Book Review: The Girl On The Train By Paula Hawkins

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When I first heard about this book, it was on a list of things worth reading by my beloved Stephen King. A friend of mine read it based on the same list and she wasn’t impressed, but for some reason (the original cover art to be honest) made me want to read it anyway. I didn’t know much about the plot or any of that, but I saw it was going to be hitting movie theaters soon. That pushed me into grabbing it as soon as possible. Do not misunderstand…I didn’t want to read it first so I could then see the movie. I am an avid believer that in 95% of cases, you should run as far as you can from movie adaptations.

I didn’t know much about the plot or any of that, but I saw it was going to be hitting movie theaters soon. That pushed me into grabbing it as soon as possible. Do not misunderstand…I didn’t want to read it first so I could then see the movie. I am an avid supporter that in 95% of cases, you should run as far as you can from movie adaptations.

Anywho, I got the book (with the damned movie cover) and read the whole thing in a day. I freaking loved it.

Going to start by saying that this book has been compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I disagree. I hated that book with the fires I save primarily for the Twilight series…that particular hatred I don’t often like to share with any other books.

The Girl On The Train starts with the girl on the train, literally, called Rachel. She has some issues. She’s a drunk, she’s heartbroken, she lives somewhat in a fantasy world of her own. This is a mystery and I absolutely do not want to give anything away, so I’ll be vague here. Rachel needs a purpose in her life and in trying to find that purpose, or create it, she puts herself in the middle of not only her fantasy world, but into police matters and worse as the story unfolds.

There was so much of Rachel that resonated with me. If you’ve read this, you’re probably thinking that I’m an alcoholic neurotic, but that’s not what I mean. Again I will be vague, but I have lived most of her heartbreak…ok, all of it and though I’m not an alcoholic (I developed acute anxiety problems and became further obsessive compulsive), I can see how someone would turn toward substance abuse to escape. Faults and all, I really loved Rachel.

The story is told from the point of view of three women in a kind of mental diary sort of fashion where they account for the goings on of their morning and evening of given days. These snippets into these women’s lives and thoughts are what carries the reader along and I think it worked beautifully. You get to see the “character flaws” if you will of these women that you wouldn’t see if the author had chosen another approach. The self-criticism made these characters relatable to me even though I don’t share all their feelings and experiences.

Some reviews I have seen have said this back and forth between characters is what made the development weak and the characters feel distant. Only the reader can decide and no two readers are alike in their appreciation to reading, so all due respect to all differing opinions. I, however, thought it worked and the style kept me turning the pages till one o’clock in the morning.

Have you read this book yet? Thoughts? Did the author’s style work for you and why or why not? I am always fascinated to hear others opinions on books I have enjoyed or didn’t enjoy so much.

Book Review: The Book Of Speculation By Erika Swyler

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I had never heard of this book until my sister grabbed it off the shelf at Target. She finished the book in less than a month, which with her busy schedule means she really liked it.

I was glad when she finished it and passed it along saying she wanted me to give it a go so we could discuss it. I dragged my feet for a day or two rereading some old favorites as I usually do when transitioning on to the next book on my TBR, but she kept nagging me, so I decided to dive right in (pardon the pun…if you’ve read this already, you’ll get the pun).

Right off I was surprised when I realized this wasn’t a YA book. The characters are closer to my age (I’m 35) and the subject matter isn’t childish either, what surprised me was that I had read it was about a circus and mermaids and old books. All the makings of something for Young Adults.

Let’s begin where it feels most fitting to begin…the beginning (sort of…)

On Long Island Sound, Simon Watson, a librarian receives a book in the mail. It’s old. It’s full of sketches and appears to be a diary/log of sorts that followed around a carnival type operation in around the 1700’s.  He is unsure why someone he doesn’t know would send him such an odd book, but he soon finds out.

His mother once worked the carnival circuit as a “mermaid” and had drowned herself on July 24th, which is only a week away. Turns out this may not have been an isolated suicide. There is a history in the book, Simons history, his families history and he won’t stop piecing it together till it all makes sense.

Simon begins to become overwhelmingly worried about his sister who left to join the circus some years earlier. Hoping she won’t find the same fate as the other unfortunate women in their family lineage. The old book brings to light secrets and curses. Love and symbolism. Family and betrayal. Birth and death.

The story is told in a dual narrative. Each chapter switches between Simon in 2013 and an array of characters working in a traveling act in the 1700’s. I enjoyed this so much. The story actually unfolds from two points of view and each one is as exciting as the other.

What stuck out most for me, was the character development. I came to love them all, but also to understand them without the author having to spell out every aspect of their lives. She was vague when she needed to be and specific without cramming backstory down my throat.

I seriously could not put this book down. I finished it just before bed and spent quite a few hours thinking about the world I had just left. To me, that’s the ultimate in good books. I wanted to know more, what happened next, yet I am confident that I know all I needed to know by the books end. I hope that makes sense….

Highly, highly recommend. When I posted a picture of this book on Instagram, I had quite a few people asking me what it was all about and I hope it got some of them interested to read it themselves. I hope this gets you interested if you haven’t read this already.

If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear what others thought of this as it has quickly become one of my favorite books.

 

Book Review: Ender’s Game By Orson Scott Card

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I haven’t read many sci-fi books, though I am a large fan of  all other things sci-fi. Not for any specific reason, just that I haven’t picked any up. Recently, I decided the time was now. Perhaps because I was having trouble with the book I was reading and wanted to step off in a completely different direction.

I found this book at the Goodwill a while back after hearing a bunch of BookTubers talking about it a year or so ago. Wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it or if I would ever even pick it up…but I have a book buying problem so…

Anywho, onto the review. As usual, I don’t want to spoil this, so I’m keeping that in mind when I talk about this. Lot’s of opinions and a little synopsis.

Ender’s game starts on an Earth quite a bit different from ours. Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggins is a six-year-old boy when we first meet him and immediately, the reader can tell he’s not your typical kid. He has a monitor in his head for one, also, the way he thinks when we hear his thoughts (one of the most amazing things about books in my opinion) is far from what I was thinking as a six-year-old and I thinks I can safely say most people at that age.

It’s not long before we, the reader realizes that at some point aliens have attacked the Earth and almost wiped out humanity…and so the humans are pretty adamant on not letting these aliens win the next time they decided to attack. Also, that the government is breeding some little militarily geniuses to train for battle.

Ender is a genius. One above all the rest and so we follow this young boy as he is geared up by the government and military to either save the planet or fail on an epic scale.

The story isn’t as cut and dry as that or even as linear as the synopsis on the back of the book. That’s what I liked best about this story. There is so much that seems so wrong and unfair to this little boy and he is just a little boy, genius or not. Then there is so much that felt to me as sadly realistic to an adult life and made me turn to very cynical thoughts.

I felt so sad for Ender. All the way to the end. So sad at how everything went for him personally, for the state of humanity, for the decisions that nations have to make and then scared at how fragile governments can be and how the influence of media can have profound effects on the lives of people. What scared me the most out of this whole journey was the cunning of the truly evil.

Some of this may not make much sense unless you’ve already read the book. That’s ok. If you haven’t, I hope this sparked your interest in reading it.

I loved this book. All of it. The good, the bad and the hopeless. There was no character I could dislike because each was so nicely developed that it felt like I had known them forever by the end. That’s not to say I didn’t hate some of them for who they were. The writing was such that it carried me along and delivered me to the end, yet left me with plenty of room to do my own thinking.

I fully recommend this book and hope you will love it as much as I do.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children By Ransom Riggs

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children seems to be extremely popular these days. Some of that may be due to the fact that Tim Burton’s movie adaptation is hitting theaters soon. I found it on my sisters’ book shelf and she told me it would be a quick read for me, so I jumped right in.

Let’s talk about this story…

I will admit that I was expecting another Asylum when I saw the photo pages and that it was YA. I was wrong on that front.

Jacob, our main character, is ordinary. That is what we start out with. He is ordinary with a crazy grandfather and though quite privileged, seems to be headed nowhere fast in life. Not too much of his life is talked about besides his lack of social life and that he is headed for a boring career in his family owned chain of  drug stores. That’s all we really need to know to know how boring his existence is.

His grandfather, on the other hand, is anything but boring. He has colorful stories of growing up at a children’s home during World War 2. Not just any regular childrens home for refugee children who have become victims of war, but one full of all sorts of peculiar kids and situations.

Naturally, nobody believes the old man since the world likes to thrive on the mundane and Jacob stops believing due to not fitting in at school with other kids due to gramps quirkiness.

As is customary of young people, everyone assumes that Grampa Abe has totally gone berzerk as his older years pass and nobody believes the unbelievable stories he’s telling now. Not to mention they won’t give the supposedly crazy old bat the key to his gun safe.

Then we start to wonder if young Jacob is so ordinary after all…

Here is where I will stop with the details. I think everyone knows a bit more of this story than I have mentioned to this point, but I didn’t and I feel I had a better relationship with this story because of such. Sometimes it’s worth a lot to not read the back of the book.

So, on to my opinions and thoughts…

This book was fantastic. I didn’t want to put it down and when I absolutely had to, I was contemplating what may come next. The characters were so well thought out and the story having such an attachment to historical events really brought it to life for me. The subject matter was far from teenybopperish. At times I had to wonder how old I would want my own kids (though I don’t actually have any of my own) to be to approach some of the deeper matters contained within. Saying that, they were all realistic matters, no matter if they are in a fantastic situation.

Family, love, relationships, war, mortality, loss. All these topics covered in a book made for young adults and done in a way so that anybody can embrace the world and people in it is amazing to me. Had I read this when I was Jacobs age (sixteen), I could have read it again at twenty and then again at thirty and taken away more and something different with each reading.

Books that I want to keep around to reread again and again over time are some of the best books in the world in my opinion. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys great characters and a well thought out backstory that comes across as neither hokey or unbelievable. It simply feels unbelievably believable…if that makes sense. Probably not. Just go read it.

If you have read it, let me know what you liked or disliked about this.

Book Review: Asylum By Madeleine Roux

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I asked my sister for a book of her choice after finishing The Fault In Our Stars and she gave me one she had finished and enjoyed. My sister is a working mom so getting reading time is hard to come by, so if she made it to the end of any book it’s worth a read.

She chose Asylum by Madelein Roux for me. The cover intrigued me quite a bit and I jumped right in.

The story centers around a boy named Dan who, though he is high school age, is attending a summer academic program at a college in New Hampshire, the dormitories of which were once a mental hospital. Many of the residents of the hospital were criminally insane.

Dan is somewhat of a nerd who is pretty socially inept.Still, he meets some people when he gets to the college. There is his roommate Felix , who Dan seems to think of as a boring, pretentious scholarly type. He also meets a girl named Abbey and a boy named Jordan. Good for Dan.

There’s a room in the dorms that the students are discouraged from entering, but when Dan hears about this room from his roommate, in the first conversation they ever have, he must go.

I won’t give anything away and though this was not a terrible read for me, it felt a bit predictable. There were times when I wanted to walk into the pages and bitch slap the three friends as they would argue and offend each other in EVERY dialogue scene they share. I wanted to say, “Either shit or get off the I-wanna-be-your-friend pot”. Dan’s jealousy and need to get with Abbey at times feels a bit Bella/Edward in the way that he will make things worse at the chance to get her attention and affection. His relationship with Jordan is even more cringeworthy. They are called best friends, but they seem to, underneath the facade of best friends seems to be zero actual love for each other.

The story itself is your basic let’s go on a terrifying treasure hunt in an old insane asylum type thing. It neither wowed me or bored me.

As for the authors writing style, I had one major gripe. Whenever Dan is mentioned, he is rarely referred to as he or him…even if he is the only character in the scene. The number of times I read the name Dan on one page made me want to scream at times.

I do know that I may have missed some points in the fact that I’m pretty removed from my youth and perhaps I’m a bit judgemental towards the younger generation putting ‘getting him/her to like me’ mentality before all else. I do remember sacrificing a lot in my teens to get a crushes attention…maybe not creep around a hospital for the criminally insane…then again, I wasn’t presented with said insane asylum.

I’m interested in what others thought of this. My sis loved it and we have been known to have differing opinions on books before. Let me know your thoughts.

Thoughts. Not Quite A Review…The Fault In our Stars By John Green

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I think John Green is a fantastic human being. I also knew he wrote books. Hell, his name on Instagram is johngreenwritesbooks. Until yesterday, I had never read any of his books.

I attribute this to my attempt at not being a book bitch and occasionally falling from grace anyway. I have a bad image of YA literature due to an unfortunate foray with a book called Twilight a few years back…Perhaps everyone and their freaking grandmother has heard of it. I will never get the time back that I lost to this book. Ever. It will continue to haunt me till the day I die. I have since, judged all YA literature as harshly as I wished I had treated this one.

When I would see John Green books on my many bookish travels, I longed for his writing and yet, denied it for fear of the whiny, angst-ridden, brainless adaptation of young america that was Twilight.

I’m 35 years old this year and trying to think like a teenybopper is, to be honest, painful at best. Yet, who am I to judge a whole type of books based on one bad experience? That makes me an asshole. Not all teenagers are brainless, slightly larger versions of toddlers, or the sparkling undead.

So, on a whim, at the Goodwill, I’d picked up The Fault In Our Stars and figured that for a buck, even if it was horrible, not a huge loss.

I started reading yesterday morning at 7:30 a.m. and took a few breaks to go to the store and to mini marathon Intervention with my sister. Still, I finished this book at 11:53 p.m. I then spent hours looking at the dark ceiling unable to let the story go.

I won’t bore anyone with an actual review. Everyone knows of this book, through seeing the movie, watching much better reviews than I could write on BookTube or through book blogs who have much more talent than mine. I will say that there are very few books in this life (and I read a lot) that have left me speechless.

I love (present tense) this book so much, I love these characters so much and I love the brilliant mind of John Green more now than I ever have before. That’s saying something.

Everyone should read this book, everyone.

I will from today going forward no longer judge any book based on others of it’s kind.

 

Book Review: Icy Sparks By Gwyn Hyman Rubio

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Icy Sparks is a story about outcasts. About not fitting in, being different.

The story begins with an adult Icy Sparks recounting her life as a young girl in the mountains of Kentucky in the 1950’s. She lives with her grandparents after the  deaths of her parents.

Her mother, we don’t really know too much about besides what her parents (Icy’s grandma and grandpa) tell her. Her father we know had some peculiar mannerisms, namely  his eyes popping and other tics, though Icy nor anyone else in her mountain town knew what actually ailed him.

Icy soon finds herself facing some of these tics herself. Besides the eye popping are jerks (as she calls them) along with outbursts and cursing. With not a single person close to her knowing what this is or how to deal with it, this poor girl goes through the hell of mistreatment at school and being ostracized by her peers as well as the folks in town, eventually landing in a hospital.

This was a hard one to read as much as it was interesting. Icy has her grandparents and her grown friend Miss Emily, who is also an outcast due to her being grossly overweight, but the small town  50’s mentality keeps Icy alone in a position she can’t understand. Yet, she pushes through with a mostly positive attitude. I think her life was harder for me to handle than it was for her. This is a story full of death, secrets, unresolved animosity and so many other very upsetting emotions. A reader would be hard pressed to not relate to some of what Icy goes through on a smaller scale. One also feels for her on a very human level.

I gave this three stars on Goodreads. Here’s why.

The characters were well written and likable, yet it was difficult at times for me to figure out what the author wanted the reader to focus on. There was focus on lying, abuse at the hands of a couple of adults in a place of power, strange friendships, seemingly useless and confusing medical treatment and finally religion. Some of the parts of this telling seemed like they were just fillers to get to the end, but they don’t seem to be necessary to the whole of the story.

Though I did find out what happened to Icy, what the actual cause of her symptoms was, I felt like in the last few pages the answer was quickly thrown together to simply to end the story. Perhaps, I missed something or I’m too thick to see what the author was doing, but I felt the resolution was hasty.

In the end, it was an interesting read and I would be curious to see what others thought about this book.