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!

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.

Sharkman (Review)

23453287Title: Sharkman
Author:  Steve Alten
Genre:  Sci-fi, Thriller

Publisher:  Taylor Trade Publishing
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 272

Date Finished: December 31, 2014
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

Kwan Wilson was a high school basketball star living in San Diego when a tragic accident changed his life in ways no one could predict. He only looked at his phone for a few seconds, but that was all the time it took to crash his car into a telephone pole, killing his mother and paralyzing him from the waist down. After the accident his father, Admiral Douglas Wilson, sent him off to live with his maternal grandmother in South Florida.

Kwan’s new principal, anticipating his depression and isolation, tells him about an internship at a genetics lab in Miami that s testing shark stem cells on rats in an effort to cure cancer and repair spinal injuries. Kwan declines until he learns the beautiful Anya Patel is an intern at the lab. The good news is that the stem cells are curing their rat subjects; the bad news is it alters their DNA so much it kills them. When a promising breakthrough is made, Kwan risks his life and injects himself with the experimental stem cells altering his destiny and the lives of millions in the process.

My Review

I was first introduced to Steve Alten’s work years ago when I read The Loch.  I had always been intrigued by the Loch Ness Monster and couldn’t pass up a fictional tale about Nessie.  It ended up being a dark and twisted tale which I loved.  I’ve always held Steve Alten in high esteem since then.  So, when I saw a new book by Mr. Alten on Netgalley, I put in my request immediately.

The premise of Sharkman was a good one.  Kwan is a paraplegic following a car accident.  He is given the opportunity to intern at a research facility which has very promising research on shark stem-cells and the repair of spinal injuries.  That is where the story went off the rails…

Like every mad-scientist tale, Kwan ends up injecting shark stem-cells into himself and is healed, but there are dire consequences.  Unfortunately, the science, or lack there of, is utterly ridiculous; however, the ride it takes you on is quite fun. You have to be willing to suspend your logical thinking in order to enjoy this book.  I am used to reading some really good techno-thriller authors who have tons of real science to back up their facts.  Sharkman did not fall into that category.  Let’s just say, it was more Sharknado than shark science.

So, with that being said, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Sharkman is the book for you.  As I said, it was a fun read and I enjoyed it, but if you’re looking for serious science, you might want to skip this one.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Taylor Trade Publishing, and Steve Alten for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Ice Station Wolfenstein (Review)

22098813Title: Ice Station Wolfenstein
Author: Preston Child
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Action-Adventure

Publisher: Heiken Marketing
Release Date: May 2, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages: 212

Date Read:  December 1, 2014
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

Sam Cleave, reporter for a small newspaper, has seen better days. After his partner was killed during an undercover investigation, he lost his passion for work and living.

But when a resident of a nearby assisted living home is tortured and murdered in a barbaric manner, he starts investigating. He is especially intrigued when a mysterious box is given to him that belonged to the dead man, but he needs help to interpret what it means.

He teams up with Nina Gould, an expert in World War II history. Soon the two of them realize that they are about to discover one of the best-guarded secrets of the war, It dawns on them that this would be the discovery of a lifetime, a discovery of immeasurable value, and a discovery that men would kill for.

They join an expedition, sponsored by an eccentric billionaire, hunting for gold and breathtaking art buried deep below the Antarctic surface. Instead of gold and stolen art, they find something terrifyingly disturbing beneath the eternal ice.

A team of Nazi scientists has made an amazing discovery. But experiments have gone terribly wrong. The situation gets out of hand, and before long the expedition members find themselves peering into the deepest recesses of the human soul. Nina and Sam realize that their only hope for survival is to unlock the secrets of Ice Station Wolfenstein.

My Review

Ok, I’m going to keep this one real simple.  This book was utterly unbelievable, but it was a fun read.  If you need a mindless rollercoaster ride, this is your book.  I am a fan of techno-thrillers and James Rollins is my favorite, but sometimes his books can get so heavy on the techno and science side, that I have to re-read some of it.  That was not the case with this book.  It was pure action-adventure fluff.  I gave it 3 1/2 stars with a round-up to 4 because I really had fun reading it.  Sometimes you just want fluff.

Gone Girl

Gone GirlTitle: Gone Girl
Author:  Gillian Flynn
Genre:  Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher:  Broadway Books
Release Date:  June, 2012
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Kindle Purchase
Pages:  422

Date Finished:  July 26, 2014
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My Review

I’ll admit I was late to the party on this one.  My crazy rebellious streak rears its ugly head at the strangest things sometimes.  As Gone Girl was receiving tremendous buzz last year, I flirted with the idea of reading it, but ended up refusing just because everyone else was reading it.  I know, I’m weird like that.  I finally relented because this was last month’s pick for our book club.  I have to say…I was impressed.

Gillian Flynn has quite a way of sucking you into her twisted, macabre rendering of reality.  I say her rendering of reality because I can’t imagine anyone really being as sick and twisted as these characters.  There may be people out there like this, but thank goodness, I’ve never met any of them.  Manipulation is taken to a whole new level.

The beginning was a little slow.  As you become acquainted with Nick and his missing wife, there was some definite drag.  Most mysteries start this way, though.  The story has to build; You have to learn the characters and the back story.  Flynn does give you a few twisty tidbits as you go, but it’s mostly a building exercise.  The most interesting part of it?  The entire opening section is meant to manipulate the reader.  Our minds automatically start trying to figure out the mystery.  Flynn relies on our human nature to totally mess with our heads.  Trust me, don’t try to figure it out because Flynn is going to rip the rug right out from under you at the half-way point.  Just believe me, the characters are manipulating each other and the author is manipulating the reader.  I hate spoilers in reviews, so I will leave it that.

The ending aggravated the crap out of me because there was no finality.  But, that’s life isn’t it?  Most things don’t get wrapped up in a nice, neat package for us.

Typically, I need a character I connect with to really like a book, but I hated all these characters and it didn’t really bother me.  None of them were likeable in the slightest.  Well, I liked Nick’s sister, Go, but she was not a main character.  These characters were deeply flawed, manipulative, and conniving.  Basically, they were just icky.  Of course, I don’t think Flynn really meant for the reader to like them.  The plot doesn’t really lend itself to likeable characters.

Wrap-Up

My book club thoroughly enjoyed this book.  We actually liked it so much, we decided to read Sharp Objects this month.  Our plans are to go see Gone Girl (the movie) opening night and have our Sharp Objects book discussion afterwards.  I’m not really convinced Ben Affleck is a good choice for Nick, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt.  I have heard rumors the movie rearranged the ending a bit.  Usually it makes me mad when a script writer takes creative liberties, but I actually hope they do on this one.  I want some satisfaction!!

If you are on the fence about reading Gone Girl, I say give it a shot.

The Winter People ((5 Stars))

The Winter PeopleTitle: The Winter People
Author:  Jennifer McMahon
Genre:  Fiction

Publisher:  Doubleday Books
Release Date:  February 11, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley.com
Pages:  336

Date Finished:  1/27/14
5 Stars

Goodreads Description

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

My Review

It is not very often that I give a 5 Star review.  Even most of my favorites will only get 4.5.  Not to be a Negative Nancy, but I can usually find something in a book that irritates me.  The Winter People earned every single star of this 5 Star Review!!

Let me start with the characters.  McMahon made every character in this book interesting.  Usually each chapter covered a different character and, not once, did I find myself rushing through one section to get to the next, more exciting, chapter.  I really wanted to know what was happening in each storyline.  As you can tell from the synopsis, part of the book is set in 1908 and part in present time.  I have read a lot of books where this can become quite burdensome and/or tiresome.  McMahon gave each time period its own distinct voice, and all of it kept the plot moving forward.

The mystery aspect was fabulous!  There is a mystery going on in both time periods.  I really liked how McMahon kept the mystery intact in both sections up to the very end.  In a lot of books, the reader is made aware of what happened in the past to feed the present day story.  McMahon avoided this scenario, leaving the reader to figure out what was happening in both.  It leaves you with that “edge of your seat” feeling through most of the book.

The paranormal aspects were not overdone.  McMahon had the opportunity to really go overboard, but she refrained.  It was just the right amount of paranormal and horror.  The way McMahon handled it made the scenarios believable.  It had the perfect balance of creepy and mystery.  There was one chapter I knew was going to start with one of the creepier storylines, and I could not bring myself to read it right before bed.  I had to put the book down and start again the next morning in the daylight!

Wrap-Up

The Winter People has great characters, a wonderful plot, enough mystery to keep you guessing until the very end, and enough thrills and chills to make you sleep with a nightlight.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.  It releases today.  Go get a copy!  You’ll love it!!

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley.com, Doubleday Books and Jennifer McMahon for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.