whole story, and I felt that they were managed well. The plot was fairly intricate and though I may not have agreed with everything that happened, I think I felt like it was effectively executed.

Andge: I might be a bit pickier but this definitely was more of a mystery to me. It did read fast as it’s not a super long book, and the back and forth between POVs allows a perspective that seems to be always going somewhere. I like that we get introduced to many people within the neighborhood that knew the victim, which also gives us more viable suspects to potentially weed through. I can see the craftsmanship in the story elements, but sometimes it just didn’t fit together as well as I had expected from a bestseller like Shari.

Characters

Fives: Most of the characters were relatable and appropriately suspicious. Andge and I definitely had a hard time predicting what would happen in this book. We threw many possibilities out there but let’s just say we were not too convinced by anything we suggested. But the characters were all individually well-crafted to be unique and a meaningful part of the novel, with very few throwaways and at least some meaning in (almost) every character, I felt that the overall design was good.

Andge: What Fives said. Best not to give too many secrets away, hmm? But guessing in mysteries based on the people introduced, whether in large or small, is always my favorite part.

Ending

Fives: I wasn’t terribly convinced by this ending. I thought it was appropriate and did make enough sense at the end, but I wasn’t super impressed. If any of you remember our review on Don’t Look for Me, I found it to be a very similar situation where yes the ending was quite the surprise, but was it meaningful and impactful? Perhaps not. I wouldn’t say it was a bad ending, but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I was hoping I would.

Andge: I’ll say I didn’t see the ending coming until near the end, and there were definitely parts that felt a little random like I couldn’t grasp this was happening. It’s not my favourite ending, that’s for sure. We also have a little tidbit thrown out at the absolute end that leaves me wondering why that was the chosen way to close out the book. But maybe that’s what some people enjoy, so who’s to say?


And that’s a wrap everyone! If there’s any other books that you’d want to recommend for the both of us to review together, please continue to let us know in the comments below. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next buddy read. Another Kate Quinn may be on the horizon…stay tuned!