The Girl on the Train (Review)

22754100Title: The Girl on the Train
Author:  Paula Hawkins
Genre:  Fiction; Mystery; Thriller

Publisher: Riverhead
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages: 336

Date Finished: March 21, 2015
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My Review

Is anyone out there a “people watcher”?  Do you sit in a shopping area, pick out a person, make up a name for them, and imagine what their story is?  Well, Rachel, the main character of this book, takes her people watching to a whole different level.  Obsessive is the word that immediately springs to mind.  But, if you think this is going to be some creepy stalker story where Rachel terrorizes this couple from afar, you are completely wrong.  This story has so much more to it.

Let me be perfectly honest.  There was not a single likeable character in this book.  They were all horribly flawed and damaged.  Some were flat-out crazy.  But, like any good train wreck, I couldn’t turn away.  I wanted to know how it would all pan out.

Rachel, our main character, was a raging alcoholic.  This made for some very uncomfortable reading.  Her blackouts and constant justification of her drinking were infuriating.  It also made her a completely unreliable narrator.  Throughout the book, I was never sure if she was telling us the truth or her drunken version of the truth.  The worst part was that she wasn’t sure either.

The other characters were just as bad.  “Jess & Jason,” Rachel’s made up names for the people she watched, actually turned out to be Megan and Scott Hipwell.  Early on, Megan goes missing, but throughout the book, we get her back story in her own voice.  She turns out to be a horrible person.  Her husband is no peach either.  Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom, is a douche-bag and his new wife, Anna, is a whiny, paranoid woman with no spine.  So, now you see why I said none of these characters were likeable.  Honestly, I really didn’t want to be in any of their heads.

This book’s redeeming factors were that it was well written and it offered very interesting character studies.  I kept wondering if there are really people like this?  Maybe I’m too stoic, but I just can’t imagine being as out of control as these people were.

The Girl On the Train was compared to Gone Girl in several reviews I read.  Let me be clear…this is not Gone Girl.  There are no major plot twists.  The similarity lies in the character flaws.  Gone Girl didn’t have any likeable main characters either, but, like Gone Girl, I liked this book despite that fact.  Their atrocities are what furthered the plot and made the book what it was.

Wrap-Up

I was torn between 3 and 4 stars, so it got a solid 3 1/2.  This was not a super fast read.  It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  The different points of view were a bit disjointed in the beginning, but once their voices were established, I had no trouble.  The mystery aspect of the story was ok.  I did have it figured out before the big reveal, but it ended pretty well.  If you like dark mysteries like Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, this fits the genre.  It definitely had a gritty, uncomfortable feel to it.  So, if that’s your thing, I say go for it!

Day Shift (Review)

23597716Title: Day Shift (Midnight, TX #2)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre:  Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 320

Date Finished: May 21, 2015
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.

Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…

My Review

Much better!!  This book was a vast improvement over Midnight Crossroad.  The mystery was something you were really interested in and it fully carried the plot.  There was a good bit of action as well.  There was also a lot more information about some of the characters.  It looks like Harris is going to focus in on certain characters in each book to give you more on their backstories.  This one was mainly about Manfred and Olivia.  Harris doesn’t give you everything, but she gives you enough to keep you hooked.  She usually has a way with character driven writing and this one didn’t disappoint.

I enjoyed the pacing of this one much better as well.  There were no lulls, which was nice because the first book felt like one giant lull.  This was fast paced and it really held my interest.  There were even several surprises that totally caught me off guard.  I love it when that happens!

Wrap-Up

If you struggled with Midnight Crossroad, please give this one a chance.  I was torn about whether to continue with the series, but I’m glad I did.  Day Shift was significantly better, more in the Sookie Stackhouse vein and less cozy mystery.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Ace, and Charlaine Harris for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Midnight Crossroad (Review)

18689531Title: Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, TX #1)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre:  Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon purchase
Pages: 320

Date Finished: May 12, 2015
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawn shop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…

My Review

I really love Charlaine Harris’ writing style.  I don’t know if it’s because she writes in a small town, southern brogue, or if she’s just a really good writer, but I never stumble over her writing.  I’ve read most of the Sookie Stackhouse series (I’ll admit I lost interest toward the end), but I’ve never read any of her other work because I’m not a big cozy mystery girl.  I was really hoping this series would follow in the footsteps of the Sookie Stackhouse phenomenon.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look very promising.

The characters were quirky and interesting, but there just wasn’t much going on plot wise.  The big mystery of the book was supposed to be what happened to Bobo’s girlfriend.  (Yes, that’s really his name.)  However, the biggest mystery was what are all of these people hiding because everyone in Midnight, TX has some kind of secret.  The good thing about that plot device is it really makes you want to keep reading.  The bad thing is that you don’t get any answers in this book.  The only mystery solved in this one was about Bobo’s girlfriend.

I really did enjoy the characters.  Charlaine gave me just enough to make me want to know more about them.  Because of that, I’m sure I’ll read the next book.  I hope there’s more action in the next installment.

Wrap-Up

Slow out of the gate!  This book felt like one big introduction to the characters and Midnight, TX.  There wasn’t much action, but maybe Charlaine wanted the book to mimic Midnight’s lifestyle, slow and laid-back.  The characters were engaging and that’s probably what will keep me moving forward with the series, however, if book two doesn’t pick-up, that will probably be the end of my foray into Midnight, TX.

Pines (Wayward Pines #1) (Review)

15034320Title: Pines (Wayward Pines #1)
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Fiction; Mystery; Thriller, Sci-fi

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: August 2012
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 309

Date Finished: May 15, 2015
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact? He may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

My Review

In anticipation of the new show, Wayward Pines, Netgalley opened up requests for Pines, the first book in the Wayward Pines series.  I had seen the previews for the show and thought I should read the book before it started.  Well, as usual, life got in the way and I didn’t get the book read before the show started, but I decided to go ahead and watch the first episode.  I was not impressed.  Matt Dillon is not one of my favorite actors.  That goes all the way back to my 1980s teenage years.  In addition to that, the show seemed purposefully confusing.  I hate books and shows that confuse the crap out of you just so they can spring a big, dramatic ending on you.  Anyway, after watching that one episode of the show, I was really torn about whether to read the book, but decided to give it a try.

The book did the exact same thing as the show!  The storyline misled and misdirected and then BAM! big, dramatic ending that brought it all together in the last two or three chapters.  I will begrudgingly admit I liked the ending.  That is the whole reason the book got 3 stars.  But for the most part, I kept thinking, “What the heck is going on?”  The reason I think this book irritated me so much is because I love a good mystery.  I love it when the author has fed you all the clues and you still couldn’t figure it out.  I hate it when the author withholds all the pertinent information and then hits you with a resolution out of left field.  And boy was this one out of left field!

Wrap-Up

3/4 of this book irritated the heck out of me.  The last 1/4 was really good.  If you like to read books that mislead and misdirect in order to surprise you with an ending that you never saw coming, then this is the book for you.  One good thing about the book is even though it’s a series, it really could stand alone.  I was happy where it ended and didn’t feel the need to continue on with the series.  Happy reading!

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Thomas & Mercer, and Blake Crouch for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Forgotten Room (Review)

22889771Title: The Forgotten Room
Author: Lincoln Child
Genre: Fiction; Mystery; Thriller
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Format: E-book
Acquired: Edelweiss ARC
Pages: 304

Date Finished: April 24, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Jeremy Logan is an “enigmalogist”—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In this newest novel Logan finds himself on the storied coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Symposikon, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America. Just days earlier, a series of frightening events took place in the sprawling seaside mansion that houses the organization. One of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically—violently attacking an assistant in the mansion’s opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. Terrified by the incident and the bizarre evidence left behind, the group hires Logan to investigate—discreetly—what drove this erudite man to madness.

His work leads him to an unexpected find. In a long-dormant wing of the estate, Logan uncovers an ingeniously hidden secret room, concealed and apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as “Project S.” Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was . . . and what has happened in that room . . . will put Logan in the path of a completely unexpected danger. 

My Review

I love a good thriller and Lincoln Child did not disappoint.  I’ve been reading Child’s books for a long time and his work with Douglas Preston is one of the reasons I love paranormal thrillers.  The wonderful thing about their books is you never know if it is going to be paranormal until the end.  Sometimes the events point to a paranormal cause, but end up being explained by something totally different.  They always keep you guessing.  The Forgotten Room was no different.

The opening chapters had our protagonist, Jeremy Logan, visiting a creepy old manor to investigate a gruesome suicide in order to determine if there were additional factors involved.  The description of the manor, as well as the suicide video, instantly set the mood for a creeptastic romp.  Logan and the cast of characters were odd and intriguing.  The science and architecture bits were very interesting.  There was plenty of meat for the techno-reader as well as the super-sleuths.  The pace was fast, and I don’t remember any lulls in the action.  I’ll admit some of the plot devices were a bit cliché, but there were plenty of surprises along the way as well.

Wrap-Up

Creepy, edge-of-your-seat reading.  If you like thrillers & mysteries, this one should be on your TBR list.  By the way, this is the 4th in the Jeremy Logan series, but you do not need to read the others to enjoy this one.  It completely stands alone.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Edelweiss, Doubleday, and Lincoln Child for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Circle of Desire (Review)

18891507Title: Circle of Desire
Author: Keri Arthur
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Mystery

Publisher: Dell
Release Date: April 1, 2014 (Originally published 2003)
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 352

Date Finished: December 27, 2014
2 Stars

Goodreads Description

Two children have been found dead, their souls torn from their bodies. Two more are missing, and Ethan Morgan’s niece is one of them. A dedicated cop, Ethan has every intention not only of bringing her back alive but of catching the monster behind these kidnappings. And he will use anyone and everyone to achieve those aims—even a crazy woman who claims to be a witch. But time is ticking. The victims rarely stay alive for more than seven days. Four of those days have already passed.

In ten years of working for the Damask Circle, shapeshifter Katherine Tanner has never come across anything that goes after kids the way this monster does. The last thing Kat needs is interference from a cop who has no idea what he’s up against. But the greatest threat to Kat may come not from the forces of darkness, but from the man she is beginning to love. Because Ethan is a werewolf . . . and the full moon is rising.

My Review

Ok, I’m going to just jump right in…this book didn’t do it for me.  There was too much everything.  Too much angst, too much sex, too much macho man crap, too much horny ridiculousness, JUST TOO MUCH!  This book embodies most of what I don’t like about paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

The book blurb made it sound like there was going to be a good bit of mystery to the story.  SAVE THE KIDS!  FIND THE KILLER!  No.  There was no real substance to the plot.  The majority of it was about Ethan being in his monthly moon flux, Katherine trying to resist her own urges, and the two of them trying to reign in their love for each other.  I was just really disappointed.  This is the third book in this series and it was, by far, the worst.  At least the first two were fun reads.  I really had to slog through this one.

The book is listed as part of the Damask Circle series.  Other than each book having a character that is a member of the Damask Circle, there is no connection.  I want to know more about the Damask Circle!!  I want to know more about the secret society that steps in when there are other-worldly rumblings.  That would have been interesting.

Wrap-Up

I think Keri Arthur missed an opportunity to make this a really interesting series.  I could only muster 2 stars for this one.  If you only require sex in order to like a book, this may be the book for you.

Shifting Dreams (Review)

17332690Title: Shifting Dreams (Cambio Springs #1)
Author:  Elizabeth Hunter
Genre:  Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Mystery
Publisher:  Self Published
Release Date:  March 5, 2013
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages:  260

Date Finished: December 4 , 2014
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

Some days, Jena Crowe just can’t get a break. Work at her diner never ends, her two boys are bundles of energy, and she’s pretty sure her oldest is about to shift into something furry or feathery. Added to that, changes seem to be coming to the tiny town of Cambio Springs—big changes that not everyone in the isolated town of shapeshifters is thrilled about.

Caleb Gilbert was looking for change, and the quiet desert town seemed just the ticket for a more peaceful life. He never counted on violence finding him, nor could he have predicted just how crazy his new life would become.

When murder rocks their small community, Caleb and Jena will have to work together. And when the new Chief of Police isn’t put off by any of her usual defenses, Jena may be faced with the most frightening change of all: lowering the defenses around her carefully guarded heart.

My Review

Ok, I am not a romance-y kind of girl.  I like action.  I like suspense.  I like gloom and doom with a lot of grit added for good measure!  My best friend tells me I don’t like books unless there is the threat of world annihilation.  I have to admit there is a grain of truth to that statement, however…

Elizabeth Hunter’s urban fantasy is deliciously clever.  She has written books that completely satisfy my need for action and suspense, yet somehow slip in romance that doesn’t make my eyes roll.  I started with Hunter’s Elemental Mysteries series.  I’m not sure what made me pick it up other than the fact that vampires were included, but I’m so glad I did.  It was a fresh, unique take on vampires and I totally got sucked into the Elemental world.  I still wait with bated breath for every new release.  With all of this in mind, I decided to try the first of the Cambio series.  I was again surprised about how much I liked it.

Jena is a shifter with attitude.  She has a tough exterior, but it’s a defense mechanism to protect herself and her family from unnecessary hurt.  Her relationship with her grandmother is one of the things that really drew me to her.  Jena’s rooted, solid personality made me connect.  Caleb, the hottie of the story, comes across as a hot-shot police officer who thinks a lot of himself, but ends up showing a good bit of depth.

The plot was good, the pace was perfect, and the characters were relatable.  It’s everything I love in a good book.  Throw in some shifters and it’s the making of a love affair.

Wrap-Up

I know a lot of people shy away from self-published writers because of bad plots, bad characters, bad writing, bad editing, etc., etc.  I’ve heard it all, but I really urge you to give Elizabeth Hunter’s body of work a chance.  Where most people rehash the same mythology, Hunter has brought something new and fresh to the urban fantasy genre.  I have not read a bad book by her yet.

Other Work

  • Elemental Mysteries:  A Hidden Fire, This Same Earth, The Force of Wind, A Fall of Water, All the Stars Look Down
  • Elemental World:  Building from Ashes, Waterlocked, Blood and Sand, The Bronze Blade
  • Elemental Legacy:  Shadows and Gold
  • Irin Chronicles:  The Scribe, The Singer, The Secret
  • Cambio Springs:  Long Ride Home, Shifting Dreams, Five Mornings, Desert Bound