The bygone year has seen the release of numerous page-turners that you might have not cared for. Here are the choicest bestsellers that you should think about twice before you kick off your new year agenda. Ipshita Hazra does the task of selecting the best of the gems for you. 

 

The Woman in the Window

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Bookcover from Amazon

by A.J. Finn

Published January 2nd 2018 by William Morrow

“Watching is like nature photography: You don’t interfere with the wildlife.” 

The Woman in the Window  is a good pick if you want a psychological thriller. It may not introduce strikingly new concepts or tropes but it does a bang up job of keeping things engaging and might even surprise one with its revelations in the end.

The protagonist, Anna, suffers from alcoholism and a love for classic crime thrillers. So when she sees something quite shocking, we cannot be sure what’s real and what’s just a figment of her befuddled mind. And this uncertainty propels the book as much as it compels us to read it.

“My head was once a filing cabinet. Now it’s a flurry of papers, floating on a draft.” 

Synopsis:

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbours.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

******

The Great Alone

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Bookcover from Amazon

by Kristin Hannah

Published February 6th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

“All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.”

The Great Alone turned out to be a thought-provoking read with its themes of PTSD, mental disorder, domestic violence and gender equality, issues that were overlooked back in 1974.

Kristin Hannah takes her time laying the foundations with this one; deftly painting the wild and remote Alaskan landscape and the dangers it abounds with during winter. However, for the Allbrights, trapped in a secluded cabin, overcoming one’s inner demons takes them through harrowing experiences they couldn’t foresee or prepare for.

“Home was a state of mind, the peace that came from being who you were and living an honest life. There was no going halfway home.”

Synopsis:

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture…

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger.

 ******

Children of Blood and Bone

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Bookcover from Amazon

by Tomi Adeyemi

Published March 8th 2018 by Macmillan Children’s Books

“We are all children of blood and bone.
All instruments of vengeance and virtue.” 

One of the things that makes this book stand out among countless YA fantasies is the world-building which is vaguely reminiscent of the popular series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Also, the concept of Orisha, packed with its old West-African mysticism and vibrancy, is certainly of note.

This book is also being widely hailed as an allegory about the Black experience (the subjugation and criminalities many are facing in parts of Africa), and the message does come across through the oppression and prejudices portrayed in the story.  Although, Ms. Adeyemi could have done better to incorporate a star-crossed romance that mostly served to highlight inconsistencies in the characters and add unnecessary drama to the plot.

“Reality told us we would fail. But again and again, we fought. We persevered. We rose.”

Synopsis:

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared… Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

*******

Circe

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Bookcover from Amazon

by Madeline Miller

Published April 10th 2018 by Little, Brown and Company

“When I was born, the word for what I was did not exist.”

A skilful storyteller, Madeline Miller once again borrows a character from Homer’s works and weaves an amazingly captivating tale.

Circe is a minor Greek goddess, infamous for turning Odysseus’ men into pigs with her magic. Miller casts this mythological figure as a brave and complex character who cannot be overlooked.

A superb blend of mythical and contemporary, Circe is a stunning tale of love, motherhood and purpose. It presents a refreshing take on Circe’s life, her love, her loss, her motivations and her determination — giving it an endearingly human take that captured our hearts.

“For a hundred generations, I had walked the world drowsy and dull, idle and at my ease. I left no prints, I did no deeds. Even those who had loved me a little did not care to stay. Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow. I would have done that toil a thousand times to keep such power in my hands. I thought: this is how Zeus felt when he first lifted the thunderbolt.”

Synopsis:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone…To protect what she loves the most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

******

The Outsider

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Bookcover from Amazon

by Stephen King

Published May 22nd 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton

“There was one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man could not be in two places at the same time.”

I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of long rambling tales, especially when major parts of it are used only to fatten up a book rather than adding meat to the story. However, I am aware of the abiding fan-base of Stephen King. In fact, I often find myself comparing horror scenes from some other book or movie with those written by King. With classics such as Carrie and The Shining, he might as well have redefined the horror genre.

The Outsider starts out strong with the element of horror presenting some brutal and disturbing scenes. The mystery is set when the main suspect has a cast-iron alibi and we are left with an incredibly puzzling case. Now, the reason why I cited King’s other books is because one shouldn’t mistake The Outsider as any other normal crime fiction (like I did). In his signature style, King dips and delves into supernaturalism, spinning an outrageously convoluted tale that may very well drive you off the edge of your seats.

“People are blind to explanations that lie outside their perception of reality.” 

Synopsis:

When an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered in a town park, reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town’s popular Little League coach, Terry Maitland, as the culprit. DNA evidence and fingerprints confirm the crime was committed by this well-loved family man.
Horrified by the brutal killing, Detective Ralph Anderson, whose own son was once coached by Maitland, orders the suspect to be arrested in a public spectacle. But Maitland has an alibi. And further research confirms he was indeed out of town that day.

As horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story of almost unbearable suspense kicks into high gear.
Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy but there is one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man cannot be in two places at the same time. Can he?

Also published on my personal blog, Ipshita’s Book Alley.

Title artwork by Suman Mukherjee

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