Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Girl on the Train

Book: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins

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?-Goodreads

Review: I'm a huge fan of mysteries and thrillers. Even though I figured this out midway through, this was a super fun, fast paced read (this was critical since I just finished a 700+ tedious book about historians hunting Dracula..yes, it was as ridiculous as that sounds). Back to TGOTT...the story is told in 3 narratives with 2 different timelines. We have Rachel, an alcoholic who is obsessed with her ex-husband and his new wife. She spies on them (in a matter of speaking) as well as their neighbors as she takes the train to and from London (where she pretends she is working all day). She's prone to blackouts. Next up, we have Anna. Anna is one of the reasons Rachel is divorced. She had an affair with Rachel's husband and is the new "Mrs." She doesn't like Rachel trying to interfere in her 'perfect' new life, but is everything as perfect as it seems? Finally, we have Megan. She's beautiful, she has a doting husband and her life should be perfect. But she battles depression and is a cheater. When Megan goes missing, Rachel is sure she knows what happened. But does she really know anything? Who can be trusted? Who is telling the truth? 

While none of these women are particularly likable, I enjoyed the quick pace and seeing the story unfold. If you like thrillers, give this a try. 

Grade: 4.5/5

The Historian

Book: The Historian
Author: Elizabeth Kostova

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.-Goodreads

Review: There is a decent book hidden in this 700+ page monstrosity. Do editors still exist in the literary world? If so, how did they allow this to get published? I feel like at least 300 pages could have been edited out. Kostova certainly knows her history (and food...she really likes to describe food) and while some of it was interesting, it was overall slow and boring.  I'm a huge fan of the epistolary writing style but the letters were way too long to be believable (and no one remembers things from 20 years ago in the level of detail described). The ending was also a HUGE disappointment. After reading for close to 14 hours, most readers expect some big reveal, a huge climax, something we can sink our teeth into and think about. The 'revelation' about Dracula was laughable. 

Skip this one. 

Grade: 1/5

The Martian

Book: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? -Goodreads

Review: I must admit I was a little afraid to read this book. When almost every one of my friends rates a book 5 stars, my expectations become so high the book in question almost always becomes a disappointment. I'm happy to say that was not the case here. 'The Martian' is a survival tale. Astronaut Mark Waney is an engineer/botanist who is stranded on Mars. This book was written in dual narrative and Waney's sections were journal entries. I fully admit I am not a science person-I found most of his sections repetitive and devoid of emotion. He found a problem, he might die, he fixed it. Rinse and repeat. I never once felt any sort of danger for his well being (reading his sections) because he was such a Mac Gyver/Michael Weston I knew he'd escape/survive whatever happened. He did have a dry sense of humor which I liked. What I loved about the book were the NASA sections-wow, they were fantastic. Weir really did his research and brought Mission Control and the politics and people of NASA to life. 

This was a super fun read, I highly recommend! (and the movie looks great, can't wait to see it)

Grade: 4/5

Little Black Lies

Book: Little Black Lies
Author: Sandra Block

In the halls of the psychiatric ward, Dr. Zoe Goldman is a resident in training, dedicated to helping troubled patients. However, she has plenty of baggage of her own. When her newest patient arrives - a beautiful sociopath who murdered her mother - Zoe becomes obsessed with questions about her own mother's death. But the truth remains tauntingly out of reach, locked away within her nightmares of an uncontrollable fire. And as her adoptive mother loses her memory to dementia, the time to find the answers is running out.

As Zoe digs deeper, she realizes that the danger is not just in her dreams but is now close at hand. And she has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most. Because what she can't remember just might kill her.

Little Black Lies is about madness and memory - and the dangerous, little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. -Goodreads

Review: Zoe Goldman is a psychiatry resident with issues. Her birth mother died in a fire when Zoe was a young child, but she can't remember the event. Now in her mid-20's, her nightmares are back and she's decided to find out more about her birth mother, but her adoptive mother is in a home with dementia. Meanwhile, Zoe's heart has been broken (by a boyfriend who served little to no purpose in the book other than to demonstrate there is no way Zoe is as a plain Jane as she makes herself out to be) and she has a new patient who murdered her mother approx. 20 years ago. The patient claims she doesn't remember killing her mother. Zoe needs to determine if she can be released into society or if she is a sociopath. 

This book had some interesting parts, especially the hospital scenes. The author is a medical doctor and really brought these scenes to life. Other than that, the plot moved way too slow to keep me interested in the story. The pace picked up the last few chapters but it was too little too late (this book should have taken a few hours but took me TWO WEEKS!!). 

This is the authors debut novel so I will probably give her next book a chance. 

Grade: 2/5

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Book: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship - and innocent love - that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice - words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.-Goodreads

Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a wonderful surprise. It's a melancholy tale about Henry Lee, his family and his best friend Keiko. Keiko and her family are Japanese Americans and sent to an internment camp during WWII. Told in different timelines, we follow Henry as a young student in the 1940s and Henry in the mid 80s as he tries to reconnect with his son. The historical aspect of the 1940's sections was very interesting. I was especially heartbroken by the relationship between Henry and his father, a man with extreme hatred toward the Japanese due to his upbringing in China. While the 1980's section wasn't as strong, I enjoyed seeing Henry and his son reconnect. While the book didn't pack as much of an emotional punch as I would have liked, this was a fabulous read. 

Grade: 4/5


Book: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.-Goodreads

Review: This book was absolute perfection. I LOVED it. It is a beautifully written tale that incorporates friendship, family, love and magic into a wonderful bundle. It also had me laughing (repeatedly). Please give this a try folks-it's worth your time!

Grade: 5/5