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.

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.

Whose Body? (Review)

192893Title: Whose Body?
Author:  Dorothy L. Sayers
Genre:  Mystery

Publisher: HarperTorch
Release Date: July, 1995 (Originally released 1923)
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon purchase
Pages: 212

Date Finished: November 28, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

My Review

My first introduction to Dorothy Sayers was in college.  I took a really cool English course which revolved solely around mysteries.  The book we read was The Nine Taylors and it blew me away.  I read the whole book trying to pin the murder on one person and then another.  Lord Peter Wimsey was funny and not your typical investigator.  I absolutely loved it.

After college I really never thought much about Dorothy Sayers again, but one day Amazon was running a special on her books so I snagged a couple.  Whose Body? was actually the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, so that is where I started.

I wasn’t impressed.  I could tell it was Sayers’ freshman novel.  It was all over the place and very difficult to follow.  I also struggled with Wimsey’s upper-class British jargon.  The actually mystery was quite clever, but I couldn’t really enjoy it.  I don’t remember having these problems with The Nine Taylors, the eleventh in the Wimsey series, so I can only assume Sayers’ writing and pacing improved drastically by the time it was released.  Thank goodness!

As I said, the mystery was clever, but the book, as a whole, was not.  If Sayers is not one of your favorites and you started with this one, I could easily see why.  I urge you to give Sayers another try, but maybe start later in the series.

The Thirteenth Tale (Review)

5868297Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: 2006
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages: 416

Date Finished: October 20, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

All children mythologize their birth… So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself—all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida’s storytelling but remains suspicious of the author’s sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

My Review

Ok, I’m going to just jump right in…this book didn’t do it for me.  There were parts of it that were extremely compelling, but overall, it was rather blah.

The Good…
I loved parts of this tale.  The beautiful and willful Isabelle, as well as the twisted and obsessive Charlie, grabbed my attention.  I wanted more of their story.  I wanted to know more than the incestuous rumors and mental illness.  I understand this was not really their story, but they were fascinating.  Adeline and Emmeline, the twins, were also interesting.  The historical part of the book really kept me going.  If it had not been for the back story of these characters, I would not have made it through this book.

The Bad…
I could not have cared less about Margaret Lea, the main character of the novel.  She was ridiculous.  Margaret discovered at a fairly early age that she was a conjoined twin and when they were separated, her twin died.  This became an overarching theme throughout the book.  Because Margaret pretty much lived her life around her father and her books, she obsessed about this lost twin.  I really just wanted to tell her to go get a freaking life!!  Maybe if she had a life, she wouldn’t sit around feeling sorry about a twin she didn’t even realize existed until she saw the death certificate.  Ugh!  I think Margaret was supposed to be a Jane Eyre type…staunch, no-nonsense, etc.  But, Jane Eyre was passionate.  You could tell her staunch exterior was there strictly to protect that passionate, loving girl inside.  Margaret just came off as cold and pedantic.

Wrap-Up

The Thirteenth Tale was touted as a book for book lovers, and I will concede there were some lovely turns of phrase in this book.  Diane Setterfield knows how to write.  Some of Margaret’s musings about books really hit home with me.  And, Vida Winter’s insight into people and their emotions was brilliant.  The twisty little ending was underwhelming, but it wasn’t horrible.

I think my biggest problem was that I kept comparing it to Jane Eyre.  I’m pretty sure that’s because this was Setterfield’s homage to gothic lit., but let me be clear…if you are expecting a Jane Eyre look-alike, you will be disappointed.  It had a lot of the classic gothic elements, but it fell short of the ultimate goal.

I gave it 3 stars.  Despite having a lot of good elements, it just didn’t pull together into a great book.

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.